Monday, 2 July 2012

This is the one I've waited for


I'm 15 years old and I have to make a decision. I can overcome my shyness and fear and walk up to one of my biggest heroes and ask for an autograph or I can stay hidden in the car and miss the chance of a lifetime. It's August 1997. Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales, has just died with the unpleasant effect that Primal Scream had to cancel their gig at the Manchester Appolo (I remember Bobby Gillespie describing Lady Di to be 'as Welsh as a kebab' back then). Me and my parents are forced to rearrange our UK holiday to come back a week later for the rescheduled date. Or to be more precise, I throw a teenage tantrum and force my parents to return with me to Manchester a week later. 
The Primals were extraordinary that night and I was over the moon to see my favourite bassist of all time live. When the groundbreaking Primal Scream single Kowalski came out in 1997 I considered switching from playing guitar to bass. It's a monster of a song, driven by one of the meanest bass-lines ever. No one plays the four-stringed instrument as melodious and as groovy as the man Mani. And no one has mates like he has as I found out when I finally made my way up to him (proudly wearing my Stone Roses T-shirt). Mani was standing outside the Apollo before the gig, having a fag and a laugh with his friends. One of them, a bloke who told me an interesting story of his life in a Munich prison, later tried to sell a stolen bicycle to my dad. He polity declined the offer.

Mani was brilliant to me when I asked for his autograph. He started to chat to me animatedly, being his usual enthusiastic self, and I immediately lost all my fears. I was talking to a really kind and genuine bloke. What on earth had I been afraid of? Mani scribbled down his name on my concert ticket, and a smiley. Then I chatted to his ex-convict mate for a little while and then I said goodbye. It had been one of the most important moments in my life. I learned that I was able to overcome my fears- if I really wanted to.

As a teenager the prospect of seeing the Roses live one day seemed as likely as a trip to the moon. My timing had been really shit. I got into them exactly at the time they split up in 1996. The first issue of the Melody Maker I ever bought run the cover story of that disastrous Reading performance. I discovered The Stone Roses because they had influenced my favourite band OASIS. I learned that Rock'n'Roll history is like a massive family tree. One band can't exist without the other. The Stone Roses gave birth to OASIS when Liam stood in front of the stage at one of their gigs, mesmerised by Ian Brown and deciding there and then what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

It's 1999 and I travel throughout the UK with my friends. In Manchester I discover a graffiti on a brick wall - 'Reni lives' it says. I take a photo and hope it's true. At that point there was no way of knowing really.

By the end of the 1990's Ian Brown had established himself as a successful solo artist, John Squire had recorded an album with his new band The Seahorses and Mani had become a permanent member of Primal Scream. But no one knew what had become of the magnificent Reni who seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth. In short - a Stone Roses reunion was as likely as Mario Balotelli having a sensible haircut.

and back in the day
The Stone Roses now

'I've got four tickets for the Roses!' I shout. I'm on the phone to my mate Christian, a massive fan who's been lucky enough to have seen them live during the Second Coming tour. Somehow I managed to get four tickets for the live concert event of the year - 3 days in a row at Manchester's Heaton Park, 250 000 tickets sold in 60 minutes and four of them are mine! I'm ecstatic. I can't believe that I will see one of my favourite bands live after 15 years of believing that I never would. A band who has shaped my attitude towards life in such a fundamental way only comparable to the influence OASIS had on me: Love life, love yourself and follow the only golden rule there is: be yourself. I can't believe my luck and I'm already counting the days. It's October 2011 and I'm about to turn 30. The ticket is the best birthday present I could have asked for.

Many people claim that this band has changed their lives. Would I ask the ravers, indie kids, mods, rockers or whatever who surround me 7 months later in a muddy field on the outskirts of Manchester, I'm sure they would agree. The Stone Roses made me understand that expressing oneself creatively was not a choice but something I had to do. The result is a feeling of deep gratefulness towards the four tiny figures on the collosal stage in the distance. As I look around, I see the same feeling reflected on hundreds of smiling faces.

The reviews that you will read of Heaton Park will be full of praise, positive and enthusiastic. And yet you will come across some cynical and destructive remarks by people working for the Guardian, the Independent or the BBC, who state that the Heaton Park gigs 'were an experiment...people indulging in a mass event and not a concert...the band had only one great album (bollocks!!!)' calling them 'conservative' (WTF???) and who overanalyse Ian Brown's vocal abilities. Here's a message to all the Brown haters out there- you wanna hear technically perfect singing? There's a few TV programmes you'll love then- they're called X- Factor and The Voice. Enjoy! In my opinion, those critics lose the moment they start to intellectualise those concerts or the band. If the music does not resonate in your heart and soul, there is nothing your brain will make you realise. I laugh because after all those years those people have called this band 'overrated', the Roses are now pissing all over them. Sometimes there's justice in life after all.

