MJ Hibbett & The Validators


Ten Newsworthy Years
It's The Last Working Day Of The Month today so this morning I sent out this month's newsletter, as I do every last working day of the month, PACKED (packed!) with its usual array of ITEMS. Once I'd done all the emailing I converted it into HTML and stuck it on the webpage, then went to check the newsletter archive to make sure it had all gone through OK.

It was only at this point that I suddenly realised that this was the TENTH ANNIVERSARY newsletter! The number (120) should have given me a clue I guess, but it turns out that the first EVER edition of the newsletter was sent out ten years ago to this very day. Well, ten years ago tomorrow, anyway, but that's near enough.

Crikey! Ten years! SO much has happened since then, in ROCK and elsewhere, but that first edition doesn't look a whole lot different to the current one. I stopped doing the "gigs we've done" section after a while and relaxed the rigid format of dividing everything into records, radio and "other things", but apart from that I'm still getting excited about The Validators SLOWLY recording an album, still doing the same sort of gigs, still hanging around with the same people (although not quite as often, a decade on, due to my growing attachment to Staying At Home Watching Telly) and, thankfully, still having LARKS doing so!

I do wish I'd DONE something to make the occasion, like we did with the Like A Braunstone Cowboy album for the 100th Issue but I don't really have time now. I guess we'll just have to wait until Issue 200 - it's only about six and a half years away, reminded me nearer the time and I'll sort something out!

posted 27/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Get On With It
I had one of my Days Of Meetings on Monday, when I ZOOM around That London meeting people. It's GRATE because a) dashing around having MEETINGS feels dead swanky and b) it means I get to spend the rest of the week sitting around at home catching up on telly NO WAIT I MEAN doing lots of writing.

In between these various meetings I found myself with an hour to spare. I'd already had about 16,000,000 cups of coffee so rather than go and sit in ANOTHER cafe I decided to go and get myself some of that free culture that London town is so full of. I wandered over to the National Portrait Gallery to see what was on, and was very happy to discover a big exhibition about The Tudors. My delight was entirely because of my intense and serious political interest in this era and definitely not because I'm watching "Wolf Hall" and keep getting confused about who went where and killed whom in which order.

It was all very impressive, with lots of GRATE Small Items like Henry VIII's rosary beads and an essay/autobiography by Edward VI. I love this sort of thing - actual real STUFF that has been used by legendary figures from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. It's kind of like when you find a TOY you loved as a child which you thought had been lost years ago, the actuality (HEM HEM PROSE) of a THING is suddenly surprising and exciting. I liked it!

After that I went for a bit of a wander through various galleries full of Posh Twits Through The Ages until I reached a room of POETS and WRITERS, mostly The Romantics. All gathered together like that it looked like a Gathering Of The Prats, all gazing out pompously with luxurious hair, except for one tiny little picture in a corner of Jane Austen. This picture,in fact:

This is the famous ONLY picture of Jane Austen actually drawn while she was alive, done by her sister Cassandra. All the other pictures of her are EITHER done from memory/entirely made up OR are sanitised versions of this one. I'd seen reproductions of this picture before, but usually CROPPED or cleaned up. Seeing it close up I realised that it wasn't just a face and vague outline, you could see the full position she's sat in, arms crossed, looking grumpy, clearly thinking "FFS get ON with it I have a BOOK to finish." I love it, and seeing her sat in a room full of POETS made it even more enjoyable, like she was sayinng "CHRIST! Stop PONCING AROUND and get ON with it you bunch of useless pillocks."

In fact I liked it so much that I bought a postcard - nothing says dedication to your literary heroes like spending 70p - and it's sat on the table next to me, looking disapproving, saying "You've got things to do Hibbett, stop titting about!" I'd best got on with it!

posted 25/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Slightly less Edinburgh
The amount of Edinburgh-based activities I'm involved with seems to EBB and FLOW like some sort of beer and curry based TIDE. One day I'm going to know EVERYBODY there and be doing 18 shows an hour, the next we're back down to one show and just me and Steve.

For instance, since last we spoke the whole "doing the play in Edinburgh" has gone by the by due to half the cast not being able to do it. It's a shame, as I would have enjoyed the Artistic Adventure of... well, SHOWING OFF about it, but it's quite a relief to my wallet! I've also had various CHUMS who were going to do shows decide that it's not such a good idea (this year at least), and previous to all that we've gone down from three weeks to TWO and dropped entirely the idea of doing a SKETCH SHOW on the side!

All of these things would have been exciting, but what we've come down to now is "just" me and Steve doing Hey Hey 16K for two weeks. I say "just" because of course we will be still be doing all of our usual Fringe activities i.e. having massive lie-ins, eating chips for breakfast, and maybe even going to see a couple of shows. In the cold light of day I think that's going to be MORE than enough to be going on with!

posted 24/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Even More Edinburgh
On Wednesday evening I headed back to my ALMA MATER for another meeting of Lost City Writers i.e. our WRITING GROUP from the MA what did the 'Sexy Seven' show the other week. It was a lovely evening and also quite INSPIRING as we do a bit at the start where everybody says what they've been up to, and this time people had been up to all sorts. It felt like we were all having a proper GO at writing, rather than letting it drop off after the course, and it was GRATE to be able to sit in a room full of delightful people all feeling happy for each other. I liked it a lot!

A large chunk of the evening was spent discussing how things had gone with putting the show on and then ways in which it might RETURN. Mr Producer aka Mr A Dawson had had a call from a THEATRE in Edinburgh offering us a spot in their programme for the Fringe - as he said, a cynical way of seeing this was that a commercial organisation had rung to offer us the chance to give them a TONNE of CA$H, but it was also Quite Exciting to suddenly think we might be able to put the show on there. We talked through the Pros and Cons, with the Cons featuring a lot of everybody saying "It would be INCREDIBLY expensive" and, though various people came up with all sorts of ideas for funding, like grants, sponsorship, and kickstarter, I got the impression that everyone was thinking "It's a nice idea, but it's just too much money." I was, therefore, surprised, when at the end of all this Sensible Discussion everybody said "Sod it, let's have a go!"

There's a lot of hurdles to jump over before we get anywhere NEAR confirming - the general idea is that we'd pay for the production side and ask the actors to sort out their own accomodation, which is quite a lot to ask - but the more we talked about it the more of a good idea it felt like. The worst case scenario would be nobody at all came, we didn't get any funding, and we'd each lose about 600 quid, but compared to how much money I'm currently spending on Hey Hey 16K (flats are EXPENSIVE!!) that doesn't seem SUCH a lot. And that's the worst case - if we get some upfront cash from somewhere and people DO come the costs are halved and we might even get a review!

We'll see what happens but I must say i do like the idea of SWANNING AROUND Edinburgh saying "Darlings I must dash, have to pop in and see how my little play is doing don't you know". It would be AMAZING!

posted 20/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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On The Way To Edinburgh
After all the excitement of actually PERFORMING Hey Hey 16K last week we have moved onto the the QUIET yet VERY EXCITING part of the Fringe Cycle which is known as "Actually Getting Things Booked". Just after we got back from Leicester we had an offer from the lovely PBH Free Fringe people for a slot at a really nice venue but ALAS it was for a time we couldn't do - we're once again sharing our slot with CHESHIRE 4 LIFE (with us doing the first two weeks and them the last) and one of them is going to be TEACHING during the day, so we had to go back and beg for a different time. Thankfully a couple of days ago we had a NEW offer for a new time in a venue I've never been in before but which looks Quite Good - Sneaky Pete's on Cowgate. Rather brilliantly you can go and have a look around the venue on Google Streetview, so when we got the offer I spent a happy ten minutes looking in their FRIDGE! We said YES PLEASE so we're going to be on at 6:15pm each day, which is perfect for us, and the fact that it's RIGHT in the middle of things means we might even get some of that elusive "walk-up" trade! HOORAH!

