Bow Selecta…films, films, films

I love film and films – although not, it should be said, many of the Robin Hood films out there. Most are sadly a bit bland and uninspiring and the only one I find infinitely rewatchable is the classic 1938 Errol Flynn version (the one with the green tights, ‘Robin Hood hat’ and a real sense of cinema and adventure, rather than any ‘dark, gritty reimaging’ – I’m looking at you, Russell Crowe).

Nottingham was lucky enough to have a shared premiere of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, jointly shared with Nottingham and the Cannes film Festival, although who knows why Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett decided to go to the sunny south of France rather than the Cornerhouse in Nottingham? Sal and I got to go to the Nottingham premiere in their place though, which was actually more fun than the film itself.

As noted elsewhere in this issue, Nottingham and Beeston have a great cinematic history and it’s something we can all be proud of – whilst we wait to see if we’re going to get a ‘proper’ cinema in the vast wasteland next to the tram station we have several independent cinema clubs, not least those run by our previous editor Matt at the White Lion and Café Roya. Matt was also a driving force behind Beestonia: The Movie which was a fabulous celebration of all things local and I even got to have a cameo in it, which
was great fun.

In fact over the past few years I’ve done quite a bit of filming, mainly promotional videos for Nottingham in my guise as Robin but also, strangely enough, for a couple of ‘proper’ films…

We were actually on the red carpet alongside Daniel Craig, which really was astoundingly fun

Being a bloke of a certain age I love James Bond films (well, most of them anyway, I could live without Never Say Never Again and A View To A Kill and for my money On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale are the best). Anyway, via an internet Bond fan group I became friends with a group in Chicago in the US who buy, restore and look after loads of the vehicles used in previous films and I’ve travelled over there a couple of times to visit both the vehicles and my American friends – it’s great fun to sit inside amongst other vehicles the huge red Mustang from Diamonds Are Forever, the Aston Martin from The Living Daylights or some of the boats from Live and Let Die. In fact speaking of premieres it was via this group that Sal and I got to attend the Royal Premiere of Skyfall at the Royal Albert Hall in London, where we were actually on the red carpet alongside Daniel Craig, which really was astoundingly fun.

One of the friends I met in the US (some of whom are now such good friends they’re travelling over for Sal and my wedding later this year) is a film-maker specialising in low-budget horror films. He thought it would be fun to have an English actor ‘introduce’ the films and so he asked me to create a character named ‘Lord Victor Fleming’, supposedly a ‘master of the macabre and historian of the occult’. This meant I had to smarten myself up, put on my DJ and try to generate some gravitas as I intoned dire warnings about the terrible story and horrific scenes contained in the film. With Sal as
my camerawoman we decorated our front room to look like an Edwardian-period drawing room and set to filming. We even did some location shooting at Wollaton Hall, carefully cutting scenes to look like the interior scenes we’d shot were actually done inside the Hall. So you can say both Batman and Robin have now filmed there!

So if you ever get the chance to watch the masterful cinematic classics that are James Baack’s Dracula’s Orgy of the Damned or the equally terrifying (for any number of reasons) sequel Werewolf Massacre at Hell’s Gate (both available on DVD from Amazon US) then you’ll know that at least part of them were shot in our own home town of Beeston – which makes it even weirder than a number of online reviewers commented on my ‘phony English accent’. It seems that as with Robin Hood films, there’s just no pleasing some people…

Tim Pollard
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood

10 films (sort of) about Beeston

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Our round-up of films with links to Beeston…

GANDHI:

Not only was Richard Attenborough’s family from Beeston (well, that bit to the South with all the water), but Gandhi himself came a waltzin’ here way back in the 30’s to have a look round. The late Dickie somehow left this crucial moment out of the blockbusting biopic. A remake perhaps, mostly set round the Rylands?

BATMAN:

Right this is a big one, so strap in. You’re probably going to assume that as the latest Batman (not the one with him pointlessly fighting Superman) was filmed up at Wollaton Hall, we’re going to go for that. Nah, too easy. We’d like Wooly Park and Hall to be part of Beeston, but selfishly Wollaton rather prefers to keep it. So we won’t go with that.

