Monthly Archives: October 2012

Tales from the Soundstage

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Brighton-based media bod Wayne Imms has been involved in a variety of projects over the course of his career: presenting shows and creating features for hospital radio in Kent; producing a number of accomplished documentaries for the BBC; curating a pop festival and presenting a magazine-style radio show on local independent station, Radio Reverb FM. For the last six years he has been the creative director for The Space, a Brighton-based arts and entertainment organisation presenting star-studded evening events at various venues around the city, including Latest Music Bar, Komedia and The Basement.

His latest venture, production company Soundstage Events, promises to build on the reputation of The Space, and indeed, shares a similar format to previous occasional Space events hosted by Brighton’s Duke Of York’s Picturehouse. Two such events have been staged to date, a James Bond 50th anniversary event featuring past and present crew members in round-table style conversation, and a special screening of The Evil Dead to mark three decades since the infamous ‘video nasties’ censorship scandal of the ’80s; the latter followed by a panel discussion of movie experts.

Feedback from the public and local press has been positive so far (see also my synopses/reviews below for more details) and the next event in January marking the 40th anniversary of art horror classic Don’t Look Now threatens to be the most memorable yet, set to feature an appearance from a very special guest indeed. Details to be finalised, so check the Soundstage Events website for updates over the next few days and weeks.

Bond on the Big Screen: 50 Years In the Secret Service – 07/10/2012.

Few screen characters can lay claim to the iconic status, never mind the longevity of James Bond. Last week, the release of Skyfall featured leading man Daniel Craig in his third outing playing the secret agent. He’s the sixth actor to take the part in an official franchise now twenty-three films strong, spanning a half-century. Not bad for a character dismissed by his own employer as a ‘…sexist, misogynist dinosaur [and] a relic of the cold war…’ seven movies ago.

To celebrate Bond‘s longevity and the ongoing popularity of the franchise, Soundstage Events in association with Brighton’s Duke of York’s Picturehouse presented Bond on the Big Screen: 50 Years In the Secret Service, an evening of interviews and audience Q&A with a number of leading figures from Bond movie crews.

  Featuring guest appearances from:

  WILLIAM P CARTLIDGE: The Spy Who Loved Me/Moonraker –

  Associate Producer,  

  You Only Live Twice – Assistant Director

  CHRIS CORBOULD: Skyfall/For Your Eyes Only/Licence To Kill –

  Special Effects Supervisor

  PAUL INGLIS: Skyfall/Quantum Of Solace – Art Director

  PAUL WESTON: The Man With The Golden Gun/On Her Majesty’s

  Secret Service/Moonraker/Octopussy –

  Stuntman/Stunt  Coordinator 

  Hosted by: KIERON BUTLER – Brighton-based Editor/Screenwriter

A selection of Bond themes from over the years set the mood in the auditorium as the audience took their seats before Butler took to the stage, resplendent in  007 trademark tuxedo. Butler, incidentally, was also responsible for compiling the several movie montages that provided visual counterpoint to the discussion that followed. Each two-minute teaser, focusing on characteristic elements, such as Girls, Gadgets, Vehicles and Villains, helped to shape the conversation, ably guided by questions and interjections from Butler himself.

Given the rich and changing history of the 007 franchise and the thousands of talented individuals who have contributed it was a given that this ninety-minute event was only going to scratch the surface. But the audience got what they came for: insightful and often amusing behind-the-scenes anecdotes, including an incident during the shooting of Live and Let Die when a crocodile nearly had stuntman for lunch; the day producer Cubby Broccoli had to step into an absent caterers shoes and rustle up a Spag Bol for the crew and why, far from perpetuating misogynistic stereotyping, latterday Bond movies have created new openings for women in previously very male-dominated areas such as the stunt department. A fascinating and informative evening.

The Evil Dead and the Rise of the Video Nasties – 25/10/12

Featuring guest appearances from:

BEN WHEATLEY: Kill List/Sightseers – Director

CHRIS HEWITT: movie critic – Empire magazine

CRAIG LAPPER: Senior Examiner – British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

and hosted by

JONATHAN GLENDENING: Brighton-based Screenwriter, Director and Editor.

