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The Comedy of Errors

The Maze and The Forest Tavern

15 May 06 words: Ben Hacking
Having re-opened under new management The Maze and The Forest Tavern are back and firing on full cylinders. Competition prize inside
The Unabombers at The Maze
  The Unabombers at The Maze full gallery

The Maze and the Forest Tavern is a great nightclub/ pub on Mansfield Road. It was closed down a year or so ago and there were rumours that it was to be turned into yet more student housing. But a group of locals rallied together with the Save The Maze campaign and now the place has re-openend under new ownership and run by the trusty duo of Ben 'Badger' Bretell and Ed 'Aardvark' Kilroy.  We popped down to have a chat with the fellas in charge to find out what's been going on and what's coming up. They then offered a special competition with lifetime membership of the venue to one of our lucky readers, read on to find out more...

Tell us about the history of the venue?

Ben: Well this info may be a little sketchy (as we’re brand new to Nottingham). Some of the things we’ve found out so far involve great facts like the first proprietor being Mr John Ellis, who’s brother, the very famous Bendigo trained above where the venue now situates. This is where bare knuckle boxing contests were held up until the 70’s. We aim to keep this tradition, but without the “knuckle” element….
Tynemill took over the place ten years ago changing it from a gay/ lesbian bar to a live music venue. Extensive work was carried out then and much of it’s character is still apparent today. Great acts that have played the venue include Ryan Adams, Thea Gilmore and Craig David(?!?). From John Ellis starting in 1854, many things have changed.  In the current modern era we’re keeping the legacy of the maze as it was before it closed, so holding great live music acts and keeping the atmosphere excellent.
There was a big hoo haa ho down about the place closing down, back in Jan 05. This was due to an offer from developers to change the place into student accommodation, but in Tynemills wisdom they realised that the place was meant to carry on it’s great tradition off music. We came on the scene six months ago and here we are. Ta Daaaaa!!!!!

What kind of ethos do you bring to the place?
Ben: We have a joint ethos. Firstly, it would’ve been very easy when we took over the venue to just pick up where it had left off, and equally easy to scrap everything and ignore those things. Instead what we’ve tried to do is listen to what people liked and build on those elements, while incorporating our own ideas .
Ed: We’ve got a very eclectic view here and try to put on as many different genres, themes and forms on. Music is the main factor, but we also have comedy, spoken word and film documentaries along with other events. It’s a lot harder to do than stick to one theme or listener, but that’s what we’re all about, pleasing as many different audiences as possible. Where else are you going to get a dance night featuring a top UK DJ, famous, semi-famous and upcoming comedy acts, an established US folk singer and local and international bands ranging from rock to classical all in one week?
Ben: Our other aim is to ignite all five senses. Creating the right ambience, cooking great home made food, serving quality beverages of all kinds, putting on great music, with fantastic staff to boot.
Ed: Amen.

The Forest Tavern Describe your average day…
Ed: I normally wake up to a beautiful, relaxing heartfelt alarm call from Ben. This normally consists of him either wrapping me up in rugs, removing my duvet from my bed, tipping me out of my bed, or (and this is my favourite) a super-size pack of Charmin being placed lovingly next to me. Tucked up and resting on the pillow. It’s something that everyone should experience. Git!
Ben: After that the phone is always ringing and people are constantly coming in for one reason or another. Phonecalls and meetings are a major aspect of our daily regime. We both bounce well off each other, so we generally like to speak to people together, plus the who’s better-looking question is easily instrumented when we have joint meetings.
Ed: We’re very hands on here and don’t like to hide behind the scenes like you can find in certain places. Therefore if we’re not busy playing with our animals (we have a farm upstairs) then we’re behind the bar doing our thang).
Ben: By the way where’s me marigolds…….???!!!
Ed: Worrying isn’t it.

What beverages and food can we buy from your establishment?
Ed: I’d personally like to see pea sandwiches appear on the menu, with the added benefit of being able to scotch any item you like. Unfortunately I’ve been over ruled on that aspect.
Ben: Yes you have aardvark. My preference was Yorkshire puds and onion gravy being from Yorkshire, but we opted for a great home cooked menu from Steven our Chef extraordinaire. There’s your classic pasta and salad dishes, but with a twist, tantalising mains, plenty of vegetarian options, Sunday dinners to die for and the cheapest toasted sandwiches around!
Ed: But none with peas in unfortunately.
Ben: As for the beverages we offer the widest range of bottled World beers and the like in Nottingham, with the count now being 53! We have a great range of continental draught beers and some of Nottingham's finest home brewed real ales like Castle Rock and a couple of guest beers from in and around the UK. Thus giving us a massive and varied choice for drinkers.
ED: And the numbers still rising... said the mistress to the butler.

What nights have you got going on at the moment?
Ed: Where shall we start? We’re lucky enough to have some of the finest alt-folk acts from the states coming over courtesy of Cosmic American Music, with the likes of Karine Polwart and Martha Tilston coming up. We’ve got an awesome double bill with local ten-piece band Fat Digester and Fun Lovin’ Criminal favourites Cantaloop on 19 May. If you’re a Ska fan, then look no further ‘coz June 17 features Splitters, Weeble, the Heels and The Special Bru. Basement Boogaloo’s soulful dancefloor bombs grace the venue on the first Saturday of every month.
Ben: Last, but certainly not least we are hosting the World Cup, big screen style, with free food, a host of cheap beers to wet that coarse throat from screaming England to the final.
There really is something for everybody week in week out. I’d be amazed if someone looked at our listings for May and June and didn’t see something to float their boat.

