Sunday, 4 December 2011
I have been working with Jack Drum Arts of County Durham on a Community Play based on the subject of the 1818 "Battle of Stanhope". The play will run for 3 days in March 2012 in a barn in Stanhope.

Basically the story goes like this: the Napoleonic wars had ended and there was a lesser need for lead (bullets). Starving lead miners in Weardale turned to poaching to supplement their income. The Prince Bishop sent Gamekeepers on a mission and captured the Siddle brothers. Their friends and family took pursuit and caught up with the Prince Bishops men in Stanhope and an almighty battle took place at the Black Bull.

This all took place 193 years ago but it is still remembered in songs, stories and of course the play "The Bonnie Moorhen". This coming Weds 7th December is the anniversary of the "Battle of Stanhope" and we plan to re-enact it in the very pub where it happened. We're planning to stream this and it can be seen here from 3pm GMT on December 7th ­ just click on "watch" in the top menu.
Sunday, 16 October 2011
For no apparent reason this thought came to me as I was out driving: "I've played guitar with the Jeff Beck group and sung with the Nolan Sisters". How diverse is that? So. how did these two, poles apart situations come about? Well, firstly producer Wayne Bickerton picked up on one of my songs and wanted to put it out on his label, State Records. He really liked the demo and asked who was playing on it. I informed him it was just two people. My mate Paul Smith on drums and me doing everything else. So Wayne says, "OK, you come and play guitar on the track and I'll pull in a bunch of session people". Vocals on the release were to be Mick Whitaker but it also ended up with Chris Farlow singing it (I met him at the studio a few months later) You can hear both these versions by clicking here. So the sessions took place with Waynes session guys and I showed them all the parts - it sounded a lot like the demo only more polished of course. When I returned to the North East Keith Satchfield (of Fist) asked me about the sessions. I said there was some guy called Simon Philips on drums and a bass player with an unusual name. Keith said "was his name  Mo Foster". Ahah. I said that's it. Keith looked a little stunned for a moment and then declared "F*** me, you've only been playing with the Jeff Beck band (Mo and Simon far right in pic below) So on to the other part of the story. In 1985 I took part in an event to support the Bradford Football Fire Disaster Appeal. The gig took place at St Georges Hall, Bradford and featured the likes of Smokey, Kiki Dee, Motorhead, Colin Blunstone and of course the Nolan Sisters. I played keyboards with John Verity's band. John had organised the gig. Top of the Bill was Gerry Marsdon (he of the Pacemakers). There was a big jam session towards the end and I distinctly  remember trading keyboard licks with Rod Argent. Jim Rodford and Bob Henrit, respectively bass player and drummer with the Kinks were keen to do a couple of Kinks tunes in the jam so we obliged with "You Really Got Me" - no problem. Next came "All The Day and All of The Night". The main riff was easy enough to busk but nobody was quite sure of the chords to the bit "The only time I feel all right is by your side" so it kind of fell apart there with just bass and drums really knowing it. The funniest bit for me was when we were doing a blues jam. I looked to the assembled guitarists  on stage and noticed they were playing in the key of G (by the chord shapes their hands were making) and so I joined in, also in the key of G (naturally). A few moments later I glanced at Worzel of Motorhead and spotted he was playing in the key of A, blissfully unaware he was the only person doing so!  Incidentally this was the gig credited with re-uniting Smokie but that was almost short lived when their drummer Pete Spencer fell backwards off the drum podium and injured himself. Luckily, as well as multiple guitarists we were sporting two drummers (Paul Smith) at the time and so the beat went on. And finally; my singing debut with the Nolans. The last act was Gerry Marsden and the last number was the anthem for the appeal "You'll Never Walk Alone". Everybody got up and sang this one. There were loads of us so we clustered in groups around several mics. I clustered with the Nolans and that, dear readers is who I got to sing with the Nolans. Sadly there is no picture of this event but I do have the programme (below) strangely the Nolans are not mentioned on it - a strange oversight. ≈ Click to Enlarge
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Charlie Crane
I met Charlie Crane mid to late 80's when I was earning a living as a songwriter. I had just come to the end of a contract with MCA Music and Charlie had just left employment as a publisher (can't remember - maybe it was ABC Music) I was looking for a new publisher and he was looking for some action. I can't remember how we met but we hung out for a while. To be honest I had kinda fallen out with MCA as they fired my main man, Pete Waterman leaving me without a mentor.

I stayed at Charlie's house a couple of times and met his wife and kids. I recall a moment when Charlie caught me dealing from the bottom of the deck in a card game. I was playing with his six year old son at the time.

