My Village Voice - Jan/Feb 2022

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Issue Number Sixty Two - January & February 2022

C ONTENTS

News in this edition... • Community Awards highlights heroes • Rob the life saver from Marston • National Trust Talks at Walton • Dunston Vicar Sue says farewell • Best Kept Village Winners announced • Shakespeare Returns to Castle • Reward offered to expose Fly-Tipper • Multi-million-pound road project opens

New Year resolutions? Quit the fags, quit the booze, eat less junk, do more exercise.... Happy New Year to you all.... I hope you had a splendid Christmas, or at least as splendid as it could be, given the circumstances still. Has it really been a whole year since the lockdown of last Christmas? Even though there were only limited restrictions in place this year, it still felt all a bit restricted, and not so festive. I didn’t even bother with New Years Eve, opting to stay in and cook a nice meal instead, (I must be getting old), though I smugly feel as fresh as a daisy this morning, while many out there will be nursing the hangover from hell. Maybe a hair of the dog would help with that? I learnt recently that the saying originated in the belief that a cure for hydrophobia (rabies) or any disease contracted from a dog bite for that matter, consisted of taking a hair of the dog that bit you, and placing it in the wound. I’m not sure I’d like to try pulling a hair from a dog that had already just bitten me? Perhaps you’ve woke up full of New Year resolutions? Quit the fags, quit the booze, eat less junk, do more exercise? I do applaud you, but perhaps try doing them one at a time, not all together, then please don’t keep telling us about it, we are all trying our best you know! If you’re already a week into Dry

January you may be interested to know it isn’t just a British thing, it’s practised both in Europe and the United States too. The dawning of a new year should evoke feelings of new hopes and ambitions, dreams and plans, though the old cynic in me reckons it will be ‘much of the same’ for the indefinite future, it’s almost two years since Covid hit the UK, and we’re still not out of the woods yet. As new cases continue to rise, I was half expecting to wake up to the news of more national lockdowns. I was convinced that once NYE was out of the way, much tougher restrictions would ensue. So far they haven’t, but by the time you are reading this, maybe? This year, Her Majesty The Queen will become the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, seventy years of service, having acceded to the throne on 6th February 1952. Though I’m not that much of a royalist the extended bank holiday, from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th June, will be a welcome break for us all. Most of our villages are planning big celebrations and events, we’ll bring you all the details once we have them. I hope 2022 turns out to be a better year for everyone, let’s face it, it can’t get much worse, can it? Dan Mitchell 01/01/22

GETTING IN TOUCH

In pictures... • Seighford Scarecrows bring out a smile • Bradley Christmas Tree Festival • The Quest For St Bertelin • Youngsters perform with West End ‘royalty’ Once you’ve read your copy of My Village Voice recycle it by giving it to a friend!

My Village Voice is wholly independent and is published. 5,700 copies are hand-delivered free to homes and businesses in the Acton Trussell, Bednall, Bradley, Brocton, Church Eaton, Colwich, Coppenhall, Derrington, Dunston, Haughton, The Haywoods, Hyde Lea, Milford, Seighford & Walton on the Hill areas ADVERTISEMENT SALES - sales@myvillagevoice.co.uk EDITORIAL : dan@myvillagevoice.co.uk

TELEPHONE 07514 967890 You can read this issue online at www.myvillagevoice.co.uk The views expressed in this publication are those of our contributors and are not necessarily those of the publishers, nor indeed their responsibility.

All Rights Reserved © My Village Voice 2008 -2022

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More than a kitchen company, they are experts in Interior Design too, so bring your project to them and they will consider the complete aesthetics of your intended space, before producing a beautiful and truly personalised design, that exceeds your expectations in every way. At their Stafford showroom, the team can design, supply & fit the kitchen of your dreams, delivering the whole package from concept, to design, to build, and all with minimal hassle to you. They offer an exceptional level of service, and whether it’s a small kitchen to maximise storage, or if you’re thinking of a large open plan extension with a family area, they can certainly help. Offering honest, expert advice, plus their variety of manufacturing partners, means they have

something to offer everyone, no matter your taste, style, or budget. Staffordshire Kitchens are the ONLY Staffordshire kitchen supplier of Contemporary & Traditional quality German Kitchens, renowned for their style and durability. German kitchen manufacturers have a worldwide reputation for design, function, and quality, and they have carefully chosen to partner with a German brand that steadfastly upholds these values. Their German partnership enables them to offer a truly diverse product range for clients, including popular styles such as modern, contemporary, true handleless, shaker, gloss, matt, as well as many luxury wood, ceramic, and glass kitchen doors. More than this, they can offer clients the very latest in modern kitchen technology, with innovative design features such as glass roller doors, Tipmatic Softclose doors, slight lift cabinets, motorised drawers and much, much more. The dedicated team are also experts in the design and supply of quality British Kitchens, including from Charles Yorke, specialists in fully handcrafted kitchen furniture. Their British kitchen collections include a variety of contemporary finishes, as well as traditional lay-on kitchen doors and in-frame kitchen doors. With a variety of shaker doors, cornices and handles we can make your kitchen very traditional looking. Alternatively, any style can be adapted to suit your personal tastes with the finishing details, accessories and even lighting creating a more contemporary aesthetic. The team look forward to welcoming you, greeting you with a good cup of tea or coffee as you sit down to discuss ideas for your new kitchen project. Showroom visits are by appointment only so they can guarantee time for you to discuss your project in full, and also to ensure you will have the showroom to yourself. Give them a call today.

Staffordshire Kitchens First Floor Showroom, 200 North Walls, Stafford, ST16 3AD

01785 229306

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www.staffordshire kitchens.com


Dunston Vicar Sue says farewell

Dunston parishioners bid farewell to their Vicar, Sue Mayo, when she gave her last service at the church on the 9th January. Sue is hanging up her robes so that she can enjoy her retirement. We wish you all the best in the future Sue. Photo from Lida Pliva

News from Colwich Parish in Bloom “As President of Colwich Parish in Bloom I should like to wish everyone all the very best of health, and happiness in the new year. During the last few months I have seen quite a few of you (wearing our colourful tabbards) busy working on the flowers in the flower towers, and the numerous planters, and picking up the litter which seems to appear as if by magic, and I would like to say a heartfelt THANK YOU. you are all amazing. Like me, you are proud to be living in such a lovely Parish as Colwich. I expect we will soon be seeing some of our early daffodil buds breaking the surface of the earth and we will have the pleasure of seeing the dainty snowdrops appearing and then admiring the colourful crocus bulbs, which had been planted at either end of the Parish. YES, it may be cold, wet, and miserable sometimes, but Spring will soon be warming our hearts with the promise of colourful flowers to come. We now have a lovely new In Bloom Noticeboard in Great Haywood and we will have another one in Colwich and Little Haywood soon, so any ideas you may have will be welcomed. Thank you all so much for the work you are doing to make The Haywoods friendly and welcoming. I think it's always good to start a greeting with a smile.” From Anne Clendon B.E.M President Colwich Parish in Bloom

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Toys are more than just child’s play - as prices achieved in collectors’ sale prove…

Seighford Scarecrows bring out a smile The Seighford scarecrow festival ran throughout October and was a great success again this year, with Scarecrows popping up all over the village, with some in the most curious of places. In addition to adding a bit of humour around the village, it corresponded with the collection of food to support local food bank charities during harvest time. Well done to all those who took part, and brightened up the village for everyone. Photos kindly sent in by Mandy Cameron

• Taking it easy... Even though he may have retired from work, this scarecrow still made the effort to attend.

