Aug 112017
 

Duncan Harley reviews The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – at HM Theatre, Aberdeen.

The last time I reviewed Curious I was over the moon.
A complete blast from beginning to end, the production enthralled, captivated and amazed.
Intense doesn’t even begin to describe the audience experience.

It’s more of an immersive introduction to the reality of not being able eat the yellow portions of a Battenberg cake – the pink squares are OK –  and finding that the toilet is out of bounds because a complete stranger has used it.

Based on the book of the same nameThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time highlights some of the issues faced by those who come into contact with those who differ markedly from the norm and of course many of the issues faced by those who are by nature quite different.

The book’s author Mark Haddon comments that:

“Curious is not really about Christopher at all, it’s about us.”

He may have a point.

Christopher, played by Scott Reid, exhibits what can really only be described as mind-blowingly challenging behavioural traits. He cannot bear to be touched, he becomes unbearably swamped by external stimuli, he cannot use a stranger’s toilet, he cannot tell a lie and takes everything completely literally – the list goes on and inevitably ticks all of the diagnostic boxes.

The play presents as a reading of Christopher’s own written thoughts, read aloud in segments mainly by his mentor and school-teacher Siobhan, played beautifully by Lucianne McEvoy. The unfolding story takes place within a high-tech multi-media cuboid-set representing a gateway into Christopher’s consciousness. The drama literally takes place in Christopher’s head.

When Wellington, the next-door neighbour’s dog, is found impaled; fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone, a brilliant mathematician with some pretty complex personal issues, turns sleuth.
Emulating his hero Sherlock Holmes, he must solve the mystery of who killed Mrs Shears’ pet and absolve himself of complicity.

After a long and often painful journey, including the realisation that Holmes was in fact a fictional detective, he solves the crime and is absolved. However, in the course of the exhaustive investigation he discovers skeletons galore in the family cupboard.

At times funny, often terrifyingly intense and always challenging, Curious is a superb production and Scott Reid’s performance as Christopher is both electrifying in its intensity and engaging in its complexity.

There are lighter moments. Animal lovers will drool over the cute Andrex Puppy.

They may even take a fancy to Toby, Christopher’s pet rat.

David Michaels and Emma Beattie excel as the long suffering and often desperate parents, kindly neighbours peek into his life and at one point a cheerily upbeat railway policeman takes time out to help him on his quest but it has to be said that this is essentially a stage show all about Christopher.

The technical aspects of the production are worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster and have to be experienced to be believed. Aboyne born video designer Finn Ross has worked on everything from Festival Fringe through to Broadway and his expertise in combining live and pre-recorded imagery takes this live performance into exciting new realms. Lighting, sound and set design are likewise superb.

Ultimately this play examines the nature of abnormality and the challenge of defining limitations. Having solved the gruesome dog murder and dismissed lingering doubts regarding his mathematical ability Christopher asks teacher Siobhan “Does this mean I can do anything?”
She does not reply.

Somehow, Aspergers will never quite seem the same ever again …

Directed by Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 12th August.

Words © Duncan Harley and images courtesy of Aberdeen Performing Arts.

Aug 112017
 

Tiny Toadstools and Monster Mushrooms make for magical event at Crathes Castle, Garden and Estate. With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

With its harled façade, magnificent turreted towers and walled gardens, Crathes Castle is a standout property from the 16th century.

Fungi, folklore and fairy tales come together in the grounds of a magical North-east castle where woodland secrets and stories will be shared with young visitors and their families.

Green goblets that elves might use to drink from are likely to be among the finds during the Tiny Toadstools and Monster Mushrooms walk at The National Trust for Scotland’s Crathes Castle, Garden and Estate on Tuesday, August 15.
The ‘goblet’ is in fact the green elf cup, a fungus which creates a vivid green stain on dead wood and looks like a drinking vessel for an elf, and which is among hundreds of different fungi that can be found in the grounds of Crathes, a stunning castle that looks like it has come straight from the pages of a story book.

The setting makes Crathes ideal for sharing stories of fungi and fairy tales and visitors will learn how the fly agaric toadstools, synonymous with Enid Blyton books, get their spots and have the chance to find out about the largest fungi in the world which is visible from space.

Ranger Stephen Reeves says:

“Crathes is home to hundreds of different species of fungi due to the wide variety of habitats that can be found here. Some mushrooms like open grass lands, some live on dead wood and some on trees and we have all these different mixes.

