Colors: Blue Color

School-friends Greg Yates and Tim Jones have enjoyed a friendship that has spanned the last 40 years. Having acted in hundreds of shows together they have now embarked on a new project; Wolverhampton Grand Theatre’s production of Brassed Off as Jim and Harry.

Both Greg and Tim auditioned as part of the community and were given two of the principal roles which they will reprise when the production plays at Devonshire Park Theatre in Eastbourne in September.

Having attended St Thomas Moore school in Willenhall, the friendship was formed through their first love of sport, playing cricket and football together. However, they soon turned to the stage with the school producing four shows a year including pantomime, Shakespeare, musicals and plays. Between them they performed in most of the productions. Greg played iconic roles such as Macbeth and Edmond in King Lear. Although in pantomime he would go to the extreme opposite in the role of the Dame or Silly Billy. Greg’s most memorable part was playing the role of Jesus in Godspell.

Greg first saw the casting call for Brassed Off in the local newspaper and despite what is a very large commitment over the summer he decided to apply for the auditions.

“The main draw for me is that I would like to turn professional again, I’ve just been in a film called Sustain which was crowd funded to enter into film festivals.  I loved being in front of a camera again. With Brassed Off being a professional production it’s a great opportunity to add to my show reel.

I also consider it a massive privilege to be working with esteemed professionals, especially Jeffrey Holland and Director, Gareth Tudor Price. I would also like to say thank you to the Grand for putting trust in the community that are taking part.

On a personal level, it was my father’s favourite film and he passed way in 2012 so I would like to do this for him.”

Tim first performed at The Grand in 1985 for the Bilston Operatic production of Guys and Dolls and since then he has performed in over 40 shows. His most memorable male lead was as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady for South Staffs Musical Theatre Company in both 2001 and 2009.

“Brassed Off is a chance to be involved with something that is home produced on a professional level, which is thrilling.

I have relished the opportunity to work with a recognised director and being involved in the whole process of a professional show from start to finish has been fascinating. This show is very exciting because you have the band and a large community ensemble and it’s great to do it at my home theatre the Grand.”

Pamper your pooch on National Dog Day, which falls on Saturday August 26th, and treat them to a trip to South Sands Hotel!

Salcombe's seaside gem South Sands has always been a luxury dog friendly hotel, situated right on the beach in Salcombe's stunning estuary. The boutique hotel welcomes dogs and humans alike with its classy, understated beachside décor that combines timeless seaside-chic with a modern touch.

Commenting on the hotel's welcoming attitude to dogs, director Stephen Ball says: “We love dogs at South Sands and we're very happy to accommodate them. South Sands beach welcomes dogs from October through to May and our neighbouring North Sands beach all year round. On top of that there are the dramatic coastal paths to explore, allowing your dogs time off the lead to experience our beautiful craggy scenery with freedom.”

For the owners, South Sands offers a fantastic culinary experience too! Head chef Allister Bishop's menus stand apart for their creativity blended with a level of simplicity, encouraged by knowing the lure of fresh beach side produce and divine country living. Wherever possible, Allister uses local ingredients and integrates foraged food into the menu and the food is matched with carefully chosen wines and cocktails.

Bar manager Will Neal also frequently incorporates seasonal, foraged ingredients with locally produced drinks into cocktails and non-alcoholic options. The spectacular curved wall of the restaurant's pristine French windows presents a breath-taking centrepiece to the extraordinary bar and terrace area. The unparalleled views overlook the brilliant blue, green colours of the Salcombe Estuary and end result is a sensational dining experience.

Young people from as far afield as Brazil, China and Australia enjoyed the chance to debate issues in Sandwell Council’s chamber.

A group of 38 young people on a cultural exchange, organised by the Lions Club International Youth Centre, spent an afternoon at the council house and met councillors as well as the mayor, Councillor Ahmadul Haque MBE.

Sandwell Lions Club arranged the visit which also included a trip to the Balajhi Hindu Temple, Sandwell Valley Country Park, and ended with fish and chips and a skittles competition at Thimblemill Library.

