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UK snow: Motorists warned of ‘treacherous’ ice

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Media captionThe forecast is for icy conditions on Monday

Motorists are being warned of “treacherous” road conditions as snow turned into ice across parts of the UK.

Hundreds of schools across England and Wales will be closed on Monday as the wintry conditions persist.

Efforts have continued overnight to reconnect power to thousands of homes cut off after snow and high winds affected supplies.

Temperatures have been between -1C and 1C in built-up areas, but as low as -10C in more isolated areas.

The Met Office issued yellow weather warnings for Wales, the Midlands and the South East.

It also warned of more wintry showers across the west of Scotland and Northern Ireland up until 12:00 GMT.

The RAC has predicted 11,000 breakdowns on Monday, which is 20% higher than the seasonal norm.

This follows the AA reporting a 40% increase in call-outs on Sunday after up to 30cm (12in) of snow coated the country.

There is also the risk of up to 5cm of additional snow on higher ground in Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire, but it is not expected to settle at lower levels.

The Met Office said: “Some injuries are possible from slips and falls on icy surfaces and there will probably be some icy patches on untreated roads and cycle paths.”

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A car turns around after a fallen tree blocks the A40 near Sennybridge, Wales, on Sunday

AA president Edmund King said he witnessed numerous crashes on Sunday as drivers were “caught out” by the icy conditions.

“Drivers do need to adjust more to the conditions by slowing down and keeping a good distance,” he said. “Winter tyres also help drivers to keep a grip.”

Pete Williams, the RAC’s road safety spokesman, said that low overnight temperatures could cause black ice, and he urged motorists to drive slowly, leaving plenty of space between them and the car in front.

“I think the big thing is people are not going to leave enough time,” he added. “Journeys will take two to three times longer. It’s going to be treacherous driving conditions.”

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Image caption The Met Office’s yellow weather warning for snow and ice on Monday

National Rail said travellers should check with their train operators before heading out.

Chiltern Railways, the CrossCountry network, Great Western Railway, Virgin Trains, the West Midlands rail network and services across Wales were all disrupted on Sunday.

Airports have also been affected across the UK, with Heathrow warning of delays to more flights on Monday after crews and aircraft were left “out of position”.

Image copyright Anne Delaney/BBC News
Image caption Heavy snowfall hit Sutton Coldfield

Thousands of homes have been left without power after being hit by the weather.

Western Power Distribution said it had restored services in the East Midlands, South Wales and the South West, but 10,000 customers were still without supply and they would be working through the night to fix the issues.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks also said they had brought power back to 48,000 homes, but there were still 2,900 customers without power – although they hoped to restore it by Monday morning.

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Media captionScenes of fun and frustration over wintry showers

Hundreds of schools across England and Wales will also be closed as a result of the weather conditions.

Buckinghamshire County Council and Shropshire Council said the majority of their schools will shut down, with similar announcements in Denbighshire, Birmingham, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some ventured out in the snow at Richmond Park, London
Image copyright AlLSPORT/Getty Images
Image caption Joe Marler of Harlequins played through the snow during the European Rugby Champions Cup match
Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Some people took a more relaxed approach to the snow, like this family in Derbyshire
Image copyright PA
Image caption And one skier took advantage of the weather in the Peak District

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Village’s bygone era is recaptured on greeting cards

DRAWINGS of historic Wilsden have been brought back to life as Christmas cards at the village’s community post office.

The black and white images were created by former resident Reg Fawcett between 1945 and 1975 according to Louisa Sheekins, who has revived the pictures as greetings cards.

She said the drawings offer a glimpse into Wilsden’s past.

Louisa, who owns Black Sheep Design which is based in the village, said: “It’s only 50 years ago but it looks like a lot has changed.

“There are 24 pictures and they are really very good. They show the history of the area and there are horses and carts on the streets.

“I live near the Harden Malt Shovel pub and the area just looks totally different now to how it does in one of the drawings, with a lot more trees where there were once meadows.

“It’s amazing how things have changed in such a short time.”

Louisa, 52, said she chose to revive the images to be sold as cards and canvases in support of the post office, which reopened in January as a community project after being closed for two years.

Residents raised £17,500 to fund the Main Street store’s first year in business and are now hoping to raise a similar amount to keep its doors open.

Louisa explained how Reg Fawcett originally created his Christmas cards to raise money for the village hall: “It feels like we’re reviving a tradition for the village, it’s gone full circle.

