2010 New York Film Festival Award


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, Creativity | Posted on July 25, 2011

On a wet Saturday in October 2007, I sat with BAFTA winning film director Norman Stone at the piano in his house. In the space of 2 hours we rattled out 5 music hall songs (all Norman’s words) which feature throughout his drama documentary, ‘Florence Nightingale’. Lennon & McCartney didn’t work as fast as this! 5 songs knocked out in record time, recorded direct to MP3 and emailed across the Atlantic to be arranged for performance a week later with Roy Hudd in Liverpool. One of the songs is featured in the video clip above, around 4 minutes in. Great fun to spend time at the piano with Norman on a wet Saturday afternoon with the end result seeing the film winning an award in New York!

The 2010 New York International Film Festival. Award for Best Historical Short Film: Florence Nightingale.

Florence Nightingale – a full costume drama that tells the untold story of one of Britain’s greatest heroines, based on her own words. Florence NightingaleFlorence NightingaleFlorence Nightingale

Shown on BBC One on the 1st of June 2008, Florence Nightingale received 4.7 million viewers and a 22.9% audience share. Starring Laura Fraser, this film brings to life the story of Florence Nightingale’s spiritual and emotional breakdown after the Crimean War: a moment of crisis, doubt and failure that ultimately inspired her revolutionary career in medicine.

It also introduces the actor comedian Roy Hudd as the leader of a raucous Music Hall troupe, who dip in and out of the action with songs in the style of the times.



Visit to New Jersey by Dumfries & Galloway students


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Collaboration, International Education, video conferencing | Posted on April 14, 2011

Last week students in Northern Valley Schools, New Jersey welcomed 23 students and 3 staff from Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland. Families of students in Demarest and Old Tappan schools kindly hosted young people from Castle Douglas and Lockerbie for the week of 2-9 April. This was our reciprocal visit to the USA following the American students’ visit to Dumfries & Galloway in April 2010.

After a 22 hour delay due to a fault in the aircraft and an unexpected overnight stay in Edinburgh, our visit started at Newark Liberty International Airport on Sunday 3rd April. It was a very pleasant surprise to be met by a Northern Valley welcoming party greeting us warmly at the airport. Here goes with a whistle-stop guide to the week’s events.



From Liberty Airport we went to Demarest High School to meet our host families. From there, everyone dispersed to spend the day in a variety of ways. Our staff group, Karen McCutcheon, Fiona Cameron and myself headed off with the American group leader April Vella to the Yankee Stadium for the baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers. A beautiful sunny afternoon enhanced an exciting afternoon for us for our first ever baseball game. Later that afternoon we headed for our hosts Claudia and Evan Coopers’ home in Emerson, New Jersey. They recently moved into their new house and we enjoyed meeting a variety of friends that evening and had a superb meal prepared by Claudia.

The Coopers' new house  -  our home for the week!

The Coopers' new house - our home for the week!


At the top of the Rockefeller Center

At the top of the Rockefeller Center

Today we all meet up at Demarest at 7.15am and take a private coach to New York City. Highlight of the day is our visit to the top of the Rockefeller Center and a fantastic view over the city. Our group enjoy lunch at ‘Pop Burger’, a visit to Dylan’s Candy Store and a visit to the American Museum of National History. The Planetarium presentation narrated by Whoopi Goldberg is spectacular. Dinner tonight at Maggianno’s.

Northern Valley and Dumfries & Galloway students at the Rockefeller Center

Northern Valley and Dumfries & Galloway students at the Rockefeller Center


Dumfries & Galloway students spend a day experiencing the American High School curriculum as they follow their hosts from class to class. I’m invited to attend a video conference masterclass at the Manhattan School of Music. In the evening we all meet up at Old Tappan High School for a formal reception.

Blue skies at the Brooklyn Bridge

Blue skies at the Brooklyn Bridge


A lovely morning as we head for New York. A beautiful walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is followed by a tour of lower Manhattan and a visit to the Museum of the American Indian. Lunch at Fraunces Tavern and then on to a very big hit with all our students – Blue Man Group.

A Blue man meets the fans after the show

A Blue man meets the fans after the show

This zany show is enjoyed by all, including myself even if pureed banana is shooting out at us in the audience. Following the show, we made our way to the bright lights of Times Square for shopping before our evening meal at the excellent Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory.

On the Hoboken tour, a demonstration of how to make Mozarella

On the Hoboken tour, a demonstration of how to make Mozarella

Shopping in Times Square!

Shopping in Times Square!


This morning we head into New York and go to the Metrapolitan Museum of Art. This massive museum houses a huge range of amazing artefacts. Currently on display at the ‘Guitar Heroes’ exhibition is a guitar made by the master violin maker Antonio Stradivari, made around 1700.

In the afternoon we go on a tour around Hoboken, famous for holding the first ever baseball game in 1846, and the birthplace of Frank Sinatra. Students have dinner with host families. Our staff group enjoy an excellent meal and lovely evening with April, Evan and Claudia at Rob and Lesley’s house.


Dumfries & Galloway students involved today with American students on the Project Adventure course. This evening we all go to Chelsea Piers in New York to board ‘The Spirit of New York’ for dinner and a cruise. This is an excellent evening with spectacular views of the city and the Statue of Liberty.


Another beautiful morning. Students with families. Evan and I go for a walk up to the local elementary school and watch youngsters taking part in baseball activities. In the afternoon we all meet up for a farewell time at Demarest. Coffee, cookies, speeches and a few tears then head off for Liberty Airport. We’ve had an unforgettable week.

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