I Am Beeston: Special Edition

For this issue of the magazine, I was asked by Matt, our editor in chief if I could do a more in depth interview for the #IamBeeston project.

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“Who was going to be the subject?” I enquired.  “Sandie Deacon of the Boathouse Café at Beeston Marina. She’s retiring after spending twenty five years in catering”.

Beeston Marina is always a great place to visit, with the narrow boats, the water and the scenery. There were quite a few people in the Café drinking tea and eating cake when I arrived to chat to Sandie. She was busy in the kitchen. So I drank a cup of hot chocolate whilst I waited.

To begin the interview I asked Sandie where she was born, and how she came to the Rylands. “I was born in Hurley, Berkshire. It was similar to the Rylands as there was one road in and out and close to the river. When I left school, I went to catering college in Slough. I got into cooking through my aunty. She was the catering manager at Handley Page, the aircraft manufacturer. I sometimes went to see her and she let me do some cooking. She used to cook for big events like Ascot and the Farnborough Air Show. I got my City & Guilds 706/1 and 706/2, which meant that I was allowed to wear the big white chef’s hat.”

Moving through the years a bit, Sandie met her partner Tony when they were both doing a sports course at the Lilleshall National Sports Centre in Shropshire. But Tony, a qualified PT instructor, lived in Birmingham, whilst Sandie was nearly a three hour journey away in Wokingham. So Sandie moved to this area, so she wouldn’t have so far to travel to be with Tony. “I saw a vacancy at a place in Stapleford, but was turned down, as I was over qualified. But Tony and I saw a job going at the bar next door to here. So I started there in October 2006. Then a few weeks later this café came up for sale. So we took it over, and have been here ever since. We also do outside catering for weddings, parties etc. We live in a mobile home around the corner. Which is good, as we are often here from five thirty in the morning.”

“Tony works four to five days a week. My daughter Sarah is the manager now that I’ve retired. Although I do help out when needed, as we sometimes get very, very busy. Take this morning, when we had a lot of fishermen in wanting a breakfast.”  I asked Sandie how she would be spending her time, now that she’s put down her mixing bowl. “I like photography. Especially birds. I’m always at the nature reserve, seeing what’s flown in. I do like kingfishers. I see them a lot, but they are difficult to photograph. I got a new Nikon camera for my birthday. I’m just saving up now for a better lens. I also like walking and reading.”

I asked Sandie about the history of the café. “It’s been here about twenty five to thirty years. Tony is into local history, and is a member of the Bramcote History Group.” Sandie highlighted a number of wooden plaques that were fixed to one of the doors. “These are of local people and customers that had sadly died. Here’s Owen’s.” Sandi touches the carved rugby ball with affection, and remembers Owen Jenkins, who unfortunately drowned this summer in the nearby weir whilst saving two girls that had fallen in the water. “It was so sad when Owen went. I knew him and his family. The way in which the people of Beeston responded was amazing. We did the catering at the funeral. No charge. It was the least we could have done.”

“We received four thousand votes on the Canal & River Trust’s recent ‘Best Riverside Café’ competition. We had a mystery diner in here.”

I noticed a photo of the late Mikk Skinner, who I had photographed for the #IamBeeston project a few weeks before he died. “He lived in one of the mobile homes too. Lovely bloke. The photo was given to us by one of his friends. Beeston is such a friendly place and the people are lovely. So laid back. I love it here. I sometimes think I’m at the seaside when I look out the window. There’s always something different to see throughout the year. There’s always something to do in Beeston, but I do wish events etc would be advertised more. There always seems to be a lack of advertising for events, even down here. I don’t know whose fault it is, but it should be improved.”

I also noticed some certificates and press cuttings about the café. “We are best known for our breakfasts and have received many comments in the Post newspaper. We received four thousand votes on the Canal & River Trust’s recent ‘Best Riverside Café’ competition. We had a mystery diner in here. The final is in Loughborough next week.”

Congratulations are now in order; as the Boathouse did indeed win in the East Midlands Waterside Hospitality Awards, and now have a certificate to prove it. I saw a photo on the back end of a Nottingham City Transport bus of the cafe. “I took that photo of the café. One of our customers spotted it on Mansfield Road and managed to get a shot of it.” The number of the bus is 908. So if you see it on your travels around Nottingham, give it a wave. “Buses around here are a bit hit an miss. I think there should be better transport in the Rylands, as people have missed hospital appointments, as their bus hasn’t turned up. I think the tram is good, and I will drive into Beeston and take it into town. You can park all day for two pounds.”