Perhaps the Gotham link, then? Just over the Trent is the village where Batman’s home city was named (it’s a long story, but it’s not a coincidence: all about fools, kings, and nicknames for New York). Maybe we can ride on the coattails there? Too easy.

So perhaps, we could look at the 1989 film version of Batman, directed by senescent withered goth Tim Burton? As everyone surely knows, the crook who becomes the latex-friendly vigilante’s first victim is played by the actor Christopher Fairbank. That’s Christopher Fairbank, who played Scouse carpenter Moxey in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. Which, as previously reported here, was filmed in Beeston. But no. He was also in Alien 3 and The Fifth Element, so too easy.

Let’s instead look at Alfred, Batman’s butler. Michael Caine covers the role, but beneath that oaky cockney veneer lies a secret. Caine is a secret aficionado of avant-garde chill out tunes. No really. On Desert Island Discs a few years ago, he chose as a favourite track ‘Swollen’ by Beeston band Bent, who we featured a couple of years ago. Caine also released an album of chill out music called, wonderfully, Cained. Go on, check. Have a look at the track listing while you’re there. Oh, see track 14? Beeston through and through.

There are other links but unfortunately we only have 16 pages so we’ll leave it there.

THIS IS ENGLAND / DEAD MAN’S SHOES / ETC:

Beeston hasn’t directly featured in any of Shane Meadow’s major films (though a chunk of TIE was filmed in Bramcote), but the director has made this place his home and regularly turns up at local events. Vicky McClure, who has gone stratospheric is also a local lass, living close to the terminus the tram named after her frequently pulls up at. Rumours that This Is Beeston, an epic feature about the adventures of the staff on a local magazine, are not yet founded.

PORRIDGE:

The Movie: Sitcoms that aspire to movie form are always crap. The recent, turgid attempt to put Dad’s Army on the big screen is the latest example in a long line of rubbish. On The Buses. Are You Being Served? The Inbetweeners. Admittedly the first two were crap anyway, but rather than even attempt to polish the proverbial turd, the films just added more turd. Porridge: The Movie is a very rare example of excellence, a film that instead of throwing a ton of gimmicks into the mix, actually has an engrossing story. It’s grittier than the series, and has the ironic device of prisoners trying to break in to jail underpinning it. Ronnie Barker and Beeston’s Richard Beckinsale shine, their chemistry fizzing. Sadly, Beckinsale’s film career was thwarted by a fatal heart attack that killed him suddenly aged just 31, a fortnight after filming was completed. However, the name lives on….

UNDERWORLD:

Kate Beckinsale is of course a brilliant actor in her own right and the Underworld series proves it. She’s had an astonishingly successful career, but took time out from filming a few years back to visit Beeston and unveil a blue plaque in memorial of her father. She also bought along her friend David Walliams, the father of her child and top-notch thespian Michael Sheen, and her then husband, the Hollywood producer Len Wiseman. That’s Len Wiseman, not Len Goodman. If a certain former editor of this magazine actually got the two mixed up when he met him, then we’re not going to talk about that here.

RUSH HOUR / TROPIC THUNDER /SMALL SOLDIERS/ LOADS MORE:

All used the ultimate protest anthem “WAR” by Edwin Starr, a resident of Chilwell until his death in 2003.

LORD OF THE RINGS:

Yeah, it was filmed down the Weir Field, wannit? No we’re joking, but we do have a connection: the film’s star, diddy Elijah Wood, released a single with Beeston band The Sound Carriers a few years back, the psychedelic “This is Normal”. It’s rather long, but unlike those films with the little lads running round on hairy feet, quite superb.

WITHNAIL AND I:

Every person whose life has ever lurched towards the dissolute is a fan of this staggeringly funny period piece. The tale of two unemployed actors at the arse end of the sixties who go on holiday by mistake is one for repeated viewings. Little known is its connection to Beeston. Y’see, Withnail was based on a real character, the actor and ‘splenetic wastrel of a fop’ Viv MacKerrell. Many in Beeston still recall the times MacKerrell would stalk the pubs of Beeston, never shy to give up his opinions or accept a drink. Sadly, the drink caught up with him, and he died in 1995 aged just 50.  Also, the film stars Michael Elphick as a Cumbrian poacher – that’s Michael Elphick who starred in Boon, largely filmed in Beeston.

