Oedipus Electronica sizzles with dramatic tension and electricity as a playwright and her husband grapple with the loss of a child that has cast an immense shadow over their thirty year marriage. The play is a tale of love and loss, heartache and fear, set in the underworld of inner-city London. It’s a psychological thriller. Complete with live band, Oedipus Electronica is a modern take on the ancient Greek myth.
Mella Faye gives a mesmerising performance as Jocasta. She also wrote and directs the play. Direction is excellent. She is creative, highly strung, vulnerable with her husband but takes control and commands respect when presented with Oedipus (Ryan David Harston. ) The creative process of writing is audibly depicted to great effect, a swirling of ideas and voices that keep the audience on edge and Jocasta chained to her laptop.
Story and reality blur in the second half when Jocasta’s play takes shape, a form of meta fiction. Greek tragedy unfolds in which a young man reaches for a better life that is almost within his grasp. Echoes of Jean Paul Sartre’s ‘No Way Out’ threaten to engulf Jocasta.
Laius immerses himself in Jocasta’s grief without losing his sense of self. Oedipus makes a voyage of self-discovery towards inner sight.
Oedipus represents an army of lost children in inner cities, powerless and alone. There is no home-coming, and moments of joy are eclipsed by shards of pain and poor decision-making in the heat of the moment. Like Jocasta he is complex, inhabiting two worlds.
Often frantic in pace, Oedipus injects a lot of frustration and blind rage, he is troubled, lost and trapped, yet on the brink of a new beginning. Laius brings humanity, compassion and stability to the creatives. You feel safer when he is around. Kwame Bentil is the loving father and husband, suppressing his own anguish to support his wife.
Every inch of the set is used and it adapts with the play. It’s sparse and the live band are on stage throughout, heightening emotion with their highly charged score: Tom Penn playing keyboards and double bass and Don Bird on drums. Lighting is no mean feat and adds to the atmosphere, changing the mood on the set every five minutes or so. Clare O’Donoghue and Tanya Stephenson designed the lighting and Samuel Bell makes it all happen as the programmer.
It’s the second Greek tragedy to be reworked by Pecho Mama: the first was Medea Electronica. A visceral performance which is hard to watch, the play puts you in touch with primal instincts and is true to the Greek myth, yet placed in a modern context to make it accessible to a 21st century audience.
I recommend this original production – it is not for the faint-hearted, certificate 15. Loss, anguish, abandonment, carnal desire and powerlessness run like a current and play games with reality. It’s about grief and letting go, as well as the cathartic power of writing to exorcise your soul of inner demons. The very survival of Jocasta’s psyche is at risk. The play is dedicated to every parent who has lost a child.
The Old Market, Wednesday 15th November 2023
Oedipus Electronica runs until Sat 18th Nov, tickets available here
Photos by Cameron Carver
A small fire broke out on the footbridge of Hove station and was reported to Southern Rail at about 5.30am on Tuesday 15 August. A spokesperson from Southern said East Sussex Fire Service attended and extinguished the fire within a few minutes. Operation of the station and train services were not affected.
A Southern Rail staff member, who opened up Hove Station at 3am, said the fire took place on the footbridge where there is no CCTV between 2am and 5am. She said the station, “just smelt of smoke. You could smell it from the bottom of the road” at the junction with George St.
The fire is the second incident of antisocial behaviour in the last ten days. The Hove Station newsagent, had some magazines stolen in two boxes and comics were removed. He thinks it was a late-night prank by young people. The newsagent said: “There’s no rhyme or reason to it. They did it just for a laugh, you know. The station is unmanned at night. Anyone can come in here. The doors are shut from 1am until 5am.”
Samantha Facey, Govia Thameslink Railway’s Safety, Health and Security Director, said: “We know from other organisations that youth disorder is a community issue being experienced across West Sussex. Incidents of anti-social behaviour have been more common across the county since the start of school summer holidays.
“Our teams of Travel Safe Officers and Rail Enforcement Officers continue to support the efforts of our policing partners, schools and social services as we work together to tackle this issue.”
A spokesperson from Southern Rail said that Hove Station does not have a high incidence of antisocial behaviour compared to other stations along the coast.
Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum has been campaigning for CCTV on the footbridge next to Hove Station for several years now. Brighton and Hove Council allocated £250,000 in 2022-23 and the same amount next year, 2023-24, amounting to half a million pounds to make the footbridge safer for rail passengers and other residents of the neighbourhood in their five year budget. The footbridge remains in need of urgent refurbishment and very little work at all has yet been undertaken.
Network Rail, which owns the footbridge, has been approached for comment and said Brighton Council is responsible for repairs including CCTV. Mike Gibson, Chair of the Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum said CCTV should be linked to the existing CCTV in the station and monitored by station staff before the ticket offices close.
A spokesperson for Southern Rail said: “We will always welcome practical proposals to improve safety and security around our stations for local communities, our passengers and colleagues.”
Govia Thameslink has also launched an unpopular public consultation about the closure of ticket offices across the country. Their proposal is to move staff out of ticket offices onto the station concourse because most people now buy their tickets from a machine or purchase e-tickets online digitally.
Following a public outcry, this consultation has been extended until 01 September to give more passengers the opportunity to make their views heard. Concerns are greatest among disabled and elderly passengers who may struggle to use a machine. I simply prefer to buy my ticket from a person, to ensure that I get the cheapest fare.
Sanja Bignall, who is a resident of Hove, said: “I can use my phone to buy a ticket, but a lot of elderly people don’t have smartphones and they don’t necessarily know how to work machines. It’s nice to have a chat, the lady here is lovely. I think people have forgotten how important it is to have human contact.
“At Shoreham, there is a bank of machines, they had to employ people to run between them. It’s just horrible, that’s the future. The foot traffic in Hove is going to increase with all those people moving in (to the new high-rise buildings under construction currently.) You’d think they would keep the ticket office.”
When Govia Thameslink launched the public consultation, a spokesperson said wrote in a press release: “It’s important to say that no stations that have staff today would become unstaffed and all the accessibility assistance we provide to today would remain.
“The aspiration is that ticket office colleagues would have broader roles in the future, helping with many different types of customer service and offering a more diverse, interesting role for our people.
“These proposals are being made because the way customers buy tickets has significantly changed in recent years. We want to adapt how we sell them to modernise and improve customer service.
“Most tickets are now bought online or from ticket machines. In fact, 9 out of 10 are now bought away from traditional ticket office windows.
“Staff would still be available to help customers buy tickets and find the best value fares.
“In-person assistance would still be available to support customers purchasing from ticket machines and to support the safety and security of stations, for example by being a presence to deter anti-social behaviour. Additionally, it is proposed that 18 of GTR’s largest and busiest stations will have the ability to open their ticket offices to retail specialist tickets.”
Under the new proposals, ticket assistance would be offered at Hove Station from 6am until 11pm on weekdays and Saturdays and from 7:30am until 11:30pm on Sundays.
Govia Thameslink said: “It’s key to stress that no final decisions have been made though. The public consultation has been launched (and now extended to 1 September) so the industry can get everyone’s views first. We really want to hear from as many people as possible.”
Printed copies of the consultation information that is available on GTR’s websites can be requested at staffed stations and alternative formats are available by calling 0345 026 4700 or textphone 0800 138 1018.
Shakespeare in Love is a play about William Shakespeare meeting his muse, finding his voice and writing Romeo and Juliet. One hundred pairs of eyes are eagerly await every word that flows from his pen. At the start the sense of expectation is acute, as we meet young Shakespeare who carries the responsibility of being a playwright magnificently and battles writer’s block and self-doubt.
In Elizabethan England there are two eminent playwrights: William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe; and two rival theatre-companies owned by entrepreneurs, Philip Henslowe and Richard Burbage. Shakespeare in Love sparkles with wit and exuberance and transports you effortlessly back into the chaos of Elizabethan England, the shambles of most theatre-companies and the financially precarious life of theatre-owners.
Particularly in the first half, the script is complex, jumping from one Shakespearean play or sonnet to another. If you know your Shakespeare, it’s a delight. The play is based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes and adapted for the stage by Lee Hall. The rivalry between Shakespeare and Marlowe is an interesting conceit – think Cyrano de Bergerac and look out for conspiracy theories.
Lewis Todhunter is compelling as William Shakespeare, in his second major role as the male protagonist this year. (He was Bertie in the King’s Speech during the Fringe.) He is self-assured and has great presence. His muse is Viola de Lesseps acted by Melissa Paris, she loves acting in Shakespearean plays, and is vivacious and diffident in equal measure. Emmie Spencer, who is cast as the Nurse in the most comic part in the play, performs superbly well and gets the most laughs.
Arlo Giles-Buabasah is the youngest member of the cast of Shakespeare in Love. He is on set a lot of the time and overlooked, as children often are, but he saves the day. I look forward to seeing Arlo in another production at Brighton Little Theatre (BLT.) I think he is only upstaged by Mollie, the dog called Spot.
Mike Skinner is affable and astute as Mr Henslowe and keeps his financial pressures to himself. Richard Fisher has piercing eyes, fit for any villain and not unlike those of Nikki Dunsford who plays Queen Elizabeth I. She is commanding with natural authority. Oliver Russell is the controlling suitor, Lord Wessex. Andrew Bird does not have many lines but he delivers them with aplomb.
The character of Burbage could be better developed in the script. After his death, a consortium of the Lord Chamberlain’s men, including Shakespeare, built the Globe theatre in 1598 where almost all of his later plays were performed. You can still visit the Globe today to watch Shakespeare in a reconstructed theatre on the Southbank of the River Thames in London
Organising a cast of 23 is not easy, it was popular among the BLT company, of course, because it’s a play about the theatre. Direction of the play by Claire Lewis and Howard Abbott is excellent. The set is imaginative and compact.
Shakespeare in Love is an exhilarating romp through the playwright’s most famous scenes and offers a window into the mirth and magic of the theatre. It’s a timeless play about the private life of a writer whose unparalleled ability to write about the human condition is unmatched. I recommend this play as a celebration of life, love and loss.
Last weekend more than 40,000 people flocked to Oaklands Farm in Hampshire to hear their spiritual leader speak at an annual Muslim festival of prayer and food. The motto of the community is ‘love for all, hatred for none.’
The international festival of the Ahmadiyya Community, called the ‘Jalsa Salana’ is held every year in Alton on a 210-acre site in Hampshire. Delegates travel from every corner of the globe to get there including Asia, Africa, the Pacific Isles, North and South America, Canada and Oman.
Rafiq Hayat said the festival helped to “remind people that it is their duty as Muslims to be loyal, peaceful and dutiful citizens, to protect others and be of service to humanity.” Mr Hayat is the national president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in the UK.
The Caliph, Hazrat Mizra Masroor Ahmad, warned world leaders, in a keynote speech, that the Ukraine war could spread. He advised the international community not to try to “humiliate the aggressor” by punishing Russia in a way that might feed further conflict.
He was speaking to 41,654 Muslims from the Ahmadiyya Community who came together for their annual festival.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia, said that the Koran teaches Muslims not to “let the enmity of any nation or party prevent you from upholding the true standards of justice.”
He said of the Ukraine conflict: “There are genuine concerns that the Ukraine conflict could spread or that other nations could be emboldened to abandon diplomatic efforts to resolve their disputes and resort to force.”
On Friday 28 July, the Caliph, who is the community’s spiritual leader hoisted their flag alongside the Union Jack held by Mr Hayat. On Sunday, Ahmadi Muslims pledged their allegiance to their leader and to their teachings of Islam.
More than 7000 volunteers made the annual Muslim festival a success, serving 270,000 meals – lentil-based dahl for lunch and lamb and potatoes for dinner. Volunteers made 9,000 rotis an hour in the on-site bread factory, starting at 3am.
There are 30,000 Ahmadi Muslims in the UK and 10-20 million spread across the world, many in Africa. The Ahmadiyya Community is a minority sect of Islam that is outlawed in Pakistan because Ahmadis do not believe that Muhammed was the final Muslim prophet. It’s a claim that some Sunni and Shia Muslims consider to be blasphemous.
Hailey Rose is the Youth Chief from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan Canada. Describing her experience of the annual Muslim festival, she said: “I feel the energy, it’s an awakening, it woke me up, I feel a sense of belonging, the community, the people are very loving and welcoming, kind-hearted. They take good care of us.
“You feel like family. Everyone just wants to feel like they belong. When we were up on stage it was very empowering and uplifting to see how the men treat the women. Women have very high status.”
Ahmadiyya Muslims follow the same holy texts as Sunni and Shia Muslims, but believe that the messiah promised in Islam has already arrived, believing it to be Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who was born in 1835 in Qadian in India. He is revered as a prophet by Ahmadiyya Muslims while Sunni and Shia Muslims hold Muhammad to be the last prophet.
Farooq Dean is an A&E doctor working in the UK. He went to Turkey in February to offer assistance after the earthquake with the non-governmental organization, Humanity First. Its mission is: ‘to serve disaster struck and socially disadvantaged individuals and families in the poorer communities of the world.’
Dr Dean, who is a registrar, said: “The destruction was unimaginable and we were providing primary care. We offered an initial response to the disaster. First, we provided aid to Syria. There were a few channels open to get aid over the border.”
Amjad Mahmood Khan, a Californian corporate lawyer based in LA and a Law Professor at the University of California (UCLA), said compassion is in the DNA of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which is my experience as a guest journalist whenever I meet them.
Mahboob Ur Rehman is a structural engineer and general secretary of the International Association of Ahmadi Architects and Engineers for Europe (IAAAE) set up in 1980 to connect poorer countries to the rest of the world. He was inspired by the Caliph at the annual Muslim festival to use his skills help the poor overseas.
It costs £75,000 to transform a village in Africa, installing water systems, solar pumps, building a medical clinic, a school and houses. The first pilot village was in Burkina Faso, they have now brought water and, where possible, electricity to 37 villages in 15 countries across Africa, including Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Benin, Tanzania, Uganda and the island of Mayotte off the coast of Mozambique.
Most Ahmadis do not claim expenses when they travel to other countries to share their expertise because they are highly skilled and successful people. They live in tents, ensuring the overheads are low and the project is completed at cost. They train people on the ground to maintain the infrastructure and during the pandemic, they used YouTube to support them. Since then, this sustainable development work has accelerated.
The Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community continually urges the West not to overlook the searing poverty of developing countries who have battled famine, drought, floods, and sometimes armed conflict, for centuries. At the peace symposium in 2018, he said: “People living in the world’s poorest nations do not concern themselves with the environment, or the latest figures on carbon emissions; rather they wake up each day wondering if they will be able to feed their children…
“We must not consider such hardship as other people’s problems. Instead, we must realise that the result of such poverty has severe implications for the wider-world and directly affects global peace and security.” Ahmadi Muslims, the Caliph said, need to leave behind, “a legacy of opportunity” for future generations.
“By helping the developing nations stand on their own feet, and by giving their people opportunities and hope, we will actually be helping ourselves and safeguarding the future of the world.”
When asked about climate change by students in Indonesia in 2021, the Caliph said we need to plant two trees for every one we cut down because of population growth that is fueling deforestation across the developing world.
In his speech in 2018, he asked: “Is there anyone who thinks that heavy bombardment has no effect on the atmosphere?
“Furthermore, if peace ever does prevail in the war-torn countries, their towns and cities will have to be rebuilt from scratch, and this, in itself, will be a huge industry that will cause an increase in harmful emissions and pollution. Thus, on the one hand, we are trying to save the planet, yet with our other hand, we are senselessly destroying it.”
With thanks to Kaya Burgess, Science Reporter and Religious Affairs Correspondent at the Times and Sunday Times who supplied a significant amount of the content.
Sussex Defend the NHS held a street party outside the ONCA gallery where the quilts are on display yesterday, 05 July to celebrate the 75th birthday of the NHS and NHS staff.
Speaking to Dr Rob Galloway who is an A&E consultant, he said the new build at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton will make a “massive difference.”
He has also developed a hybrid digital workforce planning approach to help with staffing which has been commended by the Care Quality Commission. It’s a hybrid consultant rota which met the Royal College staffing guidelines for emergency medicine and could usefully be adapted and rolled out across the Trust. It means there are no gaps in staffing in A&E medical wards which is a real achievement.
Asked about particular pressures on the A&E department, he said the main problem is social care. Patients can’t get to hospital when they need to and discharge to social care is far too slow.
He also said patients are waiting 12 to 20 days for mental health beds and end up waiting days in A&E. There are enough A&E beds but not enough mental health beds.
Dr Galloway then addressed supporters and said: “I’m an A&E consultant and have worked in Brighton since 2001. It’s not an easy job, but it is one I’m very proud to do.
“Your quilts represent what is so important about the NHS and I see it every day in the work my colleagues (NHS staff) and I do – treating people based on need and not profit.
“I look after a dustman with a broken leg from a worksite injury, in the same way I look after a banker with liver damage from excessive caviar and champagne.
“Despite what is happening, the NHS is the greatest and best value for money insurance policy we have – if we or our loved ones get ill, then we just need to work on getting better and not becoming bankrupt.
“But it is under threat. And it’s at risk like never before. Waiting lists for operations are at their highest levels ever, longer and long waits for beds after being seen in A&E and for the first time since the NHS was formed, life expectancy is starting to fall.
“It can and it must survive and that’s why what you do is so important to fight for its survival.
“In July 1948, every household received a letter to explain the creation of the NHS… You are all paying for it, mainly as tax payers and it will relieve your money worries in times of illness.
“The nation rejoiced as the realisation hit and it became apparent that people should no longer die ever again because of their lack of wealth.
Reflecting on the beginning of the NHS, he said: “On 5 July 1948, the keys to Park Hospital in Trafford, Manchester were symbolically handed over to Nye Bevan who took them on behalf of the country…
“The first patient through the doors was a 13 year-old girl name Sylvia Beckingham, who was admitted for a serious liver condition.