• Cuttlestones’ toy expert Kevin Lockley with some of the lots from the sale Toys can be serious business for collectors – as the results of Cuttlestones’ Wolverhampton Auction Rooms recent Specialist Toy, Comic & Entertainment Memorabilia Sale showed. Fielding a catalogue of over 500 lots covering everything from comic art to toy vehicles, dolls and teddies the 19th November auction attracted bids from niche collectors far and wide. Among the lots consigned was a huge collection of Dr Who memorabilia and collectables. Out of this collection, the undoubted star lots were Lot48 – over 100 Dr Who novels & books which sold for £1,300 and Lot 243 – approx. 150 Dr Who DVDs covering most of the first seven doctors, which fetched £260. Small model vehicles proved as popular as ever, with Lot 173 – a collection of 41 boxed Matchbox vehicles seeing the hammer fall at £500 and Lot 168 – a large box of playworn Dinky, Corgi and Matchbox etc vehicles which sold for £200. Nostalgia likely played a part in the generous sums paid for Lot 473 – a boxed Subbuteo Continental Club edition table socker, which sold for £160; Lot 485 – two large boxes of Meccano parts that went for £650 and Lot 497 – a vintage Barbie and Sindy doll, along with accessories and a few other dolls, which achieved £110. It wasn’t just ‘traditional’ toys which sold well - Lot 448 – a box of Playstation 4 games including Resident Evil and Call of Duty which fetched £350 while Lot 456, a collection of Nintendo Switch games including Monopoly, Donkey Kong, Mario Tennis achieved £110. Cuttlestones is now welcoming consignments for future specialist auctions. For a free valuation with no obligation email valuations@cuttlestones.co.uk or send photos via WhatsApp to 07949 603872. www.cuttlestones.co.uk

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• Cover your eyes... Gardeners bottom on full display!

• Definately the tallest Scarecrow in the village, caught here lassoing any passers by

• Gone fishing - I wonder if he caught anything?


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South Staffs sweeps the board as Best Kept Village Winners 2021 are announced Communities across Staffordshire have been hard at work participating in the Richard Winterton Best Kept Village Community Competition (BKVC) this year. The competition, which is managed by The Community Foundation, was held virtually for the first time since it began in 1956 this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the circumstances, many communities across the county were keen to get involved and share their stories. Traditionally the competition has involved several rounds of judging where volunteers travel to the various communities across Staffordshire to judge their efforts in the competition. However, as this was not possible this year, the decision was made to amend the competition into a virtual event where participating communities could create their own ‘portfolio’ of events and activities happening where they live. These were then submitted electronically to The Community Foundation for judging. The calibre of entries for 2021 was high and we would like to congratulate all who participated this year and a huge well done on all you have achieved in your local community, you should feel tremendously proud. We are delighted to announce the Virtual BKVC 2021 results as follows: • Winner of the Richard Winterton Award for Community Spirit - Hill Ridware • Winner of the CPRE Staffordshire Award for Community Spirit - Brewood • Winner of The Community Foundation Award for Community Spirit – Wombourne Richard Winterton, sponsor of the competition, told My Village Voice “This year’s BKVC has highlighted the many thriving, diverse communities in our wonderful county and

• Winner of the CPRE Staffordshire Award for Community Spirit - Brewood we look forward to the 2022 competition taking shape in the coming months.” Jo Cooper, who manages the competition had this to say, “Many of the entries received this year as part of the virtual BKVC focused more on the community and really captured how well communities came together, particularly through the pandemic, to support one another. This is something that will undoubtedly be included in entries that are received for the competition next year, when we return to a full, traditional competition. I would like to thank all communities who showcased their community this year and say a huge well done to you all.” People who are interested in learning more about BKVC, or taking part next year, should call 01785 339540, email bkvc@staffordshire.foundation or visit their website at staffordshire.foundation

Shakespeare Returns to Stafford Castle for 30th Anniversary Stafford’s annual Shakespeare production is to return this summer with a stunning new production of Romeo and Juliet. The run will mark the 30th anniversary of the open air shows at Stafford Castle, after being delayed by Covid since 2019. Performances will take place between June 24 and July 9, with tickets starting from £20 for matinees on weekends. Schools are also being invited to make group bookings for the show, which features heavily on English Literature curricula. Thousands of people are expected to flock to the grounds of the castle for what is being described as ‘the cultural highlight of the year’. Councillor Carolyn Trowbridge, the Leisure Portfolio holder on Stafford Borough Council, said: ‘This is a huge event on the calendar and always attracts visitors from across the county and beyond. The production quality is incredibly high and Romeo and Juliet is probably the Bard’s most popular play – perfect for a picnic and a romantic night out.’ The show is being produced by the Gatehouse Theatre and Freedom Leisure on behalf of the borough council

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and a number of improvements have been made for 2022. New seating arrangements offering better sightlines and improved facilities have been lined up for the two-week long run. Gatehouse manager Tim Ford said: “We are absolutely delighted to be back at the Castle after so long away due to Covid. ‘We’re making a number of changes to give customers a really memorable experience and a great night out. ‘Romeo and Juliet is always incredibly popular and we’re already in talks with some high profile actors to be part of an incredible cast. It would be great to see young people in the audience because it’s a story that resonates through the ages and is all about two teenagers in love.’ An earlier production of the play was postponed in each of the past two years due to Covid and ticket holders from these shows are urged to contact the Gatehouse Box Office on 01785 619080 to transfer their tickets. A number of sponsorship opportunities also exist and any firms interested in partnering with the Gatehouse are urged to contact Marketing Manager Keith Harrison on 01785 619080.


