Archive for the ‘malcolm garrett’ Tag

Film Critic Sandwich (Day 84)

Linder Sterling collage

Linder Sterling collage

A big BAFTA day today – not so much for the film award nominations which were announced this morning, which were pretty predictable, although why American Hustle is doing so well baffles me (and I’m a big fan of Silver Linings Playbook), but for the fact I had a very interesting and enjoyable day working there. On arrival at 195 Piccadilly I had a lovely chat with Mark Kermode – we know one another from school but haven’t met properly for ages, since I was doing some film reviewing after leaving university and we crossed paths at movie screenings. He was sympathetically encouraging as he explained how long it took him to write his three books in terms of words per month, which went over my head a bit as I haven’t been thinking in those terms (deliberately).

From the off I ran across a variety of colleagues, some ex-Channel 4, most C4 related, from the producer of Fresh Meat to a former Head of Interactive at the Channel who kindly offered an intro to a literary agent. So a jolly time all round.

Work began with an interview of the super-talented designer Malcolm Garrett, close friend of Peter Saville and fellow graduate of the Manchester Post-Punk scene, who came to prominence through his fresh designs for the Buzzcocks record sleeves. The record that got me into Punk was the Buzzcocks What Do I Get? single (which sadly did not have Malcolm’s sleeve on it when I bought a copy at Smiths in Chichester, but which lead me to his beautiful silver and day-glo orange cover for their Another Music in a Different Kitchen LP which I got given that Christmas). We talked about Tony Wilson and Factory, with whom he worked and hung out a bit, and about the prospects for creatives from the North and regions, a lovely wide-ranging interview-cum-chat.

Then back to the writing where, having taken my only working day away from it since starting on 1st September yesterday to do some personal admin etc., I had a bit of a break-through in terms of structure. Material I had been planning to integrate into the case studies I now realise would be better and more easily included interleaved between the chapters. I came to this realisation when I went back to add to the short intro I wrote a while back. The argument of the intro was tight and didn’t allow for any insertion without breaking the flow so I tried the additional material I wanted to insert as a short piece between Chapters 1 and 2 and that worked, so I am now going to site all the contemporary and personal reflections between chapters not woven into them. This will keep the narrative flowing and clear and avoid any confusion of timeline.

Next up was a meeting about one of the spin-off projects and then I headed for home. As I walked down the stairs I passed Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) on the landing and then Mrs Hudson herself (Una Stubbs), who was so polite that she was worried she had pushed in front of me when I was having a quick conversation with one of the receptionists. The days of Alf Garnett and Rita Rawlins are clearly long gone as she appears very much like Mrs H incarnate. I deduce some Sherlock event was going on.

When I got off the tube I bumped into Bob McCabe, author of Harry Potter: Page to Screen, co-writer of The Python’s Autobiography and a bunch of Monty Python related titles. He’s just launched a new movie-related site The Last Word on Earth. So the day has a pleasing circularity.

design by Malcolm Garrett

design by Malcolm Garrett

Bitty Titty Soft and Bouncy (Day 72)

Sylvia Beach with James Joyce at Shakespeare & Co., Paris 1920

Sylvia Beach with James Joyce at Shakespeare & Co., Paris 1920

Another bitty day but progress was made. Kicked off with some Channel 4 work looking forward to to 2014, meeting a sports presenter to further develop a really interesting  idea we began kicking around a couple of months ago. From there I walked along a golden Malet Street past the University of London to the British Library where I installed myself in the Anthropology Library to work on the music project prompted by my interview with Jon King of Gang of Four yesterday. Got a few ideas down to start to set the scope and whacked them over to my radio friend. Then settled down to process my notes from the David Amram phone interview last night – mainly making sure it’s all legible in the long run.

Finished off my initial research into Sylvia Beach over a bowl of hot Greek bean soup in RADAland, sitting next to two glamorous, screwed-up actresses discussing boyfriend trouble and CBT experiences – in other words, very good quality eavesdropping material. The Beach research touched on her time in Savoy and mentioned Chambery where I went to university for a year, a not oft-mentioned town.

Once back home I  gave Malcolm Garrett a ring to set up an in-person interview with him about Tony Wilson & Manchester. Malcolm, who I know through working together on the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment committee, is the excellent designer behind the Buzzcocks record sleeves among many others, so first entered my life in the form of the silver and orange cover of Another Music in a Different Kitchen which delighted the teenage me. Rounded off things by getting in touch with Barry Miles, biographer and friend of Allen Ginsberg.

