I Was Beeston: Meet Beestonians from around the world

As those who regularly read the Beestonian will know, Beeston resides at the heart of the universe, and despite some failings, everyone enjoys living and working here.

But for some, they have found that the grass is actually greener on the other side, and so, as a twist to the ever popular ‘I Am Beeston’ interviews, we give you two examples of former Beestonians, who packed their suitcases and bought a one way ticket to a far off land.

Keith Walker

Firstly let me introduce you to Keith Walker, who emigrated to New Zealand in the early 1960s’. “I was born in September 1932 in Chilwell, near School Lane, and remained in the area until I married in November 1959 and moved to Littleover, as I was working at Rolls Royce and my Cheshire born wife Marian was a radiographer at Derby Royal Infirmary. We decided that we wanted a better life and explored as many possibilities as possible. Canada? Too cold in winter. Rhodesia? It was the time of Ian Smith, just before it became Zimbabwe. So that was out. South Africa? They had recently left the Commonwealth and apartheid was starting, so no! Australia? Maybe. We also looked at New Zealand. It was difficult to get much information other than touristy stuff, which is all very well if you are going for a holiday, but we wanted information like the cost of shopping. It took us two years of filling forms, interviews, medicals etc, before we were accepted and given a sailing date for the six-week voyage to New Zealand on the Shaw Saville liner ‘Southern Cross’”.

“We arrived in Wellington on 19 Oct 1962. The government had paid for our passage and guaranteed employment. We went to Blenheim, a small town in the NE corner of the South Island. It is now a major wine producing area, but then it was all fruit growing. I worked for the Inland Revenue, and as a public servant, if you wanted to get on, you had to be prepared to move, and we did. After leaving Blenheim, we moved from place to place in the North Island eventually settling in Napier on the east coast. A lovely art deco city, which had been devastated in the earthquake of Feb 1931.  Marian and I split up in 1976. I eventually remarried and moved to Taupo in 1981, on the NE corner of the North Island, and have been here since. Sadly that marriage ended too. Cameron, the eldest son of that marriage lives with me now”.

I enjoyed exploring the area, looking at where I was born and where I used to live.

“Moving to NZ was a bit of a culture shock. Weatherboarded houses with corrugated iron roofs. When we arrived the population was 2.5 million, now there are about 4.7 million. Was it a good move? Definitely. The best thing I did. NZ is a beautiful place. Our land mass is about one sixth larger than the UK. Very mountainous. We have a relaxed, laid back lifestyle.  Apart from our major centres such as Auckland, towns are relatively small and miles apart. The nearest provincial city to Taupo is Rotorua, and is 50 miles away, with virtually nothing in between. Certainly these are the Shaky Isles. We have had several strong earthquakes in the last few years. Taupo is in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, a highly active geothermal area with very hot ground, and relatively frequent eruptions from the three central North Island volcanoes just south of the lake.  Taupo is a holiday and tourist destination. But it’s nothing like Skegness! It is an adventure playground, with lots of energetic activities like skydiving on offer”.

“I volunteer at a local geothermal park called ‘Craters of the Moon’. About 9 or 10 years ago, a group of ‘Poms’ arrived. I asked them where they were from. One of them said ‘Nottingham’. After a few minutes I found out he was Dave Tacey from Chilwell, and had been involved in 1st C&A Scouts, just like me. That blew him away. We became very close friends. He had tried to get residency in NZ, but our immigration people decided we have enough accountants and so he moved to Llanbedr in Wales. He visited a few times and we kept in close contact until his death last April”.

“On Dave’s last trip, he spent a day with me recording my memories of my former life in Beeston. I lived with my mum and dad for 27 years, apart from my 3 years in the RAF. I have been in New Zealand now for over 56 years, and in Taupo for nearly 38. I came back to the UK once, for six weeks in 2001. I visited Beeston for a couple of days. I found the crowds especially in Nottingham very claustrophobic and I was homesick after a month. I enjoyed exploring the area, looking at where I was born and where I used to live. Dave spent several weeks in and around Beeston a few years ago looking for anyone from my time, but was unable to. Although I have contacted the parish church to see if they had anyone in their congregation with memories of those times, I’ve had no response”.

If you knew Keith, or fancy reminiscing about Beeston with him, then please contact us, and we will let him know.


Next is Amy Roberts, who currently resides in Reno, Nevada, but would love to return to Beeston. Unfortunately due to present UK immigration laws, she can’t. But more of that later. “I was born in the QMC in February 1985 and lived in Beeston until 2003, when I attended Manchester University. I fell in love with the city and its incredible music scene. However, Beeston’s siren song was strong and after I graduated, I headed home and started my first ‘real’ job. I lived happily in my wonderful hometown until August 2011, when I headed to Satsumasendai, a small city in semi-rural Japan. I lived there for two years, teaching English to high school students and having the most incredible experience of my life, which will stay with me forever”.

