Nine unique luxury items on Desert Island Discs

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Desert Island Discs celebrates its 75th anniversary this week, having first aired on 29 January 1942 when original host Roy Plomley interviewed popular Viennese comedian, actor and musician, Vic Oliver.

Originally a Forces Programme, its peek into the private lives of public figures from the worlds of politics, entertainment and everything in between has proven irresistible to Radio 4 listeners.

The host’s chair has since been inhabited by Michael Parkinson, Sue Lawley and the current incumbent, Kirsty Young, who will be talking to one of Britain’s modern brand of National Treasures, David Beckham, in its regular slot at 11.15am on Sunday.

Since this is a man who can buy anything he wants, I’m curious about his choice of luxury item.

Will he follow the majority of guests and opt for the usual home comforts, art or writing materials, musical instruments, sports equipment, a desire to learn new languages or astronomy  – or will he surprise us, and decide on something utterly unique like these previous guests:

TV Presenter Julian Clary wanted an all purpose prosthetic arm. Having seen a sound man with one that had a multi purpose tool instead of a hand, he believes it would be very useful for cracking open shellfish and peeling the bark off trees, while the glint off it might attract a passing ship to rescue him.

Journalist Virginia Ironside chose to take an enormous bag of plaster. Having dabbled with sculpture, she’d make the heads of all her friends and dot them around the island like an art installation, and be forever surrounded by the people she loves.

Actor Maureen Lipman would take a parking meter with a year’s supply of tickets (but didn’t actually say why) and a gypsy caravan with a wooden floor to tap dance on until rescue.

A life sized laminated picture of the “adorable” and “deeply attractive” James Caan from Dragon’s Den would be actor and director Kathy Burke’s choice – to body surf on!

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Comedian turned actor Hugh Laurie is someone you might want to avoid upon his return – he wants two sets of throwing knives so he can come home with an uncanny skill: “being able to knock the piv out of the Ace of Spades at 20 paces would be a great thing”!

It’s lovely to know that the Pythons are so close still. John Cleese wanted to take Michael Palin but wasn’t allowed because he’s animate. You could have him stuffed, advised host Sue Lawley. “That’ll do,” replied John.

Captain Jacques Costeau, the conservationist and oceanographer who co-invented the aqua-lung with engineer Emille Gagnan, wanted something he could touch all day long, choosing the stone from the stomach of a fossilised dinosaur he’d once been gifted.

High wire walker Philippe Petit felt his ‘Mysterious Object’ would force him to keep thinking while marooned on the island. It was found in a barn when he was a child, and his father tried without success to get it identified by tool manufacturers and other trades across different continents. It’s wooden and looks like an artillery shell, about 20cm tall. Inside, it has two rows of sharp teeth, suggesting some kind of trap. But they only fit together when the object is closed. Any ideas? 

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It’s Lego all the way for actor Hugh Bonneville. An enormous pile has been accumulating in his den for the past decade, which he built and then foolishly dismantled. He has the instruction leaflets though, and will rebuild the lot. He also had a practical use for it – struts for all the sand tunnels he’s going to build! Is there a Lego Downton Abbey? There should be, shouldn’t there? 

I’m completely predictable – writing materials all the way for me!

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Happy 60th Birthday The Cavern Club: 18 facts you never knew about The Beatles spiritual home

On this day in 1957, the most famous music club in the world opened its doors: Liverpool’s Cavern Club.

The Cavern Club Christopher Brown Flickr

The Cavern Club by Christopher Brown on Flickr

Want to impress your Liverpudlian friends? Here are all the things you need to know:

Now a major tourist attraction, it’s located in a warehouse cellar at number 10 Mathew Street, in the heart of the city centre near the River Mersey, local theatres, museums and shopping centres.

It was originally a jazz club, hosting Ronnie Scott and Acker Bilk in its early days.

The club has closed down, remodelled and re-opened on several occasions, and was owned at one time by former Liverpool FC hardman Tommy Smith.

Closing down in February 1966, the club was officially opened again by then Prime Minister Harold Wilson in July the same year.

Its original owner, Alan Sytner, named the club after a Paris jazz club, Le Caveau De La Huchette, hoping to make it the biggest jazz club outside of London.

The first jazz festival held in Liverpool and featuring many of Britain’s top acts took place at the Cavern Club on January 16, 1960.

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The Cavern Club Wall – Ian Ransley on Flickr

The club is home to 25 resident artists, from The Cavern Club Beatles tribute band – brought together following comprehensive auditions to find those who captured the look and sound of the four Liverpool lads – to The Amazing Kappa Band, who are somehow an eclectic mix of Led Zeppelin, Ravel, Dolly Parton and more!

A statue of former club hat-check girl  Cilla Black is being unveiled outside the club today, a present to the city from her family.

The club offers Rock School Tuition, with expert tutors in bass guitar, guitar, piano/keyboard and drums.

In 1983, the Strawberry Fields Children’s home benefitted financially following the sale of 5000 bricks from the original cellar area of the club.

Hosted by the club, Liverpool’s first Mathew Street Festival took place on August 28, 1983 until being replaced by the Liverpool International Music Festival in 2013.

Books about the club include three by Spencer Leigh, BBC Radio Merseyside presenter: ‘Twist and Shout! – Merseybeat, the Cavern, the Star-Club and the Beatles’, ‘The Cavern – The Most Famous Club in the World’ and ‘The Cavern Club: The Rise of the Beatles and Merseybeat’ and one by former Liverpool FC player and coach Phil Thompson, called ‘The Best of Cellars’.

American actor Billy Bob Thornton appeared at the club in 2002 and said: “It’s the dream of my life to be here in Liverpool and playing the Cavern because this music got me through my childhood.”

