Mayor stands firm on skate park

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

The Mayor of Eastbourne has defended her stance on the controversial plans for a skate park in the Manor Gardens.

The proposal has been opposed by many in the Old Town area of Eastbourne as local residents are concerned there will be an increase in noise pollution and anti-social behaviour.

In an unusual twist the ordinarily apolitical mayor came out strongly in favour of the park. But why has she put her reputation on the line for the sake of a skate park?

“At the end of the day I’m just trying to do the best for the young people in our area of town,” she says earnestly.

Carolyn Heaps has been mayor of the East Sussex town since 2010 after serving for several years as a councillor. As a mother of two she says she has always had a particular interest in supporting the young people of Eastbourne.

“That sort of age group doesn’t get a lot of help,” says Heaps. “Young people have special needs of their own.”

Sat at the end of a grand table in the Mayor’s Parlour she explains why she broke with tradition and backed what has been dubbed by some as ‘skate-gate.’

“I noticed there were a lot of young people whizzing down main streets on skateboards. Instead of stopping the car and shouting at them I stopped the car and talked to them and asked them what they wanted,” she says.

As she talks, her passion for young people soon becomes evident. She supports the Tuesday O’Hara Fund which aims to make the treatment of young-adult cancer patients more comfortable and bearable.

She is also an active member of the Eastbourne Street Pastors, who patrol the town centre in the evening looking after those coming out of pubs and clubs.

“I talk to young people all the time, they know me. I know that they’re good kids” says Heaps.

“Most of our young people are fantastic and I wanted to honour them by giving them something that is worthwhile and is going to last for them.”

However, her unashamed support of the skate park plans has made her an unpopular figure amongst some quarters of the Eastbourne community. Critical reader’s letters are regularly published in the Eastbourne Herald claiming she has strayed from her apolitical role as the Queen’s representative in the borough. The photographs and paintings of past mayors which adorn the town hall serve as a stark reminder of her responsibilities but she claims the matter is not a political one.

“They’ve turned it into a massive political football. It wasn’t a political agenda at all, it was just getting facilities for our youngsters,” she says with frustration. “It got blown out of proportion.”

But despite the furore surrounding the issue, Councillor Heaps remains determined that the skate park is what the young people of Old Town need.

“I’ll hold my head up high. I know I’m doing the right thing by our youngsters” she insists.

When asked about the objections to the park she is unsympathetic. She feels those protesting against the proposals do not understand the young residents of the town.

“There’s a fear that young people are going to do them damage and it’s just ignorance by not knowing the young people, not getting to know them” she says. “You only have to have a couple of bad apples and the whole bunch gets tarnished with the same brush.

“Sadly, we don’t think about all those youngsters who are sat at home diligently working. They never make the press.”

But is skateboarding the right hobby to be promoting? Those who oppose the park are anxious it will become a hub for drug taking and violence but Heaps firmly believes skating will act as a positive influence.

“I think it shows a great deal of individuality and I’m all for seeing young people doing stuff that’s positive, outdoorsy, active” she says enthusiastically. “They’re not sitting in front of a screen and it ticks all the boxes as far as I’m concerned.

She pauses and sighs with exasperation. “I don’t know what all the fuss has been about.”

Categories: Uncategorized

EDL sets up fort in Sunshine Coast

A controversial, far-right, anti-Islamic organisation has set up a new division in Eastbourne.

The English Defence League (EDL) has not previously been active in the town but an Eastbourne and Hastings division was set up in early November of last year.

Despite this, Islamic leaders remain calm. Chairman of the Eastbourne Mosque, Taleb Durgahee, said: “The EDL is of no concern to us. We are committed to pray in peace and harmony. In fact the emergence of this kind of organisation is an opportunity for excellence in ensuring that we show what a good Muslim is.”

However, the EDL is being vehemently opposed by another East Sussex group formed from a nationwide organisation. Unite Against Fascism (UAF) is a pressure group that campaigns against far-right organisations such as the British National Party (BNP) and the EDL. An organisation for the Hastings and Eastbourne area was set up in 2005 to counter the BNP at the general election.

