Thursday, December 29, 2011

DENVER - THE MILE-HIGH CITY (5,280 feet above sea level)

Not much time for reading over Christmas but have now tucked into the HIDDEN HISTORY OF DENVER written by Elizabeth Victoria Wallace and published by The History Press.

As James LaRue, Director of Douglas County Libraries commented:  “The history of the West is the history of the footloose.  Some were fleeing the law. Some became the law. Others sought fortunes and either gained or lost them – or both.  The history of Denver covering 1858 to the 1940s, is a rich stew of colorful characters.”

Wallace knows her city well.  Denver was originally known as El Dorado and was the place that the gold-seeking pioneers were aiming for.  With so many wagon trains crossing the prairie, often one met the preceding one, forming continuous trains that stretched for almost fifteen miles. 

In 1880, the population of Denver had reached more than 35,000 residents.  In the 1890s, Denver became well known for its curative properties and attracted thousands desirous of finding a cure for tuberculosis and many people escaped the fog-ridden streets of London, England, to make their way to Colorado Springs, then later to Denver. So many English arrived, that the town was dubbed “Little London”.
Although many people suffered from prejudices in Colorado, the native American Ute Indians suffered a unique loss.  They lost their land they had loved and respected for centuries; they lost their livelihood and food source.  The Chinese population of Denver also suffered intolerance and bigotry and Wallace has carefully researched many disparate tales from this rather special place. We learn of  characters like world heavyweight boxing champion Charles L “Sonny” Liston, hit-man turned rodeo promoter Leland Varain, aka “Diamond Jack,” and the city’s daring wall dogs, whose hand-painted building advertisements are fading reminders of a bygone Denver.

Wallace’s book is a wonderful read and  available on Amazon and all good stores. ISBN 9781609493509 or you can contact the History Press directly $19.99.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

STORY BEHIND OUR CHRISTMAS STAMPS THIS YEAR

So the King James Version of the Bible celebrates its 400 years. Few of those involved in its production in 1611 could have guessed that their new publication would go on to achieve classic status, becoming an international best-seller.  It certainly took its time (late 17th century) for its remarkable qualities to be recognised. Perhaps the most important contribution has been to the shaping of the English language.  Phrases such as 'the powers that be', 'land of the living' and 'apple of my eye', among many others,  have all become part of our everyday speech.

The 400th anniversary of the publication of the Authorised Version has been marked by the issuing of seven stamps for this Christmas which draw on special events in the Gospel accounts of the Nativity from the King James Bible.

Many thanks to eulogy www.eulogy.co.uk for providing these beautiful stamps.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


SUSAN ELKIN'S COLUMN FOR THE STAGE NEWSPAPER

As my latest book THE WOMAN WRITER is selling well, I am celebrating with this super review which Susan Elkin wrote earlier this year.  Many thanks, Susan.


The Stage’s long history by Susan Elkin

Thirteen years later, in 1894, Comerford’s friend, the journalist, entrepreneur and fund raiser Joseph Snell Wood, recognised that women journalists — a growing and powerful force in the last quarter of Victoria’s reign — needed a specific support organisation to establish and safeguard their rights.
So he founded the Society of Women Journalists. In 1951 it changed its name to the Society of Women Writers and Journalists to meet the changing needs of its members. And of course they wrote for The Stage right from the beginning and still do. I have long been a member of SWWJ — and here I am.
Sylvia Kent, SWWJ council member and archivist, has now documented the society’s history. And it’s an entertaining and informative book which, in a succinct and accessible way, actually goes way beyond the history of the SWWJ to provide a nice snapshot of women writers and their work during the last century or so.  There’s plenty of information here for anyone doing a research-based degree on this or a related subject, for example.

Her opening chapter about the indefatigable Snell Wood and life in the 1880s is colourful and interesting. Why, Kent wonders, did he think the original members needed the services of an oculist and a rhinologist?


