A Walk in the Park

Autumn is a fabulous time of year for family photo shoots – wonderful colours and backgrounds make the perfect setting for some lovely photographs.

 

Once a photo shoot has been booked, a question that I get asked time and time again is “What should we wear?”

Deciding what everyone should wear can be pretty stressful. Let’s face it, it’s normally tricky enough getting the whole family out of the house clean and presentable let alone in co-ordinating outfits!

I always think about the location and background when suggesting what a client should wear.

I went scouting for new locations last week in North Shields/Tynemouth area, and found this wonderful spot in a local park for my next few photo shoots. A great colour palette to choose for shoots at this time of year are earthy colours (brown, mustard, beige, yellow) as they look so good with the beautiful autumnal colours around…. or a nice white top and blue jeans with boots would also look great.

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I have three separate photo shoots booked in for next week in this location – all will have a different feel to them (a young girl in a Disney character outfit, a young woman with two small dogs and finally, an elderly couple). Within a few hundred yards there are some beautiful spots to capture some unique and personal shots.

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Here are just a few suggestions and pointers from me on “what to wear” …….

· Wear what’s comfortable for your body because being comfortable in what you’re wearing will have a huge positive impact on how happy you look in your photos. However, if the photo shoot is on grass or sand I wouldn’t recommend that you wear high heeled shoes!

· Wear something that reflects who you are because you want to be able to look back on your photos and recognize yourself.

· Bring along accessories to add variety to the shots e.g. a scarf, pashmina, sunglasses.

. Wear solid coloured clothing so that we see all everybodys face and no one person stands out (unless of course you specifically want one person to stand out). If you wear stripes or strong patterns, you will stand out from the rest of your group.

· Families or other groups might want to think about co-ordinated colours. Choosing clothes with same or similar colours unifies a picture and keeps the focus on the people in the picture rather than on all of the different patterns on shirts/blouses.

· As an example, a group could all wear a simple white top and jeans, although some people might regard this as clichéd, whilst I really like the look and would prefer to describe it as “classic”.

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. Rather than trying to think of everyone at once, I find it helps to think of a patterned outfit that one family member could wear, then pick out colours from that pattern for everyone else. Then hey presto, everyone is in co-ordinated outfits without being too similar.

· Co-ordinated outfits are lovely and is best achieved by choosing a colour palette and everybody varying the shades. As in this photograph, I was really lucky the group had somebody who took charge of this and organised everybody! Blue was very cool for this family photo shoot and worked really well with the background.

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So …. all that said, I really wouldn’t want to stress anybody out by saying “Don’t wear this – or don’t wear that!” … at the end of the day It’s your photo shoot so wear whatever you want to wear and above all, wear something that you feel comfortable in!”

If you fancy a ‘walk in the park’ for a one hour local portrait shoot – please get in touch!

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I’ve become a bit of a flasher!

Before you get the wrong idea …. I mean using flash photography !

Until very recently I have avoided using a flash when taking photographs like the plague – I have dabbled with it, but generally the results haven’t been that pleasing to be honest.

Rabbits in headlight and harsh shadows are generally what spring to mind when people mention flash photography – so I have stuck to natural light on the whole.

When I ‘broke free’ from full time 9-5 work almost a year ago, my colleagues bought me a snazzy Canon flash as a leaving gift. I initially thought that I would make great use of it photographing a steel sculpture that was being made by Ray Lonsdale in his workshop.

The workshop was pretty dark and had some challenging light conditions to overcome. Tungsten light mixed with natural light coming through the doors mixed with harsh sunlight streaming through the roof lights, mixed with the sculptor welding. Adding flash to the mix was just a step too far for me to be honest! The ISO went up a bit, I used a tripod and the aperture was widened – it worked.

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So the snazzy flash has been pretty much in its box for 9 months …. until recently that is.

Way back in the spring I was asked to photograph a joint 50th ‘cowboy’ style private birthday party which was being held in a local civic centre theatre, in the evening, in September with very low level lighting…. and not only that …. the light that there was just happened to be a mixture of red and green spotlights 😦

There would be zero opportunity for natural light photos – flash was a must. So after a lot of background reading on my friend ‘Mr Google’ plus several practice shots with my hubby and a friend, I felt confident that I could do it and wouldn’t end up having to convert them to black and white …. *sigh of failure to get a decent image*

The client (and me) were over the moon with the end results.

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Flush from the success of 4 hours of flash photograph and 175 images later, like this guest I “wanted” more 🙂

I thought I’d try outdoor flash photography mixed with natural light… in the form of an after school photo shoot at the beach.

