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The front of the iconic building that has been a fixture in Northampton town centre since 1936 is being rebranded.

What many people in the town still remember fondly as The Savoy is being relaunched as The Old Savoy, and visitors to shows at The Deco Theatre will be able to enter through the main doors from later this year.

As well as a facelift outside, visitors to the building will be able to celebrate the history and character inside the entertainment venue that opened as a ‘super-cinema’ 83 years ago, and famously hosted The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, among others, in the early 1960s.

The rebranding project is being driven by Northampton based Stage Right Productions, who have been running The Deco as an independent family-run enterprise since 2009, and host shows throughout the year, including sell-out Pantos each December. Stage Right will now be overseeing the running of the auditorium, and associated hires.

“We are absolutely thrilled by this opportunity to open up the front of this beautiful building to our audiences,” said Jill Roach, House Manager at The Deco. “That we are now in a position to do this is just so exciting.”

The Deco Theatre will retain its identity, but going forward will become ‘The Deco at the Old Savoy’, while plans for The Old Savoy will involve further development of the site as a creative arts and community hub for Northamptonshire.

“We feel that this is going to be a really popular development for Northampton Town Centre,” said Jill. “When we celebrated 80 years of the building in 2016 so many people spoke fondly about it, and shared lovely memories of days gone by, and this sentiment was echoed by visitors to our recent Heritage days.

“When we dropped hints about our plans, the response from visitors was not only very positive, but extremely enthusiastic, and we want this wonderful entertainment venue to stand proud and tall in the town as it did for many years.”

The building, owned by Northampton Borough Council, opened to the public as The Savoy, a cinema and theatre, on May 2nd, 1936, before becoming the ABC Cinema in 1961,  then taken over by Cannon in the 1980s, who ran it as a multiplex cinema until 1996, when it was allowed to become derelict.

The charity that acquired the lease in 2004 funded and restored the building under the guidance of English Heritage, with considerable donations from a local church. From then until recently it has operated as a hiring space for many agencies. Stage Right Productions will not only continue to operate the Deco theatre, but be further involved to help develop ‘The Old Savoy’ as a creative hub.

“When we open the famous front doors for the first time for a show, it will be the beginning of a new era for this fantastic building,” said Jill. “This is a wonderful opportunity, and it will take us to a new level in terms of what we can deliver, and offer to, our audiences – we are aiming to have everything in place in time for Panto in December.”

Former Northampton Girls School student Ellie-Rose Green will be making her professional performing debut in this Christmas’s Deco Theatre Panto, Jack and the Beanstalk.

Ellie Rose, 19, graduated from the acclaimed Italia Conti Academy, in Guilford, this summer, where she studied music and theatre. Since returning home to Northampton she has been working as a dance teacher, and is now counting the days to the Panto’s opening night, on December 6th.

“I’m just so excited to get this opportunity, and so soon after coming home, it’s really exciting,” said Ellie-Rose, who has been passionate about dancing since she took her first steps as a toddler. Indeed, it was as a dancer that she auditioned for a part in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, but Panto director Sam Munday-Webb spotted her potential to have a senior role in the production.

“I actually went along to audition as a senior dancer in the Panto, but Sam looked at my CV, asked me if I could sing, gave me a script to read, and then the opportunity to prove myself,” said Ellie-Rose. “Later that day he rang and offered me the part, which was fantastic.”

Among those who were quick to congratulate her was Charlee Marsh, the owner of the Starlight Musical Theatre and Dance School in Northampton, where Ellie-Rose now teaches on a Saturday, and where she was a student for 11 years, before going off to college in 2016.

“I am so proud of Ellie-Rose I could burst,” said Charlee. “She is such a talented young lady, who we know had a great future ahead of her from the moment she first joined us, when she was five years old; she’s a natural.”

Ellie-Rose, who lives in Abington, comes from more of a sporty family than a theatrical one: her father, Peter, is a well-known former local footballer, and her younger brother, Lewis, 16, is a talented player with Rushden and Diamonds. Her mum, Julie, is a local hairdresser.

She will play the Fairy in the Panto, and line-up alongside Chris Wills, Colin Ridgewell, Vikki Stone, Clive Fletcher, Fern Roach, and Sam Munday-Webb, who is combining the role of ‘Simple Simon’ with directing the show, as he did last year.

“It’s a fantastic cast, and it’s going to be another brilliant Deco Panto,” said Ellie-Rose. “I’m not only looking forward to working with the cast, but learning from them all, too, as I know I will.”

‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, at The Deco, runs from December 6th to 28th, and to see Ellie-Rose and the rest of the cast in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ at the Deco Theatre in December, you can book tickets online at www.thedeco.co.uk, by telephone on 01604 491005, or by stopping by at The Deco, in Abington Square, Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm.

Dean Friedman has been hailed as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation. And visitors to Northampton’s Deco Theatre will find out why when he performs live on Thursday, July 16th.

The Deco is one of 37 venues the American legend has included on his annual tour of the UK.

Friedman, from New Jersey, was elevated to international stardom in the late 1970s and early 80s, when his hit singles included Lucky Star, Lydia and Ariel, among others. He has written and recorded successful albums over four decades, and continues to perform all over the world.

But it is for the UK that he has a special soft-spot: he has had more success in the singles’ charts in this country than anywhere else in the world. “I put that down to boring business and politics,” he said. “If the songs receive air-play they will have success, it’s just a matter of getting on the playlists, but the thing is, I’ve been an independent for most of the last four decades so it’s difficult to compete.

“But my songs are successful in spite of that – I wrote a song called McDonald’s Girl which was banned (by the BBC) because of the reference to the fast food chain in its chorus,” he said. “That was then, but later on McDonald’s used it in an advertising campaign, and Barenaked Ladies had a hit with it.

Friedman, now 63, is not just an immensely talented musician, singer and songwriter, he is also an accomplished entertainer, who thrives on inter-action with his audience during his shows.

He said: “I do believe that engaging an audience face to face – standing in the same room, breathing the same air – is the most profound and richest mode of communication that we’ve got, or will ever have.”

During his concert at The Deco, Friedman will be performing solo, on guitar and keyboard, featuring songs from throughout his four-decade career, including familiar, radio hits and fan favourites, drawn from his eight studio albums.

“I love coming to England, it’s always a pleasure playing to an appreciative audience, and it’s why I come over every year,” he said.

For more information, and tickets, go to www.thedeco.co.uk/event/dean-friedman/ or call The Deco Box Office on 01604 491005.

There’s great children’s entertainment at The Deco still to come this year: from Pinocchio to Pongo’s Party, and the best in Panto, with ‘Beauty and the Beast’ this Easter Holiday to ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ at Christmas. You won’t beat The Deco for fantastic children’s entertainment, and fun for all the family.

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant gets a spring season of children’s fun underway on March 28th, a fantastic show featuring 21 lovable puppets. Then, from one lovable character to another, as the iconic Basil Brush is among the stars of our Easter Panto, which also features Atomic Kitten’s Kerry Katona, and X-Factor finalist now CBBC presenter Lauren Platt. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is on at The Deco over two days, on the afternoon of April 10th, and the evening of the following day, April 11th.

Two days later, it’s children’s party time at The Deco. You are all invited to join us for Pongo’s Party, hosted by Marty McDonald. But will Pongo’s friends – including Molly Moo the cow, Sheena the sheep, and Sally the scarecrow – remember to be there. We’re sure they will. But what we DO know that the Easter Bunny has promised to make an appearance!

The Amazing Adventures of Pinocchio comes to the Deco on May 12th – it’s a brand new, musical adaption of a much-loved classic tale, brought to you by Immersion Theatre, and packed with lots of new songs, audience participation, and plenty of laughter, too.

Then, later in the year, Marty McDonald and friends are back in town for Half-Term fun on October 28th, this time celebrating the arrival of a Toy Machine at the farm. What could possibly go wrong! There’s more awesome Half-Term fun that week with The Snow Queen, on October 30th, a wonderful new adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson classic that inspired Frozen, and brought to life by actors-musicians, illusion and puppets.

All that, and another top-class Christmas Panto with ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ between December 6th and 28th, and even more: join us on December 13th for a brand new show coming to The Deco: Santa’s Christmas Countdown – not just great entertainment, but every child leaves with a present from Santa himself!

