Concert preparations part two – 2 hours

This is the second part of the preparations for a concert I am taking part in with two singing friends.

I have mentioned our preparations for performing but the other crucial part of a concert is of course, an audience.  Not only does is enhance the whole experience for the performers, the more tickets sold the more money can go to the charity we are supporting.

It is a good sign that the venue is supporting the event when they ask for posters, flyers and ticket prices months before the concert, but it was a wake up call to me when I received such a request last week for our concert in September, and I admit to a slight feeling of panic.

So here was my next job – design a poster!  We also now had the name of the charity so it was a good time to start.

I am not an expert on this by any means, but it is something I have done many times for various events, so I have some idea of what is needed.  I am sure my posters will never win any prizes for design but they do provide basic necessary information:-

  • Title of concert
  • Performers
  • Date
  • Time
  • Venue address
  • Cost of tickets
  • How to get the tickets
  • Charity name, number and website

Discussion had already taken place with the other performers about the title of the concert. I asked for ideas from my fellow singers and they were very quick at getting back to me with some thoughts and suggestions, so the basic format came together pretty quickly.  However, desk top publishing is a great way to while away hours and hours of your time, moving things around, getting images just the right size etc., etc., so my claim of 2 hours for GoT is really very conservative, it was probably more like 3-4 hours.

It is important that the design is still reasonable (and legible) when enlarged or reduced as it will be used for A5 flyers, the front page of the concert programme, and possibly for A3 posters too depending on where the information may be displayed.  These days it also needs to be in a digital format that can be used in newsletters, Facebook posts etc..

Poster v2

Sometimes a design can look good on the screen but does not transfer well to print on a domestic printer or is cartridge heavy.   For this reason, I also have a print friendly version, perhaps without a background.  As we are not professional performers and are raising money for a charity, we are not keen to pay for professional printing.

While I was at my PC, I also took the opportunity to use a previous ticket template to create tickets for this concert.  I really do not want to be caught out a second time when they request tickets.

With some relief I sent the various versions of the poster to the church.  I was grateful that it all came back approved.  Another job done, back to the music!







Hedgehog Cream Tea – 5 hours

Since the millenium, it is a sad fact that here in Britain we have lost a third of our hedgehog population.  Even worse is the real danger that they could be extinct by 2025 if things do not improve.

Hedgehogs have two litters and the second litter is the one that is most at risk of not having time to gain sufficient weight to hibernate successfully.  When hedgehog numbers were high this was not a problem but now….

Over the last few years in particular, my friend Jane has been actively encouraging these endearing little creatures into her garden by providing food and water in her hedgehog hotel.  This resulted in her finding and rescuing 5 underweight hedgehogs in December one year and needing to find somewhere to over winter them.

December is an extremely busy time at hedgehog rescue places and many were full, however East Boldre Hedgehog Rescue (Facebook page @eastboldrehedgehogrescue) agreed to take them.  It is a longer story that that, but those are the essentials.

Jane and I visited Louise Godden at the rescue which is simply her home at East Boldre.  It is a self-funded, not for profit organisation and Louise admits to being unable/unwilling to say no when it comes to hedgehogs.  We wanted to raise funds for her and decided that a tea party with a talk from Louise, would be the way to go. She would bring a hedghog along and we would serve scones with jam and cream.


We  wanted to keep it small so everyone could sit comfortably and easily hear Louise. We invited around 15 people and ended up with 13 people including ourselves which was a good number.

As expected, her talk was very interesting and informative.  She is totally passionate about what she does and all her energy and time goes into caring for sick and injured hedgehogs.  Her goal is to make them better and then release them, so she only takes those who are vulnerable and keeps her interventions with them to a minimum.

Did she bring some hogs with her, and do I have pics?  Of course I do!




The boy hedgehog in the photo was very active and kept moving, but he and his sister were lovely. They are the result of Louise taking in one very fat female hedgehog who lost weight overnight by producing 5 hoglets! These two are four weeks old and cute as anything.

Here are a few things I learnt from listening to Louise’s talk.

  • Hedgehogs can travel about 1 mile nightly searching for food.  They need access to lots of gardens so we can help by putting a hedgehog sized hole in our fences to ensure they can get through.

