Paws for thought!

Round & About

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Shops, restaurants and businesses taking part are encouraged to display a Dog Paw sticker in their window, so dog parents, and their furry friends know they are welcome.

So far more than 50 businesses have taken part, including independent and national companies such as Barclays Bank and Clarks.  Wallingford, well known for its excellent Independent shops, has seen the benefits and taken on the campaign with great enthusiasm.  With over 26% of us being dog parents, businesses can see the benefit from a higher footfall when dogs are welcomed, as people walking into town with their dogs can visit shops, and dine at their favourite restaurants.

Le Clos wine bar & French restaurant was one of the first to welcome the idea.  Other restaurants such as Shellfish Cow also see the value, and display the Dog Paw sticker with pride. Most pubs have signed up and many even have dog-friendly rooms.

The vast array of shops taking part include the lady’s clothes shop First Edition; lifestyle shops such as Raspberry Tart and also The Lamb Arcade – an Aladdin’s Cave of antiques. The shops you would also expect in a market town are also behind the campaign including shoe repair shops, newsagents, florists and hardware stores.

Joe Quilter, one of the founders of the scheme and a dog parent to Bramble, a Cockapoo said: “After a visit to North Norfolk and seeing written signs in shops inviting dogs into their premises, I thought it not be a great idea to have a standard Dog Paw Sticker for my town so local people and visitors know they are welcome with their dogs.

People don’t like to ask, as they don’t like to be refused entry, so this takes the issue away.

I’m also a big supporter of local business, and thought this is a win-win for both dog parents and our fantastic shops, restaurants and businesses.”

Joe also mentioned the security aspect and went on to say “One in 20 dogs taken are outside shops, and I just don’t want anyone living or visiting our town to ever suffer this experience.”

Since starting the campaign, other towns and villages have signed up to the campaign including Goring, Streatley, Didcot and Pangbourne, and the Dog Paw Sticker is in print again to the reach further afield than the founding town.

Where's dog friendly?

To find out the shops, restaurants and businesses taking part

Birdland Park

Round & About

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If you’re looking for a day out to avoid all the pre-Christmas chaos that already seems to have taken hold, how about a day out at Birdland Park & Gardens?

A pandemonium of parrots has flocked there in recent weeks with some colourful new residents moving in to the park which is now home to 16 different parrot species.

The Cotswold-based wildlife attraction has constructed six new aviaries with two more to be completed in the coming months where visitors can view the new species including the kea and long billed corella.

As part of the new features Birdland in Bourton-on-the-Water is also raising awareness about the conservation and welfare work being done by the World Parrot Trust. The charity is currently focussing on raising funds and awareness to help support the endangered scarlet macaw.

Birdland manager Simon Blackwell said: “We’re very pleased to be able to support such a worthy cause here at Birdland.

“The conservation work the World Parrot Trust undertakes is vital in raising awareness about the risks faced by all parrot species in the wild which include loss of habitat and capture for the illegal trade in wild birds.

“The additional aviaries which have been constructed here are already home to a pandemonium of parrots, the collective term for a group of the birds, and they’ve settled in really well,” he added.

There are 387 species of parrots, known scientifically as Psittacine, and most species are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Australia, Asia, Central and South America and Africa.

For video of just some of the attractions at Birdland, click here:

Make no bones about it…

Round & About

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Ella Reeves reviews Lovely Bones at Oxford Playhouse

If there is one play you go to see this year, this is it.

I have just returned from the stage version of Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel The Lovely Bones, adapted by Bryony Lavery and directed by Melli Still.

My mind was blown. I am not one to be reckless with my superlatives, and this was the best play I’ve ever seen. It is the kind of show where you are not thinking about when the interval is coming, because you are completely enthralled by the performance.

The Lovely Bones was one of the few books I found gripping enough to read cover-to-cover as a teenager. The book is set in Pennsylvania, 1973, where the main character, Susie Salmon, dies at the beginning, raped and murdered by a neighbour. The rest of the story follows Susie’s journey in the afterlife, as she watches over her family, while they deal with the aftermath of her death.

When I heard the production was coming to the Oxford Playhouse, I was keen to see it. I was curious as to how a stage production could plausibly portray Susie’s ghostly presence alongside the living world, and how they would deal with the book’s complex and disturbing themes.

How could it be possible to convey that one part of the scene is in the present, then it is in the past, and some characters on stage are in heaven, while some are on earth?

The situation and mood changes were seamless, owing to the actors’ convincing performances, the suspense-building sound design, the lighting, and the innovative scenery. The actors frequently changed roles, which could have been confusing or overdone, but they subtly conveyed the changes, so it felt as if as if you were in the characters’ heads.

It was clear that the other audience members were as captivated as I was. Through the contrast of lightness and laughter with darkness and gruesomeness, a full range of emotions were teased out in each scene. We gasped, we giggled, and we had tears in our eyes.

The stage play was beautifully choreographed, and there were parts where I was mesmerised by how the motion of each actor slowed and sped up, in sync with one another. I wondered how many times they must have rehearsed to perform it so perfectly. The live band, which transported the audience to the place and era of the story’s setting, was worth seeing in itself.

