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   Inside Out - North West: Monday January 16, 2006

Saharan adventure

Boat in sail
Challenging art - the boat must be ready in days

When a group of carpentry students from Manchester were offered the trip of a lifetime, they jumped at the chance.

They were asked by one of the world's top contemporary artists to travel to the Saharan desert to build a replica of an ancient Egyptian ship.

Inside Out joins them on their amazing African adventure.

Saharan desert

A group of Mancunian teenagers are in Siwa - a remote Egyptian oasis in the Sahara desert - close to the Libyan border. It's a long way from inner city Manchester.

The students have been invited to build a ship in the town which has no tradition of sailing - despite being surrounded by salt water lakes.

Although no vessel has ever sailed on this tiny stretch of water, gallery owner Michael Hue Williams wants to build a boat here.

But it will be made from bamboo and reeds and created purely in the name of art.

Carpenty challenge

Dave Harold teaches carpentry at Manchester College of Arts and Technology - known as MANCAT.


Born Ukraine, 1933.

Ilya Kabakov is best known as an installation artist.

Kabakov's work has been presented in large international exhibitions.

He was one of the founders of the underground Russian artist movement in Moscow.

His first major installation in the West was The Characters, (1988) in the de Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York.

The Boat of My Life is an earlier boat installation comprising a 5.5 metre wooden boat with 24 cardboard boxes arranged in disorderly fashion. Filled with personal objects, the boxes relate to episodes from the artist’s life in Russia prior to his move to Western Europe in the late 1980s and later to the United States in the 1990s.

Kabarov's Eqyptian project is called The Ship of Siwa.

He's been working on the ship for two weeks with the help of his son and a team of carpentry students.

The ship has been designed by Russia's most influential artist - Ilya Kabakov.

He wants the youngsters who will work on the project to make a connection with ancient Egypt.

Dave has worked with him before. "I like a challenge," he says, aware of the enormity of the task ahead.

The team has been successfully working on the project with locals from Siwa, despite the language barrier.

The artist - who is a perfectionist - is due to arrive any day.

In the meantime he's set them a deadline the boat must be finished in five days time.

Critics and collectors from around the world will fly in to see the work of art for one night only.

But can they make the tight deadline?

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Mormon insights into family history

Preston Temple
Preston Temple - enlightenment on spiritual and family matters

The Preston Temple of the Latter Day Saints in Chorley is one of the North West's most recognisable landmarks.

Built in 1998, it's a sacred site for all Mormons - and it's only the second of its kind in the UK.

But in recent months the Mormon Temple has seen a huge surge in visitor numbers, not just from people seeking spiritual enlightenment but from those seeking enlightenment about their past.

Inside Out investigates the link between genealogy and the Mormon faith.

Faith in the family

For the Mormons genealogy is a fundamental part of their faith.

The Latter Day Saints believe that the family is the building block of society and that families can be together for eternity.

As a result it's important for them to know about their ancestors.

But not everyone who goes to the temple in Preston is a practising Mormon, as Inside Out presenter Laurence Westgaph explains:

"I'm not a Mormon but I am passionate about genealogy - like the Mormons, I think everyone should know where they come from... I know a lot of you will have started doing their family tree - it's really popular at the moment.

"Like me - you may have got stuck - I'm trying to find out about my great, great, great, great grandmother's family - but haven't been able to find out who she was. I'm hoping a trip here to the Mormon Temple will help."

Laurence and Family History Centre
Roots - tracing the family back in time at the Family History Centre

Laurence watches and chats to Mormons as they microfiche church records in Liverpool in the hope of getting some clues.

Over the years, Laurence has spent plenty of time in the Liverpool records office - he's already discovered that part of his family arrived in the North West from Barbados in 1822.

But visits to local archives could become a thing of the past as the Mormons are putting the family history records onto the internet.

This is a painstaking task carried out by Mormon volunteers like Malcolm Twigg.

Recording the past

Malcolm Twigg is digitising the parish records of Liverpool St Peter.

It could take years but Twigg is only doing records over 100 years old.

There's copyright on these records - this is personal information and Twigg has to respect that, so he only takes records of people who have passed on.

Copies of these records - and hundreds of thousands like them from all over the world are stored in a specially designed vault in the side of a mountain in Utah.

This gives the Mormon church a unique library of genealogical records - a resource that they then make available to family history libraries world-wide.

The Preston Temple

The site for the Mormon temple in Preston was chosen because of the importance played by the North West in establishing and sustaining the Mormon faith.

Mormon congregation
Power of prayer - the Mormons see the family as central

The first Mormon missionaries from the United States arrived in Liverpool in 1837 but they didn't stay in Liverpool - they felt they should come to the Preston area to work.

Those early missionaries had great success and eventually over the next 20 years they brought in 100,000 converts and the church had branches all over the place.

So why is Preston so important?

The Mormons' first work outside of the United States was in Preston because the oldest continuous branch of the church is in the town - it has been here since 1837.

Also many Lancastrian people emigrated and went to live in the United States.

In the 1880s about 100,000 of them left in 20 years, settling in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Rich resource

The temple is only open to certain Mormons however, but there's one place in the complex that's open to everyone - the family history centre.

The family history centre is crammed full of wonderful resources - everything you'd need to trace your family tree, from census returns, births, marriages and deaths to microfiched parish documents.

It's a haven for people like Ray Mingaud who's into his third decade of research:

Man using computer
Roots - tracing the family back in time at the Family History Centre

"People say have you done your family history? I say I'm still doing it and they say how long? And I say 26 years and they say where's the end of it?

"And I say there is no end - it never ends - it ends only when you want it to end.

"You could go on for the rest of your life - there are so many records available in these sorts of places - you could live 10 life times and you would never see everything that's available - that's why it's so fascinating".

It's a social thing too - you don't just sit on your own and go through fiche and films:

"The people here are my friends. The people who run the place we are friends - it's a social activity not just looking for names on paper." Ray Mingaud.

The reason I do it is because I love my name I'm proud of my name and I want to know more about it."

Family history centres like these have allowed thousands of people to trace their family trees - some as far back as biblical times.

The great thing about family history is it keeps evolving and there's always something new to find out.

For more information:

The family history centre's opening hours are Tuesday - Saturday 9am - 6pm.

There are also other family history centres in the North West in Liverpool, Manchester, Chorley, Chester and Ashton-under-Lyne. Call 0121 712 1200 for details of your nearest centre.

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Steve Cook c/o Press Association
Missing from home - Steven Cook
Photo - Press Association

If you have information about Steven Cook, please call the police hotline - 01244 613511

Inside Out investigates the mysterious and harrowing story of the Cheshire student who went missing in Crete.

Norman and Pat Cook are keeping everything in place for when their son Steven comes home to Sandbach.

He's been missing since the end of August 2005 when he went on holiday to Crete with his friends.

Steven is the Cook's youngest son - the baby of the family and a student at Liverpool University.

"He's a very sensible, home-loving kind of guy, he's very much into things around the home. He's fanatical about Liverpool FC," say his family.

"He's the sort of guy you're proud to have as a son - he does normal things for a single lad. At Liverpool Uni he has a circle of friends there and he has a circle of friends back home for weekends and vacations."

There's been no word of Steven's whereabouts for more than four months.

Day by day

For Steven's family it's been a traumatic time:

"It's a living nightmare. If you were to imagine the worst scenario for your children to get into it would be what's happened to Steven and our family."

The family say that they they get through every day by supporting each other.

"If Pat goes up to town, I go with her," says Norman.

"If I go out, she comes with me. I wouldn't go off and leave her on her own - I'd hate Pat to be here on her own if that phone call came through and it was bad news I wouldn't want that so that's how we do it."

The Cook's are a very close family and Christmas 2005 was particularly hard:

"We just went through the motions really - it's hard to cope we've got through it your emotions normally are raw and difficult to control, and at Christmas they come to the surface. It just takes a little thing to trigger it off and you're out of control."

Mysterious disappearance

Stephen was last seen with 11 of his mates in the resort of Malia in Crete.

The group of friends had been looking forward to relaxing after a long year at University but Steven had barely unpacked his suitcase when disaster struck on their first night away.

To hell and back - Steven's parents Pat and Norman Cook

"That night we were on a bar crawl, and as the night wore on me and Steve decided to go back to the hotel.

"And on the way we stopped off at a bar and it was in this bar that I lost him - and that was the last I ever saw of him," says Andy Jackson, one of Steve's close friends.

As soon Steve's mates realised that he wasn't there, they went to the medical centres, hospitals and the police every day.

They gave out fliers and even went up into the hills asking whether anybody had seen Steven.

As soon as the alarm was raised, the Cooks filed a missing person report and made arrangements for his two elder brothers to fly to Crete to help his friends in the search.

But despite TV appeals on the Greek equivalent of Crimewatch, they were no nearer to finding Steven:

"The lowest point was at the airport everyone was expecting to be going home together - it was hard leaving his brothers and the flight home was horrible just the empty seat where Steve should have been and it was hard to deal with." Friend Daniel Stitt.

Tip off

In November 2005, Norman and Pat flew to Crete with their nephew to make their own search of the island.

They'd had a tip off from a psychic saying Steve was alive and near a disused mine, so they scoured the inland areas.

Steven Cook
Tip offs proved fruitless and Steven is still missing

"I came down the mountain and I was shouting Steven, Steven, Steven but there was nothing and it was at that point when we got back to the car that we decided we couldn't go through that again", says his family.

While the search for Steven is being headed by Greek Police, detectives in Cheshire were making their own enquiries.

They needed to be sure that there was nothing in his background which would make him either want to disappear or make him take his own life:

"We're happy to report that despite some intrusive investigations, we've found no reason why Steve would want to go missing, we've found nothing that would make him want to take his own life, that's the sort of thing we took to the Greek police to try and convince them that this was something that happened in Greece that needs to be properly investigated."
Cheshire Police


So what could have happened to Steven Cook?

"I believe it's unlikely that Steven is still alive but I cannot rule that out. And while I cannot rule that out, we have to continue to do what we can to try and investigate every scenario," says Police spokesperson, Detective Supt John Armstrong.

"It is likely Steven's been the victim of crime. It is more likely Steve's been the victim of a tragic misadventure which has led to his body not being recovered to date.

"But he could still be alive and we are still working in the local area to try and find Steven."

Steven's parents say that they can't give up hope:

"I still believe he's out there and he's alive. I have days when I'm down," says Steven's mother.

"We don't have good days but we have bad days. There's something tells me he's out there somewhere - it's not just me - all the family, his friends, it doesn't make sense to us it doesn't make sense to the police, it's just one of those things you wished you'd never had to come up against because it's an absolute nightmare.

"Someone somewhere knows something".

Every year around 50 Britons are murdered abroad - the Cook's are praying that Steven won't become another statistic.

Please help - if you have any information about the whereabouts of Steven Cook, please contact the police hotline - 01244 613511 or e-mail

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