BUILDING THE BIRD with North East songwriter Daniel Clifford

After his debut Birdwatching, Clifford returns with his second album of new wave pop. Building the Bird is released on the night of the debut gig by Amateur Ornithologist scheduled for Gateshead’s Central Bar on 21st October.

‘We’re also playing in Stockton on 26th October at NE Volume Music Bar and we’re hoping to play a Christmas gig in South Shields, so fingers-crossed for that’ said Daniel.

North East songwriter Daniel Clifford with Harbourmaster Studio Producer Martin Trollope.

The new album has eleven new songs recorded in the Harbourmaster Studio, South Shields. Producer Martin Trollope also features on bass, and on viola is Madeleine Smyth.

‘Maddie is a fantastic musician and songwriter in her own right, and plays a big part in Amateur Ornithologist too. The keyboard was recorded onto a cassette tape and then played into the computer, which gave it a semi-out-of-tune and nostalgic sound.

That reminded me of writing little songs when I was a kid and singing them into my nanna’s baking flour-covered tape recorder’.

Do you take time when thinking about the running order ?

‘Getting the track listing right is something I really care about. The best albums have a flow to them and that’s something I wanted to achieve.

It’s ended up with four singles in the first six songs, but I think that’s because you need to grab people more in the first half of an album and in the second half there’s more space to breathe’.

The single releases have received airplay from BBC Introducing and Amazing Radio are Hermit PhaseI Told A LieSunscreen and A Better Person.

‘A Better Person is all about my mam and my nanna, their relationship, my nanna’s death and how similar they were. I wanted to write something a little bit like Here, There and Everywhere by The Beatles but I ended up with something much sadder’.

‘Still, the music had something about it that made me want to write about love – but familial love rather than the usual song subject’.

‘Whenever anyone told my nanna that my mam was like her, she’d say “Well… couldn’t be like a better person!” It’s a song for them, although when I first played the music to my mam she preferred some of the others’.

How did the band get together ?

‘Pulling a band together has actually been a lot easier than I expected. I’ve just put adverts up on a site called Join My Band and auditioned people from there. But keeping it together has been harder’.

‘We’re almost Fall-like in terms of our member turnover. I think that’s possibly the case with lots of bands at the start – trying to find the right personalities to work together with the will to keep going’.

‘A lot of the band are neurodivergent so sometimes we’re more direct with how we say things but I like to think we understand each other and get that it’s just the way we’re made. And more often than not we laugh most of the way through band practices’.

What time of day do you find best to write ?

‘I tend to write during the daytimes, fiddling around with ideas on my computer and amassing completed tracks of music, including drums, bass, guitar, keys and other instruments. Then I write the lyrics in batches of four or five because if I do them in isolation they feel too daunting to complete – like they have to be perfect’.

The music videos were created by Daniel and Jenny Rohde, who also worked together on the single and album covers.

‘It’s all related to my nanna and the things we did together. I went to her old street to film and that was the first time I’ve been there since she died so there was a sadness there, but I got to talk to Jenny about my childhood and that was positive’.

What are your hopes for Building the Bird ?

‘I’m hoping that this album connects with an audience and we get to play the songs live for lots of people around the North East and further afield. We’ve got CDs and cassettes printed and made a zine of lyrics, art and behind-the-scenes stuff’.

‘These are all incredibly limited edition so I’m hoping people take a chance on them and enjoy having something hardly anyone else has’.

‘I’d love for people to connect with the words and feel like they can relate to them. And then I’ll get writing the next one’.

Building the Bird is released on Friday 21st October by Harbourmaster Recordings and Regret Everything Records on CD, cassette, zines and download from:

https://amateurornithologist.bandcamp.com/album/building-the-bird

Tickets for The Central Bar, Gateshead to launch the album are available now from: 

https://www.wegottickets.com/event/552393

Alikivi  October 2022

‘SEVEN BRIDGES’ new album from The Attention Seekers

During Covid lockdowns some musicians took time out to reboot ideas and produced new music, guitarist Alan Fish was no different.

‘Against all odds I managed to produce a new collection of songs. It’s been quite a journey. This pandemic has reminded us how fragile and precious life is and it’s in this spirit of gratitude that we are releasing a new album which is a tribute to my home town Newcastle upon Tyne’.

‘We’ are a collection of musicians trading under the moniker The Attention Seekers who went into Newcastle Cluny studio and with engineering skills of Tony Davis, recorded new album Seven Bridges – also the name of a track with its infectious chorus…

It’s a beautiful city I know, from the steps to the quayside, and I can still see Seven bridges to carry me home, to the streets of Newcastle tonight’.

The album is Tyne soaked in a positive acoustic feel with vocals on the eleven tracks shared between Jesse Terry, Romaana Shakir, Sam Blewitt and Alan who had different plans back in 2020.