“I returned to Beeston in 2013, and there I remained until January 2016. You could call me the ‘Beeston Boomerang’. This time I headed west to be with my husband Andrus, whom I had met in 2013, whilst travelling in the States.  I was working and lived with my parents. So, we made the very difficult decision that I would apply for a Green Card and move to the US so we could finally be together. This was incredibly hard for me, as all my family are in the UK, and I had a wonderful network of friends. But I accepted it, as naturally I wanted to be with Andrus. Unfortunately, it took 19 months to actually hold it in my hand, and was an extremely stressful process. By that point I had a good job at East Midlands Airport. I had been married for over two years, but had spent all that time apart, and we didn’t want to wait any longer to be together. So with an extremely heavy heart, I left Beeston, my family, friends and my job for the last time and travelled to the medium-sized town of Reno, Nevada”.

I do sometimes find myself wondering what would have happened if I had remained in Beeston.

“Reno is as different from Beeston as it is possible to get. Neon-lit casinos dominate the downtown skyline. Guns and marijuana are legal. Beautiful mountains rear up into the clear blue sky.  We get 300+ days of sunshine a year. Thousands of wild horses run free in the mountains. The stunning sapphire blue Lake Tahoe is just 45 minutes drive away. It gets up to a sweltering 36 degrees in the summer, no rain for six months but then proper, up to your knees snow in winter. It’s high, dry, harsh, but beautiful”.


“I found out I was pregnant less than three weeks after I arrived in the USA, and had Audrey was born in October 2016. While she was obviously a wonderful gift and lights up our lives, it was and still is indescribably hard to have a child so far away from home and the NHS, in a country where maternity leave is non-existent and once you leave the hospital, you’re presented with a huge bill, but with no support. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But it’s not all bad. People that I meet love my accent and are fascinated with my life story. But I do sometimes find myself wondering what would have happened if I had remained in Beeston”.

I miss being able to walk everywhere and feeling safe. I miss Beeston with every fibre of my being, and I long to return.

“It was a massive wrench to leave, but I had to in order to finally be with my husband. You see in 2012, the year before I got married, the then Home Secretary Theresa May introduced extremely harsh immigration laws. There are strict financial requirements on British citizens who dare to fall in love with someone from outside the EU, and the result is that there are thousands of ‘Skype’ families like mine, forced to live half a world away from their loved ones. Because I married an American, I either have to find £62,500 in savings or I have to earn at least £18,600 per year in the UK before I can apply for my husband’s visa. This can cost thousands of pounds and has a high rejection rate. It’s my heart’s desire to reunite my family, and I won’t stop until I achieve it. There are so many things I miss about Beeston, the vibrant town centre, the Beeman and the distant sound of the bells ringing at the Parish Church where I was christened. I miss being able to walk everywhere and feeling safe. I miss Beeston with every fibre of my being, and I long to return”.

“As I have no other way of raising the money needed for my husband’s visa application, I created a ‘GoFundMe’ page. This has been featured in the Nottingham Post and Daily Mirror. I hate asking strangers for money, but if my story has struck a chord, please, please help me get home. You can find my page at https://www.gofundme.com/4ptaah-please-help-reunite-my-family

Christopher Frost

Beeston Beats at the BOO-at and Horses

Arghhhhh it’s upon us!! Theres no hiding now! Christmas has well and truly landed, and as you feast (…of Stephen…) your gaze over this mighty fine publication (doesn’t it look shiny and awesome?), the festive season will have invaded homes along with trees, tinsel, relentless adverts, good will (dunno who he is) and glitter, o so much glitter!! Then there’s the music and Michael Buble…don’t even get me started….

However nestled in-between the long hazy days of summer and the impending stress inducing retail Holiday shop was a lovely time of year I particularly like Autumn, with its cosy nights in, pretty fireworks and more importantly Halloween, the only time of year I can say the bags under my eyes are part of my outfit, there’s also the parties and one in particular caught my eye over in‘t Rylands at the Boat and Horses on Trent road, the first special steampunk spook-tacular social event (now say that after an eggnog) to be held on Saturday 27th October.


Having changed hands quite a few times in the last few years, B+H has recently has a sexy new refit widening its appeal with real ales and gins. Being a keen steampunk enthusiast, I headed over, dressed to kill in a basque, long flowing dress and loads of fake blood and of course goggles. ‘Boat had really taken a lot of time decorating every spare space with creepy ornaments, and even hiring a few zombies to terrify bystanders. Set up in the function room was the stalls with all things steampunky from creations, hats, clothing and beautiful handmade goodies. On stage, sir Gregory master of ceremonies and his subordinate lackey Doc Cogs performed tea duelling, for those unfamiliar to the duel, biscuits are chosen and dunked in tea and the winner is those with the unsoggiest erm biscuit, this may seem tame but many a relationships and friendship have been lost in a tea duelling battle…


In the main bar live music from that acoustic punk performer Paul Carbuncle, the always entertaining Pixie Styx, a few of the corndodgers and  Subway Circus along with Boats on the ocean taking the music far into the dead of night.

