Neighbourhood Watch at The Caxton Theatre

If you like your comedy a little dark and with some political edge then the Caxton Players have just the thing for you this week as they present Alan Ayckbourn’s 2011 work Neighbourhood Watch.

It’s not quite satire, because the targets are too far down the political food chain, but it is an indictment of the quotidian prejudices and false assumptions that blight contemporary society. The Caxtons have been particularly prescient to put the production on during an election campaign in which the levels of so called ‘fake news’ have never been higher. The moral of the play is that if you tell people what they want to hear, which is mostly confirmations of what they already believe, (correctly or more usually incorrectly) then you won’t go far wrong.

On an upmarket estate whose back gardens offer a view down the hill to the local council estate (a place of dread for the characters in the play, filled with nameless horrors and working class people) a newly arrived brother and sister hold a sparsely attended housewarming. Here they meet a terrifying cross section of their new neighbours, including monomaniacal retired security consultant Rod (brilliantly played by Chris Dempsey), bewildered Welsh cuckold Gareth ( a terrific performance from Bruce Forster and the ill matched couple next door Luther and Magda (Kieron James and Tessa King who manage to be both disturbing and disturbed by turns).

The event culminates in a nasty case of mistaken identity, an assault and the theft of a clarinet (you didn’t see that coming), and the end result is increasing discontent on the hill, leading to the setting up of the titular neighbourhood watch.

So far so gentle but it’s here that the piece takes a surprising turn as the watch soon develops into a fascistic local policing system complete with road blocks, stocks and a public morality code. There’s a lot of sexual tension threatening to boil over too, particularly in the growing romance between Liz Drury’s sirenic Amy and Dean Wright’s Martin but there are other undercurrents too that don’t reveal themselves until later. It’s a bit like Neighbours meets 1984 with hints of Abigail’s Party in the mix for good measure and if it sounds like it’s all going to end in tears, well by Jesus it does.

All the cast are excellent and Debra West’s direction keeps the pace running just nicely so it doesn’t become too confusing and it’s certainly never dull. There aren’t many jokes as such but you’ll be hard pressed to find a more ironic and knowing piece of comedy on offer anywhere. Definitely worth a visit.

The best party ever! The Radio 1 Big Weekend 2017

Imagine the best party you ever went to. Perfect venue. Great music over four stages. Excellent food. Add in some fairground rides and your favourite radio personalities to make the whole thing go with a swing. Arrange it so it’s free admission (albeit with some minor ticketing and transport expenses).

Then arrange for the sun to shine like it’s never going to stop.

Add that all together and you’ve pretty much got the Radio 1 Big Weekend which this year came to Burton Constable Hall, just outside Hull, as part of the City of Culture Celebrations, and in the opinion of many, the highlight of the whole cultural shebang.

The Peoples was lucky enough to get an invite and we were treated to fabulous performances by the likes of Little Mix, Rita Ora, Lorde, Kasabian, Imagine Dragons, Rag’n’Bone Man, Haim and of course the headliners, Kings of Leon and Katy Perry. What more could you wish for?

Well Alt-J, Biffy Clyro, Emeli Sande, Clean Bandit and Stormzy would be a start.
The line up offered something for all tastes, from synth beats to rock, from pure bubblegum to grime and hip hop, and from electro-folk to seventies disco (that last one courtesy of the extraordinary Christine and The Queens, all the way from France and absolutely brilliant).

Of course with such a line up spread over a huge field you can’t see everything and you can be sure that everyone missed at least one of their favourites, but hey that’s festivals for you, and at least at this one you could be sure that whoever you were missing them for was probably pretty great.

Of course it was all happening within the week of the Manchester attack and while no-one was going to let it dampen their spirits it was ever present, the elephant in the field. People were cautious and surprisingly well behaved. I didn’t see any trouble at all during the whole weekend and police reported no arrests. Security was tight at the perimeter but once you were in it was unobtrusive and everyone was helpful and the minutes silence was incredibly moving even to an old cynic like me. I felt really sorry for the guy near me who didn’t realise it had started and who suddenly laughed and swore loudly, only to be angrily shushed by everyone around him.

It was a day dominated by pop and all the better for it. I don’t get to shoot a lot of chart acts. I see a lot of punk and heavy metal and lo-fi and alt-country but pop just seems to pass me by so seeing the likes of Little Mix, Lorde and Clean Bandit was a big thrill.

