Monthly Archives: March 2018

First woman at the helm of traditional Lakeland sports


A new chair has taken the helm of the committee which organises England’s oldest traditional sports event.

Marjorie Blackburn is the first woman to lead Ambleside Sports, now in its 132nd year. Mrs Blackburn takes over from Jak Hirst who is stepping down after 13 years. He will keep an advisory role, and retain responsibility for attracting sponsorship.

Marj and Jak

Mrs Blackburn, who lives in Ambleside, has been a member of the organising committee for 18 years, alongside her husband, Mike, himself a former chairman.  Her professional career includes teaching and training, personnel and business, and she is a keen golfer, walker, and member of a local singing group.

Many tributes were paid to Mr Hirst’s “total dedication” to the Sports and he was described as a great team leader.

Ambleside Sports is run entirely by volunteers who spend months in planning and organising, and then a full week of setting up and taking down the sports field equipment. One of the highlights on the Cumbrian calendar, the event includes fell racing (with a new category for under-9s in the popular Guides race this year), hound trails, track cycling, Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling and many stalls and sideshows.

The committee has also given £14,000 in the last five years in sporting scholarships to young people in the area, to help them develop their sporting potential.

Also stepping down from the committee was Tom Harrington MBE, the Cumberland and Westmorland wrestler who won 44 world championships.

This year’s event will be held at Rydal Park on Thursday July 26. Space is still available for anyone wanting to book a trade stall in the “craft” marquee to sell local produce, art, jewellery etc, and these can be booked for £35, including table,  via the website




Folk legend to play benefit gig for homeless charity

Legendary folk singer Roy Bailey is to play a benefit concert for the homeless at a Kendal venue this summer.

The 82 year old performer and social campaigner will sing at St George’s Church, Kendal on Saturday 14 July to raise funds for the town’s winter shelter scheme.

roy bailey

Each winter for three months, a group of local churches open their doors to the homeless in a scheme administered by the charity, Manna House. The scheme also features a residential trip over Christmas itself.

Based in Kendal, Manna House provides a community of support to meet the physical, social and emotional needs of people who are homeless or vulnerably housed in South Lakeland. There’s a daytime drop-in centre offering company, food and advice, and a network of support, practical assistance and learning opportunities.

Sheffield-based Bailey rarely travels across the Pennines these days. One of the UK folk and acoustic scene’s most loved and admired performers for more than 50 years, he has sung and played on stages, TV and radio across the world. He was awarded an MBE for services to folk music in 2000, but later returned the award in protest at Government foreign policy.

From his early days performing skiffle in student union bars, to his love of traditional songs and the stories they tell, he has developed a unique repertoire of songs of dissent and hope.  In 1990 Roy joined forces with the politician Tony Benn to present their show ‘The Writing on the Wall’ for which the duo won Best Live Act at BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

A dedicated social conscience has underpinned all his work and he remains committed to his life-long principles of equality, liberty, justice and internationalism. Bailey has worked with many different people throughout his career and can count many well respected people, from all walks of life, among his enthusiastic supporters. Tony Benn called him “the greatest socialist folksinger of his generation”, and he is admired by leading performers such as Billy Bragg, Martin Carthy and Mike Harding.

Bragg says of him: “… as powerful as anything I’d heard by The Clash – it was Roy’s voice, the strength of it and the compassion in it.”

He contributed vocals to Chumbawamba’s 2008 album The Boy Bands Have Won, and joined the band on stage on their farewell Leeds show in October 2012.

In 2016, Roy released his first live album, Live At Towersey, which was recorded in secret at the leading folk festival and featured songs written by Si Kahn, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, John Tams, Robb Johnson and others.

Manna House winter shelter co-ordinator Lois Sparling said: “We are thrilled that Roy Bailey has agreed to come and perform in Kendal. Roy is as compelling, entertaining, thought provoking and moving as ever. As well as being an acclaimed folk artist, he’s also committed to fighting social injustice, and we hope this concert will bring the work of Manna House and the Winter Shelter to a wider audience.

“Homelessness is a complex and growing problem, and it’s one we must all face.”

