Thursday, August 31, 2006

Working with Auntie @ Greenbelt

Last weekend I was at the Greenbelt Festival in Cheltenham. Greenbelt is a wonderful thing and I encourage you to check out the website here. While there, I lent my meagre talents to the festival radio station Greenbelt FM.

Well it was really hard work, but I had an amazing time and I ended up gettting the opportunity to do some really cool stuff! I pre-produced and then live produced a daily morning show called Greenbelt Today, live produced an insanely busy one-off lunchtime show and then presented my own daily evening music show. It was a bit strange flying solo from regular radio partner in crime Fat Roland who was also working for the station, but still very good.

The BBC help Greenbelt with the radio station and provide equipment (mmmm nice toys!) and professional staff (mmmm professional BBC... sorry, I'll stop that now) to work alongside a team of volunteers. I think they try and run the station as close as they can to a real BBC station, but encourage us volunteers to do as much ourselves while being available to help us when we need it. This is often! I'd never had the chance to do any radio producing before, and it was a eye-opener into how professional radio stations work. For your delectation I will run through a day in my life as a Greenbelt FMer.

7am. In the studio to finish my pre-production for Greenbelt Today, this would entail writing all the cues and information for all the pre-recorded items I'd ventured out to record the previous day as well as tweaking the show's running order to make sure there was enough to fill the show. If we had any live guests, I would finish sorting information and questions for the presenter. I'd collect the music playlist and cds from the music team and then make sure everything we needed was together. This would normally take till...

9am. Live producing the show. This meant making sure the show ran to the schedule and that the presenter had all the information and music he needed. I'd liase with guests when they arrived, checking through what they were there to be talking about and introducing them to the presenter. I'd also liase with Super Charlie the Engineer about what we needed when we had live musicians on the show. I would also run round like a headless chicken from time to time. This, I am assured by professionals, is a key and regular part of the job...

10am. Once the show had finished I would probably mainline some coffee then take part in production meetings for the next day's shows. This would then lead to me spending a few hours sorting out guests and interviews with the press team and then bobbing off with a groovy BBC recorder to interview some lovely people. Including over the weekend: Martyn Joseph, Dr Simon Mordern - a genuine rocket scientist , very affable author Nick Thorpe and festival bigwig and ex Eden Burning legend Paul Northrup. I'd then come back to the studio and get the editing geniuses to help me turn the rather rough interviews into something useful (they really are amazing, they managed through the editing process, to take my patented 'stuttering moron' interview style and turn it into something approaching normal! I'd normally be pretty busy till about...

2pm. Escape with Fat Roland for some lunch and try and catch something around the festival before nipping back to the studio at 4ish to do some pre-booked interviews and then get ready for my show at..

6pm. Ha Ha Ha Ha (Evil laugh) Unleashed upon a microphone at last! In my evening music show I played lots of music obviously and had a selection of excellent guests live in the studio. Often they would have come straight from playing mainstage or stage 2. I had yFriday, LZ7, Stop! Thief! and my personal favourites, Fire Fly along over the weekend. I'd just like to say here that yFriday were absolutely lovely, particularly as they had literally just come off mainstage and staggered up to the studio to talk to me. LZ7 were a tad chaotic (Lindz was riding a chopper around the studio man! )and I entered into a contest to improve Daniel Bedingfield's (festival headliner!) Gotta Get Thru This with heavy-metal roaring with Fire Fly. Predictably, I lost horribly. After my show at...

7pm. I would start pre-production for the following day's Greenbelt Today and also finish off any items I'd done for the Breakfast show. I'd normally do this till about...

10pm-10.30pm. At which point I would either check out something alternative worshippy and then head to the organic beer tent or cut out the middleman and then go straight to the organic beer tent. Once at the tent I would catch up with friends I'd not seen for ages, talk with my fellow radio bods or randomly talk to complete strangers (a greenbelt tradition) and generally consume far too much strong organic beer and have a great time till about 3am. I would then stagger back to my tent to catch a few hours sleep before starting again in the morning.

It may sound like just hard work, but I had more fun than I have in ages. Highlights not mentioned include watching Fat Roland chase an escaped goat at the petting farm in an attempt to secure an interview (not with the goat of course!), drinking unusual tea in the legendary Tiny Tea Tent at some silly time in the morning talking nonsense with great people and many others too numerous to mention.

I have learnt loads about radio which I can take into my Refresh FM shows at Easter 2007, I met loads of cool people and had a ridiculously good time into the bargain. Big up to Mary Corfield and the BBC team. Look out for Fat's & Lee's Greenbelt podcast that pulls together some of the stuff we both did over the weekend in next month or so.

Roll on Greenbelt 2007!

Monday, August 21, 2006


I had an odd experience on Sunday evening.

My unfeasibly tall friend Taff was visiting from down South, to show off he and his wife's recently spawned offspring. This delightful little creation (the offspring of course, not Taff, I don't think many would consider him a 'delightful little creation') earned himself serious brownie points by being very cute, sleeping most of the time I saw him and not vomiting on my sofa.

Now, possibly due to a surfeit of time devoted to changing nappies and other pungent activities related to small babies, Taff wanted to do manly things like drink beer, watch bad movies and eat curry. Now, as I am a good friend, I of course agreed reluctantly to indulge in those three very things.

The movie was very bad, the beer was good and the curry was odd....

The curry house in question is in East Didsbury and apparently is recommended by celebrities. This led us to wonder which celebrities they were and what they may have eaten. This conversation reached an ubrupt halt when the thought of Jade Goody ploughing through a Chicken Korma was suggested.

Once inside, a further meaningless conversation (that was to recur unresolved throughout the evening) ensued. Is there anything that cheese will not go with? Also, do bananas also go with everything? Such trifles occupied us over beer and poppadoms until the waiter hove ominously into sight....

Allow me to put the scene in to context. Taff is a very imposing gentleman, well in excess of 6ft. He is also a R.E teacher and unlikely to be browbeaten into anything (except by his wife). I have seen him control a room of unruly Year 9s with a raised eyebrow and the word 'erm'. Yet both he and I were completely bamboozled by the young waiter (whose beard was no where near as luxuriant as mine, indeed the word 'straggly' would not go amiss). Both of us had an exact idea of what we wanted to eat and the accompanying side dishes, yet 5 minutes later we were both broken men, having ordered not what we had intended, but rather what our waiter wished us to order. For example, Taff wanted a Pathia, but ended up ordering a Samber. We wanted 2 portions of rice and an interesting nan bread, but we ordered one rice and one plain nan bread.

The thing is, our straggly bearded friend was not pushy or rude or inattentive. He appeared to have special mind powers. Had we been playing chess, Taff and I would have submitted to the legendary beginners 3 move checkmate ploy in the face of such cranial power. It was like the twilight zone.

Anyway, I had a banana curry and for the record all the food was outstanding. Maybe the waiter read our minds and chose what we needed, rather than what we wanted.

Oh and our conclusion with regards to cheese is that there is a form of cheese that will go with anything, even cornflakes. However, bananas are not as versatile.

Week this mainly watching I have been

Superman Returns (On IMAX! With certain scenes in 3D!) Woo Hoo! *****

Snakes on a Plane ***
So bad its good - although I was worried it wouldn't be bad enough, but my fears were quickly laid to rest. Oh btw, if you see this film and are male, I guarantee that for the next week you WILL be checking the toliet very carefully...

The Football Factory ****
Very powerful film. Danny Dyer (who will be in upcoming comedy horror Severence) is very good.

Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country ****
I don't care what you think, I liked it. So there...

The Cooler ****
William H Macy, who is watchable in just about anything, is superb and finally, one of the million Baldwin brothers gives a good performance.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Best. Website. Ever.

There's nothing like religion to bring the crazy people out of the woodwork.

If you are familiar with certain wings of the Christian church, you will be aware that there can be an awful lot of interest in 'End Times'. In the US, the dreadful Left Behind book series (which seems to have at least 5000 different books in it) has stoked interest to unprecedented levels. Come to think of it they also did a Left Behind movie so bad, it transcended crapness into something quite extraordinary.

So, it was with great interest that I came across this website:

Jesus will come for the
saints any day now...
Your odds of being among them are not good

The website tells you what to do in the event of you missing out on the Rapture. Rather than telling you to pray, cross your fingers and hope for the best, it gives some altogether more practical advice. This website will give you tips on everything; from what stocks will boom while commerce is controlled by the anti-Christ, to how you can minimize inheritance tax on gifts left by raptured relatives.

Absolute genius in every way. I think my personal favourite is the FAQ section, one highlight being this question:

The Mark of the Beast sounds unsightly. Will ordinary makeup conceal this if it is as unattractive as some believe?

If you are interested in finding out more about religious fruitcakes, you could do worse than visit and click on the Fruitcake Zone.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to speak to my financial advisor

ITV scrapes the barrel...

