Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

Best of 2013

[work in progress]

wolf-of-wall-street-jonah-hill-leonardo-dicaprio

Film:
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Way Way Back
Gravity

Male Lead:
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

Female Lead:
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Judy Dench – Philomena

Male Support:
Matthew McConaughy – The Wolf of Wall Street

Female Support:
(Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine)
(Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle)

Director:
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street
Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity

Writer:
Nat Faxon & Jim Rash – The Way Way Back

Single:
Love Me Again – John Newman
Down the Road – C2C
Children Go Where I Send Thee – Nick Lowe
Where Are We Now – David Bowie
Get Lucky – Daft Punk
Nothing’s Changed – Tricky (with Francesca Belmonte)
Hang Me, Oh Hang Me – Oscar Isaac

Album:
Quality Street – Nick Lowe
Cecile McLorin Salvant – WomanChild
Big Inner – Matthew E White
False Idols – Tricky
(Lee Perry presents – Candy McKenzie (1977 reissue))

Gig:
Van Morrison at Ronnie Scott’s

Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium (Darkness on the Edge of Town)
The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park
Dexys – One Day I’m Going To Soar – Duke Of York’s Theatre

Play:
Othello at Olivier Theatre

Art Exhibition:
All that is Solid Melts into Air (Jeremy Deller), Manchester

Sport:
Andy Murray winning Wimbledon

Event:
My birthday party – incorporating The Box

Mick Jagger

Best of 2012

Best of 2011

Best of 2010

Best of 2009

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Janus (Day 81)

Janus

Last writing day of the year, travelling tomorrow. Spent the day on the Joan Littlewood/Theatre chapter, partly transferring notes in from research material but mainly getting a bit of a flow on and springboarding off the emblematic opening scene into the meat of the thing, centred on Joan’s focus on the present, participation and ensemble collaboration. I’m going to see Oh What a Lovely War at the Theatre Royal Stratford East early in the New Year, which I’m really looking forward to.

Took a lunch break with Enfant Terrible No. 2 down the high street at Amici, chatting with Maurizio, the owner, about Cinema Paradiso among other stuff – writing and hanging out with children makes for a fine way to round off what’s been a pretty special year, thanks to this opportunity to have a break from the day job and have a stab at something new.

Once into the New Year, I’ll swoop back to polish Chapter 1 and put together a thorough synopsis. Day 96 will be the final writing day of this sabbatical period.

Janus roman god

 

Glad to see Simple Pleasures part 4 finish the year (Day 80) on its highest daily traffic of 2013.

Thoroughly Modern Mary (Poppins)

I’m going to watch Saving Mr Banks later today as I have to submit my first round of votes for the BAFTA Film Awards tonight. I’m all the more up for it as on Christmas Eve I went to see Mary Poppins (1964) on the big screen for the first time since I was a child, at The Phoenix in East Finchley, complete with free sherry and mince pies, the Christmas Eve screening becoming an annual tradition for us.

Watching it five decades after its release (this coming year is its half-century anniversary), it  strikes me as modern in a number of ways, such as:

  1. Bert (played by Dick Van Dyke) has a portfolio career – chimney sweeper, pavement artist, one-man band, etc.bert in mary poppins
  2. Bert and his chimney sweep pals do free-running (parcours) on the rooftops of Edwardian London (really, check out some of the moves up and between the sloping roofs)mary_poppins_chimney_sweep
  3. Bert does free-style rapping at the gate of the park, making up his songs on the spot in response to the specifics of his audiencebert in mary poppins movie
  4. The bank where Mr Banks works is engaged in risky speculation with Other People’s Money and making nothing concrete or useful, and nearly collapses just because a young child speaks out and refuses to invest his two pennies in such supercrappifragileunrealisticexpatrociousness.

bank in mary poppins movie

The Play’s The Thing (Day 80)

Brendan-Behan irish playwright

Day 80 was just a couple of hours really. It was the day after Boxing Day so didn’t count 100% as a working day. I carried on pulling the research material together into the first draft of the Joan Littlewood chapter. Then I had an urge, mid flow, to try to write the emblematic scene which opens each chapter, designed to capture the essence of the protagonist. In this case I opted for a scene from the performance of The Hostage at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1958. It’s based on my interview with actor Murray Melvin. It’s actually the bit of the interview where my recorder crapped up on me for the one and only time so far but luckily I wrote down the main points on the Central Line home from Stratford – just as well as I’d already forgotten the finer details which surprised me. Even though it’s only been a couple of months I forgot which play it is associated with and what Behan actually said. The first draft I wrote from memory. Then thought to check my record and now I’m fixing it this morning (Day 81).

The point of the scene is that Brendan Behan regularly attended the production and had a habit of interrupting from the auditorium much to the delight of the audience. This meant the actors were put on edge which is something Littlewood liked as it kept the play fresh and alive during the run and underlined the participative nature of her theatre in that the audience, the actors, the writer and her as director all had significant contributions to make to make the play the best thing it could be.

the hostage brendan behan thaeatre royal stratford east poster

The play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

Such is life (Day 79)

Highgate near Kenwood London

Slow start – weather was sunny so began with a jog around St Pancras Cemetery and some faffing with computers (having completely forgotten my work email password) and by the time that was all done the moment had arrived to head across town to The Masons Arms in Kensal Green to watch my nephew drumming with a band. I was planning to pop round to see Ossie Clark’s grave in the cemetery behind but the parking meter got the better of me.) From there headed back homewards and stopped at Kenwood where I sat on a bench overlooking the city and did a little writing as the sun sunk behind the trees. Popped into the caff and did some more marginal research for the Music chapter to do with the Sex Pistols’ landmark gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester in June 1976 which ignited Joy Division among other bands.

Back home I moved on from the Music chapter, which I’ll park up now, back to writing the Theatre chapter which I hope to largely complete before Christmas. Straight after Christmas I’ll be focusing on polishing the chapters I’ve written to date, starting with the Literature one which is to serve as my sample chapter. Not my most productive day but WTF, stuff happened, simple pleasures were enjoyed.

boy drumming

text by Jerome K Jerome

text by Jerome K Jerome

Pieces and Quiet (Days 77 and 78)

Tim Berners-Lee

Day 77 was a quiet one post Belfast. Mainly writing about Terri Hooley and Good Vibrations whilst listening to Snow Patrol, who never really did it for me (not that I gave them much of a listen) but who I thought I should give a second chance given how much they have done for Oh Yeah and how appreciative they are about Terri’s efforts. Writing was a bit stodgy and deliberate.

Day 78, by the time I got to writing, was flowing, a quick burst at BAFTA after a meeting about one of the three spin-off projects. One directly useful thing that came out of that meeting is that the sciency one of the participants was able to help me confirm my Science case study which will focus on Tim Berners-Lee and CERN, so an individual and an institution equally, and bringing the pre-digital case studies which form the spine of the book right up to the point of Networked Digital. Science and Art will form the last two chapters as Jeremy Deller is the most contemporary but largely non-digital.

Later had a more peripheral meeting about low-key or quiet connecting with Robyn Scott of One Leap who has interesting perspectives on personal networks which closely mirror mine. Here’s a good post she wrote recently on Quiet Connectors.

The day rounded off with a certain musician putting me in touch with a certain music manager who managed one of my all-time favourite bands. I’m hoping to interview him for a spin-off radio-centric project.

robyn scott

A Perfect Day (Day 76)

Terri Hooley on laptop

Pretty much the best day so far. Started out from Terri Hooley’s house in the company of Stuart Bailie, radio presenter on BBC Ulster, head of the Oh Yeah music centre and expert on Van Morrison, having grown up in the same hood. The pair of them gave me a beautiful tour of Van’s East Belfast taking in not only his birthplace in Hyndford Street but all those mythically poetic names like Orangefield, Cyprus Avenue and the like. Stuart really knows his shit, he recently made a radio tour of the place and is making a longer programme along the same lines to be broadcast soon. That’s the pylon where Van arranged to meet, the third one over. That’s where he drunk alone under the bridge, chips in Terri. It was such an evocative way to experience the city.

