Summer of Soul

Last night I was at the Savoy Cinema in Heaton Moor – it’s a single-screen independent boutique cinema just near the border to Manchester, and I’ve been there a few times to see films that haven’t been given a showing at Cineworld (where I normally go because I have an Unlimited card).

Anyway, I went yesterday to see a new documentary film about the Harlem Cultural Festival from 1969 called ‘Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)’, which at the time was recorded with a multi-camera set-up onto videotape, but after it was done, no TV network was interested in showing it, despite there being some pretty big names performing at it. So over 50 years later, these recorded performances are finally being seen, along with talking heads of those that either performed, or were in the audience.

It was a really interesting film, with some great music and restoration of the video footage really held up well on the big screen. It was also pretty educational seeing all this in the context of the racial tensions taking place in the US at the same time, which the documentary showed using archive news footage from the 60s.

The other reason for going to last night’s showing is that the Savoy preceded it with some live music, which made the evening more of an event. A local singer called Jermaine Peterson along with Troy his guitarist performed a set of soul covers and some original songs, and it was really good. It was basically just the guitar plugged into an amp and the vocal mic straight into the PA, and the only thing missing was a bit of reverb on the voice, but it sounded surprisingly good since no-one was actually mixing it!

Troy the guitarist & Jermaine Peterson

One bizarre thing about the night was who I was sitting next to… I’d had to buy a luxury seat because all the regular seats had sold out, so I was directed to a block of 4 seats, where two women were already sitting at the aisle end, so I went past them and sat in the end seat, leaving the single seat in-between for social distancing. After sitting down, I had the slight feeling that I’d recognised the older lady as I passed, and a couple of minutes later I overheard her say that she’d written an article for the Daily Mail that week, and at that point I also placed the voice and realised I was sitting next to former Conservative MP and Government minister, Edwina Currie!

Strangely, I actually met her way back in the 90s when I had to film an interview with her at some conference – I think it might have been the WI – but the one thing I remember about it is that she really wasn’t very nice! We were backstage in a small room at the venue, and she was all smiles when the camera was rolling, but I thought she was very rude to everyone the rest of the time!

Socially distanced comedy

As the world tries to get back to some kind of normal, the entertainments industry has started doing stuff again. I’ve been to the cinema quite a bit since they opened back up in May, and more recently I’ve been out to see some live comedy!

Tonight I’ve been at Homeground in Manchester, which is an outdoor venue created by Home to allow for social distancing. It was supposed to be a show with Barbara Nice and Lucy Beaumont, but in the end it was just Barbara because Lucy had been pinged by the Track & Trace app so couldn’t attend!

Barbara Nice at Homeground

I took the tram into town, which was a bit noisier than usual because there were quite quite a few football fans heading into town to watch the Euro finals (I’m not really that bothered by it all, and haven’t actually seen any games throughout the tournament!). I headed over to Home, not realising they had a second venue, so after a bit of confusion, took the short walk over to Homeground. They’ve got a really cool set-up, with a bit of a dystopian fairground flavour(!), with a main stage area where you’re pretty spaced out around tables made from big wooden cable drums.

Because Barbara’s one of Lee’s acts, I’ve seen her live a few times before, and it’s fair to say her shows are pretty random! And since Lucy wasn’t there, it ended up being just an hour long, and involved some questionable karaoke from some members of the audience, but it was pretty funny. And the weather held until the end, when the clouds came over and started to rain over the last bit where the band were playing.

Continue reading →

35 years ago!

One of the things I’ve been doing over the last couple of years is scanning loads of old photos and other bits from years gone by! And one of the those things has been old issues of the school magazine I used to produce with Tom, back when we were at secondary school.

One time we ran a competition to take one of the readers to visit BBC Pebble Mill in Birmingham (in all honesty, the main reason was because we wanted to go there ourselves!) One of our team’s dad worked there, so we managed to get her to ask him to take us all, which we did on the May bank holiday in 1986 when there were a lot less people there. Sadly, the studios were demolished in 2005, but back in the 80s they were producing quite a lot of TV – so to someone like me who has always been obsessed with TV and production stuff, it was a dream come true!

The article in the July 1986 issue of Mercian Madness.

What is quite scary though is that we visited the studios exactly 35 years ago today!

I do have some memories of going there, but after all this time it is a bit hazy. I remember thinking how small the ‘Pebble Mill at One’ studio was, and learning that bits of it were pre-recorded to make it seem like they had more space, and allow them to move stuff around during a show, and also we did try and visit the radio area, but because it was a Bank Holiday Monday, there was no-one working there so it was all locked up. Interestingly, ‘Pebble Mill at One’ was cancelled between us visiting and the article being published, hence the RIP reference!