‘Everything stopped in March 2020. The world as we know it ground to a halt. Covid made the future uncertain. The plan had been to return to the USA to promote the previous album A Song for Tomorrow. We had promo in place but gigs and radio interviews had to be put on hold’.

‘Fast forward to 2022 and some semblance of normality is gradually returning, most importantly my family, friends, bandmates and I have our health intact. There are too many who have not been so fortunate’.

When did you start putting the Seven Bridges ideas together ?

‘I travelled back in time to revisit songs from my days in North East rock bands White Heat and The Loud Guitars in Do Me A Favour, Chain Reaction and Is it Too Late? Keeping in that frame of mind I wrote a letter to my younger self in Daydreaming’.

‘Romaana Shakir provides great vocals on the track Mr Coastguard which is a letter of thanks to The Turkish Coastguard Service. What happened was my wife Viv and I spent a night in a tiny speedboat lost in rough seas and with no fuel. An experience Viv and I will not be repeating’.

‘And there is a ‘what if’ song called Money In His Pocket. The lyrics covered the story of a musician trying to ‘make it’ in the music biz’…

He put some money in his pocket, grabbed a bag and picked up his guitar. He took off in the middle of the night in his beat up car. He left behind the prettiest girl, to find his way in the big wide world’

‘That’s about walking away from ‘the deal’ which was one of the best decisions I ever made. In 1989 White Heat reformed for a one-off festival appearance alongside Aswaad and Nick Hayward.

After our set we were approached by Don Arden ‘notorious’ owner of Jet Records, manager of ELO, Dio and Black Sabbath, father of Sharon Osbourne, and father in law of Ozzy’.

‘He expressed an interest in managing us (White Heat), although I had long put aside any thoughts of a full time career in the music business, I was interested in what he had to say and I agreed to meet with Don the next day’.

‘His plan was to put us out on tour after tour in the states supporting his bands – ELO, Black Sabbath to name but two, until we ‘broke the market’. He was aware I was married with a young family and said “you have a decision to make”. I kindly declined the offer, ‘Money In His Pocket’ is a fictitious story where in a parallel universe I accepted the deal’.

A full interview with Alan was posted on 13 September 2019. (Link below)

A track on the new album was originally by a band with its roots firmly in the North East – Lindisfarne.

‘The Alan Hull (Lindisfarne) track Winter Song was suggested to me by New York radio presenter Charlie Backfish, many thanks Charlie! Both Sam Blewitt and Jesse Terry share lead vocals and I think their voices work incredibly well together, I am planning to repeat this combination in the future’.

Passing Ships is a dip into the murky waters of Greek Mythology and The Girl with the Jukebox Mind was after a chance encounter with someone in New York, she definitely had the Woodstock look, she described herself as having a ‘Jukebox mind’ – a brilliant title for a song!’

‘And on the next track who is Alison Jones ? well everybody loves a mystery’.

Have you plans to take Seven Bridges out on tour ?

‘Firstly a huge thanks to all the talented musicians who have joined me in this venture and yes there was a mini tour in October finishing at The Cluny in Newcastle’.

‘Our next gig is at Birmingham Central Art Space on the 30th October supporting Dan Whitehouse, and more gigs to be announced soon so keep a look out on our social media page or check the official website’.

http://www.the-attention-seekers.co.uk

‘Seven Bridges’ is available to stream/download via all the usual platforms.

NO ORDINARY JOE – in conversation with Alan Fish former guitarist with WHITE HEAT | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Alikivi  October 2022

MASTER OF PUPPETS with WAVIS O’SHAVE ON THE TUBE

Ground breaking ‘80s live music show The Tube was broadcast from Tyne Tees studios in Newcastle for Channel Four from 1982 to 1987. The last post featured Wavis O’Shave who appeared regularly on the programme.

For one of the shows some filming was scheduled at the South Marine Park, South Shields and Wavis asked his mate Phil Whale to accompany him. Phil was a miner who lived on the Whiteleas council estate, South Shields.

Wavis: ‘I took Phil with me because he was the leader of the Whiteleas Massive and as a miner pissed off being involved in the Miners Strike. Thought I’d cheer him up!’

Phil Whale: ‘If there is one thing having a mate like Wavis has taught me is to always expect the unexpected. I’ve had hilarious times in his presence and witnessed surreal bizarre events’.

‘At that time Wavis was a regular on the show with his character The Hard who in essence was a delightfully exaggerated alpha male tough guy who was on a quest to demonstrate that he was the hardest guy on the planet’.

The Hard in his Hard backyard, South Shields.

‘I remember feeling excited at the prospect of watching him undertake his TV work, yet also feeling nervous at what he may do to challenge the norms and expectations of those in attendance because that is one of the things that he’s about.

Funnily enough I do remember him having a glint in his eyes’.

