Category Archives: Ken Shearsmith’s Blog

Blog January 23rd Roberta Firmino

It’s From The Lord featuring Jassica Castillo – Burley and the Mustard Soul Band from the album ” Heart and Soul” recorded and produced by Ross Gill

As regular readers of this blog will probably know I am a Manchester United fan and have been ever since the Munich air disaster. Liverpool are traditionally Man U’s greatest rivals, however since Man City have come to the fore they, for me have now taken over that coveted position. Liverpool, in fact I quite admire – Jurgen Klopp is not only a great manager but he is also humorous and a practising Christian to boot (excuse the pun) I was therefore delighted to read the below which appeared on one of our webmaster’s Facebook posts. It comes from an article in Premier Christian News.
Footballer Roberto Firmino was baptised on Wednesday. The Liverpool forward shared a video of the ceremony on his Instagram page. While standing in a swimming pool, he said: “Jesus is love. There is no explanation. Just believe it. Just believe and feel the Holy Spirit.”
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Firmino’s wife Lari and Liverpool’s goalkeeper Alisson Becker were also in the pool and hugged him after his head was raised from the water. In the caption of the video Firmino said: “I gave you my failures and the victories I will give you too. My greatest title is Your Love Jesus!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, new things have come!”
Fellow teammate Fabinho was also in the audience watching.
Quote of the week
Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.
Francis Chan

Blog Jan 17th Gareth Malone

Heart and Soul featuring Mike Backhouse and the Mustard Seed Soul Band from the album Heart and Soul recorded and produced by Ross Gill

Music is so emotive, indeed transformative- I watched an example of this last week. It was a two episode television broadcast of Gareth Malone attempting to produce a choir in a young offender’s prison. It was extremely moving and I can wholeheartedly recommend you watch both episodes on catch up tv.
I have taken an extract from the Guardian newspaper’s review of The Choir: Aylesbury Prison.

It has been 14 years since Gareth Malone first appeared on our screens. In that time he has coaxed a number of unlikely groups not just to sing, but to perform: teenage boys, residents of the South Oxhey housing estate, some military wives. Now, in The Choir: Aylesbury Prison (BBC Two), he is back to do the same with young offenders.
One might, at this stage, take it as read that he will succeed. Malone, still boyish but now greying and – if you can believe it – 44, has a reputation for not failing at this sort of thing. The formula is reliable and repeatable. But Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institute Aylesbury is a very particular case.
The 400 inmates, aged between 18 and 21, are doing time for various offences, including drug crimes, robbery, GBH, manslaughter and murder. About a sixth are serving life sentences. Forty per cent are “dealing with some form of mental health problem”. Three months before Malone arrived in June 2019, Aylesbury was placed under special measures owing to high levels of self-harm and violence. Half the prisoners were moved out, and three wings were shut down.
The governor, Laura Sapwell, wants him to start a choir, or something. “I can’t fully see what this will be,” she tells him. But whatever it is, he’s got nine weeks to do it.
The programme quickly becomes an exercise in limiting expectations. Enthusiasm among the residents registers somewhere between low and none. “The mandem don’t tango like that,” says one. Nobody wants to sing, and their musical world is a bit monocultural: everybody listens to drill.
Even when Malone finds interested parties, the logistics of ferrying prisoners around a high security facility makes any kind of assembly next to impossible. Gang rivals are housed in different wings; association across the whole prison is difficult. Malone’s inaugural choir practice is limited to five guys from D-wing. Only three turn up.
Malone, if he feels daunted by all this, hardly shows it. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else wandering through the general population of a prison saying: “Hi! Are you into music at all?” over and over again, as if it is his first day at art school.
And he does, eventually, find people to work with. Rehearsing in small groups or individually, Malone concentrates on song writing, something most of his charges find strangely easy. Dwayne, doing six years for robbery, is particularly talented. “He’s just a bit more open-minded,” said Malone. “He sang. We made music.”
All incarnations of The Choir have some low moments, which serve to make the ending more uplifting. Prison, however, is not designed for uplift; every story is heart breaking. Everybody inside is frightened, depressed and potentially dangerous. One on one, however, they are soft-spoken, insightful and incredibly polite.
The frustrations of working inside are a constant barrier to progress. Malone’s pupils break rules or get into fights and are prevented from meeting him. The prison has some kind of violent incident about once a day – at which point officers just lock Malone behind the nearest door and run off to deal with the situation.
At the point when you would expect things to start finally going right, they get worse. While Malone awaits Dwayne for a rehearsal, Dwayne is badly assaulted and sent to hospital. He’s OK, but he’s done with music, and tired of being told to walk away from fights. “Where is there to walk to?” he says. “I don’t have keys.”
Lewis appears in cell 210, a new arrival. He can – and will – sing, but his mental health is frail. He takes medication for depression and a personality disorder. More often than not he is unable to rehearse. For the first time in the history of The Choir, I am preparing myself for failure.
There is, of course, a reason these things are done in two parts. I don’t think it will spoil the second half if I tell you that Malone perseveres. But on this occasion the success of the choirmaster and his pupils is set against a larger backdrop of failure, of lives wasted, of a system unfit for the task at hand, of a bunch of young men – boys really – with serious mental health issues, confined together, at risk and getting sicker.
In other words: you will cry just like always, but for different reasons. It’s not enough to bite your nails and think: how will Lewis cope with singing in front of an audience in prison? You also have to think: how did someone like Lewis end up in prison?
This is an excellent review and I do I have to admit to finding a tear falling down my face at the finale in part two. One stereotype that the two programmes smashed for me was the belief that young offenders come from bad homes – if you do decide to watch then you will see that this is most definitely not the case and is the main reason for my tear.

