Graham Rivers - newly elected chairman of the Marlborough International Jazz FestivalA high flying chief executive of companies across the UK, Europe and America has been elected chairman of Marlborough’s International Jazz Festival in a shake-up of its top team.
Graham Rivers (pictured) has taken over from Susie Fisher, who has held the post for the past three years, to keep it one beat ahead and ensure its future in the tough economic times facing the country.
He is a 60-year-old former executive at board level with sales and marketing expertise in a career with international technology and management service companies dating back to 1975, who describes himself as “allegedly retired.”
And in an exclusive interview with Marlborough News Online he praised Nick Fogg, the festival’s founder, and declared: “What he created has endured and evolved where others have fallen by the wayside.”
“Marlborough itself is a world known brand and identity which can be built up further through the web, social and digital media to reach an even bigger audience and attract more visitors to the event.”
Guitar-playing Mr Rivers, who lives in Chiseldon, added: “What I hope I can bring to the party is the experience and understanding I have gained and an affinity with music and entertainment from what I have been doing in recent years. And that will help to develop what is a very successful event anyway.”
“I want to bring a little more experience and time to help the festival move on in the tough economic times ahead. And I am looking forward to it.”
Paying tribute to Susie Fisher, Nick Fogg, twice Marlborough’s mayor, who was elected festival organiser, said: “Susie has done a great job as chairman.”
“She has led a disparate team of individuals with aplomb and good humour and has always ensured that the numbers match -- a vital task in a festival where the finances can easily run out of control.”
“It's good that she's staying on the committee with a special role relating to sponsorship. We need her experience and abilities.”
And after the executive reshuffle on Tuesday, Susie, who followed Brian Ashley as chairman after serving on the executive for more than six years, said: “During these last three years we have successfully put together a strong volunteer committee that has vastly improved the overall organization and operation of the Festival.”
“After three years as chairman, I feel it is time to step aside so someone with new ideas and different skills can step in. I am certain we have found that person in Graham Rivers. I love Marlborough and the Jazz Festival and have volunteered to continue working on the committee in whatever capacity they feel I can be helpful.”
“As a charity, sponsorship is very important and I'm starting there.”
Despite his peripatetic career, Mr Rivers, who was born in Hilperton, near Trowbridge, has maintained a home for 18 years in Chiseldon for his wife and only daughter, who now lives in Canada.
He describes his music interests as catholic, including classical and opera, but has a special liking for traditional jazz. “If I’ve really got a sweet spot, it’s the blues,” he revealed. “I played the guitar badly and used to play the clarinet as a kid.”
“With the guitar I can sit and strum quite happily to myself. And I find that quite soothing and enjoyable according to what the frustrations of the day may have been.”
He has concerns about the way jazz is defined, Amy Winehouse, classified as a jazz singer but seen by young people as a pop entertainer.
“There is a question of understanding what an amazing performer she was, a question of definition,” he pointed out. “The trouble with the entertainment business is that it is sold as a commercial product when, in fact, it is something very special.”
“In some ways perhaps that’s because, if you look through any dictionary of quotations, music appears so many times and is usually linked either to a romantic engagement or to some form of inspiration.”
“So dear old Shakespeare is quoted so very many times – ‘If music be the food of love play’ but not the rest of the quotation, ‘Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die’.”
“What I chuckle about is Samuel Pepys. One of his diary entries said, ‘Music and women – two things I cannot but give way to, whatever my business…’.”
Nevertheless, the sharp end of the economy remains in his sights.
“What has happened in the broadest sense is the creation of an excess of debt,” he said. “We all get overweight, so we’ve got to slim down, we’ve all go on diet and we will come through the recession OK.”
“We have to recognise too that money is tight for people as we continue to build on what the Jazz Festival is all about, which is delivering a fantastic array of music and bands to people at a very fair price and with open access to everyone.”
Marlborough, the only market town in Wiltshire without its own CCTV system, is to consider the introduction of a start-up scheme of four high quality digital cameras to cover the High Street at an initial cost of £20,000.
A report promised last October, which was presented to the Town Council on Monday, revealed that the council has had the subject on its agenda for 11 years but that the crime rate in Marlborough has always been historically low.
It revealed that in Salisbury the manned CCTV system cost £60,000 a year to run while other towns relied on an army of volunteers to monitor their CCTV system to keep down costs but still faced rent and rates on a property from which to manage the system.
“Obviously Marlborough cannot run such a system because it would mean a huge hike in the council’s precept, which of course none of us want,” Councillor Noel Barrett-Morton told councillors.
“So we seek a system that will give us high definition pictures that the police need. It is possible to install a start-up scheme with just four cameras in the High Street. This small but quality system could be added to as and when finance becomes available and give the council reasonable flexibility.”
“Camera pictures could be beamed into the council offices and, with Home Office approval, picked up on computers at the police station, where they can monitor the situation.”
