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Kids let Let It Go go as songs from the movies come to the stage

Rehearsals for the Marlborough Dance Festival finaleRehearsals for the Marlborough Dance Festival finaleThe theme of this year’s Marlborough Dance Festival was songs from film and TV - but to the blessed relief of parents there was no Let It Go from the Disney's ubiquitous hit Frozen.

Instead, 16 dance troupes from 13 schools took the audience at Theatre on the Hill through two 90-minute performances of history of Hollywood, from Calamity Jane and Half a Sixpence to Harry Potter and 2016’s hit animation Sing on Saturday.

After a cockney knees-up from Chilton Foliat’s Consider Yourself, from Oliver!, the audience were treated to a dance by the youngest performers, as Marlborough St Mary’s infants interpreted Tommy Steele’s Flash, Bang, Wallop from Half a Sixpence, featuring a bunch of cheeky jokes they won’t understand until they’re much older.

Easton Royal donned checked shirts and cowboy boots for the theme from Footloose, and there was more of the same from St Katharine’s, who performed The Deadwood Stage from Calamity Jane.

Oare Primary urged the audience to Rock Around the Clock, while Ogbourne Primary went Ghostbusting, with some very scary makeup, and Burbage Primary took us Singin’ in the Rain.

Great Bedwyn brought the theme from Fame back to the St John’s stage, and Shalbourne Primary School channelled Bollywood for Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire.

There was plenty of animal print for Aldbourne Lower School’s Lion King medley, and Preshute Primary turned 21 dancers into a dragon for Something Wild from the 2016 reboot of Pete’s Dragon.

Marlborough St Mary’s juniors gave us one of two interpretations of the Harry Potter theme. Year 9 girls from St John’s also chose the franchise for their ribbon-twirling performance inspired by The Quidditch Match, while St John’s Marlborough boys performed zombie-inspired breakdance to a pounding dance beat.

Full marks to the youngster from Baydon Primary School, who introduced the flamenco Malagueña Salerosa from Kill Bill Vol 2 in Spanish, and to Aldbourne Upper School, who incorporated basketball dribbling into their baller and cheerleader inspired medley from High School Musical.

Finally the entire cast of more than 200 boys and girls joined together to perform Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande’s Faith from last year’s Sing – a routine they’d only had a couple of hours to practise.

Six weeks of rehearsals paid off for all the performers who, when they weren’t on stage, were clapping and toe-tapping along to the routines of the other schools. And there wasn’t an Anna or a Queen Elsa in sight.

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The last working windmill in Wessex is working again

Peter Lemon at the windmillPeter Lemon at the windmillFor seven months it’s looked more like a lighthouse than a windmill. But today (Wednesday) Wilton Windmill’s sails - removed in August for repair - were replaced.

When the sails came down, the Wilton Windmill Society had hoped they would be re-erected in two months.

But emergency calls from windmill owners across the UK meant that IJP - one of only a handful of millwrights in the country - were kept busy making dangerous heritage buildings elsewhere safe.

Then there were the ground conditions: the only way to get the sails off and on is with a crane, and with Wilton Windmill sitting in the middle of a field, a solid foundation was needed.

“We were waiting for a nice day,” joked Wilton Windmill Society president Peter Lemon as he watched the sails being re-erected today.

Steady as she goes - the final sail is replacedSteady as she goes - the final sail is replacedAnd boy did they get one: while conditions were foggy when the crane and cherry picker arrived at 7.30am, by 9am the mist had lifted, replaced by bright blue skies and a light wind - perfect conditions not just for the millwrights, but also for the dozens of well-wishers who stopped to watch the spectacle.

It was no easy task, though. The final sail was not lifted into place until 4pm.

Repaired and repainted, the sails – 1970s replicas based on the original 1821 designs – will turn again on the first opening day exactly a month from now - Saturday, April 15.

And the annual celebration weekend takes place from June 24 to 25, with a murder mystery play on the Saturday evening.

  • See a video of the final sail being hoisted into place on our Facebook Page.

