Thursday 30 May 2013

On A Knife Edge In Liverpool.....

Knife Edge 

An anthology of twenty-five crime, thriller mystery and suspense stories from twenty-three authors, including Booker prize nominated Jim Williams. All profits to 

Authors: Jim Williams, Mike Berlin, Kim Fleet, Eric Tomlinson, Grace Fallon, Eileen Condon, Dennis Thompson, Gerry McCullough, Debbie Bennett, John Holland, Judy Binning, Pat Griffin, JJ Toner, Harriet Steel, Anthony Farmer, Tom Rhoyd, Maura Barrett, Kathy Dunne, Diana Collins, Damon King, Janet Wadsworth, Mike Berlin, Stewart Lowe, Ruby Barnes 

Published 30th May 2013 

Kindle ISBN 9781908943262 
ePub ISBN 9781908943279 
print ISBN 9781908943286

What's the significance of the title? My story in this anthology is called The Leaving of Liverpool

Friday 17 May 2013

White Witch of Devil’s End

Reeltime Pictures are pleased to announce a new drama production for release on DVD to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.

White Witch of Devil’s End is a spin-off from the highly regarded Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story The Daemons and will star Damaris Hayman reprising her role as Miss Hawthorne.

At the grand age of 84 (in June this year), you’d expect Damaris would be happy to be enjoying retirement quietly in her Cheltenham home … but no! When approached by producer Keith Barnfather about the idea she jumped at the chance. “I shall retire, I think in my coffin!  Miss Hawthorne was my all-time favourite role and I was enchanted by the thought of being her again for a little while.”

“I was amazed and delighted that, as an octogenarian, Damaris was prepared to take this on,” says Keith. “We had recently recorded an interview with her for our Myth Makers series profiling actors who had appeared in Doctor Who and I already knew she still had a hunger to act. But I really didn’t expect her to be so keen.”

Although eager to take the project on, Damaris knew she had to pace herself, so in an innovative move, director Anastasia Stylianou decided to film the drama in a “talking head” style – adding dramatic cutaway material to bring Damaris’s words to life!

Says Anastasia; “I knew it would be a challenge. We needed to film a 50 minute drama at least, so I decided to make an asset out of a limitation.”

Primary filming has already taken place at a cottage near Damaris’s home. The crew collected and returned Damaris each day – allowing her to return home each evening to recover and study the next day’s script!

“We used autocue to help Damaris,” says Keith. “It was an impossible task for any actor to learn so much dialogue. Damaris was a true professional and took to it instantly.”

With a planned release date of 31st October, which is appropriately also Halloween, Anastasia hopes to have the project completed for the 50th anniversary celebrations. “It’s just getting all the dramatic cutaway material ‘in the can’ that is crucial. The drama is really an anthology – a set of connecting stories about Olive’s life told, as it were, in her own words.”

When considering who to approach to write these stories which would exist within an overall theme, Keith immediately thought to contact old friend David J Howe at Telos Publishing. “I thought it would be fantastic to ask individual writers knowledgeable in the occult and magic to write each story and David, through Telos, knew so many of the best young talent in the country.”  

“I was delighted when Keith got in touch,” says David Howe, “and immediately started to think of who might be a good fit for the project. Along with my partner, the award-winning author Sam Stone, we contacted several authors who we felt would be sympathetic to the material and were pleased to get them all on board for the project.”

“I took on the task of outlining the whole story,” says Sam Stone, “and then asked the writers to come up with ideas which fitted that framework. We needed to tell stories at different points in Olive Hawthorne’s life, and the writers rose to the challenge and delivered scripts which exceeded all my expectations. I then worked with them to refine the scripts into the completed screenplay.”

The writers involved in the project are, as well as David J Howe and Sam Stone, Raven Dane, Debbie Bennett, Jan Edwards and Suzanne J Barbieri, with a final script-polish from Big Finish writer Matt Fitton. All have brought a unique perspective on Olive’s life, and the end result is an anthology of tales which will surprise, entertain and hopefully move the viewer.

Does Damaris have any regrets about throwing herself into such a big commitment? “Definitely not! I was enchanted to work with Anastasia and Keith again, who are great friends anyway. After a lot of working together consulting over the scripts, I’d subsequently never enjoyed filming more - and I can’t wait now to see the final result.”

RRP: £12.99

Friday 10 May 2013

Policies & Planning (or Money v Integrity)

The attached link is a podcast of a council planning meeting - round two which was adjourned from its first incarnation in April. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of listening to me rant on facebook or talked to me in the pub or around the village, this concerns a battle that has been raging for 9 months or so now - ever since a few people were spotted mooching around a field behind our village last summer...

So Richborough "buys up" 20 acres of green field site on the edge of our village, pending planning permission to build 148 houses. A greenfield site, protected by all sorts of laws and policies - or so we thought. Mr Cameron himself protects us - Hands Off Our Land: Housing estates will not be 'plonked' next to villages, he tells us in the Telegraph in 2012. This is an estate that will be accessible only through one small cul-de-sac off an existing small estate, in a small village that has one co-op, two pubs, a post office, chip shop and tiny Victorian primary school, which is full. There are already village kids who can't get primary school places and neighbouring primary schools are also full.

Moulton is one of a handful of villages in the country with only one road in and out. Main Road is a dead-end. The Victorian layout and sharp corners make it difficult and dangerous for buses and delivery lorries which frequently mount the pavement to get by.

Now nobody is against development per-se. But it needs to be sustainable. This proposal would increase the size of the village by 15%. There's nothing in this application that benefits our village at all - even the people who buy these new houses will lose out (they'll be living on land that floods regularly, on an estate with one narrow way in and out, in a village where the nearest "service centre" for doctors, dentists, etc is a couple of miles away, with a school that has no places). In fact the only beneficiaries appear to be Richborough Estates who would have a parcel of land with a much higher value on it if it had planning permission attached. But hey, that's what all these planning policies are for, surely? To protect our precious environment. To ensure that things are fair, that they work, that everybody is happy?

No. Apparently not. 

The school is full. Site constraints make it near-impossible to expand. No problem. The developers bung some money at the council and that's sorted. Where do the kids actually go to school, then? Doesn't matter - it's not relevant and not a reason to refuse a planning application. The road infrastructure won't support more traffic. No problem. The developers bung some money at the council and that's sorted. There's insufficient play facilities to meet current requirements for play space for children. No problem. The developers bung some money at the council and that's sorted. But there is nowhere else to build a new play area (because they built houses on the last one...). Doesn't matter - it's not relevant and not a reason to refuse a planning application.

Are you starting to see a pattern here?

To consider a planning application, various bodies have to submit reports. Education department, highways department, etc etc. Most of the reports seem to be desk assessments based on information submitted by the applicant. Hmmm - spot the bias there? As it happened, the education people didn't get their reports done in time which is why the first planning application was deferred to the recent meeting a few days ago.

And at the recent meeting, the helpful council advisors advise the planning committee that they have no grounds to refuse the application, that all the policies to protect us bear no weight against the apparent "need" for more housing in the area. There are huge developments going on in a ten mile radius - who is buying all these houses? There are houses for sale in the village now - from terraces to four-bedroom detached houses - and I don't see a queue of people fighting to buy them. There are many brownfield sites locally that would benefit from redevelopment - but that costs more money, doesn't it? Not quite as attractive a proposition as a nice green field...

Fortunately our committee see sense and reject the application. And our ever-helpful legal team advise them that they have no grounds, that when it goes to appeal they will personally have to give evidence to back-up their vote, that they will cost the council huge sums of money in legal costs. Yes, it's down to money again, isn't it? Money versus integrity. 

Thank God for integrity. Despite the bullying tactics, the vote had been cast and was irrevocable. Our councillors vowed to stand-up for their beliefs. And the battle was won. With one of the biggest cases the council had ever seen - in terms of numbers of objections raised - we now have to go and fight the rest of the war at the inevitable appeal.

But it all makes you wonder, doesn't it? Cameron says one thing, local councils do another. Plans and policies change so fast, nobody can keep up and the greedy developers latch on to the confusion and stick their applications in. But where will we be in 20 years time when we've destroyed our countryside to line the pockets of people who don't give a shit?