Gala Day!

Beeston Rylands Gala Day Review by Naomi Robinson

Last issue we previewed Beeston Rylands Community Association’s Summer Gala Day. It turned out to be a fun packed event that was filled with optimism, ice cream, hay bales and laughter.

It was a real delight to see the fields at Leyton Crescent full of families, friends and children soaking up not only the (rare) glorious sunshine but the atmosphere of a bustling community finally being able to reunite after months and months of isolation and distancing.

There was an excellent dog show hosted by Janet and Dylan, who had the difficult job of judging all of the eager canines showing off their waggiest tails, best rescue credentials and much more. Children enjoyed the music and games hosted by our lovely Amanda-Claire, and most of the adults couldn’t help but simultaneously join in, albeit the less confident ones such as myself who had to revert to the awkward chair shuffle perched on the hay bale arena! This was made even more pleasurable by the talented John Cunliffe who played a set of acoustic live music.

There was also an array of stalls with an impressive assortment of information and products to sell. Sandie and Sarah from the Boat House café manned the community centre’s kitchen, cooking delicious hot cobs and providing endless teas and coffees.

One glorious aspect of the previous 18 months is that the community association has been fortunate enough to build on their partnerships with local volunteers and businesses to unite and share resources and knowledge when times were tough. These connections have informed future planning and hopefully allows us to provide many more community events.

It was fantastic to see a vibrant representation of Beeston’s community groups offering awareness and support, including Broxtowe Community Project, Incredible Edibles, and Parkinson’s UK. Riverside Crafter, Burchell Collective, and cards by Katie and Julia, were some of the independent crafters that also contributed.

No gala would be complete without a traditional raffle, which rounded the day off nicely with the nostalgic suspense that a handful of raffle tickets offer, there was some brilliant prizes donated by local businesses, with maybe the most sought out prize being the free tickets to the Arc Cinema.

There were several youngsters negotiating tickets and prizes, it was heartwarming to accidentally hear the conversation of a group of teenagers swapping and even gifting prizes to others to pass on to their loved ones.

It is safe to say that the day was a huge success, not only with the weather and turnout of Beeston locals but a real sense of warmth and joviality was contagious in its healing abilities, here’s to many more Gala Days!


The Glamour Girls

by Janet Barnes and Naomi Robinson

In the Rylands we have our very own superheroes, the Glamour Girls.

Their base looks like a humble hairdressers / beauty salon, but once you dig beneath the surface you realise its so much more. “The Transformer,” otherwise known as Tracy, owns Glamour and spreads beauty throughout the Rylands.

“The Magician,” otherwise known as Maddie, has the power to “bring you in, fix you up and send you back out refreshed to face the world”. Lisa, Sue, Kerry and Tracey’s daughters Danielle and Paige “The Terrific Trimmers” make up the intrepid team.

Glamour has its transformation head quarters on Meadow Road. The superheroes go above and beyond that of hair and beauty experts, taking care not only of your external appearance, and also your less visible inner wellbeing. Not only can you get a new hair cut, a pedicure, manicure, or a back massage, you also get talking therapy right on your door step.

“Tracy The Transformer” explains: “I opened Glamour during the recession of 2009 and I’ve been overwhelmed by the support I’ve had from Rylands folk. Clients pop in just for a chat and a coffee”. She continued, “during lockdown our elderly customers struggled to get in, but since the restrictions have lifted, I’ve rung them and told them we need them back in. Sometimes picking them up to get their confidence back. I am grateful for all my Rylands family”.

Freda, 71, says “Maddie is lovely. She always boosts your confidence and tells you you have great natural hair. I think I look like a zebra and she says its like natural highlights. I always feel much better for going”.

You get a warm welcome, even if due to COVID restrictions you’re sat outside on their patio chairs waiting for the magic to happen.

With their weapons of scissors, hair dryers and nail polish the transformers use their powers to blend modern techniques with traditional values catering for all customers young and old. When you drop by, you might see an elderly resident being energised through the power of a pedicure, or a damsel with hair distress getting a well needed emergency boost of confidence through the power of a new hair style.