‘We met a camera crew all wearing Barbour jackets and talking in middle class accents. Wavis politely explained to them that he was going to present new characters to the cameras such as Mr Ordinary Powder, Mr Starey Oot and a hand puppet scene called the Non Sweary Puppet Show’.

The Tube crew were expecting The Hard to turn up as that character was starting to make a big impression on their viewers. Even the staff in production meetings used to do impersonations of The Hard. But on the day Wavis had other ideas.

Filming Mr Ordinary Powder in the South Marine Park, South Shields.

Phil remembers ‘The director begged him to do The Hard and asked him if he would consider doing six episodes for Channel 4, but Wavey was having none of it stating that the Hard was now consigned to the past and as an artist he wanted to move on’. 

‘It was just mental watching Wavis perform these new surreal characters in a public park with Mr Ordinary Powder who was naked apart from a loin cloth, carrying a shopping basket containing a talking loaf of bread, and Mr Starey Oot just staring everyone and everything out – in a manner that the Hard would be proud of’.

‘Mind you the best part of the day had to go to the Non Sweary Puppet Show which involved Wavis hiding behind a wall then up popped glove puppets arguing and screaming at each other that included loud explicit references to sex and constant use of the F word – all in Geordie!

The crew and gathering members of the public stood in a stunned silence at what was happening.

‘Wavis maintained a rock steady face in between takes which added to the surreal nature. I remember experiencing a wide range of thoughts ranging from ‘what the feck this is brilliant’ to ‘Get in Wavis’. 

‘At the end of the day payment was discussed with the director, at first Wavis refused money but after haggling was pleased to get a brand new Scotland football strip.’

Phil wraps up his feelings about the day… ‘To cap it all off Wavis asked if I would accompany him to the Tube Studio for the editing. Was he valuing my comedic opinion or was he sticking two fingers up to the producers expectations?’

‘I suppose I will never know but it didn’t matter to me as the experience was priceless. Oh and by the way you won’t be surprised to hear that The Non Sweary Puppet Show didn’t survive the cuts which was a shame but not unexpected’.

It’s reported on good authority that while the Non-Swearies Puppet Show was unsuitable for terrestrial TV broadcast it was a huge favourite in The Tube Office.

‘The Non-Swearies…even I’ve lost the original demo VHS performance’ remembers Wavis.

Alikivi   October 2022

WAVIS O’SHAVE on ’80s LIVE MUSIC SHOW THE TUBE

Ground breaking live music TV show The Tube was broadcast from Tyne Tees studios in Newcastle upon Tyne for Channel Four from 1982 to 1987.

The show was broadcast for 90 minutes on a Friday and I was lucky enough to be in the audience for a number of shows which had a big impact on my life.

Entrance to The Tube at Tyne Tees Television studios City Road, Newcastle.

When I didn’t get tickets I’d be at home with me tea on me lap watching great performances and being introduced to different sounds and styles of music. Someone new and fresh were on every week and the show always delivered a surprise.

There was one week when a duo delivered huge power from what at first looked like an unlikely source. With only a keyboard and microphone set up on stage how loud could a synth pop duo go ?

A young skinny lad with floppy hair stood ready, at a game of football he would have been the last picked, then on walked someone who could of been a school dinner lady.

A clunky pop sound fired up, then the voice, and what a voice. Making one of her first TV appearances was Alison Moyet.

Wavis meets The Hard next to his Hard hut in his Hard backyard.

I mentioned the show liked to pull a surprise and someone who featured regularly on the show and tangled with some of the Tube’s Big Wigs was – insert your own description here/eccentric/circus performer/recording artist/surreal South Shields showman, whisper it quietly – Wavis O’Shave.

“When the Tube crew came back from filming me they would run straight off to Malcolm Gerrie (Producer) and tell him ‘You won’t believe what he did!’ Malcolm would reply ‘I would’.

Despite my controversial antics it didn’t stop Producer Gavin Taylor candidly telling my wife that I was the most decent person he had ever known!”

“Sometimes I would witness disputes in the Tube office like when Queen reckoned the show should pay them for a ten grand filming bill, and the show thought that they should be coughing up. I was there when Elvis Costello sent a life size photo of himself with a signed apology after he wrecked his dressing room the week before”.

One of the many faces of Wavis was The Hard, an exaggerated tough working class Geordie possibly the hardest man in the world. Other faces were Mr Ordinary Powder, Mr Starey Oot, Foffo Spearjig, but it was The Hard that got the show’s attention.

“During a live Christmas Eve show Muriel Gray (presenter) hit me over the head with one of those pretend bottles they use in Spaghetti westerns. I was told afterwards that she’d thought she’d killed me!”

“I told her earlier in the day to give me a right good belt and you’d better believe she did. There’s still some doubt as to whether there had been a cock up and it was a real bottle, it sounded like it, it did cut me and there was blood. The show were crapping themselves thinking ‘Insurance’. I felt nowt though”.

