The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted some of the great community spirit in our region, shining through all the doom and gloom.
And two friends are embodying just that, dressing up as the famous Marvel superhero Spider-Man in Stockport and spreading joy around the area.
The work of the Stockport Spider-Man was highlighted by the Guardian’s North of England editor, Helen Pidd, who posted about the mysterious figure on Twitter.
She wrote: “A mysterious figure known as the Stockport Spiderman has been cheering up isolated children. The Stocky Spidy can be spotted for one hour each day when he takes his daily government-sanctioned exercise. You can request he visit your street too”.
There’s even a Facebook group dedicated to Stocky’s very own web-slinger, where people can request him to visit their street – as long as the kids stay inside and watch from the window.
The description reads: “Stockport Spiderman is actually two friends who together are taking to the streets to put smiles on faces of their local communities. Spiderman follows strict government guidelines when out and about and always keeps social distancing in place.
“When you see him please shout from your window but do not come outside. By all means take photos and videos and post them in here. Why not even have your little ones draw up a Spidey drawing saying ‘Spidey stop here’ and hang it in your window.
“We hope that this small gesture is well received and putting smiles on faces around Stockport. Ps. Spidey will try his hardest to get out as far and as wide as possible within reason but if he cant he will do videos for all the kiddies who don’t get a chance to see him. Stay home, stay safe and keep smiling beautiful people of Stockport”.
If you live in the area and want a social distancing-safe visit from Spidey, head over to the Facebook group and drop him a message.
Wetherspoons to sell pubs as it records £30m in losses
Wetherspoon’s sales are down 4.3% this year
Wetherspoons has put over thirty of its pubs up for sale as it records losses of £30 million, something boss Tim Martin says is a ‘momentous challenge’ for the business.
While the pub chain has seen a rise in sales compared to last year, its numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels.
In the year to July, Wetherspoon’s sales were down 4.3% to £1.74 billion. For comparison, the company recorded sales of over £1.8 billion for 2019.
The chain opened seven new pubs during the year, and sold, closed or ended the leases on fifteen others. In July, the business ran a total of 852 pubs across the country.
But in response to its revenue losses and pressures brought on by the cost of living crisis, Wetherspoons is now selling off thirty-two of its pubs from its estate, including nine in London.
Martin said in a statement: “During lockdown, dyed-in-the-wool pub-goers, many for the first time, filled their fridges with supermarket beer – and it has proved to be a momentous challenge to persuade them to return to the more salubrious environment of the saloon bar.”
He added: “The company has improved its prospects in a number of ways in recent financial years.
“We own an increasing percentage of freehold properties, the balance sheet has been strengthened, interest rates have been fixed at low levels until 2031, and we have a large contingent of long-serving pub staff and underlying sales are improving.
“However, as a result of the previously reported increases in labour and repair costs and the potentially adverse effects of rises in interest rates and energy costs on the economy, firm predictions are hard to make.”
Martin also slammed the tax advantages supermarkets have over pubs as a ‘competitive disadvantage’ when it comes to paying VAT on food.
He said: “This competitive disadvantage has had an increasingly debilitating impact on the hospitality industry and will undoubtedly result in long-term financial weakness vis a vis supermarkets – which will also be harmful to employees, the Treasury and the overall economy.”
The 32 pubs up for sale:
Barnsley – Silkstone Inn
Beaconsfield – Hope & Champion
Bexleyheath – Wrong ‘Un
Bournemouth – Christopher Creeke
Cheltenham – Bank House
Durham – Water House
Halifax – Percy Shaw
Hanham – Jolly Sailor
Harrow – Moon on the Hill
Hove – Cliftonville Inn
London Battersea – Asparagus
London East Ham – Miller’s Well
London Eltham – Bankers Draft
London Forest Gate – Hudson Bay
London Forest Hill – Capitol
London Hornsey – Toll Gate
London Holborn – Penderel’s Oak
London Islington – Angel
London Palmers Green – Alfred Herring
Loughborough – Moon & Bell
Loughton – Last Post
Mansfield – Widow Frost
Middlesborough – Resolution
Purley – Foxley Hatch
Redditch – Rising Sun
Sevenoaks – Sennockian
Southampton – Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis
Stafford – Butler’s Bell
Watford – Colombia Press
West Bromwich – Billiard Hall
Willenhall – Malthouse
Wirral – John Masefield
Peter Kay has been doing some ‘top secret’ gigs in Salford
‘It was the weirdest but best experience ever’
Peter Kay has been keeping busy this week with a string of ‘top secret’ comedy shows at a theatre in Salford.
People heading into the secluded shows at The Lowry were made to hand in their mobile phones prior to the gigs, and allegedly had to ‘whisper’ which show they were seeing when collecting their tickets.
Fans who were able to secure the tickets took to Twitter after the gig, with one person even saying it was the ‘best night of my life ever’.
Paula Bear, who admitted that she thought the gig was a ‘scam’ at first, wrote: “Omg just been to a secret gig with Peter Kay at The Lowry.
“Best night of my life ever, that guy is a legend. Phones in locked pounces, secret ticket collection, the lot.
Replying to someone’s question about the gig, Paula added: “It was the weirdest but best experience ever.
“He is just such a grounded fella. The gig was really raw and unpolished which was what made it so personal.”
The secret gigs have fuelled speculation that the Phoenix Nights star is preparing for a huge ‘come back’ tour in 2023.
A source close to the star said back in May: “He has lined up huge venues across the country including in Manchester, London and Birmingham and is hoping to announce it in September.
“Peter has not performed a live stand-up set on a big stage in well over a decade now but he could not be more ready to get back out there.”
Kay took a step back from comedy in 2018 after cancelling his live arena tour due to ‘unforeseen family circumstances’.
‘Lovely’ dad from Wigan died after struggling with mental health issues
The twenty-nine-year-old allegedly kept his emotions to himself in the wake of his mother’s death
A ‘lovely’ dad from Wigan died by suicide after a lengthy battle with mental health issues, an inquest has heard this week.
Dad-of-two Gareth Lancaster was found unresponsive at his home on Baytree Road, Beech Hill, at around 8pm on June 8th.
Emergency services were called and Gareth was rushed to Wigan Royal Infirmary, where he was taken into intensive care.
However, doctors suspected he had a severe brain injury, which was confirmed thirty-six hours after admission thanks to brain stem tests.
The decision was then made to withdraw life support.
Gareth, who worked as a plumbing and heating engineer, died on June 10th aged twenty-nine, with his cause of death recorded as hypoxic brain injury due to hanging.
According to his partner Tandia Constantine, Gareth – known among friends and family as ‘Gaz’ – was not the kind of person to seek help, and had kept his emotions to himself when his mother died from cancer.
Coroner Peter Sigee said a handwritten note was found at the scene, which he interpreted as ‘a statement of intent on Gareth’s behalf to end his life’.
He concluded that Gareth had died by suicide, saying he was satisfied that he intended to end his life.
During the hearing, Gareth was described as a ‘funny, hard-working and outgoing’ man who ‘doted’ on his two children and liked socialising with his family and friends.
After the hearing, Zena Ralphs, the mother of Gareth’s partner, said: “He was a lovely lad. He was the best lad you could ever meet, the hardest worker you could ever meet.
“His little ones have no daddy now.”
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, there are people out there you can talk to.
For confidential support the Samaritans can be contacted for free around the clock 365 days a year on 116 123. You can also email the Samaritans at email@example.com, write to Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA or visit www.samaritans.org/branches to find your nearest branch.
You can also contact the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) at 0800 58 58 58 or via their website here.
Alternatively, you can find more mental health services around Greater Manchester on the NHS Foundation Trust website.