LIFE IN COLOUR – with Sheila Graber at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery

An exhibition is being held in South Shields to celebrate the 81 years of inspirational art and animation of Sheila Graber. I asked Sheila how the exhibition came about ?

I was invited by Geoff Woodward, Museum Curator at Tyne & Wear Museum to start planning the show in 2017 with an aim to celebrating 80 years of ‘Making’ – Drawing, Painting, Animating and Teaching, an exhibition to fill Shields Museum in May 2020. However COVID had other ideas.

Thanks to this, the show has gained in power as I think now everyone knows the importance of making things to ‘help pass the time’  and stop them going crackers.

It is great for me to see it is attracting all ages from my cousin Malcolm 90 year old who, being an ex-Chief Engineer, liked the view of the Industrial River Tyne I painted in 1970, to little Amelia aged 3, who loved spotting Cats knitted by my friend Jen in the ‘Quizicat Trail’ and gained a prize and hi-five from me and QC.

The show is unusual in that it covers not only my own work but that of over 30 ex-pupils – now in their 60’s, and in turn, work by up to five generations of pupils or families. I have been looking in most Fridays from 12 to 3pm and it has been brilliant to meet up with some of them and see how they are still enjoying making today. 

Everyone has a life-story to tell – it’s just by lucky chance I happened to have illustrated mine as I lived it. So the paintings, drawings and videos of Shields and Shields people, is also bringing in a wide range of folks from all walks of life. 

I hoped that this show might spark off memories for others about their life and work – I am very pleased to see it is doing just that. Why not come along and see what memories it sparks for you.

Sheila from Shields exhibition runs to October 30th 2021.

Check out Sheila’s work on the official website:
http://www.sheilagraberanimation.com/SSCRAINBOW/

Interview by Gary Alikivi   August 2021

SHEILA from SHIELDS #2 – Exhibition at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery

An exhibition is being held in South Shields to celebrate the 81 years of inspirational art and animation of Sheila Graber. Invited to the exhibition was former pupil Allyson Stewart.

‘Sheila was my art teacher at the Grammar school and when I first went into the class I was thinking I don’t know what I’m doing here. I can’t draw, I can’t paint, but over a period of weeks I think it was the way Sheila was teaching us without it feeling like she was teaching us’.

‘And I began to realise it wasn’t about how well you can paint it’s more about how you can be creative. When I started to learn about perspective that’s when it kicked in for me, I suddenly realised I could draw street scenes and buildings that actually looked like a building’.

‘That was quite a revelation and since then I’ve done a few bits and pieces that have been done with pen and ink, that’s my favourite medium. I can’t paint I’m useless with a paint brush, but with pen and ink it just feels right to me’.

‘But then I joined Sheila’s Cine Animation group and that was great, something completely different at the time at the Grammar school it was pretty radical. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. That taught me all about timing, getting things right and putting them in the right order, keeping accurate records. I gather that the animation film that I made is now on You Tube thanks to Sheila – so hopefully I can live that down’.

‘First person that taught me that anything was possible was a teacher called Stan Coates at Stanhope Juniors.  The last thing he ever said to me when I left school was I expect to see your name in writing someday young lady. And then nothing ever fired me up until Sheila was teaching me. And she taught me you haven’t got to be a brilliant painter, you haven’t got to be a great designer, you haven’t got to know how to structure a painting, it’s all about how you feel and how you can interpret it’.

‘And that was a revelation to me and I think that’s what rekindled the spark that you don’t have to paint you can write. You can find a creative outlet some other way, and that was really helpful for me. Now I’m back into doing the writing, loving every minute, so thanks to Stan and thanks to Sheila I’m loving every minute, I’m living the life and love it’.

Also invited to the exhibition was writer and retired Shields Gazette journalist, Janis Blower, who started off with a piece of poetry by James Henry Lee Hunt.

Abou Ben Adhem may his tribe increase, awoke one night from a deep dream of peace.

And saw within the moonlight in his room, making it rich and like a lily in bloom,

An angel writing in a book of gold.

‘I have a love of angels as they are depicted in art and stained glass, and also in one of the loves of my creativity – which has been sewing. The angels started with my oldest sister Pam, who we lost in 2019 unfortunately. As a child I used to share a bed with her in the attic bedroom. I was frightened of the dark so to comfort me she would sing songs and recite poems that she’d learned at school’.

‘One of the poems was Abuben Adden and that image of the angel writing in his book of gold really seized my imagination. The words seemed to come off the page already burnished and glowing and that struck me as the writer I’ve become – the power of words’.

‘Angels has become a favourite motif too stitch, I’ve had a lifelong love of sewing and embroidery going all the way back to the days when I first made a tea tray cloth at Ocean Road school when I was aged about 8 or 9 which I still have to this day. It was the start of a lifelong love of sewing, embroidery and cross stich which has been a great comfort at times over the years’.

‘I’ve known Sheila for many years because she actually taught me art when I was a pupil at South Shields Girl’s Grammar School. I remember very vividly her enthusiasm and her belief that anybody could be creative. I’m not sure that I believed it at the time, but I’ve come to realise that it’s true, and it’s something you pick up from this wonderful exhibition that she has of her life and art.

The message being that there is creativity in everybody if you know where to look for it’.

