Star Q&A: Ed Byrne

Round & About

Surrey

Liz Nicholls talks about life, laughs & lockdown saviours with comedian & dad Ed Byrne, 49, ahead of his live shows in September, including Oxford, Newbury, High Wycombe, Farnham, Camberley & Dorking

Q. Hello! Which comedians did you like when you were young? “I always liked Dave Allen. My brother had a 12-inch album The Pick of Billy Connollly which I remember laughing at with my Ma & Da. And then repeating the jokes (that I didn’t really f***** get but were still funny), to other kids who also didn’t get it, in a bad Glaswegian accent.”

Q. Have you had to rewrite material for your new show If I’m Being Honest? “I’ve done a few outdoor & drive-in shows, so I’ve been able to tinker as I go, see what works and what doesn’t. Now I am making jokes about the fact that jokes in the show are a couple of years old which really changes the joke. It demonstrates that life has been in suspended animation for two years.”

Q. What were your lockdown saviours? “I had visions of having a nice break, then taking myself off to the Scottish Highlands when the kids went back to school…but no! I did manage to film a show interviewing celebrities while hill walking but people love to accuse you of breaking the rules. At home we did a lot of Dungeons & Dragons and Pokemon battles. We divided and conquered in this house, and I was banished to the garden. I dug a vegetable patch, made raised beds, I laid a patio… all in the first flush of lockdown, obviously, before my get up and go got up and went. I taught myself via YouTube. When it comes to practical stuff it’s better to watch someone who’s only slightly more qualified than you cackhandedly find their own way through it first.”

Q. Is it true you shook hands with David Bowie? “It was more than that! I was in Adelaide and was invited on to an evening TV chat show. It was live, and as I was doing my bit, Bowie and his band gathered opposite me next to the cameras and audience. Then he did his interview & he was easily as funny as I was. We had a chat and, despite the enormous disparity in our standing, he spoke to me like we were contemporaries, like equals, which was very sweet, if mad! The following day Steven K Amos did the same TV show and he got to meet… The Wiggles. So I won that one.”

Q. What’s your most memorable heckle? “To this day the most devastating heckle I ever had was in Sydney when woman just stood up and shouted [adopts drunken Aussie accent] BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! That really was all she was hearing.”

Q. You’re a humanist, right? “Yes. Humanists help people organise things differently. A lot of the big things in life; how we mark marriage, babies, death, used to be controlled by religion but now there’s choice. You can be altruistic and an atheist.”

Q. Any up-and-coming comedians worth a shout-out? “When work was scarce, I watched a lot of short videos. I do think it’s fitting that I’m made to feel old by the app TikTok, which sounds like someone pointing at their watch counting my career down. I have enjoyed Alistair Green, Tom Little and Naomi Cooper who are all very funny.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world what would it be? “Wow; big question! That it be disease free. And if we can’t go for disease-free, can we just make the diseases we have slightly less contagious?”

For Ed’s show details & to book, visit edbyrne.com

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Goblin Market at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Round & About

Surrey

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre welcomes BYMT’s Goblin Market

This August, opera, fairy-tale and musical theatre will combine in a spectacular show, Goblin Market at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

“Goblin Market is a chamber opera like no other that stands out from other British Youth Music Theatre shows. With complex musical harmonies, it reveals the unlimited imagination and enthusiasm of its young cast, who will at last unleash their incredible talent after many months of confinement. It promises to be a truly spectacular show,” says Zoë Wanamaker, BYMT patron.

A new extraordinary musical theatre adaptation of Christina Rosetti’s famous tale, Goblin Market is coming to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on 26th-28th August.

With music by renowned composer Conor Mitchell, this enchanting chamber opera of high energy physical theatre and complex musical harmonies charts the story of two sisters tempted by goblin merchant men. Unmissable, tempting, controversial, seductive… can you hear the Goblin call?

Grace Murray
Richard Gerard Jones

Director Gerard Jones (The Royal Opera House, English National Opera, La Scala) says: “Theatre centres on shared experiences, both for the audience and the performers. BYMT’s work gives this experience to the young people, and to us creatives working closely with them. I wanted to work again with the company since the first time I directed a piece there. That show had one if the very best group bonds I’ve ever experienced among cast and crew, and I’m sure that will be the same again also with this darkly exciting piece.”

