Young performers worthy of West End

candide-pytREVIEW

Candide

Petersfield Youth Theatre

Festival Hall

Friday, September 16
Let’s face it, working in an office can be pretty grim.  True, it’s not the grimness our ancestors might have endured, for little reward, digging in the fields or wearing themselves out as the victims of the industrial revolution. But the tedious hours between 9 and 5 doing stuff, frankly, we don’t really care about very much can often seem like mental torture.

So we often find ways of making work tolerable.  That might involve be the consumption of considerable quantities of cake. It could be playing tricks on one another – my colleague, Sarah, and I once spent an hour carefully cutting out and stealing the chocolates from the back of another team’s Advent calendar before sealing it up again.  Or it could be in the in-jokes, banter and light teasing that stop us all going mad before we can flee from all the corporate craziness.

The latter is certainly what keeps my colleague Hayley and I sane.  We are of course Stakhanovite in our work ethic and productivity.  But we do occasionally have a bit of a chat too – with Hayley telling me last week that “you’ve got an answer to everything” as I offered yet another wise and witty insight to the world.  I fear it wasn’t a compliment.

But the Petersfield Youth Theatre’s production of Candide proved Hayley wholly wrong.  It was so good, it left me speechless, absolutely lost for words.  So good that my friend Kat Wootton from Lifemags and I forgot we were in the Festival Hall watching teenagers – it felt more like being in the West End watching seasoned professionals.

And my sense of the scale of PYT’s achievement only grew when I thought about what they were performing.  Bernstein’s music is sophisticated and angular.  And Candide contains a hard-hitting narrative featuring pretty tough stuff: exile and exploitation, rape and venereal disease, natural disasters, murder and general mayhem abound.  And it’s not short on philosophy as well, with the story mapping out a journey from foolish optimism – epitomised by the philosopher Pangloss’s big moment in the absolutely cracking Best of All Possible Worlds – to Candide learning valuable lessons about the emptiness of wealth, the obligations of the wealthy – and the contentment to be found in community and friendship and honest toil. This is a very demanding, very challenging work.

But PYT not only met those demands – they exceed them, investing their performances with real pity and pathos, emotion and energy.

As Candide, Jonty Peach beautifully captured the bewilderment of someone exiled from paradise – and learning long and hard lessons about how to live, as well as having a lovely, emotionally varied voice.  In this he was joined by the bookish, beautifully coated Dan Hunt as Pangloss the philosopher, who reminded me of the loveable know-it-all, Professor Yaffle in Bagpuss.

Candide’s love interest was Megan Chambers as Cunegonde, who displayed a remarkable range as rich girl to fallen women – and showcased a quite remarkable voice to boot.  She was not only hilarious and coquettish in in the notoriously fiendish Glitter and Be Gay but she hit the very high notes with grace and aplomb.

It is invidious to pick out a single figure from the riches on display, but I must make a special mention of Susie Coutts as the Old Lady.  I am amazed that someone so young could so fully embrace her inner hag.  She may have been twisted in body and in face, she may have lacked a buttock, she may have learned the hard way that you had to do tough stuff to survive in a harsh world.  But she was a joy to watch, especially her hymn to pragmatism:  “I am easily assimilated” in which she was, as ever, joined by a joyous and energetic chorus.

And what a chorus too! I am only sorry I can’t namecheck more of the singing parts, the narrators and the chorus as a whole.  But they were all fantastic, performing with verve, an infectious freshness and a lack of cynicism that was a joy to behold.   It’s perhaps the mark of a great performance that everyone works as hard as everyone else for every second – and that is exactly what they all did.  I did not see a face relax, nor movement that was anything less than crisp.  Every scene was expertly choreographed, every bit of staging imaginative and beautifully lit – and every moment delivered with precision and passion.  The stage simply quivered with energy for every minute of two and a half joyful hours.

The final show-stopping number of was Make our Garden Grow.  Well, Petersfield’s garden will grow lush and fruitful as long as PYT are with us, tended by so many, young and not quite so young, who bring such happiness to our town and  even jaded office bound stooges like me. Absolutely magnificent.