Letter from TV Executive Producer, Andrea Wonfor.

Wavis remembers the day he was carpeted by Executive Producer, Andrea Wonfor.

“The BIG boss of the show was Andrea Wonfor, a lovely lady and a huge Wavey fan. I remember when I was first given the freedom of The Tube studio. Andrea had me in her office where I was made to assure her that I would behave”.

“As you can see in her fond recollection I’d asked her – she was a big-wig at Granada at the time – if she would be ref for me in my proposed fight with Chris Eubank for Children In Need or something like that. I had the challenge put thru Chris’ letter box in Brighton but he never came back to me.” 

When you were in the studio did you get along with any of the musicians, celebrities or TV crew ?

“Being anti-social and elusive I stayed clear of everyone. I guess this became part of my expected ‘image’. I couldn’t help but see a few in passing like Lemmy and Jim Diamond, but in fact I think most people were quite wary of me and would prefer I kept my distance”.

“When Paula Yates (presenter) wanted my dressing room which was nearer the stage as at the time she was pregnant, she didn’t approach me directly to ask. Think she was well wary of me. Either that or she fancied me rotten”. 

“I rarely would turn up at the Friday shows despite having a VIP pass. On one such rare occasion I was invited to go over and say hello to a shy young American girl. I glanced over, and because I had this elusive but anti-social reputation I didn’t bother. Turns out it was Madonna, so I guess I can claim I blew her out”.

(Madge’s first TV performance was on The Tube broadcast from The Manchester Hacienda in 1984.)

What are your memories as The Tube finally closed up shop in 1987 ?

“The last Tube show was aired on its regular Friday slot. I was disappointed as a week before I had filmed The Hard ‘Final Felt nowt feeler’ with my missus in it but it wasn’t included. On the Sunday, when the repeat was aired, there I was edited in as a personal tribute to The Hard and his popularity on the show.

That was the very last ever Tube show not the Friday one. It’s gone missing and remains to this day the Holy Grail of lost Tube shows”.

THE HARD features on ‘Best of the Tube’ DVD.

Alikivi   October 2022

THE KANE GANG: On ‘80s Live Music Show The Tube

Martin Brammer, Paul Woods & Dave Brewis.

Autoleisureland is a new project by North East musicians Dave Brewis and Paul Woods, but in the 1980s along with vocalist Martin Brammer, they were with Seaham soul trio The Kane Gang.

Originally signed to Newcastle label Kitchenware Records, they released two albums and scored UK hits in Closest Thing to Heaven, Respect Yourself and Motortown in the USA.

‘When we had London Records promo team the promotion was all over Europe and we always seemed to be going to a TV studio or Radio interview.

We were once booked on the the live BBC teatime show Crackerjack with Stu Francis, other guests were Keith Harris and his duck Orville’.

‘We made a video for most singles and filmed a couple in the USA. Looking back it happened pretty fast – it was surreal at times’ said Dave Brewis.

The Kane Gang’s existence was smack bang in the middle of The Tube’s dominance of live music programming. I asked Dave how did you get the call ?

‘The Tube production team contacted Kitchenware Records to set up special filming for the four bands that were on the labels roster – The Kane Gang, Prefab Sprout, Hurrah! and the Daintees’.

‘Each band was filmed in a different location in Newcastle. We were filmed performing Smalltown Creed in the Barn restaurant at the end of Leazes Terrace and Prefab Sprout were filmed outside the Holy Jesus Hospital on the Swan House roundabout. It was broadcast in November 1983’.

What can you remember of filming your live appearance on The Tube ?

‘In April 1984 we recorded Smalltown Creed and Closest Thing To Heaven. We used live vocals over the instrumental tracks from the finished records that we had just recorded with producer Pete Wingfield’.

‘When broadcast, the balance of the microphones on Smalltown Creed was all over the place and you couldn’t really hear Paul Woods, although it sounded fine in the studio at the time. On Closest Thing To Heaven the vocal balance was fine and the sound was good’.

‘I’d seen this happen to a couple of other bands when I was in the audience in the early days, and it seemed a peril of live TV. It wasn’t unique to Tyne Tees studio’.

‘In November ‘84 we were on live, this time with our full touring band, and the crew got an excellent sound. We did Respect Yourself and Gun Law, and I remember Al Jarreau having a crack live band including Steve Gadd, and David Sanborn was there. Afterwards we may have gone to the pub next door, certainly went to the Big Market for a curry’.

Did nerves play a part in your live appearances ?

‘With the show being live and featuring so much stuff every week we just had to be ready to go whenever we were told, so until we had been on, we couldn’t really mix or relax’.

Did you meet any other musicians backstage or in the studio ?

‘I remember Grandmaster Flash & Co. being incredibly jet-lagged and half asleep on their dressing room floor, and in the corridors. But they did a dynamite performance, it looked great. Jeffrey Osborne was really good live, too’.

