March 5th, 2012

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Save our NHS

Cut and pasted from an email from 38 Degrees:

David Cameron is trying to ride it out. He knows his plans for the NHS are a disaster. But after more than a year of phoney listening exercises, aggressive spin and backroom deals, he thinks abandoning the plan now would simply be too embarrassing.

But there’s one thing that politicians care about more than saving face: saving their jobs. At the moment, Cameron is gambling that it’s best to force through the changes - then hope that it doesn’t cost him too many votes later on. We can shift this calculation by proving to Cameron that the NHS is already an election issue, and a losing one for his party if they refuse to listen.

Elections for the Mayor of London are fast approaching. Cameron desperately wants the Conservatives to win. Together, we can buy billboards all over the city, on the very streets where Cameron bought billboards promising the NHS would be safe with him. The adverts can warn potential Conservative voters that most doctors and nurses think the changes will make our NHS worse.

We’ve tried everything else. Now we have to bring it back to something we know Cameron will understand – winning over undecided voters. He knows that a big national issue like the NHS could play strongly in a major local election. And that if it does, it will set the tone for a long time to come.

If Cameron sees thousands of us donating to put up adverts, it might make him finally decide the game is up. The adverts carry a simple message certain to grab the attention of the kind of voters Cameron wants to keep on board: doctors and nurses are begging him to drop the dangerous NHS plans.

Cameron knows that losing the trust of voters on the NHS is bad news. Opposition to the plans is already overwhelming among health professionals -- including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of GPs. Last month, 38 Degrees commissioned an independent opinion poll of NHS staff which found that 66 per cent think these plans will make the NHS worse.

So we’ve brought in a top advertising agency to make sure local voters get the message. If we raise enough money, we can target these ads to prospective Conservative voters, and place them in high-profile, prominent locations across the capital. Best of all, our campaign won’t star an actor, but a real-life London GP and 38 Degrees member.

Over 15,000 38 Degrees members have donated over £200,000 so far. As a result, these huge billboards will be going up in 150 locations across London today (Monday morning).

Look out for them!

You can support the billboard campaign by donating money to fund billboards across the UK here:
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An Epic Trilogy of Love, Loss and Reunion, RSC

Cut and pasted from an email from

An Epic Trilogy of Love, Loss and Reunion

From 8 March, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre plays host to an epic trilogy of Shakespeare’s shipwreck plays, What Country Friends Is This?

Currently in rehearsal, an ensemble company of actors including Jonathan Slinger (Macbeth 2011) will perform Twelfth Night, The Comedy of Errors and The Tempest, three plays exploring love, loss and reunion.

What Country Friends Is This? opens our 2012 summer season, dedicated to the World Shakespeare Festival, which forms part of the London 2012 Festival, celebrating the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in the biggest festival of Shakespeare the world has seen.

Buy tickets here:

All three productions will be transferring to the Roundhouse in London in June and you can buy tickets here (I have already got mine in!):
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Holmes’s Home: Saving Undershaw by D E Meredith

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A couple of weeks ago, I took D E Meredith around Undershaw as she was keen to write about the plight of Undershaw and to try and help us save Conan Doyle's house.

D.E. Meredith is the author of the historical crime series The Hatton and Roumande Mysteries, featuring the first forensic scientist, Professor Adolphus Hatton, and his trusty French morgue assistant, Albert Roumande. She was thrilled when someone compared her work to Doyle’s.

Her piece has now gone live on and can be found here:

Selected highlights copied and pasted from what she has written:

Last week, I went on a literary pilgrimage to a rambling manor house called Undershaw House.

Undershaw, in Hindhead, was the residence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Built in 1897 and designed by Doyle himself (with more than just a nod to late Victorian fashions for high gothic), it’s set in an elevated spot in an area known back then as “Little Switzerland.” Doyle chose this particular location for his new home because he believed that the fresh breezes of this hilly part of Surrey would cure his poor wife, Louise, of her ill health. Louise suffered from the terrible disease of consumption (or as we now call it, TB).

Whilst Undershaw is a handsome house, it’s not deemed architecturally distinguished enough to earn the right to be preserved by the likes of the National Trust or English Heritage, charities dedicated to saving important British buildings and estates. Which is a problem, because forces of evil are at work, casting a looming shadow over the house darker than the mind of Moriarty, and threatening the very integrity and survival of Undershaw.

Meanwhile, forces of good have gathered themselves into a campaign to save Undershaw. This group is supported by actors, academics, writers, historians and descendents of the Conan Doyle family, who, quite rightly, want Undershaw turned it into a Museum and visitor’s centre for Sherlock Holmes fans, everywhere. And of particular interest to authors like myself, there are aspirations to turn Undershaw not only into a shrine to Conan Doyle, but also a living creative hub for writers to come and work, exploring their genre and honing their craft.

It was here at Undershaw that Conan Doyle produced some of his greatest works, including my personal favourite, the gothic masterpiece, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and I suppose the mystery is how this grand yet forlorn-looking building became so neglected in the first place.

Today, Undershaw has an air of melancholy with its broken windows, boarded up doors, chipped and yellowing woodwork. Beneath my feet, in addition to cigarette ends and discarded sweet wrappers, I could see a thousand tiny shards of glass littering what must have been the most intricate herringbone brick work, now sullied and overgrown with rusty-coloured moss and feathering bindweeds. But what really upset me, as I wandered around Undershaw’s extensive grounds, were the signs nailed up everywhere, in that officious and municipal CAPITAL LETTERING property developers are so enamoured with, warning trespasses like me, because I had no permission to be there, “Oi you! Woman in the buttoned up coat”.... “DANGER: KEEP OUT!”

It’s a crying shame that we might lose this house. That it will be wrecked from the inside and have its soul stripped out. I really hope this doesn’t happen. I think this would be a crime against our literary heritage.

Undershaw circa 1900 with Doyle’s children playing in foreground.
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Obviously, I couldn't agree more!