Tag Archives: Liverpool

Patients complete Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust sailing challenge

Participants and supporters at the end of the challengeImage copyright Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust
Image caption Supporters and participants welcomed the crew of the final leg back to Largs on Saturday

More than 125 young people recovering from cancer have completed a round-Britain sailing challenge run by yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur.

The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust project began in May and saw young people aged 10 to 30 visit 58 towns and cities in the UK, over 17 relay legs.

Ryan Campbell, who took part, has undergone treatment for osteosarcoma – a rare type of bone cancer.

He said: “It’s about surpassing what you think you can’t do.”

Mr Campbell, 22, from Gourock, Inverclyde, was on board the 44ft yacht for the final leg of the journey which ended on Saturday.

“It’s such an amazing cause and there’s nothing else like it out there,” he said. “It’s not focused on being ill.”

Another of those who took part, Hannah Spencer, said she “wouldn’t be here” without the trust.

Image copyright Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust
Image caption Ryan Campbell, who took part in the voyage, described it as “an amazing cause”
Image copyright Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust
Image caption The sailing challenge took place over four months

The 23-year-old, from Belper, Derbyshire, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in 2009 and worked as a volunteer mate on the voyage.

Dame Ellen, the charity’s founding patron, said the project was about “rebuilding the confidence, self-belief and independence of those involved”.

She said: “It’s been fantastic following all the adventures of the young people during Round Britain 2017.”

Image copyright Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust
Image caption The Ellen MacArthur Trust helps young cancer patients by introducing them to sailing and other water-based activities

Olympic sailor Luke Patience was among those who welcomed the crew back to Largs, from where the voyage began in May.

He described it as “an extremely humbling experience”.

The sailing journey took place in areas including Cowes, Cardiff, Glasgow, Belfast, Plymouth, Bristol, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Hull, London and Southampton.

The crew also visited cancer treatment centres where they meet other young people who are still in recovery.

In 2005 Dame Ellen, who is based in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe. The current record holder is French yachtsman Thomas Coville.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Dame Ellen MacArthur broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe in 2005
Image copyright Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust
Image caption The sailing journey took in areas including Cowes, Cardiff, Glasgow, Belfast, Plymouth, Bristol, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Hull, London and Southampton

What is poutine, the Canadian delicacy that’s made its way to Yorkshire?

T&A Q&A: Poutine

As Yorkshire’s first poutine takeaway prepares to open in Bradford, you’re probably wondering what exactly poutine is. Fortunately, we’ve got your back.

Poutine? Isn’t he that bloke that runs Russia?

No, that’s Putin. According to Brooklyn Fries’ Facebook page, poutine is “handcut rustic fries, fresh cheese curds, homemade gravy and delicious toppings of your choice.”

Isn’t that just cheesy chips?

No, no. “You’ve never had anything like this before”, it says here.

I’ve had cheesy chips before.

Don’t forget the gravy.

I’ve definitely had chips and gravy before.

Ah, but have you had chips, cheese and gravy together? With a fried egg on top?

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Well, there was that one Saturday morning when I had a real dire wolf of a hangover.

Funnily enough, poutine does have a reputation as a hangover cure. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Can we start again?

Okay. Poutine? Didn’t he used to play for Grimsby Town?

No, that was Alan Pouton. Poutine is a fast food dish from Quebec in Canada that’s gradually spreading around the world. In New York it’s sometimes known as “disco fries”.

That’s a better name, to be honest.

Have some respect for a Canadian institution. Over there it’s been a greasy-spoon specialty since the 50s – although admittedly the version that’s made it to the UK is being pitched as a more gourmet dish.

Go on then. What’s this got that I can’t get from any chippy by asking for cheesy chips and gravy?

Well, this isn’t just any old cheese. This is cheese curd – it’s what the Quebecois have on theirs, and it makes all the difference, or so we’re told. And the chips – sorry, ‘fries’ – will be hand-cut on site from locally-sourced spuds before being twice-cooked for extra crispiness.

Ah, so it’s hipster cheesy chips.

Poutine does have a cult following in London, Liverpool and Glasgow, so you might have a point. Brooklyn Fries claims to be the first outlet of its kind in Yorkshire, but it probably won’t be the last.

One last thing: if poutine is Canadian, why’s this place called Brooklyn Fries?

Your guess is as good as ours.

