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Wirral take on Borough of Culture title From St Helens

St Helens’ year as Liverpool City Region’s Borough of Culture enjoyed a fitting finale as the title was handed to Wirral at a spectacular event on Saturday 8 December, as a dazzling light projection brought St Helens Town Hall to life.

Speaking about the handover, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “It is very exciting to see Wirral officially take over as our Borough of Culture for 2019. I know that they have a very exciting programme of cultural events planned for the year ahead.

“It has been a great year for St Helens, as they have celebrated their 150th anniversary, and this event was a fitting finale.

“Culture and creativity are an integral part of our city region’s DNA. They are what we are known for and integral to achieving our vision for a prosperous, fair and exciting place to live, work and invest. The Borough of Culture celebrations are just one element of boosting culture and creativity across the whole of the city region.”

Speaking at the event, Phil Redmond, Chair of the Liverpool City Region Cultural Partnership, said: “The beauty of the Borough of Culture programme is that, as well as giving all areas of the city region the opportunity to showcase their cultural highlights, it also stimulates creativity by giving people the chance to join in and get involved.”

Commenting on the past year, St Helens Council Leader Derek Long said: “We’re proud to have been Liverpool City Region’s first Borough of Culture.

“Our 150th anniversary year has been packed with award winning cardboard castles, a tribute day to commemorate the unsung heroes of the borough, and a tasty International Food and Drink Festival attended by thousands of residents, as well as a 70 strong delegation from Stuttgart to celebrate 70 years of a successful twinning partnership. I’m sure our friends in Wirral will have as great a year.

“This experience will certainly leave a lasting legacy in St Helens, and as a council that is looking to capitalise on the borough’s growing reputation as a centre for excellence for arts and culture, we will now build on this success and lay the foundations for a thriving future.”

Cllr Phil Davies, Leader of Wirral Council, said: “We are thrilled that Wirral has been awarded the title of Borough of Culture for 2019. We’ve had a fantastic response to the highlights we’ve revealed so far but we know that there is so much more to come and we’re looking forward to unveiling the full programme in the new year.

“We have set ourselves a high bar following the success of this year’s Imagine Wirral programme but I am confident that 2019 will be bigger and even better.”

The Borough of Culture title is awarded by the city region’s Combined Authority to one of its six local authorities (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral) on a rotating, annual basis.
The title is part of a £300,000 funding package to support cultural events through the year, delivered as part of the city region’s pioneering 1% for Culture programme.

The 1% for Culture programme saw Liverpool City Region become the first in the country to commit to spending the equivalent of 1% of its annual £30 million devolution funding from government to support cultural activities.

A competition has just been launched to find a winning design for the official logo for the Borough of Culture to be used by each borough in their year of the award.

The competition is open to anyone aged 16 years or over, amateur or professional, living in the Liverpool City Region. More details on the logo competition and how to enter are available at http://liverpoolcityregion-ca.gov.uk/logo-competition

Experience the extraordinary life of Queen of Soul Aretha at the Atkinson

Sweeney Entertainments presents their brand-new concert show, Respect to Aretha at The Atkinson in January 2019.

Life-long Aretha Franklin fan and power-house vocalist, Letitia George stars in this heartfelt and uplifting dedication to the Queen of Soul.

Aretha Franklin’s extraordinary career as a singer and songwriter spanned over sixty years. She rose from church gospel singer to international stardom at a young age and is widely accepted as the finest female soul singer of our time. Her talent has always been unequalled. Massive hits including A Natural Woman, Say A Little Prayer, Chain Of Fools, Until You Come Back To Me, Think, I Never Love A Man, and of course Respect, will ensure that Aretha’s legacy will continue forever.

Life-long Aretha Franklin fan and power-house vocalist, Letitia George, rose to the spotlight after featuring on series 4 of BBC 1’s The Voice UK, where she became a member of Team Ricky and soared her way through to the knockout rounds. Letitia also presents the radio show ‘The C Word’ on BBC Radio Coventry every Monday evening, which discusses the issues affecting young people in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Whilst Letitia George will always be remembered for her breath-taking performances on series four of The Voice, she has gone on to forge an enviable reputation as one of the most passionate and hardworking soul singers around. Aretha’s sad passing has inspired Letitia and her outstanding backing band to attempt the seemingly impossible. Very few singers could ever do justice to the Aretha Franklin songbook… but Letitia George manages to capture the very spirit!

Sweeney Entertainments, co-founded by Julie and Peter Sweeney, has been providing a wide repertoire of top-quality touring shows for theatre and corporate events for over eighteen years both in the UK and internationally and now boasts a repertoire of fourteen touring productions.

The company saw its busiest year to date in 2018 and now has even more performances on offer, at a growing number of venues, and with the strongest audience figures to date. Julie Sweeney, who has been a life-long fan of Aretha, was one of the lucky ones to see Aretha Franklin perform in New York last year. It had been a lifelong dream to see her live. Julie says “This is my most passionate project in 18 years! I am so delighted to be producing this show. Nobody will ever replace the Queen of Soul but this is our way of paying tribute to the greatest Soul singer of all time.”

Book your tickets to join Letitia and her fabulous band for an evening that fully captures the great music of Aretha Franklin on Thursday 31 January at 8pm.

Ticket are £22.50 – to book call Box Office on 01704 53333 or by book online at

Respect to Aretha

Visit the website theatkinson.co.uk and join our mailing list to keep up to date with the full programme of events coming to the venue soon.

Festive success for talented New Centre stage performers

Talented members of a unique Sefton drama company scored a seasonal success with their ambitious festive production this week.

The Spirit of Christmas, presented by New Centre Stage, was the first show to be staged in the group’s new studio theatre at its HQ in the David Brown Centre, Magdalen Square in Netherton.

The production featured a large cast of more than 25 performers with support needs from across the borough who belong to the group, which is run by Sefton’s leading adult social care provider, New Directions.

The show took as its theme the age-old question – what really is the true meaning of Christmas?

In a bid to get to the bottom of this question in the play, each member of a fictional family explained what the festive season means to them, with the help of song-and-dance support from members of the cast.

New Centre Stage Christmas production

The answer was revealed at the end of the production, but only after the audience had been treated to a hugely entertaining series of scenes based on classic Christmas stories from the nativity to Dickens and Cinderella.

The Spirit of Christmas was directed by New Centre Stage Co-ordinator Vicky Bennett with colleagues Denise Airey, Veronica Morrison and Pam Pickford.

It was the latest in a series of successful productions from the group, the most recent being The Wizard of Oz in the summer.

Members are now looking forward to performing with the In Another Place Gospel Choir and at the Feelgood Factory Christmas fayre in the coming weeks.

Vicky Bennett commented: “The Spirit of Christmas was another outstanding success for the members of our group, who came up with many ideas for the production themselves during our initial discussions.

“Once again, the show in its final form was the result of many weeks of hard work by the cast, and I would like to thank them all for their input and their commitment.

“As well as being a thoroughly entertaining evening, I hope the show provided audiences with some food for thought as we prepare to celebrate this very special time of year,” added Vicky.

Get your skates on – Southport is well and truly set for Christmas!

Southport is well and truly set for Christmas!

Southport’s amazing new 60 foot digital Christmas tree is lit, the town centre streets are lined with decorations and the  open-air ice skating rink is now  frozen and ready for skaters!

The ice skating rink in the Town Hall gardens is set to open today (December 7) and is organised as part of a partnership  between Southport BID and Sefton Council and will be at the heart of the town’s Christmas activity.

Winter chalets will be selling festive food and drink in the gardens and the tree’s amazing light show can be viewed from  both the outside and inside of the impressive structure.

Visitors and residents can skate beneath the tree from as little as £4.50 and enjoy a magical Christmas experience,  making  memories with friends and family.

Throughout the festive period businesses across Southport will host various themed events including lunch with Santa,  grottos and the ‘Dear Santa’ production at The Atkinson.

Cllr Marion Atkinson, Sefton Council’s Labour Cabinet Member, Regeneration and Skills, said: “The skating rink is back due to its popularity last year. It really puts Southport on the map as a leading Christmas destination and gives both  residents and visitors a wonderful festive experience when in the town.

“As well as supporting local businesses by shopping whilst here, visitors can also enjoy seasonal fare in the town’s restaurants and bars.

“Local businesses really benefit from the increased footfall to the town throughout December and the skating rink, Christmas tree and food and drink chalets make the Town Hall gardens the hub of Christmas.

“We are also actively encouraging local schools to get involved by offering a discount for group bookings.”

Hugh Evans, Southport BID CEO also added “The BID funded ice rink last year was hugely popular and we are extremely pleased to be bringing it back in partnership with Sefton Council.

“We wanted to make Christmas a great season in Southport, starting with the switch on. Centred around the new tree and its light display which we have entirely funded, the open-air rink will be something new for Southport and provide a real draw to the town centre in the build up to Christmas.”

You can book a skating session in advance by visiting www.visitsouthport.com. Tickets can also be bought on the day but are on a first come first served basis so it’s best to buy as early as possible online.

 

New Sefton base for Police Community Support Officers

A team of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) from Merseyside Police has moved in to a new base at Magdalen House as part of Sefton Council’s move to locality-based working.

PCSOs Emma Cooke, Anthony Holden and Helen Holt will work from the ground floor of Magdalen House alongside a range of council services focusing on early intervention and prevention.

Magdalen House PCSOs Emma Cook Anthony Holden and Helen Holt

This way of working will allow the council and its partners to share information, resources and data more collaboratively. The PCSO team will also be able to work from agile suites at Netherton Activity Centre and Southport Town Hall.

Formerly based at Marsh Lane Police Station in Bootle, the PCSO’s relocation to Magdalen will see them collaborate with colleagues across the council to help children, families and vulnerable adults in Sefton tackle problems at an early stage.

Their immediate focus will be to identify people who regularly contact Sefton Council and Merseyside Police for help.

Emma Cooke, who has served as a PCSO for 10 years, says the team are already seeing the benefits of working at Magdalen House after moving in eight weeks’ ago.

PCSO Cooke said: “It’s great to be part of a big team and be able to share information immediately with partners. The aim of the Early Help plan is to work together to help our communities become more resilient, and having a base at Sefton Council means we take a more joined-up approach.

“Everyone at Sefton has been really welcoming and we are looking forward to getting to know everyone in the different teams.”

PCSO Helen Holt said the move will help all partners focus on the needs of local partners and communities more cohesively. She said: “Working together will help us identify areas of demand and allow us to share that information quickly with teams at Sefton Council.

“We’ll be able to cooperate and offer a service that is structured, focussed and tailored to the needs of the community.”

Anthony Holden, who has served as a PCSO for three years, says he is enjoying being in the new environment and is looking forward to closer partnership working. He said: “We already feel at home in Magdalen and it’s great to working with colleagues at Sefton as part of a ‘one-team’ approach.

“We hope our work will help reduce demand and allow us all to work smarter together for the benefit of individuals and families across Sefton.”

Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing, said:” This move will really help us work as one team with partner agencies, to share resources and information to make us more resilient and effective.

“Having the PCSOs in Magdalen House means we can easily work together to help vulnerable people across Sefton, getting them help at an early stage to prevent their problems from escalating and ensuring they are well supported.”

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