Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Day Tripper

Long old day yesterday- I'd forgotten how much the National Express coach from Sheffield to London and back in one day saps you- it's about 7 hours on the coach for around 8 hours in the capital. It is however very, very cheap (and inexplicably even cheaper if you buy two singles rather than a return for the same times).
I was down plugging No Tomatoes- doing a little interview with BBC Radio 7 presenter Penny Haslam that will be chopped up in teensy usable slices and scattered thinly over the airwaves in the next few weeks. Six or eight minutes maximum I'd imagine.
Now, that seems a short time to justify a trip to London doesn't it?
It is, which was why I'd also arranged another appointment at Broadcasting House, talking to one of the arts producers I've previously done items for on Front Row, offering up a bit of archive material for a currently unannounced Radio 4 programme and chatting in the studio about the background to it.
Interestingly, I find it much easier to talk about other people and their work than I do about me and mine. Not what you'd expect eh, long suffering reader?

While I was in London I had a little free time and discovered two interesting things.
The first was that No Tomatoes episode 2 was at that point the most listened to entertainment programme on BBC Radio 7's iPlayer page (and something like fourth or fifth most listened to on the station overall) and as a consequence was on the very front page of the iPlayer representing 7 and claiming to be a radio highlight! It's certainly better than episode 1 by my reckoning.

It's also definitely getting much better publicity this time, with really well crafted on-air trailers, and nice little images on the Radio 7 homepage, and all this before Penny's interrogation of me is cast piecemeal into the ether.
The fact I've started getting email from strangers about it again suggests a heightened awareness too.

The second thing I learned was the full contents listing for the final Big Finish published Doctor Who Short Trips story collection, a lovely fiction range that's now coming to an end. It's a best of retrospective cunningly titled Re:Collections.

< Geeky Who bit >
I'm in it, as are several friends- virtual, actual and bothual. In particular I recommend you Matt Kimpton's Life After Queth- he should have got a slew of Doctor Who gigs on the basis of this debut, funny, moving, tricksy with time and beautifully written. The story features Doctor Who's very best giant telekinetic alien woodlouse and introduces a whole new race of space armadilloids.
Truth be told I'm there under slightly false pretenses because the very best entry in the volume my story came from is definitely Paul Magrs' Kept Safe and Sound. However, I believe the rules for the collection were one story per author and Paul had already been ear-marked for inclusion for a story from another volume, allowing me to sneak in in his place.
I'd also recommend Jonathan Morris' story The Thief of Sherwood even though it is NOT CANON and contains a very unlikely fictional edit occurring in an early 1960s BBC videotape show, and Steve Lyons' All Our Christmasses, a lovely satirical fable which was so prescient of 'Pirate Planet' episode 4 Spannergate and the evil that scandalous interference released into the world.
< /Geeky Who bit >

Great cover, isn't it?
I came back from London with horrible dandruff, which I'm going to blame the coach air-conditioning for, while being glad I didn't wear headphones during the radio interviews just in case I'm wrong.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Different Days

Yesterday, I went out, as you do, to a train station, as you do, and met a poet there, which I don't often. We then went off to a colossal steelworks, visited a local history archive, listened to an academic sing folk, popped into an old vicarage for tea with aristocracy, then travelled through a field of gambolling lambs to enter a dragon's cave.
I got all my drinks paid for all day. How brill was that?
By the time I returned home I had two reasons to visit Broadcasting House next week.
The only things that went wrong with the day were that I ate some jalapeno peppers that evening which unsettled my night and that, despite my confident assertion that Liverpool were capable of beating Chelsea 4-2, they didn't. They could have though so my assertion stands and they tried heroically in an astonishing game.
Usually humdrummery really.

Today was harder. The usual horror of the Hillsborough anniversary took me right back to 20 years ago when three of my relatives were in that ground and I was manning the 'phone in Sheffield to many more, waiting to see if they came home. They did, others were not so lucky.
When they eventually managed to return the police were still claiming fans had broken in through the gate that they'd opened to crisis manage the crush which poorly planned crowd management had caused. They just moved the crush, creating a deadly bottle neck and treated those trying to escape it as criminals.
My father, who'd seen the gates opened, 'phoned the local radio when he got back and told them the police were misleading the media.
Because he was well-spoken, articulate and corroborating other testimony the person he was speaking to simply called out “We've got comformation. Run with it!” and did, without even checking his name.

Today, I saw a policeman on the news defending the actions of an un-numbered officer attacking a female demonstrator in London with a baton, explaining that we didn't necessarily know what provocation he'd received and whether he was hitting this woman to fend off others nearby who were 'demonstrating against him'.
The lessons of 20 years ago have not been fully learned. The public en-masse are not necessarily the enemy of the police.

Saturday, 4 April 2009


Apologies for recent radio silence- I've been busy juggling hot knives and metaphors.
I'm deep in radio play re-writes and late too. I've found it hard. It's been a bit like like picking at a scab or a simile, you start with one little bit and the whole thing slowly unravels on you in a way scabs don't as a consequence.

Other than that the recording date looms for In Search of the Wantley Dragon and I'm doing a location recce and a pre-interview with one of the key contributers over the next couple of days and also developing a few things with the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield- you remember, where I saw most of Control (and all of Pandora's Box).
Too early to talk about those but before/if they happen I'll definitely be interviewing Dick Mills of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop there on the 27th of April, a boyhood hero for a nerd like me obviously- the man who did Major Bloodnok's Stomach, The Penargilon Kangaroo Relocation Drive and of course Atomic Reactor Runs Wild.
I will ask him about glow-pots and wobbulators until people flee.

Also from 11pm on Sunday the 12th BBC Radio 7 is re-running No Tomatoes. I expect this will be the last time they run it. They've paid the actors for three plays only, so unless they renegotiate to bring the performance rights in line with the script rights (they're allowed another two airings of those) that's probably that. So if by some freak of chance you've missed it up to now this may well be your 'last chance to miss'.