Mack The Life – Book Review

Mack The Life – Lee Mack
Book Review Rating: *****
Publisher: Transworld Publishers – Corgi Books

Mack the Life – For further information and book purchase

I’m sure the writing skills and discipline required to write his smash hit sit-com ‘Not Going Out’ came in very handy as Lee Mack evidently spent a lot more time not going out, just to stay in and write his autobiography. It was actually published in 2012 but I’ve only just read it. Only 6 years late but better late than never as they say! I was of course hoping that, much like a fine wine, the book would mature with age! Let’s see.

Frivolous comments aside – and if you like those – there are hundreds of them to be found here, Mack the Life is a brilliantly funny and enlightening insight into Lee Mack’s background – born and raised in Southport, near Liverpool and the story of his journey into the world of stand-up comedy. For anyone genuinely interested in knowing what it takes to become a professional stand-up comedian and potentially a TV comedian too, there are plenty of insights as he walks us along his road, or rather path to success (as walking along the road might have resulted in a very different and much shorter life story) as one of the nation’s top stand-up comedians.

Lee Mack

In common with most performers, Lee Mack cannot claim to have been an overnight success. That much is clear as he takes the reader through the many trials and tribulations, the rites of passage, so to speak, that most Comedians endure as they try to make it, first by seeking opportunities to perform on stage, be it at student comedy nights, small open mic nights, to performing at the Edinburgh Fringe and so on. Not only that, once on stage, it’s about proving yourself worthy, as far as paying audiences are concerned, of standing on that stage. That is a very difficult one to crack and few careers are more unforgiving than that of the stand-up Comedian. There are not many where the feedback on your performance is instant – be that great, awful or somewhere in between.

This is an indispensable read not only for fans of Lee Mack, but for any would be Comedian wanting to break into the comedy circuit or Comedian wanting to take their career to the next level for it vividly highlights the plain old fashioned hard work, inevitable set backs and the smattering of luck that is required to go on to become a professional stand-up Comedian. That, of course, is not exclusive to comedy, for the same could apply to many professions.

The story behind the hit sit-com ‘Not Going Out’ and other TV shows are told in great detail which makes for very revealing, behind the scenes accounts regarding the all important commissioning and re-commissioning  process required to make shows in the first place, before you even get to the business of making a TV show that will be broadcast.

There’s no resting on your laurels in the TV comedy business either thinking that being commissioned once means that’s it, for each series you do stands or falls on its success. There are no guarantee’s of longevity.

It was interesting to read about his work with comedy actress Catherine Tate and her role in Lee’s career path. I really enjoyed the running theme/gag of Lee being in the Psychiatrist’s chair to open and close each chapter of the book. That was a clever way of revealing a little bit of Lee Mack’s psyche, whilst playfully trying to hide his true self behind this play of him being on the couch. Some would say many comedians would actually benefit from a spell on the therapist’s couch and I daresay this is a deliberate nod to that. Having said that, Lee Mack is not one of those comedians known for oversharing, confessional comedy and you get the very real sense he has his head screwed on and doesn’t allow himself to get carried away by showbusiness and all it’s excesses, which whilst they can be enjoyable, can be damaging if not kept well under control.

This is a wonderful, insightful, frank, hugely enjoyable and funny read from start to finish.  Whether or not the book has improved over the years like a fine wine I can’t say (ask me if I re-read it again in many years time) but what I do know for sure is that Lee Mack certainly has not looked back since turning professional in 1995 as he career has gone on from strength to strength.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

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Bad Boys II Surveying Their Empire

Danny ‘Slim’ Gray and Richard Blackwood
Show Rating: ****
Hackney Empire
London E8
Saturday 28th July 2018

Produced and Promoted by Alpo R, Charlie Kenny & Geestor Productions

Richard Blackwood

After a 3 year sojourn onto prime time TV, with only fleeting stand up comedy appearances during this period, Richard Blackwood, was earlier this year freed from the shackles of Walford, London E18, aka Eastender. A few months on from his departure, Richard Blackwood found himself back in the real Eastend of London, on stage at the Hackney Empire. This was the prestigious setting for his return to his stand up comedy roots. It was going to be fascinating to see how Richard Blackwood fared. Could he still cut it or had the seriousness and somewhat dourness of Eastenders, blunted his cutting edge stand up?

