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billyelliotA schoolgirl from Gad’s Hill School, Higham has got her first taste of stardom after landing a role in a hit an internationally award-winning West End musical.

Thirteen year-old Zara Gilhooly started performing in smash-hit Billy Elliot the Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre this month as a ballet girl, alongside the central character of Billy in Mrs Wilkinson’s ballet class. Mrs Wilkinson’s ballet girls feature throughout the show as the children’s ensemble, accompanying Billy on his dancing journey.

Zara, from Meopham, said she was “absolutely loving every minute” of the experience.

The talent dancer has been performing from the age of three, joining her current dance school, the Robyn Academy, Gravensend at the age of 10, winning a number of competitions including the prestigious ‘Most Promising Dancer’ trophy at the Beckenham amateur dance festival.

“It was so nerve-wracking waiting to hear if I had got the part,” Zara said.

“I really love dancing and performing and this is just such a good opportunity – I’ve never before performed in the West End and I’d love to make it my career when I leave school.”

When asked what her school friends thought of Zara’s star turn she said: “They think it’s cool and I hope a lot come to see me in it.”

Zara’s Headmaster, Mr David Craggs said: “If Zara doesn’t land a performing arts career, I would be very surprised. It is obvious that Zara has talent. We’re all really proud of her for winning the part in a top London musical. The future looks very bright for Zara.”

Based on the Oscar nominated film, Billy Elliot the Musical is an inspirational story of one boy’s dream to realise his ambitions against the odds. Set in the North East of England against the background of the historic 1984/85 miners’ strike, Billy pursues his passion for dance in secret to avoid disapproval of his struggling family.

Multi award-winning Billy Elliot the Musical had its world premiere at the Victoria Palace Theatre on 31 March 2005 and has now been seen by over 9.5 million people worldwide.

Billy Elliot the Musical features music by Elton John, book and lyrics by Lee Hall, is directed by Stephen Daldry with choreography by Peter Darling. The production features scenic design by Ian MacNeil, the associate director is Julian Webber, costume design is by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting design by Rick Fisher and sound design by Paul Arditti. Musical supervision and orchestrations are by Martin Koch.

LISTINGS INFORMATION BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL

Booking until: Currently booking until 16 May 2015
Theatre: Victoria Palace Theatre, Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5EA
Box Office: 0844 248 5000
Tickets: £20.70 – £68.70 (to include a £1.20 theatre restoration levy)
Performances: Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm
Website: www.billyelliotthemusical.com

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Fagin Fagin

The next meeting of the Rochester and Chatham Dickens Fellowship (R&CDF) is on Thursday the 20th of February 2014 at 7.15 for a 7.30 start. The meeting is in the Education Room of Dickens’ World in Chatham and includes a talk: Dickens and Medway: the years in Kent as seen through the Guildhall collection by Jeremy Clarke. The February meeting is always known as the Charles Dickens birthday meeting and suitable celebrations are planned. A short reading will also be given by an R&CDF member. Non-members are welcome to attend for a small fee. For details of the R&CDF, or for non-members to attend, contact the Hon. Secretary, Mr Steve Martin, on 01474 834164.

Jeremy Clarke
Dr Jeremy Clark is Education Officer in the Guildhall Museum, High Street, Rochester. He provides a learning programme based on the museum’s collections and buildings. Jeremy gained a PhD from the University of Kent in 2007 and has been in museum education for over 19 years.

rochdickensOn Friday 7th February – Charles Dickens’ 202nd birthday – members of the Rochester & Chatham Dickens Fellowship attended the first local evening screening of the film “The Invisible Woman”. The film is currently being shown at the Odeon Cinema in Dickens World Leisure Complex, Chatham. The film is based on the book by Claire Tomalin telling the life story of Ellen (Nelly) Turnan. The controversy from a Dickensian scholar’s point of view is a tantalising question: did Charles Dickens have a platonic relationship with the young actress or a love affair? There is also controversy over his separation from his wife, the mother of his ten children – and indeed whether Ellen Turnan had a child by Charles Dickens (or even more than one!). I am sure that Dickens scholars will continue arguing over this for years to come.

