PRISONERS REPORTEDLY RUN
RIOT AFTER FIRE AT HMP NORTHUMBERLAND
Prisoners at a North East jail reportedly ran riot
after a fire broke out.
Seven inmates at HMP Northumberland in Acklington
had to be evacuated to the exercise yard where
trouble flared after the incident last week. However
the inmates surrendered after extra officers were
deployed. No prisoners or staff were injured.
It is the latest in a series of incidents at the
jail which has raised concerns among staff as well
as Lib Dem Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith.
In March there was an incident involving more than
50 inmates who took part in a stand off and refused
to return to their cells as riot officers stood by
at the category C jail where there has been a number
A spokesman for French company Sodexo Justice
Services, which took over the jail in December 2013,
said: “We can confirm there was an incident
involving seven prisoners at HMP Northumberland on
Thursday night on 27 November.
“Prison staff resolved the situation within a few
SUSPECTED CLASS A DRUG
HAUL FOUND IN HMP NORTHUMBERLAND
A police probe is underway after suspected class A
drugs were seized at a jail where a riot broke out
Officers at the 1,300-capacity HMP Northumberland
jail, near Acklington, raised the alarm when a large
package of powder was found during a routine search
on Tuesday lunchtime.
Police say the haul includes other “illicit items”
and a substantial amount of a substance which, if
proven to be a class A drug, would be worth tens of
thousands of pounds.
The firm which runs the jail - French company Sodexo
- has just been announced as the winner of a
contract to manage probation services
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear. A Sodexo Justice
Services spokesman said: “We can confirm that as the
result of routine security measures a substantial
amount of illicit items including drugs were seized
at HMP Northumberland on Tuesday.
“The police investigation into the incident is
ongoing and we working with them to find those
“Safety and security of prisoners, staff and
visitors is always a top priority for Sodexo Justice
Services as this seizure demonstrates.”
The discovery follows a series of incidents at the
1,300-capacity Category C prison, including a riot
in March which saw inmates take over a wing.
It has also been revealed how staff numbers at HMP
Northumberland fell from 441 to 270 from 2010 to
2013 - a drop of 39% and prison officers have
described the Category C jail as “a powder keg
waiting to explode”.
Mike Quinn, for the Northumbria Branch of Napo, said
the revelation is further evidence that the jail is
He said: “The discovery of a substantial amount of
drugs at HMP Northumberland will surely come as a
massive blow to Sodexo, who just yesterday were
announced as preferred bidders for the private
probation contract in the Northumberand, Tyne and
“The toxic mix of staff cuts and the availability of
such a quantity of drugs is highly likely to be
contributing to the problems the prison is currently
“Of course the public are protected from this chaos
in a custodial environment, it’s our colleagues
working in the prison who are out at risk by the
decisions of the company.
“This is the danger the Government are talking by
handing Sodexo a monopoly on punishment and
rehabilitation in the area.”
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: “Police
were called at 1.05pm on Tuesday and received
information from HMP Northumberland that a quantity
of what is suspected to be drugs had been found.
“A quantity of what is believed to be class A drugs
has been seized and will now need to be tested.
Inquiries are ongoing and we are working closely
with the prison.”
Anyone with information should call 101 ext 69191 or
Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
VILLAGE HOSTS QUIRKY
A quirky take on a world-renowned and prestigious
accolade will form part of Acklington Art Group’s
upcoming exhibition later this month.
In a comic twist, a series of interesting and
thought-provoking art installations will go on show
in a bid to win the Turnip Prize – a spoof of the
The eye-catching creations will be included among
other pieces of work in the exhibition, which will
give people the chance to view the varied and
interesting crafts produced by the group.
Sylvia McClure said: “As an added interest and for a
bit of fun, we have decided to hold a spoof Turner
Prize exhibition, calling it The Turnip Prize.
“Visitors will be asked to vote for their favourite
and the winning artist will be presented with a
“We are hoping that The Turnip Prize exhibition will
play a significant role in provoking debate about
visual art in Acklington and will become recognised
as the most prestigious art award in the village.
“We also make pretty good cakes so come along and
make it a social occasion with your friends.”
The exhibition takes place at Acklington Village
Hall, on Sunday, October 26, from 11am to 4.30pm.
Entry is free and there will also be a raffle and
The Turner Prize, named after the painter JMW
Turner, is an annual prize presented to a British
visual artist under the age of 50.
Awarding the prize is organised by the Tate Gallery
and staged at Tate Britain.
Since its beginnings in 1984 it has become the UK’s
most-publicised art award.
It represents all media and notable artists to have
exhibited work include Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.
This year’s exhibition opened at the end of
LIFEBOAT PAINTINGS PROVE A HIT FOR ACKLINGTON ARTIST
Acklington artist Charles Evans has touched a
national nerve with his paintings of east coast
His sketch of the Hartlepool lifeboat heading for a
stricken yacht led on to greater things, as
journalist David Whetstone finds out.
If you work in an office or miles from the coast it
is easy to forget that we are an island nation and
plenty of our fellow citizens regularly find
themselves in peril on the sea.
Charles Evans, who lives not far from the sea in
Acklington, Northumberland, got a reminder of this
with a watercolour painting of a lifeboat.
It appeared in the August edition of Culture
magazine, published free every month with The
Journal, and became a bit of a sensation on social
One painting led to another and another... and may
yet lead to another as Charles responds to the
widespread interest in his depictions of lifeboats
and his mounting admiration for their crews of
Beginning at the beginning, he recalls: “I was
leading a painting group in Amble and the Humber and
the Hartlepool lifeboats were both up on the chocks
in the boatyard getting repaired.
Charles Evans with the lifeboat paintings that have
caused a stirCharles Evans with the lifeboat
paintings that have caused a stir
“It was quite an amazing sight. The first painting I
did of the Hartlepool lifeboat was in the last
Culture magazine and I found everyone was talking
“On Twitter the picture got more than 500 retweets
but people were also sending messages or coming up
to talk about it.”
The response got Charles thinking that he would do
something for the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat
“The thing is, we live in the North East and we’ve
got sea all along one side of us.
“Many of us see it all the time and it’s easy to
take it for granted. But these guys (the lifeboat
crews) are out there all the time saving people’s
lives... and they’re all volunteers.
“Even as I was painting the sea, I was thinking: My
God, how pleased would you be, if you were in
trouble, to see one of these things coming towards
Charles, who spends much of his time hosting
painting masterclasses around the country, says the
first painting sparked plenty of comment among his
“It’s amazing how many people have come up to me and
said they were rescued or picked up or towed in by
Having enjoyed doing the watercolour of the lifeboat
being repaired, Charles went back to do more
sketches with a view to creating more dramatic
“The best thing I could do for the RNLI was to give
them a painting which they can turn into a print or
sell to raise money,” he says.
He has completed two paintings of the Hartlepool
lifeboat in action and one showing the vessel
approaching a stricken yacht is to be donated as a
Charles says he has never really been a maritime
painter although once, when filming a painting
series for Tyne Tees, he was lowered over the North
Sea on a winch by the crew of a Sea King helicopter
from RAF Boulmer.
Charles, who used to be in the RAF, had a sketchbook
strapped to one hand and a pencil tied to the other
in a modern-day version of 19th Century landscape
painter JMW Turner’s supposed exploit of being
lashed to a mast at sea.
He says this wasn’t necessary for him to paint a
stormy sea so convinvingly.
“You use your imagination, basically. As an artist
you look at things differently. You know the sea and
how it moves and you know the image you want to get.
I can always see the picture I want in my head
before I start painting.”
He is pretty pleased with the way the paintings have
turned out. He might even do another to benefit the
Amble lifeboat crew.
You can see another of Charles’s paintings in the
September edition of Culture, free in The Journal on
August 26. You can find more of his work online at
PROBATION OFFICERS FEAR
VIOLENCE AT 'TINDERBOX' PRISON
A North East prison is like a "tinderbox" after the
number of prison officers there was slashed, it has
Probation workers fear visiting HMP Northumberland,
near Acklington, after an officer was hospitalised
by an inmate on August 9th.
NAPO Northumbria branch chairman Mike Quinn said
staff cuts at the jail, run by private firm Sodexo,
have led to a "violent culture"
He described the Category C jail as “like a
tinderbox” and claims cash is being exchanged for
It has been revealed how staff numbers at HMP
Northumberland fell from 441 to 270 from 2010 to
2013 - a drop of 39%.
Mr Quinn said: “We are becoming increasingly alarmed
at reports about conditions at HMP Northumberland.
“Members report to me that the atmosphere within the
prison is tense and are concerned that if an
incident were to take place that there would simply
not be the staff to deal with it.”
It comes as Eoin McLennan Murray, president of the
Prison Governors Association, revealed Justice
Secretary Chris Grayling’s austerity drive is making
it impossible to run a jail safely. He said this
week: “We haven’t been able to recruit the numbers
Private firm Sodexo took over the running of the
jail in December 2013, after HMP Acklington and HMP
Castington merged two years before.
Mr Quinn added: “Worryingly, we’ve learnt that money
may be changing hands between prisoners in order for
assaults to be undertaken between prisoners. This
will result in not only danger to prisoners, but
also the staff employed at the prison.
“Prisoners are reporting to our members that they’re
submitting applications to see healthcare
professionals, to access education opportunities or
to attend rehabilitative programmes, only to not
The union boss accused Chris Grayling of “destroying
any hopes of rehabilitation” with cuts.
SHE IS NOT BARKING UP THE
A Northumberland woman who set up a home-from-home
petcare service is in the running to win a national
Tina Young, from Guyzance, who launched the East and
North Northumberland franchise of Barking Mad in
2005, has been shortlisted for the Micro-Business
Award at the HSBC British Franchise Association
Franchisee of the Year Awards, supported by Express
The category showcases the excellent business
practice carried out by the nation’s smaller
In total, there are 19 finalists across a range of
categories. The winners will be announced during a
black-tie ceremony in Birmingham Town Hall on
Thursday, October 2.
The most outstanding franchisee will be crowned
Franchisee of the Year at the awards, alongside the
The overall winner of the British Franchise
Association HSBC Franchisee of the Year Award will
win £10,000. Each category winner will receive
£1,000, all courtesy of HSBC.
Earlier this year, Tina, proved she was top dog when
she won the Barking Mad Franchisee of the Year
With the help of her team – Carol Ann Grey, Colin
Heathcote and new administrator Jenny Beaumont – she
hopes to increase turnover in 2015 by 35 per cent.
WORK WITH WOLVES LEADS TO
TEACHING DOGS TO BEHAVE
An animal behaviourist who previously worked
extensively with wolves is helping dog owners in the
North East to gain a better understanding of their
Dr Isla Fishburn started Kachina Canine
Communication to increase the understanding of both
pets and wild animals.
A qualified zoologist with a PhD in conservation
biology, Dr Fishburn returned to her native North
East after spending time in the South of England
researching and working with wolves.
Now she is holding behaviour and communication
courses at Acklington Village Hall.
She said: “I researched how wolves interact, and
offered wolf encounter courses where people could
come and experience time with them.
“Many of the visitors had dogs and it was seeing
people’s reactions to their own dogs, never mind the
wolves, that convinced me that a lot of people need
help in understanding how their dogs think and
communicate with us and how they can work with them
to overcome the problems that are all too common.”
Originally from Newton Hall in Durham, Dr Fishburn
has based Kachina Canine Communication in
She has worked with police and prison dog handlers
and used her techniques to address a range of
behavioural issues with rescue dogs.
She said: “As I work holistically, my focus is
improving the individual wellbeing of each dog and
its owner and creating mutual trust and respect.”
STAFF FEARS AFTER
DISTURBANCE AT PRISON
Staff, politicians and union bosses have all
expressed grave misgivings about staff levels at HMP
Northumberland after Friday’s ‘stand-off’.
A disturbance took place when around 50 prisoners
refused to return to their cells in one wing of the
Acklington prison, which became just the second
privatised facility in the country when Sodexo
Justice Services took over in December.
It followed an announcement in October that up to
200 jobs could go after Sodexo took control.
One prison officer, who did not wish to be named,
told the Gazette there have been a number of
incidents recently, including rooftop protests and
“The whole jail is a powder keg waiting for the
spark. There will be more trouble, that’s for sure,”
“It’s a disgrace; staff are kept in the dark, there
is no communication between management and staff –
we hear things from the inmates before it gets to us
– and to top it off, there are another 37 staff
leaving this month.
“I do not know how the jail will function or, even
worse still, respond to alarm bells or help, as we
are at breaking point now.”
One of his colleagues, who also wanted to remain
anonymous, added: “The reason it happened was the
“I’m all up for change, I believe the prison service
had to change. After the merger of the two prisons
(Acklington and Castington), we had too many staff,
but now we haven’t got enough.
“There’s two sides to a story and I’m open to
change, but it rarely happened before. The last time
there was a barricade was about 11 years ago.
“It’s getting dangerous. The convicts aren’t stupid
and something will happen.”
The POA (formerly the Prison Officers’ Association)
has praised its members for their ‘bravery during a
serious disturbance’ with some staff apparently
being inside the prison until 1.40am on Saturday,
having started shifts at 7.30am on Friday.
Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith has taken up the
issue and has sent a series of ‘urgent and detailed
questions’ to Sodexo and his Government’s Prisons
Sir Alan Beith MP
“I have asked what lessons have been learned from
the incident and whether prison safety can be
retained with such a large reduction in staffing,”
he said yesterday, adding that he is also concerned
about unsupervised or unescorted movement of
prisoners and apparently increasing and organised
efforts to get drugs into the prison over the fence.
The county council is also concerned and yesterday
leader Grant Davey announced the creation of a
working group to look at issues such as
privatisation, staffing levels and training.
Coun Scott Dickinson, whose ward contains the
prison, said: “Back in October, I raised concerns
about staffing levels and Friday’s events suggest
that maybe the reductions have been too fast.”
A Sodexo Justice Services spokesman said: “We
congratulate all the staff involved in the incident
for the professional way in which they resolved the
“There was minimal damage to the affected area and
the prison returned to its normal regime by Saturday
morning. We are now carrying out an investigation
into the incident.”
“We review staffing levels at all our prisons on a
regular basis and will continue to monitor them at
HMP Northumberland, particularly at a time of change
when we are introducing longer working days for
“Safety and security of prisoners, staff and
visitors is always a priority for Sodexo Justice
Services, as independent reports in each of our
prisons by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
“Our other four UK prisons achieved distinctions in
last year’s International Safety Awards, held by the
British Safety Council, for our commitment to
safety, which is so crucial to our business.”
GUYZANCE TEEN SHARES TALE
TO STOP STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS
A teenager has spoken about hitting ‘rock bottom’
after becoming addicted to taking ‘selfies’ as he
tries to raise awareness of mental illness.
Danny Bowman, 19, tried to take an overdose after
dropping out of school and becoming addicted to
taking pictures of himself, or selfies, to find the
“It started when I was 15,” said Danny, from
“I wanted to impress girls, as you do, and I just
didn’t feel good enough, so I started taking selfies
to try to get the perfect one.
“I would put them on Facebook and girls would see
them. But then I got mixed reviews and I just kept
“I spent six months housebound, taking 200 selfies a
He didn’t see his friends or family and lost two
stone in weight in his bid to create the perfect
But Danny, who appeared on ITV’s Daybreak this week,
said he hit rock bottom when his mum found him
‘piling in’ tablets in a bid to take an overdose.
“It was awful and really upsetting,” he said.
Danny was fortunate to be treated at London’s
Maudsley Hospital, after he was diagnosed with body
dysmorphic disorder, technology addiction and
obsessive compulsive disorder.
Now he wants to raise awareness of mental illness.
He said: “By sharing my story I want to stop the
stigma against mental illness and raise awareness of
this awful illness and illnesses like it.”
Talking about technology, Danny added: “Selfies are
such a new thing and we live in such a multimedia
age that you can’t avoid it. Everynody wants to
outdo each other and to show how good their life is
or how good-looking they are. But it can get
extremely addictive, it’s like a drug.”