The exhibition runs from 17 May – 30 October 2021

Interviews by Gary Alikivi  2021

SHEILA from SHIELDS – Exhibition at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery

An exhibition is being held in South Shields to celebrate 81 years of inspirational art and animation of Sheila Graber. Invited to open the exhibition was Pam Royle, Tyne Tees newsreader for more than 30 years. I caught up with Pam who told me how she first met Sheila.

‘I first met Sheila when she was doing some animation work for Tyne Tees Television in the 1980’s and we’ve been firm friends since. I’ve always admired Sheila’s work from animation to illustrations to absolutely everything she does and the fact she teaches it with such patience and wisdom’.

‘Sheila has also met some members of my family. We’ve always been quite creative in my family, just love expressing ourselves through paintings, drawings, Sheila met my son when he was about 8 and he drew some things for her. Basically things like machinery, cars, tractors, aeroplanes that sort of thing. And then he went on to work in the countryside and on the land.

Sheila said it’s really interesting because what happens when you are young you draw things that have a relevance to your later life because you draw what you are passionate about’.

‘I think this exhibition reveals that art is so important to all our lives, it’s a way of expressing ourselves, it’s a connection with your soul and your mind. I just think this exhibition is fantastic and I’m so grateful that Sheila asked me and my family to be a part of it’.

Also invited to the exhibition to record a quick video message and talk about why she loves art so much was South Shields MP, Emma Lewell-Buck.

‘Art is so universal no matter where you are in the world no matter what language you speak it always can send a message to you and speak to you. Some of my favourite types of art are the religious ones. Like Caravaggio where you can spend absolutely hours and just get lost in all of the detail.

Also I’m here to look at Sheila’s exhibition. Sheila Graber is a great friend of mine, a local legend, so please if you have an opportunity get yourself down here to have a look you won’t regret it’.

At the exhibition opening was Ray Spencer MBE, Director of the Customs House, South Shields. He talked about his first experience of art.

‘When I was a kid about the only art I saw was in museums or books, in books they were only little plates. I used to look at these fantastic portraits, landscapes and seascapes, but they were just little plates. If you went into museums you saw big plates or the originals’.

‘When I done my degree I went to the Louvre in Paris and it was the first time I walked into a room and seen the works of Delacroix and El Greco. I went to Amsterdam and saw Rembrandts – these huge massive things.

I was so excited so fantastically elated seeing something I couldn’t comprehend from those little books. That’s what I‘ve wanted to do all my time in culture to make people feel as excited as I did in the Louvre. Sheila has done that throughout her life’.

‘You look through this exhibition and you see how many lifelong friends she’s had, how many people she has influenced, not just to go professionally into the arts, but to always love and appreciate the arts’.

‘She has this enormous capacity to be interested in everybody, to light a flame in everybody to get involved in the arts. And importantly to believe in their creativity, not to be measured by somebody else’s creativity but to believe in your own creativity and to know what you do is important’.

‘That is something that we will all be thankful to Sheila for, for the hundreds and thousands of people that she has engaged with the arts’.   

The exhibition at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery runs from 17 May – 30 October 2021

For more info check the official website:

http://www.sheilagraberanimation.com/SSCRAINBOW/

Interviews by Gary Alikivi  2021

RUSSIA’S ROSWELL: The Alien Mystery of Kapustin Yar

Through lockdown I caught up with loads of films on the must watch list, one of them was Alien Autopsy, a British film released in 2006 starring Geordie duo Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly.

The film is the story of an alien recovered from a crash at Roswell, New Mexico, and the autopsy was filmed. The original footage was reported to be supplied by a US military cameraman to UK record and film producer Ray Santilli, and business partner Gary Shoefield. Originally Santilli was in America to buy Elvis memorabilia and was also offered the autopsy footage.

The original 17 minute black and white footage was released by Santilli in 1995. It caused a sensation gaining millions of American TV viewers.

The background is that on 8 July 1947 a crash was reported in Roswell, New Mexico. A press release stated that ‘a flying disc’ had been recovered. The army retracted the statement saying it was just a weather balloon.

Thirty year later in an interview with a UFO researcher, a retired lieutenant colonel said the weather balloon was a cover story. More first hand witnesses came forward stating that extraterrestrial occupants of the craft were recovered by the military, and a cover up was put in place. Conspiracy theorists went into overdrive.

Kapustin Yar, reverse-engineering plan.

Today, noted for its highly sensitive and classified operations, Groom Lake is the secret airbase in New Mexico, USA. The facility known as Area 51 has strong connections to alien and UFO research.

If you find yourself in Moscow, Russia, travel 600 mile south and through a different time zone, you come to Kapustin Yar, an official rocket launch and development site, also believed to have strong UFO connections.

One year after the reported incident in Roswell, MIG fighter jets flying over Kapustin Yar, detected a cigar shaped object on their radar and caused it to crash.

Three bodies were found in the wreckage, two were already dead, the Soviet pilots made attempts to keep the third alive, but it too passed away. The occupants were reported to be around 4 feet tall, had bluish green reptile skin, with long fingers, dark eyes and large bald heads.

Alien body in 1948 at Kapustin Yar.

Their craft is believed to have been taken inside the Kapustin Yar underground military facility where scientists undertook a period of meticulous understanding of how the craft and its systems worked. The Russian space program, Sputnik, benefitted from the results of the tests and in 1957 launched the first satellite from Earth.

Kapustin Yar and the surrounding area has experienced UFO sightings more than any other part of Russia. A second crash was reported in 1961, it is reported that the human pulse rate is affected and animals won’t go near the area where it occurred.

