30 January 2010

la Bande Dessine

L'édition 2010 de l'exposition de la Maison des Auteurs ambitionne de montrer plus particulièrement au public les méthodes et secrets de fabrication de créateurs venus de Corée du Sud, d'Inde, du Québec, d'Espagne, d'Italie mais aussi des quatre coins de France. Crayonnés, croquis, découpage, story-board... de la feuille de papier à la palette graphique, les résidents de la Maison des Auteurs, qu'ils soient illustrateurs, auteurs de bande dessinée ou réalisateurs de films d'animation, explorent tous les outils, convoquent toutes les techniques. Une visite instructive et étonnante pour découvrir comment la jeune création graphique internationale travaille, du premier coup de crayon au résultat final.

Auteurs exposés : Marine Blandin, Lorenzo Chiavini, Rachel Deville, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Catherine Ferrier, Elena Forcato, Nicolas Gazeau, Thomas Gosselin, François Henninger, Alexeï Kispredilov, Jung-Hyoun Lee, Lola Lorente, Andréas Marchal, Alban Marilleau, Sylvie-Anne Menard, Eva Montanari, Freddy Nadolny Poustochkine, Ninie (Virginie Perrot), Yoon-Sun Park, Amruta Patil, Valentina Principe, Aude Samama, Anaël Seghezzi, Clara Tanit, Alfonso Zapico.

The Festival International de la Bande Dessine takes place in Angouleme at the end of January, usually spread over 4 days. The TGV runs from Paris to Angouleme, so this makes it very accessible. The first one was in 1974. The last one we went to was very impressive. We queued in the cold alongside dozens of attractive, vibrant looking people. Once inside, we watched the cartoonists work at speed, alongside those dozens of vibrant, exciting people. My memory is that all the cartoonists were men. They all smoked and they all drew with their left hand.
We would have gone again this year if we weren’t having this hiccup with cars and (as it turns out) 7 broken bones between us. Not to mention that today is the main day of the Festival and it has been snowing most of the day and the temperatures have not risen about zero. We are much too snow-shaken and stirred to venture out in these conditions.
L’annee prochaine,j’espere.
Joselyn Morton

Rabbie Burns

One of my favourite winter suppers is a plate of steaming haggis accompanied with ‘champit tatties and bashed neeps’ washed down with a tumbler of whiskey.Yum-yum.
Last Monday evening, 25th January  I invited 14 neighbours and friends into my little Tottenham sitting room for such a supper, to celebrate a birthday.
The birthday guest wasn't actually there, though, as he died 214 years ago. He was of course, Robert Burns, Scotland's National Bard, whose birth on the 25th January is celebrated not only in Scotland , but all over the world, with traditional Burns Suppers.
Robert Burns is probably  best known as author of the most frequently sung song in the world,  Auld Lang Syne, a wonderful homage to friendship -  so I can confidently assume that anyone reading this knows at least one of Burn's works.
 Burns, often quoted as ‘the ploughman poet’ is also know for his great love of
a) women and b) whiskey.
All true, but there was more, much more to the man than those fleeting  pleasures and I'd like to give you some background to this remarkable man, whose birthday is still celebrated every year with a ’supper’.
Robert, Robbie or Rab, as he was known, was born in 1759 in an old clay cottage in Galloway, Ayr, the first of 7 children. It was a wild, wintry night, and a few days after his birth, the storm was so powerful  that it blew the cottage apart, and the unconscious baby Rab was carried to the shelter of a neighbour's house.
Many years later, he wrote a poem about the blast of "cauld January wind" that blew him into the world
Rantin Rovin Robin
He’ll  hae misfortunes great and sma'
But aye a heart above them a'
He'll be a credit tae us a'
We'll a' be proud o' Robin"
Tragically, Burns only lived for 37 years, but his achievements in that short time were immense. From a young age, he worked as a ploughman, a tenant farmer, dressing flax for the linen trade, and finally a tax collector - a job which he detested - and meant him travelling over 2000 miles a week on horseback to reluctantly  collect taxes.
Whilst working long hard hours in the day, most of what spare time he had was spent in writing poetry. He wrote over 2,000 poems and songs, many which still have relevance today.
Now as if all this activity didn't keep him busy enough, he also fathered 8 illegitimate children plus 9 children with his wife Jean Armour (two sets of twins before they married|) and had passionate affairs with many many women - most of whom achieved immortality in his poems:  Annie, Jeannie, Mary, Nancy. Nellie, Jessie, Clarinda ..  and the list goes on.
Burns wrote his first love poem at the age of 14, when, hormones raging, he fell for ‘young Nellie’ whilst they were harvesting in the fields. Interestingly, even at that age, he recognised that good looks in a lassie were not always quite enough :
Handsome Nell
A bonnie lass I will confess
Is pleasant to the e'e
But without some better qualities
She's no' the lass for me.
 Not bad for a 14 year old. The fields proved to be a popular courting ground for Burns:
Corn rigs and barley rigs
Corn rigs are bonnie
I'll never forget that happy night
Amongst the rigs wi' Annie.
Apparently every woman in Ayrshire claimed to be the Annie of that song. Rab could certainly attract the ladies, and in the forgotten and hard to come by collection The Bawdy Works of Burns  there is a very saucy poem (even includes the "c" word, which of course I won't quote here.)
Nine inch will please a lady
When you read the poem and I hope that you do, you soon grasp that Burns certainly isn’t referring to 9 inches as a  man's shoe size!
But wear fa' the laithron doup
And may it ne'er be thriving
It's not the length that makes me loup
But it’s the double driving.
(I asked Mary for a bit of translation here: ‘but wear fa’the laithron doup’ means tired from a lazy backside – actually Mary, I’m none the wiser! ‘loup’ means ‘leap with delight’. Ed)
But Burns' ways with women were not condoned in Presbyterian Scotland, and he spent many a Sunday on the Repentance Stool at the Kirk (the equivalent of Nanny's "Naughty Step") where the minister regaled him as a "a fornicator wha' will roast in Hell!"
One Sunday he was joined by Lizzie Paton, a servant girl who was pregnant with Burn's first illegitimate child. Rab was 26 and proudly took on some of the responsibility, as only he could, by writing some verse:
A Poet's Welcome to his Love-Begotten  Bairn
Welcome! My bonnie, sweet wee dochter
Tho' ye come her a wee bit unsought for…
I'll never rue my trouble wi' thee
The cost nor shame o't
But be a loving father to thee
And brag the name o' t
Burns wrote about so many forms of love - passionate love (who could resist these lines?)
My Love Is Like a Red, Red, Rose:
Till a' the seas run dry my dear
And the rocks melt wi' the sun
I will love thee still my dear
Till the sands o life shall run
His love of nature, lovers being parted, love which doesn’t go smoothly and love in old age - all were subjects to write about:
John Anderson my Jo John
John Anderson my Jo John
We climbed the hill thegither
And mony a canty day, Jo
We had wi' one another
Now we must totter doon Jo,
But hand in hand we'll go
We’ll sleep thegither at the foot -
John Anderson my Jo
Probably one of my favourite Burns poems.
Sadly, Burns himself  didn't experience love in old age because by his 36th birthday  he was seriously ill with rheumatic fever. Unable to work, he was reduced to writing begging letters to friends  for a few pounds to save him from the horrors of the debtor's jail…  "pale, emaciated, and so feeble as to need help from my chair, my spirit is fled"
In an attempt to treat Burn's fever, his doctor, John Maxwell, sent him off to bathe in the icy cold waters of the Solway Firth - the worst  so-called ‘cure’ possible. Burns returned to Dumfries, where his wife, heavily pregnant  had brought in a young nurse, Jessie Lewars, to look after him. Even in the throes of death, Burns was compelled to write, and completed his final  poem.
It was a poignant and moving  work, addressed to young Jessie
Oh Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast
Oh wert thou in the cauld blast, on yonder lea, on yonder lea
My plaidie to the angry airt
I'll shelter thee, I'll shelter thee"
Our Bard died on July 21st aged 37.
His funeral, 4 days later was attended by everyone in the town.  Except for one - his wife Jean. As Rab was being buried, Jean was giving birth to their last son, whom she  named Maxwell, after the doctor who, unwittingly, hastened Burns to his death. Maxwell died when he was three. And Jean?
She outlived all of her children and lived to a ripe old age 38 years after her beloved Rab had died. And so every year we celebrate this man for all moods, for all seasons, for all times and for all people.
I haven’t even touched on his poems about nature and his politics, his sense of fairness and equality for all.
His song:  A Man's A Man for A That was chosen as the song to  open  the Scottish Parliament  in Edinburgh in  1999, and  was also sung at the funeral of the first Scottish Minister, Donald Dewar, who died  only a year after Parliament's opening, 2000.
I will end my brief tribute to Robert Burns with an extract from that poem:
Then let  us pray that come what may
As come it will, for a' that
That sense and worth o'er a the earth
May bear the gree and a' that
For a' that and a'  that
It's coming yet for a' that
That man to man the world ower
Shall brothers be for a' that.
Mary Kalemkerian, BBC Head of Programmes, Radio 7

