Families united by worry

AS the eyes of the world focus on the desperate hunt for Maddy McCann who was abducted during a family holiday in Portugal, one person who may have an inkling about what her parents are going through is Suffolk woman Nicki Durbin.

AS the eyes of the world focus on the desperate hunt for Maddy McCann who was abducted during a family holiday in Portugal, one person who may have an inkling about what her parents are going through is Suffolk woman Nicki Durbin.

It is now more than a year since her 20-year-old son Luke disappeared at the end of a night out in Ipswich - and there have been no positive sightings since.

Of course the situations faced by the two families are very different - but in both cases there are anxious parents desperate to know what has happened to their child.

Yesterday's special event at Woodbridge's Riverside Theatre helped focus on the ongoing search for information about Luke, and gave the community the opportunity to show that his family's plight is not forgotten.

Former Beirut hostage John McCarthy, whose family knows exactly how desperate it is to be out of touch with a loved one, was one of the speakers at an event which combined music, drama and messages of support with time for quiet reflection.

Nicki's determination to keep the search for her son in the spotlight deserves the highest praise.

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Her positive outlook has helped to galvanise a small army of supporters who are keen to offer all the help they can.

Everyone will be hoping that both Nicki and the McCann family soon hear good news that their loved ones are safe.

MEDICAL advances mean that people are living longer, healthier lives - and that for many people retirement doesn't so much mark the end of a useful life as the start of a new life.

That is what our new Golden Years campaign will focus on during the coming months and years - the work of the older generations and their battles to ensure a fair deal.

Today the campaign is launched with a look at the battle for a new drop-in centre after their previous centre was lost during the redevelopment of the ground floor of the Town Hall.

The sad demise of this centre and the failure to get a replacement is the result of years of over-ambitious promises, hopelessly under-estimated costs, and a belief that any new centre must be available to the whole community, not just senior citizens.

It now looks as if the whole sorry story may be reaching a conclusion which is accepted by all sides - even if it is not restoring the situation that existed three years ago.

When the solution is reached, it will be largely as a result of grey power in action. Pensioners realised no one else was going to fight their corner and so kept the issue alive themselves.

This attitude is to be applauded, and it is this spirit that we hope to reflect in our new campaign.

WHAT a major triumph Ipswich Regent Theatre has enjoyed over the last few days with the extraordinary success of the West End show Riverdance.

Packed houses, a box office approaching £400,000 and thousands of smiling faces as the audiences left the building have all combined to bring a real touch of magic to the town.

There are still several more spring success stories to come - and then the theatre will be closed for its keenly-anticipated summer refurbishment with new seats and redecoration.

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