Paul ShimellCaffe Nero is on the verge of being given planning consent for its new coffee shop in Marlborough High Street, where the conversion of a fashion store began weeks before a planning application was made -- and in the face of an onslaught of objections.
But despite Caffe Nero’s “calculated” breach of regulations and objections from Marlborough town council, the Chamber of Commerce and more than 60 individuals, Wiltshire Council’s eastern area planning committee is being recommended next week to grant approval for change of use.
And it is doing so on the back of a planning appeal decision in a similar Caffe Nero case in Skipton, Yorkshire, where the inspector overturned a council enforcement closure notice and declared that another café in the shopping centre would do no harm to the vitality of the town.
“This is the planning steamroller running roughshod over the wishes of everyone who cares about Marlborough and its future,” protested Paul Shimell, president of the Chamber of Commerce.
“If Wiltshire takes that view too, then this virtually opens the door to anyone opening whatever kind of business they want, wherever they want, and to hell with obtaining planning consent in advance.”
“It is quite shocking, a madness that means you cannot plan for the future because what you want to happen will just be squashed by the planners, which is what happened in the case of the closure of the Ivy House Hotel.”
And he added: “It makes a nonsense of the government’s Localism legislation, which is supposed to put decision making into local hands. It’s now a free for all where you can do what you like.”
“It’s a total joke when we already have more than 20 eating and drinking outlets in the town. So why bother to plan for the future? But that is exactly what the Chamber and the town councillors are currently working on in a positive way.”
The report by planning officer Peter Horton says: “This is a retrospective application because the proposed change of use was implemented six weeks after the application was submitted in what would appear to have been a calculated course of action.”
“Whilst this breach of planning regulations is an unfortunate action which the local planning authority can in no way condone, it is not a criminal offence, and the planning application stands to be determined on its individual planning merits.”
“It is worth noting in the Skipton case that the inspector commented: ‘I have noted the concerns raised that the use proceeded before planning permission was granted. I do not condone that course of action but it is not a good reason to withhold consent, especially when no harm has been shown to arise from the coffee shop use.”
The approval recommendation is subject to conditions that an acoustic and vibration impact assessment is made following objections of the owners of the flats above Caffe Nero on grounds of noise, vibration and smells from the air conditioning and extraction units.
Opening hours will also be controlled.
Planning officers made incognito visits to Caffe Nero after it opened to check on the extent of retail sales of sandwiches and drinks but, says the report: “The evidence base shows a thriving business which is attracting significant numbers of customers, more than most surrounding retail businesses.”
“It cannot therefore reasonably be concluded that the proposal is harming the vitality and viability of the town centre. Furthermore, a recent appeal decision at Skipton indicates there would be little prospect of any refusal being upheld at appeal.”
Wiltshire and Marlborough town councillor, Nick FoggTwo urgent questions about the spraying of roadside verges with a herbicide claimed to cause potential birth defects have been tabled for tomorrow’s Wiltshire Council meeting by Marlborough councillor Nick Fogg.
His concerns about the use of Roundup, said to be the world’s best–selling weedkiller, have been raised by a report that council workmen have used it on verges in the vicinity of St Mary’s Infant School, in George Lane, Marlborough.
Councillor Fogg is to ask Councillor Dick Tonge, the council’s Cabinet member responsible for highways and transport: “To what extent is the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) used on the roadside verges in the county?”
This follows the fact that Marlborough town council, of which Councillor Fogg is also an elected member, has decided not to allow their own workmen to use Roundup in the town.
And in a second question he asks Councillor Tonge: “Is he aware of the report ‘Roundup and Birth Defects’ produced by a team headed by Michael Antoniou, Reader in molecular genetics at King's College, London, School of Medicine, which expresses concern about the toxic qualities of this chemical and its possible effects as a cause of birth defects?”
Research reports on the toxic effects of Roundup, made by the American company Monsanto, have shown that it does produce birth defects in laboratory animal tests.
“I was put onto this by Dr Sam Page who told me that these sprays had been used around the perimeter of St Mary's Infants School by Wiltshire Council,” Councillor Fogg told Marlborough News Online. “The purpose of my question is to determine the extent of its use by Wiltshire.
“Obviously, if doubts have been cast about its potentially harmful effects, then a thorough examination of the issue should be undertaken.
“ Marlborough town council did precisely this and decided not to use Roundup. My colleague Councillor Rich Pitts was to the fore on that occasion.”
Used in gardens, farms, and parks around the world, Roundup contains an ingredient that can suffocate human cells in a laboratory, according to research reported by the Scientific American magazine three years ago.
“The new findings intensify a debate about so-called ‘inerts’— the solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other substances that manufacturers add to pesticides,” readers were told. “Nearly 4,000 inert ingredients are approved for use by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency.
“Glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. About 100 million pounds are applied to U.S. farms and lawns every year”, according to the EPA.
