An interview with…Giselle Leeb

A couple of years ago when I was still an undergraduate, I found myself being taught how to do HTML and WordPress with a select bunch of other writers. Our teacher was Giselle Leeb, 47, website developer, IT trainer and writer. She’s lived in Beeston for two and a half years but grew up in South Africa. I caught up with her to find out what she’s up to and how her writing career is going.

Giselle has had 20 short stories published so far. They have appeared in publications such as Reckoning, Litro, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Mslexia, The Stockholm Review, and Firewords Quarterly among others. She has recently become assistant editor at Reckoning, an annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice, who published her short story Wolfinia in December 2016.

The secret behind getting her stories published is to always write and constantly submit. “I write every day except for weekends,” says Giselle. “I’ve got enough short stories to try and put some into a collection, I’ve got the stories and the manuscript ready.”

For someone who usually submits short stories to publications, putting together a collection would seem like the natural progression. I ask her which publishers she has in mind for the collection.

“There’s quite a few good indie publishers, but it’s very hard to get short story collections published if you’re a relatively unknown writer.”

Giselle submits stories as much as she writes them, and doing so has revealed new things about her writing style and capabilities that even she didn’t realise. The last story she had published was ‘The Dog’s Aren’t Barking’ which appears in Supernatural Tales. She wrote it and submitted it despite it not being her preferred genre.

“I don’t normally write supernatural stories,” she reveals. “That’s the longest short story I’ve written (about 6,500 words). I was a bit unsure because it’s not my usual genre. I wasn’t sure if they would publish it but I was very chuffed.”

She describes her usual genre as ‘literary slipstream’, an area of fiction I’d never heard of until that moment. “It’s a bit like magic realism or weird tales,” she explains. “It’s a literary story setting in a real town but there’s some strange element to it.”

It’s absolutely essential to have feedback from a group

Although I write fiction and poetry, I hardly ever submit them to competitions or publications, but Giselle believes that submitting work helps with the motivation to write.

“I’ll try out competition themes and sometimes they spark something off. You can get too distracted by it, addicted,” she laughs.

She also makes use of websites that can help with tracking submissions such as Duotrope and The (Submissions) Grinder. “I’ve got about 20 stories I’m sending out at the moment so it’s quite important. It’s really easy to forget where you’ve sent a story.”

For anyone who has never submitted creative work before and doesn’t know where to start, the answer is simple: Google it.

“Look at competitions,” says Giselle. “It will always be there, it’s not like anyone is going to take it away or do the exact same stories!”

In issue 47 of The Beestonian we featured an interview with Beeston author Megan Taylor, who is Giselle’s partner. They met through both being members of the same fiction group, and had known one another two years before they got together. Giselle explains the benefits of being in a relationship with another writer.

“We write quite differently but I think we’ve got a good appreciation of each other’s work. We definitely bounce ideas off each other but it’s never rivalrous. For me, it’s absolutely essential to have feedback from a group or from Megan.”

In the near future Giselle is hoping to so some workshops with Writing East Midlands, but for now she is enjoying going through the slash pile of unsolicited submissions at Reckoning, and getting an idea of what it feels like to be on the other side.

It was announced recently that Giselle will have one of her stories published in Best British Short Stories 2017 by Salt Publishing. The anthology will be available on 15 June and is available to pre-order now from Amazon and Waterstones.

You can find out more about Giselle’s writing and publications on her website: giselleleeb.com

JM

Nottingham Poetry Festival

Anne 2

This year’s poetry festival, which lasted for one week from 21 – 30 April took over from what was Nottingham Festival of Literature and was organised by the comedian, writer and poet Henry Normal.

The programme for the festival was full to the brim with over 50 events featuring a wide range of poets, both from inside and outside Nottingham, and featured big names in poetry such as Carol Ann Duffy and John Cooper Clarke. I attended the following events which showcased the breadth of poetic talent in our city.

On Saturday 22, a poetry slam took place at Nottingham Mechanics, judged by poet and facilitator Jim Hall, whose only criteria was that the poems made him feel something.

There were performances from Panya Banjoko, and former Mouthy poets, Joshua Judson, Matt Miller and Neal Pike, as well as other familiar faces from the poetry scene.

In the end, Jim chose a wonderful poet Gloria for third place, whose soft-spoken poems made an impression on the judge and audience alike. Second place went to emerging performance poet Jake Wildeman, with first place awarded to Matt Miller, whose poems about love and home were poignant enough to win him £30 in prize money.

Jim, who was assisted by Jeremy, the chair of Nottingham Poetry Society, said, ‘[Matt] really thought about the time limit. It was a whole journey within three minutes and I learnt a lot about him. It was quite a clear one for me.’

