SNAPSHOT of English actress & playwright Eva Elwes (1876–1950).

Eva Elwes was born on 1 February 1876 in Somerset. A prolific playwright, she wrote over 50 plays with her first a musical drama His Sister’s Honour in 1907, her last being Rudge, Martin & Baker in 1938.

She married comedian Henry Gilpin in 1898, the couple were cast together in several stage productions but unfortunately her husband died young. Eva went on to become a successful touring actress performing in plays and variety shows around the North.

By 1911 she was living in Walsall, West Midlands with actor and scenic artist Llewellyn Eykyn. The couple lived in the market town for ten year as she regularly performed her own plays which were staged by William Glaze’s touring theatre company.

Applications were made to official Play Examiners to license Eva’s plays. They would check if any political, religious and moral issues went over the line, if the Examiners showed any concerns the famous ‘blue pencil’ was in force to amend or cut scenes.

In a report about one of Eva’s plays the Examiner commented…..‘The plot of this melodrama is disgusting. It involves incest and rape, its chief scenes are in a brothel and two of the characters are the keeper of the brothel and her assistant. Its appeal is simply morbid and disgusting sensationalism’.

Although primarily seen in the Midlands and Northern England, her plays were performed in Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, and Newcastle, as well as in smaller towns – Eastleigh, Lowestoft, Falkirk and Ushaw Moor to name a few.

In 1921 the couple moved to South Shields in the North East where Glaze took on the lease of the town’s Alexandra Theatre. Eykyn became the theatre’s stage manager and artist, and Elwes performed in the Alexandra Players. 

Eva wrote two plays on local Tyneside characters in Dolly Peel and Fifty Fafty. Dolly Peel (1782-1857), was a South Shields fishwife and smuggler and the play premiered in 1923 with Will Glaze and Elwes in the cast, the scenery was designed and painted by Ernest Eykyn. Also that year Fifty Fafty was staged by the Alexandra Players, the play was about an old North Shields sailor.

After marrying in 1925, Eva and Llewyllen continued to perform in her plays and in 1930, Elwes began co-managing the Alexandra Theatre with Ethel Hird.

Eva wrote mainly melodramas with several plays having wartime themes, such as Joy – Sister of Mercy and Billy’s Mother. While Heaven at the Helm featured German spies and a U boat.

In 1925, Edith Cavell, Nurse and Martyr, a story of the British nurse who was shot by the Germans in 1915 after being suspected of spying, was submitted to Lord Chamberlain for a licence. Cavell’s sisters were consulted but didn’t feel the play was accurate.

In 1927 they resubmitted its application, initially it was refused, but when Elwes changed the title to The Price She Paid and changed names of characters a licence was granted. 

But in 1940 during the Second World War the German Luftwaffe targeted the docks of South Shields, and sadly the town centre theatre was forced to close due to the blackouts.

This forced Eva and Llewyllen to retire and sadly on 16 June 1950 she died in Cleckheaton, south of Bradford, West Yorkshire. Her husband died in 1956.

Gary Alikivi  June 2021

STUDIO WORKS with Martin Trollope, from Harbourmaster Productions

START ME UP

I’ve been involved in music since I was 6 or 7 years old when I demanded piano lessons because I was a classic younger brother, and therefore a bit jealous that my older brother was getting them. A few years later I started playing the drums and performing in bands, which was the first time I’d played with other musicians and in front of audiences.

It’s safe to say I loved it, and it really cemented my love of music, to the point that when I was offered guitar lessons as part of an A Level Music Technology course, I snapped them up and never looked back.

I can pinpoint that particular moment in time as it really changed everything, especially as I became a guitarist and song writer in a band which naturally led us needing to record our music.


We were really lucky in those days that Tyne Dock youth centre in South Shields had a rehearsal space and recording studio inside, and as young people we were able to access their services for the absolute bargain price of 50p each.

When we started recording, it was like a whole new world was opened up to me and I had to learn more, so I persuaded the manager of the centre to teach me how to use the gear and then persuaded him to give me a job. And that was it really. I was hooked.

MUSIC FOR THE MASSES

I spent as much of my time in the studio as possible, and when I wasn’t there I was recording at home trying to hone my skills as much as I could. Alongside this, my core musical values were developing and I was realising how important it is for the arts to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible.

I was lucky enough to work with a range of people from experienced professionals to first time hobbyists and realised how important it is to treat everyone equally give everyone the same amount of respect regardless of their background or experiences. Which leads to now.

