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UK & World

Plea postponed for man accused of PC Gordon Semple murder

June 29 2016

The plea has been postponed in the case of a man accused of strangling and dismembering a police officer he met on gay dating website Grindr. Italian Stefano Brizzi, 50, allegedly murdered 59-year-old PC Gordon Semple at his London flat some time between April 1 and April 7. Mr Semple was originally from Inverness in Scotland and had been with the Metropolitan Police for 30 years. He went missing on April 1 and his remains were discovered a week later after a neighbour alerted Scotland Yard to a "smell of death" coming from a property on the Peabody Estate in Southwark Street, south London. Recorder of London Nicholas Hilliard QC has already set a provisional date for Brizzi to face trial on October 18. The defendant appeared before the Old Bailey judge by video link from top-security Belmarsh prison. Wearing sunglasses and a white and beige tracksuit, he spoke only to confirm his name. Prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC asked for the plea hearing to be put back to September 9. Judge Hilliard agreed the new timetable and remanded Brizzi in custody until the next hearing.

Business news

Dundee actress returns for Jackie The Musical role

April 25 2013

A Dundee-born actress is returning to her home town next month to take on the title role of Jackie The Musical. Lisa Lynch will play young Jackie when the show comes to the Gardyne Theatre for a two-week workshop. The 24-year-old actress yesterday told of her excitement at her first performance in Scotland since graduating from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. “I’ve done a lot of stuff in London and UK tours but since I’ve been professionally trained there’s not be an opportunity for me to come home,” she said. “It starts with a two-week workshop on May 21 and on the last Friday and Saturday we are doing performances for invited audiences.” Jackie Magazine the DC Thomson stalwart will come alive in the new musical featuring a pick of 70s pop tunes. All the old favourite features will be showcased from how to make your own eyeshadow to the photo-love story and the all-important answer to one of teenage girls’ most troublesome questions are love bites dangerous? Lisa plays young Jackie and there will also be an older Jackie in her 50s. “She’s going through a divorce and has flashbacks when I show her life, what she was like,” Lisa said. “We do scenes together and I’m saying ‘Go on, get out there, live your life.’” Lisa is a product of the local theatre scene, starting out at Rhythm, the theatre group in Monifieth, when she was just six before heading to Tread the Boards and the Thomson Leng Musical Society. “We did Les Miserables there and I got asked to audition for the West End version,” she said. “I went to the Dance School of Scotland in Glasgow in the musical theatre course and I boarded there for my last two years of high school. From there I auditioned for top London schools and went to Mountview.” Lisa graduated with a first class honours degree in 2010. Her roles in college included Maria in West Side Story and Maggie in A Chorus line. She was a finalist in the Sondheim performer of the year awards while studying. Lisa played Marjorie in The Day Before Spring at Sadler’s Wells and she toured the UK in Bugle Boy, the story of Glenn Miller’s life. But it was an article that brought her back to Dundee. She said: “My dad works at DC Thomson. He had seen the article in the paper and sent me it. I wrote to the director and had an audition.” Jackie The Musical is sponsored by The Courier and will run in August at the Gardyne Theatre.


A Play, A Peh and A Pint at Dundee Rep

April 5 2011

It's surprising the phenomenon of a play, a pie and a pint didn't originate in Dundee given the city's historic association with the crusty delicacy. Nevertheless, Glasgow's Oran Mor cultural centre got there first in 2004, to be precise and the premise is simple: you get a short play, a pie and a drink all for the price of a theatre ticket. In a two-week collaboration with Oran Mor, Dundee Rep is presenting A Play, A Peh and A Pint, the first of which ran its course last week. What Love Is is a newly-commissioned work by Scottish playwright Linda McLean, focusing on the relationship between two ageing parents and their daughter. It is directed by Dundee Rep's graduate trainee Emma Faulkner. Inspired by an article in the news about euthanasia, McLean's short play sees Gene and Jean (Peter Kelly and Rep Ensemble member Irene Macdougall) attempting to make sense of the world inside their own four walls. After a playful beginning, when the pair appear to be enjoying themselves and staying young, a more serious and sinister plot involving ill-health begins to develop. Both Kelly and Macdougall portray the confused, paranoid and slightly maniacal characters with convincing ease, but the surprise arrival of their daughter (Lesley Hart) breaks their reminiscence and reverie. It is unclear how old, or mature, their daughter is, as she marches into the house in a bit of a tantrum wearing high wedge shoes. Hart presents the character as stressed and huffy, but her back story isn't certain is she a young woman struggling to cope with this harrowing situation, or is she older, her life on hold as her parents' mental health deteriorates? A powerful and thought-provoking piece, What Love Is transfers to Oran Mor in Glasgow's Byres Road this week. The production swaps places with St Catherine's Day, a delicate and humorous work written and narrated by Dundee's Michael Marra, which runs from tonight through until Saturday.Visit www.dundeereptheatre.co.uk for more information.