We also learn about SWWJ’s competitions, the breadth of its membership, its education work, its key members today and much more. Kent has included some fine photographs too. The ‘mugshots’ of early members who wrote for The Gentlewoman, which Snell Wood edited, are splendid. Cut from that to vice-president Jean Bowden (aka romantic novelist Tessa Barclay) with Jacqueline Wilson (now Dame Jacqueline) in 1990, or Martina Cole ‘one of our newest members’ and you get the sense of what a far reaching little book this is - with quite a lot to interest Stage readers.
The Woman Writer: The History of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists by Sylvia Kent (The History Press, rrp £12.99, ISBN 9780752451596)

Friday, December 16, 2011

INTRODUCING MARA

INTRODUCING MARA COTTRELL

It was generous of Mara who has just started her new cake baking firm, to bring along samples of her great  tray bakes to the Brentwood Writers' Circle last week and to Piper Terrett's celebrations when signing her new book in Billericay.

Mara's firm Cake-Bake Limited has just been launched and she is happy to take orders via her www.cake-bite.com Her current speciality is Paneforte de Siena.  This is lovely and I would recommend it.

This entrepreneur is also a published writer and her book tracing the history of Basildon is also available. BASILDON - A HISTORY AND CELEBRATION published by Francis Frith Limited.   . Contact her at www.cake-bite.com or email mara.cottrell@cake-bite.com
or personal email m.cottrell11@btinternetor phone on 07952 821 366.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

KAREN LEE BURNETTE

Very pleased to introduce our new friend Karen Lee Burnette whose first album of 20 songs has been released. She will be appearing on the Scott Ross Show on Phoenix 98FM Radio on Saturday 17th at 12.15 pm. Karen is delighted with her response from her intrroductory feature in The Daily Mirror supported by Joe Longthorn.

MARA COTTRELL INTRODUCES CAKE BITE LIMITED


At last Mara's website, publicising her new bakery business http://www.cake-bite.com/ is up and running. She hasn't wasted any time in introducing her creative and delicious cakes to the public, bringing welcome tray bakes to our Christmas gatherings and recent book signing events in Essex.
Not only is Mara a super cake maker, she is also an author and her book tracing the history of the town of Basildon for the Frances Frith Publishing Company is on sale. Contact her at email mara.cottrell@cake-bite.com
or personal email m.cottrell11@btinternet or phone me on 07952 821 366.

Monday, December 12, 2011

PIPER'S NEW BOOK - VICTIM SUPPORT

Piper Terrett's new book VICTIM SUPPORT (Norsey Press) received a great welcome on Saturday at Billericay's Town Council Office with her fans. Members of Brentwood Writers' Circle turned up, too.

Her thriller is set in the town of Billericay and its intriguing storyline keeps you guessing. I reckon it would make an excellent mini drama for TV. Lots of fun and laughs with Piper and Doug and, hopefully, lots of sales.

Piper is also author of The Frugal Life: How to spend less and live more (Good Life Press) and Bedroom DJ: A Beginner's Guide (Omnibus Press). A financial journalist, blogger and green activist, she wrote the popular Frugal Life blog for MSN.co.uk - about saving money during the credit crunch - appearing regularly on BBC Essex's Dave Monk Show. She now writes The Essex Life blog at www.piperterrett.wordpress.com and is the Energy Saving Trust's Green Voice of the UK and a member of the Climate Speakers Network www.climate-speakers.org.uk which gives green talks to schools and societies. Piper Terrett is available for interview. Email piperterrett@googlemail.com

Friday, December 09, 2011

PIPER'S BOOK SIGNING ON SATURDAY 10 DECEMBER

Don't forget to come to Piper Terrett's book signing tomorrow in Billericay at the Town Council offices (just off the High Street), enjoy mulled wine and lots of lovely edibles from 2.30pm. Piper will be talking about her new book on Local Phoenix 98 FM Community Radio in the morning with Alan Johnson's Feel Good Show. Friends will be listening in all over the world. Piper's book - VICTIM SUPPORT, a thriller is set in our town and is quite a page-turner and costs £6. She will sign one for you and send one if you can't make tomorrow's celebrations.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

All Party Writers' Group Reception - John Whittingdale MP for Maldon





Enjoyed a relaxed and hugely entertaining winter drinks reception last night at the House of Commons (my old Hansard stamping ground). Presentation and awards of the 2011 Educational Writers' Award administered by The Society of Authors and sponsored by the lovely Authors' Licensing & Collecting Society. My SWWJ colleagues joined in the fun and the evening was organised so beautifully. Local Member of Parliament, John Whittingdale, representing Maldon, Essex was great and lots of writing friends popped up during a lovely, lively evening. Thanks to Barbara Hayes and her team. Not allowed to take my own pics inside, but here's one showing Big Ben and the Christmas Tree (snapped on the way out of Westminster Hall).

