Michael HolroydMichael Holroyd, appearing at the Marlborough Literary Festival
An emphasis on quality of every variety. That is the one consistent ingredient for Marlborough’s next literary festival, in the wake of the festival highly successful debut last year, writes Ben Budd.
When local bestselling author Mavis Cheek, the festival chairperson, conceived the festival it was in response to the prevailing celebrity-obsession that proliferated most events, often at the expense of the writing.
Marlborough Litfest is a huge success precisely because it refuses to conform to this template.
Some of the quality on offer this year…
Deborah Moggach wrote the screenplay for the BAFTA awarded Pride and Prejudice. As well as writing 15 novels, she’s masterminded numerous screenplays for film and television including Anne Fine’s Goggle Eyes, Nancy Mitford’s Love in A Cold Climate and adaptations of her own bestselling books such as Porky and Tulip Fever.
Novelist of the next decade?
For each of the past four decades Granta and The BBC’s Culture Show have predicted the debut novelists who would go on to become our pre-eminent writers. Past selections have included the likes of Martin Amis, Kazuo Ishiguro and Julian Barnes. We’re delighted to welcome Evie Wyld, nominee from the recent list of the twelve to watch for the future, to speak about her new novel.
Youth and overseas cultures
Kerry Young is of Chinese-African parentage and is well known for her writing on youth including The Art of Youth Work, which has become a standard text in its field. Kerry’s first novel is the start of a trilogy influenced by her own childhood and explores aspects of race, class, love and philosophy on the mean streets of Kingston, Jamaica at the end of British rule.
David Edgar is one of the most prolific and important post-60s UK dramatists having written over sixty performed and published works since his first full length effort aged nine! A long association with the RSC included his Life and Times of Nicholas Nickleby, directed by Trevor Nunn. Always inspired by the idealist spirit of the late 60’s, some if his most acclaimed and awarded works include Destiny and Maydays.
This is merely a soupcon of the talent and variety on offer this year.
There’s also Michael Holroyd, Anne Sebba, bestselling children’s writer Lauren Child and many others. Topics including history, crime, Shakespeare, Orwell and ghost-writing take place at venues ranging from Marlborough College and the Theatre on The Hill to William Golding’s House.
As well as listening to authors, the four-day festival offers many chances to participate in workshops, poetry cafés and competitions.
That’s only a taster and we’ll bring you further updates as September -- the festival weekend runs from 22 to 25 September -- approaches. You can also find out more by visiting www.marlboroughlitfest.org.
Andy Davies Manager of Marlboroughs WaitroseAs Marlborough’s major Waitrose supermarket re-opened its doors last Friday after a £3.5 million revamp, Andy Davies, its buoyant manager promised its faithful customers a “new experience in shopping”.
And thanking them for their loyalty throughout troubled weeks of the refit, he revealed that the major reason for the refit was to introduce a “green” refrigeration system that runs on cooled water and uses 90% less gas than the previous units.
It was planned two years ago as a carbon-friendly development for the John Lewis backed business, and not directly due to the challenge the store faces with the arrival of Tesco, on Marlborough’s out-of-town former business park site, on the Salisbury Road.
“We have done nothing here for 10 years and technology has moved on,” he explained. “By 2020 it is our intention to have this refrigeration, which uses water instead of gas, throughout our business.
“We have also taken the opportunity to put into Marlborough what we call hospitality – by introducing a small coffee shop, innovations with our check-out system where you can self-scan your purchases, which is available elsewhere."
“And because we actually have more space, it is allowing us to bring in between 1,500 new lines. It all adds up to a new experience in shopping.”
The Marlborough store, which dates back 33 years, is a pioneer in the Waitrose chain, among the very first to introduce water refrigeration and also a new look café – and self-serving coffee machines -- at the store’s entrance.
The café project has been criticised as unnecessarily competing with many other cafes and pubs in the town, but 42-year-old Mr Davies invited the Chamber of Commerce's retail forum to view the plans and encouraged café owners to see the proposals for themselves.
“Our aim is to enhance the town, not to put anybody out of business,” he said. “We have got new competition now as Tesco has opened. If we lose 10 per cent of our customers, that means about 2,500 fewer people coming into the High Street."
“We need to ensure we bring these people back into the High Street, which is good for our business and for the rest of the retailers."