“Our ranger-led walk isn’t about identifying mushrooms and toadstools but it is about sharing some really cool stories and games. Some mushrooms turn purple when they are cut and the biggest organism in the world is the honey fungus which is found in Siberia.

“There’s lots of fascinating stores and some interesting folklore too around them and we think adults will be every bit as intrigued by the stories as children are.

“Mushrooms and toadstools are so often overlooked but we have them in abundance at Crathes at this time of year and they will be very much at the heart of our storytelling.”

The ranger-led walk on August 15 is from 10.30am to 12 noon and is ideal for families with children aged between 5-11 years. Entry is £5 per child and adults go free.

Places are limited and so booking is essential at https://nts.cloudvenue.co.uk/crathestinytoadstoolsandmonstermushrooms

With its harled façade, magnificent turreted towers and walled gardens, Crathes Castle, which is managed by the National Trust for Scotland, is a standout property from the 16th century.

The castle and its gardens will be open to visitors during this summer programme event.

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Aug 112017
 

A royal visitor helped to crown celebrations marking the 150-year history of Aboyne Highland Games on Saturday (Aug 5). With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Her Majesty The Queen at Aboyne Highland Games

In bright sunshine and warm temperatures, with occasional showers, an estimated crowd of over 9,500 visitors from around the world descended on Aboyne Green to enjoy the town’s annual celebration of Scottish heritage.

Among the crowd was Her Majesty The Queen, who was making a private visit to the games.

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games has grown to become one of the highlights of the Royal Deeside summer events calendar, taking place annually on the first Saturday in August. 

A packed programme of 98 events, featuring solo and massed piping, highland dancing, light and heavy athletics and fiddle competitions, kept the gathered crowds entertained throughout the afternoon.

Her Majesty was welcomed to Aboyne Highland Games by its chieftain, Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, Scotland’s premier Marquis, and chairman Alistair Grant. Mr Grant’s granddaughter, 11-year-old Carlie Esslemont presented The Queen with a posy of flowers.

During her visit, The Queen dedicated the new Aboyne Caber which was specially commissioned to mark the 150th anniversary and featured in the afternoon’s events. Local heavy athletes, Jamie Dawkins and John Fyvie had the honour of presenting the caber to Her Majesty, who also met its creator, Murray Brown, and other members of the games’ committee.

The Queen, who was making her first visit to Aboyne Games, followed in the footsteps of her forebears. In 1876, her grandfather, George V, and great-grandfather, Edward VII, attended the games along with Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria. While in 1922, Princess Andrew of Greece – the mother of The Duke of Edinburgh – attended the games with her daughters Princesses Margarita and Theodora of Greece.

The visit also came just two months after long-serving committee member Peter Nicol was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to highland games, the economy and voluntary service in the north of Scotland. 

In further recognition of his contribution to highland games, which has included nearly 50 years on the Aboyne Highland Games committee, Mr Nicol was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation from the sports governing body, the Scottish Highland Games Association (SHGA). Honorary president of the SHGA, Jim Brown, presented the award which has been introduced to commemorate the association’s 70th anniversary and acknowledges the outstanding service given by individuals in support of highland games across the country.

Organisers of Aboyne Highland Games have worked hard to mark the event’s milestone 150th anniversary in a number of ways, which in turn has helped shape the future story of the event. This included a memory book containing photographs and written reminiscences contributed by members of the public and charting a century and a half of the games.

Ten pipe bands also performed throughout the day, providing a stunning spectacle

Four events that have been a fixture of Aboyne Highland Games since its inception in 1867 were classed as Gold Events this year. With newly commissioned trophies – designed by local teenager Angus Fraser – and increased prize funds, competition in the four events was hotly contested.

Kelty piper Alan Russell claimed the first trophy when he won the Piobaireachd open piping event. Clocking a time of 10.48 seconds, Sam Lyon of London beat a strong field of 12 runners to lift the Gold Event trophy in the 100 Yards Race. In the Heavy Hammer, Vladislav Tulacek from the Czech Republic threw a winning distance of 109ft 6ins to collect the third trophy. On the highland dancing boards, the final trophy went to Rachel Walker from Fettercairn, who was placed first in the Highland Reels aged 16 and over category.