Sorting THAT out prompted me to go round and follow up some other LEADS, and we're gradually lining up a nice string of preview gigs, including several that I can't put up on the website just yet. It's all looking quite sensible, so now the two jobs remaining were getting ourselves REGISTERED and getting somewhere to STAY!

Flat hunting is ongoing (if you hear the sound of RAGE emanating from North London this week it will probably be Steve hurling abuse at EITHER the UTTERLY INSANE amounts of money Edinburgh landlords can get away with charging in August OR the fact that they all want you pay that amount of money for the full three weeks), but at least registration is DONE. After careful consultation with Steve and The Words In My Paragraph I submitted the following image, title and TEXT to the Edinburgh Fringe:

MJ Hibbett (and Steve)/PBH's Free Fringe - HEY HEY 16K
New two-man musical from the team behind 'Dinosaur Planet', 'Moon Horse' and 'Total Hero Team', featuring Dad jokes, time travel, ZX Spectrums, Ada Lovelace, beer, tap dancing and Steve in the role of a lifetime: MJ Hibbett!

It's Quite Important to get this right as it goes in The Big Edinburgh Fringe Book which loads of people (including me) use as the main way of picking shows to see. As the title of the show is our main selling point this year I thought that might be best for the image, and for the first time EVER my version of the BLURB was passed without change by any of our PR TEAM (hem hem), so hopefully it'll get some people in!

With all that sorted I pressed the SUBMIT button, paid our 295 quid entrance fee, and that's that. WE'RE OFF - all we need now is somewhere to stay!

posted 19/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The Sitcom Lives
As I was sat in the bath on Sunday evening, feeling finally On The Mend after a weekend of being Proper Poorly, I pondered my OUVRE, as one so often does in the bath.

The reason for this specific pondering was a whole bunch of script competitions that I'd entered were releasing their results later that evening. As I pondered I realised that the script I was holding out MOST hope for was the 'Big Bang Theory' script I wrote last year for the Nickelodeon Writing Program. When I didn't get through to the final final of that I'd thought "Curses! I spent AGES working on that spec script and now it's useless!" but actually it has done me PROUD in competitions since, and I wondered if maybe I should think about doing something similar again.

"Right," I thought, "I tell you what, ME, if any of the scripts I've entered gets anywhere tonight then I WILL write another Spec". My BRANE replied "OK then, here's some IDEAS for you!" and reeled off a whole HEAP of THORTS - it turns out that while it had been showing my fevered conscious mind really bad versions of Doctor Who it had secretly been out the back cooking up sitcom plots. Oh mighty BRANE! So sneaky!

I spent much of the rest of the day clicking "Refresh" on official twitter feeds, waiting for announcements. I knew that one of the competitions was being announced at 2pm PST which, after a bit of googling turned out to be 10pm here, so after a while decided to leave it and make the tea, returning at 10pm again to keep refreshing. It was a weird feeling - I had FIVE different scripts in the mix and was quite excited to see if any would come up good, but what if they didn't? At least it would mean I didn't have to spend the next few weeks writing a spec script!

The first to come in was Scriptalooza TV, for which I'd entered my 'Big Bang Theory' script AND the one for 'New Girl' that I did as follow-up. 'New Girl' didn't get anywhere but BLOW ME 'Big Bang Theory' got into the Quarter-Finals! ZANG!

Just as I was saying "Wahey!" to The Awards On My Mantelpiece two emails popped into my inbox, one from Scriptalooza saying they'd just released their results and another from Bluecat saying they'd released the Top Ten Percent for their screenplay competition. This was the one I knew was announcing at 10pm, so I looked and HOLY HECK there was 'Storm House', the script I did for my final submission for school, in the running! There was much HALLOOING around the Olympic Village at that i can tell you. I was even more pleased about this one because I love 'Storm House', it is MINE and I've had so many people say "But this is too ridiculously expensive to ever MAKE, you twit!" that I'd really really like SOMETHING to happen with it. I mean, getting into the top ten percent is pretty much them saying "This was properly formatted, spell-checked, and is not immediately obviously the work of a MADMAN" but still, we'll see in a couple of weeks if it gets any further. Hoorah!

The final announcement of the evening was the semi-final stage of the Stage 32 Happy Writers TV Writing Contest (no, I don't know why they were all announcing on the same day, especially a Sunday). I'd entered 'Big Bang Theory' and 'New Girl' for this one too, and already knew that poor old 'New Girl' had fallen by the wayside as they'd announced the quarter-finalists a couple of weeks ago. 'Big Bang Theory' however HAD got through to the Quarter Finals, which was MORE than enough for me. I wasn't expecting any more but BUGGER ME SIDEWAYS it had got through to the semi-finals stage too!!!

It was around this point that my PUNY BRAIN went "POP" and I had to go and have a sit down. To be honest the whole Writing Thing has been a little bit stressful over the past few weeks - I'm offically A Professional Writer in the eyes of the tax office but my BANK probably has its doubts as I've now spent all my redundancy money and have thus had to dip into my savings. I really really REALLY didn't like having to do that PLUS there's been a string of Rejections Various for other projects this week and then to top it all off I was too poorly to go and see my Actual Play being staged on Saturday, so I was having a bit of a LOW NOTE about the whole thing. Thus having all these NICE things all happen within the space of ten minutes was RATHER a shock!

Still, it was a jolly NICE shock, and now a few days later it's become a delightful BUZZ in the back of my BRANE. I know this may be as far as any of the scripts get and I'm VERY aware that there's no actual CA$H in any of it, but at least it's something that says "You are not ENTIRELY idiotic to be having a go at this, LO! keep at it for a bit if you like!" which is very much appreciated!

posted 18/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The Old Trouble
Last Friday I met The Audience At My Gig for some TEA before heading over to The Borderline, where we had tickets to see Mr John Otway and his Big Band. As per it was an utterly AWESOME gig, made even more so by the facts that a) they did something NEW (Otway! Something new!) in the shape of a cover of 'Can't Explain' and b) also did lots of extra MUCKING ABOUT around the fact that it was nearly Deadly The Roadie's 40th Birthday. It was BRILLIANT, although as we moved through the first half I became increasingly uncomfortable - my poor old BACK had been playing up all week and now it was getting Proper Painful.

Come the second half I felt like I was going to FALL OVER so retired to the back of the room for A Bit Of A Sit Down and also a glass of water, leaving The Action In My Mosh Pit to enjoy the rest of the gig from the front. It's actually all right at the back of the Borderline - the sound is dead good and they have screens so you can see the stage - but I felt ropey as HECK. As we walked home I started to get a FEVER and by the time we got back to the flat I was pretty sure what was going on: The Old Trouble.

