Nick HarperSinger songwriter Nick Harper will be performing at Azuza in Marlborough as part of the festivities thrown to celebrate Record Store Day by neighbouring Sound Knowledge, the record store announced today (Wednesday).
The afternoon performance will take place on Sunday, April 21, with final details and lineup to be confirmed.
Record Store Day takes place on Saturday, April 20. Sound Knowledge will be selling an array of new titles on vinyl, including copies of a 10-inch by Nick Harper.
This week, record giant HMV announced it would be closing another 37 stores and axing 464, bringing a total of 103 shop closures and 1,500 redundancies.
Stores earmarked for closure include the firm's Swindon and Salisbury branches.
Conversely, a concert by Gabrielle Aplin at Azuza, organised by Sound Knowledge and followed by a record signing at the store, attracted a capacity crowd on Wednesday.
Her single, Please Don't Say You Love Me, was at number 3 in the midweek charts, settling at number 6 when the final top-sellers were announced on Sunday.
Ray HarrisJazz festival favourite Ray Harris makes a welcome return to Marlborough on Saturday, March 2 at The Theatre on the Hill to launch his eagerly awaited new album, The Transition.
Ray will be supported by St John’s own Ben Cipolla with flame haired songstress Joanna Peskett making a guest appearance on two numbers with Ray.
Ray Harris & The Fusion Experience will perform tracks from the new album as well as performing past classics.
Joanna Peskett and Ben CipollaKeyboard player and vocalist Harris has a reputation and expectancy for high energy and dynamic performances with songs about love, loss, life and emotions.
Tickets can be bought from Marlborough Box Office 01672 515068 www.marlboroughboxoffice.co.uk or Pound Arts 01249 701628 www.poundarts.org.uk
Professor Peter DavisonProfessor Peter Davison finds it a little odd. And you can understand that, when he tunes into Radio 4’s special season called The Real George Orwell at his home in Barton Park, Marlborough, he knows a thing or two the broadcasters undoubtedly don’t.
Listening to readings from Orwell’s novels, essays, diaries, letters combined with expert views on what the author of Nineteen Eighty Four and Animal Farm might think of today’s terrestrial turmoil somewhat turns him off.
But nevertheless he personally reveals some surprising bang on Orwell predictions – and warnings -- few know about, the national lottery among them.
“I sometimes wish they would leave George alone,” declares the 86-year-old Orwell guru, who has spent a slice of his life editing virtually every word that Orwell wrote, 20 volumes of his complete works taking 17 years alone.
Plus, of course, editing the Orwell diaries and letters left behind when he died from TB in London’s University College Hospital, aged 46, in 1950.
“Too often there’s too much in the programme of people trying to think what George would say today, what he might have said about the events around us today. And a lot of disinformation too.”
The creator of the terrifying Ministry of Truth and Room 101 would no doubt agree when Davison points out that “one distinguished professor claimed that everything Orwell predicted never came true.”
He grunts and points out: “He should have known that 1984 was a warning. Orwell specifically said it wasn’t a prediction. But if you look at his other writings, there is a whole row of things he predicted which have come true.”
He refers to deforestation for a start, adds the use of mental homes in which to dump political troublemakers, and then announces: “The idea of the national lottery too.”
“He said that a lottery would be for the comfort of the proles. And by jove, it’s there, just as George believed it would be.”
But there are far bigger issues to weigh in the balance when he refers to Nineteen-Eighty-Four’s new world of three major spheres of influence controlling the planet of the future.
That wasn’t original Orwell but came out of the 1943 Teheran conference between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill. “The prophecy that came from it – and we see the terrible results now in Syria – is Orwell stating that future wars would be fought on the borders of the big powers,” insists Professor Davison.
“How many can you think of – Somalia, Chad, Iran, Iraq and now Syria, one after another they have happened. George was right about that, by jove, with Russia on one side and the United States on the other.”
“I’m not saying the solution to all that is easy, in practical terms it is going to be very difficult, but by standing back and letting all wars take place on your borders doesn’t help.”
“That’s why I say Nineteen-Eight-Four was a warning, not a prediction.”
Orwell’s persistent search for the truth, Professor Davison believes, would have put him into conflict with the Lord Justice Leveson inquiry into massive media abuse that also inveigled the police and politicians.
“I don’t like predicting his thoughts, but he would have been caught between freedom of speech and the kind of limitations necessary for the protection of vulnerable people.”
But too few realise, he adds, how, when it comes to the manipulation of news, “Orwell’s ideas about television were incredibly far-sighted.”
He wrote about a two-way system, how television could answer back, not realising that this is what is happening now on the “screens” of Facebook and Twitter. “The damage that these new forms of social media have caused is an extension of that,” says Professor Davison.
“There are now these cases of incredible defamation taking place, the fact that you can broadcast back is not quite television, but it does appear on a ‘screen’ due to advance technology.
“So, in a way, Orwell wasn’t too far off the score. He would certainly not approved of running campaigns against individuals. You can deplore it, but what can you actually do to stop it.”
Why the residual fear remains that we are under attack from Europe
One of the most fascinating of Professor Davison’s views is his own analysis of the dilemma of Europe, why some British people have an inherent fear of becoming permanently involved with countries across the Channel.
It stems directly from history familiar only to those of his advanced age – and those born between the two World Wars of the last century – who realise that, in creating the Empire, we fought our wars in India and America, away from our own shores.
“Whereas all the other countries in Europe, nearly every one of them, wanted an Empire within Europe,” he explains. “The Scandinavians, the Italians, the Spanish, the French and the Germans all fought each other.”
He reveals that after the Franco-Prussian war of the 1870s there were a massive number of books published about England being invaded, by the French, by the Russians, and the Germans, of course.
“One marvellous title was The Battle of Dorking,” he recalls. “The history of all that may have disappeared among younger people today but, to me, I still have a residual fear of Europe.”
“That is because we have seen ourselves, not exactly as victims, but as having to protect ourselves against what is now the area of the European Union. And that is one of the things Orwell would have been aware of too.”
“The second 50 years of the 20th century may have been the best. I don’t think the danger of war still exists. But the French will still break any agreement they make that might do them down. And we all know that.”
Andy Ayris of Andrews ButchersTrade at Andrews, Marlborough’s master butchers occupying the site in the High Street that has been the home of a butchers shop since 1878, has been boosted 10 per cent since the horse meat scandal swept the country.
And it is likely to go higher as people realise the extent of the fraudulent identification of products being sold in supermarkets and that supplied to restaurants, hospitals and schools.
“If I did that I would be in prison straight away,” Andy Ayris, who bought the established business 18 months ago and owns two other shops, told Marlborough News Online. “Thank goodness they’re now arresting people.”
“It’s the sheer criminality of it, changing what’s on the label of products. And it’s not so much that people are upset because they are eating horse. It’s the packaging and false labels that annoys them.”
“That’s why we’ve gained a lot more new customers, 10 per cent so far. We have gained their confidence because we can identify what we’re selling. It’s all from local farms. I can even tell you the slaughterman’s name.”
Andy Ayris of Andrews in their cold storeAndy, who was a slaughterman earlier in his career, opens the door of his giant fridge and invites me in, displaying sides of seductive-looking beef with full identification tags on it.
“People can have total confidence,” he insisted. “We don’t take meat out of a box, only off the bone of the carcass. Everything has got a name on it, there’s full traceability, even tells you where it was killed.”
But it is not only the cheating taking place on consumers that is on his agenda. He worries too about the future of farmers who have gone out of business because of unscrupulous suppliers “nailing down” prices.
He seeks out grass-fed cattle farms locally, such as Robert Gay at Shrivenham, where he can buy his meat knowing it is of the highest quality.
But what about the increased cost in time of austerity?
“That’s nonsense,” declared 48-year-old Andy. “Have what is quality. And eat less of it. That’s where obesity comes in. Gluttony is another world you could use.”
“Eat less and eat quality. That’s what it is all about, the quality and the flavour.”
And with a laugh, he admitted: “I’m a big lad anyway. That’s the nature of the job. People don’t trust a skinny butcher.”
Meanwhile, Andy needs to add to his staff of four in the High Street.
“I’m looking for a trainee butcher and a full-time butcher as well. We had one good lad but he’s gone off in the chef side of the business.”
“It’s hard work, it’s manual work because we’re traditional butchers and you do become skilled at it. And it’s a job for life. Yes, indeed, you never go hungry as a butcher.”
Waitrose to create its own unit to produce frozen meat products
Waitrose announced today (Saturday) that it will be building its own UK capability to produce a range of frozen meat products.
The new unit is planned to be operational within the next three months and will be based at Dovecote Park’s state of the art facility in Yorkshire.
