Comment: Flags should be signs of support, nothing more.

September 22, 2018

There has been a lot of fuss about a piece of cloth: a flag flown over Ely Cathedral recently. It was a rainbow coloured flag to represent support for the LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex) community for Ely and Cambridge Pride. This happened because a Pride celebration was held in the city. What is wrong with that?  The flag was not put up to say that Ely Cathedral was announcing that it was one of the community in question, it was merely a gesture of goodwill.

While flags can be important for what they represent, it is the purpose intended in flying them that matters. There is surely nothing wrong with a flag showing goodwill to an organization that does no harm. It is only flags that represent aggression or injustice that should be condemned. Even then, on more than one occasion I have seen ‘The Jolly Roger’ a pirate flag flown in the district. These pirate flags were obviously harmless – they were not put up as a cry for us to support piracy, a criminal act if ever there was one, but as part of children’s play. When children play they fantasize and through their play they need to be able to have ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ to explore the problems of good and evil in our lives, just as so many TV dramas do.

Unfortunately for some, flags represent unreasonable and extreme beliefs about a subject.  It seems to be particularly noticeable in the UK that flags are seen as antagonistic signs. There are many people who feel that even the Union Jack has been adopted by some extremists and so the feelings the flag engenders in the population can be mixed. We do not see households simply flying the Union Jack as a symbol of their appreciation and support for their country, certainly not in the way that they do in Spain where it is quite common to see the Spanish flag flown from balconies or from shop windows.

It is time for the ordinary people of our country, to re-adopt our flag and fly it with pride. The Scouts and Guides were once taught the significance of the flag and how it is constructed and how it could be used as a sign of distress by flying the flag upside down. Few people seem to be aware of this these days so if they were to do so it is very doubtful that any help would come. Our own government has been known to slip up on one occasion and when the flag was accidentally flown upside down on a government building, fortunately there were a few informed people who contacted the BBC immediately!





Comment: Boris chooses the wrong image

September 15, 2018

Why do politicians call each other names when they are trying to discuss much more important problems such as governing our country effectively? It is the ideas that should be attacked, not the person.

Recently regarding Brexit, Boris Johnson upset the political world by saying that our Prime Minister, Theresa May, is putting our country in a ‘suicide vest’. How dare he!

He dares, because fortunately we still have freedom of speech in our country and a belief is not necessarily a fact. We do not have to subscribe to this belief and if we do not, we can argue against it.

Unfortunately for Boris, I believe he chose the wrong image – a straightjacket might have been better for what he intended to say. A ‘suicide vest’ is associated with so many other negative thoughts, no wonder people made such a fuss. We think the holder of such a vest is a terrorist – our country, I hope, is no such thing. We also believe that the vest stands for someone who is under another’s control, and that person has evil intent – the physical destruction of others. Whatever Theresa May intends I do not recall her indicating that this is her intention.

We voted her in because we believed she would do what we want. After the Referendum was held and our nation chose to leave the European Market, she has made it clear that that is what she intends to do. Whatever your beliefs about whether we should stay in the European Market or leave, she is only doing her job. As far as I know there is nothing intentionally evil or ‘destructive’ in her mind about what she is doing. When we leave the European Market we will need to trade with someone – and it seems more than likely we will need to continue to trade with Europe. It is just that the terms will change, and these need negotiating. What is wrong with that? If it appears we have given in to every demand from the EU, can he be certain that if we do not, terms will be even worse?

While most of us have little information about what is being achieved in these negotiations, sometimes we should have faith that the people we voted in will do the best they can to improve our cause. This includes Boris, whose language is sometimes very effective and although sometimes outrageous, more often than not he hits the nail on the head and we cannot help but agree with him. However, there are times when he should think carefully before he blurts out his next catchphrase for the media to latch onto. He should think first what he wishes to achieve – fame or notoriety? – They are not one and the same.

What should an end of year report contain?

September 10, 2018

A local council has produced its end of year report; a glossy-coloured document of ‘successes’.

I believe that an end of year report is intended to give interested parties information about the ‘activities and financial performance of an institution’.  When writing end of term reports as a teacher I understood that we wrote about the abilities and performance of the children, be they good or bad. In other words, the report should be unbiased, presenting a comprehensive picture of both sides of the situation and performance.

Many of the statements made in this report are self congratulatory. The first page is about the council’s ‘vision’ and ‘successes’ with the descriptions littered with adjectives that register in my mind exaggeration and bias. The council we are told is aiming to be  ‘well-managed’. Who is to say whether it has achieved this? This would only be a valid if judged by an outside examining body. The council wishes to make our county a ‘fantastic place to live, work and visit’. It assumes that what it is doing will achieve what it says.

So we are to assume that building leisure centres outside the town will make our place a ‘fantastic place’. Yet I watch with despair as the centre of the city becomes, not an attractive tourist attraction filled with shops of character, but a place of neglect and despair. If it is a fantastic place, why have so many shops closed?

The council has decided that one of the centres they have built will be managed by a ‘Leisure’ company which we are to assume will be fully supportive of the community. Did the councillors not see in the press the row that erupted when this same company suddenly cancelled an agreed membership fee at one of its leisure centres and demanded nearly double the amount? This does not rank of thinking of the people in the community.

I looked for a statement of accounts – you know, money in, money out and loans outstanding – that kind of information. While a lot of figures were bandied around, there was no ‘statement of accounts’.

What of the separate companies the council has set up? I may be mistaken, but from the website, it looks as though the one of the companies was established with money borrowed from tax payers but is now independent of the council. It is ‘no longer a body governed by public law’ and will ’suffer its own losses’. Where was this information in the report?

I believe an end of year report should be a simple, unqualified and comprehensive statement of what a council has been able to achieve and what it has not been able to achieve or am I hoping for too much?





Arts and Crafts Fair

September 9, 2018

The Friends of St Andrew’s Church Witchford and the PCC held an Arts and Crafts Fair in St. Andrew’s Hall Witchford on Saturday 8th September 2018. A variety of goods were on sale at stalls provided by Virginia Divall, Sara Gilbert, Bumbles Crafts and Sukie Hoyle and the church’s Bring and Buy stall. Coffee or tea and biscuits were available and a soup lunch was served.

£144.30 was made for the church’s extension fund to put in an accessible toiled and refreshment facilities..

Besides fortnightly coffee mornings on Wednesdays 10 – 12 from the 19th September, the next event in St. Andrew’s Hall Witchford will be on Thursday 11th October 2018 at 7.15 p.m. which will feature a two-course dinner, music and a ‘quirky’ quiz. The music will be provided by Phil and Laurine and the Isle Singers 7.15 p.m.

Tickets (£15 concessions £10) will be available from; Enid Bedford or Witchford Post Office.

If you would like to help us out in anyway – do contact me on

comment: letter to Anna Bailey

September 6, 2018

I have been writing for the Ely Standard for some time but now for a change. If you enjoyed reading my column, have no fear, I propose to continue writing on this site.

You may have read a letter from Anna Bailey criticizing me heavily in the Ely Standard recently . This is my reply. (The editor of the Ely Standard did not wish to publish it. )

To Anna Bailey, Deputy Leader of East Cambs District Council

Dear Anna,

If I understand you correctly, in your letter to the Ely Standard you state that:

  1. The recent survey has been personally paid for by serving Conservative district councillors
  2. The survey is an opportunity to tell the people what you have been doing with their (tax-payers) money
  3. The Conservatives were voted in as the administration in 2015
  4. Barton Road will have one less car parking space and other parking spaces have been provided elsewhere.
  5. The new position of mayor has not taken money away from Cambridgeshire councils. The position has brought hundreds of millions of pounds of new money into the country.
  6. I get basic information wrong about which council holds responsibility for what.

My response:

  1. I apologize for my mistake. I acknowledge that the recent survey has been personally paid for by serving Conservative district councillors and not the council. The misunderstanding came from my belief that councillors should have the permission of the council as a whole before publicising material that directly concerns the council’s activities. Hence my believing that the council had paid for the survey. I could not see a list of names of people responsible for publishing it which I believe is the usual way for making such matters clear.  Copyright and authorship are not always one and the same, although I acknowledge that it is most likely the case with the leaflet distributed. Again,  I do apologize for my mistake and I will try not to make mistakes like this again.
  2. Agreed that it is an opportunity to tell the people what you are spending their money on. The complaint was the manner in which the information was delivered and that the information was incomplete.
  3. If we are a true democracy, it is not only the Conservatives who represent the people, other parties should not be ignored.
  4. One less parking space in the central part of town in Barton Road in Ely is not an improvement, even if other spaces have been provided elsewhere. The design of the area I believe is also questionable.
  5. The new position of mayor I believe has been paid for by central government. Central government, I believe, gets much of its funds from income tax. There are numerous citizens of Cambridgeshire who pay income tax. So I still believe that ‘our’ money is being used. How has the mayor’s position brought ‘hundreds of millions of pounds of new money into the country ‘ please? It is not that I delight in remaining ignorant – it is just that when I search the Cambridgeshire websites, the information is not easy to find.  I am not trying to score any political points. I simply would like to know, and I believe that those who govern us should wish to be transparent and clear so that we have a better understanding.
  6. I acknowledge that different councils have different responsibilities; I look at the overall picture speaking as a citizen and not as a village councillor.
  7. I do hope this brings the matter to an end.  RJWestwell

Review of Ely Sinfonia’s concert ‘From Russia with Love’ on Saturday 28th April 2018

April 29, 2018

From its inauguration in 1999, Ely Sinfonia conducted by Steve Bingham has developed into a fine orchestra and tonight’s concert certainly had its highlights.

