Isolation Wrting #4: Brox-it?

While I sit out a two week period of Track and Trace enforced lockdown, I’ve set myself a challenge to write a daily article of exactly 500 words in less than an hour about a different subject each day. Today I look at the prospect of abandoning our Borough chums and becoming city-slickers….

Back in my childhood, two important conventions were drilled into me when giving my address. The first has a whiff of ‘70s new-build aspirant working-class snobbery about it: I was told to always put that we lived in New Stapleford, to differentiate ourselves from our more ancient neighbour the other end of Hickings Lane. 

The second was small, but crucial. We didn’t write (‘New) Stapleford, Nottingham’ but ‘(New) Stapleford, Notts. I’m sure those lucky enough to grow up in Beeston felt the same. We were of the County. Not part of the city and all its industrial incontinence (these were the days Raleigh made stuff to get people fit, while the next door ciggie factory got them the opposite). It felt significant: while our region doesn’t have the long-held conventions of what divides a Brummie from a Yam-Yam; a Man of Kent rather than a Kentish Man; or the actual acoustic reach of the Cockney-creating Bow Bells, the division between city and county is noticeable -just watch the rection on the face a fan of the Tricky Trees when you utter the dread words ‘Notts Forest’.

As I grew older, and moved to Beeston, this pride started to appear a little arbitrary, not lease when I became a postal worker at Royal Mail: Long Eaton, which sits the other side of the Erewash, has a Notts postcode while many Notts villages have Doncaster and Sheffield postcodes. Living in Beeston at a time when the University campus has expanded and sent tendrils out into the town; and where the city-centred Robin Hood transport network takes in the whole of Beeston, and the tram ties us even closer to the city. Many of us work there. In Beeston, we face east. 

In the very early days of this blog I decided to cycled to all the Broxtowe wards during a local elections. It took all day (with many stops to do some journalism, of course) and what was striking was how long and narrow the area is. Most conurbations succumbed to the gravity of a city, with places such as Kimberley and Eastwood feeling more like outposts rather than possessing any sense of contiguity. It set me thinking “Should we be absorbed into the city?”.

I didn’t, to be honest, give it a great deal of thought since that day, but similar to other things the Covid Crisis has flung it to the forefront. Much is being made in the media as I write this about Nottingham – as a city – locking down due to a surge in cases. But of their immediate neighbours? It’s unclear. Broxtowe as a whole has marginally less case ratios than the national average, but here in Beeston it’s much higher. Application of a lockdown might prove tricky, not least for Broxtowe Borough Council. Here’s a useful thread from the BBC’s Hugh Casswell:

So let the debate commence: should we ditch the County for the City? Should we, as a town, consider the benefits / detriments of Brox-it?

One thought on “Isolation Wrting #4: Brox-it?

  1. Robert Howard says:

    Here I am again Matt, wanting to contribute to your debate about is Beeston city or county? I have blogged about this on my Beestonweek blog and submitted maps to Beeston Updated supporting the argument that Beeston should become part of the City if the alternative is becoming part of a unitary county council. Now there is talk of a super ‘combined authority (CA), which I could support if Beeston came out of it with its own Beeston-wide ‘mini-mayor’ with control of ‘door-step’ services and facilities, like neighbourhood based care services and parks. Last week I posted a map from Centre for Cities showing travel and work patterns in Greater Nottingham. It just confirmed my mantra for decades, which has been ‘follow the buses’ if you want to understand and define communities. This clearly shows Beeston is more city than Broxtowe Borough, let alone the county. The Government is close to publishing its own proposals for the future of local government in England. The trouble is that the main political parties have little to no interest in community/local empowerment and this is a national problem – which helps explain the growth in ‘town based’ political parties (e.g. Ashfield and Mansfield in Notts). My gut tells me Beeston may follow their example.We shall see…

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