“She came from a working-class background and her family could not afford the care she needed.
“Without the NHS, she would have died.
“With it, she survived and went on to live a fulfilling life as a teacher, Mum and by all accounts an amazing piano player.
“She epitomises the NHS’ long and great history.
Dr Galloway said there is reason to hope: “In the last 75 years, infant mortality has fallen from 36 per 1000 births to less than four. Life expectancy has grown for men from 65 to 80 and for women from 70 to 84… (although it has fallen in the last two years.)
“But the way NHS staff deliver care has changed. When the NHS was set up there were 480,000 beds, now there are 120,000. The NHS is there to treat illness.
Explaining how the NHS has changed focus, he said: “In the past it was “fast things” which killed us and which the NHS was there for – trauma and infection.
“But now it’s slower less obvious causes such as neurodegenerative disease, cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic causes such as type two diabetes.
“Much more care, rightly, is done in the community by GPs including care of the elderly: doctors leading the way and preventative medicine and encouragement of public health initiatives (are) rightly becoming more important.
“So as illnesses change, the way in which the NHS works must change.
“Although things have been far from perfect in the NHS, it has always been resilient to the pressures thrown upon it. Now it needs that more than ever.
He said its staff are the backbone of the NHS: “But one thing which is no different is the dedication and devotion of the staff who work in the NHS. The NHS is not its buildings, its drugs or its machines. It’s NHS staff. They work for an institution whose ethos puts patients above all else.
“An institution which leads the world in research, cutting edge care but most importantly humanity.
“But it’s not a given that the NHS is here to stay. It does not have the universal support it had 13 years ago and it’s not cheap.
“It is money well spent, the ethos of doing what’s right for patients rather than profits means tests are arranged when they will change (medical) management, rather than where they allow profits to be maximised.
“This means it’s the most efficient health system in the world – even though it doesn’t feel like that at times. But that efficiency is being damaged by current political direction – you only have to look at what happened when the private sector got involved in PPE and track and trace.
“Yes, it needs reform, but in a way which encapsulates all it stands for. It also needs support and love.
“We need to support it as a best friend would do – with honest and reflective love and not unfettered adulation. Because only then can it reform and grow in the way our nation truly needs it to.
He described morale coming out of the pandemic: “NHS staff are demoralised and struggling. Claps on a Thursday and lights shining on buildings today, can’t stop the brain drain of expertise we are seeing.
“I manage major trauma in my day job. Giving blood is often needed to keep the patient alive. But to save a life, you need to stop the bleeding.
“NHS Workforce management is the same as trauma management.
“There is a real risk that the actual beneficiaries of the new NHS England workforce plan and investment will be the Australian health service.
“The NHS is nothing without NHS staff.
“I know so many doctors, nurses and others who are burnt out and do not think working in the NHS is worth it anymore. The long-term damage to patient care from this is enormous.
Dr Galloway criticised successive governments for under-investment that has resulted in the brain-drain: “The NHS is a brilliant concept which is being utterly mismanaged by our politicians.
“Those of us who work and use and need the NHS are being let down by our political leaders.
“We need new ideas, policies, workforce plans and funding to save the NHS before it’s too late.
“Our NHS, which was formed by heroes of World War Two, may not be there for our children.
“As Nye Bevan said, the NHS will survive as long as there are the folk with the faith to fight for it.
“We will fight it. We have to fight it. We have to be the folk, we have to have the faith and we must fight it.
Otherwise, our children will never forgive us.”
A summary of my three NHS articles to celebrate the 75th birthday of the NHS has been published by Sussex Bylines.
Two handcrafted quilts go on show today, Saturday 01 July, at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church to celebrate 75 years of the NHS. Supporters came together at 11am to admire the handiwork of 27 people aged from 11 to 82 who sewed the quilts.
On Saturday, the ‘Threads of Survival’ exhibition will be open at the church until 4pm and will run to Monday, 3 July when it closes at 3pm. It will then move to the ONCA gallery near the hospital. (Details below.)
Charlotte Stevens who is a professional quilter, advised on the structural side of how to join the pieces together. She said: “It’s been a wonderful, collective thing to have the chance to work with the group.” Some people who are passionate about the NHS, she said, wouldn’t go on a march but they were keen to sew a piece of the quilt. There is a history of collective quilting dating back to the AIDS campaign in the 1980s, Charlotte explained.
Mike Aiken is an activist from Sussex Defend the NHS. He said as the NHS approaches its birthday next week, it’s important to do more to raise awareness and find ways for people to get involved. He said: “I think we all forget about the NHS until we are ill and then we find bits of it aren’t there anymore.”
Madeleine Dickens from Sussex Defend the NHS, who organised the event, said the exhibition of the quilts is about celebrating the NHS because the government is driving it into the ground. She said: “The NHS saves thousands of lives every day and undertakes hundreds of thousands of treatments but it’s in a state of disintegration. We need to acknowledge the NHS. Many more people need to become aware of what’s happening and sign the scroll.”
Madeleine also paid tribute to Steve Carne who died earlier this year. He was a very active NHS campaigner and a friend to many in Brighton and Hove. There is a piece of the quilt adorned with a yellow boa in memory of Steve.
The Ukrainian Voices Choir from Brighton entertained us by singing some traditional, Ukrainian songs. Most of the singers are refugees who came to Brighton a year ago after the war broke out. Iryna and Kira were manning a stand where people can buy Ukrainian souvenirs and make a donation. They sang their last song called ‘The hope is here’ in Ukrainian and English. They sang: “Hope is a powerful force that never fades away.”
Louise Bray-Allen who is a Community Mental Health nurse spoke at the exhibition of the quilts about the importance of the NHS. Catching up with me beforehand, she said you can monetise a hip replacement and asked, how can you monetise mental health?
In her speech, she said: “I’ve seen a lot of changes, a lot of reorganisations over the years but the NHS has taken a phenomenal hammering under the Covid 19 pandemic tragedy. I fear for its future and fear that it won’t reach its 75th birthday without it being effectively privatised by stealth by this brutal government.
“Back in the good old days when a patient needed a hospital bed, a local bed was always found. Now many patients have to be accommodated out of area (mostly in private facilities – at considerable expense.) But more importantly – increasing the distress for that patient – as they are located far from home without any chance of visitors.
“Hospital bed number have been absolutely decimated! The years of Tory austerity plus the ravages of Covid have made this situation much, much worse. Nursing staff are thoroughly demoralised at not being able to provide the quality care we have been trained to deliver. Vacancies are at an all-time high. Where are the next up and coming generation of nurses going to come from? The Tories took the bursaries away and plunged student nurses into huge debt…
“And what about social care? This still hasn’t been addressed at all… So, the NHS has to provide the safety net for these people at the detriment of care being focused elsewhere in the system.
“The latest insulting pay rise? It’s effectively a pay cut. I certainly didn’t go into nursing to earn a huge salary, but I did naively expect my wages to go up occasionally! People say nursing is a “vocation” but try telling that to the bank manager when the overdraft limit is reached every month… And now some nurses have been forced to use food banks which I find utterly shocking and completely unacceptable.
“This brutal government has taken full advantage of the Covid 19 crisis to slyly give contracts to their friends in the private sector, hoping that people won’t notice, well we have, haven’t we?
“We must resist all attempts at privatisation by stealth.
“We must stand together in our unions and local communities, and together we must fight for a decent, well-funded and resourced NHS free at the point or delivery for all. The rich must pay their taxes and that money must be channelled into the NHS.
“I will not be a nurse for a private company – I will not be wearing a red virgin healthcare uniform. I would rather be unemployed than work for a private healthcare provider.
“How can you make a profit out of somebody’s psychological pain? How can you make a profit out of someone suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar?
“The NHS is not dead yet! We must do everything we can to stop the Tories forcing us to have an American two-tier service. We must reject the Tory propaganda that the NHS is broken and needs privatisation. It’s not broken, just under-funded.
“I want to work for a properly funded NHS that does not sell our personal, confidential, medical data to private companies and that upholds the values that Nye Bevan so eloquently expressed in 1948:
“’The NHS will last as long as there are fold left with the faith to fight for it.’ There is fantastic work going on in the NHS. There is the love for the NHS visually represented in these amazing quilts. Let us all keep the faith, join together and fight to cherish and save our NHS.
“I give hope out every day of my working life. There is hope.”
On 5 July, the Threads of Survival group will be celebrating the NHS birthday with Sussex Defend the NHS. Professor Rob Galloway, an A&E consultant and medical advisor to the NHS Support Federation will be speaking at 10 30am outside the ONCA gallery. The quilts will be displayed in the ONCA Gallery Window, 14 St George’s Place, Brighton BN1 4GB from Wednesday 05 July (NHS birthday) to Monday, 10 July.
Residents of Brighton and Hove aged from 11 to 82 have been inspired to take up their needles to join the ‘Threads of Survival’ project, to make two quilts one celebrating and one highlighting the dangers faced by the NHS as she turns 75 years old on 5 July.
