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BlogAll In The Same Boat
Yesterday I wrote a BLOG for Platforma Arts + Refugees Network about All In The Same Boat, the new group show what I have written alongside my various chums from the Lost City Writers Group. It was only when it went LIVE that I realised that I hadn't really talked about it much HERE, so let's put that right!
I did mention it several weeks ago when we were discussing the TITLE, but things have moved on APACE since then. We now have a fully agreed and completed SCRIPT which has been handed over to an Actual Director who has recruited some Actual Actors with whom she is doing Actual Rehearsals! This is the third time we've done a show like this, but it still feels really WEIRD to think that there's a whole bunch of people getting ready to put on a show which they will think of (correctly) as THEIRS, using a script which I think of (correctly) as OURS, even though the two groups have mostly never even MET. I rather like it this way - I know I COULD elbow my way into rehearsals or just go and MEET the cast, but after DECADES of doing nearly everything SOLO I really enjoy the idea that somebody else is doing all the work now, and I can just roll up on the night and see what they've come up with.
I must admit that I have quite high hopes for this one. The script is, I think, the best one we've done. The first show was seven completely separate short plays all based around the idea of SEXINESS, which worked really well (especially as our Producer, Mr A Dawson, CUNNINGLY scheduled it around Valentine's Day), while the second had the plays sort of about London and loosely linked by the idea of a radio station, which didn't (I think) quite work out as well as it could. This new one is FIRMLY linked by having the six main characters all sitting in a boat together, telling their stories, and I think the linking DOES work... though I would say that, as it was me what wrote the linking bits! Five of the six plays were written by the other five writers, the sixth was done as a joint effort, and then I stitched it together and, as it says in the , I was surprised by what came out at the end. The BRIEF was to try and write something that WASN'T just handwringing, and I think we managed it, arriving at an UNEXPECTED and, hopefully, MOVING conclusion. It is, not to sound like DONALD TRUMP or anything, Quite Good.
But hey! You don't have to take my word for it, you can come and see it for yourself! (CLEVER MARKETING) The show's on at Oxford House in Bethnal Green on Friday 11 November and Saturday 12 November, and you can buy tickets via WeGotTickets (tickets HERE for Friday or Saturday). I'm planning to be there both nights, so do come and say hello and let me know what you reckon!
posted 21/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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I've got a right stinky old cold at the moment, all sneezing and sniffling and generally BLEH. The last time I had one of these was EXACTLY a year ago, so maybe I am somehow ALLERGIC to new jobs?
I thus spent most of yesterday sat at work annoying everyone around me with my Nasal Palaver, until approx 4:20pm when I set off for UAL where I was due to have my first Phd Supervision Meeting. Before I did THAT though I went to the LIBRARY to get some Inter Library Loans what I had requested. "Inter Library Loans!" Even typing that phrase takes me zooming back to Leicester Poly Scraptoft Library, where Librarians were FOREVER going on about Inter Library Loans, but nobody ever seemed to want them. That library, like all of Scraptoft campus (and pretty much all the pubs I used to drink in in Leicester) isn't there anymore, but the YEARNING for people to do Inter Library Loans clearly still is, as the UAL lot kept talking about them at Induction, so I thought I'd FINALLY give it a go.
It worked! My two books were on a SHELF with a very politely caligraphied LABEL saying there were for me. That was quite old fashioned, and thus contrasted sharply with the actual act of BORROWING - I swiped my card in a machine, put the book ON the machine... and that was that, LOANED! Amazing!
That done I went round the corner to meet Roger and Ian, my supervisors. I had learnt a NEW WORD on the way in to work that morning - HYPERDIEGESIS - so was keen to use it, and ended up saying it A LOT. We had a LENGTHY chat about what on earth it is I'm going to do, the three of us coming to the eventual conclusion that, actually, we weren't quite sure. It could be a fairly straightforward cultural analysis of Marvel Comics in the Bronze Age, it could be nothing to do with Marvel at all but an EXPLORATION of the nature of performance and collaboration, it could be an EXPERIMENT with SERIALISATION. It was all a bit head-spinning really, so we agreed that my HOMEWORK would be to prepare a presentation detailing all the different options so that we could then work out which bits we wanted and find a way to fit them together. It's a PLAN!
I have since given this presentation a LOT of thought. Not ALL of that thinking has been "What Bronze Age characters can I used to represent these different themes and which one would Howard The Duck be?" but it has been quite a large proportion.
Afterwards we went to the STUDENT BAR for a STUDENT PINT, which was very nice indeed, and discovered that one of Roger's chums is a stand-up comedian who I have SEEN and briefly SPOKEN to, when Steve did his BEER talk at Bright Club in Edinburgh, back in 2013. It may not actually be a small world, but the bit containing COMEDY PERFORMANCE and People Interested In Comics definitely is!
posted 20/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Friday night found me celebrating the (hopefully) successful conclusion to the first week in my new job by heading to CAMBRIDGE, where I was due to meet Mr P Myland in order to go and see WILKO JOHNSON.
We'd agreed to meet by the NCP Car Park outside the station, which seemed simple enough until I discovered that the NCP Car Park outside the station no longer existed. That part of Cambridge seems to be Build New Stuff CENTRAL at the moment, also the headquarters of the International TRAFFIC Association's AGM, so we spent a good twenty minutes or so involved in TELEPHONE KERFUFFLE trying to find each other. Eventually I tracked him down parked round the corner, where some helpful tabard wearers, there to manage congestion, had suggested he wait for me. We then set off and... er... got a bit lost, eventually making it to ANOTHER car park in the middle of town.
The bit of Cambridge we were in didn't seem to have any obvious Eating Pubs in it, so we went and had some SUSHI. Now, this may surprise regular readers who are used to my GADABOUT lifestyle, full of connoisseurship and fine dining, but I have never actually EATEN Sushi before. It always seems to be FISH, which I don't eat, but I found a VEGGIE box and had a go. FOOD REVIEW: it was all right. It still tasted a bit fishy, but I understand that that's the seaweed. I can still TASTE it, several days later, but perhaps that is the effect of a NEW THING. Or maybe it was just slathering it with soy sauce.
That done we went and had a pint of CRAFT LAGER (BEER REVIEW: quite nice) in The Corn Exchange, DELIGHTING ourselves by noting that we were pretty much the youngest people there, then went in to the gig itself. It was scheduled to start at 8:30pm and Mr Johnson and his band (a very excitable, slight varnished, lived-in looking bass player and a young looking, in the circumstances, drummer) came on at EXACTLY 8:30pm. I was most impressed! They then proceeded to play about EIGHT songs all in a row with NO talking in between, and it was PRETTY AWESOME. Wilko did not give the impression of ever having been anywhere NEAR death's door, and GOODNESS ME but they were a ROCKING outfit - they made a RIGHT old racket, it was VERY exciting.
After a while, with song after song and NO chat it also started to sound a LITTLE BIT the same - my brain has only one slot for "BOOGIE WOOGIE (GENERAL)" in its Filing System - but it was never boring. My favourite bit was about halfway through when Wilko SPOKE to us to say he was pleased about Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize, and then did a cover version of "Can You Please Call Out Your Window?" It was GRATE!
We had right good seats down the front so had a FAB view, only party occluded by loads of people taking pictures and VIDEO all the way through. The chap next to me was PARTICULARLY keen on taking loads and loads and LOADS of pictures of the same three old men in black shirts playing the same instruments in the same way - I can understand taking a couple of photographs but it's not like there were COSTUME CHANGES - and also JIGGLING ABOUT like mad throughout. I started to get PEEVED by this, but then decided to join in and GUESS WHAT? Not only was it a lot of fun, but it also made him stop. I, however, continued to JIG to the end!
I'd been worried about catching the last train home, so when after (almost exactly) an HOUR of SHOW they announced their last number I was Quite Excited - I thought I might even be able to catch the last QUICK train! I hadn't counted on a) it all going a bit JAZZ so that the last song lasted ten minutes and b) the two, well deserved, encores, but STILL we were out not long after ten o'clock and all was looking well.
