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Rotherham: The Little Town That Can

by T. Rafiq

Rotherham is a town that has been through some difficult times lately. However, we are also a little town that never gives up. We might not have the grandeur of big cities like York, but our ambitions are grand.

We’re scrappy and we’re tough and we punch well above our weight. We have a heart as big as the Pennines and we will always surprise you.

Rotherham has been short listed for a People’s Millions Big Lottery Fund grant of £50,000. We are competing against a York based project in a contest of David vs. Goliath magnitude, which we definitely have the stones to win.

If we win – when we win – this money will go towards establishing a permanent arts centre and community resource in the centre of town on the spacious top floor complex of the Westgate Chambers building. It is the magnificent brainchild of Karen Sherwood and Rotherham Open Arts Renaissance, also known as R.O.A.R.

Westgate Chambers will be a place where Rotherham artists from every discipline will be able to gather to create and trade and exhibit: painting, sculpting, writing, performing, music, cinema, new media and any other craft you care to name will find a home here.

It will also be a place where every member of the community will be welcomed to appreciate and participate in the wonderful and liberating world of art. You never know who you might discover here: the new Hockney, the new Spielberg, maybe even the new you. For you might very well unearth your own hidden talent, something that no one has ever seen before – something that will blow people’s minds all the way to the Wonderland of Wow!

R.O.A.R. has already managed to uncover some dazzling treasures of artistic wonder concealed here in Rotherham:

Jill: the finger painting dynamo whose canvass is the very bones of the North, slate and granite she has salvaged from skips and derelict factories, things that others thought were of no more use or worth, but she takes these things and turns them into visions of unique beauty.

Leslie: a gentleman who as overcome profound deafness and the loss of his beloved wife to cancer, a man who creates magnificent miniatures in oils and fibreboard as breathtaking as any majestic Rembrandt.

Gemma: the walking, talking living doll who lives in a button tin and makes magic with a needle and thread, and buttons and rags all the colours of the rainbow.

And then there’s me. Who am I? I am Rotherham, and my best is yet to come!

But for us to triumph, we need your help. We need your votes. The official voting for the People’s Millions is on Monday 22nd November 2010. Phone lines will be open between 9am and midnight – the phone number to cast your vote will be publicised on the day of voting in the Daily Mirror newspaper, on the People’s Millions web site and on the R.O.A.R web site.

Before then, you can find out more about our project and register your support for R.O.A.R. and Rotherham at our official People’s Millions page by clicking the following link:

http://www.peoplesmillions.org.uk/2010-finalists/yorkshire/rotherham-roar

I must stress that registering your support before the official voting date does not constitute a firm commitment on your part; it simply gives us a rough idea of how much support we might be able to expect.

Needless to say, you would earn eternal gratitude if you then followed through with this support with a solid vote for R.O.A.R. on 22nd of November.

Pass this on to your friends and family and anyone you happen to bump into. A brighter future for Rotherham is in all our hands.

Thank you for your time.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/

http://www.rotherhamroar.org/index.php?page=24

Taking stock and snapping smiles

Photo credit: Richard Bolam Digital Media http://richardbolam.com/

Even though I’ve built my career on writing, thirteen years on from my first paid work as a journalist I remain fascinated by the process of getting the words which start somewhere in your head down onto paper (or, more often than not these days, laptop screen).

At the risk of sounding as though I have a mild, somewhat geeky super-power, I can usually hear the text spoken somewhere in my grey matter before the words work down to my fingers. So I put this question to the other wordsmiths out there (just because I’m interested to know): How do you work your magic? Do the fingers start moving before you know how you’re going to finish the sentence? All comments most welcome!

I’m taking stock of this text-based creative process because, as from next week, I’ve been knocking out these weekly blog posts for your enlightment and entertainment for five uninterrupted months.

In the grand expanse of the bloggarati world, this represents a mere click of a mouse. In my world though, steeped in the grand old tradition of print media, this small personal challenge has loomed pretty large. You could say, dear reader, it’s been a case of no pain, no gain.