I usually rely on my hubby wielding a reflector to get catch lights in a clients eyes, or if I’m doing a studio style portrait, the studio lights adding them. Otherwise the eyes look a bit ‘dead’…..

 

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With the after school shoot, trying to ‘direct’ two children and not ending up with the reflector in the sea, I opted for my snazzy flash again.

And boy was I chuffed with the results – it gave a real ‘pop’ to the shot – and I will deffo use it again on future photo shoots.

If you would like a photo shoot, pop over to my website for prices

To book one – my email address is info@alisonspedding.co.uk

I also do vouchers, which last for 6 months if you fancy buying one for a gift 🙂

Christmas is coming 🙂

www.alisonspedding.co.uk/portraits

Are you a hot ‘Domestic Goddess’?

Before we start … just to set the record straight …. I am not a hot domestic goddess… but I do like cooking and always … well usually… actually sometimes – eat healthily!

I have a Grade A at ‘O’ Level in Food and Nutrition from circa 1975 (if that means anything at all to anybody …. it probably doesn’t)…. but that’s by-the-by.

On a wet and miserable Wednesday afternoon, I thought that I might try something a little bit different. A cookery blog (with a few photos of course 🙂 !)

Today’s food blog extravaganza will be ….

Sweet Potato, Chick Pea and Spinach Curry (with rice)

This is low in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar…. win-win!

And yes…. you have probably sussed out that I am a veggie (and have been one since 2001 thank you to the Foot and Mouth outbreak in Great Britain)….. don’t give up on the recipe though it will be nice (honest)!

And I suppose if you are meat eater you could proabably add meat (but I don’t know what that would do to the “low in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar claim”.)

It ‘must’ be nice because it’s from the British Heart Foundation Healthy recipes

What I NEVER do is follow a recipe to the letter (because where is the fun in that?) – so I have adapted it slightly.

It’s a practice run – because I have some friends coming over to dinner next week…. and it’s never good to practice a new recipe on the night is it – I’d probably end up ordering a take away!

“Practice makes perfect” – so here we go….

Ingredients (enough for 2-3 people)

3/4 mug of long grain rice (washed thoroughly with cold water) and 1.5 mugs of cold water to cook

1 sweet potato (about 250g/9oz total/unprepared weight), peeled and cut into small chunks

2 teaspoons Olive oil

1 small red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (it’s the seeds that are the really hot bit… so I always leave a few in 🙂 )

1cm (1/2in) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 teaspoon medium or hot curry powder, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

227g (8oz) can chopped tomatoes

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) vegetable stock

215g (7 1/2oz) can chick peas, rinsed and drained

115g (4oz) frozen spinach (which you need to boil pe instructions on the packet)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander

After about 15 minutes of chopping it should look something like this – this obviously took me longer because I took a few photos along the way 🙂 :-

  1. Wash the long grain rice thoroughly until the water runs clear. Pop it in a pan and then add twice the amount of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer until all the water has been absorbed by the rice. Turn the heat off and allow to continue to cook in its own heat. This takes about 30-40 minutes. Make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the pan but don’t keep stirring the rice otherwise it will be a big globby mess.
  2. Cook sweet potato chunks in a pan of boiling water for about 7 minutes or until tender. Drain well; set aside.
  3. Boil the frozen spinach per the instructions on the packet.
  4. Heat olive oil in a non-stick saucepan; add onion and cook gently for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, chilli and ginger; cook gently for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in ground spices; cook gently for 1 minute, stirring.
  5. Stir in tomatoes, stock, chick peas and sweet potato chunks. Bring to the boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the pre-cooked spinach, cover and cook gently for 2-3 minutes. Stir in chopped coriander (if using); serve with cooked hot rice.

There… that was easy wasn’t it!

All you have to do now is tidy up the complete mess of a kitchen that you have created and eat the delicious results of the fruits of your labour! Not necessarily in that order…

Ta da….

p.s Serve with wine 🙂

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Almost there…

A week today and it will just about be over!

Almost two years of volunteering with the North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project (NSFHP) to raise £75,000 for a memorial to fishermen lost at sea from the port of North Shields is drawing to a close. The memorial will be unveiled on Sunday 24th September.

NSFHP raised the money in about 10 months of serious fundraising – it’s been a roller coaster of a ride!

At the end of the Project I had planned to write a book about it, with lots of photographs of the memorial being made. I went to the sculptors workshop 15 times to photograph it’s development (at my own cost – nothing was claimed from NSFHP as expenses).

Charlie (another member of NSFHP) has been writing a book about the project for several months now. I haven’t had a chance to even made a start yet on my ‘book’. 😦

Charlie is essentially a historian, so his book would have been poles apart from what I had planned to publish. I think there would have been ‘space’ for two books because we would have been approaching it from entirely different perspectives.