Dovecote Park has been exclusively supplying Waitrose since 1997 with high quality fresh beef products including fresh burgers, steaks and joints. All the beef processed by Dovecote Park is sourced from a known and trusted group of British farmers - none of the beef is bought on the open market.
In recent weeks Waitrose has taken the precautionary action of removing two frozen meat products, beefburgers and meatballs - not produced by Dovecote Park - from its branches.
The frozen beef burgers were put back on sale after tests confirmed that the meat in the product was 100 per cent beef. More recently, one test on frozen meatballs showed that the meat in them was, as it should be, 100 per cent beef.
However, another test indicated there may be some pork in some of the meatballs and the product was therefore taken off sale. Neither frozen beef burgers nor frozen meatballs tested positive for horsemeat.
Mark Price managing director commented: “Our customers rightly expect the highest standards of product quality and integrity from us and we won’t let anything stand in the way of our delivering this.
“Dovecote Park is a dedicated supplier to Waitrose. They share our values and our commitment to British farming so extending our joint activities into a range of frozen meat products is a tremendously positive move.”
Councillor Richard BrittonThe decision of Wiltshire’s new police and crime commissioner Angus Macpherson to freeze for the third year running its police rate precept has come under fire from his own Wiltshire Police and Crime Panel.
Their examination of his report showed that the police held £10 million in its reserves, part of which might have been used to reduce the police precept in the coming financial year.
The panel is required by law to review the Commissioner’s proposed precept for 2013-14, which he has held at £157.77 for the average Band D council taxpayer.
The panel, chaired by Wiltshire Councillor Richard Britton, noted in particular the brevity of the Commissioner’s report, which highlighted the fact that figures for previous years had shown a budget under-spend.
This resulted in reserves forecast to increase to circa £10 million by the end of the financial year. Concerns were raised over the lack of detail and the difficulty in understanding the proposal in the absence of a Police and Crime Plan.
The panel had the opportunity to question Mr Macpherson on his report, during which he recognised the panel’s frustrations. He confirmed that the costs of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner had been kept in line with costs of the previous Wiltshire Police Authority.
He stated that there had been only brief consideration of a reduction in the precept and explained that future reductions in police funding required the retention of healthy reserves. The panel expressed the following concerns:
· Disappointment over the limited amount of information provided
· The panel strongly recommends that in future it should not be put in the position of having to consider the setting of the precept in isolation from the police and crime plan.
· Regretted the absence of any information about alternative levels of precept.
· Unease over the size of reserves and the absence of detailed explanation of the justification for them.
Notwithstanding these concerns -- and in the interests of introducing some certainty into an otherwise uncertain financial situation -- the panel reluctantly agreed to approve the Commissioner’s proposal for a zero percent increase in the police precept.
Angels and the Apocalypse - rehearsalAngels and the Apocalypse is an original work devised by St John’s students and directed by the school’s Head of Drama, Cheri Whitehouse. Reports from the rehearsals say this is a very powerful piece of theatre.
In Samuel Beckett’s famous play, Waiting for Godot, the central character never arrives. In Angels and the Apocalypse the end of the world as we know it does arrive – and the moral dilemmas the survivors face bring the audience close to some central dramas and quandaries of life.
At the end of last year the newspapers were full of forecasts that the world was indeed about to end. According to the Mayan calendar, on December 21, 2012 the thirteenth b'ak'tun came to an end.
Many people had read these runes wrongly. This was not the end of the world but rather the end of an era – also known as the end of the fourth world. This play sees mankind entering the fifth world – a world where there is no oil, food production grinds almost to a standstill and people turn to violence as a way of maintaining life.
Against this post-apocalyptic background, three siblings struggle to find a way to survive and one of them must decide whether she will take the violent route to survival, or be true to what she knows and believes to be a moral way of living.
A challenging drama to stage – and one that poses important challenges.
Performances on Thursday, February 21 and Friday, February 22 - curtain up at 7.00pm.
Tickets £5 and concessions £3. Tickets available on the door or call 01672 519537
Nationally the employment figures published in February show a big increase in the numbers in work. The number of people in employment at the end of last year was the highest since records began in 1971.
The number of Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimants was down over the last quarter of 2012, but it rose between December and January. The total number of UK claimants in December was 1.56 million and in January it was 1.58 million.