Sandwell mayor, Councillor Ahmadul Haque, said: “It was a pleasure to host part of the group’s trip to Sandwell and show them around the council chamber. They enjoyed a lively debating session in the council chamber covering lots of topics including should people who don't vote be fined.”

Sandwell Lions Club president Melissa Murphy said: “It was a great opportunity to welcome our young visitors from all over the world to Sandwell. We think we may have set a record for the number of nationalities in a library at any one time.”

The UK’s leading plumber accreditation body is warning householders in Gloucestershire that the humble hosepipe could be a danger to their drinking water – as well as exposing them to the risk of developing Legionnaires’ disease.

Many homeowners don’t realise how ill they can become if the water in the hosepipe “backflows” into their drinking water supply, or becomes contaminated by the potentially lethal bacteria which causes Legionnaires’ disease.

WaterSafe has now teamed up with renowned health expert Dr Susanne Lee, Director of Leegionella Ltd, to develop its top do’s and don’ts to help keep customers and their hosepipes healthy and safe.

Its hosepipe tips are:

  • DO fit an approved double check valve to hosepipes to prevent any water, or contaminants from the garden, ponds or paddling pools, flowing back into your mains drinking water supply
  • DON’T place hosepipes in drains, garden ponds, buckets or watering cans where they can be submerged as contaminated water could be siphoned back into your homes’ drinking water pipework
  • DO turn off your hosepipe at the tap and ideally fully disconnect it when not in use
  • DO fit a self-closing flow control, such as a trigger spray gun, to prevent it being used when unattended
  • DO keep your hose somewhere cool and out of the sun
  • DO gently run the water out of the hose before you use it – without any form of spray attachment on the end
  • DON’T use a hosepipe that has been sitting around and full of warm water to fill a hot tub. The warm water within the tub will allow any bacteria – including Legionella – to quickly grow.
The advice comes after media reports emerged about the death of a 63-year-old Norfolk grandfather from Legionnaires’ disease, which may have been contracted from working in the garden with a hose1.

Legionnaires’ disease is a rare form of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria. It is usually contracted from inhaling very small aerosols which come from sprays formed when turning on a shower, tap, flushing a toilet, or using a spa pool, hot tub or other activities which cause a spray of water – such as a hosepipe.

Julie Spinks, Director of WaterSafe, said: “Sadly many homeowners may not realise how ill you can get if the water in your hosepipe “backflows” into your drinking water supply, or becomes contaminated by potentially lethal bacteria, such as Legionella, that can thrive in warm, stagnant water.

“These simple steps will help protect against this happening but if in any doubt, always seek advice from a WaterSafe-approved plumber who will be able to ensure you have the right safety measures in place.”

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health said: “Getting the message out about hosepipe safety is of great importance for the public’s health. Quick and easy measures can ensure drinking water is kept clear of contaminants to keep families safe.

“The RSPH welcomes WaterSafe’s release of their top hosepipe DO’S and DON’T’S – sensible and practical advice that will help prevent those who follow it from potentially contracting serious diseases such as Legionnaires’.”

WaterSafe is encouraging everyone to share its hosepipe safety campaign on social media with the hashtag #HosepipeSafety. WaterSafe can also be found on Twitter: @WatersafeUK and Facebook: /WaterSafeRegister

The British Red Cross are looking for people to pull on their trainers, strap on their Fitbit, and make their miles count this September.

Miles for Refugees is a unique challenge. Participants chose a distance from 22 to 2,700 miles and then, throughout September, walk, swim, cycle or run to reach their target.

Red Cross events team manager, Kerry Thomas, says "Miles for Refugees is an event for everyone. Whether you are a marathon runner, a long-distance cyclist, someone who walks the dog each morning, or are trying to motivate yourself to go swimming more regularly, you can sign up and challenge yourself.”

Entry to the event costs £10 with a sponsorship target of £100.

All money raised from Miles for Refugees will support the Red Cross’ Family Reunion work. Each year, thousands of refugees are denied their right to a family life because of the complex nature of refugee family reunion. Trained Red Cross caseworkers guide refugees through the process; and can help with travel logistics and costs, ensuring that families are reunited quickly and safely.

