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FESTIVAL FEVER YOFC hosts Herts’ first-ever all-day pub festival, p3

LOCAL HERO YOFC catches up with a community champion, p4

HE’S BEHIND YOU Panto legend on Eric Morecambe, Tweenies and being a new dad again, p12

Mandy takes care of business, culture & tourism SOPHIE BANKS REPORTS


IRELESS Save St Albans Pubs campaigner and friend of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, Mandy McNeil, has won victories in both local and central government over the spring months, since the last YOFC Times was published. As vice-chair of the save St Albans Pubs campaign group, Mandy, who is also the voice of St Albans Taste and Radio Verulam, as well as being CEO of her own insurance and risk management company, Mandy McNeil International, was instrumental in the group winning an award for Campaigners of the Year from CAMRA earlier this year. Following that victory, she won the opportunity to speak at parliament on behalf of the campaign, to the parliament select committee investigation into the impact of business rates on business. More recently, she was invited to attend the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group inquiry into Unlocking Pubs’ Potential. And, also in May, she was victorious in the St Albans local elections, winning a Sopwell seat (previously Labour), for the Liberal Democrats, and being announced as the portfolio

Thousands descend on city for weekend of festivals

THOUSANDS of festival-goers descended on St Albans over the weekend of 22 and 23 June to take part in two days of celebrations. These included the annual Alban Pilgrimage followed by the city’s first-ever Roman Festival. On the Sunday, the Alban Street Festival took over the city centre with live music, street performers, theatre, dancing, amazing food and drink and a strongman challenge brought to the city by Ultimate Strongman, the organisers of Channel 5’s annual UK’s Strongest Man. holder for business, culture and tourism. Christo Tofalli, landlord of YOFC, says: “We are very proud of Mandy. She is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. “If Mandy is in your corner, you can be sure she will throw her all into whatever she is doing for you and make it a success.” Since Mandy won her seat, the city has put on a Roman Festival, to coincide with the

Alban Weekend, and the opening of the new Cathedral Welcome Centre and exhibition space. In her role as councillor, Mandy said of this festival: “The Alban Street Festival is one of the most exciting city-centre events of the year and attracts huge crowds. This year, she said, the city was emphasising its “Roman heritage, as the event is being held during their St Albans

Roman Festival, and I’m sure that will make it an even more fascinating spectacle”. Christo continued: “Mandy will make a huge difference in St Albans, like she has done with our Save St Albans Pubs campaign, and St Albans is all the richer for having her bang the drum for these three vital areas of the city.” Well done Mandy, we will drink to that!

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Landlord’s hasty drivel THE YOFC TIMES SUMMER 2019

Some want to call it editor’s notes, but I’m not having any of it


ERE we are again, summer is in full swing and the pub and its garden are busy and rocking with all the new live music we are putting on with the help of Empty Events.

The all-day family-friendly festival we held in May was so epic that we are only having another one on 24 August! So there’s a date for your diary. I want to say a massive congratulations to Mandy McNeil. This woman is unstoppable! Mandy’s been an amazing supporter of the pub, in fact all the pubs in St Albans, and she’s now your portfolio holder for business, culture and tourism – three words which basically sum up what Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is all about. Mandy won the Sopwell seat in the local elections, and we

know she is going to smash it, every day all day. Someone else who always smashes it is my good old mate Bob Golding, and he’s our Big Interview this issue, so sit back, have a pint and a giggle as you read about what he’s been up to in his fantastic career, and what’s coming up for him this year (clue: it’s behind you!). Finally – just want to say respect to Stacey who is half way up a bloody mountain in Africa as I write this (Kilimanjaro), with the rucksack that the pub donated to her firmly on her back, as she raises money for Cancer Research UK

‘Mandy’s been an amazing supporter of the pub, in fact, all of the pubs in St Albans, and she’s now your portfolio holder for business, culture and tourism’ (CRUK) and awareness for The Ollie Foundation – so big up to you Stacey and see you for a cold bottle of something fizzy to celebrate when you come back. Have a banging summer everyone!

THINGS TO SEE IN QUARTER 3 There’s LOADS going on in the great outdoors near the pub over the summer! Here’s The YOFC Times pick ... JULY UK’s Strongest Man Festival, 26th – 28th July Athletics Ground, Verulamium Park This huge event is once again being filmed for Channel 5, and is a weekend of fun with free children’s activities, music and plenty of local food and drink, while watching incredible feats of strength. Who will win the title this year of UK’s Strongest Man? Family tickets start at just £10 per person, plus booking fee. Tickets available from eventbrite.co.uk AUGUST Much Ado About Nothing 1 and 2 August, Inn on the Park, Verulamium Park, St Albans Open-air theatre at its best! The cast of nine delivers a 90-minute performance of William Shakespeare’s brilliant comedy, preceded with a director’s talk and an exciting fun interactive session with the audience. dramaimpact.com/much-adoabout-nothing-the-tour/

