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Just Regional sold to US firm

A successful hyperlocal publishing company has been bought by an American media group in a deal which will boost local news in Norfolk.

Just Regional, founded in 2008, produces 10 monthly magazines, covering six Norfolk towns and four Norwich suburbs. Over those 13 years the company has grown, achieving national recognition for its service and products, which have led the field of local news publications.

In 2019, it caught the eye of US company Medici Media, which made an approach and after many months of negotiations a deal has now been finalised.

The acquisition of Just Regional will be the first foray into news publications for Medici Media, which procures and distributes news content worldwide, in addition to providing film project development support for animated, specialty and feature films, with offices in Plymouth, Chicago, Las Vegas and London. Medici Media intends on moving a portion of its operations to Aylsham which is close to Norwich.

CEO of Medici Media, Timothy Mucciante said he was impressed with the company and its products, saying he had never seen anything of a similar quality in the US.

“We had been wanting to start in the newspaper business and I realised there was nothing like Just Regional in America. The magazines look really good and there’s an obvious passion for local news.”

The Covid-19 pandemic delayed negotiations, but enabled Mr Mucciante to see how the company adapted to the conditions, moving its news coverage online and – unlike many larger, less agile media companies – retaining advertisers, readers and staff as a result.

“I’m delighted with the acquisition of Just Regional and looking forward to carrying on the great work that everyone has been doing,” he said.

Just Regional founder Lee Todd said: “This is going to be a great opportunity for local news and I am very pleased to be connected with Medici Media. We have moved with the times and are looking to continue with our excellent service to local communities.”

Mr Todd will be staying at the helm of the Aylsham-based operation, which employs nine office staff and over 100 distribution staff. Tracey Bagshaw will also be continuing in her role as group editor.

Mr Todd said: “Readers and advertisers will still be dealing with the same people with the same community values we have always had. That will never change.”

The Just Regional offices in Aylsham.

Ready for your close-up?

Fancy your five minutes on the silver screen?
Well you could have your chance as a new film being shot in Sheringham is looking for extras.

Norfolk-born film director Ella Glendining will be filming her BFI-funded short film in the town next Wednesday and Thursday (September 8 and 9) and is on the look out for extras for a couple of scenes.

Would-be actors of all ages are sought to for funeral scene and those in their 20s and 30s are needed to appear at a beach party.

Ella was named among Screen International’s Screen Stars of Tomorrow in 2020 and her new project tells the story of a disabled woman returning to her sleepy seaside hometown for a friend’s funeral.

Ella said: “I grew up in Elsing, near Dereham, but spent a lot of time in Sheringham in my late teens and early 20s as one of my best friends lives there. I am interested in telling regional stories about growing up in small towns and villages as ‘other’. I am disabled and all my work is somewhat linked to the disabled experience.

Ella Glendining is shooting a film in Sheringham.

“I adore Norfolk and Sheringham and, although I live in Brighton now, I am always looking for excuses to return.
“I am very inspired by the beauty of the Norfolk coast. The film is about a new mother feeling torn between her old life and her new, trying to discover her identity as a parent, and it’s also about love.”
Extras will not be paid but Ella hopes they will enjoy the experience of being on a film set.
If you’d like to be involved you can email ellaelsing@gmail.com

Sean’s going home after covid ordeal

Sean Hunte has spent almost the whole of 2021 in hospital after suffering serious covid-19 complications. And now, after 203 days in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, he has left hospital to continue his recovery at home.

Sean, from Eaton received a guard of honour from the team on Docking ward and critical care staff after starting his treatment on 3 January.

Sean, who works as a cover supervisor in schools, was on critical care for 120 days and has been on Docking ward for the last five weeks.

He praised the care and support he received during his seven month admission.

“The care I received has been fantastic and the staff have gone beyond what I expected,” he said.

“The nurses and physiotherapists have been really friendly and when I was feeling down they really supported my mental health and the staff being nice to me has got me through the dark times. I had six nurses around my bed singing happy birthday to me last Thursday when I turned 58. Some of the staff I do not know because I was out of it, but Skye and Ross have been brilliant and are really good people.”

Sean has had adaptations made to his house to help with his mobility, said he was looking forward to continuing his rehabilitation at home.

“I have had dark times being in hospital for seven months and I want to get home to see my wife and two boys. I am looking forward to my wife’s cooking and having some good Caribbean cooking. I could not keep much food down, but I’m now ready for some good Jamaican and Antiguan food.”

And he said his experience meant he was urging people to get vaccinated.

“Covid is deadly serious and it is definitely the best thing to do is to get the vaccine,” he said. “The general feeling of being wiped out was horrendous, I was experiencing horrible hallucinations and it was very difficult not being able to talk when I had my tracheotomy. I used to play tennis three days a week and went to the gym, but I still cannot walk without an aid.”

Sam Higginson, NNUH Chief Executive, said: “It is fantastic to see that Sean is well enough to go home, which is testament to the great care he received from our teams and we wish him all the best with his ongoing recovery.”

A video of the guard of honour can be viewed here https://youtu.be/-eU6YM2TAuU

Cromer’s peerless pier show is back and flying high!

Oh, Cromer Pier show – it’s good to have you back, writes Richard Batson

After a lost summer laid waste by lockdowns, this cocktail of seaside stage tradition has returned in all its glory – with a few new twists to add to the flavour.

Animated backdrop projections add another dimension to an already multi-faceted masterpiece. And instead of two alternating shows, this year there are different guest performers every week to keep the show fresh through the whole season, which finishes on October 2.

Opening night kicked off with Tucker – a firm favourite of show fans returning with his brand of warm cheeky humour. He is a perfect foil for headliner host Phil Butler, another returnee whose talents as a comedian, magician, singer and dancer make him the perfect man to lead this traditional but modern variety show.

Show host Phil Butler. Picture: William Jarvis.

Vocalists Rob McVeigh and Marina Lawrence-Mahrra take the lead on pop and show songs including rousing numbers from the Greatest Showman and a pulsing Cuban sequence.

But the cast is most powerful when the team comes together during the big musical numbers such as Mary Poppins, Masquerade, and Les Miserables, which fill the stage with song, a talented team of dancers, stunning sets and colourful costumes adorned with feathers and sequins.

A very colourful Mary Poppins. Picture: William Jarvis.

Special mention must go to this year’s specialist act Duo Fusion UK – Connor Byrne and Tiffany Gaine – whose circus style aerial and acrobatic routines are mesmerising. The pair flew in unison over the front rows of the audience, and some of their contortions on stage drew audible gasps from the crowd.

There are no local children joining the cast this year, to lessen the covid-19 risk, and the “bubbled” stars are not doing their usual after-show mingling for the same reason, which is a shame because many feel like family friends we have known for years and enjoy catching up with. But they hope that will change as things progress.

Make sure you don’t arrive late – because the opening sequence on the projection screen taking us from a closed theatre to the current show’s revival is poignant and powerful – and a reminder of how glad we should be to have live variety back at the end of the pier.

For tickets and show details, including the line-up of guests, visit www.cromerpier.co.uk

Police move to allay dog theft fears

A rash of posts on social media provoking concerns about dog thieves has led to police issuing a statement to put minds at rest.

Community pages on sites such as Facebook have had lots of posts from dog walkers concerned about being targeted by thieves and apocryphal reports of attempts to take dogs by force, but police have quashed these, saying there have been no such crimes reported to them.

“We are aware of concerns and rumours circulating on social media about dogs being stolen or men in a van, including a van allegedly marked with the RSPCA logo, acting suspiciously around people out walking with their dogs.

“Please know there haven’t been any crimes recorded this week that relate to dog thefts nor have we received any reports of dogs being stolen from a property or while out walking with their owners over the last week.”

It went on to say that one person in North Walsham had reported a man in a Transit van asking questions about their dog, but no further reports had been received.

The RSPCA also moved to quash rumours that dog thieves were posing as RSPCA inspectors, and the police statement added: “The RSPCA has told us that a number of incidents circulating on social media claiming people are impersonating their inspectors do not appear to have been actual cases of people trying to pass as bogus officials.

“It’s important to know there are very few incidents whereby an RSPCA officer will approach someone in public unless they witness animal cruelty or see an animal in immediate danger. Officers will also wear RSPCA brand clothing and always carry RSPCA identification. RSPCA officers do not have power of entry or seizure unless accompanied by a police officer.”

But while they said there was no increase in threats to pets in the area, police stressed that any incident or concern – especially anyone claiming to be from the RSPCA – should be reported to them by calling 101.

“Try to give us as much detail about the person or the vehicle they were in as you can. And do not hesitate to call us on 999 if a crime is happening and you need our help.”

Chief constable set to retire

Norfolk’s Chief Constable Simon Bailey has today announced he will retire in June after completing 35 years’ service with the police.

Mr Bailey, who has led the force for the last eight years, said: “I have been extremely proud to lead Norfolk Constabulary as chief constable for the last eight years.  However, after 35 years in policing, the time has now come to look to pastures new.  So, following careful consideration, I have made the decision to retire.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey

“During my tenure as chief constable, the force has faced many challenges, including the last year policing in a pandemic and I am indebted to the support given to me from a dedicated and talented team of chief officers, alongside that of our Police and Crime Commissioner, Lorne Green.

 “I also want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of my officers and staff for their hard work, commitment and dedication in policing our county and making Norfolk Constabulary a force to be truly proud of.”

Since 2014 he has held the National Police Chief’s Council portfolio for Child Protection and Abuse Investigations and has been the NPCC lead for Violence and Public Protection since 2016.

 “As the NPCC lead for child protection, violence and public protection, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a dedicated and passionate group of people, leading our service’s response to some of the biggest challenges within law enforcement today. Together, I believe we have made a real difference and immensely proud of the work we have achieved,” he said.

Roxanne’s running to make memories

Unable to take part in the annual Memory Walk in aid of the Alzhheimer’s Society, Sheringham mum Roxanne Demmen decided to organise her own sponsored event to raise much-needed funds.

“My granddad had Alzheimer’s so every year we do the Memory Walk but this year it wasn’t happening so I thought I should do something,” she said. “I am currently running 5km five times a week for five weeks – I’ve called it the 555challenge.

“After losing our wonderful granddad a few years ago to this disease, and our other granddad now facing the same diagnosis, I know all too well how much this affects families.

“Memories are so precious, and this year has hit everyone hard, but the elderly haven’t been able to stay connected and sociable which has been devastating. Time is precious and we should make memories while we can.”

Roxanne with daughters Rosa and Fearne at one of the Memory Walks. This year they will be taking part in their own event to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Roxanne, who worked at The Splash, has been joined on her runs by friends, family and well-wishers wanting to help. “It’s all about getting out and keeping active,” she said. “I’ve had people who don’t run, or don’t even jog coming along with me which is cool.”

And during the Easter holidays she will be joined by her daughters Rosa, aged nine, and seven-year-old Fearne, who will be on their bikes.

She says she is not a dedicated runner and that the regular runs are taking their toll, but in the past she has completed an ultra-marathon – a 30 mile race – so she thinks she will stay the course.

She has set up a Just Giving Page with a £200 target and she is already well on the way. Anyone wanting to give her a little push can click here

Neglected horses have a new life

Nineteen horses and ponies saved from neglect at a Welsh rescue centre are now enjoying happier new lives thanks to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

The animals first arrived in Norfolk 18 months ago, but the Redwings team was unable to talk about them until the recent conviction and sentencing of the former owner of the Whispering Willows Sanctuary.

Last November, a total of 137 horses from Whispering Willows were taken into the care of equine welfare charities across the UK after serious welfare failings were uncovered. After pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the animals, the sanctuary’s former owner was banned from keeping all horses for 10 years.

Redwings, which has its HQ in Aylsham, offered a new home to 23 of the horses, who arrived in varying states of poor health and four had to be put to sleep shortly after their arrival when it became clear that their health issues were too great to overcome.

After receiving basic care they so badly needed the remaining 19 horses made a good recovery and have been named after NHS hospitals in a tribute to the country’s frontline healthcare workers.

Alexandra, Gwent, Paget, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Royal are pictured above at the Redwings specialist behaviour centre where they are learning to be less nervous around people and overcoming the trauma of their previous lives.

Nic de Brauwere, Redwings head of welfare and behaviour, said: “One of the saddest things was that people believed the sanctuary was offering a wonderful home, however it was clear that the horses were receiving wholly inadequate levels of care.

“There were horses who, due to their age-related ailments – compounded by their lack of care – were needlessly suffering and the kindest and most responsible thing to have done would have been to put them to sleep long before we got involved.”

Nic, who is also the chair of the National Equine Welfare Council and helped to co-ordinate the charities involved in the operation, added: “Too many times we’ve seen sanctuaries struggle and fail when owners take on too many animals without the necessary care knowledge, experience or finances, which is why we’ve been calling for the regulation of rescue centres and sanctuaries as a vital next step to protect the welfare of animals in the UK.”

To support the care of the horses now living at Redwings, please call 01508 481000 or click here to donate