The sails are lifted into placeThe sails are lifted into place

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Walking the police puppy: dog unit looks for volunteers to help with young canine recruits

The Tri-Force Dog unit wants volunteers to help develop and train potential police dogs of the future. 

The unit, which is made up of Wiltshire, Gloucester and Avon & Somerset dog handlers, is looking for people to foster puppies. 

Sometimes, they may also need assistance in homing one of the potential specialist search dogs before it goes on a training course. These dogs would be aged between six and 18 months and normally be a Spaniel or Labrador breed.

Volunteers to provide weekend and holiday cover for puppy walkers will also be needed. 

Police Dog Instructor Gary Isom said: "As a puppy fosterer, the puppy would live with you at home from seven weeks old. Under normal circumstances, the puppy would remain with you for at least six months and would then be allocated to a handler between six and 12 months old."

"Obviously the puppies are incredibly cute when they are very young and I am sure there will be thousands of people that would love to give them a home, but you must be able to answer 'yes' to a set of questions, and only serious applicants with experience in training dogs will be considered."

"The early months in the development of these puppies are the most crucial and can bring a real challenge - it will require a great deal of commitment and time from yourself and your family."

"The puppies are highly driven and are not the type of dogs that are happy to sleep all day. They therefore need lots of regular training, exercise and stimulation and cannot be left alone for excessive periods of time. Ideally, they need someone who is at home, or works from home to give them 24/7 supervision in the early weeks.” 

To become a puppy walker, you need to answer YES to the following questions:
* Do you have experience or a very keen interest in training dogs? 

* Are you able to live with a large, strong dog for at least 12 months? 

* Are you physically capable of walking and controlling a large, energetic dog on a lead? 

* Do you have access to a vehicle for safe transportation of the dog? 

* Do you have a suitable home environment to allow a dog crate to be allocated?
* Are you able to provide a secure garden area? 

* Are you able to attend regular training sessions? 

* Do you have lots of spare time to introduce the dog to as many new environments & experiences as possible? 

* Are you able to ensure that someone would be at home with the puppy 24/7 in the early weeks?

All puppy walkers will be under the supervision of Police Dog Training Instructors who will teach, assist and guide you in the development of your puppy over the months. 

Anyone who can answer 'yes' to the questions above and is keen to learn more about the role, can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

They should -  please - include examples of their previous experience in training dogs.

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What is it like being homeless in Marlborough?

At the February meeting of the Marlborough Area Poverty Action Group (MAPG), a Marlborough man, who experienced  homelessness for several years, and who  is now planning to develop a project aimed at helping other homeless people in the local area, outlined just how difficult life on the streets can be.

Becoming homeless is a devastating experience which can happen very quickly to young and old alike. A broken relationship, a loss of employment, unmanageable debt - and everything familiar can disappear almost overnight.

There has been a 134 per cent rise in homelessness since 2010 and an estimated 4,134 people sleep rough in England on any given night ( For many the sudden change in environment causes havoc with mental and physical health and the experience can be so disorientating that seeking help is almost impossible. When help is sought it is often fragmented and difficult to access.

His talk highlighted difficulties in decision-making and communication abilities, which can occur when people are cold, tired, hungry and angry.  Many people want to help the homeless, but sometimes the help on offer is difficult to engage with. A harsh environment can alienate individuals from other people to the point where the individual may look at life much differently to a normal person.

His project, being planned in conjunction with Gloucester and Cheltenham University, hopes to bridge this communication gap through the experiences of those who have suffered homelessness.

For this reason it is being developed in collaboration with seasoned and hardy homeless people who have had time to adapt to their environment. It is primarily aimed at helping the inexperienced or vulnerable such as under 18’s, and men and women with no experience of homelessness to gain access to appropriate help as quickly as possible in order to survive the early stages of homelessness.

The project aims to be an easily accessible survival guide for those on the streets.

With a working title of “The Lamp” or  it will offer life saving advice, tips, first aid, a directory of useful numbers and provide information on where to get food/shelter/free showers/medical help/the side effects of drugs/what drugs to avoid and much more. 

