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Angus & The Mearns

Angus and Mearns Matters: South Esk a reel gem in the Angus sporting crown

February 19 2018

As befitting its status as the Queen of the UK’s rivers, the annual ceremony heralding the beginning of a new season in pursuit of the King of Fish is a grand spectacle on the banks of the Tay. Traffic behaving under clear winter Angus skies and the gaze of the effective A90 average speed cameras might not have been aware, but not too many yards away a smaller gathering took place alongside the River South Esk just north of Forfar last week as the opening of a 2018 salmon season which will run until the end of October was celebrated. Finavon Castle is fine water, the scene of my first — and so far only — rod and line encounter with salmo salar. In a deep pool the line went tight on what I thought was a snagging rock in the deep, dark water — until the object began a juggernaut charge below the surface. The combination of excitement, panic and brain-fade idiocy of tightening the reel tension rather than reducing it presented an easy escape for the leviathan (the one that got away is always a monster). A brief encounter, but fishing isn’t about catching fish. It’s the sporting aside to experiences like the enjoyment of a dew dawn or magnificent burnt orange sunset; sharing pursuit of a Lintrathen Loch troot with a diving Osprey on a mission to feed hungry mouths back in the eyrie; or encountering the inquisitive Roe deer sniffing for treats inside the fishing bag on Rescobie’s green bank. And if the many fans of Angus’s finest beach at Lunan Bay believe they see it at its best during daytime walks, they’ve never enjoyed the thrill of moonlit nights stealthily trying to cast a tiny fly onto the nose of an easily-spooked sea trout. The opening of the 2018 season on the South Esk was well worth marking, as a reminder of the important work — and not insignificant sums spent — on projects along its length which benefit the environment and economy well beyond just angling interests, all the while maintaining the Angus river’s reputation as a sporting gem. Tight Lines.

Angus & The Mearns

Police pledge clampdown on large gangs of anti-social Arbroath youths

February 19 2018

Police patrols are being stepped up to combat marauding packs of Arbroath youngsters creating havoc in the town. Drink-fuelled teenagers in groups up to 30-strong have been wandering the streets and gathering in town centre locations including supermarkets and the bus station. The young thugs have thrown stones at cars, committed assaults and caused other damage through their anti-social behaviour. Police and community leaders have now said that parents should take their responsibilities seriously in knowing where their children are and what they are getting up to. Over recent weeks officers have been called to supermarkets, the town centre, bus station and surrounding areas after reports of vandalisms, assaults, drinking alcohol and general anti-social behaviour, with regular gatherings of 20-30 youths. Community Sergeant Shaun McQuade said: “During the darker nights we would appeal to parents to assist us in taking an interest into where their children have been and who they have been with. “Young people who drink alcohol when they are out often don’t realise the dangers they can place themselves in and are far more likely to become involved in antisocial behaviour.” Sgt McQuade added: “Our officers have responded to a number of calls in Arbroath town centre and will continue to carry out high visibility patrols. “Anyone caught committing offences will be dealt with accordingly.  Recently youths have been charged with offences relating to assault and breach of the peace and have been reported to the youth justice assessor. “Anyone with any concerns should call police on 101 or speak to any police officer. Information can be passed anonymously via the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111”. Arbroath East and Lunan Conservative councillor Derek Wann said: “I would urge parents to ensure they know where their children are at night. "This anti-social behaviour is not acceptable in our towns and is a real nuisance to the public. “Underage drinking is a problem and the police will take all steps possible to ensure it is dealt with appropriately.” Cllr Wann added: “I am sure that it is a minority of young people but unfortunately it tars youngsters all with the same brush.” Last month a 14-year-old boy was charged with assault and referred to the Youth Justice Assessor in connection with an alleged assault on a homeless man at the bus station. Police initially thought the man had been hurt in a fall but later investigated claims he might have been attacked. The assault allegation emerged amid widespread speculation on social media, although suggestions that a large group of youths were involved were subsequently dismissed by police.