Dave, 92, said “I go to Glamour for a pedicure every 5 weeks, Tracey sorts my toes out and tells me to run home with my new feet. I have macular degeneration & can’t trust myself to cut my own toenails. Sometimes there’s so much laughter and banter, especially when Maddie’s in, but I always leave with happy feet!”

We salute you Glamour Girls – keep using your powers for good, keeping the Rylands happy and revived inside and out.


Bow Selecta

by Tim Pollard

Do you remember the old 80’s movie Dirty Dancing? It’s not a big favourite of mine (there are nowhere near enough explosions, spaceships or samurai in it for my liking), but Sal really loved it. Anyway, there’s a scene at the end of the movie where the lead girl’s father has realised that Patrick Swayze’s character isn’t the ‘up-to-no-good bad boy sex fiend’ he’d previously presumed and says to them both “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong” (and then bizarrely doesn’t say it, despite the implication). At that point I always shouted “Go on then, say it” at the screen, but he never does…).

Anyway the basic concept is sound, so here goes…I was wrong.

Recently I’ve written in this very publication about my concerns over the potential ramifications of the so-called ‘Freedom Day’ when the majority of Covid restrictions were lifted – and thankfully there wasn’t a massive national increase in cases and especially deaths overwhelming the NHS.

And I also commented on a local business near my house which hadn’t even opened yet looking like it had closed down before it could start trading – and again I was wrong – the signs have gone back up, it looks like the shopfitters are in and I have every expectation they’ll be trading sometime soon.

In both cases I’m really glad I was wrong – so what else might I be wrong about?

I grew up enjoying science-fiction TV, movies, books and comics and the majority of them (with the notable and gloriously optimistic exception of original Star Trek) were bleak, dystopian views of a world (or universe) beset by various travails – war, natural disasters, invasions, futile resistance to totalitarian governments, pandemics and the odd zombie apocalypse or two.

All cheery stuff, but it was quite exciting imagining how (for instance) I’d fare fighting the venomous walking plants of The Day Of The Triffids (to this day I avoid looking at meteor showers in case they send the world blind as they did in that story). Or coping in the collapsed and plague-devastated 1970’s UK of the old TV series Survivors (where everyone working class or with a regional accent was likely to be a baddie, but if you were middle-class you were probably OK).

And of course there was the ever-present threat of actual nuclear war hanging over us – they used to test the four-minute warning sirens in town on a regular basis, which was terrifying (partly because you never knew if it was drill or not)! Would I survive the initial blasts, and what would the world be like afterwards if I did?

So the idea of living in a dystopia was a mostly thrilling idea, but having now lived (at least so far) through a global pandemic coupled with the nightmare of climate change, a rise in authoritarianism, the ongoing extinction of countless species of flora and fauna (hey, who needs those trees and bees anyway, right?) it’s considerably less fun in real life than in sci-fi. Especially as I now have a daughter, nephews and friends with children who’ll see these changes even more acutely.

But maybe once again I’m wrong, maybe they’ll be the generation to sort things out and tidy up the mess we’ve left them – I do hope so for their sake. Things do change, as I’ve also written before and it’s certainly possible that things can change for the better – as I said last time and on a smaller, local scale there are new shops, restaurants and venues on the High Street replacing those that have gone. Things are looking up for us – so maybe I should stop being the voice of doom and start quoting Professor Zarkov from another classic 80’s movie, Flash Gordon: “You can’t beat the human spirit!”

What really worries me though is this… what if I’m very wrong indeed – and Dirty Dancing is actually a good movie?! 😊


Rylands Retail Renaissance?

Where do Rylanders go if they need a pint of milk, a hair cut, or a bottle of wine? Not that surprisingly they can get all these things and more within the Rylands. What may be more of a surprise is you can also pick up a portaloo, a very good haircut, some vegan fast food, or even talk to an experienced Luthier (stringed instrument expert) on Lily Grove if you so wish.