In the late afternoon, spectators were treated to display of pole vaulting. The event, which featured in the inaugural games, returned to Aboyne Green after a near 40-year absence. Nine competitors took part in the event, which was once a staple of highland games across Scotland and is now only staged at a handful of games.

Drawing enthusiastic cheers from the watching crowd, competitors planted the rigid aluminium pole into the grass and with apparent ease – defying the great dexterity required – twisted and turned their bodies to vault increasing heights. Clearing the bar at a height of 8ft (2.43m) and jointly winning the competition were Callum Robertson from Aberdeen and Evyn Read from Canada.

Four heavy athletes jointly won the open caber toss competition, giving them honour of attempting to toss the new 23ft 6in (7.15m) long Aboyne Caber to land in the perfect 12 o’clock position. However, neither Craig Sinclair, Lorne Colthart, Lucas Wenta nor Scott Rider could achieve the feat with the 130lbs (59kg) log.

The hill race was closely fought, with a field of 92 runners taking on the 6.8-mile route that follows part of the Fungle Road and circles the base of Craigendinnie. The first male home was Kyle Greig who finished ahead of second placed James Espie. In the ladies event was won by Stephanie Provan, with Sally Wallis finishing second.

Ten pipe bands also performed throughout the day, providing a stunning spectacle and sound when they played en masse. Those participating were Ballater and District, Banchory and District, Clan Hay, Ellon Royal British Legion, the Gordon Highlanders Association, Grampian and District, Huntly and District, Lonach, Newtonhill, and Towie and District.

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said:

“It was an honour and a privilege to welcome Her Majesty to Aboyne Highland Games to mark our 150th anniversary. She took a real interest in how our new Aboyne Caber was crafted and seemed particularly taken to learn about the visits her ancestors had made to the games. Our first royal visit was in 1873, when the then Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, attended and it is wonderful to continue that long association with the royal family today.

“We have had a superb crowd on the green who have been kept thoroughly entertained by our packed programme of 98 events. The atmosphere has been excellent. Visitors have travelled from near and far, which goes to show the huge appeal that highland games still have. That is really positive for the future.

“The standard of competition was excellent, with some really strong fields. Tossing the caber, tug o’ war, the hill race and children’s race all drew passionate support from the crowd. While the skill of the pole vaulters held everyone’s attention. Our thanks go to all those who have participated, visited, supported or helped organise today, making it a truly outstanding day and ensuring the 150th anniversary of Aboyne Highland Games will be long remembered.”

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games held annually on the first Saturday in August. The Aberdeenshire event, held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, attracts crowds of up to 10,000 people each year.

Featuring a programme of traditional highland games events, including highland dancing, tossing the caber, piping and fiddle competitions, the event on the town’s green attracts visitors from around the world and makes an important contribution to the local Deeside economy. Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.

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Aug 042017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

Comedian Justin Moorhouse will hold his show at NOX nightclub.

Organisers of Aberdeen Comedy Festival have signed up several new venues across the city centre as they announce a new and improved format for this year.
A total of ten new venues have signed up to host stand-up shows in the Granite City later this year, bringing the total number of venues to 27.
Launched by Aberdeen Inspired in 2016, this years’ festival will run from Thursday, October 5 to Sunday,
October 15.

The eleven-day festival, which has been organised with programming partner Breakneck Comedy, will feature national and international comedians performing across the city centre.

New venues for 2017 include, the Belmont Filmhouse, Aberdeen Douglas Hotel, Sing City, La Lombarda Basement Bar, The Shack, The Wild Boar, Spin, NOX, Lemon Tree, and the Wee Glen situated in Glentanar Bar.

Venues for the festival now range from a capacity of 30 seats at the Wee Glen to 350 seats at Aberdeen Arts Centre, giving organisers venues around the city centre to suit to suit any act or audience.

Comedian Justin Moorhouse will hold his show at NOX nightclub and the Belmont Filmhouse will screen several comedy movies throughout the festival, including Airplane! and Wayne’s World.

Sponsored by McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale, the festival will comprise over 50 events, including five free stand-up shows, comedy workshops for children and adults, kids shows, and local talent showcases.

The festival format has been changed this year to include a selection of solo performances as well as shows with several comedians taking to the stage.

Shows will also be staggered so comedy fans have the opportunity to attend several without having to choose between events starting at the same time.