On Sunday 23, Rough Trade was the home of Book Off, which began with a workshop in ‘found poetry’ whereby participants used magazines to create poems by cutting or blacking out selected words. The day continued with a performance poetry workshop by Jamie Thrasivoulou and Sophie Sparham, which covered issues such as heckling, performing politically sensitive poems and the best way to introduce yourself to your audience.

Bridie hit her teammate Joshua’s face with a wet teabag to demonstrate schadenfreude

At this point, sportswear-clad poets began to assemble for Poetercize: the Poetry Game Show hosted by Stephen Thomas. This round was the decider between Bridie Squires and Joshua Judson vs Chris McLoughlin and Milla Tebbs. The event was delayed due to technical problems, but was handled with humour. The show featured That Welsh Woman, interpretive dance and audience participation.

Bridie hit her teammate Joshua’s face with a wet teabag to demonstrate schadenfreude, and Chris ate orange peel in a desperate bid to be the best…but in the end it was Chris and Milla who were crowned champions.

On Tuesday 25, Debbie Bryan in the Lace Market welcomed Some Poets from Big White Shed for an evening of performances from poets that have been published by BWS and poets that they would like to see published.

The event celebrated what Anne describes as ‘peer publishing’ and featured poems from Neal Pike, Stephen Thomas, Midnight Shelley, Trevor Wright and Jim Hall among many others.

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Continuing the celebration of publishing was Mud Press on Friday 28 at the launch of their latest anthology Woman. Mud Press is a publishing house which was set up by Georgina Wilding.

The event took place at Cobden Chambers and replicated the festival vibe but on a smaller scale. There were live artists, music, face painting and a poetry kissing booth.

I’ve only covered a tiny portion of the poetry festival, and my experience was exactly what I wanted it to be. It was a week of celebration that both poets and poetry lovers could appreciate.

JM

Stephan Collishaw: Interview

We caught up with Stephan to find out about his latest novel and how Beeston played a role in his writing career…

Front Cover

If you’d have told a young Stephan Collishaw that one day he would be a published author he probably wouldn’t have believed you. Yet his third novel The Song of the Stork has recently been released by Legend Press, and he’s set up Noir Press, which is the only publishing house in the UK dedicated to Lithuanian Literature. Not bad for a man who failed his GCSEs twice.

Collishaw, 49, who currently lives in Colwick, grew up in Basford and attended Ellis Guilford, and despite failing his exams, he did leave school with a love of literature.

“They introduced me to Guy de Maupassant, which is the only thing school did for me,” he reminisces. “My poor mother was at her wits end and got me onto a Youth Training Scheme back in the 1980s. I went to work at a bookkeepers and lasted there 6 months until I got sacked.” However, this proved to be a crucial moment in his life.

“At that point in time, I decided I wanted to be a writer. So I started reading as much as I possibly could,” he says, “but when I was at work the cleaning lady caught me going to the toilets with Jane Austen and cup of tea.” We laugh at the memory. “She reported me to the manager who didn’t think it was appropriate, and sacked me.”

In 1995 he decided to go on a whim to Lithuania after teaching for two years in Radford, and that decision has made his life what it is today. “I’d gone with the start of a novel stuffed in my backpack,” he says, “and when I got there, life was far too much fun to be writing a novel. I ended up getting married to a Lithuanian.”

Now, he has three children, speaks Lithuanian and visits the country regularly. “When you explore a country, one of the things you want to do is explore the writing,” states Collishaw. “It’s almost impossible to actually read Lithuanian novelists,” he adds.

It was this that became the driving force behind Noir Press, which he set up about a year ago. “Until this moment in time,” he tells me, “there was only one living Lithuanian novelist in translation in the UK and that’s the one I published. It’s the only one.”

So far, Noir Press has published Breathing into Marble by Laura Sintija Černiauskaitė which won the European Union Prize for Literature. The publishing house is also set to release three books this year: The Easiest by Rasa Aškinytė; Shtetl Romance by Grigory Kanovich; The Music Teacher by Renata Šerelytė.

“All the books that we’re publishing have been award winning or in the top five books in Lithuania,” he tells me. “The concept is not to do more than one of each writer so that we build up a showcase. This is Lithuanian fiction as it stands at this moment in time.”

I ask him about his latest book Song of the Stork, a historical fiction novel set during the 1940s amid the Second World War which tells the story of a fifteen year old Jewish girl, Yael. While on the run, she meets a village outcast who is mute and they form a relationship.

“Before I’d started writing it,” explains Collishaw, “I hadn’t thought about how you would develop a relationship between two characters who can’t speak to each other. But in some ways that was a powerful, energetic part of the novel because I had to think how I was going to develop that relationship rather than falling back on normal tropes of writing.”