Angus & The Mearns

Academy homecoming for Arbroath West End star Norman Bowman

January 10 2017

An Angus star of stage and screen is preparing to tread the boards of his alma mater for the first time since he set off on a journey that has taken him to some of the West End’s greatest leading man roles. In a career spanning more than two decades, Arbroath’s Norman Bowman has won rave reviews for musical theatre roles ranging from Marius in Les Miserables and Grease’s Danny Zuko to Munkustrap in Cats and Artie in Sunset Boulevard. He has played alongside the likes of Ewan McGregor, Patrick Swayze and Jude Law in a packed career which has also included an appearance on the Royal Variety Performance and in front of a global television audience of 40 million when he sang with Les Miserables at the Euro ’96 football championship final. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ILNmaylSRc The 47-year-old regularly returns to his home town and has performed on a number of occasions at venues including the Webster Memorial Theatre, but later this month will be taking to the stage at Arbroath Academy to support the school in its long-running effort helping families affected by the Rwandan genocide. Pupils from the Angus secondary have raised thousands of pounds for the African country and groups of youngsters have also gone there to visit communities and help with local projects. The next trip is planned for later this summer and the school said it was over the moon when Norman agreed to perform on the Academy stage on January 20 for the first time since he left the secondary in 1986. Teacher Evelyn Mitchell, who with colleague Kenny Hare will be travelling to Rwanda with Academy youngsters in late June said: “We were absolutely delighted when Norman agreed to perform a concert at the school. “He could not have been more helpful and we are sure it will be a special night. A number of pupils will be involved on stage with him and we are sure it will be a wonderful night.” More than two decades on from the genocide in Rwanda, the country remains in desperate need of support. Mr Hare said: “There are many communities that still have many homeless families. “With the money raised from the concert, we plan to build two new houses for a community on the outskirts of Kigali." Concert tickets are available from the school.   Chance suggestion created spark for successful career An unfortunate brush with the long arm of the Angus law set Norman Bowman on the road to stardom. Born in Arbroath, he attended Warddykes primary and the Academy. He was nabbed for pinching batteries when he was just 16, but when a pal suggested auditioning for Arbroath’s Christmas pantomime it opened the door to musical theatre and a career that has seen him fill principal roles in all of the West End’s big name shows. As well as his musical theatre CV, Norman has also taken roles in Macbeth and King Lear. He performed at Hyde Park before a 15,000-strong concert audience alongside Kylie Minogue and Benny and Bjorn from ABBA, and closer to home was the featured artist at the popular Glamis Proms for two years’ running. Norman has also been on the small and big screens, in series such as Holby City and the saint, as well as Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express and even a Bollywood film. This year has brought the role of Pat Denning in 42nd Street, the first West End show he ever saw.

Other sports

McLaren’s Mitchell solid at the Rock as fastest lap awards keep coming

May 1 2017

Angus teenager Sandy Mitchell bagged his first podium of the year with a second place finish in the  latest round of the British GT4 Championship. Starting from fourth on the grid for the two-hour race at Rockingham speedway in Northamptonshire, 17-year-old Mitchell and 20-year-old Scots teammate Ciaran Haggerty were involved in a titanic battle for honours in their Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren 570S GT4 for the entirety of the two-hour race. “We’re really pleased to get our first podium of the year,” said Mitchell, who with fellow McLaren GT Academy member Haggerty won two races and bagged three pole positions last season “After difficulties in the opening race weekend, it was important we came back and delivered the result we know we’re capable of. "This result will give us and the Black Bull Garage 59 team a real boost for the coming rounds. “Of course we would have liked the win, but over the season there are circuits which suit some cars better than others,” said Mitchell of the thrilling fight against the victorious Ginetta G55 of  Stuart Middleton and Will Tregurtha. The Dundee High teenager, who also scooped his second Sunoco fastest lap of the race award in succession, added: “The Black Bull Garage 59 team did a great job in maximising the potential of what we could achieve at Rockingham and it gives us the platform to go on and push for more wins as the season progresses.”