His set covered a number of light hearted themes relating to dating and the sort of past experiences and quantity of relationships men can get away with, that women just can’t. We’ll not without gaining a bad reputation anyway! In a very amusing way he highlighted the double standards and one of the main differences surrounding how men and women perceive one another. What is considered acceptable or not depending on your gender. In other words, men are “allowed” to have had a past, yet a woman with a “busy” past love life is generally not viewed in quite such a favourable way by men or women.

A variation on this theme was explored as he spoke about his encounter with heavyweight boxing champion Anthony “AJ” Joshua in a restaurant. This was an opportunity to showcase one of Richard Blackwood’s comedic strength’s, his highly animated storytelling technique that leaves you in no doubt about the situation  he is in and wishes to paint a picture of, namely, the huge size and height of Anthony Joshua when  stood beside mere mortals of “average size and height” such as himself and the woman he was enjoying a night out with.

He also had fun with the Kiki dance craze which apparently is the latest “thing.”  I gather it’s a female dance, but men can get away with doing it, so long as it’s performed in a manly way, but when they do it in the effeminate way Richard demonstrated the results were quite hilarious.

There was a lot of warmth in the room for Richard (and not just because it was an incredibly hot venue and night either) as it was great to see Richard back on stage doing what he does best. He told us to expect big things in November so we shall just have to wait and see where the next installment in Richard’s career takes him.

SLIM

Slim continued the sporting theme with his boxing and world cup anecdotes. He got off to a rip roaring opener by comparing football, which he’s not a big fan of, to boxing, which, like many comedians, he’s a huge fan of. He said he couldn’t support a team who’d been losing for 8 years and with that in mind had unfriended on Facebook, a well known former Olympic heavyweight boxing champion! That had the audience in stitches as he elaborated on why he had done this.

He had a simple explanation for his preference for boxing and aversion to the team sport of football. In boxing, as per being a stand up comedian, you are on your own on stage/in the ring; un-reliant on team mates who might let you down. You can see the clear affinity with boxing and comedy for those who prefer not to be a team player and stand or fall on their own merits.

On a more touching, sympathetic note, we learnt how he’d recently spent 8 years looking after his old man as his life neared its final act. However Slim being Slim he wasn’t playing the sympathy card or expecting his audience to get the violins out. Shockingly and in a strangely funny way he said, “it was time for him to go” when he passed away two years ago in 2016. He had lived to the grand old age of 94, having been born in 1922, just a few years after World War I ended. He focused on his dad’s final years to highlight how men want women, not a man, to look after them in their old age/dotage and therein perhaps lay the source of humour around a sad event.

On a more political note he talked about the recent Windrush scandal and how impressed he was by the passionate, eloquently put anger of David Lammy MP, joking that before making that impassioned speech he must have popped in for a West Indian take-away en route to parliament.

As he often does, but this time with more poignancy, he focused on the gun crime in the capital and put the emphasis firmly on the need for parents to take serious responsibility for raising their children; pointing out the critical importance of strict parenting that is demonstrated via setting and maintaining strict boundaries. You are the adult, the parent, not your child’s friend. He speaks from hard earned experience as a father of 5 and in a touching gesture he brought one of his son’s and daughter’s onto the stage at the end of the show.

Entertainer and host for the night Eddie Kadi was on fine form with his flexible, loose limbed dancing moves amusing the audience.

A highlight of the night was hearing Cellist Ayana Witter-Johnson playing and singing her own versions of The Police’s ‘Roxanne’ and Omar’s ‘There’s nothing like this’. Hearing a song from my favourite band of all time in the Hackney Empire is the last thing I expected and made my night!

