The Big Mean Screen Machine

Greenjacker tells us the secret to disconnecting from the electronic addiction

Words: Greenjacker

Photography: Warren Draper

I worked a wide variety of jobs before taking the plunge to become one of Doncaster’s first urban farmers (there’s still only a few of us, so pop down to Bentley Urban Farm if you want to be part of the first wave). The one thing each workplace had in common was almost exactly the same early morning conversations.

“Traffic’s a nightmare again.”

“Yeah, I’d be tempted to hop on my bike if it weren’t for the rubbish English weather.”

“Yeah, cold again isn’t it?”

“Freezing. Its like bloomin’ Siberia out there. And the TV said it is going to rain later.”

“Really? Again? I’ll check mi phone… Oh, yeah. It has pictures of rain clouds on my app. Says a 60% chance of showers at 2pm. Can’t wait for my holiday to Spain in six weeks, they get proper weather.”

“Bit hot though?”

“Yeah,”… try your hardest not to picture Peter Kay on reading the next line… “Different heat though, isn’t it?!?”

A lot of Doncopolitan readers will hear conversations like this during their own working day, but how true are such statements? Anyone who spends any real time outside in Doncaster will tell you that weather is rarely truly unbearable. We’ve talked about Doncaster’s favourable micro-climate many times in Doncopolitan. Weather forecasts are rarely local enough to give an accurate picture and most of the time when rain is forecast for the general area the rain clouds actually tend to pass us over, preferring to dump their load on Sheffield or Leeds. Believe it or not, thanks to our geography, we don’t get that many rainy days. Go outside if you don’t believe me, the odds are against you getting wet, and at least you have this copy of Doncopolitan to cover your head if it does happen to rain.

The truth is that most of the people who moan about the weather have left their centrally heated home to drive their heated car to work where they’ll spend the next 8 hours sitting in a heated office. Anyone who walks to work knows that the body will acclimatise within 10 minutes or so. Surprisingly, using your body warms you up! Yes, there are times when we need a little extra help, but, as the Norwegians say: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

As for moaning about the traffic, if you’re driving, you are the traffic. To be honest, this inability to recognise our own complicity in the problems we face is hardly surprising. It is a symptom of our growing disconnection from the physical world. It is very hard to connect with anything when we spend our lives peering through screens. Whether it be the windows of our houses, cars or offices, or the screens of our TVs, computers, phones and tablets, we seem to live most of

our lives with a layer of glass between ourselves and the real world. In fact, we are less likely to believe that something is ‘real’ if we haven’t seen it on a screen. Tragically, in this post- truth age, we’re also likely to believe something just because it does appear on a screen.

We have abandoned the vital for the virtual, but it hasn’t even made us happy. Anxiety levels are rising due to lack of ‘likes’ from people who we’ve never even met and we’re made jealous by a constant stream of pictures of people

more beautiful than ourselves in places more wonderful than where we are, even though we know full well that the photos are filtered and that they’re taken at a carefully selected angle which shows the only uncrowded spot on the entire beach and conveniently ignores the nearby toxic waste dump and street beggars. In fact, our rose-tinted screens make it much easier for us to ignore things like pollution, poverty, climate change, extinction and war, even though mobile phone production itself has exasperated many of these problems.

I was unhappy, too, not so very long ago. I had a ‘good’ job and some of the best screens money can buy, but it was never enough. One of my Facebook ‘friends’ was a diving instructor in Dubai who always seemed to be at amazing parties; my life seemed dull and listless in comparison. Why couldn’t I have his perfect life? I was much smarter than him at school. And within weeks of me having the latest smartphone or tablet, something faster, cleverer and shinier would come along. My once powerful phone would become ever more brick-like and embarrassing as I waited for my contract to end. But then I started working the land.

Growing things changes your perspective. Firstly you spend most of your life outdoors, with no barrier between you and the real world. Physically, you begin to feel better. Partly due to the injection of vitamin D, but mainly because you somehow feel expanded as you realise that you are an integral part of the whole; a small aspect of a constantly changing landscape. Because you’re growing things, especially if you’re growing organically, you also focus more on the needs of life, rather than lifestyle. A healthy environment makes healthy plants. You become more observant, more focused on the here and now and you work to Mother Nature’s calendar. We develop an ‘ecological mindset’, which is almost the opposite to the screen mindset. It might be nice to catch up with what my actual friends are doing now and then, but some random photo of a cat or a few extra ‘likes’ ain’t gonna make my tomatoes any sweeter.

I feel physically and mentally healthier for reconnecting with the real world. But don’t take my word for it. Take yourself a ‘Vacation from the Virtual’. This is a bit like a ‘Digital Detox’ with a healthy, tasty bonus. Come off of social media for a month. On day one plant yourself a radish. When you get the urge to check your phone, check your radish instead. After all, the little guy’s life depends on you giving it attention now and then. Watch it develop. Within days of planting the seed you’ll see the first leaves. These will be replaced a week or so later by the ‘true leaves’. Photographing this development will kerb your urge to photograph yourself for your feed and, talking of ‘feed’, by the end of the month you will have a delicious radish. Which is more than Facebook ever gave you.

If you get good at growing radishes, come down and grow more stuff at Bentley Urban Farm. We guarantee not to have good Wi-Fi.

Faces of Frenchgate

Warren Draper spent the day photographing some of Doncaster’s finest for Faces of Frenchgate

Words and photography: Warren Draper

To mark the 50th Anniversary of the building of the Frenchgate shopping centre, Doncopolitan are partnering with Frenchgate to create an exhibition to celebrate the people who made the last half century possible. Faces Of Frenchgate will capture the faces, and document the stories, of the beautiful humans who make Frenchgate such a vibrant place to visit. If you would like to take advantage of this unique opportunity to have your portrait taken, or if you would like to share your Frenchgate story (like the guy who remembers his dad taking him to the Arndale to buy a ferret!), then please get in touch:


07846 439982


Cavy Corner

Katy Turner visits Doncaster’s very own Guinea Pig sanctuary

Words: Katy Turner

I have to admit, when someone told me that we have a specialist sanctuary solely for guinea pigs right here in Doncaster, I thought that it must be an urban myth. Under further investigation, it turned out to be 100% true. It transpires that Cavy Corner is an organisation purely dedicated to rescuing, caring for and re-homing little piggies (or cavies, which is the Latin name for guinea pig). Now, because Cavy Corner is a registered charity and because I have the best job in the Council, I got to pay them a little visit under the guise of work. I proceeded to spend a glorious afternoon chatting to Sue Tate, the founder of this wonderful initiative, and had my eyes truly opened to the underground guinea pig subculture taking place in our borough! For example, did you know that Guinea Pig Magazine, the UK’s first (and only) publication dedicated to our furry friends is produced and edited here in Donny? Neither did I!

Anyway, the story goes that, in 2008, Sue and her partner Winston began Cavy Corner after becoming aware of vast numbers of guinea pigs being mistreated and the lack of provision within traditional animal shelters to nurse them and find them a loving home. They started out with just two guineas, Clover and GP, but fast forward almost a decade and the charity is nearing its 10th anniversary having rescued and cared for thousands of guineas of every breed and variety.

Sue and Winston’s dedication to their brood is clear to see and absolutely heart-warming. They can instantly recount the unique personality, background and medical history of each individual guinea. This is immediately apparent from Cavy Corner’s social media, which is a delightful showcase of the guineas’ daily adventures: there is the cuddly Kevin Tuesday, so named because Sue posts pictures and videos of him every Tuesday without fail which has been known to cause public outcry on the rare occasion where she hasn’t got around to it; then there’s the eye-catching skinny pigs, a hairless breed of guinea who look like mini hippos with a few whiskers on their noses; and a whole host of adorable guinea couples who make up the rest of the family (guineas are incredibly social creatures who get lonely if they don’t have a mate sob, sob!)

Cavy Corner’s philosophy is centred upon giving these lovely animals the best lives they can possibly have. However, this requires constant hard work, a military routine of cage cleaning, feeding, cleaning water bottles, nail clipping, grooming and trips to the vet. The organisation also does lots of educational and outreach work, in the form of workshops with schools, events in the community, home visits, therapy visits to care homes and they even run a specialist ‘Guinea Helpline’ which receives calls and enquiries from across the world.

The really special thing about Cavy Corner is that it is run entirely by a team of dedicated volunteers and has no paid staff whatsoever. Everyone who contributes their time does so out of their sheer love for guinea pigs. The charity also relies strongly on fundraising to ensure that the guineas get the year-round VIP treatment they have become accustomed to (keeping Kevin Tuesday well-stocked with strawberries, for a start).

On the way home, as I reflected upon my visit, I thought about how wonderful it is that the charity is turning an issue as negative as animal cruelty and abandonment into something so positive, fun and full of joy. Sue told me that every day she feels blessed because the guinea pigs have led her to meet so many wonderful people. For me, this really sums up the caring and compassionate community of guinea pig lovers that Cavy Corner has helped to unite. When he visited, Ed Miliband commented that “Cavy Corner is a credit to Doncaster”. I really couldn’t agree more.

So, if like me, you have been inspired by Cavy Corner’s remarkable and utterly unique story, there are a number of small things you can do to help sustain the valuable work they are doing:

  1. Become a regular volunteer – no experience is needed and they are able to cater for all ages and abilities. The only requirement is to be a guinea pig lover!
  2. Attend fundraising events like this one with your family and friends: Small and Fury Fun Pet Show – Enter your guinea pig, rabbit or hamster into the contest! – Sunday 21st October, 12-4pm at Armthorpe Community Centre, Church Street, DN3 3AG.
  1. Make a small donation of items like kitchen towels (which Cavy Corner uses at an alarming rate) or items for tombolas/raffles that can be used to raise funds.
  2. Check out the Cavy Corner website and follow the Facebook Page to become acquainted with all the Cavy characters and spread the guinea love!




All Round to Roundhouse Rail

Paul Merton tells us about his friend Bob, who is fascinated with rails and how it links to Donny

Words and Photography: Rachel Horne

Paul, how the heck did you end up at Roundhouse Engineering? It’s a hidden gem for many Doncasterians…

My friend Bob has a pretty large garden and owns a model live replica rail set that runs on actual steam. I had a train set when I was a boy, a kinda standard train set you get for Christmas. On the front of the box there was a magnificent painting of the Flying Scotsman coming out of a hill with all the lushness and greenery but when you get it out of

the box, it didn’t look anything like the image on the front.

That was always a bit disappointing for me. Indoor rail is very static, you can only work with what you’ve got but Bob’s garden is really impressive. It’s more like the real thing. They run on distilled water and butane gas, like a scaled down replica of existing trains.


Would you say it’s quite a creative hobby?

It’s quite an extraordinary hobby and very engrossing. Collectors like Bob design their trains to complement their gardens. Some even put small cameras on the front of the trains and film them in motion. They hold their value too and are collector’s items. They just need to be well looked after.

How was the visit?

Roundhouse were really kind to give us a tour of the factory. I used to work for the Department of Employment years ago when I first left school and I visited a few factories, you don’t always see happy people but everybody at Roundhouse seemed happy, the job satisfaction is very clear, because you are making incredibly beautiful objects. It was actually a joy to see people very happy in what they were doing. Also, Roundhouse is the world’s leading manufacturers of what they do, they are known across the world.

It’s impressive to have such a success niche business here in Doncaster, especially in such an economic decline.

Yes, they seem to be doing really well, in fact Channel 4 produced a TV Show recently with a Roundhouse engine. They created a miniature railway that spanned 74 miles across the Highlands of Scotland. During the 19th Century it wasn’t possible to reach the Highlands by train as the terrain was too difficult to build the tracks on. I think this will have helped to build the popularity of the Garden Rail. A lot of people haven’t experienced it, they might be familiar with what people have in their loft, but they don’t realise these models run on real steam. They are very nostalgic. I think that’s some of the appeal of it.

Did Roundhouse show you and Bob the coal fired trains? I was quite impressed with that, Doncaster doesn’t have any pits left but we’re still building trains that run on the coal…

Bob’s actually looking into buying a train that will run from coal, it’s bought in a kit form which you can assemble. It’s actually welsh coal, it comes in tiny pieces a bit like granulated sugar, and you get a little shovel to build the fire.

My uncle Jim actually used to do that job on the old steam trains. Apparently, it was hard graft, but he loved it and only left because he didn’t like the hours.

I imagine it was a very hard job, especially for the crews that worked them. It’s nostalgic for people to look back.