“Reg Fawcett was a leading light in helping to get it built. So this is the history of the local community.

“The post office is just up the road from us so we use it all the time. We wanted to raise money to keep it going because it’s used by the whole village.

“It’s the life blood of the community and the people who run it are so passionate about it.”

The centre is run by the specially-formed Wilsden Community Company CIC (Community Interest Company) and run by a team of volunteers and a paid postmaster.

To view the drawings and buy Christmas cards visit black-sheep-design.com/collections/wilsden-christmas-card-packs.

‘Unprecedented’ figures show all young people in Council care are in school, training or work

Every single child in Council care in the Bradford district is either in school, training or is employed, according to new figures.

Education bosses said it was “unprecedented” for none of the young people aged over 16 in local authority care to be classed as NEET (not in education, employment and training), especially as that group of youngsters are often from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

The figure comes as part of a ‘snapshot’ survey which takes place in November each year for Year 12 students.

Of the 60 young people of that age group in care, none are classed as NEET – a great improvement on last year’s figure of 10.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, general NEET figures in the Bradford district currently stand at 3.2 per cent.

The snapshot survey covers different categories for NEET young people, including vulnerable groups.

Bradford Council works in partnership with a range of organisations, including training and careers advice groups like Prospects, Connexions, and local schools and colleges to work with young people and help them find ways forward in education or training that will benefit them in the future.

In Bradford, young people in care are supported The Virtual School and the Council’s Through Care Team also play a key role in working with schools and colleges so that young people keep accessing education after their GCSEs. They provide support to help young apprentices sustain their attendance, and for young mums and care leavers with disabilities to help them find employment opportunities.

Recent figures show that, overall, around 950 children are currently in care in the Bradford district.

Michael Jameson, strategic director of children’s services, said: “We’re aware that this is a snapshot survey but it is a really positive achievement. The zero NEET figure is unprecedented in our district. It indicates that vulnerable young people are finding pathways that will give them better opportunities for training and work. It’s good news which comes on the back of progress being made in other areas of education across our district.”

Councillor Imran Khan, Council portfolio holder for education, employment and skills, said: “This is excellent news. Great credit needs to go to the young people who have taken the positive step to go into education and training. A lot of partnership work goes in to supporting the vulnerable young people in our district who often face more difficult challenges. This joined up approach to raising attainment reflects the ambition of our Education Covenant.”

Grenfell Tower fire: Public inquiry hearings to start

Remains of Grenfell TowerImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Martin Moore-Bick will lead the public inquiry into the blaze

Two days of hearings will begin later to establish the framework of the Grenfell Tower fire public inquiry.

Its chairman, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, will look into the best way for witnesses to give evidence.

It comes as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the government of “failing” survivors of the 14 June blaze, with more than 100 still living in hotels.

A residents’ group said only 42 families of the 208 needing re-housing had been moved to permanent homes.

The procedural hearings are being held at the Holborn Bars in central London and will deal with case management issues, such as proposed timescales, matters concerning witnesses and the disclosure of evidence.

Survivors are calling for Sir Martin to give them a more central role in the inquiry and for the community to be represented on the panel.

The retired judge has already appointed three assessors to advise on housing, local government and technical matters, and five expert witnesses on fire safety.

But the BBC‘s home affairs correspondent Tom Symonds said it is unlikely that he will give a bigger role to local people in order to maintain the inquiry’s independence.

‘Disgrace’

Last week, a survivors’ group called Grenfell United said 118 families that needed re-housing would still be in emergency accommodation over Christmas or staying with friends.

It said that a further 48 households had accepted offers for permanent housing, but have still not been moved in, leaving them in temporary accommodation.

Mr Corbyn said the government was “failing to learn its lessons and, more importantly, failing the survivors.

“It is a disgrace that the majority of Grenfell residents have still not been given homes and that tower blocks across our country have still not been made safe.

“We need answers from the government and we need action.”

A government spokesman said it expected the local authority – Kensington and Chelsea – to do “whatever is necessary” to help families, but said the council was moving “at the pace of the families and individuals involved.”

He added: “Hundreds of homes have been acquired to give people as much choice as a possible – nobody will be forced to move until they are ready

Image copyright Reuters

Sir Martin wants to produce an initial report explaining the immediate cause and spread of the Grenfell Tower fire, along with an assessment of the evacuation process.

