Coffee shops and Beeston have become synonymous over the last few years. It’s become a caffeine-lovers hotspot, and although some grumps seem to think this is a negative most Beestonians recognise it as a sign of a strong town: if enough local, largely-independent businesses can survive on the disposable incomes of residents, we’re doing alright.
Hipsters and their caffeinated contemporaries would be shocked to know that just a mere 20 years ago, a cappuccino was as exotic as it’d get and the default coffee was a cup of bitter Nescafe. The café that ushered in this new era back in the late nineties was The Bean. To mark 20 years of excellence, we talked to owner Alex Bitsios-Esposito to find 20 facts about the shop that started it all…
The Bean was set up by Silvana, a Canadian Italian who moved here in the nineties. Her son Alex explains “There just wasn’t anywhere in the town to get a decent coffee. Italy and Canada both have developed coffee-cultures, so she took a gamble.”
Beestonians were initially cautious, but curious. “The idea of a coffee shop being a social meeting point wasn’t really there, and took time.”
Alex was just 8 years old when he started helping out. “I’d take orders, do bits and bobs. I could barely reach the till.”
It swiftly gained accolades: in 1999 it won a national survey of coffee shops.
It was unprecedented in carefully selecting its coffee: “Mass produced coffees tasted burnt – we wanted to show off the vast range of flavours and subtleties.”
Back then, it was a Cyber Coffee (readers under 30: ask an older person). People would queue to pay £3.50 per hour to tediously wait for a message board about Star Trek to refresh on Windows 98, and sip on their Latte thinking they were living in the future.
“We still get people a bit confused, and asking what the wiffy is and why its free.”
As it grew in popularity, more coffee shops opened up to cope with the demand. We currently have around 12, mostly independent. Do Beestonians sleep?
Alex is a fan of these other coffee shops. “They’ve created a healthy competition, keeping us on our toes to innovate.”
Handily for our international issue, they’ve always been one of the most global of employers. Alex: “Spanish, Turkish, German, Czech, Chinese, Ghanaian, Australian, Vietnamese, Latvian, New Zealanders…and many more.”
Many people met their partners here, not least Alex, whose wife used The Bean as a place to write a book. Staff have married other staff; customers have married other customers.”
He’d be able to retire if he’d taken a commission on all these couplings…
They became the first café in Beeston to be part of the Suspended Coffee programme: customers can buy a coffee for those less fortunate than them, and those who can’t afford a drink for whatever reasons can receive one, no questions asked. Nice.
It has a city-centre sister shop, Cartwheel: “It’s less of a community place, being located there, a different buzz.”
One fan is the superstar author Jon McGregor, who voted it one of his cultural highlights in an article for the Guardian.
Quite cheeky considering he’d just won the Costa award, if you think about it.
Other famous Cartwheelers are Dylan Moran and Ronan Keating: “he had a juice.”
The Bean, and many other cafes and pubs, seems to be the de facto office of The Beestonian. If you’re reading this in one of those places and see a harassed looking chap bashing away at his keyboard while muttering to himself, you’re probably watching the next issue in progress.
Alex took over as owner in 2018. With two young kids and one on the way, is this a start of a dynasty in Beeston? “When they can reach the till.”
Favourite drink? “Same as my mum: straight espresso.” When I look disappointed, he replies, “It’s a perennial classic”. As The Bean moves into its third decade hepping-up Beeston, it’s a description that serves that corner of Stoney Street well.
With an initial concept of bringing the latest short films to screen in the East Midlands crafted by a variety of innovative filmmakers, Beeston Film Festival is now in it its fifth year and hosting entries from across the globe.
The festival has earned a title of being the biggest international short film festivals in the Midlands, as its submissions have increased by 68% from over 50 countries across every continent of the globe.
John Currie, the film festival Director, and his team of over 20 local Beestonians and global jury of 18 film industry professionals from the UK, America, France. Belgium, India, South Africa and Taiwan, make up its unique programming team.
As part of the pre-festival warm up, the Berliner will screen a great night of classics on Wednesday 13th of February, showing favourites from previous festivals such as The Stomach and The App.
Returning to Café Roya, where the festival launched five years ago, a second warm up showcases Iranian films on Sunday 24th February. Roya will provide some Persian cuisine and the programme includes B’Oscar winner, 1001 Teardrops.
The festival itself begins on Wednesday 13th of March at its first warm up location, The Berliner, running for a period of five days in its four different venues across Beeston town, making it its biggest and brightest film festival ever.
This year the festival continues to expand and has introduced their newest category, Better Place; inspiring filmmakers to create either Fiction or Non-Fiction Films aiming to drive a change in the world we live in, champion causes, influence prevailing attitudes and moving the world to a better place.
Not only is Beeston Film Festival presenting a new category this year, the iconic B’Oscar will be revamped and is under development from Beeston glass artist Becs Cass.
The renowned international festival has been rated gold as well as being placed in the Top 100 of Best Reviewed Festivals on FilmFreeway that showcases over 6000 festivals world-wide.
The reviews are from filmmakers involved and guests of the festival and reflect the welcome from the Beeston community.
One review by Judson Vaughan says this: “Just great! What else can I say, just a breath of fresh air! The organisers are true film/indie film lovers that are fair, impartial and committed to the filmmakers. Great communication, great fun and if you get the chance to meet John, then what a bonus! This is our second film to be screened at Beeston and we’ll be back! Thank You John, James and everyone involved.”
As final entries are being selected, it would be a shame to miss out on celebrating film and filmmakers from across the globe showcasing their creative arts at the Beeston Film Festival this year.
He’s a YouTube star: forget your Zoellas and your Joe Suggs (“who the hell are they?” – anyone over 25) the big-haired polymath has racked up a staggering
183,580,239 views with his Periodic Videos series. Best Comment Left Under His Videos: “This man looks like science”
At the last count, Poliakoff had 27 letters after his name, and as such requires a passport printed on A3 card and an airport Toblerone placename when attending conferences.
He is a pioneer and leading expert in the concept of ‘Green Chemistry’, which is about finding environmentally safe ways to mass produce chemicals, and not
working out why frogs are that colour.
When the new five pound note came out, he tested their supposed indestructability by freezing one in liquid nitrogen and bashing it with a hammer (it broke) and then pouring nitric acid over another (it faded). This proved conclusively that he has a better job than yours.
His brother is famous screenwriter Stephen Poliakoff. They have yet to collaborate on a chemistry + drama mash-up, but we wait with bated breath.
The descendent of Russian refugees who fled the revolution, he is a passionate advocate for refugee rights and contributed an intro to the fund-raising Over Land, Over Sea poetry anthology. We salute this very much.
He is a former Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, which is a role older than the Government office of state. Needless to say, he did a better job than Boris bloody Johnson is doing.
To be fair, a dead rat on a stick smeared in rancid honey could do a better job than Boris Johnson.
He once calculated that the FIFA World Cup could not be made of solid gold as it would be too heavy to lift. Not that anyone from England will ever get a chance to try.
He is a Beestonian through and through, a great, involved member of the community. We salute you Prof Poliakoff!
Welcome to the new look of The Beestonian. It’s much the same mag as before, bit bigger, more colourful and with up to 28% less typos. We’ve gone a bit professional, thanks to a grant from the National Lottery. Thanks National Lottery! They gave us some funding in return for getting the issue out to more readers: so we’ve doubled our print run. Possibly it’s the first time you’ve had a copy. If so: hello!
Yet despite the changes the underlying philosophy of the magazine remains much the same as it was when we furtively first used the work photocopier to run off a load of issues back in our early days: to provide Beeston with its own magazine, written by Beestonians, read by Beestonians, about Beeston. We want to celebrate the great things about this town, build a sense of community and have a good time while we do it. Our editorial line is simple: “If it’s about Beeston, and if it’s interesting, let’s get it out there.”
And what is it we’ve found interesting lately? Well, more than we could actually put into a mere 24 pages, that’s for sure*. Yet you will find inside stories about what happens when everyone’s favourite local grocer gets rendered into Lego; Beeston’s burgeoning poetry scene; the wonder of local trees; Stumpy facts; a scientific knight; trails and streets of art; hedgehogs; comedians; parenting; local legends and all your local favourites.
None of this would be possible without a wonderful group of people who each issue go out and find stories, before bringing them back and dropping them into the big Beestonian content bucket. Others make the magazine look lovely, others find leads for us to check out and keep the webpage ticking over. We even have a paper-boy. His name is Will, and he’s great, and yes, he does accept cash tips. Thanks to them all.
We are also reliant on our advertisers to help us tick along: go and visit them and say you read about them in The Beestonian. If you run a business, drop us a line and see what we can do for you. We’re very reasonable, and very flexible. We’ll be happy to have you, provided you’re not some evil company that makes puppy-soup, or similar**. If you’d like to stock us, then we’d delighted to send the aforementioned Will over to drop you some copies off.
I’ll wrap up with a promise to you: despite our flashy new design, despite our slick professionalism, we still promise to make The Beestonian free to read; non-profit and as much a part of this wonderful creative, vibrant, often plain weird community as we can. It may not be about bees. But we’re buzzing.
Lord Beestonia isn’t a real lord, which is just as well as he’s most likely allergic to ermine and /or being in the same room as Alan Sugar.
However, it seemed an amusing pen name to bestow upon himself when he began writing about Beeston, and it stuck. His wife, an actual doctor who earned her title, remains unimpressed when people refer to her as ‘Lady Beestonia’.
He was born in Scotland and has lived in Kent, Newcastle and Portugal. However, he grew up in Stapleford and moved here the moment his visa to progress through Bramcote cleared.
He was persuaded to set his online ramblings about Beeston onto paper by Prof J + a Vic hotel halloumi salad + a few quid seed capital. “I’ll give it five issues,” he thought, and seven years later he has come to realise that all the paper pulped from all of the timber lopped from the thickest forests of the world wouldn’t do justice to telling Beeston’s stories. He remains committed to banging on about this town, and is amazed by the wonderful people he has sharing his enthusiasm.
There were two events last summer, one wonderful, one tragic, that occurred within days and metres of each other. Together, they both summed up what it means when the phrase ‘Beeston community’ is used.
The tragedy was the drowning of 12-year-old Owen Jenkins; while the wonderful event was the transformation of the canal side cottages from derelict wrecks seemingly only fit for the bulldozer into an incredibly beautiful public space.
While the event was tragic, Owen’s death saw something wonderful emerge from it. Spontaneously, thousands displayed their sorrow by donning purple: for a while the whole town was festooned with shades of mauve to mulberry, plum to raspberry. On the day of his funeral, Beeston’s streets were lined with those paying their respect; the hundreds of motorbikes that formed the tale of the procession was a sight that will live long in the memories of Beestonians.
The Canalside Heritage Centre wasn’t transformed into a top-class attraction, café and garden by some top-down project. Rather, locals decided to take the dilapidation into their own hands and create something wonderful. After a great year of events, development, and ambition its looking like a place we will treasure for generations: and while our grandkids will enjoy the gardens overlooking the weir, they will solemnly acknowledge the land it backs onto, which will be known by all as ‘Owen’s Place’.
Stories like these, stories that illustrate how a community works, are what makes us all proud to put together The Beestonian. I personally started writing about Beeston a decade ago, and swiftly discovered that not only were people interested, but that there were more stories out there than I ever imagined. Putting them out through a magazine seemed like a natural step, and 7 years on I’m delighted that we have become part of Beeston’s fabric, with our issues disappearing from stockists so fast our drop-boxes are scorch marked.
However, we realised some time ago that to keep it free and accessible was a difficult job. We are staffed by volunteers, and rely on local advertising to cover print costs. This generally works well, but we were unable to get out as many issues as we’d like. Surveys we ran always came back with the same conclusion: readers wanted to actually read the thing!
We’ve now found a way to expand our accessibility, keep the magazine free and run sustainably for years to come thanks to a helpful community grant (thanks National Lottery!). This will be the last issue in the current format, and at Beeston Carnival in July we are returning with something beautiful, something colourful, something that you are part of us much as those who write it. We want a truly community magazine, and we want YOU to be part of it.
