Beauty and the Beast at the Webster Theatre, Arbroath

Every year my family and I make a point of going to see the pantomime at the Webster Memorial Theatre in Arbroath. Filled with fun and frolics, it’s the perfect way to get the festive season started! After all Christmas just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without shouting “he’s behind you” to the pantomime dame and “Oh no she didn’t” to the dastardly villain.

This year’s production is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast written by local playwright JJ Christine. The show stars a host of wonderful actors from Chris O’Mara as the Beast & Prince, Claudia Todd as Bell, Simon Donaldson as Gastoff, Susan Coyle as Evil Mother & Mrs P, Arron Usher as Aunt Jolly,  and Charles ‘Chuck’ Denton as La Poo, all of whom do a terrific job of entertaining and engaging the family audience.

As always this panto adds it’s own special twist to the well known tale, making it a riveting watch. In this version, Bell and the Beast both love to dance, Gastoff has an mother issues and La Poo is an expert body popper! Who knew!

We absolutely loved the show and my two girls aged 5 and 8, were absolutely glued throughout. As always the Webster Memorial Theatre’s panto production was pitched absolutely perfectly for the family audience. With loads of laugh out load moments, bucketsful of high jinx, plenty of baddies to boo and a brilliant soundtrack to sing along to – this panto really does have it all!

Beauty and the Beast is the perfect family pantomime for Christmas and is not to be missed!

Beauty and the Beast is on at the Webster Memorial Theatre until the 24th of December. For further information about the production and to buy tickets, please visit: http://www.webstertheatre.co.uk/whatson.htm


*Disclaimer: I was very kindly provided with tickets to this performance in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Preview: This is it! Scotland’s literary talent in the spotlight at cabaret event

Can’t wait to attend this Literature Alliance Event tomorrow!

Best-selling author Louise Welsh and award-winning poet William Letford are set to headline an inaugural literary cabaret taking place this month, which shines a light on the nation’s literary scene in 2017.

                                      Author, Louise Welsh

The fast-paced, 90-minute show – called This Is It! – will highlight the year’s literary happenings across five strands – publishing, book festivals, school and public libraries, writers, and the international perspective.

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs will open this first public event from Literature Alliance Scotland (LAS) – the nation’s largest network of literature and languages organisations – on Wednesday 23 November from 7pm at Central Hall, Edinburgh.

Speakers include, respectively, Canongate Books’ Publishing Director Francis Bickmore, Adrian Turpin, Artistic Director of Wigtown Book Festival, and Pamela Tulloch, Chief Executive of Scottish Libraries Information Council.

Poet William Letford, who hails from Stirling, will cover writer development and perform a reading of his poem This Is It from which the event takes its name.

                Poet, William Letford

Closing the show will be Glasgow-based author, Louise Welsh, who will speak about Scotland’s books and literature on the international stage as well as the importance of literary exchange between nations.

In addition, attendees will be able to browse and buy books from Scotland’s writers and publishers courtesy of Blackwell’s Bookshop, Edinburgh while librarians from South Lanarkshire’s digital library programme ‘ACTIVEe’ will be on hand to demonstrate 3D printers which are now available in all of Scotland’s public libraries.

Peggy Hughes, Chair of LAS said: “With over 40 book festivals a year, ambitious new publishing houses such as 404ink emerging, stalwarts such as Birlinn celebrating 25 years, another Man Booker shortlisting for Ali Smith, Muriel Spark’s centenary on the horizon, not to mention the many, many Scottish books and authors that are going into the world every day and taking our stories and voices with them, it seemed high time that we took a moment to celebrate the wealth of our literature sector and shout about its cultural and social value.”
“At a time when Scotland’s Culture Strategy is being developed, it’s vital that we champion our sector and all the talented people working within and for it. Our literary cabaret is a chance for everyone with an interest in Scotland’s literature and book community to gather together and say, ‘This is it, this is a snapshot of what’s been happening this year’. It’s about carving out a space to celebrate the wonderful success, highlight the exciting potential and address the challenges. That’s why we’re so delighted that Fiona Hyslop is officially opening the event and giving this rich and vibrant sector the recognition it deserves.”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Scotland’s distinguished literary culture is a notable part of our national identity. It also attracts visitors to Scotland and raises our cultural profile around the world. “I am pleased that the Literature Alliance Scotland is extending its reach beyond its membership of key individuals and agencies which promote writers and publishers to engage with the public.

“We are doing all we can to support the literary sector to ensure this rich legacy is maintained and strengthened in future years. We do this through for example our support for Creative Scotland, literacy, libraries, festivals, Book Week Scotland, the First Minister’s Reading Challenge and the post of Makar.”

Jenny Niven, Head of Literature, Languages & Publishing, Creative Scotland, said: “We have a unique, distinctive and rich cultural asset in literature that not only makes an enormous impact to people’s lives in Scotland but also enhances our reputation internationally. From poets to storytellers, screenwriters and playwrights the quantity and quality of writing being published here is truly inspiring. This is It! and Literature Alliance Scotland creates an important opportunity to bring together authors, publishers, libraries, festivals and literary organisations, and champion the work being done to make literature more visible to a greater number of people. We look forward to continuing this work with Scottish Government, partner agencies and individuals to create the best conditions to support a thriving literature and publishing sector in Scotland and internationally.”