“Until now, most health studies have focused on the safety of glyphosate, rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup. But in the new study, scientists found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.”
The report added: “The research team suspects that Roundup might cause pregnancy problems by interfering with hormone production, possibly leading to abnormal foetal development, low birth weights or miscarriages.
“Monsanto, Roundup’s manufacturer, contends that the methods used in the study don’t reflect realistic conditions and that their product, which has been sold since the 1970s, is safe when used as directed.”
“Hundreds of studies over the past 35 years have addressed the safety of glyphosate.”
Mayor Edwina Fogg by the winning window display - the Merchant's HousePraise for Marlborough’s shops and businesses, including the oldest one in its welcome High Street, for their support for the town council’s celebrations to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee has come from Mayor Edwina Fogg.
And she herself has earned admiration for her exhaustive tour of all those involved to say a personal thank you, so much that she is planning to go on regular walkabouts to boost Marlborough.
“The tour took almost four hours,” Edwina told Marlborough News Online. “Everywhere I visited, all the shops and business in the High Street and the side roads, were pleased to greet me.”
“Shop owners, staff and customers were delighted to receive some recognition of all their efforts to give Marlborough a festive image during the diamond jubilee weekend we staged and beyond.”
“Even people in the street were simply fascinated to meet the Mayor and took a great interest in what the council is doing to boost the town in these difficult times.”
And Councillor Fogg added: “I am so amazed by the fantastic reception that I am contemplating regular walkabouts. It’s one wonderful way of keeping in contact and making everyone feel good about themselves -- and the town too.”
That was particularly so at The Merchant’s House, a jewel in the High Street since 1653, which scored a double triumph in the presentation by the Mayor of certificates for winning her best shop window and best floral diamond jubilee displays.
Designer and artist Abi Gibbon, who creates the displays that grace the double-fronted Victorian shop windows of The Merchant’s House, received the certificates from the Mayor.Mayor Edwina Fogg presenting the best shop window certificate to designer Abi Gibbon
The Merchant’s House shop-window display has won the Mayor’s Certificate for the best overall display in the town for the diamond jubilee.
The presentation was made by the Mayor, Councillor Edwina Fogg, to designer and artist, Abi Gibbon who creates the beautiful displays which grace the Victorian double-fronted shop windows of the Merchant’s House.
“ I was flattered to receive the award, but our window displays are a team effort, so I accepted the certificate on behalf of all those involved”,” said mother of four Abi, pictured with the Mayor outside the former home of silk merchant Thomas Bayly.
Sir John Sykes, chairman of its trustees, also offered his congratulations. “We are very lucky to have Abi,” he said. “The window displays are the first thing visitors see when they enter the house, and reflect the care we take to carry out the refurbishment of the Merchant’s House to the highest standards.”
Altogether some 28 shops, pubs and restaurants received recognition certificates for putting up floral displays to add colour to the High Street in a scheme organised by Marion Dale, secretary of Marlborough’s Chamber of Commerce.
The project was very much a bid to raise interest in Marlborough re-entering the annual Britain in Bloom competition, which it has won once in the past.
Mayor Edwina Fogg with designer Abi Gibbon, Sir John Sykes (2nd right), Clyde Nancarrow (right) and David Sherratt, ceremonial officer (left)But, apart from Waitrose, Marlborough’s major supermarket, the Mayor was disappointed that some national chains, such as WH Smith and Boots, showed little initiative compared with Marlborough’s individually owned shops, which mostly took on a red, white and blue theme.
“There were about five shops that were much more imaginative and made the short list for the best window display,” said the Mayor. “But, in the end, we decided that efforts of The Merchant’s House really excelled and came out top in both categories.
“The effect overall was fantastic. That’s why I went walkabout and said well done to all those who made an effort – and that was very much appreciated.”
Marlborough’s first not-for-profit community market hits the High Street on Sunday (July 1) when more than 20 marquees go up in an enterprise that may herald the regular street markets coming under permanent local control.
It will be a big day for the town as local organisations combine their efforts to fill the gap created when the traditional Farmers’ Market ceased trading last July after 13 years sited in the town hall.
From 11am to 4pm there will be an explosion of delights to eat and enjoy – many not seen before – that will provide a new buzz on a once a month initial basis, as well as creating fun events for children too.
And already the arrival of the community market is being seen as a base for a bid for Marlborough town council to take overall control of the regular weekday markets from Wiltshire Council, together - may be - with local parking too.
“It is going to be a very exciting weekend,” declared Councillor Richard Pitts. “We have 20 companies already signed up to come with their marquees as well as individuals too who are launching new businesses."
“If it all takes off properly – and I’ve no doubt it will get public support – we would then have the vehicle for going ahead with the market full-time. And that would be true localism.”Councillor Richard Pitts
He has helped to focus attention on change through Marlborough’s Transition Town group supported by Marlborough Town Council, which is due to make a £3,000 grant to the new Marlborough Communities Market to give the enterprise a head start.
