Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Sleaford Mods At Nottingham Rock City REVIEW

Amidst the roof-raisingly raucous clamour for a second encore at the end of Sleaford Mods' sellout Rock City gig, a friendly couple introduced themselves to me as the band's relatives and asked what I had thought of the preceding 75 minutes.

This proved tougher to articulate than I anticipated.

Though what we had experienced matched the coming of age gigs by Nirvana and Oasis at Rock City for sheer sticky floor, spit on the back of the neck vitality and musicality, this felt somehow different.

That’s not to say that there was collective excitement at this moment, the end of a breakthough tour where after six years Sleaford Mods find themselves an overnight success with a top ten album, acres of newsprint, a film and even a new single with (gasp!) a humalong tune.

But more it was the sense of connection with their hometown audience and communal sense of passion.

In recent interviews Jason has used that word when speaking of his music as a reaction not only to Austerity Britain, but resentment of ‘The Man’s’ lack of compassion for those left behind.

So when like a local, demented, version of the ‘only-man-with-sight-left-walking-the-streets-of England’ from The Day of Triffids Jason holds forth that it's no longer just bad that we have sleptwalk into a world of Pound Shops, Foodbanks, Payday loans and local football teams who always let you down, but just plain unacceptable.

And when he screamed ‘Nottingham, we are your sons!’ it was with a passion that was immediately grasped and reciprocated by their adoring fans.

Monday, 5 October 2015

List of the Lost by Morrissey BOOK REVIEW

So the reviews are in- List of the Lost is officially the worst book ever written, apparently. It's an easy target, of course- anything written by pop artists is open to the accusation that they are dabbling in areas they don't understand. Why don't they just stick to what they are good at?  Posing in front of cameras, warbling into microphones in front of their adoring audiences and ferrying their entourage of chefs, hairdressers and roadies across European highways and beyond. How dare they presume to be able to write anything that lasts longer than two minutes when read out loud? It's not like song lyrics have to make any kind of sense to be successful- we've known that for decades now. And Morrissey more than many divides the critics.
But this is a book written by an artist who has had years of refusal; he refuses to follow fashion, refuses to listen to critics and refuses to play anyone's game if he does not wish to. This, it seems, is the book Morrissey had to write. And yes- it's really not going to be to many people's taste because it is not written for many people's tastes. I don't want to give away plot details but it is a grimly gothic read full of dark secrets and plot twists one should expect from a lyricist who frequently calls on death, whether it's by bomb, premature burial, gangster, serial killer or double decker bus.

It is easy to pick out the mixed metaphors ( 'the woods are an eternal ocean'), the strange choice of names (a runner called Ezra Pound ), the shoe-horned in rants about Winston Churchill, fat kids eating burgers, Thatcher, animal slaughter, police brutality, and the now infamous 'bulbous salutation' (although my favourite euphemism in the book is 'his manly central issue' which is a work of genius). But there is humour and humanity here and some astonishingly poetic passages - the trainer Rims has many great one liners, an unexpected family death is movingly described, and some of the more gruesome scenes are shockingly visceral.

Morrissey has been criticised for not engaging an editor to pretty up his words. It would have been the easiest job in the world to sanitise and repackage- chopped up into nice neat chapters, sentences hacked back to polite lengths, no more digressions, no more adventurous use of imagery, no more surprises- let’s not put the reader into that that uncomfortable position of having to make up their own mind. But Morrissey only writes as he has to write and nobody has to read it if they don't like it. It is a similar reaction that Morrissey's ' Heaven knows I'm miserable now' lyrics received in the 1980s, when it seemed like most people wanted to hear about tropical parties and girls on film. We will never know who's right and who's wrong when it comes to matters of taste but Morrissey appeared in retrospect to win that battle and maybe he will win this one too.

Morrissey's literary influences are well documented (and t – shirted)  and there is much literary and heightened, associative, stream of consciousness prose-poetry  here- possibly influenced by Elizabeth Smart, Jack Kerouac, Ezra Pound, Allen Ginsberg- none of whom are particularly fashionable these days and none of whom have ever been easy reads- and all of whom have their many critics. I'm not arguing that The List of the Lost will take its place alongside any of these writers' works.  But what will be more important to Morrissey, I suspect, is that he wrote the book he chose to write, with the same bravery and passion in which he has approached all his lyrics (and indeed the bestselling 2013 Autobiography) without the 'forces of containment' editing him into artistic emptiness.

Lyn Lockwood

Lyn Lockwood is a teacher and writer living in Sheffield. She has been listening to Morrissey since she first heard Reel Around the Fountain on John Peel  in 1980-something.

