Back in 2016, at the height of the Brexit campaign, our erstwhile editor at the time Matt Turpin noticed that division was occurring across the country. Concerned about how things were turning out, he wanted to highlight the unity in Beestonia.
There had been a recent report of a student being racially abused and this troubled Matt and the team greatly. So, Matt made it his duty to find people of diverse cultures that had made their home, or work in the NG9 postcode, and show that they were happy living in the area free from prejudice. The full story was captured in issue 47 of this very magazine.
July the 4th was the date we began our quest, with Roberto Castro and Roya from Café Roya. Other early subjects included Shan Gill from Gill’s chippy, and TEK Kickboxing’s Anna Jermakova. We covered about a dozen or so people, and Matt’s hypothesis showed that people liked Beeston, and Beeston liked the people.
Due to Matt’s career and ever increasing workload, he asked me if I wanted to carry it on, as it had become a very popular feature. After all, who doesn’t like reading about other people? Of course, I said yes, as I thought it would be a shame if such a popular project just fizzled out. So, I contacted various Beestonians I knew, put a message out on social media, and just stopped people in the street. By March 2019, I had chatted to, and taken the photo of another 200 or so locals. The good thing is that I didn’t get that many rejections or come across too many people that were just visiting.
Then of course the pandemic hit, and the project more or less came to a halt. I did manage to interview a few key workers. I had hoped to chat to some medical staff, but I guess they were too busy saving lives. When things got ‘back’to normal’, I, like everyone else became more wary about approaching strangers. Enduring two years of not mixing with people I think has made everyone more cautious. Even a year or so on, I think things are only just beginning to get back to pre-Covid levels of social interaction. To get around this, I have emailed out questions, rather than asking them face- to-face, leaving just a quick meeting for the portrait. It’s not ideal, as you can’t beat chatting to people and prising out just a little bit more information about themselves.
With doing the project for seven years, and interviewing so many people, sadly several individuals have passed away. Not just well-known people like John Ronualdas Ciutiskis (Fastlane) who incidentally received the most views on Facebook which used to be over 50,000. But also had 912 likes, 317 comments and was shared 270 times. There was of course also Ginny Hartman and Neville Westerman. Not that any of the others are not noteworthy, of course they are, it’s just that they weren’t so well known through social media. Peter Hillier, Mikk Skinner and Kate Ames, to name a few other sad losses to the community.
So, what of the future of the project? Beeston currently has a population of around 52,000, so there are plenty of subjects to keep me busy, and it’s certainly something that I intend to keep doing, for however long I remain a Beestonian. So, after reading this, and you think you would be interested in becoming involved, then please do get in touch.