Welcome to my world!

The reflections and comments of a resident in Southsea, Portsmouth, England.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Join the festive season!


Article as it appears on Portsmouth View, 9 December 2016.



It is December and places are getting festive. A Christmas tree is up in my office, ready for us to take our decorations out of the box and put them on display.

Putting up Christmas decorations, can be a lovely family occasion. It is my favourite time of the year even though I only have a very small artificial tree at home.

I buy decorations from places I visit on holiday so that my tree is like a memory tree. It is a good way to remember happy times.

Holiday season is also party season. I am looking forward to see friends and family over the festive period.

Urbond, a Portsmouth community organisation which aims to promote togetherness is holding a Community Christmas Celebration on Saturday 10th December at the Charles Dickens Centre from 8pm.

The Santa Claus show at the New Theatre Royal promises some dancing penguins, and that is enough for me to want to head there and bring the family for a festive season. The show is on until 31st December.


King’s Theatre has always put on a very good traditional panto and this year it is Jack and the Beanstalk. You have until January 1st to catch the show.

Team Locals featured Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls as one of their top music events this season. The ‘Get Better Tour’ will take in 20 cities and on 14th December they will be in Portsmouth Guildhall.

In the spirit of giving, Turner has partnered with Plus 1 so that £1 from every ticket sale goes to War Child, a charity supporting children and families affected by conflict and striving for a world where no child’s life is torn apart by war. You can enjoy a concert and know that you have contributed to a worthy cause.

On 17th and 18th December head down to Guildhall Square for Portsmouth's newest Christmas event. There will be live music, family entertainment, street performers, an arts and crafts tent, film screenings and snow cannons, as well as market stalls selling everything from food and drink to Christmas gifts, vintage clothing and jewellery. That is like our very own Christmas Market!

The most coveted ticket in town right now is the Guildhall’s New Year’s Eve Party on Saturday 31st December. With the masquerade theme, it is a really fancy way to usher in 2017.




Have a happy and safe holiday season!












Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Christmas at The Spring Arts & Heritage Centre


The Spring in Havant is getting geared up for Christmas with a range of festive shows, and we are assured that there is something for everyone!


This year The Spring is putting on two special festive shows – one for the adults, and one for the children.

A Christmas Carol and Cabaret takes place from Wednesday 14 December – Friday 16 December, and is a night strictly for the adults to enjoy! Each evening, there will be a performance of A Christmas Carol by the hilarious (and slightly rude) Living Spit, plus a cabaret performance from a different artist each night before and after the show. The Spring will be turned into a winter wonderland, with festive food from Tilly the Tram outside, Christmas cocktails, and even some bauble-making!


This year, The Spring has commissioned their very first Christmas family show exclusively for Havant, with the talented Commotion Dance. The show, Where is Christmas? is an enchanting, immersive performance for little ones aged 7 and under, and their families, and runs from Wednesday 21 December – Saturday 24 December. Come along and peek inside a world of boxes, where three jolly characters dance their little stockings & through an unforgettable festive adventure to try and discover, just where is Christmas? Stacking, sorting, packing and piling unfold into adventurous possibilities with quirky characters, enthralling movements and enchanting live music.


In the lead-up to Christmas, there are two varied music shows to get you into the festive mood.

If you are looking for a relaxed, nostalgic evening, Johnny Coppin, one of England’s finest folk singer-songwriters, is performing on Saturday 10 December. He will be playing a mixture of traditional carols and new songs, together with stories, superstitions and folklore from the UK and beyond.


For the party-goers, the world renowned soul and blues singer Geno Washington and his Ram Jam Band on Saturday 17 December. Geno is referred to by many as the ‘King of Soul’, and his world famous live shows were immortalized in two of the biggest selling albums of the 60s – Hand Clappin’ Foot Stompin’ Funky Butt Live, and Hipsters Flipsters and Finger Poppin’ Daddies.



Expect a night of barnstorming feel-good songs to get you dancing into Christmas!

For further details contact
Box Office: 023 9247 2700

Website: www.thespring.co.uk

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Christmas at The Spring Arts & Heritage Centre


The Spring in Havant is getting geared up for Christmas with a range of festive shows, and we are sure that there is something for everyone!

This year The Spring is putting on two special festive shows – one for the adults, and one for the children.

A Christmas Carol and Cabaret takes place from Wednesday 14 December – Friday 16 December, and is a night strictly for the adults to enjoy! Each evening, there will be a performance of A Christmas Carol by the hilarious (and slightly rude) Living Spit, plus a cabaret performance from a different artist each night before and after the show. We will be turning The Spring into our very own winter wonderland, with festive food from Tilly the Tram outside, Christmas cocktails, and even some bauble-making!