The scenery was inspired. The backdrop was an angled screen, which, dependent on lighting, acted as a mirror of the main act, or an illusion between the dimensions. When the actor playing Susie (Charlotte Beaumont) talks to the audience and “breaks the fourth wall”, you could imagine that the scenery creates a fifth wall.

There was no weak link to be found in the play, certainly not among the actors. Holiday, the dog, was played by actor Samuel Gosrani, and was clearly recognisable while playing a dog, while also credibly playing Ray, Susie’s love interest. It is notable that Susie never leaves the stage, and despite her screams to her parents, siblings, and friends, she is in a different dimension, so they never bat an eyelid.

Oxfordians are fortunate to have the Oxford Playhouse, an attraction of such excellent productions. I went to see the captioned show on a Wednesday, which enables people with hearing loss to enjoy live performances. The casting team of this production should also be commended for their inclusive approach: the actors were selected for their role based on their acting ability and suitability to the character, no matter their race or gender.

Tickets are still available

For the Thursday evening, Friday evening, and Saturday matinee and evening.

You will not regret it!

Reading Rep

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A Reading theatre company is asking the town to make a simple click to help its chances of collecting up to £100,000 to boost funds for a new theatre and arts centre.

Reading Rep is fundraising and nearing its target of £400,000 for the converted building in King’s Road on the Reading College campus, a simple click on social media could boost its funds by £100,000.

Reading Rep is asking people to log on to the Persimmon Homes website, which hosts a £1 million competition to give away cash for under 18s to health, sports, education and arts organisations, and vote for the theatre company by 27th September. Cash awards of £100,000, £50,000 or £20,000 will be made to those winning the most online votes.

Reading Rep artistic director Paul Stacey said: “We are up against lots of different organisations, but we’d urge people to vote for us as Reading Rep exists to provide access to the arts for all, including some of Reading’s most disadvantaged children.

“We currently perform in a small 50-seater space and the new theatre/arts and community centre will take us up to around 160 seats.”

Nick Thompson, executive producer, said: “We are very excited for our plans – the building to be converted is a 1920s’ former Salvation Army Hall which has massive potential. The benefits to theatre-goers will be immense – and crucially the space will include a permanent education and learning centre allowing disadvantaged children to access our work.”

A spokesperson for Persimmon Homes Thames Valley said: “Persimmon Homes is delighted to be joining forces with Team GB – the British Olympic Association – to give away over £1 million to help children in England, Wales and Scotland. 
 
“As an official partner of Team GB, we are extremely proud to be supporting the organisation in the run up to, and beyond, the next Olympic Games in Tokyo. 
 
“Building Futures, supported by Team GB, comes on the back of our hugely successful Healthy Communities competition, which in 2018 gave away more than £600,000 to support youth sport.”

The website is Persimmon Homes and people can vote once each day.

Mr Stacey added: “It takes such a short time to vote but the difference our new centre would make to the arts scene in Reading is vast. We’d like to thank everyone who has voted so far. Why not make a note in your diary to vote for us every morning and evening until the closing date?”

The voting closes at midnight on 27th September.

Reading Rep hopes to begin the conversion of the building soon with the aim of opening in spring 2020.

Get involved

Vote for Reading Rep here

Presence, Cornerstone

Karen Neville

local

Kate Aries

Four emerging Oxford based artists are showcasing their work in an exhibition at Didcot’s Cornerstone.

Presence is a group exhibition featuring the work of Kate Aries, Manon Franklin-Fraiture, James Lester and Jack Whitney.
Combining drawing, textile, illustration and digital artworks, the artists have created new works that question what is means to exist in the contemporary world, physically, sexually, virtually and digitally.

Visitors will be able to engage with works perceptually and/or physically, encouraging them to also contemplate these questions.
Kate Aries explores perception and illusion through experimentation with the camera, using different techniques to obscure and restrict her body. Kate’s practice focuses not only on embodied experience, but also the manipulated and processed image in our changing society.

James Lester
Jack Whitney
Manon Franklin-Fraiture

Manon Franklin-Fraiture’s quirky illustrations incorporate conversations and questions she overhears and brings them to life, shining a light on how human existence can be in our modern life.
James Lester is a portraiture artist whose work contemplates the shaping of humanity within a modern context. Throughout the duration of the exhibition James will be creating large-scale charcoal murals of an array of celebrity figures, offering visitors the chance to watch the artist in action.

Jack Whitney’s practice challenges normative notions of gender, sexuality and politics, for this exhibition Jack has used embroidery as a way of drawing humorous yet thought provoking images.

Exhibition

Presence runs from today, 6th, until 18th August and is free to attend.

Visit the Cornerstone site for more information about this or any of the other productions on.

Millie’s Milestone

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Local mum Jessica Simmons explains more about how you can help her wonderful daughter walk, run and jump like any other child

Millie was born at 29 weeks weighing just 3lbs 2oz. Having spent time at the special care baby unit at Royal Surrey County Hospital under a special lamp to treat jaundice, we faced the first major battle – a feeding problem. Her tummy would swell when she had breast milk which meant her feeds would be dropped and then started again. Eventually the swelling stopped and she was growing well.

A routine brain ultrasound revealed ‘white matter’ which we were told is normal in pre-term babies. Finally, our time in SCBU was over and we were able to go home to Millie’s sisters and enjoying having three happy healthy girls.

We were admitted to hospital several times the first winter when she contracted bronchiolitis. At the last admission she was connected to a CPAP machine to help her breathe as it was so laboured.

At home we carried on like any other family. Millie wasn’t reaching the milestones of other children, but we put this down to her being born early and that eventually she would roll over, sit and crawl.

At her yearly review we talked about how Millie’s legs were very stiff and tight which made getting her into a sitting position very difficult. A few days later we received a letter – one part stuck out – “Millie is showing signs of Diplegic Cerebral Palsy”. I stood in my kitchen reading the letter and it just felt like my world was falling apart. I felt so alone.

A consultant confirmed Millie was showing signs of Diplegic Cerebral Palsy, which causes tense muscles and spasms. Leg muscles tend to be very tight, and over time, this causes joints to stiffen reducing movement. Since Millie was diagnosed she has tackled so many obstacles, and we have too – our day-to-day lives have changed dramatically, we have had to learn various ways of aiding Millie. She has developed her own way of carrying out everyday movement.

When Millie was diagnosed we began looking for answers and stumbled upon SDR – Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy, the nerves which cause the spasticity in the legs are cut. We are due to see specialists at Great Ormond Street in September to see if it’s suitable for Millie. We have to meet the NHS funding guidelines but that’s no guarantee of getting the financial help. Since last June we have been fundraising – holding a grand ball, doing obstacle courses and quiz nights. But we need to raise a lot more. The operation isn’t a miracle cure, Millie will need to have several years of intensive physiotherapy to get the most out of this.

Millie is amazing, every day she has a smile on her face and we want to share that with everyone!

Donate to the cause

Clothes swap

Karen Neville

local

I expect like most people you’ve got wardrobes and cupboards full of clothing you never wear? 

A global study in 2018 by removals company Movinga found most of us do not wear 50 per cent of the clothes they own

Hands up if you’re guilty of that, with many in this country owning clothes they haven’t worn for a year.

Help is at hand from Environment Trust, a charity based in South West London, which is encouraging local people to contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry by attending their first ever Clothes Swap event on 2nd August at the ETNA Centre in Twickenham.

Tickets for the event support the charity’s vital conservation work and cost £10 per person. People are asked to donate between 4 and 10 items of clothing and will be able to take home a new outfit of the same number of items. The event includes drinks, nibbles, fashion tips, raffle and more, all while being sustainable.

Sophie Norden, fundraising and partnership manager at Environment Trust, says, “We are increasingly aware of the impact of the fashion industry on the environment. In fact, it is the second largest polluter in the world, after the oil industry, and the environmental damage is increasing as the industry grows.

“However, there are solutions and alternatives to address these problems. The first step lies in building awareness and having the willingness to change.

“We hope to help people make this change with our first Clothes Swap and bring along clothes they no longer want.”

Clothes for all the ages and genders welcome, and donated clothes should be washed and in good condition. Clothes will also be accepted on the night and additional items welcome for a ‘to purchase’ rack.

Environment Trust encourages clothes donations to be dropped at the ETNA Centre, 13 Rosslyn Road, St Margaret’s in Twickenham, TW1 2AR ahead of the event, kindly named if participating and, if possible, on hangers.

More information

To find out more about the event and to book your place

Charlbury festival

Karen Neville

local

Free festival fun down by the riverside in Charlbury

Head down to the river this weekend for free family fun in Charlbury at the ever-popular Riverside Festival.

Held on the banks of the Evenlode, it has grown over the past 24 years, attracting thousands of music lovers who this year will be able to enjoy the US rock band The Pixies among many others. For youngsters there will be free pixie fun activities to join in.

There’s a packed programme of music on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st with more than 40 acts playing across four stages – rock, indie, jazz, and folk on the main two stages and all sorts on the Fringe and Buskers stages!

Headlining the main stage on Saturday is four-piece Oxford band Kanadia. Their big and bold alt rock sound and impressive stage presence has won them a growing fan base in Europe and a big following across the Atlantic in Mexico, the US and Canada.
Sunday headliner is popular upbeat garage punk band Self Help.

Other acts to look out for are Riverside favourites 2 Tone All Skas, The Knights of Mentis, Mighty Redox and eclectic Turkabilly band, Brickwork Lizards.

The second stage, run by independent record stores, Rapture in Witney and The Truck Store in Oxford has an impressive line-up of local bands including Peerless Pirates, Death of the Maiden and Ghosts in the Photographs.

The festival takes place in The Mill Field, Dyers Hill, Charlbury with entry opposite Charlbury railway station.

For more information and details