Category: Sunday Best

August 10th, 2014 by eastgrinsteadonline
Neil Hopson

Neil Hopson

NEIL Hopson is the Artistic and Academy Drama Director of Ariel Company Theatre, which he runs with his wife and co-director, Nicci. Ariel has several drama schools across Sussex, including a branch in East Grinstead, which recently celebrated five years in the town.

The school started back in 2005 when Nicci was a teacher in Burgess Hill. Neil and Nicci had started Ariel as a production company for adult theatre and had put on various touring shows successfully in the local area. With Nicci’s teaching background, they saw the opportunity to bring their experience to local children.

Neil’s background is the professional theatre and he starred in West End productions during the eighties, including a part in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. The drama group in Burgess Hill proved to be popular and the school quickly expanded to other towns – now they have regular classes in Burgess Hill, East Grinstead, Haywards Heath, Crawley and Steyning and more than 600 pupils.

The classes are typically three hours in length with the time divided between drama, dance and singing, but each discipline is taught with a strong emphasis on characterisation and performance, so acting is at the heart of everything that Ariel does. Pupils work hard towards an annual showcase, which for the East Grinstead group often takes place at the Chequer Mead Theatre.

The passion for his craft is clear from Neil and he speaks fondly of the students who have passed through Ariel’s doors over the years, many going on to professional success themselves either on the Stage, in TV and Film, or in modelling and advertising.

However, it isn’t just about dreams of stardom, Neil is very proud of the confidence that pupils get from his classes and he often sees a slow transformation, as shy children come out of their shells and are able to perform and project themselves up on the stage in front of an audience.

These kind of soft skills are vital for many careers and are a valuable addition to the development of the children.

Ariel puts on various productions with its young actors – past shows have included We Will Rock You, Rent, Wizard of Oz, Les Miserables and Miss Saigon. Over the years, the business has gathered many costumes, props and sets from its own productions, so these are also hired out to other theatre groups and schools, who are doing their own youth or adult performances.

Summer workshops are also popular for the holidays, where members or non-members can sign up for a course which takes them from read-through to putting on a show in a matter of days.

Alice in Wonderland and Avenue Q are this year’s workshops. Remarkably, the team have made all their own puppets for the production of Avenue Q.

Neil is keen to emphasise that pupils can also learn many ‘behind the scenes’ skills such as lighting, sound and production design. His own son works on the technical side in the West End, having been through the Ariel school.

Here are some photos from Ariel productions.

Recent professional appearances for Ariel pupils include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Grandpa in my Pocket (TV Show), The Bodyguard and Lord of the Flies. The school has an affiliation with a talent agency, so there is a professional route for children with big ambitions.

Nigel Harman of West End musical and Eastenders fame is the patron of the school and tries to get down to see the pupils and their shows when he can.

He is very passionate about the next generation of talent and is a strong advocate of what Neil and Nicci are trying to achieve with Ariel. His recent appearance as Simon Cowell in the X Factor musical has come to an end, but he is directing Shrek the Musical at the moment.

The classes are open to all and there are separate sessions available for children with special needs. They really enjoy the classes and take a full part in the annual showcase performances.

Charity work is also important to the school and they regularly support causes such as the British Legion. In the last few weeks, Ariel put on a James Bond-themed show by all the East Grinstead group to support one of its pupils, Dominic Francillia, who has cerebral palsy. More than £700 was raised during the afternoon to go towards the construction of a hydropool to help Dominic stay fit and healthy.

Alongside the drama classes, Ariel also runs several choirs, who have performed with Peter Andre at the O2 and regularly feature on the Comic / Sport relief Glee-style shows the BBC feature as part of their annual charity appeals. Their next big production will be Oliver, which will include both adults and children and will be on at the Hawth in September 2015.

If you are interested in finding out more about Ariel, then please have a look at their website – which also has details of past performances and the professional work of current and former pupils.

Ariel pupils on the BBC

Posted in Education, EGo Buzz, Entertainment and Arts, News, Sunday Best, Sussex Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

July 6th, 2014 by eastgrinsteadonline

Charlotte Blackledge

CHARLOTTE Blackledge grew up in East Grinstead and has fond memories of her home town. She’s  just finished starring as Mandy Rice-Davies in the latest Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, Stephen Ward, so Barney Durrant caught up with her to talk about her career.

What are your earliest memories of performing in front of an audience?

