Archive for the ‘Spotlight’ Category

Spotlight on Local People … Graham Ashby

We ask a local personality a set of probing questions …

Graham Ashby

We spoke to Lynn man Graham Ashby, who decided to take up writing and poetry after his career in boxing.

Were you brought up in King’s Lynn?

Yes, I certainly was ‘Made in King’s Lynn’, and lived all my life here. I was born in Heacham, but I’ve mostly lived in the centre of Lynn. My mother died when I was 3 years old, but by the time I was 6 I was put into a foster home with my brother.

How would you describe yourself?

Pleasant, out-going. I try to get on with everybody. I’m a bit of a ‘people watcher’. I don’t expect anything from anybody, except to be decent and gracious to me and other people as well. I don’t like liars and cheets.

What job do you do?

I clean at a well-known refrigeration factory. I’ve cleaned all my life, and I suppose I’m quite good at it now! I’ve done everything in my time from land work to painting, building and factory work.

Who or what inspired you to take up poetry?

After finishing with boxing there was a big void in my life so I tried other sports. I didn’t get on with Rugby, it hurt too much! I enjoyed football and badminton but there was still that void.

When you are boxing you’ve got the crowd chanting your name, and that’s a big thing. I was Norfolk champion, and fought all around the country and in Germany and Wales. I was totally dedicated, did lots of training, and I must have been one of the fittest in boxing.

I’ve written stories all of my life. I tried poetry when I was a teenager but that wasn’t for me then, maybe because I lacked the life experience.

I tried again with the poetry, and that filled that void. you really have to work at poetry, and that’s a fitness of the mind more than anything. I got exactly the same feeling as I used to get out of boxing. Victory when I motored home.

I love to create poetry, and when you have that final work in front of you in the pages of a book, that’s the best feeling ever.

What are your favourite subjects to write about?

I’ve done some on sport, social poems, anti-war poems. 9/11 was horrific, so I did a poem about that which is in my book An Angel In Prayer. That was just normal people going to work and then devastation … out of the blue.

I’ve done quite a few love poems, fantasies more than anything. I like to get lost in poetry, I think people should get lost in poetry and be taken on a journey, because poetry is a wonderful craft.

Graham Ashby - An Angel In Prayer

Have you had much of your work published?

I’ve had a book published by United Press called An Angel In Prayer, and I’ve had about twenty anthologies printed as well. There is a varied audience for poetry. There was one time when I was in the local pub, and the barmaids said “give us a poem Graham” so I would write a little love poem down for them. The bar ladies loved it!

You’re in the middle of writing a story?

It’s called the Black Shuck, and it’s to do with the folklore tale of the Devil’s dog. I heard about it through my ex-wife’s family and found it really interesting.

The thing that I found fascinating is that there’s also a White Shuck, which is a good dog that protects you for the rest of your life from the Black Shuck.
So I’ve constructed this story about a normal person who has dreams, and they get so vivid he doesn’t know whether he is living the dream or it’s just an ordinary dream. You go through this series of escapades where the Black Shuck catches up to him. It’s very hard work to keep the story rolling, as it’s all in poetry and rhyme.

It’s a love story more than anything, and I don’t know how it will end yet. I’ve done a few endings and I’ve just got to figure out the best one. It’s going to be a short story with no names or places mentioned. The person is a good person but he finds himself involved in this nightmare.

Illustration of Black Shuck from Mysteries of the Unknown (Usbourne 1977)

Illustration of Black Shuck from Mysteries of the Unknown (Usbourne 1977)

Have you got plans to write more poems and books?

Yes, I would like to do a book of love poems

What’s your favourite place in Norfolk?

My armchair! Or my bed after a hard day at work. I like anywhere by the sea. You can’t beat Hunstanton on a really hot day. It’s good for your soul to inhale all that fresh air!

What type of music do you like?

Anything from Abba to Mozart. I didn’t like much of the punk stuff from the late 70s. The Doors were brilliant musicians. Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, Kaiser Chiefs. I enjoy doing karaoke.

Favourite song or piece of music?

There’s a film called Play Misty for Me. One of my favourite songs is The First time ever I saw your face by Roberta Flack. It’s a ballad that’s so haunting. It goes right through your soul.

Favourite book?
The Chinaman is a very clevely written book by Stephen Leather. The Phoenix Assault by John Kerrigan. Rupert Bear books are among my favourites. It’s like travelling into a different world. I like nothing better than the smell of a brand new book, and then reading from cover to cover.

Favourite film?

The Italian Job is a classic. One of the best we’ve ever made. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, because it had a lot of humour in it as well. James Bond films.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

I would love to do writing as a living, and provide a good future for my son.

What vegetable are you?

A carrot! Because it’s straight like I am. I try and be honest. If you haven’t got your morals and your principles I don’t think you’ve got anything

If you could be someone famous who would you be?