This year, we are very excited to announce that we have commissioned our very first Christmas family show exclusively for Havant, with the talented Commotion Dance. The show, Where is Christmas? is an enchanting, immersive performance for little ones aged 7 and under, and their families, and runs from Wednesday 21 December – Saturday 24 December. Come along and peek inside a world of boxes, where three jolly characters dance their little stockings & through an unforgettable festive adventure to try and discover, just where is Christmas? Stacking, sorting, packing and piling unfold into adventurous possibilities with quirky characters, enthralling movements and enchanting live music.

In the lead-up to Christmas, we’ve also got two varied music shows to get you into the festive mood.

If you are looking for a relaxed, nostalgic evening, Johnny Coppin, one of England’s finest folk singer-songwriters, is here on Saturday 10 December. He will be performing a mixture of traditional carols and new songs, together with stories, superstitions and folklore from the UK and beyond.

For the party-goers, we have world renowned soul and blues singer Geno Washington and his Ram Jam Band on Saturday 17 December. Geno is referred to by many as the ‘King of Soul’, and his world famous live shows were immortalized in two of the biggest selling albums of the 60s – Hand Clappin’ Foot Stompin’ Funky Butt Live, and Hipsters Flipsters and Finger Poppin’ Daddies

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Welcome autumn!

As it appears in Portsmouth View, November 2016
 
Welcome autumn; Guns N’ Roses November Rain was playing and the weather turned cold and wet when I wrote this.
 
As it gets darker, I hope readers won’t stay indoors too much. There are comedy and theatre shows, as well as concerts in the many venues around the city to enjoy.
 
The second chamber music concert by the Van Kuijk Quartet at the Guildhall was a reminder of how thrilling watching a live concert can be.
 
It was also amazing to hear such world class musicians in Portsmouth. The next concert will be on 30 January with Ensemble 360.
 
This was a very musical week with Dr George Burrows Head of the Centre for Performing Arts giving a talk about Monteverdi’s opera Ulysses’ Homecoming at the New Theatre Royal on Tuesday night.
 
The next day, Dr Burrows launched the exhibition of Messiah and Portsmouth: Then and Now at the Guildhall, which outlines the research he has been doing for a special performance of the Messiah in March 2017.
 
Then on Friday, Colin Jagger launched his critical edition of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard in Blackwell’s Bookshop.
 
Colin had spent six years researching and putting together this edition from the original performance in 1888.
 
This is Oxford University Press's largest music publication in over 15 years. It has already drawn the attention of BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, and promises to become the standard edition of Gilbert and Sullivan's finest work.

On Monday 14 November the King’s Theatre will host the Dirty Dancing Musical. So put on your dancing shoes and sense of fun for the time of your life.
 
Local businesses will get together on 15 November for the biggest ever networking event hosted in the Portsmouth Business School and organised by Amy Doyle, herself an award-winning entrepreneur.
 
Portsmouth DarkFest, a spin-off from the University of Portsmouth-led Supernatural Cities project, continues with the multi-art celebration at venues across Portsmouth throughout November.
 
Professor Jo Scurr will lead a discussion on breast health during the next Café Scientifique on 22 November at Le Café Parisien.
 
On Saturday 26 November the University of Portsmouth Orchestra and Big Band will hold their autumn concert at the King’s Church in Somerstown. This is followed by a Choral Sing-Out at St John’s Cathedral on Saturday 3 December with music for everyone.
 
The University carol service on 12 December ushers in the festive season.

 
 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Science is so much a part of our lives

As appeared in the Portsmouth View, October 2016

Looking at the programme of activities for the HG Wells Festival you can see how Portsmouth has given him much inspiration. The festival programme takes in everything from talks about Wells’ influence on popular culture and his passion for human rights to the latest scientific thinking on time travel and a creative writing and science fiction workshop.
Science is so much a part of our lives that we do not often realise. When you make a cup of tea and the dry leaves turn into a comforting brew in the cup, it is science in action. All that you have in our mobile phone is science. Science is all around us.

We do a lot at the university to encourage young people to study science. Sometimes it surprised me that we have to work so hard to do that. After all, science is really fascinating. Do we not wonder about how trees die down in the winter to come blooming in the spring? Or have we taken science for granted?

This month I urge you to engage your senses with the wonders of science. There are television programmes by David Attenborough and Professor Brian Cox we can all watch that talk about science. Portsmouth’s own resident, Professor Jim Al-khalili, is a professor of science engagement and he discusses scientists and their work on BBC Radio 4 The Life Scientific.

