A tribute to comedy’s unsung heroes

Scott Bennett puts the spotlight on his behind-the-scenes supporters

When I first started stand-up people would often ask me if it was a hobby. At the time I couldn’t answer them. Now if feel I am more qualified to answer this question. Baking cakes is a hobby, playing golf once a week is a hobby, driving to Glasgow on a wet Wednesday night to perform to eight people at Bobby Wingnuts Cackle Dungeon, isn’t a hobby, it’s probably an illness.

Interestingly they never ask me how I do stand-up comedy, which would be a more revealing question. Much is said of the stand-up comedian, but the people behind the scenes often don’t get the credit they deserve. I’m not referring to agents, managers or producers; I’m talking about the unseen victims of comedy, the ones we leave behind to hold the fort and the ones who have to keep our fragile egos buoyant after a terrible gig in Glasgow. The sacrifices these poor men and women make are part of the reason we are able to get up on stage and show off for twenty minutes each weekend. I’m speaking of course about the silent partner in the double act and in my case it’s my wife Jemma.

I hope we never get burgled when I am away, as she would probably just wake up to ask him if he had a nice gig and then go back to sleep again.

When we met 19 years ago I didn’t do stand-up. We met at university, got married, had our first child and both embarked on proper careers, hers as a teacher and myself as a product designer. We both shared a mutual love for comedy. I knew she was the one for me when we both declared our obsession with Alan Partridge, her knowledge was remarkable, we would forensically analyse it for hours, like two tragic comedy geeks, it was marvellous. I still do it now, reciting bits of comedy, I’m weird like that, but often I’ll be told “not now love, can you take the bins out” things have inevitability moved on. As students would often sneak back home early on nights out, many people assumed this was due to unbridled lust, in reality though it’s because we fancied some toast and to listen to On the Hour.

I came to comedy quite late and although things are going well, it would have been much easier to have done it when I was in my early 20’s and living in my parents’ house, but I had nothing much to say when I was that age and certainly didn’t feel confident enough to know how to say it. Now, being married and having a family life is a sure fire way to create material. An expensive and stressful way perhaps, but it’s effective. Although, failing that, you can probably get away with people watching on the back of the night bus with a notepad; you could probably unearth some comedy gold without all that extra responsibility.

It’s always unusual getting back home in the early hours of the morning when all the family is in bed and the house is silent. I like my little routine, the bowl of cereal at 2am and back to back couples who kill on the investigation channel; marvellous.  I then have to sneak into the bedroom and try to find my way to my side of the bed using only the digits of my radio alarm clock as a rudimentary landing strip. My wife rarely stirs. I hope we never get burgled when I am away, as she would probably just wake up to ask him if he had a nice gig and then go back to sleep again.

I’m very lucky in that my wife has not given me an ultimatum, which does often happen to some comedians in marriages, but there have been times when the bank of goodwill has been low on credit, especially with the arrival of our second child this February. I have to always remind myself that Jemma didn’t tick the WAC box on the marriage form (wife of a comedian) and I’m dragging her along on this venture, but the support she gives me had been unwavering and I will forever be in debt to her for that. We are getting used to a different lifestyle as a family. We are learning how to make it work. Twice now have all gone up to the fringe together, once staying in a flat and last year spending the month in a static caravan. We could have probably gone to Disneyland for the same price and I was probably one of the only comics whose fringe experience closely resembled that of Alan Partridge, but it was great having them with me.

My six year old daughter has had some very cool fringe experiences; it’s the perk of having a dad who does comedy. When she returned to school after the summer break last year she had to draw a picture of something she did during the holidays. She proudly handed in a picture of her onstage with the Funz and Gamez crew, (her teacher corrected the spelling) she has met Bonzo the dog and Jim the elf, smashed an egg over her dads head and had a brutal staring competition with Phil Ellis; she still talks about it to this day..

I don’t know what the future holds for me in comedy, there are no guarantees. What I do know though is that if I am ever fortunate enough to have some success in comedy, it certainly wouldn’t have been possible without the sacrifices made by my family waiting back at home.