I remember hearing somewhere that Charlie was a one time member of a band called the "Crying Shames" but I did not pay this much attention as I was more concerned with my own career. Eventually Charlie got the gig with MCA music which put an end to us working together since I had just left them. I guess I should have stayed in touch and got him to work my back catalogue but I was more concerned with the future. I got a publishing deal with DJM through Gus Dudgeon and concentrated on that, losing touch with Charlie.

Just yesterday evening Charlie came to mind so I thought I would Google him. I vaguely recall hearing he had died so I didn't expect to find him on Facebook. I did find him though. Made me think how great the web is that I could learn more about his story that I selfishly paid scant attention to. Through YouTube I was able hear him sing and realising that the record was produced by the legendary Joe Meek, I really wished I had got into conversation about this. This web page - tells the story of the "Crying Shames" very well and in the YouTube below you can hear Charlie sing. He was a nice unassuming guy and I wish that I had kept in touch but our paths crossed briefly and we went our own ways - such is life.

Friday, 30 September 2011
October 1st and 2nd sees 3 workshops taking place in the locations below in the Drama in the Dale production "The Bonny Moorhen". This is a community play being developed by Jack Drum Arts with community groups to dramatise the Stanhope Riot of 1819

My part in this is to develop additional Digital activities. These include Learning Wikis, Podcasts, Digital Maps and possible webstreaming of the final performance to take place in March 2012. I put together the movie below to show people the activities they can take part in.

Adventure in the Dale

Adding this after the three workshops took place. We arrived at the wonderful Wearhead Primary School on a lovely sunny day (pictures below). We had a smallish number pass through our workshops. Below is one of the songs from the production recorded there.

The next workshop at Wolsingham school was better attended and people participated in the drama and music workshop. Not knowing what to expect I have made a 9 minute film to show people. I decided to cut this down to 4 short pieces for the next workshop. With these workshops being si far from my home I stayed overnight in Blanchland. This is quite close to where I grew up so my parents came to visit. My mother reminded me that my Grandmothers family came from Blanchland and were landed gentry at Newbiggin Hall until the lands reverted to the crown when the male line died out - perhaps more on that later.

On day two we travelled to the 3rd workshop in Stanhope quite close to the Bonnie Moorhen itself. My reworked presentation worked much better. There was a good turn out and the drama and music workshops worked well too. Duncan, one of the Music Directors took us all through a 4 part harmony song. I absolutely loved this. You can hear it below. Unfortunately as the recording device (my smartphone) was in my hands you can hear me the loudest blissfully unaware that I am singing out of tune throughout.

Images from the Weekend (click to enlarge)

Monday, 12 September 2011
I have a slightly altered remit from October 1st and a range of exciting and interesting Community Informatics and Community Media projects starting up.

Drama in the Dales

This project led by Jack Drum Arts is about the creation of a ‘community play’ for Weardale, inspired by the story of ‘The Battle of Stanhope’ as immortalised in the local song “The Bonny Moorhen”.  The ballad tells the story of a group of Weardale lead-miners who, in 1819, in order to avoid starvation, poached game from the royal hunting grounds.  The Prince Bishop was none too pleased and sent his bailiffs up the Dale to rout out the poachers but the whole community came out in force to support the men and the bailiffs were sent packing with their tails between their legs after a riot in The Black Bull Inn, Stanhope. I will add a digital dimension to the project providing educational wikis, podcasting, geo-located media and to facilitate a live web-stream of the ultimate production. The learning wikis will explore other dimensions of the story including the surrounding area, lead mining and the background to the riot.

12 Villages

Bearpark, Bowburn, Brandon, Cassop, Esh Winning, Kelloe, Ludworth, New Brancepeth, Quarington Hill, Sherburn Hill, Ushaw Moor & West Rainton are together a Community Network in County Durham. There are more details at this website The purpose of the site and the enterprises  that will evolve from it is to add digital, community media, social media activities to physical activities of the network. The villages concerned are considered to be the most deprived in County Durham. The ultimate aim is to create a "Village Hub" that is effectively a “Digital Village Network”

The intention  is to use technology to provide services and development for a group of very rural villages and settlements where physically networking is very difficult. The work will begin with the 5 Westerly villages and will eventually roll out to all 12. The 5 Westerly villages are Bearpark,  Brandon, Esh Winning, New Brancepeth and  Ushaw Moor.

It was a Digital Village that brought me to Teesside back in 2000. A small research unit at Teesside University was working with Trimdon Digital Village and brought me to Teesside to manage Tees Valley Communities Online.  Trimdon Digital Village took part in an infamous online pub quiz between The Black Bull in Trimdon and Timms Coffee House in Skinningrove. [ click here ]. Skinningrove won and took the title "Skinningrove Digital Village" Later the concept was emulated again in County Durham with Hunwick Digital Village and then headed South again in several guises.