Alex Fraser, UK Director of Red Cross refugee services said:

“At its heart, family reunion is about keeping loved ones together. But it is also a safe and legal route to protection that refugees can pursue in order to bring loved ones to the UK. Last year we reunited 2,000 people with their families. Taking part in Miles for Refugees could help us to reunite many more.”

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Hilton and the WYSE Travel Confederation will join forces ahead of International Youth Day at the Youth General Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters to highlight tourism’s capacity to empower youth.

The New York event is part of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 framework, and will focus on the tourism industry’s potential to create jobs, provide entrepreneurship opportunities, and deliver a more responsible tourism sector for today’s Youth.

Young people represent around 23% of the 1,235 million tourists travelling internationally each year. The event will discuss the contribution of this influential to world peace and a better future through sustainable tourism.

“Youth can be a powerful catalyst to advance the contribution of tourism to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 8 on economic growth and jobs, and Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production as they can lead a transformation into a more responsible way of travelling” said Sandra Carvao, Chief Communications at UNWTO. Hilton and the International Youth Foundation plan to preview the latest Global Youth Wellbeing Index, revealing that young people are “plugged in,” and yet disconnected from vital skills, economic opportunities, local communities and governments. Reconnecting Youth is an urgent need at this moment in history when half of the world’s population is under 30.

“Our future depends on resilient and thriving societies, and this starts with young people. To help better understand the challenges facing Young people, Hilton collaborated with the International Youth Foundation to commission the Global Youth Wellbeing Index,” said Daniella Foster, Senior Director of Global Corporate Responsibility, Hilton. “To better equip today’s Youth for the workforce, Hilton has committed to opening our doors to one million young people by 2019. As of today, we are more than half way there.”

The Global Report on the Power of Youth Travel by UNWTO and the WYSE Travel Confederation shows that youth and student travel markets are increasingly important and resilient. It also concludes that youth travel spend more on local communities and thus represent a growing opportunity for socio-economic development.

The event will also highlight the role of tourism in the accomplishment of the SDGs, in particular for Youth, through job creation, entrepreneurship and social inclusion. It will also look into the future of tourism jobs and skills development.

From the 1 September 2017, the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham will become ‘Arena Birmingham’ in a move to a brand that reflects the venue’s location.

Arena Birmingham will be in situ for the new event season, with the Nooran Sisters (9 Sept), John Legend (20 Sept) and The Australian Pink Floyd Show (30 Sept) scheduled to be amongst the first to perform under the new brand name.

Barclaycard, the multinational credit card and payment service provider, announced in 2016 that as part of a review of their sponsorship strategy across both Barclaycard and the broader Barclays Group, it planned to move away from long-term naming rights with the venue.

Managing Director for the NEC Group Arenas, Phil Mead said: “The Barclaycard Arena has been a resounding success since it launched with Michael Bublé in 2014 following a £26 million redevelopment. The award-winning venue has attracted world-class entertainment from Drake to Iron Maiden and Céline Dion, and has secured high profile international sports events from the Davis Cup in 2016, to the IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships in 2018.

“Much of what we have achieved is down to the support of Barclaycard who have been an excellent partner since 2012, but we are now entering another exciting era with Arena Birmingham, as it’s transformed into a destination in its own right within the city.  The construction of the LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre Birmingham is already underway, we are a principle venue of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 bid, and will be hosting a roster of great events throughout the rest of 2017/18.”

The Arena has become one of the busiest large scale indoor sporting and entertainment venues in Europe, staging everything from sports events to concerts, entertainment spectaculars, business conferences and exhibitions, benefitting from its position at the heart of the UK.  Alongside its sister venue, Genting Arena, the NEC Group Arenas provide the ultimate arena customer experience, attracting over 1.5 million visitors annually.

Public Health England (PHE) in the West Midlands is urging people to take precautions to Stay Well This Summer and enjoy the festival season just before one of the region’s biggest events – V Festival during the weekend of Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 August.

Among the most important advice from PHE Health Protection specialists is for young people to make sure they are up to date with immunisations including MMR and MenACWY, and that they practice safe sex.