In a manner of speaking, this was an altogether more straightforward event than the Bond one the previous fortnight: simply a screening of the movie followed by discussion and an audience Q&A. Much of the talk centred around the socio-political climate of the time – the Thatcher era – and how the Conservatism of that administration was echoed in the conservatism of film regulation – as much as the film itself. Lapper also highlighted parallels with the later controversy around the James Bulger murder: instances of a government abdicating its social responsibilty in favour of media scapegoating. It must be said that, upon viewing The Evil Dead for the first time in many years, it scarcely seems believable that it generated the hysterical reaction that it did from politicians and, infamously, Mary Whitehouse and her National Viewers and Listeners Association. By today’s standards the violence is laughable, cartoonish. In this and other respects it stands apart as a very different kind of movie to other  notorious ‘nasties’ such as The Driller Killer and Cannibal Holocaust, a matter much-discussed among the three commentators. If the film is guilty of anything it’s the kind of casual misogyny, paper-thin characterisation, ropey script and illogical behaviour on the part of the protagonists without which few horror movies would actually work. Most of the gory sequences provoked laughter rather than fright or distaste; including, a little disturbingly, the infamous ‘tree rape’ sequence.

The dynamic onstage for the round-table discussion was interesting – the contrast between the loquacious Lapper and dry-as-a-bone Wheatley couldn’t have been more striking. Both concurred on the merits of The Evil Dead, though the latter, along with Hewitt espoused a preference for its sequel. Lapper – who revealed at one point that his first choice of career would have been as a train driver! – possessed something of an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema as well as the history and regulations of the BBFC; a fluency he utilised to great effect both during the event and keeping our party entertained during a post-show dinner. He ended up almost single-handedly fielding the questions in the following Q&A. Between them, the three provided a plethora of insights and observations, with the geek crowd – actually quite mixed and not at all the sausagefest one might have expected – hanging on every word. Good stuff.

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Take advantage of the high public and political profile of child sex-crime thanks to the Savile scandal, recent events in Rochdale and The Met’s Operation Yewtree by petitioning the UK Government to conduct a multi-agency enquiry (details below – click on the highlighted text to go to the HM Government website where you can sign and share the petition). Don’t let this descend into a celebrity witch-hunt; or a BBC-bashing exercise – it’s too important for that. 

‘Public Enquiry into organised Child Grooming, Child Prostitution and Paedophilia in the UK

Responsible department: Home Office

We the undersigned call for a full independent judicial Public Enquiry into organised Child Grooming, Child Prostitution and Paedophilia in the UK and the various responses to it by all Local Authorities, Social Services, relevant charities/NGO’s, Police, Crown Prosecution Services, Politicians and Government Ministers, Civil Servants and the Media with a view to full public transparency and accountability and to make recommendations to ensure this travesty never happens again.

And in case you’re still in any doubt of the scale of the problem, its cost in human misery and the degree of strategy and coorperation required to face up to it, here’s a link to a report for The Guardian by journalist Nick Davies. In the fourteen years since it was published, the rise of the www, ubiquitousness of mobile phones and near-universal access to social media have done much to make the sex-offenders’ predatory activities easier to realise and harder to detect. Scandals like Rochdale are strongly suggestive that much work still needs to be done by social services, law enforcement and government.

 

Sex probe petition – please sign

Max and the dirty dozen

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Major stars from the ’60s and ’70s are terrified of being named in connection with the Jimmy Savile child abuse scandal, according to PR guru Max Clifford. [Sky News]

It was no surprise that Gary Glitter was on the list; other names under investigation as part of operation Yewtree are undoubtedly – as Savile‘s “prolific” abuse was – an open secret in media circles; outsiders curious to discover the identities of others could do worse than keep an eye out for middle-to-old-aged entertainment figures hastily disposing of laptops, hard drives and usbs. There’s a good chance that many, like Savile, will have continued to abuse throughout their lives and careers. Which is not to imply that all the ‘names’ who have confided in Clifford are guilty; indeed, all maintain their innocence, however, in Clifford‘s words:

“The stars are concerned because of their hedonistic lifestyles when they were at the peak of their fame, when young girls would throw themselves at them … If you’re 19 or 20 and suddenly you become a pop star and a dozen girls burst into your dressing room… you don’t actually sit there and ask for birth certificates” (my emphasis).

I wrote a few days ago of my concern that the investigations might become too BBC-centric, and it seems that is indeed the case, with the focus of the BBC’s enquiry at least, being if and how corporation ‘culture and practice’ might have placed young girls in danger. Clifford‘s words express a point of view which will strike a chord with many; but they signify yet another blind alley, another straw man.

Talk of ‘hedonism’, ‘fame’ and girls ‘throwing themselves’ at ‘pop stars’ again narrows the focus of a debate which needs to be, on the contrary, broadened; men of all backgrounds, from all walks of life and without the cachet of celebrity and wealth indulge in similar behaviour every day: fathers raping daughters; uncles their nephews; teachers their pupils; carers their charges and so on: a reality that rather belies the notion that hedonism and fame are the problem, so much as gender and hierarchy. And whilst Clifford‘s glib remark about ‘ask[ing] for birth certificates’ might ring superficially (as well as literally) true one has to wonder about its relevance in the context of many of the offences allegedly committed by Savile and Glitter; middle-aged men preying on early/pre-teens. Their adolescent naïveté and passivity are precisely the qualities that draw the attention of men like Savile, who had remarked in interview (with Louis Theroux) that the idea of a full relationship with a woman was anathema to him; ‘brain damage’, to use his term.

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg demonstrated a similar failure to grasp the issues at stake with his comment that Savile‘s alleged crimes ”…show the ‘dark side’ of celebrity…” Celebrity is a peripheral issue at best; and the culture that enabled Savile to predate and escape punishment is scarcely specific to the BBC.

Complaints of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace are more likely to derail the careers of the plaintiff/whistleblower than the accused, especially if the former is a woman and/or in a junior position (the latter almost inevitably the case; witness the testimony of Liz Kershaw and Sandi Toksvig – bullies of all stripes are loath to victimize up). Kids, certainly in decades past, were unlikely to be believed, much less supported. And is it even true that men’s careers are destroyed by allegations, even convictions of sexual assault or impropriety? Despite years of suspicion, rumour mongering and even a number of complaints, Savile‘s career continued unabated, in large part thanks to peer collusion and apathy on the part of his employer and the authorities. When, then TV host. John Leslie was outed in 2003 as the alleged rapist of his former-colleague, Ulrika Jonsson, he simply moved into property development, trousering millions in the process. Other similar complaints made against him were dismissed for lack of evidence, although even he admitted “…[he] had never learnt how to treat women with respect” and “…my behaviour was at times inappropriate”. Roman Polanski‘s career as a movie director was scarcely troubled by his well-documented 1977 attack on (then) 13 year-old Samantha Geimer, whom he plied with Champagne and Quaaludes and sodomized in a swimming pool. John Wayne Bobbitt bounced back from genital mutilation – grisly, albeit apposite revenge on the part of the spouse he mistreated for years – to find work as a performer in the adult entertainment industry: an employer that, perhaps counterintuitively, draws a disproportionately large percentage of sexual abuse/domestic violence survivors into its ranks. Bill Clinton‘s Governorship and Presidency survived numerous rumours and allegations surrounding affairs, incidents of sexual harassment (notably Gennifer Flowers) and eventual revelations that he levered his position to take sexual advantage of intern, Monica Lewinnsky. The old boys’ network looks after its own, that’s the real problem, with the result that Savile is one old boy who’s escaped proper justice.

The upside is that the snowball effect of the initial few testimonies aired by ITV‘s ‘Exposed…’ programme has been unprecedented. With 300+ lines of inquiry and the matter being debated in The Commons, the biggest elephant in the fusty drawing room of patriarchy is suddenly all too visible. Whilst much media coverage is, and will continue to be sensationalist, we owe it to ourselves as a society to look beyond the immediate facts and tawdry speculations and to try to gain a deeper understanding of the sinister and deeply antisocial forces at work here.

It’s going to take more than a bit of PR wizardry to make this problem disappear.

Charterhouse days re-revisited

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Fans of ex-Genesis guitar virtuoso Steve Hackett will be aware that he’s been revisiting the back catalogue of that band to an ever increasing extent in the last few years at his live shows. Hackett finds himself in much the same position as his old bandmate Mr Collins, insofar as he has continually enjoyed much respect from his musical peers (notably Eddie Van Halen who credits him with pioneering the tapping technique utilised to much-admired effect on Eruption) whilst being virtually ignored by the mainstream press. Unlike his former colleague, he has managed to avoid the frankly hysterical levels of media hostility and also in contrast to Collins and fellow guitarist Mike Rutherford he has continued to plow a musical furrow that prioritizes exploration, challenge and technique over singer-songwriting convention or radio airplay. For all the critical vitriol spat upon Genesis and Collins in the last two decades, their megastar status during the ’80s remains undeniable: indeed, their refusal to be swept away by the New Wave and actually grow in popular stature is undoubtedly at the heart of much of their, frankly unjustifyable vilification.

