by Joe Earp
The Beekeeper sitting contemplatively on his bench at the centre of Beeston’s shopping hub, he certainly looks content. The Beekeeper or ‘George’ as he is familiarly known by locals, has became part of the town’s identity. The sculpture was designed by artist Sioban Coppinger in 1987.
The sculpture was erected after the local council decided to redesign Beeston in the 1960s and 1970s. Before the town was redeveloped, a lot of older buildings such as the Tudor Style Boots and the old town hall were demolished to make way for the then new shopping precinct and many new buildings. Beeston was becoming a brave new world of concrete and glass, like many other cities and towns throughout England.
It is quite ironic now how Beeston is going through another redevelopment changing the face of the town for ever. When the £300,000 improvement scheme for the pedestrianisation of Beeston High Road was announced just like the trams today it caused a lot of protest from local residents. Pat Ashworth writing for local paper the ‘Nottingham Topic’ (May 1998) about her article on ‘Booming Beeston’, looked back at locals reactions to the pedestrianisation:
“The announcement drew howls of protest from the town’s shopkeepers. You’re going to close us down. You’re going to make Beeston a ghost town, they predicted. But they were wrong and even the most ardent critics of the scheme admitted they were wrong”
Whatever the controversy at the time, if it wasn’t for the pedestrianisation of High Road we certainly would not have George the Beekeepr in the town. The sculpture consists in the main of two L-shaped concrete hedges. In the angle of one hedge the concrete figure of an elderly man sits on a bench, complete with beekeeper’s hat and gloves lying beside him. He wears an overcoat and Wellington boots and in his right hand is a smoking a pipe. In his left hand he holds a block of honeycomb. At the angle of the other hedge is a concrete carved tree-stump on top of which is set a conical beehive. The hive, and many other parts of the sculpture, are covered by small bronze bees securely stuck to the surfaces. A few of the bronze bees have been knocked off as souvenirs, but all in all the Beekeeper is in good condition.
The idea of the sculpture was to bring a bit of the countryside into the town. Sioban Coppinger explains about the sculpture further “THE BEESTON SEAT was designed as a quiet meditative resting place at the centre of a busy shopping street. The sculpture itself was modelled on Steven Hodges, a friend who has that timeless ability to exude calm when all else are succumbing to stress. Maybe his years spent on the sea have instilled a sense of proportion in him or maybe he just looks the part? A stack of mail from Beeston residents confirms that the BEESTON BEEKEEPER has been absorbed into the life of the community”.
He certainly has been absorbed into the life of the town and long may he continue to do so.