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It’s raining now as it was twelve hours ago when I walked the one and a half miles from my home to Cullercoats Crescent Club. I’ve made the journey many times before. It’s a pleasant walk on a summer’s night but not yesterday when the rain ignored my umbrella and mac.

I was drenched when I arrived so I hung my coat to dry on the radiator in the downstairs bar and chatted to members of Bay Uke who recently ran a successful, sold out ukulele festival in Whitley Bay.

I’d marched through wind and rain last night to see The Good, The Bad and the Queen. You’ve probably heard about the tickets for three gigs here on the North East coast selling out in minutes. You might also have read the Crescent Club had to cancel a line dancing session to accommodate Damon, Paul and gang. Read it here in the one, the only Chronicle.

Have you ever bought a ticket for a gig then revved yourself for weeks, days and hours ahead of the sacred event? Course you have. We’ve all felt like that but perhaps those gigs were decades ago? I was thrilled when I found out I had a ticket for The Good, The Bad & The Queen and enjoyed the build up to the gig. I listened to the band’s two albums and pondered what to wear on the night. Decisions, decisions.

 The gig was held in the Crescent Club’s upstairs function room, where the ukulele festival held sold out events earlier this month.  After queuing and clearing security, I was relieved to see the tables and chairs in the function room had been set aside. This was going to be a standing room only gig.  It was going to be a Proper Gig with flight cases stamped “Gorillaz” stacked around the edges of the room and a crash barrier at the front of the stage.

The die hard fans were already at the front. They’d travelled from Germany, Italy and America. The fans work together saving places for their friends at the front when they need to nip to the loo. One fan had been delayed at Heathrow then had to navigate the Tyne and Wear Metro system. I was worried she’d miss the gig but she made it in time.

I stood there from 7.30pm until the band came on at 9pm chatting to the die hard fans about Brexit and enjoying the pre-gig soundtrack of Dylan, dub and Nancy Sinatra. I chatted to locals too. This was a gig for us as well as fans from further afield. I didn’t take my phone and that’s why I haven’t got lots of out of focus shots of Damon or Paul S. I thought I’d leave that job for the folk to my right who seemed to enjoy watching the live gig taking place right in front of them via a small screen. Weird behaviour. I’ll never understand it.

I didn’t need to take photos of the gig because I was at the front, two sweaty fans away from the stage. At one point the guy in front of me placed his hand on Damon’s bowed head, like he was blessing him. The room was full of  fans who knew the songs by heart.  Oh yes and a heckler. There had to be a heckler. When he shouted “stop patronising us, Damon,” our hero looked as bemused as we felt. The heckler was heckled back by the audience and then left with one audience member yelling “Nobody likes a heckler.” I’m not sure if he chose to leave or was asked to do so.

The band were, are amazing. You don’t need me to tell you that about The Good, The Bad & The Queen. Last night they  performed latest album Merrie England in order, had a break and then came back to perform several songs from the first album. No encores but then no self-respecting punk legend like Paul S would allow an encore, would he?

My pre-gig chat with a European fan focused on the confusion many people feel about Brexit. Damon wasn’t patronising us last night with his songs. He was trying to connect with us and ask why so many folk in this part of Britain voted Leave two years ago. I’m as confused as the Euro fan about Brexit but I know a good gig when I experience one. More gigs like this at the coast, please!


Mam, Nan, Anthea Redfern, Jaclyn Smith, and Anna-Maria Dragone. This is the list of female role models in my life from birth to the age of 10. Then there was Tracey Thorn. She helped me navigate the choppy waters between adolescence and teens. And she’s stayed with me ever since.

traceI’d never seen or heard anyone like Tracey Thorn. I first encountered her on Pillows and Prayers, a compilation by Cherry Red Records. She featured on three tracks as solo artist and as a member of both The Marine Girls and Everything But the Girl. She was way, way cool. She called herself a Small Town Girl and I longed to claim Hatfield as my birthplace. Just like Trace.

My fond memories of Tracey feature in my forthcoming book but the reason for blogging about her now is her recent appearance on my favourite radio show, Desert Island Discs

I spent most of the 45 minute show weeping, laughing and saying “yes! yes!” to my old radio. Tracey was talking to me. She made perfect sense  but then she always has. She’s my super smart, sensitive, funny, warm heroine.

Her words on anxiety are honest and the stories behind her choice of music are delightful to hear. Listen and learn.



I was born and raised in Felling on the south side of the River Tyne. I lived there for the first 19 years of my life then moved away to university in Hull then work in London. I didn’t visit Felling for about 25 years. Once I started reacquainting myself with the place I came across two groups: The Felling Heritage Group and The Friends of Felling Park and Town Centre. Both are committed to honouring and preserving the town’s history as well as securing it’s cultural and social future.

Felling Heritage Group

This weekend The Felling Heritage Group are holding their annual history exhibition in Coldwell Street Methodist Church.  The group’s also organised a fall of poppies in Felling Square which will be officially opened by Gateshead’s Mayor today at noon. The poppy display is above the Soldier Seat, the permanent memorial to those who died in battle and on the Home Front.

Soldier Seat, Felling Square

It’s just over two years since The Friends of Felling Park and Town Centre came into existence because of the reduction in central government funding to local councils. The group realised there wasn’t enough money available to maintain services through council funding. The group oversees the upkeep of Felling Park and the running of the libary on the high street.

The group’s made a fantastic impact on the town but needs more help. Can you spare a few hours as a volunteer to help with the park? The regular sessions are better than a work out in the gym. I know. I’ve attended one of the sessions! The group is also looking for home gardeners and allotment holders to help with growing plants or donating spare seeds as the cost of planting through the year is very high.

The Friends of Felling Park and Town Centre raises money for activity by applying for funding. This process is time-consuming and not always successful. That’s why the group is now asking individuals to consider making a monetary donation. It could be a one-off or a standing order. I don’t have the time to volunteer and that’s why I’ve just set up a standing order. I feel like I’m doing my bit for my home town.

I also try and support their events. The library’s holding a Christmas Market and visit to Santa event on Saturday 8th December. I’m hoping to attend. I went last year and met Santa. He must be the real one, right?

For more information about volunteering with or donating to The Friends of FP&TC then find them on Facebook and send them a message.

Elaine and Santa, December 2017 in Felling Library.

“Edgar Allan Poe and the songs of Alan Hull. What’s not to like, eh?” Him Indoors was not impressed by my offer of tickets for Clear White Light at Live Theatre. I thought seeing the play would be the perfect birthday present for this longtime Lindisfarne fan.

He said, “It won’t be Alan Hull singing the songs so what’s the point in going?”

Clear_White_Light_web_0I could see what he was getting at. I’ve seen countless musicians murder Alan’s songs in pubs across Tyneside over the years. Still, the idea of Alan blended with his hero Edgar Allan appealed. I bought the darn tickets and we saw the light during Clear White Light last night.

The play is billed as “a modern gothic story” and it’s set in St Nicholas Hospital in Gosforth, just north of Newcastle’s city centre. This Victorian building, nicknamed (ha!) St Nicks, has been a hospital for the mentally ill for most of its life. Lindisfarne’s Alan Hull worked at St Nicks for a time and apparently wrote his classic Lady Eleanor during one of his shifts.

Clear White Light was written by Olivier Award nominated Paul Sirett with musical direction and live performance by Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell. The musicians are joined onstage by actors and actor/musicians including Joe Caffrey, Bryony Corrigan and Charlie Hardwick.

Him Indoors was in shock at half time: “It’s amazing. I didn’t think anyone could sing those songs but Charlie’s made them her own,” he enthused. He’s right. Every aspect of Clear White Light worked for us. Charlie’s world class performance was matched by a tight script, marvellous music, strong performances, stunning set design, perfect lighting and flawless production  There were tears in our eyes when we stood for the ovation.

