Ladbrokes vs. Young Potential: guest post by Christian Fox.

Earlier today, Christian Fox and I visited ViTal, the shop that raises funds for the Y0ung Potential charity. It’s a great local charity, ran by the energetic and enthusiastic Teresa Cullen. We were there to witness the High Sherriff of Nottingham present a cheque for £10,000 donated by Geo. Hallams

Despite this tremendous good fortune, these are rough times for ViTal.  It’s a familiar story of greed, exploitation and our High Street being sold to the worst possible people. over to Christian:

Broxtowe-20130627-00355 (2)

For the last issue of The Beestonian, I went down to ViTaL on Beeston High street, put on a dress and had my photo taken. You might remember it. I hope you don’t. It was very embarrassing, and frankly I felt a little bullied into doing it. Only a little though, as in my heart I realised that I was doing it in support of ViTaL, an honestly brilliant charity set up and run by Theresa Cullen.

So when I heard someone saying something about ViTaL and bullying, I thought it had something to do with my little coerced flirtation with gender norms. I was saddened to discover something very different.

It is no secret that the charity has been told in general terms that its landlords are in talks with Ladbrokes to take over the premises, after ViTaL’s lease runs out in September. But shockingly the story is much more complicated.

On the phone, Theresa tells me that whilst their Landlord has not even officially told them when they’re out, Ladbrokes have already been granted a gaming license and planning consent for the premises. It’s clearly a done deal, and one that has been done without the knowledge of the current tenants.

Theresa tells me that Ladbrokes members have been coming into the shop and measuring the building, like they’re moving in soon.

“We’ve not the slightest inclination to move, at least not until our lease runs out in September,” Theresa says, but clearly Ladbrokes have other plans.

I ask Theresa what this means, not just for her, but for Beeston as a whole.

“I believe putting a Ladbrokes there will make Beeston…” She struggles for the word. “I’m so aggrieved. Right now that part of Beeston is nothing but empty shops, betting shops and pubs. It’s not a nice place. This will only make it worse.”

She asserts that Ladbrokes wants the premises for three reasons. The first is that the rent is slightly cheaper than further up the high street, being just off of the main run. Theresa says that ViTaL can only just afford the rent themselves.

“Next to us we’ve got an Oxfam and a Sue Ryder, but those are huge businesses. They can afford the rent because they have infrastructure. We’re the equivalent of a small independent retailer, and we’re being kicked out by another big business, one that’s already over-represented in Beeston.”

The next reason, she tells me, is that the premise is opposite the Greyhound pub.

“Ladbrokes wants to target drunk people. They’ll come out of the pub, go in there and get robbed blind. And this is the short end of the wedge. I’m certain that once Ladbrokes has opened here, other betting shops will open here to compete with them.”

It’s a disturbing thought. There  are already what can be reasonably be considered too many betting shops  on the High Street, but for this new shop to act as a gateway for more to  be built? Who, besides the cash sucking, soulless betting shops could want that?

Well… the subtext of all of this, given that the council has already given Ladbrokes its gaming license, can only mean that it fully approves. There have been a great number of complaints about this story since it came to light in May, even pleading for the lease not to be sold to Ladbrokes, but they have fallen on deaf ears. Ears which are only attuned to the sound of business, profit, and exploitation.

The third reason though, is all the more incendiary. I have four words for you; fixed rate betting machines, or as they have been described “the crack cocaine of gambling.” It’s not hard to understand why they’ve been described like that, when we see that punters can bet up to £100 every twenty seconds on these high stakes machines. That is up to 50 times more than your average fruit machines, which tend to vary from £1-2 stakes.

Since 2012 the number of these machines has doubled in the UK from around 16,000 to over 32,000. They represent over half of Ladbrokes’ intake. By law a betting shop can have no more than four in any premises, and so by “coincidence” the number of betting shops has doubled, or in the case of some parts of Britain quadrupled, in the last few years.

All the pieces are fitting together, aren’t they? It’s quite simple. Ladbrokes want as much money as possible, so to get around this four machine limit they’re trying to cluster betting shops. And so are others. In pursuit of profit, these awful businesses are actively targeting those with gambling problems and the poor, and bullying out genuine businesses and charities like ViTaL.

Regardless on your stance on gambling, there is no way one can argue that this is ethical, or in any way beneficial to the community of Beeston, one that is already suffering from our poor economy and the building of the tram. Theresa Cullen and ViTaL are being bullied out of Beeston. They will have nowhere to go, and the people who need the money they make and the services they provide won’t be the only ones who suffer. Something has to be done.

