Beatles Childhood Homes.



Book your tour online now and enjoy the unique experience of a visit to the childhood homes of John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. This is your only opportunity to see inside the places where the Beatles met, composed and rehearsed many of their earliest songs.

"Imagine walking through the back door into the kitchen where John's Aunt Mimi would have cooked him his tea, or standing in the spot where Lennon and McCartney composed 'I Saw Her Standing There'.

"Join our custodians on a fascinating trip down memory lane, and take a moment to reflect on these incredible individuals. Visiting the Beatles' childhood homes in Liverpool is an absolute must for fans of any ages. The tours provide a real insight into Lennon and McCartney's humble beginnings.
Music  Hello John.  Hello Paul.  As we've already discussed on many an occasions, if you're from Liverpool, you're either a born fan, become a fan, or have fandom thrust upon you and I'm in the far latter group.  Very far.  Rather like football, the local music scene is just the sort of thing I rejected from a young age, or at least the rock and roll end, committed as I've been for all these years in not being stereotyped.  The football was purposeful.  The Beatles was not.  It's just that having discovered girly pop and film soundtracks, guitar bands fell down the priority list.  Availability was an issue too.  When in possession of my own disposable income at just the moment when I was presumably supposed to be listening to the music of head bobbers and foot tappers, I'd be in Penny Lane Records buying the new Wilson Phillips album.

Which is why it's taken all these years to finally visit the childhood homes of Lennon and McCartney.  It's also true that because they lived in my patch, the curiosity value is rather less than it might be at a medieval castle or Tudor home.  My parents and I all went to the same school as Paul and I'd get the bus home from there opposite where George used to live.  Perhaps the people of Stratford have a similar attitude to Shakespeare's birthplace.  It's just sort of their and although it's not in their living memory in the same way, the whole notion of spending too much time their beyond school visits entirely ludicrous.  But I understand the impulse to see where genius flourished.  I wonder if they have the same feeling I did, that in the end it's just a house and that it's the experience a person has there, impossible to recreate in a heritage sense which made the person.

The National Trust tour begins at Jury's Inn which is the giant hotel next door to the Echo Arena and not as I initially thought on Castle Street necessitating a panicky walk up the Dock Road.  You're picked up by the above minibus outside and the whole tour lasts about two and half hours.  The member price is £10.50, nine-fifty plus booking fee (£24.00 to non-members).  This is doubtless to cover the cost of transportation which in and of itself was quite the surprise.  I'd expected some kind of generic vehicle but here it is advertising the tour in the Trust font should anyone notice it passing by.  There were around fifteen people in the group, the capacity of the bus,  including some Canadians, Mexicans and one bloke whose house actually backs on to Mendips.  His house has an identical interior.  He still has the same bath.



When Yoko bought Mendips in 2002 and donated it to the Trust, it was on the understanding that it would not be used as a Beatles tourist attraction per se, but to give visitors an idea of what it was like inside John's home in the 1950s.  As the present custodian explained, a kind of pre-Beatles tour.  So although there is some description of how John became a musician and met Paul, it's all through the prism of Aunt Mimi's pride in the house and keeping the house together through Lennon's teenage years.  As portrayed in the film Nowhere Boy, she had a love/hate relationship with his musical interest, unable to ban him from pursuing his guitar playing but desperate for him to get an education.  Luckily for the two of them, even though he failed his O-Levels a grade below requirement across the board, the School of Art saw that he had some talent which gave him a springboard.

She was well-to-do.  Groups enter through the back door into the kitchen because Mimi kept the front door for special visitors, holy men and the like, mostly to keep the carpet from becoming worn.  There's an odd moment in the tour when he implies that the way that she with her Woolton house looked down on Paul and George from the estate was a thing of the fifties when my school experience, where I was the only child from Speke at school full of people from the area around Mather Avenue was not dissimilar.  In order to keep the house, she eventually turned it into a hostel for students, converting the upstairs rooms into bedrooms, the back dining room into a study.  But it worked and she stayed there, despite some hardship, right up until John became famous and bought her a new place for her to live in Surrey.

Most of the tour is conducted in the kitchen and living room, with the custodian explaining all of this history, with the group then given ten or fifteen minutes the wander through the rest.  It's more than enough.  As with the Hardman House, much of my visit both here and at Forthlin Road, was spent noticing which items myself or a family member owned as a child and in some cases still do.  I'd entirely forgotten about the wooden clothes maiden which dangled from the ceiling at my Grans house which features in both kitchens.  A wooden board with grooves which used to have a planter on in our back garden I now realise was originally a draining board.  The Canadians and Mexicans will have found this much more fascinating thanks to cultural disparities.  You can imagine the blank faces when the guide tried to explain the concept of the eleven-plus to them.




The Beatles history end of the tour is held over to 20 Forthlin Road where Paul flourished.  The house is filled with photographs donated by his brother Michael which shows them and their family growing up in the property, even obliquely indicating historical inaccuracies in relation to decor and wallpaper some of which was unique enough to be impossible to recreate now.  It's in this house that Lennon & McCartney really forged their friendship, where they practiced the majority of their music and where they wrote some of the songs on their first album including Please, Please, Me.  Although Paul hasn't visited since 1964, he's recorded a message welcoming visitors which is rather lovely.  It feels more like a home than Mendips with visitors even allowed to sit on the furniture.  Until recently a custodian actually lived in the house.  He was always out whenever Paul happened by.

But what I wanted more on both tours was the sense, much clearer at other properties, of talking about them in terms of what they were architecturally within and out, how they fitted into that piece of social history.  Although there's some talk of why post-war council estates exist and the class system, there's little about the design features of the property, why they should differ.  But I acknowledge that's more to do with my personal taste and that the bulk of visitors will be more interested in the Beatles connection and so that's what's being emphasised in the limited time allotted.  Whereas in other Trust properties it is the architectural features which are of most importance, although both of these houses are now Grade II* listed, it's The Beatles connection which makes them remarkable.  Perhaps it's my own fault for not asking.

Nevertheless I'm pleased to have finally taken the trip.  As we left the house, a group on the Magical Mystery Tour were receiving their version of the history which must have included the same explanation I received back in 2004 when I originally took that tour (coincidentally the same week I visited Carnforth Station - see Sunday!) as to why we'd been allowed inside but they were stuck outside in the cold.  The irony that this fairweather fan had bought an opportunity which they were still waiting for wasn't lost on me.  Perhaps I should take that tour again to see what's changed.  Not much probably.  As I write I'm listening to their music on Spotify and just as in 2004, I'm listening to it with new ears.  Please Please Me sounds as fresh now as it must have done in 1963.  It hasn't dated.  Like Shakespeare, it's timeless.

