Hitting the Ladbrokes Jackpot / Continuum…continues.

Back from my honeymoon, where I desperately tried to turn my snooping newshound head off, but then found myself slipping into interview mode by asking every passing Scot there thoughts on independence. Still, a great holiday had in the town of my birth, with many highlights including discovering Barrs make more pop than just Irn Bru: the cola they do is so incredible I weeped sticky treacle tears; and not one person talking about the bloody tram. 

I’ve taken  a break from the magazine while I’m been busy getting married/honeymooning, leaving it in the capable hands of others who keep telling me to retract my beak and go and climb a mountain every time I try and intervene. Yet a great long term story we’ve ran here and on the magazine reached a bit of a climax just before I went away, and it’s great news.

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Just under a year ago, my colleague at The Beestonian Christian Fox reported on how the ViiTal charity shop had been forced out of their premises by Ladbrokes. We were pretty annoyed by the way Ladbrokes had acted, but business is business and their was no way to fight back. ViTal duly closed, with the charity it supported, Beeston Based Young Potential, severed from it’s chief source of income. We awaited the depressing site of a bookies to appear

But nothing. 

Christian and I got suspicious, so earlier this year we decided to investigate. After talking to various sources we discovered the shocking fact that Ladbrokes had no intention of moving in. They were effectively landbanking the shop. We ran it as the lead in Issue 23 of The Beestonian, then wrote an open letter to the Chief Executive of Ladbrokes pointing out the damage they were doing. Between both pieces, Young Potential had to close, no longer having the steady income stream the shop provided to fund the many local projects they ran to help into work  young people and disabled people who grow up facing social exclusion, poverty, poor living conditions, neglect, abuse and insecurity. They looked at setting up under a new banner, Transform, but with no funds this would be a laborious process: before a charity can get official status it has to have £5,000 in the bank. It’s a real Catch-22: without the charitable status it’s difficult to fundraise; without funds it’s difficult to get charitable status.

Richard Glynn, head of Ladbrokes, then surprised us by sending an apologetic email to us to pass onto the founder of Young Potential, Teresa. We duly passed it on. There was mention of a donation to Transform, but we expected this to be a token figure of around £100, with the proviso that we shut up about it afterwards. Well, better than nothing.

I was having coffee at Bean last week, when Sophie, one of the people behind Transform, came bounding out their office, which overlooks the coffeeshop. ‘Ladbrokes have sent us a letter!’ she told me ‘And they’ve enclosed a cheque for £5,000!’ I was pretty astounded.

A few qualifiers before we let off the fireworks: the closure of ViTal probably cost more than £5,000 to the charity, and £5,000 is a dust mote of the £1.1 billion Ladbrokes turned over in 2013. But it’s £5,000 more than they would have had without a fuss being kicked up about it, and they can now get charitable status and get on with the great work they do. Also, I reckon Teresa, the charity founder, won’t be shy to tap up Richard Glynn for a few quid more in the future….

For now, we’ll draw a line under the story and put it in our ‘success!’ folder. We couldn’t have done it without the support of readers here and at The Beestonian, and I want to thank Christian Fox for his tenacity, thoroughness and journalistic skills in guiding the story  from despair to success.

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Beeston Continuum continues to develop, and more news out later on our next steps. There is a great write up of the recent meetin g in the latest Civic Society magazine (to get a copy sent over you’re best of becoming a member:email beestoncivicsociety@googlemail.com to do just that), and Professor Poliakoff and myself had our articles on the idea of an iconic building in town published in the Nottingham Post on  Wednesday, have a look here, here and here. Keep the ideas coming in, now I’m back in South Britain I’ll start working through them.

SPLICED!

You might not like to read this. it’s not the usual Beestonia post, but then, what is?

There has never been a theme to this, apart from the utterly literal reading of the neologism ‘blog’: that is, a web log. An online diary.

Of course, some subjects resonate, and thus dominate. Weirdly, and unintentionally, I’ve become an advocate for several causes through this site: Wilko’s workers, Royal Mail reform, Hindu Temple support and much else. It feels rather thrust upon me, but I am not complaining. I started this blog because I struggled to find much about Beeston being discussed online; and the nagging realisation there was loads to be talking about.

It’s the joint proudest thing I ever did. We’ll discuss the more recent half in a sec. But about Beestonia first.