Young Potential is 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.

If you would like to volunteer at ViTaL, or want to help raise awareness about this tragic circumstance, you can e-mail at or call 0115 9677819.

Mary Berry Beestonian / Smith’s Out? / Beestival / Begging Bowls / HS2: Folly or Saviour?

We have the Oxjam Beeston Bake Off on Saturday: so cancel any other plans and head up to Roundhill School to see the best of Beeston cake. We have a pop-up cafe, some local celebrity guests on the judging panels, and lots, lots more. Every penny we make goes to Oxjam directly, to both fund the festival and stick direct in our coffers.

We’re still keen to recieve more entries, so if you fancy bringing something along, or getting your kids to bring something along, we’d love to have you. More details, and an on-line application form, here .


Rumour comes in that another Beeston shop is to go, and this one is a biggee. Looks like WHSmith maybe leaving Beeston in November, leaving a huge hole in the High Street. No doubt the parasites of the recession will rub their hands in glee at this and rush to fill the space with bookies, pawnbrokers, legal loan sharks and other crap.

Ladbrokes won’t be one of them, at least not yet. They’ve already effectively forced the Young Ptential shop, ViTal, out of their premises so they stick a bookies full of Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (the crack-cocaine of betting) into a premise handily opposite a pub, to cream off as much money off the vulnerable before a minister has the balls to set out legislation to regulate these scummy gits.

The way they have treated ViTal has been a dreadful case of bullying and intimidation: a fuller report on this will be online later this week.


Fantastic times at Beestival in Broadgate Park on Friday. I manned a stall promoting Oxjam and The Beestonian, albeit reluctantly as the weather forecast was predicting monsoons. These never appeared, however, and we had a beautiful evening with the ever fantastic Emma Bladon Jones headlining. If this works on a Friday, then how about a few of these events every Summer?


Lord B showing why he should leave the stage to the professionals….photo courtesy of the ever ace Chris Frost (check his blog out at



And while we’re on the subject of The Beestonian, we’re about to take a step up and make it 50% bigger, with 12 pages instead of 8. Tamar, our assistant editor and design queen, has totally restructured it: we’re gorgeous.

But funding is always precarious, and printing ain’t cheap. As we’re not-for-profit, any shortfall can delay us considerably. So we really need your help; either in sponsorship, advertising or donation. If you’d like to help in anyway, please contact us at .


My monthly column in The Nottingham Post was published on Saturday, and it is once again on a transport theme (odd that I seem to write about that. I rarely leave Beeston and tend to walk everywhere. Still, writing about stuff you’re not part of is no barrier. Soubry had a column in The Beeston Express for 3 years).

For balance, a fan of HS2, Cllr. Steve Barber, has written the following in support of the superfast choo-choo….over to Steve…

Why HS2?: By Steve Barber.

It’s all about capacity. The roads and railways to the south and beyond are at capacity. If you want to be in London for a 9.00am meeting you must either go by train, stand for at least part of the journey there or back and pay through the nose or set off at 5.00am by car, probably get stuck in a jam then pay through the nose for parking and congestion charge. We need another way into London and to the continent. What are the options?

 Motorway or Railway?

Let’s do a bit of maths;

  • A car every 2 seconds in each lane of a 3 lane motorway carriageway with 1.5 people per car equates to 8,100 people per hour.
  • HS2 is designed for up to 18 trains per hour each with a capacity of 1,100 passengers; 19,800 people per hour.


So we could build one High speed line or two six lane motorways. I know which I prefer from an environmental argument.



A train on High speed 1 next to the 6 lane M2. The railway has twice the capacity of the motorway with less than half the land take.

 Why not invest in our current railway?

When I worked for Nick Palmer as MP we saw several Secretaries of State and Ministers of Transport lobbying for improvements to our Midland Main Line. We eventually got a commitment to enhance and electrify the line, which is now underway. However, we were told that this is as far as improvements can go. The line is Victorian, designed to primarily carry coal and beer and is too full of twists, restrictions and structures which cannot be rectified without demolishing huge areas in Leicester, Market Harborough, Kettering, Luton and elsewhere. A brand new line would eventually be needed.

Do we need to travel?

The rest of the world seems to say yes. In Britain long distance rail travel has increased by 65% over the last 10 years.

