A time of writing, the nerves from being filmed for a very exciting project for Broxtowe had just about settled enough for me to process what a wonderful opportunity it was. It was a privilege for the Bee Creative Community craft group that I lead to be asked to share their ethos and inspirations. The project itself is huge, but I feel our small contribution is an important testament to the wealth of creativity in our borough, and beyond!
Many readers may already be aware that Broxtowe has been twinned with Gütersloh in Germany since 1978. We may not be part of the EU anymore, but the links we have built with other European cities remain strong. The C-City initiative, a proposal that sharing culture is key to European connections, was developed in Gütersloh and was presented to Broxtowe, Falun (Sweden), Chateauroux (France) and Grudziadz (Poland) late in 2019 – they were all keen to participate.
‘Exchanging, expanding creative ideas and establishing a large network: that is the transnational culture project C-City – Europe is next door. No matter how far the distance between two countries, how much their geographical location shapes their cultural identity – they are always connected by one thing: the language of culture.’ C-City 2023
This inspiring project is centred on the visual arts, theatre and literature, music, sport, history, customs, food and lifestyle. This article only scratches the surface of what’s happening. The inclusion of the Bee Creatives was facilitated by Janet Shipton, our ambassador for visual arts in Broxtowe.
Sharing the ethos that underpins the empowering and healing nature of art and creative practices with a wider community was an uplifting experience. It also served to remind us how lucky we are to have had the support of Middle Street Resource Centre in providing us with the space to meet and create together. Like many community groups, the pandemic disrupted our weekly meeting schedule, but we managed to stay connected online and are now meeting monthly for a craft therapy session on Thursday afternoons.
We enjoyed welcoming local filmmaker Doddsy who has also filmed Helen Bulmer, Zoë Zegzula and Janet Shipton speaking about the cultural asset that is the annual ABC Arts Trail, which we are delighted to is happening again this September. Of course, no piece of film about Beeston’s visual arts would be complete without a feature on Beeston Street Art driven enthusiastically by Jeanie Barton – a project that has expanded greatly since it was launched with a two-day festival back in June 2018. There are a number opportunities to join an inclusive art group in Broxtowe, and as well as highlighting our community art sessions, Spotted Dog Art Group, the Canalside Heritage Centre Life Drawing Classes and Janet’s Monday Afternoon Art Club will all be appearing in the short film that celebrates the borough’s cultural treasures.
The Friday before filming, I had popped along to enjoy another event as part of the twinning project, an evening with the Paper Crane Poets at Beeston Library. The event was being live streamed to Gütersloh. A German flag hung high as a backdrop, a fully engaged audience and a glass of wine provided the perfect atmosphere for a cultural evening.
The Paper Crane Poets Collective are expertly led by poet, performer and workshop leader Leanne Moden. They meet at Beeston Library every first and third Tuesday of the month at 5:30pm – 7:30pm to write together, and if my memory serves me well the group have been getting together since 2019. Following a fabulous line-up of female poets and spoken word artists, Leanne read out the brilliantly engaging poem she was commissioned to write to celebrate the day and night of libraries and the twinning of Broxtowe and Gütersloh.
I had a brief conversation with Leanne and one of the other poets Sue Allen at the ‘merch table’ and snapped up a copy of their anthologies, both a recommended read. Sue’s poems have been put together in a collection entitled the Crone Chronicles with two other self-confessed ‘crones’ Laura Grevel and Clare Stewart. Sue she was chuffed to hear how much we enjoyed her poetry. As well as meeting to write with the Paper Crane Poets, Sue also runs a poetry workshop at The Women’s Centre in Nottingham with Clare. Sue was a participant to begin with, but Clare was looking for a ‘partner in crime’ and Sue was well up for a new challenge.
I caught up with Sue on Zoom, a few weeks after the poetry event. We were meant to meet up in person, but Covid struck and denied us that pleasure. Nevertheless, we still got chance to share our views on the importance of artistic expression on our wellbeing, and the highs and lows of creating through the pandemic. Like me, she felt one of the benefits was the gift of ‘reflection time – time to stop and think’ and that in some ways creative folk were most likely to adapt and show resilience in adverse situations.