The Deco. Children’s entertainment of the highest quality in 2019.

In the Spring of 2018, Lee Ridley was already a popular figure on the comedy circuit. But when he won Britain’s Got Talent in June, Lost Voice Guy suddenly became a name everyone was shouting about. Winning a TV talent contest can take an act onto a whole new level of fame with doors opening more readily than they might have done before.

As he takes to the nation’s stages with a touring show entitled ‘I’m Only In It For The Parking’ – which brings him to The Deco Theatre this Saturday (February 9th) – the County Durham-born Lee found that this was no more truer than in his case .

“The main reason I decided to audition for Britain’s Got Talent was obviously to meet Ant and Dec,” he half-jests. “But I also did it because I thought it would help me develop as a performer. Of course, I never expected to win it. In fact, I had to cancel my summer holiday because it clashed with the final!

“It was definitely worth it though; I think the look on my face when I won said it all. Winning the show has changed my life in so many ways, and as a comedian, I’m busier than I ever was before.

“One of the best things to happen since I won is that people are engaging with me a lot more than they would have in the past,” said Lee. “For the first time they seem comfortable talking to a disabled person. I’m used to being stared at for negative reasons so it’s nice to be stared at for positive reasons for a change.”

While Lee has plenty to say about those who have bigoted opinions about disabled people, he’s just as tough on those who are either patronising or overly keen to elevate the disabled into saints simply for being able to achieve something.

And all of it is done in the most non-Geordie accent you can imagine, all plummy, middle England and computerised, with the voiceless Lee communicating through an iPad app. But why did he pick that particular voice to express his comedy with?

“To be honest, I didn’t have much choice – the app I use to speak only had a limited number of voices to choose from, and my particular voice was the best of a bad bunch,” he said. “I’m quite used to sounding like a posh version of RoboCop now though, and I think the posh accent makes my jokes even funnier. I’ve sounded like this for most of my life now, so I do think of it as being my own voice. I think I’d feel weird if I had to change it now.”

Having started performing comedy in 2012, Lee won the BBC Radio New Comedy Award in 2014 and has created hour-long shows for the Edinburgh Fringe such as Disability For Dunces, Inspiration Porn and Laughter Is The Worst Medicine. He’s also co-written and starred in Ability, a Radio 4 sitcom about a man with cerebral palsy who moves out of his parents’ home, and penned a book which shares the title of this new touring show.

But with all that success on his CV already, where does he see his career going now? “I honestly don’t have any big ambitions. When I first started stand-up comedy, I just thought I’d try it for a bit of fun.

“I never expected to be this successful in my wildest dreams. So, I’m just taking it all as it comes and seeing what might happen next. I’m enjoying the ride and that’s the most important thing.”

Being on tour is something of a ride for any comedian, but for Lee, that adventure has extra obstacles and barriers inherently built into it. However, he is determined to make the most of these opportunities. “I think the best thing about being on tour is getting to see some really lovely places that maybe I wouldn’t have ever visited otherwise, and then getting to meet people from all different walks of life.

“I’ve got a lot of fans based all over the place so it’s nice to be able to get to meet them. One of the worst things is definitely being away from home. I quite like my home comforts such as my bed and being able to sit in my pants and watch television all day. So I miss that when I’m away.”

Audiences, of course, come in all different shapes and sizes, and life on the road wouldn’t be the same without some odd incidents occurring along the way. “You would be surprised at how many people come up to me after gigs and ask if I really can’t speak. Because, of course, it would totally be acceptable to pretend to be disabled for a laugh. I can safely say that I have never been able to talk. I have lived in Newcastle all my life, but for some reason I still haven’t picked up the accent. However, if you are trying to place my accent, it’s from PC World.”

Truth plays a major part in Lee’s comedy and he is often calling out politicians as well as the general public for their negative or dishonest approach to disability. The upside is that he’s rarely short of stories and anecdotes. One instance where he was ordered by a train inspector to give up his disabled seat for someone else inspired his episode on the Sky Arts Comedy Shorts series last year.

“I think most of my comedy comes from my real-life experiences. On the one hand, that’s quite frightening because some of it is unbelievably ridiculous. But on the other hand, it gives me some great material. I’d be silly not to use these experiences, and if I didn’t laugh about it then I’d most definitely cry!”

As the nation is about to find out, it’s not just Lee who’s laughing when his Lost Voice Guy airs his opinions.

Old time Music Hall. As traditionally British as fish and chips, Morris Dancing and Christmas Panto. And by many, still loved as much today as it was in the “good ol’ days” of Marie Lloyd, Max Miller and Gracie Fields.

For those who can still remember theatre when the stars of Music Hall were the A-list celebrities of their day, variety entertainment is now a nostalgic trip down Memory Lane. To the younger generation it is a wonderful insight to how it used to be, way back when.

And it is why the Deco Theatre’s ‘Glory of Music Hall’ shows are proving so popular, especially among the senior community who relish an opportunity to roll back the years, enjoy a good laugh, and have a sing-a-long too. Oh, and not forgetting afternoon tea.

Next up is Tuesday, April 23rd, when The Deco celebrates St George’s Day with another great afternoon of fun, entertainment, and afternoon tea. All in all, a great opportunity to meet and enjoy the company of like-minded people, and have a fun time doing it.

“It all started when London’s well-known Brick Lane Musical Hall came up to Northampton and put on a show for us, which went down well,” said Jill Roach, House Manager at The Deco Theatre. “What we learnt from that was there is definitely an audience out there for old time variety entertainment, and we were keen to keep pushing it.

“And as word started to spread, and more and more people heard about what we were doing, numbers have gone up and up, to the point that our shows are now selling out.

“It’s a simple, but popular format: comedy, music, singers and sing-a-longs, and with afternoon tea served during the interval, for the older generation it’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon; for many it brings back so many memories of their younger years.”

The last ‘Glory of Music Hall’ hosted at the Deco, last November, celebrated the centenary of the Armistice that ended the First World War, but also paid tribute to the contributions of all those whose lives were touched by both World Wars, be it on active service in the Forces, or contributing to the War effort back home. There was a full house, generating a wonderful atmosphere during both halves of the show, and during the interval too, when tea was served.

“It is so rewarding to look out at the audience and see them having so much fun,” said entertainer Clive Fletcher, who directed and compered during that performance. “They come as couples, small groups, or as larger parties from clubs, societies, day centres, and care homes too, and they generate a lovely atmosphere, and roll back the years with us.”

Comedy was provided by magician Mel Harvey, who was very much the London spiv, with his pencil moustache and pin-striped suit. He was also very funny, and his tricks extremely clever, with the inevitable audience participation.

Katarina Warcaba accompanied Clive on keyboard as he led the audience though a catalogue of popular sing-a-long songs from both Wars, while singer Fern Roach ended the show with a tribute to Dame Vera Lynn, and mixed together, they came up with the perfect recipe for a much-appreciated afternoon’s entertainment.

Said Clive: “The feedback has been fantastic, and what we’ve found is that many people have come along to the show, and enjoyed themselves so much not only have they come back, they’ve recommended it to others, and it’s gone from there.

“But I do think it’s a lovely way for older people to have an afternoon out knowing they’re going to be entertained, and with it, in the company of others who come to the show for exactly the same reason,” he said. “For those of us on stage, and behind the scenes at The Deco, it’s a pleasure to do it, and we’ll put on another great show for St George’s Day!

“I should point out, by the way, that some of the older people come accompanied by their carers, and we get great feedback about the show from them too!”

For more information about ‘The Glory of Music Hall – St George’s Day’ at The Deco, go to https://www.thedeco.co.uk/event/glory-music-hall-3/, or call The Deco on 01604 491005.

Actor Chris Wills returns to The Deco Theatre this Christmas for his second Panto appearance as Prince Charming in Cinderella. He played the role successfully two and a half years ago, when The Deco put on its first Spring Panto, and is not only delighted to be doing it all again, but to be back in Northampton for a second successive year.

“Cinderella is a terrific Panto,” said Chris, who is originally from Wigan, in Lancashire, but now lives and works out of London. “I’m really excited to be back in Northampton, we’ve another great show, a fantastic cast again, and if the audiences are as wonderful as last year, then it’s going to be another wonderful Panto experience.