  • Brooklyn Fries opens on October 7th at 1pm in Upper Millergate, Bradford 

John Barnes 1980s Watford fan pictures recreated

John Barnes nightImage copyright Paul Vincent Stone Creative Design
Image caption The idea came from a picture sent to Tales From the Vic by Steve and Pete Van Dyk of the brothers as young boys with John Barnes

Photographs of ex-footballer John Barnes posing with fans in the 1980s have been recreated 30 years later.

Watford fans posed with ex-England winger Barnes, who played for the Hornets between 1981 and 1987, at event held in front of an audience of 600.

The organisers had asked the audience at the Watford Palace Theatre to send in pictures in advance of the night.

“[John] really enjoyed it and made it a special moment for the fans,” show presenter Adam Leventhal said.

“The reception for arguably the most gifted player to have ever played at Vicarage Road was superb throughout and was capped by a standing ovation at the end.”

Image copyright Paul Vincent Stone Creative Design
Image caption Barry Mason pulled the same expression on the night as he had done 30 years before

The event was organised by the publishers of the Tales from the Vicarage series of books about the Hornets and those who played for them.

Mr Leventhal said the idea came from a picture sent in by fans Steve and Peter Van Dyk of the brothers as youngsters with John Barnes.

“We knew that they were coming to the event… and we decided it would be great to recreate the picture on stage on the night,” he said.

Image copyright Paul Vincent Stone Creative Design
Image caption Nick Davidson’s 1980s picture shows him with a startled expression because he had severe hay fever and was battling to keep his eyes open
Image copyright Paul Vincent Stone Creative Design
Image caption The pictures, including this one of Adam Slater, were recreated in front of 600 fans at the Watford Palace Theatre
Image copyright Paul Vincent Stone Creative Design
Image caption Brian Connor was one of the fans who answered the call from organisers for the audience to send in pictures in advance of the event
Image copyright Paul Vincent Stone Creative Design
Image caption John Barnes was pictured in a variety of retro tracksuits, like this one with Matt Rowson
Image copyright Paul Vincent Stone Creative Design
Image caption Both Barnes and the fans – like Tracey Gibbon – tried to recreate the exact pose
Image copyright Paul Vincent Stone Creative Design
Image caption All the fans in the photographs were invited back on stage for the finale where John Barnes performed his rap from New Order’s World in Motion

John Barnes

Image copyright Getty Images
  • Played for Watford between 1981 and 1987, scoring 65 goals in 233 League appearances
  • Was part of the Hornets team that got promoted to the First Division in 1982 and finished second to Liverpool
  • Signed for Liverpool in June 1987 for £900,000, scoring 108 goals in 407 games
  • Honours at Liverpool: League Championship 1987/88, 1989/90; FA Cup 1989; League Cup 1995
  • International caps: 79 England caps from 1983-1995
  • Since 1999 he has managed Celtic, the Jamaican national team and Tranmere Rovers
  • He performed a rap on New Order’s UK number one single World in Motion which celebrated England’s participation in the 1990 Fifa World Cup

Source: Liverpool FC / IMDB / Watford FC


Two months after its launch, how Bradford’s BID campaign is going?

SEVENTY per cent of businesses who have so far responded to a feasibility survey say they are in favour of setting up a Business Improvement District for Bradford.

The figure, based on 115 responses to date, is seen as “very encouraging” by the team behind the move to set up the initiative which has already been established in more than 270 cities, towns and districts across the UK.

Consultants Heartflood, who have been commissioned to carry out the independent study to establish how much support there is for a BID in Bradford, say they are aiming for about 200 responses.

That would represent about a third of the city centre businesses and organisations that would be likely to be asked to participate in the scheme which, based on experience of other BIDs across the country, would be a high quality representative sample.

Chris Gregory, director of Heartflood, told the audience at an open meeting held for city centre businesses earlier this week, that the signs were good that a BID could be successful in Bradford.

“Obviously, there is a long way to go yet and a great deal of work to be done but, based on the feedback we’ve had so far, I’m quite confident that businesses are behind the scheme and understand its value.”

The feasibility study is not just aimed at understanding the level of support for the scheme but provides an opportunity for businesses to identify key projects they believe could help boost trade in Bradford.

