Ukulele festival hits the right notes in Winchester

Article I wrote for the Hampshire Chronicle, published on June 6th 2017 –

WINCHESTER welcomed visitors to its second ukulele festival on Saturday, writes Sam Waddington.

The event saw the ukulele community come together to watch a range of acts from as far as Italy and America.

But before the music took centre stage, at the Winchester Rugby Club, there were opportunities for visitors to practice playing the instrument with the artists.
The audience were treated to acts such as Ennè, who offered an entertaining blend of reggae and soul, and classic variety performer Andy Eastwood.

One of the main organisers, Andy Martin, felt overall the running of the event had improved from last year.

He said: “I think it’s probably better, people are more relaxed we didn’t know what we were going to face last year but this year we’ve certainly had an idea and it’s been great”.

Although Mr Martin couldn’t be certain on whether ticket sales for the festival had exceeded last year, he is sure the event will return for a third year: “Can’t not really can we, look at all these people here!”
Kath Page, 48, from Stockbridge, who came to the event for the day, was impressed by what was on offer: “The music’s been great, so many talented people in one place, it’s been a really good day”.
Another visitor, Geoff Doggrell, 62, from Farnham, said: “It’s friendly, It’s very low-key, it’s not pretentious. It pays to have something different as well, not just ukulele bands”.

Link to original piece – http://www.hampshirechronicle.co.uk/news/15330892.Ukulele_Festival_hits_the_right_notes_in_Winchester/ 

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Winchester Ukulele Festival returns on June 3rd at Winchester Rugby Club

Article I wrote for the Southern Daily Echo, published on May 23rd 2017 –

THE Winchester Ukulele Festival will be returning for a second year following its success in 2016, writes Sam Waddington.

The all-day event on June 3, which sold out a year ago, will again see a wide variety of professional acts performing.

From well respected American blues artist Del Rey, who is headlining in her only UK festival appearance this year, to the group Opera-lele, that combine operatic singing with ukulele, there should be something for everyone. 

Andy Martin, one of the event organisers, feels it’s “the sheer diversity of music” that the audience should be most excited about.

Martin also says, after the event was nominated for the Best Ukulele Festival of 2016 by the Uke Magazine: “It’s nice to be recognised and good for publicity but the awards aren’t what it is all about. Most important is that people have a great day out”.

A new addition to the event will be the ‘Splendid Strumalong’ session encouraging the audience to get actively involved in the performances.

But like last year visitors can attend specialised ukulele workshops run by the acts and look at displays from top manufactures.

The festival will take place at the same venue of the Winchester Rugby Football Club ground and stalls serving a range of food and drinks will be present.

Tickets for the event on June 3 can be purchased online at http://www.winchesterukefest.co.uk/tickets.htm.
Proceeds will go towards three charities including Winchester Gold which provides support for those with learning difficulties.

More information on the festival can be found at http://www.winchesterukefest.co.uk/index.htm.

Link to original piece – http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/leisure/news/15302635.Winchester_Ukulele_Festival_returns_on_June_3/

BARCELONA 2017 – thoughts from my stint in the Catalan capital


Having arrived back from Barcelona for a week now I am keen to reflect on my overall impression of the trip.

Thanks to the rigorous planning I did, assisted by the agency Limitless Travel, I was able to see most of the sights the city has to offer throughout my week’s stay with my two carers.

Primarily, I took the decision to travel to Barcelona because of the impressive words I had heard (from other disabled travellers) about its accessibility following the city’s regeneration for the 1992 Olympic games.

And right from the first full day when doing the walking tour of the city’s Gothic Quarter, I was impressed by the ease at which I could travel around in my wheelchair.

Even though I was in the oldest part of Barcelona and some of the ground was unsurprisingly bumpy, with the help of a few ramps, I could still get inside many buildings and see some of the structures that had remained in place for years.

With the developments that have taken place to enlarge the city over the last few hundreds of years, it is a sizeable place to get around.

But with most of the public transport system accessible for all including; taxis, buses and the metro, I didn’t have to take too many detours to get to my destinations.

If you start to pack too many activities into one day that’s when it can become difficult which I experienced on one occasion.

Having been to see Antoni Gaudí’s iconic piece of architecture, La Sagrada Família (still yet to be completed), in the evening I had the thirst to see more of his famous work in Park Park Guëll.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as near as I thought from the bus stop though and with all the driving I had done earlier in the day my wheelchair didn’t have enough battery to cope with the steepness of this particular area.

I had to accept that if you’re only going for a week it’s impossible to see all of the attractions.

At least, because of the efforts to make the sights as inclusive as possible, I wasn’t missing out on the places I did go to see.

The Montjuïc Cable Car was fully adapted to give any visitor a full view of the city and despite the stadium tour being inaccessible Camp Nou (Europe’s largest football stadium) did make sure they had a disabled friendly viewing platform.

Ultimately, it’s dependent on what you want from your stay but if you want to explore most of the city like I did, then it makes sense to plan some activities in different areas before you arrive.

Obviously, though I couldn’t be meticulous about everything and trusting I was in good hands with the staff from the MICs Sant Jordi hotel and taxi driver e t c. upon arrival was just as important.

I must say the agency, with the connections they had, did a sound job in making sure my stay in the hotel and journeys to and from the airport were as comfortable as possible.

For a disabled traveller in my circumstances ,when going to a foreign country for the first time by themselves, it is definitely worth considering using a company like Limitless Travel, who specialise in providing or customising disabled friendly holidays.