What I hadn't counted on NEXT was the fact that it would take us AGES to get out of the multi-storey and then... well, we got LOST again as we were too busy YACKING and not listening to SatNav lady. In the end I made it with MINUTES to spare for the last but one SLOW train, said my farewells to Mileage, then spent a DELIGHTFUL 90 minutes reading the new Squirrel Girl Graphic Novel. COMICS REVIEW: it was GRATE!
And thus ended week one of being in my new job. NEW JOB REVIEW: So far so good!
posted 17/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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It's very nearly the end of the first week in my new job, and I find myself full of INFORMATION. All week I have been cramming in new FACTS and PROCEDURES and it feels like my BRANE is one giant mush of chewy GOO. Hopefully it will all calm down and reset into individual FACTOIDS soon but at the moment it feels like the inside of my head is a single mushy GLOB like a whole pack of fruit pastilles all chewed up together.
Several THEMES have manifested though, even if individual POINTS may take a little while longer. One is the realisation that Brexit is going to make the next few years of Medical Research really really REALLY really complicated. Everything we do here - and indeed nearly everything I've been involved with in ALL my jobs - is based around European Directives and Guidelines, often submitting material TO European bodies in order to ensure that trials (of all types) are carried out properly and safely. I know that the idea post-Brexit is that all European Law will remain in UK law, but how are we going to replace all the bodies that administer it at the moment? And who's going to pay for it? Why, it's almost like the people proposing Brexit had given no thought at ALL to any of this, but that can't be right can it? I'm SURE they've budgeted for the HUGE amounts of CA$H to work it all out.
Another THEME has been CANCER itself, which I now know a LOT more about that I did before I started. I usually consider myself quite a STURDY and STRAIGHTFORWARD fellow, but I must admit that being presented with the FACT that the human body is a big squishy bag full of BLOOD and BONY MARROW and VEINS and all sorts of ICKY STUFF has right given me the HEEBIE JEEBIES!
And then there's the LEARNING itself. I've already attened a TONNE of talks, seminars and courses and have approx 15,000 more lined up over the next few months. It's all GRATE - I'm in line to get more training during the rest of this year than I've had in the preceding two decades - but it's ODD to be thrown into yet more new LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS. A couple of sessions have been ME in a room full of Post-Graduate Medical Students who all appear to be SURLY TEENAGERS. I was sat there being DILIGENT, smiling and nodding at the Learning Co-Ordinator, but everybody else was looking OBVIOUSLY BORED, staring at their phones, or CHATTING. I was surprised that the TEACHER didn't start throwing CHALK RUBBERS!
I've also done DIVERSITY training, FIRE SAFETY, DATA CONFIDENTIALITY and... well, you get the idea, all dancing around my BRANE mixed up COMICS too. If it doesn't get separated out by HOME TIME today I think I may have to prescribe myself some LIQUID LEARNING to help with all the MIND FILING!
posted 14/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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A Consortium Of Scholars
On Monday night I finished my first day of my new job at UCL and headed across town to the very slightly differently titled but very VERY differently inclined UAL, where I was due to attend a meeting of The British Consortium Of Comics Scholars.
This is a bunch of people pursing Comics Studies Research at Postgraduate Level who a) meet about once a month to discuss Comics Stuff and b) appear to be ENTIRELY DELIGHTFUL. Later on in the evening a guest said that ALL "Comics People" seem to be really nice, and somebody suggested that this was because there was very little prestige and absolutely no money whatsoever for anybody to fight over, so most of the usual academic conflicts were pointless. All my experiences so far point to this being CORRECT!
As I strolled from one University to the other I noticed a distinct change in the people involved. My bit of UCL is very much Standard University Employees i.e. casually dressed and indistinguishable from the population as a whole. The nearer I got to UAL, however, the more I noticed ART STUDENTS. By the time I got to the main campus at Granary Square I was SURROUNDED by swaggering teenagers, trousers that didn't go all the way to the floor, challenging haircuts, brave colour choices and A LOT of HATS. I couldn't help GIGGLING, especially when I passed someone brandishing a PAINT BRUSH with a PAINED LOOK in a Cafe.
My lot were much more like The Usual Academics, also FRIENDLY. We gathered in the reception area then went upstairs to a meeting room where we were helping out with an experiment in Graphic Facilitation. This is basically where illustrators listen to a group discussion and create a mixture of graphics and text to reflect what people are saying and thinking. It's a THING, apparently, that is used a lot in public consultations, and two academics from Australia had come over to try out some new methods with us.
It was really interesting - we were talking about people's feelings and experiences around Social Media, and everyone launched into a BIG TALK about it. As per I found myself getting a bit evangelical about the JOYS of Social Media and the way The Internet has broadened our social circles and made keeping in casual contact with each other SO much easier. I think it's lovely how, nowadays, we can have EXTREMELY trivial conversations with our oldest friends without having to travel miles to see them and then going through UPDATES for hours before getting to the bit you actually enjoy.
Anyway, while all this was going on two members of the group drew loads of illustrations on two flip boards, then at the end these were placed on the floor and discussed in order to see how accurately they reflected what we'd been talking about. Being a COMICS group there was also discussion of EMBODIED METAPHORS (which I now almost know what they are) and PROCESS and stuff - it was GRATE!
By 8pm, however, my BRANE was KNACKERED by all this on top of the whole First Day At A New Job, and I thought it best to leave. I tried to sneak out but then everyone said "Bye!" and waved, PROVING, I believe, the whole thesis about comics people being lovely!
posted 13/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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A Paradise Of Lists
On Monday of this week I started at a NEW JOB! And it was FINE!
This time last year, almost to the day, I was ALSO starting a new job, and that time I was FRAUGHT with anxiety and found it took me a while to settle into it. This was for various reasons, not least that it was the first time I'd started a whole new job in almost 13 years! ALSO it was miles away over in West London, I was based at two seperate sites, and it was largely left up to me to sort out what I was going to DO.
THIS time around the experience has been very different. Not only had I been through it all just ONE year ago (and actually four months ago TOO when I started at a THIRD location) in my old job, I'd ALSO done much the same a fortnight ago when I'd started the PhD. In addition I'd got an ACTUAL DESK all to myself this time (with DRAWERS!), I was back in a part of town I knew VERY well (Tottenham Court Road, about 5 minutes from Birkbeck where I worked from 2003 to 2014) and there are LISTS that tell you EXACTLY what to do.
I do like a list and this place has TONNES of them for pretty much EVERYTHING. There was a list of things I needed telling on my first day (to be dated and signed), a list of things to talk through with my line manager, a list of courses to go on, and best of all a MASSIVE list of OTHER LISTS (or "Standard Operating Procedures") which tell you how everything - EVERYTHING - has to be done. For someone like me who enjoys getting organised it is pretty much heaven!
And then of course being back in Central London is BLOODY BRILLIANT. Every day when I go out for lunch i find myself GRINNING at the CHOICE of places to go and all the EXCITEMENT that's happening around. Today I even went to the COMIC SHOP, just like I used to, on a WHIM rather than squeezing it in around other jobs like I've had to for the past year.
Having a DESK is also pretty wonderful. I was never able to just LEAVE stuff at the last job, because I was never going to be in the same place two days in a row, and for two of the three locations I didn't have a DRAWER that I could put things in. Now I have SEVERAL drawers, also FILING SHELVES. Oh baby, I am FILING like nobody's business!
Apart from missing the nice people I used to work with, there's only really been TWO downsides to the whole thing. The first was the fact that my desk appears to have been left vacant for about A HUNDRED YEARS and so was FILTHY when I first sat down at it. Luckily, being slap bang in the middle of town means there is a Tesco round the corner so I was able to pop out and get some anti-bacterial wipes to sort it out with. I used most of a pack!
The other downside is, of course, HR, who took nearly three days to put me onto the system (plus the two months since I accepted the post, I guess), and seem to have got my log-in details a bit wrong so I can register for stuff. Still, having a HR Department that managed to get everything right first time would surely be like having a KITTEN that caught balls of string too easily - where's the fun in that?
So, in conclusion: Having lots of changes over the past year or so has both PREPARED me for another new job but also made me delighted in returning to an old area. I hope I can stick around now for AGES!
posted 12/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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After spending most of the week in Weymouth I was back into London Action on Saturday morning when I rolled up at Somerset House to attend "Comics Crossroads 2", an CONFERENCE. I'd had to get up EARLY (on a Saturday!) so was feeling a little bit grumpy when I arrived, not helped by the usual Somerset House TOTAL LACK OF SIGNAGE, but eventually I tracked down the room the conference was happening in and things improved mightily.
For LO! it was a day of VERY INTERESTING talks. As I've said many times before, the cruel hardships of my professional life (hem hem) have led me to be TRAUMATISED by all the Stats Conferences I've been on, so I ALWAYS sit down in conference environments expecting to be BORED far beyond the boundaries of human endurance. Adjustment to my changed circumstances was QUICK on this day, however, as it was PACKED with Fascinating Topics, including the ZEITGEIST of 70s comics in the UK, Roy Lichtenstein, how colouring used to work, lots of talk about methodology, embodied concepts in metaphor and enclosed panels/bubbles. All right, I know that may not sound particularly THRILLING but honest, it totally was!
The best bit for me, however, came early when I had a cup of (POSH! DELICIOUS!) coffee with my supervisor and told him my ideas about combining all my VARIOUS PRACTICES to EXPRESS my THESIS. Rather than chucking the coffee at me and saying "Stop being silly! You have to do a Big Essay!" he was actually Quite Keen and even suggested ways it could be done. HOORAH!
So LIFTED was I that I was even BRAVE enough to go to the DRINKS after. Another thing I know from the aforesaid YEARS of Conference Attendances is that the DRINKS is where the main business happens, though in this case the business seemed to be just saying hello to some more members of my new PEER GROUP. Comics Studies is an EMERGING FIELD so there aren't THAT many people doing it, but they all seem to be very nice and willing to chat, it was good!
I swayed home where The References In My Paper was delighted - DELIGHTED - to get an hour long report about the whole thing, concluding with the idea that maybe, just maybe, this might actually WORK!
posted 11/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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A Midi-Break To Weymouth
Last week The Days Of My Leave and I took a MIDI-BREAK (that's what we're calling it - remember where you heard it first when MADONNA or someone is claiming to have invented it) for four nights down in Weymouth. Short Version: It was BRILLO.
We stayed in a delightfully chic little boutique hotel called THE PREMIER INN on the seafront which turned out to actually really BE near the seafront. The nice thing about staying in one of these chain hotels is that, if you've been before, they feel HOMEY. Also, with the best will in the world, you're NOT risking a stay in a funny smelling pokey Traditional B&B run by LOONIEZ, as I have had occasion to do occasionally On The Road. ALSO also there is guaranteed to be a Brewers Fayre next door which, in this case, was perfectly delightful with a surprising range of BEERZ.
We were there for three full days which we filled by doing a TONNE of things. On our first day we ventured into Weymouth itself to try and find the Tourist Information Centre. There is NOT a Tourist Information Centre in Weymouth and my advice would be to avoid mentioning this to the locals as they are NOT happy about it. "There used to be one..." they say, looking AGGRIEVED. We went and got a map from the nearby Pavilion instead and then went on The Skyline, which is a big POLE with a ring around it that you sit in, go up, do two revolutions looking at the view, then come down again. It was Quite Good.
We then had a BEER in The Ship, which I was excited to discover was a Hall & Woodhouse pub selling BADGER beer i.e. My Favourite. That done it was time for the main business of the day which was a might HIKE across country (via a castle, a cove, and quite a lot of crows) to Chesil Beach which was AMAZING. It's ENORMOUS! And full of PEBBLES! I'd read about it beforehand (and read the Ian McEwan book too) but nothing had prepared me for the AWESOMENESS of it all. It's HUGE! And made of PEBBLES!
We got the bus back to the hotel that night, and I must say I was RIGHT impressed by the buses of Weymouth. There were LOADS of them, going SUPER regularly and featuring SMILING bus drivers who even SPOKE to us. After so many year of London bus drivers this came as a bit of a shock!
The second day found us having a DEAD nice breakfast in a cafe perched atop beach huts before walking in the opposite direction to the day before, away from Weymouth and out to Bowleaze Cove, which was RIGHT nice. We saw a Roman Temple, a LOT of the seaside, an oddly MEDITERRANEAN Art Deco Hotel called The Riveria (which looked VAST from miles away but was tiddly up close) and then discovered a charming little artisanal pub called THE HARVESTER where we had GIGANTIC Salad Bowls. It was TASTY, despite/because of it looking very much like "Chef" had gone to M&S and bought a JOB LOT of their salads. It was actually rather nice there, sat on a cliff, with little BEACH HUTS to sit in in the beer garden.
On the way back we watched the Kite Surfers ZOOMING off of waves and FLYING through the air and went for a quick look at RSPB Lorton Meadows which was INCREDIBLE. I've been to nature reserves before and have got use to seeing, basically, three ducks and a pigeon, but this was PACKED with all SORTS of BURDS what I'd not seen before. It was, as I boldly stated at the time, "The best bird reserve EVER". I stand by that statement!
We got home in time for some CLASSIC Chain Hotel ACTION i.e. watching "Pointless" while drinking Coffee Sachets then almost falling asleep. Luckily we woke up in time to go our for a SWANKY MEAL (which The Items On My Bill TREATED me to, including AFTERS, for LO! I am A Lucky Guy!) then WHISKIES back in The Ship. Oh yes, we DO know how to holiday!
Our last full day was full of FUN but also DRAMA. We'd booked a place on Jurassic Safari and had arranged to be picked up in town at 13:45, leaving us PLENTY of time to go for lunch at The Hive Cafe. It's a veggie cafe, so it would have been RUDE not to! It was LOVELY but also suddenly very BUSY just as we wanted to pay and go, so in the end I had to pretend to be catching a train so we could DASH. I felt a bit bad about fibbing but then the woman in front gave me a RIGHT Evil Stare so I felt much better about it! We RAN through Weymouth, missed being picked up, got SAND BLASTED by the wind WHIPPING in off the sea and then... well, Gary the tour guide arrived about two minutes later in his mighty landrover to pick us up and everything was fine. Maybe calling it "DRAMA" was going a bit too far.
We then spent four hours being driven around by Gary in the aforesaid Landrover, along with two other people, having an UTTERLY BRILLIANT time. It was like being on an open top bus tour with a constant running commentary of FACTS, HISTORY, and PERSONAL GAGS that you could join in with. Ooh, we saw all sorts of things, both on and OFF ROAD as the landrover crossed FIELDS to get better views and also went through private land to see stuff like Heaven's Gate, an ASTONISHING viewpoint that you'd otherwise have to walk MILES to get to. Also, there was a break for CAKE!
Honestly, it was totally brilliant and I'd recommend it to anyone down that way - there are pictures of it all over on my Flickr Page where you can MARVEL at me looking REALLY HAPPY in various locations, often while sporting a floral shopping bag!
The four hours of the tour FLEW by and was so much fun that we had - HAD - to go back to The Ship for a PINT to calm down from it all. Exhausted by all the excitement we bought ourselves an PICNIC, bussed it back to the hotel, and continued the Chain Hotel Experience by drinking BOOZE in bed while watching Grand Designs. See above: TRULY we are HOLIDAY experts!
And that was that really - next day we strolled back to town, got yet more GRUB, hopped on the train and ZOOMED back to That London. Four nights was EXACTLY the right length of time, for us, to be there, not least because it meant we had a couple of days of hols left at the end of the week to get ready for going back to work.
In conclusion then: Weymouth! It was ACE!
posted 10/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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I spent most of last week at the INDUCTION WEEK for my PhD and it was, to say the least, a mixed bag. Some of it was GRATE, thought provoking, informative and really helpful at focusing my BRANE on what lay ahead. Some of it, however, wasn't. I spent one particular afternoon listening to two pillocks tell my why Climate Change is A Bad Thing (who knew?) and how they were AMAZING because they were fighting it by subverting the white cube gallery. To prove it one of them showed a series of photographs of uneasy looking female students who they were "collaborating" with on direct action schemes. After decades of Statisticians and Medics I'd forgotten that there were University people like that!
