Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Game: A Northern comedy about love, honour and football performed at Southport's Little Theatre.

I had a grand night at the theatre. A Lancashire play was performed in Southport. Although The Game was written over 100 years ago its themes are still ones that exercise us today.

This is a play about football set in a northern town. The cast includes a corrupt club owner, a would-be WAG a pompous solicitor from London and a footballer who lives a terraced house with no hot water (that final bit doesn't have any relevance today).

I was the guest of the SDC and their chair Jan Hale along with many of the Little Theatre's partners. Southport is fortunate to have such an excellent facility as The Little Theatre.

Michelle Martin directed the play and produced a funny, entertaining and thought provoking evening.

I had the pleasure of meeting the cast and crew on stage after the curtain came down which allowed me to congratulate them in person.

I have always liked the plays produced by the Lancashire playwrights and I am delighted that there appears to be a revival of them. Everyone has heard of Hobson's Choice and the David Lean film with John Mills (If you haven't then you should certainly track it down).  That play is on in the West End at present with Martin Shaw -TV's Judge Deed and George Gently- as Hobson. Some while ago I saw a production of Zak another play by Brighouse at The Everyman. Another of the group, Stanley Houghton, wrote Hindle's Wake- a TV version directed by Lawrence Olivier is still available on DVD and is one of the great feminist plays of the era.   This play was revived by the excellent professional company Northern Broadsides . Their founder/director Barrie Rutter couldn't find a copy of the script when he wanted to put it on to co-inside with World Cup and eventually tracked down a copy to a university library in Canada. We should all be grateful to him because this is a real gem of a Lancashire play.

There are still a couple of performances left and I would urge you to go. You will have a thoroughly enjoyable evening and come away not only smiling but also with some important things to think about..

As I left the stage one of the cast Stan Hagan reminded me to put out my grey wheelie bin. Now I call that right neighbourly

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Four Season Birkdale a project for people with learning difficulties to help them prepare fro getting a job

The Four Seasons Garden Centre on Liverpool Rd in Birkdale is well established.  Recently it has become the focus of a scheme which provides training and work opportunities for people with learning difficulties. It was a great pleasure to meet the trainees, volunteers and staff at the project. They have developed some exciting opportunities in the garden centre and cafĂ©. This week they opened a new enterprise – a shop -on the same site to help raise money for their work.

I was shown around by the trainees and saw the horticulture work. That day they were potting up bulbs for the Christmas market. The young women who has worked so hard to get the new shop under way introduced the new enterprise and got me to cut the ribbon to declare it open

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Four Seasons and the Learning Rooms in Birkdale- an inspiring project

I was delighted to visit the Four Season's centre in Birkdale this week where I was met by one of the founders Ruth Wareing. The scheme provides opportunities for people with learning difficulties to gain training and experience of work leading to greater independence. The project offers opportunities in horticulture, catering, floristry, hairdressing and in a new retail enterprise that I had been invited to open

I was very impressed by the set up and the opportunities that the scheme provided for people to gain experience and qualifications. It is particularly good to see the trainees gaining nationally recognised qualifications like NVQ.

It is a warm and friendly environment that provides a safe setting for the trainees to continue their journey towards greater independence and fulfilment.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Elderberries tomato and chilli festival a truly uplifting combination

Now this really was a joy. The Elderberries are a  gardening club for pensioners that meet in St John's church hall in Birkdale and they are a most friendly and welcoming group. Today they had their Tomato and Chilli festival under the watchful eye of their chair Derek Lewis Lavender. I was down to judge the produce. 

and the winner of the coveted trophy
The truth of the matter was that there was a goodly display of home grown tomatoes and the elderberries had been very enterprising choosing some unusual varieties alongside the expected ones. I was particularly impressed by the full sized plum tomatoes, but there were no chillies. Speaking to the members it was clear that one of the issues that prevented more chilli growing was the problem of the glut. What on earth do you do when all your chillies ripen at the same time. In truth a pensioner living alone can only consume so many chillies in a single sitting. I suggested that the answer was to freeze them . I grow a variety called Apache. It is a very neat compact plant a 'medium chilli heat'. I find the peppers freeze whole very satisfactorily. The F1 seeds are available from Sutton Seeds

The Elderberries had their own categories for judging including 'ugliest tomato' and added another one; cutest tomato. I was ably assisted by Mary seen in the picture presenting me with a  bouquet.

This is a thriving and happy club that meets one a month. So if you live in Birkdale and like more information please get in touch and I will pass on your details to Derek.

