I’ve said before on here how fortunate I feel we are on the island to have the Gaiety Theatre, a masterpiece by architect Frank Matcham, and the Villa Marina, where the old and new were sensitively amalgamated by architect the late Ian Brown.

These places of entertainment, beautiful as they are, importantly add to our cultural experience in a diverse way.

The Gaiety, for example, is not just an historic treasure but enables our lives to be enriched as it has for generations.

It is unimaginable now to think that like so many other theatres or cinemas elsewhere it was almost lost with a fate uncertain.

We have a thriving arts community of all types on our island and the venues mentioned together with others such as the Laxey Working Men’s Institute, Peel Centenary Centre, Studio Theatre at Ballakermeen, Kings Court at King William’s College and the Erin Arts Centre which provide a stage for the performing arts and more.

We have award winning dramatic arts companies, such as the Douglas Choral Union, Manx Operatic Society, Service Players, Centre Stage Productions, Christine Wild Theatre School, Legion Players, Rushen Players, Parker and Snell, and Taylorian Productions.

I know I will have missed some for which I apologise but these are just an example of some of the opportunities for those with an interest to get involved in one of many roles required to successfully stage a production.

I must here declare an interest as my younger daughter Julie who graduated from Queen Mary’s University in London with her drama degree then went on to Aberystwyth for her teaching qualifications.

After teaching in the UK post-qualification she was appointed head of drama at Castle Rushen High School and over the years with a great team has produced a number of really good shows at school.

She herself was involved in a number of shows including at the Gaiety but her work, like so many others in the teaching profession occupies her more than fully.

Often at school or theatrical performances involving young people I notice certain individuals who stand out in their performance and I may be slightly biased but she was always one of those.

Now she is passing on her enthusiasm, work ethic and dedication to the next generation and the most recent example was at Castle Rushen, completely sold out over a four-night run of ‘Six’ teen edition.

It is a modern retelling of the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives in pop concert format.

Directed by Julie with Gareth Deakin as musical director and a very talented team of actors, ensemble, choreography, costume, set design, musicians and tech.

The performances of each one of the young actors shone out and like others in other schools will continue to ensure the quality of dramatic arts on our island.

Recently there was a much acclaimed run of ‘Young Frankenstein’ by Douglas Choral Union and coming up between March 18 and 25 the Manx Operatic Society are bringing ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ (stone) to the Gaiety.

The Easter Festival of Plays at the same venue take place between April 8 and 14 and the Manx Music Festival based at the Villa Marina between April 22 and 29.

So let’s keep supporting the arts and encouraging young people to be involved!


I’ve always been a fan of the Steam and Electric railways.

I remember as a boy on duty as a Scout at Tynwald on July 5 for the open-air ceremony travelling by steam train to St John’s and back.

I was first elected in 1985 and at that time the general manager was still Bill Jackson who had been in position since 1978.

At the time of his appointment and for some time after finances were in short supply.

In 1987 Robert Smith was appointed and some time later I was given delegated responsibility for this element of the work of the department.

In 1993 Robert together with the late Alan Corlett promoted the Year of the Railways, which was a very successful initiative.

I was chair of the Isle of Man Post Office between 1992 and 1996 and we arranged a number of ‘one-off’ special events alongside the railways which were well received.

I was Minister of Tourism and Leisure between 1996 and 2006 and, although I was party to the government restructuring which took place later which saw the department become part of what was to be a more focussed Department of Enterprise / Economic Development, I worry a little that the tourism element became less of a focus set alongside the other economic generators.

In the time since a much-enhanced programme of events on the railways has been introduced, a number of which have now become annual features for transport enthusiasts and local users.

In particular an emphasis on different concepts of food to be enjoyed on the trains has been very well received.

The built railway infrastructure has also featured in a number of film productions based on our island.

I was delighted to see the recently- announced plans for double celebrations of the railways this year.

This year sees 150 years of the Steam and 130 years of the electric railways.

Saturday, July 1, sees a Celebration of Steam to mark the official opening of the Douglas to Peel line by the Isle of Man Railway Company Ltd on July 1, 1873.

A plaque will be unveiled by Lieutenant Governor Sir John Lorimer to recognise this historic occasion.

A travelling post office will carry 100th anniversary commemorative covers to Port Erin.

The original locomotive Sutherland, which hauled the first service will be on view at Port St Mary sidings all day.

An exhibition will also take place at the station.

A commemorative dining train ‘G.H. Wood will operate with a delicious five=-course meal and interesting commentary given by the Heritage Railway volunteers.

A photographic exhibition will take place at the House of Mannanan in Peel.

Between Sundays, July 23 and 30, there will be a week-long festival of the island’s award-winning heritage railways with an absolutely packed programme.

Indeed to many events for me to cover adequately in this piece.

I will come back to look at some of the highlights nearer the time but recommended reading in the interim on www.iombusandrail.im/media/2711/iom-year-of-the-railways-2023-event-program.pdf finally on Sunday, September 10, a special commemorative day to mark 130 years of the unique Manx Electric Railway will be held.

The system first opened from Derby Castle to Groudle Glen pleasure grounds on September 7, 1893.

Another plaque, this time recognising 130 years of the MER will be unveiled by a special guest at Laxey.

There will be a number of other events including family fun and a Victorian fair with food, vintage displays and stalls at Laxey station and a good service on the railway will be available all day.

We really have much to thank our Victorian and Edwardian predecessors who were prepared to invest in so many things which remain important as part of our tourist offering today.

We should also welcome, encourage and support those who in different times today have invested into leisure activities which I will return to another time.

What do you think are the best new facilities in tourism and leisure and what would you like to see further developed?