Find the Scott Bennett Podcast on Soundcloud and iTunes

Scott Bennett

RIP Crossplay: Guest article by Mikk Skinner

I recently heard the news that Crossplay Music have called it a day. Never recovered from Tram Works. I know it’s only a shop but…..Chilwell High Road won’t be the same!

I suppose it was inevitable, but the news does none the less leave me with a heavy heart.
Crossplay never recovered from the extremely sad loss of both Mike Gamble & Mad Mick (local music legend, who died suddenly in 2012) when its own heart was ripped out.

Mick asked me to help him after he was left holding shop after Mike Gamble passed away. From June till December 2012 we worked together and those 7 months were the most happiest of times which I remember with great fondness. We had the biggest laugh keeping going when customers were all at The Guitar Spot (not!). Trying to apprehend the Crossplay thief, who visited us for the second time just after I started working there in June and also trying to avoid the reptile skins that kept turning up also entertaining the reps when they often popped in for a chat, tea, coffee and biscuits, and of course having fun playing music.

Mick asked me in to work front of shop whist he carried on with his love of working on and repairing guitars (and other assorted paraphernalia), and making his flutes. He was in fact a far better salesman than I could ever be with his inevitable style and could sell ice to Eskimos.

After Mick’s untimely and sad passing in December 2012 I kept shop going as much as I could on my own until Mike Gamble’s widow finally sold the shop in October 2013. Whist never the same I owe a lot to friends in the Hop Pole Beeston & The Guitar Spot and on Chilwell High Road for keeping me going in Crossplay for a further 10 months

RIP Crossplay, Mike & Mad Mick xxx

Mikk Skinner

As the Co owner of what seemed to outsiders as rival business, we were all about community. We weren’t Tesco and Asda like most idiots think they have to be in small business. Our co existences helped each other and we would always seek each others help with a problem and banter in the pub at night. Condolences to the last owner. Tram works hurt. A thing that most of Chilwell road could agree

Jimmy Wiggins – The Guitar Spot

Beeston Beats

The great summer of 2016 has quickly become a flickering memory of a season past, yet there’s still a few surprise sunny days that hurriedly sneak in, however my day out hunting down alternative music at The Charlton arms wasn’t one of them…

Outside my window looked like the darkest days in Antarctica, in full on winter mode, I will be honest it not only made me think not just twice, but about ten times over, if going out in the abyss would be worth leaving my warm surroundings. As it was, I wrapped up (they are always telling me to do so on the telemabob weather) warmed meh cockles with a wee dram (Scottish for occifer I haz only been on the tea –hic) and headed on the Indigo bus grumpier than a teen at a surprise birthday party.

My surroundings greeting me certainly looked the part as The Charlton Arms Chilwell has had a bit of a snazzy make over to the tune of 120k in recent years, making the switch to quite sophisticated decor and boasting a wider adult “pop” selection ( btw kids, I really don’t mean pop). The large car park proved an ideal meeting place as the day was dedicated to a “scooter bash”; I quickly realised that the term meant a daytime soiree or celebration, rather than a kind of metallic whack a mole type of event.  Scoots of all shapes and sizes, original and modified, descended in a sea of shiny gleaming chrome to take part in the planned ride out to the Long Eaton Cenotaph with a detour of Chetwynd army barracks, to pay respects to the armed forces there and to lay a wreath over at Beeston war memorial.

On their return an announcement of the competition winners with the awards presented by legendary film” This is England” star, George Newton (he played banjo). Daniel and Jade from Sneinton bagged best mod and modette while Andrew Hart took best vespa and John from Bilborough stole the best mod scoot on show. Keeping up morale inside, d.js Poppa bear and Cynthia B from Ska2soul treated the audience to some cracking tracks from ska, two tone, reggae and northern soul all lovingly played on vinyl records.

Being the sensible sausage that I am I was tucked up in bed way before I turned into a pumpkin

Taking over the stage were The Incredible skank brothers, livening up the crowd with covers of ska classics from Madness and Bad Manners to The specials. The back of the venue held a tombola with all proceeds going to Forces in the community and The British Legion, alongside a merch stall for all trilby, patches, badges and pin needs leaving no excuse to get kitted out.