We’ve had numerous shops here over the years, but if you a newcomer (or a resident of just the last 20 years or so) you’ll perhaps remember the post office on the corner of Trafalgar Road, the various food outlets on Lilac Crescent, or the afternoon tea shop on Trafalgar near the old Plessey site.

News and Essentials that most refer to as “the Cob Shop” is a ‘jewel in the crown’ of Rylands retail and has faced many challenges and reincarnations over the years. The vast shelves that held the extensive DVD lending library 20 years ago now bears a fantastic range of wines, chilled foods, cupboard essentials, and even has its own garden centre out the front. Winter hasn’t arrived until we see the Facebook post from owner Lloyd that sledges are out and ready for purchase.

After a conversation with Lloyd it became obvious him and his colleagues are driven by a  passion and enthusiasm for serving the Rylands. What we also learnt are his extensive ambitions for the shop and is commitment to supporting local charities.  The good news is Lloyd and his partners Pat and Andy are around to stay, having just signed a ten year lease.

While change is inevitable and bigger retail places may evolve, the strength of communities is measured in the power of its supporters. It’s lovely to hear about the days gone by and also see the enthusiasm of more recent businesses firming their roots in to the Rylands and creating new memories.

The resilience of our community really does offer hope and continuity, with creative and green-fingered individuals opening up pop up shops outside their front doors selling such things as rhubarb and gladioli or veg and bedding plants, or even something creative from local artists.

We’re also got the recent initiative of incredible edible project down at Leyton Crescent providing a sustainable healthy scheme that has been accessed by families, who have helped plant, grow and nurture the produce offering all in the Rylands delicious home grown veg in return.

Community at its best – use or lose it!


Janet Barnes and Naomi Robinson; Rylands community activists

It’s Coming Home

Been up to much since last issue? I’d imagine you have, unless you’ve been stuck at home poorly. As I write it’s the evening of July 19th, inaccurately dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ by some elements of the press – but oddly enough there’s an element of truth in that libertarian soubriquet for me, as today was the final day of my and my daughter’s sixteen day period of self-isolation – we’ve had Covid.

I thought I’d done pretty well to avoid it and was *extremely* happy when I had both of my vaccinations but just over a couple of weeks ago I received an email from my daughter’s school saying they believed she (and her class) had been in contact with someone who had tested positive. Ten days couldn’t be that bad, I figured – we’d done longer in earlier lockdowns. Maybe we were getting blasé about it, even.

But a few days into our new quarantine Scarlett complained of a nasty head and stomach ache; just to be sure I gave her a Lateral Flow Test and there it was, a positive. I did one for myself and was relieved to find it negative but booked us both in for a PCR test the next morning at the University Walk-in site. It was a doddle, thankfully – and Scarlett’s symptoms, such as they were, had already vanished by the time we’d been ‘done’ and told to expect the results in two days.

That afternoon though I began to feel pretty rough and by the next morning I didn’t need the result that arrived on my phone, less than 24 hours after taking the PCR test.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to admit that blokes are generally *dreadful* when poorly (unless I’m just judging you all by my feeble standards, in which case I apologise unreservedly), but it really was bad. I’ve had proper influenza once before and that was horrendous, and this was right up there with it – literally going from sweating like a polar bear in a sauna (No idea, not seen it, it just sounded like a descriptive turn-of-phrase) to proper teeth-chattering cold, with goosebumps and nothing in between.

Scarlett, now full of energy and with not a symptom in the world was wonderful, covering and then uncovering me as my latest temperature episode kicked in and generally fussing me wonderfully. Of course the worst bit for her was us both having to start eleven days self-isolation again on top of the time we’d already done; this time I could almost hear the heavy ‘clang’ of the prison door as it swung shut.

It. Was. Horrendous.

The temperature changes, the acute muscle-pain, headaches, the cough and shallow breathing, the vomiting (thankfully very short-lived) – I got all the symptoms except for the diarrhea (and I’m glad I didn’t, that combined with coughing…eeuuwww!)