Described as the Canadian Billy Connolly, Craig Campbell will headline the launch of the festival at the Lemon Tree in partnership with Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA).

Scottish comedian Fred MacAulay, who performed at the festival last year, will make a return alongside other comedians, including Patrick Monahan, Gary Delaney and Shazia Mirza – who have all recently featured on a range of panel shows on TV.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“We’re delighted to welcome our new venues to Aberdeen Comedy Festival this year. It’s great to have more businesses involved after the festival’s very successful debut in 2016.

“It really captured the imagination and people turned out in large numbers for shows across the city centre which had a positive knock-on effect for businesses. As well as Aberdonians, we welcomed people from the wider north-east area and beyond who were keen to see comedy shows.

“The full line-up will be announced soon and we hope people will take the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic range of comedy which will be performed on their doorstep.”

More than 3,100 tickets were sold during the laughter filled extravaganza in 2016, as well as over 1,500 tickets from APA and Beach Ballroom promoted events.

Gavin Paterson, general manager of Aberdeen Douglas Hotel, said:

“Aberdeen Comedy Festival is a fantastic opportunity for businesses in the city centre to showcase their venues and host stand-up shows for the public.

“When we saw how successful the festival was in its first year we were very keen to play our part in 2017 and we are delighted to be hosting both Australian comic Damian Clark and the returning Billy Kirkwood who really impressed Aberdonian crowds last year.”

Colin Farquhar, Belmont Filmhouse cinema manager, added:

“We’re very excited to be involved in this year’s Aberdeen Comedy Festival. It’s another great string to the city’s cultural bow and we’re delighted that as well as screening some classic comedies, we’re able to host a few stand-up performances too.”

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute.

Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district. More information about Aberdeen Inspired is available at www.aberdeeninspired.com

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Aug 042017
 

Isie Caie (left) from Cove In Bloom.

By Duncan Harley.

Isabella Catto Caie was well known in Cove and well known in Aberdeen. In the days when catches were bountiful, she could be seen hawking her wares at The Green. Later, as landings of fish at Cove declined, she took to buying from middlemen at the Market in Aberdeen before taking up her usual stance on the cobbles.

She had her regulars and, in the early days at least, could be easily spotted walking the six miles into Aberdeen, carrying a creel loaded with fish on her back to sell. Latterly, in old age, she took the bus to town.

According to legend, it might take two men to lift the heavy creel laden with fish on to her back before she set out on her journey into the city centre.

Latterly, folklore led to some late-fame and alongside a few pictures in the press she featured, at least the once, in a Press and Journal Calendar celebrating the heritage of the North-east.

Today, on a wind swept winters day, we had come to find her grave.

We parked just outside the church at Nigg and, as horizontal rain arrived to welcome us, threw on jackets and set off on foot around the graveyard. We fully expected a fruitless hunt; we had after all just trudged round St Fittick’s kirkyard following a misdirection. But, by now, Albertino was firmly in search-mode and nothing, not even a freezing February storm, was going to get in his way.

Within minutes a cry of “It’s over here Duncan” rang out and I made off in the direction of the shout.

There, arm outstretched and touching the gravestone of Isie Caie was a slightly distraught Albertino.

“How do you feel?” I asked.

“Emotional” came the reply.

“I feel very emotional now that we are here, I feel a connection.”

Brazilian Sculptor Albertino Costa had of course already established a connection with the lady known locally as Isie Caie.

Having lived and worked in Aberdeen for over 20 years, he had been commissioned by community group Cove in Bloom to design and create a sculpture commemorating ‘the spirit of the fishwife’.

Rather than simply create a romanticised studio based life sculpture of Cove’s most famous fishwife, Albertino’s approach was much more radical – he would work in public in the open air alongside the very harbour where the fishwife’s journey began.

Permission to site the project on the harbour-front was readily granted by land-owner Pralhad Kolhe and in summer 2016 work began on the quayside where a large block of white Italian marble began to slowly morph into a vibrant piece of community led sculpture.

From the very beginning visitors to Cove Harbour took an interest.

“People cannot resist watching someone doing something creative” says Albertino,

“the work is open for everyone to come and contribute and with no pre-conceived idea of the final form, it is easy to get people involved.”

From the very start says Albertino:

“creating the work live at Cove Bay gave the people a sense of ownership and a sense of deep connection both with each other and of course with the past.”

Wendy Suttar of Cove in Bloom agrees.

