Hope and Social Garden Party – The Trailer

Old Rectory, Mirfield

The excitement is building towards the Hope and Social Garden Party, to be held at the Old Rectory, Mirfield this coming Sunday (31st July). You can read all about it here.

I visited the Old Rectory today as part of a party that went to survey the venue. I’ll be doing some live video stuff on the day at http://www.celebration20.net, in amongst everything that is going on. While I was there, I managed to grab Rich Huxley of the band to talk us through what’s going to be happening on Sunday.

Guerilla Opera in Huddersfield – Well done!

So, today (23rd July 2011) saw the first performance of Huddersfield Youth Opera‘s production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Mozart & Salieri” as part of Huddersfield Creative Arts Network‘s Art in Memorable Spaces initiative.

Scene 1 took place outside the impressive George Hotel

The small company did well to overcome the challenges of the outdoor conditions, not least the considerable gusts of wind.

For scene two, set in an inn, the cast and crew decamped appropriately to the opposite corner of the Square, outside the Head of Steam pub, where proceedings were enlivened by some audience participation courtesy of a Stag Party, who insisted on being photographed before the scene began

Stag Party Outside the Head of Steam, Huddersfield; 23rd July 2011

The Stag Party departed half way through the scene to catch a train, meaning the second half took place against a slightly quieter background.

The performance is repeated next Saturday, 30th July, at 2:30pm. It’s an opportunity to see some opera for free in an interesting setting, and not to be missed.

Guerilla Opera in St. George’s Square, Huddersfield

Graffiti Jacket

Tomorrow (Saturday July 23rd 2011) sees the first of two open air performances of a “Guerilla Opera” in the centre of Huddersfield. In partnership with the Huddersfield Creative Arts Network, Huddersfield Youth Opera will be performing Rimsky Korsakov’s “Mozart & Salieri” in St. George’s Square on successive Saturdays. In a first for the opera group, their small troupe will take to the flagstones outside Britain’s most attractive railway station at 2:30pm on both days.

I caught up with the Youth Opera’s General Director, David Heathcote, Director of the production, Janet Cowley, and cast members, David Fearn, who plays Mozart and Jamal Rahman who plays Salieri, to find out what it’s all about and why they are doing it.

I think this is a fantastic initiative, and applaud the group for making productive use of the expensively refurbished square which stands unused for most of the year, in between a few high profile, and well-attended, formal events. Perhaps even some casual passers-by will pay attention to the production and decide that opera is something they want to find out more about.

Here is a snippet of David and Jamal in rehearsal for the production.

Some of the costumes which will be on display on the two Saturdays are quite spectacular and a credit to the work of Huddersfield University students including Natalie Lawson and Emily Hargreaves

Emily Hargreaves and Natalie Lawson show off one of the costumesI very much hope that this initiative will lead to more regular use of the space that is St. George’s Square. The people of Huddersfield need to feel that it is their arena for them to make use of.

Free Wifi for Hospital Patients – Progress Report

Well, this week I had a bit of good news. On Monday (11th July) I was at the RSA in London to present my proposal for Free Wifi for Hospital patients at the DotGovLabs Dragons’ Den.  The idea is outlined here, if you haven’t seen it before, and you can even join the Facebook Group. In brief, based on family experiences, I have been campaigning for some time to get free wifi for hospital patients, as I believe it would be of massive therapeutic benefit to reduce patients’ isolation by enabling them to connect to the outside world in this way.

I’ve been very grateful for the support of a lot of people in the campaign, including the wonderful Ellie Stoneley, who had her own frustrating experience in hospital in the not too distant past, and who was kind enough to record this video of support for the campaign.

Shortly before I went to London for the pitch, I visited Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, to talk to Neal Lewis, who has been responsible for installing and maintaining a free patient wifi network in that hospital and the other two hospitals run by the Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust.  Neal was able to give me some valuable information on the running of the network, and to dispel some myths about potential problems. Here he is, talking to me in the canteen at Pinderfields.

And so, the good news was that I won second prize in the DotGovLabs challenge, which will bring £2,000 to help progress the idea.

So, what next? Well, the campaign goes on. In the immediate future, I will be looking to achieve 4 objectives:

  1. To conduct a survey of hospitals already providing wifi (free and otherwise), and collecting as much feedback as possible on how it is working;
  2. To work with Neal Lewis and colleagues in Wakefield to collect quantitative and qualitative information on the use of the free wifi in the Mid-Yorkshire hospitals;
  3. To engage connectivity suppliers as potential partners; and
  4. To find a pilot hospital prepared to introduce free wifi for the time.

There is already potential interest from a major telecomms company, so I am hopeful that there is momentum building behind this, and I think the support of the DotGovLabs “Dragons” is both a symbol of this and will provide a major boost in itself.

I’ll keep you informed of progress. If there is anything you can do to help, then please get in touch.

Hide and Seek World Record in Huddersfield!

So, they did it! On 3rd July 2011, the members and staff of the Young Batley Centre Sunday Youth Club smashed the previous world record for the biggest game of Hide and Seek by getting 406 people to register and take part on a gloriously sunny afternoon in Beaumont Park, Huddersfield.

It will be some time before the official confirmation of a World Record can be obtained from the Guinness Book of Records, but we know that will come.

I was fortunate to be there to capture the action on camera