Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Liam Rudden: Brighton rocks but Edinburgh does it best

I’m sitting in the basement of Brighton Town Hall, home to the famous seaside resort’s old police cells. Last used in 1967, they are the very place they brought the Mods and Rockers to be charged after the infamous Brighton Beach bank holiday riots, back in the 1960s.

This is the venue for Killers, by Taggart creator Glenn Chandler. As director, I couldn’t have asked for a more atmospheric setting. The play is based on the letters of serial killers Ian Brady, Peter Sutcliffe and Dennis Nilsen, and the tiled walls of the old police cells could not be more appropriate.

It’s the first time I have been to the Brighton Fringe, which strikes me as a very different beast to our own annual arts festival, despite the fact that every few years there is a bout of scaremongering about the likes of Brighton or even Manchester stealing the Capital’s Festival crown.

Judging by what I see here, in the week that another bumper Edinburgh Fringe programme is launched, that’s not likely.

Yes, some of the shows may be the same (across the road, the Faulty Towers Dining Experience is playing the local Thistle Hotel ahead of another run at B’est, on Drummond Street, while Killers will, as has been reported, play the Assembly Rooms), but Brighton Fringe, hive of activity that it is, is just not on the same scale as what happens here every August.

For a start, there are far fewer shows, virtually no comedy, and you can walk down the street without having a flier shoved in your hand every two steps. But then they are strict on public fliering here. You’re in big trouble if you are caught handing out fliers on the street without having first obtained the correct licence.

What Brighton does have, however, is that buzz of excitement mixed with a laid-back charm that our own Fringe had before it became the huge corporate monster it is today.

And that’s what makes it so special. Let’s hope the Brighton Fringe doesn’t get too big - for its own sake, as much as ours.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Craig Thomson dumps Julia Gillard: the ultimate insult

A quick and rare word on politics which I can’t resist - how bad is Julia Gillard going.

She has been dumped by Craig Thomson, the federal MP accused of using union funds to buy prostitutes.

He is facing charges, he was stood down from Labor, and now he is quitting and will stand as an independent.

He says he has great reservations about the leadership of the Labor party, that is Julia Gillard, and that he is frustrated by the way the government operates.

Well, Craig Thomson has dumped Julia Gillard because he thinks she is a bad leader. That is the ultimate insult.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In full: SPL post-split fixture list

CELTIC will get the chance to wrap up the title in front of their own fans after being handed a home clash with Inverness in their first Clydesdale Bank Premier League post-split fixture.

The defending champions need just a point to wrap up their second successive league crown and will get their chance when they welcome Terry Butcher’s side to Celtic Park on Sunday, April 21.

The 12.45pm kick-off is also good news for Parkhead boss Neil Lennon, who had pleaded for a home match so his side could get the chance to celebrate their title success with their own support.

However they could enter the match already Champions if Motherwell lose to Dundee United on Friday.

Hearts will take on Hibs in the bottom six on May 12 at Tynecastle in a match that will be screened live on ESPN at noon.

Highland rivals Ross County will take on Inverness Caledonian Thistle on the final day of the season. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cowden call-off leaves Jags with congestion nightmare

The Central Park clash, which has already been postponed twice and was then abandoned last month due to fog, was called off just after 6pm last night, despite an inspection being scheduled for an hour later.

After facing Livingston this weekend, Thistle will now to head to Fife next Wednesday before returning on Saturday to hopefully complete their four fixtures against Colin Cameron's side for this season.

The Jags will then face three consecutive midweek fixtures, travelling to Raith before hosting title rivals Morton days after their Ramsdens Cup final with Queen of the South and then welcoming Rovers to Firhill on April 16.

The latest Cowden call-off is another major frustration for Thistle interim boss Alan Archibald, who has seen his side keep up the pressure on the top-of-the-table Ton in recent weeks with five consecutive wins.