List of the Lost is published by Penguin and is available in bookshops now.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill At Nottingham Alea Casino REVIEW

The most fabulous sweeping staircase in town greets you in the entrance lobby of Alea's landmark building on Upper Parliament Street, enticing you to ascend to both their 24 hour state-of-the-art casino and Nottingham's very own branch of culinary's brooding bad boy beefcake Marco Pierre White's Steakhouse Bar & Grill restaurant.

Turning right at the top of the stairs takes you to the restaurant and through its glass doors a luxurious swish-nightclub style decor is revealed, exuding an alluring air of laid-back glamour. Inside, an ambiance that buzzes without becoming overwhelming attracts a mixed clientele of all ages and dress codes, from long gowns to casually smart attire, creating a refreshingly friendly and innovative mix of glitz and comfort.

An array of menu versions is available at the restaurant, including pre-theatre, Sunday roasts and a £35 all in one menu that includes £5 casino chips between two. But tonight we were dining confidentially A La Carte and had the whole steakhouse-experience selection of food to choose from which ranges hugely and brilliantly from sophisticated swordfish, venison and veal to the fun retro glam-rocking 1970s Classic Chicken Kiev and Prawn Cocktail. We chose to begin with the artistically arranged and deliciously indulgent Smoked Salmon with crème fraîche, decadently-dotted with caviar - which is a new addition to the menu along with the Macaroni Of Lobster main - and a visually delightful Cucumber Sorbet, refreshingly perfect as a super-light starter.

On to the main-event star of the show, The Steak. Upon ordering, you are presented with an entertaining flourish of a boxed collection of steak knives to select your cutlery of choice, from burly and seriously-serrated to daintier flower-adorned handled. All beef is locally sourced and aged for 28 days and non-steak fanciers have plenty of options including salads and vegetarian dishes, but we chose a Sirloin Steak and a Great American Bacon And Cheese Burger to sample that full-on beef experience.

Ordering your steak well-done may be jokingly frowned upon in the menu but you can, of course, have your meat cooked any which way you wish and an excellent, attentive and unobtrusively-efficient waiting staff are happy to advise upon cuts of meat. And, small appetites be aware, because confidentially, these steaks are definitely top-quality heavyweights. The sirloin was an almighty piece of meat, a plump, thick, juicy, perfectly cooked knockout, living all the way up to to all that steakhouse-hype and arrived with quite possibly the mightiest chips ever seen, and garnished, finally and fittingly, with a mighty grilled tomato. If you don't feel up to going all out with a steak, the burger is a lighter, more informal option served in a comely brioche bun and still ticks all those high quality meat boxes, arriving served with more delicate pommes frites.

Finding room for dessert after two generously-portioned courses was a challenge but one which, we confidentially are able to report, we managed admirably. The 1930s Classic Knickerbocker Glory proved to be the perfect follow up to the sirloin steak, beautifully presented and raspberry-themed with cream, sorbet and ice cream layering down to fresh raspberries in syrup at the end tasting sweet, light and lovely whereas the apple crumble was crammed full with diced fruit, infused wonderfully with cinnamon and served with lashings of fresh cream. And to end our meal, tea and coffee were served with an icing-sugar dusted cube of Turkish Delight. Perfecto.

"The whole Marco ethos is that it's not just about the food, it's about the whole experience. It's about going out and having a nice time and we try to cater the menu around that too," explains Aimee McNiven, the Food and Beverage Manager at the restaurant. "We want nice things on the menu, we also want things on there that will make people feel comfortable and are not too pretentious. And yes OK, the prices are on the higher side, but that's because of the quality of the products served. So instead of going all 'gourmet chef' we've decided, let's be a steakhouse, but let's do the best steaks that we can do and so it's about getting the top quality products in.

"Our clientele varies completely. One day we might get businessmen in because they're staying in the hotel opposite, the next day it's a hen party, or we have celebrations, birthday dinners and anniversary dinners. People also come for Sunday roast lunches with their family as children are welcome, but obviously anyone under 18 isn't allowed any further than the restaurant. And I don't think anyone that goes in there feels awkward no matter what they're wearing, it's kind of a whatever-you-feel-comfortable-in dress code, if people want to come in glitzed and glam then lovely, we love that as well, but if they don't, fine, fair enough!"

If you are over 18 and you fancy your chances, you can extend the evening and enjoy some after-dinner entertainment at the Alea Casino which has free entry and offers American Roulette, Blackjack, Three Card Poker and Slots with a dedicated Poker Room. With very helpful and friendly croupiers on hand to advise any beginners, it's a fun way to spend a Saturday night, with the thrill of taking a chance on the roulette and card tables whilst pretending to be in a Bond film in ultra-modern, slick, stylish surroundings.

Triumphantly pulling off the tricky feat of achieving unpretentious relaxed glamour, impeccable service and a sophisticated, playful cuisine paired with the opportunity to top off your evening, if you're very, very lucky, by possibly winning all the money you've spent at the restaurant back over at the casino, however you choose to play it, confidentially, Alea is on top of the Nottingham night-out game.