I have however spoken to another author on the mechanics of getting a book published (and the cost of it)  – after an hour of chatting to him, I decided that it probably wasn’t for me! I have already spent a small fortune putting together the photographs and organising a Q&A with the sculptor.

What I have decided to do instead …. is to write a blog – no cost to me – infinitely better!

I hope that you will read it over the coming months. It will be of particular interest to anybody considering becoming a volunteer in a project. I have plenty of learning tips, pitfalls to avoid, as well as the odd amusing story!

The photograph above is of Rt Hon Alan Campbell MP for Tynemouth, Ray Lonsdale (Sculptor) and Elected Mayor of North Tyneside Norma Redfearn at my Q&A. Behind them is the site for the memorial in the very early stages of being prepared.

The Island of Lost Souls

Actually that should read The Island of Lost Soles – because we found an awful lot of them on the beach clean today! There must be a whole bunch of people running around with no shoes on somewhere…..

Anyhow – this was only my second beach clean – but I plan on doing more.

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This one was organised by Linda Lambert who I met in the Low Lights Tavern last weekend. We got chatting and next thing you know, Keith and I are signed up to join her beach clean at 8:15am the following Saturday.. very persuasive lass.

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Yeah, a little bit on the early side – but driven by the tides – we needed to be able to walk on the beach. I recruited my friend and neighbour Katie with her dog Tara – it was a glorious day and we met some lovely people.

 

Safety info brief by Linda out of the way, followed by the obligatory “Group Shot” before we set off – even got one this time with me in it – not many of those around ….

“Spot the difference quiz” – guess which one is me!

Linda billed this event as it was actually “a pretty clean beach” – and on first impressions, it did look fairly clean ….  till we started to look a bit harder!

A few more of Linda’s friend’s arrived – and we realised we knew two of them – Cat and Melvyn – the latter clearly not wanting his photo taken….. spoil sport Melvyn…

Cat had been on a different beach close by – and manged to bag herself the “find of the day” – the biggest pair of mens underpants in the world! We took her word for it though, as nobody wanted to confirm her claim!

Nobody escapes me – I caught Melvyn later showing Keith stuff he planned on keeping!

Everybody got stuck in – the rocks were the place where most of the litter was – the risk of rats didn’t stop us … well, didn’t stop the blokes – they were right in there!

The ‘sniffer’ dogs helped out too!

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For a small, “clean beach” we sure collected a lot of rubbish!

Totally shocked to read from the Surfers against Sewage leaflet when I got home that marine litter kills 100,000 marine mammals and a million sea birds each year.

Each year, Earth Day—April 22—marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970 – I think we did our little bit to make it a cleaner one in 2017.

Well done Linda for organising this one on the North Shields Fish Quay sands!

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On your marks!

I wasn’t actually at the start line of the annual North Tyneside 10k – as I didn’t enter it this year…. but at the last minute I decided to take a quick walk down to the fish quay area with my camera and take a few shots instead!

I literally just made it when the lead runners hove into view – grabbed my camera out of it’s bag and began.

The runners were through in less than 20 minutes – I probably wouldn’t stand quite so close to the start next time as it really didn’t give me much of a chance to get many shots. They were coming through thick and fast. Far easier to photograph runners as they approach the end of the run as they are spaced out more.

Most looked pretty good though as they still had ‘fresh legs’ – some even gave me the ‘thumbs up’ or a little wave as they passed.

One “cheeky little devil” – who I shall refer to simply as “John McG” from Ponteland Runners went one step further ….. 🙂 Clearly a little bit giddy at the thought of the steep incline up to Tynemouth Priory that he was about to hit!

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It was great to see so many having fun as they did it – “almost” made me want to sign up for next year …. but so far I have resisted the urge!

I only saw one fella – Kevin – who appeared to have had a bit of a tumble – but seemed to be continuing on regardless – that would have been my cue to pack in to be honest! What a trooper!

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One shot did make me laugh mind – all the runners giving the guy running for “Vegan Runners” a really wide birth! They didn’t seem to want to catch him in a hurry! Too many brussel sprouts perhaps?!

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Hey ho – Feet up until next year! 🙂

 

Wow! A ‘Free’ lunch…

Well you all know “There’s no such thing as a free lunch right?”

Apparently not … the promise of a free lunch and a glass of wine in Newcastle was all my hubby needed to get him to don a white shirt, his suit trousers and frock coat.