HOWEVER all of it - RUM bits included - made me realise that I am now an ART STUDENT! For the past few months I've been thinking of this course mostly in terms of ADMIN I had to do - paying the fees, filling in forms, turning up for events and so forth - but over the course of this week it was impressed upon me that I am at ART COLLEGE! Maybe it was all the people saying "there's no right or wrong answers" or all the Actual Marxists around (PRO TIP: Marxists don't like it if you suggest that Marx was a science fiction writer. They don't like it at all) or the FASHION STUDENTS standing in doorways, but at one point I suddenly thought "Hang on, this is Central St Martins like in The Pulp Song! And I'm doing a Phd here! ZOINKS!"
It also made me realise that - GIRD YOURSELF - I am a TRANSMEDIA ARTIST! The proposed title of my thesis is "The Bronze Age Of Marvel Comics As A Model For Multiple Author Shared World Transmedia Projects" (I KNOW!!!!) and I'd originally thought of EXPRESSING this through PRACTICE (see above re: I Am An Art Student) by writing a 12 issue mini-series of comics like the original 'Secret Wars'. HOWEVER, the more I've thought about this the more I've realised it would be a LIVING NIGHTMARE, if for no other reason that it would take An Actual Artist at least a YEAR to draw such a thing. How on earth would I be able to afford that?
A possible solution arose when we had to give five minute presentations of our WORK. After I'd done mine someone asked if I'd thought of doing TRANSMEDIA (i.e. telling one story through lots of different formats) COLLABORATIONS as the Practice Element which really got me thinking. "I'd need to do WORK in lots of different formats" I thought, then realised that I ALREADY DO! "I'd need lots of people to collaborate with," I added, then realised that already do THAT too! br>
This was AMAZING NEWS to my Waking Mind because I'd been really worried about how I was going to fit everything in around the PhD, and was trying to face up to the fact that I'd have to GIVE UP some stuff, but suddenly it seemed that maybe I wouldn't. Instead of abandoning gigs, fringe shows, videos, plays and recording sessions (TRANSMEDIA!) with The Vlads, Steve, Lost City Writers or Mr J Dredge (COLLABORATIONS) I could surely FOLD it all into the Phd itself! IMAGINE!
Obviously I have to talk to my SUPERVISORS about all this... and probably actually The Vlads and Steve and everyone, but still, that could work, couldn't it? Then I too will be able to impress TEENAGE GURLS with my activism, for LO! I will be a DOCTOR OF ROCK!
posted 7/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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The English Earth
At the weekend, between leaving work and starting my PhD, the Events Of My Life and I went to TWO (2) cultural things and they were both a) differently ENGLISH and b) similarly ACE.
The first was on Saturday night, when we went to see Chris T-T do his album launch at Housman's bookshop. It was in a Radical Bookshop with an inaccessible toilet and no BOOZE, with people sat on the floor not really minding because they were getting 90 minutes of Chris serenading them with his MIGHTY SONGS. It was all so polite and simultaneously ANGRY, folkie but psychedelic, ROCKING but thoughtful - very him and very English in a way that people rarely shout about. Also VERY enjoyable - I usually start to FIDGET after 20 minutes of a gig, but this one FLEW by!
Next day we went to The Harvest Stomp, which is basically a harvest festival in The Olympic Park. There was a Women's Institute Cake Stall, a bar, JAM making, dogs, kids, country dancing, vegetable competitions and everything you'd expect from a village fete, but with a crazy WHIRL of people of all shapes, sizes, colours and ages mixed up together and, basically, mucking about, getting it wrong, and having fun. I sat on a bale of hay drinking a pint of (BLOODY DELICIOUS) Locally Sourced CRAFT ALE watching a VERY East London set of people being guided through Country Dancing in GLORIOUS sunshine and found myself incredibly MOVED by the whole thing. I did Country Dancing at infant school (a MILLION years ago) and have seen "displays" of it elsewhere, but here it was exactly what it should be - a right laugh, with a few people doing it "right" and everyone else mucking in, dancing with babies, jumping over dogs, bumping into each other and generally being DAFT. It was beautiful!
I felt Actually A Bit Patriotic, not a common (or BECOMING) sensation for a true born Englishman like myself to feel. "When did I last feel like this?" I thought... then looked into the distance where the SQUIGGLE and Olympic Stadium smiled back at me. Ah - that was when!
posted 29/9/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Beginnings and Endings
It's a right funny time for me at the moment, as I undergo BIG CHANGE in a couple of areas.
The first BIG CHANGE is in my job - I'm moving from Imperial to UCL, starting there in a couple of weeks, with a fortnight of Other Stuff in between. I finished officially on Friday, but I had my leaving do on Thursday after everyone was over at South Kensington campus for a Conference Day. This included a presentation what I had been working on for the past several months, some DATA VISUALISATIONS of Anti-Microbial Resistance data which looked, I don't mind telling you, Quite Impressive.
After it was all done we went over to a nearby bar where some DRINKING ensued. All was well until TEQUILA was purchased. I had a go at it, with the salt and lemon and all that, and didn't see what all the fuss was about... until about half an hour later when I found myself suddenly walking backwards and then falling flat on my arse! I like to think that it is this Professional Attitude that I will be remembered for!
It was a lovely do anyway, and featured quite a lot of me talking about the OTHER big change: the start of my PhD! This began on Monday, with a morning of enrolling at University Of The Arts London, and is continuing all week with LECTURES and SEMINARS and all that sort of thing. It's all a bit strange - it's not THAT long since I finished my last chunk of postgraduate studies so I'd been rather BLASE about it until a few days ago when I suddenly realised that a) it was HAPPENING and b) it would involve WORK. EEK!
On Monday I got enrolled, learnt some Practical Aspects of study, and met the other chaps (they're all chaps, obviously) doing Comics Stuff. We had a chat which involved us all mentioning names of creators and agreeing freely on terminology and it was GRATE! In my working life I'm often called on to have discussions about EITHER computer stuff OR research issues and I can just about get by, but with THIS stuff I thought "Hang on, not only do I understand ALL of this, I have OPINIONS too!" It was AMAZING!
Yesterday was a giddy whirl of people saying "THIS IS A LOT OF WORK" which got a bit overwhelming, and I'm there for the whole rest of the week having much of the same. To be honest it is starting to HURT MY BRANE but, as I keep reminding myself, this is going to be five or so years of thinking, writing and TALKING about COMICS - it's going to be GRATE!
posted 28/9/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Burn It Down For Free
Party Conference season is upon us once more and to celebrate we are offering a FREE DOWNLOAD of Burn It Down And Start Again via those fine folk at Is This Music? which you can get RIGHT NOW, RIGHT HERE.
When I wrote that song the lyric "Every party all the same" was VERY CURRENT, though there is probably an argument that that is not QUITE the case anymore, not on the surface at least. The rest of the track, however, I believe to be still correct, and I do sometimes think that a comprehensive burning down and restarting is the only achievable way of getting politics right again.
Crumbs, that all got a bit REAL a bit quickly didn't it? Come back tomorrow for some slightly LIGHTER musings!
posted 27/9/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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It may surprise many people to know that I am not a total EXPERT on Modern Media Management. "But Mark," you surely explain, "Your mastery of Myspace modification is beyond reproach, and your use of FLASH tags is the talk of Geocities!"
This may be true but even I can benefit from WISE COUNSEL sometimes, and lately this has been coming from International Rock Manager and all round GURU Mr G Gargan who has been EXTREMELY handy with THORTS. It was George who told me about getting online ZINES to "premiere" videos, it was George who told me that you need to put them on Facebook as well as Twitter, and it was George who informed me that these days SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS are where it is very much AT.
Apparently that's how LOADS of people hear new music these days, so I went and had a read up about it and found that in order to get OUR stuff on Big Playlists I/we need to be "verified", and in order to do THAT I/we need to get followers and also DO some Playlists. THUS, always willing to try new things (I even have an "App" on my "mobile" telephone!) I decided to give it a go.
COR! It is LOTS of fun - it's like doing a MIXTAPE but a) you don't have to spend all weekend rewinding cassettes to the right place and b) you can inflict it on LOADS of people, rather than just one. The first of these Modern Mixtapes what I made is available for you to have a listen, if you like, right HERE. I have made it a SOFT ROCK playlist in order to maximise cross-media fertilisation capacity (hem hem) with the video for '(You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock' what came out yesterday, but being as INDIE as I am I needed to get some HELP i.e. I asked The Licks In My Solo to suggest some songs as she KNOWS this sort of thing a heckload more than me - you can probably spot which were her suggestions and which were mine by where they sit on the spectrum from HARD ROCK (her) to EASY LISTENING (me)!
I had so much fun that I'm planning to do MORE of these, with one next week to mark a) Party Conference Season b) the release of Burn It Down And Start Again as a free download. All I need to do NOW is find out how to upload the COLLAGE I made for the cover by cutting out pictures from Select Magazine!
posted 21/9/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Take On Me Via MS Paint
Yesterday that fine periodical Impose Magazine PREMIERED the new video of our song (you make me feel) Soft Rock from off of Still Valid, which means that TODAY I can show it to you right HERE:
As you can probably guess from looking at it, it took me BLOODY AGES to make. It was actually quite RESTFUL, doing a doodle or two every night, and then getting almost MINDFUL with the colouring in, but I was quite relieved when it was all done! We're saying on The Social Media that it's Take On Me by A-Ha COLLIDING with Roobarb & Custard on MS PAINT, and I think that's fair enough!
Hope you enjoy it and, as ever, any help getting it out to people who DON'T already read the blog or follow me on twitter would be EXTREMELY appreciated!
posted 20/9/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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This Isn't Culture, It's A Laugh
This weekend just gone has featured a whole HEAP of varied and various CULTURED events what I/we have done. It kicked off after work on Friday when I went to see "Eight Days A Week" AKA The Beatles Touring Film. There's been LOADS of publicity about it so I was very surprised to see that it was only showing for ONE day in most places, with only ONE cinema in central London showing it any other time. Turns out the reason for this was that the Thursday night showing was a LIVE SCREENING, so I guess they expected most people to go THEN. As it turned out the showing that I went to was SOLD OUT, so I suppose I wasn't the only person who EITHER was busy on Thursday OR wanted to see it WITHOUT a tedious hour of "famous people arriving" beforehand.
Anyway it was BLOODY GRATE from start to finish, with several things that I hadn't seen before and AMAZING sound. Cor! The live gigs especially were REALLY exciting, and when we had the half hour Shea Stadium gig at the end it was difficult not a) applaud b) SCREAM. Also it was just nice to SEE them again - The Beatles feel like a bunch of PALS who we're lucky enough to see every so often (my big theory about why The Beatles are the BEST: they never set themselves apart from anybody else in an effort to be cool, so when they found The Secret To Existence or A New Sound they SHARED it with everybody else, rather than trying to be COOL and MYSTERIOUS), so it was lovely to spend an extended period of time in their company.
Saturday was Open House Day, which is when lots of normally CLOSED buildings open their doors so that the rest of us can have a good old nosey... I mean, so those of us interested in Architecture And That can be further our educational interests. This year The Drafts Of My Design and I went to have a look at Here East. It WAS the media centre for The Olympics in 2012, but now it is... well, sort of the same, but with Loughborough University chucked in and various ideas about mixing Big Companies Needing Creativity with Creative People Needing Support. We started off watching a slighty Tossy corporate video about it, where people used a LOT of Five Dollar words to say "We are a bit poncey and don't really know what we're up to" so I was a BIT cynical, but then we went on the tour and I was completely WON OVER by it all.
It's an AMAZING also HUGE place - our guides, Roger The Senior Architect and Jake The Young Wunderkind Architect were ACE were full of FACTS and also had that thing where they were happy to TELL us stuff without being CONDESCENDING. They told us how the whole DESIGN of the building was done to disguise how MASSIVE it was by using similar ideas to DAZZLE SHIPS and cor blimey but it worked. You wouldn't notice how VAST the building was (apparently bigger than Canary Wharf lain on its size) unless you went inside like what we did and saw the ENORRRRRMOUS great hangar-sized spaces lurking INSIDE the other vast office spaces. I took some pictures but they came out as HUGE DARK NOTHINGNESSES, which is a) accurate but b) not particularly illuminating.
Anyway it was BRILL and we celebrated by going to Mason & Taylor's on the other side of the building for BEER, BEER and CHIPS. Hoorah!
Then on SUNDAY we went to look at a Paralympics Fun Day and a RAVE, two separate events on the South side of the Olympic Park. The Fun Day was just some GAMES to play, but the RAVE was a HUGE thing consisting of loads of big tops hidden behind a VAST wall that was A COLOSSAL BLOODY RACKET. Bloody heck, you could hear it from MILES away and what you could hear was AWFUL. I was never a fan AT ALL of The Rave Music when it was current, and I must say that time has not improved its CHARMS. It sounded like a very very drunk GIT shouting into a dustbin while fifteen early ringtones go off at the same time. PLUS BASS. We looked at it from afar, then went home. Who knows, maybe in another 30 years Ron Howard will summon experts to do a RAVE retrospective, with Giles Martin remixing it all to sound better. He will have one HECK of a job on his hands!
posted 19/9/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Last night I was back at my ALMA MATER City University - or rather, City University OF LONDON as it is now - for a meeting with chums about THE WRITING. A bunch of us are doing another group show (like "The Sexy Seven" and "London Calling" from last year), this time on the theme of refugees.
We've been working away at it for a couple of months now, though to be honest most of MY work has only been in the past week. The idea is that their are SIX short plays about refugees from throughout history, which i then tie together in some sort of story that links them all together. The six main characters are also all in a BOAT together onstage, telling their stories - if you care to be HIGH FALUTIN' about it it's sort of like 'The Canterbury Tales' and sort of like Caryl Churchill's 'Top Girls'. But, you know, with a BOAT in it.
I volunteered to do the in between bits because it sounded like GRATE fun - partly because of the CHALLENGE of trying to make a coherent story from six VERY different characters, but also because I thought that that meant everyone else would do all the research and I could concentrate on putting some GAGS in between them. ALAS it didn't quite work out like that, as I spend a large part of my weekend looking up correct terms for sea safety equipment and trying to work out if Idi Amin had ever been to Nigeria (I may be the only person EVER to be disappointed to find that he probably didn't).
It all seemed to work out in the end, and last night we had an EXCELLENT evening reading out the different plays and links and then TALKING about it. The lovely thing about these get togethers is that we've known each other for quite a while now and feel safe to CRITIQUE and BE critiqued about what we've written, which means that we end up getting to the GOOD STUFF by the end. On the down side it does mean that sometimes people get a bit over-excited and say things like "But this is Chekov's fcuking Parrot!" in public (hem hem) but I guess you have to take the rough with the smooth.
The PLAN is to put the finished play on for a couple of nights in November, on the 11th and 12th, in fact, at Oxford House in Bethnal Green. Before we do THAT though we still have to agree on a TITLE - the working title has been "Six Refugees and a Parrot" but some people (hem hem again) have been arguing to change it. Once that is resolved and we have got TICKETS available do not FEAR - I shall DEFINITELY be letting you know!
posted 15/9/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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What To Do?
As mentioned yesterday, apart from work stuff and TELLY there has not been an awful lot going on lately, which WORRIES me when we have an excellent new album very much OUT and AVAILABLE. I mean, yes, we DID do the SUMMER OF ROCK and have had a couple of VIDEOS out, but surely that should mean we're still selling copies and further INCIDENTS are occurring rather than, as is the current case, it all drying up bit?
I guess part of the problem is that I am out of the LOOP on all things ROCK these days. Time was when I READ the papers/magazines/websites so KNEW what was going on and went OUT to GIGS a lot more, but over recent years I haven't done any of the above as much. Also I seem to have SEVERELY cut down on DOING gigs - for most of the past decade I've done 50-70 gigs a year, this year I'll have done 28, and if you EXCLUDE Hey Hey 16K and Totally Acoustuic I will have done just 14. That's not many at all is it?
