Monday, 21 May 2012

ERRING ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION



I have decided to delete my previous blog post which made mention of Sandy Ezekiel's recent appearance in Private Eye magazine. After learning about the wonders of 'sub judice' for the very first time courtesy of m'learned friend Cllr Simon Moores, I have opted to err on the side of caution and delete the post until such a time that it becomes safer to discuss. Had I known more about the legal ramifications of 'sub judice' I would not have published it, but I guess you live and learn.

In the meantime, I'd like to offer an apology. I meant no harm in publishing what was only intended to be a tongue-in-cheek blog article. As far as I saw it, I was merely acknowledging what local media outlets have already reported, in exactly the same wording, but with an ironic quip included at the end. However, I can see how it might attract some commenters whose motives might not be so tactful, and I don't wish to be put in a position where I have to police public debate on such a sensitive subject.

If people want to accuse me of being bamboozled into deleting it, that's fine, but there are far more important things in life than silly blog entries. I have a very busy week ahead and would rather just nip it in the bud by accepting it was a mistake, delete the post, apologise and get on with my life. So that's it. I am sorry. Now let's move on.

Image © Olly Clarke via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of this image is not an endorsement of this post.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

LUVVLY JUBILEE


Margate-based artist Ann Carrington has been making headlines this week with an impressive red velvet banner she has decorated with golden buttons to adorn the Queen's royal barge for next month's Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. If you look at the image above, you can just see how much exquisite detail there is, it's really quite astounding.

According to the Daily Mail, the banner took Ann and her team of seamstresses four months to finish in her Margate studio, with 500,000 buttons and 31 miles of gold thread being sewn onto it in total. The sheer amount of work that has gone into it beggars belief, so I'm sure it will woo TV audiences when they see it hanging on the Spirit of Chartwell next month for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I just hope Queen Elizabeth II appreciates its artistic merit more than she did Rolf Harris's portrait of her, don't you?

As the creator of the wonderful Shell Ladies (which I'm sure we've all seen on Margate seafront at some point), Ann Carrington is a tremendously talented artist who has made her name creating such acclaimed works as the Pearly Queens – a replication of Queen Elizabeth's silhouette as featured on Royal Mail stamps, only made entirely out of buttons. Perhaps, then, a royal commission was inevitable, but fully deserved by the looks of it.

However, I hope Ann doesn't mind me saying that I've detected a level of irreverence and sarcastic wit in some of her very funny quotes to journalists. It seems she may have quite a subversive streak, which is always a positive trait in my book, especially for an artist. When speaking to The Independent, Ann expressed her hope that the threads will hold tight for Her Majesty, adding: “If not I can always throw her a sewing kit.”

Please make sure you head over to www.anncarrington.co.uk and take a good look at Ann's work. I think we should all be very proud that Ann's studio is based in Margate, as her stature in the arts is clearly helping to put Thanet on the map. It's nice to know that a local artist like her is playing a significant role in the Diamond Jubilee, isn't it?

Image © Ann Carrington and used with permission from her personally via email. The inclusion of the image is not an endorsement of this post.

Friday, 18 May 2012

GONE IN A BLUR



Tickets to see Blur play at the Margate Winter Gardens on August 1st sold out in record time this morning, leaving many local fans who queued up for hours understandably disappointed when they had to leave empty-handed. I've been hearing rumours that only 300 tickets were available from the Winter Gardens box office - which suggests the remaining 1,600 were put up for sale on the Eventim website.

As far as I understood it, the first batch of Blur tickets on Eventim were made available on Wednesday as an exclusive presale to fans, and then a second batch was released today to the general public. However, I've been seeing some tweets from people claiming that Eventim may have misled its customers by selling out their entire supply of Blur tickets on the presale date, meaning that many logged onto the website at 9am to find there were no tickets left to buy. This doesn't appear to have been confirmed or denied by Eventim.

What I can say for definite is that out of curiosity my girlfriend logged onto the Eventim website at 9am and it said Winter Gardens tickets were 'currently not available' so either they sold out in just under 5 minutes or they weren't there to start with. It's very strange, but it just goes to prove that Blur tickets were snapped up like gold dust, vanishing before people's eyes in what appears to be a mind-boggling split-second or two.

Meanwhile, the KM Twitter page reported that somebody camped outside the Margate Winter Gardens overnight since 3.30am to bag some tickets, and reportedly the queue stretched halfway down Fort Crescent. Judging by a tweet, it seems that tickets on the door at the Winter Gardens sold out in approximately 1 hour 27 mins. This means that 1 ticket was sold for every 30 seconds. The staff at the Winter Gardens must have had a very busy morning, that's all I can say!