I arrived thinking we would have some easy popular tunes to indulge our romantic senses while we admired the magnificent spectacle of the large orchestra with its variety of instruments and the beautiful cathedral.

The title of the concert was ‘From Russia with Love’  featuring three very well-known composers, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Kachaturian, all known for some of the most famous love tunes, so the concert was bound to be full of easy-listening.

However, this was no easy ride – we were kept very much awake and alive as these splendid musicians presented the works with energy, precision and a wealth of tonal variation. In the hands of Steve Bingham, the music ebbed and flowed deliciously sometimes building up to tremendous climaxes that had us swept along in their wake. All sections: strings, woodwind, brass, and percussion had grand moments when highly talented performers shone.

The works performed included Kachaturian’s ‘Spartacus Suite no.2’, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Romeo and Juliet Suite no 1, and his second symphony (the ‘Little Russian’). The concert ended with suite no 1 from Prokofiev’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

Our expectations were well met when the theme from the TV series, the ‘Onedin Line’ (the Adagio in the Spartacus Suite) resounded in the vaults of the cathedral, the strings especially ringing out a beautiful rich tone. This swelled our hearts splendidly. Tchaikovsky’s second symphony was most enjoyable and gave us glimpses of the later work by this composer. When the Prokiev came we waited with bated breath for the theme we were expecting, but no, this suite was much more complex, colourful and intricate than expected. However, there were numerous singable tunes the orchestra brought out well, and the standard of playing in this piece and the effectiveness of the music compensated more than enough for our minor disappointment.

This was a wonderful concert. The next one to look forward to is on Saturday 29th September 2018.


Review of ‘Wind in the Willows’ produced by KD productions on Friday 6th April 2018 at The Maltings Ely

April 13, 2018

KD production’s presentation of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ at the Maltings in Ely was a joy to behold. All the favourite characters were there: the flamboyant Toad (played by Terry Burns), the river-loving Ratty (Ross Townsend Green), best friend Mole (Rosie Coles) wise old Badger (Oliver Scott) and evil Chief Weasel (Oliver Tattersfield). There were adorable rabbits, the easily rattled policeman, pretty Washerwoman’s daughter, the Toad-look-alike-Washerwoman and a number of weasels and stoats.

The scenes played out swiftly and smoothly so that we were soon swept up in the drama. The singing was first rate and the accompanying music well selected adding flavour to some of the most effective scenes.

Highlights for me included the effective way in which the characters interplayed and the ingenious scenes of Toad’s escape.

Director Oliver Scott, choreographer Katherine Hickmott and producers Scott Ritchie Productions and KD Productions (Daniel Bell and Katherine Hickmott) and team are to be congratulated for presenting such a great story in such a most enjoyable way.

The next production to look forward to is ‘Alice in Wonderland’ which will be touring in Spring and Autumn in 2019.

contacts: and


Review of Ely Choral Society’s performance of Bach’s St John Passion in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 24th March 2018

March 25, 2018

Ely Choral Soc March 18 Andrew Parnell and Rogers Covey-CrumpEly Choral Society, the Chameleon Arts Baroque Orchestra, soloists and organist gave a splendid performance of Bach’s St. John’s Passion in Ely Cathedral on Saturday.

Under the baton of director Andrew Parnell, the choir flourished, often giving an emotive, responsive and well-disciplined comment on events. Under his direction this work was given new life, and with Rogers Covey-Crump as the Evangelist, the die was cast: this was going to be a marvellous performance and indeed it was.

Rogers Covey-Crump, the nephew of a one-time housemaster of the Canonry at King’s Ely, proved to be a musician of the highest quality. With his wealth of musical background and experience, he held the narrator part magnificently, telling the story clearly, expressively and highly effectively, drawing us inextricably into events.