Whilst much of ex-Genesis singer, Peter Gabriel‘s solo catalogue has been defiantly progressive in spirit, and the Collins-led trio continued to dabble with long-form, complex composition right up to the end, Hackett stands apart among that band’s former membership with respect to his flying the flag for prog rock per-se; and revisiting the early Gabriel-fronted albums in particular. In 1996 he released Watcher of the Skies: Genesis Revisited which featured new studio arrangements of material from the first seven albums, plus two previously unheard recordings, to mixed but generally positive acclaim from critics and fans.

18 years later he’s doing it again, teaming up with a newer generation of musicians, along with some scene veterans. This second chapter of covers – imaginitively-titled Genesis Revisited II – features a dazzling array of contemporary prog talent, including Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth, Bloodbath), Conrad Keeley (…Trail Of Dead) and Simon Collins (son of Phil); as well as long term studio and live collaborators including Amanda Lehmann, Nick Beggs and Hackett‘s flautist brother John; and prog-loving pop veteran Nik Kershaw (further boosting his prog credentials following last year’s guest spot on DeeExpus‘s King of Number 33).

As was the case with volume one, the new arrangements are variously similar and significantly different to the original versions. In general the songs sparkle with new embellishments; Hackett‘s playing is tighter and cleaner than in days of yore and, of course, the recording, production and mix are up to a contemporary standard in contrast to the sometimes woolly  sound of the ’70s. What really impresses, though, are the songs themselves: as much as Genesis was a leading exponent of the art/prog rock movement and as such, aspired to high standards of musicianship, they were always songwriters first and foremost. Consequently, whilst some of the more outre experimentations from the ’60s and ’70s has come to sound clunky and willfully obscure, Genesis‘ output for the most part stands up really well: even signature, symphonic extravaganza Supper’s Ready still boasts enough by way of melodic hooks and hummable tunes amongst the widdly-diddly to ensure that its 23-minute duration feels much shorter.

Genesis fans will undoubtedly love this; but even if you’re not a fan this is an excellent opportunity to dip your toe into the dark and mysterious currents of an exceptionally-creative and much-maligned chapter in British rock music.

And you can try before you buy: Prog magazine are streaming the album from their site here

The new institutions

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Facebook hunt ‘tracks wife’s rapist’.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/9616624/Facebook-hunt-tracks-wifes-rapist.html

This kind of vigilante response is scarcely a new thing; albeit that the novel use of social media gives the situation an up-to-date, technological twist. The key word here is empowerment: the proliferation of the internet and, specifically, social networking applications like Facebook has empowered the public at large to take matters otherwise beyond their control into their own hands.

In much the same way that aspiring pop musicians now have a new means to bypass a hierarchical institution (the record industry) whose stock has been devalued by corruption and complacency; now victims of crime have a new means to bypass a hierarchical institution (the police and judiciary) whose stock has been devalued by corruption and complacency.

With ever more lurid revelations regarding the late Jimmy Savile keeping the issue of sex crime high in the media ratings, it’s a good time to reevaluate our historically inadequate response to sex crime and speculate the impact these new media might have in influencing change.

Legislation to deal with sexual-offenders is already in place, and the fact it’s historically proved so often ineffective is rooted mostly in a failure of collective will to enforce it. There’s something of an interrupt between the legal assertion that rape is a felony deserving of strict punishment and the response. The BBC (as other corporations do) manifests in microcosm a wider societal truth: that the welfare of the individual (victim) is of less import than the ‘brand’ (be that corporate entities, the church, the family etc). Deviants (from the prescribed norm) and whistleblowers are to be discouraged at all costs. As a (human) race it’s seductive and comforting to believe that everything’s basically ok, bar a few ‘bad apples’ but to quote Joe Jackson, “it just ain’t so”.

