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May 2015

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Your Racy Local

Sam Bertram

29 May 2015

If you’re looking for a pub where anything goes (within reason!) The Outside Chance is it. On moving to Marlborough in 1999, Howard Spooner decided to visit his local Manton pub, The OddFellowes Arms, with his mini dachshund puppy and children. It was Sunday lunchtime, the pub was empty and he was told there were no muddy boots, no dogs and no children at the bar or at certain tables. So he turned on his heels and left. Shortly before this event he had been convinced, by his neighbour Nick, to buy a race horse and the following week it ran in Leicester at odds of 100 to 1. Full of optimism for his new purchase, Howard backed it heavily. His gamble paid off as appropriately named ‘Only Dreams’ won so, with his recent visit to his local fresh in his mind, he rung up Wadworth to secure a long lease on the Manton pub. After a substantial renovation, The Outside Chance launched in honour of its main benefactor Only Dreams.   Howard now owns the pub jointly with AP McCoy, a partnership which has really helped pull in the punters and secure its reputation as a racing brand. Howard is no stranger to entertainment venues having made his fortune in nightclubs in London. Always independently minded and following a premature exit from school in Scotland, Howard put his entrepreneurial skills to the test when he answered an ad to sell kitchens to council houses in London. Like most successful entrepreneurs there’s been the rough with the smooth. Howard soon set-up his own business putting in payphones to hospitals and schools which he sold at 21. Full of the fervour of money making, but too young to understand the complexities of such deals and the need for lawyers, he spent the next year partying in his rented house with swimming pool in London only to be shafted by the buyers. The same happened with his next business – a weekly newspaper advertising houses & flats to let within the M25. After sharing his learnings with another newspaper he was shut down. Penniless again, Howard was drowning his sorrows in a new, empty nightclub when he found himself chatting to the owner who was commiserating over going bust. Howard offered to step into his shoes and in 1994 Embargo was up and running. A great success he ended up selling it 3 times only to be given half back by the owners each sale. The ex-Londoners amongst us will remember drunken times at Embargo and Howard’s other nightclubs – The Clapham Grand, The Leopard Lounge, the Hammersmith Palais and Crazy Larrys amongst others. Crazy Larrys morphed into Public which Howard owned with Guy Pelly. A favourite of Prince Harry’s his popularity was their downfall. The waiting crowds of his fan club were too much for the residents of the area and eventually after 18 months it was shut down. Although most of Howard’s nightclubs are now sold he has had the Clapham Grand for 18 years. Howard is now closely involved in the day to day management of The Outside Chance along with Scott Hull, Rosie Lampard and Pie (Chris Wyatt). It’s not a gastro, drinker’s pub or a restaurant but a fun pub open to everything - good, unpretentious food with attention to flavour and presentation. There are regular quiz and curry nights, biannual poker games, horse racing syndicates and it’s been a venue for many a wedding, birthday party and AP McCoy’s 4000th winner celebration. The pub has seen some well-known names – Alex Ferguson. Frankie Dettori, Richard Hughes amongst others. They also run pop-up events at venues like Newbury Racecourse, Badminton and Cheltenham Racecourse to take their small pub to a wider audience. And an extension is planned to add more tables inside. Howard isn’t going anywhere soon and is invested in The Outside Chance for the long run. He lives with his wife Lucy and daughter Roxie, 1, in nearby Clatford with regular visits from his older children Lettice and Felix. With a new member of their family on the way and brother and parents living nearby, he couldn’t envisage living anywhere else. The whole reason Howard wanted the pub was to offer somewhere that let you do things you couldn’t do in other pubs – so give it a try – bring your children, dogs, horse or cat – ‘anything goes’. www.theoutsidechance.co.uk   

