VIDEO: Local litter picking group calls for people to act against littering

By Azim Saiyed

Leicestershire Litter Wombles, a group made up of more than 500 active volunteers, has demanded people take the initiative to help tackle the nation’s litter crisis, after a recent Parliamentary visit to raise their concerns.

Founder Bob Lee, 55, said: “There have been areas neglected for years but we are making progress by encouraging businesses to try and clean as well as use recycled products.”

Litter Wombles Bob (Left) and Scott (Right) give their thoughts on the litter problems.

For more information on group pickings or more details, visit:


Ignoring the hysteria: Qatar’s World Cup through the lens of an LGBT fan

Much has been made of Qatar’s awarding of the FIFA World Cup, specifically its record on LGBT issues. Ben Stevens speaks to David Lewis, a Welsh LGBT fan who went to Qatar, for his take on the most controversial World Cup in history.

Al Thumama Stadium, Qatar. Credit: Vecteezy.

Tapping his leg furiously as he sits in a departure lounge at Heathrow Airport, 26-year-old David Lewis feels a buzz.

He is excited and optimistic. The moment he has dreamed of since he was a boy is just around the corner. The moment for which he has saved up long and hard is about to begin.

David is about to jet off and watch his beloved Wales play at the FIFA World Cup, his nation’s first appearance at the tournament for 62 years. He travels alone but knows he can’t miss this moment for the world. 

“As soon as we won the play-off game against Ukraine in the summer, I immediately started looking at flights and hotels,” David says.

“I just knew at that point that nothing was going to stop me from getting to Qatar. I was just hell-bent on going.”

David says he is excited, but he knows deep down his words are somewhat of a charade. He flicks through the sports sites on his phone, seeing that the frenzy whipped up by the press about the Middle East country hosting the tournament is still in overdrive.

He feels his chest tighten with apprehension – as it would if you were a gay man travelling to a country where homosexuality is illegal.

David knows he probably shouldn’t be going, that he is taking a risk. He knows the safer option is to watch on at home with friends and family, with the Christmas tree up and the lights on in the background.

But he also knows that this is an experience he might not ever get to see again.

“Strangely enough, my first impression of Doha was that the place was incredible,” David says of the Qatari capital, a world away from his home in Tycroes, a small village 15 miles north of Swansea.

“I remember I was feeling a bit jittery but everyone was kind and welcoming. I don’t really know what I was expecting but I didn’t necessarily anticipate how blasé about the whole thing everyone would be.

“Everyone there, certainly the Qatari nationals anyway, seemed to be completely in their own bubble. They were either completely oblivious to the criticism by the Western media or just totally shutting it down and ignoring it.

“What I was seeing on the ground was different to the narrative being described back home.”

FINAL STEPS: Stadium 974 in Doha just before the tournament began. Credit: John Lacombe.

David has tickets for Wales’s first two group stage games against the United States and Iran and he plans to watch the final group game against England in a fan zone in the city.

Having explored Doha for a couple of days and begrudgingly watched the Three Lions get off to an emphatic start against Iran, it was nearly time for Wales’s first World Cup game since 1958 at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan, a suburb of Doha.

After two carefree days of sightseeing however, that nervous feeling started to course through David’s body again – and it wasn’t just from the anticipation of the game.

He gets to the stadium a bit later than he originally had planned. The new metro system built in Doha specifically for the tournament is exceptionally busy, as fans try and get from one stadium to another. There are a few delays, but nothing major.

He starts to see some videos on his phone, some of which end up being shared hundreds of times across the social networks. He squints his eyes at his screen to get a better look, but he clearly sees some Welsh LGBT fans having some problems at the ticket gates.

“I don’t know what the exact nature of the trouble was but I assumed it stemmed from some of the fans wearing the rainbow bucket hats and rainbow tops underneath their Wales shirts,” David explains.

“I remember subconsciously pulling my phone towards my chest whilst I was still on the train. All of my preconceived thoughts from back home about what might happen came flooding back.

“I suddenly questioned whether they were going to allow me into the stadium. Maybe someone might think I look gay and not let me in.

“I was actually quite scared, not only for myself but for that group of fans too. As a gay man, I’m used to dealing with a few issues like this, but it’s an entirely different ball game when you’re in a nation that is oppressive towards our community.”

Now off the train and with increased angst and trepidation, David presents his ticket at the gate. He wonders if he was wearing a rainbow hat or top whether he would face the same problems as his fellow fans. He isn’t, and he is let in with a wide smile from the guard and with a minimum amount of fuss.

He moves through the stadium and sits with a group of Welsh fans. The last-minute ban on alcohol in the arena fails to diminish his now buoyant mood an iota. He hardly drinks anyway – and never at the football.

David’s ten-day stay in Doha ends as Wales crash out of the tournament with a whimper. Despite his country’s poor performance, he has no regrets about going.

“It’s a shame we went out so early, but despite everything I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he says.