As long time readers may know, The Old Trouble is a side effect of my Psoriasis, when the skin cracks, gets infected, and ALL HECK breaks lose with swelling, fevers, nauseau, and the urgent need to GO TO BED for a day or two. In my case this usually occurs in "the lower back" region which is unpleasant at the best of times, but when combined with an Already Pretty Bad Back makes for NO FUN AT ALL. It's the first time it's happened for AGES tho - the first proper BOUT since we've live in The Olympics anyway - but I remembered the correct course of action and went directly to BED.

Saturday went by in a blur of Just Lying In Bed, feeling poorly and not doing much else. It was weird, normally if I'm awake I want to have a book on the go, or watch telly, or SOMETHING, but this time I just wanted to lie quietly and be poorly. The only problem with this plan was that I had tickets to go out that night for a play - MY play, in fact, the second night of the run of "The Sexy Seven"! I had to face the fact that I couldn't go, which was VERY upsetting - I was finally getting a play on that I wasn't even IN, and was going to have to miss it!

Luckily The Stages In My Plan FLEW into action and ZOOMED off to distant Camden, determined to see it on my behalf. There was a minor kerfuffle at the door, as the doorman wanted some ID (normally I get tickets for GIGS run by people I know, so we never really think of this), but The Names On My List is nothing if not INDOMITABLE and so managed to gain entry, and came home to tell me that the show had been GRATE! HOORAH!

That evening I had THE SWEATS and a long long night of recurring FEVER DREAMS. A few years ago I had this happen where I dreamt an entire eighth series of 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine'. This time wasn't so serious, and I just dreamt an extended special edition of 'Doctor Who' with some very poor lookalikes playing past versions of The Doctor and some truly APPALLING special effects, especially for the Tardises which looked RUBBISH. You'd think if you're going to spend all night having a fever dream your BRANE would at least bother to sort out the CGI would't you?

posted 17/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Up And Down Camden High Street With A Sofa
Last Thursday was a big day in the theatre for me and also for a bunch of chums, as it was the Dress Rehearsal for "The Sexy Seven", the compendium of short plays that we had on at The Etcetera Theatre. Things had been going amazingly well for the show so far - we'd sold out of all tickets for Friday and Saturday with only a few left for Sunday - so I was expecting SOMETHING to go wrong, just so that we would obey the eternal laws of Doing A Show.

SPOILERS: I was not to be disappointed.

All was well when I arrived - I showed the actors how to get into the fish costumes I'd made (NB my play features two prehistoric fish, which I thought was terribly clever when I wrote it but less so when I had to spend HOURS working out HOW to make and then ACTUALLY making the costumes) and how to work my camera tripod for another play, then said hello to the various colleagues who were there. Mr A Dawson (PRODUCER) and Mrs A Ferrar (Props) were looking a bit worried because the sofa that they'd ordered as Main Prop hadn't arrived yet, but otherwise all seemed well so I popped out for some LUNCH.

Over the road from the Etcetera was The inSpiral Cafe, a vegan raw food cafe that I'd looked in several times but had never been quite brave enough to actually enter. I steeled myself and did so, and was EXTREMELY glad that I did because the food was FANTASTIC. I had a raw creamy cashew cheese tart which was odd looking in many ways but DELICIOUS! As I'd designated Thursday as an official Day Off, I accompanied it with a cheeky lunchtime beer. HOORAH! As I ate a drank I marvelled at the wide range of Traditional Veggie Cafe TYPES, my favourite this time being Wild Haired Hippy Man Trying To Look Cool In Front Of Pretty Young Girl Wearing A Headband. It was a classic!

I was just finishing off my SOY LATTE (if you're going to do these things you should do them properly) when I got a text from Alex saying that the sofa hadn't arrived, he was going to buy another one, could I meet him outside Argos? "AHA!" I thought, RELIEVED that Doing A Show was FINALLY happening, "So it begins!" Argos always seems to be FULL of people buying emergency props whenever we're in Edinburgh so this felt right and proper, even if a sofa is perhaps a little bit pricier than the norm.

I set off to Argos, passing The Oxford Arms underneath the theatre, where I saw Alex and Alison and everyone sitting in the window. I went in to discover what had happened: our sofa had been ordered from a company in Birmingham, who'd arranged to deliver it to the pub. When it hadn't arrived by 3pm our team had rung, to be told that it had been delivered, just not to the pub! Further research got us an address, a "shoe shop" a few doors down.

We had a name for the person who'd signed for it, so off we went to the "shoe shop" (actually a bog standard Camden Tat Shop), where one of the staff told us that the signer was the manager but he wasn't there, while others denied such a person worked there at all. HMMM. It was all A Little Bit Dodgy but there wasn't a whole heap we could do about it - we knew a delivery HAD been made there as TNT, the delivery company, had taken a photograph, but the staff denied all knowledge of a sofa so, needing one URGENTLY for the dress rehearsal, we headed down the road to Argos as planned.

Here we ordered a sofa and patiently waited for it to be brought to us. I had visions of some great heavy item that would need a happy half hour of allen key wrangling to assemble, but when it arrived it was a very short piece of folded foam. It was a bit disappointing after the aforesaid VISION but did at least have the benefit of being easy to carry as Alex and I LUGGED it back up Camden High Street. As we walked i thought about what a total shit hole Camden High Street is, and how miserable everybody seems to be who lives there. It's like an Even Worse, Much Dirtier version of BRIGHTON, where people seem to think they can be RUDE all the time because they reckon they live somewhere that's All That. At least Brighton has veggie pubs and a seaside.

We eventually got back to the pub, where one of the barstaff said "Is that another sofa?" "The first one didn't come" explained Alex. "Oh", said the chap. "There's one upstairs. It's just been delivered."

Sure enough, while we'd been gone, the original sofa had magically turned up! There were two schools of thought as to how this had happened, EITHER the shop owner had got spooked by the fact we knew his name and had a picture of his shop so had decided to bring it back OR TNT had got two orders mixed up, had delivered something else to the tat shop earlier but marked it down as our delivery by mistake.

Whichever way round it was we now had 200% of the sofas we actually needed, so Alex went back upstairs for the tech run and Ali and I went all the way back down Camden High Street again. This time my thoughts meandered to the sad way that Camden has appropriated Britpop and turned it into a heritage industry. They've commercialised Britpop! That's never what Britpop was about, right guys?

When we eventually got to Argos we were greeted as old chums by staff members who happily reimbursed us so, in a very real sense, all was well. By the time we got back to the venue I felt I had earnt a PINT so GOT one and then went to sit in for the dress rehearsal that we'd all come for.

It was dead good! My play was on first and the actors were fab, the costumes worked well, and there were LARFS aplenty (all right a lot of them were from me, but still) so I was very happy. The rest of the show was ACE too, although it got cut off about 80% of the way through because we were running late and another lot neeeded to come in. What we saw, though, showed that it was working - we had an Actual Show!

Afterwards there was beer and chat and, eventually, talk of doing the whole thing again. It sounds like a GRATE idea to me, although maybe the next one could involve less furniture?

posted 16/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The Date
The film that Mr J Dredge and I made last week (in an exciting 50 minutes of GUERILLA FILMMAKING) is now DONE and ONLINE and right HERE:

It's precisely 16 seconds long so does WHIP by but I must say I'm rather proud of it. Obvs as a FILMMAKER (hem hem) I am happy that it tells a story but the things I like most about it are a) the sword fight b) that last shot where we went "OOH this will make a nice last shot" and c) the finger clicks on the song. Actually, the music took longer to do than the filming itself, as I had to try and calculate what BPM would work to bring the whole thing in at the right length AND leave space for a start and an ending. Originally the music was meant to be twice as fast but that made it seem REALLY quick so for the final version I sped up the BPM slightly then did the actual chords at half speed, so it all felt more leisurely while fitting more in. If you see what I mean.

