Three exams for three different musical instruments – guitar, piano and saxophone -- and three distinctions.
So, at 13, Jonny Budd is undoubtedly top of the class at St John’s School, Marlborough, an admired performer with his own and other bands, and now due to play at next month’s Marlborough International Jazz Festival.
Yet his musical enterprise began almost casually when he picked up the guitar his marketing consultant father, Ben Budd, played occasionally at their home in Ramsbury and strummed it.
“I think I was nine or 10,” he recalls. “My dad used to play it about once a month but he didn’t get stuck into music as I did and took lessons. And I went on from playing rock – people like Jimmi Hendrix, Slash from Guns and Roses – to taking it seriously.”
So seriously that while at Ramsbury Primary School he teamed up with four friends to form The Demented with his sister, Luci, now 16, providing the vocals, and progressed further by learning to play the alto saxophone and the piano.
Two years ago he took part in a summer school run by the International Guitar Foundation in Bath, which resulted in him being presented with a £700 electric guitar as the most improved student of the week, to which he has now added his Grade 8 exam distinction.
That is the instrument he plays with the Marlborough Youth Jazz Orchestra, destined to perform at the Jazz Festival on July 17, and he will be playing twice at the Royal British Legion Party on The Hill on July 23, first with the Youth Jazz Orchestra and then with The Demented.
This too is a major event being headlined by The Wurzels, the chart toppers from the 70s.
Jonny is now more into jazz than rock, though he enjoys listening to classical guitar masters like Segovia and plays classical pieces himself.
“Kids these days don’t seem to be inspired by rock music any more,” he says. “It isn’t as inspiring as it used to be. They prefer electronic music that’s made on computers.”
But that doesn’t attract Jonny. “You’ve always got to put feeling into whatever you’re playing,” he insists. “All the great musicians do that. Otherwise it’s going to sound a bit fake.”
And Jonny, as his fans agree, is no fake.
Marlborough and District Dyslexia Association has launched a new website, containing help, advice and information about the group.
The MDDA is a small, independent charity which has for the last 22 years supported local schools, hundreds of dyslexics and their families.
The objectives of the association are to encourage the identification of dyslexia and to advance the education of children and adults with the condition, through providing:
- A confidential helpline for advice and support – 07729 452143
- A dyslexia surgery on the second Saturday of each month (except August) with a dyslexia specialist in attendance
- A free loan service for hundreds of books, games and other resources
- Contacts with other professionals and organisations
- Two newsletters per year for members
- Two dyslexia-related lecturers per year
The association is run by a small but dedicated committee of parents, teachers and dyslexics who seek to promote awareness of this specific learning difficulty, to advance the education of dyslexics and help them to reach their full potential in life.
For more information log on to www.marlboroughdistrictdyslexia.org
Coincidences seem to crop up more often in fiction than in everyday life. But what a strange coincidence it is that local author Mavis Cheek’s latest novel, published last month, is all about archaeology and a prehistoric symbol. And just a month later archaeological science proves the Marlborough Mound to be a prehistoric rather than Norman structure.
What the future holds for Marlborough’s Mound is a very live question. In an article written especially for Marlborough News Online, Mavis Cheek is clear she wants the Mound stripped of its eighteenth century extravagances and left in as pristine a state as its big sister, Silbury Hill - Lessons from the Past:
"One of the pleasures I get from writing novels is in the research that goes with the job. The danger is that you get so immersed in it that you never get around to writing the book.
Most authors will tell you that they would far rather be researching a book than writing it – and I can vouch for the fact that displacement activity – such as hoovering the curtains or suddenly taking an immense interest in weeding – is par for the course for the writer. When I am hard at work on a book is about the only time you will find my house has clean windows – inside and out.
And so it was with my latest novel, The Lovers of Pound Hill – which is set in a wholly invented village – possibly in Wiltshire – certainly in the South West – which has an immense fertility figure (known locally as the Gnome) carved into the Hill that looks down upon the villagers. Like the Marlborough Mound in the College, no-one knows its true meaning.
