As I type, slightly over deadline and basking in one of the hottest summers in a great many years things are changing in the world of Robin Hood.
Yesterday and over last weekend I had the fun of welcoming around 9000 people from Nottinghamshire and all over the world to Nottingham Castle before it finally closed its doors for at least two years for much needed repairs and renovations intended to turn it into the world-class tourist attraction, museum and art gallery that we deserve.
But that means I’ll be needed there a lot less whilst the work is ongoing, so what to do? Luckily I’ll still be Robin Hood-ing all over the place – civic events, beer festivals, parades and for whoever else books me – but a few people have jokingly suggested I use my spare time (as if I actually have any, looking after my four-year old daughter, Scarlett) protecting Beeston from the scourge of petty crime that’s becoming a depressingly regular topic on Facebook (and other social media) groups like ‘Beeston Updated’.
“I’m not sure vigilantism is the way ahead…”
I say ‘petty crime’, but if some scrote nicks your beloved bike from the tram stop, from your own garden or outside Tesco, your shed is broken into or you have your purse snatched on the High Road it’s anything but petty and almost impossible not to take personally. All the arguments are well rehearsed online – take care, increase police funding, buy better bike locks (etc.) but there’s certainly a perception, albeit generally expressed in very vague terms that ‘something needs to be done’ – hence some people suggesting (although obviously jokingly) that Robin Hood starts to protect Beeston.
Now I know a few years ago Wollaton Hall was used as Bruce Wayne’s ‘Wayne Manor’ in the film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and that Batman and Robin are good friends (c’mon, Batman and Robin. Oh, suit yourselves…) but I’m not sure vigilantism is the way ahead – it turns out that even if I caught someone pilfering my bike (not that I have one) I’m not actually allowed to wave a sword at them, much less shoot an arrow in their direction.
And of course that’s right, proper and sensible (not the least because my real life archery skills are nowhere near as good as our legendary hero) and I’ve spent about twenty-five years convincing the local police, CPO’s etc. that I’m actually, all appearances to the contrary, a sensible law-abiding chap and not a weapon-wielding maniac.
Remember the appalling riots in Nottingham a few years ago? The day after I had a gig at the Council House and found myself walking across the Old Market Square, armed to the teeth under the full glare of literally van loads of police from Yorkshire who’d been bussed into stop any further violence. Luckily it turns out waving, smiling and being friendly leads to a lot less confrontation – and I know Sal and I were positively vetted to meet the Queen, Will and Kate on their 2012 visit so I’m not sure a career change to Beeston’s Dark Knight would be that sensible as I’m pretty sure they know who I am. Well, that and I’m quite lazy, obviously.
So what do we do in Beeston? Do we just resign ourselves to lost bikes, damaged sheds an a perception of increasing fear of lawlessness? I hope not. I hope we can all pull together as a community and keep an eye out for each other and our property. Be aware. Help those who need it because (and I say this with a massive amount of irony) we can’t let the outlaws get away with it.
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood
Just to be clear, I don’t actually think I’m Robin Hood.
My heroes are James Bond or Captain Kirk but bizarrely Robin Hooding is genuinely my full time job – although it’s more fun than work, meeting incredible people and VIP’s, guiding tours, supporting charities and doing lots of very silly things!
I married my beloved and brilliant wife (and Maid Marian) Dr Sally Pollard in September 2016 but heartbreakingly she died of breast cancer in June 2017, aged just 39 – so these days I concentrate more on bringing up our beautiful four-year old daughter Scarlett than pretending to be a hero – except in Scarlett’s eyes, and now that’s what really counts.
If I haven’t overstepped my deadline (something I do on a regular basis) this issue should be out in early December, just in time for the Beeston Christmas Lights Switch-on.
Almost every end of year magazine issue is full of ‘Round ups of the past year’ or ‘What will next year be like?’ articles and it would be wrong of The Beestonian to avoid such traditions, of course – but as I’ve written about my traumatic past year in previous issues and the coming year will be pretty trying too, let’s talk Christmassy stuff.
Robin Hood-ing for me is a very seasonal business, with summer tours at the Castle ending around the time of the October Robin Hood Beer Festival, yet again a splendid event albeit very moving as four local breweries had all made beers named in honour of my late wife Sal; the Robin Hood Pageant a week afterwards (except this year as it was cancelled due to extreme weather); November’s MySight Nottingham Charity Firewalk which I’ve done annually for eight years now and the Nottingham Christmas Lights Switch on (which I confess this year I missed for the first time in about as long as I was at a prog rock festival in Wales).
But I do get to be Robin at several festive tours of the Castle caves, lots of tourism promotions and some banquets – and even get to change my costume colour from green to red (like some abstract mythical traffic light) as I’m also going to be Santa at the Albert Hall for the second year running, which is great fun.
