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 Spring 2006

The moment that I entered Hilary Morgan's home I could see I was going to meet another special Thames Ditton resident. A stunning display of some of Hilary's work, a watercolour of a beautiful African hunting dog and a subtle pencil drawing of a Steamer duck, welcomes every visitor.

Hilary Morgan - local artistHilary - shown on the magazine cover - has lived in Thames Ditton for twenty years, loving its community spirit. She and her husband Chris have two children, Rebecca and Isobel. Children and mother can often be heard practising music together, the girls on flute and violin accompanied by Hilary playing piano. Hilary has a passionate interest in animals. Studying Zoology at Reading University further ignited this interest, although deciding what subject to study was difficult, as Hilary was also talented at art. Still, she managed to develop her drawing skills in her spare time, taking courses at Wimbledon School of Art and Chelsea College of Art and Design. It was while studying illustration at Chelsea that Hilary won a competition run by Virgin Atlantic and the V&A to design one card, from a pack of playing cards, using a brief of Innovative Flight. Hilary's design for the Five of Spades was chosen, resulting in an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, meeting Richard Branson and having the cards sold on planes. The stunning, decorative artwork for the pack is displayed in Hilary's hall.

Hilary's supportive and skilled husband has built a studio in the family's back garden. Here Hilary finds inspiration to further her other talent in print making. Her breathtaking prints of animals and nature require much technical knowledge and skill. Studying at Richmond Adult Community College enables her to work on her own printing projects. She sells this work through personal recommendations and exhibitions.

Hilary was keen to inform me of an Exhibition of Local Artists, which is taking place between 10am and 4pm, on 27th May at St Nicholas's Church Hall. Hilary and other local artists will be showing and selling their work, with a percentage of the sales going to church funds. I look forward to seeing more of Hilary's work in May!

Marie Gale

 

Council Tax is never a cheerful subject for debate that usually revolves around abstract percentages. And as one resident wisely pointed out "I don't take a percentage to the greengrocers - I take pounds and pence."

How your Council Tax is made up

Statistics can be made to prove many different viewpoints but these are the facts.

Your total Council Tax is, as always, made up of three parts, Elmbridge's share which is only 14.4%, Surrey County Council's share which is 73.2% and the Police at 12.4%. Elmbridge collects all three portions.

Elmbridge's share will increase by 4.2%, (an increase of 15 pence per week for a Band D household), Surrey County Council's share will increase by 4.99% and Surrey Police will increase by 5.8%.

So how much in total?

For a band D property 2006-2007
Elmbridge share 14.4% £189.89
Surrey C.C. share 73.2% £966.69
Surrey Police 12.4% £163.26
Total £1,319.84

Elmbridge's Record

It is a straight forward fact that Elmbridge is, to quote the Audit Commission, an "excellent Authority." This was achieved by a rigorous approach to our costs.

Elmbridge has fewer staff per head of population than any other borough in Surrey. We employ quality staff to deliver a quality service.

The review of every income and expenditure stream achieved a budget saving figure of £2.5 million from efficiency savings and new income generation.

Improving Services

Elmbridge remains committed to providing "front line services". Unlike a number of neighbouring boroughs we have not made cuts in these services. This year will see an improvement to our community transport service. Our Centres for Retired People are a vital part of a socially aware borough.

The Ember Centre in the Vera Fletcher Hall in Thames Ditton goes from strength to strength with new art, bridge and Tai Chi classes.

We continue to extend our recycling service and facilities. Recycling is expensive but vital. If we do not increase the amount we recycle we will pay a vastly heavier cost in the future.

The fabulous new leisure facility overlooking the Thames is ahead of schedule for opening this summer. It is also within budget - an almost unheard position for a major construction contract. The extension of free bus passes is a mixed blessing for Thames Ditton as the travel area does not include London.

The Elmbridge share of the Council Tax is based on a balanced, fair, reasonable and practical budget and deserves at least grudging support!