identite nationale

These days I only subscribe to one magazine and it is Telerama. This week’s cover ‘Nous sommes tous de mauvais Français’  is particularly contentious. I am in a quandary over the issue of whether or not Muslim women should be forbidden to wear the burqa in France.
I would hate to be made to cover up my body, my hair and most of my face – especially if the menfolk in my life did not have to do it. It would demonstrate much too clearly that they were indeed superior to me because of their gender (as opposed to their intelligence and their experience.) Curiously, as a teenager, I did not mind wearing school uniform. In fact it was a relief. I was late for school often enough – if I had had to plan what I was going to wear each day, that would have been too complicated and I would have missed the school bus even more times than I did. (Mind you, I probably stayed fit by running to school so often.)
I recently read that among the Tuareg of West Africa, women do not traditionally wear the veil, while men do. The men's facial covering originates from the belief that such action wards off evil spirits, but most probably relates to protection against the harsh desert sands as well; in any event, it is a firmly established tradition. Men begin wearing a veil at age 25 which conceals their entire face excluding their eyes. This veil is never removed, even in front of family members.
France says women wearing the burqa contradicts their dictum of Liberté, Egalité. I agree with that, it does. Nonetheless, I do not want an angry situation to blow up in France between Muslim and non-Muslim residents. Especially over something so frivolous as clothes. There are more important issues to worry about – finding work, having enough money to pay one’s winter fuel bills and to feed and warmly clothe one’s children.
I watched a Muslim woman who was wearing the burqa, being interviewed on French television. She said she was French and she objected to the burqa being banned in France. If she wasn’t allowed to wear it, she would go home to her own country...
Conversely, I have always been intrigued by the similarities between the compulsory clothes of Islamic women and those of Catholic nuns. My choice of clothing is weather-dependent (especially at the moment. I wear a veritable mountain of clothing) or dependent on the occasion eg if it is somebody’s wedding or birthday, I like to wear something special or a little glamorous. Why not, life’s so short. Besides which, I am lucky enough to live a life in which I am not bound by ‘rules for rules’ sake.’
However, I do not envy this present French government or future French governments, having to resolve this hot potato. I have a problem with 'identite nationale'. I was born in Edinburgh, so I have British nationality. Until I went to NZ, I had only ever met Scottish people. I was taught to hate English people at school in Scotland and I did. I had never met any. When I went to live in NZ and couldn't get a part in the school production of Macbeth, because nobody could understand my accent, I soon shucked off my Scottish accent. When Roger and I eventually went to live in London, we loved it so much we lived there for 20 years. Most of our close friends are English. We bought a house in France 29 years ago. We have lived here permanently for nearly 8 years. Even if we take out French citizenship, we will never be regarded as French French. 
I don't feel Scottish any more. I like London but I'm not English. I've been culturally trashed by NZ and so I'm a NZ cultural refugee. I have NZ citizenship and both my parents are buried in NZ, but I no longer feel like a NZer (I tried hard for a long time..)
So I have a problem with 'identite nationale'. I don't have one - but I feel connected with lots of people in lots of places.
I remember lying on a very beautiful beach north of Auckland, NZ and noticing a large group of burqa-clad people sitting on the sand nearby. The day was hot and I frequently went into the sea for a swim. I loved it. I love swimming and I love the sun and the sand. I didn’t envy those women nearby, clad in what looked like very hot, cumbersome clothing. None of them went for a swim. None of them looked at ease in their skin. Not that I could see any. Mais moi, je me sens bien dans ma peau.
Joselyn Morton

Richard French's iPod

Fish Food.
A man was eaten in Africa this week. Nothing unusual in that you might think. But this was in South Africa, a more or less civilised place in spite of its anointed President wallowing between the ample bosoms of no less than six wives.
Not only did this carnivorous event happen in a modern industrialised state but in the soft and gentle Mother City of  Cape Town with its Mediterranean climate and laid back LA attitudes. And it was a fish what did it. A 4 meter long Great White Shark to be precise. It’s usually a surfer that gets attacked here but this time it was different. Great Whites live and multiply in False Bay and feed voraciously on seals that share a similar breeding habitat. A man clad in a black neoprene wet suit, flippers and all, looks not unlike a seal. Can't blame the shark then. And anyway mankind kills about a million times more sharks per annum than vice-versa. All that Chinese shark-fin soup, don't you know. The problem with man-eating sharks, I am told, is that every proven theory tends to be disproven by the next behavioural flip. This time all that was found was a pair of swimming goggles. Last fatal attack four years ago, there was only a lady's red bathing cap. A lady-eating shark for a change. New theory - sharks don't like the taste of rubber. Must be OK to swim in a neoprene wet suit again then. Surfers get back in water and wait for the next wave and ... and ... don't go there. Fortunately this sharp end of Africa divides mighty oceans into two - on the right hand the great warm Indian Ocean hits temperatures in the middle to upper twenties - sharks being the cunning beasts they are like that a lot. On our side of Table Mountain - left looking North (everybody here wants a North facing house - Southern Hemisphere get it?) the icy South Atlantic wafts up from the Pole at a testicle shrinking fourteen degrees. Fewer swimmers but zero sharks. Thats another theory. Don't hold your breath. Me, I don't even put a toe in. Too damn cold anyway.
Now we are in the wine country, in Fransch Hoek where the only sharks are be of the human variety , feeding on tourist dollars, pounds, euros and yen. In the bad old days of South Africa before that nice Mr Mandela made it liveable again, all of 16 years ago now, it was a slovenly little dorp. All of the grapes were then gathered together by a mighty state-owned co-operative - the ultra right-wing Nationalist government had some pretty leftish ideas when it came to plundering the economy for personal gain. The fruit was then pulverised and made into some fairly awful wine which was sold off in bulk to any country that had a taste for apartheid-tainted goods.
No longer. This one-time crummy little town is the hottest act on the local stage. Wine farms that could be snapped up for nothing in the declining days of that nasty little shit President Botha change hands  for millions and millions of (again) dollars, euros, pounds and yen . Everything here is now pseudo-French . Fransch Hoek was where the early Huguenot Protestant settlers were shipped off to by the inflexibly minded Calvinist Dutch settlers. Racist, they were from an early age. Fransch Hoek - French Corner in kitchen Dutch, ok. So behind mile after mile of parallel rows of hand-clipped vines sleeping in the sun , all with a flowering white rose at the end of each row, lie long low farmhouses built in the weepingly beautiful Cape Dutch style. These bare names like La Provence, or Le Bastide or Le Petit Ferme or, or, or, ...
The Quartier Francaise here is judged by the sort of people who judge such matters as among the top 50 restaurants in the world. The wines are cutely labelled, of multi grape varieties (the Nationalists allowed only two - red and white), deliciously priced and taste even better. You get here by super highway from Cape Town which sweeps past the highly gussied up for the World Cup airport and through a mountain pass called Hells Hoogte. The Heights of Hell in English. It was so-named by those early leather faced and bearded settlers who escaped enlightened post-Dutch British rule and trekked with their fecund and bonneted Christian wives and crossed a great mountain range of granite and stone they called the Dragons Teeth.
They did this in covered wagons with great steel rimmed wheels hauled by spanned oxen and doubtless powered by the Grace of their God. No sharks inland , but lions, leopard, elephant buffalo and snakes aplenty. But not now. I am writing this in sight of a vineyard with tasting rooms, a glorious restaurant and view to die for. Its called Dieu Donne. Given by God I guess. And perhaps it is.
Text and photo by Richard French 

