Tuesday, November 01, 2011

TV Review: The Fades on BBC 3

I don't often wax lyrical about TV shows, largely because I don't have a TV and am therefore limited in my viewing, but something excellent that I came across recently via iPlayer was The Fades, described as a fantasy horror series. Having been disappointed with Being Human, True Blood and other potential Buffy successors in that vein, I didn't have high hopes, but was intrigued enough to give it a go. I'm glad I did. In just six episodes, the Fades managed to dispense with a whole lot of tired fantasy cliches, rolling up and reinventing the vampire/zombie/apocalypse genres into something refreshingly different and really rather good.

A short, six episode series, it was truly disturbing in places, laugh out loud funny in others. The combination of fantasy and humour is something I've craved since Buffy finished in 2003 and while others have tried and failed to achieve it, The Fades hit the right note exactly. A solid cast of stalwarts (including an all too brief appearance from Daniella "This Life" Nardini as a gun slinging lady vicar) and sterling performances from the younger leads - especially central character Paul and his best friend Mac - made for absorbing viewing.

The Fades to which the title refers are a breed of ghost-come-zombie-come-vampires, stuck on earth since the ascension process got broken by too many deaths in the Second World War, desperately bitter and hungry for justice. Noone can see The Fades except The Angelics, who become their nemesis by default as much as anything. About as far from the white-frocked, golden winged biblical vision as you can imagine, the Angelics are a rag tag bunch brought together only by their common ability to see and interact with the Fades. 17 year old Paul is special amongst the Angelics, with additional powers including the ability to heal, and a touching compassion for the Fades. The lines that have traditionally separated goodies from baddies are wonderfully blurred as the the Fades' motives are explored and the accepted interpretation of heaven and hell ripped up and re-imagined.

In between this apocalyptic unravelling, there is plenty of real life emotion and interaction as Paul tries to get on with the business of being a teenager (losing his virginity, getting through college), all the time haunted by terrifying visions of inevitable despair and destruction. I don't want to spoil the outcome for those who haven't seen it, but let's just say the ending is not as one might expect. And all the better for it.

Expect to be unsettled, challenged, disturbed and entertained. Here's a little taster:



Sound like your cup of tea? You can still watch The Fades for another week on iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0129tkw/episodes/guide Or you can always go old school and buy the boxed set, of course.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pass It On: Brighton's Having a Maker Faire

I've been pretty busy lately, what with looking after my poorly husband (he's got a slipped disc), working non-stop (and loving it), entertaining several boisterous nephews (and loving them) and helping to promote the upcoming Brighton Mini Maker Faire (probably the coolest event ever to happen in Sussex). I've got lots of news to blog about, including a brilliant festival I went to last weekend, but am probably not going to have a chance to write anything decent until the autumn.

So this is just a quick plug for the aforementioned Maker Faire, to persuade you to come along and to help spread the word - even if you can't be there it yourself (though I hope you can).

Maker Faire is an event that started in California (like most of the coolest things, let's be honest) and now happens in cities and towns all over the globe. We've never had one in Brighton before, or anywhere in the South for that matter, so it's pretty exciting. Here's a little video I made to give you a flavour for what it's all about...


Welcome to Brighton Mini Maker Faire 2011 from BuildBrighton Hackspace on Vimeo.


At Brighton Mini Maker Faire you can expect to see such mind-boggling things as self-balancing electric skateboards, gingerbread ghetto blasters, subsonic submarines, mechanical musical hats, an interactive mirror, a giant Etch-a-Sketch, a stringless singing ukelele, Japanese kanzashi flowers, battling daleks and robots and much, much more. And it's not just about watching - you can make things yourself, too. Learn to knit, crochet, felt and solder; see railway carriages being restored and have your brainwaves turned into sounds.

It’s all happening 2 weeks tomorrowSaturday 3rd September at the Brighton Dome and we want it to be a big success. Which is where you come in...

