Tag Archives: 2012

The Olympic torch came to uncaring Greenwich this morning amid officials

A sign of things to come: ordinary roads blocked off by police

My eternally-un-named friend lives in Greenwich. She hates it. I understand why.

Last night, by the River Thames, there were food tents, comedy shows and a bandstand with music. A two minute walk away, we passed two men in their late 20s or early 30s standing on a street corner by Creek Road, near the Up The Creek comedy club. One was talking on his mobile phone:

Greenwich foreground; with a background in the Isle of Dogs

“The guy is testing the stuff and then he’s giving me the cash,” he said to the unseen person.

A little later, after dark, nearby, we passed by a children’s play area amid council blocks. Three boys in their late teens passed through quickly, one putting a white plastic bag at the top of the children’s slide, as if leaving it for someone to collect later.

Greenwich Council is notoriously uncaring unless you live in one of the elite streets. It is a bit like North Korea. It looks stylish on the outside but has been allowed to rot at its core by uncaring bureaucrats.

Sikhing good publicity by giving away free vegetable rolls

So I was interested to see the so-called Olympic Torch Relay pass through Greenwich early this morning. The small central one-way system in town was cordoned off with occasional single lines of partially-interested onlookers standing behind metal barriers.

The parade: policemen and officials

“It’s only three seconds of your life.” I heard one adult tell a child.

It was like a half-hearted small town parade where the people in official jackets outnumbered the onlookers and it was noticeable for occasionally smiling policemen. I was reminded of a line from the movie Get Carter:

“You were lucky. They also kill people.”

I guess the Metropolitan Police saw it as a welcome PR opportunity to try to distract from the more realistic image yesterday of the thuggish copper who killed an entirely random innocent man and got away with it despite a 12-year record of violence against ordinary people. It is rare that the left wing Daily Mirror and the right wing Daily Mail newspaper both run stories about endemic police brutality.

The Olympic shenanigans this morning were all about PR.

Forget athletics coaches: it’s all about Coca Cola coaches

There were the red Coca Cola frisbees, a gigantic red Coca Cola coach, small Marks & Spencer paper triangles with a union flag design on one side and, on the other, the slogan On Your Marks… for a Summer to remember.

People were taking photos with smart phones and iPads; the traffic was blocked by policemen on bikes.

A bemused Chinese interview beside the Cutty Sark

A man from some Chinese television company was interviewing a bemused woman beside the Cutty Sark, leaflets were being handed out for Greenwich’s Premier Gym & Health Club, a group of Sikhs were giving out free vegetable roti rolls promoting Langgar 2012 – “Sikhs serving langgar and embracing diversity”.

And, in among it all, barely glimpsed, was a small woman speeding along the road in a wheelchair holding aloft a golden Olympic torch and…

Glimpsed for a second – a man with an Olympic torch

…a minute later round the corner, there was a man in white running with the same Olympic torch. They seemed an unimportant afterthought.

Nearby, on the Thames, the looming grey warship with the attack helicopters on deck waited for any terrorist incident. Up the hill on Blackheath, the ground-to-air missile system was presumably being manned. And somewhere, atop various  South London blocks of flats, were other missile defence systems.

Shock! Amazement! Met Police killed non-one this morning

But, in Greenwich this morning, the Torch Relay seemed to be mostly an excuse for people to dress up in pink or green or red tops as wardens or volunteers or crowd-controllers and for the police to parade in yellow jackets on motor bikes.

People had come out in small numbers to see the spectacle of people organising things.

Attack helicopters and Yuppies by the Thames in Greenwich

For much the same reason, next Friday I will be watching the Olympics’ Opening Ceremony… To see how the highly-talented director Danny Boyle has spent his multi-million pound budget. And, like everyone else, just in case there is a spectacular terrorist attack live on television.

Last August I missed the English riots by being in Scotland. This year I will miss the English Olympics for the same reason.

I think the Edinburgh Fringe will have fewer sponsors and a few more laughs.

My eternally-un-named friend’s opinion?

“It’s just something else to put up with, like the weather. I don’t want to be here.”

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Filed under Drugs, London, Olympics, PR, Sponsorship, Sport

The effect of the London Olympics and a cup of tea on the Edinburgh Fringe

The Fringe Roadshow at London’s Shaw Theatre yesterday

The famous repeated mantra in William Goldman’s book Adventures in the Screen Trade is that, however experienced, nobody knows for certain what will work or what will happen… Nobody KNOWS anything.

Ever since I blogged that I only very rarely remember anything I dream, I have been occasionally remembering a tiny snippet of a dream here-and-there. This is partly because I have bits-and-bobs of a cold hanging round my nose and throat and brain and I keep waking up during the night coughing.