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Bradley Christmas Tree Festival 2021 The weekend of December 11th and 12th, saw St. Mary’s Church in Bradley transformed into a Magical Christmas scene. The theme of our Christmas Tree Festival this time was, The Magic of Christmas and our decorators made sure the church looked Magical. The ingenuity and creativity of everyone who brought a tree was immense. So much work had gone into creating all the decorations and setting the scene of Christmas in both Nature and Beautiful Baubles. In the Village Hall a team of people from the village provided teas, coffees, sandwiches and amazing cakes both to eat there or to buy. Tombolas worked their magic too with fantastic prizes which were all won by thrilled people. There were Christmassy craft stalls too providing the shoppers with wonderful Christmas presents. We are so grateful to everyone who helped make this event so successful and to raising a wonderful amount of money to maintain our very special church. Our thanks go to all those who made cakes, sandwiches and jam and to all the strong men, and women, who set up the church, provided signs all round the countryside and generally made this such a fun weekend. Words and pictures kindly sent in by Judith Manners

• Gnosall Lions

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• The tree shown above, on the right, was from children whose fathers are in prison

• Handmade and painted hearts for Love

• Sensory tree. Everything was for taste, smells, touch etc


• This tree had 90 messages of love and memory

• The tree with green mobile phones on it was by Stafford Samaritans

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Reward offered to expose serial Fly-Tipper A substantial reward is being offered for information that leads to the conviction of a fly-tipper who is regularly dumping bags of animal bedding waste across Cannock Chase. The bags of softwood shavings were first seen in September and are continuing to blight the area; The number of bags dumped so far has exceeded 60. One of the bags also contained 8 wire dog muzzles and a plastic tub that had contained a supplement for horses. Fly-tipping is a criminal offence and can result in fines of up to £50,000.

• Could these dog muzzles be a clue? Found at Bednall Belt Layby Camp Road

• Dumped at parking bay on Camp Road Yellow and clear branded bags are seen in piles ranging between 2 and 5 - the amount that suggests they could be from a car or van - and have been dumped in laybys and ditches along Camp Road, Brocton, near the Telecommunications Tower on Broadhurst Green, Penkridge Bank, Brindley Road and Lower Mansty Lane, Hatherton. The incidents have been been reported to the local Councils of Stafford BC, Cannock Chase DC and South Staffordshire DC for investigation, but the help of local residents in recognising where this waste is originating from, and who might be responsible for the fly-tipping, is needed. There was another incident of fly-tipped animal bedding waste, found in the early morning of 22 December 2021 on Bednall Belt Layby, Camp Road, Brocton. This brings the total number of incidents in the Cannock Chase area - that we are aware of - to 19 and close to 70 bags since September this year. Of course, there may be many more ... Anyone with information can call or text 07376 735759 in confidence. ED: Let’s hope the offer of a reward helps lead to a conviction. Flytipping is a constant problem all over the Chase, and a costly problem too. We are so lucky to have such a beautiful expanse of accessible woodland on our doorstep, it’s up to us to keep it looking beautiful!

• More shavings left near the Telecoms Tower

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• Hidden Dips Bay, Camp Road again

• Found at Brindley Road

• The plastic tub that had contained horse supplements, it would take up to 1000 years for it to biodegrade.


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Amerton Railway presented with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

• From Lto R, Pete Mason with the Certificate signed by the Queen, Peter Bell with the Crystal Award, Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire Ian Dudson CBE KStJ and current Chairman Pete Gully. On Saturday 6th November, volunteers from Amerton during the construction of the railway and facilities, and Railway were presented with the Queens Award for the Certificate to Peter Mason, Chief Engineer for the Voluntary Service. The award is the highest available for railway for many years and who led the purchase of the volunteer organisations in the UK and is equivalent to an land that the railway runs around. MBE. Pete Gully, Chairman, said “It has been a pleasure to show The Lord Lieutenant for Staffordshire Ian Dudson CBE the Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire around our facilities KStJ visited the railway to see the facilities and take a trip and explain some of the history of both the railway and the around the line, following this the Lord Lieutenant items we have on site. presented the crystal award and a certificate signed by The Lord Lieutenant was impressed by what has been Her Majesty the Queen to the volunteers at a ceremony achieved by the volunteers over the last 35 years or so and at Weston Village Hall. enjoyed meeting with and talking to them. It has been a Amerton Railway is a narrow-gauge railway situated wonderful afternoon enjoyed by all. Receiving the Queens between Stafford and Uttoxeter. Run entirely by Award for Voluntary Service is a real honour and something volunteers, it operates locomotives and rolling stock that we are all very proud of.” were mostly built or worked in Staffordshire. The railway originates from the restoration of Isabel, a locomotive built in 1897 by Bagnalls of Stafford and displayed on a plinth in Victoria Park following the end of her working life. The railway has come a long way from its early days restoring Isabel to now having a mile long railway, facilities to operate and maintain locomotives and rolling stock and owning the land it operates on. This now means they have a secure future and are planning on more upgrades including a footpath through the fields that has interpretation boards explaining history of some of the exhibits. Amerton Railway is one of 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them. • Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire Ian Dudson CBE KStJ with The Lord Lieutenant presented the Crystal locomotive Isabel at Amerton Railway. award to Peter Bell, Chairman and Chief Engineer

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Final section of multi-million-pound road project opens A multi-million-pound project to upport Stafford’s regeneration has been completed and is now fully open to traffic. The Stafford Western Access Route will ease congestion in the town centre, particularly by the rail station, and is supporting residential and commercial development. Construction of the £63million project began in summer 2019 and work has continued safely throughout the pandemic period. The final section crossing a new viaduct, which has been built over the River Sow to provide the connection to Madford retail park and the A34 Foregate Street. Seventy-two steel beams – each weighing 58 tonnes – form the base of the viaduct. The project has included the restoration of a former car park into marshland wildlife habitat, flood compensation works, plantation of 2,360 trees, installation of bat boxes and mammal crossing and creation of 2.2km of cycling routes. The road has been funded by the • The Stafford Western Access Route will ease congestion in the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Enterprise town centre, particularly up to the rail station. Partnership through the Government’s Local Growth Fund, as well as developers and both Chell Road, A34 Foregate Street (south of the scheme) the county and borough councils. and Doxey Road. The road links the A34 Foregate Street at Madford The scheme will include improved conditions for bus Retail Park to the A518 Newport Road Castlefields services, pedestrians and cyclists. There will also be junction. The road will help improve traffic flow in Gaol environmental benefits through the redevelopment of Square, Newport Road (east of Kingsway), Station Road, areas of derelict land and landscaping along the route.