Dr Musarrat Afza, PHE West Midlands Health Protection consultant, said: “There are a number of practical things people can do to make sure they enjoy the festival season, but something people might not consider is being up to date with their MMR jabs. Festivals often attract family groups and because of this, last year we saw a number of measles outbreaks linked to outdoor events. Measles is extremely infectious and can be more severe in teenagers and adults, leading to hospitalisation, so it’s really important children and young people have had both of their MMR jabs.

“We also want to remind school leavers heading off to college and university after the summer to protect themselves against potentially life threatening meningitis and septicaemia, by getting the MenACWY vaccination before they start their courses. Young people should also make sure they practice safe sex by using condoms.”

How to Stay Well This Summer:

  • children and young people should make sure they have had 2 MMR jabs
  • if you think you may need them, make sure you take condoms
  • make sure you have a few first aid items such as plasters, antiseptic wipes, antiseptic cream, insect repellent, antihistamine cream for bites and stings, and headache tablets
If it’s hot:
  • keep hydrated by drinking lots of water and don’t drink too much alcohol
  • use sunscreen with minimum SPF15 and protection against UVA and UVB
  • wear sunglasses – preferably wraparound or with wide arms, to protect eyes from UV
  • cover up with appropriate clothing and wear a hat
Health advice from Public Health England and the NHS can be found on Twitter by following  #StayWellThisSummer

The RSPCA is releasing a heartwarming video to mark the 26th anniversary of the Dangerous Dogs Act and controversial breed specific legislation - and one year since the charity launched its high-profile #EndBSL campaign.

Saturday (12 August) marked 26 years since the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) was introduced to the UK, including Section 1 which applies breed specific legislation (BSL) and bans four types of dog - the pit bull terrier, the Fila Brasiliero, the Dogo Argentino and the Japanese Tosa.

Last year, the RSPCA published a report into BSL and how it has failed to protect public safety since its introduction (hospital admissions due to dog bites has increased year on year) and how it seriously compromises dog welfare. The charity - the UK’s oldest and largest animal welfare organisation - also launched its #EndBSL campaign calling for the Government to review the ineffective legislation and replace it with something that will better protect public safety and improve the welfare for all dogs affected by it.

RSPCA dog welfare expert and lead author of ‘A Dog’s Dinner’ report, Dr Samantha Gaines, said: “Almost 80,000 people have signed our petition and want to see a review of this ineffective and outdated piece of legislation.

“Our campaign has also had support from experts and organisations around the world, showing that this is an issue close to the hearts of many people from many corners of the globe.

“Many believe that, ultimately, the law should be repealed and replaced with something that is fit for purpose - something that better serves to protect the public and which doesn’t punish dogs because of how they look, irrespective of their behaviour or whether they pose any risk to the public.”

BSL makes it illegal to possess or own any of the four banned types in the UK. Dogs suspected of being of a prohibited type are typically seized from their owners and kennelled so that they can be assessed by a police dog legislation officer. This process can take several days through to weeks.

If officially identified as being of type, and the dog is not considered to pose a risk to public safety owners can apply to have their pet added to the exemption register which allows them to be lawfully kept but they must both comply with a very strict set of rules including keeping their dog muzzled at all times when out in public.

Kacey was just three-weeks-old when her mother and eight siblings were seized under Section 1 of the DDA. They were held in kennels for more than six months before being assessed.

All nine puppies were identified as prohibited types but the decision about two of the puppies - including Kacey - was, at a later point, overturned allowing them to be rehomed - the other seven were tragically put to sleep. Mum, Mercedes, was typed and later exempted which meant she could be lawfully kept under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Kacey’s owner, Nay Beard from Devon, said: “This is where an already sad story almost defies belief. Nine puppies, the same litter, from the same parents but - for the grace of a couple of centimeters, two of their lives were saved. The others weren’t so lucky.

“Although Kacey got the chance to live, her incarceration under this cruel and unfair law impacts on her daily.”

Kacey was terrified of people and the outside world.

“She was frightened of grass, a breeze, water bowls, even toys. Absolutely anything and everything frightened her, she would back away while shaking uncontrollably,” Nay explained.

