Archives for posts with tag: Elaine Cusack

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

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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.

“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.

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

http://www.northeastreviews.co.uk/fawn-and-other-works/

fawn-lizzie-j-klotz-image-by-camilla-greenwell-2_2_orig

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!

 

 

 

Two hundred years ago this month John Keats wrote Ode on a Grecian Urn. The final lines are familiar to many, even if they don’t know the author. They run:

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”- that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

These words pop into my head whenever I look upon Bulgarian photographer Rossena Petcova’s work. I met Rossena when she responded to my call for volunteers to help at 2016’s Newcastle Photography Festival. I was impressed by her photos and by her professionalism. She took photos of my family and I and made us feel at ease. She captured the essence of our relationships with her camera.

Rossena and I  kept in touch when she returned to Sofia in December 2016. I encouraged her to exhibit her work in England and as a result her first solo exhibition takes place this July on Tyneside. It’s called Feeling-at-home Places  and is  divided into two parts. The first one includes portraits of people living in the North East England and the second one includes autobiographical self-portraits and landscapes.

I adore Rossena’s photos. I find them magical and moving. I’ve named the photos of her embedded in her surroundings “Selfless Selfies.” What do you think? 

I’ve been running a fundraising campaign to bring Rossena and her work over from Sofia for the exhibition. We’re a trifling £40 away from our modest target. Can you help us reach it? Click here to find out more.

 

It’s official: Lyn Gardner has scrambled my brain. I’m not complaining about The Guardian’s theatre critic. In fact, I want to use this blog to thank her for freeing up the arts reviewer within me.lyn

Today I attended what I guess was a masterclass in arts/theatre reviewing led by Lyn in Newcastle’s Dance City. The session was supposed to start at 11am but poor Lyn was stuck on the East Coast train line. Thankfully the other workshop attendees and I amused ourselves until she turned up before 1pm.

Lyn packed a great deal into a few hours. My notes list websites, plays, writers and advice from Lyn. In the margin I’ve scribbled “Honest opinion matters. Good writing is in the eye of the beholder. The more you write, the better writer you become.”

Lyn shared her thoughts and opinions but kept asking us what we thought and what we liked. She was full of enthusiasm for theatre and critical writing.

I feel inspired, “freed up” and ready to write more reviews for North East Reviews

 

 

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