Right before I ramble on even more, there’s an apology due from myself to Berliner from last issue as (eeekk) I did a  whooopsie (not quite sure how I’ve morphed into Frank Spencer but Anyhoo) I wrongly stated that their Oktoberfest was Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd September when in fact it was the weekend after!!! My bad as the kids say.

As I ended my last piece with saying I was scuttling off to the beer festival at the Victory club I did as promised and accidentally fell in on the last day, when lo and behold the ales were reduced to an awesome ONE POUND (!!) a pint, quickly a flying visit turned into a mammoth drinking session with the only food consumed being a bag of mini cheddars. The next morning I woke up nursing a hangover and finding myself a fully fledged member of the Victory Club. It set me back £11 for the year, the moral of the story is there is no such thing as a cheap pint. It worked out well in the end as I decided to make use of my membership by checking out heavy rockers V8 when they stopped off at the venues classic rock night which is every third Friday Moshing for two hours to System of a Down and Motorhead covers has helped ease my morning for the Greyhound slightly, what adventures are next? I dread to think.  Till next time, enjoy the silly season and whatever you do don’t you open that trapppppdoooorrr!!


Trees of Beeston #3: The wonders of the Evergreen and the Scots Pine of Beeston Parish Churchyard

For this evergreen seasonal column of Trees of Beeston, I want to celebrate those arboreal wonders that exist in our streets and gardens, public parks and along train-tracks and verges that are non-deciduous.

In particular, I want to celebrate the pine tree, which, given its connection with December and winter festivities such as the winter solstice and Christmas, seems entirely appropriate for this issue.

While deciduous trees shed their leaves in the autumn providing valuable mulch in the form of leaf litter and ground cover for hibernating small mammals and insects, evergreen trees and plants enrich our botanical landscape by retaining their leaves all year round, providing hedging and wildlife habitats. Think of the Pine and Firs, the Yews, the Holly trees and bushes, (*whispers, even the much maligned but much used Leylandii or Leyland Cypress*) the snaking vines of Ivy, or Mediterranean evergreens that have made their way into the gardens and landscapes of the British Isles such as the life-affirming herb Rosemary, the Myrtle or Juniper. These evergreens all provide cover as well as offering cones and berries for over-winter sustenance for those non-migratory birds who remain in the colder northern climates: the robins, wrens, blue-tits, blackbirds. When the snow falls, it is their needled and leaf-covered branches that hold the snow and keep the pavements below and around them less frozen and in turn less slippy for pedestrians venturing out on wintery days.

As the nights draw in, and the season turns colder in the northern hemisphere, us humans become a little more in touch with our animal souls: the need for hibernation, of taking stock, the desire to hunker down and, if we are fortunate, to take some rest and respite from the rude world, sat near a wood burning fire, a glass of something warming close by. By December, thoughts turn to bringing one particular kind of tree into the home to decorate with lights and baubles, and most often, it is the pine tree we think of.

This December column of Trees of Beeston is dedicated to celebrating the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris/ Guibhas).  There is considerable variation within this species, and it is the most widely distributed conifer in the world, its natural range spanning the Arctic circle and ranging all the way down to the Mediterranean.  Scots pines can average a height of 20m and live for between 250 – 300 years.  In its first 60 – 80 years, the tree resembles its recognisable conical shape, as it ages, it develops a tall, straight trunk of pinkish-brown bark with an impressive canopy of blueish-green needles, giving it an attractive and striking appearance in a wintery landscape otherwise drained of colour.  Here in Beeston, we have a very impressive example. Situated next to Beeston Parish Church on the corner between Styring Street and Chilwell Road, it can be admired from the tram and buses coming into and out of Beeston interchange. Standing proud and tall, indicating it has been in its current location for over a century given its scale and maturity, it acts as landmark and physical reminder of times past and passing time. One has to look up to truly appreciate it. The physical act of looking upwards gives perspective: it is an old and valued member of Beeston, and one to give respectful dues. The Magpies and crows love it as both a vantage perch and calling point, and it is rather lovely to sit near and revere, to meet folks under, to have alfresco lunch in the warmer months, to take time under between the school run, shopping excursions or when waiting for public transport.

Medicinally, pine has been used to treat respiratory problems.

The tradition of dressing a tree to celebrate the season of winter is a long one.  Looking to the Scandinavia, stories and traditions abound: Think of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Fir Tree, a classic story, reminding us all to celebrate our talents and to make the most of our time. Closer, in the British Isles, stories are abundant. Ancient Greek and Roman lore has it that the pine tree is closely connected with fertility.  Druids are said to light fires under Scots Pines at the winter solstice to celebrate the passing of the seasons and to draw back the sun.  Tree dressing and decorating a Scots pine with twinkling lights and candles, shiny objects, and a star become representations of divine light and the eternal hope of light in darkened times. Trees dressing is a seasonal ritual bringing people together to marvel at the lights, and to ponder the hope the lights and the evergreen give.