In the end it was the women what won it. Some I’d seen before like Anne-Marie who played her own set early in the day in the Where It Begins big top and then came onto the main stage to join Clean Bandit for Rockabye. She gets better every time I see her. Some, like Dua Lipa and Charli XCX were new (or even news) to me but they were great and real ear openers.

Highlights? Well it seems a bit redundant to even talk about them because it was one highlight after another all weekend.

Best new (to most people) band: Life who I could only hear and not see from my position backstage. A great Hull band on their way to the top and with a new album out. The Amazons were good too.

Best new (to me) band: Alt-J. How did I manage to go this long without listening to Alt-J? I remember all the praise heaped on An Awesome Wave but for some reason our paths never crossed. I’m ashamed to admit that with the keyboard reference for a name I think I assumed they were another of those techno acts that play laptops and dance on tables. Anyway the good thing is I now have a new favourite band.

Best playing laptops and dancing on tables: Galantis and The Chainsmokers – joint winners. Impressive balancing skills.

Most awesome vocal: Rag’n’Bone Man. The man is a genius.

Best dancing: Lorde. I’m going to practice till I can do it too. Lorde also gets the most photogenic performance award. I could photograph Lorde all day and never get bored.

Nicest surprise: Little Mix. Little Mix pretty much sum up the kinds of bands I don’t get to see but they were great, even if they did get themselves temporarily thrown off the iPlayer. Ah, the exuberance of youth.

Best bubblegum bubble blown live on stage: Nathan Followill, drummer from Kings of Leon. Impressive size and symmetry and great breath control, blowing, bursting and retrieving all in perfect time to the music.

And the highlight of the weekend? Well that has to be Katy Perry. She brought the set from her world tour with her and just lit the evening on fire. It’s a fact that some performers don’t give it a hundred percent for festival stages, but Katy Perry gave it everything. Sensational. I can’t remember ever seeing a performance so perfect.

So thanks to Radio 1 for arranging the best party Hull has ever seen and if you could arrange to bring it back next year that would be just great.

Twins Walk Raises Funds For The Newborn Intensive Care Unit

You could have been forgiven for thinking you were seeing double when a group of local mums and dads took their babies on a sponsored walk from The Discovery Centre to the Meridian Line on Sunday 4th June.

The walk was organised the Grimsby Twins group, a social support group for parents of twins.

Leanne Raynor, mum of 21 month old twins Willow and Myla, said: “The neonatal unit is close to all our hearts. We want to help other parents, who like us, have spent time on the newborn intensive care unit with our babies. We spent nearly 10 weeks there so it feels like home.”

Ryan Harper, father of nine week old twins Pippa and Harriet, said: “You don’t know what goes on behind the doors until you need the services. The nurses are there throughout. One day, Kirsty, my wife was really poorly so was not able to see the girls so the nurses took photos and printed them out to show her at her bedside. The little things they do mean a lot.”

The group is calling on other parents whose children have been cared for by the unit to get involved and help raise money.

The twins group meets every Wednesday at the Riverside Surestart Centre, Sorrel Road, Grimsby between 11.30am and 1pm. Anyone wanting further information about the group can call Leanne on 07710 619456.

Money from the event will be donated to The Health Tree Foundation (HTF). Its Little Lives fund gives money to the newborn intensive care unit to help make a difference to local parents and their babies by granting wishes. If you would like to organise your own fundraising event please contact Lauren Alexander on 03033 304514 or lauren.alexander@nhs.net

Afternoon tea raises money for Rear Into Gear

There was lashings of lovely tea and of course some superb homemade cakes at The Pelham Suite on Sunday June 4th when the venue hosted an afternoon tea to raise money for the Rear Into Gear appeal in aid of bowel patients.

Everybody had a splendid afternoon and plenty of funds were raised at the event which was organised by Teresa Jackson, Louise Salt and Anne Appleton (photo above right).
The Health Tree Foundation, the official charity of Scunthorpe and Grimsby hospitals, has launched the appeal aimed at raising money for new keyhole surgery equipment.

The money will be used to buy two new state of the art laparoscopic theatre stacks for Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital and Scunthorpe General Hospital enabling surgeons to perform the latest and most complex keyhole procedures for patients undergoing bowel cancer and bowel related illnesses. The camera systems on the new equipment will deliver extremely high quality images for surgeons.

Louise Salt, colorectal specialist nurse, said: “This will be the first of many events we have planned to raise money for this appeal. We are also hoping local people will back us and hold their own fundraising events to support us.”

There are lots more events on the way in aid of the Rear Into Gear campaign but you can also donate through their Just Giving page which is at www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/nlagcharitablefunds/rearintogear