 

Hugo Deadman

Wishes granted at hospice

In a bid to help one of its patients complete some of the wishes on her bucket list, staff and volunteers at Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice in Farnham arranged for three cockapoo puppies to visit her whilst she was staying on the Hospice’s In-Patient Unit (IPU), fulfilling her wish to be ‘surrounded by puppies’.

Later that day, staff also managed to fulfil another of her wishes, to meet Gerard Butler! Well, almost… A life-size cut-out of the famous actor was brought along to her room, drawing almost as much attention from Hospice staff as the puppies had!

“Here at Phyllis Tuckwell, we believe that every day is precious,” said Clodagh Sowton, Director of Patient Services at Phyllis Tuckwell. “So, as well as providing medical, clinical and therapeutic care for our patients, we also work hard to help them with any special wishes they may have, which are personal to them.”

These wishes may range from having puppies visit them at the Hospice, or having their own pets brought in to see them, to getting confirmed or even married. Phyllis Tuckwell staff arranged for one patient, who had terminal cancer, to marry his fiancée, in a service which was conducted at his bedside on the IPU and was followed by a blessing in the Hospice gardens, led by Phyllis Tuckwell chaplain Rev Jane Walker.

“Our Patient and Family Support team planned the event, obtaining the necessary legal documentation and working with the family to make all the arrangements,” said Mrs Sowton. “Nurses helped the groom get ready, while our volunteers prepared flowers and catering staff provided food for the celebration.”

The charity has also arranged for one of its patients to be confirmed, in a ceremony which was held in the Hospice chapel and was led by Bishop Christopher Herbert. After the service, the gathering moved to the Hospice gardens, where those present celebrated with champagne and a Confirmation cake made by the Hospice catering team.

“It is an immense pleasure and privilege to help our patients and their families achieve those things which are important to them,” said Mrs Sowton. “We believe that every day is precious, and we do all we can to help our patients and their families make the most of the time they have left together.”

 

puppies-at-the-hospice

Hampshire Countryside Awards winners

cpre-hampshire-countryside-awards-2016-winnersIn a packed hall near Winchester, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson Esq presented the tenth annual CPRE Hampshire Countryside Awards to a diverse range of rural-inspired projects.

Countryside conservation charity, CPRE (the Campaign to Protect Rural England) runs the awards to celebrate a beautiful and living countryside that everyone can value and enjoy. During the awards ceremony held at Itchen Abbas and Avington Village Hall, this year’s awards judges were united in how difficult the task had been to decide on the winners from a unique group of entries from across Hampshire.

Alongside lead sponsor, The Southern Co-operative, the individual award category sponsors attending the event were Community and Voluntary – The Southern Co-operative, Young People – Steve’s Leaves, Rural Enterprise – Dutton Gregory Solicitors, and Sustainable Buildings – Radian.

The CPRE Hampshire Countryside Award winners 2016 by local area and award category are:
East Hampshire and Winchester District

Highly Commended – Community and Voluntary category: Medstead Village Pond Project (Medstead Parish Council)

 Gemma Lacey from The Southern Co-operative said: “The community commitment to this project was outstanding. It has rallied together to raise funds and undertake the work required to transform a disused pond into a wildlife pond, turning a 15-year community idea into a reality.

The village pond provides a truly special place that can now be enjoyed by the local community and provides an educational opportunity for school children, with a pond dipping platform and wildlife information boards.

This project really showed the power of collective action at a community level and what can be achieved as a result. It is also a great showcase for Neighbourhood Plans in action.”

 Winner – Rural Enterprise category: Taste of Wickham Festival

 The Taste of Wickham Festival is a creative one-day event that showcases the offerings of Wickham’s local businesses, organisations and charities. The aim is to encourage locals and visitors alike to discover everything that makes this market town so special.

Matt Gilks of Dutton Gregory Solicitors said: “The Taste of Wickham Festival is the result of an exceptionally productive partnership between local business leaders of the Wickham Chamber of Trade and Winchester City Council.