“Little by little, she got there. But even now, almost five years later, she’s still very nervous and anxious.”

Peanut was born at the RSPCA’s Birmingham Animal Centre and soon rehomed by volunteer, Julie Wainwright. But, at nine months old, she was typed under BSL and Julie had to begin the long exemption process.

Peanut was later exempted but her life is impacted every day by the restrictions placed on her - simply because of the way she looks.

“Peanut is just like any other dog - she loves playing in the garden, sleeping on the sofa with her canine companion, Anna, and will follow you into the toilet if you don’t shut the door firmly behind you!” Julie said. “However, according to the law, she is dangerous. And therefore, she spends her life being restricted.”

Julie is still trying to get Peanut used to her muzzle and has to hire a private field so her pet can enjoy running off-lead.

She added: “I’ve not met one person who has been negative about Peanut when I’m out on a walk. A lot of people ask why she has a muzzle on and when I tell them that it’s because of BSL they always say say the law is ridiculous and what a lovely, lovely dog she is.”

Nearly 200 free breakfasts were served by volunteers at two local libraries in the first week of Sandwell’s Cereal Readers project.

The breakfast clubs are running at Glebefields Library and Smethwick Library for six weeks over the school summer holidays.

They run every weekday from 10-11.30am and are open to all children aged four to 11.

In the first week, 117 children together with 64 adults attended the Cereal Readers sessions, which offer cereal, fruit and juice as well as stories, activities and guided reading.

Councillor Richard Marshall, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for leisure, said: “We know that times are really difficult financially for many families and school holiday time increases that burden.

"With Cereal Readers, families can have a healthy breakfast at the same time as enjoying reading and fun activities. This also ties in with the very popular Summer Reading Challenge, which helps to avoid children having a 'dip' in reading over the summer.

"It's fantastic that volunteers have served nearly 200 breakfasts in the first week – what a great start! I encourage other families to come along to Glebefields Library and Smethwick Library so their children can become Cereal Readers too.

"While visiting the library, they can also join the hundreds of other children who have already signed up to the Summer Reading Challenge."

The Cereal Readers project is funded entirely through donations from businesses and run by volunteers. To volunteer or donate to this project please call Glebefields Library on 0121 557 8641 or Smethwick Library on 0121 558 0497.

Glittering lights, exquisite jewels and cheery live spectaculars are all part of the festive celebrations in Norwich this year, which will feature: more Christmas lights than ever before, stunning Fabergé sculptures, a 4-day Christmas Fair to launch the season's shopping frenzy, and great family shows featuring live music keeping the atmosphere authentic.

In 2016 thousands flocked to Norwich to experience the UK's first Tunnel of Light when it was unveiled in the heart of the city centre. The 45-meters long, 4 meters high and 6 meters wide tunnel, made from 50,000 pulsating LEDs with sequenced lights that reflected the patterns and colours of the Northern Lights, proved an instant Instagram sensation.

All ages marvelled at the tunnel, which became even more magical as day turned into dusk and dusk turned into night. But how do you improve on perfection? Well, you crown it, and so in 2017 the Tunnel of Light will be back once again, but this year with a new animation sequence and a glittering tiara.

At the world-class Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts a sumptuous exhibition awaits: Royal Fabergé. The world famous jeweller has an amazing local story to tell. See over 70 loans from the Royal Collection – King Edward VII's commissions from the Sandringham Estate - as well as vintage films and photographs; there'll be over 150 loans from private and public collectors across Britain, Russia and America.

Volunteers, staff, service users and customers past and present came together to celebrate 20 years of the Green Pepper Cafe, which has broken down barriers and helped hundreds of people to learn essential life skills.

Service users with their certificates in food handlingGreen Pepper Cafe, at Winkfield Resource Centre, Wood Green, was launched by Haringey Council in 1997 as a training project to offer people with learning disabilities the opportunity to gain catering experience, build their confidence and learn new skills to help them get paid or voluntary work.

During the past 20 years, hundreds of people have benefited from support and training at Green Pepper and thousands of hungry diners have enjoyed delicious home cooked meals.