BEING cast as the tortoise in the Tortoise and the Hare at my school in Year Four. I was so chuffed to be cast as one of the leads. I think my mum still has it on video!

Did you want to be on stage, in films, TV or to sing and dance?

I never really specified what I wanted to be in, I just wanted to do it all. Funnily enough, I still do. I always wanted to be in Shakespeare though. I remember watching Taming of the Shrew and telling my dad I was going to play Katherine one day. It hasn’t happened yet but I’m not giving up hope.

How long have you lived in East Grinstead and what do you like or dislike about the town?

I grew up in East Grinstead, and I only left when I went to drama school. I love it here, I have great memories and wonderful friends. Only problem is you never know which coffee shop to go in, there are so many. I take it in turns.

Are there any local groups that really helped you as your career began to take off?

ONE group which really supported me was the Stonegate Players, a small company of drama enthusiasts. They are wonderful actors and great friends. I owe them a lot. 

What was it like to get the message about your role in Stephen Ward ?

I was told in the room, by Richard Eyre himself. I speechless for about five minutes and then I cried. It was overwhelming and completely unexpected. I remember Richard looking at the other panellists (there were about 15 of them), them all nodding and then he looked at me and asked if I was available to play Mandy Rice Davies. I had to keep it a secret, but I rang my parents as soon as I get out of the room and we had a celebratory dinner. 

Which actors and actresses do you admire and why? 

A lot of people ask me this and to be honest the list is endless so it’s hard to choose.  But I highly admire Fiona Shaw. I think she’s fearless and breathtaking. She commands the stage and performs with her whole heart. To see an actress perform with such dedication is inspiring. 

Would you prefer a role in a successful TV series like Game of Thrones, a Hollywood blockbuster or a West End musical? 

Definitely all of the above. I don’t believe any actor doesn’t want the chance to do it all. I’m constantly hungry for the chance to try something new. I always believe you should play a character which challenges you. If they don’t, then don’t bother because you won’t be in the front seat, driving this character to become real. If you’re comfortable, most of the time the character will be lifeless. 

Did your family encourage you to perform or did they ever have any reservations about the life of an actor?

I think every parent has concerns when their child says they want to be an actor. This profession is incredibly demanding, tiring and emotionally draining. No parents wants to see their child go through so any highs and lows in life. But after saying all that, they run my fan club. You couldn’t ask for better parents, they have held my hand through every decision I have made. I am incredibly lucky. 

Tell us about the experience of being in  a new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical – the attention, the press, the critics…

I really don’t know where to begin. Mind blowing. Terrifying. Incredible.
Something I will cherish for the rest of my life. 

How did you feel when it came to an end?

Very sad. It was an incredible experience to start my career on such a high with such incredible people who have taught me so much. There are no words. But when life closes a door, it opens a window. 

How do you measure the success of a project – the financial returns, the reviews, your enjoyment of it, extra fame?

ONLY one element from that list, enjoyment. As an actor you can’t measure your success by money, there’s never a lot of it. Or by the reviews. I tend to stay away from the papers and listen to the creatives and the audience. 

What’s the strangest experience you have had with being recognised by the public?

THERE’VE been a few – most of them start with ‘it’s a wig!’. The weirdest moment was probably when the billboards were up in the tube stations. I had to wait every night on the Piccadilly line and as often or not somebody would realise it was me. 

What’s next – would you go to America to help your career?

I can’t say yet. America though, I wouldn’t rule out. There’s a lot more work out there for young, trained actors and I love to travel, so we’ll see. I’m in no rush. 

Here’s Charlotte talking about her role in Stephen Ward.  

And Charlotte performing in the trailer.

Posted in Entertainment and Arts, News, Sunday Best Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

June 29th, 2014 by eastgrinsteadonline


EVERY weekend our cookery and gardening expert Karen Colcomb tells us what she has been up to in her kitchen and allotment.

After last week’s Food Swap on the McIndoe lawn Karen brings us up-to-date with how her allotment is doing.

‘THIS week I thought I would give a quick update on the allotment as produce is starting to come through.  

I have harvested the first early potatoes that I planted back in March –  a welcome first crop and they taste totally different to any shop potato.  We had them with a barbeque made into a potato salad.

Other harvests this week include garlic, spring onions, courgettes, mange tout, strawberries, cucumbers, chilli, broad beans and jostaberries.