Although he doesn’t live in Beeston, Collishaw does have links to our town particularly with the Flying Goose Café along Chilwell Road. “I’ll be doing a reading there,” he reveals, “and at the moment Hilary [Cook] is very kindly selling my books in preparation for the talk.”

Beeston was one of the first places I was taken seriously as a writer

It’s not just recently that Flying Goose has played a part in his writing career, as he explains: “Years ago I did one of my first ever readings as a novelist at her café back in 2001-2, so for me it’s a special place. That was when I first felt as though I was a proper writer and had any kind of identity as a writer.” It’s not just the café he likes to visit when he comes to Beeston. Jen Glover who set up the micro-brewery A Pottle of Blues is one of his former colleagues. “We worked together for many years at a school in Radford and it was enough to send us all off crazy,” he laughs, “so for Jen it provided the impetus for her escaping from teaching and living a dream of hers; opening a bar is the most appropriate thing she could possibly have done.”

The Beeston-based publisher Shoestring Press also holds a place in his heart, not only because he considers John Lucas a “godfather of literature” but because his first published collection was a Shoestring edition.

Collishaw explains: “I entered East Midlands Writers Awards and won. They published it with Shoestring, so I was first published by a Beeston publisher and it was the first time I’d ever made it into a proper publication.” He adds, “Beeston was one of the first places I was taken seriously as a writer.”

Stephen will be at the Flying Goose Café on Wednesday April 12 where he will be reading from Song of the Stork.

To find out more about Noir Press and upcoming publications, visit: www.noirpress.co.uk

Jade Moore

Chris McLoughlin: Interview

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeiran Ganiyeva

We met a Beeston performance poet who is breaking down the boundaries of mental health…

Breakdown

It’s very rare that I cry after reading a book or poem. But one Beeston-based performance poet succeeded in opening the floodgates when I read one of ten poems in his collection Breakdown. The man in question is Chris McLoughlin, 28, who has been writing for two and a half years, ever since he moved to the area.

His chapbook was published in July 2016 by Big White Shed, a Nottingham-based business run by Anne Holloway, which acts as an enabler to help poets such as Chris realise their ambitions, such as writing a book.

After reading his collection, I couldn’t wait to meet him and it turns out we have a lot more in common than expected, i.e. we both have anxiety. I begin by asking him about the subject matter of his poems. He says, ‘They predominantly cover the mental health spectrum and grief.’  It is by nature a personal subject, so I asked him what his poems mean to him, in terms of their content and writing them. He tells me that ‘they are a way for me to process what I’m going through, but in performance and by publishing they are a way that I hope other people can process what they are going through.’

As a Beeston poet myself, I wondered whether he has ever been inspired by our home-town. He says: ‘I write about Beeston quite a lot. You know the concrete steam towers? When you get the train in just before the station? I’ve written about them loads. Every time I reach them I’m home, and they’re the signifier.’

At this point we turn to the subject of performance. Chris tells me that he has a background in drama and is a trained actor. He says, ‘I’m more of a stage poet than I am a page poet. The difference for me is when you read a powerful poem, it will tend to reach people for longer but not in the same way. Whereas when I perform, I perform to people not just at them.’

I walk into the audience and get them to cram around me as tight as they can, and it’s trying to teach them what anxiety is.

Chris has performed at a number of festivals including Luton International Carnival, Nottingham Poetry festival, and Greenwich & Docklands Festival. He provides me with an insight into how someone expressing mental health problems transfers that to an audience: ‘There’s one poem called Ghosts which I do at festivals,’ he says, ‘and usually you tend to get quite a lot of “traditional” poets who read and look like professors. But in Ghosts, I walk into the audience and get them to cram around me as tight as they can, and it’s trying to teach them what anxiety is.’ I tell him what a great idea it is, to combine his acting skills with being a poet, and he recalls a performance he did at Das Kino in Nottingham. ‘They’ve got a big mirror at the back which you perform in front of,’ he tells me, ‘and that’s so horrible! If I perform in front of that, everyone is going to be like “whatever”, so I got everyone to turn around and face the mirror, and I faced the mirror and said, “this is what anxiety looks like.”’

I tell him I need to see him perform.

To tell me what message he wants to convey to his readers through the written word he begins by explaining the writing process of his book’s blurb: ‘We [him and Anne] took three hours to write the blurb, and it’s two sentences. It’s because we didn’t know what we meant, and it was always stuff like “Chris McLoughlin is a blah blah blah” and in the end I just wrote “he kinda wants you to buy this book, or whatever, but really he just hopes these poems help you feel less alone”. And that’s exactly it, I just want someone to hear the poem and go “oh, me too.”’