The word that comes to my mind after only a few songs into the set is 'triumph'. I'm not at all surprised to see it being used in many reviews the next day. Of course there will always be journalists who will never appreciate the Roses for what they were and are. Unfortunately this is exactly what happens in Germany, an ignorant country when it comes to recognising great music. Germany has missed The Stone Roses the first time around in the 1980's, and will probably do so again.

At Heaton Park
The sun comes out just as the Roses come on

We arrive at the site just as The Wailors come on and I'm blown away by how good the sound is. The Wailors and Primal Scream are both brilliant and set the mood for what is about to hit us. You couldn't have picked worthier bands to play just before the Roses.

The atmosphere at Heaton Park is brilliant.The rain that was forecast hasn't happened and everyone's beaming. A girl not far from me collapses but the people next to her help her up immediately. Later during the concert Ian Brown tells us 'When people go down, pick them up. When someone goes down we pick them up.' I somehow feel he's not just on about people who faint or had too much to drink.

So, life is good, apart from the hour long queues in front of the bars and the loos (the connection between the two is easily made). By the time Primal Scream come on, I'm a bit thirsty. I'm grateful when a few kind blokes give me a pint of Fosters which I in return share with my friends. A mate later tells us how some Scousers at the front were freely sharing their coke. And they say charity is dead in our society.
The next morning, the Scottish couple that is also staying ay my B'n'B tells me how they queued up for 90 minutes at the bar before the staff gave up and abandoned it. 'Help yourself' they told everyone. This explains why suddenly I saw loads of people carrying 5 Foster bottles in each hand, two in their trouser pockets, two in their jacket pockets...

Ian Brown and Mani on stage, Heaton Park 29.6.2012. Concert photos taken from

I Wanna Be Adored is the first song and we all knew it would be. People are not just singing along to Ian's words, but they sing Mani's bass lines, Reni's drum patterns and John's guitar riffs. It's like every single tone this band has ever recorded is ingrained in people's consciousness. The four band members were teenagers when Punk happened and its free spirited attitude is reflected in their music. There is no other band on this planet where four so totally dominant individuals manage to give one another that much freedom and room in the music they are creating together.


Mersey Paradise is a blast and the crowd manages to get even more mental as it already is during Song For My (Sugar Spun Sister). Ian Brown shines as he gives heartfelt renditions of Sally Cinnamon, Where Angels Play and Shoot You Down. His voice is nearly tender and it feels like the sky has come closer and if you reach up you could touch the clouds. We're now flying and the heartbreakingly beautiful tune that is Bye Bye Badman is keeping us up in the air.

John Squire

By the time the much loved intro of Ten Storey Love Song kicks in, I not only know that this is the best gig I've ever been to, but I'm also painfully aware that I'll never experience such a great concert again. Standing Here I always loved dearly due to its wonderful guitar sound. No one switches as effortlessly and freely between chords, riffs, melody and some other stuff I don't have words for like my guitar hero John Squire. I'm in awe. 'I really don't think you could know that I'm in heaven when you smile' Ian Brown is singing. Everyone around me is smiling. I'm laughing because it's nearly ridicules how fucking good this concert is.

Fools Gold is the most amazing live performance by a band I've ever heard. Reni plays the drums like Maradona used to play football- effortlessly, waywardly and uniquelly. He looks like a sheik with his new headgear and I doubt it'll catch on like the bucket hats did. I phone my dad (like I always do during great gigs) to share this incredible moment. He later tells me that the song sounded fantastic over the phone. Some have said there have been sound problems on the first night, but not where I stood. In actual fact it was nearly perfect and I have never experienced such a good sound at an open air concert, or indeed in an arena or a club.

'My legs are old but my heart is young' the gentleman next to me tells me half way through the set, he's probably in his 50's. He makes friends with a man of the same age next to him, they are both in pure ecstasy about what we are experiencing. This music is timeless and the Roses are not a band one likes, but one loves. Something's Burning is as cool as Antarctica and Waterfall proves it is the Roses' very own 'Wonderwall'. Even the mute sing along. During Don't Stop I'm wishing the night would never end. Love Spreads is as sharp as a razor-blade before Made Of Stone's heartbreaking melancholy is only bearable because we're not listening to it on our own.