Games jam played out well in Dundee

September 25 2016

Dundee  developers have come up with new virtual reality games in just 24 hours as part of a competition. A games jam took place from 4pm on Thursday until 4pm on Friday at Tag Games, resulting in games prototypes with names like Spider Spider, Mouse of Horrors and Terminal Station. The developers also created their own answer to the famous Boaty McBoatface, with a game titled Vanny McVanFace. Virtual reality, a form of technology that simulates a player's presence in a replica of a real environment, is said to be the future of games with some VR versions already present in many living rooms. Tag's marketing executive Gavin Moffat said: "At the games jam, staff split into four teams of four people - a designer, an artist and programmers. "They then had 24 hours to design a game prototype. "You would struggle to design a full game in that time, although it could be done if you're extremely good and the game is simple. "But with a prototype, you could then spend months perfecting and polishing it into a full game. "Some really great ideas can come out of these jam - you have to be creative and work fast. It was a great event. "This time the theme was virtual reality. Virtual reality headsets are already being used but it's difficult to say whether they'll become the default in gaming. "It could be the case that it's popular for a few years and then people get bored of it, or it could remain popular. "However, it certainly has great potential." Over the past 20 years Dundee has become an international hub for games developers with the world's biggest-selling video game - Grand Theft Auto - starting life in the city. Games jam are popular events where games developers get together to brainstorm ideas and create new prototypes within a short space of time.

Readers' letters

August 2: Relocate radiotherapy equipment to Perth

August 2 2011

Today's letters to The Courier. Sir, I read with pleasure that Ninewells Hospital has been allocated new radiotherapy equipment for the continued treatment of cancer. I would urge NHS Tayside to consider the rural communities of Perth and Kinross when looking to decommission the current equipment. It would benefit the cancer sufferers of Perthshire and the rural communities for the current equipment to be relocated to Perth. At present, those suffering from, and receiving treatment have to travel on a daily basis to Ninewells. In some cases this can involve be a daily round trip of between 42 to 100-plus miles a day. Over a 20 treatment session this equates to between 820-2000-plus miles for a 10-15 minute appointment and creates a very heavy financial burden and worry for families. Journey times may vary from 45 minutes in some cases to well over an hour in others when the conditions are good. In winter journey times are greatly increased . These may not be the most important factors during this time of worry, but can be greatly relieved with the possible relocation of the decommissioned equipment. I would urge all sufferers past and present to canvass NHS Tayside and contact their elected representatives. Together they can push for this important equipment to be used to the benefit of Perth and Perthshire. Alastair McLean.4 Fletcher Place, Crieff. Impact studies compromised Sir, I've followed Newburgh Community Trust's (NCT) proposal to ruin the amenity of their village and the setting of much of the Tay with three huge wind turbines. I was surprised and dismayed that this proposal gained any strength or indeed funding. Could it be that these applications are purely driven by the subsidies made available to energy companies and landowners? The Freedom of Information request you report (July 27) confirms that NCT has tried unsuccessfully to mislead the press and the public by attempting to hide the fact that Scottish Natural Heritage told NCT of their 'serious concerns' during the feasibility study in April 2009 (not this May as NCT has claimed). It seems that it has become common practice for energy companies to gloss over or to minimise or even erase areas of potential concern in submissions to planners. It just seems absurd that environmental impact studies are conducted by the applicant and not by an independent third party expert. This cannot go on. For preserving the setting of the Tay from a set of monstrous turbines that would be visible for many miles we are indebted to Scottish Natural Heritage (the only group to emerge for this woeful saga with their professionalism and integrity enhanced). But once this project is finally killed off there remain a number of important questions. Given the exponential growth in the number of windfarm applications being submitted, one has to be deeply concerned about the future of Fife landscape. Stavros Michaelides.Wester Waltonhill,Chance Inn,Cupar. Kings Theatre asset to Dundee Sir, Your front page article (July 28) indicates that Dundee will be world famous when V&A Dundee opens. It is now time to plan ahead for the extra facilities the city will soon need. There are at least three requirements: more hotels, better transport and more activities in the evening. It is good that two new hotels in listed buildings are to be created more are needed. The local Tay Rail needs to be established very soon linking Dundee with Perth, Arbroath, Leuchars, and later St Andrews, with a frequent service. It is quite likely that an international airport will arise at Leuchars for the lower cost airlines. Charter flights would serve the population, golfers, students, and tourists. The former railway into the air base should be reopened so that travellers will eventually be able to take the train from the terminus direct to St Andrews bus station or change at Leuchars for Dundee. Our city already has a number of fine restaurants, the Repertory Theatre, film theatres, the MacManus Museum and Art Gallery and the Caird Hall. Soon the new Olympia will open. The Kings Theatre should be refurbished and then reopened with weekly changes of programme. The building is in a good condition and only awaits funding to be purchased. Its only future is as a presenting theatre with touring companies for drama, ballet, musicals and opera as well as the best of local shows. Peter Murray Spencer.11 Castleroy Crescent.Broughty Ferry. Epitaph for the Dundee multis Sir, My father's cousin, the legendary journalist James Cameron, had a love-hate relationship with Dundee where his career began at The Courier and his first wife died in childbirth. He wrote that of all British cities, it had "the greatest potential for grace and charm: set on a firth of breadth and grandeur; built around the slopes of a small mountain." When I lived in London in the late 1960s I would meet him for "a small refreshment, dear boy" in a Fleet Street pub and regale him with Dundee's latest planning disaster. He would shake his head at our civic leaders' ability to create "a facade of unparalleled charmlessness; an absence of grace so total that it was almost a thing of wonder." He was particularly scathing about the 1968 multi-storied atrocities built in the Hilltown. When they were blown up on Sunday I know somewhere a ghostly glass was raised. Dr John Cameron10 Howard Place,St Andrews. Get involved: to have your say on these or any other topics, email your letter to letters@thecourier.co.uk or send to Letters Editor, The Courier, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.

