Big thank you to all readers of the blog – very much appreciated. Some of the messages you sent will be posted soon. Reaching the milestone people said why not interview yourself you must have an interesting story ? I thought ok why not – here goes.
Leaving school in the 1980’s there weren’t many options for a working class kid on Tyneside, I drifted aimlessly from Government employment schemes, factory work and signing on the dole – one time I found myself packing blocks of cheese!
Eventually I found the peace of mind I was searching for after studying photography and video production at Gateshead college in the early ’90s. Then I dove straight in at the deep end – no art grants or funding just full time self-employment. Since then my life has been dedicated to photography, video production, making social documentaries and the past five years writing this blog.
It can be relentless forming ideas from the minute you wake up to working seven days a week – but to be honest it’s the only way to do it. If you’re not prepared to put the time in you might as well shut up shop and hand the keys in.
There were a number of big moments that inspired me. I was fortunate enough to get audience tickets for live TV music show The Tube – looking around the studio I was surrounded by cameras, lights and stages – that was a buzz right there.
The first time I developed one of my photographs was magic, I had a similar reaction when I first saw a videotape editing machine. Plus I was and still am, curious about stuff – Who made that ? How does it work ? When did that happen ? All very useful when talking to people and searching for the sharp end.
The blog is called Alikivi because I was looking for a short, original name and discovered my Great Uncle Alexander Alikivi was born in Russia around 1880 and left the country around the time of the revolution. He came to live in South Shields as a merchant seaman. His name is pronounced Ally-kivy.
At first I didn’t have a plan, the blog was to be just another outlet for interviews I’d filmed over ten year ago with South Tyneside musicians called We Sold Our Soul for Rock n Roll. I thought they still had some juice in them so I updated them, contacted more musicians, added more stories and in February 2017 the blog went live.
The next few years snowballed as the blog ended up covering culture across the North East – writers, artists, photographers – all very popular as the amount of hits show. I never thought I’d end up talking to actors from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and producers of The Tube.
For an interview style I try to make it a relaxed, light conversation, and being genuinely interested in what they have to say. It seems to work as hundreds of interviews later the blog has hit over quarter million views worldwide.
There is so many highlights and in one interview Mond Cowie, former guitarist with Angelic Upstarts, remembers being on a USA tour in 1983.
‘We walked on stage, the lights blazed and Mensi screamed ‘We’re the Upstarts, we’re from England, 1,2,3,4’ – then bang there was a huge power cut’.
Another time Danny McCormack from The Wildhearts told me his parents were only convinced he had a real job when they saw him on telly.
‘Being in a band with a plank of wood and four wires hanging around your neck doesn’t cut it with your parents. After we’d done Top of the Pops my mam and dad stopped asking if I was going to get a proper job’.
A lot of stories were bands trying to ‘make it’ and one band who set alight to the Tyne but unfortunately not the Thames, was White Heat. Former singer and songwriter Bob Smeaton, now award winning music documentary maker, told me…
‘I was working as a welder at Swan Hunters shipyard when punk and new wave happened in ‘76,’77, that’s when I started thinking I could possibly make a career out of music’.
One show that had me glued to the telly on a Friday night during the ‘80s was ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’. So I didn’t miss the opportunity to talk to one of the stars of the show, Lesley Saint John.
‘You wouldn’t believe how much attention the show attracts. I done five years on Byker Grove, and a Catherine Cookson film, but Auf Wiedersehen is the one that’s talked about the most’.
‘Wildflower’ was a documentary I made about South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy, George Orwell’s first wife. I interviewed his son Richard Blair who revealed Eileen’s influence on George.
‘She done some re-writing of his manuscripts, certainly when he was writing ‘Animal Farm’ he would read out what he had written during the day and she would pass comment on certain aspects’.
I was proud to hear The Orwell Society screened the documentary on the Isle of Jura where Orwell wrote his masterpiece ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’.
One man I interviewed, sadly just a few weeks before he passed away, was author and TV Producer Chris Phipps who worked on live TV music programme The Tube. I told Chris it was being in the audience of the programme that inspired me, Chris offered bags of encouragement ‘to go and dig out more stories, there’s plenty out there’.
So far I’m proud at the success of the blog – can’t smile wide enough, and I suppose I’ll keep going until the juice runs out.
Check out the You Tube channel : ALIKIVI – YouTube