Now a working party considering the implementation of CCTV is to provide a detailed report at next month’s full council meeting.
Police Inspector Ron Peach, who attended the meeting, supported the need for a CCTV system, pointing out: “It has to be of high quality with pictures produced being available for use as evidence we can proceed on”.
“It is well documented the deterrent effect that CCTV has in reducing crime and social disorder for fear of being caught and also the evidence of culpability after the event.”
However, as the Mayor, Councillor Edwina Fogg, interjected, there was a need too for a “big debate” on the concept of CCTV, emotional counter arguments existing on what others have described as a “Big Brother” approach.
“There is a whole debate going on out there about the absolute case for a CCTV system. I think we really have got to look into this in far greater detail.”
The report, written by Tory Councillor Marion Hannaford-Dobson, who set up the working party of three councillors, referred in particular to outside gangs of thieves and pickpockets had identified Marlborough as a vulnerable town.”
“Residential, commercial burglary and theft from trade vans are far easier because Marlborough has no records of vehicles entering or leaving the town,” said the report.
“There is evidence of travelling shoplifting and pickpocket gangs from London, Bristol, Manchester, some even from much further afield. These unwanted visitors then pass on information to other shoplifting and pickpocket colleagues exactly which communities are not protected by CCTV.”
Waitrose, which is Marlborough’s biggest business and has its own internal CCTV, introduced security guards in May after its wine and spirits section in particular was hit by shoplifters.
“There has been a significant reduction in thefts since then,” manager Richard Clare told Marlborough News Online. “Criminals do become aware that we are much better protected.”
Cars parked in Marlborough’s residential streets are becoming the victim of an increasing number of petrol thefts, police warned this week.
While the town remains a safe place to live, Police Inspector Ron Peach told the town council on Monday: “There has been an increase in thefts from motor vehicles around the town, particularly the theft of fuel from motor vehicles.”
“Some of these offences have involved people drilling petrol caps and draining them and others have been siphoning off petrol. There has been an increase in this type of offence. I guess as austerity hits and people get tired of petrol price increases we shall have to accept more of this kind of thing.”
He revealed that vehicles parked in residential streets were under threat with two incidents in particular in Castle Court, Marlborough, and added: “Everyone needs to keep their eyes and ears open and feed back any information they have to local officers so that they can try to deal with it.”
He reported a rise too above any residual level of thefts of machinery from rural sites. A barn in Burbage had been burgled and a quad bike and motorcycle trailer stolen.
The thieves had also attacked an antique safe used for storing “bits and pieces” with an acetylene torch found on the premises.
“These people are determined individuals,” said Inspector Peach. “We all need to be alert to this sort of crime. That’s where personal CCTV for those kind of offences can be helpful.”
“A picture can be worth a thousand words, an image can go a long way to solving those sorts of crimes.”
Panellists and chair of the Summer School Question Time, L to R - Giselle Cory, Crispin Blunt MP, Louise Bazalgette, Michael Kallenbach (chair), Claire Fox, Andrew PierceThe second of Marlborough College Summer School’s ground-breaking political question times saw many more contributions from the audience. But the audience was a bit depleted by rival summer school attractions – and by that man Usain Bolt.
Marlborough College Summer School Question Time Panel on stageUnsurprisingly, the first question was about gold medals versus grass roots participation in sport. “We have been inspired”, came the cry. “Why aren’t political leaders responding?”
In about the same time as it takes a Jamaican to cover 200 metres, Crispin Blunt MP, minister for prisons, probation and youth justice, destroyed the notion of instant policy making: “It’s the worst kind of politics to make policy on the hoof because of two weeks of success…that’s a rotten way to make policy.”
From the audience, it was gently pointed out to Mr Blunt that they had had seven years to consider policies in the light of London staging the Games. Also from the audience, Summer School organiser Jon Copp said the Games had shown there was a “wonderful array of sports open to young people.” His game was hockey and his team was playing while they were debating.
Andrew PierceChair Michael KallenbachAndrew Pierce, political columnist from the Daily Mail, explained that the sports minister was the “Cinderella of government”: “I’m thrilled to see Team GB doing so well – but let’s give those kids in the comprehensives more of a chance to do well.”
Blunt and Pierce were joined on the panel by Louise Bazalgette (from think tank Demos), Giselle Cory (from think tank The Resolution Foundation) and Claire Fox (director of the Institute of Ideas). In the chair was Michael Kallenbach from Mildenhall and from a career as a political journalist.
Next in the frame was Mayor of London, Boris Johnson – would he be the next leader of the Conservative Party? Mr Blunt would not consider the question – there was “No vacancy”. The others were quick to comment.
Louise Bazalgette thought Mr Johnson’s Olympic zip-wire stunt might not be what it seemed: “I actually think the role of Mayor is very different to that of leader of the party or country.” Andrew Pierce warned the audience: “Don’t rule him out. Quick as a flash he’ll be back as an MP. Project Dave are getting increasingly nervous about Boris – so they should.”
Claire FoxClaire Fox hated politics being reduced to personalities. But Boris seemed to know how to appeal to people – a taxi driver had recently assured her that he was “not like all these posh gits”.
We were going to be left with the picture of a Boris who probably spends half-an-hour every morning making sure his hair is “shambolic” and that it might be time for the Conservatives to choose another “blonde bombshell.”
However, we got into a heated debate as to whether our politicians represent the real world. Andrew Pierce said “George Osborne has never had a real job – and is not doing a good job now.” Adding that all three party leaders had “never lived in the real world.”
Crispin Blunt“That is trite”, Crispin Blunt shot back, “We all live in the real world.” And how were Team GB’s men’s hockey team doing in the real world?
Next was a question about Louise Mensch’s resignation as an MP so she could spend more time with the husband – who lives in New York. Or was it, as one panellist suggested, more that as a mother of three she “couldn’t hack it in Parliament”. Andrew Pierce said Ms Mensch had let down her party and abandoned people in her constituency who had worked for her.
Was this about a political personality or about an important issue? Giselle Cory said it highlighted the wider problem: “Women cannot afford to get into work.” And Claire Fox supported her: “My solution is about child care. We’ve gone too far down the family friendly work place route” – it should not about flexible working conditions.
Giselle CoryBut in the end this question turned on David Cameron’s “absurd” policy for an A-list of candidates in an effort to get a wider intake of MPs. Claire Fox: “The A-list was really, really irresponsible.”
Andrew Pierce stuck his neck out with a very relevant forecast: “The next leader of the Labour Party will be a working woman – Yvette Cooper.” And, Andrew, a working mother.
Louise BazalgetteThere followed some ritual criticism of Nick Clegg while the panel considered whether the coalition would survive the dropping of House of Lords reform. And some ritual slagging off of state education by people who do not appear to have been in many real state schools – certainly not in this town.
Altogether two stimulating question time sessions. And a worthy experiment for the Summer School. Talking to people afterwards it was clear they wanted the sessions to become a fixture on the Summer School programme.
And the result of Jon Copp’s favourite hockey team? While all that hot air was being generated in the College Memorial Hall, they lost to the Netherlands 2-9. There’s always Rio and mostly Team GB’s inspiring not drowning.
Carved figure on the St Mary's Church War MemorialA working party to delve into the names of Marlborough’s heroes named on the town’s war memorials is due to be set up by the Town Council when it meets on Monday.
And it will hope to solve the mystery of why different names appear in three different memorials, those that might have been left off, and those that are maybe erroneous.
It follows a plea to the council from an as yet unnamed family who wishes the name of a so far unnamed uncle to have his name added to the war memorial at the A346/Barn Street roundabout.
But Councillor Andrew Ross, who has a passionate interest in Marlborough’s history, is concerned that before adopting any policy to add names, there should be an investigation as to who exactly is commemorated at the moment.
“I understand where this family is coming from and their desire for recognition,” he told Marlborough News Online. “But it would be wholly wrong to add one isolated name at this moment. I know of no war memorial where a new name has been added.”
“There is in fact a strange collection of names on our war memorials at the roundabout and in St Mary’s church and St Peter’s church. Some are clearly correctly there, others not so.”
“It is something of a mystery that needs to be solved. There are possibly as many as 25 people who are missing if you compare the names on the memorials for the first and second world wars.”
An edited letter the council received last month states: “I am writing to request that my late uncle’s name be added to the Marlborough war memorial. He lived in and around Marlborough all his life and his address was ***** when he was killed.”
“My aunt informs me that this building has since been demolished, although it was part of ***** in 1944. I have done extensive research on the surrounding war memorials, but there is no record of him anywhere.”
“My aunt believes the correct location for any memorial to him should be the main memorial in Marlborough. I am grateful for anything that can be done so that his sacrifice is not forgotten. It would also be wonderful if this could be achieved in my aunt’s lifetime as she is my last remaining relative from that generation.”
London Road War MemorialSt Mary's Church War MemorialThe main memorial shows 19 names of those who were killed in World War I on a side panel (pictured) while there are but 13 names on the memorial in nearby St Mary’s (pictured) and a different number at St Peter’s.
“Whether this is due to the fact that records were not well recorded at the time but the fact is that some names have just not been recorded,” added Councillor Ross, a retired accountant working on a history of the town, who chairs the council’s finance committee.
“We need to set up a working party to study the subject and I suggest I should sit on it. It may take a little time to solve the mystery of our war memorial names but it is something we do need to do.”
Dr Patrick HazlewoodPraise for his sixth form students came today (Thursday) from Dr Patrick Hazlewood, headmaster of St John’s, Marlborough, as it rejoiced in spectacular A level results.
With 53 per cent of grades achieved at A* to B, Dr Hazlewood confirmed that he was delighted with the performances of many individual students and the Sixth Form as a whole.
And he told Marlborough News Online: “This is one of the best performances that the school has achieved and it is the result of very hard work on behalf of both students and teachers”.
Another very successful summer for St John’s students sees them now well set in the fight for university places.
Following on from the school’s best ever International Baccalaureate results received in July, more students than ever have achieved top grades at A-level.
This year’s high achieving students at A-level include Katie Mills with three A* grades and an additional two A grades at AS level and Dan Jones with three A* grades plus an A at A-level.
Dan is off to Cambridge to read Computer Science whilst Katie will take a year out before applying to university.
Other students achieving at least three A* or A grades are Andrew Butler, Sam Chapman, Leo Dennis, Andrew Elia, Josh Eustace, Charlotte Farrell, George Fry, Oliver Hudson, Sam Keith, Emmie Price-Goodfellow, Dave Reynolds and Jack Smith.
Lionel Grundy, the Wiltshire Council cabinet member for children’s services, told Marlborough News Online: “I would like to offer my congratulations to all those who have received their results today and I am delighted that so many young people have done so well.
“To gain these results young people have worked extremely hard throughout their studies and it is also a tribute to the support and guidance they have received from their teachers, lecturers and those around them, all of which will have contributed to this success.”
Carolyn Godfrey, corporate director for children and education, said: “The feedback we have received to date confirms there are some outstanding individual and school results and it is fantastic to hear about the achievements of many young people across all the qualification pathways.
“While these performances reflect individual skills and talents of young people, they also reflect the high quality teaching in the schools and colleges. I would like to congratulate the students and thank all those who have supported them to secure their achievements.
“There is a range of support on hand if young people require further advice and guidance regarding their next steps. The schools, Wiltshire College and Ucas helpline all have advisers and a wide range of information on hand to support young people.”
The Ucas website (www.ucas.ac.uk) has lots of advice available for young people who have received their A Level results today including information on clearing and options available to them. On Twitter it is advising applicants to follow @ucas_online and @ucasclearing to get up-to-date information.
A new planning application displayed on inaccessible lamp postMarlborough town councillors clashed yet again with Marlborough College last night (Monday) when the Planning Committee recorded its unanimous opposition to proposals for a new Puffin crossing within yards of the College’s immaculate gates.
They declared the plans “invalid” because they failed to reveal all the information posted on lamp posts, which include cutting a hole in the listed College boundary wall and widening the already narrow pavement.
And they blamed Wiltshire Council for the errors – and the College for submitting an erroneous report from consultants claiming that the town council approved the plans.
“This is going to be a nightmare for the people living there,” protested former mayor Councillor Nick Fogg, one of Marlborough’s two Wiltshire councillors. “This has been a big cock up by Wiltshire.”
The row follows in the wake of the town council’s objections to the College buying the nearby Ivy House Hotel, now in the process of conversion into a hostel for 60 girl students at the College, where the Duchess of Cambridge was a student.
It is for them that the College is seeking a safe entry into its grounds despite the fact that there are two Pelican crossings further down the Bath Road specifically for the use of students.
The situation is further embarrassing for the College as Councillor Margaret Rose, who chairs the Planning Committee, is an employee of the College and had to leave the council chamber while colleagues roared their opposition.
The Ivy House Hotel swathed in scaffolding as work proceeds on its conversion“This town supports the people,” declared Councillor Marion Hannaford-Dobson, who pointed out that the town council had twice before objected to similar proposals. “The College is in the town. The town is not in the College.”
Councillor Stewart Dobson, leader of the council’s Tory group, agreed. “They can’t possibly have three crossings within such a short space. It is desperately unfair on the people who live in the west end of the town and will cause total traffic confusion.”
But it was Councillor Fogg who led the fray by revealing that the planning application before the committee – for a controlled Puffin crossing with footpath widening at the junction with Bridewell Street – was not the same as that posted on lamp posts, which also showed plans to breach the College’s listed boundary wall.
A resident had pointed this out to Wiltshire last Thursday and received an admission that an error had been made. New details had been posted and this alone made the whole process “invalid”, insisted Councillor Fogg.
He raised other issues including the disturbing noise made at night by Pelican/Puffin crossings and potential serious danger of a juggernaut jumping the pavement, as well as extending back to the High Street/Pewsey Road junction and causing traffic chaos.
He read to from a report submitted to Wiltshire by consultants hired by the College saying : “It has been an objective of the council to provide a pedestrian crossing arrangement in Bridewell Street.”
And he added: “Well I don’t recall that at all. The College has a wonderful capacity for producing consultants to say what they pay for. This case is no exception.”
It was estimated that some 1,400 people would use the Bridewell crossing, many at peak times when commuters were driving in and out of Marlborough yet the space available for them to stand on the pavement was limited.
“I think the Guinness Book of Records should be notified about this because there is no place for them to stand,” he protested.
