A Letter To You …

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In the days before social media made it possible to be in constant contact with friends and family, ISmash Hits Five Star cover 230486 used to keep in touch with people the old school way … writing. A prolific letter writer since I was in single figures, when I would regularly correspond with my great, great aunt in Eastbourne, I was delighted when my penpal profile appeared in an issue of Smash Hits.

I was 15 years old when my request for a penfriend was published in the magazine in April 1986. Within days I was inundated with replies, which resulted in me having penpals in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Alaska and all over the UK, and school friends replying to some of the remaining hundreds of letters.

I continued to write to a number of my Smash Hits buddies for several years, writing at least one letter every SHday, and some went on to become very good friends in reality, not just on paper. In fact, my son’s Scouse godfather is one of those friends I met because of this listing. Who would have thought it back then? Over thirty years of friendship due to a few lines in a magazine.

Now, like many people, we use Facebook rather than letters to keep in touch across the miles and, although a nostalgic part of me misses the excitement of a letter dropping through the letterbox, I cannot deny the advantages of our online updates. Social Media has also been responsible for bringing some wonderful new friends into my life, and had it not been for a friend and fellow 80s fan I met via Twitter, I would not have the images included in this post. I can’t imagine how our communications will develop over the next three decades. I doubt very much that today’s teenagers will look back on Snapchat messages with the same fondness I feel when I look at the shoeboxes full of letters I have kept, and I am certain none of them will be sending rhymes like “Postman, postman don’t be slow. Be like Elvis, go man go!”, which I recently discovered on the envelope of one of those letters.

Whatever the future holds, nothing will ever top my 80’s letter-writing days and the memories they made. Maybe I will even get around to publishing the letters one day.

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Our Fabulous Friend, Cat Dodsworth

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In a fast-paced world where time is precious, social media can become a means of distantly keeping track of friends at the cost of real interaction. However, what is often overlooked are the real friendships created via social media, through a shared interest. If ever proof was needed, look no further than the regular listeners to Absolute 80s Radio’s Forgotten 80s show on a Sunday evening. Hosted by Matthew Rudd, and broadcast between 7 – 9pm, Forgotten 80s boasts a large following on both Facebook and Twitter, the latter being my choice of communication with fellow fans of 80’s music.

Last October, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the Forgotten 80s Twitterati, thanks to a ‘Tweet Up’ held in Birmingham. The event was organised by long-term fan of the show and prolific tweeter on everything 80s, Cat Dodsworth. As the organiser of the event, Cat was the only person who knew I had invited Musical Youth’s Dennis Seaton to pay the group a surprise visit. In the run up to the gathering, I would receive regular email updates from her, which were always accompanied by excited assurances that she hadn’t told a soul about our secret surprise. By the time the big day arrived, and I met her in person for the first time, she was almost giddy at the prospect of meeting Dennis, and having him sign the Musical Youth page in a 80’s sticker book she had kept for over thirty years. I think her beaming smile in the photo below shows exactly how happy she was when that moment arrived.

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It is a smile that I and many others are currently thinking about with affectionate sadness, as we struggle to come to terms with the almost incomprehensible news that Cat unexpectedly passed away in her sleep earlier this week.

In remembering her, it is Cat’s irrepressible exuberance and vibrancy which are foremost in my thoughts. A rare light, CaCRBmIkGW8AAv75m (2)t was completely without agenda, and touched many lives with her genuine warmth, openness and enthusiasm, even when things didn’t quite go to plan. During our Birmingham tweet up, Cat became separated from the rest of the group, later that evening, when she went to the wrong Reflex bar. A series of hilarious ‘phone calls, worthy of a sitcom, and a taxi journey across the city later, our Stray Cat finally joined us, laughing as she relayed her little adventure, and then insisting we all go and dance on the revolving dance floor. We didn’t need much persuading, and ended up sharing a fantastic evening filled with fun, laughter and dodgy 80’s dance moves – everything I have come to love about our Forgotten 80s family.

After last week’s broadcast, Cat announced that she intended to wear her “glittery frock” this coming Sunday, to celebrate show 150 of Forgotten 80s. With this in mind, Cat’s fellow Twitterati will be donning our sparkliest outfits as we tune in to this week’s show, and tweeting selfies from 7pm,  u940809_10153723699195664_3704850469538810458_nsing the hashtag #Forgotten80s. We would love you to join us as we remember a very special lady, listen to some of the decade’s best music, and raise a glass or two to our dear friend.

Rest well, Cat xx

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Cat had planned to run in the Great Manchester Marathon on 10th April, to raise funds for the charity MIND. Donations can be made via her fundraising page.

 

 

 

Forgotten 80s Twitterati On Tour

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There can be few people today who are totally oblivious to social media, but I wonder how many realise how far-reaching it can be. Last Saturday proved the power of the hashtag, when listeners to Absolute 80s’ Sunday night show, Forgotten 80s, descended upon Birmingham for a “Tweet Up”. Hosted by Matthew Rudd, the radio show boasts a generous following on both Facebook and Twitter, who comment on the show throughout its broadcast. As one of the show’s loyal Twitterati, I could not wait to meet some of those I had been tweeting for the past 18 months.

Walking into the venue, where some of my fellow 80’s fanatics were already gathered, was a somewhat surreal experience as I discovered what my cyber pals looked like in real life (a number of them do not use their photo as their profile picture). Whilst trying to get my brain to register the face to the name, I was also trying to stop my mouth from blurting out their Twitter handle – you have no idea how many times I had to stop myself from calling Jamie “Gin Soaked Boy” in the first hour or so! Thanks to Jamie’s “Getting to Know You” icebreaker quiz, it was not long before we began to feel like old friends, as we revealed what we hated (nothing) and loved (almost everything) about the decade, the best party we went to in the Eighties (Pernod and Black seemed to be a recurring theme), and what it means to have a request played on Forgotten 80s. I will mention no names, but a response which was met with much empathy was “It’s my world”. No pressure on Mr. Rudd for our mental welfare and future happiness then.

Proving that we are not totally inept when it comes to using technology, although I have to confess to being the first of many who accidentally pressed a button which made the ‘phone screen go blank, we engaged in a Skype conversation with Claire (@Glavlar) during the quiz. Bryony’s mobile was passed from one to another as we answered various questions, and chatted with Claire, whose accent apparently wasn’t as Welsh as expected. Although that did not stop there being a little “Flirtify” moment, when Graham complimented Claire on her specs: “Hmmm, those are nice glasses.” Smooth!

Half way through the afternoon we were treated to a visit from Brummie singer Dennis Seaton of Musical Youth. Dennis had agreed to pop in to meet us 80’s fans on his way to a gig that evening, but Cat, who had organised the Tweetup, was the only other person who know he was going to drop by.

L-R: Cat (@dunollie_cat), Sang (@mango_24), Stephen (@sjp040565), Dennis Seaton, Alan (@alanread80), Me, Graham (@AlfieBywater), Bryony (@BryonyEvens), Jeff (@Ellibin), Jamie (@GinSoakedBoy), Fran (@Frangipani)

L-R: Cat (@dunollie_cat), Sang (@mango_24), Stephen (@sjp040565), Dennis Seaton, Alan (@alanread80), Me, Graham (@AlfieBywater), Bryony (@BryonyEvens), Jeff (@Ellibin), Jamie (@GinSoakedBoy), Fran (@Frangipani) Also present but not pictured: Stuart (@silver_fox24), Allie (@Allie_lufc) and Sharon (@ShazSim21)

I think it is safe to say that everyone was surprised, if not shocked, by his appearance but soon made him welcome, chatting and having photos taken. Although we had no apple pie to offer him, his arrival was shortly followed a veritable feast of goodies to soak up the gin that seemed to be flowing a bit too freely. At least, I shall use gin as my excuse for my poor performance in Alan’s extremely difficult 80’s quiz. That and the fact I was in the presence of some incredible music brains, such as the winners Jamie and Allie. Usually one of the geekiest people I know, when it comes to 80’s music, I was relatively average in this collective. As Cat later commented, it was “a bit like being the cleverest at your school, then getting to Uni and finding out everyone else is actually cleverer than you.”

I was able to put in a better effort on the next quiz, which involved us splitting into two groups. I had my music twin and fact-meister Alan Read in my team, which could only be a good thing. Prepared by Stephen, this test of musical knowledge involved us listing as many 80’s songs we could think of, which featured girls’ names in the title. Not as easy as it seems, when there were in excess of sixty tracks for us to find. And, I still think we should have been allowed to have “Sussudio”. After all, the lyrics are “there’s a girl that’s been on my mind…Su-su-sudio”! Stephen did not set a time limit for us, which saw us only finishing our lists shortly before the end of our room hire, lest we waste any valuable time, and then rushing quickly through the answers. Competitive? Obsessive? Not the Forgotten 80s Twitterati – never!

