How a town has backed Rotary’s battle against a terrible disease

by ANTONY CLAY

ROTARY Club members across Rotherham in South Yorkshire, England, have been part of a global battle against an insidious and debilitating disease.

Millions have been struck down with polio, and many thousands have died, but now — largely thanks to Rotary International — the disease is set to disappear forever.

Once a worldwide scourge, polio — a virus which can cause muscle weakening, paralysis and even death — now only exists in small regions of two countries. Within years it could be no more.

Rotary International, the umbrella organisation for all 34,000 Rotary clubs around the world, started its fight against polio in 1979 but since then has teamed up with bodies such as the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, governments and even billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates to inoculate people across the globe.

The success of the fight against polio is clear: three billion children in 122 countries inoculated and the incidence of polio across the world falling from 350,000 cases in 1985 to just 144 in the last year.

Rotarians want that figure to be zero.

Members of the two Rotary clubs in Rotherham — Rotherham and Rotherham Sitwell — will be marking World Polio Day on October 24 by lighting up Rotherham Minster in the colours of the campaign, namely purple, and holding a special event at Sitwell Golf Club to mark the success in fighting the disease.

Local Rotarians and residents have backed the fundraising bid to help provide the billions needed to inoculate against polio.

Rotherham Sitwell Club member and chairman of Foundation and International Christopher Croker said that as well as donating to the polio cause, Rotarians have held events such as education sessions for the public.

“It’s amazing how many young people have not heard of polio,” he said.

“But if there is polio anywhere, there is polio everywhere. I notice that statement is also being used for Covid.”

Rotherham Sitwell president Trish Lister added that End Polio Now packs created by a Doncaster Rotarian have been sent to schools across the area. She said that schools such as Sitwell Junior School had given good feedback.

Trish said: “There are many forgotten diseases because of the coronavirus pandemic but with polio if we lose our grip now all will be lost.”

Tom Hunt, Rotary District 1220 Foundation chair and polio champion, said that Nigeria has become the most recent country to see polio eradicated, leaving the entire African continent free of the disease.

He said: “This would not have been done if Rotary had not taken it on board but we are not good at shouting about it.

“In 1979, Rotary decided to raise some funds and ended up with $10.5million. They started the Health, Hunger and Humanity Fund but weren’t sure what to do with it. They chose the Philippines and inoculated six million children against polio there.

“Rotarians put plans in place in 1985 to eradicated polio and other diseases which led to the creation of End Polio Now.”

“Across the whole of Rotary, including 1,800 clubs in the UK, all will be doing something to help fundraising. There are 34,000 clubs in the world with 1.2 million members.

“The majority of people don’t know or think about polio. They don’t know what Rotary has done. The general public need educating about what polio did.

“Rotary have not given up in the fight against polio and that’s the key, I think. The plan was to eradicate polio in 10 years and now we are in year 37.

“They are pushing on the fight in the next 12 months but the real problem is that the last two places where it exists are so remote and we have to get permission from tribal elders to do the inoculations. But it is at government level. Then we have to wait for three years before declaring the countries are free.

“Once we have rid the world of polio, Rotary might well take on malaria.”

Rotherham club president John Box, who was afflicted with polio as a child, said that for all money raised by individual clubs, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation offers double the amount.

He said that the Gates became involved because a family member had the condition and wore braces.

Mr Box said that in the UK there are around 120,000 people who have been impacted by polio to varying degrees. For instance, TV cook Mary Berry had polio which effected her left arm. TV presenter and paralympian Ade Adepitan, who uses a wheelchair, is a Rotary ambassador raising awareness of polio, as are singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo and supermodel Isabeli Fontana.

Mr Box said that both Rotary clubs in Rotherham are involved in preparations for the event on October 24 which will see Rotherham MP Sarah Champion and the Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire joining a service at Rotherham Minster.

Afterwards there will be a reception at Sitwell Golf Club, at which Mr Box and Mr Hunt will hold a question and answer session.

Mr Box said that more than a dozen local businesses have backed the event by agreeing to sponsor it. Mr Box said: “It’s very heartening. There was not one business that declined to make some sort of contribution.”

Last October, Rotarians got together in Rotherham to light up the Town Hall in purple to spread the End Polio Now message.

Dr Jill Bethell, District Governor of Rotary District 1220, said that it was important to continue the fight to finally get rid of polio.

She said: “I had a school friend who at 13 years old was very severely affected by paralytic polio, and have a great concern to see polio eradicated from the whole of our world.

“No one, especially a child, should be at risk from catching it, and living with the results of it.

“I’m a retired GP, and spent my medical lifetime making sure that everyone knew of the great need to be protected from polio, so that it couldn’t spread, and so would be eradicated.”

CASE STUDY

ROTARIAN John Box has more reason than most to back the Rotary International campaign to eradicate polio.

He was struck down with the disease at the age of two but instead of being beaten by it has tried to educate people about the condition.

He was afflicted after a family holiday and spent many years in hospital undergoing gruelling medical treatment.

John, president of Rotherham Rotary Club, was admitted to Rivelin Valley Hospital in Sheffield in late August 1948 and spent five years there — with visits allowed just once a fortnight and occasional home visits.