I can’t see that the Bad Boys II relates to the behaviour of its stars, but the running themes of the show were bad boys – from footballers cheating on the pitch during the world cup, bad boy boxers, casanova’s and criminals.

Danny ‘Slim’ Gray and Richard Blackwood have been in the comedy business for 25 years now and this show was a fitting tribute to both men’s staying power, longevity and ability to keep things moving and fresh. In a show full of great jokes, entertainingly told anecdotes, music, along with some serious social commentary Danny ‘Slim’ Gray and Richard Blackwood demonstrated via great humour and masterful joke telling ability, just why, after 25 years, they are still at the top of their game, selling out big venue’s like the Hackney Empire.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

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Caribbean Comedy Hits the Marq at the British Library

Windrush Caribbean Comedy Week
Star Rating: ****
British Library
St Pancras
London NW1
22nd June 2018

Produced by Entertrainments and the British Library

It’s Friday night so it must be library night. For the second time this month Mr Cee continued his mini comedy tour of London libraries, this time at the prestigious British Library. Well not quite inside the Library, but within the gorgeous marquee on its St Pancras grounds which provided a wonderful setting for a terrific night of Windrush comedy.

This was the finale to a week long run of 5 consecutive nights of comedy featuring Mr Cee as the regular Compere, with Aurie styla, Quincy and in a last minute change to the line up, Special P.

The shows were put on in partnership with the British Library to mark the 70th anniversary of Windrush and highlight the variety of comedic talent in Britain with origins in the Caribbean. The 22nd June 2018 date was highly significant for it marked 70 years to the very day since the SS Empire Windrush landed at Tilbury Docks in East London.

You could see there was great camaraderie amongst the acts who all go back a long way, many of whom were trained by Mr Cee at The Comedy School, where he is a major force behind the School and training a good many comedians who now perform regularly on the comedy circuit.

Aurie Styla

The youngest act of the night by some distance was Aurie Styla (Jamaican), who delivered a barnstorming set with his trademark high energy, confident delivery style as he sought to find hidden meanings to many much loved songs including Destiny’s Child’s ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’ and Mystikal’s ‘Shake Ya Ass’. Some of our favourite nursery rhymes didn’t escape his attentions either.

His musings on relationships and romance were thought provoking and stimulating, especially when he got the audience involved in sharing their thoughts. It made for great entertainment whilst also striking a chord in how universally men and women view romance.

On a lighter note I loved hearing about the cheeky ingenuity and entrepreneurship of his 5 year old nephew Ryan and young friend Reece.

Special P at the British Library

St Lucian, Special P, entertained the audience with his very expressive and forceful delivery laced with some wicked punch lines. The joke about seasoning was unexpected and particularly funny, original and relevant for a night celebrating the Caribbean presence in Britain. He also shared some strong views on the current crime wave sweeping London, proposing that the parents of children who murder should be given 3 year sentences i.e. as a method of placing greater pressure, onus and responsibility on them to take full responsibility for the actions of their children. On a night set to a near constant cacophony of sirens and helicopters on and above the busy Marlyebone road, this was not just a radical proposal, but serious food for thought indeed.

Quincy

Quincy, originating from Barbados, gave the packed audience plenty of belly laughs about the strife of life as a single father raising his young boys to become men and the impact of that regarding how he moderates his behaviour and conducts himself, knowing he is their father and role model for the type of men they are likely to grow up to be. Whilst he played it for laughs, it also showed that he had and continues to take his parental responsibilities seriously. I don’t know if he’d go so far as to endorse Special P’s harsh recommendation, but I would suspect he need not fear that penalty as it was clear he has raised his children well enough to not get caught up in perpetrating the trouble on the streets of London that we are hearing about all too often these days.

He also had a lot to say on relationships as well as reminiscing on the journey his parents took many years ago by leaving Barbados to live in London.

Entertainments Organiser and Compere Mr Cee hosted kept things moving along nicely throughout and was particularly funny with his well considered strategy for handling any big lottery winnings should he be fortunate enough to strike it lucky.

