Tag: Canalside Heritage Centre

As Nature Intended

Debra Urbacz grabs her pencil and sketches the disrobed….

This issue’s article comes to you from the serene scene that is inhabited by Beeston Canal Heritage Centre. Steeped in nature, it is the perfect backdrop for the life drawing classes, that are currently running in the beautifully renovated studio room upstairs, within the old lock keeper’s cottages. I have been itching to get to one of these classes since they started three weeks ago and finally made it this week, and thought I would share the experience.  When I arrive, the room is quiet and gently lit by tiny spotlight stars. It is my first time at the class and I am more than a little apprehensive as it is a very long time since I had done any ‘real’ drawing. I felt a little under the spotlight.

However, it was a small friendly group that greeted me and I was introduced to a host of lifedrawsmiling faces. I already knew Janet who was running the class from the ABC Arts Trail and seeing her artwork displayed locally. She explained that this was an informal class, with a break in the middle for tea and cake. This and the relaxed atmosphere quickly put me at ease. I picked up my 6B pencil, and a sheet of the paper that was provided, ready for my first challenge.

I wasn’t quite prepared for how swiftly one minute speeds by when you are trying to replicate a human being on paper but my first sketch consisted of a shoulder and part of an arm. I persevered though, and by the time I got to my last sketch in the ‘quick fire round’ I had progressed to achieving a little bit more. The ten-minute sketches were better, although I seemed to do a lot more rubbing out than any of my companions. I was pleased to see that my hands were beginning to get into the groove again.

At the break, the conversation was free flowing and despite the fact we had just spent the last hour peering intensely at a naked person, there was no awkwardness at all. After all when you are so deeply immersed in nature, what could be more natural than the human form with all its graceful dips and curves? I was a little bit in awe of the model. Always a failure at musical statues myself, I had to ask how she kept her composure and held the poses for longer periods. “What do you think about, where does your head go?” I tentatively ask. Well dear reader, I am not sure what I was expecting but can tell you the answer was that this model amusingly distracts herself with hearty numbers from the Monty Python musical ‘Spamalot.’ Well why not!?

The second half of the class seemed to go much more quickly. I became thoroughly absorbed in producing at least one decent drawing and was surprised to find that I had not yet glanced at anyone else’s work, nor had they at mine. The lady next to me was using rainbow pastels, from a stash in a box near her feet, and I admired the effect she had created with the small strokes of colour. Happy to remaster the pencil I set to work drawing the prone figure on the floor, paying particular attention to posture and proportions. The extremities provided the most challenge for me and I must have drawn her hands five or six times! I spent the time I had left at the end practising drawing the model’s feet.

The end of the session was as easy as the beginning. As the final timer sounded, Janet informed us that it was the end and we packed away. I complimented my neighbour on her work and rolled mine up to pop in my bag ready for the cycle ride home. I was pleased with my efforts but relieved we did not have to share them with the rest of the group as I had done back in my college days. Instead, I wandered around the cosy space to take a closer look at the Beeston Snappers’ photography exhibition, a series of photographs which have captured what were the old cottages in their derelict state before renovation.

What they have achieved with those cottages has to be seen to be believed. Retaining many of the original features, the rooms feel bright and spacious. With a café and gift shop downstairs and plenty of outdoor space, the centre invites you to stay a while and bathe yourself in calm. Perhaps it is its proximity to the canal but the air of tranquillity will certainly be pulling me back for a visit.

The Life Drawing Classes are currently running on Wednesday evening for two hours from 7:30 pm. There is no need to book and it is just £8 per session with refreshments and art materials provided.  Contact Canalside Heritage Centre by email via their website www. canalsideheritagecentre.org.uk, on Facebook or by phone on 0115 922 1773 for information about all of their classes and events.

The Lock Keeper’s Cottages Exhibition features the work of four different local photographers, Sara Gaynor, Lynne Norker, Jenny Langran, Catherine Smith and is on display until the end of August.



Life by the Canal


The time is almost upon us. The opening of the dynamic Beeston Canal Heritage Centre is now only a month away. Well it will be by the time that you are reading this.