Transition Town has been working since February with Ellie Gill, the Wessex Community Markets organiser, to establish a new market in Marlborough that aims to revive the vital links that previously existed with alternative food networks in the town and its surrounding villages.
And to extend what they provide into new areas too such as Ramsbury Tea, who supply a range of Fairtrade products, as well as those who can offer attractive local arts and crafts to decorate the home.
“I am truly astonished by the high level of products being put forward,” said Ellie. “I always knew that the countryside in Wiltshire hid some talented artisans, food producers and artists as I am a regular customer at farmers’ markets and craft fairs. But to have so many in the immediate vicinity of Marlborough has come as something of a delightful surprise.”
So Sunday’s market, which will see the arrival of a 1934 red Routemaster bus with a kitchen on the lower floor and a small cafe upstairs, will be offering bread, honey, cooked foods and Middle Eastern mezze from Calne.
There will be textiles and sculptures, eggs and preserves, beautiful hand-woven shawls, handmade soaps plus cut flowers, herbs and perennials galore. New businesses have been encouraged to become involved under the market's Table for a Tenner scheme.
“And the reason for calling it a community market is because it will be run as a not-for-profit, social enterprise owned by the people o Marlborough and the surrounding villages, all profits going to benefit them and the community,” said Councillor Pitts.
The possibilities for Marlborough having greater control over its own future are also in the air with town councillors seeking to extend their limited powers under the new Localism legislation.
Councillor Nick Fogg, also a member of Wiltshire Council, has warned that despite attending two briefings on the Localism legislation he is still unsure how it will work, and he has warned the town council to be wary of what demands it makes.
“Wiltshire won’t be keen on a takeover,” he said. “The market is a little earner for them. Unless there is some statutory mean of getting the market permanently transferred to us, then we may be wasting out time attempting to do this.”
But Councillor Bryan Castle pointed out that Wiltshire had some years ago canvassed town councils as to what services they might like to take over in the future. “And we ticked every box,” he recalled. “So we are on record as saying before that we would like to take over the operation of the Marlborough street market."
“There is no harm in us reiterating now that we would like to do so subject to all the finances and legal matters being agreed.”
thames-water-logo-cmk.2.280pxWork has begun on a £3.45 million Thames Water project to upgrade the treatment processes at the Marlborough sewage works – all part of its Care for the Kennet campaign to improve the quality of water in the River Kennet.
The vital upgrade programme, due to be completed in February, will also make the works more resilient in the event of heavy rain and will allow for future predicted housing development and population growth in the area.The scheme is part of Thames’ community-based care campaign to protect the environmental health of the river, which is backed by local group Action for the River Kennet (ARK), the Angling Trust, WWF-UK and the water company.
Until the recent rains dramatically changed the landscape, the Kennet was suffering from one of its worst droughts with sections of the river becoming totally dry and fish stocks disappearing.
Richard Lewis, the Thames Water project manager responsible for the scheme, told Marlborough News Online: "Until now our Care for the Kennet campaign has focused on urging people to use tap water wisely: 'the less we use the more there'll be in the river', and all that."
"As well as continuing to be water-wise, we must also recognise that this upgrade is just as important in achieving our aim of enhancing and safeguarding the long-term environmental health of the iconic River Kennet, its fish and all the bugs, birds and other wildlife that call it home."
He added: "Even though the hosepipe ban has been lifted, we would still urge everyone to continue to use water wisely in order to further protect the health of this world-renowned chalk stream."
The project at Marlborough sewage works involves enlarging the site's inlet works, where sewage from local households first enters the works.
Engineers will also add in a high-tech new treatment process, a nitrifying sand filter, in which bacteria grows that converts ammonia in sewage into nitrate, as well as filtering out any solids.
The final part of the upgrade will be building a third new storm tank to act as an additional overflow chamber when heavy rain results in more water entering the works than it can cope with.
A third tank will provide additional capacity, significantly reducing the chances of heavily diluted storm sewage spilling into the river following exceptionally heavy rain on the rare occasions the tanks fill up and overflow.
Geoffrey Findlay, chairman of Action for the River Kennet, has given its backing to the project.
"We, of course, welcome any measure that will improve the state of the River Kennet,” he said. “And we support Thames Water's campaign to encourage people to use water wisely, while continuing to press all concerned to address the issue of over-abstraction as soon as possible"
Brian Moore, Wiltshire's Chief ConstableBrian Moore, Wiltshire’s admired Chief Constable, is stepping down from the urgent post he was given in February to sort out the immigrations problems of the government’s Border Force Agency.
He was seconded from his Devizes-based post following the scandal over the lack of immigration controls at Heathrow highlighted when the Home Secretary Theresa May suspended Brodie Clark, the senior civil servant in charge of the Border Force.