Rail patronage UK


Rail travel in the UK has steadily increased


In Europe they keep on building more High Speed lines:

High Speed lines by country

Country         Existing               under construction

Spain            1285                               1104

France          1185                                 131

Germany        803                                 236

Italy                577                                     0

UK                  71                                      0

Do the economics stack up?

The National Audit Office has recently commented that the economic case is not proven. We are talking of economies in the time period 2030 to 2100, can anyone predict what will happen then? Could Queen Victoria possibly envisage Motorways, the internet, jet airline travel and Skype? So let’s look at what we do know:

London and the South East is a lot better off economically that we are. The latest unemployment figures show:

  • 1 in 8 unemployed in North Nottingham; 1 in 20 in the South East
  • A man in the South East earns on average 67% more than a woman in Nottingham North.(both in full time employment)
  • Sixteen people chasing every job in parts of Nottingham. Two in the South East.


There is a need to encourage employers into the regions; employment always has gone along with good connectivity.

Historical Content

During the period after the war, when we were heavily in debt, we, along with most of the world invested in a motorway infrastructure. There can be little doubt that this encouraged economic activity, leading to prosperity in the 60’s and beyond. Over the last half century the motorways have served us well, but times change and we now need a low energy, high speed, low environmental impact answer. It can be argued that West Germany led the way; a country in ruins in 1945 but by 1975 the economic powerhouse of Europe. Albania found itself in a similar position but was unable to invest in infrastructure so regrettably became a back-water before being torn apart by strife in the 90’s.

We shall soon sit in a similar post recession position. Will we take the West German way forward or the Albanian?

Guest Post by Neslihan Brewin: Trouble in Taksim.

Thanks for all the submitted pieces sent in after my requests, they will be put up over time. However, one piece came in with a long email explaining the urgency of the situation. Nes, a young Turkish woman living in Beeston and erstwhile barperson at The Crown, is watching the events unfold in Turkey with horror. Her sisters are in Istanbul’s Taksim Square ‘covered in blood’ as Erdogan’s men shoot rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. Nes is trying to organise a rally in Nottingham, to raise awareness of the Taksim protesters cause, and she wants you to help. Here’s why:

Can we as Turkish people really regard Recep Tayyip Erdogan as our prime minister?

No, we cannot, definitely not. How could we regard him as our prime minister after everything he has done to his people since he became  prime minister in 2002 and  began to rule more like a dictator?  He is a dictator pretending to be democratic. Why so many of us are unhappy, angry? Because we want to be heard, and we do not care anymore about what threats our PM makes . Erdogan  has changed the atmosphere in Turkey in a negative way. When he speaks of the 50% that did not vote for him, he is sarcastic, threatening, he speaks of us as we are nobody, and he does not care what we think or want. If we are against him, our views are worthless. It is all about what he wants for himself, not for his people.

He is using the existing democracy to finally get rid of the democracy we have in our beautiful country. He has become more and more intolerant of criticism from opponents, imprisoning so many journalists ( according to Reporters Without Borders, Turkey is ‘world’s biggest prison for journalists’) . Since he  became PM  the number of women killed for honor killings has risen; and the number of women, young girls and children being raped has significantly increased. The proud secularism of our country is being eroded by Erdogan’s desire to turn us into a Theocracy. Corruption has exploded right through the state.

My family and friends  are involved in protests and I would like to be there with them on their side, since I cannot do that right now, I would like to speak and make myself heard here in England. I would like to be the voice for them, the Turkish people. I do feel concerned for my country, and I am worried for my fellow Turks and about what Erdogan has done so far and may do to keep himself in power like any other dictator that has existed. He is a highly dangerous person, willing to murder his own citizens to ensure he stays in power . He has caused so much harm for his country and his people. The Gezi Parki situation is the outburst of everything that has been going on in Turkey since Erdogan came to power .

taksim 3

We are angry that  a peaceful protest in Taksim has turned into a chaos by his troops who have killed, maimed and blinded many for peaceful protest . He then calls the protesters terrorists: a tactic used by the former leaders of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. If a nonviolent protest makes us terrorists, what does it make to be using police violence against ordinary people. We are not the terrorists, we are the 50% – about 40 million people, most of us the youth, university students, children who have pans and pots, flowers, books, Turkish flags in our hands. Not guns, not bombs. They have them, and use them indiscriminately.