Businesses yet to respond can still have their say by filling in an online form (which takes about seven minutes to complete) at

Once enough responses have been received, Heartflood will produce a report outlining whether there is sufficient support to proceed and identifying the projects those who took part believe should be tackled with the highest priority.

That should happen in November, followed by the creation of a shadow BID board who will consult further with businesses and pull together a Business Plan to be launched in Autumn next year.

The final physical area that the BID will cover will be part of that consultation and all of those affected will be invited to take part in a binding ballot on the creation of the BID with the result due to be announced in October 2018.

The BID itself cannot go ahead unless more than 50 per cent of those who respond – which must also correspond with 50 per cent of the total rateable value of all votes cast – are in favour.

That figure is so crucial because a “Yes” vote will lead to a levy of about 1.5 per cent of their rateable value being imposed on affected businesses for a period of five years, after which there would have to be another vote to renew the BID.

For a business with a rateable value of, for example, £20,000 that would mean an investment of £300 per year in the BID. Big businesses, such as a department store with a rateable value of, say, £350,000, would invest £5,250 per year.

There is no opt out for individual firms who would all be liable to pay the levy but the BID Development Group, which is running the initiative, says it is considering an exemption level of about £12,000 which means that small businesses falling below that would not be liable to pay and would not be able to vote in the ballot.

They would still be able to join the BID on a voluntary basis and benefit from some of the services for an annual voluntary contribution of about £100.

Mr Gregory said experience shows that smaller businesses often receive the biggest benefit from the scheme.

Ian Ward, chairman of the BID development group, told the open meeting that if the BID area contained about 600 businesses, as is thought, that would generate about £500,000 per year for five years, which could have a huge impact on the city centre.

“It’s really important to remember that this has nothing to do with Bradford Council,” he said.

“This is about businesses in Bradford delivering for business: it is entirely run by the private sector.

“Anything and everything the BID does is in addition to what the Council provides. It would not take over any of the Council’s core services.”

Experience elsewhere shows that BIDs can have a real galvanising effect on driving improvements in the city centre and put pressure on the Council to deliver a better service with its limited resources.

“It can provide a real voice for business,” said Mr Ward. “But it can only happen if the results come back in a positive way.”

If it is successful, it is proposed that the BID will revolve around four key pillars: Safer, Cleaner, Alive and Promoted.

Some of the suggestions that have already been put forward include:

• Making the city SAFER through additional policing, better CCTV and securing the prestigious Purple Flag status for managing the evening economy;

• Creating a CLEANER city via additional street washing, improving cleansing standards and removal of graffiti and flyposting;

• Working to make the city more ALIVE through a range of major new events, improving the appearance of vacant units and promoting incubation space to develop new businesses;

• Developing a better PROMOTED city through co-ordinated campaigns, targeting visitor growth catchments and working with partners to market Bradford as a destination to a new regional and national audience.

Mr Ward, who is also general manager of The Broadway shopping centre, had previously chaired the Liverpool city centre BID.

“I know what a difference it makes,” he said. “You only have to ask people in Liverpool – where the BID is in its third term and heading for 15 years – what a massive improvement it has brought about and how it has brought people in the city together.”

Prince George ‘rules the roost’, says his dad

Prince George hasn’t realised he must go to school every day yet, his dad has told a hospital patient in Liverpool.

The four-year-old started school in Battersea last week.

Prince William made the comments while visiting Aintree University Hospital on Thursday.

Chamber gathers business wish-list as hopes grow for devolution breakthrough

HOPES for a breakthrough in Yorkshire’s ‘devolution deadlock’ have spurred the local Chamber of Commerce to study what businesses want from any deal.

It is more than two years since clashing devolution bids for Yorkshire were submitted to the Government, and while elected mayors are now wielding new powers in places such as Greater Manchester, Liverpool and the Tees Valley, fears are growing that Yorkshire is being left behind.

But with 17 of Yorkshire’s 20 local authorities now uniting behind a Yorkshire-wide devolution bid dubbed One Yorkshire, the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure the needs of the business community are heard during any negotiations.

It has begun a survey, asking business figures what area a devolution bid should cover, whether an elected mayor should have tax-raising powers and what local services he or she should oversee, from policing to helping firms export goods overseas.

Mark Goldstone, head of business representation and policy, said: “Devolution has the potential to offer our region significant control over its own future and we are keen to ensure businesses both understand the implications of, and have a say in, what powers and funding might be devolved.

“Many businesses I speak to are concerned that we are behind the curve and see other regions powering ahead, we do need to ensure their concerns are acknowledged. Similarly there are many businesses for whom devolution is an issue for the politicians and local authorities, however this is an agenda which will have a direct impact on the region’s economy and in turn their companies also.

“Devolution has the potential to deliver new road and rail infrastructure, fund future training initiatives and ensure the region is in a stronger position because of the local knowledge that will be driving the decision making.”

The survey is at

‘Stolen’ Beatles Eleanor Rigby score removed from auction

the scoreImage copyright PA
Image caption The handwritten score was due to be sold as part of a wider auction of Beatles memorabilia

An original score for The Beatles’ song Eleanor Rigby has been removed from an auction amid claims it was stolen.

The handwritten score, which is signed by Paul McCartney, was due to be sold later with a guide price of £20,000.

But Omega Auctions in Warrington, Cheshire, said it had removed the lot following a complaint from a woman in Bicester, Oxfordshire.

The auction house said an allegation of theft had been made to Thames Valley Police.

A spokeswoman said the allegation was made following a “family dispute” over the score’s ownership.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption George Martin (second from right) produced The Beatles’ hit Eleanor Rigby

Released in 1966, Eleanor Rigby became one of the Beatles’ most celebrated hits.

The score was due to be sold as part of a wider sale of Beatles memorabilia, including deeds for a grave bearing Eleanor Rigby’s name.

The grave in a Liverpool churchyard is often supposed to have inspired the song, but McCartney himself has denied this, and said Eleanor Rigby was “a totally fictitious character that I made up”.

Eleanor Rigby

Eleanor Rigby grave
Image caption Eleanor Rigby is listed among the names on a headstone in the graveyard of St Peter’s Church, Woolton

In a graveyard in Liverpool lies a headstone bearing the name Eleanor Rigby. Its deeds are being auctioned later as part of a sale of Beatles memorabilia, but what is the real story behind the Fab Four’s famous hit?

It was at a church fete in 1957 that John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met. Just yards away lay the grave of scullery maid Eleanor Rigby, who had died, aged 44, in 1939.

Nine years later, McCartney would pen the lyrics for what became one of the band’s most celebrated songs.

Often described as a lament for the lonely, or a commentary on life in post-war Britain, it tells the story of a woman who “died in the church and was buried along with her name”.

It is tempting to picture the teenage Lennon and McCartney sombrely contemplating the headstone, imagining the life of Eleanor and later dreaming up the lyrics.

But the reality is few knew of the grave’s existence until the early 1980s, and McCartney himself has denied it was the inspiration behind the song.

This hasn’t stopped the deeds to the grave being listed for auction with a guide price of £4,000. They are part of a sale which also features an original score for the song.

Image copyright Omega auctions
Image caption The deeds to Eleanor Rigby’s grave were found by a relative

David Bedford, who has written several books about the band, said he thought it was “weird” there was such interest in a woman seemingly unconnected to the song.

“The score of the song you can understand but a grave, I find it really unusual,” he said.

“I’m not quite sure who would want to buy the deeds to a grave, and I’ll be interested to see who does buy them, and for how much money.”

But Mr Bedford said he believed it would be “too much of a coincidence” if the grave had never figured in McCartney’s mind, at least at some subliminal level.

“The mythology of the grave grows every year,” he said.


Factfile: Eleanor Rigby

  • Written primarily by McCartney, Eleanor Rigby was released in 1966 as part of a double A-side single which also featured Yellow Submarine
  • The song also formed part of The Beatles’ album, Revolver, and the single was released on the same day as the LP
  • The single spent four weeks at number one in the UK charts
  • In the US it reached number 11 and was nominated for three Grammys

The song seems to have gone through several stages of development.

McCartney said when he first sat down at the piano he had the name Daisy Hawkins in his mind. He later changed this to Eleanor, after the actress Eleanor Bron, who had starred with The Beatles in the film Help!

The character’s surname at one stage was Bygraves, according to Spencer Leigh, author of The Beatles book Love Me Do to Love Me Don’t.

But McCartney later changed this to Rigby, from the name of a store he had spotted in Bristol – Rigby & Evens Ltd, Wine & Spirit Shippers.

“I just liked the name,” he said in 1984. “I was looking for a name that sounded natural. Eleanor Rigby sounded natural.”

Image caption Paul McCartney has conceded the grave of Eleanor Rigby may have influenced him in a subconscious way
Image copyright Alan Fairweather/Geograph
Image caption St Peter’s Church in Woolton, where the grave of Eleanor Rigby lies

In 2008, a birth certificate for the woman buried in the graveyard of St Peter’s Church, Woolton, was put up for auction.

“Eleanor Rigby is a totally fictitious character that I made up,” McCartney said in response.

“If someone wants to spend money buying a document to prove a fictitious character exists, that’s fine with me.”

However, he has conceded in the past the headstone may have influenced him in a subconscious way.

Mr Leigh said it was easy to see how McCartney’s childhood visits to the churchyard would have been very memorable for him.

“John Lennon had connections in that church and had even been in the choir there,” he said.

“[Lennon’s] uncle died in 1955 when he was quite young. His name was George Toogood Smith. John loved the name and quite often he would take his friends into the graveyard to show them.

“It’s quite possible McCartney saw the Rigby grave and just stored it away in his head. It’s just possible that he kept that in his mind. But we actually don’t know, and I think McCartney himself doesn’t know.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Eleanor Rigby was written primarily by Paul McCartney (far left) and produced by George Martin (second from right)
Image copyright PA
Image caption McCartney’s score includes notes that there should be four violins, two violas and two cellos

Karen Fairweather, from Omega Auctions, conceded the connection between the real Eleanor Rigby and the song was a matter of “folklore”, none of which was rooted in “concrete fact”.

“There is of course the gravestone, and the Rigbys lived on the road that backed on to the road where John Lennon lived,” she added.

Yet, whatever the origin of the name, Eleanor Rigby remains an integral part of the band’s story and Liverpool‘s Beatles industry. The gravestone itself is regularly visited by guided tours and an Eleanor Rigby sculpture can be found in Stanley Street.

Mr Leigh describes the song as “perfect”, both in its melodies and its representation of a typical Liverpudlian woman of the time.

Image copyright John Driscoll/Geograph
Image caption An Eleanor Rigby sculpture sits on a bench in Liverpool’s Stanley Street

“The real Eleanor Rigby worked as a sort of scullery maid,” Mr Leigh said. “It just fits so perfectly.”

He said the jazz singer George Melly put it best when he said: “Eleanor Rigby seemed to be written out of their experiences in Liverpool.

“Liverpool was always in their songs but this was about the kind of old woman that I remembered from my childhood and later: very respectable Liverpool women, living in two-up, two-down streets with the doorsteps meticulously holystoned (scoured) and the church the one solid thing in their lives.

“There’s the loneliness of it and it struck me as a poem from the start.

“If you read Love Me Do without the music, it doesn’t mean much but if you read Eleanor Rigby, it is a poem about someone, which [was] something unprecedented in popular song.”

Almost home

Montage of images

Long journeys can seem even more tedious when they’re accompanied by the kids in the back seat asking “are we nearly there yet?” every few miles. So it can be something of a relief when a familiar landmark hoves into sight, indicating the comforts of home are just around the corner.

From tree-topped tors to man-made monoliths, people shared with BBC News their particular sights – and sites – that means the trip is nearing its end.

Here are some more.

The tree on Whittington Tump, Worcester

Image copyright Kirsten Reeve
Image caption Kirsten Reeve with her son Archie and their “coming home tree”

A solitary tree stands atop the natural knoll, which rises roughly 20m above the Severn Valley. Also known as the Crookbarrow Hill, the mound is a registered monument with Historic England as the site of a mediaeval fortification.

More importantly to some, though, the tree is a clear sign to those on the M5 that junction 7 – Worcester South – is drawing near.

Kirsten Reeves has nominated The Tump as her family’s “coming home tree”.

“It is very special to our family. I grew up in Worcester so seeing the tree as we travelled home from holidays on the M5 was always a very exciting moment and symbolised that just 10 minutes of the journey were left.

“After moving away for many years I decided to move ‘home’ when my husband and I started our family as he was in the navy and spent a long time away. Our two children now love seeing the coming home tree too and always spend the last part of our journeys trying to be the first one to spot it as it emerges.

“My husband has spent a lot of time at sea and after completing an 11-month deployment away from home said that the best thing ever was seeing that tree and knowing he was finally home.”

