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You could say that every week is pie week in Wigan, but we thought we'd use the official "British Pie Week 2021" to get in touch with one of Wigan's newest culinary businesses - Baldy's Pies. If you keep up with the Wigan food scene, you will no doubt have already heard of Alex Melling and Chris Vernazza's new venture. Their chef's signature pies have caught the attention of thousands and have proven extremely popular with locals. Both of you have worked in restaurants all over the world (including Michelin-starred Lancashire restaurant Northcote). How has the first couple of months since launching Baldy’s Pies gone? Chris has worked in various Michelin restaurants over the UK also including the hand & flowers, Tom Kerridge (the only 2 Michelin starred pub in the world) & I’ve worked in Spain & Australia in some amazing restaurants. It’s definitely different from what we are used to. We’re 8 weeks in now & business is growing each week with new customers all the time (and our regulars). We genuinely thought we’d be selling 20 pies a night, so it’s taken us by surprise how well Wigan’s taken to Baldy's. Us Wiganers are known for our "enthusiastic pie-eating". What would you say to someone who usually sticks to a standard meat and potato? If you give us a call, we are more than happy to have a chat, find out what you like eating and recommend the best suited pie. We are all about big bold flavours so whatever we do is going to be a tasty pie. Your pies look fantastic and certainly bring the Wigan pie scene up to another level – in your opinion, what do you bring to the table that Wigan's various bakery chains don’t? The difference with our product to various other chain bakeries is that we are not bakers, we’re chefs. So our signature ‘chef’ pies are completely different to anyone else’s around. If you could only eat one type of pie for the rest of the year, which one would it be? Definitely the original big Jim’s braised shin of beef. It was actually created from a dish me & Chris had come up with for a restaurant and my dads favourite pie was also beef. So it’s a close one to my heart & will always be my favourite. You're currently working from the kitchen at The Crown at Worthington, however, with the Prime Minister's recent announcement about plans towards returning to ‘normality’, where do you hope to be in 12 months’ time? We already have a new venue for when lockdown comes to an end. It will be announced at a later date... Happy British Pie Week! What's on your menu this week and how can people order? There will be something special on our menu for sure! Just need to keep an eye on our page. Head to to see the current menu and ordering information.

Follow Baldy's Pies on social media:
Facebook: @BaldysPies
Instagram: @Baldys_Pies


We're helping our friends at Daffodils Dreams collect clothes to help tackle clothes poverty. Daffodils Dreams are an amazing charity who will ensure the clothes go to children, families, the elderly and the vulnerable through their referral process. If you have clothes to donate and live in Wigan (WN1 - WN6) please fill out our form and we can collect either next Wednesday or Thursday evening (3rd & 4th March) - just select your preferred date: Now's the perfect time to have a declutter and give to a fantastic local cause. Want to help us to collect the donations? Sign up here to become a volunteer:


In The Old Courts’ Meet-the-Maker series, we speak to artists, crafters & creative business owners to learn more about what they do and how they work.

Catherine West-McGrath is The Old Courts' Projects Administrator as well as a multitalented creator whose talents include writing, singing and book design.

We wanted to find out more about the process behind creating her first book and what other projects she's working on.

Hi Catherine! Tell us a bit about yourself. Well I self-published my first book, Ceecee’s Treasure Chest, in December 2019. I found a really good illustrator, Adam Walker-Parker and a company called Bear With Us Productions to design it for me. I’d never published anything before and I knew nothing about publishing or designing books this time last year. Then, after the book was published, I was able to go into schools and libraries and do workshops on writing and self-publishing. I’ve used my time in Lockdown to develop my graphic design skills so that I can self-publish my own books. I’ve published a range of different books over the past few months including two poetry collections. I’ve also just discovered that I’m a finalist in the North West Cultural Education Awards 2020, organised by Curious Minds, for designing some children’s activity books to help with home schooling. What is Ceecee’s Treasure Chest about? It’s about a conversation between a dad and his daughter about a treasure chest that he gives her on her twelfth birthday. It’s a coming of age story but it also has a message for any of us when we may forget about the treasure each of us holds within ourselves. What inspired you to write it? It was while I was recovering from being very ill from stress and burnout and I was trying to process a lot of things. I’d started to do a lot of journaling, just writing down every thought and feeling, and that really helped me get my sparkle back. At times I felt like I was trying to untangle a huge complicated knot and it reminded me of finding a jewellery box where all the precious pieces inside have become entangled with bits of fine chain that we try to free so that we can wear them again. So that was my inspiration for the story and I developed it from there. What is it you like about being creative? I love being able to create tiny pieces of art that are easy to digest. Things that take just half a minute or three to read or watch. Sometimes that’s all we need to change our mood or see things in a different light. I have to admit that I neglected my creativity for a long time, especially when I was employed in some very stressful jobs. Now I see creativity as an essential part of everyday, like eating well or getting some exercise. And it’s certainly helped my during Lockdown. If I’ve ever felt a bit fed up with it all I’ve recorded a song or created a YouTube video or posted a poem and I’ve always felt so much better and brighter afterwards.