 By promoting Wickham as a countryside market town, the event demonstrates that local people can shop sustainably and don’t have to travel for their shop. This helps local countryside enterprises and the local environment. The reach of this event can be demonstrated by attendance by over 5,000 people to this annual event.”

Highly Commended – Rural Enterprise category: Farley Nursery School, Sparsholt

Matt Gilks of Dutton Gregory Solicitors said: “Farley Nursey School is one of three exceptional private nursery schools set in the heart of the countryside with a unique ‘outdoor learning’ ethos.

It has broken the mould when it comes to innovative and interesting education provision and is the UK’s first Yurt based outdoor nursery. The emphasis is on outdoor play and respect for the environment and nature. The 2016 OFSTED Report rated the nursery as “Outstanding”.

 The nursery school has worked with neighbour Sparsholt College and more importantly parents to provide an abundance of superb play and learning activities in the open air. It makes use of underused fields within an agricultural college with striking innovation and employs local people from Sparsholt and Winchester.”
North Hampshire

 Winner – Sustainable Buildings: Woodgarth, Whitchurch (Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt Architects)
This small modern house replaced a 1950s bungalow on the site, which is on the edge of Whitchurch. Jonathan Rickard of Radian said: “Woodgarth is unashamedly modern in its appearance and sets a high standard for others to follow when adding new buildings into an existing streetscape.

We were very impressed with the quality of design and sustainability on a domestic scale. The building uses a range of sustainable features that have been well integrated into the building so they are not obvious from outside or inside.

This house for a retired couple has flexibility, fuel efficiency and is clearly enjoyed by the homeowners. It scored very highly for sustainability and combines modern design with comfort and convenience. We felt that this new build house could be inspiration for other projects of its kind.”

 New Forest
Winner – Young People category: The Woodlander Hoburne Bashley project, New Milton

Carrie Hutchings of Steve’s Leaves said: “The Woodlander Hoburne Bashley project reflects the passion and commitment of Paul Brockman. He supports and works with young people of all ages and abilities in order to help them achieve their full potential in the woodlands and develop positive life skills through working with nature.

He inspires secondary school students to pursue woodland management skills and encourages children in primary schools to feel at one with nature. They learn to respect, use and care for an environment they would otherwise have no knowledge of.

It is with great pleasure that the judges consider that the Woodlander Hoburne Bashley project in the New Forest National Park is an exceptional winner. Bashley Woods provides an excellent facility and backdrop for all children to connect with nature and as such the project is very special.”

Highly Commended: Young People category: Blashford Lakes Young Naturalists Group, Ringwood (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust)

 Carrie Hutchings of Steve’s Leaves said: “It was especially encouraging to see teenagers totally engaged in this Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust project at Blashford Lakes, and it would be great to see more opportunities like this for this age group.

From pond dipping, to bird watching and moth identification they covered a wide spectrum. The group were looking forward to their overnight camp with more wildlife observations eagerly anticipated.”

 

South Hampshire
Winner – Community and Voluntary category: The Solent Way Project (run by The Conservation Volunteers with support from Hampshire County Council)

Gemma Lacey of The Southern Co-operative said: “This extensive project is connecting communities along Hampshire’s coastline, making it easier for people to access and enjoy the coast by opening up areas and improving footpaths.

Its reach has been huge, involving volunteers from schools, businesses and local communities across Hampshire, providing training opportunities for both volunteers and the unemployed.

The Solent Way Project stood out because of the sheer community reach of its collective projects, mobilising a diverse and broad range of volunteers to come together to not only improve access to our coastline but to educate and inspire young people and adults alike about all our coast has to offer.”

Highly Commended – Sustainable Buildings category: Park Community School, Havant (a partnership project involving Children’s Services and Property Services at Hampshire County Council)

Jonathan Rickard of Radian said: “This is a really excellent project, building and updating buildings to create an exceptional new school whilst continuing to operate throughout the re-development.

The re-use of a brownfield site, the engagement with the local community and the delivery of a well-crafted, flexible building should be recognised as a major achievement in itself, but also to deliver a building that is using reduced energy through good insulation, lighting and smart controls helps to set the standard for other school buildings throughout the area.