Meraki Festival 23-25 August, Herts County Showground This popular family-friendly summer festival returns for a third year and takes place at the Herts County Showground and is unique in that, once you’re in, all activities are free. There’s dancing, a fairground, comedy, magic, movies, lego, even free festival glitter!! And of course lots of music, which this year includes Judge Jules, Paul Young and The Shires. merakifestival.com Ye Olde Fighting Cocks all-day festival, 24 August The all-day festival in May was so successful that Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is doing it all over again! Music, food, family fun – be there. yeoldefightingcocks.co.uk SEPTEMBER Pub in the Park, 13-15 September Verulamium Park, St Albans Tom Kerridge brings his foodie festival to Verulamium Park over the weekend of 13 -15 September. With TV chefs such as Matt Tebbutt and James Martin showcasing their cooking skills and music from Will Young, Tom Odell and Razorlight, as well as our very own Phil Thompson

and Dylans getting involved, this is one not to be missed. pubintheparkuk.com/st-albans St Albans Food and Drink Festival 25-29 September The St Albans Food & Drink Festival is now in its 12th year, showcasing the fantastic range of food, drink and produce available throughout the St Albans District. The festival starts on 23 September with the St Albans Food & Drink Awards being held in the St Albans Museum + Gallery. CAMRA Beer & Cider Festival kicks off on Weds 25 September at the Alban Arena. A great Feastival Event on Sunday 29 September will set St Peter’s Street ablaze with street food, demonstrations and general frivolity! Plus two weeks of events, activities, workshops, dinners and deals run through until 7 October. enjoystalbans.com/event/stalbans-beer-cider-festival-2019/ TimeTurn: St Albans Vintage Retro Festival 22 September This retro festival takes the city back in time with each street themed to a different era with a variety of activities for the public to enjoy. In partnership with Heritage Open Days, music, food and fashion will all play their part in the festival. stalbansbid.com




E Olde Fighting Cocks has unveiled plans to host the pub’s second all-day music festival after more than 800 people partied in the pub and garden at the first festival in May. The festival, organised for the pub by Empty Events, was Hertfordshire’s first all-day pub festival and was such a success, the organisers will he hosting another festival on 24 August, a bank holiday weekend. More than 20 bands and artists performed across two stages at the festival. The event also helped to raise awareness for The OLLIE Foundation, a local charity that funds suicide intervention skills training for adults working with young people. The festival is part of a new energy surrounding YOFC’s live music offering, which also includes the new Friday Open Mic nights at the pub, which are proving very popular. Some incredible artists have played

800 rock up to pub’s first all-day festival at the venue over the last few months and bands are starting to come from the surrounding counties, even as far as Cambridge. The pub has also enlisted the help of Kaspar Rapkin, a local blues guitarist, who will be helping to run the Friday nights as well as a new Open Mic night on Tuesdays.

And, YOFC is now also introducing live music to the final Saturday of every month. Owain Page, founding director of Empty Events said: “The idea is that we turn the YOFC into a mini music venue, where bands and musicians have the chance to gain exposure. We also have other events planned

including an Octoberfest party and a winter wonderland in the garden in December.” YOFC would like to hear from bands or musicians keen to play at the gigs. To apply to perform on Friday nights, drop Empty Events an email on info@emptyevents.com emptyevents.com

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‘Love where you live’ THE YOFC TIMES SUMMER 2019


F YOU live in or near St Albans, unless you have been living under a rock – or are not on social media – you will know the name Sharon Linney. Sharon is synonymous with the mantra #Lovewhereyoulive in St Albans, and boy does she practise what she preaches. An active supporter of the city, its events, its attractions and its people, Sharon helps spread the word about all the things going on. In today’s lingo, she’s what we’d call an “influencer” and is the queen of social media – she is an admin

Credit: Shelly Henderson

In the first of a new series of features on Local Heroes, Sophie Banks catches up with St Albans resident and community champion Sharon Linney

on one of the biggest local Facebook groups, St Albans Past and Present Memories. But, far from remaining behind her laptop, she also gets stuck in with community projects and in particular cares deeply about the plight of the homeless. She’s part of the force behind St Albans Action for Homeless,

By Patrick Barlow based on the novel by General 'Lew' Wallace

5-13 july 2019 Main Stage

which, she says was “set up by passionate, caring individuals who just could not walk on by”. “We had to do something. So we set up the group and we fill the gap between the services Open Door and Centre 33 provide. Not everyone wants to go into these centres, for their own reasons so we make

sure they have clean clothes, toiletries, sleeping bags and hot food and drinks. But the biggest thing we have done is got to know them and we have helped some back into their own homes.” Why is she so passionate about St Albans? “My mantra is #lovewhereyoulive,” she says. “If you don’t like it, get off your arse and do something about it. We are blessed to live in such a beautiful place.” She cites the travel links, the countryside, and “the lovely pubs and restaurants,” the Abbey and museum. But most of all, she says: “I love St Albans because we have such a strong sense of community.” And she should know: she is at the very heart of it. To find out about St Albans Action for Homeless, go to actionforhomeless.co.uk