For those with a good memory, or with an interest in Beeston’s history, or even both will know that the buildings in question are four weir cottages that had been abandoned for years. Slowly rotting away and disappearing under mounds of ivy and moss.

But things changed in 2015, when the newly formed charity won £687,200 from the Lottery Heritage Fund, and after some more fundraising, project leader Stuart Craven and his team of eager volunteers, began the challenging job of clearing the site of rubbish and vegetation, ready for the rebuilding and restoration of the eighteenth century buildings. The main reconstruction work has been under the expert knowledge and skills of Kirklington based restoration company Bonsors’. Due to the location of the weir cottages, the tons and tons of building materials needed, had to be brought in by barge. Which for a canal heritage centre can’t be a bad thing, as it’s keeping the tradition alive. The whole transformation of the centre has taken some eighteen months.

It will be something very new, very special and unique for the community

When finished, there will be a heritage section, where visitors can learn about the history and stories of the canal and the buildings. Then there will be a retail area and a café, which will serve freshly, cooked hot food. A chef called Brian has recently been recruited to do this.

Upstairs there will be a room called The Weirview, which will provide gallery space and can hold up to sixty people for meetings or events. This will include a small display of ‘Canalside Curiosities’. Artifacts that have been unearthed during the works. A small lift has been installed, for those that can’t manage stairs.

The outside is to be put to good use too, with the creation of a kitchen garden, where local schoolchildren can visit and will be able to see at first hand where fruit and vegetables actually come from. Shatter their illusion that they are grown in plastic bags at the local supermarket. Cycle hire should also be available. A team of volunteers are currently working on creating a lawned seating area and a wildflower border.

I met up with Visitor Operations Manager Jenny Aldridge, who gave me a tour of the site. Work is progressing well with new flooring down, walls painted, new windows installed and the balcony area nearly completed.  Special furniture is currently being constructed by the Derby based East Midlands Wood Recycling Team.  Everything should be finished by the end of May. You can tell how proud and enthusiastic she is about the project. And quite rightly so. It will be something very new, very special and unique for the community. Something to add to the tourist map of the NG9 postcode.

Saturday June the 24th has been billed as the official opening date. This should be in your diaries, as it will be well worth experiencing. The celebrations start at 10:30am, and will go on all afternoon. Shrek the workhorse will be there, together with jazz in the garden and dancing from members of the local Hindu temple. There will also be an exhibition from Beeston Snappers, who have been taking photos throughout the whole process. Stuart then finally gets to see the finished product, after all those years of beavering away raising money and trying to get his dream off the ground. Well done that man.

The centre is looking for volunteers to help run the place. So if you have skills and an interest in administration, education, catering or retail, then Jenny would love to hear from you. Or if you fancy being a co-ordinator, a walk leader or a welcome volunteer, then they are needed too. Training and support are provided. In fact, if you just want to volunteer your time, then give Jenny a call on 07376 378101, and she’ll be very pleased to hear from you.



We gotta wear shades

Is Beeston in for its best summer in living memory? Of course we’d say it was, as the trumpeter of all that is ace about our town.

But check out the evidence before you dismiss this as simple hyperbole:

  • The Canalside Heritage Centre opens in June: see the feature on Page 3.
  • Oxjam returns! There was doubt on its return, but we can confirm it all kicks off with the Unplugged event on July 1st.
  • A week later, Beeston Carnival is back for its twelfth year.
  • The Street Art Festival that will be brightening up some local walls.
  • More beer festivals than you can drunkenly shake a stick at.
  • Beeston Library reopens in August after a huge refit.
  • The ABC Art Trail returns, showing off the best in Beeston artistic flair on the 3rd and 4th.
  • TONS MORE! Really. For a town of our size, we certainly punch above our own weight. The Beestonian is always keen to hear about (and subsequently promote) exciting local stuff, so don’t hesitate to drop us an email at thebeestonian@gmail.com

We also have a big project to launch, which we’ll tell you more about soon. As we now have joined the nineties and got ourselves a website, you’ll be wise to keep an eye out there: https://beestonian.com/. Now, open up this magazine and find just a slice of the talent stuffed cake that is Beestonia…