Tag Archives: Liverpool

Gazing into the Pool of Life

‘Nothing ever lasts forever,’ sang Echo & the Bunnymen and sometimes that’s fine. Nostalgia for the recent past can stop us enjoying the moment and generate fear for the future. Let your phony Beatlemania bite the dust. Just a band.

Once they paved paradise and put up a parking lot, then Liverpool Football Club bulldozed my mum and dad’s first house to make a car park. We don’t mind too much if it means we all get off the season ticket waiting list. All cities are constantly in motion: Liverpool, as a port, perhaps slightly more so. I read recently – prompted by Anna Seghers’ novel Transit – that in their heydays, Marseille was only doing about a quarter of the trade of Liverpool (according to 1850s figures). After the Second World War came the decline and now? None of us are really sure. Regeneration seems to be going great guns, but whether it will stay the course is probably too soon to say. It still feels a little fragile, built on the shifting sands of tourism, shopping and real estate.

The latest round of rebuilding is full of intentions to avoid the missteps and correct a few of the faults of the last one.  Post-War town planners with huge swathes of the city to play with ran wild. Making use of bomb-sites and demolition crews to put in flyovers and high-rises and dual carriageways everywhere they could. In common with a few other cities in the Sixties, Liverpool got a massive tower, officially named St John’s Beacon. Originally it had been a revolving restaurant with breathtaking views of the city, the river and across to North Wales, but when we were kids it was closed and unloved. My brother had dreams of living in it like a Bond-esque super-villain, surveying everyone beneath him. Before he could though, local station Radio City took it over to use as their studios. It must make doing the weather reports a doddle! There is also a viewing platform that is open to the public. Shamefully, I still haven’t been…

So you can imagine how made up I was to find these postcards in a box of family photos on a recent visit home:

St Johns Beacon from Williamson Street

It looks completely alien. Not much of an attempt to blend in with its surroundings. But what a view!

St Johns Beacon towards Anglican CathedralSt Johns Beacon towards Lairds ShipyardSt Johns Beacon towards Liver BuildingsSt Johns Beacon towards RC CathedralSt Johns Beacon towards St Georges HallSt Johns Beacon towards Tunnel entrance

We only managed a guess as to dates. The tower itself was built in 1969. The Stork Hotel in Queen’s Square – popular with actors performing at the Royal Court and Playhouse theatres, as well as part of Liverpool’s unofficial gay quarter from the ’40s to the ’60s – was demolished in 1975.

The high-rise flats labelled as Everton Heights were built in 1965, before being so memorably sound-tracked by  Peggy Lee’s song The Folks Who Live on the Hill in Terence Davies’ exquisite Of Time and the City:

Henderson’s department store is also marked on the map. This was rebuilt in 1962 following a fatal fire that prompted a change in the law relating to fire safety in big stores. It traded under this name until 1975.

The College of Commerce became part of Liverpool Polytechnic, now Liverpool John Moores University, in 1970.

That would mean the postcards are from after 1970, but before 1975.

I have always been fascinated by the late Sixties and early Seventies in the UK. Initially believing the hype that the Sixties was swinging all over the country, when you watch films like Withnail & I, the 1971 Get Carter, or the recent adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, you realise how great the myth-making was. Much of the country was living so far away from the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll that it might have been happening on another planet. I remember watching Get Carter for the first time and remarking to my Dad, ‘Wow, every woman over 16 and under 60 really did wear miniskirts then.’ To which he replied, half-sad, half-wistful: ‘Yeah, but it was never the ones whose legs you wanted to see.’

Then there is Danny’s lament from Withnail & I:

They’re selling hippy wigs in Woolworths, man. The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over. And as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black.

Perhaps the reason we cling so hard to the Sixties mythology is it was one of the last times we had that confidence, that perceived unassailability. Shankly would spend the late Sixties and early Seventies rebuilding the Liverpool team, to the extent that there is a brief gap in the roll of honour. The Beatles split in 1970. The Albert Dock would close in 1972 and come dangerously close to being knocked down, filled in, or used as a rubbish dump.

