Mayall: Godfather of British Blues plays on

John Mayall: Bournemouth Pavilion (Saturday, 25th November, 2017)

The first time I saw John Mayall was nearly 50 years ago and he was old then. Perhaps I should clarify. He was in his mid thirties and I was only 17, so he seemed old to me.

Yet on Saturday night, four days ahead of his 84th birthday, he played the Bournemouth Pavilion and not only was he looking fit and sounding great but he played a brilliant set. What’s more there’s a new album – Talk About That – and, inevitably, yet another line-up of amazing musicians.

That’s the thing you see. Back in 1968 John Mayall was THE man, a musician whose ever-changing band, The Bluesbreakers, had become a sort of finishing school for some of the finest musicians of the era.

By the time I caught up with Mayall, who was known as the Godfather of British Blues, many of his discoveries had already flown the nest.  Eric Clapton had formed Cream and Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie had evolved into the nucleus of the original Fleetwood Mac. He did still have a young Mick Taylor in tow but within the year he would be off to join The Rolling Stones. The Mayall line-ups were phenomenal.

So it’s wonderful to see him keeping on, keeping on and with such energy and focus. Playing keyboards, harmonica and guitars, Mayall has settled on a stripped-down format for his latest band featuring just himself with Chicago session men Greg Rzab on bass and Jay Davenport on drums.

Both are astonishing talents and Mayall uses them brilliantly delivering numbers that span half a century of his own career. They included numbers like Acting Like A Child and The Bear from the late 60s, tracks from the new album and some superb covers of classics by people like Jimmy Rodgers, JB Lenoir and Sonny Boy Williamson.

Two thirds of the way through their 90 minutes set the band was joined on stage by blues guitar virtuoso Buddy Whittington. A one-time Bluesbreaker himself and leader of the trio who had been the opening act, Whittington turned what had been merely excellent into phenomenal. Now a four piece, the band stretched out into sublime versions of Nature’s Disappearing, a song about looming  environmental disaster that Mayall penned decades before green issues made the headlines and California. An absolutely brilliant show.

Jeremy Miles

Dylan Thomas and New Quay – the little Welsh town that inspired Under Milk Wood

New Quay harbour
Picturesque New Quay the town where Dylan Thomas wrote the first draft of Under Milk Wood

I am standing outside one of Dylan Thomas’s favourite pubs in a “cliff-perched toppling town” on the west coast of Wales. It is true that many a hostelry claims the notoriously thirsty Welsh poet as a regular. But this is New Quay, the picturesque fishing village on Cardigan Bay that Dylan often visited as a child. He and his wife Caitlin also made it their home and writing-base for a year during the Second World War.

The pub is the Black Lion where the infamous hell-raiser once got embroiled in a spat with a jealous husband who later attacked his £1-a-week “shack at the end of the cliff” with a machine-gun and hand-grenade. Continue reading “Dylan Thomas and New Quay – the little Welsh town that inspired Under Milk Wood”

Richard Thompson: a genius unplugged

Richard Thompson: Lighthouse, Poole

Fifty long years after he made his first appearances as a shy but talented teenage guitarist with Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson is rightly regarded as a one of our greatest singer-songwriters and a brilliant and innovative musician.

This tour offers a fascinating stripped-down perspective on a career that not only spans half-a-century but has produced some peerless material that actually changed the course of folk music history.

Armed only with an acoustic guitar, an extraordinary talent and the kind of songs that it’s hard to believe haven’t existed forever, Thompson played a two hour set that covered all bases.

There were reworkings of wonderful solo recordings like Gethsemane, and 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. There was a nod too to Fairport with a tender version of Who Knows Where the Time Goes and several classics from the Richard and Linda years with I Want to See the Bright Lights tonight, Wall of Death and a singalong version of Down Where the Drunkards Roll.

Performing at the top of his game, 68-year-old Thompson resplendent in cut-off denim jacket and trademark beret was in fine voice. It’s hard to believe that back in the early years of his career he had little confidence as a singer. Somewhere along the line he quite literally found his voice and it’s been getting better ever since.

Perhaps even more impressive is his beautifully dextrous guitar work. Whether playing brilliantly evocative songs like the emotive They Tore The Hippodrome Down or thrashing his way through Push and Shove, his largely forgotten and previously unrecorded  tip of the beret to The Who, Richard Thompson is the consummate guitarists guitarist.

This tour largely supports his recently released Acoustic Classics and Acoustic rarities albums but it also offers a chance to wonder at the depth and breadth of his repertoire and his abilities as both an artist and an entertainer.

Perhaps the two sides of that coin were captured to perfection in the final encores with Waltzing’s for Dreamers and Don’t Sit On My Jimmy Shands.

Support act was singer Josienne Clark and guitarist Ben Walker who also paid tribute to Thompson’s late lamented one-time Fairport Convention bandmate Sandy Denny with an impressive version of Fotheringay.

Jeremy Miles

When Henry the horse danced the waltz…

beatles 5.jpgIt was 50 years ago today that Sgt Pepper taught the band to play – well give or take a day or three. On Thursday 1st of June 1967 I was 16-years-old and like most of my schoolfriends made a beeline for the local record shop to hear The Beatles’ newly released album.  Little did we know at the start of what would become known as the Summer of Love that music, and indeed a whole bunch of other things, would never be quite the same again.

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band may not have been the greatest album ever recorded but it was one of the most innovative, inventive and influential. It was unlike anything anybody had ever heard before and it caught the spirit of the time perfectly. Listening now to the remastered 50th Anniversary edition I realise that it gave us a soundtrack to an era and, as the 1967 Summer of Love morphed into the 1968 Year of Protest, the album stayed with us. Continue reading “When Henry the horse danced the waltz…”

25th May 1917 – the WWI air-raid that blasted Folkestone into a new age of violence


William Henry Stokes_2
My great grandfather William Henry Stokes one of 61 people killed in the Tontine Street air-raid

The date:  Friday 25th May 1917. The time: 6.22pm.

It was a beautiful early summer’s evening and for the people of Folkestone the start of a seaside holiday weekend. In bustling Tontine Street children were playing while their mothers chatted and queued outside Stokes Brothers the greengrocers. There had been wartime food shortages and a new delivery of potatoes had just arrived. A crowd had quickly gathered as news got around. Shopkeeper William Henry Stokes, my great grandfather, and his staff were doing brisk business.

The mood was surprisingly carefree. Despite the terrible death toll on the Western Front just a short distance across the English Channel, the actual violence of war had had little direct effect on the town. The sound of distant explosions caused scant concern to the shoppers outside the Stokes grocery store that evening. It was just the military practising at nearby Shorncliffe Camp. Or so they thought. Continue reading “25th May 1917 – the WWI air-raid that blasted Folkestone into a new age of violence”

Bob Dylan: things really have changed

Bob Dylan: Bournemouth International Centre (5th May 2017)

The lights go down. There’s a sense of anticipation that almost crackles in the air. Which Bob Dylan are we going to get tonight?

Will it be good Dylan or bad Dylan? Brilliant Dylan or atrocious Dylan? Over the past four decades I’ve seen them all. I’ve been listening to his music even longer.

The answer comes as the man himself appears in the spotlight and opens the show, as he has every night on this latest leg of his famed Never Ending Tour, with Things Have Changed, his Oscar winner number from the turn of the millennium.

Things certainly have changed as we will discover in an evening that mixes Dylan classics with his American songbook covers. His voice is stronger than it has been in years, his five piece band is superb and Bob himself seems almost chirpy. I say ‘almost’. He’s as idiosyncratic as ever, performing either from the piano which he plays rather badly or striking attitudes with the microphone stand from the back of the stage. He does an almost imperceptible jig here, a shuffle there and an occasional self-conscious hand on hip pose. He looks like a rather camp gunslinger but the music is amazing and his vocals are masterful.

The growl and yelp of yesteryear seem seriously under control. Songs from across the decades somehow gel in a manner that they have no right to. Duquesne Whistle, Stormy Weather and Tangled up in Blue sit happily side  by side. Highway 61 Revisited and Melancholy Mood do not seem strange partners at all. 

As for his recent elevation to Nobel Laureate for Literature? Four songs in and he’s already referenced everyone from Ovid and Percy Bysshe Shelley to Duane Eddy and God. He’s very well read, it’s well known.

Intriguingly Dylan’s 2012 album Tempest supplies no fewer than five songs. Great material but there is of course even greater material missing. It’s an argument that could go on for ever. You’ll never please everyone. 

For me the most telling moment came during the encores when before closing with a wonderfully faithful to the original Ballad of a Thin Man, Dylan performed a pleasing sounding but ultimately perplexing version of Blowin’ in the Wind which he delivered as a jaunty croon-along ditty.

Was he being ironic? Or is it just that things really have changed since he first wrote that song as a 21-year-old making an anguished plea to the world to stop killing and wars? 

I suspect that 75-year-old Bob Dylan now knows that his words may have earned him millions but they’ve sadly done little to bring peace to our increasingly unstable world. Blowin’ in the Wind is, at the end of the day,  just another song.

Jeremy Miles

Bona to varda their jolly old eeks

Round the Horne: 50th anniversary tour, Lighthouse, Pool

What never ceases to amaze and delight about Round the Horne is that half-a-century ago it not only got past the notoriously over-zealous BBC censors but became required Sunday lunchtime listening for families all over Britain.

Laden with gay innuendo and camp as could be, it was broadcast at a time when homosexual relationships between consenting men were not yet legal and being outed as ‘queer’ could destroy reputations and even lead to lengthy jail sentences. Yet at the height of its popularity (it ran for two years from 1965) an astonishing 15 million listeners tuned in. It managed to entertain middle England and its maiden aunts with barely a hint of controversy.