For those of you unfamiliar with this last item the jostaberry is a complex-cross fruit involving three original species – the black currant, the North American coastal black gooseberry, and the European gooseberry. 

220px-Ribes_nidrigolariaThe nearly black berry, which is smaller than a gooseberry and a bit larger than a blackcurrant, is edible both raw and cooked. It is described as having a taste intermediate between a gooseberry and a blackcurrant, with the gooseberry flavor more dominant in the unripe fruit, and the blackcurrant notes developing as the fruit ripens.

The ripe fruit will hang on the bush in good condition through late summer, but is very popular with birds. Unripe fruit can be used in cooking recipes as a gooseberry. Like blackcurrants the fruit freezes well, and like many other members of the Ribes genus it is rich in vitamin C.

Commercial production of jostaberries is limited because they are not well suited to mechanical harvesting – so these are something unusual to try growing at home.

One little harvest provided me with a very tasty salad for lunch this week.
The greenhouse is full of tomato plants with fruits beginning to ripen, I have also picked four mini cucumbers.  image (3)

My tomatoes this year have been grown from seed with the seed being purchased from a company which specialises in collecting their own seed of mostly heirloom varieties with names such as Bloody Butcher, Mexican Midget and Pink Lemon.

I am also growing a cucumber called Crystal Lemon which does indeed look like a lemon – as soon as they are big enough I’ll take a picture of one.

The plot is now almost full with leeks, shallots, peas, cauliflowers, swede, sweetcorn, winter squash, celeriac and brussels sprouts.

At this time of the year I  also buy-in extra plants to fill any gaps I might have so today I received in the post leeks, black kale and Russian kale and I may have space to squeeze in some purple sprouting broccoli too.

Next week I have a ‘treat’ day out with a friend to the Sussex Flower School for a one-day course on putting together a cutting garden or patch of flowers – something I have set aside part of the allotment for, to really get going on next year.

Incidentally if anybody is thinking of setting up a veg patch I am more than happy to help you get started with the basics – it really is very rewarding and helps get you creative in the kitchen too.



Posted in Food and Drink, News, Sunday Best Tagged with: ,

June 15th, 2014 by eastgrinsteadonline

KAREN has a busy week ahead – the allotment is blooming, the strawberries are turning red, and then there’s the town’s first ever food-swap at 10.45am next Saturday on the McIndoe Lawn.

But with the sun out, she’s sharing some sweet secrets with East Grinstead Online.

“Strawberries are everyone’s childhood favourite and an early summer staple.  We all get blinded by the early Spanish strawberries that flood the supermarkets early in the year but nothing beats a fresh warm British strawberry.

How do you eat yours? Meringues and whipped cream are a favourite in this house – or how about crushing the meringues and eating them softly folded with the strawberries and cream to create Eton Mess.

Wimbledon is nearly upon us and the official figure for sales of strawberries over the two weeks stand at 28,000 kilos which equates to 112,000 punnets – which is a lot of berries by anyone’s measure.

Strawberries are relatively easy to grow and make great container plants. Pop a few outside the back door for the children to water and pick the ripe berries.

Plants also cope well in hanging baskets and can be squashed in together nicely.  If you have a greenhouse pop a few plants inside from around March and force an early sweet crop.

The biggest pests for the berries are slugs and snails but straw popped around the plants will deter them.

A favourite recipe of mine is an old Delia Smith one for strawberry granita which is somewhere between a sorbet and slush ice.  No fancy equipment is needed just little trips to the freezer to stir.

Strawberry Granita

1lb (450g) ripe strawberries
6oz (175g) caster sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice


First hull the strawberries, then put them in a colander and rinse them briefly with cold water. Drain well and dry them on kitchen paper before transferring them to a food processor or liquidiser.

Blend them to a smooth purée, then stop the motor, add the sugar and blend again very briefly.

After that add 1 pint (570 ml) water and the lemon juice, blend once more, then pour everything into a fine nylon sieve set over a bowl.

Rub the purée through the sieve, then pour it into the polythene freezer box, cover with a lid and put into the freezer for 2 hours.

By that time the mixture should have started to freeze around the sides and base of the container, so take a large fork and mix the frozen mixture into the unfrozen, then re-cover and return it to the freezer for another hour.

After that repeat with another vigorous mixing with a fork, cover again and re-freeze for a further hour. At this stage the mixture should be a completely frozen snow of ice crystals, and is ready to serve.

It can remain at this servable stage in the freezer for a further 3-4 hours, but after that the ice will become too solid and it will need putting in the main body of the fridge for 30-40 minutes or until it is soft enough to break up with a fork again.

Next week will all be about my preparations for the new East Grinstead Food Swap event which I am really excited to be a part of – we are also very honoured to be holding the event at the new McIndoe statue.

If anyone would like information or what to bring to the swap see

Posted in Food and Drink, News, Sunday Best Tagged with: , , ,

June 8th, 2014 by eastgrinsteadonline


THIS week our cookery expert Karen looks at bread – and comes up with a simple and delicious recipe to try at home.

LOVE it or hate it, we all at some point in our day eat bread in one of its many forms – from toast and sandwiches made from the humble all-purpose white loaf,  foccacia and French sticks, flatbreads, chapatis, croissants and Scandinavian rye breads, up to what is  considered by artisan bakers to be the most superior  – a sour dough.

Every culture has its own favourite but how many of us has ever made a fresh loaf from start to finish?

It is one of the most satisfying and relaxing makes in the kitchen and yes it does take time –  but you can do each stage and then leave for an hour or two.

In our house we try and make bread most weeks. I would dearly love to make it every day and provide all of our own but it simply isn’t possible.

But come the weekend we can always find a day –  even if one of us starts the loaf and the other finishes it. And we always make two as the children generally devour one straight from the oven.  

It takes a little practice but get a good bread book and follow each stage exactly and in no time at all you will become an expert.  

The finished loaf bears no comparison to its supermarket equivalent with no preservatives or other nasties lurking. 

The downside to this is that it doesn’t keep quite so long – but then homemade bread is so delicious it won’t get a chance to go stale.

Other variations are quick and easy soda breads which use bicarbonate of soda as their raising agent and not yeast –  and there’s nothing better to eat with a bowl of homemade soup.  

If you are adept at bread-making it really is a great challenge to make a sourdough starter which harnesses natural yeasts to provide the fermentation. 

Sourdough starters can  be kept,  fed regularly and used as needed. They are all unique in flavour and vigour, and stories have been told about them being handed down the generations as precious gifts.

IMG_0401But of our favourite bread recipes is for a homemade pizza dough.  If we have children visiting I quite often make up a batch and let the guests make their own pizzas for tea. 

The recipe below is  for a quick and simple soda bread, and very easy for children to help with.  Most of the ingredients should be store cupboard items and buttermilk is easily available from supermarkets.

Easy soda bread recipe

400 g plain flour
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
350 ml buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 230C/gas 8. 

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the buttermilk (leaving about 60ml in the measuring jug). Using one hand with your fingers outstretched bring the flour and liquid together, adding more buttermilk if necessary. Do not knead the mixture or it will become heavy. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky. 

3. When the dough comes together, turn onto a floured work surface and bring together a little more. Pat the dough into a round about 4cm deep and cut a deep cross in the top. 

4. Place the dough onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200C/gas 6 and bake for a further 30. When ready, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the base and be golden in colour. 

5. Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving. 

Have a great weekend’s baking,



Posted in Business, News, Sunday Best Tagged with: ,

June 8th, 2014 by eastgrinsteadonline

High Weald-9

ANDY Somerville is living the dream. He’s the owner of East Grinstead’s only micro-brewery – High Weald Brewery – and tomorrow his beer will be served to the Guinea Pigs at the royal reception for McIndoe Monday.

East Grinstead Online’s beer correspondent Barney Durrant and photographer Jon Game talked to Andy about his growing enterprise and his hopes for the future.

FROM a small unit off Coombe Hill Road brewer Andy mixes the finest ingredients he can source to produce authentic bottle and cask-conditioned ales to the highest standard possible.

As a qualified microbiologist, Andy is able to concoct his brews to a scientific level of quality and consistency and he is proud to make a local product using methods scarcely changed in hundreds of years.High Weald-2

With his background in science, and the skills he uses in his day job, Andy was able to save money on the construction of his brewery by doing much of the work himself, and he has now moved from a building at his house to a small industrial unit.

At the moment he balances his day job with the large commitment of time and effort which goes into producing his beer and selling it to local pubs and off-licences. But the growing demand for his beer means he will soon move to a bigger unit  – and he dreams of the day he can make brewing his full-time career.

