Saturday nights. According to Elton John, they’re alright for fighting. This thought rather unnerved me throughout Saturday, as I prepared for the New Deal public meeting. By awful coincidence, the Nottingham Post published a column I wrote a week or two back where I urged readers to get more angry about stuff. I also had it confirmed that Superdrug was to close, another High Street casualty. Would the meeting I called descend into angry anarchy? Would people even turn up? Why did I choose January to stop drinking, thus denying me the nerve-steadying jolt of a swiftly-gulped brandy. My nerves were pretty shot by the time I got and my bike and cycled to John Clifford.
I needn’t have worried. The meeting was, I feel, a great success. The general mood was positive, imaginative, thoughtful and free of violence. A good swathe of Beeston’s population turned up, a good demographic mix where the only common bond was a sense of civic pride and a desire to live in aa good place. The debate was lively, fluent and became a forum for ideas, rather than a polarised row. 140 people in all turned up, the majority concerned residents but also representatives from the tram, borough and county councillors, the Civic and other local Societies, The Beeston Express, and many, many more.
The time flew by, and my notepad filled up as I attempted to take notes of ideas while chairing. I’m more used to attending meetings in a journalistic sense, sitting at the back and grabbing quotes. Trying to both Dimbleby and Simon Hoggart (RIP) is a tough task. Still, I think I got down a fair amount of stuff. Amongst the ideas you suggested:
- Increased tree planting: Beeston, normally a leafy type of town, has looked notably bald of late, due to the tram works. Get the place green again.
- A town centre fountain, or repositioning the war memorial from Broadgate Park to the Square, to give a defined centre and meeting point.
- A focus on heritage: possibly a museum or heritage trail. Possibly the old police station?
- A town council to lend more focus on the town (we presently don’t have a town or parish council, unlike most other towns in Broxtowe).
- A more continental focus on development, away from retail and towards leisure. By continental, most people assume a Spanish square, and point out our weather is different. Yet such squares are common and thrive in Northern European countries too.
- A ‘cultural quarter’. This could lend us a USP over Nottingham: make Beeston a cultural, arty hub. We have a huge amount of creative talent here, let’s celebrate it and let it define us.
- Free wi-fi across the town.
- Sunday / evening markets.
- Stronger controls of student landlords to prevent areas becoming ‘Lenton-ised’; and make it a more welcoming and secure environment for students.
- Better facilities for youngsters -a skatepark, perhaps?.
- A large town centre noticeboard that advertises -for free-local events and facilities.
- A sprucing up of Chilwell Road: the independent shops are there, let’s show them in the best possible light.
- A printed and online map showing off our unique points.
- An online resource to keep residents and visitors up to date on what is happening here: possibly using social media.
- More civic space.
- Greater communication regarding development. The Square plans submitted by Henry Boot did go through public consultation, but it was only when they were reported on this blog that people heard about them. Presently, they are displayed in Beeston Square in the window of what was Ashley Peake. Sadly, the bluetak has failed and they’ve fell over, so near impossible to see. Which, all things considered, might be for the best.
- Acknowledgment of what great pubs we have here.
- Consideration towards sustainable development.
- A town centre clock (The Beeston Express is running a petition on this. To add your name, email firstname.lastname@example.org ).
- A ‘steering group’: similar to the way BID works, but instead of traders, locals who examine development ideas and pass on opinions: a sort of civic jury of residents who can therefore act as a voice for Beeston on development issues.
- Lots, lots more….
I’ve been recieving and sending slews of emails around since Saturday, discussing how these ideas can be implemented, and what chance there is of them coming to fruition. I’m especially interested in the idea of a ‘Cultural Quarter’. Our town already has a depth of talent unlike anywhere I’ve ever known. When I started up The Beestonian, we thought we’d have to really dig hard to find talented creatives to write about. How very wrong we were. There is a stupid amount going on, musicians, artists, film makers, writers, comedians and so on. Oxjam, and the fund-raisers that preceded that, shone a bit of a light on this, but I feel it’s time to embrace this more thoroughly. I’m in talks with several people who have the power to help out to see how this can be done. I’ll keep you updated.
The idea of a ‘steering group’ would be beneficial also: as long if it was done properly. It has to be non-partisan, non-political and representative. One of the chief complaints I hear from people I talk to disgruntled by the tram-works and development is that they don’t feel there voices are being heard. Who truly wants the unambitious Henry Boot Square ‘development’? How do we stop stuff like this being foisted upon us by outsiders, how do we have a say? Getting together a group of Beestonians to act as a voice for Beeston can only be a good thing. One thing I’ve learnt over the past few years writing about Beeston is that we’re a town that isn’t shy to proffer opinion. Let’s get organised. I had loads of offers after the meeting to be part of something like this, and am still receiving emails. I am very happy to be part of it, and promote this idea as much as I can, but simply have too much on my plate to run it. Who fancies being a part – chairperson or member?
I’ll let you digest all that for a day or so, then I’ll report back on any developments and another element of the meeting: the myth-busting. Several rumours were confirmed or struck down, I’ll explain more later.
I’m open to your ideas, so keep sending them in, either as a comment here or to email@example.com . Together, we can keep Beeston a fantastic place to live, and a unique gem amongst a sea of clone-towns.