Community

THERE was great excitement for 22 youngsters from 1st Knaphill Beavers who were given a bird’s eye view of progress on the three new towers in Woking town centre.

Left to right: Nick Daniell from Sir Robert McAlpine, Miranda Soane Beaver Scout Leader and five Beavers with site mascot Ivor Goodsite and, Jenna, one of three young leaders helping on the visit.

The children, aged six and seven, learnt about construction site safety and had a go at constructing towers themselves before going on-site to see the cranes in action escorted by site engineers and mascot Ivor Goodsite.

Beaver Nihal, 6, said: “I’ve been really looking forward to seeing the buildings and the cranes. It was really good to see them close up.”

Nick Daniell from Sir Robert McAlpine, showing the children around the site said: “It is great to have some community engagement and nurture an interest in engineering from an early age. We hope that some of these youngsters will be interested in joining the construction industry in the future.”

WOKING is an example to the rest of the country of interfaith understanding and the integration of Islam in the community, the Minister for Faith has said.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth was speaking during a tour of the Shah Jahan Mosque three days after 50 people were shot dead at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Minister for Faith Lord Bourne, left, speaking with Head Imam Hafiz Hashmi, middle, and his wife Kauser Akhtar

The visit had been planned months before the tragedy and is part of a tour by the minister to places of worship around the country to promote interfaith understanding.

“As long as I live, I won’t understand what prompts somebody to do what happened in Christchurch. It has been condemned by people around the globe, and rightly so,” he said. “We must ask what we can do to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen.”

He was shown around the first purpose-built mosque in Britain by Hafiz Hashmi, the Head Iman, and his wife Kauser Akhtar, who is chairwoman of the South East England Faiths Forum and faith links adviser for Surrey Faith Links, run by the Diocese of Guildford.

Lord Bourne said the strong interfaith links in Woking “is where we want everybody to be”, paying tribute to the leadership of the Imam and Kauser, describing it as “very powerful in the world in which we are living”.

They told the minister about the mosque’s involvement in the community, from the annual Armistice Day parade in Woking Town Centre and helping the homeless, as well as working with people of all faiths and hosting regular visits from schools. They also explained that, along with formal open days at the mosque, it is open for anyone to visit and the Imam is available to answer questions about Islam.

“These are things that are very close to the government’s heart,” said Lord Bourne. “We want to demystify religion. A lot of Christians are wary of mosques, but not so much as they used to be. People are more familiar with their local mosques because of examples of things such as that happening in Woking.”

“We should be shouting about what is happening in Woking,” said Lord Bourne. “It should be happening elsewhere.”

A prayer and peace vigil for the victims and families of the New Zealand shootings is being held at the Shah Jahan Mosque on Saturday 23 March, starting at 2pm. All members of the community are invited to attend, to show solidarity and unity against such terror attacks.

For the full story get the 21 March edition of the News & Mail

WOKING borough commander Detective Inspector Andy Greaves has said targeting drug-related crime is the priority for local police.

“Drugs are the threads that affects so much crime in the borough,” he told a community meeting in Knaphill last week.

Woking borough commander Detective Inspector Andy Greaves

DI Greaves said this included drug-related violence in the town centre, especially some of the takeaways in Chertsey Road and in surrounding streets where people had been stabbed and seriously injured.

“Walton Court in Sheerwater is a hub of criminal activity, including drug-dealing violence. We have obtained a number of closure orders to protect vulnerable residents from gangs coming in, particularly from London and South Coast.”

“Walton Court in Sheerwater is a hub of criminal activity, including drug-dealing violence. We have obtained a number of closure orders to protect vulnerable residents from gangs coming in, particularly from London and South Coast.”

The Knaphill meeting had been called because of concern about a rise in antisocial behaviour and thefts in the area. DI Greaves added that while reported crime had reduced by 1.5% since last year, there were significant spikes, including a 5.3% increase in drug-related violence and a 7.4% rise in domestic violence.

For the full story get the 14 March edition of the News & Mail

GET set for an evening of fun and laughter, as it’s panto time once again in Ripley – oh yes it is!

Ripley Pantomime is bringing Jack and the Beanstalk to the stage next week to support local charities. It’s the 44th year the group has staged an annual performance, stretching back to 1975 when the PTA of Ripley First School decided to put on a yearly pantomime the children could enjoy.

The Ripley cast from last year’s production of Aladdin

Since then, Ripley Pantomime has annually staged a show together with support from the parents, staff and students of what became Ripley C of E Primary School – but this year’s production is the first without helping hands from the school following its closure last year.

