I’m off on holiday tomorrow to the South Coast – please don’t break Beeston while I’m away- so a few bits to get out, followed by an article by Christian Fox about the shiteness of Ladbrokes and how they have treated the Young Potential charity shop.
First then, a new initiative in Beeston. Theres a few business networking groups in Beeston, but as far as I’m aware, nothing exclusively for creatives. Until now. The idea is to create a hub for those who work in creative industries: photographers, writers, designers and so on. I best explain that I’m part of the set-up: there is so much creative talent in Beeston right now I think it would be great to get them together. It doesn’t offically launch until next month but you can sign up now for info and to be kept up to speed: http://www.creativebeeston.co.uk/
We recieved a record number of acts wanting to play Oxjam in October , so have a fantastic programme sorted for you. We’ll be offically releasing the details mid-month, so keep an eye out. Some real surprises in there for you.
Film Club at Cafe Roya
I’ll be crabbing off Camber Sands come Monday, but Tim Pollard and guest curator Chritopher Frost will be running the film club as usual. Get along there on Monday, doors open at 7pm and films start at 8, Christopher has been itching to show his choices for some time so you’re in for a real treat.
Ladbrokes vs Young Potential: Guest Post from Christian Fox.
A ViTaL Retrospective
In May of this year I visited a brand new charity shop opening on Beeston High Street. It was being opened by a really inspiring charity group called Young Potential which had dedicated itself to helping young people with learning disabilities to get much needed support, and to help young people with criminal convictions to gain work experience and find jobs. I was really quite taken with the charity, which I saw as being a direct response to Britain’s current economic crisis which is being used by politicians and local governments to impose ideological cuts designed specifically to alienate, disenfranchise and ultimately harm the future of our young generations and especially those already fraught with difficulties; be it disability, a criminal record, or something else.
That first article, which appeared in Issue 19 of the Beestonian, was one of real optimism on both my part and that of Theresa Cullen, founder of Young Potential and day-to-day runner of the charity shop that she had named ViTaL. By a lucky coincidence Theresa was able to get her hands on a donation that almost any charity shop would die for; literally thousands of pounds worth of official Olympic merchandise; clothes and equipment used by games makers and torchbearers; tons of office materials; and the very costumes that were worn for the opening ceremony of the Paralympics (I myself donned a bright frilly yellow dress for a photo that may well haunt me to my deathbed).
It should have been a brilliant beginning for this burgeoning charity, and the end really of my story. And they all lived happily ever after…
The next time I spoke to Theresa in June there had been an unwelcome development. The charity, barely months into its tenancy, was being evicted. Ladbrokes was in talks with the landlords to take over the building as soon as possible. Nothing was set, but Theresa had already been told she was out. Before a deal had even been signed with the landlord, Ladbrokes had already been given a gambling license and planning consent for that premise. It was a done deal.
The reason? A little thing called fixed rate betting machines. They have routinely been criticized in the press and labeled more than once ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’. Traditional fruit machines have stakes that tend to vary between one and two pounds a bet, but these machines allow punters to bet up to £100 every twenty seconds. Consider for a second the ramifications of that. It is possible to lose thousands of pounds in just a tiny amount of time.
A betting shop is only allowed up to 4 of these machines in any premise, so by no coincidence the number of betting shops has more than quadrupled in some parts of the country. Since 2012 the number of fixed rate betting machines in Britain has doubled from 16 thousand to more than 30 thousand and today they represent more than half of Ladbrokes’ intake.
Ladbrokes picked the spot they wanted, ViTal charity shop, not far from their other shop at the other end of the high street, and which just so happened to be opposite a highly frequented pub. The logic of this is as cold and calculated as that of a psychopath.
I spoke to Theresa and she was justifiably devastated. What had started off so well, and with such good intentions, had been stolen from her. Can you think of two more polar opposites; a charity designed to get people into work, to help the young and at risk; and a betting shop, whose sole ambition is profit, no better than a leech sucking on an artery.
At this point it is pertinent to say that I am not anti-gambling. I don’t do it, but I’m not against it. But I am against large businesses like this bullying out genuinely productive and positive businesses like ViTaL in order to rinse already struggling and hard off people of their money.
And now here we are in August. Two days ago ViTaL shut up, possibly for good. Ladbrokes insisted they move out as fast as they could, before revealing that they themselves weren’t’ actually moving in until September. Theresa could have had a whole extra month to find somewhere to go, to rally support and try to get something done about this horrible state of affairs. As it is everything hangs in the balance. There are some potentials for a new premise, but the charity has so little money that it needs to tread softly. Meanwhile Ladbrokes stands triumphant, guarding the empty premise on Beeston High Street, like the bully that it is.
It is a travesty that it should end this way for ViTaL, Young Potential and Theresa Cullen. However, with the support of friends, and you, maybe ViTaL will once again find a home on the high street. Find Theresa. Offer her your help if you can, in any way you can, because it would be terrible if the shop was not able to find its feet again, not just for Theresa but for countless young people, who need this community’s support and care now more than ever.
Let’s hope this won’t be the end of the story.