Most importantly it contains information that is vital to getting the help each individual needs quickly.

Printed in an easy to carry book, the initiative will also come with online services including a dedicated website, mobile app and low cost mobile device text bulletin services. 
Sylvia Card

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Local people help chose new priorities for Area Board

An aerial view of River ParkAn aerial view of River ParkMarlborough people will be going to the polls in May, to choose their new county councillors.

The election, on May 4, means a new Area Board, which is made up of the four councillors representing the Marlborough Community Area of East Marlborough, West Marlborough, Aldbourne & Ramsbury, and West Selkley (the villages along the A4).

And a new Area Board (even if many of the faces on the top table remain the same) means a list of new priorities.

So on Tuesday, February 21 individuals representing charities, community groups, arts organisations, environmental campaigners, education providers, the church and others were invited to debate and devise a list of priorities which would inform community and youth funding in the area from 2017 to 2021.

Nine broad areas were examined by individual groups, and the whole room was given the chance to vote for three )out of a list of eight) priorities in each category, following feedback from each committee.

The Area Board’s key priorities for the next four years will be:

Children and young people

Child poverty 
Mental and emotional health
Special educational needs and disability

Community safety

Protecting the vulnerable
Highway safety and speeding
Alcohol and drug abuse

(There were clear winners from a list of eight priorities, with 'protecting the vulnerabe' being one of the top three choices of 72 percent of attendees, and 'highway safety and speeding' making the top three of 70 percent of attendees).


Diversity and social inclusion
Library use
Affordable access to cultural activities


Employment opportunities
Apprenticeships and work experience
Broadband and digital access

(77 percent of attendees put 'employment opportunities' in their top three, from a list of eight options).


Wildlife and biodiversity
Recycling rates
River quality

Health, wellbeing and leisure

Mental health
Physical fitness and activity
Healthy lifestyles

('Mental health' was a clear winner, with 74 percent of attendees putting it in their top three from a list of eight possible priorities).

Older people

Social isolation and loneliness
Independent living
Positive activities for and with older people


Speeding and road safety
Reducing car use and traffic
Car parking

Community and housing

Affordable housing
Deprivation and poverty

'Affordable housing' – which made the top three choices of a staggering 94.44 percent of attendees (the highest of the night) – will be particularly interesting given that only six affordable homes were built in the Marlborough area last year (35 were built in Pewsey), there are 54 families waiting for affordable housing in the Marlborough area (and that’s just those on the list), and given the controversy surrounding the waiving of a £334,635 levy on the developers of McCarthy and Stone’s accommodation for the over 55s at the foot of Granham Hill. The levy was earmarked for… the provision of affordable housing.

Before discussing priorities, attendees were taken through the Joint Strategic Assessment, a statistical snapshot of life in the Marlborough Area. You can read more about the JSA here: Document offers insight into life in Marlborough

The Area Board will meet again on Tuesday, March 14 (7pm, Marlborough Town Hall) to discuss some of the other ideas arising from the discussions on the night.

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Document offers insight into life in Marlborough

An aerial view of High St from St Peters ChurchAn aerial view of High St from St Peters ChurchThe name might be boring, but a recently-published document gives a fascinating snapshot of life in Marlborough and the surrounding villages (including Ramsbury and Aldbourne, but excluding Burbage and Great Bedwyn, which fall under Pewsey).

A Joint Strategic Assessment has been conducted for each of the 17 local areas (most centred around market towns or large villages) in Wiltshire.

Looking at areas over which Wiltshire Council - which compiled the statistics - has influence, it compares the quality of life in a community to its county neighbours.

Here are some of the findings:


  • The Marlborough Community has an estimated population of 18,120 people, 21 percent of whom are aged 0-17, 57 percent of whom are of working age that’s 18-64, and 22 percent of whom are 65 or over.
  • Life expectancy is slightly higher than the Wiltshire average: 82 for men (against 81 county-wide) and 85 (against a county average of 84) for women.
  • According to the report, although four percent of Wiltshire residents live in some of the most deprived areas in the UK none of them are in Marlborough.