Extremist found guilty of encouraging terrorism in YouTube campaign

January 24 2018

An extremist behind a YouTube campaign glorifying Islamic State has been found guilty of encouraging terrorism, but cleared over a video featuring Tony Blair in flames.Father-of-four Gary Staples, 50, drummed up support for terrorism in home-made clips posted to the video-sharing platform and Google Plus between May and September 2016, the court heard.Eight videos were created by him, while one was made by the media arm of IS terror group Al Hayat, his trial was told.One clip featured an image of the former prime minister with flames imposed over it, followed by a message reading: “O kuffar, sleep with one eye open.”A picture of a wolf appears alongside the warning to the “kuffar” – or non-believer – in the video, which later features the black flag used by IS.Armed IS fighters and infamous jihadi warlords appeared during the clips – which are all slideshows – accompanied by Nasheeds, a form of tune featuring a male vocal without musical accompaniment.The Nasheed lyrics in the video of Mr Blair translate from Arabic as “death in the path of jihad is Allah’s blessing”, it was heard.Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State, and Osama bin Laden are among the extremists glorified in the clips.Ben Lloyd, prosecuting, had told the court: “His purpose in publishing and disseminating each of these videos, the prosecution say, is to encourage members of the public to commit, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism.“Each of the videos contains, the prosecution say, Islamic extremist material.“Much of the material relates to Isis, Isil, Islamic State; there are also images of Osama bin Laden, for example, who, as you will no doubt know, was the leader of al Qaida.”Pictures of radical hate preacher Anjem Choudary were also found on Staples’ Google Plus account, the court was told.The account had 1,180 followers, while his YouTube account had 67 subscribers.Staples, from Crowther Road, South Norwood, south London, was arrested in November 2016 and denied eight counts of encouraging terrorism and one count of sharing terrorist material.Giving evidence, he accepted posting the Blair video but claimed two friends must have been responsible for others.Judge Anuja Dhir QC directed jurors that they must be sure the clips were a direct encouragement for terrorism.The jury acquitted Staples of encouraging terrorism in the Blair video but convicted him of the other charges.He was remanded in custody to be sentenced on February 27.