a gift from my nephew repatriated and signed by the 'old puffin'

a gift from my nephew repatriated – and signed by the ‘old puffin’

When we got to Oh Yeah in the Cathedral Quarter, all within spitting distance of Terri’s Northern Irish Punk hub at the old Harp Bar, I took my leave of Terri, a warm hug from a genuinely warm and charming personality, at the entrance to the former whiskey warehouse which is now one of the physical legacies of Terri’s activities over the years, Oh Yeah indeed, and Stuart gave me a really insightful interview, shedding light on some of the more mysterious parts of the Good Vibrations story.

oh yeah stiff little fingers

From there I trotted round the corner along the alleyway where Wizard Studios used to be, where Teenage Kicks was recorded. At the end is a red door which marks the new home of Atto Partners, a digital and design agency I work with, having introduced them to the emerging world of multiplatform TV on 4thought.tv . They gave me a bag of Christmas tea – happy days!

KVLR

KVLR says hi

Within a literal stone’s throw is the John Hewitt which seemed as good a place as any to hook up with my old friend KVLR, Kev Largey to dull mortals. He’s an artist who does a lot of top class work on the streets of Belfast and Dublin. One of his pieces opposite where we were seated happens to be on page 194 of Terri’s book Hooleygan. It’s beside the Art Deco arcade where Terri’s shop was immolated by the forces of darkness. [see Day 75 post for eejits and incendiary devices].

breaking bad graffiti

Kev took me on a splendid tour of the best of the top-notch street art around North Street where Good Vibrations currently resides. He gave me a bag of dried seaweed – happy days! It’s a Belfast favourite, which he picked up as we passed a greengrocer’s stall, to give me my first taste  – it brings the sea to you like nothing else, even shellfish and fishfish, the minute you start chewing. It brought back memories of the seaweed baths my beautiful young bride and I visited in Enniscrone, Co. Sligo on our honeymoon.

To round off a perfect day we popped in to the record shop below Kev’s studio where I found some of Malcolm Garrett’s finest work for Buzzcocks [more of him in the new year] and a bootleg or promo album entitled On The Road with, yes you’ve guessed it, Allen Ginsberg on the cover sitting with Bob Dylan beside Jack Kerouac’s grave.  Waiting for me or what?

on the road bob dylan allen ginsberg jack kerouac

Hooley in Belfast (Day 75)

The One-eyed Man

Writing this one in Terri Hooley’s kitchen with Terri at the table sorting out his Facebook and emails. On the fridge door is a magnet saying “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”. The weird thing is that is from 4Talent, a Channel 4 talent development initiative I was in charge of establishing in my first years there. It couldn’t have ended up in a more appropriate place after all these years (it must be a good five years old by now, more probably).

Terri Hooley on laptop

I spent the whole of Day 75 in Belfast with Terri, mainly at his Good Vibrations record store on North Street. I picked up a copy of Teenage Kicks there for a fiver. How could you not? – it was on the wall crying out to me. I also picked up a New Order LP with a Saville cover and not much by way of writing – no title or band name as was the Factory way, just FAC153 on the spine.

Good Vibrations records - singles

Terri took me on a tour of the area past the site of Wizard recording studio where Teenage Kicks among other Good Vibes things was recorded. We also went by the site of the Harp Bar, hub of Punk Belfast. We ended in the John Hewitt for a swift pint or three. I’d been there in the past, originally with Peter Logue, then Channel 4’s Man in Northern Ireland, and later with Kev Largey aka KVLR, a (street) artist who I first met through 4Talent – then known as Ideasfactory Northern Ireland – and one of whose pieces appears in Terri’s book Hooleygan.

the john hewitt pub belfast

We headed back to East Belfast to Van territory and Terri’s place to do an interview which was quite revealing about the kind of person Terri is and therefore some of what fuelled his catalysing of Punk in Belfast, which proved to be an important act in the context of the bleak days of The Troubles. He has many things in common with Tony Wilson (and some key differences) but the political dimension and the urgency of need to provide an alternative were particular to Terri’s situation and enabled him to help deliver the Needed Thing at the right time.

Terri Hooley and Teenage Kicks mural Belfast

As we sat up late partaking of some grapejuice, listening to Stuart Bailie’s show on Radio Ulster (with roots in John Peel), news came on about a failed incendiary device attack in Belfast city centre around the time we were in the Hewitt. Some eejit ended up setting himself on fire. Kingdom of the Blind.

Good Vibrations record store Belfast

Terri Hooley in Good Vibrations Belfast record store

Brighton Beach Memoirs (Day 74)

Brighton beach England

By Day 74 there’s a danger of hitting More of the Same – most of my time today was spent working on the Terri Hooley part of the Music chapter. (BTW I’m writing this on the bus into Belfast to meet Terri at Good Vibrations).

I trained it to Brighton for the AGM of Culture24, of which I’m a trustee.

Brighton sea front England

First port of call Breakfast at Tiffanys caff in the Laines for a meeting about a creative enterprise that’s spun out of all this time reflecting on Creativity, with two collaborators of long standing, originally met through the means of personal networks. I chose the venue based on a Sign from beyond (that image of Audrey Hepburn from the movie – linked to my late sister-in-law Bronagh, a natural creative par excellence).

Hepburn, Audrey (Breakfast at Tiffany's)

I’m now on the couch at Good Vibrations (current incarnation on North Street, No. 11) waiting for Terri – his morning didn’t work out as planned (unexpected visitors), just as it should be.

Back in Brighton, second port of call Brighton Books on Kensington Gardens where I picked up that excellent book on Ginsberg, Pater Familias, at the outset of all this. This time got a copy of Debbie Curtis’s memoirs (wife of Ian, singer of Joy Division). In the back of it is a list of all Joy Division’s gigs. Yesterday I found my ticket for the one and only gig where I saw them, tucked into a Buzzcocks CD, which is who they were supporting at The Lyceum. The ticket had no year but combined with the book I should be able to confirm it (think it was ’79). I also picked up a Greil Marcus book which Jon King (Gang of Four) mentioned the other day – it was clearly waiting for me. It connects to the other previously mentioned spin-off music project. It turned out this copy belonged to the shop assistant who was very knowledgable on post-punk. I assured him I’d be giving his old tome a good new home.

Port of call three, a Red Injun jewellery shop where, as I picked up a little Crimbo something for the Mrs, Down by the Sally Gardens came on their sound system just as I lifted a particular piece, which I also saw as a Sign.

Port of call four, the beach between the piers where I whipped out the ol’ Mac Air en pleine air and tapped away, sipping fish soup from the Mills’ little ol’ shop.

As the rain started to penetrate the seafront shelter I’d retreated to from the brick wall on the beach when clouds threatened, I retired to a coffee shop for more tapping and thence to Culture24. There are now two publishers among my fellow trustees so good advice/contacts were received as the three of us travelled back to London together.

Good Vibrations (Day 73)

The Clash in Northern Ireland

The Clash in Northern Ireland

Day 73 was centred on Terri Hooley, the man behind Good Vibrations record shop and label in Belfast. He’s a complementary case study to Tony Wilson in the Music chapter, also illustrating the underlying theme of creating from where you are and resisting the drag to the centre/capital.

Alternative Ulster

Alternative Ulster

There was an endearing movie released earlier this year about him called Good Vibrations, similar in vibe to Sex and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll and Telstar. My friend Adie Dunbar made a spirited appearance as a Republican gangster in one of the all-time dodgiest wigs, worthy of a series in its own right.

Terri Hooley

Terri Hooley

I’m going to see Terri in Belfast straight after this weekend on Day 75 which I’m very much looking forward to.

Richard Dorner as Terri Hooley in 'Good Vibrations'

Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley in ‘Good Vibrations’

My nephew gave me an early Good Vibrations 45 for The BoxOne by One by Ruefrex. He was given it by Terri one day when passing through the shop in Belfast. I think I’ll repatriate it (if only temporarily) just for a sense of poetic completion.

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