The KGB hold a tight grip on files featuring UFO experiences recorded by Russian military. One file has seven witnesses who observed UFO activity on 28 July 1989 over the base of Kapustin Yar.

They reported that between 10.12pm and 11.55pm three flying disc shaped objects, about 5 metres in diameter with semi-circular spheres on top, hovered quietly about 200 feet above the base.

It’s been over 70 years since Roswell, in that time a whole industry has grown around the UFO incident and Area 51, that same industry might have competition from Kapustin Yar – Ant and Dec might make a film there.

Gary Alikivi  July 2021

TYNESIDE ON MY MIND with musician Ed James

In the Newcastle music scene in the ‘70s we used to go to The Gosforth Hotel and watch Last Exit with Sting before he went off to London. A great musician Dave Black, had a band called Kestrel, was also in the Spiders from Mars, and had a big chart hit with Goldie, I knew him well, he used to call me ‘cop oot’ because I spent more time on my day job than music.

(Ed’s day job was C.E.O of a global construction company, he stepped down to run his own business which is now in the safe hands of his son Chris).

Sadly, Dave died a few year ago so that’s when I retired the ‘suit’ and went full time in music and producing a podcast with my writing partner, Ed Thompson.

I’ve always played over the years, I was very shy when I first started playing I played with my back to the audience. But being on stage and playing live you push it and tend to play a bit faster. It’s all about rehearsing and when you arrive on stage you are very comfortable with the rest of the band.

In the ‘90s I was working in Denmark where I got a regular gig in one of the bars, they called me the ‘Singing Suit’ owing to my daytime job. It was all Irish songs, stuff like ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ you know.

Around 2004 I was playing guitar and harmonies in an original folk rock band, Morgan La Fey, we went on a small European tour. I was too busy working to follow it through full time but I was still writing songs and have a book full of lyrics.

I wrote a song called ‘Love Will See Us Through’ for the diabetic research charity because my Grandson is a Type 1 diabetic and it’s a serious disease, no child should have to deal with that.

A few of my songs have been picked up by charities, Cancer research took up ‘This Sweet Life of Mine’. I wrote it for a friend of mine who died of cancer a few years ago.

When he was told he had terminal cancer he said he was going to carry on working. But he said when you see people and they know you are ill they have that look in their eyes which says they are seeing a pitiful person. He said I will not let that define me. I thought that was a brave sentiment.

TOON TUNES

Currently I’m putting together a number of songs called ‘Together Alone’ about lockdown and the sentiments around it, it’s on a personal level but will appeal to people because of what we have all been through. That will be out in the next month or so.

For recording I was after an analogue type sound and we worked hard at that. I like Irish music with my Irish roots but I also like to change things around and get different sounds.

Earlier albums I played lots of different instruments, some influences were flamenco and then I’d play the Irish bouzouki. It can have a middle eastern sound, almost world music.

PRESS RECORD

I record with Tony Davis at Newcastle’s Cluny Studio. We brought in a few session musicians when we needed them. I had everything written and ready to go when entering the studio.

I ultra-rehearse a song, you’ve got to put the time in. We recorded one or two songs per day then you have mixing and mastering.

I love the recording process it’s almost as good as playing live when you hear the whole song coming together after laying down a guide vocal or guitar and adding the layers. Although there comes a time when you stop adding sounds or harmonies because you can make a bit of a mess.

Tony is an excellent engineer he can cut it and fix the piece that sometimes you just can’t get right – in the end he used to say ‘Fuck it, we’re there!’

HEAR & NOW

For live gigs I’m making contact to 300 community concerts where venues are out in the sticks and can hold from 50-150 people, it can be big back gardens or community fields. They come out of their houses to really listen to you, they love it.

I have three different sets I’ll be playing. Ed James Sings will be covering a number of Car Stevens songs, Ed James in Concert where I will be playing my original songs and Jammin’ with James where I put on shows with guests and we all take to the stage for the finale.

 Link to the show:  https://www.ents24.com/north-shields-events/cullercoats-crescent-club/ed-james/6293966

Next year I will be looking to add UK festivals to that list. I’m a planner for these things and have a few friends around the country so will be able to stay overnight at someone’s house near the venue.

HOWAY THE LADS

After seeing Ed Waugh’s show The Geordie Songbook about Ned Corvan and Geordie Ridley, my writing partner, Ed Thompson sent me a few poems and one of them was ‘Howay woman, man Howay’ about his Dad going to working men’s clubs. I put a bit of piano to it and it worked well.

We also done a song about the three Cullercoats brothers who went off to World War One and never came back. That worked well so we decided to make an album of Geordie songs.

Some have serious subjects, some recount events that have happened on Tyneside while others are reflections of Geordie life. There are some great stories out there. The album should be out next year.

I have a radio plugger who gets me on local BBC radio around the country so that opens up our music to a new audience which is great – although I doubt I’ll get 2 million streams on Spotify to make a hundred quid (laughs).

For more info/pics/gigs/discography check the official website: https://edjamesmusic.co.uk/

Interview by Gary Alikivi  July 2021.

NOTHING LIKE SHOW BUSINESS in conversation with writer & actor Alison Stanley 2/2

“I left school and went to college, then for a steady pay cheque I worked at the Inland Revenue. But once I got out of there I really appreciated the work I’m doing now. You could work 50 years somewhere, retire and write a book – but nobody knows how long retirement is. There is people that have passed away not long after they have retired from work”.