On twitter this afternoon someone remarked what an interesting combination of flavours was conjured up by the report of my visit. I suggest that the correct way to consume the elderberries is to ferment them first. They are just ripening and about to give of their best.

Friday night and Saturday morning at the 24 hr Badmintonathon in Birkdale

On Friday I night launched a Badmintonathon in Birkdale organised by the Woodvale badminton Club to raise funds for local charities. What is a Badmintonathon? It seems to have been dreamt up by the Woodvale club and this is their fourth. It is a 24 hour continuous game with over 100 players taking part.

I was mightily impressed by the way the event had been organised. Local businesses had been generous in their sponsorship, there was an amazing raffle and a number of sealed auctions for super prizes.
I stayed for a good while and what stood out was the high standard of the games. The Woodvale Club is very successful and attracts a wide range of members including a thriving youth section. I popped back in early on Saturday morning and they were still going strong. Earlier I had met a representative of Lancashire Badminton who was full of praise for the way the club was run and the high standard of their coaching.

The event was held at the Birkdale URC on Grosvenor Rd, the last time I had been there at the opening of the 'knitted bible' on that occasion the tables were groaning under the weight of cake this time it was raffle prizes that weighed them down. I understand that over £3000 was raised for Woodvale BC's chosen charities.

Mollie (on Mayoress duty) meets up with old school friends

06.00am and still going strong
up for the first game with the special challenge tee shirt

A welcome at Royal Birkdale for a royal visiter

Local people will have noticed a lot of police activity around 'the hill' next to Greenbank school. Dog walkers -hopefully fully equipped with their poop and scoop bags- were re-routed to allow a VIP guest to land in a helicopter. The Deputy Lord Lieutenant from Southport Michael Braham  and I were waiting to welcome Prince Andrew to Birkdale where he was hosting the Duke of York's Young Champions Trophy.

This international competition is in its 16th year. The tournament sees 55 of the world's most talented young male and female golfers take part in a 54 hole stroke play tournament. Former champions include Rory McIlroy. 

It was interesting to see how wide the net was cast to recruit players.: New Zealand, Norway, Puerto Rico, Russia Sweden, Switzerland. Thailand, South Africa, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Trinidad to mention just a few. I also learned about the challenge of getting visa correct, a complication had led to one contestant missing the tournament. I wonder if that is something were are all going have to get clued-up on?

Michael and I also learned from the Prince's staff (or DOY as the call him), about the work of the DOY's charitable trust. I was particularly interested to find out how they got their jobs. It turned out they were publically advertised. We met a young graduate who had gone there as an intern and six years on is still there having been offered a job after finishing her internship.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Wayfarers Arcade National Heritage Day Exhibition

One of the sights of Southport, the Wayfarers Arcade is the jewel in the crown of Lord Street.

In my role as Mayor I speak a lot to visitors to the town and this is the place many of them talk about, this is the picture they send home on their social media or by postcard.

Last night as part of National Heritage Day the Arcade launched an exhibition that charted its history since 1898 when it was opened. Back then it was named the Leyland Arcade ( after the Liberal MP) and was the idea of  the entrepreneur John Humphrey Plummer.

The Arcade management, led by Yvonne Burns, has put on an excellent exhibition and for part of it they have collaborated with The Atkinson. I had the pleasure of meeting the women who looks after the collection- part of which is on show. The dress we are standing in front of was made at Boothroyds of Southport . The impossibly thin waste required the exhibits to be modelled on child sized manikins. It helps explain why there was such a vigorous campaign for 'rational dress' in the Victorian era, a precursor of our present day concerns about the impact on mental health of the 'body images' promoted by many in the fashion industry

For most people in Southport the Arcade is associated with the Pedlar family who were involved with the building for several generation. The Arcade recently left the ownership of the Pedlar family and was transfer to the company that also owns Beales- the department store on Lord Street that also opens into the Arcade.

It was good to see so many of the Pedlar family at the launch and the former MD Nicola Lynch nee Pedlar spoke about the families involvement over decades with the Arcade. The event also gave me the opportunity to meet with the new owners Panther Securities PLC a successful property
investment company. It was good to see John Humphrey Perloff attend the launch and to hear him speak about his ambition for the Arcade (note-if I have this right- he has the same fore names as the original owner) . It was particularly pleasing to hear him outline the companies approach to retail management that has included lowering the rents and striving to maintain full occupancy. Judging from their contribution last night I think Southport has good reason to hope that they will be worthy custodians of this important part of the town. (I shall not digress into thoughts about Mr Philip Green)

The evening concluded with Arthur Pedlar introducing us to Verco the clown, but that will be the subject of another posting.