Some 500,000 people were said to have been allowed into the country without security checks being made and there was rising concern to sort out immigration controls in time for the influx of thousands of visitors for the Olympic Games, due later this month.
Now Mr Moore is to step down from the post at the end of September after being similarly criticised over long delays at airport immigration desks.
His contract with Wiltshire Police is due to expire this December and Mr Moore, who has been Chief Constable since 2008 on a salary of £133,000, had intimated that he would apply for the full-time immigration post.
Now his future is uncertain after an announcement that he wishes to “pursue other options in his policing career”.
His departure has been confirmed by Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, who told the Home Affairs Select Committee: “He has decided to do what he was brought in to do, be the interim head on secondment.”
Number Ten, the High Street, has been let to the up-and-coming women’s wear chain Mint Velvet. Founded in October 2009, Mint Velvet already has a presence in Newbury, Cheltenham and Reading.
With over eighty concessions within major stores and nine stand-alone shops, Mint Velvet has now made the expansion of its stand-alone shops the main focus of its development and plans to open between twenty and thirty more shops by 2015.
Number Ten The High StreetNumber Ten was formerly the Age of Elegance store, but has been empty since early 2008. It is a Grade II listed building and has undergone extensive restoration and redecoration.
A planning application for change of use from retail so the owner could let the ground floor as a café was turned down by Kennet Council in 2009. And last year the retailer Huttons pulled out of lettings deal at the last moment.
Mint Velvet’s website marks the Marlborough shop as “Opening soon” – watch this space.
No. 10, The High StreetAs Wiltshire Council’s decision over Caffe Nero retroactive application for change of use from retail to café for its new High Street premises languishes in a pending tray, fresh evidence has emerged of the criteria used in a previous change of use application for Marlborough. In January 2009, the appeal against Kennet District Council’s refusal to allow the ground floor of Number Ten, The High Street to be turned into a café, was dismissed.
Part of the report by the Inspector, Ken Barton, throws some very interesting light on how decisions are reached in such cases – and because Wiltshire Council inherited Kennet’s duty of care in planning matters for Marlborough High Street, it has direct application to the current Caffe Nero issue.
The Inspector identified the main issues at stake as being: “…the likely effects on the character and special interest of the appeal property [i.e. Number Ten] and on the character and appearance of the conservation area. A further main issue in respect of the planning appeal is the likely effect on the prime shopping area.”
At the time of the appeal Number Ten, the former Age of Elegance shop, had been empty for a year. The main difference to the Caffe Nero case is that Number Ten is a Grade II listed building and the conversion involved some interior alterations to turn the top floors into flats and a new extension at the rear – replacing the existing ‘brick and corrugated sheet’ structure which was, in the inspector’s words, ‘in poor condition and in need of attention.’
The Inspector did not like some of the proposed alterations, saying they would change the character of parts of the listed building. It would be interesting to know whether these same criteria were applied to the alterations now being undertaken at another High Street Grade II building – the former Ivy House Hotel.
However, more relevant to the Caffe Nero application is the Inspector’s argument over the effect of having another café in the High Street. He quotes the Kennet District Local Plan as ruling that “within this area [of the town centre] change of use of ground floor premises to uses other than Class A1 [retail] will not be permitted unless certain criteria are met.”
Mr Barton does not itemise these ‘certain criteria’, but in the next sentence expressed his “reservations as to the potential contribution to the vitality and viability of the [town] centre” that would be brought by a new café, as he stated it, ”the likely effect on the prime shopping area.” He went on: “The level of retail provision, however, is not high and I consider the loss of the appeal premises as a retail unit in this important location could have a material detrimental effect on the attractiveness, vitality and viability of the centre.”
The recession and the on-going economic downturn has reinforced the need to protect the obviously fragile retail base of the High Street – and that should impact strongly on the Council’s decision over Caffe Nero. The Inspector’s optimistic view in January 2009 that “vacancy rates are not high” no longer applies.
In addition, there is a vocal number of people in the town who complain about the dominance of national chains in Marlborough as against the number of independent shops. That is also something that should weigh heavily with the Council’s planners and councillors.
Mr Barton had not finished justifying his decision that Number Ten must remain a retail outlet rather than switch to becoming a café: “An approval on appeal in this instance could also increase pressure on the Council to approve further applications for change of use from retail…with increased harmful impact on the vitality and viability of the centre.”
This statement is doubly important as in making planning decisions the Council must refer back to appeals in similar cases and the terms in which those appeals were either allowed or dismissed.
In case the owner tried to modify the proposed alterations to appease Mr Barton’s stringent views on the conservation of nineteenth century buildings and the effrontery of trying to open another café, he slammed the door shut: “It would not be possible to offset my concerns by any conditions that might reasonably be attached to a grant of listed building consent or planning permission.”
