Beestonia Says Hello To The Housing Issue.

Welcome to Midsummer Beeston, and the joys it brings. A spell of less than crap weather,  everything green and verdant and bursting with life, England doing surprisingly ok at a major football championship and pub gardens doing a champion job fulfilling the role as Best Place In The Universe.

Well, I’m glad you’re all enjoying it. I certainly would like to, but am so wrapped up in so many things now I make a beehive look like a stoned sloth colony. Slothony.

At the weekend, I donned my Oxjam Market co-ordinator hat, and pootled over to the Birmingham to attend a conference on how to make October’s takeover the best yet. Despite being one of the oldest there, it was a cracking experience, and not just for the free biscuits/hotel room. I won’t bang on too much now, but if by September you’re not chomping at the bits to buy tickets to what will be the BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO BEESTON, EVER I’ve not done my job properly. Prepare to be spammed to high-heaven.

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I returned home to complete my house-move, and I’m now fully away from my previous Palace of Power on Willoughby Street. When I announced my move on Twitter, a few Beestonian’s quizzed my new location, and the veracity of my claim that it was ‘still Beestonia’. To be fair, I was fairly unsure myself, so announced that Attenborough is technically ‘West-West Beeston’, just as Sat Bains is a Michelin-starred restaurant in East-East Beeston. This failed to convince some, so I did some research into my precise location and lo! Behold! It turns out, even by the low-ambition and imagination of civic cartographers, to be STILL IN BEESTON. As such, I shall sing:

Don’t cry for me Bee-eston-i-a / The truth is I never left you….

Not that living in a place away from where you represent really matters that much. I didn’t give us much as a gnats guff where our erstwhile MP Nick Palmer resided when he relocated to Mapperley: it was generally acknowledged that he still did his job effectively, whatever your political stripe. However, others thought this was a betrayal, and promised that if they were elected, they would immediately ring CP Walker and hot-foot it over from Gedling to become a true Broxtownian. Hurrah! We all cried, and keened to have this political luminary in our midst: how many of us didn’t think during that heady April in 2010 that we might get to pop round for a cup of sugar from our now dear leader, and abandoned all sense in this intoxication and marked our X so fervently on the ballot paper sparks did fly from the  pencil’s graphite, threatening to ignite that paper where Palmer, Watts, Mitchell, Cobb and that meatheaded BNP twat’s name also cried  for our vote? Such was this tsunami of love, Anna Soubry swept in with a truly incredible majority of 0.7% . A mandate, a cast iron mandate.

We’re not that far off being halfway between General Elections, and, as far as my sources can tell, we’re still to be waiting for her arrival. Last time I wrote about this, her partner Neil Davidson of famously awful builder’s Persimmon demanded I retract the piece as the house was on the market and the reason it had taken so long to get this done was entirely due to ‘personal issues’. Fair enough, but the reason Nick Palmer left Broxtowe – to get married- is definitely something that could be counted as ‘a personal issue’. Of course, you’d be a communist or worse to suggest that Our Delightful Leader is a hypocrite of the worst order, so I urge you: especially you, Javid, to hold your tongue. She’ll be here soon, and we shall welcome her with a procession of palms.

And we’ll all be happy until she does one and boggers off to Rushcliffe in 2015 to cement herself in the inevitably retiring Ken Clarke’s domain.

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Ah, enough of your easy-picking sarcastic tone, Lord B. That’s what I here you cry. Then you tell me that I can’t be that against her, as, being a GreenBelt loving man who spent his childhood ‘up woods’, or fording streams, or sitting in swaying fields watching nature…well, you can’t be against her, she’s championing the Greenbelt, you eejit! Plus, just not any old Greenbelt, Greenbelt right where you grew up, Field Farm, between Stabbo and Trowell. She’s your Boudicca of Bucolia, Beestonia, stop the snidiness for a moment and throw your inconsiderable weight behind her!

Oh, I do, I really do. I support her whole-heartedly. I’ll be the first to chain myself to the bulldozers when they roll in. But how honest is her support?  Is this just a cynical ploy? If she blocks all moves by Broxtowe Borough Council to identify and consult on sites – and she’s already furnished her newsletter recipitents with the wrong method of getting their voice heard (then blamed this on the complex red-tape of the consultancy process; despite being a system dreamt up by the Tories that she, ooops, voted for being put in place) – then Central Government find that the Borough has not come up with a coherent strategy, it then sends Eric Pickles rolling up the M1, and, with the help of crap developers , concrete over anywhere they fancy without out any local say-so.

