Byron festival finale

HAILED as a symbol of faith and hope, an Armenian stone cross has been put up on an outside wall of Hucknall Parish Church tower.

The cross, known as a khachkar, was dedicated on Sunday as a climax to the seventh International Byron Festival.

It marks a friendship agreement between Hucknall's Holgate Comprehensive School and the Lord Byron School in Armenia.

The ceremony ensured that the ten-day festiival finished on a high note after a series of disappointments.

No fewer than six of the 33 scheduled events proved non-starters for various reasons.

Co-organiser Maureen Crisp said it was a big setback that those festival mainstays, actor Ian Frost and playwright Bill Studdiford, could not take part this year because Bill suffered a freak accident.

"But the second weekend of the festival, which involved Armenian visitors, was an important feature and I am pleased that it went extremely well," said Maureen.

The khachkar was formerly in the quadrangle at Holgate School but was broken into two by vandals.

The ceremony was in memory of former Hucknall rector Canon Fred Green, who wanted the act of damage to be seen as a strengthening of faith.

Special guests at the service included the Armenian Ambassador to Britain, Dr Vahe Gabrielian, and the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, Henry Machin.

The khachkar was given to Holgate as a symbol of gratitude for the support Britain gave to Armenia after a devastating earthquake in 1988, particularly the building of the Lord Byron School in Gumryi.

It was vandalised four years ago – possibly by football hooligans who might have mistaken Armenia for Albania at the time of the Euro 2000 tournament.

But it has now been replaced at Holgate by another khachkar made by the same stonemason in Armenia.

Holgate deputy head teacher Tina Brace said Armenia had a tragic past and, in the last two decades, it had been ravaged by the earthquake, war and economic collapse.

"But these setbacks have not crushed the spirit of the people, who remain determined to overcome their difficulties," she added.

Lillit Hovsepian, who was formerly a schoolteacher in Gumryi and now lives in Moscow, also spoke at the service.

Tears filled her eyes as she recalled the death and devastation wrought by the earthquake.

Before the Lord Byron School was built, pupils were having to be taught in a tent with just a stove to keep them warm in freezing winter weather.

The new school is so popular that, although it was built to cater for 400 pupils, it is teaching 1,400 children in three shifts from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm from Mondays to Saturdays.

it was a "wonderful occasion" when Margaret Thatcher visited Armenia to open the new school, said Lillit. She added: "The link with Holgate has made us realise we are not alone in the world."

During the service, which was conducted by rector the Rev Linda Church, Shakeh Avanessian danced a Gumryi prayer and Haikuhy Harutyunyan, of the Lord Byron School, sang the Lord's Prayer in Armenian.

The Holgate wind ensemble also took part and there were readings from Newstead Abbey Byron Society chairman Ken Purslow and society member Pamela Lewis.

Wreaths were laid at Byron's tomb by the Armenian Ambassador, the High Sheriff, Shakeh, Haikuhy, Notts County Council chairman Coun Nellie Smedley (Lab), Ashfield District Council chairman Coun May Barsby (Lab),representatives of Holgate and Lord Byron schools, and Maureen Crisp on behalf of the International Byron Society. There was also a candle-lighting ceremony.

New name for community centre

HUCKNALL Community Centre – described as "the heartbeat of the town" for nearly a century – has been given a new name.

A ceremony to rename the Ogle Street building as the Lovelace Centre was the final event of the 2004 International Byron Festival.

The new name commemorates Byron's daughter, Ada Lovelace, who was a gifted mathematician and is regarded as 'the mother of computers'.

The ceremony was to have been performed by former Labour leader and ardent Byronist Michael Foot.

He could not be present because of an eye infection but sent his best wishes for the continued success of the centre.

Deputising for him at the ceremony, Newstead Abbey Byron Society chairman Ken Purslow paid a tribute to the foresight and courage of those who had built the Godber Memorial Hall, as the centre was originally known.

The hall was constructed by Thomas Fish and Son, of Nottingham, and opened on November 16 1907 by the Duke and Duchess of Portland.

It was the brainchild of Canon John Hankin Godber, who sadly died without seeing his dream realised.

Among rules drawn up by the management committee of the time were that there should be no gambling, foul language, drunkenness, shouting or noise of any kind on the staircases. The name of any offender was to be fixed to a noticeboard.

A youth who threw stones at the front of the hall during the building work received "the punishment he deserved" from his father.

Mr Purslow said the Byron Festival was a fine example of the key role which the centre played in the life of Hucknall.

He went on: :"Byron and Ada are both powerful marketing names in their own right. Hucknall is their spiritual home and it is right that we should record and acknowledge their achievements.

"Every child, adolescent and adult is aware that we live in an age of high tech and computers.

"The name of Ada is synonymous with these and the centre's new name has been chosen to reflect the times."

Flower festival

'SONGS Of Praise' was the theme of the annual flower festival at Seymour Road Baptist Church, on Hucknall's Ruffs Estate, last Saturday and Sunday.

The event has become a popular feature of the International Byron Festival and one of the 21 displays was entitled 'Come To Us, Creative Spirit – In Praise of Byron'.

Other titles included 'All The World The Spirit Is Moving,' 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' and 'O Lord Of Heaven And Earth And Sea.'

As well as the floral arrangements, which made for a blaze of colour, there were cake, craft and card stalls.

Light refreshments were provided throughout and lunches were served on Saturday.

There was also a 'Festival Of Praise' service on Saturday evening.

A concert of brass and wind

CONCERT – Music, Song And Dance, Hucknall Parish Church

BRASS band and wind music were juxtaposed with Armenian singing and dancing to make for this memorable International Byron Festival highlight.

Newstead Welfare Band were in cracking form with a programme that included Mozart's 'Magic Flute' overture, Glenn Miller's 'In The Mood' and the irresistibly catchy theme tune from the film, 'The Great Escape'.

Band soloists were Lauren Harris, Lauren Whyley, Mark Young and Phil White, while there were also solos by Holgate Comprehensive School pupils Laura Wright (alto sax) and Nicola Hardy (clarinet).

A rewarding feature of Holgate's link with the Lord Byron School in Armenia is an insight into that country's culture which would not otherwise have been possible.

It would be hard to imagine anything more graceful than the dancing of Shakeh Avanessian,

Performing in traditional costume, she danced three items and 'The Blossoming Cherry Tree,' evoking the arrival of spring, was particularly expressive.

Also taking part was Haikuhy Harutyunyan, a 16-year-old girl pupil of the Lord Byron School in Gumryii.

Her unaccompanied singing of Armenian songs – and of 'My Darling Clementine' in English – was of outstanding quality.

Organised by Hucknall Rotary Club in partnership with Holgate School, the concert was in aid of the Lord Byron School – and it merited a bigger audience.

One item by the Newstead band, the first movement of 'Music For The Royal Fireworks,' was an appropriate 'plug' for an item this weekend.

The band will entertain at an event in Ripley tomorrow, starting at 7 pm, and the climax will be a firework display. (SEE PAGE 8).