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Dogs, dragons & time travel

Sam Bertram

22 May 2015

Author Debi Evans was always destined to be in the Arts – from a young age she ran a drama group in the playground – writing & starring in her plays and generally bossing around her friends. It was possibly this experience that gave her incredible insight into the type of book a child would enjoy.   Debi started her writing career while living in Dubai in 2006 where she wrote a series of 5 books in partnership with a friend called ‘The Secret Society of Dragon Protectors’. Having been selling Child’s Play books in Dubai for a number of years, she already had inroads in the local schools and used these contacts to sell her books all over the Middle East.  She was even invited to Beijing to talk about dragons and Bali to speak at a literature festival while simultaneously enjoying holidays with friends. When her writing partnership ended, and now back in the UK, Debi found new inspiration when she rescued a Jack Russell.  With her three children Olivia, Callum, and Nathan leaving or having left home, Rolo was a perfect replacement – her fourth child.  As she says ‘he’s the only one that still needs me!’ And ‘The Secret Adventures of Rolo’ series was borne. Debi tries to tailor her books to the curriculum and her first Rolo book ‘Athelstan and the Time Tunnel’ features lots of local places of interest, The English Civil War, The Great Fire of Marlborough, Pompeii and Huntley and Palmer’s biscuits (not on the curriculum but every child loves biscuits!) The books are written through Rolo’s eyes who is rescued from the Dogs Trust, discovers a trap door under the kitchen sink, goes for secret night time adventures in the forest and finds a time travelling tunnel in a tree taking him to historic events where he sometimes influences the outcome.  His owners remain blissfully unaware except for occasionally finding unexplained doggie footprints on the kitchen floor and wondering why he sleeps and yawns so much all day! He also meets woodland folk who share nature notes with him which he shares with readers. The second book ‘The Chilvester Passage’ finds Rolo discovering a passageway in a church wall which takes him on adventures to London amongst other places.  He still time travels through the tunnel to Ancient Egypt, discovers Moonraking, The Bronze Age, the theft of the Football World Cup in 1966 and goes up into space and also meets Shakespeare. The third book is in progress and will feature Magna Carta, The Stone Age, Dragons and other exciting adventures. The books are beautifully illustrated by Chantal Bourgonje. Debi’s books are for Primary School children aged 7-11 and she regularly visits schools to give presentations. Children love meeting a real life author and asking questions, for teachers it gives children creative story ideas and follow-up activities and as one parent said ‘It’s the first time my children have been in the back of the car reading books rather than playing on the iPad!’ Even the most reluctant readers have been hooked. Debi loves to use references to Wiltshire in her books. Despite originally being from Caterham in Surrey and spending 20 years in Dubai where she enjoyed learning to horse ride, singing with Dubai Harmony and regular yoga she loves living in Marlborough. She’s embraced local life and is on the Parish Church Council, is a deputy church warden and sings in the community choir. She’s also enjoying the seasons after the never-ending heat of the Middle East and the freedom to take Rolo on fabulous walks on the Marlborough Downs and beyond.  She’s even been asked to help clean St George’s – her local church. She’s the first to admit this is a bit of a shock after having had someone to clean in Dubai! So if your children’s school is keen for authors to visit then Debi Evans is your gal!  Imagine the excitement when your child has a copy of their book dedicated and signed by the author. And it’s Debi’s dream to get Rolo on the telly, so even more excitement for the children when their favourite book star hits our screens… www.debievans.com

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Home is where the heart is

Sam Bertram

7 May 2015

Have you ever flicked through a tourist brochure and wondered who draws those gorgeous watercolour pictures of your favourite destinations? Colin Palmer trained as a draughtsman before studying technical and architectural illustration at Art College in London and now produces artists’ impressions of new housing developments, illustrations for travel company brochures, fabulous house portraits – the perfect gift for family or friends and gorgeous watercolours of both Wiltshire and France. Even though Colin now lives in a landlocked county he actually hails from the coast. He has fond memories of his childhood in Southend on Sea – the muddy Thames Estuary, a child’s paradise, and his sister and him hopping on the open top bus to get to the seaside.   His move to Art student was inspired while working at the Ford Motor Company where one department drew exploded views of engines. Post Art College he worked in a commercial art studio drawing exploded views of air kits, and pictures of buildings for Readers Digest, before moving on to the Royal Mail’s creative department doing illustrations for their training materials. This was at a time when everything was done by hand using inks, pens and drawing boards – there was no Photoshop and the time to create such things took much longer. But like any corporate job there comes a time when you move into management and away from what you originally set out to do. Colin moved into managing large design projects within the Post Office and didn’t do any drawing for years. It was a stressful job with regular commuting but when his department re-located to Swindon he settled in Marlborough and soon realised he’d had enough of Corporate life so he set-up on his own as a freelance illustrator.  Like every new business it comes with challenges, especially when you have children to educate and a mortgage to pay, but Colin now has plenty to keep him busy as well as teaching annually at Marlborough College Summer School and taking part in the Marlborough Open Studios.  He remarried Pauline, a St John’s teacher, in Marlborough and still sees lots of their three sons – regularly visiting one in Colorado Springs. As Pauline is a French teacher they also regularly visit France, which has inspired many of Colin’s paintings. He’s a busy man – not only are they renovating their house in Barton Park, Marlborough to provide B&B accommodation, they’re also running a Kenyan charity ‘Kibera with love’ supporting a primary school in a Nairobi slum. To add to this Colin is keen mountain biker as well as a drummer in a band, and they’ll be featuring in this year’s Marlborough Jazz Festival and Thai Festival in Bristol! It’s so worth popping into Wagon Yard Artists to see Colin’s work and he’s definitely the man to go to for a special gift of a house portrait for family or friends. Wagon Yard Artists is open the first three weekends in July during Marlborough Open Studios from 11.00am to 5.00pm so make sure it’s on your list of things to do in July.  www.colinpalmer-illustration.co.uk

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