Tuesday, 27 January 2015

I don't believe it! Richard Wilson in Essex…

Some of my soundbites made it on to Richard Wilson On The Road last night on ITV. Also a nice plug for my book The Joy of Essex as we sat chatting on a bench in Harlow town centre. Wilson took an amiable tour through God's own county, covering Colchester's Roman ruins, Mersea Island's oysters, Harlow's architecture and the train at Audley End. He seemed a thoroughly nice chap during filming and even sent my daughters signed pictures of himself as Gaius in Merlin after we met. Click on the link to view on ITVPlayer.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Essex comes to Islington

An enjoyable evening speaking about my book The Joy of Essex to the Stuart Low Trust at the St Mary's Community Centre in Upper Street, Islington, last night. My Power Point presentation covered The Peasants' Revolt in Fobbing, Paul Simon in Brentwood, Boudica sacking Colchester, the Balkerne Gate, the Secret Nuclear Bunker, Billericay bluebells, Tiptree jam, Grayson Perry and Dr Feelgood at the Labworth Cafe on Canvey Island and quite a lot besides. Most people seemed to have an Essex anecdote. Thanks to all who came along and those who bought books at the end. Some interesting questions from the audience, including someone suggesting that the atom was spoilt at Dagenham. An intriguing thought. Though after some Google research we discovered that the father of nuclear physics, Ernest Rutherford, was born in New Zealand but his parents James and Martha originally came from Hornchurch before emigrating to new Zealand, so Essex can almost lay claim to atom-splitting.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Essex and drugs and rock 'n 'roll…

Seeing Wilko Johnson performing Dr Feelgood's All Through The City on Jools Holland's New Year's Eve bash made me realise it's been another very newsworthy year for Essex. 

Not only does Wilko appear to have beaten off terminal cancer: Russell Brand is now the Che Guevara of the new left, and his book Revolution is a best seller; Grayson Perry has had another successful TV series and presented a New Statesman lecture on the default male at the Royal Institute; while Phill Jupitus starred in the musical Urine Town and had his mug on posters on Shaftesbury Avenue. Made in Dagenham hit the West End as a musical; Mark Wright and Pixie Lott starred on Strictly Come Dancing, Gemma Collins came and went pretty quickly from the jungle in I'm A Celebrity and Joey Essex got his own series in Educating Joey Essex.

In the world of politics Ukip met Carry On as the brilliantly-named Roger Bird and Natasha Bolter traded allegations in Basildon. Ukip's Basildon candidate Kerry Smith blamed homophobic and racist remarks on his medication; Douglas Carswell re-took Clacton after the council painted over a satirical Banksy picture worth thousands; and Braintree MP Brooks Newmark had to resign after sexting a picture of his private members' bill. 

On TV Mr Drew's School For Boys was another hit programme about the Brentwood School's headmaster's work with troubled children and the Tour De France travelled live through lovely Essex. The county was even featured on Radio 4 in Essex, My Essex, Ian Sansom's tribute to his birthplace. And we had a Billericay Dickie beer from Billericay Brewing. It's been emotional.

Will 2015 be able to match that? Probably so; for Essex is seemingly the county no-one ever tires of writing about. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Lavatory humour with Phill Jupitus

The musical Urine Town might have just closed, but it was good to see Essex's finest son, Phill Jupitus, emblazoned on a large billboard on Shaftesbury Avenue. We enjoyed the play, which was a big hit in America, though it's sustainability morality tale might have been a bit serious for some West End audiences. Phill played the evil MD of Urine Good Company, presumably a Plc…and is now taking some time off in loo back in Leigh-on-Sea.