Armed Forces Day – Cleethorpes 2016

Out and about at the National Armed Forces Day event in Cleethorpes. Armed Forces Day is an annual event that gives an opportunity for the country to show its support for the men and women in the British Armed Forces.

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The Road to Referendum

Since April I’ve covered quite a few of referendum related visits and events from both sides of the debate around the north as I was documenting this whole process. So here’s a few pics from each event in the order they happened starting with a leave campaign event in Newcastle and finishing with the north-east count in Sunderland…

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Durham Regatta

Rowers from universities and rowing clubs across the country take part in the 183rd annual regatta on the River Wear in Durham this weekend. The present regatta dates back to 1834 and is the second oldest in the country with racing taking place over two days on the river between Prebends Bridge and Pelaw Wood over a 750m short course and a long course of one and a quarter miles. The regatta has its origins in the annual procession of boats, originally organised by the Sheriff of County Durham and the Rt Honourable William Lloyd Wharton, from June 1815 to celebrate the victory at the Battle of Waterloo.

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Appleby Horse Fair – 2016

The Appleby Horse Fair is held each year in early June when around 10,000 – 15,000 English and Welsh gypsies, Scottish and Irish travellers gather to buy and sell horses, meet with friends and relations, and celebrate their culture.

These different groups share a similar lifestyle and culture, and many gypsies and travellers regard Appleby Fair as the most important date in the calendar and it remains one of the largest of their gatherings. An estimated 25-30,000 non-Gypsy people also visit the fair during the week.

The fair is held outside the town of Appleby where the Roman Road crosses Long Marton Road, not far from Gallows Hill, named after the public hangings that were once carried out there. In the mid-20th century the story developed that the fair originated with a royal charter to the borough of Appleby from King James II of England in 1685. However, recent research has shown that the 1685 charter, which was cancelled before it was enrolled, is of no relevance. Appleby’s medieval borough fair, held at Whitsuntide, ceased in 1885.

The ‘New Fair’, held in early June on Gallows Hill, which was then unenclosed land outside the borough boundary, began in 1775 for sheep and cattle drovers and horse dealers to sell their stock. By the 20th Century it had evolved into a major gypsy and traveller occasion. No one bestowed the New Fair, no-one ever owned it and no-one was ever charged to attend it. It was and remains, a true people’s fair

The fair has no organised or scheduled events. The main activities take place on Fair Hill, the main Gypsy campsite field, with some catering and trade stands and more recently on the Market Field or Jimmy Winter’s Field, which was opened up by a local farmer several years ago, and is now the main stall trading and catering area. There are half a dozen licensed campsites nearby. Most horse trading takes place at the crossroads, known to the local authority as Salt Tip Corner and on Long Marton Road, known to the gyspies and travellers as the flashing lane where horses are shown off or ‘flashed’ by trotting up and down the lane at speed.

Many of the horses are also taken down to the Sands, near Appleby town centre and beside the River Eden, where they are ridden into the river to be washed. There is no auction at the fair with arrangements for any sales made between buyer and seller for cash. When the deal is done, the seller will hand back a small part of the price to the buyer for ‘Luck Money’.

The story behind luck money is that if the horse goes wrong, or hurts the new owner, then the luck money will ensure that you cannot curse the seller and a failure to give this money can be seen as grossly insulting.

 

The horse fair has generated some controversy over the years with complaints of mess and rubbish being left in the town and on the camp sites, crime and animal cruelty.

In 2014 there were 28 arrests at the fair, the lowest for several years, for among other things, drug use, drunkenness, and obstruction which senior police confirmed was not disproportionate to other large scale public events.

As regards rubbish and clean-up costs, although the trade stands leave a few tons of waste, the market field and Fair Hill are cleaned of litter the day after the fair, at no cost to the ratepayers, and within a week there is little trace that a fair has been held.

As regards animal cruelty, the RSPCA patrols the fair scrupulously, and although in 2009 Animal Aid called for the fair to be banned the instances of cruelty are few, and they are prosecuted where they do occur. Warnings and advice are given in borderline cases, and the great majority of horses at the fair are well looked after, well treated, and in good condition.

What is clear is that the fair is continuing a proud heritage and tradition among the travelling community and one that brings in much needed income to the town and it remains a colourful and exciting experience for all who attend.

Below are a selection of pictures from the first day of this year’s fair…

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Yorkshire’s Gasland

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Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock. The process involves drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which in turn allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

The term fracking refers to how the rock is fractured apart by the high pressure mixture.