I’m glad I’ve stuck with blogging – without a doubt it’s paid off and breathed new life into my professional world. And as someone who’s worked solo for a long time, it’s been a fantastic boost to receive supportive feedback from contacts old and new, so thank you – and please keep them coming!

A great blog needs an authentic voice. For some who are further immersed in the techy/online world than myself, this translates to simply posting a series of links they found interesting/useful. The voice for stellamedia speaks is still organically forming but from the outset I’ve treated my postings in the same way a newspaper columnist gets their day job done. The constant question has been: ‘What do I write about this week?’

So that’s why I got to pondering the process of what happens to me when I’m faced with a blank screen every week. There I sit, fingers poised over keyboard, waiting for my super-power to kick in. Sometimes this happens fast, sometimes the ‘voice’ comes through as faint whisper.

This week I had a screamer. ‘Why not tell everyone about your Facebook group about smiley faces?’ So I’m telling you about it. It’s called ‘The first time I ever saw your face’ and was sparked by the rather odd but harmless habit I started forming of taking photos of ‘faces’ everywhere I went. Suddenly I found myself capturing visages in buildings, trees, gadgets, food…and so the list went on.

I soon discovered I wasn’t the only snapper who did this. Once I created the group and started posting my (mostly) smiley snaps, others soon followed suit. Today I’m proud to say there’s 115 members from many corners of the globe. If you fancy joining, please feel free: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=49347870969&ref=ts

Keep on smiling!

Life’s a stage – so keep your focus and mind that perspective!


It’s just as well there’s no evil pay-per-hour penalty charge god, who imposes whopping fines for straying out of our comfort zones because I would have been in danger of being declared bankrupt over the last week…

Reason one: I found myself ‘starring’ in the crucial end scenes of a friend’s short film which she’s creating and entering into a competition. While you wouldn’t remotely call my silent appearances acting, for an intense few hours I was urged to pose, pose and pose again, continually channeling diva-like thoughts, while cutting an identical array of striking poses on a real pock-marked theatre stage. There were masses of lights, an army of tripods and countless camera cuts – all focused on me in a classic cocktail dress!

My snapshot into the movie game has left me with a different perspective about actors – and a renewed respect for anyone who has the resilience of mind and body to grind relentlessly away in the film-making industry. Behind the perceived razzle-dazzle of the big screen, there’s a shed load of elbow grease, brute force and sheer tenacity of spirit encapsulated in clips which often only exist for a few seconds of screen time. All that monumental effort – so easily lost in the blink of an eye. Watch this space for details of my film debut(popcorn not included!).

Reason two: Back in the real world, I sat whizzing through my grand tactical plan to increase my reach into the copywriting field, at a meeting with a business adviser, when he wedged a small spanner into the cogs of my well-oiled marketing machine. ‘Rather than re-inventing the wheel,’ he said. ‘Look at what your competitors are doing….’

Shrugging off my slightly-battered ego, I duly accepted his point. My brilliant writing skills and media expertise may be invaluable to any number of companies but convincing corporate clients this could be an uphill struggle, as many time-strapped and budget-restricted small businesses are looking for an easy solution to their marketing and publicity needs – a one-stop PR shop.

So from now on part of my strategy to win such business, is to team up with a local like-minded web designer, photographer and possibly printing company to offer tailored communication packages. If you can’t beat ‘em…

Another day, another meeting(it’s been that kind of week) with my fabulous self-appointed professional mentor. Suddenly I was finally guided back onto familiar territory. ‘Forward-thinking brands recognise the power of storytelling,’ she told me. ‘That’s where all your writing experience for magazines will really shine through…’

Steering away from my comfort zone, being scrutinsed and getting these new perspectives made me refocus on the value of the path I’ve been treading as a journalist.

And far from being lost, I’m ready to put my best foot forward again. But acting? I’ll do you all a massive favour and stick to my day job.