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• Cover your ears as the horn blasts! Pupils from Cooper Perry show the scale of the enormous truck

Seighford Lights up the village The event started when Stan Robinson’s monster truck visited Cooper Perry Primary school. Deputy Head teacher Catherine Phillips said “When one of the Year One children at Cooper Perry made a monster truck, a follow up letter was written asking Stan Robinson Haulage if they would bring a truck to school. They said yes and the children were over the moon! They tooted the horn, measured the wheels, inspected the engine and asked question after question. It was a great morning and we would all like to thank Stan Robinson Haulage for generously giving their time to make one of our

pupil’s dreams come true!” That evening was the annual “Light up the Village” event organised by the Village Hall Committee. The event saw everyone turn on their lights in sequence, as the Stan Robinson Truck proceeded through the village sounding its horn. Everyone then congregated around the tree by the village hall, the tree was blessed by the Rev. Doug Hemming, and then it was illuminated. Hot mulled wine and minced pies, served on the village green, kept everyone warm!

Rural communities urged to get connected to ultrafast broadband Residents and businesses in more remote parts of rural Staffordshire without superfast broadband are being urged to find out more about a Government scheme which has been boosted by additional county council investment and now extended. As part of Project Gigabit, the UK Gigabit Voucher Scheme was relaunched in April 2021 with a £210m boost. It provides funding of up to £1,500 to eligible rural residential properties and £3,500 to eligible rural small and medium sized business properties to enable them to get connected directly to ultrafast broadband. Thanks to an additional £1m investment by the county council, people can apply for an additional £2,000 through the Staffordshire Top-up, meaning residents can apply for up to £3,500 and businesses £5,500. More information and how to apply for vouchers can be found at: https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/ Gigabit-capable broadband (also known as ultrafast broadband) provides speeds of up to 1000Mbps or 1Gbps. It means residents and businesses will be getting the latest technology, delivered straight to their homes. They will then be able to choose an internet package from a provider to suit their needs and budget. To qualify for the scheme, residents and businesses must live in a rural area, be unable to get broadband speeds of 100Mbps or more, not be in an existing plan for a broadband upgrade and apply as a group of two or more premises. Whilst the original Superfast Staffordshire programme,

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combined with commercial roll-out, has enabled 96 per cent of county properties to connect to superfast broadband, four per cent currently miss out. Now these communities are being urged to find out more about the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme and Staffordshire Top-up. Connection will take place in a 12-month period after funding has been agreed. It will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Sue Tyson, who led her Community Fibre Partnership in Dunston Heath, South Staffordshire, said: “With a download speed of up to 2Mbps on a good day the broadband at my own property was effectively useless. But thanks to funding from the Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme our community project comprising 70 plus homes and small businesses now has the best FFTP network available in the UK. It's incredibly fast and very reliable. It's a bit like swapping your push bike for a Ferrari! Gone are the days of downloading programs overnight or only being able to connect a single device at a time. We recently had Wi-fi security cameras installed which we were unable to have previously. The reality is that without the funding from the Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme and the support from the team at Superfast Staffordshire who guided us through the process and the Openreach teams who designed and built the new network it would never have happened. It has made such a difference to our daily lives and we now have a network for the future. We’d like to thank the team for improving the quality of life for our community."


"Keep Dancing" with us! How’s your quickstep these days? Or maybe the Tango is more you? Now’s your chance to dust off your dancing shoes and give it a go, for FREE! There’s Sequence Dancing, on Wednesday Evenings, from 7.45 pm at Rugeley Dancing Club at Lea Hall Social Club, Sandy Lane Rugeley. Sequence Dancing is one of the most popular forms of traditional ballroom dancing in the UK. It’s a fun and sociable form of dance, and a great hobby for all ages. The classes are run by professional dance teachers Alan and Pauline Jones NAT. For information on membership, and to book a date for your first of two free dances Contact: Paul & Sandra on 01543 304253 or e-mail paul.bache@ntlworld.com At the present time couples would need some dancing experience.

Community invited to share memories for online covid memorial in Stafford A memorial book has been launched to remember the lives lost and the impact on communities in Stafford Borough as a result of Covid-19. The online ‘Book of Memories’ allows residents to share their memories and tributes for inclusion on the council’s website. A postcard is also being made available for residents who do not have access to the internet to record their memories so they can be added to the book. The idea was one of the suggestions from a cross-party working group of Stafford Borough Councillors which was set up to put forward proposals to commemorate the lives that have been affected by the pandemic. The ‘book’ and information on how to leave messages can be found at www.staffordbc.gov.uk/onlinememories The postcards will be given to parish councils and to borough councillors and will also be available soon from community buildings. The cross-party working group was put forward by council leader, Patrick Farrington, who said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had, and continues to have, a huge impact on the lives of residents living in the borough. The scale and effects of covid are different, the knock-on effects are vast, especially for people who have lost loved ones and for those who are living with long covid. “I hope that residents across the communities find sharing their memories and experiences in this online book will help or bring some comfort to them and others, as well as being a lasting tribute to a loved one.” Other initiatives will include areas of dedication and reflection - which could see benches installed in Stafford Market Square and Stone High Street as well as in Local Nature Reserves. And memorial woodlands created, for example, at Westbridge Park in Stone and the newly designated Local Nature Reserve at Fairway in Stafford.

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Intrigue unfolds in teacher’s debut novel An epic tale of love, loss and betrayal unfolds in a debut novel by a Seighford speech and drama teacher who has switched the classroom for a career in full-time writing. Dominique Darley fulfilled an ambition when she released her new adult book, ‘Thirty-Seven Days to the Unimaginable’. While teaching for 16 years at Stafford Grammar School, Dominique wrote and directed eight plays including one which was performed to sell-out audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe - but the 55-year-old never found time to embark on her first novel. “I always knew that if I was to take it seriously I would need to dedicate myself to it full-time. My parents always encouraged me to write and I know they would be very proud to know I’d finally • From classroom to desktop, Seighford author Dominique written a book,” she said. Darley fulfilled a dream as The story centres on a she released her debut novel, family growing up on a Scottish farm. Aged 17, ‘Thirty-Seven Days to the Unimaginable’. Sebastian experiences something so horrific that it has haunted him ever since, while at the same time his older sister, Nancy, leaves the farm and vows never to return. Decades later, tragedy allows old wounds to be exposed and the family is forced to confront its past. Seventeen-year-old Stafford Grammar head boy, Tristan Van der Linden, was tasked with illustrating the cover of the 450-page novel. A lot of my inspiration has come from things people have told me over the years. If I hear a good real life story, I write it down. Some has come from personal experience but the vast majority of it has just come from my imagination. I think all the characters are rich, but with varying personalities. They were created out of a mix of people I’ve come across throughout my life and their characters have been expanded and moulded by the story and the situations in which they find themselves.” Mother to two grown-up daughters, Dominique moved to Staffordshire 25 years ago and now lives in Seighford with her husband, Mike, and a pet cockapoo dog called Marmite. As part of a strict daily routine, she is at her desk by 8.30 each morning and works until 2pm, but often continues to write in the evening. “I’m always writing in my head, especially when I’m out for a walk with the dog! The book has taken me 18 months to complete. Writing the story was the easy part, although editing and re-editing it has been a labour of love, which I’ve really enjoyed,” added Dominique, who has already started work on her second novel. ‘Thirty-Seven Days to the Unimaginable’ is available on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle.