Hilarity on a Biblical scale! Box Office: 01727 857861 www.abbeytheatre.org.uk

This amateur production of Ben Hur is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH LTD


TV comedians headline city’s comedy night



HE popular TV chefs James Martin, Matt Tebbutt and Angela Hartnett will be joining Tom Kerridge at the Pub in the Park festival in St Albans this year. The three-day food and music event, which is taking place in Verulamium Park from 13-15 September, will also see model and publican Jodie Kidd cooking up a storm with some of her mouth-watering dishes from the menu of her gastro pub The Half Moon Inn. Martin, who hosts Saturday Morning with James Martin on ITV will be demonstrating his cooking skills by bringing his signature dishes to life at the festival’s Friday session and Tebbutt, who hosts Saturday Kitchen on BBC1 will be demonstrating his at the festival’s Sunday session. St Albans own chef Phil Thompson from Thompson St Albans will also be taking part in the cooking workshops and demonstrations at the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon sessions. And both Dylans at

TV chefs join festival line-up the Kings Arms and Thompson St Albans are both featured restaurants at the event. Alongside the impressive food and drink line-up that will also have a wide range of pop-up pubs, restaurants and a shopping village, the festival will feature some of the UK’s most famous rock and pop stars including Tom Odell, Razorlight, Will Young, The Rifles, Toploader, Stereo MCs

and The Christians. There will be plenty of activities to keep children entertained too including a cinema tent, a kids’ kitchen, arts and crafts and giant outdoor games such as Connect4 and Jenga. Tickets for the Saturday of the festival have sold out, but there is still availability for Friday and Sunday. pubintheparkuk.com/ st-albans

ST ALBANS’ comedy scene has received an injection of activity over the last few years with the launch of comedy club HatsOffComedy, which has been bringing top-class comedians to St Albans. The brainchild of St Albans residents Andrew Ryan, Michael O’ Shea and Penny Rainford, the comedy nights have been a hit with comedy lovers in the city. “Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of us,” said Rainford, “our shows sell out so quickly we barely get around to advertising the dates.” The organisers have been enticing some big-name acts to the city such as Andy Parsons, Andy Askins, Zoe Lyons and Rosie Jones. They have also hosted the city’s first comedy festival earlier this month. HatsOffComedy’s next gig is on the 20 September and tickets are on sale now. hatsoffcomedy.co.uk

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Making space for a greener future PARTNER FEATURE

When it comes to putting the environment first in business, JPA Furniture really is a company that practises what it preaches. Angie Cronin has a chat with commercial director Fiona Edwards to find out about its award-winning recycle, refurbish and rehome strategy


PIONEERING St Albans-based company has a lot to shout about after adding another award to its trophy cabinet last month. JPA, which employs 27 staff in its St Albans HQ, won the Green Award 2019 at the Inspiring Hertfordshire ceremony recently for its efforts at putting sustainability and the environment at the heart of its operations, as well as saving businesses more than £350,000 over the last five years. The family business has carved out an excellent reputation, over 45 years, for supplying new furniture to offices, education and healthcare environments, but recently has also developed a range of services that saves organisations money and helps reduce their carbon footprint as well. “The core of our business is new office furniture supply and solutions,” says commercial director Fiona Edwards, “but we begin each project by assessing whether our clients really do need new furniture in the first instance. We provide full workplace assessments on existing furniture, and work with clients to see if and how existing items can be repaired, refreshed, reupholstered, relocated or reconfigured for continuing use in the new scheme.

Created by JPA, workspace that caters for a variety of individual work styles and preferences This maximises all existing items, meaning nothing else has to be made or manufactured, and once this has been addressed, only then do we address the specification and supply of new furniture items. “Our repair and maintenance services provide furniture solutions and solve office furniture headaches, saving time and money in a variety of ways such as resetting task chairs for users who aren’t comfortable anymore, supplying spare parts and replacement keys, advising on fire and health and safety, compliance, repairs and refurbishment, not forgetting collection for end-of-life recycling when old furniture is simply no longer needed and just in the way. “We help at every step of the way – pre-purchase, in-use and when no longer needed – with our hallmark of value through sustainability. Our end-of-life reuse and recycling schemes provide a much-needed service for organisations who simply

don’t know what to do with their furniture once they no longer need it. Nothing goes to landfill.” JPA have rehomed over 3,500 items locally in the last five years, and recycled another 20,000 items, that’s more than 390 landfill tones saved, with community furniture savings in the region of £350,000 – no mean achievement. JPA’s workplace assessments also help companies to increase their operating efficiency, streamline communication and workflow and improve their spaces for optimal results. They also create 2D and 3D design renders of sample rooms so that clients can really visualise what their furniture office space could look like and experiment with different layouts for peace of mind before committing to final purchase. The locality of JPA’s offering is key. “Because our operation is local to our client base, our resources are where our clients are, so fleet miles and emissions are reduced whilst service levels higher as