I hear the event carried on to the small hours with all involved having a fantastic time, raising awareness and paying respects to worthwhile charities to an amazing soundtrack of some cracking ska covers from yesteryear, being the sensible sausage that I am I was tucked up in bed way before I turned into a pumpkin.

Festival twat-isms

Yep as I’ve been away many weekends for festival season, my ear holes have heard some right silly corkers from random passerby’s, this little column filler is like Left Lion magazines notts over heard column but Beeston on the move stylee.

Girl to partner- ‘I am a vegetarian cause I only eat Organic Chicken’

Bloke to woman – (after barging straight into her) –‘I would say sorry but ya know it’s a festival’

Woman enters tent to Marvin Gayle’s iconic original track let’s get it on, she says to first passerby – ‘“excuse me love is this the rave tent?’

Two guys chatting in Matlock one points at the stonewall in Pike hall and says “Isn’t that Hadriens wall?”

Thank you random people for making me smile keep em coming!

Lulu Davenport

Welcome to Waspton

There is a town in England you’ve probably never heard of before* which has a lot of similarities to Beeston…

It has the same number of residents, the same average household income, and is on the doorstep of a medium-to-large city, close to a campus university. The town in question is Waspton, and as well as having these things in common with Beeston, also has a lot of differences.

Demography

Like Beeston, Waspton has a mixed population of several ethnicities, students, young and old. However there is marked segregation in Waspton, with different groups of people confined to specific areas, with very little in the way of mixing going on. Students living in Waspton aren’t made very welcome, so tend to head into the city to spend their loans. There is a fair bit of racial tension, which is evidenced by graffiti which appears regularly on businesses owned by those from ethnic minorities.

Public transport

Despite being only 5 miles out of the city, Waspton is poorly served by public transport. A ‘service’ is run by one of the national bus companies, which is notoriously unreliable and stops at 8pm. The railway station only sees a train stop there every couple of hours, and a return ticket to the city is very expensive (over £7 for an off-peak return). This means that most people have to get around by car, leading to a lot of congestion. Even short journeys take a long time in Waspton.

Pubs

Waspton used to have many more pubs than it does now, just like Beeston. However, many more have closed and remained shut in Waspton. Most of them remain boarded up and are vandalised eyesores. The few pubs that remain are not very welcoming – all owned by big pubcos, lacking in character, charm and choice.

Eating out

There are a dwindling number of restaurants in Waspton, which are fairly bog standard and unimaginative – a couple of Indians, a Chinese, and an Italian. None of them get top marks for food hygiene, and one of them is known locally as ‘The Gut Gamble’ because of a reputation for causing food poisoning.

There are however lots of kebab and fried chicken takeaways in Waspton, which are blamed for a lot of anti-social behaviour and litter. Again, none of them get 5 stars from the inspectors, and are responsible for a lot of poorly digestive systems in Waspton.

Shops

Just as Beeston does, Waspton has a Lidl, a small Sainsbury and a big Tesco which opened in 2010. The effect of these large retailers in Waspton has been catastrophic for local independents. Within three years of the Tesco opening, Waspton town centre was almost unrecognisable. Now just a mixture of empty units, bookies, payday loan companies, cash for gold and other pawnbrokers, there is little to draw people in from Waspton itself, let alone the surrounding area. Quite oddly, the one business which seems to still do OK there is one of those places where people put their feet into tanks of fish to have the dead skin nibbled off.

Crime

Waspton has a fairly high reported crime rate – around twenty times that of Beeston. Noticeable trends over the last few years have been an increase in hate crimes, assaults, muggings and thefts from vehicles. Many people in Waspton do not feel safe in the town centre at night, and the police presence is virtually nil.

Schools

The schools in Waspton aren’t anything to shout about, with ‘Good’ being the best Ofsted rating for one out of the 7 primary schools, the rest all being rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’. Of the two secondary schools, one of them is plagued with problems such as bullying, drug-taking, unexplained absences, and regular fights – this just refers to the teachers.