And this year I’m going to Lapland to meet the real Santa.
In fact by the time you read this I’ll have been and come back, and I have no doubt it’s going to be very moving and emotional, as I have the huge honour to be travelling with a group of very poorly children and their families on a plane chartered by the ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ charity, a superb Nottingham-based organisation who specialise in making very sick children’s dreams come true. A few years ago when I was doing medieval banquets at Center Parcs we did some shows for them and they were astounding – the joy, laughter and sheer fun we had just blew away our concerns it would be a sad or gloomy time, and I can only imagine the happiness on everyone’s faces as they meet Santa inside the Arctic Circle, see the Northern Lights and even get to meet husky teams in the frozen forest!
Of course the children being so ill makes a difference and it’s a long day for everyone – a 3am start and returning to East Midlands airport about 10pm at night (so the return journey will probably be a bit less riotous than the outbound one) but I was so pleased to have been asked, I love the idea of Robin Hood helping local children and their families have an unforgettable trip, and it certainly puts a lot of things in perspective.
And although Sal’s and my three year-old daughter Scarlett (who’ll be four on Boxing Day, where does the time go?) won’t be travelling with me she’ll be seeing one or more Nottingham-based Santas over the festive period. Last year she saw about three on various visits with family and friends and firmly decided the last Santa was the best because he greeted her by her name, knew all about her Gran-Gran Joy, her special cuddly White Bunny and not only gave them all a chocolate frog but also gave her one for Mummy who was poorly at home. And rather marvellously, Scarlett then asked for another one “For my Daddy, because he’s working”.
That was a truly beautiful moment and Santa was very moved. Because, dear reader, I was that Santa. And what’s more, she actually gave me the chocolate too. So from us both (and Santa) may we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood
Over the past few issues I’ve written about my wife Sal’s incurable cancer and how grateful we both were for the fabulous help we had from the City and QMC hospitals, Sarah, our local Macmillan nurse, the local Red Cross and the brilliant community nurses at Dovecote House on Wollaton Road.
Sadly, as some of you may know, Sal died at home, surrounded by her friends and family in June and it has been a hugely traumatic time for all of us who loved her. But I’d very much like to thank not only the organisations that helped but everyone in Beeston who have given us so much love, support and friendship. Sal appreciated it greatly, as do I and our three-year old daughter, Scarlett. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I think Scarlett is growing up in the best village possible.
One of the few events I’ve attended as Robin Hood since Sal died was the (re)opening of Beeston Library, on the 9th September, the day before what would have been our first wedding anniversary. I’ve lived in Beeston all my life and when I was growing up the library was incredibly important to me, giving me access to worlds, ideas, stories and new horizons – and when Scarlett was born Sal and I took her to the brilliant ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’ baby music classes there which we all loved. I was asked a long time ago to attend the opening, to do some Robin Hood storytelling and help celebrate the renovation and Sal had planned to come down with Scarlett to see it too. Sadly, that wasn’t to be, but I really wanted to go for her and for me – and I’m so glad I did.
In these harsh economic times, where public money is increasingly difficult to find, Beeston’s ‘new’ library is a revelation and a joy to visit. Entirely redesigned, light, bright and airy but full of resources, space and almost unrecognisable from the old version it can and will be a wonderful community resource we can all use, enjoy and support. In a time of austerity and closures it’s something we should all be proud of – if you haven’t been yet, please do, you really won’t regret it.
Other community hubs are still being forced to close though sadly – as I write it’s just been announced that another stalwart centre of Beeston life (albeit for a slightly different demographic) is to shut its doors for good; The Greyhound, a frankly awesome rock pub famed not just locally but across the Midlands and further afield for passionately putting on some of the best live rock music gigs, will close its doors in a few weeks’ time, frustrated by brewery avarice and a massive increase (a doubling) of business rates.
I went to The Greyhound on the same day as I’d attended the library opening to see a brilliant (and local) Marillion tribute band, ‘Real to Reel’. You may remember Marillion’s most famous single ‘Kayleigh’ from the now 30-year old but still fantastic album ‘Misplaced Childhood’. I’ve been a Marillion fan since 1983, introduced to them by my school friend Rob Reid, who now fronts the tribute band. They played a blinder, and as you can imagine on the eve of our wedding anniversary it was a very emotional gig for me, as a year before Sal had walked into the hall to the sound of Marillion’s ‘Lavender’, a beautiful song which Scarlett even now loves to listen and dance to. So when the band played it as their final song of the night I admit I was in tears and very glad to have the support of some really good friends.
That’s the power of music, and also the joy of community. It’s a real shame we’re losing The Greyhound in its present incarnation because it (and its passionate staff who rescued and relaunched it not too long ago) rocked, both figuratively and literally. It will apparently become a gastro- and craft beer pub, which may well be wonderful – but will never be the same.