This is further driven home through the work the school is doing in growing its own food, managing livestock and encouraging students to engage fully with aspects of sustainability and the countryside in its widest sense. Although in an urban area, Park School is introducing its pupils to rural issues through its educational programme and has succeeded in delivering a sustainable, flexible building.”

HM Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson Esq closed the evening by paying tribute to the time and effort devoted by all this year’s finalists and how their projects enhance our county. He also acknowledged the work of CPRE Hampshire which is the only charity that stands up for the countryside.

Guildford Book Festival line-up announced

Organisers of Guildford Book Festival has a packed programme for the 2016 Festival, taking place at venues across the town between 9 and 16 October.

Heading the line-up of more than 50 events this year are: broadcaster Jeremy Paxman sharing his long-awaited and candid memoir; brilliant presenter and comedian Graham Norton discussing his darkly funny debut novel, Holding; much-loved chef Rick Stein; popular cookery writer and food blogger, Ella Mills (née Woodward); and Formula 1 favourite Damon Hill, celebrating the 20th anniversary of winning the World Championship.

Among the bestselling fiction writers at the Festival will be Robert HarrisAlison Weir, Anthony Horowitz, S J Parris, and Charles Cumming.

History is hugely popular at Guildford Book Festival and this year has more on offer than ever before.  Eminent historian John Julius Norwich, will discuss his new book, Four Princes, the colourful story of Henry VIII and his European counterparts, while former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, will reveal the story of a lethal spy triangle in Bordeaux between 1942 and 1944.

This year’s Literary Lunch brings together top biographer and writer, Anne Sebba, and prizewinning author Elizabeth Buchan, to talk about life-or-death decisions made by women in World War II, and its aftermath, while leading food writer William Sitwell reveals the remarkable story of Lord Woolton, Minister for Food, tasked with feeding the nation during the war.

With ‘Tudormania’ taking the nation by storm, this year’s programme includes an opportunity to hear from experts Alison Weir and Elizabeth Norton on the lives of women in Tudor times.

In The Wicked BoyKate Summerscale uncovers a fascinating true story of murder and morality in Victorian Britain and social historian, Sian Evans reveals the story of six extraordinary hostesses who shaped British society in the inter-war years.

Through personal letters and documents, local author Irene Black shares the moving story of her parents, refugees of the Nazi era who fled to Britain. 950 years after the Battle of Hastings, Marc Morris gives a fresh view on ‘the man who changed England more than any other’, William the Conqueror.

Nadine Dorries MP will host this year’s Afternoon Tea, and will talk about her latest book, The Angels of Lovely Lane, the first in a new series, while Hello! editor, and author of The Stylist, Rosie Nixon, will join us for an evening of cocktails.

Guardian games editor, Keith Stuart, will be in Guildford to tell us about his moving father-son novel, A Boy Made of Blocks, inspired by his own experience of playing Minecraft with his autistic son, and rock legend David Essex, will discuss the inspiration for his first novel, Faded Glory.

The popular Readers’ Day, a feature of the Festival for many years, will welcome number one bestselling author Amanda Prowse, former TV executive, Jane Lythell, crime writers William Shaw and James Henry, as well as debut novelists Joanna Cannon, Jess Kidd, and former Blue Peter presenter, Janet Ellis.

Former Hampshire cricket captain and broadcaster, and now author of A Beautiful GameMark Nicholas, will join Guardian writer, Jon Hotten, to talk about the future for English cricket with the Evening Standard’s Cricket Correspondent, Tom Collomosse.

Sports psychologist Damian Hughes shares his thoughts on what sport can teach us about great leadership; while world economist, Dr Pippa Malmgren, who predicted Brexit, advises on How Everyday Signs Can Help Us Navigate the World’s Turbulent Economy. Natasha Courtenay-Smith provides top tips for creating The Million Dollar Blog.

 Marking this year’s Shakespeare400 commemorations, Edward Wilson-Lee presents a  look at the Bard’s global legacy inShakespeare in Swahililand.