Housing

Waspton is very similar to Beeston in that the housing stock is predominantly a mix of Victorian, inter-war, and modern builds. What differs markedly is the house prices, which are around 50% higher on average in Waspton. As mentioned earlier, the average household income is the same in the two towns which mean home ownership is out of reach for a huge number of Wasptonians. Rents are correspondingly high too, particularly since a number of private landlords starting buying up large swathes of property several years ago.

Famous people

Beeston’s most famous son is arguably the fashion designer Paul Smith, followed by the late, great actor Richard Beckinsale. Unfortunately Waspton has only produced a serial killer who murdered five prostitutes in the early 2000s, and Jonathan King’s former chauffer, who was jailed for several offences last year as part of the Operation Yewtree investigation.

All in all, Waspton is not a very pleasant place in which to live. There is very little in the way of entertainment, virtually no community spirit, locals are quite insular and mean-spirited, and incomers keep themselves to themselves as a result of the hostility they face. In contrast to Beeston, it is not somewhere that has a forward-looking feel. Inward investment is low, and a feasibility study into the building of a tram system was shelved halfway through due to local council budget cuts. Anyone who lives in Beeston who thinks that it isn’t up to much should spend a day or even just an afternoon in Waspton to see how good we have it just now.

*You’ve never heard of it because it is actually a made-up place comprising a lot of the rubbish features of Britain today.

JC & CT

Issue 48: Gossip from the Hivemind

Beeston public loo: RIP. Never the most beautiful of buildings, but my, have they saved us on occasions. But no more: the bulldozers saw them off last month. But it’s ok! The council have arranged a scheme to pay local businesses to use their bogs. Oh, what’s that? They haven’t? Ahhh. Well, I’m sure all councillors who made this decision will not mind you using their toilets. Addresses available online.

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Weirdest place The Beestonian has been: 10, Downing Street. Apparently we’ve been used as an example of excellence in hyperlocal media, at a presentation to the cabinet. This beats our previous weirdest reader: we heard some months back that as part of the plans for the Prince’s Foundation to work on the Barton’s development, a copy of The Beestonian was sent to Prince Charles to illustrate the spirit of the town. Of course, this information will not in any way influence our impeccable independent journalism.

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Grammar schools eh? Great idea.

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Y’know, I always find this column is easier to write once I’ve had a nice cup of tea and a few DUCHY ORIGINAL oat biscuits. Y’know, the ones that cost about three quid a crumb Talking of posh nosh, Marks and Sparks food are coming to town. Yes, everyone’s favourite purveyor of over-priced grub that isn’t from Waitrose are setting up shop on Chilwell Retail Park. A pipeline supplying every house in Attenborough with organic balsamic is being installed, and the ducks down the nearby nature reserve will now be fed artisan ciabatta instead of the usual Mighty White.

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Yes, we know that you should not feed bread to ducks. But this is no ordinary bread. This is slow baked, herb infused Marks and Spencer bread.

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We don’t condone graffiti, but we find it so hard to walk past this business and not write ‘scissors’ in marker pen.

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Our beloved and totally sober MP went off on one recently, when Twitter seemed to unanimously question her rather overwrought appearance on BBC’s Question Time. “I HAVE NEVER USED THAT WORD” she thundered to a twitter user who mentioned Anna’s well-documented use of the C- word “DELETE THIS DEFAMATORY TWEET”. Calm, Anna, calm. While it is an offensive to many, we’re all open minded enough to use the word ‘Conservative” without much embarrassment.

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Brilliant work from Beestonian Lewis Stainer, for recently setting up a food collection for refugees. His hard work persuaded a massive amount of food, mainly own-brand tins, to be donated. This will be then sent to Calais to keep the stateless, stranded refugees there some sustenance while our elected leaders continue to dither. Well done Lewis. Next year, with M+S firmly part of Beeston, it’ll probably be all spiralised courgette and quinoa. Or maybe we can hope there will be no need, and solutions will be found to give the hopeless hope. Sadly, that’s as likely as some shiny public Armitage Shanks being stuck in the centre of town.

