Thoughts on the 2014 Season and our weekend mini-festival
Dec05

Thoughts on the 2014 Season and our weekend mini-festival

This week Bartons are working at putting together our two final events of our curtailed 2014 season, before tucking things up in bed for a while. A weekend mini-festival, with comedy on Saturday and our market on Sunday.
 
Despite the tram related traffic congestion and construction chaos all around us, Saturday's Comedy Club in The Gallery at the top of Holly Lane will sell out, and our Christmas Indoor 'Not the Camden Market' will be bursting at the seams with stallholders and musicians and will take place in the full area of Docking Shops No.1 and No. 2 and the cavernous T.H.Barton Hall.   
 
We invite Beeston and Chilwell to celebrate at least something; though the tram was meant to be fully running on the 14th of December, it will clearly will be many more months away. But..., but,....one glimmer of hope is that Bartons are a last, 'kind of' back on the road system with High Road Chilwell being open to road traffic in a westerly direction, this connection having been previously totally severed for 18 months.
 
It is the view of very many people that in recent difficult times the Beeston and Chilwell area (at the very least) has truly benefited from having such a vast, historic and quirky asset as Bartons; in turn, events at Bartons have mostly been very well attended this year despite the difficulties in publicising them cost effectively with no public transport to the venue, and no passing traffic; we have lost both our visible profile and our comprehensible functionality for nearly two years now, and it has taken an exhausting toll. All the above difficulties have been caused by missed deadline after missed deadline by the tram constructors of their own predicted and published time scales.
 
There's just about one person left telling us 'it will all be worth it, just you wait and see' but that attitude fails to take into account that Beeston and Chilwell have been deteriorating for 25 years since Nottingham politicians announced their ambition to get a tram system in 1988. Any post mortem of that project should use the benchmark of the town as it was, before it was blighted by this obsession of the City's politicians to run their little train through Chilwell.
 
For historic political context, people should consider revisiting the lame and largely forgotten 2008 Beeston Town Centre Plan (Broxtowe Borough Council) which, on concluding quite rightly that the area lacked leisure facilities, that:
 
'Due to the proximity of the leisure uses at Clifton Boulevard, initial enquiries by the consultants to leisure operators for cinema, bowling and bingo uses did not result in any interest in such a use locating in Beeston.'
 
We would contend the wrong people took it upon themselves then, to ask other wrong people, clearly the wrong question.
 
The vacuum created by the lack of 'provided' leisure facilities, combined with what feels like an all out and unprovoked assault on our community, has led perversely to the most fantastic outburst of home-grown creativity. One can hardly fail to have noticed that the horrid 'bomb site' (as destruction like this commonly used to be referred to) the area has become has now more cultural activity than most English towns one can mention, and yet less 6 years ago the council lamented the following:
 
'Currently there is a lack of leisure facilities, primarily evening entertainment facilities, within the town centre. As a consequence there is a tendency for residents to travel out of Beeston to access facilities such as cinemas and restaurants rather than using local facilities. This is a two-fold issue with both an economic loss to the town as people are spending their money elsewhere and a social problem with the local population suffering from a lack of facilities/activities.'
 
Perhaps we have made our own entertainment quite simply because it felt like we couldn't get out of the siege town we had become trapped in? And now, unbelievably, people come from far afield to enjoy what we get up to here, because it is so very well done, original and special throughout the area.
 
It would be interesting to know whether Bartons' experience has been shared by other people involved in this creative movement? We have experienced the whole range of reactions from those in authority from occasional seemingly suspicious support, to, for a period, mostly downright hostility and obstructiveness. To us it feels like officialdom thinks 'yes, we like the thought of Borough residents having facilities, but they must be OUR facilities or those of approved entities we endorse. Not local facilities, provided by and supported by local people: that's not what we wanted to see at all'.
 
When tyrannical regimes come to an end it is inevitably when they become absurd and ridiculed, and moreover, it can often be art and artists (or oppressed political prisoners, God forbid) that become their undoing. A liberating power-vacuum can be created as useless-or-worse career local politicians and bureaucrats are flushed out, and the new ones that will inevitably manipulate themselves into power under the auspices of being 'new brooms' are yet to be sufficiently confident that their lies will not be immediately transparent to their electorate; but lies they will be in time, nevertheless. That cycle sadly has yet to be permanently broken anywhere.
 
It feels to me that that is the point we are at here in Beeston and Chilwell. This tram project seems to be one of bossy and grandiose mass control so poorly executed so far, that is seems to be backfiring magnificently. Rather than being controlled, we seem to have liberated ourselves. Rather than global sanctioned right-on leisure, we have chaotic exuberant home grown culture, where you can't go for a quiet pint or a walk without finding interesting, kind, humorous people you know, or artists and local business people. Rather than global businesses moving in, so far they have mostly moved out. There seems to me to be the law of unintended consequences operating, and it is hilarious to watch and great fun to participate in. Unless this was a hidden agenda all along, in which case, 'hats off' to the perpetrators!
 
Roll on the time we make Beeston and Chilwell exactly what residents want, be they new or old; it seems to be in our hands, if only we have the confidence to run with it and then cherish it.
 
At the time of writing Bartons are compelled to take an enforced break and assess the situation, as we still do not know when road traffic may return to normal, when buses will return, when trams might run or even if there will be a car park that the public can use on Holly Lane, even on land in our ownership. Detailed planning of ambitious and ground breaking events for 2015 for us, against that background, is futile for now, and we are compelled to accept that.
 
As this year's final hurrah from us, please come and support our Market stallholders this Sunday, by buying as much as you can from them. For some attendees there may be one or two local gifts from us too, to remember for posterity this very special time in our ancient community's history.
 
A time when we were mercilessly and contemptuously attacked, and found as a community and much to our surprise, that despite this, we could stand and take it together. And we are still standing, even if it is only just: and it is my impression that our resistance to this attack has given us the potential to emerge invigorated as a community, not as all might have anticipated, vanquished.
 
Simon Barton

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