We have a wonderful town. We have more stories to tell than we can fit in a magazine, so we’d love you to help us. Write for us. Report for us. Tell us what you are doing. Read us. If you own a business, consider advertising with us. This is YOUR magazine.
This town, this unique gem of a place cosied between the city, the Trent, and the rolling hills of Bramcote is not just where we live, it is our home. As became clear in both awful and wonderful ways last summer, that is precious. We are all delighted that we get to shout that out to the world each issue.
A special this issue as we write the definitive Beeston Hit Parade, as suggested by those pun-tastic contributors over on Beeston updated. We received over 450 entries to this which suggests a) You are fantastic fans of puns and music b) You really should get out more. Muggins here has had to plough through them all and select the Top 40.
It was painful. It was tough. And apologies to anyone who didn’t make it. You should be proud of yourself. We have spared the blushes of those who made it into the list by not printing their names.
Set your groan levels to 11. HERE WE GO POP-PICKERS:
40: Happy Daze Are Here Again
39: Fake Plastic Bees
38: I Wanna Greggs You Up
37: Hallams Lies Down On Broadgate
36: Beeman Rhapsody
35: Total Eclipse of the Art Shop
34: Shadab Balti Ya Face
33: Exile on Middle Street
32: Ava Marina
31: Beestonian Like You
30: Stuck in the Middle Street Resource Centre With You
29: Beeston Fields Forever
28: These Boots Were Made for Walking
27: Ain’t No Magic Mountain High Enough
26: Ticket To Rye
25: Last Post to Clarksville
24: Q M C A
23: West End girls
22: Poppa Pizza Don’t Preach
21: Wake Me Up Before You Bendigo
20: Trams Europe Express
19: Iguazu zu zu zu, (push pineapple shake the tree)
18: Like a Rylands Cowboy
17: Whilst My Guitar Spot Gently Weeps
16: Monkey Gone to HairVen
15: That’s Amores
14: Livin’ L’Oliva Loca
13: The White Lion Sleeps tonight
12: (Gonna Rock Down To) Devonshire Avenue
11: Gills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music
10: Going ‘umberroad
09: Chimera River
08: Applebee The Day
07: Charlie Fogg on the Tyne
06: My Heart Wilko On.
05: Message in a Pottle
04: Rylands in the Stream
03: Nothing Compares to Meat 4U
02: 24 Hours From Toton
01: 99 Problems (and a shoe shop ain’t one)
A special mention to Tim Furnish, who we rewrote the whole the Dandy Warhols ‘Bohemian Like You’ into ‘Beestonian Like You’ with full lyrics. He should be very proud/ashamed of himself.
Bendigo eh? Beeston’s legendary bare-knuckled boxer may have thrown in the towel when he died 138 years ago, but his legacy looks like it will never be counted out.
He has books about him, a graphic novel, a blue plaque on Wollaton Road, and a couple of articles in past issues of this magazine. He also is now immortalised on the High Road with a bar named after him – despite being a teetotaller, he’d probably still be chuffed.
Bendigo was not just a decent boxer, but a celebrity and showman. He created a whole mythology about him, from being a triplet (he wasn’t) and the youngest of 21 kids (he wasn’t). However, he could lob a brick from one bank of the Trent to the other, and he was an utter mountain of a man, so we won’t quibble. It’s impossible to overstate his fame: shortly after his death, a town in Australia had a poll to name their town: Bendigo was the overwhelming victor (it’s still there, and apparently a lovely place with a population that cheerfully call themselves ‘Bendigonians’. The guy was MASSIVE, and not just in stature.
However, he doesn’t have a proper statue to mark his fame. There is a rather weathered and battered ceramic above a pub in Sneinton, but considering that he was the Victorian Muhammed Ali this is a poor show.
Step in the Bendigo Memorial Fund (BMF), a group of fans of the late pugilist, who have devoted themselves to raising cash to fund a statue to be stuck in a prominent part of Nottingham. “In Nottingham there are a number of things we need to improve,” BMF spokesman Alan Dawson told us. “The grave itself is not well advertised and the information recorded about him is incorrect. A statue in Trinity Square will put this right.”
