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Justin Saban Plays Harmonica for Barney The Rock Show Radio Play

As with the other fantastically talented people who have helped me produce graphics and audio book versions of my Gwubbins the Witch stories, I was thrilled to have the input of Justin Saban.

Justin is a very talented all round musician who offered to help when it became apparent that I had written a story about a chicken who played the harmonica, without thinking it through.

When it transpired that Justin had a harmonica it was a godsend, and he generously agreed to come and play it for me so that it could be recorded for the story ‘Barney the Rock Show’.

Justin Saban, all round musician

Justin plays guitar and harmonica, recording for Barney the Rock Show Audio Version

We had a brief meeting where I showed him a simple blues song I had lifted from an album that was lent to me when I was sixteen. I think I had rewritten some of the lyrics as a search on YouTube did not match my version.

I had been shown how to play the blues two days before Justin arrived to help out. So I knew that I could not really handle the guitar part, as, to my surprise, if you haven’t truly mastered bar chords, playing the blues is very painful.

Justin instantly understood my predicament, took over the guitar part, allowed me to sing him the song unimpeded by finger pain, and recorded the guitar part for me.

Justin was able to picture my story and give life to the character called Daphne (the Blind Lemon Chicken) who plays the part of a diva performer on her harmonica – flashing the diamonds in her beak as she plays the blues from her perch on the stage.

It was inspiring to have such a clever musician pay attention to my work and help bring about the audio version of Barney the Rock Show. This project will continue over the winter months of 2018, and I would like to thank Justin for taking the trouble to create excellent material which has kicked us off with a bang!

Justin Saban is the brains behind Latent Lemon Studios, based in Luton, UK where he is a Producer, Recording Engineer and designer of Audio Effects. He likes dogs, beetroot and making music.

https://www.facebook.com/latentlemon/

It is hoped that “Barney The Rock Show” will be available to be streamed early in 2020

Zombie Pirate Children – A Gwubbins the Witch story – Now Available!

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo StreetLater in 2020

A story with Zombies, Pirates, a witch, a wizard, a dragon and an escaped slave…..

Ella Jo began writing a children’s series called ‘Gwubbins the Witch’ in 2017. The stories feature a well meaning witch who’s magic sometimes goes wrong. This is most apparent in the story about an exploding birthday cake, and the root cause of the confusion in the story ‘Barney the Musical’. But these endearing characters also embark upon journeys and adventures, as in the entertaining ‘Gwubbins Winter Adventure’ – and again in this latest work, ‘The Zombie Pirate Children’.
This is Ella Jo’s fourth Gwubbins the Witch story, which sees Gwubbins and her friends embark on an epic journey through space and time.

‘Its been a hell of a start to the year’ Ella Jo says, giving this interview from her home in the English Countryside. ‘In 2018 there was a music album to wrap up and the Zombie Pirate Children to start. It took a lot of effort but both projects have been completed and they were a lot of fun’

Almost Anglo Saxon was released in January 2018, Ella Jo’s latest Gwubbins the Witch story, ‘The Zombie Pirate Children’ it is hoped will be released at the beginning of February 2020.

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo Street

‘I spent all of 2018 writing this Gwubbins story to explain how the Pirate Twins came to live in Gwubbins village’. Ella Jo explains. In a nutshell this is the story:

‘The Twins were abandoned on an island with other Pirate Children by Blackbeard in 1717 and they sent a message in a bottle asking for help. Gwubbins gets the message but needed a mechanism to travel through time and space – and it came in the shape of a Cosmic Time Turtle who swims across universes. Gwubbins visited the mysterious land of Shambala to learn her destiny to help her find the Pirate Children. When she reaches Earth she meets an escaped slave who takes her to Liverpool where they encounter Sir Isaac Newton. By helping him formulate one of his famous theories, Gwubbins and her friends acquire a ship to search for the island where the Pirate Children are marooned.

On the sea journey they encounter a Kraken, a hairy hand and a Lucky Licky Lollipop – all helpful in their own way, but for all the magical assistance – when Gwubbins finds the Pirate Children they find it very hard to trust her. A dangerous dragon must be placated, then, as they make ready to leave, the pirates turn up. Blackbeard has returned for his treasure and to steal the children away.

They need to figure out how to frighten Blackbeard away – I wont spoil the end, but there is plenty of Pirate Speak and Zombie threats as the finale of the book unfolds.’

‘The book was written for older children between 9 – 14 years. This is because the story encompasses the true history of 18th century Liverpool and the slave trade. I wanted to weave real, gritty history into the story and allow a wider view on those times. It was a challenge to tackle such a grave period and make it palatable, but this explains why the Pirate Children were in danger – and Blackbeard was a genuine character in that world.