Mr Cee

The joke about the age of birthday girl and co-organiser Janice lead him to a hilarious explanation regarding why R Kelly has found himself in hot water so often with underage girls.

This was a fantastic end to a week of Caribbean influenced comedy that featured Dane Baptiste, Felicity Ethnic, Glenda Jaxon, Marlon Davis, Kane Brown, Athena Kugblenu, Annette Fagan and Wayne Dibbi Rollins. Not only was their wonderful comedy, but the British weather played its part by being swelteringly hot and tropically Caribbean.

  • Review © Tiemo Talk of the Town
  • Gig photographs © Tiemo Talk of the Town

Audience at the British Library

  1. Songs in a Strange Land – British Library – Free. Open until 21st October 2018
  2. The Empire Windrush and Tilbury Docks – Thurrock Council
  3. Mr Cee celebrates 20 years in comedy with a one man show ‘They Call Me Mr Cee’ at Millfield Theatre, London N18, on Sunday 21st October 2018.
  4. Come Mek Wi Larf – Windrush Comedy Special in Willesden- Tiemo Review – 9th June 2018

Mr Cee at The British Library

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Was Kanye West Right to say 400 Years of Slavery was a Choice?

Predictably Rapper and Entrepreneur Kanye West has copped a great deal of flack for his TMZ interview, 1st May 2018, where the headline take on it was simply “slavery must have been a choice.”

One of the issues with the reception to the interview is not so much that he was misquoted, but that his comments have detracted from the overarching message of the 30 minute interview which was a positive, constructive one. The slavery quote was an aside, it wasn’t even the main point of the interview. However maybe it can be defended.

I accept it could have been better articulated by Kanye West in order to avoid the controversy that surrounded it and for a superstar as media savvy as he is, he should have foreseen that a comment like that without context and succinct explanation would be easily misinterpreted. Nonetheless, I don’t subscribe to the mass criticism he’s received when considered in the overall context of the full interview.

His point was that people, be they African-Americans, or White Americans need to free their minds from “mental slavery”, think for themselves and exercise freedom of thought and being. It would be easy to follow the herd of instant popular opinion and criticise the man without taking the time to figure out what lay behind the seemingly odd comment. Some of course might still call think of him as an idiot and perhaps argue that Kanye’s breakthrough album, ‘The College Drop out’, is most apt. Perhaps he dropped out before the slavery lessons! Or maybe not. Walk with me!

It is clear that as he was promoting freedom of thought, speech, unshackling from mental slavery, he was wondering aloud what took many generations of slaves 400 years to overcome their slave masters. If you consider that the lifespan of slaves over 400 years ago is reported to be around 36 (compared to 40 for white Americans), crudely (allowing for increasing life spans after 1865), that’s around 9 generations of families , then surely Kanye has a right to question that.

Numerically his terminology referring to “400 years of slavery, that must have been a choice” is questionable as slavery “officially” lasted for 246 years (1619 – 1865 when it was abolished). However if he’s considering that slavery, physical and mental, in America has still not ended then I can see why he said 400 years. In fact, some in America are looking to mark August 2019 as the 400th year since American slavery started. Some may feel it’s gross ignorance on Kanye’s part, but to give him his due, I would contend that he’s looking at it from a deeper and more spiritual level, as well as an historically accurate stance.

Another way of looking at it, is that the bible talks about slavery lasting for 400 years and prior to its onset African’s had a choice – obey God or face the consequences. They didn’t and the consequence was 400 years of slavery: “Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.” Genesis 15: 13 If he was alluding to that, then Kanye was right as you can see how this could easily be referring to the USA.

Why shouldn’t Kanye question why it took the slaves and the free citizens so many years to abolish slavery? Not all African’s were enslaved. What were they doing to free their brothers and sisters? What were non-African’s, non-enslaved people, of all nationalities doing to end this monstrous, inhumane practice? Did they have no empathy for their plight that motivated them sufficiently to bring this to a close?