Last night, in my dreams, I was at the Edinburgh Fringe in August and bought a cup of tea, but the assistant behind the tea bar topped it up with orange juice instead of milk.

“Oh! Sorry, sorry,” she said. “I’ll replace it. I’ll do it again.”

“No, don’t bother,” I replied. “It might work. It might taste interesting.”

Nobody KNOWS anything.

You can never tell what may work at the Edinburgh Fringe – or what may happen.

I dreamed about the Edinburgh Fringe last night because, yesterday afternoon, I went to an Edinburgh Fringe Roadshow in London.

This year, the London Olympics overlap the first nine days of the Fringe in theory – or the first twelve days in practice, given that many shows start on the Wednesday preceding the official start of the Fringe.

I asked Kath Mainland, Chief Executive of the Fringe, if this was a good or bad thing for attracting audiences to Edinburgh in August.

“Well,” she said, “we’ve been talking a lot about whether that will impact or not. We’ve been doing a lot of additional marketing and moving a lot of marketing earlier. We’ll be doing a lot more in London to counter that. Whether it will have an effect or not, who knows?”

You can never tell what may happen at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Nobody KNOWS anything.

Even Doug Segal – who performs an excellent mind-reading act – does not know what may happen in Edinburgh.

Last year was his first appearance at Fringe and he got full houses. His show was in a relatively small venue at the Free Festival, where performers are charged nothing by the venues and the audience is charged no admission but can pay what they think it was worth at the end. It is like indoor busking. And with the same uncertainty.

Doug said he made about £150 each night for his hour-long show and, over the course of the Fringe, broke even. This is a rare thing at the Fringe; most people lose money because of the cost of accommodation, travel and staging/publicising their shows.

You can never tell what may happen at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Not even a top-notch mind-reader.

Nobody KNOWS anything.

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Filed under Culture, Sport

The comedy girl who is planning what to do when the world ends in 2012

(This was also published in the Huffington Post)

Throughout my life, whenever I have met people at parties and suchlike, they have always eventually asked that terribly British question: “What do you do?”

I am buggered if I have ever been able to give a sensible answer.

Most of my money has come from producing/directing/writing on-screen TV promos. But no-one knows what the hell they are.

“Oh, does someone do that?” people ask in disbelief if they do start to understand.

I fare better with “I worked on Tiswas, Game For a Laugh, Surprise Surprise and Jonathan Ross and various other things,” but then there are all the times when I was writing film reviews – except they were mostly features and interviews. And comedy reviews. Briefly. And writing other people’s autobiographies (which is understandably confusing). And let’s not even get into the area of what I might or might not do with comedians or the phrase that brings fear into the eyes of my accountant: Killer Bitch.

But the tables have now been turned.

I have now met Leila Johnston and Sara Williams at Made By Many a couple of times. They run an event called Storywarp which was held at Made By Many but will now be held elsewhere and they both worked for Made By Many except Sara has moved on.

“So what does Made By Many do?” a friend asked the other day.

“I have no idea,” I said. “It’s a sort-of agency that does things or thinks up things connected to social networking and the internet or something. I have no idea. I suspect they don’t know either, but they seem to be quite good at whatever it is they do.”

“And what does this Leila woman do?” I was asked in a foolish follow-up question.

“I have no idea,” I said. “She seems to write for things like Wired magazine as well as work for Made By Many and she seems to be a powerhouse of creative something-or-other but I’m not quite sure what.”

“I see,” my friend said. “Perhaps you should ask her.”

So I did.

“I write and produce all kinds of stuff,” Leila told me. “and I’ve always been into comedy. If not trying to write it, then trying to see how other people do it. I’ve met a lot of comedy people over the years and they’re a strange bunch.”

So at least Leila is a good judge of character.

“I went up to the Edinburgh Fringe with my family in 1994 and it blew my mind,” she told me. “Comedy heroes everywhere! The writer/performer Ben Moor, whom my brother and I knew from some of our favourite radio and TV shows, was up there with a very strange, rather good one-man show called A Supercollider for the Family. Ben’s show had some great gags being projected on a screen behind him… In the Kingdom of the Deaf, the one-eared man is king. But his crown is askew...

“A decade later, like half of London, I became actual friends with Ben and I couldn’t resist quoting some of those jokes back to him. That must have been a bit strange for him, now I think about it. But he has got an even better memory for these details than me, which partly explains how he once got five gold runs on Blockbusters on ITV. We’ve since worked together on Radio 4 pilots and Star Trek TNG parties, and I still make a point of remembering all his jokes.”

Star Trek TNG parties???

