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Manchester School of Theatre produced an online version of Jim Cartwright’s play Road which streamed online  from December 9th – 12th.

“Road” was Cartwright’s first major play, written when he was in his twenties, and was filmed in the BBC’s Screenplay season and shown on BBC 2 in 1987. It is a stark, but at times, humorous look of the life of people in Thatcher’s 80s Britain.

This version, set in 1987 was rehearsed, staged and recorded, using the Zoom platform on laptop cameras. The original score was written by Dave Bintley, who along with Director, Mina Anwar runs MadCapture Production Company for whom this was their first venture alongside Manchester School of Theatre.
It deals with attitudes at a time of unemployment, poll tax and the cull of the power of trade unions and the effect that had on young and old.

By definition it isn’t a walk in the park and we see sadness, desperation and reminiscences of happier times, and although the original was played to theatre audiences, this had to be, because of Covid restrictions a completely audience free, online version.

This play can’t have been the easiest to direct when there were no restrictions and this online version must have been much more of a challenge.

Initially the resultant film of this two act play, does seem rather strange with its split screen format, but that strangeness is soon replaced with an appreciation that this is an acting and directorial triumph.
Many of the actors play two characters but do it so well, that you hardly notice. All the action is set on single screens, which split into gallery view when there are more characters supposedly in one place.
The illusion that they are in the same room is conveyed by the passing of objects such as cigarettes and bottles of booze between screens and it works rather well once you have grasped the concept. In one scene in particular, when Joey goes on a hunger strike in his bedroom we see his partner on the next screen in an extension of the same bed.

The whole thing is segued brilliantly by the character, Scullery, played by Jake Cooke, but there are many memorable performances and some powerful soliloquies throughout the production.
Scullery is a likeable, light-fingered, heavy drinking rogue who is also a bit of a womaniser when he gets the chance, but he links the scene between sets admirably.

I know that Mina Anwar is a great actress, choreographer and singer, but this production proves what an outstanding director she is also. The way this dovetails together in these difficult times for the theatre just proves what can be done to preserve this wonderful form of entertainment.

Hopefully, it won’t be long before we are once more going to the theatre and I truly hope that casualties among theatres due to this awful pandemic are very few - if any. For now though, it is productions such as this that give the industry hope for the future. Well done to all concerned.

Peter Jones 2020

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I’m an academic researcher at the Wellcome Genome Campus, a scientific research centre near Cambridge. I’m looking for volunteers who are over fifty to take part in telephone interviews for a research project on how people use technology and what they think about how technology might be used in the future.  

Technology is increasingly important to how many of us live our lives. More people than ever use the internet regularly, most have mobile phones or smartphones, and devices like step-counters, FitBits or smart speakers are becoming more common. During the Coronavirus pandemic, these technologies have become increasingly important, helping us to keep in touch with people, shop for groceries and do our banking, and are even being used to track the spread of the virus. In the future, many doctors and scientists think that phones, computers and other devices might become important tools for checking on or monitoring our health or that of family members. However, while technologies can bring benefits, they can also raise concerns. For example, people may worry about their privacy, who has information about them and how it might be used.

The project aims to find out how and why people use technology, how this has changed, and what they think about the pros and cons of using technology to check on or track their health. I hope that the findings of the study will help future technologies better serve the needs of older adults, particularly in relation to health.

Taking part in the study would involve three telephone interviews. These will take place during the next six months. Each call will take no more than 45 minutes. The calls will be recorded, and everything you say in the interviews will be anonymised.

If you are interested in taking part, please get in touch with me on 01223 496 836 or by email at richard.milne@wgc.org.uk, and I will give you more details about the research and answer any questions you have.  You can also find more detailed information at the study website, www.thespacestudy.com.

The research study is funded by The Wellcome Trust, an independent charity that funds research to improve human and animal health. The study is based in the Society and Ethics Research group at the Wellcome Genome Campus. We are a group of academics working in a non-profit research institute, who explore the ethical, legal and social issues raised by genetics and other new medical science and technology.




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Oswaldtwistle couple Brian and Lynda Hodgkinson were keen rock 'n' rollers and when their family left home and elderly relatives they had looked after died, they decided to enjoy their passion for this dance genre by going on rock 'n' roll weekends all over Engalnd and abroad.

Sadly, that was interrupted when Brian was diagnosed with bowel cancer in January 2014. Lynda said:

"Even when the bombshell hit...we went to the rock ‘n’ roll whenever he was well enough.” 

In 2014, Brian underwent an operation  followed by six months of chemotherapy and in 2017 the couple held a charity rock ‘n’ roll night at the Poplar Club, Accrington, to raise funds for the Chemotherapy Unit, supported by friends from across the country as well as those they knew locally.  Brian and Lynda sponsored the entertainment and other costs at the event, so that all monies raised were received by Royal Blackburn hospital.

“We wanted to raise the money as a ‘thank you’ to the staff on the Chemotherapy Unit for caring for me so well”, said Brian.