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Community Awards evening return highlights heroes Unsung heroes across the community of Stafford Borough were the big winners at an annual awards ceremony. The Stafford Borough Council ‘Community Awards’ returned to the town’s Rising Brook Community Church on Thursday evening (25th November) after taking place online last year because of Covid-19 restrictions. And the roll of honour included volunteers, organisations and businesses who were among around 30 shortlisted nominations attending the event along with the Mayor of the Borough, Councillor Tony Nixon, and local MP, Theo Clarke. All the winners, and • Period Power with far left,Theo Clarke MP and Mayor – Councillor Nixon and Jo Cooper those highly commended, from category sponsor Community Foundation (far right). were announced over several categories to an The winners and audience of around 150 people. Councillor Jeremy Pert, Cabinet Member for ‘Highly Commended’ are: Communities and Health, said it had been another incredible year with so many inspiring stories of those who had stepped up to the mark and helped others in Community Action • Winner - Period Power their community over the last year. • Highly Commended - Hearts and Hands The categories included Community Action, Environmental Improvement, Social Wellbeing and Local Social Wellbeing Hero – as well as an award to recognise sporting • Winner - Stafford and District Carers Holiday Trust achievements in the borough which was introduced for • HC - The Island Restaurant: Eat in to Help Out the first time last year. Nominations were open to all people, groups and Environmental Improvement organisations operating within the borough with • Winner - Roots Larder CIC projects that have been running during the last 12 • HC – Street Floral Display months. Among the winners were Period Power, Staffordshire Local Hero County Showground for their Covid-19 Vaccination • Winner - Christopher Hurst: Environmental Works Centre, the Stafford Welcomes Refugees Young • HC – Susan McKeown: Hixon Millennium Green Volunteers Project, and Christopher Hurst, who has dedicated his time to work such as repairs on the canal Sport and Leisure towpath and working on flooding issues on the village • Winner - Stafford Dodgeball Club – Junior Dodgeball Club green in Barlaston. Councillor Pert, said: “It was a wonderful evening and • HC – Elements Fitness and Wellbeing / Macro Cafe fantastic to see so many inspirational people from across Judges Award our borough. • Winner - Staffordshire County Showground – Covid-19 “In the face of adversity we have seen many individuals, Vaccination Centre volunteers, groups and businesses stand up and be counted in so many different ways. Young Heroes “I knew that individual efforts and the voluntary sector • Winner - Tom, Seb, Joban and Harrison for the Stafford were strong in Stafford and the surrounding areas but Welcomes Refugees Young Volunteers Project. what’s been delivered in 2021 has been amazing. “I’m pleased we have been able to recognise their Special Recognition Award achievements. In my eyes they are all winners and I hope • Winner - The Community Foundation the evening demonstrated to them how much we value all More information from www.staffordbc.gov.uk/ they do to make our borough a better place to live, work communityawards and visit.”

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Local charities share nearly £8k in Council Grants

Charities and voluntary groups have received a share of nearly £8,000 from Stafford Borough Council as part of a grants scheme. Nine organisations had a share of the fund from the council’s ‘Small Grants’ initiative which offers up to £1,000 to help continue work that benefits residents across the borough. Many of the organisations braved the wintry elements on Saturday (27 November) to receive their cheques from Mayor of the Borough, Councillor Tony Nixon, on the bandstand at Victoria Park. The fund is administered by the Community Foundation for Staffordshire - an independent charity whose aim is to strengthen local communities across the county. It is open to groups and volunteers in the area who aim to make life better for residents with potential grants of between £100 and £1,000 that can be used to pay for a range of costs such as new equipment, training, or go towards the running of an event. You can find out more about the application process and criteria from Stafford Borough Council Small Grants – The Community Foundation for Staffordshire. Among the groups that can apply are community and voluntary groups, registered charities, and social enterprises. Recipients of this year’s awards included Stafford Welcomes Refugees, the Women’s Wellbeing Club, the Stone Scout and Guide Band and Chebsey Parish Hall Limited. Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for communities and health at the borough council, said it was very important for the local authority to support the great work of local groups and organisations from right across Stafford Borough. He said: “These projects benefit our residents, can bring about a lasting benefit to the wider community or help ensure an organisation can remain sustainable. They are run by selfless volunteers, often funded by generous donations from our residents and businesses, and it is only right that the council also supports them in whatever way we can. “It was a privilege, and very humbling, to meet them all and to hear about the great work they are doing, and it is important that they know they are very much appreciated by our community, and I thank them all for the great things they are achieving.”

The successful applicants, and the amounts awarded, were: Stafford Cultural Events CIC - £1,000, Chebsey Parish Hall Limited - £1,000, Stafford Welcomes Refugees £600, Stone Scout and Guide Band - £1000 Parkinson’s UK – Stafford Branch - £1000, Cerebral Palsy Mid Staffordshire - £1000, A Child of Mine - £750 Women’s Wellbeing Club CIC - £615.15, Choice Recovery £750

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HS2: Staffordshire Wildlife Trust calls for rethink of Birmingham to Crewe route Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (SWT) is calling for rethink of HS2’s phase 2 route as it’s emerged that the eastern leg will no longer be built. Ever since HS2 plans were proposed for the line to cut through Staffordshire, the Trust has actively opposed them and campaigned to highlight the threats to important wildlife along its route. The news that the eastern leg of the route will no longer be built is welcomed. This section of the line would have impacted on Kettlebrook Local Nature Reserve and Local Wildlife Site in Tamworth. However, this section of the route had minimal impact on the county in comparison to the Phase 1 and Phase 2a routes, running through Lichfield, Stafford and Newcastle boroughs. The line cuts right through the heart of Staffordshire, causing irreparable damage to a number of the county’s precious wild places and habitats that support threatened wildlife. Kate Dewey, SWT Senior Planning Officer, said: “While it’s great news for nature that the eastern leg has been scrapped, the Phase 2a route will still wreak havoc on our county’s precious wildlife. “In Staffordshire over 10,000 acres of land, including irreplaceable habitats, will be destroyed by Phase 1 and 2 HS2 routes. It will obliterate veteran trees, ancient hedges and water-meadows. Some of these losses will even be for temporary works such as construction access. “Wildlife such as barn owl, lapwing and snipe are at risk. With 40 local wildlife sites affected in Staffordshire, including very rare inland saltmarsh and 20 ancient woodlands, we cannot under estimate the devastation that HS2 will cause here.” Key habitat loss in Staffordshire includes: • Whitmore Wood, a Local Wildlife Site (county importance) and ancient woodland near Newcastleunder-Lyme. HS2 would cut through the woodland. If this destruction goes ahead on the site, it would currently be the single biggest loss of woodland on the entire HS2 scheme with the loss of over 13 acres (around half of the wood). The wood could be saved via tunnelling, but this option has so far been dismissed on the grounds of cost. • Just north of Bishton (near Wolseley and Rugeley) an area covering approximately 3km of species-rich hedges will be destroyed to allow a temporary access route to • The hedgerows at Bishton Lane