What are your other favourite hangouts in Nottingham?
Ben: We’ve found some amazing restaurants in and around Nottingham, but it’s nice to see little, but fantastic eating places on Mansfield road. Certainly with how things have gone in the past, it’s nice to see that Mansfield road now has some fine drinking establishments, including the Maze, The Loft, Fade and what the detonate guys and girls are doing at the Golden Fleece is superlative.
Ed: My favourite’s the ladies toilet at the Ice Arena. Fresh.
Ben : Now who’s worried, wondered where my marigolds were going?

The Maze on LeftLionIf you could put on any act at the venue, who would you choose?
Ed: That really is harder to answer than something rather… hard. For the Maze though, I’d have to say Radiohead. I saw them at an intimate venue similar to the Maze years ago, and it was out of this world. Ben will probably pick someone like the Spice Girls.
Ben: The Spice Girls. Only joking... it’s Girls Aloud all the way.
Ed: Hot mama.

What has been your favourite nights to date?
Ed: There really has been so many that I’ve rated extremely highly. On the local bands front The Hellset Orchestra blew me away, a fantastic show in every form. Grain are big favourites of mine. Sticky Morales get my dancing shoes on every time and Weeble made me move muscles I didn’t realise I had! I could go on and on here, there is a lot of talent in and around Nottingham, and I hope that people continue to support their local musicians.
Ben: I’ve enjoyed every single act that has been played here. It’s been massivly alternative, and has certainly changed my view on lots of music. Giving a big thank to all the local bands that have played here. Can’t thank you all, but you know who you are. For me though three dates stick out in my mind, first has to be the Unabombers, and I’d like to give a big shout to Nick ‘optimus prime’ Shaw, Ed ‘eric’ Cotton, and Olly ‘sir Penfold Hewitt the Boogaloo Boys, for putting on one of the best nights in Nottingham this year. Secondly, would be Marah which was rated in the Sunday Times gig list as the top five gig’s in the UK for that week. Thirdly, has to go for the Story’s who recently had Sir Elton John ask them to support him on his forthcoming tour. Seeing as the Scissor Sisters and James Blunt did the same back then, it just goes to show what could be in store for the storys!

What is coming up for you over the next year?
Ed: Ben’s thinking of growing his hair to cover his bald patches which are becoming rather apparent.
Ben: And I’m trying to convince Ed to actually wash his!! He has promised me he will...
Ed: Natural oils mate, natural oils...
Ben: On the venue side of things we are going to be changing the ambience of the club, we’re not going to give too much away, but lets just say you’re going to be more then pleasantly surprised.
Ed: I ate a big red candle.
Ben: He did you know, bloody wax everywhere in the morning, my irons knackered now and there’s no brown paper left.
Ed: On the Music side of things we’re going to keep the local scene alive, but start introducing some bigger names. We have a couple of exciting tricks up our sleeves!
Apart from that just our standards high and our feet dry.
Ben: We will also be continuing to search for new up and coming bands, so for any of you out there that are wanting a gig, give us a bell, ‘coz we’ll be more then happy to give you a gig.
Ed: Unless you sound like Steps.

Running a venue like this must be hard work, what do you do to relax in Nottingham (or should we not ask)?
Ed: You can ask, but it’ll shock you into a coma! Personally a bit of everything. Whether it be knitting, pressing flowers, rescuing and nursing injured animals back to health...
Ben: Well personally I’ve had to stop the knitting due to the sores on my fingers and I felt guilty killing and pressing flowers. The way I like to relax is by thinking im gonna do a work out, or go to the health bar, but instead I sit down in front of the T.V every Sunday and reminisce of home by watching Emmerdale.
Ed: Emmerdale is for ladies, Home and away all the way. “You and I belong together....”

Anything else you want to say to LeftLion readers?
Ben: Right, it’s like this... Personally I come from a small family, and I have one brother ( Love ya Matt, ya big bastard). Cheers for all the hard work and the LeftLion has a brother, but for some reason the sons and daughters of Nottingham, have forgotten Lefty’s brother Righty!!! So the question goes out, what about the RightLion??!!! Have you seen the state of that poor right lion, when everyone meets at the left one. Many a time have I cradled his sobbing cement head in my bosom.
Ed: ...and it’s a lovely bosom I must say….
Ben: so please please please all you lefty’s give him a treat and meet at the right one, just once in a while.
Ed: I’ll second that preposterous notion. On other news though we have a little treat for anyone reading...

We are offering Free lifetime membership and a crate of champagne to anyone that can figure out this little riddle…
If you add the year Ben was born to My shoe size (big feet, big meat) divide it by how many months we’ve been re-opened, subtract the Number of bottled beers we sell, add how many bands we’ve got playing in June and divide it by the number of Z’s that appear in this interview you will come out with a number. E-mail that number to us here, and the first person to get it correctly claims the prize!! How do you like them apples?!
Ben: Over and out fellow readers
Ed: Sleep tight.
Ben: Don’t let the bedbugs bite.
Ed: If they do blow them up with dynamite
Ben: Then relax...

Check out the Maze listings via their Myspace page here




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