If you're up for helping the cause and telling people about Brighton Mini Maker Faire (and believe me, they'll thank you for it), here are some simple things you can do to help spread the word:

  • Invite all your Facebook friends to the Facebook event page and ask them to invite their friends
  • Tweet about the event, using the #bmmf hashtag and @MakerFaireBTN
  • Post a link to the web site on your LinkedIn profile feed: www.makerfairebrighton.com
  • Write about it on your blog/Tumblr/Facebook page etc. Don’t forget to link to www.makerfairebrighton.com
  • Display a PicBadge on your Facebook and/or Twitter profile pic
  • Bookmark www.makerfairebrighton.com on your Digg/Delicious/StumbleUpon profile
  • And the old school one – email all your friends and contacts to tell them about it
  • Ask any journalists/media contacts you have if they can write/broadcast about it (or pass contacts on to me if you prefer)

Thanks in advance for helping us get the word out. And most of all, I hope to see you there (with all your friends and relations).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

That Comedy Thing at the Lamb, Eastbourne

Back in May I blogged about some of Eastbourne's upcoming cultural offerings, into which I was planning on throwing myself wholeheartedly as part of my reintegration strategy since moving back in December. So far, it's been a mixed bag of events. The two outdoor festival things were not so inspiring - partly due to bad weather in the case of Eastbourne Fiesta, but also I suspect, a lot to do with lack of creativity on the part of the organisers.

But it's not all bad. Last week I went along for the first time to my local pub's comedy night. It's a great pub and I go there all the time, but I didn't know what to expect from a stand up show in its bijoux upstairs function room. I was pleasantly surprised. The night, called That Comedy Thing, is organised by Eastbourne resident Jo Neary, who also happens to be an established comedian with a great network of funny friends. This helps a lot in attracting rather more glittering lineups than one might expect to a tiny (not really a) theatre in Brighton's poorer (culturally at least) seaside cousin.

Last week's lineup was especially appealing, including as it did Jim Bob from Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine. I was a big fan of the band in my schooldays and introduced many classmates to such classics as Sherriff Fatman, Anytime Any Place Anywhere and The Only Living Boy in New Cross. One of my friends even had the Jim Bob haircut in the last year of school. Sharing the billing was Isy Suttie (aka Dobby from Peep Show), whom I had not encountered before, having never watched Peep Show. The venue was packed and both did brilliant turns.

Claiming confusion over his eligibility to perform at a comedy night, Jim Bob nevertheless managed to tickle us all with his witty ditties about Tesco self checkouts and a torrets-inflicted teacher, alongside some acoustic versions of old Carter favourites. Having never seen them live back in the heyday, it was a bit of a thrill for me (and my equally excited school friend Daniel) to be treated to such an intimate set.

Comedy with music is my favourite type of comedy, so I was pleased to see Isy Suttie rock up for the second half with guitar in hand. Hers was an inspired brand of storytelling comedy, following a quirky love story narrative and far more compelling than the average cynical stand-up. And it had songs. If you're off to Edinburgh Festival this summer, I highly recommend catching her Pearl & Dave show - for which the Lamb gig was a practice run.

There are several more Edinburgh warm up shows happening at the Lamb over the next few weeks - grab your tickets from Oxboffice. Meanwhile, a big 'yay' to Jo Neary for putting on such a great night right on my doorstep. I will definitely be a regular from now on.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Things to Do In Eastbourne This Spring

Since moving back to Eastbourne from Brighton in December, I've been working hard to re-establish my roots here by making the most of local life. I do miss being able to step out of my house and virtually straight into any number of appealing restaurants, pubs and gigs and this feeling is especially evident with Brighton Festival about to start. But all those things are only a 30 minute train ride away and if you know where to look for them, Eastbourne has plenty of charms of its own. Lately there've been fabulous dinner parties with old school friends, lovely long walks along the peaceful seafront, many more family gatherings than before and a surprising number of interesting happenings in and around town.

Last weekend we went along to the Magnificent Motors vintage car show (see picture, right) in Princes Park and have signed up to a load more local events in the next few weeks. For those curious about what the Sunshine Coast has to offer, here are some suggested things to do in Eastbourne in May and June.

Sat 7th May - Green Fayre, Gildredge Park

A village fete with a conscience, Green Fayre is one of the more appealing events in the Eastbourne Festival 2011 calendar. Especially so to me, as I live just across the road from Gildredge Park, in Old Town. I'm particularly looking forward to the promise of gypsy swing and folk music, the 'Frock n Roll' clothes swap and some yummy organic/veggie food stalls.

Mon 16th May - Animal Collective, Winter Garden

When Beirut played at the Winter Garden last year it was absolute mayhem of the like rarely seen in Eastbourne's theatre district (or anywhere in Eastbourne for that matter). Although it's on a Monday night, expect similar excitement for Animal Collective, with bus loads of Brighton hipsters making the trip along the coast to see the band's only UK tour date outside of ATP Festival. For more details and tickets, see the Melting Vinyl website.

