“To please is a curse” A Tribute to Mark E Smith & The Fall

Mark E Smith  —  Blackburn King George’s Hall, 22nd September 2002

It has been a few weeks now since Mark E Smith’s death and to most seasoned Fall fans it can’t have come as much of a surprise. His lifestyle and work ethic indicated a short but highly productive life. During the last 35-odd years I’ve spent much of my waking life proselytising to all and sundry about the brilliance of Mark E Smith and The Fall to a largely unresponsive, apathetic audience and with limited success. This was highlighted when, in the hours after the announcement of his death, my social media feeds went crazy with messages from people whom I’d had no contact with for years. Many said they thought of me when they heard the news. Some said they remember the Fall mixtape tape/CD I had made them that they still hadn’t played. Or the long and tedious chats I had with them about The Fall, generally down the pub, but still remained unconvinced and perplexed as to why I liked them.

I suppose it is not surprising that Mark Smith was frequently misunderstood or dismissed as unfathomable. What many people failed to notice was that there was, hidden behind the abrasive northern English vernacular, an intelligence and literary self-education that informed his lyrical style and vocal delivery. A common misconception of non-believers was that his lyrical content was one of unremitting misery and misanthropic fervour. Often overlooked is his comedic observations and humorous comment on a ludicrous world. He was first and foremost a writer not a musician, although he understood the music industry better than most musicians.
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The Fall documentary: my (very minor) involvement

The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith – closing titles

After the recent death of Mark E Smith, tonight BBC4 are repeating The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith. I’m reminded of a fortuitous encounter in 2004 that led to my (very minor) involvement and credit for ‘archive’ on the documentary.

I was at the ResFest, a festival of experimental film-making at the BFI. I’d got talking to a woman about my favourite band, The Fall and mentioned I’d compiled and directed some videos and sequences for the Beggars Banquet VHS8489 video compilation. This had led to a couple of drinking encounters with Mark E Smith and subsequently the making of an unofficial promo for the White Lightning single I’d filmed from side of the stage at 1990s Reading Festival. I’d told her I’d also tried, unsuccessfully, to make a documentary about The Fall back in the early 90s. To my surprise she said her flatmate was working on a BBC documentary about the band and she’d introduce me to her but I thought this might be just merrymaking talk.
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Coronation Street: Gangster Soap is Murder

Pat Phelan  —  Guns, violence and murders

It was in the early 1970s that I first started to regularly watch Coronation Street (the UK’s longest running soap opera). This was after my school drama teacher said it had some of the best acting and script writing on television. Acknowledged at the time as the ‘classic’ era, with its strong, distinctive female characters such as Hilda Odgen, Bett Lynch and Elsie Tanner, ‘Corrie’ has been a part of my life ever since. While there have been several short periods over these past 40-odd years when the plot and story lines lost their way, it’s always managed to come back strong and keep delivering great drama with memorable comedy moments.

Yet recently I’ve become somewhat disillusioned with Coronation Street’s direction. It has morphed into a chaotic ‘gangster soap’ where every character’s life appears to be in a perpetual state of turmoil. Such is the rise in brutality that episodes now regularly begin with the ominous voice-over warning, “Now on ITV with some violence and scenes some viewers might find distressing…”. This changing scenario has meant that the soap now incorporates police stations, prisons, courtrooms and hospitals as regular extensions of the street’s scenery and set. It’s seems no coincidence that these changes coincide with Kate Oates’ elevation to series producer in early 2016 with a mission to produce “greater breadth of story lines”. This ‘greater breadth’ takes the form of increasingly inconceivable and ludicrous story lines given, in particular, to the career criminal character with gangster tendencies, Pat Phelan, expertly played by Conner McIntyre. But it is not the obsession with gangster story lines that bothers me the most, it’s that the mystery and humour has disappeared. Coronation Street plots and resolutions were always difficult to second guess and they were peppered with witty lines and humorous quips. Nowadays story lines have become predictable, where you fear the worst and the worst always happens.
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Campaign video promo at Middlesex University


Above is a video promo I made to highlight the development of skills and experience gained by students during the campaign section of Introduction to Media and Society module at Middlesex University. As part of my new role as module leader , I revamped the content and introduced two new partnership organisations the campaign planning section of the module so that students would have experience of working with ‘real’ clients. A briefs were set by the organisations, Allia and Friends of the Earth to produce awareness campaigns. The project lasted 10 weeks and during this period students presented twice to the client, first as a pitch in early February and then presented their campaign proposals at the end of March. Feedback from students was very positive, particularly among Advertising, PR and Media students.