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• Ancient woodlands, Whitmore Wood be created to the lines construction site. • Further ancient species-rich hedgerows at Finner's Hill, Colton and Stockwell Heath, will also be lost by temporary road widening and HS2 cutting directly through them. In 2019 The Wildlife Trusts, along with the Woodland Trust, RSPB and Chilterns Society, published an evidenced report, ‘What’s the damage? Why HS2 will cost nature too much’. It was the first, and only, comprehensive, whole-route review of HS2’s impact to be published. It highlighted the lack of detailed assessment at the time, and showed HS2 Ltd’s proposed mitigation and compensation for nature was wholly inadequate. The Wildlife Trusts continue to call on HS2 Ltd to publish clear and detailed plans on how the scheme will meet HS2 Ltd’s obligations to achieve ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity along the whole route, and further, a net gain for wildlife and nature. They also continue to ask HS2 Ltd and the Government to address delivery of remaining works in order to ensure further catastrophic failings can be avoided. Visit their website at www.staffs-wildlife.org.uk


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Honor brings spirit of Christmas to suffering families The true spirit of Christmas was top priority for a Stafford teenager who spent six weeks collecting treats and donations for victims of domestic violence and families overwhelmed by sorrow after the loss of a child. Fourteen-year-old Honor Sutton worked tirelessly to urge friends, family and community members to support her effort in gathering and buying gifts for two local charities. The Stafford Grammar School pupil even added her own pocket money to help buy goodies which she packed into more than 110 comfort boxes. By the end of her ‘Operation Comfort’ project, the kind-hearted youngster collected presents and cash amounting to £1,500. Honor wanted to show compassion to women and children living at a refuge supported by Staffordshire Women’s Aid charity, so she set about creating Christmas Eve boxes filled with presents, books, hot chocolate and marshmallows. She was also keen to extend the hand of kindness to those suffering from bereavement and made Christmas Day boxes filled with treats for the Stafford-based charity, A Child of Mine, which offers emotional and practical aid to parents and siblings after a baby or child has died. “It’s such a special time of year, but Christmas Eve especially can be an emotional time for people living in a refuge. I wanted to create a festive mood and everyone loves hot chocolate don’t they? “I decided it would be nice to put in Christmas books because stories can create lovely memories. I thought once they’ve hopefully sorted out their lives they can look back at their time in the hostel and remember they had happy moments and not just sad ones,” she said. In addition to 74 parcels containing gifts amounting to £500, Honor raised an extra £50 to buy food for a children’s party. Honor’s friends, family, SGS teachers and pupils were all encouraged to come on board. Her collection was boosted by £200 from Stone firm Yellow Power, while parents of children at nearby Oakridge Primary also rallied to the cause. By the end of her appeal she had gathered another one thousand pounds worth of items to pack into 40 boxes for her other chosen charity. “I also wanted to support A Child of Mine because I think Christmas is a particularly hard time for families who have lost a child, sister or brother. It’s important they know that

• 14-year-old Stafford Grammar pupil Honor Sutton, who set up an appeal and collected Christmas gift-filled boxes worth £1,500 for two local charities. people are thinking of them.” It is not the first time Honor has dedicated her free time to helping others. At Easter she launched a similar mission which was so successful she decided she could double her efforts this Christmas. A recent visit to the Women’s Aid refuge strengthened her resolve. “It was lovely for me to see where the boxes are going and to meet some of the people who will receive them. It was such a lot of work, but I definitely hope to do another collection next year,” she added.

If Hero’s had tails - Rob the life saver from Marston This is Rob, he is a 5 and a half year old greyhound, from Marston, whom has generously donated blood at Cavan Vets Willenhall practice. The blood was urgently needed for another very poorly dog, who needed a blood transfusion that day. Rob was so incredibly brave and donated without going under a anaesthetic. The staff can't thank enough all the animals that donate at the Vets. Charlotte Louise, from Cavan Vets said “Believe me when I say Rob the greyhound had me in tears earlier as I knelt by the side of him and stroked his head as he gave blood. He had the other girls in tears too as we gave him a round of applause as he was walked through to reception to go home, with his little tail wagging and having no idea how much of a good thing he has done to save another dogs life'

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Funding Available to Tackle Climate Change

Midnight Train To Georgia: A Celebration Of Gladys Knight Born in Georgia in 1944, the legendary Gladys Knight began singing with her siblings at age 8, calling themselves ‘The Pips’. The group opened for many R&B legends in the 1950s before heading to Motown. There started the legend that became Gladys Knight & The Pips. In 1996, Gladys Knight & The Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2007, Knight received the Society of Singers ELLA Award at which time she was declared the ‘Empress of Soul’. She is currently listed on Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Singers of All Time. Capturing the essence of the multi award-winning Ms Gladys Knight, Hayley Ria Christian portrays her, bringing the true magic that Gladys Knight provides on stage. Featuring the hit songs including Baby Don’t Change Your Mind, Help Me Make It Through the Night, Try To Remember/The Way We Were, Part Time Love, Licence To Kill and her signature tune, Midnight Train To Georgia. This production is definitely not a tribute, but a faithful portrayal, and pays homage to the Empress of Soul…the one and only Ms Gladys Knight. “Simply one of the most high-quality productions and portrayals I have seen” MARK RITCHIE, UK CABARET MAGAZINE Midnight Train To Georgia: A Celebration Of Gladys Knight comes to Stafford Gatehouse Theatre on Saturday 29th January 2022 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost just £26 and can be purchased from staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk or by calling the Box Office on 01785 619080.

Communities across Staffordshire are set to benefit from a £100,000 pot of funding for projects that help tackle climate change or protect the environment. Projects that reduce carbon impact, improve air quality, enhance green spaces or reduce waste are likely to be considered for funding. The county council funding is open to not-for profit organisations including charities, societies, voluntary and community groups, parish councils and schools. Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for environment, infrastructure and climate change, Simon Tagg is urging groups to make an application to the fund. Simon said: “Tackling climate change remains one of the county council’s top priorities and we have a target to reach net zero by 2050. We are committed to tackling climate change and we know that if we all come together and do our bit, including voluntary and community groups, we can make a big difference. Through this fund, each county councillor has £1,500 to give out in their area and can allocate up to £500 per project. The funding is being allocated on a first come first served basis, so I would urge community groups to speak to their local councillor, check if they are eligible and make an application.” Staffordshire based charity, Help a Squaddie, received funding last year towards the costs of three bicycles so that veterans could travel sustainably to and from work and to see their families. Commenting on the project, one veteran said: “I’m in such a better place now thanks to Help a Squaddie getting a bike for me. Only this morning I went out on my bike to see my son. We played football and had a brilliant time. I’m also able to go around more often to help him do his homework and spend more time with him.” To apply for a grant, organisations will first need to speak with their county councillor and then apply online. Groups may apply to more than one county councillor and receive a total grant of up to £2,500. People can find out more, check eligibility and make an application at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/climatefund.

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The Quest For St Bertelin - By Peter Jones Part of my role over recent years has been providing an interesting, and sometime amusing, presentation relating to the over 400 years of the Mayoralty in Stafford, and the beginnings of Stafford itself. Not being a historian or archaeologist, I obtained my information from the many and varied books and leaflets on the subject. Like any information about our history, one must rely on whoever wrote the information originally, and like football matches, the different stories which come out from the different people who attended the game often differs in the detail. Since the first indication of civilisation, • The tomb of St Bertelin - We cannot be sure when he died, but he was buried in the Holy Cross Church at Ilam. where pieces of broken pottery and axe heads etc were found in the Stafford area, and place prayers for help on the top of it, hoping that over 5000 years ago, who wrote the details? We are told even in death he could help them. that since literacy was mostly for the clergy and they When I first heard the story I thought he was buried in would have written how they saw history, and in Latin, Eyam in the Peak District, so during the lockdown my we must base our comments on those notes. Science wife Joy and I went on a quest to see if we could find him. and technology allow us now to date most things, we A pleasant enough journey took us to Eyam and a visit can place an item pretty precisely in a timeline. to the museum, which informed us that Eyam was the If one is present at an event then you can write about plague town of 1665 and 1666, when the villagers were the event how you saw it, since the events in history are persuaded by the Rector to stay put and endure the buried in time along with the people who witnessed it, plague rather than flee and infect the surrounding area. how do we actually know what the truth is? Around 276 people died including the Rector’s wife. In or around 700AD, in the time of the King of Mercia, The village is visited by tourists from all over every year. there was a man called Prince Bertelin, the heir to the However, this is not where Bertelin is buried! throne who married a Princess from Ireland. During a trip During our visit to Eyam we were informed by the we are told, she was heavily pregnant and died in tragic church wardens that Ilam was his burial place, so days circumstances. He was terribly upset, and decided to later off we set. become a hermit and live a life of solitude deep in daily On Tuesday 10th August we travelled the Peak District prayer. His father, the king, was angry at the loss of his to find Ilam, nestling in a valley in the most picturesque heir to the throne, and when he was asked by the prince area of our countryside. to give him a piece of land which he could set up a Ilam Park is a National Trust site and very popular with hermitage, he was given what the king decided was the tourists, on the site is the church of Holy Cross in which worst piece of land in the kingdom! is the tomb of St Bertelin, sometime referred to as St It was a place in what we now know as Stafford, a small Bertram. island called the Isle of Bethany, surrounded on three The Stafford Borough Council produce a pin with the sides by a then raging River Sow and on the other by Borough shield and St Bertelin depicted on the top. I dense forest, as much of the country was at that time. gave one to the National Trust site manager who was The island became known as Staeth Ford, from the delighted. Anglo Saxon for landing place and ford, where people This is what I have been able to ‘dig up’ on the subject were able to cross the fast flowing River Sow. unless of course you know different and have evidence To cross the river to reach the Islet was dangerous, to substantiate it. which deterred people from even trying to reach it. At Either way it is an interesting story about the man who this time Britain was suffering from attack by Vikings, became the patron saint of Stafford and a replica of his people from Scandinavia, some even settling. hermitage is shown on the lawn in front of the St Mary’s The prince lived in solitude for some time but a few Church in the centre of Stafford. lucky folks found their way across the river and onto the relative safety of the Islet. When people learnt of the safety of the isle, and the fact that there was a religious man on it, they began arriving in larger number, destroying his solitude. He acted as their priest and eventually became known for his good works and was made a saint by the people. The island is first recorded in 913AD. Saint Bertelin finally tired of the crowds and his hermitage was ruined by the islands over population he moved to a place on the Derbyshire / Staffordshire border called ILAM where he set up another hermitage and spent his days in meditation and prayer. We cannot be sure when he died but he was buried in the Holy Cross Church at Ilam and his tomb is located there. • Holy Cross Church, Ilam Park So, the story goes that people would seek out his tomb,

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Footballers on target to net Midland crown

National Trust Talks at Walton

• Table toppers - Stafford Grammar’s under-14 football team won the Independent Schools’ Association (ISA) Midland championships.

The Staffordshire Centre continues it’s talks programme at Walton Village Hall, Green Gore Lane in Stafford.

Stafford Grammar’s under-14 footballers got a perfect start to their season when they captured a regional title in Derby. Eight teams from across the Midlands took part in the Independent Schools’ Association (ISA) championships which were played on a round-robin league format. After grinding out a goalless draw in their curtain raiser against competition favourites Twycross House, the side went on to clinch all three points on the stroke of full time in matches against Birmingham-based Highclare School and Worcestershire’s Bowbrook House. Both ties were sealed 1-0, courtesy of late penalties which SGS central defender Leo Fortune calmly converted. Consecutive 1-0 defeats to St Dominic’s Grammar (Brewood) and host school Dixie Grammar handed title chasers Twycross an advantage and left the Stafford outfit facing an uphill battle to nail their remaining games and net at least two goals in each. A Charlie Barker hat-trick against Arnold Lodge (Leamington Spa) kept their hopes alive and while their Warwickshire rivals could only manage a 0-0 draw, SGS maintained the tempo to seal a further 3-0 victory over Priory (Shrewsbury) in the decider to win the trophy.