Quote of the week.
Don’t worry what others are doing. Do you!
Russell Simmons

Blog January 9th St Barnabas Part Four

Joffy Girling and Alex Knox recording guide vocals for Acts – The Musical

Unsung Heroes featuring Katy Summer from the album For Unsung Heroes recorded and produced by Ross Gill

As promised today I am sharing a song from Acts – The Musical in which Barnabas confronts Paul for not wishing to take John Mark with him on Paul’s second missionary journey. (Acts: 15: 36 -41) This is one of the songs that on Sunday Alex Knox and Joffy Girling recorded as guide vocals for our forthcoming musical based on the Acts of the Apostles.
I know he is your cousin
And yes that means a lot
But there’s a certain something you may have forgot
He left us to return home and he could do the same
I’m sorry but I can’t trust John Mark again

Yes he is my cousin and yes that means a lot
And no that certain something I have not forgot
Yes I know he left us – but that’s all in the past
So surely we should give him one more chance?

No, no, no,
Yes, yes, yes
No, no, no,
Yes, yes, yes
No, no, no I’ve said….. NO!
Quote of the week
The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.
Abraham Lincoln

Blog January 2nd St Barnabas Part Three

Living it Up featuring the Mustard Seed Soul Band from the album Heart and Soul recorded and produced by Ross Gill