In England, Scots pines were used as landmarks for route-ways: planted along the boundaries of fields as well as along droving routes to guide farmers and their herds to markets. In Scotland, their forested form provides unique ecosystems for the rare and wondrous crossbill and a glorious unique biome for Highlands animals, as well as providing forested materials for trade and for human use.

The Scots pine has been deemed a vital construction material as the wood grows relatively quickly and its high resin content (that lovely, life-giving pine oil smell and sticky substance from the needles) means that the wood is slow to decay (think about this when you see the remains of a Christmas tree still littering gardens in March!).  The wood has been used in the making of ships: from masts to planking, while the resin from the sap of the tree was used to make pitch, to seal beer casks and the hulls of boats. Archaeologists have even found the hollowed out trunks of Scots pines used as drainage pipes. The soft pulp of a pine is also used in paper production.

Medicinally, pine has been used to treat respiratory problems, used as an inhalant as well as an antiseptic or disinfectant (which is why so many household products retain the scent of pines today).  The smell of pine needles is also one that is attached to making people feel uplifted, ideal when the dark nights and wintery weather can lead to feelings of despondency and seasonal depression.

While there are now many kinds of pine tree to bring into the home (some with bold claims of non-drop needles, or plastic varieties, which all, still somehow manage to drop their needles), it is important to think about how your pine tree might be of use beyond Christmas. If you have a garden and some space, you can of course think about buying a live tree, potting it on (not necessarily planting it out), and having it outside to enrich the local wildlife.  If you prefer a cut tree, there are still uses for the tree after the 12 days of Christmas is up. The tradition of the Yule Log is still retained in parts of this country and northern Europe where the pine tree is left to season and burnt the following winter to provide a warming source of light and heat. The smell of a pine burning also gives added pine aroma to a room.  The pine needles, once dried, can be used by gardeners wishing to make their soil more acidic – or ericaceous – by mixing them into compost or loamy soil when planting up blueberries in the early spring for summer home-grown berry consumption.

So hang the lights high, marvel at the enriching wonder of a Scots pine and its relative the festive Christmas tree, and wishing all readers a peaceful and loving Christmas and a hope-filled and tree-enriched 2019.

FACTFILE: The Scots Pine

Latin / Gallic name: Pinus sylvestris/ Guibhas.

Appearance: Up to 80 years of age, it is conical in shape, resembling popular drawings of Christmas trees. Blueish-green pine needles flank its branches that are thin as they rise up the tree, and its trunk is a reddish-brown, solid wood. Mature specimens have tall trunks that lead to a canopy of needle cover (see the Scots Pine in Beeston Parish Churchyard).

Uses: Annual Winter festivities see the most popular celebration of the Scots pine or conifer/fir trees as ‘the Christmas tree’ being brought into homes and work-places and dressed in lights and decorations.  This continues of the ritual of celebrating the winter months by bringing in a tree and the lighting of a fire, symbolic of warmth (the yule log) and eternal hope given by the light in the extended dark nights of winter.

The Scots pine is a useful timber for making paper and the resin has antibacterial and disinfecting medicinal properties and has an uplifting smell.

Dr JN.

Edlin, H.L (1973) Collins Guide to Tree Planting and Cultivation.  Gardeners’ Book Club.
Martynoya, F (2011) A Handbook of Scotland’s Trees. Saraband Books.
Nunnally, T(2004). The Fir Tree. From Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen. Penguin Classics.

Beeston Badminton Club

Beeston’s social badminton club with a competitive edge

by Isaac Seelochan

At this time of year, with the murkier weather and many people hopelessly looking to maintain New Year’s resolutions, indoor sports will become increasingly popular.

Beeston badminton club

Badminton is one in which you can have fun with friends whilst keeping fit.

Beeston Valley Badminton Club meet up twice a week every Monday and Thursday at Chilwell Olympia. The club has a strong membership with around 40 members, and like many sports clubs around Beeston, their history stretches beyond the 21st century.

“Beeston Valley BC has been part of the ‘Beeston badminton scene’ since 1947, when the club was set up at the Valley Mission Church on Queen’s Road, now a nursery opposite Humber Road,” said membership secretary Alison Bexon.

“My uncle started the club as a church social group after he played badminton with some Canadians with whom he was stationed during WWII. As more players joined, the club entered teams into the Nottinghamshire Badminton Association Leagues. My parents met at the club and I also met my husband here too.”

Badminton, whilst being by no means an easy sport to play, is perhaps more enjoyable to participate in than many other sports as even if you struggle, it gives you a chance to socialise.