These days Liverpool seems much more at ease with its past, although there will always be disagreements about where the line gets drawn in respecting our history and being hidebound by it. While the views from 450 feet up are spectacular, it does you good to get your head out of the clouds every once in a while. A city is an arrangement of bricks and stones, sure – and Liverpool is blessed with beautiful buildings – but it’s also a collection of stories and the backdrop to lives lived, by those who are settled there, those who came and passed through and those were there once but are now far away.

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Book swapping

Bookshops are on the rapid decline, that is a fact. Just one of many features of the 24-hour society that does sadden my soul. That said, I have discovered a place to obtain reading material more original than picking up a book in the supermarket. I found myself randomly shopping in what was once, when I was young, the scene of many, many a Saturday afternoon in hell, BELLE VALE SHOPPING CENTRE, Liverpool. I have often thought this would be an ideal venue if I was filming a seventies Zombie flick.

To my joy I discovered a little outlet containing rows of interesting looking used books. It was a book swap.

Book swap shelves

A place you can leave unwanted books and simply exchange for others.

I love the randomness of discovering books you never have considered reading or those that had passed you by. Since that day several weeks ago, I have been using the book swap weekly. I’ve reconnected with an old friend, Adrian Mole, now in his ‘prostrate years.’ I’d completely forgotten about reading the geek hero’s exploits when I was wrestling with my own adolescence. To meet the chap now in his late thirties and discover his problems, gripes and troubles, at roughly the same age as me, has been a joyous re-union.

I have had the pleasures of creeping into the mind of history teacher Barbara Covett, in Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal. Although I was quite glad to leave that lady to her cutting and arrogant observations. It was like being in the head of a Daily Mail reporter.

In the spirit of the exchange, I too have deposited a few stories. Currently in the process of moving into a new flat, I am once again having to prune my library. Books to me are like plastic carrier bags that you house in a kitchen cupboard or under the sink, they seem to multiply and multiply, until they practically take over. So I have left a few battered Dickens, some Palahniuk: Choke, Lullaby and Fight Club. A couple of random Irvine Welsh that I have outgrown, most notably Trainspotting. More of my books will certainly be leaving to populate these shelves.

Reading chair

It is just so great to have a little bit of haphazardness to my choice of reading matter. The result: others too may pick up volumes they would never had considered and perhaps find some new taste. Even simply a re-visit to a past favourite writer. If you know a space in your community you could promote a similar scheme, please, please do. It could be a box in your staff room, a shelf in one of your community halls. Or perhaps, you could partake in some guerrilla tactics, like leaving a book on public transport, a bus or a train? You never know what random treat you could afford somebody. A little more upbeat than the negative bias of a free newspaper. Okay, the book may get thrown in the rubbish or recycling bin, but it may influence someone to pick it up and read it, give it a new home.

A random act of kindness, something becoming increasingly rare these days.

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No Second Bite

Award-winning actress Lynne Fitzgerald stars in the new comedy play ‘No Second Bite’ by Belvedere Pashun (writer of Norma Jeane The Musical and WAG! The Musical). Fitzgerald plays Bella, a bored, single, forty-something entrepreneur who has a life-changing encounter when she buys an apologetic cup of coffee for a complete stranger, Chris (played by Jaiden Micheal).

After bumping full force into Chris on a bustling high street, they arrange to meet up in Bella’s apartment later that evening. Bella has the place all to herself, or so she thought. Her flatmate Angie (Charlie Griffiths) arrives home early carrying a large bottle of cherry Lambrini. She needs consoling after being stood up by the latest loser in her long list of tosspot boyfriends. Bella uses every tactic to get Angie to leave her home alone before Chris calls around to deliver more than just a pizza…

This fast-paced comedy has been referred to as ‘The Liver Birds on acid’.

No Second Bite

ten minutes hate put Fitzgerald in the spotlight, ahead of the play’s run at the Lantern Liverpool, to talk rituals, Ava Gardner and how graft does indeed equal craft.

Lynne Fitzgerald

10mh: What do you do before going on stage, do you have any particular superstitious rituals, routines or habits?