So... Did I get tickets? Somehow, yes. I don't want to boast, as it was more by luck than judgement. I just hope Blur take a note of the high demand and decide to put on an extra date at the Winter Gardens out of the goodness of their hearts. I wouldn't bank on it, but I don't like to think of so many people being unhappy that they missed out on getting hold of some tickets.

While we're on the subject, I see that some opportunistic ticket scalpers have already put Blur Winter Gardens tickets up for sale on Viagogo, with prices running from a whopping £249.99 per ticket. Reselling tickets at overly inflated prices is utterly disgusting in my book, I find it morally reprehensible - they're the lowest of the low. I'd like to warn people that the Winter Gardens will be turning away people who cannot prove they were the ones who originally purchased the tickets, meaning that you'll have to show ID, a debit card and proof of purchase.

If you're crazy enough to buy your Blur tickets from Viagogo, there is a stipulation which states you will need to be accompanied into the venue with the seller. Essentially, that means you'll be coming face-to-face with the person who has conned the living daylights out of you. So... whoever that person happens to be, smack 'em in the face for me, would you? Ticket touts deserve nothing less than a punch up the bracket, don't you agree?

Image © Jeremy M Farmer via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of this image is not an endorsement of this post.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

ARISE KING FINKELMAN

I came across these hilarious YouTube videos thanks to a tweet by local shop owner and co-founder of Ramsgate Arts, Suzy Humphries. It turns out an oddball musician called Manny Finkelman – an American who claims to be a music industry insider – has been parading around Ramsgate and Margate filming wacky music videos in the first two parts of what he dubs his Thanet Trilogy. These videos had me in hysterics when I first saw them. Have a watch (with lyrics included below):

The Song for Ramsgate


"I'm heading home again to Ramsgate
Our women have exquisite gams, mate
Our students pass all their exams. Rate
Ramsgate right at the table's top

There's nowhere else around the planet
As pretty as the Isle of Thanet
I first drew breath there
I'll die my death there
There's nowhere else that can compare

The people there are England's kindest
Our sightless all of Europe's blindest
The sea air's fragrant. We treat a vagrant
As kindly as the Prince of Wales

We've got the UK's finest beaches
The poetess who visits reaches
For words to praise our brilliance
Our courage and resilience
No words exist, though, that suffice

We've got a picturesque marina
And every local, be he cleaner
Or banker loves to be here
For there is no debris here
The council sees to all of that

I've been to Hong Kong and Geneva
My travels made me a believer
In Ramsgate's being the best
Yes, I feel truly blessed
To call this magic place my home"

Margate, Jewel of the Kentish Coast


"Margate, jewel of the Kentish coast
You're the place I adore the most

The mods and the rockers once fought on our beach
London can't say that. We're way out of reach
of all other cities. We're clearly supreme
We are a jewel, yo, just look at us gleam

Our unions are gentle and make few demands
Folks come from all over to walk on our sands
We may not have palm trees. We're not St. Tropez
We're Margate and happy to keep it that way

The Turner museum's full of fab art
Tears soak our cheeks when we have to depart
It's wicked to chill, yo, in the Shell Grotto
"Margate, you rule" is becoming our motto

Deal makes us squeal and by Broadstairs we're awed
Compared to us, though, all the others are flawed
When Dreamland comes back Brighton's days will be numbered
We've worked hard up here. Meanwhile down there they've slumbered

The Old Town is crowded with wonderful pubs
The seafront's got dozens of restaurants and clubs
There's even a Primark at which to buy knickers
We've got some of Kent's most inspiring vicars

Our blokes are all handsome, our women are beauties
Our civil servants dispatch all their duties
Fabulous stars love to play Winter Gardens
In beautiful Margate a heart never hardens"

I have to be frank, I'm not sure whether Manny is being serious or whether he's taking the mickey. Is he being subversive for the sake of satire, or are we expected to take his music seriously? Maybe that's the idea. It's completely surreal, but almost verging on the work of an eccentric genius, I'd say. Funny stuff. What do you think? I reckon Manny should audition for The X-Factor. He'd certainly give Wagner a run for his money!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

HOW DO YOU DOULA?



A new birth doula service has been launched for parents-to-be in Thanet, offering emotional support for couples and families across East Kent during pregnancy. Rebecca Schiller, author of the blog The Hackney Doula and contributor to The Guardian, is a Doula UK recognised birth doula and will be moving to Thanet in the summer hoping to build links with local parents, birth professionals, midwives, doctors and health visitors.

Rebecca is particularly keen to reach out to expectant parents who previously might not have considered enlisting the help of a doula before for financial reasons – so much so, that initially she plans to offer her doula services free of charge. Fighting against common misconceptions by arguing that “a doula is not a luxury option, nor are we focused only on women planning a homebirth or natural birth,” she says:

“I hope that by initially working without charge I’ll raise the profile of the substantial benefits that a doula, working alongside the medical professionals, can offer.”