Brighton and Hove Threads of Survival is part of a national campaign which started during lockdown. The Brighton and Hove quilts are the most recent of 30 quilts made by
communities in locations across the country. All of the quilts represent the coming together of people from a range of communities to support the NHS and NHS workers.
Brighton and Hove Scroll of Support for the NHS which is over 120 metres long has eloquent and moving messages from more than 3,000 people and will be displayed alongside the quilts.
Louise Bray Allen, a community mental health nurse, will open the ‘Threads of Survival’ exhibition at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church, Dorset Gardens, Brighton BN2 1SA at 11am, accompanied by Ukrainian Voices women’s choir. The exhibition will be open until 4pm on Saturday 1 July to Monday, 3 July when it closes at 3pm.
On 5 July, the Threads of Survival group will be celebrating the NHS birthday with Sussex Defend the NHS. Professor Rob Galloway, an A&E consultant and medical advisor to the NHS Support Federation will be speaking at 10 30am outside the ONCA gallery. The quilts will be displayed in the ONCA Gallery Window, 14 St George’s Place, Brighton BN1 4GB from Wednesday 05 July (NHS birthday) to Monday, 10 July.
There will be a stall outside the gallery all day with opportunities to sign NHS birthday cards, add personal messages to the NHS Scroll and of course eat some cake.
Many of the squares movingly express individuals’ appreciation of the NHS and NHS workers: “The NHS saved my life”. “Born in hospital, bones mended, life saved”, “Migrants make the NHS”.
Others highlight the current threats to the NHS from cuts in funding, extensive privatisation, the systemic undervaluing of NHS workers, chronic understaffing, and crises in availability of services for e.g. “Covid Aftermath”, “Claps don’t pay the bills”, “Healthcare not Wealthcare”, NHS SOS, the massive waiting lists for children and adults waiting for mental health treatment and many more.
Sean de Podesta, from Sussex Defend the NHS, who inspired the NHS Scroll said: “Since 2018 I have been going around the city listening to people’s experiences of the NHS. I know how precious it is to so many people. The Threads of Survival Exhibitions are an opportunity for people to see something beautiful, to reflect on what the NHS means to them, and what we need to do to ensure its survival.”
Madeleine Dickens from the Threads of Survival project said: “We urge everyone to come along to see the inspirational quilts and scroll and to join in the events. As the quilts and the scroll graphically show, so many people are deeply concerned about the dismantling of the NHS and what is being inflicted on the NHS and NHS workers.”
John Parvin and Aidan Bowen met at school in Brighton. In 1992 they set up an independent tech firm selling Apple products. In 2015, they came up with the concept Vrroom which is a virtual race room. Three weeks ago they opened their doors at Brighton Marina and have already had hundreds of people through the door. They bring semi-professional level driver training equipment that’s affordable to the citizens of Brighton and Hove and beyond.
Mr Parvin said: “This is not an arcade.” They have 46 professional racing tracks from around the world such as Silverstone, Monza, Spa, Barcelona and Redbull Ring. Last week they featured the Barcelona track to coincide with the Grand Prix taking place there.
When asked why Vrroom was unique, Mr Parvin said they have the best equipment and the best environment to showcase it. Many in the industry feel that sim racing helps them once they enter the real tracks.
Current F1 World Champion Max Verstappen competes in sim racing and many in the industry feel that sim racing helps them once they enter the real tracks. This is semi-professional driving training rather than an arcade game and can be used for a training ground as a transition into real racing.
He said there is a similar venue near St Paul’s in London but it’s an arcade. He explained the difference: “In an arcade, you drive against the computer. All the other cars are driven by a computer. We are fundamentally different from an arcade.
“Here (at Vrroom), you drive against real people. People don’t come to race, they come to set the fastest lap which is a time attack… We don’t try to make it easy, we try to make it real. It’s very hard to start with. In the game, they are telling you, you are brilliant. In the game, you start at the back and finish first. At Vrroom, if you start at the back, you usually finish at the back.”
I drove a Fiat 595 which is a racing version of a Fiat 500 on the Vallelunga track in Rome. The first lap was all about learning to steer a very light wheel and navigate the bends in the track. I got the hang of it after a few laps and then Mr Parvin joined me on the track.
The track is scanned using lasers and helps racing drivers prepare for races and get them used to both the track and the car they are driving. Mr Parvin said: “Vrroom is affordable and your life is not in danger.”
Accessibility to motorsport is only available to those people who have multi million pound parents who can afford it. It is a minimum £35K year to race in motorsport. However, virtual motorsport is accessible to anyone. It breaks down all these barriers and makes the enjoyment of this sport accessible to anyone. In excess of 100,000 play every minute of every day.
Brighton Marina Vrroom is one of its kind. Drivers can experience a huge variety of cars such asMazda MX5 to F1 F2, F3 and F4, single seater F1 cars to endurance sports cars such as Porsche,Lambo, Mercedes benz, & McClaren.
The simulators have forged carbon fibre gears, pro esport pedals, a motion platform and the expression on the screen is 55’display offering 180-degree display of visual immersion.
It is also a great training ground for young adults wanting to learn to drive.
Tickets cost £18.50 for 20 minutes driving in a simulator from www.vrroom.com. You can race with 12 other people at the same time in 12 simulators on a variety of tracks and there is coffee and a fully licensed bar to relax in after the event. You can follow Vrroom on Instagram and Facebook.
Vrroom is not recommended for children under 12 years old because the driving is challenging they might not be able to reach the pedals.
You can follow Vrroom on Instagram: @Vroom_Brighton or Facebook at Vrroom virtual race room.
Jenny Foulds has ADHD. She describes her brain as a messy bedroom. Clothes strewn all over the floor, she thinks she knows where everything is or does she? A ray of sunlight falls on the floor and for a fleeting moment, everything is in place.
Watching Jenny Fould’s play, Life Learnings of a Nonsensical Human, reminded me that life is for living. It is an, ode to joy and the complexities of friendship, queerness and raving. With great warmth Jenny looks back on her adolescence and early adulthood and explains how she came out. She remembers fondly conversations that about life, the world and the universe that you can only have at dawn after a heavy night.
She brings to life stories of sex, drugs and rock and roll with a lot of humour, tinged with sadness. She describes London as “Peter Pan land.” She says her family are “big characters with occasional loose morals.”
When calamity strikes, she tries to befriend grief who silently watches her like a new friend. She describes herself as “un-get-able, I am a missing person… You are a message in a bottle trying to reach me.”
Jenny wants to invent a joy machine. Her play contains spoken word poetry and this ode is, to the kindness of strangers, to the heartbreak of loss and missing and finding joy in the most unlikely places. These poems are for old ravers and fun makers, for anyone who has had a best friend. This is a love letter to the sticky floors that we have danced on for all these years.
I thoroughly enjoyed Jenny Fould’s performance. She took me back to a 72 hour party I hosted with friends at University. Happy days. You can’t bottle joy and preserve it but you can be attentive to it, you can befriend it and savour it every time you glimpse it, fully alive, immersed in the moment.
Writer and performer Jenny Foulds says: “Life Learnings of a Nonsensical Human is an autobiographical adventure through my brain. My life so far. I once had a dream that I invented a machine that could find the joy in anything and the stories I tell all have an element of that through them.
“I started writing it long before my dad died last year and so the trajectory of it changed somewhat but even through grief, in the darkest moments so far, I managed to find joy in the most unlikely places and that’s what the show is about. I hope audiences can come and find some joy with me, whatever they are going through.”
Jenny Foulds (she/her) is a queer neurodiverse performance poet,writer and actress from Scotland. Jenny was the 2021 Scottish Poetry Slam Champion and was a finalist in the World Slam Championships in 2022, as well as being host and curator of the Brighton based spoken word night Rebel Soapbox.
As an actress Jenny Foulds was a series regular in Two Thousand Acres of Sky (BBC) and appeared in various TV and film roles including Rebus, Mandancin’, Taggart and The Debt Collector. She founded the street art blog Happy Graffiti, which later became a book published by Octopus Books in 2013. Life Learnings of a Nonsensical Human is her first solo show. Direction was excellent by Laura Mugridge.
You can follow Jenny Foulds on Twitter: @jennywithwords. Her show runs tonight, 25 May and 31 May at the Brunswick at 7pm before going to Edinburgh Festival. Don’t miss it.
Bronte is a compelling play about the Bronte family – Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Bramwell, son of clergyman, Patrick Bronte. It’s about writing and why it matters, set between 1825 and 1855. The director, Nettie Sheridan, said: there are some difficult themes: “violence, sexual aggression, death, mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse.” Sheridan writes: “It has always been a mystery that these celibate, Victorian women, living in virtual isolation on the Yorkshire Moors, came to write some of the most passionate (even erotic) fiction of all time.”
For those of you who enjoyed reading Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, this play is a must see as the characters slip in and out of their novels. Three spinsters live with their elderly father in the Parsonage at Haworth, they appear self-contained and self-sufficient.
However, in each of them, hidden well beneath the surface, lies a tormented soul. Charlotte may be repressed. Emily is a free spirit and Anne takes longer to find her voice as the youngest child. Each of them writes about mental illness and the dark night of the soul with a perception that is ahead of their time and hardly based on their sheltered experience.
Bramwell, their wayward brother, might be the explanation. He is lost, bowed down by expectations as the only son, he is the only member of the family who glimpses freedom. Joseph Bentley plays this character with alacrity and he is responsible for most of the conflict in the play. Sibling rivalry, jealousy bordering on cruelty comes to a head during the play’s dramatic climax in the second half and it is unexpected. Bentley is a seasoned performer in the Brighton Little Theatre company with 24 shows under his belt. He has recently started directing productions.
Joanna Ackroyd acts as Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre. She has television credits and acted as mother in The Railway Children last summer for Brighton Little Theatre. Polly Jones brings her own approach to the character of Emily Bronte and Nelly Dean. She is very private, for her writing is catharsis. She does not seek acclaim and when Charlotte finds and reads some of her poetry, it feels like a betrayal. She is unaware of her own genius.
Lois Regan plays Anne Bronte who wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall which is a radical, revolutionary work and has been described as the first fully formed feminist novel, ahead of its time. Ella Jay Morley haunts the stage as Cathy and Bertha. She is enigmatic in her first production at Brighton Fringe.
Steven Adams is the long-suffering father of the Bronte siblings who quietly guides, comforts and prays for his outstanding offspring. Steven is very funny as Curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls.
You do not need to have read the Bronte’s prose or poetry to enjoy the play, although some familiarity with their work will add depth to the experience. The script, written by Polly Teale, is very well-crafted, if a little slow to start. It is excellent that Teale weaves the three great novels into the play with ease and accuracy in a true celebration of the Bronte literature. Direction by Nettie Sheridan is very good. The set is also interesting with feathers littering the stage, designed by Steven Adams.
I think this is an outstanding play that makes you dig deep into the depths of human experience and shows the power of writing and art to inspire, escape and comfort. At times, teetering on the edge of insanity, the Bronte sisters write erotically about the passions that make us human and how to manage them. The play has inspired me to read the Brontës’ timeless literature again and immerse myself in the ever-changing moods of the Yorkshire Moors. Do not miss this compelling production at Brighton Little Theatre.
Campaign manager from Surfers Against Sewage, Izzy Ross, said: “I am sick of water pollution. Water companies pumped sewage into the sea 400,000 times in the last year which is 820 times per day and 16,000 times in Brighton and Hove. They have failed to improve the sewage infrastructure, shareholders are swimming in millions while we are swimming in sewage. We are sick of sewage. We won’t stand for it anymore.”
Stuart Davies from Surfers against Sewage organised the event in Brighton which is part of a national day of protest against sewage. He said: “We want an end to sewage discharge by 2030 in bathing waters and a cap on CEO bonuses until this is sorted. The Government needs strong and effective regulation. There were two sewage discharges last week. People are angry and they have had enough.
Stuart said: “It will cost the water companies, including Southern Water, £10 billion to fix the problem and consumers will have to pay for it. We need a central, coordinated plan from the water companies. Last year there was a sewage discharge more than once per week in Brighton and Hove. What we are seeing is too little, too late.”
Kat runs a charity for young people called ‘Esteem.’ She said: “Young people are going to inherit the planet. We have a responsibility to leave it sustainable for the next generation. We are nature, everything we are doing that harms the planet, is harming ourselves.”
Oliver Heath who is a surfer said: “I am a Brighton resident and long-time user of the sea where I scuba dive under the pier. I spent my life swimming in the sea without getting sick. It’s disgusting that people have been profiting from the natural resource by polluting it.”
Katie Wootton from Canada who works in a local surf shop said: “I love the sea and I want it to be taken care of for us, for children, for kitties and puppies.”
Co-organiser of Surfers against Sewage, Annabel said: “I am a swimmer and people are getting sick because of the sewage.”
Stuart said stopping all sewage discharges by 2030 was a realistic goal.
Nick Mills, Head of Southern Water’s Clean Rivers and Seas Task Force, said: “We have already made significant investment in Brighton and have made a major reduction in spills as a result of our seven-mile super sewer lying under the chalk cliffs of Brighton which transfers waste and storm water to our new Peacehaven treatment works, one of the largest and most modern wastewater treatment works in Europe. This massive infrastructure project ensures that the 95 million litres of wastewater on average per day generated from Brighton and the surrounding areas is fully treated.”
According to Southern Water: “Hidden beneath the chalk cliffs between Peacehaven and Brighton lie gigantic 150 million litre storm tunnels that can hold a full day’s long term average rain fall which helps to reduce storm overflows in the area but population growth and the effects of climate change mean they cannot always be avoided.
“This massive infrastructure project was also accompanied by two new pumping stations.
“On very rare occasions, the storm outfall at Portobello is designed to discharge flows to sea via a long sea outfall when the capacity of the Peacehaven treatment works is exceeded.
“These flows are heavily diluted wastewater, with the greatest constituent being rainwater collected by the combined sewerage system. The current operation of the overflow is critical to the performance of the drainage system, particularly with respect to protecting properties in the city centre from flooding.”
Hove MP, Peter Kyle said: “The sea is at the heart of our community here in Hove and Portslade and these natural resources that are so precious to the well-being of our population and environment, must be respected. We are in a dirty water emergency, with water companies discharging raw sewage into English waterways over 1.2 million times between 2016 and 2021.
“In Hove specifically, I am in regular contact with Southern Water to try and combat this situation locally. I am now dealing with the Overflow Task Force team alongside the Shadow DEFRA team. The Government is failing to act and take the matter in hand so we must do what we can from the opposition bench.”
What better day to see ‘The King’s Speech’ than Coronation Saturday? I was hooked from the opening scene of the play when a diffident Prince Albert is dressing for yet another ceremonial occasion, devoid of emotion, hopeless. Albert’s life is blighted by his stammer as he is in the shadow of his dying father and his brother. His life is one of dreary duty and painful public speaking. His wife, Elizabeth, Duchess of York (Amy Brangwyn), seeks out the help of a Harley Street speech therapist, Lionel Logue. The play is about an unusual friendship that develops between Bertie and Lionel.
The plot of ‘The King’s Speech’ is familiar to many but playwright, David Seidler, introduces a lot of new twists and some dark humour surrounding the death of King George V. We see the politicians and Archbishop Cosmo Lang involved in Machiavellian plotting as David, King Edward loses interest in the monarchy due to his infatuation with the American, Wallis Simpson.
Sibling rivalry between David and Bertie blight Albert’s life. David is always wrong-footing him with vicious ease. I wonder if Bertie’s father would have been less of a formidable presence without his brother undermining him at every turn. Robin Fry and Suzanne Heritage are in their own little bubble as David and Wallis Simpson. Yearning for influence after abdication, they could have taken Britain down a very different and dangerous path in World War II.
Bertie emerges as the rightful king and he has a lot to prove. ‘The King’s Speech’ is a delightful mix of an intimate friendship that develops between two men and a political thriller with Britain on the brink of war. Seidler brings the context of the play to life, providing insight and depth as he raises questions about what would have happened if Edward had not abdicated.
Chris Parke, as Lionel Logue, the Speech Therapist, is everything you want him to be – Bertie’s confidant, asking incessant questions to release the shame and inferiority that ties Bertie’s tongue. He is humane, incisive and persistent.
Emmie Spencer is very convincing as Myrtle Logue and introduces another subplot about belonging which is not seen in the film.
Peter Jukes comes into his own in the second half as Archbishop Cosmo Lang and proves himself to be more of a schemer than all the politicians put together in ‘The King’s Speech.’ He injects humour as Seidler allows himself some gentle digs at the Church.
However, Lewis Todhunter must be applauded for his performance. He is suave, arrogant and yet crippled by self-doubt in equal measure. While Chris Parke is steady and constant, we see many different facets of Bertie’s character. Until Bertie meets Lionel, he has no anchor which Lewis Todhunter captures with ease. No-one tells Bertie how to behave. He is a tortured soul who wins hearts. During his speech in the final scene, every face is pregnant with emotion, willing him to succeed and the atmosphere in the room is palpable.
You may already know the plot of ‘The King’s Speech’ and you may have seen the film. But go and see this fresh production written by David Seidler. It is a masterpiece and the company at Brighton Little Theatre should be rightly proud of their accomplishment.
‘When the Rain Stops Falling’ is an intergenerational play about family, betrayal, abandonment, forgiveness and love. It is set across continents in London, Adelaide, Alice Springs and the Coorong on the Southern coast of Australia and Uluru near Ayer’s Rock. It is also set over a series of time scales from 1959 into the future in 2039.
Henry Law is a very interesting character acted by Brighton Little Theatre veteran, Leigh Ward. Everything seems to be in place in his life in London until his wife makes a very devastating discovery. In the opening scene of ‘When the Rain Stops Falling’ he is in Australia and the question for the audience is why. How did he get there and why is he so far away from his family? Charlotte Atkinson provides some sparkling conversation and the scene, initially, is of domestic contentment. They have a son unexpectedly, later in life called Gabriel.