Norse Goods

Our thoughts on Odin’s Table…

We all know that Beeston is a cosmopolitan place, but I was surprised to find out how many nationalities are represented among the people living/working/studying here. The most reliable indicator to date comes from an ever-growing list compiled by the owners of Odin’s Table, the relatively new Scandinavian restaurant/cafe/deli situated where Chambers Pet Shop used to be. As well as folk from all the Nordic lands, customers from nearly 40 other countries have graced this smart eatery.

The menu is constantly evolving and includes cakes and pastries, sandwiches, salads, fish dishes, hot and cold drinks, with vegetarian and vegan options

It’s easy to see why the place appeals to people from all four corners of the globe (if that is actually possible – spheres had no corners last time I looked). For example, if you’ve ever been to the food bit in Ikea, you’ll almost surely have tried the meatballs, which are curiously addictive. The Ikea ones however are like a wobbly chipboard flat pack bedside table compared to OT’s bespoke hardwood bureau. Packed full of meaty flavour, they are simply delicious. It might sound weird, but I’m actually looking forward to the upcoming chilly months so that I can eat some in the cold. My favourite way to eat them is with gravy in a roll, but they are great with pasta too.

Meatballs aren’t all that are on offer though. The menu is constantly evolving and includes cakes and pastries, sandwiches, salads, fish dishes, hot and cold drinks, with vegetarian and vegan options. Well stocked shelving and fridges are full of fresh and intriguing delicacies too. The decor is clean, bright and minimal, you will get a warm and friendly welcome, and everything is very reasonably priced.

Beeston has never hosted so many places to eat before, with a huge variety of cuisines on offer. Having to make a decision about where to eat is a nice problem to have, but I’m pretty sure that if you try Odin’s Table then you’ll definitely want to go back.

JC

Oxjam 2016: Get ready for Takeover

One of the biggest highlights of the Beeston calendar is just weeks away…

OxjamThe Oxjam Beeston Takeover will happen again on Saturday 15 October, with tickets already on sale at Oxfam Books and Music (Beeston High Road) and The Guitar Spot (Chilwell High Road) at an ‘early-bird’ price of £8. You can also get them online from wegottickets.com (80p booking fee). On the day, a limited number of tickets will be available from £10 so get in early to be sure and save a bit of cash! We will also have ‘Takeover’ early-bird tickets for sale at our Saturday morning busking stall.

Leading up to the Takeover, the Oxjam Beeston Music Festival has two events: The ‘Oxjam Introducing…’ night at The Beeston Youth and Community Centre (‘West End’) on Friday 16 September, when we’ll have a programme of under-19 artists and bands – just £3 on the door.

The ‘Oxjam Ceilidh’ happens on Saturday 24 September at Christ Church Hall – tickets are £10 apiece from Oxfam Books and Music, online at wegottickets.com (£1 booking fee) or from our Saturday stall. Music and ‘calling’ will be provided by the ever-popular Beeston Ceilidh Collective. Oh, and there’s a bar for you thirsty hoofers to slake your thirsts!

The Festival finishes with ‘Classical Oxjam’ at Beeston Parish Church on Saturday 12 November. Tickets already available for £8 (concessions £6) from Oxfam Books and Music, The Guitar Spot, online at wegottickets.com and from our Saturday stall.

Look out for us at the Heritage Weekend opening on Saturday 10 September, 10 am at Bartons where we’ll be providing some music – we’ll also be at The Boat and Horses later in the day for a folk music session.

Saturday mornings, 11am to 1pm: we’ll be busking, selling tickets, collecting your pennies and giving you goodies and info.

  • 17 September – outside Sainsbury’s, by ‘the bell’ – featuring ‘Stringummyjig’
  • 24 September – The Podium, in The Square – artists from Second Time Around Folk Club
  • 1 October – The Podium in The Square – artists to be confirmed
  • 8 October – The Podium in The Square (with Arts and Crafts Market) – artists tbc

For up-to-the-minute information about artists and venues for ‘Takeover’ and ‘buskers’ visit www.oxjambeeston.org

16 September – ‘Oxjam Introducing…’

24 September – ‘Oxjam Ceilidh’

15 October – ‘Oxjam Takeover’

12 November – ‘Classical Oxjam’

CT

GBBO…and beefy banana loaves

With the return of GBBO, the nation has thrown down its floury gauntlet and challenged even the most terrible bakers to a flan-off in a marquee.