Local and international stars to take to the stage at Dundee Jazz Festival

October 8 2016

A range of local and international artists are set to perform at this year's Dundee Jazz Festival. The line up for the annual event has been announced, featuring a wide selection of musical genres and acts. As well as traditional jazz, blues rock, hip-hop and swing will also be on the cards at venues across the city centre. Highlights include double MOVO award winning saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch at The Reading Rooms and Dundonian Gordon McNeil at the Dundee Rep. Agnese Daverio, festival producer, said: "We are delighted to invite so many great international and local musicians to play in Dundee, from the likes of American Nikki Hill and Aaron Diehl to Dundonians Gordon McNeil and Vardo. "We’re also very excited about our new collaboration with the Reading Rooms, and our return to the Rep for the late jazz night session. The Gardyne Theatre remains our core venue with its great acoustics, comfortable seating and easy parking. This year we’re presenting more activities in the city centre with the aim to grow the festival further in the years to come. "We’re hoping to engage with a wide range of people from the local community, from older generations to younger music fans, hence our programme is very varied and presents a different flavour every night – from edgy sounds by rapper/saxophonist Soweto Kinch, to rootsy rock by Nikki Hill and classic jazz tunes from the swing era presented in the Story of Swing by the Scottish Swing Orchestra. "As jazz is a term that umbrellas over many different styles of music, we are presenting Jazz in the Ferry, an afternoon packed of great music, during which eight bands will be taking the stage across five venues, and where audiences can freely roam between sites with a rover ticket. "This event is also great for those who are not quite sure whether jazz is for them or not, as it gives them the opportunity to explore and sample different genres at once." The event takes place from November 16-20. Tickets are available online or through the city box office, with some bookings available through individual venues.  


Byre Theatre considers staff cuts

June 21 2010

The Byre Theatre in St Andrews might have to look at cutting back some of its work, and even staff, if there is no change of heart from the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) over its decision to withdraw the theatre's flexible funding from April. The theatre's chief executive Jacqueline McKay will, with other theatre representatives, will meet the national body in the next few weeks. It would lead to the loss over over £300,000 of funding over two years and has inspired a groundswell of support for the Byre. There is astonishment as over the past three years the theatre has doubled its audience figures, turned around its finances and boosted the local economy. Ms McKay said that an SAC statement said that while the application was of a high standard, others had met the criteria more fully. She said, "That is what we have to explore with them. "We have to find out why, and question the rationale." Ms McKay said that last summer a street theatre festival had been assessed as bringing over £140,000 into St Andrews in three days, that another few months of major activity is about to take place and that the Byre has a successful relationship with its main funder, Fife Council. The theatre, she said, had been expecting an rise in funding, and had asked for foundation status which would bring five-year funding on a par with other significant theatres and organisations. Ms McKay said that there are strong partnerships with other groups, and that the relationship with the council has been strengthened thanks to the Byre's role in Celebrating Fife 2010. The theatre also has a rural touring programme around Fife and has worked with vulnerable children.StunnedMs McKay said, "We are really quite stunned over where we have ended up. "This is a recommendation, but there is an opportunity for us to talk through what we have done over the past three years, and hopefully see the proposal reversed." She added, "We also need to know what the SAC, which will shortly become Creative Scotland, has in mind, and where the Byre features in any new plans." The chief executive has also highlighted contradictions in the situation with SAC. She said that recently the Byre received an SAC capital award to develop a box office on South Street, and to create a website which would help online sales, grow the business and build on the relationship with audiences. Ms McKay said that it is terrific to see SAC funding going to other sources, for instance poetry festival StAnza which relies on the Byre to host and produce the event. She said, "However if we start to remove the fabric of theatres where people can show their work, there are big questions to be asked." More support came at the weekend from North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell, who said that the Byre serves not just St Andrews but all of north Fife. He said, "It makes a valuable contribution to our cultural life. "I shall be writing to the chairman offering to help in any way I can."


Dundee Rep’s Further than the Furthest Thing leads CATS nominations

May 11 2012

Dundee Rep's prominence in Scottish theatre has been cemented by receiving five nominations in this year's critics' awards. All the recommendations are for the acclaimed Further than the Furthest Thing, with the Rep a nominee for best production, Ann Louise Ross for best female performance and James Brining for best director. In two other sections, Neil Warmington (set), Philip Gladwell (lighting) and Elizabeth Ogilvie (water) are nominated for the best design, and the company is nominated for the best technical presentation. The production takes place on an Atlantic island where years of isolation have created a community of cautious people. They are transported to England when a volcano erupts, causing them to change their primitive existence. A significant feature of the production was the set, with the stage turned into a vast pool flooded with 29,000 litres of water and lit to impressive effect. The play was James Brining's last at the Rep before taking on the role of artistic director at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Dundee Rep shares top billing in the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) with the Citizens' Theatre Company, with each receiving five nominations. The Tay Square theatre company also becomes the second most nominated since the awards began 10 years ago. It now has 56, only four behind the National Theatre of Scotland. Joyce McMillan, CATS co-convener, said: ''This year's CATS nominations celebrate a dazzling range of work, created by more than 20 companies across Scottish theatre. ''The list emphasises the growing creative impact of the National Theatre of Scotland, both through its own distinctive work and in co-productions with other companies; it also celebrates the continuing high achievement of Dundee Rep, and a fine start to Dominic Hill's directorship at the Citizens Theatre. ''And through nominations for events like the National Theatre of Scotland's Five Minute Theatre, Untitled's Salon Project and Magnetic North's Pass the Spoon, it also reflects the exciting ways in which theatre is changing, with artists exploring the myriad possibilities of online technology, and boldly venturing into the borderlands between theatre and installation, theatre and music, theatre and visual art.'' Of the 202 productions considered for nomination, 123 were eligible for best new play and 36 were created for children and young people. The winners will be announced on Sunday June 10 at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow. Photo by Douglas McBride


Ruth Davidson insists the Conservative manifesto will be bursting with ideas

March 29 2016

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has pledged to unveil a manifesto "bursting with ideas" following internal party allegations that she has not presented any detailed policies. Jim Terras, chairman of the Selkirk Conservative and Unionist Club, has called for "policies or a detailed manifesto" and said Ms Davidson's performance in the first televised election debate was "very poor" in a steady stream of criticism on social media. Mr Terras has also pointed to several demands for detail on the ConservativeHome website, in response to Ms Davidson's article defending the UK Government's tax decisions and criticising those of her Scottish opponents. It follows a leak of an internal party document which claimed the manifesto will not present the Conservative plan for Scotland, but will outline how the party has changed and "what we will pressure the Scottish Government on in the next parliament". Ms Davidson rebuffed claims that her party has been silent on policy, insisting she has pledged to build 100,000 new homes, hand colleges £60 million, reform education from pre-school to post-secondary, reform Police Scotland and the courts, address the "target culture" in the NHS and invest in roads and digital infrastructure. She told the Press Association: "Maybe Jim doesn't read the papers but I can't say that we haven't been putting a lot of ideas out there. "We will have a full manifesto bursting with ideas. We have been the only people holding the Government to account on some of this stuff for months." Ms Davidson said she had not seen the leaked paper until it was published in the Daily Record, but said its central claim that "the manifesto will not be presented as Our Plan for Scotland" is "clearly false". She added: "A manifesto is all about policies and ideas, and that is exactly what ours is going to be as it has been at every other election." The Edinburgh Central candidate visited Little Learners Nursery in the south of the city to support Save the Children's Read On, Get On campaign and outline her education policies. "We have seen literacy and numeracy fall in Scotland," she said. "We also see a really big gap in young people from poorer communities and the better off and that gap grows as they progress through school, so it's something that you need to address. "We need to empower teachers more within our schools, so we want to have greater decision-making power for our headteachers and school leaders, such as hiring of staff, budgets and allocations. "Of the money that is designated to schools by the Scottish Government, 20% never reaches it to the school gates. It is spent and kept by councils. "Some of it is spent very well but we think some of it would be better spent by teachers." She called for a significant proportion of the £650 million coming to Scotland from the Chancellor's Budget to be spent on schools. Ms Davidson also highlighted the opposition of the education sector to the Scottish Government's plan to appoint a "named person" from health and social care to monitor the wellbeing of every child in Scotland. She said the Educational Institute of Scotland, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council and the Association of Heads and Deputy Heads have raised concerns about the scheme, as have the Association of Scottish Social Workers, Police Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland and senior social workers. In her article for ConservativeHome, Ms Davidson said “middle earners in Scotland will be forced to pay £3,000 more in tax than people in England over the next five years” under the SNP’s income tax plans. “By the turn of the decade, the difference in take home pay for someone touching £50,000 will be £800 a year,” she said. “And, secondly, the additional rate may go up too.” She added: “Our message in this campaign will be that we will fight to keep people’s taxes as low as possible, not just because workers deserve to keep more of their own money - and they do - but also because it is good for Scotland. “I want to deliver the kind of balanced parliament that will make better decisions for all of us.” She said a Labour opposition will leave Scotland “on a high tax escalator” with “a high tax first minister being told by a high tax opposition leader that taxes aren’t high enough”. She added: “It is only the Scottish Conservatives which can stop that escalator in its tracks.”