Also, for some bizarre reason, we wanted to brand Jo’s dad’s car with the ‘Mercian Madness’ logo – but using poster paint! Unsurprisingly, this never actually happened! And I’m quite sad that we didn’t take many photos at all – we did have a camera with us because there’s the photo that’s in the magazine, but for some reason, we didn’t really take any others (or none that came out anyway!)

Here’s the article that appeared in the July 1986 issue of the magazine (remember we were all only 13 when we wrote this!):

In the last issue, we ran a competition, and the winner was to go with us to the B.B.C. Read on to find out what happened when we visited…



MONDAY 5th MAY 1986
Josephine Crawley Reporting:

The motley crew, sorry, the Mercian Madness reporting team arrived. With them was the winner of the competition, Kevin Lee. First year Kevin was very excited about the trip. “It’s the first time I’ve won anything!” he said.

Continue reading →

Films 2020

Here’s my annual list of films I’ve seen over the previous year at the cinema… due to various lockdowns and the fact that the release of new films pretty much dried up, it’s a lot shorter this year!


Jojo Rabbit (10/10)
Bombshell (7/10)
Just Mercy (8/10)
1917 (10/10)
Richard Jewell (7/10)
The Personal History of David Copperfield (9/10)
Greed (6/10)


Queen & Slim (8/10)
Parasite (9/10)
The Lost Boys (8/10)
Emma (7/10)
Dark Waters (8/10)


The Invisible Man (7/10)
Onward (8/10)
Military Wives (7/10)
Sonic the Hedgehog (7/10)


Tenet (9/10)
Bill & Ted Face The Music (8/10)
The New Mutants (7/10)

October (no new releases!)

Rocky (8/10)
Rocky II (7/10)
Rocky III (6/10)
Rocky IV (4/10)
Rocky V (6/10)
Rocky Balboa  (7/10)

Linda O’Brien

Roger and Linda.

I posted this on social media, but I thought I’d put it on here as well because it has really saddened me.

My first job in tv and production was way back at the end of 1997 when I was taken on at the cable channel Birmingham Live TV, and it really was a great learning experience and I got to work alongside a really good team. Well, last night I got a message from Phil who I used to work with to tell me the really sad news that one of the reporters from there, Linda O’Brien, had just passed away after an on-going illness. She was genuinely one of the nicest people in the business, and I got to spend a lot of time with her back then both on shoots and also crammed into our tiny edit suite editing on NewsCutter. One of the things I remember about Linda is that she could actually edit a bit herself (unusual for a reporter back then), so had this habit of leaning over and grabbing the mouse if she suddenly had an idea to make an edit better! It was a bit frustrating at first, but I soon got used to it, and she always acknowledged that it could be annoying… although she was often right with the changes she made.

Linda, Ashley and Karen.

Continue reading →

100 days

At the start of my self-isolation, this landmark seemed a long way off – but yesterday was 100 days since I locked myself away! I think the official lockdown started 100 days tomorrow, but I’d not been out a few days before they made the announcement.

I remember thinking at the start that having to stay indoors until mid June felt like a prison sentence – and we’re now past that and we still have no idea when things might get back to normal! I know pubs and restaurants are allowed to open with restrictions from this weekend, but there’s no way I’d venture into one of them for the foreseeable future!

One thing that has taken a bit of a hit during this lockdown period has been my fitness. Obviously, with the whole heart-failure thing, I’ve been aware of how much more easily I get tired, and how my general fitness level has been pretty low, but I had eventually managed to get into a bit of a routine with going to the gym and building up my cardio fitness. But since lockdown, that’s all gone.

I’ve hardly been out of the house over the last 3 months (you can count the times on one hand!), and I’ve not really been able to get myself to do any decent exercise indoors. I know I could probably find somewhere pretty remote to go out for a decent walk whilst avoiding people, but the flip side of that is I’m worried that if I’m out somewhere and I have a problem caused by me heart, then there’s no-one around to help! I know it’s probably ridiculous, and it shouldn’t stop me, but it does stop me getting out there.

Flooring finally goes down in the living room!

Anyway, onto something a bit more positive – I finally got the flooring in the living room sorted! I originally bought it all way back in January 2017, but it’s been sitting there ever since, and then finally a few weeks ago I got Craig to lay it all! It looks really nice, but I now need to find a decent carpenter to box in the utility meters and to build some floating shelves in the left alcove, but it does feel that I’m a lot closer to everything being finished!