As will be obvious to readers of Marlborough News Online, this appeal verdict raises several issues in relation to the Caffe Nero case. But most significant is the inspector’s point about losing retail outlets – a situation made much more relevant in the present economic climate. And it is worth noting that the decision meant that that Number Ten remained empty for a further three-and-a-half years.
In terms of the Inspector’s arguments that is three-and-a half-years without another retail outlet in the High Street – not to mention the loss of the two flats or the effect on the conservation area of empty premises.
As Marlborough News Online has already reported, the owner of Number Ten complained to Wiltshire Council when Waitrose were allowed to open a café without gaining planning permission for change of use. Wiltshire Council’s response blurred the distinction between retail use (Class A1) and café use (Class A3.)
The Council’s Senior Planning Officer, Peter Horton, ruled that “the café element is ancillary to the main retail (A1) use” – that is to Waitrose’s main business of selling food. This presumably opens the door to a café which sells beetroot juice drinks also selling beetroot, or a café that sells smoked salmon sandwiches also selling fresh salmon – all without permission for change of use.
Triton, Ariel and MermaidsCreating the illusion of the seabed in the theatre is simple – hang some strands of shiny material from the top of your set, scatter seashell props around the stage, bathe the lot in blue and green light and bingo, Neptune's Kingdom.
Or, if you have the vision and ambition of Curious Company's director Louise Rennie, you start looking for a venue with thousands of gallons of water and a dry performance space, then add synchronised swimmers and persuade your leading man to take a tumble – fully clothed – into The Drink.
That's how children and adults alike were captivated when East Kennet-based Curious Company brought their own unique take of a classic fairytale to the pool at Marlborough Leisure Centre.Ariel and the Prince
Inspired by the ethos of the Cultural Olympiad – a place where the arts and sport mix to celebrate each other – and recalling the Busby Berkeley aqua shows of the early 20th century, actors and synchronised swimmers from the Calne Four Aqua Swim Team brought an aquarian fairytale to life over three sell-out performances in The Little Mermaid Aqua Show.
Based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale of a young mermaid who gives up her life under the sea to gain a human soul and win the love of a handsome prince, The Little Mermaid Aqua Show featured a talented cast including Paul Bradley as Triton, the owner of a booming opera voice and a revolving throne that would turn the judges of The Voice sea-green with envy; Russel Boodie as the Prince, who delivered a physical performance that was at times acrobatic and at times slapstick, while still managing to maintain the dignity of a romantic lead; and Jazz Mutch as Ariel, whose mesmerising presence in the pool was matched by her acting ability on dry land.
In a brave move, company director Louise Rennie chose to follow the Dane's original dark plot, rather than the saccharine version offered by Disney in 1989, and more familiar to the majority of the younger members of the audience, many of whom had come dressed as Disney princesses.
Synchronised mermaids It was a gamble that paid off though – testament to which was the number of Disney princesses queuing after the show to have their photographs taken with Ariel, Triton, the Prince and even the evil Sea Witch Ursula (Emily Campbell).
The Little Mermaid Aqua Show, which also played to capacity audiences in Devizes, may well be going on the road again soon, if further funding can be secured. Flippers crossed, eh?
John Jones, who sings with the award-winning folk-rock Oysterband, is taking to the White Horse Trail in July with a series of five gigs in five days – and a hundred miles of walking with his dogs and with his fans. Joining him are his band, the Reluctant Ramblers - they’ll be performing gigs in Marlborough and Devizes and a session in a Pewsey pub.
John will be accompanied by his two dogs – deerhound-lurcher crosses with the length of leg that makes them anything but reluctant ramblers. The darker one (in the photo) is Tarn and the lighter one, Celt. John Jones has already been on several summer walking-and-performing tours – including the Welsh Borders, Dorset and the Peak District.
Why did John decide to mix walking with his folk singing? “I had the crazy idea of walking to gigs a few years ago and somehow managed to persuade reluctant musicians and a smiling but sceptical agency to help.” “Rushing from gig to gig, crowded motorways, increased stress levels and time wasted staring out of tour bus windows at inviting hills rolling by just made me think: walking 20 miles, setting up in a pub, church, canal-side…anywhere…was worth trying as a much-needed alternative. It caught people’s imagination.”
This year’s tour starts at Goring-on-Thames on July 16 and takes in gigs at Nettlebed, Wantage, Marlborough and Devizes and an informal session at The Crown in Pewsey, ending on Saturday, July 22 with a gig at Westbury’s Village Pump Folk Festival. He’s played in Marlborough before – an acoustic gig about two years ago at the Town Hall for Marlborough Folk Roots.
