Joe Ward

Joe Ward has 8 articles published.

European Snooker Championships in Portugal

in Features

The EBSA European Snooker Championship is the premier amateur snooker tournament in Europe and this year it is being held in Portugal at the VidaMar Hotel Resort in the Algarve from the 2nd to 17th October. Gibraltar players Lee Prickman and Michael J Kane have booked their places in the Algarve event organised by EBSA (European Billiards & Snooker Association) in conjunction with the Federaçao Portuguesa de Bilhar (FPB).

Lee, apart from being the number one player in Gibraltar, is also the Secretary for GBSA (Gibraltar Billiards & Snooker Association) based at The Crucible Club in Jumpers Bastion. He explains that this was the same tournament that was due to be held in March last year, but it didn’t go ahead because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“On Saturday the 15th March last year I played Judd Trump, the world number one, in the Gibraltar Open and for the first time in snooker history there was no-one except for the two of us, the referee and two camera people, that was it, there was not another person in the stadium,” Lee says. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, matches were originally limited to a maximum audience of 100 but after the first day, all matches were played without any spectators. “Francis Becerra and I were due to leave for Portugal the day after the tournament finished, but it was called off.”

Michael, originally from Northern Ireland, and Lee are entering three different tournaments, the first one being the 6 Reds beginning on Thursday, 7th October. The second is the Men’s and Mixed. “This is the showcase tournament and it means that anybody of any age or any gender can enter,” Lee states, and the third is the Seniors competition for over 40s, the final of which concludes on Friday 15th October. There is also a team tournament going on at the same time but as Lee and Michael are in the Seniors they can’t enter in case they are drawn against someone they are already playing. “There are also Individual tournaments for the U18s and U21s, which we don’t qualify for,” Lee laughs, “so we decided to play in the best categories that we could fit in to.” All tournaments are mini-league style round robin played until the knockout stages, except the 6 reds which is a straight knockout from start to conclusion. 

Lee explains that there will be 16 competition tables brought and set up particularly for the tournament, with between twenty-eight and thirty countries represented and up to one hundred and twenty to one hundred and forty players in the Men’s category alone. “The tournament will be live streamed from the EBSA.tv website – and other media outlets will also link in to that and project it worldwide,” he says. 

The EBSA European Snooker Championship attracts the best amateur players from Europe vying for a chance to get a 2 Year Pro Snooker Tour card. “Some of the budding amateurs utilise the facility of having access to become professional via this tournament,” Lee states. “There will also be many well-known names in the world of snooker taking part who have been professional in the past but who have fallen off the tour and are looking for a way back in.”

Lee names ex-professional Darren Morgan (Wales) who won the World Amateur Championship in 1987 and played on the professional main tour from 1988 until 2006. “He plays in the Seniors and wins it most times,” he says. “There is a very good player from Finland called Robin Hull – who used to be an exceptionally good professional player, and one of the youngsters that will be taking part in the Under 21s championship is a guy called Connor Benzey who is looking to turn professional.”

Asked how he thinks that he will do in his tournaments, Lee comments that he will be competing with the best non-professional players in this part of the world and because they are all trying to do the best for their countries, they all come under a lot of pressure. “Michael and I are both decent players and we can beat any of the other competitors, but it is all down to a bit of luck on the day.”

“The tournament tables are a little bit different, harsher and faster than those we normally play on, and the pockets are cut very tightly so you have got to be very accurate, but as long as we can brush the pressure aside as soon as possible and play and cue well – I am not going to say we are going to win it – but there is every chance that we may certainly make a few surprises.”

The Crucible Club, with between sixty and eighty members, is back up and running now after having being closed during the lockdown periods, and is of course complying with hygiene and social distancing criteria. Lee says the Club is keen to welcome new members, especially in the juniors section. “It would be great if we could enter players from Gibraltar into the Under 18s and Under 21s in future EBSA tournaments,” he says. 

Lee and Michael are proud to be representing Gibraltar at the EBSA European Snooker Championship and Insight wishes them the very best of luck in their endeavours in Portugal. 

www.gibraltarsnooker.com

Memories of a Life on the seas

in Features

At the age of sixteen Robin Batchelor was sent to sea by his mother, the beginning of a long career on the water that elicited many different adventures. “I started as a deck boy in the Merchant Navy and apart from the ship’s cat you can’t get any lower than that,” Robin tells me. 

There are so many stories to relate, but one that has stuck in Robin’s mind was during his first voyage on the SS Oriana that took him into the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal. “Having read odd biblical pieces at school as a youth, I wasn’t massively surprised when the Deck Man said we had a busy morning ahead because we had just been hit by a swarm of locusts,” Robin says. What he hadn’t expected was to find a swarm at least half a foot deep on the boat deck. “As we swept them they went from pale yellow to dark orange and half of them would jump back over the broom.” Taking this incident for granted, Robin says he assumed this sort of thing happened every trip but comments that he never saw a locust ever again.

“I then got an apprenticeship with Common Bros. of Newcastle to become a Deck Officer and went on a mixture of iron ore carriers and tankers,” Robin explains. “However, I had to get everybody to write things down for me because I couldn’t understand Geordie at all!”