I was meant to interview Chris for the last issue, and touch on his role with the Mouthy Poets, a poetry collective that run weekly workshop sessions to explore poetry in terms of performance. But in December 2016 they split up, so I decide to ask Chris, who was their Artistic Director, about the reasons behind the split. He tells me ‘we got caught in a catch 22 where our funding got so low we could barely afford to pay our staff, and we needed our staff to be doing funding stuff. Eventually we decided rather than impact our participants negatively we’d say “we’ve done a lot and that’s that.”’ He informs me that the average running course of an arts organisation is five years, and the Mouthy Poets had been on its sixth year.

It’s not all bad news, however, as participants from Mouthy have branched out and created new projects such as a writing collective and an editing circle. Chris adds that although he doesn’t see Mouthy coming back together, he wouldn’t rule it out completely.

After reading Breakdown I’m eager for more, so I ask him if he is working on anything at the moment. ‘I’ve just finished my first full collection, called Underneath the Almond Tree. It covers my life from three months before my mother passed away from breast cancer up until the present day.’ As he wants his collection in the hands of more people, he’ll be sending it off to publishers such as Faber and Carcanet, and it’ll be another two years or so until the collection is out.

But for now, you can buy Breakdown from Chris’ website:  http://www.pijaykin.com

Or see his featured poem below, taken from his upcoming collection.

 Dodo

I want to be big, flightless, and tasty
for explorers. When I walk into a room
parrots will squawk Who’s a pretty boy
then? I want a beak, for pecking,
grabbing, but not chewing.
I don’t want to chew anymore.
I want to swallow things
whole

or leave them alone.

Chris McLoughlin

Jade Moore

Super Kitchen

Reasons why we should eat together…

“Taking the time to sit down together over a meal helps to create social networks that in turn have profound effects on our physical and mental health, our happiness and wellbeing, and even our sense of purpose in life.”

The above quote is taken from Breaking Bread, a report published by the University of Oxford, which focuses on the results from a National Survey for The Big Lunch. The report features an array of statistics and graphs that work to illustrate the way many of us feel about mealtimes and life in general. The research proves that there is a strong correlation between eating meals with other people and feeling positive about life. The report also highlights the various physical effects that eating together causes in our bodies, for example, eating with others ‘triggers the endorphin system in the brain’ which provides us with positive and healthy eating experience.

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But what has this got to do with Beeston? A brilliant business called Super Kitchen. The ideas raised in the Breaking Bread report make up part of the driving force behind the community café business, and later on this year, Beeston will be saying hello to our very own Super Kitchen! I met up with Marsha Smith, founder and project director, for a friendly endorphin-inducing chat over coffee, hot chocolate and shortbread, to find out more…

Many people are busy, have children, or are on a tight budget when it comes to socialising and organising meals for the family.

Back in 2010, Marsha set up a small community café in Sneinton where she cooked a soup, a main, and a pudding three times a week. It might not sound like much, but ‘that was actually really popular,’ she tells me, ‘people really appreciate fresh food, and if the food is good then they’re quite happy to not have so many choices. I just made the food I wanted to make and asked people to come and eat it.’ This is where the seed of Super Kitchen began to grow.

‘It dawned on me,’ Marsha continues, ‘that our pubs, working men’s clubs and social spaces have diminished over time.’ This is a sound observation when you consider how times are moving on, and what it means to be social nowadays. Many people are busy, have children, or are on a tight budget when it comes to socialising and organising meals for the family. Marsha goes on to say that she ‘recognised there was a real gap in the market, especially if you don’t want to go to the pub when you’ve got children, or don’t want the cost of going out to a formal restaurant.’

At this point, as the café we sat in was getting ever busier with people meeting up for a chat, I started realise how little thought and consideration I had given to the importance of mealtimes, and eating as a family. Marsha pointed out that hungry children had been turning up to her social eating events. ‘I wanted to at least have a go at trying to use the business model for social good, so I repositioned my business as a charity and applied for funding,’ she says, ‘I then ran a year’s project called Family Café. It was a pay as you feel model that ran on surplus food from FareShare.’ FareShare is an organisation that aims to tackle food poverty by saving good food and sending it to charities and community groups like Marsha’s so that it can be turned into delicious and nutritious meals. Working with organisations such as FareShare ensures that the meals are cheaply sourced, which makes them ‘as affordable as possible and economically viable,’ states Marsha.