I think I’d be Superman. he is my hero. A gallant person with the right heart and right ideas. I’d also like to be Horatio Nelson, because he was relentless in his idea of what we stand for. He was the first person to coin the phrase “Our band of Brothers”. He was fair to all of his crew.

What superpower would you choose?

I would love to fly like Superman.

What things would you like to be remembered for?

Being a good father, bringin up my son as best I can and giving him unconditional love.

Where can people buy your book?

The book is £5.95 and you can get them directly from me. Some of the poems in there are from the Black Shuck. The sales have gone very well, and I’ve not had a complaint about it yet!

You can contact Graham on 07502 392900.

To read some of Graham’s poems CLICK HERE.


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Spotlight on local people … Craig Powell

We ask a local personality a set of probing questions …

Craig Powel

Craig Powell is a local singer who also runs a mixed martial arts gym. We caught up with him during a quiet moment in the gym …

What inspired you to open a gym?

It’s always been a goal of mine to have a place where people can train in King’s Lynn. A proper mix-match gym that does every aspect – ground work, stand up and just putting it all together. So not just judo, not just karate, but everything all together. There are not many places in the country let alone a town like King’s Lynn that have the facilities.

Are you a gym fanatic yourself?

Yes, but it’s more with the martial arts. Martial arts has played such a big part of my life from being a child. I’m 27 now, so that’s 20 years of martial arts from karate and jujitsu and kick boxing. I’ve done so many martial arts. I know how much it helped me as a child. I think it’s something everybody should give a go to see how it helps them confidence and self-discipline wise.

Self confidence and self discipline plays a large part then?

Some young teens come in, where their parents can’t control them. They bring them down here and then they are surprised when I treat them very normal the same as anybody else. It’s a team thing. We all help each other training, and I like the fact that it does help people and you can see it helps people.

Do you cater for all ages?

Yes, we start with six year olds up to… well I’ve got someone who is 53 training – you are never too old. I like training six year olds because I like them to understand a little bit about what they are doing. You can start teaching them the etiquette – just bowing, the respect for me as an instructor. I give them lots of praise when they do things right, and hopefully that will transfer into school as well, when the teachers speak to them. I’m not here to shout at them I’m here to have fun and have a laugh with them as well.

So what can people actually do at the gym?

Jujitsu, which is ground work – arm locks, submisssions, chokes, leg locks. Pinning people to the floor is known as ground fighting, then there are stand up only sessions where we do things like kick-boxing and Thai boxing, which involves the knees and elbows. Then you’ve got wrestling which is how to take someone down on the floor.

Have you found a lot of extra interest since the Olympics?

Yes, new people are literally walking through the door every week. The lads and ladies that we’ve already got have said it’s nice to see so many new people.
With it being such a very friendly club, as soon as somebody new walks in I say to my lot “come on, shake hands and introduce yourselves!” Everybody introduces themselves, everybody has a laugh. When people are grappling each other they tend to have a chat and get to know each other.

Craig Powell live on Top of the Pops in 2005

Craig Powell live on Top of the Pops in 2005

How many people have you got coming to the gym?

We have 30-40 members. We have a maximum of 8 people training in one session, because they will learn quicker than having a class of say 20 because it’s easier to spot the mistakes. The aim for me is just to the get the gym packed.

You are a bit tucked out of the way here, so do people often have problems finding you?

I do find People need to contact me before coming down, and I’ll give them instructions on how to get down here for a free session. It’s a small members only gym. We don’t have bullies – we keep the bullies out.

So if anyone wants to come down what should they do?

Just pop along to the website at to find my contact details, and we will welcome you along.

One of your claims to fame is an appearance on Top of the Pops. How did that come about?

I joined the group Uniting Nations in 2004. I was at Searles Leisure Resort in Hunstanton as their resident singer. Towards the end of my first season a friend of mine from Manchester said he knew someone who was looking for a singer. So I sent them my info and they immediately wanted me. I started recording vocals and they released it as Uniting Nations. The next thing I made a video and we were being played on Radio 1 and all the local stations too.

Then suddenly we get a phone call saying we are going on Top of the Pops. We met Andy Peters who was running it a that time. It was like a dream come true. It was just me singing live – two of the producers stood behind me pretending to play the drums and guitar!

Was that a one-hit wonder?

Well we did have an album of dance music released. Uniting Nations had three top twenty tracks, although I was only singing on one of them. There was a remix of Ai No Corrida and then there was Out of Touch. Although we were big in the UK we were even bigger in Germany, Poland and right the way across Europe.

We still all work and write together. At some point we will probably all get together and release something under the Uniting Nations name again. It’s just waiting for the right time. At the moment with the credit crunch, record labels are not taking on so much music.

I’m signed to Notting Hill Publishing who take the songs that I write, and shop them around to the big record labels like Sony.