Discover more at the Portsmouth Cafe Scientifique monthly sessions. Held at Le Café Parisien, I organise these with volunteers from the British Science Association. Designed mainly to answer people's questions, this is the best place to start.

If you love a good argument, perhaps try the Skeptics in the Pub session. They are insightful for those with a bit more knowledge. This is also held monthly in Le Café Parisien.

Portsmouth’s graduate, Tim Peake, is currently the most famous science hero. He will be visiting the city next month to inspire school children. He is also giving a public talk at the Guildhall and if the tickets have not been snapped up, go and listen to him.

Of course, the university is home to many scientists. There are always events about science happening. Most of these are free, so there is no reason why you cannot take part.

Right now I’m planning a week long science programme for the British ScienceWeek in March 2017. There is so much fun in store!

Monday, 17 October 2016

Rare D-Day craft has found a home

Agreement has been reached on the final resting place of LCT 7074, the last Second World War Landing Craft (Tank) (LCT) in the UK, one of the last in the world, and a campaign veteran of the D-Day landings.
 
It has been announced that The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) is to work in partnership with Portsmouth City Council to locate the craft at the city’s D-Day Museum, an affiliate of The NMRN, in time for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2019 when the transformed museum will be reopened.
 
The agreement is subject to funding but has been the long-held preferred option for the vessel. LCT 7074 was saved for the nation two years ago with the support of a £916,149 grant from the National Memorial Heritage Fund.
 
Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of The NMRN said: “It is the perfect place to display LCT 7074 and put it in the context of the D-Day story.
 
“Not only will it strengthen the D-Day Museum’s collection but it will be a powerful reminder of the important role this humble, but vital workhorse played in the success of D-Day. Also, importantly, her sheer size will amaze visitors since she was a 300 ton ocean-going vessel capable of carrying ten 30 ton armoured vehicles.”



Thursday, 15 September 2016

Remembering the raid on Entebbe – 40 years on

TV historian Saul David comes to The Spring


The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre is delighted to welcome Professor Saul David to speak about his latest book, Operation Thunderbolt.

It’s now 40 years since the daring rescue of the hostages trapped on Air France flight 139, which was forced to land at Entebbe in Uganda – then under the dictatorship of Idi Amin. The Israeli military mounted a complex but ultimately successful operation to free the hostages, who numbered more than 100.

Saul David is a historian, broadcaster and critically-acclaimed writer. Born in Monmouth, he began his education at a tiny school where half of the pupils were his cousins. He traces the start of his love of history to a teacher at his second primary school, and then to sixth-form teaching at Ampleforth College. He began writing his first history book at the age of 25.

Saul recently presented World War Two: A Timewatch Guide for BBC2. He has presented and appeared in a number of BBC documentaries including Zulu: The True Story, Time Commanders, and The Greatest Knight. His other non-fiction books include The Indian Mutiny: 1857; Military Blunders: The How and Why of Military Failure; Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War and Victoria’s Wars: The Rise of Empire. He has also written two historical novels.

Operation Thunderbolt was an Amazon History Book of the Year for 2105, and after his talk Saul will be signing copies of the book, which will also be available to purchase.


The talk will take place at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre, on Thursday 22 September at 8pm. Tickets cost £16, or £14.40 for concessions. You can book in person at The Box Office, call 023 9247 2700, or visit our website at www.thespring.co.uk





Monday, 5 September 2016

The irresistible attraction of Sherlock Holmes

The silhouette of Sherlock Holmes, with his deerstalker hat, pipe and magnifying glass, is instantly recognisable. The stories have been translated into many languages, and new stories are always being written. All over the world actors have made their name by playing the famous – and infinitely malleable – detective, and groups meet to discuss and dress as characters from the stories.

But what is behind this extraordinary attraction to the character of Holmes? 


Go along to the Spring Arts and Heritage Centre, to listen to Michael Gunton, Senior Archivist at Portsmouth City Library,  who will explore some of the reasons for our enduring fascination with Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps due to the hugely popular television series starting Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, Holmes is often mistaken for a historical figure, rather than a fictional creation.

An extensive collection of items relating to Conan Doyle is housed in the Library’s second floor history suite, and Michael Gunton has been involved with it since it was bequeathed to the Library in 2004 by Richard Lancelyn Green – generally considered the world’s foremost scholar on Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. He has extensive knowledge of the time spent by Conan Doyle in the Portsmouth area; for example, Conan Doyle’s first doctors’ practice was located in Southsea.