DOCKED & LOADED

I’ve tried to take all my beliefs, values, knowledge and experiences and bring them all together into my new recording studio which is based in Prospect House, Simonside, South Shields. I offer recording, mixing, mastering, session guitar and bass, all for £15 per hour – which is basically the cheapest price I can manage.

Again, I’m lucky that my overheads are fairly low and only have to pay myself so I’m able to offer high quality services for this affordable fee. I really put as much of myself as I can into every project and very grateful to receive amazing feedback from everyone I work with. Head to my website for more info and just get in touch if you need anything at all.

harbourmasterproductions.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi   June 2021

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #2 – Ciao, Avro.

The continuing search for author & artist, Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90).

Over a number of years I’ve researched the life of Italian born author & artist Baron Avro Manhattan, who spent his last years living in a terraced house in my hometown of South Shields. In 2018 a short documentary ‘Secrets & Lies’ was produced focusing on what I’ve found about his life so far. The link is at the end of this post.

Looking for Lucifer #2 includes research used to script a second documentary about this fascinating character. Avro was originally called Theophile Lucifer Gardini and the change of name plus a press cutting from 1938 is looked at in this post.

Daily Herald November 21, 1938.

As well as Theophile Lucifer Gardini, Avro used the name Teofilo Angelo Mario Gardini. In my correspondence with his nephew in Italy, he refers to him as Teofilo. Angelo is also the name of his brother. A childhood friend in Italy where Avro grew up, told me his second name Lucifer was given to him by his father as his mother had given their other son an ‘angelic’ name in Angelo.

A lot of artists have used pen and stage names – musicians Farrokh Bulsara to Freddie Mercury, Mary O’Brien switched to Dusty Springfield and writer Eric Blair becoming George Orwell. In 1953 Teofilo Gardini changed his name by Deed Poll to Avro Manhattan. Why did he change his name making him sound like a rock star ?

One suggestion is that post war his art or book publisher might have suggested Manhattan would be an easier sell than Gardini on the European and American market. Or more likely he wanted a clean break away from Italy and the Fascist regime who still had followers in the UK.

This press cutting above is dated November 1938 and is about an art exhibition held in Mayfair, London.   

At the Bloomsbury Galleries this week there will be an interesting one-man show by a young Italian painter. This artist is Theophile Gardini and the exhibition was to have been opened by Dr Jane Walker, believed to have been the oldest woman doctor in this country, whose death occurred a few days ago. This clever woman doctor was keenly interested in art, and was known as a discerning collector.

The newspaper article doesn’t give the doctor the credit she deserves. Dr Jane Harriet Walker (1859-1938) was a big wig of the medical profession – establishing a private practice in London’s Harley Street, and was first doctor to use the open air method of treating tuberculosis.

A recent search found the Manchester Art Gallery have a 1938 painting by Theophile Gardini titled Spring at Nayland, Suffolk. Why would he be in Suffolk ? The link is Dr Walker, who in 1901 opened a sanitorium to treat tuberculosis in Nayland, Suffolk.

Spring at Nayland, 1938

Back to the newspaper report:

Young Gardini’s art career has been rather unusual. His father, who had artistic as well as literary gifts, was a political prisoner under the Blackshirt regime and sent to a disciplinary regiment to do his military term.

The Blackshirts were the paramilitary wing of Fascist Italy led by Mussolini, and like his father, Avro despised them. In 1928 he was called up for military service, refused to swear to the Fascist oath and was imprisoned in a fortress on Lake Como. As mentioned earlier, he wanted a clean break from Italy.

The closing paragraph of the article revealed:

His son, whose work London is now to have the opportunity of appraising, was designed for the Church and went into a seminary. But his artistic proclivities, especially a facility for drawing nude figures, was judged inappropriate to seminary atmosphere, and young Theophile became a painter.

Avro would have attended the Priest training centre in Monza, Milan, where he was born. But why would the Church protest against his style of painting, understanding this form of art he would have been an asset to the Church as most are covered in paintings and sculptures of people. Surely they can’t have expelled him for a few drawings ?

He might have uncovered secrets and was dismissed because of what he discovered ? In later years Avro wrote many books against the Vatican and the Catholic Church and their position in world politics. A topic he became well known for in religious circles.

If you have information about Italian born artist & author Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Gary Alikivi  April 2021

Link to documentary film:

The Life of Baron Avro Manhattan – SECRETS & LIES – documentary (Alikivi,12 mins 2018). – YouTube

LOST INDUSTRIES on TYNESIDE

Angel of the North (pic May 2015).

Between 2009 and 2016 I made over 20 Tyneside films which are available on the Alikivi You Tube channel. In 2012 Vanished was a documentary about the lost heavy industry on Tyneside now commemorated by pieces of public art along the riverside.

They reflected the past of coal, steel and shipyards which dominated our landscape. In 2004 when I was making a video about art on the riverside I filmed some of them from a helicopter capturing the location of the piece.

On the seafront in South Shields is the Conversation Piece with Tyne Anew on the north side of the river, and on the banks of the Tyne at Hebburn I talked to artist, Charles Quick, who designed Flash.

In 2002 I was invited to put a proposal in for a piece of artwork for Hebburn Riverside park. After talking to people in the area and doing some research about the history of the area I discovered there were lots of industries in Hebburn, but not so evident anymore – shipbuilding, coalmining, cokeworks and electrical engineering.

One thing that would link all those together was industrial flashes of light from the arc welding or the cokeworks.

I worked with many different communities to design flashes of light and these were orchestrated through a number of LED’s on the top, it was all solar powered so it really was looking to the future. There was no cabling linking any of the columns, it was all radio controlled. There was a radio receiver that tells all the columns when to come on and off.

They can come on at night and there’s a timetable so they always come on in the dark, and also 30 second flashes of light every 15 minutes during the day. So it was a piece that would work in the day and at night.

Also featured in the film was former Whitburn colliery miner, now artist, Bob Olley.

Well I worked at Whitburn Colliery from 1957 till the colliery closed in ’68. Whitburn was a wet pit mostly and I was working in the east yard seam three miles out under the North Sea. It took us three quarters of an hour to get in and three quarters of an hour to get out. I think it’s because it’s such an adverse industry, danger, and whatever else, a sense of humour developed.

When the colliery closed it was the push I needed to get out. When I first went into the artistic side of my life the stuff I did was very dour, mostly pen and ink work. Then I moved away from coal mining for about 15 years then suddenly I got this urge to go back to the subject.

Up to about 15 years ago I would say most people in the North East their lives were influenced by the coal industry. The amount of people that were involved with the transportation of coal, the winning of the coal, the processing of the coal, everybody’s life was touched by coal.

Metro bridge at Crossgate, South Shields over former railway line leading to Westoe Colliery. (pic February 2013).

There was a lot of railway lines which used to criss-cross around South Tyneside, now they are used for walking and cycle paths. One man who remembers what it was like was John Cuddihy.

Well I was 40 years on the railway I worked at Sunderland, up to Consett, Darlington and over to Durham. Mostly worked South Shields station, High Shields station and Harton Junction. You had a Harton railway system and you could see the trains coming from Hilda Yard and through the tunnel under where the La Strada nightclub was, then up to Harton low staithes and then we’d run the wagons back.

Then under the British rail system you had the huge system at Green Lane, a massive system at Tyne Dock bottom where you used to get these big nine ’F’ engines hauling these ore trains all the way to Consett. They would haul through Green Lane at high speed. The fireman used to be really fit to haul all the way up a bank to Consett.

If you were on the Marsden Rattler you could travel from Westoe Lane, a huge station with a signal box there an’ al – it was very impressive. You could travel through from Westoe to Whitburn and travel back it was only a short distance done on an aged rolling stock.

After that they pulled it all down, done away with it all together, there’s photographs of how it was and I took one in 1995 of the station. After that they built flats on it you wouldn’t think there’d been anything there – it’s a shame.

Holborn docks, South Shields (pic. September 2016).

By the mid 1980’s there was virtually no shipbuilding on the Tyne, but one man who spent the early years of his working life there, was Vince High.

I started working in the shipyards when I left school in 1975. My Grandad had been a welder, also my uncle. So it was a natural thing for me to aspire to be the same as them, the fact that they were welders was a no brainer for me – I wanted to be like them.

A lot of the guys prided on the fact that they never lost anytime at all. I have visions coming back of the time there was a roller shutter that used to come down dead on 7.30am.

So if you were at the top of the bank and the shutter was coming down, myself and my mate would saunter down happy to lose a quarter hours pay, but you’d see some guys running down, throwing their haversacks under the shutter just before it hit the ground and doing a commando roll into the yard just to save a quarter hours pay.

Looking at the river now compared to say 20 years ago it’s actually incredible. Clearly the shipyards to all intents and purposes are gone, that high employment is gone, but what I think is happening is we’re trying to make an alternative use for the river now.