Normally I’m fine at being ill. Just give me a bed, Radio 4 and a bit of sympathy and I’m good (especially with a diet of Tunnock’s caramel wafers and pineapple juice) but add in a bored seven-year old who is absolutely fine who’s asking “Daddy, do you want to see what I can do/sing/draw/dance/create in Minecraft?” every five minutes and the next few days became a grumpy purgatory for us both in which I tried to sleep and Scarlett didn’t…

And yet, after what seemed like an eternity (but was about five days) I felt able to move again, wracked by guilt at having dismissed her so often but glad to be alive; I daren’t think how poorly I’d have been had I not had both vaccinations…

So I guess we’ll see how well ‘Freedom Day’ goes for us here in Beeston but please don’t be fooled into thinking the ‘mild ‘flu like symptoms’ you may suffer if you catch it are actually ‘mild’ in themselves. I still can’t smell or taste anything, but that was the least of my worries.

So no trite joke at the end this time, just a heartfelt ‘look after yourselves’. Please.


Learn, Laugh, Live

Karen Attwood explains what is going to be out there for retired and semi-retired folk as restrictions ease.

I had my eye on Beeston u3a for quite a while. I had heard good things about it, but didn’t know the detail. Large groups of laughing people could be seen having lunch together, playing daytime tennis matches, walking and playing chess in the local cafe.

It turns out it is part of a massive national organisation, u3a, created in 1982. Before the lockdown, more than 40,000 u3a interest groups met in the UK every week, face to face and more recently lots of them have transferred online. It also turns out that membership is open to all retired or semi-retired people and there is no upper or lower age limit.

The idea is simple – interest groups, run by members for other members, all help given voluntarily. The u3a national body, the Third Age Trust, looks after all the u3as in the UK, providing educational and administrative support.

Although u3a formerly stood for ‘University of the Third Age’, the word ‘University’ has now been dropped in favour of a more inclusive sense of groups of people wanting to study or discuss a subject.

It will not surprise any local people to find out that Beeston u3a is one of the most active in the country! More than 800 members come together to enjoy 90 interest groups.

In June 2021, many members of Beeston u3a came together for a Virtual Afternoon tea to celebrate their 10th Anniversary. Several founder members spoke, sharing the most memorable stories from the last decade and the future was excitedly discussed.

This local u3a community kept in touch during the lockdown. Even though they could not meet in person lots of them learnt about Zoom and kept the groups going remotely. Hundreds of people joined in the monthly meetings from their front rooms. It is clear that this is more than just a series of interest groups – it is a supportive social network, with people enjoying life and passions and taking care of like-minded members who live just up the road.

Just after my husband retired and I slowed my own business down, in October 2019, we popped down to the Group Fair at the Pearson Centre. Before we rounded the corner from the library we heard the buzz! There was a very friendly welcome, rows of tables lined up and the hall full of passionate people trying to persuade us to join them. It was wonderful! Reminded us of a Fresher’s Fair.

Since then we have been experimenting with some things we haven’t done for years – Tennis, Cycling and Yoga. Also reconnecting with other former passions – Chess, Science, Languages, Art History and poetry reading. We have had nothing but friendly support and fun since we joined.

I have found it so refreshing to be much more defined by my interests rather than my job, background or even gender.

So, if you or anyone you know has stopped work, or slowed down, and fancies meeting new people and finding new interests, don’t hesitate to point them in the direction of Beeston u3a.

Many of the indoor groups kept going through lockdown and are active. Many outdoor groups are meeting up again, under strict Covid conditions. It is hoped to run the next Group Fair in March 2022.

Full details are on the website at and we’ve just started a new Facebook Community Group page ‘Beeston u3a’


Halcyon Days

Remembering and celebrating events of the past is something we do often at Friday Club, we look at old photographs and watch video footage of Goose Fairs and other local events of the past, getting lost in memories of halcyon days gone by.