Tickets for the concert at St George’s Church, Kendal on Saturday 14 July at 8pm are £12 and available now from

Pianists who head for the Lakes

While most visitors to the Lake District head out onto the fells for fresh air and exercise, at one guest house they’re encouraged to stay indoors  – and play the piano.

The sound of music can be heard from the sitting room at 1 Park Road in Windermere, where the host  – who dishes up an acclaimed eggs benedict for breakfast – is also a trained classical pianist.

And Philip Burton, piano teacher as well as hotelier, wants to encourage guests to play during their stay, whatever their musical standard.

philip at piano

“We had a family who came here one half term holiday specifically so that their daughter could practise for her forthcoming music exams,” said Philip. He and his wife Mary now offer a special musical short break package for guests who want to play their Broadwood piano while in the Lakes.

A music teacher at the Lakes School who also gives private lessons, Philip is currently the accompanist for Kendal Choral Society. He studied music at Liverpool University and the Royal Northern College of Music, and dreamed of being a concert pianist. “I tried to pursue it professionally in London, but I came to realise that only a minority make it as a career.”

Instead he, and Mary, worked in the health service for many years until they moved to Windermere to run the guest house. Over the years he’s been director of music for a number of choirs and choral societies, with a reputation for the unusual, such as staging experimental versions of Mozart’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah.

And he was given a very special gift by a museum curator in Diessen, the twin town of Windermere, where the composer Carl Orff was born, after Philip conducted Staveley Choral Society in Orff’s Carmina Burana at The Lakes School. It is a bound facsimile of the entire score of the piece, one of the world’s most famous choral works.

Also in pride of place at the guest house, this time on the dining room walls, is a series of framed cartoons. Look closely, and you’ll see Philip in each one, featuring comic highlights of his time as a choirmaster in Buckinghamshire and created specially for him by a member of the choir.

And his own favourite composers? Scarlatti, Beethoven, Bach, Haydn, Debussy and Bartok.

They run a two or three day piano package for all abilities, where pianists are promised great fun, and that they will leave playing a piece. Call 015394 42107

marking music cartoon

Detail from one of the cartoons

Artist’s life from Cumbria to Italy, and back again

Jean Sturgis: A Sense of Place : Paintings, Prints and Drawings

An artist with Cumbrian roots and a love of Italy will be featured at a new exhibition opening in Grasmere next month.

The Heaton Cooper Studio will host a display of paintings, drawings and etchings by Jean Sturgis who died at Kentmere two years ago.

This exhibition brings together work from across the span of her career, revealing an artist of great sensitivity with a distinct and expressive vision.


Born Jean Nicoll, in 1931 just outside Kendal, she was the daughter of J.S. Nicoll, a Director of K shoes, who encouraged her early enthusiasm for art.

Among his friends were the artists Robin Wallace and William Wilson, and Jean, as a girl, was able work with them, since her father invited them to the family home at Staveley to lead painting courses for local children.

She studied art first at Goldsmiths College, London and then at the Slade School of Art. “It was a stimulating and challenging time,” says her artist son Daniel Sturgis. “Among her painting tutors were William Coldstream (the founder of the Euston Road Group), Patrick George, Maurice Field and L.S. Lowry. She learnt etching and print-making from the brilliant print-maker John Buckland-Wright. The emphasis of the teaching was always towards careful observation and working directly from the motif.”

In 1953, Jean was awarded a prestigious travelling scholarship that allowed her to work at the British School at Rome. Her 18 months in Italy –first in Rome, then in the little hill-top town of Anticoli Corrado – instilled in her a life-long love of the country, its art and its people.

Returning to England she settled in London, exhibiting in various shows in Edinburgh and London, including the Leicester Galleries, one the most prominent forums for post-war British painting. She also taught at Queen’s Gate School, and in mental hospitals.

