Tag: Nottingham

Bow Selecta

If I haven’t overstepped my deadline (something I do on a regular basis) this issue should be out in early December, just in time for the Beeston Christmas Lights Switch-on.

Almost every end of year magazine issue is full of ‘Round ups of the past year’ or ‘What will next year be like?’ articles and it would be wrong of The Beestonian to avoid such traditions, of course – but as I’ve written about my traumatic past year in previous issues and the coming year will be pretty trying too, let’s talk Christmassy stuff.

Robin Hood-ing for me is a very seasonal business, with summer tours at the Castle ending around the time of the October Robin Hood Beer Festival, yet again a splendid event albeit very moving as four local breweries had all made beers named in honour of my late wife Sal; the Robin Hood Pageant a week afterwards (except this year as it was cancelled due to extreme weather);  November’s MySight Nottingham Charity Firewalk which I’ve done annually for eight years now and the Nottingham Christmas Lights Switch on (which I confess this year I missed for the first time in about as long as I was at a prog rock festival in Wales).

But I do get to be Robin at several festive tours of the Castle caves, lots of tourism promotions and some banquets – and even get to change my costume colour from green to red (like some abstract mythical traffic light) as I’m also going to be Santa at the Albert Hall for the second year running, which is great fun.

And this year I’m going to Lapland to meet the real Santa.

In fact by the time you read this I’ll have been and come back, and I have no doubt it’s going to be very moving and emotional, as I have the huge honour to be travelling with a group of very poorly children and their families on a plane chartered by the ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ charity, a superb Nottingham-based organisation who specialise in making very sick children’s dreams come true. A few years ago when I was doing medieval banquets at Center Parcs we did some shows for them and they were astounding – the joy, laughter and sheer fun we had just blew away our concerns it would be a sad or gloomy time, and I can only imagine the happiness on everyone’s faces as they meet Santa inside the Arctic Circle, see the Northern Lights and even get to meet husky teams in the frozen forest!

Of course the children being so ill makes a difference and it’s a long day for everyone – a 3am start and returning to East Midlands airport about 10pm at night (so the return journey will probably be a bit less riotous than the outbound one) but I was so pleased to have been asked, I love the idea of Robin Hood helping local children and their families have an unforgettable trip, and it certainly puts a lot of things in perspective.

And although Sal’s and my three year-old daughter Scarlett (who’ll be four on Boxing Day, where does the time go?) won’t be travelling with me she’ll be seeing one or more Nottingham-based Santas over the festive period. Last year she saw about three on various visits with family and friends and firmly decided the last Santa was the best because he greeted her by her name, knew all about her Gran-Gran Joy, her special cuddly White Bunny and not only gave them all a chocolate frog but also gave her one for Mummy who was poorly at home. And rather marvellously, Scarlett then asked for another one “For my Daddy, because he’s working”.

That was a truly beautiful moment and Santa was very moved. Because, dear reader, I was that Santa. And what’s more, she actually gave me the chocolate too. So from us both (and Santa) may we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

https://www.whenyouwishuponastar.org.uk/

Tim Pollard
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood

Sojo Publishing Mouse

There’s a new publisher in town. They’re called Sojo Publishing Mouse, and they are a children’s publisher who are throwing the publishing rule book out of the window, and are seeking the best stories around. Here’s theirs…

Helen Goodbarton and Sophie Johnson-Hill are the creative minds behind the publishing company, and I met them both at The Milk Lounge in Beeston, surrounded by children…which was the ideal setting really!

Helen, 39, runs a performing arts school for young children in Beeston called Sprouts, and has been for the past 10 years. It was through this that her and Sophie, 36, both met, as Sophie’s children used to attend the sessions.

Sophie is the creator of Sojo Animation, which she started whilst doing an MA in Puppetry and Digital Animation at Nottingham Trent University. Her research on the course was focussed on encouraging creativity in children.

“I’d just chat to a little one and find out how they think and how they feel about certain things,” says Sophie. “If they said something particularly brilliant I would take that sentence and get them to draw a self-portrait and I would animate their words coming out of their artwork.” She called these individual animations ‘Thunk of the Day’, and they can be found on the Sojo Animation YouTube channel.

So while Sophie was doing this, Helen was working with children through Sprouts. “There’s a theme each term and a story the kids follow. There are poems and songs that we learn that I wrote,” explains Helen. “I’ve written four years’ worth of adventures.”