Little did he know I had an ulterior motive …

Before he got his “free lunch” he had to pose (his words not mine) “at an endless number of locations” (*sigh) that I had secretly jotted down on a scrap of paper several days before.

My reason for wanting to frog march him (wasn’t just because I was pretty hungry too!) around Newcastle city centre was basically to scout out some suitable locations for an up-coming photo shoot.

I met Clare and Richard Talbot-Jones of Talbot Jones Risk Solutions a while back and they very kindly put me in touch with a firm of Independent Financial Advisors who wanted some “Meet the team” photos for their website.

Strange how having left the world of ‘finance’ and dealing with IFA enquiries, one of my first photographic assignments would be … for an IFA… Serendipity perhaps?

I needed a backdrop that would ‘fit’ with the IFA’s website – so off we went in search….

It was a pretty cold day in Newcastle and the hubster’s nose was starting to turn just a ‘little’ on the pink side by the time we got to the High Level Bridge…. so we moved quickly on…

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After a brief pause outside the Laing Art Gallery … where you’ll notice he’s put his gloves and cardy on… (“Bless” … and yet calls himself a ‘Geordie’???)

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… we headed across the road and indoors to Newcastle library. I wasn’t sure if they allowed photography, but having checked … phew .. they did!

Waaaarmth…. my lucky day!!

And so many great spots for a photo too … result!

… and then off to Café Rouge we marched for his “free” lunch (and wine)!

And for those of you counting – that was just three locations – men do exaggerate!

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Over and Out!

Well almost… after 15 years I will be ‘logging off’ tomorrow for the last time and leaving my ‘day job’.

Mixed feelings about it– but mainly utter joy at being set free from the 9-5 and being able to do what I actually really want to do (whatever that is – It’ll probably involve photography in some way, because that’s when I am happiest… camera in hand).

I get really emotional when I think about the fact that I am 52 years old and I haven’t really “done” anything…. not anything I particularly enjoyed or wanted to do that is. I would imagine my grand-kids Lola and Elliott asking me “What did you do for a job Nana” – and replying with “Oh, I sold shares to people.” I know what Lola would shout back at me for sure “…. BORING!”
And she’d be right.

The one and only piece of “advice” (for want of a better word) that I would ever give to my grand- kids would be “Find something you want to do in life, something you enjoy doing.”

The various ‘jobs’ that I have had over the years have afforded a nice lifestyle, holidays, pension etc BUT … it’s been a means to an end – something I have ‘endured’…. But can’t endure anymore…. Because now it’s making me miserable …. No way to live the one relatively short life that we have.

It really is true : “Money does not make you happy”.

I used to scoff at this and think “Yeah, Yeah”- but as my step-daughter Kate keeps telling me “Health is wealth” – and she’s right, so before I went completely bonkers I decided ‘enough was enough’ and handed my notice in.

That was a big weight off my shoulders! Goodness knows what I will actually do – but whatever it is I going to make damned sure I make the most of it!

I haven’t exactly written a “To-Do” list, but I kinda have one or two things in my head to get sorted first off in the New Year.

I’m really excited about a Project that I have lined up which I need to get some funding for – it’s working title is “From Steel to Real : The Making of a Memorial”.

The details have yet to be ironed out (and agreed with the sculptor), but in essence I plan to do time-lapse photography (and other stuff) of the sculptor, Ray Lonsdale, making the Fishermen’s Memorial Fiddler’s Green in North Shields which I have been helping to raise funds for over the last 12 months.

I hope to have an exhibition at the end of it, once the memorial is in situ on the North Shields Fish Quay. I like making an exhibition of myself!

A year ago when my hubby Keith and I set out to help the North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project (NSFHP) raise circa £75,000 for a memorial to fishermen lost at sea from the port of North Shields, people would ask me “Why on earth are you doing this?”

Bearing in mind I’m a veggie and cannot abide the smell of fish – this was a reasonable question to ask I suppose!

However, bearing in mind the enormous success the whole team at NSFHP have had (we are half way there), I’m pretty sure that by the end of 2017 – people will be asking “How did you do actually do that?!!”

And do you know what? When I see the fantastic 2.25x life-size sculpture on the foreshore which will be there for 150 years+, I will be immensely proud of my efforts and will take Lola and Elliott for a walk down there and say “Pops and I helped get the money for that sculpture”.

Hopefully Lola will say “…Wow Nana!” (but I won’t hold my breath!)

The Spedding Wedding

Who doesn’t love a good wedding!

They are right up there in terms of the best days to be had really.

So being at Jane and Alex’s wedding in Sorrento was truly wonderful – I wasn’t meant to be taking photographs because they had hired a great photographer (Amy) – I was a guest (Alex being my step-son).