Unfortuanately, following the event, Lynda developed arthritis, so the couple joined tea dances as an alternative to high impact rock ‘n’ roll.  Lynda told me:

"As we are not fit enough to rock and roll now, but decided we didn't want to not dance, we went to a local tea dance at Accrington and from there we then went to two others which were held at Blackburn in Church halls.  One of these was at Fenniscowles Methodist Church where we met some lovely people. A Friendship Club was established and we had been going for a considerable time when the person doing the music left and without a replacement it would have closed.

 We said we would do it, and a lovely man called Richard Threlfall who does the music at Accrington taught us what we needed to know and we now do the music each Wednesday. We asked if we could hire the church hall to run the charity night because most of the people who supported the night were from the tea dances that we go to in Blackburn.   It is a very social afternoon; people come and dance but others just come to chat and listen to the music and all it needs is a church hall, some chairs and a good floor which most church halls have - and the music of course."

From this platform, Lynda and Brian hosted events to raise money for the chemotherapy unit and in all have now raised 1,900.  

Brian said: “We wanted to host the events and raise money so that the unit could provide things that will make life easier for those undergoing chemotherapy now. We want to show that life can go on after cancer and you can take the opportunity to enjoy your new and precious life.”

In July, exactly five years after Brian's first course of chemotherapy, the couple presnted their latest donation - a cheque for 500 - to to East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust’s charity, ELHT&Me.  On behalf of the charity Fundraising Manager, Denise Gee said:

“The charity is so pleased to be accepting this donation from Mr and Mrs Hodgkinson. It’s fantastic that they’ve found a way to raise funds whilst hosting the dances they enjoy!”

By donating cash, Brian and Lynda have empowered our staff and patients to choose what purchases or projects would improve the experience and care of patients on the Chemotherapy Ward, which is much appreciated!”

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A local Holistic Therapist has been trying to raise awareness of the range of natural therapies available and at the same time raising money to help people who can’t afford such therapy.

Tracey Jones is a Reiki Master and a qualified Masseuse, Aromatherapist, Beauty Therapist, Reflexologist and Teacher.

Alongside running her own clinical practice, Tracey provides training courses in Body Massage, Reiki Healing, Reflexology and Indian Head Massage. With over 25 years in practice, she is passionate about passing on her knowledge and learned experience. Since moving into Hyndburn Voluntary Community Resource Centre, on Cannon Street in Accrington, in April this year, Tracey’s long yearned for dream of creating her own ‘School of Healing’ was born. Her school is focused on promoting Health, Education and Awareness within the Complementary Therapy Healthcare Sector.

Tracey, who holds a BSc.Hons. Degree in Herbal Medicine, is also the founder of Naturcopia, the name of her own chemical free product range, which launched in 2011.

When I caught up with her recently, she was hosting a “Gong Bath” (Sound Healing Session) fundraising event, provided free of charge by members of the Chorley Healing Hub. The event was organised not only to promote the benefits of vibrational healing, but also to raise funds for the charitable arm of her business School of Healing Charitable Trust (SoHCT).

In March this year, Tracey embarked on providing monthly Health and Wellbeing Events. She invites other professional therapists to become part of a ‘Healing Hub’, providing taster sessions and introductory offers for various therapies and soul readings. These sessions take place on the first Sunday of each month between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. The average cost is 10 per half hour session, with 1 entrance fee. The normal cost for a full session is around 35. Good food and refreshments are provided by the Healing Hub Caterers. It does sound like a wonderfully inspiring way to spend your Sunday afternoon once per month! Apparently there will not be a meeting in January, so December’s event promises to be a welcomed time-out for all; reconnecting again in February 2018.

The proceeds from the door at the Healing Hub Events and extra ones like the “Gong Bath”, along with 10% of what Tracey earns from the sale of her products all go into the pot. Having been refused funding earlier this year, Tracey decided she must do it herself and now has three trustees on board.

These funds pay for people who might not otherwise afford it, to have complementary therapy treatments. These might include people who have come out of rehab, people on low income or claiming benefits. Tracey told me that she also goes around to various organisations and gives talks about her work, again the donations going towards her Charitable Trust.

Tracey’s office is above the main hall where these sessions take place, so anyone who wants to consult with her privately for a full session will already know where to come. She also runs her own Development/Awareness Group, at the Centre, which meet on Tuesday evenings 7-9 p.m. The cost is just 5, and provides an array of self-help, natural healing solutions, amidst guided meditations and mindfulness techniques. Guest speakers are often invited to share knowledge and experience. All that Tracey asks of group attendees is to bring an open loving heart.

It was a pleasure witnessing the session the other evening and also a couple of her monthly Wellbeing Events. Tracey is obviously very well thought of, not only with the people who benefit from these sessions but also by her fellow professionals and I would like to thank her for her time and patience during our interview. I think it is befitting therefore to leave the last words to Tracey herself:

“I’m really excited to introduce who I am, what I am, what I’m doing. For over ten years I’ve hidden my light under a bushel at the top of Water Street and I’ve moved now; I’ve got new premises here. So I’ve got the confidence in myself I suppose, to stand up and be counted.

“I just try my best to make a difference. I don’t try to take it all on my own shoulders; I’ve got a wonderful team of people around me, who are all of the same ilk, and aside from my own business, I want to create more of an awareness about natural healing solutions and how they can help people on a day to day basis, in order to better their own lives and the lives of others.”

