By bridget hickish, Jan 30 2018 12:30PM

The award-winning Viva Theatre Company will perform Bazaar and Rummage, a heart-warming comedy by much loved writer Sue Townsend, creator of the Adrian Mole Diaries this February.

In Sue Townsend’s heartfelt comedy, three severely agoraphobic women have left their houses for the first time in years, and made it to a jumble sale. The sale has been organised by their social workers, the young trainee Fliss and the ex-agoraphobic volunteer Gwenda, though as the afternoon progresses, the distinction between them and the anxious people they are supposed to be looking after becomes less and less clear.

As Margaret, Bell-Bell and Katrina prepare to meet the public, armed with the suits of a deceased husband, old sequinned show dresses, bric-a- brac and a standard lamp, nerves and neuroses are running high, and a sensitive portrait of the suffering behind their phobia emerges.

The production will take place at The Brook, Brook Street Soham, which has been turned into a village hall in the 1980s for the production.

Bazaar and Rummage

8,9,10 February 2018 at 7.30pm. Tickets £12.50 rummage

Or contact the Viva Box Office on 01353 722228/

By bridget hickish, Jan 23 2018 04:40PM

100 Hearts for 100 Years

The Royal School of Needlework teamed up with the armed forces charity, SSAFA, to help create ‘100 Hearts for 100 Years’.   These highly unique ‘sweetheart’ pincushions were created to commemorate the centenary of the end of the Battle of the Somme and are coming to Ely Cathedral as part of their commemorations to mark the centenary of the end of the Great War.    

‘Sweetheart’ pincushions date back to the First World War when convalescing soldiers made them to send home to their loved ones.  The exhibition will feature a few of these original pincushions, alongside recreated hearts made by the Royal School of Needlework, present day soldiers, veterans, military wives and schoolchildren, as well as groups Fine Cell Work, the Embroiderers Guild and NADFAS.  

This beautiful collection of needlework will be on display at Ely Cathedral from 1 – 28 February. The exhibition will be formally opened at a preview evening on 31 January, by Lt Col Neil Stace, a finalist in the 2015 BBC Great British Sewing Bee.  As an active serviceman and expert embroiderer, Neil used his skills to create his own commemorative pincushion which forms part of the display. Neil will give a talk on the significance of the pincushions as well as divulge information about his life in the army and how he became such a fan of sewing. Lt Col Neil Stace said: “I joined the Army at the age of 18 and the job has taken me on operations all over the world. Throughout my career sewing has always been a part of my life. A Hundred Hearts for Hundred Years is a fantastic project and I am supporting it for several reasons especially as a young platoon commander and a company commander I depended on the services of SSAFA”. 

In addition to the exhibition there will be a number of workshops including four specifically intended for children led by Lt Col Neil Space, and two embroidery workshops led by celebrated international textile artist, Helen Stevens. Places will be limited. Booking details and workshop dates are available on the Cathedral website.

To End All Wars

Visitors to this exhibition can also benefit from a dynamic new art installation by Ouse Life artists to mark the impact of the first world war in Cambridgeshire. The work will include a cascade of 100 banners, reminiscent of prayer flags, created by this group of highly talented local artists as a moving tribute to those involved in the war.

Both exhibitions will be in situ in the Cathedral from 1 to 28 February 2018. Please see website for further details:

By bridget hickish, Jan 19 2018 05:32PM

Arthur Rank Hospice’s home at Shelford Bottom was officially opened at 2pm this afternoon (Friday 19 January) by His Royal Highness, The Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward. The Earl enjoyed a tour of the Hospice – meeting patients, volunteers and staff – before unveiling an official plaque to mark the special occasion.

His Royal Highness’ visit to the Cambridgeshire hospice coincides with the start of His Royal Highness's Real Tennis Tour 2018, during which The Earl has pledged to raise funds for The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, by playing tennis on every real tennis court in the world. His tour began in our City yesterday with a visit to the Cambridge University Real Tennis Club on Grange Road, followed by a dinner at Jesus College.

The Earl was greeted by the Lord Lieutenant Julie Spence at Shelford Bottom this afternoon where he was introduced to the Hospice’s CEO Dr Lynn Morgan, Chair of Trustees Ms Isabel Napper, Chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council Cllr Mandy Smith, Chairman of South Cambs District Cllr David McCraith, and Lord-Lieutenant’s Cadet Hannah Currell.

Amongst other guests gathered at the Hospice to meet The Earl this afternoon were Duke of Edinburgh Award volunteers Alice Webb, Jodie Lawler and Morgan Larter who regularly volunteer at the Hospice’s charity shops as part of their service to the community. Jodie said: “It was really nice to meet him at the Hospice today. I’ve been volunteering in the Shelford charity shop, which has been a really good experience giving back to the community and I’ve learnt lots of new skills. I’m hoping to go onto my Silver and Gold Awards next. He was really nice and interested to hear what we’ve all been doing so far.”

The Earl paused to speak to invitees in the Hospice’s Bistro – including benefactors, trustees, patrons, civic dignitaries, staff and the team responsible for building the new hospice – after being taken on a guided tour of the facility which opened its doors to patients in November 2016. During the tour - guided by the Hospice’s CEO Dr Lynn Morgan and Director of Clinical Services Liz Webb - he took the opportunity to talk to Day Therapy patients. Peter Wooding who was attending day therapy for the first time today, said: “It was nice of them to arrange a Royal Visit on my first day! He was a very nice man – I was amazed, we sat and talked for quite some time. I was having my hands massaged and he said, ‘That looks good’ and I said ‘It is’. No airs no graces, just an interesting chap.”

His Royal Highness then proceeded to the Inpatient Unit. Carly Love, Matron on the Hospice’s Inpatient Unit adds: “It was an honour for The Earl to visit the Unit and discover more about the positive changes that have been made possible by us moving to a custom-built building. He was particularly interested to talk to the patients and hear their stories: one told him that he was at Buckingham Palace on the day that he, Prince Edward was born, receiving an award from Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh!

“No two days are ever the same here, but his visit is definitely one which will go down in the Hospice’s history. It’s a real boost to know that another member of the Royal Family has seen first-hand and appreciated how important our work is on the ground in our county, as we work with individuals on such a personal level.”

The Earl’s visit is one of a string of Royal visits to the Arthur Rank Hospice: the first on the 15 October 1981 was from Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Kent, who officially opened the Arthur Rank Hospice site at Mill Road. Then, in September 2002 the Hospice was delighted to receive a visit from His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales.

CEO Dr Lynn Morgan comments: “We are delighted that The Earl of Wessex was able to take the time to visit us today and officially open our new home, continuing a legacy of Royal recognition which has continued since Arthur Rank Hospice first came into being. As well as unveiling a plaque marking this special occasion, The Earl was kind enough to sign the front page of our Founders’ Book, which also includes the names of all the people who donated to our Founders’ Appeal. The book will be available to view in the Bistro, so do feel free to call in to visit us, see this piece of history for yourself, and of course have a hot drink and something to eat whilst you’re here!”

The community were integral to the realisation of the new facility and continue to support Arthur Rank Hospice in striving to raise funds, not only towards the £10.5 million project, but additionally to help provide the £7.45 million needed each year in order to deliver care and services free of charge to patients and their loved ones.

By bridget hickish, Jan 17 2018 11:50PM

Oxfam in Ely are off to an exciting start for 2018. After over 30 years on the corner of High Street Passage, the shop has now closed, and will be opening in the early spring at 7, High Street (where Argos used to be).

The Shop Manager, Dorothy Clark said “We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our supporters in Ely, those who shop with us, everyone who donates goods for us to sell, and especially our band of loyal volunteers who keep the shop going. We look forward to welcoming you all to the new premises soon”.

The new shop will be much larger, and for volunteers, has the advantage of being all on one floor – previously everything had to be carried upstairs for sorting and pricing. It will have an expanded book section at the rear, offering a wide range of good quality fiction and non-fiction volumes – well worth a browse. You never know what you might find! There will be the traditional donated items of crockery, homeware, pictures and toys. We will have a good selection of entertainment including DVDs, CDs and a wide range of vinyl, covering almost all the music genres you can think of.

The clothing area will contain a good range of women’s, children’s and men’s clothing, as well as accessories. So come and treat yourself to something new for spring! The front of the shop will have an expanded range of new items, carefully sourced from fair-trade and ethical suppliers. As well as a wide range of greetings cards, coffee, chocolate, cleaning and hair-care products, we will also be selling larger items such as rugs and baskets.

Oxfam’s Area Manager, Catharine Chester said,

“We are very excited to be opening this new shop in Ely, and we warmly welcome all our supporters to come and see us in the new shop”

The shop could not exist without our team of kind, talented, versatile and dedicated volunteers. With a much larger shop, we will need more volunteers, and would like applications from all interested members of the local community.

If you want to improve your CV, meet new people, learn different skills and do your bit to help fight global poverty Oxfam can help you. From a few hours to a few days a week, any contribution you can make is welcome. We have tasks ranging from sorting donated stock, serving customers on the till, displaying goods on the shop floor and window and researching unusual items. We will also start selling items online from our new shop, so if you are tech-savvy, or have an interest in photography we’d like to hear from you.

If you would like to volunteer please get in touch via email,

or ring 07810 504365.

By bridget hickish, Nov 11 2017 10:55AM

A review of ‘Brassed Off’ presented by Viva in Soham on Thursday 9th November 2017.

What an excellent production it was! ‘Brassed Off’ directed by Keith Gallois and Judith Collingswood and produced by Keith and Alison O’Connor, was a magnificent show. All the characters rang true and through their fine acting we were transported into the lives of the mining families in times of trouble, sharing with them the agony of poverty and the humour needed for survival. With the superb performances by Soham Comrades Brass Band, we were treated not only to an admirable presentation of what many of us remember from the film, but the music was a splendid treat too.

David Tickner played Danny to the tee. He was indeed a band conducting fanatic. His grandson Shane (played by Alfie Peckham) was an ideal young boy acting the part with natural flair.

The main miners and band members, Jim (Steve Perry), Harry (Geoff Fisher), Phil (Darren Smith) and Andy (Will Cahill) were wonderfully ‘laddish’ and some of the best scenes that were probably some of the most difficult to present successfully, were those when the band slowly disintegrated into a cacophonous mess after the members had had a few too many drinks at each village on their tour.

The wives, Vera (Sue Perry), Rita (Mandy Morrish) and Sandra (Sophie Plachcinski) were all credible partners whose passion was evident right from the start. Gloria (Amy Noonan) was a superb representative of the powerful managers who had obviously decided to close the mine, in spite of her glowing report of how successful it could have been. Her naivety came through very well and added spice to her relationship with her old flame Andy. He was indeed a young lad with an eye for the girls and incapable of arriving to band practice on time.

A mention must go to the actor Andy Gillett who gave an unnervingly realistic portrayal of the bailiff. Other vital contributors were Bridget Hickish, Gemma Politt, Dave McCalpin, Clare Gillet, Justine Whitworth, Helen Meads, Benjamin Surridge, Ruby Fordham, Sarah Boor, and Ellie Gillett.

Congratulations to everyone who took part and provided the support that is always much needed and which was very much in evidence in this excellent production. .

This was indeed a most satisfying night’s entertainment. As one member of the audience was heard to say, ‘Who needs the West End when we have productions like this here?’

by Rosemary Westwell