So here is some more information about St Barnabas (taken from an editorial in the Barnabas Aid Magazine.) Barnabas features in the Book of The Acts of the Apostles on which our next musical is based.
Barnabas had the wonderful gift of always thinking the best of others and seeing the best in them. He had the kind of love described in I Corinthians 13:5-7 and no doubt this is how he earnt his nickname (Barnabas means Son of Encouragement) He was the first in Jerusalem to believe that Saul the persecutor was truly converted (Acts 9: 26-27) and he acted on that belief, taking Saul to the apostles and commended him to them as his sponsor or guarantor. Later Barnabas sought out Saul and brought him to Antioch to minister alongside him to the new Christians there. He saw the potential of John Mark and championed him, determined to give him another opportunity after he failed (Acts 15: 35-41)
His reputation as an encourager and bridge builder is also seen when the Jewish Church in Jerusalem chose him to go to Antioch to minister to the believers there who included, not only Jews but also Gentiles. This might have caused some Jewish Christians to hold back but not Barnabas. “When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. (Acts 11-19-23)
It was not just Antioch where the “Son of Encouragement” cared tenderly for new believers. We see his pastoral heart, his desire to protect and strengthen in many other places for example Derbe (Acts 14:20-23)
He was bold and brave, repeatedly enduring hardship and persecution for the sake of the Gospel (for example Acts 13-50-51) He went on when John Mark gave up (Acts 13: 13-14) He spoke up for what he believed was right. His determination to restore John Mark was so great that he even fell out with Paul about it. He also confronted fellow Christians on the issue of Gentile believers (Acts 15: 1-12)
Next week I’ll share with you a song from Acts – The Musical in which Barnabas confronts Paul for not wishing to take John Mark on his second missionary journey
Quote of the week
God is more interested in our character than our comfort, so when we pray for lighter burdens He gives us stronger backs.
The Word for Today

Blog December 26th St Barnabas Part Two

In The Beginning Was The Word- featuring the Lord is Truth Gospel Singers from the album His Story live (not released) recorded and produced by Ross Gill

I do hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day.
So I promised today that I would share with you some information about St Barnabas- who features in the Book of The Acts of the Apostles on which our next musical is based.
According to tradition in 61AD in the city of Salamis in Cyprus, Barnabas was dragged out of a synagogue where he was preaching the Gospel, by Jews who were infuriated by the success of his ministry, and was stoned to death. He had preached with St Paul in the same synagogue at the beginning of their first missionary journey together (Acts 13: 2-5) Barnabas’ death reflects what Jesus said would happen to His followers “They will put you out of the synagogue, in fact the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.” (John 16:2)
Barnabas was a nickname given to him by the apostles. It was a nickname that reflected his character and that essential goodness and integrity that shaped it. His real name was Joseph, in itself symbolic of the man he was. As Joseph in the Old Testament suffered much and became a leader of his people by virtue of his character, so too Joseph the Levite from Cyprus became Barnabas meaning “Son of Encouragement .“ We know few details of the personal life of Barnabas but know much of his character and his good works.
Barnabas served the Lord as prophet and teacher (Acts 13: 1) one through whom God worked miracles (Acts 15:12) and is even called an apostle in Acts 14:14 (chosen by Jesus to be one of the Seventy; according to early Church tradition)
A beautiful summary tells us that that Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith (Acts 11:24.)To this we can add many more specific details. The first that we hear of him is that he sold a field and brought the money to the apostles (Acts 4:36-37) There is no indication of a large and pressing financial need in the early Church at this point rather Barnabas’ action “sparkles with spontaneity and joy.” It shows generosity and at the same time humility as he acknowledges the apostles’ authority and submits to it, giving his gift without strings attached for them to use as they think best. It is little wonder that later when someone was needed to carry a financial gift from the Church in Antioch to the famine afflicted believers in Jerusalem, Barnabas was one of those considered trustworthy (Acts 11:27-30) We are also told he earnt his living so as not to be a financial burden to the congregations he was serving (I Corinthians 9:6)
Barnabas retained the humility he showed in those early days, even when years later he was acclaimed by adoring crowds, passionately urging them to worship God instead. (Acts 14:12-18)
I’ll share with you more of Barnabas next week.
Quote of the week
I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world.
Norman Vincent Peale

Blog December 19th St Barnabas

St Barnabas Church, Gillingham Kent

St Francis Church, Hilsea, Portsmouth

If I Say I Love You Jesus featuring Lucy Stimpson_Maynard from the album “Precious” recorded and produced by Ross Gill