You can see our Nottingham Confidential Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill At Alea Casino photo album in glorious technicolour on our Facebook page here

Further details, including the full menus for Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill at Alea Casino, are available on their official website http://nottingham.aleacasinos.com/

Monday, 10 August 2015

Restaurant Food Delivered To Your Door By Deliveroo REVIEW

There's only one thing better than going to a nice restaurant for a nice meal and that's not having to go to a restaurant and have the nice meal brought to you instead and that is the scrummy premise of the UK delivery service Deliveroo which rolled out in Nottingham city centre and West Bridgford earlier this year.

Working with a tasty mix of gourmet local independents together with well-known established chain restaurants, Deliveroo operates in zones of a 1.5 mile radius of the restaurants to keep delivery times down and the food fresh and warm and offers a selection ranging from Japanese sushi to Pan Asian BBQ to American Grills and Persian meals as well as Deli food from Nottingham's Alley Cafe, Sobar and Aubrey's Traditional Creperie.

With our stay-at-home tastebuds delectably tickled by the prospect of enjoying quality restaurant food in the comfort of our own jim-jams, we plumped for an order from Italian cuisine supremos Carluccio's and found ordering from the Deliveroo website happily straightforward and user-friendly. After entering your postcode and choosing a time slot that can be booked up to a day ahead and in fifteen minute intervals, a list of available restaurants is displayed to choose from, where you continue to order food and create an account with a £2.50 delivery charge and option to tip the driver all included, thereby dispensing entirely with the need for pesky cash and after which your food will be pedalled to you on bikes as fast as legally permitted.

Our delivery arrived bang on time and smartly packed in black and clear plastic boxes and included a tasting trio of pastas with a particularly delicious Luganica with a spicy Italian sausage sauce, a butter-glistening Ravioli and a gloriously mushroomy Pasta  Con Funghi,  complemented by olives, garlic bread and salad and followed perfectly by an intoxicatingly liqueur-drenched Tiramisu and zingingly tart Lemon Tart, all suitably warm or cool and crush-free and reliably Carluccios-a-licious.

It's a slick, satisfying, lip-smacking service and if you're lucky enough to live in the NG1 and NG2 catchment areas of Deliveroo, this is a proper culinary game-changing tasty treat with an array of foods on offer guaranteed to meet any not-going-out moods and needs. Deliveroo also tell us they "do have plans for other zones" in the future for more Nottingham suburbs so keep an eye on our Nottingham Confidential Twitter feed and we'll let you know as soon as it's announced when Deliveroo will be delivering to you-hoo too.

You can order from Deliveroo on their official website https://deliveroo.co.uk 

Friday, 5 June 2015

Splendour Festival in Nottingham 2015 PREVIEW

The Specials

Summer is in the air, Splendour Festival is coming on July 18 and Nottingham's beautiful Wollaton Park will be hotting up with a scorcher of a line-up across three music stages, phew!

Headlining the all dayer will be the eagerly-anticipated legendary 2 Tone revivalists The Specials on the main stage along with special guests James who'll be playing their anthemic hits ‘Sit Down', ‘She’s A Star’ and ‘Laid' plus music from their 13th studio album La Petite Mort which was released last year to critical acclaim. And headlining the Confetti Stage will be none other than Bananarama, one of the most successful all female pop bands of all time with no less than an incredible 32 Top 40 UK hits, followed by Birmingham indie-rockers The Twang and Mansfield band Ferocious Dog.

Pop rockers Lawson will also be performing on the main stage along with MOBO award winner, vocalist and rapper Roots Manuva and Amber Run, who formed at Nottingham University and the whole festival will be kicked off by a performance by the winner of the Future Sound of Nottingham competition, Suspect Alibi.

Meanwhile, cheeky-chappie Brummie Andy Robinson will be compering the Funhouse Comedy stage which will showcase performances by D. Montfort, the Sunderland psychic creation of character comedian Tom Binns, musical comedy act Lost in Music, presenter Ellie Taylor of BBC3 dating show 'Song, Marry, Avoid', Aussie improviser John Robertson and musical comedy duo Jollyboat and there'll also be plenty of entertainment for children at the festival including fairground rides and a free kids area hosted by Big Top Mania, featuring circus skills workshops and shows, crazy inflatables, giant bubbles and Big Bear's Big Balloon Disco.

