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Author Helen Forrester To Be Honoured With Blue Plaque At Her Childhood Wirral Home Next Week

HELEN Forrester, the author who spawned a genre of gritty, working class memoir with her book:- '2 Pence To Cross The Mersey,' is to be honoured with a blue plaque as part of her 100th birthday celebrations. The unveiling will take place, on Friday, 21 February 2020, at her childhood home in Hoylake on the Wirral Peninsula. Forrester wrote a further 3 volumes of best selling autobiography:- 'Liverpool Miss,' 'By The Waters Of Liverpool' and 'Lime Street At 2.' Her writing was characterised by a lack of self pity and an unsettling honesty as she portrayed her life during the Great Depression of the 1930's. During her family's estranged years suffering in the slums of Liverpool, across the River Mersey, in the affluent Wirral suburbs, lived her well heeled grandmother. She had fallen out with her son after he had borrowed heavily from family members and was unable to repay his debts. Condemning him as a worthless spendthrift, Helen's grandmother would have no more to do with him. Despite this, Helen was convinced that if she could muster up the tuppence required for a ferry boat ticket, she could visit her grandmother, explain what was happening to the family, and she would come to their rescue. Although this never came to pass, it did provide the title of her 1st book:- '2 Pence To Cross The Mersey.' "For the 1st 6 months of my life I lived at Grandma's house in Hoylake with my mother; my father was overseas fighting in Russia. In subsequent years, until the age of 11, I spent all my School holidays there. They were the happiest days of my childhood."

Kate Bradley, Senior Commissioning Editor, HarperFiction said:- "I'm delighted that Helen's contribution to Liverpool's rich cultural history is being honoured on what would have been her 100th birthday. Helen's bookswere gut wrenchingly honest about her experience growing up in Liverpool, but it's her humanity and passion for life that always shines through and it's this tenderness and understanding that have made the books enduringly popular with readers."

Born June Huband, on 6 June 1919, in Hoylake, she was the eldest of 7 children of inept, socialite, middle class parents who lived on credit. When her father was made bankrupt during the Great Depression, the family was thrown into poverty. Evicted from their comfortable home in England's gentler South West, with nothing more than the clothes they stood up in, the large family took the train to Liverpool where they hoped to rebuild their lives. While Forrester's father searched unsuccessfully for work, the family were forced to live together in a bug infested single room. As the eldest child, the 12 year old Helen was kept away from School to look after her 6 younger brothers and sisters. For the next few years the family had to rely on meagre hand outs from the parish and the kindness of strangers. At the age of 14, Forrester rebelled against her life of drudgery and her parents agreed to allow her to attend evening classes to make up for her missed years of education. Throughout her teenage years, Forrester worked for a charitable organisation in Liverpool and it was this period in her life that provided the background for many of her books, including:- 'By The Waters Of Liverpool,' which has recently been turned into a brand new stage play. The show opens at the Floral Pavilion Theatre, in New Brighton, on 3 March 2020, just a few miles from her birthplace, and will then embark on a 17 theatre national UK tour.

Playwright and friend of Helen, Rob Fennah, explains:- "My background is in pop music and during the late 80's I was given a book called 2 Pence To Cross The Mersey to read while I was waiting to go into a radio session. In the book Helen referred to her father as a 'butterfly in the rain,' a beautiful image that inspired me to write a song of the same title for an album I was working on. Helen got to hear the track, really liked it, and asked if she could use it when promoting her books around the world. There was a picture taken on the day we met which Helen and I jokingly referred to it as, 'when leather met tweed.' It's a lovely photograph and says everything about the friendship that was to follow. Once we'd got to know each other, I asked if I could adapt 2 Pence To Cross The Mersey into a stage play. I'd dabbled in theatre before with some moderate success. Helen agreed, but on the strict understanding she had final approval. 'After all Rob,' she reminded me, 'this is my life!' Helen flew from her Canada home to attend the première at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool and it went on to become hugely successful. Although Helen is no longer with us, she is always in my thoughts. While I was adapting By The Waters Of Liverpool, I imagined her looking over my shoulder, checking that all the little details were correct and in order. It's a real privilege to be entrusted with her most famous works, but also a huge responsibility."