It is no wonder I do not know what Leila does. What on earth are Star Trek TNG parties? I feel I have slipped through a temporal wormhole into a parallel universe.

Go back a bit, Leila. Go back a bit. I am old and, as comedienne Janey Godley would say, my skin no longer fits me.

“In 2003,” Leila tries to explain, “I was in my final year at York University, while doing bits of writing work for a communications company. People were beginning to see stand-up comedy would never be the new rock ‘n roll, but it was holding its own as the new drum ‘n’ bass. So the company decided to put on a comedy festival for the area.

“They appointed me their PR officer, which involved a bit of filling in spreadsheets and a lot of going to comedy gigs and propping up the VIP bar. I met Rhod Gilbert on the terrace. No-one knew who he was then, but everyone in the bar was magnetically pulled to his table, because his act had been the stand-out hit of our festival.

“If you’ve seen his manic domestic-appliance-themed act in recent years, you wouldn’t recognise him then. He was downbeat and immobile in the middle of the stage, spinning surreal stories about his Welsh family though, even then, it was all excellent.

Norman Lovett was compering one of the Fringe shows, and did a strange improvised routine involving balancing his spectacles on different parts of his body. I remember, in the bar that evening, being introduced to him as a Red Dwarf fan. He was very sweet and told us that, these days, he’s mistaken for Victor Meldrew almost as often as he is recognised for his own characters. I haven’t seen him since, but he was so nice that I remember his jokes.

“I flyered for Richard Herring’s Edinburgh Fringe show through the monsoons of 2004. I was homeless at the time and living in a tent on a campsite just outside Edinburgh. Richard took a small amount of pity on me, made me a cup of tea, and allowed me to stay over on the sofa in his flat for one night. Chris Addison was there that night, too. It might have been his breakthrough year, but at that point he was just an energetic lad going round the room telling everyone their face was the shape of either a plate or a dragon. I might be mis-remembering, but I don’t think I am.

This is showbusiness! I thought. This is glamour! I went back to my tent-home and it had been flooded.

“I think I have met everyone I want to, so the world might as well finish.

“I am now preoccupied with ways the world could end in 2012, to the extent that I am hosting a series of events called The Event in February, in a basement in London where I think we will be safe. There will be talks, performance, science, a geiger counter, gas masks, and readings. Bunker space is limited.”

Oh… she may also go up to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012 or 2013.

If the world does not end.

Which all sounds great.

But what DOES Leila actually DO?

“Well,” she says, “all that Edinburgh Fringe stuff makes it sound like I’m just a crazed celebrity anecdote generating machine. I usually describe myself as a digital copywriter, because that tends to end the line of questioning. But I feel strongly that writing is just a by-product of trying to find out about things and being addicted to audiences, so it’s not enough to say ‘I’m a writer’. In addition to the day job, I constantly write things for publications, performance and broadcast.”

That really doesn’t help me.

I still have no idea what you could say Leila Johnston does.

But, then, I still have absolutely no idea what ‘thing’ I do either.

If anyone can tell me or even give me a few hints, I would appreciate it.

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Filed under Ad industry, Comedy, Internet, Marketing, Television, Writing

Greenwich: from World Heritage Site to Third World slum within a two minute walk

Greenwich is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

But the road behind late comic Malcolm Hardee’s Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich has not become my favourite place recently. It is called Bardsley Lane.

In the late-night darkness there, I have twice trodden in dog shit (it’s apparently common in the area) and my car was broken into in the early hours of the morning (apparently also common in the area). The police response was: “Is there a street camera in Bardsley Lane?”

Call me out-of-touch, but I somehow thought the police might know.

There isn’t, of course, because Greenwich Council appears to have abandoned Bardsley Lane like Jordan has abandoned Alex Reid as a lost cause – they don’t even pretend to take any interest in the area. It is just a two-minute stroll from Greenwich Town centre and you can see what a jolly stroll it is in a video I have posted on YouTube.

While tarting-up some areas where councillors live “for the 2012 Olympics”, Greenwich Council have let Bardsley Lane deteriorate literally into a rubbish tip – although it is just two minutes from the historic town centre of the UNESCO World Heritage site and visible from the main Creek Road through the town centre.

The car wash featured towards the end of the video was given permission to trade on the basis it was “not out of keeping with the general character of… Greenwich Town centre and (would) not harm the setting and the appearance of the area and the adjacent West Greenwich Conservation area.”

Are they having a laugh?

Does this look like a World Heritage Site or a rubbish tip of a slum in some Third World country?

Ah! But then… call me a cynical fat slaphead…

Where there’s muck, there’s usually brass changing hands.

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Filed under Architecture, History, Politics