Despite losing the pool of pupils and staff who shared the stage and attended the performances, as well as their school support base who helped in the lead up to the shows, the group is adamant that they will keep performing and raising money for charity.

Money raised from this year’s rendition of Jack and the Beanstalk will be split between several charities including the Woking & Sam Beare Hospices, a postnatal support group in Guildford, the St Mary Magdalen Church and the village hall in Ripley.

Rehearsals have been building ahead of opening night next Wednesday, 20 March at the village hall. The show runs to 23 March, with an afternoon matinee on Saturday as well.

Tickets can be bought through Wills & Smerdon on 01483 224343 or booked online at www.ripleypantomime.co.uk. Tickets start at £7 for adults, from £5 for concession and £20 for families.

For more on this story as well as our special picture feature, get the 14 March News & Mail

RAIN, hail and blustering wind made running difficult, but more than 3,500 people completed the Mercer Surrey Half Marathon on Sunday.

Woking Mayoress Hannah Thompson congratulates first woman home Emma Davis, second Lesley Locks, far right, and third Lucie Custance, far left

They streamed for over three hours from Woking Park to Jacobs Well and back, in another successful staging of the largest event of its kind in the county.

Serious club runners out to set a record or a new personal best, joggers raising money for charity and children enjoying the kids’ races braved some awful weather in the day’s three events.

There was an overall total of 4,385 finishers, in the half marathon and the five and two-kilometre races.

“The runners and organisers faced some challenging conditions, especially when we were packing up,” said Hollie Light, the Surrey Half marketing manager. “But there were some excellent performances, especially from some of the teams taking part.”

Two participants – Richard Moffat and Evie Read – are waiting for confirmation that they have broken the Guinness World Record for pushing a disabled children’s buggy in a half marathon.

With Evie being pushed by Richard around the course, they took three minutes off the current world record of one hour 35 minutes.

Teenager Evie, from Headley Down, near Haslemere, has ataxia-telangiectasia (AT), a rare genetic disease. She and friend Richard, from Ascot, were raising money for the Action for A-T charity.

An innovation for entrants this year was a pre-race meditation session in Woking Leisure Centre.

“A lot of runners get anxious before a race and this helped them relax and prepare themselves in a quiet place,” said Hollie. “There were also massage and yoga sessions for runners after the race.”

For the full story and picture feature get the 14 March edition of the News & Mail

WOKING Youth Theatre – whose former members include stars of films and TV programmes such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Victoria and The Crown – is being revived after it closed nearly 15 years ago.

A group of former young WYT performers, led by Bruce Hazelton, is relaunching the weekly workshops run by professional actors and teachers.

Two generations of WYT. From left, Bruce, Juliet and Alex Hazelton with Max Harris and Emma Brewer

Many of the former WYT members have gone on to great success on stage and screen, including Anna Wilson Jones (Victoria), Dermot Keaney (Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3), Victoria Hamilton (The Crown, Doctor Foster), Sam Underwood (Homeland), and Abbie Osmon (We Will Rock You, Mamma Mia).

Bruce said: “We are very excited to get WYT up and running again. It’s a huge responsibility to step into David’s shoes but we have so many talented ex members, willing to impart their knowledge; in acting, singing, dance, stage management, production, costume design and other things”.

He said he wanted to continue the late founder David Hawksworth’s vision of providing a safe environment for children to “have a laugh and put on a play”.

“David wanted it to continue to be earthy and not artsy fartsy; somewhere where the kids can be themselves.”

Founder of WYT David Hawksworth who passed away in 2015

Bruce and the others setting up the revived WYT, including David Hawksworth’s daughters Sarah Tubb and Catherine Lake, have spent the past year finding a venue and setting up the group as a charity.

He said he hoped that the first show from the new WYT would be performed next year, hopefully at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre.

A web designer by trade, Bruce was heavily involved in setting up the News & Mail when this paper relaunched in 2011.

For the full story and details on how to get involved with WYT, pick up the 7 March edition of the News & Mail

A STUDENT is raising funds for a Woking dementia care service that provided “amazing care” for her grandad at the end of his life.

Grace Williams, 20, is staging a coffee morning and silent auction at The Bradbury Centre in Maybury.

SPECIAL GRANDAD: Grace Williams with grandfather George Gray

She was moved by the love and kindness the centre’s day care staff showed her grandfather, George Gray.

George, who lived in Woking, was one of the UK’s most successful businessmen as the founding chief executive of major services company Serco. He was diagnosed with dementia in 2013.

Grace said she hoped as many local people as possible would come and support her fundraising event on Thursday 2 March.

