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Jump through hoops for fun!

Fancy something different to do that’s fun and keeps you fit in the fresh air?

What about learning to use a hula hoop….?

Performer Rebecca Ruby Flames will be holding hoop workshops this month starting tomorrow (August 7) on the green outside the Willow Centre in Cringleford.

There will be a children’s class from 11am to 11.30am and then a session for adult beginners after that until 12.30pm.

Social distancing will be maintained and classes cost £5.

A qualified primary school teacher, Ruby Flames is a freelance performer who performs with hoops (and on stilts) at carnivals, parties, weddings and parades and has some amazing outfits and skills.

She also uses fire, LED, angle grinding and other effects in her act – although not in her workshops!

She said: “Hooping is a great way to stay fit, gain core strength, increase co-ordination ability… It clears your mind and creates focus, it encourages determination and you must be disciplined to practise regularly. You can take your hoop with your wherever you go, the park, the beach, your garden, camping, on holiday.”

Email rebeccarubyflames@gmail.com for more details

Christmas treat will help ease disappointment

One of Europe’s most popular seasonal shows has been postponed – but while Christmas won’t be Christmas without it, the magic of the season will still be recreated to thrill visitors.

Continued uncertainty around live performances, the Thursford Christmas Spectacular has been postponed until 2021.

The Spectacular has entertained more than six million visitors of all ages from across the globe since opening its first Christmas Eve performance more than 40 years ago, becoming one of Europe’s biggest seasonal shows. The award-winning production, which would normally run from early November, employs around 360 dancers, singers, musicians, variety acts, technicians, wardrobe teams, ushers, caterers and production staff each year – and lots of work has already been put into this year’s event.

John Cushing, CEO, founder, producer and director, said: “This has been a heart-breaking time for me and my team at Thursford as it has been for so many. We have watched and waited, hoping for news and direction as to the implications for mass gatherings and live performances, which, in these uncertain times, remain unclarified at this time.

“We have spent the last few months working tirelessly towards the Christmas Spectacular show, hoping to continue our normal year’s schedule through to the autumn. However, following many hours discussing ways to achieve this, considering restrictions and safety measures, and with the concern for due care of our audience, cast and production team always being foremost in our minds, we felt that our only option was to postpone the show for this year.”

But while the Spectacular may be on pause, an enchanting new festive celebration will light up Thursford as an alternative Christmas treat.

Thursford’s Enchanted Journey of Light will be a magical walk-through experience for all ages running from November 19 until January 3. An all-new indoor Wonderland Trail: a maze of steam engines, fairy-tale characters and an immersive experience of light and sound including one of the UK’s biggest kinetic light displays, will lead to a four-acre Lantern Light Extravaganza: a beautiful, breath-taking outdoor installation of luminous sculptures, from a fantasy forest of jungle animals to the wilds of the North Pole.

Mr Cushing added: “Whilst we allow the cancellation of the Christmas Spectacular this year to sink in, we are delighted to welcome in the Enchanted Journey of Light as a magical festive alternative. The beautiful collection of lanterns will light up Thursford and brighten our hearts. We hope that visitors from far and wide will come and walk the Wonderland Trail with us and, in doing so, continue to support the local community, hotels, B&Bs, rental properties and hospitality venues throughout Norfolk.

“Christmas is a special time of hope, joy, sharing and caring, and after a year filled with uncertainty and loss it is more important than ever that we celebrate all that we are thankful for. We look forward to seeing Christmas Spectacular audiences return in 2021 and hope that many will also visit our Enchanted Journey of Light this year.”

Ticket holders for the 2020 Spectacular will be contacted by the bookings and reservations team or their point of purchase by mid-August 2020, offering the option of an automatic seat transfer to a new date in 2021 or to arrange refund.

Tickets for Thursford’s Enchanted Journey of Light will be £15 each (free for children under three), with time slots allocated from 3pm daily via the Thursford Box Office – www.thursford.com or 01328 878477.

Run with Pride

Like many other athletic events this year, the Norwich Pride 5K race will be a little different.

Because of restrictions on mass events, the popular race – organised by EPIC – will be rebranded as #RunWithPride event, with all profits being granted to LGBT+ charities across the UK.

Anyone wanting to take part can complete the course at any time during July – as teams or as individuals – and choose from 5k, 10k, 25k, 50k, or 100k challenges.

The whole distance does not have to be run at once – you can split the distance over the month – and participants are being encouraged to share their efforts by using the hashtag #RunWithPride via Strava, Facebook or Instagram.

Some clubs have entered teams of 31, with each member taking responsibility for one day of the month, and others are pooling resources to provide moral support.

Taking part costs £10 per person, plus a booking fee. All entries include a bespoke #RunWithPride race medal.

To enter, visit https://totalracetiming.co.uk/race/212 .