Juliet Nicolson, granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West, discusses seven generations of exceptional women in her family, and Anna Pasternak, great niece of Nobel prize-winning novelist, Boris Pasternak, reveals the heartbreaking story of the passionate love affair between Boris and Olga Ivinskaya, the woman who inspired Lara in Doctor Zhivago.  Anna’s talk will be followed by a special screening of the Academy Award-winning 1965 film directed by David Lean.

In Rise: Surviving and Thriving after Trauma, broadcaster Sian Williams shares her own experience of a breast cancer diagnosis and explores resilience in the darkest of times.

Renowned Scandinavian cook Signe Johansen demystifies ‘hygge’, the way of life that is said to make Nordic countries amongst the happiest in the world; and urban forager John Rensten will lead an ‘edible walk’ through the town.

Popular interiors stylist Selina Lake takes a look at the current trend for ‘all things botanical’, and Jim Buttress from BBC Two’s Allotment Challenge discusses his life in gardening.

“Horse obsessed” Susanna Forrest looks at the relationship between humans and horses through history, and for photographers there’s David Ellwand’s Retro Photography Workshop.

As the Spectator approaches its 200th birthday, long-time contributor Marcus Berkmann collects some of the magazine’s drollest contributions of the past twenty-five years to bring a sharp eye to bear on the strangeness of modern life.

 The Festival is delighted to be offering a mini-creative writing course running over five days, hosted by Rachel Marsh of the University of Surrey, and featuring a different guest speaker each day, while the editor of the Writers & Artists Yearbook will lead a session called How to Get Published.

 The Children’s programme is also bigger for 2016: Alastair Watson will host wonderfully entertaining shows inspired by the Dinosaur that Pooped a Show and the Wimpy Kid series; bestselling children’s author and illustrator Britta Teckentrup will introduce her latest character, Oskar and young ornithologists will enjoy Mike Langman’s guide to birdspotting.

Funds raised through ticket sales at Guildford Book Festival enable the Festival to deliver an exciting Schools’ Programme.  This year local schools will have the opportunity to hear from Rob BiddulphJonny LambertSusan Moore and Laurel Remington.

And, for the first time, the Festival has arranged an event for the Borough’s Brownies and Guides, who will be entertained by Lauren Child talking about the latest adventures of Ruby Redfort.

Each year, Guildford Book Festival works in partnership with local community groups and other charities to bring unique and inspirational events to members and prospective members, and to raise awareness of these organisations within Guildford and the surrounding area.

The Amnesty International event will this year see the return of Ben Holden and Anthony Holden, this time to share Poems That Make Grown Women Cry; while Festival goers can enjoy an hour of reflection with readings from The Poet’s Quest for God, featuring contemporary poems by writers of all faiths, and none.

The Festival also looks forward to working once again with GEDFAS and West Surrey Area NADFAS.  Art historians Eric Shanes and Linda Collinswill provide insight into Impressionist London at the turn of the 20th century and Art & Culture in Paris, 1850 – 1930.

Guildford Book Festival Co-Director Jane Beaton said: “We are delighted that so many authors have agreed to come to Guildford this year. Some, such as Graham Norton and Jeremy Paxman, are household names; others may be largely unknown but have extraordinary stories to tell.  Some have spoken at the Festival before, while for others it’s their first ever Festival. We look forward to welcoming them all and to nine days of outstanding conversation and entertainment.”

Guildford Book Festival Co-Director Alex Andrews said: “I am greatly looking forward to welcoming some of the country’s best authors and illustrators to Guildford this year and believe we have something for every taste”.

Raucous race night at Haslewey

Haslewey Community Centre, opposite Lion Green in Haslemere is holding a fun-filled Horse Race Night on Saturday, September 24, from 7.30pm.

Tickets are £10 per person and includes a delicious hot snack made by The Natural Cook Company and racegoers are welcome to bring their own bottle of choice – no corkage charged. All monies raised will go towards funding future community events at Haslewey.
There are seven races altogether and you can place your bets at the Tote. Upon each race you have six participants and you bet on the person “winding in” – a model of a cowboy on a horse! The horse is attached to string and at the other end of the track, the “jockey” has to bring in the horse as quickly as they can by winding the string round a stick. Cowboy or Cowgirl fancy dress is optional.
The paddock opens at 7.30pm and the first race is scheduled for 8.00pm. You can sponsor and name a race for £25.00 and name a horse (or more than one horse) for just £5.00.