Whereas at one time it was about industry, work and employment, now it seems to be about improving the housing and getting people actually living near the river again.

Watch the film here with narration by Tom Kelly and music from Ron Smith.

Tyneside Lost Industry – VANISHED (Alikivi 9mins 2012) – YouTube

Gary Alikivi  May 2021.

ROMAN SHIELDS with Durham author, David Kidd

Now living near Crook, West Durham, David Kidd is a retired mathematics teacher born and brought up in South Shields. During the 1980’s he studied for a part time degree in the History of Modern Art, Design and Film at Newcastle Polytechnic, where he met fellow student and author Jean Alicia Stokes who shared a common interest in local history.

They have produced a new book The People’s Roman Remains Park about the Roman Fort in South Shields.

Roman remains park, the Lawe, South Shields.

Living nearby, I know the impact the fort has on the surrounding area of the Lawe, and its position on the headland looking over to where the River Tyne meets the North Sea. I asked David what inspired you to write the book ?

The Roman Fort is part of my family history. Our first house was in Beacon Street on the Lawe Top although we moved out when I was a toddler. The house was demolished and we were banished to Biddick Hall on the outskirts of town. The fact that we once lived on the site of a Roman Fort became part of our family mythology.

My friend Jean Alicia Stokes was writing a book about Harton Village when she came across a fantastic local history scrapbook by Robert Blair, who had his family home in the village. We both thought the scrapbook deserved a wider audience. Robert Blair was secretary of the Excavation Committee and the driving force behind the creation of the People’s Roman Remains Park. We thought it would be a good idea to write a book about the 1875 excavations and I agreed to help her.

Excavations in 1875.

Did you come across any unusual stories when researching ?

Too many to mention. What stands out is the way researching the book brought to life the people involved. Robert Blair is at the centre of the story but there were many other memorable characters who joined the campaign and contributed to its success, they helped save Roman remains from being destroyed by housing development.

The Reverend Robert Hooppell was the founding headmaster of the South Shields Marine School and Blair’s key ally in the publicity campaign to get public support for the excavations. Hooppell was an outspoken opponent of the contagious diseases act and a controversial but respected figure in the town who later went on to excavate the Roman Fort at Binchester near Bishop Auckland, and ‘discovered’ the Saxon Church at Escomb.

Reverend John Collingwood Bruce the charismatic Newcastle schoolmaster who tutored Robert Stephenson and wrote the first guide to the Roman Wall, was another key supporter of the campaign. Then of course there was the mysterious figure of Regina whose monument was discovered by some workmen digging foundations for an outbuilding to a house in Bath Street in 1878. She was the freedwoman and wife of Barates from distant Palmyra.

Regina who was a member of a British tribe from Southern England is depicted on the monument as a Syrian woman surrounded by the symbols of her status and part of the inscription is in Aramaic, the language of Palmyra. She is a potent icon of the multi-racial, multi-cultural Roman Empire and could also be a symbol for the modern cosmopolitan town of South Shields.

Regina reconstruction.

What did you use for research ?

The research began with Robert Blair’s scrapbook which is held by The Word at South Shields and expanded into an exploration of the artefacts from the 1875 excavation in the collections of Arbeia South Shields Roman Fort and the Great North Museum, Newcastle.

We are very grateful for the support of Tyne and Wear Museums, especially Alex Croom the keeper of archaeology at Arbeia without whose help the book could not have been completed. The excavations were headline news locally and nationally and we were lucky to be able to follow the progress of the campaign and the excavations in local newspapers.

They played a vital role in mobilising public support for the preservation of the Fort, and we hope allowed us to bring the story to life – an archaeological sensation comparable in its impact to the discovery of the ship at Sutton Hoo celebrated in the recent film released on Netflix, The Dig.

In many ways the excavations at South Shields were similar – both were led by an amateur, Robert Blair was a solicitor and in both the quality of the finds shook the archaeological establishment.

Gladiator knife handle.

What are you doing now & have you any projects planned for the future ?

When it is possible, we are planning to have a formal launch for the book and hopefully talks/events/ signings at places associated with the story. The book was intended to raise money for Arbeia with all profits going to the fort and while sales have been good in the circumstances, they are below what we expected due to the pandemic.

Jean is writing a full history of Harton Township, her previous book was a snapshot of the village based topically on the 1901 Census returns. I am in the early stages of planning a historical novel telling the story of a Shields shipping family in the style of Daphne Du Maurier’s The Loving Spirit based on some research I did for Jean’s new book.