It was at the end of the Family Café project that various groups started getting in contact, saying “We love your model, but how do you do it?” At which point, in April 2014, Super Kitchen was set up formally. ‘What we did was we said, “we’ve got a replicable model, and we’ll give you our model and help you with food hygiene certification, support, guidance, and a link to FareShare food,”’ explains Marsha. Super Kitchen became like an umbrella, or banner, under which various cafes operate under. They pay an annual membership which covers the cost of everything including the food. ‘That’s how Super Kitchen was built.’

kitchen prep

Within two years, they have gone from one to over forty Super Kitchens, mainly in Nottinghamshire, but there are also some located in Warwickshire, Derbyshire and Leicester. So, what about our Beeston Super Kitchen? ‘We’ll be setting one up at Middle Street Resource Centre,’ she tells me. ‘There will be a monthly social eating event, and you can expect a two or three course meal for about £2.50. It’s probably going to be vegetarian.’

With that in mind, conversation turned back to the core inspiration behind the business, and what positive effects social eating can have for us as human beings. So if you’re wondering what a social eating event is like, Marsha told me exactly what you can expect…

‘People should expect a really affordable, sociable meal that’s got loads of love in it and has been cooked by somebody and hasn’t just been pinged in a microwave. It’s just like a family dinner only on a bigger, more social setting.’

“Making time for and joining in communal meals is perhaps the single most important thing we could do – both for our own health and wellbeing and for community cohesion.” – Breaking Bread.

Visit the website at: http://superkitchen.org/

Jade Moore

Rhymes with Purple: Review

An evening with the beats…

Until I got asked to review it, I didn’t know that this monthly poetry event even existed. It was set up by The Beestonian’s very own Darren Kirkbride, as a replacement for the Flying Goose event which ended a year ago. He mentioned the idea to Alan Baker when he interviewed him for the January issue, and, with the additional support of Sarah Jackson and John Lucas (the man behind the Flying Goose events) he was able to set it up. There have only been three events so far, including the one I attended, and guests for each have been Alan Baker, Rory Waterman (coincidentally my former dissertation tutor) and Graham Caveney. The event is held at The White Lion, and commences at 7pm.

The event was slow to start, with only a few attendees present at the start time. However, eventually people started to filter in, and there was a good turnout for when Graham Caveney, the guest speaker, began his talk. Graham is a biographer of Alan Ginsberg and William Burroughs, and when listening to him, I found the English Literature student in me was satisfied. It was almost like being in an especially interesting lecture. I admit I’ve never read any Ginsberg or Burroughs, but I have had Burroughs’ Naked Lunch on my bookshelf for a couple of years, waiting until I get round to reading it. And why was this month’s subject on The Beats? It is 60 years since Ginsberg’s poetry collection HOWL was published.

Anyone who finds themselves in a pub on a wet Wednesday in Beeston probably owes that presence to this bunch of psychiatric casualties, self-styled outlaws, and, occasionally, brilliant, inspiring poets.

The talk lasted just under half an hour but covered lots of ground, and many different areas of the Beats and Beat poets. I found out that their influence was far greater than I initially thought, and collided with other well-known figures from modernists to musicians. Graham mentioned that ‘Burroughs coined the term Heavy Metal’, and ended his talk with an apt observation. He said ‘that anyone who finds themselves in a pub on a wet Wednesday in Beeston probably owes that presence to this bunch of psychiatric casualties, self-styled outlaws, and, occasionally, brilliant, inspiring poets.’ This set the tone perfectly for opening the floor to questions.

I’m used to these moments being filled with silence and awkwardness, from my experience in lectures at uni, but here, there were plenty of questions to be asked. Since I felt I was learning about the Beats, I decided to listen to the questions and answers rather than contribute one myself. After the Q&A there were a series of clips from Youtube lined up for us to watch. These included a visual interpretation of Ginsberg’s poem ‘A Supermarket in California’, video footage of Burroughs giving a speech (I really liked this one; there’s something strangely satisfying from having heard about someone, and then actually seeing what they look like. He didn’t disappoint).

At this point, we took a break. I heard many Beat-related conversations going on around me, and I took in the ever-cosy atmosphere and looked forward to the next part of the night: Poetry Readings. The brief was to ‘bring along your favourite Beats inspired poem as well as read your own work’. The readings began with a reading from Tony Challis of one of Ginsberg’s poems, and then a poem he’d written in the fashion of Ginsberg’s. Next, Russell Christie read out another Beat poem, followed by an extract from his novel The Queer Diary of Mordred Vienna. More reading’s ensued, ranging from poems inspired by travelling, to humorous haiku, Primark, and the love of cheese.

All the money raised from the evening was donated to helping the migrant crisis in Calais. All in all, it was worth going. Unfortunately, the event won’t be running over the summer, but I have it on good authority that the next one will take place on September 27.

Jade Moore

 

Greetings from The Postcard Poet

A Beeston writer discovers what home really means

Recently, I’ve got back into writing letters. I got myself a pen pal via the social media platform Instagram, and started writing. Then, I noticed that my pen pal was also writing to someone called ‘thepostcardpoet’, and being a collector of postcards and a poet, I checked out her Instagram account. Here, I was faced with a colourful array of photos of various postcards. I clicked on one and saw the address the postcard had been sent to. Beeston. I thought, ‘Wow! That’s where I live!’ and I left her a comment telling her this.