Peter Jones 2017

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John Bradley became a qualified osteopath in 1989. There is a picture on his mantle of Princess Anne presenting him with his credentials of which he is quite rightly proud. He actually set up his own business in Clayton-le-Moors as soon as he qualified but while he gained clients he needed to do some locum work which took him as far afield as Bury and Wilmslow.

“Like any new business, it was slow going at first, but it grew solidly, mostly by word of mouth.”

John also has another practice in Lytham which he used to visit but that is now run by his trusted colleague, Amy Dickinson.

John was born in Blackburn but the family moved to Rishton where he was brought up, when he was a year old. The youngest of six siblings (two brothers and three sisters) he attended St Augustine’s Secondary School followed by St Mary’s College, Blackburn.
It was while he was at the Blackburn College that he moved back to Blackburn for two years. It was also while taking his ‘A’ levels that John decided what path his career would take.

“I had a sister who was a physiotherapist and I found that very interesting, then my mother mentioned osteopathy and I decided that was what I wanted to do.” John told me. “I went to see an osteopath in Blackburn named David Gutteridge in action and decided it was for me.”

John applied to the three osteopathy colleges at that time and although he was accepted at all three, decided on The British School of Osteopathy in London where he embarked on a four year course.
The reason he chose osteopathy was that although both professions (physiotherapy and osteopathy) are similar in many ways, no two patients are the same and osteopathy is more ‘hands on’. Different patients respond to different treatments and it is a constant challenge to get results.

John met his wife of twenty-seven years, Claire when they were at their respective sixth-form colleges and they remain inseparable today. They have four children together. All of John’s children have helped out in his surgery, mostly after college in the late afternoons.

John explained:

“Although I have two full-time receptionists I work long hours so they have all helped me out. James, my sixteen-year-old does three hours every Friday afternoon.”

When John is not at work he likes to unwind and one way he has found to do this and keep fit is cycling. Since Claire also loves to cycle, the pair of them often set off early in the morning and ride off somewhere. Indeed John actually did the ‘London 100’ last year. That is 100 miles around the London area.

He also holds a season ticket for Blackburn Rovers and is a keen fan and likes to get away skiing whenever he can find the time. “I am a cautious skier,” he told me. “It wouldn’t look good if I turned up for work in plaster-of-Paris.”

I asked John if at any time in his life he had ever had any exciting or life-threatening encounters at all and he replied, “Not really, although I did go to the ‘Den’ to watch Blackburn in the 1980s when they played Millwall. That was scary enough.”

Next I asked John if he had any advice for young people considering osteopathy as a career. He said it was a very rewarding profession but like any other needed dedication and wasn’t easy to study, mainly because to have a complete understanding of the anatomy one had to learn many Latin phrases.

“Osteopathy isn’t only about the back. We treat peripheral joints as well; things like tennis elbow and ankle joints and sports injuries, although probably 90% of our work is spinal.”

 For all that he couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else and even after twenty-seven years he is “never bored with it.” He went on to say:

“It is a good profession. No two days are the same so you have to be able to think on your feet and keep an open mind. It is not a profession where you can be set in your ways. You have to be open to a different perspective on things.”

I suggested that he must find it very rewarding when someone comes to him struggling to walk or to use their arms and leaves feeling much better and that some people must write to him thanking him. He told me about one such case.

“A mother brought her 14 year old daughter who had been complaining of severe headaches, which she had suffered with for four or five years and was struggling with her studies and leisure activities because of them. I did some gentle treatment in the neck area and didn’t see or hear from her again. Then a couple of weeks ago I got a sweet letter from the girl’s mother thanking me and that her daughter had got her life back. On the downside, it was now costing her a fortune in dance lessons! These are the things that make this job worthwhile.”

I asked John what he does to relax and he told me he loved music and recently went to a concert in Manchester with his two older sons aged 21 and 25 and some of his own mates to see a little-known band called DMAs. He is a big Oasis fan and was recently in Leeds watching Noel Gallagher. He also went to the Etihad Stadium in Manchester to see Coldplay.

He and Claire used to have a season ticket for the Octagon Theatre in Bolton.

 “We hadn’t been for a few years but we went the other week. It is wonderful to see live acting, if it’s good of course,” he told me.
John also likes to watch good TV drama and recently watched enthralled as Happy Valley returned for a second series. He said the acting was brilliant and had special praise for writer, Sally Wainwright who created the series and is also responsible for Scott and Bailey and Last Tango in Halifax.

He is also a film fan but says he and Claire like different things. They both went to see 2015 film, “Room” recently and really enjoyed it.

John also likes reading and has just finished a Ken Follett trilogy and has also read Joseph Cannon.

“I like to read historical novels and autobiographies. I am reading Sam Allardyce’s at the moment.”

John Bradley has been my osteopath for over twenty years now and in all that time we have always found something to talk about whilst he has been treating me; both being long-suffering Blackburn Rovers fans has helped with that. I would like to thank him personally for this interview and for finding the time to talk with me.

You can also hear John's Podast. Please Click here

Peter Jones 2019


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