Thursday, 24 July 2014


The Centenary of the First World War seemed as good a time as any to see War Horse, which has been on my list of things to do for a number of years.
War Horse
New London Theatre
The basic premise of the play is well known; set during the First World War, with men and horses  caught up in a tale of universal suffering. This is by no means a stereotypical story of good against evil and it is not afraid to portray the suffering and misery ''from the other side of the trench''.

The horses are, famously, puppets, realised in such a way that the required suspension of disbelief takes no special effort.

Without spoiling the story for those who have yet to see the play, it is enough to say War Horse thoroughly deserves its tremendous reputation (it's far more than merely ''Lassie with horses'' as someone once described it to me) Just don't get too attached to any of the characters, human or otherwise.

For further information, head for the official War Horse website.

Staying with the First World War, I paid a visit to the Imperial War Museum to look at the brand new First World War Galleries.

The galleries are well worth a visit. Entry is free. I got there early and was in the first bunch of visitors but there was a queue for subsequent sessions (but it's worth the wait).

There are plenty of artifacts, lots of detailed visitor notes and even a recreation of a trench, complete with authentic machine gun noise and other sounds.

To round off the WW1 part of my London trip, I called in at the British Library to see their Enduring War: Grief, Grit and Humour exhibition.

It's a relatively small exhibition (and another free one) but is definitely worthy of attention. The propaganda aspect (based largely on guilt) is particularly striking, as these sample posters demonstrate.
All very interesting stuff.

My next museum trip, which will be highlighted tomorrow, was an altogether different experience...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014


Playhouse Theatre, London

''If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.''

Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 delivers a new slant on the classic story.

A reading group, studying the text of Winston Smith's book, tries to determine the truth of the story. At certain moments, Winston is seen to bleed into their time zone and/or consciousness (and vice versa). Such a breaking of the fourth wall - from the internal narrative point of view - is taken a stage further later on, as Winston pleads with the real audience to help him as he is forced to confront his greatest fear - ravenous rats! - in Room 101.

Such a challenging of the perceptions of both characters and audience is a recurring theme throughout the play (which lasts, incidentally, 101 minutes - without an interval). Scenes are replayed, but with key differences; characters formerly present have been erased from history and narrative simultaneously. Flickering lights and obscure noises frequently distract the audience, who look again to find characters have somehow appeared on stage, literally in the blink of an eye.

We are left to try and distinguish between a number of different realities. What is real? What has been censored by an unseen hand? Can any of Winston's own story be trusted or is it all in his mind?
Some of the action on the stage is enhanced by large screens set against the backdrop, showing, for example, a close up of Winston writing things down and crossing them out in fear. The performance are all very strong but I particularly enjoyed Tim Dutton's portrayal of O'Brien, a study in composed menace (he would make a great No. 2 in The Prisoner).

The story of 1984 become more relevant as time goes by. Despite the warnings, we willingly rush headlong into our own compromised futures with every online click. Big Brother still needs you, but he doesn't need to work anywhere near as hard as he used to.

This version of 1984 simply demands attention. It is creative, thought provoking and extremely challenging. It's touring later in the year; keep an eye on the official website for further details.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Gigafinal Results

Our CSC juniors enjoy playing in the UK Chess Challenge.

The top scorers from the internal school events qualify for the Megafinals. A score of four or more points from six games earns qualification to the Gigafinal.

The results of the Delancy Northern Gigafinal are now available.

Saturday results (up to the Under-10 section).

Sunday results (Under-11s to Under-18s).

The top scorers at the Gigafinals have qualified for the Terrafinal (and Terrafinal Plate competition), details of which can be found here.

Full details about the UK Chess Challenge can be found here.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Rook Who Waits

This rook sits and waits for me to finish my apple every Thursday in Marske. 

He holds the core steady with one claw while he eats the remainder of the apple.
Then he walks off into the distance, John Wayne style. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

CSC Team Tournament

CSC Team Tournament
Throston Primary School, Hartlepool

The 4th CSC Team Tournament produced a tough battle for honours, with defending champions - and this year's hosts - Throston Primary School hoping to win the title for a third time in four years.

However, at the end of the first round, Errington Primary School held a significant advantage of one and a half points over Throston A, having won all four of their games. Brambles and Billingham South were just half a point off Throston A, Throston B and Sacred Heart in close pursuit.

The second round brought a single defeat for Errington but wins in the other three games meant they could no longer stopped, despite powerful attempts by both Throston A and Billingham South, who finished second and third respectively.

The Hartlepool Mail, long-term supporters of our events, were there to cover the tournament. In addition to the usual photos - which should appear in the paper some time this week - they shot some video footage, which can be seen here.

Final Scores

1st: Errington: 7 points (out of 8)

2nd: Throston A: 5.5

3rd: Billingham South: 5

4th: Brambles: 3

5th: Throston B: 2

6th: Sacred Heart: 1.5

All players received a certificate. The teams in first, second and third positions received medals and the champions received a second certificate and the trophy.
Sacred Heart
Throston B
Billingham South - Bronze!
Throston A - Silver!
Errington - Gold!

Congratulations Errington (Jack Dunn, Finn Henry, Thomas Stiff and Zoe Coates), who were runners-up in 2013. Can they successfully depend their title in 2015? We'll see!

Roll of Honour

2011: Ings Farm and Throston
2012: Ings Farm and Billingham South
2013: Throston
2014: Errington

CSC Teesside Training Day

CSC Teesside Training Day
Middlesbrough Community Learning Centre

John Foley - the chief trainer of Chess in Schools and Communities - returned to Teesside yesterday to deliver another day of top quality instruction and highly entertaining chess challenges.

As usual, we were very pleased with the facilities offered by the Middlesbrough Community Learning Centre, which is a fantastic venue, ideally suited for such an event.

There were 10 delegates. Some have already been working in our Teesside schools for a number of years and others were new to the whole CSC experience.
The game of Fox and Hounds was one of a number of stepping stones used by John to help work our way up to more challenging material.

John went on to demonstrate some key logical techniques as the fox tried to escape the attention of the hounds.
Next up was a session of mapping out territory on the chess board. This led to some very creative work and interesting colour patterns.

An increase in the level of challenge led to an increase in analytical discussion...
...and some genuine delight at solving the ''Eight Queens'' problem!
John eventually switched to mini-games. Can three pawns beat a bishop? Can five pawns beat a rook?

The event concluded with the ''Ultimate King Hunt'' challenge. The 10 delegates joined forces in an attempt to checkmate John's lone king. The delegates had to play moves in strict rotation, without conferring. This game the lone king a slim chance of survival...
...which John certainly made the most of, as he pulled off an unlikely stalemate.

Thank you John for a fabulous training day and thank you to all of the delegates for supporting the event and making it such a success.

Please keep an eye on the Chess in Schools and Communities website for further training opportunities.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Elton John At The Metro Radio Arena

Elton John
Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
The legendary Elton John and his band were on fine form as they played to a packed Metro Radio Arena.
The occasion was a celebration of the recently re-released Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, songs from which quite naturally formed the main focus of the evening's repertoire.

The audience consisted of a large range of ages, split roughly evenly between male and female. There was a strong feel good factor even before the show began. It was clear that everything was there to have a great time and that's exactly what they got.

Elton and the band looked like they were having just as much fun as the rest of us. Some of the band have been with him since the late 1960s and early 1970s. They played virtually non-stop for two and a half hours and it was nearly all high tempo material.

Set List

Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Bennie and the Jets
Candle in the Wind
Grey Seal
Tiny Dancer
Philadelphia Freedom
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Rocket Man
Hey Ahab
I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues
The One
Oceans Away
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Sad Songs
All the Girls Love Alice
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
I'm Still Standing
The Bitch is Back
Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n' Roll)
Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting


Your Song
Crocodile Rock

Here are a few more photos from the fabulously entertaining evening.