On the subject of transport, I’m sure many people will have seen the old World War II landing craft moored near the café. “That’s been in quite a few films now. The latest one starred George Clooney and Matt Damon (The Monuments Men) and we were hoping that they would have paid us a visit. But alas they didn’t. Suggs from Madness filmed here for an episode of a TV series called ‘WW2 Treasure Hunters’, which is shown on the History channel.”

The late afternoon sun was starting to set as we went outside, so I could take Sandie’s photo of her holding the now famous I Am Beeston sign. The last of the customers were leaving, and Sarah was collecting cups and plates from the tables as I said goodbye. And yes, I can see Sandie’s point about being at the seaside, with the water, the seagulls flying by and the pirate staring out from his crow’s nest.

CDF

Poodledoodle: Interview with Poodletrim

Since the relaunch of the ‘IamBeeston’ project a few months ago, I have now met over a hundred different people from all walks of life. All with different tales to tell about Beeston and what they think of our favourite little town…

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Besides asking people in the street, I am sometimes contacted directly through Facebook, by people who want to nominate individuals as subjects. One such person was Joanne Plumbley, who suggested that the owner of Poodletrim would be a great candidate for the project.

So I popped down to meet Louie Harrison at the place where dogs go for a haircut to find out more about her and what she thinks of Beeston. As the conversation went on, I realised that there was an interesting story being told here. One that needed to be developed into a feature for the magazine.

“I was born in Butterworth, a town in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, some 69 years ago. My mum was a white South African, whilst my dad was in the British Army. “We moved to Chilwell Village when I was three months old. But when I turned five or six, my mum returned to South Africa, leaving my dad Ray, who was now a joiner and me behind in Chilwell.”

Paul Smith used to use Louie’s Afghan hound in his advertising

The 1950s weren’t such liberal times as today, and single fathers hadn’t been invented, so her grandparents, who also lived in the area, brought her up. “When I was twelve years old, I started working as a Saturday girl at Poodletrim. It opened in 1958 by Elaine Drewery, in the same Victorian cottage, that was used as a shop that previously sold paint.”  The name Drewery might trigger something in the minds of fans of 1980s pop music, as on the 21st of September 1959, Elaine gave birth to a daughter called Corinne, who later became the lead singer in the band Swing Out Sister; whose most well known song is ‘Breakout’ from 1986, and which made number 4 in the UK charts. Incidentally, the promo video features the band messing about with textiles. This is a bit of an in-joke, as Corinne studied fashion design at St Martin’s College.

At age seventeen, Louie became the manager of Poodletrim, which is now certainly the oldest dog grooming place in Beeston, if not the East Midlands. Elaine Drewery and her family moved to Lincolnshire when Corinne was growing up. Elaine currently runs the hedgehog charity ‘Authorpe Hedgehog Care’. As the 1960s moved on, Louie got to know some famous locals like Paul Smith and Richard Beckinsale. In fact Paul Smith used to use Louie’s Afghan hound in his advertising, when he first set up the fashion label in 1970.

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Poodles have always been Louie’s favourite dog, and has had four in her life. Big Blues and Dark Greys. She remembers the fashion when people used to dye their poodle’s coat different colours. Sealyham terriers are a breed that was once popular. So too were fox terriers. Louie’s knowledge of dog breeds is extensive, which isn’t surprising, after dealing with them for nearly sixty years.

Disaster struck in the early 1990’s, when fire nearly burnt down the building.  “The fire didn’t stop me. I just got as much of my kit together as I could and moved to the shop at the front of the building, which is currently Square 17 hairdressers, and I was open for business a few days later.”

Louie hasn’t needed to advertise her business at all for over twenty five years, as she purely relies on repeat business from long standing customers and word of mouth. She currently employs two assistants, two Saturday girls and often takes people on for work experience, or students who are studying animal care.

Despite her health issues, Louie still works full time, and also helps to raise money for different charities. For her sixtieth birthday, Louie managed to close the road, which she lives on, set up a marquee, and threw a big birthday bash. I asked her what she has planned for her seventieth later this year. “I’m not sure yet. I’d really like to go on the Orient Express.”

CDF

 

Mikk Skinner

I am Beeston: Mikk Skinner

We took Mikk’s photo a few weeks ago for the I Am Beeston project. Very sadly, Mikk died suddenly soon after.

And so we print this as a tribute to one of our favourite Beestonians, a kind and thoughtful man who never found a musical instrument he couldn’t play or a Blue Monkey Ale he couldn’t sup. RIP Mikk.

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Mikk Skinner
IT Technician

“Although I was born in Bristol, I moved to Beeston in the late nineteen sixties. I was head chorister at Beeston Parish Church.”

“Beeston has some great pubs for chilling out. It also has a lively acoustic music scene.”

“I think Beeston needs a spectacular and magical sculpture. Something like the Kelpies in Scotland. Something that would get people to visit. Maybe we could have a giant bee!”

Julie Lord

I Am Beeston: Julie Lord

You may remember last summer, we ran a series of photographs on our Facebook page featuring people who lived, worked or studied in Beeston. This was in response to the dreadful racial attacks that were, and are still taking place post Brexit vote. We wanted to show, and did very successfully, what a peaceful, integrated and generally wonderful place that Beeston is.

So we thought we would bring it back. Our roving photographer Christopher Frost has been out and about around our town and looking for more people to feature and share their views…

Julie Lord

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Julie Lord – Building Manager for the Beeston Youth and Community Centre

“I used to live in Carlton, but moved in with some relatives who lived in the Rylands. When their house came up for sale, I bought it. That was twenty four years ago now.”

“Beeston has a diverse community. It has some great shops too. Then there are all the open and green spaces. The nature reserve is only minutes away.”

“Although I don’t use it, I do think that the tram has benefited Beeston. I would certainly say that Beeston is improving all the time.”

Christopher Frost

Gary

I Am Beeston: Gary Thomas

You may remember last summer, we ran a series of photographs on our Facebook page featuring people who lived, worked or studied in Beeston. This was in response to the dreadful racial attacks that were, and are still taking place post Brexit vote. We wanted to show, and did very successfully, what a peaceful, integrated and generally wonderful place that Beeston is.

So we thought we would bring it back. Our roving photographer Christopher Frost has been out and about around our town and looking for more people to feature and share their views..

Gary Thomas

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“People will know me as the owner of Mish Mash at the Creative Corner. They can also see me pottering around the site keeping it neat and tidy”.

“I was born in Beeston, although I have lived in Mapperley and Breaston. I love the feeling that the town is something special, full of enthusiastic people. The Blue Plaque scheme is great”.

“The one thing that does annoy me are people who drop litter. I would like to see more public art and I think the new ‘Beeston’ sign on Lower Road should have been bigger and not just angled in such a way that only the tram passengers can see it”.

Christopher Frost

I Am Beeston

I was away, swanning around on a Greek island, when the Referendum result came in. Typical, I thought, I leave the country for a few days and you go and break it. Well, next time I’m away you can all stay at your grans.

Returning to the UK, I heard stories of a rise in hate-crime due to the Brexit result. Surely not in Beeston, though?

Sadly, yes. I was told of a story of an Indian guy, who being both an Anglophile and a football fan was off to watch England play Iceland in a pub, and was racially abused on the street and told to go home. I received emails and messages from people, generally from Eastern Europe, saying how they now felt scared.

This isn’t the Beeston I know. This isn’t the Beeston we want to have represent us. This is a small band of bigots, emboldened by the result, and whipped up by the awfulness of the whole Referendum campaign. Yet however small this smattering of racism is, hate shouts loud. But love shouts louder.

The editorial of this magazine discussed how we could demonstrate this, and a startlingly obvious idea came to us. Beeston works so well because of the rich, vibrant diversity that keeps the place fascinating. International students from the Uni, the most incredible amount of quality restaurants and food shops, the workers who keep the QMC, Boots and many other places thriving. Wherever people are from, they are Beeston. A town is its people. More than its businesses, more than its buildings, people make a town. We’d celebrate that.

We arranged to meet people, or simply stopped them on the street. We’d have them tell us about themselves, just a few words on who they were and why they liked living in Beeston, then put it up on our Facebook site. We’d show that a town is not ‘owned’ by one set of people, but is shared by all. We are all Beeston.

The response to our pieces was phenomenal. Each new post garnered huge amounts of interests. We found a diversity of people that surprised us: from a tiny toddler to an octogenarian, from people born on the same street that they still live on to globetrotters who have found themselves in our town: the sheer range was astonishing. The stories people would tell us as we met them made us both laugh and cry. It was perhaps the most fulfilling project I’ve ever been involved with.

One thing shone out more than anything, and one thing that I urge everyone reading this to take to heart. Just about every respondent we talked to, irrespective of their age, background or nationality, said the same thing when asked why they liked Beeston: the sense of community. That’s you they’re talking about. We might disagree on many things in life, we might clash on occasion. But one thing binds us, and one turns an average town into a great town: the sense of community. Together, we’re better. #iamBeeston #weareBeeston.

Lord Beestonia

 

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