The delight I felt in my research, reading all about the region, its ancient treasures, its ancient peoples, its artefacts, was my reward for having to actually sit down, concentrate, and – in the end - write my wretched novel.
The thrust of my story is that no-one knows the origins of the fertility figure for sure until a young female archaeologist arrives with a determination to discover the Gnome’s ancient secrets. And, eventually, after many twists and turns, she does.
It seemed to me when I set out to write the book that in times of uncertainty and duress, we look to the past to help us through the future. And I doubt that there has ever been a time like ours when the ancient past has been so alive.
My research pot was huge. The joy of watching those programmes on archaeology and prehistory – Neil Oliver, Bettany Hughes, Time Team – which were all called Work:
The reading of book after book about digs here and abroad: The derring-do of contacting real archaeologists and palaeontologists and asking if I could visit them, visit their sites with them, pick their brains over a good lunch, was one of the nicest ways to write a book I know.
Salisbury Museum has re-jigged its entire archaeology collection and Wiltshire’s impressive lumps and bumps of ancient origin featured often in the research.
And what I learned was very humbling. The notion of ancient man and woman that I had – and perhaps some of you have, too – was largely made up of ideas taken from the Flintstone family, or old jokes about men hitting women over the head with clubs and dragging them off to the cave – and of my ancient forefathers and foremothers living very basic, rather brutal and very randomly organised lives.
Gradually this myth was exploded and I came to see that their ways of living were very well organised, full if spiritual connection with Nature and generally made up of harmonious groups. Something we could learn from today – and perhaps we already are.
Only later, with the fencing off of land for farming – which seems to have begun in Britain at around 4000 BC – did the hunter-gatherers settle down and begin to be a bit more possessive and aggressive about the land they farmed. This was the very beginnings of property ownership meaning power. And, as we well know nowadays, there is evidence that they overused the land to their inevitable detriment. Sound familiar?
But even as the agricultural peoples became less harmonious neighbours with their fencing and protection of their land, they became – it would seem – even more organised and sophisticated spiritually. And these were the years in which the great henges were formed, then the immense barrows, which were places of some kind of worship – certainly ancient sites for extreme respect and continuing ritual.
Notions of the life hereafter and proper burial rites are found all over the South West region – and Wiltshire is justifiably known as the land of the living dead. I grew to love learning about the way of life of that period.
I’m thrilled that the Marlborough Mound has now been given back the dignity it deserves and dated properly to about 2400 BC – right in the middle of the agricultural cohesion and the building of grander edifices to show respect to the – we assume – forces of Nature.
Gone, I hope, will be the shell grotto, the water feature, the silly trumperies of Lady Hertford’s eighteenth century excess – and returned to us will be the awesome site that we can stand and admire and know was one of the long-ago forerunners of our own innate spirituality.
My characters in the novel are made happy and become calmed and more caring of each other in the wake of my young female archaeologist’s discovery of the truth about the Gnome. I hope the same can be said of the magnificent Marlborough Mound and its effect on us - the people who live surrounding it."
The Lovers of Pound Hill by Mavis Cheek is published by Hutchinson. Price: £12.99.
For more on the book and more about Mavis Cheek see Gerald Isaaman’s Marlborough News Online story of 14 May 2011: “Mavis Cheek brings Marlborough’s land of the living dead into loving life.”
In years to come, will Wiltshire Council still be able to keep the annual half a million pounds it makes from parking charges in Marlborough? If it does, what will the coalition government’s localism legislation really mean?
These points of principle were put by two Marlborough town councillors to Nick Hurd (pictured), Minister for Civil Society in the Cabinet Office, who was in Devizes on Friday evening to answer questions on the coalition government’s Big Society and localism policies.
Organised by Devizes constituency MP, Claire Perry, the meeting in the Corn Exchange attracted about a hundred people. They included representatives of many voluntary organisations and charities – both large and small.
