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Features

Record response of more than 2,000 throng Marlborough’s prize-winning Science Fair

Children galore, parents and friends turned up for Saturday’s Marlborough Science Fair, the third of its kind at St John’s School – and proved its most successful.

“We had a total of 2,200 there, which is the highest number ever,” said specialist college co-ordinator Sally Bere. “And so we were very pleased to have beaten last year’s attendance of 1,900.”

The fair, part of National Science and Engineering Week, originated out of desire to interest more children in the subjects, and it has more than proved its worth.

The first year St John’s won the top prize from the British Science Association for the best school fair in the country, earning it both recognition and a grant of £600 towards science activities.

Last year it finished in second place. “And we already we know we are in the top three schools to win the prize again,” said Sally. “But it will take a little while before we know the exact result.”

“The day was an enormous success enabling St John’s to provide a stimulating and inter-active family learning environment.  It wouldn’t have been possible without the outstanding contribution of staff, volunteers, external agencies and the St John’s students, all of whom helped.”

Events at the fair, sponsored by Cadley Garage, included hands on events in the school labs, a code breaking treasure hunt, Lego robotics, and an amazing planetarium show organised by Wiltshire Astronomical Society using its solar telescopes.

It was aimed at children from four upwards with subjects ranging from fossils and earth science, mechanics through the ages, a Wiltshire Heritage programme about Stonehenge and a chance to design your own glass using laser cutters.

Stalls were also set up promote the work of ARK (Action River Kennet) in protecting the rare chalk stream during the current drought conditions and the forthcoming Farmers’ Markets, due to launch on Sundays this summer in Marlborough High Street.

A selection of pics from the day below:

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Home-Start is calling for new volunteer parents

Jane is a young mum who has just had her third baby.  She has no family or friends nearby and is feeling lonely, exhausted and overwhelmed.  She would like support from another parent, especially from someone with time to listen.

The Home-Start charity needs new volunteers who can be trained to help and support families like Jane’s who live in the Kennet areas of Marlborough and Devizes and the South Wiltshire areas of Larkhill, Downton, Mere and Whiteparish.

The Home-Start team is especially keen to find volunteers who will be able to provide support in Tidworth and Amesbury and in the surrounding villages.  Home-Start’s trained volunteers support both non-military and military families.

Their next volunteer training course will run on May 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 and June 6 and 27 at The Beeches in Bulford.

Volunteers should contact the Home-Start offices:  Marlborough 01672 515686 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Amesbury 01980 676237 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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Plans for a diamond-shaped orchard as a tribute to the Queen’s jubilee

A diamond-shaped orchard growing amid wild flowers in a spot with its own picnic area – that is the vision for the apple tree orchard being planned for Marlborough Common.

Details of the tribute to mark the anniversary of the Queen’s 60 years on the throne were given to Marlborough town council’s Amenities and Open Space Committee on Monday by Philippa Davenport, founder of the town’s Apple Day initiative.

But before it goes ahead the council is to consult with the Commons User Group on its proposals for an area some 30 by five metres near the site of the Marlborough Rugby Club, off Frees Avenue.

“We need to float the idea to get reactions,” said committee chairman Councillor Richard Pitts, who pointed out that the apple trees will all be rare Wiltshire varieties.

And Philippa added that they would be half-standard trees so there would be no danger of people climbing them and possibly falling to the ground once they have grown.

There will also be another area of mixed fruit trees, including plums and pears. “And the fruit will be reachable to pick,” she said.

Councillor Peggy Dow declared: “Having a picnic area will be an ideal way of encouraging people to use this spot.”

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The future of publishing lies online

Three Wiltshire-based authors shared their publishing experiences at Marlborough Library to a crowd of would-be authors to celebrate National Libraries Day on Saturday.

The main message of this talk seemed to be that unless you are an established author or writing a series in a popular genre then expect little support from either agents or publishers.

Print publishing is in disarray, hard hit by the electronic format, and the main bookshops and online retailers push a few best sellers at the expense of other authors.

