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Scott Eveleigh’s chance meeting with Sir Elton John

DREAMING OF OVERSEAS: Young performer Scott Eveleigh who gained his big break playing the lead role in Billy Elliot. Picture by MARINA NEILMeeting Elton John was never high on Scott Eveleigh’s wish list. As a soccer-playing, karate-kicking kid, the world of star and stage was another world indeed.
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But one night a couple of years ago, the unthinkable happened.

Scott had finished a performance as Michael in the hit musical Billy Elliot and the great Sir Elton – who also wrote the music for the show – was in the audience.

“He came up to me after one of the shows, gave me a hug and said that when he was writing the musical he had an image of Michael and I portrayed that for him,” Scott said. “He was amazing.”

Now aged 17, Scott has finished playing Michael, has moved back home to Thornton and is busy performing any chance he gets.

“Going to Sydney for Billy Elliot has probably been the biggest achievement of my life so far,” Scott said. “I spent a year living there and performing twice a week and that was such an amazing experience.”

When Scott grew too old for the role, he came home and resumed his studies at the Hunter School of Performing Arts.

“I’m still a student there and I’ve just been doing some Hunter shows including The Boy From Oz (where Scott played a young Peter Allen), I played Peter Pan in Peter Pan and I played Aladdin in Aladdin,” he said. “I’ve been really busy, it’s been non-stop.”

Scott was eight and a student at Beresfield Public School when he discovered a love for dance.

“I was always into soccer but then I did a bit of public speaking and I went and saw the stage

show Tap Dogs and I just knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “I think mum was a little reluctant at first but I gave up soccer, tried out drama and it’s been like that ever since . . . I’ve never looked back.”

Then along came Billy Elliot.

“It’s funny how I got the role,” Scott said. “My father called up the night before the last audition and said ‘my boy can dance’ and the casting agent decided to let me try out.”

Several months later, after a gruelling seven months of auditions, Scott – then 12 – got the part.

“I was very fortunate but the whole time I never thought I would get it. I just kept thinking if it happens, it happens, if not it would still have been a great experience.

“So in the end it was like a dream come true. I had done four shows with the Young People’s Theatre and here I was walking the red carpet with television reporters wanting to interview

me. It was the most amazing experience. But when it was time to go I was happy to leave because I was ready to come home. It was another boy’s turn to play Michael.”

Next stop for Scott is London or New York.

“As soon as I finish school I want to pack my bags and head off. I want to try out for some drama schools and get a bit more experience. I want to learn as much as I can and get as much life experience as I can. My aim is to travel doing shows here, shows there, television, movies whatever I can get into.”

Scott also has a burning desire to one day play the fictional transvestite mad scientist Dr Frank-n- Furter in the hit musical The Rocky Horror Show.

“The feeling I get when I perform is unexplainable,” he said. “But to see the smiles on the faces of those in the audience and to feel that raw emotion is just amazing.”

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Call for calm over dog fighting

A dog reported stolen was returned to its Raymond Terrace owner yesterday amid the hysteria of illegal dog fighting.
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Striker, a bull mastiff/great Dane cross was found only hours after he was stolen.

Media reports put two men at a Charles Street address before the alleged theft. The men were aged 20 to 30 and one wore highly fluorescent work clothing.

Port Stephens Local Area Command crime manager detective inspector Peter Mahon said social media was exploding with hearsay and urged people to calm down.

“There are a lot of rumours circulating at the moment,” he said. “This alleged dog fighting; we

have received no information that there is any illegal dog fighting in the Port Stephens LAC.”

A Raymond Terrace resident found Striker late Monday on Jacaranda Street and took the dog to a veterinarian clinic nearby to be checked for a microchip. He has since been returned to the owner.

Reports have circulated on the social media site Facebook of a white Hilux utility, seen at Williamtown last Friday, implicated in the attempted theft of dogs.

Whistleblowers spotted what appeared to be the same utility at Kurri Kurri that afternoon and at 2.45pm speeding out of Cessnock.

On Sunday, following the sightings, an attempted theft was reported to police at Warners Bay.

Items were taken from the laundry of Catherine Benge’s house; a committee member of animal welfare group So Cares.

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A winter dash for dad

Photo courtesy of Norma Fellows, nee Moore, of Maitland.It’s a Friday night in old Maitland, dear reader. The wind is fierce and cold – and if you aren’t wearing a coat, it’s because you don’t own one.
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I receive a call from a friend. He has a photo for me. He told me about it while we sat listening to a kids’ concert inside the beautiful St Peter’s Church at East Maitland.

There, in that amazing building up on Stockade Hill, near where they hanged them high for their sins, he told me about the photo.

I’m to go and meet him down in the High Street, the shop will be shut, but he’ll wait out the front on the silent street – he’s got the photo.

And I’m away, dear reader, out into my Friday night streets; and it’s across the lightless Belmore Bridge, all dark and eerie, with the river murmuring below, and I can see where the old bridge once joined the town, beside the Belmore Hotel, beside Sim Bros’.

And that’s the photo, the place, the face I want to see again . . .

So it’s down to the pictures and up past the Doch n Doris and Comerford’s, around by the two churches and the Marist Brothers, up beyond le Club Physique, the Ko Wah Cafe and Macca’s barber shop, then Waltons, the Post Office and the old Water Board . . . and it’s all coming back to me dear reader, dear friends.

And I can’t stop now; so it’s straight ahead like I always did, like we always did, and into the mall, into the High Street I glided.

Not far now, and there’s Ken Lane’s and Mr Richard Fellows in the darkness, in the cold, waiting, smiling, waving . . .

And there are great places and grand people in this town – and I had arrived at them both when I walked toward that wonderful old shop and that man.

We shake hands and he motions me to come over into the light, to the front of the shop where the little horse ride, ‘Harry’s Boy’ would stand and wait for a kid and a coin – and there, from an ordinary bag, comes an extraordinary photo . . . Sim Bros’ mechanics and NRMA, 1947.

From across all those years it comes, hitherto unknown to me, silent, waiting – it comes to me now.

And I’m transfixed and transported. I’m numb and joyous and so incredibly sad and happy to see these faces – to see him, young and alive, and he’s up there at the end of the street, just there . . .

And I reach down to touch his face instinctively, and I whisper, ‘that’s him, there’s dad.’

I scan the rows, the names; and I recognise so many of them, know their cousins, sons, grand-daughters – it’s like that here . . .

And they look happy and brilliant – and I love them all. Love their ties and overalls, their dresses and their hair, their eyes and unknown stories, their secrets . . .

On such a wickedly cold, dark night, their faces, their names, they light the street, they make me warm and hunt the bleakness from the sky. And it’s thank you to Richard, and into the car again.

I place the photo face-up on the dash and I drive as far up that beautiful street as I can; for tonight, they’re seeing the town again, they’ll ride with me and they can light my way.

So I drive and drive. And the street lights catch their faces as I take them down the High Street, to let them see the buildings, feel the town – the Town Hall, the Royal, Cappers and the Volunteer, the Bend. Then, finally, to St Andrews Street once more to sit awhile . . .

No bridge there now, no bowsers, no building, no voices, no more ... But on Friday, and today, on the pages of our paper, there they are, here they are ...

And so it still goes. Goodnight.

Who's who in the photo

Back Row: R. Whittington, N. Beggs, N.Tranter,V.Wilcher, J.Vine,W. Prowse, N. Cracknell, R.Wyper, A. Jones, L. Moore.

Third row: H. Pilgrim, J.Yearby, P. Derwin, G. Buscombe,W. Hamilton, J. Modinger, J.Vincer, R. Mallon, A. Hodges, H. Holwell, B. Dwyer.

Second row: W.Taylor, M. Mead, L. Bamback, J. Anderson, D. Sim, R. Sim, G. Buffier, I. Lightfoot, B. Horn, J. Lethbridge, S. Flynn.

Front Row: G. Marquet, P. Ross, M. Hain, L. Moran. Inset: R. McInnes, A.Taylor,T. Armstrong, J. Ellis,T. Hemming.

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Homeless help a welcome boost

The penny has finally dropped – or, more correctly, pennies.
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Maitland has witnessed a major boost this week in meeting the housing needs of low-income earners and the homeless.

On the weekend, Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon and the Mayor of Maitland, Cr Peter Blackmore, announced $11.3 million towards the cost of 1300 affordable homes in the central Maitland.

Today, we see the start of a campaign to build a

multi-million dollar complex to alleviate Maitland’s growing homelessness crisis.

Under this program, the Saint Vincent de Paul East Maitland Conference has been named the recipient of a $3 million grant for a multi-purpose complex to be known as William’s Place, a one-stop-shop approach for clients complete with short- and medium-term accommodation.

With existing organisations such as Carrie’s Place turning away 1000 women and children a year, and other care groups in similar predicaments, William’s Place will help ease the incredible burden that exists in this city.

Maitland has been a victim of its own success.

It wears the badge of being one of the fastest growing regional cities in Australia with pride and yet for many people, housing is out of their reach.

As people have spilt over into Maitland from Newcastle and further afield the strain on housing has grown – and become more unaffordable along the way.

Even cashed-up people with jobs moving to the city have found finding a home difficult; spare a thought for low-income earners or the unemployed.

Education and jobs may be the answer. But first the poverty cycle must be broken.

It is near-impossible for a person to attend a learning facility or look for a job when they are of no fixed address and wonder where the next meal is going to come from.

This city will be a better place for these twin

announcements.

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Thompson secures his eighth cup

Champion jockey Robert Thompson broke an 18-year drought to claim his eighth Jungle Juice Cup at his home Cessnock track yesterday.
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Thompson was on board favourite General’s Sniper for trainer Tracey Bartley in 2012 after last winning the Wine Country Race Club feature with Beaucastel in 1994.

General’s Sniper led for most of the 1350 metre journey and was forced to hang on in the closing stages after determined efforts by the Neil Godbolt pair Never Doubt Me and Better Not Doubt.

In the end General’s Sniper, paying $3.90 for the win and $1.60 for the place, took out the 32nd running of the Jungle Juice Cup by a neck from Never Doubt Me while Better Not Doubt was a head further back.

“Looked gone several times in the straight but Thompson lift’s it over the line and wins his eighth Jungle Juice Cup on his home track,” was the call on Sky Racing.

“RT [Robert Thompson] you are a freak.”

Thompson is the record holder for most wins by a jockey in Australia.

In the eighth and final race of the day Husisname finished second for Branxton trainer Noel Boland.

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City teams make state finals

Maitland City women’s bowlers have won through to state pennants in two grades following success at the regional play-offs late last month.
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The No.1 grade team accounted for Raymond Terrace by 19 shots at Scone on Friday and the No.4 grade team progressed on a countback after splitting results with Nelson Bay and Denman.

The NSW Women’s Bowling Association tournament will be held in the Lower North Coast region next month (August 13-17).

In other lawn bowls news, Maitland City will be represented in state junior championships as well with the fours team heading to Warilla next week.

The quartet of Shaun Parsons, Alex Hannah, Molly Wilton and Alan Tubman will fly the Hunter district flag from Monday.

They will be joined by Dungog’s Andrew Deasey, who will take part in the singles competition.

Zone championship draws have also been released with Hunter district winners to play at Scone later this month.

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Woolcott’s pigeon passion takes flight

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS: Gary Woolcott has 70 pigeons in his flock but he has a special spot for Oakhampton Boy, after the now retired bird finished third in a 200km test of endurance and homing skills.A chance meeting with an old friend in Sydney three years ago reignited Gary Woolcott’s passion for pigeon racing.
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It had been more than 30 years since he was last involved in the sport but Woolcott jumped at the opportunity and turned a planned mower shed at his Oakhampton home into a pigeon loft.

Starting with two silver shadow pigeons, Woolcott was on the flight back to the racing circuit.

He now has 70 pigeons but last month one rose above the rest finishing third after making the 200 kilometre journey home from Breezor in a Newcastle and Coalfields Racing Pigeon Federation race.

This result gave the podium placing pigeon a privileged spot in Woolcott’s collection.

“Whenever I have a bird that finishes one, two or three I name them,” he said.

“I named him Oakhampton Boy.”

Woolcott was first introduced to the sport as a child through his East Maitland next door neighbour Billy Morris in the 1950s.

Eventually Woolcott stepped up from first hand assistant to operator and for 20 years raced his own pigeons.

The simple pleasures of the pursuit have not been lost on Woolcott despite his 36-year absence from the sport.

“The greatest joy is seeing a bird come down, from as high in the sky as you can possibly see, and drop down into the cage,” he said.

The Newcastle and Coalfields Racing Pigeon Federation have races scheduled for the rest of the year but Woolcott’s flock will have to wait.

Not only has Oakhampton Boy been retired from racing but a virus has been detected in pigeons on the east coast of Australia forcing the federation to suspend racing.

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An old slab cottage and a 200th anniversary

200th ANNIVERSARY : Artist Val Anderson with historian Shirley Threlfo. There’s not a lot known about the little slab cottage standing on the side of the road in the tiny hamlet of Woodville.
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But as the building falls victim to the passing years, artist Val Anderson has decided to capture its history as a reminder of a time gone by.

Mrs Anderson has sketched the building – known as Pioneer Cottage – as part of the 200th anniversary of the Woodville community. The sketch will be raffled off as part of the celebrations to be held later this year.

“The cottage is lovely, it really is, but it’s really falling down,” Mrs Anderson said.

Thought to have been built in the mid 1870s and situated between the Woodville School of Arts Hall and Iona Public School, the cottage is the original home of bootmaker Peter Pomfrett and his wife.

Mr Pomfrett was also a handyman and undertook jobs for the School of Arts hall.

“Pomfrett was later joined by a Mr Harden whose descendant, Tom ‘Poppa’ Harden, came to live in the cottage in 1903, aged 12 years, and was the last to live in the cottage,” Mrs Anderson wrote in her

history of the cottage.

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Look at the architecture

Central Maitland’s affordable housing project will put the precinct back on the real estate map.
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Tony Cant Real Estate general manager Peter Hogan said the market in central Maitland had never been huge and it was difficult to convince locals to make the move because of the old flood zoning since the 1955 flood.

But despite some locals ignoring the area, the precinct has attracted a wide price range. The cheapest rental properties start in the high $200s and increase quickly to about $400 a week.

Houses sell between the low $200,000 mark and $500,000 and $600,000.

Mr Hogan said people need to walk around the area and see the old-fashioned architecture of many of the homes in central Maitland.

“People don’t take the time to look around central Maitland,” he said.

“It’s not about looking at a shift in real estate, it’s about changing public perception. The hardest thing is to get the locals into the area; people have to start making the move.”

Mr Hogan said the 1300 affordable homes that would be built in the area would be a strong attraction.

The development will be kickstarted by road upgrades to be done with an $11.3 million federal government grant announced earlier this week.

“Central Maitland is beautiful with its old buildings and river, and this is going to reflect positively on the CBD and Maitland Heritage Mall,” he said.

“It’s an important step because the population is supposed to double by 2030, which isn’t a long time away – it’s only 18 years – and there’s a lot of infrastructure that’s needed in that time.”

Mr Hogan said the government’s investment would give potential developers the confidence to invest in the precinct.

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