Monday 27 May 2024


One of the many highlights of Nottingham's annual Dot to Dot Festival yesterday was the outrageously talented poet, Georgina Wilding. Just before the dreaded Covid she did a brilliant Q&A for this blog. We talked about that yesterday and neither of us could believe it was over four years ago. 

Her thirty minute set at The Angel was pitch perfect; reading selected poems from her acclaimed collection Hag Stone (and some newer ones too), she told, thru prose, the story of her early working class upbringing interspersed with underage dinking, underage sex, together with a side order of pure Nottingham surrealism. Thank you, Georgina. And thank you so much for signing my book.


Georgina is Events Lead at Nottingham's (brand new) Central Library - here's a breathtaking flythrough tour with Georgie's commemorative poem as the soundtrack...

Friday 24 May 2024

Flag day

It's Friday. It's a bank holiday weekend. Put the flags up. Well, maybe just a pink one. Like Sunak's call for a snap election this week, Wire's blistering debut album wrong footed a lot of people when it first came out. Even as early as 1978 it was being labelled post-punk. Oh my, has this long player got a lot to answer for.

One of my faves from it is a jaunty little thing called Three Girl Rumba. Justine Frischmann liked it too; probably a little too much - she settled out of court apparently. 

Wire - Three Girl Rumba (1978)

Tuesday 21 May 2024

Three of a kind

I was honoured last weekend to take photographs of three Irish siblings who were all a. making me laugh like a drain and b. buying me beer like it was going out of fashion (I think a & b may be linked). They all get on so well (I'm told they always do, with or without the aid of alcohol) and I just wanted to capture some of that vibe. 

You'll also notice a certain building in the background. And a brilliant blue sky. It was the prefect Sunday afternoon. Thank you, Margaret, Michael & Trish. And thank you to everyone at The Abdication for making it my spiritual home.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Three score and ten

Wreckless Eric turns 70 this year. (I know, even as I type those six words I can't quite believe it myself). Ahead of his imminent move back to the UK (he's had his fill of New York County), Eric's playing a few gigs over here. And if, like me, you've been following Eric's diaries, fanzines, blogs & radio shows over the years you can't not like him. What you see is (nearly) what you get. Although he plays the underdog to a tee, don't be fooled; beneath that faux bumbling persona lies a talent so rich (he's written, recorded, produced and played on more records than Paul McCartney's had hot dinners), musical historians in the future will spend the rest of time just cataloguing his work.

A personalised note from Eric, 2004

It was fitting then that in October last year he was invited by Jools Holland to revisit the song that kickstarted it all in 1977. (Back when the idea of Wreckless Eric turning 30 would have been seen as far fetched as Star Wars.)

Wreckless Eric (with Jools Holland) - Whole Wide World - (2023)

Monday 13 May 2024

Who's gonna pay attention to your dreams?

I finally got round to reading a brilliant book that's been on my shelves for more years than I care to remember. 'Duel - And Other Stories of the Road' is a collection of short stories that loosely fall under a banner, I'm calling, Auto Noir. It's a collection from 1987 curated by William Pattrick and is crammed to the rafters with cracking good reads, all paying homage to the road and the vehicles thereupon. Charles Beaumont, Roald Dahl and Stephen King are all in there but it's Richard Matheson's masterpiece from 1971 that gets top billing: Duel first appeared in Playboy magazine (and anthologised for the first time here), tells the story of one man driving to a sales meeting on a very ordinary day & being stalked by a crazed tanker lorry driver on the open road in California - in broad daylight. Like the film, Stephen Spielberg's first ever movie, it's utterly compelling. And very chilling. Unlike my California road trip in 2022. And James' in 2020; both recorded for posterity above.

Duel - Official Trailer (1971)

Richard Matheson (1926-2013)
Dennis Hopper (1936-2010)

Thursday 9 May 2024

Love for Sale in Amsterdam

I paid my respects to the late great Chet Baker last week in the Amsterdam hotel he'd been staying in latterly, and where he sadly died in the late 80s. Back in the day he was the epitome of, and the byline for, cool. His stellar solo performances were off the charts and he played with all the greats including Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz. He will never be forgotten. 