“There was a feeling that people needed isolating,” said John.

“I spent 18 months lying on a half body plaster cast.

“The whole experience left me with no use of the left leg and reduced mobility of the right leg, a situation that has prevailed throughout my life.”

John developed polio symptoms following a family holiday to Scarborough.

“I went into the sea as all children do. The polio virus grows in sewage and through that was transmitted through my body and into my nervous system,” said John.

“I developed symptoms that established that I had contracted the polio virus. That must have been a most catastrophic time for my parents.”

But he has never allowed the polio to beat him and went through education successfully to university level, as well as developing his architectural career.

He has become a Rotary Ambassador for Polio and District Assistant Governor, giving talks throughout the UK and beyond, as well as becoming a vice-president for British Junior Chamber in the 1980s which took him to countries such as Japan and South Korea.

John said: “I went through a period in my life when I thought ‘I will get better’. I was wrong.

“I have no bitterness as to having polio. One of the blessings for me was catching polio at two-and-a-half so I never knew any other life.

“I loathe, detest and deplore negativity. I have got to be pragmatic about it.

“I never allowed what the disease did to me to dampen my enthusiasm to live my life to the full.”
He has been presented with the People of Action Polio Award.

POLIO FIGHT TIMELINE:
1908 Discovery that polio is caused by a virus
1916 2,000 killed in a polio outbreak in New York
1929 Invention of the Iron Lung respirator to help polio victims who could not breathe unaided
1955 Polio vaccine developed by Dr Jonas Silk
1960 Oral polio vaccine licensed by US government
1979 Rotary International begins its anti-polio campaign in the Philippines
1985 Rotary International starts the PolioPlus campaign, an initiative involving the private and public sector to fight the disease
1988 Rotary International and the World Health Organization launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative which also includes UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, governments and other bodies
2000 550 million children get oral vaccine, a staggering 10 per cent of the world’s population
2021 Polio exists in just two countries — Afghanistan and Pakistan

WHAT IS POLIO?

POLIOMYELITIS, commonly known as polio, is described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a highly infectious viral disease” which invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis in a matter of hours.

There is no cure but there are treatments to alleviate symptoms.
Symptoms differ. Non-paralytic polio has flu-like symptoms. Paralytic polio leads to severe muscle weakness and pain, and floppy and loose limbs. There is a loss of reflexes.

Polio most commonly effects children under six years old. The majority (90 per cent) who catch it never display any significant symptoms.

Doctors are now learning about post-polio syndrome which can produce symptoms in people who have had polio after 15-60 years. It can decrease mobility, cause muscle weakness and impact on sleep.

The WHO says that polio is spread through person-to-person contact. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. It is then shed into the environment through faeces where it can spread rapidly. If a sufficient number of children are fully immunised against polio, the virus dies out.

FACTS AND FIGURES:


No. cases of paralytic polio 1980-2015

WORLD (figures rounded up)
1980 368,000
1985 269,000
1990 131,000
1995 49,000
2000 10,000
2005 2,000
2010 1,500
2015 117

UK
1980 21
1985 14
1990-2015 0

NIGERIA (last country to be declared polio-free)
1980 5,712
1985 6,713
1990 13,111
1995 3,073
2000 4,466
2005 922
2010 53
2015 1
2020 0

Quick Quiz #9 – the answers

How well did you do on Quick Quiz #9?

Here are the solutions to the questions.

Quick Quiz #10 will be online later this month.

1 What is the official short name for the Czech Republic?
A) Slovakia
B) Chechnya
C) Czechia
ANSWER: C) Czechia

2 How many colours are on the Iceland flag?
A) Two
B) Three
C) Four
ANSWER: B) Three – red, white and blue

3 The Golden Eagle is the national bird of which country?
A) Germany
B) Greece
C) Latvia
ANSWER: A) Germany – the national bird of Greece is the Little Owl, and Latvia’s national bird is the White Wagtail.

4 What is the UK’s national bird?
A) Wren
B) Blackbird
C) Robin
ANSWER: C) Robin

5 On which ship did Charles Darwin travel to the Galapagos Islands?
A) HMS Beagle
B) HMS Alsation
C) HMS Doberman
ANSWER: A) HMS Beagle

6 Who first used the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’?
A) Charles Darwin
B) Alfred Russel Wallace
C) Herbert Spencer
ANSWER: C) Herbert Spencer

7 Who first used the phrase ‘natural selection’?
A) Charles Darwin
B) Alfred Russel Wallace
C) Herbert Spencer
ANSWER: A) Charles Darwin

8 Which of these World War Two leaders was born first?
A) Adolf Hitler
B) Joseph Stalin
C) Winston Churchill
ANSWER: C) Winston Churchill – Churchill was born in 1874, Stalin in 1878, and Hitler in 1889.

9 What nationality was Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary?
A) New Zealander
B) Australian
C) British
ANSWER: A) New Zealander

10 The United States bought what from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million?
A) The Statue of Liberty
B) Alaska
C) The Liberty Bell
ANSWER: B) Alaska

How Rotherham criminals paid the ultimate price for justice

by ANTONY CLAY

HANGING was seen as the ultimate deterrent in times past. It was regarded as the only punishment available for the most heinous of crimes and it was only abolished in the UK within living memory.