More info on Hedgehog Street

  • Louise explained that she can treat hedgehogs who have ingested rat poison, but not ones that have been poisoned by slug pellets so they have to be put down.
  • Do not feed  hedgehogs mealworms. Hedgehogs may love mealworms but they are not good for them at all.  They become addicted and their bones become brittle.
  • Water, water.  Leave shallow bowls of water in shady places in the garden.

If you are interested in donating to a rescue centre, you should check with your local one to find out what they need/use, but East Boldre can always do with:-

  • Newspapers
  • Hay
  • Old towels

There are many sites with really good information on hedgehogs, but this one seems like a good place to start:-

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society

We raised £110 for the centre which will go towards the purchase of an incubator.

Thank you to all who came, but special thanks to Louise, the hogs and the East Boldre Rescue Centre.

Consorte d’amici lunchtime recital- 13 hours

My husband (John) and I play regularly with another couple in a small ensemble called Baroque Ad Hoc.  We take part in lunchtime recitals in and around Portsmouth and Fareham. The recitals are free to all and the audience is encouraged to bring their lunch and come and listen to music played and sung by local musicians.

When one of our local churches started to do lunchtime concerts here in Southampton, we were keen to get involved, and so we made contact and offered to do a lunchtime recital in May.

Although we play recorders in many different groups, we needed to form a new one of people who were local and available to play during the day.

Surprising quickly we got together three other friends who are experienced players and John put together a rehearsal schedule, meeting regularly up to the concert date.  The name was John’s idea too – Consorte d’amici, the consort of friends.

I have spoken before about the time it takes to prepare for a concert and I have only claimed for the rehearsal time.  John was the one who planned the programme and made sure there were sufficient copies of music for everyone. He also liaised with the church.

We met six times in all, rehearsing for a couple of hours each.  The first rehearsal is always about just playing through the pieces, subsequent rehearsals focusing on specific areas as needed.

Consorte d'amici 2
Consorte d’amici

We were asked to provide an image for the church newsletter and Facebook posts and sent the above photo of all the sizes of recorder that would be played.

For many people here in the UK, the only knowledge of recorders they have is from playing descant recorders at school with 20-30 other children. Or as parents of aforementioned children listening to them practice at home, not always a positive experience! We are always keen to show the family of recorders and many people are very surprised to see (and hear) all the different sizes.

There were not many in the audience; the lunchtime recitals are still very new at this church, but those who were there were responsive and appreciative and there were more of them than us, which is always a bonus!

The church has a a very pleasant acoustic that really seemed to enhance the sound of the recorders. John’s preparations and rehearsals and the players commitment meant that we were well prepared and the concert went well.

I for one, thoroughly enjoyed playing in the space and hope we will be invited back. The recital was free with all donations going towards Christian Aid week.













Litter pick no. 4 – 0 hours

I was missing from the litter pick for the month of May as I was volunteering at the Leonardo da Vinci day at the Art gallery.

It did still go ahead with my husband John taking the lead for me and they had eight people in all picking 15 bags of rubbish.


The above photographs show just a few of our enthusiastic volunteers.  The best finds this month were half a football, a kitchen sponge and a tiny pair of sunglasses  (we assumed belonged to a Barbie type doll).  In addition they did find another supermarket basket but that, as with the previous month’s basket, was taken from our garden before it could be picked up by the council……odd.

Sadly a little corner of our road which has an electric substation on it, seems to be attracting the attentions of a flytipper.

The photographs show the before and after of our March litter pick……….


………and this month’s ‘after’ photo.

Flytipping by business park

The council have been informed and they did pick up the rubbish for us so it is looking well again.

It may be interesting to note the administration for a litter pick such as ours.  Although I  have not claimed any hours this month for the pick itself, I did all the administration for it as usual.

Here are some of the things I do before and after a pick which may be of use if anyone out there is considering setting one up themselves.

After we have had a pick it is time for me to put a new event up on and Keep Britain Tidy websites.  To date we have only had one volunteer come through these sites, but it is where I looked when I was searching for a local litter pick so I am hopeful that we will get more volunteers this way.  The sites also give us an opportunity to add the number of bags each month and upload photographs of the volunteers and the bags.  To date we have picked 49 bags of rubbish.