I mean, it's not like I WANT to be going out all the time doing gigs and being constantly HUNGOVER like what I was ten years ago, I think I would be DEADED if I tried, but I would like to do SOMETHING to get more people to listen to the album - especially to get NEW listeners, as sales so far have mostly been to the DELIGHTFUL people who've brought previous stuff. There are some plans afoot - there's at LEAST three more videos to come (which Mr G Gargan of Damnably records has VERY kindly been trying to get some BLOGS interested in) and Steve and I are planning some SHOWS based on the album songs - but I'm at a bit of a loss to think what else we can do. The Names On My Mailling List and I had a chat about it the other night, and had to face the problem that neither of us know what goes ON at the moment!
THUS if anyone has any IDEAS I would be EXTREMELY glad to hear of them in the comments below. Everyone who reads this blog is clearly HEP and UP TO THE MINUTE with the current GROOVE, I'm sure you'll find the answers!
posted 14/9/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Oh Wow Have We Got Netflix?
Sorry it's been a bit quiet again on the old blog lately, this has been due to THREE things: 1) not much happening 2) being a bit busy as I'm changing jobs soon 3) NETFLIX.
Point ONE shall be dealt with another time. For Point TWO - In a couple of weeks I'm doing my PhD Induction Week (nobody as yet has said "Hang on, surely you can't REALLY become a doctor of MARVEL COMICS?"), then going on holiday, and then I start a NEW job back in BLOOMSBURY working for UCL. I'm very much looking forward to having The King & Queen as my work pub... I MEAN finding new challenges in health research yes.
It is, however, Point THREE I wish to discuss in depth, for surely doing a PhD and starting a new job are all well and good but NEITHER is as LIFE CHANGING as getting NETFLIX?!? It came about a couple of weeks ago when The Seasons Of My Boxset and I found ourselves facing the Olympics/Paralympics GAP with no SHOWS ongoing. We decided to give Netflix a go and OH MY WORD but it is AMAZING! So far we have mostly been gorging on "Community" (three episodes a night on average) and, in my case "Jessica Jones" (whole thing in approx 5 days and COR but it was ACE). We've flicked through bits and bobs of other stuff, and I'm currently trudging dutifully through "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (I started with Season 3 but I think I maybe should have gone straight to 4 as it is SHALL WE SAY not QUITE as good as I remember) but there is still a WORLD of telly out there.
It's ACE but also a bit PRESSURED. There's SO much that I keep thinking I should be watching MORE of it. I mean, we've GOT to watch "House Of Cards" haven't we? And how can I call myself a TELLY FAN when there's a whole series of "Firefly" i haven't re-watched yet? Or "Breaking Bad"? Or... you get the idea.
The main worry is that I feel GUILTY that we're PAYING for something we're not using. I mean, we're still on our free month but after that it's SEVEN POUNDS a month! That's nearly 25 pence A DAY! Part of me KNOWS that seven quid is barely TWO PINTS in that London, but another part of me thinks "But this is WASTEFUL!" You can thus imagine my INNER TURMOIL about the prospect of getting Amazon Prime too - when I get my NUS card it'll be FREE for six months then £3.50 a month after that, but still I think "There isn't TIME to watch all the telly you will LEGALLY HAVE TO WATCH!"
It's probably a remnant of spending my twenties with approx ZERO ca$h and doing things like ensuring the boiler was ONLY switched on when I DEFINITELY needed a bath (I STILL get excited about having hot water ALL the time!) or moving EVERYTHING into the front room so I only had to have one radiator going. Nowadays I am of course King Of Swank and own THREE pairs of jeans even though i only wear ONE at a time, so I am sure I will get used to it, but in the meantime I have three and a half seasons of Earnest Space Meetings to watch!
posted 13/9/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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A Trip To West Ham
Myself and The Players On My Pitch went to see West Ham on Saturday. Ever since the Olympic... sorry, "London" Stadium re-opened we've been talking about getting tickets to see a game, just so we could see what it's like in the aforesaid stadium, so when "Community Tickets" were offered (part of the ongoing campaign by West Ham to get its new neighbours to like them!) we SNAPPED them up.
I was a bit worried on the way there about getting in and it all being All Right. I, of course, am a hard-nosed TOUGH GUY but I did not like the idea of The Illustrations On My Antique Bookmark being exposed to ROUGHNESS and uncouth behaviour as it is not what she is used to hem hem. Also, to be honest, I was worried about the PROCESS of getting in - would there be big police checks? A hierachy of entrance? Something else common at Premiership grounds that I was unaware of?
As it turned out everything was, of course, FINE. We got swallowed up in the big crowd stomping through the park towards the ground and everyone was happy, getting audibly more excited the closer we got, and once inside it was the standard THRONGING to our seats. We were sat up in the second tier, which was actually really nice - very close to where we sat when we went to the Olympics, in fact. It LOOKED just like other big grounds I'd been in, and the gap between crowd and pitch that people had talked about so much wasn't really noticeable. It felt, as The Managers In My Area pointed out, really COSY. You could see everyone else around the whole ground, so it felt very friendly.
The game itself was EXTREMELY enjoyable. For most of the first half West Ham were really good - in the nicest possible way, and with full respect to Posh, it was not the sort of thing I was used to. HOWEVER, towards the end of the second half this changed, as Watford scored Against The Run Of Play and then, just before the break, scored AGANE as a result of a RIDICULOUS cock-up by defenders. I began to almost feel at home!
Shortly after that the half ended and the teams left, with some West Ham fans BOOING. I have to say I was a bit surprised by that - yes, the end had been rubbish, but GOODNESS ME the rest of the half had been good, and this was only the SECOND home game of the season. I don't think you should NEVER boo your team, but crikey, it's a bit early in the season to be doing THAT, especially when you've spent the preceding 45 minutes singing about how much you LOVE them.
The crowd, by the way, were a) mostly perfectly delightful b) STANDARD in many ways but c) surprisingly diverse. When I go to see Posh it's NOTICEABLE how overwhelmingly white everyone is, but where I was sitting there was a proper East London MIX of people, including lots of women and kids too. Also the HUMOUR was GOOD - when West Ham moved to The Olympics I was worried there would be TROUBLE, but actually it's been FINE, and it seemed to be that way inside the stadium too. We DID see a bit of a kerfuffle at one point when some fans were arguing with each other, but it was nothing more than that, so I was VERY surprised later in the evening to see it reported as "unsavoury scenes" and "rioting".
There were also the usual NUTTERS - Guy Who Thinks He's Leading The Singing was sat behind us for a while, Inexplicably Furious Man was in front of us too, but they left during the break, I guess to go behind the goals to join in with the mass Shouting behind the goalposts.
Unfortunately for home fans there was to be SIGNIFICANTLY LESS singing and shouting in the second half, as Watford amazingly scored two more times and a GREAT QUIET fell around the ground. The turnaround was quite astonishing, as the team that had been RAMPANT earlier on basically CAPITULATED. We watched the small, yellow, group of Watford fans leaping around for JOY over on the far side, but felt that it would have been impolite to join in. It would have been nice to SEE the extra goals, but the BIG SCREENS rather pointedly didn't show them, which I thought was a bit rude. They were disappointing all round actually, those big screens. I'd expected them to show close-ups and replays, but they spent most of their time showing A LOT of adverts!
Watford had a FIFTH goal disallowed as offside, which seemed to be a signal for everyone to LEAVE - I think several people thought it WAS 5-2 so got up in DISGUST, then couldn't really go back to their seat when it wasn't. Over the last ten minutes huge SWATHES of the ground cleared, it was REMARKABLE. I haven't seen that happen to that extent at Posh, but then i guess you need SWATHES of the ground to be FULL in the first place!
It always seems a bit OFF to me to leave early, especially, as I say, when you've spent most of the afternoon shouting about how you love the club through thick and thin, but then I've never had a season ticket and so have never a) known I'll be back in a few days b) felt the need to protest particularly. Reading the reports later on there does seem to be quite a bit of unhappiness amongst fans about their new home, especially RE: seating allocations, which I can well understand. If you've sat in the same seat your whole life, with the same group of people around you, it's going to be UPSETTING to say the least to have everything changed. I mean, yes, the club HAS been basically GIVEN a mega-stadium, but that's not necessarily to the benefit of the actual supporters.
Anyway, we DID stay to the end and thus found that getting out was PEASY! Everything about the day HAD been nice and easy, in fact, and despite the above apparent discontent we'd had a LOVELY time. I hope the club and the supporters do manage to get themselves sorted out quickly, if they do they'll have a GRATE ground to enjoy, even if the actual football is not always of the same standard!
Big screem - adverts, no Watford goals.
posted 12/9/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Totally Acoustic End Of Series
Thursday afternoon found me rocking up once more at The King & Queen for the FINAL Totally Acoustic of the current season. Even before I got into the pub I found the first of the evening's acts, Mr O Tromans, and we went inside for a right old CHAT about things various, notably Doing This Kind Of Thing At Our Kind Of Age. I don't see Owen nearly often enough, so it was a DELIGHT to have the chance for a bit of a natter, and he even helped set the tables out!
Downstairs we found Mr J Kell, Mr K Top Of The Pops and then a whole STREAM of other people. When Mr J Brodie arrived our roster of ACTS was fulfilled so I rounded everybody up and headed upstairs, closely followed by a TONNE of other people.
For LO! The room was PACKED! We were once again missing Mr S Hewitt but his absence was a) noted by someone ASKING where he was when I said "Any questions?" and b) filled by about a MILLION people, all squashed up together. We've had pretty good audiences for this run of shows, but this final one was by FAR the busiest!
I kicked off with a couple of songs - 20 Things To Do Before You're 30 and I Come From The Fens (after attempting and FAILING to play The Perfect Love Song) - before bringing Owen on for a MARVELLOUS set full of INTERESTING subject matter. His songs all (in murky retrospect) seemed to be about the life stories of minor 19th Century European Royals. I'm pretty sure that's NOT what they were all about, I think my BRANE has gone "This was a bunch of topics not generally covered in indie or indeed any other kind of music, let's FILE them under that so it doesn't make me feel quite so LIMITED in my own subject matter." Anyway, it was ACE!
We then had our usual five minute break which turned into nearly half an hour as there was a MAD SCRUM at the bar. It was already unusually busy downstairs, so when the ENTIRE ROOM from upstairs descended even the legendarily CAPABLE staff of The King & Queen took a while to catch up. I have never seen the like!
James Brodie was next and he did of set of what SEEMED to be to be at least partly improvised songs. I mean, they MUST have been partly made up because one of them was about getting the train there that afternoon and another had ME in it, but the whole set felt quite RAW and FREEWHEELING, also quite LOUD and FUNNY. It was unlike anything else we've had at Totally Acoustic before, and I hope the PODCAST manages to cover it adequately!
Finally, after a more USUAL length break, which had the ever wonderful explosion of ROCK that is Keith Top Of The Pops & His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band. As ever i got the name wrong while introducing them, which lead to the whole GROUP saying it in unison and sounding like the start of the BEST Saturday Morning Kids TV Show EVER! They then played a set featuring only ONE guitar but a whole HEAP of other acoustical instruments, which meant that a) the Day In The Life bit in "Two Of The Beatles Are Dead" was INCREDIBLE and b) it really did get awfully close to JAZZ (except good) at several points.
It was, in fact, ACE and a PERFECT way to draw this series to a close, as you can hear for yourself on the podcast which is up RIGHT NOW. The NEXT series will be beginning in December, but between now and then there'll be TWO (2) extra special podcasts featuring unused tracks from ALL the acts featured in the past year. It's going to be a right royal TREAT, I guarantee it!
posted 5/9/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Last weekend The Art In My Gallery and I went to see some MODERN DANCE, because we are well sophisticated like that and also because it was only round the corner from our flat so not to do so would have felt RUDE.
The Performance was called BLOCK, by NoFitState and Motionhouse dance companies and it was QUITE a thing. It started off with a huge pile of massive grey blocks piled up into a sort of CAVE arrangement which the dancers clambered over, bent over backwards looking like insects. They then proceeded to spend about 40 minutes LEAPING about, throwing each other across huge spaces and clambering into teetering piles of blocks in a mixture of DRAMA SCHOOL and CIRCUS SKILLS.
It was actually DEAD impressive as they flew around all over the place, and also SCARY when they clambered onto not very stable piles of blocks, especially at the end when they built a giant JENGA tower about 20 feet high and were all jumping around/into/off it. At one point the sky grew dark and cloudy, which was very atmospheric but a bit worrying when a WIND whipped up and started shaking the blocks!
I wouldn't say it made me want to go and see MORE Modern Dance, but it was certainly fun to watch. Having said that, if you see me THROWING Steve through the air in our next show, with him doing double back flips as he flies, then you'll know where the idea came from!
posted 2/9/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Saturday afternoon saw me heading off for THE CHILTERNS, where I was due to play at The Towersey Festival. I was VERY MUCH looking forward to it, partly because I like gigs, partly because I LOVE playing festivals, but mostly because I was going to be doing a BIG SHOW with Mr G Osborn and Ms Grace Petrie!
I had to get there first though, and this took a bit of doing. The festival website had said that there were two stations equidistant from Towersey - Princes Risborough and Haddenham & Thame Parkway. I decided to go to Princes Risborough as, I reasoned, it's a TOWN and so more likely to have a taxi rank. When i got there, however, I found a taxi rank, a taxi portakabin, a very helpful taxi company bloke, but no taxis! "You should have gone to Haddenham & Thame" he said, "It's much closer and they have a rank!"
I duly bought a ticket, had a quick look at the local area (no normal shops but lots of ODD ones including a Soft Water Shop and a Garden Railway Specialist), took a five minute train journey, and found NO rank or taxis at Haddenham & Thame BUT a portakabin. The chap within locked up his office and drove me to The Travelodge - phew!
I was a bit ALARMED when the check-in lady said "We lock the doors at 10pm" but then when she saw my face said "Don't worry, there's no curfew - just ring the bell." I got unpacked and headed out to the festival site, but got about 3 feet before it LOBBED it down with rain, so DIVED into the adjacent Little Chef for some CHIPS. It was thus a FAT SATURATED Hibbett who waddled along the road to the festival site once the rain had stoped. It only took 15 minutes to get there, but then took another half hour of walking around the perimeter to find the Artists Entrance - I guess I might have been the only ARTIST walking there, so it wasn't really designed for pedestrian access!
Once in I dropped my gear off at the stage, put on a clean shirt (all the walking and CHIPS had got me a bit sweaty) then went to look for Gav and Grace. "Where can they be?" I thought. "Ah yes, here they are at THE BAR."
It was lovely to see them, also Mr J Hare who was there on Keyboard duties with Gav. What followed was a LOVELY afternoon and early evening during which there was BEER, chat, Shop Talk and GOSSIP. It was BRILLIANT to see them all and also to be able to wander round such a GRATE festival. Apparently it's been going 52 years so has had plenty of time to get things RIGHT - there were AMPLE bars, LOADS of food shops (including a TONNE of veggie places) and even plenty of places to sit down. Even the weather was perfect, though I suppose they couldn't really claim credit for that. It was an ACE place to be, full of happy people having a nice time, often across several generations.
After having such a lovely time it almost seemed like a shame to do our show. We were in The Big Club, one of those MASSIVE two-peaked big top style tents full of SEATS, the number of which I tried not to think about as I was quite SCARED enough already. We'd talked vaguely of what we were going to do at various points during the day, and had agreed that instead of our usual One Set After The Other arrangement this time we'd try ALL sitting on stage at the same time and doing one song at a time each. If I was just WATCHING I'd've thought "That sounds fine" but the idea of DOING it - and having to KEEP playing in between two people as BRILL as Gav and Grace - filled me with terror. Our slot was for 90 minutes, what if I needed the LOO?!?
