What links a voice coach, Frankenstein, a dead poet and Bournemouth summer rep?

Vernon Thompson 3
Vernon Thompson at the Shelley Theatre in Bournemouth. Photograph by Hattie Miles

Listening to the steady, well-modulated tones of actor and director Vernon Thompson it’s hard to imagine that he’s ever had a problem with his voice.

Yet Vernon, the creative talent behind the  summer repertory theatre season at Bournemouth’s Shelley Theatre, grew up with a significant stammer. It was so  bad that he spent the first five years of his life receiving speech therapy from a Harley Street specialist. And now he divides his time between producing and directing plays and working as a professional voice coach.  Continue reading “What links a voice coach, Frankenstein, a dead poet and Bournemouth summer rep?”

Remembering the fascinating and illustrious roots of Folkestone’s annual autumn book-fest

Benjamin Zephania.jpg
Benjamin Zephaniah at Kent Literature Festival in 1984. Photo by Hattie Miles

Meet a young Benjamin Zephaniah. The year is 1984.  I had just interviewed the then still relatively unknown Rastafarian dub poet and Hattie took this photograph. We had talked about the scourge of heroin and the drug casualties that appeared to be reaching epidemic proportions on the streets of Britain. Little did we know… 

Zephaniah was just one of the fascinating and talented writers, performers and musicians taking part in that year’s Kent Literature Festival. This wonderful event, run by my old friend the poet John Rice, had been held annually since 1981 (or maybe it was 1980) and was really hitting its stride. Based in my hometown of Folkestone it offered a feast of literature with famous authors and performers rubbing shoulders with emerging talents and  newcomers.  Continue reading “Remembering the fascinating and illustrious roots of Folkestone’s annual autumn book-fest”

From leap to freedom to dance of death – tragic final days of ballet star Nureyev

image.pngA fascinating new documentary about the extraordinary life and mercurial career of Russian ballet sensation Rudolf Nureyev arrived in British cinemas this week. Called simply Nureyev it tells a story so astonishing that it is hard to credit that it really happened. It traces one of the creative legends of the 20th century. A dancer of such amazing talent that despite an impoverished background he kicked down barriers and enriched and changed the world of classical ballet forever.

Rudolf Nureyev was born on a train on the Trans-Siberian railway in 1938. He came from a poor family but discovered a love of ballet as a child. His father was horrified and tried to beat the passion for dance out of his young son. This brutality simply made a defiant Rudolf even more determined to fight for a place at ballet school. His brilliance, power and grace soon shone and by his early twenties he was a star of the famed Kirov Ballet.

Continue reading “From leap to freedom to dance of death – tragic final days of ballet star Nureyev”

Buy my lamps you won’t need drugs – a compelling and effective marketing slogan

1. Edward Craven Walker and his Astro Lava Lamp.jpg
Craven Walker: daredevil, pioneering naturist and inventor of the lava lamp

I am intrigued to see that Mathmos, the Poole based company that, back in 1963, launched that soon to become indispensable hippy accessory the lava lamp are celebrating the centenary of their founder Craven Walker.

Craven – his full name was Edward Craven Walker – was in some ways an unlikely inventor of the lamp that fascinated the counter-culture.

A former RAF pilot with a passion for fast cars, speed boats and helicopters, he was also a pioneering nudist who made a number naturist films that avoided the censor by being shot underwater. Continue reading “Buy my lamps you won’t need drugs – a compelling and effective marketing slogan”

Tony Hancock – the comic genius who could not be saved from his demons

Fifty years ago this week one of Britain’s greatest comedians, Tony Hancock, committed suicide. Lonely and depressed, he ended his life with an overdose of drink and drugs in a rented flat in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia. He was just 44-years-old.  It was a tragic and lonely end, thousands of miles from home, for a man who just a handful of years earlier had been a huge TV and radio star, a household name loved by millions. Continue reading “Tony Hancock – the comic genius who could not be saved from his demons”

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”

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

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”

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

walkchosen3
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.

beales
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.

screenshot
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.

_mg_5456
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 www.hotter.com/blog/walk-with-hotter-and-discover-bournemouth/

Meanwhile there is plenty more information about her guided walkingtalks at  walkingtalks.wordpress.com

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.

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?”

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

mathmos_astro_lava_lamp_with_inventor
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”

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”

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”

How mile-a-minute Harry lost £60 million on gambling, fast women and bad business deals

Devotees of the ongoing ITV drama series Mr Selfridge will know that things are fast spiralling out of control for the American retail entrepreneur. As the final episode of season three hits our screens tonight, they might be interested to know the real Harry Gordon Selfridge was even more reckless than the TV version portrayed by Jeremy Piven.

Continue reading “How mile-a-minute Harry lost £60 million on gambling, fast women and bad business deals”

Life in the old bag yet! That’s the one hanging from Hattie’s shoulder I hasten to add.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The old Billingham 225 (and Hattie) in action in Vietnam a dozen years ago.

