Footloose – Gareth Gates as Willard (c) Matt Martin
WHEN I chat to Gareth Gates – star of Footloose – the Musical coming to Basildon’s Towngate Theatre on August 21 – he is fulsome in his praise of our county.
“I love Essex,” he confesses. “It’s a great place, fun. My best friend in the world, Matt, he lives in Essex. He lives in Southend, so I’ll be staying with him probably while I’m performing.”
In fact, it transpires he even owns a house here.
Six students at Rayleigh’s Masters Performing Arts College actually have the Pop Idol’s runner-up as their landlord.
“I own a house in Leigh-on-Sea – a student house,” he explains.
“Matt [Plummer] is the principle of Masters – the performing arts college – and I bought a house literally down the road from there in Leigh for the students.
“I’ve got six students living there.”
So, he’s no stranger to Southend or even Basildon – where he has performed before. Continue reading
Find the fun: The Princess Emporium will be at Priory Park tomorrow
Play in the Park. Friday, August 11. 10am-12.30pm. Free. Suitable for all ages.
There will be water play, playdough, songs time with instruments, some books and arts and crafts. Oh and bubbles. Find the fun at Priory Park (the green space behind the museum.) Bring sun hats, sun cream, snacks, water, blanket, activities/toys to share.
Caterpillar Club. Tuesday, August 15. 10am-12pm. £6 per child. Suitable for one to four-year-olds.
A fun morning of indoor and outdoor activities for pre schoolers at Langdon Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve, Lower Dunton Road, Basildon. Booking essential, call 01268 419103. Continue reading
Fabulous: Farrow & Ball
When it comes to interior design, sometimes it can feel a bit like a closed shop. Finding where those elusive but oh-so lovely paints or pottery are stocked can be a bit of a mission.
Here’s where you can find some of those high-end delights – right on your doorstep.
Farrow & Ball
Iconic British brand Farrow & Ball began in the Forties as a small firm specializing in paints made in the traditional way with traditional ingredients.
Used by royalty (Prince Harry decorated his living quarters last year with a gray-and-pink color scheme, according to a consultant for the company) it offers a distinctive palette of 132 paint colours and handcrafted wallpapers. Continue reading
Fred & Noah fan: Fearne Cotton
YOU kind of know you’ve made it in the fashion stakes when Fearne Cotton posts a picture of herself on Instagram on Christmas Eve in one of your creations.
And then shortly after that posts another of her little girl Honey in one of your designs too.
Such is the rise of baby legging brand Fred & Noah – an empire run from a shed in a mum-of-two’s garden in Rochford.
Natalie Reynolds, 34, started making trousers for 0-4-year-olds while on maternity leave with her second son, Freddie.
Natalie was a lecturer in fashion design at South Essex College, running the fashion course, and initially making the leggings was just about her getting back into her hobbies.
But it very quickly turned itself into a serious income.
Natalie, who is an ex Thorpe Bay High School pupil, recalls: “It was exactly a year after starting the business that I was handing in my notice to the college and taking the leap to work full time on Fred & Noah at home with my husband. Continue reading
Play time: Sonny Jim in the garden at Bright Starts
Despite my mum, and my new sister-in-law both being priests, I haven’t actually spent that much time hanging around churches in recent years.
Yes, my little lad was Christened last year, but much to my poor reverend ma’s chagrin, we’re not exactly what you could call church regulars.
However, over the past couple of months there has been something of a change afoot.
The reason? Church playgroups.
Honestly, I can’t praise (sorry, couldn’t resist) them (yes, we go to more than one!) enough.
Entertaining little ones, especially once they start crawling and toddling about, can be expensive. Lots of mummy and baby classes require you to sign up and pay for a term in one hit. Of course, as soon as you do, your baby then decides the hour in which the class is held is now their new nap time. Continue reading
Interview: My chat with Depeche Mode’s Fletch in the Echo newspaper
What is your earliest memory?
It’s in the place I grew up in – Basildon – and it’s me and my sister. We had a barrow load of sand and we tipped it accidently over someone’s lawn and the man was shouting at me. It’s hazy but That’s my earliest memory.
Where is your favourite place in Essex, and why?
I like Leigh-on-Sea. I’ve got lots of friends who like there now and I like all the pubs and restaurants, especially those by the front on old Leigh.
Are the Essex roots still quite strong?
My sister lives in Basildon. My niece lives in Basildon. My mum lives in Billericay. So yes I guess they are. Continue reading
Starting him young – I want Sonny Jim to be sea safe
What are the most important lessons we teach our children?
Don’t talk to strangers. Look both ways before you cross the road. Don’t tell lies.
How about learning to swim?
As the weather (finally!) starts warming up again, and Whit Monday and the summer holidays inch ever closer, we’re likely to be making the most of our beaches with our little ones.
And with all the fun to be had by the shore, it’s easy to forget just how dangerous it can be.
Drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death of children in the UK. More than 400 people accidentally drown in the UK every year – that’s one every 20 hours. Continue reading