Unite 2012 a great success

A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed Claire O’Mahoney and Matt Herd about their charity show, Unite 2012.  That show was on Saturday, and I’m pleased to be able to report that it was a massive success, raising exactly £2000 for the Nightingale Cancer Support Centre.

Now, like The Wedding Singer last year, this is a show I cannot possibly be unbiased about, as I was helping out.  Instead, I’d like to share with you my exclusive pictures of the rehearsal.  (I wasn’t able to photograph the performance.)

The show was opened by SMP with “It’s your wedding day” from The Wedding Singer – there’s a video of them performing that on my post about the show.  They also closed Unite with a number from their recent pantomime.

Other local musical theatre groups were also out in force – Acorn brought us a selection from Oliver!, which they’ve only been rehearsing for a couple of weeks.  They’ve obviously got two excellent soloists in place as Fagin and Nancy, so I look forward to seeing that when it comes to the Intimate Theatre in June.

ELODS did two songs from 42nd Street – a nice bit of swing, and an energetic bit of tap which was a bit of a highlight – that’s at the Wyllyots in a couple of weeks, so you’d better get your skates on if you want to get tickets to see it.

Another highlight was Enfield Blaze Allstars, who did some death-defying cheerleading gymnastics, which I didn’t do a very good job of photographing, as they’re very fast, and I’m not very good.  Also in gymnastic mode were D’Saintz, an all-male street dance group from St Ignatius’ College.  I didn’t take any video at Unite, but D’Saintz did the same routine at Enfield Glee last year, and someone’s put a somewhat shaky recording of that performance on YouTube:

While we’re on dance, I must mention probably the most unusual act of the evening, burlesque act Miss Di Mond. As you might imagine, her act usually involves her taking her clothes off, which is an unusual occurrence in a family show such as this one.  However, she rose to the occasion, and only took off most of her clothes.

Rounding out the evening were a spectacular array of singers – a group from the Ministry of Expression sang Firework, Tottenham Community Choir performed two very different pieces, Performance also did two and Glee tribute act The Gleeks performed three.  In addition to the groups, we had soloists Jo Martin & Debbie Petrou, Sam Kane, our compère David Short and his daughter Sophie Short.  Director Claire O’Mahony also stood in at the last minute for Sam Kane’s daughter Lucy Kane, who was unable to join us.

Finally, we come to the Contemporary Automatic Collaborative Kollective.  I’ve got no photos, but a video of one of their previous performances is available for them, too.  Once you’ve seen it, I’m sure you’ll agree they live up to their name.

Why, yes, that is Mr. S. leaping around in a sweatband.  Why do you ask?


United for Nightingale

In a little under two weeks, the charity show, Unite 2012, is coming to the Millfield Theatre.  This will be Matt Herd’s third major charity production – the fourth if you count Tottenham’s Got Talent, which wouldn’t have been possible without his contacts, expertise and hard work.  This time, he’s working alongside his fiancée Claire O’Mahony in aid of The Nightingale Cancer Support Centre, and I’ve spoken to them both about it about it.

Matt, this isn’t your first charity show.  How did you start out?

MH: I first started this process in 2004 with my show ‘Faith’ which was for Shelter, we raised £1000 in the one night at the Gladys Aylward Theatre. I then changed the name of the show to Unite and in 2008 we used the Gladys Aylward again to raise £1300 for the British Red Cross Chinese Earthquake Appeal. Unite 2008 was put together from conception to completion in just over 6 weeks.

What made you put together your first show?

MH: I was watching a programme on the perception and reality of homeless people. I was shocked about the number of people who were homeless through through things like redundancy, divorce and illness. The programme followed a man whose wife had left him and who got into a spiral of depression, lost his job and ultimately his home. Unfortunately the perception of homeless people is that it’s through drink and drugs and that just isn’t the case. This programme inspired to do the small part I could, and that was to raise money for Shelter.

What was the experience of putting together that show like?

MH: When I produced Faith I was only 22, I didn’t have much experience in the whole production process and it was a very steep learning curve! It was a very stressful time, but a very successful time. I sold out all three performances – I was even selling standing tickets.

The one thing I would say I learned that was vital in Unite 2008, and will be in Unite 2012, was keeping the show fun, fast and engaging to the audience. In Faith 2004 I promised too many people they could be involved and it was a longer show than I expected. Producing a show is a huge task and I handled everything, up until the opening night when I had helpers. I organised all the acts, advertising, theatre bookings, seating plans, I printed all the tickets and took all the bookings.  You name it I did it. Its made me realise that asking for help is a necessity for a successful show.