Thistle have not conceded a goal in any of those fixtures and the Firhill boss has hailed central defensive duo Conrad Balatoni and Aaron Muirhead for their recent efforts. Archie said: "I couldn't have asked for any more from them. That is five clean sheets in a row now and Aaron and Conrad are saying the two against Morton don't count because they weren't from open play.

"They both took note of the performance in the abandoned game and we are working with them all the time. They are young and they will make mistakes but it is about how they learn from it.

"I believe that on form they are our best centre-half pairing but when you take me out the team, it is experience and a voice missing and that is something you only get by working on it."

ARCHIBALD added: "We do a bit extra all the time with them, we make sure that they are speaking to each other all the time and that is paying off.

"Scott Paterson has been fantastic, he has made a great impact. The boys look up to him and the way he goes about his business.

"I am delighted to have him here helping me."

Thistle's latest clean sheet came at New Douglas Park on Saturday as goals from Balatoni and Christie Elliot clinched a 2-0 win over Hamilton Accies.

It has been an impressive few weeks for the Jags as Archibald has kept his side well in the hunt for the First Division crown and staked his claim for the Jags top job.

Thistle's squad depth will be tested to the limit in the title run-in and Archibald is delighted to see all his stars playing their part.

He said: "They have all taken on board that it is a squad game and they know that they will all be needed between now and the end of the season.

"Whenever I took over from Jackie McNamara, the team was strong and playing well.

"The guys in the starting positions deserved to be there on form.

"Everyone has played their part in the last few weeks and that is important."

Monday, February 18, 2013

No debut victory for Partick Thistle and Archie

It was third-time lucky for Partick Thistle interim boss Alan Archibald on Saturday but the Firhill legend couldn't cap his dugout debut in dream style, with the points shared and the status quo remaining at the top of the Irn-Bru First Division.

Having seen fixtures with Cowdenbeath and Raith Rovers postponed on successive Saturdays, it was a baptism of fire for the stand-in gaffer in Greenock.

In the end, the point gained after an enthralling 2-2 draw can be seen as a good day at the office for Archibald and assistant Scott Paterson, but feelings of what if will still remain after a free-kick and penalty double from Peter MacDonald cancelled out strikes from Chris Erskine and Steven Craig that had the Jags on course for a huge win in the title race.

There is little doubt that this Thistle side has the potential to claim the league crown, but it remains to be seen if Archibald is the man to lead them to promotion glory.

The 35-year-old has the chance to manoeuvre himself into pole position for the top job following the exit of Jackie McNamara to Dundee United.

Defender Conrad Balatoni is enjoying life in the new regime under a man that the Jags players all know well.

He said: "We are still calling him Archie just now, he doesn't want to be called gaffer just yet.

"Maybe if he gets the job full-time he will change that.

"Scott Paterson has come in and the training has been great. It has been a bit different, they have brought their own ideas in and the boys have all enjoyed playing under them.

"Scott was a centre-half so he has been working with myself and Aaron Muirhead. He has played for a long time so having him and Archie there will only benefit us.

"Before the game, he just told us to go and enjoy it and show everyone what we can do.

"We go out each week to win and hopefully make the fans happy. Luckily we have had the results that have done that and we will look to keep doing that and win as many games as we can."

Having waited patiently for their chance to take to the field under Archibald's command, Thistle almost made a perfect start to life after McNamara but couldn't hold on for a crucial Cappielow triumph.

A second-half rally from the Ton saw them pull level but, despite their pressure and a red card to Hugh Murray, there was to be no late heartache for Thistle as each side took a point for their endeavours in front of a bumper 5647 crowd.

Balatoni said: "You can look at it both ways, as a point gained or two dropped.

"It is always disappointing to only take a point when you have been 2-0 up away from home.

"We were looking to close the gap. We have still got the games in hand but they have got the points on the board and we need to look to win the next few games and try and catch up with them.

"We always go out to win the game, Jackie brought that in and Archie is continuing with that ethos.

"We want to go out and win every point and play good football. We scored two goals but they then scored a good free kick and got the penalty. We defended well after Shuggy got sent off as well so we are happy in the end with a point."