What a great question, absolutely. I became a single mum at 18 to my only child, Frankie. I couldn’t get a day job, so as you do I decided I would become a stand-up comic, the innocence of youth. On my first gig, which was quite terrifying for a teenage girl, I carried a photograph of my boy with me and as I stood at the side of the stage I kissed it and said ‘I’m doing this for you’, then stuffed it inside my bra and on I went. I was booked six times that night and have never performed in any show without that picture and repeating the same ritual, kiss, words, bra and action. He is now 27!

10mh: What was your first memory of the theatre?

Ah, don’t put your daughter on the stage, Miss Worthington! I was four years old when I was put on the stage performing a poem called ‘I blew myself a bubble that was bigger than myself’ at the Southport Art Festival. I forgot every word and the adjudicator made me stay on the stage and repeat it parrot fashion after him, the tears tripping me, but I can honestly say after that experience I was – and still am – always fully prepared and off-script before any performance.

10mh: Who are the playwrights that you admire?

Jim Cartwright is one of my favourite playwrights. Louis Emerick and I have performed in his incredible two handed play TWO in many venues covering Manchester, Merseyside and Scotland over the past five years. He is such an incredible writer with his talent for light and shade, an actor’s dream.

I was also lucky enough to have Jimmy McGovern as my English teacher at my secondary school. I credit him for my ability to write my own plays, he was so inspiring as a teacher.

10mh: What has been your favourite play or project in your career so far?

There have been so many fantastic plays I have performed in. Two, as mentioned, being a favourite. Also a one-woman show, Bunty the Bouncer, which was written for me by playwright Mark Gee (Al’s Lads) over 20 years ago. We had a sell-out run at The Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh during the festival and returned to be nominated for a Liverpool Echo award, being pipped at the post by Johnny Vegas. That was a highlight.

I will be returning as Bunty at the Epstein Theatre in June this year for one night only after it first being performed there over 20 years ago, and of course I have now had five of my own plays produced around Merseyside. That is always a great feeling: seeing your own work come to life. A pilot of my last play Hey Girl Show Us Ye Tips has recently been filmed and is currently in production renamed Life down the Pitts.

10mh: If you could gather an ensemble of actors to put together for a stage project, living or dead, who would you like to cast

Living: I work with great actors all the time: Louis Emerick, Mickey Finn, Crissy Rock – I could go on. I would love to work with Victoria Wood, Julie Walters, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. One of my all-time favourite actresses is Bette Midler.

The past: It would be some of the Hollywood greats, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Phil Silvers and Ava Gardner, the list is endless. I’m an old soul at heart!

10mh: What makes a good performance?

Hard work, hard work, hard work, preparation, preparation, preparation, and also a true understanding of the character and their emotions. Hug the words, make them your own, and did I mention hard work and preparation?

10mh: What advice would you give to anyone who yearns to act or is starting out in the business of treading the boards?

Be prepared for a lot of hard work and a lot of disappointment. The industry is more competitive than ever but saying that, there is an upside, there are a lot more opportunities with social media if you use it to network – and not just for Candy Crush!

The internet provides a great platform for promoting yourself, even filming your own shorts and getting your work out there. Acting is a real inbuilt passion, if it is in you there will be no stopping you and don’t take rejection personally, all actors have their fair share of rejection you just have to dust yourself down and carry on.

No Second Bite runs from 21st-26th April at Lantern Theatre Liverpool, Blundell Street.

Tickets are £10/8 to book visit the website or call box office 01517030000.

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Tongue like a cactus

A tongue that can be like a cactus, both naturally beautiful and toxic, Gerry Potter is a passionate orator.


A performance poet, playwright, director, actor, and both creator and destroyer of the infamous gingham diva, Chloe Poems. Liverpool born, Gerry is now also a favourite son of Manchester. He has a reputation for putting his Scouse voice on the line, and is strong on poetry and strong on the causes of poetryism. One of my favourite poems is BINGE DRINKING EVIL GIRLS.

Dark glitter blouse cloud lived under for decades.