We want freedom of speech, we want a secular government, we want our PM  to stop forcing his Islamic values on everyone else. We want him to stop using police force upon us just because we disagree with him. We want a free press. Above all we do not want him to call us a ‘minority’; this protest is from at least half the population, not a tiny bunch of agitators. We want him to respect us and if he chooses to ignore us, we will grow bigger and stronger,  our freedom is important to us. His aggressive response to our peaceful protests only made us, all of us, become a big family, grow closer despite our differences,and he did not expect that and so is lashing out in fear.

I also believe that the 50 % that voted for him has declined by now after his attitudes towards Turkish people, Turkish communities, Turkish cities, Turkish youth, Turkish universities, Turkish women, Turkish children. And we could have forgiven him and moved on if he apologised but each time like a guilty person he has run out of the country. People are fed up with it, people want him to accept responsibilities of his actions, speeches etc. He may think we forget but we do not, instead we have allowed ourselves to bottle it up. We did not forget how he spoke to our farmers, and how he threatened them, we did not forget that he cannot stand the secular pride of the Turkish flag, Ataturk, we did not forget the women killed and sexually abused because of him, we did not forget the division he caused between the people of Turkey, we did not forget many more problems he created and lastly we did not forget Reyhanli.

We need Erdogan to hear our voice, not just in Taksim Square, but all over the world.


Nes will be organising a protest in Nottingham soon. If you would like to be part of it, or can help in some way (printing costs for leaflets, spreading the word via social media, etc) please contact her directly at .

Soubry Forces Broxtowe to Redesign Heraldic Crest: EXCLUSIVE.

Soubry has come out for the badger cull, on the 5th June she voted for the cull. This is rather unfortunate, as the constituency she represents has a badger as it’s symbol – brox /brocks, geddit?

badger orig

In light of this vote, it has been decided that the council coat of arms be altered accordingly. Myself and my colleague Christian Fox (no relation to any of the other quadrapeds Tories love to kill) have therefore redesigned the crest:



Guest Post from David Watts: One Law For Them…?

I’ll be letting others take the reins of this blog for the next few weeks: I have so many projects on at the moment: Oxjam and it’s various fundraisers, setting up a cinema club in Beeston, writing columns for other publications and expanding The Beestonian to a colossal 12 pages I’m simply finding it hard to keep this reguarly updated. However, I’m very keen for others to write on subjects that they are more savvy on than me, or merely feel strongly about. I’m willing to host any view which isn’t overtly bigoted, libellous or batshit. Email me at if you fancy writing a piece for me.

I’ve recently been concerned about the legal aid reforms that are being imposed, and tried to get my head round them as it seems to be a commodification of justice: the privatisation of the law. If you have more money, you get more ‘justice’. It seems absurd this could happen: surely ‘justice’ is fundamental infrangible foundation to society, rather than a product that can be sold in different quantities and qualities.

Yet I’m no expert, so I decided to ask someone who was. Here follows a piece from Borough Councillor David Watts (LibDem) who IS clued up (he’s a solicitor after all). It’s a quite powerful read:

A few years ago my brother in law, Andrew, a farmer, was driving his tractor and trailer back from a field where he had been working to the farm. Unfortunately a car coming too fast behind him ploughed into the trailer and two people in the car were killed. The police decided that you couldn’t blame the dead driver for the accident (I’m quoting from the accident report here) and so Andrew was prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving. To prove that it must be Andrew’s fault the police even staged a reconstruction of the scene (at a cost of just over £10,000).

Fortunately Andrew had a good, thorough and hard working solicitor. He was able to get an expert to calculate the speed of the other car and show that when it hit Andrew it was doing over 100 miles an hour, and if the driver had braked at the first moment that he could have seen the tractor he was going so fast that he would still have hit it at speed. As for the reconstruction the defence team were able to show that the police had used the wrong size trailer and the wrong type of car. The lighting on the Volvo they used was far different to the Renault in the accident. Finally the defence were able to prove that a mark on the road that the police said was crucial in determining how the accident happened was in fact nothing to do with the accident at all.

The jury at the trial didn’t take long to find Andrew not guilty. I’ve told this story though to illustrate how easily anyone can get sucked into the criminal justice system. Had Andrew been convicted he would have faced several years in prison. Thank goodness he chose a good solicitor to represent him. Andrew got legal aid for the case as he would not have been able to afford the £25,000 bill for dealing with the case, which took nearly a year before it got to court (all caused by the police or prosecution, none by the defence who wanted the matter resolved as quickly as possible.)