After all that hassle, what made you do it again, and again, and to get involved with Tottenham’s Got Talent as well?

MH: Since Faith 2004 I have been very lucky to move into the professional event industry, and now run my own business, MH Technical Solutions.  I have been privileged to be involved in large scale national and international events. The buzz of seeing the event take place, whether it be a conference, band, party or theatre show never goes. I have seen some amazing things in amazing places that most people will never even see. I hope that one day I can bring some of these elements to Unite.

I was told about Tottenham’s Got Talent via St Monica’s Players, who had been asked. They were looking for people to help out on the night. Originally a few of us just offered to help out on the night, but it soon became clear that our experience would prove vital on the night and our skills and experience would give a much better show. When the Bernie Grant Arts Centre pulled out, I spoke to Millfield Arts Centre, who were very generous in giving us the theatre and technical services for free. I live in Tottenham and the riots were only a few streets away from me. All of the charity shows I produce or am involved in are a way for me to give back to a charity that has been involved in my life or a community I am a part of. The beneficiary this year is The Nightingale Cancer Support Centre. All profits from the show will be donated directly to Nightingale.  All of the cast and crew involved in putting on Unite are donating their time for free.

I am very lucky this time to have the help of my fiancée Claire O’Mahony who is directing the Saturday show and sharing the load with me!

Claire, what did you want to go and do something like that for?

CO: As cheesy as it sounds, my Dad is my inspiration. My Dad helped found the Nightingale Cancer Support Centre in 2002 along with Andy Bone, Teresa Aylott and the man who originally had the idea, Bishop John Arnold. I know his reason was that, as a GP, he had to watch a lot of cancer sufferers and their families slip through the established care system, and that he felt something needed to be done. I think it’s incredible that he has spent his whole career dedicated to helping and caring for others and then also gives up his spare time to continue to do this outside of work. Both Matt and I were born and grew up in Enfield, and I would like to think that if any of our friends or family ever need the services of the Nightingale that it will still be going strong.

Tell us about the shows.

MH: For the first time, Unite 2012 will be spread over two nights.  On Friday 17th February we have a new spectacular performance from the Shaolin Warriors, Shaolin Elements. Semi-finalists in Britain’s Got Talent, and with a follow-up show “Kung Fu changed my life” on Sky1 HD last August, this show is one of the hottest tickets around. Once you watch the trailer for the show I guarantee you’ll want to come and see it!

Saturday 18th Feb, directed by Claire, brings back our popular and long-standing tradition of amateur companies coming together on one stage, for one night, for one cause. Acts confirmed so far are St Monica’s Players, Acorn Theatre Company, Finchley and Friern Barnet Operatic Society and Enfield Light Operatic and Dramatic Society.  We also have Enfield Blaze Cheerleading squad, a family friendly burlesque act, and Enfield’s new performing arts school, Ministry of Expression. Alongside these we have the official Glee Tribute Act in the UK, The Gleeks, and the fabulous Dave Short compering .

Based on previous nights like this, it will be an amazing night of entertainment, with audiences enjoying every second.

Claire, is it the first time you’ve directed anything like this?

CO: This is my “Directorial Debut”!  I’m taking more of a coordination role. Matt is dealing with all of the technical aspects of the show, and the groups are managing their own artistic content, so I am more of a go-between to keep everyone informed and organised.

Is it hard to convince acts to get involved?  Especially nationally famous acts like the Shaolin Warriors?

MH: Most amateur and semi professional acts are very open to getting involved. Both Faith 2004 and Unite 2008 were very lucky to have some great local talent involved. Having worked in theatre and the arts for a long time I have been lucky to have met some amazing and talented people. I worked with the Shaolin Warriors a few times when they first started performing in Hertfordshire and through a mutual friend they have kindly offered to perform their new 90 minute show on the Friday night. Asking a professional act or celebrity is something that I’m used to. I think understanding that we are asking them to do their job for free makes us approach things differently, and is why a lot of people perform for us.

What exactly is a family-friendly burlesque act?

MH: [Laughs] This is a tough question. By nature, a burlesque performance often involves an adult theme. The people who are performing for us are aware that Unite is a family audience and they have toned their dances and costumes down to ensure that no offence is caused.

How can people get involved?

If you can’t come on the night, you can still donate via our JustGiving page or by texting UNTE99 followed by the amount (e.g. £5) to 70070. We are looking to break the £2000 barrier to give to Nightingale, but it will only be possible with support from the local community.