Nick Hurd was unavoidably delayed by Parliamentary business, so Mrs Perry gave a ‘warm-up’ talk emphasising the element of individual responsibility in the policies – and arguing that many of the coalition’s policies reflect the underlying beliefs of the Big Society concept.
With the Chief Executive of Wiltshire Council, Andrew Kerr, sitting a couple of rows behind him, Marlborough town councillor Richard Pitts said they wanted to open a new tourist information centre for the town, but lacked the funds. This would replace the centre in George Lane car park closed by Kennet Council and the tourist information point closed this year as part of Wiltshire’s cuts to library services.
Pitts asked Hurd whether the town council could challenge the unitary council and take the parking fees for Marlborough council to use – for projects like the new tourist information centre. Mrs Perry intervened to say the parking charges subsidised bus transport in the county. Councillor Pitts saw no evidence of that.
In Nick Hurd’s view the localism legislation would give more “power to challenge” how services are delivered: “And the key to success will be popular support.”
But Marlborough town councillor Guy Loosmore told Hurd that from his reading of the legislation in any dispute between councils, Wiltshire Council would be the arbitrator: “The unitary council will simply protect its services.” How did that fit with localism?
Hurd admitted that the process of moving such powers down the chain of government to more local and community bodies had not been yet been finalised.
Both the Big Society and the idea of localism are policies in progress. Hurd explained that with the Big Society the government was not inventing something: “It’s about building on what’s there.”
But he warned the audience: “Do not underestimate the change that is coming.” He called the localism Bill “a very radical piece of legislation.” And those who criticise localism as “all words, are making a very big mistake.”
After the meeting, Andrew Kerr approached Guy Loosmore and indicated Wiltshire Council was interested in discussing with the town council what services it could take over. Richard Pitts says an example might be Marlborough council doing more grass cutting over a wider area – making better use of their existing equipment.
In Holland in 1997, Dr Bére Miesen, a clinical psychologist specialising in old age, opened the first Alzheimer’s Café. Now similar cafés are opening across Europe and the Marlborough area café meets once a month in East Grafton.
Dr Miesen had noticed that talking about the various stages of memory loss and dementia was often taboo – even between sufferers and their carers. Introducing the cafés with their informal atmosphere, encouraged people to share their experiences and emotions.
The independent Alzheimer’s Support charity covers north Wiltshire and the Kennet area. It runs day clubs, a free counselling service, carers’ support groups, has a trained support worker for home visits and to relieve carers, organises weekly ‘singing for the brain’ sessions at Lockeridge (as well as at Bradford on Avon and Rowde) - and the monthly cafés.
The Marlborough area café for sufferers, family members and carers, ran for a year at the Castle and Ball in the High Street. But after a year it outgrew the space available there, and moved in March to East Grafton’s wonderfully refurbished Coronation Hall.
The cafés are funded by Wiltshire Council and run by Alzheimer’s Support as part of the county’s implementation of the national dementia strategy. It is supported by local NHS doctors.
June’s session was attended by about thirty people who heard a talk by Paul Batson, a drama therapist from the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership’s Victoria Centre. He is a great believer in the value of life story boards and books.
These are a simple way to record - through photos, documents and text - the lives of people affected by memory loss. The boards are especially useful in helping practitioners and staff at homes realise they are dealing with a person rather than just a file card – with someone who’s had a unique life rather than just a medical condition.
As Paul put it, they help “Professionals see the person beyond the illness and knowing something about the person helps build a relationship with them.” They can prevent the feeling that everyone, from the clinician to the cleaner, is “Not looking at me – but is merely seeing a patient.”
Patients have had lives worth celebrating and need to maintain their dignity when old age brings serious problems.
He passed some examples of life books and boards round the café tables, and related telling anecdotes about the way they work. They can also jog sufferers’ memories about their own past lives and their extended families.