But then I guess learning to live with significant change is something I, and we all, have to do.
Tim Pollard, Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood
What does Beeston mean to you? Is it your home or a place you’re visiting (and if you live here is it somewhere you’ve been for a few months, a year, decades or your entire life)?
When you look at photos of ‘old’ Beeston from last century (maybe on one of the excellent Beeston Facebook pages) do you remember how it was, or is Beeston’s current incarnation your only experience – and how do you see, live in, use and enjoy Beeston these days?
Lots of questions, I know – but the reason I ask is I’ve recently become much more aware that ‘my’ Beeston isn’t the same as your Beeston – the places I frequent you may never visit and vice-versa. Places I think are great and make our town new, exciting and vibrant may be places you’d never dream of entering and there are plenty of local shops and venues I really should try for the first time.
I recently had an interesting and eye-opening conversation on one of those Beeston Facebook pages about the possibility of late-night noise pollution from a (very good) restaurant near my house which has applied for much extended licensing hours. Most replies thought I was concerned over nothing as it wouldn’t affect many people and the benefits would outweigh the potential disruption to the few locals who it did – and maybe they had a point, maybe the needs of the many do outweigh the needs of the few (to quote Mr Spock from ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’). But again, it got me thinking about what different people want from our town; for instance a good night out, an excellent and profitable business or a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by loud and protracted conversations right outside your house at closing time.
My view of Beeston changed when we had our daughter Scarlett
So, what makes your Beeston?
Over the past few months I’ve written a lot about my wife Sal’s advanced and incurable breast cancer, which is weird, because I’d never have thought I’d write about it, let alone have it published. I certainly had no intention of writing an ‘Our Cancer Diary’-type column, partly because it just feels a bit wrong but mainly because it makes it a bit tricky to drop jokes into; Bad Cancer is hardly a laugh a minute subject for anyone.
But in the same way my view of Beeston changed when we had our daughter Scarlett and I suddenly discovered Beeston had a great medical centre, soft play areas and parks that I’d really not bothered about before I now know what great at home and on-call medical services Beeston has – and after Sal finally made it out of the house on her borrowed electric wheelchair what utterly dreadful pavements and roads we have, as well as what places are easy to get into and around, something yet again I’d not really thought about until I had to.
The biggest change for me though is where all of these things come together.
As I said, I never intended to write about our experience of Sal’s cancer. Hell, neither of us want it, we want a long and happy and pain-free life of course – but the other day I had a truly wonderful email from someone who’s relatively new to Beeston, someone we’ve never met but had initially read about Sal and me on the ‘Beeston Updated’ Facebook site and just wanted to send both of us best wishes and support. We were genuinely touched, humbled and astounded as it was a truly lovely thought and gesture. We ended up talking about why their family had moved here (it turns out they love Beeston and couldn’t be happier to have moved) and I realised that for us the reason Beeston is such a great place to live isn’t just our friends and family (awesome as they are) or the facilities, shops, services or even late night restaurants – it’s the brilliant, wonderful and caring people we have here.
Beeston, you are awesome, thank you.
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood
Hello, good citizen of Beeston, how are you this lovely spring day?
Very well, thank you – the sun is shining, the Crown has been refurbished and… hang on a minute, you don’t normally start your turgid ramblings with an individual greeting, what’s going on?
Ah. Bother, you noticed. Weeeell… this column is a bit different. It tackles some… er… odd subject matter. I just thought I’d warn you. Don’t read it out loud, m’kay? Especially in the pub.
As some of you may know, my lovely wife Sal is really quite poorly with a scary and incurable breast cancer which has spread to her bones, liver and brain. She’s coping with it reasonably well though, for the most part she’s in good spirits and we have our beautiful three year old daughter to keep us laughing which helps a lot. Moreover, thanks to the enormous generosity of a considerable number of very lovely people we recently had our garage converted into a downstairs bedroom for her as (just after we got married last September) Sal lost the use of her legs and partially because of this is unfortunately now quite often in considerable pain.
I’d promised her and her best friend Lou a spa break before Sal’s diagnosis nearly two years ago as who wouldn’t enjoy a champagne filled weekend of pampering, relaxation and massage? Because of her condition though it appears almost impossible now as there don’t appear to be many hotel/spa resorts that will treat clients with advanced cancer (insurance issues I guess). So I thought I’d see if there was anyone locally who could help, not only for Sal and her pain but also for me as I do a lot of lifting these days and Sal keeps insisting, probably very sensibly, that I need to look after myself as well as her.
So I went online and Googled ‘Beeston Massage’.
Wow? Why ‘Wow’?
