NUJ Paris Newsletter April 2014-Editor,Design and Photography -Sam Khan – McIntyre



Minutes of NUJ Paris Branch Meeting


NUJ Delegate meeting – Eastbourne


Upcoming Events


Dear Colleagues!

Thank you for the very satisfactory attendance and support provided at the Paris branch AGM last month. I appreciate the confidence you have placed in me for another year in office as chairman of the Paris branch. As I said during the meeting on March 25, it has been a collective effort and all the members of the branch committee deserve a round of applause for the contributions they made over the past year. We also congratulate those who have just joined the committee for their commitment to the NUJ.
At the April meeting you will hear a report from myself and Karen Kissane about our attendance at the NUJ Delegate Meeting which took place at Eastbourne on 11-13 April.
I also propose to circulate details of a proposal to make a joint submission, along with our French union partners and the European federation of Journalists,  for European funding for a project involving a conference on “The rise of extremist political groups in Europe: the role of journalists in documenting this phenomenon.” I will circulate the written bid document to all members in due course.
You will note on the draft agenda we plan to undertake a thorough job of weeding through of contact lists, which include paid-up members, people who may have lapsed, and ex-members. It has been suggested that we pay somebody from branch funds a modest hourly rate to perform this task. It would involve contacting people whose status might be uncertain, to encourage them to stay in the union, or to be dropped from the register.
I welcome any comments on these or other points relating to NUJ Paris branch.
Best wishes to all,
James Overton, chair of Paris branch
mob. 0677 371785

Thiery Cerinato and Patrick Kamenka at NUJ meeting
Text Minutes of the NUJ Paris Branch meeting March 25, 2013

Present: 22 members: Jeff Apter, Chloe Baker, Michael Balter, Pat Brett, Alison Culliford, Nigel Dickenson, Natasha Edwards, Heidi Ellison, Zoe Harris, Nat Harrison, Sam Khan-McIntyre, Karen Kissane, Susan Luraschi, Gavin McIntyre, Lillian Malki, Chris Myant, Julian Nundy, James Overton (chair), Annabel Simms, Diana Smith, Pierre Tran, Mike Woods (minutes)
Apologies: 4 members: Sam Davies, Jennifer Laidlaw, Andrew Spurrier, Hugh Wheelan

Chair opens meeting at 6:47 pm

Minutes of February meeting

The following minutes were read and accepted:

“The meeting opened without quorum.

“January minutes were read and accepted with no matters arising.

“Nat Harrison and Jeff Apter reported on recent meetings at RFI to resurrect activism in the chapel there, forming partnerships with the Anglo American Press Association on seminars, supporting staff at AITV, and on general efforts to ensure the five French chapels remain active. A meeting with the BBC chapel was to happen in early March.

“Julian Elliot was voted to membership. Angus Sibley said he would draft a letter to HO asking them to be sure they forwarded all relevant information pertaining to membership applications.

“Attendees to April’s Delegate Meeting were encouraged to return their forms and to try and attend the full five days.

“It was stressed special efforts be made to ensure quorum for the branch’s annual general assembly.

“And a motion was adopted expressing support for colleagues at Reuters France who are locked into a dispute with management over funding and staffing levels.”

Matters arising: James notes he has reviewed Angus’s draft letter and would send it to HO.
Officer reports

Nat Harrison reports a branch initiative led staff at RFI to hold a productive workplace discussion ahead of a larger company meeting to discuss reforms to the English service. There was less success however with the Anglo American Press Association as there was not enough support on efforts to work together on a seminar on taxation. A meeting with the BBC chapel was still pending.

Natasha Edwards reports being in discussion of questions over freelance contracts with Barbara Casassus, namely questions over liability and the little protection offered by NUJ legal support.
Workplace reports

AITV (Lillian): an audit within France Televisions (FT) said AITV was a good and valuable service but that FT needs to cut costs; unions are making various suggestions about what to do; there is some talk of handing Africa TV coverage to AFP TV. In short, FT doesn’t know what to do with AITV and its timetable is out of sync; there is the feeling that FT wants AITV staff to accept its redundancy plan and leave as quietly as possible, but staff do not regard the terms as attractive; it’s hard to know if an official pledge to redeploy staff within the company is credible. Unions have signed a letter saying they are against the plan; management can push the plan itself, but that would lead to a legal case. The NUJ and partner unions can remain in solidarity; SNJ was to launch a strike action and hoped others could join.

RFI (Mike): the main points coming out of the meeting with management were that broadcast hours would be shuffled, that the radio would air France24 TV, and that staff would be required to work differently. The last point was not yet clear and was of concern to staff, as the management indicated it would mean producing content for radio and web and doing more translation and adaptation and less original reporting.