Growing concern about miscarriages of justice, perhaps more than the morality of the state killing someone deliberately, was what caused the government of Harold Wilson to instigate the Murder Act, (the Abolition of the Death Penalty) in 1965 which only suspended capital punishment for five years.

But it was finally ended in 1969 — though not for all crimes. It was abolished as a punishment in 1971 for crimes of arson in Royal dockyards and, surprisingly, not until 1973 in Northern Ireland.

This seems remarkably recent but consider that France last used the bloody guillotine to chop off criminals’s heads as recently as 1977 — just 44 years ago.

Hanging has been the favourite method of despatching criminals in Britain since Anglo-Saxon times, though beheading and burning have also had a look-in.

Official records show that since the early 18th century, a fair number of unfortunates either from Rotherham or who committed their offences in the town got up close and personal with the hangman’s noose.

Some were even hung by members of the infamous Pierrepoint family.

Albert Pierrepoint is probably the most famous hangman ever to have lived. Born in Clayton, a part of Bradford, in 1905, he famously sent 200 people convicted of war crimes in Germany and Austria to meet their maker but at home he was responsible for the demise of William Joyce who as Lord Haw Haw broadcast pro-Nazi propaganda to Britain during the Second World War, ‘Blackout Ripper’ Gordon Cummins, ‘Acid Bath Murderer’ John Haigh and the infamous John Christie who killed a number of women at 10 Rillington Place in Notting Hill.

But what is less known is that Albert Pierrepoint came from a family of hangmen. His father Henry and his uncle Thomas were also official executioners.

It was Thomas Pierrepoint who despatched some of those executed from Rotherham. He hanged Rotherham killer Andrew Anderson Bagley in 1937 for murdering a 16-year-old girl, Alfred David Bostock for a Roundwood murder in 1925 and Walter William Sykes for the grisly killing of two children in Kimberworth in 1913.

Not all of the criminals who did their nefarious deeds in Rotherham and who were executed for it were charged with murder. People could be hung for all manner of offences in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and earlier, such as poaching, rustling, piracy, pickpocketing, arson, treason, and even illegally cutting down a tree.

There were 200 offences for which the death penalty applied between the 1600s and 1800s, being referred to as the “Bloody Code”.

Today most people see capital punishment as barbaric though there are always calls to bring it back from some quarters, particularly after a terrorist incident or child murder.

In the past, justice was swift and harsh and the courts were not always as fair as they aim to be today.

A handful of Rotherham people paid the ultimate price for their actions, perhaps driven by poverty, jealousy, mental illness, plain nastiness, who knows? It is a grim tally for a small town.

WHO were the Rotherham victims of the hangman? Here is a list of the cases which still exist in the annals of criminals history:

Name: JOHN GOODWIN
When executed: August 1, 1740
Where executed: Staffordshire
Why executed: Stealing a black mare worth £5 from Thomas Moggs in Rotherham in 1738. Instead of receiving the death penalty, he was initially transported, probably to Australia, but made the mistake of returning to the UK. He was apprehended and hung.

Name: ROWLAND WHITE and ROBERT HOLLINGWORTH
When executed: April 7, 1798
Where executed: York
Why executed: Highway robbery of William Winn in Rotherham on November 21, 1797, in which they stole a silver watch, a purse and 28 gold guineas.

Name: SPENCE BROUGHTON
When executed: April 14, 1792
Where executed: York
Why executed: Highway robbery of George Bosley in Rotherham on January 29, 1791, in which he stole a leather portmanteau worth £2 and a leather bag, both the property of the King. His body was afterwards hanged in chains on Attercliffe Common.

Name: ROBERT LOVEDAY
When executed: April 11, 1752
Where executed: York
Why executed: Burglary of the house of William Buck of Rotherham. He stole a horseman’s frise coat, a silk handkerchief, a pair of cloth breeches, a fustian frock, a cloth waistcoat and a man’s cloth riding coat, all belonging to Mr Buck. He also snatched a pair of cloth breeches, two linen sheets and money belonging to George Wilson and a fustian frock, a cloth waistcoat, a woollen waistcoat, a horseman’s cloth riding coat, two pairs of gloves, a pair of buckles and a pair of Fleames belonging to Richard England.

Name: BERNARD HUGH WALDEN
When executed: August 14, 1959
Where executed: Leeds
Why executed: Shot and killed Joyce Moran (21) and Neil Saxton (20) with a revolver at Rotherham Technical College on April 7, 1959.

Name: ANDREW ANDERSON BAGLEY
When executed: February 10, 1937
Where executed: Leeds
Why executed: Murdered Irene Hart (16) at Hartington Road, Rotherham, on September 12, 1936. Bagley and Hart lived in the same house. He stuffed her mouth full of newspaper and strangled her, then put her body in a tin trunk.

Name: ALFRED DAVID BOSTOCK
When executed: September 3, 1925
Where executed: Leeds
Why executed: Murdered Elizabeth Sherratt (24). She had suffered head injuries and was found in a river at Roundwood in Rotherham.

Name: WALTER WILLIAM SYKES
When executed: April 23, 1913
Where executed: Wakefield
Why executed: Murdered Amy Nicholson (10) and Frances Alice Nicholson (7). They were found with their throats cut at Abdy Farm, Kimberworth, on November 15, 1912. Despite a confession, which he later retracted, he was found guilty. It has been claimed that there was a miscarriage of justice in this case.

Name: ARTHUR JEFFRIES
When executed: December 29, 1904
Where executed: Leeds
Why executed: Stabbed Samuel Barker in a dark alley in Rotherham on November 12, 1904. Both rabbit poachers, the two men had a falling out and Jeffries was seen to stab Barker with a cobbler’s file after threatening him.

Name: JOHN THOMAS KAY
When executed: August 16, 1904
Where executed: Leeds
Why executed: Murdering his girlfriend Jane Hirst (43) at Sheffield Road, Ickles, on May 10, 1904. Both drinkers, they argued and he attacked her with a hatchet, claiming his attack was due to impulsive insanity. He confessed to the offence after giving himself up.

From dry-stone walling to creating his own artworks

Stuart Mitchell

by ANTONY CLAY

TAKING part in a dry-stone walling course somewhere in the wilds of the Peak District proved to be a source of artistic inspiration for Rotherham man Stuart Mitchell.

He enjoyed piecing bits of rock together to form a wall so much that he thought he could use the skills he picked up to keep the boredom at bay during lockdown.

Stuart, of Falding Street in Masbrough, Rotherham, realised that he could employ the same techniques using small stones to create attractive pieces of art.

The 47-year-old has created miniature stone sculptures in the shape of a windmill, a pyramid and a cross, as well as other pieces.

He is now thinking about how he can develop his artistic endeavour and get his work seen by more people.

Stuart, a former inspector in the oil and gas industry who is currently between jobs, said: “A lot of people have taken up craft hobbies during the lockdowns as well as me, but I think mine’s quite original.

“A few years ago, I spent a day dry-stone walling for the National Trust as a volunteer, and I came up with the idea of using the same techniques I learnt to create miniature stone sculptures at home.

“All that’s needed is stone, adhesive and patience.

“I did a miniature stone wall using the same techniques and it worked out really well so I took it from there.

“It’s quite easy to do and all I need is glue. I use the stones you get for drives or paths.”

Stuart said that he would have liked to do more dry-stone walling but does not drive which made getting out to rural locations impractical.

So he thought up his home-based art in order to keep himself busy.

“As with everybody, I was just bored. This keeps me occupied for a couple of hours a day,” said Stuart.

“I have just been playing about.

“I got furloughed and it gave me a lot of spare time.

“It’s the same buzz I used to get from engineering.

“I have always been very hands-on and practical.”

Stuart has created 20 pieces so far, including candleholders and a grave marker.

“The cross was a bit of a challenge. It was quite high. I might donate it to a church,” said Stuart.

He said that his mum and dad have a number of his creations outdoors at their home. “Their garden is full of them,” admitted Stuart.

He said that he believes no one else is creating artworks in the same way, which has spurred him on over the last 18 months to be ever more creative.

“Because it’s unique it has a certain kind of appeal,” said Stuart.

“I have trawled websites and nobody else seems to be doing it.”

“I was just searching for a hobby.

“I really don’t know how it will develop. I’m hoping someone will take an interest in it and I can do something for them.”

Stuart is part of the Rotherham Creative Network and a member of Rotherham Open Arts Renaissance (ROAR), based at Westgate Chambers in the town.

A choir that is singing out strong

Jayne Price

by ANTONY CLAY

A CHOIR is singing a song of success after attracting new members — despite sessions currently being online only.

The Rotherham Carers and Co Choir, which began last October, has attracted keen singers aged from their twenties to retirees.

Founder and facilitator Jayne Price says the choir is giving people a real “mood booster” in these difficult times and she looks forward to the ensemble performing in public in the not-too-distant future.

The Rotherham Carers and Co Choir meets on Wednesday evenings from 6.30pm to 8pm online via Zoom and participants have already belted out classics tunes such as Delilah, under the guidance of leader Phoebe Taylor-Thorpe who is a professional music teacher and Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) tutor.

Jayne, who is chair of Rotherham Carers Forum, decided to apply for funding from the Mental Health Small Grant Scheme to get the choir off the ground after being inspired by a similar group in Rochdale which has been running since 2014.

“I thought that might be a good idea to try in Rotherham,” she said.

“The idea of the grants from the Mental Health Small Grant Scheme was to support activities that could continue through lockdown.”

At the moment there are around 15 choir members — and there has even been a contribution from a dog!

Jayne said: “The group aims to bring people together, especially unpaid carers, with a view to promoting wellbeing, raising self-esteem, and alleviating loneliness and depression.

“The sessions also include friends and family as they may also enjoy spending an hour with the group sharing some time out with music and song.

“It’s a communal thing, a social thing. I think we have the right mixture of people.

“It’s about making friends and having a good singalong like in a pub or something. Sometimes people do a solo.

