Friday, October 30, 2009


There was sad news today. Deeply sad news. There will be no more pianis made in england on the closure of the Kemble factory in Milton Keynes. It's been on the so since 1911 but Yamaha have finally moved production abroad.

Is there anything in the UK we can still make for our selves? A company which has sold more than 120,000 pianos and won a Queen's award for export is ironically now being itself exported.

It is sad that the UK piano-making Industry has been propped up since 1986 by a foreign conglomerate such as Yamaha; sadder still that the hand that saved it with that 80s buyout will now happily pull the plug on its entire existence.

There is room for light optimism; maybe we will now make lovely, handmade pianos on a scale never seen before, with the big factory gone and us still, we hope, wanting pianos.

But more importantly, I hope that our largest concert halls, which prize Steinway and other foreign importers above British talent, will relaise how important it is that we foster the craft of music in the UK and not just performacne of sound. England must ring with the chimes of hammer and keys for years to come or we will still be using old, tired keyboards.

This could be the best opportuntiy yet; who can be the first to come up with a brand new UK idea for piano production? Innovaters, step up now and make us pioneers not the poor relations of an industry which is diong better elsewhere.........

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Fly-gene namers

Inspired by real-life scientific research in which flies’ genes are individually named.

We caller her Marilyn because,
She cried out of her blue glass eyes
Those halogen globes. The fly
Was blind.
She, our darling dainty deity, flapped,
Stumbled and circled around the petri dish,
Drunk from our syringes
Winging crumpled shapes in sterile air.
The list of names for other flies was filed away
Like a hall of fame. Cleopatra,
Jim, Blinky; but this was Marilyn.
Too special
For reality but beautiful, tiny
And ugly under our blinding white limelight.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Icon; Lumley visits Nepal

OK, this poem is nearing completion but needs a 'final destination'.... All suggestions welcomed!



'No need to lie, just tell the truth'
glared at by flashbulbs, words snatched walking,
she speaks. This strange screen-goddess who gleams
sunlight and mythic red lips. She is roundly
sounding school-ma'am vowels and talking
of justice. Nepali flowers shower narcissim
in flurries over her smiling skin
and chase her like the stars she too can see
through eyes immortalised in BBC colour
yet feel as helpless underneath their show.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (4.5 stars)

Dir. Terry Gilliam (2009) 2 hours 3mins
This was a film with many strings attached; from Terry Gilliam of Monty Python lore to Christopher Plummer’s inevitable Sound of Music associations, it was destined to attract attention from the start with its cast and directing team, whatever the resulting picture.  The recent death of Heath Ledger only added another potential nail of hype to a movie under huge pressure to produce excellence at every turn.  The audience perhaps held visions of tributes to Ledger in the opening credits but the first mention of the star came as a shock.  We blinked in surprise as he appeared hanging from a London bridge.  Surely Gilliam could not be serious; could he expect nail-bombs through the post from die-hard fans for an appalling lack of sensitivity throughout the film?  Luckily not. Seldom do such politically incorrect turns as this and a dwarf painted to look like a Victorian Golly doll pass unnoticed.  This, however, was the director who made Monty Python acceptable to the BBC bosses. Once again he delivered whistle-stop entertainment without compromising on wit and originality and the film was too good to let its few minor drawbacks detract from its quality. 
As Russian mafia, tarot cards, a magic mirror and some exotic (if unstable) accents dressed up in full costume as a travelling show, a romp through back-street London turns into a tale of choice between the devil and God, moral good and bag, eternity and death. Unlike several sacreligious books-made-films to be released in cinemas later this year the plot was clever, intriguing and avoided losing us.  The pace didn’t let up nor did the attention to detail.  It somehow made sense for Heather Ledger to become Johnny Depp to  become Jude Law; not until the final ‘confrontation’ between did the use of a devil (or should he have been death?) and Dr.Parnassus wear a little thin.  Their relationship was the only one in the film which lacked real energy.  Lily Cole was good enough and her co-stars all delivered stable performances, all  meriting their place in the season’s most anticipated mainstream feature. 
The sub-continental mystique of elephant icons and henna face-markings was entertaining but unexplained and one final negative came from Gilliam’s occasional failure to recognise when his onscreen picture had gone just that bit far into dreamland.  The saturation of colour on our screen could only be described as saccharin at times.  But Parnassus was more Luhrmann than ludicrous in this respect and danced the fine line between cartoon and adult fantasy without success.  The graphics here are outstanding and the film boasts seamless CGI effects and imaginative storyboarding that Parnassus himself would have been proud of. 
Speaking of pride, Gilliam should be very proud of what he and his team have made here.  Fans of Ledger will not be disappointed but people who could not care less about the suffocating hype that has followed this movie to its UK release.  It promises a fantastic two hours that go surprisingly quickly. 

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hard-Hearted Hannah

Old Vic, Bristol

Opening the Bristol Jam Festival 2009
 (runs until 17th October)

It’s the perfect opening; “We have a show. All we need is a title.” As the audience of Hard Hearted Hannah entered the Studio of the Old Vic, it appeared to be not so much a theatre as a cross between a karaoke bar and a gypsy caravan. The Cartoon de Salva company (a team of just six people including three actors) were perched on rustic stools happily brandishing guitars, harmonicas, velvet back-curtain and a blackboard on an easel. On this blackboard they wrote out the scrath agenda of the evening’s entertainment. Their out-of-the-blue set-up became the theme for the opening night of the Bristol Jam that has taken over the theatr e for the next fortnight. The Jam’s opening cross-genre theatre performance fused juke-box music, comedy and improve theatre into an appropriately sticky, home-baked mix of delightful flavour that took a long time to wear thin.

In fact, it would be lying to quote Hard Hearted Hannah as the title of the performance. The impromptu theme meant that we were asked to the overall title ourselves. The cast chose ’The Black Toe’ from some brave and appropriately audacious audience suggestions, and then allowed us to select, pantomime-style, three songs including ‘You Sexy Thing’ to become the backbones of the performance. This became a story like no other. The jokes were occasionally too ‘in’ for comfort and the plot dragged painfully as the evening drew to a close, but that was because Alex Murdoch, Brian Logan and Neil Haigh are such a close unit that they don’t need to perform to the audience; they perform to one another in a perfect balance of pithy wit and highly skilled acting. The men of many voices and their equally talented female co-performer spun an improvised plot which made for little logic but plenty of laughs. At the end of a tale of falcons, stocks and split personalities, we weren’t sure what had happened, but knew it had happened in a manner worthy of Dead Ringers. This evening was completely improvised and relied on its actors not to let their guard down, or their originality slip. Luckily the ten years of the Cartoon de Salva company have produced a team who can pull off anything. They could do with a little less hesitation and more sympathy for a clueless audience, but this aside it hit the spot perfectly to begin the Bristol Jam in true disorganized style.

Meanwhile in the foyer waiters bore not drinks but ‘Improvisation’ orders upon cards and several boards awaited daubing by any willing visiting wannabe-artists…. Disorientating, highly bohemian and multi-coloured were just some of infinite possible adjectives applicable to Hard Hearted Hannah. One of the Telegraph’s Top 10 Comedy Gigs of 2008, this was a show worth seeing and impossible to replicate.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pre-teen Icon

With her shadow separated sharply and thrown

Into a corner

By a halo of musty blush,

Dust and mom-scent, she stands staring

her scared doll-face in its mirrored eyes;

Sweet six, soft and four-foot nothing.

Carefully and calm as cold hands

Places the point

Of bright crimson cheap hot lipstick on lips

and paints

her rag-doll posy of lips that are crinkled and pouting for me,

Playing my baby-pink leading lady.

She strokes the soft teeth bristles

Through her hair which glistens

Hot in panting lamplight, nervous and naive

As her smile of idolised

Idol-eyes shine so shyly into mine.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Living in ‘Recession Britain’ in Autumn 2009.

From today I remember a squashed sandwich

Patterned by treading tyres and hunched

away from the elegant debris of a conker sleeping alongside

its side reflecting its ugliness with varnished

wholesome roundness

that has been plumped out, disregarded; now road cold.

It is remembered so I can forget the bills and remembering

and focus hard

looking down at the floor holding

my own hard, fake diamond, my own

disappointment in the chill of darkening days, our own hard to swallow

summer stays limp

squashed and ugly, receding into an unpleasant past.