Our correspondent says hopes for that to be published by Easter have been abandoned – partly because the ongoing police investigation has to take priority.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has now announced its own investigation, examining if authorities failed in their legal obligations to residents.

It will also look at whether the government has adequately investigated the fire – including looking into the public inquiry – and expects to conclude its work in April.

Memorial service

The six-month anniversary of the tragedy will be marked on Thursday with a national memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Attendees will include the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Megan Bannister: Friend calls for ‘duty to help’ law

Megan BannisterImage copyright Family handout
Image caption Megan Bannister was found lifeless on the back seat of a crashed car

The best friend of a teenager who died after taking drugs has called for a law to oblige people to seek help for someone they know is dangerously ill.

Sixteen-year-old Megan Bannister died while in a car driven by the men who had supplied the drugs.

Jason Burder, 29, and Adam King, 28, were jailed for supplying MDMA but cleared of her manslaughter.

Louis King said he wanted a new law that could see people prosecuted for failing to call an ambulance.

“I was angry, I felt that Megan had not had any justice,” he added.

Image caption Louis King says Jason Burder and Adam King’s sentences were not long enough

Louis said Megan’s death “counted as an aggravating factor to the drugs charges but I don’t think [the sentence] was anywhere near long enough”.

What happened has prompted him to call for a change in the law.

“They gave her these drugs and then they recorded her having a completely different reaction to what they were having,” he said

“They should have known something was wrong with her, they did know and they did nothing about it.

“It’s their fault she is gone, they took away her chance of having any help.”

Louis said Burder and King “showed none of the kindness she showed to friends, they just treated her like trash”.

Image copyright Leicestershire Police
Image caption Jason Burder (left) was jailed for eight and a half years and Adam King was sentenced to four and a half years

Megan was found lying in the back of a Vauxhall Astra which had crashed near Enderby, Leicestershire, on 14 May.

Their trial heard Burder and King had given Megan ecstasy, then filmed her bad reaction.

The men, both from Leicester, then drove around buying beer and calling escorts while the teenager was left to die.

They were acquitted of manslaughter as it was unclear that their failure to seek medical help had caused Megan’s death.

Burder was jailed for eight and a half years and King for four and a half years.

Image caption Kirsten Bannister said her family’s lives had been ruined

Louis has started an online petition to try to have the idea debated in Parliament.

Megan’s sister Kirsten, who is backing the move, said she missed her sister every day.

“Megan was caring, kind and beautiful,” she added.

“We are taking each day as it comes and we are lucky to have a big family and a big support network.

“But our lives are ruined, they will never be the same again.”

Borehamwood blockbuster

Star Wars filming in Tunisian desertImage copyright Shutterstock
Image caption Tunisia doubled for desert planet Tatooine in the original Star Wars movie, but the bulk of the film was shot at Elstree Studios

The Last Jedi is released on Friday – 40 years after Star Wars fever first came to Britain. But the original film would never have been made without a British studio and host of talented artists and technicians.

Long before it became an all-conquering cultural phenomenon, Star Wars was facing a problem.

Director George Lucas had cast a trio of young unknown American actors in the lead roles of his space adventure and was gearing up to shoot in Britain. But his UK production executive Peter Beale knew Britain probably wouldn’t let them.

“Equity was trying to look after the British actors; there was no work around and they didn’t want foreign actors coming in and taking midsize roles or big roles that the British actors could do,” he said.

But Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill needed work permits. So Beale, like others involved in the blockbuster’s production, had to get creative.

He drew up an alternative cast list showing the film’s British actors, including Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing and David Prowse at the top, and Ford, Fisher and Hamill in apparently minor roles.

“I went to Equity and said ‘Look, the English have got the best parts in this, but the director wants three little Americans for the smaller parts‘ and I also went to the Home Office and told them the truth… and they supported it because they wanted the work and they recognised it.”

What did Equity say? “By the time they realised, I think they had forgiven me.”

Image copyright Shutterstock
Image caption When George Lucas (centre) began work on Star Wars, few in the industry believed a space movie could be a hit

As one of the world’s best-loved and most successful films, the casual observer might think of Star Wars as the archetypal Hollywood blockbuster, created in the studios of Los Angeles.

But as fans of the saga and film history know, the movie that spawned a multibillion-dollar franchise was shot mainly in Hertfordshire at Elstree Studios, Borehamwood – using the talent, expertise and ingenuity of hundreds of British workers.