Took off for Chalk Farm on that note, the work day ended, to see the opening of an exhibition of photos of Andy Warhol (who I loathe and consider the opposite of Ginsberg – I wrote a scene about their meeting out back in a New York club where Ginsberg cut the twat neatly down to size in his own gentle way) and Edie Sedgwick (who, from the vaguest memory I have of the book I wrote about her – oops, Freudian slip, read about her I consider somehow tragic, like Basquiat and all the other cowardly damage Warhol left in his wake). It was at my friend/associate Alex Proud’s gallery in The Stables, an extravagantly large space, not really the right shape but different and fun.

From there to the 10th anniversary party of mySociety, a digital agency I admire hugely which is why I sacrificed the Channel 4 Christmas do to it (which was conveniently and teasingly  beside the Stables) and trekked off to Mozilla in St Martin’s Lane to see Tom Steinberg and crew. And that I’ll leave for my next post…

Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier in Savoy, not a million miles from Chambery

Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier in Savoy, not a million miles from Chambery

Human Behan

brendan behan

I promised previously on Drinker with a Writing Problem to report back on ‘Brendan at the Chelsea’ at the Riverside, Hammersmith once I’d seen it. Well on Thursday I made a bee-line back from the rather sober Oxford Media Conference to get back in time for the press night of the play.

As I emerged from Hammersmith tube I bumped into Grant Dean of Eidos (home of Tomb Raider) and his sweet little daughter. Grant and I know one another from the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Committee – he went on to chair the Video Games Committee while I went on to the TV Committee to try and make the rest of interactive entertainment beyond games part of the mainstream of the Academy. I remember trying to convey to the TV Committee a concept I called ‘New Television’ (you can imagine how well that went down) and introducing to them, among a selection of other emerging sites, this new thing called ‘YouTube’ (which I’d only come across two or three weeks before). A couple of years down the track and Malcolm Garrett, Martin Freeth, Terry Braun, Martyn Ware, a few other stalwarts and I are still fighting that particular battle.

Meanwhile, back in old media Hammersmith I walked past a cinematic Hammersmith Odeon shiny in the night rain, down past the painter Frank Brangwyn’s walled house, to the Riverside.

And there I watched a barnstorming performance by Adrian Dunbar as the Irish playwright Brendan Behan. A charismatic, cathartic, compelling performance.

The play was written by Behan’s own niece – Janet, daughter of writer and playwright Brian Behan. I saw her straight after curtain-down in the foyer and I’ve never seen anyone so charged. It had taken her six years to get this very well written, tight, witty script staged. What a kick to see it realised with such skill and energy to climax in a standing ovation. What a kick to hear your audience join in the singing – “Fair fucks to yer!” responded Brendan (whether that was in the script or not – no idea).

In the bar after, the superbly talented, modest and warm Brid Brennan, who played Behan’s missus, told me and the Missus that, from her experience, the kind of reaction the performance prompted from the audience that night was something very special. My Missus reckoned the turning-point was the scene where a drunken Behan crashes on stage at a performance of his play ‘The Hostage’ on Broadway – in his naturally ebullient way, he breaks into song (Adie has a wonderful classic Irish tenor voice) and the Riverside audience joined in becoming the Broadway crowd.

Equally stunned on emerging was Anna Nygh, Adie’s wife, also an actor. She’d heard him rehearsing the lines around the house (a helluva lot of lines as he drives the two hours of dialogue) but had no notion quite how much he was inhabiting the character – or vice versa… She summed it up by confirming ‘It’s taken his acting up a level’.

The action is centred on Behan’s room in the legendary Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd in New York. He’s struggling to write a book about New York of which he’s already drunk the advance. It’s not only his publisher he’s let down but also his mistress and baby son. And his wife Beatrice is just about to show up from Dublin. With a tape recorder on his desk and a pint of whiskey under his mattress, he reflects on the journey that brought him from inner city Dublin to the weird&wonderful diversity of the streets of New York, through which the paparazzi pursue him. One of the highpoints of the play is a Berkoff-like set piece when Behan enacts the moment a journalist lured him out of sobriety by sending a free drink over to him at a bar, three fellow under-cover hacks watching from the shadows.

The show is punctuated with cracking lines. Like the one about the definition of an Irish homosexual – a man who prefers a woman to a drink.

When Adie emerged from the dressing room afterwards, I had to congratulate him for making such a good fat man. He’s so slight in real life but with just a bit of a belly added beneath his shirt he played Behan’s drinker’s bulkiness with such conviction you saw it in his restricted diabetic movements and bloated lumbering.

What ‘Brendan at the Chelsea’ showed above all was the paradox of a man who clearly loved life and spent every day trying to kill himself. He expressed a great fear of just being an ordinary human Behan which was why he disappeared to New York in the first place – he loved being immersed among the extraordinary flotsam of a big city.

The play is on until 3rd February – do yourself a favour

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