“We have to put all these points in as part of a massive objection. We have an obligation to protest as vociferously as possible.”
Travellers parked on College MeadowPolice announced this morning (Friday) that they can take no action against travellers who encamped at around 6pm last night on a sports playing field alongside the Memorial Hall in the grounds of Marlborough College.
“It is private land and the College is dealing with it,” Police Inspector Ron Peach told Marlborough News Online. “The College is seeking legal advice.”
“We are aware that it happened and that there are 12 vehicles parked on the field. We can only act if they cause some damage or any offence is committed.”
The travellers are believed to have been evicted from an illegal site in Newbury and were monitored moving across the county border into Wiltshire by Thames Valley Police, who warned Wiltshire Police of their presence.
A police car drove on to the site late yesterday afternoon and officers talked to the travellersThe playing field, used last week by those attending the Marlborough College Summer School for parking, is usually where students at the independent public school play hockey, rugby and lacrosse.
Jonathan Leigh, the new Master of the College, who moved in only last week, told the BBC: "We are pursuing all legal steps to remove these people as soon as possible."
One witness said: “Horses grazing on the land are clearly visible from A4. Security Guards now blocking gateway in and on duty checking but I wonder how quickly they’ll be able to get them off.”
Courtney Goodwin, a passer by said "I first noticed the ponies chomping at the lacrosse pitch, then saw all the caravans round the edge of the field and the police vehicles parked outside the main gate. Didn't look like nomal Summer School activity."
A convoy of a dozen caravans were first spotted on the road to Beckhampton before they doubled back on to the Bath Road and drove straight through the gates of the College, whose famous pupils in the past have included the Duchess of Cambridge and other members of royal family.
Ponies grazing on the College's lush turfThey are now parked on the far side of the field and their horses, dogs and children have been seen playing in the field.
Friday afternoon: a local resident reported seeing several more vans attempting to enter the college premises, but being blocked from doing so by College security staff with Police in attendance. One long caravan being towed by a Transit tipper truck, unable to turn into the college because of the blockage, was seen attempting a three-point turn on the A4 at the Manton crossroads.
The travellers are reported to have told Wiltshire Police they intend to move on "no later than Sunday".
One of the travellers ponies enjoys a run
Benjamin Lloyd (RC of Tewkesbury), Rory Watson (RC of Swindon Thamesdown), Liam Steel and Molly Reid (Marlborough and District Rotary Club)Inspiration from the golden Olympic Games is not the only way to inspire people to take up challenges in tough times – a youth leadership scheme supported by Marlborough Rotary Club has also just proved its worth.
Two teenage students, back from an intensive, six-day course at the Dean Field Studies Centre, in the Forest of Dean, have revealed how their confidence has been boosted thanks to Rotary Youth Leadership Awards.
Molly Reid, 18, and Liam Steele, 17, have now been presented with certificates of achievement after taking part in activities ranging from abseiling and canoeing to speaking in public and self-assessment.
“It was really hard going with long days, which was not what I expected,” Molly, a student at St John’s, Marlborough, now working at Waitrose while hoping to go to university, told Marlborough News Online.
“I had to stand up and make a speech before the 39 other teenagers on the course. I had never done that before. That alone definitely improved my self-confidence. The course was very well worth doing.”
And Liam, a student in his first year at Swindon’s New College, where he is studying public services, was equally impressed. “It really helped me and boosted my confidence,” he said.
“I’m very glad I took the course after hearing about the leadership awards from a neighbour, who is a Rotarian.”
Howard Small, president of Marlborough Rotary, pointed out that the leadership awards scheme, has been running locally since 2004, a total of 16 students being sent on previous courses at a cost of around £500 each.
It was but one of a number of charities and causes that the 38 members of the club supported and raised funds for.
One of the club’s notable successes was raising £3,000 last year to help victims of the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand, where Marlborough has strong links with its namesake town.
“The students do come back from the course very changed,” Mr Small, a building surveyor, told Marlborough News Online.
“The results of the training experience are dramatic and have a lasting impact on young people.
In the war that’s broken out between some of Britain’s dairy farmers and the big dairy processors something’s got to give. Either we pay more for our milk, or the processors get less, or farmers are forced out of business.
The crisis has not gone away, it’s just taking an August break from its place in the headlines. A voluntary code of conduct for milk contracts has to be completed within weeks and the cuts in prices paid by the processors and some supermarkets have almost all been cancelled or postponed.
Farmers are still demonstrating outside milk processing plants. They obviously think the crisis will return soon – and they’ll be hit in the end with cuts to the price at which they sell their milk.
Tom Maidment and some of his Holstein heifersTom Maidment’s family have been dairy farming in the Vale of Pewsey since 1887. They have lived through ups and downs in milk production and Tom takes the long view on the current crisis in the prices paid to farmers by the big milk producers.
He believes it’s a perennial problem. He remembers his father telling him how, before the war, he’d get an annual post card summoning him to London to sign the contract to sell his milk to United dairies’ plant near Paddington.
