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Bernard Matthews staff tested for covid-19

Precautionary testing for covid-19 is under way at the Bernard Matthews site in Great Witchingham after several members of staff tested positive for the virus.

The testing of approximately 1,000 staff at the site has begun and will continue into early next week.

There have been a number of cases among staff at the site, although at this point there is not evidence to suggest transmission of the virus there. It is anticipated that this measure will identify if there are any asymptomatic staff who are currently showing no signs.

Following government guidance, any staff member who tests positive will be advised to self-isolate, along with their households. Norfolk’s Outbreak Management Team and partners are working closely with Bernard Matthews to take measures to reduce transmission in order to protect both staff and the public.

Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk’s Director of Public Health, said: “Our top priority is to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, which will help to protect the staff at Bernard Matthews and the public.  This testing is a sensible, precautionary measure that will help us understand who at the site has covid-19 and who else they may have been in contact with.

“While there is currently no evidence to suggest widespread transmission at the Great Witchingham site, we know that testing can help to understand and contain the spread of the virus. We would remind everyone across Norfolk, to continue to act responsibly, respect the Rule of Six and follow the government’s guidance. We must all continue to wash our hands, wear face coverings when required to and observe social distancing – hands, face and space – to have the best chance of keeping the virus under control.”

A spokesman for Bernard Matthews said: “We can confirm a small number of positive cases at our site at Great Witchingham. These colleagues and their contacts are now self-isolating at home, and we will continue to work closely with public health officials to monitor the situation. There is no evidence these transmissions occurred in the factory. Food production and safety remain unaffected.”

Rebecca Hams, Consultant in Health Protection at Public Health England East, said: “Testing and tracing is one of the key steps in identifying and containing the spread of covid-19 and staff at the factory are being tested as a precautionary measure. Mass testing in this way will help to protect staff and the community, by allowing us to identify people who are carrying the virus but who may not have developed symptoms.”

Arts venues celebrate grants

Three arts venues in North Norfolk are celebrating after receiving a share of the Arts Council England Cultural Recovery Fund grants.

Cromer Pier has £250,000, Sheringham Little Theatre has been awarded £76,644 and Wells Maltings is in receipt of £90,000.

This money will be vital to see the venues through the next few months after takings and income were badly hit by the covid-19 restrictions on live venues.

Sheringham Little Theatre director Debbie Thompson said: “This is fantastic news, and the team here are delighted after some worrying weeks.

” The grant helps us recoup past losses – and to be sustainable in the future, operating under the social distancing restrictions which cuts our capacity to 30pc. It means we can carry on with the programming we were planning – including a panto, some exciting new plays showcasing emerging young talent – and a pioneering project by our youngsters looking at rural racism issues.”

The Little Theatre team celebrate the grant which will help see them through the winter.

Rory Holburn, Director at Openwide Coastal, the managers of Cromer Pier, said: “This grant will help by covering some of the losses we have already incurred and will incur from being closed this year. It also assists in ensuring the team we still have on payroll can now remain in place to enable us to re-open next summer without losing any of their knowledge and expertise that help make the show such a renowned success.

“The Pier and Pavilion Theatre are also cornerstones of the local Tourism economy so we are delighted that we will be able to also help provide a much needed boost next spring as all  businesses attempt to recover from the damage the pandemic has done.”

Wells Maltings director Simon Daykin said: “We are thrilled – it’s a true lifeline in these stormy times, and allows us to keep on doing what we can to entertain, delight and support our audiences and community. We know how important entertainment and the arts in all their forms are to public wellbeing, and together with the huge generosity of our community through our recent Road to Recovery campaign, this much needed funding ensures that the show in Wells will go on.”

Woman fined £10,000 after covid protest in city centre

A woman involved in an illegal gathering in Norwich on Thursday has been given a £10,000 fixed penalty notice.

It follows a gathering on the Haymarket which started just after midday and involved more than 80 people protesting against the covid-19 prevention restrictions.

The 37-year-old, from the Norwich area, was arrested at the scene after refusing to provide her details to police. She was taken into custody at Wymondham and following enquiries later issued with the fixed penalty notice for contravening the ban on being involved in holding a gathering of more than 30 people.