I have explained that we are, at present, working on the sequel to Risen! The Musical, which has a working title of Acts- The Musical. Phase One is completed and in early January Joffy Girling, our musical Director, and actor Alex Knox will be recording the guide vocals to Phase Two which will, in fact complete the whole show.
In the first phase of Acts- The Musical the main character is Peter – with other characters also featuring such as Simon the Sorcerer, Stephen the first martyr and Philip the Evangelist. In the second phase the main character is Paul (previously called Saul) Another important character is Barnabas which reminded me that it was St Barnabas Church in Gillingham, Kent where I grew up that gave me my first experience of “church.” What actually happened was that two of my school friends, Edward and Keith Glover persuaded me to have a “trial” at the church to become a choir boy – the incentive was that if you got selected you got paid! I remember my trial so well – I suppose I was about 8-9 years old and after walking the 20 mins to the church I met the church organist. My “trial” was that he played a note on the organ and then asked me to sing the appropriate note – I did not have a clue – I just hit a note out of my head which was probably so far out in pitch that it was embarrassing but in those days I looked quite cute so I somehow passed my “trial” and got fitted out with a blue choristers’ gown and white ruffle collar. I was supposed to go regularly to choir practices but did not – I was supposed to go regularly to the church services but did not – so when it got to the time when the “money” was handed out I think I got about six pence. I also did not really understand what the Vicar was on about when he said from his pulpit that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. I also did not understand, because I did not attend many choir practices, how to sing the Magnificat or Benedictus- I just made it up as I went along or quite often simply mimed. I remember the services lasting what seemed like eternity, however I did enjoy joining the Boy Scout Cubs which was attached to the church – it was there that I learnt the difference between a reef knot and a granny knot (most useful as one ties securely and the other doesn’t *) Fortunately I was saved from it all when my dad moved work to Portsmouth which is where I found a much less formal church in St Francis where I also became a Boy Scout Cub. It was also from St Francis that I eventually went to confirmation classes and was confirmed by the Bishop at St Marys Church, Fratton.
Anyway next week (Boxing Day) I will share with you some information about St Barnabas- but one thing I can tell you now is that Barnabas means Son of Encouragement and in Acts -The Musical there is a scene in which Barnabas encourages the disciples to not fear Saul who, although having persecuted them is now a changed man after meeting the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus.
Here is the song- I have used the melody from today’s featured song “If I Say I Love You Jesus.”
If Saul Comes To Meet Us

If Saul comes to meet us,
Will you still fear his name?
Will you ask how dare he show his face
How can he feel no shame?

And if he promises he loves Jesus,
Will you say how can this be?
He’s the one who threw our friends in jail,
We are his sworn enemy.

And if he insists he has seen Jesus,
Will you stare in disbelief?
Will you laugh – spit in his face.
Put it down as pure conceit?

And if he says he is now Christ’s servant.
He is now Christ’s very own.
Will you accuse him of blasphemy?
Who will throw the first stone?

I know his change,
Seems so very strange,
But I know it’s true,
The change is for the good,
No passing phase, but for good,
One foe lost – won by the cross

So please trust and accept him,
As your dear brother in Christ,
He is God’s chosen instrument,
And on this I stake my life

And if I may say one more thing
Jesus died for us all
My friends that means you and I
And that means … even Saul…

Quote of the week
In prosperity our friends know us- in adversity we know our friends
John Churton Collins

The reef knot is commonly taught as left over right, tuck under then right over left, tuck under. The granny knot is the first step repeated twice, left over right, tuck under then left over right again.

Blog December 12th Chris Wickland

The Triumphal Entry featuring the Mustard Seed Soul Band from the album His Story recorded and produced by Ross Gill

Chris Wickland is the Senior Pastor at The Living Word Church, Fareham. He is also a very good friend and highly talented musician who played guitar in the “Mustard Seed Soul Band” which performed in Mustard Seeds’ first musical- “His Story” at the Kings Theatre, Southsea and Central Hall, Westminster London. Chris wrote the tune to today’s featured song which was originally called “Winter Festival.” I so loved the catchy melody that I asked Chris if I could use it for a song to describe Jesus” entry into Jerusalem which is traditionally called “Palm Sunday” or “The Triumphal Entry”
Anyway the reason for mentioning Chris is because something special happened last week – I will let his wife Tracy take over….
On Friday 29th November it was Chris’ day off. I stayed at home to tidy after the kitchen building work havoc and Chris planned to take the kids to Paultons Park (a local theme park) as they had an annual pass.
When they arrived they found Paultons Park closed. Apparently there was some debate between the cinema and Flipout trampolining centre. Flipout won and they went to Flipout in Eastleigh.
Serenity (age 11) tells me whilst trampolining Chris felt a bit funny and sat on the side. He told her he felt sick and dizzy and was breathing heavily. She thought he fell asleep briefly and she woke him.
He then told her their session was nearly over and he was going to get their stuff from the locker room. She saw him walk through and lie down on his back on a bench in the locker room and be sick.
Chris had had a Sudden Cardiac Arrest.
There was a member of the public standing next to him that was first aid trained and immediately realised something was wrong. She shouted for the staff who jumped the fence, got Chris on his side and started CPR. They also had a defibrillator on site which they used to give him four shocks before his heart began to beat again. An ambulance was on its way.
Paultons Park covers a big area with many pathways. If it had happened on a ride or between rides it’s more than likely no-one would have got to Chris quick enough. If they had decided on the cinema the children could have thought he was sleeping in the dark. By being at Flipout in Eastleigh that day he had instant access to CRP and the defibrillator.
Most SCA. (Sudden cardiac arrests) Over 90% result in death as no-one is around with CPR and a defibrillator. God put Chris in the right place at the right time that day. Somewhere he should not really have been or had planned to be. Worse still it could have happened a little later with Chris in the car with the children on the motorway.
The ambulance arrived quickly and took him to Southampton General Hospital. The heart hospital of the South. Again God speedily delivered Chris to exactly the right place. There was no delay, as there often can be I’m told, transferring him to Intensive Care.
Chris was put into an induced coma for several days. His heart was beating on its own. He had assisted breathing and many IVs, monitors and assistance to keep him stable and cool. The staff of the NHS are absolutely amazing.
Christians from many different churches and parts of the world began to pray, they held prayer meetings, they prayed in their small groups, they prayed in their churches and they prayed throughout the day and night. I prayed as I sat with him and read scripture over Chris right from when I first got to him in A&E. Friends sat and prayed over him in the night when I needed sleep. Even people Chris had offended over the years put aside differences and prayed feverently for him. I don’t think the Devil quite knew what he was starting as the church rallied and rose up.
On the Saturday we had a family meeting with the doctor. It was very bleak. We were told Chris has had 14 minutes down time but that he was fit and young. He was most likely to not die. However he had had some negative neurological responses and there was likely to be some brain damage and the next days would be an assessment of how much. As they began to remove sedation Chris might not wake at all or he might wake with varying degrees of brain damage. I was told the encephalitis Chris had had years before would be a walk in the park in comparison to the options before us. Worst case scenario if he did wake would see him in a nursing home. I was told I couldn’t be there as they reduced the sedation in case they needed to give him emergency treatment.
As I sat beside him on Saturday night his body was yellow and black and blue and swollen. Nothing looked good. I picked up the NIV Gideon’s bible and it opened at Hebrews 11:1 ‘To have faith is to be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.’ I needed to take my eyes off of what was right in front of me.
On Sunday morning as churches across the country were praying for Chris they began to lift the sedation. I was with him despite being told earlier I couldn’t be. I read psalm 91, Romans 8:11 and the Hymn ‘ Rise up O Man of God’ over him as he began to move. It was a slow process over several hours and he looked truly awful as he opened his eyes and they rolled as he writhed on the bed. As the doctors gathered to test him I felt a bit embarrassed about praying and reading over him but one of the doctors was a lapsed Christian and told me to keep reading!
Over the course of the day Chris began to respond to the tests, He opened his eyes, he wriggled his toes, he poked his tongue out. Several hours later they removed the breathing tube and later he spoke. I stayed with him that night as he asked questions.
Over the next few days he asked the same questions over and over and I began to worry for his short term memory. I asked the Christians to pray again. Less than 10% of SCA’s return to normal. I’m absolutely convinced Chris is alive and well because the church got on her knees, God heard her and moved the mountain.
Today is day 11 following his SCA. You wouldn’t know. He has a clear and sound mind. As yet they can find nothing wrong with his body. They will most likely fit him with an ICD (a super clever on-board little defibrillator).
God is good and faithful, If Chris had died then God would still be good and faithful but He chose to return him to us and I’m beyond thankful.
Not a lot I can add to that apart from Praise God!