People the length of the UK have been rolling and kneading, burning and sweating, and inventing all sorts of new and interesting swear words this past couple of weeks. It’s like an episode of Last of the Summer Wine but with less casual racism and more sexy grannies.

In honour of this bonding experience, I have baked absolutely nothing. I’ve never even seen an episode, having not got a telly which plays actual programmes. I have, however, found awesome new DLC for Fallout 4, so the summer hasn’t been entirely wasted. I’ve got a go-to banana loaf which uses about 4 ingredients (one of which is optimism) so if you’re ever at a loss about what to do with a handful of browning bananas I’m your woman. It’s vegan too, so you can invite your vegan mates round if you have any. If not feel free to chuck some beef in or something, like that episode of Friends where Rachel makes a cake with mash and gravy in. It’ll give you something to laugh about for years to come.

I see some of the Pinterest wedding cakes doing the rounds and wonder who on earth manages to knock these things out

I’m not a cake person. Give me a couple of hours and you’ll have the finest roast you’ve ever tasted, but cakes are not my thing. Given that I can get a perfectly decent, ready made cheesecake for half the price of its actual components I’m happy to support my local, family-run, massive supermarket chain. Honestly, here’s £2 now gimme my cheesecake.

Cakes are best left to people who really want to bake them. They are a luxury rather than a necessity and so if you have the time and inclination, go nuts. My best mate made me an amazing cake for me hen party. It had a mouth on the front and I’ll leave the rest of it for you to think about. It was amazing and I know I could never reproduce such brilliance without either giving up work or putting my child up for adoption, and I’ve seriously considered both. I see some of the Pinterest wedding cakes doing the rounds and wonder who on earth manages to knock these things out. They are works of art! I couldn’t even DRAW a cake that beautiful.

So, I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m terrible at baking but I think people who are good at it are maybe some sort of wizard. Blessed with an almighty glucose-based super-power, they are worth of our true respect and admiration. Unlike me, who just suggested putting beef in a banana loaf.

Daisy Leverington

We Shall Overcome

Broxtowe Women’s Project [BWP] is a vital support and information service for women and their families who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse.

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Recent changes to BWP’s funding model imperils the essential work it does, which is why we are delighted to support a fundraiser at the White Lion on the 23 September (more info on the event below).

We know that in times of drastic reductions in government funding to local councils, that less money is available to spend on public services, and that cuts disproportionately affect women. As Lisa Clarke, Women’s Officer for Broxtowe Labour, tells me, ‘We are currently witnessing an epidemic of violence against women and girls. Two women a week are murdered at the hands of a current or former partner; and yet as local authorities struggle to cope with cuts to central funding “women’s services” experience real time cuts’.  BWP offers support and advice to women living in the Nottinghamshire borough of Broxtowe through the delivery of a range of services. This is achieved through a mixture of outreach, one-to-one support, and group support. Examples of support include resilience building, safety planning, and assistance in accessing a range of other essential services such as housing, legal and financial support.

Funding is essential to ensure project development to meet the ever increasing complex needs of our services users

BWP has supported thousands of women and children since it was launched in 2001. It plays a crucial role in our community. Sarah Dagley, Business and Fundraising Manager at BWP, informs me: “The greatest risk for BWP is lack of funding in order to maintain current service provision”. Current levels of support are at risk. As the number of women and their families needing support increases, Sarah is also concerned that alterations to funding structures means that BWP will struggle “funding is essential to ensure project development to meet the ever increasing complex needs of our services users. It is also extremely important to the women and their families with whom we work that they have access to local services.”

I’m sure we can all agree that this is a shocking state of affairs.

The fundraising event at the White Lion in Beeston has been organised to raise much needed money for BWP. It aims also to help raise awareness. A BWP representative will be present to give a short talk. Music starts at 7.30 prompt. We are delighted that former Eastwood local, Matt Hill (stage name of Quiet Loner) will return to the area to play us a gig. Matt is the musician-in-residence at the People’s History Museum and will be performing his show ‘Battle for the Ballot’ as part of a national tour. Later in the evening, entertainment is provided by two local bands – Dear Victor and Cherry Hex and the Dream Church. More information can be found on the facebook event page. If you cannot make the event, but want to donate, you can visit BWP’s webpage for more information.