Sue tells me she can’t remember a time when she didn’t write. “I started out writing little ditties as a child, but it wasn’t until much later that I wrote more seriously.” In 2002 she started attending a poetry class in her hometown of Sutton in Ashfield. One of the members told her that she should consider performance poetry. Sue felt she had missed that opportunity, after all it was a while since the influential Liverpool Poets, but discovered it was ‘still a thing’ and that live performance hadn’t died out in the 70s – in fact the movement was still going strong.
Five Leaves Bookshop owner and publisher Ross Bradshaw organised a poetry competition at Mansfield Library around the same time, Sue recalls. When the poetry group leader Louise told Sue about it, she thought she would enter for a laugh – not expecting for one minute to win. Sue walked triumphantly away with first place. “I was ecstatic! My head was so big it wouldn’t fit through the door!” This was all the encouragement she needed to continue to write and perform poetry, and we are very glad she did!
Sue’s poetry is female focused. To quote Leanne, it celebrates ‘the beauty of womanhood in the third age’ and the joy experienced at being so comfortable in your own skin that you don’t care who knows it. It was the poem What Every Beestonian should Carry that caught my attention on the night, but having read more of Sue’s poems I am struck by how much her words echo my own experiences as a woman. I am reassured that with the acquisition of years, comes a keen wisdom that outshines some of the less appealing parts of ageing.
When writing with other women, Sue describes how they ‘bounce ideas off each other’ and find energy in their collaborations – they become ‘a force to be reckoned with’. Workshops are essential for ‘keeping things fresh’ and the Paper Crane sessions have a firm footing in this. “Leanne is an ideas person, who allows you to put your own twist on things – it’s magical, like alchemy.”
Another poem that Sue performed on the night On Being Told I was Showing a lot of Leg for a Woman of my Age… gives credence to the belief that we shouldn’t be swayed by other people’s judgments and opinions and be happy with who we are – a great message for anyone of any age I believe. Sue’s favourite poem from the same anthology Upsetting the Applecart reinforces this message, with added indignance.
And in the same way that a piece of art can be an expression of our deepest emotions, poetry has a way of harnessing the power of words for healing and revealing our inner strength. Arts an culture can play an important part in our daily lives.
Find out more about the C-Cities project here
and the Paper Crane Poets here
On Being Told I Was Showing a Lot of Leg for a Woman my Age…
‘You’re showing a lot of leg.’
I hike it up another inch
I bite my lip and shake my head,
I feel myself trying not to wince.
I roll my eyes up to the sky
I hike it up another inch
and tell myself to walk on by.
My inner voice is in a clinch.
I swear to God I did not flinch.
Just looked him straight in the face
I hike it up another inch
And say. ‘You’re such an old disgrace!
Wake up old man! Get with the times
what the flying feck makes you think
that age is set by a hemline?
I hike it up another inch.
To hear the commissioned poem by Leanne Moden performed click here
Wenn sich zwei Bibliotheken verlieben
(When two libraries fall in love)
Conducted over correspondence,
any building can become infatuated with another.
Our libraries are like two tender halves,
their brickwork synchronising with their beating hearts.
This courtship starts with chaste book swaps,
well-placed love notes scrawled in dust jackets.
Shelving brackets sighing like love-sick teens,
our catalogues pristine and our expertly stocked stacks
crowded with magazines, periodicals, and almanacs.
Libraries don’t get jealous, which is just as well,
because stories are promiscuous things –
and stories and libraries and poems have wings.
But once coupled-up libraries stay bound, like books.
Every nook brimming with accessible potential.
These libraries are soulmates, never passing their due dates.
This love translates both ways, every moment of every day.
And when surrounded by the ephemeral sustenance of words,
the lines between reality and fantasy are blurred.
What does it take for two libraries to fall in love?
A confluence of service with purpose,
and a penchant for words. A knowledge that
libraries are more than building and books,
though good looks and cosy spaces help sell
these shelf-selves that still captivate us. Where a
smile and a library card, grant you access to the club:
Wenn sich zwei Bibliotheken verlieben;
when two libraries fall in love.