Tuesday, 8 October 2013


Ok, now that may look like a bit of an unexpected title for a blog such as this, but after my experience at the Ilkley Literature Festival the other day I can see there may be some similarities between the persona created by the poet in his writings and that of a certain male Rubberfish character.

 I was invited to be part of a group 6 people performing a celebration of the works of John Betjeman by local author Alan Hall, who had put together a selection of poetry and prose with a lively commentary giving a picture of Betjeman's life, career and fascination with the English way of life. It was his personal life and adoration of amazon-esque sporty women that took my interest, especially when I read the wonderfully romantic and nonetheless humorous poem "The Liquorice Fields at Pontefract", which I felt had Swat like connotations:

 "Her sulky lips were shaped for sin, 
 Her sturdy legs were flannel-slack'd 
 The strongest legs in Pontefract." 

 Alan's commentary described the character in this and other poems as being "a rather feeble male narrator gazing with admiration at a strong and capable young woman, or being outplayed and outshone by an athletic amazon – happy to be dominated by her", and went on to point out that this theme of "jolly hockeysticks girl who dominates the rather ineffectual male narrator" is repeated across other poems that we may wonder that that this is indeed the true voice of Betjeman. Both 'Pot Pourri from a Surrey Garden" and "A Subaltern’s Love Song" feature forceful almost amazonian characters, and the 'The Olympic Girl' with its lines:

"The sort of girl I like to see 
Smiles down from her great height at me. 
She stands in strong athletic pose..."

could be a description of Ms Swat. I felt I may have been channeling her when I got to read 'The Liquorice Fields'.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Mermaids all in a Row Row Oh

Had an exhausting but exhilarating ride on the learning curve for this performance experience. I was approached as a performer to take part in the 'Million Dollar Mermaid' project by Yorkshire Life Aquatic. Put together by Choreographer Zoe Parker and Performer Lucy Meredith the project intermingled  personal histories of swimming and body issues with poses of swimming star Esther Williams, synchronised swimming all injected with characters and humour to produce pieces that could be adapted to interact with water features. We were in residence at Barnsley Civic for a week that culminated in a Mermaid Gala and then went on to Bramley Baths to do the same, but actually incorporating work in the swimming pool.

There's much more to add about this but I wanted to put some links to images by the extraordinary Lizzie Coombes first and then add more text later.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

"The Little Jesus Girl"

The selection of Slides from the IP Production of Martin McDonagh's "The Pillowman"

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Dressing for Pleasure

I'd heard about this film but never seen it, and oh how it sums up "The Age of Atomage" gentle and polite people sharing their love of rubber, I can quite see how I got to Ms Swat from there. Also the original Jordan (with real bosoms) puts in an Appearance, and her title was I believe Punk Princess, maybe a tad more confrontational than the rest of the participants, but what a time that was, when British Rail (ooer) would let someone travel First Class because of their unconventional dress! Unfortunately the Vimeo movie I originally linked to has disappeared, if I can find the whole movie again I will link accordingly, at this time however all I can bring you is this lovely taster. Thank you very much to Mr Robin for pointing out this gem in the first place, and for Dangerous Minds for directing us to Vimeo and through his piece on the work of the director John Samson. I thought the quote from the LIDF website summed up his approach to his subject matter very well: "Samson was an extremely compassionate filmmaker who never sought to exploit his unusual subjects. Instead he would immerse himself in their strange worlds; his keen eye teasing out motivations while never lacking a dry yet gentle good humour".

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Les Girls

Not the neatest of painting, you'll agree, I will have to try a smaller paintbrush, and my hands may not be as sure as they used to be, but once I started a felt the call of "The Makings" stirring deep inside me. I think they are too small to film really, if they have to make any sudden moves. I could see if there are bigger pegs available - or use wooden spoons...! or maybe I should hark back to the rag doll I made for a friend (it was a Mag Doll as her name is Magda - gro-o-oan, I'm amazed that it was such a poor joke that spurred me onto such a long winded project... see below!) I also now have the urge to do a Swat Peg - or a So Peg!
Anyway, these Babes, should be dressed, we'll see what happens. Meantime I'm still looking for a cast for our "Pillowman" fairy-tales.

Looked through my pictures of the aforementioned Mag Doll and found a picture I took as I was putting the finishing touches to her. Oh lordy does this mean I have to make another rag doll - or several!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Pillowman Project Starteth

Will be starting rehearsals for our production of Martin McDonagh's "The Pillowman" at the end of December (our run is Febuary 6th to 11th 2012) and have been cogitating our "style set". I'd already designed some posters (I will have to have the full set done by the beginning of December for the publication of the semi-annual programme for the IP, so I was getting in there early), and it was only after some talking with my co-director that I realised we could go down the "Wizard of Oz colour explosion shattering the interrogation grey with an exuberance of odd and maybe slightly disturbing toys" route rather than the "black and white Carl Dreyer meets Watch with Mother" route or even the "animated scratchy pen and ink doodles" route which I had been toying with.... animation would have been nice, but will take longer than I can afford at the moment...

anyway, we need a "cast" for our projection, I've put a call out to various friends and I had a thought as I was going to sleep last night - I'd been thinking of fairy tales, lace cushions and bobbins (erm???) and suddenly I remembered Dolly Pegs.

Unfortunately much smaller than I remembered, and the ladies in Mortens (hardware store) concurred. Painting a face on one of these babes reminds me of the buttons I used to paint with my old partner in music, David but I will have to revisit with another set of pictures later. It's going to be fiddly to say the least.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Holly and Ivy

A long time ago, I worked for a lady making carpet bags ( I would like to say it was in a garret with no heating and she beat me if I didn't sew fast enough - but sadly it was Jimmy Young on the radio, all the tea you could want and lunch was included - very nice). Anyway, her husband, who was a writer and journalist, liked my cartoons and it was his idea to do a Christmas themed book inspired by my sense of humour and his lapsed Catholicism, so "Little Ellen Angel's Bumper Book of Bondage, Blasphemy and Bestiality" started to take shape - now I have to add the title was his idea and the contents may have not exactly lived up to the title (honest), but he did actually take it to his publisher! Gee, I wish I'd been there, but said publisher said he was awash with Dead Cats at the moment... and I don't blame him for using that excuse.
However I did put a hell of a lot of work into this and ended up with a whole load of cartoons that have sat in a box for years and years, and some of these have formed the basis of Rubberfish characters. These two appeared several times in the 'book' and were called Holly and Ivy, who got up to lots of general Yuletide naughtiness and are definitely the inspiration for Ms Swat.