Given people's anxieties about maternity services in East Kent – such as the long delay in opening the £300,000 midwife-led unit at the QEQM in Margate, and the recent NHS consultation which concluded that birth services in Canterbury and Dover are to close, meaning women may have to travel at least 10 miles to give birth in hospitals – I reckon Rebecca's birth doula service could very well take off. As a young father myself, I can certainly see the benefits of how a doula could help on an emotional level.

Speaking from personal experience, during her pregnancy with our son Reece, my girlfriend didn't really have much to do with her midwife, only visiting her once in a blue moon for the prerequisite doppler check-up, blood pressure monitoring, etc. The whole midwife experience was very routine and methodical, almost robotic, which wasn't great considering we were worried sick about whether our baby boy was healthy and would've appreciated the support of someone with a more personal and sympathetic touch.

Basically, our son was in a breach position for the full duration of the pregnancy, and to top it all, our ultrasound scans appeared to suggest the presence of an amniotic band in my girlfriend's womb. An amniotic band, in case you don't know, is a lining of the amniotic sack which comes loose, floats around in the womb and has a risk of tangling up with the baby and potentially causing limb amputation. 

Given such worrying circumstances, it would've been nice if my girlfriend had had someone to offer her emotional support and reassurance, especially since the NHS doctors were reluctant to tell us exactly what was going on. I imagine it's situations like those where a doula would come in handy. Empathy, it seemed, was hard to come by, as most working in clinical professions kept their cards very close to their chests and made no attempt to allay our fears.

In the end, the midwife wasn't present for the birth of my son on account of the fact that my girlfriend was due to have a C-section, but her waters broke early and Reece was born the day before she was due in surgery. And the amniotic band? There wasn't one. It turns out the scan picked up that my girlfriend had a heart-shaped womb, so we worried ourselves sick for nothing. Had somebody been there for emotional support in times like those, my girlfriend probably would've enjoyed her pregnancy much more than she did.

If you wish to find out more about Rebecca's doula service, please make sure you go and visit The Hackney Doula website on www.hackneydoula.co.uk. You never know, it could very well end up being the future of NHS maternity services in the not-too-distant future!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

NOT FLAGGING BEHIND



In a remarkable comeback against the odds, Thanet is officially the area with the most Blue Flag beaches in the whole of England, according a news article on The Independent. In a press release published earlier on Thanet Council's website, it states that nine of Thanet's beaches have been awarded blue flags, the globally recognised certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).

This is great news. It's wonderful to see that Thanet's beaches are garnering acclaim on BBC News for being the best in the country meeting sufficient environmental standards when it comes to water quality, access to good facilities, overall safety and beach management. Although, judging by how cold the weather's been today, it might not be a good idea to pop your swimming trunks on just yet. It's probably best to wait until the sun's out. Nobody wants pneumonia, do they?!

I see that Don has done a post on his blog about this, and I completely agree with him, it's very heartening to see that Thanet isn't flagging behind (geddit?!). I seem to remember that BBC News reported last year that we lost six of our blue flags so well done to Thanet Council who seem to have really upped their game over the past year.

It's a real credit to the hard work of local council workers that all six beaches which lost their blue flag statuses won them back this year, so lady luck certainly seems to be smiling on us for once. Now all we need is some sunshine. Bring on the summer!

Image of Margate Main Sands © iknow-uk via Flickr and licensed for reuse. Used with the kind permission of Michelle Simmons who has permitted me to crop the photo. The inclusion of the image is not an endorsement of this post.

Monday, 14 May 2012

WATCH 'A GUN FOR GEORGE' ON FILM4 TONIGHT


If you want to catch a glimpse of Arlington House and the now-demolished Richborough Power Station on the tellybox, make sure you tune into Film4 at 1.35am tonight (Mon 14 May) to watch 'A Gun for George.' Obviously, it may be a little late in the day for some of you folks (myself included!), but if you're feeling retro you can always record it by setting your VCRs accordingly, or if you're feeling a bit more tech-savvy, simply Sky Plus it instead! Either way, watch it!

Created by director Matthew Holness, 'A Gun for George' is a short film which is set on the mean streets of Thanet and tells the story of pulp fiction writer Terry Finch who is seeking revenge for the murder of his brother at the hands of local gangsters. I've written on this blog before about Arlington House's appearance on The Reprisalizer website - ostensibly a fan site run by President of the Terry Finch Appreciation Society, Frank Barrow, to publicise Terry Finch's literary canon - but is more likely to be a clever ruse designed to promote 'A Gun for George' and a potential Reprisalizer feature-length film by Holness due for release in summer 2013.