‘I remember talking to Roy Wood in the green room on one show. Anyone flying home on a Friday to Newcastle from Heathrow was bound to see a few bands on board’.

You can find most of The Kane Gang performances on the official YouTube channel.

The Kane Gang Official – YouTube

For more info on Autoleisureland check the official website :

AutoLeisureLand Home

Alikivi  October 2022

THE GEORDIE WRECKING CREW: Forty Years since The Tube Arrived

In between YOP schemes and signing on the dole in the 1980s I remember queuing outside Newcastle’s Tyne Tees TV Studio to get free audience ticket’s for live music show The Tube.

The ground breaking programme was broadcast by Channel Four from 1982 to 1987.

The 90 glorious minutes had a massive impact on my life. Regular doses of The Tube cudda been a prescribed vaccine injected by the NHS to release built up mental pressure in a time of strikes, mass unemployment and living in a post-industrial wasteland.

Talk about pushing boundaries of what live TV can do this show was run by a Geordie Wrecking Crew creating a bigger blast than anything coming out of London.

TV bigwigs in the South making envious glances towards the North as every Friday Newcastle Airport was chocka block full of top musicians and celebrities. 

You want exciting car crash box office TV ? it’s all here, the Geordie crew really were the ducks nuts. With the launch show planned, Sunderland punks Toy Dolls were brought in to light the fuse – tune in, turn on, blast off.

Over the past couple of years some of the production team have talked on this blog about how the North East gained a reputation to produce good music shows, and how influential and important the show would become.

Chris Cowey: ‘The Tube was a real blend of old school Tyne-Tees TV expertise and young whippersnappers like me who was obsessed with music and bitten by the live music thing. I was into DJ’ing, Drama, Theatre which led to my TV break’.

‘My mentor was Producer Malcolm Gerrie, who a lot of people will remember from his Tyne-Tees days. A lot of the same gang of music fans were the nucleus of the production teams for Check It Out, Alright Now, TX45, The Tube and Razzmatazz’.

‘Tyne-Tees already did some good old entertainment shows before my time, like Geordie Scene or What Fettle, but they were obsessed about their ‘Geordieness’. The Tube wasn’t, it was all about good music because we were music obsessed.

It also had a great mix of time served TV people blended together with new people with fresh ideas, and a kind of irreverence which came out in those shows’.

Chris Phipps: ‘I was at the Tube from the start in ’82 till it’s full run to ’87. I joined as a booker and became Assistant Producer from 1985 to 1987′.

‘A band on the first show that I booked didn’t happen. The Who didn’t do it because their pa system got stuck in Mexico or somewhere. Producer Malcolm Gerrie knew Paul Weller’s father and got The Jam to do it.

In a way I’m glad that he did because The Jam playing their last TV gig ever, really said this is what The Tube is all about – that was then, this is now and off we go’.

‘After appearing Fine Young Cannibals got signed, The Proclaimers got signed and there was a time when the Tube crew went to Liverpool to film Dead or Alive. But they weren’t around, someone in a pub told them to go round the corner to another pub where there is a band rehearsing ‘You might be interested in them’. It was Frankie Goes to Hollywood’.

‘The Tube filmed the original version of their single Relax and Trevor Horn saw it. He did the deal and re-recorded and produced the single. Frankie epitomised The Tube and the ‘80s – they got what it was all about’.

Gary talks to Radio One DJ, John Peel.

Gary James: ‘I was one of the original co-presenters on The Tube from Series One, which started on Friday November 5th 1982. I applied along with 5,000 other herberts who all thought they were cool, hip and groovy enough to be TV presenters’.

‘To give the programme a bit of extra thrill they wanted to put some unknown faces alongside the two main presenters Jools Holland and Paula Yates. They certainly achieved that as few of us really knew what we were doing.

It was all live, pre-watershed national networked TV and no second chances’.

‘None of us on the presenter side, perhaps with the exception of Jools and Paula who breezed through it all without a care in the world, could have had any idea that the show would be as seminal as it was.

We certainly knew we were part of the ‘new wave’ and that we didn’t want to be all BBC and Top of the Pops-ish’.  

‘The chaos on it was quite genuine and the edginess a result of the fact that for most of the time we were left to get on with what we were doing without any strict direction or guidance to be pros.

I had a good time interviewing Ringo Starr, Eartha Kitt, Tony Visconti, Mickey Finn of T.Rex, John Peel, Kajagoogoo and loads more interesting people who had a part to play in the industry’.

Colin Rowell, Chris Phipps, Michael Metcalf.

Colin Rowell: ‘It was just five years of sheer magic. There was Geoff Brown, Chris Phipps and me sharing an office in Newcastle. They, as producers, had applied for this music television show and asked me if I was interested in joining the team as stage manager’.

‘From years working at Newcastle City Hall I knew the acts, the crews, the managers and they were all glad when they knew a familiar face and voice was going to be there running the stages in the studio’.

‘First off started with two stages, ended up with four and I did the deal with ENTEC who were a big sound company. They ran Reading Festival and owned The Marquee. It was a smooth operation with them providing all the sound and crew.

The PA was flown in (hung from ceiling) off the stage making it easier for cameramen to have floor space and no big speakers in their way’.

‘One time me and Geoff Brown were sent to London to check out Grandmaster Flash. It was the first time The Tube were going to have on stage a set-up of a band playing all the scratchy stuff’.  

‘We got to the venue and there was a support band on so we went to a Steak house but it was dreadful and we didn’t eat it so we went back to the venue. The support act were still on and we listened in this time. This was good stuff. It was Paul Young and the Royal Family.’

‘We got back to Newcastle and in a meeting with one of the head guy’s at The Tube, Malcolm Gerrie, I banged the table and said ‘let’s get him on’. And we did. But Malcolm and I felt Paul didn’t get a good crack of the whip first time so we invited him back on again and the rest is history’.

Michael Metcalf: ‘I worked as Personal Assistant to a lot of freelance directors, one of which was Geoff Wonfor who was the husband of Andrea Wonfor, Executive Producer on the Tube’.

‘When the Tube began I continued working with Geoff for the first few years then applied for a vacancy to become a Director and got the job for most of Series Four.  

It’s important to remember that at that time we were a bunch of Geordie guys who were working with some amazing people and having the time of our lives’.

‘I remember one trip to New York we hired a helicopter to fly around the Statue of Liberty. I sat in the helicopter alongside the pilot, Geoff was in the row behind and the cameraman was strapped in but hanging out of the side of the helicopter, the door had been taken off’.

‘I had the headset to communicate with the pilot, going down the Hudson, he asked if we wanted to go under or over the bridges, I asked if we could do both, which we ended up doing.

It is hard to imagine getting away with that now but we had the time of our life. Every day the job was an adventure’.

Gary James: ‘Because it was live I only ever saw the programmes I didn’t work on. My parents told me they had recorded shows on VHS tape and did I want them? I stuck them in a box and put them in the attic’.

‘There they stayed for years until I watched them from behind the sofa for the first time. The performances blew me away. I can now finally see what everyone was going on about – but until then I genuinely had no idea’.

Chris Cowey: ‘It was really important that it came from the North-East because of the passion the swagger and total commitment. It’s not just that Geordies like showing off – although they undoubtedly do! – it’s because the history and attitude of the region can be really inspiring, creative and hugely fun. That’s how it worked so well’.

Chris Phipps: ‘You can never bring The Tube back. It’s of its time. Chris Evans on TFI Friday in the ‘90s near enough had it, the set was just like The Tube. So yeah it’s had an incredible influence’.

To read the full interviews type in the name in the white search box.  

Alikivi   October 2022

GOOD TO KNOW THERE’S STILL A LITTLE MAGIC IN THE AIR

When I was younger in the ’70s the first time I heard the Queen song Brighton Rock it was an absolute humdinger with guitar ‘n’ drums blistering through a tunnel melting me ears – there was magic in the air alright.

Reaching that euphoric moment when you want a song to instantly repeat is a fantastic feeling.

Music also has an incredible power to pick you up, light a fire in yer belly and head off any shit storm coming your way. And there are plenty hard times ahead courtesy of the snivelling Tory party shovelling shit hot off the shovel.

When are some grown up’s gonna take over?

But how has music affected me ? Music has always been there it’s been a constant through my life. Looking back my early listening days were a great comfort and education. My first lesson was hearing my mams Country & Western records on the stereo in the sitting room.

I have two older brothers and a sister, one brother was an apprentice chippie (joiner) and our house needed extra room so his woodworking skills created a partition to make extra bedrooms where they would turn on and turn up their record players for my second lesson.

The eldest brother would be playing Dylan or Neil Young, the chippie would be Queen or Elvis Costello, and coming out of my sisters room was a collection of pop singles  – I would sit on the stairs and listen to an eclectic mix of music for young ears.

Fast forward to today where I don’t download music, for my fix I visit the South Shields market and charity shops who have an ever increasing stock of cd’s. There’s a buzz to who you might find. The latest booty has included Country & Western compilations. One day when I was searching through a rack there was an old feller next to me, I said to him…

‘These aren’t in alphabetical order so hopefully I might hit lucky and find something by Tammy Wynette’, he shot back ‘Best get the ferry over to North Shields there’s plenty of Country and Western in their charity shops, they love their twang’.

Would the music of today provide an education as strong as those bands I listened to back in the day ? In 30, 40 or 50 year time would Ed Sheeran and all the others who, make radio adverts sound interesting, be remembered ?