One of the young performers, Grace Murray 18 from Market Drayton, Shropshire, says: “I have absolutely loved my BYMT experience. I’m playing Laura in Goblin Market and I’m enjoying every second of rehearsals. It’s so rewarding to take part in a show where everyone is as dedicated to the project as to each other, which also comes from the incredible score and an amazing team of creatives”.

This spectacular production was last seen in Edinburgh in 2005 and was hailed by press and public alike as a huge success:


“Magical… Kath Burlinson and Conor Mitchell have created the ideal vehicle for such a versatile and talented company of performers’Belfast Telegraph


“A brilliant production…energetic, dynamic, exciting, superb… Conor Mitchell has excelled here with a demanding and ambitious score…”Irish News


“The greatest musical Sondheim never wrote…” Broadwaybaby.com

To book tickets visit www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk/whats-on/goblin-market

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Star Q&A: Andre Rieu

Round & About

Surrey

Liz Nicholls asks international classical music champion & dad Andre Rieu, 71, about life, love & music ahead of Together Again which comes to cinemas on 28th & 29th August.

Q. Your concerts look so joyful! How do you create that magic? “Wherever we play in the world, people start to dance when they hear The Blue Danube. Magicians use their wands, I have my violin and my bow. But there is also the joy I feel when I play my music. It’s real, and luckily, my fellow orchestra members share that joy and passion. And then there is this unmistakable interaction with my audience: we face them and they can see our faces too. You know, classical music has been composed for all of us – not only for the elite like some people tend to think. Johann Strauss, Mozart; they were pop stars in their own times. Music is my oxygen!”

Q. How have you coped over the last 16 months? “When a concert was over and we were travelling to our hotel, I used to watch baking tutorials on YouTube. So that’s what I’ve been doing: making cakes, pies and all kind of pastries for the street, haha! One of the most famous cake bakers in the Netherlands (Cees Holtkamp) gave me a masterclass on my birthday, that was a nice surprise! Nevertheless, I missed contact with my audience and my big family; that’s the nickname for all my fellow orchestra members. My saviours? My wife, our sons with their wives and our five gorgeous grandchildren. I am looking forward to touring and returning to the UK in 2022.”

Q. How did your father shape your path in life? “I was raised in a classical family. My father was a symphony orchestra conductor, all my brothers and sisters play one or more instruments, chosen by our mother. She thought the violin would suit me and she was right! No other instrument translates my inner feelings so well. My first violin teacher was an 18-year-old blonde girl with whom I instantly fell in love (I was five years old, haha!).”

Q. What’s the key to a happy marriage like yours with Marjorie? “The key to our blissful happiness is the 100% mutual trust, but also sharing the same sense of humour and giving the freedom the other needs. We’ve been married 47 years, we work together but we’re also still each other’s lovers. Most people forget but it’s important to enjoy life and laugh. In the Netherlands we have a saying: ‘Not having laughed one day is not having lived that same day’.”

Q. What surprising lessons have fatherhood, and being a grandpa, taught you? “Not a single day is the same as another. Try to enjoy every moment because your (grand) children grow quicker than you think. Besides that: freedom is the secret… they’ll come to you as a father or grandfather when they’ll need you. Last thing: I love to spoil my grandchildren once in a while…”

Q. Who would be your dream dinner party guests? “Walt Disney who said: ‘If you can dream it, you can do it!’ Next to him, the one and only true King of the Waltz: Johann Strauss. Albert Einstein because of his knowledge about the universe: Jules Verne and Columbus.”

Q. What wish would you grant the world? “World peace. Not to fight for, let’s say, one year. Try to make music… more fun than weapons!”

For tickets please visit andreincinemas.com

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Star Q&A: Paul Stellar

Round & About

Surrey

Singer & dad Paul Weller, 63, opens up about his new album Fat Pop (Volume I), collaborations and a hopeful return to live music.

