No promises

No promises, no manifesto, no wild claims. Just an update.

I’ve been quietly assessing my online life recently. The recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica farrago that has been chuntering quietly in the background for over a year made me consider what I share and what I click on. Also, MostlyFilm has gone into a permanent hiatus. The reason for that? Lots of things.

Maintaining a blog is hard

Maintaining a group blog is even harder. I spent three months in the summer in the editor’s seat, hustling for previews, nagging writers, writing filler stuff when everybody was too busy to contribute, coming up with something original to say about yet another cartoon blockbuster or sensitive portrayal of rich English folks having a crisis in a gite. Screenings were always on at the wrong time, or in the wrong place, or I just didn’t fancy watching a hagiographic treatment of the life of Dennis Skinner. No really, I love the man, but the thought of watching a load of archive footage, followed by people telling you what you had just seen made me want to break out a copy of Triumph of the Will. In the end, I just gave up and handed the torch to someone else while I spent August whooping it up in New Zealand.

We had seven years as an completely unfunded online publication that relied solely on the goodwill and occasional brilliance of its contributors. A few of us are published writers and academics. We even had the odd director and producer write for us. And we got an interview with Kieran Evans just before the launch of his first feature film (which I watched again last night- Kelly+Victor– it’s really very good you know. And FYI, BAFTAs are surprisingly bulky little buggers). And Nitin Sawhney threatened us with legal action!

Writing and editing three articles a week was great, but it was also fucking hard work for very little reward.

We were all burned out after seven years and I think we were afraid of repeating ourselves, of becoming tired and cliched. After all, we don’t have to do this: we’ve got jobs and families and other stuff to do.

The landscape has changed

When we started, the idea of a bunch of online randoms writing about screen-based entertainment wasn’t exactly new, but the blogging universe was full of happy amateurs doing the same thing. Now there are hundreds and thousands of professional bloggers, marketising their clickbait content and optimising their search engines for fun and profit. I’ve nothing against them – we’ve all got livings to make – but our funny, thoughtful, sweary articles were drowning in a sea of cut-and-paste…blearh…and the only way out would have been to join them.

Trouble is, I’ve still got a transcript of a Q&A with Ben Wheatley (hosted by the brilliant Paul Duane in Dublin last year) with nowhere to go. We never got clearance from Mr Wheatley’s office to publish and, you know…it’s a fucking brilliant conversation between two wonderfully grumpy old gits about the mechanics of film production, and I have absolutely no idea what to do with it.


Oooh another one…

Bit of a flurry of activity here. Sorry about that, but after attending the Mumsnet Blogfest on Saturday, I felt inspired to update this place. I’ve got plans to blog my research reading  for my MA project (along with all my malaises and moans about the subject). My Mostly Film writings are also under a separate category and if I find any more interesting family history stuff, it’ll go under Family Stories.

So…Blogfest. I’ve never done a blogging festival before, but my friends Jenny and SouthwarkBelle, both bloggers, persuaded me it would be a laugh (gin may have been consumed during this conversation).

The day was divided into two morning and two afternoon sessions, with a small awards ceremony and a drinks party in the evening.

That’s Margaret Atwood. In her house…

The first morning session was all about motherhood and creativity, with Bridget Christie, Meera Syal, Margaret Atwood and some bloggers (I didn’t really take notes…sorry…). It was interesting to hear people discussing how they negotiated childcare and creative work – something for which you need time and space.

I had a bit of a problem with the event logo. You can’t really see it in the photos, but the logo was purply pink with a slightly offset red shadow. From a distance it looked a bit like the beginnings of a migraine.

Not bad. And I got mints too!

The mid-morning session on photography yielded my first ever goody bag! It was a rather snazzy Western Digital portable hard drive. The label said it was 3 terabytes, but my macbook can only detect 1 terabyte. Still, can’t be greedy. My images, posts, documents and embryo ibooks were all backed up and safe almost as soon as I plugged the drive into the USB port. What more can you ask for?