It’s so stereotypical to let the mass media control the narrative of this interview. I suggest you watch it in full and focus on the core message, which is actually an uplifting, refreshing message of positivity for the African-American community and indeed the wider American society as it contends with police lawlessness, out of control gun crime and even, dare I say it, modern day slavery.

He repeatedly stated the we need to love our fellow man and woman. Let love conquer all. This wasn’t a wishy washy statement and he demonstrated how that can be done during the interview. He was verbally challenged by Vas, a very passionate and angry TMZ Staffer, who took great offence at how Kanye, whom he highly rated and often defended when TMZ wanted to just run negative stories on him, could come to his studio and say slavery was a choice. Rather than mirror Vaz’s anger and engage in an aggressive war of words, Kanye walked right across the studio to him, immediately apologised for the hurt caused by his comment, said he loves the man and offered him a hug. He sought to show love for his critic, explain himself, hear what his critic had to say and by so doing, confront and defuse a tense situation.

Ironically the power of love is something that Bishop Michael Curry focused on is his world famous sermon at last month’s wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan. I think his sermon deliberately addressed Kanye’s slave comment for it referenced “a balm in Gilead to heal”, recalling a line from the bible [Jeremiah 8:22 “Isn’t there a balm in the land of Gilead? Isn’t there a Doctor there? So why aren’t the hurts of my people healed?”] an old African-American spiritual sung by slaves. The point he was making was that in spite of being enslaved, these slaves didn’t allow any possible, entirely natural and understandable feelings of bitterness and hate to prevent them having love for their fellow man. If they can show love for their captors in such horrible circumstances, who are we in our lives to allow everyday circumstances to prevent love shining through?

Kanye and Vas continued to debate, but it was done in a respectful, articulate way. It was powerful to see them calmly and peacefully resolve their disagreement. Too many times in American life and over here in England, people, especially men, are resorting to violent means to handle challenging situations. These men showed it doesn’t have to be that way. By the enriching, empowering, power of love as opposed to the destructive, negative energy of hate they rose above it. Two men got into a showdown. Love and respectful reasoning, not hate, won the day and we all tuned in.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links:

  1. Bishop Curry’s Sermon Too Hot To Handle – Tiemo Talk of the Town – 25th May 2018
  2. Facts Proving why the “so called” African-American Struggle is Really Real – Jubilee Hosanna-Praise Jackson – 16th May 2017
  3. Why the 400 years of African-American History Act is so Important – Senator Tim Kaine
  4. After Ferguson, How Far Has the Civil Rights Movement Progressed in America and Britain? – Tiemo Talk of the Town – 11th November 2015
Posted in Debates, Education, News, Politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Come Mek We Larf: Windrush Comedy Special

Star Rating: ****
The Library at Willesden Green
London NW10
Friday 8th June 2018

It’s been many a year since I last spent a Friday night in a library, but tonight I made an exception. I wasn’t at The Library in Willesden Green to study or look for books though, but to be entertained. That said the audience and I got more than just laughter on this night of edutainment that mixed entertainment with education.

A bumper line up of comedians were compered by Mr Cee, who coolly and superbly warmed up the room to create just the right atmosphere for the acts to perform in. He had to work hard too, not because it was a tough audience, but a couple of forthright women seemed to forget this was a comedy night and came out with all sorts of challenging and aggressively out of place heckles. They probably thought they were being funny but they would have been better of leaving that to the Comedians on stage. In less experienced hands their interventions could have killed the atmosphere, but fortunately Mr Cee was sufficiently skilled to deflect these unexpected verbal attacks and win over these difficult hecklers, who were in any event, soon won over by the first act and the others that graced the stage.

Annette Fagon

First on was Birmingham’s madcap Annette Fagon who was in rip roaring, ‘off her head’ form delighting the audience with her familiar song about Handsworth, battles to stay sane and deal with the effects of getting older on her body. She was hilarious in doing so and the audience loved her. There were a few fellow Brummies in the audience, which made her feel at home and resulted in some jovial Brummie banter.

