Mar 212018
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

For people who care about animal welfare, supporting an animal shelter seems like a great way to help – but how many know what kind of shelter they are donating to? Last August Zara Brown, who said she was running a shelter, was found to have committed a catalogue of horrific offences.

Investigators found, for instance, a freezer stuffed with seven dead dogs and a cat.

Animals were left in dark, cold buildings with inadequate food and water and without medical treatment.

The courts were told poor Zara was depressed and was unable to cope.  She got off very lightly for the cruelty inflicted.

Then we learned she was a convicted fraudster to the value of some £37,000.

Clearly we cannot have people who are convicted fraudsters handling animals and money.

Facebook posts show that awareness of huge problems at her animal sanctuary existed long before she was ever convicted – why was no action taken?

A recent proposal to the Scottish government would see the SSPCA and police tackle the unscrupulous animal charity.  However, is the SSPCA really the right body to deal with this?

One long-running animal welfare group, Animal Concern Advice Line, likes the idea, but opposes SSPCA involvement. It recently told its supporters:

“We oppose this for three main reasons.

“1: The Scottish SPCA is the largest owner and operator of animal rescue centres in Scotland and as such should be regulated and policed by the scheme just like every other rescue and rehoming operation.

“2: Some of the smaller rescue, rehab and rehoming operatives harbour ill feeling towards the Scottish SPCA and would find it extremely difficult to be part of any scheme administered and/or policed by the SSPCA.

“3: Dumping the administration and policing of any scheme on the shoulders of the Scottish SPCA would mean that yet again the Scottish SPCA would be spending charity donations to do work which should be funded by central or local government thus reducing the resources available to the Scottish SPCA to help animals for whom no-one has a legal duty of care.”

Sadly the SSPCA has come in for a lot of deserved criticism of late. Its issues include:

  • Raising the chief executive’s salary to a whopping £216,000 without any consultation with the army of donors (I collected money for the SSPCA and donated for years – to help animals not to pay a massive salary to an executive – Suzanne).  The latest on this is that the chair has left.
  • Killing a harmless snake which was misidentified as poisonous by putting it in a freezer to die alone in the dark.  I asked repeatedly why, when the snake had already been captured could it not have been left alone until an expert could assess it – no answer was forthcoming.

When the salary of the chairman went up, the SSPCA closed its Shetland facility, with Mike Flynn of the SSPCA making the shocking claim that the SSPCA’s role was not to keep a building open in case there was an oil spill.

The facility was not strictly used for oil-accidents, and the closure dismayed residents.

Keeping the shelter open would have cost a fraction of what the chair’s salary rise was.

Initially Mr Flynn was critical of an Aberdeen scheme to kill deer on Tullos Hill to plant trees (a government report had already said trees could not be established in numbers because of the soil matrix being poor).  He was cheered for condemning the move – but when later asked for further comments on the scheme he called ‘abhorrent’ he simply stopped replying to correspondence.

John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line has been campaigning for licensing and policing of animal rescue centres and sanctuaries for many years.

He said:

“I want to see all animal rescue and rehoming centres brought up to a high minimum standard of animal welfare, public safety and financial accountability. Sadly a small number of rescuers get it very wrong causing animals to suffer and the public to lose trust in the whole sector.

“Some put people at risk of death by placing potentially dangerous dogs in totally unsuitable new homes. Others fail to carry out  proper home checks and risk placing animals with potential abusers. Most of the problems are caused by well-intentioned people who don’t have the space, skills or finances to do things properly.

“Regretfully a few are criminals who knowingly abuse and neglect animals while conning the public and grant-giving trust funds out of money.

“It is a great pity that the many  good and trustworthy rescue centres are going to encounter a bit more red tape and expense to meet a new licencing regime but that is what it is going to take to get rid of the cowboys and criminals.

“One major problem is in finding an organisation to administer and police the licensing scheme.

“The Government wants the Scottish SPCA to run things but that would be wrong as the Scottish SPCA has more animal rescue centres than any other organisation and should not police itself.

“Police Scotland and local authorities, some of which have their own rescue kennels, have legal responsibilities for stray dogs thus rendering them unsuitable to manage the scheme.

“I suggest responsibility  be given either to the existing Animal & Plant Health Agency or to a new body created by the Scottish Government.”