“We’re here to be competitive because otherwise we wouldn’t play in the league, but it’s important that we have a social side as well,” said Alison.

“Everybody gets on with everyone. If you’re not good enough to play everybody has a place and an opportunity to play, but it’s also about encouraging people who want to take that next step: rather than coming and hitting a shuttle about with friends, they want to take it a bit more seriously.”

I went on a Thursday night but being half term, was told that regular coach Mick had gone away for the day, so the coaching duties fell to Ric Latham, a player at the club who got involved in coaching through a primary school he used to work at.

“I’m quite a mental sided coach so I do a lot in terms of anticipation. Say you have to keep the shuttle low, having that in mind for your anticipation for your own team and then bringing that all together at the end, when you’re being told what shot you’ve got to play while also having to listen out for the shot being played on the other side.”

members in action

During the session, everyone has to decide whether they were attacking or defending which Ric explains, “generally, if you’re attacking you will be hitting the shuttle down looking to  hit the floor and to score, whereas if you’re defending, you’re really just looking to try and repel that and usually you’ll see the shuttle going upwards.”

Club members also get a chance to socialise with each other off the court, with a trip away during May being referred to as ‘the May trip.’

“It’s a non-Badminton thing. It’s about finding a cottage in the country somewhere around the UK and spending a week or a long weekend in May walking, socialising, eating, drinking. It’s very sociable, but we never play any badminton, we play tennis but never badminton!” said long-time club member James Capel.

Beeston is the home to many sports clubs, but few are as popular and enjoyable to be around as this one.

The club is a fantastic ambassador for badminton in Beeston.


Lianne and family

Lianne’s Life in Beeston: Korean poet writes about her time in England

Towards the end of the year, and during the festive season, we often think about the people close to us.

We meet family members that we don’t see very often, and think about people we miss. Earlier this year, I met two Beeston residents who have re-connected with a Korean friend (and poet) in a delightful, but unexpected, way.

On 31 July 2002, Lianne arrived in Nottingham with her son, her sister, and niece, but moved to Beeston just under a year later, in July 2003. Her prolonged stay in England was for the benefit of her son, Harry-Kim, and niece Nicky, as the sisters wanted them to study, get their education here and experience the English culture.

korea - Copy (2)

They moved to Highgrove Avenue in Beeston, and soon connected with their neighbours Sue and Malcolm Turner. “We take people into our hearts when we see them,” says Sue. “We treated them like family.”

“We got to know them very quickly,” adds Malcolm. “They were out on a limb and if there were any problems we would help them.”

A close friendship quickly formed between the two families, so much so that the sisters weren’t shy about knocking on Sue and Malcolm’s door to come over for a cup of tea, or watch a football match, as they were always welcome and didn’t need an invitation. “It can be very difficult coming to a new country and in some other areas it might have been different for them, but not here,” says Malcolm.

“…she wants to share her experiences with the people of Nottingham.”

The family stayed in Beeston until July 2005, but during their time here they went out on lots of day trips, both locally and places further afield like London. Sue and Malcolm would often take them out on day trips, including visiting their son’s narrowboat. When they left, it was because Lianne’s son Harry was about to start senior school.

“In their house everything the children did at school went on the wall, the whole visit was about giving them the best education possible, and because they are only allowed one child everything goes into doing the best for that one child,” says Malcolm.


Earlier this year, 13 years since they last saw Lianne, they received a letter from her, sent with a set of three books. The books are a series under the title: Korean Poet Lianne’s Life In England With Her Son. The books are written in Korean, and are based on the letters that Lianne sent to her husband while she was in England. Sue and Malcolm were overwhelmed to hear from her, and they had no idea she’d had the books published. In her letter to them, Lianne highlights the page in which she mentions them. When I met with the couple, we had a look, and found fragments of English words, including their names. “It’s a start!” says Malcolm. “We’d like to get this section translated.”

In her letter, Lianne asks them to donate the books to Beeston Library, as she wants to share her experiences with the people of Nottingham. In the back of the books, there are English notes thanking the ‘English friends’ she connected with, including other Beestonians who she has also sent copies of her books to.

After meeting Sue and Malcolm, they got in contact with Lianne to tell her about this article, and get her permission for it to be published, and she wrote the following to be included:

“This book is a love letter for people who have sent their family to England and have missed them. England is a place that gave our family the wisdom of life when we were in need of a change; a place where memories were made with friends despite the language barrier. I have written a story of our young children who have experienced English culture, and have brought a story of learning love in their pleasant and simple life, into these letters. It is an England life story that makes us feel attached despite the distance between us. I hope this story about us can bring a smile on every separated-family face. I dedicate this book to all of the friends in England and to everyone who knows me.”

This story is just one of many that will have been formed between people moving in and out of Beeston over the years, and how people from completely different cultures can become like family to one another over the space of only a few years. The friendship they shared will last for the rest of their lives, and the copies of the books in Beeston Library will be a legacy to the time Lianne spent here, and will provide comfort and solace to our current and thriving Korean community.


Beeston’s Little Historians

Touring the town with Beeston’s youngest residents…


We like a bit of history at The Beestonian. Our history chap Jimmy never fails to hand in excellent content about Beeston’s back story, and we like to think that we’ve helped a little bit to bring that to life. We even devoted our last issue to the subject, and that caught the attention of some teachers who –wisely–also happen to be Beestonian readers.

“Dear people who make the Beestonian,” they wrote “Here at John Clifford School we have a wonderful group of pupils who would really like a walk around Beeston to see some of the historical bits, which will hopefully engage them in a lifelong curiosity in civic history. Can you help?”

Well, we walk it as we talk it here at The Beestonian so we logged into Google Maps, purchased a new compass and devised a route. And on a sunny autumn afternoon, we met up with thirty fact-hungry five + six year olds at West End and took them on a tour of the town.

No boring recitation of dates and detail though: this is an age group where ancient history is the London Olympics and a tram-free Beeston. We thought it best to try and bring the history to life. And that’s exactly what happened, from the moment Robin Hood (our Bow Selecta columnist Tim Pollard) leapt from behind a tree to yelps of surprised delight. Shouting out favourite fruit in Hallams followed; appreciation of the fantastic new street art, then adopting Bendigo boxing stances outside the pugilist-monikered cafebar, then clambers over the Beeman and a trip to our community shop.

The kids were wonderful, well behaved, funny and flattering (I’m looking at you, six-year old lad who, on being asked to guess my age, took a punt on ‘28?’). A huge thanks to the teachers, volunteers and parents who accompanied us on the trek and got us all safely from stop to stop without a single child being lost (we think).

Our town is full of stories and overlapping layers of lives. We think that getting to know some of them makes our town a richer place to live – and starting that process young is no bad thing. Grab a compass and a few back issues of this fine publication, and we’ll see you en-route.


Creative Beeston: We are the creative champions!

As we round off another year celebrating all that is creative in our vibrant little town, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to rejoice in the creative diversity we have in Beeston.


As well as the wealth of independent shopping prospects up and down the High Road, we have artists and makers in in every corner of our suburban streets. One local creative, who has been joining me in honouring Beeston’s originality is local photographer Lamar Francois, whose image of the metal sculpture by Hilary Cartmel in Broadgate park is immortalised in his 2019 calendar.


I met with Lamar on a dazzling autumn day, which is pretty much how I remember the first photographs that I ever saw of his. I bought the 2017 urban landscapes calendar as an attractive reminder that the concrete and neon of our city, form beautiful backdrops to the monotonous moments of our daily lives. The craft behind a product like this is why I buy handmade and indeed why we should. So far removed from the over-produced flimsy printed pages in supermarkets and chain stores, this quality finished calendar represents hours of careful consideration from start to finish.

Nestled neatly between a beautifully illuminated Market Square and Nottingham Castle bathed in summer sunshine, the calendar contains two Beeston related photographs but the Broadgate one is my favourite. The intricate metalwork design of the organic sculpture stands out against shade under boughs and small children play in the background, their ribbons echoing the curves within the sculptures frame. The other image gives a wider view of our local treasures, the River Trent taken from Beeston Rylands playing fields, and is equally dramatic in its own right. Lamar tells me the process of choosing the right photographs is a tough one. They have to be relatable, as well as awe inspiring, and of locations that people instantly recognise whilst avoiding clichés.

He hid safely behind the social media curtain, which did get his work out there, but it also had a tendency to be lost in a sea of images.


Lamar’s passion for photography happened around the same time that he was living in Beeston, as a student at Nottingham University, where he now works part-time helping to manage a seed library that serves the plant science community. He originally used his phone to photograph his subjects but was curious about cameras and how these could extend his skills. He helped to run a photography society at university which gave him the opportunity he needed. After buying his own camera, Lamar secured some Prince’s Trust finding which helped him to pay for extra equipment as well as giving him access to a business mentor, which he says has been the most valuable resource of all.

As is the case with many creatives, the promotional side doesn’t always come as easy as creating a product, and this is something Lamar found especially difficult. Having Asperger’s means that he wasn’t confident socially, and this really hampered the necessity to push himself out into the spotlight. He hid safely behind the social media curtain, which did get his work out there, but it also had a tendency to be lost in a sea of images. His business mentor has helped to boost Lamar’s confidence and encouraged him to market his images by printing off and framing a series of limited edition prints for exhibiting. A decade on he is experiencing success.


I asked Lamar how this made him feel and he spoke animatedly of the joy when someone shows their appreciation of your work by being willing to pay for it. Their admiration has encouraged and bolstered him to experiment more. He also feels that through networking he has met many supportive people who have offered advice and lead to collaborations, the most exciting of these being the pictorial representation of the City of Literature bid, especially as he was chosen out of many other talented photographers – I could feel his pride swell as he told me this.