Just before lunch, we had Think Bombs: three well-known people (Sandi Toksvig, Val McDermid and David Baddiel) gave five minute presentations on a topic that was supposed to stimulate conversations. They were all seasoned (and excellent) performers, but the cynic in me spotted that David Baddiel had a show to promote, Sandi Toksvig was promoting the Women’s Equality Party, and only Val McDermid seemed to be just there to encourage us to silence our inner critics and find space to create.

After lunch, we had probably the most interesting session for me: how the Internet changes public discourse and campaigning. Stella Creasy offered some great practical advice on engaging MPs in your campaign (give them something specific to do, don’t just ask for their support) and Nimco Ali talked of her campaign against FGM. This was a livelier session, with plenty of contributions from the floor and I learned a lot about how people use social media as a campaigning tool, not just to ‘raise awareness’.

I can’t remember much about the next session, but afterwards there was cake…


We were getting a bit worn down by the last (and possibly the most gruelling) session, discussing how much of your private life do you put in the public domain. The panelists had all put something of their inner lives on the internet (and made a living out of it), and I came away not really any the wiser about whether it was a Good or a Bad thing. Possibly I was getting cross and tired by this point and I needed more tea.

But then there was an odd awards ceremony (three prizes, all of which seemed to go to the people sitting in front of us – I was reminded of eLearning awards that seem to circulate around three or four agencies). And then there was wine…


I’m holding a glass of prosecco and a sealed plastic glass of rather smooth Merlot that I snaffled for Mr S. We drank, we raided passing canape trays, Belle and Jen hugged fellow sciencey/health bloggers…then we picked up our groaning goody bags and went home.

Blogfest’s focus seemed to be on writing and creativity, getting published, promoting your ideas. I already write for a living, and I’m happy with doing the odd MF piece or scribbling on my blogs without having to be sold the middle-class writer lifestyle (they didn’t go into the fraught ‘pitching ideas to harassed editors and being paid in magic beans’ side of things much).

On the plus side, the sciency philosophy bloggers were lovely, and I learned a few interesting things, read some really good writing and drank lots and lots of coffee.

And it must have worked because I’ve spent two evenings updating and fussing around with this blog. So, maybe this is a new start, eh?


Class war restaged

Ann Jones, an art teacher and blogger, is writing about the influence of Thatcherism on the arts In a really interesting informative way. So far she has looked at the famous “Gone with the Wind” poster that I had on my wall all throughout the 1980s along with my Clash and Smiths posters, And here she looks at Jeremy Deller’s re-enactment of the battle of Orgreave: a violent confrontation between police and striking miners in the Village of Orgreave in 1984. The incident was a key turning point in the strike, because it highlighted the extent of the politicisation of the police (miners said they were ambushed), and the violence that the government were prepared to use in order to break the strike (along with a sustained campaign against the strike from an acquiescent media). Looking back, it’s more surprising that the miners managed to sty out for so long (over a year), sustained mainly by the union, sympathetic lefties all over the country, and the women in the mining communities campaigning,organising, and coming together to support their families. This is so something that is often forgotten about the strike, where the fundamental basis of society: families and their neighbours, were threatened. Many of the police officers in the reenactment and the original incident were from mining communities. Like the Civil War, this strike pitted neighbour against neighbour, and tore families apart (those who returned to work, scabs, were ostracised, despite often being as desperate as their neighbours). This is what I think of as Thatcher’s legacy.

However, Boy George once said something along the lines of the best art coming out of repression, and the level and quality of the art and music coming from the margins of society has never been bettered.


Deller Battle of Orgreave 4

Jeremy Deller, The Battle of Orgreave, 2001

As the media marks the death of Margaret Thatcher with blanket television coverage looking back at her time in office some familiar images are brought back to mind. But sometimes it’s hard to disentangle the memories: which of the images am I really recalling from the 1980s? In the case of the images of the 1983/4 miners’ strike, the boundaries between news footage and re-enactment are very blurry in my head. I remember the strike very well; I remember the marches and the benefit gigs, I remember throwing money into collection buckets every day on my way to and from work, probably with a ‘coal not dole’ badge on my coat, and I remember the news reports. At least, I think I do. But there’s a distinct possibility that some of that memory is somewhat second hand. The images of Orgreave that are…

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Quick catchup

My boss says that every Monday…

So, since April it has rained. And rained some more. And rained even more.

