News dot2left cropped500pxt
  • Silbury-Sunset---10-06-08-----07
  • Town-Hall-2011-05-03 08-
  • IMG 8472
  • IMG 9097
  • Marlborough-2013-04-18 St Peters


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Arts & Entertainment

Joy and meditation when Sir Peter Beale conducts singers of the Avebury Vocal Ensemble in Aldbourne

Sir Peter Beale at home in AveburySir Peter Beale at home in AveburyLate October is a good time for music in the Marlborough area.  Next Sunday the fifth series of Brilliant Young International Musicians recitals starts at St Peter's Church (see later preview.)  And on Saturday (October 22) St Michael's Church in Aldbourne hosts a concert by the Avebury Vocal Ensemble conducted by Sir Peter Beale.

Piano solo or the human voice with orchestra - the choice is yours.  St Michael's will echo with the music of Vivaldi's Gloria - which, Sir Peter told me, 'swings along - jumps along'.  And also the Faure Requiem - 'a more meditative piece' chosen to mark the centenary year of the Battle of the Somme.

The Avebury Vocal Ensemble is only loosely connected with Avebury village - its name has more to do with the AVE of its logo - the Ave meaning 'hail' (or 'farewell') that appears in the titles of so much of the repertoire of religious music.  The Ensemble draws its singing members from a wide area around Marlborough, Swindon and north Wiltshire.

But then the Ensemble's conductor, Sir Peter, does live in Avebury - with his wife Mary.  He bought a house there in 1977 with his first wife, Julia, who died in 2000.

Sir Peter was attracted to the world of music from an early age.  For six years he was a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral: "My life was transformed when I was accepted as a chorister."   He became Head Chorister and spent three years in Cornwall when the choir school was evacuated to Truro.

Later he was a choral scholar at Cambridge and while qualifying in medicine, sang professionally to help pay for his studies.

He was in the last but one group called-up to National Service: "I enjoyed it so much I had no qualms about signing on permanently."  So started a military career which ended with four years as Surgeon General of the British Armed Forces and the rank of Lieutenant General.

He has five surviving children - the first is the actor Simon Russell Beale who was born while the Beales were stationed in Penang during the Malaya Emergency.  Incidentally, Simon followed in his father's footsteps as Head Chorister at St Paul's - but rejected a career in music and chose acting instead.

Two other sons now work in hospital radiology departments and his daughter is a GP in Newbury.  The fourth son was a professional singer and now manages the rising  chamber choir ORA.

Sir Peter is fanatical - that's my word, not his! - about singing.  The Avebury Vocal Ensemble chooses popular choral pieces t- hough he admits he does influence their choice!  

Sir Peter insists members can sing in tune and can sight read music.  This means he can rely on them with just four rehearsals in the lead up to their five or six concerts a year.  And then rehearsals on performance day sometimes with an orchestra: "Financially we live on a bit of shoestring - deliberately. And sometimes we can afford a scratch orchestra."

At next Sunday's concert in Aldbourne the Ensemble will be accompanied by the AVE chamber orchestra - a ten-strong group which includes a professional cellist: "They're all good."

The Vivaldi Gloria is, Sir Peter says, "Just a glorious piece - one of his best - incredibly tuneful and joyous with good opportunities for soloists.  The Vivaldi swings along - jumps along - whereas the Faure is a more meditative piece."

The concert will begin with Monteverdi's Beatus vir ("Beatus vir, qui timet Dominum..." - "Blessed is the man who fears the lord.")  Sir Peter: "It's glorious - a very happy piece - good to start off with."  Then the audience will be roused with Vivaldi's trumpet and oboe openings.

The second half of the concert will open with a Beethoven string duet played by members of the orchestra, leading into the Faure Requiem.

The concert in St Michael's Church Aldbourne is on Saturday, October 22 and begins at 7.30pm.  Details and information about tickets can be found on Marlborough.News' What's On calendar.

Print Email

Christmas card captures Marlborough – and Wiltshire’s new Air Ambulance – in all their glory

Wiltshire’s Air Ambulance hovers over Marlborough Town Hall in a new Christmas scene supporting the charity that keeps the helicopter flying.

Christmas in Marlborough was designed by architectural illustrator Colin Palmer, well known for capturing every shopfront in Marlborough High Street in pen and ink in stunning architectural detail.

“It was an honour to produce the design and I feel very privileged that my design was chosen by Wiltshire Air Ambulance,” said Colin.

“I know the great work they do. The brief for the design was to have a well known Wiltshire landscape in snow, with a Christmas tree and the helicopter flying overhead.

“It took me a little while to choose the best view point, I spent quite a bit of time taking pictures at different times of the day.