The Government are now planning massive changes to legal aid to reduce eligibility and to take away a person’s right to choose who will represent them. They say that criminal legal aid costs over £1 billion a year and they have to reduce this by £220 million. I’ll confess to an interest here as I am a solicitor, but I’m also a member of a party of Government and I think that these are truly offensive ideas. I’ve spent much of the last few weeks meeting Lib-Dem MP’s at Westminster to discuss the proposals, and most are as opposed to them as I am. Hopefully we can kill off this scheme but it will be a hard fight.

Legal aid lawyers are not fat cats. I’m not complaining about that as I made a conscious choice that I wanted to use my skills to help people rather than make the massive amounts that commercial lawyers can make. The average salary paid to a legal aid solicitor in 2010 (the last time the figures were published) was £25,000 and I’ve certainly not had a pay rise since then. I doubt many others have either. The rates that the Legal Aid Agency pays for criminal legal aid work were last increased in 1996 (17 years ago) and have been cut on a number of occasions since.

So what are these proposals that the Government are putting forward? First they want to reduce the number of firms providing the service. In Nottinghamshire there are currently about 25 firms who provide criminal defence work across the county and they want to reduce it to just 6. Across the country they want to reduce the supplier base from 1,600 firms to just 400.  The vast majority of criminal law firms at the moment are small businesses. The rest of the Government are talking about supporting small businesses but the Ministry of Justice are going in quite the opposite direction.

The Ministry of Justice are proposing that the new contracts should be awarded to firms in a tendering process, so that they go to the lowest bidder. They accept that to make this work they would have to take away a person’s right to choose their solicitor and people would have to accept the solicitor allocated to them by the state. Just think about that for a moment. The state will investigate someone through the police and will prosecute someone (all prosecutions are brought in the name of the Queen). The state will put you in a position where you might lose your good name or even worse your freedom, and now the state want to dictate who you will be represented by. (If you weren’t happy about this and wanted to pay privately you can, but a law that was brought in last year means that even if you are found not guilty you can’t get your money back.)

With a maximum of six firms for Nottingham it is inevitable that at least five of them, if not all six, will be based in the city centre. It is possible that one may be based in Mansfield. There is no chance whatsoever that any of them will be based in Beeston any more, so we will inevitably lose solicitors based locally.

How will the state allocate your solicitor? They are looking at different ideas. It may depend on your date of birth, or alphabetically on your surname. It may depend on what day of the week you are arrested. I’ve suggested that they could do it on people’s star signs. It makes as much sense as their proposals.

As well as this there are a couple of obstacles that will prevent existing solicitors firms from even bidding for the new contracts. Whilst the Government have said that they want firms to bid for the contracts they have said that the maximum bid must be at least 17.5% below existing rates (those that haven’t increased for 17 years). This ignores a report from the National Audit office last year that said that most criminal law firms were struggling to survive on the rates that were paid then.  (they have already been reduced since.)The most profitable firms turned out to be sole practitioners, but larger firms made only about 4% profit. A cut of 17.5% will drive many firms out of business. There is no more fat to cut.

The second problem is that most firms are, as I said above, small businesses. They haven’t got the resources to provide the levels of cover that the Ministry want to build into each contract. Not only that but they don’t have the option to expand. The contracts the Ministry are offering are only for 3 years and with such short contracts and such low returns banks will simply not lend money to finance growth.

The next problem with the proposals is that the Government want to build in financial incentives for solicitors to advise their clients to plead guilty or, if they insist on having a trial, to keep it short. They refer to this as “harmonising fees” which means that they are proposing to pay the same fee whether the client pleads guilty or has a trial. Solicitors are already paid a flat fee for a case, so if someone pleads guilty in the magistrates court in Nottingham I’m paid a fee of about £160. If they have a trial I’m paid about £300 for the case. The new proposal is that the fee for a guilty plea should be paid for all cases, which will mean that solicitors will have a financial interest in getting clients to plead guilty.

Most defendants appearing in court already plead guilty. Because my clients know me and trust me when I advise them that they have no defence most will accept that advice and plead guilty. This saves the state a huge amount of money that would be wasted if everyone contested every trial. Clients trust me because they know that I have their best interests at heart. Will that still be the case if they think that I have a financial interest in the outcome?

You may expect that before introducing such significant changes the Government would carry out some sort of risk assessment. They have published one. Its conclusion is that they have no idea what the impact of these changes will be. It seems to me that to proceed with such a radical scheme without knowing what the impact will be is negligent in the extreme. I’ve said so to the Minister of Justice face to face. I’m not sure he was listening.

So then, if there are no solicitors firms anymore, who will be the people who get the contracts and will represent you in court? So far one firm has come forward to say that they will bid for a contract – Eddie Stobart. No, you didn’t read that wrong, the haulage company Eddie Stobart have decided that they will bid to run a legal firm to represent people accused of crime. This is not because they have a deep seated desire to promote justice but because they can see profit in it (by paying low wages and making sure no-one contests the charges). Even the Daily Mail thought this was too crazy for words:

It is probably the first time I have ever agreed with the Mail about anything, ever.

Other firms will come forward as well. I imagine that G4S will be interested. After all, they already work with the police, provide forensic science services, train magistrates, run prisons, transport prisoners to court and even run probation services. They might as well defend people as well. Provided you’re not worried about justice or fairness, or the obvious conflict of interests in this, this seems a good idea.

On the other hand you might think that it is a bad idea. You might expect that when these ideas come to be debated in parliament there would be a huge outcry. In fact when Labour were in power they changed the rules so that these changes, which would fundamentally change the criminal justice system in this country, don’t have to be debated in parliament at all and can be implemented by statutory instrument. This is just plain wrong.

Now let’s be clear, I’m not opposed to cuts to the Ministry of Justice budget, but they are cutting in the wrong place. First the scale of cuts necessarily is debatable. In the consultation paper the MoJ say that the criminal legal aid budget is £1.1 billion a year, but in their budget for this year (before their proposed cuts) it is only £950 million because of the effect of their last range of cuts. To be precise the proposed spending on legal aid is already £168 million less than they say. Does that mean that we only need to save a further £52 million? The MoJ say no, they still need to cut £220 million, but they haven’t explained why that is. (Although these are big sums they are a tiny part of Government expenditure. We spend, for instance, £112 million a day on interest payments on Government debt.)

Second the Legal Aid Agency, the Government body which administers legal aid, has just published its budget for 2014/15. This shows that 22% of everything that they spend is on their internal costs and administration. One pound in every five apparently spent on legal aid is spent on the civil service administration costs. This is a huge proportion of the budget and cannot be justified.

It is also possible to find the savings in a different way. 43% of all legal aid is spent on just 1% of cases, technically called Very High Cost Criminal Cases. Although some of these are terrorist related the vast majority of them are frauds, and almost certainly company directors are involved. We already require companies to take out third party liability in case of accidents, so why not also require companies to take out insurance so that in the event of a fraud investigation their legal costs will be aid? This is one of the proposals which has been put forward by the Liberal Democrat Lawyers Association, and it alone would save significantly more than £220 million each year, and without destroying our justice system along the way.

As I mentioned above the Government could push through their proposals without a debate in parliament. If, having read this, you think that this is wrong then please sign this petition to oppose the proposals If we reach 100,000 signatures then the matter will be debated in parliament, and we are up to 87,000 signatures already. Your signature on the petition will help to make a real difference and stop these proposals. Please sign it and ask all your friends to do so as well. We can change the Governments mind but it needs everyone to stand up and be counted. It is your rights that they want to take away. David Watts.

Ribbing of Sherwood / Gay Up Mi Duck

I love stand up comedy, me. I love it’s spontaneity, I love the courage exhibited by it’s expounders, I love it’s ability to be more rock and roll than rock and roll. This is true throwing yourself on the mercy of the audience: this is the real grabbing a bunch of strangers e by it’s scruff and demanding they submit to you for the duration.’ It’s real do and die .

I get the offer of sampling the Funhouse / Barton’s Comedy Night. I’ve got blisters after a huge country walk, so should demur,but fail to on the principle that Stand-Up is the opposite of Sit-Down, and I will have the chance to do just that, and with a beer. I’m also hoping to book Funhouse to provide the comedy, so it’s also, technically, research. With beer.

The Barton’s comedy nights have been a real success story; reguarly selling out and playing host to the eclectic talents of Spikey Mike: erstwhile Rock City DJ/ present-tense comedy impressario (as well as one-time Weakest Link contestant). I’ve only attended a handful, but I’ve been amazed at the quality of the acts they stick up on the stage. I worked at Jongleurs for a few months and the ratio of great comey to tired laddish purveyor of dick-jokes was around 1:15.

