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Fakenham Duke of Lancaster school opening stars Paralympic gold medallist Jessica-Jane Applegate from Great Yarmouth

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It’s been difficult to concentrate for long in this heat so this week’s offering covers a variety of topics which have crossed my desk in one way or another.

I reported briefly on the opening of the new Duke of Lancaster school for children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This has been built on the site of the old grammar school, its entrance accessed from Highfield Road.

There were a number of familiar faces at the official opening but my eye was particularly caught by the presence of Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE, a gold-medal winning Paralympic swimmer who comes from Great Yarmouth.

Gallery Upstairs 2.
Gallery Upstairs 2.

Jessica won gold in the 200m freestyle final in the 2012 London Paralympic Games and at Rio in 2016 she picked up bronze and silver medals.

How special that this talented young lady, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, shared in the opening proceedings. If anyone can identify with what this school is all about, she certainly can.

On most days I pass by Venetia’s Yarn shop on Norwich Street. Sometimes there are a couple of people seated on a settee inside, busily knitting and chatting. Such a peaceful picture. I did learn to knit as a child but that’s about as far as it went, apart from holding wool stretched between my outspread arms for mum to wind into balls.

Gallery Upstairs 1.
Gallery Upstairs 1.

The good news on this is that shop owner Venetia Strangeways-Booth has now extended her business to include an art gallery which she calls The Gallery Upstairs.

Because that is where it is. I think galleries are important in extending our awareness of so many creative talents, even if some might argue that we can do without them.

Anyway, this first exhibition features paintings by Norfolk artist Carole Ann Grace and ceramic sculptures by Michel Ducos. Entitled ‘Image and Object’, these expressive paintings and contemporary sculptures will be on display until September and as the shop is usually open daily I do recommend you pop in and explore.

It’s early days yet but our new mayor, Angela Glynn, seems to be relishing her role at the heart of town council proceedings. I’ve met her on a couple of occasions, chairing a council meeting out at the race course and at the beacon lighting event on Millennium Park for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

I’ve previously mentioned that, as a keen swimmer herself, Angela will be doing everything she can to support the building of an indoor swimming pool for the town on council land at Trap Lane. In finding her feet in this challenging new role, she is fortunate to have the guidance of Gilly Foortse, who has been in the hot seat for the past three years.

Also close at hand will be her deputy mayor Janet Holdom, a former mayor whose experience of council procedures goes back a long way. As anyone who has taken on a leadership role will know, it can be a tough call and the support of colleagues who have somehow survived and thrived in a comparable challenge can be vital.


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