And so this is why we should shop at our independents this festive period. Not only are you likely to find more unique and quirky presents and be putting money back into the local economy, you are supporting our entrepreneurs and their families, helping to build communities and making an actual individual do a ‘happy dance!’

You can acquire a copy of the calendar at some of our indie shops, who also champion a number of our local creatives. It is currently stocked at Artworks on the corner of Chilwell High Road/Imperial Road  Perfectly Formed at Chilwell’s Creative Corner and Two Little Magpies at the Broadgate end of the High Road.

Or via Lamar’s website www.picturedbylamar.co.uk where you can also view more of his spectacular photography.


Daisy Leverington

Motherhood #9: ‘Tis the season

It’s getting close, I can smell it. The faint scent of pleading in the air. The most delicate whiff of peer pressure and hope. The bold claims among school friends about which presents have been requested and which ones they will oh-so-definitely be receiving. It’s Christmas and there’s absolutely no escape.

Every Christmas in our house is a day of firsts and lasts. It’s always bitter-sweet and there is no greater measurement of the passing of too-short childhood years to make me wonder if this year was a few months shorter than usual. We only have one child, so each year we edge closer to losing her belief in Santa, the mystery grows smaller and wonder shrinks like a vacuum-packed tool set. She’s still little enough to believe, but big enough that next year she might not. Each present from Santa is precious and for a second she is tiny again, mystified by the enormity of his night time adventures. The next second she is opening a card with £10 sellotaped inside and a tiny piece of the spell falls away.

Christmas with a child has been the lovliest experience. It was a stressful time growing up with divorced parents and time-share days and two dinners, always two dinners. Now we have our own family and although we still need to try to find balance between 4 different sets of grandparents, we manage and it’s peaceful and we fall asleep after dinner just like our parents did. The hardest part of the day is trying to soak it all up, to take in her face when she opens an unexpected gift or watches her dad try on his inevitable novelty hat. To take photos but not too many, to capture the best moments but also not to miss them trying to switch the camera on.

Firsts and lasts happen simultaneously with an only child and Christmas is such a huge barometer of how little time we actually have that I can’t help but feel a little sad. I’m very lucky, I know. I know that my tiny family is here and safe and loved, and I know that other’s aren’t. So, every year I will love and give and play and argue because there aren’t any promises that we have more to come. I will get annoyed at advertising and buy it anyway, I’ll buy glittery make up for my 7 year old if that make her happy, because one day she will wants £30 lipsticks and I’ll spend the day weeping into my bank statement. It’s the little things, the little lasts. They are my real present.


Read previous Motherhood’ columns

Robin Hood and The Old Peoples Home For Four Year Olds

There was time when I was known as ‘Nottingham’s official Robin Hood’ (a truly wonderful job I still do, rumours of my retirement being substantially in error) but these days I’m much more likely to be known as ‘Scarlett’s Dad from that Channel 4 documentary series’ – and actually that’s quite fun.

‘Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds’ is a documentary series that was filmed in Nottingham (at the Lark Hill Retirement Village in Clifton) and featured ten residents from there aged between 86 and 102 and aimed to see if introducing them to a group of ten children aged 3-4 over a protracted period would have any effect on their mental and physical well-being.

I first found out about the project (or ‘experiment’ as the producers preferred to call it) when the wonderful Roopam Carroll from the excellent Beeston Nursery (which Scarlett was attending at the time) contacted me to ask if I might be interested in her taking part, as the producers were approaching several local nurseries looking for potential participants.

As you may know I lost my beloved wife Sally to breast cancer last year and I was (and still am) a bit of a mess because of it – suddenly becoming a 54-year old widower with a 4-year old after months of caring for Sal at home left me dazed, confused and directionless, so it seemed like a fine idea to suggest Scarlett might take part as it would provide her with a new adventure, new friends and a unique experience I certainly couldn’t give her myself.

Apparently a couple of thousand children applied (well, their parents did) and there was a long process of careful selection and diligence on behalf of the producers – who I can’t praise enough for their compassion, caring and consideration for all the children – and eventually two were chosen from Beeston, Scarlett and Phoenix (who if you’ve seen the documentary were both featured very heavily in the first episode).

We had film crews visit us at home to film background interviews and a child psychologist come to discuss what the ‘experiment’ might entail and whether Scarlett and I were genuinely happy to be involved and if it was right for us. Of course one of the questions involved how it would be if one of the older participants passed away during the course of the show (an unlikely but potential happening) and how that might affect Scarlett having lost her Mum so recently. Obviously I hoped it wouldn’t (and thankfully didn’t) happen – but if it did I thought it was more likely to ‘normalise’ Scarlett’s experience than anything else.