And youth unemployment – that’s those aged eighteen to twenty-four – rose by 11,000 during the last quarter of 2012 which is the largest rise in this age group for a year.
Over the October-December 2012 quarter there was a significant fall both in the number of those in part-time work and those taking part-time jobs because they could not get full-time work.
The way the unemployment figures for each Parliamentary constituency are calculated has been changed and the amount of data published reduced. The figures for claimant rates or percentages now take into account constituency populations revealed in the 2011 census.
This has meant that the Devizes constituency’s rate of claimants for JSA given in the figures published on Wednesday (February 20) is two per cent – whereas under the old calculation method (using the 2001 census) it would have been 2.2 per cent. This makes comparisons of the rates in the various age groups impossible.
In actual numbers those in the constituency claiming JSA rose from 992 in December 2012 to 1,044 in January 2013.
The Office for National Statistics reported a continued cut in the real value of peoples’ pay. Regular pay (which excludes bonuses) rose by 1.3 per cent – the lowest increase since the end of 2009 and well below the inflation figure.
This factor helps to explain why the number of people with more than one job has increased by 41,000 to 1,100,000. But it also puts into perspective the harsh times some high street shops are experiencing as people’s ability to spend falls back in the face of inflationary increases in essentials such as food and heating.
Wiltshre's Police and Crime Commissioner, Angus MacphersonYour views are wanted by Angus Macpherson, Wiltshire’s new Police and Crime Commissioner, on his draft police and crime plan for the county.
From last night (Monday) until Sunday 10 March people can visit the Commissioner’s website – www.wiltshire-pcc.gov.uk -- to read a draft version of the plan and then give him their personal feedback.
“It is very important to me to gain the views of as many people in Wiltshire as possible on my draft Police and Crime Plan,” he says.
“The final version of this document will set the strategic direction of policing in Wiltshire and Swindon for the next four years. This includes the key initiatives I will implement during my term in office.”
The Police and Crime Plan is a much wider reaching document than the previous policing plans produced jointly by Wiltshire Police Authority and Wiltshire Police. As well as working with the police, it will include working with partners, such as local authorities and voluntary community sector organisations.
Mr Macpherson’s draft Police and Crime Plan focuses on working with communities and partners and is divided into six main sections:
• Reduce crime and anti-social behaviour
• Protect the most vulnerable in society
• Put victims and witnesses first
• Reduce offending and re-offending
• Drive up standards of customer service
• Ensure unfailing and timely response to calls for assistance
Key initiatives within the plan include:
• Strengthening neighbourhood policing by creating safer neighbourhood teams, involving not just the police but other agencies, such as local authorities, and communities themselves
• Greater police officer visibility, including more foot patrols, within our communities
• Launching a £1 million innovation fund - organisations that help reduce crime, anti-social behaviour and re-offending in will be able to apply for funds
• Setting up quarterly victim forums and victims panels to ‘test check’ services
• Enhancing the quality of service people receive when they contact Wiltshire Police
• Reducing the current re-offending rate by commissioning services which support those leaving prison
All feedback will then be considered before the final plan is published at the end of March.
Despite the controversy caused by the government’s new “bedroom tax” as part of its welfare reforms, local MP Claire Perry declares that it is not a tax at all and has been introduced to increase housing accommodation.
“There has been a lot of miscommunication about the Government's housing benefit reforms,” the Tory member for Devizes told Marlborough News Online.
“In particular, the under-occupancy reforms were recently described by Labour politicians as a ‘bedroom tax’ which, apart from it not being a tax at all, wholly ignores the dire situation that housing benefit has been left in by the previous government.”
“The housing benefit bill has almost doubled in 10 years and there are over one million spare rooms -- paid for by the taxpayer -- at the same time when there are 250,000 social housing tenants living in over-crowded accommodation and over five million people on waiting lists.”
Mrs Perry added: “This government has always been clear that it wishes to give social tenants far greater freedoms and flexibilities to make better use of social housing, and these reforms do exactly this.”
“The measure seeks to ensure that not only will housing benefit be much fairer to taxpayers, but that it is also spent directly on people's needs.”
“Claimants who are above working age will be exempt from this measure, so pensioners will not be affected by the new rules.”
“The Government has also added £30 million to discretionary housing payments for local authorities to ease the transition and support particular groups which will help approximately 40,000 cases.”