“It’s just a nice way for people to sit around singing together. The joyousness comes out of it and you just forget what’s going in the world.

“It’s a real mood booster. It makes me feel good and I look forward to it.

“It is a friendly group, quite easy going.

“At the moment we are informal because we cannot do much about harmonising on Zoom because there is a delay online.”

Jayne is currently thinking about potential venues for the choir to meet up in person once restrictions are lifted and there are even plans to perform.

“Hopefully we can do performances, such as at events like Carers Week in June.

“I hope that the choir will make carers visible.”

To get involved with the choir, visit the Rotherham Carers and Co Choir Facebook page or join a meeting using the

Zoom meeting ID 812 1904 1508 and passcode 417773.

The next online meeting dates for the group is April 14. Meetings are free.

If she likes it she wants to put a ring on it

Harriet Day and a Little Owl

by ANTONY CLAY

SPENDING time with nature has become very popular with a lot of people in recent months but for Harriet Day it has always been a way of life.

She has been spending the lockdown bringing a bit of comfort to our feathered friends, as well as carrying out vital research to find out more about them.

Harriet (23), of Robinets Road in Greasbrough, Rotherham, is a hairdresser by profession but aims to make her birdwatching hobby into a career.

She takes part in vital surveys for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), is training to be a bird ringer, and has built a large number of nestboxes for owls.

Harriet has been birdwatching since she was a child and spends as much time as possible searching out everything from a robin to a red kite.

“As a child I used to go fishing with my dad and I came across a kingfisher. I was besotted with this kingfisher. Every time he went fishing I wanted to go so I could see the kingfisher,” said Harriet.

A young Sand Martin gets a ring

A visit to Greasbrough Dam where she saw a colourful great crested grebe only spurred on her enthusiasm. “It fascinated me as it was making a nest,” said Harriet.

She has written articles for birding publications and is a keen member of the Sheffield Sorby Brecks Ringing Group where she is in training to become a qualified BTO ringer.

Bird ringers put lightweight rings on the legs of birds as a way of tracking their movements. If a bird is spotted, or found dead, the ring’s number is recorded and passed back to a database which can show where the bird has travelled.

“When I first started ringing I was a nervous wreck,” admitted Harriet. “But my trainer said I would not hurt the birds. They have quite a lot of resistance and there is no harm done to them.

“I have been volunteering with the BTO for the past two years with bird ringing.

“I have been getting up at 4am and putting rings on birds.

“I have done a sparrowhawk and you have got to watch your hands. People think they will bite you but its their feet that do the damage with their claws.”

Harriet is looking forward to being able to travel to the East Coast to ring seabirds — which will involve tackling steep cliffs with huge waves crashing beneath!

A bird in the hand: Harriet prepares a cuckoo for ringing

“If they do allow us to travel by June I will be going back to Flamborough. I will be ringing kittiwakes and abseiling down the cliffs,” said Harriet.

She said that her interest in ringing stems from wanting to understand how birds navigate over long distances.

“I wanted to know a little bit more about migration and the only way to do that is bird ringing,” said Harriet.

“I think migration always had a fascination for me, trying to understand how they get here. People have to have a Satnav but the birds don’t.”

Last October at Flamborough, Harriet caught a goldcrest, Britain’s tiniest bird, which had already been ringed two days before — in Nigeria. “It’s amazing how they come back every year,” she said.

The rarest birds that Harriet has put rings on so far have been a cuckoo and a nightjar, a seldom seen species that mainly hunts at dawn and dusk.

“It’s so rewarding to think that cuckoo has been ringed by someone and it then goes to Africa,” said Harriet.

Harriet hopes to get her bird ringing licence this Autumn after her rigorous training was delayed by the pandemic.

But the lockdowns of the last year have not slowed Harriet’s drive to help the birds — and people — at all.

A Dipper is set to be ringed

She said: “I decided in lockdown I was going to make some nestboxes. My nan’s friend is really good with wood and we made 13 little owl boxes, 10 tawny owl boxes and two barn owl boxes.”

She asked local farmers if she could place the boxes on their land and got permission to revisit them to ring any chicks.

Birds have shown an interest in the boxes — sited around Greasbrough and Wentworth.

“In the process of creating these nest boxes, I felt it gave me focus, a positive feeling, hoping I might have made a difference,” said Harriet.

“Some of the farmers said they would be delighted to have nestboxes because they knew there were owls in the area. I asked if they would be happy for me to go back and ring the chicks.

“I have also been asked to make more owl boxes for a farmer in Lincolnshire.”

Harriet said that one farmer at Wentworth regularly saves barn owl pellets that he finds on his land which she delights in dissecting to find out what the birds have been eating. And they have been eating well, it seems, feasting on bank and field voles.

Since her nestbox project began, Harriet said that another farmer with a rat problem had stopped using poison because of its threat to birds.

Harriet also made bird nestboxes for smaller species like blue and great tits which have been donated to local schools and care homes.

“I went on to make 22 bird feeders to donate to care homes, with the hope of keeping the residents focused to help with mental health in this difficult time,” said Harriet.

“I found it rewarding when one of the residents approached me through her bedroom window and said I have brought joy to her mornings as she watches the birds feed. She had lost her husband and used to go birding with him.”

As if all that was not enough, Harriet keeps herself busy participating in important ornithology research studies which will provide data to help understand and protect birds.

“For the last three years I have been doing surveys for the BTO and RSPB,” said Harriet.

For instance, she is taking part in a BTO wetland survey which requires her to log the species at monitor sites in Greasbrough and Thrybergh each month.

She has also taken part in studies for other wildlife groups, including a survey of otters on the River Don, is studying for an online qualification in ecology consultancy, and is working towards a licence to allow her to work with bats.

Harriet has also undertaken a project to make land which had been the victim of illegal rubbish dumping into havens for wildlife. Now the sites have butterflies, frog spawn and a much improved ecosystem.

Harriet has also been improving habitats for hedgehogs, recently looking after one of the animals which had got into difficulty. She aims to release it back into the wild soon.

Harriet aims to work with nature in the long-run, undertaking surveys and other conservation work.

The ornithologist believes that the difficult year has encouraged more and more people to notice the wild world around them as they go for local walks in the great outdoors.

“People are now starting to discover what we naturalists discovered a long time ago,” she said.

“I have noticed in lockdown more people have been getting out to parks and woods and discovering what is there.

A bird of prey family in one of Harriet’s nestboxes

“When we go out for a walk we do feel better.

“It’s amazing to think nature is around us. I see birds like goosander on the River Don.”

Harriet has always been inspired by the birds and other beasts that she sees during her explorations of the natural world. Her enthusiasm is as obvious now as it was when she saw the kingfisher on her dad’s fishing trips.

“I just find it really rewarding,” she said.

Blooming good tunes — for the flowers

Picture by Pointless Plants

Do petunias like pop, roses like rock and carnations crave classical? Some people think so. ANTONY CLAY tunes in to find out more

NEARLY half of British people play music to their plants — and singer Lewis Capaldi is the most popular performer for the floral fans.

It is well known that plenty of people talk to plants — the Prince of Wales famously admitting to doing so — and scientists have been trying to work out whether they respond to a good tune.

The impact of plants on the pop charts is yet to be properly determined — though sarcastic people might sneer that there are plenty of vegetables involved in the music biz anyway.

But it seems that more and more people hope to make their plants fitter and happier by offering up a nice piece of classical, pop or rock.

Floristry shop Pointless Plants carried out a survey of so-called plant parents to determined how musically-minded they were and how many offered their favourite musical recordings to their floral charges to enjoy.

A Pointless Plants spokesman said: “It may sound daft, but with so many of us becoming plant parents, we’re seeing some unusual trends when it comes to keeping our plants strong and healthy.

“Pointless Plants surveyed 1,150 plant parents between the ages of 25-34 to reveal that 48 per cent admit that they’ve played their plants music to stimulate growth.

“When asked, have you ever played music specifically for your plants to stimulate growth, 48 per cent of respondents admitted that yes they had.”

The Top 10 most popular musicians which plant parents said they played to make their plants grow was:

Lewis Capaldi – 62 per cent
BTS – 55 per cent
Taylor Swift – 51 per cent
Tame Impala – 40 per cent
Elton John – 37 per cent
Stormzy – 32 per cent
Rihanna – 28 per cent
Fleetwood Mac – 22 per cent
David Bowie – 19 per cent
The Weeknd – 7 per cent

Nathan Raab, managing director of at Pointless Plants, said: “Caring for plants is not only a soothing hobby, it’s one that can make us feel miles away from our busy, home-working lives of Zoom calls and Team meet-ups.

“Like any type of parenting, there’s a sense of responsibility that comes with it. As we look for creative ways to keep our plants growing strong, we’re seeing some unusual trends as a result. Many of us now name our plants — believing the personal touch will help us bond with, and care for our plants. Some of us have gone one step further: talking to our plants to soothe them into growing.

“And others have gone further still: playing music to our plants to encourage them to grow. While there’s debate over whether playing music to our leafy friends is actually likely to lead to a growth spurt, we’re fascinated by how many of us are now serenading our plants — and exactly which bands or artists are a hit with our potted pals.

“Okay, so the impact of music on plant growth has been hotly debated by scientists for decades, with numerous studies conducted to find out if different vibrations can really stimulate growth.

“We’re definitely on the side of ‘yes, play that funky music, planty’, but whether or not the science behind plant music is legit, it’s clear that us Brits are using music as a way to stimulate our plants. When asked ‘have you played music specifically for plants’, almost half of those surveyed admitted that yes, they had.

“Whether the bands and singers have a beneficial impact on our plants. or whether they just remain popular musicians to play while we garden, your guess is as good as ours. But the results make it clear that plant care is all about creativity and a good old fashioned dose of music.”

There have been scientific studies which suggested that playing music for plants is a great way to boost their growth.

In 1962, Indian botanist Dr T C Singh found that his balsam plants grew 20 per cent more when he played them classical music. Experimenting with different plants and different kinds of music, Dr Singh concluded that music did help plants to grow.

In 1973, Dorothy Retallack, a student at Colorado Women’s College split test plants up so they received different kinds of sound. The suggestion was that plants did respond to sound and that classical music had a better effect on plants than rock music where the plants died sooner.

Obviously plants do not have ears so it is possible that they respond to the vibrations of the music.

Head researcher at Plant Life Balance, Dr Dominique Hes, said that plants thrive with music that falls between 115Hz and 250Hz, possibly because these vibrations come closest to mimicking the sounds of nature.

She said that classical is the best music to play to plants — but that they should not have music played to them for more than three hours a day.

Picture by Pointless Plants

SOME PLANT-BASED MUSICAL SUGGESTIONS:
Axl ROSE
Robert PLANT and Jimmy SAGE
Stone ROSES
GERANIUM and the Pacemakers
STALKing Heads
Nick Cave and the Bad SEEDS
STALKwind
Deacon BLOOM
Mike FLOWER’S Pops
SHAMROCK 69
New ORCHIDS on the Block

SOME SONG SUGGESTIONS FOR PLANTS:
FLOWERS in the Rain
TULIPS from Amsterdam
TULIP up Fatty
Show Me The Way to AMARYLLIS
San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear FLOWERS In Your Hair)
Where Have All the FLOWERS Gone
EDELWEISS
ROSE Garden
Kiss from a ROSE
LILY The Pink
Living on a PRAYER PLANT
BEGONIA the Beguine
Thank You BERRY Much

An artist who wants to work with the community

Angie Hardwick

Rotherham Open Arts Renaissance (ROAR) chief executive SHARON GILL talks to artist Angie Hardwick

MEXBOROUGH born and bred, Angie Hardwick is a well-known face to many community groups, schools and in social care settings across our region, working hard as a creative professional, helping people tell their stories through making.

Not every artist has the skills or indeed the inclination to work with people and communities. That takes a special sort of individual who genuinely enjoys the company of other people, has extraordinary listening abilities and can gain inspiration from the life experiences of others.

Talking to Angie it is abundantly clear this is the area of her work that brings her a sense of fulfilment, over and beyond the end product or artwork.

Angie’s family background is not obviously creative, although her grandad did make high quality teddy bears, which must have brought joy to many children. Her mum, now working in healthcare settings, recalls being offered an exhibition opportunity in her younger days at a London gallery, but this was frowned upon by her own parents and never came to pass. You might remember those pin pictures on black velvet made with metallic string — this was a favoured pastime of Angie’s dad. So there were definitely creative seeds in her childhood.

School days are usually quite significant in determining life choices, for good or bad. Art classes Angie recalls being enjoyable, but she was generally fed up and eager to leave school as soon as possible. This itchy feet situation features regularly in this interview. Also in an unusual sense Angie had a very clear goal in mind (she can see the focus on a goal in her own daughter now) to be an art technician in a school, most definitely NOT a teacher however. This she puts down to having much more productive and engaging relationships with technicians than tutors in her art education, preferring the less formal and practical learning.

The educational environment appealed to her, perhaps early recognition of the social benefits and rewards found in knowledge exchange.

This began at Church View College in Doncaster where Angie studied for a GNVQ in Art and Design, which was a modular course delivering a variety of media options in six week blocks, and included a GCSE in photography and an A-level in Art. It was here that Angie had her first experience working in ceramics, her pervading specialist medium.
Continuing on to Bretton Hall to study ceramics on a Fine Art degree, Angie decided to stay at home and commute in. Now known as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, it remains a favourite place of Angie’s, where you can see large-scale sculptures up close.

While studying there Angie started to explore her relationship with objects that she owned which she had strong feelings about. Her Volkswagen Beetle featured greatly in her college work, with ceramic pieces as big as the car bonnet. Exactly the sort of work you might expect to find there now.

Like so many other young people who have been through the school system and continued with their education, you need a break at the end. Those itchy feet appear and ceramics takes a definitive backseat (pun intended) as Angie embarks on a new direction working in ‘visual merchandising’ for Debenhams. That means dressing the windows and displays, which does require some creative sensitivities. It’s a job I have been a little mesmerised by, imagining creative flair and freedom to create those amazing Regent Street store seasonal windows, perhaps an over-romanticised interpretation. Angie does recall the position involved some travel as the Meadowhall store was a flagship, and the team would visit other stores to share best practice, and one time that meant a visit to Prague.

This was not enough to stop her itchy feet.

Hello Greece! I know you are all thinking about Mamma Mia now, and an endless summer of fun and love. Not sure working in a bar for six months was quite the same filmic experience. On her return Angie discovered that Debenhams had kept her job open for her, and she stayed for a further year. It does seem remarkable for a large corporation to do that, but I have learnt that Angie is quite humble regarding her talent and career trajectory, and does not have the confidence you would expect from someone who makes a living through her creative practice. This is all testament to her approachability and success working with communities.

Scratching those feet again, Angie was looking around for other opportunities when she landed the job of her school daydreams. Yes, she got a job as a school art technician!

Now in a position where she could help young people with the less formal but practical support and knowledge, offering an alternative form of support to the class teacher, Angie excelled. The Doncaster school recognised the creative talents and offered a split position of art technician and unqualified teacher which enabled Angie to teach photography and on the A-level curriculum.

As happens to many of us, Angie started a family. While on maternity, the world kept moving and changes occurred at the school. A staff reshuffle meant the position of community art co-ordinator was the position Angie returned to. This provided amazing opportunities to bring the school community and the outside world together through a range of imaginative and impactful creative projects.

One sought to address the fears of some of the more elderly residents who would cross the road to avoid walking in front of the secondary school with the rambunctious youth. Angie arranged for these residents to come into the school and meet with some of the young people, and then took some of the more challenging art students to visit residential homes. They behaved impeccably, once taken out of their comfort zone. Such successes saw an expansion of the initiative for a period of time.

Baby number two meant Angie was not present when yet another reshuffle, possibly the ninth restructure in response to government expectations around schooling, led to the art department being reduced to minimal functionality, and saw the end of Angie’s 12 years employment with the school.

“I was gutted for a day,” says Angie, until she decided to go freelance. The school went over and beyond to support Angie, and gave her redundant resources and letters of recommendation, and so she started her new business.
Many of the teachers who had worked with Angie and moved up to other schools were eager to engage her talents, and with such exemplary experience she was able to secure all manner of workshop commissions.

It was at this point I realised that Angie managed to have it all! A loving husband with two children, a house being made into a home with an art studio in the basement including a kiln, and a growing self-employed creative business.

She has the flexibility to work around her family, to manage her work commitments to choose the more engaging or lucrative offers, with greater financial remuneration than her previous employment.

But for someone with itchy feet, who is rarely satisfied for a long time, Angie continues to have creative ambition.

We talk a little about her personal work, as opposed to the work that is co-produced in workshop settings.

Moving on from her beloved Beetle, Angie turned to another owned item, her house, and to explore what it meant to be domestic. She incorporated old fashioned sayings with lace imprints and, as children arrived, looked to using Lego figures to represent what meant most in her life.

Angie reflects on her failed attempts to sell her work at different craft fairs, and how people are really buying a piece of you, and want a relationship with you and that requires commitment to sell in that way.

There came the realisation that no personal work had been produced in maybe the last four years, and that must mean the need and drive artists feel to make work must be getting met elsewhere.

Participatory Arts — or socially engaged arts — is where Angie has found her forte. As one of the artists to work with the organisation Crisis, who tackle homelessness, Angie has experienced working with social care environments and associated groups, excluding prison, although she has worked with ex-offenders. These projects are more often than not quite short in duration. You may work with a group of asylum seekers or trafficked women and girls once a week for six weeks to engage in a creative process, all very worthwhile.

Angie has recognised that the positive impact the arts can have on the transformation of someone’s life is much stronger through a sustained relationship.

For example, a recent project involved working with women around their experiences of domestic abuse for the Festival of the Mind in Sheffield, which needed to be delivered against a deadline during Covid lockdown restrictions. This meant there were no face-to-face sessions and all the feedback and exchanges were digital. The work still has an impactful legacy, but the value of the process to the participants was diminished.

Angie is now facing perhaps one of her biggest career challenges: to move from the successful community artist to become a socially engaged artist working in the public realm. How do you get the experience and win the commission without experience? How do you take your work from a domestic scale to public sculpture scale? You will not be surprised to learn that Angie is approaching the task head on.

She has delivered one such cohesion project for South Yorkshire Housing Association, Fancy A Brew, to bring the new residents together over a four-month period. Angie has also reached out and made contact with the arts organisation BEAM (aka Public Arts) who are currently looking at how to address that very issue, and she is seeking an experienced artist mentor to learn from and shadow throughout a live project.

In the meantime, Angie continues to deliver projects for Rotherham and South Yorkshire-wide communities, the latest being the Kindness Project, commissioned by REMA (Rotherham Ethnic Minorities Association), funded by Reaching Communities, to help bring some joy and kindness to those who are struggling in these extraordinary times.

Quick Quiz #9

It’s another one of our Quick Quizzes. Get yourself prepared!

It’s all for fun – there is no prize – but we hope you enjoy testing your little grey cells.

The answers will be revealed at 9am on April 12, 2021.

Good luck!

1 What is the official short name for the Czech Republic?
A) Slovakia
B) Chechnya
C) Czechia

2 How many colours are on the Iceland flag?
A) Two
B) Three
C) Four

3 The Golden Eagle is the national bird of which country?
A) Germany
B) Greece
C) Latvia

4 What is the UK’s national bird?
A) Wren
B) Blackbird
C) Robin

5 On which ship did Charles Darwin travel to the Galapagos Islands?
A) HMS Beagle
B) HMS Alsation
C) HMS Doberman

6 Who first used the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’?
A) Charles Darwin
B) Alfred Russel Wallace
C) Herbert Spencer

7 Who first used the phrase ‘natural selection’?
A) Charles Darwin
B) Alfred Russel Wallace
C) Herbert Spencer

8 Which of these World War Two leaders was born first?
A) Adolf Hitler
B) Joseph Stalin
C) Winston Churchill

9 What nationality was Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary?
A) New Zealander
B) Australian
C) British

10 The United States bought what from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million?
A) The Statue of Liberty
B) Alaska
C) The Liberty Bell