Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Need your help, urgently

Isn't this beautiful? It's Wensley, near Darley Bridge, in the Peak District National Park.

However, it could end up like this:

This is open cast mining at Birchover, and a company called Glebe Mining want to extend an old quarry in order to do open cast mining in Wensley, in other words, turning the top view into something like the bottom one.

For those of you who don't know, National Parks were set up to protect areas of outstanding natural beauty, and the Peak District was the first one, established in 1951. Unlike in America, where National Parks are pretty remote and unpopulated, National Parks in the UK have people living and working in them, and in North Derbyshire, there has always been quarrying around the edges of the Park. However, this development would dig a massive hole in a totally unspoilt, beautiful valley between Matlock and Bakewell, just down the road from Chatsworth Park. The quarry would be a visible eyesore to the many visitors who come to that part of the world for walking, or just to enjoy the beauty and tranquility, and having massive lorries on narrow, unsuitable rural roads would pose dangers for local residents. In addition, Glebe Mines have mining permissions in other less sensitive areas which they could exploit, instead of ruining currently unquarried land.
This development goes against the ethos of National Parks, and I'm asking for your help to stop it. If you've ever been to Derbyshire, if you love walking there, or love going to Chatsworth, or any of the beautiful towns and villages in the Peak District, if you just love the countryside and think it shouldn't be endlessly mined, dug up, or built over, then please protest.
The full postal address to send objections to the development is:

Ms S Smith,
Senior Minerals Planner,
Peak District National Park Authority,
Aldern House,
Baslow Road,
DE45 1AE
quoting Fluorspar Extraction Application Reference NP/DDD/0807/0822
However, since the planning committee meet next week, urgent action is required and you may wish to email
Please feel free to use any or all of the reasons I set out above in your communication, but please, if you love the Peak District, ACT.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Catching up

All sorts of bits and pieces to catch up on, as blogging seems to have rather fallen by the wayside recently. Blame not very much happening, combined with when it does, there are always other pressures e.g. having to go to work and earn a living.

Anyway, cultural stuff - V and I went to a fabulous recital at York Uni a couple of weeks ago, given by Peter Donohoe, the most amazing pianist I've ever seen. His hands were a blur at times, an incredible virtuoso performance. It was the kind of concert where you come out afterwards inspired to start practising piano again, even though you know you will never come within one zillionth of the man's talent. Wonderful, breath-taking, fantastic stuff.

Then, faced with a yawning gap of a Saturday with nothing in the diary, my theatrical mind says "I haven't seen a play for ages", ages in this context meaning "about two weeks", so I shot off to Sheffield to see "Pinter and a Pair of Chekhov's Shorts" by Compass Theatre Company, in the Studio Theatre. Compass are very good at classics, particularly Chekhov - I enjoyed their "Seagull" a couple of years ago in the Lyceum - but this night was very much a mixed bag. The Chekhov (2 plays) was good, although it rather over-emphasised the prissiness, but the Pinter (Dumb Waiter) was way off - the actor who had been over-acting in the previous Chekhov short was all tics and over-egged East London accent in the Pinter. There was no subtlety at all , so the menace was completely lost. With the play being a two-hander, it ended up feeling terribly unbalanced - one got it, one didn't. Perhaps I'm being unfair but as Compass are on tour with this production, you can go and see for yourself.

Other stuff - quick film round-up - Nina and I have seen "Death at a Funeral" (N thought it was v funny, I thought it was a load of absolute *insert extremely insulting word here* - it was one of those films where one ends up thinking "how the hell did they get as good a cast as this (Matthew McFadyen, Rupert Graves, Keely Hawes etc etc) for a script this bad?"); we also saw "The Last Legion", or was it the Lost Legion? I don't know, so many brain cells were killed off while I was watching it that I can't remember. It was tosh of the highest order, the sort of super-tosh that while watching it you're thinking "bloody hell, Colin Firth's agent really hates him". A load of absolute nonsense, but one of those toshy films where if you're in the mood for mindless nonsense, its actually quite entertaining mindless nonsense, if you see what I mean. And then we saw "Eastern Promises" - hmm, mixed feelings about this one. Very violent, but very well done, if you can ignore the complete non sequiteur that is the ending. As for the "naked Viggo" fight scenes in the bath house, its not so much "ooh naked Viggo" as "ooh that must really hurt". Of the three, this would be the one to see (but not on your own, if you're called Vivien).

V and I saw "Ten Canoes" at York Uni (hoorah for imaginative University film committees, or whoever it is who decides) - I first saw this and loved it at Cannes 2006, and it was great to see it again, just as good, just as evocative - a fabulous film, the first Australian film to be entirely cast from the indigenous population. It tells the story in an entirely uncompromising way, you either accept it or you don't, and several people at York didn't and walked out - but if you get a chance to see it, go, give it time, let it weave its magic, because it is a wonderful film.

Don't think there's anything else - am in London this week for a conference so will hopefully catch a play as well, then next week its Othello at the Donmar - for which the giddiness is already building.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cultural top-up, part 2

Slightly delayed by a stinking cold and general feelings of grimness, now much improved.

The second half of the cultural weekend began with meeting Lianne for dinner at the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark, a converted factory which is now a gallery, theatre and restaurant. Their Saturday meal deal, a 2 course dinner and a theatre ticket for £28, seems absolutely bargainous compared to usual London theatre prices, and the food was good too.

We were there to see "Dealer's Choice", written by Patrick Marber and directed by Sam West. In the first half, the set was the kitchen and dining room of a restaurant run by Stephen (Malcolm Sinclair), and staffed by Mugsy (Stephen Wight), Sweeney (Ross Boatman) and Frankie (Jay Simpson); in the second half it was the bleak downstairs room where their regular Sunday night poker game take place, where Stephen's son Carl (Samuel Barnett) has invited hardened poker player Ash (Roger Lloyd Pack) to join their game in an attempt to pay off his gambling debts. It's a well-written play, and as much about fathers and sons as it is about compulsive gamblers (because each of them is addicted, no matter how they try to deny it). The cast are all very good, a true ensemble piece. However, I can't say I actually liked the play that much. It reeks of testosterone, and there is too much shouting and yelling for me; I prefer things to be a little more subtle. It's very well done, no doubt about that. But I don't think it's a twoey.

On Sunday night I met up with friends to go to "Music from the Movies" at the Royal Albert Hall, a celebration of the work of Patrick Doyle in aid of Leukaemia Research. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, it was an assembly of the great and the good of British theatre, including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Derek Jacobi, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Imelda Staunton, Richard E Grant, Adrian Lester and Greg Wise, all of whom have at some point appeared in a film scored by Patrick Doyle. They introduced music from Much Ado About Nothing (Emma Thompson performing Sigh No More), Sense and Sensibility, Hamlet, Gosford Park, Calendar Girls, Harry Potter, and as a finale, the St Crispin's Day Speech (performed by Kenneth Branagh) and Non Nobis from Henry V, all played by the London Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Chorus. It was fabulous, great music and great speeches, with rousing applause for Patrick Doyle himself, who is obviously held in great affection by everyone taking part. He spoke movingly about surviving leukaemia, and the need for more funds for research into blood cancers. Hopefully Sunday night will have raised tons of money for the charity, as well as being a fabulous evening's entertainment.

After that, this week has been pretty quiet, although today was quite exciting in its own way. I've been asked to join the Board of Directors of Hull Film, which oversees Hull Short Film Festival as well as other local film-related things. First board meeting is next Tuesday, and I'm looking forward to it - a new and different venture for me.