Before This Is The One Ian Brown is asking us 'Who's from Manchester?' I lie and shout 'Me'! The song doesn't bring the first tear of the night to my eyes. Then the old guy next to me makes me laugh with a dismissive comment about ManU. She Bangs The Drums is pure joy as we all are finally able to sing at the top of our lungs 'Kiss me where the sun don't shine, the past was yours but the future's mine, you're all out of time.' I can see Brownie singing this song when he's 90 and it will still make sense. Then his sharp critique of the Royal family before the poignant Elizabeth My Dear reminds us that outside the gates of Heaton Park an unjust and complex world is awaiting us.

Of course there is only one song that can come last. Dam dam dadada dam dam, dadada dam dam Mani's bass goes. We all play air bass. And air drums. And air guitar of course. After the song I turn around and through my blurry eyes I notice a man, probably in his late 40's. He is holding on to his woman, tears in his eyes. I'm The Resurrection sums up everything this night has been – it's glorious, beautiful and immortal. At the end the band hugs and bows. They linger a little longer on the stage as the black night sky is lit up by a lovely firework to the sound of Bob Marley's Redemption Song. It's time to go home.

And so we start walking. Tens of thousands of us. Transport has been a nightmare, getting to Heaton Park had been an adventure in itself and so will be the way back. There's simply not enough trams, buses or taxis to take the 75 000 of us back to the city centre. I suddenly feel how badly my feet are hurting after a very long day and I know I have a four mile track ahead of me back to Manchester. A Scouser asks me where one could have a few drinks around here - we're in the Jewish area of Manchester and watering holes are as rare as they are in the Sahara. But no one is complaining, I don't hear a bad word being uttered. We're all far too happy. We're pilgrims on our way back from Mecca and the lights of the city in the distance promise us food, drink and soft beds. We walk on the main road, hundreds of taxis rush past us that were never meant to stop. I pass an abandoned white Ferrari in the middle of the road and feel tempted to knick it. My feet are hurting badly. But then I see the coppers car nearby and remember Fools Gold - 'These boots are made for walking...' I trot on. A mate later tells me that he saw the white Ferrari driving up and down Manchester during the day. 'Maybe someone knicked it from Browny while he's busy' he jokes. After about three miles I finally manage to stop a cab and get back to the B'n'B - hours before the Scottish couple who ended up having to walk all the way back to the centre.

When Germany loses against Italy in the Euros on the evening before the gig my mate Christian tells me 'It could be worse- you could be seeing Steps tomorrow'. Wiser words have never been spoken. I will not think of the football again during the rest of my stay in Manchester- what means so much to me, alongside the usual fears and worries, became irrelevant in the light of what was happening.

The Heaton Park concerts are a triumph for the audience, a triumph for Manchester, a triumph for British music but most importantly, they are a triumph for The Stone Roses. 
Don't stop!

What's Going On

> My company Live Forever Productions now has a Vimeo channel. Check it out!!!

> Live Forever Productions will film a short documentary about London suburb Teddington during the Olympic cycle race at the end of July- in conjunction with Teddington Business Community and community music project Orquesta Sin Fronteras. It will be busy and it will be fun! Maybe I should do what some residents in Manchester did after the concert- set up a grill outside my house and sell burgers to the crowd?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Up in the Clouds

I just started this new part-time job, doing social media moderating, that made me look at the internet with fresh eyes. I'm getting paid for being online and that's pretty cool. Because I like being online. And 'being' is the right word, isn't it? You just don't simply read stuff or look at pictures or moving images, thanks to social media you're actually able to engage with content in your own, individual virtual reality. This is what my brother (whose age better remains undisclosed) means when he says that he has to go and 'harvest his crops' in FarmVille.

Sometimes when people discuss the internet, they are referring to 'the Cloud'. I know, the term actually relates to services provided online but I quite like the visual connotation of that expression. Like the internet, clouds are always present, unpredictable, in constant movement – and beautiful.

Talking of clouds- of course you can find a Cloud Appreciation Society online. Sweet. .How (on earth) did cloud fans get connected before the internet? And that's exactly what I love about the WWW- there's something out there for everyone- and you never feel alone or isolated with your special, exotic, eccentric, geeky, unusual, boring, cool, fascinating, pointless or silly interests. Hence, I decided to dedicate this blog to two very special (and very different) internet phenomena I've discovered recently – American comedian GloZell and English Non-League football platform Football Exclusives.