BBC Radio 7

This week three more BBC DAB transmitters came on air, in some beautiful parts of the UK, so it's good news for listeners in the following areas:
Cow Hill in the Scottish Highlands, providing a service to Fort William and adding 10,500 people to the network coverage.
Windermere in the Lake District, making it our second transmitter in the area, joining Keswick, and adding just over 10,000 people to the coverage.
St Austell in Cornwall, providing coverage to the town and surrounding bay between Mevagissey and Fowey, adding 25,000 people to the coverage area.
Please spread the word about Radio 7 if you've any friends or family living in these areas - so they're not missing out!
As from next Monday, there are changes in our presentation. Rather than hearing several "hello ... goodbyes" from presenters throughout the day, just one presenter will guide you through the programmes, apart from 7th Dimension and Comedy Club. As well as your ‘old favourites’, in the coming weeks you'll also hear some new voices on the network. Phil Williams, a popular presenter who hosts 5Live's Weekend Breakfast, will be bringing you Sunday night Comedy Club and also Comedy Club Catch-up (you can read about Phil on our website) And - here's a real treat for Doctor Who fans - welcome to Nick Briggs (voice of the Daleks and other Who monsters) to take over the 7th Dimension as from this Saturday.
Both of them are thrilled to be joining our team of presenters. This is what Nick Briggs said:
" I'm really excited to have joined the BBC Radio 7 team. I've long been a listener of the 7th Dimension as I'm an avid sci-fi fan What could be better - getting paid to talk about my favourite thing?
What indeed could be better, Nick?
Mary Kalemkerian, Head of Programmes BBC Radio 7
St Austell, Cornwall


Honeybait husband
He said, “I’m going to fill the petrol heater”.
I was in my dressing gown fresh from the shower.
I heard him shout my name
like a bull in pain.
I thought he’d set himself alight.
I ran out the front door
and there he was lying
at the bottom of the stone steps.
I rushed down to help.
My legs shot from under me.
Wham, my back hit a step.
Whallop, my tail bone whacked the
bottom stone. I felt the pain.
I thought
my back was broke.
I landed alongside him.
a grounded rocket.
Later he said he got the surprise of his life
to see my legs shoot past him at such a speed.
I had a second of hate
for my honeybait husband.
I was ready to slap
my honeytrap husband
Then we helped each other up
and eyed the icy steps
with disbelief.
My husband
had to yank
his treacherous slippers.
They were frozen to the spot.
We limped inside to try and get hot.
“How long before they lock us up?”
we thought.
© Joselyn Duffy Morton


It may not be a very original thought, perhaps, but it struck me dramatically earlier this evening just how significant an agent of social change facebook has become. Many would say that this is a change for the worse, and no doubt there are many aspects of the darker side of FB that I prefer not to think too much about. One of the many positive aspects of FB (and other social networks, I imagine), however, is the way in which it has enabled users to rekindle - and maintain - friendships that have faded over space and time and to maintain social connections of varying degrees of intimacy, regardless of geographical distance, with an immediacy that allows for the sharing of the most joyful - and the most painful - moments in a very real (albeit virtual) way. Learning within seconds that the son of an old friend had finally graduated after several failed attempts and to be able to contact her and "chat" in real time to share her joy and relief was a wonderful experience.  There are many such examples of significant emotional connections that would not normally have occurred without this ingenious 21st century phenomenon. And the connections are not only at an individual level. About a year ago I was sitting watching CNN in a hotel on the banks of the Loire in the early hours of the morning when the news of Barak Obama's election finally became a reality...In the moments that followed, FB friends across the world, like me, glued to their TV sets, rejoiced at the news... it was a wonderful moment of global connection with people I care about celebrating a shared hope for the future.
Chris Mougne  


Photo Roger Morton
This derelict front shop is just a few mètres from the large cathedral in Angouleme. Angouleme doesn’t appear to be as prosperous as nearby Perigueux except for this week when it hosts its annual bande dessine festival.

22 January 2010

Meatworks The Musical 'Toy Boy'


One of the good consequences of our car accident is that Roger’s chest hurt so much, he couldn’t do much. Fortified by the good wishes of family and friends who drummed into us how lucky we were to have escaped being the mushed-up centerpiece in a concrete centre barrier, we have tried to be positive.

Roger, therefore has been reviving our Musical, Meatworks with the intention of putting 15 minutes worth on Youtube. This has not been a simple operation. First there had to be a painful lapse of 10 years. (Yet even now, looking at the footage of our 14 cast members, we have to fight back the tears.) Next, Roger had to learn the process of transferring our old video tapes onto his computer. These tapes have lain in the attic in the scorching heat in the summer and the freezing cold in the winter. They were in the last box that we looked in (by which time we had convinced ourselves that they had gone missing.)