Of course Round the Horne was also marvellously funny and, though it made a mockery of the callous law against homosexuality that would eventually be repealed in 1967, it certainly wasn’t an exclusively gay programme. It worked because it was hosted by the ultimate straight man, Kenneth Horne, written by a brilliant team including Barry Took and Marty Feldman, and packed full of genuinely inventive comedy and marvellous characters.

This 50th anniversary stage production catches the flavour of that original radio show perfectly. Its main players – Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick and Betty Marsden – live once more courtesy of Colin Elmer, Alex Scott Fairley and Eve Winters. 

With Julian Howard McDowell as Kenneth Horne and Alan Booty as continuity presenter Douglas Smith the audience is treated to a re-run of a couple of classic shows as they are recorded at the BBC’s Paris Theatre in Regent’s Street. There’s even a sound-effects man, Miles Russell, to add appropriate noises, music and authenticity. 

It works a treat. All the familiar faces are there. Rambling Syd Rumpo, Daphne Whitethigh, Seamus Android, J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock, Dame Celia Molestrangler and Pinkie Huckaback, and of course Julian and Sandy. Great stuff and, to borrow their own polari phraseology, I have to say it was bona to varda their dolly old eeks again.

*Round the Horne plays Lighthouse at Poole again tonight (Saturday 18th February

Jeremy Miles

Meeting Modernism at the Russell-Cotes


1Philip Leslie Moffat Ward A Dorset Landscape or Near Warbarrow Bay Dorset 1930.jpg
A Dorset Landscape  by Leslie Moffat Ward (1930)  All images: Russell-Cotes Gallery & Museum

By Jeremy Miles

When Victorian art collector Sir Merton Russell-Cotes bequeathed his lavish cliff-top home, East Cliff Hall, and its huge collection of paintings and sculptures to the people of Bournemouth he created an intriguing problem. He was a fearfully hard act to follow. The collection that he and his wife Annie had spent decades acquiring was idiosyncratic and wide-ranging. Magnificent paintings shared wall space with those that were considered minor and mediocre, but somehow it all worked. It was a collection that reflected Sir Merton’s flamboyant style and generosity of spirit.

4ArthurBradburyPamela 1935.jpg
Arthur Bradbury’s 1935 painting Pamela

But it also highlighted the fact that he had been a man of his age, born into the era of Empire. By the time of his death in 1921 the contemporary art world had moved on. Post First World War sensibilities were open to radical change and though public taste, as ever, lagged a few years behind the artistic vanguard, eventually the inevitable happened and Victorian art fell seriously out of fashion.

However Bournemouth was sitting on what was effectively a priceless time-capsule and the Russell-Cotes Art  Gallery and Museum  collection is now recognised as one of the finest complete Victorian collections in the world. That it is housed in its original home is a major bonus. Unfortunately none of this helped answer the problem of how to add to and develop the collection. The answer is found in Meeting Modernism: 20th Century Art in the Russell-Cotes Collection which runs at the museum’s galleries until 24th April.

Continue reading “Meeting Modernism at the Russell-Cotes”

The death of the American dream

The Shining: The Chine Hotel, Boscombe. (Thurday 9th February, 2017).

Pioneering theatre director David Glass didn’t hesitate when he was offered the chance to use Boscombe’s Chine Hotel to stage a special production of The Shining.

“I immediately saw its potential,” he says. And no wonder. The Chine, which sits high above Boscombe Gardens, bears an uncanny resemblance to The Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1980 film version of Stephen King’s game-changer of a horror story. Like its fictional counterpart it is even closed for the winter.

 Thanks to Glass and an inspired team from the Arts University Bournemouth the next week finds audiences being led twice nightly around The Chine’s historic rooms as the murderous tale of winter caretaker Jack Torrence, haunted, twisted and gradually turned into a crazed axeman by demons from the past, unfolds.

I joined the audience for last night’s opening performance. It was an extraordinary and immersive experience with brilliant use of sound, light, multiple actors and a variety of in-house locations bringing the story of The Shining to graphic and satisfyingly unsettling life.

Excellent performances, courageous direction and the atmosphere of The Chine itself succeeded in doing the near-impossible by getting to the essence of King’s novel with a theatrical flashback to Kubrick’s movie. Carefully edited, the high-points of the film’s dialogue remain intact although some have been gently tweaked to enhance the tension and inject moments of dark humour.

Anyone who loved the movie with Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duval will be pleasantly surprised. And just in case you’re wondering whether Nicholson’s classic “Here’s Johnny” scene is re-enacted. Let’s just leave it with the fact that I  can’t say that doors weren’t harmed in the course of the production.

Of course The Shining offers much more than the gore at the core of the story. It is above all a sad comment on the death of the American dream torn to shreds by misogyny, racism and paranoia. Never in the 40 years of its existence has this tale been as relevant as it is today.  

*The Shining plays The Chine Hotel in Boscombe Spa Road, Bournemouth at 6.30pm and 9.00pm every night except Sunday (12th Feb)  until  Saturday 18th February.