Chloe Baker was elected to full membership, proposed by Pierre, seconded by Heidi and approved unanimously with one abstention (from a member who entered halfway through the deliberation).
CEC report

Zoe reports the February CEC meeting discussed PM81, DM14 motions, EFJ’s independence from IFJ and the safety of journalists in Ukraine. She noted that online subs payments in euro would be tested first in Ireland before rolling out to Continental Europe.

Zoe reports the branch account held 4174 euros in Janurary, and that after about 15 euros in expenditures the current balance was 4159,84 euros.

There was 1€52 in the Livret A savings account (including 2 centimes of interest). Zoe proposed to transfer 2000 euros into it.

Zoe was looking for ways to speed up payment processes and getting around the need of two signatures.
DM attendees

James and Karen have sent delegate forms and were waiting to hear about accommodations from HO. Branch members were invited to run through the final agenda in the membership section of the website and communicate any observations to James and Karen. A message would go out as soon as possible on the Grapevine.

Alison Culliford spoke of efforts to launch World Radio Paris, an English-language radio station. It has support of the Paris region, which allocated funds to use a radio tower in Montmartre, and also raised funds with crowdfunding campaign. It will be eligible for grants once broadcasting starts. It would be a community radio, and it was not yet defined whether it was to be more informative or entertaining. It would offer training for Audacity software and microphones. There would be no advertising, but would have sponsored shows. As a non-profit venture working with volunteers, there was little union aspect, but it could be of interest to members looking for radio experience.

Alison also noted that after three years, she was stepping down as CEC rep on the Ethics Council due to not being able to attend regular meetings. The spot was open to any member in Continental Europe. The branch would inform members about the position.

Diana Smith was stepping down as Membership Lists coordinator and noted the new person would need instructions on how to clear returns, noting HO lists is different than branch list for example.

Chair closes meeting at 8:06 pm.

Summary of the NUJ Paris Branch meeting of March 25, 2013

Tues 25 March 2014Present: 20 members: Jeff Apter, Chloe Baker, Michael Balter, Pat Brett, Nigel Dickenson, Natasha Edwards, Heidi Ellison, Zoe Harris, Nat Harrison, Sam Khan-McIntyre, Karen Kissane, Susan Luraschi, Gavin McIntyre, Lillian Malki, Chris Myant, James Overton (chair), Annabel Simms, Diana Smith, Pierre Tran, Mike Woods (minutes)
Apologies: 6 members: Alison Culliford, Sam Davies, Jennifer Laidlaw, Julian Nundy, Andrew Spurrier, Hugh Wheelan
Chair opens meeting at 8:18 pm

1/ Adoption of standing orders

2/ Adoption of agenda, apologies for absence

3/ Minutes of 2013 AGM, matters arising
read and accepted

4/ Secretary’s annual report
Mike reported the branch held regular meetings as per guidelines; that there was quorum in all but one meeting and that meetings drew an average of 10 members, that guests included members of the French Press Card committee (who came on two occasions) and union VP Adam Christie, that the branch maintained its traditions of Summer and Christmas dinners and started something new with the speaker seminar in October, which had better than expected turnout and overall positive feedback from attendees.

5/ Treasurer’s annual report
Zoe was still receiving subs inquiries, but much fewer than before; she would transfer money to Livret A; and that most of the year’s work was around the speaker seminar.

6/ Freelance annual report
Natasha updated the freelancer fact pack and been trying to make contact with London for reports and to better keep informed.

7/ Other reports
Nat reported workplaces had all been contacted, visited and encouraged to keep active and that there were some positive and tangible results, especially at RFI.

8/ Chair’s annual report
James noted he has made efforts to build links with French unions since NUJ does not have many negotiating rights in French workplaces and hoped the branch agrees partnerships have gone well; that he has made effort to get everyone to weigh in on the speaker seminar, inspired to carry on with future seminars; and that he tried to be active in terms of drafting DM motions. He thanked committee members for their work.
9/ Election of executive officers and branch committee

The following positions were elected (member, nominator, seconder, voting results):

Vice Chair – Chris Myant (Annabel, Jeff, voted unanimously)
Chair – James Overton (Jeff, Mike, voted unanimously)
Membership Secretary – Angus Sibley (James, Nat, voted unanimously)
Freelance Officer – Natasha Edwards (Jeff, Susan, voted unanimously)
Welfare and Equality officer – Susan Luraschi (James, Pat, voted unanimously)
Recruitment and Retention – Nat Harrison (Jeff, Heidi, voted unanimously) (Nat noted he would be leaving Paris on September 1 but would do the job until then)
Secretary – Mike Woods (Jeff, Zoe, voted unanimously)
Treasurer – Zoe Harris (James, Mike, voted unanimously)
Membership List coordinator – Susan Luraschi (Diana, Chris, voted unanimously)
Grapevine Coordinator – Jennifer Laidlaw (Mike, Pierre, voted unanimously)
Newsletter Editor – There were no nominees. Jeff Apter noted he would be willing to help anyone willing to do it and offered to do April issue if chair pledged to find someone for May. Sam Khan-McIntyre offered to take up the task if she relocates to Paris.
French Labour Law – no election; not required. Jeff, Nat and Pierre would be available for consultation.
Books – no election; not required
Auditor – George Kandalaft and Steven Dibiasio
Roaming Officer (if required) – no election; not required
10/ Any other business

Chair closes meeting at 8:51 pm.