Q. Congratulations on the album! How was it born? “Most things become more apparent when you’re working on a record, so I don’t think I had a masterplan, I just wanted to make a record as I was facing a whole year or more of not doing anything, as all the live stuff had been cancelled.”

Q. You recorded in each of your homes, coming together at Black Barn studio in Surrey didn’t you? “In the first bit of lockdown, I was recording my vocal and a guitar or piano to a click track, then I’d send that to the band members… so there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing until we could all get together. It was very weird, and I wouldn’t say completely enjoyable as little things kept coming back that we could have easily fixed if we were all together, but it enabled us to stay working. Getting together in person though, was special. I’d say like the first day of school, but I hated school, so it was more like the last day, a real f***ing joy.”

Q. With your huge back catalogue you like to keep it fresh don’t you? “I’m always trying to keep my own interest and not repeat myself, which when you’ve been recording music as long as I have, can be difficult. The older I get, the less cautious I am about trying things. There was a similar ethos in The Style Council, I just don’t think I had the chops to bring it off successfully at times. If I believe in something though, I want people to hear it.”

Q. What was it like working with your star collaborators Andy Fairweather Low and your daughter Leah? “It was so easy and natural with Leah. We were sitting around the night before and I was playing this song on piano. She’s doing an album just now that Steve Cradock is producing. Even without doing the proud dad thing, I can see she’s coming up with really good songs. Andy Fairweather Low? Well, it was a joy to have him on board. We sang together a couple of years ago on a charity thing round my way in Guildford and our voices went really well together, so we’ve often said we should do something together.”

Q. What’s on the horizon? “My only ambition is to have more of what I’m having now; life, music, family, children and all that. I don’t have long-term plans because, as we’ve discovered in the last year, there ain’t no plan. As long as I get a bit more of this, I’m a happy man.”

For the latest news on Paul’s tour dates and releases, visit paulweller.com

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Star Q&A: Danny Goffey

Round & About

Surrey

Liz Nicholls chats to musician & dad of four Danny Goffey, 47, who will star with his Supergrass bandmates at Englefield House in Theale as part of a series of gigs which have been postponed to July 2022…

Q. Hello Danny. It’s great that live music is back – do you enjoy playing the hits, getting the bangers out..? “I love getting my bangers out! Our songs are interesting and intricate enough that when you’re playing them, you’re concentrating and getting really into them. We did a tour before Covid, finished with a couple of gigs at Ally Pally and it felt… all right actually! Now playing live has a new meaning. Mind you, we’re doing a year of touring – maybe ask me at the end of that!”

Q. Do you know Englefield House? “I don’t. I moved to Oxford when I was 10 or 11. I went to school in Maidenhead and grew up around Cookham. It was a lovely childhood, mucking about in the woods, on the river, mad stuff.”

Q. Can you tell us about Oxford in the 1990s? “I remember loads and loads of pubs, characters. We had such a good laugh up and down the Cowley Road and in Jericho, at the Tavern, Freud’s and Raoul’s. Down Little Clarendon Street there was a place called Barcelona; I think I got thrown out for wearing pyjamas and acting really stupid. It was so free and easy compared to today.”

Q. Do you wish you kept a diary of those early days? “I suppose the beauty of mad off-the-wall moments is that you don’t remember them, which is sometimes the best way, haha! Some of those times were hectic and insane so it’s great not to be able to remember them. I’ve been writing my book to go with my new record so I’ve been reflecting on old times. I wish I’d written a diary from ages 16 to 20; how the band started, ins and outs. I’d recommend anyone starting something they think’s gonna be great to document it… Which everyone does these days anyway.”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “Going through my dad’s rack of 45s, the Beatles, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Rolf Harris. Weird comedy records. The first band I got into were Dexys Midnight Runners; that was the first single I bought. I am crap with music nowadays; I haven’t got a record player or good stereo at the moment. I don’t listen to music much, it’s more Radio 4.”

Q. Have you felt insular during lockdown? “I’ve kept busy, with my album and book. It’s about an ageing semi-retired rock star and how he gets bullied by his family! I’ve spent a lot of time at a beach house, trying to fit decking. But I know it’s been really tough for a lot of people so I’m lucky.”

