We Meet Forever Stars.

Issue 25 (!) of The Beestonian is out today in paper form, or if you’re all hi-tech and regard physical publications as ‘dead wood media’, you can a) read it here b) you’re a bit of an eejit.

Work on Issue 26 has began in earnest, and yesterday at noon I went into Beeston to conduct an interview, one I was slightly apprehensive about. An hour later I emerged, notepad duly scribbed in, feeling wet of eye and lumpy of throat, which is odd as I didn’t have my contact lenses in or a larynx lodged lozenge. The apprehension I had gone in with had been transmuted into a mix of awe and pride at one couple’s work, and how amazing a community – us, Beeston – had reacted and pulled together to help. I spent the rest of the day, head abuzz, and that has not abated. So while I would usually write up the story for the Beestonian, and see it roll off the presses late next month, I’ve decided I have to get my thoughts out now.

In December last year, Beestonians Michelle and Richard Daniels gave birth to a stillborn baby, Emily. I can’t even begin to imagine how horriffic that would be, but it happens to around 4,000 families each year in the UK.It happened to my own grandmother around 60 years ago, and haunted her since. Back then, in less enlightened times, she was forced to wet nurse a new born whose mother had died in birth.Things have got better, but as Richard and Michelle were to discover, there are still issues.

While the staff at the QMC maternity ward were reportedly fantastic with their care both as an inpatient and outpatient, there was something that made the situation even worse, compounding the already staggering amounts of grief the couple felt. Instead of having an area to grieve away from the maternity ward, bereaved families are left on the ward, the crying of new-borns and the empty crib only serving to add extra sting. While grieving, the sounds of labour and the resultant joy of healthy babies born to jubilant parents rang out around them.The horror of that is unimaginable. Hence my pre-interview nerves.

I meet Richard at his office in Beeston. He’s extremely personable, instantly likeable and is quick to offer me a hot drink. If you didn’t know what had happened just a few months ago to the poor chap, you’d not guess. Yet there is a noticable sadness about him too, a tired, drawn look that occasionally flashes over his face. Yet their is a more dominant air about him, and one that is astonishing. Richard has a look of intent and drive that is testament to some incredible work.

Desperate to find a positive in the awfulness of their experience, they decided it was time for the QMC to have a dedicated bereavement suite on the maternity ward. They set a target of £25,000, with the intention of using some of this money to fund a party at a local children’s hospice on what would have been Emily’s first birthday. ‘Our first aim was to get 100 likes on Facebook’ Richard tells me ‘It shot up to 4,000 incredibly fast, the response was amazing’ .

Word swifty got out over Beeston, and locals and businesses came forward in droves to offer help. Beeston BID made it their nominated charity, Nottingham Forest, a club  Richard has supported all his life, offered to hold fundraisers. Thorntons donated a hamper. The guy who runs the Happy Daze shop on Wollaton Road offered to do a fun run. Both Tesco and Sainsburys offered support with fundraising bag-packs, collections, and events. 50 people will be running the Robin Hood half-marathon this year for the fund. A gala dinner has been planned, with very special guests, in the Autumn. The list is endless, and as such, just a few weeks in setting up, and still waiting for the Charity Commission to give them a charity register number, around £10,500 has already been raised. ‘

‘It’s not just companies. Every day we get a knock on the door with someone offering to help. We’ve had old ladies appear asking to donate directly. Strangers have offered the most incredible things, it’s been a blur. We never expeected such a response’. His voice breaks slightly ‘I grew up round here, and have lived here all my life, and know it’s  a good place with good people, but this has really bought that home to me’. As if to prove the point, he jumps up after seeing someone pass the window and runs out to say thank you for some unspecified help they’ve offered. He returns, apologising profusely at this interruption ‘So many people to thank’ he says.

Richard and Michelle have, in a very short space of time, managed to create something wonderful out of the most bleak events that can befall a parent. While nothing can ever replace or make up for the loss of Emily, they are determined to seize some positives. ‘Somebody, sady, will either have a stillborn or postnatal death on that ward int he future. If we can make that experience a little less painful for them, then some good has come of this’. With the generosity, spirit and sense of community that this town is rich in, some light shines from a very dark place. I doff my cap to Richard and Michelle for their tireless work, and to this town I am so proud to be a part of.

For more info, visit and like The Forever Star’s Facebook page here , their website here (the blog is a particularly heart rending read), and their Twitter feed here .

Beeston to Bloom? / FU BT / Amnesty Salute / Taking Free Speech to UKIP.

