In this week’s column, former member of Tynwald David Cretney talks live music, big city problems and camping out for charity...

I had a long weekend in Birmingham recently. Having had a big number birthday in January I am determined to take in as much live music and entertainment as possible this year as a real treat. In Birmingham I attended the Drifters musical at the Hippodrome Theatre which featured most of their top hits, the next night it was Peter Kay at the Utilita Arena someone I have waited a long time to see and it was certainly worth the wait, on the final evening Jethro Tull at the Symphony Hall. So as you will recognise I have quite a broad taste in entertainment. I have no idea why but at Peter Kay the queues for the male toilets at the interval were as long as, if not longer than those for the ladies. I don’t think it was an age profile thing more likely the full house which was noticeable when leaving the venue at the end with many thousands of happy customers being funnelled away from the show. It is 12 years since Peter Kay last took on an arena tour but it must take some stamina night after night doing the whole performance single handed. I think generally it has to be tougher for comedians to make it in the industry, starting in small clubs where you are fair bait to the audience who will show their disapproval if the performer is not up to scratch unlike a more forgiving crowd at most musical events. For me the best comedians are those who reflect real life situations and Peter Kay is certainly an expert at that.

Whilst I enjoy a visit to a big city, usually Birmingham or Manchester in my case, both of which I have a fair idea about getting around one thing I do not enjoy is the very visible poverty and homelessness. In the street outside Primark I was touched by a certain irony and let me say here I am a big proponent of free speech, but not hate speech, but in close proximity to each other there were three groups one proclaiming the wisdom of Allah, one offering Bibles as an answer to anyone who wanted things to be better and a third where several individuals were loudly rehearsing passages from the Bible to anyone who had the time to listen and wished to be saved. across the street an ex-serviceman with only one lower limb held out a plastic coffee cup for change and others slept in shop doorways or huddled next to their dog both with pained sad faces. I really do not subscribe to this as a chosen lifestyle for the majority as peddled by some. I always find Birmingham a few degrees colder than home and this life is a harsh alternative for those involved. This ‘Big Issue’ shows little sign of improvement, indeed the opposite appears to be the case presently. In part the financially broken local authority must hold some responsibility and there are a number of charitable organisations fighting to minimise the misery with humanitarian assistance but this appears to be a UK wide problem particularly in the big cities and perhaps as such a nationwide policy is needed at government level.

Peel Castle
Peel Castle, where the sleepover will take place (-)

I know how just one night in the open air can be draining. In May 2022 I was one of over 70 volunteers to sleep outside in a sleeping bag with no tent for ‘Breast Cancer Now’ charity. It was very cold and the mist swirled around on the top of Snaefell, trying to get comfortable on the hard surface whilst covering as much of my body with the bag as I could was a challenge and very little sleep was had. The Isle of Man Civil Defence volunteers were on hand for any emergencies and also made sure hot drinks were available through the night. From time to time it was necessary to make my way to the summit cafe to try and get some warmth back in my bones before venturing back to my sleeping bag. At about 7am in the morning I was one of the first to leave the mountain to head for home with a clear decision that this was to be a ‘one off’ experience … putting it frankly never again! On that occasion the Governor Sir John Lorimer and his wife Lady Philippa were amongst the brave fundraisers and clearly their military background made them eminently better equipped than myself!

A couple of months ago I was told that the charity challenge for 2024 for ‘Breast Cancer Now’ was to sleep outside, without a tent in the grounds of Peel Castle overnight again and I was persuaded, against my better judgement by my daughter Sarah that we should jointly participate. Along with many other ‘volunteers’ the Lorimer’s have signed up again and it can’t be as bad as Snaefell … can it? The stories of Peel Castle being haunted can’t be true …. can they? Perhaps I should bring Rosie and Ted (my two wire haired fox terriers) along to scare off the Moddey Dhoo? The event takes place on Saturday May 4th and we have been raising funds since we signed up on a ‘Go Fund Me page’ and despite the present challenging financial climate we have been touched by the generosity of so many Manx residents to this ‘online platform’. Last time I wrote a number of letters seeking support, no matter how small, every pound counts, but I haven’t done so this time. So please if any reader feels they could make any financial contribution to our efforts for this very important charity we would be most grateful. Contact me on 07624333974. or [email protected] or by post to 12 Manor Drive, Farmhill, Douglas, IM2 2PA … thank you.

Peel castle sleepover poster
Peel castle sleepover poster (-)

Whilst in Birmingham it is clear that the UK general election is on the horizon and sadly even at this level politics has moved away from policy choices to personality attacks. One subject that it appears both the main political parties are reluctant to discuss is anything to do with Brexit. It is history now but to me such a major constitutional change should have depended on more than a simple majority vote. Anyway the thing that made me prick up my ears was the suggested Youth Mobility Scheme which would allow Europeans aged 18 to 30 to come to the UK for up to four years to work, travel and study. The reverse would also apply. Now what happens in the UK is obviously a matter for their government or any future administration but I am acutely aware of the impact Brexit had on Europeans who at the time were working in the Isle of Man. We have been made vividly aware of the real difficulties faced by leisure and hospitality in terms of obtaining the staff they require and it seems to me that such a scheme has the potential to help alleviate the challenges faced by the sector. My experience in the past was certainly a positive one when it came to the work ethic and attitude of those who worked here but who decided they reluctantly had to leave. Surely this matter is one worthy of further discussion?