Category Archives: Other stuff

Channel Islands Pride: Guernsey – 10/09/16

The Space Pirates at Pride

The Space Pirates on stage in Market Square

A little over a decade ago I remember despairing, disbelieving and laughing with a kind of desperate hilarity as I recounted to my friends in the UK that a member of Guernsey’s government (a publicly elected Deputy, none the less) was being quoted in the local newspaper’s front page regarding his hugely ill-informed thoughts around gay people and AIDS – a choice quote being something along the lines of ‘We all know San Francisco’s a gay town and where AIDS comes from and we don’t want to be like that’… I think most people I know would love Guernsey to be more like San Francisco in all kinds of ways, but I digress.

Given that attitude was being given any kind of official credence just a short time ago made what took place on Saturday 10th September 2016 all the more impressive. Thousands gathered to take part in Guernsey’s first ever Pride event, organised by the Liberate organisation and following in the footsteps of 2015’s first Channel Islands Pride event in Jersey.

Having lived all but my university years on this little rock in the English Channel, this was my first proper pride event (a brief visit to West Hollywood Halloween in LA last year gave a bit of a taste though) and of course being in my ‘hometown’ made it all the more special.

Pride in Candie Gardens

People gather in Candie Gardens

The event itself began in Candie Gardens, a public garden that usually affords fabulous views of all the Channel Islands making it a particularly fitting place for the beginning of this island spanning event, but with the somewhat inclement weather conditions this view wasn’t at its best.

Despite that as the time for the parade/march neared people began to congregate at the top of the gardens where the Queerly Beloved Ceilidh Band and the Samba Burros drummers were doing their best at getting the atmosphere going.

Having seen some of the costumes at West Hollywood’s Halloween event last year and photos from Pride events around the UK I wondered quite how Guernsey’s often more (small c) conservative residents would mark the day, in terms of dress.

The weather somewhat forced the hand of many (including myself) so while there were flashes of rainbows and other significantly coloured flags many were partially covered by waterproofs, though the rainbow umbrellas from HSBC helped.

There there were a few though who cared not for the rain and were resplendent in various attires, proudly pinning their colours to the mast, along with a troupe of sailors and, of course, the spectacular Magenta who led the parade through town. (For the record I struck gold in discovering Progress Wrestling have a pride t-shirt amongst their merchandise so I managed to combine both my passion for pro-wrestling with the pride side of things).

The parade in the high street

The parade in the high street (Photo by Rebecca Catlow)

As we gathered at the top of the path that leads from Candie into the centre of St Peter Port the feeling of what this event meant really began to build. Certainly there was a party atmosphere with cheering, singing and laughing aplenty, but it was seeing and being part of this mass of people all present to make the same point that really struck me as something special.

I will admit that despite some fairly deeply held beliefs around both political and social issues this was my first time attending such an event of any description. The last few years have seen a growth in what, for Guernsey, passes as political protest or meaningful marching but often they seem to appear to be a few stragglers in a vast car park preaching entirely to a converted minority or heckling largely nonplussed politicians on the steps of the States Chambers, for the most part this felt a long way from that.

As the 50 metre rainbow flag passed over us and we began the parade down the hill into Smith Street and the High Street it was clear that not only were those in the parade there to celebrate, but that this was still to make a point to those who, maybe, were less aware of what it was all about and to shout loudly that old cliché about ‘being here’… though of course things are more complex than just that.

As we weaved our way down the streets some joined the parade while others clapped and cheered on from the footpaths. There were a few disapproving faces along the pavements – maybe they were just frustrated that their Saturday afternoon’s shopping was disrupted, maybe it was something more sinister, that’s not for me to judge, but they were few and far between which was very encouraging.

Magenta

Magenta

Upon reaching St Peter Port’s Market Square the samba drummers kept the atmosphere up before the afternoon’s compere, Tigger Blaize, took to the stage and introduced members of Liberate, some very happy sponsors and a few other official types to make their points about what this event was all about.

From there, after Magenta and ‘Colin from the Co-Op’ (he may sound like a cartoon character but is head of the main sponsor) dished out some raffle prizes the party really began. Buffalo Huddleston and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine, two of the island’s most popular bands, both put in great performances with what felt like an extra sense of enthusiasm given the nature of the event.

They were followed by Dolly Parton Tribute act Paula Randell who was good fun as expected and then Kitty Brucknell (an X-Factor contestant so I’m told but as you might expect that doesn’t mean a lot to me). Kitty was joined on stage by a pair of male dancers who were, to my knowledge, like nothing St Peter Port has ever seen (at least in quite such a public setting) and it felt somewhat incongruous seeing a chap dancing in a pair of very small trunks emblazoned with what looked like the logo of ‘Clonezone’ in this usually familiar setting – but equally that is, kind of, part of what this was all about.

At that point I bowed out for a nice Thai meal with friends while the ‘official’ party continued, no doubt very enthusiastically, later into the evening, but it was then and after, in reflecting that the importance of this event really struck me.

Buffalo Huddleston at pride

Buffalo Huddleston

Ever since it was announced that Channel Islands Pride was happening in Jersey last year I thought we should have a Guernsey counterpart. Then when that was announced there was no question in my mind that I would take part, at the very least, in the parade and of course enjoy the live music side.

That said, in the world of what Pride is championing, campaigning for and celebrating I couldn’t help but wonder, at times, if this was for me. While my Facebook profile lets my friends know certain of my preferences and I don’t go out of my way to hide anything, with a few exceptions I’ve never felt I’ve so publicly expressed this (keeping with my ongoing public presence the specifics of that I won’t detail for various reasons, mostly because its my business).

Walking through town then, being photographed by seemingly everyone with a smart phone, along with those from the ‘official’ media, did at points make me wonder what anyone who saw me there would think.

'Dolly Parton' at pride

‘Dolly Parton’ on stage

From there I could only figure that it doesn’t matter what they think, for one, and that all I’m doing, whatever my particular sexual orientation or position on the gender spectrum may be (lets be honest on the last note at least a big beard is a bit of a give away) I should be ‘proud’ of it, it shouldn’t be something that I feel (as I have at times) that I should be ashamed of or have to hide.

I know that still not everyone will understand all aspects of this, but that isn’t my problem. Along with this my presence there was to celebrate with my friends and family and their particular situations (varied as they are).

This then extrapolates out that no one, whatever their orientation or identity, should have to hide or feel anything but pride in it in 2016, whether they feel like shouting it from the nearest rooftop or not.

An event like this, while some may see as a small addition to an international movement, is as important (and potentially more so) than its larger more international counterparts as its finally publicly highlighting something that has so often been hidden within Guernsey’s community that, and I speak as a Guernseyman (as seems to be an important factor when making such statements), often doesn’t want to rock the boat or stand up and be seen.

My Progress pride shirt

My Progress pride shirt (for reference)

On top of that while the day was undeniably a celebration and a party it makes a huge statement of a political nature and, hopefully, directly to the island’s politicians, particularly in light of the upcoming debate around equal marriage law in the island, that this is a section of the island’s community that is bigger than they may believe, that has more support than they may believe and that above all is here and that no matter what some might try to argue is made up of all kinds of people from all sides of life.

Maybe this is an obvious statement, but its one that sometimes needs to be reaffirmed and can be easily overlooked, particularly given how recently it is that those in power had no idea about the subject at all, and what better way to do that than a big celebration that is open to anyone and everyone and brought some much-needed newness, colour and vibrancy to our little town.

As my Progress t-shirt proudly said #EveryoneWelcome – This. Is. Progress – and we finally seem to be making some – though there’s still more to do.

At this point I’d like to express my appreciation for the members of Liberate for all their hard work in making this event happen, they have suggested that for it to grow they need a lot more help so if you want to volunteer then give them a shout over on their Facebook page or where ever.

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Vale Earth Fair 40th Anniversary Exhibition

Vale Earth Fair 40th anniversary40 years ago a group of Guernsey’s music lovers, free thinkers and, for want of a better word to make a point, hippies… came up with the idea of getting together at the Vale Castle at the height of summer and championing all the sort of causes you’d think they might through the medium of music.

Now, more than 30 festivals later and after settling on the name Vale Earth Fair, the collective they have grown to become are staging a series of events to mark the milestone. As well as gigs featuring both visiting favourites alongside some of Guernsey top musicians (including a fantastic show from Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons and an extra special Unplugged night) they have branched out with an exhibition of posters, artwork, photos and more from each of the festivals.

Despite being a slightly odd location, the ‘Inner Street’ of Guernsey’s Market Building gives the exhibition a real sense of the journey that the Earth Fair (as its generally abbreviated to) has been on as you make your way down one wall spanning 1976 through to late 1990s and back along the other side tracing the last 15 years or so.