At this point in the evening, our group split into two: those who made their way back home having had a lovely time, but knowing when enough is enough, and the rest of us. For those of us unwilling to give in to our sensible, hangover-avoiding side, the next destination was the Reflex Bar on Broad Street. I state its location because, despite being able to organise a group of strangers meeting up from across the country, Cat was unable to organise getting herself to the correct Reflex Bar, instead ending up at one a taxi ride away from where the rest of our group had gone. However, my own journey to the bar was not without its own blips.

Jeff and I had entrusted Graham, a local (I hesitate to use the word “Brummie” for fear of incurring his wrath) to lead us in the right direction. Which he did…eventually. Having taken a trip to the far end of Broad Street before Graham realised either a) The Reflex had disappeared or b) we had walked the wrong way along the road, we established it was the latter after talking to one of the many bouncers standing guard outside another of the neon-adorned establishments. Finally, all the clubbing gang were together and, despite some initial reservations about the venue (could our forty something year old ears cope with the decibel onslaught?), we soon found ourselves on the revolving dancefloor, busting a few moves to the likes of Wham! and Madness.

On the revolving dancefloor at The Reflex club.

On the revolving dancefloor at The Reflex club.

As you might expect from a group of people who were brought together by Twitter, our meeting was well documented via tweets throughout the day and evening. Despite being unable to make the Tweet Up, one of our Twitterati, Terri (@xmorpheus) put together a Forgotten 80s Club Storify, which uses our tweets to detail the events from the day, right through to the end of the evening when only the hardcore three (Jamie, Cat and Graham) were left standing, well stumbling is probably a more accurate description. It is a fantastic account of a truly amazing day, one we plan to repeat at the next Tweet Up, when we hope even more Twitterati will join us.

To anyone who has yet to enjoy Forgotten 80s, tune in to Absolute 80s radio between 7pm and 9pm on Sunday evenings. We’ll be listening too, as well as tweeting on #forgotten80s. We are a friendly, welcoming bunch, and that Matthew Rudd’s not bad either, especially when he makes our day/week/life by playing our requests.

See you on Sunday…

Too Good To Be Forgotten 80s

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Some people may not look forward to Sunday evening, knowing that the start to the working week is not far away. For me, 7 o’clock on a Sunday evening is the start of two hours of music from my favourite decade, accompanied by online conversations with some of the loveliest 80s enthusiasts you could ever hope to encounter. I am referring to Matthew Rudd’s “Forgotten 80s” show on Absolute 80s, which is also repeated on Thursdays from 9 to 11pm.

During the show, fellow 80s enthusiasts communicate via Absolute 80s’ Facebook page, and/or on Twitter, under the hashtag #forgotten80s. Despite Mr. Rudd’s observation that some people do use both platforms, I believe the majority of listeners choose one or the other. This was evident a few weeks ago, when he mentioned how welcoming the Facebook listeners were, but neglected to mention us Tweeps in a similar vein. Suddenly, my Twitter feed was full of comments from the Forgotten 80s Twitterati, protesting at Matthew’s lack of acknowledgement for his loyal tweeters. One notable comment likened the Tweeps to Grange Hill pupils, and those using Facebook to Rodney Bennett! Having never used Facebook during the show, I can’t comment on the second half of that statement, but given the range of characters of my fellow Tweeps, I reckon the Grange Hill tag is pretty accurate, and one which we should wear with pride. We have that same sense of camaraderie and banter, there is lots of fun, and everyone has an opinion (and isn’t afraid to share it!).

Of course, you can always listen to the show without any social media interaction, as I did when I first started listening. However, I wouldn’t be without Twitter now, when tuning in. There is nothing quite like sharing memories and trivia with other fans of the decade that subtlety forgot, inspired by a fantastic soundtrack of the era. Even when the music isn’t to my taste (Karel Fialka’s “Hey Matthew” springs to mind), it is still a vibrant blast from the past, which I wholeheartedly embrace. So, come join us and, as Wham! once sang “let me take you to the place where membership’s a smiling face” 🙂