Marlborough Area Board told of housing benefit cuts
Wiltshire Council wastes £180,000 of tax payer's money by ignoring Lib Dem calls for an hour's free car parking across the county in towns from Trowbridge to Marlborough.
A newly released council agenda has revealed the true scale of car parking mismanagement in the county as Wiltshire Council Parking Services overspent by £180,000 on predicted targets for the last financial year.
Historically, the county has enjoyed a policy of “one hour's free parking” in all towns. However, the Conservative-controlled council have repealed this system to the detriment of local town centres.
And they have repeatedly ignored requests by Liberal Democrats for a return to one hour's free car parking, which would be an incentive to shoppers to support their local town centres and greatly enhance the local economy.
The benefits gained by introducing an hour's free car parking were shown clearly during December 2012 when the council trialled a month long hour's free parking scheme, during which trade boomed in town centres and the council accrued £58,000 of additional car parking revenue from the increased footfall.
“It is evident that Wiltshire Council is discouraging shoppers from frequenting towns by charging exorbitant car parking rates,” Lib-Dem leader Jon Hubbard told Marlborough News Online. “Our proposals to provide one hour's free parking in our town centres has been proven to encourage more shoppers to shop locally and support our businesses and our local economy.”
“Wiltshire Council is losing taxpayers' money by not providing an hour's free parking.”
Independent Marlborough town councillor Val Compton agrees. “The mishandling of the parking situation in no way surprises me having watched the ridiculous state of affairs in Kennet Place car park which stood empty for a year,” she told Marlborough News Online.
“Wiltshire only seem to regard parking in terms of generating maximum revenue for themselves, without looking at the bigger picture. In Kennet Place, they wanted to generate so much, that they shot themselves in the foot and lost the lot.”
“Anecdotally, they are making voluntary work very difficult in the town centre, those on minimum wages can hardly be expected to bother getting out of bed if they have to pay out at Wiltshire’s rates, and they are also driving residents away because of their huge resistance to residents’ parking schemes.”
“Our visitors are astounded when they realise the lengths we go to in order to leave our cars somewhere. If you are wealthy and living here, it is not a problem, but just when are Wiltshire going to understand that a significant proportion of us are simply unable to pay.”
She added: “I was once told by a councillor I shouldn’t have moved to a house without parking if I couldn’t afford to pay for a car parking space – the better off are just so sympathetic – I find that attitude appalling.”
“The fact is, when I came to Kennet Place, we had nine-car parking spaces here and a great deal more places on land in Angel Yard.”
“Gradually, over-development, with too little parking – for instance the social housing in Angel Yard with insufficient car parking, has squeezed us all to breaking point. The reasoning behind it was apparently ‘Green Policies’.”
“That was, in my opinion, utter rubbish. The reasoning behind it was, in fact, more likely to be greed in land and car parking revenue.”
If you cannot think of a way to raise money for Comic Relief, you like to listen to good singing and you need a good laugh - then the Singing for Laughs concert on Saturday, March 2, is just the ticket for you.
Organised by Vanessa Lafaye and the Marlborough Community Choir it will be the fourth annual Singing for Laughs concert. Previously they’ve raised £3,000 for Comic Relief and its very worthwhile and necessary work – this year their target is £4,000.
The forty-strong voices of the Marlborough Community Choir, who have performed at many recent celebrations in the town, will be singing their usual eclectic acapella repertoire taking in gospel, show tunes, pop and world music.
They will be joined by four Wiltshire-based singing groups. Kait and Becs are a Pewsey-based vocal and bass duo performing sultry jazz classics.
Mother’s Jam are a Pewsey Vale-based female acapella sextet known in the area for their lovely harmonies. And just in case you wondered, they are named after a rock formation near Avebury.
Best keep an eye out for the outfits Mother’s Jam will be wearing for this concert – they’ve teamed up with Marlborough boutique Luna to provide some special pizzazz for the evening.
The Magnificent AK47s are a male acapella group which hails from Ashton Keynes (hence the AK, the 47 is for their average age – next year will they have to become a less resonant AK48?) They sing a mixture of the hauntingly beautiful and the hilarious.
Barbarelle are a Swindon-based female acapella quintet featuring leaders of the Swindon Scratch Choir. They perform music from the 50s and 60s.
All of the music will be light and some will be silly in parts – as befits a concert in aid of Red Nose Day. The ticket price also includes Marlborough’s only cake buffet.
The evening has been designed for families with children. Or for anyone who likes fun music and, of course, cake. A lot of laughter is guaranteed, as well as a high standard of musicianship.