A new documentary, The Galaxy Britain Built, tracked down these filmmakers to get their stories, revealing how they drew on all their ingenuity to bring George Lucas’s vision to life in the face of a tight schedule and even tighter budget.

Costume designer John Mollo won an Oscar for his work on Star Wars and kept all of his original workbooks with early sketches of characters including Chewbacca and the Jedi.

During pre-production, he would meet Lucas every morning and remained modest about his award-winning creations.

“It was a question of who won and who didn’t that particular day. We [him and Lucas] always got on pretty well,” he said.

“The costumes were pretty simple on the whole. They were very straightforward, in fact.”

The interview was Mollo’s last. He died in October, aged 86.

Image caption Oscar-winning costume designer John Mollo showed documentary-maker David Whiteley many of his original sketches

Despite its modest budget, Star Wars remained a big production. At least seven sound stages would be needed, and only two or three were available at 20th Century Fox’s Los Angeles studios.

Cost was another major factor. Executives originally estimated the film could be made in the UK for $4m, half the cost of Hollywood.

Production supervisor Robert Watts told how he was rebuffed when he asked to rent every available stage at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire.

Elstree, however, quoted £75,000 for the entire studio. “All the stages, all the workshops – everything,” said Watts. “Fantastic. Best deal I’ve ever made in my life.”

Image caption Elstree Studios offered the filmmakers the facilities they needed at half the price of Hollywood

Money was tight throughout the production, which caused a huge headache for set decorator Roger Christian

“I had a list of weapons, robots, sets, vehicles,” he said. “[I] just stared at it in horror, thinking ‘I can’t do this.'”

Improvisation was needed. R2-D2’s dome was made from a lampshade salvaged from a scrapheap. Another breakthrough was the design of the lightsaber, which Christian knew would be the “Excalibur” of the film.

Inspiration came as he rummaged through dusty boxes at a photography firm and found the handle of a 1940s press camera became a lightsaber

“I just took it and went ‘There it is. This is the Holy Grail'”, he said.

Image caption Thanks to Roger Christian, the handle of a 1940s press camera became a lightsaber
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The original dome for droid R2-D2 came from a lampshade salvaged from a scrapheap

Star Wars may now be established as the one of the most successful franchises in movie history, but Lucas’s ideas were initially met with scepticism. Science fiction simply wasn’t “box office”, and few believed a space movie would be a hit.

“Space and special effects were considered B movies, and this was a comic-book, expensive B movie, a lot of people thought,” said Peter Beale, the executive in charge of production who was forced into the work permit improvisation.

Art director Les Dilley went further. He said that scepticism extended to the British crew.

“No, I don’t think we really understood it,” he said.

“I remember a couple of people on the crew said ‘Well what is it? A load of rubbish. What does all this mean?'”

Image caption When Peter Beale told his boss it was impossible to fit four weeks’ work into a fortnight, he was told: “Solve it.”

Another challenge came in the form of the trade unions. The film’s American producer Gary Kurtz told how production returned to Elstree after a challenging shoot in Tunisia.

“We were warned in advance that British crews were very sticky about the time of day they worked and whether the shop stewards would allow you to work overtime at the end of the day or not. On location, they were fantastic. In the studio, it was more difficult,” he said.

But many problems could be ironed out through another British tradition: going for a pint.

“We did discuss potential problems for the next day’s shoot and sometimes solve them, there in the pub,” he added.


‘It was a time everything felt good’

Documentary-maker David Whiteley grew up with Star Wars, and has fond memories of watching the films with his dad, Clive, who died 11 years ago.

“Star Wars was mine and my dad’s thing, so there’s an element of nostalgia, it was a time everything felt good,” he said.

“I wish he was around to see I’ve made a documentary about it.”

Born on 4 May – “Star Wars Day” – three weeks before the original movie’s US release, Whiteley’s interest was rekindled by 2015’s release of The Force Awakens and the idea for The Galaxy Britain Built came soon after.

Eighteen months’ work followed to track down the veteran filmmakers. Countless emails, letters and phone calls were needed.

Image caption The Force was strong in Whiteley from a young age

Highlights included handling Roger Christian’s prototype lightsaber – “That was pretty amazing” – and leafing through John Mollo’s sketchbooks: “Apparently I said ‘I’m trying to remain professional but on the inside I’m like a child again.'”

Whiteley said it had been an honour to meet his filmmaking heroes and hear their stories.

“You don’t really hear from these guys. They haven’t done many interviews,” he said.

“They are very proud but also very humble, and that comes across in the film. They were just doing their job but at the time they realised they were working on something very special and it was a very exciting time.

“They all say it was a privilege to do it and that Star Wars made their careers.”


Away from the pub, a much bigger logistical problem appeared on the horizon when shooting overran and the film’s financiers ordered it to cease in two weeks – with four weeks’ work still to do.

Beale said the problem was solved by splitting the production into three units with Watts and Kurtz each directing in addition to Lucas

And despite the headaches and doubts about the material, one moment stood out that made him realise the movie could be a hit.

“I got to the set late one day and noticed there were some children on the set and I thought ‘What’s happening here?'”

The children were fascinated by the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, but slightly scared of Chewbacca. More youngsters visited and had the same reaction. “I started to think ‘Well, if the children are relating at this level, maybe we have something.'”

Image copyright Shutterstock
Image caption Producer Gary Kurtz said unions were happy to work extended hours during the Tunisia shoot, but less so when filming returned to Elstree
Image caption Star Wars opened in the UK on 27 December 1977, seven months after its US premiere
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fans queued once again outside the premiere of 2015’s The Force Awakens

That was confirmed at the film’s premiere on 25 May 1977.

“It was absolutely thrilling. To have seen all that come together, and come together so well… it was fantastic,” said Beale.

Christian said: “I felt the entire cinema almost left their seats… everyone just exploded, and you knew then this was going to be a massive hit and everyone came out buzzing.”

Makers of subsequent Star Wars movies, including Gareth Edwards, director of 2016’s Rogue One, have returned to film at Elstree. He described it as “such a great experience”.

Edwards, from Nuneaton in Warwickshire, said: “I think as a kid you picture it in this galaxy far, far away and it’s a real shock to learn one day that it was just somewhere off the M25.

“It’d be very easy to argue that you’d worked with the best in the world.”

Image caption Gareth Edwards was inspired to enter the film world after being captivated by the Star Wars movies

Colin Goudie, who edited Rogue One, said: “These are the movies that the whole world is going to watch. And it’s made in Britain.”

Watts, whose own production credits include two Indiana Jones movies, believes Elstree was a “lucky charm” for Star Wars, but added: “Talent… that’s the most important thing.

“Here in Britain we have the most extraordinary talent, both in the acting profession and but also, very importantly, in the production department of it.

“To this very day, I still have to pinch myself because people say to me sometimes ‘You worked on Star Wars.’ I’m extremely proud to have been involved in it.

“I look at myself now as I get older and the rest of it, and I think ‘Bloody hell Robert, how did that happen?’ It was something else.”

The Galaxy Britain Built will be shown on BBC Four on 21 December at 22:00 GMT and then on BBC iPlayer.

Protest planned at city’s children’s services cuts and job losses

CAMPAIGNERS will be on City Hall’s steps in Bradford next week protesting against job losses and cuts in Children’s Services.

Unite the Union will be supporting Bradford People’s Assembly at the protest from noon until 2pm on December 12.

George Williamson from Bradford People’s Assembly is hoping as many people as possible will turn out to add their support to stop cut backs of hundreds of jobs and “a drastic reduction” in the prevention and early help services provided by Children’s Services.

The plans are out for public consultation until February and on Tuesday the Council’s Executive will hear a motion from Bolton and Undercliffe’s Independent councillor David Ward urging the Council to give more details about where the proposed job losses would be made.

Mr Williamson said the protest next week was also is against changes that would be made to the way Bradford’s Prevention and Early Help is delivered. He said if the plans are rolled out it would mean there would be just one worker helping a family with children aged 0-19 or 0-25 if a child has Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. Any changes would come into effect next October, before being fully implemented by 2020.

“This means that regardless as to how complex the needs are of the family, just one worker will be responsible for helping the family,” he said.

Andy Dye , regional organiser for Unite said the plans would also be to downgrade children’s centres even though they are used by more than 22,000 children aged 0 to 4 each year. He said there were also plans to reduce many teams.

“Unite have been very clearly opposed to these cuts from the very start and we have made it very clear that we will do all that we can to defend our members against job cuts.”

Councillor Val Slater, Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Central Government cuts mean we are having to take out £13.3 million by 2020/21, that is one third out of the Early Help budget – something none of us want to do. But we have to use the money we have left to the best advantage for the families who need it. The new arrangements are currently being consulted on, no decision will be made until April 2018. Naturally people have a right to protest but until Government starts to address our major concerns regarding funding for children’s social care, then we have to manage with the limited funding we have.”

7,800 Bradford children ‘don’t own a book’ – according to new study

ALMOST 7,800 children in Bradford do not own a single book – according to new research by a literacy charity.

The findings, by the National Literacy Trust, show that the most likely children to not have a book are those from deprived backgrounds, boys, and teenagers.

The trust, which has a hub in Bradford to book literacy in the district, has now launched a campaign to get the provide the country’s poorest children with their first book at Christmas.

The national survey shows that 5.5 times as many children and young people who say that they don’t have a book at home say that they don’t enjoy reading at all compared with those who have their own book.

The research report, Book ownership and reading outcomes, found that children who say they don’t own a single book have much poorer educational outcomes than their book owning peers.

Children who own books are 15 times more likely to read above the level expected for their age than their peers who don’t own a book (28.8 per cent vs 1.9 per cent) and four times less likely to read below the expected level (12.9 per cent vs 48.1 per cent).

Breaking down the figures, the Trust found that in the Bradford District there were 7,773 school children aged 8-18, who don’t own a single book.

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the trust, said: “Books have the power to transform children’s lives, which is why it is so alarming to discover that more than 7,000 school children in Bradford don’t have a single book to call their own.

“By donating to the National Literacy Trust this Christmas, you could help give a disadvantaged child their first ever book and set them on the path to a brighter future.”

The Christmas Stories campaign is being lead by best-selling author and illustrator, Cressida Cowell. She said: “Far too many children from some of the poorest families in the UK are missing out on the chance to reach their potential for one simple reason – they don’t have a single book of their own at home.

“Just one book can make a huge difference. By joining me in supporting the National Literacy Trust’s Christmas Stories campaign, you can help a disadvantaged child unwrap their very first book this Christmas.”

To donate to the campaign, visit literacytrust.org.uk/support-us/fundraising/change-childs-life-story-christmas/

Britain on the verge: Life along the A1

Collins Road Atlas of Britain hans inside BABS cafe. Retford, Nottinghamshire.Image copyright Peter Dench

Winding across the United Kingdom, the A1 is the longest numbered road in Britain, providing a route between the capitals of England and Scotland.

Embarking on a visual road trip, Peter Dench photographed the characters and locations he encountered as he drove the length of this road. This project was intended as an homage to Paul Graham who undertook a similar photographic expedition in 1981.

Despite the nature of the task, Dench admits, “I don’t like driving cars; I don’t like the smell of cars, the sound of cars, the process of refuelling cars or even talking about cars, but I do like taking journeys.”

Regardless of his misgivings, he hit the asphalt with the specific aim of exploring the idea of British identity in the age of Brexit.

Dench wanted to meet the real people of the UK and says, “The A1 was to be my tendril to them, an artery that connects as much as it divides. It would provide a route of certainty in a time of tumult, through a nation on the verge.”

City workers check their phone. St Paul's, London.Image copyright Peter Dench
Men in suits wait to cross the road. St Paul's, London.Image copyright Peter Dench
A woman holding a cigarette. Barbican, London.Image copyright Peter Dench

The A1 begins near St Paul’s in the City of London, passing the concrete blocks of the Barbican Complex. Dench captures the city workers texting in their slick suits, as others make their way through the busy city.

Further north in Holloway, he photographs young Muslims removing their shoes as they prepare to enter a mosque.

The Holloway Mosque can hold around 300 worshippers and is headed by Imam Shafiullah Patel, who advises the community to exercise their right to vote.

A young worshipper arrives for Friday prayer at the Holloway Mosque in London.Image copyright Peter Dench
A Union Flag decorated refrigerator for sale. Holloway, London.Image copyright Peter Dench
Mark, 32, from Essex selling fruit and vegetables. Holloway, London.Image copyright Peter Dench

At another point on the Holloway road, Dench met Mark, a 32-year-old fruit and vegetable seller from Essex.

Mark believes that his business has suffered because of price rises in transportation and import costs as a result of Brexit.

Despite this, he remains optimistic that the business will survive until things “settle down”.

A woman reads The Daily Mirror newspaper. Archway, London.Image copyright Peter Dench
View north towards Hornsey Lane Bridge. Archway, London.Image copyright Peter Dench

At the Baldock Extra Motorway Services, Dench encounters Challis and her boyfriend Arnold, both dressed in camouflage tracksuits, socks and open-toe pool shoes. They are making their way north to visit family in Great Yarmouth.

Challis Cooper (20) and Arnold (22) take a break at Baldock Extra Motorway Services, on their way to visit family in Great Yarmouth. Radwell, Baldock, Bedfordshire.Image copyright Peter Dench
Mathew, at The Rockery Centre in Sandy, BedfordshireImage copyright Peter Dench

Further north he meets Matthew, the proprietor of the Rockery Centre in Bedfordshire which lies on the A1.

He is more positive about the state of business. On sale for £6,000 is a selection of animal sculptures, specially imported from Kenya. “You’ve got to do something different,” he explains. “It’s the only way to survive.”

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, speak to Sky News on a television screen at an Extra Motorway Services. Haddon, Cambridgeshire.Image copyright Peter Dench
Visitors to the Nene Valley Railway. Stibbington, Camridgeshire.Image copyright Peter Dench
The NORTH. The SOUTH. Stibbington, Cambridgeshire.Image copyright Peter Dench
Friends meet at the statue of mathematician and physicist, Sir Isaac Newton, who was born near the town. Grantham, Lincolnshire.Image copyright Peter Dench

Babs sits under the menu board in the BABS cafe by the side of the road in Blyth, Nottinghamshire.

Alongside her husband Pendleton, she has worked in this roadside cabin for 27 “long” years.

Just over a mile up the road, visitors to Flo’s cafe can read complimentary copies of the Truckstop News while a cardboard cut-out of the Queen watches over.

Babs sat under the menu board in BABS cafe. Blyth, Nottinghamshire.Image copyright Peter Dench
The flag of Saint George flies next to the A1. Nottinghamshire.Image copyright Peter Dench
A man eats a Flo's cafeImage copyright Peter Dench
Customers at Flo's Cafe can get a photo taken with a cut out of the Queen. Blyth, Nottinghamshire.Image copyright Peter Dench

Not far from the A1 in West Yorkshire Norman lives in a retirement home for the over-40s. The park was originally aimed at the over-50s but, due to poor business, the proprietor painted the sign down by a decade.

One of six siblings, Norman recently lost a brother to bowel cancer, the same disease that cut short his father’s life at 37. It’s a disease that Norman has survived.

He attributes his own illness to habitually eating bad food at unconventional times, having worked on the railways from the age of 15.

Originally a left-leaning voter, he has been influenced over the years to vote Conservative by his wife. They are both keen to move house but are having difficulty selling up, due to the location.

76 year old Norman lives in a retirement home close to the A1. Darrington, West Yorkshire.Image copyright Peter Dench
Condiments on the table at Little Chef. Doncaster, South Yorkshire.Image copyright Peter Dench
Houses situated in close proximity to the cooling towers at Ferrybridge Power Station. Knottingley, West Yorkshire.Image copyright Peter Dench
An elderly couple sat in a park. Wetherby, West Yorkshire.Image copyright Peter Dench

The Angel of The North, a large public sculpture by Anthony Gormley, welcomes visitors driving into Gateshead.

Around 33 million people a year see what is believed to be the largest sculpture of an angel in the world.

One visitor takes a detour off the A1 in order to take a selfie with his daughter.

A man takes a seflie on his phone holding a young girl in front of The Angel of the North, a contemporary sculpture, designed by Antony Gormley. Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.Image copyright Peter Dench
Entrance to the tea room at Esshottheugh Animal Park. Morpeth, Northumberland.Image copyright Peter Dench
Adi's Diner situated at the border of England and Scotland.Image copyright Peter Dench
A French couple, who arrived in Hull by ferry, document their arrival to Scotland.Image copyright Peter Dench

Dench captures a French couple, who have come via ferry to Hull, documenting their passing into Scotland.

On reaching Edinburgh, he encountered another group who have recently arrived in the UK: a family on holiday from India. They wait at the northern end of the A1, at the junction of North Bridge and Princes Street.

Looking back on his experience, Dench feels conflicted. “Driving the length of the A1, Britain doesn’t seem full,” he says. “At times it feels lonely. This is Britain on the verge.”