British-Nigerian Funmbi Omatayo was entertaining and totally won over the audience with stories of how much he wished he was Jamaican as a young boy growing up in London, yet grew to be proud of his Nigerian heritage. That said, he came to realise and enjoy the benefits of being born British and playfully extracted the humour to be found in dual identity.

Felicity Ethnic

Felicity Ethnic closed a marathon first half lasting nearly 2 hours!! Aside from the host she was the first to really link her set with the Windrush comedy theme of the night, citing her frustration with what she sees around her South London neighbourhood and witnessed first hand during her former life as a Pupil Referral Officer, where she came across far too many Black men caught up in the system. That anger and passion came out in a hard hitting set that mixed the political with jokes about parenting and how back in the day the dominant and normal culture revolved around the African proverb: “it takes a village to raise a child,” i.e. as adults we take responsibility for all ‘our youth’ whether we knew them or not, are related or not and would freely discipline or talk to them if they were “acting out”. That’s to a large extent gone now and for Felicity partly explains why there are so many problems with these young men. Funmbi picked up on this theme, saying that in Nigeria that village, community ethos still exists to this very day.

For a comedy show there was a bit too much straight politics and anger in her set. Nothing wrong with that per se, but it could have been more effective it was wrapped up as comedic political satire. Her heart was in the right place though as she put men centre stage in vocalising her passion for raising good young men.

Newcomer Kaz was given 5 minutes stage time to perform on his very first professional show. The youngster wowed the audience with a barnstorming set full of original, topical and personal material, with great punch lines. I loved the brilliant joke referencing the current crime wave in London with the more mundane, yet very real annoyance Londoner’s get with drivers who take the parking spots right outside their houses. This was an amazing set from someone who only started on the open mic circuit in February this year. Look out for Kaz. He is a funny young man with a very bright future ahead of him.

Headliner Kwaku was in typical firebrand, political, take no prisoners mode. Like Felicity and others on the line up, he was livid about the recent Windrush scandal and linked this to the fact its 70 years this month since the SS Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbury Docks. For that generation to be treated so badly he considered it utterly disgraceful.

He took to the stage very late in proceedings – after 11pm and for me, whilst strong on politics, anger and education, it’s focus should have been more on finding the comedy in the situation and getting across his message in a comedic way which is what one would have expected. There were good jokes and audience interaction in his set, but it was perhaps a bit too heavy at the end of a marathon night of comedy that didn’t finish till around 11.35p.m. Each act, bar one, did around 30 minutes each and this made for far too long a night considering there were just 6 acts on the bill. Less is more as they say.

Mr Cee seemed genuinely shocked that someone had come up from Birmingham specifically for the show. He shouldn’t be. This was an excellent line up and worth travelling down from the Midlands for. Come Mek We Larf delivered more than larfs. You could call it edutainment, as not only did the education come from Felicity Ethnic and Kwaku, but from members of the audience. We learned about the Jamaican term ‘Public Defender’ and some more about Windrush from a 72 year old White, English lady in the audience who told a fascinating personal story re her parentage and her link to the SS Empire Windrush. She caused a little controversy too by suggesting that few Black people go to the Cotswolds (she’s probably right!) but should do so. She said it’s just 1.5 hours from London and has a Windrush link thanks to the Windrush River there. Tower Hill in London also has a Windrush link and she encouraged people to pay it a visit.

I enjoyed this more serious side to proceedings and it elevated the night to being more than just a stand up comedy show and was a fitting comedic tribute to Windrush.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

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George Michael Honoured with Blue Plaque at Former High School

In April 2018 music legend George Michael was honoured with a Blue Plaque at his former school, Bushey Meads High School, Hertfordshire. The Heritage Foundation and school honoured the pop legend with the Blue Plaque for services to music and philanthropy on Sunday 15th April 2018.

