A brief post to wish Beestonians a super New Year. 2013 has been by far the most odd year of my life, with the magazine going from strength to strength and becoming a bit of a full-time job. Oxjam was a stunning success, with every event, from the Chilwell Road Street Party, through to the Bake-off, the Ceilidh, right to the final event a roaring, cash-raising success: we won an award for best community orientated festival: so thank you all for getting us that.


I started up the Film Club at Cafe Roya, which has gone from showing a few shorts over an evening into getting in very special guests from the film world, with Shane Meadows, Guardian writer and film critic Ali Catterall and devastatingly talented actor Vicky McClure all popping in. We’ll be getting the new season kicked off in late January, I’m working on lining up an incredibly excellent few events with a quality of guest only matched by Roya’s superb food.


Ali also just uploaded a film of the Shane Meadows night to Youtube…see it here…

I also had a bizarre brush with celebrity when I got an invite to the unveiling of the blue plaque commemorating Richard Beckinsale at College House school. I was expecting his superstar daughter Kate, but Michael Sheen, David Walliams and Hollywood director Len Wiseman also all rocked up.


I also got the great honour of meeting that sartorial god, Sir Paul Smith, who revealed he read the Beestonian when he was visiting family in town. If he’s reading this right now, I NEED A NEW SUIT, SIRPAUL. JUST SAYIN’.


I got myself a monthly column on The Nottingham Post, and in the Beeston and District Civic Society Magazine. Both are great fun, but the by-line picture I submitted to The Post is possibly the worse photo taken of a human, ever. I look like a bespectacled, damp, rat. Apologies for those wishing to read my column and being put off by this aberration.

thatchsoubzPolitically it’s been rather quiet: the County elections were thoroughly covered by myself and Christian Fox in our Battle for Broxtowe blog, as well as a commission to help on a large spread for the Nottingham Post. The BNP were annihilated, UKIP wiped out and Labour just grasped a majority. Little change locally, though the bad-blooded row between Independent Richard MacRae and the local Lib Dems over in Stapleford is still in full roar, which should make the local town council by-elections interesting. The Lib Dems did have one filip with Labour activist and committed trade unionist Sarah Brown crossing over to them . Nick Palmer was selected to fight the 2015 General Election for Labour, and Soubry committed herself to the Tory corner. She also got a promotion to Defense, and did everything she could do to ensure that after losing her seat in May 2015 she will have a media career as a pundit to go to, by constant crashes into the media spotlight by either being bollocked in the Commons for unparliamentary behaviour or making a rather crass and homophobic remark about Nigel Farage’s fondness for amateur proctology. While all this happened, she slavishly voted through the most vile, divisive programme of legislation this country has seen in generations, and fully supporting the appalling attacks on the most vulnerable, backing IDS’s blatant lies, backing the Home Office’s racist ‘GO HOME’ vans while playing the progressive on Question Time. She raised not a single word of contention when the Royal Mail was sold at a ridiculously deflated price so the Tories friends in the City could make a quick buck at the expense of a proud institution. She was keen to shout support for the Citizen’s Advice Bureaux while slavishly voting for policies to guarantee a massive swelling of their case-load. Janus Soubry, indeed. Rumour is she’s moved to Broxtowe, three and a half years after promising she would do. Why so long Anna? And who were the frequent pro-Soubz commentators on here who all shared the same IP address, one which was rather easy to pinpoint?thatchsoubzThe dominant Beeston event has been the tramworks, and as we go into 2014, the year the tram is due to begging rolling down the streets, there seems to be a delay of a couple of weeks and several months, depending on who you ask. Chilwell Road has struggled by all accounts during the closure, but shown great resilience. Keep shopping there!

Next year? Well, I am going to reapply as Marketing Manager of Oxjam Beeston 2014, and can’t wait to start working on that. I’m launching two new projects, Creative Beeston and the inaugural Beeston International Film Festival. More on both later, but both initiatives are going to be extrememly hard work and I’m amazingly grateful that business partners in both projects are excellent people who are a joy to work with. We’re also looking for a February release for Beestonia: A Psychogeography, a 30-minute documentary that takes a very strange look at the weirdness and wonder of this town. I’m spending a lot of time editing it together right now: and it’s again a joy to work on something with such a dedicated and talented bunch of people.