Keenan’s racing ahead for a dream future

While most 12-year-old boys were playing motorsport games on their PlayStations, Keenan Tully was out driving the real thing as he got a taste for motor racing at an early age.

Now 20, Keenan is an established race car driver on the local circuits, with big plans to make it big in the American sport of Nascar racing.

“I didn’t have any roots in the sport,” said Keenan, who lives in Aylsham. “I’m a first generation fan, my dad was never into it, he preferred football. My friend was already racing and I watched him and it sort of started from there. I started racing in the Junior Formula and then moved into adult racing when I was 16.”

His first race, aged 12, was in a full size car and spent a lot of time at the race car track at Swaffham, which held test days most weeks.

“You pay to have the track to test and to practise and learn,” he said. “I have raced at Yarmouth, Ipswich, Swaffham, Birmingham and Essex and won 17 trophies.”

The former Reepham High School pupil also drove in the USA when his family lived there for a time, which is where he discovered Nascar, the most popular motor sport in the states.

“We lived in California a couple of years ago and I got found out by a team, which was incredible. My dream is to race there full time.”

Nascar has a long and proud history, but despite its 100 years of popularity it has remained an American sport, which is why Keenan and his brother, Zach, are moving to North Carolina so he can follow his dream.

“North Carolina is where about 90pc of the Nascar teams are based, so that’s the place to be,” said Keenan. “

He hopes to attract a sponsor once he is there so he can compete professionally – and he wonders if the novelty of being a British driver might be a help.

“My mum is from California, so I have an American passport,” he said. “When I was racing there, people loved that I was British and fans would come round and ask me to talk just to hear my accent!”

All racing including stock car and hot rod racing is currently paused in the UK, and Keenan had his last race back in February.

Shortly after lockdown he broke his kneecap and he is working hard to get back to racing fitness for when the season begins with a behind-closed-doors meeting at Swaffham on July 18 – no mean feat with gyms also closed.

Keenan Tully’s dream is to become a Nascar driver and is moving to America to follow his dream.

At the moment everyone is equal in the league table of drivers but in the past Keenan has come second and third, including a second place in the East Anglian Championship in 2018 and was third in the national standings in the year before.

“I will carry on racing between now and my move and save up so I can buy my own car or find sponsorship,” he said. “It’s not a cheap sport and the only way to get into it is to hope a team sees you and supports you. Right now I am self-funding.”

With a full time job as a mechanic for Lotus Racing Team in Long Stratton and his own mobile car valeting business, Keenan is working hard to support his racing, to fund his move overseas and to get fit after his injury.

His determination even saw him shed six stone in order to get into racing shape when he weighed in at 18 stone in 2016.

“It’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do, and I’ll work hard to get there,” he said.

Keenan is looking for partners who could help him with his adventure. If anyone can help they can email him at keenantullymotorsport@gmail.com or visit his Facebook page.

Google grant for local publisher is Just the job…

A hyperlocal magazine publisher which refused to let the pandemic stop it getting the local news out has received a grant from Google.

Just Regional, an organisation which produces 10 news magazines in Norfolk, received the grant from the technology giant’s relief fund – a scheme designed to help news titles through the coronavirus crisis.

Editor Tracey Bagshaw said: “This is amazing news. It has been well documented that some large organisations have felt the pinch, but small organisations such as us have also had to adapt to survive, and it’s great to see that effort recognised.”

Just Regional paused printing its monthly magazines in March, mainly to protect its team of more than 100 delivery boys and girls, turning its attention to putting stories online via its website, Facebook and Twitter.

Its online interactions grew up to 1,000pc in all areas as readers logged on for daily updates, breaking news and features.

It returned to print in June with a merged publication covering all areas. The well-received magazine was delivered to 50,000 homes in six market towns and four Norwich suburbs. Another edition is about to be delivered, with a further one in production later this month.

Tracey Bagshaw, Group Editor.

“We never stopped during the lockdown as we were determined to keep giving people a mix of vital information, local news and some of the more heart-warming moments which were going on in our communities,” said Tracey.

Just Regional has been producing popular hyperlocal magazines for 12 years. Owner Lee Todd said the importance of local news could not be overestimated and he was thrilled that it had been recognised in this way.

“Google, this massive international company, has backed us – a company based in Aylsham, a small Norfolk market town – because it believes in what we are doing,” he said.

“They were impressed how we kept going through the pandemic and that we are rising from the ashes, unlike some bigger publications which are struggling all across the country.

“Our readers and advertisers have stuck with us throughout this and we are grateful for their loyal support.”

Richard Gingras, vice-president of news at Google, said: “Local news is a vital resource for keeping people and communities connected in the best of times.

“Today, it plays an even greater function in reporting on local lockdowns or shelter at home orders, school and park closures, and data about how covid-19 is affecting daily life.