Shakespeare's First Folio: A Checklist.

Shakespeare With the welcome news that Stonyhurst College's First Folio is going on display in Blackburn with Robert Edward Hart's 2nd, 3rd and 4th Folios, I've decided to begin keeping a list of the various copies of the editions which I've seen. Of course, the greater adventure would be an attempt to see all of them, but since visiting the Folger Library isn't on the cards yet (assuming they'd let me see them all), it'll still be fun to see how many I can take a gander at.

Anyway, here's the list. I'll keep this updated with new additions. I'll put location and date when I saw them in brackets afterwards.

The Ashburnham
(Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, June 2009)

University of Manchester
(John Rylands Library, April 2016)

I didn't say it was a long list, so far. I'm sure I've forgotten one. I'll probably edit this text out when it gets a bit longer.

Doom Coalition 2.

Audio  Huh. Doom Coalition 2's a strange listen. For all the introduction of the newer much greater adversary, the return of the Eleven and River Song, it feels inessential, a group of episodes which exists because it's time for some more Eighth Doctor adventures, rather than because there are any especially interesting stories to tell. They're fine, none of them are utterly horrible, but in places the narrative is either a bit manic and incoherent and in others stretched out. The treatment of the companions doesn't help; for the first time in ages neither seems to have a connection to the wider arc, Liv somewhat in the Fitz Kreiner mode of being around because she is and Helen being rather too generic to be dynamic, both of their back stories having been fully explored in previous adventures (though both actresses are entirely listenable and funny). Certainly there's nothing here which captures the heights of the glory days, the Charley years or the Lucie stories.  This month's DWM is more positive, especially about the earlier episodes, but even their writer spends a lot of time talking about the calibre of the cast.  Perhaps once Doom Coalition 3's released we'll have a clearer idea of how these fit into the wider tale.

Beachhead

During his interview on the making of documentary, writer Nick Briggs struggles to explain what's so great about the Voord, using the words "classic monsters" because in fact there's nothing great about the Voord. Admittedly the BDSM update on the cd cover gives cosplayers new lines of enquiry, but even in The Keys of Marinus they're just sort of there, a placeholder for the humanoid soldier type antagonist hole which would later be filled with the Cybermen (literally in fact depending on which comic strip you've been reading). Which means their resurrection doesn't have quite the same delight cache as perhaps the Nimon or the Macra, at least for me, so when their plans unfold, especially on audio, what you're left with is having to listen to half the cast sounding as though they have a bucket on their head whilst outlining their nefarious plans.  Beachhead otherwise is fine.  It doesn't have the opening bang of some of these boxed sets, but if you decide it's more like episode five in a much longer series akin to an early With Lucie story, then you become more sympathetic.  Hopefully they'll return to the idea of one of the Third Doctor's non-adventures when there's more duration to do it justice.

Scenes From Her Life

Something which I've often pondered is the extent to which the TARDIS or at least the Doctor's TARDIS stops being a magical vehicle when we know that there are hundreds if not thousands of similar vehicles in existence.  As well as the various models which have appeared on television owned by various other Time Lords, in the spin-offs we've seen Battle TARDIS some the size of freighters on the outside, sentient humanoid TARDISes (Compassion notably) and now we have one which is bigger on the outside, the sections usually hidden behind the gateway spread across the time vortex like the intestines of a Tyburn victim after a good quartering.  My guess is that it depends how it's treated in the narrative.  Have Jenna Coleman's giant watery eyes gazing at the interior and Murray Gold giving twangly voice to Clara's theme and it's something pretty bloody special.  Make it effectively an intergalactic taxi cab as it so often became in the classic series, not so much.  That said, the TARDIS city encountered here is wonderful and would certainly be less so if the television series had attempted something similar in CGI.  Once again audio provides us with some something indescribable and leaves us to conjure the images.

The Gift

"Zagreus sits inside your head, / Zagreus lives among the dead, / Zagreus sees you in your bed, / And eats you when you're sleeping."  It's inherent in Doctor Who that it tends to reconsider old ideas and here we have the Doctor possessed once again by a "gift" which makes voice go funny, makes him all powerful and a danger to his friends.  Thankfully the solution on this occasion is easier than in the last decade when it became the precursor to one of the oddest sets of stories in the franchise's history, instead favouring some TARDIS-ex-machine, which may become important in Doom Coalition 3 (or as I suspect explains what happens to Rose in The Parting of the Ways).  McGann's in his element in this whole story, running the spectrum from mad Doctor to clever Doctor to nefarious Doctor to finally the adventurer again.  Nevertheless, as with the rest of the stories in this box, there's a sense of the character being in a slight holding pattern, being dragged along by events, never quite the protagonist of his own adventures.  The events of the previous stories should weigh heavier on him but he sounds rather blase about the whole thing.

The Sonomancer

Big Finish's nuWho license apparently stretches up to and include Eleventh's regeneration in Time of the Doctor and yet here we have another River Song story clearly set, at least for her, between The Husbands of River Song and Silence in the Library.  When she refers to the "magician, the spiv and the geography teacher" she can only be referring to 12th, 11th and 10th.  The whole thing's pleasingly naughty, like the old Gallifrey spin-off stories when they obliquely referenced the Time War or the BBC Books novels which reference Ninth before he was properly introduced on-screen.  Otherwise, well, yes, I'm disappointed.  Pre-release this seemed like it was going to be a proper meeting between Eighth and River but once again Big Finish are adhering to continuity and not having them meet with one of his companions forced to keep her confidence on the matter.  Admittedly, it'd be cheap to repeat something akin to the memory wipe forced on the Sixth Doctor so that he could forget Charley's existence, but there has to be some way of getting around this narratively speaking which doesn't break Tenth's first encounter.  Otherwise every one of these River Song and classic Doctor stories is going be a cheat.

My Favourite Film of 1945.



Film Last week, I talked about how In The Bleak Midwinter replaced It's a Wonderful Life in my top five films of all time. During one of the key moments in that film, for various reasons which I won't spoil in case you ever decide to see it, the characters talk about what makes their life worth living and Vernon, one of the sanest actors in this group who're staging Hamlet in an old church at Christmas says, "Rachmaninoff. That bit in Brief Encounter. And Brief Encounter, actually. That makes life worth living. I'll buy you the video for Christmas."

I actually saw Brief Encounter for the first time at around the time on video, not long after Christmas. For about six brilliant weeks (during my third year at university), The Independent newspaper had an offer where you could by a film on VHS at a heavily discounted price of £3 with the Saturday or Sunday edition of the paper starting with When Harry Met Sally and Brief Encounter was also included (the rest of the films are listed here and its fair to say its the first time I saw most of those too) and you could purchase these from the corner shop and I distinctly remember visiting the newsagents in Hyde Park Corner in Leeds and seeing them stacked up under the glass counter.

About six or seven years later I decided to do the inevitable pilgrimage to the newly re-opened Carnforth station, where Brief Encounter was filmed and I wrote about the visit on this blog.  Find the entry reproduced below (which includes more detail about that first viewing) (and subsequent viewings) (yes, for the second week running here is one I prepared earlier).  In the years since I've had a few occasions similar in sentiment to the final moments in the film, with plenty of metaphoric Mrs Baggot.  There's never enough time is there?

Originally posted 3rd March 2004:

I'm standing on the platform of a railway station which I've never visited before but which is very familiar to me. Some things are wrong - the trains are electric not steam driven and small wooden tea room isn't there. And I know that the town which I would expect this to be gateway to is somewhere else. This is Carnforth, but I know it as Milford Junction in the film Brief Encounter.

My first brief encounter with the film was at a very young age. I remember seeing part of it on my gran's television set waiting to go home while my dad sorted out her household expenses. It was the end and I think I was quite interested in seeing the steam trains. It wasn't until university that I saw it in full when I finally gave my life to film and started working my way around the classics. It was on video, on a rented recorder and the cream bakelite tv I had in my third year. If I'm being honest I didn't really understand. My early twenties brain brought up on Neighbours and sitcom couldn't understand why Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard wouldn't leave their respective partners if they weren't happy and this was true love. Last week, when I watched again on dvd, with eight years of understanding that before the sixties people didn't enjoy the freedom they have now that despite their affections they couldn't continue, because of their responsibilities as human beings to themselves and their families - and that in fact this is still a fairly realistic representation even now.

I also understood why it was a classic. Like all classic film its an innovator. It has an incredibly intricate structure - the final moments of the relationship are shown at the start and then reappear at the end in a new light illuminated by the experiences of the characters and the audience - the 'how did we get here style' supposedly as equally innovative in Fight Club. The voiceover in which Johnson relates to her husband why she's been so mordant of late is echoed again in Fight Club but also in everything from Casino to The Shawshank Redemption. Cleverly, even the romance between the train conductor and the maid in the tea room plays out in the right order as we see the break down in communication at the start and during the film the lead up to the end of that relationship (which reminds me a bit of the narrative games Tarantino plays).

Suddenly convinced of the film's classic status, I recalled watching one of Michael Palin's travel programmes in which he visited the derelict station at which Brief Encounter was shot, and saying how awful it was that a national landmark should have fallen into such disrepair. The original architecture had gone, replaced during the sixties by an overzealous architect and some concrete, the place were the tea room had stood a brick shell. I didn't understand then so gave it no mind. Earlier on this year I was watching BBC News' North West Tonight and saw a report about how a local group had been set up to raise money for the renovation of the station and how the derelict buildings had been save and turned into a tea room which replicated the film and a visitors centre. It was this story which I remembered last week when I thought about what I was going to do during my holiday.

The curious thing about visiting film landmarks is that as you look about, the film plays through your head like a implanted memory, the strange becoming familiar. So as I walked through the tunnel beneath the platforms I saw Johnson and Howard stealing their kiss and standing on the platform I remembered the moment the express train flew through. Which is odd because on the whole as I've described, the station isn't all that similar. The tea room in the film was a fa├žade built for David Lean the director because the actual location of the thing wasn't dramatic enough, for example.

So in renovating the station, the conservators have tried to produce a medium between what's there and what people remember from the film. So the interior of the tea room, which for the shooting was created on a sound stage, has been re-developed within one of the existing rooms. The bar from the film has been re-created and placed in situ, with the memorable taps, tea urns and display cases. The frosted wording from the windows in the film are here too, as are the chairs and tables. It's not the same, but its enough to create the feeling of stepping into the film. And it's a working tea room, and was incredibly busy - so I had to sit in an overflow back room which was fine - larger tables and slightly warmer. Leek and stilton soup, pot of tea and a scone with cream £4.25 and all lovely.

It's still relatively early days so the visitors centre is more of an exhibition space. There's currently a display highlighting the oral history of Carnforth which is interesting, but to be honest not really something a tourist might be visiting for. They want to know about Brief Encounter. There are photos from the film here and there and an archive letter from Celia Johnson, but it's almost an apology. The most exciting thing is a dvd projection system, showing the film on a wall and it is enthralling to be watching the story in the place it was filmed - and it does make a change from fighting with a chocolate dispensing machine when waiting for a train. There are things in the pipeline. I overheard a guide saying that by the summer there would be building a gift shop so that they could sell film merchandise and they had some old seats ready for a purpose built mini-cinema, which is actually a really fun idea.

I watched the opening moments of the film again at the station, then had a walk around Carnforth, went to the loo, realized my train home wasn't for some time then returned to the projector and saw the last twenty minutes. Having missed the courtship, I was back for the breakdown, the realization they couldn't go on and the parting. I was struck by how realistic those final moments they have together actually are. We have an idea of how something will happen, good or bad, that for a few brief moments things will go our way, then something will jump up unawares and throw things off course. Then we realize that's the only way it could end. When dotty Mrs Baggot appears and interrupts their silence it saves the couple from having to say goodbye and Laura can concentrate all of her what ifs on the hand that Alec places on her shoulder, his final moment of affection. From what the guide told me, if you're going to visit the station, give it a few months until they've produced the brilliant tourist attraction this will undoubtedly become.

[for an exhorstive insight into the making of Brief Encounter this is a brilliant resource. For insight into David Lean, he has a dot com.]

Shakespeare at the BBC:
A Viewing Order For The Best Bottoms In The Land.



TV Or potential viewing order. Tonight each BBC One's regional opt-out will simultaneously broadcast a documentary about amateur actors playing the mechanicals in a local version of the RSC touring production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

This will all have been recorded at different times as the tour has continued throughout the country which presumably means if you watch them in that venue order you'll be seeing a version of the history of the production.

Based on this list of venues, this should be the viewing order. I've left in the dates of production:

Shakespeare's Dream in the Black Country
ROYAL SHAKESPEARE THEATRE - STRATFORD UPON AVON
February 17, 2016 - March 5, 2016

Shakespeare's Dream in County Durham
NORTHERN STAGE - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE
March 16, 2016 - March 22, 2016

CITIZENS THEATRE - GLASGOW
March 29, 2016 - April 2, 2016

Shakespeare's Dream in Blackpool
BLACKPOOL GRAND THEATRE - BLACKPOOL
April 5, 2016 - April 9, 2016

Shakespeare's Dream in Bradford
ALHAMBRA THEATRE - BRADFORD
April 12, 2016 - April 16, 2016

Shakespeare's Dream in Canterbury
MARLOWE THEATRE - CANTERBURY
April 19, 2016 - April 23, 2016

Shakespeare's Dream in Norwich
THEATRE ROYAL NORWICH - NORWICH
April 26, 2016 - April 30, 2016

Shakespeare's Dream in Hucknall

THEATRE ROYAL NOTTINGHAM - NOTTINGHAM
May 3, 2016 - May 7, 2016

Shakespeare's Dream in Cornwall
HALL FOR CORNWALL - TRURO
May 10, 2016 - May 14, 2016

Shakespeare's Dream in London
BARBICAN - LONDON
May 17, 2016 - May 21, 2016

NEW THEATRE - CARDIFF
May 24, 2016 - May 28, 2016

GRAND OPERA HOUSE - BELFAST
May 31, 2016 - June 4, 2016

Although there were and will be productions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Island, tonight they have their own programmes.

Hopefully at some point a recording of the whole production will be made available.

On Being Curious.

Plus! Culture website The Double Negative has a book out. Here's the press release:
On Being Curious:
New Critical Writing on Contemporary Art
From the North-West of England


Edited by Laura Robertson

Published by The Double Negative on behalf of Contemporary
Visual Arts Network North-West (CVAN NW)

10 new articles on contemporary art from 10 emerging writers: On Being Curious is a book telling the story of the North-West’s contemporary visual art scene, yet contributes to national and international debates around what it means to make powerful, arresting and effective arts practice.

The first book edited and published in house by The Double Negative magazine, On Being Curious has been commissioned by the Contemporary Visual Arts Network North-West (CVAN NW), as part of their successful Critical Writing Bursary & Workshop Programme (2014-16). It is funded by Arts Council England, Lancashire County Council, University of Salford, Manchester School of Art and arts organisations across the North-West. 
The writers’ chosen topics include award-winning artists, projects, exhibitions, art schools, agencies and artist-led venues, and provide a rich snapshot of the contemporary art scene in the region from the last 18 months.

On Being Curious editor Laura Robertson said: “On Being Curious just goes to show what can be achieved by providing emerging writers with clear and constructive editorial support; editorial contacts at publications; networking and skills-building; and critical writing bursaries. I feel very honoured to have been part of this book and the wider CVAN NW Critical Writing Bursary & Workshop Programme.”

On Being Curious has been praised by frieze magazine’s Jennifer Higgie, a-n’s Chris Sharratt, and ArtReview’s Oliver Basciano – who commented: “This book provides 10 smacks in the face to the idea that art criticism is dead. Art needs to be interrogated, artists’ ideas stretched and pummelled, loved and lauded: the writers contained within these pages do all this and more, with verve and humour, hitting points and making targets with scary panache.”

On Being Curious will be available in a selection of public and university libraries across the North-West and the UK, including at the British Library.

Read more and download the FREE e-book version on The Double Negative
here:

http://www.thedoublenegative.co.uk/2016/05/on-being-curious-ourfirst-in-house-book-on-contemporary-arts-criticism/
Message ends.

"devastating"

Health Joe Gatt plays 0718 in the new Star Trek films (in the comics the character is revealed to be a humanoid manifestation of the Enterprise ala Idris in The Doctor's Wife in Doctor Who) and is an alopecia sufferer. On the franchise's official website he writes about how he's lived with the disorder and how people treated him:
"As most of you – especially my Star Trek fans -- know, I have alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack its own hair follicles, thus preventing hair growth. It doesn't affect the body in any other way and is not contagious. This happened to me when I was about 11 years old, initially, with some patchy hair loss, and then at 14 all of my hair fell out. By the time I was 14 1/2 I was totally hairless... and have been pretty much that way ever since. As you can imagine, this is a pretty devastating thing to happen to a kid. The teasing, the bullying, the ignorant comments, the discrimination, the judgements… I didn't see a way forward. I didn't leave the house. If I did it was always with a cap on. My friends deserted me, all except one."

37 Christopher Plummer



Hamlet played by Christopher Plummer.
Directed by Philip Saville.

Woosh. Ever since seeing a clip of Plummer's Hamlet narrating the players as part of the Playing The Dane documentary broadcast during the Bard on the Box season in 1994, I've been more than intrigued by Hamlet at Elsinore in which BBC and Danish Radio co-produced an outside broadcast recording of the play at Kronborg Castle in actual Elsinore. This has only increased across the years as innumerable documentaries have included shots of its primary curiosity, Michael Caine in his single classical role playing Horatio.  Now, finally, this morning, well, here we are.

The BFI's still invaluable ScreenOnline section has a short explanatory piece about the making of Hamlet at Elsinore.  As they explain, this was a milestone in television history as the first drama recorded entirely on location outside of the studio, the result of the Danish company having originated the idea but eventually bringing in the BBC to produce, the former supplying sets (obviously) and background cast with the latter providing crew and the primary cast.  Given everything they had to work with, bulk cameras and lighting rigs and appalling weather it's impressive that it even exists at all.

That it exists and is also of such high quality is a miracle.  At just over three and a quarter hours and containing most of the play, this is an entirely "cinematic" interpretation which also somehow doesn't deny its theatrical origins.  There are noirish moments which stand alongside both the Olivier and Kozintsev film versions and at only a few points do its televisual origins show.  Although there are certainly moments when Saville experiments but doesn't quite achieve what he set out to do, Hamlet at Elsinore is clearly in the vanguard of great productions.

Saville and the team fully utilise the location with what must every room in Kronburg utilised in some part, with the chapel even being utilised for the nunnery scene and the expansive central courtyard being the perfect setting for the arrival of the players and for Hamlet to hail, from a window, the arrival of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  There are shots of the modern interior here but nothing much as change in the past fifty-odd years, even the paintings are in the same positions, which in the show are presumably supposed to depict Hamlet's ancestors.

The key directorial choice here is ceilings - in almost every scene there'll be a shot framed from below across an actors chin, up their nose and towards the ceiling of a room as if to increase the apparent headroom of each location.  Given the technology available,  the number of close-ups is startling, especially for Plummer's Hamlet who is introduced in isolation, the viewer unable to quite grasp his position in the throne room at mother and step-father interact with him until everyone leaves and he has the space to himself.

Keeping the action mainly within the walls of the castle necessarily guides the cuts.  Laertes's challenge following his father's murder isn't shown at all and the opening battlements scenes are staccato, even losing the opening line of the play in favour of introducing some dread and mystery as to what the soldiers are encountering, flailing about in the darkness.  For all that, a truncated Fortinbras is present bolstered by an impressive army of extras within what must be the woods at the edge of the castle (doubling as much further away).

Cutting "Who's there" and all aids Michael Caine's introduction as we hang on his every word as Horatio describes to Hamlet the emergence of the Ghost which in the full text usually puts Hamlet's reaction as the focus as a scene which we've already been privy to is described to him.  Caine's militaristic, almost clipped but matter of fact delivery is extraordinary, as though he's the first person to say these words, reveal this uncanny visitor.  So subtle is his work, it almost derails Plummer's performance which at this early stage is far more expressive.

There are deep, deep undercurrents of feeling behind Caine's mesmerising eyes.  Coolly spoken for much of the play, waterfalls of emotion flow from him when Hamlet dies as he's finally able to release the pent up feelings he had for his friend. According to his autobiography, he'd been told by a producer on Zulu that "I know you're not, but you gotta face the fact that you look like a queer on screen." so he worked it to his advantage here and "decided that if my on-screen appearance was going to be an issue, then I would use it to bring out all Horatio's ambiguous sexuality."

Plummer's Hamlet is less convincing.  The mad scenes oscillate between half-hearted and pantomime and the character never quite makes sense even when he's supposed to be sober in decision.  The actor's natural charisma just about masks this indecision but my mind often wandered to questions about production choices while he was on screen which is a strange place to be.  We're never quite able to grasp his inner turmoil, never quite convinced that he's not simply just saying these words because they're in the text rather than because he believes them.

In fairness he's not aided by some of the directorial experiments.  Plummer doesn't deliver his soliloquies to camera, which isn't unusual in filmed productions, apart from a single glance during To Be Or Not To Be.  Except in the desperation to do something different with the famous speech, its delivered as a montage against open spaces within the castle or close-ups on Hamlet, but the necessarily for the time haphazard editing makes the result disjointed and difficult to follow in terms of the emotional thread.

The fourth wall is instead broken when Hamlet addresses his father's spirit and the audience is placed in the point of view of the ghost, the camera hovering above Plummer.  Like To Be, it seems to be a decision born of diversity and then has the added problem of trying to coherently provide a voice at this key moment in the play.  The solution is a disembodied voice, but the actor then spends half the speech whisper-rasping like one of Doctor Who's Ice Warriors so that half of the necessary exposition is lost as is the connection between the two characters which is usually so meaningful.

Fortunately the production is stronger elsewhere.  Jo Maxwell Muller's Ophelia is initially estranged from her father and has an obvious affection for Hamlet.  There's a Brief Encounter moment at the docks as he sees her brother off as her expression becomes cold and disappointed when Polonius arrives and steals their final precious moments together with his endless advice, almost drawing on a smile when she has to turn and acknowledge her Dad.  Later she's unaware of her father and the new King eavesdropping on the nunnery scene, running away in disgust.

It's a strong cast, almost inadvertently.  Peter Luke the producer had decided not to fill out his production with big names so as not to distract from the story.  So he chose Caine, Plummer, Robert Shaw as Claudius  and yes, Donald Sutherland as Fortinbras (at a time when he was still playing Hotel Clerk and Tall Man in Nightclub) which means that a retrospective viewing doesn't have that effect at all.  Even Roy Kinnear shows up as the single Gravedigger years before he became a key player in comedic acting.

Despite my reservations about Plummer, which I'll admit might not be the same for someone who hasn't seen thirty-six actors play the character as well, Hamlet at Elsinore is an incredible piece of work.  The text is rendered lucidly and there are still moment when it's almost like hearing the words for the first time.  If I've drawn anything from it, it's that Michael Caine's self-esteem issues have denied what might have been a career peppered with some excellent Shakespearean turns amid everything else.  Is it too late for him to give us his Lear?

Ella Kruglyanskaya at Tate Liverpool.



Art "Oh hello you."

This lunch time, Tate Liverpool were once again kind enough to invite me to the press view for their three new shows, Maria Lassnig, Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms (the paid exhibitions) and Ella Kruglyanskaya (which will be the free exhibition on the ground floor). All three shows are well curated, the objects thoughtfully chosen and with a keen sense, as has been the case in recent years, of finding ways in which they thematically and materially overlap, in idea, composition and motif.

Unfortunately for me, I've never, not exactly not been a fan of Francis Bacon, or more specifically not feeling anything about his work. From being taken to an exhibition at school and in the years since, often in visits to Tate Liverpool, I've tried my best with it, built an understanding of his thought processes, even bought a postcard of his famous triptych, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) (which is on display). But there's nothing here for me and now that I'm in my forties I've made my peace with that.

After the disappointment of not having the kind of revelation which occurred during the Warhol exhibition (see here), I wandered disconsolately to the ground floor space (well got the lift) and into the Ella Kruglyanskaya exhibition and smiled. And smiled some more, and smiled again. The first image through the doors is Fruit Picnic (2011), an image of two figures lolling across a multicoloured mat, one winking at us, the other fast asleep, wearing a belt with a buckle in the shape of a mouth. What could I say but:

"Oh hello you."

Ella Kruglyanskaya is a New York based painter (originally from Latvia) and this is her first dedicated museum exhibition (although she's had plenty of shows in commercial galleries). There's some explanatory text on Tate's website about how this is a retrospective of her work from the past ten years, and the first appearance of paintings made in 2016, some completed just a few weeks ago apparently.  It pays homage to the history of art, in her use of egg temora and a medium and embracing "a wide range of influences from German expressionism to film and popular culture of the 1950s and 1960s."

On reflection, I understand my own taste enough to realise exactly why I had this reaction.  In the same way that Spotify Discover or Netflix attempt to fathom what your tastes are and present you with other things you might like, Ella Kruglyanskaya's work strokes my art appreciation algorithm almost obscenely.  It doesn't tick all of the boxes, there aren't any depictions of Shakespeare and none of them were painted in the Victorian era, obviously, but in terms of wanting to buy half the exhibition as postcards and t-shirts, this is pretty close.