We did a soundcheck, I went for a Nervous Wee, and then we trooped on again for SHOWTIME. We'd arranged three chairs on the stage with John off to the side with his keyboard, which meant that we were all there throughout watching each other and, actually, this made it EVEN MORE fun. Whenever I play with Gav and Grace I sit and LARF at their CHAT and enjoy their songs anyway, so it was absolutely no hassle to do this on stage - whenever I see a "songwriters circle" arrangement I always wonder how the people NOT singing manage to hold their Serious Songwriter Faces for the whole time, but I think we all ended up just GRINNING throughout.
There was a really big audience, who seemed to enjoy themselves too. Here they are, as seen from my seat, while Grace was ROCKING the tent:
I must admit my MAIN fear was of being a LULL between these TITANS, but my stuff seemed to hold up all right. I even managed to nip off for a WEE at one point, and then had time to get a PINT on the way back. You don't get that at normal gigs! Here's what I did:
The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
20 Things To Do Before You're 30
In The North Stand
(You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
The Lesson Of The Smiths
It Only Works Because You're here
Originally we'd planned to do SEVEN songs each, but the CHAT rather took over, hence six. We'd also agreed to go Gav, Me, Grace throughout with Grace's last song as the FINALE, so I was a bit surprised when I sat down after It Only Works Because You're here to see the others putting down their AXES and getting ready to head off. They had - SENSIBLY - agreed to make that the last one and NIP OFF, which meant we got to STRIDE back on and do Grace's "Inspector Morse" as the BIG FINISH, which was AMAZING apart from the fact that "someone" (hem hem) did most of the choruses wrong. Sorry!
We stormed off in TRIUMPH, before hurrying back out again to see if anyone wanted to buy some CDs. Some people did, including some old CHUMS I'd not seen for YEARS! I managed to deal with my customers at high speed, so ended up trying to channel other people towards payment - as ever when the ARTISTE does the MERCH you get some people who want to have a CHAT, and I always worry that other, more shy, people towards the back of the queue end up giving up. I think I managed to SERVICE everyone though!
When all was done and dusted we packed up and prepared to go our separate ways, though not before Gav asked a kindly security guard to take a picture of us, THUS:
Those are some happy faces! We said our farewells, agreeing that we should DEFINITELY do some more gigs together this way, and set off into the night. I had a long walk down a dark lane (I'd brought my torch!) and got back to find the Travelodge LOCKED... though not very firmly, as the door opened with a slight nudge. I congratulated myself on getting back without bothering anybody and decided to have a shower... wherein I pulled the EMERGENCY ALARM by mistake (I was in a disabled room) and ended up with a lady having to come into my room to switch it off while I tried to look business-like while DRUNK beneath a small towel at 2am.
It was the perfect ROCK way to end what had been a fantastic day - can I come back and do it again next year please?
posted 30/8/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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The Beer Festival
I was in Peterborough last night - fittingly, after a day when (according to Mr P Myland) our new video was "going Viral in Peterborough" - to experience its greatest cultural event i.e. The Peterborough Beer Festival!
I used to go to the Beer Festi EVERY year but haven't been as regularly in recent times, largely due to the fact that I tend to be up at The Edinburgh Fringe at this time of year or, if not, at home RECOVERING from same. I was thus DELIGHTED to be able to go and meet Mr P Myland, also Mr O Myland, off the BUS at Peterborough Bus Station and then stroll off in the general direction of the embankment. On the way we bought a cagoule for Oliver (and discovered that Young People In Shops have no idea what a cagoule is, but do if you say "Pacamac"), popped into Charters (aka "The Boat Place"), said hello to Mrs C Myland, handed over the aforesaid Oliver, and then continued on our way. It was an efficient use of time and energy, not least because I got to try a pint of Shiny Bitter in Charters, as brewed by young Mr J Machine, Son Of Frankie. It was nice!
The festival site was much as it has always been i.e. three HUGE tents linked together with a bar all the way around the inner perimeter and LOADS of beers. We got pint glasses but Mileage suggested that this time we drink HALVES. I was unsure but he pointed out that you get MORE this way as bartenders were often "generous" with the measures. He was not wrong, we got LOADS of FREE BEER! ALSO it means that if you have something you don't like - e.g. that smells like old socks full of lavender - you don't have to drink a whole pint of it!
We were soon joined by THE PARENTS and the four of us spend a very jolly evening wandering around, spotting people (excitingly, we saw Cynical Hippy Who Used To Work In The Comic Shop, who now looks like GANDALF), discussing beer and general YACKING. It was ace - what kind of fool would schedule a trip to an ARTS festival and miss out on all THIS?
By 10pm it was time for me to head home, and I was reminded once again how TERRIFYING it can be when you're a LITTLE bit tiddly and have to navigate a two hour journey featuring walking and trains. It is A BIT terrifying! Still, it was TOTALLY worth it, and hopefully it won't be another year until I'm back again!
posted 26/8/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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The 1980s How It Was
Today I am a) proud b) DELIGHTED to share with you the brand new video for our song The 1980s How It Was, which you can see right HERE:
All of the pictures were taken by Chris Porsz, who very kindly allowed us to use them, during the 1980s - all except for the last one, which is part of Chris's "Reunions" project, restaging some of his old pictures with the same people.ALL of his work is worth having a look at, as it's GORGEOUS!
I was VERY pleased to be able to use Chris's pictures as the song was initially INSPIRED by seeing a book of his photographs, which captured growing up in the 1980s EXACTLY how I remembered it. The song was then used to express this very THORT in Hey Hey 16K, and I liked it so much that we ended up recording it for Still Valid.
As ever, any mentions, tweets, links or just LOOKS would be very appreciated - hope you enjoy it!
posted 24/8/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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The Annual Art And Architecture Adventure
As I'm sure is clear by now, The Artworks In My Curation and I are WELL sophisticated and are out and about ALL the time looking at art and that and definitely NOT at home watching telly. The idea!
Take this weekend, for example, when we went out for a WHOLE heap of culture. We kicked off with a trip to a new pop up cafe what has opened, a little place that calls itself Pret A Manger. Yes all right, but it was the VEGGIE Pret A Manger what has opened in Soho - it felt rude NOT to give it a go, as it's their experiment in trying new veggie/vegan recipes, and I must say the experiment is a SUCCESS as we ate TONNES!
That done we staggered down the road to the National Portrait Gallery to see the BP Portrait Award. We've been to see this exhibition pretty much every year for AGES, so are qualified to say this wasn't a vintage one. It was OK and there were a couple of good things (I liked the portrait of the Dunkirk Glider Pilot), but nothing was particularly OUTSTANDING. There seems to be even more of that thing where you can't tell if it's a photo or not, which is quite impressive at first but after a while you think "Why not just take a photo?" The HIGHPOINT tho was bumping into Mr D Hill, late of Airport Gurl, who I'd not seen for YONKS.
That done we headed off to distant West London to have a look at The Serpentine Pavilion. We go and see THIS every year too so are qualified to say that THIS one was pretty much the best pavilion EVER. It was AMAZING! It's a WALL of boxes which have been moved outwards to form a sort of curvy church of AIR and BOXES and - well, go and have a look at the architect's website or even better go and see the actual thing if you can, it was like something from a SCI-FI film, but also something that WORKED. A lot of previous pavilions have felt FLIMSY or UNCOMFORTABLE but this was a lovely place to BE inside and to look out from the outside. It's hard to put into words how AWESOME it was, kind of like a modern cathedral, or an ice cave, or space-age flats, or LEGO. Have a look!
Duly impressed we had a quick walk roun the Alex Katz exhibition in the a gallery actual (DEAD good) and the "summer houses" linked to the Pavilion (OK) then wandered through the park. "There's a parrot!" said The Birds In My Spotters' Guide. "There's another one," I said, and suddenly we were SURROUNDED by them. The trees were FULL of bright green parrots which were flying around and LANDING on people all about us, I have never seen the LIKE!
Finally we went and tried ANOTHER new restaurant - Mildreds' new veggie restaurant in Kings Cross, it was LOVELY - before heading home, FULLY cultured up. I think we can safely watch at least THREE full seasons of US sitcoms... I mean, Important Documentaries, before we need to get charged up again!
posted 22/8/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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