Sunday, 14 June 2015

Acomb Garden pitching for funds at York Soup!

It's been an exciting month at Acomb's community garden project. We have been selected to pitch for a grant of £1000 at York Soup, a new initiative by York CVS where 100 people donate £10 and over a soup dinner on 25th June listen to 4 great local causes make a pitch for the money. There's still 30 tickets left, so get yours today and come along to support us!
We're fundraising for the next stage: installing full disabled access so that everyone can get involved (it's really sad for all of us that our friends Gerry and Denise can't join in because the only way into the garden is via steps). We also want to construct a meeting room/log cabin which will be the heart of the garden, for making tea, holding events or prayer times and including a tool store as well.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

In Fog 3: Railway Jobs You’ve Never Thought Of

This is the third in a series of posts about my role in the choir in York Theatre Royal's production In Fog and Falling Snow (26th June to 11th July). See links below to follow this series!

Ask any 10-
year-old to suggest a couple of jobs you could do if you want to work on the railways, and you’ll get three answers: train driver, ticket collector and station staff. Ask most adults, and you’ll get the same three answers, with the possible addition of “the man who opens the level crossing gate at Poppleton station” (in places with antiquated signalling systems like the Harrogate line!) or “manufacturing trains” (especially if you happen to ask people in places like Stafford, Derby or York with a long history of train building, although the UK's biggest train factory opened earlier this year in County Durham).

Hitachi Rail Europe has won a £5.7bn contract to supply the intercity express programme
Hitachi's new IEP train, being manufactured
in County Durham and coming soon
to a mainline near you!
I mentioned previously in this series that since York’s carriage building workshops closed down, the rail workforce has been spread around the city’s offices out of sight, so many people don’t realise that the rail industry still employs thousands of York (and Yorkshire)’s brightest and best. So here’s just a few of the more unusual jobs that happen behind the scenes here in York. If you want to know more, see the great videos here (including my friend Philippa Jefferis!).

The biggest cause of safety incidents on the railway is human error. So how can we predict what a driver will do when she’s done this route 50 times, but today something is different? Or whether the many alarms and flashing lights on a signaller’s workstation will lead to action or just distraction, with too many things to concentrate on at once? Or how a crowd of passengers will behave in an emergency situation? Railway safety depends on psychologists who are experts in human behaviour and can ensure that systems work as designed when faced with real human beings!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

In Fog 2: An Engineer Who Loves to Sing

This is part of a series of posts telling my stories as a choir member in York Theatre Royal's show "In Fog and Falling Snow" (tickets available here). 

Given there are 150 people in the cast & choir, there's not much room in the programme, so here's my long answer to the question people are frequently asking me at the moment: how exactly did you get into singing at the National Railway Museum?

My first theatrical outing in York was the Poppleton Panto in Feb 2013 shortly after we moved here, where I played a “Scottish Doll” and rather surprisingly managed to convince quite a few local people I was Scottish (much to my amusement). This was where I first formulated the York Railway Game: since it is impossible to attend any social function in York without encountering someone who works on the railway, the game is to see how long it takes to find that person at any given gathering. Being in panto means that whenever I need to talk to Network Rail’s Head of Track for the whole North East region, our conversations now start with “How’s your daughter doing with her singing?” Based on her star performance as the lead in this year's Sleeping Beauty, I’d say rather well…!

My band The Spectacles features my husband Ed on guitar, folky vocals from me, with songs mostly written by Ed inspired by Dido and Kirsty McColl. We've played several gigs in York, including events for York Fairtrade Forum and Christian Aid Collective at City Screen Basement and at various open mic nights. If you're looking for a band for an event you're planning, feel free to leave a comment! 

Monday, 1 June 2015

In Fog 1: York's Railway History on Stage

This is the first in a series of posts about my role as part of York Theatre Royal's production In Fog and Falling Snow (26th June to 11th July). See links below to follow this series!

Something exciting is happening in York this Summer and I'm really glad to be part of it by singing in the choir. York Theatre Royal have a history of organising top quality productions with a large community cast, including the Mystery Plays (which I saw in 2012) and Blood & Chocolate, a promenade performance around the city centre in 2014 telling stories about how World War One affected York's chocolate makers.
The Signal Box Theatre under construction at the NRM

How did York become the centre of the rail industry that it is today? The answer rests on one man, as hated as he was loved, George Hudson, and his story will be told this summer by the people of York around the steam engines and carriages of the National Railway Museum in a new play, "In Fog and Falling Snow". The play will make use of a new temporary "Signal Box Theatre" (built around existing rail lines in the South Yard at the NRM and includes a genuine signal box where the stage manager will be keeping us in order...)