Gabriel Law is a young charmer on a road trip when he meets Gabrielle York acted by Holly Everett. This couple embody some of the fluidity of modern relationships as they try to work out what they want. It is good to see Daniel Carr take on a bigger part. He is convincing and at ease throughout the performance. A lot of the warmth in the play arises as we observe these young lovers.
Gabriel makes a flying visit to see his mother and we encounter Suzanne Heritage (Elizabeth Law older) who makes some tough decisions to protect her son that he does not understand.
One of the themes of ‘When the Rain Stops Falling’ is the need to let go of the past. The implication is that ghosts will haunt you, if you let them.
There is a lot of drama in the second half of the play. Tess Gill acts as Gabrielle York older and is very convincing. She is reaching the end of her life which could have turned out differently. Tragically, even as a youngster she did not feel, that lasting happiness was in her grasp.
Shocking revelations about Henry Law bring the play to a climax. His despair is palpable. The final scene is very clever with the whole cast on stage for lunch and much, as ever, remains unsaid.
Bovell’s play,‘When the Rain Stops Falling’ is very realistic, containing awkward silences and mundane conversation as well as moments of connection and insight. It’s a depiction of everyday life where secrets are buried deep in the depths of a man’s soul. I recommend it, be warned, it contains adult themes.
In Europe, there is deadlock regarding the supply of German Leopard tanks to Ukraine. She should be given military tanks: as many as possible, with full spare parts, ammunition and training, licenced for single end use in the war against Russia.
President Zelensky has asked for 300 Leopards to defeat Putin. With one thousand tanks, they could overthrow the Russians altogether. It’s an absolute necessity that Putin is defeated. Nothing else will do.
I am not German and therefore I do not fully understand the national guilt caused by Nazi atrocities. Concentration camps blight their landscape and paralyse their politicians in the face of war. Mr Scholz, Germany’s Chancellor, does not want to escalate the war in Ukraine. No-one does, not even Mr Putin.
Germany must send leopard tanks to defeat Russia herself. She must not prevent Poland and other allies, including neighbouring countries, export permissions for their German leopard tanks. For Poland, defending herself against Russia, is a matter of necessity and survival, not choice.
In order to defeat the present monster threatening Western democracy, that is Russia’s Putin, Germany must let go of her national guilt.
President Biden and Boris Johnson understand this. I very much hope Rishi Sunak, who is rightly our Prime Minister, and Emmanuel Macron of France make sure Mr Zelensky gets all of the German Leopard tanks and other military equipment he needs, as soon as possible.
If European politicians do not supply all necessary ammunition to win the war, they will have the blood of Ukrainian men, women and children on their hands.
On 24 January, the day after this article was published, Germany agreed to authorise European countries to send German Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Germany will match Poland and the UK who are sending a company of tanks (14) each ahead of an anticipated Russian Spring offensive.
Roald Dahl’s books draw us into a land full of magic and talking animals. James and the Giant Peach is no exception, he takes his friends on an adventure in a giant peach to Central Park in New York. This Christmas play sizzles with fun for the whole family – after several pitiful years in the care (if you can call it that) of his two aunts, James manages to escape and his adventure begins.
Dahl’s characterisation is excellent in James and the Giant Peach with each insect having a distinctive personality and none of this is lost in David Wood’s abridged adaptation for the stage. Special mention must be made of Patti Griffiths who organised the make-up and wigs, as well as overseeing the movement of the creatures on stage – sparkling faces abound smiling throughout and drawing the audience into James’ world. Costumes are very well developed which is not easy – how exactly does one dress insects?! Laura Johnston and Christine Fox show they are up to the task.
Samuel Masters is welcomed back to the company to play James, the main protagonist, in James and the Giant Peach. He has energy and builds a team, rallying the spirits of his friends in times of trouble. Look out for Samuel, he’s a scriptwriter and director as well as an actor.
Aunt Spiker, Frankie Knight, is glamorous and knows it but her face is warped by large purple boils – an indicator of her nasty nature. Her interaction with Sponge, acted by Phaedra Danelli, and the incessant bickering never ceases to entertain.
Neil Turk-Thompson is very convincing as Old-Green-Grasshopper. His facial expressions, including his eyebrows and movements provide endless entertainment and place him in a class of his own. He is James’ greatest champion.
Oliver Russell makes his debut performance at BLT as the rather arrogant centipede. Russell is a seasoned actor but new to Brighton and a good addition to the company. Ladybird acted by Ellie Mason is a lovely character.
Olivia Jeffrey is elegant as Miss Spider and Kirrily Long can be applauded for taking up the part of Earthworm late in the day. Earthworm is a very funny portent of doom who heroically saves the day when the peach is in trouble.
James and the Giant Peach runs for about two hours excluding the interval which makes it perfect for children who can still be tucked up in bed by 10pm. Rapturous applause at the end was evidence of how much the audience enjoyed the show.
It is no mean feat to have 12 actors and a complex set on a stage as small as Brighton Little Theatre. Joseph Bentley clearly had a lot of fun as director. He writes of James and the Giant Peach: “I remember the joy of childhood and the promise Dahl made to us all that anything is possible if you believe in yourself, the love you find around you the family you build, and the adventure.”
I recommend this energetic adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book. The show engages, excites and entertains, it’s great fun for the whole family.
Stephen Lightfoot addressed sixty members of the public online in the latest public engagement exercise to explain the vision behind the new integrated care strategy from NHS Sussex on Thursday 17 November. The strategy is a long-term, health and care five year plan which will build on existing health and wellbeing strategies in East and West Sussex and Brighton & Hove. Mr Lightfoot is the Chair for NHS Sussex, the Integrated Care Board (ICB) for Sussex covering hospitals, GPs, mental health services, pharmacists and dentists.
In putting the strategy together Mr Lightfoot and his team have taken advice from the Department of Health and other partners including the voluntary sector, social enterprises and the public.
The plan aims to improve the health of the population of Sussex (1.7 million) and reduce inequalities, particularly in access and outcomes. Difficulties with access can be due to geography or due to other demographics such as ethnicity and age.
Sussex Health and Care Assembly with a broad membership will oversee the development and approve the integrated care strategy on 14 December at a public meeting at the University of Brighton.
Mr Lightfoot said there is a growing need and demand for services due largely to a growing and ageing population. Research has shown that the population of Sussex has grown by six percent, however, those aged 65+ has grown by 19 percent while the population under 65 has only grown by three percent. There are 1.7 million people living in Sussex and there are wide geographical disparities. Twenty two percent of the population is over 65 years old.
In Mid Sussex people have a healthy life expectancy until they are 69 years old, in Hastings the age drops to 62. He said research has found the most deprived areas have the worst access to services. Mr Lightfoot said the population with the greatest needs should get the best services. At the moment the opposite is true across Sussex.
Our NHS system is large and complex, comprising 1100 different NHS organisations and locations including GPs, pharmacies and dentists, as well as hospitals. Mr Lightfoot said at the moment, care is disjointed, patients are referred to hospital by GPs which incurs delays.
He said we need to make better use of technology. For 95 percent of the population, technology will help but we do need to be mindful to avoid digital exclusion. NHS Sussex gets £3.6 billion. We need to make the best use of these resources. Every organisation has its own buildings and the NHS estate is ageing. Services should be close to the communities they serve.
Integrated care strategy public engagement has been carried out in 23 cities and towns across Sussex which each have a population of more than 10,000 people.
We agreed the case for change at a meeting in October.
“The Assembly has selected three system-wide priorities for the strategy:
… Development of Integrated Community Teams
… Development and support of our Workforce
… Maximising the use of Digital Technology and data”
Mr Lighfoot said: “Over the last many, many years the NHS has been an incredible organisation but it has been built around organisations. So services have been developed out of hospitals and GP practices almost regardless of where people live…We need to provide health and care services to each of our communities across Sussex and build services around where the population live, rather than where the hospital or GP surgery is based.” To do this, he said, the NHS must better understand need (or demand) for services and integrate services at a local level.
He said the strategy will encourage more local engagement, joined up services and more partnership working. Communities are not just about geography, children and young people are another community. There is a pressing need to address the mental health of the community of children and young people. Then there are cancer survivors and communities of people with different sexual preferences and different religions. He said: “We need to build care around people, not around existing organisations. That’s frankly our big ambition.”
NHS Sussex employs a workforce of 35,000 people and are the biggest single employer in Sussex. We always have vacancies. It’s not an accident that there are three university vice chancellors who sit on the board from Brighton University, Sussex University and Chichester. Rebecca Conroy represents FE colleges in Eastbourne, Hastings and Lewes.
Mr Lightfoot said we need to grow our workforce and retain existing NHS staff. We need to develop attractive career paths for graduates to work in Sussex instead of going to London, Kent or Hampshire. He said NHS Sussex needs to address the cost of living crisis head on. He said: “We can’t renegotiate salaries but we can think about everything else to make one Sussex workforce a reality.”
