John McDonnell visits Beeston, gets collared by Beestonia and Son.

mattand sonMy Thursdays are now spent solely looking after my son, Leif: we don’t put him in nursery that day and my wife works, so I have the day ‘off’ from my job, and it’s just me and him all day. I love my job (yes, I have one, Anna Soubry, and a good one, despite your snarling ‘Get a job you layabout’ comment when I questioned your attitude to constituents, back in May. True Tory colours shone through there, didn’t they?), but this is my favourite weekday.

So Thursdays are a joy of playing with Leif, feeding Leif, getting Leif to nap, taking Leif for a push around Beeston, changing Leif’s nappy and generally immersing myself completely in parenting. As someone whose own dad was at sea for most of his formative years, I know the importance of that bond and what happens when it doesn’t form, so am vigilant to ensure it does. It seems to have. We spend the day laughing.

So far, so Mumsnet-friendly. Yet then I get a call from Labour HQ, asking if I’d like to interview John McDonnell for Beestonia. I’m about to turn it down with a self-righteous ‘No. nothing will spoil this precious time between my baby and me’ when I realise it’s only round the corner. Plus, Leif likes accompanying me on journalistic stuff: he came

radio Leif

Radio Ga-Ga-Ga-Ga

with me to a pre-record a few weeks back at BBC Radio Nottingham: halfway through the interview he started making loud ‘blah blah blah’ noises: not quite as viral-worthy of the famous BBC News clip, but an interesting, if not a mildly harsh commentary on my self-promoting style from an infant critic.

Plus, the massive poo that he’s been storing up for days finally broke through earlier in the day, and he’s been in a much better mood since that particular horror. He can come with me.

Into the pushchair he goes, and we head out.

I set up a camera next to Notts TV and the Nottingham Post, and hastily scribble some questions. I was here -the Shed in Beeston- a few weeks ago when Corbyn visited. It was that event when it started to really dawn on me the Tories were not in for a landslide. I’ve been to many political rallies over the years but never seen so many new faces, so many young faces. The youth vote came out in force, inspired by a less dull type of politics.

McDonnell doesn’t attract such numbers -it’s a Thursday afternoon, and we’re not in the heat of an election – but it’s still an impressive turnout. Again, I’m struck by the young voters. When I first voted, it was in the age of Kinnock and a growing centrism in politics. I probably would have been in raptures about someone like Corbyn: instead, a succession of slick, uninspiring ideologically shallow suits presided. That’s not necessarily a complaint -they did a fair measure of good stuff- but you can see why it turned off the young. The Clegg / Cameron / Miliband 2015 offering was probably the nadir of this. I’m not a Corbynista as such, but I am impressed with his campaigning and the way he put forward a costed manifesto that simply made sense. I like the way Labour does seem a hotbed of ideas now, a broad church gradually coming to a sort of peace with itself, messy around the edges but not the whipped-to-hell sterile slickness of modern politics.

IMG_2729Not to say McDonnell isn’t slick. He arrives and launches into a stump speech without notes, straight off the back, and fields questions with ease. I get a few snaps, all the time while holding a baby with my free hand. I didn’t have a great deal of time to prep my questions, and a dodgy contact lens hindered my attempts to read my notes, so apologies for the rather clumsy questioning.


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And if the producers of BBC’s Today programme are reading, I’m sure John Humphries isworth every penny of his £600,000, but if you need a cheaper option I can do it for a fraction of that….if you don’t mind a few baby babbles in the background.

 

 