In an unveiling ceremony attended by over 150 fans and current pupils the plaque was revealed by the school’s Executive Principal, Mr Jeremy Turner and Deputy Mayor and Conservative Councillor of Hertforshire, now Mayor Councillor, Brenda Batten, following her election to the position on 24th May 2018. They both delivered wonderfully personal speeches. Mr Turner informed gathers that “the motto of the school is ‘To Aspire to Achieve’ and that pupils should have a Mind to be Kind. I think George Michael embraced and exemplified both of those principles in his life.” He revealed that Shirley, of Pepsi and Shirley fame, also was a student at the school at the same time as George and his WHAM! bandmate Andrew Ridgley.

George Michael – WHAM!

The day also saw the opening of the extension of the school’s music building, which was now double its former size. Guests were permitted to have a look around.

In a memorable, revealing speech Brenda Batten recalled fond memories of the teenage Andrew Ridgley being her paperboy and the impact that had on her impressionable, love struck young daughters! She reminisced that they used to play piano quite badly but one day she was struck by how much they seemed to have immeasurably improved as if by magic overnight. She excitedly went into the living room to congratulate them, only to find out to her great surprise that it was none other than Andrew Ridgley playing on her piano!

She also mentioned that when Andrew came round to collect his annual newspaper delivery bonus one Christmas he brought along a friend, a certain George Michael .  You could say it was a case of ‘Last Tipsmas’!

Following the ceremony a number of fans enjoyed a 3 course lunch at the local Three Crowns pub, where George and Andrew used to drink, rehearse and formed their first band, ‘The Executives.’ Landlord Michael helpfully and jovially added to the atmosphere of the occasion by playing a George Michael playlist throughout the afternoon. This informal lunch was hastily organised by Tracy Wills, founder of the George Michael Appreciation Society of Bushey and for some fans, it helped make up in a small way for the late cancellation of a Hilton Hotel fundraiser. More on that scandal later.

Fans at the Blue Plaque unveiling Ceremony

In the evening many fans returned to Bushey Meads High school for a tribute show to George Michael hosted which was performed by current pupils as well as one former pupil. This was superbly organised by the school and its pupils. It was supported and promoted by “superfan” Terry Daniels and The George Michael Appreciation Society of Bushey.

 

The show comprised solo, duo and ensemble performances from pupils aged from 11-18 years old that spanned a mix of songs by George Michael, WHAM! and many other well known artistes. There was a wide range of talent on stage, some of whom were quite superb, such as Bo Kabucho, 12, who stole the first half of the show with his super rendition of ‘Faith’. He had the confident, precocious air of a young Michael Jackson about him and could well go far. There were further fine vocal and guitar performances from older pupils, Adam Dalby and Aaron Robinson, who superbly and with great passion covered the Elton John and George Michael song, ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me’ and Eric Clapton’s ‘I Shot The Sheriff.’ That really lifted the night to another level.

Some songs and performances were spoilt though as a result of either extreme nerves and/or singing songs that plainly weren’t right for the singer’s vocal range. However these pupils shouldn’t be disheartened though as their former star pupil George was quite a shy performer himself of course, even during his superstardom, so I suspect as a youngster he may well have been every bit as shy and nervous as some of those taking to the stage. It can’t have been easy trying to cover one of their former alma maters, who just happened to become one of the world’s great singing talents, but they gave it their all and overall it was a lovely tribute to George Michael. I’m sure he would have been immensely proud.

The evening closed with an uplifting cover of WHAM!’s ‘Wake ME Up Before You Go Go.’

On a sadder much more serious note, the build up to the event was marred by a scandal over a Hilton Hotel Fundraising Luncheon planned in George Michael’s honour. The Hilton Hotel Watford were set to host the £90 a head fundraising luncheon organised by The Heritage Foundation and Terry Daniels. Inexplicably just two weeks before the big day, the Heritage Foundation cancelled the lunch and refused to refund fans for their £90 tickets. When contacted Terry Daniels was unable to talk to Tiemo Talk of the Town citing that the matter was subject to a police investigation. The Charity Commission have stated, “We are aware of serious concerns regarding the Heritage Foundation, which is run by the Arts and Entertainment Charitable Trust.