Alison Stanley (pic.2021)

In the second part of the interview with writer and actor Alison Stanley, she talks about new project ideas developed by LOR Productions.

We are a theatre group supporting new writing, stage entertainment and deliver Theatre in Education projects. We are based in Cramlington and it’s the second largest town in Northumberland but it doesn’t have a theatre. The closest is the 350 seater Phoenix in Blyth which is wonderful, or you have to come into the centre of Newcastle.

I would really like to change that with developing a creative hub to put on plays. Something around 100-150 seater, nothing too glamourous, just a small black box theatre for new writing.

I am very creative with the characters in my head that I write about, but they have to be reined in by the other half of the business, Christine Stephenson, who runs production. She asks things like ‘Where you have that scene going on there, can we do that differently ?’

The business side has got to be looked at carefully, how much will it cost ? Your profit margins might be able to keep the new writing going, people like Christine are very important to the smooth running of the company.

WHAT’S THE ISSUE ?

We are putting together a series of hard hitting Theatre in Education projects dealing with issues like drugs, gambling and revenge porn. The shows will be going in schools and pupils will be different ages so we’ve got to use appropriate language for that.

Research has shown kids running up debts on parents credit cards and we need to explore the reasons for that. We will talk to young people in those situations and young men who have felt peer pressure about sharing images and the consequences of that.

SPIRIT OF RADIO

I’ve done a few recorded shows for Radio Northumberland and recently been asked to go back to Radio Koast and present a live show. It’s hard to fully commit with a lot of projects coming together but I have aspirations to work for Newcastle radio.

I tell my PR, John Corbett at JAC media, to let the producers know and he always says ‘I’ve told them ten times’ but I reply ‘Well tell them eleven, John, tell them eleven’ (laughs).

There is more to do and the good thing is that there’s no age limit on acting or writing, yeah I can see myself still doing it until I’m very old. There is no time limit on it.

‘Sex is Hard Work’ is on at Newcastle Cluny, 19 August 2021.

The Cluny, 36 Lime St, Ouseburn. NE1 2PQ (tel: 0191 230 44 74)

Tickets:   https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/sex-is-hard-work-cluny-2-tickets/11214755

Interview by Gary Alikivi   July 2021

COME AGAIN in conversation with writer & actor, Alison Stanley part 1/2

“After the first night Radio Newcastle were talking about the show with music from The Full Monty film in the background. The reporter said it’s so immersive even from when you go in to take your seat the playlist includes raunchy songs. We also have a friend who is a burlesque dancer handing out sanitizer to the audience”.

The new play by Stanley is Sex is Hard Work based on real life sex workers and their stories. The show played over six nights in June at Newcastle Cluny. I asked the writer how she thought the show was received.

The show was everything I could of hoped for and more. We done the tests for covid everyday and were hoping everything would be ok and luckily it was. The venue which is a music venue really, had everything organised and it worked well for the stage, we sold out with standing ovations on two nights.

People were also really glad to get out and see a live performance. They were at the bars and restaurants before the show and sitting around the bars for a drink afterwards. It was really nice to see that.

The actors were great they knew each other’s parts so if anything happened like a positive test, they could easily do a bit of improvisation and keep the show running. We got plenty feedback and good reviews with four out of five stars.

The audiences were varied with a group of older ladies in their 70’s that loved it. One of them asked an actor if he got a physical reaction during the simulated sex scenes (laughs).

PUTTING ON A SHOW

In fact we’ve been asked back to do a for one night only on 19 August which will be great as there will be no social distancing then. That will set us up for a short UK tour next year, we are in talks with certain venues to take the show.

For now we are looking at two nights each in Newcastle, Manchester and London. Then see where else we can get scheduled with venues opening back up.

I will be slightly tweaking some scenes, I think you’ve got to have an end point but they make it better. Up to now it’s been a pilot really and a few additions will happen for the UK tour. If it enhances the performance why not?

Alison Stanley, pic. 2021.

YEAH, WE’VE DONE THAT

The first half of the show is a series of scenes and anecdotes where people can connect straightaway and laugh out loud saying yeah we’ve done that. But in the second half one of the sex workers is in trouble and it gets more serious, a bit of darkness edging in.

In feedback some people said they almost felt guilty for laughing at situations that turned out to be serious, but I like challenging the audience. There is some violence and the prostitutes end up hurt and broken.

When writing I don’t censor myself. For the opening I wrote a hook to grab the audience and set the tone for the whole show, it was a simulated sex scene – some people couldn’t look the actors in the eye (laughs).

The show is advertised with an age limit on it and with the word sex in the title I don’t think the more gentle people will come to see it. I use appropriate language and not gratuitous swearing.

THE SHOW GOES ON

For production of the show we always work on a three quarters full show so pricing of actors, ticket prices, stage set, venue hire, everything comes into that. A massive sold out stamp across the posters is great anybody would want that, but you’ve got to be realistic about it.

You want to make a profit, for another of our shows we sold merchandise at the end. There was cups with lines from the script on, one had ‘I baked a chocolate cake once, but I’m not Mary fuckin’ Berry’.

For Broadway I can see Sex playing there, yeah love to see that, why not ? These characters are too good to not be seen. I would rather fail than not try. I’m not afraid of failing, it’s a step on the way to success. I can’t live with regret, thinking ‘if only’. In life you have to be fearless.

