Saturday, 31 July 2021

Your letters

Bigger’s not always better

Bigger’s not always better

Sir, - I was quite interested to read Mike Rowbottom’s views on the Mayor’s “dream” of a 400- to 600-seat new arts centre in Henley (Standard, March 27).

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, I was very surprised to read that Mike was making assumptions on behalf of Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society when he is not even a member (“...a decent size stage would surely be an attraction to HAODS who have been trying to cram musicals on to the Kenton boards for decades”).

Costs of mounting musicals are escalating year on year and core audiences have been dwindling. People simply do not have the money to spend as they used to on their entertainment.

HAODS used to be able to boast a core following of almost 1,350 audience members for every show - well over five full houses at the Kenton Theatre.

We ran for nine or 10 performances and often had the “House Full” sign up.

These days that figure has dwindled to a mere 845, equating to just 3.5 full houses in an auditorium of 230.

Consequently, we now only stage five performances.

Pitching ticket prices correctly for a family or a couple to come out for the evening, cover costs and still stack up financially is very difficult but we do try hard to get the balance right. More often than not, we just break even or make a small loss.

HAODS was instrumental in rescuing the Kenton from impending doom in the Sixties and without the society’s support the theatre would not exist today.

HAODS is hardly likely to abandon it now and produce our shows in another, even more costly, venue with an even bigger challenge to get bums on seats.

There is no doubt that a large, local venue would affect the Kenton because bigger names like Shappi Khorsandi and Miles Jupp would naturally gravitate towards it, thus the Kenton would lose out on sure sell-outs and would dilute the audience base even further.

HAODS has its own performance space (the HAODS studio) and as well as our major Kenton Theatre productions, we produce HAODS fringe productions three or four times a year at a very low cost - this is ideal for small cast plays or musicals where the audience can feel very much a part of the evening.

These productions are usually a sell-out because we only have capacity for 70 seats. So you see, bigger is not always better. â?? Yours faithfully,

Julie Huntington

Chair, Henely Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society

P.S. I hope the public will support us with our latest production, Sunshine on Leith, a musical packed full of the Proclaimers’ music with a very relevant story (April 15 to 18).

We have an excellent cast giving their all to bring first-class entertainment to Henley and I can assure you that we do not feel “crammed” on to the stage in any way.

Bemused by criticism

Sir, - I scratched my head, then I asked those around me and they scratched their heads as well.

Why on earth did Ed Simons call a letter I wrote to you as “self-serving” (Standard, April 3)?

The comment was wrapped up in a strange, disjointed letter featuring a picture of a three-month old child attending the Kenton Theatre, something about that child being 90 on the Kenton’s 300th birthday and then me writing a self-serving letter.

I’ve always taken self-serving to mean to act in one’s self interest under the guise of working for a greater good.

But perhaps I was wrong so I checked a dictionary definition and came up with this: preoccupied with one’s own interests, often disregarding the truth or the interests, wellbeing, etc., of others.

My letter was to welcome an arts centre to the town, by the way.

I have absolutely no idea what self-interest could be served by me welcoming an arts centre other than to attend the events there.

No one else I know gets why it should be self-serving either. Can you help us, Ed, or is it that you haven’t quite got over the poor review I gave for your Sherlock Holmes production at the Kenton in September? â?? Yours faithfully,

Mike Rowbottom

Stoke Row

Let’s fight cut in beds

Sir, â?? I only heard about the revised plan to cut community beds at the new Townlands Hospital (from 18 to five) last week and wanted to voice my concern from a consumer’s perspective.

My credentials are that my brother and I were both born at Townlands Hospital 50-plus years ago and my parents have lived in Henley all their lives.

I have been an NHS GP in London most of my life and have now retired to help care for my elderly parents.

My 86-year-old father was transferred to Peppard ward at Townlands from the Royal Berkshire Hospital six weeks ago and is about to be discharged home.