Is this what she actually wants? I’m not a conspiracy theorist, though I do think Prince Philip faked the shooting of JFK on the Moon, but when she gets home from work and shares a pot of tea with her partner Neil (did I mention he is a senior bloke at Persimmon?) does she ever question the fact that he is behind stuff like this?

Just a thought.

 

 

 

 

 

Beestonia On the Stump (courtesy of Tamar Feast)

As mentioned last night, here is Tamar’s piece on the Stump as promised. I’m proud of many things when it comes to The Beestonian, and this is something that came in with a bullet as it comprises the best of citizen journalism: thoroughly researched, approaching a subject with an utterly fresh viewpoint and most importantly, written with a panache and flourish that makes it dance persuasively off the page, a textual Salome.

The full piece is available in Issue 9 of The Beestonian, in all good outlets now.

Enough from me, except to invite your opinion, your additions, your notes of admissions. Over to Tamar.

Beeston Stump: A Reappraisal

If there is one thing worse than modern public art it’s misunderstood modern public art. Robert Clark, leading art critic for The Guardian, wrote, “Sometimes it happens that art that is hard to write about is not written about and is therefore undervalued.” (2004)

Ever since the quietest rumblings about the Square’s potential ‘face-lift’, there have been associated whisperings regarding the fate of a certain prominent piece of Beeston public art. Commonly, and fondly (by The Beestonian) or disparagingly (by other publications), referred to as ‘The Stump’ and, less commonly, ‘Pigeon Perch’, the marble tree trunk sculpture in Beeston Square could well be for the scrap-heap if more isn’t done to save it.

After reading published views of Beeston residents keen to see the back of the sculpture, and much editorial in The Beeston Express … er … expressing similar views, it became apparent that a lot of people harbour a strong aversions to something which they admit they knew nothing about. Even its proper title was a mystery. Strange really, as this is a mystery quickly solved with a simple Google search. No need, however, as here, for your convenience, I hope to tell you a little about our mystery artwork!

I must show my colours here though, as I openly intend to be able to convert a fewofyouwhowanttolosethestump into fully-fledged Pigeon Perch fanciers. I’d like you all to warm towards it; come to love it for what it is – rather than “loathe it”, lazily, for what it is not.

So, I guess I should properly introduce you: Beestonians, meet ‘Water Head’; ‘Water Head’, meet Beestonians. Now shake hands and be nice.

‘Water Head’ was sculpted by award

‘Water Head’, by Paul Mason.

winning (and appropriately named) sculptor, Paul Mason. Mason was known for his large scale stone carvings, most of which were inspired by natural forms. Awarded a Royal Academy Gold Medal in 1976, Mason went on to win several awards for his work which exhibited around the UK and Europe – including Tate St. Ives and Bauhaus in Berlin. He taught at Loughborough, Staffordshire and Northumbria before being made Professor of Sculpture at Derby University in 2004. He was also Artist in Residence at Gloucester Cathedral and Tate St. Ives, and received commissions for public art for towns and cities up and down the country – including little ol’ Beeston. ‘Water Head’ clearly has a pedigree we should be proud of.

Commissioned in 1989 by Barry Protheroe of Broxtowe Borough Council, it cost £25,000 and originally (asitsnamesuggests)featuredacascade of gently flowing water. You may remember that ‘Leaf Stem’ near St Peter’s Church in Nottingham had the same feature. That was a Mason too. Both sculptures’ fountains were subject to water testing in the early ‘90s and just never reinstated.

Mason is said to be following in the tradition of Henry Moore, and is often compared with Moore and Barbara Hepworth. These are big names in modern sculpture – possibly THE ONLY big names in modern sculpture the average (wo)man on the street may know (I haven’t researched this bit, but I’d put my Friday bus fare on it). These comparison are well-founded, for Mason’s tutor was himself a student of Moore; and during his residency at Tate St. Ives, Mason was commissioned to use actual stone from Hepworth’s actual studio to create pieces for his Paul Mason: New Sculpture for Tate St. Ives exhibition in 1996. Quite a heavyweight, then. And I don’t just mean the stone.

I talked with Professor David Manley, a long-time friend and colleague of Mason, who has also written much about his work,

“Paul is probably the most important sculptor of his generation in the Midlands … he lived locally, in Loughborough then Long Eaton for several years before moving to Derby when he was made Professor of Sculpture there.

“He was very much a traditionalist; obsessed with carving stone, like Moore – and was the kind of artist who liked to look at others’ work, work of all styles and form. He was very generous in that regard.”

Mason was often keen to be involved in the setting of a piece (some of his favourite own work had their setting spotted first – such as Gloucester Cathedral, where Mason had visited a lot as a child; and Tate St. Ives, where his piece ‘The Internal Sea’ was made for a specific alcove Mason had seen when entering the gallery). It occurred to me that ‘Water Head’ probably wouldn’t be set as it is if Mason himself had had much to do with it. Looking at his other work for British towns, it’s easy to see ours as possibly the worst location of the lot. Harlow New Town managed it in a shopping area – why can’t we? Others have said they think the Square is the wrong setting for such artwork and that it should be moved somewhere like Broadgate Park. They have a point here – a point I’ll come back to. However, I would like to stress that the problem isn’t the sculpture, it’s the Square. It’s not the sculpture’s fault that the Square is an abomination. It’s not the sculpture’s problem that the Square couldn’t be uglier if the clock had hands and they were human. No piece of public art would look good in the Square BECAUSE OF THE SQUARE. Had planners left it the hell alone in the ‘70s I think we’d all be a lot better off in the aesthetic stakes right now.

Sadly, Paul Mason died in May 2006, aged just 54. Dedications to him from the people he worked with mention his generosity, kindness and enthusiasm for creative thinking. His pieces are quite solemnly beautiful; they often feature natural subjects – leaves, landscapes, plants, trees, organic shape, pattern and form. I like them. The more I see of them, and discover about him, the more I like our own bit of his work.. It also brings home that someone did this. By hand. Someone sat and stood for a long time chipping away at a massive block of marble to make something for us, to make a tree trunk for our Square. We can’t ask him about it, or what he thought of its destiny. He was still alive when the water features of both ‘Water Head’ and ‘Leaf Stem’ were decommissioned. He had a studio in Long Eaton so may have passed Beeston Square on his way there. I imagine, after spending so much time working on something, it must have been quite disappointing to not have it much appreciated; to have it maligned – or overlooked entirely.

My understanding is that part of the aim of Beeston’s regeneration is to showcase Beeston’s cultural and historical identity; and give it a more aesthetically pleasing aspect.

One idea is to reopen the area around Beeston Parish Church, near the square.

Frankly, you could come and stare at my compost bin and see more pleasing an aspect than Beeston Square at the moment, so I think this idea is a really good one.

There’s a gentle genius to sculpting a tree in stone for a town square. More so now because one of the few things ‘going on’ in Beeston is that trees are being cut down right, left and centre.

Let’s assume – going back to the suggestion of moving the sculpture – that ‘Water Head’ is not going to stay where it is. Why not move it to Beeston Parish Church? There is a space where a very mature tree stood in the southern grounds (I remember it as an Oak tree?). Every spring the crocuses and daffodils still come up in a ring around where its trunk once was. What better than a tree of stone in a graveyard to remind us of Beeston’s tree population, lost through building works? The modern, calm form of Mason’s carving could be appreciated at last, and may well come to be fondly called ‘Water Headstone’

instead. Ideally, I’d like to see ‘Water Head’ reinstated as the water sculpture it was, taken off that nasty slab plinth and maintain its position at the centre of the Square – perhaps with a Yew edging to it (I know, I’m running away with this…). Nottingham has a huge water feature now, so it’s clearly not IMPOSSIBLE. Unfortunately, I think the powers-that-be won’t agree with me. So in the very least I would hope we can retain Mason’s piece in another central, visible place. I would be very cross to see it disappear for good; a lot was spent on it – in money and creative effort.

But what does Beeston think to all this?

Well, when asked, Councillors David Watts and Steve Carr both expressed their respective strong desire to see the removal of the sculpture, believing it to be a “waste of space”. There was no response from Anna Soubry.

Many responses on Facebook and Twitter expressed disdain indifference and utter contempt. Two of you had to be reminded what, and where, it is (you know who you are). Henry Boot plc explained that, they had no desire to remove the sculpture and that it belonged to Broxtowe Council… and Broxtowe Council told me that plans for Beeston redevelopment, “are not sufficiently advanced to have covered the fate (or otherwise) of the Water Head sculpture… I have no doubt that if plans become more developed and there are any proposals relating to the open part of the Square, then these will be made public.” So I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Oh, and by the way – that art critic quote? By the eminent Robert Clark? He was actually talking about Mason when he said that.

Thanks to all who’ve got in touch about this – keep it coming!
Thanks go to David Manley for his kind help.

Beestonia is Nine; Barton’s Summer Starts; I leave Beeston (except I don’t)

As usual, I start this post with an apology for taking so long to write anything new, but I’ve got some real good excuses. First, we have beaverd away getting Issue 9 ready, our second 8 pager and now looking frighteningly like a proper mag, and not a fanzine typeset by drunk squirrels who wanted to knock off early to get an acorn kebab. We even have a logo. And a proper Facebook page, which I do believe you should go and ‘like’ now. Go on. I’ll even give you a link to make it easier…http://www.facebook.com/TheBeestonian

Best also mention that the new edition is officially out in a day or two: some teaser copies have been put out in Beeston already: well done if you found one: we’ll get the rest out soon. And if you really can’t wait….have a look at our page on the fantastic Issuu site: http://issuu.com/thebeestonian/docs/the_beestonian_issue_9

We’ll be using this space to stick up stuff that we get up to, and of late that been lots and lots of shenanigans. Jubilee Sunday saw us pitch up at Bartons for the inaugural Not The Camden Market, where we once again spread out our massive table topper inviting Beestonians to tell us what Beeston means to them. You’ve not been shy about it, either, and we’re nearly full. I’ll be scanning the whole thing soon and sticking it on-line. It’s like a wordy Bayeux Tapestry without the violence and needlework.

Bartons also enticed us down to their new live music now, with two high-quality acts twanging their guitars to the evening’s theme, Americana. I have a real soft spot for Neil Young and Gram Parsons, so my foot was tapping as I swigged whiskey cocktails to Simon Stanley Ward, a precocious, fantastically shirted and sweetly voiced cowboy-hatted crooner, then Mcniff,who I’m afraid I remember less of because I started to feel the effect of the aforementioned cocktails and as such, have alcho-amnesia. My more restrained friends reckon he was very excellent though, and they seem to have a good degree of taste so I’ll take their word for it.

The actual venue was also a surprise: a bar has been built into the room, and it manages, through subtle lighting, to be both barn -like yet intimate. I’ve long espoused my excitement regarding the potential of Bartons, so I’m overjoyed to see it start to fulfill it. Even Sir Paul Smith thinks so:

paul smith bartons

The next live music night is on July 7th, and is themed Latin, so look forward to Gregorian chants from some bussed in monks South American grooves kicking out of Chilwell Road. Tickets, info etc just a click away: http://www.bartonsplc.co.uk/

Another source of distraction that has driven me from my duties to bang on about Beeston for the delectation of your Inbox has been my decision to move house. Again. This will be my 7th move since moving back to the Midlands 11 years ago, which started in a squat in Sandiacre, to a weirdly tall house in the Rylands, onto a incredibly brightly decorated house near Queen’s Road where I sub-let from this bloke who in turn let it from Cllr. Steve Barber, though I had no idea who he was back then; then a cottage on Derby Road ran by a man obsessed with conservatories, followed by Derby Street, Marlborough Road then Willoughby Street. I’m thorough, you can give me that.

So now I’m decamping to…well, when I tell people they react with horror as they believe it’s ‘Not Beeston’ or ‘It’s more like Attenborough’ and the even more damning ‘You’re becoming a Chilwellian’. No. All untrue. Beestonia has reach far wider than the unimaginative lines cartographers carve it up by. Theres a whole article on this, but to get to the gist: Sat Bains. The University Campus. Attenborough Nature Reserve/Erewash Fields. Possibly Wollaton Park. These are all Beestonia.

Plus, it’s a damn sight more central to things than our elected representative’s choice of home. Miaow.

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Tomorrow I’ll be posting up  a fantastic article written by the ever talented sub-editor of The Beestonian, Tamar. It’s proper journalism, with research, interviews, uncovering of forgotten facts and with more style than Lord Byron riding a unicorn. Till then, tarah.