A bona-fide animal rescue will either be a registered Scottish charity or will otherwise let you look at its accounts.

A genuine rescue will not be selling animals for slaughter while asking people to donate to save the lives of other animals – it is not possible to do both ethically, morally or logically (how can one pig be worth saving and another pig be worth killing?).

As the Scottish consultation points to the unsuitability of convicted fraudsters handling public donations, no reputable animal rescue will have anyone who has form as a fraudster or confidence trickster taking in donations.

Hopefully a suitable arrangement can be found, but for reasons pointed out by Mr Robins and by this article, the SSPCA should not be involved in regulating an industry it itself participates in – and which has failed in its duty.

Spotlight on Northfield Animal Haven

Despite its continuing threats to close (and its threats and insinuations against its critics), Northfield Animal Haven continues to:

  • Seek donations, buy animals (wrong for any charity, but wrong for one so apparently short of funds).
  • Sell animals at Thainstone market, where many if not all will wind up slaughtered.

Here is an extract from a previous article. Despite false claims from Northfield, neither Aberdeen Voice or Suzanne Kelly (myself) have been in any way prevented from writing about the odd goings-on at this place.

Fact Recap:

  • That Kelly Cable is a convicted benefit fraudster [3]– this calls her honesty into question;
  • That Kelly Cable denied signing for a substantial loan [4]– again her honesty was thrown in doubt;
  • That signs and funding appeals stating ‘all farm animals are rescued are misleading [5].There seem to be two Northfields – one that keeps some animals as rescues – while breeding for sale from these [6.1-3], and one that sells animals at Thainstone Market and privately where slaughter is the almost inevitable outcome [7]This schism is condemned by many animal welfare professionals including John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line [8].
  • When cornered on this issue, Kelly has made posts along the lines of ‘everyone’knows that she operates a working farm and that the reason she uses pictures of animals in her appeal such as sheep and cattle that are not to be rescued is ‘people have asked to see all the animals’ [9]. Donors Aberdeen Voice had contact with were completely in the dark on the point, and would never have donated to money to an institution that breeds from its rescue for sales, and raises farm animals for commercial purposes.
  • That Cable used, without any contact or permission, images of animals she had nothing to do with for fundraising purposes – this calls transparency and honesty into question (the image on the left of an emaciated bovine is not an animal Cable was trying to rescue; it is from 2011 in the USA  [10].
  • That Cable has claimed to different witnesses to have disabilities and illnesses [11.1-11.4]; she has told several people these illnesses lead her to use cannabis on the farm and that alcohol and drug use by others is tolerated by her at Northfield around the 170 animals she says she cares for single-handedly. This clearly poses threats to animal welfare – and that has led to serious consequences as this article will demonstrate. This drug use should also be of serious concern to anyone using her animal assisted therapy programme.
  • There are allegations of cannabis sales which the authorities are aware of [12]. (As an aside, cannabis can be a very therapeutic medical boon to some. The appropriateness of seeking public donations while using/selling cannabis on a farm by a disabled woman who purports to single-handedly care for over 170 animals where neglect and deaths have occurred should raise red flags to animal welfare authorities and those concerned with public safety).
  • Northfield has itself posted about animals that have died ‘from a broken heart’ or overeating.
  • Northfield has also posted that Suzanne Kelly was involved in going to their farm, damaging fences, locking a pony in a food store where it ate itself to death.
  • A previous Northfield Facebook administrator, Fiona Manclark, was ordered to pay Suzanne Kelly £15,000 plus costs for repeated libel (Manclark had months in which to simply make an apology without facing any costs, but forced the matter to court). Ms Manclark spectacularly wrote to the court to excuse her failure to turn up, and in her letter she wrote that cannabis is routinely used at Northfield, a claim which fits in with other peoples’ allegations of drug use and dealing.  While many people feel cannabis use should be legalised, many would question whether a disabled woman who claims to care for over 70 animals, some of whom have died in her care from exposure and feeding issues – and who offers animal therapy to young people – should mix cannabis with an animal welfare charity offering therapy.
  • Ms Cable is a convicted benefit fraudster (see past AV articles).

This all adds up to irresponsibility fiscally, operationally, and safety wise on a worrying scale.

https://aberdeenvoice.com/2016/10/northfield-animal-haven-haven-hell/

Northfield and its supporters first began to attack Aberdeen Voice and myself when we repeated a press release (the Press & Journal printed it too) merely calling for a voluntary registration scheme for shelters which would ensure animal welfare.

