Letters: December 4, 2014

The first piece of the CCQ jigsaw, The Civic Offices, Sir Nigel Gresley Square and Cast.
The first piece of the CCQ jigsaw, The Civic Offices, Sir Nigel Gresley Square and Cast.

Free Press readers’ have their say

We deserve a good diverse range of entertainment in our town

Needs to be challenged

I am afraid I just cannot allow Peter Davies’s article in last week’s Free Press to be published without a response.

When he was Mayor, I never doubted the sincerity of his motives, nor his desire to work hard for the people of Doncaster, even though we are politically poles apart.

But his latest diatribe of negativity deserves to be challenged both on its factual content and its failure to propose any cultural alternative.

Unlike Peter, I do not presume to comment on things I know little or nothing about, so we will leave his criticism of the new Council Offices to one side.

But his current description of CAST needs to be challenged. It is not currently a financial disaster, and has indeed, made such a promising start, that the Arts Council is ready to make a financial input for the next three years that other comparable towns can only look at with envy. However, like all regional theatres, and arts facilities in general, it leads a life of constant financial struggle - such is the nature of cultural life in the UK - and ironic in a country whose creative industries are world-class. It is only we Brits it seems who fail to recognise this! CAST has had a number of sell-out shows as well as a few turkeys, like all theatres. But most importantly, it is adding, alongside the Right Up Our Street initiative, immeasurably to the cultural offer to Doncaster. Don’t Doncaster people deserve a diversity of arts and entertainment, especially as we have a poor record of arts engagement to start with?

What is Peter’s alternative for breathing some life into the town centre? Is he happy for Doncaster to continue to be deserted for most evenings in the week, and because of a limited cultural offer be deemed off-limits by a significant number of Doncaster residents? Furthermore, as has already been proved by its programme, CAST is not too big to stage shows which worked at the Civic, though, of course, it does not have the scale to house large touring productions like the Lyceum in Sheffield, and the Grand in Leeds. But these are two of our major cities, so this is hardly surprising. The idea that the Odeon cinema could have technically and financially undergone some kind of conversion to match the specification of CAST is somewhat fanciful, and would not bear expert analysis.

Perhaps CAST and the new cinema will become white elephants - that is up to the people to decide by their support or lack it - but at least this Council has a more upbeat and positive attitude to the future, in the teeth of savage budget cuts, imposed by central government and which have given rise to some of the appalling decisions which it has been forced to make. Do we really want to live in a town centre devoid of good theatre and cinema? And what about libraries, museums, and galleries which are always financially difficult to support? A positive move on Peter’s part would be to do all he can to get successful local businesses to invest more in the cultural life of our community - now that would be constructive!

Finally, I come to the section of Peter’s article on Sir Nigel Gresley Square, which contains the most objectionable comments of all. What is the evidence for it being a meeting place for local yobs, and what does that mean? Has reported criminal behaviour gone up in that area, or is the term ‘yob’ just a label to describe people Peter does not like the look of? Furthermore it is deeply offensive to link skateboarders with perceived undesirable behaviour. If Peter had taken the trouble to chat with the skateboarders, which I have done on a number of occasions on my way in and out of CAST, they are invariably polite and well-spoken - just nice Donny kids! Has he not visited the South Bank in London where skateboarders live happily side by side with the more highbrow cultural life of the National Film Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall?

Perhaps the next time Peter writes about the culture of Doncaster town centre, he might provide us with more evidence for his statements and alternative ideas for improvement.

Kevin Spence, Doncaster Little Theatre

Columnist was unfair

The piece written about girl guiding (Veronica Clark column, November 20) could not be further from the truth. 
I read out your piece to my 22 guides and they were all appalled and totally disagreed with the comments. 
We currently have 25 guides on our register, we are looking at having to have a waiting list. The girls love it and do not like to miss it.

The new uniform was created in consultation with the guides themselves, just because you don’t like it does it give you the right to brand it as Domino pizza workers?

The guides at Thorne this year have put on a panto for the public, have been to camp twice. We have learned new skills and have been to a local old peoples homes to sing and entertain them and we are returning at Christmas.

Whilst on the camps the guides took part in many activities including grass sledging, swimming in the river, quad biking and abseiling.

The guides still complete various badges, none that include knitting. 
It is not about churning out 1950’s housewives, some will go onto university where they will have to be self sufficient, they want to learn skills to help them, as it is not taught at school.

Girl guides is still very much going strong, it has adapted and changed with the times without losing the morals and expectations that Baden Powell set out back in 1910. 
Your piece was unfair and painted the guides in a very poor light.

Mandy Langston, Assistant leader 6th Doncaster (Thorne) Guides and Brownies.

100 years of adventure

After reading your article (Veronica Clark column, November 20) I felt I had to respond.

I’m the head volunteer for guiding in the South Yorkshire area and I can tell you there are thousands of leaders and volunteers across the county who get so much out of guiding. I can only put a fraction of what we do in the area in this letter – we’re so busy creating, experimenting, campaigning, playing sport, dancing, flashmobbing and geocaching.

In 2014 brownies from the area have collected for the Doncaster Food Bank. Guides have been following Katniss’ example and learning archery. A stargazing trip to Austerfield and a kayaking trip to Barnaby Dun were hugely popular. In summer brownies welcomed MP for Don Valley Caroline Flint to a meeting, to learn that girls can do anything – including becoming an MP. 
And together with their leaders and other guiding volunteers, girls have held hundreds of Big Brownie Birthday parties this year to mark 100 years of fun and adventure for brownies.

Liz Howard, County commissioner, Girlguiding South Yorkshire

Figures are horrifying

I am sure that anyone who read the report (DFP 06/11/2014), in which it was revealed that in a two and a half year period 2,074 children were reported missing in the borough, could not have failed to be both staggered and horrified at the scale of the problem. Unfortunately there seem to be more questions than answers.

The report implicitly criticised South Yorkshire police for being unable to state how many of the missing children had been the victims of sexual exploitation, or had been considered to be at risk of sexual exploitation. It wasn’t suggested that the information didn’t exist, but that it would take the police too much time to extract it from individual records. Under the circumstances this seems like an extraordinary statement.

There was also no mention in the piece about any involvement by other bodies, like Doncaster’s Children’s Services or the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office.

It would appear to be in the public interest to ask the Mayor, the Head of Children’s Services or the relevant council officer, how many of the missing children were in care when they went missing and, if there were any, where should they have been when it was discovered that they were gone?

Mick Glynn, Doncaster Road, Hatfield

Thanks for great night

Can I say a very big thank you to Meyrick and Wain, Tony Wall and Mr Country Alan Watkiss, for a wonderful night’s entertainment, at a local Conisbrough venue, on November 23. Meyrick & Wain gave us a first half of great songs and marvellous guitar playing from both.

David Harrison, Corn Hill, Conisbrough