Erm… look, I’m not hopelessly naïve, nor do I imagine Beeston is a haven of purity, decency and light (after all, our town topped the list of ‘Places People Have Extra-marital Affairs’ a couple of years ago) but one of the first links I found was to a site that reviews the… ahem… professional services of ‘Ladies of Transactional Affection’, so to speak.
Very funny. Imagine a ‘TripAdvisor for Personal Services’ with a very in-depth and detailed review of the ‘goings on’ at the (now already closed) new massage parlour on Regent Street, as well as a many other locations. It was, to quote Star Trek’s Mr Spock, “Fascinating”. I read sections of the reviews out to Sal, her Mum and a group of friends when they were round and we were all laughing fit to burst (which was actually great therapy in itself).
I find that hard to swallow…
Stop that now. Anyway, it just got me thinking about the ‘darker’ side of Beeston, what goes on behind closed doors and how much of a good or bad thing it was. As I said, I’m not that naïve to think it doesn’t happen everywhere and Beeston is surely no exception – so I’m not sure why the Broadgate establishment only lasted a few weeks before closing…
Maybe they’ll wait fifteen minutes and try again?
You’re just being silly now. But as I said, maybe Beeston is packed full of naughtiness – or is demand drooping (sorry, dropping)? Was the closure due to local pressure, lack of demand or not paying the right business rates? Might it simply be that Beeston is no longer the illicit nookie capital of the UK, (and if not should we be pleased or disappointed)?
No idea, I’m going to the pub for a stiff one.
Oh suit yourself, I can tell you’re not taking this seriously. The really sad thing is Sal and I still haven’t found somewhere who can provide a nice, soothing and entirely respectable massage.
Oh, that’s a real shame. I do so love a happy ending….
Our resident Robin Hood talks propah…
Over the years Sal and I have had a lot of weird things happen to us: watching the birth of our daughter become the top story on the BBC news website; being mentioned in a question on a national TV quiz show and recently discovering someone had written us into a play where the ‘real’ Robin and Marian appear in modern day Nottingham and bump into us, meaning we are genuinely characters in someone else’s play (which on reflection may explain a lot).
Performance-wise I have done a few other things over the years; some TV work, music videos and even a proper play (for most of which I had to stay hidden under a huge pile of empty beer cans, pizza boxes and other detritus so I could ‘amusingly’ emerge halfway through proclaiming ‘Great party, man’ which didn’t require quality acting skills so much as the ability to stay awake). And several years ago I was also hired to dress as a vicar and act out a marriage service for a couple of people who wanted it to be filmed; I still have no idea at all what that was about.
I’ve also been in a couple of movies – not huge, big budget epics or lavish musicals but more what you’d call ‘very low budget horror movies’, the splendidly titled ‘Dracula’s Orgy of the Damned’ and ‘Werewolf Massacre at Hell’s Gate’ written, directed and produced by my old friend James Baack in and around his home in Chicago (and even now available on DVD from Amazon in the US).
A few years ago James asked me if I’d like to appear in his films to narrate/introduce as ‘Lord Victor Fleming’, a collector of arcane and mysterious stories. Wearing evening dress and having dressed our living room look as much like a 19th century gentleman’s club as possible Sally filmed me setting the scene for the film (“The story you are about to see is a tale of terror that will freeze your very soul” etc.) including some filming at Wollaton Hall to imply it was Victor Fleming’s ancestral home. We both enjoyed the experience greatly and were delighted to get copies of the final, finished film(s) several months later.
And then reviews of the movies began turning up online, and oddly the one thing all the reviews had in common were comments on the narrator’s ‘fake English accent’, which amused us all greatly. I can maybe see why American reviewers watching a film mainly shot in America with American actors might assume my accent was fake (and to be fair my ‘posh’ voice may not be entirely consistent anyway) but when I jokingly replied to one such reviewer on the Amazon US site recently, pointing out I was genuinely English in what I hoped was an amusingly and vaguely sarcastic way, the Nottingham Post got involved and ran a story ‘Robin Hood slammed for ‘fake English accent’’, and that really was weird.
Although it was quite fun, albeit presumably on a slow news day, it also got me thinking. Much like Russell Crowe I know I’ve never spoken in a ‘Nottingham accent’ but I’m not sure what my accent is. I’m sure I do have some Nottingham influence but I don’t think it’s very strong (I’m sure growing up listening to a lot of Radio 4 has affected it much more) but that led me to further wonder – is there ‘Beeston accent’? I don’t think there is, but is that due to the excellent cosmopolitan makeup of the town, with so many varying languages, people and cultures all mixing together? Are there any particular words or phrases that we can claim as our own? Because if I’m going to be castigated for having a fake English accent I’d like to console myself with knowing I have a genuine Beestonian one…
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood
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…
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood