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Celebrating Surrey’s arts and minds

What a wonderfully talented, artistic and creative lot we are, in Surrey.

Let me begin by applauding Betty Laine’s fantastic achievements in bringing a steady stream of young performing artists through to West End stardom over the last four decades. In this issue we recall some of the many talents who went on to sing, dance and act their way into our hearts as we celebrate Laine Theatre Arts’ 40th anniversary. But Betty Laine is much more than just the founder and figurehead of the school; she’s a cornerstone of the community, too. Her students bring vitality, colour and impeccable behaviour into the town; this in turn benefits the town economically and her close rapport with Epsom Playhouse ensures that we, the local consumers of professional stagecraft, get to see the fruits of her team’s labours on a regular basis. News of ongoing expansion, both in terms of space and courses offered, suggests that Laines is likely to be a pillar of the Epsom community for many years to come.

In this issue we print the winning entry in our third Short Story Competition. Unlike the bright young things being produced by Laines, Surrey T&L’s latest writing discovery is Henry C. Combe - a 74-year young Sutton resident who has achieved in a number of different fields, from motor racing, through maritime adventure to building ship repair yards in South Africa. His revolutionary method of discovering leaks in ships’ turbines alone was enough to distinguish his career. Henry is a shining example of how we can all succeed in as many fields as we want to succeed, if we choose to apply ourselves. Henry is a talented writer, but he never sought to get his work published. Let us hope that he collects his prodigious output of stories into an anthology, in order that we can at least savour this area of his expertise.

While we are talking about talented local artists let me mention another Sutton group – the Imagineers. A natural coalescence of artists participating in the Imagine Festival of Arts, these artists – of whom I count myself as one – are currently preparing an intriguing programme of work for this year’s festival, scheduled for 18 October to 2 November. I will be bringing you more on this year’s festival as it approaches.

Chris Wood is resident composer with Guest House Opera and editor of Epsom, Sutton and Cheam Time & Leisure.