‘Sex is Hard Work’ is on at Newcastle Cluny 19 August 2021.

The Cluny, 36 Lime St, Ouseburn. NE1 2PQ (tel: 0191 230 44 74)

Tickets:   https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/sex-is-hard-work-cluny-2-tickets/11214755

Interview by Gary Alikivi  July 2021

GIBBO’S CHOICE – in conversation with award winning sports journalist & author, John ‘Gibbo’ Gibson (2/2)

AC/DC’s Brian Johnson (in cap), and the Chronicle’s John Gibson (on right) at the Kevin Keegan Roadshow at Heaton RAOB Club, Newcastle, February 1983. (pic Newcastle Chronicle)

Part two of the interview with top North East sports journalist John Gibson.

Have the North East had its fair share of talent ?

I may be biased as a proud Geordie but right across the spectrum the North East has produced quality. Whether it’s the footballers we’ve talked about or the sportsman Steve Cram or Brendan Foster who’ve done so much in athletics, cricketers Steve Harmison from Ashington, Paul Collingwood from Shotley Bridge, they played wonderful for Durham and England, or showbiz and music which I’ve always loved.

Brian Johnson became a very good friend of mine mainly through his love of Newcastle United. I knew him when he was in the band Geordie before he hit mega success with AC/DC.

I remember Supermac and I going to a launch with Brian for one of Geordies records but the superstar that day was Malcolm MacDonald because he was centre forward of Newcastle United and England. Brian was a hopeful young singer trying to make his way with Geordie in the music biz.

One night I done a talk show in Heaton Buffs, these gigs were a chat show on stage and I played the Michael Parkinson role talking to various people, still do some today. Anyway I was on stage with Kevin Keegan and it got to the interval and I was backstage when suddenly Brian Johnson pops his head in for a chat. He had paid £10 to get in to see me and Kevin perform on stage when he’s just been playing to 100,000 kids in Brazil with AC/DC.

Brian Johnson (AC/DC) & Kevin Keegan. (pic .Newcastle Chronicle)

LOCAL HERO

I used to come across Chas Chandler from The Animals, I knew his wife Madelaine who was a Miss Great Britain. Mark Knopfler when he was a lad used to run copy for us at the Chronicle for a time.

A close friend of mine is Ian La Frenais who wrote The Likely Lads, Auf Wiedersehen and a load of others, he introduced me to Jimmy Nail. When Newcastle played in the European Fairs cup Ian used to fly in to what city we were playing, stay in a hotel with me and watch the game. He put on the post-match reception for the 1974 FA Cup Final in London.

Jimmy Nail started off as a chanter, a good one at that, his band played in Newcastle. Ian La Frenais told me they were doing the auditions for their new TV show Auf Wiedersehen Pet and what they wanted was unknowns, not famous actors because sometimes you can start watching the person not the story.

He said they were sitting in auditions and looking for someone to play Oz when the door bursts open ‘Is this where they are daein’ all that for Auf Wiedersehen like?’ Ian said he turned round to his writing partner Dick Clement ‘I hope the bastard can act, because that’s Oz’. And yeah, it was Jimmy Nail.

Jerry Lee Lewis (pic. Newcastle Chronicle).

GREAT BALLS OF FIRE

The only World Champion boxer from Tyneside is Glenn McCrory, again a very good friend. He had read in an autobiography that Jerry Lee Lewis at the height of his rock n roll fame, had said one of his best concerts was at Newcastle City Hall where the audience went crazy for him. We thought why not try to get him back over to the City Hall ?

So we contacted a few people in Memphis and reminded him of the story in his autobiography and asked why not come over ? Unbelievably he agreed to it. At the time Glenn was Sky TV’s boxing man so we got outside broadcaster’s from Sky to cover the concert.

When he came over we put him up in the Copthorne Hotel, he was like Howard Hughes, he never came out for three days. He had one armed bandits and gambling games transported to his bedroom so he could play the machines all day. The only time he came out was the day of the concert.

Mind he had a very strong voice for an old man, he was still magnificent although never spoke between songs. But his set was just under an hour, he walked off at the end and never came back for an encore. We had to put the supporting band back on again.

It was one of the great moments of my career because I was brought up listening to Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard – I was a rocker. People came dressed up like rockers bopping in the aisles.

Do you know the cockneys Chas n Dave ? They came up on their own accord from London, stayed in a hotel overnight and paid to see Jerry Lee Lewis. I was backstage and yeah it was unbelievable.

I used to get all my records from Windows in Newcastle where you go into little booths and listen to them first. Great, great days. I’ve lived a varied life not just covering Newcastle United of which I’m really grateful, and by God I am, but always wanted to push the boundaries a bit further. Just testing myself to do things within my scope.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

As a newspaperman and writer, I was determined to be an author and I’ve wrote 16 sports books up to now, so just about got the hang of it. It’s different from writing for newspapers because there you learn to condense the story down to so many words where books can be 60,000 words.

I made a few TV documentaries with Glenn, one about boxer Sonny Liston and Mike Tyson in ‘The Meanest Man on the Planet’. We flew out to Las Vegas where Liston died, the other documentary was about Hughie Gallacher the Newcastle United forward who tragically committed suicide.