What Northfield will make of mandatory regulation excluding fraudsters from running animal charities remains to be seen, but whether or not the SSPCA is involved, a regulator in this sector will spell the end for any fraudsters operating animal shelter charities.

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Oct 062017
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

From channelling their inner squirrels to playing detective on the trail of secretive beasties, children from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire required colourful imaginations as they took up the challenge to go ‘green’ at Castle Fraser.
The National Trust for Scotland property hosted a series of workshops for over 300 primary school youngsters as part of its annual environmental education event.

The historic castle near Inverurie has been hosting the Going Green initiative in partnership with Total E&P UK for the past eight years. The programme for this year’s event was one of the most diverse to date.

Castle Fraser property manager Paula Swan said:

“The workshops were designed to stimulate the imagination of children, helping them learn about important environmental issues in a fun and creative way.

“The workshops support the Curriculum for Excellence but show that learning about these topics – and promoting environmental responsibility both now and in the future – don’t have to take place in the classroom.

“Over the years that we have been hosting this event we have welcomed hundreds of school children through our doors. Who knows, Going Green may have even inspired some of our future conservationists, biologists and environmental experts.

“We are pleased that we once again hosted Going Green with the support of Total, continuing the very strong and successful partnership which sees us working together to raise environmental awareness at an early age.

“Total has been extremely dedicated to working with Castle Fraser and because of the company’s commitment to the project, thousands of primary school pupils have been able to learn about the importance of the natural world around them.”

Sandra McLennan, corporate social responsibility leader at Total E&P UK, added:

“TEPUK is thrilled to support the NTS in our combined effort to promote the benefits of outdoor learning in the beautiful setting of Castle Fraser. We are especially pleased that the NTS was able to extend Going Green from two days to three to capture the imagination of more children this year.” 

The great outdoors was the classroom for the school pupils, with activities including:

  • Buzzing with the Bees – a chance for children to learn more about the important role that bees play in the eco-system with the Kemnay Beekeepers who have hives at the castle.
  • Minibeast Masterclass – a hunt for minibeasts during which the pupils will discover what all the different beasties eat at Castle Fraser…including other species.
  • Hidden Wildlife – playing detective and finding out what animals get up to at night by looking for tracks and signs.
  • Making Music – a workshop that will hit the right note with youngsters as it allows them to make instruments out of recyclable goods before learning how to play them.
  • Secret Life of Squirrels – pupils learn if they have what it takes to make a good squirrel in an interactive workshop in which they will make their own dreys, hide and store cones, and gather their own food.
  • Can You Survive? – Mar Lodge Estate Rangers give tips on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and give pointers on making dens and surviving in the wild.  

There were also workshops to show how to make dens and survive in the wild, and where pupils could learn how to plant flowers and vegetables, and then nurture them.

Castle Fraser – the ancestral home of the Fraser family – is a baronial castle dating back to the 15th century.

As well as its extensive grounds which include the secret woodland garden, walled garden and estate trails, there are many highlights inside the property, such as the Great Hall, an extensive library and a room packed full of 18th century embroideries.

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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Aug 112017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Illyria stages an open-air performance of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic opera ‘The Mikado’ at The National Trust for Scotland’s Drum Castle, near Banchory.
Performed by a cast of 6 actor-singers accompanied by a musical director on keyboards, it is produced on a stage boasting a strikingly large and authentic Japanese torii gate.

Despite the reduction in scale not a word from WS Gilbert’s libretto is cut, nor a single note or harmony from Sir Arthur Sullivan’s score unsung.  

Running time is approximately two hours including an interval and spectators should wear appropriate outdoor wear, provide their own seating and are welcome to bring a picnic supper, with hot drinks and snacks available from the tea tent both pre-performance and during the interval.

Tickets are available from https://nts.cloudvenue.co.uk/illyriapresentsthemikado and are priced £17.50 for adults, £15.00 concession and £62.00 for families (2+2).