Self-publish an e-book, promote it on social media such as Facebook and Twitter (though don't let these sidetrack your writing) and then expect – and consider - a traditional publishing deal only when your sales hit 100,000 plus.

Mavis Cheek, who spoke alongside fellow writers Helen Slavin and James Aitcheson, gave a potted history of how she became a published author of some twenty-five years and fifteen books.

Most memorably she received her best advice when taken out by a publisher – to tell her why her first book would not be taken up. “It wouldn't happen over lunch today,” Mavis remarked.

Mavis became a writer after she fell pregnant and needed something to do that “made me a viable member of society” whilst she brought up her child, a situation mirrored by JK Rowling decades later.

A working class girl who had the right look for the 1960s arts vibe, Mavis spent over ten years working for an art publisher and then an eminent gallery before taking an arts degree.

Her first efforts at writing aimed for her to become the next Virginia Woolfe 'with no humour whatsoever,' however a publisher who recognised her underlying talent recommended that she write funny books.

And thus she become the 'Godmother of Chick Lit', a label she resists with a wry smile.

James Aitcheson, who was brought up and lives in Mildenhall, published his first book, Sworn Sword, in 2010, which he began writing whilst on a post-graduate creative writing course at Bath Spa University.

This is the first of a three book deal with Preface Publishing, the second instalment of which he is completing for release this September.

The series is set in England 1067, the aftermath of the Norman invasion, and is told from the point of view of Tancred, a Norman oath-sworn knight.

Trowbridge-based Helen Slavin began as a script writer, cutting her teeth on scriptwriting factories such as EastEnders and Holby City, before writing novels such as The Extra Large Medium and The Stopping Place.

Her fortunes in book publishing has been mixed as a 'mid-list' author; her first three novels were followed by a meeting with her publisher Pocket Books where 'I wasn't even bought a coffee'.

With Helen's suspicions raised, she was told that a book series – especially with a supernatural theme - was where it was at and what did she think?

Helen left the meeting having promised a three book series featuring a Swedish vampire detective. “I didn't like him,” she said, “And a troll ate him in the third chapter.”

So Helen decided to self-publish which is not the 'vanity' project it once was when the printed format was the only option.

In these days of the Kindle, smart phones and tablets, authors can easily convert their hard work into a self-distributing e-book format and promote the book themselves.

Whilst waiting for a response from her publisher regarding the first novel written after the beverage-free meeting, werewolf-themed Will You Know Me?, Helen has published this and her following two books online through Amazon.

The host, Marlborough Library, ended the event by announcing that in a few weeks time borrowers will be able to download books onto their e-readers, though not as yet to the Kindle due to compatibility issues.

Follow them on Twitter @wiltslibraries 

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It’s been a swinging Christmas for Marlborough’s newest charity shop

Marlborough’s newest charity shop has had a splendid Christmas with generous donations and sales enabling it to break its £1,000 minimum target for the week.

“We’ve exceeded all our expectations,” revealed Fred Chard, manager of the RSPCA shop, based in the former High Street Sony Centre. “We’ve been surprised by the generosity of the people of Marlborough.”

“Our target was to achieve at least £1,000 in the full trading week – Monday to Saturday – before Christmas, and we’ve gone beyond that.  For our first Christmas here it’s gone extremely well.”

Evening and ball gowns specially bought for the opening of the charity shop have been one major attraction, customers galore pouring  in either to buy or donate to the RSPCA’s North Wiltshire branch.

And now the remaining sparkling and colourful garments on a special  clothes rail of their own are selling for “sale” prices ranging from £15 to £30.

“Ninety per cent of them are new and are really excellent value,” said Kathy Hole, from Avebury (pictured), who has been in charge of them.  “Some of evening gowns still have their original labels on them and have never been worn.”

In fact they didn’t have far to travel to the RSPCA site, having been bought from Marlborough’s Ballgown Shop as “an investment” for its launch in October.

Sixty-year-old Mr Chard, from Swindon, who has been given the task of establishing the Marlborough store, the third after Chippenham and Swindon to be opened by North Wiltshire RSPCA, and with three more planned for the future.

They form part of a 170 charity chain throughout the country, each store separately registered to the RSPCA branch that launched it, to ensure that the funds raised are used locally for animal welfare.

“That can be anything from boarding unwanted cats to helping people who can’t pay particular vets’ bills,” he explained. “We also run a lost and found register and find homes for unwanted rabbits and smaller animals.”

His business background in food retail with the Co-op has helped to set up the store – the plan is to hand over to someone local soon – and in the New Year he will continue his current search for a permanent job.

“Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I got made redundant last year after spending over 40 years with the Co-op group,” he revealed. “Getting back into that is proving very, very difficult, especially at the level I worked at as a regional manager.”

Meanwhile, he is seeking to increase the donations of good quality clothing to the Marlborough shop, especially for children and for men, as well as bric a brac and discarded Christmas presents.

“Our customers are predominately women since they are the shoppers,” he explained.  “Our problem is that we haven’t got a large amount of men’s clothing because, as you are aware, men tend to hang on to clothes a lot longer than ladies.”

“Women buy clothes and quickly move them on – and that’s a bonus for us.”

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Marlborough’s only bookshop faces a challenging future after Christmas success

1325863256 small1325863256 smallMore than a million kindles may have been sold over Christmas, but Marlborough’s White Horse bookshop still beat all expectations and came up trumps with sales, especially of local books.

However, owner Michael Pooley recognises that all independent bookshops face a challenging future, revealing: “Our worry is that ebooks are eroding the business all the time.”

“It is very difficult to see how independent bookshops can get involved selling ebooks.  Publishers are thinking of various ways but I fear it is not the way ahead for us.”

“I don’t know if 2012 is going to be a make or break year but it is going to be an extremely difficult one.  And some independent bookshops will undoubtedly disappear.”

White Horse has had a good year in general, sales boosted in particular by the second Marlborough Literary Festival in September.  “We have done much better than we expected,” Mr Pooley told Marlborough News Online.

And to an extent the bookshop, which he has owned since 1973, is protected because it owns the freehold of the premises.

“The main problem is that part of the business we are in of selling books is now being done cheaper elsewhere,” he pointed out.  “And it is not Amazon that is to blame.  They are more interested in selling pet food and other things.”

The failure of online Amazon to ensure deliveries of book orders did, however, play a part in the White Horse bookshop’s success.  So too the fact that there was a full week’s trading in the run up to Christmas Day.

The dangers ahead lie in whether major chain stores like Waterstones can survive the exploding sale of ebooks.  “They are under threat,” he said.

“So it is going to be very interesting to see their results because they are very much in the same market as us.”

Local books that sold well included Roger Day’s Look, Duck & Vanish, a history of 6th Marlborough Battalion of the Wiltshire Home Guard and a history of the Free Family in Marlborough and the Upper Kennet Valley by Martin Crook with Jan Free.

PD James won the race when it came to fiction.  But because there was a good spread of fiction available, no one single title sold out, which was very much the same for a wide range of cookery books, basic titles like River Cottage Veg selling well along with Heston Blumenthal.

“Customers don’t come in here and inquire about ebooks,” he added. “That is what is so strange, but it is also why I don’t really think we can get involved selling them.”

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Pigs take centre stage at carol service

Shepherds watched their flocks by night, a little donkey carried Mary to Bethlehem, and wise men followed yonder star on camels.

But piglets took centre stage at a Marlborough carol service on Friday, when children from St Mary's Primary School were each given a hand-carved wooden pig by wood turner Richard Miles.

Mr Miles carved 200 of the little animals, which were presented to children at the end of a carol service at St Mary's Church, during which the children sang 13 carols and songs and told the story of the nativity.

Mr Miles has a long association with the school, and built the school's nativity scene – which includes hand-carved candles – which has delighted children and adults alike for three years.

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