He spent around four months being treated for his
addiction as an inpatient and outpatient. “The
treatment was amazing,” he said. “But it was very
hard, and difficult at times, but it got me better.”
He added: “I really want mental health to be
recognised as equal to physical health and for there
to be more investment in services.”
AFFORDABLE HOUSING GETS THE
Planners have voted unanimously to allow affordable
homes in the corner of a field, despite unease about
the risk of major growth of the village.
North planning committee members backed the
application for four semi-detached houses at the
western edge of Acklington on Thursday. The site,
with views to Simonside, is to provide the
affordable element of an 11-home barn conversion at
Cavil Head Farm, less than a half-mile north of the
The four houses next to Acklington Village Hall will
be rented to local people by a social landlord at up
to 80 per cent of the market rate. The barn
conversions will be rented at market value.
Parish councillors and seven objectors had voiced
concern that using the greenfield site could lead to
much more building on that expanse of farmland.
Coun Robert Arckless told the meeting at Alnwick
council chamber: “I think all of us have a degree of
sympathy with that concern. It’s worth raising that
point for reassurance that by accepting this, we are
not creating a precedent.”
Coun Trevor Thorne asked if the four-home site was
considered acceptable despite being outside the
‘village envelope’ only because the properties were
Principal planning officer Vivienne Robinson said it
complied with policy because it satisfied a local
need. Even if it were market-price housing, it could
be considered if it met a local need.
Council solicitor Tom Graham said there was law on
the requirement to look at non-greenfield sites
first, but this was not such a case.
Coun Thorne moved approval because the social homes
were in demand, but he was concerned about it being
outside the envelope. That was seconded by Coun
Gordon Castle, who shared the same concern. He
suggested the village draw up a development plan, so
it was in the driving seat rather than builders.
Acklington Parish Council chairman Coun Jeff Newton
told the meeting that if the four houses on the
farmland were allowed, it would not be long before
other applications were made to build on more of the
The national planning framework said affordable
housing should be allowed away from the main
development site only if that could be robustly
justified. The four houses would be better at Cavil
Head, where there was a shop and a playground.
“As an absolute last resort, we would be prepared to
see the development going ahead without any
affordable housing provision.”
Agent for the two linked schemes, Richard Garland,
told councillors: “We’ve been waiting to bring this
site forward since 2004. We have now had a national
change in planning policy with the aim of freeing-up
sites such as this.”
The affordable housing was much needed in this
community and the other part of the project would
preserve the architectural heritage of the farm
buildings. Those 11 barn conversion homes would go
some way to meet demand for properties to rent in
the area, he said.
Five people wrote in support of the affordable
homes, saying they would attract young people to an
The Cavil Head barn conversions were also approved.
NEW ERA LOOMS FOR SMALL
Application to accept three-year-olds has been
A small north Northumberland school is chalking up
big changes by opening its doors to nursery-age
children for the first time.
Staff, parents, governors and pupils at Acklington C
of E First School are delighted to be welcoming
three-year-olds from Easter.
The school, which is one of the smallest in the
county, has only ever received youngsters aged four
The change comes after an application to take
nursery-age children, which was made by the school
in December, was approved by Northumberland County
School staff and governors believe it is a positive
and beneficial step, with one representative
describing it ‘like getting a private education for
Headteacher Claire Jones said: “I am so happy that
we are opening our doors to nursery-age children.
“We have a very well equipped Early Years Unit with
great outdoor learning facilities and a popular
forest school area.
“It makes perfect sense to offer children in our
village and further afield a place in our school
before they are of Reception age.”
The governor for Early Years, Tracey Clerkin-Shone,
was also delighted at the news.
She added: ‘’I think it is great that children
living in and around the village can get their
children settled into their permanent school from
“Because it is a small school with lots of staff, it
is like getting a private education for free and
children gain so much confidence because of the high
levels of attention they receive.”
Parents and carers who are interested in enrolling
their three-year-old should contact the school to
make an appointment to have a look around and
discuss your child’s needs with the headteacher.
Contact 01670 760335.
The school in Acklington has a long history.