What else have you got in the pipeline? I always have lots of ideas in my head. I’ve made short movies to some of my songs and I’d love to have one of my songs included in an independent short film one day. That’s definitely on my bucket list.

Where can people find out more about your work? You can see more of my work on my YouTube Channel (Catherine West-McGrath).


Listen to our patron Graeme Park chatting to our artistic director Jonny Davenport about The Old Courts story, Royal Court Theatre, arts, culture and the pandemic. The interview was recorded for the Glyndwr University Creative Futures programme which features guests from across the creative industries who talk to students about their experiences working in their sector and their background.


Are you a Wigan local who'd like to share opinions on what your community needs?

The Old Courts are working with a UK network to bring 3 shows to Wigan over 3 years. Each show will be tailored to this place, star local people and create job opportunities. We don’t want to decide how this will work without local input. To do this, we are recruiting a sounding board to meet, discuss ideas and needs of our community and to act as a sort of focus group. The project uses co-creation as a method of making work. Co-creation means that with organisational support, members of community have agency in creating. All voices are heard, leadership is shared and we all benefit from having the support of each other to help bring our creative vision to life. We want to make a long-term difference. This starts with these important conversations and ends with high-quality performances that inspire, show what is possible and elevates expectations on what we expect to happen here and how we are seen. You do not need to be experienced in co-creation or even in the Arts industry; We are just looking for local people with a point of view, to help us understand what our community needs and what we want to celebrate. This opportunity is open to anyone from parents, young people, retirees, professionals, community leaders, and everyone in between. We want to include anyone who may have felt excluded from the arts and/or under-represented. What to expect: A commitment until December 2021 to meet once every two months. You will be reimbursed £20 for your time at these meetings which will last approximately an hour. As the project develops, there may be further paid opportunities from production to supporting positions. You will also have the opportunity to attend events run by the Co-creating Change Network, meet with artists and makers from around the country and experience the production of co-created performances. Please email with a paragraph or a short video filmed on your phone. Please tell us: About yourself Your connection to Wigan What interests you about being a part of the Sounding Board Applications are open until 5pm Wednesday 24th of February 2021.


At a time when it’s needed most, The Old Courts Arts Centre in Wigan have attracted an array of support from well-known and loved personalities Patrons Announced – Eva Pope, Darren Jeffries, John McArdle, Richard Searling, Reece Dinsdale, Graeme Park and Chris Hawkins Despite the doom and gloom of Covid-19 and lockdown, an arts centre in the heart of Wigan has kept the positive work going. They have produced over 100 online events, performances and workshops for audiences to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes, free of charge. With the support of Greater Manchester Combined Authority, The Old Courts (TOC) Live programme has paid over 450 artists and toured a pop up panto to 8 locations around Wigan and Leigh to spread some cheer. They have commissioned and published a creative writing and imagery book containing over 100 pieces of work from the community about life in lockdown. As well as their creative achievements they’ve also taken good care of their community by delivering food parcels and packed lunches to over 2000 households and their army of volunteers have made over 900 welfare and isolation calls to residents in the borough. They saved the Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax from administration (along with 12 members of staff) and have now secured the support of some well-known and loved personalities in the industry. The Old Courts in Wigan are pleased to announce actors Eva Pope, Darren Jeffries, John McArdle, Reece Dinsdale, and Northern Soul DJ Richard Searling as their patrons. They join original Hacienda DJ Graeme Park and BBC Radio 6 Music presenter Chris Hawkins who were announced as patrons earlier this year. The Old Courts Artistic Director, Jonny Davenport, said: “It’s exciting and incredibly reassuring that such respected people have the confidence and willingness to be associated with our organisation. Our team work so hard to build up our reputation and this feels like a sign that we’re moving in the right direction. We are proud to have these magnificent patrons on board.” Wigan’s very own Eva Pope has had a successful career to date and has also travelled the world acting and teaching. Pope’s work includes roles in TV dramas and series such as Law and Order, Casualty, Holby City, Spooks, Waterloo Road, Life on Mars, The Bill, Coronation Street, Cold Feet, and Bad Girls. The Old Courts are thrilled to have teamed up with a fellow Wiganer and look forward to working together on like-minded creative projects. Originally from Manchester, Richard Searling BEM has been adopted by the people of Wigan. Searling is best known as the king of Northern Soul and is often found spinning the decks on various local BBC radio stations and also makes his own weekly programmes on Mixcloud. Searling was awarded the British Empire Medal for Services to the Soul Music industry and Community in the North of England in the Queen's Honours list, June 2019. Fans can expect some soulful collaborations between The Old Courts and the legendary Wigan Casino DJ. Warringtonian Darren Jeffries began acting professionally aged 15, after a performance in Warrington’s Parr Hall led him to his first role in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks. As prominent cast member Sam ‘OB’ O’Brien, he remained on the show for a further ten years. He has since performed on stage at various theatres across the UK including Manchester’s HOME, Bolton’s Octagon Theatre and Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax, alongside various TV roles. Jeffries also runs film and acting workshops for anyone wanting to get into the stage and screen acting industry. Liverpudlian John McArdle is a familiar face on screen and stage. McArdle’s numerous television credits include playing series regulars in the ITV’s Emmerdale, Channel 4’s Brookside, BBC’s The Case, Waterloo Road, All the Small Things and Mersey Beat for which he won the award for Best Actor in the Regional Television Society Awards 2002. His stage credits include An Enemy of the People, Things I Know To Be True (Frantic Assembly) and The Red Lion for Rapture Theatre. McArdle is also an author as well as actor and director. His debut book 'You Never Said Goodbye' is available via Amazon. Reece Dinsdale, who is currently starring in the award-winning TV soap Emmerdale is also a patron of The Old Courts sister venue Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax. Dinsdale’s career spans over decades and across stage, TV and film. Reece has starred in many high- profile TV dramas ranging from leading roles in the BAFTA award winning Threads and Jim Henson’s Storyteller, through Spooks, Life on Mars, to Joe McIntyre in Coronation Street and the hugely popular comedy series Home to Roost opposite the late John Thaw. Actress, Voicer Over Artist and Meisner Teacher, Eva Pope said: “You can never really take a Wigan girl out of Wigan! I have such fondness for my hometown and, having a big family bond there, I visit home regularly. Exciting news about The Old Courts and the chance to become a Patron there! I have been lucky enough to forge a career for myself in my chosen profession and have been an actress, voice artist and writer/producer for too many years now. I also run my own company, The Actors Gateway, training actors in the Meisner Technique - what a vocation that has become.
I can visualise so many ways to get involved in supporting The Old Courts and I am looking forward to getting my hands very dirty… there is something so satisfying about sharing your passion with the place that made you." DJ Richard Searling said: “I've certainly got a lot to thank the town of Wigan for and I’d like to give something back! In fact, it was the mayor of Wigan who came along to present me with my BEM recently. I am honoured to accept the role of patron. The joy of music is so important in these times. I hope I can lend a hand with my music experience and knowledge.” Actor and Film-maker, Darren Jeffries said: “It’s my firm belief that all communities should benefit from arts and culture in every way possible. Becoming a patron is a real honour and I’ll be supporting The Old Courts in their own mission every step of the way.” Eva Pope, Darren Jeffries, John McArdle, Reece Dinsdale, Richard Searling will join original Hacienda DJ Graeme Park and BBC Radio 6 Music presenter Chris Hawkins as patrons of this much-loved arts centre who are continuing to share art and culture despite the challenges of this pandemic. Chris Hawkins presents the daily Early Breakfast show on BBC Radio 6 Music and has interviewed some of music’s biggest stars, including Calvin Harris; The Killers; Florence Welch; Dave Grohl and Jack White. He is a notable champion of 2019 Brits Critics Choice Winner, Sam Fender. Legendary DJ Graeme Park is an original Hacienda DJ who sells out at venues across the globe! He has spent 30 years on the decks and 20 years on the radio and is still going strong. Anyone wanting more information about The Old Courts and their previous and future projects including events with their patrons, should visit and or sign up to their mailing list via the website.


The Old Courts in Wigan may not be physically open due to lockdown, but they are still a big part of the celebration of independent music venues across the UK - Independent Venue Week is a 7-day celebration of music venues around the country and a nod to the people that own, run and work in them, week in, week out. The Old Courts has five live streamed music and family events taking place between Monday 25th and Sunday 31st January.

Tickets for all events programmed by The Old Courts as part of the Independent Venue Week strand are available to purchase via their website. Tickets are available as part of the ‘Pay As You Feel’ pricing structure with no minimum or maximum suggestions, enabling families and music fans to enjoy culture and entertainment to suit their budgets. Music Merry Hell – Wednesday 27 January, 8pm, £Pay As You Feel Merry Hell is a folk-rock band who base their songs on their own experiences including the high, lows and loves of their lives. This live stream event as part of Independent Venu Week will feature exclusive content and songs never performed before, as well as favourites revisited. This is a must for all Merry Hell fan and anyone missing live music. Made in Wigan - Friday 29 & Saturday 30 January, 9pm, £Pay As You Feel The Old Courts are all about giving grassroots musicians and bands an opportunity to showcase their talents. On Friday 29 and Saturday 30 January from 9pm each evening, the arts centre will live stream music from Wigan bands and artists as part of Independent Venue Week. Keep an eye on for updates on who will be playing. Families: The Dragon Who Hates Poetry | Age 5+ Wednesday 27 January, 11.30am, £Pay As You Feel The Dragon who Hates Poetry is a hilarious, slapstick poetry show, an interactive live stream, aimed at anyone age 5 and above. There is no dragon scarier in any earthly place. His face looks like his bottom… and his bottom like his face. This is a fun, solo show packed full of lyrics, laughter and lots of joining in! Armed with only pen and paper, poet Dommy B needs your help to bring this fearful dragon’s reign to an end. When Trolls Try To Eat Your Goldfish | Age 5+ | 60 Mins Wednesday 27 January, 2.30pm, £Pay As You Feel When Trolls Try to Eat Your Goldfish is a comedy adventure poetry show, an interactive live stream, aimed at anyone age 5 and above. In the middle of the night there is a noise – a snuffling and a shuffling and a splintering of wood. A line of troll-prints lead out the door, across the lawn and into the deep, dark night. When a grotesque gang of greedy trolls steal all the village’s pets (including Nikki’s favourite goldfish, Great Bumbleduke the Third), who is going to come to the poor animals’ rescue? Both these fun and interactive shows are written and performed by Dommy B - winner of the UK Saboteur Award for 'Best Spoken Word Artist 2020'. Directed and co-produced by Kevin Dyer and Action Transport Theatre with funding from Arts Council England Grants for the Arts.


In 2020, we filmed a behind the scenes tour of our big old building, including areas that are usually closed off to the public, like our offices and cell block.

Press play and take a guided tour led by Degsy, our Facilities Manager and hear some stories about the building along the way.