Another thing I’ve been doing is sorting through old photos that were taken before I had a digital camera, and there are lots of them! I’ve also got tonnes of the original negatives that I need to sort out, and I really want to look at scanning them all so that I have high quality digital copies. I’ve been doing a bit of research of the best way to do it, so today I’ve ordered a negative film scanner which will let me scan them all – it looks like it’s out of stock everywhere at the moment (I assume others have had the same idea during lockdown!), but hopefully it won’t be too long before I get it!


So it’s fair to say the pandemic has completely trashed my efforts to try and get back into work this year, with any jobs I had lined up cancelled. So when I was asked to help out with a short comedy drama to be produced in lockdown, I jumped at the chance!

A stand-up comic friend of mine is also an award-winning writer, and she’s penned a short script about a family getting to meet a new baby for the first time over a video call.

Katie, Daniel, Eithne and Emily rehearsing ‘Bob’.

It involved 4 actors (and a baby!), so I needed to find the best way to record and edit it. I’ve not really used Zoom at all, other than for Emma’s wedding back in April, so did a bit of research, and originally I was planning to get them to record the footage locally on their phone cameras, just using the video conferencing to be able to hear each other.

Continue reading →

Day 70 in the Big Brother house…

So it’s now been 10 weeks since I started self shielding, and it’s been quite a weird period – I am suffering a bit from cabin fever!

I’ve only been away from my house once in that time, when I had to go for a scheduled blood test, which in itself was quite weird because I didn’t see any other patients in the surgery, and the nurse was wearing full PPE, looking a bit like a welder! The last time I was in a supermarket was 20th March – for the first month or so, I managed to get some delivery slots from Amazon through my Amazon Prime app (although I had to log in just after midnight to have any chance of getting one!)

But I found it a bit hit and miss over whether the item was in stock, or what they chose to substitute stuff with, so the last month I’ve been able to get delivery slots with Tesco (again, you have to go on at the right time!), and this has been more reliable so far.

At the VE Day Social-Distanced Street Party.

A few weeks ago, I did get to speak to a few of my neighbours because we had a sort of socially-distanced street part for VE day. Compared to some I saw on TV with congas and questionable distancing, ours was very low-key, with just a few houses taking part, and sitting on the pavement or road in camping chairs whilst enjoying the sunshine, and listening to ’40s music! Natalie had put some food out on a table, which I guess could be problematic, but the only thing I had from there was a slice of cake, and no-one else’s germy hands had been near it!

With regard to speaking with other people, I haven’t really done so other than with direct family every so often on the phone. You see everyone going on about socialising with each other over Zoom or Facetime, but I don’t really have anyone to do that with to be honest… the only thing I have been doing is a quiz that Dave Bateman’s been doing on Friday nights, but it’s through YouTube so is only one-way, so it’s not particularly sociable!

There’s talk in the media about trying to get back to normal life soon – I was reading a story on BBC News just today where the government’s own scientific advisers are warning against lifting the lockdown too early. The way I see it is that nothing’s changed scientifically – the main reason for the planned easing is because of the economy rather than health. Currently there are 50% more deaths and twice as many new infections daily than when we originally went into lockdown! So I don’t think I’ll be heading out in the near future!

Emma’s Zoom Wedding

Emma and Matt’s wedding.

Well, yesterday was supposed to be Emma’s wedding to Matt, but because of Coronavirus, everything was up in the air. I was originally supposed to be helping with some of the photography, but a couple of weeks ago had to make a decision not to go because of probably needing to self shield (luckily I was able to cancel the hotel I’d booked in Llandudno. When I let Emma know, she told me they’d have to postpone the main wedding, but just have the marriage bit with only 10 people attending.

But since then, full lockdown was introduced, so even that wasn’t possible, so that was the last I’d heard until I happened to notice on the Facebook event page that they were going to be having the wedding on Zoom instead!

The wedding was scheduled for 10am, and I didn’t see it until about 40 minute beforehand, so didn’t get a chance to dress up… so I attended wearing a hoodie, with a mug of coffee and some toast!

It was my first time using Zoom, and it can be quite overwhelming with so many voices, but when the actual ‘service’ started, they muted everyone’s microphones other than those doing stuff. Emma and Matt were in one house, and the minister in another – they’d got permission from the Baptist Union of Great Britain for him to marry them from a different location, so this was basically the ‘church’ part of the service, and they’ll be doing the ‘civil’ bit as soon as they’re able to!