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Brexit Watersheds

I’m fascinated by the period of time when Sixties radicalism realised it had failed to paint it black: the slouch away from Babylon marked by Withnail, The White Album, Altamont and Francis Wheen’ s Strange Days Indeed. A time described by Hunter S Thompson as “where you could see the ring of scum from the high-tide mark slowly appear, clinging to Californian hills as the dream drained” 
I think we’re living in a similar phase of history, but with that other baby-boomer concept in fast retreat: right-wing nationalism.
A year ago it appeared a tsunami; after a surprise 2015 election, the shock of Brexit. I was abroad when it happened, and spent the days following talking to other Europeans on the same Greek Island: Dutch concerned it would now break the dykes and flood their lowlands; Germans shocked at the poison they’d tirelessly drawn from their system for 8 decades was now being enthusiastically injected straight into an artery; French worried that as the channel closed, the wave would sweep East onto their beaches with Marine Le Pen elevated on the crest of foamed breakers.
Yet a year on, it looks like Brexit was the peak. Yes, it swept across the ocean, taking time to smash into Atlantic seaboards, but when it did it was diminished. Trump failed to get the popular vote, and was elected fatally wounded; his presidency limping along, bleeding out.
Le Pen, Wilders and many others touted in 2016 as the fresh face of democratic fascism have proven to be as robust as paper flag topped sandcastles.
UKIP are failed, and disintegrating fast. Yes, they have been largely absorbed by the Tories, but after a ‘Brexit election’ proved to be easily turned towards the social inequity that the right wing thought we could be distracted from with patriotic chest-beating. 
Boris Johnson increasingly looks less like the clubbable, charmingly-unkempt funnyman we always knew he wasn’t, and more like the nasty, self-preserving fuckwit he truly is. 
May is finished, after her tilt towards codifying the Tory belief in their divine right to rule. Andrea Leadsom revealing demands broadcasters support the government out of  patriotic duty. Davis looking like a mouse cornered by the European Bueracats he has long held irrational hate for.
A year on, it feels like we can breathe again. The young have stood up and shown they cannot be  dismissed again. Corbyn has crossed over to the mainstream, and now feels like a credible leader. Left-wing critiques on issues are being debated when previously the media wouldn’t touch such perspectives.  Half of all Sun readers didn’t vote.
It’s probably a reversion to the mean, a settling to sea-level. Liberal democracy has a way of doing that. As for Brexit? The day after the referendum, I was in a taxi after a day swimming in warm Greek seas. “We voted no, but we didn’t leave” the driver told us “You see, that will happen to your country”. I thought that as likely as breathing under water. Now it feels increasingly possible. We’re no longer swimming upstream. We’re winning.

Shower of Soubs

For someone who was doing his very best to not write about the forthcoming election, I’m not doing too well. With my actual job, my freelance work, running The Beestonian and spending as much time I can with my beautiful son, I don’t really have time to write.

Yet I’m finding time today after one of the most revealing, nasty thing happened courtesy of Anna Soubry, who, as readers of this blog know, is no fan of mine. I revealed recently that she actually living in Leicestershire, despite promising many many times to move to Broxtowe. This has, I hear, really got under her skin.

I was taking my son for a walk in Beeston today, picking up the new copy of The Beestonian and generally enjoying the summer weather. I saw Soubry on the High Street. This is like Bill Oddie spying a dodo in his back yard. She’d actually deigned to descend on the town she clearly dislikes.

I thought it might make an amusing photo op, so i popped into Poundland and picked up a white board, wrote ‘LIVES IN CHARNWOOD’ on it and asked my friend Christopher to take a photo of my holding it behind her. He agreed, I stood a few feet to her rear and the photo was taken. At this point she span round, recognised me then said something quite extraordinary.

“You’re a horrible man. You’re horrible to everyone. You’re very horrible to you mother”

Boom.

I best give some context, without washing too much dirty laundry in public. A few years ago, I decided to cut off contact with my parents. This was a very tough thing to do, but a necessary decision. Years of emotional abuse and a childhood of physical abuse had done a lot of damage, and continued to eat at me. Having a clean break was startlingly effective. I have only just really started exploring it in my head. Having my own child has given immense clarity: I was terrified of having a boy in case I was to him what my parents were to me. Man passes misery on to man / it deepens like an ocean shelf, as the Humberside miserabilist had it.  But when he came along, my past fell away, and my future began. I loved him with every fibre of my existence, and that has only grown. My life would course differently. No ocean shelves of misery, no punches and kicks. I could only see love, pure love. I was cleansed of my past.

But to Anna it is fair game. Back in 2015, she mentioned my mother on social media on knowing it was a raw point. I wrote to her asking her to decline, as it was a low blow. She told me to man up.

So I was on the street, trembling with rage. What sort of person sinks that low? I decided I had to get her to clarify it, so I started filming on my phone and approached her again.