It was built in 1852 and opened in 1853, making it
one of the oldest schools still in operation in the
The first pupil to register in 1853 was 10-year-old
Since that time, hundreds of pupils have enjoyed
their early education at the village school.
WEDDINGS DOWN THE YEARS
An exhibition of wedding dresses with stories behind
them will take place in a north Northumberland
village this weekend.
"Weddings of the past" takes place on Sunday in
Acklington village Hall, with all proceeds from the
£1 entry fee going towards a sound system for the
Billed as "Something old, something new, everything
borrowed, come and view", all of the dresses on
display have some kind of tale to tell and also span
the decades, offering a look at changes of fashion
Exhibits include an original 1921 dress and an
original 1951 dress, which will be displayed with
associated details including press cuttings of the
wedding which took place at St John's Church in
There will also be Georgian-style wedding outfits
used by friends of the organisers at their wedding
at Wordsworth House.
Handmade and loaned to the exhibitors by In Disguise
from Choppington, they were featured on the ITV
television series, Inside the National Trust.
There will also be a complete bride’s ensemble
recovered from the roadside at Guyzance, which is
believed to have been thrown from a stolen car.
There will be more spanning the decades, including
coming right into the modern era with a gay wedding
which took place last year.
And even the war years aren’t missed out, as someone
has loaned a mock wedding cake used during wartime,
which will appear alongside wedding photos from the
Sharon Thorpe, who is secretary of the village hall,
explained that she happened upon the idea when
looking for a fund-raiser after her friend Lorna
found her old wedding dress.
“We realised that lots of people must have them
stored away, but I thought it would be an ideal
thing for a fund-raising event,” she said.
“It’s been such a lovely thing to do, because people
are giving their dresses, but they also have stories
to tell and pictures. It’s been fascinating.
“Dresses are still coming in and if we have room, I
will put them in the exhibition.”
PUPILS SHARE THEIR SECRETS
OF THE SAND
Pupils from Acklington Church of England First
School in Northumberland have been busy sharing the
secrets of the sand at Low Hauxley with their
classmates this week.
The pupils had previously joined Northumberland
Wildlife Trust’s massively successful 'Rescued from
the Sea' archaeology project at Druridge Bay, last
July, when hundreds of volunteers of all ages took
part in a unique archaeological dig, funded by
Heritage Lottery Fund, to unearth an 8,000 year old
Bronze Age burial mound and a Mesolithic settlement
dating back to 6,100BC.
At the time, the pupils participated in the
‘Footprint Project’, which included scraping back
the sand and making plaster casts of animal
footprints including the now-extinct auroch which
are ancestors of domestic cattle that inhabited
Europe until the 1600s.
This week, the children re-visited the project, this
time from the warmth of their classroom, making
copies of Bronze Age beaker pots, which were then
placed alongside a time line, next to genuine flints
and tools recovered during the dig last summer.
As the session was run by Northumberland Wildlife
Trust, it went without saying that Tracy Evans,
People and Wildlife Officer with the charity, had
the children thinking about the longevity of nature
over the past 8,000 years - from the extinct auroch
to the red deer which was alive then, and is still
very much alive now, and how the tracks and trails
they leave from muddy footprints on the classroom
floor to dirty handprints on their desks are just
the same as those left by animals in worlds gone by.
Tracy said: “The Rescued from the Sea project was
really great as it fired up children’s enthusiasm
and got them thinking about what happened on their
own ‘doorstep’ thousands of years ago. The timeline
approach was a great way of showing them how the
time period they are living in now is tiny compared
to all that has gone on generations before. Who
knows, one day one of them may end up presenting
Time Team on Channel 4… I wonder if they’ll remember
FACTORY BANK CLOSED FOR
Important repairs to the factory bank on the C102
(the road between Acklington and Guyzance) are being
carried out as part of Northumberland County
Council’s local transport plan’s landslip programme.
The repairs, on the north side of Factory Bridge,
began on Monday 27th January and are expected to
take about six weeks to complete - subject to
The costs involved in halting the slippage and
repairing the road will be in the region of £175,000
This is a main route from Acklington to the A1 (and
it is also the main road from Acklington to
Guyzance) so it has major implications for local