“I think most people within the LGBT community appreciate the concern set out for us in advance of the tournament, although I would be a hypocrite to say that Qatar shouldn’t have hosted the World Cup, having attended it myself.

“The fact of the matter is that gay people are still looking over their shoulder in lots of places, not just Qatar, and until we feel entirely safe in our own countries, how can we expect to feel safe in others?”

Review: The Wizard of Oz at Curve, Leicester. ‘Over the Rainbow, and above my expectations’

By John Perry

The Wizard of Oz has seen many iterations since its conception into a novel by L. Frank Baum, most notably the 1939 Hollywood classic starring the late Judy Garland. Moving forward the best part of a century, Andrew Lloyd Webber redefined the classic into a stage production in 2011. Now in 2022, Curve Theatre has once again redefined what The Wizard of Oz is with their contemporary take on the tale involving deviations in characters and story to create an important version involving environmentalism.

Stepping into the Curve is an experience of its own, a modern building near the heart of Leicester, but I was still not expecting the sheer scale of production, talent, and technological achievement once I took my seat to view this fantastical performance.

The Wizard of Oz creative director Nikolai Foster brought his vision to the Curve theatre and it’s simply breathtaking. Inspired by Route 66 and the American dream, this is a new rendition of a classic that is a must-see. We all are aware of Dorothy’s adventure through Oz, her meeting characters representing her family, friends and learning to understand the importance of home through a magical experience. Here, we still get that core story but with modern twists, comedy, and heart.

You are not merely transported there; you are part of Oz for the next two hours.

The boldest surprise to me was that in the blink of an eye, set pieces meld into the stage with brilliant light shows and 3D effects. Flashes of light, dazzling special effects and environments on stage evolving. You are not pulled into the world; you are immersed into it. You are not merely transported there; you are part of Oz and Dorothy’s adventure for the next two hours.

The cast of the Wizard of Oz at Curve, Leicester. Photograph by Marc Brenner

The acting and vocal talent of the entire cast is brilliant but particularly in Dorothy (Georgina Onuorah), Scarecrow (Jonny Fines) and Glinda (Christina Bianco), phenomenal voices reverberate around the theatre space. They truly know how to pick artists here; the production team is a character of their own too. As is the band hidden beneath the stage – a live orchestra that many wouldn’t even believe was there. To the naked eye it’s simply a musical track playing unless you have the opportunity during the interval or a lucky seat at the front to peer below the stage into a pit of experienced musicians bringing Oz to life.

West End quality without the need for a trip to London is how best to describe it what is witnessed here. It features genuinely funny moments. Hearing a cast member saying “I’m a friend of Dorothy” – we all know the connotations – made the adults erupt in laughter, while Scarecrow simply leaping, falling, and rolling around the set during his introduction had the kids giggling like a pack of hyenas. An addition I did not expect was a puppet version of Toto that was handled entirely by a single crew member on stage, practical to avoid a real dog.

Aesthetically, it deviates heavily from the original to be in line more with its environmentalist take and contemporary vision, which includes Munchkin land being an industrial and dilapidated town, Emerald City representing a New York landscape and the witches of Oz riding motorcycles instead of brooms. It could have done more in terms of altering the narrative to fit this, but I expect it was a creative choice to stay truer to the original in its script.

Ben Thompson (Toto) and Georgina Onuorah (Dorothy). Photograph by Marc Brenner
Charlotte Jaconelli (The Wicked Witch of the West). Photograph by Marc Brenner

As the second half began it truly showcased more of the time and money that went into this daring new take on the classic. The production value and realism they went for was breathtaking: Emerald City having small Easter eggs on the large LED screen at the back, parodies of McDonald’s, Starbucks and even a nod to Garland herself in a Times Square-like billboard. The little things were not ignored.

The pinnacle of the entire performance must be Onuorah’s rendition of Over the Rainbow as Dorothy. A bright, positive, and soulful take on the theme to the original movie. It gave us goosebumps, and earned a standing ovation from many of the audience.

It’s for everyone. A modern take on a classical tale. A fantastic musical, with amazing vocal talent, technical expertise, music that just engulfs the audience in the moment. It was also wholesome to see a sign language interpreter present on stage for accessibility of disabled audience members. Inclusivity is important to Curve.

This production is incredible. After a pandemic delay, to find its feet like this and still be a powerhouse of entertainment. It is special. A true five-star experience and a must see for all the family this Christmas. It certainly went over the rainbow and above my expectations.

The Wizard of Oz runs at the Curve Theatre in Leicester until January 8.

We’re off to see the Wizard! The curtain’s up on Curve’s Christmas show

Director Nikolai Foster’s re-imagined technicolour wonderland of Oz is here – and a perfect excuse to gather your friends and family for this classic Christmas musical.

By Dwija Raval

Oz you like it: Paul French (Tin Man), Jonny Fines (Scarecrow), Giovanni Spanó (Lion), Georgina Onuorah (Dorothy) and Ben Thompson (Toto). Photograph by Marc Brenner

The Yellow Brick Road has wound its way to Rutland Street, Leicester, and Curve Theatre’s revival of the much-loved story of the Wizard of Oz is shaping up to be a colourful Christmas classic.