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY:

This supremely tense and talent-stuffed film version of John Le Carré’s novel is a must see, and as well as starring This Is England’s Stephen Graham, was also released in a limited edition reprint of the novel designed by Beeston stripe-specialist Sir Paul Smith. Also, Barry Foster, aka TV’s Van Der Valk, was in an earlier film about the spy unit in 1982’s Smiley’s People.

BEESTONIA:

Come on, did you really think we weren’t going to mention this underrated gem? Written by Lord Beestonia and his faithful whip Christian, masterfully directed by Melvyn Rawlinson, and starring Beeston’s answer to Jonathan Meades, Jamie Claydon. It took us a year to make. That’s twelve months of; dragging around camera equipment; chasing sunlight like we had vitamin D deficiency; fighting with the public, carpark security guards, and ducks (we’re still not sure which was worse); smacking our heads against an editing suite; and of course having tons of fun as well! The sequel is coming. No amount of family, paid work, or global annihilation (Trump?!) will stop us. 3-5 years tops!

MT

The Shane Meadows interview

An evening with Shane Meadows…

The nerves are starting to build as I sip on a red wine at Middle Street Resource Centre. In a few minutes, Britain’s best film / TV director will be arriving for a night of film, followed by a Q+A, which I’ve been asked to compere. Of course, I couldn’t refuse, but as my stomach flips again despite the best efforts of the booze, I start to question my judgement.

I’ve met Shane on several occasions, and he’s disarmingly lovely each time. A relaxed, funny, friendly chap who never acts starry -you won’t see his legs clad in leather trousers, his eyes will never be hidden behind £900 Oakleys – nevertheless, he’s an artist who has cut a unique swathe through British film over the last two decades. He probably has Spielberg and Scorsese on speed dial.

He arrives, I chat to his wife and tell her of my nerves. “Oh, don’t worry. He’s really nervous tonight”. As he’d been on the telly a few days before receiving a BAFTA in front of the UK’s finest, this is both baffling and consoling.

He’s here for a fundraiser. Beeston Resource Centre has had a rocky time in the past, with funding always uncertain and closure often looming. However, it’s wonderfully wavered all storms, due to the invaluable support it gives many. We are never less than amazed when we visit at the sheer amount of stuff they do there: it’s an incredible resource, hence the name. However, the charity that runs it, Beeston Community Resource, can’t be too complacent, so when Shane offered to help out with a themed evening, there was no hesitation in their response. And here we are, with Shane putting together a fantastic set of films.

He had been spending time recently viewing some of his early short films – two had snapped in the projector so he realised he needed to digitise them for archive purposes, doing a bit of tidying up on the way. At the Centre he treated the audience of eighty to an insight into some of his earlier work: ‘The Datsun Collection’, made in 1994 was, he said, the second film only he had made and the first to feature other people! From 1995 he showed ‘The Zombie Squad’, a film completed and shown in a single day, and which had never had another public viewing. Having given himself the challenge of ‘a film in a day’  far more volunteers turned up to be in the film than he had expected and his solution was to create a group of zombies who didn’t need to learn any lines. A surprise for many of us was that Shane himself appeared as actor in these two early shorts, and in the scatalogical ‘Le Donk and His Arsebag’ featuring the comic genius of his good friend, Paddy Considine.

A break for wee and wine, and we’re back for the Q+A. Any nerves dissolve as Shane joins me in front of the audience. He recalls when I gave him a Beestonian t-shirt at a Café Roya Film Club “I’ve still got it. You gave me one in small. I’ll get into it one day”.

Our family growing up never made it on the telly -well, Crimewatch maybe…

I ask about his appeal, his unique touch “back in my childhood I remember being able to shifting from belly laughs to utter fright in no time at all. That ‘light and dark’ has subconsciously made its way into what I do” He tells of how when making Dead Man’s Shoes, perhaps one of the most terrifying revenge films ever made, the cast and crew would be belly laughing off camera throughout.

That’s his favourite film, as well “I was really depressed at the time. I’d made a bad mistake and had a horrendous experience trying to make a big, celebrity driven piece, rather than go with my instinct (he’s referring to Once Upon a Time in the Midlands) . Y’know how there is that saying “the phone stopped ringing”, well, that’s very true, it literally didn’t ring”.

“I knew I had to trust my instincts and make a film that was mine. We made Dead Man’s Shoes for just £700,000, not a lot in film. I threw myself into it, and it worked”.

He talks about his previous ambitions as a singer -he was in a band with Considine, who talk the duties behind the drums – and looked perplexed when I asked him what he’d have done if he’d not made film making such a success.

What does his two young boys think of daddy’s fame “They’re just starting to realise that I do a strange job. It’s not the fame, I don’t think that is apparent, but they see me on telly and that makes them sit up. It’s strange. Our family growing up never made it on the telly -well, Crimewatch maybe….”

There are some real surprises thrown in. The incredibly complex scene in This is England ’90, where Vicky McClure’s Lol confesses to murdering her father round the dining table, was done in one take, using a complex nine camera set up “You should have seen what that room looked like. Looked like the TARDIS”. There is the very real chance of another instalment of the This Is England story, but not on the telly “It might be interesting to do a film sometime along the line. Get the characters together. Whatever year we do, we’ll show it in that many cinemas…who knows?”

More likely to appear soon is his much delayed biopic about legendary British cyclist Tom Simpson, who -spoiler alert – died while tacking a mountain on riding the Tour de France. The project, working with the brilliant screenwriter William Ivory, has been on the cards for some time, delayed in the past when Shane was invited to film the return of The Stone Roses, which became the rockumentary -thank you – Made of Stone.

That would be a departure from his past work, but that’s what makes Shane such a fascinating director: his obvious pleasure in having the chance to follow his interests and his instincts. We are very lucky to have him in our midst.

The night finishes with a vote of thanks courtesy of Radio Nottingham’s John Holmes, and a final glass of wine. A great night had by all, and £1,000 in the Resource Centre’s coffers. Cheers Shane. CUT!

Matt Turpin & Colin Tucker

Beeston Parents

When I was four years old, I was a fantastic artist.

You could ask me to draw anything: real, imaginary, or a mix of the two, and I would just get on with it. I would use anything available that makes marks. Things like:

  • chewed-up biros – in those days they had a death cap on them that was a serious choking hazard. No strategically-placed airhole in the seventies;
  • stubby pock-marked crayons with or without the paper wrapping. It was a bonus if I could see what colour the crayon was meant to be;
  • felt tips – if they were dried up I would just lick the end;
  • broken pencil nibs. Not the pencil bit, just the broken-off bit. I did have very small hands all those years ago and could hold the 7mm length quite comfortably;
  • paint, with strange nylon brushes that always pointed out in a multitude of directions, so each line painted would come with an echo;
  • Plasticine – yes, it left greasy faint marks on the page;
  • Most shockingly, I found that matches had a lovely red bit on the end that I could draw with – not for long, and not without the pain of an important lesson on how not to use matches;
  • My Mum’s makeup – I loved lipstick.

Not only could I use an impressive range of media to make the marks, I could create my works of art almost anywhere:

  • The skirting board going up the stairs was brilliant. It went on and on, and I loved making a wiggly continuous line along it. It was a stunning landscape – mountains, valleys, hills, hummocks and some sheer cliff edges. It was enhanced by being on the diagonal, rising upwards.
  • My parents painted the living room a wonderful shade of lilac. I really loved sneaking in and making hand prints in the wet paint. My parents preserved the hand print art by hiding it behind the sofa. Not sure that they loved it as much as I did.
  • Steamed up windows – how could anybody resist drawing on those? It was extra special when there was ice too. It curved up beautifully in the corners, like a Victorian illustration, and added extra sensory crunch to my artistic creations. It was such fun to draw with my fingers in the condensation, leaving cold drips streaming from the trails I drew.
  • Paper – so many wonderful textures, colours, surfaces. I really liked to use the sugar paper at school. It was mysterious to me – we didn’t have anything like it at home. It was brightly-coloured, rough on one side and smooth as ice on the other. When I folded it the folds stood proud and didn’t dissolve back into the surface. It was even more fascinating to tear it and create rough, irregular frayed edges. I found the perfect combination of media when I was allowed to use pastels. Degas created masterpieces using just the pure pigment of pastels and his fingers. I’m off now to get some chalky, densely-pigmented pastels and some lovely, rough sugar paper. The children at nursery will love that.

But what happened? When did my unbridled joy in creating art and pictures turn into fear and embarrassment? Pablo Picasso said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

I strongly believe that when we draw for children, cut things out for them, give them colouring sheets and dotted lines, we chip away at their childish joy. The joy they feel in just drawing, painting, exploring, experimenting and creating. We are telling them that they are doing it wrong and that they cannot do it the right way. We are teaching them that a house has to be a square with a triangle for a roof and a door set smack bang in the middle of it.

To encourage our children to be creative, we have to let them be creative and create what they see, what they feel and what they can imagine. If they want to draw themselves as three times the height of your car, that’s fine. If they want to make a snowman with three eyes and two mouths – fine. Who says that snowmen have to look a certain way? If they want to put their hands in the paint and swirl all the colours together into one slurry, then slowly and systematically cover every square inch of the paper, or piece of foil, or box, with that colour, then fine.

Let them enjoy the process and learn how to make marks, how to enjoy making art and how to take pride in their work. There is plenty of time for them to conform when they are older and when they want to. Imagine if Degas had been told not to use his fingers and to stay within the lines.

Roopnam Carroll

 

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

Gossip from the Hivemind: May 2016

Early reports of late eighties kids-tv hero Pob roaming the streets of Beeston were found to be a case of mistaken identity, as confirmation came in that actually it was Michael Gove. The queen-conversation snitch was at Boots to talk about why leaving the EU will automatically gift everyone in the UK a billion pounds, some chocolate and three kittens. Using Boots, whose history of tax-avoidance has been reported in this publication over the years, and who recently were found to be exploiting the NHS for profit was probably not the best choice. Or maybe it was perfect.

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Spotted heartily applauding was erstwhile used car salesman and current head of Broxtowe Borough Council Richard Jackson. After recently failing to abolish Broxtowe Borough Council, now he has the eye on the EU. As his boss Anna Soubry MP is a staunch pro-European, we can only imagine the icy atmosphere on a Friday night down the Conservative Club

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Inside this issue, our new editor Christian met with the guy behind the ‘unsafe cycle lane’ graffiti along the tram route. Not wanting to be outdone, the council threw some new paint of their own down. Now, the unsafe utterly baffling routes are a deep red colour. Not at all helpful, but it does a great job of disguising the blood from accidents

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Being a mischievous bunch, we weren’t going to let April 1st pass without a prank on our Facebook page. So we led with a hoax claiming that the Chilwell army base had been bought by Donald Trump, who planned to build a leisure resort there. Oh how we laughed. And then someone pointed out we totally missed the obvious joke that it could have been bought by the outgoing president and renamed “Chetwyn Baracks Obama”. We kicked ourselves

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Huge congrats to local film legend Shane Meadows, who picked up another BAFTA late last month to further decorate his crowded mantelpiece. We recall when filming Beestonia: The Movie (YouTube it kids!), we bumped into him on Chilwell Road. “Can we grab a photo of you, if that’s ok?” we asked. “If you’re filming, I’ll be in it” said the guy behind Dead Man’s Shoes and This is England. A quick script change later, and we found ourselves directing our favourite director. Not only a massive talent, but a damn fine chap as well

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Dry Pub Crawl

I heard my Beestonian colleagues organising an epic pub crawl. Start at 3pm, they said – drink a half in each of the massive number of pubs, they said – wear matching t-shirts, they said. I cowered further down in my seat at each suggestion.

It’s all familiar, of course – I drank pints at Newcastle University in the 80s, after all. I remember the bravura, the ability to chat to strangers, repeated conversations feeling really funny. This continued in my work: hard play, hard approach to life. I remember (sometimes rather scarily) piecing together the fragments of incidents over the next few days to make sense of them: ‘she said WHAT?’, ‘he did WHAT?’, ‘I went WHERE?’ All great fun. But I often found it pretty competitive in some sense.