Jeremy Miles

Revisiting the punk revolution 40 years on


Sex Pistols - London - 1977
Sex Pistols Oxford Street Glitterbest photosession – 1977 Photo: ©Adrian Boot

40 Years of Punk: Photographs by Adrian Boot 

 Proud Camden until 8th January 2017 


I have to confess that my memory of the events of 40 years ago is hazy but I can tell you with absolute certainty that something strange and wonderful happened. During the months that saw 1976 turn into 1977 punk rock arrived.

I was a 25-year-old writer and sometime music journalist and the effect seemed almost instant. My hair shortened, my trousers narrowed and my mind broadened. I was suddenly covering bands that were full of anger and energy and driven by a wonderfully unrefined commitment to change. Continue reading “Revisiting the punk revolution 40 years on”

McTell and Poole’s freezing winter 1962/63

Ralph McTell: Lighthouse, Poole.Tuesday (1st November 2016)

Celebrating 50 years on the road, acoustic folk giant Ralph McTell was in understandably nostalgic mood for this wonderful concert. For a start he was returning to Poole where he spent the freezing winter of 1962-63 living in a beatnik crash pad in a fish-crate store over a bookies shop in the High Street. There have been a few changes since then. “There’s so much more traffic,” he murmured in wonderment. “We’ve got colour television… we’ve been to the moon!” 

McTell has written a few songs too. Not least his greatest hit Streets of London which he slipped in as the penultimate number, with the audience singing along, in a set that had taken us on a remarkable journey through his life and career. With an inimitable deep velvety voice and a guitar style that is without equal, McTell delivers songs that are often deeply autobiographical. He’s a profoundly skilled songwriter and compelling storyteller. His opening numbers Walk Into The Morning and Nanna’s Song evoked memories of life as a young busker in Paris while Barges recalled days of innocent wonder and childhood games.

But there were observational songs too like Pepper and Tomatoes which he penned in response to the appalling ethnic cleansing that occurred as neighbour turned against neighbour in the former Yugoslavia.  There was Reverend Thunder which told the story of blues legend the Rev Gary Davis who, even though he was blind, carried a gun to deter thieves. Other prime influences on McTell included Woody Guthrie, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and of course Bob Dylan. We were treated to the result of their distant tutelage and a few spin-offs too. Here was a one-time simple South London folk singer who opened his ears to some wondrous sounds and soaked up everything that was going.  It was all there at the Poole concert – a  little bluesy ragtime here, the earnest words of a New York cowboy there and the occasional blast of a soul-warming Dylanesque harmonica. It was a joy. McTell says that as a songwriter and musician he’s still learning. At 71 he sounds at the top of his game, though one or two of the high notes he would have routinely included a few years back are now a challenge to his vocal abilities. It’s not a problem. His mastery of stagecraft and songmanship is a more than  adequate compensatory factor.

He encored with West 4th and Jones, a song inspired by the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, an album he recalled first seeing (and hearing)  when he was living in Poole, penniless but full of optimism for the future. He’s right of coures. There really have been a lot of changes in the ensuing decades. Who’da thought back then that radical vagabond folkie Dylan would become a Nobel Laureate? Now that we all know how well deserved that award is, it seems an obvious choice but back then it would  have been unthinkable. Ralph Mctell made a point of publicly adding his congratulations from the Lighhouse stage and it underlined the fact that then times really are a changin’.

Sadly one thing that has not changed in the past half century is the lack of empathy shown to the homeless, the poor and the mentally ill.  The pen-portraits that Ralph McTell used to describe the deseperate, lonely and vulnerable in Streets of London are as pertinent now as they were on the day that he wrote the song. 

Jeremy Miles 

Discovering the hidden secrets of a town that didn’t even exist until 200 years ago

Hotter staff and bloggers with Hattie (third right). Can you guess which one’s me?

Where can you find the grave of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley and the charred remains of the heart of her husband, the romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley?  What about the birthplace of the man who wrote the music for the nation’s favourite hymn Jerusalem?

The answer is Bournemouth which may sound surprising but these are just two ‘hidden secrets’ from a town that most people regard as little more than a popular seaside resort. Appearances, and reputations, can be deceptive though. For a place that didn’t even exist until 200 years ago Bournemouth is home to an astonishing number of fascinating historical facts.

To prove the point photographer, social historian and walking guide Hattie Miles (who also happens to be my wife) has teamed up with Hotter Shoes to present a self-guided walk that reveals the town’s often hidden histories. Starting from the Hotter shop in Old Christchurch Road, the walk covers just a small area of the centre of town, takes around an hour but is extraordinarily rich in amazing stories from the recent and distant past._mg_5471

This week I joined a select group of bloggers to road-test the walk with Hattie reading from the script that normally provides the phone or tablet text for self-guided walkers. It was a real eye-opener shining a light on the history and heritage of this popular tourist destination.