The homegrown production, which opened last month, stars Georgina Onuorah as Dorothy, with puppeteer Ben Thompson’s four-legged companion Toto joining her on a turbulent journey from Kansas to the wonderland of Oz, a world where nothing is quite as it seems.

The reviews so far have been overwhelmingly warm. The Daily Mail called it sumptuous. British hailed it as “stunning, a kaleidoscopic riot of sight and sound.” What’s on Stage said it is “a smart, aural and visual joy with wonderful heart and adventurous depictions.” The Stage said there’s “plenty of magic.” The Guardian called it a “fun, if rather cluttered, production.” The Times struck a sour note, saying it lacked a heart.

Jonny Fines, known for his work in Curve’s My Beautiful Laundrette, is cast for the role of Hunk and Scarecrow, Paul French (Curve’s Grease) as Hickory and Tin Man, while Mamma Mia’s Giovanni Spanó will take play Lion.

American actor, singer and impressionist Christina Bianco is playing Glinda, Geoffrey Aymer (Curve’s The Colour Purple) as Uncle Henry, Hamlet’s Jonathan Dryden Taylor as Munchkin Coroner, Jacqui Dubois (The Harder They Came, US Tour) as Aunt Em, Andrew Patrick-Walker as Munchkin Vicar, English singer Charlotte Jaconelli appear as Ms Gulch and The Wicked Witch of the West and Mark Peachey (The Lion King, UK tour) will be seen as Professor Marvel and The Wizard of Oz.

The cast ensemble includes Andrew Dillon (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), Martin McCarthy (Curve’s Grease), Dancer Ellie Mitchell (Cinderella), Natasha Mould (Grease, UK tour), Mervin Noronha (Greatest Days, Art is Dead), Amy Oxley (Shrek, UK tour), Christina Shand (Hairspray, UK tour), Tom Watson, Daisy West (Northern Ballet), and Charlotte St. Croix (Hairspray, UK tour).

It’s all been put together by the production manager Patrick Molony and re-imagined by Curve’s artistic director Nikolai Foster (Billy Elliot: The Musical, A Chorus Line, West Side Story).

The show is choreographed by Shay Barclay, known for her work in Cinderella (2021), Cats (2019), and Mary Poppins Returns (2018), and costumes of all characters and puppetry work are managed by costume and puppet designer Rachel Canning. Former president of the magic circle Scott Penrose brings alive magical moments on screen.

The magical setting of the story is created at the Curve by the set designer Colin Richmond, lighting director Ben Cracknell, projection designer Douglas O’Connell, and props supervisor Marcus Hall Props.

E.Y Harburg and Harold Arlon’s original songs like ‘the Yellow Brick Road’, ‘We’re off to see the Wizard’ and ‘Over the Rainbow’ from the MGM film are featured with additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. 

Guess we’re not in Kansas anymore: the cast of The Wizard of Oz. Photograph by Marc Brenner

The Wizard of Oz runs at Curve until January 8. Tickets are available online at

Discounted tickets are £15 for under-16s/under-18s school groups, £20 for students/16-25 year-olds, and are 15% off for members. There is more information available on discounts and support on their website. The company has also organised access-friendly performances including British Sign Language interpreted, captioned, audio-described, dementia friendly and relaxed. 

Cinderella brings the magic to Leicester this Christmas (with a little help from AJ and Curtis Pritchard)

By Safiyyah Choudry

The cast of Cinderella at De Montfort Hall, Leicester

Grab your glass slippers and arrange the carriage because Imagine Theatre is bringing the spectacular Christmas pantomime of Cinderella to Leicester.

One of the UK’s leading pantomime producers will be transforming Leicester’s De Montfort Hall into an enchanted realm this winter for a festive extravaganza.

Running from December 10 to January 2, the family favourite will feature an array of sets, costumes and special effects.

The performance will involve a great deal of singing, dancing and laughing, all of the magic ingredients needed for Leicester’s show of the season! It will entail heaps of slap-stick comedy, audience participation and fun for the whole family.

It will star the dancing duo and good guys of reality television, AJ and Curtis Pritchard, as Prince Charming and Dandini the matchmaker.

CBeebies presenter Evie Pickerill will dazzle audiences with her debut as the leading lady, Cinderella. Jarred Christmas will bring the festivities back to De Montfort Hall for a second year to play Buttons. West End star Madison Swan will ensure her princess protégé is set for the ball in her role as the fairy godmother.

Tickets will start from £15.25, and audiences can enhance their experience with additional extras. These include an evening with AJ and Curtis for £40 and meet-and-greets for £45.

There will also be accessible tickets on sale, with relaxed and signed performances for those with disabilities.

Cinderella runs at De Montfort Hall, Leicester from December 10 to January 2 (excluding December 19, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). For more information and tickets, visit: