Beestonia 2012: The Year In Review. Part One: Good Stuff.

It’s the last day of the year, so time to condense a very odd 52 weeks into a few hundred words with before I head down the pub. Thus, please accept this as nothing as a skim through what occurred in our fine town. Let’s be lazy and do it as a set of lists: good enough for the proper press, good enough for me. All in no particular order. I really do have an awful lot of wine to acquaint myself with. I’ll be publishing similar lists, including one about our beloved leader, Soubz, throughout the week. But lets end the year with some positivity. Missed something? Comment, comment, comment.


1. THE HINDU TEMPLE CAMPAIGN: I doubt I’ve been prouder to be a Beestonian than when I was involved in this. To recap, a derelict church in Rylands was bought by a group of community minded locals who decided to convert it into a Hindu Temple, with facilities available for community activities. Sadly, this proved less than popular with some lunkheads who hijacked a community meeting, smashed the temple’s windows and damaged cars parked outside. This wasn’t the Beeston I knew, so I asked readers to send in cards to say how welcome they were, and gosh, you did. In your hundreds. The campaign got a boost when featured on BBC Radio Nottingham, and by the time it officially opened on Easter Sunday, the place was packed, a dazzling array of sound, colour and incense. I’ve been down a couple of times since, and while still not converting to Ganesha and Shiva, and definitely a full-on disciple of sweet, honey based snacks. Pop down sometime, Hinduism is a wonderfully inclusive faith and they’ll make you very welcome indeed. Full story here .

2. OXJAM TAKEOVER ROCKS BEESTON: I spent most of 2012 as Marketing Co-ordinator for the very worthy cause of Oxfam’s annual music festival, Oxjam, in it’s second apparition in this suburb. This is a fine role, involving tipsy seminars in Brum, tipsy Tuesday night meetings with the other co-ordinators, and then a week of sober, terrified panic in the preceding week. The day, however, was one of the most exhausting, heart-warming and downright fun of my life. Starting with an early slot on BBC Radio Nottingham (yes, again. They’ve been my top Johns in a year of media whoredom) where myself and Heather, a fellow coordinator were given an hour of airtime to pontificate on the day’s news stories while plugging the festival at any given opportunity. Then, back to Beeston, and a gig in the Square by the sublime Jar Family that set the tone for a day of unmitigated joy (unless you’re the local Tory, who, when we eventually repaired to a pub to slake our thirsts, accused us of various crimes including running a ‘politically motivated charity campaign’. I kid you not. Oh, and theft. He later apologised, so won’t name names). We raised just shy of £5,000, a grand up on last year. However, I think the true wonder of Oxjam is it’s ability to prove that Beeston, if it tries, can be an utterly fantastic place for nocturnal entertainment. We have the venues, we have the people. That night in October proved that. Which leads me nicely onto….

3. BARTON HOUSE ESTABLISHES ITSELF AS A PROPER VENUE. A drive-in cinema. A massive indoor market. Top-notch comedians. Some of the finest acoustic gigs I’ve ever seen. A huge art exhibition. Barton Corner, which so easily could have just been sat on and left to collapse into dereliction and decay instead injected itself in the arm with a straining syringe of sheer FUN. This time last year, was I to mention the potential of the place, people would look at me incredulously and ask ‘Where / what’s that?’. To which I’d explain it was an ex-bus depot, invariably evoking a response of wrinkled noses,sarcastic smiles and that face people do when they realise that you might be mad, but not dangerous. I confess an association with Simon Barton,the head-honcho of the place, but it’s only based on our shared faith that Beeston is a place that if you build it, they will come. Or, more accurately, get the roof done, put in some proper lavs and they’ll pop in. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the 2013 programme.

4. WILKOS CAMPAIGN HITS THE COUNCIL. Funny one this, as it was ultimately futile. I was recently chatting to Jimmy Wiggins, boss of the Guitar Spot on Chilwell Road, and I expressed a wish to see the end of all the horrible payday loan, cheque cashiers and other scum-suckers that have moved en-masse into Beeston to exploit the interminable recession. ‘How can we see the back of them?’ I implored. Wiggins didn’t miss a beat: ‘Run a campaign to keep them in Beeston’. Bastard.

A bastard with a point though. When I started the campaign in late December 2011, it seemed so simple. I wasn’t trying to save the premises; that was inevitable in it’s leaving; but to ensure all parties would do all they could to relocate a valuable piece of Beeston, and over 50 jobs, to another corner. In times of seemingly continual downturn and the High Street evaporating (today I encountered rumours that two out of three of our non-supermarket butchers are packing up) it was crazy to lose a real draw to the town, and fifty wage packets. Alas. The story is far too complex to relate here, and I’m forever explaining it in pubs and coffee shops. See that ‘search’ box at the top of the page? Stick Wilkos in that and do your own working out. Or allow me to crudely summarise: as with Boots, the original values of a local company, values that respected it’s employees, understood it’s clientele and had a vaguely symbiotic relationship with it’s locale has decided to only look at the bottom line. Profit is king, and the business fails to see it’s more abstract relationships that build it’s brand. Boots pissed on the grave of Jesse Boot when it moved it’s head office from the Rylands to Switzerland to evade tax. Wilkos haven’t got that far as yet, but when I hear from the workers who were made redundant, or those who were relocated and demoted, I can only feel the icy parallels. Back in 2013? You’ll go blue, then die if you hold your breath.

Still, presenting the petition to the council was of interest. Thousands of signatures, a rare complete consensus on vote across all parties. There will be more news on this in the New Year, once I can get it confirmed.

5. THE BEESTONIAN DOESN’T FOLD. In fact, we’ve not just survived, we’ve thrived. The physical manifestation of this blog has bucked trends and is now in rude health. We’re also twice as large as we were 12 months ago, and in that year found so much stuff about Beeston to endorse my belief that we live in the greatest town on Earth. I can’t even start to list the highlights, let alone the mediocrelights (there were no craplights). We’re now sticking together Issue 15, and as I rarely say nice things about them, may I momentarily humble doff my cap to the team of scribes I am so proud to host. These aren’t just people who can write (and illustrate), these are people that can WRITE*. There is little greater joy than receiving an email from one of them with an attached word file; and little greater sadness than, as an editor, editing for style and brevity. I’m astonished that I have such a great team, and all of them are fairly good at getting a round in. I have no idea where 2013 will take us, but those who have kept us afloat, and those who continue to do so, I cannot bow down  low enough. And if any of my fellow scribes are reading this; party is over, now get typing copy. We have a tight deadline. Etc. Not read it? Are you MENTAL??? Then best click about here and catch up.

Oh, and I best do 5a) GOT ENGAGED TO LADY BEESTONIA. As of Christmas Eve, I pledged to put away childish things. Except, of course, this blog. A splendid Hogmany to you all.

*and ILLUSTRATE. Cheers, Lottie, Queen of the fur-babies.

Beestonia Gets Cained, Gets Moore, Gets Bent.

It is my hobby, nay, my passion; and the driving force behind Beestonia that one can see the greater pattern in all things. Beeston is; though seldom seen with it’s inhabitants unenlightened eyes; something other than the Centre of the Universe. My purpose in life is to prove this. Well, it is until my ADHD-raddled mind flitters to the next interest. If I run off half way through this piece to ride bikes or investigate the implications of the invention of a new form of custard, I apologise. Ritalin is a nightmare to score these days.

So, on arrival back to the UK after a pleasantly silly weekend in Rome, I asked my driver if there had been any major news while I’d been away. A tentative pause and then ‘Ah yes. Patrick Moore died.’ And that wierd feeling of loss of someone who is/was older than anyone you know; as well as someone you didn’t know, descended. A weird, mental melancholic sigh. Not the shock of those that feel have been coarsely, crudely amputated from your worldview, but more a sloughing of skinflake;a broken off nail; a hair that leaves with the brush.

One has to be careful in these post-Savile days, but I reckon he was a good guy. Maybe an unreconstructed sexist relic in some of his opinions, but an auto-didactic, an enthusiastic in extremis, and possibly, and not just because he was a bit tidy with a Xylophone. I’m sure that as you read this, you will, with me, doff a metaphoric cap. But what links this translator of the heavens to Beeston?

Well, I have one, and it’s a corker. Sometime last decade, I was living briefly in Kent, and a complusive buyer of music magazines. Chancing upon an article one afternoon, regarding the new wave of inventive chill-out (or some other awful label) I noticed one half of a featured duo was, like me, a St. Applefordian in exile. Hiya, Simon Mills, gingerish bloke in my GCSE art-class, whatjadoing in Q???

What he was doing, quite simply, was being rather great and being 50% of the inventors of an album I hold to be one of the best of the last decade and a bit, Programmed To Love . The band was Bent. The other half of the duo? An idiosyncratic musical genius called Nail – yes, Nail- Tolliday: a born and bred Beestonian. They were described at the time, as a band that lingered in that middle ground between Air and Radiohead.

And the amazing link to Patrick Moore? Check out the video to their first proper single release:

But thats not all. Bent made a mint off their combined talents, selling their stuff to Moby-stoked advertising ‘creatives’, and picked up many a fan on the journey. One of them was, rather improbably, Michael Caine.

He was such a fan, our Alfie, that when asked to compile a CD of his favourite tracks; named, I kid you not, Cained , he included Bent’s

Yes, it’s like one of those parallel universe stories you read in a schlocky science fiction book by a bloke whose surname is inevitably preceded by two initials. But it gets even better. Not only did Sir Michael Caine, him off Zulu, The Italian Job, The Ipcress File, and, of course, A Muppet Christmas Carol (Lady Beestonia’s favourite Christmas film) so loved the Beeston/ Stabbo collaboration that was Bent he CHOSE IT AS ONE OF HIS DESERT ISLAND DISCS.

Yes, the former Maurice Micklewhite, possibly the most consistently employed British actor of all time and the subject of the most complex impersonation possible, is, by association a Beestonian. Want more proof? Well, who played Alfred, in the Batman Dark Knight series? Don’t even bother Googling it. Or where it was filmed. Or where the name of the fictional city it was based in was garnered from.

Like I said. Like I’ ve said a million times before. Beeston is the centre of all, if one applies a careful enough eye. A view of the cosmic, and the microscosm.



Oh, you can buy their back catalogue here: it comes with the oh-so-rare Beestonia Certificate of Approval.

Soubry And The Campaign That Isn’t Going To Plan.

Another post? So soon after you wrote your last one? Haven’t you got a birthday to celebrate tomorrow? What with this fervant need to tell us more stuff?

Still yourself, dear reader. I have an early birthday present and I simply can’t let it wait till I’m over 38 years old before I tell you. Before I start, grab a cup of tea, and get comfy. If your name is Anna Soubry MP, do the same, put perhaps substitute the tea for Grappa. You very well may need it.

Let’s talk housing; an issue that is without doubt the real number one zinger of a subject in Broxtowe right now. Beestonians possibly don’t see it as so – we are far too engrossed in the tram shenanigans- but zoom out a bit and the battles being fought in Stapleford and Toton regarding the siting of new housing are getting rather bloody.

A quick precis: Broxtowe Borough Council are charged by Central Government to draw up a plan to address the problem of a lack of affordable housing factoring in variables such as demographic projections, urban density and so on. This has created great controversy, due to various gree-belt sites being identified, and as such given our dear MP a strong stump to campaign from: she has done little else to show she is ‘Broxtowe’s Voice In Westminster’ as she promised before the election, so a popularist campaign on an emotive subject is a god-send for her, and her campaign manager (Neil Davidson, her partner, who we shall come back to).

So what’s not to like about this campaign? Who truly wants to build on green-field sites? We recognise the need for more housing, and I personally think the solution to that conundrum is a huge rethink on how property is owned in this country: not something that any party will dare get into unless the house-price obsessed populace feel the gold-mine they live in is under threat in any way.

Without such a radical overhaul, one has to be pragmatic and thorough. The process of deciding sites needs to be kept firmly within local democracy, however unpopular their decisions may turn out to be. The developments in Toton and on Stapleford’s Field Farm will never have outright cheerleaders (though it is worth remembering that where you are sitting right now was at some point in history greenbelt), but to fail to come up with a coherant plan that satisfies the Government appointed Planning Inspector will result in a virtual carte blanche to developers. The thinking runs thus: if you can’t sort it out, then tough, we’ll take that power away.

This is no idle threat. Planning Minister Nick Boles MP recently issued a statement, endorsed by the PM, that priority should be given in all Government departments to address the housing crisis, with an attack on the NIMBYism of those who oppose siting new estates on greenfield.

In regards to the above, I asked Soubry, via Twitter, if she would be willing to stand up in the Commons and rebuke this. No answer, unsurprisingly has been recieved. Where thus, do her loyalties lie? Does she stand up for Broxtowe campaign and clash with Cameron and the Cabinet, or does she pretend Boles didn’t say anything and let her Government do one thing while telling her constituents she’s doing all she can?

Anna’s response to solving the crisis has been consistent, that I will give her. We should look to Rushcliffe, of course, and the way they are treating the new-homes issue. A good point, maybe we should. I hadn’t really though of casting my eye that side of the Trent, but then again, I’m unlikely to ever live there, unlike Anna.

So what of Rushcliffe’s plan that Anna is so in awe of? Are we idiots not to demand our Borough Councillors look over to Rushcliffe? Until today, you might have thought it might be a good idea.

That was until the Government Planning Inspector responsible for overseeing Rushcliffe’s plans, Jill Kingaby, damned their proposals, regarding them as severely flawed and  unworkable  .  Still a fan, Anna?

If Rushcliffe don’t sort out their plan, then they lose control of where planning goes, and this is passed over to developers to do what they will. Is this what Soubry wants? Surely not. Surely this could never happen to any Council?

Step forward, Castle Point Council, in Essex, whose Core Strategy was rejected fter being pronounced ‘unsound’. Residents there are now fighting what seems like an unwinnable battle against developers there who seem to have been giving free-rein to build. The developers? Persimmon.

Soubry’s partner and Campaign Manager is the aforementioned Neil Davidson, who is a non-executive director, and shareholder at Persimmon. Just a coincidence, I’m sure: non-executive directors have, as the name suggests, have no (offical) executive power. Anna and Neil are notoriously tetchy on this point, to the point of issuing pre-legal notices to Broxtowe Labour Party when they noticed the connection. Draw your own conclusions.

To summarise, what looks like Anna’s personal Core Strategy for reelection in Broxtowe come 2015 (or sooner) is on shakier ground than a house built by Persimmon. How can she:

  • Claim Broxtowe should follow Rushcliffe in addressing planning strategy?
  • Reconcile her postion with that of Cameron and Boles?

Feel free to email / write / shout at a brick wall these concerns to our MP.

Roman Abeestoniavich.


It was our Glorious Leader Anna Soubry’s birthday on Friday, so to prove I am a courteous fellow I did the decent thing and left the country. Or at least tried to.

Accompanied by a very excited Lady Beestonia, we popped down to Luton to catch a flight to Rome, which I’d heard was comparable to the Glories of Beestonia. I figured that if it was good enough for that other Scots-born, Nottingham based flamboyant egotist writer, it was good enough for me.

Sadly, our 3pm flight was delayed until it became an 8pm flight, with £5 airport vouchers given in mitigation. £5 in an airport buys approximately one quarter of an awful sandwich, or less than a pint of booze: and these vouchers were not even redeemable against alcohol.

So expecting an evening of high-culture, fine wines and gourmet cuisine, I spent it sucking on a Burger King cheeseburger to make it last, while drinking overpriced, curiously warm Guinness in the surroundings of not just Luton, but a soulless, echoing shed of an airport. La Dolce Vita.

If that has kindled any flame of sympathy for me, extinguish it, as I don’t deserve it: instead transfer it to the patience and fortitude of Lady Beestonia. She stoically put up with my semi-delirious jokes (‘Name an evil ancient Roman?’ ‘Nero?’ ‘No, Polanski’) and sudden urge to pretend I was in Rome, taking tourist photos of the urinals and banging them on Twitter as ‘The Trevi Fountain’, and the stairs running up to the upper floor as ‘The Spanish Steps’.

We eventually arrived at our digs tired, cold, wet (Rome in December is it’s concentrated rainy season), and mildly hung over from our boredom-induced drunkenness at Luton. The receptionist was a typically Italian man: mid-fifties but so handsomely chiselled and effortlessly urbane,they make Clooney look like a drunk and confused Keith Chegwin, the bastards. He put before us a tourist map, from which he sketched out potential things to see in our now even-briefer visit; with explanations of how to get about in the city.

‘This is the tram route. Are you familiar with trams?’

I don’t think he was expecting the force and frequency of my nod: imagine a woodpecker on amphetamines.

You’re a sophisticated lot, and have probably been to Rome so many times you are on first name terms with the Pope, so I shall spare you a lengthy what-I-did-on-my-holidays boreathon. However, here are some observations:

  • In Italy, the puffa-jacket was by no means a transitory fashion: it’s seemingly compulsory.
  • EVERY political party poster that adorn the city billboards seem to show someone promoting a quasi-fascist party: lots of clenched fists; rippling flags and exclamation marks. Might just be a Latin aesthetic: for all I know the shaven headed guy with the menacing goatee smoking a cigar with the word ‘TEMPO!!’ that adorned one such poster could be a passive Lib-Dem type; or representing a new, pro-sandal party.
  • Red wine IS the key to all that is happy.
  • Understand the above observation and be content. To decide to try and push the concept of happiness by asking a waiter ‘What’s Grappa like?’ will give you thirty mins pure euphoric insight into the mechanisms of the world, followed by eight hours of feeling that yes, your mind has expanded, but has ditched the metaphysic revelry and just wants to get out of your skull, fast.
  • Their is yet to be music written that is so mellifluous, so melodic, so listenable to than the Italian accent.
  • Informing the long queue waiting outside the Coliseum , as you stroll out, that ‘Shouldn’t bother mate. Load of shit. Not even finished building it yet’ will not endear you to anyone.

Anyhow, I’m back now, despite another delay on the return leg: cheers Monarch Airlines. I do hope you appreciated my gift to you, Ms Soubry.

Oh, and by the way, it’s my birthday tomorrow (the 11th). Care to return the favour?


On the subject of my birthday (I’ll be 30, minus VAT) I shall be down The Crown tomorrow from 7pm where you are more than welcome to buy me a drink. No, really, I don’t mind. And if you can’t make it, feel free leave the correct change for a pint (£2.50) behind the bar. Alternately, just drop a teaspoon of grappa into my mouth next time I pass you in the street.