It’s said that some things are best left broken, I can agree with that, but in times of extreme worry or stress it’s comforting to know that music is always there in the background ready to step in if needed – it’s good to know there’s still a little magic in the air.

Alikivi  September 2022.

GAN CANNY – created by North East sculptor, Ray Lonsdale

Gan Canny sculpture by Ray Lonsdale. pic Alikivi 2022

For non-Geordies reading this post ‘Gan Canny’ is a phrase meaning take it easy. It can be said after yakking with yer marra and putting the world to rights – which means talking to your friend and solving all our problems.

Av’ yer got that reet? Champion. I went into Sunderland city centre to check out the new Fire Station music and theatre venue and stayed for a canny bit o’ scran. If non Geordies are still following that means ‘some nice food’.

Also on my list was to see the new sculpture just around the corner in Keel Square.

I visit galleries and museums where fantastic paintings and great skill is on show like in Madrid’s Prado, Scotland’s National and Newcastle’s Laing, unlike the contemporary art in Gateshead’s Baltic which leaves me cold.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve seen good contemporary stuff in New York’s MOMA and the Pompidou in Paris but the Tracey Emin tent and unmade bed in Tate London some years ago looked like a sixth form art project.

An outside location is a different challenge, the position is all important. Gateshead got it spot on with The Angel of the North placed at the top of a hill on a former colliery next to the A1 motorway and seen by thousands of cars daily.

The artist Antony Gormley originally made small models of the design but it was Hartlepool Steel Fabrications who produced what you see now.

Gan Canny sculpture by Ray Lonsdale. pic Alikivi 2022

Gan Canny installed in December 2021,  is the latest work by Ray Lonsdale and is placed a stone’s throw away from where the Vaux Breweries were in Sunderland.

Gan Canny is a life sized sculpture of a driver and his assistant and two horses pulling a cart loaded with barrels and crates of Vaux beer. The detail is fantastic with a bucket and shovel for the horse muck – three balls of it – and the assistant feeding the horse lumps of sugar – no doubt the driver’s gesture is ‘gan canny with that sugar’.

Ray also produced 11.01 the nine foot tall soldier at Seaham, 11.01 refers to the first minute of peace, as the First World War armistice started at 11am on the 11th November 1918.

The red steel sculpture now known affectionately as Tommy, is sitting with his helmet on, holding his gun and looking down – is he weary from a day’s fighting and seeing some of his marras being injured or killed ? Or catching his breath and preparing himself to go over the top ?

11.01 – Tommy by Ray Lonsdale. pic Will Binks 2017.

Each time I’ve visited there’s been a quiet reverence shown by people of all ages, paying respects, laying a flower or small wooden cross, maybe reflecting on how wars have impacted the lives of friends, relatives, or their own lives.

I experienced a similar atmosphere the other week when I visited The Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge in the Scottish Highlands.

Lonsdale also created Fiddlers Green at North Shields – a memorial to lost fishermen off the North East coast. Loss is a major theme running through here and the Gan Canny sculpture reminds me of the loss of a slower pace of life.

I’m old enough to remember a time when the rag an’ bone man with his horse and cart trotted down the back lane shouting ‘any ole rags’.

But this new sculpture by Ray is to celebrate Sunderland’s connection with Vaux Breweries, who for over 150 year were major employers in the city. Although not the emotional heft of Tommy, Gan Canny is worth going back for.

More works by Ray Lonsdale can be seen right across the North from Gretna Green in Dumfries down to Middlesborough on Teesside.

Alikivi   September 2022

ST BEDE’S JUNCTION RAIL DISASTER with researcher, John Caffery

John with a photo of his Grandfather Thomas Caffery.

The last post highlighted the work of the Hive Storytellers who are based in Jarrow. It featured a story that group member John Caffery came across when he was researching his family tree.

“Thomas Caffery my Grandfather was born in Hartlepool in 1886, and I came across his army service records. They revealed he suffered leg injuries in a serious train disaster at Jarrow.

I enquired more about this and searched through old copies of the Evening Chronicle to see if there were any reports”.

”I found there was a communal grave and headstone in Harton Cemetery, South Shields for the passengers of the train who were killed in the accident, but no names for them. They were buried with three named soldiers and remembered on a Commonwealth War Grave.

My curiosity got the better of me and I uncovered full details of the accident and confirmed the identity of 17 people killed.”

Disaster at St Bede’s Junction, Jarrow.

Reports tell us that the 17th December 1915 was a cold, damp, foggy morning and a coal train was pushed out of Tyne Dock and up the steep track by a banking engine joining the South Shields to Newcastle line at St Bede’s Junction, a signal box controlled the area.

As visibility was worsening with weather conditions and heavy industrial smog, the banking engine had finished assisting the coal train and waited for the signal to let him know he can return back to Tyne Dock.