Vale Earth Fair Posters

Vale Earth Fair Posters

This journey is a fascinating one as, throughout, familiar names stand alongside those lost to the memory of those who were there (and can remember being there). For me names like Errol Groves (a permanent fixture since the start), Two Trumpets, various incarnations of Paul Fletcher and Earthcorpse have a certain familiarity but some of the others conjure impressive ideas of what they might have been.

This is really brought home with the Big Band List that stands at the end of the journey, listing, as you’d expect, every band who’ve ever played the festival over the years and, on a selfish note, its great seeing my own musical project named alongside the likes of local luminaries Teaspoonriverneck and The Sacred Hearts as well as visitors like Skindred and Buzzcocks.

As one journeys around the exhibition its impossible not to draw comparisons with what feels like the Earth Fair’s spiritual forefather, Glastonbury, as it goes from humble, simple looking origins into far slicker and more ‘corporate’ looking fare. Bigger stages with impressive light shows are evident in the newer photos while the poster and programme artwork develop into some highly impressive designs – particularly considering the comparatively simple nature maintained by the volunteer organising collective.

The Big Band List

The Big Band List

If anything my only real criticism of this exhibition would be that it didn’t contain enough. While it offers a glimpse into the history of the festival it is a tantalising one that cries out for more, and I’m sure there is more, while at the same time continuing to back up the well-worn (but none the less true) notion that Guernsey is spoiled with the amount and variety of music being created on our little rock of 65,000 or so people.

The exhibition opened on Friday 3rd June with a selection of live music spanning both the history and variety represented by the festival. Veteran performer Colette Esteves started it off with her acoustic guitar and selection of 60s new folk and 70s style songs delivered in a timeless fashion that never fails to impress.

Regular Earth Fair main stage compere Grant Sharkey followed and created a huge sound in the reverberation chamber of the room that was, at points, organ rumblingly deep to the extent it was rendered hard to listen too but, none the less, had a few laughing and singing along to its messages that suit those of the festival being celebrated.

Colette Esteves

Colette Esteves

Before the assembled crowd decamped to The Golden Lion for more music and refreshment Citizen-X brought the event to a close with his iOS driven soundscapes that again suffered from the room’s huge reverb effect.

Despite the sound issues the music added a great extra to the visuals on offer and marked the launch of the exhibition in perfect style, as the Vale Earth Fair continues its celebrations in preparation for the main event at the end of August.

You can see a few more of my photos from the launch night on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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The Rocky Horror Show Live – 17/09/15

rocky horror live posterIn mid-September 2015 The Rocky Horror Show was mid run at The Playhouse theatre in London.

Having been a fan of the show since I first saw the movie in my teens I was hugely excited when I found out there was a live screening of the show happening at Guernsey’s Princess Royal Centre for the Performing Arts.

Despite not having any suitable fancy dress I went along with a couple of friends and we had a great time along with the others who’d come along making for a not full, but busy enough, theatre.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 3rd October and you can read an extended edition below the clipping.

Rocky Horror Show Live review scan - 03:10:15

Extended review

Richard O'Brien

Richard O’Brien

42 years into its life (and believe me, it is a life) Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show continues to go from strength to strength and this was very much in evidence as many fans, along with a few ‘virgins’, headed into the auditorium at the Princess Royal Centre for the Performing Arts for a special live screening of the latest incarnation of the show from the Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End.

This was my first live stream screening and it was a bit strange going in to a theatre for not quite a live stage show, but not quite a film.

With a few members of the audience in costume (though none seemed to have been brave enough to dress as Frank N. Furter) and all with a sense of general enthusiasm, there was a good atmosphere from the start, as we were welcomed by ‘Bake Offs’ Mel Geidroyc’ on the screen and given a bit of an intro to just what the show is.

Added to this was a brief interview with O’Brien explaining that this was a special charity event for Amnesty International with a host of guest star narrators (a part usually currently filled by the creator themself).

David Bedella

David Bedella

The show itself was ingeniously staged with a lot of manual prop and scenery work all brilliantly melded into the run of the show with high-tech ‘west end’ stage wizardry also present but not distracting from the performances as often seems to happen with some of the bigger shows.

With such a well-loved and well-known show (particularly thanks to its film version) anyone stepping into the roles of Brad, Janet, Frank, Riff, Magenta, Colombia, et al would have their work cut out but all did a great job. For the most part they stayed away from totally aping the movie bringing something of their own to the performance while keeping enough of what made previous versions of the show so popular.

Particularly impressive was David Bedella as Frank N. Furter who combined aspects of Tim Curry’s iconic performance with an extra knowing level and a bit more of the ‘serious actor in a b-movie’ style intended by O’Brien. On top of this, appearances by Stephen Fry, Adrian Edmonson, Anthony Head and (somewhat bizarrely) Emma Bunton as the narrator (or Criminologist) added something extra, with Fry in particular being a stand out and playing up the audience’s ‘partici….pation’ (sorry I couldn’t resist).

Ben Forster and Haley Flaherty

Ben Forster and Haley Flaherty

Audience participation is a big part of the Rocky Horror experience and, while the Guernsey crowd was a little on the quiet side, those in the theatre in London were more than game and added an extra level of laughs to the original script with what has become a series of traditional, often lewd, heckles.

The actors played along with these excellently and lead to a few moments of corpse-ing that the actors took in their stride and were enjoyed by all on and off stage.

In seeing the show live the climax took on something of a bigger meaning as the ‘floor show’ descends into chaos and Bedella delivered a particularly impressive, at points even moving, rendition of Frank’s torch song I’m Going Home.

Dominic Andersen

Dominic Andersen

For the curtain call Time Warp and Sweet Transvestite were reprised and at this point the Guernsey audience joined their London compatriots in the ‘Transylvanian folk dance’ and, while it felt slightly odd clapping a screen, it felt like part of the whole experience.

And a great experience it was, for both the initiated and the virgins Rocky Horror Show Live was the perfect mix of fun, great performances and some cracking ‘teenaged, three-chord, rock ‘n’ roll’ all in the name of a good cause.

P.S.

A week later I took the chance of a free night in London to go and see the show ‘in the flesh’ and was not disappointed. The cast delivered a performance with the same energy and enthusiasm that made it feel that they loved this show as much as the audience, many of whom were in costume, even in the dress circle.

O’Brien was particularly impressive as the narrator throughout playing off the crowd with a dry style.

Kristian Lavercombe and Bedella

Kristian Lavercombe and Bedella

The whole show had the feeling of being somewhere between a stage musical and a rock ‘n’ roll concert with every character and song receiving wild applause and appreciation while the audience participation took on something of a life of its own with the cast revelling in this somewhat unconventional West End musical that seemed to allow the performers the chance to cut loose much more than others might.

While seeing a screening was great, I would recommend anyone who likes a fun show packed with positivity to catch this live when it tours and if you’ve not seen it, track it down, either live or as the film as its message is one I think everyone could do with hearing and living by.

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A Beat To The Beats

From The Beat Museum, San Francisco

From The Beat Museum, San Francisco

Another poem, this time written while in the midst of Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur and hot on the heels of Naked Lunch, Howl, On The Road and The Dharma Bums, a binge of beat, if you will…

It’s hardly Howl but is my tribute and feelings on what I’ve read and people and places that created it…

A Beat To The Beats

…all the words that can be said have been said of the beats and the generation and the time and the life and something I find I love. I love the words and the rhythms and the flow and the feeling and the illusion and the place and the city and the cities, Kerouac Ginsberg Burroughs Ferlinghetti… The City Lights on Columbus and the shacks in Berkeley in Big Sur. dharma bums in constant flow of sounds and words and beat, ‘the best minds of a generation’ ‘the angel headed hipsters’ on the tracks on the mountains in the cities on the road and in the bars the temples the mattress floor bedrooms livingrooms kitchens. meditative wild spirits cut short and long lived by life…


And another slightly sketchy recording of me reading it…

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An afternoon at Fort Grey

Fort Grey and Fort Saumarez

Fort Grey (with Fort Saumarez in the background)

It was overcast and threatening drizzle with a reasonably strong south-westerly as I headed over the granite causeway to Fort Grey, aka The Cup and Saucer, at Rocquaine Bay on a Sunday oozing typical British Summertime.

The old fort, a Martello Tower built on the site of a previous fortification that has been developed over centuries, is now part of Guernsey Museums’ string of venues around the island.

Appropriately, given its location, this one focuses on shipwrecks that have occurred around the island, and specifically along its treacherous west coast.