There where wild screams are,
wild pack pitch black mascara.
Top it up with powder; drown it with shooters,
bitched into knickers ‘n’ attitude.
It’s gonna be a bumpy rude.

Often when I walk around the streets of Liverpool, particularly at the weekend I can see the origins of this painfully accurate observation and witness first hand all that is described in real time. This poem is in his fifth volume THE CHRONICLES OF FOLLY BUTLER. A collection described as,

domestic fantastic theatre verse. A genre defying opus.

His writing is completely plugged into the here and now. The electricity that fuses through his work is energising, ecstatically passionate and explosive. It demands to be spoken out loud, performed, taking on a life of its own, adding another dimension to it.


ten minutes hate had the privilege of a private audience with the legendary Northern poet.

10mh: Do you have a particular piece of work that you like to perform?

I still perform an old Chloe Poems poem called The Effeminate.

It’s a ten minute epic exploring what power is and isn’t to a camp kid from a working class background. It’s hugely autobiographical, ribald, moving and the audience love it. I’m fascinated about where power is and isn’t in our society and about how powerful we actually are at our weakest. The Effeminate pulls no punches in discovering/uncovering those moments.

10mh: Who influences you?

Life influences me, the visceral joy of existing. Struggle is a huge influence too, I’m far more interested in people and things if there’s a genuine story behind it. I’m no stranger to grief so the rip of death informs the work a great deal. Family, friends and dancing, queers dancing through grief is a big writing turn on for me.

10mh: Can you craft a poem in seven words?

We will all fall off the cliff.

10mh: Pick a favourite music album?

Rock Follies and Rock Follies of 77. This programme and The Little Ladies probably made me gay, certainly pointed me in the direction of who I’d become. These albums had me in my mirror being Julie Covington, still one of my happiest Scottie Road memories.

10mh: Any standout moments in your career so far?

I don’t think of my life in terms of career so it’s hard.
Every time I feel me and the audience are on the same planet and page.

10mh: Where would you most like to perform?

I really want to do more stuff in Liverpool. I hardly get to play my home town. I’d like to do The Everyman.

10mh: Who would play you in a film?


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Smells like a surreal story

Picture the scenario.
You wake up from your slumber.
You are a little groggy.
You are resisting getting out of the womb-like duvet.
You will rise but you will not shine.
You make your toilet.
You feel a little peculiar.
You splash your face with water and it is then that you notice.
It cannot be so.
You must be in one of those dream-like states were you think you have woken up but you really have not. You look closer.
You cannot NOT notice!
Your nose, the centre of your face.
Your nose has disappeared.

This is the predicament that Collegiate Assessor KOVALYOV finds himself awaking to in the surreal short scrap of literary genius, the BOSS little tale that is Gogol’s THE NOSE.


(Please note to the non-Liverpudlian reader, ‘boss’ translates as fantastic, wonderful, splendid etc.)

To make things all the weirder he later spots his Nose casually walking in the street!

Strangely enough, I mistook it for a gentleman at first.
Fortunately I had my spectacles with me so I could really see it was a nose.

Gogol’s writing has always captivated me. As a storyteller he really grabs the reader with both hands and drags him or her directly into the action of the narrative. 

To celebrate 80 years of Penguin Little Classics, the publisher has released 80 shorts by everyone from Thomas Hardy to Edith Wharton. 80 titles priced at just 80 pence. I have taken advantage of sending Gogol’s surreal tapas of the written word to friends around the UK and Internationally.

I am actually quite jealous for those readers who have not read this title or heard anything about it as I would love the sensation of looking at it once again for the very first time. I distinctively remember reading it in my room decorated with pop posters of PULP, BOWIE, SUEDE and BJORK. It was a dismal winter’s evening, howling winds licked the window glass with rainy saliva. Gogol blew my mind with his clever satirical wit.

It was CAMUS that said,

The purpose of a writer is to keep civilisation from destroying itself.

Clearly Gogol wanted to hold the mirror up against the society he lived in and attack it. His play The Government Inspector is a classic example of this. If you are suitably impressed by the Russian writer’s imagination, I implore you to also take a peep at DIARY OF A MADMAN. It is absolutely hilarious in all of its complete insanity.

And keep an eye on your nose!

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Twang there goes another rib!

It is a difficult thing to make people laugh, to be able to deliver a gag with ease. One guy in my walking group has the poised skill of an absolute professional. He has the ability to make a comment in natural conversation with a punchline subtly planted. Even better, the actual gag is usually quite bad. One example from his repertoire is a guy whose wife has left him because he confessed he has a pasta fetish, to which he mutters, ‘I am okay, I guess but occasionally I feel cannelloni’.



(Kind of lonely).

Matchbox Comedy Club is a brand new, carefully curated showcase of alternative comedy featuring everything from sketch and stand up, to clown and storytelling. It gives comics the opportunity to trial new material, test routines and sets. It is in a sense a laughter laboratory. I have been to the gig twice and admittedly some acts are funnier than others, but it is all about preference. Some people worship acts like Miranda and Sarah Millican, personally I find the only way I’d possibly laugh at their monotone voices and predictable routines is if they were slapped across the face with a giant piece of fresh trout. Each to their own I suppose, comedy is subjective.

I recently caught up with the comedy night’s resident compere Alastair Clark to see what this clown has to say for himself and talk about the monthly humour fest that he describes as,

A little matchbox full of joy.

10mh: Tell us a joke.

To be honest, I don’t really feel like it. I may have been inclined to do so, if you hadn’t been so rude. I mean… You didn’t even say ‘please’. No ‘hi, you are you?’ Just straight in with the demands. And while I would like to be cooperative with your interview I can’t help but feel that telling you a joke now would only reward your negative behaviour. So I feel that it would be for the best if we put this whole sorry affair behind us and try to start fresh with the next question. I can only hope you are more courteous in your interactions in the future.

1omh: What is the funniest book you have ever read?

I once read my mate’s diary from when they were 14. It was hysterical! Bad poetry and confessions about boys she fancied. Epic stuff.

10mh: Who are your comic influences?

The Incredible Hulk mainly. While most superheroes are just adolescent power fantasies, the Hulk embodies an essential moral relativism. Dr Bruce Banner is a normal scientist who tries not to let his emotions get the better of him. When he does get angry the consequences are dramatic and unpredictable, I think we could all learn a lot from the Hulk.

10mh: What should audiences expect from the comedy night?

Oh right Matchbox, yeah. Erm, dunno… Something a bit different definitely. I feel like this is a really exciting time for comedy in general. There’s a whole new crop of people who are looking at things from a totally different perspective, comedically speaking, and they’re really pushing the boundary of what comedy is in terms of style and content. And what we try to do is get some of those people, put them in a theatre and set them loose on an unsuspecting (but consenting) audience. So expect things that are a little unusual but also brave.

We also try to book diverse lineups, mixing styles and practices in a way that is pleasing on the pallet. Perhaps the best thing for an audience to expect would be to expect nothing. Not because we will deliver nothing, on the contrary we will deliver a lovingly handcrafted tapestry as elegant as the Bayeux and as long as the Nile. But because if you expect nothing then you won’t have any preconceptions, bringing a totally clear and open mind will allow us to make magic in your head space. Whereas if you’re sat there with your arms folded thinking ‘When are they going to talk about the differences between men and women?’ you will definitely be disappointed. Whatever way you look at it, it’s better than an arrow in the eye.

10mh: Is there a formula for comedy?

Is there a formula for any art? There are people far more qualified than me to answer that question. There have been thousands of years of discourse on aesthetics and I dare say that they are no closer to an answer now than when they started. To be honest, if you were looking to me to sort that problem out, I think it would be fair to say that you had unrealistically high expectations of this interview.

10mh: If you could have your ideal comic line up for an evening who would it be?

Hulk (obvs), Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow… Just The Avengers really.

10mh: What makes Matchbox stand out from all the other comedy nights in Liverpool?

Loads of things. Its fun, it’s different, it’s exciting, and it’s in a lovely space… Like I said, loads of stuff. Come and see for yourselves. I could try to tell you everything there is to know about Matchbox comedy nights all the facts about: what goes on; what happens; how it works: but I wouldn’t be able to tell you what it’s like to experience it. You’d have to experience it yourself to know that.

The subjective act of experiencing creates a new fact over and above physical reality that cannot be communicated. If you don’t get what I mean, try reading some Thomas Nagel. Or just come to Matchbox. Up to you.

Matchbox Comedy Club –


The Lantern Theatre, 57 Blundell Street, Liverpool, L1 0AJ
8th Apr / 13th May / 10th Jun / 8th Jul
(Monthly, Every second Wednesday of the month)
Doors 7.30pm, Show 8pm
£3 in advance or £4 on the door
(Tickets available from The Lantern Theatre)

Alastair Clark is the resident compere and curator of Matchbox Comedy Club. A respected act on the alternative Liverpool comedy scene, Alastair’s style is a mixture of insecurity, honesty and offbeat delivery.

The Lantern Theatre is an atmospheric and intimate family run Fringe theatre venue located in the heart of Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle.

THAT Comedy Productions is an independent live production company, based in Liverpool and run in association with THAT Comedy Blog.

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Sandi Hughes’ Vie en Rose

What a funky lady Ms. Sandi Hughes happens to be.


She has been documenting the LGBT gay scene in Liverpool since the seventies. Sandi is currently in the process of developing her archive to exhibit her work in the Pool of Life; the very waters she has swam and danced through.

I meet lots of people to interview for ten minutes hate, but I must confess this was my first meeting scheduled to last for only 45 minutes that turned into five hours! Time that seemed like five minutes and climaxed with a little boogie-woogie in a discotheque to Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda. In between striking a few poses, ten minutes hate managed to ask this maverick lady a few questions about her creative work and what makes her tick.

10mh: Sandi, can you describe your archive in five words?

Liverpool stories in my house.

10mh: If your life had a soundtrack what tunes would you have to include?

Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed
Four Door Aventador – Nicki Minaj
Billie Jean – Shinehead
Same Love – Angel Haze
Feeling Good – Nina Simone
You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester
Selassie Love We – Vybz Kartel
I Feel Love – Diana Ross
La Vie En Rose – Grace Jones
Rigor Mortis (I Love You) – Flesh and Bones
Can’t Knock the Hustle – Jay-Z
Sexy Chick – David Guetta ft Akon
Have U Eva – MC Lyte

10mh: LGBT history has gone through many changes, what have been the standout moments for you?

The Capital of Culture paying me to film Liverpool’s Black Gay stories, being able to adopt kids and get married, Liverpool Pride, UK Black Pride, Homotopia, featuring in the Lord Mayor’s Parade, Museum of Liverpool representing transgender stories (2014) and LGBT stories (2015).

10mh: If you had to be a type of food what would you be?

A pistachio nut.

10mh: The best piece of advice so far?

‘Don’t believe everything you hear.’ Jayne Casey.

10mh: Who are your LGBT heroes and heroines?

Myself! Lady Sian, Tracy Wilder, Gary Everett, Elaine Clarke, Holly Johnson, Frank Mason, Chris Bernard, Frank Clarke, Shaun Duggan, Tony Burns, Jennifer Johns, Peter Tatchell, Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Queen Latifah.

10mh: What are your plans for 2015?

  •  Capture the love again and go deeper with my girlfriend

  • Finish Level 2 Music Technology in the City of Liverpool College and carry on to Level 3

  • Produce an exhibition with my LGBT video archive for the Museum of Liverpool

  • Take the above exhibition to the gay cinema in Chicago

  • DJ in the Hector Peterson Residential Home for the LB unseen party (which will be shown in the Museum of Liverpool in April

  • DJ at the Kaya Art festival in August in South Wales

  • Produce an album of soundtrack to fit the moving images of my video archives

  • DJ at Sound City Liverpool.

Keep on dancing Ms. Hughes. Let that glitter ball keep on spinning!

You can hear Sandi’s work on Mixcloud.


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