Councillor Edward Rowe

Free Bus Passes for Over 60's

Elmbridge Council has introduced bus passes free of charge and providing free travel on buses, which are available now for use after 1st April. They apply to all bus journeys in Surrey and to Surbiton and Kingston, but not to further journeys in London. Bus passes can be obtained from the Ember Centre at the Vera Fletcher Hall 4 Embercourt Road, Thames Ditton, on Mondays and Thursdays between 9.30am - 12 noon and 2.30pm - 4.00pm.You can also contact Dee Duddy at Elmbridge Borough Council Tel: 01372 474552. You should provide proof of age and evidence that you are a resident of Elmbridge (eg a Council Tax statement or utility bill).

 

 

from your new RA County Councillor

Peter Hickman - RA County CouncillorLife is never dull. What with residents concerns, major cost cutting and a deluge of paper and e-mails I never realised how much is going on. I also have to deal with previous decisions that did not seem to be the subject of consultation for example the elimination of parking outside the Winters Bridge shops.

The most important aspect of my work is dealing with residents' needs and concerns. Parking and the state of our roads are very high on most people's list. The majority of phone calls and letters are about these.

Parking

More and more commuter cars are parked in our streets, a result of high parking fees at Surbiton Station and the restrictions in Hinchley Wood, Hampton Court, Surbiton and Esher. In addition there is the problem of Esher College whose students park in Weston Green Road. These parked cars cause traffic problems particularly during the periods when school children are being dropped off and collected. I have held site meetings with Surrey transportation staff to discuss problems and our concerns are being looked at. Surrey have agreed to undertake a parking survey to establish the scale of the problem and to put forward proposals for consultation.

Whatever the outcome we don't want to move parking problems to the next road. A good example of this affects residents of Long Ditton. The result of changed parking arrangements in Surbiton has moved parking to Long Ditton. It is not only those who work in Surbiton who are clogging up roads but commuters are now prepared to park in St Mary's Road and walk to the Station through the Recreation Ground. Some commuters have been seen to take bicycles out of cars and cycle to the station. It would seem that they are prepared to walk some way to a station so introducing parking restrictions around Thames Ditton Station without a fully thought-out scheme would simply move cars to other roads. At Long Ditton a scheme has been devised and is being put forward for consultation.

The new bus stop layout at Winters Bridge has caused problems to the traders and their customers. There are some "loading bays'' which need to be changed to parking bays to allow shoppers to stop. I am assured that this will take place. The change to the bus stop went forward without consultation and with no input from my predecessor.

Roads

The condition of roads in all of Surrey is not particularly good and of all the identified repairs and improvements needed only about 8% can be done in any one year due to financial restraints. We have to fight to get roads onto the "Rolling Programme'' list. I have managed to have two muddy paths improved, one outside Jubilee Villas in Weston Green and the other from Ash Path to Mercer Close.

Health

I am a member of the Health Scrutiny Committee whose role is to review and scrutinise the operation of the health service in Surrey. The NHS is in a dire state financially, the deficit in our Strategic Health Authority (Surrey and Sussex) is £83m. Our local East Elmbridge & Mid Surrey Primary Care Trust is not only in deficit but has been rated "Zero Stars" down from "Two Stars". In addition, major organisational changes are taking place in an attempt to reduce costs and allegedly to have "better care closer to home". This change will be continuous and relentless and whatever happens patients' safety must not be compromised. In Surrey we are already suffering from closures of community hospitals (Guildford and Waverley PCT has "temporarily" closed 51 community hospital beds, a third of the total). In the opinion of thc Committee patients' safety is being compromised and we have referred the closures to the Minister of Health. Whilst we await an answer we need to keep a close watch on our Thames Ditton hospital beds as they are still under threat.

Other news

Surrey is seeking to reduce costs by £50 million and whilst a study is being undertaken there is a ban on recruitment and employing new agency staff. The outcome of the investigations could be a substantial reduction in staffing levels. The twin aim of the study is to improve services and ensure a sound medium term financial position for the council.

Finally a word about council tax. Surrey's government grant is steadily being taken away and money is being sent north. We receive £95.87 per head of population whereas Durham receives £294.29. The new government formula for calculating the grant is well below that figure so the pressure is on to find savings. Basically the Government does not believe Surrey has a problem with finance!

For up to date news the Surrey County Council website is very useful.