Tickets - £7.50 with under-twelves at £5 - from Marlborough Box Office.
Ikarus C42 at Clench CommonThe initiative of director Jon Copp has literally given this year’s Summer School at Marlborough College a remarkable flying start – with eight-hour courses in learning to fly.
He believes this is a unique event for any summer school, this year’s 39th Marlborough event, starting in July, also boosted by more foreign students flying in from America and Germany demanding places.
And to top that the Summer School, which last year was hit by the effects of the London Olympics bubble, will introduce no fewer than 150 new courses and tutors, as well as a chance to stay in en suite rooms in the revamped former Ivy House Hotel, now a student hostel.
“Yes, it’s a flying start to the year,” Mr Copp told Marlborough News Online. “There’s always the need for the eye-catching course. And that’s learning to fly. We can’t believe it’s already sold out because it is not cheap—costing just under £1,000.”
The reach for the sky flying lessons provide a local business link with GS Aviation, based at Clench Common, something Mr Copp wanted to help improve the local economy.
“The idea came from a conversation I had with Graham Slater, who runs GS Aviation,” he said. “It represents incredibly good value because we’ve discounted the course dramatically to make it accessible to people.”
“There are a total of 12 places for students and they sold out immediately. The courses are for all ages. We’ve got young teenagers through to people who have retired. So that is something we can develop in the future, to promote GS Aviation and ourselves.”
Students will have the opportunity to fly a small 70mph Cessna-type plane – it’s called a C42 -- from Clench Common to another local airfield and back but will not be taught how to take off and land at this stage.
“It is an opportunity for people to experience what it is like flying and then see if they want to go further and train for a pilot’s licence,” explained Mr Copp. “That’s essentially it.”
“It’s hard to provide an introduction course where you are not seriously out of pocket. And this is the first we’ve ever heard of being offered by a Summer School.”
An increase in foreign students despite austerity hitting many countries is also welcome. They make up some 25 per cent of the 3,500 students who attend the Summer School and there were fears that there would be a fall off.
“But we still have this vast number of people coming from abroad,” added Mr Copp. “The American market has picked again, which is important, and so has Germany in particular, which is a real reflection of the economy.”
“Their numbers have doubled in two years whereas the French, the Italians and the Spanish are slightly down on past numbers.”
So too, at present, are numbers for those attending children’s courses, but they are expected to improve, as are students seeking out the new art, history and literature classes.
“Bookings are tight where families are concerned because of the effects of austerity,” he added. “But we’re booming with out adult bookings, particularly with the retired generation, whose finances are being slightly less squeezed.”
This year’s Summer School runs from July 14 to August 3. For full details see www.mcsummerschool.org.uk.
Shelley Parker - Marlborough's new town clerkMarlborough needs to beat the drum -- and shout more about its excellence -- as a hidden gem thriving in the heart of Wiltshire.
That is the encouraging view of Marlborough’s vivacious new town clerk, Shelley Parker, barely two weeks after arriving at the High Street council offices to find welcoming flowers from Marlborough’s mayor, Edwina Fogg, on her desk.
And then, hardly knowing anyone, facing her first her first full council meeting that very evening with the arduous task of setting its council tax precept for the coming financial year.
“Being thrown in at the deep end is the best way to come in,” she told Marlborough News Online. “It’s sink or swim. And I’ve enjoyed it. I feel very honoured to be in a place like Marlborough.”
A former diplomat in her early fifties, petite Mrs Parker has been town clerk of Cricklade, just nineteen miles away, for the past four years, and now succeeds Derek Wolfe, Marlborough’s town clerk who tragically died last September.
In fact, she was runner-up when he was appointed in January last year and displays an admiration and knowledge of Marlborough, plus the devil in the detail of local government legislation likely to cause headaches in the future.
As for her new base, she declared: “I see Marlborough as a town that punches above its weight. I do indeed. I think it is a hidden gem in the middle of Wiltshire. The town council should be shouting a lot more what it does so well.”
“You only have to walk up the High Street and look around to see what it does. We have a fabulous grounds team who work extremely hard to keep everything clean and tidy, everything up to date with a head gardener we are very lucky to have wth a huge horticultural knowledge.”
“There have been lots of improvements with the floral arrangements in the High Street. I come from Cricklade of course, which was the winner of the national Britain in Bloom competition.”