Monday, December 05, 2011

SUNDAY'S CHRISTMAS MARKET AT BILLERICAY









What a great day for the town yesterday when Billericay traders, voluntary groups and of course thousands of shoppers celebrated an early Christmas bonanza in our ancient High Street. Everyone was there and of course our super Cater Museum Curator, Chris Brewster and her team welcomed people through the door of our lovely museum, plus some merrymakers at the Council Offices. Just a few pictures here giving a feel of a super day.

Images in this post show Tony Motley of Billericay Morrismen at Bennetts, a small visitor, Kian Hewer to the Cater Museum with his mum who was intrigued with our two headed lamb and a line-up of some of our Council folk among other pictures.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NICK ARDLEY'S NEW BOOK


How does Nick Ardley manage it?  This prodigious writer has just published his new book which has a  rather long title:  THE JOTTINGS OF A THAMES ESTUARY DITCH-CRAWLER (Amberley Publishing).  This is a remarkable book about sailing, living on a Thames spritsail barge and the whole fascinating business of boat owning.

Nick is great at telling a salty tale and this time he takes us on another series of journeys in his yacht Whimbrel, through the meandering waterways and creeks that feed into the Thames and its estuary.  

This author has been a familiar, friendly  face at earlier Essex Book Festivals, particularly during the official openings at Chelmsford Library  and his talks are always popular.  He writes articles for Yachting Monthly and Anglia Afloat and his work has been published in Essex Life and Suffolk Magazines (two journals who also use my own work) - Lovely!   Nick's book is priced at £17.99, its ISBN is 978-1-4456-0100-7 by Amberley Publishing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

GATHERING OF THE CLAN IN BILLERICAY


Enjoyed entertaining some of the best of south east Essex authors the other day.  Such talent and much fun.  Everyone was either launching a new book or new business  - huge energy output. Wish we could have bottled it!  Here we see Susan Hegedus with her debut book (a fascinating read - great book for Christmas) THE HIDDEN GREEN MAN IN ESSEX - Published by Dick Richardson, at Country Books, Courtyard Cottage, Little Longstone, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1NN.  £7.99 Do check out his latest catalogue of precious old books and his brand new creations - something for everyone.  Susan will be 'appearing' on BBC Essex (with Steve Scruton) on Wednesday at 2.30pm - do listen and learn more about her first super book).

Monday, November 28, 2011

MICHAEL ROUSE'S CLACTON-ON-SEA THROUGH TIME

I know we are looking at books for Christmas, but this one, reminding us of summer by the sea, is fascinating.  The illustrations within are priceless.   For anyone living in Essex, a visit to Clacton was a must and Rouse's new book will bring back wonderful memories.  Published by Amberley of Stroud at £14.99 (details can be found at http://www.amberley-books.com/)
The following URL gives a full article on my SUITE 101 On-Line Magazine

Thursday, November 24, 2011

GATHERING OF SOME OF OUR SPECIAL ESSEX WRITERS

Looking forward to welcoming some of our super women writers tomorrow.  All very well chatting in the break at some of our writing conventions, but lovely to learn what makes some of them so successful.  Will take some pictures and find out what our guests are up to.  I know we have a few books coming on to the market and a music album or two!

Friday, November 18, 2011

PIPER TERRETT'S VICTIM SUPPORT - AN INSPECTOR CREE NOVEL -

VICTIM SUPPORT
An Inspector Sam Cree novel
By Essex author Piper Terrett
November 2011
£6.99 - Paperback
Published by Norsey Press
Available from Amazon.co.uk and www.piperterrett.co.uk

NEW CRIME NOVEL BY ESSEX AUTHOR SET IN BILLERICAY
Victim Support is the debut murder mystery from Piper Terrett, an Essex writer who is also author of The Frugal Life: How to spend less and live more (Good Life Press) and Bedroom DJ: A Beginner's Guide (Omnibus Press). Originally from Romford, Piper lived in Billericay for 7 years and sets her crime novel in the fictional town of 'Norsey', based on Billericay.
Victim Support features Piper's female police detective, Inspector Sam Cree. When twin boys go missing, DI Cree and her colleagues on the Norsey Force are already overstretched. Then, a student and an elderly woman are mysteriously gunned down and evidence suggests a sniper is at work. In the background of each murder is an unsolved crime. Is revenge the motive or something deeper? Sam and her boss, Chief Inspector Bill Irons, face a race against time to find the missing boys and the killer before he strikes again.
BOOK SIGNING – SAT 10TH DECEMBER IN BILLERICAY
A book signing will be held at the Coach House, Billericay Town Council offices, High Street Billericay on Saturday 10th December from 2.30-5.30pm. Meet the author and hear her read from the book.

ABOUT PIPER TERRETT
Piper Terrett is author of The Frugal Life: How to spend less and live more (Good Life Press) and Bedroom DJ: A Beginner's Guide (Omnibus Press). A financial journalist, blogger and green activist, she wrote the popular Frugal Life blog for MSN.co.uk - about saving money during the credit crunch - appearing regularly on BBC Essex's Dave Monk Show. She now writes The Essex Life blog at www.piperterrett.wordpress.com and is the Energy Saving Trust's Green Voice of the UK and a member of the Climate Speakers Network www.climate-speakers.org.uk which gives green talks to schools and societies. Piper Terrett is available for interview. Please telephone 07815 053240 or email piperterrett@googlemail.com

Sunday, November 13, 2011

BILLERICAY TOWN GUIDE NOW PUBLISHED

The seventh Billericay Town Guide was launched on Friday and it was good to meet so many people who had contributed.  We even had a film show outlining the work we've done with the Community Archive over the last year or two. 

Monday, November 07, 2011

DAVID STARLING'S GREAT NEW BOOK

Many authors are bringing out their Christmas books. David Starling is a favourite Essex author. His latest book is NICE-LOOKING (Essex) GIRLS AFLOAT. This book is unusual in that it tells a story about Essex boats that just happen to have girls’ names. He shows the important part played by women in the life of our county’s waterfront (350 miles). David highlights more than 100 boats of one kind or another – not just the bawleys, barges and smacks, but Trinity House vessels, lifeboats, dinghies (which became film stars) the King’s Britannia and other fabulous yachts.
David’s title NICE LOOKING GIRLS AFLOAT derives from the words of the old Wivenhoe shipwright in the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould’s novel of 1880, Mehalah...
“... a regular Essex marshland name. I hope I shall remember it. But I have to carry so many names of nice-looking girls in my head and of ships I have built, that they run one another down, and I cannot be sure to recall them.”

David Starling has sailed the East Coast for 60 years and the stories within his book of 40 pages and 60 illustrations tell us about him as well as the county he loves. Proceeds from his book will be donated to the Essex Women’s Advisory Group (EWAG) which supports the well-being of Essex women and girls; also in giving help where needed to young women (14-30). It supports teaching and training in commerce, the arts and sport and promotes Essex as a place to live, visit or work. The top women of Essex, drawn from the Prince’s Trust, Essex Police, Probation, Girl Guides and the Women’s Institute, are all delighted to support EWAG in this important mission.

COPENHAGEN PHIL'S AT WORK AGAIN

I know these flash u-tubes are common now, but I do love the start up of this particular Ravel piece. Take a look at the conductor right at the beginning.
The Copenhagen Philharmonic amazed commuters at the Copenhagen Central Train Station, as they created a kind of orchestral "flash mob" –http://www.classicalarchives.com/feature/dont_miss_this.html

Sunday, November 06, 2011

HIDDEN HISTORY OF DENVER by ELIZABETH VICTORIA WALLACE

Have just tweeted my first little promo for my sister Elizabeth Victoria Wallace who has seen her seventh fabulous book published this weekend under the History Press' HIDDEN HISTORY OF DENVER.  It's brilliant and readers are certainly in for a surprise.