Drilling for shale gas is at present only at an exploratory phase in the UK after reserves of shale gas were identified across large swathes of the country, particularly in northern England.

More than one hundred licences have been awarded by the government to firms within the UK, allowing them to pursue a range of oil and gas exploration activities in certain areas. But before firms can begin fracking they must also receive planning permission from the relevant local councils.

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Today I was in Northallerton as I covered hundreds of protestors from local campaign groups such as Frack Free Ryedale who along with hundreds of supporters from around the country and neighbouring counties and from environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth had gathered outside the County Hall building and in the surrounding grounds to voice their opposition to fracking.

They gathered there as the North Yorkshire County Council’s Planning and Regulatory Committee met inside to decide on a fracking application submitted by Third Energy to frack at their current KM8 well-site at Kirby Misperton near Pickering.

The KM8 well-site has been located there for over 20 years during which time it has been producing gas safely and discreetly from the site. The permit applications will allow for fracking activities to be carried out at the site to evaluate the future potential of the shale resource to produce the gas stored there commercially.

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Through the day the committee in Northallerton heard arguments both for and against the planning application. Due to the large number of those who were expected to attend the meeting to speak out against the granting of the application the meeting is expected to reconvene this coming Monday where the decision will be announced.

The opposition to fracking in this area, as in many others around the country has been strong and vocal and it remains a highly contentious issue with individuals, businesses and various environmental groups all voicing their opposition. However the planning officer for the council has already recommended that North Yorkshire County Council approve the application after various consultations have taken place with Third energy.

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If the application is approved on Monday then the plan then would be to fracture five different zones at depths of between 7 – 10,000 feet below ground level to stimulate the gas flow. This gas would then be appraised to check the economic potential and subsequent gas production.

Any gas sourced at the site would be transported by an existing pipeline system to Third Energy’s gas fired power station at Knapton.

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So are there any advantages to fracking?

Well the methods used to drill allow the firms to access difficult-to-reach resources of natural gas.

In the US where fracking is far more common it has significantly boosted domestic oil production and driven down gas prices. It is estimated to have offered gas security to the US and Canada for about 100 years, and has presented an opportunity to generate electricity at half the CO2 emissions of coal.

The industry suggests that the fracking of shale gas could contribute significantly to the UK’s future energy needs and improve our own energy security.

The Task Force on Shale Gas, an industry-funded body, has said the UK needs to start fracking to establish the possible economic impact of shale gas – saying it could create thousands of jobs.

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So why is it so controversial?

The extensive use of fracking in the US, where it has revolutionised the energy industry, has prompted serious environmental concerns. Many areas within the US where fracking is practiced on a far larger scale have many and increasing reports of ill-health due to water contamination.

Fracking uses huge amounts of water, which must be transported to the fracking site by either truck or pipeline all of which comes at significant environmental cost.

Environmentalists say potentially carcinogenic chemicals used in the process may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. The industry suggests pollution incidents are the results of bad practice, rather than an inherently risky technique and claim that stringent guidelines and processes in place will reduce this risk.

There are also worries that the fracking process can cause small earth tremors and whilst the tremors caused near Blackpool by a fracking operation in 2011 by the firm Cuadrilla were very minor at around 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale this remains an area of concern.

Campaigners say that fracking is simply distracting energy firms and governments from investing in renewable sources of energy, and encouraging continued reliance on fossil fuels and a further increase in already high CO2 levels.

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There is little doubt that as far as the longer term effects of fracking are concerned the practice presents more questions than it answers. Mainly revolving around potential water contamination, increased CO2, the effects of chemicals from the process ending up in the atmosphere and more localised issues such as increased traffic disruption.

Whilst a single drilling site may not produce the same wider scale impact like those that have been reported in the US – our only real source of what fracking looks like on a huge scale – or indeed be the ‘end of the world’ scenario here in Yorkshire that some of the more extreme voices shout about it still raises the question of why, as a country, we should be turning down this road at all?

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should?

There are other avenues to explore that have less potentially devastating consequences if they go wrong? Other options that can be looked at to see if they work – solar power, wind, rain, tidal and geothermal heat all remain options to some degree and need to be explored further before they are disregarded as folly.

As I’ve discovered through research ahead of writing this post fracking is a complicated and divisive subject and will remain so for a long time to come but many say that this form of natural gas extraction should be a very last resort rather than the next step.

With the waters muddied by incorrect or mis-information, complex terminology, over-dramatising and scaremongering, financial interests, far left-wing agendas and less than honourable cross party political motivations from all sides and due to the simple fact of not knowing the long-term repercussions of the drilling method and the effects of the chemicals used then complete transparency and legal accountability at every stage is needed and should be demanded from everyone to avoid the gold-rush like chaos that has been seen in the US.

To frack or not to frack is not just about a small Yorkshire village in isolation. It is far bigger than that. The ultimate effects of fracking on the wider environment will likely remain for a long time to come.

Is that what we want our legacy to be? The final decision on the planning application on Northallerton will be announced on Monday.

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*UPDATE*

The North Yorkshire County Council planning committee voted seven to four in favour of an application by UK firm Third Energy to frack for shale gas near the village of Kirby Misperton.

The application is the first to be approved in the UK since 2011 and the application was passed despite the presence of hundreds of protestors, who gathered outside the County Hall building.

Dozens of speakers attended the meeting outlining concerns over the hydraulic fracturing technique. Objectors raised fears about the environment, safety issues, increased traffic, the effect on the landscape, health and the potentially negative impact on the area’s tourism.

However, supporters – including experts in areas such as noise, water, ecology and landscape – addressed or dismissed the concerns, making statements in support of the application.

Environmental groups, local residents and anti-fracking supporters have said they will continue to fight against the decision.

 

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I then took  trip to Kirby Misperton in Ryedale to have a look at the area, the village itself and to see where the site is located…

 

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For a further look at information about fracking and its potential effects I highly recommend watching the following programmes linked below: ‘Gasland‘ – an Oscar nominated film by Josh Fox on the impacts of fracking and ‘Fracking – The New Energy Rush‘ by BBC Horizon.

 

 

 

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Tour de Yorkshire 2016

As the Tour de Yorkshire entered the third and final stage on Sunday with the 193km leg from Middlesbrough to Scarborough I was starting out in Great Ayton to shoot some pictures in the village ahead of the riders coming through later in the day.

Returning for a second year the hugely popular cycling race has now grown to be one of the most spectacular events in the British sporting calendar. Early reports from this year suggest that around 2 million people watched the race.

Like other legs in the race that took in some of the best scenery around Yorkshire the stage 3 leg would be no exception and even though the weather wasn’t the best the atmosphere among the spectators made up for it. Like most towns and villages along the route many people had come together within their communities to decorate their homes, buildings, walls, windows, benches, lamp posts or anything else that could be found with the yellow and blue race colours or the blue and white of Yorkshire.

Along with the bunting, flags and yellow bicycles there were many other quite imaginative ways of marking the event and everyone entered into the spirit of the occasion. Whilst I can’t speak for every town and village along the route of the Tour de Yorkshire this year I think it’s safe to say that without the support and enthusiasm of the communities along the route the race wouldn’t be half the occasion it has become.

After shooting and filing some pictures first thing from around Great Ayton I then covered the riders as they raced through and were encouraged by cheering crowds lining the streets of the village. After sending those in to the desk I then headed off to Whitby to concentrate on an area of the route that passed close to Whitby Abbey…

 

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In or Out?

The European Referendum came to Newcastle upon Tyne today as both the Vote Leave and the Stronger In campaigns came to town.

Firstly Boris Johnson delivered a speech to vote leave activists which, other than three or four people who heckled from the back otherwise went down well to a crowded room in the Centre for Life. The Mayor of London was taking part in a 48 hour ‘Brexit Blitz’ of campaigning in Northern England.

The Britain Stronger In Europe campaign bus also arrived in Newcastle and headed for the Northumbria University’s City Campus where it met up with campaign supporters. The bus came to Tyneside as part of a tour as the In campaign officially begins ahead of the european referendum which takes place on June 23.

(*Impartial alert! – The pictures appear here in the order that I shot them)

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Scarborough Awakens

So yesterday morning I headed further down the North Yorkshire coast to Scarborough to shoot a few pictures. Arriving at North Bay after an hour’s drive from Saltburn I was early enough to catch the high Spring tides as they caused a few waves to crash over the seawall and railings. They weren’t massive waves by any stretch which always look so dramatic but the light was great and it made for some nice shapes as the water crashed against the wall.

I find it’s quite addictive shooting something like this as there’s always that feeling of ‘…if I leave now then the next one might be even better‘ so I spent a while shooting a few as I tried to get close enough to get some drama without getting drenched and spending the rest of the day soaking wet and at the same time trying to avoid being knocked over by the cars driving along the road! But needs must and I was able to get a few half-decent pictures that I was reasonably pleased with.

From there I parked up in a usual spot I go to at the end of Marine Drive and close to the harbour where I went for a wander about. I like this approach to doing my own pictures and I try to do a similar thing wherever I go to. Now I know from being there a number of times before that like many places, there are good pictures from certain areas more than others but if I can I try and shoot something different or if I see something that attracts my interest then I just shoot pictures anyway.

After I had wandered about for a while shooting a few around the harbour area, the fishing boats and some ‘street’ type stuff I headed along to the Scarborough Spa. This is a great old building with a rich history and which currently acts as a venue for shows, conferences and performances as well as being one of the most iconic symbols of the town.

Today they were hosting the ‘Scarborough Sci-fi Festival’. An event that brought together those folks that are into all things sci-fi to enjoy and take part in a host of guest talks, lectures, merchandise stands, entertainment, screenings and generally dive into a weekend of sci-fi shenanigans. There were quite a few people dressed up as various characters from all different genres of science fiction so I hung around for a bit and shot a few pictures of some of them as they were outside the spa or down on the beach.

After that I filed a few pictures in and as it was getting on a bit I headed off back in the general direction of my car thinking I might get a few more pictures as I went. But as it was a cracking day on our great Yorkshire coast the visitors had descended in their hundreds and the place was heaving so after weaving in and out between the masses for a while and not really getting much in the way of pictures that were working and after a seagull decided to carry out an aerial bombardment on the back of my jacket letting me know what it had had for breakfast – always happy to share are seagulls! #flyingrats – I figured I would call it a day and head off.

 

Behind the Scenes:

There are some pictures from Scarborough below but before that is a ‘kit shot’ of what I use on some of the jobs or photo-trips I might undertake so by way of a techy stuff interlude I thought I’d go over a few things about what I use. So read on if this stuff interests you or if doesn’t then jump down to the pics 😉

My approach to my photos is generally very ‘loose’ and without a specific brief and I tend to work quickly. Methodically but quickly and kind of let things happen or, if I have to pose up a picture for a portrait (and I might only do it for portraits – everything else is just as it happens) then I don’t go mad with it usually.

I don’t use tripods (unless it’s the middle of the night or something obviously) and I like to travel light and work with a small amount of kit. When I can I use prime lenses. Always have done in the main. But obviously some of the jobs I cover need to have the benefits of using zoom lenses either due to the space, mobility, flexibility or the requirement to get a range of shots from one event. Obviously this is far easier with zooms but for my own stuff or indeed those jobs I do where I know, or think, I will have some freedom then I shoot on prime lenses and that’s what I did yesterday.

All the shots below were taken on a 35mm f2 Summicron lens on my Leica M9 digital camera. I had also initially thought to use the day to shoot some film. I learned photography shooting film. All the technical ‘stuff’ that you need to know I taught myself when I first got into taking pictures twenty odd years ago and understanding film and learning to develop it was of course a big part of that. But yesterday I kind of got into a groove from the off with my digital camera and didn’t end up shooting much film at all unfortunately. But that’s ok – there’s always the next time.

Below is a picture of what I carried yesterday. It kind of looks like a lot all laid out but it isn’t really that heavy and it all fits into the small Barbour shoulder bag I was carrying so it doesn’t end up being too much of a pain to carry around all day especially when one of the cameras was always out anyway.

 

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So to briefly go over the stuff (from left to right and top to bottom) we have:

My BPPA Press card (British Press Photographers’ Association). Barbour bag. Chamois leather/lens cloth. Air blower for getting rid of dust from sensors or whatever. MiFi to get on ‘tinternet when using the IPad air 2 – I usually use a 15″ mac book to edit, caption and file pictures to a news desks when I’m out and about but sometimes when I’m shooting my own stuff I’ll just carry this as it’s lighter and reasonably capable of doing an edit. I can still ingest pictures, edit, caption and file through that with a couple of programmes but I’m still trying to streamline and tweak that workflow process to make it faster and more efficient. USB and SD card adapters to connect and ingest pictures to the IPad. Notebook & pens. Apple blue tooth wireless keyboard – connected to the iPad I find it easier to type captions on a normal keyboard rather than touch screen and these are great (and light). Ten rolls of black and white film (5 x Kodak 400ASA TriX and 5 x Ilford 400ASA XP2).

Leica M9 with manual focusing 35mm f2 Summicron lens. Couple of 3-stop ND filters (these essentially reduce light coming into the camera allowing me to use a higher aperture especially in bright sunshine as the M9 only has a 4000th of a second as the max shutter speed). Spare M9 batteries (although a couple of my Fuji spares are in there all the time). Leica M2 with manual focusing 50mm f2 Summicron lens – this is a great old camera. This one was produced in 1960 and is fully manual and doesn’t have a meter so needs no batteries. Spare SD memory cards.

Sekonic L-308s light meter – I use this in tricky lighting for getting a first exposure when using any of my cameras if time allows but especially with the M2. It came in handy yesterday with the bright white of the storm trooper uniforms in sunshine.

Using it to obtain an ‘Incident’ light reading which reads the light falling on your subject, instead of measuring the light reflected from it as the built in meter in a camera does. The difference is that in reflected mode, the meter can be fooled because a white subject (or a black subject) reflect light very differently. When using incident mode, how light or dark the subject is doesn’t matter because the meter is reading the light emanating from the sky or artificial light source before it gets to the subject. So as the light didn’t change much yesterday I took a reading at the start so that I was exposing accurately for the bright suits, remembered it and used it as the foundation for exposing the pictures, of the Storm Troopers at least, and then I just tweaked the exposure as needed as I went.

So that’s what I carried yesterday. Fairly simple and light enough to carry around. Shooting as I was on one lens yesterday – the 35 – it does restrict you at times and it takes more thought and discipline to shoot a prime lens and of course there are shots that you simply can’t achieve but that’s fine. In situations like this I’m happy with that. If it was a ‘normal’ job I’d have had three cameras on the go. The M9, but with the 50mm attached and 2 x Fuji XT1’s. One with a 16mm (24mm equivalent as it isn’t full frame) f 1.4 prime and the other with a 50-140 f2.8 (70-200mm equivalent) to give me more options.

But given the choice and the freedom to shoot how I want this lens is normally what I like to use…I can get close to what’s going on, I can include some of the environment in the picture to give it some context, the quality of the lens is amazing and it’s good to be more ‘manual’ – controlling the exposures myself, focusing the lens myself and thinking more about my pictures and putting them together.

Doing it like this as often as possible makes it, for me at least, more intuitive and helps me keep sharp on the basic foundations of photography – the light, the exposure, the composition and the subject – it keeps my eye in and makes me think about what’s important in a picture. All of which can sometimes be overlooked and even forgotten if you always rely on the camera to do everything. Even in fast moving more news orientated stories it has paid off and I’m as comfortable using this manual focusing ‘slow’ camera where I can’t take several shots a second as I am with using my other, more speedy’ cameras’.

 

So anyway…….. here’s a few from Scarborough:

 

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Keep calm and carry oil

Scooter enthusiasts from all around the country arrived in Whitby to take part in the Easter National Scooter Rally this weekend. The event was an opportunity to visit the North Yorkshire fishing town to enjoy live entertainment and music, visit the parts fair and custom show, check out the other scooters and to meet up with old friends…

 

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Whitby Mick

Hundreds of bikers from around the country came together for one final ride out as they attended the funeral service for Michael Collings today. Mr Collings, 53, or ‘Whitby Mick’ as he was popularly known died when half of the decommissioned Didcot A power station collapsed on February 23.

A popular and enthusiastic figure within the biking community family, friends and bikers came together for one final mark of respect on a huge ride out from his home in Brotton in East Cleveland to the crematorium at Kirkleatham. Traffic along the route that passed through Brotton and Skelton came to a standstill as the coffin, carried in a motorcycle and sidecar, made its way at the head of the cortege to the service at Kirkleatham.

Five other people were injured in the collapse and Christopher Huxtable, 34, from Swansea, Ken Cresswell, 57, and John Shaw, 61, both from Rotherham, and known as the ‘Didcot Three‘ are still missing in the rubble at the site. The cause of the collapse is still under investigation.

 

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Labour North Conference

Members and supporters of the Labour Party attended their regional conference at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle today. Following an introduction to the stage by Newcastle North MP Chi Onwurah, party leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed the conference reiterating that the north maintains strong Labour support and is an area with many proud traditions. He also outlined his party’s plans for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, spoke about the NHS, the economy and the forthcoming EU referendum.

Among those speaking or taking part in Question and Answer sessions during the event, which was well attended by members from all across the region, were Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Angela Eagle, the Shadow Business Secretary and Shadow First Secretary of State, Pat Glass, Shadow Europe Minister and Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Cabinet Office Minister.

During the conference lunchtime break there was a small demonstration outside the venue held by a number of EDL supporters who displayed a banner opposing refugees entering the country. Police officers were called after some verbal insults were shouted to some Labour members but otherwise the demonstration passed without incident.

 

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The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

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Through the tightly knit branches of trees growing on the northern rim of Nairobi National Park in Kenya an occasional glimpse of red-brown shapes can be seen moving through the hanging branches. Breaking from cover and running down the hillside the young elephants make their way with eagerness to the waiting keepers.

With their green dust coats and khaki hats the dedicated keepers of the elephant orphanage are the final hope for young elephants abandoned in Africa. They provide care 24-hours a day, 7-days a week for the young elephants. Each morning at six the elephants are taken for a walk within the park. Later that morning at eleven the elephants are taken to meet paying members of the public and local schoolchildren who visit the orphanage to see the work being done there and to see the ongoing work of the conservationists.

Visitors watch, take pictures and have the opportunity to stroke the hard rough skins of these amazing animals as the young elephants feed with gusto on the formula provided to them in large plastic bottles. Some are happy to allow the keepers to hold the bottle while the more confident simply grab the bottle and feed themselves. Swigging from the bottles with greedy abandon. Once the food is gone it’s time for the mud hole. The younger ones among them roll around in the pool enjoying the cool muddy relief from the morning sun whilst the older ones look on with apparent bemusement at the frivolity. They all seem to be having a great time.

After an hour or so they are taken to their feeding and playing pens until 5pm when they are taken to their beds inside a stockade where they sleep until the following morning. The keepers sleeping beside them to provide reassurance and comfort.

Brought from all over the the country after losing their parents and families to drought, or by getting stuck in mud pools, drying river beds or falling into man-made wells or as a result of poaching the orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program is the most successful in the world and one of the most pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.

Founded in 1977 by Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick in honour of her late husband, the renowned naturalist Davie Sheldrick MBE, this world leading organisation is now leading the way towards the saving of these complex and highly cohesive animals. Animals that are the largest land animal on earth and are among the most intelligent.

Once healed and stabilised and no longer milk dependent they are moved to a holding centre over one hundred miles to the Tsavo National Park. Once there, and at their own pace, which could take between eight to ten years, they gradually make the transition back into the wild.

 

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You can visit their site and see more of what the trust does here:

https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/

 

See more of my work on my website and blogs… HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth

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Hunting through long grasses

From the crazy and chaotic traffic in Kenya’s capital Nairobi where the biggest vehicle and loudest horn rules the day to the red ochre dust covered roadsides with their brightly coloured shops and businesses scattered for miles along the endless routes to the vast expanse of the game reserves…

…to the poverty and people lying on the road sides asleep,

…to the children walking miles to reach school,

…to the sleek sided skyscrapers,

…to the motorbikes carrying three or more passengers or a cargo of chickens stacked in boxes,

…to the huge speed bumps before and after built-up areas scattered along the roads,

…to random police check points

…to the dark brooding storm clouds,

…to the clear morning views of Mount Kenya,

…to the long endless dusty roads stretching for miles out in front of you,

…to the hard sells and bargaining opportunities in the curio shops along the main tourist routes,

…to the Masai villages opened up to the traveller,

…to the sound of their voices as they sing their songs,

…to the noise, smells and colour that overloads the senses as you drive through busy towns and leaves you feeling overwhelmed after you pass through them,

…to the dusty unused rail tracks that lead to nowhere,

…to the hundreds of faces that stare back at you as you pass. Some with a smile, some with no interest, some with suspicion, some with animosity, many with curiosity,

…to the road side fruit sellers,

…to the street hawkers and beggars to the top end and sleek black-windowed 4×4’s,

…to the security checks in the malls and their shiny tiled floors,

…to the dangerous driving and the road safety warnings,

…to crown paint adverts and Coca Cola painted walls,

…to the market stalls and bags of fruit,

…to the banana, pineapple and mango plantations and the vast fields of wheat,

…to the coffee trees bending over when ready to drop,

…to the cold bottles of Tusker beer,

…to the sound of the crickets,

…to the open spaces and the oppressive tight streets,

…to the smells before the rain comes,

…to the smell as it rains,

…to the smells after the rain has been,

…to the smell of the soil,

…to the diesel-fume spilling trucks lumbering up the Rift Valley escarpment,

…to the smells of cooking meat coming from the choma,

…to the breeze blowing through the branches of the Acacia,

…to the warm towels on arrival at the lodges to the chilly morning sunrises,

…to the painted wall murals and the smell of timber yards,

…to the long-drop toilets and the sound of hyenas at night,

…to drifting over the Mara River in a basket under a balloon,

…to the quiet forests and the traffic jam symphony of horns in Nairobi,

…to elephants trumpeting,

…and the sounds of a leopard hunting through tall grasses.

 

Kenya might not be for everyone and I’ve made several trips there with work over the years but now after this latest trip outside of my former work, I’ve realised even more what an amazingly chaotic, contradictory and beautiful place it is on many levels. Mesmerising, addictive and frustrating in equal measures it offers much for the visitor. But for the photographer…? Well for the photographer it offers a wealth of picture opportunities whatever your photographic interests. So if you get the chance to go then take it. If you need to take out a ridiculously large loan that will take ages to repay (as I did!!) then go for that too.

You won’t regret it.

 

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See more of my work on my website and blogs… HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth

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No usage without arrangement.

Kenyan Wildlife

There are amazing opportunities for seeing wildlife in Kenya. The east African country that covers around 580,000 square kilometers of real estate and which is synonymous with the ‘safari’, boasts some of the finest natural parks and wildlife conservancies on the continent and the potential is good for seeing many species of wildlife including the famed ‘big five’. On a recent trip I was able to visit four of the main ones.

From the foothills of the Mount Kenya National Park with exceptional views of Mount Kenya, the highest mountain in the country to the Ol Pejeta conservancy, which lies on the Laikipia plains and has one of the highest wildlife to area ratios of any of the parks.

Then through to the Lake Nakuru National Park nestled in the 6,000 km long Great Rift Valley which is the largest geographical feature on earth and on to what is probably the most famous of them all, the Massai Mara National Reserve in Narok county.

From the outset there was plenty to see and photograph and despite breaking my longer lens and camera on a particularly rough track after it bounced onto the floor of the vehicle I was travelling in I was able to see not only the ‘big five’ but so much more of what this great country has to offer…

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The Big Five

In Africa , the big five game animals are the African Lion, the White/Black Rhinoceros, the Cape Buffalo, African Elephant and the African Leopard. The term big five was coined by big-game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot.  The members of the Big Five were chosen for the difficulty in hunting them and the degree of danger involved, rather than their size. Subsequently the term was adopted by safari tour operators for marketing purposes and today for some of those on safari seeing or photographing these great animals remains one of the greatest challenges.

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The Trees

There’s something about the trees in Africa that lend themselves to pictures. Maybe it’s the delicate spreading canopies of the Acacia trees or the lone tree standing tall on a vast open horizon under the big skies that draws the eye or maybe it’s the shadow, light and form that draws the photographer in…either way, I shot quite a few of them!

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The Lion

The Lion is the most endangered out of Africa’s three big cats – Lion, Leopard and Cheetah – with fewer than 30,000 remaining on the continent and less than 2,000 in Kenya they are at risk from hunting, habitat loss and diseases that can be spread from domestic dogs in nearby villages.

Lions are large felines that are traditionally depicted as the king of the jungle. These big cats once roamed Africa, Asia and Europe. However, now they are found in only two areas of the world and are classified into two subspecies. Asiatic lions which live in India’s Gir Forest and African lions who live in central and southern Africa. In Kenya, Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa they can roam an area of territory covering 100 square miles. This territory mainly consists of scrub, grasslands or open woodlands.

The African lion is 4.5 to 6.5 feet long from its head to its rump, and its tail measures from 26 to 39 inches long – although in the pictures below the Lion had lost its tail – probably in a fight.

African lions typically weigh between 260 and 420 lbs with male lions generally larger than females. They have a distinctive mane of hair around their heads the function of which is to make the male look more impressive to females and more intimidating to other males. The mane also protects the male’s neck during fights over territory or mating rights.

African lions eat large animals that they find in the grasslands, including antelopes, zebras and wildebeest or as in the photos below Rhino and while the females – seen at the bottom of this post – are the primary hunter a lone male can and will hunt by itself. How the rhino came to be the lions prey is unknown. Possibly it was an old and/or ill rhino that succumbed to the lion attack or, as has been pointed out due to the lack of rhino horn visible, it may have been the carcass left after poachers killed it but I can’t confirm either way.

 

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Female lions, all members of the same pride, lie in the sun grooming themselves and each other after eating their fill on the carcass of the rhino.

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Learning to be Chimpanzee’s again

The natural home for the chimpanzee ranges from Senegal on the west African coast through the central forested belt and across to Uganda. They are not a native species of Kenya but when a rescue centre in Burundi had to close due to the outbreak of civil war in 1993 the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya opened its doors to the Sweetwaters chimpanzee sanctuary.