It’s been half a decade since I started this blog, and nearly three years since I set up The Beestonian. Four years since I got involved with Oxjam. A year and a half since I wrote the screenplay for the Beestonian film (in edit! available soon! With accompanying film of the ‘making of’ which is composed solely of me looking earnest, with clipboard). Ten months since I set up the Beestonian Film Club at Cafe Roya, which has been hugely, weirdly succesful. One week since I set up the White Lion Beestonian pub quiz. I’ve had a busy time of late.

If you read this blog to keep up-to-date with Continuum Beeston or any other pointedly civic matters, then it might be best to stop reading now. Otherwise this post might bore in it’s own apparent solipsism. There is other stuff on the internet. I recommend typing ‘cat’ and ‘funny’ into Youtube’s search function. The years – the decades – will fly by.

So. I got married this weekend. For the past few years, while I’ve been busy writing about other stuff, I’ve been lucky enough to have a beautiful, caring and very lovely girlfriend, Ellie, aka Dr Turpin, aka Weasel.

I doubt I would have done most of the things listed above if it wasn’t for her. She’s indulged me when I’ve got up at daft hours to run petitions, or gone on ‘research’ pub crawls, or had fits of pure anxiety when a deadline looms and I can’t satisfactorily finish off an article. Fortifying cups of tea have been on hand, and a steady supply of Crunchies or whatever snack I’m having a faddish obsession with at the time.

She is a tough critic of my work, my first proof-reader and frank editor. As a scientist, she insists on detail, on accuracy, on rationality above emotional bluster. She also never fails to remind me of Hemingway’s motto: ‘Write drunk, edit sober’. You have spared many booze-fuelled late night rants with the application of this.

We chose a simple wedding, both not convinced by the growing conspicuous consumption that is usually seen as standard (the average wedding is around £20,000). So a Friday at Nottingham Council House, then a reception and barbecue at The White Lion.

Despite the modest budget and looseness of the whole thing, I felt lavished. The sweeping marble staircases of the Council House provided a great photo op that made it look like we’d booked a stately home, and their is something thrilling about stepping out into the sun onto slab square with a cheering crowd thronging.

Lavished in another sense. The day was perfect in it’s simplicity, and that allowed something else to really shine. Not a religious thing, not a lost-in-a-fairytale thing, but the feeling that this was a community. Keeping the party local, we were treated wonderful by the managers of The White Lion, Sergio and Natalie. The band, Crazy Heart, are friends who always storm Oxjam, and really gave their best (even rehearsing and performing ‘My Lovely Horse’ from Father Ted as a surprise for equine /comedy priest fan Ellie.

Our cake, or more accurately, cakes, were given to us as a gift from champion cakemaker Karen Attwood, who runs Classy Cupcakes, as well as the Civic Society Magazine. Our photographers were our friends Christopher and Gail Frost, a wonderful and talented couple who also gave their services as a gift to us.

There were other gestures that made me swell with pride: Steve Plowright, local busker and poet (you might have seen him with his accordion round town), who I’ve known less than a year, constructed us an incredible woven corn heart, as well as writing a beautifully illustrated poem.

There are two many people and acts of wonderfulness to put down here: but I will ensure I personally thank everyone when I see them. I will be buying many people many pints, and happily so.

I wrote an article for The Nottingham Post a few weeks back, explaining why I was getting married. My reasons were that it’s irrational, romantic, and a wonderful emotional indulgence: just as love is. There was something more though. Surrounded by my friends, many who I have only met through this blog or other projects, I realised that we are only whole through others. The much mooted concept of atomised individualism, that selfish concept Thatcherites saw as the ideal citizen, it’s tosh, bunk, piffle.

We are better together. Whether that be through the exchanging of rings and kisses at the ceremony with my new wife, or as a community pulling together, life is enriched by others. John Paul Satre, hell might be other people in your eyes. But you didn’t live round here, did you?

Thank you so much, Beestonians native and honoury. I just went and had the best day of my life.

A Green Future For Beeston?

Friday night, and instead of heading straight from work to the pub, a load of you came down to the Civic Society extra meeting, where myself and other members of the Continuum Beeston steering group announced our findings and thoughts.

L-R: Judy Sleath, Chair of Beeston and District Civic Society; Owen Rees, Civic Society Web Manager; John Delaney, Head of Built Environment, Broxtowe Borough Council; me; Nick Palmer; Professor Martyn Poliakoff.


The most significant element of the meeting was the proposal put forward by Professor Martyn Poliakoff, who as well as being a extraordinary scientist, member of the Royal Society and Youtube star, is a proud Beestonian, raising a family here, his kids even attending the same school we held the meeting in.

