Tag: Middle Street Resource Centre

The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness: Graham Caveney in conversation with Deirdre O’Byrne

On the snowy evening of Wednesday 28 Feb, at Middle Street Resource Centre, Beeston residents were treated to a talk and exploration of Graham Caveney’s book The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness.

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His book, described as ‘a memoir of adolescence’ is a powerful recounting of Caveney’s life growing up in Accrington, from a working class Catholic background. It explores his love of music, literature, and brings to the fore issues such as class, religion, and the abuse he was subject to by his teacher and headmaster at his local grammar school during the 1970s.

Having kept his abuse quiet from his closest friends, and parents, his book comes at a time of recovery from years of mental anquish, drinking problems and trips in and out of rehab. At the start of the event, after everyone has settled with hot drinks, Graham Machin, chair of Beeston Community Resource (BCR), and one of our Beeston Heroes, speaks about the history of MSRC and its role as a mental health day centre.

Attendees of the event were encouraged to donate money towards a fund which helps people with mental health problems when they are in need of emergency support. This was done on a pay-what-you-can basis, and that Caveney agreed was a fitting cause for the event to raise money for.

Deirdre O’Byrne starts off the conversation by asking Graham about how his book came to be written in the first place, revealing a link to the hosts of the event, Five Leaves Bookshop, who had given Graham a job when he proclaimed himself as unemployable. It was then being surrounded by books that struck the right chord and enabled him to begin telling his story. What began as an attempt to rewrite Kafka’s Metamorphosis, became the courageous and endearing book that now exists as an object in the world (something Graham appreciates in books generally).

He’d sent paragraphs to his friend Julie Hesmondhalgh as a way to tell her about himself and his past, and she asked him if he’d thought about having it published. “When writing it, it never occurred to me that it would be published, and that was a good thing, otherwise I’d never have written it,” he says.

He had contacts that would be able to help towards publication, but, “I wasn’t prepared to cash in on those friendships,” he reveals. He then received an email from Julie with the subject heading ‘oops’ saying that she’d sent it to Jonathan Coe, an old friend and author in his own right, who got in contact with Graham’s former agent, who sold the book within 3 months.

The conversation is split up with a few readings, each of them read wonderfully, and eliciting laughs from the listeners. Deirdre picks up on this, and asks about the humour and presence of quite dark jokes in the book. Graham says humour can be a great way to express trauma and abuse, and that he didn’t want to write a sad, gloomy book which expressed how bad abuse is. He wanted the focus to be on the stuff he liked as a fourteen-year-old and his adolescence, which the abuse happened to occur and coincide with.

I wouldn’t have been able to write it without the education given to me by my abuser, and that’s something that I’m deeply grateful for.

The event as a whole gets into the heart of the story behind the book, and Graham provides listeners with many insights, such as the book’s publication leading to the un-naming of a performing arts centre which had previously been named after Graham’s abuser, something which Graham says is a ‘minor victory’. He also tells of a few instances of negative reactions, such as one person telling him that Graham, by writing the book, had just ‘pissed all over my childhood’ and another pointing out that he’d misspelt a teacher’s name, thereby throwing everything else into question. In reaction to this, he says: “People are eager to find ways to discredit it.”

He discusses class, memory and the issue of trigger warnings, which he says suggests that there’s a process to solving a problem. He reels off a list of seemingly insignificant things that can trigger him: a certain perfume, the texture of someone’s collar etc.

When receiving questions from the floor, Graham is asked what it’s like having the book out there being read and reviewed. ‘Strange’ is his main feeling towards it, but he says that the strangest part isn’t the book being reviewed by publications such as The Guardian , The Times and TLS, it’s actually when he’s in a coffee shop such as The Bean in Beeston, and someone comes up to him and says ‘I read your book’.

He says those are the moments he realises that the “book doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to the world.” He doesn’t regret telling his story, that he feels both “insulated and exposed” by it, but that ultimately its existence “validates something that I’ve carried around with me.”

The book itself holds a number of fascinating realisations in terms of Graham’s being able to write it in the first place. He says, “I wouldn’t have been able to write it without the education given to me by my abuser, and that’s something that I’m deeply grateful for.”

It’s also apparent that he couldn’t write it until his parents had passed away. His mother clung to her faith, and Graham believes that it was this that kept her going after his father had died. Revealing his abuse from his priest and teacher “would have been like telling her that God doesn’t exist.” So it was only after her death that he was able to write about it.