CRaNE News

Community radio stations in the North East of England have joined together to form a group to develop and foster a relationship between the individual organisations. The group is called CRaNE (Community Radio Stations in the North East).  I'm working with them to develop a platform for the  radio stations to share news items. [ ] This is currently in an experimental stage but there are quite a few possibilities here including live recording into the online interface and “on location” coverage into smart phones. What I also think is exciting is that other people could submit audio clips to the Community Radio consortium for airing. This could be casual submissions or from groups who had received some training (schools, students, community groups etc)

Saltburn Town Executive

Saltburn Town Executive is now run by two Saltburn businesses - Destinations and Rigwood House, Paul Davies and Sue Anderson respectively. I'm providing ICT and Social Media support. This is an exciting opportunity to bring some new ideas to businesses in Saltburn to work smarter and network and collaborate. [ ]

Four Libraries And A Pub

This project will provide Outreach from Destinations@Saltburn to four libraries and a pub in Redcar and Cleveland. The pub is the Toad Hall Arms in Moorsholme and the libraries are: Ormesby, Guisborough, Loftus and Marske. Funded by the Nominet Trust, this is a UK online outreach project to support organisations delivering new digital inclusion activities to new audiences in interesting and innovative locations and will aim to reach people who are not yet online introducing them to "Go On" which is designed to help people who have never used a computer before to make those first steps and then learn how to do a variety of stuff online. We will also be exploring further some experimental work we began with the libraries using a range of Google products in an endeavour to make the libraries more effective digitally and to seek to work smarter using new technology.

Community Media Festival

Over the past several years I’ve facilitated an event at Saltburn Community Theatre that ties in with Animex International Animation and Games Festival. The participants at the Saltburn event tend to also be producers of the content with a matinee for school children and an evening public event hosted by the serving Mayor of Redcar & Cleveland.

The last event showcased a film that had many contributors including community groups, schools, and the police as well as international participants.  The film and some background can be seen here Other animation workshops took place which produced several animated films which were also shown. The evening event was web streamed.

Visitors from Finland who had participated online in the making of the main film came to Saltburn and also ran workshops in Co Durham and East Cleveland. Due to production delays caused by bad weather the event was delayed and did not take place at the same time as Animex. This caused us to think about running a different event related to Animex but not necessarily on the same date as Animex. This could be a Community Media Festival but before I describe this there are a couple of other events to take into consideration.

The Republic of Uzhupis (Lithuania) independence day
Iron Age to Digital Age OCTORAMA exhibition at Loftus Town Hall

The Community Media Festival could combine those events and since Uzhupis celebrates it’s independence day on April 1st the event would be in April and could include:

Uzhupis Independence day online hook-ups.
An Octorma at Loftus Town Hall
A “Relaxorama” and other experiences at Rigwood House.
Digital Workshops at Destinations
A celebration event at Saltburn Community Theatre
Other International hook-ups, online and physical

There has been some interest in developing a new film to follow on from last years second life film but perhaps rather than producing it for April 2012 perhaps we could run workshops to develop ideas on storylines etc. More info on this will be added to this page

To preserve the event as it stands, particularly for schools we will still need to run animation workshops to produce content for the Saltburn Theatre showcase event.

Thursday, 23 June 2011
I spent the day filming for the Cornfield Flowers Project with Chris Wilson. We started out at Silpho field and then spent some time in the very atmospheric Spaunton Quarry. Then Chris led the way to the secluded "mushroom field" Finally we returned to the Jeep having left the engine running as had been hesitant to start on the previous stopover point. This video covers the journey back to my own vehicle parked up on the main road.

Thursday, 3 March 2011
If you can’t make it to the event in Saltburn today  (Thurs 3rd March) you should still me able to enjoy it online. I say “should” because this is experimental. At there is a tweetstream with the hashtag #tvcmanim11 – a chat stream, a live stream and a “blogcast” releasing each film at the same time as the audience sees it.

Saturday, 15 January 2011
Production has begun again after the Christmas break on “Tommy and Barry Go Back”. We lost a lot of production days before Christmas to weather condition and ill health so we have postponed the world premiere to March 3rd. It’s the same venue, Saltburn Community Theatre at 7.30pm. We moved our production location to Destinations in Saltburn as a more convenient location. Yesterday we got some very tricky shots in the can including Zeppelin flying and Chilean rescue pod maneuvering!

Next production day is Friday 21st (Destinations Again) when we hope to finish the 1945 Jetty scene. Below are some stills from scene 6.

Smith and Bluster

Tommy and Barry in 1945