He said one of the three priorities of the strategy is to develop an integrated digital platform to share information. Mr Lightfoot said patients should share their experience once, not every time they meet a new professional which is not great for the patient experience. The NHS should provide services digitally.
Some people would prefer virtual online discussions, they would prefer telephone appointments and do online research on the internet about health issues. Doctors and nurses still need to see people. “Patients do want to book appointments online, not ring up in the morning, they do want to access blood test results and appointments on their phone instead of getting a letter a week later.”
Fifty percent of the population of Sussex has signed up to the NHS app which provides a better experience and greater access but that is not universal yet. I think we need to get every GP surgery on the NHS app. Mr Lightfoot would like ninety percent to use the NHS app. Digital technology will make us more efficient and give a better experience and provide more access to our services.
This is work in progress, the final strategy has not been fully drafted yet and has not been approved yet by the assembly until 14 December. He said: “What are we going to do about specifically the support and health of children and young people so they can start their lives well? There’s going to have to be services that support people to live well, particularly if they have complex conditions and multiple health issues.
“We’ve got to help people to age well, and I think part of that is to help people to stay healthy and to live independently for as long as they possibly can. So they can get care as close to home as possible rather than always having to go to a hospital for that. We need to address waiting lists so that people get the care they need when they need it in an area that they need it.”
On 14 December the strategy which is the vision will be approved at the assembly as above. From January to March 2023 the Delivery Plan will be developed – who is going to do what and when with what resources. Mr Lightfoot said the NHS Board will approve the delivery plan that sits under the strategy on 05 April next year.
Hove MP Peter Kyle joined councillors and about 150 local people for a community meeting about practical responses to climate change on Thursday evening (10 November).
They met at Holy Cross church hall, in Poet’s Corner, for presentations about the “climate and nature emergency” and discussion aimed at answering the question: “What can we do in our community?”
The event was organised by a small team including researcher and content strategist Tamsin Bishton.
And several small businesses from the area were represented, including Timeless Toys, in Portland Road, and Harriet’s of Hove, in Blatchington Road.
Katie Eberstein, the Brighton and Hove environmental education officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “Give young people skills, knowledge and an attitude to tackle climate change.”
The former teacher, who runs the website Our City Our World, works with about half the schools in Brighton and Hove and added: “Adapt the curriculum to discuss climate change. Equip schools to make their structure carbon neutral.”
She said that being in nature inspired young people and said that young people and families should be empowered to take action both individually and collectively.
Katie works with half the schools in Brighton and Hove. She said 97 percent want climate education in schools. Being in nature inspires young people. Katie encouraged parents and pupils to talk to their schools and tell them what they want, tell them that sustainability matters.
Charlie Peverett from Birdsong Academy is a naturalist who has been identifying birds by their song for thirty years. During the pandemic, he founded ‘Up with the birds’ which is a dawn chorus shared on zoom. In Spring 2020 did the birds get louder? He said people had more time to notice what’s around them. He shares the sounds of live birdsong on zoom with the help of crowd funding.
He asked: “Why are birds so hard to find these days? It’s a moment of truth.” Birdsong academy and the dawn chorus are free. He also produces a weekly newsletter from January to June and he runs a ten week online course as well as walking workshops at Stanmer Park. He said: “Tune into what’s already here. It’s essential to the work that we need to do.”
Councillor Elaine Hills is a Green Party member for Hanover and Elm Grove who sits on the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee. She said we have a target of being carbon neutral in Brighton and hove by 2030.
She said: “We have 200 electric charging points in Brighton and Hove, we reduce, repair and reuse, we recycle. We protect promote and prioritise. But we are facing a biodiversity emergency and extreme weather. We have a circular economy programme. As a city we will move away from wasteful ways of doing things. We have a food partnership project and foodbanks. As a council, we will make more sustainable choices.”
Paul Loman runs the ‘Real Junk Food Project’ that intercepts food before it is sent to landfill or incinerated to help tackle climate change. He said: “One third of food production goes to waste. Many people don’t have enough food. Food is sent to landfill which produces methane and is worse than carbon dioxide. Supermarkets waste food, they take it off the shelves and send it to incinerators or landfill.
“We rescue food and feed people. We have relationships with supermarkets and we go through the front door. We take the food to Bevendean, log it, and send it to pay as you feel cafes at St Luke’s in Hove and Fitzherbert’s in Kemptown. We take donations. One third of food is wasted, cook wisely, freeze, grow food, compost.”
Michael Kennard disrupts food waste and composts it. He said: “There is lots of food waste, tonnes of food in landfill, 600 kilos of carbon, if you compost it, you end up with 9 kilos. We have a market garden and run the Compost Club. Compost is a beautiful life cycle.”
Circular economy to help tackle climate change
Harriet Dean-Orange runs Harriet’s of Hove on Blatchington Road with her husband, Mhiran. The shop is free from single use plastics and provides refills of pasta, lentils and other dry foods. She used to be a nurse and found there was a great disparity between work and home. Customers bring in their own containers and buy by weight. You can buy Daal for £1. She said she is selling behaviour change: “By shopping at Harriet’s of Hove, you are using ethical and sustainable wholesalers. Re-sterilisation. No new plastic. Recycling.”
Susan Luxford owns ‘Timeless toys’ on Portland Road. She said: “Toys are rarely mentioned when discussing climate change. Toys come in unwanted plastic and break easily. Toys are the most intensive plastic industry, 90 percent are unrecyclable. BHF found 1 in 3 parents admit to throwing away toys in the UK every year. They end up in landfill or the ocean. 58 London buses of toys end up in the sea every year. There are toy rental schemes. She asked: Is our legacy to our children, to bury toys we are actually buying for them?”
Tim Beecher from BHESCO, the energy cooperative, reduces the environmental impact of buildings. He was inspired by the natural world to tackle climate change. Twenty four percent of carbon emissions come from our homes. He said we need to: “rescue the street, terraced housing by putting in external wall insulation. We will reduce the cost individually if we come together as a community. Cooperate and collaborate. You can invest in BHESCO and buy shares which will fund renewable energy.”
Councillor Carmen Appich is leader of labour group and sits on the social care and health and wellbeing committees. She said Brighton and Hove has a local walking and cycling plan which is out for consultation at the moment. People should use public transport. She has introduced rounded street corners on Portland Road, there will be a car share project, starting in Hanover with two cars in Westbourne Ward next summer. Then there is the ‘Mini Holland scheme.’ Additional pedestrian crossings, crocodile crossings, school streets, bike share hubs or car hubs. She said the council needs to know what people actually want so get in touch.
Sarah Forbes has been blogging about reducing plastic waste since 2020. She has been helping people feel safer to cycle in the city. She welcomed the Old Shoreham Rd cycle lane. She has a neurological condition which has not stopped her enjoying cycling. Sometimes she uses an E bike. She is a member of Bricycles.
Tamsin Bishton was the organiser of the event. She has lived in Poet’s Corner for 18 years, her children went to Goldstone Primary School and Hove Park. She said her step Grandad fought for something in the war and we need to protect it for the next generation.
Kate and Marianna were at the event representing Extinction rebellion. Marianna spoke, she has a fifteen year old son who sleeps in a bunk bed because he is terrified of the sea level rising. She said: “We are facing a climate and ecological emergency. She mentioned the sister organisation, animal rebellion protecting methane gas. She said becoming vegan was the best thing she has done. And there is money rebellion. East Sussex County Council have divested their pension fund from fossil fuels. Between 14-19 Nov we are targeting Barclays bank. There is a march on Saturday at 12 noon.
Hove MP, Peter Kyle was the last speaker of the evening and he gave a summary of what was happening in Parliament to tackle climate change. He is Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and a Labour MP.
He said: “I have been actively involved with students since 2021. I have also been talking to Southern Water about the sewage dumped on our beaches. My emphasis is on what they have done, billions poured down the drain. We need water back in the reservoirs.
He said: “We have reached a plateau with food waste and recycling. We need to do much more: green waste and composting. There is an Environment bill. It will impose regulations on every Local Authority. We can’t upgrade the Hollingbury recycling depot until the regulations are published in March. I have frustrations on behalf of our community. All 3 MPs, created a road map for ourselves with different levers to help the council. We all visited Hollingbury and the incinerator in Newhaven.
“I do drive, I choose not to have a car. There was lots of resistance to the Rampion offshore windfarm. Urban areas are not connected to where power comes from and where waste goes to. We need to grow up. We are connected to power now. Labour pledge we will have clean energy in Brighton and Hove by 2030… We need to double the off shore wind farms by 2030. Labour proposes a multi-year green fund to recapitalise our economy. Carbon reduction.”
Question and Answer
How sustainable are the prices of public transport? It costs our family of three £15 on the bus and £5 in the car. Ms Appich said: “There are costs to running a car. We bid for money, we were awarded £27m, we have a private bus company with shareholders. There is no national will to fund transport properly. Government doesn’t want to run the bus company, they don’t trust us, they have taken away a lot of money.”