Trailing by eight points going into the Cappielow clash, not allowing Morton to slip further into the distance was perhaps even more important than winning for Thistle as they look to keep up the pressure on Allan Moore's league leaders.

A home tie with Hamilton Accies tomorrow is the first of their three games in hand over the Ton and Balatoni is pleased the title is still in their hands.

He said: "We knew that this was a big game and some people thought it was make-or-break because if Morton won then the gap would be 11 points.

"At the end of the day, if we win our games in hand then we are only a point ahead and we have still got to play them at Firhill.

"There is a lot of football still to be played and we are not getting ahead of ourselves. We will take each game as it comes and hopefully by the end we will be sitting top."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Peterborough robber jailed for armed raid

A masked robber from Peterborough who grabbed a shop worker by the neck and held a gun to his head before demanding cash and cigarettes has been jailed for seven years.

Daniel Walker (23) of Sandpiper Drive, Stanground, raided the Londis store a short distance from his home in Thistle Drive on 6 October 2012 escaping with cash, cigarettes and alcohol.

Walker, who was armed with an imitation gun, and an accomplice, armed with a hammer, threatened two staff in the Saturday lunch time robbery, while three young children were upstairs.

On Friday Walker, who pleaded guilty to robbery and possession of a firearm with intent, was jailed for seven years at Peterborough Crown Court.

Peterborough Crown Court was told Walker was caught shortly after the raid, with half the cigarettes in a bag at his house.

Sentencing, Judge Nic Madge said: “You walked towards the shopkeeper with firearm in hand. You told him to put his hands up, and you grabbed him by his neck collar. You held the gun to back of head, and pushed him to the tills.

“He was completely terrified. The gun was pressed against his head tightly and you forced him to open two tills.

“The victim could not tell whether the firearm was an imitation or not. He clearly believed it was real.”

Gemma Stokes, defending, said Walker had a cocaine habit, and drug debts of £1,000. He had also recently split with his partner, sending his life on a downward spiral.

The court was also told Walker has a number of previous convictions, including for burglary and racially aggravated assault.

Judge Madge also agreed to take into consideration two other offences of burglary when cars were stolen.

Afterwards, Thievanayagam Sivarajah, who owns the store, spoke of the terror when Walker and his accomplice, who has never been identified, burst into the shop, and threatened colleague Pirasanth Nathan.

Mr Sivarajah said: “I remember two people coming into the shop at about 1pm on the Saturday.

“One of the men put a gun to Pirasanth’s head and told him to open the till. The other had a hammer and smashed one of our machines.

“They took cigarettes and alcohol, and forced us to empty the till. We were terrified.

“My wife and three children were upstairs. There was another staff member in the office, and he saw it on CCTV, and told my wife to phone the police.

“We were really scared. We could not sleep for months afterwards.

“It was lucky there were no customers in the shop, as it was very busy just a few moments before.”

Robber stayed drug free

Gemma Stokes told the court that despite having a long Class A drugs habit, he had remained clean in prison since his arrest in October.

However, despite her mitigation Judge Madge said there had been a degree of planning leading up to the offence, and he suspected Walker did not appreciate the full gravity of the offence, and the effect it had on the shopkeepers.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Vavrek a favourite at junior provincials

It’s a funny world we live in – some people’s journeys are blossoming into their paths, while others are nearing the end.

The roads travelled are unique to an individual, although shared by many. In the end, there are memories – this is an article of beginnings and a closing chapter to a storied career.


Sometimes a moment in life can seem so important, that the here and the now supersede the grander picture.

For all intents and purposes of this piece, the here and now is the Junior Men’s and Ladies Provincials at the Thistle Curling Club in Edmonton – igniting on Wednesday.

Fire will be in the eyes and bellies of local teams Daylan Vavrek of Sexsmith, Devin Burkitt of GP, Courtney Rossing of GP, and Janais DeJong of Sexsmith as they compete against the best junior teams in the province.