At the end of the event, the attention turns to his next book, which he’s 25,000 words into already, and which will be on the history of agraphobia. He says that he never made a conscious decision to write another book, he just carried on from this one.

A wonderful, insightful evening with plenty of books bought and signed by Graham, it was enough to make everyone want to get home and start reading (or re-reading) the book, with the added knowledge of all that he shared with us.

Read our interview with Graham Caveney.

JM

Beeston Heroes

Last year, we decided to cast our gaze onto the unsung heroes of Beeston.

The word ‘hero’ was everywhere last year, following the tragic death of Owen Jenkins at Beeston Weir. It got us thinking how heroism stretches wide, from those who immediately sacrificed their lives to rescue others (as Owen did) to those who understand we are all part of a community, and that community works best when we all put a little bit in.

We asked  online for your nominations, and wow. They flowed in, all telling stories of people who make this great town better. From people who give a few hours a week behind a charity shop till, to those who run major campaign in the face of vast opposition, these are the people who never ask for thanks, never seek out the limelight, but just get on with doing what they do because they think its right.

We were so overwhelmed with the response we have decided to run it as a regular feature rather than a one-off. If you made a nomination and they don’t feature here, then fret not, we most likely will get them on here soon.

If you have a hero you would like to nominate, send us their name, what they do / have done, and a few words on what makes them special. Here’s our first selection:

STEWART CRAVEN; CANALSIDE HERITAGE

When we requested nominations for community heroes, we got so many emails putting Stewart forward we can’t fit all the comments on here. But here are a select few:

“He kept walking past the dilapidated and decaying lock cottages saying if only someone would do something…and then he realised that he would have to be that someone it has taken years but the Canalside Heritage Centre is now yet another of Beeston’s key attractions, and it is all down to Stewart, the man is a star…and a hero.”

“Without his unfailing commitment to this project which opened in June this year, it would never have got off the ground and I think you’ll agree the Centre is a very welcome addition to Beeston & The Rylands.”

“He’s worked tirelessly over at least the last ten years to create the Canalside Heritage Centre.”

“Been tenacious and committed, and battled hard whilst also battling some serious health issues.”

“He’s ignored those who said it could never happen, and believed in his vision creating a fantastic community facility for Beeston Rylands and beyond.”

“Even after all his work, he continues to give many hours to the project, from chairing the Trustees, to being the big man in red for our Breakfast with Santa events (shush!).”

“Stewart has created a legacy for our community and should be recognised for this.”

GRAHAM MACHIN, MIDDLE STREET RESOURCE CENTRE 

“As the chair of BCR, which is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, he has spent the last few years tirelessly negotiating with Notts. County Council to ensure the continuance of Middle Street Resource Centre as a place that offers socially inclusive activities. In addition he brings his personal support qualities and values to volunteers, members, visitors and staff in whatever way he can. It would be hard to estimate the time and effort he has put into this work, which began when he was still working full time, and the kindness, wisdom and foresight he continues to bring to the Centre.”

TAMAR FEAST, WE DIG NG9

When a small area of land off a side street began to look a bit scruffy, a local decided to take actions into her own hands. Tamar Feast, who some may remember from this very magazine a few years ago, was that community hero. Where others saw a scruffy verge, she saw a tiny wildlife refuge. With the help of some willing, green-fingered volunteers, she set to work planting, adding attractive stacked-tyre planters and, in a brilliant bit of work, made a ‘bug hotel’ out of stacked pallets. Go and have a look. If insects had Trip Advisor, the reviews would be rave. Despite the seeming best intention of the council, utility companies and other less corporate vandals, this little corner of Beeston has been transformed into a beautiful, bio-diverse paradise. You’ll find it on the corner of Wilmot Lane and Barrydale Avenue. As one nominator told us:

“Every street needs a Tamar.”

Miss Madeline Redhead, of Redhead-Scott School of Dance

“She has been running a dance school for over 40 years. There are other dance studios but there are people in Beeston and surrounding areas who went there as children, then their children went and then their children went . It’s moved around but the school has been a little sung business and cultural institution for 3 generations of pupils and over 40 years. Many of her pupils have gone on to be professional dancers and to perform in professional productions. Her dance school partner is a former pupil. She’s brought pleasure to thousands of children and parents, and contributed to the local economy.”

http://www.redheadscott.co.uk

LB

Poetry For The Mind

(First published on Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature , republished with kind permission

Middle Street Resource Centre is an inconspicuous building. Long a feature of Beeston, its unassuming structure belies the vibrant creative activity within. The charity, Mindset, runs from here, lending support to those with mental health issues, and the socially excluded. It has been an invaluable asset for Beeston and surrounding areas, signposting and providing activities for those looking for them. The filmmaker Shane Meadows has run exclusive fundraisers at the centre, and it has gained plaudits from all quarters of the East Midlands, as well as from further afield.

There are a multitude of courses here for people to participate in, from music appreciation to carpentry. A beautiful, meticulously-tended vegetable garden is a testament to the work done by the volunteers who have made it their own. We at Nottingham City of Literature are here for a less green-fingered reason, though: to meet an inspiring poetry group that has just put out their first anthology.

The Middle Street Poetry Group was co-founded in 2014 by Steve Plowright, a local poet, songwriter, and craftsman who has been dealing with acute mental health issues for decades. Around the time of the millennium, he set his poetry down in a self-published anthology, Bi-Polar Rhythms: a raw, often terrifying look into his own chaotic head. The book is a visceral read, and it would be easy to assume that the writing process behind it must have been painful. Yet Steve also found that it had a remarkably therapeutic effect. As one of the group participants later comments [of writing poetry], “It gets my thoughts out of my head, and onto paper.”

However, the purpose of the group is not merely to provide catharsis. “It’s good fun,” Steve explains, as he sets up for the session. “People have to enjoy it.”

The group-members gather, some clutching their own poetry, some with other’s work. They form a circle, and with no real prompt, start to share poetry. Tom has brought along four poems, each one exquisitely crafted tales of his life – of alcohol and breakdown. The group listen intently. They discuss the poems afterwards, opening up to each other and exploring the meaning behind the lines. It would be too simplistic to label this ‘talking therapy’; it is a spontaneous discussion, with any therapeutic aspect merely a helpful by-product.

A cheerful older gentleman named Dennis tells me that he has only just started reading and writing poetry, at age 74. “I’ve always liked reading, just never poetry.” Has the group converted him? “Oh, yes. It’s my hobby now.”

Ray, a young man with his poetry in pixel form, ready to be read off his tablet, tells me how the sessions have boosted his social confidence; first encouraging him to read aloud to the group, and then to the general public.

It’s also an educational experience. In the previous week’s session, the chosen topic was the First World War. While the usual Sassoon and Wilfred Owen poetry was read, so too was that of the often-overlooked Irish war poets. Notable among these was Francis Ledwidge.

“I’ll go home and google poets and poems we talk about,” one member told me, “and then find something else, then something else. It’s constant learning in a subject I never thought I’d be interested in.”

Another member, Yasmin, found the session on war challenging but ultimately effective: “I like nice things,” she explains. “War, and talking about war – it’s horrible, horrible. But when I went home and my mind had thought through what we’d talked about, I felt a wave of emotion and empathy, which I’d have never been able to face before this. It had a huge impact on me.”

Nick brings in lyrics that he judges are more poetry, with a particular love of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. “So much can be poetry,” he tells the group.

Earlier this year, Steve realised they’d produced enough good poetry to justify putting together a collection, and thus Journeys Through the Mind came to be. A diverse and fascinating volume, beautifully illustrated, they’ve sold most of their initial run of 100 copies and are considering printing more. For most of the contributors, it’s their first time in print.

Poetry has proven to be a force for good with the group. They relish playing off each other, developing each other’s work, interacting and inspiring. Their weekly Monday meetings are looked forward to; they lend a crucial structure to the group and provide motivation for the participants.

“I get excited on a Sunday and re-read my poetry,” one of them explains. “I want it to be just right.”

The group are now hoping to take their book on tour and perform in public places. If you know of a good venue, or a similar group to collaborate with, please get in touch with us via the Contact Us page.

The Shane Meadows interview

An evening with Shane Meadows…

The nerves are starting to build as I sip on a red wine at Middle Street Resource Centre. In a few minutes, Britain’s best film / TV director will be arriving for a night of film, followed by a Q+A, which I’ve been asked to compere. Of course, I couldn’t refuse, but as my stomach flips again despite the best efforts of the booze, I start to question my judgement.

I’ve met Shane on several occasions, and he’s disarmingly lovely each time. A relaxed, funny, friendly chap who never acts starry -you won’t see his legs clad in leather trousers, his eyes will never be hidden behind £900 Oakleys – nevertheless, he’s an artist who has cut a unique swathe through British film over the last two decades. He probably has Spielberg and Scorsese on speed dial.

He arrives, I chat to his wife and tell her of my nerves. “Oh, don’t worry. He’s really nervous tonight”. As he’d been on the telly a few days before receiving a BAFTA in front of the UK’s finest, this is both baffling and consoling.

He’s here for a fundraiser. Beeston Resource Centre has had a rocky time in the past, with funding always uncertain and closure often looming. However, it’s wonderfully wavered all storms, due to the invaluable support it gives many. We are never less than amazed when we visit at the sheer amount of stuff they do there: it’s an incredible resource, hence the name. However, the charity that runs it, Beeston Community Resource, can’t be too complacent, so when Shane offered to help out with a themed evening, there was no hesitation in their response. And here we are, with Shane putting together a fantastic set of films.

He had been spending time recently viewing some of his early short films – two had snapped in the projector so he realised he needed to digitise them for archive purposes, doing a bit of tidying up on the way. At the Centre he treated the audience of eighty to an insight into some of his earlier work: ‘The Datsun Collection’, made in 1994 was, he said, the second film only he had made and the first to feature other people! From 1995 he showed ‘The Zombie Squad’, a film completed and shown in a single day, and which had never had another public viewing. Having given himself the challenge of ‘a film in a day’  far more volunteers turned up to be in the film than he had expected and his solution was to create a group of zombies who didn’t need to learn any lines. A surprise for many of us was that Shane himself appeared as actor in these two early shorts, and in the scatalogical ‘Le Donk and His Arsebag’ featuring the comic genius of his good friend, Paddy Considine.

A break for wee and wine, and we’re back for the Q+A. Any nerves dissolve as Shane joins me in front of the audience. He recalls when I gave him a Beestonian t-shirt at a Café Roya Film Club “I’ve still got it. You gave me one in small. I’ll get into it one day”.

Our family growing up never made it on the telly -well, Crimewatch maybe…

I ask about his appeal, his unique touch “back in my childhood I remember being able to shifting from belly laughs to utter fright in no time at all. That ‘light and dark’ has subconsciously made its way into what I do” He tells of how when making Dead Man’s Shoes, perhaps one of the most terrifying revenge films ever made, the cast and crew would be belly laughing off camera throughout.

That’s his favourite film, as well “I was really depressed at the time. I’d made a bad mistake and had a horrendous experience trying to make a big, celebrity driven piece, rather than go with my instinct (he’s referring to Once Upon a Time in the Midlands) . Y’know how there is that saying “the phone stopped ringing”, well, that’s very true, it literally didn’t ring”.

“I knew I had to trust my instincts and make a film that was mine. We made Dead Man’s Shoes for just £700,000, not a lot in film. I threw myself into it, and it worked”.

He talks about his previous ambitions as a singer -he was in a band with Considine, who talk the duties behind the drums – and looked perplexed when I asked him what he’d have done if he’d not made film making such a success.

What does his two young boys think of daddy’s fame “They’re just starting to realise that I do a strange job. It’s not the fame, I don’t think that is apparent, but they see me on telly and that makes them sit up. It’s strange. Our family growing up never made it on the telly -well, Crimewatch maybe….”

There are some real surprises thrown in. The incredibly complex scene in This is England ’90, where Vicky McClure’s Lol confesses to murdering her father round the dining table, was done in one take, using a complex nine camera set up “You should have seen what that room looked like. Looked like the TARDIS”. There is the very real chance of another instalment of the This Is England story, but not on the telly “It might be interesting to do a film sometime along the line. Get the characters together. Whatever year we do, we’ll show it in that many cinemas…who knows?”

More likely to appear soon is his much delayed biopic about legendary British cyclist Tom Simpson, who -spoiler alert – died while tacking a mountain on riding the Tour de France. The project, working with the brilliant screenwriter William Ivory, has been on the cards for some time, delayed in the past when Shane was invited to film the return of The Stone Roses, which became the rockumentary -thank you – Made of Stone.

That would be a departure from his past work, but that’s what makes Shane such a fascinating director: his obvious pleasure in having the chance to follow his interests and his instincts. We are very lucky to have him in our midst.

The night finishes with a vote of thanks courtesy of Radio Nottingham’s John Holmes, and a final glass of wine. A great night had by all, and £1,000 in the Resource Centre’s coffers. Cheers Shane. CUT!

Matt Turpin & Colin Tucker

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