Thorntonloch Caravan Park. Dunbar.Image copyright Peter Dench
A family on holiday from India at the northern end of the A! at the junction of North Bridge and Princes Street. Edinburgh.Image copyright Peter Dench

All photographs copyright Peter Dench.

A1: Britain on the Verge will be on show at Project Space, Bermondsey Street, London 16-20 January 2018.

Brexit: Theresa May claims new sense of optimism in talks

Theresa May attends a Church service in her Maidenhead constituencyImage copyright PA
Image caption Theresa May attends a Church service in her Maidenhead constituency

Theresa May will tell MPs there is a new “sense of optimism” in the Brexit talks after her last-minute deal aimed at moving them to the next phase.

She will say she expects EU leaders to agree to start talks about future trade and security at a summit on Thursday.

The PM will insist she did not cave in to Brussels over the so-called divorce bill and “alignment” with EU laws.

And that she had stuck to the principles she first set out in a speech about Brexit in January.

“I know that some doubted we would reach this stage,” she will tell MPs.

“I have always been clear that this was never going to be an easy process. It has required give and take for the UK and the EU to move forwards together. And that is what we have done.”

‘Hard border’

The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019 but wants a two-year transition period after that date, with continued access to the single market to allow businesses to adjust.

That is expected to be the focus of the next round of talks in Brussels in the new year, before discussions can start on a free trade agreement.

The EU would not agree to move forward with talks until the UK agreed on a figure for its divorce bill.

The Treasury indicated on Friday that it would be between £35bn and £39bn, paid over four years.

The sticking point on the Irish border was also addressed, with both sides vowing to prevent the return of a “hard border”.

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Media captionDavid Davis: “No deal means we won’t be paying the money”

But a clause inserted at the insistence on Irish government says the UK would have full “regulatory alignment” with the EU in some areas if it leaves the EU without a deal.

Some have interpreted this as a victory for a “soft” Brexit, that would see the UK continue to be closely aligned with the EU single market and customs union but unable to strike its own trade deals.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said the chances of the UK exiting without a deal had “dropped dramatically” following Friday’s statement.

‘Canada plus’

But he said if the UK did leave without a deal, the agreement on the border was not “legally enforceable” – and Britain would not pay any money to the EU.

He stressed that the UK was committed to a “frictionless and invisible” Irish border – and it would “find a way” to keep that in the event of a “no deal” Brexit.

He said he wanted an “overarching” free trade deal without tariff barriers, which he described as “Canada plus plus plus” – a reference to the free trade deal struck between Canada and the EU.

But unlike the Canada deal, he wants financial services to be included in the tariff-free area, he told the BBC‘s Andrew Marr.

Few Conservative Brexiteers have openly criticised the prime minister’s deal, although the former Brexit minister David Jones suggested it needed to be “refined” and that the divorce bill could be far higher than £39bn.

But veteran Europhile Ken Clarke said the PM would still need to “face down” the “40 or 50” critics on her own benches, who were “very excited” about “the so-called hard Brexit thing”.

In her statement on Monday, Mrs May will tell MPs “this is not about a hard or a soft Brexit” – and say the agreement reached in Brussels is “consistent” with her earlier statements on leaving the single market the customs union and regaining control of borders.

The Scottish National Party is urging a cross-party push to keep the UK in EU single market and customs union – something backed by the Lib Dems.

But Labour has ruled this out, saying it wants a post-Brexit partnership with the EU that “retains the benefits of the single market and the customs union”.

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Labour’s new position

Image caption Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer suggested the UK could pay for single market access

Analysis by the BBC’s Iain Watson

The EU has asked for more clarity from the UK on what it wants from trade talks. But today it was the opposition who gave more details than ever before.

So far Labour has said, if in power, it would stay in the single market and customs union in a transition period.

But now the shadow Brexit secretary has talked about the benefits of staying in alignment with the EU in the longer term.

And he has even suggested he’d be willing to pay for the type of single market access that Norway enjoys.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has raised the possibility of staying in a form of customs union.

That might restrict the ability to do global trade deals but – as she puts it – she doesn’t want to “kybosh” trade with the EU.

For the Conservatives in the short term it’s a political gift – they can portray Labour as rule takers who are prepared to pay far more to Brussels than their divorce settlement.

But it’s more likely a sign that “creative ambiguity” across the political spectrum could be unsustainable when serious trade talks begin.