“But that role is being challenged as the news industry deals with job cuts, furloughs and cutbacks as a result of the economic downturn.”

The Just Regional offices in Aylsham town centre. This is a central location for the 10 areas covered.

Race made huge strides for charity

Early in the lockdown period we asked Just Regional readers to get their active-wear on to take part in a marathon challenge to help the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Some 450 people signed up for the Empire Strides Back Marathon Challenge, set up by Norwich sports performance specialists Rob Sears and Loren Taylor, of Focus 4 Fitness, and they smashed their target.

Loren Taylor & Rob Sears from Focus 4 Fitness present Lord Vader with the cheque for £5,100. Photo: NNUH

The challenge, which celebrated 40 years since the film of a similar name hit the cinema screens, saw participants running, walking or cycling 26.2 miles during May.

Rob said: “When we set up this challenge, we hoped to raise least £1,000 for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital as a way to support our local NHS who have gone the extra mile during this pandemic.

“To have raised over £5,000 for the hospitals charity is just amazing, and we are just so grateful for everyone who took part in making this challenge such a success.”

Burial ground needs help

St Andrew’s Church, in Eaton, is calling for support to help maintain Eaton Burial Ground as its maintenance fund has nearly run out.

And with only two years’ worth of money in the coffers and the church is planning how to cut costs.

This summer it is experimenting with ways to make the whole area more nature friendly, improving the biodiversity of what is already a beautiful resource for the community. This will involve cutting some paths between the lines of graves and trimming the hedges only once.

In the autumn the area will be scythed and raked by the Conservation Volunteers. This will promote the rapid growth of an attractive wild flower meadow.

Any practical or financial help  would be greatly appreciated. Gifts should be labelled for St Andrew’s Eaton PCC Burial Ground and posted to the Church Office, 41 Church Lane, Eaton, Norwich NR4 6NW.

Help keep live venues alive

One of the area’s leading live-music venues believes that a campaign to raise money for grassroots venues hit by the sudden loss of revenue from gigs is vital for its survival, writes ADAM AIKEN

#saveourvenues, which is being run by the Music Venue Trust, has been backed by a number of high-profile brands and artists, including Dereham rockers Bad Touch, whose latest single has been adopted to help the campaign.

One of their first live gigs was at the Brickmakers and B2 Venue in Sprowston Road, Norwich, and co-owner Charley South said the lockdown had been “financially crippling”.

During normal times, the venue offers live music every night, with more than 100 bands performing each month, but that has all changed during the pandemic.

“With landlords only deferring rent, and no sign of rescue from the government, the future looks bleak,” she said. “Already we owe our landlords £28,000 in rent from March to date, and the debts keep accruing every day.

A special montage put together by the Brickmakers team to call for support for venues such as theirs.

“The Music Venue Trust is working tirelessly to try to secure a rescue package from the government for us and other grassroots venues across the nation. This campaign is vital for our survival. Without it we are just one of many venues that face permanent closure.”

Marshall Amplification – a brand known for the iconic music equipment used by some of the world’s leading artists – has launched a T-shirt as part of its support for the campaign.

The T-shirts which have been designed to boost the #saveourvenues campaign inspired by a song by Norfolk band Bad Touch.

The “I’ve Got the Music in Me” T-shirt is inspired by the new single from festival fixtures Bad Touch. The Dereham band included their cover of the 1974 Kiki Dee hit on their fourth album, Kiss the Sky, which was recently released by Marshall Records to widespread critical acclaim.

Frontman Stevie Westwood said: “What is a band without a venue? We’ve been together a decade now, and over that time we’ve been very fortunate to play in some awesome venues – not just the ones with the big stages or professional sound systems but some that had next-to-nothing and were still electric to play in.”

Bad Touch had already shown their support for #saveourvenues by recording an isolation song, Keep On Smilin’, in support of the campaign.

“Sadly, many of these culturally integral places, both big and small, have now shut their doors for good,” said the singer. “Some have been holding on by the skin of their teeth and with the support of their local gig-going community for years. With the added weight of the lockdown, the pressure for some has proven too much to bear. So when the chance for us to work with the Music Venue Trust came up – an excuse to make a noise, share some love and smiles, and hopefully prevent some more doors from closing – we jumped at the opportunity.”

Charley, who is a musician herself and who played her very first gig at the Brickmakers 30 years ago, said: “Our venue is just one of many around the UK where musicians cut their teeth and hone their craft. Without small venues such as ours, there are no bottom rungs on the ladder. Bands need to have somewhere to start out, to learn, to make mistakes and to improve and then to grow.

“Without these fundamental starting points there will be no future Rolling Stones, Oasis or Ed Sheeran. All those legendary artists started out in grassroots music venues and Ed Sheeran played B2 Venue several times when he was starting out.”

www.saveourvenues.co.uk