 

Issue 25 of The Beestonian is nearly ready to release, and it’s got a seasonal theme: spring is here, and it’s not just the trees that are budding. There are some very good signs in Beeston of a recovery from the psychological knock the tram/square works have caused. I won’t repeat what I’ve covered in the articles in the mag, go and read it and tell our suppliers how ace they are. But a few bits of encouraging news seem to be filtering through.

I’ve spent a silly amount of time of late looking at retail trends in towns, comparing our town with similar, and seeing how we fare. My verdict: we could be doing very well. Take a recent event. Superdrug closed down and many heralded this as another nail in the coffin, how Beeston is past it’s best, blah boring blah. Yet in the same week, at least three businesses opened. One was The Star in, a pub long mistreated and neglected, a shambolic wreck seemingly ready for the bulldozers and yuppie flat developers to march in. Another was Attik, on Chilwell Road, a fantastically odd shop full of the strange and wonderful memorabilia, collectables, decorative items and so on. Another is Table 8, a new restaurant set up by a pair of brothers in the premises of what was once the Library. I dropped into the launch last night and it looks like it’l be a hit if the tasters they put out were anything to go by.

These businesses all have one thing in common: they are independents ran by people who are part of the community. Not controlled by some soulless head office that sees their Beeston store as nothing more than a monthly takings figure.

Sainsburys posted their first drop in profits for nine years recently, and other large retailers look to show similar figures. It looks very  much like the years of swallowing up towns is over, saturation reached. There is also evidence to show people are turning more towards smaller shops to do non-essential shopping. Get your basic groceries online or in one swoop at Tesco, but get everything else from smaller, friendlier, local shops. That desire for the personal touch has broke through. Beeston therefore seems to be well ahead of the curve.

This is encouraging, but needs to be treated with caution. The 2008 crash that fundamentally changed so much not just globally but locally showed how much can change quickly. Another such crash, predicted by a worryingly large amount of financial analysts, could throw everything up in the air again. It’s also never wise to underestimate the powers of the major retailers. Though the marketing genius that once saw them sweep over the land seems to be in short supply of late.

I predict that in five years, if things are managed properly, Beeston will not just be surviving, but thriving. Our pubs are stronger than ever. Independent businesses on the rise. The tram – love it or hate it-will make the getting here from Nottingham an easier decision to make. We just have to ensure there is something for them to want to come here for. The signs that I’m seeing right now are encouraging indeed.

I’ll be going to the next Beeston Continuum meeting tomorrow, and will report back afterwards. Let me know if there are any points you want raised.

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Now, if that above bit sounded like I’m going all Pollyanna on you, I’m sorry. There are still huge problems right now, especially on Chilwell Road. The poor folk at Mr Falafel (my favourite take away in Beeston: the stuffed vine leaves are so good I practically lived on them through the heat of last summer) have had the whole entrance to their shop ripped away, making them accessible only to those with jetpacks. Other shops are struggling, and while money is being promised from various sources, this is not being distributed with any urgency.

While NET have made pretty good progress of late, one problem has been the utilities. As these are not working under any threat of penalty clauses, they seem to have deprioritised essential work to allow the track laying to proceed at speed. Particularly bad are BT, who have refused to work on a large inspection chamber that is getting in the way of completing an area of Chilwell Road. This is ridiculous. Not only do BT offend my eyes with those godawful ads for their crap TV channel where two ex footballers give some top bants to the camera, but now they’re screwing the town. Bah to them.

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We had a fantastic night at film club last week. Fantastic might actually be the wrong word, as the film, The Act of Killing, was a pretty horrendous watch, and the first time I’ve had people openly weeping in the screen room. Beeston Amnesty gave a brief talk beforehand, and we raised £50 for them to help towards the fantastic work they’re doing. Guardian critic Ali Catterall travelled up from London to present it, and give some context to a deeply disturbing, bizarre and unforgiving film. Huge thanks to all who attended, donated and got through the film. If you’ve not seen it, I’d really advise you do.

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UKIP came to town  last week and held a meeting in a local pub. I’m not a fan of UKIP, and wasn’t to happy with this. Then again, everyone has the right to free speech, and the ability to assemble. It just seems that Beeston, a very diverse, multicultural town is a place Farage’s numbnut army should take a look at and see their xenophobic bufoonery is proven to be the racist guff it is by how things work here. In the course of the two days leading up to their meeting, I’d met people from Lituanian, Latvia, Taiwan, France, Canada, the US, Spain, Portugal, China, South Africa, India, Sweden, Russia, Argentina, Bulgaria and possibly many other places. All part of the tapestry of Beeston life, a rich blend that keeps the place alive and vibrant. UKIP hate that.

So we thought we’d use our own freedom of speech and let UKIP know what we thought of them. They were busy handing out their leaflets and papers, so we printed a special edition of the Beestonian (below) , a reprint of an article written by our own Bulgarian superhero, Nora, which tells how the bigotted guff they stick out is not harmless patriotism, but has a real impact on people. I do hope they -as champions of free speech-appreciated this gesture of expression. Weirdly, they looked like we’d shat in their slippers. Strange people, them UKIPpers.

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The Act of Killing at The Beestonian Film Club / Ladbrokes Are Nasty Gits / Continuum Beeston Update / BID Events.

Before we delve deeper, a couple of things:

    **** THE BEESTONIAN FILM CLUB RETURNS WITH A VERY SPECIAL EVENING!****

Yep, we have a bit of a treat for you this Monday. We have an exclusive showing of the Oscar nominated and utterly fascinating documentary, The Act of Killing.

Last year, the Cafe Roya Film Club was lucky enough to have Shane Meadows, Vicky McClure present, with the night Q+A’d by author and film/tv critic for The Guardian, Q, The Beestonian, Total Film, Film Four etc Ali Catterall.

After the event, I asked Ali about his best films of 2013, and before I had a chance to give categories he snapped ‘Act Of Killing’. Then expounded it’s values, until I had to halt him and say ‘present it at film club’.

And so he shall, as will representatives of Amnesty International. Tickets have been selling fast and we have very limited space. They’re £8 a head and include a meal prepared for by Roya that we will serve between a selection of shorts and the main feature. We hope to make a donation to Amnesty from the ticket sales, helping their very active and very effective local branch here in Beeston.

Email me at thebeestonian@gmail.com asap to reserve.

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If you’ve read this issue of The Beeston Express, you’ll be up to speed on Continuum Beeston and what we have planned. If not, go out and buy a copy, and be chuffed that we have an independent fortnightly publication in town (and a free monthly one! Now available at several more stockists: check the Facebook page for details).

I have had a fair few emails, and due to working off a memory-struggling tablet, might have overlooked a couple of emails and not sent you documents of Broxtowe’s planned relaunch. If so, contact me, I promise I’ll forward them on. You might also be interested in another document I am ok to share, that of the recent meeting at Beeston Town Hall called by Beeston BID to discuss local events and how to promote them. This is going to be a regular meeting every few weeks to ensure promoters, press, BID, and the council are all working together to ensure the stuff happening in Beeston gets communicated to as wide an audience as possible; and to pool ideas and resources for new initiatives. This is very much in line with what I have long desired for Beeston: LOADS of stuff happens here, yet they are all too often happening in discrete groups. This is not down to a desire to form cliques: quite the opposite. The problem is getting info out. Running The Beestonian, Cafe Roya Film Club and being the Promotion Coordinator for Oxjam this is all too apparent. Oxjam seems to be part of the town’s cultural fabric now, as is the magazine and film club, yet it’s a rare day I get through without someone expressing ignorance to these things: usually this admission is prefaced with the valid excuse that they simply did not know about it. I do my bit, and try and get info out on events and suchlike as much as I can, but please send in any ideas on how to do this more effectively. And if you would like a copy of the minutes to the BID meeting, email me at mattgoold23@hotmail.com and I’ll forward them over.

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Soubry has also sent out a local questionnaire asking for ideas to help Beeston: as a matter of course I will send my document over to her. If it makes it further than her recycle bin is another matter.

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News in that Young Potential, the charity that ran the ViTal charity shop on Beeston Hight Street: see Beestonia passim, has had to wind up it’s work due to financial constraints. This is a Beeston-based charity that worked hard to get vulnerable and excluded young people into work, with a staggeringly impressive rate of success. It’s chief funding engine was the ViTal shop, which had a huge coup last year by being gifted a huge amount of stuff from the 2012 London Olympics: everything from branded erasers to the flamboyant outfits used in the opening and closing ceremonies. Unfortunately, Ladbrokes turfed them out on gaining the lease in July last year. They were forced to vacate early, at the statutory minimum time by the bookmakers. As ViTal had, to minimise costs, taken out long-term commitments regarding the energy, security and other business necessities, they were committed to paying these overheads without a responsive income source. Young Potential have thus had to fold, effectively subsidising Ladbrokes before they did.