Here he is in a relaxed mood playing Cole Porter's Love For Sale. It doesn't get much better than this. (Filmed only a couple of years before his tragic demise).

Chesney Henry Baker Jr. (1929-1988)

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Richard Castor Jeffery

've been following Bristol based artist Richard Castor Jeffery on Twitter for a couple of years now. His urban landscape paintings captivate me. Richard records the built environment in a unique, vibrant and vivid fashion & captures every last detail so minutely. I recently acquired one of his signed prints and asked him if he'd mind a bit of light interrogation for my blog. "Sure, happy to!" he replied, "Though not keen on being recorded (shy retiring artist!)." And so I pinged a few Who, Why & Wheres on the email and Richard kindly lobbed them back over the net. Thank you so much, Richard. And thank you for my print. As you can see below, it's back from the framers - I've just got decide where to hang it! 

Who are your influences? Hopper? Hockney? 

Growing up, in my teens, the first artist who really excited me had to be Lucian Freud. Something about how he could take a ‘typical’ subject and make it totally his own, by the way he applied his paint, fascinated me. I had no idea how he could work this magic and spent many evenings copying his pieces from a book that I had, trying to figure out his technique. Needless to say, these were pale imitations, but I did learn a lot about ‘how to paint’ by doing this. More recently, since taking up the brushes again in my 50s, and with the power of the internet I’ve discovered Euan Uglow, who is a huge inspiration for me. I wish I’d known of him earlier. Technically, his work is mesmerising, with such a careful eye for colour and the way he combines both painting and drawing. His work is precise and analytical, but with real sensitivity and emotional intelligence. Again, I’ve learnt a lot technically by copying some of his work, fastidiously trying to piece them together, working from photos. If I could own a painting by any artist, it would be one by Euan Uglow. Of course I love the work of both Hopper and Hockney but don’t feel moved by them in quite the same way. In terms of current artists, I’d have to shout out to Jonathan Hooper, a painter of dreamlike urban and suburban landscapes in Leeds with an amazing eye for colour and form. If I could paint anything like him I’d be a very happy man indeed.

When did you first pick up a paint brush/realise you could paint?

I’ve always painted for pleasure in some form. My maternal grandmother was a keen amateur painter and I used to sit and paint with her during family holidays on Anglesey when I was very young, probably 7/8. Of course I painted a bit at school, doing Art O and A levels and for pleasure at home as a student while at university. I’ve always dabbled, but mainly painting for myself and family members and not very seriously or with any great confidence. I started to post a few pieces on my Instagram about 5 years ago and got some really positive reactions from friends, so was encouraged to do more. This pretty much coincided with COVID and the lockdowns, so I decided then to seize the opportunity of the time at home and take my painting more seriously. 

What is your preferred medium? (And, a banal question I know, nevertheless one I can probably ask a painter, what is your favourite colour?) 

I only use oil paints. I used to paint with watercolour and acrylics when I was a student, but couldn’t go back now I think. Watercolour is incredibly tricky (you have to get things right first time) and acrylic dries too fast, which is super scary - oils are a lot more forgiving. I’m experimenting building up several layers of colour in oils at the moment and finding new techniques all the time. I’m only scratching the surface really of what’s possible within that one medium - loads to learn still, every day. Also, the depth of colour possible in oils is just fantastic! I love the literal chemistry of it all, mixing colours, mediums, varnishes etc. it’s hugely enjoyable messing around. My absolute favourite colour is a warm sunflower yellow, although it’s an incredibly difficult colour to use (technically) in oils, as it’s quite transparent and easily overwhelmed by anything else you put it with. I have plans to do some all yellow paintings, but haven’t yet found the time / courage… I need to experiment more with this. 

Where did you study & Where do you like to paint? (home/studio?) 