So despite writing about Zombies and Pirates, the book has to be pitched to older children because of the real history that it contains, which I find quite ironic. The characters experience the delight of Shambala one moment and the stink of Liverpool the next, and out at sea, in un-chartered waters, magic creeps in. But this story has been written for kids in the modern world, and the Time Turtle was bound to influence events…’

Ella Jo goes the extra mile at the end of the book to explain the words used by the pirates.
‘I found the words used in pirate slang, and for the genuine sea shanties they would have sung. I also included a list of all the real people who feature in the story, so at the end the reader can see who they were and what they did – from Sir Isaac Newton to Blackbeard the Pirate’

It is a truly gripping yarn – and an audio book will be produced for The Zombie Pirate Children in the near future. (Later in 2020)

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo Street

Making A Children’s Audio Book #1

Children’s Audio Books #1
Having spent a good deal of my life as a singer songwriter and author, I am about to break into the world of Children’s Audio Books.

The problem with music is getting people to listen to it. The problem with e books is getting people to read them. But Audio Books seem like a totally different animal. The quest to find a safe medium in which to placate and safely entertain your child seems like a major issue for some parents. I don’t know – I am not a parent, but my research shows that parents are concerned about their kids in that they want to entertain them and educate them, and audio books fall into both these categories.

Audio Books link here

I began to research what I was getting myself into when it became apparent that my audio version of ‘Barney the Musical’ has the potential of becoming a huge hit with kids. With the help from my producer, Spon, we brought the story alive with some very entertaining sound effects.

As I have mentioned before, I write stories that I think I would have enjoyed reading as a child, and as a kid I loved funny noises. I have an enduring memory from childhood, and that is of myself and my sister sticking a finger in one ear and pretending to be folk singers. We were not immune to the comedy of this lark, and others, that involved silly noises.

Research on the net took me to many sites for parenting. Some were better than others. The best site I found in the limited time I gave myself was mumsnet.com – Sensible parents discussing sensible topics.

I was able to compile a list of recommended audio stories from mumsnet and other sites. Best of all I found conversations which showed how important audio books are for children who are reluctant to read. I also identified the environments that kids like to listen to audio books.

Other research showed me how disappointed customers could be when their CD audio books were poor quality or wrongly packed. I read a lot of criticism; from dislike for the accent of the narrator to the irritation of having to change a CD half way through a story. I also noticed that just about every children’s story ever written had at least one criticism. Not everyone is going to like my story, or my accent.

From this research I am able to get a measure of my own caliber. I am able to see where I may fit into the market and how to manage this product. The research has left me feeling quite confident as I believe that the story is good – it is politically correct (!), it is well paced and entertaining. My English accent is obviously not BBC – I think my slight cockney twang may become my trademark. I think I nailed the voices of the characters and the sound effects have animated the story. In short I think Barney The Musical can stand proudly with other children’s audio book products!

Gwubbins the Witch Stories For Children by Ella Jo Street

Aside

****UPDATE : DONT MISS BARNEY THE ROCK SHOW the last book of the series:  

Ella Jo talks about her series of Children’s Books, A Witch Called Gwubbins.

“My latest project is writing children’s fiction about a witch called Gwubbins. I wanted to write stories that I would have enjoyed reading as a child, and created a character who makes mistakes and embarks upon adventures!

I have enjoyed writing and honing the story-telling skills that even simple children’s tales require. Four stories are now available, and I am presently working on another.

I am delighted to collaborate with illustrator Mary Lou Springstead who has supplied the artwork for the first three e book covers. A gallery has been set up on line for children to send in their pictures relating to the Gwubbins stories.”

Three stories about Gwubbins the Witch

Three stories about Gwubbins The Witch by Ella Jo Street

Click below for the link to Gwubbins The Witch Website!

GWUBBINS THE WITCH WEB SITE IS HERE!

“The Exploding Birthday Cake” is an introduction to the world where Gwubbins lives and the reader meets her closest friends, the Pirate Twins and the Wonky Wizard. An audio version is planned with accompanying music and songs

“Gwubbins Winter Adventure” is for older children – of up to about twelve. I envisage this story as a sparkly Christmas movie and plan a part two where the characters have another adventure in a magical underground ice world.
Characters in this story: Gwubbins, The Wonky Wizard, The Pirate Twins, Mittens the Sheep, The Iceman, The Rover Raven

Gwubbins has a Winter Adventure

Gwubbins has a Winter Adventure

“Barney the Musical” was really fun to write – the epitome of Gwubbins magic going awry and the comedy effects this has on the musical. The tale of Gwubbins sister, Alidusta, and her celebrity dog Barney, really comes alive in the audio book version and I am planning another story to feature them in the future.
Characters in this story: Gwubbins, The Wonky Wizard, The Pirate Twins, Mittens the Sheep, Alidusta (Gwubbins’ sister), Barney the celebrity dog,

“The Zombie Pirate Children” is for older children. The story features Blackbeard the Pirate and was written to explain where the Pirate Twins came from. It is a fast moving plot through time and space – the fiction is magical, but the truth behind the 16th century slave trade is revealed as Gwubbins must save the Pirate Children from that unforgiving world.
This story will make a fantastic adventure film, as it deals with many different levels. There are issues of trust, bravery, cleverness, cruelty, and friendship, as well as magic. Even though they are provided with clues, the characters have to trust in fate to lead them to their destination.

The settings are clearly identified, and easy to relate to, (Shambala – a utopian world where they go to find wisdom, then Liverpool in the year 1717, followed by a sea voyage and a remote island). Journeys between worlds and through time are provided by the Time Turtle and they witness space through the turtles eyes.

The plot involves other strong characters such as the escaped slave called Nebulous, and figures from history such as Sir Isaac Newton. Interspersed with magical creatures and events, the ending is a literary soup of pirate speak and zombie threats.

Children with fair reading ability will enjoy this edgy story and learn some history from it. The shanties and pirate language are based on authentic material. Also, nobody dies.

Characters in this story include: Gwubbins, Wonky Wizard, Pirate Children, Mittens the Sheep, Professor Rowrick, Nebulous the escaped slave and master mariner, Sir Isaac Newton, Blackbeard and his pirate crew. Magical creatures:- The Hairy Hand, The Rover Raven and Ethel the Dragon. 

The Zombie Pirate Children

A Gwubbins the Witch Story called The Zombie Pirate Children

MORE ABOUT GWUBBINS THE WITCH STORIES BY ELLA JO STREET

The Exploding Birthday Cake – This story can be enjoyed by children as young as four and as old as ten.
This is the first story (and the shortest) about Gwubbins the witch, and her long standing friend the Wonky Wizard. The tale is set in Gwubbins house where she is hosting a Birthday Party for her good friends and neighbours, the Pirate Twins.

The story is related by a little mouse who lives under Gwubbins’ stairs and he tells us what it is like in Gwubbins world. This story illustrates Gwubbins personality, how she means well, but sometimes makes magical mistakes.

At the Birthday Party, Gwubbins’ friends notice that the cake she has baked for the Pirate Twin’s birthday is behaving strangely. There is a huge explosion and the aftermath is messy. Gwubbins must do some magic to clean up, then find out why her cake exploded. The Pirate Twins are very forgiving and all is revealed in the end.

Gwubbins makes a Birthday Cake

Gwubbins makes a Birthday Cake

Find the Exploding Birthday Cake HERE!

Gwubbins Winter Adventure should appeal to children between the ages of 8 and 13 years.
All seems safe as Gwubbins sets off into the wintery forest with her sledge to look for firewood with her friends. But when the weather takes an unexpected turn for the worse a snow storm prevents them from finding their way home.

Gwubbins uses her special intuition, and follows her twitchy witch’s nose through the snowing woods until she makes a stunning discovery. Deep in the ice is a cave where the companions take shelter, but this is the domain of a mysterious being. While the friends sleep they are studied by this being who sails into the cave across an underground lake.

The friends are already suspicious as this lake does not reflect peoples noses. But when they wake up a breakfast has been provided, and despite being rather peculiar the friends think this is an act of kindness.

When the mysterious figure appears again from the lake they wonder if the encounter is dangerous. In the depths of the ice all will be revealed.

This story is a fast paced and includes dialogue, allowing the children’s characters to ask questions. Thus the story provides smart explanations interspersed with humour, an entertaining combination for inquisitive children.

Barney The Musical – for children aged four to eleven
In this humorous story, Gwubbins is invited to see her sister star in a musical with her celebrity dog, Barney. At the theater Gwubbins is seated in the audience with her friends, the Pirate Twins, the Wonky Wizard and Mittens the Sheep.

Gwubbins tries to magically improve the show, with disastrous effects. The singing becomes yodeling, the music becomes jazzy and the dogs all misbehave and forget that they are celebrities for a while. The actors keep dancing, but Barney loses his spots and tries to run away in embarrassment.

Barney The Musical about a celebrity dog who sings at the theatre

Barney The Musical about a celebrity dog who sings at the theater

The show becomes a terrible mess, and Gwubbins and the Wonky Wizard need to put things right before the end. The audience is unsure whether it likes the unusual music and peculiar singing – only at the very end will the reader know if the show is a success or a terrible flop.

This story provides an insight into the world of theater, and allows children to grasp the concepts of acting and performing whilst enjoying an entertaining storyline.

The audio book is a delight (1 hour duration).

Beware – Barney the Musical contains some growling!

Zombie Pirate Children – For older children – eight to twelve years
Accompanied by the Wonky Wizard, Gwubbins searches for the Pirate Children who are marooned on a remote island.

Gwubbins must learn her destiny and find clues to locate the Pirate Children. She visits a wise Professor in the magical land of Shambala who directs her to planet Earth in the year 1717. The friends arrive in a dangerous world where they meet Nebulous, an escaped slave, who takes them to Liverpool.The Wonky Wizard finds them a boat and they prepare for a sea journey.

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo Street

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo Street

Once at sea Nebulous discloses the dark truths of slavery in the sixteenth century, and reveals some magic of his own. They encounter a terrifying sea monster but are assisted by magical beings – a strange hand and a special bird.

With the help of these creatures and Nebulous, who is also a master mariner, they find the Pirate Children, but all does not go to plan. There is an out of control dragon on the island and the children’s trust needs to be won over. Then, just as things begin to work out, the pirates appear on the horizon. Blackbeard, the most fearsome pirate of all, is returning to claim the children and his treasure – and he needs to be stopped.

When the pirates land on the island there is much pirate talk and singing of shanties. The Pirate Children bide their time, then give Blackbeard the scariest night of his life. The story reaches a gripping climax as Gwubbins and her friends use all their powers to scare away Blackbeard and set the Pirate Children free, which is no easy task.

The pirates are fearless, but the Wonky Wizard hatches a plan, if they can just pull it off!

This story includes words from original sea shanties and authentic pirate talk. There is a section at the end where the reader can look up the meanings of words spoken by real pirates. Also at the end there is a list of people in this story who really lived – with an explanation of what they did and what happened to them – especially Blackbeard and other pirates that are mentioned in the story.
The illustrations for the first three Gwubbins stories by Mary Lou Springstead are subject to copyright. Please see the Gwubbins website for more information.

The Gwubbins website has a picture gallery enabling children to exhibit their own pictures inspired from the Gwubbins stories.

Interview with Ella Jo talking about her new novel, Touched By A Presence

Ella Jo talks about her first novel ‘Touched By a Presence’ and gives some insight into her writing and music background.

Touched By A Presence by Ella Jo Street – Stories from a rural community, paths cross and lives become entangled.

In 1824 John Street seeks unconventional help for his son’s nightmares and encounters an old woman who makes haunting prophesies. Ghosts appear as her words play out at a hang-fair twenty years later, and again, when folks decide to leave their precarious world to emigrate.

John is a survivor. He returns home from the army, no longer a boy, battle-scared and disturbed. The story follows his life as he finally settles down to become a straw plait dealer and marry his sweetheart, Sal Cambers. John’s grandfather and aunts provide an historical perspective, and add to the plot.

Characters appear who challenge the strict social rules of nineteenth century England, their motives imagined and explained in a vibrant interpretation of rural village life.

What comes to light is the mettle of those living through the gaiety and woes of Old England, before an established way of life is swept away by industrialization. Although fiction, Touched By A Presence is based on authentic characters and historical events.

Thanks to all involved with the making of this film.

Handfasting Ceremony Dunstable 19th May 2018

A Beautiful May Wedding!

With the trees in blossom and the sun shining brightly, a hand fasting took place in the early afternoon.

Unsure whether I could control the camera, I made an effort, mindful that even with today’s technology, short bursts of film are easier to deal with than filming over long periods.

For those who want to watch, hit play, then pause, to wait for the white bar to load up.  WARNING! playing these videos the way it is currently setup will take 400 meg so make sure you have enough data before playing!

 

All the family held hands in a large circle to begin with. When they were told they didn’t need to hold hands, they didn’t let go straight away. I think it shows how happy they were to be there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends and Family who followed different lifestyles and religions all  came together to witness the special moment of Neila and Maura’s handfasting.

To be wed among the blossom on such a beautiful day was very special!

 

It gladdened my heart to see such emotion and joy.

It was very uplifting to be part of this wonderful occasion.

 

A moment of synchronicity when the bells of The Priory pealed at the end!

Learn more about handfasting here : http://www.handfastings.org/abouthandfastings.htm

Dump it on Parliament – Revisited

by 21st century youth and music.

Paper02

The amount of work that went into this project was phenomenal. As a bystander, hearing about it as it unfolded and watching the culmination of all the hard work, it was truly breathtaking.

The project was run by Bedfordshire Libraries I believe, in a bid to keep these precious public places alive. Choosing music and its place in the right to protest was a formidable concept. Something that was news thirty years ago was resurrected and held up as an example of how people, working together, make their cause stronger. Well that was the main point, but of course, the history has to be explained, the flavour of the times revisited, in order to give a satisfactory view of how things really were.

I featured some songs from the Dump It On Parliament tape in a podcast. I listened and was impressed at the variety of styles of music and the wide involvement of people dedicated to protest against a nuclear dump near Bedford (yes believe it, it could have happened!)
The tape was made so that proceeds from its sale could provide financial help to those who were arrested and fined for demonstrating against this insane idea. The wider community woke up and participated in voicing its disapproval, and eventually the government dropped the proposal.

TeeShirt Print01

But this incident threw open a door to the times we were living in, times past and unknown to the present generation. History is coloured by the media, and the media can be woefully unfair. The punk scene, which became the alternative music scene, was not populated by drones. Sure the clothes were interesting but there was more to it than the look (which was hijacked as soon as a buck could be made from it anyway).

The Dump it on Parliament tape is an icon for activism, for building communities and for the arts. The 21st Century project ‘Dump It On Parliament Revisited’, directed by the fantastic trio Rochi, Dash and Dem, probes into all the factors that made this tape, connects to the anger of the times, the politics of unfairness and the grassroots effects of fighting back. The drama group of young students that enjoyed the dressing up and acting of the Young Ones gives a nod to the recognition of this phenomena in our country’s social history.

And I have to laugh. Much of it goes back to Luton 33 Arts Centre and the craziness that went on there. I admit I took it for granted, surely every town had somewhere like that? Well it turns out that this arts center was very special, and to think I only went there a few times to rehearse with my band. Discussing 33 nowadays is like talking about Shangri La – there were drama groups, a recording studio, a photography studio, a cafe – decorated with Tony Hough’s paintings (Luton’s incredible fantasy artist). Gorilla Video was based there, developing new film techniques and providing Channel 4 with the stuff that used to make Channel 4 worth watching.

This was the meeting place where workshops took place and bands met, not in competition but in building a community, organizing gigs together. It was the antithesis of X Factor. Of course the council condemned the building, pulled 33 Guildford Street down and no independent place has emerged to rival it since.

Now it has come to pass that the building has gone, and the people have scattered to the four winds; but the music is still with us. So the idea was to revisit the tape itself, and listen to the songs and study the history. Then, to invite bands/performers of today to participate, by commenting about the issues in their lives through their music.

My goodness, the bands that participated are living proof that this project is a bloody good idea. Firstly there was no age restriction, I believe the youngest participant was a very enthusiastic actor, it would be rude to try and work out the eldest, so lets just say this project appealed to all ages!

Theatre10
Secondly it was a project that embraced all facets of art, not just the music. Tee-shirts and posters were designed. Clothes were embellished and make up carefully applied by the  drama group. Films made by Gorilla Video were aired. There was even face painting – where people ‘wore’ an album cover on their face.

An interesting discussion about the times and the action taken by bands and film makers were discussed at a public forum in Leighton Buzzard, hosted by Dave Stubbs from Quietus Magazine.

With music being my main passion I was bound to be drawn in by the promise of live bands, but all this other stuff, the historical perspective, the inclusion of anyone who wanted to be involved in any way, I found this inspiring. And yet all it was, was people, encouraging other people, to discover and evolve their abilities and learn something. I was entertained. More importantly, I was educated about the music scene, and the battles fought with the government of the 1980s against nuclear dumping, among other issues. Things that are not in the National Curriculum, or the newspapers.

So how can you better the idea of asking bands of today to come along and show us what music is about now? The master stroke was this – ask each band to cover one of the songs on the Dump it on Parliament Tape (I also called it the ‘Anti Nirex tape’, as Nirex was the company that the government was going to farm out the nuclear waste to).
This is asking a lot considering that music has moved a long way since the eighties, the words can be lost and musicians are all ego maniacs – well that’s how they are portrayed in the media – right?

Musicians don’t always turn up for rehearsals, well we know that! Sometimes people say yes to things and do not deliver… life can get in the way..sometimes people just cannot make it. I have said it before, musicians are emotional creatures, when you strip your soul naked on a stage it takes courage. But there are plenty of brave people out there.

I turned up on the last night of this project at Leighton Buzzard Theatre and it seemed clear to me that this was going to be a fantastic effort because it was so much more than ‘just a gig’. I was privileged to meet many of the musicians performing that night and their commitment and credibility was awe-inspiring.
I have to say in an industry once populated with men (which is even reflected to some extent on the Anti Nirex tape) the girls have silenced the equality debate, which thankfully, for this project, has gone out of date. Women, dressed in clothes that betray the fact that they are serious musicians and not put together by some creepy media company executive (ie they were dressed normally) performed to a very high standard, as did everyone taking part on the night. Yes the bottom line was that these bands were worth seeing.

Corolla_1

Corolla

I like punky stuff and I like folky stuff, so I wasn’t disappointed. The show kicked off with the Grove Theatre Drama Group (?) Dunstable – performing a song strong on lyrics. We all get how bad it is to be young in a system that does not care about you, but hearing it from kids who are living it and understanding that things don’t have to be that way – made it a powerful performance. I truly hope that these kids do find a future in the arts, even if nobody will fund them.

SlippySkills04

Gary, known as Slippy Skills came over from Luton and rapped a set, and we were off into a night of sheer delight, as I like to say. He was followed by the Council Tax Band, who really don’t care if they cannot be found on Google. This band was tight, political and had a dynamic girl guitarist as well as the singer/keyboard player. They covered the Click Click track from the Dump it on Parliament tape. I enjoyed their defiant style and material.

Grand Mal were excellent too – a Bedford band fronted by bass player, sound engineer and singer Amy Mason, often found behind the bar at Esquires, Bedford.

Grand Mal

Grand Mal

Corolla were something different. Their performance had delicacy and a gentle delivery which completely reset the atmosphere. The girl (I should say lady) singer has a completely controlled delivery of her vocals. Holding back and putting space into the music, captured the attention of the audience, and held us in the palm of her hand. Even though this band was quieter, the sentiment and pace of the music was its strength. The musicianship was exquisite, the moment was precious.

In contrast, everything seems to be in a state of explosion around Nick the Poet. He is like a human detonator. When someone with his energy takes the mike and announces that he will read you his poem, nobody would ever consider heading for the door. Nick has written some wonderful stuff over the years. He has a punk heritage that takes us back to the days of the emerging and pimpled UK Decay. Nick gave himself the job of reading a poem to the crowd while there were band and equipment changeovers on the stage behind him. He loves a rabble to entertain and the rabble loves him for his word-smithing. Nick does not beat around the bush. His poetry will ask awkward questions – and on this evening he brings out a poem questioning what Thatcher and Reagan were up to and the disgrace that was Greenham Common. By the end of the night everyone in the venue will know who Nick the Poet is, and probably go to see him if they ever get the chance again.

Nick the Poet

Nick the Poet

Rochi and Spon performed a song from the ‘dump it’ tape and had the crowd singing a simple song by a bloke named Kev, and I wondered if it may have been a guy I went busking with years ago in Luton. We never found out but the song brought a great audience response with us singing along with the chorus and the drama group really feeling it. Their tutor, Chris performing as Red Lighter Man also gave us a haunting poem about the times we live in.

Roshi

Roshi

The evening was fast paced, so I had a sit down and quick chat with Steve Spon who was co-presenting and co curator of the project. Then I heard someone on the drums and I knew that it had to be Kirk. Halfway through my tea I jumped up and ran to catch the Kindred, because it is the only thing to do when the Kindred get on stage. I have seen this band steam the pub windows up, I would go so far to say that they are rather ‘mighty’.

I just about caught the first song and it was the cover of the Rattlesnakes song ‘No Money’. This being my favourite song of the whole thing, it is not surprising that the pics came out a bit out of focus, I was trying to mosh at the same time. Seems the Kindred were not together as a band at the time but I am hoping they reform and gig because the world is too quiet without their gut ripping energy. All excellent musicians, they seem like direct descendants from some of the bands that made the Anti Nirex tape. Of course I mentioned the Rattlesnakes before, it being Gregg Herbert’s band at one time. It was special to see Kindred, highly respected in my opinion, paying tribute to Gregg and the Rattlesnakes all this time later. It was good too that the boys knew it and felt that respect.

Kindred01

Kindred and Kin

The evening ended with the Defektors, the other band that I had already picked up on the radar as a bloody good set up. I had a chance to speak to their singer, Cara, the enigmatic front-person before they got on stage. The Defektors were covering a song by Penumbra Sigh and I wondered if she knew that the singer had passed away in the last couple of years. I had tried to contact Spiky Kaz, who had been the singer in Penumbra Sigh when I included the track on my radio podcast, but could not connect with her. Cara viewed this news in a mystical light, she has a spiritual dimension about her, and she paid tribute to Spiky Kaz when they performed the song. The Defektors set was the last of the night and they rounded off the evening with kick ass tracks and lively performance. Cara is totally dynamic, having mastered the art of movement and performance, she gives a masterclass in stage craft to anyone watching who would want to learn. I liked this band before, now I love them!

All was filmed by Andrew and others, and the sound recorded on the desk by Graham, from Pere Ubu who did the engineering single-handedly and must be congratulated for not a whiff of feedback! The library staff involved with this project were so friendly and I glimpsed them support the creators as they cleverly navigated their way through their aims and objectives.

What will be my lasting impression of this whole thing? Well I was an outsider looking in, but for me what sticks is that people were just lovely with each other.

 The Passing Of Gregg Herbert

GREG WEB 2

We were saddened by the news that Gregg Herbert passed away. The only consolation is that he went peacefully in his sleep.

That a man who could happily admit to go sliding into the grave screaming ‘what a ride!’ should be so peaceful about it gives us all hope.
Gregg’s funeral was almost like an anti funeral. Sure we cried, but by god we had a good laugh too. We know that is what he would have wanted. So we heard about his life that was over all too soon and the packed crowd that came to see him off listened respectfully. (Although when the lady orator whilst relating an anecdote about Gregg’s life admitted that she had never woken up in the morning on the dining room table with someone hoovering beneath, there was a quip from the crowd of ‘well there’s always tomorrow’ which gave us a high comedy moment, and we knew Gregg was laughing wherever he may be).

The wake was like Luton’s punk reunion with members of Gregg’s past bands there and friends from gigs and the alternative Luton music scene. He was a drummer, and a mighty good one too.

GREG WEB 1

His drums sat on the stage at the wake, surrounded by photos and posters. There were a lot of happy memories and a good piss up by the bar to see him off.

Gregg last played drums with the Flexy Boys, a dynamic Luton band featuring the Stevens brothers. However, Gregg had been in other bands over the years. Irritant springs to mind, and Spon mixed the CD they made a few years ago, collecting the material together and bringing this heavy heavy stuff to the masses. It was not for the faint hearted!

Gregg was also in The Twitch, described as a ‘noisy Luton pub rock band’ some members going on to form Alice’s Orb. My personal favourite band featuring Gregg was The Rattlesnakes. Everything was right about this band…from the name to the attitude which was cheeky punk of course. I never saw them live – they were a few years before my time, but footage and material that survives shows a vibrant, powerful enactment of all that was punk, from the hair styles to the swearing and the talent of keeping it together to perform when most people would probably be on the floor.

The Rattlesnakes were a golden moment in the Luton Punk Scene, and it seemed appropriate for their version of ‘Tough Shit Wilson’ to end Gregg’s funeral. It WAS tough shit and we had to get through it and say goodbye to a bloke who had made such an impression on so many people. It really was incredible that he had brought everyone together from Luton’s alternative community, and beyond. Many who have left came back to pay their respects. The bonds of comradeship of this community held together by its love for what makes Luton great – its alternative music scene – was really touching. The strangest thing was that it felt like he was going to come through the door at any moment.

At the end of that day distant friends had been found, and a few new friends had been made. We lost Gregg but will not forget him. We have the music, and the memories, and have inherited a backdrop which is too big for the house.

Thanks Gregg.  RIP

GREG WEB 0

Tributes

Earlier this year I had sad news of the demise of two people who I held as friends, although I do not see them very often.

Sadly Bob Hill passed away in Kent, it was a shock and I think my friends down there are still reeling. Bob was an incredibly talented man, he was a designer, architect and builder. He worked mainly in England’s South East and London I think, and I am sure his work will live on for centuries. Knowing him for a few years I appreciated his generosity and sense of humour.

As I reflected on him and his life I realized that Bob had subtly influenced me and I hadn’t even realized it. As I struggled to come to terms with his passing a tune entered my head and I realized it was the theme from the Worzel Gummidge children’s series. The reason for this was because the last time I visited Bob and his wife he had recommended I watch these kids videos, and I sat up at night and saw a few episodes. He just told me – ‘they are good, I don’t know why, but there is something about Worzel Gummage, you should watch them.’ I remember after a couple of episodes thinking – ‘I could write stuff like this, perhaps I should have a go at writing children’s stories.’

Looking back now I wonder if that was what Bob was getting at? I wonder if he recognized that type of creativeness in me, and without saying it he gently guided me into thinking of it myself? It was not long afterwards that I began writing ‘The Exploding Birthday Cake’ the first in the Gwubbins the Witch series for children. I didn’t realize until the sad news about Bob that he had been the initiator of this creative process.

Bob Hill

Bob Hill

The second person to cross over was a friend to me when I was a teenager, just before and after I ran away from home. Lorna was married to Brian. This couple allowed me as a feral kid into their home. I had a lot of respect for this couple because they chose their lifestyle, didn’t hurt anyone and accepted kids like me.

I was eighteen when I said to Lorna that I was going to get a tattoo. She looked at me and said ‘why don’t you think about it for five years?’ Years later I realized that was the best advice anyone could have given a headstrong kid of that age.

Lorna from Luton

Lorna from Luton

What really fascinated me about Lorna was that she was into magic and Tarot. My life moved on, but because of Lorna’s influence I acquainted myself with Tarot and became a reader and wrote books about the cards. I discovered that the Tarot held a structure, and suggested a framework for building a fulfilling life which I could not relate to anywhere else. From Tarot I discovered Buddhism and tarot encouraged me to travel.

One year I went to Lorna’s house for a Halloween party and it was the highlight of the year, for Lorna was a witch, of good intentions of course. This is how I will always remember Lorna and Brian (both now have passed on), they lived to enjoy life without apology, they understood that gaiety nurtured the soul, they loved music and were open to the mystical. They enriched their lives with magic – sometimes I thought their house was like a fairy grotto!

Lorna at Halloween

Lorna at Halloween

My life was very different from Lorna’s – I wasn’t into children and her children were everything to her. Yet, when we met up again years later we still had a connection, we did not judge each other and I always felt that she was my friend, despite rarely seeing her.
When she died her kids were young adults, they made her funeral into a party because that is exactly what Lorna would have wanted.

It was a privilege to know these people who both passed before their time. I am sad at their loss, but rejoice in the goodness that they gave to their family and friends and the  influences that they had on me.

Both were very different people, but both would have said the same thing – ‘Be the best you can be.’ May they rest in peace.

Writing About Music and Theater

Ella Jo discusses why she has chosen her subject matters.

In this post I explain why I think it is important to write about the theater and a rock show – examining their cultural significance.

There is a real life politician who would ban rock bands. (West Tyrone, Ireland). This is a revelation. At present I am writing a story about a dog who joins a band and plays rock shows. Is that bad? Plenty of people enjoy rock music and plenty of kids like to play air guitar now and again, even if they never bother to learn an instrument. The most base reason is that rock music is pure fun. Having recently watched a BBC docu charting the history of rock music, I think I gained a balanced view on the genre. It has been degraded in recent decades, but it is not dead.

I entertain the notion that most music is credible. It benefits the individual, (making it or just listening) and it benefits society as well. It is therapy, poetry, an outlet for anger and passion and much more. Music nurtures the youth and cradles the adult. It resonates deeply within each individual; your musical taste informs the world about you, and it makes for dancing!

As a music lover it seems natural to write stories about music and performance. In the world of insipid, competitive, shallow, farcical, celebrity culture many young people do not realize there is so much more to it. I am no expert, I just know that music was my crutch, and my inspiration, and it worked like therapy on different levels.

I am excited by music in an historical context. Such an ethereal substance is hard to measure and substantiate and bears controversy – I mean the idea that vocal harmony did not exist until the church invented it seems preposterous to me, yet this is believed by many.

Music and performance is art – an integral part of human culture. So I make no excuses for taking my characters to theaters and rock shows. If I must face bigotry it harks back from a Victorian age when actresses and singers were frowned upon for dressing up and wearing makeup – the connection with ‘working girls’ is obvious. I view it as a class issue. I understand how Puritanical and Victorian values have influenced English society. When these conditions dominate performing arts cannot thrive. Music and drama becomes distorted and smutty. In modern times the arts could thrive, if only the funding would allow.

My function as a writer is to preserve cultural life where music and expression is like cultural glue. It has a history, it binds, it attracts good things/people and bad things/people. It is a metaphor for life! I refuse to be embarrassed by harmless fun. I am perfectly aware of my responsibilities.

I believe that the history of music and folk culture is just as important as any other type of history. Unfortunately this ‘culture glue’ is not celebrated fully by the modern education establishment. School music in the UK tends to be religious – still singing hymns written in the 1800s.
Easter Passion Plays were amongst the earliest expression of drama in England. Ordinary people enacted the crucifixion in the streets. (1110 – The first performance of a miracle play in England given at Dunstable Priory). Before Christianity there must have been pagan rituals where Shamanic ‘acting’ bound people with natural events. Clearly today, we observe how dramatizing a story reinforces the culture, as in the school nativity at Christmas. However nonsensical, the children love to act. In the 11th century the Mummers plays introduced the new concept of doctors and war propaganda with the Saracens. This form of performance could have been discovered from Middle Eastern traditions of story-telling, interwoven in native traditions by the homecoming crusaders.(Hence St George- a Turkish figure makes his first appearance and is so thoroughly absorbed that he now signifies Englishness!)

The English seemed to have a rich, unfettered love of music and country dancing until the 1560s. The church clamped down on what must have been memories of pagan festivals, eventually eradicating them along with freedom of artistic (or any) expression. The Puritans (mainly from the 16th-17th Century) banned dancing and were strict about music, if they had it at all. Life was stuffy, uncomfortable and boring. I view the Puritans as fundamentalists who crushed the human spirit. No festivals, no outward expression of gaiety, they lacked generosity and spied on one another for religious misdemeanors. Superstitious and stupid, their restrictions must have been dreadful.

The theater survived (this was the time of Shakespeare) but many plays from that time have have been lost. Luckily the Puritans couldn’t keep it up for long. The world moved on and eventually the Morris men emerged, although there seems they had no place for women. As the industrial revolution began to destroy the old ways, Music Hall came into its own as singalong and sheet music was popular – it was commonplace to have a piano in the house. Classical music was well established by then, but seemed to be another marker of class as Empire building split the upper from the lower class in a different, but just as exploitative Victorian system.

We still have cinema which over took the music hall and still forms a bridge between modern cultures. Big band music kept peoples spirits up during the 2nd world war, then music went electric!

Pop music I believe is misnamed. It is popular folk music with its roots in American Slaves music. Recording technology captured Rock n Roll, then there was a songwriting explosion from the Beatles in the 1960s to the beginning of rave culture. After that I think pop music has been pulped by corporations and the original art form is lost in a commercial rampage. Popular ‘folk’ music is all at sea as the internet age tries to scramble a new format for true artists to be heard in the 21st century. (The West End/Broadway shows still run but very few ‘hit’ songs seem to emanate from them in recent years).

So for me, those decades from the 60s to the 90s make up an important musical heritage. My personal aim is to champion music in this form – with all of its variations.
Why it is good to be a musician
Creative thought – when composing tunes and musical parts, and writing lyrics.
Joining a band makes a person learn team work.
Playing to a live audience and recording – teaches self discipline, confidence and perfectionism.
When things go wrong – learning how to control ego and narcissism.
My reason for writing about Theater, Music and Rock Shows is to reflect the fact that music flows like a cultural spring, that it stimulates personal growth and is pure fun.

So no apologies to the prospective MP of West Tyrone. It appears that she would throw gay people into prison as well. We should cover her in chocolate and leave her up a mountain until she can laugh at herself. Thankfully she is in the minority. I am free to weave my stories around precious cultural icons that survived the Puritans and the Victorians and that are bound to be re-invented for a future fated to be influenced by technology. Or maybe not. Humans are strange, there are still brilliant buskers and genius musicians who would rather play around a campfire in a field.

We may yet be driven back to the roots of street plays and old fashioned story telling. Whatever happens, my characters will be there, howling, yodeling and rocking out with pure joy – even in West Tyrone.