Thursday 30 August 2012

The Mighty Quinn

Spanish Boots Of Spanish Leather (designed by Rachel Rose)

We gave our friend David a lovely send off yesterday. Readings and music in The Meeting House: Spanish Boots Of Spanish Leather and Walking With Glaswegians (David finally got to rub shoulders with Bob Dylan), to name but two selections. And then at the graveside - a Taize chant (All Of Us) and a Celtic blessing. When he was lowered into the ground we all threw a plectrum on to David's wicker coffin (my Ringo Starr one joined scores of others). The sun shone all afternoon, ensuring that when he knocked on Heaven's door David wasn't getting soaked in the, by now all too familiar, rain.

David E. Quinn: b. 6 March 1961 d. 19 August 2012

Thursday 23 August 2012

Hey Bullfrog

At what point do you go from being a Best Kept Secret to a National Treasure? Bernard Wrigley is, you would like to think, currently transmogrifying from the former into the latter.

It's not often you get to see a really outstanding performer three times in two days. But that's precisely what happened at this year's Folk Festival at Saltburn-By-The Sea. Wrigley - musician, actor, raconteur, Bolton Bullfrog, played a totally different set each time, including an intimate 'meet the songwriter session' with Colum Sands and Marie Little.

His CV makes for interesting reading: from folk clubs in the north of England, straight acting including Beckett's Waiting for Godot and numerous Alan Bennett plays, through to lighter telly parts in Dinner Ladies, Emmerdale, Coogans Run and Phoenix Nights and his radio output with Mark and Lard, here is a man who doesn't let the grass grow.

We met after one of his gigs and I asked him if he'd mind doing a quick Q & A for the blog, so here we go:

On your passport, what does it say under 'occupation'?


Who's the better writer – Samuel Beckett or Peter Kay?

A bit like comparing Tchaikovsky with Burt Bacharach. You can't say one is better than the other, you can only say whom you like better.

Your act combines songs (self-penned and covers) and monologues (again, some of yours and some by other writers) – how do you choose a set list/running order before you play? Or do you just wing it?

I decide between what I fancy doing and what I think would be appreciated most by this particular audience. Then it's a matter of pacing the items. Serious ones are best sandwiched between lighter pieces etc.

Describe the folk scene in the 60s and 70s; was it thriving in the North West?

I came to it in the mid 60s. A large town, such as Bolton, could have a different folk club every night. Lots of folk based singers appeared on radio & tv alongside pop performers. Everything was more open then and different genres of music didn't have rigid boundaries. Today, everything's in its own cupboard. Despite the vast amounts of information available to us all through a click or a tap the media is more restricted than ever. Broadcasters are frightened of their own shadow.

Does your TV work help put a few more bums on seats when your tickets go on sale?

It seems to, especially with younger people who could have turned up because they'd seen me on Phoenix Nights, or older people who are great fans of Dinner Ladies.

What is it about the Bolton accent that lends itself to comedy?

It's blunt and rounded at the same time. Blunt in delivery since it doesn't mess about, each comment hitting the nail on the head. It's round because it rolls off the tongue in a friendly way.

Do you go down better in theatres or working men's clubs?

I never do working men's clubs. It's a completely different parallel world to folk music. When Dave and Bernard were 17 and starting to perform, it never occurred to us to perform in that world. We liked the intensity and the walled garden that is the folk club movement. Doing covers of pop songs never appealed.

Do they 'get' you in the south?

It's not the geographics, it's the reason why people have turned out. If they come to see you and listen at a village hall or a folk club then it doesn't matter where it is in the country. All you have to do as a performer is not to speak in your local dialect. It's standard english with a northern delivery.

Which CD and/or book of yours would you recommend as a jumping off point for a Bernard Wrigley virgin?

The 2 books of one verse poems are similar but different. As to CDs, some people go for the early Topic ones which contain more folk songs, and others want a live performance with the audience and a sillier content. I did "Ten Ton Special" & "Albert, Arthur & the Car Park" with both live & studio tacks for people who can't decide.

Apart from your goodself, I was bowled over by The Wilsons, Vin Garbutt, Marie Little, Colum Sands, Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley. Who did it for you at this year's Saltburn?

As a performer you don't get to see everybody there. I was pleased to meet Colum Sands - lovely performer. Lady Maisrey have a beautiful sound. Missed the great Tom McConville this time. I'm a great fan of Jez Lowe. He's the greatest singer/songwriter we have in Britain. He's always keen to perform, as well, travelling the world. It's all a refreshing change compared to what's shown on mainstream TV. Cowell and that band of money grubbing tasteless pillocks could do to realise there's a world of stuff beyond the shallow shite they turn out.

Thank you for taking the time.

It's a pleasure!

PS. I've just told Jenny, my wife, about this Q&A and she asks if you ever got the gravy in Dinner Ladies?

No - turned out there wasn't any. At least that one line was a week in London!

Bernard Wrigley: The car park we parked at's too far

Wednesday 15 August 2012


None of your five-bar gate jumps and over sort of stuff

George Harrison was shot almost exclusively in monochrome in 1964; this snap from a Mike and Bernie Winters TV rehearsal in July was taken the week after A Hard Day's Night was released. It was the same week he pranged his new E-Type; I don't know, colour photography, E-Type Jags and Mike and Bernie Winters - it's enough to make any man loosen his tie.

Monday 13 August 2012

Cease and Desist (aka Hello, Hooray)

This post, from April 2010, was taken down by Blogger yesterday; it contained Alice Cooper's 'Hello, Hooray'. I removed the music and they reassigned the post with today's date.  

We can all be accused of seeing things that aren't there from time to time. And I guess I've often been seen barking up wrong trees or making a hash of the 2 + 2 sum. But surely, not this time: my curry takeaway of choice have, on the front of their menu, a homage to Vincent Damon Furnier aka Alice Cooper. Haven't they? What do you mean it's nothing like the Billion Dollar Babies sleeve? I'll get my coat.

Moving swiftly on, it was good to see The Rooms boutique B & B in Lytham St Annes get a great write up in yesterday's Sunday Times magazine. In its feature on the evolution of the full English breakfast, Andy and Jackie Baker's gaff is praised to the max. We stopped there last year and can honestly say that their breakfast lives up to its reputation as the finest in the country. Andy hits the nail on the head when talking about one of his local suppliers: "Janet comes down here with a tray of eggs that are still covered in shit, straight out of the chicken's arse. You don't get fresher than that." Quite.

Sunday 5 August 2012


I've just read A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen. It tells of how a stray ginger Tom cat, quite literally, saved the life of recovering heroin addict living in sheltered accommodation in north London.

James Bowen's story begins when he first met Bob at a bad time in both their lives - including when they would busk together in Covent Garden, ride London buses & shared a flat - and is told in such a way that it's never mawkish; the redemptive qualities of their relationship comes off the pages very subtly. The book never shies away from the utter desperation and helplessness of a recovering drug addict but demonstrates that by putting purpose, and something to live for, back in your life can be the lifeline you need; you've just got to reach out for it when someone throws it at you.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Seaside Shuffle

It's getting warm; time to go to the seaside. That means hopping on the (steam) train, a walk in the sand, a couple of pints and fish and chips sitting on the harbour wall. Train home.

Gotta go, the train leaves in half an hour.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

If you like it, that's fine

  Olympic rings outnumber spectators

This is not a tirade against The Olympics, it's not even me having a pop at everyone in the country pretending to like rowing, cycling and equestrian events*. It's not even me getting upset that swimming pools are now called Aquatic Centres.

I really wish I could raise enough strength to rail against the BBC for having every single TV channel, radio station and website tuned to '2012'. Propaganda doesn't even come close. And, please, don't get me started on what you can and can't take into the stadiums (stadia?), breathtaking opening ceremonies, ticket prices, empty seats, Seb Coe, badminton cheats, Olympic legacies, doping, medal tables, the greatest Olympian of all time, yadah, yadah, yadah.

I don't care. No, really, I don't.

The rest of the population can sit in front of their 52" surround sound entertainment centres and bite their nails to the quick while one man runs a little bit faster than the next or jumps a tad higher than him. I, meanwhile, will be seeking solace in any pub, cafe or drop-in centre that does not have a television. On the other hand, I'll probably just stay at home and thank the Lord that it will all be over in about the same time it takes some drug fuelled flossy to swim two lengths of the baths.

* We do appear to be good at sports that involve sitting down, don't we?