Huge thanks to all those who read and commented on the last post regarding gay marriage: it certainly bought out some strong, and very well argued comments. The level of debate is certainly more nuanced than that which raged in Parliament and continues to rage in the press: whether it be the idiocy of bigots such as Sir Gerald Howarth and his ‘aggressive homosexual community’ , or that perennial purveyor of swivel-eyed bat-shit Lord Tebbit, who railed against equality by claiming we could have a lesbian queen artificially inseminating herself; as well as threatening to marry his son to avoid inheritance tax. Nothing has been quite as amusing and well-argued as this fantastic speech:
The bill has passed, and should get through the Lords. Now, let’s all get on with our lives, as equals. And let’s face it, all marriages are a bit gay anyway.
Some bad news confirmed today, with Simon Barton packing up Barton’s and putting it in storage until at least 2015. I’ve heard this might have been the case for some time, and hoped it wasn’t true, but alas.
I rang Simon earlier to chat about it, and his explanation is one of pragmatism: he can hardly promise customers – by this he means not just people attending the events, but those who are part of them, such as market traders- a guarantee that he can stay open several months ahead. The tram works have a dual effect on Barton’s: although you can drive by there now, there is no through route so the buses and cars that would pass each day no longer do so: and Barton’s loses it’s best form of promotion, it’s ‘shop window’. The second problem is one of access, and as the tram works rumble down Chilwell Road this becomes a greater issue.
He’s not bitter about this, and promises to be back. ‘If you said to me ‘does this work?’, well, it does’ he tells me ‘and if you ask me will it work again, well, from the positive feedback I receive I’d have to say ‘yes, and more so”. But? ‘If you ask me if it will work right now…well, I can’t take that risk’. He is adamant that Barton’s will rise again, once the works are complete.
This isn’t just bad news for Barton’s and those who enjoyed the diverse, often bizarre, wonderful events the venue hosted. It’s bad news for Beeston, and particularly Chilwell Road, which hardly needs another knock right now. The knock-on effect could be considerable, and that is worrying. I have long stated my love of Chilwell Road and it’s independence, it’s freedom from the monotony and economically draining effects of multi-nationals and chains. If it survives the tramworks, we’ll have a strong reason for people to use the tram to come to us, rather than go into town. I see it’s existence as key to the ‘soul’ of Beeston, it’s unique, arty, enthusiastic heart. If we lose it, we take another step towards becoming AnyTown.
So what to do? You tell me: I want to hear your opinions, your ideas. Let’s do what we do best in Beeston, and work together on this problem. Broxtowe Borough Council: it’s imperative you look into this, and try and identify a solution. I’m not asking that any special treatment is dished out; but I do ask you to consider the wider picture. A few months, I was asked to be a witness at a council meeting looking into how to boost the night-time economy. They do care, I’m sure. Yet Beeston is not made of autonomous entities operating individually: it’s a holistic town, historically so. It’s what gives us that precious commodity: civic pride, community spirit. Once lost, it’s near impossible to claw back.
Your comments, please.
There is another worrying development in Beeston. Now, some people attack the High Street for it’s prelavence of charity shops, but I’m a fan. I’d prefer a charity shop than no shop at all, and as one on a limited budget, shop frequently from them. My house has many articles, including a lovely walnut wardrobe, from such shops. Then there are the causes they support: we have a diverse range, so you can even do your shopping with a choice on where you want your pennies to go off to.
I recently worked on a piece for Issue 19 of The Beestonian, about ViTal, the newish charity shop in the centre of town. We were looking at a fairly light-hearted piece around how they’d managed to get there hands on loads of stuff from the London Olympics, from tracksuits used by the games-makers to the ironing boards used in the Athletes Village. It’s a great charity called Young Potential that is behind the shop, an organisation dedicated to providing emotional and educational support to young people aged 13 to 18 with learning disabilities. They offer programmes and training, all of which revolve around their music, arts and drama facilities, all designed to increase self-confidence and produce healthy, emotionally literate, responsible and happy adults.
But Theresa, the charities founder, later got in touch with me. She was upset. Apparently, Ladbrokes appeared yesterday, and started putting up signage. When questioned on what they were doing, Theresa was told that they had bought up the lease and would be evicting them soon. This came as something of a shock, as ViTal had no forewarning. They threatened to sue the charity for loss of takings should they put up any resistance.
This is disgraceful behaviour. While some moan about charity shops in Beeston, the real scourge is ignored. Since the credit crunch, the greatest growth business in Beeston has been the scum – and I don’t use that term lightly, they are a disgrace to humanity - the scum that set out to exploit the poor.
Money lenders who trap the otherwise credit-disenfranchised into appalling, inescapable spirals of debt . Pawnbrokers who lure in the desperate. Bookies who are little better than legalised crack-dealers.
Now, you might think I’m being extreme here. Thing is, I actually like a gamble here and there. I always throw a quid in for a game of Sticky 13 if it’s being played in a pub, despite not winning since 2004. I spent most Saturdays as a child with my gran in St. Apleford bingo hall, being fussed by gravelly voiced, huge-cigarette wielding matriarchs.
But Ladbrokes and their ilk have taken things further. A liberalisation in the gambling laws – they are very powerful lobbyists – has allowed bookies to install FOBTs: Fixed Odd Betting Terminals. These are high-stakes machines that allow gamblers to stake vast amounts, up to £100 every 20 seconds. They are so effective at extracting money from punters they now account for around 50% of a bookies turnover, but 80% of their profits, in excess of a staggering £2.4 billion a year. The non-profit campaign group Fairer Gambling estimates that at least £250 million of this is from ‘problem gamblers’: those whose habits lead to family breakdown, crime, and high debt.
Betting shops are aggressively expanding around Britain, such is the potential to suck up cash. At present, each shop is only allowed four FOBTs, so the more shops, the more terminals. With an estimated 450,000 problem gamblers in the UK, the bookies are desperate to ensure they can squeeze enough out of each one. Hence the disproportionate amount of betting shops with FOBTs in poorer areas.
‘So what? They bring jobs, they pay taxes, don’t they?’ you may reply. Well, it’s not as clear as that.
The machines, according to the Campaign For Fairer Gambling, kill two jobs for each they create. As for tax, the amount collected set against the cost of mitigating the effects of gambling – kids taken into care, crime etc – probably means that they actually take more than they give. Even if this is not the case, it still is a wickedly retrogressive tax.
Again, let me state that I’m not against gambling. But FOTBs are to the odd flutter what crack cocaine is to a cheeky pint after work. Stop them kicking out ViTal with such bully-boy tactics.
We’ll wrap up on a much lighter note, with possibly the best thing ever, featuring the ultra-photogenic Jimmy Wiggins from The Guitar Spot: http://wigginsinthepub.tumblr.com/