…and shot five seconds of my feet before mistaking the pause button for the record. I will instead give an account in words.

I approach the shonky politician “Anna” I ask her “Could you explain why you bought my family up just then? Why did you do that?”

Anna sees me, and turns from the camera. First for everything, I suppose.

I ask again. Her activist goons start crowding round me, trying to block the camera and telling me to move on. But I need an answer. I need to know why she feels she can do this to people.

I do a rather deft feint, and sidestep the blue-rosetted huddle trying to get round me. Suddenly I’m face to face with her. Her face contorts into a sneer. That often sounds a bit over-dramatic when people say that, and often refers only to a half-smile. But this is a sneer, a full, nasty, incisor-glistening sneer “Why don’t you get a job, you horrible layabout?”

Well, I have a job. I have several jobs, and have to now turn down work. I tell her this and she says ‘A real job, you lazy boy”.

I aspire to laziness, I really do. As it is, I’m up at dawn with the baby, work all day then do my share of the cooking and cleaning when i get back. I also run the magazine, contribute to a podcast, run local charity events, oversee several online community forums, volunteer for the local Civic Society, and lots of other stuff I could be doing now instead of typing this.

I ask  her to retract what she said about my family. She calls me a ‘loony’.

“Your mother has every right to think you are a despicable boy” Boy! I’m 43. The condescension is strong on this one. I am agog.

“I’m going to call the police” she tells me “They’ll have fun with you” (?)

I tell her she can call them, but first will she retract.

“You’re not worth it, rubbish like you” she shouts back.

Her activists are now crowding round me. One tries to be ultra-reasonable and ays ‘You’re obviously upset” and tries to shepherd me away. Another digs me in the kidneys from behind, making me jump.

I decide that i am not going to get an answer from her, and I am upset and shocked and utterly not going to get any form of apology for a remorseless, nasty Soubry.

The activist goons help speed me away. I can’t help but swear at this point “You’re a shower of shit” is my rather crap parting shot.

I go off and see my wife upset, as she can see what happens. We find coffee and a sit down. I go to check the footage. My mouth dry with fading adrenalin. I discover i can’t work my new phone and the footage is of my, appropriately enough, foot. A wave of depression blacks over my mind. It lifts when I later feed my baby, and I realise that I am blessed.

Soubry? I pity her. She is so lost in her nastiness, her sneering, senseless nastiness she shows how perfect she is in a party that uses hate, smears and fear to rouse their voters.

Soubry disappears…last seen in Leicestershire.

 

That question has been on many lips the last few weeks, as she seems to have slipped from all view. Empty chaired at hustings, it’s caused a fair amount of speculation. She’s even slipped out of her self-appointed role as Head of the Tory Remainers: having her cake and eating it by mouth-piecing for disaffected Europhiles, while happily voting along with the Brexiteers.

The election has caught her on the hop though. While her decision to tack left seemed good relatively early on in the parliament -it allows her time to be seen as a sage when Brexit goes tits-up – it’s an albatross during an election. The strategy of soaking up voters leaking heavily from a pointless Farage-free UKIP isn’t going to work when you’ve been pretty outspoken about them: accusations of working-class racism up in the more Europhobic Northern half of Broxtowe are still very fresh in the air.

So perhaps no wonder she has gone to ground. But a recent idle check on the Broxtowe Borough Council has probably given more insight into her low profile. For Anna Soubry, who promised during her 2010 campaign that an MP had a moral duty to live in her constituency actually lives in Charnwood.

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2017 Statement of Nomination

Where’s Charnwood? I hear you cry, thumbs clicking onto Google Maps. Well, it’s not Broxtowe. It doesn’t even border Broxtowe. It’s not even in Nottinghamshire, but rural Leicestershire: the posh bit where fox-hunts are more common than Sunday League kick abouts.

I have long suspected as much. Her expenses show that returning from Parliament at the end of the week she travels to Leicester station. She’s been doing this for some time.

Charnwood is where her partner, former  shonky-building firm director Neil Davi(D)son (sic) lives, in a large pile most likely not built by the awful firm of botch-job builders he worked for. Nowt wrong with that of course. Love needs closeness to flourish, even among awful people. But why has she moved there, rather than she move to the plush Bramcote apartment she claimed to live in?