In 1958 she married the architect Tim Sturgis and together they had five children. “Her dedication to family life altered the trajectory of her artistic career, but she continued to paint, and to engage with the arts in other ways,” says Daniel.

jean nicoll

Jean Sturgis was the Chief Examiner for O Level Art for the Oxford & Cambridge Examination Board, and taught art at the Westminster Under School. She also contributed acclaimed plant-drawings and watercolours to several gardening books, for authors including Rosemary Verey, Penelope Hobhouse and Esme Clarke. She contributed water-colour garden plans for books on Levens Hall, and Hatfield House, as well as for Hugh Cavendish’s A Time to Plant – Life and Gardening at Holker.


She returned to exhibiting in the 1990s, with a series of one-person shows in London – first at the Clarendon Gallery, and then at the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery. In 2009 she was selected by Mary Burkett as one of five-artists in group exhibition at the Red Barn Gallery, in Melkinthorpe.

Settling in Kentmere where she developed a beautiful garden, Jean Sturgis continued both to paint and to etch. Her later works retain all their sense of engagement and particularity. She said: “Landscape; buildings in their setting, whether urban or rural; trees and flowers in their surroundings: these have always been the stimuli for my work.”

The Grasmere exhibition, created by son Daniel with the artist Julian Cooper, will open at the Heaton Cooper archive gallery on April 14, and will run until the end of June. Director of the studio, Becky Heaton Cooper, said: “This will be a fascinating insight to the life and work of a very talented artist whose work deserves wider recognition.”





















Classic and vintage cars heading for Lakes this summer

One of Cumbria’s most entertaining charity fundraising days returns to Grasmere this summer.

The Lakes Charity Classic Vehicle Show is organised by Windermere and Ambleside Lions to raise funds for local charities while bringing hundreds of classic and vintage vehicles from all over the country.

Last year’s event saw around 300 cars, vans, buses and motorbikes heading for the showground in the village, and raised over £10,000.

sports cars rally

The show attracts specialists and fanatics who are fascinated by the vehicles of a bygone day. Among the regular visitors is a group who call themselves “the Grumpy Old Men” who bring their cars – including an MGYB – over from Yorkshire. There is range of classic cars such as those from the BMW, Triumph and Morris Minor owners’ clubs, and a rare Brough Superior car made an appearance last year. The organisers are hoping for a visit from a 1950s double-decker Ribble bus this year.

But there’s also live music, food stalls, a beer tent and activities such as a Scalextric challenge, making the day a family highlight on the Lakes’ calendar.

This year the organisers will be supporting the Westmorland and South Lakes Group of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Sandgate Hydrotherapy Pool in Kendal.

Multiple Sclerosis affects around 100,000 people in the UK, most being diagnosed between the ages of 20 and their late 60s. MS is a neurological condition which affects the nerves and is caused when the immune system isn’t working properly. The local society aims to help people with MS in the area by offering support and understanding. They currently have 165 members, 150 of whom are MS sufferers, with the remainder as committee members and helpers.

The Sandgate Hydrotherapy Pool was built in 1977 with donations received through public subscription for the children and adults in the community who have mental and physical health problems. The fundraising was led by members of Westmorland Mencap, who have continued their support for the Pool ever since, more latterly through the Trustees of South Lakeland Hydrotherapy Trust.

The pool offers a unique service to the population of Cumbria, as the benefits of hydrotherapy have been well known for many years, and the Kendal pool offers these benefits to swimmers and non-swimmers alike in a supportive, non-competitive environment that affords privacy.

The Lions are an international organisation with 46,000 local clubs comprising 1.4 million men and women who believe that “kindness matters”.

“Lions are changing the world one community at a time, by addressing needs at home and around the globe. And when we work together, we can achieve bigger goals,” said president Philip Fell.

“We are a vibrant and committed group of local volunteers that are always looking to meet new people, help to fundraise in their local community and most of all to have fun.”

As well as the classic car show they organise other events including the Windermere Festival, and the Jingle Bell Jog. They can often be found at local events with their bouncy castle, and helping out to fundraise for local, national and international causes.

Said Mr Fell: “The show is on Fathers’ Day this year so it will be a great way to treat your dad.”

Entries are now being taken for this year’s show which is on Sunday June 17. For more details see: