Tomorrow sees the culmination of seven months hard work getting Oxjam together. It was a snowy Easter Saturday back in April when we officially launched the Oxjam Beeston Takeover 2013, as part of the Chilwell Road Street Party. After a freezing day handing out badges, info and slices of the huge cake Classy Cupcake’s baketastic Karen Attwood made for us, we got snug in the Hop Pole and had a very drunk, very fun night of poetry, music, and my progressively tired and emotional proclamations on the microphone (one of the worrying highlights was when I announced ‘If that collection tin isn’t full by midnight, we’re having a lock-in. And not the nice kind.’)
This was followed by the the Great Beeston BakeOff, where our judges arrived expecting to taste around a dozen entries only to be told that it was actually around 50, thanks to a surge in entries. We raised a chunk of cash in the best possible way, nomming down loads of gorgeous cake. The Red Arrows even gave us an impromptu fly past when we cut the tape to open the event. Cynics might point out it might be something to do with Armed Forces Day, but the truth actually involves a promise to some pilots of slices of Relish’s divine blueberry cake.
Summer saw gigs al fresco: Beestival, Beeston Carnival; a Film Club night followed those, with Autumn bringing us a sell-out Ceilidh. Now, in just a few hours, it’s the biggee.
The last week has been a slog arranging media slots (two radio pieces this week alone, and both ITV and BBC coming down to check out stuff tomorrow, as well as a small army of music journos, photographers and the like). Our exclusive Oxjam Festivale (I swear I didn’t invent that punning name. Though I kinda wish I did), concocted by the wonderful Magpie Brewery (my input was suggesting ‘make it a light one’, and stirring in some hops for promotional picture purposes), is in several venues (I hear the Hop Pole cracked there cask this evening, if you fancy a preview get down). I have a pile of special Oxjam issues of the Beestonian ready to dish out; I’ve fanatically checked the weather (unseasonably warm! Sunny!); and we’re geared up to throw Beeston a MASSIVE party. Ticket sales have outstripped previous years, and we expect to shift more tomorrow. You can still get the Early Bird ones, for just £5 rather than the £7 we charge tomorrow, until Midnight, here). It’s nearly there.Getting together something like Oxjam is a logistical headache that requires many meetings, so a huge thanks to Belle and Jerome; Austen, Alan, et al at The Crown; Karen at the The Hop Pole; The Greyhound and the fantastic Sergio at The White Lion for not minding us holding our often bicker-stuffed meetings at their establishments. The team this year responsible for the difficult bits – persuading venues to have us, booking 60+acts, checking relevant laws and licenses, finding and organising a small army of volunteers, making sure they know the individual requirements of each act- they’ve been wonderful. I’ve had the easy, fun bit as Marketing Co-ordinator: telling potential festival-goers what great things all the team’s hard work will bring forth through a promotional campaign that bordered on the stalkerish. ‘We’re going to get you on the show this week’, I was told by a BBC Nottingham producer on The Mark Dennison Show ‘Since you’ve been Twitterizing him all week’. A great by-product of Oxjam: a very Web 2.0 neologism was bought into existence.
While I am like a child on Christmas Eve right now, counting the minutes down and brimming with expectation and excitement, a melancholy is present. Cos once the last band plays that last note, and after that last banner gets unhooked and furled back into a tube, once the last penny of takings has been counted and sent over to Oxfam, all those months of work will be over. The people I’ve worked with and come to get to know over this time will still be great friends, but the thing that bought us together will be over. I’ve had an incredibly busy year in so many ways, but Oxjam has always been the backbone to it all, the one thing I’ve measured the year by in its proximity. The whole experience has been one of the most heartening, most enjoyable, and most pride-inspiring things in my life.
After being involved for three years, it’s become a Beeston community institution, alongside Chinese New Year, Beeston Carnival and the Christmas Light Switch-on. The gaudy pink of Oxjam is splashed across shop-fronts, over pub bars, pinned to people as tin badges. I’ve seen people genuinely excited, demanding when it is, who will be playing, what venues will be used. It took three years of endless explaining what we were and what we do, but finally now it’s taken root and I hope – I know – will blossom.
If I’m not part of it again, then I know there will be others to carry it on, to grow it further, develop it and create something that Beeston can – despite the depressive depths of development we’re presently subject to- have something to sing and dance about for many years to come, raising a huge chunk of money for a massively worthy cause along the way.
So before I get an early night in preparation of a huge day, a massive thank you to Beeston, a town I can not feel luckier to live in, a community I can not feel more honoured to be part of. Rumours of Beeston’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Tomorrow, we prove it.