Heading up the comparatively new steps carved into the solid granite structure of the fort (they were installed in the mid 1970s when Guernsey Museums took over the premises to allow easier access than a precarious ladder) I heard the distinctive tones of a pirate regaling those gathered on the scrubby grass inside the fort with stories of the island’s rich seafaring history. Youngsters, parents and grandparents sat enthralled by the stories, though the pirate’s Jack Sparrow-esque costume seemed a little incongruous to what I would imagine pirates around Guernsey would be seen in.

Rocquaine Bay

Rocquaine Bay

Around the rest of the outside area surrounding the central tower others played games or took a look at the La Societe Guernesiaise stall or took part in activities organised by Guernsey Museums’ education team, while I headed up the steps in the central tower, into the museum itself.

The museum, though compact, packs in a lot of detail. Upon first entering it is best to bear left around the circular room, doing so gives an insight into the history of the fort from its original construction through its rebuilding in its current form to its use during the Occupation during the Second World War and up to its redevelopment in the 1970s

Fort Grey Shipwreck MuseumThis is followed by a look at the Hanois lighthouse that can be seen from outside to the southwest, again tracing its history with an impressive model of the ‘sea tower’. It was at this point I encountered the only criticism I have of the museum (and its hardly a bad thing), the various information panels around the room were packed with fascinating information but, in being so, were very dense for a casual observer.

Heading further around the top floor, a map shows the location of the many ship wrecks that have occurred around the island over the years and give some context to how truly dangerous seafaring can be. Having visited places like this as a youngster, as well as spending plenty of time in the sea, no doubt helped give me the healthy respect I have for the waters around Guernsey.

Alongside this is a display looking at the Orion oil rig that washed ashore at Grandes Rocques in the 1970s in impressive fashion.

Fort Grey Shipwreck MuseumContinuing clockwise around the tower and down the stairs leads to more in-depth looks at some of the bigger and more famous shipwrecks to have occurred. While all have their stories a couple stood out to me for different reasons.

First is the SS Briseis that was wrecked off Vazon in 1937. On display here was one of the barrels that made it famous, containing Algerian wine. Many such barrels were washed ashore and some of the quicker locals are said to have collected some and taken them home leading to not only a fair amount of drunkenness along the west coast immediately after, but also stories of barrels stashed for the duration of the Occupation and cracked open to celebrate the island’s Liberation in 1945 – though I’m unsure of the state of the contents after 8 years being hidden away.

Fort Grey Shipwreck MuseumThe other that always sticks in my mind does so for far more tragic reasons, that of the wreck of the MV Prosperity which wrecked in 1973 with the loss of all hands, though some suggest they could have survived had they stayed aboard the ship rather than manning the lifeboats.

Another wreck, notable for its visual impact more than anything else, and one recent enough for me to remember, is the Vermontborg which ran aground on La Capelle reef in 2003 which has been added to the museum since my previous visits.

I headed back outside the museum just in time to catch The Space Pirates of Rocquaine playing a lo-fi set atop the fort with many songs referencing the area, from The Beast of the Coudre to The Pirates Song giving a tongue-in-cheek view of life around the bay.

Most notable among the set following my visit to the museum was the haunting Prosperity telling the story of the wrecked ship. Their performance went down well with youngsters dancing while everyone else called for an encore, which came in the form of the Pirates’ version of Sarnia Cherie (far more palatable and suitable than the ‘official’ song).

The Space Pirates Of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates Of Rocquaine

Having spent a few hours at Fort Grey this afternoon, admittedly on a day with more events than usual going on, I left both entertained and with a new knowledge of some of the island’s maritime history, and there was certainly more to see than my quick visit allowed.

Whether visiting the island, or a local like me, the Cup and Saucer is more than worth a visit and, on a sunnier day, would come with some impressive views of Rocquaine bay and the rocky seas beyond.

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To The City

I haven’t shared any creative writing here before but it seems as good a place as any to post it, I wrote this on the train from the airport into London on a sunny day in April.

To The City

gatwick expressPrefab bungalows,
Brick built semis,
Old red telephone boxes, why?

Stately homes,
Modern cottages,
Low rise industrial units, side by side…

Streaming past

No jumping freights,
Or Freedom travel,
Regimented rushing to urban sprawl destinations.

White and once red
brown houses,
Clinging to once wild hills, row on row.