Indoor clouds :)

GloZell - “Hello, this is GloZell! Is you Ok, is you? Good, cause I want to know!”

I came across this woman when I watched an American late night talk show. The show, which name I've already forgotten, wasn't that memorable-apart from one bit. Lord of The Rings and Wilfred actor Elijah Wood told the story of how he encountered an overexcited fan in the middle of nowhere at a Quiznos fast food restaurant outside LA. And I don't think 'overexcited' quite hits the nail on the head. They showed a snippet of the fan's - GloZell- version of the encounter from her YouTube channel. For nearly 9 minutes, GloZell is telling the story of how Elijah Wood was walking into the restaurant the very moment she was telling her boyfriend how amazing his new show Wilfred is.... in a Quiznos restaurant. 7 hours from LA in the wilderness. In the middle of nowhere. It's a small world, right? Especially in the US. Call it fate, coincidence or whatever you like- I laughed my head off at GloZell's crazy tale. So I immediately went on YouTube to check out the whole clip. And I thought I was starstruck... dear Lord, I thought, this woman is mental. But in a really cool, original, funny and sincere way.

GloZell with Elijah Wood

Here's someone who doesn't give a shit about how she might be perceived by others. She is just herself. And that's something most of us -and too many individuals in the public domain- do never achieve. I like GloZell because she doesn’t seem to give a fuck what others might think of her. This is a woman who is not afraid to sometimes make a fool of herself (often involuntarily- see the Valentine’s accident) but is always cool, spontaneous,unique, unpredictable and most importantly - extremely funny in doing so.

The comedian likes to team up with her mum (who sometimes pops her head into GloZell's bedroom while she is recording one of her exuberant clips to see why the hell her daughter is shouting so much) or her boyfriend SK, to elaborate on the important issues of our lives- ranging from Vegan food to wigs.

GloZell has got a BA in Fine Art/ Musical Theatre and is also a member of the Screen Actors Guild. During the last couple of years, she has managed to build up an online profile through her facebook page and YouTube channel which has already achieved 110 Million (!!) views. Not bad, ey? She is a self-made comedian who intelligently uses social media for self-distribution and operates outside the mainstream by commenting on the mainstream. And that's exactly what makes her so likeable – she worked hard for her success and doesn’t need mainstream media and its hype machinery that makes people 'famous' nowadays. She also manages to come across as eccentric and down-to-earth at the same time, which can't be said of many people. She willingly admits to and celebrates her fascination with celebrities. But at the same time her commentary on current affairs and her personal life are spiced with her opinions regarding feminist or racial equality issues.

Here are some of my GloZell favourites:

> Meeting Elijah Wood at Quiznos: 

> The Valentines Day accident:

> The cinnamon experiment:

Football Exclusives

My other favourite new discovery is a website/online platform for Non-League football called Football Exclusives. Those guys are actually doing what I wanted to do years ago but wasn't able to due to a lack of funding- giving Non-League football clubs a much needed media presence online. FE update their pages on a daily basis with exclusive content such as articles, match reports, match highlights videos and post-match interviews with managers and players. They also extensively report on other football related topics, for example the Kick It Out programme against racism in football. The brilliant thing about FE is that they are embracing the internet in its full glory- a website, a facebook page, a twitter profile and a YouTube channel are the four pillars of this multi-media platform.

FE was started in 2011 by Non-League football enthusiast Mike Bandry who placed an ad in Gumtree looking for like-minded collaborators. Sports journalism student Ravit Anand replied and together they set out to get their first story- an interview with players and the manager of Hampton and Richmond Borough FC, a club they are both following. The task seemed easy enough but as we all know life is never simple. Mike and Ravit got lost on the way to the training ground and arrived when the session was over. They hitched a ride back on the mini bus with the team and finally got to ask manager Mark Harper their questions at the clubhouse.

FE focuses mainly on Blue Square South clubs in Southern England such as Hampton and Richmond Borough FC, Basingstoke Town, Woking FC, Havant and Waterlooville FC, Thurrock FC, Eastleigh FC, Boreham Wood FC, Maidenhead United, Sutton United and Staines Town FC. The young team of journalists is made up of dedicated media students and volunteers, each club having their own reporter attached. The aspiring sports journalists not only gain valid work experience in return for giving up their free time, but also the chance to support the clubs they follow by giving them a voice online. Most of the clubs have welcomed FE with open arms, grateful and appreciative of the coverage and media presence they are gaining through this new platform.