Acquiring his Second Mates certificate, Robin went back to sea, firstly on giant super tankers then on to refrigerated cargo ships before he became First Mate. It was when he was working with Shaw Savill that Robin found out that the Chief Officer on the Mons Calpe, the passenger and car ferry operated by the Bland Line between Gibraltar and Tangier, was retiring and he applied and got the job. 

“I joined the Mons Calpe in 1969 and worked on it for fourteen years,” Robin states. “In 1984, married and with two little girls, I didn’t want to go back to deep sea work, so I became a foreman for the BP petrol stations, the main one being at Waterport,” Robin clarifies. 

During that period there was a little Norwegian owned high speed catamaran that ran from M’Diq to Gibraltar. “They couldn’t get a Chief Officer at the time and my certificates were still in order,” Robin states. “They borrowed me for a weekend, and then the weekend turned into two weeks and they got me a Norwegian dispensation for my British certificates.” In typical Robin Batchelor fashion, one day his boss at BP asked why he would come rushing in so late on a Wednesday. “The truth was that I didn’t get back from M’Diq until one o’clock, so I used to grab all the paperwork from BP on a Tuesday and take it with me and do it on the way across or the way back – so I managed to do two full time jobs for a period of four months which was good fun but very tiring.”

Talking about ‘borrowing’, Robin was borrowed by Lionel Ferro from the Alexandra Towing Co. to act as a navigator on their tugs. “This was because I had a Navigator Certificate and without me the tugs couldn’t go outside Europa Point.”  Robin says that Lionel used to look out for any ships that needed salvaging.  “Over the years I helped him with several salvage jobs, and luckily on the final one that I did for him I remembered to take my camera.” 

Robin’s last salvage job in 1986 was for the SS Delphine, a large steam yacht that had broken down North West of Tangier out in the Atlantic. “Once Lionel had been notified by Windmill Hill that a yacht had broken down, he set in motion to try and find me and I had to ask my boss if I could go away for a day, maybe two, to try and locate this yacht,” Robin says. “This was in the days before AIS (automatic identification system) and in those days everything was done via VHF (very high frequency).”


As it turns out, the steam yacht was very easy to find by the crew of the Sun Swale tug (sunk in 2015 off the South Mole to create an artificial reef) who managed to get a line aboard. “She was an absolute pig to tow and yawed about all over the place and Windmill Hill issued a “Notices to Mariners” warning shipping to give us a wide berth, repeated hourly on V.H.F.”

The owners of the steam yacht had signed the Lloyd’s Open Form, a salvage contract very rarely used these days, which states that in return for salvage services the salver receives a proportion of the salved value (the value of the ship, its cargo and bunkers). “The captain gets a big share, the officers a smaller share and the crew an even smaller share of the salvage money,” Robin explains. 

“We managed to bring her back in and turned her round in the harbour before she was put alongside the South Mole where she stayed for quite a long time.”

Once she was alongside in Gibraltar, Robin with camera in hand, went aboard. “This is how the inside looked at the time, including the engine room with its Steam Reciprocating engine,” he explains. “That was part of the problem, because when the ship had been reconditioned in the USA, they thought they had done a good enough job with the steam tubes to get her across the Atlantic, but they didn’t and that is why she ended up breaking down just before entering the Strait of Gibraltar.” 

Launched in 1921, the SS Delphine is a 78-metre Great Lakes Engineering Works yacht built by Horace Dodge of the Dodge automobile empire, who unfortunately died before she was completed. She is the largest steam yacht built in the USA and Horace Dodge himself designed her unique quadruple-expansion steam engines. In 1926 a fire sent her to the bottom of the Hudson River, resulting in her first salvage.

During World War II in the 1940s, the yacht was requisitioned by the navy, renamed USS Dauntless, and served her country as flagship to the US Navy’s top admiral, before being sold back to Anna Dodge (Horace Dodge’s wife) and restored to civilian standards and service, including her original name. Legend has it that she was the yacht where Churchill, Truman and Stalin prepared the Yalta convention.

The yacht then had a chequered history, changing hands in 1967 and again in 1968, which also resulted in another name change back to Dauntless, only to be sold again in 1986 and 1989. In 1997 the Delphine underwent a five year restoration in Belgium by her then owner, a Belgian businessman who invested 45 million euros to bring SS Delphine back to her original configuration of 1921, restoring her to her former glory and recreating the bygone era of the roaring 20’s. Today she is the last operational steam-powered superyacht afloat. In 2003 she was rechristened SS DELPHINE by Princess Stéphanie of Monaco before being sold to her current owner in 2015 and Monaco is where she is now available for charter in the Mediterranean at an eye watering weekly rate of around 400,000 euros.  

Now at the age of 76 Robin is still a very busy man and a well-known face in Gibraltar where he keeps an interest in two businesses: the Cycle Centre and Marine & Industrial Services trading as The Battery People. There are so many amusing and interesting stories to be told about Robin’s life that can’t be included here, especially the humorous incidents that he can recount during his time on the Mons Calpe, so we look forward to featuring Robin again in the near future.

The Royal Gibraltar Police building online connections with the community

in Features

You may have noticed an increased visibility by the Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) in the media and online recently and this is down to two Media Officers who are both extremely experienced in their respective fields. As a Press Officer for the Ministry of Defence and then Senior Press Officer for the Government of Gibraltar at No. 6, Stuart Green has been dealing with the media for many years and together with PC(145) Ashley Maer, an award winning journalist in his own right, they have been responsible for humanising and highlighting the work that the RGP does. 

