Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Let there be light...

Queen Street Square, Whitehaven

AT the start of February the two street lights at the back of my house went out plunging Queen Street Square into darkness. Ten months and countless phone calls, emails and letters later, the lights have at last been fixed.*

I'd like to thank...
  • Sheila on the county council streetlight 'hotline'; 
  • The four council workmen who came to look at them
  • County engineer Mike who finally found out they didn't own the lights. He suggested they belonged to Home Group and even rang them to let them know the lights were out of order (May 5).
  • The receptionist at Home Group, Copeland who took delivery of my hand-delivered letter about the lights (although I never had a reply)
  • Home Group's Freedom of Information officer who received my FoI request - but did nothing about it
  • Steve from the Information Commission who let me know Home Group aren't answerable to FoI requests
  • MP Jamie Reed (although he never replied to my letter)
  • Kathryn from Home Group who said she would investigate whether they owned the lights and would let me know by Friday (Sept 30). I still haven't had a report back.
  • Home Group chief exec Mark who finally gave his staff the kick up the arse they needed.
  • His secretary for letting me know what was happening
  • Sincere thanks to Home Group Customer Care manager Lorraine who really pulled all the stops out to resolve this problem
  • The three workmen who came to find out what was wrong with the lights
  • The two workmen who, on December 6, came round and changed the light bulbs.

How many people does it take to change a light bulb? 20. 

Final thoughts...

This 'problem' will happen again and again unless organisations which own street lights are encouraged (required) to put their phone number of the lights (Something like "Faulty? Phone 0800...")

Home Group and councils need to be 'answerable' to someone. Unless they are fined for not doing their job they really can get away with doing nothing for months.

* Two days later, one of the lights broke again!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Review: The Firework Maker's Daughter, Keswick Theatre
By Alan Cleaver

From L to R Front Row Declan Wilson, Joanna Holden, Phil Corbitt
 Back Row Matt Nalton
PHILIP Pullman's story, The Firework Maker's Daughter, has been brought to the stage at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake for their Christmas season. And it's a show all members of the family will enjoy.

This really is a show with everything: laughter, drama, colour, music, a great story and - rather amazingly - a firework show re-created inside the theatre.

Director Stefan Escreet and set/costume designer Martin Johns have kept to a few simple set and ingenious theatrical tricks rather than complicated electronics to bring this magical tale to life. A few wooden poles are used to evoke a mountain and the minimal number of stage props conjure up a raging river. It's only in the firreworks that the skills of the lighting department (led by Andrew J Linday) are called upon. But even here, there are simple 'tricks' used to bring about everything from a single fire cracker to a fullscale firework display.

The tale itself revolves around Lila (Vera Chock) setting out to discover the final secret of making fireworks so she can win the firework competition and save the life of her father, Lalchand (Ashley Alymann). Helping her with her quest is a talking elephant - again ingeniously brought to life on stage - and the elephant's master, Rambashi (Declan Wilson).

Music, courtesy of a gamelan orchestra and composer/musical director, Chris Stones plays a large part of the show as does dance (Ella Vale). With its heroine, hero, baddies and a friendly elephant it would have been easy to convert this play into a seasonal pantomime. Stefan draws back from drowning a good story in "Oh yes he did, oh no he didn'ts" - but some comic devices, such as the clap-ometer, are rather thrown away despite an audience keen to get more involved in Lila's quest. Moments of tense drama are also lost on occasion in this fast-paced show. 

The colour, sound visual feast that is The Firework-Maker's Daughter will stay long in the memories of audiences long after the curtain falls. It's a show children, adults and pensioners will love - and it's absolutely perfect for the Christmas holiday.

  • The Firework Makers Daughter runs at Keswick Theatre until January 8. Box office: 017687 74411.