Blog December 5th ACTS – The Musical

Alex Knox with Joffy Girling recording guide vocals for Acts- The Musical

Walking with the King of Kings featuring Lucy Stimpson – Maynard from the album “Precious” recorded and produced by Ross Gill

So last week I mentioned how Joffy Girling, our brilliant Musical Director was recording Alex Knox laying down guide vocals for Acts-The Musical. Last blog I also told how I had met Alex.
To explain Acts more fully – for the past four years Joffy and I have been working on the sequel to Risen! The Musical. It started with me singing the basic idea to Joffy and then Alex laid down the guide vocals for all the parts. The next stage was Oscar Batterham, who was at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Alex, singing the part of Theophilus. Theophilus was probably Luke’s patron and likely a Roman Official of some standing. Luke addressed his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles to Theophilus. In our musical we have taken poetic licence with Theophilus being on a journey of faith during which Luke encourages him by describing how the Gospel has spread far and wide by apostles such as Peter and Paul.
Max Panks (Jesus in Risen! The Musical DVD ) was next to be recorded, playing the part of Saul/Paul. Then Katie Forge (Mary wife of Cleopas in Risen! DVD ) sang the part of Mary Magdalene, Nicola Poustie (Mary Magdalene in the Risen! CD) the role of Tabitha, James Townend (Thomas in the Risen! CD) the role of John. Gemma Terry, Chloe Brockenshire and Tim Prestige from Holy Rood church all added more parts before Joffy and I rented an airbnB apartment in Ealing for a weekend to record more members of the London Touring Cast- David Murray (Thomas in the Risen! DVD) sang Stephen the first martyr, Johnny Fitzharris (James in the Risen! DVD) sang Simon the Sorcerer, Andrew Dovaston (John in the Risen! DVD) sang Philip the Evangelist, Casey Lloyd (Cleopas’ friend in the Risen! DVD) sang the crippled man healed by Peter, Jamie Leeke (Simon the Zealot in the Risen! DVD) sang the Ethiopian and Benny Bright (Peter in the Risen! DVD) also added his talents.
The storyline of Part One ended before Paul’s began his missionary journeys. The reason for this was that I was concerned that Part Two would sound like a Paul “travel log.” However I hopefully solved the problem and last week Alex began recording the guide vocals to Part Two – Joffy and Alex are returning early in the New Year to complete the Show. The recording of Part One has been shared with the participating artists and we are hoping for an encouraging response.
The ultimate plan is to film Acts – The Musical as we did Risen! In the meantime it is exciting that Alex and Joffy were so impressed with what we have achieved so far that they suggested we put on a pilot stage production asap – so watch this space!!
Quote of the week
If God is your partner, make your plans BIG!
D.L. Moody

Blog November 28th ACTS Part One and Alex Knox

Alex Knox starring in the West End play “It’s Easy To Be Dead”

“So Now We Wait In Jerusalem” – “For God So Loved The World” – featuring Alex Knox and Lindsey Gardiner from the album “Risen! The Musical – recorded and produced by Joffy Girling

