Everything You Can Imagine Is Real

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Imagine a world where the works and words of Picasso are brought to life through music, performance, dance and poetry, against a backdrop of art representing some of the most recognisable faces in British history. That is exactly what happened last Friday evening at London’s National Portrait Gallery. In a scene reminiscent of the film Night At The Museum, where the past is brought to life in full technicolour and stereo, historical heritage played host to the Picasso-inspired Everything You Can Imagine Is Real. Curated and produced by Martyn Ware for Illustrious, the late shift event drew in an vast and diverse crowd, as eclectic as those performing.

Whilst I did manage to catch some of the other 28 acts from the packed programme, such as brilliantly astute poet Luke Wright, I was there for Peter Coyle’s performance at the end of IMG_20170121_005214.jpgthe evening. Those of you who read last week’s blog will know that Peter’s next single, to be released on 3rd February, uses one of my poems as its lyrics. I have been privileged to hear both the first recording and the final master of that track, so I know how beautiful and pure Peter’s voice sounds even when it has been untampered. I couldn’t wait to hear him perform live the songs he had written to incorporate Picasso’s poetry. I wasn’t alone.

An impressive bunch of 80’s artists had gathered for the former Lotus Eaters’ contribution to the evening, including Brian Nash (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), David Ball (Soft Cell) and Nick Van Eede (Cutting Crew). A short time into Peter’s performance, I saw him glance over and smile at the person who had just stood come and next to me, Holly Johnson.

I don’t know if I can do justice in describing not only what I heard but saw, as an exquisitely delightful interpretation of the work of one of Spain’s greatest exports was delivered by one of Liverpool’s finest. Sublime. Immersive. Emotive. All of the above, yet so much more.

At some point in the future, I believe footage from Peter’s performance will be available via his website. In the meantime, here is a recording I took of him during soundcheck earlier in the day. Enjoy…

 

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Memory Chips

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One of the things I looked forward to at primary school was when the latest Chip Book Club magazine was given out. I loved browsing through the pages, seeing the latest titles on offer, then eagerly awaiting the arrival of my book of choice. Although the Puffin book club brought me delights such as Meg’s Eggs, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Owl Who Was Afraid of The Dark, and Mrs Pepperpot’s Outing, it was the offerings from Chip which I preferred. None more so than the Chip Club Diary.

A few weeks ago, I found my diaries from 1980 and 1981. Although I hadn’t written much in them on a daily basis, I had completed the information pages in the front of the books, which I thought I’d share with you. Remember, I was only 9 years old in 1980!

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As much as I would like to believe that I’ve evolved since I was in single figures, gypsy tart is still one of my favourite foods, I still support Liverpool (although I’m no longer confused by having blue and white as my favourite colours), and my favourite animal is still a cat. I’d probably still have a chuckle at The Benny Hill Show too if I’m honest!

My tastes had not really changed much the following year, although Elvis had replaced John Travolta as my favourite film star. I think that may have been due to his films being played throughout the summer holidays. Also, Mum is a huge fan of The King so my sub-conscience was probably being influenced by overexposure to his music.

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One of the entries I find interesting is my favourite film. Cactus Jack was a short film starring Kirk Douglas as a cowboy. In the days when going to the pictures involved seeing such a film before the main screening, I had watched it on a family trip to the cinema. I can’t remember what main film we had gone to see, but this spoof Western remains firmly ingrained in my memory.

The 1981 Chip Club Diary contained an additional section I had completed. Now, although my shoe size hasn’t changed since I was 10 years old, I think I may have a modicum of modesty more than I did at that age (see Special Features and Good Points/Bad Points).

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I think my artistic talents may have developed a tad more too!

 

A Passing Memory?

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I heard the news that fateful afternoon.

Momentarily,

My world came to a halt.

Those with no one to love, to hold, to lose,

Looked only for who was at fault.

The scenes of horror soaked my fearful mind.

None of the tears I cried that day

Could wring out what I saw.

Terror, death and terror

Will remain forever more.

Fears increased.

The need to know.

My call connected. But what to say?

“Had he been there? Please say ‘No’.

Only I’m sure I saw him in the crowd.

No? Oh, Thank God!”

A tide of warmth envelopes me.

Nothing more is heard.

Replacing the receiver, I laugh then cry.

How absurd!

Overwhelmed by ecstatic relief,

I return to watch the reports.

Realisation that many aren’t to be so lucky,

And my happiness retorts.

Kept alive by the slightest chance,

(He couldn’t afford the ticket)

My friend remains in body and soul,

While others just in spirit.

What of those others and those they leave behind?

Beautiful children, budding adults, young and old,

But all were of one mind:

To give support to their team, the reds.

How were they to know

That day they’d meet their deaths?

But how soon will you forget their loss?

Leaving the mourning to those who care,

To those the dead saw as ‘their own’.

Leaving them to show those innocents

                       “You’ll never walk alone.”