Where is the book available ?

At the moment the book is only available from the publishers Harton Village Press (us) at £15 including post and packing and can be ordered by emailing Jean at jastokes@virginmedia.com. 

Now things are opening up it should soon also be available from the Word, Arbeia and South Shields Museum.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  March 2021.

VILLAGE NEWS with Jean Stokes, author of a new book on Harton Village, South Shields, North East England.

What inspired you to write the book ?

I am a retired Art teacher and still live in Harton, where I was born and brought up. My father was born in Ferry Street in South Shields near the River Tyne, he took a great interest in the history of the town. I followed in his footsteps and joined South Shields Local History Group, where I’m currently vice chair.

Harton Village 1900 was written for two reasons, firstly with the aim of raising money for St Peter’s Church in Harton and secondly to prove that Harton had been a village. Locally we hear quite a lot of other villages such as Westoe Village and Cleadon Village, but little is made of Harton Village.

My mam and dad always called the shops in Harton ‘the Village’ and someone new to the area thought that this phase was just an affectation, so I decided to prove it wasn’t. I thought I would collect all the lovely, old, rural photos of Harton that I knew existed in the amazing archives at the South Tyneside Libraries and put them into one book.

They show just what Harton Village had been like at the beginning of the twentieth century when my parents were young and were brought on Sunday afternoon walks through the fields from South Shields town centre to enjoy the delights of the bow fronted sweet shop and the little aviary that then existed. I believed lots of other people would be interested in discovering what the village had looked like and hoped therefore the book would make a profit which I could donate to the church.

I had a copy of the Godfrey Map of Harton from 1895, bought at the museum in Ocean Road, and knew there was a census in 1891, and another in 1901, and since the earliest photographs of the village were from the turn of the century, I decided upon 1900 as a good date to explore just who lived in the village and what happened there.  

I’m interested in maps and buildings but also people and their lives. However, unless you lived in a grand house or a pub, the 1891 census does not provide information about where this or that family lived. 


A photograph from about 1945, from the South Tyneside Libraries site showing an awning on the left which belonged to the Ship Inn off sales. The pedestrian is walking west along Marsden Road, nearly at the junction with Sunderland Road, by the smithy and the cottage where Jemima had lived, the one with the open door. The smithy and cottages were pulled down in 1964 to provide a car park.

Did you come across any unusual stories when researching?

Amazingly I found a hand drawn map of Harton Village dated 1896 among church documents, naming each family and where they lived. A truly amazing piece of luck. With this, the census returns and the Godfrey Map I tried to bring the village to life with names and a little information about some of the individuals.  

A small example is that of widowed lady, Jemima Brown who in 1900, lived in one of the cottages next to the smithy, to the east of the Ship Inn. She was at that time the oldest inhabitant in the village.  

In 1902, when she was 89 the country celebrated the coronation of Edward VII and on Saturday 28th June Harton Village Council organised, as part of their coronation festivities, a drive for the old people of the parish in a horse drawn omnibus where she was given pride of place. The bus was provided courtesy of the manager of the South Shields Tramways Company, Mr John Wilson, and drove from Harton to Marsden, along the coast to Whitburn, returning through the fields to Cleadon and back to Harton.  

One of the omnibuses that travelled to Harton from King Street in 1900. Photograph from South Tyneside Libraries. Most probably this was one of the two buses that took Mrs Brown and the other elderly village residents on their delightful trip.

What did you use for research ?

Along with the Godfrey Map of 1895, the church warden’s handwritten plan with notes and the census returns, I also had access to some scrapbooks of the period held in the church which contain cuttings from the Shields Gazette and other printed information. On top of this I was also fortunate to be able to contact the descendants of some of the families I was writing about and obtain family photographs.  

The South Tyneside Library history site also provided some superb photographs.

What are you doing now & have you any projects planned for the future ?

I am busy working on a second book in what is to become a series on Harton, this will be called Harton Township 1921. The idea for this came about during my earlier research as I began to appreciate that Harton was far more than just the village and in fact was a significant area that stretched to the east along the coast from Trow Rocks to Marsden and westward as far as Simonside.  

The area in the west, which included Harton Colliery, was taken into South Shields in 1901 but it was not until 1921 that Harton was completely subsumed into The County Borough of South Shields. This second book will aim to tell the story of Harton Township from medieval times to 1921.  

I hope to have the new book ready for November 2021 to fully mark the anniversary of the end of rural Harton and the housing boom that covered the fields of the township.