ANYWAY I hope you enjoy it and hope it brings a small sliver of delight to yr Valentine's Day!

posted 13/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The Second Showing
After all the excitement of a day's recording in Derby, I was back in Leicester on Saturday evening ready for the second of our two Hey Hey 16K preview shows at The Criterion. Weirdly for me I was still suffering from THE FEAR, even though I knew it worked perfectly well, so attempted to cure myself with the usual medication i.e. BEER. It worked a bit, but relaxation was more forthcoming from the range of PALS who arrived, including Mr T McClure, who took the range of pictures below.

Nice aren't they? The show was, once again, a whole HEAP of fun, especially as there was a chap in the front row who'd DEFINITELY come to see it because he remembered the song and thus went "OOH!" when we first played it, sang along, and even looked SURPRISED and PLEASED when (SPOILERS) we did the "It made a generation who can code..." bit. It was just as I imagined it might be doing the show for people who know the song, all we need now is about 15,000 people JUST like that at Wembley and it will be my dreams come to life!

Afterwards Steve and I had some beers and a whole heap of CHAT around a big table full of lovely pals before retiring retired for the evening A Bit Drunk, stopping only at The King's Head on the way home for a WHISKY. It was odd being there - I have no recollection of going before but it WAS round the corner from my old work and I DID remember where the loos were, so I suppose I must have been. Anyway, we sat with our drinks and contemplated the show. It was, we both agreed, in a better state than ANY previous show had been at this point in the process, which surely foretells of high times and larks ahead. HOORAH!

posted 12/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Back In The Studio
Ever since Steve and I started going to the Leicester Comedy Festival it's been a bit of a tradition that I should spend the Saturday over in Derby, recording something at Snug Studio. Last year this didn't happen (as The Vlads had nothing on the go) and it felt WEIRD, so I was very happy to be going back this time.

I rolled up in Derby at about 10:30am, walked across town, and was greeted by Mr R Collins at the studio. It's great going back to Snug as they know me/us and we/I know them, so we can get straight into the usual PROCESS. This time I was doing vocals, so we did what we always do - I went into the booth and had a brief sing along to the track then did two complete vocal takes. Rich spent five minutes "comping" them (i.e. taking the least awful version of each line to make a best full take) which we listened to and then I went back and re-did any lines that still needed sorting out. It's a rather lovely way of doing it, as it means I never have to worry too much about getting a line exactly right (which is handy) and we usually come out with something pretty good.

We had four tracks to sort out this time - We Did It Anyway, Burn It Down And Start Again, Leaping Hare In Broadgate and the JAM that we did when we were last there together. I had some lyrics spare for a song/POEM called Hills And Hollows so I tried those out and they worked Pretty Flipping Well, then Rich did a cunning EDIT of the track and suddenly we had a SONG! Hoorah!

With vocals done I went through and put GUITAR onto each track (using a plectrum for the first time in ages - I'd forgotten I'd be doing this so only had a broken one in my pocket, which HURT to use after a while. ROCK HEROISM) then moved on to KEYBOARDS. Leaping Hare In Broadgate is based on the instrumental Hibbett's Superstore which has a LOVELY pretend organ part, which we replicated by me playing the root notes and then Rich doing STUDIO MAGIC to turn them into chords. It was fab!

The very last thing to do was add a BEEPING noise to Hills And Hollows. I'd heard it MYSTICALLY whilst Rich was doing a quick mix and thought it might work - if nothing else it will make people go "Eh? What's that noise? Is the wachine machine finished?" whenever they hear it.

With this vital piece of ROCK completed we hugged our goodbyes and I headed off back to the train station and to Leicester. All we need to now is get Mrs E Pattison in to do HER remaining vocals and LO! we have pretty much half an album done!

posted 11/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The World Premiere
Friday lunchtime saw Mr S Hewitt and I gathered at St Pancras to start the tour of our new show Hey Hey 16K in the traditional manner, with a PINT in the Sir John Betjeman. For LO! we were heading off to Leicester for our SEVENTH (7th!) consecutive year appearing at The Leicester Comedy Festival.

It's been a couple of years since we last began performing a new show but we fell into the usual rhythms with EASE. After finishing our Inaugural Beers we got on the train and did LINEZ all the way to Leicester, intriguing and delighting our fellow passengers as we went. When we got to the Ibis and checked into our Usual Suites things went slightly awry, for me at least. I put down all my gear then popped next door to give Steve the comedy festival brochure... and left my KEY in my room, so I had to go downstairs and get a new one. I then tried to put the telly on but couldn't find the controller, so had to ring for one of those too. It was all fine, I just wish it had been a bit more AMUSING or full of INCIDENT! Still, it did allow me to enjoy some quality REPEATS on BBC2 when Steve alerted me to a showing of "Hi De Hi".

Once we'd sated out need for classic sitcom we regrouped and headed over to The Criterion where we had the usual Pizzas, the usual BEERS, and met up with the usual selection of CHUMS. It was all rather lovely, only slightly marred for me by the fact that I was getting THE FEAR - i hardly ever get THE FEAR these days and it was not a welcome return, though I suppose it was warranted, what with the entire new show we were about to do.

And do it we did! We had about thirty people in, which was pretty darn good going, and they seemed to enjoy it. I did a warning beforehand that there would be errors and indeed there were, as well as some Points To Ponder (there's one section in particular that needs retooling) but overall it was pretty good. I don't think there were any GAGS that fell flat, and doing reprises and HITS towards the end was a GRATE idea! Still, we're going to have to get a LOT fitter if we're going to be doing it every day come August - that tap dancing is KNACKERING!

Afterwards we had a heap of beer, had two separate people suggest the SAME song to be added in, and generally relaxed and had LARFS. It was an EXCELLENT start!

posted 10/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The Curse Of Totally Acoustic
The last series of Totally Acoustic was RIDDLED with illness, as nearly every time someone was unable to perform due to being poorly, so I was hoping that THIS series would be a bit healthier.

No such luck, for on Thursday morning I got an email from Mr S Love, saying he wouldn't be able to play due to Food Poisoning. I'd been following the progress of his illness on twitter, so was aware HOW poorly he was but I'd hoped he'd be better in time for the gig as I was RIGHT looking forward to seeing him. We've got him coming back in May, hopefully he'll be at peak fitness then!

The show must go on though, and I thought we'd probably be OK with A Little Orchestra and Model Village both still GO for GIG. SPOILERS: we were!

I rolled up at The King & Queen to find a VERY clean shaven Mr S Hewitt waiting for me - he's had a big old bushy beard of late, but decided to remove it for the purposes of ART i.e. he's playing a 15 year old version of ME in the new show, and as far as I recall I didn't have a big old bushy beard back then. I saluted his commitment, also his youthful new look - he doesn't look a day over 39!

More people arrived, the room was put into order, and those of us singing with A Little Orchestra had a quick practice before it was suddenly SHOW TIME and me (and Steve) went on first and did THIS:
  • Totally Acoustic
  • Back For Good
  • History's Re-written
  • I Think You Might Be Me
  • The Future Is Amazing
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • We Can Start Having Fun

  • Starting with a cover version seems odd, but it seemed to work OK, and then Steve joined me to DEBUT three of the songs from Hey Hey 16K. It was a little bit confusing having to try and explain what was going on, but I think it was all right, and did at least get some LARFS!