Sun 22nd May - Finzi Quartet, All Saints Chapel

Perhaps more hip replacement than hipster, this classical recital is part of the Meads Music Festival - a series of Sunday afternoon concerts at the beautiful All Saints Chapel. This one happens to be on my wedding anniversary, so I'm hoping for romantic string arrangements in the shape of some soothing Mendelssohn and Ravel.

Sat 28th - Sun 29th May - Eastbourne Fiesta, Western Lawns

Billed as 'Eastbourne's first cultural fusion of food, real ales, live entertainment and fun!', Eastbourne Fiesta is going down on the last weekend of the month in the pleasant Western Lawns - just a stone's throw from the marvellous Towner Gallery. Since the official website insists on making you download a PDF in order to access the programme, I've taken the liberty of embedding it on Scribd. I'd probably give the Sunday morning bagpipes a miss, but I do recommend local band Gadzooks, who are playing at 2pm that same afternoon.

Friday 3rd June - Magic Hat Ensemble, Under Ground Theatre

If you can get past its terrible website, the Under Ground has some pretty decent gigs going on. I've lined up folk, gypsy, swing, indie and classical music, but I couldn't let the season pass without a jazz fix - and this looks like the best option. If you're a jazz fan and have never heard of the Magic Mat Ensemble, give them a listen.

Tues 7th June - That Comedy Thing, The  Lamb

This is a regular night that I've been meaning to attend since my return to The Bourne. It's at my local pub, so there's no excuse other than working too hard and being rubbish. But when a friend mentioned recently that the legendary Jimbob of Carter USM fame was doing a slot in June, I was finally spurred into action and have booked tickets. If you know what I'm talking about, you can get yours here.

***

So you see, Eastbourne isn't all cauliflower perms and zimmer frames - but don't go telling everyone, as I quite like the peace and quiet here. If you're in need of refreshment in between all this excitement (and I know I will be), I heartily recommend Central Eating - a very groovy new cafe that has popped up on Terminus Road. Expect a full write up of my other Eastbourne culinary adventures very soon.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March Madness: Too Busy to Blog

March is nearly over and I find have completely failed to write about any of the recent cultural, culinary and societal diversions that have been pleasantly propelling me out of hibernation and into spring. So before another month goes by without a post, here is a whistle stop tour of the past month's activities.

Elaine Paige at the Congress Theatre, Eastbourne

This was always going to be more about comedy value than highbrow entertainment, but none of us were quite prepared for the pathos of EP's latest tour. As Natalie, Kim, Damien and I giggled, exchanging arched-eyebrowed glances, Ant sunk further into his seat as the diminutive diva insisted on flashing her stocking tops in a far too tight and far from flattering frock, whilst virtually dry humping her (much younger) male backing singer. I could have forgiven the inappropriate dress and lecherous granny behaviour if her singing had been on form, but unfortunately it was not. Apart from a couple of punchier tracks - one from Chess and 'I'm Still Here' from Follies - the vocals were disappointing. Sad, because EP could really belt it back in the day. Probably time to call it day and stick to Sunday afternoon radio instead.

Club Tokyo at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne

At last, a club night for people like me - in Eastbourne. Brighton music promoters Melting Vinyl paired up with the Towner to put on a Japanese themed night, in honour of the Tomoaki Suzuki exhibition that was on at the time. It sounded like a promising collaboration, so Ant and I threw together what vaguely Japanese garb we could muster and went down to see what it was all about.We found an enthusiastic and friendly gathering of Eastbourne's alternative crowd - waifs and strays who presumably have nowhere else to go on a Saturday night and would normally be at dinner parties or over in Brighton. I was disappointed in the lack of interesting music on offer, but it was a very pleasant evening nonetheless. I hope to see more of the same coming up in the near future.

The Decemberists at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill

The night that Crabsinthe* was invented. But before that legendary moment was an equally legendary gig. See for yourself:



Kent Mini Break

A break from the 9-5 grind was needed, so we drove up to the Kent coast for a few days to explore bits we've never explored before, including Deal, Broadstairs, Sandwich, Ramsgate and Margate. The weather was miserably overcast the whole time, so we spent most of it seeking out places to stuff ourselves full of cake and other delectable treats. Foodie highlights included The Black Douglas and 81 Beach Street in Deal, Boho in Canterbury and the Winchelsea Farm Kitchen (in Sussex, not Kent). But the highlight of the trip was discovering the most unexpectedly alternative pub, The Blue Pigeons, in the tiny village of Worth where we were staying. Having popped in there for a pint while waiting for our B&B to open, we ended up going back for dinner and staying til closing, getting drunk with the locals - amongst whom was Sophie Parkin. If you're ever down that way, be sure to pay the place a visit - and tell the very glamorous rockabilly landlady that we said hello.

