Catrin Finch Centre

Katy Brand: I Was a Teenage Christian

On Sunday 28th May I went to the Catrin Finch Centre at Glyndwr University to watch comedienne Katy Brand perform her latest stage show, entitled I Was a Teenage Christian.

It was an enjoyable evening with an intimate audience of about 30 people.  It wasn’t the funniest show I have ever seen, but I thought it was both enjoyable and entertaining.

Please excuse me for using this review below by Steve Bennett that I found on Chortle.co.uk but I found myself agreeing with almost every word – even though Bennett’s review is from August 2016 – and due to my dexterity issues this is the quickest option, believe me…

Review by Steve Bennett

The title is straightforward, and so is the story.

It’s been 11 years since Katy Brand was last at the Fringe, that time with an over-the-top character show, which led to her ITV2 series. Now she’s returned as an autobiographical storytelling stand-up, with the extended yarn about how, at 13, she discovered God while on a camping trip to Cornwall and became an enthusiastic member of a church. ‘You have to believe to see,’ she was told… although that was actually about the magic eye pictures that were all the rage at the time.

She did have a genuine moment of feeling touched by the Holy Spirit, as believers would have it, that literally knocked her off her feet. Whatever the cause, she signed up for a trendy evangelical youth church – its crucifix made of acoustic guitars – and leapt into its work with gusto. Like a lot of teenagers she needed something to belong to, and the church made her feel special, especially as she rose to its inner conclave, being in the band.

There’s no grand story arc or twists and turns to what happens next. She digs out an old youth Bible, hilarious in the ‘real-life’ examples it appended to the texts to make them relevant, and tells of abstinence lessons, of how she would try to convert her friends, and of how she became consumed by the cliquey hierarchical struggles.

Eventually, of course, the spell wore off and the scales fell from her eyes – mainly when the church started campaigning to ban Harry Potter – and she realised that the hip reverend she was once in thrall to, and his followers, were all just dim. She just grew up a bit; there’s no grand denouement here.

That’s typical of a story, that is low on twists and turns, vivid characters, or even a thorough examination of her feelings at the time. She posits that she needed a community because 13 is an age when you become aware of your own mortality and need to feel part of something bigger , but it seems like a retrospective intellectual response. This idea feeds into a story that bookends the show about how she became Sky News’s go-to girl whenever they wanted an instant tribute following the death of a famous entertainer, which is low on laughs, but she spins it out well. Her teenage story about needing to belong and feel important, however nutty the doctrine, also has parallels with IS brides, but that goes unsaid.

Perhaps surprisingly for someone known for brash character work, Brand seems unconfident on stage, especially to begin with; any mildly funny statement greeted with a nervous half-laugh as she exhales. Although that delivery certainly makes her embarrassment feel all the more acute as cringe-inducing memories such as preaching to shoppers in Watford’s Harlequin Centre are brought up.

There’s certainly a lot of warmth to that unaffected style, and Brand always endears, even if the tale needs to be knocked into a more gripping shape if she’s to compete with the very best storytellers at this festival.

Review date: 14 Aug 2016

 

Some Party leaders come to Wrexham for Election Debate

On Wednesday 30 March I attended the FSB Welsh Leaders’ Debate at the Catrin Finch Centre at Glyndwr University. I have a rather exciting story to share from the evening, but I don’t want to share it at the moment because I do not want to give away my political allegiances before the hustings that I have arranged with Sheila Meadows OBE at the end of the month.

Until then, here is the story of the evening as taken from Wrexham.com

 

With the Federation of Small Business hosting the event at Wrexham Glyndwr University the debate itself was a businesslike affair.

First Minster Carwyn Jones was subbed by Edwina Hart AM, with Mr Jones having understandable business regarding Tata Steel. Mark Reckless of Rochester and Strood fame stood in for UKIP’s Nathan Gill, with the other parties having their leadership lining up as promised – Andrew Davies from the Conservatives, Kirsty Williams from the Liberal Democrats and Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru.

Wrexham.com did offer to film and live stream the event, however organisers have said BBC Radio Wales will be ‘carrying the event’ in some form, so we will provide a link if/when we spot it, for now there is a summary of some of the points made and a few observations of the evening.

( UPDATE there is a 30 minute edit that you can listen to online, or download an MP3 of on the BBC website here )

The debate was fast paced crammed into an hour with topics focused on Welsh business and related subjects.

The initial question that dominated the first quarter of the discussions centred around the news over Tata Steel looking to dispose of their assets in the UK (More coverage on this can be found on Deeside.com, with the obvious Shotton interest).

The responses from the panel were along party lines nationally through today, with Labour stating it was not just a Welsh Government issue but global due to ‘dumping’ from China with a wish that the issue will ‘rise above politics’. Edwina Hart said she wanted to see a ‘fit for purpose’ steel industry in the UK as regardless of Tata or state owner it is making £1m per day claimed losses.

