Liphook author’s novel idea

Round & About


Born a few years after the end of the Second World War in Farnham, Ed (Peter) Johnson has seen and lived through the changes, which he, in part, gives as one of the reasons he started writing

In the 1950s you were expected to be able to turn your hand to anything, which, says Ed Johnson, has contributed to his writing.

His working career has been in electronics and technology; mending a computer in 1970 was a very different experience from working with them today, he quips.

“I had the first idea when in my 30s, but I have always taken on challenges, like starting an IT business in 1981, building it up during my 40s and selling it in 1997,” he begins.

“Next was building a car, not from a kit, which I completed in my early 50s and restoring a bungalow from the ground up in my 60s. Now in my early 70s I am using the ideas that have been developing over the last 40 years and putting them into a much less strenuous use of time, I love the challenge and becoming an author is my current one.”

Now living in Liphook he has penned his first novel in which we are invited to delve into the shadowy world of crime with the revealing exploration of the criminal underworld. Beyond the notorious crime lords and the violent realm of drug trafficking, lies a complex network of theft, fraud, and borderline legal activities. Who are the masterminds behind these operations? How do they seamlessly orchestrate crimes while remaining undetected?

In everyday life, we find plumbers, electricians, and plasterers through a simple internet search or recommendations. But in the criminal fraternity, things operate differently. Fences, who trade in stolen goods, rely on a clandestine network: one group supplies the contraband, another discreetly purchases it, no questions asked.

Imagine if this underworld also had its own ‘sub-contractors’ – skilled individuals specialising in specific illegal activities, and facilitators who connect various players in this covert market. This book takes you deep into this hidden society, shedding light on how organized crime functions with the same efficiency and connectivity as legitimate businesses.

If you’ve ever been curious about the intricacies of the criminal world and its unseen yet organized culture, this is your guide to understanding how these hidden networks operate, thrive, and evade detection. But remember it is only fiction – or is it?

Why Am I Here? Jane’s Story by Ed Johnson is published by Austin Macaulay Publishers ISBN  9781035810000 is available from Amazon and all good bookshops.

Maestro Matthew Taylor of Farnham Sinfonia

Round & About


Diana Martin tells us more about Matthew Taylor, the man behind Farnham Sinfonia

There really couldn’t be a better time to write an article on local composer and conductor Matthew Taylor, for the Oscar nominated Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro is due to show at Farnham Maltings in February…Matthew was one of Bernstein’s protégées! 

Bernstein, who is known for composing one of the most successful musicals ever, West Side Story, had an inspired conducting style which led to his big break conducting the New York Philharmonic in 1943. He was one of the first American-born conductors to lead world-class orchestras and achieve success globally. Maestro tells the audience of Bernstein’s complex life, his musical fame and his marriage.

During his twenties Matthew was selected by Bernstein as one of three conductors to attend the Schleswig Holstein Musik Festival – when young musicians from all over the world are given the opportunity to study and perform great works from the orchestral literature with famous conductors.   During the summer Matthew continued to conduct concerts with Bernstein in Northern Germany. Matthew was a friend of Bernstein’s until his death in 1990.  He recalls with amusement Bernstein’s ability to put young musicians at ease by reciting limericks, some of which were quite risqué.

Matthew felt a passion for music at a very young age when his father would play Beethoven to keep him amused rather than playing nursery rhymes.  This led to his lifelong enthusiasm with music as he became both a conductor and composer.  He says, ‘Beethoven has always been central to all my thought processes as a composer.  I still find more life force in his work than in any living composer.’

Over the years, Matthew has appeared as Guest Conductor with many renowned orchestras both at home and abroad and which included many first performance pieces by Robert Simpson, Vagn Holmboe, David Matthews and James Francis Brown.  Matthew has also held significant roles such as Artistic Directorships, Composer in Residence and Lecturer in Composition at the Royal Academy of Music.  He currently works at the Yehudi Menuhin School, supporting the development of his students.

Matthew’s recent work includes his 6th Symphony which was commissioned by the family of Malcom Arnold for the composer’s centenary celebrations. Matthew has long been an advocate for Malcolm Arnold’s music. This work will be broadcast later this year with Matthew conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Having moved to Farnham in 2010, a town that he considered home to many artistic people, Matthew decided to form an orchestra and the Farnham Sinfonia was born. Over time, his vision became a reality, and the orchestra nurtures the next generation of musical talent by inviting young aspiring musicians to perform solo with a professional orchestra. This is a unique proposition for the students and graduates alike and underlines Matthew’s enthusiasm to promote young talent.

Sinfonia’s Outreach programme includes Matthew and Lead Violinist Elizabeth Cooney visiting local schools and colleges to fill the gaps in musical education. Matthew is keen to impart his musical abilities with the rising stars of the future as well as nurturing the orchestra to its full potential.