    After that A Little Orchestra came on to do It Only Works Because You're here featuring Mr S Hewitt on vocals. Well, he's been SUCH a good boy with learning his lines this year that I thought he deserved a treat, and OH BOY did he give every appearance of enjoying it! It's hardly surprising - singing with A Little Orchestra is BRILL, as I found once again when I did We Can Start Having Fun next. It was a New Arrangement by Mr A Hudson which sounded LOVELY, as you'll hopefully hear in the podcast!

    After a break it was time for Model Village who were, as per, GRATE. It was mostly new material which they haven't even recorded yet, and as most of the songs apparently don't have titles that means I'll get to choose my own when I edit the podcast! They finished with "Josefina", which also features A Little Orchestra and which i hope will ALSO get into the podcast.

    When they finished I realised with glee that it was only 9pm, which meant there was time for another pint before heading home at an EXTREMELY civilised hour,for LO! the next day we were off to LEICESTER and a WORLD PREMIERE!!

    posted 9/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Guerilla Filmmaking
    When I met with Mr J Dredge for our usual weekly MEET on Wednesday we talked about entering the Raindance Festival 16 second short film competition. It's pretty much what it says it is and, as the closing date for the competition is next Friday, we thought we should a) come up with an idea and b) film it soon!

    THUS it was just over 24 hours later that we gathered at St Pancras to MAKE MOVIES. I'd looked online before heading out and noticed that you're not technically meant to film at St Pancras, but thought it'd probably be OK - there weren't any safety issues and we wouldn't need to stop anybody doing anything, so we crossed fingers, pushed ideas of being ARRESTED out of our minds, and DID it.

    The script called for several shots of the big CLOCK, ten minutes apart each time, so there was quite a lot of going back and forth to film that. It also called for FLOWERS so we nipped into M&S and bought 2 bunches of the above, thus blowing most of the budget in one fell swoop. The story's about two blokes being stood up on a date, so we thought it might be good to film it at the huge "chocolate figures" statue, but worried that someone might see us and tell us off. Luckily it turns out that if you go round the BACK of the statue there's plenty of room and you're hidden from view too, but it was still a mildly nervy 5 minutes of filming as we did several takes of the main scene.

    After that we did a quick bit in the John Betjeman pub (who were tremendously blase about it) and another just round the corner, and it was DONE - an entire film finished in less than an hour! Well, I hoped it was - my new camera is still very new and I wasn't sure how to check you'd actually filmed correctly (SPOILERS: I had) but there was no time for that anyway, as I had another appointment to get to - Totally Acoustic!

    posted 6/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    80s Rock
    On Tuesday The Whole Of My Moon and I travelled to The Camden Roundhouse to see The Waterboys. One of us is a HUGE fan of them, and one of us (NB me) has grown to like them over the years, especially since I have realised that they're not really a raggle-taggle band of gipsy spiritualists but are actually a Classic 80s ROCK Band!

    The gig got off to a very good start for us when we totally missed the support band - we looked him up before going and discovered that he was a Harrow educated graduate of RADA, and i know that those guys never get any breaks and are, apparently, totally discriminated against, but we decided it was more important to have our tea before going out. We DID see him saying "thank you" to the audience though, so if he ever becomes a megastar we can still say we saw him.

    The atmosphere was very pleasant as most people there were older than us, so you could gently and politely make your way back to your position from the bar/toilet at any point without aggro, which is always a BOON. Also good was the fact that getting served at the bar was PEASY - it was always crowded, but it was crowded with people who had forgotten how bars work, as they seemed to have gone in groups of three and had to keep turning round and asking yet more people what they wanted, so WILY BARFLIES like me could easily sneak through.

    It was all very civilised, right down to the published stage times - the band came on approx 60 seconds BEFORE they were meant to and then played to precisely 10pm, ready for the encore. The gig itself was MAXIMUM 80s ROCK - keyboard player with long flowing hair rocking out like crazy! introducing the band! twice! extended outros! finishing the song with several drum fills, then doing it all over again! lead singer starting a song with his back to the audience, just rappin' with the drummer, then turning round at a Dramatic Point! guitarists leaning in to ROCK together, then wandering over en masse to ROCK at the keyboard player! whole band coming to the front of the stage to take a bow at the end! THE LOT!

    The MOST 80s section was, of course, the second encore. Mike Scott came on in a sparkly jacket and did a version of "How Long Will I Love You" (which, by the way, was AMAAAAAAZING) and introduced it as "an old Ellie Goulding song", THEN brought the whole band back on and did a cover of "Purple Rain". This latter was EXTRA AMAZING as, not twenty minutes before, The Rhythm Section In My Band had leant over and said "This all sounds like Prince!" for LO! it was Funky!

    So yes, it was RATHER a good gig, and also a delightfully civilised one. Next time I'm at the Roundhouse it's to see Prolapse supporting Mogwai. "That'll be a bit more raucous" I thought to myself as I wandered home, for LO! this won't be 80s Rock, this'll be from the NINETIES!

    posted 5/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    The First Gig Of The Year
    It seems an AGE since I last did an Actual Non-Aligned (to shows or Totally Acoustic) Normal Gig - in fact, having just checked, it's nearly TWO MONTHS ago, when me and Gav did our tour - so I was a bit out of practice as I headed off to SHEFFIELD on Saturday. How many SHIRTS would I need? Where was my Travel Toothbrush? What is the correct amount of PUZZLES to pack?

    I was heading that way because I'd been asked to play at Ms C Draper's BIRTHDAY party, along with my good chum Mr P Green. The venue was the Blue Moon Cafe, which turned out to a) be very handy for the Ibis b) feature AMAZING food and c) have fantastic acoustics. It also contained lots of delightful people including the aforementioned Pete Green and Ms C Blake, who shared their fantastic Family Expansion Plans - hoorah!

    I spent quite a large part of the evening talking SHOP with Pete, which is ALWAYS excellent, and becoming increasingly tiddly on BEER. A jazz band was playing for the first section of the evening, but soon it was time for PUNK ROCK. Pete stood up and, having decided to DISREGARD conventional stages and/or amplification did the show right THERE, which was GRATE except that he was stood right next to me AND both our bags, so I had to very very gently move myself and all the bags around and AWAY from him while he was playing. Other than that he was ACE, as ever, and left me quite a bit to FOLLOW, which I did thusly:

  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • That Guy
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • It seemed to go OK and I must admit I had an INORDINATE amount of fun. As Pete had discovered during his set, the acoustics were FANTASTIC for singing into and I had a RIGHT old bellow!

    Afterwards there was some more grub, an amazing TRUMPETER, and some more booze, and I wobbled off into the night happy with how the first gig of the year had gone, and ready for MORE!

    posted 4/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Dress Rehearsal
    On Thursday evening last week I met with Mr S Hewitt for a Hey Hey 16K practice at Bally Studios in Tottenham. However, this was no ordinary practice, for not only was it our LAST rehearsal before the shows in Leicester this week but it was also our first DRESS rehearsal!