Q. What’s on your rider? “Me and Gaz tend to have a few vodka and Red Bulls before going on stage; it gives you a bit of an edge, lets you go a bit bonkers for a couple of hours. Wine and beers. A good coffee machine. We’re quite easygoing.”

Q. Who is your dream collaboration? “Ahhh, it’s endless. I’d loved to have worked on songs with Ian Dury. David Bowie. Years ago I wangled a way to play drums with Paul McCartney on bass for a Christmas album. That’ll do me.”

Q. Do you still get compared to McCartney? “Not as much as when I was younger. I look really mental at the moment with my long, wild hair.”
• To book your tickets visit heritagelive.net

Star Q&A: James Arthur

Round & About

Surrey

Liz Nicholls asks singer James Arthur, about music, mental health and more. His new single September is out on 11th June, via Columbia Records, taken from his as-yet untitled album out in autumn

Hello James – thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts with our readers.

 

Q. Congratulations on the new album, and the single out in June. You must be really proud of these? “Honestly, I am so proud of this whole album. I made the whole thing at home during lockdown, and I never could have imagined the difference working in a space I felt comfortable in could have led to me being able to produce the best work I believe I’ve ever made.”

Q. As someone who suffers anxiety myself, and a huge fan of CBT thank you for being so honest about it. How are you feeling now? “I take it day by day, I’ve found really focusing on staying present is the most important thing for me, I can’t control the past or the future, and trying to do so only breeds anxiety, so I focus on being in the present moment and just being grateful for that. What advice would you have for anyone going through a dark time? Speak to someone, you will be so surprised at the support you will receive if you just let people in, all it takes is a text to someone saying ‘I’m really not feeling ok’ which might sound like a scary thing to do, but by doing that, you are no longer alone. There is also an amazing out-of-hours mental health helpline by the charity SANE (sane.org.uk) if you don’t feel like you can speak to someone you know.”

Q. What is your go-to album or song to lift your spirits & make you feel good? “Got to be Real by Cheryl Lynn is my jam.”

Q. What is your first memory of music? “My early childhood memories of music are of rock vinyls playing at my dad’s (Thin Lizzy, AC/DC etc) – also Prince, Michael Jackson and soul music on repeat at my mum’s.”

Q. How did you feel about fame when you were young? And how do you feel about fame now? “I don’t think I ever really thought about fame when I was younger – the greats that I looked up to, I didn’t necessarily see them as famous, I was just so inspired by their talent. I also think the concept of fame was very different when I was younger – people that were ‘famous’ were very untouchable, you knew nothing of them apart from their art, and fast disposable fame didn’t really exist, whereas now, with social media, people really have an massive amount of access to a person’s life and personality. I guess it’s a necessary evil. I don’t think of myself as famous which probably helps me, and I’m so grateful to have people who love my music enough that would consider themselves a ‘fan’ of me, but if I could do my job without being famous, I’d definitely take that option!”

Q. How do you take care of your fantas1c voice? Anything you don’t eat or drink, or exercises etc? “I learnt very quickly after back to back tours that if I want to sing the way I want to sing every night I have to look after my voice, so I do an hour’s warm-up before a show and then a cool down after the show too. Even with that, if I don’t have days of complete voice rest built into the tour my voice completely cuts out for a few days, and it’s the worst feeling in the world as there’s nothing I can do to make it come back but wait and rest. It’s one of the most frustrating things about touring for me, so it’s a constant balancing act.”

Q. You have said you miss touring – having had some rest time, are you ready to go & perform live now? “I cannot wait! I’ve got some festivals lined up this summer and I’m really hoping they go ahead.”

Q. Is there an upcoming /lesser-known artist out there who you want to give a shout-out to & urge us all to listen to their music? “Shotty Horroh – I’ve been shouting from the rooftops about this artist for many years and I will continue to do so. He’s the best MC.”