The next concert is on Saturday, 23 March at 7.30pm at St Andrew’s Farnham.

Mahler – (theme from Death in Venice)

Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 2 and Two Romances

Schumann – Fairytale (for Viola)

Hindemith – Trauermusik

Piazzolla – Spring

For further information on Farnham Sinfonia (CIO), please go to their website

 The most English Scotsman?

Round & About


Robbie James shares his love of his ‘homeland’ in his new TV show and invites you to join the journey up north

I’ve lived all but two years of my life in the south of England. I grew up near Winchester. Winchester! It doesn’t get much more English than middle class, oat milk flat white, Schoffel wearing Winchester. I’ve since moved to Farnham. Farnham! Middle class, oat milk flat white, Schoffel wearing Farnham.

Ok so maybe I’ve had a fairly English life so far, but at heart, I feel very, very Scottish. I know, you’re rolling your eyes as you await me to tell you about my great aunt’s, cousin’s, labrador’s, dressing table’s Scottish heritage, but let me explain.

My grandparents on my mum’s side came down to Aldershot from Glasgow when my grandad (Papi as we call him) was in the parachute regiment. Ever since, my family has been settled down south, but they’ve never lost their love and impassionment for Scotland, and that’s rubbed off on me. 

Watching Scotland play in the Six Nations from their south coast home has formed the nucleus of all major family events. Hearing stories of Jack & Betty’s less than glamorous upbringings in the Glaswegian tenements has humbled us through the years, and near enough everything I have in my life is thanks to their relentless hard graft. But anyway, we’ve always been brought up to be aware of our Scottish roots, and to feel them.

So when Travelxp asked me if I’d like to host a TV show taking you around Scotland for 10 days, I immediately said yes. We filmed it at the back end of the summer and it was the most fun. It felt like a form of homecoming, which even I struggle to comprehend given I’ve only ever lived in Scotland to study at Heriot Watt University for two years, but I feel at my most content in Scotland. 

Every country has a mixed bag of people; but the self-deprecating, warm, charming and often downright mischievous sense of humour from Scottish people is something I can really get on board with. The landscape is also just beautiful to the point where I feel drained from the emotion it somehow brings out in me. So romantic, curiously personable, and yes really cold, but that’s fine.

I think the show covers all bases when it comes to exploring the country. We of course take you through some of the most emotive landscape the UK (and in my opinion, the world) has to offer, but we also head into cities, touch on Scotland’s often traumatic history, and you bet we learn the bagpipes (which by the way is one of the hardest things to do, lots of blowing, to the extent I nearly passed out).

I think it’s important not to force any kind of #content down anyone’s throat. No one trusts a sales rep, so we wanted to give you some ideas of things to do if you’re visiting Scotland, but they’re only ideas. You’re grown up and can plan your own trip, you don’t need me to tell you how brilliant every single cafe or walk in Scotland is, because it’s not. That’s not the case anywhere, except maybe Farnham…or Winchester. Uh oh.

Watch Robbie James in 10 Days Scotland, which airs from 25th November exclusively on Travelxp.

Can you help local hygiene bank?

Karen Neville


Helena Vernon, Project Coordinator for Farnham and Aldershot Hygiene Bank needs your help to find a new storage location to continue helping people in need

At The Hygiene Bank, we believe it is not right that feeling clean should be a luxury or a privilege for anyone in our society, yet many are living in poverty and cannot afford to stay clean. That is why our network of projects exists – to give people access to the basics they need.

We are a grassroots, people-powered charity and social movement, grounded in community. Our passion stems from the injustice that people may be unable to fully participate in society due to hygiene poverty. This is why we work to inspire social change. 

What is hygiene poverty?

Many people locked in poverty or those who find themselves in times of crisis often experience restricted options. This leaves them caught between being able to heat their home, pay their rent, buy food or keep clean. Hygiene poverty can be shaming, humiliating and excluding and can result in social isolation.

It can lead to a lack of confidence and can negatively affect good health and mental well-being which can impact early childhood development, learning, employability and social interaction.

How we work:

Products are donated, collected, sorted and distributed to our network of community partners – a mix of organisations, charities and schools – who support those of us pulled into poverty.

Supporting The Hygiene Bank is a simple way to help not just one organisation, but multiple grassroots initiatives across the UK tackling a wide range of issues from poverty to domestic abuse and disability.

Our current problem:

We have, for some time, been using part of the garage of the Rev Crawley’s on the Upper Hale Road, Farnham as a store for our hygiene items. This arrangement has worked out very well and we’ve been very grateful for its use. However due to the Rev Crawley moving on, we have now been given notice to leave in January 2024. Without storage we will be unable to function and we are very worried for our future and for those hundreds of local families and individuals currently receiving our help. 