For more information about summer events at Drum Castle – and other National Trust for Scotland properties – visit www.nts.org.uk

Event:           The Mikado
Date:            Sunday, 13 August 2017
Time:            Gates open 5pm, show starts 6.30pm.
Venue:          Drum Castle, Banchory, AB31 5EY
Price:            £15-17.50

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Aug 112017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Celebrate summer at The National Trust for Scotland’s Haddo House with a day packed with fun for children of all ages.
Kids can let off energy on the bouncy castles, enter Gladiator duels and be challenged on an obstacle course.

Florence The Confused Frog author Cat Taylor will lead storytelling workshops and caricaturist Lyn Elrick will be penning portraits. There will be face painting and a toddler area for soft play and ball pool. 

For grown ups there’s an adult bouncy castle or book a flea market table and sell any unwanted toys or children’s clothes.

Refreshments will be on sale in the castle shop, and visitors can bring a picnic if they wish. Haddo House is an elegant mansion house with stunning late Victorian interiors.

Noted for its fine furniture and paintings, Haddo also has a terraced garden leading to the Country Park with lakes, walks and monuments.

For more information about summer events at Haddo House – and other National Trust for Scotland properties – visit www.nts.org.uk

Event:           Haddo Summer Fair
Date:            Sunday, 13 August 2017
Time:            11am-4pm
Venue:          Haddo House, Methlick, Ellon AB41 7EQ
Price:            £3

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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 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 Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

The Jaguar Classic Show returns to Drum Castle on 30 July.

The annual Jaguar Classic Show returns to the National Trust for Scotland’s Drum Castle for the eighteenth time this July, and is sure to delight motoring enthusiasts across the north east of Scotland. The castle’s expansive south lawn will become home to some of the finest examples of Jaguar engineering and design in the country, courtesy of the Grampian arm of the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club.

This year the JEC will also be showcasing classic Daimler vehicles, which became part of the Jaguar family after the brand was bought in the early 1960s.

The motoring showcase will also feature performances by Inverurie Pipe Band and a raffle, with every penny raised going towards charity Friends of Anchor.

Entry to this popular event costs £4 for adults or £2 for concessions. Booking is not required, and National Trust for Scotland and National Trust members go free.

Visit www.nts.org.uk/Event/20013516345/jaguarclassicshow for more information.

For more information about summer events at Drum Castle, Garden & Estate – and other National Trust for Scotland properties – visit www.nts.org.uk

Event:   Jaguar Classic Show at Drum Castle
Date:    Sunday 30 July 2017
Time:    12noon-4.00pm
Venue:   Drum Castle, Garden & Estate,
Drumoak, By Banchory,
Aberdeenshire,
AB31 5EY

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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 142017
 

European beaver (Castor fiber) swimming at dawn, Knapdale Forest, Argyll, Scotland.

With thanks to Chris Aldridge.

A family of beavers found living on a river in the Beauly area in the Scottish Highlands are to be trapped and put into captivity following a decision by Scottish Government Ministers.
Trees for Life, the charity which discovered the group, says the family should either stay where they are or be relocated locally.

Film from camera traps set by the conservation experts from the charity in mid-June clearly show the presence of a mother and at least two young kits swimming and playing with their mum.

Trees for Life shared news of the discovery with Scottish Natural Heritage and made a case to Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham that the family be allowed to stay.

Alan McDonnell, Conservation Projects Manager at Trees for Life said:

“It is disappointing that government is already starting the process of trapping this family without considering other options. Whilst we understand that the Minister wants to address the concerns of landowners in Tayside, the situation here is very different and we think it is possible to consult and negotiate with landowners in the immediate vicinity of the family and upstream to find an alternative outcome for the animals.”

Beavers have sparked controversy and concern from landowners in parts of Tayside where there is intensive arable farming. In contrast, much of the land neighbouring the newly confirmed beaver home in the Highlands is used for livestock farming.

Alan McDonnell said:

“We think these beavers have been active at this site for at least five years without any local concerns being raised. Which just goes to show that in the right location, beavers and other land use interests can co-exist successfully.”

Richard Hartland, local resident added:

“Many people in the local community have no idea the beavers are there and they’re having very little impact on their surroundings. Why can’t they be left alone?”

Shortly after finding the family, Trees for Life wrote to the Scottish Environment Minister to ask that they be left where they are, or failing that, moved upstream into Glen Affric, above the Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin hydro dam on the basis that they would have minimal impact on land use.

(Beaver photo image. Copyright – Peter Cairns, SCOTLAND: The Big Picture.)

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