Ash started his new position in January and is part of the initiative for an amplified social media presence for the RGP. “We are posting up to five times a day, engaging with and showcasing different departments that probably didn’t get any coverage before,” he says.

Social media can sometimes be a powerful and dangerous tool, especially for law enforcement agencies but, depending on how it is used and for what purposes, Stuart says that it can be used to support police work. Pointing out a computer screen that is constantly updated by the Control Room detailing what is happening at any given time, Stuart comments that this enables them to keep up-to-date with everything that is going on. “For instance, a post about a police officer smashing a windscreen to free a child in the back seat of a car on a hot day that took less than five minutes to write on social media, received 10,000 hits.”

After five years on the beat Ash knows how to work the radio, listening in and reporting on incidents as they happen. “This is especially useful if there has been an accident on, say, Line Wall Road and traffic is snarled up, so we can put out a post telling the public to avoid that area for the next half hour or so,” he states.   

Pointing out the risks and serious penalties of being distracted by using mobile phones whilst driving has produced some unusual excuses for why people are committing these type of offences. “Sometimes we can’t believe the responses,” Ash exclaims. “A couple of weeks ago a member of the public was stopped for using her mobile phone whilst driving and the first thing she said to the copper was ‘now my son is going to be late for school’, so we posted that and 48,000 people saw it.”  Stuart mentions another recent excuse: ‘but you don’t understand, this is a very important call’!

Ash says that now when the officers are out and about and they hear on the radio that they are doing traffic stops, the first thing he will text them is to say ‘hear any good excuses?’ and Stuart always asks for a photo to post online. “Quite often when something is happening we will go down and take pictures ourselves, so that we always have an appropriate image to add to our posts,” Ash adds. 

Although there is obviously a serious side to social media, both Stuart and Ash want to show the human side of the police and make the RGP more approachable. “We don’t want to appear scary or for the public to think that they can’t talk to us, so we try and bring some humour to our posts which is a great way to get the message across.” Crimes that weren’t being posted about before and that are now deemed to be interesting or newsworthy to the public are being highlighted, but with a tongue-in-cheek element and a touch of humour, such as the bag of cannabis that was handed in to the RGP earlier this year: 

‘Whoops, someone carelessly left this huge bag of cannabis with a street value of £1,500 lying around in the Northern
Defences yesterday. But don’t worry, a member of the public
has handed it in and we are looking after it for you at New Mole House. If it’s yours, please come in at your convenience to discuss with our Drug Squad officers who are keen to talk to you. Kind regards, the RGP.”

“That turned out to be one of our most popular posts and once we realised that humour works, we started using it a bit more, but we don’t want to cross the line in what is a very serious issue.” Ash says. 

Stuart mentions #ThrowbackThursday where old photographs, usually black and white images from the archives, are posted asking for people to get involved and add a caption to the image. 

‘It’s #ThrowbackThursday So that means it’s photo caption competition time’.  

The RGP opening bid was: ‘Right lads, we’re now going to practise dancing the waltz with a tall partner. First you take your partner like this…’

This elicited several comments, one of which was ‘”Erm….Sarge! We’re telling him to stop but that cargo ship is still heading towards us”.  “This has gone down well and gets involvement from the public,” says Stuart. 

Part of the role of the Media Officers is to answer questions from the media and press on a daily basis. Ash states that they are starting to point out to local media when interesting cases are coming up. “A lot of our work goes unreported – whereas if we know of something from one of the normal uniformed officers, we will then give the media a heads-up and tell them that they may want to attend court on a certain day.” Stuart adds that they are also encouraging officers, particularly junior officers, to tell them if they are running with something that may be of public interest. 

In an attempt to show the human side of police officers, a weekly in depth feature focusing on one particular officer was implemented on social media sites. “We ran twelve Officers of the Week to highlight that although they wear a uniform, they have got wives, husbands, partners, kids, dogs, hobbies and talents,” Stuart states. When PC Steve Peach dropped into St Joseph’s Primary School to talk to youngsters about Online Safety he noticed a piano in the corner of the room and in an attempt to get the kids’ attention beforehand, he delighted the youngsters and teachers by showing off his piano-playing skills. The clip of PC Peach playing piano went viral and led the Boogie-Woogie Policeman to become one of the featured Officers of the Week. 

“Since social media has been pushed out a bit more, people seem to think that we weren’t policing as hard as we are now,” Ash remarks. “There have been a lot of comments such as ‘glad to see you are clamping down on this…’ and ‘glad to see the RGP doing this…’, but we have always done these things, it is just that we weren’t posting about it or letting the public know.”

Talking about the press, Stuart says that they are already on their 125th press release this year which is twice as many as the RGP tended to issue before the pandemic.  “Our backgrounds definitely help us when we are looking for stories,” Stuart states. 

Commissioner of Police Richard Ullger is credited by Stuart Green as being incredibly supportive and approachable in regard to the work that the Media Officers undertake, often proffering ideas himself as to what can or should be put out to the press or on social media and also as somebody who is keen to embrace new technologies.  “The Commissioner is happy to put himself out there and be visible in the local media,” Stuart says. 

So what does the Commissioner himself think about this change in policy?