Link to South Tyneside images: https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Interview by Gary Alikivi  April 2021.

BIRDWATCHING with singer & songwriter Amateur Ornithologist

On the same dial as Wire, Teardrop Explodes and Belle and Sebastian, singer & songwriter Amateur Ornithologist is releasing a ten track debut album Birdwatching on 16 June 2021. During this past troubled year, the man behind the mask North East artist Daniel J Clifford, found solace watching birds from his window while writing songs.

I’ve had the name Amateur Ornithologist for about five or six years. I used to make comic books and did one that featured lots of bird-influenced superheroes. That meant I had to do loads of research and, at the time knew loads about different birds. Most of that knowledge has gone now but I still find solace in hearing birdsong and seeing the almost-animatronic movements of birds. So it fit.

I also like the combination of words that mean someone studious and a bit unprofessional. Because I think that sums me up very nicely – rough around the edges.

I started writing songs when looking out onto a telephone wire that birds would sit on. They nested in the eaves of the house so would fly back and forth all day. I couldn’t help but watch them really. And magpies often seem to approach me. I’m sure they do with everyone but I like to think I have a connection with them. One jumped on the windowsill and we locked eyes for a few seconds. I love things like that.

BIRDS FLY OVER ME

My first single Birds Fly Over Me is like a mission statement. It’s a sunny pop song about love, hope and confidence. But doesn’t shy away from all the doubts, fear and self-reflection that you have to go through to get there. I come up with titles first a lot of the time. I had that one a little while until the tune and lyrics for the chorus came. It’s a positive phrase and that’s where it all started, but I can’t help being aware of everything else.

I think it would fit perfectly on a BBC radio 6 music show, one that Andrew Collins would be hosting about 15 years ago. You’d have a paper review with Richard Herring first and then The Wedding Present blaring out afterwards.

BIRDWATCHING

I started writing Birdwatching around June 2020 and finished in January or February this year, it was recorded in a few places. My oldest friend, Harbourmaster, produced the album so we recorded all lead vocals, and he recorded bass, guitar and handclap parts at his recording studio in Simonside, South Shields.

Matt Hardy recorded drums and percussion at his London studio before moving to Bristol where he recorded a couple of tracks at J&J Studio which is owned by Portishead’s bass player. Brass was recorded by Lee Morris at Harbourmaster’s studio too. This was the last thing we recorded – I got a job and the budget went up on the album. But Lee works so brilliantly and quickly that it didn’t end up costing much anyway.

A lot of backing vocals were recorded at home, with a few bits done at my girlfriend’s house. I wanted to limit the amount of time I was there to be as safe as possible. Luckily Harbourmaster is doing things right – hand sanitiser, wipes, masks, fogging machines and distanced at all times.

Cover art photography by Jenny Rohde, design by Kylie Ann Ford.

CHORDS & MELODIES

Most of the songs came fairly quickly – but those were the ones that worked. There were a fair few that I started and realised weren’t going anywhere. Even when the chords and melodies were written, some of the lyrics took a long time.

A song like Dead Man Begged went through lots of drafts and directions with the words. Then it clicked. Bird imagery always gave me something to cling to and work with.

Then there’s Simple Things. The melody, chords and words came quite quickly. But the arrangement took a long time. At one point it was going to just be synths and drum machines. But as I made it simpler and simpler, it got better. Which is apt for a song called Simple Things.

Even when we thought some songs were finished, I would have new ideas. The song Matters I Know Matter To No One was done and then I had this idea for an outro guitar that Harbourmaster made really sing. Then there were other songs that he would suggest a new harmony vocal for too.

FRAME OF MIND

I’ve probably gone about this the wrong way, coming right out of the gates with an album, so I’m not expecting to set the world alight or anything. At the same time, I’m very proud of the album and think it captures my frame of mind. I’ve achieved what I was going for musically too.

I just hope people enjoy Birdwatching and it’s a good starting point for me to build on. I’m definitely going to focus on some singles and EPs before doing a second album. In terms of gigs, I want to put together a band and play live when it’s safe – although I need to find the right people first.


Check out Amateur Ornothologist and pre-order Birdwatching on bandcamp at:  https://amateurornithologist.bandcamp.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2021.

SOUL TRAIN – with South Shields born singer & songwriter Vincent Edwards

From his home in Germany, singer &  songwriter Vincent Edwards has been looking back at his 1970’s chart pop singles. Recent posts have featured stories behind Right Back Where We Started From, Love Hit Me and Run for the Sun. European audiences have been kind to Edwards with many re-releases of his records in Belgium, Italy and Germany.