Angus & The Mearns

Angus performer working with top Broadway composer

March 2 2018

A talented Angus performer landed the opportunity to work with a celebrated Broadway composer in her latest step on the stairway to stardom. Former Arbroath High School pupil Bobbi Gray, who is training for a Musical Theatre diploma at the MGA Academy of Performing Arts in Edinburgh, was mentored by Jonathan Reid Gealt when he visited the academy. The composer has released multiple albums and his songs have been performed as part of shows in sold-out venues across the world. Bobbi, 18, who grew up performing in musicals with Arbroath’s Limelight Youth Musical Theatre group, said: “I started dancing when I was a little girl and have loved performing ever since. “When I auditioned for a place at the MGA Academy, I felt quite nervous but everyone was really friendly, which put my mind at ease. When I received my acceptance letter, I was over the moon. “It was amazing to get to sing for someone like Jonathan Reid Gealt,” said the teenager. “He lives and works in New York City so has so much knowledge and experience to share. I decided to sing the song If I Loved You from the musical Carousel as I wanted to get some feedback from Jonathan about how to improve my performance of it.” Bobbi continued: “When I finish my training, I’m hoping to move to London so I can audition for roles in touring productions and in London’s West End. “My dream is to be cast in Phantom of the Opera.” Jonathan said he had been very impressed with the staff and students at the MGA Academy in the past and did not want to miss the chance to drop in again. “Whilst mentoring Bobbi and her fellow students, I tried to get them to think about how to best tell stories through songs. “I encouraged them to try and relate songs and lyrics to things that they have experienced in their own lives.” Last year, the Edinburgh-based academy became the first full-time professional training academy in Scotland to be awarded accreditation by CDET, the UK’s quality assurance and membership body for the professional dance, drama and musical theatre industries. MGA managing director Andrew Gowland said: “Jonathan is a good friend of ours and kindly offered to visit the MGA Academy whilst on holiday in Scotland. “His knowledge of the performing arts industry is second to none and our students will have benefitted greatly from his expertise. “We are currently holding auditions for places on The MGA Academy’s full-time courses and would welcome applications from local performers with similar aspirations to Bobbi. The next audition will take place in Edinburgh on Sunday 18 March and application forms can be downloaded from our website.”

Other sports

McLaren marvel Mitchell gunning for cracking British GT opener at Oulton

April 14 2017

Angus teenager Sandy Mitchell returns to British GT Championship action this weekend - targeting the GT4 title in his 180mph Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren 570S Twice a race winner in his 2016 debut season, Mitchell became the series’ youngest ever victor and shared Rookie of the Year honours with teammate and fellow Scot Ciaran Haggerty. Now 17 and legally able to get behind the wheel of a road car – with L-plates of course – Dundee High pupil Mitchell will again partner 20-year-old Haggerty and the pairing hope to hit the ground running at Oulton Park in Cheshire. “Pre-season testing has gone very well so we’re feeling positive heading into the first round,” he said. “We identified a couple of things we can improve in relation to the set-up, but overall the tests were excellent. “Our lap times were good too, but of course, we won’t know where we really stand until the first qualifying session. But we’re feeling quietly positive.” Mitchell has tested the McLaren at Oulton, Rockingham and Silverstone in the build-up to this weekend’s race. “It’s been a while since we won the final race of the season at Donington last year so I can’t wait for the race weekend buzz,” added Mitchell, who has added vital backing from worldwide outfits Christie Digital and Stampede Global to local companies Thorntons, Close Brothers, Stirfresh and SGM who continue their support from last season   “Primarily we’re focusing on challenging for race wins right from the start of the season. “If we manage to consistently push for wins and bag podiums, that will evolve into us challenging for the championship as we get towards the end of the season. “Obviously the GT4 title is the ultimate goal. “We’ve got the champions from last year back, so it’s going to be a tough grid, but we’re determined to do everything we can to push for the title.”

Angus & The Mearns

Road rage Angus driver smashed moving car’s screen with metal pole

September 23 2017

A man smashed a moving car’s rear screen with a metal pole in a “significant road rage” Angus incident after pursuing the other driver who he believed had hit his parked vehicle. Andrew Woods had shouted threats from the window of his flat in Forfar’s Restenneth Drive on October 26 last year when he believed he saw the Rover 45 reverse into his car in the early afternoon incident. Depute fiscal Jill Drummond told the town’s sheriff court the 31-year-old then came “screeching” round the corner of a cul-de-sac in his car and got out brandishing a metal pole. The driver of the other vehicle manoeuvred around Woods, but as he was passing the accused smashed the windscreen, then the rear window. ”The complainer continued to drive and as he approached South Street he told his passenger to get out and run,” added Ms Drummond. Woods was still following the complainer, but got caught in traffic and the he was able to get away, the court heard. Defence solicitor Billy Rennie said his client maintained there had been damage caused to his vehicle. “It’s an extraordinary reaction if there was nothing to draw Mr Woods’ attention to vehicle of a complainer he didn’t really know before this,” he said. The solicitor said the accused believed the other car had been there to visit the house of a person he had good reason to suspect had been supplying heroin. “The culmination of these matters then results in what can only be described as significant road rage,” added Mr Rennie. Sheriff Alison McKay told Woods: “Your behaviour was entirely unjustified and totally dangerous. “Firstly you could have injured the complainer, and secondly he could have lost control of that vehicle, and who knows that could have happened if that had occurred. “At first glance of the photographs before the court my thinking was that custody was the only sentence I could impose in this case.” Woods was placed on a seven-month restriction of liberty order, confining him to his home on an electronic tag from 7pm to 7am.

Angus & The Mearns

Angus Minstrels pass £600,000 charity milestone

April 27 2016

Angus Minstrels have delivered their latest five-figure charity boost from the fantastic support for the 2015 show at Arbroath’s Webster Theatre. The group donated £10,500 to local charities, taking the organisation’s generosity over the past 55 years through the £600,000 barrier and helping over 100 deserving causes along the way. At the group’s annual general meeting in Arbroath’s Methodist Church Hall, chairman Ian Cargill also announced that the committee had received a letter from Edwina Barraclough intimating her retirement from the Minstrels. Edwina’s Minstrels involvement stretches back a remarkable 51 years, firstly as a dancer and then as producer and choreographer for the hugely popular annual show. Garry Mitchell gave a fitting tribute to Edwina on behalf of the committee for the dedication and commitment she has given to the Minstrels over the years. Cheques were presented to: CHAS (£7,000), RNLI Arbroath Branch, St Margaret’s Hospice and Riding for the Disabled (£1,000 each), Parkinson’s UK Dundee and Angus Branch (£500). The CHAS representative announced that in nearly 20 years, the Minstrels have donated £236,000 to Rachel House in Kinross. This year’s show, the 56th, will run from Saturday November 5 until Saturday November 12, including Sunday November 6. Ticket prices are £12, with a concession of £8 on November 5 only for those aged 16 and under. Block bookings are now being taken by Miss Joan Mitchell, 10 Seaton Road, Arbroath. Public booking will open on Tuesday August 30 at the Webster Memorial Theatre box office. Committee elected for 2016/2017: Director — Joan Mitchell, treasurer — Garry Mitchell. Committee — Ian Cargill, Eileen Craig, Evelyn Fordyce, James Hutcheson, Shona Kemp, Jim Ramsay, Robert Seaton. Anyone wishing to join the company either on stage or behind the scenes should contact James Hutcheson on 07932694364 or e mail hutcheson_james@hotmail.com.

