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   Inside Out - North West: Monday March 6, 2006

Arson - paying the price

Fire damage
Wrecked lives - a suspected arson attack

Arson is the largest single cause of major fires in the UK - it leads to death and significant financial damage.

The bold statistics are frightening - every week there are 2,000 arson fires, two deaths, 60 injuries and a bill of £42 million.

But behind the headlines lies another story - how a single moment of madness changes lives - and rarely for the better.

Blazing fire

The North West recently saw one of its biggest fires ever with flames 100 feet high, temperatures hot enough to melt steel beams, and roads closed as black smoke enveloped the area.

This blaze at a DIY wholesale warehouse at Walkden in Manchester is being treated by police as arson.

"It was just reminiscent of what you see in the Blitz... just total decimation."
Risa Klyne, owner

The fierce heat caused the building to collapse, and an enterprise covering nine acres was in ruins in as many hours.

For the owners - Risa and Sammy Klyne - it was a personal and commercial disaster.

They set up their multi-million pound business 20 years ago, building on their success with market stalls.

A few weeks ago they'd just had one of their best weeks ever.

Now all their hard work has been annihilated.

ARSON FACT FILE


Each week in the UK:

* Twenty schools and colleges are damaged or destroyed by arson.

* Over 260 homes are damaged or destroyed by arson.

* Three hundred and sixty businesses and public buildings are damaged or destroyed by arson.

In the last decade there have been around 2.4 million deliberate fires in the UK, resulting in 1,250 deaths and 32,000 injuries.

Home Office research puts the cost of arson to the economy at £2.2 billion per year.

Many businesses never entirely recover – losing orders, contracts, key employees, or may going out of business.

Forty per cent of those prosecuted or cautioned for arson offences in 2000 were aged 10 to 17.

Source: Arson Prevention Bureau

But it's not just the Klynes who are suffering - they have a workforce of 80 people with families to support.

Now their business lies in a crumpled heap, Sammy and Risa have hard decisions to face.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated, but the Klynes have realised they've no option but to lay-off 50 of their 80 staff.

The consequences, though, don't stop there, as Sammy Klyne explains:

"The ripple effect - it just keeps getting bigger and bigger... People would buy off us and their stores were all dependent on my product. What are they going to do?

"One supplier has had to go down to a two and half day week because he can't send the product in... there's nowhere for the product to go."

And Risa says that the human cost can be equally devastating:

"It's not just about a building burning down - it's about the effect on human beings - on people who are decent, hard working, good people who come to work everyday.

"They put their hours in, they put their effort in, they put their energy into building something, and then it's just destroyed - and it's just left a smouldering mass of wreckage.

"It's not just about a wrecking ball coming in on this building, it's about a wrecking ball on people's lives."

In spite of all the heartache and financial losses, the Klynes say that they're going to come back bigger, better and stronger as a business.

Fire investigation

In Merseyside there were 16,000 malicious fires last year.

Now fire investigators have a specialised and highly sensitive weapon to tackle arsonists - his name is Floyd and he's a dog.

Dean Bolton from Merseyside Fire and Rescue is Floyd's dog handler:

"We'll be called out by one of the fire investigation teams and the role is to try and establish whether any accelerants have been used to start the fire. In doing so we can determine whether it was deliberate or not."

Floyd is trained to detect a list of approximately the 12 most commonly used accelerants - from petrol right the way through to barbecue lighter fluid, white spirit, odourless white spirit as well as turps and thinners.

Floyd the fire dog
Sniffing out the evidence - fire fighter dog Floyd

The dog and his handler will search over the property and try to determine whether any accelerants have been used.

If the dog's not able to detect anything, it cuts down the working time for the fire investigator.

The investigator will then go on to look for something else and try to discount other possible causes.

So how successful has Floyd been?

"One hundred per cent - if there's anything there he'll find it," says Dean Bolton.

Human impact

Inside Out visits a children's nursery at Halewood that has been badly damaged by arsonists - Floyd and Dean will be the first investigators to go in.

Floyd's work rules out petrol or other accelerants, so it's back to basic fire investigation.

For the parents with children at the Halewood nursery, the consequences of the arson are already being felt.

"I'm disgusted - absolutely disgusted, they don't realise what they've done," says Claire James.

"They've destroyed an area for children... I've had to take a week off work to keep the children at home obviously because the nursery isn't running.

"And as an effect, everybody is losing money, I'm sure it's not just me.

"The nursery is losing money, they're all losing money, and as parents we can't go to work because we have no childcare."

Devastating attack

A month ago, Gordon Lord's world came tumbling down when someone set light to his Littleborough pigeon loft and locked the doors.

"I think about it when I'm going to sleep... It's like a bereavement - it's like you've lost one of the family or something."
Gordon Lord, pigeon loft owner

Inside were 100 prize-winning racing birds.

Nearly all burned to death.

"They're everything - I live for them - they were my life," he says.

"It's devastating - you're thinking about it all the time. The day after I must have come down here about five times, and I don't even know what for.

As well as the emotional trauma, there was also a financial loss.

The birds were rare and each was worth at least £500 - the fire has cost Gordon £50,000, and there's the prospect of another £10,000 to rebuild the coop.

But it's not just the money.

"They should think what it means to people," says Gordon.

Pigeon loft arson attack
Paying the price - the wreckage of the pigeon loft

"It doesn't matter whether it's a works, or animals or whatever it is. The devastation is the same for everybody.

"There was another case in Rochdale where they burnt a pony - they sprayed petrol on its back legs and set fire to it.

"Now those people know exactly what they're doing."

Gordon refuses to be beaten by the arsonists. He's going to re-stock and carry on.

"We're not going to give up because if we do, then whoever's done have won haven't they? That's what their intention is - to hurt and family and stop us racing pigeons," he says.

Consequences of crime

In Lancashire, there have been 800 arson incidents in 2006 alone.

Fire fighter and tangled wreckage
Sifting through the wreckage after an arson attack

Convicted children can be sent on a course to be taught about the danger of fire - and the consequences.

We meet a young arsonist who has been through the course, and now has a job.

She's repentant about her involvement in the arson attack - we've agreed to conceal her identity:

"I was going out with a bad boyfriend at the time. Things happened, and we just got a bit drunk. He'd had a row with someone he knew and we decided to go down and set his car on fire.

"It upsets me sometimes. Even now I've still got friends and some family that don't speak to me, even though I've changed so much.

"And it does get me down, and it really does upset me but I know that I've made myself better again and I've pulled myself through it all. I've realised what I've done and I was stupid."

Arsonists can face 14 years in prison but lack of evidence means fewer than one in 10 crimes end in a conviction.

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Blackpool's ice sensation

Ice skates
Chilling out at Blackpool's Hot Ice spectacle

Blackpool has many claims to fame - the tower, the illuminations and the rollercoasters.

But did you know that it has the oldest purpose built ice arena in the world?

In 2006 the ice show celebrates a staggering 70 years.

Inside Out's Jacey Normand has been looking back at its history.

Hot Ice

Blackpool's Hot Ice show is a celebration of the very best in ice dance.

Its cast of international medallists includes Dan Whiston, winner of TV's Dancing on Ice.

"It's such a high standard and such a high calibre of show that it's an honour to be in it," says Dan.

1950s ice show
Ice show in the 1950s - a family affair

Back in the 1930s - Blackpool Pleasure Beach opened the Ice Drome - the first purpose built arena of its kind in Europe.

Back then the public could hope to see chorus lines of ice dancers and some cracking variety show entertainment.

The show was a real family affair - among the first to skate in the show were Joyce Lyons, her two sisters Dorothy and Marjorie and brother in law Harold:

"I started in the first children's ice show in 1939 and two years after that I went into the big ice show so I was in that four years then I got called up to the forces," remembers Harold.

"At the beginning of the war 1941 I got a job at an aircraft factory and all the other apprentices skated, so I got an old pair of football boots and a pair of pond skates and bolted them together - and that was my first pair of skates.

"Mr Wells, the manager, came round and said 'do you fancy going in the show?' He said they wanted some big lads and I thought, 'well it's better than being on the dole.'"

Back then, most of the skaters in the show were like Harold - recruited locally.

There were two performances a day which over time became more ambitious.

The skaters have fond memories of those days.

"When I got on the ice they asked if I'd like to do the acrobatic pair skating because I was small," says Marjorie Redvers.

"I started here doing acrobatics then I met my skating partner and we were together for years and we went all over Germany, France, America and finished up in Australia skating there. I kept doing acrobatic skating till I was 47."

The show must go on

The show went on even when the Second World War started, as Joyce Lyons recalls:

"With there being a war on, every Saturday matinee they filled it with troops and that was really exciting.

"You got wolf whistled and all sorts - the whole place was full of the troops - sailors, airmen, the lot it was really exciting.

"There were very few ice shows then in the '40s, very few, so this was one of the biggest shows then."

In the 1950s, the performances became more elaborate with themed routines to reflect the events of the day.

But it was still very much a family affair.

Costume changes

The costumes may have changed - but just like the old days, they're still all handmade by Hot Ice's own wardrobe department.

The team are currently busy preparing for the Hot Ice Show opening on 7 April, 2006.

Ice show 2006
Hot ice - preparations for the show

Some of them look very intricate and there's a lot of work involved in making them.

"It normally takes about a day to make a costume," says wardrobe mistress Simone Bolajuzon.

"There's lots of glitter and gems - yes, we like our rhinestones."

Even for the boys are given super spangled costumes in this show.