“I wanted the town hall to be in the design because it is a building that people know.”

Marlborough artist Colin Palmer and WAA Critical Care Paramedic Louise CoxMarlborough artist Colin Palmer and WAA Critical Care Paramedic Louise CoxClaire Kelly of Wiltshire Air Ambulance said: “We’d like to thank Colin Palmer for his wonderful design and we are delighted that it is our bespoke Christmas card this year.

“Over the years our bespoke Christmas cards have featured our helicopter flying over iconic Wiltshire landmarks and have proved to be very popular.

“We think that Colin’s design of Marlborough High Street will be just as successful.”

The cards will be available from St Peter’s Church in Marlborough, and Great Bedwyn Post Office. For a full list of stockists, log on to


Print Email

100 years of Dada celebrated at Swindon’s festival of poetry

Director Hilda Sheehan, Cllr Eric Shaw Mayor of Swindon and Lady Dada AKA Mike PringleDirector Hilda Sheehan, Cllr Eric Shaw Mayor of Swindon and Lady Dada AKA Mike PringleEroticism, Spitfires, a goblin circus and complete nonsense - it must be the Poetry Swindon Festival, which starts next weekend.

2016 is the 100th anniversary of Dada, the short-lived but influential ‘nonsense’ art movement which spawned surrealism, Salvador Dali, Monty Python and Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.

“Poetry Swindon likes its poetry a little off-kilter - quite a lot off-kilter,” said festival director Hilda Sheehan, “so something anti-meaning, and silly with a serious message is what Poetry Swindon is all about.”

Poetry Swindon celebrates with a day of Dada - creating Dada-esque anti-verse and with an opportunity to perform it - on 1 October.

Then, just for women, American poet Carrie Etter will lead an erotic poetry workshop on 7 October.

On 3 October, the Spitfire - once made in Swindon 75 years ago for the second world war - is celebrated with flight-themed poems by North Swindon school children, a new Spitfire sculpture by artist and writer Mike Pringle, and readings from Sisters in Spitfires, a collection by poet Alison Hill.

The festival’s Children’s Day (2 October) twists words with the mischief-making Goblin Circus, Plant-a-Story and the eccentric Imagination Museum.

As well as open mics, poetry discos and family events, Britain's friendliest and most fun poetry festival features readings and workshops by the best bards in the UK and beyond.

Award-winning Kim Moore is poet-in-residence across the Big Poetry Weekend, and the festival welcomes one of our brightest young poets, Andrew McMillan (7 and 8 October) who follows in the footsteps of Keats by winning plenty of poetry plaudits whilst still in his twenties.

Radio 4 poet-in-residence, Daljit Nagra is judge and guest poet at the Battered Moons poetry awards evening (8 October) and leads a masterclass on Sunday 9 October.

Due to the success of last year - and the enthusiasm of the organisers - the festival has been extended to 11 days and in two parts. The community element of Poetry Swindon Festival takes place 29 September to 5 October at Central Library, Museum and Art Gallery, Savernake Street Social Hall, Museum of Computing, North Swindon Library and the Richard Jefferies Museum.

The Big Poetry Weekend, beginning 6 October on National Poetry Day and finishing 9 October, is based at the Richard Jefferies Museum at the Richard Jefferies-inspired ‘Tent-Palace of the Delicious Air’.

Many events are free, other tickets can be bought per event or as part of a festival pass.

Poetry Swindon Festival is grant funded by Arts Council England and Artswords.

For more information and tickets, visit or Swindon Central Library.

Print Email

One hundred free seats for pre-release showing of the film 'Starfish' at Marlborough College

 A special pre-release showing of the feature film Starfish is to be held at Marlborough College on Friday, September 30 at 7.45pm.   One hundred seats are being held for people from the town who are first through the door - these cannot be reserved.

Starfish  shines a spotlight on sepsis - often better known as septicaemia or blood poisoning - a killer condition at worst and often a devastating disabler.

The film tells the story of Tom Ray (played by Tom Riley), a sepsis survivor, and his wife Nicola (Joanne Froggatt - well known for her role as Anna Bates in Downton Abbey.)

It’s the true story of the overnight devastation of their family life. There are some grisly scenes and some inspiring moments, but it is not for the fainthearted. The trailer can be watched here.

Sepsis is much more common than most people realise, taking 44,000 lives every year in the UK.   That equates to the sobering statistic that a person dies from sepsis every five minutes.  About 150,000 people are treated for sepsis in the UK each year.