Recently we were remembering the Plessey Gala Day and members described fondly the rivalry of the inter-factory running races, the beauty competitions, various themed tents, and all the fun of the fair. They laughed when remembering the minor celebrities that would open the event. One year (we reckon in the early 1980’s) the famous Grand National winning race horse Red Rum made a guest appearance. They described gala day as “really exciting” with hundreds going, “it was always hot and sunny”.

Brenda remembered the wild boar roast on a spit. When asked if she had any, she said “No, I was too busy watching out for my four kids!”. She also described her sister Joyce, being crowned the first Beeston Beauty Carnival Queen. When asked if she was ever crowned the Beeston Queen, she laughed and said “nah, I was the youngest, I was just the Squirt of the family”.

Whilst most remembered the Plessey gala day fondly, a couple were more reflective saying that it was a bit ‘clicky’ and they often felt excluded from the fun if they weren’t part of certain crowd. Being ‘clicky’ is something that the Beeston Carnival could never be accused of, always a lovely day to be enjoyed by all. Sadly COVID 19, has led to the unavoidable cancellation of the Beeston Carnival for a second year.  

As a result of the disappointment of no carnival, and the lack of community events over the last 14 months, Beeston Rylands Community Association have decided to create its own outdoor gala event. The event will be held on Sunday 25th July at 12pm. 

We wanted to harness the remarkable resilience of the community and have something positive and fun to focus on as we finally (and hopefully) evolve out of restrictions. 

The day will be based at the community center and the surrounding fields and will host local charities and entertainment, food, and fun (Covid restrictions permitting). We might not be able to recreate the famous Plessey Gala Day, or provide a celebrity race horse to open proceedings, but we’ll have our very own Beeston Dog Show, and a variety of other things for everyone to get involved with and have a bit of fun.  

Perhaps one thing that can be taken from last year of uncertainty is that us humans cannot thrive in isolation, and that we are healthier and happier when we are able to connect and move forward as a whole. This is an event for everyone and we’re therefore open to suggestions from all members of the community, and if anyone is interested in having a stall, please contact Amanda–Claire-

Fingers crossed for some sunshine in July!


Mega Extra Beasty Beats Edition

Confession time. I have had a major crush on records for most of my entire life, although I am not able to tell you why or how it happened, I was drawn to record shops like Orbit Records in Long Eaton or Selectadisc in Nottingham like a moth to a flame. I have spent many a day idly scanning the treasures in Rob’s Records while also trying to ignore the OCD in me that screams that there needs some kind of order to his hectic ongoing collection. It’s the artwork, the ownership, the fact that records are living a well over due resurgence. I decided to chat with fellow local record enthusiast Rory James about love, life, his 10 most influential albums and all things musical…

“First vinyl I ever bought. I am not fully sure, as I have been collecting since I was about 8-10 years old. I think it was a second hand copy of Metallica’s Master of Puppets. Metallica had come on my horizon and I thought wow, who are they? Then played them so much that I killed them beyond repair. My first ever purchases of music were actually tapes. 

I was living in Hull where I was born and had really started to focus on music. It was the late 70’s/early 80’s and music had caught my attention massively with Toyah and Adam and the Ants, as well as many other new wave/punk and electro acts of the time mostly via TV. 

I had been saving my money to buy myself some music and I bought three albums all on tape as my first ever music purchase. These were The Beatles ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, ZZ Top ‘Eliminator’ and The Cars ‘Greatest Hits’. I still own the tapes even now.

Music was actually in the blood for me without me knowing it. Mum was a massive fan of The Doors and many other bands from back in the 60’s and 70’s, my dad played guitar in a band and sang and they named me in part after his guitar hero Rory Gallagher. 

I was heavily influenced by the whole hippy rock thing my parents were into. My actual earliest memory of owning vinyl would have been a record I still own now. It’s not the original copy from back then, but I re-found it in recent years as a collector, which massively brought memories flooding back. It was a Disney record for Mickey Mouse’s Christmas. 

I also remember before moving from primary school to secondary school when electro music and hip hop hit the airwaves. At that age I was trying to work out my own identity. I got massively into Michael Jackson for a short while, then discovered Metallica, WASP, Sabbat, Bon Jovi, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Def Leppard and so on. 