There, I said it! I'm sure some people thought I'd been fooled by my other post, but you should know me better than that! 'A Gun for George' is filmed as a brutal and stark homage to '70s British cop shows, very similar to how Holness's cult classic Garth Marenghi's Darkplace was a homage to cheesy '80s hospital dramas. Given that both projects feature made-up pulp fiction novelists, it's very likely that Matthew Holness is the creative mastermind behind both and that Terry Finch is - shock horror - entirely fictional. I hope Terry doesn't sue me for saying that!

Still, 'A Gun for George' is definitely a must-see for anyone who lives locally and as long as Thanet gets a good bit of publicity out of it, it shouldn't really matter whether Terry Finch exists or not. In fact, if anything, I kind of wish he did! Our local area is crying out for heroic figures, wouldn't you say? On a sidenote, an email I received recently from Frank Barrow bemoans the fact that Richborough Towers were demolished and says:

"Kent feels truly empty without them and the only consolation is that they appear in all their unexploded glory in 'A Gun For George', as does Arlington House in Margate, another staple of the Reprisalizer books (Terry actually lived there in the 70s, by the way - see the website). So, 'A Gun For George' stands as a visual epitaph for the towers and if only Holness' film was a bit longer, it could constitute some form of tribute."

So there you have it, folks. If you want to see Richborough Power Station on TV one more time, with due attention paid to the Brutalist architectural marvel that is Arlington House, tune into Film4 at 1.35am tonight, and enjoy! 

Image is from 'A Gun for George' by Matthew Holness © Warp Films via the British Film Institute website and has been used for educational, informational and non-commercial viewing purposes.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

BLUR TO PLAY MARGATE WINTER GARDENS GIG?



It's been reported that Blur will be playing a warm-up gig at the Margate Winter Gardens on the 1st August, according to music webzine this This Is Fake DIY. In the first of just four shows believed to be a dry run in preparation for Blur's massive Olympics closing show at Hyde Park, this is a real coup for the management team at the Margate Winter Gardens and should be a real cause for celebration.

Bringing the Britpop legends to the seaside is an enormously exciting prospect, to say the least. Blur have always flirted with a mod sensibility (Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, etc.) so to swing into Margate – with its reputation alongside Brighton as being a playground for brawling mods and rockers back in the 1960s – is a truly historic moment for Margate and comes as a complete surprise to me.

I saw Blur's Hyde Park reunion gig back in 2009 and it was genuinely one of the best gigs I have ever been to. The atmosphere was electric, the whole crowd was unified in song, so I'm pretty confident that a gig at Margate Winter Gardens will be similarly earth-shattering. It could be an incredible occasion.

Do you want to buy tickets? Well, you're going to have to be very quick off the mark! Tickets will cost £35 + plus booking fees. If you've already signed up to Blur's fan mailing list (which I have!), you'll be able to get advance tickets at 9am on Wednesday 16th May from Blur.co.uk (ahead of the general sale date on Friday 18th May). You can find out more information here.

I don't know about you, but I'm completely shocked about this announcement, but obviously delighted at the same time! Blur are one of my all-time favourite bands and I certainly didn't expect they could be landing on our very own doorstep for a warm-up gig. I wonder who their support is going to be...?

I guess it just goes to show... it really really really could happen!



Image of Blur © Spencer Hickman via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of the image is not an endorsement of this post.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

ABRAMOVICH-ON-SEA



Russian oligarch and owner of Chelsea FC Roman Abramovich has been invited to moor his yacht in Margate harbour. According to last week's Thanet Gazette, estate agent Terence Painter has written a letter to Abramovich which gives this story more than a whiff of Jim'll Fix It about it.
 
The idea that Mr. Painter can simply write a letter and, as if by magic, Mr Abramovich swings into a harbour which needs 'serious investment' is fanciful to say the least. I'm guessing this is just a fluffy little story to drum up public interest and attract private investment in order to renovate the harbour as a mere statement of intent. It's a noble idea, but a visit from Roman Abramovich only exists in the realms of fantasy. To pretend otherwise is ridiculous.
 
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Mr. Painter's heart is in the right place, but I'm willing to bet that Roman Abramovich - a billionaire who is more accustomed to living the high life sailing around the Mediterranean Sea splashing £50 million on football players who can't even score goals - will even entertain the idea of parking his yacht in the 2nd most deprived district in the South East, according to the government's Indices of Deprivation for 2010. I wish things were that fortuitous, but they rarely are.
 
Still, I'm sure there's one person who would be happy if Roman Abramovich's yacht appeared on the horizon... Thanet District Council leader, Clive Hart. Apparently he's a Chelsea fan. Although, in his case, when it comes to his politics, blue is not the colour.
 
Image of Roman Abramovich's yacht © John Denham via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of the image is not an endorsement of this post.