The birthday party last month saw guests come together for a presentation to six of the users who each gained a certificate in food handling. Plenty of food was dished out including lamb cutlets, jerk chicken and Jamaican rice and peas. A special green pepper Café cake was made for the occasion.

Green Pepper first opened in Philip Lane, Tottenham and enjoyed a period at Wolves Lane Garden Centre before moving to the Winkfield in 2015. Team Leader Jenny Smith, who has been at the helm since day one, said: “It was good to see the clients and their parents who have supported us over the years. I’m very proud that some of them have been able to gain voluntary work with the skills they have developed at the café.”

Cllr Bernice Vanier, Haringey Council Cabinet Member for Adults, said:

It’s an honour to be able to celebrate this milestone in the Green Pepper Cafe’s history. For 20 years, the cafe has offered a vital service to local people with learning disabilities, equipping them with practical skills to help them live more independent lives, and building up a loyal customer base in the process. I want to pay thanks to the dedication and commitment of staff, volunteers and customers, whose efforts have made a real difference in the local community.”

Wolverhampton Art Gallery bosses are urging Midlands wildlife lovers to make the most of an international photography show - on their own doorstep.

The Natural History Museum’s 52nd World Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition opened at the Lichfield Street gallery in July – and runs until October 1.

Within weeks, hundreds of visitors have already made the most of the show and enjoyed the chance to see stunning wildlife photography.

It is the second year Wolverhampton Art Gallery has hosted the show, which last year won the thumbs up from visitors.

“A much nicer space than London. Beautifully curated. I like the atmosphere soundtrack.”

Sandwell’s Big Sleuth bears are making a splash – and if you visit all six of them, you can win a free swim!
Everyone who visits all of Sandwell’s bears in Bearwood and West Bromwich can claim a free swimming session at any Sandwell Leisure Trust swimming centre.
The 10-week project supporting Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity has brought more than 100 bear sculptures to Birmingham, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Resorts World and Sandwell. A sleuth is the collective noun for a group of bears.
Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for leisure Councillor Richard Marshall said: “The more people who visit The Big Sleuth bears, the more awareness we raise for the fantastic work of Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, where around 1,000 Sandwell children are treated each month.
“We want people to have great fun meeting all of the bears in Sandwell, Birmingham and beyond so this is a great incentive to come and see our six bears in Sandwell.”
To claim your free swim, simply present your digital voucher which is generated in The Big Sleuth app when you visit the six Sandwell bears. Find the app by searching ‘The Big Sleuth 2017’ in the App Store or Google Play.
Mark Wildman, Business and Commercial Manager for Sandwell Leisure Trust said: “We are delighted to help support this great initiative, simply take your digital voucher to reception at any one of our swimming centres to get your ‘paws’ on your free swim but please ‘bear’ with us as we are often get busy in the summer holidays!”
The offer is in addition to free swimming for all Sandwell children aged 16 and under who swim for free during the school holidays, and Sandwell residents aged 60 who can swim for free any day before 1pm.
The Big Sleuth, which is being run in conjunction with Wild in Art, is on until Sunday 17 September 2017
Sandwell’s bears can be found:
Bearwood
• Lightwoods park near the skate park (BearTrix Blocker, commercial sponsor - Skate Hut)
• Bearwood bus station, Bearwood Road - (Bussy Bear - commercial sponsor - National Express)
• Warley Woods near the fountain and play area (Bentley the Bearwood Bear designed by Positive Activities Innovative Development and Rebecca Cresswell)
West Bromwich
• High Street near the Farley Fountain (Bearolution – designed by West Bromwich Youth Council and Creative Arts)
• Outside Central Sixth, Sandwell College (Picnic Time For Teddy Bears - commercial sponsor - West Brom Building Society)
• Sandwell Park Farm (Uncle B – designed by looked after children and Cradley Heath Creative)

Local businesses can help to make the UK more autism-friendly by taking part in the UK’s first Autism Hour.

The inaugural event, organised by The National Autistic Society, will see shops and services across the UK dim their lights, turn down music and share information about autism for 60 minutes on the week of 2 October.