“By placing extra effort on our Public relations, I believe that we are making the community more aware of the excellent work being done by our front-line officers. I think that, by engaging both with the traditional press and with the social media, we are raising the profile of our beat officers and of our specialist areas such as Economic crime, Firearms, Traffic, Neighbourhood Policing and Public protection. And if all this can be done whilst bringing a smile to people’s faces, then so much the better.” 

There is no doubt that interacting with the public on a daily basis, especially through the use of social media and press releases can be a powerful tool, and in a place like Gibraltar is something that can be leveraged to build trust and confidence in the RGP.

Follow The Royal Gibraltar Police on:

Facebook / Instagram: @royalgibpolice

Twitter:  @RGPolice

Circle of Life for Jonathan Lutwyche

in Features

There can be no doubt that one of the most memorable days of a dancer’s life is when they hear that they have been cast in a West End show, but even more exciting when they know that they will be making their debut in the iconic musical The Lion King. 

The last time Insight caught up with Jonathan he was just about to start his third year at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance and hoping to graduate in the summer of 2020. 

Three quarters into his first year at Rambert, Jonathan tore the meniscus in his left knee and had to have surgery. “I couldn’t dance for about three or four months and then I had to repeat the first year, but my second year went really well.”  

“My third year was really busy,” Jonathan says, “and we were preparing for a show at The Royal Opera House with past Rambert students coming from all over the world to choreograph pieces for us, but then Covid-19 hit.”

During a student’s final year they undertake auditions, the ideal scenario being that they graduate with a job to go to. “Lion King was my first audition and I got it, which was so exciting,” Jonathan exclaims. That was in November 2019 and Jonathan was supposed to start rehearsing for the show the following March and, luckily, the production kept the new people that they had taken on. 

Jonathan adapted to the new normal in a world that had moved to life online.  “I graduated school in July last year, but a lot of it was on Zoom,” he says. “It was a bit disheartening but I was one of the lucky ones because I knew that I had a job, unlike some of my peers.” 

Of all of the subjects that were being taught online, dance must have been one of the hardest. “I did ballet in the mornings in my kitchen – luckily I had enough space – and I just danced in my kitchen all day, which was very strange and involved a lot of discipline because when you are at home, all you want to do is stay in bed,” he laughs as he says this. 

Jonathan has been back in Gibraltar since March, keeping fit by training at the gym, taking classes at the Danza Academy where he began his formal training at the age of 12 and teaching a few classes there whenever he has the time. “The past year has given me time to reflect on a lot of things,” he states. “It made me realise that eventually I am going to have to stop dancing and that I won’t be able to dance for the rest of my life.”  The intensity of ballet training often means that a dancer’s career ends anywhere between the ages of 30 and 40. “It comes at a different stage in life for everyone, but it depends on my body and hopefully my knee won’t give out again, although everything has been really good since the surgery and I have been very lucky with that.”

Dancers often move into choreography and this is something that Jonathan has considered he would like to focus on. “I would also like to teach in a pre-professional school like the Rambert, but there is a big, wide world out there, so it could be anywhere.”

Looking to the immediate future now, Jonathan will be leaving Gibraltar to head back to the UK to start rehearsals for The Lion King in mid-June. “I have to learn the whole show from start to finish, whereas some of the other cast members have been in the show for a while, so I will do that and then as we go along they will bring in the orchestra and the rest of the cast. Rehearsals will take five or six weeks and then we open on the 29th July.”

As part of the ensemble, Jonathan will need to be able blend in with the other performers and to quickly switch between different animal characters and other natural elements as they bring the sounds of the Serengeti to life through a mix of dance, song, puppetry and masks.

 “I know I open the show as a giraffe,” he says. “Just before we stopped in March last year I had a few costume fittings, but they were mainly for the under garments so I don’t really know what other animals or elements I will be, but I am really excited to find out all about that.” The Giraffe has a tall headpiece which forms the neck and head of the animal, but those who may already have seen a performance of The Lion King will know that the performer is on four stilts as he emulates a giraffe gracefully walking across the savanna. “I have never danced on stilts before – so I am a little bit nervous but excited at the same time.”  Something new for Jonathan will be the fact that he also has to sing in the production. He explains that attending dance schools meant that he never had any formal singing training. “I asked the head musician at Rambert if he would help me prepare a song for the audition, and I think this was the part I was most nervous about and I thought I would probably get cut, but it turns out I can hold a tune.” 

West End theatres were forced to close on 16th March last year, and it is all fingers crossed in the hope that the show is able to open in July as planned. As of 17th May, theatres were permitted to open in London again under social distancing rules, which allows venues to open at either half capacity or with 1,000 seats – whichever number is lowest.

Disney’s The Lion King, with music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice, is one of the West End’s best-selling stage productions and the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time. The Lyceum Theatre just off the Strand in London has been its home for more than two decades where the production, with a team of more than 50 performers onstage and 100 crew backstage, has been seen by over 16 million people. The epic adventures of Simba from a young, wide-eyed cub to his destined role as King of the Pridelands, is loved by children and adults alike. 

Jonathan says that it looks promising because although a lot of other West End shows have opened or are opening up, it was the decision of the production company that the Lion King would wait to make sure that everything was going ahead and not to give anyone false hope.  “The show has already opened in Australia so they are using the things they have learnt there and applying them to what is happening in London.”

Family and friends are eager to come to see Jonathan make his debut in the West End, and although he has said he doesn’t want them there for opening night, his initial contract is for one year. “There’s no rush, and if I do a good job I hope that may be extended, so there will be plenty of time for them to come and see me in the not too distant future,” he comments. “I can’t wait to start and I am very grateful for the opportunity to debut as a professional dancer in an epic musical that has captivated audiences around the world.” 

Having seen the musical as a young boy who could only wish that he would appear in the show one day, Jonathan says that the whole thing feels very surreal and he still can’t quite believe he will be appearing on stage soon. 

One thing that Jonathan is looking forward to is the adrenaline rush that he hasn’t experienced for the last five years. “When I was performing in competitions in Gibraltar I used to enjoy that feeling, so I am excited for the first night when the opening bars of Circle of Life play as the curtains open – it will be an amazing experience.”

Celebrate Mother’s Day in a different way

in Features

Mothering Sunday this year will be held on the 14th March and, for the second year running, Mother’s Day will be a very different affair to those of old with some families unable to get-together and spend quality time with their mothers. For those whose Mum is in hospital or a care home, this day will be even harder. There will be no visits, lunches or afternoon teas, so what can you do to make sure you celebrate their day in a special way?

Thinking out of the box is the answer. Come up with some creative ideas about how to make sure your loved one knows that she is still in your thoughts, no matter where you are and taking lockdown restrictions in your areas into account. Here are some unique ways to show your love for the mothers in our lives.

Say Hello

If you are allowed out and live in the same area, a socially distanced visit to chat through the window and to speak with them on your mobiles whilst looking at each other is a nice thing to do. Get the grandkids to make some colourful Mother’s Day signs and hold them in the air. 

Breakfast in Bed

For families who are living together, making breakfast and allowing Mum to have a relaxing morning and enjoy her breakfast in bed is a lovely gesture to show how much you care. This is something that the kids can get involved with, but keep it simple so that they feel they have contributed to this special treat.

Household Chores

Working mothers are not only having to deal with the pressures of working from home but also with home schooling and keeping on top of the household chores, although this is of course not just the domain of the females in the house. However, one way to show how much you appreciate your multi-tasker is to take charge of the cleaning, mopping and cooking for the day. 

Virtual Party

Organise a virtual party. Plan it with your siblings and extended family members and as well as expressing sentiments of love through poems and anecdotes, play some games and raise a toast to the family matriarch. 

Video Collage

Make a video collage of family photographs and videos and accompany it with your Mum’s favourite song. This will be something that she can keep and cherish and is something that can be easily sent online. 

Share a Meal

If we can’t get out to enjoy dining in a restaurant, we can still share a meal with our mothers. If you are living together, order their favourite food from a local takeaway. Alternatively, order a meal to be delivered to their home and set up a video call so that you can eat as though you are together. 

Home Spa

A visit to your favourite spa is probably no longer possible, so if Mum is in your bubble spoil her by creating the ultimate spa experience in your bedroom and bathroom. How about buying a plush robe and some spa slippers to really get in the mood and pretend that you are checking into a luxurious spa? 

Run a soothing bath, light a scented candle and create the perfect relaxing spa playlist to accompany the pampering session. Start off by unwinding with a calming cup of herbal tea, or even a glass of bubbly. Confiscate the mobile phones and give other family members instructions that you shouldn’t be disturbed. Let Mum relax with a long, hot soak in the bath to which you have added some Epsom salts (great for soothing sore muscles), some bubble bath and a few drops of your favourite essential oils. Add a suction pillow for her to rest her head on, or roll up a small towel to put under her neck. Ensure she is comfortable and let her rest and relax. If you have applied a face mask, let it sit for 10 minutes, or however long the instructions recommend, then wash it off with a flannel.  After about 15 minutes, tell Mum to put on some exfoliating gloves and to give her skin a good scrub with either a shop bought product or one made at home to ensure her skin feels smooth and supple. Have a soft fluffy towel on standby so that she can wrap herself up before applying moisturiser or body oil to help replenish her skin.  

If you can’t see your Mum, how about sending or dropping off a package full of indulgent spa treats such as moisturisers, bath oils, facial products and conditioning treatments with a list of instructions about how to spend her special spa day. 

Afternoon Tea

Indulge your Mum with the best afternoon tea ever! If you aren’t able to order one to be delivered, have a go at making a feast as good as any you would find in a high end hotel, with delicious cakes and pastries, maybe some scones, jams and cream and perfectly cut finger sandwiches. Don’t forget to add in a pot of her favourite tea (maybe with an added shot of her preferred tipple) and either a cocktail or a bottle of fizz. 

Set the scene with some personalised decorations and a few extra special touches such as treasured photographs of the family. Hang some bunting and lay the table with a pretty tablecloth and napkins, and decorate it with some fresh flowers and an assortment of beautiful chinaware. 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Give your Mum a Mother’s Day that she will never forget. Honour and celebrate everything our mothers do and give thanks to all the amazing women whether they are step-mothers, foster mothers, god mothers, birth mothers or someone who has been an influential woman in your life. 

Save Gibraltar street cats

in Features

Six years on from the founding of Save Gibraltar Street Cats (SGSC), the charity has made a huge difference to the lives of the street cats on the Rock.

Susan Wink Sampere and Julie Watson have worked tirelessly to manage the care of the cats through the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) method. With the back-up of a committee, Susan deals with all the trapping and the colonies and Julie handles the adoptions and fosters.  