James Sherwood – no historical/ arboreal connection here, he’s from London – is a comedian who looks a bit like Tim Key but doesn’t write pithy/ gnomic poetry to express himself , rather relying on his remarkable ability to tickle his fingers over a piano keyboard and layer it with a lyric of satire, surrealism and pure humour. Before setting off to see him, I had a look at his YouTube channel: It’s here, have a gawp.  He’s worked with one of my favourite comedians, Justin Edwards, so I’m keen to see what he’s like live.

He sets a piano up on stage and, introduces himself, points out the mis-spelling of ‘comedy’ on the window of Bartons (‘Comeby’, apparently. A mistake or an an awkward pun?) and then asks us about Tesco. A booing goes up ‘What shop do you like then?’ he asks. An almost universal shout of ‘Hallams’ goes up, followed by the audience bursting into laughter at it’s own spontaneous response.

I’ve written, and on occasion campaigned on issues of local retail, civic space and the like. I’ve seen Beeston’s reaction to short-sighted planning decisions that threaten to render us into a dull AnyTown, yet been heartened to also see how people have risen up against this and demand our town retain it’s uniqueness. As editor of The Beestonian, I thought I’d struggle to kick out a four-page magazine every month: we’re now looking at moving to 12 pages, such is the wealth of enthusiasm. I thought I was alone in my obsessive fascinationof Beeston: nope, there are loads of you out there with an equally odd love. And poor Mr Sherwood, expecting to run through his usual act and get back to London without fuss, ran headlong into this.

‘Oh dear’ Lady Beestonia whispers ‘I think he’s going to lose control’. I fear this too: suddenly the audience have the upper hand. There is a moment when it all seems in the balance: you really see a comedian recover from being so thoroughly wrong-footed by a crowd. I expect an extruciating few minutes to follow. Yet Sherwood does something quite incredible: he plays along. ‘ What is Hallams?’ he demands, and then we’re into a highly surreal, utterly improvised, utterly free-wheeling exhilirating act of sheer genius.

Writing about comedy is akin to dancing to architecture, so I won’t try and type out each joke. Due to the presence of Magpie brewery and it’s quite lethal 5.4% pints, it wouldn’t be a faithful rendition anyway. Someone I have a vague acquaintance to did video most of it, which I’ll stick online when I track him down. Yet if you thought a reciept from Hallams was not exactly aisle-rolling material, you haven’t seen it in the hands of a truly fantastic comedian. After 20 minutes of exchange between a increasingly hysterical audience of Beestonians and a faux-exasperated comedian, Sherwood points out he’s not touched his paino yet, and he has to get off stage. ‘Play ‘Bright Side of Life’’ shouts someone, and as an encore the whole room is joyfully, drunkedly singing along to a raucous version of the Monty Python song, followed by a standing ovation.

Yes, with most things comedic, you had to be there. It was a truly spontaneous event, one which I doubt Sherwood will ever forget ‘ Next time I come up here’ he tells me later ‘I’ll make sure I do a thorough survey of your local retail outlets’ .


The gay marriage issue clears the Lords -hurdle with ease, and now seems that, despite the rabid bigotry of the more claret-faced members of both houses, it will become legislation ans we can all get on with our lives. Not so Lord Tebbit, however. The skeletal-visaged idiot is still claiming he’s going to marry his teapot, or something. His swivel-eyed loon-acy has been well documented in the press, but the media seem to have missed a more bizarre -yes, really!- view of Tebbits. He really doesn’t like gay ducks.

I possess, and I’m not going to explain why or how, Norman Tebbit’s cookbook, ‘The Game Cook’. This is NOT  a long lead up to some pun, it really exists. I have it by me right now. Surprisingly, the recipes require cooking the meat: I always had Tebbit down as a man who’d eat it raw, chomPing down pheasants in a flurry of feathers. Each meat is introduced by Tebbit in a small forward, here is what he has to say on the Mallard duck:

It’s social habits are not unlike that of many humans. Fathers play no part in bringing up the young. They cross-breed with -and threaten the survival as seperate species of – a number of attractive rare ducks. Avoiding controversy (as is my way) I will only mention that the Mallardseems to have the highest rate of male homosexuality of any bird, and pass on my way to consideration of the Mallard in the kitchen.

The Tories. Not batshit whatsoever.


And on the subject of Tories, some SoubzNewz has come in so stay tuned as I chip it into shape…with you tomorrow.