Ouse Valley Viaduct, West Sussex

Image copyright Getty Images

For Nick Mitchell the Ouse Valley viaduct at Balcombe always marks his return from London to Sussex by train.

He tells the BBC: “I know we are back in the countryside as we cross the magnificent structure.

“As the train soars over the beautiful Ouse Valley, passengers often look up from their newspapers and electronic devices to gaze out over the woods and fields.

“When there’s heavy mist or it’s dark, it feels like we are flying as you can’t see the ground at all.”

Lift tower, Northampton

Image copyright Getty Images

The National Lift Tower is a research facility built to test – you’ve guessed it – lifts.

The 127m (418ft) tall structure houses six lift shafts of varying heights, one of which is a high-speed shaft with a (theoretical) maximum speed of 10m/s (22mph).

It rose to wider fame when Sir Terry Wogan lampooned it on his BBC Radio 2 programme, dubbing it the “Northampton lighthouse”. He even joked the east coast was eroding so quickly that the government had commissioned the “lighthouse” ready for Northampton’s new coastal location.

He’s quoted as saying: “I don’t think it was looked on in an architectural sense by my listeners – they’re a bit too dim – we just took it for what it was: a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere.”

According to Christopher Watts, for whom it is the landmark that shows he’s nearly home, it is known as “Terry Wogan’s lighthouse”.

“I also have a personal interest as l worked on it for six months during the construction, installing a lot of the lift equipment,” Mr Watts says.

Church Langley Water Tower, Harlow, Essex

Image copyright Sarah Dev-Sherman/Alexander P Knapp
Image caption Sarah Dev-Sherman and her children enjoy spotting the tower on their way to visit family

The Church Langley Water Tower is a conspicuous landmark perched high above and on the west side of the M11.

Sarah Dev-Sherman, originally from Essex but now living in Norfolk, says whenever she and her children visits family “there is always a race with the kids to see who can see the Church Langley water tower first.

“When we see it, it means we’re nearly there after a long time in the car. It’s such an iconic landmark you cannot fail to notice it.”

Sue Simmons from Cambridge also lists it as her favourite sign that home is around the corner. “We always shout ‘home cone!’ when we see it. People think we’re strange, but it is now a family tradition.”

The Penshaw Monument, Tyne and Wear

Image copyright Lee Foster/Getty

The Penshaw Monument was built in 1844 in memory of John George Lambton, the first Earl of Durham. He was a reforming Whig politician with the nickname “Radical Jack” who inherited vast wealth, created by the coalmining interests on his family’s estates, when he was only five.

He then became known as “Jog Along Jack” after saying “a gentleman could jog along comfortably on £40,000 a year”.

For local boy Richard Speding, who has lived in London for more than 30 years, the Penshaw (pronounced Pen-sher) Monument is the first thing he looks for when leaving the A1 and joining the A690.

“It’s then I know I’m only minutes from the village I was brought up in. If I have the time I will visit and climb up to the top and survey my hometown.”

Hidden inside one of the towers is a secret passage which goes to the top of the 20m (66ft) structure – the National Trust opens winding staircase to the public between Good Friday and the end of September.

Its towering profile is one of the symbols on the badge of Sunderland Football Club.

Dream, St Helens

Image copyright Matt Harrop

Dream, a statue of the elongated head of a nine-year-old girl is located on the summit of the former Sutton Manor Colliery in St Helens, Merseyside, midway between Liverpool and Manchester.

It was created by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa after the group of former miners who made up the commissioning committee were unhappy with his first proposal – a statue of a mining lamp. They rejected the proposal and asked for something more “present day and progressive”.

Plensa came back with Dream.

It’s a homecoming landmark for Maeve and Maurice Harris, who remember the topping off ceremony in 2009 as it was on the same day as the birth of their first grandchild.

“For that reason, we always call her “Your Grace” after our granddaughter Gracie. She’s a special reminder of a special time and always makes us smile on the way back to Warrington.”

Crooked spire, Chesterfield

Image copyright glenned

The Parish Church of St Mary and All Saints has a vision-bendingly twisty spire, which signifies “home” for John Merry. He says local lore has it that the devil or a witch caused the twist when being expelled from the area.

The spire is made of wood and clad in lead. It’s thought the lean on the tower is accidental and arose from the use of unseasoned timber and inexperienced craftsmen, while the twist is a deliberate design.

The church survived underground activities of both coalmining and railway works, as well as two world wars, but nearly succumbed to fire in 1961.

This story was inspired by responses to How do you know when you’re nearly home?

Fat dogs

Labrador being offered a treat
Image caption Could a genetic mutation explain some dog’s insatiable appetite?

When it comes man’s best friend, science may finally have solved the mystery of their gluttony – some Labradors, it seems, are genetically predisposed to being hungry.

That’s according to scientists who were discussing their ongoing mission to improve our favourite pets’ health at the British Science Association Festival in Brighton this week.

Several research teams in the UK are on a mission to improve canine health.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have studied the appetite of Britain’s favourite dog breed, and suggest Labradors are genetically at risk of becoming overweight.

Roughly a quarter of British households own a pet dog, and Labrador retrievers remain our most popular canine companion.

However, this stereotypically ‘greedy’ breed often suffer size-related health problems.

Blame the owners?

“Obesity is a serious issue for our dog population,” says Dr Eleanor Raffan from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science.

“It has the potential to have a massive impact on pet welfare”.

In research supported by the Dogs Trust, Dr Raffan and her colleagues have analysed DNA from the saliva of Labradors across the UK. They found that particularly greedy individuals possess a gene mutation responsible for increasing their appetite.

“We found around a quarter of pet Labradors have at least copy of this mutation in the gene,” Dr Raffan explains. Their increased appetite manifests itself as a “food obsession”, familiar to dog-owners as begging or scavenging for food.

In the past, the onus has been on owners to restrict the diet of their pets to prevent excessive weight gain.

But Dr Raffan’s research suggests the propensity for large appetites, and hence potential obesity, is hardwired into some individuals.

“We hope to shift the paradigm away from owner-blaming” says Dr Raffan. “It’s a bit more nuanced than just owners needing to be careful.”

Freedom from hunger

Dr Raffan cautions against any attempt to breed this “greedy mutation” out of Labrador lines. While it might predispose the dogs to obesity, a strong focus on food may also explain why Labradors are so easy to train and are such loyal human companions.

“If we try to get rid of the mutation, we might find we change the personality of the breed, and that would be a real shame,” she explains.

Yet their results raise an ethical conundrum. Owners and veterinary surgeons are responsible for providing five core so-called freedoms to animals in their care, including freedom from pain and disease, and freedom from hunger.

Obesity is a disease, and negatively impacts upon canine quality of life. “But equally, being hungry is a welfare issue,” says Dr Raffan. “And these dogs are genetically hungry.”

Dr Raffan hopes future research will improve the satiety of their diets, allowing a feeling of ‘fullness’ without the potential for excessive weight gain.

Bearing the weight

Being overweight undoubtedly reduces a dog’s quality of life, and can also affect their ability to cope with arthritis and other underlying joint disorders.

At the University of Liverpool, scientists are using state-of-the-art imaging technology to study diseases affecting the knee joints of Labradors.

Damage to the canine cruciate ligament, similar to the injuries commonly suffered by professional human athletes, is the most common orthopaedic problem seen in veterinary practices. Injury of the knee ligaments is also more common in heavier dog breeds

“We’re trying to understand how the shape of the Labrador body and the way they walk might contribute to knee problems,” says Prof Eithne Comerford, a specialist in musculoskeletal biology.

Using high-speed x-ray cameras, the researchers film their canine patients walking through the lab, and watch their knee bones slide and twist in real-time.

The team hope to understand how walking contributes to the risk of ligament injury and rupture in Labradors, with the ultimate goal of reducing lameness and suffering within the breed.

“This data will also help veterinary surgeons and engineers design better treatments for ligament damage in Labradors, like customised knee implants,” explains biomechanist Dr Karl Bates from the University of Liverpool.

Both research groups rely heavily on the good will of Labrador owners, both for collecting samples and entering their pets into experimental trials.

In addition to tackling diagnosed health issues, researchers hope to change the public’s perception of what “desirable” traits should characterise our favourite breeds.

“There is a real danger when we breed dogs to be cuddlier and cuter,” warns Dr Raffan. “I think people have seen so many overweight Labradors, they start to assume it’s normal”.

Dr Charlotte Brassey is a BBSRC Future Leader Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University, and British Science Association Media Fellow 2017. Twitter: @cbrassey