Allotments, allotments, allotments,
Brutalist concrete,
Suburbia meets urbia across three centuries.

Streaming past

Tunnel darkness,
Blank site redevelopment,
History rewritten and rewritten as we continue, slow and steady.

Gatwick Express at BatterseaFinally the city,
Beautifully grotesque,
Living and breathing in contradiction.

Finally the city,
Like no other but like all,
Anciently new,
Showing everything,
Hiding every thing…


And here’s a recording of me reading it, ignore the artwork, Soundcloud is having trouble letting me edit that

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The Best of WWE at Madison Square Garden – Blu-ray

The Best of WWE at Madison Square GardenA couple of recent happenings within the world of World Wrestling Entertainment seem to have finally made this collection of matches possible as it seems the name WWF no longer needs to be censored and, more importantly from a pro-wreslting fan standpoint, Bruno Sammartino is back on the good terms with the McMahons and co.

So what we get here are more than 8 hours of matches and memories from the arena that has become WWE’s spiritual home over the last 50 years, New York’s Madison Square Garden.

As an arena it is famed for both sport and music but, for me, it will always be associated with WWE and, after watching this its clear to see why.

With 22 matches (on the Blu-ray edition) we get, essentially, a history of the WWE from the early 1970s until 2011 featuring the likes of Ivan Koloff, Bob Backlund, Harley Race, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, The Rock, Steve Austin, Triple H and CM Punk (amongst others) and the aforementioned ‘living legend’ Sammartino.

Bruno Sammartino

Bruno Sammartino

As is to be expected the visual quality of the early matches is not as sharp as some and it is clear they were really originally only filmed for CCTV broadcast rather than TV (or HD Blu-ray).

What this gives us, particularly in the opening Koloff vs Pedro Morales world championship match, is a chance to get some insight, through a new commentary track from Jim Ross, who tells the story of the fight and lets us know about the performers in ways some other current pro-wrestling commentators can only dream of.

While the matches on the first half of the disc are generally excellent, either in technical terms (e.g. the Backlund matches) or due to their notoriety (e.g. the main event from Wrestlemania I) the interviews are generally not quite as absorbing as they mostly just toe the line of saying how amazing the atmosphere at MSG always is and how great the WWE’s ‘hometown’ crowd in New York always are, something that comes across from watching the matches.

Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania X

Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania X

The exception is, unsurprisingly, The Iron Sheik who is his usual baffling but candid self and talks about being offered money by another promoter to break Hulk Hogan’s leg and jump ship with the world title in 1984.

For me the first ‘half’ of the set is highlighted by confrontations between Mr Perfect and The Hitman and the incomparable ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon at Wrestlemania X.

Unfortunately the second disc wavers a bit.

Starting out with what would (and should) be a forgettable Survivor Series match that only really seems to be included as it is the debut of the man now known as The Rock, there are a few more matches here that, while they have potential, are often from TV and too short or are too promo and ‘moment’ heavy.

Triple H and Cactus Jack

Triple H and Cactus Jack

That said we do get a couple of classics, including Cactus Jack’s WWE debut against Triple H in 1997 as well as The Hardy Boyz going up against The Dudley Boyz in the Royal Rumble 2000 tables match, but, despite these the second half doesn’t have the weight of classics of the first.

The Blu-ray comes with a few exclusive extra matches two of which are decent if throw away in the grander scheme of things and one of which that really should have acted as the main feature’s final match as we get CM Punk vs Alberto Del Rio at Survior Series 2011, the start of Punk’s epic 434 day title reign – but then again I’m a super-mark for the Best In The World.

CM Punk and Alberto Del Rio

CM Punk and Alberto Del Rio

In the end this is not quite an essential set but does include some fascinating matches that haven’t been released on DVD/Blu-ray or in fact seen in a long time and it does act as a good chart of the history of the WWWF/WWF/WWE with several performers talking ‘out of character’ in ways we haven’t heard much before.

Certainly this is a must for the devotees but for the more casual fan may have some elements that are hard to grasp, though if they make it through could prove a valuable education in the biggest company in the pro-wrestling game.

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WWE Falls Count Anywhere (Blu-ray)

WWE continues it’s recent trend of solid Blu-ray and DVD compilation releases on this look at their hardcore history.

This year has seen a series of great compilation releases from WWE (from Edge’s history through to ECW Unreleased) and they continue their trend of at least good releases with Falls Count Anywhere: The Greatest Street Fights And Other Out Of Control Matches.