By a narrow majority, the NUJ Delegate Meeting in Eastbourne earlier this month decided to scrap elections for the position of Deputy General Secretary.  The conference was able to do this because the previous holder of this post, Barry Fitzpatrick, quit his job at the end of last year.

The measure will result in significant cost savings for the union.

The union leadership produced a detailed and convincing review of the position which suggested an appointed DGS would be more efficient.

The report revealed that conflicts had arisen in past years between the General secretary and the Deputy, whose role has been ill-defined in the union statutes.  It was stressed that today, it is absolutely essential for the DGS to be active as an organiser in one of the union’s industrial sectors.  In other words, the union can not afford the luxury of having two top managers. Fitzpatrick himself fulfilled this requirement, being the chief organiser for national newspapers.

The conference was told that in the past, union members sometimes elected a candidate with no organizing experience – a serious disadvantage.

The change puts the NUJ in line with practice with other UK trade unions, the majority of which have appointed deputy General Secretaries.

NUJ Paris delegate Karen Kissane spoke in this debate, backing General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet’s advocacy of the reform.

Opponents of the measure argued vociferously that the change risked being anti-democratic. With just the GS and the editor of the union’s magazine “The Journalist” elected, there will be only two officers chosen by the membership.

Meanwhile NUJ Paris delegation withdrew its motion proposing that the editor of the “Journalist” should no longer be an elected position. We took the view that our resolution had been overtaken by events.

The incumbent “Journalist” editor faces re-election later this year. Conference voted to tighten up the job description for the holder of this position.


Little time was left for debate on motions in the “International” section of the conference agenda, which was scheduled for the final Sunday morning session.

A motion put forward by Paris, supporting NUJ members at France Television’s AITV newsroom, was not debated and was remitted to the National Executive Council to attend to.


The new co-presidents of the NUJ are Adam Christie and Andy Smith who are operating a job-share method of doing the job. Smith comes from the book sector of the union while Christie, well known to Paris branch, is a freelance writer and editor based in Leeds.

The president chairs the union’s ruling National Executive Committee.



So, the Pitch & Deal training course is now going ahead in Brussels, and

will be at the IFJ offices on Saturday 26th April 2014.

NB. Note that because this is a role-playing course, numbers are
extremely limited. There is a meximum of 16 people, and we have five
takers in Brussels branch already. So if you know anyone who is
interested then they are advised to book (and pay) immediately.

If we are actually swamped with demand and have to start a wait-list,
then there is the possibility of having a second day on the Sunday for
another 16 people. But this is not guaranteed and will depend on
numbers, as course tutor fees have to be paid accordingly.

For the first day the original intention was to reserve 10 places for
members and 6 for non-members. But with 5 booked already it may be a
case of first come first served (members first of course).

Also please note that, if we have enough people booking from Paris and
Amsterdam, we may be able to adjust the start time slightly to account
for trains.

Look forward to seeing you on the 26th April

Best regards

+32 2 687 2177+32 2 687 2177
+32 484 361336+32 484 361336 (mob)


Completion of Coast-to-Coast Swim in Aid of Cancer Battle Sam & Gavin Khan-McIntyre-East Lothian Courier


The first swim across Scotland from Loch Laxford to Bonar Bridge was completed yesterday by Christine Howson 58, and Saartje Drijver 47, from East Lothian. They raised  upwards of £4,000 for charities Water Aid and Maggies Cancer. This latter is dear to Christine’s heart as she is currently in remission from ovarian cancer. The completion of the 85 km swim sees Christine back in fighting form after previous chemotherapy.

Both Christine and Saartje were glowing with big smiles as they were given a helping hand out of the water at Bonar Bridge, after concluding the second leg of 25 km over 4 days from Loch Shin to Bonar Bridge. Despite dripping and shivering in their wetsuits, they enjoyed the applause and welcome ashore, happily posing for photographs in front of a  banner of congratulations with the team of family and friends.


After they had changed out of their gear, and got warm, they were glad to talk about their experience. Said Christine that she was “on a high”, and “buzzing”, and will be for the next few days. “People think we’re mad” said Christine, referring to the unusual feat.