A passenger train heading for South Shields passed by as the banking engine driver waited patiently for the signal.  After waiting five minutes he sent his fireman to the signal cabin to notify them of their position.

Sadly this delay proved disastrous as a Newcastle bound passenger train ploughed into the stationary banker train derailing them both, and damaging two carriages.

Shortly after, an empty goods train heading for South Shields also collided into them and was derailed. The carriage’s wooden construction and gas lighting fuelled horrific fires and damage.

Evening Chronicle newspaper report of St Bede’s Rail disaster.

John added “I found in the newspaper reports that the noise from one steam engine was deafening and carriages of the train were a mass of burning wreckage. One engine driver had a remarkable escape as he was thrown yards away from his engine which had overturned and rolled over the embankment into a field.

Men were lying on the ground receiving first aid, screaming was coming from the carriages as one train was on top of the other”.

“Despite heroic efforts of ambulance men from Palmers shipyards, soldiers from Durham Royal Engineers and Tyneside Irish, and a number of railway and policemen plus nearby residents, rescue was practically impossible”.

William Dunlop, the guard, and William Rowe, fireman of a train nearby, ran over and uncoupled the other carriages before the fire spread.

Another man who helped to recue injured passengers was Samson Tolliday. Samson was an off duty engine driver who lived near Tyne Dock station. He was travelling in the passenger train when the accident happened.

At the official enquiry in Newcastle he told the inspector that ‘the first outbreak of fire was from a gas jet. If I had been able to get saws I might have got more passengers out. All water tanks on the engine were broken and water was not available’.

The Chief Constable of South Shields made an official statement reported in the Evening Chronicle 18th December 1915 ‘It is impossible to identify the remains of any of the victims, and only a small proportion of the property found at the scene can be traced to the possession of any of the missing passengers’.

John talked about finding more newspapers reports

“There was over 200 people on the passenger train, that early in the morning they would have been going to work, among them there was an accountant, cabinet maker, a tripe preparer, and my Grandfather was going up to Newcastle for some army training.

The people that were tragically killed were buried on Christmas Eve 1915. I felt strongly that they should have their own headstone with all their names on”.

The new headstone in Harton Cemetery with the names inscribed, the original headstone on the left.

With a combined effort from local company HVR Electrics, who are based next to Bede metro station where the accident happened, A19 Model Railway Club, Bede Memorials and South Tyneside Council Cemeteries Department, John ensured that an appropriate memorial headstone was installed in Harton Cemetery.

Alikivi   September 2022

LISTEN IN with Lilly Moon from Tyneside’s Hive Storytellers

It was late 2012 when Hive community radio station started broadcasting on-line out of Tyneside’s Jarrow Hall.

Over the years they took on a number of projects including a new audio drama group who obtained Lottery funding and found a base in Jarrow’s Perth Green Community Centre – Hive Storytellers was born in September 2019.

But when the Covid 19 pandemic hit in 2020 the on line station lost all funding and community contracts, fortunately the group managed to survive the lockdowns by meeting on zoom once a week.

With the radio station closed the Hive Storytellers continued to create new projects and produce a number of audio plays for podcasts on Spotify, Apple and other feeds.

With over 2,500 listeners worldwide, the plays covered local Tyneside stories using a mix of fact and fiction.

Rule 55 is a play based on a rail disaster at St Bede’s Junction, Jarrow in 1915. It was written by Lilly Moon from South Shields and Jarrow born Lorna Windham.

Lilly talked about the inspiration for the story

“I was talking to fellow Hive Storyteller John Caffery one day when he mentioned that his Grandfather was involved in a train disaster at Jarrow. It peaked my interest so I done a bit of research then talked to Lorna about it and we agreed to do something about this hidden story”.

“The project gathered momentum and not only did we write an audio drama, we also put together an exhibition for Bede’s World in Jarrow.

We also spoke to A19, the local railway club about this tragic accident who ended up making a diorama model of the train crash, we were very grateful, it was totally unexpected”.

“On the opening night of the exhibition we invited the South Tyneside Mayor and Reverend of the local church St Pauls, she done a blessing. Newspapers and TV crews came and some family members of people who died in the train crash. It was lovely as they met for the first time.

We’ve worked on a number of projects now and the local history stories go down really well with the audience”.

The St Bede’s Junction Rail Disaster story will be covered in the next post.

What are you working on now?

“Lorna and I are working on a new series of stories of mystical characters, she has created the characters and we’ve recorded them. They are put on the Woodland Audio Trail at the Lady of the North, Northumberlandia in Cramlington”.

“As people go round the trail they scan a QR code onto their phones that are on the listening posts and hear the stories we’ve recorded. It’s done really well over the summer holidays and we are producing another in November. We’ve had some fantastic feedback”.

For more information contact:

hive_radio_storytellers@outlook.com

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Alikivi  September 2022