The film generously promotes the work of the UK Sepsis Trust, the charity which concentrates on publicising the condition so it can be identified quickly both by doctors and the general public. Speed is essential to save the sufferer from its worst ravages, but the first signs are often dismissed as a mild infection - until it is too late.
Greater awareness of the condition has led many hospitals - like the Great Western Hospital - to have specialist Sepsis Nurses.  Mortality from sepsis has been steadily reduced in recent years. Though across the NHS diagnosis can still come too late.

Seats have been reserved for students from the College and from St John's Academy.   But for the first 100 people to claim one of the 100 free seats the invitation from the College for people to see this film at the Memorial Hall is simple:

"Please do come and join us. This is an unticketed event, and there will be a collection at the end for the UK Sepsis Trust to help them continue to spread the word." 

Starfish will be on general release from October 28.

Print Email

In pictures: Pewsey Carnival goes with a bang

You're fired! the Human Cannonball from the Circus floatYou're fired! the Human Cannonball from the Circus floatWiltshire’s oldest illuminated carnival procession returned to Pewsey last night (Saturday) with an increase in the number of floats, to the delight of the crowds.

Eighteen colourful floats – as well as walking entrants – took to the streets of the village, with themes ranging from politics, musicals, movies, literature and the Olympics all represented.

Thousands of spectators – blessed with a dry, mild night – lined the streets to wave and cheer them on.

Photographer Jonathan Helps was on hand to capture the action for Marlborough News Online.

Click images to enlarge.

Print Email

This Saturday! A music event in Marlborough for young people starring local musicians

SN Dubstation: will it be the weather for dark glasses, T-shirts and sombreros?SN Dubstation: will it be the weather for dark glasses, T-shirts and sombreros?The Marlborough Youth Network has organised its first ever open-air music festival, aimed at young people aged 13-19. It will take place on Saturday (September 24) from 2pm until 10pm on Marlborough College's Treacle Bolley playing fields and it goes under the title: MY ME.

This will be a great opportunity to support and enjoy local music acts such as Dirty Thrills (headliner), George Wilding, Rufus Mackay, Rohan Ball, Sam Evans Band, All Ears Avow and SN Dubstation.

All of these acts will be featured on the main stage, with a special dance performance courtesy of M.A.D. - the Marlborough Academy of Dance and Drama.

With a line up this varied you can be sure to enjoy your favourite genre as well as discover an unexpected new sound - something that should not be missed.

All are must see - and hear - acts, however ones to watch out for include George Wilding and Swindon's SN Dubstation. George Wilding is a young self-taught singer song writer who has previously supported acts like Newton Faulkner and The Levellers. He creates a chilled and subtle folk sound that clearly showcases his raw talent.  

On the other hand SN Dubstation are an eight piece band that effortlessly merge Reggae, Ska and Dub sounds to create infectious bass lines that you can dance to.

The headliners, Dirty Thrills are an exciting “bluesy-rock” band that will remind you of The Black Keys and Queens of the Stone Age.  They have had glowing reviews mentioned in magazines such as “Classic Rock Magazine” and “Blues Magazine”. Featuring clever guitar riffs and catchy vocals, this band will make you move.

Not only will this festival feature musical entertainment, but there will be a variety of other activities on offer - including drumming, circus skills, cake decorating and art workshops as well as hockey and golf sessions. UV face painting could liven things up, as will several fair rides including giant spinning teacups and a hilarious rodeo bull ride.

The Marlborough Youth Music Event tickets are £5 each with a £3 food voucher included in the price. These tickets are available now from the St John's Library, the Marlborough Library and Sound Knowledge. And tickets can be purchased on the day.

With the 2016 festival season coming to an end, this is a chance to extend the summer by coming to support an amazing local cause and have a great time in the process.

Print Email

Four-legged fun kicks of fancy dress festivities

The annual tradition of getting dressed up and have a laugh returned to Pewsey on Saturday, kicking off a week of Carnival action.

As always there were some topical entries, with emojis and a trio of Donald Trumpty Dumptys making an appearance, along with a good smattering cross-dressing.

Despite dismal weather conditions earlier in the day, fifty eight teams took part in the event: almost double the number last year.

But competitors had resigned themselves to getting wet, as the course takes the teams of three – each tied by the ankle – through the River Avon.

Pewsey Carnival culminates this Saturday (September 17) with the famous illuminated procession.

The procession starts from 7.30pm at the Carnival field on the Burbage road, and colourfully and noisily wends its way through the village for the following hour.

Images courtesy of Jonathan Helps    

Click images to enlarge

Print Email

More Articles ...

  • IMG 8472
  • IMG 9097
  • Marlborough-2013-04-18 St Peters
  • Town-Hall-2011-05-03 08-
  • Silbury-Sunset---10-06-08-----07