Nowdays I don’t drink. I stopped a few years ago when I considered my responsibilities outweighed my need for dizzy times and woozy sleep. It was hard at first, going against the grain of ‘normal’ expectations, suddenly aware of how much we are bombarded with invitations and coercion to participate. However, giving up sits comfortably with me – I don’t like any section of society asking me to conform to fit in. You might think a sober existence is really boring – but I think it’s quite rebellious!

But it’s difficult to enjoy the loud tutting from the bar staff when ordering two hot chocolates during a quiz night in a local pub

Even though I don’t drink alcohol, I do enjoy going out. I really enjoy going out. Being a bit older, I’m not good at late nights – but I love having a laugh, a gritty conversation, a bit of art, a bit of politics and a bit of gossip. I also like being around other people while they chat and drink and enjoy themselves.

So…why must I drink diet coke, sugary cordials, one of the stupid sodding fluorescent flavours of J2O or bloody Eisberg (or equivalent), in order to participate? There are ‘no alcohol’ beers, but every one I have tried had a horrible aftertaste – I think this is because I never liked beer in the first place! The choice in pubs is better than ever, of course – tea and coffee is freely available, though caffeine is not ideal late on (and what is the point of decaffeinated for goodness sake??). But it’s difficult to enjoy the loud tutting from the bar staff when ordering two hot chocolates during a quiz night in a local pub recently.

A quick poll of Beeston town centre pubs shows that most offer at least one alcohol free beer. I could not find one that offered alcohol free wine; in fact I was treated with derision in some pubs when I asked. I buy my wine to drink at home from a very successful Manchester company called The Alcohol Free Shop, which has been quietly winning all sorts of awards simply by looking for adult alternatives to alcoholic drinks – usually great tasting ‘proper’ wine which has the alcohol carefully removed, leaving a delicious ‘grown up’ product. They continue to expand their great range of products – with some excellent ‘no alcohol’ ciders and spirit substitutes.

It would be fantastic to find this sort of product available in Beeston’s great pubs – not just for Dry Januarys, but also for drivers who want to drink something interesting and people who want to cut back a bit without compromising on taste.

Meanwhile…when I met up with the other Beestonians during the crawl I spent a very amiable hour over a diet coke. There was no evidence of matching T shirts or pint drinking, merely a good natured celebration of our hospitable community. Excellent!

KA

Booze of the World

Often, the best way to take the pulse of a town is to check out its pubs. The health of these is the health of an area: if they are boarded up, run down, or too terrifying to enter, it’s a safe bet that the surroundings aren’t going to be great.

On that basis, Beeston is in rude health. We’ve long had a strong reputation for pubs: Beeston has often been mooted with having the highest density of drinkeries in the UK. We’re right by the source of the best water for ale in the world: the beer that the Trent is brewed into is world renowned. Of course, the only way to prove this is to go out there and get some hard-core journalism done: to visit every pub in Beeston to give a comprehensive picture of how we’re doing. You might have spotted us a few Saturdays ago, first strolling, then staggering, then crawling between pubs.

This isn’t the first time: four years ago The Beestonian, then a fledgling magazine, took a look round and printed up the results. We’d expected to register a decline, all these years over. We were surprised to find that this wasn’t the case.

You’ll find the results inside. Pubs are famously under a hell of a lot of pressure, with greedy Pubcos and loss-leading booze in supermarkets just two challenges pubs must counter. How they do this was the most revealing part of the survey: rather than stay the same and slip into decline, they’ve diversified, changed what they offer and created a much stranger estate of boozers than ever before. Very few pubs are just straight forward pubs anymore, and the imagination, entrepreneurism and sheer verve of some were inspirational, and testament to the spirit of Beeston. We even found a new, albeit micro, pub had opened.

Also within you’ll find pages stuffed to the margins with stories, news and all things Beeston. This town does not sit still, making our mission to celebrate the place one we never take lightly. So if you see one of the team at the bar while reading this, they probably won’t say no to a pint. Cheers!

LB

Cycling Graffiti

You’ve probably seen these stencils on Chilwell High Road. They mark places where it is particularly dangerous for cyclists. Indeed they mark where accidents have occurred; accidents that could have been avoided if those creating the tramlines and cycling lanes around them had just thought properly.