No negotiation – take it or leave it. If he wanted his milk to leave Pewsey station each day and get a monthly cheque from United Dairies, he had to sign the contract. And if he didn’t sign, United Dairies almost certainly had a drawer full of alternative dairy farmers willing to sign.
Those were hard times – his father took over the farm during the 1930s slump. Then came the war and the post-war Labour government’s legislation to stop the nation ever having to import food again – learning the war’s dire lessons – and the birth of the statutory monopoly of the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) which brought stability to dairy farming.
The MMB vanished when the Tory minister Gillian Sheppard refused to legislate to maintain its monopoly. It was replaced by a nationwide co-operative which the dairy farmers’ other political villain, Labour’s Stephen Byers, ruled to be uncompetitive.
“Since the MMB went, farmers haven’t had enough strength in the market place.” But it was not all bad news. Out of that double display of politicians failing to support farmers, there emerged in the south of England a co-operative called Milk Link. It is a flourishing co-operative with a membership of 1,500 British farmers.
As a member of this co-operative, Tom is largely insulated from the present cuts in the price paid for milk. He gets 27p per litre and he accepts that the co-operative has to take a premium to invest in its future and keep its equipment up to date.
There are three dairy farms around the village of Wilcot. Tom has five hundred cows in his pure-bred Holstein herd. Of these about one hundred and eighty are in milk at any one time.
Unlike arable farmers who sow and reap well within a twelve month cycle, dairy farmers have to invest ahead. It takes three years from insemination to rear a calf and get it into milk.
Looking at the industry as a whole, Tom says there are still “Enormously powerful milk buyers, under enormous pressure from retailers, putting unsustainable pressure on farmers.” And he cannot understand the increasing profit on milk sales taken by the retailers.
In 1996 retailers’ profit on milk averaged 2.6p per litre. It’s now about 13p per litre. And over that time farmers’ costs – in electricity, cattle feed, bedding, vets’ fees and so on – have risen massively. “I don’t”, says Tom, “see why the fundamentals of this tussle should change.”
For most dairy farmers, buyers will still write contracts and set prices. Will the promised code of conduct change things enough?
The current crisis was said to be caused by the fall in the world price for cream. This is vital to processors because the more low fat milk we buy, the more cream they have to extract from whole milk and the more cream they need to sell on to meet their business plans.
There is some scepticism about the claims by some supermarkets that they pay their farmers well and look after them. Many of their contracts demand a fixed amount of milk every day of the year. This forces farmers to change calving regimes and keep cows inside for more of the year – which forces their costs up considerably.
Just over the horizon there may be change on the way. In 2015 the EU’s national production quotas will disappear and countries will be able to produce as much milk as they want. Already the Republic of Ireland, with its long established and secure base of co-operatives, is planning to step up its milk production.
Britain has lost about twenty thousand dairy farms since 1996 and produces well below its annual EU quota of fourteen billion litres. Some people forecast another four thousand dairy farms may be lost soon. Giving farmers a fair return so they can invest in herds and equipment should be a political aim if in the future we are not due to import much more of our milk.
However, if that all sounds pessimistic, Tom and is wife Molly are “fairly positive” about the future of British farming. It was during the 1970s and 1980s with the surpluses and the Common market’s various food ‘mountains’, that British farming “lost its zing”: “The tide changed – as it does.”
Now it’s changing again: during the current recession they’ve seen a real increase in interest amongst young people in farming as a career. “Young people are becoming positive about farming again.”
The national unemployment figures out this week (August 15) brought some good news. They are not yet at gold, silver or even bronze levels – but they have taken a turn for the better which some experts put down mainly to the number of temporary jobs connected to the Olympic Games.
The number of those unemployed across the nation fell by 46,000 to 2,560,000 in the three months to June. At eight per cent, it’s the lowest level since July 2011.
The July figures for the Devizes constituency showed very little movement. There were marginal decreases in those claiming benefit in the 25-49 and 50-and-over age groups. Those still unemployed in the 24-and-under group were slightly up, and those claiming jobseekers allowance for more than a year – the ‘long-term unemployed’ – showed no movement.
But the prospect for future movement in the jobs market within the constituency looked good with a significant increase in job vacancies.
Poster at Devizes Job CentreNationally, however, this month’s figures reinforced a worrying trend: the number of part-time workers jumped 71,000 to 8,070,000 – the highest total for twenty years. And a record 1,420,000 are in part-time jobs but want to be in full-time jobs.
There seems to be a rush to get people out of the claimant column into any level of part-time employment. This must be worrying the Treasury as the increase in part-time workers will inevitably hit both tax revenues and high street spending.
This was confirmed at the start of the month when figures for the first three months of the year showed UK households’ real spending power had fallen by 0.6 per cent as wages failed to keep abreast of rising prices.
Diana, one of the Bruce Trust's fleet of four canal boats People with disabilities visiting the Paralympic Games will have the chance to stay aboard the Bedwyn-based canal boat The Diana which will be moored near the Olympic Stadium. She’s one of the Bruce Trusts four specially adapted, purpose-built canal boats which normally give canal holidays for people with a wide range of disabilities.
The boat will be providing accommodation for visitors from all over the country. But first The Diana will have to get there. On Saturday (August 18) she will set off on the eighty-two mile journey from Bedwyn wharf to Stratford East.
Among those at Bedwyn wharf to see her start her unique journey at 11.30 a.m. will be the Chair of Wiltshire Council, Christine Crisp, and Marlborough’s Mayor Edwina Fogg, who is a Patron of East Wiltshire Mencap. During the voyage Rotary Clubs along the Kennet and Avon Canal will be crewing the boat and providing day trips to local groups of people with special needs.
The Diana, named in memory of the late Princess of Wales, is scheduled to arrive on her mooring, as near to the Olympic Stadium as security will allow, in time for the Paralympics’ Opening Ceremony on Wednesday, August 29. Bruce Trust volunteers will man her throughout the Games and a wide range of charities for disabled people have been invited to apply for low cost accommodation and entry tickets to the Paralympics.
Charges will be just £25 a night per person and The Diana can accommodate up to ten people including carers each night.
The Trust’s founder, David Bruce, explained: “This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not only attend the Paralympics but also to stay on one of our special boats in a unique location. The Diana is fully equipped and accessible for disabled visitors and we are only a few minutes wheelchair ride away from the main Olympic Stadium.”
The Bruce Trust was set up as a registered charity twenty-four years ago following the sale of Bruce’s Brewery and the Firkin Pubs. It has enabled 13,500 disabled people to enjoy a safe canal boat holiday.
Waitrose manager Richard ClareGrowth is back on agenda at Marlborough’s Waitrose supermarket – and it is not only thanks to the Olympics, the return of sunshine weather and people deciding to holiday at home this summer.
For at least two of the rare breed apple trees planted in the Waitrose car park five months ago are bearing fruit as genuine proof that Marlborough’s community orchard project hasn’t been hit by too much rain or the double-dip recession.
Waitrose manager Richard Clare, pictured alongside a rare 19th century apple tree from Buckinghamshire called Grenadier, is delighted.
That is because he helped the prepare the 200ft long apple tree beds on one side of the car park when the project was originated by the then branch manager Andy Davies and Philippa Davenport, creator of Marlborough’s Apple Day events.
“I was a trainee branch manager then,” he recalled. “We had 19 branch managers here all with their shoulders to the wheel preparing the ground. It’s going to take a couple of years for the trees to bed in.
“Then we will have a good crop. That will be a real bonus. And people can enjoy them.”
Meanwhile, there has been a welcome leap in sales at the supermarket, which has some 24,000 customers, coinciding with the launch of the Olympics and the return of good weather.
“There was some pent-up frustration for people,” Richard told Marlborough News Online. “So the barbecues were lit up at last. It was a great opportunity for people in Marlborough to celebrate a national event. That was a fantastic weekend for us.”
And with the sunshine back this weekend, he added: “We have also picked up a little that people are not going away on holiday. It looks like that they have either delayed going away because of the Olympics or are not going away at all.”
Whether holiday-at-home or not is part of the return in trading will be discovered when the Olympics come to an end. “Then we shall see what the legacy is and whether it can be sustained,” said Richard.
He is also pointing out to customers that Waitrose is not part of the row over the price of milk, which has left farmers protesting at cuts in their payments from some supermarket suppliers is forcing them to make a loss.
“Our policy on milk and being fair to the farmers hasn’t changed – we haven’t changed the price we pay our suppliers and we have maintained our prices, not raised them,” he explained.
“We are honouring our suppliers and very much fitting in and following the Waitrose way of treating people fairly. So that ultimately means farmers can plan their finances for the future and our customers can have faith in what we put on our shelves is sourced responsibly.
“We think that is very important in any business.”
Pauline Hawkins outside Knitty GrittyPauline Hawkins has been running Knitty Gritty in the centre of Pewsey for over thirteen years. Now she wants to retire and do something different and has put the shop up either for sale as an established business or to let as premises for another kind of shop.
She sells women’s clothes, gifts and cards, but it’s the clothes that customers say they will really miss. As one very satisfied and frequent customer told Marlborough News Online: “Pauline doesn't just stock smart-casual clothes for us women, she also stocks all the basic, everyday essentials you can't buy in Marlborough or anywhere else around here.”
Knitty Gritty is the area’s main stockist for Sloggi, Triumph and Naturana underwear and swimwear. Which leaves plenty of space for Aristoc, Viz-a-viz, Pretty Polly – and for that special gift – Bulaggi designer handbags.