Health, wellbeing and leisure

  • Our children are, by and large, a healthier-than-average bunch: 22 percent of 10-11 year olds are overweight or obese, compared to 33 percent county-wide. That’s still one-in-five junior school kids who could stand to lose some weight, though.
  • In 2014/15 92 percent of five year olds in the Marlborough area had received their second dose of MMR jabs. While this might sound impressive, it needs to be around the county average of 95 percent to reduce the risk of a measles outbreak – and that’s making health officials nervous.
  • On top of that, only 36 percent of people at particular risk from the impact of flu received a vaccination shot in 2015-16.
  • Fifty-nine percent of infants in the Marlborough area were partially or totally breastfed at 6 to 8 weeks – four percent higher than the Wiltshire average.

Children and young people

  • Seven percent of children and young people live in low-income households – lower than the Wiltshire average of 10.6 percent.
  • In 2015, the percentage of children achieving level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths at the end of primary school was higher in the Marlborough area (85 percent) than across Wiltshire as a whole (80 percent).
  • And in the same year, the percentage of young people achieving five r more GCSEs including English and Maths at A* to C was 64 percent, compared to a county average of 61 percent.

Community safety

  • In 2015-16 the rate of reported anti-social behaviour in the Marlborough area was eight reports per 1,000 people – lower than the county average of 19 per 1,000.
  • In the same year, the rate of reported domestic abuse in the area was four incidents per 1,000 people, against a county average of seven per 1,000.


  • Is the percentage of households in socially rented accommodation higher or lower than the county average? Have a guess. It’s higher: 17.3 percent against a county average of 14.7 percent.
  • The average house price in Wiltshire is £230,000. Guess what it is in Marlborough? £315,000.
  • Guess how many affordable homes were built in the Marlborough area between 2013 and 2016. Six. SIX! No wonder there are currently 54 families waiting on the social housing register.


  • Four percent of A roads and two percent of B roads were identified as requiring treatment in 2015-16, against a Wiltshire average of three percent (A roads) and four percent (B roads). This will prompt a lot of readers to ask at what point is a road ‘identified as requiring treatment’?
  • Average daily traffic in the area has increased by two percent since 2007.
  • The usage of car parks owned by Wiltshire Council in the Marlborough Area is 69.8 percent – higher than the county average of 52.9 percent.


  • The largest two employment sectors in Marlborough are education and retail – thank you St John’s, Marlborough College, and our High Street traders!
  • 0.6 percent of working age adults in the Marlborough area receive Jobseekers Allowance - slightly lower than the Wiltshire average of 0.8 percent and a third of the UK average (1.8 percent).
  • One percent of 18 to 24 year olds in the Marlborough area receive Jobseekers Allowance - which is lower than the Wiltshire (1.7 percent) and England (2.5 percent) averages.


  • 5.3 percent of the local population area employed in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector.
  • Forty percent of residents in the Marlborough area are members of the local libraries – which, surprisingly, is one percent lower than the county average.
  • 53,067 library visits were recorded in the Marlborough area in 2015-16.
  • There are 835 listed buildings and 17 venues hosting cultural programmes in the Marlborough area.

For ease of reading we’ve been selective with the statistics we’ve reproduced. You can view all the stats online at


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Democracy returns to The Gambia: new President meets Marlborough link delegation

President Barrow speaking at his ianuguration President Barrow speaking at his ianuguration Dr Nick Maurice has been back to Marlborough's long-standing link village of Gunjur in The Gambia to see the return of 'democracy, peace and harmony'.  As the leader of an opposition coalition, Adama Barrow was elected President in elections on December 1.   After six weeks of tension and the threat of violence, the defeated president - the despotic Yayha Jammeh - was finally forced to leave the country.   Dr Maurice reports:

All the signs in The Gambia from the many people I have spoken to are of relief, peace, joy, true happiness as expressed in all conversations, and a desire to move forward and forget the past.