The fact is  that Bournemouth probably wouldn’t even have existed had it not been for a romantic gesture by well-to-do army captain Lewis Tregonwell. He built the town’s first house in 1812  because his wife, grieving over the death of their child, loved the location by the sea.

Until then Bournemouth had been an area of largely untamed heathland on the road between the ancient borough’s of Christchurch and Poole. Tregonwell saw its potential and bought 8.5 acres of land in what is now the centre of town. He paid the princely sum of £179.11 shillings. Initially development was slow but the arrival of the railway and Bournemouth’s growing reputation as a health spa soon led to rapid expansion.

Look up and there examples of changing times everywhere

Look above the shops to upper storey level and the evidence of past times and passing events from war-time bombings to multiple changes of use are plain to see. We found the smallest shop in town occupied by a man who has effectively run a thriving business from a cupboard under the stairs for the past 40 years. We discovered a stained glass window in the back of a clothes shop and the hidden mansion built as a home for the original Mr W.H.Smith. There was also a poignant moment for me as we took in the full art-deco grandeur of the purpose-built 1930s newspaper headquarters of the Bournemouth Echo. I worked there for more than 20 years and have many happy memories of news stories, features, good friends and great characters. It looks a little careworn these days but is still the paper’s headquarters. In its hey-day the building teemed with people – reporters, photographers, sub-editors, printers, plate-makers, advertising staff. Forty years ago its editorial staff included ITN’s Mark Austin, TV and radio presenter Anne Diamond and a young American sub-editor called Bill Bryson whose breakthrough book Notes From A Small Island would contain quite a lengthy description of life in Bournemouth and his memories of the Echo.  Times change and the newspaper office is a lot quieter now but the history remains.

The Bournemouth Echo’s classic 1930s art-deco offices

Hattie knows her stuff. For 24 years she also worked on the Echo as a photographer. It’s the kind of job that gives you a front-seat view of historic changes as they happen. She’s put her knowledge to good use and for the past two years has run the town’s popular guided ‘walkingtalks’ tours. The Hotter shoes connection started a long time ago when she began wearing them for her photographic work. Comfortable and practical footwear is an essential part of the photographers kit, particularly when the job often requires you to be on your feet all day. Hattie found that Hotter shoes were not only comfortable, but supported her feet well. No surprise then that she still wears them for her guided walks.

We bloggers were also kitted out with Hotter shoes and, I promise this is not merely PR guff, I really liked mine.To be honest I had never considered wearing Hotter shoes before. I suppose I thought they just did slippers and comfy shoes for old folk with corns and bunions. What did I know? Things have moved on apace in recent years. They now not only do comfort but very stylish designs too. My Hotter walking shoes – named, rather alarmingly I felt, Thor, after the hammer-wielding Norse God of thunder and lightning – are light, strong, very comfortable, waterproofed with Gore-Tex and not only feel great but look good too. I can hardly believe I’m saying this. I sound like an advert but it’s absolutely true.

A stained-glass gem at the back of a  shop

I am reminded of a sketch that the comedian Jasper Carrot used to do 25 odd years ago based on the observation that, on reaching a certain age, the average British bloke would be walking past a branch of Dunn & Co, the long-gone gentlemen’s outfitter that used to specialise in dull, sensible clothing, and find himself thinking: ‘You know what? That beige car-coat is really rather nice.’

Is my new found love of Hotter just a 2016 version of the Dunn & Co car-coat syndrome? I’ve looked very carefully and have worn my Thor shoes a number of times over the past week and I am certain they really are as good as I think.

Curiously our Bournemouth walk took us past the shop that 25 years ago was the Bournemouth branch of Dunn & Co. It’s now a flagship store for High Street cosmetics giant Lush, a company which was started locally by Mark and Mo Constantine.

They still live in nearby Poole, still own the business and have done rather well for themselves. Indeed they were listed  in last year’s  Sunday Times Rich List as the 28th richest husband-and-wife team in Britain, worth £205 million. There you go. Another fascinating fact.

You can find  Hattie’s circular self-guided walk from Hotter shoes in Bournemouth at

Meanwhile there is plenty more information about her guided walkingtalks at

Jim Morrison idolised Jack Kerouac but it seems Kerouac’s mum was not impressed

Jim Morrison’s grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris in 1982. Photograph: Hattie Miles

Turn the clock back 34 years and you’ll find me standing in front of Jim Morrison’s grave in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. I didn’t need a map to find it. I just followed the graffiti. Arrows with the word ‘Jim’ chalked on trees and monuments marked the way to the final resting place of the American rock star they called The Lizard King.  As I drew close the graffiti became more dominant and the air was filled with the smell of marijuana.

Continue reading “Jim Morrison idolised Jack Kerouac but it seems Kerouac’s mum was not impressed”

Remembering the tragedy of the Somme

At dawn on this day, 1st July, exactly 100 years ago the sound of a single whistle blasted the air of a beautiful river valley in Northern France. It signalled the start of the one of the deadliest and bloodiest engagements in the history of warfare – the Battle of the Somme.