Elizabeth explores this amazing city.  Time has washed away so many unusual stories—from the dark days of nineteenth-century Law and Order League lynching, and the KKK’s later rise and fall to the heroism of suffragettes and the touching plight of the gypsies.

Elizabeth has discovered so many intriguing stories.  She introduces readers to characters like world heavyweight boxing champion Charles L. “Sonny” Liston, hit-man turned rodeo promoter Leland Varain, aka “Diamond Jack,” and the city’s daring wall dogs, whose hand-painted building advertisements are fading reminders of a bygone Denver.

Elizabeth's book can be found in Barnes and Noble and on Amazon, plus all good book stores and sources.  ISBN is  9781609493509 or you can contact the History Press directly.$19.99.

Friday, November 04, 2011

MALCOLM AND HEATHER'S NEW CITY-LIT BOOK

The City-Lit Series of travel books continues spiralling its upward success.

Heather Reyes and Malcolm Burgess at Oxygen Books  are really excited about their latest title, city-pick New York. I wish I could have bought this book when I visited the city some years ago.  We know that  NewYork is one of the most exciting and pulsating places on earth with so many fantastic writers who have lived there and used it as a background to their own books.

From F Scott Fitzgerald journeying up Fifth Avenue and Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo arriving in Greenwich Village to Alistair Cooke looking out over Central Park and David Byrne doing the Five Boro Bike Tour …From Maxim Gorky visiting Coney Island and Edmund White finding a city of freedoms to Jan Morris recalling Manhattan 1945 and Teju Cole encountering the Statue of Liberty and over seventy other dazzling writers, this is a book that truly celebrates the richness and diversity of this amazing metropolis.

city-pick New York, edited by Heather Reyes, was published last week and costs £9.99, paperback original, 978 09567876 1 3. The book and other city-pick titles are available in bookshops, Amazon UK and of course post and packing free worldwide at www.oxygenbooks.co.uk  The book is out in South Africa in November and in Australia and New Zealand in December.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

MORE PICTURES FROM THE ARCHIVE GROUP

Took far too many pictures yesterday, as usual, and now add a few more to give an idea of what a super day we enjoyed at Billericay Library when members of the public brought in some of their family albums, written stories and ephemera to add to our growing cache of archives.

Monday, October 31, 2011

LOTS OF VISITORS AT BILLERICAY

Some surprise visitors to the display stands at Billericay Library who came to share memories, photos and interesting information about the town.  Lovely to welcome Phoenix 98Fm radio presenter, Alan Johnson whose Saturday 10-12 Feel Good programme is one of the best.  Here we have a few pics of a happy day.

Friday, October 28, 2011

HERITAGE ACTIViTY IN BILLERICAY ESSEX

Lots happening in the county.  I've just joined Twitter - and am  inundated with tweets.  Mistake maybe?  An awful lot of activity.   Anyway, our little team is looking forward to meeting many more folk who want to contribute their memories, photographs, memorabilia to the  http://www.billericayhistory.org.uk/ website to which many local history enthusiasts are contributing.  Come and meet us on Monday, 31 October  at Billericay Library from 10.00am-3pm when we will be delighted to record your memories and copy your precious photographs and anything else you think may be of interest to us as a 'Heritage Group."  Picture above shows some of our team when they met at the Essex Record Office earlier in the year.   See you on Monday.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

ESSEX MEMBERS OF THE SOCIETY MEET IN CHELMSFORD

A relaxing day, lovely lunch and good company were on the menu yesterday for the SWWJ Essex Regional meeting at Anita Sackett's home in Chelmsford.  This was the perfect spot to meet up with other  members and friends, as this is our famous county town, so central for all.  Pictured are some of the diners.  Missing is Elizabeth Lord, the well known novelist,  but at the end of the blog, you can see a pic of her with Martina Cole, another Essex lass. This was taken a few years ago when Martina came to talk to us.

