Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Outlook Cloudy But Favourable

Northumbria has a long and proud tradition of working in glass. This is thought to date back to the 7th Century when European craftsmen were hired to glaze the windows of St Peter's Church at Monkwearmouth. Moving this venerable tradition forward is the Danish artist Anne Vibeke Mou with her new window at Healey Church near Riding Mill. Her painstakingly crafted piece was created by punching thousands of marks on to the surface of the glass with a metal point. It is, in essence, a minimalist abstract work where the form itself is the content; but for me, it gives the distinct impression of sunlight struggling to break through an overcast sky. In the context of a church window, that image carries an extra resonance. Special thanks to Jamie for the photo; more details about the artist at

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Durham City Market Place - Public Meeting 21/7/11

Last Thursday, I went to a public meeting at St Nicholas Church to discuss the controversial redevelopment of Durham Market Place. Durham has a population of only 30,000, yet over 6,000 people felt sufficiently concerned about this scheme to object to it at the planning stage. Despite these protests, it was forced through by Durham County Council with only minor changes. So much for local democracy in Durham.

As the project is now virtually complete, only minor changes can be made to the anonymous plaza we have been left with; but the dominant concern that kept coming up in this meeting was not aesthetics but road safety. All the kerbs and pavements were removed during the redevelopment, leaving a dangerous situation where neither vehicles nor pedestrians know where they are supposed to go. One resident was so worried by this that he drove all the way back from a business trip to Nottingham just to have his say. His point was that something needs to be done pronto before someone is seriously injured or worse.

I was impressed at the way local MP Roberta Blackman-Woods chaired this meeting and also her promises of fast action on road safety and the less important issues of shoddy benches and bins. Let's hope that she can deliver. Until then, be sure to keep your wits about you on the mean and increasingly dangerous streets of DC...

Friday, 22 July 2011

Watched Over By Da Brudders

This picture is one of my faves. It was taken at The Angel last year and I love the way it's got Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy watching from the back. I wasn't playing a Ramones toon at the time, but I'm sure they would have liked my Velvets cover. Cheers Dover

Open Mic @ The Market Tavern, Durham

The Market Tavern was rocking last night with a decent crowd and lots of new faces getting up to play. Someone even fell off his stool in the excitement. As usual, it was hosted by Alex & James with other regulars The Fishburn Mafia, Nick G and of course The Creme Brulee (plus solo sets from Mr Creme and Mr Brulee). To be honest, I was a bit wary about getting up as everyone looked so pissed, but the bellowing and out-of-time clapping didn't put me off and they even seemed to like my obscure Doors cover. Better an enthusiastic audience than one that ignores you I always say. Since it has moved from Mondays to Wednesdays, this night has gone from strength to strength and is well worth a look in if you're in town. All the guitars are provided, so all you need to bring is your pick. Or just get bladdered and shout at the performers. See you there next week!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

In Flight At The Angel

An archive pic of me in action at The Angel last year. It's a shame that this open mic night bit the dust, as the venue was cool and you got two free pints when you played ! Special thanks to lensman extraordinaire Andrew Dover

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

You Live By The Sword...

The last two weeks have been the most exciting in British politics since last year's dodgy election. With astonishing rapidity, Rupert Murdoch's News International media empire has been humbled in a scandal that involves allegations of illegal phone-hacking, police corruption and the exertion of undue political influence. Already, we've seen the closure of the 'News Of The World', the resignation of top brass in the Metropolitan Police and the arrest of the former 'NOW' editor Rebekah Brooks. Today, the media mogul himself faced a gruelling questioning by MPs in the Houses Of Parliament, plus a foam pie attack. For years, he's made money out of the humiliation of others; now the boot is on the other foot.

But this is only the beginning of an unfolding scandal. The Prime Minister David Cameron has surprisingly close links with News International and if he can be shown to be a Murdoch poodle, he may yet have to resign or call a fresh election. Bear in mind that his authority is already tenuous to say the least: his party didn't win the election outright and he can only force through his hard-right policies with the connivance of the Lib Dems. Ed Miliband has finally been showing his teeth in this affair and it's directly thanks to his Commons motion that Murdoch's plan to control 100% of BSkyB was crushed. Let's hope that he can deliver Cameron's head on a platter to the long-suffering British people. This country deserves better than a suspect leader with no electoral mandate to govern.

Hey Hey We're The Creme Brulee !

I often gig in an acoustic duo with my old pal Steve Hill, the former lead singer of Eating Crow. We're called The Creme Brulee and if you've ever seen 'The League Of Gentlemen' you'll know why. The pic below is an oldie courtesy of Craig Oliphant ( ) which shows us in action at The Queen's Head, Lanchester.

Richard Thompson @ The Durham Gala Theatre

Have just got in from seeing Richard Thompson. Although I love his work with Fairport Convention, I don't actually know all that much about his solo stuff. In fact, this was the first time I've had a chance to see him live and I was totally impressed. On stage, he kept a full house transfixed for over an hour and a half with just himself and an acoustic guitar (plus occasional help from Northumbrian Folk Magus Alistair Anderson). For me, the highlights were 'Beeswing', the old Sandy Denny fave 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes' and a stunning '1952 Vincent Black Lightning'. His style is somewhere between folk and rock with lashings of male angst; imagine a British Leonard Cohen with attitude. If this is your bag, then check him out.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Ready Steady Blog

A blog has to start somewhere; or, to paraphrase Chairman Mao, the blog of a thousand entries starts with a single word. 'A' should be as good a word to start with as any, but does the indefinite article really count as a word? Oh well, it's too late to worry about that now; thanks to this drivel, my new blog is up and running on the information superhighway.

As well as the usual guff, my aim is to document a little of the thriving music and arts scene in my home town. There's a lively pub music tradition here in Durham, with a choice of community folk sessions, or banging open mic nights where you can get up and do your thing in front of a baying mob of drunks. My favourite is the acoustic night they host on Wednesdays at The Market Tavern. There's usually a good crowd and a free pint if you have the bottle to get up and play. Here's yours truly working hard for his beer...