You see, less than two years ago Anna Soubry claimed to be living the Bramcote life. Her cloying newsletters told of how she was DEFINITELY ONE OF YOU, taking the odd stroll on Bramcote Park, supping an ale in the Top House, getting their stamps from the shop that used to be Cloughies. Bramcotian through and through! Cut her, she bleeds NG9.

5963_200052928_IMG_00_0001_max_656x437 She lived in the Lawns, a lovely little development just off Town Street, tucked in near Bramcote Ridge.

When she stood for reelection in May 2015, she gave this address as her residence. However, checking the history of the property, it seems that it was only purchased on the 2nd December 2014, a few months before the election, handily. So Anna Soubry lived their for just a few months, to cash in on the ‘local aspect’ . Soon after that election was over, she hot-footed back to Charnwood away from us Nottinghamshire plebs and our utterly unreasonable desire to be represented in Parliament.

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 16.19.19

2015 Election Statement of Nomination

The 2017 snap election caught her off guard: now she has been cast out of the ministerial inner-circle, and the abandonment of fixed-term elections, she’s been wrong footed. No chance to move back to Broxtowe in late 2019 so she could play at being a local in the scheduled May 2020 election. So reluctantly, she entered her address as Charnwood. Ouch.

Before I’m accused of some League of Gentleman local-snobbery, some context. I have no issue with where a politician lives as long as they do a good job. Nice if they do live in it, or nearby, and have a good relationship with their constituency, and the way it works. Yet Anna has been claiming she would be ‘Broxtowe’s Voice in Westminster’, dismissing her then-opponent Dr Palmer as a man who could not deign to live in his own area. Promises were made to give up her lavish Mapperley Top home, and be part of our community. She sold herself as being ‘One of us’: a pretty condescending attitude only someone who can’t bear anyone outside her own clique would feel the need to repeat.

A couple of other questions remain. If she bought the house for purely campaigning reasons, how does she feel to adding to the borough’s housing crisis? Buying up property for purposes other than actually living in has led to a dysfunctional, hugely skewed property market, which creates massive inequality and the need to squeeze housing developments out of towns and over greenbelt.

And who has paid for this property? If someone fancies having a forensic look at her expenses in relation to claimed housing costs, be my guest. I’m sure everything is in order, but if we can’t trust her on this, what can we trust her on?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Films Sans Frontières: an invite.

I’m doing an event, and I want you to come along.

On Sunday, 19th March (two weeks today) I’m teaming up again with my good friends at Nottingham Alternative Film Network for an evening of food, film and feeling good about helping a good cause. We’ll be showing a finely curated selection of fantastic films, all themed around the current world refugee crisis. Don’t think these are all earnest tales of woe though: rather, they will show the human face, the many aspects and stories that make this something the likes of UKIP and Trump do not want you to see: these are not ‘other’, these are us.

I was delighted to raise nearly £1,500 recently for Médecins Sans Frontières recently, which I set up after reading the story of Brendan Woodhouse, the very definition of a hero. A local firefighter, he travelled to Lesvos in the winter of 2015 to help out on the rescuing of people making the treacherous crossing from Turkey; the most desperate, helpless people in the world, fleeing tyranny, violence, oppression and hunger.

We all remember the heartbreaking picture of the 2 year old washed up on a beach: I cannot look at that picture without my own son suddenly needing to be held close, held and protected from the horrors of this world, held to make him realise how lucky he is to be in born in a rich, stable country. Held so he grows up knowing that he must not accept these things, held so he knows love, held so that he will grow in the knowledge that he can change. Reading Brendan’s story, reading how he saved a baby girl’s life who had fell from

brendan

Brendan Woodhouse with a rescued refugee

the flimsy boat she was on, thus saving her to become another choking photo or idle statistic, it made me see what could be done. We can’t save everyone. We can’t have a lightbulb moment and solve the mess in Syria, Eritrea, Palestine. We can act like humans, and try to make some small difference.

Brendan will be at the event and talking about his experiences, as well as his perspective on the crisis. He will be joined by BBC producer Alva White, who spent last summer on board a MSF boat in the Med and has written and made films about the experience: fascinating, heart-breaking tales. (She’s also at this event in Nottingham Tuesday (7th March)).

We’ll even keep you fed: anyone who has attended events we’ve done with NAFN in the past knows that they’re in for a treat. You’ll get a scrumptious veggie meal included in the ticket price.

All this for just ten quid: with all proceeds going DIRECTLY to MSF. Tickets are now on sale: Book Tickets Here.

More info, and a taste of the films: https://nottinghamalternativefilmnetwork.com/

If you can’t come along, you can still help by either a) Ensure that this event is known about as widely as possible: share this post / the poster at the top of the page on social media. b) Donate to MSF either through their website, or through the Just Giving site I set up when my son was born. 

When staring into the void, don’t scream; light a candle.

Sir Peter Mansfield 1933-2017

We heard the sad news today that the inventor of the MRI scanner; Noble Laureate and excellent Beestonian Sir Peter Mansfield died last night.

As a tribute, we are posting up the interview we conducted with him in 2013. Our reporter, Darren Patterson, remembers him as a polite, modest man who loved his town (though not so much the tramworks, which were underway at the time).

Our thanks to Darren for the article, and our condolences to Peter’s family and friends.

Sir Peter Mansfield is not necessarily a name you will be familiar with, you may not have ever heard of him, despite his honoured title, however you will almost certainly be familiar with his work, you see Sir Peter was one of the people responsible for the development of the MRI scanner.

He also happens to live in Beeston Fields. So, when I found out he was to be awarded the Freedom of the City of Nottingham I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to speak to a real Beeston great.

The honour, of course, being bestowed on Sir Peter in respect of his groundbreaking work in the field of magnetic resonance imaging – aka MRI. It was Sir Peter, and his team, who discovered that MRI could be used to produce images of the body – establishing what has become one of the defining parts of modern medicine.

All this he did while working at the University of Nottingham, where he became lecturer in 1964, following two years in the States at the University of Illinois, Sir Peter admits he knew little about Nottingham before moving here.

“I didn’t know Nottingham, I didn’t really know anyone in the department, apart from one person, and that was the head of the department, Prof Raymond Andrew, and he was my external examiner for the PHD.”

Having made the choice to come to Nottingham and work with Professor Andrew, Sir Peter knew he was taking a chance, and one that didn’t always work out.

“I think these things tend to be a bit hit and miss and some people after a year or two move on somewhere else but in my case I was given a lab here in Nottingham and the freedom to set up my own research, which is what I did, and it all took off from there.”

For Sir Peter it certainly worked and he remained at Nottingham University until his retirement in 1994 and it was while there that he carried out the research and discoveries for which he is best known. The development of the MRI scanner. As with any pioneering work he was initially met with scepticism by his peers.

“When you pioneer something you have your detractors immediately and very few people involved really believe what you say. The only way you make progress is by actually showing people, and demonstrating it, and that took maybe two or three years.”

Starting with a standard NMR sized coil of 1 ½ centimeters, Sir Peter’s early work saw him imagining plants and twigs and anything else he could dig up in his garden, however over time he began to increase the size of the coil.

“We did it in stages, we made one you could put a hand or arm in, and we made one big enough to take a live rabbit and then we put a pig in, until in the end I got in the coil andproduced an image of my thorax. It was a slow process, it took about 12 years from the first idea up to it being finally adopted.” 

And so became one of the biggest and most important discoveries in modern medicine, with the MRI scanner still a major tool today, though, as Sir Peter points out it’s primary function has changed over the years. 

“One of the really big effects is in brain scanning, I did a little bit of work on that but that’s moved on leaps and bounds now, it’s the method of studying the brain. My own interest had been more general than that, so I did a bit of brain scanning but was more interested in looking generally at the body, I was looking at cardiac imaging, abdominal imaging and all sorts.”

Since moving to Nottingham, Sir Peter, along with his family have lived in the Beeston area, spending seventeen years living on the Beeston/Chilwell border before moving, eventually, to their current residence of Beeston Fields.

So what is it that Sir Peter likes so much about his hometown, other than it’s obvious proximity to the University?

“When we were younger we would often go over to the ponds and lakes over at Attenborough, which was quite nice and a pleasant stroll. When our children were younger we’d go over to Wollaton Park, which was quite nice, areas right on the doorstep.”

It seems that the area itself may well have been one of the reasons for Sir Peter remaining in Nottingham rather than choosing to take up offers elsewhere.

“We are very fortunate to be living in this area, of course none of it would have been possible without the university, from our point at least, in many ways we are fortunate which is why we stayed here, we could have moved away but we never did.

I’ve got no complaint,s put it that way.”

Well, maybe one…

“This stupid tram, I think we’re presumably about six months into the apparent three years, let’s hope it’s all worthwhile though I can’t think of anyone I have spoken to who wants a tram in Beeston.” (Editor’s note: despite not liking the tram works, he would warm to the eventual tram…and even had one named after him: see pics)

peter-mansfieldpmtram

There are many great individuals and characters living in the great town of Beeston and Sir Peter Mansfield is certainly one of them, he is also, to my knowledge at least, the only person living in Chilwell to have been awarded a Nobel Prize – he was awarded his in 2003 in the fields of physiology or medicine – not bad going for someone who at fifteen was told “science wasn’t for him”. Darren Patterson


CHINA CRISIS / NETWORK RAIL UPDATE.

The Chinese New Year celebrations in Beeston have become part of the town. Beeston Carnival, Oxjam, Christmas Lights Switch-on. They’ve all become very popular events for us to celebrate the town, get together as a community, and boost local businesses: Oxjam alone often gives venues their busiest night of the year outside the festive period. These are not just events, they are the fabric of the town.

chinese-new-year

Photo courtesy of Stephen Miles

The Chinese New Year was of particular interest. Due to the proximity of the University, and the siting of Broadgate Park residencies within Beeston, we have a sizeable population of Chinese and Korean students. This has enriched the town in many ways: the restaurants are staggeringly good (Nosh being my particular favourite). The food shops sell stuff that can be both bewildering and delicious: my random purchases have about a 75% success rate. They bring money, diversity and skills into the town, and some stay on after their studies and enrich the town. We’re very lucky to have them.

The New Year’s Celebration was a brilliant idea to celebrate this, and bring us together. Similar events are ran in the City centre, as well as Lakeside Arts on the campus. It was wildly popular, and in the dark days of January / February a great fillip to the town.

Unfortunately, it is no more. This, from the interim MD of Liberty Leisure, Chris Laxton-Kane:

“It is with a heavy heart that we have been forced to cancel this event and we sincerely apologise for any disappointment it will cause.

“I would like to reassure the local community that we are actively planning our 2017 programme of events which will be available soon, including the ever-popular Hemlock Happening on June 10 and other events across the summer”.

Awful news. How did this happen?

First, let’s look at Liberty Leisure. This is a ‘Teckal’company; an arms-reach business that is becoming more and more popular in local government as austerity rumbles on. These are often, Liberty being an example, fully owned by the local authority. Their use is a sort of mid-way point to privatisation: they are subject to the market more readily than a council service, and if they fail, then there are consequences. It is therefore key that they work on a profit basis, rather than service provision. It’s not outsourcing as such, but somewhere between.

Since October 2016 they’ve been solely responsible for the leisure centres, events and cultural offer for Broxtowe.

Trying to get much out of Liberty is not easy. A debrief on an unsuccessful Christmas event in Stapleford saw the officers responsible for the debacle fail to show up: according to Stapleford Community Group leader, and Independent borough councillor Richard Macrae a pre-written statement was read by the interim MD, who, not attending the event, was unable to comment.

I rang them after receiving a tip-off that a whole bunch of printing had been done for the event. I asked if this was true “We’ll get back to you”

Is it true that these leaflets were bundled into a car and driven from the council to avoid embarrassment? No answer.

Why could staff not be bought in on a temp / agency basis to work the event? “I can’t answer that. As it may involve details of staff here it would contravene Data Protection laws”.

Are you subject to Freedom of Information Requests? “I can’t answer that, I’ll have to get someone to get back to you”.

I haven’t been called back yet, but will amend this article should I receive a response. While I wait, I thought i’d submit an FOI anyway, asking:

1) The reasons given for the cancellation of the 2017 Chinese New Year celebrations was ‘staffing issues’. Why was there no contingency here, and why is the use of temp / agency staff no considered?

2) What was the expenditure on the event (leaflets printed, etc) before cancellation?

3) What measures, if any, have/will been put in place to ensure the event returns in 2018?

I’ll let you know the reply.

It does increasingly feel that ruling Tories Broxtowe Borough Council are increasingly keen to run down the area they’re meant to represent. After securing the worst local government settlement in the UK, leader Richard Jackson voted to, errrr, abolish the same council he leads and place all services under the County Council (it is worth noting that he earns a great deal more money on the County Council than he does at Broxtowe).

Services deteriorate, democracy is depleted (it is impossible for an opposition councillor to ask a follow-up question in a debate: questions have to be presubmitted. Councillors and council officers have voiced their concerns about this process frequently).

We are fast losing accountability at Broxtowe Borough Council. The elected memberson the ruling party do not want you to ask why Beeston lost its toilets; why the Christmas Light switch on was a damp squib, why the DH Lawrence centre was closed down and turned into a beauty salon, why their has been an utter mess made of the Phase 2 Beeston Square development… the list goes on. The loss of a treasured event, and the obfuscation when trying to find out how this happened are sympomatic of this.

I’ll update when – if – I get any answers. Don’t be holding your breath.

 

NETWORK RAIL UPDATE:

The consultancy continues, with Network Rail still open to receive emails and letters and calls regarding the proposed closure of the path. The Communications Office of network Rail have been in touch here, with this comment:

Dear all,

Network Rail is holding a public event at Attenborough Village Hall on Wednesday February 8 from 3pm-7.30pm to discuss the proposals for the crossings. We hope as many of you as possible will be able to attend.

Regards,

Tony Belshaw, Network Rail Communications Manager

I’ve also received many emails and messages from organisations/ people who have contacted organisations who are not happy with the decision, and it seems the objection against closure is multitudinous. If you’ve sent me an email or message and I’ve yet to reply, apologies: please nudge me and I will get round to it.

I also had an email conversation with Julie Gibbons, who ran a successful campaign at Bardon Mill, a rural station in Northumbria. While the two situations are quite different (the crossings are not easily comparable, in terms of train speed / usage etc) some information is highly useful:

Any NR consultation seems inadequate and if they can get away with things under their permitted development rights, they do, leaving the public to kick up as much fuss as possible in a short time to make them begin to listen.
The rationale behind closing crossings is a government remit for there to be 0 deaths at crossings by 2020. NR is responding to this with bridges or closure. When we asked about lights and gates they said that it does not work citing the Elsenham case
Personally I think it is time for the general public to take personal responsibility for their actions when crossing a railway track and accidents do happen.
Another point of difference with your case to that of Elsenham and ours at Bardon Mill (not that we have had any accidents) is that yours is just a crossing and is not associated with a station where people crossing maybe rushing for a train (as happened at Elsenham).
…..basically if we can help in any way, do ask. My main advice is to not give up, get some knowledgeable supporters, find out from any local signalmen or retired railway folk about possible alternative solutions and certainly don’t settle for closure.
BBC East Midlands Today did come down to make a film about the closure, and the way the public mobilised fast to oppose it. Sadly, the journalist had a bad cold and erroneously set the light levels on the camera so they whited out, and the footage could not be used. You were spared the sight of me failing to adequately attach a poster to a gate, with fingers that had turned blue in the cold.
I’ve had some interesting chats recently that I’ll put up here once I have some clarity on them: until then keep telling others about this (if they’re on Facebook get them to go here, if they’re not, send them this article. If they have no digital access, talk to them and get them to make an objection. Thanks all for the continued support in getting this sorted: communities work best when they work together, and when a grassroots campaign like this comes together, we are strong.
If you have yet to make an objection, here’s how: 
Ring 03457 1141 41, quoting reference number TSN1 121m 61ch (or simply say ‘Attenborough Crossings’), or email crne@networkrail.co.uk . Tell them you oppose closure, and if something has to be done, a bridge must be built. If you are not quite ready to voice your concerns, ring /email and ask that the consultancy period be extended.