Here's why:

There's a strong feminist undercurrent.  The artist also chooses to depict women and pairs of women interacting, not for our visual pleasure in the Laura Mulvey sense, but happy in each others company or in the case of the small, graphic Primary Colors (2006) and Girls and Guns (2006), in a state of all out war, acknowledging the panoply of ways in which women have been depicted across visual culture.  When voyeurism is implied, as per the images of bathers, the composition makes the viewer feel slightly uncomfortable as though we're invading a private space.

Many of the paintings are not as they first appear.  The newly completed Girls With Drinks With Paper Cuts (2016) and Bather with Paper Cuts (2016), look from a distance like pencil drawing and collage glued to a canvas, but look closer and they're actually photorealistic paintings of same (the artist offering a clear influence from Matisse who occupied this same space up until a couple of weeks ago).  Sideways Face (Paper Ruin) (2016) attempts a similar trick by sculpturally implying three dimensions on a two dimensional plain.

Kruglyanskaya also embraces post-modernity, the messy interplay of elements from a range of different cultural influences.  Girl With Sunglasses (2008) noirishly utilises the frames of a woman's shades to reflect a beach scene.  The aforementioned Paper Cuts pieces are graphically similar to the kinds of artwork typified by the the day-glo 80s and you could well imagine them being used on anything from a music compilation to advertising an alcoholic tipple.  This isn't a criticism by the way, I love their complex simplicity.

Which means they're also very web-friendly images, of the kind you might imagine cropping up in social media feeds.  Primary Colors (2006) and Girls and Guns (2006) show two frames of an abstract action and although we're meant to imagine what we're seeing, they're not unlike animated gifs.  PBS Ideas Channel has a strong piece about how images are now being used to imply, depict or replace emotion online and there are plenty of this artists paintings which could be utilised for this purpose.  Especially Gossip Girls (2010).

This is only a small exhibition but it offers a good enough sense of Kruglyanskaya's work for me to want to see more.  An online image search for her name presents dozens of others, some variations of paintings in the Tate's exhibition, some even more graphic and on the nose in their symbolism.  This makes sense of the bananas on the pullover in Lips and Lemons, for example.  As the artist says in this interview: “Even when they’re offering themselves up to be looked at, there’s a sense of resistance. Consuming their voluptuousness feels a bit risky.”  I happily take that risk.

My Favourite Film of 1946.



Film For a good long while It's A Wonderful Life was in the "necessary five", my favourite films of all time, but has subsequently been nudged out by In The Bleak Midwinter as the Christmas film of choice (the other four on the list are When Harry Met Sally, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Seventh Seal and Star Wars (although having seen Whip It and Frozen again recently that coveted Ferris slot look a bit shaky). Why the change? Well, quite simply because it's so, so depressing and to such an extent it's become very difficult to watch. One of the key elements of that list is that I'd be happy watch any of those films right now and the idea of seeing Life in that context doesn't exist.

For a while it also had special status. With annual appearances at cinemas, I decided that I would never own a copy of my own and would only be able to see it in auditoria, so it is the film which I've seen most on the big screen, at the ABC on Lime Street, the Cornerhouse in Manchester a couple of times, the Odeon on London Road and FACT Liverpool (which I hope I haven't jinxed based on that track record). Initially these were 35mm prints which looked like they'd seen many festive seasons but eventually they were replaced with restored digital copies.  For over ten years, it was as much a part of the tradition of Christmas for me as visiting the continental market in Manchester.

The only occasion my vehemence about seeing the film in cinemas became a problem was when asked during my film studies course to write an essay about Frank Capra's film and the extent to which the climaxes of his films with their apparent dip towards tragedy before a last minute restitution was a result of his auteurism as a director or his writers, especially his early collaborator Robert Riskin.  Life is a key example of this and so would require me to watch it closely, yet I decided to write about it from memory anyway which is just how film studies historians worked anyway before the emergence of VHS, unless their university happened to have a print themselves.

Then Mum bought me the blu-ray for Christmas and that was that.  Not because owning the film would necessarily negate seeing it projected, but watching the events unfold alone in my room, isolated, somehow put a new perspective on what happens in the film, George's sacrifices and what now looked like a false catharsis at the end which seems like it has the potential to last until the horrors of dealing with New Year's Eve filled me with dread for reasons to emotionally lengthy to put into words here, but suffice to say it meant I was done with It's A Wonderful Life as a favourite film, or indeed something I could just watch whenever.  But we'll reconvene at some point I'm sure.

The Eurovision Semis: What you missed.

Music Although I'm not the kind of Eurovision fan who knows the songs back to front before competition week but I do like to watch both semis which has been a frustrating experience in recent years because rather than show the whole of Eurovision's telepresentation, the BBC show has instead presented their own business with Scott Mills and whoever his co-presenter is (this year Mel Giedroyc) presumably designed to provide some background to the performers but I think draws away from the event itself.

Fortunately this year, the ceremonies were live streamed on YouTube and the sections not shown on the BBC snipped out and turned into their own videos. Here's the more prominent stuff worth seeing.

The Interval Act from the first semi final, a contemporary dance piece about the refugee crisis:



The Interval Act from the second semi final, in which humans dance synchronously with factory machines :



The Nerd Nation Part II (part one was in the first Semi but that's not on the channel for some reason)



And here are the whole live streams of both shows, should you want to enjoy the opening number for the second show again (which was the best Eurovision moment in years) and any numbers which didn't make it through to the final (and I'm sorry but San Marino was just depressing):



Click. Click. Click.

Art Last night, Liverpool hosted Light Night, the art festival designed to frustrate those of us who can't decide on anything by hosting some exciting sounding events simultaneously. As ever I decided to focus on just a couple of events, filling in the gaps between with whatever was on route. My evening began with a RIBA tour of the waterfront, followed by a glance at the morris dancers outside Tate, to the International Slavery Museum for their Afro Supa Hero exhibition focus on Black role models in popular culture (mainly a display of action figures), the Everyman to have my brainwaves tested by the Neu Collective Consciousness (after concentrating on a giant rotating shape I was told that my reaction meant I have a unique mind) (no, really) then to LIPA to investigate the Liver Bird breeding programme (large and placid... and stupid) and ending at Liverpool Cathedral to see No Worst, There Is None.

No Worst, There Is None was a special Light Night commission, as per the booklet "a large-scale immersive performance" inspired by the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem of the same name, which to the visitor amounts to numerous giant screens throughout the cathedral projecting a series of computer generated shapes accompanied by a minimalist score (composed by Bill Ryder-Jones) performed by the cathedral choir accompanied by a Salvation Army brass band.

Arriving about half way through the nine o'clock performance, to a packed cathedral, I decided to go buy a coffee and then grab a seat for the second run-through an hour later, heading up to the front as soon as the first show had ended. Sure enough my strategy worked and after some misunderstandings about reserved seats managed to sit right at the front on the isle seat in the optimal position. The seats filled up around me and twenty-minutes later, after some announcements it began.

Screens projecting, music begins, a slow abstract thrum which -

Click.

... is supposed to engender a sense of meditation and -

Click.

... concentra -

Click.

- tion in the viewer.

Within moments of the show starting, I noticed a photographer was sitting on the floor in the middle of the aisle at the front parallel with me, presumably positioned so he could take shots from a similarly great vantage point I'd scoped. Now that the show had begun, he was taking photographs. Loudly. Distractingly.

He clearly thought he was being discrete, and I don't blame the photographer, he was just being hired to do a job and follow the rules he'd been given by the client, but with a piece which was so clearly designed to beg the concentration of the viewer, this is incredibly difficult when you all you can hear, every fifteen seconds is ...

Click. Click. Click.

At one point he changed the lense. Clatter.

He wasn't the only photographer. Another was just below the front of the pews on the floor out of the way and although I could see her screen out the corner of my eye she was silent.

Do digital DSLR cameras still have shutters?  Or is this an electronic audio affection ala the smart phone?

Eventually the aisle photographer moved, but due to the way acoustics work in the cathedral, the sound of the clicking of his camera continued right through the first five minutes, all the while the band's playing, the choir's singing.

Then the clicks stopped as the photographer headed elsewhere.

At which point I just about relaxed. Apart from when the stranger sitting next to me decided to use his smartphone and take his own images.  Will he ever look at them again?  What are they for?

As we've discussed before, photography at events is an ongoing issue for me. I appreciate the need to officially record shows for posterity and future publicity purposes. But as I found at TEDx Liverpool the other year during the musical performances and various festivals, this should not ever be to the detriment of the thing which people have actually turned up for.

Was it just me who was distracted by this? Not sure. I did see a few eyes darting in his direction. The cathedral was busy anyway so there was noise elsewhere, but a background hum is less likely to impair your enjoyment of a performance than something at close quarters. Some people across the aisle began talking when boredom set in but they had the good graces to leave.

The performances ended, applause, and I sped to the door so as not to get caught behind the crowds leaving.  On reflection, I don't know what I made of the show or what it was trying to achieve.  Perhaps this wasn't the right venue for it anyway, too public, much more suited to a place where the sounds and images can wash over the viewer.

But: please event organisers, in future, try to consider the extent to which you're disrupting an event for the audience when organising photography and other ways of recording it.

Will McAvoy on Trump.



Politics It's with some irony that the very people who would be best placed to talk about Trump simply aren't there any more, although Ritchie episodes of The West Wing probably went some way to doing the job. Anyway, here's Will McAvoy from Sorkin's second best series going apeshit about the whole business [via].

As a bonus here's Jon Stewart being constantly interrupted by David Axelrod for an hour or so before the most uncomfortable Q&A moment in history.

Elizabeth Day on living out of a suitcase.

Life Oddly enough this sounds idyllic:
"I had no home, no partner, no children. There was no terraced house waiting to be populated by babies who I would watch grow into adults, before retiring and deciding to extend the kitchen. I had always thought things would turn out that way. But they weren’t going to.

"So I needed to be shown that there were other ways to live. I needed not to have the responsibility of fixing the boiler or buying pillows. I needed shelter in other people’s houses and I was fortunate enough to find it."
As I said yesterday (ahem), I'm easily distracted so I'm not sure I could write anything, let alone a novel, whilst sitting in a cafe unless I had loud enough music to drown out the sound of humanity.

Elizabeth Wurtzel on Augusta.

Nature On how adopting an abandoned puppy changed her life:
"She was consuming. She wanted to do everything. I was afraid she was going to want a subscription to the ballet at Lincoln Center. She was busy. She wanted to walk all the time, and once we started, she did not want to stop.

"She made me cry. Early one morning, I broke down. Work with me, Augusta, I pleaded. She did not care. She wanted to walk more.

"I discovered dogwalkers and dog daycare. I made friends with other dog owners. We worked it out. I cannot believe we worked it out. It is because I love her so much."
I always wondered what it must be like to own a dog. I'm allergic to cat hair, so that's out, but dogs. But I don't think I have the temperament. I'm already too easily distracted.

My Favourite Film of 1947.



Music The only David Bowie album I ever owned, or certainly owned on vinyl though I'm pretty certain I don't own any others is his soundtrack album to Labyrinth, bought from the Liverpool Central Library when it was having a clear out (having borrowed the same copy myself earlier).

 The key track, or at least the track most people seem to remember most, is Magic Dance.  It was parodied recently in the "outtakes" at end of the second episode of the brilliant BBC Four comedy, "The Life of Rock with Brian Pern".

Here's the scene from the film in which it appears:



Mainly people seem to remember it for the opening dialogue:

Bowie: You remind me of the babe.
Goblin: What babe?
Bowie: The babe with the power.
Goblin: What power?
Bowie: The power of voodoo.
Goblin: Who do?
Bowie: You do.
Goblin: Do what?
Bowie: Remind me of the babe.

Having listened to this blessed album incessantly as a child years before I realised (a) that Bowie was quite a famous musician and that (b) he'd done a few other things on top of playing the Goblin King, it's imprinted on my brain.

Shift forward to this evening during which I was entertained by Bachelor Knight (or The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer as it was called in the US), 1947 romantic screwball comedy starring Myrna Loy, Cary Grant and Shirley Temple (RIP) which is currently available on the BBC iPlayer after its broadcast on Sunday morning. For reason too complicated to explain here, Grant has been forced to date the much younger (and underaged) Temple and this scene in an attempt to overplay his hand in order to end his purgatory he's playing Jack the lad:



At which point I jumped out my chair as the years drifted away. There it is again. Slightly different but nevertheless:

Grant: You remind me of the man.
Temple: What man?
Grant: The man with the power.
Temple: What power?
Grant: The power of hoodoo.
Temple: Who do?
Grant: You do.
Temple: Do what?
Grant: Remind me of the man.