Unite 2012 is at Millfield Arts Centre, Silver Street, Edmonton [map] 17th and 18th February at 7.30pm. Tickets: £12 (£10), £35 family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) from the Millfield Box Office or www.shaolin-warriors.co.uk.

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Arsenic and old laces

January’s brook cleanup went very well.

A really big pile of wood, concrete, carpet, and assorted other rubbish

What a load of rubbish!

Yes, that’s just some of the rubbish we pulled out of the Brook last week.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay for the whole event, as I had a panto to get to.  This is the amount of rubbish we’d pulled out by the time I left at the tea break.

It was another fascinating session – I found this rather beautiful poison bottle and we’ve identified what we believe is the chassis of a truck.  I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has any idea how those got into the Brook, and especially how the truck ended up staying there for so long.

After I left, the cleanup continued, and the volunteers also conducted an invertebrate survey.  “Most of the species that we found can tolerate polluted and dirty habitats,” Aimee confirms, “so unfortunately it’s not surprising that we found them there.  In a clean and healthy river we would expect to find many more different species of invertebrates, so here’s another indication that the Pymmes needs lots of help to be healthy. ”

After the cleanup, the volunteers and the Thames21 team went to The Bull for well-earned sandwiches and to come up with a plan of action.  They’ve come up with dozens of ideas to improve the area around the Brook, and to involve the local community.  I hope to bring you news of those as they develop – please sign up to my newsletter if you want to hear more.

The next step will be a meeting with local residents and Council Officers this Friday, 3rd Feb, at 11.30am at the Pymmes Park Visitor Centre. It will be a walk around the park, looking at the lake and river and talking about the pollution problems from which the lake suffers.  The next clean up event will be on Saturday 18th February from 10am – 1pm.

I took lots of photos of the cleanup, including a before-and-after for a patch I tidied, so please take a look at the full set and let me know what you think.

Train questions answered

Last week, National Express East Anglia, who run our line through Silver Street, held a “Tweet the Manager” session.  We, the customers, were encouraged to ask whatever we liked of the staff at National Express East Anglia by using the hashtag #ttmnxea.  I followed along on Twitter, and there were some interesting points raised, including hints of what we can expect from the incoming franchisee, Abellio, when National Express East Anglia hand over the line later this year.  I’ve compiled the sections of the conversation which I think might interest you on Storify.  I hope you find it useful!

View the story “Train questions answered” on Storify

Leave explosives in situ: An interview with Aimee Felus

A couple of months ago, you may remember that I blogged about a makeover planned for Pymmes Brook, and asked for volunteers.  Well, that went ahead, and was a great success, and was soon followed by another session of litter picking.  After that, things went quiet for a while, and you might have assumed that was it.

However, that is very far from “it”, as there’s still plenty to do down at the Brook.  Thames21, who organised the sessions, published a report in December which was partly based on their findings from tests on those days.  They found very low oxygen levels in the water.  They’re determined to keep going, and are gaining support within Enfield Council .

Now the year has turned and the weather is starting to improve (at least, that’s the theory) they should have the right conditions for another go,  and they’ll be back with another session, followed by a session in the pub, on 21 January.  To find out more about what they’re going to all this trouble for, I spoke to Aimee, the organiser of these events…

First of all, can you say who you are, what you do for Thames21, and what Thames21 is?

Hi, I’m Aimee Felus and I work for Thames21, primarily on projects in the Lea Valley.  Thames21 is a waterway action charity. We work with communities across Greater London to improve our rivers, canals, ponds and lakes for people and wildlife.  I work mainly on Love the Lea: our vision is for the rivers of East London to be as healthy as possible and for pollution to be challenged and prevented.

Why is Thames21 interested in Pymmes Brook?

We’re interested in all the waterways in London, but those of the Lea Valley are particularly close to our heart.  They are some of the most polluted in the country and have had a raw deal for centuries.  But those of us who live in east London and the rivers themselves deserve better.  Pymmes Brook gets pollution from lots of sources and needs some TLC.  Pollution comes from road run-off, phosphates from dishwasher tablets and sewage from misconnected homes.  It is in a very poor state.  But the Pymmes also has great potential to be better, and we want to help it reach its potential.

How much rubbish have you found in the Brook so far?

So far we have removed 4 truck-loads of rubbish from the Brook which has kindly be taken away by the council.  That was just in one small area off Tanners End Lane.

You’ve also tested the water quality there.  What did you find?