With one of the best addresses in the village – 1 Market Place – Knitty Gritty has been developed by Pauline into a thriving business. Now she thinks “Someone with new enthusiasms and new ideas could take the business to a higher level.”
One of the reasons for her success is that she stocks a variety of goods: “If you specialise you’re not going to sell everyday.” In the short time we were in the shop to talk to Pauline, she had four customers checking out her stock.
Pauline was born and brought up in Pewsey, but moved to Pembrokeshire where her husband became a well-known and successful builder renovating farmhouses and building new homes. After eighteen years in Wales, the family moved back to Pewsey.
So far she’s had a couple of people interested in taking over the shop. But she says despite being ‘of a retirement age’, she’s not in any great hurry to retire.
Anyone interested in taking over Knitty Gritty can ‘phone the shop on 01672 564313.
1 Market Place, Pewsey
Anabel Loyd’s new book Picnic Crumbs is an anthology of anecdotes and amusing tales about picnics in many climes and many eras. It was published early last month when it was officially – as if we didn’t all know – “exceptionally wet and sunless”. Not a very suitable time for picnics, but this book provides plenty of opportunity for imaginary picnics away from our sodden summer.
It is seasoned with unusual, eye-catching illustrations by the figurative artist Peter Haslam Fox. It ends with an alphabet soup of sandwich fillings which includes green butter (coloured with spinach), udder sandwich (‘Take a young Udder and lard it with great lard…’), and kipper cheese paste (‘Pound six ounces of cold grouse debris with the same amount of gruyere cheese…’)
Anabel Loyd is the daughter of the late Sir Charles Morrison, Conservative MP for the Devizes constituency from 1964 to 1992, and his wife The Hon Sara Morrison. Her mother still lives in the area and has had a long career in public service – including her term as a founding director of Channel Four Television.
When she’s not travelling (we’ll come back to her itchy feet and her love of getting onto planes to go to new places), Anabel lives between London and Mildenhall and knows Wiltshire well. So it is not surprising that her book contains a good deal about writers, food and picnics connected with this area. Perhaps most notable is a recipe for Devizes Pie – we’ll come back to that too.
Anabel Loyd has lived in Hong Kong and in India. She’s worked for several charities in India – especially those concerned with children’s rights. She’s passionate about international aid and cannot understand how aid that’s being well used by a small charity can suddenly be cut: “There are really good things going on with money used properly – suddenly it’s gone – and that’s the end.”
Anabel Loyd at home in MildenhallShe has five children and is used to making large scale picnics. If it rains, as it’s wont to do when they’re on holiday in Scotland, they all adjourn to the kitchen. But Scotland’s not far enough for Anabel.
She just cannot stop travelling. Her haunts are mainly in Asia and North Africa and lately she’s been to some parts of South America. But she wants to travel to many more countries – though not all the family take to her idea of life in very basic hotels in Africa.
Anabel tells me she loves research. She wouldn’t mind, she says, being locked away in the British Library reading rooms. Her next project is an edition of the prolific journals of Lady Minto while she was in India with her husband who was Governor-General and Viceroy 1905-1910. After that she plans a family history.
It is her research that’s the basis and great strength of Picnic Crumbs. She’s found an amazing variety of stories and recipes – some from very surprising sources.
To give just a taste: it’s worth stretching the definition of picnic to include the 1800 review of the Hertfordshire Volunteers and Militia at Hatfield House – attended by King George III. Twenty-five tables of twenty-five places were laid on the front lawns with a bottle of port between two guests. There was enough beef, lamb, veal, hams, meat pies and ox tongues to feed a regiment. Washed down with more than 1,300 bottles of wine and butts of ale and small beer. Unfortunately the King went indoors for his lunch – perhaps he was feeling a bit odd – facing a lengthy menu laced with French culinary terms. A brilliant find by our author.
Then there’s Bertie Wooster not forgetting to pack “a couple of bottles of Bollinger and some old brandy” in his hamper. Mrs Beeton telling us how to make caviare sandwiches. And the Everest expedition of 1922 ordering one hundred and twenty tins of Harris’ sausages from the late and lamented Calne factory.
Anabel quotes Osbert Sitwell wondering whether Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’Herbe would have been heard of again had he called his painting Le Pique-Nique. One might also suggest that it might not have been heard of again had all the picnickers been wearing clothes. However on the evidence of this book, naked picnicking is not a very British pastime.
It is a wonderfully entertaining read – a bit of cook book, a lot of history, laced with literature, travel, adventure and a great deal of fun.
Then there’s Devizes Pie – from an 1836 recipe and a time well before CJD hit the meat trade: “Boil a calf’s head, cut it into very thin slices, with some of the brain. Add slices of pickled tongue, sweetbread, lamb, veal, a few slices of bacon, and some hard-boiled eggs…”
Picnic Crumbs – a Gathering of Picnics, Packed Lunches and Provision at Home and Abroad by Anabel Loyd (Polperro Heritage Press) £14.95.