I treat the gym as my hobby and my music as my job. I’ve been a professional singer since I left school. “Another day in the office” for me would be doing gigs and travelling all over the country. Coming in to the gym is like catching up with friends, and having a laugh. I don’t see this as work at all.

Where have you been to perform your gigs?

Literally all over. Locally I do the holiday parks in Great Yarmouth, Caister and Hemsby. Also down in Clacton and into Kent and up north too. I did a gig the other week at the Deers Leap in King’s Lynn, which made a nice change from all the travelling!

How do you see things going for the future?

I want to keep singing and really push my song writing. I want the gym to be known as the best place in King’s Lynn to learn mixed martial arts.

As told to John Beck.

And here’s a more recent video of Craig – singing in King’s Lynn town centre!

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Spotlight on … Sophie!

We asked Maltese singer Sophie about her recent visit to King’s Lynn …

Sophie at Festival Too

Sophie on stage at Festival Too. Photo: Kevin Elfleet

We normally feature local personalities in our ‘Spotlight’ interviews, but decided to make an exception with Sophie, as she has “totally fallen in love with King’s Lynn”, and plans to visit Norfolk again soon!

What was it like performing before the Kings Lynn crowd on Friday 6th July?

Performing in Kings Lynn and in front of such a fantastic audience was a great opportunity and experience! I loved every minute of it. The crowds were so warm, lively and friendly, they made me want to be a better performer and gave me the energy I need to do that with. I usually get a little bit nervous performing in front of such a large crowd, but I think the way in which I was treated and greeted by everyone made me feel right at home! 🙂

You come from Malta – are you a very well known singer over there?

Malta is such a small yet beautiful Island, and I love flying the flag wherever my music takes me! Back on the rock (as I call it) I have lots of loyal friends who support everything I do and none of this would be possible without them! In fact all of Malta’s performers have such a great bond with each other and with the Maltese people, which I think is a lovely thing to see and vitally important!

Have you been on TV in Malta?

Yes, I have been on TV in Malta quite a lot! Back in 2009 I was actually a resident singer on a popular Maltese TV show known as ‘Hadd Ghalik’. TV is so much fun, I learnt so much from being in that environment; you never stop learning new things!

You have recently moved to London?

Yep! I’ve moved in with my sister, Charlotte, for the summer! This move was made so that I could be available for all the different gigs, events and festivals I have lined up in the next couple of Months! It’s so exciting, I’ve never been so far away from home for such a long period of time, but since UK is my second home I’m doing just fine!

What song do you enjoy performing the most?

To be honest I don’t think I prefer performing one song more than any other! I enjoy myself so much when I’m up on stage that even if I was singing a Nation Anthem or something, I’d still have a great time.

What singers would you say have influenced you?

I think it would definitely have to be artists like Rihanna for her performance skills, Beyonce for her amazing dancing (whilst singing beautifully) and Jessie J for her unique song writing! However although these current ladies influence me very much, there are also the Legends that have a particular impact on me musically, and these are; Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Frank Sinatra.

‘Sunny’ has been covered by people like Cher, Boney M, Georgie Fame,
Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. So what makes your
version of sunny different from previous covers

Well, I would have to say that I would never even try to compare myself to artists like those mentioned above, however in my opinion; my version of ‘Sunny’ is unique and fresh! Having given it my own twist, something we call ‘Sophifying’ I could safely say that your going to hear ‘Sunny’ in away you have never heard it before, it’s ‘Sunny’ from my angle! The outcome of the track has really excited me, and I hope that everyone else who hears it is just as equally as excited as I am!

There is a new album on the way too? What can we expect to hear on it?

That’s correct, there is an album on the way (very soon), it is an album that along with a great team, I have been working on for almost 2 years now! It’s going to take the listener on a journey of my life so far and all the ups and downs that comes with it! Throughout my UK Summer Tour, I will be performing numbers from the album, which are mainly original songs and a small amount of covers, the album will also feature my single ‘Sunny’. Anyway let’s put it this way, it’s going to be an album not to be missed! 🙂

Do you write any of your own material?

Yes I do write my own material, in fact almost all the lyrics featured on the album are written by me (which makes it very personal), and I have also written a couple of the melodies on there too, which is why it makes the opportunity of having my own album so special to me!

Where can people buy your music?

Anyone who is interested in purchasing my singles and album can find them online in stores such as i-tunes, Amazon and Tesco entertainment! However more details can be found as to exactly when and where my music will be available can be found on my website at

You are on tour in the UK, performing at 20 different carnivals and
festivals – what are your best bits so far?

You know what, it’s too hard to pick the best moments so far! It has been such a fantastic experience to have the opportunity of traveling to different parts of UK and sharing my passion of music with the public and making so many new friends. In fact I think that would have to be one of the highlights so far, making so many new friends and meeting some truly amazing people!

What happens after the tour? Will you be staying in UK? Performing
more gigs? Making more albums?

