Shock and deep sorrow at death of much-loved journalist and inspirational De Montfort University lecturer

By Kyran Kennedy

Friends, colleagues and students have paid tribute to an “amazing, funny and kind” journalism lecturer at De Montfort University who has died at the age of 54 after a 10-month battle with brain cancer.

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Andy Plaice died with his loving wife Maria and close family by his side, at the Cransley Hospice in Kettering on Monday last week (February 18).

He had been diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, glioma blastoma, in March 2019.

Over the course of his long journalistic career, Andy edited a number of newspapers including the Melton Times, leaving a lasting impact on those he worked with.

As a feature writer and reviewer his work was published in a wide range of titles including the Times, the Sunday Express, the Stage, the Daily Express, the British Theatre Guide, the British Comedy Guide and the Voice. He combined his love of theatre and journalism in a textbook for aspiring critics titled Arts Reviewing: A Practical Guide, which was published in 2017.

Andy began his journalistic career at the Grantham Journal as a reporter in 1988, after initially working as a drama teacher at Grantham College. He rose quickly to the role of deputy editor, before becoming editor of the Melton Times in 1992, where he spent 13 years, and then managing editor of the Rutland Times.

Read more: Appeal launched in memory of Andy Plaice

He made the switch to teaching in 2006, taking up a position as a lecturer at De Montfort University, where he helped many students launch their own careers as journalists.

Tor Clark, a colleague of Andy’s at both the Welland Valley Newspaper group and DMU, paid tribute to his friend. Now an associate professor of journalism at the University of Leicester, Tor said: “Andy was an excellent all-rounder, and particularly enjoyed teaching news writing to first year students. His passion was cultural journalism, so his greatest pleasure at DMU was developing and then teaching his module, arts and entertainment journalism, which encouraged many DMU Journalism students to explore that field with huge enjoyment.

“But the key thing to remember with Andy is not only was he an excellent journalist and lecturer, beyond that and more important than that, he was just an amazing man – funny, kind, sympathetic, genuine. He was a pleasure to spend time with in or out of work.”

Melton Times reporter Nick Rennie said Andy’s death was “a huge shock.” He said: “I remember when Andy took over, he was one of the youngest newspaper editors in the country.

“I was around the same age as him and he confided in me that it was a difficult job managing people who were older and much more experienced than him.

“But Andy quickly showed that he had the strength of character and the journalistic nous to thrive in the job.

“I also worked with him at the Rutland Times in his last newspaper job and always enjoyed spending time with him, in and out of work.

“His loss is a huge shock to us all and my heart goes out to his wife Maria and the family.”

DMU journalism lecturer Brian Dodds, who worked with Andy for 20 years, said: “When I first became an editor, with Andy already in that role at a neighbouring paper in our group, I immediately realised he was someone I could learn a huge amount from.

“He was an excellent local newspaper editor, caring and passionate for the community he served, while warm and supportive to his team.

“But what I think I was most impressed with was the gentle yet firm and intelligent way he always approached the often complex matters thrown at the role.

“He carried that warmth and intelligence through into his career as a university lecturer, where again I arrived in a new job with him quietly offering valuable guidance. He was a lovely fellow and we really miss him.”

James Russell, head of the Leicester Media School at DMU, said: “Andy was extraordinarily dedicated to his students and to his work training journalists, but he was also a warm, engaging and enthusiastic person, and that, as much as anything, is what made him a great teacher and a great colleague.

“I do know that he had an impact on the lives of hundreds of students, and so he has a great legacy from his time at DMU, but I think his loss is deeply sad for us as his colleagues, for his students and for his family.”

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DMU press officer Sian Brewis, who started her journalism career under Andy’s guidance, said: “He believed in local news and knew that being a journalist was the best job in the world. As an editor he’d be pushing you to get the great stories but he’d never let you forget the people affected by them.

“That’s because he cared about the communities he wrote about. He made my first few years as a trainee journalist the best. I owe him so much.”

A number of Andy’s former students also paid tribute to their “incredible teacher.”

Chloe Hewitt said: “It was an absolute pleasure to have been taught by him. Truly heart-breaking news, so much love to his loved ones.”

Tyler Arthur said: “His enthusiasm and genuine excitement for the topic he taught was rare and tangible. Rest in peace.”

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Daniel Siggins said: “Andy had a great sense of humour and a natural passion he instilled in his students. He will be missed.”

Oliver Payne said: “Andy was an incredible teacher, introducing me to the creative side of journalism and how to write a blinding feature. His lessons were a fun yet professional environment and I’ll take what he taught me then and use those skills throughout my life, I’m sure. He will be missed.”

 

Video: Magnet fishermen cause confusion after landing grenade from canal

By Catalina-Adelina Constantin

Two magnet fishermen have given more details of how they landed a hand grenade from the canal near Bede Island and caused part of a De Montfort University Open Day to be closed.

 

Thomas Dickson, 31, and his 16-year-old friend Isaac Baldwin ‘caught’ the hand grenade while fishing for metal using a magnet tied to a rope underneath the bridge in Mill Lane on Saturday, February 15.