    For this reason I arrived laden down with a BIG bag of STUFF - wigs, various musical instruments, TOP SECRET props, more wigs, a guitar stand and WIGS - when it was all laid out ready it felt like we really WERE doing a show again! We got set up and did a run through, which went pretty well. All right, there were a couple of times when we had to stop and say "Is this the right bit?", Steve got a bit over-excited with the swannee whistle ("NOT NOW STEVE!") and at one point we had to stop and go back because we'd missed a whole song, but all in all it worked our RATHER well and, as long as I advise people that it really IS a work in progress version next week, it should all be FINE.

    More than fine, in fact - it's Quite Good! As I said to my colleague afterwards, I'm happier with THIS show at this stage in proceedings than I have ever been before. "That's because I've worked out new ways not to annoy you" said Steve and I am sure I do NOT know what he means hem hem as I am a CONSTANT DELIGHT to work with and in now way prone to throwing a massive hissy fit if one or both (NB but no me) of us forgets a bit, but it is true - so far it has all been ENTIRELY PLEASANT. It's almost as if this "learning it bit by bit" idea is working!

    That said, the TAP DANCE EXTRAVAGANZA still needs some work, though we did have a bit of a breakthrough with Steve on KAZOO for that section. It took a while to work out - apparently Standard Validators Notation such as "Do the first bit three times then the second bit with the bit on the end once" is not universally accepted, even if you repeat it loads of times and go "You know, the la la LA bit!" but we got there in the end!

    We'll be PREMIERING a couple of songs at this month's Totally Acoustic on Thursday then it will be off to Leicester and the whole thing will begin for REAL. All we need now is an audience!

    posted 3/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Signing Off
    As mentioned previously, since officially finishing the MA I've been SIGNING ON for Jobseekers Allowance. I've found the whole thing FINE - i went in with the attitude that this was money I was owed and that I was prepared to jump through a MODICUM of hoops to get it and, after 20 years working for Universities and even longer doing computer programming I have learnt to a) cope with pointless bureacracy b) follow instructions to achieve results and most importantly c) not take any of it personally.

    This has all come in VERY HANDY, especially since my Signing On Lady suggested I apply for The Enterprise Allowance Scheme a few weeks ago. I was fully intending to go freelance and NOT apply for jobs if I could help it so I thought I'd give it a go and ended up going to a couple of ENTIRELY POINTLESS meetings run by a NOT VERY GOOD company who were being paid by the government to help people start a business. I applied my principles of going along with it and Not Taking It Personally which came in EXTREMELY handy through a process that seemed very much like that "box ticking" you hear so much about. There were times I had to fight the urge not to either LARF or SHOUT about how ridiculous it all was - there were nice people along the way who seemed to want to help, but most of it was very very disorganised and/or useless, and I did feel sorry for anybody who actually needed the help that the scheme claimed to provide.

    ANYWAY, I went through the process, got my forms STAMPED (at a meeting which I thought was to look at the first draft of a Business Plan, but turned out to be to say "This is FINE!"), and at 8:30am on Thursday last week I presented myself at the "Employment Plus" office to sign off. It didn't take long - I had a couple more forms to sign and there was a slight issue with the fact that (inevitably) the rubbish company who'd been "mentoring" me (i.e. ticking the box that says "he has filled in a form, mostly") hadn't sent through all of the paperwork, but by 8:40am I was leaving the building for the last time with my head held high, ready to go forth into the next step of my career odyssey: SELF EMPLOYMENT!

    When I got home I settled myself down to DECLARE this to The Taxman ... and ten minutes later had done that too. It was... peasy? It seemed so anyway, but may turn out not to be in the fullness of time. But anyway, that seems to be THAT and I am now officially Working For Myself as a Sole Trader. So far it seems to be all right - I only get SCREAMING PANIC ATTACKS a couple of times a day, when I think "OH MY GOD! I haven't even got a JOB! AAAARGHH!!!" but after a LIFETIME of office work I guess that's to be expected and will hopefully EBB. Apart from that my boss is very understanding about my need to watch telly quite a lot (hem hem) and even makes me cups of tea when I ask, so I can't complain. All I need now is an INCOME STREAM!

    posted 2/2/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Graduation Day
    Wednesday morning found The Scores On My Marksheet and I up and about early and heading into London Town to collect my mother from Kings Cross, for LO! it was finally GRADUATION DAY!

    Originally we'd been told that my MA course would be graduating at 2pm, which would have been DELIGHTFUL. We could have had a leisurely morning, perhaps a spot of lunch, and then after the ceremony relaxed in a PUB. They changed it to 10am a few weeks ago though, which mean some hurried re-arranging and a terrifyingly early start which felt, to me, like it wasn't early ENOUGH. I'd worked out the timings for collecting Mum and getting to The Barbican in time, but it all felt VERY tight. When I catch a flight I like to aim to be there before check-in even OPENS, this time we'd be arrived just before GOWN COLLECTION finished!

    It all went all right in the end, though I did have a slight panic when I realised that Mum DOESN'T have an Oyster card, but the queue didn't take long and we got to the Barbican in good time. We collected tickets, got gowned up, and I was sat in my seat (with The Audience In My Auditorium and mother on the other side of the hall) well in time for the ceremony. PHEW!

    As we waited we had a chat and glanced through the programme. Louisa, sat next to me, said "Well done on the distinction!" and I was SURPRISED as I had modestly hem hem not mentioned it, but it turned out that it was marked next to the names of those who had got one, which was OBVIOUSLY MORTIFYING for me (I mean gosh, I mean golly, really chaps) but also FUN for finding out who else had got one! It also showed that we were right near the start of the ceremony, which was GRATE, i thought, as it meant less waiting around.

    As it happened it didn't make much difference as there was two whole hours of sitting around, clapping every single person who crossed the stage to get a certificate (TWICE if they got a Phd), and after the first HOUR it all became a BLUR of black robes and hats differentiated only by SHOES. My bit went by in a FLASH - I couldn't resist a wave to the audience and then suddenly I had my bit of paper and was DONE. I guess it's meant to feel like a Big Moment but in all honesty it felt like just a bit of PROCESS. Getting the results felt HUGE, but the fact that most of us are keeping in touch (and are putting on a show soon) meant that I knew I'd be seeing people again soon so nothing was particularly ending.

    Still, it WAS fun seeing everybody all poshed up, and it was very nice to go and talk excitedly to chums and their PROUD FAMILIES afterwards! There was even free BOOZE, as evidenced in this candid snap:

    When all was done me and Mum went for a slightly boozy lunch and The Signature On My Certificate went off to work. It's been a long old JOURNEY since she and I first talked about me doing an MA but, as I've said every other time there's been one of these "endings" for the course, it feels like it's just the first part of something. I certainly hope so anyway!

    posted 30/1/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Abs, Bums and OW!
    On Tuesday nights The Activities In My Fitness Regime and I usually pop down the road to The Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health Centre to attend the free HULA HOOP class run by Our Parks. We've been going for months and it is GRATE. This Tuesday just gone, however, we got an email from the organisation in the morning saying that our usual teacher was poorly so our class would be replaced by an "Abs Bums And Thighs" one.

    My first reaction was that this was a bit like ordering a bottle of BEER via online shopping and getting FABREEZE instead, but I talked about it online with my SPORTS PARTNER and we agreed to give it a go. I thought it'd probably be OK - I mean, I'd never done Hula Hoop before I'd started classes last year, and that had turned out all right, so this should all be fine. Right?