Mark Lever, Chief Executive at the National Autistic Society, said:

“Like anyone, autistic people and their families want the opportunity to go to the shops and services on the high street. But our research suggests that many find the often busy, loud and unpredictable environment of public places overwhelming and avoid them altogether. We hope that the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour will provide a break for families in the week and in the long term will help spread understanding so that shops and services are more accessible every day of the year.

“A basic understanding of autism could transform the lives of autistic people and their families and avoid them becoming isolated or trapped in their homes. I hope businesses in PLACE will take part and help to make the local area more autism-friendly.”

The National Autistic Society’s survey suggests that 64% of autistic people avoid going to the shops, and 28% have been asked to leave a public place for reasons associated with their autism. The charity is asking shops and services to take simple steps for one hour to help create a more autism friendly world - from dimming the lights and turning down music to sharing information about autism with employees.

More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum which means that someone sees, hears and feels the world in a different, often more intense way to other people. Autistic people often find social situations difficult and struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience which means they feel overwhelmed by ‘too much information’ when out in public.

The National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour is supported by shopping centre owner intu and will take place in 14 of their shopping centres across the UK including intu Trafford centre, intu Lakeside and intu Metrocentre. Staff at intu centres already receive training to provide autism-aware customer service and autistic people also benefit from guides that allow them to plan and prepare a visit to each intu centre.

Clarks and Toys ‘R’ Us are also amongst shops and services that have already signed up, after previously hosting quiet hours in individual stores. Lloyds Banking Group is also supporting by educating colleagues and customers about autism during Autism Hour. The charity is calling on others to follow their lead and open up their businesses to autistic people.

Following a warning by the children’s commissioner that parents should stop their kids binging on the internet and staring at smartphones and tablets this summer, parents are being urged to balance screen time with green time or risk damaging their children’s health and development.

The commissioner is urging parents to regulate children’s screen time in the same way they regulate diets. However, according to research* by outdoor holiday experts Camping in the Forest, more than a third (37%) of parents say their children are far too wrapped up in technology and less than one in ten (7%) reveal their children regularly play outside. Only 13% parents admit they actually encourage their kids to get outdoors.

Experts exposed that two in five parents use their phones and tablets to keep their children entertained while travelling and 25% allow screen time before bed. 13% reveal they even allow their children to play with gadgets at meal times. 1

The survey also revealed that more than half of children under 10 (54%) admit their favourite activity is playing on a smartphone or tablet and watching TV. Children aged five to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen compared with around three hours in 1995, according to researchers.

Detrimental health effects of too much exposure to screens for children include sleep deprivation, obesity, lack of imagination, vision problems, aches and pains, loss of social skills and aggression.

Getting fresh air has actual measurable physical health benefits for children. Kids who are outside are more likely to get their daily dosage of vitamin D, which assists in bone strength and lowers risks of serious illness. Time outside has also proven to soothe children, lowering their risk of hyperactivity and depression. 3

Camping in the Forest’s survey also revealed that less than a quarter (24%) of today’s children know how to play conkers while a staggering 70% have no idea how to play traditional outdoor game Tig.

Leading psychotherapist Hilda Burke comments: “From a very early age children emulate their parents, so it comes as no surprise that very high digital usage in adults is also now being reflected in children. If parents adopt clear boundaries for digital devices around their kids, e.g. phones are switched off during play time and meal times, they will learn valuable lessons about how there is a time and a place to use these devices and that it's up to us to regulate our usage.

“Spending less time on their digital devices indoors and more time playing outdoors can help foster a greater sense of curiosity and imagination in children, qualities that are crucial for healthy development.”

Sites director Bob Hill from Camping in the Forest says: “It’s clear from our research that today’s children are spending far too much time glued to screens rather than enjoying time in the great outdoors which is hugely beneficial for health and well-being.

“With the summer holidays in full swing we are urging parents to curb their kids’ screen time and ensure they enjoy more green time in a bid to re-ignite their imagination, encourage physical exercise and stimulate creativity. Green time is free, on your doorstep and is the most fun kids can have!”