What happens after the tour? Who knows?! We have many plans in mind which we could try and follow, but I’m a very spontaneous person and love feeding off from different things, so before we decide and finalize what the next step is going to be we would like to see how things go with this first big step we have taken with the tour this Summer. One thing for sure is that you’ll be hearing lots from me some time in the very near future (don’t forget that)! 😀

* Sophie will be returning to Norfolk for two more appearances – At the Norwich Pride on 28 July and the Swaffham Music Festival on 26 August.

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Spotlight on local people … David Blackmore

We ask a local personality a set of probing questions …

David Blackmore

David Blackmore gave us a fascinating insight into the life and loves of a local West Norfolk reporter.

What’s it like to be David Blackmore?

It’s very busy. Working for the Eastern Daily Press as a journalist is a 24 hour job. You can be working every hour that God sends. It’s a very busy life, and I do often have to be reminded to pull back the reigns a little bit if I’m too busy.

Where do you live?

I live just down by the hospital on the new King’s Reach estate. It’s got a great community feel down there – lots of kids, lots of play areas – and it’s a really nice place to live.

How would you describe yourself?

I’m passionate, determined and confident. I would do anything for the friends and family that I love. I like to feel I’m funny, although some might disagree with that!

Which News stories do you enjoy covering the best? Good or Bad?

All the good news, charity events, people doing extraordinary things for great causes. And then you have the people who have come back from an illness and have really done something extraordinary. Those stories are always the best, and easiest to write, bcause there’s so much you can use.

The bad news stories are always difficult to write, but a lot of the bad things that happen do impact so many people . If there’s a crash on the A47, the people coming in that town will know about it. It’s a duty of the press to report on it. Sensitively is always the way I approach those kind of things.

David Blackmore Doodle

David Blackmore’s doodle of himself.

Is there any story that sticks in your mind?

The stand out story for me is the saving of RAF Marham. That was a good couple of months of my life soaking up as much as I could about the story, and really going to town with it. We started off in November launching a campaign saying you’ve got two weeks to raise the profile as much as possible. We had to do a double page every day, and we got 37,000 signatures and it was saved.

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss reminded me of the fact that every time I did a story she always showed it to David Cameron!

Have you always worked in Journalism?

I worked in a pharmaceutical warehouse for UniChem. I was up to small team leader by the time I left in my late teens. I would probably be earning a lot more money than I am now! But I just didn’t enjoy it.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the fact that I can get up and can never tell what I’ll be doing that day. There’s always news to go out and get. Every day I wake up and can’t wait to get into work . There’s a great team working at the EDP and they all have a passion for news, and it all rubs off on everyone else.

What do you do to relax, away from work?

I will go for a run or cycle up Knights Hill. I have a passion to find out more about my family history. I do like to delve into it, particularly my father’s side. I love watching and playing sport. Given the choice, sitting on Brancaster Beach on a glorious day would be my perfect way to relax.

Elodie Laura Blackmore. Photo: Ian Burt

Elodie Laura Blackmore. Photo: Ian Burt

I believe you have just become father. How does that feel?

I’m absolutely delighted to be a father. It was a bit of a shock to the system the first few days after she was born but I think I’ve settled nicely into my new role and I cannot wait to watch her grow up and flourish in Norfolk.

What’s your favourite place in Norfolk?

One of my favourite places is the Hare Arms at Stow Bardolph: On a summers day, sat in their beer garden. Sandringham is also one of my best places, taking friends and family for walks there.

What type of music do you like?

Being a Hospital Radio Lynn presenter I kind of dabble in all sorts. I was brought up listening to Motown artists like Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, so I’ve got a real soft spot for them. Other than that I like The Killers, Kaiser Chiefs, Razor Light and other indie rock bands. I’m also a fan of Oasis and Coldplay.

Favourite song / piece of music?

Are You Gonna Be My Girl? by Jet always takes me back to some good days when I was younger.

Favourite book?

Growing up, my favourite books were the Adrian Mole books, and I would definitely still read them. I saw a lot of similarities between myself and Adrian, and it inspired me to start writing my own diary. I enjoy reading autobiographies of people like Chris Evans and Richard Branson, people who have made something of their lives.

Favourite film?

I like ‘gritty’ films – The Godfather, Scarface, Good Fellas, Casino – I can watch those over and over again. I also like the occassional rom-com.

You do quite a lot of sponsored stuff for charity – tell us about that.

Being a West Ham fan, Bobby Moore is an absolute legend. I saw an advert in one of the match day programmes to do a 5k run for the Bobby Moore Fun and I just loved it and raised a little bit of money. Then I had a call saying how would I like to be involved in an international project, going abroad to help rebuild a school, and I absolutely loved it from start to finish.

That was the most amazing experience in South Africa, to know my friends and family had helped me raise this money to help send me out there to do manual labour, to meet these children in such a poverty stricken village and just give something back. I then did another project in Namibia.