#PicFrame porthlevenWe escaped the Jubilee celebrations in June, and rented a cottage in Porthleven for a few days. Martin and I spent the weekend getting rained on, and cycling around some beautiful old mining trails, then Charlie and Mum stayed for the rest of the week. Apart from the rain, Porthleven was gorgeous as usual, and we had a nice time hanging out with our friend Lone, and her dog.

In mid-June, Martin and I did the London to Brighton bike ride for the British Heart Foundation. I have to say that it was brilliant fun, and I only walked up the last four hills (including Ditchling Beacon – Martin sped off up the hill because it was the first one that had enough space for a proper attack). The ride may have exacerbated a hip issue though, but I’m still managing to cycle as far as Deptford every day during the Olympics.

I’ve been writing for Mostly Film too: a review of a lovely little forgotten classic of British Film, Woman in a Dressing Gown. . Last week a group of MF parents wrote of their experiences subjecting their offspring to one of the suggested “50 Movies to see before you reach 14”. I forced Charlie to watch Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Trouble was, we watched the film ages ago, and then Charlie went off to Spain with her nan and I forgot to ask her opinion. I found Charlie’s notes though, and had a very good memory of her whooping with delight at the fight scenes, so cobbled something together…

What else? Oh, I don’t know what it is about us, but we seem to have attracted another band of ne’er do wells since we moved in. The house a few doors down seems to have a lady whose business is entertaining gentlemen in her home. The smell of bad dope pervades the garden most evenings, and her neighbours say the regular 3am rows with her pimp make a refreshing change from the chap who prayed all night, every night. We had a totally Peckham moment on the morning of the London to Brighton. Our group included a two very nice couples from Kent, who were treated to the sight of our neighbour emerging barefoot from a car that dropped her off at 6am. As we rode past the Academy, we saw a fight break out outside one of the dodgy clubs close by. I would have cringed but that would have made it worse.



Based locally, the Nunhead Community Choir has now turned two years old and is on the lookout for new members and local supporters.

We hope the evening will give you a chance to explore how a choir works; enjoy some fine singing and some mighty fine food and ales.

picture copyright Lindsay Cameron
Nunhead Community Choir at Peckham Rye

So, whether you’re a secret singer, a shower-time diva, or a tuneless hummer; or you just fancy a night out in an excellent local pub, come on down to our open rehearsal at the Ivy House on Thursday 27 October.

We’ll be singing from 8pm until 10pm.


One of Charlie’s homework projects for this month is to go around the house looking for 2D and 3D shapes and write about them. So yesterday we went on a search for circles, triangles and squares. and the odd sphere. She chose the Sheep bank because it was an oval, but it had circles on its back.

We’ve also taken a bunch of other photos that Charlie has stuck into her homework book and written about (believe me, it was hard work).

The Sheep bank was made by a family friend in the 1970s.  She went through a sheep phase, then a tiger phase, then decided to give up pottery altogether and move to the coast. Mum has most of her pieces on display in the flat, but I asked to have the Sheep bank because it’s like having an old friend on the mantlepiece.

Our Gal: he paints real good.

He’ll kill me for that, but I wanted to link to an old friend of the family’s website.

Garry’s an artist, writer, mountaineer, and imbiber of fine wines who we’ve known for far too long. His paintings and prints are all over our house, and he recently had a big exhibition in Highgate. His style is a curious mix of the figurative and the abstract (with big black lines), and he’s a wonderful portraitist.

His most recent work is a series of portraits called The Holloway Icons, where he has painted a group of friends, neighbours and celebrities local to North London (including Arsene Wenger!).

I can’t afford to buy the paintings (well I could, but we need a new car), but I hope he gets to sell a few…

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