It was when Sophie was in the process of making some puppets that she had an idea to involve Helen in her preparations for a Christmas workshop with children. “I wanted to make giant puppets out of willow and paper, I wanted to make glowing snowmen,” Sophie tells me. “I asked Helen to join forces with me so the kids can understand the story of this snowman. I asked her to make up a story about a snowman who swallowed a firefly by mistake and then doesn’t know what to do about it. I handled the making of the puppets while Helen took them on this huge adventure,” says Sophie. “Afterwards Helen read me the story and it was a beautifully written book with rhyming couplets.”

The Glowing Snowman tester9

“I’d written a few things before and I’d even sent one story off to a publisher,” explains Helen. “Then I wrote this. You know they say everyone has a story in them that needs to be told? This is mine.”

At this point, they both decided to see if they could find a publisher, going with the idea that the story would be Helen’s, and Sophie would be the illustrator. But after exploring the world of children’s publishing, they discovered a few rules that would stop them in their tracks.

“Aside from lots of other rules that publishers have, a lot of them won’t take a book that’s already illustrated by somebody else, because they have in-house illustrators,” Helen tells me. “I feel it would be wrong if it wasn’t with Sophie’s pictures.”

Sophie adds: “There are rules about which of the pages needs to be a double page spread regardless of what’s happening at that point in the story, or how many times a theme should re-occur within the story. It’s like a guide to how a kids book ‘should’ be.

“We needed this creative publishing company that cut out all of these ridiculous rules”

In an industry that is all about something that is so beautifully creative, to cut creativity with rules is just frankly insane,” she says.

This made them realise that there must be other people out there in the same position as them. Sophie says, “We’re not the only fantastically, originally talented authors and illustrators in Nottingham, there’s loads of us, and there must be loads of people who aren’t telling their stories because of the restrictions.”

Helen adds: “That was where we stopped and went, shall we do this ourselves? How do we do it ourselves?”

And that’s exactly what they did. They set up Sojo Publishing Mouse with the intention of throwing the rule book out of the window.

“We needed this creative publishing company that cut out all of these ridiculous rules,” says Sophie. “We’re gonna set out our book just as we want to, just as it’s calling to be set out. The whole ethos was calling for people to get behind it and be a part of our journey.”

The Glowing Snowman tester

They actually had the idea a couple of years ago, but with Sophie doing her MA and Helen having a baby, they’ve only just got round to launching it properly. They set up a Kickstarter campaign as a way to get more people involved in their vision for children’s publishing. Sophie described pressing publish on the campaign as a “moment of impending doom.”  When I met them, the campaign for their first book The Glowing Snowman had only recently gone live, but they already had around £800 raised.

They had no reason to panic, as their final total came to £3, 986 which was almost £1000 above their original target. After this incredible result, Helen has this to say:

“We were so pleased and overwhelmed with the success of our Kickstarter campaign; to see so many people take interest and belief in our project, and not just to reach our target but to surpass it so well. It means we’ll have more funds not only to invest in selling this book, but in creating our next one too! We’re very excited to get cracking with this little publishing mouse!”

Make sure to like them on Facebook at: @sojopublishingmouse

JM

Nottingham Poetry Festival

Anne 2

This year’s poetry festival, which lasted for one week from 21 – 30 April took over from what was Nottingham Festival of Literature and was organised by the comedian, writer and poet Henry Normal.

The programme for the festival was full to the brim with over 50 events featuring a wide range of poets, both from inside and outside Nottingham, and featured big names in poetry such as Carol Ann Duffy and John Cooper Clarke. I attended the following events which showcased the breadth of poetic talent in our city.

On Saturday 22, a poetry slam took place at Nottingham Mechanics, judged by poet and facilitator Jim Hall, whose only criteria was that the poems made him feel something.

There were performances from Panya Banjoko, and former Mouthy poets, Joshua Judson, Matt Miller and Neal Pike, as well as other familiar faces from the poetry scene.

In the end, Jim chose a wonderful poet Gloria for third place, whose soft-spoken poems made an impression on the judge and audience alike. Second place went to emerging performance poet Jake Wildeman, with first place awarded to Matt Miller, whose poems about love and home were poignant enough to win him £30 in prize money.

Jim, who was assisted by Jeremy, the chair of Nottingham Poetry Society, said, ‘[Matt] really thought about the time limit. It was a whole journey within three minutes and I learnt a lot about him. It was quite a clear one for me.’

On Sunday 23, Rough Trade was the home of Book Off, which began with a workshop in ‘found poetry’ whereby participants used magazines to create poems by cutting or blacking out selected words. The day continued with a performance poetry workshop by Jamie Thrasivoulou and Sophie Sparham, which covered issues such as heckling, performing politically sensitive poems and the best way to introduce yourself to your audience.

Bridie hit her teammate Joshua’s face with a wet teabag to demonstrate schadenfreude

At this point, sportswear-clad poets began to assemble for Poetercize: the Poetry Game Show hosted by Stephen Thomas. This round was the decider between Bridie Squires and Joshua Judson vs Chris McLoughlin and Milla Tebbs. The event was delayed due to technical problems, but was handled with humour. The show featured That Welsh Woman, interpretive dance and audience participation.

Bridie hit her teammate Joshua’s face with a wet teabag to demonstrate schadenfreude, and Chris ate orange peel in a desperate bid to be the best…but in the end it was Chris and Milla who were crowned champions.

On Tuesday 25, Debbie Bryan in the Lace Market welcomed Some Poets from Big White Shed for an evening of performances from poets that have been published by BWS and poets that they would like to see published.

The event celebrated what Anne describes as ‘peer publishing’ and featured poems from Neal Pike, Stephen Thomas, Midnight Shelley, Trevor Wright and Jim Hall among many others.

DSC_0637

Continuing the celebration of publishing was Mud Press on Friday 28 at the launch of their latest anthology Woman. Mud Press is a publishing house which was set up by Georgina Wilding.

The event took place at Cobden Chambers and replicated the festival vibe but on a smaller scale. There were live artists, music, face painting and a poetry kissing booth.

I’ve only covered a tiny portion of the poetry festival, and my experience was exactly what I wanted it to be. It was a week of celebration that both poets and poetry lovers could appreciate.

JM

UFOs Over Nottinghamshire

The acronym U.F.O. was created by the United States Air Force in 1952 to describe sightings of flying disc shaped objects previously referred to as ‘flying saucers’

This spate of sightings began in 1947 when aviator and businessman Kenneth Arnold, reported seeing nine such objects flying in formation over Mount Rainier on 24th June of that year. Arnold’s sighting was widely reported in the media and between 1947 and 1952 there followed many thousands of reports of unidentified flying objects of various shapes and sizes from all over the U.S.A. Certainly there was a general consensus of opinion amongst the general public that these were piloted extra-terrestrial craft. Thus was born the modern U.F.O. story.

In Nottingham, a group of ‘Ufologists’ were earnestly studying U.F.O. phenomena. Many of these men had been R.A.F. bomber crew during the War and had been witness to a type of U.F.O. known as ‘Foo-Fighters. These strange balls of red, orange or sometimes white light, first made their reported appearance alongside a squadron of American aircraft in November 1944. From this date onward the crews of Allied aircraft, both American and British witnessed the appearance of Foo-Fighters in both the European and Pacific theatres of war.

It was genuine ambition of one of the founding members of the Nottingham group to persuade George Adamski, starting in Nottingham, to do a lecture tour of the U.K. However, this never came to pass as Adamski died at the age of 74 in 1965.

After working together for several years the Nottingham group broke apart around 1966/67, after the club secretary experienced a more sinister aspect of the U.F.O.  story. As early as 1947, U.F.O. witness Harold Dahl, reported receiving an intimidating and threatening visit from men dressed in black suits who claimed to be government agents. Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s reports of visits by what became known as Men in Black or M.I.B’s, to both U.F.O. witnesses and Ufologist became more frequent. Popular opinion was that M.I.B’s were either genuine government agents or in some cases actual aliens.

The Nottingham club secretary, – a man in his early sixties who had studied the U.F.O. phenomena for a number of years and had amassed a library of books and files, – announced that he had received a visit from M.I.B’s at his home in Wollaton. These two men had told him that unless he gave up his U.F.O. interest, his house would be fire-bombed. Within days of the alleged visit he had sold or given away his entire collection of books, photos and journals and removed every reference to U.F.O’s from his home. Fellow members of the club, even those he had been friends with for many years, never heard from him again.