JPA was tasked with project managing the relocation of a business in Redbridge. This included space planning and design of the new workspaces, dismantling and transporting existing furniture, supplying and moving crates to the new location, specifying, delivering and installing the new items, and, rehoming and recycling any unwanted furniture. JPA Furniture ensured that all of the furniture at the Redbridge company’s original office was rehomed in the community with no furniture going to landfill. The furniture was rehomed across several organisations including: Rothamsted Research, Emmaus, ShopMobility Marlowes, Community Action Dacorum and Isabel Hospice. This project saved 6.3 landfill tonnes, £16,071 for the client in furniture reuse, and equated to £8,630 in furniture donation to the community. we are better able to respond quickly. Locality also means more effective networking of organisations to help us find homes for rehoming.” And, as JPA’s green vision continues to grow, it looks like the company may need to get a bigger trophy cabinet – but will it be a new or preloved one? • The one-stop furniture shop has a newly launched website demonstrating the breadth of their services. www.jpa-workspaces.com tel: 01727 840800


UK’s Strongest Man returns to city ANGIE CRONIN REPORTS


HE excitement is starting to build as St Albans gears up to host the UK’s Strongest Man competition from 26-28 July with the finalists for the contest being unveiled after three months of cruelling qualifying rounds reached their conclusion. Paul Bad Boy Benton won Scotland’s Strongest Man last month to secure his place alongside Wales’s Strongest Man Mark Jeanes, England’s Strongest Man Gareth Blake and reigning UK and Ireland champion Pa O’Dwyer. An achilles injury has forced former UK, European and World Champion Laurence Shahlaei to pull out of the event after he vowed to regain his UK’s Strongest Man title when he lost it to Pa O’Dwyer last year at the three-day festival of strength in Verulamium Park. Shahlaei will be replaced by

Britain’s Strongest Man, the Lancashire Strongman Graham Hicks. Graham wrote himself into the history books in April when he lifted a new British Log Lift record. He raised an impressive 214kg, almost 34st. And new on the scene is the 6ft 7in giant Gareth Blake, who

is one of the biggest strongmen in the world. He won England’s Strongest Man in front of 7,000 fans in Telford earlier this year. The five-times UK’s Strongest Man Glenn Ross was full of praise for the newcomer. “Gareth is like the new Giant Haystacks,” he said. “He is

absolutely huge and could cause a real upset at the finals. The line-up is phenomenal, and fans can once gain look forward to what promises to be a nail-biting finale.” The competition kicks off on the Friday with 16 finalists but this number is whittled down to eight by the finals day on Sunday, when the remaining strong men will go head to head to be crowned UK’s Strongest Man 2019. The family friendly, three-day festival is once again being filmed for Channel 5, and is a weekend of fun, food and live music with free children’s activities. The team from Ye Olde Fighting Cocks will be serving up lunch and dinner to VIP guests and athletes. Tickets can be bought for each single day, or for the whole weekend. Family tickets start at just £10 per person, plus booking fee. ultimatestrongman.tv/

Enjoy some park life this summer

WAFTS of suntan lotion fill the air and everyone’s praying for a sunny affair. The shorts are at the ready, the ice creams are held steady, and people are raring to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine. So, what better way to enjoy summer than to spend time discovering Hertfordshire’s open spaces. Verulamium Park Nestled in St Albans City, Verulamium Park should be on your shortlist for picnicking. This park will also appeal to history buffs as it’s named after the Roman city on which it stands, and you can find the artefacts found in the grounds in the museum in the park. Norton Common Stroll into this hidden gem and you’d never guess you were

within walking distance of Letchworth Garden City. Some 63 acres of grass and woodland are waiting to be explored and the tennis courts and pool are calling on those hot days. Cassiobury Park An absolute favourite for its sessions in the bandstand, this park has been voted one of the top 10 parks in the UK. When the weather gets a little balmy, the paddling pools and water features are a welcome treat.

Fairlands Valley Park This is a park for those who just can’t sit still. With a sailing centre and 20 acres of open water, it’s safe to say you can soon clock up those nautical miles. If you fancy a canter, the horse and pony route takes in some of the best of the parkland.