Morris Dancing 8th February 2022 A Talk by John Edwards John Edwards has been involved in Morris Dancing for many years and is a member of Stafford Morris - the word "men" has now been dropped from the title to make it more inclusive. His talk (with pictures and video) will cover the colourful and entertaining world of ritual folk dancing, which began in 1458. There are many types of Morris dancing, viz. Cotswold, Garland, Welsh Border, Molly, Bacca Pipe, Rapper Swords, Long Sword and Fluffy Morris. He will demonstrate dance steps and handkerchief movements as well as describing (and bringing along) musical instruments used to accompany the dancers - drums, pipes, concertinas, tambourines and piano accordion and also a hobby horse. If you ask him why he does it - he will reply "because it's fun". To keep up with our future events watch out for us in these pages or check out our Events page at https://www.ntstafford.org.uk/ There is no need to book in advance, just turn up at the door and pay as you go in. However, it would help the organisers if you book your place(s) on our website https://www.ntstafford.org.uk/

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Youngsters tread the boards with West End ‘royalty’

• An evening to remember for Fran Fitton, Nathan D'Almeida, Ollie Jones and Adam Merron.

children. I love what I do and as I’m getting older I’m realising how important it is for me to give something back. “When I was young an international athlete visited my school and I remember finding it so exciting that someone at the top of their game should want to give up their spare time to come to talk to us. If I can offer something like that and inspire young people, it makes me happy,” she said. Kerry played Elphaba in West End and Broadway productions of Wicked, while her portfolio is packed with other starring roles including Fantine in Les Misérables, Ellen in Miss Saigon and Nancy in Oliver. She has also recorded four studio albums. In swapping the London stage for a school hall, the internationally renowned singer and actress delivered iconic ballads from Les Misérables and Cats, and up-tempo group numbers from shows such as Shrek, Hairspray and The Greatest Showman.

A dream came true for a Church Eaton teenager who sang a duet on stage with West End and Broadway star Kerry Ellis in front of a packed audience. Fourteen-year-old Ollie Jones could not believe his luck when the leading lady of musical theatre chose him to perform ‘Seasons of Love’ with her from the hit show, Rent. Ollie was among 130 pupils from 11 schools who were treated to a day to remember as they gathered at Stafford Grammar School for a five-hour musical theatre masterclass with Kerry, followed by a gala concert supported by a live orchestra. “It was incredible. At first I was terrified, then excited. It’s the biggest concert I’ve sung in and it’s so cool to share the stage with her. Kerry is a total professional and very experienced. She has been in so many massive shows, I can hardly believe she picked me. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said.

• West End leading lady Kerry Ellis wowed an audience at Stafford Grammar with an iconic solo from the hit show, Cats.

• Dreamtime - 14-year-old Ollie Jones, from Church Eaton, performed a duet with Kerry. The venture was put together by Stafford Grammar’s director of music, Gavin Lamplough, who welcomed other local secondary schools to join in. A lively performance by the full chorus got a packed programme underway, before Kerry wowed the audience when she teamed up with a small group of pupils for a rendition of the 1985 chart topping single from Chess, ‘I know him so well.’ Fresh off a tour with Queen guitarist, Brian May, the 42-year-old mum of two made the one-day trip to Staffordshire before hot footing it back to London in time for the school run. “As a parent myself I think it’s so important to inspire

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“From a very young age I spent every hour I could dancing, singing and performing. My parents embraced my dream and they’re still so supportive. It can be a tough industry and there are lots of sacrifices, but if you can find your path it’s a fun way to earn a living. These moments are very special and I told all the pupils to remember this occasion, commit to it and most of all - enjoy it!” she added. Schoolchildren from Uttoxeter, Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle, Penkridge and West Midlands joined the mass chorus in Stafford. Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Fullagar, from Stafford, performed in two small group numbers alongside Kerry. “This has got to be the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in music. I truly never thought I’d get a chance to sing with someone that special. I was so nervous, but she was so supportive to all of us,” commented the SGS sixth former, who has achieved a grade eight in musical theatre singing.


Village Voice NEWS IN BRIEF Beware of gold scammer We’ve been informed of a scam that took place in Cannock just before Christmas. A man approached the victim saying he had no money, and could he help him out to buy petrol to get to Ireland. He asked for £60 in exchange for his gold necklace. The victim gave him £60 for the necklace, but when he took it to the jewellers, it turned out to be gold plated and worth next to nothing. Please be aware, and if you are approached in the same way call Crime Stoppers on freephone 0800 555111.

Norbury Park Book A book has been published about an award-winning estate near Eccleshall. “Norbury Park – an estate tackling climate change” by owner Prof. Jo Bradwell was published in conjunction with the “Trees for the Future” conference at Birmingham University in November 2020. The superbly illustrated and impressively researched 160-page book describes 11 years of planting trees and reverting to traditional farming methods on this Staffordshire country estate. 180 hectares (450 acres) of arable land have been transformed with nearly half a million trees of over 100 different species from around the world. In addition, 160 hectares of arable land have been planted with complex herbal leys (23 species) and grazing cattle have been introduced rather than kept in sheds. Chapters cover a brief history of the estate, the increased productivity of tree mixtures and herbal leys, Birmingham University’s involvement in a huge and world-leading carbon enrichment experiment (FACE facility) at Norbury and discussions on government policy on forestry. Accessibly written and primarily aimed at the general reader, the book’s graphs and extensive reference section also cater to a specialist readership. Author Jo Bradwell is owner and director of Norbury Park. He has been instrumental in setting up BIFoR, (Birmingham Institute of Forestry Research) increasing woodland cover and transforming farmland from crops to mob grazing with cattle. He is the winner of the 2018 Royal Forestry Society’s Sylva trophy and the Woodland Heritage Peter Saville award. Priced £20 plus £5.57 for postage and packing, the book is available to order in hardback. Email office@harborne office.co.uk or phone 0121 428 2593.

Garden waste charge frozen as 2022 sign up starts The cost of emptying garden waste from homes across Stafford Borough has been frozen for 2022. Stafford Borough Council say there will be no increase to the annual charge for those households who want their brown bin emptied from January this year – and are introducing an improved online sign-up service to make the process easier. And residents who want to have their garden waste collected in 2022 can sign up now. The cost will stay at £36 for the year and you can get more information, and how to sign-up, from www.staffordbc.gov.uk/brownbin. Collecting garden waste is not a statutory council service and around 65% of local authorities across the country charge their residents to have grass cuttings removed. Around 35,000 properties signed up to continue using the fortnightly service this year – a total of nearly 40,200 bins – which is approximately 60 percent of households. The garden waste is taken by the council’s recycling and waste contractor, Veolia, to a composting facility where it is used to produce soil improver. Councillor Jonathan Price, Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “It is great to see so many households chose to continue having their brown bin garden waste collected and I’m very pleased to announce that we have frozen the cost of the service for the coming year. “By asking for an annual contribution for this non-statutory service we can ensure those who use the brown bin service can continue to receive it.” Residents wanting to find out more about the service can see answers to some frequently asked questions at www.staffordbc.gov.uk/brownbin

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