The Impellers at Coalition, Brighton

My big Brighton night out. Not my usual taste in music but a fun evening of drinking and bopping to funky tunes with a gang of my lovely colleagues.

The Unthanks at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill

And in a complete change of pace, the next night Ant and I went to see The Unthanks, though we very nearly didn't make it. Ant had been at a stag party the night before and could barely function, but he dragged himself along and was glad he did. It was a really sensational gig, that reduced an already fragile Ant to a gibbering, overawed wreck. This was the song that really did for him, though it's taken from a TV performance as no cameras were allowed at the De La Warr:

Twestival at the Smugglers Loft, Brighton

Somehow I managed to get myself involved in the last few weeks of organising this Twitter fundraising event, which despite a few technical hitches, went off brilliantly and made £3.5k for local charity, The Crew Club. If you don't already know what a Twestival is, or want to find out what happened at ours, my colleague Ben did a write up on our company blog. I also took a few photos, which should give you a flavour:


Spamalot at the Congress Theatre, Eastbourne

Twestival hangover in tow, I pootled down to meet Damien, Olly, Mum, Dad, Pete and Ali at the Buccaneer for a pre-theatre drink. The show was very appropriate hangover entertainment - not in the least bit challenging, just gently amusing. It's unashamedly cashing in on the Python legacy, but if you go in knowing that, you'll probably have a good time. As ever, Mum and I found ourselves laughing at bits that noone else did and as ever, I found myself turning round to tell someone off behind me. This time it was an annoying nerd who was quoting (and indeed misquoting) all the punchlines about 30 seconds before they were said on stage. I asked him if he knew the meaning of internal dialogue and that seemed to shut him up. My favourite bit of the show was the original songs, such as "This is the Song that Goes Like This" and "Whatever Happened to my Part?", both of which are particularly funny to those of us who have trundled our way though many a summer season and bad amdram production.


So that was just about as much excitement as I can handle in one month. I think I'll have a quiet night in tonight.

*Crabsinthe = a cocktail made from Crabbies alcoholic ginger beer and absinthe. Highly recommended, utterly dangerous.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Penguin Cafe at Brighton Dome

In 1997, so the story goes, Ant had tickets to see The Penguin Cafe Orchestra in Manchester, but his hopes of seeing them live were dashed when founder Simon Jeffes died suddenly of a brain tumour. A couple of years later, when Ant and I started dating in Brighton, Penguin Cafe Orchestra's Concert Program was one of only a handful of CDs he owned and I quickly became a fan. Their unique folk/classical fusion has brought comfort and inspiration throughout the last decade or so of our life together and remains an oft chosen soundtrack to many an activity in our house.

The loss of Simon Jeffes and the demise of his wonderful orchestra was clearly more upsetting than any personal disgruntlement over the unusable concert tickets, but Ant has always expressed regret at never having seen Penguin Cafe Orchestra perform during their many touring years. Last weekend we were able to assuage that regret a little by going to see a new lineup assembled by Jeffes' son Arthur, now touring under the name Penguin Cafe. Continuing his father's musical legacy into the 21st Century with fresh arrangements and new compositions, Jeffes Jnr's output is very much in the spirit of the original and clearly a heartfelt tribute.

Supporting Penguin Cafe at Brighton Dome on Friday night were Portico Quartet, a modern jazz ensemble that lived up to its promise of modern jazz with admirable immoderation. But by the time Penguin Cafe had started their set in the second half, I was so swept up that I had all but forgotten the noodling jazz. Playing a mixture of crowd-pleasing old favourites and his own material, interspersed with touching anecdotes about his father, Jeffes had the audience (including me) in raptures.

Folding classical structures around folk, bluegrass and other World Music influences, the Penguin Cafe's music has always had the ability to unravel me and was the perfect Friday night tonic after a busy week. Essentially an augmented string quartet (violin, viola, cello, double bass) accompanied by ukeleles, guitars, piano, harmonium and percussion, the new pared down lineup nevertheless managed to capture the essence of the original (which featured oboe, trombone, fluegelhorn and accordion among other instruments). The difference was only really tangible on a couple of pieces that felt rather flat without brass. Other than that, it was a thoroughly enjoyable gig and we both came away feeling soothed and restored.

The current Penguin Cafe tour is now over, but you can catch them live at various festivals in the UK this summer. And I strongly recommend that you do. 