“People do come to Marlborough and make it a day out. They can have coffee with us and lunch in town. It is part of the shopping experience now – and it’s about hospitality rather than running a café.”
He has been concerned that the town has been hit by road closures due to the Pewsey Road bridge project, has battled with parking problems, as yet unresolved, as well as the economic recession.
But another positive element to the revitalised store is that it has taken on 11 new members of staff, bring the number of “partners” to 230, the first two new posts attracting no fewer than 64 applicants.
And as customers begin to learn their way round the revamped store, he added: “I am really bowled over by the number of people who are excited by what we’re doing to improve the store.
“We have been really fortunate to keep them loyal and have their positive support. Their loyalty has been the best bit for me. Marlborough is very important to our business. And I want to keep it that way.”
pic - Andy Davies, Manager of Marlborough's Waitrose
AAndrew Mitchell Secretary of State for International Developmentndrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development
It is not very often that a senior government minister comes to Marlborough, so there was a good audience, including students from four Wiltshire schools, in The Theatre on the Hill at St John’s School to listen to the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell.
He was giving the 29th annual Marlborough Lent Lecture arranged by the Marlborough Brandt Group, following previous illustrious lecturers such as the Princess Royal, Archbishop Carey, Glenys Kinnock and a predecessor in his job, Clare Short.
Picture: Chris Caswell
Mr Mitchell spoke in detail about the coalition government’s new policies for international aid. His department is one of only two to have had their budgets protected from cuts, but a new approach to aid means there are major changes in the way aid is delivered and who receives it.
His aim is to concentrate on ‘the poorest of the poor’ – giving them opportunities to set up small businesses to provide family income, helping women’s health projects, tackling malaria, supporting education and promoting birth control.
Answering questions, Mr Mitchell was challenged as to why aid was continuing at all while, as the questioner put it and with evident support from the audience, Ramsbury’s roads were full of pot holes. Mr Mitchell stressed that continuing aid was in Britain’s national interests as it promoted peace and security.
Asked by local farmer Chris Musgrave about food supply, population growth and Genetically Modified crops, Mr Mitchell did not get himself involved in the GM controversy, but agreed that food security was becoming more of an acute problem.
The Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG) established and looks after the town’s thirty year link with Gunjur in the Gambia. Mr Mitchell had little or no comfort for MBG Trustee Lamin Manjang from Bristol’s Gambian community, who asked why Gambia with its long links to Britain was on the government’s list of countries about to lose all direct aid from Britain.
There was more bleak news when Jilly Hillier, who until recently worked at MBG’s Wiltshire Global Education centre, asked whether Mr Mitchell would continue to fund the teaching of development issues in British schools and colleges. He said he was having the use of this money audited, but his own view was that it was not right to spend the aid budget in this way.
Dr Nick Maurice, an MBG founder and now its President, commented: “We were extremely grateful that the Secretary of State came to give our Lent Lecture, particularly when his department was so busy with humanitarian crises in North Africa and Japan.”
“As far as his lecture was concerned, I would argue (and did) that it is largely because of public awareness of the importance of international development both as a moral imperative, but also as being in our own self interest that the government has been able to protect the aid budget. I therefore believe it is extremely unwise not to use a small part of the aid budget to raise public awareness in this country of poverty abroad. And school and community linking has been shown to be a very effective means to achieve this.”
After the lecture, Andrew Mitchell asked Dr Maurice and his colleagues to write two short papers for him on the role of North-South community projects and on the importance of development education. These are already on his desk in London.
Marlborough College has dubbed it Royal Friday, the day when its students play their direct part in celebrating the wedding of former student Kate Middleton to the handsome heir to the throne.
It is deliberately building upon the remarkable success of last year’s Super Sunday, which raised more than £5,000 for charities through pupil-led initiatives and activities staged within the College.
Super Sunday, which was held in April 2010, was inspired by the memory of St John’s School educated College teacher Rupert Rosedale, 37, who was killed in an avalanche on Ben Nevis last New Year’s Eve.
The College thought it fitting to combine Marlborough’s charity event with the royal wedding, the funds this time being divided between the Kempson-Rosedale Trust, which supports enterprise projects at the College, El Roi, a primary school in Kenya, SKRUM, a charity aiding children in Swaziland, and another, Hope and Homes for Children, whose work is directed to Central and Eastern Europe, as well as parts of Africa.