My mate at the time who lived not too far away was a huge rock and metal fan. Alister was his name, he showed me WASP records and lots of skater thrash bands and that was it. I was hooked on the whole thrash metal scene. Oh yeah, and then came along Iron Maiden with their images of Eddie. I bought myself a denim jacket, lots of band patches mainly of Maiden and grew my hair long.

By the time I was 15 we moved to Nottingham. I’d watched a documentary on TV by Arena all about the UK rock and metal scene, had seen Rock City on it and a load of head bangers moshing around the dance floor and ‘I thought I want to go there one day’. Let’s just say I lived in Rock City from the age of about 17 right through into my early 30’s. So music and vinyl have been massive parts of my life.

Musically, vinyl was always in the house as a kid, I loved the sound, the crackles and the pops. The other reason I loved it and still do is the artwork, that fact you had something to look at, read, explore, work out what was engraved on the run out in the centre of the record and the messages you could find from the bands to the fans. It was and always has been a journey.

I moved away from vinyl and tapes in the 90’s, had a brief but limited journey with CD’s but got into downloading music when the internet came along. But by that point I had already amassed quite a large collection. But I returned to vinyl around 10/15 years ago, when I started buying second hand from charity shops,

I then started going to markets and charity shop warehouses, offering cash for larger job lots, often walking away with tubs full of vinyl for not much money. Then with the resurgence in vinyl for bands and collectors I started buying new vinyl. The first one I can remember buying was David Bowie’s ‘Black Star’, which was a massive deal as he passed away literally 2 days later. It was at that point I saw the value in vinyl. I bought the LP for £25 brand new online, and if I remember rightly, the day he died the value went up to at least £100.

So I have many, many stories all music related through all the years of buying vinyl, from meeting bands, sitting in recording studios, working with the drummer from Sabbath in Long Eaton, working for Ferocious Dog (I built their first website and did photography for them for a time). I have even done photography once at Rock City for the Levellers, oh yeah and I was DJing in town, mainly at the Maze and Albert’s in between bands until COVID hit.

I have roughly 6-9,000 records, CD and Tapes in my collection. I also regularly buy new vinyl online, usually limited editions. My most recent purchase that was delivered was Gary Numan’s new album ‘Intruder’. Great album and great artist. I am waiting for the delivery later in the year of the latest Fear Factory LP (back to my metal thrasher routes).

So where do we go from here…I have been gifted or bought friends and family’s entire collections many times because I am well known for collecting and selling the odd bit also. I have built up a very wide collection of genres and knowledge to go with it. I always wanted to end up working in the music industry, in a shop or as a roadie or something but as much as I have delved in a slightly it never happened. I currently work for Public Health England as an admin manager helping fight COVID, its funny where you end up isn’t it? I’d still love to head into the music industry especially with the skills and knowledge I have built up.

10 most influential albums of my journey:

So it has to be my first 3 tapes – Beatles – ‘Sgt Pepper’, ZZ Top – ‘Eliminator’, The Cars – ‘Greatest Hits’.

Then Pink Floyd – ‘Wish You Were Here’ (always makes me think of my dad in Australia)

Metallica – ‘Master of Puppets’ (my door way into rock and Metal) \m/

Tool – ‘10,000 days’ – such an amazing album, every time I listen to it, it puts me right in the same place, it’s very dark in places, atmospheric and when I am really feeling quite low it really helps me process the darkness inside and empowers me to let it go.

Fields of The Nephilim – ‘The Nephilim’ – If you don’t know this album then you’re really missing out.

More recently my most loved and cherished album is by a band called Heilung and the LP is called ‘Ofnir’. This is Pagan/Viking music played with many traditional instruments including bones. It may sound crazy to some but take a listen and watch them online, if you can go see them live, it’s very earthy and grounding music.