Of course, as they’re a business there is a cost, but when I think about how smooth the trip went with their recommendations and advice, I feel it was worth the expense.

Apart from the airport staff, Artur the taxi driver was the first Spaniard I spoke to and the fact he was so welcoming and pleasant from the off meant I was able to relax and enjoy my first evening.

He even recommended the Barcelonian beer – Voll-Damm- that was to become our go-to drink for the rest of the trip!

The hotel staff, who offered directions every day, were equally as important in helping us to explore the city and its culture.

But we didn’t just find out about Barcelona through locals like these though.

Through wondering around the streets near the hotel we found the perfect Spanish Tapas Bar ‘Vívelo Fleming’ I was looking for on the first night serving all the traditional meat and bread dishes.

Albeit, the restaraunt was originally a last resort because of the lack of an English menu.

However, once inside after making a few educated guesses and with the linguistic help of a waiter our stomachs were eventually satisfied.

Anyway when going to another country if you start to feel too comfortable you’re probably not immersing yourself into their culture enough.

Forgetting the Spanish phrase book on several occasions was probably a blessing in disguise.

Although this trip has given me the confidence to arrange my next holiday by myself, with the vast number of recommendations Limitless Travel gave no doubt their services will come in handy again.

Hire and fire approach to management, a familiar method for football clubs

Article I wrote in March 2017 –

At this time of the year when clubs are fighting for survival, leading to managers being dismissed because of financial pressures, football can leave fans with an uncomfortable feeling that the game isn’t what it used to be.

It might be sad but the reality is putting long-term faith in managers is almost a thing of the past.

The fact that the Premier League’s second longest serving manager, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe, has only been in the role for four and a half years compared to the twenty years Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger has sat in the dugout tells a story.

Sticking with the manager can seem preferable, but with the huge amount of money floating around in the modern game making a change to avoid being at a costly disadvantage to other clubs is worth it.

In the first half of last season a record was set when nearly thirty managers were dismissed in English football’s top four divisions.

Of course firing the manager doesn’t guarantee success but avoiding becoming the only side to suffer relegation the season after winning the first division since 1938 Leicester City needed to make alterations when they sacked Claudio Ranieri last month.

When you consider that under new manager Craig Shakespeare they have won all of his first four games and now look unlikely to go down it’s clearer why the owners took the decision.

For whatever reason the players were not playing for their former manager that had secured such an unlikely title triumph, the situation could have been unrepairable if someone else hadn’t stepped in.

The financial cost of relegation to the Championship from the Premier League has become greater this season given that all top tier sides will earn at least £100 million just from TV revenues, the same amount Leicester received for winning the title.

No surprise then why of the current bottom six top flight teams at this stage there have been more managerial changes compared to whole of last season.

The gulf between English football’s first and second tier will be so large that falling behind competitors because of relegation will not be worth the risk to owners.

In the current climate stability is a commodity and clubs that have it can count themselves fortunate, going through a quick turnover of managers is just a standard feature of the game and it’s something that we’re going to have to get comfortable with.

 

Volleyball club with a difference to be served up

Article I wrote for Winchester News Online (January 2017) –

Sitting volleyball sessions for those of all abilities to experience will be starting in Hampshire later this week.

The council-funded club, to be held at the Hub in Eastleigh, will give participants the opportunity to see how the sport differs from standard volleyball.

Richard Osborne, the leading coach, told WINOL: “It is totally inclusive, you can have; young people, old people, disabled people, non-disabled people, women, men.

“It provides a level playing field, once your bum is on the floor everyone is exactly the same.”

Mr Osborne, who coached the Georgian national team to the 2014 Invictus Games semi-finals, said: “It’s also a really valuable way of helping people who aren’t disabled to appreciate and understand what disabled people are still capable of.”

The sport, which has featured in the Paralympics since 1980, follows similar rules to standard volleyball but strictly allows no form of standing.

The club, for anyone over the age of 16, will have weekly sessions costing £3.00 and take place from 6 -7 pm each Friday.

Mr Osborne is then organising a four-hour sitting volleyball workshop, for those interested in coaching the sport, at the same location in March.

It is the county’s second club for the sport after the Portsmouth based South Hampshire team.

For further information on the sessions visit http://www.hampshirevolleyball.org.uk/blog.php.

 

Feeney brace gives City much-needed lift

Article I wrote for Winchester News Online (October 2016) –

Winchester City ended a run of three straight defeats with a morale-boosting FA Trophy win at Fleet Town.

Two goals from Craig Feeney either side of half-time saw the Citizens continue their positive cup form this season.

And there was extra motivation for manager Ian Saunders to get a result given his managerial and playing spells at Fleet.

Although his former side took the lead through a thumping volley from centre back Josh Harfield. it did not take long for this to spur the away side into action.

After a period of threatening approach play, it was midfield livewire Stuart Green who found Feeney at the back post to make it 1-1.

Just after the hour mark Feeney then put his side in front with a sublime solo effort through the keepers’ legs.

He has now bagged four goals in his last five appearances.

“What people say about Craig is he’s got lots of endeavour but doesn’t always get the goals he deserves,” said Saunders.

“But today was his day, got two great goals and on another day maybe could have had three or four.”

The manager was not only impressed by the ex-AFC Totton striker though, of Stuart Green he said:

“Today he certainly gave us a captain performance, that’s the best he’s played for us competitively in my opinion.

“He was always a threat, lots of energy and linked well with Craig Feeney up top.”

The reward for Winchester in the next round is a trip to Phoenix Sports of the Ryman League Division One North.

Link to original piece –