This time last year we were full of hope and positivity about the year ahead and whilst it definitely didn’t turn out how we planned we have to say we are pleased with the progress we made and have loved watching our community pull together. Since the start of lockdown we have screened almost 100 live programmes, hosted over 40 zoom workshops and events, paid over 400 artists, toured a pop up panto around Wigan and Leigh on the back of a truck to 8 locations, worked on the Collaborative Touring Network – a national touring project, worked on Moving Roots – a co-creation project which will see a show called Rent Party re-worked with Wigan artists and we’ve published a book with creative writing and images by 109 people from Wigan (and beyond). We’ve also delivered over 700 food parcels, made over 900 phone calls to isolated residents, provided 10,000 packed lunches over the holidays with a dream team Fur Clemt and Eat Drink Wigan, have had over 200 volunteers sign up, delivered culture packs on behalf of GMCA and collected musical instruments for children in need. Our construction team have revamped Wigan Pier, our Victorian Court Room, created 12 new studios for creative businesses within The Old Courts and started construction on the Royal Court Theatre. We couldn’t have done all this without our amazing team, volunteers, funders (Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, The National Lottery Community Fund, The Clothworkers Foundation, PRS Foundation, Power to Change, Youth Music, United We Stream GM, Co-op Foundation, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Gmcvo, Access Fund) and donors. Also, support from Battersea Arts Centre, Historic England & Nesta. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU. 2021 we will be back bigger and better but for now, THANK YOU to each and every one of YOU. Thank you for your encouragement, views, likes, donations and for sticking by us. On our darker days it’s been messages of support that have kept us going – it really is nice to be nice. Happy New Year. Lots of love The Directors, Team OC xx


We're excited to announce the launch of an exciting new project “Wanderscapes” with support from PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund. Ulrich Schnauss is a UK based musician and producer from Kiel, Germany. Known to many as a pioneer of widescreen, euphoric electronica for over 20 years, his influence can be heard often in contemporary music. After juggling a successful remixing career (Coldplay, Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys) with a lauded run of albums (including the 2003 classic: ’A Strangely Isolated Place’), he joined Tangerine Dream in 2014, heavily contributing to the 70’s giants most successful album for many years, the last by founder Edgar Froese. ​ Mark Peters was his bandmate in Engineers from 2010 onwards and the pair collaborated on two instrumental albums that Q described as ‘ambient music that’s both engaging and engrossing’ and The Times called ‘Life affirming vignettes that marry chiming guitar with soaring melodies’. In 2018 Peters’ Innerland was included in Rough Trade top 10 albums and his music can be heard on Mary Ann Hobbs and Lauren Laverne’s BBC6 music shows. ​ They have played improvisations together in London, Dublin and St Paul’s Church in Birmingham over the last 3 years and have a new album due for release in 2021. CALL OUT We are inviting locally based musicians between 17 and 25 who create experimental electronic music or sound art, to submit tracks that will be considered for possible involvement in a funded project in 2021. Those working alone on a DAW such as Logic Audio, Ableton, Garageband etc. with a fundamental knowledge of the software and how to work remotely will be our ideal candidates. 3 finished demo pieces will be required please. We ask that participants have an interest in left field music, an understanding of its place in contemporary arts and how abstract art type concepts might be expressed via your work. While not essential, an interest and some knowledge of our borough on a historical level, alongside long-term family ties to the area would be most beneficial for this project. This is an exciting opportunity funded by PRS and led by The Old Courts for young, locally based electronic producers to work with, and be mentored by active professional musicians who continue to create and push musical boundaries. To apply, please complete the form here Submission deadline: Sunday 28th February | 6pm Once musicians have been selected to take part in this project, we expect the project to begin in February and conclude just before Summer. More specific details will be available on selection and inline with COVID Restrictions. Places for this project are limited, but please keep checking back to The Old Courts website & social media for further opportunities throughout 2021. Good luck! WWW.THEOLDCOURTS.COM/WANDERSCAPES


A new book containing stories direct from the people of Greater Manchester aged 6 to 82, documenting the raw feelings and emotions of lockdown Book available from Thursday 17 December via Amazon. The Language of Lockdown is a book commissioned by The Old Court Arts Centre containing stories, drawings, sketches, paintings, photographs, poetry and creative writing based on the raw emotions, thoughts, feelings and experiences from the people of Wigan, Leigh, Greater Manchester and beyond during the Covid-19 lockdown period. Jonny Davenport, Artistic Director of The Old Courts said: “we wanted something that would live on beyond these unprecedented times, something to look back on as a reminder of both how difficult things were in that moment and how, as a community, people managed to overcome and perhaps learn from our experiences. At a time when so many felt helpless, the book represents the emotions and feelings being lived by a collective throughout the world no matter where you come from or live. We want to provide hope to others demonstrating they were not alone in how we have been feeling, despite being in such an isolating period.” The Old Courts had an open call and hosted creative writing workshops for adults and children who wanted to share their work and voice with the rest of the world and to help stay connected. The book contains over 150 pieces of work from the people of Wigan, Greater Manchester and one participant joining in all the way from Nerja. A total of 109 People who took part in documenting these strange covid times, with the youngest contributor aged 6 and the oldest aged 82. The work captured the good, the bad, the ugly, the boredom, the feelings of children missing school, the desperate need for a haircut and a hug, the use of words such as lockdown, covid, isolation and PPE, missed birthdays and special occasions, celebrations via zoom and Facetime instead, the mental health struggles, experiencing loss and grief, unity but in a safe social distant manner, hope, and how the very young and the old were feeling.