If you don’t know the Ladbrokes story, it’s in Issue 23 of the Beestonian and I will make sure it is disseminated over Beeston widely soon. I must stress this is not my story, more my collaborator on Beestonian projects,  the Fantastic Mr Christian Fox. Christian has been following this story for the last 9 months, and I’ve asked him to draft an open letter to Ladbrokes requesting a cash gift to Young Potential to shore them up.

Why? Well, Ladbrokes bought the lease for ViTal last year and rather insistently kicked them out. They then took control of the premises…and did nothing. No shop fitting, no livery…nothing. This was odd behaviour: surely buying a lease, which we have good evidence from the agents as being a long term (10-15 years) one, surely they’d be keen to set up shop?

A bit of work later and we had good evidence to believe Ladbrokes had the lease…yet were intending to leave the shop empty.

Empty.

Bizarre. Illogical. Madness.

They hustled crazily to kick ViTal out…only to commit to at least a decade of nothingness.

Which is what you, a good minded human being would think. Well done. It seems bizarre to you: you are a human. Possibly not even a civic minded human, just a human. What you’re not, what I doubt very few people outside that weirdly, clinically, psychopathic cohort known as ‘sterilizing capitalists’. They care not for the greater good, just the bottom line. ‘Ah’ you cry ‘As is, as always!’…yet I vouch this is more insidious.

Why?

These are the possible reasons that Ladbrokes intend to leave the shop empty. Shout out if you can work out more. Extra points for those which have any greater degree of rationality, humanity, or sense.

  1. Drowning out competition. The premises are ideally situated: opposite a pub and a cashpoint. As the premises was also once a Lunn Poly holiday shop, it has a inbuilt safe. This is ideal for a heavy cash business such as a bookies. Ladbrokes already has a premises in the town, opposite Wetherspoons, so might not need extra capacity. But spending a minimal amount on rent, rates and utilities and preventing a competitor in an ever burgeoning market from moving in is business sense. Shits on the town in question, but good business sense.
  2. FOBT legislation.  FOBT stands for Fixed Odd Betting Terminal. These are machines that have drawn a great deal of opprobrium due to the way they operate: these machines are commonly known as ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’. They allow the punter to chuck large stakes -£100 every thirty seconds – at quick-fix terminals. While it can be argued they could do just this in a casino, it can also be argued that a casino has a duty of care towards users, and to enter a casino, usually not placed in impoverished areas near impulse ticklers, is harder to do and less discreet than banging a wage packet down the machine opposite the pub.  Whatever your stance on freedom of personal choice is, the simple social and fiscal fact is that these machines lead to the type of gambling problems that wound the community they are based in. The social problems that ensue from debt and gambling addiction way outweigh any local benefit in jobs or business rates. Sensibly, this has been recognised by government and clamped down on, limiting the amount of FOBTs to 4 per premise. This means that the more premises they have, the more FOBTs. As FOBTs raise the vast majority of any betting shop’s takings, well over the standard horse/dog/ flutter on a football score take, they are hugely reluctant to see these legislated against. So open another store! When it’s efficient to do so, open and double your spread.
  3. License Legislation. Simply, legislation controlling bookmakers is going to be an issue over the next few months. We are 15 months from the General Election, and positions are being formed. Bookmakers are going to be an easy target for parties to promise legislation on. The Tories have fuffed, frothed and fugged without any meaningful point, while Labour have at least given some indication that locally-toxic businesses such as chain bookmakers will have to pass a greater degree of public opprobrium and valid opposition than right now. When I tried to oppose Ladbroke’s takeover of ViTal, I was told there were only two grounds: i)it would impact upon my quality of life as a resident ii) it would impact on my business, being a local trader. Nothing about the fact that the business can be proven to be malignant to the town itself. If Labour do gain power, and duly legislate (my breath is also not held here), then a license to trade will be impossible to get. Yet is as unlikely that said license can be revoked retrospectively. Thus: buy up premises now, get the licenses, pay next to nowt until you need them, open when business peaks and have an edge on post-legislative competition.
  4. All of the above.  You massive cynic.

You’ll also degrade  the community beforehand: an informal conversation I had with a major Beeston landlord recently had him terrified that, although he might take a few quid off Ladbrokes anyhow, landbanking for any of the above reasons  is bad. A business looking for premises is way less likely to open next to a business that is derelict, even if it’s funded. Said property agent has a struggle thusfore as it they have to sell isolated space.

In precis: Ladbrokes are bastards.

We’re working on a way to try and impress upon Ladbrokes to free up the lease, and/or make a substansial donation to Young Potential to allow them to continue the good work they are proven to do. An open letter will be imminent.