GATESHEAD

Then one day I thought as a journalist you’ve been telling Newcastle United how to run their club every day for years, how about trying to run one yourself – which is why I bought Gateshead and owned it outright for 11 years. Cameron Hall, owned by Sir John Hall who built the Metro Centre, helped me with sponsorship at Gateshead.

Thing is you become a better writer because you’ve seen that side of the game and you understand it. It was an eye opener and it had it’s wonderful moments, we got in Newcastle United goalie Steve Harper on a months loan, he went back to Newcastle and played in the Cup Final in the ‘90s.

BOARD GAMES

The Magpie Group put Sir John Hall in the Newcastle United boardroom by ousting the old board, I was part of that which heralded Kevin Keegan, the entertainers and buying Les Ferdinand, Ginola and everybody right up to Shearer. I feel very privileged to be part of that Magpie Group.

We had two sections – one who had the necessary financial clout, the other was honest fans willing to work for the cause and do the leg work buying shares. My main job was publicity, getting the message out to fans.

I always remember the moment we took over and it dawned we were going to get in after two years of furious fighting. After all the threats I’d received when they thought we would lose, and I wouldn’t be allowed in St James’ Park again – then the sudden realisation of what if it all goes tits up ?

We fought for two years, the fans thrilled to bits, but only one thing matters – you’ve got to be successful. And what if we’re not, what if we fall flat on our face. The backlash will be horrendous.

John Gibson, with Glenn McCrory and Malcolm MacDonald, at the signing of the Gibbo Files at Waterstones in Newcastle. (pic Newcastle Chronicle)

THE KK EFFECT

Luckily we brought in Keegan. He set the city alive. He was like the pied piper, best PR man I’ve ever known. We went from being one game away from the old third division to be second top of the Premier league.

I done a few talk shows with Keegan as part of the Scottish and Newcastle breweries deal that brought him here the first time as a player. Within 24 hours of it being advertised he sold out every pub. We would come off stage at 11 o’clock and not get away till 12.30.

He sat on the edge of the stage and told the crowd to form a line, he had a picture and signed an autograph for every one of them. Some nights I would say ‘C’mon Kevin can we not get away a bit early’? But no, he was there all night until the last one got his picture.

YOUNG AT HEART

People say to me why don’t you retire ? But what will I do, play golf and pay for a season ticket at Newcastle ? The Chronicle pay me to sit and write about them. As long as my brain stays sharp I’ll keep going.

I still do the shows on stage, got one coming up with McCrory, there’s a big golf day down at Ramside Hall in Durham, there’s a Steve Wraith Legends night at the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle, there’s regular podcast shows with Supermac. I’ll keep doing it because an agile mind keeps you young – and I love what I do.

When I was covering Newcastle United and going out to nightclubs with footballers like Supermac and Irving Nattrass they would say ‘Gibbo, I bet you wish you were a player – the fame, the money, the birds’. ‘No’ I said. ‘I’ll tell you why. At 35 you’ll be finished and looking for a job. I’ll still be writing and covering Newcastle United until I retire’.

I’ve felt privileged to write because it’s the only thing I can do. To be brutally honest I’m hopeless at everything else. I’m a lucky, lucky man.

You can read more stories in the 16 books that John has authored. These are a select few titles:

The Newcastle United Story 1985.

Spirit of Tyneside 1990

Kevin Keegan, Portrait Of A Superstar 1984

North East Hundred Heroes 1993

Newcastle United Greats 1989

Newcastle United’s Perfect Ten 2007

Gibbo Files 2014

Interview by Gary Alikivi  July 2021.

GIBBO’S CHOICE – in conversation with award winning sports journalist & author, John Gibson (1/2)

Top North East journalist John Gibson greets me with a ‘Hello kidda how yer daein’ and we’re immediately at ease. Sports stories come later, but first, who is John Gibson ?

During the war I was born in Benwell in the west end of Newcastle and brought up mainly by my Grandmother and Grandfather. We lived in a flat with green mould on the walls and an outside netty. People said you were poor but we were happy and no one else around where we lived was rich, we were all the same in Benwell.

When I was a kid everybody wanted to play for Newcastle United. I for some unknown reason wanted to write about them. I’ve still got scrapbooks from when I was 4 or 5, I would stick in pictures of players and write in pencil a little story underneath about them. My daughter has them now.

YOUNG MAGPIE

Aunty Grace was the only one in the family who had a postage stamp sized black and white television and we all gathered around to watch Newcastle United in the cup finals of ’51, ’52 and ’55. My Grandmother, who used to make clippie mat‘s, made me a black and white rosette. They won the cup three times in five years. I thought this is wonderful.

When I was a schoolboy my uncle Frank used to take me to St James’ Park. I used to be transfixed by the player Bobby Mitchell, and funnily later in life got to know him well when I was covering non-league football at Gateshead and he was manager there.

When Newcastle were playing away I used to walk from Benwell down over the Redheugh bridge to Gateshead and watch them play in the old third division North. Wonderful thing was I ended up later owning Gateshead football club for 11 years.

HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEWS ?

Nobody in my family was a writer or in sport so not sure where it came from, but I always knew I wanted to be a sports journalist. When I was at school I wrote to every paper in the North East asking for a job. One paper offered me a job and that was the Hexham Courant.

When you start you cover everything. I used to stand outside church and take the name of every mourner at a funeral. I went to Haltwhistle and Hexham for court cases and on Saturday the local football matches. The first was Hexham GPO winning 5-3, I had all week to write my report because it was a weekly paper.