Peter Hickman

 

- One Year on from the Tsunami

New fishing boat funded by a Thames Ditton resident

In our Summer edition we described how support from Thames Ditton Infants School and the wider Elmbridge community had helped those who suffered in the Christmas 2004 Tsunami in Sri Lanka. Here, Dorothy Clark, a Governor of the Infants School and who was in Sri Lanka with her husband Dennis at the time of the Tsunami, gives an up-date on how the money raised has been spent on reconstruction.

Dennis and I found our return to Sri Lanka with our family Sally, David and Claire an uplifting experience. The people of Sri Lanka are very courageous and a great deal has been achieved since our last visit in April. In December 2004 we witnessed absolute devastation all along the South West and South East Coast. Galle was particularly devastated - the few people who were around as we drove to take medical supplies to the Archdeacon of Galle were walking about as if in a daze with the police and the military looking on. In some places the cries of those who lost their loved ones brought tears to our eyes too and the stench of death was evident. As we drove through Galle this year the main street was full of people and bustling with activity, the shops were stocked up and gaily decorated and we felt very happy.

We visited the two orphans who were on the train with their parents when 1800 people drowned. They not only lost their parents but their uncle and aunt andseveral cousins. We were invited to attend the Almsgiving - a Memorial Service held one year after the death of the parents in their home. Ten Buddhist priests were present and we made our offerings in the form of tea and sugar to the priests. This was followed by a meal of delicious curry and traditional sweets - all made at home. We promised to continue to support the little girls.

The Computer Room for the school in Galle was finished and an opening ceremony was arranged to coincide with our arrival - Sally and David had worked closely with the Buddhist priest to ensure it was completed ready for the New Year. The refurbishment of the classroom together with the provision of 10 computers and desks cost £9000. It was wonderful to see the children who were soon using the computers with great confidence.

Our next visit was to see the three houses we paid for from our funds. Again it was a memorable experience to see the smiling faces of the families happily settled in their new homes. We saw the fishing boat that a kind gentleman in Thames Ditton had provided at a cost of £500 and brought back a photograph of the boat and the fisherman.

The members of SI Colombo have done the most impressive work with the funds they have received. They proudly showed me the Pre-School they built in Wadduwa - an area devasted by the Tsunami. I then accompanied them on a very long trip to Hambantota, a very poor area of Sri Lanka, to lay the foundation stones for two more Pre-Schools. It was a fascinating day as we first attended a meeting conducted by the Member of Parliament - Sajith Premadasa - his father had previous been the President of Sri Lanka and was murdered in 1992. A scheme to provide loans to women to start a small business with money from donors was being set up by the MP and we were given the opportunity to present the bank passbooks to the women. We then moved on to the sites of the two pre-schools where we laid the foundation stones followed by ceremonies where candles were lit and chanting by the Buddhist priests took place. Plenty of speech making took place and flags were raised.

Our daughter Sally, Headteacher of Merland Rise Primary School in Epsom together with Thames Ditton Infants School and many other Surrey schools, Soroptimists and many kind people donated the funds for all the projects many of which were masterminded by David, Sally's husband. We really thought perhaps we would be drawing a line on all the activities we have undertaken but it seems we are now committed to building a school on a site near the houses we built. The Buddhist Priest in Bentota is very charismatic and not only persuaded the Government to give him the land but also encouraged us to provide the school.

We gave a donation to the dedicated Archdeacon of Galle to help a family of four living in a shack and he would like us to meet the family on our next visit so I feel our links with Sri Lanka are continuing a long way into the future. Nobody seems to know actually what the Government is doing to provide for the victims of the Tsunami; it seems to be left to NGO's and kind people from all over the world.

Dorothy Clark

 

A Visit to the Museum in Docklands

Grade 1 listed Sugar warehouse housing the Museum in DocklandsProviding a fascinating insight into the events that have created this part of London and, in more recent times, the regeneration of the area that now includes the headquarters of some of the most significant financial and business organisations, 1982 saw publication of the first formal proposals for a museum to present the littleknown story of London's river and port and the people living and working there. The area had been extensively damaged during the Second World War and, together with the last of the upriver docks and many of the wharves and factories facing closure, the 1980s was an appropriate time to envisage a major cultural focus for the East London region.