So I’m uncomfortable with the idea of the BBC becoming the focus of this – for much the same reason I was uncomfortable with Asians/Muslims becoming the focus of recent child abuse allegations/prosecutions in Rochdale. The danger is that the public will be presented with – yet another – convenient opportunity to buy into the comforting idea that the problem – child sexual abuse – arises from particular institutions or communities rather than recognizing it for the widespread, deep-rooted problem that it is. Despite recent efforts on behalf of the Women’s Movement and affiliated lobby groups, this kind of hidden violence is still too often perceived as exceptional. It really isn’t. There’s a parallel with the way HIV/AIDS is still too often perceived as an issue only for gays/drug users/the promiscuous; ‘them’, not ‘us’: denial is a powerful thing. Which is not to say that the BBC shouldn’t be brought to book; as Savile‘s employer it bears corporate responsibility to fully investigate the numerous allegations; co-operate with resultant legal proceedings and where necessary, instigate disciplinary action and provide recompense to victims. Nonetheless, the wider, longer-term solution to  crime rests on changing complacent, complicit attitudes within public and corporate life.

The new institutions have a significant – one might argue, pivotal – role to play here. The solution to violence is never more violence and we might not all care to be vigilantes anyway; but we can be vigilant and thanks to an ever-more-accessible stream of information via Twitter, Facebook and other public forums it’s becoming increasingly inexcusable not to be. Witness the recent Nick Griffin furore on Twitter for a fine example of how members of  the public has embraced this unprecedented opportunity to confront the forces that undermine civilised society in real time and in a genuinely democratic way (for instance this petition at Change.org to oust Griffin from Twitter). For better or worse, the internet is the ultimate enabler; for the criminally-minded and law-abiding alike. Indeed, there’s a certain irony that the very media that have given free reign to the illicit sex industry and other organized crime networks – and make no mistake, these are organized networks dealing in big bucks, let alone the cost in human misery –  are the same ones that might potentially bring about its undoing, by way of confronting the public’s long history of denial and complacency. Criminals like Savile will continue their tyrannies, of course, but there’s every chance that social media will provide an effective platform by means of which they might be exposed in their lifetime. Malicious false accusations and mistaken identifications are a possibility, of course, even likely – and there’s a weary inevitability that a few attention-seeking ne’er do wells will jump on the Savile bandwagon – but I’m not unduly concerned by this: typical estimates of the frequency of false criminal accusations hover around 2% of reported crimes, and given the exceptional social stigma associated with sex-crime, combined with ingrained reluctance to believe and thehistorically poor treatment of victims in court,there’s every reason to believe that false allegations of sex-crime are, if anything, less common than that. By contrast, 95% of sex crimes go unpunished; in many cases victims not only don’t report them to the authorities they never confide in anyone at all. As the saying goes, ‘you do the math’.

Savile‘s post-mortem trial by media might fly in the face of long-cherished notions of justice, but given the lack of justice that the majority of sex-abuse victims settle for it’s arguable that we’re in a better position than before. Marsh‘s assailant will face due process, and rightly so – though one hopes he will be treated sympathetically and with lenience – but the fact remains that in a more humane, less misogynistic world, victims of sex-crime would feel sufficient confidence in judical ‘due process’ to report their attacks at the time. It took eleven long years to bring Marsh to justice and many of Savile‘s victims have suffered much longer than that: if social media can effect some kind of paradigm shift, and fill a gap in the short term, then so be it.

Steampunk on the Thames

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Any Steampunk aficionados around these – virtual – parts?

Check out this exciting upcoming event brought to you by Time Machine Adventures. featuring a special guest appearance by acclaimed author and Steampunk stalwart Robert Rankin. Touted as ‘A riverine adventure upon Old Father Thames’ this exclusive cruise offers a floating Mecca for fans of bespoke fantasy Victoriana and all things nautical. Meet up with like-minded souls and enjoy complementary mulled wine and nibbles for this unique, seasonal gathering.

Tickets are selling fast so don’t delay

http://www.facebook.com/events/482472471786470/permalink/487335697966814/

p.s. As a little musical bonus – and given the sometimes affinity between cult Sci-Fi and cult rock’n’roll –  here’s a couple of teasers to get you into that dusty, musty, oak-adorned, submarine frame of mind:

It “is no more”, “has ceased to be”, “bereft of life, it rests in peace”…

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My PC, that is. It was getting on, anyway (XP!); though I suspect my recent browsing history might well have accelerated its demise. No such thing as safe sex these days 🙂

So apologies to any of my small but loyal band of followers: if you ‘like’, ‘comment’ or ‘follow’ and receive no reply, I’m not ignoring you I’m out and about sorting hardware issues.

Blog on,

Andy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vuW6tQ0218