Next I did a charity bike ride from ‘king’s Lynn to Calais’ and I was overwhelmed by the realisation that not only did I do it, but people were cheering me on. I did another with my friend Ian Burt from King’s Lynn to Great Ormond Street, raising money for the hospital. People were so generous!

I also ran GEAR, rasing £600 for the Norfolk Hospice, who do incredible work, and are building a new hospice at Hillington. I’ve been blessed that my company Archant have supported me in every charity event, always matching the money I’ve raised. Since 2009 my friends, family and the people of King’s Lynn have helped me raise £15,000 for charity.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

I want to continue my work in journalism. I would love to be on TV, reporting on major sporting events.

What vegetable are you?

A jacket potato. They are tough on the outside and soft on the inside, just like me. I used to eat so many of them my mum said I would end up looking like a jacket potato! You can’t beat a nice crispy jacket potato with some cheese and beans!

If you could be someone famous who would you be?
Chris Evans. He is so inspiring to me. To have built himself up from nothing, to have lost it all and then build it all up again is just incredible. Also TV presenter Jake Humphrey, who travels around the world in his work.

What superpower would you choose?

I would like to be super-speedy so I could have more time, and also be invisible.

What things would you like to be remembered for?

As a person who made the most of every opportunity and always had a good time, and for making a difference around the world.

As told to John Beck.

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Spotlight on local people … Jacky Parker

Jacky Parker

Jacky Parker, store manager at the new Sue Ryder ‘Super Store’ in Lynn, explains why she is so enthusiastic about her work, and what makes the store a bit different.

Where have you worked previously?

I’ve worked for 30 odd years in retail, which includes managing the Westgate Department Stores before they were taken over by Beales.

What attracted you to work at Sue Ryder?

Sue Ryder doesn’t get as much press as Oxfam and British Heart Foundation, and I liked what I had seen in their shops. I wanted to do some charity work, so that’s where I started off.

Sue Ryder is one of the lesser known hero’s. The Charity was the result of one person’s ideals and dreams, and I find that quite appealing.

We provide a lot of care for people in the community living with neurological and complex conditions such as Huntington’s Disease, Stroke, Brain Injuries and Cancer. We also provide palliative care in our hospices and look after people in their own homes and at the end of their lives whilst supporting family and friends too.

What makes the Sue Ryder superstore different?

The biggest difference is the size. A superstore is huge compared to the little High Street shops. By selling furniture, you have to have the full space. I’ve found that people shop the superstore the same way they do with the big department stores.

They are picking a bit of furniture, a bit of clothing, a piece of bric-a-brac, which is quite interesting to watch. Sue Ryder has been very forward thinking in seeing this opportunity, and I think this store and stores like it have great potential, and will be the way forward.

Jacky Parker on Sky News

Jacky Parker appearing on Sky News

It’s generated a lot of publicity. I’ve seen you appearing on Sky News!

Yes we’ve been on Sky News, BBC Radio Norfolk, the Daily Mail and more. I’ve never seen a charity shop as big as this, and the way it’s fitted out. It’s amazing.

How did it feel appearing on Sky News?

I’m not a person who likes anything like that. I’m not a ‘publicity hound’. But actually I didn’t mind it that much! In my past career I’ve had to do presentations to people, which helped a lot.

What’s been the response to the store so far?

It’s been absolutely amazing. We are ‘full on’ all day and every day, and have had some amazing donations, which I would like to thank everybody for.

The feedback has been brilliant. I feel there is a big change in the wind, with people recycling, upcycling and not being wasteful. People say it’s because people don’t have any money, but I don’t totally believe that. Obviously we are all up against it with the bills, but I do feel people are developing more of a conscience about landfill waste and everything else.

It’s kind of kitsch to say ‘oh, this is vintage, this is second-hand’. These days film stars will admit to wearing ‘vintage’ to the Oscars, and even Kate Middleton is avoiding the high-end makes, by shopping online and buying reasonably priced things.

I think everybody is moving away from this total waste of buying the throwaway kind of stuff. People are being more acute with the way they spend their money, and that’s helping us.

There’s a group of youngsters at the Discovery Centre in North Lynn who are ‘upcycling’ some of our furniture. I’ve told them they can do exactly what they want with it, but need to bear in mind that it needs to be commercial.

I’m really excited about what will be coming back to us. They are re-painting, covering them in comic drawings and so on. I think it’s great that they’ve been given a real opportunity. It’s a chance for them to shine with the bits of furniture they do. Who knows, this could be the beginning of a big career for someone. Your Damien Hirsts all had to start somewhere!

Do you need more volunteers?

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the business, and we could do with some more. The volunteers that I’ve got are all fantastic – Two youngsters who are super stars!

Volunteering would be a good start for any young person wanting a career in retail because they can put on their CV that they’ve ticketed stock, merchandised, implemented displays, worked on the till and developed customer service skills. They can also say they have worked for a National Charity Retailer.

What’s nice for me is that I can pass my knowledge on to them and help develop their skills, but we also take on people who may have just retired, and want to keep their mind active. I do enjoy working with both young and older people because you get a good mix, and they can both learn from each other.

What do you enjoy most about your job?.

Being productive. I love the busyness. I love being creative, in that we can lay things out and display things together however we want. In your more corporate High Street stores you are told where you can put this stock and that stock. There’s a thrill that you get from putting a sofa with a table with bits on it.

The team all work incredibly hard and it’s a very full-on, physical job. It is extremely satisfying to know that I’m giving something back and it’s not all ‘take take take’.

What do you do to relax?

(laughs) Being so busy I tend to collapse a bit! I spend time with friends. I like doing very creative things, doing things in the home and decorating.

Favourite place in Norfolk?
Holt is my favourite place, but I also love the Norfolk coastline.

What books do you like?
I read a lot, but don’t have any particular favourite.

What music do you like?
I’m quite eclectic. Michael Buble, One Republic, Robbie Williams, Lincoln Park, The Trash, Blur. I dip my finger in a lot of things.

What vegetable would you be?

A pea. I love peas! They are so little, green and shiny!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

Probably retired. If I won the lottery it would be relaxing somewhere in the Caribbean. I would like to travel the world.

It’s good to plan a little bit ahead, but truthfully I live in the here and now. Who knows what will pop up in a few years time?

My life has been very good for me. I’ve had some amazing opportunities, but a big part of it is just being in the right place and the right time.

And finally, what things would you like to be remembered for?

I’d like to be remembered for being kind, having integrity and being funny. One of the greatest gifts anyone can have is to make people laugh!

As told to John Beck.

Bargain hunters flock to new charity super-store

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Spotlight on local people … Allison Thomas

We ask a local personality a set of probing questions …

Allison Thomas

Local PR Consultant Allison Thomas is another ‘woman of many hats’ – As well as her consultancy work she also teaches, and works as a photo-journalist in the world of music.

I shared a cold drink with her on a lovely sunny afternoon in the grounds of the Globe Hotel in King’s Lynn …

Where do you live?

I live in beautiful North Norfolk, in a converted Mission Hall. It’s a beautiful old building, one of the oldest in the village.

It has great proximity to King’s Lynn, which is beautiful, and it’s very handy for popping over to Norwich, where I do a lot of my work. I love living there! It’s the best place to be in the world!

Can I be very cheeky and ask your age?

Let’s just say I’m the right side of forty!

What’s it like to be Allison Thomas?

It’s an extremely varied life that I have. It’s like the different facets of a diamond – different aspects, meanings and purposes – and they all come together to become the brilliance of what life is.

What is it exactly that you do?

I wear many different hats. I am a PR consultant, and run my own marketing and PR consultancy agency under the name of CAT – which is an acronym for ‘Consultancy by Allison Thomas’. I also work for a lot of agencies in the area on various campaigns, and also directly for clients.

I’m also a tutor for the Cambridge Marketing College, where I teach Marketing, PR and Advertising. I’m also a photo-journalist covering various music gigs and writing for the music press. It’s an amazing situation that I find myself in, and every day is different.

Cat on the Prowl

My doodle of 'Cat on the Prowl' Allison Thomas

Your pen-name is CAT … Do you have an affinity with cats?

Most people in my life are now starting to call me ‘Cat’. I used to have cats, and I adore the little feline beasts. They’re intelligent and very wise, but they are never ‘owned’ a cat owns you. I think that’s a really nice quality where you’re an independent person, and that quality is reflected in the characterisitics of a cat.

How would you describe yourself?

I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of person I like to think I have positive attitude to life, and I treat everything that might be seen as a difficulty as a challenge.

I go head-on into it and try to live every day to the full. We are only here for a short period of time and you’ve got to make the most of everything you can. I like to try and live in the present.

As for personality, I would say I’m quite a bubbly, smiley type of person. Happy go lucky, but also a sensitive soul. I try to be as authentic as I can with people.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the variety. I like having different clients to work for, different people to talk to. I love writing press releases, feature writing. I also love doing the gig reviews.

CAT Logo

What piece of PR work are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the work that I do with rock photographer Nick Elliott, because he has been one of my clients for many years. I’ve been involved with his PR work ever since he got involved in the rock music business.

What do you do to relax, away from work?

I like to head outdoors to go for a walk on the coast, because I think there’s nothing more grounding than a nice walk on the beach, or a walk through a beautiful forest, of which we’ve got plenty here. When I’m not outdoors I’ll just be sitting there watching a bit of mind-numbing telly with a glass of white wine in my hand!

What previous work have you done?

My whole career has really been based around ‘communications’. I started life in a financial services company doing their marketing, and then worked with various London agencies such as Saatchi’s, working on some very big campaigns for some very big names.