In addition, a 25-year-old man from the Norwich area arrested at the scene on suspicion of common assault after allegedly coughing at a woman, has since been charged with the offence. He has been released on bail to appear at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on Monday, November 23.

Three other people at the gathering were reported for the offence of organising or facilitating a gathering of more than 30 people, in breach of the Health Protection Regulations.

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Megicks, who has been leading the local police response to coronavirus, said: “As a police force, we fully appreciate how difficult the past six months have been for the county and I am pleased that the vast of majority of people have played and continue to play their part, following the guidance and legislation helping to protect Norfolk and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“However, the infection rate is now rising rapidly across the country and while in Norfolk it is not increasing as significantly as other areas, we must carry on working together to keep everyone safe. Our focus will remain on our use of the 4Es – engaging, explaining, encouraging and then enforcing when required.

“The gathering yesterday was in breach of the Health Protection Regulations and we took action to disperse the group including making two arrests. We will all have a role to play in keeping our county safe going forward and we won’t hesitate to take action if needed.

“We police by consent and we need people and businesses to work with us on this. Our approach will remain the same: engaging with people first, explaining the guidance and law and encouraging people to do the right thing. However, we will not sit back and allow people to deliberately break the law. Where we are left with no choice but to enforce, we will do so to protect our communities.

“If members of the public are concerned that the law is being broken or they are experiencing anti-social behaviour, they can report this to us and we will consider the most appropriate response, targeting repeat and high-risk behaviour.  We all have a personal responsibility to reduce the spread of coronavirus and ensure that police enforcement is used only as a last resort.  Reports should be made through our online reporting wherever possible.”

Christmas IS coming to the theatre

Norwich Theatre has announced a special season of festive shows for 2020, a Right Royal Christmas, which will see the Theatre Royal temporarily re-open to audiences during December.

The season will include three shows, Panto in a Pickle!, A Circus Carol and She Go Does It Under the Christmas Tree…with Friends, which will alternate.

After 19 years at the centre of Theatre Royal Christmases delighting family audiences, Norwich’s favourite pantomime Dame, Richard Gauntlett, will return once more and star in a brand new show for the whole family that captures lots of the traditional panto fun in a madcap adventure through six of your favourite stories, Panto in a Pickle.

Ricahrd Gauntlett is all set for Panto in a Pickle! Picture: Max Hilton.

Richard said: “The postponement of ‘Dick Whittington and his Cat’ this year was a huge disappointment for all involved and this opportunity to fill the ‘Panto-void’ with a new twist is an exciting and unexpected pleasure.  Be prepared for pantomime but not as we know it. And it does mean that I can do my Christmas shopping in Norwich!”

Following its sell-out success at Norwich Playhouse at Christmas 2019, Norwich Theatre’s critically acclaimed co-production with Lost in Translation Circus, A Circus Carol, will also be remounted specially for the Theatre Royal stage.

Lost in Translation Circus will be performing in A Christmas Carol. Picture: Max Hilton

Circus director Massimiliano Rossetti said: “The amazing opportunity to partner with Norwich Theatre to bring Interlude to life has been a great success. 

“The opportunity to perform in front of live audiences was a dream and I’m very honoured that we will have the opportunity to perform again – this time on the beautiful stage of the Theatre Royal with our co-production of ‘A Circus Carol’

“I’m very excited to be performing at Christmas, sharing smiles, amazement, joy and laughter with audiences during the festive season.”

Completing the season will be another new show from much-loved Norfolk comedian Karl Minns, with the return of one of his favourite Nimmo Twins comedy creations, She Go, alongside some other local characters.  She Go Does It Under the Christmas Tree…with Friends will be a festive look back at what a year 2020 has been here in our fair county of Norfolk.

Karl Minns favourite She Go will be looking back from under her Christmas tree. Picture: Max Hilton

Karl said: “Having performed at Interlude in the summer, I’m thrilled and privileged to have the chance to play in front of a Norfolk audience again. It’s even more exciting to be playing at the Theatre Royal.

“We’ve all missed being inside theatres and this is a huge honour and a big step forward in reclaiming our beloved spaces.  It’s been a tough year for everyone, so to end the year and go into Christmas with some joy and laughter is something I’m really looking forward to.”

Stephen Crocker, chief executive of Norwich Theatre, said: “Christmas is such a special and important time in the life of a theatre and I believe our audiences, for many of whom a festive trip to the theatre is a long-standing tradition, need a Christmas treat more than ever before this year.”

Whilst the full-scale re-opening of Theatre Royal, Playhouse and Stage Two will not be possible until social-distancing measures are further relaxed, this short season will be planned with current guidance in mind and both the shows and the covid-secure modifications to the Theatre Royal building have been made possible through grants and donations.

Tickets will go on sale from September 24.

Panto in a Pickle runs from December 16 to 24. Tickets are £10 to £13.50 or a family ticket is £50. 60 mins (no interval). Age 3+

A Circus Carol runs from December 16 to 23. Tickets are £10 to £17.50. Family ticket is £65. 70 mins (no interval). Age 10+

She Go Does It Under the Christmas Tree…with Friends runs from December 16 to 23 with tickets costing from £10 to £21.50. 80 minutes (no interval). Age 16+

Long-serving Gresham’s head dies at 98

Pupils and staff at Gresham’s School, rugby players and many others in Holt and further afield are mourning the passing of Logie Bruce-Lockhart, who has died at the age of 98.

LBL, as he was known, was headmaster of the school from 1955 to 1982. He died peacefully in hospital on September 7 after a short illness.

Current head Douglas Robb said: “It was my great pleasure to be welcomed by LBL to Gresham’s six years ago. Logie came to lunch at the aptly named Lockhart House just before my first term started and entertained everyone with great stories and good humour.

“I became the recipient of a large number of immaculate letters in tiny handwriting which seemed to have better insight into what was happening at school than I could gain from visiting the classrooms and houses! The warmth with which he held the school was obvious and I feel lucky to have met him.”

Mr Bruce-Lockhart, who had been a Scottish international rugby player, was the school’s longest serving headmaster of the modern era and really made his mark, with a real passion for young people.

Logie Bruce-Lockhart has died at the age of 98. Photo: Gresham’s School.

Brought up in a teaching family, he served with the Household Cavalry and was one of the first British soldiers to enter the Belsen concentration camp. Forthright, strong-willed, yet always kind and good-humoured, he was known for trusting and supporting his staff and pupils, often championing the individual and the unorthodox.

Mr Robb said he was a “soldier, sportsman, botanist, musician, linguist, author, but more than anything a schoolmaster, family man and friend”.

He loved the countryside, and enjoyed fishing, bird-watching and fungi-hunting.

He also loved classical music and watercolour painting and was probably best known outside the school as a raconteur.

Logie Bruce-Lockhart was well-known for his humour throughout his life. Photo: Gresham’s School.

His considerable sporting prowess won him five rugby caps for Scotland and he was the founding president of Holt Rugby Club, in 1961.

Current president Paul Williams said: “As headmaster of Gresham’s School, Logie enthusiastically supported the inauguration of our club in 1961, remaining steadfastly interested throughout the following 59 years. His smiling features, friendly advice, expert rugby knowledge and profoundly wise counsel were always a huge tonic for all at our club.

“Holt RFC has been immensely privileged to have had such a wonderful worldly character as our first president and long-term vice-president. He will be sorely missed.”

There will be a private funeral at St. Andrew’s, Holt, followed by interment in the churchyard, which is where Logie’s wife Jo and daughter Kirsty are buried.

Various celebrations of his life will be arranged later.

There will be more about one of Holt’s most popular and influential characters in the next edition of Just Holt.

Linda’s a golden girl!

Linda Sewell, a sales assistant at Bakers & Larners of Holt, is celebrating a remarkable milestone, clocking up 50 years of service in retail.

Linda began her career as an office junior for Betty’s of Holt in 1970 – the year that saw The Beatles split and Concorde make its first supersonic flight at 700mph. 

CT Baker Group acquired Betty’s in 2004 and from filing and cash reconciliation and a stint in menswear, Linda moved to the linens department (now Bakers & Larners of Holt Furniture).  

During her 50-year tenure, Linda took on the role of office manager after working in both menswear and ladieswear. She then returned to menswear, and is still part of the menswear team today, albeit now located in Market Place rather than the High Street.

Linda with her nephew, Patrick, who also works in the store.

Linda, who lives in Holt, said: “I’ve seen many changes over the years, and the one thing I really love is the company of my colleagues and our customers.”  Asked if she intended to leave the group anytime soon, Linda responded with a very definite “no”! 

Jane Gurney-Read, managing director of CT Baker Group, said: “My team and I would like to congratulate Linda on reaching this remarkable milestone. What an achievement!  As a family-run business, the team is absolutely at the heart of everything we do, so I would also like to thank Linda for her commitment and loyalty.”

Although Linda is one of only two members of the team who have clocked up 50 years, long-service is not uncommon at the group, with more than 40 people having worked there for more than 25 years.

Colleagues, including Linda’s nephew, Patrick, who also works in the store, gathered in the menswear department to mark her golden anniversary, where Linda was presented with a silver Waterford photo frame by Jane Gurney-Read, with flowers, cake, balloons and a sash Linda has been wearing ever since…

Library is open again

Holt Library is open again and is looking forward to welcoming everyone back.

With covid-19 restrictions still in force, some new systems have been put in place to reassure visitors that they can browse and borrow in safety.

These include a one-way system while browsing the shelves; pre-bookable hour-long sessions on the computer; drop boxes and self-service kiosks to return books; and the introduction of Grab and Go bags full of entertainment for families to borrow.

Adults can pre- order a selection of up to 10 books through the online form at norfolk.spydus.co.uk or by calling 01603 774777

The Open Library access has been removed and face coverings must be worn while in the library. You may also be asked for your details to comply with Test and Trace requirements.

Hand sanitisers is available at the entrance and exit and surfaces and computers will be regularly cleaned but there will be no newspapers, magazines or seating areas and the toilets will not be open.

The new opening hours will be 10am to 2pm on Tuesdays and Fridays; 2pm to 6pm on Wednesdays, and 10am to 1pm on Saturdays. The library will be closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/libraries for more details.

A special thanks to store staff

Budgens of Holt staff have thanked the community for their support following an online fundraiser, which was designed to support employees after a fire devastated the town’s only supermarket.
A large cheque for £7,222 was presented to staff after the crowdfunder closed following an outpouring of support.
The fundraiser was designed to show appreciation to staff for serving the town during the pandemic – and over many years before that – following the fire on June 20.
The post office was moved to the nearby Bakers and Larners shop, and home deliveries started again from its Aylsham store, but the fire left many locals without work or a supermarket.
After discussions with staff it was decided the proceeds would be shared evenly among the 70 employees as they awaited details on the store’s future.

Budgens staff pose with the cheque which will be shared among their colleagues.

Jono Read, who created the online fundraiser, said: “Budgens of Holt was a lifeline for many people in the town over the last 35 years, and in particular during the pandemic, and Holt is still feeling the consequences of losing it.
“The crowdfunder was an attempt to turn the sadness and shock on the night of the fire into something positive, and I’m delighted by the response, and how many came forward to offer support.
“My first job when I was a student was with Budgens and I still have friends and family working there, so I’m pleased we’ve been able to give something back at such a difficult time.”
Jane Gurney-Read, managing director for CT Baker Group, which owns the store, also offered her thanks.
She said: “The support from the local community since we lost Budgens of Holt in June has been quite simply incredible.
“I would like to thank Jono for setting up the crowdfunding for the Budgens of Holt team and every single person and business who donated to it.
“Your kindness, generosity and recognition of the team, who had given so much throughout the coronavirus pandemic and for the many years the store has been an integral part of Holt, has been hugely appreciated and will not be forgotten.”
Caroline Gray, who received a cheque as part of the crowdfunder, said: “I was quite overwhelmed and it was such a lovely gesture.”
Sylvia Hill added: “Thank you to everyone who donated to the fund for us, it was such a generous thing to do.”