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The Westminster poverty trap? My Contributoria article

1 May, 2015 0 Comments

My first article for Contributoria was published today.


Politics without Cameron (not to mention Clegg) – reaction to the BBC challengers debate

17 April, 2015 0 Comments

Labour’s Ed Miliband rises to the challenge when grilled by possible post election partners. UKIP’s Nigel Farage slips further

In a bizarre courtship ritual, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and Green leader Natalie Bennett attacked Ed Miliband on Labour’s performance and policies while pleading with him to bring them into a post-election anti-Tory embrace …Read more at The News Hub…

Benedict Cumberbatch Profile

1 April, 2015 0 Comments

Man of the Moment – Benedict Cumberbatch profiled in

My profile of Benedict Cumberbatch appears in the April 2015 edition of Spotlight magazine. The first two pages can be seen at


Abbey Brass at the Brass Band Championships 2015

27 March, 2015 0 Comments

Shaky start from Abbey but recovers well and soon settles nicely. Slow movements flow nicely with good cornet and euphonium sounds. Strong start to the last movement with a well chosen tempo and good build up to the close. Another brave effort.


stevenage2015_1On Sunday 22nd March Abbey Brass went to the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre to contest against 21 other 4th Section bands in the London and Southern Counties Region National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain.

The coach contingent set off early from Rye Farm car park on an ever brightening Spring morning, arriving shortly before 10. According to my iPhone app, the coach hummed at a fairly steady G (that’s C for the B flats!) for much of the journey.

The draw for the order of play took place shortly after we arrived. We were drawn 8th which meant we wouldn’t be required to play the national anthem (a requirement of the whichever band is drawn first) and would be on stage at around 1pm.

stevenage2015_2Shortly before 12.30pm we checked we all had our music, mouthpieces, registration cards  etc and had a final blow through the instruments to get them warmed up.

After a final nerve-settling pep talk from Rob, our conductor, it was our turn to play. The percussion team went on stage first to set up and then we were on.

Before a fairly spartan lunchtime audience we performed the 4th Section test piece An English Pastorale by Dean Jones. The piece begins with a 15 bar fanfare ‘Heralding the dawn’ that leads us into four movements evoking the English seasons. A spirited and playful ‘Autumn on the Plains’ is followed by a desolate ‘Winter in the Dales’. The mood cheers up a little in the third movement when we enter ‘Spring on the Lakes’ and we finish with a burst of hustle, bustle and sunshine with ‘Summer on the Quays’.

The general feeling on leaving the stage was that it had gone well and we had put our best into it. There were moments of hesitancy but it was a generally settled performance from all with some beautiful sounds. We had  a few hours to kill while the remaining bands did their pieces and after lunch some us went to hear the Championship bands performing on a different stage with much better acoustics and comfier seats.

We finished a creditable 15th in our section and here is the full table of results with the other Oxfordshire bands highlighted in green.

Fourth Section
Test Piece: ‘An English Pastorale’- Dean Jones
Sunday 22nd March

Adjudicators: Nick Garman & David Hirst

1. City of Norwich (Aandrew Craze)*
2. Castleton Brass (Peter Ryan)*
3. East Coast Brass (Paul Speed)*
4. Watford Band (Ian Graves)
5. North London Brass (Patrick Dodds)
6. Tadley Concert Brass (Paul Chapman)
7. Letchworth Garden City (Tim Welch)
8. Woodbridge Excelsior (Chris Lewis-Garnham)
9. Brighton & Hove City (Matthew Hackett)
10. Crystal Palace (Michael Gray)
11. Bradwell Silver (Brian Keech)
12. Snowdown Colliery (Christer Aberg)
13. Wantage Academy (Nikki Jones)
14. Godalming (James Haigh)
15. Abbey Brass (Abingdon) (Rob Tompkins)
16. Cottenham Brass (P. Mackley)
17. Witney Town (Rhys Owens)
18. Hadstock Silver (Lisa Jardine-Wright)
19. Royston Townd (Steve Earley)
20. Bletchington Silver (S. Barwick)
21. Ampthill Town (Chris Benger)
22. Marsh Gibbon Silver (Andrew Allcock)

The Westminster Poverty Trap?

6 March, 2015 0 Comments

The Palace of Westminister

This is my first article proposal for the May edition of Contributoria. It has now been commissioned. It will be in production throughout April. If you are a member of Contributoria, you will be able to take part in the editorial process of this article once the first draft has been submitted.

According to MPs, £67,000 just isn’t a living wage – for an MP. It’s time then, that we took a look at how they earned a crust before they were elected. What did they do for a living? What would it have brought in and was entering Parliament really a step down into relative poverty?

This article will present information on the past and present careers of our MPs so that we can discover just how much of a lifestyle step down or a step up it has been to become a Member of Parliament. What have they sacrificed or gained?

With more than one MP announcing that they are stepping down as a result of poor pay, the article will also look at what happens when the years of public service are over. What can our MPs expect to earn once they or we bring their parliamentary careers to an end? The article will examine the earning potential of former Members of Parliament and see how much of a career boost it is to have ‘MP’ on your CV.

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