High Weald-11Andy’s love of beer and brewing began as a young man, when he first experimented with homebrew kits at home – an occupation that is coming back into fashion with the continued growth of the craft beer market.

In America and indeed closer to home, small breweries have been springing up offering beer drinkers a variety of old and new tastes very different from the factory-produced lagers and bitters which have dominated pubs and clubs for so many years.

Andy is a knowledgeable student of beer and closely follows the developments in brewing both here and abroad. In America, they have gone back to recipes left dusty and forgotten in this country to make great India Pale Ales (IPAs) or golden ales which are pulling US drinkers away from their staple Budweisers or Millers and persuading them to try something rich in history, and subtle and rewarding on the palate.

Three types of beer are currently produced by the High Weald Brewery and of course I felt honour-bound to try them all  purely in the interests of writing about them.

I’m not sure what the photographer’s excuse was…

My personal favourite was the oatmeal stout, The Charcoal Burner and in fact to aid my writing efforts on this sunny afternoon, I am sipping from one right now. The dark, rich, sweet taste is at 4.3 percent, not too strong, but it is a robust ale and one for those that appreciate a full-bodied draught.

Andy’s most popular beer is The Golden Ale. I can see why this smooth easy-drinking, but flavoursome beer is a hit with local punters. If only we had the forethought to have brought a Chicken Dhansak, then the experience would have been complete.

Finally all three of us cracked a bottle of Greenstede Gold. The eponymous beer certainly fits the mould of a classic ‘best’ along the lines of those made by Lewes brewer, Harveys and found in many Sussex pubs. And I can see that both  these beers will be a summer favourite, once the sun has popped out again.

Andy is justifiably proud of his work and has a strong artisan approach to brewing. The beers may not be the cheapest ales on the supermarket shelf, but the taste and quality is clear to the experienced imbiber from the start.

Andy let slip that he even had to stop supplying one unnamed hostelry, because they refused to follow his advice and store his beer upright, which meant the sediment didn’t settle and render the beer crystal clear, as it should be. But he is a man who puts commercial concerns way below the love he has for a good product.

And the brewery is a family affair. Andy’s wife has designed the bottle labels and at the moment he painstakingly sticks every one to each bottle he makes. This is a manual task he hopes to leave behind soon, as he expands and is able to buy an automatic bottling machine.

He is very proud of his products’ strong local connection, and after brews named for The Weald and Grinstede Andy is working on his next creation, a Wealden Pale Ale.

As a local businessman, he is  supporting the unveiling of the McIndoe statue tomorrow (9 June) and is very proud that his beer will be served at the royal reception for the Guinea Pigs.

But who knows, even Princess Anne might sup a pint of Charcoal Burner after she pulls off the statue cover.

If – as I hope – my article has literally whetted your appetite for a taste of Andy’s very fine local beer, then I advise you to get down very quickly to the Market Square food and wine shop in East Grinstead.

Because as the sun warms my whirring laptop, I have a feeling there may be some thirsty folks out there…

Barney Durrant

High Weald-14


Posted in Food and Drink, News, Sunday Best Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

June 1st, 2014 by eastgrinsteadonline
THIS week our cookery and allotment expert Karen takes us on a little foraging trip for an early-summer not-to-be-missed treat, Elderflower Cordial.
THE elder shrub is steeped in British and Continental folklore and in some areas, the elder tree is supposed to ward off evil influence and give protection from the witches which superstition says often congregate under the plant, especially when it is full of fruit.
This shrub or mini tree is easily overlooked except when in blossom but in late  May and early June we should all take a few heads and make a batch of cordial.
The flowers open to a creamy yellow colour and have a fruity, heady perfume, which is when they are best picked, before they have turned to brown.  Try and pick away from roads as the flowers may be tainted by fumes and pollution.
The recipe I have used and adapted over the years is a River Cottage one. It uses quite a lot of sugar but I have halved the amount and still had a great cordial.  It will keep for a few weeks if stored in sterilised bottles, but we buy a batch of small plastic water bottles, clean them thoroughly and then freeze them full of cordial for use throughout the rest of the year.
Elderflower cordial has many uses from diluting with still or sparkling water to using with champagne or sparkling wine in the same way as cassis for a Kir Royale with a difference.  
It can be used to flavour whipped cream and gooseberries for a fruity pavlova, or to sweeten summer berries.  And there are lots of online recipes for jellies and cakes.
I have a friend who always makes strawberry and elderflower jam. And if used two parts water to one cordial it makes superbly refreshing ice lollies.
About 25 elderflower heads
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml in total)
1kg sugar ( I have made with 500g amd still had a great result)
1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional, used as a preservative)
Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest. Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere cool overnight to infuse.