Hosted by Mick Foley, we get a slightly odd series of match introductions which are endearing in Mick’s own comedy promo style, but don’t give a huge amount of insight to the matches other than the fact that doing this sort of thing hurts and WWE has got a bit more tame since Mick’s days at the top.

So onto the matches.

Things start a bit shaky, but interesting, with a match from the WWF in the early 1980s pitting Pat Patterson against Sgt. Slaughter. By any modern wrestling fans standards this is about as tame as a ‘street fight’ can get but it shows how wrestlers, managers and announcers can work together to tell the story and transmit the psychology of a match – specifically here with reference to the wrestlers boots and how they are used as ‘weapons’.

From there Hulkamania overtook WWF so the mid-80s to the mid-90s are represented by WCW and these matches are a very mixed bag with over blown gimmicks and over-basic camera work making the matches hard to follow out of context (though Jim Cornette demonstrates why he was such a great manager and we get to see Cactus Jack in his early prime going against legendary Sting).

The mid-90s matches see a mix of WWF and WCW matches showing how they were trying to make their product slightly less child-centric at the time but, ultimately, still falling short thanks to the producers clearly still not really knowing how to shoot these matches for TV and the various rules and stipulations getting a bit baffling (especially in Savage vs Crush at Wrestlemania X!).

Things really start to pick up though as we head into the late-90s and the birth of the “Attitude Era” of WWF, with the feud between Bret Hart and Steve Austin and the return of Cactus Jack against Triple H.

From here the collection is a rollercoaster ride of extreme matches that highlight a sort of pro-wrestling which has since left the mainstream, as chairs, tables, sledgehammers and ladders all become mainstays of the matches, along with some spectacular spots and set pieces.

This middle section of the two Blu-ray set is certainly the strongest as we get to see Triple H in his prime along with matches featuring the frankly fearless (or insane, or both) Shane McMahon along with some great late-era Ric Flair outings and Shawn Michaels’ impressive return.

As we head towards the end of the disc we head back into WWE’s PG pro-wrestling territory, so the matches become much tamer, but there are still a few performances of note, specifically from Triple H and Randy Orton, although the John Cena vs Umaga match seems needlessly shoehorned in just so Cena makes an appearance.

The Blu-Ray features four extra matches, one of which see’s Mankind going against ‘Santa’, which is frankly a waste of disc space, however the other three bonus matches show how WWE can still do a street fight even without chair shots to the head or excessive amounts of blood (Triple H’s neck/arm injury against Sheamus being a fine example of in ring story telling).

Overall this set isn’t up there with ECW Unreleased Vol.1 or You Think You Know Me: The Story of Edge from earlier in the year, however it is still certainly worth a look if you’re a fan of WWE’s contributions to the genre of hardcore wrestling.

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Music and poetry at the Guernsey Literary Festival

Linton Kwesi Johnson

The second Guernsey Literary Festival took place over the weekend of 14th, 15th and 16th of September 2012 and as well as a bunch of stuff about writing, books and poetry also featured some live music and poetry performance.

The Friday night of the festival saw a low-key night of music take place at the Hub (an inflatable tent next to Guernsey’s Market Building), featuring Oliver Daldry and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine.

The Saturday night saw live music go head to head with live poetry all with a flavour of reggae and punk at The Fermain Tavern with Linton Kwesi Johnson and Attila The Stockbroker performing at the same gig as punk veterans Ruts DC.

Here’s my review of the show which appeared in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 22nd September 2012:

Here are some photos and a couple of videos from the festival (all from my iPhone so varied quality):

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BBC Introducing Guernsey – Guernsey Festival and The Crowman – 27/06/12

The Crowman and Emma – Picture by Tom Girard, courtesy BBC Guernsey

For this month’s BBC Introducing Guernsey show I had a busy time reviewing the Guernsey Festival (with CourageHaveCourage live in the studio) and a live session from The Crowman and Emma.

In the Guernsey Festival review I also heard from the organisers, Teaspoonriverneck and Last of the Light Brigade.

On top of this we played a few tunes from some of the bands playing this year’s Chaos festival and announced the main stage headliner… Viking Skull!

You can listen to the show here.

Click here to see some videos I got at the festival and, soon, read my review of it.

Tracklist:

And as I couldn’t really play it on the radio, have a taste of Viking Skull!

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