Eastbourne and Hastings UAF want to make the local population aware of the perceived dangers of the EDL. The EDL consistently deny the organisation is racist and often claim they are only campaigning against “radical Islam”.

The UAF disagrees: “Our role is to show people that fundamentally, the EDL is racist. Whether they target black people, whether they target Asian people, the bottom line is they’re extremists.”

The Eastbourne and Hastings division of the EDL oppose the renovation of Eastbourne’s mosque on Ashford Road. If the group decided to hold a demonstration against the works Unite Against Fascism would consider a counter demonstration similar to those they have previously held in other parts of the country. One member of the local group, who did not want be named, said: “We will protest not only to protect the mosque but to show the people of Eastbourne they don’t have to be frightened of a bunch of fascists and Nazis, which the EDL are.”

Another added: “If you allow them to grow we’ll be the ones hiding behind our doors, we can’t do that, they’re our streets, we have to be out there to defend them.”

The group also said: “The EDL have filled in a vacuum where the BNP have been vastly weakened by the elections.” The BNP are the only right-wing organisation previously active in the town and performed poorly at the previous election only securing 1.8 per cent of the town’s votes.

The English Defence League Eastbourne & Hastings Division Facebook page currently only has 73 members and many of these are thought to live outside the area. One UAF member commented: “People have set up a Facebook page, that gives no indication of how many people are involved. I don’t think there’s much of an EDL presence myself.”

The EDL’s marches and protests have caused disruption in towns around the country since 2009. Warwickshire Police announced in January that a march in Nuneaton cost the force £250,000.

The EDL refused to comment on their activities in Eastbourne and Hastings.

First year news story, originally published here:

Categories: Uncategorized

Why the 2011 Formula One season could be just as good as 2010…

April 19, 2011 1 comment

F1 2010 has been called the greatest season ever

It wasn’t long before some were dubbing it ‘the greatest season ever’. Sixty years on from Formula One’s creation, the sport had perhaps reached its peak. Since Michael Schumacher’s (first) retirement at the end of 2006, Formula One has not looked back, each season more exciting than the last.

2007 and 2008 saw the narrowest of victories for Kimi Räikkönen and Lewis Hamilton respectively. 2009 saw the triumphant survival of a team so close to collapse. Brawn GP won both drivers and constructors titles in its first and last season. Not to mention ‘the drinks company’ from Austria finally proving their worth. But yet again F1 just kept getting better.

Five fast men in five fast cars in conjunction with new rules and regulations sculpted a truly fascinating and thrilling season, all played out in front of a global audience of millions. But does the 2011 season stand a chance of living up to the hype and expectation created by such a sporting spectacle?

Pre-season testing may suggest a rather less competitive season than last. Red Bull’s RB7 looked ominously quick at every test and many expect the world champions to dominate again. However Ferrari were not far behind and they will certainly be pumped up following the strategic errors that left them empty handed after the last Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.

Mercedes also now appear to be on the Austrian marque’s tail after upgrades to the stuttering MGP W02 lifted Michael Schumacher to the top of time sheets on the penultimate day of pre-season testing. McLaren currently look out of sorts on the track but it’s impossible to tell how their season will pan out in the long run.

It looks like the mid-field could potentially provide the thrills this season with Williams, Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso all chasing the rebranded black and gold Renault team who have ambitions to challenge the top four. Last year’s new teams aren’t looking much faster but there is a chance Team Lotus, with its experienced drivers and management, could make up a few points. Virgin and the forever struggling Hispania Racing Team look set for another year making up the numbers at the back of the grid.

In terms of drivers, on paper 2011 should be a cracker. Five world champions will be on the grid this Sunday with 12 titles between them. Alongside them will be the talents of Mark Webber, Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg, F1’s nearly men. Another driver who would have added extra spice to the season is Robert Kubica, but his devastating rally crash looks likely to put the Polish sensation on the sidelines until 2012.

On the other hand, it is still unclear whether these drivers’ respective cars will allow to them all to compete at the front like last season. So if there are big performance differences between teams, does the new season stand a chance of being as good as the last? Tyres are the key.