Whatever the truth about Ellen Turnan and Charles Dickens, members enjoyed the film and found it well acted and produced. There is local interest in the film: Chatham and Rochester get a mention and part of the story relates to Gad’s Hill Place in Higham. A lesser-known fact is that Ellen (Nelly) Turnan was born on March 3rd 1839 in Maidstone Road, Rochester and baptised later that month in St Nicholas’ Church.

Picture1On Friday (13th December) Gad’s Hill School, Higham held a poignant official unveiling of its Kindergarten, The Jennie Marsh Wing, coinciding with the School’s annual cross country run.

The multi-million pound wing, named in memory of the former Head of Gad’s Kindergarten and Junior School, Jennie Marsh, who passed away in 2009, was opened by the Headmaster David Craggs, pupils and staff past and present and Jennie’s husband and daughters.

Mrs Marsh, who joined the Headmaster in campaigning for pupils to vacate the historic and increasingly fragile 18th century house of Gad’s Hill Place – which the School has used for teaching since the 1920s – died in May 2009, aged 58, after a short battle with cancer, leaving behind her daughters Sallie and Alison and her husband of 37 years, Malcolm, who also taught at the school.

(Photo left to right, back row: Former pupils join Gad’s Hill School Headmaster David Craggs, Alison Marsh, Malcolm Marsh (centre) Alison Marsh, Head of Gad’s Kindergarten and Junior School Fiona McPherson, with current pupils.)

Jennie travelled a long, varied and eventful journey from Zimbabwe, where she was born and raised, to Kent where she settled nearby in Wouldham. She devoted the remaining nine years of her life to the children and community at Gad’s.

During the unveiling ceremony, Headmaster of the school for three to sixteen-year-olds, Mr David Craggs said: “In September 2000 Jennie joined Gad’s as a temporary class teacher. It was soon apparent that she was not only a first rate teacher, but someone who possessed a huge amount of experience and had the qualities required to help drive Gad’s forward over the next few years. Within six months Jennie had become Head of Juniors and Kindergarten and helped to form the school it is today.”

He added: “She was loved by all students and staff, and there are many who feel that she had a profound impact on their lives.”

It was no coincidence that the unveiling ceremony was held on the same day as the School’s annual cross country run as the entire Marsh family – Jennie included – are keen runners.

It was in fact Malcolm, Jennie’s husband, who, alongside the Headmaster, came up with the concept of the run some ten years previously. As a special request, Malcolm – who travelled all the way from his home in South Africa for the special ceremony – Sallie and Alison Marsh were asked to run round the school field with the Kindergarten children, as Jennie would have done while teaching at Gad’s. Malcolm later presented awards to the winners of the Kindergarten, Junior and Senior School race winners.

Headmaster, Mr David Craggs, who took part in the race alongside a number of other staff, said: “While running about in the wet and cold is not to everyone’s taste, making sure our youngsters are fit and healthy is just as important as ensuring they can read and write and perform math’s to a decent level, a belief both Jennie, myself and Malcolm shared.

“Malcolm was especially pleased that so many years on, our pupils still brave the elements in a lesson that that teaches youngsters about the importance of teamwork by encouraging them to run the cross country on behalf of their school house – something his wife believed in. It’s a fantastically fun – although muddy! – outlet for all and we thank the Marsh family for joining us.”

Fagin

Fagin

The next meeting of the Rochester and Chatham Dickens Fellowship (R&CDF) is on Thursday the 17th of October 7.00 for a 7.15 start. An extraordinary AGM followed by a talk by Dean Caston titled “The Victoria Palace Theatre” The meeting is in the Education Room of Dickens World in Chatham. Non Members are welcome for a small fee. For details of the R&CDF or for non-members to attend contact the Hon. Secretary Mr Steve Martin on 01474 834164. For Dickens World – http://www.dickensworld.co.uk

Dean Caston – The Victoria Palace Theatre

The current Victoria Palace theater opened in 1911 so most of the talk covers the period 1911 to date. However, Dean will also talk about the history of the theater from 1832 – 1866 when it was a Music Hall.

Dean Caston has been involved with the theater for over 35 years and serves on the committee for the Rainham Theatrical Society and the British Musical Society. He is currently appearing at the Criterion Music Hall in Sheerness and will be appearing soon in ‘Dick Whittington’ at the Hazlitt Theater, Maidstone. Dean is also a tour guide at Dickens World.

©PraxisDesign 2012

©PraxisDesign 2012

Rochester returns to its Victorian glory during the weekend of Friday 31 May to Sunday 2 June, as the annual Dickens Festival lights up the streets with colourful costumed characters, street theatre, music and dancing. Held every year since 1978, the event celebrates Medway’s many associations with the great author, who drew many of his characters and settings for his novels from the years he lived in the area. More

Don’t forget the Dickens Festival this weekend and it looks like the weather will hold too.Dickens 276

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The next meeting of the Rochester and Chatham Dickens Fellowship (R&CDF) is on Thursday the 21st of March 7.15 for a 7.30 start. The meeting is in the Education Room of Dickens World in Chatham and includes a talk by Odette Buchanan titled Mills and Broom, a history of wind and watermills around the Medway Towns. For details of the R&CDF or for non-members to attend contact the Hon. Secretary Mr Steve Martin on 01474 834164 – stevemartin54@hotmail.com or John Knott 01634 862688.
For details of the venue – http://www.dickensworld.co.uk

gads carolsThe sleigh bells are ringing and the halls are decked – yes, it’s Christmas time. But with only fourteen days left to get the Christmas shopping done some of us may feel like yelling ‘Bah Humbug!’ More

DSCN2451 Draw SMIt was on Christmas Eve 1864 when Charles Fechter announced that he had a Christmas present for Dickens that was far too big for him to carry, and was now waiting for him at Higham Railway Station, fortunately transport was not a problem, as Dickens kept a four-wheel spring van in the van house behind the servant’s hall at Gad’s Hill. When the gift was finally collected, which took some considerable time, as the gift was contained in fifty-eight packing cases, which meant that a number of trips to and fro from the station were necessary; the packing cases which had travelled from Paris, were opened to reveal all the pieces required to build a genuine Swiss chalet. More

Fantastic new features are sure to wow the crowds at this year’s Bicentenary Rochester Dickens Festival. More

All things Charles Dickens continues apace next month with a stage adaptation of one of the author’s favourite novels.

As a prelude to the Bicentenary Rochester Dickens Festival, Mad Dogs & Englishmen Theatre Company bring David Copperfield to The Brook Theatre on Friday, 1 June. More

Talk or “duopolylogue” by Professor Tony Pointon & Susan Healey titled “Dickens and Mothers in Law ” More

The next meeting of the Rochester and Chatham Dickens Fellowship is on Thursday the 16th of March 7.15 for a 7.30 start. The meeting is in the Education Room of Dickens World in Chatham include s a talk by Michael Eaton. Non Members are welcome for a small fee. For details of the R&CDF or non members to attend contact the Joint Hon. Secretary Mr Steve Martin 01474 834164

The next meeting of the Rochester and Chatham Dickens Fellowship is on Thursday the 16th of February 7.15 for a 7.30 start. The meeting is in the Education Room of Dickens World in Chatham include s a talk by Dr. Tony Williams. Non Members are welcome for a small fee. For details of the R&CDF or non members to attend contact the Joint Hon. Secretary Mr Steve Martin 01474 834164

R&CDF Branch Meeting 16th February
“Mile-stones on the Dover Road” Dickens, Kent and Dickensians, a talk by Tony Williams.

Dr Tony Williams
Tony Williams taught English in secondary schools from 1969 to 1997 when he took early retirement. From 1999 to 2006 he was Joint General Secretary of The International Dickens Fellowship and a Trustee of the Charles Dickens Museum in London. He is Associate Editor of The Dickensian and organises the London programme of events for the Dickens Fellowship, as well as being a frequent speaker on Dickensian topics both in the UK and overseas. He is currently a member of the group planning the programme for the celebrations in 2012 of the bicentenary of Dickens’s birth. He has recently accepted an honorary Research Fellowship at the University of Buckingham to assist with work on Dickens Journals Online.

Pupils from across the Kindergarten and Junior School at Gad’s Hill have joined in the annual present collection for ‘Operation Christmas Child’, More

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