I will also be chairing a public meeting in early January to look at how Beeston can move forward in 2014. There are several huge issues linked to the massive changes Beeston is going through, and that has bought to the town an anxiety, and excitement, that we want to be able to channel. More on this later in the week, but it could be a very crucial meeting and I will be eager to find out beforehand your feelings.

There are loads more things to write, both as reflections on the past and plans for the future. This is no way a comprehensive run down of the year: 2013 has been far too interesting for that. Yet I do need to extend my utter gratitude to you all, anyone who reads this, picks up my magazine, donated to Oxjam…anyone who helped make this the best year I’ve ever had. It is a real privelige to live and work in this town, and to be part of it’s rich fabric. Although sometimes I crave a quiet life in a town where Nothing Happens, that feeling passes, replaced with a swell of joy at being a Beestonian. Happy New Year!

ps: …and a mention to Beestonian, scribe for The Beestonian, one-third of the Beestonian Film Club, Official Robin Hood and the partner of the ludicrously lovely Sally (official Maid Marian), Tim Pollard, for the birth of their gorgeous first-born who arrived on Boxing Day. Welcome to the world, Scarlett Louise. They’ve been all over the national press, yet the Daily Mail has disappointed by not running the expected story of how the baby was born in an oak tree while Bryan Adams played. As the PCC is presently investigating the other 2013 baby news, that’s probably a wise decision.


photo courtesy of the Nottingham Post.

New Beestonian! / The Beestonian Movie / Special Guest Post From Nick Palmer: Foodbanks.

The new issue of The Beestonian is sitting in the printers ready for me to collect once I finish typing this, it’s a corker featuring Shane Meadows; Vicky McClure; The Guardian’s Ali Catterall; Nottingham’s Robin Hood, Tim Pollard; a **PRIZE** crossword and all your usual stuff.

Two stories we covered have thrown me a bit. We have a bit of a scoop on the cover, as we report on the Ladbrokes. As readers may remember, they turfed the wonderful and effective Young Potential charity shop from their premises in the old Lunn Poly shop opposite Iceland. There urgency to get in didn’t allow Young Potential to find new premises, and they’re still without a shop. Weirdly, Ladbrokes are still not in. A single shopfitter has apparently not even entered the shop.

A bit of investigation later and we found that Ladbrokes have taken out a long lease, somewhere between 10-15 years, but intend to leave it empty. Yes, really.

Why? I chatted to a few people who are wised up on this sort of thing, who I best not name due to their closeness to the issue. Apparently there are two possible reasons. One: this is what is termed ‘sterilised capitalism’. By Ladbrokes acquiring the shop they prevent other bookies moving into an ideally situated premises. If a rival finds another premises, then Ladbrokes open up quickly and swamp out their competitor.

The other reason could be potential legislation. There is a growing social problem with hardcore gamblers becoming addicted to Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (FOBT). These machines allow gamblers to bet vast sums of money every few seconds, and work on the psychology of impulsiveness and addiction to keep the gambler pumping in money. They’ve been described as ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’ and are blamed for a steep increase in problem gambling. Banned in many countries, and even in some British towns (Fareham Council, Brighton and Hove City Council and Preston Council all voted in favour of restricting FOBTs last week. This follows on from Liverpool City Council and Hackney Council passing similar motions last month, with Liverpool calling for a total ban) . Only four can be situated in one shop.

There is talk of banning them: even a fiscal Tory might see that the tax revenue gained is tiny compared to the social costs they rack up. Yet the gambling lobby are very, very powerful, and are busy now trying to block any banning legislation, and overturn the four-per-shop ruling.

So it’s not unreasonable to assume that Ladbrokes are sitting on the site, waiting for legislation to go it’s way, while keeping an eyesore of an empty shop on the High Street indefinately. This is not right in any way, and is entirely detrimental to the town. I await a response from Ladbrokes from an email I sent asking what is going on. I’ll keep you up to date.


Some good news: The PCC have now agreed that a settlement between The White Lion and Mail Group Newspapers can’t be brokered, so are going to launch an investigation (see Beestonia passim). The Mail also agreed to remove the site from the internet during the process, after we pointed out the longer it was up, the greater damage done, and in turn, the more we can sue for. Should get a response in a couple of weeks. Let’s see if the PCC prove they’re not as awful as often cited.


We’ve made a film! Well, that would be nice, the truth is we’ve shot all the bits of a film and are now in the incredibly tricky part where we try and stitch together a decent documentary. I’ll explain more later, but here’s a trailer to whet that appetite of yours…


Another article we talk about in the new Beestonian is food banks (we have our own one in town, at the Hope Centre. As we were compiling the issue, the Commons voted on the huge rise in food banks needed further investigation. Tories jeered as opposition MP Maria Eagle told stories about the desperate plight of her constituents, Ian Duncan Smith slipped out before he could be called to account and the motion was voted down. Need I say which way our own MP voted?

Why, as the seventh richest counry in the world we have a system that forces family into such extreme poverty they can’t eat, while dishing out tax cuts to the rich and letting multinationals skip their tax obligations. I could write a furious piece, but I’ve got my paper-round to do, and my blood pressure needs lowering for what is meant to be a season of peace. Instead, I asked our former, and likely future MP Nick Palmer for a piece. Here’s his measured take. Comments welcome please, and Soubry can be contacted though as always, don’t expect a response. Over to Dr Nick:

A recent Parliamentary debate was called by Labour to discuss the rise of food banks and urge the Government to take action against the causes. It’s fair to say that the governing parties were notably uninterested (IDS wandered out of the debate in the middle), various specious comments were made that were frankly out of touch with reality, and Broxtowe’s MP voted with the government, as per usual, to dismiss the call for action.

The issue here is what is causing the undoubted rise in food banks both in Broxtowe and elsewhere. There are, I think, three reasons:

1. The cuts in welfare support are hitting a minority of people hard, again and again. I’m well aware that the general idea of “cutting benefits” has majority support in the opinion polls, and no doubt government MPs feel that makes it all right. Most people are not affected, and many vaguely think that all that’s happening is that life is getting tough for scroungers. That isn’t, generally, the case.

The fact is that if you have difficulty getting a job – for instance due to mental or physical health difficulties – the support system is being quietly, steadily whittled away. I’m not currently the MP, but I am still getting quite desperate letters from people about it, and they are heart-breaking to read. Unemployment has remained low as people have accepted real wage cuts to hang on to jobs, but if you’re out of the job market and, say, suffer from days of intermittent depression, or have difficulty in walking, your chance of getting a job is very small at the moment. It’s a cruel deception to make you jump through all the hoops of JSA when everyone involved knows the outcome. Yes, help people get into work wherever possible, but support them decently meanwhile.

2. The system is cumbersome, slow, and doesn’t offer support when you need it. The MAJORITY of people visiting food banks say the reason is that their claim for support is stuck somewhere in the system. Many say that Job Centre staff have quietly encouraged them to go to food banks to tide them over while their problems are considered. This is also the reason why Wonga and the like do well. If you literally have no money, the fact that the system may eventually help you is irrelevant. You can visit a food bank, take a high-interest loan, or go hungry. You do not have any other choice.

3. There remains a fair amount of endemic poverty in our society. In general, the last government was quite good for the “working poor”, because of working tax credits and the minimum wage, not so good for people with long-term problems getting work. The position has worsened under the current government. So the availability of food banks has offered a little relief in one aspect of life. All parties including my own need to pay attention to this, and I’m glad that Labour picked the issue as the one it wanted to debate on the rare Opposition Day when they could put down a motion.

