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I’m sure I’m not the only Geordie who can remember hearing the news of Sir Bobby Robson’s death almost ten years ago on Friday 31st July 2009. I was gearing up to visit my Dad in Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital. Like Sir Bobby my Dad had cancer and he died 16 hours after I heard that Friday morning bulletin about Sir Bobby on Radio Newcastle.

Newcastle United fans had lost their hero but I felt like I’d lost two heroes in one day. Whenever I read an article or see a photo of Sir Bobby, I think of Dad.

sir bobInevitably Pa was on my mind and in my heart yesterday lunchtime when I met my pal Pat at North Shields ferry. We crossed over the Tyne to South Shields and headed to The Customs House for the matinee performance of Bobby Robson Saved My Life by Tom Kelly.

After a catchup over lunch Pat and I had time to stretch our legs outside the riverside theatre before the performance. I spied Tom Kelly and wandered over to chat. I told him about Dad dying so soon after Sir Bobby and how much I was looking forward to the play.

Pat and I took our seats, chatted again to Tom as he looked for his and then settled down to watch the play. I knew I’d cry but wasn’t explecting to weep in the first 30 seconds of the play.  I got used to mopping my eyes throughout the performance.

The play revolves around three characters: Tommy, Clair and Mark. The fourth character is Sir Bobby who is referred to throughout the play. The three narratives are woven together to produce a heart-felt appreciation of Sir Bobby’s life and legacy.

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Tom Kelly and Jamie Brown

Tom’s strong script is realised by director Jamie Brown and the production team. Jamie just happens to be an award-winning actor (Hadaway Harry, The Man and the Donkey) and his all-rounder skills enhance Bobby Robson Saved My Life.

As soon as I saw Sam Neale’s named in the programme as single mum Clair I knew we were in for a performance treat. I first saw Sam in Alison Carr’s Iris at Live Theatre in 2016. Sam writes short plays which have been produced professionally and this makes her another all-rounder like Director Jamie. So much talent off and on stage!

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Donald McBride as Tommy

Actors Charlie Richmond (Mark) and Donald McBride playing Tommy brought differing experiences and styles to their roles and worked perfectly alongside Sam Neale. All three took us on a journey from Langley Park to St James’ Park via Fulham, Vancouver, Ipswich, Portugal, Spain and Italia 1990.

My only criticism of the performance is the short video clips at the beginning and end of the play. Some of them are dark and it was difficult to make out some of the faces on the screen.

I ran out of tissues by the end of the play and wandered back to the Shields ferry with Pat discussing the merits of  “a good cry” every once in a while.

Bobby Robson Saved My Life run until Saturday at The Customs House. It plays at Ipswich Regent on  31st July and returns to the north for a short run at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House 2nd to the 4th August. A portion of ticket money goes to The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

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I’m sharing Jen’s blog about Green Beans at Whitley Bay market on Sunday 30th June…

Jennifer C. Wilson

Happy Sunday everyone! Are you in the Whitley Bay area? Do you enjoy fun, friendly markets? Would you like to meet your next favourite writer? Then get along to the Green Beans Market, this coming Sunday, at Whitley Bay Metro Station!

NTWC

On 30th June, the team from North Tyneside Writers’ Circle will be there, sharing some of the books and collections members have had published, or featured in. There’ll be poetry and prose alike, across a range of genres, including a couple of wonderful short story collections from fellow local writing groups.

You can find out more about the market in general on its Facebook page, or get our event in your diary here. Don’t forget, as well as us and our books, you’ll find plenty of local produce and crafts for yourself and others (dare I mention the C-word; these markets are perfect for those early Christmas…

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This time last week I was in Senigallia. It’s a port town and holiday resort on Italy’s Adriatic coast. I’m telling you this because I’m guessing you’ve never heard of it. I hadn’t until I piggybacked onto my fella’s Italian business trip.

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Senigallia’s sea front

We visited Senigallia to participate in the the town’s inaugural Biennale Di Senigallia, celebrating it’s status as “City of Photography”  and the first 150 years of photography. The Biennale highlighted the work of local photographers Giuseppe Cavalli, Ferruccio Ferroni and Mario Giacomelli.

The event lasted for three days and included lectures, a photo fair with books and photos for sale plus a screening of early Lumière film footage presented by one of their descendants. The footage was fascinating, funny and touching.

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Senigallia Piazza del Duca

During my time in laid-back Senigallia I explored the town and sampled delicious food and drink, strolled along the sea front eating a gelato and plodged in the Adriatic. I spotted Bee Eaters along the River Misa. Quite a sight.

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European Bee Eater

I also spent time in Bologna walking along the miles of russet porticoes and marvelling at the view of the Apennine Mountains from the Basilica Di San Luca.

And now I’m back in wet and windy Whitley Bay preparing for two events next week. On Tuesday 14th May I’m hosting an afternoon Princess of Felling event in Newcastle’s George Street Social, NE4 7JN from 2pm until 3.30pm. Click here for more info and to book.

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The one, the only, Mary Oh

The next day I’m celebrating the poetry of the late great poet Mary Oliver in Whitley Bay’s Churchill Pavilion from midday. Please book in advance here

This blog is by my cousin Karen’s son, Ross Punton. Thanks for writing it, Ross x

Then and Now Through an Aspergers Eye

B317C51A-46BF-49B8-BCF4-F61DDF94DC10This post is about someone special to me my mam. Dad I can read your mind if your reading this you’ll get your own post dedicated to you soon 🙂 The above image is me and my mam on my birthday last year. I won’t tell you how old I was if you want read my profile but I’m not saying.

Joking aside it was a wonderful party a milestone age. I was only expecting a few friends but virtually everyone I know  turned up fulfilling a lifelong secret wish of mine for a surprise birthday party. While I knew there was a party it still counts due to not knowing scale. I’m counting it!!!

Anyway it was a wonderful party all my friends and family were there and I spent the whole night trying to thank everyone equally it was really humbling thanks mam and dad for such a…

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Uh oh. Here I go again. Blubbin’ over my John Lewis pillar box red DAB radio.  Crying over a radio programme again, Elaine? Yes, I’m listening to Ann Cleeves on Desert Island Discs.

veraI’ve always loved Desert Island Discs and wasn’t suprised to learn earlier this month that the long-running series was named the greatest radio show of all time by a panel of industry experts compiled by magazine Radio Times.

The show beat British radio classics such as The Archers, Round the Horne and Hancock’s Half Hour to top spot, with over 40 radio experts picking their favourites from broadcasting history.

Speaking to Radio TimesDesert Island Discs producer Cathy Drysdale attributed the show’s 78-year success to it’s “genius format” that “gets to the heart of people — what moves them and motivates them, what inspires them and enthuses them, who and what they care about.”

Fifteen years ago I was involved in an RSL in West London. An RSL is a restricted service licence radio station. RSLs usually run for weeks or months at a time. This one operated for a month out of the Riverside Studios on the south side of the Thames at Hammersmith. My friend Jonathan Slack and I hosted a Friday evening show called The Friday Night Guest List  (FNGL) or “Feh-Nuggle” as we pronounced it.

royI adored Desert Island Discs and created my own homage for FNGL. The feature was called Eel Pie Island Discs, after the small island along the Thames at Twickenham. The format was basically a shortened version of Roy Plomley’s creation. Eel Pie ran for 15 minutes and guests chose three rather than eight tracks to take with them.

I interviewed guests with West London and BBC Radio links. Annabelle Dowler (aka Kirsty from The Archers) lived round the corner from me in Shepherd’s Bush and taught me Spanish for a while. I also interviewed West London dweller, Jeremy Vine. Jonathan Slack secured the interview…in BBC’s Broadcasting House! Jeremy recorded the interview on the Beeb’s equipment. Ha! He also introduced me to Steve Wright who was coming out of  a toilet at the time. He wiped his hand on his trousers then shook my hand.  I kinda wish he hadn’t done that.

Eel Pie Island lasted for a month but Desert Island Discs is going strong. I’m enjoying new presenter Lauren Laverne’s input. I wonder, does she have a say in the choice of guests? I’d like to think she chose recent castaways Ann Cleeves, Wendy Cope and Bob Mortimer. All three of those guests made me cry when they talked about their family life.

bobI’ve fantasised over the years about which tracks I’d take to a desert island but you know, it isn’t the music that matters. It’s those memories the tracks evoke.

Here’s to many more years of peerless radio from Cathy Drysdale and team. I hope my bright red radio doesn’t develop salt marks from my tears.