They are not in perfect condition, but they are usable. Just. They were never any great shakes. They were shot using my ‘casting’ video camera. There was no budget to hire proper gear – but it does give us a record of the show (which was performed in a 700-seater theatre in Auckland, NZ.)

Meatworks is about a NZ freezing works which is owned by the English Lord Zesty (Many NZ freezing works were actually owned by Lord Vesty). His son arrives to close down the Works and meets with great resistance from the locals. Animal Rights Activists take the opportunity to arrive in their bus-loads. This song Toy Boy is sung by Jan Hellreigel (who plays Fifi, the spokesperson for the meatworkers.) She sings it to Herb (one of the Animal Rights Activists.)

The sound on our tapes could not be used because of the shortcomings in the ‘capture’ method. Roger has had to use the sound engineer’s mix off a DAT recording. He is not happy with the synch but we have to live with it until we find out how to perfect it.

We have got a couple of muso friends coming over to our (cold) house tomorrow evening to watch the video and hopefully give us some feed-back. This is a brave move on our part as the defeat of Meatworks (lack of funding and support from the NZ Arts Bodies)

severely traumatized us… sending us on our present slippery and extremely precarious slope. If J & J don’t totally rubbish it, we will feel sufficiently empowered by that and by avoiding the ‘big tragedy in the snow’ ,to choose another 3 or 4 songs to put on Youtube.

The aim of this being to attract interest in the project and see if we can kick-start it into life.

The original Book and Lyrics of the Musical were conceived and written by me. I then approached musician Stephen Small who composed and wrote and arranged all the music. Award-winning Director Roger Morton directed and co-produced it with me. Our Executive Producer was Jan Hay. We had a large cast (including Iranian actor Ferooz Afshar who played Abdul the Halal butcher). Our two main leads were Jan Hellriegel and Willa O’Neill.

I’ve just dug out the programme in which I had written:

Meatworks is an energetic and vibrant rock musical. Set in the freezing works, it tells the story of a bunch of ordinary New Zealanders facing the closure of their Meatworks. Political compromises and other serious issues are married with moonlit romances, love on the chain, vegetarian activism and women masquerading as blokes.

Joselyn Morton

From Richard French's iPod

What's in name? I once worked with a Creative Director who was despatched to Sydney, Australia on a job. When he got there he was told "you'll love it here - it's just

like LA. He then flew on to the real Los Angeles and realised it was not

at all - LA was the real thing, Sydney a mere impostor. So it is with Cape Town. New developments are described as ‘world class’, a new restaurant as ‘a touch of Manhattan’, noble (but extremely local) writer Ryan Malan is promoted as ‘South Africa's Hunter S. Thomson’. In their dreams. Estate agents are at it as well. Then they would be, wouldn't they? The Atlantic seaboard where we hang out becomes the Cape Riviera, the gorgeous wine country ‘a touch of Provence’. In Llandudno, surely the most expensive real estate here, (they got that name a bit wrong then) a flashy steel and glass fuck-you palace is most curiously and ungramatically branded as "Le Attitude" - somehow does not look or feel quite right to anyone who has passed even a little time in the real La Belle. Don't ya luv it? As an aside. Two years ago there were 79,000 estate agents in South Africa. Today there are 36,000. Recession not entirely a bad thing I say. Here ‘international’ is not a catch-all phrase meaning ‘just like everywhere else’ but an indicator of style and modernity.Restaurants for example, proudly boast of International Cuisine and anywhere foreign is labelled by locals as ‘overseas’ They do a similar thing in Canada but they call it ‘away’. Colonial chic perhaps. I suppose all of this, more than slightly obvious attempt at agrandissement is a throwback caused by South Africa's emergence into the light after all those years of bleak apartheid isolation. But wait, it's not all bad. In the early Mandela years there was a cinema in Cape Town Waterfront (Ok it was labelled as an International Art House - tant pis) which bodly proclaimed "in the past South Africa banned over 6,000 films. We intend to show them all". Now that's style, International or not. I can't close this piece without a reminder that the one-time notorious South African Censors Board banned both the book (50 million copies sold since 1887) and film of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty - nice to know they had a thing about horses as well. Richard French