I’m completely self-taught as a painter, all trial and error and lots and lots of observation of other painters’ work. I trained as an architect at university and then practised for about 30 years before my recent foray into painting. My absolute favourite part of architecture was always the representation of buildings, either through drawing or models, and this has certainly informed my approach to my art now. It’s something about a combination of both flatness and depth that intrigues me. Also simplifying something down to its key components, while still keeping the sense of the whole. Typically, architectural representation can seem very dry and precise - I used to feel that this was something I should try and move away from in painting, be more ‘loose and expressive’. Ultimately though I realised this just isn’t how I do things and that I should work to my strengths and employ the skills I learnt as an architect in a new way to describe the world around me. Stick with what you know… In terms of where I work now, I have a desk set up in the back room downstairs at home, which is now an ‘art studio’ that I share with my daughter (studying art & design at college). I love working from home and having the freedom to pick up the brushes whenever I want (within reason). I’m quite a neat and careful painter, so things never get too messy - except when the cat walks across the palette… 

How long did it take to get recognised/established? 

I guess this is a constantly evolving process, but I’ve been very lucky inasmuch as I seemed to find an audience and start selling my work from the off. I’ve always posted pretty much all of my work on my social media (mainly Instagram and Twitter / X) which is hungry for a strong image. I’ve been lucky to have had my work shared by friends and family, some with a good sm following, which certainly hasn’t hurt. Through Instagram particularly, I’ve found an incredible supportive and encouraging network of artists in a similar situation to myself, who’ve been very generous in giving my posts a wider reach, as I try and do for them. I’ve had a couple of pieces accepted into some judged open exhibitions, but haven’t felt the need to approach any galleries or agents to this point, preferring to promote and sell my work myself. Thankfully, this is working well for me at the moment. I wouldn’t say that I’m an ‘established’ artist in any sense, but things are moving in the right direction and I’m just going to keep at it and see where it takes me. 

You paint, seemingly, very ordinary urban vistas but in a most extraordinary way. Why do you think your paintings have captured the public’s imagination? 

I only paint scenes that really grab me personally - they have to have something ‘particular’ about them that I find beautiful. Obviously, this is a subjective thing, but I’d like to think that I’m not too different to other people in this regard. Discovering unexpected moments of beauty in the mundane, that you’d otherwise ignore, is a constant source of delight for me. Out of laziness as much as anything else, I chance across these in the immediate landscape around me, which is a landscape that I imagine everyone is familiar with in some way, that of suburbia and the 19th & 20th century city. In my case it’s Bristol, but it could be any small town or city in the UK to be honest. I feel that the paintings that seem to have the most resonance are those that could be almost anywhere, those that are as unspecific and as undesigned as possible. To this end I try and select views with as little ‘local detail’ as possible, removing distracting narrative elements (text, people, vehicles etc.) and make them universal. 

 Full details of Richard's work can be found at RCJ Fine Art

Tuesday 7 May 2024


A quick footnote/addendum to May's Photo Challenge. I've just returned from a few days away in Amsterdam (hence my tardiness in replying to your wonderful comments) and...guess what I saw? Yep, dummies by the dozen. What was I supposed to do, just walk on by? So, as a bit of a mopping up exercise I've decided to post them here. 

These ones spin*.

An Amsterdam collective.

Hatty Town.

Scary Town. (I honestly thought this fella was real.) 

Oh, and it's cycles and cyclists next time - well I have just come back from Bike City! By June 1st, please.

*Spin City?

Wednesday 1 May 2024

Let's go round again

Welcome to May's Photo Challenge (we're up to #17, can you believe it?). For my original brief I was looking for revolving doors - not something you see a lot of these days; I realised this pretty early on and, consequently,  brought forward a theme I was going to use later in the year - namely mannequins - and decided to  run it in parallel. (If you've read a couple of my blog posts from earlier this year you'd see that I've been inspired by Israeli photographer Oded Balilty and Roxy Music!)

So, doors and/or dummies. Show me what you've got. 

As is customary, Rol gets to set the bar: "Hi John, mannequins I can do! Revolving doors... I don't think have arrived in Yorkshire yet. Being a country boy, I find some of your city-centric photo quests cause me problems. First up is a mannequin dressed as Prince from a local village's scarecrow parade last year. The theme was music, and the usual suspects were all present - Elvis, Freddie, Morrissey and the baby from the Nirvana album cover. But all the rest were made of papier-mâché. The house that did Prince obviously had connections in the fashion industry, that or they robbed a local department store's closing down sale.

Secondly, a very creepy house in Robin Hood's Bay with a face at the window.

Next up, the lovely Jo from Cornwall. This was her first message: "Hi John, ohhh, we had revolving doors at Camelot Castle a few weeks ago! Only took the picture as I liked the random ornaments. I remembered it as it was unusual to see these days. And Ezmay loved running round in it, driving the receptionist round the bend!"

A couple of days later I received this: "Today's your lucky day - I've been to a wax museum in Dublin and our hotel has a revolving door! x"

"Then, walking past the Irish Times building and I spot another one. They're like buses xx"

"Those creepy mannequins at the wax museum in Dublin."

"Not sure what Tina Turner has to do with Star Wars! Anyway, I was just chuffed I found two more revolving doors; I'll forever think of you when I see one!" Aw, thank you Jo. A great collection. See you next month.

A brace from Tim: "No revolving doors, I'm afraid, but a couple of mannequin efforts for your consideration. First up, spotted in Bulwell, Nottingham - heads on spikes viewed from the train so quite blurry, but definitely not something you'd want to chance upon in the dark!" 

"Secondly, this one's from Berlin. Equally sinister - it's all about the axe!" Thanks, Tim. These could both be stills from a Hammer Horror movie.

Andy, aka Mr. D, makes a welcome return. Having recently visiited friends in Berlin, he came back with a revolving door video and Keep Fit - German style!

Even in Deutchland mannequins still manage to make me feel uncomfortable...

...even when they're 'relaxing'. 

Or in the toy department! Thanks, Andy - great photos.

For those of a nervous disposition, look away now. Take it away, Ernie: "Nothing for revolving doors yet but will keep looking. Mannequins on the other hand - ten years ago a friend and I were spending a couple of days in Italy. We wandered into (what turned out to be) an empty restaurant and found this lot peering at us through the window." 

"They were even creepier close up." Thank you so much, Ernie. (My reply to Ernie mirrored my reaction to how this pair of pictures made me feel when I opened his email. I'll leave it at that.)

Charity Chic has got all bases covered this month and, as always, keeps it brief and to the point: "Doors from Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Glasgow."

"Dummies from Oxfam in Troon."

(This was the one that did it for me, CC).

A newbie this month; though not a newbie to me - the current Mrs. Medd! A local charity shop with its very own Tardis. A green frock.

And a red frock. Thank you, Jenny.

My good friend Riggsby from California - "From around 2005 (when I lived in Mountain View) this is the 'Curves Collection' My ex referred to the mannequin as Cher, but for me she was the Jean Genie."

"And Jean Genie with the 'Angles Collection'."

"Here she is again." Thanks, Richard. Only moderately creepy.

Alyson next - she's been on her jollies: "Hi John, here are my revolving door photos, Shot From Both Sides Now, From Up and Down But Still Somehow - sorry, got sidetracked. We were in the vicinity of Dundee last month, having a wee break in a cute cottage, when I remembered that the DC Thomson's head office, the home of the Dandy the Beano and Jackie magazine, has a set of revolving doors. We headed in to the city and soon found their building. What made it even better was that we could go in, as they have a reception area where they sell merchandise from the comics, Oor Wullie and The Broons. So, here are DC Thomson's fine revolving doors." 

Thank you, Alyson. I was up there a couple of years go - spotted the statues of Dennis the Menace & Minnie the Minx, but missed their offices.

Khayem: "I drew a complete blank on finding a revolving door, including a fruitless trip to Bristol where the ones I remembered from my callow youth have long since been ripped down and replaced by swishy sliders. I even trawled through my daughter’s boxed up Lego sets in the hope of finding one, but no joy. So, just the one mannequin photo, taken on the aforementioned visit to Bristol. This was a window display in Stokes Croft, a few minutes from the shopping centre and the bohemian bridge to St. Pauls. It’s a really busy thoroughfare for people and cars but I managed to capture a moment with a clear view from the opposite side of the road. I like the mannequin’s pose - somewhat defiant? - and the dress is beautiful. Way out of my price range and wouldn’t suit me, anyway." Thank you, K. Our second red dress. With another one on its way!

Moving on to a tasty trio from Pete Zab: "Here you go John, three from me - the first was a shop display, Diesel, in Bridlesmith Gate (Nottingham) in 2018."

"The second, a confused police officer in Sneinton Market, 2014."

"My third picture was taken at the 'Reimag(in)ing the Victorians' exhibition at Lakeside Arts, Nottingham in January." 

C from the excellent Sun Dried Sparrows blog: "Hi John, no revolving doors I'm afraid, but here's my artists' mannequin (she yearns to be a free spirit!) Cx."

The well travelled David Cooper next: "Surprisingly, I didn't have any old photos of revolving doors, but fortunately I visited a couple of places this month that had them: the RIBA in London for a photo exhibition." I must pay a visit sometime, David.

I'm guessing there was plenty of bow ties in evidence?

"And the Chocolate Museum in Cologne with my grandson." Nice one, Coops. Thank you, as always.

James was back in Nottingham recently. Like his dad he spends a lot of time looking up. Which is how he happened upon these misfits - three dummies precariously perched on a window ledge at the now defunct Debenhams in town.

As a footnote to this brace of shots, it appears these dummies have created something of a stir in the local press. It transpires some urban explorers have recently been in the derelict building doing what urban explorers do, and then these appear! Thank you, James - great work! OM x

Tony's from Pool Club and a bit of a hustler. He told me he shares his house with this dressmaker's mannequin: "It used to belong to my son's girlfriend. She passed it on to my youngest daughter, Lara, who is following the same career path in fashion." Thank you, Tony. And good luck to Lara in the world of fashion.

Adam next: "The only revolving door I could find - an office block entrance in Salford Quays. Me reflected in the glass is a bonus/distraction depending on your point of view." A bonus, Adam, I'd say!

Adam goes on: "Dummies - much more interesting. Not far from us an old woman regularly creates these seasonal displays in her garden. The Christmas one is especially fun, right at the cusp of festive and horror."

"I've never been quite sure which of the dummies gives me the most sleepless nights." 

Cheers, Adam. Steve Pemberton & Reece Shearsmith would have a field day with these.

Dave Stewart, my Mancunian expat friend, makes his Photo Challenge debut this month: "Hi John, I've got to go 'mannequin'. We've all heard stories of small seaside town waxwork museums with their interpretations of the famous 'interpretations' of the famous. This is the Fab Four from the now infamous Polonia Wax Museum in Krakow. Took this at a recent Christmas break over there. Enjoy!" I shall, Dave. Thank you. (Look no further than Jo's fantastic pics above for more crimes against wax.)

I'll quickly wrap things up. Just for once, all these shots were taken locally (and within the last couple of weeks).Taken outside H&M in Nottingham. I love the idea that mannequins eyes may be sensitive to sunlight.

The Test Match in West Bridgford is a splendid watering hole. It's also where you'll find these equally splendid doors. Looking in.

Looking out.

I particularly like the way they filter the light coming through them; then again, I'm easily pleased. (Especially when I've got a beer in my hand.)

Nottingham Hi-Fi, NG1. I wonder if their ears are as sensitive as their eyes? Answers on a postcard.

Capital One, Station Street, Nottingham. Waiting for James' train to come in last week I realised I was parked outside a set of revolving doors.

Victoria Centre, Nottingham. Not sure if this fits the bill but, what the hell - my bat, my ball, my wicket.

Mannequins with exceedingly long necks in Victoria Market.

Nottingham's long awaited new library. With not just one but two sets of revolving doors.

Nottinghamians will know The Bath Inn as something of an art deco oasis. Owned and managed by the son of an actual Time Lord, I've been known to while away many a happy hour in here. 

Next time you're up/down this way you must let me buy you a drink. You can even try on a new hat.

As always, a huge thank you to everyone who sent me their photos; I couldn't do this without you. I'll post June's theme in the comments below. See you next month.