ITV is dreadful, absolutely dreadful. It's full of so much mind-numbing awfulness that I get on my knees and thank the almighty Himself that I am spared ITV. Luckily, the vagaries of my bargain freeview box mean that I can't actually pick up any of the ITV channels. So that means that I never even accidentally watch it. There is so much drivel shown on the channel, but even so things like Love Island float to the top of the cesspool.

But even the execrable Love Island pales into insignificance next to ITV's latest venture.

A primetime drama about the "Downfall of John Prescott" - Bloody hell....

"You just couldn't have made this story up," said ITV's controller of features, Jane Rogerson.

No kidding love. Apparently it will be "a compelling insight into the off-camera moments of public figures and their entourages."

Much as I dislike the pretty contemptible Prescott, at least ITV could have waited until his 'downfall' was actually complete. As far as I'm aware, he's still Deputy Prime Minister and regardless of what happens to him in the next few weeks and months, ITV have missed a trick. At the moment, the story is a lurid kiss and tell with no chance of redemption for the main character. If ITV waited till the resolution of 'Prescott-gate' they may find a way to spin a more satisfying ending.

As it is they say the programme will provide "an innovative and entertaining look at the upstairs downstairs world of Westminster". Oh dear... but there's worse to come. Apparently, the programme is part of an attempt to make ITV more 'risky' and its output "contemporary, less predictable". Heaven help us all.

And the worst thing.... the name of the damn thing will be 'Prezza'.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I've been tagged.... Hmmmm Books

Now normally, I despise the email/posts that go round and ask you lots of questions and then get you to forward them. The problem is, they are normally full of crap questions like "when did you last get drunk?" and "which celebrity is your pet hamster most like?" Then you have to send your own meaningless and terminally vacuous answers to a whole selection of people who frankly deserve better.

However, this questionnaire forwarded to me by electronica peddler Fat Roland, is a bit different as it actually held my attention for more then 2 milliseconds. So here are my answers:

One book that changed your life: Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

>One book you've read more than once: No Logo by Naomi Klein

>One book you'd want on a desert island: The Lord of the Rings

>One book that made you laugh: The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams.

>One book that made you cry: The Lovely Bones by Alice Seabold

>One book you wish had been written: 1984 by George Orwell

>One book you wish had never been written: The Da Vinci Code (not because its controversial, but because its crap...)

>One book you're currently reading: Pompeii by Robert Harris

>One book you've been meaning to read: The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake (a friend bought it for my birthday years ago, but I still haven't got round to reading it. If Taff ever reads this, I'm sorry...)

Burnt for being a crap and wildly overrated book...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

This week I have been mainly watching....

As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I watch lots of movies. So I've decided to start recording what I've watched and what I thought about it. Partly because I want to share information with the 3 people who have the misfortune to read this blog from time to time and partly because I forget what I've watched sometimes and this will be a record.

It's dead simple; 5 stars = a near perfect film, 1 star = Men in Black 2 (officially the worst film I've ever seen at the cinema (although Ocean's 12 gave it a run for its money). Plus, if its a film that is a bit out of the mainstream I might post a link to more info about it.

NausicaƤ of the Valley of Wind ****
Dead Man's Shoes ****
The Quiet American ***
It would have got 2 stars if not for Michael Caine, who is superb
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan ****
I know its geeky, but I got it on Special Edition DVD and its just as good as I remember it 10 years ago. A proper guilty pleasure...

I Robot **
Jurassic Park 2 **
From Russia with Love ****
Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai *****

More next week

Monday, August 07, 2006

The wilful misuse of penguins

Penguins are great. There is no doubt about it. Penguins are remarkable creatures able to survive and thrive in environments that would cause humans to lie down and die horribly without hugely expensive survival gear. I defy anyone to watch penguins hurling themselves up sheer cliffs and icebergs to get out of the sea and not be massively impressed. Or watch them 'flying' under water and not be warmed by their grace and speed.

However, penguins have a problem, they are not glamourous. Compared to say, a Golden Eagle, penguins get a raw deal. Who heard of a penguin being a symbol of freedom? The problem is penguins are funny. Very funny. As an example, look at this picture of penguins looking at a cuddly toy:

See, they aren't even trying to be funny. Jim Davidson would give his eye teeth to be half as funny as these penguins.

However, due to the natural humour of the penguin people feel they can use them to create humour where there is none. See below:

Now much as I approve of the sentiment of knocking George Bush, the wilful misuse of the noble penguin is not right. Penguins should only be used to support genuinely funny jokes or ideas. Like this.....

Take note penguin abusers....