To marry or to cohabit: that is the question PARTNER FEATURE

Sherrards is a leading law firm based in St Albans and London, offering a broad range of legal services to support businesses and private individuals across the UK and internationally. Many of the company’s solicitors are leaders in their fields and have a reputation for delivering high-quality legal services based on excellence, which includes providing fully tailored solutions, based on a commitment to understanding their clients and their businesses. In the first of a series of Your Life and the Law features, Donna Payne, Senior Solicitor and Mediator at Sherrards, looks at whether it is better for couples to cohabit or get married.


OHABITEES are at a serious disadvantage to married families on separation. A number of issues can arise. An unmarried partner who stays at home to care for children cannot make any claims in their own right for property, maintenance or pension-sharing. Cohabiting couples are not legally obliged to support each other financially, but married partners have a legal duty to support each other. If you are the unmarried partner of a tenant, you have no rights to stay in the accommodation if you are asked to leave, but each married partner has the right to live in the “matrimonial home”. Cohabitees also have no automatic inheritance rights. If one cohabiting partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything – unless the couple jointly own property. A married partner would inherit all of the estate, if there are no children. Where there are children, the first £250,000 personal items and half the remainder of the estate, with the balance being shared between the children. Cohabiting partners cannot access their partner’s bank account if they die, whereas married couples may be allowed to withdraw the balance providing the amount is small. Cohabitees are also at a

serious tax disadvantage post death. Inheritance tax can be a major problem for cohabiting couples. Cohabitees with property and other assets with a combined value of more than £650,000 face an inheritance tax (IHT) charge if one party dies. This is because unmarried partners can only pass assets up to the value of the nil-rate band of £325,000 free from the imposition of inheritance tax. Everything that passes from one partner to the other above that sum is taxed at 40% of that value. Compare this with anything

left to a spouse or civil partner which is 100% exempt from inheritance tax. In addition, the surviving spouse/civil partner can “inherit” the other party’s nil-rate band, meaning the full £650,000 can pass to other beneficiaries, such as children, on the death of the second spouse/ civil partner. This transfer of the nil rate band is not available to unmarried couples. In addition, the new Additional Residence Nil Rate Band, potentially giving married couples and civil partners additional exemptions of up to £300,000 on the second

death, is not available to cohabitees passing assets to their children. So be warned, and act early. Things can be done to reduce the negative impact. It is important for everyone to make a will and make arrangements to be as tax efficient as possible but it is imperative for non-married partners to get their affairs in order – or maybe this article will lead to a number of hasty proposals? A word to the wise though – do not mention inheritance tax planning advantages during the course of the proposal. sherrards.com


Sean Lock leads comedy line-up SOPHIE BANKS REPORTS


RAB your glitter and find your festival togs – Meraki is back for its third year. The three-day St Albans music, comedy and family festival is hitting the Herts showground from 23-25 August and has announced the inimitable comedian Sean Lock as the comedy tent headliner. Best known for being a team captain on Channel 4’s popular panel show 8 out of 10 Cats and 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Sean is one of the best-loved comics in the UK and will be headlining the comedy tent on Saturday 24 August. (Please note this is an adult-only show and it starts at 4pm). Meraki also has a fantastic music line-up again this year, which includes The Shires, Judge Jules and a live 10-piece band, Carwash, Paul Young,

Carol Decker, Garry Christian, and much more. Festival founder Kerry Marks is proud of the festival credentials. “Meraki is the UK’s only family festival where all activities are free,” she said. “This means that once you walk through the gates, you don’t have to spend a penny on the activities, which include the fairground, workshops, free circus training, face-painting, movies, magic, archery climbing, caving, laser tag … there’s lots to do.” You can buy a ticket for the whole weekend, with camping, a one-day ticket for any of the days, or an evening

party pass – there is something to suit everyone. For more information go to the website at merakifestival.com

Football club seeks new kit sponsors ST ALBANS Ladies FC is on the lookout for new sponsors as the club prepares to launch a new football kit. The club’s first team finished runners-up in the league cup final and third in the league and have already started pre-season training as they look to start the new season in a strong position. Club secretary Michelle Chandler said: “We would be thrilled to speak to any businesses with a sponsorship budget. We can promote our sponsors through social media, display banners at our home ground and weekly write-ups in the Herts Advertiser paper.” The football club is also looking to recruit new players for its under 18s team. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor or trialling with the under 18s, email stalbansladies@gmail.com

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Local teenager wins BBC contest ANGIE CRONIN REPORTS


STUDENT from London Colney is part of a choir that has won the much-coveted BBC Songs of Praise Senior School Choir of the Year 2019 competition for the second time in four years. Stephanie Costi, 18, who is a pupil at the prestigious Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, is a member of the Tring Park 16 Chamber Choir, who were crowned BBC Songs of Praise Senior School Choir of the Year 2019 last month. The final saw the Tring Park School chamber choir, also known as the Tring Park 16, impress the judging panel with their performance of ‘Steal Away’. The judges included: vocal coach and TV presenter Carrie Grant; JB Gill from the acclaimed boyband JLS; and the tenor Russell Watson. Talking about taking part in the competition, Stephanie, who has been a student at Tring Park School since she was 11 and prior to that attended the Fair Field Junior school in Radlett, said: “Competing in the Senior School Choir of the year competition was an