In a conciliatory tone the Conservative leader stated it was ‘vital’ that both the Welsh and UK Governments worked together, and that they were not against a ‘stake’ being taking in the business for a short while if it was so required. A ‘tit for tat tariff war’ was warned against, with a refusal of Chinese steel being linked to possible knock on effects to other demand such as Airbus planes.

UKIP cited the lack of protection from the EU over ‘dumping’, with Mr Reckless wanting the UK to stand alone to enable ‘anti dumping tariffs’. EU rules over clean energy were noted with new coal power plants being on UKIP’s agenda if the referendum votes ‘out’.

The Liberal Democrats echoed other views of steel being an ‘industry of national strategic importance’, explaining that Shotton appears to be the only profitable part of the Tata UK operation and concern over the lack of clarity to its future. Referring to the banking bail outs, Kirsty Williams said “We need to put our money where our mouth is” to similarly bail out the steel industry, saying governments spend money on things ‘a lot worse’ than saving jobs.

Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru introduced a political fight, challenging Labour’s record saying manufacturing had ‘not been a priority for years’, pointing out that the Conservatives had been lobbying for China to be granted market economy status – a move that would it is claimed have severe impact on the competitiveness of the UK steel industry. UKIP also had their nose tweaked as their EU argument was skewered with it pointed out regardless if the UK was in or out, there is still a Conservative Government in Westminster so the policy on China would not change.

Another question was asked over divides in spending, with the implication the M4 corridor in South Wales and Deeside get a bigger bite at the proverbial cherry than other areas. The M4 is currently due to get a £1 billion upgrade, with a controversial relief road being much debated. The various black and blue versions of routes were mentioned several times leaving a debate in North Wales with a question over a southern focus bruised.

All parties noted issues with the A55, with electrification of the North Wales mainline or associated transport link improvements also being seen as important by all. The dividing lines were drawn over the implementation of spending, with UKIP looking to develop links with the so called ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in a geographically imprecise area.

Edwina Hart challenged the view on the south getting a better deal than the north, saying that us here in the north get more per head spent on transport than the south. Looking at Andrew Davies, she also pointed out that the limits to cash available are due to the Conservative party in Westminster.

Kirsty Williams said there ‘was life outside of Cardiff and Newport’ and favoured a balanced regional approach, explaining how she was from mid-wales and therefore knows how it feels to be ‘not listened to’ by Cardiff. Leanne Wood went a step further saying Plaid Cymru would entrench fairness in spending into law to ensure there could be no geographical bias.

Wrexham.com has covered the mystery over the ‘deal’ for North Wales, and with the Chancellor George Osbourne putting it on par with a £1 billion city deal for Cardiff (signed and sealed) it did seem odd there was no mention of it. Andrew Davies reiterated that a strong economy was required for growth, and echoed UKIP’s view to ‘plug in’ to the Northern Powerhouse, explaining how he sees more east-west connections rather north-south.

With only twenty minutes remaining the last two questions about inward investment, tax reform, business rates and business support were answered in an often tangential manner.

Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru explained plans for Welsh Government to take equity stakes in new startups rather than straight grants, a system that would share the risk and reward.

Mark Reckless from UKIP said it was a ‘disgrace’ that the Severn Bridge tolls were to be kept under Conservative plans, with Andrew Davies from the Conservatives responding to abolish them would cost £15-20m and increase road use by 25%.

Kirsty Williams from the Liberal Democrats made the only mention of tourism, saying she welcomed more visitors and encouraged more to be done to promote Wales.

Edwina Hart from Labour spoke of her positive experiences of visiting classrooms and seeing entrepreneurial spirit from children however pondered when it was ‘knocked out of them’.

No large scale reforms of the business rates systems were proposed, with various tapers and reliefs being put forward by all to help business. Kirsty Williams did give a warning that any wholesale changes would need to be ‘very careful’ as her locality does not collect much in rates but gets much more benefit, and devolving collection and control to local authorities could exacerbate any finance gaps.

In what was quite a tranquil debate the only audience applause (and a whoop) occurred when Edwina Hart suggested that Andrew Davies’ Conservative Party could make large global corporates pay tax, presumably referring to the likes of Facebook and similar who paid £4,327 in corporation tax in the UK in 2014 despite making $2.9bn profit globally.

Mr Davies replied that more had been collected under the Conservatives recently than under the whole of the previous Labour Government, a similar applause then took place.

The event went well, with the BBC Wales host Brian Meechan conducting his work with a subtle touch, however after the meeting there was mutterings on the small scale of the event and inability to get tickets. One told us they had many interested friends who were unable to attend, with them disappointed the audience appeared ‘packed’ with ‘political types’ – we did spot a couple of candidates for various positions and members of their entourages sitting in.

There was a video link in place to Swansea, with one question posed via the connection, one wag after the meeting said: “We have a meeting about North Wales in North Wales and still South Wales gets focus”, although for those unaware of the M4 routes it would have been an educational experience.

Wrexham Supporters Trust members give go ahead to Racecourse Lease

On Tuesday, March 29 I was part of history when I attended a Wrexham Supporters Trust Special General Meeting. Details of the evening can be found below:

 

MyRacecourseAt a packed Special General Meeting held at the Catrin Finch Centre on Tuesday night, members heard presentations from Board members recommending the entering into a 99 year lease for the Racecourse Ground as well as the transfer of the stadium operations and staff to WAFC. Detailed information had already been made available to the membership including on the website.

Trust Chairman Peter Jones introduced members of the Board and set out the background to this momentous decision which, if passed, would see the Club taking back control of its iconic home, the Racecourse Ground.

Gavin Jones, Board member and lead negotiator with Glyndwr (ably assisted by Trust member and solicitor Rob Parry), explained that under the lease there would be a Rent of £100,000 per annum payable between WST Assets Ltd and Glyndwr University with the Ability to make capital payments to reduce the rent for the residue of the term based on a value of £1.35m being retained throughout the term of the lease.

Responsibility for all statutory compliance and carrying out any works associated with compliance with the stadium safety certificate would rest with the Club who would be able to sublet or licence the use of the Stadium to Crusaders Rugby League Club (or a successor club).

Should we remain under the current licence agreement with Glyndwr costs would rise from £205,000 pa to £350,000 pa anyway with no ability to increase income from the Stadium.

The proposed deal also included the Transfer of all stadium operations and staff to Wrexham AFC, subject to consultation, with the Club to honour existing bookings. The premises alcohol license will be transferred to Wrexham AFC and all sponsorship including stadium naming rights, the GUS stand and title shirt sponsors will cease at the end of 2015/16 with the Club able to secure future deals.

There then followed a question and answer session with Board members about the implications of the proposed deal.

The University did not wish to sell the freehold. A 99 year lease was the next best option to secure the Clubs tenure at our historic ground. The creation of WST Assets Ltd was to ensure that the lease was safe from “predatory hands” and was separate from the Club. One of the resolutions ensured that members had to approve the selling of shares etc. in that company.

The proposed deal did not include Colliers Park which was a separate piece of real estate but talks had begun about its future use and plans put in place should the Club not have access to it in the future.

As well as those present at the meeting, members had the opportunity to vote on the resolutions online and by proxy.

Voting

Independent Trust Secretary Alan Fox announced the results of voting on the seven resolutions necessary to authorise the lease and the transfer of stadium operations etc. as follows:

Resolution 1 (directing the Board to enter into the 99 year lease between WST Assets Ltd and Glyndwr University etc. on the terms of the heads of terms)
For: 777
Against: 11
Abstain: 1
This motion was carried

Resolution 2 (directing the Board to give guarantees by the Trust in favour of Glyndwr University to the obligations of WST Assets Ltd pursuant to the lease)
For: 772
Against: 12
Abstain: 5
This motion was carried

Resolution 3 (authorising the Board to direct WAFCs acquisition of the business operation of the Racecourse from Glyndwr University on the terms of the heads of terms)
For: 779
Against: 8
Abstain: 2
This motion was carried

Resolution 4 (directing the Board to direct that WAFC gives guarantees in favour of Glyndwr University to the obligations of WST Assets Ltd pursuant to the lease)
For: 768
Against: 10
Abstain: 11
This motion was carried

Resolution 5 (authoring the Board to enter into such agreements and take such actions necessary to give effect to these resolutions)
For: 774
Against: 10
Abstain: 5
This motion was carried

Special Resolution 6 (that the Rules of the Society be amended so that it may not sell etc. its interest in WST Assets Ltd without a special resolution passed by Trust members)
For: 778
Against: 7
Abstain: 4
This motion was carried

Special Resolution 7 (that the Articles of WST Assets Ltd be amended so that it cannot sell etc. the lease without a special resolution of Trust members )
For: 780
Against: 6
Abstain: 3
This motion was carried

All the resolutions necessary to direct the Board to complete the deal were therefore passed with very large majorities.
Spencer Harris, Trust and Club Board member then gave a presentation outlining the Boards vision for the future of the stadium and how we could meet the significant challenges which lie ahead.