0_BHR_nec241018Live_03Afterwards Him Indoors collared Charlie in the bar and reminded her about her time working at Wallsend’s late lamented arts centre, The Buddle.  That old arts centre is part of Geordie culture, just like Lindisfarne, Charlie and Live Theatre. Go and treat yourself with tickets for Clear White Light before it ends on Sat 10th November.




This blog brought tears to my eyes…in a good way.

Irregular Fiction

Some books sneak up and catch you by the short and curlies of your emotional tailcoat. The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce being a fine example.

I bought this book for sheer nostalgia. It contains two things close to my heart – vinyl records and the year 1988. Indeed, vinyl featured heavily in my life that year when I was spinning the likes of All About Eve, Depeche Mode, The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen on heavy rotation. I was sixteen. I managed to pass most of my GCSEs with reasonable grades while writing stories about hitmen and ghosts. And I was embracing my inner gothling.

jrm16 Mini Bat Me with Mam

I’ve read two of Joyce’s previous books – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey. Two wonderful books full of heart. The emotional punch of The Record Shop shouldn’t have…

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“This is all a bit last minute, Elaine,” he sighed on Tuesday night. My fella was right. Photographer Rossena Petcova was arriving in less than 24 hours and certain, essential components of her stay with us were not in place.

I won’t bore you with the details but an early morning Charles Schulz-style “Waaaaaah!” in the form of an email to local writer Sue Miller resulted in the sort of instant, community-minded action that deserves a write up in the Whitley Bay Guardian. Thank you Sue and Keith Miller!

Rossena Petcova’s debut solo exhibition Feeling-at-Home Places opened yesterday in Gateshead’s Shipley Art Gallery. Her arrival on Wednesday night was part of a year-long journey she and I shared. It involved finding her exhibition space, crowd funding to get her and her work over here, choosing the images and getting them printed in Bulgaria.

Rossena, my fella and I worked flat out from Wednesday night to Saturday lunchtime to get the exhibition ready for yesterday’s opening event, an informal “in conversation” session. Thanks to those who came and supported us on a hot, sunny day.

Feeling-at-Home Places shows the North East landscapes and people through Rossena’s eyes (and lens). The project is ongoing so if you want Rossena to photograph you and you family then get in touch asap! She’s here for a fortnight.

The Shipley is open Tues to Sat 10am to 4pm and Sat 10am to 5pm. Entry to the gallery and Rossena’s exhibition is free. Next Saturday 14th July, Rossena and I will be in the gallery from 1pm to 4pm giving informal small group tours of her exhibition. Please join us.

This is a lovely post by Jane Roberts-Morpeth who will perform at Keeping My Soul, Thursday 21st June, North Shields library, 6.30pm

The North Tyneside Writers' Circle

Today, we’re delighted to have as a guest writer for us, the wonderful Jane Roberts-Morpeth, who attended our own Jennifer C. Wilson’s book launch on Saturday, and has provided the below write-up. Thanks Jane!

Saturday 9th June 2018 – the Cinema Room of the Town Wall Pub. The lights are dim and there is a boar’s head stuffed on the wall above me. Comfy settees are full and the flagstones are ringing to babble and chatter as we all gather for the launch of the lovely Jennifer C. Wilson’s third volume in the bestselling series, Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey.

Outside, Newcastle is frantic with the odd mix of the Blaydon Race neon vest clad participants and marauding Ed Sheeran fans enjoying a beautiful summer afternoon. Indoors we lurk in a shady basement where I retreat into the medieval mists as Jennifer steps up and begins the first of two…

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Here’s a link to my latest review for North East Reviews. Thanks to Fiona Stacey for accompanying me to Dance City!


Photo credit: Camilla Greenwell

“It’s HEY WARD. Nick Heyward! Not Nik Bluddy Kershaw!” Oh the problems of living with someone born in the 1960s rather than the 1970s. How could he POSSIBLY understand how irritating it is when folk confuse Nik with Nick. Humpf!

Back in 1983 and 1984 I thought Nick Heyward was Mr Cool and Kershaw (in his snood) was a wally. I’m kinder towards Nik Kershaw now but he’s not the one I’m worried I’ve offended. It’s Nick H. Let me explain.