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The 90s Eastbourne Nightclub Hall of Fame

Being back in Eastbourne has stirred a lot of long lost memories, especially when I keep bumping into old friends and reminiscing about our misspent youths here. The other morning I was sitting with a friend on the train into work, attempting to recall the names of all the Eastbourne nightclubs we once frequented and wondering what became of them. We realised that only one place out of all those old haunts has remained almost exactly as it was in name and style - and that is the legendary (for all the wrong reasons) TJs. But what about all the other dancing dives in which much of our teenage years were wasted?

Those I can remember, I have added (with commentary - click on a placemark to read) to this Google map :

View Eastbourne's 90s Nightclubs in a larger map

Please tell me if I have missed any classic 90s Eastbourne nightclubs from the list and share your anecdotes (if you can actually remember anything from those addled years).

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Things I Love About Eastbourne #2: The South Downs

True, the South Downs are not exclusive to Eastbourne, stretching as they do all the way from Beachy Head to the River Meon valley in Hampshire. And indeed I have spent many happy Sundays exploring the downland around Brighton, from Castle Hill at Woodingdean out to Ditchling Beacon, Devil's Dyke and all the way along to Cissbury ring. But there is something about the way Eastbourne's downland is visible from most of the town that makes it feel more familiar and friendly - an ever-present protector shielding us from the world beyond. As I child I imagined the sloping green humps of hillside to be sleeping dinosaurs (if you have ever read Dinosaurs and all that Rubbish, you will know where that notion stems from), ready to yawn and stretch into life at any moment. They were a place of magic and wonder and coming back to them brings much delight.

From my new house, I can walk up onto the Downs in less than ten minutes, with the bulk of that walk being through the elegant manor gardens of Gildredge Park. At the other side of the park I come to a lush green golf course - where the very polite golfers refrain from hitting balls while I walk across the footpath that crosses it - and come out at the bottom of Paradise Drive, in whose woods, so the story goes, my brother was conceived. A stomp up the hill brings me out at the Dew Pond, where the ashes of a beloved family pet were once scattered and around which many games of Star Wars were played during childhood dog walks. On a clear day you can see right across to Beachy Head, and out to the jaggedy spur of land that is Hastings on the other side. This picture was taken in 1998, when I brought a gang of London friends down for a visit. I hope they'll come again now that I am back and spoiling for more hill-bound adventures. Others are welcome too, of course.

More lovely pictures of the South Downs can be found on Idleformat's Flickr profile. Watch this space for more from me.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Things I Love About Eastbourne #1: The Marine at Christmas

Now that I'm settling back into Eastbourne life after fifteen years away, I'm actively seeking out all the things I missed about the place during my Brighton and London years. As well as being a bit of a nostalgia kick, it also helps stave off any potential regrets about leaving Brighton, reassuring me that I have made the right decision coming back.

As the festive season is drawing to an end, today felt like the perfect time to head to the Marine pub, whose epic Christmas decorations are legendary. It's a nice enough pub at any time of year and for me holds many memories of happy times with amdram cohorts, but in December the Marine transforms into a sparkling grotto of festive kitsch, a shimmering marvel of a place. Any Brighton people who remember the Regency's glory days may recall its OTT decorations, but that was but a token gesture in comparison to the Marine's gloriously garish shrine to Christmas camp. Behold:


If only Ant had worn a more fittingly festive jumper, the scene would be complete. Maybe next year.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

My Favourite Songs of 2010

More than photos, diary entries or spoken anecdotes, music is the most dependable keeper of memories; a song has the power to conjure a lost moment from the dusty archives of the heart and brain, bringing it into vivid life once more. For the last few years I have made an annual compilation of the music that has punctuated the year, to share with friends and for my own posterity. Looking back at each mix, I can tell a lot about the happenings of any particular year and the sort of mood I was in.

On the first day of 2011, here are my favourite and most poignant songs from last year - each holds a memory or moment and all were released in 2010. There seems to be a prevalence of ethereal female artists, muddled with a generous helping of proggy post-rock and the occasional splash of cheesy electro. I don't know what this says about my mood, but it was certainly a year of ups and downs. As I sit here in my new house (house!) suffering the after effects of too many prosecco and mead cocktails last night, it feels like a fitting soundtrack.

I hope you'll enjoy my playlist and perhaps treat yourself to one or two of the most excellent albums from which these songs come. I heartily welcome your own recommendations of 2010 musical discoveries and favourites, too.

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