As a photo-journalist you’ve interviewed many famous musicians. What were your favourite interviews?

One of my favourite interviews was with Nils Lofgren, who is a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. He was one of the first celebrity interviews I did back in 2001. He was launching his new album called ‘Breakaway Angel”. He was so accommodating and absolutely adorable.

I also remember interviewing Julian Cope from The Teardrop Explodes. We got into a fascinating conversation about standing stones and the Celts and Druids.

Another really nice moment was when I interviewed The Proclaimers, who I remembered from when I was growing up. It felt almost surreal finding myself chatting with them backstage in their dressing room about their career.

I like the challenge of getting ‘under the skin’ of somebody and finding out what they are really all about. Very often they will tell you what they want you to hear about their latest album or tour date, but what I really like finding out is what makes that person tick. When you are starting to talk on a personal level it gets so much more meaningful than just ‘PR Speak’.

What type of music do you personally like?

I like all sorts. I just love Handel’s Messiah, which I once sung when I was in a choir. Everytime I hear it, it gives me goosebumps! I also adore the musical ‘Cats’ – but how could I not!

I listen to a lot of retro pop – Your Duran Duran, your Blondie. I like to do a bit of dancing around in private! Above all, I’m a bit of a ‘rock chick’ at heart. You can’t beat a bit of Foo Fighters or AC/DC.

Favourite song / piece of music?

I think I would have to choose Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush, because of it’s haunting melody. It was one of the first pieces of music that I bought, so it has a special place in my memory.

What’s your relationship with Twitter?

I was brought screaming and kicking into the world of social media. I needed to get into it from my clients perspective, as there’s been a trend over the years to move from traditional media to digital media.

I really adore Twitter now. Some people would say I’ve got an addiction! From a business point of view, it’s extremely useful for networking. Most of all, it’s a wonderful place to express yourself.

I would say that anybody not engaged in social media will be left behind as a business. It’s the way people are communicating now.

What’s your favourite place in Norfolk?

I love Sheringham, because it’s almost like stepping back in time. It’s a little gem from the past, with the Poppy Line, the coast line and the little ’boutiquey’ shops it has a great atmosphere.

I also like Blakeney, where you can go out and watch those little seals. But everywhere in Norfolk is just beautiful!

I moved to Norfolk about five and half years ago, but I used to live around the Peterborough area. So I’m very used to the Norfolk area in terms of day trips and holidays. To live here and experience it all the time is just wonderful!

Favourite book?

I think I would have to go back to the classics. I love The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, which I studied for my A-levels. And I keep promising myself I’m going to read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, rather than watch it as a film or play. There’s something about the original writing that you can’t beat.

Favourite film?

Top of my list would be Braveheart with Mel Gibson as William Wallace, because it harps back to my Scottish heritage. So it has a place in my heart. The message within the film is ‘your heart is free, so follow your heart’. What better message in life is there than that?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

Still in beautiful Norfolk, this is definitely now my home, doing much the same. There is so much variety in my life, how could I get fed up with it?

What vegetable are you?

A sweet-corn, because it’s my favorite vegetable, and you have to tear off the outer layers to reveal the juices underneath!

If you could be someone famous who would you be?

I’d rather just be me, because I think everybody should be content within their own skin.

What superpower would you choose?

I’d like to be able to read people’s thoughts. A bit of telepathy goes a long way! If you could know what people are really thinking you could respond to them better.

Favourite season?

I’m torn between Spring and Autumn. I love this time of year, but I also love the beautiful colours and nice crackling fires of Autumn.

What things would you like to be remembered for?

I’d like to be remembered for having a positive influence on peoples lives. I’d like to think that everytime you have contact with somebody you leave a positive footprint, even if that’s just walking down the street and giving them a smile.

As told to John Beck.

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Spotlight on local people … Abbie Panks

SPOTLIGHT ON … A new series where we ask a local personality a set of probing questions.

abbie panks

She’s a woman of many hats – a film-maker, events manager and passionate champion of conservation charity The Fairyland Trust – but here in King’s Lynn you are more likely to know her as the ‘public face’ of the Vancouver Quarter.

I met 35-year-old Abbie Panks on a quiet Tuesday afternoon in the intimate atmosphere of Crofters in King Street.

So what’s it like to be Abbie Panks?

Busy! I really enjoy what I do. Just can’t imagine not being busy. Although I’m very organised at work, by contrast my private life is a little less so!

What’s your role at the Vancouver Quarter?

As Marketing and Events Manager, I’m responsible for overall marketing and promotion of the Centre and all events, community relations and advertising within the centre.

How would you describe yourself?

Happy go lucky I’m pretty much always smiling

Is that the way your friends would see you?
Some of my friends would describe me as a bit of a whirlwind because of the way I’m always rushing around, some would simply describe me as “a bit scatty”. In work I’m so organised, out of work I suppose I’m a bit the opposite.

