Thoughts on a local ex-mining town

IN REDHILL, NOTTINGHAM where I live, it’s an easy straightforward drive of barely fifteen minutes up the A60 to the north Nottinghamshire town of Mansfield. At a bit of a loose end at the end of a Bank Holiday, and with no real plans, we drove up to the town centre there and went to visit the food festival in the market square which had been advertised. Railway Viaduct, Church Street, Mansfield

Now, I have to admit to a little strictly light-hearted mickey taking of Mansfield from time to time:

Mansfield on’t Telly Yooth

I’ve also elsewhere blogged variously about the locality:

Heard on the Bus

Pop goes Mansfield!

Three Cheers for Golden Girl, Rebecca Adlington

but on a more serious note I have a bit of time for former honest coal mining communities such as the typified by Mansfield, and that’s by no means intended as patronising – more due to my late father being a pit man himself for some years after leaving the Merchant Navy. There’s a kind of basic down-to-earth honesty that is not lost on me.

Parking up in the town and walking down Leeming Street to the square, it was evident that the food festival was pretty low-key and a bit thin on the ground. Dodging three young men riding mopeds on the pavement and passing some of the hard-bitten businesses we went to explore.

There were also some vestiges of what passes for Mansfield market these days with but a few stalls open. It felt kind of sad to see people making an effort in their local community but struggling along to provide a small event. Whilst always understanding that this kind of deterioration is happening in many high streets and town centres up and down the country it’s all the same sad, to witness it up in local Mansfield.

Like many similar places, the town centre businesses appear to be thinning down and growing less in quality. Not that I’ve anything particularly against the JD Wetherspoon chain at all but there are maybe three outlets in quite close proximity, perhaps a sign of the times as to what can survive in decent old working class communities these days along with Greggs the bakers and a variety of pound shops and charity stores.

I’m not sure exactly what I want to say about Mansfield but I just wanted to register the thought that I truly hope that things can pick up and regenerate up there one of these days (and in many similar communities). I think Mansfield and it’s people deserve much better.

It’s a pretty sad thing to witness. I really don’t know the answer and fear there isn’t one. I placed a 3-hour parking ticket in my windscreen there yesterday and after an hour, was itching to get out of the place. I want to stress that’s definitely not meant as a hatchet job on Mansfield, there are some pleasant places there, and it’s partly due to the fact I prefer to be in the countryside in my spare time.

In spite of that I could see little to hang on there for. In the past I’ve enjoyed visits to variously the Palace Theatre, the Odeon, the market and the odd pint or a football match. Driving away this time I didn’t feel like ever going back and for some reason I didn’t enjoy that feeling.

We cut our losses, jumped in the car and headed off for a very pleasant drive through Farnsfield and Edingly to Southwell.

A shame.

Pop goes Mansfield!

It’s seldom I take the short and direct fifteen-minute drive north of where I live to the Nottinghamshire town of Mansfield but today was to be an exception. I’d read recently in the local media about a free exhibition that was to be held at Mansfield Museum in the town’s Leeming Street, very close to The Palace Theatre where I experienced an extremely fun day in what 08082009624seems almost like another life now.

Pop goes Mansfield! is an exhibition celebrating popular music over six decades with a particular interest in the way that the local area has made it’s own small yet distinctive stamp on the world of rock and roll It’s through one of Mansfield’s favourite sons, a man by the name of Bernard Jewry – better known to the public as Alvin Stardust and prior to that Shane Fenton, that the story is largely told. Alvin’s collection of memorabilia, from his jump suits right down to his improbably tall platform shoes, augments the large room which is crammed full with various interesting pop and rock artefacts.

An episode of the BBC’s Inside Out shows on a loop in the room, explaining Alvin’s story and upbringing in the North Nottinghamshire mining town. From his family home through the different phases of success that followed his career, he comes across as a sincere man with few airs and graces, one who has had a good and entertaining life and enjoyed every minute of the journey along the way.

Continue reading “Pop goes Mansfield!”

Three Cheers for Golden Girl, Rebecca Adlington

The remarkable Rebecca Adlington was celebrated as an Olympic hero in her home town of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, ten miles up the road from my home, this evening. Freestyle swimmer won Gold medalsat both 400M and 800M in Beijing to become the first swimmer in the games for around 100 years to perform such a feat.

The 19 year-old ‘girl next door’ from the North Nottinghamshire town witnessed 10,000 onlookers come out in the town to celebrate and commemorate her stunning success in China, lining the streets and filling the Market Place in a jubilee event. Rebecca arrived at the Civic Centre in a gold-coloured Rolls Royce to receive the pair of Jimmy Choo shoes which had been promised to her by the Mayor of Mansfield, Tony Eggington in the event of her striking gold in the games.

Enthusiastic crowds gathered with Union flags and banners plus huge gold medals in a time of celebration in the town to show their pleasure at the local girl’s medal haul and setting a new world record in the 800M event – a record that had stood since the year Rebecca was born back in 1989. Over 100 of Rebecca’s neighbours turned out in the street to laud her praises also.

Continue reading “Three Cheers for Golden Girl, Rebecca Adlington”

It’s BEHIND You!

Oh yes it is…

Oh no it isn’t…


I’ve only been to one Pantomime in my life ever and that was in the Nottinghamshire town of Mansfield some three years ago. Staged at the delightful old Palace Theatre, It was a performance of Dick Whittington. I’m not 100% sure about that as my concentration was held for long stretches by Diane Youdale, ‘Jet’ of Gladiators fame for some reason…
It’s perhaps easy to be cynical about panto but I think it’s a venerable old institution that will hopefully go on forever. My one and only visit to the traditional winter entertainment was certainly not without incident either.

I was a willing volunteer, helping take a group of special needs kids for a Christmas outing. Taking our front row (warning…warning) seats we awaited the smell of the crowd and the roar of the greasepaint. The cast included Ray Meagher (Home and Away) as King Rat, Diane Youdale, Michael Knowles (It Ain’t Half Hot Mum) and Rik Gaynor as Idle Jack. Michael Knowles looked like he’d been embalmed whilst I’d never heard of Rik Gaynor. I really can’t tell you the high regard I have for Diane Youdale though…

The dance troupe consisted of a group of attractive young girls and two of the nelliest-looking, young boys you ever did see. With bleached blond hair and permagrins, We considered how long those lads would have lasted doing the rounds of Mansfield’s fleshpots on an evening, Mansfield being a pretty down-to-earth former mining town with a straightforward attitude to match. I shudder to imagine that scene.

In the second half of the show, following a slightly bizarre underwater puppet show(!) It seemed that I was not about to leave the Palace Theatre without incident – it was my time to collect the first custard pie of my life…from Idle Jack. As the cast invaded the audience with buckets of water and pies, Jack confronted me. To be fair, he did ask if it was ‘alright’ to pie me? I of course confirmed that this would indeed be alright as I do feel one should collect at least one custard pie during this mortal coil. I was duly splattered with a large pie. No, it didn’t taste good by the way. Have you ever heard children actually roar with laughter? I have. What’s more I didn’t catch any sweeties, just to rub it in. Finally my hearing was beginningto come back after ninety minutes of one particular youngster shrieking in my ear hole throughout the performance, bless the little chap. It was time to dry off, usher the kids to the minibus and away back to reality. Then…I spotted my nemesis… Idle Jack was just heading over the road in a large scruffy raincoat looking like he’d slept rough in Mansfield bus depot all night, his destination the local chippy. I had a small fantasy about following him in there and asking him if it was ‘alright’ to push his chips in his face but it was time to go, thankfully.

I don’t expect to ever better this, my first and only experience of pantomime A most worthwhile outing considering Diane Youdale’s solid thighs in that outfit. Oh yes they were. That Idle Jack had better watch his back though…