It’s October! No, really, it is, I just checked on my wall planner, desk diary, pocket diary, online diary, phone diary, and finally, for ultimate accuracy, Ceefax. And it’s true. It’s bloody October.
To me, that means but one thing. Not bleeding the radiators, harvesting the last summer fruits. Not designing a Hallowe’en outfit, not considering a jumper. It means a state of tight panic as Oxjam comes hurtling towards Beeston.
I’ve been involved since 2011, when it was first mooted to hold it in Beeston. I was sceptical it would work: could we really sell enough tickets to raise significant funds? Or would we get loads of bands to play to the proverbial two men and a dog? Still, I gave some promotional support, hosted the spoken word event and crossed my fingers.
It turned out to be a fantastic success. We raised over £4,000, every penny going straight to Oxfam. Yet I noticed several other things that I didn’t expect.
People. Loads of people. Loads of people walking between venues, getting into the music, spending money en route. Beeston has a fairly low key nightlife compared to the drink-sodden fleshpits in Nottingham. A few great pubs, a few bits and bobs, but little else. Yet once we had an event in place, people appeared and got involved. It made me realise that it’s not a lack of people that was to blame for the quiet nature of the evening economy, but the lack of things to do. Provide the events, and people will come.
This didn’t escape Simon Barton’s, head of Bartons. While having a post-event beer with him that year, I told him that his venue could well be a good venue for more gigs. ‘Gigs?’ he replied ‘No, more than that, gigs, comedy, markets… could be the new Hacienda’. He made good on this, with Barton’s programme of events (some particularly excellent stuff this year) has grown wonderfully and with a thrilling sense of seemingly random eclecticism.
It encouraged me to put on events too, from The Beestonian Film Club Cafe Roya; to public meetings to discuss civic matters. Others have also been spurred into action: The Beeston Cinema seems to be hitting it’s stride, and is back on tonight; and the live music scene has never been healthier. The Crown, White Lion, the Vic, Malt Shovel, Greyhound, Hop Pole, The Star and many others are building a great reputation for putting on cracking gigs. When you see a full house on a Sunday afternoon, as I did when passing The Crown on Sunday, you know something is going right.
This has made Oxjam better each year. We have a huge amount of talented bands and solo artists in a tiny area, and each Oxjam turns up a new horde of gems. That’s why this year we decided to pick out a few favourites and put them on a CD, which you can pick up at The Crown, The Guitar Spot, The Hop Pole and here. It’s a real corker of a compilation, and just a fiver: every penny goes straight into our coffers. Go on, treat yourself.
This year we’re bigger than ever. We’ve had a series of fundraisers already, including a caketastic Bake Off, a foot-stomping Ceilidh and next weekend we have our first Classical Event at Beeston Parish Church: this is shaping up to be a fantastic night in a wonderfully atmospheric venue. Get your tickets now.
We have also partnered this year with the University, who will be running an event called ‘THIS IS BEESTON!’ at Bartons throughout the day. This is an attempt to further bonds between town and gown, by showing students what we can offer them on the other side of the West Entrance. What better day to do this than at Oxjam? We’re dead lucky having a campus next door, it’s existence does a great deal to keep Beeston special, and not just a forgotten bit of urban sprawl outside the city. I even got a wife out of it. Let’s make this relationship even stronger.
Bartons will also be hosting the Carnival of Monsters on the day; an annual arts party and exhibition, featuring a mix of local and not so local artists. This is always a real treat: past years have featured bizarre, interactive table tennis tables; ghost buses; video installations and tons more. As we’re taking up two rooms just with Oxjam that day, Bartons is going to be a pretty glorious place to visit.
They’ll be loads to eat and drink on the day, and we’ve even got our own sausage this year. After the success of the Oxjam FestivAle last year (also available at venues this year); we decided to branch into food and try our hand at sausages. A phone call to our friend, Britain’s Best Butcher Johnny Pustzai, and after a few meetings and a hilariously inept (on my part) attempt to use a sausage machine, we have the official Oxjam Sausage, a beef + chilli jam mix, which uses all local ingredients and tastes utterly wonderful. These will be available on the day from the Beedhams Butcher stall at the Crown, either to eat in a bun or take away and savour later.
Last year, we raised over £10,000; sold out all 800 tickets and won an award for Best Community Involvement from Oxfam through our engagement with Beeston in making it a success. This year, we reckon we could do even better. How can you help? Well, buy a ticket first. We’ve kept the advance ticket the same since 2011 at a hugely bargainous £5. This gives you access to all the evenings venues that will be exclusively Oxjam after six pm. If you can’t make the evening, there is loads of free stuff all over Beeston to get involved in, and a HUGE raffle with some seriously incredible prizes. Our army of volunteers (every one of us does this for free) will be shaking tins and buckets, please drop a few coins in. Pick up a copy of The Beestonian Oxjam Special: the first 500 copies will have an exclusive free CD of jazz vocalist and Beestonian Jeanie Barton. Its out next week. Buy our CD. Come along to the classical event. Grab our sausage. Drink our beer. Cheer our bands.
In making Beeston an incredible place, you can also make the world a little less shit. We’ll see you down the front.