John and the band want as many people as possible to join them walking, listening and taking a pint or two of real ale or cider: “This year’s tour includes exhilarating walking by day and fun gigs at night. I hope as many people as possible will join me, for a short walk or a longer stretch, to say hello over a pint at lunchtime or evening, or just for a gig.” John stresses that it’s not an outward-bound experience or a route march – not more than twenty miles a day: “Once up on The Ridgeway the walking is easy under foot and the views tremendous...a chance for a really unique shared experience. And I will be debuting new songs especially written for the occasion!" Details of the route and how to join in are on the tour’s website.
However, for those with sore feet cars are allowed: once John and the walkers arrive in Avebury and have had some refreshment in the Red Lion, they’ll be driven in a small fleet of cars to the gig in Marlborough – full details below.
The Oysterband are on something of a roll this year. Joined by June Tabor, the band won Best Group in the 2012 BBC Folk Awards – also taking Best Album (for Ragged Kingdom) and Best Traditional Track (for Bonny Bunch of Roses.) And they are a top featured band for the Great British Folk Festival at Butlins Skegness at the end of November – currently being advertised with a prominent picture of the band and June Tabor.
They’ve just finished hosting a major festival at Catton Hall in Derbyshire. It rained and rained and rained, but over two thousand fans sat through the rain: “They were really stoical – and enjoyed themselves.” John is certainly hoping for a dry and sunny July.
What exactly is the Oysterband sound? The shorter version runs: “Oysterband make a modern, folk-based British music, acoustic at heart, sometimes intense, sometimes rocking. Since 1978 they've toured in 35 countries - festivals, concerts, bars, rallies, jails, bring 'em on! - and made 12 studio albums. Music for the head, the heart & the trousers. And still improving in the bottle.” You can find the full, unabridged official history as well as a slightly more objective view on their website.
The day after John’s White Horses tour ends at Westbury, John and Dil will be re-joining Oysterband on the main stage for the final day of the Village Pump Folk Festival. This is the fourth year John Jones has led his fellow musicians on a walking tour. He will be supported by his band the Reluctant Ramblers: Dil Davies is Oysterband’s drummer; Al Scott who produces for Oysterband, plays guitar and bouzouki; and Tim Cotterell who plays with bands including McDermott’s 2 Hours and with Martha Tilston and the Woods, will be playing fiddle, guitar and mandolin. Then there are the guests who’ll be joining along the way: in Nettlebed and Marlborough the Ramblers will be joined by Benji Kirkpatrick of Bellowhead. And there’s the promise of a secret “special guest” as well – watch this space for details.
Monday, July 16: Nettlebed Folk Club -The Village Club, High Street, Nettlebed, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon RG9 5DD. 8pm. Tickets £13 - 01628 636620 (evenings before 9pm and weekends).
Tuesday, July 17: Wantage - The Swan, 28 Market Place, Wantage OX12 8AE. 8pm. (Buffet before the gig at The Shoulder of Mutton - call Peter 07870 577742 to book a meal).
Wednesday, July 18: Marlborough - Marlborough Folk Roots - St Mary’s Church Hall, Silverless Street, Marlborough SN8 1JQ. 8pm. Tickets £13 available from Marlborough Folk Roots, 2/3 Silverless Street Marlborough SN8 1JQ tel 01672 512465 and from Sound Knowledge, Hughenden Yard, Marlborough.
Thursday, July 19: Pewsey - The Crown, 60 Wilcot Road, Pewsey SN9 5EL. 8pm.
Friday, July 20: Devizes - The Southgate, Potterne Road, Devizes SN10 5BY. 8pm.
Saturday, July 21: Westbury - The Village Pump Folk Festival, main stage, Saturday evening.
Photo credits: black and white photos of John and his dogs by Alex Ramsay. Colour photo of John singing with the Oysterband by Michael Pohl.
Val ComptonCampaigner Val Compton, who became the local hero of the failed High Court battle to save minor injuries unit at Savernake Hospital, is making a bid to become a Marlborough town councillor.
She is so far the only person to have applied to be co-opted on to the council following the surprise resignation of former mayor Robin Notton, a Tory councillor for East ward whose colleagues failed to demand a by-election to replace him.
And with only months to go to next year’s full council elections – the first in four years for 16 councillors -- it is doubtful whether anyone else will want to take on the challenge of being a councillor for such a short period.
“Will I be any good as a town councillor? – I don’t know,” she told Marlborough News Online. “I might be hopeless at it. But I want to see if I can make a difference.”
“If I’m co-opted I have until next May to prove myself. And then it will be for the people to make the next decision for themselves when the time comes to vote.”
But at least Mrs Compton, a widow who came to live in Kennet Place, Marlborough, in 1996, is an activist who has attended local council meetings for almost 30 years and knows how the system works.
She was initially a reluctant campaigner for Savernake Hospital while working there as a physiotherapy assistant but by then she had fallen in love with Marlborough and became the voice of those fighting to save the minor injuries unit from NHS cuts.