They explain that trapping and neutering the cats was the principal aim of the charity when they started and that they have dealt with about 850 cats over the years. However, trapping the cats can be a never ending story as there are locations such as the port where they come in on the ships from other places.

“I would say 95% of the whole cat population in Gibraltar is now neutered, which is brilliant,” Julie says. “Last year we didn’t have any new born kittens, whereas in the years before we were having litter after litter, so it is working, but it has taken this long to see the fruits of our labours.”

“What we are finding recently is all the old cats that we trap because they are becoming ill are the ones we need to find funds for.” Over a couple of weeks in February they managed to trap six or seven elderly cats which were taken to the Cat Welfare Sanctuary. “They are just too poorly to go back to the streets and obviously we don’t have a place ourselves, so we liaise with the sanctuary and fortunately they are more than happy to help.” Many of the cats need blood tests and special food or they could have kidney problems. “They are at a stage where they are not ill enough that they would need to be put to sleep, so it is just getting them off the streets and giving them a bit of TLC in their last remaining months.”

Although the number of colonies are decreasing with only a few remaining, Susan says that some members of the public want them to stop the TNR programme because they fear that the population of cats in Gibraltar will die out. “There will always be stray cats in Gibraltar because people will always abandon cats,” Julie remarks. 

The most important people in the lives of stray cats are their feeders and Susan says that they are already waiting for her when she does her nightly feeds. “They recognise my truck, but it’s funny how when I am going to trap a new one in a colony, everybody leaves except the one that is unneutered because it doesn’t know what is coming!”

Julie explains that due to the coronavirus pandemic they weren’t able to hold their Flag Day last year, and the same will apply to this year’s Flag Day. “There was an initial panic of wondering how we were going to have enough food to feed the cats, but we put out an appeal and the public were amazingly generous.”

Susan comments that the public engage with the stories about the cats that they post on Facebook. “It gives them a look into what the life of a cat is really about,” she states, “and it has opened their eyes to the situation of the street cats in Gibraltar.”

SGSC is working with the government to set up feeding stations, but Julie says that it is a work in progress. “It is difficult because we put them somewhere and then they are moved by other entities – people that are not aware what is going on – so it is a slow process but eventually we will get there and we will keep persisting.”

Julie and Susan explain that the cats frequently get the blame for making a mess in the streets, but it is not really their fault. “It could be that a certain feeder isn’t clearing up or keeping things tidy which is why we specifically want the feeding stations, and we want to stress that if people still want to continue to put food outside the feeding stations, they should be fined for creating a mess that attracts the seagulls, rats and flies.”  SGSC recommend that if you want to feed the strays, don’t put food on the floor but on a paper plate or some other receptacle, stay with the cats while they are eating and then remove the plate. “It’s all about education and we are starting to put signs up to tell people not to feed on the floor,” Susan states.  

The ultimate goal is for every colony to have their own feeding station. During the first lockdown Susan and Julie had a meeting with Minister Cortes regarding a feeding station that had been removed from Casemates. “We really appreciated that the Minister took time out to sit down with us and solve the problem,” Julie says. “He welcomes the idea of the feeding stations and he is working with us on this.”

Something else that SGSC would like addressed is compulsory microchipping of cats. “We have talked to Minister Cortes about this and he agreed to look into it to see if legislation surrounding this issue can be changed.” Julie says that if you don’t want to neuter your cat then don’t let it go out, but if people abandon their cats it then falls on the charity to care for them. “These cats aren’t street wise, they get attacked by the colonies so they end up injured, and people need to be held accountable for this – there is a failing there.”  

Funding is always an issue and it is rare that the monthly vet bills for SGSC are under £1,000. “The elderly cats are costing us a few hundred pounds for each cat, so money has to keep coming in and it is a worry not knowing if we will have enough to pay the bills.” 

If you would like to support SGSC, a regular standing order or direct debit would give the charity the peace of mind to know that they can continue to look after Gibraltar’s stray cats. If you feel that you can help make a difference, please get in touch with SGSC via their Facebook page @savegibcats or via their website.

Cody and his older siblings were trapped at the port. “When he came in to foster we took him to the vets and he was found to have a dent in his sternum,” Susan says. Cody had a congenital defect called pectus excavatum which meant that his sternum was sticking inwards, squashing his heart and lungs, resulting in laboured breathing.  “The problem was that as he gets bigger and his organs grow there would be less room for his lungs to work and he would end up having a heart attack and dying,” Susan explains. The wonderful vets at the Gib Vet Clinic performed surgery which they had never done before where they created a mesh round his torso and threaded the sternum, pulling it out and attaching it to the mesh. Susan nursed him at home for a few weeks in the hope that the sternum would stay in place and thankfully the surgery proved to be a great success. “We did an appeal for funds and everybody donated for Cody and eventually after five months he was adopted and is healthy – so he was a big success story.”

Leaders and legends

in Features

Six of the iGaming industry’s most successful leaders took part in ‘The Return of the Leaders and Legends’ webinar on
2nd February.

The event was organised by Continent 8 Technologies, a managed hosting, security and global network solutions provider for online gaming, sports betting and eSports. Chief Revenue Officer Roberta Castle explains that the company started over 20 years ago in North America. “As European countries started to regulate we moved into Europe and our service then spread across the globe in response to their requirements, and we now have around 80% of the online gaming sector working with us and our network.”