Following our gathering we all shot off to Chelmsford town to meet with our Britain's Children's current Laureate, Julia Donaldson, who was signing copies of her book The Gruffalo with scores of children queued up outside as we swept in to 'Just Imagine...' Book Centre, to take a few snaps. I love Nikki's window  Picture here of Anita Sackett, Nikki Gamble and Julia Donaldson.  Nikki is doing some wonderful work here in Chelmsford and the Centre is certainly the place to visit for children of all ages.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

TRAVELLING THE STOUR VALLEY RAILWAY

Steam trains are still a fascination for many of us and just recently, I've enjoyed a couple of 'memory lane' steam railway trips.  So, it's a privilege to be asked to review Amberley Publishing Stour Valley Railway Through Time created by Andy T Wallis.  ISBN 978-1-4456-0472-5 £14.99

Within his fifteen chapters, we are treated to several hundred fabulous photos of locomotives from Suffolk and Essex including those from the former Colchester, Stour Valley, Sudbury & Halstead Railway which was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1846, to build the Colchester to Hythe line and a second, Marks Tey to Sudbury, with a branch to Halstead.

Railway buffs will know much about our Great Eastern Railway passing into the new London & North Eastern Railway on l January 1923 and the advent of the special excursion trains running from the Midlands and Cambridge via both the Stour Valley and Colne Valley lines to Clacton and Walton.

From 1 January 1959, steam traction was replaced by diesel locomotive-hauled trains for both freight and excursion traffic.  The last passenger service to travel over the whole line took place in June 1961 when the Ramblers' Special worked from Liverpool Street to Bury St Edmunds. We learn much about the Beeching Report in 1963 and the rows and opposition to the closure plans.

"Andy Wallis has done a fine job," commented a retired railway engineer. "The book contains some fascinating photographs tracing some of the numerous ways in which the Stour Valley Railways has changed and developed over the last century."  Do take a look for yourselves - a second book on the railways is expected in 2012.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MY STAR OF THE WEEK - ROCKY THE RETIRED GREYHOUND

Friends and family know that I love cats - our current pet is Pixie, but should I choose a  dog, he would resemble Rocky, the wonderful greyhound, who accompanies Chris Brewster, our Curator of the Cater Museum in Billericay.

Now Rocky is our current star and also a 'cover boy' whose story has been written by Chris to raise money for Clarks Farm Greyhound Rescue.  Rocky is a care dog registered with CANINE CONCERN.  He was adopted from Clark's Farm.   http://www.clarksfarm.org.uk/.    This charity is rather special as it provides therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, special needs schools and a variety of other places by volunteers with their own friendly dogs and cats.  What a wonderful idea for those who are forced to be apart from their own pets.

Rocky, our special retired greyhound, who has such a gentle nature, has passed his test to be part of this important work and seems to enjoy bringing comfort to many.    Do learn more about this fine charity via  http://www.petsastherapy.org/.    Here is a picture of Rocky on the cover of Chris' book (price £2.50) which is a delightful story for both children and adults. There are other slim books within the series, so do email me for more information.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

RAISING FUNDS FOR JAPAN EARTHQUAKE APPEAL MOTOKI HIRAI'S Piano Recital on 29 October 3pm Wigmore Hall, London

You meet some of the world's nicest and most interesting people at the Chelsea Flower Show, London.  It was here that I  met Motoki Hirai, a wonderful concert pianist.  He has appeared in the music capitals of the world, performing regularly in London’s prestigious venues including the Wigmore Hall, St. John’s, Smith Square and the South Bank Centre. Way back in the spring, Motoki gave a hugely successful sold-out recital in Carnegie Hall in New York. During recent seasons, he has performed in Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Romania, Spain, USA and his native Japan. Highlights of the 2010/2011 season and beyond include concerto performances with orchestras such as Czech Virtuosi, solo recitals in venues including Cadogan Hall (London) and Carnegie Hall (NY), as well as concert tours across Europe and Japan.

Whilst being a leading interpreter of the standard repertoire for piano solo, Motoki is equally at home with chamber music and lieder, shading an inspiring and personal light on music from all periods. Since 1991, Motoki has collaborated with artists including Michael Cox, Kalman Berkes, Barry Craft, John Pearce and his father, the celebrated cellist Takeichiro Hirai, whom Pablo Casals designated as his successor.

As a composer, Motoki has been commissioned to write new works for international artists in various fields which were performed and premi√®red in venues such as Wigmore Hall, South Bank Centre, Chelsea Flower Show, Chelsea Festival 2008, Dulwich Festival 2010 (London), St. George’s (Bristol), Smetana Hall (Prague), Maison de la culture du Japon √† Paris (Paris), Auditori Pau Casals (Barcelona), Carnegie Hall (NY), Tokyo Opera City and NHK Hall (Tokyo). His music has also been used in films such as ‘Voice’ (2004) and ‘The Emperor’s Tram Girls’ (2005).

Born in Tokyo into a highly gifted musical family, Motoki studied piano and composition with his grandfather, the eminent composer Kozaburo Y. Hirai, and violin with his grandmother. Since his first professional appearance at the age of 13 playing his own piano works to great critical acclaim, he has been highly active in both performance and composition. After reading philosophy and aesthetics at Keio University in Tokyo, Motoki came to London in 1996 to study at the Royal Academy of Music, and later at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and City University. His teachers have included Frank Wibaut, Dominique Merlet, James Gibb, Patsy Toh and Joseph Seiger.

Over the years, Motoki Hirai has performed for the promotion of world peace and for people in need worldwide in association with organizations such as the Red Cross, Motor Neurone Disease Association, UNICEF and UNESCO. In 2010 Motoki was invited to Lithuania to give a charity concert, commemorating Sempo (Chiune) Sugihara who saved the lives of 6000 Polish Jews during World War II.

He has also been involved in fascinating educational programmes to promote Japanese art and culture across the world, such as the “Picture Books – Storytelling, Images and Music” project (2007- ) as artistic director as well as composer.

Motoki will will be appearing at the South Bank on Saturday 29 October 2011 - 3pm and funds raised are in aid of the Japan Society Tohoku Earthquake Relief Fund.  His website:  http://www.motoki-hirai.com/

Saturday, October 08, 2011

TOP GARDENERS WENDY AND KEITH PETTY'S GREAT PUMPKINS

Wendy and Keith Petty in their allotment with their Atlantic Giants
Just received this lovely snap of award winning gardeners,  Keith and Wendy Petty, whose pumpkins are perfect and win lots of prizes at the Guild of Gardeners and Hort Soc Socities.   I'm just collecting background material to write a feature about them.  One thing I always remember, when I visited their allotment, that Keith recommends planting the seed on 7 May. Who knows, I might even receive a little one to make some pumpkin pie and soup (my speciality published in The Weekend Telegraph), so do admire them in this photo -  in all their glory!!! Check out http://www.liveurbanloverural.com/.  Great website which I will add to fairly soon via Rachel Bull, the editor.  Here is another pumpkin grower, the super 'Green Queen' Piper Terrett, and a nice slice of pumpkin pie (little brandy in the sauce).

Thursday, October 06, 2011

W E A COURSE IN BILLERICAY

It's years since I've been involved in the WEA movement (last classes were based at Brentwood). Then we had Victorian novelists and American writers on the reading list, but am delighted I chose this current course TALKING HEADS tutored by Stephen O'Kane asssisted by Denise Fielding. The course started last week and continues over eight weeks. 

Alan Bennett has always intrigued me, certainly since the days from Beyond the Fringe at London's Mayfair Hotel, so we all go back a very long time.  Bennett's monologues are so cleverly created and acted and we are treated to performances from Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, Patricia Routledge, Stephanie Cole, Eileen Atkins among others  including the great man himself.  Next week we study BED AMONG THE LENTILS with the fabulous Maggie Smith (born in Essex, incidentally!) and I've already done my homework - what a swot!  There are still a few places available! -(contact thecatpatch@hotmail.co.uk

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

LIVE URBAN LOVE RURAL

Rachel Bull in that super hat!
Friends know that as well as making jams, jellies, mead, wine and my special pickles, I also write about them, giving ancient and more modern recipes. Some of my ideas are to be found at http://www.suite101.com/ the Vancouver based on-line magazine, but  I have recently been 'guesting' on a brand new London website, the brainchild of Rachel Bull who created  LIVE URBAN, LOVE RURAL. Rachel has some wonderful ideas and friendly contributors and  I must say, I have learned a lot about other people's skills in the kitchen, allotment and their homes and gardens.  Pictured above is Sally Anne who is a super gardener.  Check out Rachel's website  http://www.liveurbanloverural.com/ for yourselves.