The book includes the following: Amelie Leggott, age 6,Wigan A story about a virus This is the story about a virus that started, And all the people had to stay parted, The world had a really big fight, To make everything right, We went on walks, And had lots of talks, Sometimes we got sad, Which made us feel a bit mad, But other times we felt happy, Because we thought about seeing all our grandparents, Nanna and Pappy. Dominic Smith, age 8, Wigan Isolation Poem Running around to keep fit All playing a part to help Isolating to save others NHS working hard to save lives Being away from family One day more home schooling We came back together Olly Sibbit, age 9, Wigan Wigan lockdown Wigan lockdown I am very bored due to the current situation. I am missing my friends from school and looking forward to seeing them again. Miss hugging my baby cousin and building with my grandad. Brian Ratcliffe, age 71, Wigan Lockdown Blues Everday's Sunday running on a loop, Feel like a chicken locked up in a coop. Same old same old is the name of the game, Familiar routine's becoming quite tame. Not much to smile about, brings on a frown, Lockdown experience's dragging me down. Paula Clarkson, age 49, Wigan STUPID EARTH PEOPLE (POEM) The people they gathered in masses and masses In pubs and in clubs they were filling their glasses Whilst death lay in wait, so silent unseen A name on his lips whispered Covid-19 And millions of people we sit, and we wait For death to come calling And sealing our fate And death keeps on creeping and wringing his hands The stupid earth people all part of his plans. You just wouldn't listen, you just didn't care You must keep your distance stay indoors, beware And millions of people we sit, and we wait For death to come calling And sealing our fate But stupid earth people thought they knew the best The Government warnings they're only in jest. And death is still waiting, his scythe held up high You've used all your chances, it's too late to cry. And millions of people still sit and still wait For death WILL come calling And sealing our fate. The Old Courts hopes the work collated in the Language of Lockdown helps as a way of therapy for those who contributed and for others who felt the same way, and for all to reflect on the heartfelt content in the future when life does get back to normal and fast-paced again. They hope people can look back, reflect and learn for future generations. The Old Courts would like to thank Greater Manchester Combined Authority for the funding support to make this idea become a reality. The book is available to buy in paperback via Amazon priced at £15.99.


Casting opportunity for Womxn (all women including those identifying as females and non-binary) Singers, Dancers and Movers. Do you have something to say about the world around you? Do you have an interesting story to tell? We want to hear from you! Darren Pritchard and The Old Courts are looking for exceptional artists to perform in a Wigan remaking of Rent Party! You might not have ever performed professionally before or might have performed in nightclubs, raves, festivals or in your friend’s front room. You will be from or be connected to Wigan and Leigh Borough. The performance will be devised and will feature live performances (Cabaret style) with moments of honest personal storytelling – this will be created with Darren and the company in rehearsals. Performers will be paid a rate of £500 per week over the course of three weeks. If you are interested in being considered for the casting please send us a video of yourself performing your best talent (this can be filmed on your phone) and send us a short piece of writing (or film) about who you are, your story, and why you’d like to be considered for this show. Please email for any further information or with your submissions. Admissions must reach us by 7pm Tuesday 22/12/2020. This performance is part of the Moving Roots project. Rehearsals are scheduled to begin w/c 22/03/2021

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© 2020 by The Old Courts 

The Old Courts is a trading name of Arts at the Mill CIC a registered Community Interest Company registered in England

under Number 07411657 at Gerrard Winstanley House, Crawford Street, Wigan, WN1 1NA