“We had heard about Albertino’s previous work and although when we started speaking to him we hadn’t got a rigid idea of what we wanted; we knew however that he was the artist we wanted and we immediately started the ongoing process of fundraising the £20,000 needed to finance the project.”

As the work progressed, the conversations with spectators gave Albertino a breadth of knowledge which he has embodied in the various elements of the sculpture.

The creel, the net, the wild sea and the harvest of the sea are vividly portrayed along with, of course, the spirit of Isie herself.

Isie Caie died in May 1966 age 86.

Her grand-daughter, Chirsty MacSween records that “she sold at the Green to the end” and that she “had a reputation for always having a smile on her face, a happy woman.”

The Cove sculpture remains a work- in-progress and there is still time to make a hands-on contribution to the final form of ‘The Spirit of the Fishwife.”

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Aug 042017
 

With thanks to Leanne Carter, Account Manager, Tricker PR.

The Crathes Half-Marathon 2014, at Crathes Castle. Picture by Kenny Elrick 13/09/2014

Runners of all abilities are assured of a fairy tale finish at next month’s Crathes Half Marathon – thanks to a castle that looks like it has come straight from the pages of a story book. The stunning Crathes Castle near Banchory in Aberdeenshire provides the back drop for the finish of the event, and all participants will get a welcome fit for a king – or queen – as they cross the line on September 16.

Organisers promise that participants will be not encounter any evil goblins or gremlins during their 13.1-mile adventure – the scenic course through the Deeside countryside is renowned for its PB potential guaranteeing runners a happy ever after.

However, Crathes Half Marathon will soon reach the end of a very important chapter: the deadline for entries is September 8.

Natasha Finlayson, events co-ordinator at Crathes Castle, Gardens and Estate near Alford, says the course has been a real favourite with past participants.

“Over the years Crathes Half Marathon has become really popular, with runners travelling from all over the country to take part,” explains Natasha.

“It’s a challenging course with a couple of hills, but it is predominantly on the flat. It’s best known for helping many runners achieve a personal best and as a great event for those attempting the half marathon distance for the first time.

“While the atmosphere, marshals and camaraderie out on the course are great, the one thing we always get really positive feedback about is the scenery and how beautiful the route is.

“There are sections on the road, short sections off-road, and of course that spectacular finish line in front of the castle which really helps to put a spring in the step of runners down the finishing straight.

“But it’s not just completing the course that will give runners the feel-good factor, as all proceeds from the event will go towards the National Trust for Scotland’s conservation work.

“It is incredibly hard work and takes a lot of time, effort and commitment – and funds. As part of the Trust’s Footpath Fund appeal this autumn, runners are encouraged to raise sponsorship and take a step towards protecting Scotland’s heritage.”

With its harled façade, magnificent turreted towers and walled gardens, Crathes Castle, which is managed by the National Trust for Scotland, Scotland’s largest conservation charity, is a standout property from the 16th century.

The castle and its gardens will be open to visitors during the half marathon, and organisers will also be laying on plenty of entertainment to help inspire the future generation of runners.

A family fun day will be the centrepiece of the day’s entertainment, complete with traditional children’s events including the egg and spoon, three-legged and sack races. There will also be a chance for adults to show their sporting prowess in these events too.

Natasha adds,

“It’s going to be a fantastic day out for the all the family, whether they are taking part in the half marathon or spectating. In addition to the traditional races, we’ll also have an assault course, a bungee run and giant inflatables.

“The great thing about Crathes Half Marathon is its appeal to runners of all abilities, whether you are aiming to finish in a little over an hour, or expect to be nearer to three hours.

“We have a pretty even mix of both male and female runners – our youngest participant so far is 18, while the oldest entrant taking part this year is a very sprightly 75-year-old.”

Entries to the Crathes Half Marathon – with all proceeds going to help the work of the National Trust for Scotland – are open now at  http://www.nts.org.uk/Site/Crathes-Half-Marathon/Crathes-Half-Marathon/ All finishers will receive a medal and a technical t-shirt.

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Jul 252017
 

With thanks to Leanne Carter, Account Manager, Tricker PR.

Soprano Pipistrelle Bat (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) at bat handling and trapping demonstration held at the National Trust for Scotland property of Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland, August

They are the type of beasties that most people try to keep out of their homes but the rangers at Craigievar Castle will be doing everything they possibly can to lure moths out of hiding – even offering them a beer.