After surviving the Blitzing of Liverpool and losing 2 consecutive fiancés to the Second World War she met and, in 1950, married Dr. Avadh Bhatia. The couple travelled widely, eventually settling in Edmonton, Canada, in 1955, where Dr. Bhatia became the Director of the Theoretical Physics Institute at the University of Alberta. Helen was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Liverpool in 1988 and by the University of Alberta in 1993. She died aged 92 on 24 November 2011, in Edmonton, Alberta. Her writing continues to inspire readers around the world.

Fennah continued:- "This adaptation of By The Waters also features sizeable chunks from her earlier book, Liverpool Miss, together with flashbacks to 2 Pence To Cross The Mersey. I've even weaved in a storyline from Lime Street At 2. That way, those unfamiliar with Helen's work will get a complete picture of her life."

Helen's son, Robert Bhatia, concluded:- "My family and I will be flying over from our home in Canada to be at the unveiling of the blue plaque and to attend the opening of By The Waters Of Liverpool. The partnership between playwright Rob Fennah and my mother Helen, and her legacy, has been outstanding."

Actors, Sian Reeves and Mark Moraghan, who play Helen's Mother and Father in the new stage production, will unveil the blue plaque, at 5 Warren Road, in Hoylake on Friday, 21 February 2020, at 12pm, a place featured heavily in Helen's work. Further information on the UK tour of:- 'By The Waters Of Liverpool' can be found at:-

Budget - Put North West at heart

CBI believe their Budget asks will create jobs, growth and investment throughout the UK. Bold action on skills, net zero, innovation and infrastructure can kick start new decade of growth and investment in the North West said the CBI today after it sent a letter to the Chancellor outlining its key Budget asks for the Region. The CBI has urged the Government to put the:- 'North West at the heart of the Budget' with a series of critical infrastructure asks. The start of 2020 has seen a welcome lift in business confidence. This historic, 1st budget of a new decade offers the chance to turn rising optimism into a surge in investment across the UK. It is private sector investment that will lift productivity and enable all parts of the country to share in economic growth. Investment is also the key to building the North West and the UK into a global innovation leader. Business strongly welcomes the Chancellor's vision to level up communities and lead the way in low carbon energy and is committed to playing its full part. Private sector investment has fallen over the past couple of years. This Budget offers the opportunity to reverse this decline through pro-enterprise economic policy for the Region.

To achieve this, the CBI recommends a set of practical steps for this Budget. Key proposals for the North West include the following:-

1. The UK's business rates system puts many parts of the UK economy at a competitive disadvantage. A comprehensive review should reduce the bill on individual businesses. That review should be completed by year end to incentivise investment by firms across the UK.

2. Help promote further devolution in the Region and offer a framework setting out clear guidelines to support the development of new deals and establish criteria for assessing deal proposals.

3. The Government's National Infrastructure Strategy is welcome and should as a 1st step commit to delivering HS2 in full to unlock capacity and transport connections across the North. It should allocate funds to a wide range of strategic infrastructure projects set out in the CBI's full submission, including:- Northern Powerhouse Rail and channel digital infrastructure funding to hard to reach places. As part of the upcoming Aviation Strategy, the Government should recognise the key role that Manchester and Liverpool Airports plays in Regional and national connectivity.

4. Innovation investment drives good jobs and global strength but is currently concentrated in the South. The UK should establish a network of high end research hubs, throughout the North West, to build on local strengths, develop low carbon zones and support innovation clusters

5. Upgrade and expand road infrastructure by delivering improvements to the A66 and A69.

6. Vital steps on the North West's to Net Zero should be announced, in particular using regulation to ensure that all commercial properties are deemed more energy efficient and fast track the doubling of funding for on street charging points to ensure coverage for electric vehicles across the North West, by 2024.

Commenting, CBI Regional Director for the North West Damian Waters said:- "At the start of this new decade, firms are feeling more optimistic and want to invest. The CBI is urging the Government to put all UK Regions, including the North West at the heart of the upcoming budget. Our budget requests will create jobs, growth and investment throughout the North West. This historic Budget offers the chance to turn rising optimism into a surge in investment across the UK. Backed by a pro-enterprise Budget for skills, infrastructure and innovation, business can help kick start a new decade of UK growth and job creation. Trade policy will continue to matter, but with strong domestic policy, British firms are ready to invest and get the North West into the fast lane of global economies."

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