“So there’s huge scope there to do more. Flowers encourage visitors to the town. And it makes it look even better during the summer months.”
She was able to give immediate guidance to the finance committee’s accountant chairman, Councillor Andrew Ross, in setting a new rate – a nine pence a week increase for Band D council tax payers – having been through the process at Cricklade.
A new grant system enabled Marlborough to benefit by £31,253 to reduce its new budget to £421,000, and Mrs Parker added: “What incredible good value for money the residents here get. Running a staff, running a number of services to keep the town clean and tidy, looking after the gardens, the public open spaces, recreation grounds, all the bus stops – that is what is achieved.”
But she is concerned that like Wiltshire Council itself, town and parish councils are facing a two per cent cap in increased expenditure in future years.
“Life is going to get tougher and that is quite scary,” she said.
“We shall have to have a big rethink about what local services people want and what we can afford.”
Meanwhile, she is looking forward to developing the council’s website to coincide with the forthcoming council elections in May, and be able to display much more information on it, the town council being obliged to be more open and transparent.
“Very soon there will be Localism legislation in place that means, for example, we have to put on the website everything that costs us more than £500, all meeting agendas and reports so we make everything much more understandable for local people,” she explained.
“And we shouldn’t be frightened of doing that.”
Last Thursday’s visit of the New Zealand Acting High Commissioner, Rob Taylor, for an event linking Marlborough with its namesake town across the ocean, was another eye opener for Mrs Parker of Marlborough’s historical and international links.
It was an event too where she felt comfortable as, during her years as a Foreign Office diplomat, she spent time at the British High Commission in Wellington, so was one of the handful of guests present who had visited New Zealand.
Yet her heart is in Wiltshire. “I came from Oxfordshire originally,” she revealed. “ But I feel local, actually. I’m Wiltshire.”
The council elections in May will be a turning point says Shelley Parker
While she believes the Conservative Party is well organised and financed in Wiltshire, Marlborough’s new town clerk believes the forthcoming parish, town and county council elections in May will be significant.
Voters lack of trust in the political process may well result in some people refusing to vote and others choosing extremist rather than traditional parties to support.
“There are lots of candidates now who have jumped ship from the parties they were affiliated to in the past and are now independents,” she pointed out. “So the outcome will be interesting.”
Shelley Parker is attending a meeting this week of the Wiltshire Association of Local Councils to learn more about her tasks in the forthcoming lections, which could prove to be a turning point with councils now under the cosh of spending cuts.
April 5 has been set as the nomination day for candidates in Marlborough and across the county and it is her hope that there will be a good cross-section of people standing as candidates.
But she appreciates that the pressures of earning a living and raising children may will prevent young family members becoming candidates, retired people now forming the bulk of candidates standing.
“I think we should be promoting the opportunity for local people to stand, a good mix of local people from all age groups and all walks to life gives you a good mix of people round the council table,” she said. “That would be the ideal.”
And she added: “There are some real similarities and some great differences between Marlborough and Cricklade, which was an apolitical town council.
“I gather that this council too is apolitical, but I haven’t been here long enough yet to say if that is the case.”
New Zealand Flag flying over Town HallThe Acting New Zealand High Commissioner, Rob Taylor, came to Marlborough on Thursday (February 14) to make an official presentation to the town of a huge oar. This is a very special oar – it is the steering oar used by the young crew from Marlborough Boys College, New Zealand who rowed the replica whaling skiff, the Swift Sure, in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames last summer.
Mayor Edwina Fogg officiated at the ceremony saying she was deeply honoured to receive the steering oar on behalf of the town and that it holds out the hope of bringing greater ties between the two Marlboroughs.
Acting New Zealand High Commissioner Rob Taylor with Mayor Edwina FoggMr Taylor spoke about the Swift Sure’s crew and said he was ‘totally in admiration of their endurance’ – as the rain lashed down and the tide turned against them on their way along the Thames. He said he was glad the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee event had produced this legacy which would strengthen ‘people to people links’.
There was also a message from the British High Commissioner to New Zealand, Vicki Treadell: “There is so much we share with New Zealand from the names of our towns, cities and regions, to the strong people to people links.”
To make her point the guests at the ceremony included members of the New Zealand eventing team who live locally: Sir Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson and Clarke Johnstone. (Jonelle Richards from Minal was unable to be there.) They are based in the area: Sir Mark Todd, who was knighted in the New Year Honours, moved last year to Badgerstown near Swindon and Andrew Nicholson is based in Lockeridge.