The cycle lane goes onto the tram tracks. It doesn’t take much sense to see that there is hardly enough room for a tram and bicycle to run alongside each other, hence the recent accidents that have happened. What’s more, the lane then veers onto the pavement right into pedestrians. In the words of one cyclist I talked to “it doesn’t make any sense, it’s unsafe and erratic.”

It isn’t only Beeston. These stencils have begun appearing all over Nottingham. A group of cycling activists have taken it upon themselves to right what they think are serious wrongs in the way cycle tracks have been laid out (or not as the case may be).

And I can certainly understand. Cyclists have been unnecessarily injured by the tramlines, by lorries and HGVs, and normal drivers, and it seems at least part of the blame must be taken by the council’s ineptly installed cycle lanes.

Particularly dangerous are so-called “pinch points”. These are where lanes suddenly narrow; where bollards jut out, areas for parking, or those triangle patches that feed in and out of roundabouts. These naturally cause vehicles to edge left, but what that means for the cyclist is suddenly they have much less space, and they didn’t have much to begin with. The graffitists have created stencils saying “cycling priority lane” to remind drivers to pay special attention to cyclists. Remember that it is actually recommended that cyclists position themselves in the centre of the lane, not to the side; that is the safest place for them.

I spoke to a local cycling activist who told me he had been involved in the Beeston stencilling. Understandably he wished to remain anonymous. He spoke emphatically of known friends of his who had been killed cycling simply because drivers just don’t understand where cyclists are supposed to be.

“Cyclists follow all the same rules as other vehicles on the road, they should be in the middle of the lane. It’s called the primary position. A lot of motorists don’t realise this. They try to edge cyclists to the side.” This is particularly when reaching so-called pinch points as previously mentioned, particularly roundabouts.

“The city as a whole is supposed to be pledging to get more cyclists on the road*1, ordinary people, not your lycra-clad stereotypes. But to do that you need to have infrastructure to make cycling safe. That’s one of the reasons that ordinary people, children and such, don’t cycle to work and school; it has the image of being unsafe.”

Part of that is of course the attitude of some drivers. I myself have seen some really appalling things done to cyclists, which is truly ironic, as the activist explained:

“More people cycling would be better for motorists as well; there would be less traffic.”

In fact the benefits of cycling are pretty wide reaching. Let’s look at pollution. For example the area around the ringroad (the QMC) is in the top ten of polluted areas in Europe. The activist said, “When you cycle through there at rush hour you can literally taste the pollution.” Nottingham is one of the worst cities in the UK for pollution.*2

More locally rush hour is always a big issue in Beeston; parents taking their kids to and from school, people on their way to and from work. If more people cycled, it is undeniable there would be a big impact on levels of pollution. But first of all there would need to be safe and thorough cycle routes so that parents would feel their children were safe cycling, and that individuals themselves felt safe. Currently this is not always the case.

And this is why the activist has decided it is time to take to the night and do this.

“Nottingham really doesn’t have very good cycling infrastructure. I’ve cycled around London and felt it was much safer, the attitudes of drivers were better.”

“Because of these problems, particularly the attitudes of drivers, I don’t feel safe letting my kids cycle around this city, which is a great tragedy. Cycling is good for the mind, body and soul. Not to mention the environment, both local and wider.”

Their message?

“Nottingham City Council has pledged to erase all of our stencils. The’ve gotten rid of a few already. We’d prefer it if they didn’t waste tax payers’ money, as we’re not going to stop until safe cycling infrastructure is implemented.”

The city, he feels, just isn’t doing enough to make cycling safe and accessible to all.

“We feel they’re just doing the bare minimum. It’s obvious these people don’t cycle much themselves as much of what they’ve put in place is actually more dangerous than it would be to have no cycle paths at all. They need to listen to the right people.”

Here are some positive sites that I found myself where you can go for more information about cycling safety, cycling law or to get legally involved in cycling activism:

http://smartertravelnottingham.wordpress.com

http://bikeability.org.uk

  1. http://transport2.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/cycle/
  2. bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-27323198

Christian Fox

Letters to the Mind Project

A Beeston project aiming to raise mental heath awareness

PMeJ3uWn

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

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