I visited a local storage facility recently and was quoted £34 per week for renting a 40ft unit and we just don’t have the funds to pay for this. We need a new location. Ideally, it needs to be local to the Farnham area, dry, ground floor, with vehicle access, and have electricity, but I will happily discuss any suggestions.

Please get in touch at [email protected]

Just gaga for radio!

Round & About


Robbie James from Farnham is obsessed with cheese, wine, Scotland and golden retrievers, is a music, sport and comedy fanatic and will be writing a regular column for Round & About on pretty much anything that takes his fancy from the view of a young, self employed presenter

My first column. The first of anything is always scary isn’t it? The first word you type. The first slice you cut off Colin the Caterpillar. The first step you take into the sea after you’ve been told ‘it’s fine once you’re in’.

As you’ll know if you read my intro to R&A last month (if you didn’t, why didn’t you?) cricket is one of my true loves. The other is radio.

I love radio a silly amount. I loved it way before I knew I loved it & I think that’s the beauty of it. It fills any gap in your life that you’d like it to, without you asking it or even consciously knowing there’s a gap to fill. Radio gives me the same physical feelings as when someone holds a door open or gives you their unused parking ticket. ‘Ah, that’s nice isn’t it, the world isn’t all terrible’. You hear people sharing parts of their life, letting their guard down a bit, providing silly stories or dedicating a song to their pal. ‘Just nice things’ tend to happen on the radio.

I’ve barely done any task this summer without having some form of sports radio on. Test Match Special, Wimbledon, they’re just there as a constant. You hear the hum of a crowd on their day out. You hear a collective expressing their emotions in a world where we are horrendous at expressing any emotions when other people are around. But then it leaves the rest to your imagination. TV doesn’t do that.

Radio is also so live and raw that it allows us to remember that nothing really matters. Radio 1 can be live to six million people at any one time, and a phone line can disconnect mid call. They can play the same song twice. Unless you’re a *insert rude word*, when you hear or see something go wrong in front of lots of people, we generally just laugh or empathise don’t we? No one was nasty of Twitter when I meant to say I couldn’t ‘get my clock up’ whilst hosting Pompey Live last year and accidentally said something else. What can I say… radio allows you to open up.

Mistakes remind us that these people inside the radio are not unreachable. They make mistakes, and that makes them relatable no matter how many TikTok followers they have. And then we warm to them through that empathy. We feel like we may just know them, and we feel a bit less lonely when we get into the car and pop the radio on after a terrible day in the office.

I’m too thick to be a doctor or a therapist, and not to say these occupations quite compete on levels of necessity, but I really do see being on the radio as a chance to improve people’s days a bit. I miss having a regular radio show more anything – but I’m really confident still has a future on both a local and national level. Oh and AI can do one.

Robbie is a Presenter/Broadcaster/DJ/Idiot, now living in Farnham. I do the radio, the TV, and anything else people pay me to do that my moral compass says yes to.

Planet-friendly Recycle 4 Cash campaign

Liz Nicholls


Scott Andrews from Farnham invites you to sign up now to make money from your recyclables; £25 per household, £150 per club, school, charity or organisation and £1,500 for businesses commercial or retail

Scott has launched a crowdfunder campaign aimed at helping us all recycle more. Recycle 4 Cash rewards everyone taking part by giving points for everyday items thrown in the recycle bi, exchanging your recycling for points redeemable in the shop or online or converted into cash. Scott’s initial target is £25,000 with an ultimate goal of £100,000. There are about three weeks left so please support this now!

“With your help we can get this off the ground,” says Scott. “It’s an all-or-nothing bid so we hope you get behind us and recognise the benefits this will bring to everyone involved.”

“We are currently seeking funds to buy new machinery for our plastic recycling side of the business, the machines will be used to process the waste plastic into different products that will be re sold from the waste we collect, there’s four machines we are looking to purchase at a total of £30,000.

“We have secured £5,000 from four business customers who signed up for having their recycle bin emptied every two weeks so they can see a bargain. Ideally we want support from people and businesses in Farnham Surrey and the surrounding towns and villages as these will be the initial winners in this, however we realise others might love the idea and want to support us so we will give everyone who funds us something back – it could be something made by our workers or local craft makers at the very least 25% off the shop products. I hope this does get funded and the community get behind us so we in turn can help hundreds more raise funds for their great cause!”

Three Hogs for Three Lions

Karen Neville


Hogs Back Brewery backs England’s World Cup bid with free beer (if they reach the final)

Surrey-based Hogs Back Brewery is offering drinkers a free pint of Three Hogs, its beer specially brewed for football-watching, if England reach the World Cup final in December.

The brewer is ready for a bonanza beer giveaway, after it made the same pledge last year and honoured it when England reached the Euros final. Three Hogs was first brewed for the Euros in 2016 and will be available on draught and in 500ml bottles.

A 4% ABV golden ale, Three Hogs in brewed with a selection of English malts and hops including Fuggles grown in the Hogs Back hop garden next to the brewery, as well as Cascade and Centennial. The pump clip and bottle label describe the ale as “a beer of two halves: refreshingly hoppy up front, followed by a balancing bitterness and a hint of sweetness to finish.”

Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson said: “Many Hog Back drinkers look forward to the return of Three Hogs with each international tournament. This World Cup is going to feel very different to the euros, taking place at a different time of year, and in a different time zone. But the nation’s hopes will still be pinned on England lifting the trophy, especially after they reached the finals last year.

“Millions of people will be watching the home nations’ matches with friends, family and fellow football lovers. A pint of easy-drinking beer like Three Hogs is an enjoyable part of the occasion. Let’s hope that we might finally be raising a glass to a victorious English side on 18th December.”

Hogs Back will be screening a number of matches in its Brewery Tap, depending on timings, including the England v Wales fixture on 29th November. Guests will be able to enjoy the football accompanied by a range of Hogs Back beers and food including their popular stone-baked pizzas. Bookings for places or tables are open at

Thompson added: “During the Euros, the excitement in the Brewery Tap built to fever pitch, and we were sold out ahead of the final. It’s a great space for watching sport and we’re looking forward to welcoming football fans to enjoy the tournament with us again.”

If England reach the final, customers will be able to claim a free pint of Three Hogs – or another Hogs Back beer, depending on availability – by visiting the Brewery Tap between 11am and 2pm on 18th December.

Three Hogs, Hogs Back’s beer for the World Cup, is available on draught and in 500ml bottles

UCA photography

Karen Neville


Photo in image: From the series La Frontera © Harriet Brookes

Students from the University for the Creative Arts are showcasing some of their work in the latest exhibition at The Lightbox. 

UCA in Farnham has a reputation for educating some of the most innovative photographers of the time and the exhibition will offer visitors an opportunity to explore their work.

The students have captured a variety of themes in their photography to explore contemporary issues, some of which are deeply personal.

Among those whose work is on show include documentary photographer Harriet Brookes whose project La Frontera examines the problems faced by people in Gibraltar during the Brexit negotiations.

Using a series of black and white portraits, Sian Hayden’s photography engages with the uncanny and the male gaze while Neve Marinou explores issues surrounding harassment and the Me Too movement.

UCA Farnham MFA Photography Show is on at The Lightbox, Woking, until 2nd February. Entry to the exhibition is free.

More info

Farnham craft town

Round & About


Farnham is getting set to celebrate Craft Month and this year it has extra cause for cheer as the initiative has been given funding to develop further.

The Surrey town was designated as England’s craft town in 2013 and has just been given a boost from Arts Council England.

October celebrates the town’s deep craft roots since its involvement with the pottery industry in the 16th century and the founding of the Farnham Art School in 1880.

This year will feature the most ambitious programme of events yet and will include something for all those with an interest in crafts, from makers to enthusiasts.

Among the highlights are a clay feast at Farnham Pottery organised by the West Street Potters who will honour the 19th century tradition of the clay diggers being paid by the potters and sharing a festive meal. Hands-on workshops will explore the relationship between clay and food with cooking in clay and making a feast based on 19th century menus.

Farnham Maltings will take an international perspective, working with the Crafts Council and the University for the Creative Arts to develop links with Bornholm Craft City and Craft Town Scotland and explore joint working.

The Surrey Hills AONB will present Unearthing Landscapes, a symposium which will focus on how to connect people to the landscape through craft and the arts.

Surrey Artist Open Studios will partner with venues, cafes, shops throughout the town to display local makers and craft organisations work in shop windows.

The 10 artists in residence at UCA will curate an exhibition of their work to show how they have developed during their year in England’s craft town. There will be demonstrations of craft skills ranging from weaving and making cordage to looping and printing as well as opportunities to meet the makers.

Local maker Rebecca Skeets, a member of the Craft Town Steering Group who led the bid for Arts Council funding said: “Farnham has such a diverse and exciting cultural heritage, which together with the support of Arts Council England, Farnham Town Council and the rest of the Craft Town team, means we can be really ambitious with this year’s month long celebration of craft.

“This year promises to be the best yet and brings a range of new events, collaborations and ideas.

“We invite everyone to become part of our town’s creative community and celebrate Farnham’s place as England’s Craft Town.”

For more information

about Farnham Craft Town and the programme of events