 

Do you remember Mike Teavee, the television-obssessed boy revealed as the fourth Golden Ticket winner in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? I was that child back in 1970s Gateshead. Some of my earliest memories are of lying and sitting cross-legged in front of our TV. I watched all the kid’s programmes from Bagpuss and Bod to Playaway and Vision On via Ludwig, Noah and Nellie and Pigeon Street. I also watched the news, Spike Milligan’s Q series and discovered art history and the plays of Alfred Jarry by watching Open University programmes. I also loved the test card.  And the adverts, especially the Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut advert starring Frank Muir.

Throughout my teens and early twenties in the 1980s and 1990s I watched soaps (Corrie, Brookside, Albion Market, Eastenders, El Dorado), Channel 4’s classic dramas and films, and music programmes including The Tube, Whistle Test, ORS, Riverside and Rock School. I watched French New Wave cinema on BBC2 and Melvyn Bragg’s South Bank Show on Sunday evenings.

At some point in my mid 20s I  found myself living on my own in Streatham. I didn’t bother renewing the TV contract with Radio Rentals when it expired. Blimey, had you forgotten about that? That’s what we did in the 1990s. We rented TVs from Radio Rentals!  I didn’t miss television and contented myself with radio. I was an early adopter of the internet and listened to BBC6 Music, the Asian Network and BBC7 (now Radio 4 Extra) via my PC. I still have the Roberts DAB radio I was given in 2002.

For the past two decades I’ve lived with and without a TV.  I guess I used to watch it for an average of an hour and a half a day during this time. I usually watched news bulletins or something on BBC4. Then I started watching more and more including Match of the Day, Antiques Roadshow, Who Do You Think You Are and Death in Paradise. By last autumn I was watching almost three hours of television a day.

My last TV died of built-in obsolescence in October 2018. I struggled with going cold turkey. I missed the news. I particularly missed Katia Adler keeping me updated on Europe’s view of Brexit.

Soon the angst about missing out on breaking news lifted. I realised I could get all the information I needed from radio, the internet and newspapers.  Being TV-free seemed to give me the permission to spend less time online and on my mobile phone.

My living room feels lighter without a TV. I read more and I sleep better. I spend more time talking to my partner and we’ve booked trips away instead of sitting in front of the Goggle Box.

Over the years I’ve tried living without meat, sugar, alcohol and cheese. The first few weeks of Life Without TV were almost as bad as living without cheese  because I believe a life without cheese is a life half-lived.

I thought I couldn’t live without a TV but I can. Life without a TV is not a life half-lived.  I know that in future when I stay at hotels, I’ll enjoy flicking channels in bed for half an evening.  I also know I’ll be happy to return home to my lovely living room and the DABs positioned around my home.hqdefault

I’m on a high. I’ve been on it since the pre-gig adrenalin kicked in a few hours before last Thursday evening’s Meet the Poet: Elaine Cusack event at Whitley Bay Library.  I’d been looking forward to the gig. I felt supported by North Tyneside Libraries and knew their promotion of the event would ensure a healthy-sized audience.

Performing in Whitley Bay library Jan 31st 2019. Photo credit: Penny Blackburn

I took the advice of my friend Ron and followed the Six Pees Rule (Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance). I was prepared for the event and thoroughly enjoyed reading old and new poems plus extracts from my latest and forthcoming books.

After the show I was inundated with congratulations from audience members. Since then I’ve read lovely comments on Facebook and via email from attendees. I’m delighted that so many people “get me. ” It’s life-affirming to feel listened to, appreciated  and understood as a person and a writer.

Over the years I’ve had insults thrown at me by folks who felt insecure around me and jealous of my gifts. They haven’t stopped me from writing and performing but I’ve been guilty of silencing myself in response to their behaviour. I hid my talents to keep them safe.

Perhaps you’ve done the same with your artistic flair or sporting ability? Isn’t it time you let your talents speak for themselves?

I have the following quote from Dorothy Rowe’s The Successful Self handwritten on a piece of paper and Blu Tac-ed to the wall in front of this ol’ PC of mine. It’s just above eye level and I see it every time I sit down or stand up.

“Trusting yourself is an essential part of creativity. You must still your criticizing conscience and let the process flow. The flow is spontaneous but not uninhibited. There is channelling, but channelling by wisdom and experience, not by inhibition and negativity. There is a sense of the rightness of things, and the creative process comes, burgeons, and closes with the sense of roundness and completion, yet, until the whole enterprise is complete, there is a link, an opening to the next stage in the creative process.” Dorothy Rowe The Successful Self.

 

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.

traceythorn

 

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.

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