Simone says the boys sometimes give her a few strange looks when they're trying on the costumes for the first time.

"But they soon get used to it. It's just one of those things it's show business," she says.

Before she became the queen of the costumes, Simone used to be in the show herself.

"Yes, I was in the ice show for 11 years but I retired in '93... I took a back seat," she says.

Stars of the ice

The 1980s were boom years for skating as a sport with Robin Cousins and Torvill and Dean hitting the heights.

Millions of us stayed up all night to watch Robin Cousins win Gold in the Winter Olympics from Lake Placid.

His performance and that of Torvill and Dean four years later had a nation flocking to the local ice rinks, and inspired the stars of today like Dan Whiston

Dan Whiston
Ice shows 2006 style - Dan Whiston centre stage

"I think that anything that promotes skating and gets it up there is brilliant for skating because we need to produce some more champions," says Dan.

Dan is something of a celebrity now, having starred in the recent Dancing On Ice competition on ITV where he partnered former Coronation Street actress Gaynor Faye.

But becoming a top skater has been a long, hard slog.

Blackpool born and bred, Dan first stepped on the ice at the age of seven.

Having got a taste of show business in the children's annual ice show, Dan couldn't get enough of the bright lights and even sold ice creams at the ice drome just to get his skate in the door.

"We used to come on in the interval shouting ice cream, hot chocolate," he recalls.

"Just to be in the environment it's so exciting... to be around that sort of atmosphere, it was just amazing."

From selling refreshments during the interval, Dan is now scaling some dizzy heights as one of the stars in the current hot ice production.

Amazing memories

The show's certainly come a long way from the chorus lines of 70 years ago.

"I miss the shows, I don't like watching them because I think - I wish I was out there...

"As you get older your memories fade but this is one that will stay - the memory of the ice shows - it was wonderful."
Harold, skater

"Some of the older skaters said that the newer skaters put them to shame, because in their day all they had to do was skate backwards and forwards, and do a turn and not fall over and you were in the show," says Dan.

"I'm sure they did a good job at the time - you've got to put things in context.

"I'm sure at the time it was a great show but things move on and things evolve and the standards get higher and higher as I'm sure it does in everything.."

Whether the show's still around in another 70 years remains to be seen, but for the performers past and present, it's provided them with some amazing memories.

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Superstar writer - Brian Jacques

Brian Jacques
Author and superstar - Brian Jacques

When one young Liverpool man went to sea in search of adventure, little did he imagine that he'd become famous in many of the countries he visited.

And whilst he may not be a household name in his own country, 20 years after his first children's' book was published, Brian Jacques is a star around the world.

Inside Out's Simon O'Brien went to meet him.

Global hero

Brian Jacques grew up by Liverpool docks.

Best known for his show on BBC Radio Merseyside, he's able to stroll largely unnoticed along the waterfront of his home city.

But when he goes abroad, it's a different matter.

He's a global phenomenon, a bit of a rock star.

In America they're calling him the second biggest export from Liverpool after the Beatles.

Brian writes largely about the animal world of Redwall, and has sold around 15 million books around the world.

There's even a Redwall cartoon series on TV.

Jacques is especially huge in America where his books are on the best sellers' list.

Animal world

Most of Brian's books are set in the animal kingdom of Redwall - where he says the mice represent children.

The medieval world of Redwall was inspired by an unlikely source - Stanley Park - more famous for lying between the two Liverpool football grounds.

It took many years to translate the animal adventures from Brian's vivid childhood imagination into print.

Wavertree School
Wavertree School - source of Brian's big break

But the people he met and the places he visited would serve to inspire his writing.

He left school at 15 and went to sea before a taking a string of jobs including a docker and police constable.

At the same time he developed his gift for writing, becoming a folk singer, broadcaster and writer.

But it was during a stint as a long distance lorry driver that he got his big break - at the Wavertree School for the Blind where he would deliver milk.

"I used to come here and read," he recalls. It was this that prompted him to started writing and to paint pictures with words.

Brian used to read to the children at the School for the Blind.

But he didn't like the books he was reading - he wondered where the old fashioned magic was and so decided to write his own book.

Eventually with a little help from his friends, Redwall - a good old fashioned adventure story - was published.

The rest is history.

Fame and fortune

Today - 29 books later - Brian counts the Prime Minister and his family among his fans.

Brian at Stanley Park
Inspiration - Stanley Park where it all started

Inside Out follows Jacques in London where he's meeting his editor at Puffin Books to discuss the preliminary artwork for the cover of his latest book, Voyage of Slaves.

But the place where it all began is set to disappear forever.

There are plans to turn parts of Stanley Park - where the Redwall story began - into a new ground for Liverpool Football Club.

Few could have imagined how the adventures of a young schoolboy could have made it into an everlasting magical animal kingdom, loved by children around the world.

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