Tickets for This Is It! are £7 /£6 – https://this-is-it-literary-cabaret-2017.eventbrite.com/

The Nutcracker by Russian State Ballet – Preview

After being absolutely mesmerised by Swan Lake a few years ago, I’ve been desperate to see The Nutcracker. So, when I heard that the Nutcracker was coming to Dundee’s Caird Hall on Thursday the 9th of November – I knew I had to see it.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a trip to your local theatre for a dazzling production of the most famous Ballet in the world, The Nutcracker. Based on The Nutcracker and the Mouse King written by E.T.A. Hoffmann, it tells the story of Marie, a rather sad little girl, whose godfather Drosselmeyer gives her a nutcracker doll as a present on Christmas Eve, which turns into a prince. When midnight strikes, the world turns all magical in the wintry glitter of Christmas Eve.

Toys come alive, the Mouse-king and his mouse-army battle with the Nutcracker Prince and we travel through the Land of Snow to an enchanted place where the magic really begins. Snow flurries, sweets, princes, magic, love, victories and defeats, and Tchaikovsky’s rousing score, are just some of the ingredients that will be brought together by this renowned Russian State Ballet. The Russian State Ballet and Opera House is a gem for the Russian cultural traditions, bringing as they do the passion and vibrancy of Russian character to this well-known ballet. It has built an international reputation for delivering performances of outstanding quality, and never fails to delight audiences.

I’ll be reviewing the production on here at the end of next week!

For further information on the Russian State Ballet, please click here: www.russian-state-ballet.co.uk

To book tickets for Thursday’s performance of The Nutcracker at Dundee’s Caird Hall, call: 01382 434940 or visit: https://www.dundeebox.co.uk

Review – Dundee Literary Festival 2017

Last weekend was my favourite annual book festival, Dundee Literary Festival and as usual it didn’t let me down. Jam packed full of wonderful authors and glorious bookie events – it’s little wonder that literature lovers return to it year after year.

I attended this year’s festival with my fellow Chasing Timers, Sandra Ireland and Elizabeth Frattaroli, who are also huge Dundee Literary Festival fans.  Together we went to see a number of wonderful events including: New Worlds: a writing for young adults workshop with author Joan Lennon, Talk: Literature in Britain Today with Tim Robertson, Director of the Royal Literature Society, In Conversation with Graeme Macrae Burnet and Louise Welsh and In Conversation: Beyond Our Times with journalist and author Mark O’Connell.

Each event was unique and riveting in its own way. We listened, considered, debated and learned something new at every talk and discussion. As always the standard of speakers and the organisation of the event was phenomenal.

One of the best things about the festival is the sense of community there. It’s a fabulously warm and engaging event, full of friendly faces who all share the same love and passion for reading. When I first started attending book events a few years ago, I knew no one, but now I recognise so many lovely bookish people. It’s wonderful to feel part of a community that is so warm and special and welcoming.

Sadly this year, we say goodbye to Peggy Hughes who is leaving for pastures new. I’d just like to say thank you to Peggy for all of her hard work over the years, I know how much myself and the rest of the bookish community in both Dundee and around Scotland, appreciate all of your dedication. Your passion for literature has really helped the Dundee book scene come to life. We’ll miss you dreadfully, but we wish you all the luck in the world with your new bookish adventures.

Book review: Maggie’s Mittens

I’m always on the look out for books that are going to engage my five year old, so when I stumbled across the new title: Maggie’s Mittens, I was immediately curious. With beautiful words from Scottish author Coo Clayton and charming illustrations from Northern Irish artist, Alison Soye, I just knew that this title would be a big hit in my house.

The picture book, which was penned by author Coo after she walked her daughter Maggie home from nursery on a dreich day last autumn, features locations from around Scotland including Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Falkirk, St Andrews and Dundee.

The fact that my daughter could sit with me and recognise some of Scotland’s famous sights, made this a really exciting read for her. It also gave us the chance to plan lots of new adventures together – we’ve still not visited the Kelpies, which is just disgraceful! So, that has been added right to the top of our never ending to do list!

Another beautiful feature of the book was the fact that there is a red squirrel hidden on every page, which added a bit of extra joy to the book.

The story, is one that’s familiar to every parent! In fact, I used to stich my daughter’s mittens into her coat to stop her from discarding them every time we ventured out for a walk! But, while I empathised with Maggie’s mum, my daughter was rooting for Maggie all the way!

Maggie’s Mittens is a lovely read, full of fun and charm and I’d recommend it to any parent looking for a great book to share with their kids. It would also make a wonderful present for children abroad, who are looking for a wee tour around Scotland.

Maggie’s Mittens is published by Black & White and is available in all good bookshops now!