Obviously, it was a shame not to experience it properly (although easier to get there and more comfortable than wearing a suit!), but hopefully they’ll be able to have a proper celebration later on in the year!


So last night, the UK was finally put in lockdown, after quite a bit of uncertainty and confusion over the spread of the Covid-19 virus these last few weeks. I’ve not actually been out of my house since Friday – I did a supermarket trip then to make sure I have enough stuff in to get through the next few weeks.

I’ve found it a bit confusing as to what I’m supposed to do with regard to my health issues. I’ve seen in quite a lot of places that I’m in the high risk group, because the virus causes lots of issues with your lungs, and generally your cardio system, which isn’t ideal when you’re living with heart failure. What has been strange is that heart failure was showing up on the official government list last week when they were suggesting that those people would need to shield for 12 weeks, but now they seem to have slimmed that list down, focussing on what they class as ‘particularly high risk’.

I follow a couple of heart failure social media groups, and they’re recommending shielding for the 3 months if you’re able, because the risk is still high, and it comes down to how your body then fights it you get it. And whenever they talk about people who are dying from this, it’s often the case that they have ‘underlying health issues’ which when you examine what that means, heart problems seem to be part of that.

So I’ve decided to self-shield for as long as I can, even though I’ve not had any official instruction from the NHS (but I’m hearing that other people who expected to be part of the official group also haven’t been contacted, so I get the impression they’re trying to keep it to a minimum).

The thought of staying in my house for such a long time is pretty overwhelming – I mean, we’re looking at the middle of June at the earliest, and it’s only March now… that’s quite crazy. It’s really annoying too because the last few months, I’d finally got into gear to make my house more liveable (after the world’s longest ever DIY project), and had electricians and decorators in doing stuff the last few weeks, and I was about to get my wooden flooring and carpets fitted, which meant I could then sort out proper furniture like a sofa and a decent bed, but now everything’s shut down, I don’t know when I can get that sorted!

Recent gigs

Just thought I’d do a bit of a catch-up on some gigs and shows I’ve been to so far this year.

Last night I was at the Manchester Arena to see the Stereophonics. I had a seated ticket, and I was in a block quite near to the stage, so had a pretty good view. With the current situation regarding Coronavirus, I was a bit concerned about being in such a big crowd, but luckily there was no-one nearby coughing crazily(!), and I tried to make sure I didn’t touch my face, or touch too many doors or bannisters! It made me feel glad I’d only been able to get a seated ticket when I saw how much the people down on the main floor were squashed up against each other!



Continue reading →

Latest health

Time for a bit of a health update. At my last meeting with my consultant back in December, we discussed me possibly needing an ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator), which is kind of like a pacemaker, but monitors your heartbeat and gives you a shock if it ever stops. I totally understand the benefits of it, but the big downside is with regard to driving – you can’t drive for a month after surgery, and if it ever goes off, you then can’t drive for 6 months!

Anyway, the upshot was that I’d need to have another ECG to see whether my heart function has improved at all, and if it hadn’t increased significantly, then I’d need to have the ICD fitted. I had an ECG appointment at Stepping Hill hospital last month, and then I got the results of that last week.

When I was admitted into hospital last May, my LV systolic dysfunction EF (ejection fraction) was 32%, which is what’s classed as severe heart failure, and can lead to cardiac arrest and death. But since then, with the help of a lot of tablets that I have to take everyday, my EF percentage is now 45%, which means medically it’s now only mildly impaired. Of course, I’ll have to take my medication for the rest of my life.

I’m really hopeful that this I won’t have any more heart issues, although I do still get tired quite quickly – maybe this will improve as I get fitter. The only other thing is that last weekend I had a problem where I experienced incredibly painful gout in my right foot, and apparently that can be caused by an issue with your liver and kidneys, which can reflect problems with your heart, so I’ve got to have a blood test at the start of March just to check there’s not anything else. Once I’ve had the results from that, hopefully I can set my mind fully at rest.

Live music and comedy 2019

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be posting a list of all the films I’ve seen this year, so I thought I’d also do a round-up of all the live music and comedy gigs I’ve been to in 2019.


Snow Patrol at Manchester Arena (with support from Roe and Kodaline). Last minute ticket purchase!


Mumford and Sons at Manchester Arena (with support from Villagers). In the accessible area with a crutch because I’d only just got out of hospital!

Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott at Edgeley Park (with support from Richard Hawley). Really last minute – went with Lee & Katie because they had a spare ticket!

Continue reading →