Electronic music was (and still is) a huge part of my musical journey, and none more than The Prodigy. I would be straight on any dance floor or anywhere I could (including illegal raves in the 1990’s) when they came onto the speakers. I have loved them right from the start of the ‘Experienced’ LP but have to say the best LP was and always will be ‘Music for the Jilted Generation’. I actually own one of only a few original prints from the artist that produced the artwork for that album, framed on my office wall. I am so proud of that print and everything it says about music and society. I have never told my partner how much that cost me to get hold of, but to me it’s priceless.

Lastly is one considered a flop for the artist. I only own a copy on CD as the vinyl copy is quite hard to find (especially in mint or near mint condition). It is Billy Idol’s ‘Cyberpunk’ record. I love the fusion of rock/punk and electro, and this has to be my fave type of music nowadays the fusion of rock instruments with electro. This album also added in for me my crazy love of sci-fi. I believe even Billy Idol himself considers this LP to be a flop for himself mostly financially, but for me regardless this has to be one of his best.

Oh…one more…one more to add! Number 11…and I really, really could just keep going…the last has to be Daft Punk’s ‘Tron Legacy’. OMG what an album, what a film! 

I also run my own Facebook page called Dark-Side Records – yes it’s my love of Star Wars and sci-fi crossed with my love of music. I use it to share anything musical I find that I want to share with others. Also to sell a few bits when I don’t want them or people use it to contact me if they have collections the want to offer. It’s a bit of fun most of the time but it’s who I am. I use it when I DJ either out at gigs, club nights in venues or when I DJ online. Basically it’s my way of sharing my musical journey with others. Music brings us all together.”


An Englishman’s Home

It’s been a weird time for performers, entertainers and middle-aged blokes who dress up as Robin Hood for a living this past year or so; as I’ve mentioned before there’s been precious little opportunity to work at all in tourism because…well, there simply aren’t any tourists, and even if there were it would have been illegal to perform for them. Fun times, eh?

But on June 1st I had my first actual in person, live (and paying!) gig for well over a year and it was an important one both for me and for Nottingham; after many years it was time for the City Council to ceremonially hand the keys of Nottingham Castle over to the Castle Trust, the not-for-profit body who’ll be responsible for running the newly refurbished site when it opens. 

And so, fresh from having my second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine the day before (and thus feeling a bit ropey, I must admit), I dug out my Robin Hood kit, squeezed into it and headed up to the Castle for an 8am photocall with both the Lord Mayor and the Sheriff of Nottingham, the Chair of the Trust, representatives of the Council and the group who’d overseen the refurbishment of the site and buildings and loads of newspaper and TV reporters from the city’s media organisations.

I know the Castle can be a contentious subject; I know people who are adamant Nottingham has no castle as the building most people call ‘the castle’ is actually a ducal palace from a much later period (a building still hugely important in its own right, mind you – it was, for instance, the first municipal library in the country outside London), but unlike other medieval castles it has not fared well, with only a few sections of wall remaining as well as the historic caves. 

The vast amount spent on the whole site (which in fact is ‘the Castle’) in landscaping, repairing and creating new facilities and galleries has taken what we have and made the most of it so we now have what promises to be a vastly upgraded site that can genuinely be a modern world-class attraction, display space, museum and event location.   

The grounds have been improved considerably. A lot of the self-seeded trees whose roots were digging into the sandstone have been removed, the moat cleared of overgrowth and debris and a new visitor centre built just inside the gates. Inside there’s a whole new ‘Robin Hood’ gallery complete with archery and quarterstaff games (thankfully I did reasonably well…) and the rest of the building and galleries have been remodelled sympathetically, extensively and impressively.

But for me the hand-over ceremony was a bittersweet affair; I’ve been Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood for a very long time now – I started ‘Hooding’ (if that’s allowable as a verb) over thirty years ago (when I had just the one chin and a flat stomach) and as the City’s Robin I realised that this event might well be my last appearance at the Castle as their official resident outlaw. 