Headmaster Nicholas Sampson explained: “We see the principle of service as being the link between these two events and, therefore, we are seeking to celebrate the College’s strong interest in, and connection to, the royal wedding through a series of enjoyable but valuable pupil-driven initiatives.
“It should be a great and memorable day”.
Lessons will cease mid morning and pupils will be free to watch the royal wedding on TV among their friends in their individual boarding houses.
Then they will be invited to a special Royal Lunch in the school’s dining hall, ahead of a rich and varied programme of fundraising in the afternoon.
Royal Friday has been led and organised by the College’s Charity Think Tank – a group of eight Upper Sixth students, who work together to co-ordinate and plan the College’s charity events.
The main focus of the day will be a Royal Fete within the College’s famous and picturesque Court, an event that will be opened by the College’s own Brass Quintet playing the national anthem.
There will be stalls in the marquee, live music, Morris dancers, personal caricatures and a penalty shoot-out competition, donated by Swindon Town FC, among other activities.
The events will not be open to members of the public but staff families and members of the wider Marlborough Town community, whom pupils have contact with through the College’s Social Service Programme, are being invited and encouraged to attend.
Around the College campus there will be cricket, croquet, football and volleyball tournaments, a triathlon, a climbing wall challenge and a film competition.
Royal Friday will be rounded off by a special “Illumination” performance in the evening, when pupils will showcase their own musical and dramatic talents on the stage of the Memorial Hall.
Ottilie Macpherson, head of the Charity Think Tank and an upper sixth form student, said: “Royal Friday will be a wonderful celebration and a great opportunity for everyone to get together on behalf of some really important causes.”
David Purkiss, Lynda Brown and Richard Paget plant an apple tree in Priory Gardens
Marlborough’s dream of creating a ‘Town within an Orchard’, is well underway with the planting of four new apple trees in the town centre.
David Purkiss, Lynda Brown and Richard Paget plant an apple tree in Priory GardensThe Community Orchard team was out in force recently planting new apple trees in three prominent sites.
The first apple tree, a Queen Cox, was planted in St Mary’s Churchyard by Richard Paget, who is setting up a juicing service for local people whose trees produce more apples than they can eat.
He was aided by Lynda Brown, and supervised by town council head gardener David Purkiss. The new tree, situated near Fyfe Saddler's memorial bench, will bear dessert apples.
The group then moved on to St Peter’s Churchyard, to plant a cooking apple tree, appropriately named Rev W Wilks, after a well-known horticulturist cleric.
Residents of the Sarsen’s Sheltered Housing Complex in The Priory watched as two further trees were planted: a Bramley 20 - a compact yet heavy-cropping version of the famous Bramley Seedling - and a Fiesta - a pleasingly crisp, sweet and aromatic dessert apple, also known as Red Pippin.
The Community Orchard project encourages the planting of fruit trees in open spaces in the town and private gardens.
Anyone interested in sharing the labours and fruits of community trees, and would like to be part of this initiative should contact Philippa Davenport on 01672 512949.
Marlborough Apple Day 2011 will be celebrated on Saturday 29 October.
Yolanda BrownYolanda Brown, appearing at the Jazz Festival
Recession or not, Marlborough’s International Jazz Festival is already providing evidence that in tough times people want to forget their troubles and enjoy themselves – even listening to the blues.
The weekend July event, selected by the Sunday Times as one of the five best festivals in Britain, has lost only one of its sponsors due to the economic downturn. “But we’ve actually gained three considerable new ones,” revealed Nick Fogg, founder and organiser of the festival.
“I had been thinking that it would be an achievement to get even close to last year’s sponsorship figure. But we’re up on that figure, not by megabucks but enough to give us a sponsorship income of £80,000.”
That is almost half of the £180,000 cost of the festival, whose main sponsors are the Marlborough-based financial investment firm of Brewin Dolphin, whom former Marlborough mayor Mr Fogg describes as “one of our most loyal supporters.”
And he added: “When the Sunday Times picked us out a few years back, it was absolutely fascinating to know that our ticket prices were about a third or a quarter of the other four festivals. So we are really value for money.
“We’re not totally recession proof but we’ve certainly not been torpedoed by the recession so far. We are already getting loads of inquiries and selling tickets before we have even officially launched the festival.”
But while ticket prices have been pegged for the past three years, they have gone up this time. “We had to,” explained Mr Fogg. “But you can still see the whole weekend for £60 and the highest price of £25 for a stroller ticket to see all the events on the Saturday.”
Surprisingly, Mr Fogg is not a born jazz lover, having originally launched a general music festival in 1986, during his first term as Mayor, only to discover that promoting classical music events was the surest way to lose money.
“Opera is even a safer bet,” he recalled. “It became obvious that a jazz festival fitted best into the topography of the town. And the jazz festival has grown by a process of evolution over the past 12 years. This year’s will hopefully be the biggest ever.”
One of the major attractions among a galaxy of international performers will be 37-year-old Clare Teal, Britain’s top jazz singer. She is the only jazz artist in recent times to have had a CD in the Top Twenty and twice been winner of the Singer of the Year prize at the British Jazz Awards.
Also on the bill is the American pianist Darius Brubeck and his trio and Frances Ruffelle, the Tony award winning star of Les Miserables, will be there with her septet, along with saxophonist Yolanda Brown, twice winner of the prestigious MOBO award.
And it is a truly international affair, the jazz performers coming from no fewer than 24 different countries, ranging from Argentina, Chile and Italy to Russia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The festival dates are July 15, 16 and 17. For full details of the programme – and tickets – see Marlborough Jazz Festival website.
Praise for local residents who helped with the search in Savernake Forest for missing Swindon girl Sian O’Callaghan, since found murdered, have earned praise from Marlborough’s mayor, Councillor Andy Ross.
He welcomed too the support of local traders who displayed scores of police Missing notices for 22-year-old Sian within hours of her disappearing en route home from a night out in Swindon.
“The empathy shown in Marlborough for someone in trouble was tremendous,” said Councillor Ross, who himself offered Wiltshire police whatever help to town council could give in discovering her whereabouts.
“It is always encouraging the sympathetic way people react when they are confronted with tragic circumstances like this. I a full of admiration for what the traders in particular did in trying to trace Sian and sad at the outcome.”
Taxi driver Chris Halliwell, of Ashbury Avenue, Swindon, has been charged with the murder of Sian, whose body was later found at White Horse Hill, Uffington, in Oxfordshire.
He is now on remand in custody awaiting trial.
The progress through parliament of the coalition government’s Bill for root and branch reform of the NHS has been put on hold while alterations are agreed between the coalition partners.
This highly unusual hiatus comes in the face of serious opposition from within the health care professions, from the cross-party Health Select Committee, among a few Tory backbenchers and some LibDem MPs, and above all in the House of Lords where the Bill might have been voted down.
If the Bill maintains its main features, it looks as though most of the NHS budget for Wiltshire will be divided between three GP consortiums centred on the area’s three main hospitals – Bath, Salisbury and Swindon.
But negotiations among GPs have been slower than expected. Consortiums were supposed to begin shadowing NHS Wiltshire (the Primary Care Trust or PCT) from this week.
The Chair of NHS Wiltshire, Tony Barron, has welcomed the pause: “It seems as though there is going to be a delay in process which will give us time to sort out anomalies – what we don’t want is chaos.”
NHS Wiltshire is currently having to do its normal commissioning and contracting work, assist the reform process, identify huge savings over the next three years to allow for inflation – and make a major cut to its management costs, as ordered by Secretary of State, Andrew Lansley.
One of the largest holes in Mr Lansley’s proposed system is said to be a lack of democratic accountability. The LibDems’ demand for directly elected members of PCTs was part of the coalition agreement in May last year. But two months later the White paper simply abolished PCTs from April 2013.
At present the Bill makes GP consortiums all powerful – free from any democratic checks and balances. On the other hand, if consortiums are organisationally weak, it’s thought effective control of the NHS in some areas could pass back to hospitals.
The consortium covering Marlborough is not yet ready to go public. Its make-up and policy will be watched very keenly after the long controversy over the closure of the minor injuries unit at Savernake Hospital.
Mr Barron told Marlborough News Online: “The GPs in Marlborough were offered the opportunity to provide minor injury services for Marlborough, but declined.
"I don’t envisage that the first priority for any GP consortium will be the re-commissioning of a service which was deemed to be both clinically and financially unviable.”
Banners and bunting, a splendid tea party for children, hot hog roast and evening barn dance for adults plus plenty of beer and fizz to celebrate in bonanza fashion.
That’s how Marlborough, which has its own personal link to the historic event at Westminster Abbey, will define the royal wedding on April 29.
And at Marlborough College, where royal bride Kate Middleton was a student before heading for university romance with Prince William, there is going to be a special Royal Lunch, followed by a Royal Fete in the grounds.
A group of today’s students will then make a bid to raise thousands of pounds for charities, at home and abroad, to help those less fortunate.
“I am rather hoping it will be a great day to remember, a major event for Marlborough,” said the mayor, Councillor Andy Ross, as his year in office comes to a close. “Certainly I shall be going out on a real high point.”
The mayor approached the College initially, in the hope that it might throw a children’s tea party, as it has done on other royal occasions, in particular at coronations.
“But they are having their own events and their resources were limited in the way they could help Marlborough Town Council,” he explained. “So the council is under-writing the celebrations to the tune of up to £5,000.
“We hope we won’t have to dig too deep into our finances as there will be some money-making opportunities on the wedding day that will help to defray some of the costs. I am always delighted to receive help from any source, the traders, local organisations, anyone.
“We realise the traders are under economic pressure at this time and may be cautious in coming forward, but we shall be grateful for whatever they can do.”
Already Tesco is providing sandwiches and Waitrose cakes for the children’s tea party, and Greggs are baking sausage rolls for the evening barn dance, where there will be special beers from the Ramsbury Brewery and fizzy wines offered by local firms.
Blue and gold banners are being made to decorate the town, especially at Priory Gardens, where the council is hiring a huge marquee for the occasion. The mayor will arrive in his robes to greet the primary schoolchildren, some 600 at primary schools each receiving a commemorative royal wedding medal to mark the occasion.
Entertainment yet to be arranged will add to the glow when the evening event takes off, the hog roast and barbecue being provided by the Austrian Count Konrad de Geothe, proprietor of Temple Farm, near Rockley.
But the celebrations will begin long before that.
“We shall be opening up Marlborough town hall at 10am on the morning of the wedding and inviting people to see the event on our new five-metre projection system,” revealed town clerk Liam Costello.
“There will be space for up to 180 people. It’s a free event. And there will be refreshments too. It is so important that the town does something to celebrate this royal occasion.
The Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) that covers Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and the former Avon area, looks set to get bigger still. GWAS has announced that its preferred partner for a merger is the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWAST.)
GWAS has been looking for a way to consolidate its organisation so it can become a Foundation Trust – as the government requires. But the service’s financial situation was not considered robust enough to make the change to Foundation Trust status.
Last month GWAS said that it was looking for a suitable partner. Union members in GWAS had been worried that the potential partner might be a private organisation.
So within the year, there could be one ambulance service covering the area from the Cotswolds to the Scilly Isles.
To help explore how the two services could form a single ambulance trust, the chief executive of SWAST, Ken Wenman, will become interim chief executive of GWAS next month. He replaces Martin Flaherty who had been interim chief executive until he returned to his post with the London Ambulance Service at the beginning of this month.
GWAS was formed five years ago. It employs 1,680 staff and runs thirty ambulance stations serving a population of 2,400,000. It recently announced that it had only delivered £4.5million of its £6.9million savings target.
James Gray, the MP for North Wiltshire (shown left during a day spent with a GWAS ambulance), has expressed great concern about a merger calling it “an unwanted bean-counter-driven amalgamation”: "I simply do not believe that 'Big' is necessarily 'Beautiful' in ambulance terms".
"I strongly opposed the creation of the Great Western Ambulance Service only five years ago, on the grounds that it would make the service available to my constituents worse, not better. That has been proved to be the case. Our ambulances tend to be called into the hospitals in Bath, Bristol and Swindon, and then to be given further tasks from there, diminishing the service locally here in Wiltshire."
"It is my strong view that if the Great Western Ambulance Service is now to amalgamate with – for example – the South Western service, creating an ambulance service stretching from Cheltenham to the Scillies, from Bournemouth to Western-Super-Mare, from Cricklade to Dartmouth, then we would lose our local service altogether."
"Instead, I think that we should look at sharing back office functions to reduce the overhead, or perhaps to encourage the Wiltshire Ambulance Service to do what they can to work even closer with the Wiltshire Fire and Police Services. That would increase localism as well as cutting costs."
A recent National Audit Office report on the nation’s ambulance services found that while GWAS’ response times are good, they are amongst the most expensive in terms of cost per call out and came ninth out eleven ambulance trusts in the percentage of their budget (61 per cent) spent on frontline services.