Angus & The Mearns

Dragon Matrix will soon be revealed in dark woods of Angus

September 9 2016

A collection of 20 virtual creatures are preparing to set up home in deep, dark Angus woodland. With less than a month until Dragon Matrix welcomes its first visitors to Monikie Country Park, the county saw the launch of a special app, with a sneak peek at three of the new talking creatures preparing to entice, engage and enthral audiences. A mystical cat, silver fairy and white wizard were revealed to whet the appetite of Augmented Reality enthusiasts, a phenomenon which has exploded worldwide with the success of Pokemon Go. The inaugural DragonQuest attracted over 5,000 visitors last year and this year’s event will feature trolls, a fairy glen and a path of spiders in the dark woods of ANGUSalive’s Monikie Country Park. The mystical spectacular will see visitors embark on a quest to track six dragon stones, stolen from the Museum of Dragons, in the installation which will be set up throughout October. Vision Mechanics, the Edinburgh theatre company behind Big Man Walking, Giants in the Forest and Embrace is creating the event. Working in conjunction with the company’s artistic director Symon Macintyre, the creatures have once again been created by Saara Väkiparta and other animation graduates from Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. The Dragon Matrix App will reveal a world of magical creatures which visitors can scan and snap for social media, friends and family. Dragon Matrix is supported by EventScotland and ANGUSalive, and for the first time is also receiving backing from The Space, which works with artists and arts organisations to reach new audiences using digital technologies and platforms. Jim Clarkson, VisitScotland regional director Jim Clarkson said: “Dragon Matrix, with its enthralling stories and state-of-the-art technology, has become one of the most exciting and eagerly anticipated events of 2016 in Angus. “The financial boost provided by EventScotland’s national funding programme will also ensure the second year of this completely unique event is even more spectacular than the first, attracting visitors from near and far.” Kirsty Hunter, ANGUSalive chief executive added, “ANGUSalive is thrilled to bring back this outdoor theatre spectacular to Angus. “Dragon Matrix is the second instalment of the augmented reality adventure. In 2015 we attracted over 5,000 visitors to enjoy this exciting dark wood event in the wonderful woodlands of Monikie Country Park. “We look forward to welcoming audiences to let their imaginations run wild in the new game.”

Angus & The Mearns

21st century makeover for Montrose’s Victorian railway marvel

September 20 2017

For more than 130 years a feature at the mouth of Montrose Basin, a grand old lady of the town is being given a multi-million pound makeover to maintain her Victorian beauty for decades to come. https://youtu.be/P4KDryTOfHE The 440-metre, 16-span South Esk viaduct was completed in 1883 by the same engineer responsible for the Tay and Forth Bridges. In a 16-month project costing in excess of £4 million will be completely refurbished to maintain the structure’s important place on the country’s east coast main line. The work is being carried out as part of Network Rail’s UK-wide railway upgrade plan and in a rare opportunity, The Courier was given access to the structure as part of a group walking above the fast-flowing tidal waters of the Basin to see first-hand the work already under way. SNP MSP Mairi Gougeon and Conservative MP Kirstene Hair were also granted the privilege. A grade B listed structure, the viaduct stands on 15 pairs of wrought iron piers above the river and is to be grit blasted, cleaned, repaired and repainted, section by section, in a project scheduled for completion next summer. It was finished in 1883 as one of UK’s last major bridges to be built in wrought iron using lattice girders – a Victorian design standard utilised by renowned railway engineer William Arrol. A bespoke scaffold system and walkway is now in place for the Network Rail project team and specialist contractor Taziker Industrial to access the structure and deliver the work safely. The structure is also being ‘encapsulated’ to provide the right working environment in the exposed location as well as to stop any contaminants from leaking into the air and river below – particularly during grit blasting and painting. Network Rail project manager Jeremy Spence said: “It’s a stunning location and I am sure the experience of working here over the coming months will be both exciting and challenging. “Getting the chance to see the viaduct up close gives you great respect for those who built this structure more than a century ago and we hope that our work does justice to the legacy that we have been left by the Victorian railway pioneers. “We take seriously our responsibility to maintain and preserve these historic structures, not just for the safe and efficient operation of the railway, but also how they look in their setting for those travelling on the railway or visitors to the area enjoying the beautiful views.” The steelwork on the bridge is being painted window grey to match the original colour of the listed viaduct in a process which will ensure that the bridge will not need any significant maintenance for the next quarter of a century.

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