And then we got to meet the older residents, and they were an utter delight! They were (and are), as with the children, a very diverse group, some with health issues, some very shy, some full of laughter – but all curious, excited and not quite knowing what to expect.

102-year old Sylvia, who turned out to be a real star onscreen, was a joy – when I met her she told me how she enjoys visiting Lark Hill’s bar in the evening and always walks her much younger friend home to make sure she gets home safely! I asked her why she enjoyed the bar so much and she told me there were lots of widowers she could get a kiss from… and when I mentioned I was a widower she coyly pulled her long skirt up to show me a bit of ankle and winked at me!

When the children met the residents too as part of the filming it was just as wonderful, Scarlett made a bee-line to 86-year old Beryl who she instantly became inseparable from – and even though filming has now finished we still see regularly both at Lark Hill (when all the parents, children and residents have a lunch and catch up together) and on our own with Sal’s Mum Joy for Sunday lunches. It’s like having a new family for us all, and is just joyous.

There’s a moment in episode one where the children are asked to write party invitations for their mummies and daddies and Scarlett turns around and says, very matter of factly, that ‘my Mummy has died so I’ll make it for Daddy and Gran-Gran’. It’s shocking in its simplicity and openness and (as of writing) that clip, put online by Channel 4, has had nearly six million views. But for me, it’s the heart of why I wanted Scarlett to participate in the programme – because she’s been through such a lot but can still speak of losing Sal whilst at the same time knowing how much Sal loved her – and would be so proud of her.

I’ve never really been a fan of ‘reality’ TV but this show helped everyone involved and judging from the press and media attention it gained and the comments both online and personally I’ve see too has helped and affected a lot of other people too, both in starting a discussion about how we shouldn’t segregate the old and the young because they both benefit hugely from such interaction, but also how we talk about the loss of a parent to children.

This will be the second Christmas we’ve had without Sal now and whilst I’m still hugely bereft and lonely I’m deeply glad we’ll be surrounded by family and friends – but also a new extended family too, the promise of those bonds continuing for many years to come and lessons Scarlett and the rest of the children can carry with them for the rest of their lives. I’m certain #SalWouldApprove.

Oh – and I’m not supposed to say anything – but watch out for the Christmas special, we finished filming it last week! J

Happy Christmas!

The Village (or Market) Cross

Keeper of Beeston’s secret history…

Although not a War Memorial by any means, the story of Beeston’s ‘Village Cross’ is so bound-up with that of the ‘Memorial Cross’. It is no coincidence that Beeston has a ‘cross’ as it’s war memorial or that it should stand on the site that it does. Through changes to the road layout over time, the Memorial Cross now appears to stand by the side of Middle Street. In actual fact this site was once in the middle of the road at this important road-junction between Church Street, Dovecote Lane, West End and Middle Street. Here was once the geographical heart of the settlement that was to become the town of Beeston.

In Britain, over 1,000 years ago, when Christianity began to spread among the pagan Anglo Saxons, the new faith was preached to the people from a stone pillar, (‘preaching cross’) erected in the heart of the community. This was most often close to the manor house, the home of the most important member and leader of the community. Once Christianity had been establish,  a parish church was built, first in ‘wattle-and- daub’ and latter in stone. With the new church, preaching crosses became redundant and many took on a secular use as market crosses. We might add here that this is the evolution of many village crosses, however, there are a large number of market crosses purposefully erected to mark the place of village commerce.

…two of the most important buildings in the community, the Manor House and parish church are close by the site.

It is known that a village cross stood at the centre of the Middle Streets crossroads. Given the facts, it is no surprise then, to find that two of the most important buildings in the community, the Manor House and parish church are close by the site. It is suspected that Beeston’s village cross was once used as a market cross. Certainly there are clues to this effect; it is widely believed that a corn market was held nearby the site, – until the 1860s, Middle Street, from the Memorial Cross to its junction with Station Road was known as Market Street.

The cross was removed, perhaps as a hazard to road traffic, sometime in the 1850’s and the whereabouts of its remains lost until 1929. It was in that year that part of the cross was discovered built into the wall of Manor Lodge, by the headmaster at ‘Church Street Junior Boys School’,  Arthur Cossons. Cossons was an active ‘local historian’ with a passion for Beeston’s history. He recognised a large piece of masonry in the wall as being a part of the ‘shaft’ of a  medieval cross. Proud of his discovery, Cossons had the cross shaft removed to Church Street and erected by the side of the school where it stands to this day.

Did you know?

  • The shaft of the medieval cross, – marked by a Blue Plaque, – can be found on Church Street, standing between the wall of the old school building and the footpath.
  • The shaft, believed to be 14th  century, is now a ‘Grade II’ listed monument. Most of the Victorian Board School was demolished in 2005, however, the headteachers house remains.
  • A Blue Plaque, dedicated to Arthur Cossons is is attached high-up on the gable wall of this building which was his home from 1932 to 1958.