Businesses to get rates discounts in East Hants

Businesses in East Hampshire could soon get discounts of up to £150,000 on business rates to build new premises.

The scheme will help new and established businesses build new premises enabling them to expand and develop modern working environments.

East Hampshire District Council aims to be the most business-friendly council in the UK and is keen to start this  scheme. Details will be published on the EHDC website www.easthants.gov.uk shortly.

Prior to this new council-led scheme, many businesses experienced difficulties in finding suitable premises in which to expand or relocate within the area. This discount of up to £150,000 for new-build premises will open up opportunities for growing businesses to do just that.

Councillor Glynis Watts, Portfolio Holder of Economic Development, said: “Business rate incentives will boost the delivery of new business premises, jobs and economic growth across the district as part of the council’s strategy to be as business-friendly as possible. This is a really good tool to have in our armoury to attract inward investment and support the viability of new developments.’’

Theatre review: Strife

Theatre Review by Nick Keith
Strife by John Galsworthy
Minerva Theatre, Chichester

John Galsworthy, celebrated today for his epic saga about the Forsyte family, was better known as a leading dramatist 100 years ago before he made his name as a novelist. A playwright, he wrote, has three options: to give the public what they want; to set out his own views and experiences of life which could be contrary to popular perceptions; or, thirdly, to “set before the public…. the phenomena of life and character, selected and combined, but not distorted by the dramatist’s outlook … without fear, favour or prejudice, leaving the public to draw such poor moral as nature may afford”.
In other words, Galsworthy preferred a fair and balanced statement of the arguments on all sides. He was a liberal-minded man, although educated at Harrow and New College, Oxford, supporting women’s suffrage, a minimum wage, slum clearance, social justice, animal welfare, and opposing censorship in the theatre or in print.
In his play ‘Strife’ (first produced in March 1909) some of these issues are explored in a tale about a strike in a Welsh tinplate factory, where two powerful figures representing capitalism and labour are pitted against each other in a battle for survival. The strike leads to strife on all sides: between father and son, brother and sister, husbands and wives, unions and bosses, as well as internecine conflict within the camps of the capitalism and the striking workers.
The two main characters – John Anthony (William Gaunt), chairman of the board and founder of the company, and David Roberts (Ian Hughes), the workers’ leader – are like dinosaurs in their implacable presentation of their irreconcilable and immovable views. Who will win? The privileged capitalists or the starving workers?
The story is set in February 1909 when the strike has been going on all winter. The drama opens with a long and powerful depiction of life in a tinplate works. A huge hot metal plate is hauled above the stage high in the air, with the background voices of Mrs Thatcher talking about steel and modern news bulletins about the Tata steelworks in Port Talbot. The metal plate is slowly lowered and positioned to become a large board table.
We first meet the five-man board which includes Edgar (Mark Quartley), the chairman’s son who clearly has the interests of the workers at heart. His sister Enid (Lizzy Watts) is torn between supporting him and the starving local families and her wheelchair-bound father because she fears his health will be threatened if he loses.
The union representative Harness (Michael Hodgson) tells the board that he wants to engineer a settlement. But he is up against the unyielding Anthony and Roberts who soon confronts the board with a group of workers. The action switches from the boardroom, to the Anthony’s sitting room, to the worker’s homes and the factory yard. The struggle for supremacy between capital and labour, peace and conflict, ebbs and flows. Strong arguments are vented on all sides.
In 1909 The Times review enthusiastically praised Galsworthy for his “high endeavour, mental equipment and technical skill” in producing a play which “rendered a public service”. This new production at the Minerva provides strong performances, setting the personal strife against a vivid backdrop. ‘Strife’, which runs until 10 September, brings a gripping theatrical event to Chichester. But, because of Galsworthy’s belief in balance and fairness, it makes a stronger appeal to mind than the heart and earns four stars out of five.

www.cft.org.uk