    It was only as we set off down the road that I remembered how TERRIFYING the first few weeks of Hula Hooping had been. I have a TERRIBLE PHOBIA of doing things I'm really bad at ("Ho ho!" you may say, "You are so brave for dealing with this every time you do a gig no?" to which I reply "SHURRUP") especially when surrounded by people who know what they're doing, and ESPECIALLY when I stand out like a sore thumb. You can imagine my distress, therefore, when we arrived to find that none of the other Hula Hoop regulars were there but that instead everybody else was a) a lady b) in proper gear c) with a mat. I felt like an ANTELOPE sighting a LEOPARD, my whole body screamed "FLEE! FLEE!" but I thought "No, whole body, I shall not. Sometimes it is good to step outside yr comfort zone."

    I don't think I have ever been further outside my comfort zone than this. COMFORT was about a billion miles away as I spent the next fifty minutes in SWEATY AGONY. Christ! Bits of me hurt that I had forgotten existed, and I felt a right pillock sat on the cold floor trying to lift my legs up while everybody else did so daintily like they were born to it.

    I wonder if George Harrison thought his wise words "All Things Must Pass" would ever be used in this kind of situation? For LO! all through the experience I kept reminding myself that, at some point, I would NOT be in an Abs Bums And Thighs class and, who knows, might even be watching telly again. After an age it did end and I staggered home, quite PROUD of myself for sticking with it but relieved it was all over.

    What a fool I was! Over? Two days later I am still EXTREMELY aware of my abs bums and thighs because they all RUDDY HURT. Oh comfort zone! How I long to return to you!

    posted 29/1/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Contretemp
    Following on from the devastating events of last week, when London's supposed street of supposed Guitar supposed equipment totally let me down, I bought myself a new case for my guitar online. The nice people at GAK told me it was due to arrive on Monday, gave me a tracking number, and so yesterday morning I settled down to wait. Waiting in for a home delivery? Surely nothing could go wrong!

    At around 12:30pm I looked at the tracking page and was surprised to find it was marked "Delivered". This was news to me, so I went downstairs to our mailbox to see if the delivery driver had left me a note - our INTERCOM has been playing up lately, so I thought maybe he'd tried to ring and failed. There was nothing there so I came back and emailed GAK to see if they knew what had happened. I also GOOGLED the FedEx customer helpline (it wasn't showing on the tracking page) and got through to a someone who looked it up and said it had been "left at the maintenance office". When I came off the phone there was an email from GAK saying exactly the same thing - excellent customer service on all counts so far, surely the day would continue in this way?

    The "management office" they were talking about is a few doors down the road from us, and is the base of the people who manage all the flats here in THE OLYMPICS. They introduced a scheme last year whereby you could register to have your post left with them if there was nobody home to collect or sign for it, which seemed like a good idea until it turned out that a) they couldn't start it until every single person in all of the blocks had signed up and b) then it didn't work because they refused to tell the postman who lived there, for "data protection" reasons.

    Yes. They wouldn't let the postman, who has mail with someone's address on it, leave post for someone AT that address, because admitting they lived there would be "against data protection". I wonder has any government act ever done more to provide excuses for pillocks than the Data Protection Act?

    I was thus surprised that the scheme had worked, but pleased that I'd be able to just go and pick up my package. I went down the road, rung the doorbell, was let in, and then... was ignored completely by the lady on reception who'd let me in and was stood with her back to me, watching a colleague fold a bike.

    After 30 seconds I said "Hello?" and she turned around. I explained the situation and she asked if I'd had an email from them. I told her no, but knew the package was here because FedEx had told me. "You need an email", she said.

    This seemed odd - the package had arrived there at noon (according the FedEx) and it was now twenty to two. That seemed long enough to send an email but still, here I was so all was well. Did she have the parcel?

    SOmething of a FUSS was made about having to go and look, then she noticed something under the desk. Hoorah! It was my guitar case! "Collection is from 2pm", she said.

    I wasn't quite sure what she mean. "Collection is from 2pm", she repeated. It was 1:40pm now but apparently I couldn't collect my package, which she'd just picked up and was holding 2 feet from me, until 2pm. "What happens at 2pm that makes things different?" i asked. "It's collection hours", she said. "Why's that?" I asked. "It's on the email," she replied. "I didn't have an email," I reminded her.

    It felt very much like I was about to say "I don't belieeeeeve it" - surely this couldn't really be happening? I calmed my inner rage/befuddlement and considered just standing there for 20 minutes until The Magical Collection Window opened, and while doing that said - Actually Quite Politely - that this was all a bit ridiculous wasn't it but I'm sure it wasn't her fault as she didn't make this ridiculous policy. To be fair to me, if I'd known there WAS a collection window I would have been a good citizen and waited, but as they'd left me sat around in my flat for ages waiting for a package that they'd already got and hadn't bothered to TELL me about it, I was feeling a little misused.

    Anyway, after much tutting, eye rolling, and generally being like an actor in a low quality "That's Life" consumer re-enactment, she very very reluctantly scanned the package into her system (which took so long it nearly WAS 2pm by the time it was done) and handed it over. I smiled and said thank you very nicely but she didn't even look at me, such was her disgust. Still, I walked out of that office with my head held high and a new guitar case under my arm.

    I think this may be the most rock and roll story that has ever appeared on this - or ANY OTHER - blog. Take that, THE MAN!

    posted 27/1/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Loco London Film Festival
    Sunday afternoon found myself, The Frames Of My Film, Mr J Dredge and some PALS in POPLAR, to attend part of the Loco London Comedy Film Festival. We were there specifically for the Loco Local section run by Poplar Film because they were showing our short film The Job Interview as part of an afternoon of shorts.

    It was all VERY INTERESTING. The event took place at Spotlight in Poplar, a rather GROOVY arts/community centre that should have been dead easy to get to from Stratford except that the DLR was shut so we had to get a taxi, which felt DEAD glamorous - all it needed was a red carpet and the PREMIERE experience would have been complete!

    There were eleven films on including ours, and some of them were GRATE - I particularly enjoyed Russian Roullette, Two Dosas, The Elevator Pitch and Orange Charlie, probably because they were all funny and sort of sweet too. Some of the others were what they call "dark" comedy i.e. has lots of bits where you go "ew!" and not many actual LARFS, which isn't my sort of thing. Oddly, it seemed to be these ones that had had the most money spent on them, though that may just be my PUNK ROCK BIAS coming in. It was very noticeable though that some of the title credits were almost as long as me and John's entire film!

    I did feel a bit NAUGHTY being there with our little film which we'd spent a couple of days on, when some of the others were clearly such TITANIC EFFORTS. One person came to talk to me about her business helping filmmakers get their work into festivals. She talked about strategies, identifying markets and the range of approaches you could. I thought "But we just sent it into one film festival by email and got in, it was peasy" but decided that perhaps saying that might seem rude.

    At the end there was a PANEL discussion, which John sat on - they'd asked one or both of us to do it and I thought John would be best as he has a proper background in comedy that he could talk about, and I was right for LO! he was brilliant. Our little group sat and nodded enthusiastically as he made Excellent Points and also Humorous Remarks - as with all my previous encounters with The World Of Comedy, everybody seems to think it's WRONG to actually be funny in person, so John stood out a bit!