An old diary tells me that 30 years ago today, on 1st of February 1985, Hattie and I acquired a Billingham 225 camera bag. Until its straps started falling apart five years ago it would accompany us on a bizarre variety of writing and photography assignments for the next quarter-of-a-century.

It’s first outing was to a factory making bullet-proof cars in Bristol. It then travelled with us all over the world to Australia, the USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Israel, Greece, Turkey, the Czech Republic and most of western Europe.

Continue reading “Life in the old bag yet! That’s the one hanging from Hattie’s shoulder I hasten to add.”

The class of 64 and the Folkestone Triennial

IMG_0185 - Version 2

A  few days ago my wife Hattie and I found ourselves staying in a seaside hotel as guests of a girls school reunion. The ‘girls’ in question were former pupils of the near legendary St Margaret’s School in my home town of Folkestone. The class of ’64 celebrating the fact that it is 50 years since they were first turned loose on the world.

Continue reading “The class of 64 and the Folkestone Triennial”

Zoot Money, tales of a mayor in tights and a death hoax – just another Sunday afternoon

Zoot14
Zoot Money and Bournemouth Mayor Chris Mayne exchange memories of their 1950s schooldays. Photographs by Hattie Miles.

So there we were, a couple of hundred musicians, artists, writers, photographers and old blues and R&B fans crowded onto a Bournemouth town centre pavement outside an unremarkable row of shops, bars and restaurants. Those in the know were staring nostalgically at a nondescript door sandwiched between an Italian coffee shop and a Polish Delicatessen. For beyond that door, at number 9 Holdenhurst Road, lies a flight of stairs leading down to a dingy cellar where, 53 years ago on 3rd  May, 1961, the town’s first full-time jazz, rock and blues club was born.

Continue reading “Zoot Money, tales of a mayor in tights and a death hoax – just another Sunday afternoon”

How Joan Rivers almost achieved her ambition to die on stage

Outrageous, outspoken and razor-sharp, American comedian Joan Rivers, who died at the age of 81 yesterday, thrilled and offended in equal measure.

Continue reading “How Joan Rivers almost achieved her ambition to die on stage”

If you paid as much attention to your homework….

Simon and wife Lolly Gallup with his Emmy in Los Angeles last night.
Simon and wife Lolly Gallup with his Emmy in Los Angeles last night.

Continue reading “If you paid as much attention to your homework….”

Kenneth Clark patron and champion of the artist

 

Kenneth Clark - Looking for civilisation
Kenneth Clark – Looking for civilisation

I really enjoyed Tate Britain’s recent examination of the enormous influence exerted on the 20th century’s understanding of art history by one man – curator, collector and museum director Kenneth Clark.

The exhibition explored Clark through the works of art that he loved. Called simply Kenneth Clark: Looking For Civilisation – a reference to his groundbreaking 1960s TV series – it showed him to be a man at one with works ranging from medieval manuscripts, old masters and Greco-Roman sculptures to contemporary artists.

Continue reading “Kenneth Clark patron and champion of the artist”

Avoiding the dark side or why I hate churnalism

Jonathan Miller: Photograph by Hattie Miles
Jonathan Miller: Photograph by Hattie Miles

As yet another ludicrous press release – a gushing piece of mindless spin – drops into my in-box I find myself yet again lamenting the way in which journalists are routinely taken for fools who can be manipulated for political or commercial ends. Of course as the media in general and the regional print press in particular is gradually reduced to a shadow of its former self by cost-cutting proprietors more interested in driving up profits than championing fair and balanced reporting, it is increasingly open-season for public relations departments. Continue reading “Avoiding the dark side or why I hate churnalism”

BBC killjoys try to clamp down on smutty jokes

Tim Brooke-Taylor.     Photograph by Hattie Miles
Tim Brooke-Taylor. Photograph by Hattie Miles

It was good to hear Tim Brooke-Taylor ridiculing the “pathetic” BBC  killjoys who reportedly told I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue chairman Jack Dee to tone-down the BBC Radio 4 show’s famously innuendo-laden jokes.

In a recent interview with that well-know purveyor of scandal and gossip, Cotswold Life magazine, Tim revealed that the BBC had suffered a sense of humour failure after a listener complained about the smutty jokes made at the expense of the show’s fictional score-keeper  and record researcher Samantha. As a result Jack Dee had threatened to quit. Cue a flurry of national newspaper stories.

Cotswold Life, name-checked in every article, must be delighted. You can’t buy that sort of publicity. Tim Brooke-Taylor meanwhile will be shaking his head in bemusement. Me too. With my publicists hat on I set that particular interview up.  It seemed about as mundane as possible. Tim would give the magazine a half hour or so interview in advance of his appearance in his An Audience With Tim Brooke-Taylor stage show at the Stratford Upon Avon Literary Festival. Continue reading “BBC killjoys try to clamp down on smutty jokes”

%d bloggers like this: