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Arts & Entertainment

Murder at Wilton Windmill

Windmill MurderWindmill MurderWilton Windmill is to be the setting for a murder mystery event, written especially for the venue by professional actors.

The “seriously scary” immersive event is being staged by Smoke & Mirrors, a company of actors trained at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the Central School of Speech and Drama, who specialise in bringing murder mysteries to interesting and historic buildings.

Alex Rain, from Smoke & Mirrors, told Marlborough News Online: “The plot features a television producer filming a programme - live on the night - about the supernatural.

“The producer is at Wilton, having been invited by a local psychic medium who has a great revelation that she wants witnessed by our audience and the TV cameras

“But the medium is in cahoots with an immoral and unscrupulous historian, who's hoping to cash in on the deal.”

Mr Rain promised the audience “some of our most spectacular set-pieces to date, as well as the most ambitious murder we've ever attempted.”

And he revealed that the cast would include an actor familiar to fans of the TV hospital drama Holby City. 

Murder at the Mill will take place on Saturday, June 8 from 7.30pm with tickets costing £20. For full booking details, visit

For a creepy video of the Smoke & Mirrors team in action, go to

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Now four Waitrose partners from Marlborough sing together to lift the austerity gloom

Marlborough's singing quartet, left to right Rose Bennett, Jane Rowland, Ann Young and Ian DavisMarlborough's singing quartet, left to right Rose Bennett, Jane Rowland, Ann Young and Ian DavisThey are not only partners in Waitrose serving the people of Marlborough, but now four members of staff have joined a newly formed choir called, naturally, Partners Aloud.

It is but one of 11 such choirs from an original 30 within the John Lewis Partnership who are to compete in an internal competition taking place at the company’s conference centre in Odney, near Cookham, in Berkshire.

But more than that singing together has helped lift the gloom of today’s austerity gloom.

“We’re very much a scratch choir,” Ian Davis, a Waitrose delivery driver for nearly six years, told Marlborough News Online. “It’s all about working together.

“And singing together definitely lifts the spirits in these difficult times and makes you feel good.”

He and three female members of the local Waitrose staff have joined 16 members of Partners Aloud drawn from John Lewis at Home Swindon and John Lewis Outlet Swindon to take part in the competition on April 14.

They are Jane Rowland, on the staff of Waitrose for 15 years, Rose Bennett and checkout staff member Ann Young, who have been there more than five years.

The idea of forming the choirs was revealed in February by Manvinder Rattan, musical director of the John Lewis Partnership, who was one of the judges on the BBC’s Singing in the Workplace initiative.

The Swindon/Marlborough choir, now being tutored by Lisa Williams, musical director of the Occasions Choir from Royal Wootton Bassett, will be singing Somewhere Only We Know composed by the alternative rock band Keane, a must for all the competing choirs.

“We’ll be singing that in three-part harmony like a barber shop performance,” explained Ian. “We’re also singing an old hymn called All Through the Night and probably Sing a Song of Sixpence.

He has a tenor voice and believes it comes from his Welsh background – his family dropped the E in their name Davies – while his three female compatriots are all altos.

“My great grandfather came from Wrexham and my great grandmother was quite musical,” he said. “I did some singing when I was a very young choirboy and also in a big choir at Marlborough College’s annual summer school.

“A few members of the choir can read music and play a musical instrument, but most of them are first timers. We’re all enjoying it thoroughly, especially as Lisa Williams, who is teaching us, is a real find, a great motivator.

“And that makes it all fun.”

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Workshops at Marlborough’s White Horse bookshop have become a mecca for the creative arts

Edwina PearceEdwina PearceA town isn’t a town without a bookshop.  And the more so if there is a 10 per cent discount on hardbacks in these hard times.  But Marlborough’s White Horse Bookshop, founded 60 years ago, is more than that.

It has become a mecca over the years as a centre for one day art workshops – now creative writing adventures too – which have proved an attraction to the retired, young mothers and students too who want to develop their talents.

“We’ve also got a knitting workshop going too,” says Edwina Pearce (pictured), who has been organising the workshops for almost 13 years, as well as running the White Horse’s professional artists’ materials department.

“So I’m always looked outside the box for new people who can offer something different.  It’s a job I enjoy.  So my heart goes into it.  And it works wonderfully, up to eight people meeting in warm and comfortable surroundings to develop their talents.

“It’s almost like a club, a miniature version of Marlborough’s Summer School, with people coming back year after year.  I love to see them again.  They send me emails telling me what they’re doing.  It’s great, like being part of a big family.”

It’s a family too with foreign members.  Penny Dedman, who lives in Luxembourg, arranges visits to her daughter to coincide with workshop classes, Ann Summers comes from Spain to meet up with old friends, and Ann Meale travels from the Isle of Wight to attend workshops with her daughter.

The renown of the tutors working in an upstairs studio with windows on three sides in the 17th century bookshop building adds to the value of the workshops.

Bill Mather, whose workshop this Saturday is on Wiltshire landscapes in three colour acrylics, is but one of them, along with Susanna Bailey and Kim Vines, all professional artists with their own websites where you can see their work for yourself.

The relaxed, friendly atmosphere is one of the workshops’ virtues, which is recognised by Debby Guest, a member of the bookselling staff.

“What we offer is a comfortable, non-pressurised environment for people to come in and do something they always fancied trying their hand at and never knew quite where to start,” Debby explains.

“Everybody can have a say, have a go.  Nobody is going to get left out and neither is anybody going to be pushed to the front.

“If you’ve not tried pastels, there’s a tutor there who will set a project, show you techniques, give you ideas and you can go out at the end of the day with a finished piece of work.” she explains.

“The classes are incredibly popular.  We have people who come back time after time.”

Many will welcome novelist Debby Holt and short story writer Alison Clink are now giving workshops in creative writing.

“They enable people to kick-start something they have always wanted to do, to write their own life story, a short story or a novel,” adds Debby Guest. “They may have always wanted to write a novel but never really knew how to get going.

“The first rule in writing is bum on seat and this is it, for a whole day you can get on with it.”

The workshops, which take place on a weekly basis until June 10, cost £27 with a £15 deposit required when booking.

For full details see White Horse website –

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From the Albert Hall to St Peter’s Church – James Kreiling plays the fifth Brilliant Young Pianist recital

James Kreiling is looking forward to playing in St Peter’s Church  (April 14) - the fifth recital in the ground-breaking Brilliant Young Pianists series.   He’s played solo piano in the Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms, but the smaller venue appeals to him more.

As he told Marlborough News Online:  “I prefer smaller, more intimate venues for solo recitals - it is nice to feel that the audience is close, so a venue like St Peter's is ideal for me. The Albert Hall was an incredible experience, though it is much harder to communicate with an audience you can barely see!”    

When James was growing up in London his musical fare ran from classical to heavy metal – it’s Marlborough’s good fortune he chose to follow his great grandmother and play piano rather than bass guitar: “Both my grandmothers played the piano a bit and my great grandmother was a piano teacher, so I suppose the piano playing gene has always been there.”

Now he’s teaching piano and music theory at Eltham College in London, studying piano with Ronan O’Hora, performing and writing his dissertation.  He’s in his second year back at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and studying for a doctorate on Scriabin’s late piano sonatas.

One of James’ teachers has been Charles Owen – well known to Marlborough for his many and dazzling recitals here: “Every time I perform I feel indebted to his help and support over the years, and am lucky to have been able to study with him. He has a wonderful musical imagination and his approach to sound at the piano has been very influential - the ability to make the piano not sound like the piano and to truly sing.”

James Keiling & Janneke BritsJames Keiling & Janneke BritsIn the summer of 2011 James married fellow pianist Janneke Brits.  They had studied at the Guildhall at the same time and she had also studied with Charles Owen. But they only met at a chamber music festival in the Swiss Alps in 2005.

Janneke was then studying in the United States: “. After two years of long distance, Janneke came to Guildhall to do her Masters and we have been together in London ever since. She teaches at Eltham and Langley Grammar school, as well as performing - we often play together as a two piano/four hand duo.”

“One of the most memorable concerts was a performance of the Bartok sonata for two pianos and percussion that we gave with David Corkhill - the principal percussionist with the Philharmonia Orchestra, who had previously recorded the work with Solti and Perahia.”

They steer clear of practising together: “It is generally not a good idea to get involved in someone's practice so we don't really help each other practice - other than when we rehearse together and perform for one another.”
Janneke specialises in early music – studying the oboe and harpsichord. A few years ago she was given permission to perform a recital on Joseph Haydn’s own fortepiano.

Between them, Janneke and James are kept very busy indeed.

James does not really have a favourite among the works he will be playing at St Peter’s Church, but finds there’s an excitement in performing them all: “Every performance is very different and so you can play the same programme five times in a row and each time something new happens and each time you might feel that a different piece has come off better. That is what is so exciting (and difficult) about the nature of performance - it's different every time, depending on circumstances, the piano, the acoustic etc.”

“In some ways the Beethoven [Sonata in C minor op. 111] is the hardest to interpret as it was written by a composer towards the end of his life and has a wisdom and profundity that is a challenge to communicate - it's a piece that you live with your whole life and your interpretation evolves as you do.”

If Janneke is able to come to the Marlborough recital perhaps they could be persuaded to play a four-handed piece as an encore. Two years ago she played the Bach Goldberg Variations on St Peter's fine piano, so she knows the instrument very well indeed.

For updated details of James Kreiling’s programme and information about times and tickets click April 14 on our What’s On calendar.

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Singing sensation is a step away from stardom

Rachel AllderRachel AllderTeenage singing sensation Rachel Allder is just one step away from performing onstage at the 02 Arena in London, in a competition which aims to find Britain's next big music star. 

But it almost didn't happen: Rachel lost her voice just days before the auditions for the TeenStar competition, and was reduced to passing handwritten notes to friends and family to spare her vocal cords. 

Luckily, she had sufficiently recovered by the day of the auditions – held at Ferneham Hall in Hampshire – to impress the judges with her stripped down acoustic version of Bon Jovi's rock anthem Living on a Prayer, arranged with the help of Rachel's singing teacher, Aldbourne-based Anna Page.