    As we left we said a proper thank to the organisers for a) having us and b) running such a brilliant event. I'd never been to anything like it before and had had a LOVELY time - I guess we'd better get strategising and see if we can go to some more!

    posted 26/1/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    An "In-Town" Day
    My colleague Mr J Dredge referred to my lifestyle as "The life of Riley" yesterday. I was mortally offended -is one to be slated simply for slipping into town to see one's hairdresser and take coffee with chums? Where is James Blunt to stick up for me when I need him?

    Actually, my afternoon in town started off with some Serious Business as I needed to go to Denmark Street, the soon to be knocked down Street Of Guitar Shops, to try and buy a guitar case. These days I'm using my LOVELY Cort mini-travel guitar for gigs, as it is nice and SMALL so easy to lug around and also just the right size to fit into the overhead racks on trains. It came with its own gig bag but it isn't particularly sturdy or padded, meaning that the both bag and guitar have been knocked about a bit, so I thought I'd go and buy a NEW bag ready for the epic TOURING that is to come with Hey Hey 16K.

    I went into every single shop that sells acoustical guitars and NOT ONE of them had a bag that would fit. I even took my guitar WITH me, to make it easy, but no. To be honest I felt rather LET DOWN. Surely when there's an ENTIRE STREET of shops selling guitars ONE of them would cater for a Slightly Different Sized But Still Fairly Popular type of guitars? Later that evening I would buy one on THE INTERWEB and not feel bad about it.

    My next port of call was Store Street, where I undertook SEVERAL missions. I went into ANOTHER guitar shop which didn't have a gig bag to fit, got some posters done for our forthcoming Leicester shows, LOOKED at the big model of London in The Building Centre, got my hair cut (graduation next week, and thus graduation PICTURES) then went to meet the aforesaid Mr Dredge for a coffee. It was QUITE the giddy whirl and the giddiness only INCREASED as John and I discussed a Very Exciting Opportunity. Actually it is a VERY VERY exciting opportunity which I can't fully describe in public yet, but basically involves us PITCHING something to a TV/Radio company. Not getting PAID for anything so far, but still, a step in the right direction hopefully!

    With all that done I left for my final appointment, in distant Tottenham Hale where myself and Mr S Hewitt were booked for our penultimate pre-Leicester practice. As mentioned before we've split the show up into four quarters and last night we were doing the final section, which seemed to go by in SECONDS. It IS quite a short bit, but also it's all songs we KNOW and tying up loose ends and so "all downhill". We ran through it a couple of times then decided to do THE WHOLE THING.

    We've only ever done the WHOLE THING a couple of times, and then always with SCRIPTS, so this was quite exciting, also a bit FRIGHTENING, but do it we did and... crumbs, it worked! There were several spots where we had to stop, check we'd got it right (we usually had) and go back a bit, but we got through it all in just over 45 minutes and it was Actually Pretty Good. I'm already seeing where we'll need to make changes post-Leicester (a lot of songs are followed by Steve saying "So - " then asking a question, for instance) but all in all we were both PRETTY PLEASED with it.

    We've got one more practice next week, which will be the DRESS REHEARSAL i.e. WIGS and PROPS and SECRET THINGS which on the one hand means another week of line learning, but on the other a whole range of new opportunities to get confused, and then we're off to Leicester. I've just heard that, on our first night, we've got some REVIEWERS in. Nothing can go wrong!

    posted 23/1/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    A New Hey Hey 16K Website
    The title of today's blog is perhaps a little more PROSAIC than usual because it's about... well, a new website for "Hey Hey 16K".

    I bought the heyhey16k.com domain name AGES ago just because I thought i OUGHT, and first used it properly last year when we had the 10th Anniversary re-release, but now that there's a whole FRINGE SHOW coming with that title it seemed like time for an upgrade.

    The new design looks different from most of the sites I've done because, apparently, things have CHANGED on the interweb since I first learnt HTML coding way back in the last century. The most recent BIG difference is that these days people tend to use phones and tablets to go online, which means that the MENU bars that I used to use, which looked SO exciting in 2007, now don't always WORK for most users. THUS I embarked upon several HOURS of Professional Development, reading up on CSS and sizable buttons and wotnot and have tried to create a page that'll be easier to use on these more futuristic interweb portals.

    There's not actually much ON there for now, but as we move along there should be pictures, press releases and all sorts of other things. At the moment it mostly says "It's a show! We're doing it in Leicester soon!" (which reminds me - people in Leicester! We're coming your way soon, perhaps you might like to buy a ticket?) but it will GROW soon. In the meantime though please have a look and let me know what you reckon - hope you like it!

    posted 22/1/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Monday was a day of EXCITING NEW VENTURES for me, as I was starting both a new course and a new DIET!

    The DIET was the 5:2 Diet, also known as The Fast Diet, also known as The One That Everyone Is Doing At The Moment. "But Mark," you are doubtless saying, "you are so SVELTE, surely this is unnecessary?" but actually I have been feeling like a man wearing a man suit a bit lately, so thought I'd give it a go. Usually I find these fad diets STUPID (or in the case of Atkins, decidedly Not Suitable For Vegetarians!) but this one seemed quite sensible (don't eat a huge amount two days a week) and DO-ABLE (you can PLAN it!). Also everything I've read about it says "We really wanted to find something terrible about it, but haven't yet" and I know a TONNE of people who've done/are doing it who all seem to like it. Having said that, I don't necessarily want to slim down to SUPERMODEL SLENDERNESS like Mr T Pattison has lately!

    So I thought I'd give it a go, and day one was FINE. I did spend a lot of time THINKING about food, but luckily I had a really bad back all day which took my mind off it, and when that wasn't working I got to do LISTS. I also had something else to take up my BRANE space: Stand-up comedy!

    Towards the end of last year a part of my weekly meetings with Mr J Dredge would consist of us talking through his HOMEWORK for a stand-up comedy course he was doing. I THOROUGHLY enjoyed thinking up extra gags for this, so when he finished the course I was a bit disappointed. Also around this time I was attending a LOT of courses and events where ALL of the working writers were former stand-ups. It struck me that this might be a sensible thing to have a go at, if it could advance my CAREER and also, more likely, be quite good fun. To be honest, I've been thinking about having a go at stand-up for YEARS, so if nothing else it'll get it out of my system!

    THUS I rolled up at The Old Coffee House in Soho at 7pm for Chris Head's Stand-Up course. There were about 15 other people there and we spent a very jolly two and a half hours going through some of the basics of stand-up (microphone technique, Rule Of Three), and doing some exercises (e.g. that one where you interview somebody else and then introduce them to the group). It was all very interesting - some of the stuff, like Rule Of Three, I knew already, but it was all very well put and clearly explained.

    The most fun bit was (stand by to be AMAZED, People Who Know Me) when we got to stand up and SHOW OFF - sorry, I mean, get used to the microphone - in front of the rest of the group. We were encouraged just to talk for 90 seconds and engage with the audience, something which I do regularly between songs at gigs, often for MUCH longer and without actually being asked to. It was a LOT of fun and it made me wonder if this was the sort of thing i COULD do. I had to stick to the brief of talking about a Specific Topic ("food", given that I was DIETINNG!) but wanted to refer to things other people had said, which made me think about maybe trying some compereing again. I used to do it occasionally YEARS ago but always found it ANNOYING as I wanted to play my OWN gigs rather than introducing other people's, but maybe if I didn't have a guitar round my neck it'd be all right?

    Anyway, as you can probably tell, it gave me MUCH to think about, and also some new comedy writing homework to do. Roll on next week!

    posted 21/1/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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