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:
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 email@example.com or call 0115 9677819.