Strain the liquid through a  jelly bag, piece of muslin or a clean tea towel and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.

Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.

If using plastic bottles make sure they are clean and allow the liquid to cool a little before pouring in.

That’s it, very simple and easy for a great result…





Posted in News, Sunday Best Tagged with: , ,

May 25th, 2014 by eastgrinsteadonline

SONY DSCGAREN Ewing is a long term resident of East Grinstead and author of a series of comic books, surrounding the retro adventures of Julius Chancer, called the Rainbow Orchid. The stories are collected as graphic novels and published in the UK and several other countries. His work is reminiscent of the ‘ligne claire’ style used by Hergé in the famous Tintin books and adopts a historic adventure theme, with a touch of Indiana Jones. Garen is a winner of the British Comic Awards 2013 and Young People’s Comic Award.

RO_Complete_cover_300EAST Grinstead Online’s Barney Durrant asked Garen a few questions about his work, inspiration, background and views on the British comic book scene – and of course hometown East Grinstead.

What was the inspiration behind the Rainbow Orchid and how conscious were you of inevitable comparisons for UK readers with Tintin?

The main inspiration for doing The Rainbow Orchid was just wanting to write and draw a comic that I would enjoy. Comics are such a lot of work, and it’s impossible to please everyone, so I thought I should just aim to please myself – hoping, of course, that there’d be at least a few others out there with similar tastes.

I was very conscious of the Tintin comparisons. Ever since I was a young kid I’ve loved Tintin and have followed up that enthusiasm by seeking out many other European comics in a similar style – by creators such as Edgar P. Jacobs, Yves Chaland, Roger Leloup, Willy Vandersteen, Joost Swarte etc. – they’re much more prevalent and well-known on the continent. I wanted to enrol myself in that school of art as well. I ended up being published in the UK by Egmont, who also publish the Tintin books here.

Have you drawn and written stories all your life and when did you realise it might be possible to publish your own illustrated stories?

Yes, as far back as I can remember I’ve been making up stories and characters and drawing their adventures in one way or another. I think I was probably about eight or nine when I realised that drawing comics was an actual job (seeing the creators credited in 2000AD), and I was 15 when I had my first illustration published in a fanzine, which set me on the road to being more widely published and eventually – many years later – earning a living with my pen.

Who are your literary and or comic book heroes, either characters or writers?

Asterix and Tintin were my earliest loves and have been a mainstay, so I have to put Goscinny and Uderzo and Hergé at the top of the list. I mentioned some of the other European clear-line creators above – all favourites – and I’d add some of the Japanese manga artists too – Osamu Tezuka and Hayao Miyazaki in particular. I also love the work of Tardi and Lewis Trondheim.

Which do you find harder either technically or in terms of inspiration – the drawing or the writing?

At the moment I’m plotting the next Julius Chancer adventure and I’m finding tying up the big arcs of the story quite hard – but they’re falling into place at last. When I get to writing the actual script, breaking the story down into panels and writing the dialogue, I’ll probably find that quite hard. And then I’ll have to draw what I’ve written, and that is always a challenge! The only time I think I can sit back, to some degree, is when I’m inking the drawings and then colouring them – by then most of the hard graft’s been done.

What do younger readers normally ask you about Julius Chancer?

I keep getting asked how I came up with his name and my answer is always disappointing, because I can’t remember! In general, I get asked if I’m rich (I wish!), what training I’ve done (none, but I always advise it’s a good idea as I know I have gaps in my skill set), and how long it takes to draw a page (which depends … my page depicting the Natural History Museum took over a week, but on average it’s about three days per page).

Has the resurgence of interest in Tintin, because of the Spielberg film, helped to draw audiences to your books?

I have no real idea what affect the film had on my book sales, but I think it was negligible. In fact, I don’t think the film was as successful as the publishers hoped in regard to driving vast numbers of new readers to the Tintin books themselves. Hergé never really cracked America, and I don’t think the film has changed that. Comics are a difficult market, though there is slow progress.

Do you think Julius Chancer might make it to the big or small screen in the future?

I very much doubt it. I think it’s too similar to Tintin and Indiana Jones as a concept, but you never know. It works better as a book where the differences stand out – a bit more cerebral than Tintin, and a bit more detailed in plot than Indiana Jones.

How long have you lived in East Grinstead and what do you like (or dislike) about the town?

After I was born (in 1969) my parents lived in Dormansland for a bit, then, after a year or two in Reading, moved to East Grinstead when I was about 3, and I’ve been here ever since. I love the town, especially its history, but also the proximity to plenty of countryside and ease of access to London, if I need it. I can’t really think of anything I don’t like … not worth saying, anyway!

How healthy is the British comic scene – does the constant diet of Marvel / DC superhero films have a positive or negative impact on comics here or in fact generally?

I don’t think I’m sitting at a high-enough table to see clearly how the UK comics scene is doing, but from my little corner of things I do see a definite upward trend. The British Library is currently hosting a huge comics exhibit, and there is a greater variety of home-grown comics titles and publishers than ever before. The market hasn’t quite caught up with the creative output yet – comics are still a tough sell in the mainstream, but there are now a huge number of annual comic events, from small-press, to massive expos, and academic conferences.

I do think the superhero blockbusters have helped a bit – certainly when I go into schools to do talks and comics workshops, more and more children are aware of the characters and the comics they come from – very different from even 3 or 4 years ago.

What are you working on right now and when can we expect a new Julius Chancer book?

I’m working on the next Julius Chancer adventure, which East Grinstead-ians (?) might be interested to know involves a well-known local landmark as part of the story. It’s going to be a little while before it sees publication – at least two years to draw it and then maybe another year or two before it’s available as a book – but I’m very excited about this next adventure.

If you want to find out more about Julius Chancer and his adventures, check out the website, where you can order copies of Garen’s comic books and even get them signed and personalised by him.

All images (c) Garen Ewing and used with permission.

Posted in EGo Buzz, Entertainment and Arts, Sunday Best Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

May 25th, 2014 by eastgrinsteadonline


COOKERY and allotment expert Karen gives us her exclusive take on the highlights of the Chelsea show – and suffers a nasty case of veggie envy…
“THIS week isn’t so much about cooking but growing of all types of flowers, fruit and veg as I was lucky enough to visit the Chelsea Flower Show held in the grounds of The Royal Hospital.We had all-day tickets but with the rest of London heading the same way we didn’t actually get there until 11am. 
But whatever time you arrive, it’s a great day out with something for everyone – great gardens, a bit of shopping and a nice spot of lunch, afternoon tea or ice cream.
The major show gardens as ever were amazing, all shown to perfection with great hard landscaping, beautiful plants and all with a story behind them.
The overall best in show was won by the Laurent Perrier Garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei. His intention was to stimulate the enjoyment of observation and to invite exploration of stillness and movement through relationships between the contrasting forms and materials in the beautiful garden pictured below.
But among my my personal favourites was The Cloudy Bay Sensory Garden where the plant selections alone won me over –  they all looked as if they had naturalised in their space over many years. A worthy winner of a silver gilt medal.
THE RBC Waterscape Garden was designed by Hugo Bugg, the youngest-ever  gold medal winner at Chelsea at the age of 27 and in his debut year. His garden is billed as being sustainable, symbolic and sophisticated and I personally think he will give more seasoned Chelsea designers a run for their money in years to come.image-2One of my favourite designers, Cleve West, also won a Gold Medal for his M and G Garden. Cleve is a natural plantsman and  his paradise garden is a space that uses water, shade and planting for sanctuary and contemplation.
I also have a soft spot for Cleve as he has allotments and has a real-down-to earth attitude to growing his own food and showing what can be achieved in a small space by creating  green roofs on his sheds and using other clever ideas for maximum use of a modest plot.
Here are a few more pictures of other things that caught my eye:
The Gardeners Have All Gone 1914-1918: this was one of a couple of exhibits paying tribute to the centenary of World War I, with a poignant recreation of the allotments and gardens left behind as men went off to serve.
And finally these really beautiful veg – I wish they popped up like that on my plot!
But next week it’s back to reality, when I will write about foraging Elderflower and making homemade Elderflower Cordial.
Enjoy your week’s cooking and gardening,”

Posted in Entertainment and Arts, Environment, News, Sunday Best Tagged with: , ,