The other soloists were also impressive and included Henry Hawkesworth (representing Jesus), Camilla Harris (soprano), Helen Chariston (alto), Hiroshi Amako (tenor),and Julian Chou-Lambert (bass) along with Angelica Hunt (representing the Maid), Nicholas Ward (Peter), Charles Schneider (officer) and David Gascoigne (servant).

Highlights, besides the narrator, included the chorales, Jesus and Camilla Harris’  Air ‘O Heart ,melt in weeping’. The chorales were nothing like to slow laboured people’s hymns in other performances. Here each chorale was varied in speed and expression, giving them character and meaning; they became an integral part of proceedings. In one single phrase, Henry Hawkesworth proved his talent. When he sang ‘It is finished’, he infused the phrase with an unmistakably potent tone and his sense of timing and pace captured the sentiments expressed strongly.  Camilla Harris had a delightful voice and showed phenomenal sensitivity and sympathy when she sang ‘O Heart, melt in weeping’. Indeed the main soloists were all outstanding the latter being only two examples of their combined worth.

With diverse authentic sounds coming from the orchestra, the instrumentalists enhanced the performance particularly well, giving the whole work credence.

Edmund Aldhouse, renowned Assistant Organist at Ely Cathedral, as always, accompanied superbly on the organ when required.

The next event featuring Ely Choral Society to look forward to will be on Saturday 7th July 730 p.m. in the Hayward Theatre, King’s School, Ely.



Review of Viva’s production of Sue Townsend’s ‘Bazaar and Rummage’ in The Brook Soham on the 8th February 2018

February 13, 2018

You are always assured of good quality when you go to a Viva production and ‘Bazaar and Rummage’ was no exception. The clever script regularly played on words –the first sign of this in the title. We were not only entertained in the setting of a bazaar and rummage sale, we were also immersed in the bizarre behaviours of an array of anxiety-ridden agoraphobics and their so-called carers who had enough problems of their own.

The acting was excellent and had us thoroughly immersed throughout the play. Characters included Gwenda (played by Mary Barnes) the neurotic control freak, Fliss (Hannah Schunmann) the seemingly sole character on track only to reveal her own deep-seated anxieties in the end, Katrina (Sarah Shorney)  a dumb blond obsessed with Barry Manilow, make-up and pretty dresses, Bell-Bell (Anthea Kenna) with her obsessive compulsive disorder cleaning everything in sight, many times, wonderful Margaret (Kirsten Martin) outlandishly swearing, smoking against the rules and telling the harsh truth no matter what the circumstances and the WPC (Vicki Jelleyman) arriving near the end of the play provided another anomaly: a police woman who is afraid and hates people and the world.

The success of the play was not only the wonderful characterization by the cast, but the truthfulness of the anxieties, interaction and back-stabbing of the characters that is easily recognizable in any age.

Yet with all this serious exploration of the human condition the play was also hilarious. We could almost predict the rebellious quips and colourful comments by Margaret who, for example, was told not to swear and immediately and naturally replied with a string of expletives complaining about being restricted.

Director Gail Baker and her team are to be congratulated for such a wonderful, hilarious yet thought-provoking evening’s entertainment.

I look forward to their next event: ‘Hairspray’ from the 7th to the 10th March 2018 at the Brook, Soham contact details:


Review of Warren Mailley-Smith’s performance in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 10th February 2018

February 13, 2018

Local concert pianist, Warren Mailley-Smith, gave a wonderful St Valentine’s concert on Saturday. He has a phenomenal technique that never ceases to amaze. The strength, agility and fluidity of his playing in the most demanding passages enhanced the pieces wonderfully. His fingers flew over the keys giving each phrase the right amount of pressure so that we were mesmerised with clear powerful melodies and flowing accurate rapid accompaniments. He often used that special musical technique of holding back just a moment, making the listener wait until the last second before a poignant note is struck inextricably drawing us into the inner workings of the music.

The programme was especially well devised and the inclusion of the highly competent Veles ensemble and Susan Parkes (soprano) coloured the performance positively.

The variety of composers included in the programme added to the sparkle of this wonderful evening too. The compositions chosen were those unforgettable, romantic favourites that reflected the romantic nature of this Valentine’s Concert perfectly.

In Debussy’s ‘Claire de Lune’, I could at easily imagine moonlight shimmering on the water, his fluency  reinforcing the nature of this impressionistic work.  Other notable items included Mendelssohn’s ‘Song without Words’, Liszt’s ‘Lieberstraume 3’, Chopin’s ‘Fantasy Impromptu’, Pachelbel’s Canon in D and a delightful selection of Puccini’s best arias. The thrill and excitement of the final rhythmical foray in works by Piazolla, brought this wonderful concert to a most entertaining close.

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