Daylan Vavrek is the old and wise at this level and is a co-favorite to win along side Thomas Scoffin of Edmonton.

“We are one step closer to achieving our goal,” said Vavrek. “There is no added pressure, I’m pretty laid back and feel it’s a huge advantage that this is my sixth junior provincials.”

Daylan is the real deal when it comes to curling – from my opinion he has the ability to become one of the best – love him as a person, too.

For Devin Burkitt, an argument could be made that to punch his ticket, he was on the winning side of the biggest upset these lands have seen in a long time.

Jordan Stienke of Dawson Creek was probably in the top five teams in all of Canada in the junior ranks – Devin slayed the dragon.

“It was quite exciting, the feeling was like no other,” he said.

As one of the youngest teams, it may initially be a bit of a shock to the system, however the GP boys claimed the challenge division at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites Peace Curling Tour last season – meaning they can draw from their success of the past.

“We will be a bit nervous and I’m sure we will calm down a bit once we actually get going,” said Burkitt.

On the girls’ side, Courtney Rossing will make her first trip to the provincials at this level – and will be counting on a polished resume from her juvenile and Arctic experiences to help her along the way.

“We were very focused on making provincials, so we were all extremely happy and excited to have our hard work pay off,” said Rossing. “We hope to strengthen our team and gain more experience.”

Janais DeJong is excited with the opportunity to play, as the other girls’ representative.

“The competitive curlers from here that I wanted, couldn’t commit because of time away from University and costs,” said Janais. “So, I went out in the community and got sponsorship to help find players elsewhere. I found a girl from Edmonton and one from Lloydminster, along with Jaymee, who I played with last season. Jaymee couldn’t commit originally because she was a full-time student, living on her own.

“Without the help from the community, there is no way I’d be playing. Seriously, like no way. I need to thank my title sponsor All Peace Protection (Kelly Chalmers) and supporting sponsors Tito’s restaurant, Dr. Strasdin, Sexsmith Curling Club, Mike Vavrek, Watson’s Foto Source, Kevin Chrenek, and Sean Gillis at Remax. I’m so excited to play, thank you so very much.”

DeJong was down four points, on two occasions, in her district B final and pulled off an unlikely comeback, with her last life on the line. A roller coaster story nonetheless – with an uncertain team, aided by the GP community support, mixed in with a somewhat improbable championship rally.

And lastly, I will be making my provincial coaching debut for drum roll…Janais.

So what is the grander picture in all of this? There is more opportunities and experience to come.  This is one small step in staircase of many.

Results and more can be found at and results on the following piece are at


For over 30 years the name Balderston has lit up DHT papers and local radio stations at this time of the season, stapling his mark here as the governance of men’s curling.

Kurt has dominated men’s districts giving him the distinction of most Alberta appearances by anyone in the province - ever. Four times, he was one game away from the Brier – four times he played the best team in the world (or the second best) in the final.

It has been a glorious – and sometimes devastating – journey along the way. He has beaten every big name in curling numerous times, made courageous runs at the Alberta crown, and had the crushing feeling over and over and over and over of almost touching the Brier – but not. In almost any other province, he would have become a household name in curling, nationwide.

“With this probably being the last year that Del (Shaugnessy) and I play in men’s districts, I think we want to enjoy the experience and just really relax,” said Kurt.

This story could end soon, as a total of nine men’s teams, including Balderston, are vying for two provincials spots starting tonight in Dawson Creek. Or there could be another chapter or two, with a fairy-tale ending.

There is one more twist and turn, in the here and now of this: Adam Enright, Olympic gold medallist and fifth man on Kevin Martin’s Vancouver team, will be joining Kurt at third for potentially his last run. Balderston’s long-time teammate and third Les Sonnenberg has work commitments - declining to participate on his own.

“Adam is a quality person who will fit in seamlessly and is also a talented player,” said Balderston.

Opportunities and future experiences are starting to close for this legend in the game – nonetheless, what an illustrious career, what a great person.