About two weeks before a pick I send a copy of our poster to the local church and school.  This gives them the chance to put this on their respective Facebook pages and make an announcement in either assembly or service.

Poster April - Sept 2019

Both organisations have already received this of course, but it serves as a reminder that it is coming up again.

The week of the pick I put up a post of Facebook and share it with two local community pages.  We have had much interest and several volunteers by doing this so it is by far the best way of getting the message out there.  I also email our list of friends who have been stalwart in supporting our efforts with this.

After the pick, I put together another Facebook post giving details of the numbers of bags collected and thanking everyone who took part.  There is always lots of likes to this and many comments of ‘thanks’ and ‘well done’ which is pleasant to see.

All the above takes about 1.5 hours a month – not too bad and the results are definitely worth it.


















Leonardo da Vinci Day – 5.5 hours

In 2018, it was announced that the Queen’s collection of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings  (usually held at Windsor castle and not open to the public) was to have its largest display.  To mark the 500th anniversary of  Leonardo’s death there were to be 12 simultaneous exhibitions held in cities across the UK.

Southampton was lucky enough to be chosen to host one of the exhibitions of these amazing drawings.  The exhibition opened here in February 2019 with its last day being Monday 6th May, a bank holiday in the UK. It was decided to hold a Leonardo da Vinci day on Saturday 4th May where there would be various activities to take part in as well as the exhibition itself to see.

The date did end up clashing with our fourth litter pick but I left that in the safe hands of my husband and off I went for my first time volunteering with Southampton Arts and Heritage.


Although the gallery was open from 10am, the activities did not start until 11. As I arrived it was clear that many members of staff had already been there for quite some time preparing.  I was immediately given a pair of scissors and some badge designs to cut out.

I had only just got started when the co-ordinator called the volunteers together to allocate tasks.

My job for the day was  to greetpeople as they walked up the stairs to the gallery, give them a plan of the gallery and tell them about the various activities that were going on during the day, as well as directing them to the Leonardo exhibition. There were activities mainly aimed at children such as drawing robots, badge making and other arts and crafts, but I thnk the biggest draw for people of all ages was the life sized model of da Vinci’s helicopter.


This incredible model was brought in by a group called Leonardo’s engineers.  They were in period dress and really added to the whole day.  In addition they had brought along wooden pieces so people could have a go at building a bridge to his design.  The sound of falling bricks punctuated the whole day and we were all attempted to shout ‘Jenga’ each time.

With me at the top of the stairs were volunteers ‘clicking’ people in and out of the gallery so we could get an idea of the footfall, and by 11-11.30 we had already had 200 people ‘clicked’ in.  It was going to be busy.

Around 11am, a queue to go into the exhibition suddenly formed.  There was no charge to go in, but they did need to limit numbers in the room and the stream of visitors was continuous.  That was my cue to try and direct people to the mini talks that were being held on Leonardo’s artwork in the Baring room.  I encouraged adults particularly to do that in the hope that the queue may have eased a little when they came out.  However, that queue was constant until lunchtime when it shortened a little for about half an hour.

The atmosphere was good humoured and pleasant even in the queue and I had that marvellous helicopter model facing me the whole time.

At 3.00pm the activities all closed down and they cordoned off the helicopter.  It had taken two hours to put it up and it was going to take two hours to take it down….

img_0323.jpg…..and the visitors kept coming.  The activities had stopped but the gallery would be open until 5pm, so the staff would be there for some time yet.

I left at 3.30 with a happy heart although I am keen to know how many visitors we had in total.  I am hoping the volunteer co-ordinator will let me know.

In case you are wondering, I went to see the drawings myself early in March, and I am so glad I did.  For me, they feel intimate in a way that is difficult to describe, perhaps because they give you an insight into that amazing brain; his thoughts and ideas.

They are generally quite small (he had to make his own canvas by grinding old cloth) and incredibly detailed with descriptions/instructions written in tiny mirror writing.

From May 2019 there will be a display of 80 of the drawings at the Queen’s Gallery at  Buckingham Palace.   In November 2019, they will move to the Queen’s Gallery at the Palace of holyroodhouse, the largest display of Leonardo’s work ever shown in Scotland, and they will be there until March 2020.


 Edit: just heard that we had over 2,000 visitors so I must have said ‘hello’ around 1500 times!























Concert preparations. Part one – 4 hours

In a previous post I talked about the amount of time and effort that goes into preparing for even a short performance.

This post is the first of two or three that will follow the preparations for an evening concert I am doing with two of my singing friends.

The concert will take place in a lovely church in Cadnam where I have performed before and where the Soup Cafe took place in my second post. The church supports various charities throughout the year and the concert’s proceeds will go to the particular charity in the month of September when the concert will take place.

Our first meeting took place over a cup of tea and a scone in a local cafe where the aim was to agree a date for the concert. This is quite often the trickiest bit as all of us sing/play with different groups, the church has to agree a date that suits them and of course, our accompanist needs to be free that day as well.  We managed to put together a few possible dates with remarkable ease – amazing.

The three of us did a concert together last year along similar lines so much of this first meeting was discussing what had worked and what could be improved upon.  We then arranged to meet in a couple of months to talk about the programme. During that time, I was to contact the church and our accompanist and firm up the date which I did – Saturday 28th September at 7.00pm.

Non singers may find it surprising that we start preparing for a concert this early, but I assure you, it is absolutely necessary.  The songs have to be learnt and that is not just about the tune, it involved much work training the voice to sing the songs and memorising the words.

Putting together a programme feels very difficult at first.   I think it is a bit like a writer sitting down at a blank page and not knowing what to start with first. We know we want about 45 mins of music either side of a 10-20 minute interval. Allowing for introductions and ‘moving about’ between items, that means around 12 items per half.

We talked about a theme for the programme, the songs each of us would like to sing and possible duets and trios.

The next step is for each of us to put together a list of songs we should like to perform, about 6 or 7 solos each.  For my part, my singing lessons will now be devoted to trying out various songs so I can decide which I want to include.  Our next meeting in May will involve trying out the duets and trios so we can make decisions about those and/or find other pieces that may work.





Litter pick no. 3 – 2 hours

Although our March litter pick had gone really well, only a few of our pickers were local to our area.  The rest were our wonderful friends who are always amazing keen to support us  and while I am very grateful, my aim for April and the following months was to get the word out to more of our neighbours.

I mentioned in my previous litter picking post that I had found some residential Facebook pages and after posting the results of the March pick together with photographs, I had lots of likes and a few people offering to help with the next one.  I also registered the group with and Keep Britain Tidy.  All in all, out of 12 volunteers, there were six people who were unknown to me coming on our litter pick and that was great news.

I also contacted the local school to ask if they would be interested, but that is tricky as we pick on a Saturday so they couldn’t help us actually as a school event.  However, they promoted the pick to their parents in case they wanted to join in with their children and we may organise a school litter pick one afternoon.

As we get more used to doing these events, we may need to do less preparation, but at the moment, we drive around looking at areas that may need attention, we prepare all the bags with the ring opening devices.  These are great by the way, and for those who don’t know what they are or how they work, here are some pictures.

The rings come in two parts…..


You pull the edges of the bag up and over the black ring………..


……….and then push the green ring over that locking the ring in place and keeping the bag open.  Clever stuff.


Next is to make sure there are spare bags for people to take with them, and I also printed out flyers and the small information cards for everyone so they all had my contact details.   John and I had a rough plan of where to send the various teams as they arrived.


Despite the weather being pretty awful during the week, Saturday was bright and it was pleasing to see people arrive ready to pick.

I gave them a general chat about being safe – not picking up broken glass or syringes, or in fact anything they felt was unsafe for whatever reason. I also thanked them for coming, and then off everyone went.  I hung around the meet point to wait for those who had been delayed.

Most of the area picked this time was around the residential streets, so there was less big stuff, no tyres etc., however, one of our pickers did find this……..


Yep, that’s a sledghammer, our best find this month.  There was also rather a nice supermarket basket and far fewer glass bottles. this time.


This pick yielded fifteen bags of rubbish, sadly more general waste and fewer bags that could be recycled.

We did however meet some of our neighbours who we would not have met were it not for this event and that gave me a great feeling of community.  This is the sort of thing I hoped would happen when I started Gift of Time – new experiences with new people.