Leceister Comedy Festival

The Leicester Comedy Festival, now in its 17th year, is the longest running comedy festival in Europe .This year the Festival has been extended to 17 days, starting on 5th February.
In addition to bringing the pick of the best comedy acts in the business to Leicester, the Festival also champions new comedy talent in their annual Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year competition.The Festival Guide this year has a two page spread on past winners, in a sort of ‘where are they now?’ feature.
It’s a fascinating list - the first-ever winner, in 1995, was a young blank-looking chap called Stevie Knuckles. Stevie appears to have disappeared from the comedy circuit without trace, but subsequent winners have mostly gone on to dizzier comedy heights.
The first name which seemed to jump off the page at me was that of Johnny Vegas, winner in 1997, performing in an evening which was reported in the local newspaper as being "raucous and confrontational". Now that's a surprise!
Johnny later described his winning as "Fantastic - it was the only thing I'd ever won!" Johnny Vegas's career has successfully taken in stand-up, sit-coms and character acting - he was particularly good as Krook in the BBC TV dramatisation of Bleak House. A high in his career was a film appearance with Johnny Depp in the 2004 film Libertine and a low was surely taking on a role in a film which was reviewed as the worst film ever, The Sex Lives of the Potato Men and if you missed that one when it was released in cinema, I wouldn’t recommend that you try and catch it on DVD.
Other previous Leicester award- winners whose careers in comedy have gone from strength to strength include Mitch Benn ‘the Big Man with a small guitar’winning in 1998) Miles Jupp in 2001 (posh comedian who opened his act by welcoming all the "lovely Leicester ladies," announcing "I'm a single man, and I'm looking for…. um err… a cleaner" Cheeky upper-class git, but funny with it.
One of my favourites, the surreal Welsh comedian Rhodd Gilbert, was winner in 2003.
The winner for 2009 was Brighton-based Seann Walsh, who also performed in last Friday's preview show at the cavernous and fully packed-out 2,000 seater De Montford Hall. The preview show has been recorded for Radio 7 and our own comedy club producer, Simon, was also there to record interviews and some festival atmosphere. This is the fifth year in which Radio 7 has been involved in Leicester Comedy Festival, broadcasting a one hour programme of highlights from their preview show.
The role of the compere is key to the success of an evening in which eight comedians are introduced to entertain the audience with sample tasters from their own shows.
Last year's compere was Jenny Éclair and as you'd expect, she was completely outrageous - downright filthy actually. One example of Jenny's act that evening consisted of her lying spread-eagled on the stage, miming the indignity of a smear test whilst being masturbated by a speculum! Needless to say it wasn't exactly suitable for the wireless.
This year the compere was a total contrast - the King of Comedy himself - our own Barry Cryer. Barry has been writing and performing comedy for over 50 years, writing for dozens of comedians, including such big names as Ronnie Barker, Jasper Carrott and Billy Connolly. The veteran comedian strolled on to the stage, insisting that he is ‘a gag man’ and compere-ing was ‘not his forte’, but in fact he was brilliant, regaling the audience with anecdotes and shaggy dog stories, delivering even the corniest of jokes with great panache. It was a treat to listen to him.
The acts Barry introduced at Leicester varied from local stand-up, the anarchic Jim Smallman, revealing his many tattoos in weird places, to ventriloquist Nina Conti (Daughter of actor Tom Conti) . Ventriloquism on the wireless? Well Archie Andrews managed it for many years!
Nina, and her side-kick, a depressed, egocentric sex-mad monkey puppet named Monk were much more daring than Archie though, and their act was intriguing to say the least. It didn’t surprise me to hear that Nina has a first class degree in Philosophy, as she does weave philosophical musings into her act.
A performer whose set I very much enjoyed was a relative newcomer to comedy, Marlon Davis. His was an engaging and energetic act, peppered with plenty of sharp gags and skilful characterisations. Keep a look out for Marlon, as I believe he is a rising star.
You can find out more about Leicester Comedy Festival on their web-site www.comedy-festival.co.uk……..And for those of you can't make it to Leicester, you can hear the pre-view show with all 8 acts, wonderfully hosted by Barry Cryer, on BBCRadio 7 on Saturday 6th February.……..
The festival brochure on the web-site will give you tasters of their comedy treats - I can't guarantee that Jenny Éclair's ‘bits’ will be revealed, but why not have some fun imagining them?
Mary Kalemkerian Head of Programmes BBC Radio 7
Barry sitting beside Mary at the 2003 Spoken Words Awards ceremony
Barry leaving Bobby Jaye's funeral.

Banksy, the film ...

The mysterious Banksy has made a full-length film about a film-maker making a full-length film about him. Busy old Banksy ...


A Cultural Lobotomy
For some it’s
a Christian
for me
it takes a
cultural lobotomy
© by Joselyn Duffy Morton


Those days
Bee-stings in a cocktail dress
Marie Antoinette breasts in a
champagne glass
eating swans’ ass
in a feather boa
knowing those days
are totally over.
© by Joselyn Duffy Morton
Fredrika Morton playing an 18th century bride in Neil Jordan's film Company of Wolves. Photo shot by Roger Morton for Time Out magazine.

Can't I do some more?

"Thanks to all of you for listening to me.... oh, can't I do some more?" were Bobby Jaye's closing comments on a  Radio 7 recording he did 6 years ago to introduce and discuss comedy programmes he worked on when he was Head of Radio Light Entertainment in the 1980s.
Bobby brought such great series such as Morecambe and Wise, Steptoe and Son and Yes Minster from television to radio and worked with the big comedy names such as Ken Dodd. One of the many anecdotes he regaled us with was that when he was told that he was to take over production of The Ken Dodd Show, he phoned the previous producer of the series to ask if he could give advice on how to tackle the Ken Dodd Show. "YES" yelled the former producer - "EMIGRATE!"
Thankfully, Bobby did not follow that advice, but went on to produce some terrific radio comedy, which still sounds good 20 years on.
Bobby was a delightful man, and there was always plenty of laughter when he was around. I would describe his appearance as "dapper", and with his little moustache, and his immaculate blazers, there was something of a Lesley Phillips air about him.
Sadly, just before Christmas, and after a long illness, Bobby died. His funeral was last Friday, 8th January, in a picturesque, snow-clad village in deepest Kent.
The lovely old church where the service was held was not quite as packed as expected, as so many people could not get there because of the weather.
I was moved when I picked up the Order of Service - the front page had a typical photo of Bobby in a BBC studio, and underneath the words, "Thanks to all of you for listening to me.... Oh, can't I do some more?"
A lump came to my throat, but didn't stay there for long; Bobby had specifically requested rousing hymns to be sung at his funeral, and rousing indeed they were.
We all  belted out Onward Christian Soldiers  with great gusto. The final hymn, Abide With Me, did bring a tear to my eye, as it always does, but that also disappeared, as when Bobby's coffin was borne out of the church, the organist cheerily burst into  Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
 Smiles broke out and the gathered friends and family of Bobby almost skipped out of the church, making our way to the nearby Bull's Head Hotel, where Bobby had also requested that we were to be refreshed by oodles of champagne.
We shared many tales and laughs as we remembered happy times with  Bobby - then at one point, a rather distinguished looking, white-haired gentleman rose to his feet, banged on the table and demanded our attention. He proclaimed that he had received a text, which he wished to read out to us.
He read out "Drink up, you buggers, you're not drinking nearly enough! - Bobby!"
And we did, as we all  toasted our dear friend and Comedy Great, Bobby Jaye ( 1925 - 2009) and  a life well-lived.
Mary Kalemkerian n Head of Programmes
BBC Radio 7 