I loved Nick Heyward’s music. Haircut 100 attracted my attention but it was his early solo career I adored. I bought his debut solo album North of a Miracle the day it was released and ran home to learn the lyrics off by heart. I joined his fanclub,  bought his gatefold sleeve singles and tried to imitate his Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate look:  chinos, blue shirt, corduroy jacket and leather briefcase.

Then I discovered The Smiths and boy was Morrissey a demanding pop star. I realised if I chose to follow him then I’d have to ditch Nick. And  I did. I sold those lovely gatefold 7 inches and picture discs in school break times.

I didn’t give Nick a second thought until the mid 1990s when I was working as a music journalist in London. I got offered the chance to interview him about his latest album. I’m ashamed to say I turned it down.

Fast forward to 2016 when I rediscover North of a Miracle on You Tube. I realise I know all the words to each track! I buy a copy  and start exploring other work in his solo career spanning the past four decades. In August 2017 he releases album Woodland Echoes then announces a 2018 tour. I see he’s playing in Stockton on Tees about 40 miles down the road from my home in Whitley Bay.

I umm and I aah but then  I buy a ticket for the gig at ARC Stockton on Thursday 31st May and reserve a room in one of the town’s B&Bs. I need to go. I must make amends with Nick and  apologise for behaving like a First Class Wally these past few decades.

The day of the gig I’m distracted and excited at work. I look forward to my solo expedition and  hope the gig lives up to my expectations. I get to the venue early and have a drink or two and a bite to eat. I’m nervous, like I’m waiting for a date but my Teesside adventure isn’t about  fancying Nick. Sure I wanted to marry him in my teens but I’ve moved on since then. And so has he! In fact he’s extremely happy and you can hear it on Woodland Echoes.

The last time I saw Nick in concert was about 33 years ago. Thursday night’s concert was wonderful. The set was well constructed: Haircut 100, then solo work in sort of chronological order up to Woodland Echoes and finishing with Haircut 100’s Boy Meets Girl and Fantastic Day.

Nick’s band is composed of experienced, talented musicians with Nick’s son Oliver as production/tour manager. It was touching to see him him bob on and off stage sorting out guitars for his Pa. Oliver’s  also credited on Woodland Echoes’ sleevenotes for producing, recording and for “being so well organised when everything was all over the place.” The finished product’s not a mess. It’s a beautiful album.

I’ve been to hundreds of gigs and Thursday night’s was a blast. I sang my heart out, danced, made friends in the venue and I’m STILL SMILING 48 hours later. Thanks to Nick and co for a great night and to the lovely couple from Norton who shared a cab with me after the gig.

Photo Credit: unknown. Let me know and I’ll give you a credit!




I’ve always loved writing arts reviews. I enjoy anaylsing films, books, art and music. I don’t care if I love, loathe or am indifferent to the work. Just let me reflect and write…in 600 words or less!

I wrote my first reviews aged 15 in letters to music-obsessed pen pals then for various Smiths fanzines. My first job was writing gig reviews for Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle and after university I worked for music magazines in London.

Fast forward to 2014 and I’m back on Tyneside and hear about North East Reviews. It was set up by the North East Artist Development Network to increase the amount of critical writing around new performance work in the region.

The NEAD Network’s venue partners are Alnwick Playhouse, Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle, Arts Centre Washington, ARC Stockton, Bishop Auckland Town Hall, Caedmon Hall, Gateshead, Dance City, Newcastle, Gala Durham, Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre, Live Theatre, Newcastle, Northern Stage, Newcastle, Saltburn Arts Theatre, The Firestation, Sunderland, The Witham, Barnard Castle.

I’m one of 10 freelance reviewers and over the past four years I’ve reviewed dance, theatre and spoken word performances. Earlier this year I sucked the marrow out of  a review writing masterclass with The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner.  At the beginning of May  I reviewed Rowan McCabe’s latest show. Check it out here.

I’m looking forward to reviewing another performance next week. Say no more until the review’s posted online here



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