Stacey achieves Kilimanjaro goal

London Colney student Stephanie Costi (above) and the Tring Park 16 (right) incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I am truly honoured to have been a part of this amazing opportunity alongside my friends.” Talking about the Tring Park 16’s success Songs of Praise series producer Matthew Napier said: “Tring Park delivered the quality of sound, the vocal technique and the all-important wow factor. They are deserved winners – again!” Reflecting on the choir’s success, Tring Park director of music Liz Norriss said: “Having won the competition back in 2016, I was thrilled the choir were able to represent the school again by winning a place in this year’s semi-final. It was a brilliant experience for

LOCAL mental health awareness campaigner Stacey Turner has accomplished her ambition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and raise the profile of the It’s OK To Say campaign as well as funds for Cancer Research UK at the same time. Stacey, a children’s author and anxiety specialist, teamed up with the Herts Ad to launch the It’s OK To Say campaign to encourage people of all ages to speak out about mental illness. Speaking to The YOFC Times shortly after she reached the summit, Stacey said: “Before you even begin to climb up to the summit, you endure days of rough sleeping, the effects of altitude, poor appetite, pain and exhaustion. Suffering both physically and mentally along the way, I used every tactic I could think of to override the pain. I was determined and I’m so grateful for the support which I carried with me. It will always mean so much.”

the choristers, but we all felt the pressure of maintaining the school’s record. “The choristers are incredibly passionate about their singing, and were determined to do their best. I couldn’t have asked more from them and I feel honoured and proud to work with such amazing young people.” Tring Park School has a glittering alumni for the students to be inspired by. These include: Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi); Lily James (Mamma Mia Here We Go Again and Disney’s Cinderella); and Jessica Brown-Findlay (Downton Abbey).

Tring Park School is both a day and boarding school for students aged 8 to 19.and a number of students from St Albans attend the school. Alongside a broad academic curriculum, the school offers courses in dance, acting and musical theatre to children up to the age of 16. Sixth Form students are able to study Acting, Musical Theatre and Commercial Music up to age 18 while dancers can take a three-year course, graduating at age 19. Open days for 2020 admissions are taking place on 4, 10 and 11 October. From September, the school will be running buses from Tring railway station to the school. tringpark.com

Pupil to perform at Fringe

A STUDENT from St Albans is set to make her debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. Victoria Beavis, 17, who was a pupil at Marlborough Science Academy until last June, will be taking to the stage at PQA Venues @Riddle’s Court to perform in Three by playwright Harriet Braun. The play focuses on the lives and loves of six teenagers during a long, hot summer. Victoria is a first-year student at The Pauline Quirke Full-Time Academy of Performing Arts in Islington, London’s newest full-time theatre school, studying for a Diploma in Performing Arts. The academy was set up by TV star Pauline Quirke, best known for her role as Sharon in the popular TV series Birds of a Feather. Victoria will be performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe alongside other students from the full-time drama school in the play Three. Victoria said she was “extremely excited to be performing at the Edinburgh Festival”. “It is such an amazing opportunity and experience to be able to share with my friends.” Students looking to pursue a career in the performing arts, should go to pqacademy.com/full-time-academy/


Telling the story of Britain’s first Saint SOPHIE BANKS REPORTS


T ALBANS Cathedral has unveiled its new visitor centre and exhibition area after many years of planning and building work. The new centre is part of the Alban, Britain’s First Saint project, a once-in-a-lifetime redevelopment opportunity funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and more than 1,000 donors. The aim of this project was to build a new visitors’ (Welcome) centre, connecting the Norman Cathedral with the 20th-century Chapter House. In addition to the building of the Welcome Centre and refurbishment of the Chapter House, a new exhibition area transforms the way in which the Cathedral tells the story of Alban, featuring a timeline that brings his story to life and places St Albans’ local history

• St Albans Cathedral became a cathedral in 1877, before which it was a church of the old Benedictine Abbey, which is why locals call it the Abbey. • Much of its architecture dates from Norman times, and the Norman tower was built in 1077 using recycled Roman bricks from Verulamium. • It is the only 11th-century great crossing tower still standing in England • Alban was Britain’s first saint and lived in Verulamium. He was beheaded on the spot where the Cathedral stands, after sheltering a priest from soldiers and becoming a Christian, in around the year 300. stalbanscathedral.org

Credit: Craig Shepheard


in a national and international context. There are also new displays, trails, artefacts and audio visuals allowing visitors to explore the Cathedral and its manuscripts and some of its hidden spaces. Children can also enjoy new activities, including brass rubbing, dressing up and explorer backpacks. The transformation of this part of the Cathedral enables a more dynamic

programme of events and by the time this goes to print, the Cathedral will have had its annual Alban Pilgrimage, a new London to St Albans Pilgrimage and a nine-day Roman-themed festival. So, whether you are a regular at the Cathedral, or have never been before, this summer is a good time to visit. The Cathedral is open daily and free to enter. Please check the website for opening times.