…. But as Alex was getting dressed in our hotel room – and I had my camera with me it would have been rude not to take some shots of the groom and his best man, Carl getting ready to be honest!

 

 

 

And well.. if you know what I’m like you’ll understand that I pretty much wasn’t going to put the camera down again until the Prosecco and wine had finally kicked in! (Which it did by the way).

It was just a short walk from the hotel to the ceremony – and we did it a la Reservoir Dogs!

It was truly a wonderful day – a bit on the warm side (the flower girl took her dress off and ran around in her knickers and shoes for a while) – fortunately she was only 4 years old and it wasn’t during the actual ceremony!

From the moment Jane arrived with her father Rick…

 

 

To the bit where Alex saw his future bride for the first time…

 

And where Jane said “I do”…

 

 

To the family photo shots and throwing of flower petals….

 

 

It was all just too beautiful for words.

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It all went off without a glitch – and once the legal bit was done in the beautiful setting of The San Francesco Cloisters we all headed off to The Villa Antiche Mura for an afternoon and evening of fun and festivities.

What a fantastic location for a wedding reception – The Bay of Naples – breath taking views.

Jane had thought of every little detail on the day – there were so many – here are just a few:-

 

The food was lovely and the wine was flowing …..

There were a lot of laughs…

 

And the speeches certainly hit the spot with everybody, but especially with the bride and her mother Marion.

 

And Rick managed to get through his speech without a tear (I think)

Jane looked absolutely beautiful!

And Alex was looking pretty good as a married man too!

 

And then the first dance – which was actually Jane and Rick (they had some kind of weird dance moves going on) – before Alex and Jane had their first dance … ooooo get a room you two!

 

And we all know they will live “Happily Ever After” …. Jane thought of that too!

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It’s O-FISH-al

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Henry Howard (Vice Chairman of NSFHP) – it was his idea to start the memorial fund

 

It’s been a while since I posted a blog (just in case anybody has noticed)!

I have been ultra-busy working with the North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project (NSFHP) pretty much every spare moment I have had since Christmas.

The Group, is made up of fishermen, retired fishermen and people like myself who are not connected to the fishing industry – all working towards the same goal of raising around £75,000.

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Dave, Terry, Henry and Charlie with our new banner stands

 

NSFHP is a community based project dedicated to creating a fitting and lasting memorial to fishermen who left the port of North Shields and lost their lives just doing their job.

Commercial fishing is the UK’s toughest and most dangerous peacetime occupation.

The Group believe that North Shields (England’s largest Prawn Port) should have a memorial to fishermen lost at sea. North Shields is one of the few ports in the UK that doesn’t have one and we’d like to put that right – so we are raising funds for a memorial and a place for reflection on the North Shields Fish Quay.

Terry McDermott (L) and Henry Howard (R)

Terry (L) and Henry with our collection tins – overlooking the site where the memorial will be (on the grass overlooking Tynemouth Piers)

 

We have spent a fair bit of time getting all the building blocks in place to start raising funds in earnest…. Things such as :-

  •  Applying for a grant to enable us to buy banner stands, business cards, flyers, Public Liability Insurance and other marketing materials to get the word out. We can’t of course use money donated by people to the memorial.
  • Working with North Tyneside Council to firm up how they are prepared to assist us.
  •  Setting up a website www.nsfhp.org.uk
  •  Getting ourselves established on Social Media sites such as:-
  •  Twitter @nsfh_Project
  • LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/north-shields-fishermen-s-heritage-project-398098116
  • Facebook – North Shields Fishermens Heritage Project
  • Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/1/116449651483973775339/posts
  • And last, but certainly not least we have an on-line donation page – https://www.goldengiving.com/charity/north-shields-fishermens-heritage-project

    We have also written a Sculptors Brief and have invited four sculptors to submit their drawings to us. These are now all in so the Group need to select the ones they wish to put forward to a public vote. Asking the public to donate money for something they cannot envisage is really hard – so we wanted to get the design for the memorial sorted as soon as we could.

 

Voting opens on 18 July for 3 months (last day will be 17 October) – we are asking for people to vote for the memorial that they would MOST like to see on the fish quay.

The chosen designs will be on display, together with examples of the chosen sculptors work at our lunch event – at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre – which is just a few weeks away now – Monday 18 July.

If you live locally please call in and say hi!

It will be open to the public 10am-4pm

Here’s where it is – https://www.goldengiving.com/event/LaunchEventOLL

 

Terry McDermott (L) and Henry Howard (R) holding cheque from R W Mann

Terry (L) The Chairman and Henry chuffed to bits we got a £1,000 grant from R W Mann for marketing materials