My mum framed that report and put it on her cabinet, when I covered Newcastle United versus Ujpest Dozsa in a European final that replaced the Hexham GPO cutting.

I first got the Chronicle job in 1966 when I came back from London. I was in Fleet Street because I thought that was where you needed to be as a writer, all the glamour you know. But I was offered a job following Newcastle United and writing about the love of my life, I couldn’t resist coming back. 

When they rang me up offering the job it was great, but I asked for a bit more – as they say shy bairns get nowt. I said I’ll only come if you let me cover the World Cup finals and the Olympic games as well as Newcastle. I still would have walked back if they said no, but unbelievably they said yes.

The first job was the Cup games in the North East, North Korea at Middlesbrough beating Italy which was sensational. When the group stage was over I hooked my wagon to England. So within months of coming back to the Chronicle I saw England winning the World Cup, and within three year I saw Newcastle winning the European Fairs Cup.

I thought this is wonderful I’m going to be knee deep in success all my life. But really it’s easy to remember the dates cos they very rarely win anything.

BLACK & WHITE ARMY

I wrote about Joe Harvey and Jackie Milburn because the ‘50s was the great time, thing was I went on to be personal friends with them when working for the Chronicle. When I first covered Newcastle United Joe Harvey was manager.

I wrote five or six books with Jackie Milburn, we worked together in the press box and went to the Fairs cup final in 1969 together. He became a dear friend of mine and when he passed away with cancer I spoke at a commemorative service for him in his hometown Ashington. It was a very emotional time.

Today players are less approachable you only see them at press conferences. Malcolm MacDonald who played during the ‘70s, I was best man at his wedding to Carol who used to be married to Brian Johnson, singer of AC/DC. They married in Jesmond Dene. Irving Nattrass and Bob Moncur were Godparents to two of my daughters. Mick Mahoney was a good mate when he lived near me in Whickham.

We met up in Los Angeles, USA during the World Cup, Mick slept on my hotel floor when I was there reporting on the final in LA. When he left Newcastle he played in America and stayed there and got a job driving trucks. He lives back in the UK now.

Johnny Rep, (Bastia & Holland).

We talked about great players we’ve seen who’ve graced St James’ Park. Footballers who glide across the pitch and never seem to break sweat. Trevor Brooking for West Ham, Bayern Munich’s Michael Ballack and when Newcastle played French team Bastia – Johnny Rep. Even on a rainy night in November ’77 the Leazes End applauded his magic.

Newcastle had beaten Bohemians from Ireland in the first round. I was out there and the Dublin club were wonderful people but then we faced Bastia. Before the game United’s midfielder Tommy Craig said to me ‘Johnny Rep, what a reputation, he’s the biggest non-entity I’ve ever seen’. I said can I quote you on that ? Yeah, yeah, no problem.

Johnny Rep was sensational that night. He ripped us from pillar to post and at the end of the game I went over to Tommy who said ‘Don’t say anything, I know what you’re going to say’. Not long after, manager Dicky Dinnis got the sack.

Sometimes when you are beaten by better players, and teams, I can stand that, you can hold your hands up and say ok, that’s alright. It’s when you’re beaten by poor sides like Hereford in the FA Cup – that’s hard to take.

Have you been on duty when a world shattering event has taken place ?

I was actually part of it when I was covering the Munich Olympics in ’72. One day I was sitting reporting on the track events, then next I hear Black September, the Palestinian terrorist group, had broken in to the Olympic village where we were staying and were holding some Israeli athletes hostage.

I’m there doing a normal sports gig, albeit at the highest level, then suddenly for 48 hours it’s like being a war correspondent. The games had stopped, we were reporting on hostages being held, you could hear the gun fire.

Mark Spitz was an American swimmer, he was winning everything in world record time. Spitz who was Jewish, was frightened, he held a press conference to say he was flying back to the States. At the conference he was sat down and surrounded by armed guards – you couldn’t see him, just hear his voice.

Hostages were taken to the airport and stupidly me and a few other reporters gave chase in a taxi. It was daft because this was the dead of night and what we thought we might see goodness knows.

Unbeknown to us the airfield was full of German snipers lying in wait. We heard the guns and explosion happening and our taxi driver put on the anchors, shouted an expletive and took to his toes leaving us in the taxi with the door wide open.

We were traumatised going through all this, next day it was announced the games would go on and I thought it was the wrong decision. They had taken us into the Israeli compound and you could see the blood spattered walls and bullet holes.

The games did go on and with hindsight it was the right decision because if you give in to terrorists and close the games down that’s what they want. So you cannot give in.

I remember sitting at the closing ceremony and everybody was terrified because they put out the lights then other lights were flashing around for dramatic effect but everybody’s in the dark looking around thinking where’s the next shot coming from.

It was a huge event, like a 9/11. Without a shadow of doubt, one of the worst and most frightening I’ve covered. You didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. It was a big stand off for 48 hours. The whole world stopped and watched what was happening in Munich.

There was a time the I.R.A were going to shoot George Best if he played for Manchester United at Newcastle. They got the word through to the team at the Gateshead Hotel where they were staying. The police went on the coach when they were driving into St James’ Park, Besty was lying on the floor. Again you can’t give in and call the match off.