“My grandpa was such a happy, smart, inspiring and humble man, and not just in my eyes, but to so many people who were fortunate enough to know him,” said Grace, who also comes from Woking

“I want to do something to give back to the team at The Bradbury Centre. I also want more people to know about it, as this service is so precious.”

“Even in the later stages of the illness, where Grandpa was non-verbal and largely unresponsive, the staff managed to get him to join in some of the activities like arts and crafts and the Tovertafel Table projector, which we call the ‘magic table’.

“Everyone would show him such tenderness and kindness.”

Grace, who is studying psychology at the University of Bristol, was so inspired by the day care service that she volunteers there during the holidays.

The silent auction will include a large collection of items to bid for, including a bungee jump experience, beer tasting and a brewery tour, paintballing and gift vouchers for Nando’s and burger restaurant GBK.

Grace at the seaside with George when she was a child

Bradbury day care manager Francesca Simpson said she was delighted that Grace wanted to do something for the centre.

“Grace is an inspiring young woman and it’s wonderful that she wants to raise funds for us in memory of George,” she added.

“I know that George would be incredibly proud of Grace, and the rest of her family, and I do hope that lots of the local community come along to support this wonderful event. Everyone is welcome!”

The fundraising coffee morning is at the centre in Smiles Place, off Lavender Road, Maybury, from 11am to 2pm. For more details, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SomeoneSpecial/GeorgeGray4.

THE Shah Jahan Mosque is holding its annual open day on Sunday 3 March.

The event, from noon to 3pm will include exhibitions on the history of the first purpose-build mosque in Britain, displays explaining Islam and a question and answer session at 1.45pm.

Shan Jahan Mosque

Visitors will be able to see worshippers in prayer at 1.30pm and take part in guided tours of the mosque.

Refreshments will be served and there will be a gift stall and children’s play area.

The initiative is part of the nation-wide Visit My Mosque event.

For more information, call 07928 539061 or email office@shahjahanmosque.org.uk.

THIS year sees local dance, drama and singing school, Julie Sianne Theatre Arts, celebrate 35 years of performance.

The story of JSTA began with 17-year-old Julie Evans, an avid dancer from Byfleet who dreamt of a future on stage. But with awards under her belt and prospects ahead, she was devastated to discover she had curvature of the spine and would not be able to sustain the physical efforts required as a professional dancer.

WICKED PERFORMANCE: The school’s bewitching show in 2007

Although heavyhearted, young Julie was not deterred. Instead she opted to put her passion for dance into teaching with her own dance school. Using her middle name, she launched the Julie Sianne School of Dance in June 1983.

Julie wanted to inspire dancers, helping them realise potential and prepare for the next stage of life:

“We make everyone believe they can perform, we’re for everyone being the best they can be.”

By the end of 1983, Julie’s students were already entering competitions and winning gold, and starting preparations for exams. In 1984, they took to the stage with the school’s first Dance Variation concert, held in Byfleet Village Hall, allowing students to experience all the elements involved in producing a full stage production.  

The school was renamed Julie Sianne Theatre Arts when they began developing acting classes. Julie’s husband Ray Franklin, known fondly as “Mr Ray”, joined the team as head of drama in 2005, bringing vast theatrical experience and administrative skills.

FOUNDER- Julie Evans

From 1983 until today, students have competed in competitions, put on countless shows, been cast in many pantomimes at the New Victoria Theatre, been in touring theatre productions and this February were seen in the Woking Festival of Dance. They once even performed at Downing Street.

Julie’s work over the years is not only shown by the awards won but by the number of students who return as teachers, guest choreographers and parents of new students.

“We are proud that so many of our students who go on to teach chose to return to JSTA either as permanent or guest teachers and help pass on their experience to the next generation,” said Julie. “It’s a nice family atmosphere to perform and it’s why people bring their children.

For the full story and picture spread, get the 21 February edition of the News & Mail

CHARITIES, clubs and community groups can claim a share of a £50,000 pot being offered to fundraisers by a water company.

Affinity Water launched its latest community engagement fund this week, inviting bids to win financial help for good causes.

An Affinity Water executive visiting a wetlands project which won a grant from the company

The company is keen to see applications for projects that promote sustainable water use, have a positive environmental impact or help disadvantaged people.

Its fund is open for applications until Friday 24 May 2019. Bids will be reviewed by a team of people from across the company and selected applicants, to be announced on Monday 3 June, will go through to the next round.

The review panel is chaired by Affinity Water’s corporate responsibility manager, Beverley Taylor, who said: “We think supporting local good causes in our supply area is a natural extension of our work to keep customers’ taps flowing with safe, high quality water.

For the full story get the 21 February edition of the News & Mail