Slowly the lights drew together and at a point almost directly above our heads stopped and hung side by side in the sky like two bright stars

A mentor of another Nottingham based U.F.O. group (who will remain anonymous here) lived alone in a ‘prefab’ in Aspley decided to advertise for a lodger to help pay the bills. Within a short time of putting a post card in a shop window a young man in his early twenties answered his advert. Giving his profession as a ‘Civil Servant’ the young man stated that he had business in Nottingham and need temporary accommodation. An agreement was made and the man moved in with nothing more than a single small suitcase. Over a few short weeks of his stay, the mentor stated that he demonstrated a good knowledge of Ufology and asked about both U.F.O. groups. At the end of his stay he asked to see members of the group. At the meeting which followed, he claimed to have been an MI6 field agent, one of a number of operatives dispatched by the Government to investigate the threat to National Security posed by U.F.O. groups. Thankfully he announced that they were no threat, packed his bag and they never saw him again.

Another member of the group encountered a siting of a U.F.O. which occurred back in the 1960s:

“On a clear winters evening at around 10 p.m., I was driving my then girlfriend (now my wife) home to Chilwell. Our route took us through Bilborough past Strelley village and south along the Coventry Road. For those who do not know the area, this is a semi-rural road on the extreme western edge of the City of Nottingham. We had reach the cross-roads at Strelley and were turning onto Coventry Road when both of us saw high in the sky, a moving bright star like object approaching us from the south. Making a modern comparison I would say that it was like observing the International Space Station or other artificial satellite. I stop the car a little way past the crossroads and we both got out the vehicle to get a better look.”

“Almost immediately we saw that there was a second identical object approaching from the north. The two seemed to be on a collision cause, becoming larger and brighter as they approached. Slowly the lights drew together and at a point almost directly above our heads stopped and hung side by side in the sky like two bright stars. We continued to observe them in silence for what must have been 3 or 4 minutes.

Suddenly the northern light again began to move. At this stage it became apparent that this object was lower in the sky than its companion, which now seemed even brighter. Moving a little faster than its original approach, it continued south and appeared to pass bellow its still stationary companion, which now shone with the intensity of Venus, (certainly, the brightest object in the sky). After several minutes the moving object was lost to view leaving our attention fixed on the bright object above our heads.”

“It was at this point that something dramatic happened. A small pale blue, star-like light dropped from bellow the bright object. For a few seconds it appeared to free-fall and it shot off at great speed to the west. Seconds later a second identical light dropped and shot off to the east. This was repeated twice more with one light going south and the second north.

The bright object now began to move and continued its original course north. The cold night air had gotten to us at this point and we realised that we had been observing the phenomena for over half an hour. Once back in the car we continued our journey back to Chilwell. I got a telling off from my future father-in-law for bringing his daughter home late. We did not tell him the reason why”.

One Lump Or Two

Like the White Queen in ‘Alice Through theLooking Glass’’, I try to believe six impossible things before breakfast, but Trump becoming US President was a one too many. So when I found out that an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed café had opened up near the Nottingham Railway Station, I just had to go down the rabbit hole and find out all about it.

The Wonderland Café is situated in the basement of the old Hopkinson building on Station Street, and began trading in December. It is the creation of Beestonian Ash Hudson, who lives in the Rylands, but is originally from Chesterfield. Ash had previously worked there selling watches from a stall. When the tearoom closed down, he had the crazy idea of running one himself, using his favourite book as inspiration. And so Wonderland was born. It is currently open seven days a week between 12 & 5pm.

Hopkinson’s began as a Victorian engineering business, but in 2010 the building became an arts centre. In fact I exhibited some photographs there in that year, as part of a Flickr group that I was involved in. But now it contains three floors crammed with antiques and collectables:  real nostalgia trip down Memory Lane.

There are two ways to reach the café. One is to hunt out the stairs amongst the shelves of bric a brac, while the other is more direct, being down the side alley, where signs and a mannequin direct you. Due to the high winds that day, Ash had had to lock those away, so the stairs it was.

The café area is quite large, with twelve tables and seating for fifty people. Motifs from the book are everywhere, although Ash was keen to point out that he has followed Carroll’s original novel, rather than the 1951 Disney film. Ash of course is the Mad Hatter. There isn’t really anyone else he could be. He employs two waitresses, who become The Red Queen and Alice, when they are looking after the customers.  Of which there are many, especially on a Saturday.

There is a small, but interesting menu, with teas, sandwiches, and a stew on offer. And of course cake, some of which come courtesy of our very own Beeston Brownie Company.

Tea parties, either for two people, or groups, are welcomed, and themed events are in the pipeline for this year, the first being a ‘Lonely Queen of Hearts’ speed-dating event set for St Valentine’s Day.

The café has been kitted out with props sourced directly from Hopkinson’s. Someone that works in the building has specially made some of the more intricate and unusual items, while two flamingos came courtesy of eBay.  Local graffiti artist ‘smallkid’ has used spray paint to create a forest scene of giant mushrooms along one wall, and a row of grinning Cheshire Cats and the signage outside.

The Internet has been brilliant for Wonderland, as its story was one of the most locally shared on Facebook during 2016, with over 11,000 mentions. Ash originally wanted to open a café in Beeston, as he loves the town so much, and was looking at the former estate agents on Wollaton Road, but was beaten to it by what is now home to vintage café ‘Time For Tea’.

The future looks exciting, as Ash has plans to turn the rest of the basement area into a bar/restaurant. He is going to launch a Kickstarter project in May, which we wish him luck with.

‘Drink Me’ cocktails anyone?

Wonderland can be contacted on 07930 877496.

Bow Selecta…films, films, films

I love film and films – although not, it should be said, many of the Robin Hood films out there. Most are sadly a bit bland and uninspiring and the only one I find infinitely rewatchable is the classic 1938 Errol Flynn version (the one with the green tights, ‘Robin Hood hat’ and a real sense of cinema and adventure, rather than any ‘dark, gritty reimaging’ – I’m looking at you, Russell Crowe).

Nottingham was lucky enough to have a shared premiere of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, jointly shared with Nottingham and the Cannes film Festival, although who knows why Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett decided to go to the sunny south of France rather than the Cornerhouse in Nottingham? Sal and I got to go to the Nottingham premiere in their place though, which was actually more fun than the film itself.

As noted elsewhere in this issue, Nottingham and Beeston have a great cinematic history and it’s something we can all be proud of – whilst we wait to see if we’re going to get a ‘proper’ cinema in the vast wasteland next to the tram station we have several independent cinema clubs, not least those run by our previous editor Matt at the White Lion and Café Roya. Matt was also a driving force behind Beestonia: The Movie which was a fabulous celebration of all things local and I even got to have a cameo in it, which
was great fun.

In fact over the past few years I’ve done quite a bit of filming, mainly promotional videos for Nottingham in my guise as Robin but also, strangely enough, for a couple of ‘proper’ films…

We were actually on the red carpet alongside Daniel Craig, which really was astoundingly fun

Being a bloke of a certain age I love James Bond films (well, most of them anyway, I could live without Never Say Never Again and A View To A Kill and for my money On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale are the best). Anyway, via an internet Bond fan group I became friends with a group in Chicago in the US who buy, restore and look after loads of the vehicles used in previous films and I’ve travelled over there a couple of times to visit both the vehicles and my American friends – it’s great fun to sit inside amongst other vehicles the huge red Mustang from Diamonds Are Forever, the Aston Martin from The Living Daylights or some of the boats from Live and Let Die. In fact speaking of premieres it was via this group that Sal and I got to attend the Royal Premiere of Skyfall at the Royal Albert Hall in London, where we were actually on the red carpet alongside Daniel Craig, which really was astoundingly fun.

One of the friends I met in the US (some of whom are now such good friends they’re travelling over for Sal and my wedding later this year) is a film-maker specialising in low-budget horror films. He thought it would be fun to have an English actor ‘introduce’ the films and so he asked me to create a character named ‘Lord Victor Fleming’, supposedly a ‘master of the macabre and historian of the occult’. This meant I had to smarten myself up, put on my DJ and try to generate some gravitas as I intoned dire warnings about the terrible story and horrific scenes contained in the film. With Sal as
my camerawoman we decorated our front room to look like an Edwardian-period drawing room and set to filming. We even did some location shooting at Wollaton Hall, carefully cutting scenes to look like the interior scenes we’d shot were actually done inside the Hall. So you can say both Batman and Robin have now filmed there!

So if you ever get the chance to watch the masterful cinematic classics that are James Baack’s Dracula’s Orgy of the Damned or the equally terrifying (for any number of reasons) sequel Werewolf Massacre at Hell’s Gate (both available on DVD from Amazon US) then you’ll know that at least part of them were shot in our own home town of Beeston – which makes it even weirder than a number of online reviewers commented on my ‘phony English accent’. It seems that as with Robin Hood films, there’s just no pleasing some people…

Tim Pollard
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood

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