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

By bridget hickish, Oct 29 2017 09:12PM

What a wonderful evening!

We were transported into a joyous fantasy world of sparkling music and fairytale magic that caught our imaginations superbly. We adored Belle (played by Holly Pryke) who was the beautiful young maiden with the lovely voice who deftly spurned the advances of the conceited Gaston (Zack Wymer). We loved her as she worried and cared for her eccentric father Maurice (Javier Londono) and eventually cast away the evil spell on the Beast (Torin Fahy) so he could turn into the handsome prince he once was and they could live happily ever after. There was hardly a dry eye in the house.

The whole cast was magnificent, from the ensembles to the major roles. Movements on the stage were swift and uplifting to witness and the tableaux that grew to fill the stage only to melt away imperceptibly were delightful. The singing was of a very high standard and it was very moving to see such a host of young people obviously enjoying themselves as they ‘sang their hearts out’.

Besides the excellent main characters, including Le Fou (Zak Potts), and Madame D’Arque (Megan Godfrey), the entrapped objects in the castle who longed to return to their human form when the spell was broken, added a great deal. The clock (Cogsworth played by Callum Moffat) , candlestick (Lumière - Mark O’Reilly) wardrobe (Madame de la Grande Bouche – Dresden Goodwin), teapot (Mrs Potts – Phyllida Hickish) teacup (Chip – Ruby MacDonald) and feather duster (Babette - Kiera O’Reilly) carried out their roles particularly well, their different characters sharply defined and entertaining.

The groups whirled and twirled smoothly and the wolves were particularly menacing with their fluid advancing, retreating and intertwining. The choreographer Louise Plummer and Music Director Jenny Taylor-Surridge have much to be thanked for.

Abby Cornwell, Lola Macdonald and Sienna Warder played the Silly Girls perfectly while Edward Rees, Jack Gash, Katie Kirkpatrick and Summer Dowling were admirable narrators. The directors Ben Clarke and Lee ‘Glee’ Sherwood and the remainder of their team must be congratulated for such a fantastic production.

The next Viva production at the Performing Arts Centre in Soham is ‘Brassed Off ‘ 9-11th November 2017 contact:

by Rosemary Westwell

photo Mike Rouse

By bridget hickish, Oct 25 2017 03:22PM

After a break of a few hundred years the Vikings are returning to Ely. But this time the visitors from Denmark will be musicians rather than warriors.

A 30-strong chamber choir from Ribe, the Danish city twinned with Ely, will receive an official welcome from the Ely-Ribe Twinning Association when it comes to give two concerts in Ely Cathedral.

The choir, Ribe Kammerkor, is being hosted by Ely Choral Society, and the two groups will join forces on Saturday 4 November for ‘A Choral Celebration’. The concert, featuring works by Britten, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Rutter as well as by the 19th century Danish composer Niels Gard, starts at 7.30 pm.

The programme also includes organ solos by Lotte Bille Glaesel, Ribe Kammerkor’s Director, and local organist John Wyatt. The conductors are Lotte Bille Glaesel and Ely Choral Society’s Musical Director, Andrew Parnell.

Ribe Kammerkor will also give a free lunchtime concert in Ely Cathedral’s Lady Chapel on the previous day, Friday 3 November, performing works by Gade, Palestrina and Nielsen, among others. The soprano soloist is Pia Hansen while Andrew Parnell will be the accompanist.

Howard McMillan, Chairman of the Ely-Ribe Association, said the association was

proud to be associated with the concerts.

“We hope that it is the beginning of a lasting relationship between the two choirs, with regular concerts taking place in Ely and in Ribe,” he said. “One of our aims is to establish links between similar interest groups in the two towns and this concert is the successful conclusion of one such initiative.”

“Our thanks go to the members of both choirs - without their cooperation and hard work these concerts would not be taking place,” he added.

Tickets for the Saturday concert, at £15 and £20 (£5 for under-18s) are available from Ely Cathedral Box Office (01353 660349), at and on the door.