The Museum is housed in a very fine but previously run-down warehouse on West India Quay. The West India Docks opened in 1802 and were London's first purpose-built cargo handling docks. The building survived a fire in 1901 and enemy action during World War II. The warehouses closed in 1968 and are the sole surviving major Georgian dock warehouses in any British seaport.

Three Floors and a Learning Centre

The story begins with an introductory film about the various galleries and may be said to begin about AD50 with the Roman settlement in what is now the city of London. After the Romans the Anglo- Saxons founded the settlement of 'Lundenwic' around AD886. On this floor are galleries showing the Thames Highway and how London's earliest ports moved from Roman to Tudor. Also, the coming of the docks 1790-1828, a recreation of the Legal Quay from the 1790s and Trade Expansion from 1600-1800 and the rise of the port during the colonial period. Important events on the Thames Highway included the building between 1176 and 1209 of a massive new stone London Bridge, replacing the wooden structure, and the waterfront being successively embanked between 1200 and 1500. There is a model of the medieval London Bridge. In 1358 there were 128 shops with living accommodation on the bridge.

Trade Expansion protected by an increasingly powerful navy, challenged European rivals, dominating trade with North America, East and West Indies, the Baltic and the Mediterranean. Between 1600 and 1798, the number of ships using London rose from 3000 to 14,600. As port trade increased in the 18th century, the HM Customs allowed 'Sufferance Wharves' on the Bermondsey and St Katherine's waterfront and only the smaller ships could discharge directly at these wharves. A fine carved figure of Pocahontas (about 1750) is displayed in the Museum, with links to the Virginia Settlers who sailed from Blackwall in 1606, to become the first permanent British settlers in North America.

Also on this floor is the Rhinebeck Panorama recreation which provides a birds-eye view of the metropolis seen from the east. Although dated to between 1806 and 1811, the crowded shipping scene in the Upper Pool of London is essentially that of late 1790s, before the opening of the enclosed docks. Shown as well are the historic Legal Quays which were established in 1559 for the handling of all dutiable cargoes. London's coastal and overseas trade trebled during the 18th century. Although trade had grown port facilities had not and from 1800 to 1820 the West India and London Docks were built. From 1820 to 1840 was a watershed with changes including the opening of the new London Bridge in 1831 and demolition of the old medieval one. St Katharine Docks was opened in 1828 which was the first of London's free trade docks.

City, River and People

On the 2nd floor Sailor Town is explored with St Katharine, Wapping, Shadwell, as well as Ratcliffe, Limehouse, Poplar, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Deptford, Greenwich, Woolwich and Gravesend all catering for sailors.Grade 1 listed Sugar warehouse housing the Museum in Docklands A maze of streets, lanes and alleys backed the riverside wharves and docks. London became the First Port of Empire which benefited enormously from its position as the trading heart. Large-scale industry was attracted including iron shipbuilding and engine making as well as many other trades. The era from 1840 to 1939 is shown with competition between the dock companies and riverside wharves becoming intense, to the detriment of the casual workforce.

The port and its communities bore the brunt of enemy attack during 1939-45. Dockyards and riverside factories supported the war effort and together with residential properties, suffered extensive damage. Other galleries show the new port after 1945. The opening of container berths at Tilbury sealed the fate of the old up-river docks and closures began in 1967. The reshaping of Docklands only began with the creation of the London Docklands Development Corporation in 198l and since then, new transport networks, housing, businesses and leisure spaces have transformed the area. Canary Wharf with its landmark towers, is now London's second business district.

The ground floor of the Museum contains various facilities that include a cloakroom, function room, coffee shop and 'Mudlarks' for the under-12s.

The Museum, in West India Quay, has many events organised during the year. Please ring for details. Tel: 0870 444 3856

website

Terry Ford

 

Met Police Provide Solution

Proliferation of phone masts along Hampton Court Way

For the past 3 years Orange have been seeking a ‘solution' to the holes in their network coverage in the Imber Court and Molesey areas, resulting in numerous street masts and mast proposals. Not to forget of course Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile and Hutchinson!

Hampton Court Way is an horrendous example of the proliferation of phone masts made possible by current planning legislation. Permitted development rights granted by National Government to mobile phone operators (in return for licence fees of £22.5bn) make our streets easy pickings for Orange et al. The ramification of masts on residential streets is obvious - the unacceptable proximity to family homes and schools. Which is why, when faced with a mast on the kerbside of Ember Lane (within metres of children's bedrooms, a children's playground, St Paul's Primary School, Our Lady's Nursery and Emberhurst School), the Ember Lane and surrounding communities have campaigned vociferously for 3 years for masts to be placed in responsible and prudent locations away from schools and homes.

By responding to community requests to permit Orange to site a mast at Imber Court (subject to planning permission), the Metropolitan Police have endorsed their position as a responsible and caring community stakeholder. The mast at Imber Court not only dispenses with a mast on Ember Lane, but also dispenses with a second mast amongst family homes. Whilst phone masts are controversial wherever they are sited, the rear of Imber Court is the alternative to masts amongst homes and schools. Orange have stated that if the application at Imber Court fails, they will continue to seek a solution in the area but would be back to square one. Families on Ember Lane, Embercourt Road, Ember Gardens and Aldersgrove, together with those of other residential streets surrounding Imber Court, would again be facing the prospect of masts close to children's bedrooms and classrooms.

The application (number 2006/0010) can be viewed on the Council's website, or at the Council's offices together with a montage of the 30m mast (including views from Ember Lane). Further details can be obtained from Planning Officer, Philip Andrews tel: 01372 474474. It is anticipated that the application will be considered at the March meeting of the North Area Sub Committee, and by the Town Planning Committee on April 18.

We urge Weston Green and Thames Ditton residents to write to the Council in support of the application as a matter of urgency.

Lorraine Sharp
Member of Anti-Ember Lane Mast Community Campaign

 

Your Residents Association in Action

Thames Ditton and Weston Green Residents Association record 2005 - 2006

 

 

Ninety Years Young Nan Webb

Nan Webb, now in her nineties, started pre-school playgroups in BritainNAN WEBB may be over ninety but "over the hill" she is not. Now in her 93rd year, Nan has conserved all the mental energy she had when, in 1952, she started the very first pre-school play group in Britain. Realising the need to accommodate the children who made up the post-war "baby boom", Nan started the Tudor Hall Pre School Play Group in Tudor Hall Drive, Kingston. Almost at once she had thirty pupils and it was not until sometime later that, following her lead, the Government sponsored Play Group Association was founded.

Tudor Hall Pre-School Play Group is still going and has the honour of being acknowledged in the Archives of Kingston-on-Thames Museum. In 2002, Nan attended the School's 50-year celebration as a guest of the staff.

In spite of her busy life, Nan married in 1936 and had three children who have given her seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren. For some years she nursed a sick husband who died in 1964 but since then her contribution to public service has never ceased. Her association with Youth Clubs has stretched over 30 years and her service to the community has included being Secretary to the Thames Ditton and Weston Green Residents' Association. She was also at some time Amenities Officer with Sheila Philips and her membership on the Board of the Ditton Close Residents' Association (where she has also been Chairman) has been continuous since 1976 when she first came to live there.

Although she is not as agile as she was, Nan maintains a lively interest in local and national politics and holds strong views on both.

She and her generation of nonogenarians have served the community well in the past and are continuing to do so now.

Margaret Briggs

 

We looked everywhere and asked everybody but the Ministry had ommandeered every room in every house, cottage and even shop to house H.M. Forces, which is why I found myself perched on the kitchen table of the fierce and furious owner of a cake shop cum café in Devon. The year was 1944 and my husband together with the M.O. was billeted there (which was another reason why she was fierce and furious. No way she wanted these intruders).

"How long since you had a holiday?" I asked from my perch.

"Holiday?  (Sniff) What's a holiday?" 

"Isn't it time you took one?" I allowed a pause, then: "How much clear profit do you make on this café?"

The amount she mentioned was surprisingly small; not much more than the cost of lodgings for myself and my daughter.

"Supposing" I heard myself say "I paid you exactly that and you went away and I took over the cake shop?" (What on earth had I suggested? I was no cook but after a three year separation anything, it seemed, would be worth being a family again.)

pouring the mixSo it was that for the last three months of the war until my husband was demobilised, I found myself the owner of The Green Gazelle Café in Ashburton, Devon and with it came amongst other things a regular order for home-made cakes to be collected for the well known Dartington Hall.What you do, I was told, is to make basic mixtures in three different bowls, then throw dried fruit in one, ginger in the next and chocolate powder in the third. All these ingredients were allocated to the café but strictly rationed of course. I also had a limited supply of flour, sugar and powdered egg.

The dusty window needed dusting - so it got dusted and in went some fresh flowers and then some strange little animals which I made out of pipe spills. More was needed so I started painting rabbits. Funny little cottage-loaf rabbits with whiskers. I painted them on anything I could find. Glasses from the bric a brac shop, mats, beakers - even plastic cups and to my delight - everything sold.

The wartime trick of pumping butter and milk together to create a semblance of cream was hugely popular - and all went well until the gas in my little oven which contained six fruit cakes at the time - failed and all that precious fruit sank to the bottom of a gooey, slimy mess. But that fruit was indeed precious and much too precious to waste so, seeking desperately for a solution. I came up with the idea of enclosing it in two layers of pastry and selling the result as " Fruit Slices". 

cake pan

After that the orders never stopped. I was making Fruit Slices until the day I left. Once I was asked to make a wedding cake - a Wedding Cake! Luckily the bride-to-be supplied all the ingredients which took up three w h o l e bowls. I p l o n k e d everything in and what came out were three perfectly respectable large, medium and small fruit cakes ll ready for icing. It was only afterwards that I heard that the pretty white doyleys cut and point to look like a crown and tied with silver ribbon round each layer where the icing wouldn't quite stretch, had all stuck to the cake - and remained sticking there while it was being cut.

But looking back it was a fascinating time and an interesting insight into café ownership. It was more than that too. It was quite profitable. After all the RAF had been paying me to billet two officers. One of which was my own husband. 

Margaret Briggs

 

 

As we all know, children can be very critical but usually with a degree of honesty.

Pitchside at the club's end of season World Cup Tournament last Spring, three under-10 players had turned their attention from matches involving their mates to watch a match on the next pitch involving some younger members of the Thames Ditton Schools Football Club. One remarked disparagingly, but accurately, that they were all chasing the ball in one corner of the pitch; his friend retorted, "Well, we used to do the same!" A discussion ensued. They had, they thought, come a very long way footballwise in 6 years since starting school.

Thames Ditton Infant and Junior Schools have now played host to weekend football for around 15 years since a group of highly motivated parents decided to form a Saturday morning football club. Thames Ditton Schools Football Club (‘TDSFC'), as it then became known, has gone the ‘extra mile' in trying to ensure that it achieves some noteworthy progress each season to build upon those modest beginnings. The most coveted recent achievement has been the elevation of the Club to FA Charter Standard Club Status, a Football Association kitemark of best practice. With around 200 current members and teams which have over the years competed strongly in their chosen County/District Leagues and various tournaments the Club has developed a profile and reputation of which players and officials can be justifiably proud.

One thing that is shared by all - players and coaches alike - is a passion for the Club, a willingness to participate fully and the desire to uphold certain values, based upon a Club Code of Conduct, which players will be able to apply also to their daily lives. In terms of football, the Club is keen to see that enjoyment of the sport is always high on the agenda and the large number of players is testimony to this.

None of this could have been achieved without the help and support of Thames Ditton Infant and Junior Schools, which have happily accommodated TDSFC's needs at weekends. The Club has been the first choice club for most pupils at the Junior School wishing to play football competitively up to age-11 and the interaction with the school is important. A number of players play for the Club as well as playing in school teams. Michelle Riley, a Year 6 teacher at the Junior School and a high-level player herself, has given invaluable help to both girls and boys with in-school coaching and matches. That contribution has been recognised by Colet's Health and Fitness Cub, which has sponsored a school team, and TDSFC has benefited from the reinforced enthusiasm which this has brought. Kingston Grammar School, despite demand from elsewhere, has reached agreement with TDSFC enabling the Club to enjoy use of some excellent facilities over several years. The Club often basks in the reflected glory of comments from opposing sides about the unparalleled backdrop of Hampton Court Palace for junior football!

We have also had assistance from Chelsea Football Club in coaching one year group on Saturday mornings as part of their Football in the Community Programme and both Wimbledon and Southampton Football Clubs have kindly offered reduced admission prices, enabling the Club to run Days Out to watch football and to help foster the feeling of togetherness and community which already prevail in the Club and in the Thames Ditton community at large. 

Another quotation to finish, and one which exemplifies just why parents/coaches/helpers are so committed, was from a Year 5 boy who said to a coach, "You've taught me all I know about football". 

It doesn't get more satisfying than that.

 

 

Newcomers to Thames Ditton and Weston Green are amazed to discover the "Theatre in Thames Ditton" at the Vera Fletcher Hall in Embercourt Road, where the old Victorian Village Hall built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee has been restored into an intimate 126 seater theatre/concert hall/pocket opera house.Not many small theatres, let alone village halls, have been able to attract stars such as Petula Clark - who opened the Hall-, Dorothy Tutin, Denis Quilley, Janet Suzman, John Julius Norwich, Susannah York and the Royal Shakespeare Company with their "Shakespeare Revue". The Hall has notably introduced many to opera, on a small scale but of high quality at affordable prices and, above all, accessible.

To celebrate Mozart's 250th anniversary London Opera Players bring their new production of "Don Giovanni" on Saturday 8th April. Mozart expertly blends comedy, tragedy and some of the most magnificent music ever composed. The Don commits murder, attempts multiple seductions and is finally condemned to Hell. A maze of secondary plotlines adds romance and humour, while Mozart's music soars throughout. This performance promises to be fresh, witty and moving, with singers from the English National Opera and other major opera houses. London Opera Players, one of the country's oldest opera touring companies, pioneered the concept of small scale opera, sung in English, fully staged and costumed. Past patrons include Benjamin Britten, Sir Geraint Evans and Sir Isaiah Berlin and many of the country's best known singers from Glyndebourne and the E.N.O. have gained vital performing experience with the company. All those who enjoyed their previous visits to the Hall including "Italian Girl in Algiers", "Tosca" and "Marriage of Figaro" will know what a treat is in store from some of our brightest young opera talent. London Opera Players have specialised in reinterpreting classic operas in an intimate small-scale format so leave your opera glasses at home!

Another treat for opera lovers is on Sunday 21st May when international opera star Donald Maxwell and soprano Rebecca Rudge return to the Hall for an Opera Supper sponsored by Procter and Gamble in aid of the Born Too Soon Premature Baby Unit at Kingston Hospital. They bring a production of Georg Telemann's sparkling 18th century opera "Pimpinone" - a naïve, rich elderly bachelor is seduced into marriage by a beautiful, charming and calculating young girl. Sung in English, this is full of lively and charming music and shows that nothing has changed in 200 years - the girl gets her man and his money and ultimately makes him do all the housework….Donald Maxwell has sung major roles including Falstaff at the Royal Opera House, Welsh National Opera and La Scala. He will need no introduction to those of you who have enjoyed his performances at Coverwood and at the Hall last year. "Pimpinone" comes to the Hall prior to the Buxton Festival. 

Fans of Tanya Ursova's piano concerts will be delighted to see that she is returning to the Hall with the award winning Vilensky String Quartet on Friday 24th March. This gifted young Ukrainian pianist has won prizes at international competitions in Paris, Kiev, Athens and Italy. She was the soloist in the centenary performance of Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerto under maestro Vladimir Verbitsky at Goldsmiths' College, London. She will be joined by international prize-winning musicians Antonia Beattie (violin), Sarah Coleman (violin), Anna Smith (viola) and Anna Davies (cello) for a varied piano and string quintet concert including piano quintets by Schumann and Kapustin as well as works by Mendelssohn and Wolf. (NB Children under 16 come free). 

Molesey Musical Theatre presents "Fiddler on the Roof" from Wednesday 17th to Saturday 20th May. Set in Russia before the Revolution, the tale of Tevye finding husbands for his three daughters was a smash success on the West End stage and is full of wonderful songs such as "If I Were a Rich Man", "Sunrise, Sunset" and "Matchmaker, Matchmaker". For details of prices, times and bookings the Vera Fletcher Hall website is coming soon....