Visitors to a late-night event at the National Trust for Scotland’s property will be able to learn how to make sugar traps – a sticky solution of black treacle and beer that moths just can’t resist.

The sweet-smelling mixture, which is completely harmless to the creatures, is then pasted onto trees in the grounds of the castle and will attract moths from far and wide.

But it’s hoped that moths will not be the only winged visitors making an appearance at the family event on Friday, July 28. Those who go along to the Craigievar, near Alford in Aberdeenshire, will also have the chance to meet the resident colony of bats.

The elegant tower house, known for its distinctive pink façade, is home to pipistrelle and brown long-eared bats which love to go flying as the sun starts to set.

National Trust for Scotland ranger Toni Watt said:

“Moths and bats are absolutely fascinating flying creatures. We’ve previously staged popular events for bats and events for moths, but this is the first time that we have brought the two together.

“We’ll start off in the castle grounds where we will show people how to make and set sugar traps. The traps are a harmless mixture of black treacle and beer which is boiled up and pasted to trees. It gives off a sweet-smelling nectar which the moths love.

“While we are waiting for the traps to work their magic and attract the moths, we’ll take a walk around the castle grounds and look for bats. We have not yet conducted a bat survey this year, but previously we have had pipistrelle and brown long-eared bats roosting at the castle.

“We’ll be using bat detectors to see what is out and about, and during the walk we’ll be discussing the bats and their nocturnal lifestyles.

“We’ll then go back to the sugar traps and set up a light so that we can see the months. As well as a torch to walk around the grounds, we recommend that people bring sunglasses or a wide brimmed hat to protect their eyes from the light – a real mix of items!

“I know that some people may find this a little bit spooky but it is a lovely time of day to visit the property. I love being out with the bats as it starts to get dark and it can be a beautiful sight on a nice evening.”

Moths and Bats at Craigievar is one of a range of special events being held by the National Trust for Scotland, Scotland’s largest conservation charity, at its properties over the summer months.

The event is being staged by the Trust’s Ranger Service in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service and Butterfly Conservation.

It is suitable for all ages – visitors aged under 16 must be accompanied by an adult – and starts at 8.30pm. It will go on until after darkness falls, and is expected to wind up at around 10.30pm.

Booking is essential for the event and tickets, which cost £4 for adults and children, are available at www.nts.org.uk

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Jul 252017
 

With thanks to Leanne Carter, Account Manager, Tricker PR.

With over 40,000 different types of plants in bloom this summer, Pitmedden Garden is more than used to hosting colourful spectacles.

But nothing could prepare the historic country house for the vivid display of lycra and sequins worn by ABBAMANIA – the world’s longest-running ABBA tribute concert.

As classic hits like Waterloo and Dancing Queen ring out from the stage and the scent of honeysuckle and jasmine wafts through the air, the captivating show on Saturday, July 29 will be a true assault on the senses.

The elegant renaissance garden in Aberdeenshire, which is now managed by the National Trust for Scotland, will be one of the more unusual venues that ABBAMANIA has graced.

However, it’s a stage that the band members have been looking forward to all summer – and one which they believe the original line-up of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngsta would have loved.

Scots singer Sharon Fehlberg – who has the alter ego of Anni-Frid – says,

“We have performed there once before and it is an absolutely fantastic venue. We were lucky enough to have beautiful weather, so fingers crossed the sun will shine for us again.

“People still love the music of ABBA after all these years because they created timeless pop songs. You just don’t get music like that now.

“The film and stage show Mamma Mia has introduced a new generation to their music, but we have always seen people of different ages in our audience, from five-year-olds to grandparents.

“We love playing in the north because audiences get so into it. The audience reaction is always the same – no matter what the age, they want to have fun and enjoy listening to great music. That kind of enthusiasm lights up the whole place, and as a performer that feeling is amazing.”

ABBAMANIA features the Eurovision winners’ most memorable hits from Winner Takes It All to Take A Chance. The group, which also includes Ewa Scott, Adam Robertson and Steven Galet, focuses on recreating ABBA gigs as audiences would have seen them in the 1970s.

That means that, unlike other tribute acts, there are not scores of backing dancers and complex dance routines. The ABBAMANIA show brings the energy of the performance, but focuses on vocals, musicianship and musical arrangements.