So tomorrow Joffy Girling, Mustard Seed Songs’ Musical Director and actor Alex Knox are at my house for two days recording the guide vocals to ACTS – The Musical.
So just to explain ACTS- The Musical is the sequel to Risen! The Musical. We have already recorded ACTS -Part One with Alex playing the part of Luke, Oscar Batterham, the part of Theophilus, with members of the London Touring Cast (who filmed Risen!The Musical) playing other parts together with long standing Mustard Seed artists such as Nicola Poustie and James Townend.
We are hoping to let people hear ACTS- Part One very soon but tomorrow and Saturday Alex and Joffy will be laying down the guide vocals for ACTS- Part Two which will then complete the whole musical. Our dream is to raise enough money to film ACTS- The Musical and make it available on YouTube as is, of course, Risen! The Musical.
Mustard Seed Songs are so fortunate to have the brilliant Joffy as our MD and to have Alex singing the guides is also wonderful. Both Alex and Joffy pick up the songs I sing to them (sooooo badly) really, really quickly – they are both so very talented (and also great people – Caroline, Genna and I have such fun when they come to stay)
Among many other acting credits Alex played lead in the West End production “It’s Easy to be Dead.” For those of you that have not yet heard me talk of Alex and how we met- here is some information taken from previous blogs.
When, at the age of nine I moved from Gillingham in Kent to Portsmouth I went to the Northern Parade Junior Boys School. I have to say I did not like it at all – the teachers used the cane- something that I had not come across at all in the delightful Forge Lane Mixed School I attended in Gillingham.
Anyway one classroom teacher, Mr Thorpe was keen on amateur dramatics and each year would produce a show, usually one which he had written himself based on a Gilbert and Sullivan classic. I particularly remember “The Pirates of Portsmouth” in which I played a pirate “Mizzen Mast Martin.” The star was a guy called Martin Connor who was in my class and who had been one of the few people who had been nice to me when I first went to Northern Parade.
In those ancient times we had to sit the 11 + exam to determine whether you went on to Grammar School or Secondary Modern. In Portsmouth there was also a “half -way house” – the Portsmouth Technical High School. Well to cut a long story short Martin and I found ourselves both at “The “halfway house”. We were also in the same form, the infamous 1B. Martin went on to become Head Boy – I did not.
I knew Martin had gone on from school to pursue a career in acting, but on leaving school I had lost contact with him. When I was looking to cast for the role of John I needed someone who could both act and sing. All of Risen! is sung and I particularly needed someone who was expert in recitative as this holds the storyline together. I decided to try to locate Martin to see if he was still in the world of acting so I googled his name and there he was Head of Acting at the Prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. I knew it was the same Martin as there was a pic of him on the Guildhall’s website and he had not changed a bit (spit!)
I emailed him and we met up at the “Coach and Horses” pub which is right opposite our old school. We talked and laughed non -stop for hours, picking up on all the old Tech School life as if it were yesterday. Anyway yes Martin did have someone in mind to play the part of John – Alex Knox. Alex has a degree in Music from Manchester University – he also has a Masters in Singing from Guildhall and was now taking the Guildhall’s Masters Acting Degree- he would be perfect. So I took the train up to London to meet him at the Guildhall. I sang Alex the John parts in one of the Guildhall’s studios, so I suppose it could be said that I have sung at the Guildhall School of Music and Theatre! For a classical trained singer it would not have been normal to learn a part warbled by some PE teacher, but that is what happened and Alex has now played John brilliantly in three consecutive Risen! productions and has also sung that part in the Risen! The Musical CD.
Next week I’ll tell you how the recording went.
Quote of the week
Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Reinhold Niebuhr

Blog November 21st Basketball

Some of the Crofton Basketball team at the Tube disco after winning the Cup

One in Million – featuring Lucy Stimpson Maynard – not published

My wife Caroline shared this great story which also reminded me of basketball at Crofton School. I wrote the following in my blog back in 2014:
I loved teaching PE at Crofton School. For most of my career OFSTED Inspections did not exist and there was no GCSE PE. So my performance as a teacher was assessed pretty much by the results of our school teams. Although for the first two years at Crofton we had no field (as it was full of flints – see blog Feb 20th) we still trained at Stubbington Recreation Ground, focusing on playing two- touch football, and eventually won the Gosport and Fareham Cup. About 15 years later we won the Hampshire Cup (not with the same team!) We also won the Hampshire Cricket Cup, which was a particularly amazing achievement as it is normally the province of private schools.
But it was in Basketball that we had our most successes. When I arrived at Crofton in 1975 the school had just opened on the Marks Road site. The staff consisted of Mr Boulton as Head with Mr Bradley and Mrs Hartley as Deputy Heads. Mr White was Head of Department for Maths, Mr Taylor, English, Miss Simmonds, RE (not Mr Mill believe it or not- he joined Crofton a few years later ) Mr Mitchell for Science, Mr Wickett for Technology and me for PE The First Year entry had been temporarily accommodated in 1974 at Crofton Hammond Junior School so when I joined, the school had only Year 7 and 8s (then called Year 1 and 2) Mrs Jan Davies had been in charge of PE while the school was at Hammond so it was, in fact her and not me who was the first PE teacher of Crofton School.
So to get myself established I felt I had to produce winning teams, but there was no field and only the indoor facility of a gymnasium. So what sport could we get good at with just a gym? Gymnastics was out of the question as my own personal performance was limited to a headstand, headstand, forward and backward roll and on a good day a neck spring- and once or twice in my life a hand spring – off the floor I hasten to add!
I was a wimp in Volleyball as it hurt my hands when “digging” so that was out -Badminton did not cater for enough pupils so it had to be Basketball. The problem was I had hardly played the game- I had always been told at school that I was not tall enough (see blog Feb 13th) However I was fortunate enough to know some American Basketball players (friends of friends) such as Jimmie Guymon, Paul Stimpson and Mark Saiers. From them I learnt how to coach the “USA way “and was able to teach our students techniques that only the Americans knew, such as the spin dribble.
The School Caretaker, Mr Ron Stevens would open the gym when he arrived at school at 6.30 am and players would arrive that early and practice most mornings for a couple of hours. I later discovered that at the weekends “break ins” would occur with some boys practicing all day and then even staying the night! As you can imagine they got really good but Hayling Island School always beat us. That is until the last game of the team’s final year at school when we met them in the S.E Hants Finals held on neutral ground at Warblington School. We took a coach load of supporters and the atmosphere was electric and yes we won, beating Hayling in our very last game. I brought the Cup home and later that night presented it to the team at the “Tube” Disco as in featured pic. That was a night I will never forget – after four years eventually beating our great rivals in our final game – brilliant. By the way to Hayling’s great credit they lost with good grace.
Martin Fuge who played in that game was on the edge of the England team and Paul Cummings played National League for Solent Stars but our first international player was Peter Wort who represented the England Basketball U15 team. So Basketball became a tradition at Crofton and we had many boys and girls playing for SE Hants and SE England. We won the prestigious Hampshire Cup twice and were usually around the top in the local leagues. We also travelled to places like Durham in the National Cup. Great times!
I have chosen a song recorded by Lucy Stimpson Maynard but one that is not on any Mustard Seed CD. It was written specifically for Jimmie Guymon – Jimmie was destined to play in the NBA, the greatest league in the world, but got struck down really ill with Jaundice (the yellow poison in the song) When he recovered he came to England and became what most believe to be the best player ever to play in this country. This song “One in a Million” is, I think, the only song that has been recorded that is not overtly Christian. It tells of Jimmie’s dream to play in the NBA and to be the one in a million who makes it. I adapted the lyrics from the words of a poem Jimmie wrote about his dream. Incidentally I enjoyed a Five Guys burger with Jimmie only last week.
Quote of the week
God will meet you where you are in order to take you where He wants you to go.”
Tony Evans