On Monday, they had just swam the final 8 km in 3 hours, (with breaks) and finished close to two pm, an hour ahead of schedule. Christine said:- “We thought we’d finish at three”. This leg took four days, after a previous four- day stint in August. (This was the first coast to coast swim via this route, although a previous one on a different route is said to have taken place).

Christine said the final 100 yard  stretch had been the hardest, they had received a kick to get going from Ian, Christine’s husband. She said she had “chickened out” in some parts, and walked, because the water had been “hairy scary” with rapids and high waves.

Motorboat safety Kenny Campbell confirmed the roughweather, and with his local knowledge had guided them safely around the scary and dangerous sections  of the waters.

She said the swim had opened her eyes to the beauty of the area, and many special places, and said:- “like the [beer] advert, touched parts that others don’t touch”, a kind of “secret Scotland”.

The existence of ghillies and water baillifs are a part of Scotland the pair have never come across previously, and they agreed that “the local people :-  “seemed fantastic” and very helpful. Kenny Campbell the local water baillif who keeps an eye on fishing permits and helps fishermen, escorted them through the waters on the safety boat. He pointed out dangerous sections to avoid, due to his local knowledge. He said:- ” They did really well, the conditions were really rough”

Saartje Drijver and Kenny Campbell

Ghillie Robbie Elliot whose job is to look after the fishermen and whose  bosses Robbie and Andrew Douglas Miller own the Shin said: he “was giving them pointers” for example through his knowledge of the “dangerous rapids” which he told them to avoid.

Luckily, the weather which had been a major concern had held and the storm forecast had not arisen. In which case they would have had to postpone and said Christine that it would have been extremely difficult to get the team together on a weekend that suited many different schedules. The organisation of the whole event said Christine had been very difficult, and although they do have ideas for future ventures they would like to keep them simple and therefore easier to organise.

It  was a real achievement and an enjoyable experience for both Christine and Saartje, who met 13 years ago through East Lothian Triathlon Club. With respect to Christine’s cancer, it is difficult for her and her family to understand why it occurred due to all the “fitness and clean living”. She said her sisters Judith and Mary (Howson) as a result see “no logic in this and joke about it”.

Cancer Won’t Stop Coast Swim Challenge

East Lothian Courier

Cancer won’t stop coast swim challenge

Sam Khan-McIntyre


  Published: 22 Aug 2013 10:00

A COUNTY woman who has twice battled cancer and expects the disease to return has told how she took part in a “foolish” swimming challenge – and will return to the north of Scotland for more next month.

Christine and Saartje

A COUNTY woman who has twice battled cancer and expects the disease to return has told how she took part in a “foolish” swimming challenge – and will return to the north of Scotland for more next month.

Christine Howson, 58, of Ormiston, and friend Saartje Drijver, 47, of North Berwick, have completed 60 kilometres of an 85km charity swim and cycle through the waters between Loch Laxford on the west coast of the Highlands and Bonar Bridge in the east.

Christine admitted that she wanted to do the challenge now as she cannot plan too far ahead.

Though she is in remission, her disease has been classed as terminal – with medics believing her ovarian cancer will return in the future.

But there is no indication as to when that could be, and she could stay in remission for several years.

The duo completed the first leg of their swim – cycling between waterways – between August 8 and 11 before returning due to work and family commitments.

They will go back north to complete the remaining 25km between September 13 and 16.

Christine, of Main Street, told the Courier: “I, for a long time, thought it would not be possible.

“It seemed a good time, and I didn’t know how long I would be fit for it – they call it terminal and they’re expecting it back at any moment – so it was important to do it this year because I can’t plan that far ahead.

“I have a very short life expectancy so I live life to the full.”

Christine first suffered from ovarian cancer in 2006, but went into remission after treatment.

However, the disease returned in 2011 and is in remission for a second time. Christine continues to be on medication.

The marine biologist finally felt strong enough in the spring to start training for the challenge she had first dreamt up two years ago, saying: “It’s given me a target and a focus.”

The two women believe they are the first to do a coast-to-coast swim via this route.

The pair are experienced swimmers; Christine is a coach at Tranent Amateur Swimming Club while Saartje coaches at North Berwick Swimming Club.

“Maybe others could do it quicker, but we were the first,” said Christine. “It’s a personal challenge.”

She described the swim as “a real achievement – brave, foolish really, but it was fun”.

The first leg, between Loch Laxford and Loch Shin, lasted four days. During this they swam one or two-hour stints with two-hour breaks in between, a total of six hours’ swimming a day.

The swim covered nearly 48km, with 13 km cycled.

The final section will see them go through dams at Lairg to the River Shin and on to the Kyle of Sutherland.

A motorboat followed the pair during the journey for safety and they were supported by a seven-strong team of friends and family, including Christine’s son Tim Dixon, husband Ian Dixon, and Saartje’s partner Pete Younger.

In aid of Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres and WaterAid, the swim has raised more than £3,000.