These days we can get to London from Doncaster in 1 hour 20 mins and with High Speed Rail it’s going to cut that down even further.

The first Edinburgh to London train service was around 1860 and took 10 hours. It would have seemed like a miracle to travel that journey in a day. This is long before the motor car. You could go by horse, of course, but it would take you 2 weeks to do 300 miles. To leave Edinburgh and arrive in London must have felt like the equivalent of flying to the moon.


In Doncaster we don’t take our rail heritage that seriously. Sadly, the National Rail Museum is based in York. Our new Cultural Centre opens in 2020 and will have a life size replica of the Flying Scotsman. That’s good news.  After visiting Roundhouse, I was thinking it would be amazing to have a beautiful garden rail track as a public artwork in the town centre somewhere? A place where children could learn about steam engines. Most local kids will have never seen a live locomotive.

I think something like that could be pretty impressive and not too costly to pull off. Children will be fascinated by them, I’m sure, and in Doncaster you’ve got the world’s experts as your consultants.

Are you planning on visiting Doncaster again with Bob?

Well, I’d love too. In fact, I’ll come and open your garden railway when you have the official opening.


If you think we should help create

a Garden Rail track in Doncaster, please show your support by emailing: doncopolitan@gmail.com

Culture Crawl Reflection

Rachel Horne has a chat about Culture Crawl with Dreambakes

Words: Rachel Horne

Photography: Rod Jackson

Firstly, as a local business, why did you want to get behind Culture Crawl?

We wanted to get behind it because Doncaster has an amazing arts and culture scene that doesn’t get enough recognition.

People always say things like ‘oh I wish we had events like xxxx in Doncaster’ but never do anything to help plan them or talk about them. THIS is the sort of event Doncaster needs in order to change perceptions and show we are a flourishing town.

Wowsa, thank you for getting our vision. It is frustrating when I read comments online, people want Doncaster to be like Leeds or Sheffield, then don’t offer support. Putting on Culture Crawl was a massive risk, we were scared people wouldn’t get it or turn out, but we created a solid marketing campaign, largely in print (YES, PRINT’S NOT DEAD). This included 10,000 flyers, 1000 Maps, and people came out in droves. Can I ask what the vibe was like at Dreambakes on the night?

Doncopolitan and other independent entrepreneurs are really trying hard to introduce new and alternative events to Doncaster which I think a) is a big risk for those involved and b) will hopefully help people believe in the town and start buying and investing in it.

The vibe was amazing. We had a big queue at the Vamanos truck that we hosted outside, and people were coming in to enjoy their food and then have dessert. There was a real buzz and vibrancy in the air. People were chatting, laughing, just generally enjoying themselves and being incredibly positive.

Also, it’s nice to celebrate Doncaster as a place, rather than just doing a copycat event that’s worked in, say, Leeds or Sheffield. Honestly, you guys did an amazing job.

Thanks mate, I’ll pay ya bribe laters.

The thing I liked about the Culture Crawl was that it wasn’t focused on drinking; that wasn’t a motivation for people to come out. So, people were out for it because of the event in itself, because they were genuinely interested in the arts. I dare say some people just had tacos and left, but the majority I asked were out to look at the event. Just shows you what can happen if people actually take action with their ideas.


I just wanted to bring more people into town than the Coca Cola truck did in Christmas 2016. It’s been bugging me, that. Did you guys sell out of cake?

We did yes, we sold all the cake I had made just for the event and almost all the cake for the following day.

It was also a goal to do this event on a night when no-one would be in town to prove that we can get people out.

Yeah, I wasn’t 100% sure about it being on a Tuesday but it totally makes sense if you wanted it to be proven that it was just for the event.

I thought the route was really good and had a great mix of things to look at and do as well.

Like there wasn’t an overlap so there was a reason to come to each venue. 

Did you manage to check-out the venues?

No, I was working until half nine. From what people have said they were great! There didn’t seem to be a ‘favourite’, but it was great to see other businesses getting behind the event. It felt like a real breath of fresh air.

I could practically see the blood, sweat and tears you guys had all put in!

It was hard graft but certainly worth it.


Follow up dates on Culture Crawl on our website:


Get the date for the next Culture Crawl in your diary:

Tuesday 30th October, 5pm.