And did the café succeed in getting people to talk about their conditions? There was certainly a lot of good chatter going on in the Coronation Hall as sufferers and their partners and carers met up again and tucked into tea, sandwiches, cakes – and fruit.
There are about 700,000 people in the United Kingdom affected by some form of dementia and the figure is expected to double over the next thirty years.
Alzheimer’s Support is calling on Wiltshire GPs and consultants to do more for sufferers after research showed that NHS Wiltshire is one of the worst in the country for diagnosing the condition. A survey by the Alzheimer’s Society found just less than a third of dementia sufferers are told what is wrong with them – putting Wiltshire eight from bottom out of 169 primary care trusts.
Alzheimer’s Support has had its grant from Wiltshire Council for its core costs cut by ten per cent for this year. But Council funding of breaks for carers, and for specific projects such as the singing and café sessions, has been maintained.
However, the group is always looking for extra funds so they can reach more and more sufferers in the Marlborough area – and can also give respite to their carers.
The recently-installed Upper Kennet Valley Embroidery will take pride of place at an Open Day held by the Marlborough and District Branch of the Embroiderers Guild on Monday, June 27 from 11am to 4pm at Kennet Valley Hall, Lockeridge.
The group's regular Stitch Day will be in progress, there will be a display of work from workshops and the Young Embroiderers group, and visitors will have a chance to talk to the creators of the giant embroidery.
Anna Quarendon, the new chair of the Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG), visited Gunjur in The Gambia last year – and was captivated by its friendly people. Gunjur has been linked with Marlborough for twenty-five years.
With a population of about 17,500, Gunjur is still called a village. It’s where MBG have concentrated their help and to which they’ve sent many volunteers. And next week, after a gap of four years, a group of six Gunjurians will be here – return hospitality for all those who have gone to stay in Gunjur from Marlborough.
Anna, who works for BBC Wiltshire, travelled in January last year with the group which went to witness the granting of honorary citizenship to Dr Nick Maurice, one of MBG’s founders and now its president, and to Anita Bew, MBG’s secretary the organiser of its Link Committee.
As Anna puts it, the Gambians “were thanking two people who live many thousands of miles away for making a difference to their world. Through the work of MBG.”
Her hosts for the week-long visit were the family of Mbanding Darboe (on Anna’s left in the photo) and her mother. Anna had been a bit undecided about joining the group as their visit coincided with her mother, Pauline’s 80th birthday.
When, in passing, she mentioned this to her hosts, they arranged a birthday party in their compound on the simple grounds that “Your mother is as important as our mother.” And they cooked all day to provide a suitable spread for the party.
Then, when Anna went to a local radio station to be interviewed about her visit and her work in England, most of the station’s staff came into the studio and sang “Happy birthday, dear Pauline”. This went out live to listeners in the Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. They then presented Anna with a recording of her interview and the birthday greeting to her mother.
The day Anna got back home, she held a family birthday party for her mother – and the recording was a wonderful surprise birthday present from her new family in Africa.
It’s difficult to resist that sort of friendship, almost impossible not to be captivated.
Anna has been at BBC Wiltshire since 1999. She’s reported, presented and produced radio programmes for them, and now produces and manages the daily, nine till noon Morning Show presented by Mark O’Donnell.
She started with BBC television 1978, spending five years as a researcher on a variety of programmes – from serious documentaries to quiz shows. She then became a full-time mother for her two children.
Anna enjoys mixing hard work and fun. Once her children were at school, she set up a home-based mail order company designing and making crackers – the Christmas sort of crackers.
The name of her company must have lightened the tax man's bureaucratic days: "Completely Crackers".
During her time in Gunjur, Anna prepared a number of radio features about the village, the work MBG has been able to do there – like the pre-school and the women’s garden, the importance to villagers of the link with Marlborough and about the lively and lengthy ceremony – attended by thousands of people, mostly women – during which honorary citizenship was conferred on the two MBG stalwarts.
When she’d just arrived in Gunjur she’d felt disoriented: “Sitting on the side of my bed on that first night, I fought back a huge desire to cry at the strangeness of it all and rather wanted to go home.” Meeting and getting to know Gunjurians, with their friendliness and enthusiasms, quickly won her over.
On the plane on the way back home – back to cook for her mother’s other birthday party – Anna wrote a poem which gives a wonderful glimpse of mornings in Gunjur.
The day begins with cockerel call
And in the morning half light answer comes
The back and forward of the cockerel cry
Loud outside the compound wall
Taken up in answering strain.
The broken throated cry upon the air
The prelude to a different song
The ritual call of faithful men to prayer
Insistent note, repeated, long.
And as the overture goes on
Comes in the bass note of the drum,
Rhythmic pounding of the corn
As well worn wood beats down on grain
Lifts and falls back down again.
Then timpani of brush on sand
As bundled sticks are used to sweep
Join in the orchestrated song
Which is the waking call from sleep
(copyright Anna Quarendon 2010. Photo below courtesy Andrew Williamson.)
The Marlborough mound – now known to have been built at about the same time as Silbury Hill – is at the moment covered with trees and voracious ground cover, mainly ivy. It lies right at the heart of the College buildings.
As befits a scheduled monument, it has long been strictly out of bounds to college students. Although there’s some hearsay evidence that those trees did in days gone by provide cover for the occasional illicit smoker – so much better than ‘behind the bike sheds’.
Eventually the trees – some near the summit are 32 metres tall - and the ivy will be removed from the mound. But, as Peter Carey of the architects Donald Insall Associates who are overseeing the conservation, explained to Marlborough News Online, this must be done very slowly and carefully.
Although the vegetation is degrading the mound, too sudden removal would destabilise the whole structure and might lead to an even worse situation - making collapses of part of the mound a real possibility. That is the lesson from conservation works at other ancient ‘castle mounds’ at Totnes and Oxford.
The conservation and restoration process could take several decades. But completion of the work has been guaranteed by the Marlborough Mound Trust set up and most generously funded by Eric Elstob who was a student at Marlborough College from 1956 to 1960, and who died of cancer in 2003 aged sixty.
See also our companion story: “Marlborough’s Mound is now proved even older and more mysterious than Merlin himself.”
While at the College Elstob captained the college boxing team and won an exhibition to Queen’s College, Oxford.
He was a remarkable man – a great linguist, he spent all his working in the City of London and living in Spitalfields. When he died, the Daily Telegraph’s City diarist, Simon Goodley, wrote of him:
“Elstob was one of the City's most decent and upright people, although he would kill me if he heard me saying it, since he never quite lost his sense of fun at the absurdity of City life. He spent his entire career at fund managers Foreign & Colonial, making it a good deal more foreign and a good deal less colonial.”
He was an enthusiastic conservationist, loved Hawksmoor’s churches and was instrumental in the restoration of Christ Church, Spitalfields complete with a refuge for homeless men in its crypt.
Peter Carey says that Elstob would be “completely delighted, exonerated - just so pleased” at the news that the mound’s birthdate had been confirmed as being in prehistoric times – and was thus such a very significant part of the country’s heritage.
Work to investigate, conserve and restore the mound began ten years ago.
Already the very twentieth century metal water tank has been removed from the mound’s summit where it had replaced first Lady Hertford’s water feature and later a reservoir for gardeners and local fire wardens.
Renovation of the shell grotto has begun. This was originally worked on some years ago by the Diana Reynell who taught art at the college. She has become an expert on the eighteenth century craze for grottoes – especially those decorated with shells.
This grotto was dug into the side of the mound for Lady Hertford who was a lady-of-the-bedchamber to George II’s wife Queen Caroline. Ms Reynell has said it was once used by college boys as a bike shed – see above!
Later this year work will start to re-establish a section of Lady Hertford’s unique spiral ramp. This will be a test to see whether it will eventually be possible restore the whole feature right around the cone of the mound.