It was while living in Southsea that Conan Doyle began his second career, as a writer of fiction, and the first two Sherlock Holmes tales, A Study in Scarlet (1887) and The Sign of Four (1890) were written during his time here. Michael Gunton’s talk will take place on Thursday 15 September at 7.45pm; tickets are £6. You can book in person at the Box Office, or telephone 023 9247 2700, or visit The Spring’s website at www.thespring.co.uk.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

UnPOPpable at Victorious Festival

As I walked around the seafront, operation dismantling was going on after the very successful Victorious Festival. I'm not much into the music, but I spent Saturday volunteering with the British Science Association Hampshire and Isle of Wight branch to run some balloon science experiments attached to the "unPOPpable" show.


We were showing kids how to skewer balloons without them popping (unpoppable, you see!), running balloon races and helping kids make their own nebula in a jam jar.





Based on a children's book by Tim Hopgood, unPOPpable was a story of a yellow balloon that was, you guess it, unpoppable! The balloon took an adventure into outer space and when it came back down to earth, magic happened.


The show was the result of collaboration between cosmologists at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (ICG) at the University of Portsmouth and associate artists working with the New Theatre Royal's Creative Lab.


We wanted to create art work inspired by science, inspired by art. The Arts Council England really liked the project and funded it so we can put it all together and showed it at Victorious.

If it was successful, and it was, we might bid for more funding to tour the show around the country.




Sunday, 14 August 2016

Portsmouth is a foodie paradise

This article appears in the Portsmouth View published 12 August 2016. 

Portsmouth has become a real foodie paradise and no one is more pleased about it than me. I love food, not only in eating it, but also in creating meals. So living here is such a delight for me.

The monthly farmers market on Palmerston Road is a must and the next one is on 21 August. It is the best place to find fresh local produce and stock up on delicious cakes, preserves or wines.

Summer also means food festivals of which there are many you can find in this bustling city.

We have just witnessed a Gin Festival in Portsmouth Guildhall, home also to beer festivals. In fact, make a note in your diary for the Octoberfest celebration there on 21 October.

This weekend the Thai Food Festival in Castle Field, a regular feature on the summer calendar, will complement the Kite Festival nicely offering favourites such as pad-thai and fishcakes.

Of course we also have the annual Southsea Food Festival last month. Always a buzzing affair with cooking demonstrations and delightful food stalls.

I’m sure there will be food at the Fratton Family Festival on 18 September as there are many cafes, takeaways and restaurants in one of Portsmouth’s well-known neighbourhoods.

Fratton is rivalled only by Albert Road, Portsmouth’s own ‘curry mile’. There are so many restaurants and takeaways there that in 2009 local councillors were calling for tighter restrictions. I’m sure the residents did not mind the food options available to them on a Friday night!

Ken’s Fried Chicken is of course legendary among our student population.

The city also boasts Michelin-star establishments such as Restaurant 27 and Bistro Montparnasse.

Competitions are mushrooming, so watch out for more opportunities for fine dining.

Gunwharf Quays offers many branches of national food chains with their lovely marina setting.

More than anything, though, Portsmouth residents love their independent shops and restaurants. Luckily for us, there are so many to choose from.

Places like the Sopranos, Belle Isle, Santyago, Meat and Barrell, Pie & Vinyl and Samphire offer some unique food experiences.

On the weekend of 3-4 September, we welcome the first Camber Seafood Festival. Headed by Eric McCloud of Viviers, it is so Southsea and long may it continues.

Further afield in Wickham there is the Taste of Wickham on 11 September and The Gullfest will be happening in Portchester before that on 3 September.

So enjoy the summer!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Supporting local authors: JS Law

I have enjoyed supporting local authors. I think it's wonderful that Portsmouth is home to historically great authors like Kipling, Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and that tradition of great writing continues to today.

Author James Law launched his first book in August 2015 after a three-book deal with Headlines. Tenacity launch party was held in the atmospheric Royal Naval Submarine Museum in Gosport.



I worked with James for some publicity for this launch, pitching his story to BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, as well as securing radio and newspaper interviews locally.

BBC Radio Solent interviewed James on the Katie Martin programme, and he was also given air time on Express FM.

There was a small article and a photograph with the Lord Mayors of Portsmouth and Gosport in the Gosport Edition of the Portsmouth News. How many book launches can boast a two Lord Mayors in attendance?

The crowning glory was a two-page interview entitled "On the Right Side of Law" with a photograph of James and the submarine HMS Alliance looming in the background.


Read his full article on the News

Last month James launched the paperback version of Tenacity in Blackwell Portsmouth and I was there again to witness history.

If you haven't read Tenacity, make sure it's on your list of summer reads.