This event is part of the ‘We Shall Overcome’ nationwide series of events, all of which are locally organised to support local services helping those affected by austerity cuts. Elsewhere in the Nottingham area, events have been put together supporting homeless support centres and organisations, mental health support groups, and food bank providers.

Pete Yen

The Hemlock Stone

The history behind Hemlock…

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The Hemlock Stone today is a popular landmark with walkers and cyclists passing the stone hundreds of times a day. The stone as readers may be aware has been scanned by the Nottingham University’s Geospatial Institute in connection with the Nottingham Hidden History Team as part of the ‘Three Stones Project’. The stone is also at the centre of the popular event the ‘Hemlock Happening’, which takes place every year now and has become a popular event.

Today however the Hemlock Stone is largely disregarded, to the extent that in the last few years it has been removed from the list of ‘sites of special scientific interest.’ The old idea of the stone being nothing more than the result of bad quarrying is once again popular and has probably been encouraged by property developers with an eye on the land surrounding the stone. This current lack of interest in the Hemlock Stone has not always been the case and the folklore and legends woven around such stones are an essential part of our heritage.

Legend has it that the Hemlock Stone was hurled at Lenton Priory, some four miles west of the stone, by the Devil. This tale of the Devil or some mischievous force hurling a stone and missing its mark occurs throughout the folk-literature of Europe. It is generally accepted that such legends reflect conflict between the early Christian Church and their pagan contemporaries. The tale is more often than not associated with prehistoric sites like the large monoliths or standing stones erected by Neolithic and Bronze Age man. Such stones were the centres of pagan worship well into the Christian era.

The Hemlock Stone was reputedly hurled from the hill above Castleton in Derbyshire

The village of Kinoulton in southeast Nottinghamshire once possessed a stone with an similar legend to that of the Hemlock Stone. This stone was, from its description, probably a glacial erratic and stood in the churchyard close to the old church. Sadly, both church and stone are now destroyed,

It is interesting to compare the Hemlock Stone and Kinoulton legends in more detail. Both stones were believed to be missiles of diabolic origin aimed at ecclesiastical sites, Lenton Priory and Kinoulton church, respectively. The sites from which the stones were reputedly hurled are also of interest. Both are approximately thirty miles from their targets and both have legends of demonic occupants.

The Hemlock Stone was reputedly hurled from the hill above Castleton in Derbyshire. Below this hill, upon which stands Peveril Castle (from which the town derives its name), is the Treekcliff Cavern. This massive limestone cave, once the home of prehistoric man, is reputed to be one of the entrances to the ‘underworld’ and the haunt of the Devil. Moreover, when heavy rain issues from the cave in the form of streamlets, it is said to be the Devil urinating.

In the case of the Kinoulton stone it was supposed to have been thrown from Lincoln Cathedral, where the Devil once let loose that evil entity ‘The Lincoln Imp’ who, after running amock, was turned to stone by an angel.

To return to the Hemlock Stone and how attitudes have changed regarding such wonders, writing in the mid-eighteenth century, Dr Spencer Timothy Hall, a.k.a. ‘The Sherwood Forester’, provides us with yet more reasons for believing that the Hemlock Stone was once venerated by our pagan forefathers. The good doctor believed the stone to be of natural origin but to be man-enhanced, the result of deliberate quarrying. He goes on to say that when he was a young boy the old folk could remember a time when a fire was lit upon the top of the stone annually on Beltane Day.

Nearby the Hemlock Stone was once the ‘Sick Dyke’. This spring was regarded as a healing well, especially efficacious to rheumatism sufferers. More than one writer on the subject has suggested that the ell was connected with rituals performed at the Hemlock Stone. The Hemlock Stone also has connections with three other stones, a possible standing stone on the nearby Crow Hill and two other local landmarks, the Cat Stone at Strelley and Bob’s Rock at Stapleford.

Joe Earp

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