I’ve no idea if that’s the case or not but it certainly added extra poignancy to the morning for me and made me think about all the memorable, fun, silly, happy and wonderful times I’ve enjoyed there over the years; the Pageants, events, guided tours, filming TV shows and parades I’ve spent there with tens of thousands of visitors, my friends, fellow performers, reenactors, castle staff and management and especially with my wonderful and much-missed Maid Marian and late wife, Sal. 

There was even the time when, seven years ago, I was officially made ‘Under-Sheriff of Nottingham’ by the then real Sheriff so we could work together to help raise the funds which ultimately led to the now finished renovations – who’d have thought, Robin and the Sheriff on the same side for once!  

So whilst I’ll still be (and be exceptionally proud to be) the City of Nottingham’s official Robin it may be time to let a new era start at the Castle – after all, I’m now eleven years older than Sean Connery was when he made the fabulous movie ROBIN AND MARIAN about the final days of an elderly and infirm Robin.

But I’m still not quite ready to hang up my tights yet – especially as I’m still under-Sheriff. Because who knows, maybe one day I’ll stand (as Robin) for election as the real thing – and I’m pretty sure that would make history!


Bow Selecta: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!” sang the late and very much lamented David Bowie, commenting on the state of the world (unless he was pretending to be a steam train approaching a major station, which I doubt), and I’d love to know what he’d make of the state of the planet now. Personally, I think when he and the equally missed Lemmy (from Motorhead) died, that was the start of the world slipping into some form of dark, unpleasant alternate right-wing Trumpian universe… but I digress before I’ve even started, which is good going even for me.

The world always has and always will change; people have gone through times of feast and famine, peace and war, joys and sorrows, Bowie and Jedward (etc). Since time began and we have more change ahead of us here in Beeston too. In a couple of hours, I’ll be heading off to one of our newly re-opened pubs for a (hopefully lovely) socially distanced Sunday lunch sat outside in what looks to be glorious weather. How different from a few months ago when the world was cold and grey, everything was closed, the news was relentlessly depressing and the only social interaction I had was with postie and Amazon drivers.

We’ve lost a few shops and businesses too in that time (indeed one near me appears to have closed without ever having open up; an empty shop had a big refurbish, new window signs in anticipation of opening and then… nothing. Signs gone, windows whited again…). However, more shops, restaurants and venues are opening up now and there seems to be a dynamism and buzz about Beeston that’s impossible to repress (not that I’m trying). Older readers may recall a time when Beeston had a cinema, but now we have a new facility on the verge of opening, the market is back and whilst we may lament some old favourites (I miss you, Chimera Games) we have loads of new restaurants and shops to support.

But what about *us*, the people of Beeston? How has this past year (and longer) affected you? Not at all – or at least very little – for some; massively for others in terms of health, wealth and happiness. Some losses will stay with people for the rest of their lives, but I hope as a community we can pull together to support each other even though it’s been a tough time.

It’s easy (especially in a world where we’ve been hiding away and deliberately avoiding human contact) to retain that wariness and suspicion and allow it to grow into mistrust or even fear; reports of pet and bike thefts or the antisocial behaviour of children and teenagers in parks can take hold and colour a world view more than is desirable. Are things worse than they used to be? There are quotes from ancient Greeks bemoaning the lack of respect youngsters show to their elders, I think it was ever thus. Bike thefts in the area do seem appalling, but a friend in the Police tells me the whole ‘pet napping thing really isn’t an issue (or at least certainly nowhere near as bad as the media (and social media) frenzy around it suggests.

And maybe it’s the weather but I’m feeling a bit more positive too; even though there’s still no Robin Hood work around I’m getting things done in the garden and around the house and something’s changed in my head too – it feels like a genuine determination to move forward, to be positive and not to let a bleak past claw me back into the black and grey.

A positive attitude has to be a good thing I’m sure – for me and for all of us, and for Beeston. For as the great Mahatma Gandhi (himself a one-time visitor to Beeston)* said to the little boy who had swallowed a number of coins and wanted to know how to get them back, “Just Wait. Change is inevitable”.

* I know, he didn’t really say it, Disraeli did – but he never visited Beeston, so Gandhi’s way cooler.