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.
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.
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.
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.