Food banks are a good thing in the current situation and the people who run them are doing a fantastic job. But they should not be seen as a long-term part of the system that makes up for the gaps. They are a symptom of things in our society that are very wrong, and the governing parties are flatly wrong to look the other way. It is not the Big Society, but the Failing Society.


Film Club Twin Set a Pearl/ The Daily Mail Vs Beestonia, Round 36 / Erik the Red Returns to Vinlandia/Crafty Excellence/ Tarah, Youth!

I’ve not posted for ages, but that’s not because I’ve slipped into the semi-hibernation that this time of the year makes so attractive. Blessed would it be to put on a few layers of fat, wrap a duvet round me and retire to the airing cupboard until mid-March, but alas. There is work to be done.

The Film Club at Cafe Roya has been going great, with Beestonians The Turrell Brothers putting on a great show last Monday. We even got a sneak preview of their latest short, and it’s astonishing: part sci-fi, part kitchen sink realism, part Freudian head-messer. They should have it online soon once they finesse a couple of bits: I’ll let you know when it’s ready.


(If you’re wondering why I seem oddly lop-sided, it’s nothing to do with wine -well, maybe a little- but more to do with ripping a ligament in my knee a few days back and being on crutches for sometime. Huge cheers for the NHS for fixing me up and not laughing when I explained how I did it. I was chasing a dog. No more needs to be known).

If you are up for hosting a night, wherever a filmmaker or just a buff, get in touch at thebeestonian@gmail.com and we’ll try and get you in sometime in 2014. We have one last night, this coming Monday 16th, with a special night curated by professional writer and former NME journo Grahame Caveney, who’ll be hosting a selection of shorts with a William Burroughs theme/influence etc, followed by a showing of the Gus Van Sant classic Drugstore Cowboy. Grahame is an authority on the terrifying, fascinating Burroughs, to the extent he wrote his biography

Tickets available for just £7.50 (includes a meal courtesy of the divine culinary skills of Roya) on the door, reserve now by sending an email to the address above.


The White Lion / Daily Mail scandal drags on. It’s finally gone to the PCC for consideration, after a process of such evasion, slipperiness and downright desperation I’m aghast: even from the standpoint that The Mail embodies everything that is wrong with this country and Paul Dacre could cause even the most ardent pacifist to set him alight before putting the blaze out with a cricket bat, even from knowing that they are awful, awful people, I’m shocked.

To recap: Natalie Rocha gave birth to Estella Rose in the flat above the pub she runs with husband Sergio, after paramedics were stuck in tramworks. I popped down to get some pics and a brief interview, as did the Nottingham Post’s Alex Britton, and we both ran a feel-good piece, his in print, mine on our Facebook page, which duly went on to become our most liked ever post.

Should have been a happy ending right there. But no. I visited Sergio a couple of weeks later, and he was clearly upset. Not with us, it transpired, but by the Daily Mail. He showed me the article: it had taken a chunk of The Nottingham Post’s article, and then added a load of quotes that were clearly not Sergio talking.

One of these was that Natalie and Sergio had named their baby after Stella Artois, their ‘best-selling’ lager. This was evidently bollocks, as the Rochas had chose the name  for their first daughter before they ever took up pub-management. Their tiny daughter didn’t even get to a fortnight old before The Daily Mail decided to lie about her.

They also don’t stock Stella. More to the point, they can’t sell Stella. The tie they have with their brewery forbids this, and if they were to stock it they would be in breach of contract and could therefore lose their business. Sergio has had to explain to his area manager that the article was fabricated, and he had never sold Stella. It’s a disgrace he’s been forced into this situation.

I asked Sergio if he’d like me to take up his case and see if we could get it before the Press Complaints Commission, and after sending the relevant letters of consent to the PCC, a complaint was made.

The Mail reacted by at first claiming that Sergio had said everything attributed to him, but they would be willing to remove the quotes we’d identified as fabricated. The Rochas and I felt this was inadequate for a number of reasons. While the article was online, it would be making money for The Mail. It didn’t admit it was wrong. Nobody was taking responsibility for printing lies: thus, they had carte blanche to do it again.

So we rejected this settlement and asked for a full apology and retraction. The Mail’s deputy managing editor then wrote to us saying they’d remove the article in full and send a letter expressing regret for the article. Not apologising and admitting they were wrong, but regret for the article getting out of hand.

Imagine if that logic applied to a crime story that the Daily Mail covered. Say a -lets pick a typical subject for The Mail – Bulgarian immigrant had been caught fiddling his benefits. When caught and tried, the judge decided that it was ok, all was forgiven because the Bulgarian had expressed regret at being caught, not of abusing the system. Imagine the apoplexy that would scream out of the front page. The schreeching ire and wrathful hate that would spurt from their comment pages.

So we said no. ‘We appreciate The Mail’s strong and admirable stance on holding those in the wrong responsible for their actions, thus reject the settlement’.

That pissed them off,  and so they went for a bit of racism to wriggle off the hook. The whole problem, they explained, could be due to just a silly misunderstanding. The reporter claimed that Sergio had spoken in ‘broken English’ during their conversation, so maybe things had got confused.

Sergio does speak English with an accent. His spoken English however is perfectly intelligible, clear, and easy to understand. Yet, in The Mail’s eyes, it’s not his first language so he must be one of those dreadful foreigners, those dishonest swarthy types, coming over here to lie to our journalists. Uck.

The telephone conversation Sergio reports he had with the man from The Mail doesn’t bear out any understanding. The reporter constantly tried to make him agree with the quotes he was inventing ‘So you named your baby after Stella, didn’t you?’  – each time Sergio explained this was not the case, again and again, until out of frustration he explained he had a business to run and felt intimidated, and hung up.

But the Mail stand by their story, sending me pictures of the reporters shorthand scrawled notepads with transcripts, refusing our requests to remove the article while the issue progresses, generally doing everything possible to make the process difficult in the hope we’ll get tired and back off.

We’re not backing off. This morning I received notice from the PCC that due to our refusal to accept any settlement from the Mail, we would be going to a full consideration by the PCC. I’ll keep you informed of the progress, as glacial as that might be.


Here’s my latest piece for The Post: it’s on why libraries need professionals, not well-meaning volunteers, staffing and stacking the shelves. No pub managers were hurt in the production of this article. Sad to see the bloke who gave me a break at The Post when he asked me to cover his column, the Anglophilic Floridian Erik Petersen, hang up his HB and notepad and head back over to the States, leaving Nottingham writing a poorer place. He reckoned I looked like a ‘manic Gary Oldman’, loved his ale and embraced the joys of cricket more thoroughly  than any other lover of that most meditative of sports. He also had a delicious turn of phrase…treat yourself with a plunder through his archive, starting with this superb skewering.


A quick mention to the wonderfully creative and super-enthusiastic Honey Bee is hosting a massive Festive Craft Fair (with a vintage twist, apparently) at The Pearson Centre, just off Wollaton Road this Saturday. It should be a corking event, with a free gift bag for the first attendees, cake (and lunchtime grub), activities for kids and an opportunity to pickup a huge swathe of those Chrimbo gifts you’ve been panicking about getting and nearly got seduced to get them from Tesco. it should be a good day full of talent and crafty wonder, get on down. More details here.


This will be final post I write while still in my thirties. But worry not, tomorrow I turn 40 and life begins / bits drop off and wilt, depending on who you ask. I’ve enjoyed my thirties incredibly, especially the last few years when I decided to write about this place. I reach 40 a happy man, albeit with a slight limp and a fetish for natural textiles. Orwell* said that at by 50 ‘everyone has the face they deserve’. I have ten years and one day to be extremely nice to people and hit my second half century looking a bit less like a gurning Gary Oldman. To celebrate, I’m having a few drinks tomorrow night (Wednesday) at the While Lion,Middle Street, from 7.30pm. We’ll have music from the superb Phil Langran Band, and a chance to see me get all emotional when I allow myself my yearly tot of brandy.

*Orwell didn’t actually make it to fifty, so he definitely didn’t get the face HE deserved…