So, why was a girl from Beeston receiving postcards from all over the world? I decided to meet her and find out. We met for coffee in The Bean…

Emily Richards is currently doing an MA in Writing at Warwick University, but has moved to Beeston with her boyfriend Pete to go on to do a PHD in Creative Writing at the Uni of Nottingham. On asking her where she had received postcards from so far, I was told a multitude of countries and towns that are best illustrated by the map of the world that Emily keeps on her bedroom wall and updates with every postcard she receives. But, for your interest, here are some of the brilliant places they have arrived from: Montreal, Canada; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Cape Town, South Africa; Brisbane and Warriewood, Australia. And in the UK: Brighton, Birmingham, London, Newtown, Coventry, Dublin, Durham, Devon, Sheffield, Preston…and of course, Beeston (I sent her one!)

‘The project started,’ she tells me, ‘because my poetry teacher, Jonathan Skinner, showed us all the small press poetry books he’d made and received in his life. Lots of them were poetry zines shared by post, and one was a collection of postcards from poets in Boston.’ The idea of using the postal service to share poetry appealed to her, and she goes on to tell me that she’d been listening to a poet ‘talking about how William Wordsworth used Dorothy Wordsworth’s diary to create his poetry.’ The combination of sharing poetry via the post, using other people’s words, and being inspired by your home ‘all fed into the idea,’ she says.

The project took me all the way to the other side of the world then back to Beeston.

The project’s aim is to ‘collate worldwide perspectives on home’ and I asked her if the project had turned out the way she thought it would when she first began it. Originally, she wanted to create a collection of poetry by taking lines from the postcards, but once postcards started arriving, she discovered something different. Rather than reading poetic lines, she was reading about people. Regarding the theme of ‘home’, she discovered that ‘everyone has the same opinion of what home is, no matter where they live or how old they are. Home is a state of mind, a place where they feel comfortable.’ As a response to this, rather than asking people to write about what home means to them, she asks that they write about themselves and where they live. ‘This gets more personal answers,’ she says. It means that rather than finding poetic inspiration, she has found the voices of other people. After I had initially contacted her, telling her I was from Beeston, she said: “It’s amazing the project took me all the way to the other side of the world then back to Beeston.”

During our meeting, amid discussions of home and what home means, I asked her what Beeston as a home means to her since she moved here. As someone who has lived here my whole life, I was curious to know what Beeston is like through the eyes of an outsider. Since one of her hobbies is walking, she’s found that wherever she is ‘walking around makes me feel at home’, but Beeston (and the surrounding area) specifically? She enjoys ‘walking and running around Highfields’ and she and Pete did a café crawl on which they discovered Greenhood Coffee House. Emily also tells me how much she enjoys the pub quiz at the Crown.

Towards the end of our meeting, we had an unexpected visitor…her boyfriend Pete turned up, so we both wasted no time asking him what he thinks of Beeston as his new home. He said that what makes him feel at home is ‘having regular places to go, shop and eat. Getting a familiar routine associated with a place.’ This routine can be as simple as ‘shopping at supermarkets and figuring out the bus routes’.

Emily is keen to get more people from Beeston to send her postcards, in the hope of finding that people might have different perspectives on the same place. If you want to find out more, then visit Emily’s blog at: poetryinpink.com or follow her Instagram account dedicated to the project where you will find a link to a blog post containing all the info you’ll need: @thepostcardpoet

Jade Moore

Citizens Advice

We talk to a valuable service at the heart of our town

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On a Friday morning in March, I was sat on the chairs reserved for those waiting for a meeting with Citizens Advice Broxtowe. There was one other person there. Then a few more people turned up, and started handing out cards with numbers on. I politely declined. I wasn’t there for advice. I was there to meet Sally Bestwick, a friendly woman who gave me a wealth of information, on account of being a brilliant talker! She is the current Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Broxtowe, a service that is available to anyone and, says Sally, “advises on absolutely anything.” She emphasises that people might not be aware that Citizens Advice is a charity and relies entirely on donations and funding in order to keep going.

In April CAB hosted a fundraising concert with BeVox, a community choir which frequently performs to raise funds for various charities. This is “one of the biggest fundraisers [Citizens Advice has] done” says Sally. She hopes that it will raise a lot of money and give CAB the chance to make sure people know that they are “a small, independent charity that could be gone in a flash.” Sally emphasises to me how vital their services are, stating that “once the CAB is gone you don’t get it.” Derby suffered this fate. Let’s not allow Beeston’s CAB to go the same way.

For those of you who aren’t clued up on the history of Citizens Advice, it was set up in 1936 “in response to the start of the war,” Sally tells me. With the men going off to fight in the war, the women “were left struggling financially [and] didn’t know what they were entitled to in terms of any benefits or help from the army,” says Sally. So, where did it actually start? Surprisingly, it wasn’t somewhere official like our Beeston Offices, but “really bizarre places like people’s front rooms or horse boxes.” I laugh at this, surprised but pleased to realise that CAB is a service that was set up very much in the spirit of Keep Calm and Carry On, by people that were “willing to volunteer and help each other.” Since its beginning, “it’s evolved into [a] massive, volunteer-led organisation.” This is something even I didn’t know until, whilst waiting for my meeting with Sally, I saw the volunteers arrive. They seemed a cheerful and friendly bunch, ready to offer quality advice to those who need it.

Just to keep going the charity needs “approximately £350,000 a year.”

Gone then are the days of horse boxes, so I asked Sally where you can go for advice today. For us Beestonians, we can of course go to the Council Offices and find CAB on the ground floor. You can also find Outreach services in Stapleford Heath Clinic, which is open three days a week, Kimberley Health Clinic on a Monday morning, Hope on Boundary Road on a Wednesday morning, and also at Tesco Toton on a Tuesday Morning. Again, I was surprised. Citizens Advice in a supermarket! Sally states that the opening of an outreach service in Tesco Toton is “the first of its kind”, a new initiative that emphases how important it is for CAB to reach as many people as they can.

Sometimes, people will be in need of help and advice, but won’t take that first step to get it, so having this service in a local supermarket means that you can be discreet, do your shopping, and get some advice too. If CAB doesn’t receive enough funding, it simply isn’t possible for them to run these kinds of services.

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Just to keep going the charity needs “approximately £350,000 a year.” Most comes from lottery grants, Nott’s County Council, and Broxtowe Council, and as CEO a lot of Sally’s time is spent fundraising, making applications and doing funding bids to try to reach that yearly amount. Some money comes from donations, but these are usually small so fundraising events are vital. They also help CAB to connect with the community, and in the past they have attended Beeston Carnival to do this as well as raise funds.

Sally emphasises that Citizens Advice is a professional business with both paid and volunteering staff. “The volunteers,” she says “get paid in tea and biscuits” but mainly the money that comes in is spent on wages for the paid staff, and the rest on infrastructure to ensure they have certain things in place like good IT, which they rely on heavily to give the quality of advice that they offer. To train the volunteers it costs £1600 per individual. There are currently 60 such volunteers, and CAB employs a trainer and two service managers to ensure the volunteers are well trained.

However, they are facing challenges at the moment due to the growing demand for the service and the need to raise the funds to accommodate this. Sally tells me that “welfare reform and universal credit is only just coming into Broxtowe, so the demand for the service is going to increase in the next 18 months.” This is because as soon as universal credit starts to hit families “they are going to struggle and there will probably be delays in their payments as well,” she says. “The welfare reform is supported by Citizens Advice, but it’s the way they’re implementing it that worries us.”

After concluding the interview, we carried on talking, and Sally is very keen to stay in contact, and has hinted at the potential for another article about the friends of Citizen’s Advice, and how you can get involved. In the meantime, be mindful of the service we have at the heart of Beeston, and don’t be afraid to use it!

You can learn more about CAB at http://www.broxtowe.gov.uk in the Advice Help & Support section.

Jade Moore

Letters to the Mind Project

A Beeston project aiming to raise mental heath awareness

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In November I began a project that was inspired by a poem I had written which addressed my mental health directly. I wrote to my anxiety: this helped me to view it differently and I realised that writing poetry is my main technique and coping method when it comes to dealing with my anxiety.

I wanted to share this with others and give people the chance to use writing as a coping technique. As soon as I voiced my idea I received positive feedback. I set up a blog and since its inception the project has received 19 contributions which range from poems to bipolar and eating disorders, to letters to anxiety, a drawing, and more personal accounts of experiences with mental health issues.

Jenny Marie, who contributed her letter Dear Anxiety said: “When I began, I didn’t quite know what to say. But the words kept coming, and it felt like I was pounding them out on the keyboard. It was therapeutic for me to write this. It’s healing for those with mental illness and helpful for their loved ones to read.”

A huge part of this project is not only to help people but also to try and combat the stigma surrounding mental health. Writing to the illness immediately distances it from us, and allows us to look at it in a way that can help people realise that they are not their illness.

We have to stop hiding and bring the taboo into light and teach the people around us that within our hearts we are all the same.