Publication Presentation

Yesterday I presented research from my publication, Work-based Learning, Web Media Production & the Social Media sector: A case study at the Middlesex University’s Institute for work-based learning. Below is the presentation.

Rescued: Snub TV titles – Series 3 1991

I recently rescued the Snub TV titles, which I’d worked on with the prolific graphic and record sleeve designer, Vaughan Oliver, from a ropey VHS tape found in the dark recesses of my attic. Back in the late 1980s, early 1990s I worked as a motion graphic designer for a company that provided digital compositing facilities; a much sought after service in the early days of digitally produced graphics. Consequentially, the company was very popular with print and album covers designers.

SnubGrab1One of the heavy users was Vaughan Oliver, who produced some of the most inspired, distinctive and striking album art of the period through his company V23. A large portion of album covers were commissioned by 4AD, one of UKs most exciting and experimental record companies. I was an admirer of his work and his creativity. I also enjoyed the music contained on the discs inside the covers he designed too, particularly music produced by bands such as Pixies and the Cocteau Twins.

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Publication: Work-based Learning for the Creative Industries

Today my case study article for is published in the journal Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning. The article, ‘Work-based learning for the creative industries: A case study of the development of BA (Hons) web design and social media’, highlights the knowledge and insight gained building a work-based learning (WBL) degree apprenticeship developed through the Higher Education Funding Council for England Catalyst Fund.

In the summer of 2014 Ravensbourne, a UK university sector institution specialising in the fields of design and digital media, was invited by Creative Skillset to explore the development of a work-based learning (WBL) degree through the HEFCE Catalyst Fund. Requirements of the funding stipulated that, in addition to WBL provision, the course should be offered as a two-year fast-track. This was required to help reduce the increased financial burden placed on students, which arose from the substantial rise in HE tuition fees sanctioned by the UK coalition government in 2010. Subsequently, the newly elected Conservative government have pledged to substantially increase the number of apprenticeships in UK. This has placed a greater emphasis on the Higher Apprenticeship programme and need to develop WBL programmes. Continue reading

YouTube Conference presentation – “Hello, YouTubers”

I recently gave my YouTube Conference presentation at Middlesex University entitled, “Hello, YouTubers” – Geriatric1927 and the deployment of self-created content and online sharing in retirement. In the United Kingdom, the retired population is rising and statistics show that growing numbers are using digital technology and the internet for more than search functions and buying goods online. Indeed, a small number are creating and sharing self-created content on platforms such as YouTube. This is a section of society often ignored in qualitative internet research. This presentation case studies the retired vblogger, Peter Oakley, who was interviewed as part of a wider examination into how retirees create and share content on the internet.  Continue reading

East Berlin: before and after the wall

The story of two TV Tower photographs

The recent examination of the cold war era through the depiction of early 1960s Berlin in the 2015 film Bridge of Spies and the drama series Deutschland 83, reminded me of a visit I made to the city in 1986 and again in 2008. On both occasions I took a photograph from the same vantage point – the visitor’s platform of Berlin’s TV Tower near Alexanderplatz. I recently placed them side-by-side. This is the story of how I came to take them. Continue reading

Bowie, My Bowie: Eight years that influenced my life

I’ve written this tribute nearly a week after David Bowie’s death. It’s only now that I’ve felt able to put my feelings into words. While his death was a shock, nothing prepared me for the shock of my own emotional response and the concealed depth of feeling I held for this man. Never before have I been so moved by the death of one of my heroes. The passing of creative heroes, such as Warhol, Lou Reed and Lennon, all resonated with sadness and reflection but I just moved on shortly after. Bowie, I now realise, is very different. Unlike Warhol and others, Bowie feels like a friend and creative mentor, complex but accessible. It has led me to experience the strange and untypical sensation of butterflies in the stomach and a feeling of loss. This was amplified by the fact that I’d been listening to his latest studio album, Blackstar, over the weekend of his death and felt I’d reconnected to his consciousness through his music, or so I thought. This was in itself unusual, as I hadn’t listened to any of his albums in their entirety since the early 80s. Continue reading