It’s an approach that has resulted in the act, which has been going since 1999, touring all over the UK, Europe and the Philippines, and a trip to the States is also on the cards for 2018.

Sharon Fehlberg of ABBAMANIA – the world’s longest running ABBA tribute act.

Sharon (36) joined ABBAMANIA four-and-a-half years ago after fending off competition from dozens of other hopefuls at an open audition.

She was writing dance music in the studio at the time, but never regrets her decision to don catsuits and capes every weekend.

Some might say that she was destined for a career in showbusiness. Her father is a musician and her mother – Lorraine – was lead singer in the 1970s pop group Middle of the Road, best known for their hit Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.

She was just three-years-old when she entered a recording studio for the first time, and spent much of her childhood on the road touring with her mum when she was not at school.

Sharon says,

“Music is in my bones and I knew the very first time that I put a microphone in my hand that I wanted to sing. I never thought of doing anything else.

“However, the music business is very, very tough. My mum was quite well known but that meant nothing: I’ve had a lot of doors slammed in my face and a lot of disappointments over the years.

“But eventually your time comes and I was over the moon to join ABBAMANIA. It’s like a dream come true and I have loved every minute of it. I’ve always been a fan of their music, probably because I grew up around that European poppy harmony sound.

“My favourite ABBA song, ever since I was a little girl, is Dancing Queen. It is such a feel-good song and I never get bored singing it. Audiences love it, and it’s amazing to look out and see people enjoying themselves, singing along and dancing.”

ABBAMANIA at Pitmedden Gardens is one of a range of special events being held by the National Trust for Scotland, the country’s largest conservation charity, at its properties over the summer months.

Pitmedden Gardens is an outstanding example of a Scottish renaissance garden and the parterres at its heart are a masterpiece of intricate patterns and colour. It also has six miles of clipped boxed hedging.

The original garden was built in 1675, and it was recreated by the National Trust for Scotland in the 1950s based on designs found at the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh.

Fancy dress is, of course, optional at the ABBAMANIA show, but all are advised to dress warmly. Audience members are encouraged to take a picnic and a rug – or low seating – and some marquee seating is also available.

Tickets are priced £12.50 for adults and £6.50 for children, and are available at www.nts.org.uk. Gates open at 6pm with the show getting underway at 7pm.

The National Trust for Scotland is the charity that celebrates and protects Scotland’s heritage. It relies on the support of its members and donors to carry out its important work of caring for the natural and built heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy.

You can join the National Trust for Scotland for as little as £7.50 per month for a family. To become a member, visit http://www.nts.org.uk/Join/Benefits/.

You can make a difference and help protect everything in our care. Donate online at https://www.nts.org.uk/Donations/

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Jul 252017
 

Well known television presenter, broadcaster and radio DJ, Grant Stott.

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

CLAN Cancer Support has introduced a new glittering fundraising event to the north-east calendar. The 2017 CLAN Crystal Ball will have a sparkling crystal theme and will be hosted by well-known television and radio host Grant Stott, who recently joined BBC Radio Scotland.

Taking the place of the CLAN Christmas Cracker, the charity is urging businesses, supporters and locals to get behind the upcoming event, which will be held on Saturday, October 28 at Ardoe House Hotel and Spa.

The CLAN Crystal Ball promises to be an evening not to be missed and will include a drinks reception, followed by a three-course dinner, entertainment and dancing to pop and soul band ‘Burlesque’.

Dr Colette Backwell, CLAN chief executive, said:

“The Crystal Ball promises to be something very special and will, I’m sure become a firm favourite with CLAN supporters.

“Our CLAN Ball’s give guests the opportunity to enjoy a fantastic night of entertainment whilst also playing a very important role in raising awareness of CLAN’s crucial cancer support services, and also contributing to the donations which allow us to continue to develop these services in the heart of communities, from Stonehaven in the south to Orkney and Shetland in the north.

“We are committed to providing this support in local areas and continuing to make a difference to as many people as possible who are affected by a cancer diagnosis. We hope that we can rely on the generosity of people and businesses across the region at the CLAN Crystal Ball and I look forward to welcoming Grant Stott and our guests on the night.”

Tables of 10 are available for £1,000 with individual tickets costing £100 each. Various sponsorship opportunities are also available for both businesses and individuals looking to support the event.

For more information, please contact Steph Dowling by calling 01224 651026 or email steph.dowling@clanhouse.org

CLAN Cancer Support is an independent charity which provides comfort, support and information, free of charge, for anyone, of any age, affected by any type of cancer. CLAN aims to support people to reduce anxiety, stress and to increase their ability to cope with the effects of a serious illness.

Based in Aberdeen, the charity covers the whole of north-east Scotland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland. CLAN has a presence in Ballater, Banchory, Elgin, Buckie, Inverurie, Fraserburgh, Lossiemouth, Peterhead, Stonehaven, Turriff, Kirkwall and Lerwick.

For more information about CLAN Cancer Support, please call (01224) 647 000 or visit www.clanhouse.org

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Jul 212017
 

Blink 182 plus support at AECC. Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

US pop-punk veterans Blink 182 returned to Aberdeen with a slick arena show filled with confetti canons, pyrotechnics and flamethrowers which pleased their fans old and young alike.

First band up on the three-band bill, however, were New Jersey band The Front Bottoms. 

Despite the Viz-like nature of their name, which has you suspecting they are less than serious proposition, the band play an introspective, but goofy, indie rock that is appreciated by the early arrivals in the arena.

Frontman Brian Sella formed the band nearly 10 years ago.

He stands stage front, strumming an acoustic guitar.

He engages with the crowd and endears himself with comments of wishing he could have lived his life in Scotland and a tale of getting hit by a golf earlier ball that day.

Flanked by his bandmates there is also the somewhat unusual spectacle of a couch on stage on which a couple of guys are sitting.

Their contribution to the set seems to involve nothing more than tapping away on their mobile phones and taking swigs from bottles of beer – nice job if you can get it, it must be said!

There are no couches or mobile phones on stage for the next act however as Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls take to the stage.

Bahrain born Turner had a seemingly un-punk upbringing – the son of an investment banker who went to Eton and studied alongside Prince William; his grandfather – a “Sir” no less – was the former chairman of high street store BHS.
But despite this privileged upbringing it’s hard to deny that Turner has paid his dues, moving from small toilet venues to arenas over the years whilst playing a socially conscious and politically charged brand of folk-punk that has gained him a loyal band of followers.

He commands the audience well tonight.

The sight of him getting the crowd to sit down and jump up in unison was quite exciting and he also brings one lucky young fan out of the audience, hands her a harmonica and has her play a mouth organ solo during one track.

He ends his set by crowd surfing in the audience which has security scrambling to get hold of him as the crowd go wild. It would be fair to say he would have won over a few new fans this night.

Finally, at 9pm sharp, Blink 182 take the stage. Starting the set behind a curtain with a picture of their logo imposed over a Union Flag, whilst the haunting electronica of the Stranger Things theme tune plays, it drops to rapturous applause and pyrotechnic explosions as the band blast into opener Feeling This.

The backdrop at this point is the rather unsubtle word FUCK in huge flames at the rear of the stage.

But, let’s be honest, Blink 182 are not in a band that deal in subtly much.

There are fleeting moments of introspection though – the cello-drenched and catchy I Miss You is a touching tale of lost love and the title track of last year’s California album is a nostalgic missive to their home state.

It’s the unsubtly of the show that provides the arena rock experience though and there is plenty of spectacle and show that has the crowd in raptures – a huge screen flashes behind the band, flame throwers spit high into air from behind the drum riser, confetti canons fire and drown the crowd in ticker tape whilst pyrotechnic explosions bellow smoke into the venue and test the fire alarms to their limits.

And this day-glo stramash of sound and vision isn’t just on the odd occasion – it’s in almost every song the band perform.

There is another exception to this sensory overload though as they perform one track in the dark, lit only by hundreds of mobile phones in the crowd.

Highlight of the set for the crowd is first track of the encore their big hit and probably best known song All the Small Things. Released over 17 years ago, it is older than a good proportion of the crowd here tonight, all of whom go wild to the raucous, three-minute classic of the US pop punk genre.

And then, after a couple of more tracks, it’s over – 22 songs in a compact, and slightly short, 75-minute set. All that’s left is for drummer Travis Barker’s teenage son to play out as the crowd head out into the early evening.

As was said, Blink 182 are not a band that deal in subtlety but if high adrenaline, slightly juvenile, slick, over the top arena shows are your thing then this would have made you very happy indeed.

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