It's repeated in various ways across the film and colour me amazed as we find David Bowie influenced by this relatively forgotten Cary Grant film (though it's worth noting the screenplay written by Sidney Sheldon won an Academy Award). Hoodoo incidentally is "folk magic".

How did this happen?

Magic Dance's Wikipedia page merely acknowledges the reference as does the one for Bachelor Knight (or The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer as it was called in the US).

Google otherwise only turns up this Yahoo Answers conversation from eight years ago in which, as ever, no one has the faintest idea what they're talking about.

Clearly the answer is somewhere along the lines of "David Bowie was watching television one night saw the quote and thought "I'll have that." " Or was simply familiar with the dialogue from a familiarity with old Hollywood which also led to this.  Or that they're both referencing a different literary source which I've entirely missed.

I can't think of there being any particular thematic connection other than that Temple and Loy's besottedness with Grant is signalled in hallucinatory sequences in which Cary is shown dressed as a knight in full armour obscured by soft focus and that like Labyrinth its about a young girl ambiguously obsessed with an older man.

Either way, my goodness.  Any Bowie scholars out there who'd like to hazard a guess?

[Note: This was originally posted in February 2014 which is why some of you'll remember it, especially since I tweeted it a few times on the occasion of Bowie's passing. But it does feel like a proto-type for where this weekly column is heading and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer or whatever it's called in your territory is my favourite film of that year - at least because the repetition rule dismisses The Lady from Shanghai for obvious reasons.]

All-Purpose Marvel Movie Review.

Film Funny because it's true. But it's true because they're so good at what they do:
"I didn’t know if Up And Coming Actor/Sort Of Famous But Never Starred In A Blockbuster Actor could carry a Marvel movie, but as the strong/funny/self-deprecating Good Man, he does so brilliantly. By turns steely, vulnerable, tortured, sarcastic, and heroic, Good Man is the epitome of the modern Superhero/Alien/Normal Guy Thrust Into Unforeseen Fantastic Circumstances. His journey from nobody to savior grounds in heartfelt realism what is otherwise an action-packed blockbuster of extraordinary magnitude."
Oh my, Ant-Man.

Yesterday I travelled by steam train.



Life Yesterday I travelled by steam train.

The Steam on the Dock event is taking place this weekend at the Albert Dock as a way of celebrating the re-launch of the SS Daniel Adamson, a century old tug boat which has recently been restored.  The busy, complicated life of the boat can he read here.

But sensing that a steam event wouldn't be right without featuring a locomotive, a fully working Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland steam train has been installed on temporary train tracks up the length of the side of the dock where the boat resides, between The Pumphouse and the bridge which you must cross in order to get to Tate Liverpool. The one which turns around on occasion.

Apparently, I travelled on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland railways as a child.  We have photographs.  I don't remember, largely because I don't remember much of anything which happened in the seventies.  I was too young.

Spending a lot of my time missing the news of anything happening in the city unless someone sends me a press release and sometimes even then, passing into the Dock for reasons, I had no idea that there even would be a steam train, let alone one on which it was possible to actually have ride.

On realising this and also noticing that the doors to the carriages were about to be closed, I ran across the cobbles, almost tripping over in the process. True to form, as always happens, even when I reach a non-platform in front of a train which isn't going anywhere in particular, the doors closed.

I leaned against the fence, accepting my fate.

"You'll have to wait for the next one." The volunteer guard said. To be fair, this would be in about four minutes. But I must have looked disappointed because the other guard opened the door for me anyway.

I wedged myself into the empty space on the bench and waited, the smell of the mechanics of the steam train wafting into the carriage.  Century old train travel means tiny space with little foot room and no glass in the windows.  Thanks goodness it wasn't raining.

Seconds later we were off at a pootling speed up the dockside, followed by a range of cameras and smartphones.  If the NSA became bored with the other stuff, they could probably piece together a short film or panoramic image of my journey through all of these different photographs.

The last thing I was expected yesterday afternoon was to be sat in a train carriage going backwards and forwards with the front entrance of the Liverpool Maritime Museum as the view, especially having walked the same journey many times.  There are no new insights to report as to its appearance.

But it was fun and even more fun when after the first trip, we repeated the journey, because the organisers know that adults are just children plus cynicism and what we really need sometimes is to be reminded of what it was like when we had shorter legs and always wanted to have another go of anything.

Then it was over.

On the Vowel.

Grammar Yesterday, The Guardian put out their usual request for subjects for their Review anything column and I offered the following:
They went with vowels:
A – Pronounced “ay”. Though in the word “bath”, if you’re from the north it’s said “ah” and if you’re from the south, inexplicably, it’s “ar”. “A” is the vowel of the north-south divide. It is a vowel of hatred. Though it is also used to denote excellence in examinations and energy efficiency in boilers. Useful. 7/10
I agree with their ratings.

An Earlier Day.

Journalism About the only surprise about The New Day closing is that it's happening this quickly. Newspapers and magazines take time to bed in but as Roy Greenslade explains in his column, its publishers Mirror Group stacked the odds against it by making it incapable of covering breaking news satisfactorily and messing up such things as pricing and pre-publicity.

Plus the launch issue was abysmal with a messy content structure, generic listicle articles which looked like they'd been copy/pasted from a website and a lack of seeming to actually do anything particularly different to The Metro or The i.  You don't get a second change at making a first impression.

All of which reminds me that about ten years ago this week another similar experiment, The North-West Enquirer launched.  The idea was to offer a weekly newspaper covering the whole of the region, for people who were interested in what was happening outside of their city, with a strong business, politics and cultural angle.

I loved it and never missed an issue.  Travelling between Liverpool and Manchester for college during the launch period meant that I was probably the key target audience.  Plus there were some brilliant idiosyncrasies, as my review of the first issue reminds me, like carrying four pages of syndicated material from the International Herald Tribune in the middle.

They included Feeling Listless in the blogroll on their website and even mentioned my work in the related column in the paper.  Here and here (the latter a piece about handing in my dissertation).  The Enquirer was especially good at understanding the online community at a time when blogging still seemed like a weird pursuit.

Sadly, within about five months, news came that it was to close due to not reaching sales targets and they weren't even given the opportunity to publish a final paper, the decision having been taken in the week between issues.  One of the journalists emailed me to communicate their disappointment at the decision and I agree with their comments.  It was a great paper that still leaves a hole in the market.

Thanks to the Internet Archive you can relive the good old days.  Versions of the website are still here.