When contacted by Tiemo Talk of the Town, Heritage Foundation Chairman David Graham was also fairly tight lipped, but by way of explanation said that, “sponsors had let him down who were helping to fund the event. They kept delaying and delaying. I’ve got nothing to hide. It will take place on a new date and all who’ve bought tickets will get free entry.”

Judging by many fans comments and anger over this scandal, I doubt that very much and only time will tell if that comes to pass. Whilst many ticket holders have now received refunds from their banks, two months on, many more still await refunds from the Heritage Foundation.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links:

  1. Tribute poem read at Bushey Meads High School plaque unveiling – Steve Stunt – 15th April 2018
  2. Faith: The George Michael Legacy Lives on by Wayne Dilks  – 19th October 2017
  3. Fans Flock to George Michael Memorial Service – Tiemo Talk of the Town – 1st May 2017
  4. Symphonica concert review – Tiemo Talk of the Town – 19th October 2012

 

Posted in Concert reviews, News | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

G.O.D. (Gold. Oil. Drugs.) by Dane Baptiste

G.O.D. (Gold. Oil. Drugs.) by Dane Baptiste
Star Rating: ***
Soho Theatre
London W1

Review date: 1st June 2018

With a title like G.O.D. you know you’re in for a serious show and arguably one that’s going to push a few buttons. The sermon according to Dane Baptiste certainly did that as he essentially drew comparisons between the worship of the idols of gold, oil and drugs, along with all that they represent versus the worship of God.

Gold in Danes world was represented by money and the importance of accumulating it. Nothing wrong with that per second as many aspire to earn a living and earn as much as they can. The issue arises where one chases money at the expense of everything else in life. “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Or when one pursues the idols of oil, drugs or other “false idols” over God. Dane didn’t make this clear.

As an increasingly successful Comedian with notable successes being Sunny D, the BBC’s first Black British sitcom for over 20 years and being the first Black Briton nominated for an Edinburgh Fringe award in 2014, he joked that this made him a comedy God. Whilst I wouldn’t go that far and he wasn’t, he certainly  offered up a bountiful supply of original jokes, observations and witty asides e.g. when reacting to the name of a man called Merlin sat in the front row and when gently welcoming two latecomers to the show in a refreshingly pleasant and non judgemental way by humbly saying, “We all have things to do.”

References to oil included a classy line questioning what oil and water and God and water both have in common! Sharp jokes and observations like this peppered his show and kept the audience heartily laughing away.

Dane was raised a Catholic but somewhere along the way he seems to have lost his faith in both God and the Catholic church for reasons he doesn’t explain. It would have been more helpful and made for a more relatable performance if he had done so as there would have been more context to his views, especially when on one particular occasion it was blatantly and surprisingly blasphemous.

There was a far higher level of crudity and profanity in the show too which you don’t normally expect from Dane Baptiste so something’s changed which is a shame. For instance his remarks about the Queen and Prince Phillip shocked many in the audience and were, to my mind, unnecessarily disrespectful. That said, is that because we view them as idols on a pedestal who we should respect or because we feel they deserve respect because of factors such as what they’ve achieved, their advanced age and the fact society tell us to respect one’s elders?

This was a solidly, funny and at times thought provoking offering, but the finale left a very bad taste in the mouth and regrettably was the abiding memory of the night. Maybe that’s the message Dane wanted to put out and he has the freedom to do that. However if he was aiming to make clear that society shouldn’t be worshiping false idols, only the one God, he had a funny way of showing it. He would perhaps been better off using his talents to distinguish between what to some might seem unhealthy allegiances to any one particular religious denomination and what could be a healthier, more respectful faith in God, a relationship with God, that is more personal and rooted in scripture rather than some of the man made religious tenets and practices that have been open to criticism.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links:

  1. Shallow Halal – Faith, Family and Relationships – Sajeela Kershi – 30th January 2016
  2. Have We Sacrificed Religion for Materialism? – Battle of Ideas 2012 – 4th November 2012
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