The key issues were:
• Racecourse is not being fully utilised throughout the year and loses money
• The Racecourse is an expensive asset
• It will take time to turn around the stadium fortunes
• We need to minimise the impact on the first team and quest for success

We need to rescue the Racecourse

We together will need to turn around the business as there is currently a gap of around £200k and we have to close it one way or another. That means generating income both on match days and crucially throughout the year.

“My Racecourse” is going to be our way of positioning the Racecourse to generate income on matchday and non matchday – to use the stadium for parties, conferences and concerts.

My Racecourse is the plan for how we engage people to utilise the stadium and fans to help us generate breathing space.

Members shared their memories of what the Racecourse meant to them.

We need to Generate Breathing space – buy ourselves time to turn things around and, if we get that breathing space, we need to build the offer and infrastructure to generate income. That offer needs to be good quality and make people want to come back for more. This needs to be worked through and can only be delivered over time and is why we need the breathing space. Longer term, building the offer should lead to us strengthening the club financially’

The breathing space challenge means we need to generate an additional £200k income for next season.
• We have a gap on day 1
• We cannot magic another £200k per annum income overnight. £200k is an additional £550 profit every day for 365 days in the year over and above what the Racecourse does today
 Our Vision is that the Racecourse impact is eradicated by 2019
• 2019 onwards if we’ve done a great job then we hope the Racecourse can be a profit generator to go into the first team
• We would build the business year on year and therefore the breathing space challenge will lessen

We ALL need to pitch in if we are to achieve this.

My Membership- If 2,000 members upped their club ownership contribution by £1per week in a standing order -just £1 this would give us £100k and put us a long way on the road to generating the breathing space we need. That’s just half of our membership making this conscious decision.

My Commitment-If we can get a crowd of 7,000 plus at the My Racecourse “house warming” game v Braintree this would be an additional £40k
– If we could get on average every fan through the gate next season to spend £1 come earlier, drink in the centenary, the 1873 suite not in town this is £100k
– Think about using the Racecourse for any non matchday occasions you might be looking for a venue:
– Birthday Parties / Anniversary Celebrations
– Persuade your boss or if you have your own business use the Racecourse for your Christmas Party

My Donation-If 2,000 season ticket holders donated back their early bird discount [£30 for an adult] again equivalent to £1 per week this would give us £60k and give us the breathing space we need. If our average crowd donated £25 each equivalent to 50p per week this would give us £100k and the breathing space we need.

We need to turn around the Racecourse

Again it’s fallen to this generation of fans to secure a community asset for North Wales.

Breathing Space is vital to give us the time to do it, if everything suggested tonight came true that would give £300k into the budget and help us minimise the impact on the first team and our quest for success.

We all have to help create that breathing space whilst we build the offer and the business of the Racecourse.

What we do together will be the sacrifice that will continue to be enjoyed by your childrens, childrens, childrens children.

The meeting discussed ways to create this Breathing Space.

Chair Peter Jones closed the meeting by thanking everyone for using their vote to authorise the Board to bring the Racecourse back within the control of the Club and its owners- the fans.

The full WST SGM 2016 Presentation is available HERE

Dancing on thin ice

justin-moorhouse

 

OPEN LETTER TO STAND UP COMEDIAN JUSTIN MOORHOUSE

Dear Justin

On October 2nd 2015, I attended the Wrexham leg of your Destiny Calling tour at the Catrin Finch Centre at Glyndwr University and am writing to provide feedback about my experience.

On the whole it was a very funny show that was ably performed by both yourself and your support act for the evening was also a promising talent.

I appreciate that comedy is all about the fine line between the acceptable and the unacceptable, but I’m afraid to say that you strayed into unacceptable territory on more than one occasion and caused me great offence and embarrassment.

As you might have guessed I was the wheelchair user sitting on the front row of the audience at the Catrin Finch Centre. The evening began well as you included me in the show by mentioning my tank top and then inviting an amused member of the crowd to laugh at me after he dared to laugh at mention of your callipers.  I found this to be inclusive as the audience were laughing with us against the rogue audience member who should have timed his laugh a little more wisely.

However, later in the show you made a joke that I felt was directly against me and caused the whole audience to laugh at me. It was when you said that you had had a hip operation because you didn’t want to ‘let yourself go’ as much as me.  I have a progressive disability known as Friedreich’s Ataxia, which is a genetic disease of the nervous system.  It is a constant struggle to fit in to mainstream society and such comments only serve to underline my superficial differences and increase such struggles.

You also asked if the beautiful blonde female that was sitting next to me was my carer – thereby implying that I couldn’t be with a girlfriend/partner due to my disability. You wouldn’t have questioned other couples as to the nature of their relationship and my friend did not feel comfortable answering such an intrusive question.

I have written this email to try to alert you to the importance of the language and attitudes used in relation to disabled people in order that you are more cautious in future.

Good luck with the remainder of the tour.

Nathan Lee Davies