FE's Ravit Anand at work

Of course, the supporters of those clubs share the appreciation for FE's efforts as well. The benefit of supporting a Non-League club is that you're actually able to talk to players and management staff before or after matches but you don't always get the chance to or you don't want to pester them with your questions, especially after a defeat. So having FE on hand to always ask those all important but sometimes uncomfortable questions is a massive plus. I was away in Germany for Hampton's crucial last two weeks this season and not being able to attend the final three matches that would decide the club's fate regarding relegation was a tad annoying to put it mildly. Hence, I was immensely grateful for FE's coverage during that time to keep up to date with developments back home. And sometimes pictures can tell you more than a 1000 words- seeing the soaked and sad Hampton fans and drooping players in the background during the post-match interviews after the decisive match against Thurrock that sealed Hampton's relegation was a bit much. But I was still grateful that FE was there and kept me informed.

To conclude, in times where more and more media outlets that cover the Non League are either scrapped (Setanta, Non League Today) or under threat of being cancelled (BBC's Non League Show) the need for new, innovative platforms like Football Exclusive is massive. Media coverage is not only essential for the Non-League to keep existing fans informed but also to attract new supporters to the financially struggling clubs that rely on their loyal fan base now more than ever. Thankfully, FE are filling the gap and one can only hope that they will continue to grow and expand to cover clubs in other regions of the UK as well.

What's Going On.

Check out my new promotional video for Hampton and Richmond Borough FC:

Happy memories from the 11/ 12 season- Hampton winning the Middle Sex Senior Cup:

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

10 Reasons Why Supporting a Non League Football Club Makes Sense

It’s about time that I dedicate a blog entry to one of the few things in life that are really important. Football.
Inside the cover of the album ‘The Remote Part’ by Indie band Idlewild it is written to ‘Support your local poet.’ 
Let me rephrase this appeal - support your local club! And by this I really mean your local club, not the Premier
League club that is closest to you. After all that would nearly make me a Chelsea fan and that of course is not
possible (in actual fact, I believe Fulham are even closer to where I live, and that’s actually not too bad.
I like Fulham. Beautiful stadium, friendly fans. A Michael Jackson statue in front of the ground. What’s not to like?)
No, by local club I mean the Non League club of the geographical place you call home. In my case that’s
two clubs: VFL Kirchheim of my hometown in Germany whom I used to watch as a child with my mates. 
One of their players lived in our house as a lodger and we were his little fan club. We were so proud to know
a football player personally. A really nice lad who always had time for us kids. And Hampton and Richmond
Borough FC which I was lucky enough to discover in 2008. Yes, discover is the right word. When I moved to the
Hampton area 5 years ago, I walked past the Beveree Stadium several times without realising there was actually
a football ground hidden behind the houses and trees that are surrounding it.


                                                          The Beveree Stadium

OK, to sum up all the reasons why you should support your local club I came up with a Top 10 of Good Reasons
to do so. Here we go:

1) By supporting your local club, you’re supporting your local community. 
And that is a sensible thing to do. You’re counteracting social exclusion and fragmentation, isolation and
people’s general indifference towards what’s going on around them. In times of recession and personal 
hardships, London Riots and increasing Youth crime you know why it’s making sense to play a constructive 
part within your local community.
Non League Football clubs are very active in organising cultural and social events such as concerts, 
comedy nights or away trips like Golf days or to the racing as they’re always keen to attract new supporters. 
They’re also well aware that such occasions are a great way to strengthen the community spirit amongst
the supporters and that organising such events is one of of their responsibilities within the local community. 
When a club is fortunate enough to have a Supporters Trust, like Hampton does, its members are often
very active when it comes to organising events or taking part in community activities such as fairs and parades. 
The other pillar of community involvement of a Non League Club is of course the development of youth football. 
When joining the youth team or Football Academy of a club, local children and young people are given the 
opportunity to develop their footballing and social skills on and off the pitch. This will not only strengthen their 
personal development but also their identification with their home town.

2) The rich don’t need to get richer and the poor don’t need to get poorer. 
It’s bad enough that society is going that way but when it comes to football we all got a choice. Why support 
a rich Premier League club that really doesn’t need your hard earned money when a Non League club is
desperately needing every penny to make ends meet to remain in business? And as mentioned above,
it’s not just the footballing side that a club is responsible for but all the other aspects as mentioned in
point 1. This of course doesn’t mean you have to stop supporting your League Club. Just by attending 
matches of your local club only now and then you’re already making a great contribution. And many
League team supporters will find the experience so rewarding that their professional team will in return 
become their second team as they start to support their Non League club ‘full-time’. This continues to be 
the case at Hampton. Ask any fan there and most of them will tell you a similar story about how they got 
disillusioned with League football- or simply couldn’t afford it any longer- and ended up at the Beveree. 
And- if you’re a season ticket holder of any League club, you can get in half price at Hampton matches.

