I was away, swanning around on a Greek island, when the Referendum result came in. Typical, I thought, I leave the country for a few days and you go and break it. Well, next time I’m away you can all stay at your grans.
Returning to the UK, I heard stories of a rise in hate-crime due to the Brexit result. Surely not in Beeston, though?
Sadly, yes. I was told of a story of an Indian guy, who being both an Anglophile and a football fan was off to watch England play Iceland in a pub, and was racially abused on the street and told to go home. I received emails and messages from people, generally from Eastern Europe, saying how they now felt scared.
This isn’t the Beeston I know. This isn’t the Beeston we want to have represent us. This is a small band of bigots, emboldened by the result, and whipped up by the awfulness of the whole Referendum campaign. Yet however small this smattering of racism is, hate shouts loud. But love shouts louder.
The editorial of this magazine discussed how we could demonstrate this, and a startlingly obvious idea came to us. Beeston works so well because of the rich, vibrant diversity that keeps the place fascinating. International students from the Uni, the most incredible amount of quality restaurants and food shops, the workers who keep the QMC, Boots and many other places thriving. Wherever people are from, they are Beeston. A town is its people. More than its businesses, more than its buildings, people make a town. We’d celebrate that.
We arranged to meet people, or simply stopped them on the street. We’d have them tell us about themselves, just a few words on who they were and why they liked living in Beeston, then put it up on our Facebook site. We’d show that a town is not ‘owned’ by one set of people, but is shared by all. We are all Beeston.
The response to our pieces was phenomenal. Each new post garnered huge amounts of interests. We found a diversity of people that surprised us: from a tiny toddler to an octogenarian, from people born on the same street that they still live on to globetrotters who have found themselves in our town: the sheer range was astonishing. The stories people would tell us as we met them made us both laugh and cry. It was perhaps the most fulfilling project I’ve ever been involved with.
One thing shone out more than anything, and one thing that I urge everyone reading this to take to heart. Just about every respondent we talked to, irrespective of their age, background or nationality, said the same thing when asked why they liked Beeston: the sense of community. That’s you they’re talking about. We might disagree on many things in life, we might clash on occasion. But one thing binds us, and one turns an average town into a great town: the sense of community. Together, we’re better. #iamBeeston #weareBeeston.