To sponsor the duo, visit

– See more at:

Giant Chess Arrives in the Meadows

By Sam Khan-McIntyre. Published in Edinburgh Reporter on 18 April 2013 in Edinburgh Reporter.


giant chess

The appearance of a Giant Chess set on the Meadows in Edinburgh this summer should enable children to enjoy the ancient game in the fresh air, whilst also promoting essential life skills, according to those behind the project.

It has been organised by Jason Kouchak, an acclaimed classical musician and contributor to public projects, whose vision is to set up giant chess sets in major capital cities. The children involved in the Holland Park giant chess in London which Kouchak organised two years ago, have so far participated in national competitions with local English schools, and Kouchak wants to take it further hoping that Edinburgh will play against London. The idea is to organise international competitions, with a giant game being launched in Paris in October.

Kouchak believes the importance of chess is that it teaches skills which are increasingly needed in an age of computer games. He said: – “The value is to inspire, inform, educate and entertain them.   Focus, concentration, etiquette, and issues of respect, all improve as the players work together to teach each other and set up the pieces.  The game of chess has great interactive value, and there is no interaction when they’re on the computer.”

Sciennes Primary, which is close to The Meadows has been involved in the project as a result of their chess club, and pupils were present at the launch, although the ceremony was cut short due to the sudden bad weather.

Kouchak, himself a chess player, and friends with Viswanathan Anand, the Indian chess Grandmaster and the current World Chess Champion, received permission from The Scottish Government and the council to set up the project in The Meadows.

He provided the giant chess pieces himself, with the City Council supplying the paved squares. The huge chessboard will be painted twice a year, and park rangers will set up the pieces and put them away at the end of the day.Tuition is also being arranged with the involvement of Scottish grand masters, but is yet to be finalised.

The game is suitable for ages of 7 and upwards. Adults are welcome to take part, and also encouraged to supervise the children, and it is aimed at all levels of skill. There is no charge for participation.

More information on the project can be found here.

Scotish Seabird Centre Creates its Own “People’s Big Five”.

Published in Edinburgh Reporter, 4 April 2013, by Sam Khan-McIntyre
puffin 1

The absence of iconic and much loved puffins from the nation’s Big Five initiative has prompted the Scottish Seabird Centre to create its own unofficial People’s Big Five list, and they are encouraging the public to vote for their favourite Scottish Wildlife species.

This new list aims to create a more representative version of Scotland’s iconic species, as the Centre, in North Berwick,  feels the Big Five List, created by Scottish Natural Heritage, and VisitScotland, is not representative of the country’s wildlife.

Their list naturally includes seabirds, which were not included, as well as grey seals, whales and dolphins.  The centre wants to redress the balance, although it supports the Big Five initiative, and its aims of  spreading awareness of our wildlife.

Tom Brock OBE, CEO of the Scottish Seabird Centre, said:- “It is absurd that the Big Five should omit our iconic seabirds, notably the much-loved puffin. Scotland’s seabirds are of international importance: Scotland is home to almost half (45%) of all of Europe’s seabirds and over 60% of the world’s North Atlantic gannets nests in Scotland. To exclude all seabirds from the Big Five defies logic.

“Many visitors to Scotland, both from the UK and overseas, are drawn here to experience the beauty and wonder of our amazing wildlife. For many people an encounter with a puffin or dolphin can be nothing short of a deeply emotional experience, leaving impressions that last a lifetime. The puffin is one of Scotland’s most iconic birds and engenders a level of public affection that is unrivalled. Puffins are of major environmental and economic importance and can be seen all around Scotland’s coasts. They are one of the “stars” of Scotland’s natural world and our increasingly important wildlife tourism industry which raises awareness of Scotland’s wildlife and helps to support rural communities.”

Visitors, staff and volunteers at the award-winning Centre in North Berwick are watching eagerly on their live interactive cameras for the imminent landing of the first puffin of 2013 on the Firth of Forth islands. This key sighting is always a significant milestone in the annual wildlife calendar, but this year has added significance due to the distressing “puffin wreck” of recent days. The discovery of hundreds of seabird corpses including puffins, guillemots and razorbills along the entire length of the east coast has been extremely upsetting and is of a major concern. While the reasons are not entirely clear, the extreme weather conditions are undoubtedly a contributing factor. Many seabirds including puffins have been suffering a decline in numbers in many parts of Scotland in recent years. It is thought that food shortages as a result of climate change, a legacy of overfishing and changing sea temperatures could all be  contributing factors.

Brock added:- “The gaping absence of the puffin from the Big Five is deeply regrettable and extremely disappointing. This is a missed opportunity to highlight a species that is loved by many but is now in trouble. The Big Five announcement should have been used to recognise the importance of this wonderful bird and to raise public awareness that it needs our help to survive. I am truly appalled that this iconic seabird has been entirely missed off the “official” list.

“So we’re out to redress the balance. We now encourage all members of the public to tell us what species they believe ought to feature in our “People’s Big Five” – our own unofficial list, a Big Five that truly represents Scotland’s most iconic and best-loved animals.”

The public are encouraged to vote for their favourite species by emailing the Scottish Seabird Centre at, stating which animal they think should represent Scotland’s wildlife, and captures its essence. Votes can also be cast in person at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick.

The public are also encouraged to debate the “People’s Big Five” on the centre’s Facebook page at and on Twitter @SeabirdCentre using the hashtag #peoplesbigfive.

Voters have until 31 May 2013 to cast their votes. The “People’s Big Five” will be announced at the Start of June. The overall winner of the votes will be announced on 21 June 2013 at a special event at the Seabird Centre.

Dads Rock, One Year On

February 27, 2013 by Sam & Gavin  Khan-McIntyre. ·Published in Edinburgh Reporter.


Dads Rock celebrated their first birthday last weekend.dads rock 2

The name ‘Dads Rock’ may conjure up various images, including pink candy, but according to David Marshall it is the perfect term for the only children’s playgroups aimed at fathers. The name he says is a take on the Queen song ‘We Will Rock You’, as well as the fact that he believes dads are the rock of any family.

Fostering the creative expression of children through music (especially rock) the toddlers’ group was set up by Marshall along with his friend, Thomas Lynch, and the group celebrated its first anniversary on 23 February 2013 at The Whale Arts Centre, Wester Hailes.

David said:- “I am over the moon at our success. We didn’t believe we’d be here for a year, never mind have two groups!”

Dads Rock is going from strength to strength with plans for other centres underway, including one in Glasgow.

The event on Saturday, complete with all the noise of small children running about, incorporated a film montage of some of the toddlers at the group, a birthday cake the size of a giant watermelon, and the centrepiece of a shiny new bright red electric guitar donated for the party by the instrument retailer Guitar, Guitar, Corstorphine Road, of which Thomas and David were particularly proud.

dads rock 3

The evening also included a photographic exhibition of some of the fathers and children who use the group. This was previously exhibited at the Scottish Parliament, which says Thomas, are enthusiastic supporters due to research into fatherhood:- “Parliament are quite keen to give funding as it’s one of their strategies to give funding to dads.” He added:-”MSPs have also been supporters, for instance local MSP Gordon McDonald is on our board of trustees. The group is also funded by the National Lottery, and is aiming for charitable status. All this means that we can provide our services free of charge.Once you start charging you’re changing the culture.”

Thomas added:-”We are capturing dads who work, as they don’t get much time with their children, but we really have a mix of people…lots of Polish parents coming, as well as local dads’.

One of the Polish dads attending was Filip Stephen, with daughter Tessia, who is an old friend of the organisers. The group’s importance for him is being able to spend quality time with his three year old. He said:-”We bonded better than before. It has improved the daughter-father relationship…because I’m a working father it’s only us for a few hours.”

Other positive factors for him are the friendship networks with other dads, as he said:-”I’m not an Edinburgh- born person, so this allows me to talk about children and how we deal with them and the issues involved.” This is important for him as the prevalence of the usual ‘mummy groups’ meant that he ‘felt isolated as a guy’.

This was a an issue Thomas and David aimed to addresdads rocks. They started the group with this in mind:-”We didn’t know a place for dads to go because some playgroups are full of mothers and that can be a bit intimidating for dads. Here dads come and talk about being dads…and get the space to do that.”

As to the children, Filip says his daughter has flourished, overcoming her shyness of strangers:- “Here she is always singing and playing instruments, and expressing herself, and coming here leaves lots of room for mum.”

Thomas agrees with this:- “We sell it to mum as a break for them, and mums are really great supporters.”

One of those mothers is Sandra Thomson, mother to Riley Keogh who is 2. She said:-”The group means I get time in the mornings …to relax. It enables my husband David to have an opportunity to bond with our son, which a father has to work at in a different way to mum, through time spent together. I feel it has given both father and son increased confidence, and seeing them content together has in turn given me confidence. Dads Rock is a good influence in our lives.”

Dads Rock Groups are located at:

The Prentice Centre, Granton Mains Avenue, EH4 4GA

Gate 55, Sighthill Road, Edinburgh EH11 4PB

Time: Saturday mornings, 10-11.30am. Suitable for 0-5 years of age.

More information can be found on the Dads Rock Facebook page

Get into the spirit:15 ways to get involved in Halloween across Scotland


A play based on Julia Davidson's Room on a Broom is one of the highlights of this Halloween.A play based on Julia Davidson’s Room on a Broom is one of the highlights of this Halloween.Link:

Published on Monday 29 October 2012 19:12

Struggling to think of things to do for Halloween tomorrow night? We’ve compiled a list of 15 events to keep things spooky for you and your children.