3) You can get involved.
I’m selling the Golden Goal tickets at Hampton home matches. I know, it doesn’t sound that exciting 
but it’s actually really rewarding to hear at the end of the season how much money we made for the club just
by selling those tickets. It adds up to 1000’s of pounds. And that’s really cool.

 4)  You make new friends.
As much as I love Hampton, I have to admit that the football wasn’t that rewarding the last few seasons. 
But that’s OK. We’ve seen better times before and they will come again. But just by thinking of the amount 
of good friends I’ve made since I’ve been supporting the club makes all of this worthwhile: the cold 
Tuesday night matches standing behind the goal in the pouring rain and waking up the next morning 
with a fever, the 5th home defeat in a row when you just wonder what the hell is going on, those 
popular away trips to Chelmsford, the heart-warming encounters with our Womble friends*. It’s all 
worthwhile because you experience it with people you like and get on with. No one is in it alone.
Just one example. One day we were playing Woking at home. At the far end of the pitch I spotted a little 
flag someone had put up on the hoardings. Did my eyes play a trick on me? No, they didn’t. 
It was the German flag. Turns out Simone, a football fan from Bavaria, was visiting Woking where 
she used to work as an Au-pair.  Since that time she has been following Woking FC. On that day 
she came along with the Woking fans on their away trip to Hampton. We’ve since met up many 
times at Hampton or Woking home matches respectively and have stayed in touch on Facebook. 
And then there is Christian the groundhopper from North Germany who supports St. Pauli, my friend 
Callie who teaches German, my Womble, there I said it. Yes, I’m friends with an AFC Wimbledon
            supporter. I’m such a traitor.


                                                            Me and Bertie Beaver

5) You identify with your local club and community.     
See point 1. Local patriotism is not a bad thing.

6) It’s more affordable.
40 quid for a Premier League ticket? I don’t think so.

7) You have a direct view on the pitch.
I’ve been to Wembley, the Millennium Stadium, Craven Cottage, 
to the Mercedes-Benz Arena, to Anfield ... and as magnificent 
as all those places are, I’ve never actually seen in detail
player’s facial expression when scoring a goal, or a well 
executed tackle, or heard players exchange their pleasantries on 
the pitch... the action is just too far away! OK, now and then you
might get the odd Non League ground where the stands and the 
pitch seem to have different postcodes (Chelmsford being a 
good example) but generally speaking you’re sitting or standing
directly by the turf. To sum up, at a Non League match more or 
less nothing escapes your eyes and ears. And that’s quite fun.

8) You can go on unique away trips.
Truro away on a Tuesday night might not be the most sensible of ideas but I can confirm that everyone 
of the Hampton lot who embarked on this journey made it back alive.  I remember when I started to 
support Hampton I went to most of the away trips that season. I was new to London and by traveling
to such places like Welling, Dulwich, St. Albans, Norbiton, Bromley and Woking I got a good idea 
of which places one might want to visit again... or not. Trips further away are fun too, especially 
when you get a chance to see the sea. Dover and Bognor Regis away I have fond memories of. 
A pint of lager at the ground in Bognor was £2. That left a lasting impression on me. 
And then there was of course the once in a lifetime experience of meeting one of my all time 
biggest heroes- Ken Loach- at Bath FC. Actually it wasn’t once in a lifetime, because I met him again 
when we played Bath at home. While I was talking to him we scored twice. And I was only speaking 
to him for three minutes. In the end, Bath got promoted and we weren’t, so Mr Loach has had the 
last laugh.


                                                               Ken Loach at Twerton Park.

9) You can chat to the players and the manager.
At which Premier League club can you have a drink with the players or the manager in the bar 
after the match? Exactly! How many football fans are wishing every Saturday that they could tell the 
manager what he is doing wrong and how they would do things differently. Well, at a Non League Club
you have the opportunity to do exactly that.

10) Enjoy a special atmosphere.
One of the loveliest aspects of Non League football is that there is no segregation. You can mix and 
mingle with fans from the other club. You can also drink alcohol in the stands in sight of the pitch which
is great. Football and beer is just like tea and milk, Laurel and Hardy, Fish and get the idea. 
Don’t separate what belongs together.

What’s Going On

> My latest production is a short fly-on-the-wall documentary about the excellent upcoming band 
The Craven Braves from London who are putting guitar driven music back on the map. The doc 
was filmed on the day they launched their debut single 'Rough Diamond.' The film reflects how 
The Craven Braves' independent attitude towards the current music scene and their strong song 
repertoire is truly setting them apart from their contemporaries.

I could go on for ages how good I think this band is but it’s so difficult to describe sound with words 
so best thing is you just have a look at the film, catch them live or download their debut single from
Amazon or iTunes.


                                                                  The Craven Braves

* HRBFC and AFC Wimbledon love to hate one another. A long, local rivalry. They have never beaten us. 
That’s nice. But they got promoted at our gaff. That’s not so nice.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Where No Woman Has Gone Before

To Boldly Go Where No Woman Has Gone Before

Today I would like to pay tribute to one of the unsung heroes of Scriptwriting and a true pioneer in Science Fiction writing. Dorothy Catherine 'D. C.' Fontana.

Before we look back at Fontana’s triumphs in the 1960's and 70's let's quickly analyse the situation of female scriptwriters today to put her achievements into context. In 2011 only 13.6% of all film screenwriters in Hollywood were female (8% of directors and 19.1% of producers). In TV the situation isn't much better. In 2007, 35 percent of scriptwriters were women but in 2011 this number did drop to only 15 percent. Experts blame the recession, broadcasters taking fewer risks (one has to wonder why employing a woman is still viewed as a risk in 2012) and to put it plain and simple - old-fashioned sexism - for this troubling development.

You will probably be not surprised by those numbers. But if you would argue that Hollywood has always been sexist and unfair towards women regarding employment behind the camera you would be wrong.

In the ‘Classic Hollywood’ era it was common practice to employ female writers to cope with the ever-growing demand for great screenplays. The term Classic Hollywood - the Silent Era (1910-1927) and the Golden Age of Hollywood (ca. 1927-1950)  stands for the heyday of the great Hollywood studios like Paramount Pictures, Fox Film Coperation, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. Brandie Ashe explains one of the main reasons for the dominance of female scriptwriters at that time in her blog Women in Early Hollywood:

“It's no coincidence that the golden era of the female screenwriter occurred at the same time as the golden age of the actress. In the 1920s and early '30s, when female screenwriters dominated, actresses ruled the box office to a degree that hasn't been seen since.”

In the excellent book Script Girls:Women Screenwriters in Hollywood, Lizzy Francke depicts how, as the industry grew, screenwriting became the only area of film production in which a woman could play a significant role. Back then about 50% of all screenwriters were female. Impressive, ey? Compared to the situation today, it’s quite depressing to see that Hollywood’s employment practices have actually developed backwards in that respect.

However, when it came to TV scriptwriting in general, and the male domain of Science Fiction writing in particular, during the 1960's women did not exist on television networks’ radar as potential writers for their shows. 

But just like it did in so many other respects, the visionary programme Star Trek challenged this blatant injustice by employing a young female story-editor and scriptwriter - Dorothy Fontana. Aged 27 she was the youngest story editor in Hollywood at the time. During the next few years, Fontana would play an important role in the development and shaping of this innovative and groundbreaking TV series.

Developed by 2nd World War veteran Gene Roddenberry who envisaged a peaceful, multi-cultural and altruistic future, Star Trek was initially broadcast on NBC between 1966-69. In a time that was defined by racial tensions and the Cold War, the programme dared to feature a black, female communications officer, Lieutenant Uhura (portrayed by Nichelle Nichols) and a Russian navigator, Mr. Chekov (Walter Koenig). The line-up of main characters was completed by the American Midwesterner Captain Kirk (William Shatner), the Scottish chief engineer Mr. Scott (James Doohan), the Japanese helmsman Mr. Sulu (George Takei), the Southerner Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and the Vulcan First Officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy). Starfleet definitely knew a thing or two about Equal Opportunities.

D.C. Fontana in the 1960's

Although the show was set in 2266, the episodes were dealing with many of the important themes and issues that would define the1960's as one of the most influential decades in history: racism, gender equality, drug use, false Gods, the damaging exploitation of natural resources, freedom, pacifism, war and the corruption of power, to name just a few topics.

Dorothy Fontana wrote some of Star Treks most remarkable episodes, such as The Way To Eden, The Enterprise Incident, Tomorrow is Yesterday, Journey to Babel and This Side of Paradise. To make her acceptable to the predominantly male science fiction audience who might not have trusted a woman to write a good Science Fiction story, Dorothy Fontana was credited as D.C. Fontana or used male pseudonyms such as Michael Richards or J.Michael Bingham.

Spock jamming with Space Hippies in 
The Way To Eden

Many of the episodes she penned focused on the development of the Vulcan First Officer Mr. Spock, one of the most popular and memorable characters in TV history. In his autobiography I'm Spock Leonard Nimoy praises the writer and recalls how she left her mark not only on Spock's character but the series on a whole. He points out that it was Fontana’s achievement to counterbalance one of Trek’s few shortcomings-it often treated women as stereotypical love interests or ignored them altogether. Nimoy writes:

“Dorothy is a very talented, solid individual for whom I have the utmost respect....She gave us, by far, the best stories where we interact with women who were fully developed characters in their own right. That's not to say that that was her primary intent as a writer, or that that was her only contribution to the show. Dorothy's scenes not only avoided such stereotypes, but were dramatically intriguing.”

The Enterprise Incident, an episode in which Spock meets his match in a strong and clever Romulan female Commander, has impressed Nimoy in particular: 

“Episodes like The Enterprise Incident made it exciting to go to work. Like all of Dorothy's scripts, it had an edge to it, an adult level of complications, and social commentary. The characters's lives were being affected, their ethics violated, even their spirituality touched. Scripts like these added to the moral structure of the Star Trek universe. The durability of such fine work is endless.”

Joanne Inville as the Romulan Commander in 
The Enterprise Incident

D.C. Fontana understood that Star Trek owed a great deal of its appeal to the believable characters. Consequently, she championed collaboration with the actors and they were heavily involved in developing the characters they portrayed. This approach was not only evident in regard to Nimoy and Mr. Spock but also to DeForest Kelley and Doctor McCoy. The actor from Georgia, known for his dry humour and wit, developed the Enterprise’s emotional and sarcastic chief medical officer as a direct counterpart to the logical and unemotional Spock, which resulted in many unforgettable and often hilarious on-screen arguments between the two. In Kelley’s biography Fontana remembers: “Everything to do with McCoy we did with Kelley’s input. We created McCoy with Kelley right there.”

D.C Fontana’s understanding for character and her ability to develop potential ideas into well-structured and dramatic scripts, soon cemented her place among the chief production personnel of the series. Kelley biographer Terry Lee Rioux describes how Fontana earned the respect of the show’s producer Robert Justman when she reinvigorated the idea behind the episode Charlie X which evolved around a troubled teenager with superpowers.

“It had been a ‘junked’ story Roddenberry had been fooling with. Justman knew Fontana was a writer, that she was good, and that she would work on speculation. ‘Give it to Dorothy, and see what she can do with it’ he advised Roddenberry. Fontana resuscitated the good that was in it.”

Fontana’s emancipated writing is often subtle and funny at the same time, but always intelligent and even visionary. A great example of this is when Air Force pilot Captain Christopher is beamed on the Enterprise after the ship’s unintentional time travel to 1967 in Tomorrow Is Yesterday. Kirk greets him in the transporter room and they walk into the corridor where a female crew-member walks past. Christopher can’t believe his eyes and looks after the woman.

CREWWOMAN: Good morning, Captain.
KIRK: Morning. (drags Christopher along) Captain.
KIRK: Crewman.
In 1967 the roles of women in the military were restricted to medical and administrative tasks and the long-standing combat exclusion law for women pilots in the Navy and Air Force was only repealed in 1992. So one can forgive Captain Christopher’s astonishment to meet fully trained women aboard a far-travelled Starship.
After Star Trek, Dorothy Fontana went on to produce the Emmy-winning animated series of the programme in the 1970’s. She also wrote many scripts for other TV programmes such as The Six Million Dollor Man, The Waltons and Dallas. Furthermore, she wrote several novels that were set within the StarTrek Universe. Today she is lecturing Screenwriting at the American Film Institute.

A little while ago I had the pleasure to encounter D.C. Fontana personally. But not the real one, but an excellent British Mod/Soul band of the same name. The band has an impeccable taste when it comes to their 60’s influences and has named themselves in tribute of the great writer. The combo is truly fantastic-live and on record- but one has to salut them as well for their original and brilliant name. 

DC Fontana- The band


Leonard Nimoy- I’m Spock
Terry Lee Rioux - From Sawdust to Stardust- The Biography of DeForest Kelley, Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy
Lizzie Franke- Script Girls: Woman Scriptwriters in Hollywood


Maureen Ryan- Why Is Television Losing Women Writers?

Brandie Ashe- Women In Early Hollywood