At a few talk show events that I’ve done with George he talked about that time and said ‘If I don’t play they win. In that hour and a half I was running everywhere on the pitch’ (laughs).

But seriously they had snipers on top of the stands at St James’. Unbelievable courage from the kid. Man United won the game 1-0. And who scored the goal ? Yep, George Best.

John Gibson, with Glenn McCrory (features in next post) and Malcolm McDonald, at the signing of the Gibbo Files at Waterstones in Newcastle. (pic Newcastle Chronicle)

IRISH EYES

Talking about Ireland, George Best was a Belfast lad from the North and in the Republic you had the Geordie connection with Big Jack Charlton managing the football team and taking them to considerable success at the World Cup in America ’94.

I have some wonderful memories from the ‘90s and Newcastle have had some great nights like the Barcelona game beating them 3-2 with the Asprilla hat trick. I’m fortunate enough because I’m old enough, to have seen them win the European Fairs cup in 1969. Now I’ve done 55 consecutive years covering United which is a unique record and I’m proud of it.

Has the North East had its fair share of talent ?

I may be biased as a proud Geordie but right across the spectrum the North East has produced quality. Whether it’s the footballers we’ve talked about or the sportsman Steve Cram or Brendan Foster who’ve done so much in athletics, cricketers Steve Harmison from Ashington, Paul Collingwood from Shotley Bridge, they played wonderful for Durham and England, or showbiz and music which I’ve always loved.

That leads us into the next post where Gibbo talks about Brian Johnson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Malcolm MacDonald, Kevin Keegan, Jimmy Nail & Ian La Frenais.

You can read more stories in the 16 books that John has authored. These are a select few titles:

The Newcastle United Story 1985.

Spirit of Tyneside 1990

Kevin Keegan, Portrait Of A Superstar 1984

North East Hundred Heroes 1993

Newcastle United Greats 1989

Newcastle United’s Perfect Ten 2007

Gibbo Files 2014

Interview by Gary Alikivi  July 2021.

CRAWDADDY COOL with Emma ‘Velvet Tones of Teesside’ Wilson

“I’m finally back gigging and my first London/Surrey gig is on Friday 23 July at The Crawdaddy Club, Richmond Athletic Ground, Richmond Upon Thames said an excited Wilson as she introduced the impressive line-up for her band.

I’ve known Mat Hector (drums, Iggy Pop) for about four years, he used to come and play when he was off the road and I had a monthly residency at The Monarch in Camden.

He introduced me to Mark Neary (bass, Noel Gallagher) and Terry Lewis (guitar, Mamas Gun) who are both super guys and ace players. Mark and Mat are great as a rhythm section and Terry is such a great guitarist, I’m so looking forward to the gig.

I also have Robert Hokum guesting for a few numbers on guitar and vocals, he is a tremendous Blues musician and the curator of the Ealing Blues Festival.

Have you played the Crawdaddy before ?

Yes as a guest with other bands and then had my own gig there in 2019 where I invited Pete Brown (lyricist, singer, percussionist, Cream) to join in. He was amazing and sang all the Cream classics, we also did a few duets, he’s a great mentor of mine.

So since then Mike Rivers, promoter of the Crawdaddy, has been saying “You must come back” and here we are, this is the venues first gig post lockdown so I’m hoping it will be a lot of fun.

Wilson’s latest record is a duet with British vocalist Terry ‘superlungs’ Reid (famously turned down the Led Zep job and recommended his mate Robert Plant). The double A side received European and Stateside airplay plus a 4 star review.

After the nomination for the UK Blues Award, DJs who weren’t aware of me before have looked me up, been in touch and played the tracks. So far it’s been heard in Atlanta Georgia, New York, Germany and Holland plus all over the UK, with the Independent Blues Broadcasters playing both tracks a lot.

It’s really exciting to hear the songs in the context of a radio show up against big hitters like Van Morrison and The Stones, musicians who are contemporaries of Terry. I think Terry’s involvement has definitely created a buzz, he is still absolutely on fire musically and gives me such spirit to create.

With his brilliant playing, singing and production the tracks sound really punchy and what’s cool is most DJ’s play one of the tracks one week and the other the next. They are very different but compliment each other well.

‘See You in the Morning’ is a vocal duet with Terry and it seems to have really tugged at the heartstrings of a lot of people, Andy Snipper of Music News.com said “it has shades of Brief Encounter”.

Nuthin’ is more driving with much more angst and described by Dennis Roberts legendary Soul & Blues Broadcaster as “Gritty and powerful with echoes of Howlin’ Wolf”.

The tracks are still very much alive and I’m being approached daily for copies and interviews. I try to personally contact everyone, DJs, Journalists, fans. We need them to keep the vibe going and I never take for granted people enjoying my music.

Music is so personal, it’s really an honour if someone else responds to your song by buying it or playing it.

Are you looking forward to getting on stage again ?

Absolutely – I have my mic and outfit ready, and that never happens, I usually grab it on the day. I’m looking forward to that surge of energy that is unique to being on stage.


Friday 23 July 8pm start with tickets available here for £11
https://www.wegottickets.com/event/519309

or £13 on the door.

The Crawdaddy Club, Richmond Athletic Ground, Richmond Upon Thames, Surrey TW9 2SF

The single is available on all digital downloads: www.emmawilsonband.bigcartel.com

Contact Emma for gigs:  emmawilsonbluesband@gmail.com 

or the official website:  www.emmawilson.net

Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2021.