• HALLOWEEN TEA PARTY, HADDO HOUSE, ELLON. 4.30-6pm and 6.30-8pm

Griselda hosts her annual Halloween tea party at this National Trust for Scotland property. Be prepared for some ghouls, ghosties and bumps in the night. Suitable for 6-12 years. Children should come in costume (adults are welcome to dress up too).

PRICES: £9.50 per child, including one free adult. Additional adults £9.50 per person

FURTHER INFORMATION: 0844 493 2179 or visit


Samhain, or the traditional celtic new year, will be ushered in at Halloween through a performance of music and dance, puppets and fire all to the beat of drums. A parade by the Beltane Fire Society will start on Johnstone Terrace and continue down the Royal Mile, towards the stage area at Parliament Square.

PRICES: Free but donations are welcome.



Evening guided ghost walk in the jungle garden of this National Trust for Scotland property. Billed as “a family fun and fright night”. Children are encouraged to come in costume. Watch out for the scariest thing of all… the staff will all be dressed up. Numbers are limited so booking is essential.

PRICES: Adult £3, child £4, family £10, concessions £3

FURTHER INFORMATION: 0844 4932207 or visit


Led by three real-life paranormal investigators, all with their unique style of storytelling, you will trawl the hidden closes and vennels of dark Dumfries, learning about its grisly ghoulish past. Get into the spirit and create a creepy pumpkin or classic tumshie lantern to add an eerie glow to the proceedings. A prize will be awarded for the best character along the theme of “Ghosts, Ghouls, Murder & Witchcraft” (fancy dress optional).

PRICES: Adult £7, children under 16 £5, OAPs and students (upon production of a valid Student ID card) £5. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Family ticket (based on 2 adults and up to 3 children) £19

FURTHER INFORMATION: 07791 047835 or 07912 145865, or visit


Magician Renz (pictured) uses his psychological trickery for an evening of entertainment in a “haunted” hotel. Three-course meal, followed by an intimate audience show. Over 14s only.

PRICES: Tickets £24 (includes three-course meal).

FURTHER INFORMATION: 0141 552 3519 or visit and


This workshop gently introduces youngsters (aged 7–12) to the scary side of animation, packed with witches, wizards, ghosts and ghouls. Come dressed up as something spooky. Admission price includes a DVD of the finished piece of work.

PRICE: £10.

FURTHER INFORMATION: 01721 725777 or visit


An evening of Halloween delights, with arts and crafts followed by a spooky parade through the streets of New Galloway. Then there’s an especially scary disco and a screening of short ghost stories made by local teenagers.


FURTHER INFORMATION: 01644 420374 or visit


Kids age 5 to 12 can travel by tractor from the visitor centre along thespooky path to the House of Horrors. Then later on, a candlelight tour at 7pm takes in the secret staircases and hidden entrances around Mount Stuart.

PRICES: Kids event: £4. Later event £15.


• NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, THE GORDON HIGHLANDERS’ MUSEUM, ABERDEEN. 7-7.30pm, 7.40-8.10pm, 8.20-8.50pm, 9-9.30pm

Visit the museum after dark, but don’t be shocked if things come alive! There are drop-in events throughout the evening and a fancy dress competition. Suitable for ages 5 and over.

PRICES: Adults £7.50, children £5. Booking essential

FURTHER INFORMATION: 01224 311200 or visit


“Frighteningly good fun” in this spooky show to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, jam packed full of humour, song and dance.

PRICES: Adults £14, children £10.

FURTHER INFORMATION: 01506 777666 or visit


Ghouly food and drink, a prize for the best fancy-dressed child, and plenty of activities to enjoy, what a great way for your children to celebrate Halloween.

PRICE: £7.95 per child. Advance booking is required.

FURTHER INFORMATION: 0131 663 1941 or go to


Examining the lives of those who met their bloody end at the noose, the tour reveals how some, even after death, did not rest in peace. The tour starts at the Mercat Cross on the High Street, and finishes at Canongate graveyard.

PRICES: £10 adults, £8 concession, £5 child, £25 family.

FURTHER INFORMATION: 0131 225 5445 or go to


A spooky night-time adventure on the High Wire Adventure ropes courses, lit up by candles, glowsticks and torches. Height and weight restrictions apply on the High Wire Adventure.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Call in advance for prices on 01397 705825, and for further information visit


Tales of the strange and the unexpected with Owen Pilgrim, with spooky snacks for added chills. Come in fancy dress. Ages 8 plus.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Call venue first to confirm details on 0131 – 557 2479.


Children will watch a performance of the bestselling book by Julia Donaldson, Room on a Broom, by Scottish actor Tam Dean Burn.