We conducted a study with students from Queen Mary, University of London.  As we suspected we found that the rivers of the Lea Valley are in a truly dire state.

How much difference can litter picking make to the water quality?

Litter picking is important for several reasons – when it forms rubbish dams like it had on the Pymmes it stops the water flowing and further reduces any oxygen in the water, making it hard for animals to survive.  Also chemicals from the rubbish can leach out into the water, increasing the pollution levels.  We want to take a holistic approach to improving the rivers.  If they look unpleasant and unsightly it will be harder to get people to care about them as they won’t enjoy being near them.  We want people to love and nurture their rivers in every way.

Isn’t the Brook always going to be polluted because it runs under and alongside the North Circular?

The Pymmes suffers from run-off pollution from the roads, like all our urban rivers.  This is one of the reasons it will always be harder to ensure urban rivers are clean and healthy.  But there are ways to minimise the pollution.  Many countries such as Australia and America are ahead of us on this one.  We can have wetlands and water features that take the storm water off the roads, slow it down and filter it before discharging it into local rivers.  They don’t have to be great big schemes and will improve many aspects of our environment, not just the waterways.  We’re looking into creating these wetlands in parks as part of our Love the Lea campaign.

What’s the most unusual thing you ever found in a river?

A colleague was presented with a hand grenade by a volunteer on the Thames foreshore.  Not to be recommended!  We do try to urge volunteers to leave any explosives in situ so we can call the police!

What’s the best thing you ever found in a river?

A newt!  Unfortunately the rivers in east London are so polluted that not much can survive, so it’s great and heart-warming when we find pockets of thriving habitat.

Can you paint us a picture of what the Brook might be like, a few years down the line?

Our vision for the Brook is of a healthy river free of pollution, with good flow to oxygenate the water, interesting habitat, a robust native plant population fringing the brook and wildlife in the water and the bankside.  We’d like to create wetlands to absorb storm water and filter it before it gets to the river, which would act as a buffer and provide great wildlife habitat too.  A thriving river corridor –  somewhere for people to enjoy and cherish!

Where can people find out more, and get involved?

Please do give me a call on 07554 402727 or email aimee.felus@thames21.org.uk.  You can also visit our Love the Lea website or find us on Facebook.

Our next clean up event is on Saturday 21st Jan from 10am at Tanners End Lane [Map].  Afterwards we’ll head to the pub [Map] to draw up an action plan for improving the Pymmes.  It’ll take time, but we will get there!

Full details of the event can be found in on Love the Lea’s flyer, reproduced in the previous post.

Pymmes Brook makeover continues

Love the Lea have sent me a flyer for the next Brook cleanup event.  It’s a Word document and I’ve uploaded it here, in case you want to print it out and put it in your window, but I’ve also copied the information after the jump. Read more…

Drama workshops at Craig Park Youth Centre

If you’re a parent of a child aged 13-16, you might be interested in a 10-week course of drama workshops which starts next week at Craig Park Youth Centre.  Every Tuesday evening through most of January and February, and for two full days in half term, qualified drama teachers from schools throughout Enfield will be running sessions for secondary school age children.

The workshops are run by Ignition Arts, with help from Kayleigh Cooper of Enfield Parents and Children, an Edmonton charity which helps children who, for a variety of reasons, need extra support with education, or with other aspects of their lives.

“The workshop is designed for children who are shy, introvert, have had experience with bullying, at risk of fixed or long-term exclusion or have another social, emotional, behavioural need,” said Kayleigh.  “They have circle time where the young people get to express their opinions and feelings. They also work towards putting on a performance which they show to their families on the last session. The last session tends to be more like a celebration where certificates are given out and there is time for parents to have a talk to the drama teachers about any concerns they may still have.”

The course starts on Tuesday 17th January. The evening sessions are 17th, 24th & 31st January, and 7th, 21st & 28th February. There are two full days in the half term holidays: Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th February from 10:00-16:00.

Craig Park Youth Centre, 2 Lawrence Road, Baxter Road, Edmonton, N18 2HN  Map

Get involved
There are limited spaces and they need to be booked by contacting Kayleigh Cooper on 0208 373 2703 or via email to kayleigh.cooper@enfieldparents.org.uk. Please make sure your child fits the criteria above.

Other events
Find all the latest events on the Silver Street Social Calendar, and all the locations on the Silver Street Social Map. If you have an event you think should be there, email silverstsocial at gmail dot com

The original version of this post said the course started on 10th January, which was incorrect. The post has been updated with the correct dates.