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I wrote the above poem in April 1989, a few days after the tragedy at Hillsborough. An LFC fan since I was six, thanks to my Nan, I had watched in horror as events unfolded on TV that afternoon. This soon turned to blind panic, when I became convinced I’d seen my friend John in the crush. He lived in Warrington, and regularly  attended Liverpool’s matches. Thankfully, I eventually discovered he hadn’t been able to afford to go to that Saturday’s game.

I stumbled upon my poem, now somewhat battered with age, during a declutter the day after the BBC’s documentary on Hillsborough aired. It made reading something I hadn’t seen for over 25 years all the more poignant. As always, thoughts are with those we lost on  15th April 1989, their families, friends and loved ones.

You’ll Never Walk Alone.

 

I Just Can’t Wait ‘Til Saturday

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With only a couple of days to go until ‘Your Eighties’ is published, and everything organised for the launch party, the excitement has started to kick in. As much as I’m looking forward to my book being unleashed on the public, I can’t wait to see my party guests. Friends old and new are making their way to east Kent, to join me in the celebrations.

Travelling down from the north west are my Scouse friends, who I first met in 1986. Anyone remember the penpal section in Smash Hits magazine? Well, my details appeared in an issue of the magazine earlier that year. I was inundated with replies from all over the world, and ended up with penpals in a number of countries, including Japan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Italy and France. However, My Favourite Waste of Time (we had been corresponding for a couple of months when the Owen Paul track was released) was a lad from Warrington, called John. We would usually reply the same  day we received a letter, so by the time we finally got to meet, just after Christmas ’86, we were old friends.

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L-R: John, Me and Wayne

John arrived with three of his mates, Wayne, Terry and Tommy in a Nissan Sunny driven by Wayne, the only one of the four old enough to drive. It was the first of many meetings which would see us together during the Eighties. Along with their visits to Kent were my visits north, the first of which was with my friend Kate, and involved us travelling on a National Express coach, and Wayne huffing and stamping his feet when we finally arrived over an hour late! These were the days before mobile ‘phones, and we had no way of letting him know we were held up in traffic. By the time 1989 arrived, I was the proud owner of an Austin Allegro, and we drove to see our northern friends. After a fantastic time, which saw us on the ferry ‘cross the Mersey, being given the lads’ guided tour of Toxteth (!), and hanging out with Kirsty from Brookside at a house party, we made the drive home. Thanks to mechanical problems with my prized piece of British engineering, it was an arduous 9 hour journey on a scorching hot summer’s day. That didn’t put us off returning though.

During other visits, we went to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the Brookside set (although unlike ‘normal’ sightseers, we accessed it by climbing through the adjoining woods!), and West Kirby beach to do handbrake turns in Terry’s black Manta! Although we have stayed in touch, I haven’t seen Wayne since 1996, and John and Terry a few years before that. So, the fact that the three of them are coming to the launch party, along with all my other fabulous guests, puts a huge smile on my face. Roll on Saturday!

Hillsborough Remembered…

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Whilst I have a lot of happy memories of the Eighties, today marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most tragic events, and the saddest memory I have of the decade. Few will have failed to notice that it was 25 years ago today that 96 fans of Liverpool F.C. lost their lives at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium. For those of us who remember that fateful Saturday, our compassion and sympathy seem inadequately hollow, alongside the pain still felt by those haunted by memories of that day. Speaking to the BBC today, Bruce Grobbelaar recalls “It all happened right behind my goal. I can see those images today, if I think about it. They will never leave. It doesn’t get removed from your mind. I will never forget.” Perhaps those who have continued to spout vile comments, based on lies, online today should listen to those who were actually there.

Despite being born and bred in Kent, I have been a Liverpool supporter for as long as I can remember, probably due to my Nan, who was also an ardent fan. In 1986, thanks to Smash Hits magazine, I gained a Scouse penfriend, John. He came to visit me at the end of that year, along with a few of his friends. It was the first of many meetings between us, both down south (or France, as they refer to Kent!) and up north (I can remember the first time we took the ferry ‘cross the Mersey like it was yesterday) and the beginning of a number of friendships that have stood the test of time. As with all good friendships, they became part of the family – my Nan was never happier than in the company of her “Liverpool Lads”. It has continued through the generations too, as Wayne (the only one old enough to drive on that initial visit) is godfather to my son.

Both Wayne and John would regularly attend Liverpool’s matches, so when news of the disaster broke on 15th April 1989, I was desperate to know they were safe. These were the days before social media provided a second by second commentary on the world, and I sat glued to the television screen, in a state of disbelief at the scenes we were being shown. At one point, the camera honed in on part of the crowd being crushed against the fence. I was convinced I had seen John in that crowd. I have no coherent memory of the day after that, and cannot recall how I came to discover that neither Wayne nor John had been at the match. It’s not something I’ve ever felt the need to probe – just knowing they were safe was enough.

The family and friends of those who died that day were not as fortunate, and it is with them that my thoughts are today, as they are every time I hear  “You’ll Never Walk Alone” being sung. Let us hope that the current inquest, being held in Warrington, will eventually show the world the truth about the tragedy, and there will finally be Justice For The 96.