The concept is quite simple on the surface. Beeston’s future could lie in becoming a ‘sustainable town’, hosting an iconic, futuristic building built using cutting edge technologies: something that will draw in visitors, and as such further businesses.

This would be designed by way of a competition between the large amount of architecture students at the University of Nottingham. Tapping this huge amount of talent is a fantastic idea, and a two way street: they get a great, real-world project to work on; we get a fantastic structure that will shape the way Beeston develops. The University hierarchy have already been sounded out by Professor P, and are very keen on the idea: we’re talking right the way up to Vice Chancellor here. At last, the often remarked upon potential of having a huge Russell Group University in our backyard will be tapped. Town and gown symbiosis. Other organisations have been contacted, and are keen to get involved.

Such an organisation is Attenborough Nature Reserve. As they are listed as one of the world’s top eco-destinations, they have already blazed a trail for putting us on the map. By linking up to them, and also featuring the hydro-electric plant at Beeston Weir, we already have a strong presence. An iconic building / town plan would crystallize this into something incredible.

Of course, funds would have to be found to build it. Developers step in at this point: we get a fantastic concept together, backed by the Uni, the Council and, well, us, the people who live in this town, and throw us much media attention and detail in as possible and they’d be queuing up to take on such a prestige development.

How would this revitalise Beeston? First, we’d become a tourist draw. Prof P pointed out that the present Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) is tucked away in Snowdonia, in the hard to reach town of Machynlleth. If we had something similar here, we might not do so well on the scenery but the ease to reach us from anywhere in Britain would be a strong draw.

This in turn would show we were not just any suburb,but somewhere truly unique, not overshadowed by Nottingham or sinking into the grey dullness of a dormitory town. It would be bright, ambitious, and square that seemingly impossible circle of bringing the University into the community. Such links, on a purely economic level, are massive.

The idea, expressed with much more depth and eloquence by the good Professor at the meeting, seemed to go down very well with the audience. Their is a lot of detail to sweat over if this is done, but the energy is there.

That energy needs to keep flowing. We need to not let this idea slip, and to do that, we need to get Beeston talking about it, Beeston behind it. We need YOU. It was noted on the night that the average age of attendees to such meetings was always quite old, and not reflecting the true demographic of the town. True, inevitable in many ways, so we need to get this idea disseminated and discussed amongst the people who will truly reap the benefits: the young. Linking in schools, bringing more University outreach into town: all these will greatly help.

I am going to keep writing about this as I get news: one of the complaints we received regarding the Continuum was a lack of transparency: I am to blame for that having to miss the last meeting (I was on my stag night, and even someone as nerdishly obsessed with civic duty as myself chose to go dancing instead).

I need you to get the message out, get people reading this blog, getting ideas over and creating a buzz. Feel free to write to me directly either through the comments section of this blog or to my email account, mattgoold23@hotmail.com . We need to see if this idea works for you, as residents of this town. If you can offer further support, then please don’t be shy to come forward. I will ensure that your correspondence is read, and kept to enrich the debate: due to getting married on Friday then disappearing to a Scottish glen for a while, out of any wi-fi or phone signal reach, I can’t promise to individually answer.

This could be the start of something incredible. We could change this town forever, on our terms. Let’s get to work.

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A huge thanks to the Civic Society, for arranging this extra meeting. I don’t believe it would be possible to set up an initiative like Continuum Beeston without their help: their depth of knowledge and experience, attained over the forty years of existence, is breath-taking. To join, and it is really worth doing, or to find out more (I’d recommend their upcoming series of heritage walks), pop over to their website here: http://beestoncivicsociety.org.uk/

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And just a brief plug for something I’m doing this week: The White Lion is starting up a monthly quiz night, running the second Tuesday of each month, and I’ve volunteered to host it. The first one is this Tuesday, from around 8pm, and free to enter a team. There will be booze-based prizes, as well as a rare and much-coveted Beestonian t-shirt up for grabs. If you’d like to come along, then I’ll see you there. And no, it won’t be easy: I’m cobbling together 40 fiendish questions to vex and perplex, right now.

Beeston’s Tomorrows at Tomorrow’s Meeting / Enter Parliament…for just £15

We’re just one day away from the Civic Society meeting on Continuum Beeston, which I’ll be co-hosting with Prof Martyn Poliakoff, Chair of The Civic Society; and Nick Palmer. It’s shaping up to be a very interesting meeting.