Other New Zealand links in the Town Hall to witness the official handing over of the giant oar included Cheryl Shevket whose family were originally from Devizes. Now she and her husband divide their time between Wiltshire and New Zealand.
Another guest was New Zealander Beaney Davidson runs the Bow Belles shop and café at the western end of the High Street. And the President of the Marlborough Golf Club, Malcolm Hardstaff, was there to mark the club’s links with the Rarangi Golf Club near Blenheim in the Marlborough district of New Zealand.
Inscription on the oarMegan Richardson and William Hendry, students at St John’s Academy, told the assembled guests about their video-conference chats with pupils at Marlborough Colleges in New Zealand. These are due to resume shortly – with St John’s talking at 8pm to very early rising students in New Zealand.
Councillor Nick Fogg, referring to himself as the ‘Mayoress’, told guests that he thought he was the only mayor to visit all three towns linked to Marlborough: Marlborough in Massachusetts, Marlborough in New Zealand and Gunjur in The Gambia.
Three Gambians and Dr Nick Maurice from the Marlborough Brandt Group were present at the ceremony to mark the town’s thirty-five year link with The Gambia. And Nick Fogg spoke about his visits to Gunjur – with the first group of visitors from Marlborough; to America for the 350th anniversary of that Marlborough’s foundation; and to New Zealand for a visit that included a short tour of just some of its two hundred and twenty-three vineyards.
There were also greetings from Alistair Sowman, the Mayor of Marlborough, New Zealand, who pointed out the historical significance of the whaling industry to the link between Britain and New Zealand. In days gone by whale oil ‘lit the street lamps of Britain and lubricated its machinery.’
He thought it very fitting that the replica of the Swift Sure had been part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. And no one was forgetting the young crew who by their amazing efforts had raised $NZ100,000 to bring the Swift Sure and its crew to London and sweated their way along the Thames – perhaps giving the occasional envious glance across to those boats in the pageant which boasted motors.
The oar will be on show when the Town Hall is open to the public on Saturday, February 16.
You can read our original report from May 2012 about the Swift Sure – written for us by Steve Mason, Editor of the Marlborough Express of New Zealand.
Links to Speeches:
Acting New Zealand High Commissioner, Rob Taylor
Marlborough's Mayor, Edwina Fogg
Acting New Zealand High Commissioner Rob TaylorActing New Zealand High Commissioner Rob Taylor presenting the oar to Mayor Edwina FoggCeremonial Officer David Sherratt reading a message from the British High Commissioner to New Zealand Vicki Treadell
Councillor former mayor and 'current mayoress' Nick Fogg addressing thse presentjpgSir Mark Todd of the New Zealand Equestrian Team with Mayor Edwina FoggAndrew Nicholson of the New Zealand Equestrian Team and also of Lockeridge
Megan Richardson of St John's Academy presenting a ceremonial paperweight to Acting High Comissioner Rob TaylorIzzy Clark and Helena Smith (with flowers) waiting to make a presentation to Acting High Commissioner Rob Taylor and his teamPlaque accompanying the oar
Megan Richardson and William Hendry - students at St John's Academy with mayor Edwina FoggIzzy Clark presenting a ceremonial paperweight to a member of the New Zealand High Commission team
Plans of Whaleboat Swiftsure
Claire PerryTory MP Claire Perry, the PPS to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, has described her two-day visit last week to Afghanistan as “humbling and encouraging.”
She has five Army camps in her Devizes constituency and was alongside Mr Hammond in the Afghan capital Kabul and Helmand Province
And Mrs Perry told Spire FM in Salisbury that with a number of south Wiltshire soldiers due to be deployed to Afghanistan later this year, seeing what the conditions were really like was reassuring.
"I often meet wives, girlfriends or husbands of those who are out serving and we have a conversation about what conditions are like,” she told the radio station.
“The good news is that in many ways, the conditions are very good -- there is excellent equipment, the food is very good, I had lamb curry and sponge with custard for supper in Camp Bastion, and even the conditions out in the patrol bases are very good."
"It's a huge contribution that we've made, obviously there have been some very tragic losses of life, but we should feel proud both nationally and locally about what we've achieved out there and what we continue to do."
“I think we've got the best armed forces in the world and I saw nothing to change my mind over the last couple of days."