The artist for the original club posters and signage, Tony Booth, has been commissioned to produce the 60th anniversary artwork which will feature all the artists ever to appear at the club.

In July 2006, American golfer John Daly took to the stage and performed during the launch of his autobiography.

The Cavern Club by Ronald Saunders on Flickr Jaye Nolan Freelance Writer

The Cavern Club by Ronald Saunders on Flickr

The first Beatle to play at the club is rumoured to be Ringo Starr, who was apparently a member of the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group when they appeared there in July 1957.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney debuted at the club a few months apart but both with The Quarrymen, John in August 1957, and Paul in January 1958, after joining The Quarrymen in October 1957.

The first performance at the club by The Beatles was on February 9, 1961. Brian Epstein saw them in November that year and subsequently took over their management. The last of their 292 performances at the club was on August 1, 1963.

Do you have any special memories from the Cavern Club? Let me know in the comments.

Photo Credits: Christopher BrownIan Ransley, Ronald Saunders

Back to the 60’s

Olivier Award winning show, Sunny Afternoon, based on the story of The Kinks, is showing at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre this week.

I was delighted to review the show for WOW magazine, which you can read here, and it reminded me of a lovely chat I had with a local singer, Tony Ellingham.

Tony fronts of a swing band called 5intheBar, who regularly gig to raise money for the Parkinson’s disease charity. The last one raised £550, as they performed to a packed house. Their next charity performance is March 4.

Under the stage name of Dorian Gray, Tony had a hit song in the 60s, which is still requested today – enjoy hearing all about that, and more, from the man himself.

Exploring Sicario

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As you know from a previous blog post, I’ve been taking part in an online course, Explore Film, with the NFTS / BFI on the Future Learn e-learning platform.

I did this predominantly to help inform my scriptwriting and to learn a bit about the physical aspects of filming – thinking of light, sound and music – particularly when editing anything together for the LitFest.

I didn’t realise how much I’d absorbed until watching Sicario last night, when the cinematography of Roger Deakins and the score by Johann Johannsson completely knocked me out. I feel like I’ve watched a film properly for the first time ever. It’s an awakening!

Tutors Jon Wardle, Pete Fraser and Tom Woodcock will be so proud. Although I’m completely ruined for watching films now. I’ll probably revisit lots of old favourites and spend the entire time picking holes in them …

While Deakins feels we should be too immersed in the film to notice his work (see video above) he can be assured that while entirely immersed, I nevertheless saw the beauty he created, particularly in the most memorable scene for me – and others, it seems – with the sunset silhouettes, as the task force headed for the hidden route to Mexico, then the switches from night vision to infrared giving an almost game like feel. Trust me, it’s 9m 22s out of your life you will not regret. And pay attention to the sound too – more on that in a minute.

From the opening scenes, where the slants of sunlight illuminated the characters one by one (reminding me of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, actually) through to Benicio Del Toro’s ruthless (yet still I was rooting for him) dispatch of the evil drug lord, I was aware of the editing that created the movie’s pace, the perfectly pitched lighting – particularly of Emily Blunt in radiant blue at the cowboy bar – and every sound: the dog barking, the door slams, the slightest muffled footstep – now knowing that these have been added in after (probably), and not just filmed ‘live’ which, having no experience of how a film is made (apart from the odd bit of sweding) I always assumed was quite natural (how good are these people?).

How have I never heard of Johann Johannsson? I listen to Classic FM, I know Hans Zimmer, John Barry, Howard Shore, Thomas Newman – I need to have a word, because in all my time listening to that station, I’ve never heard them play this Johann. And I even watched Trapped, for God’s sake, and thought how haunting the soundtrack was. To be fair, the credits ran into the hundreds of thousands, so little surprise I didn’t catch his name.

I mean, I don’t get out much and it’s only because of the LitFest working with the Rochester Film Society recently that I’ve seen 3 films in the last few weeks (that weren’t repeats of Bourne or RED) but still … *note to self*: email Andrew Collins with a suggestion.

Sicario’s incredible score doesn’t sound as though played by an orchestra, reminding me of Week 6, where we captured our own ‘found sounds’. With its thumping heart beat mimicking your own “like the throbbing heart of a beast charging at you” as Johannsson says himself, it creates a menace to match the brutality of the film. Read the interview that quote comes from here – it says everything I was thinking, and is perfectly captured in the clip above. I’m off to listen to The Theory of Everything.

NEWSFLASH: SICARIO 2 ON ITS WAY! 

Seasonally adjusted for app use

I’ve missed the last few Seasonally Effecteds, so I thought I’d mosey on up  this month and catch up with all the lovely people who frequent Dot Cafe (last Wednesday in the month, varies occasionally, check before leaving), as well as try my hand with the Splice app again.

Another excellent mix of folks took to the mic; here’s a video snapshot:

The reason for laughter at the end? Roy was too quick for me and we did a little stop-start dance before we got the final take!

In order of appearance: Tendayi Sutherland; Thomas Kelly; Toby Marsh; Sam Rapp; Gavin Alexander; Nigel Adams; Lionesse X; Mike Orvis; Razz Saunders; Rachel Lowrie.

Visit www.seasonallyeffected.wordpress.com – email Roy if you want a slot at the next one.

Happy Tunesday: Stevie McCrorie Wins The Voice Series 4

The Voice UK BBC

I know, it was eons ago …  but needs must and work comes first. One day …

There was a genuine look of shock on Stevie’s face, I don’t know why – it was clear from the first audition he was the one to beat. Wasn’t it? Lucy ran him close though, with Sasha and Emmanuel also putting in strong performances to make a high quality final.

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