Realising what they had found, they called the police at about 11am and the area was cordoned off until about 2.30pm. Pedestrians and drivers were diverted from the area as police dealt with the situation.

The bomb squad were called by police to remove the grenade and do a controlled explosion in an empty field in Enderby.

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Isaac Baldwin and Thomas Dickson

Isaac, who said he had previously found a World War Two German Luger gun, explained how the pair had started fishing in the canal with their magnets tied to a rope, starting on one side before moving along the bank.

“I threw it [the magnet] just underneath the bridge just next to the wall and obviously I pulled it up and then we started like looking at it and stuff and we realised what it was.”

Admitting to being a little bit scared, he added: “I’ve got like the shell off one of those at home that I’ve had before anyways so I knew what it was. We carried on fishing.”

The pair put the grenade in a bag they had with them before alerting police.

The area was sealed off by police, causing nearby buildings being used for a DMU Open Day to be evacuated.

Video: Tasty Pancake Day treats cooked up at DMU

By Catalina-Adelina Constantin and Lauren Sadler

It’s pancake day and De Montfort University’s Food Village is offering pancakes with a variety of toppings for only £2.99.

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Today they have more toppings than usual, which include lemon and sugar, apple and cinnamon, berries and cream, bacon and maple syrup, and crushed Oreos and ice cream.

DMU Food Village chef Sunny Patel was creating some delicious special pancakes for the day with apple, cinnamon, maple syrup, one scoop of vanilla ice cream, some granola cereals and an Oreo biscuit on top.

Sunny, 25, said that for Pancake Day the catering team had to buy in the pancakes because they are “going through so many” so they weren’t able to make them from scratch as they usually do.

He said: “It’s just easier to sort of buy them in at the moment, but when we are quieter, we do make them fresh.

“I think at the moment because it’s Reading Week, we haven’t got a lot of students on site, so that has sort of messed the business up and then I think some of the lecturers are on strike and our business has gone down at the moment, so it fluctuates.”

 

Deborah Fisher, 52, one of the food staff at the village, added that the “most popular one has been the Oreos.”

Sunny continued: “The weirdest one we’ve had is pancakes, fried egg, baked beans, hash browns and maple syrup all over it.”

And what did the customers think?

First year film and media student Cezar Constantin Percembli, 20, said: “I’ve been curious to try berries and cream pancakes and so far they taste crispy and quite creamy.”

Hannah Breslin, 20, a second year contour fashion student, said: “Lemon and sugar.”

Rebecca Ffion, 19, another second year contour fashion student, added: “I think they’re like American pancakes, ‘cause they’re thick and we just got them with Oreos, ice cream, and syrup and they’re very good. I usually have banana on mine.”

It’s Pancake Day! Pancakes at SU’s diner for £3.50!

By Ben Sanderson

De Montfort Students’ Union is offering pancakes all day today at SU’s Diner.

To celebrate Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Day as it is informally known), the diner will be offering pancakes to students for £3.50.

It will be at SU’s Diner in the campus centre’s SU building on Gateway Street, which closes at 4.30pm every day including today.

It precedes an SU elections meet-and-greet with the candidates nearby which takes place later tonight.

The pancakes can range from basic to rather artisan, as the pancake on the SU’s Facebook post looks.

What are you waiting for?

Get down to the SU, lick your lips and celebrate Pancake Day!

Curtains set to open in Leicester with Jason Manford

Preview by Kyran Kennedy

Macbeth meets Live at the Apollo as comedian Jason Manford returns to Leicester this March as part of the murder mystery themed musical Curtains.

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Versatile: Jason Manford is heading to Leicester (University of Salford Press Office / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0))

The production will run from Monday 16 March to Saturday 21 March at the Haymarket Theatre, with tickets available now to see Manford in the lead role.

Marking 20 years since Manford won the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year award, he will be looking to prove to Leicester that he still has the same comedic spark that made the city laugh all those years ago.

Since then, Manford has been notably present on various TV shows like 8 Out of 10 Cats and been part of famous stage productions across the UK, including Chitty Chitty Bang.

Manford will be playing the role of Lieutenant Frank Cioffi, a detective from Boston who has an interest in theatre. Whether his skills as a comedian will help unravel the musical mystery remain to be seen, but the man from Manchester is expected to put on a great show in front of more than a thousand people across the week.

Manford will not be the only name starring in the Tony Award-winning musical. The casting team have added a number of British talents who can help bring a sense of familiarity to the Brits watching what is otherwise an all-American affair.

Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba and former Hollyoaks actress Carley Stenson will be supporting on stage.

The show has been on Broadway and touring since 2006, but now, with Manford front and centre on stage, it’s sure to create even more intrigue for a British audience. It looks as though those in attendance will have their work cut out trying to figure out the culprit in this whodunnit-comedy.

To book tickets, call the Box Office on 0116 296 1236 or look online at https://www.haytheatre.com/whats-on/curtains