Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The A13 meets Keats


It’s not often the A13 and Keats are mentioned in the same breath. Thanks to East London filmmaker Christopher Smith for sending me his latest short film Arterial. Chris explains: “It’s an experimental adaptation of the Keats’ poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci and heavily influenced by dream states and psychogeography. It has a great soundtrack by electronic artists Isan (Morr Music).” Smith grew up in Benfleet and Arterial was shot in Basildon, Thurrock and Canvey. The film is certainly atmospheric, emphasising the hypnotic monotony of the motorway, and Essex looks great, with lots of sweeping vistas of the pylon-pocked landscape from the A13 stretching to the Thames and Keats’ femme fatale loitering on the hard shoulder before enticing the hero to amorous destruction amid the elfin grottos of the Essex hinterlands. Sort of thing that normally happens after a night out in Bas Vegas, where Keats was a regular, apparently. Click on the link to view.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Phill gets poetic as Porky


Enjoyed seeing Leigh-on-Sea’s favourite son Phill Jupitus perform as Porky Poet at the Tristan Bates Theatre on Saturday night. Jupitus began his career as performance poet Porky the Poet back in 1984 (as well as being a great cartoonist) and is reprising his verse for some gigs at the Edinburgh Festival this summer. Phill managed to eke lots of humour out of the relatively low turnout by joking about the Tristan Bates being the only West End theatre to have a cloaking device and saying, “this is what you get when you quit twitter. I have 250,0000 followers, you can have 10,0000 each!” Porky’s poems included reminisces about his first Blondie gig, the flooded fields beneath Hadleigh Castle and being the man who missed a tea party with the Clash. And it was strangely gratifying to hear him exclaim, “David Cameron can suck my balls!” in such an intimate setting. All this plus mentions for all seven classic Doctors in Doctor Who and a free Porky the Poet badge at the end too…

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Doctor Who legend from Essex: Derek Martinus RIP

Sad news is that legendary Doctor Who producer Derek Martinus has died at the age of 82. Martinus directed The Tenth Planet, where William Hartnell regenerated into Patrick Trougfhton, and also other Who classics including The Evil of The DaleksThe Ice Warriors and Jon Pertwee's first story Spearhead From Space. Reading his obituary in the Guardian, it turns out he was an Essex Man, being born in Ilford, raised in Gidea Park and attending Brentwood School, where he would have been a contemporary of my late father. Martinus was the son of a meat wholesaler at Smithfield market and seems to neatly encapsulate the social mobility of the post-war years when after being in the RAF he became a respected BBC director and actor. A nice tribute to Martinus is that his famous scenes of Auton shop window dummies coming alive in Spearhead From Space was reprised by Russell T Davies in Rose when Doctor Who returned in 2005.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Roger Wilko

Great to see that Essex legend Wilko Johnson is still with us after announcing he had terminal cancer in early 2013 and might only live for six months. My pal Nigel reports a feisty set from Wilko at the Hammersmith Apollo where he was supporting Status Quo. While incredibly Wilko's new album with Roger Daltrey, Going Back Home, is number two in the Amazon music chart. I've just ordered my copy and from what I've heard it sounds great, covering Wilko's back catalogue and Dr Feelgood classics such as Sneakin' Suspicion, All Through the City and Going Back Home, with Who legend Daltrey making an admirable substitute for the late Lee Brilleaux. It was all recorded in a week too. Order your copy now and help make Wilko number one. And for a great and eccentric trawl through Wilko's life read Looking Back At Me by Wilko and Zoe Street Howe. There's also an account of a below sea-level Johnson gig in his hometown of Canvey Island in my own The Joy of Essex. See you in the morning down by the jetty.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Resurrection of the Essex Whovians

Sixty Whovians packed into Loughton Library for a great Essex Books Festival interview session with Mark Campbell, author of Doctor Who: The Complete Guide. Mark had some really interesting answers to my questions — we had comfy chairs and a microphone, so it almost felt like Parkinson — including his views that Jon Pertwee was brilliant and his Carnival of Monsters was filmed partly on the Essex marshes, Matt Smith has become a caricature of himself and The Day of the Doctor was great but The Name of the Doctor was a huge disappointment.

We also learned that Campbell projected images of Doctor Who on to his house in March 2005 when the new series returned after 16 years, and that his marriage somehow survived after his wife forgot to record the last episode of The Curse of Fenric. The audience was a mixed age group with both Peter Capaldi-age and teenage Whovians, and it was great to see so many interesting t-shirts (Time Traveller from Gallifrey, Daleks, Rose and even a renegade Star Trek one) and hear kids defending Colin Baker and Attack of the Cybermen. Lots of interesting questions in the Q&A session too (silence did not fall when the question was asked) and a nice anecdote from the man who said none of his schoolmates would go to the shops after Spearhead From Space was broadcast and those shop dummies came alive. And thanks to my wife Nicola and daughters Lola and Nell for attending. Despite being 'not-we' Nicola even discovered that she understood a lot of what people were talking about through a curious process of Whovian osmosis.

Good signing session afterwards where my book The Joy of Essex was also on sale, complete with Doctor Who references in the Colchester chapter. Doctor Who: The Complete Guide is a great tool for any Whovian, covering all 26 classic seasons and new Who Series 1-7. Having watched every episode of Doctor Who ever made, Mark is now starting again and is currently up to William Hartnell's The Rescue. Now there's a man who knows his timestream…

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Doctorin' the Tardis in Loughton

Whovian dad and daughter at the Excel 50th bash
Looking forward to interviewing Mark Campbell author of Doctor Who: The Complete Guide at Loughton Library at 2.30 on Saturday, March 29. He's watched every Doctor Who episode ever made and is currently rewatching them again. He's not afraid to be controversial either. Accepted classics such as Blink, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Green Death, The Ark in Space and The Caves of Androzani get ten out of ten, but Genesis of the Daleks only gets eight out of ten, The Daemons only gets six, and The Evil of the Daleks gets four. Other low scores include David Tennant’s New Earth and Matt Smith’s Let’s Kill Hitler, which both get one out of ten. Clearly he's set out to debunk some myths. We'll also be discussing his childhood spent recording Jon Pertwee episodes on his cassette player and later life travelling round the country looking at power stations that were once used in Inferno and indeed some Who locations in Essex. Should be a great afternoon, click on the link for details.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Billi gets flipping with Andy

Lots of loved-up pictures on Billi Mucklow's Instagram site of the Towie star with West Ham's Andy Carroll. She's included a picture of the pair tossing pancakes, which at least proves that she and Andy knows the difference between Shrove Tuesday and Sheffield Wednesday. Do hope she goes easy on our Andy though and bearing in mind his injury record doesn't insist on him playing too active a role in the kitchen. Even WHU gaffer Big Sam managed to crock himself on a granite worktop last season and you do fear the damage a carelessly tossed hot pancake landing on Andy's foot might do…