Here’s what one of her friends actually said:
Caroline: “She has a huge heart, is loyal, generous and massive fun, but is also useless at putting herself first and saying no to anything or anyone.”

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Working with different types of people, and I enjoy being challenged creatively.

What do you do to relax, away from work?

My Allotment – I’ve been working on it for about a year and a half and absolutely love it. I grew far too much last year though, the upshot was, I didn’t go to the supermarket for vegetables for 6 months…but I have learnt there are only so many courgettes a person can eat! I also love walking on Norfolk beaches, especially Brancaster. Music and reading. I read a lot!

What previous work have you done?

My background is producing videos, I’ve been doing that on an off for the past 15 years. Last year I made about 20 films and continue to do so, I’ve just joined Maze Media (Kings Lynn based Marketing Agency) as a freelance producer to make films for their clients, I’m looking forward to getting stuck in. I’ve also been working in event management and PR or around 12 years.

How did you get involved with the Fairyland Trust

I’ve been involved with the Fairyland Trust for 8 years. I received an email from somebody saying they were taking their daughter to a Fairyland Trust event. It mentioned that anybody interested in volunteering should get in touch. So I met with one of the founders, and we really hit it off. I could see so much potential and the charities objectives were very close to my heart so, I was really eager to get involved.

I took over the PR work for charity and from then on my role developed and I became more and more involved, For the past 7 years I’ve been on the management board for the trust , it’s such a wonderful charity to be involved with, I cannot imagine it not being part of my life.

The Trust has now reached in excess of 55,000 children, teaching them about nature, through our events and workshops. It’s so rewarding when you get positive feedback from parents who tell us that because of our event they can now spot a certain type of butterfly, or pick out, for example an Oak tree.

You’ve described yourself as a “woman of many hats” What else are you involved with?

Alongside the Vancouver Quarter and Fairyland Trust, I am involved with Maze Media. I also have involvement with Downham Market Festival, Norfolk running group, The Norracechicks, also I sit on a whole host of committees for various different things…as I said, I like to keep busy.

Abbie Self Portrait

Self Portrait -One of Abbie's artistic doodles on Twitter.

What’s your relationship with Twitter?

I’m in love with it. I’ve only been on it for 18 months, but I’ve met so many brilliant people, and met up with quite a lot of them too. It’s very useful in my job, but I also find it a stress reliever.

What’s your favourite place in Norfolk?

Brancaster. I prefer it in the winter, with the whole beach to walk on. It’s my thinking place. In fact I love the whole of the Norfolk coast. Although I’ve lived in and out of Norfolk, I’m really a Norfolk gal. I hate it if I can’t see greenery or big skies.

What type of music do you like?

I appreciate all kinds of music, I grew up in a household full of music, my dad would play me Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Neil Young and my mum Abba so I started to appreciate all kinds of music from an early age.

I love soul, especially Northern Soul. I have to have music around me all the time. I’m often wearing headphones in the helps me think..

Favourite song / piece of music?

All you need is love by Beatles and Into the The Mystic by Van Morrison. I also like Blondie and early hip-hop and I love the Mamas and Papas.

Favourite book?

Anne of Green Gables – It’s been a favourite since childhood. I read it once or twice every year, and always get completely lost in it.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris has always been a favourite too. I Love all the classics like Jane Austin. Even Tolstoy!

Favourite film?

Taxi Driver. I love the work of Martin Scorcese. He is an incredible director. I also have a real soft spot for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Generally I prefer the older Hollywood films.

You’ve just started a “Handwriting Project” – what’s that all about?

I was in my office a month ago and I realised that I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen handwriting. Everything seems to be done electronically these days. So I’m putting together an art piece featuring samples of people’s handwriting, the final piece will be a digital art project. I’m really excited about it.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

I don’t look ahead too much. Lots more film work and creative stuff. I love my job at the Vancouver Quarter – It’s really challenging, and I’m working with a great team.

What vegetable are you?

I’m not sure really, I suppose I’d be a tomato, mostly because I eat loads of them. When I was a child I used to go into my grandad’s greenhouse, sit down, and eat loads of them!

If you could be someone famous who would you be?

I don’t want to be anyone else, I’m just happy being me.

What superpower would you choose?

I dream about flying all the time, so I would be Wonder Woman. Then I could get to places much faster and avoid traffic!

Favourite season?

I love Autumn, when the leaves change and light draws in a bit. I enjoy lighting the fire in my house and making it all cosy.

I understand you were bullied at school?

I am one of many that were, I suppose that’s what spurred me on to do things in life and to an extent, probably made me the person I am today. I tend to try and focus on the positive. Worrying for me is a mis-use of energy as it ultimately doesn’t get you anywhere.

And finally, what things would you like to be remembered for?

I would just like to be remembered for making a difference.. I just don’t know what that difference is yet.

As told to John Beck.

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