Terra Nullius

Nothing (Part 1)
So there I was lying around doing nothing and being paid a huge amount of money for it. They were buying my time I thought. The scene was the Matsu Plaza, Cairns.
Downstairs there were Japanese tourists sitting around doing nothing, or more accurately, sleeping. They were waiting for their bus to come and take them somewhere where they could do nothing or maybe look.  Or maybe waiting for a plane, where they could experience collective amnesia - by travelling at speed inside an aluminium tube, through space at 500 or so kilometres an hour.
Well I was thinking about this assignment for cultural studies and the word ‘nothing’ kept coming up.
NOTHING. (nuth) n  nonexsistence, nonentity, zero, nothingness, extinction, obliteration, no thing, not anything, nought, not at all, in no way. (Collins Gem. Australian English dictionary)
Then out of the nothing of my hotel room on the invisible radio waves came an American voice (Community Radio annoucer, Cairns. American accent.)                    
"Coming down from Karanda this morning. The sky was so blue; here was no industrial pollution; no native cooking fires, just nothing."
Now here was another human being talking about nothing. Now I know it was the media and what could you expect, but this guy said ‘nothing’ like it was the elixir of life.
I read an article in the newspaper.
The pilots of a Boeing 747 began their descent into Seattle Tacoma airport on August 11 last year. Checking their instruments, they notified the control tower of their position. Then ... nothing.
 (A computer software failure) I don't know about you dear reader but the idea of a 747 coming into land losing its guidance system does not represent 'nothing' to me. Panic maybe, but certainly not nothing.
There you are - in collective amnesia  - travelling at speed having nothing to do because the guidance system is doing ‘it’ for you when suddenly - it 's wake up time. Start doing something. The pilots on that flight had to resort to looking out the window, an ancient method of flying, and thank God ( another form of nothing) they still knew how to do it.
In the '80s  a British Airways 747 flew into a cloud of volcanic ash that stopped all the engines. Nothing. Whilst the crew ran the start engine's procedure over and over, the passengers seized this period of nothing to write farewells to loved ones and then got to know the people around them so well that after the fifteen minutes of nothing, before the engines restarted, they formed bonds so deep that they formed a club to stay in contact with each other.
Nothing is something but what? A Jain monk (India) has a loincloth and a small brass pot that he pisses into and eats out of. Apart from this he has nothing. I ask my five year old son what he did at school today  " Nothing." is the reply. What are you doing for the holidays you ask a friend. "I'm going to just lie around and do nothing" might be the reply. Nytchananada, Guru to my Guru, Muktananda said nothing for months at a time.
An Automatic transmission in my car means I have to do nothing to change gears. A remote control means I have to do almost nothing to change channels on my TV. An automatic washing machine means that after I have loaded it, apart from unloading, I have to do nothing in the washing of my clothes.
In meditation the ideal is to think of nothing. They say to look for the space between the ‘in’ breath and the ‘out’ breath. (Try it!) My lot offer a mantra so you can think about something so you don't spend the whole meditation trying to think about nothing.
Nothing is around us all day, every day. Under the name of space nothing affects the way we react to buildings. It is something we aspire to " I'm going to lay on a beach and do nothing.
It is something some of us loathe. People on the dole do nothing and get money for it. Dire Straits had a big hit with a song that had the refrain money for nothing and chicks for free (purportedly a comment by a worker about pop stars that the songwriter overheard). Teenagers complain about having nothing to do. "I'm bored shitless "said my 13 year old daughter as she sat on a rock by the Ocean.
The poor say - "We have nothing." The nun swears a vow of poverty.
Peter Brook, Guru of the theatre in the 1960's, '70's and 80's wrote a book entitled The Empty Space. When questioned as to what he had in mind for a requested meeting with Tribal Koori people, he talked for an hour on the subject of having nothing in mind when embarking on a project. The fact that he requested such a meeting indicated to me that he had some desire, but his initial response was "I never have anything in mind."
The implication was that nothing is a good starting point. No preconceptions, well, not admitted to, at least. In the theatre an empty space is what the actors or the performers must occupy.
Terra Nullius, the legal theory by which the British and other Europeans were able to occupy and subsequently dominate Australia. According to the British there was nothing here. ie. No British laws, no British land deeds, no obvious defence force. Easy Peasy. Nowadays we are beginning to get an idea of just how much nothing the indigenous population suffered and lost.
To become an astronaut must require immense motivation - certainly you don't get there by doing nothing well not yet anyway. I read somewhere that most astronauts start with a medical degree and work up. Ann Mujchrzak writing in her book The Human side of Factory Automation tells us  “In 1973, Apollo 3 astronauts conducted the first day-long sit-down strike in  space,  closing down communications with mission-control for 24 hours.”
It seems that the regime the astronauts had to follow, occupied all the scheduled time during the flight and allowed them virtually no free time. These super achievers were so frustrated by not have moments of nothing to do, that they went on strike and did nothing for 24 hours. Mujchrzak quotes the costs to NASA as $2,520,000 and that was 1973 dollars.
So nothing can be expensive. I once worked with a Greek labourer who gave me the advice "don't spend your money for nothing."
In the introduction to the book Cultural Studies,  Cary Nelson, Paula A. Treichler and Lawrence Grossberg attempt to discover what 'Cultural studies' is/are. At one point they say  'At Birmingham (Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies), a central goal was ‘to enable people to understand what [was] going on, and especially to provide ways of thinking, strategies for survival, and resources for resistance.’
Now if cultural study is a way of getting a handle on things, then my aim in this piece is to get a handle on what is this ‘nothing’ we talk about, and why do we seem to be so attracted to it, or indeed need it so much and how come we have so much trouble getting enough of it.
‘Work’, that four letter word that pervades the world seems to have a fair amount of influence on keeping us from doing nothing.
work [ wurk] n. labour; employment; occupation; task; toil; something made or accomplished; production of art or science; book; needlework, factory; total of persons deeds, writing's etc; inf. everything, full of extreme treatment (Collins Gem. Australian English dictionary)
Bertrand Russell in his Essay 'In Praise of Idleness' (Why Work?) says “A great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by the belief in the virtuousness of WORK, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in the organised diminution of work.”
He talks about the two types of work  ..first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid, and the second is pleasant and highly paid.
On leisure:  The wise use of leisure, it must be conceded, is a product of civilisation and education. A man who has worked long hours all his life will be bored if he becomes suddenly idle. But without a considerable amount of leisure a man is cut off from many of the best of things. There is no longer any reason why the bulk of the population should suffer this deprivation; only a foolish asceticism, usually vicarious, makes us insist on work in excessive quantities now that the need no longer exists. So let's leave Work for at moment and look at Leisure.
Leisure n  (opportunity to do for, afforded by) free time, time, time at one’s own disposal. (Collins Gem. Australian English dictionary)
Leisure is probably what those Japanese tourists were engaged in (you engage in leisure not do it) when they  I saw them sleeping in the Foyer of the Matsu Plaza, you've probably seen them yourself sleeping on buses, on their way to, or coming back from, Bondi or the blue mountains. A lot of us nowadays like to take eckies and at the same time get out of it and into it. (nothing? The groove?) This is a form of leisure currently being rationalised in the media in the way that forms of carnivale or marijuana and heroin come up from time to time. As they say in the film  Trainspotting, "Why choose life ? Chose heroin.”
Look at Carnivale and the Mardi they are examples of sanctioned leisure or free time. Leisure is the time outside of work. To have Leisure without working first is hard to achieve, ask any housewife/husband. I didn't have a job with holidays and weekends until my mid thirties and I used to wonder how people who worked had time to do anything. When I finally got a regular job I realised,
they just did very little.
Adrian Furnham, author of The Protestant Work Ethic book, writes ‘Puritan asceticism preached against the spontaneous  enjoyment of life and all it had to offer, such as sports. Sport was condemned because it is purely a means of enjoyment, an awakening of pride, raw instincts and irrational gambling instincts.
You would have to be very successful in the area of nothing not to have noticed the recent acceleration of the ‘commodification’ of sport. Ironically the latest push for this is so that the pay TV companies can seduce a paying audience into doing nothing at home, ie watching, what some people might call nothing - television, which they used to get for 'free' (the cost of advertising accepted)
but will now pay monthly for the service. Sport used to be primarily thought of as a 'leisure activity’ (either doing it – or watching it). However now that sport
is being ‘commodofied’ we get stories in the media of how we are coping with life after sport.
(SMH 1/6/96.) there is an article in which the author writes of one Darren Donaldson, a former member of the Australian volleyball team who joined the Commonwealth bank of Australia under OJOP (Olympic Job Opportunity Program) for three years as a trainee.  "He had to train about six hours a day, five days a week and trying to      accommodate him into our organisation was initially quite difficult" recalls Mr Hughes from the CBA. " But once we sat down and worked it out, he just adapted his life around it and we were adaptable too. He would train until lunchtime and then come and work for us until 8 or 9 at night.
Donaldson has since retired from elite sport and Hughes believes he is a good example of how OJOP can work for both employee and employer.
"He's already progressed through five grades and he's now on our first rung of manager level and he's only been with us about three years." Says Mr Hughes.
So if you are an oddity and put sport before work then its ok thanks to OJOP. Maybe they will do the same for authors and singers as well.
My son used to say he is not going to get any older because when you grow up ‘you have to do hard work’. It's hard to argue with this. Stephen O'Rouke

to be continued………..