Mental health problems can drive people apart, whether they are family or friends. This can make the illness worse as the one suffering believes they are at fault, when really there just needs to be a bit more understanding. I hope that this project can reach people who need that understanding, and want a fresh way of trying to come to terms with their mental health. This is why the project encourages friends and family members who are impacted by mental health to participate too.

My editor on the blog, B. L. Memee, said: “It is my belief that every person’s story and experience matters and that in sharing our stories at Letters to the Mind we will educate the uninformed and with education comes understanding and with understanding stigma begins to fall ill and eventually dies. I want to see that happen in my lifetime, but to do that we have to stop hiding and bring the taboo into light and teach the people around us that within our hearts we are all the same. With Jade seeking out contributors and media in the UK and I doing the same in the US we are making a fine start of it. But we cannot do it alone. We need those diagnosed with a mental illness to be courageous and join us in our efforts. We need family members to share their stories as well because as a support person, the impact on you can be just as intense and people need to understand about your struggles and hardships as well. As human beings we are meant to accept, support and care for one another. So please take the first step and share this story with your friends and families that you think might be interested.”

Issue 41 of The Beestonian contained an article about Steve Plowright and his poetry writing. I attended a Time to Change event at Middle Street Day Centre and told Steve about the project. He kindly agreed to be a part of it, and shared his poem Cruel Jailers with me, which he is happy to submit to the project, as the poem is written directly to his depression and anxiety.

In celebration of National Time to Talk Day on Feb 4, Time to Change hosted a free event called ‘Time to Change Village 2016’, which ran during the day at Trinity Square, Nottingham. It gave the public the opportunity to speak to volunteers and organisations about mental health. There was live music, children’s entertainment and a health and beauty pampering zone.

If you or someone you know suffers from a mental health problem then spread the word to them about the Letters to the Mind project. Contributions can take various forms: a letter, a poem, a short essay/blog post, or artwork. You can visit the blog at: letterstothemindblog.wordpress.com where you will find more information about the project, and details about how to contribute. Or you can send a submission straight to: letterstothemind@outlook.com

An Open Letter

To Anxiety,
Shall we begin with where you began?
No, first I’d like to ask you about
your master plan:

Did you hope that I would fall?
before I opened my eyes to it all?

Did you want to make me scream?
enough to make me miss out on my dream?

Did you intend for me to cry?
long into the night while
life passed me by?

Or did you in fact, want me to react
so that I might find hope
along with ways to cope?

You helped me to climb
and make the most of my time.

You helped me to realise
the importance of advice.

You taught me that tears are fine,
although born of sadness, they are mine.

You allowed me to think with a clearer mind
and discover the happiness you never
thought I’d find.

In the beginning all I felt for you was hate,
but gradually I became patient and able to wait
for that moment when the bad becomes good…

…the moment at which hate becomes love.

Jade Moore

Feel Good Shopping

Jade Moore tells us why our abundance of charity shops is a good thing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Christmas is a time for giving, and it is a truth locally acknowledged that Beeston has an abundance of charity shops. So, why not make the most of them? They are treasure troves when it comes to looking for gifts and you never know, you might find exactly what you set out to buy, and you’ll be helping a charity, too. It’s a fool proof Christmas plan (especially if you’re on a budget, as I always seem to be!) Whether they know it or not, my friends and family have received charity shop bought items and loved them. I take pleasure from finding a pristine copy of a book in a charity shop, removing the 99p sticker and having my friend believe that they are worth the £8.99 they think I paid.

There are plenty of chances to do your bit and I think here in Beeston we are lucky to have a wide range of charity shops along the High Road.

Saving money, helping a good cause, pleasing a friend – I can’t think of a better solution, and this is something we can implement in our lives at any point during the year. If, like me, you don’t give to a charity on a monthly basis, there are plenty of chances to do your bit and I think here in Beeston we are lucky to have a wide range of charity shops along the High Road. We can dip in and out of them as we please, pick up a bargain and help charities that range from Scouts, to The British Heart Foundation, to Cancer Research, to helping fight poverty with Oxfam.

If you happen to be perusing the shops of a Saturday afternoon, pop into Oxfam Books and Music and you’ll find me there filling the shelves with more books, or standing behind the counter mentally urging you to find and buy a book. I’ve volunteered for Oxfam for just over four years and I can’t emphasise enough how much I enjoy it and appreciate the work that Oxfam does for poverty.

This time of year, you can buy extra Christmassy things. We have traditionally festive cards as well as funny ones. Our Unwrapped Gifts are more popular at Christmas too: if you don’t know what to buy someone, why not buy them a goat (or two)?

If you give to charity regularly already, then keep up the good work! If not, then now is the time to start. Treat yourself, treat others, and take comfort from being able to help many brilliant causes.

Jade Moore

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