“I was absolutely terrified of the thought of meeting a barrister, let alone going to the Royal Courts of Justice,” she recalled. “But by the end of two years more than five barristers had gifted their time to me, plus a QC, and I visited the High Court on 10 occasions.”
“It probably was a life-changing event and I’ve never got over losing – hence my pledge that I will not stop working until local people can get treatment for minor injuries closer to or at home.”
Would be co-opted candidates have until July 24 to apply before being interviewed on July 30, one finally being selected to attend the next full meeting of the town council in August.
Mrs Compton plays a role in the Action River Kennet organisation, is a campaigner for residents’ parking spaces, a litter picker, a member of local dance and singing groups, broadcaster and a supporter of the Transition Town movement.
“People do fail to recognise that the powers of the town council -- and the size of its budget -- is very limited,” she added. “It is nothing more than a parish council. We are nothing really but a village, that’s all.”
But she approves of independent, non-political councillors who “see the bigger picture” and have a vision for the future of the town, provided they ensure that residents are kept fully informed.
“Marlborough can punch way above its weight,” she said. “And it does. You only have to look at this weekend’s International Jazz Festival to see that, what it does for the arts, for sport and the local ecology.”
“Yet some people never take any interest in what is happening or see how they might influence the decision making process. And that has to be addressed.”
Front row left to right as we look at it are Alexandra Vyvyan. Rosie Carter (Leader) James Moran (Asst Leader), Back Row left to right are Jessica Shields, Eleanor Veysey-Thompson, Harriet Compton (Asst Leader), Georgina Thatcher, Samantha Waddell, Claire Gent and Hannah SewardTen students from St John’s School and Marlborough College have left with their leaders Rosie Carter, Harriet Compton and James Moran for a four week visit to Marlborough’s Link Community of Gunjur, The Gambia. They are the sixteenth group to make the summer visit and work in Gunjur since the first group went in 1985 led by the then Mayor Nick Fogg.
During their time in Gunjur this group will be living with local families, experiencing daily life in the village, learning about the country’s very different culture and Islamic faith - and developing lasting friendships.
Just as importantly, they will be working with members of the community to construct an extension to the central market. This market, in many ways similar to the new Sunday market in Marlborough, is in the centre of the village and is a vital source of income for the women of Gunjur who sell their produce vegetables, meat and locally caught fish. This money is used to support their families and educate their children.
The group aged between sixteen and eighteen years old are entirely self-funded and have raised £4,000 towards the materials for building the extension to the market.
They will be giving a presentation of their time in Gunjur on Monday, August 20 at 7.30 pm in Marlborough Town Hall. Admission free, but there will be a retiring collection.
The marquees are up, the grass is looking amazing and the forecast is pretty good. Barbury’s eighth annual International Horse Trials are nearly ready for the off.
This year’s trials are going to be unique purely because they are so near in time and place to the London Olympic Games’ equestrian events at Greenwich. Spread out across the green downs, Barbury’s cross country course provides spectators with amazing views of the riders’ progress. Nigel Bunter checks Barbury's cross country course
Nigel Bunter says the course is “Quite hilly – as is the Greenwich course – and has quite a lot of tight turns – as the Greenwich course has.” And this certainly accounts in part for the spectacular number of Olympic hopefuls who’ve entered for the trials.
They’re expecting eight hundred horses over the four day event (Thursday, June 28 to Sunday, July 1). But all eyes will be on the Olympic riders and horses taking advantage of Barbury as a last run out before the Games start.
The British team and their horses will be there. There’ll be twelve riders from the United States – all vying for places in the final five-strong team which will be announced shortly after Barbury ends. Also taking part will be Olympic riders from Brazil, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
The British team – Kristina Cook, William Fox-Pitt, Piggy French, Mary King and Zara Phillips – may not take their Olympic mounts over the cross country course, but will certainly take advantage of the dressage and show jumping stages.
Nigel Bunter thinks they’ll wait and see what the weather’s like and how their horses are taking to the events, but one thing he can “almost guarantee” is the state of the ground. Barbury’s chalk sucks down any rain and the grass remains wonderfully springy.
This year the cross country course designer, Captain Mark Phillips, has made some alterations to the course with its inch tight approaches and landings. But no one’s saying much about the twenty-seven obstacles – even if they’ve ridden Barbury before, there needs to be some surprises when the riders first walk the course.
Certainly the Olympic cast list is having an effect on ticket sales. Advance sales for the Saturday and Sunday are up seventy per cent on last year. Nigel Bunter is delighted with the number of equestrian entries and with the ticket sales.
The trials’ ‘village’ is impressive – catering for not only for horses and riders but for the Wiltshire Show which runs in parallel with the trials on the Saturday and Sunday. The ‘village’ includes one hundred and five shops, a huge area of canvas stabling, fifteen electricity generators, three vast marquees - one of which will house the Festival of Food.
New to the Show this year, this marquee holds a hundred seat auditorium where a range of top chefs will show visitors how it’s really done. They’ll be led by Brian Turner of Ready Steady Cook fame. Also there will be a number of local food producers showing their best.
Another of the large marquees will be home to the whole event’s title sponsor: St James’s Place Wealth Management who are based in Cirencester.
Nigel Bunter makes a point of using local firms and employing local people for the trials and the show. The marquees are provided by Covered Occasions of Winterbourne Monkton and one of the hospitality marquees is being catered by Moran’s Catering of Marlborough.
On Saturday the Wiltshire Show features a blast from the 1980s – an It’s a Knock Out contest in aid of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance with teams from fifteen companies – most of them local. Then on Sunday the Show has the more traditional displays of hounds, pedigree livestock and birds of prey. And the Army will be there with an assault course of obstacles to test out some humans rather than horses.
It will certainly be the equestrian events as they reach their climax on the Saturday and Sunday that draw in the crowds. But if you’re there on Friday you can watch Olympic horses and riders going through the test that’ll face them at Greenwich. Add in the thrilling show jumping and cross country eventing stages on the Saturday and Sunday, and who really needs Olympic tickets anyway?
Mayor Edwina Fogg presents the Waits Badge to the choirMarlborough’s Community Choir, launched 18 months ago on an ad hoc basis that anyone can join in at any time, has achieved a new distinction – being invited to take part in the Jazz Service at St Mary’s Church, Marlborough, on July 15.
The invitation is the highlight of a hectic summer during which the choir has also been invited to give a concert at Marlborough’s International Jazz Festival next year.
“We discovered them too late for the choir to have a spot of their own in this year’s festival,” said Nick Fogg, the Jazz Festival founder and consultant. “So we asked them to sing at our Jazz Service.”
And the choir, which can attract as many as 50 people attending impromptu sessions at St Peter’s Church, has now chosen to sing a Ukrainian hymn, Tibie Pieom, at the Jazz Service.
“It is a gospel version of Amazing Grace and we will sing it a gospel finale at the church along with audience participation,” said choir leader Vanessa Lafaye, a writer and photographer originally from Florida.
“It’s been quite a summer so far for the choir. We’ve sung in baking sunshine in the High Street when the Olympic torch arrived in the town, in the damp town hall for the relocated diamond jubilee picnic, and in pelting rain for the Manton Festival.
“Along the way we’ve acquired an honour from Edwina Fogg, Marlborough’s jubilee mayor, in the form of a Waits Badge, which is historically awarded to minstrels who serve a particular locality.”
She added: “The choir was thrilled to receive the award and for that to be followed by an invitation to take part in the Jazz Service. We’re very excited to have the opportunity to contribute to so many important occasions in the town.”
George Haslam, Joanna Peskett, Kerry and Tom McKenna will be taking part in the International Jazz Festival service aided by hymn singing led by the Jazzports.
It is at St Mary’s church at 10am on July 15.
Tom Nicholls with the bike that he will ride to John O'GroatsIn a bid to raise funding for the new all weather sports pitch at St John’s, Marlborough, assistant head teacher Tom Nicholls will be attempting to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats over nine days next month.
Tom's aim is to cycle 100 miles each day and so raise £5,000 in sponsorship. He will be cycling alone through 16 counties and staying overnight in youth hostels before setting out again at 7.30am each morning.
He has been a PE & psychology teacher at St Johns for 17 years, and has been in regular serious training for several months in order to take on the gruelling challenge.
“I am stunned and so pleased to have had so many sponsors already, and want to sincerely thank everyone who is supporting me,” Tom told Marlborough News Online. He decided to take it on as a way to help the school raise the funds needed to complete the school’s external sports facilities, which have been under development since the new school building opened in December, 2009.
“I have always enjoyed a challenge, and I realised that this would be something I can do that will support the school and at the same time enable me to achieve a personal goal” said Tom.
“The new school is a stunning facility for our students and for so many members of the local community, and completion of the school’s external sports facilities are crucial and are very close to my heart.”
The all weather pitch will be the next phase in construction of the external sports facilities at St John’s, and work will start once sufficient funds have been raised. The current phase, the construction of six tennis courts is almost complete, and provided there are enough dry days to enable the contractors to finish the surface, will be usable before the school’s summer break.
Already more than £1,500 has been raised with donations ranging from £2 to £500, and Tom hopes to meet his target of £5,000 before he sets off in late July. Many of his Sixth Form students and St John’s parents, as well as his friends and family are supporting the ride.
Anyone wanting to sponsor Tom can donate online at: www.justgiving.com/TomNicholls12 or can donate by mobile phone (to donate £10 text SJTN99 £10 to 70070).
Alternatively, anyone wanting help should contact Kate Hunter at St John’s on 01672 519575 for more information.