While I’ve been slightly out the loop with Beeston Continuum due to other commitments, I’ve been catching up and and massively impressed with some of the concepts that have been developed, and am looking forward to revealing more tomorrow.

Yet it’s not a one-way street. We need you to attend to still give new ideas, tell us what you think about the ones we already have, and get involved. The most staggering thing I’ve discovered about writing about Beeston is how civic minded people are: the desire to shape the town’s destiny is spiriting: I’m proud to live in a town that cares that much. Maybe it’s a recent thing, a ‘blitz-spirit’mentality bought on by the tram works and Square development?

I think it goes deeper than that. Working on projects such as this has bought me into contact with a diverse amount of groups doing wonderful work over Beeston, and have been doing so for years, without shouting about it as much as I do. Any group like that needs new members, please consider getting involved: they will be plenty of chances tomorrow night.

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It’s exactly a year to the day till the General Election results, and thus politics will be pretty inescapable for the next 365 days. Westminster shenanigans often seem remote, so I thoroughly recommend a trip to the Commons arranged by our industrious neighbours over at the Stapleford Community Group. For just £15, you can join them on a day trip to Parliament (or simply take one look at Big Ben then pop round the shops for a few hours). More details here: http://staplefordcommunitygroup.org.uk/2014/02/17/stapleford-community-group-day-trip-to-house-of-parliament/

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See you all tomorrow!

Correction!

Just a quick note to correct my last post: the correct time for the Civic Society / Beeston Continuum meeting on May 9th is 7.30pm, not 7pm.

Of course you’re welcome to come along at seven, and look like the sad cases who queue for Apple products. We won’t let you in till 7.30, so we recommend wearing layers and a waterproof, and perhaps bring some sandwiches.

Beeston Continuum: Very Special Open Meeting / On yer bike / Beestonia ditches Bachelorhood

Stuff seems to accelerate as we hurtle towards the summer. Winter’s stasis is replaced with spring’s burgeoning intensity, and my inbox starts looking as bursting as Eric Pickle’s cummerbund.

There are loads of things going on over the next few weeks, and I can’t always fit them on here, or even in The Beestonian, but try and get them on our Facebook site which we update several times daily. Hopefully we can incorporate some sort of calendar on there so you can plan your summer with ease. There really is loads going on.

Possibly the most crucial event on the horizon takes place next Friday, the 9th, at John Clifford school. From 7.30pm, we will be having the first public meeting of the Beeston Continuum project that came about as a result of the ‘Beeston New Deal’ meeting I held with Nick Palmer in January. I have missed last two steering group meetings due to other commitments, but heard they have been vibrant affairs stuffed with good ideas.

Thus, these discussions, evaluations and ideas need a public airing. The starting point of the initiative is local democracy in the town: letting residents, so often at the mercy of planners and developers, have a say. The event is being ran by Beeston and District Civic Society, as an extraordinary meeting.

Movie that's pure gold

Dr Palmer and myself will be hosting, alongside a very special guest, Professor Martyn Poliakoff. I’ve long been a fan of the Professor, writing this way back in 2009 before I’d ever met him. I then had the great privilege of interviewing for a piece for The Beestonian, and found him as charming as he is intelligent. As well as a fantastic scientist, he’s a civic minded chap and bursting with good ideas. It will be great to hear his input.

We’ll also have a wealth of local groups and influential individuals, and think it will be a positive, forward thinking meeting on how we can shape Beeston’s destiny. It’s free to Civic Society members, non-members can make a donation towards room hire costs at their discretion.

I really hope you can make it down: as Beeston changes rapidly, we need to know from you where the town should be heading.

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Issue 26 of The Beestonian should be out later in the weekend, and it’s by far our most wonderful one yet, stuffed with news, opinions, a board game, cartoon wonderfulness, Frodo Baggins and much, much more. Incredibly, it’s still utterly free…

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Cyclists! Here’s a new initiative setting up tomorrow, and ongoing throughout the Summer: BEESTON CYCLE CENTRE A5 FLYER (click to enlarge)
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I’ll be running a new pub quiz at The White Lion on a monthly basis, starting on Tuesday 13th May. This will be NOT like the usual pub quiz, but a lot more experimental….and some excellent prizes. Mark it in your diary, now.
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And finally, I best mention that I might not be very prolific with this blog over the next two weeks. In exactly a fortnight I’ll be marrying my beautiful fiancée, and then having a big party before she changes her mind.

Why marry? It’s a question I dwelled on recently, before writing this for the Nottingham Post