Edwards was born and brought up in the seaside town of South Shields in the North East of England. After hearing Sam Cooke on the radio he knew what he wanted to do with his life and went for an audition at a youth club to be a singer.

I was in a band called The Invictors, who were a Shields band, and they evolved into The Answers where I played drums and was singer. We played a lot of soul and blues, our lead guitarist Tony Hill wrote the songs. We learnt our trade working on American military bases in France, that was around ’63 to ’66. We played a lot around the UK including London and getting over to Paris, plus Shields of course.

We were living in London and recorded two records for Columbia records in the UK. Just a Fear was recorded at Central Studios in London, it was heavily played on the pirate stations in 1966. The second single That’s What You’re Doing to Me, was recorded in a studio in Putney, South London. It’s a bit softer than the first and again it was played a lot on pirate radio. We recorded both in three hours including the b sides. Our record producer was Jimmy Duncan, the brother of late singer Leslie Duncan.

Stockton born Leslie Duncan’s most notable work was during the 1970’s when she performed backing vocals or wrote songs for musicians including Elton John, Dusty Springfield, Scott Walker and Pink Floyd. The next post will look at the music career of Duncan more closely.

At the time we were managed by Tony Stratton-Smith who was also looking after The Kubers and Creation. As for promotion I can’t remember any TV then, that came later.

A former sports journalist, Tony Stratton-Smith is best known as founder of independent label Charisma Records in 1969. He released records by The Nice, Lindisfarne, Genesis, and Monty Python’s comedy albums.

Vincent Edwards.

Eventually we drifted apart but stayed good friends. Tony is living in south London playing in a band called Friction. Our bass player Bob Calder who became sound engineer for the musical Hair, sadly he’s passed away. I’ve lost touch with Ron our second guitarist. I’m still writing and a track I wrote, Soul Train, you never know somebody might record it.

‘Just a Fear’  (link below) has been called a ‘bona fide freakbeat classic with incisive, driving raga-like fretwork from Tony Hill, it’s a dance floor stomper, pounding drums and frenetic finish with soulful vocals from Vincent Edwards’.

The Answers – It’s Just A Fear – 1966 45rpm – YouTube

Interview from August 2020: BACK WHERE HE STARTED FROM with singer & songwriter Vinny Edwards | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2021.

LOVE HIT ME – with South Shields born singer & songwriter Vincent Edwards

Over a steaming hot curry Vincent Edwards recalls his days back in South Shields nipping along Ocean Road to get fish and chips at Colmans.

Yes I really miss them, I was brought up nearby in Shortridge Street and used to play in the Marine Park and the beach.

Edwards featured in August 2020 talking about his music career and living in Germany. In the last post he added another story about his European chart single Run to the Sun. In this post he talks about another European chart hit – Love Hit Me, and it’s extra life with British soul singer Maxine Nightingale.

I wrote the song in 1975 in London for my beautiful late wife Angel Uschi when we lived there. It was recorded and produced at Pye Studios in London. Later I sent it over to Maxine Nightingale who I shared a stage with in the musical Hair, she also sang my top UK hit Right Back Where We Started From, and done a great job. Again she recorded a great version of Love Hit Me for release in America.

It was out in ’76 and charted all over Europe. There was a load of promo slots on TV shows in the UK and around Europe where I had hits in most countries as did darling Maxine.

In 1977, with a Top of the Pops appearance, Maxine took the song to #11 in the UK charts. It was also released in Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

The video (link below) of the live TV appearance was a few years ago in Ostend, Belgium, I think it was number one at the time. Paul Young was also on the show, we had a few beers after.

You Tube link to TV show:

LOVE HIT ME – J. VINCENT EDWARDS – YouTube

Interview from August 2020: BACK WHERE HE STARTED FROM with singer & songwriter Vinny Edwards | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Chart information from Discogs.

Interview by Gary Alikivi  May 2021.

AMY FLAGG WAR DIARIES #5 BOMBS FALL ON JARROW

In 2016 when researching in South Shields Library about Historian and Photographer Amy Flagg (1893-1965), along with her photographs of damage to the town by German air attacks during the Second World War, there was a number of personal scrapbooks full of the towns history and genealogy of families in the borough.

Also included was ‘Air Raids on South Shields’, the typed notes and diary entries were a record of official statistics of enemy attacks since the first bomb dropped in 1940. Miss Flagg also recorded incidents in the surrounding areas including Jarrow. Detail from Tyneside newspapers and maps have been added to some entries.