So, on the 29th April, the BMF will stage a sponsored walk following the route of William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson’s funeral cortege in 1880. This will be from the site of his former home on the site of Beeston’s Anglo Scotian Mills to his grave at Bath Street in Nottingham City Centre, a distance of 5.7 miles. There will be twenty one people doing the walk, representing Bendigo’s 21 fights. I’ll be one of them (and weather permitting I’ll strap my 16 month old son on my back and bring the number up to 21) At the graveside there will be reading from the book about Bendigo written by Beeston writer, publisher and historian Alan Dance. Local actor Peter Radford will also recite Bendigo’s Sermon, a poem written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. You’re welcome to tag along.
However, what we’d REALLY like is your money. Statues, at least good statues, don’t come cheap so anything you can do to help nudge the fund towards its target is hugely welcome. It will also mean that you will be part of Bendigo’s legacy long into the future: this is a statue that WE own, that WE make. Worth a few quid, innit?
Donations can be made directly to the Bendigo Memorial Fund via
Beeston survived the Beast From The East; The Mini-Beast From the East; and then the Least of the Beasts Hitting Beeston at Easter (try saying that after a few Crown ales), and it is now officially SPRING.
Yes, Beestonians can now be fined if they are seen wearing more than two layers while out shopping, and the pied wagtails fly off to be replaced by martens and swifts. Things are definitely brighter at Beestonian HQ, with news that we have received a chunk of investment to expand this humble free-sheet into something utterly unique, a proper community resource which will be reaching more parts of Beeston, more frequently. Follow our Facebook page and check our website for up to the minute news on how this will manifest.
Beeston stands at a crossroads right now, with the game-changing Phase 2 Square Development, and changes in retail patterns moving the town more towards service: restaurants, pubs and suchlike. The impact of the University of Nottingham, our next door neighbours, continues to be felt in Beeston in ever-changing ways.
We recognise that Beeston is an ever changing thing, a constantly developing town. If that is to be a success it needs a town with a strong community, and a strong community needs a means to get to know itself: providing that is our ongoing mission. If you want to be part of this beyond reading this issue, get in touch. And yes. We still are going to be absolutely free to pick up.
So what glories await you should you skip this bit and dive into this mag? We have a 20 page special for you, with stories on Beeston’s most successful sports club; the Green Man of Beeston; How to Spring Clean and get fit, some etymological entomology on the meaning of Beeston; and much much more.
Use the Current Issue tag for all the stuff you can find in our latest edition.
Our proud Town Hall is at risk: time to get rid of something else instead?
80–odd years ago the people of Beeston decided that they needed a proper civic building, and as such called in an architect with a flair for art-deco who whipped up a fine building that Beeston could be proud of. As Beeston went through decades of changes in both character, demographic and political leadership the hall has been a constant. Thousands of town-changing decisions have been made in its debating chamber, marriages conducted, celebrations held. It’s part of our history. Heck, even Wikipedia deems it the most iconic thing in Beeston and uses it as its main image on its entry for the town.
So why is it now in danger of demolition?
As always, money. The current administration claim it simply isn’t worth keeping any more, and want to make a quick buck on a sale. Rumours of a shonky developer waiting in the wings are rife, so a quick sale would be a hard injection of cash. “Old buildings or services?” crows council leader, Richard Jackson. “It’s that simple a choice.”
To which we at The Beestonian reply, while smacking our heads against a brick wall, “No, no it’s not. Your failure to run a council well has led to a financial nightmare.” And then we will pull out details of a current scandal rocking the council, which is costing hundreds of thousands of YOUR council tax in legal fees and temporary staff, and point out it is THAT which is blowing a hole in the finances, not a piece of Beeston’s civic pride. We’d put the whole story here, but it would take the whole mag – check out our sister blog, www.beestonia.wordpress.com for the details.
We are facing the loss of the Town Hall due to an entirely avoidable, utterly self-inflicted wound. Perhaps the much fairer path would be to preserve the Town Hall, and get rid of the entirely inept Council Leadership before it’s not just the Town Hall, but every paving stone and local park they can find a buyer for. Save Beeston Town Hall!