Q. Rule of six time: who would be your dream party guests to hang out or have dinner/picnic with, living or dead, real or fictional? “Kurt Cobain, Jay Z, Elvis, Cillian Murphy, Ed Norton, William Wallace.”

Q. Do you have a favourite book? “My two favourite books are Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.”

Q. What were your favourite saviours of lockdown: i.e. things that made lockdown life better? “FIFA was massive for me during lockdown – I put my gamer tag on Twitter and my requests went crazy. From that I managed to find five guys who have become my really good friends. We spent the first lockdown speaking for hours and hours while playing FIFA every night. I’ve never even met any of them, but I speak to them nearly every day, and having that escapism was massive for me during lockdown.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be? “I’d wish that people would be kinder to each other. I don’t even think that’s that big an ask.”

Q. Is there anything on your horizon or future ambitions you can tell us about? “There’s some exciting acting roles coming up for me, but I might get sacked if I talk about it so you’ll have to ask me again next time!”

High five for Guildford Shakespeare Company

Editor

Surrey

As they celebrate their 15th birthday, Guildford Shakespeare Company are preparing to bring She Stoops To Conquer to life in the gardens of Guildford Castle. Rick Murphy & Lisa Dvorjetz review their recent live-streamed performance of Henry V…

Live theatre is one of the countless scarcities of the Covid-19 era, and during an exhausting lockdown, as the nation craves a return to art and culture, the Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC) staged a virtual production of Henry V. Maybe the play’s timely theme, which reveres British power over Europe, reminds us that, for the last 800 years, history has been set to repeat. In a mere 75 minutes, the cast and crew transported us from the alehouses of England to the battlefields of France. But, can our modern video technology really compete with the grandeur of a theatre performance?

Watching Henry V on a tablet felt like receiving a Zoom call from the 1300s. The fifth wall was creatively protected by a five-actor cast who meticulously changed clothes, props, scenes, accents, stage positions, from the comfort of their own homes, while presumably entertaining hordes of neighbours too. This was a fascinating and novel experience because, as well as being transported into the homes of the actors, we were also “Zoomed” into the homes of other audience members. Performing a show online has the potential for losing a theatre ambiance; however, this production created a slight voyeuristic effect which allowed you to track viewers’ reactions and feel part of a shared experience.

Don’t worry, you could switch your camera off!

Historical plays are sombre, and they yearn for a strong fit between each element of the performance. Watching each actor on “speaker view” made the characters seem intimate and the drama immersive. In one night-time scene, Henry, played by Gavin Fowler, was considering his claim to the French crown. It was choreographed in such a way that the background images were dimmed, home lights were turned off, and phone torches were used to create a fluttering sense of firelight. Sitting inside a theatre means each poignant whisper must carry to those unfortunate souls in the back row, but in the ease of a virtual play one is invited into a dialogue with each character personally. This made for a stirring entry into their fictional world.

Gavin embodied the energy and focus that one could imagine the young Henry V to have possessed. Chris Porter, Emily Tucker, Paula James and Matt Pinches managed to transition between the diverse country folk and nobles by use of their colourful costumes and wide array of accents. Some moments were unintentionally slapstick, particularly where the storyline hurried along too quickly, where background images were cartoonishly bright, with one actor showing clear signs of dial-up internet; but experiencing the victory of the battlefield from the comfort of home, patriotically munching on popcorn from our own front row, made this modern-take on Henry V a welcome and entertaining experience.

Rick Murphy & Lisa Dvorjetz

To book your seats for the next outdoor highlights, She Stoops To Conquer & AS You Like It, visit guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk


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Petworth Craft Group boost charity funds

Liz Nicholls

Surrey

Petworth Community Craft Group has taken its fundraising efforts for local charities online to continue its good work when they haven’t been able to meet in person.

The group which has just marked its third anniversary brings crafters of all abilities together to make saleable delights to help boost local charities including more than £1,000 for Petworth Community Garden and in excess of £2,500 for the Sylvia Beaufoy Youth Club.

When sources of selling ceased last year because of the pandemic, Tricia Stephens from PCCG said they “entered the 21st century, creating a Facebook page and sold from there as well as Petworth virtual Christmas market”.

Where possible the group uses unwanted, surplus or natural products to make a wide variety of gifts and useful items. Materials used have included donated designer fabric samples, donated blank cards and envelopes, unwanted magazines and newspapers, scraps of wool, corks, fir cones and much more.

PCCG encourages teamwork and a sense of camaraderie and belonging and enables experienced crafters to share their know how.

Members are welcome to bring their own project, make crafts to raise money or just go along for coffee and a chat and see what others are doing.

The group usually meets every second Friday in the month at Coultershaw Warehouse and is looking forward to getting together as soon as they can.

Interested in joining? Email , visit petworthcommunity.org or call 01798 342016.

To see what the group has for sale visit www.facebook.com/CreatePetworth


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Interview with local artist Catherine Cook

Liz Nicholls

Surrey

“From an early age growing up on the family farm, inspiration was never far away, whether it be our rescue dog asleep in the chair, my dad’s herd of Charolais cattle, to the farm buildings around me, I would be sketching.”

Catherine Cook’s desire to draw and create has taken her down several paths since she studied decorative crafts at art college and university, but drawing has always been her starting point whichever medium she is aiming for – glass, digital graphic or paint.

Having gained her degree she worked for a number of years in an auctioneers office but says “the yearning to create was always there” and so she returned to the pursuit of developing her glass artwork.

With the arrival of her two boys, family life took over and creativity was on hold briefly until the creation of a family birthday gift involving a collection of watercolour dog portraits took Catherine back to her paints and pencils and she has been drawing pet portraits continually ever since, working in watercolour, oil paint and pen and ink.

“When I paint a pet portrait for a client, I feel there is a great responsibility to capture the special character, which is achieved through seeing those fine details accurately,” Catherine explained.

“The power of a portrait and the emotional response from clients, when presented with the final artwork can be very moving and rewarding.”

“The process of drawing and observing your subject is a discipline which makes you stop and really look; this is an aspect I especially enjoy. You can become completely absorbed in the process of drawing, it is therapeutic, it is a form of escaping all other busy thoughts. During lockdown weeks, anytime I could find to draw was valued.

”Living in the Hampshire countryside she never tires of watching the seasons change and enjoys having an “endless list of plants, wildlife and breeds of animals to draw”. And her work can be enjoyed through everyday objects such as greeting cards, tea towels and coasters.

Catherine added: “I love constantly seeing new ideas around me on every country walk and during these lockdown months, there have been many!

“I take photos when out and about and use the images to build compositions. Capturing those magical countryside moments of a Robin chirping on a branch or a squirrel busy in the garden, greatly inspires my artwork style.”

While in-person events have not been possible – and much missed – you can discover Catherine’s work at thecatherinegallery.co.uk and shop on Etsy.com


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Holme Farm community hub

Liz Nicholls

Surrey

Ronnie Kendall is passionate about creating a community hub in the Woking area to help those with mental health issues and to combat loneliness.

The idea behind Holme Farm, Woodham, is to create a community hub with workshops and a café which also provide a safe haven for those with mental health issues and to combat loneliness.

There will be space for gardening, an orchard, bee-keeping, re-wilding and family areas for relaxing. Inside the ‘sheds’ there will be a café where people of all backgrounds and ages can meet and socialise, and courses will be organised for everything from crafting and creative activities to computer skills and woodworking.

In the longer term, it is hoped to involve local councils and assist with high child poverty and levels of loneliness in our boroughs. It is this that inspired the group of community-minded individuals including myself and my wife Christine to come together to try and secure derelict buildings and adjoining land, currently owned by DEFRA, in Woodham Park Road.

Loneliness causes mental illness. Recently there has been a heightened level of awareness around the issue of poor mental health and an urgent need to take positive action in tackling this issue, reducing the burden on the NHS and emergency services. Workshops are a simple way of helping with this growing problem.

It is hoped the Holme Farm project can start this year. It will be a place to pursue interests, to share and practice skills, enjoy making and mending and discuss anything. A community project to share knowledge, make social connections, build friendships – and of course a lot of laughter and tea!

To join the project sign up here or email


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