The post election impasse was ended on January 20 following the armed intervention by troops from Senegal. This was not before Jammeh had called a state of emergency, sending many people fleeing the country fearing conflict and violence.

The violence thankfully never happened, the troops 'walked into' The Gambia in the presence of three Heads of State from surrounding countries and Jammeh was persuaded to leave State House.  But not before he had 'lined his pockets' with millions of dollars, leaving the country destitute - according to all I spoke to.

He is now in Equatorial Guinea as a 'guest' of that nation's equally notorious dictator. Friends tell me Jammeh will almost certainly face the International Criminal Court once sufficient evidence of his many human rights abuses has been gathered.

President Borrow's inauguration took place on the day Gambians celebrated their 52 years of independence from the British colonial rule.  It was a nine hour gathering in the National Stadium attended by 20 Heads of State, representatives of the armed forces of The Gambia and Senegal and a crowd of 25,000 adoring and wildly enthusiastic subjects.

One could not but feel what a privilege it was to be present at this extraordinary turning point in The Gambia's history. It was clear from the atmosphere in the stadium that there was an overwhelming feeling of relief and optimism and universal support for President Adama Barrow

The return to freedom of speech and the ability to talk freely to anyone, expressing views which might be controversial, but in the knowledge that one is not going to be reported to the National Intelligence Agency, is fundamental. One becomes aware that the breakdown of trust between individuals permeated every aspect of life under the Jammeh regime and this is now rapidly dissolving.

While President has limited qualifications for running a country (does this remind one of anyone else?) it is clear that he is gathering around him a team of Ministers with the right background, experience and qualifications who are clearly already guiding him.

Among the Ministerial team is Dr Isatou Touray who spoke at the 2015 Marlborough Brandt Group AGM in Marlborough Town Hall, on the problem of female genital mutilation  She is now the Minister of Trade and Industry.

Dr Isatou TourayDr Isatou Touray  The Marlborough link delegation meets President Barrow The Marlborough link delegation meets President Barrow   Dr Maurice presents the President with the gift from Marlborough's Town Mayor Dr Maurice presents the President with the gift from Marlborough's Town Mayor

Two days after his inauguration, I had the privilege of a private meeting with President Barrow in the company of three Gambian friends from Gunjur, Madi Jatta, Mankamang Touray and Nabani Darboe all of whom had received training in Marlborough in the late 1980s and early 1990s and now hold senior positions in the country.  

The President was aware of the 34 year relationship between Marlborough and Gunjur. We were able to describe the impact it had had on the two communities - not least on those young people from Marlborough who had lived and worked in Gunjur.   

The President was full of praise for what had been achieved and expressed his determination that his government should support the relationship in whatever way possible.

I was able to present the President with letters of congratulation and good wishes from Marlborough's MP Claire Perry who had spent a week in Gunjur in 2013 and from the Mayor of Marlborough, Councillor Noël Barrett-Morton, with a present from the latter in the form of a very fine paper weight containing the Marlborough crest.

I had been on the same flight to Banjul as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. The British Ambassador, Colin Crokin, who had been with Johnson at a meeting with President Barrow, told me the Foreign Secretary had expressed the desire of the UK Government to work closely with The Gambia not least in ensuring that The Gambia is welcomed back into the Commonwealth at the earliest opportunity.

In discussions with friends and colleagues on the change of regime it seems likely there will  only be a small reduction in the flow of migrants taking 'the back way' from The Gambia to Europe. Indeed, I was told of young men who had left since the appointment of President Barrow.

This is something that the Marlborough Brandt Group is helping to address by providing loans for young entrepreneurs in Gunjur to set up businesses - a highly successful programme which is creating wealth and employment.  Such schemes need to be rolled out across the country to give young people hope for the future.

However, I returned to Marlborough with a great sense of optimism on behalf of our many friends in Gunjur - and more widely in The Gambia - and the hope that the international community will recognise the new regime and give it all the support that it deserves after 22 years of cruel dictatorship.

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