As Peter Carey puts it this would put “the jelly mould back on the jelly.” The idea is not to change the mound’s structure but to consolidate it.
The Master of Marlborough College has greeted the news of the dating of the mound to prehistoric times enthusiastically. Nicholas Sampson said: “We are thrilled at this discovery, which confirms the long and dramatic history of this beautiful site and offers opportunity for tremendous educational enrichment.”
However, the mound is on the college’s private property and access to the general public is not possible. So it cannot automatically become a new tourist attraction for Marlborough.
The trustees of the Marlborough Mound Trust have a difficult job on their hands. Their main aims as a charity are to ‘restore, conserve, preserve and maintain the mound’. But they are also pledged to ‘educate the public about the archaeological and historic significance and merits of the mound.’
And at some point in the future, when the restoration is much further on, access for the public will surely have to become possible - even if only on specific ‘open days’ during college holidays.
But it’s most unlikely people will ever be allowed to walk up the mound. Just as tourists must admire Silbury Hill from ground level, so it would be too risky to subject such an ancient structure as the Marlborough mound to the tramp of thousands of twenty-first century feet.
Sights, sounds and smells from a bygone era were relived at Rainscombe Park, in Oare, on Saturday and Sunday at the Wiltshire Steam and Vintage Rally.
Set in the natural amphitheater of the country house, hundreds of vintage cars, motorbikes, tractors and steam engines attracted thousands of spectators, ranging from casual sightseers with their families to knowledgeable enthusiasts, keen to get their hands oily.
Now in its 28th year, the show was a fundraiser for the Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust, which provides a home security service for elderly, vulnerable and disadvantaged people throughout Wiltshire, and one of the more unusual attractions was a Thames Valley Police tractor, although visitors were assured the vehicle was used to promote farm security, rather than hot pursuits.
Visitors were never far from a lung full of smoke or a whiff of engine oil, and piped music from fairground organs could occasionally be heard over the chug of engines – and they would not have it any other way.
The adventures of a hare, a turtle and a duck have won a professional illustrator an accolade from international book publisher PanMacmillan.
Gone Fishing, by Chantal Bourgonje, has been Highly Commended by the judges in the Macmillan Prize for Children's Book Illustrations, one of only 13 books chosen from 300 entries to receive an award.
She was told of her success on the same day that another of her illustrated children's books, Fierce Grey Mouse, went live on Apples iTunes store, and on the day she was told she had been accepted for a Master's degree in drawing.
“It was an incredible twelve hours,” she told Marlborough News Online from her Burbage home this week.
Gone Fishing follows the story a hare, a turtle and a duck from bath time to a fishing expedition, an encounter with the mud monster and back into the bath to get clean again.
Meanwhile, Fierce Grey Mouse is receiving plaudits of its own. This week Apple's adjudicators listed it as 'noteworthy' – a boon to downloads.
The app – which is available to read and play on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch - is animated and interactive. Chantal had to produce hundreds of slightly different illustrations to ensure the animation looked as smooth as possible.
The book has been narrated in Chantal's native Dutch, Spanish and six variations of English, including American, Australian, Kiwi, Irish, English adult and English child.
The narration can be switched off and the newspaper cut-out text can be replaced by an easy-to-read font to encourage children to explore the book for themselves.
The Fierce Grey Mouse follows the fortunes of a little mouse who eats his porridge, drinks his milk, does his exercises and practices his pouncing in a bid to be as fierce wild animals like the leopard and the eagle. It is aimed at children from two to six years.
An exhibition of work by all the Macmillan Prize winners will be held at the prestigious Foyles Gallery in Charing Cross Road, London from May 24 to 27.
Fierce Grey Mouse is currently available on iTunes. A second app book, Finn's Paper Hat, will be published on iTunes in June.
To find out more about Chantal's work log on to www.cfordesign.co.uk