Amy Flagg, Historian & Photographer, 1893-1965.

Friday, 25th/Saturday, 26th April 1941: 

On Saturday morning German radio claimed the main attack of the previous night’s raid was on the Sunderland Flying Boat Works at Sunderland. In fact this was another bungled raid by the Luftwaffe, as no bombs fell there. Home Security could only deduce that inexperienced crews were being used. They felt the large number of parachute mines exploding on Tyneside was believed explained by a strong to gale force NE wind which had blown them inland during sea mining operations.

22.08pm Five injured. Incendiary bombs fell on the Old Granary near Jarrow Staithes and at Hebburn. Fires were started but were quickly controlled. A parachute mine fell at Primrose – no damage. Another fell near the Old Staithes causing damage to houses and shops.

In great detail Miss Flagg describes this large scale attack on 10th April 1941.

23.30 – 03.00am High explosives fell on Station Street and Sheldon Street, Jarrow. Houses were destroyed and suffered a death roll of twenty-four, seven members of one family being wiped out, nine people were seriously injured and nineteen slightly injured. A Roman Catholic Priest died from shock. A police constable was slightly injured by an incendiary bomb.

Fires were started at the Petroleum Installation at Jarrow, Jarrow Tube Works and at Mercantile Dry Dock but were quickly subdued. High explosives fell on a colliery railway line leading to Jarrow Staithes, on a coal depot at Jarrow Railway Station and on the A185 near to Old Church, Jarrow, where the road was blocked and gas and water mains damaged.

pic Amy Flagg. courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

Published reports in Tyneside newspapers:

Tuesday, 2nd July 1940:

Newcastle and Jarrow were attacked during the late afternoon. The damage was considerable. A single German Dornier bomber passed over Blaydon, shot down a balloon and dropped bombs on Newcastle and Jarrow.

Fourteen dead and 120 injured in Jarrow. Three high explosives dropped in streets. Four houses and six flats demolished, six houses and thirty flats damaged. School partly collapsed. Three domestic shelters and five others damaged. Four or five streets were affected but most casualties occurred in Princess Street, a search of the debris for trapped victims went on throughout the night, firemen, ARP workers and others working in relays.

It was announced that the August Bank Holiday is to be cancelled.

Monday, 7th /Tuesday 8th April 1941:  

‘HMS Manchester’, waiting in Jarrow Slake to convoy the new aircraft carrier ‘Illustrious’, may have been the objective of the two disastrous raids this week; but it proved quite ineffective so far as naval vessels were concerned, no hit being scored on either. Considerable damage, however, resulted along the riverside from Tyne Docks to the oil tanks, as well as other parts of the town.

Immediately after the ‘Alert’, enemy aircraft became very active and there was an intense barrage from ground defences. At 23.45, 4 high explosive bombs dropped on Henry Wilson’s Timber Yard, Tyne Dock, Clayton and Armstrong’s Timber Yard, Tyne Dock, the Anglo Iron Foundry, Tyne Dock and a dwelling house and shop in Porchester Street.

Friday, 6th June 1941:

At 15.00 an enemy aircraft dropped one 500kg bomb, 20 yards West of the LNER railway line at East Jarrow. Two pigs and a number of hens were killed by blast. No other damage or casualties were reported.

Pic. Amy Flagg. Courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

Monday, 29th/Tuesday, 30th December 1941:

Two high explosives – damage to Primrose Hospital windows.

Single high explosive fell, believed to be a 1000kg, in a field 100yds East of the Pontop – Jarrow railway causing damage to a signal box, Wardens’ Post, overhead colliery electricity cables and a seed drill. A smaller bomb also fell in this vicinity. An UXB or aircraft shell went through the roof of a house and penetrated the soft ground under the floorboards.

Thursday, 30th April/Friday, 1st May 1942:

Explosive incendiary bombs were dropped. A hut adjoining the Jarrow Tube Works was set on fire and a woman was slightly injured. No damage to the Tube works but an electricity pylon 500 yards NW of Boldon Railway Station was short circuited. A single high explosive was believed to be dropped in the river Tyne about 50 yards from Hawthorn Leslies Shipyard and was suspected of being unexploded.

Link to Amy Flagg’s war photographs on the excellent South Tyneside History website.

https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Link to Amy Flagg documentary film ‘Westoe Rose’.

WESTOE ROSE – making the documentary about South Shields Historian & Photographer Amy Flagg | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Gary Alikivi  April 2021