One member of the audience said civil disobedience is important to the freedom movement. Mr Kyle said: “Protest is incredibly important and it has to be legal. Keir Starmer agreed with harsher penalties. I am a gay person, all gay people protest and it’s legal. Do it within the law. Change the law.”
Mr Kyle said: “There is a problem with the new bill. We don’t support the new bill. Certain protests are so counter-productive. (For example, Extinction rebellion.) We don’t support disrupting ambulances. Suella Braverman’s chinook was in breach of the noise regulations in her law when she visited Manston.”
Another member of the audience asked the last question. She lives in Benfield Valley. There are 12 garages near Portslade. She asked: “Why don’t you knock them down and build there rather than on Greenfield sites?” Councillor Appich said the council needed to include some green field sites in the city plan. Nothing will be built without planning applications. Councillors can reject them. Whitehawk Hill. We needed to fulfil the requirement of the planning body.”
Mr Kyle said: “We need green growth, greenhouse emissions fell by 20%, we have more wind turbines than any other country. We are about to enter a recession. High intensity energy, steel, we need clean steel. We have to get the economy moving, buses, public services and the city needs investment, smart investment.”
Stones in his pockets is about two lads who are taken on as extras for a Hollywood film. The action takes place in the Blasket Islands of County Kerry in Ireland. The play is a good humoured exploration of how you start out in the film industry and exposes the precarious nature of life as an artist. Charlie Conlon tries desperately to get the lead actor and directors to read his script throughout the play with limited success.
Ciaran O’Connor acts as Jake Quinn, newly returned from America. He is native to Blasket Islands and related to half of the community. Jake is straight talking, compassionate and a deep thinker. He doesn’t run away from reality, even in his darkest moments and he takes everything to heart.
In the course of the play, Ciaran plays six other cameo parts and the character of Mickey, the professional extra, deserves special mention. Ciaran has been with the theatre company for twenty years and should continue to seek leading roles. In Stones in his Pockets, he is very understated as Jake and a delight to watch.
Ben Hayward, cast primarily as Charlie Conlon also has credits to his name and is making his debut at Brighton Little Theatre Company. He moved down to Brighton during the pandemic and works hard as a junior doctor in his spare time. He plays a lot of the cameos involving the film crew, particularly the part of Caroline Giovanni, an alluring American film star. Charlie Conlon is a young man trying to find himself. His video shop folds and he arrives in Blasket Islands in pursuit of dreams and may be running away from some ghosts.
At the heart of Stones in his pockets is a clash of cultures between the film crew who are restless and ruthless, always pushing forward and the sleepy, close-knit Irish community that cherishes family, friendship and their cows. Tragedy strikes at the end of the first half and then Jake and Charlie have to come to terms with what has happened. There is a whisper of romance.
Direction by Harry Atkinson is excellent and the set works well. Characters change in a matter of seconds which is a great achievement. Ciaran O’Connor and Ben Hayward are on stage throughout the full length of the production which takes stamina and grit – their acting is outstanding. The script was written by Marie Jones and is a little slow to get going in the first half but mention of lemon meringue pie makes the audience laugh from the outset.
I thoroughly recommend Stones in his pockets brilliantly executed by Brighton Little Theatre. Expect a lot of laughs underpinned by poignancy as an Irish community comes to terms with loss. A twist at the end brings hope, purpose and fulfilment.
Over 70 suicide prevention and mental health groups join together today, Saturday September 10 across the UK to highlight how suicides can be prevented.
One in five people in the UK have suicidal thoughts, one in twenty will attempt suicide. It’s estimated in England and Wales, at least 140,000 people go to hospital each year having attempted suicide.
Suicide is preventable and not inevitable. That’s why on World Suicide Prevention Day, Grassroots Suicide Prevention, a UK leader in suicide prevention, is launching an online suicide prevention hub, including a section on understanding suicide. This includes potential warning signs to look for, suicide myths that create stigma and shame and how to talk to someone you are concerned about.
Their pioneering app called Stay Alive is recommended by the NHS for those experiencing suicidal thoughts or those concerned about loved ones who are thinking about suicide. It has been downloaded over half a million times. It has helped 76% of at-risk users stay safe from suicide and 80% of people using the app have supported someone else and said it helped them keep the person safe from suicide.
Ian Stringer, born in Blackpool and now BBC Leicester Sports Commentator used the app when he was struggling. He said: “The Stay Alive app is a life saver. This is not just a turn of phrase, but it actually saves lives of those who have thoughts of suicide.”
Around 135 people are affected to some degree by every person lost to suicide. It can devastate communities and have a lasting impact on loved ones left behind. Grassroots has a free, online interactive film called Real Talk that helps people have those life-saving conversations.
Dr Lisa Edwards, a bereaved parent and Grassroots Suicide Prevention trustee said: “Suicide is the biggest killer of young people, both male and female, aged under 35 years in the UK. Not only does the person who dies by suicide lose their life, those who love them, family, and friends, are devastated too.
“When my 16-year-old son, David died by suicide, my life changed forever, I entered an abyss of grief. My broken heart will never heal. Yet, suicide can be prevented but we still do not talk about it openly.
“Talking about suicide not only reduces the stigma, but also allows individuals to seek help, rethink their options. We know that having the right conversation with someone if they’re suicidal can protect them.”
Grassroots has trained over 50,000 people on mental health and suicide prevention. It trains over 300 organisations a year on mental health and suicide, including organisations like the British Army, Shelter, Waitrose, and the NHS. This year as part of World Suicide Prevention Day they are offering a FREE one-hour, online training to media professionals and journalists on how they can help prevent suicide.
Rachael Swann, CEO at Grassroots Suicide Prevention says, “What we know is that in most cases, suicide is not inevitable and can be prevented with timely intervention, and anyone can learn these life-saving skills. At Grassroots we are committed to supporting people and organisations to understand that their actions, however big or small, could bring hope to someone who is struggling and help save their life.”
Are the kids at a loose end this summer? Why not pop along to Brighton’s Open Air Theatre (BOAT) to see Mike Kenny’s adaptation of the Railway Children? It’s a heart-warming story of a middle-class family who strike hard times when father, who is the breadwinner, is suddenly taken away in the dead of night.
Joanna Ackroyd is convincing as hard-pressed mother who needs to keep the family running and the money coming in when father is taken away. However, the shining stars of the performance are the children. Sophie Davis is the eldest, Bobbie, Chris Church (whom we have seen in Blink and Anne Boleyn) is Peter and Chantelle Winder is excellent as the youngest child, Phyllis.
The children are on the stage for most of the play in two acts and Chantelle is building up the credits, having acted in A Midsummer Night’s Dream last summer and in the Twits. Chantelle has great presence as Phyllis and generates at least half the humour in the play, rivalled only by her brother, Peter and Perks.
Chris Church excels at humorous characters and often steals the attention when on stage. He is a very versatile actor and works hard in the Brighton Little Company. Sophie Davies is the eldest child, Bobbie (short for Roberta.) Bobbie is the responsible eldest child who holds the key to finding her father. Acts of heroism distinguish her although she is a little too old to be cute like Phyllis.
Bobbie’s character was acted by Jenny Agutter in the 1968 BBC production and 1970 film, (Agutter acts as Sister Julienne in Call the Midwife) and you can watch The Railway Children Return at the Odeon at the moment starring Agutter. However, you will miss the charm of Brighton’s outdoor theatre which is one of my summer delights and the intimacy that only the theatre brings.
Direction is excellent. Tess Gill and Steven Adams team up to co-direct the play and bring out the banter between the children beautifully. At the theatre, you really do put aside the day and enter into the lives of the characters, never more so than in the Railway Children. Tess is a seasoned director at Brighton Little Theatre as well as an actress.
Steven Adams makes a brief appearance on set in a critical role. Look out for him. This play has a cast of 13 and many of the actors double up to help with production when they are not on stage. Brighton Little Theatre company is a lean machine and is actively recruiting back stage helpers at the moment.
Leigh Ward deserves a mention as Perks, the train conductor. I saw him acting as Henry VIII in Anne Boleyn and he was commanding. In this play he is still in charge but in a comic role and his wife, played by Nettie Sheridan has a small and very funny role. They bring warmth to the play and straddle the class divide much more evident in society in 1906 when the book was written, than in modern times.
E S Nesbit wrote the book at the turn of the last century and it has been a classic family favourite ever since. Mike Kenny’s adaptation is excellent, sticking closely to Nesbitt’s plot while writing colourful dialogue throughout to add pace to the stage production.
I think the Railway Children is charming and very close to the book. Adults will enjoy the play as much as children. At its heart, it’s a play about a family ripped apart and making the best of difficult circumstances: the children show great resilience, as kids always do. Chantelle stands out as the youngest actress and I think she is easily as good as the rest of the company.
On a summer’s evening, I can think of nothing better than to pop along to Brighton Open Air Theatre and put your feet up over a glass of wine. The play runs until 13 August at BOAT and then in the equally charming Brighton Little Theatre from 16 to 20 August.