Thursday, 4 May 2017

White Gold in Essex

Promising new trailer for the forthcoming BBC2 comedy series White Gold, set in Essex in 1983. It's written by Essex-born Damon Beesley, the man who gave us Inbetweeners, and is a comedy covering the antics of Vincent and his set of double-glazing salesmen. Looks worth watching just for those double-breasted shiny suits. Beesley refers to the programme as a, "glorious opportunity to recreate the Essex of my youth — a time before the invention of 'Essex girls' jokes, fake tan or Towie. A time when having double-glazed patio doors installed meant you were winning at life."

Friday, 7 April 2017

Phill Jupitus goes underground

Proof that Essex Man can do art. Check out this video on Eduardo Paolozzi by Leigh-on-Sea's favourite son Phill Jupitus. Paolozzi is not West Ham's latest loan signing, but the Scottish geezer who designed the 1984 artwork at Tottenham Court Road tube station and is featured in a retrospective exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery

Phill takes us through London and explores Paolozzi's industrial-sized sculpture of steam-engine inventor James Watt's (you Watt?) head and his his sculpture of Isaac Newton in the style of William Blake. Phill ends up at Tottenham Court Road station where he's previously only seen the brightly-coloured Eastbound platform artwork when drunk and heading back to Essex. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Essex Girls fight back

Interesting article on whether the term Essex Girl is at all relevant to 2017 from BBC Essex's Jodie Halford. Like Essex Man, it's a stereotype that had some basis in truth when applied to Estuary Essex (just look at Towie), though there was always more to the county than the media image. Indeed there was a campaign to have the term removed from the dictionary last autumn.

Dr Terri Simpkin of Angia Ruskin University points out in the feature that there was certainly an element of snobbishness to the Essex Girl stereotype: "Essex became a corridor between dormitory towns and London, so we saw a rise in people having social mobility. Out of that came a level of snobbery and a disparaging view of people who had become more aspirational and affluent. But with women, there was gender discrimination as well, because so-called Essex girls weren't wilting wallflowers - they were more overt as sexual beings, they took control of their own sexuality." 

And perhaps Southend playwright Sadie Hasler has it right when she argues: "If you could take every negative stereotype about Essex girls, and turn them into positives, it would be amazing to see Essex girl come out and say love your body, make the most of what you've got, own it, don't take lip from anyone, say what you think, defend yourself and don't be a wallflower. The thing about Essex girl is she actually represents lots of positive messages for women - but they're currently dressed up in the most hideous way." Click on the link to read the whole feature.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Richard Madeley recalls leather-clad Philip Hammond in their Shenfield School days

Just seen a tweet with an interview with Richard Madeley on Newsnight (originally shown in Nov 2016) talking about his days at my old school of Shenfield, where he was in the same year as Chancellor Philip Hammond. Madeley recalls of Hammond: "He used to wear quite a long black leather coat and black leather boots and he had very long jet-black hair that hung down like crow's wings. He was tall, striking and super confident and that had an impact on the girls. He always finished his class work before everybody else. Then he'd put his big boots on the desk and start reading the Telegraph and swapping political dialogue with our history teacher who was a Guardian reader. This was a 15-year-old schoolboy!"

Hammond was a few years older than myself, so there are no distinctive memories, apart from him running a mobile disco with Graham Norton (not that one) and the fact his parents used to play bridge with my friend's parents. Shame he ditched the long leather coat and boots though, could have have livened up his Budget no end. Click on the link to view the full Newsnight profile of Hammond. While Newsnight again visited Shenfield on Budget night, talking to Hammond's old neighbours and even stopping for a chat with  the landlady of the Hutton pub.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Reading matters at the Essex Book Festival

Tomorrow, March 1, sees the start of the Essex Book Festival when it's opened by A L Kennedy. The ubiquitous Sarah 'Essex Serpent' Perry's session is already sold out, but there's plenty more to see, including the excellent Syd Smith (who wrote of tales of Manningtree witchcraft in Witch Hunt and The Drowning Pool), Ruth Rayner and Chris McCully taking literary inspiration from Colchester's Roman wall, local short stories from Essex Belongs To Us, Essex-based crime in James Henry's Blackwater, Alison Weir on Katherine of Aragon at Layer Marney, Brix Smith on life in The Fall at Southend and Jem Lester in Brentwood discussing his novel of taciturn blokes, Shtum. Check out the link for the full programme.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Essex, serpents and Graves' Disease

Good news for Sarah Perry. My London book group is now reading The Essex Serpent to add to her sales among the metropolitan liberal elite. It's also been all over Waterstone's as the store's book of the year. Serpent is a great read and magically evokes the mysterious scenery of the Blackwater estuary, as well as containing the Colchester earthquake and some vivid writing on the Victorian conflict between science and religion. Check out Perry's recent interview in the Guardian too, where she reveals that the strain of writing and selling the novel might have given her the Gothic-sounding Graves' Disease (it affects the thyroid and leaves the sufferer exhausted). She says she lay in bed repeating every one star review on Amazon to herself, though she's certainly not had many of those and the critics' response has been overwhelmingly positive. Thankfully the Chelmsford-born Perry is now recovering from the worst effects of the disease and will hopefully be well enough to complete another book soon, because she's one of our most talented new authors.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Prisoner Cell Block Essex

Picked up a copy of new! on the train the other day and it's interesting to note that two of the original female stars of Towie are dating what the magazine refers to as "jailbird lovers". Lauren Goodger has been on Loose Women to talk about her relationship with Joey Morrison, currently serving an 18-year prison sentence. While Amy Childs is having a baby with boyfriend Bradley Wright, who served six months for handling stolen goods. You do have to admire the ability of the women of Essex to see the good in everyone and there desire to reform recidivists. Who needs a probation service when you have Towie?