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Situated just 17km from Nanyuki and 217 km’s from Nairobi on the Laikipia Plains the 24,000 acre game reserve has one of the highest wildlife to area ratios of all the national parks and conservancies in the country. Within the conservancy and straddling the Ewaso Nyiro River the fenced enclosure of the Sweetwaters sanctuary consists of two enclosures where the chimpanzee’s are allowed to roam once they have been nursed back to health.

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Then they are introduced into one of the two enclosures to be integrated into the groups of chimpanzees already living there where the hope is that they are able to integrate back into the hierarchical groups to re-learn how to be chimpanzees.

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The aim of the sanctuary is to provide lifelong refuge to orphaned and abused chimpanzees who arrive at the centre from west and central Africa. Of the 40 or so apes at the sanctuary many are confiscated from cramped and unnatural living conditions with many arriving with horrific injuries sustained from abuse at human hands. Due to the treatment of the chimps none are able to be released back into the wild but the hope is that this sanctuary will allow them to have as similar a life as possible.

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The sanctuary is enclosed with high electric fencing which serves to protect the apes from escaping into the wider conservancy where they would be unable to survive due to the abuse they have suffered and their inability to act as unharmed apes do and it all also protects the chimps from those living in nearby villages who would likely kill them if they came across them.

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One chimpanzee at the sanctuary was rescued from a cramped cage where it had been forced to stand upright on its hind legs for many hours. As they naturally walk on all fours this abusive treatment still caused the chimpanzee to stand upright at times and it was expected to take a number of years before the effects of the cruel treatment wore off and the chimp felt fully able to adopt more natural behaviour.

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The emphasis on education is strong at the sanctuary with skilled keepers taking visitors around the outside perimeter of the sanctuary to explain and show what they do to help and also to highlight the ill-treatment of the chimpanzees.

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The sanctuary is a member of PASA – Pan African Sanctuary Alliance – which consists of 18 sanctuaries covering 12 African countries who together care for over 800 orphaned and rescued chimpanzees.

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Chimpanzees are apes not monkeys. The two types of chimp – the ‘Common’ and the ‘Bonobo’ are genetically our closest living relatives sharing 98% of our genetic blueprint meaning that less than 2% of our DNA is different from that of the chimps.

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Their numbers are declining in the wild and they remain on the endangered species list. Apart from the mistreatment they are also susceptible to many of the same diseases as humans but they don’t have the resistance that humans have. Humans and Leopards are their two main predators and if they can avoid both they can live up to 40 years in the wild or 60 years in captivity.

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They are a powerful ape weighing up to 150 lbs and at around 5ft 8in fully grown they are six times stronger than humans. They are also intelligent and can and do use tools. They also laugh when playing games. Their diet consists of insects, eggs, honey, bark, leaves, fruit and meat.

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At the beginning of the 20th Century there was estimated to be between 1 and 2 million chimps on the planet – today there are less than 300,000.

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The Fleet

The inshore fishing fleet at Redcar originated in the early 14th Century with crab, lobster and fishing bringing in much needed income to local fishermen. However as the fishing industry has steadily declined over recent years so to the fleet has reduced in size so that today only a small number of boats put to sea from the town.

What remains of the fishing fleet at Redcar can be found parked either on the seafront promenade or at an area known as ‘Fisherman’s Square’ located a little distance into the town. From both sites the boats that put out to fish or check the pots are towed to the waters edge on trailers pulled by tractors.

Many of the boats that no longer go out are left and are in a state of disrepair but those that remain seaworthy continue to eke out a living despite the issues that are affecting the whole fishing industry such as fishing quotas, running costs and over-fishing and as long as they can do this they help to keep alive the fishing heritage on this part of the north east coast. At least for now.

 

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

Redcar Fishing Boats Photographer: Ian Forsyth Contact Number : 07786 076618 Copyright Ian Forsyth 2016 All rights reserved. No usage without arrangement.

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Owen Smith visits TTE Training in Middlesbrough

Owen Smith MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary and Labour MP for Redcar, Anna Turley visited the TTE Training facility in Middlesbrough today. The visit came as the company works with the SSI Steel task force to find new opportunities for the apprentices who have been affected by the closure of the steel plant on Teesside.
TTE specialises in the delivery of technical training and consultancy services to both UK and International clients covering sectors such as Oil and Gas, Manufacturing, Pharmaceuticals, Downstream petrochemical and the contracting industry.
 
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