“Following the hugely successful Leaders and Legends panel discussion at ICE London last year, we were determined to bring it back, but due to Covid and as we are unable to meet at the expo, we went digital with a webinar powered by EGR which attracted the biggest ever audience for one of their virtual events with more than 1,000 registered to watch,” Roberta states. 

The event was moderated once again by Micky Swindale (Partner, KPMG Global Gaming Team) who people will know as Managing Director of their Gibraltar practice from 2013 to 2015. “Huge thanks go to Micky who was an amazing moderator and someone who was known by all the panellists,” Roberta says. “Our job was to pull it all together and coordinate the webinar behind the scenes.”

The expert panel of speakers was increased from four the previous year to six and consisted of Matt King, CEO FanDuel Group, John Coleman, CEO Microgaming, Shimon Akad, COO Playtech, Jordan Levin, CEO Scientific Games Digital, Yaniv Sherman, Senior VP, US, 888 holdings PLC and Matt Kalish, Co-founder and President of North America, DraftKings.

There are plans to make the panel discussion an ongoing event. “We hope to continue to build on the success of the last two events; although the digital event is very good because it widens the audience, we hope to do this annually at ICE in some form – maybe a physical event again next year,” Roberta remarks. The iGaming industry is a competitive one and Continent 8 acts as a neutral party able to bring together a group of experts and their peers. “Our panellists are keen to support the event and in fact we have already been approached by other Operators seeking to take part in next year’s panel.” 

There were several key takeaways from the panel discussion, with the impact of the pandemic something that was acknowledged by the panellists as having been a challenge. However, it was agreed that 2020 had also been a valuable learning experience from a business and industry perspective, driving businesses in the industry to find new ways of working and to think even more creatively about how to engage with customers.

“It was a year of learning from a team perspective. No one had all the answers, and there was a lot of improvisation.”… Jordan Levin, CEO Scientific Games Digital.

A strong focus on the US sports betting market again produced agreement among the leaders and legends that the pandemic had accelerated trends which were already emerging before it began, and that 2020 was a significant year for sports betting in the US in terms of it becoming more widely accepted by sports fans, leagues, teams, media and regulators and that the industry is moving towards being part of the mainstream.

“Playtech see the US as the biggest opportunity for online, anywhere in the world – and they expect the market to be worth tens of billions in the next five years or so. A key factor behind the rapid growth of the market was the fact that US players are already accustomed to eCommerce.”… Shimon Akad, COO, Playtech.

Commenting on security and compliance risks, CEO of Microgaming John Coleman said that their single biggest compliance risk right now is just how to stay compliant across multiple regulated markets.  “As we look at new and emerging regulated markets – and even changes within existing regulated markets – the more changes there are in terms of diversification creates a real technological challenge.” He went on to say that “it would be nice if there was more co-ordination amongst jurisdictions – it would certainly make our lives easier and I think it would protect the players even more than they are now.”

Micky Swindale says that from her point of view it was fantastic to be asked to moderate for a second year. “There aren’t many other panels that have such levels of executives from such a wide group of firms and it is testament to Continent 8 that they can get that group of leaders to want to come together at all – that is the real power of that panel and they were able to give some real insights as to what’s happening in the gaming world.”

Micky states that the focus on the US was because it is an area that’s expanding rapidly. “We talked about a number of other emerging markets but if we look at the speed of change and the potential of the US market, particularly when you compare it to Europe, then it is inevitable that given a lot of the online expertise and talent is perceived to be in Europe that a lot of that focus falls on the US because that is the area that’s expanding in online gaming.”

As leader of KPMG’s Inclusion and Diversity Initiative for the sector Micky comments the fact can’t be ignored that in what is seen as a rather male dominated industry, it was an all-male panel. “It was the same last year and I teased them about that then, but one of the people that was on last year’s panel and unfortunately was unable to participate this year was Shay Segev from Entain (now Co-CEO at DAZN Group) – and of course Shay’s successor at Entain as CEO is a woman – Jette Nygaard-Anderson who becomes one of six female chief executives in the FTSE 100, so that is a really positive thing for the gaming industry and it would be great if Jette was on the panel next year.”  

KPMG usually run face-to-face leadership events as part of their eGaming summits held annually in the Isle of Man, Malta and Gibraltar. “Last May should have been our 10th anniversary summit in Gibraltar which of course had to be cancelled, but we are currently in discussions about whether we can run an event much later this year,” she states. “Because of that we have had a lot of focus about what is of interest in Gibraltar and obviously we have still got the ramifications of Brexit and what will unfold from that.” 

Gibraltar has long been the blue chip gaming jurisdiction, it positioned itself as that from the outset and as a result the vast majority of UK operators had big bricks and mortar operations in Gibraltar. “That has changed somewhat over recent years, and Malta in particular has been a beneficiary of Brexit and the uncertainties that came with it, but the enduring legacy of Gibraltar is that everybody that lives and spends time there wants to stay there and views it with enormous love.” Micky says that is why Gibraltar has been able to maintain such a significant footprint despite the uncertainties, but it is also having a Government and a Regulator who understand and support the industry – and can balance regulation with commerciality.

Although the outlook for the gaming sector in Gibraltar is a hot topic, Continent 8 is keen to stress that it is heavily invested in Gibraltar and will soon be launching a new cloud service there.“Whilst a lot of our customers are in the gaming industry, we are looking to diversify and have some very interesting projects that will hopefully widen the reach of what can be served from Gibraltar and connect it to others outside of Europe as well,” Roberta says. 

Gaming Sector

in Features

The online gaming industry is a key part of Gibraltar’s economy and due to its unique position within Europe it has been renowned as one of the main iGaming hubs in the world, but recently several factors have threatened that position. Insight talks to Paul Foster, CEO of The Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA).

The GBGA has operated since January 2005, and in April 2013 it was incorporated as a trade association representing licensed gaming operators in Gibraltar. “As the number of licences increased from the original three or four upwards, the Government decided that they wanted to work with a group of gaming companies rather than individually with each company, so we formed the GBGA,” Paul Foster explains. Currently there are 28 members split between B2B and B2C brands. 

COVID-19 was one of those factors that had a huge impact on the iGaming industry in Gibraltar, and Paul says that like everyone else the issue at the start of the pandemic was how to get staff either into the office or working from home. “One of the benefits is that we are a truly international industry, versed in using online chat, Team, Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc., so for the gaming companies it was just a matter of making sure that individuals had the technology to be able to work from home.” This meant buying laptops for employees who didn’t have access to one, but that came with its own logistical problems. “Thankfully, everybody has smart phones so they could carry on working, albeit inefficiently until we were able to supply the laptops. 

Paul goes on to state that the second impact was on their operators who had land based businesses which immediately meant that they faced cash flow and operational challenges. “That is where it hit the gaming industry.”

BREXIT has cast a long shadow over the future of the gaming industry in Gibraltar for quite some time. “There were two issues here,” Paul says. “One was the ability to provide services into the EU and the industry became aware that no matter what happened, unless there was a fantastic deal, there was a real risk that we wouldn’t be able to provide gaming services from Gibraltar into the EU.” What transpired was that the gambling companies very quickly reacted and set up EU entities so that they could provide services from elsewhere like Malta, setting up satellite offices for the European element of the business. Gibraltar basically just provides head office services for some companies but they also provide services into the UK and non-EU countries such as the US, Latin America, Africa and Asia.”

Asked what major benefits, particularly with the industry in mind, will being a part of the Schengen Area bring, Paul says that one of the risks was the prospect of reduced border fluidity. “Prior to Covid-19 a lot of planning involvedbusiness continuity and setting up secondary offices across the border, but one of the impacts of the pandemic was that people started working from home, so when it came to BREXIT and the border situation most of our members were more relaxed as a result of it .”The concern was that when restrictions were lifted, would employees be able to come back over the border to work and if there was a problem at the border everyday this could lead to a brain drain in Gibraltar.

“We were very happy when we found out that the Government had negotiated the “in principle”agreement because we need freedom of movement across the border for our highly skilled workers and remember a lot of these skilled workers are European – they are not ex-pat Brits, they are from Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and Portugal, so the kind of deal that has been done is excellent.” 

Paul confirms that the GBGA has been working closely with the Gibraltar Government in all aspects. “MHGOGhas been very supportive of the industry and we have worked closely together on the CELAC committee for Covid, we have had monthly meetings with them on Brexit, and now we are working with them on the solution for the Border Agreement, so we are very happy with our relationship with the Government and they are very supportive and very open with us.”Paul confirmed that the gaming industry chose not to take advantage of the Business & Employee Business Terms (BEAT) Covid-19 support packages in the belief that support should go to the people who have the greatest needs.

“At the original CELAC meeting the gaming companies immediately said they would not take any money even if they were suffering because of retail, but we are mostly online, so we asked GoG to exclude us from the BEAT payments and from furloughing.” He added that they also offered the Government and the GHA access to facilities such as parking spaces, the use of apartments for nurses and the use of call centres on a temporary basis. 

“Gibraltar is still seen as a very good gaming hub,” Paul states. “The Government of Gibraltar are very supportive of the sector and in terms of the external parameters, Gibraltar is still the place to be and a lot of people still want to be licensed here.” He goes on to add that there is a real nucleus of gaming, IT and marketing professionals in Gibraltar which means that the industry always has access to new employees if needed. “The key industry players have been here a long time and they are not planning to leave unless something major changes.”

“The future for the gaming industry in Gibraltar is bright because we are still the innovation hub of the world in online gaming, but we will always caveat that and say the “in principle” agreement needs to be finalised and subject to that it will reduce any potential impact on the gaming sector.”

The Gambling Regulator is quite open that there are a lot of companies still applying for gaming licences in Gibraltar. “Firstly, it is a great place to live especially if you are able to live in Spain and commute across to Gibraltar,” Paul says. “Secondly, other companies want to come to piggyback on the experience and knowledge that is in Gibraltar and there is always a list of people applying for licences here, and at the GBGA we are always happy to talk to new companies and explain the process.”

Paul is optimistic for the future of the industry in Gibraltar. “The gaming industry has been here for over 22 years and it is very committed to Gibraltar and the Government of Gibraltar is committed to us and we have a great symbiotic relationship, so the GBGA is very positive on behalf of our members and although there will always be companies coming and going, mergers and acquisitions – overall the innovative and prominent gaming hub of Gibraltar will grow and thrive.”

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