FURTHER INFORMATION: 07762029663 or go to

Loch Ness Wheelchairathon

Originally published on The Scottish Field, on 22 October 2012. Link.

Authors: Sam & Gavin Khan-McIntyre
It’s not very often that you see a wheelchair getting pushed for 26 miles at high speed, but that is exactly the challenge Katherine Herriot Maitland and Poppy Baggot successfully undertook last month.

Kat, from Perthshire, was pushed in the Loch Ness marathon in her specially-designed wheelchair, affectionately known as Floss. Poppy and Kat completed the course in only 4hrs, 45 minutes in aid of Edinburgh Charity Headway, which rehabilitates those with head injuries. The race was a remarkable achievement especially because Kat is currently unable to walk, she said ‘Poppy ran like a machine and it is great being pushed at a running pace when you can’t even walk.

‘The race was fun’ she says, even though the other runners sounded like ‘Darth Vader’ through the ear she can still hear with.

Kat, who lives with her husband Jamie and two year- old son Louis in Errol, suffered from a stroke like seizure two years ago, which has affected her balance and therefore left her unable to walk more than a few paces. Her eyesight and hearing were also affected. However, she is determined to live a full life and to contribute to charity. Watching the Paralympics was also a major motivator.

There was some preparation involved for Kat, she was prescribed exercises and training was involved, she says she ultimately ‘trusted Poppy, and her experience’, as she had run three previous marathons. She adds she ‘just turned up in her ski suit and balaclava’ ready to go.

The chair was made from a recycled bicycle and designed by Dr Geoff Bardsley, a clinical scientist. Kat and Poppy were sponsored by Bonhams, Randox, and CKD Galbraith.

A large amount of money was raised for Headway. At the time of writing, cheques are still coming in so the total amount had not yet been calculated.


Cancer won’t halt her life in the fast lane

Article written for the East Lothian Courier

Published 19 Apr 2012 09:25  (Link)

By Sam Berkeley and Sam Khan-McIntyre

Not for Photosales


 KAYE and husband Mark with their bikes. She leaves all the maintenance to him.


Being diagnosed with cancer would floor anyone, but not motorcycle racer Kaye Hewins. 

For just days after finding out she had the disease, the 49-year-old strapped on her helmet and leathers and roared around East Fortune’s track on her racing debut.

Watching husband Mark, 51, begin his own racing career in 2010 proved the inspiration for Kaye to give the sport a try, and even hours of chemotherapy were not enough to keep her out the saddle.

Now, having defeated her breast cancer, Kaye raced against her husband for the first time at the county circuit at the weekend, after he transferred to the Post Classics Junior class she takes part this season.

The pair, who run graphic design consultancy firm Creative Link on North Berwick’s Quality Street, put in some good performances across the five meetings, with Kaye managing a highest finish of eighth, just behind her husband, who finished seventh.

“It was a good weekend, with lots of wee battles on the track,” said Kaye. “I managed to briefly overtake Mark for about half a lap and then he got me back!

“This was our first weekend racing each other now we’ve both got the same bike [the Honda NC24 400cc].

“It was excellent fun, I’ve actually got faster this year so I was in the mix with everyone else. I’ll try to finish above my husband in some races this year but I don’t think he’ll let me! There would probably be hell to pay if I did!”

But Kaye’s battles on the racetrack pale in comparison with the battle she faced against cancer last year.

Diagnosed on April 13, she soon faced operations in May and June, chemotherapy from July until October and then radiotherapy until December 23.

The diagnosis came less than a month after Kaye had secured a racing licence for that season, but it was not enough to stop her from taking part in the action.

“The first race was the weekend after I was diagnosed and I was going to cancel it, but then I thought ‘Why should I? I feel fine,'” she said.

“I wasn’t feeling ill and the racing certainly helped take my mind off the cancer rather than worrying about it.

“Why should it stop me doing what I want to do?

“Chemo-therapy was quite tough, you feel ill and then you lose your hair so it’s not pleasant, but racing certainly helped me through.

“The tiredness was the worst thing; that was what got me a lot of the time. But doing races helped me feel better. I aim now to live life to the full and get on with it.”

The couple, who stay on the Balgone Estate south of North Berwick, bought their first motorbike in 2004 when Mark started riding.

When he started racing in 2010, Kaye was inspired to give it a try and says she was “bitten by the bug”, taking part in 15 races before the weekend’s meeting. Mark handles all the mechanical side of racing bikes and Kaye says she “couldn’t do it without him”.

She is one of only a handful of female racers at the East Fortune track, many of the other racers being in their teens.

“They probably think we’re mad,” she said. “My friends think I’m mad too but my stepdaughter thinks it’s great!”

She’s set to race again in July.

“One aim is to improve my lap times and get faster,” she said. “If I start winning then I’ll carry on.”