At the end of 2010 Bridgestone bowed out of F1 after 14 years of playing a major role in the sport. Pirelli will supply this year’s rubber and have worked with Nick Heidfeld and Pedro De La Rosa to develop a range of compounds. But already the Italian firm has faced criticism throughout the paddock as their tyres have shown rapid and severe degradation. However, this should make the season fascinating.

F1 fans should expect to see far more pit stops than in 2010, mixing up the order and highlighting those teams and drivers who can preserve their rubber. It may not be the fastest or most aggressive drivers who always take the honours on a Sunday afternoon. No longer will a driver be able to wait until the last lap to pit, like Sebastian Vettel did in Monza last year to secure fourth place.

Each race is set to be unpredictable with a host of different leaders and plenty of overtaking as one driver’s tyres drop off and another’s get up to speed. One man could quickly go from being the fastest on the track to struggling to keep his car on the track.

It looks like it could be a very uncomfortable year for the drivers. In fact, the moaning has already begun with various complaints about the complexity of the new overtaking gadgets. Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) are reintroduced this year alongside the new moveable rear wing. These changes may make overtaking a little easier in some circumstances but as we saw in 2009 the benefits of KERS are often negligible and lead to multitudes of problems including smoke filled cockpits, as Kimi Räikkönen will tell you.

Rule and regulation adjustments have become a part of every pre-season but this year’s are unlikely to have much of an effect. No, what will really make this season interesting is how everyone up and down the paddock deals with the Milanese manufacturers return to F1. Drivers will no doubt struggle, but isn’t that what every F1 fan wants to see?

As the early 2000’s proved, the era of ever more complex electronic driver assists, F1 is just no fun when the drivers are comfortable. Pirelli is already upsetting the apple cart and could make 2011 a pain in the arse for the drivers but a fabulous season for the fans. After all, isn’t that who counts?

Originally published on here:


First Year Sports Story

February 22, 2011 Leave a comment

A former Forest Green Rovers and Swindon Town youth player has sustained a nasty head injury whilst playing for Liverpool.

Ex-Katherine Lady Berkeley’s School pupil, Jamie Stephens, was hit by an opposition player’s knee on his left eye whilst playing in goal for Liverpool’s academy side against Celtic’s youth team in Glasgow. But despite the hit he got up and continued to play until half time.

“I played an extra ten minutes and I even made some good saves. I was dazed and they knew there was something wrong” said Stephens.

The blow to the head caused the 17 year old to vomit several times during the half time break before he was rushed to hospital with a suspected fractured skull which turned out, fortunately, only to be heavy bruising.

He suffered mild concussion and was not able to fully open his left eye for a week. The keeper has been put on light training for the time being and has been left on the bench for recent matches.

 Stephens commented: “I can still train fully. I just don’t think they want to put me back into it straight away and I agree with that.”

He remains upbeat despite the circumstances and accepts it’s all part of the job. “That’s football for you, that’s being a goalkeeper, whacks all the time. To be a goalkeeper you’ve got to be mad. At the end of the day you’ve got to enjoy it, it’s your job.”

Despite the youngster saving a penalty earlier in the match Liverpool were eventually beaten 3-1 by the Glasgow side.

Stephens signed his first professional contract for the infamous Premier League club in August, on his 17th birthday, after moving from Swindon in March. The three year contract will keep him at the club until the age of 20. He previously played for a whole range of Gloucestershire clubs, the biggest being Forest Green.

His future appears bright and he is hoping to soon break through into the reserve team but says he wouldn’t mind going on loan for a season if required: “I’ll be happy to get some experience but for now I’m happy to stay at Liverpool, progress and become a better goal keeper, I’m not looking to go to any other clubs as these three years I look at as a time for development and I’d like to stay.”

Since his time at the Wiltshire club Stephens believes he has made big steps forward and has become a better goalkeeper. He said: “I think I’ve massively come on from Swindon. Technically now I feel more comfortable.” He added: “My jump has massively improved, I’m quicker, fitter, stronger and it can only benefit me.”  

Liverpool football club’s official website calls the former resident of Wotton–Under –Edge one of the “best young goalkeeping talents in the country.”

His rise from tiny local clubs to the top of English football has surprised even him: “Coming from rural upbringings to the top of football, it was scary. Everyone knows your name and you think, well to me it’s just my life.”