Without the extraordinary rehabilitative care he has received at Townlands, he would still be “blocking” a bed at the Royal Berkshire Hospital or might, in fact, no longer be with us, as his condition was deteriorating daily on a hectic medical ward.

The enthusiastic and committed staff at Townlands work miracles on their patients. They must be distraught to hear that this wonderful legacy will not transfer to the new much-reduced ward.

I think the Oxfordshire Care Commissioning Group is using smoke and mirrors, telling us that “people want to be treated in their own homes” and community beds can be cut by almost a quarter to fulfil the same level of service. This is nonsense.

There seems to be no money available for social care at home in South Oxfordshire. I know this from speaking to the social work department dealing with older adults.

Lack of funding for community-based home care is why so many patients are blocking the much-needed beds at Townlands... and the cycle goes on.

We know that the proportion of elderly within the population is rising, particularly in an area like South Oxfordshire.

If local people sit back and let the commissioning group ride roughshod over approved plans for the bed quota, they will suffer more stringent cuts in other areas soon and will live to regret not protesting about it while they can still make a difference.

I urge the chief executive of the commissioning group to allow for public consultation before the plans are too advanced to change.

The fact that that public consultation will cause a delay in building is a poor excuse for him to refuse it as the reduction in beds certainly does represent “significant change” to the original plans for Townlands Hospital. â?? Yours faithfully,

Lady Stewart

Chiswick, London

Waste of time and money

Sir, â?? I see that the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has come up with a magnificently simple solution to the problem of bedblocking â?? simply get rid of all the beds.

It is such a shame that, while attending the Townlands Steering Group for the last three years, they had not mentioned it.

If they had, the NHS could have saved some £10million in designing and building an 18-bed hospital with another 12 beds for palliative care, when a much cheaper office block would have sufficed. â?? Yours faithfully,

Dave Smewing

St Mark’s Road, Henley

No sense  of reason

Sir, â?? With reference to your front page story about the plan to reduce the number of beds at the new Townlands Hospital (Standard, March 27) have health chiefs lost their sense of reason?

Here we are debating where to site an additional 450 homes, possibly increasing the population by up to 2,000 more citizens, and they propose to reduce available beds from 18 by two-thirds.

Such a shame they decided to dispense with the services of our local doctors. â?? Yours faithfully,

Peter J Allen

St Katherine’s Road, Henley

Practicality before beauty

Sir, â?? The letters from residents of Goring and South Stoke relating to the perceived “massive impact” on the visual environment (Standard, March 27) raised a major point.

If Network Rail was to take into consideration their individual concerns and those potentially from other similar areas, then the cost would rise further (it has already virtually doubled) from the most recent figure of £1.85billion.

If the head-span solution was to be used, as it has been elsewhere but not for aesthetic reasons, then the regular dewirements which occur with this pattern of catenary would occur wherever this pattern is used.Just seek the views of those who regularly, at times of strong winds, find that the East Coast Main Line is brought to a halt for prolonged periods and ask what concerns them.I’m sure they would argue for the greater rigidity of the portal frame solution which may yet have to be retro-fitted in the case of ECML. Many route miles of electrified railway run through areas of outstanding natural beauty and, despite similar concerns being expressed about the aesthetics, the work went ahead and once weathered in, many would ask what was all the fuss about? Perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects of the letters and article is mention of our MP, John Howell, backing their concerns, which would give the impression that the majority of the residents/constituents are similarly concerned, which I suggest is not the case.

In essence, the works should be to the best engineering standard and the scheme, which is already delayed but which will bring enhancements to the many commuters from the whole section, including Goring and Streatley, Pangbourne etc., should proceed without further delay. â?? Yours faithfully,

David Jones

Orchard Avenue, Sonning Common

School leads by example

Sir, â?? I really must take time to applaud my son’s school, Kidmore End primary (my three children have all passed through its gates). My praise is for its thoughtful, efficient and effective method of communication to the parents.All schools now use the internet and the ParentMail system. This should fulfil a need universally. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. All communication from Kidmore End primary comes packaged as a PDF (portable document format in case you were wondering) and can be opened by a plethora of programs and apps.

Unfortunately, not all schools (and I include those claiming technology status) do so.Instead, they allow individual teachers to send documents in whichever format is to hand. Often it is a raw spreadsheet or graph and cannot be opened unless you are in possession of modern, up-to-date software.

Unfortunately, from an aspect of not needing anything more than what my Office 2003 provides, having a variety of machines for children and myself alike, this makes it extremely prohibitive to upgrade four machines and three pads just to solve a problem caused by thoughtlessness in the first place.If all schools had the foresight to train their teachers in the use and transfer of information, making it as accessible to parents as do the wonderfully informed staff at Kidmore End primary, it would go a long way to improving co-operation between schools and parents â?? co-operation that has, sadly, been whittled away over time through the mounting pressures and pace of everyday modern living. â?? Yours faithfully,

Edward Sierpowski

Crisp Road, Henley

Foolish suggestion

Sir, â?? When I read the letter from Garth LeBrook about introducing wolves (Standard, April 3) I had to look up at the top right corner of the page to see if it was April 1 (April Fools Day). Sadly, it was not. I do not know a great deal about wolves but I am aware they hunt in packs and kill animals to eat fresh meat.Apart from the deer to which Mr LeBrook refers, they will eat any other wild animal they can catch as well as piglets, calves, lambs, small pet dogs, cats and, heaven forbid, young children if they are ravenous and given the chance. We all love to see the lambs cavorting in the fields at this time of the year. If we have wolves roaming the countryside no farmer would take any of his stock outside at any time of the year. Perhaps Mr LeBrook wrote his letter on April 1, so it was an April fool after all. I do hope so. It was an idiotic suggestion otherwise. â?? Yours faithfully,

Mark P Hatt

South Stoke Road, Woodcote

Thank you for support

Sir, â?? On behalf of Cancer Research UK, I am writing to thank all those who participated either as guests, helpers or contributors to our annual Daffodil Supper, which took place at Harpsden village hall on Friday, March 27. I am pleased to say that the evening raised just over £2,850.At Cancer Research UK, the world-class doctors and scientists are working together to push through new and effective treatments for cancer faster than ever before and to prevent more people from developing the disease.

Their research, entirely financed without government funds, will ensure that more people survive cancer.

If anyone would like to organise an event on behalf of the charity in the coming year, we would be very pleased to hear from you. One day we will beat cancer; thank you for helping us make it sooner. â?? Yours faithfully,

Susie Gerhartz

Henley Fund-raisers for Cancer Research UK

For fun and friendship, try bowls

Sir, â?? They say that nothing in life is free but the Goring Heath Bowls Club (Almshouses) would like people to join us every Monday at 2pm from April 20 (weather permitting) for fresh air and gentle exercise in a beautiful location at our green at Goring Heath and try your hand at bowls to prove that myth wrong!

There are parking facilities which are footsteps from our green and you will be greeted with a smile and lots of encouragement. Just bring some flat shoes and we will supply the bowls.

I was very nervous about playing bowls myself for the first time but to my surprise I thoroughly enjoyed it and have been very lucky to have made some very good friends.

There is no obligation at all but I am sure that once you try your hand at bowls you too will enjoy the experience and want to join our self-supporting, small friendly club. If you do decide to join, the cost for new membership is only £25, which is half of the normal membership and an absolute bargain.

We play only friendly matches and although there is not as much pressure, we obviously like to win and we do very well against local clubs in the area.

We are a popular club in as much that we always have lots of warm, friendly banter and delicous teas after our matches.

We also have an open morning on Saturday May 16 from 10am to noon so please joins us. If you would like to find out more about our club, or the art of playing bowls, please call our captain Clive Goodbourn on  (01491) 682491 or visit our website,

I promise you will not be disappointed. â?? Yours faithfully,

Sandra Chapman

Secretary, Goring Heath Bowls Club  (Almshouses)

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