“The audiences generate a fantastic atmosphere: they make lots of noise, they’re interactive, and they all turn up with the purpose of having fun, and as a performer, that is exactly what we want!”

It has been a busy year for Chris, since he ended last year’s run of ‘Peter Pan’ at The Deco. For much of 2018 he has been on the road, travelling around the UK, Europe, and into Asia, performing in the touring production of Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’.

“It’s been busy, it’s been fun and I’ve really enjoyed myself,” he said. “But it’s been intense, and doing Panto is obviously quite a contrast, though I’m very lucky as an actor to have a wide variety of opportunities.”

Chris will be starring in the Deco Panto alongside Lydia Lucy, Colin Ridgewell, Lee Bright, Clive Fletcher, Fern Roach, and Sammy Webb, who is also directing the show, his first at The Deco. “It’s another fantastic cast, Sam’s a great character on and off stage, and I’m really looking forward to working with him, his knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, Panto is awesome.

“The other thing which always really excites me is the consistently high standard of young, local performers who appear in Deco Panto’s as part of the Chorus, and once again I’m hearing how hard they’re working in preparation.

“Not only that, The Deco have a fantastic support staff behind the scenes; they really look after us and make us welcome; and for all of us, it becomes one big family for a month – and that includes the audiences!”

Chris is a perfect fit for Panto, as much of his work is with Children’s Theatre productions.

“I love it, and I love Panto,” he says. “Great Panto involves a good team, good songs, naff jokes and lots of fun, and that’s what we’ve got, and will be having, in our Cinderella show, and I can’t wait to get started.”

‘Cinderella’ runs at The Deco from December 8 to 30. For tickets: www.thedeco.co.uk, call the Box Office on 01604 491005, or pop by to The Deco, in Abington Square, between 10am and 4pm Monday to Saturday.

A feast of laughter is lined up at the Deco for the new year, headlined by Lost Voice Guy, Lee Ridley, but also bringing to Northampton two of the most highly rated acts on the stand-up comedy circuit, Sean McLaughlin and Ahir Shah.

The 2018 ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ winner Lee Ridley takes to The Deco stage on Saturday Feb 9th, having won rave reviews for his appearance at the recent Royal Variety Performance, which you can see on ITV, on December 11th.

Following Ridley to The Deco five weeks later is rising star of the comedy circuit Ahir Shah, on Friday, March 15th. He is bringing his show ‘Duffer’ to Northampton, which has already started its UK tour, following its critically acclaimed sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe early this year, earning him a second nomination in a row for Best Show, at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.

Ahir has won many plaudits for his stand-up comedy, including this recently from the Daily Telegraph: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/comedy/what-to-see/one-generations-eloquent-comic-voices-ahir-shah-control-edinburgh/

And completing a trio of great stand-ups at The Deco is Sean McLoughlin, who comes to Northampton on April 5th. Fresh from opening for Ricky Gervais on tour, McLoughlin – described as “the best comedian you haven’t heard of yet” by Time Out magazine – is taking his acclaimed, smash hit show, Hail Mary, on the road.

As well as providing tour support for Gervais’ record-breaking international ‘Humanity’ tour, McLoughlin was also handpicked to open for Bill Burr at the Royal Albert Hall recently, and for the legendary Doug Stanhope.

He has also made appearances on Stand-Up Central, Comedy Central At The Comedy Store, and his talents have landed him a Chortle Award nomination, and a review by Beyond The Joke as “…the epitome of the skilful stand-up…”

Said Jill Roach, House Manager at The Deco Theatre: “There’s a great appetite for good stand-up comedy in Northampton, and we’re are delighted to be bringing some of the country’s best performers to town, as we did recently with Lauren Pattison, who was fantastic.”

For tickets and more information about all three shows, go to www.thedeco.co.uk, or call our Box Office on 01604 491005

 

He’s Bright. He’s Buttons. And he’s back in Northampton this Christmas.

He’s Lee Bright. Bright by name, and bright by nature; you can guarantee he will be a bundle of energy and fun during The Deco Theatre’s run of its Christmas Panto, ‘Cinderella’, this December.

This will be Lee’s 15th successive year of doing Panto, and ‘Buttons’ is among his favourite roles. He is back at The Deco after four years, and cannot wait to get started.

“I was in Wizard of Oz in 2014; I loved being at The Deco, and returning for the official photo-shoot was just like coming home,” said Lee, who played Aladdin in Bognor Regis last year. “The team behind the scenes are all so lovely.

“But not only that, they are very professional and extremely well organised, they work so hard to put on a fantastic Panto every Christmas, and judging by all the wonderful reviews over the years, they do that very well.”

As a performer, Lee has worked all over the UK, including London’s West End, but says Panto is ‘without doubt’ his favourite time of the year.

“Christmas is magical, and going to a Panto is a wonderful experience for families,” he said. “As I kid I loved it, and as a performer I love making the experience as special now as it was for me way back when.”

And Lee will be hoping The Deco audience love Buttons this Christmas. He said: “Buttons is actually quite a challenging role – you want the audience to love him, but you don’t want to over-shadow the Prince, so it’s a fine line, but all part of the fun.”

Chris Wills is playing the Prince this Christmas, starring alongside Lee, Lydia Lucy, Colin Ridgewell, Sammy Webb, Fern Roach and Clive Fletcher, supported, as usual, by an awesome cast of young dancers.

Said Lee: “It’s a fantastic cast of talented people, who are all very easy to get along with, and I’m looking forward to working with them in December. For me, great Panto is a perfect blend of all the elements: a dame, good voices, choreography,  and bringing everyone together to work as a team.

“We have all that and more, including not just one, but two fantastic dames in Colin and Sammy, we all know that Lydia has an awesome singing voice, and once again The Deco has put together another talented cast.”

“The audiences are terrific at The Deco, and we really appreciate that people choose our Panto to come and see, which is another reason why it is so important to make sure they go away having had a magical time.”

Away from performing, Lee teaches others to follow in his footsteps through his business Bright-Starz, which he runs from his home town, Chesham. “I teach singing and acting on a one-to-one basis, and I also teach audition techniques, which is something that too often gets overlooked.

“I’ve done plenty of auditions myself in the past, and I’ve also sat on panels watching and judging auditions, so I’ve seen it all,” said Lee.

And though he loves teaching, he still loves being on stage himself just as much. Especially doing Panto’s at Christmas, which is great news for The Deco. We have no doubt the audiences will love Lee in ‘Cinderella’ as they did in ‘Wizard of Oz’ four years ago.

And one thing is for sure: there’ll never be a dull moment with Lee about!

It’s popular early morning television for young children all over the country, and the Channel 5 show Milkshake is bringing its live show to The Deco Theatre during the Summer Holidays.

‘Milkshake! LIVE’ stops at Northampton on Thursday, August 23, with the cast performing two shows, at noon, and again at 3.30pm.

The touring show stars all the favourites from the TV show, that starts the day for many throughout the week, and at weekends too: with Bob the Builder, Little Princess, Noddy, Fireman Sam, Shimmer & Shine, Pip from Pip Ahoy!, Winnie and Wilbur, Wissper, Milkshake’s very own Milkshake Monkey, and two of the regular Milkshake! Presenters all appearing live on stage.

“This fantastic all-singing, all-dancing musical show takes its audience on a magical journey through the world’s favourite fairy tales,” said Deco House Manager, Jill Roach. “We’re delighted the Milkshake Live tour is coming to The Deco, it’s a terrific show for young children, and has won many five-star reviews from happy parents!”

The Milkshake! Live show is a perfect lunchtime or afternoon out on August 23 for parents looking for activities to keep their children amused during the summer holidays. And Channel Five say love taking the TV show out live to their regular audiences.

“It’s incredibly important that we are able to take Milkshake! to our audiences around the UK so that everyone can have the opportunity to experience the brand in an live show way,” said Sarah Muller, Head of Children’s, Channel 5.

“Through our live tours, we can give families a Milkshake! event that they won’t find anywhere else, one where they can meet their favourite characters and presenters whilst enjoying a brilliant family outing.”

For more information, and to book tickets, go to https://www.thedeco.co.uk/event/milkeshake-live/ or call the Box Office on 01604 491005.

 

 
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