Now the 13-year-old, who saw off competition in her audition from a rival who is appearing in the musical Cats at the NEC in Birmingham, will be returning to Ferneham Hall on April 14 to compete in the regional final.

And if she makes it through, the St John's School pupil – whose musical heroes include Newton Faulkner and Brit Award winners Ed Sheeran and Emeli Sandé – will perform at the 20,000-capacity 02 Arena in front of a judging panel made up of big names from the music industry.

“When I told the judges I would be singing Living on a Prayer there were some raised eyebrows,” admitted Rachel, who lives in Burbage. “But they really liked my take on the song.”

And she has another surprise in store for the judges at the regional final – an acoustic version of the dance track Titanium, by vocalist Sia and producer David Guetta, which reached number 1 in the charts in 2011.

Friends of Rachel can support her bid for stardom by joining the audience at Ferneham Hall on April 14. Tickets cost £8. For details email Dean Allder at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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St John’s student chosen to dance in massive CATS celebration

Cherry MawbyCherry MawbyIt will be the largest ever production of the ever-popular musical CATS and St John’s Academy student Cherry Mawby has been selected to be one of the fifty young dancers at the heart of the performance on Sunday, March 24 in Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena.

This very special production is to celebrate the twenty-fifth birthday of the part-time theatre school network Stagecoach Theatre Arts - an organisation that teaches and nurtures young talent in singing, dancing and acting.

The Marlborough branch of Stagecoach is run by Ingrid Bayley and holds its classes at St John’s. Seventeen year-old Cherry is now teaching its youngest class – for three to four year-olds. She told Marlborough News Online that parents frequently tell her how much the classes have boosted their child’s confidence.

Another young and local graduate of Marlborough Stagecoach is Cameron Strefford who lives in Bedwyn and had a speaking part in the Dr Who Christmas special and a non-speaking part in the recent award winning film of the musical Les Misérables.

The CATS performance involves a prodigious feat of organisation. There will be a professional orchestra (under the baton of Paul Leddington Wright), those fifty main dancers, five hundred Stagecoach singers – and another 2,500 dancers from forty-seven schools in the UK, Malta, Germany and Ireland performing their own creative dances around the vast arena.

As if that wasn’t enough young talent to get to performance level, huge screens will show a virtual choir uniting Stagecoach schools in Canada, Germany, Gibraltar, Ireland, South Africa, Spain and the USA.

Cherry Mawby in the dance studioCherry Mawby in the dance studioCherry Mawby was chosen from the three Marlborough dancers who auditioned at the end of 2012. During last month’s half-term, she and all the other Cats spent six days at a Birmingham hotel for an intensive spell of rehearsals.

The Cats will only get to see their costumes when they arrive in Birmingham on the Saturday before the performance for another full day of rehearsing: “So far I’ve only seen my tail” – which was tabby-style. She will be on stage or purring and scratching her way round the audience for almost the whole performance.

On the evidence so far, Cherry knows it’s going to be an exciting show: “There’s lots of flips and triple cartwheels and I get to do a lot of lifts and fun stuff like that. I’ve enjoyed it so much.”

She’s studying for the International Baccalaureate (IB) at St John’s - with final exams in May 2014. She wants to write her extended IB essay on how the social context shapes plays – perhaps comparing Hamlet with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

One plus is that Cherry’s performances count towards the IB’s compulsory Creative Active Service strand. She has also taken part in Youth Music Theatre UK performances including their 2012 Christmas show Let It Snow at the Regents Hall in London.

And last October she was one of Oberon’s fairies in Pewsey Vale Amateur Dramatic Society’s much acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

CATS will be, she says, “an amazing experience”.  And the man who wrote its wonderful music, Andrew Lloyd Webber certainly approves: “I’m absolutely thrilled that so many young people will be able to take part in this very special performance of CATS.  Happy 25th birthday Stagecoach and thank you for giving your students the opportunity to perform the show in such a spectacular way.”

Tickets can be bought online through The Ticket Factory or by ‘phone: 0844 591 4962.


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Avebury will Rock again in 2013

Dave Frampton and Bob Barrett of Marlborough and Swindon Thamesdown Rotary Clubs (in costume) presenting cheques to  Sheryl Crouch and Amy Fisher from Prospect Hospice, with  Richard Crowley and Mark Lenton-Jink of CALM, and little leukemia survivor Alyssa Lenton-JinkDave Frampton and Bob Barrett of Marlborough and Swindon Thamesdown Rotary Clubs (in costume) presenting cheques to Sheryl Crouch and Amy Fisher from Prospect Hospice, with Richard Crowley and Mark Lenton-Jink of CALM, and little leukemia survivor Alyssa Lenton-JinkCharity music festival Avebury Rocks will be back in 2013, the organisers announced this evening (Wednesday).

The news came as members of the Thamesdown and Marlborough Rotary Clubs handed oer £20,000 to the charities that benefitted from the event: Prospect Hospice, which received £14,000, and CALM, which was awarded £6,000.

The 2012 event was hailed a great success, despite appalling weather conditions. The event was headlined by The Levellers. This year's acts have yet to be announced.

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