 As British soldiers and their allies climbed from their trenches to launch their attack on the German line they were cut to shreds by a fearful barrage of machine gun fire. 

This was not supposed to happen. The allied command believed that days of bombardment had destroyed the enemy’s ability to put up effective opposition. They were wrong  and they certainly hadn’t reckoned on heavy duty machine guns able to fire 500 rounds a minute. In their anger they threw everything they had at the German line. Unfortunately what they had was 120,000 human beings.

By the end of that first day there were nearly 60,000 casualties and a death toll nudging 20,000. That was just the beginning. The battle continued to rage for 140 days leaving a million men dead or wounded and the world a sadder, less innocent place.

 This morning at 7.30am at a small gathering around Bournemouth War Memorial  a whistle – one manufactured for the Army in 1916 – sounded again to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of that terrible battle. 

Wreaths were laid, prayers were said, tributes were paid, there was a minutes silence and everyone – old soldiers, councillors and towns people – hoped and dreamed that one day we may all live in peace. The Mayor’s Chaplain Father John Lavers read out the names of the 12 Bournemouth men who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. 

Like so many of their comrades they were young, many were volunteers, ordinary working men who must have wondered what kind of hell they had entered.

The only good thing about their brutal deaths was that they didn’t have to witness such unspeakable violence any more.

I couldn’t help noticing that two of these tragic souls were neighbours. While 34-year-old Sergeant George Frederick Ivamy lived at 3 Cardigan Road, 23-year-old Private Albert Osborne lived just a couple of dozen houses away at number 51. 

Killed on the same day, these young men would become  neighbours again when both their names were among the 72,246 inscribed on Sir Edwin Lutchyens towering Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

How ironic that they lived in street named after the Earl of Cardigan, the officer who in the Crimean War recklessly led dozens of his men to their deaths during the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Here are the 12 men from Bournemouth who died in the first day of battle

• Lance Corporal Edward James Barnes, aged 22
159 Alma Road, Bournemouth
Hampshire Regiment
Bertrancourt Military Cemetery 

• Private Frederick Goodwin
(Born in Bournemouth)
Royal Berkshire Regiment
Ribemont Communal Cemetery Extension

• Private Frederick John Fish, aged 21
1 Josephine Villas, Branksome
Hampshire Regiment
Thiepval Memorial 

• 2nd Lieutenant Alfred Edward Flaxman, aged 36
Grand Avenue, Bournemouth
South Staffordshire Regiment

Thiepval Memorial 

• Sergeant George Frederick Ivamy, aged 34
3 Cardigan Road, Bournemouth
Worcestershire Regiment
Thiepval Memoria

• 2nd Lieutenant Eric Maitland Jellicoe, aged 20
St John’s Road, Bournemouth
Sherwood Foresters
Foncquevillers Military Cemetery

• Sergeant Leonard Frederick King, aged 21
Queen’s Westminster Rifles
Thiepval Memorial#

• Private Albert Osborne, aged 23
51 Cardigan Road, Bournemouth
Dorset Regiment
Thiepval Memoria

• Private Edward Walter Ragless, aged 24
49 Wolverton Road
Hampshire Regiment
Thiepval Memorial

• Private Ernest Edward Tanswell, aged 20
157 Windham Road, Bournemouth
Dorset Regiment

• Thiepval Memorial

• 2nd Lieutenant Lawrence Arthur Westmore, aged 22
West Cliff, Bournemouth
Hampshire Regiment
Sucrerie Military Cemetery

• Lance Corporal Victor Frank Wills, aged 18
16 Madison Avenue
Yorks & Lancs Regiment
Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille Wood

Addressing those gathered, Rod Arnold – chairman of the Wessex branch of the Western Front Association – described the first day of the Battle of the Somme as “one of the most tragic moments in our nation’s history.”

Mr Arnold said: “One hundred years ago today, 120,000 soldiers from the British Isles and Newfoundland were waiting to advance alongside their French allies against the German Army in the valley of the River Somme.

“Suddenly the British artillery bombardment of the German positions which had been going on for several days ceased. An uncanny silence fell over the battlefield.

“By the end of the day the British Army had suffered more than 57,000 casualties – over 19,000 of them were dead.”

The Battle of the Somme would carry on for a further 140 days. By the end of the campaign in November 1916 around one million men had been killed, wounded or were missing.

The silence came after a night-long vigil led in Britain by the Queen and at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, which towers over the rolling Picardy fields where so many fell.

Senior royals including the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, will join Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande and other leaders at the memorial later for a service of remembrance in front of an audience of 10,000.

In London, people lined Parliament Square to pay tribute, where the two-minute reflection was marked with the sound of gunfire.

People huddled under trees and umbrellas paused from their commutes to stand quietly.

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery were present, having been at Thiepval on Thursday night.

The soldiers manned three sets of guns, drawn into place by horses, and fired every four seconds for 100 seconds to mark the silence.

Superlungs: gig of a lifetime runs out of puff

Terry Reid.jpgTerry Reid, The Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne.

Terry Reid has never been lucky. He was first choice as vocalist for Led Zeppelin but, busy on tour, helpfully suggested they might like to check out a chap called Robert Plant instead. Extraordinarily the same thing happened when they wanted him to front Deep Purple. Reid was out on the road and it was Ian Gillan who got the call. Continue reading “Superlungs: gig of a lifetime runs out of puff”

Barry and the curse of the Pier Theatre

Screenshot 2016-05-03 at 03.19.54 pm

By Jeremy Miles

I was saddened by the recent death of Barry Howard. I will remember him as a lovely man with a sparkle in his eye, a waspish wit and a talent that belied the glib ‘Hi-de-Hi actor’ label that accompanied almost all of his obituaries.

Not, I hasten to add, that there is anything wrong with being associated with the classic David Croft/Jimmy Perry sit-com. It’s just that Barry’s career encompassed a whole lot more than the character of Maplins Holiday Camp’s resident washed-up ballroom dancer Barry Stuart-Hargreaves. Though he was extremely grateful to have played the role of the supercilious dance instructor through seven series of a prime time TV show, he felt a little trapped by it in later years.

Continue reading “Barry and the curse of the Pier Theatre”

Did Robert Louis Stevenson’s horror classic emerge from a drug-induced nightmare?

Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson

The fevered imagination of author and poet Robert Louis Stevenson shocked and thrilled late Victorian Society. His Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – said to have been written during a six day cocaine binge – appalled and excited readers in equal measure.

For nearly 130 years this psychological thriller – originally published as a novella in 1886 – has been revisited again and again on stage, screen and the written page. For decades there have been Hollywood movies, theatre productions, TV and radio plays and regular documentaries examining the Jekyll and Hyde phenomenon.

Continue reading “Did Robert Louis Stevenson’s horror classic emerge from a drug-induced nightmare?”

Revisiting the genius of Hepworth creating thrilling new sculpture for a Modern World

Barbara Hepworth Curved Form (Delphi) 1955 Sculpture Guarea wood, part painted, with strings. © The Hepworth Estate. Pictures courtesy of Tate Britain.

Tate Britain’s magnificent Barbara Hepworth retrospective Sculpture for a Modern World ends this weekend. If you haven’t seen it, drop everything and make a beeline for Milbank. You won’t regret it.

Not only does this show explore and celebrate Hepworth’s extraordinarily powerful work but also her position as one of Britain’s greatest artists. A leading figure of the international modern art movement of the 1930s, Hepworth would become recognised internationally as one of the most successful sculptors in the world during the 1950s and 1960s.

Continue reading “Revisiting the genius of Hepworth creating thrilling new sculpture for a Modern World”

From underwater naturist films to lighting the way for the tripsters and hipsters

Edward Craven Walker pioneering maker of underwater naturist films and  inventor of the lava lamp

With its gloopy, trippy, luminous light, the gently bubbling Astro lava lamp will forever be associated with the turn-on, tune-in, drop-out generation of the 1960s. Organiser of the famed Woodstock Festival, Wavy Gravy, was an early enthusiast declaring it “Amazing!” before adding with breathless enthusiasm that: “It causes the synapses in your brain to loosen up.”

Continue reading “From underwater naturist films to lighting the way for the tripsters and hipsters”

Alphonse Mucha the art nouveau master who inspired 1960’s pyschedelic poster art

L 137 Gismonda
Mucha’s poster for Sarah Bernhardt’s Gismonda

It was 120 years ago that the talented but relatively unknown young artist Alphonse Mucha was catapulted to international fame after a chance encounter in a Paris print shop found him designing a poster for superstar actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Such was the power of his work publicising her new play Gismonda that the public clamoured for copies. As soon as the image appeared on the streets of the French capital on New year’s day 1895 people were cutting them from hoardings and bribing bill-posters to hand them over. Bernhardt, at the height of her fame, immediately signed Mucha to a six year contract.

Continue reading “Alphonse Mucha the art nouveau master who inspired 1960’s pyschedelic poster art”

Bidding a sad farewell to Joy Beverley

The Beverley Sisters with Joy (centre), Babs (left) and Teddie (right). Their classic line-up.
The Beverley Sisters with Joy (centre), Babs (left) and Teddie (right). Their classic line-up.

I was saddened to hear of the death of Joy Beverley. She may have been 91-years-old and she certainly enjoyed a proverbial “good innings” but I suspect she would have liked to have hung on for a while more. I speak as someone who until a few short years ago used to often spend happy afternoons chatting to the Beverley Sisters. That stopped you in your tracks didn’t it! I’ll explain. During my years as arts and entertainments editor on the Daily Echo in Bournemouth I had occasion to interview Joy and her sisters, the twins Babs and Teddie, a number of  times.

Continue reading “Bidding a sad farewell to Joy Beverley”

Mona Lisa and mad snappers

photograph by Hattie Miles ... August.2015 ... Paris ... (not) looking at the Mona Lisa
Tourists at the Louvre in Paris (not) looking at the Mona Lisa. Photograph by Hattie Miles, August 2015

A never-ending tide of humanity in t-shirts, trainers and cagouls surges ever onwards, sweeping up the grand steps of The Louvre – the one-time Parisian Royal Palace that is now one of the largest and most famous art museums in the world. These tourists –  just a few thousand of the 10 million people who visit here each year – are heading for the first floor of the Denon wing, home to an exquisite collection of French and Italian paintings. They are intent on finding La Gioconda, Leonardo da Vinci’s early 16th century masterpiece universally known as the Mona Lisa. It’s not difficult. It’s sign-posted every few metres.

Mona Lisa smiles for the cameras
Mona Lisa smiles for the cameras

As they draw close they prime their phones, iPads and cameras as a team of security guards usher them into a cordoned-off, makeshift pen. Finally in front of the relatively diminutive painting – a portrait in oils on wood-panel measuring just 30 by 21 inches and protected by bullet-proof glass – they strain to get a clear enough sight-line. Many turn their backs on this painting that once hung in Napoleon’s bed chamber to take selfies of themselves, grinning faces with the enigmatic Mona Lisa playing second fiddle  in the distant background. Few appear to have any opinion about the painting. They simply have to have it on their hand-held device before returning home. They don’t really look at the Mona Lisa at all, just view the image on the screen of their phone. They don’t discuss it either or even consider buying a postcard. Continue reading “Mona Lisa and mad snappers”

The strange case of Victor Noir the unlikely martyr who became a sex symbol

Words: Jeremy Miles        Photographs: Hattie Miles

What a bohemian life we lead!  I’m in Paris leaning on a grave in the Père Lachaise cemetery chuckling as my wife photographs a man’s erection. Right! Now I have your attention let me explain. The man in question is in effigy form.

It is the bronze memorial to 19th century journalist Victor Noir, the pen-name of hapless hack Yvan Salmon, who was  gunned down in his prime in 1870 and, for reasons lost in the mists of time, commemorated with a statue that features him in a state of perpetual sexual arousal. Continue reading “The strange case of Victor Noir the unlikely martyr who became a sex symbol”

Remembering George Cole all at sea away from the Arthur Daley car-lot. He wasn’t acting either

So farewell to actor George Cole who has died aged 90. In a career that spanned more than 60 years he played the wily spiv Flash Harry in the St Trinians films and appeared with everyone from Olivier to Burton and Taylor before becoming known to a generation of Tv viewers as dodgy car dealer Arthur Daley in Minder. I met Cole a couple of times in his later years. Read about our encounters here. 

George Cole as Arthur Daley turning a little green while criossing the Channel in a force nine gale
George Cole as Arthur Daley turning a little green while crossing the Channel in a force nine gale. Picture: Hattie Miles

By Jeremy Miles

TURN the clock back 30 years and I’m in the middle of the English Channel , standing unsteadily on the bridge of a ferry, and clinging on for dear life as the ship pitches and tosses through heavy seas.

My eyes settle on Arthur Daley, one hand on the navigation console, the other clasped to the side of his head: “Oh my good Gawd,” he says, before letting out a moan that sounds not quite human. Inspector Chisholm and Terry McCann look on wanly.

No, not a bizarre dream, but real memories of being despatched to write a feature on the filming of the classic Christmas TV special Minder on the Orient Express. It had all seemed like a great idea, until we realised that we were expected to cross the Channel in a force nine gale. Continue reading “Remembering George Cole all at sea away from the Arthur Daley car-lot. He wasn’t acting either”

Bringing it all back home: Ann Sidney half a century after winning Miss World

Miss World 1964, Ann Sidney, photographed at the Haven Hotel, Sandbanks, Poole ... 21.11.2014 ... photograph by Hattie Miles
Miss World 1964: Ann Sidney photographed in November 2014 at Sandbanks in Poole by Hattie Miles exactly 50 years after she won the title that changed her life.

Ann Sidney swings her 4×4 into the car park at the Haven Hotel in Poole and leaps out shouting: “I’m so sorry I’m late!” Crikey! We’ve been here all of three minutes and she’s missed our agreed 2pm rendezvous by maybe 45 seconds. Not only does Ann look astonishing for a woman who turned 70 several months ago but half-a-century after she walked off with the Miss World crown she is as vital and energised as ever.

Enthusing about being back in Poole – the town in which she grew up – she apologises for wearing a hoodie, t-shirt and sports trousers . “Travelling clothes!” she explains. Never mind, she looks absolutely great but she also wants to be photographed in the flash dress she’s carrying on a hanger. Old habits die hard.

Continue reading “Bringing it all back home: Ann Sidney half a century after winning Miss World”

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