The Golding boy


Sophie Banks catches up with Bob Golding to chat about an incredible acting career that has included Olivier Awards, performing for the Queen, voicing Thomas the Tank Engine’s friends Stephen and Sidney, and being a Tweenie!

Bob, second right, and the panto cast for 2019, including, from left, Jemma Carlisle, Andy Day, Rita Simons and Ian Kirkby

Hi Bob, let’s get panto out the way early on! Congratulations on your national award – everyone in St Albans would agree that it’s well deserved. I have recently seen you in the local paper launching this year’s panto – what is it and who’s in it? That’s very kind of you thank you. As most panto-goers know, it’s not really about one performer in panto, it’s the whole team of people present in the room at the time, especially the 876 people watching it. So, as lovely as it is to receive an accolade like a Great British Pantomime award, I can’t let it all be mine. We have such a fantastic audience every year at the

Credit: Paul Clapp


OB Golding is a local legend. He is the undisputed star of the Alban Arena’s annual panto for which he picked up an award (for Cinderella!) at the 2019 Great British Pantomime Awards earlier this year. And he also won the Best Actor award at the St Albans Film Festival in 2017 for his portrayal of Eric Morecambe in short film The Last Laugh. But St Albans people might be surprised to know about his long and illustrious career in acting, on both stage and screen. Bob is also a lovely guy: modest and wonderful company (so funny – he has me in stitches) and a firm friend of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, and is often to be found having a laugh with Christo at the bar.

Alban Arena panto, they’re incredibly loyal and most importantly of all, they get involved! That’s what panto is all about. They’re the best, so I know they won’t be disappointed with this year’s line up in Sleeping Beauty. We have some well-loved returning stars including the brilliant Jemma Carlisle, my dear pal and all round ace actor, Ian Kirkby, Andy Day is coming back too, straight after his latest Cbeebies series and our very own foxy Roxy Rita Simons is our evil fairy Carabose also returning after a crazy couple of years touring with various theatre pieces and of course her stint in the jungle eating animal genitals. A couple of secret weapons too in a totally new slapstick

routine involving a lot of water and Kirkby and I, and the wonderful West End star Lisa Davina Phillip. What’s not to love! Book now. How did you become the papa of panto in St Albans? Hahaha! Well, after a few years touring a one-man play about the late great Eric Morecambe, Evolution Pantomime producer Paul Hendy approached my agent asking if I’d like to be in panto at the Alban Arena. That was 2010 and I’ve not looked back since. Next year will be my 10th in St Albans. Aaaghh! Where do the years go? So yes, it’s all Mr Hendy’s fault. He is also one of the most dedicated producers I have ever met. It’s a joy being part of his and Emily’s Panto family.

You have recently become a father again! Massive congratulations to you and Nikki on the arrival of the beautiful Nella! I have never seen such cute pictures of a baby as I have on your Instagram account! How has it been? Are your other children thrilled with their new sister? I’m very proud of Nikki, Nella and my three older children, Georgie, Lilly and Ernie are the absolute best things/people nutters in my life and the love they all have and show each other makes me swell with pride daily. Georgie, Lil and Ern could not be happier having a new baby sis....Plus they are the best baby sitters. Haha! As well as my awesome in-laws Mick and Aly who are legends.

of St Albans panto


Bob as Eric Morecambe with Eric’s son Gary at the statue to the comic legend in Morecambe You have had the most varied career of any actor I know. What was it like to be a Tweenie?! “Varied” works for me. I think any actor would want varied as it keeps it all fresh and exciting and stimulating, like any good art should be. Believe it or not, we spent four years filming Tweenies ( 20 years ago this year) and it all seems a lifetime ago, but what a fab job to land. I voiced the characters Milo and Max and a pretty large team of real pros came together under the guidance of the creators Iain Lauchlan and Will Brenton. Composers, actors, puppeteers, animatronic technicians, designers, carpenters, electricians, prop makers, directors. The list goes on.

People don’t realise what goes into such productions, but suffice to say it paid off. Baftas and NTAs etc, but mostly, the public’s response to it was overwhelming. It was a show with heart and I think it really set a standard for children’s television the likes of which had not been seen. I’m grateful and proud of my involvement in Tweenies. They should bring it back! You were nominated for an Olivier for your portrayal of Eric Morecambe in the one man play Morecambe, which ran at the Duchess Theatre in 2010 (the play actually won an Olivier). That must have been an incredible career highlight! Tell us about your passion for Eric Morecambe

and how it came about. I could talk about Eric all day I really could. I was always an enthusiastic fan of vintage comedy growing up. My parents would find me with those massive 1970s headphones on listening to classic comedy in my room as a young lad, everything from Will Hay and Laurel and Hardy to The Goons, Arthur Askey and of course Eric and Ernie. I approached a small group of pals in the industry to write and create a one man play for me to take to the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and we all put our heads together to form the

basis of the play Morecambe. The story of Eric’s life. Tim Whitnall (the playwright) disappeared for a few days and came back with the first 10 pages, and before we knew it,


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I was on stage alone performing a full play to the public and more terrifyingly, the friends and family of the great man. It was a nerve-wracking time, but led onto the West End run, the two Olivier award nominations and the win. What an honour. I have the award all shiny and polished at home. I even went on to perform as Eric at the Royal Variety Performance and met the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. I shared a dressing room with all the other comics on the bill including, Roy Walker, Jason Manford, Paddy McGuinness, Adam Hills, Hal Cruttenden and Paul Zerdin, and we shared the bill with Bette Midler, Lady Gaga, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Bublé, Diversity and more. A surreal day to remember. All a bit of a whirlwind, but the real honour of the play’s journey was meeting and becoming close friends with Eric’s family. Joan, Gary, Gail, Stephen and all the family members have been so incredibly supportive and loving which has truly touched my heart. Being involved with this play changed my life and I couldn’t be more grateful. Apart from panto – any other projects you’re working on that you can tell us about? I try to keep busy with lots of stuff really, voiceovers are a big part of my year and I have just finished another series of Noddy for Dreamworks which is airing now. Still continuing on Thomas the Tank engine which will run forever I’m sure and I’m in my third year being the voice of Oral B dental products on TV commercials. In on-screen work, I’m waiting to hear about a rom-com movie shooting in Rome later this year which would be great if I can get it! What is it like living on a houseboat? (Bob lives on a houseboat in Bedford marina with wife Nikki). Ah now you’ve got me on my

Bob and his wife Nikki on their houseboat that they call home in Bedford marina

favourite subject ! It’s heaven. I wouldn’t move back into a house now if you paid me... well maybe if it was lots of money – haha! We have been living on a big ole boat for four years and we love it; in fact we love it so much we have just commissioned a new boat build to be our next home. Oh man, I hope work comes in or we’ll be homeless. Boat life has a calming influence on me. I need it. My poor wife needs me calmer too. It’s so restful being on water. The wildlife just outside the window is stunning on a daily basis. It’s a perfect home for us. The kids love it. Did you grow up around the St Albans/ Herts area? I spent my school years in Chingford in northeast London, then I left home at 16 to live near the college I attended in Hitchin ( North Herts College) where I met a girl from St Albans. But it wasn’t until I started filming Tweenies in 1999 that I moved to St Albans and made it my home for 16 years. I love the city with all of my heart and if there was a body of water big enough to plop our house boat into I’d

move back tomorrow. Do you think they’d let me plonk it into the lake at Verulamium park? We’d be no bother really. Every time I see you, you seem to be super happy. What makes you happy? Ha! I’m laughing because I know what Nikki would say to that question. He’s a grumpy git! I am a glass half full bloke though. My dad is an eternal optimist and I think it’s rubbed off a bit. I do believe in daily laughter. We are all here so briefly on this planet, so why get angry or jealous or negative and miserable about yourself or those around you? Certain subjects do rub me up the wrong way though. Let’s move on shall we ? What’s your idea of the perfect day/evening? That’s simple. Wife, kids, friends, music, wine. Any embarrassing stories about Christo you can share? Oh fishing for dirt are we? Well as I’m sure he’ll tell you, we’ve spent many a night at the Fighters over many years and I can honestly say he’s never embarrassed me. I mean he

embarrasses himself almost daily doesn’t he? But he’s one of the best fellas I know and we are lucky to have him at the Fighting Cocks. He did all the food for our wedding you know? It was superb. He’s superb. Are you watching Love Island? And if so, who’s your tip to win? Ah yes the question on everybody’s lips right now. I have never seen Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad or any of those popular TV shows sadly, but I do have two teenage daughters who against my advice watch Love Island religiously and love Tommy. I think it’s televisual torture and I’ve usually got other stuff to do at 9pm every week day like sandpaper a tiny piece of insignificant wood or practice underwater soot juggling. Curtis and Amy totes to win obvs! What’s your favourite tipple? Thanks well if you’re buying, the finer the claret, the better, any occasion, but I do love an espresso martini ... oh how I love them. Sigh. Cheers to that!

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The YOFC Times summer 2019 issue  

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