Splendour 2015 Line Up: 

MAIN STAGE                             
The Specials
Roots Manuva
Amber Run      
To Kill A King
NUSIC Competition Winner Suspect Alibi

The Twang      
Ferocious Dog
Iris Gold
The Swiines

Andy Robinson (Compere)
Ian D. Montfort
Christian Reilly
Ellie Taylor
John Robertson

Joy Mumford
Eyre Llew        
Jamie Lawson
Molly and Jack
Daudi Matsiko
Cedric Peters

Tickets for Splendour start at £20 for 11-17-year-olds and £34 for adults with a citycard. Children 10 and under go free. Available from www.splendourfestival.com

To get the latest line-up announcements and festival updates go to www.splendourfestival.com or like www.facebook.com/splendourfestivalUK or follow @splendourfest.

Time Out Cafe Nottingham REVIEW

I have never tried Asian street food before but after visiting Time Out cafe, a brand, spanking lusciously new venture, I could happily eat it every day as I'm sure I've only skimmed the surface of all the delicious flavours and new food experiences it could offer me.

Located on the first floor at 14-16 Wheelergate, we were signposted to our destination by a board outside the unobtrusive entrance. We climbed the stairs to a large, spacious cafe. A bar at the front and tables, chairs and sofas scattered here and there giving an impression of a chilled out space where people can relax and have plenty of room to themselves. They even have a sofa in one corner where you can play on the Nintendo 64 or PS 3 with loads of games to choose from. We sat at the end of the room where there is a large, wall length window looking down on the street below (the best spot in the cafe).

My companion and I weren't sure what to order as there was so much choice and we were new to this experience. We had a selection from the tapas menu after some recommendations from the manager.

My companion had Vietnamese spring rolls whilst I had the veggie ones. Forget what you know about the spring rolls in Chinese restaurants, these were a revelation. So light and tasty. The Vietnamese ones contain minced prawn and my companion couldn't stop talking about how wonderful they were.

Next came the Korean BBQ burgers, 3 mini burgers in brioche buns. Confidentially, these were my favourite. In an establishment selling Asian food I would expect burgers to be the food that customers turn to when they're looking for something familiar. But no!!! These burger were full of flavour and spice, all going together but I have no idea what went into these. The meat was really juicy and tender, and the bread was fresh. But wow, the flavours were amazing. My companion also enjoyed these so much that she had two and I only had one, hmmmmm.

Then we had the Thai Grilled pork skewers. Nice tender pork and what really livened these up was the hot and tasty dipping sauce. Bit hard to dip a skewer once you've eaten the end of it, so I poured the sauce over mine. Lovely.

By the time the chicken Karaage arrived (deep fried chicken) I was quite full and only managed a couple of pieces. Tender pieces of chicken thigh with a crispy batter and a wonderful salty, hot dip. Again it was the dip that lifted this dish from the good to the fab.

The staff were all friendly and attentive and the food arrived in a reasonably amount of time. All the food was freshly cooked to order.

I would recommend this place whether you're on a budget or not. The tapas is great for sharing and also if you want a light lunch. I looked on with jealousy as some delicious looking main meals were being served and next time I go I'll try one of these. Still all affordable though as the tapas is around £5 a dish and the main meals are around £7.

The cafe stays open until 11pm Tuesday till Saturday, so don't just go for lunch go for dinner too.........and then maybe a late night snack.

I'm starting to feel hungry just thinking about Time Out Cafe.

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday 11.30am-11pm
Sunday 11.30am-5.30pm

Free wifi

First Floor
14-16 Wheelergate


Monday, 25 May 2015

Brenton Film: The Big Noise in Silent Film!

Silent films are big business worldwide! Yup, you heard right: silent films – no words, just pictures and music. The huge critical and commercial success of The Artist (2011) and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011) served to highlight the fact that not only are they experiencing a renaissance, in many ways they never really went away. However, even in 2015, no single website catered comprehensively to the needs of fans worldwide – until now. Building the world’s biggest and best silent film website has been the dream of local boy Brent Reid for years – now he’s well on his way. Here’s how and why he got started.

How did you first get into film; what’s your earliest film memory?

Like many I was fascinated by films on television from an early age I guess at that point I was mostly interested in fantasy, action and adventure-type stuff: wizards, war films, westerns and especially anything with monsters or dinosaurs in. Then as now, the name Ray Harryhausen (stop-motion animation wizard) in the credits was always a guarantee of quality!

I basically first became aware of film-watching as a special, theatrical experience when I was old enough to take myself, from the age of around 7 or 8 (!) to one of the surviving handful of ‘proper’ original cinemas that were still operating in the city centre back then. Sadly, the only one still remaining is the Savoy on Derby Road. Use it or lose it, people!

Why is silent film still relevant today?

They’re still entertaining – very much so. I’m on a mission to demonstrate to non-believers and the as-yet-uninitiated that they’re far from being just for film buffs and beard-stroking academics – and that’s just the women! The best silents, with a quality presentation, are every bit as potent and affecting to everyone, regardless of age and background, as they were first time around.

The influence of the silent era (1890s–1930s) is absolutely everywhere too. Modern filmmakers pay homage to it constantly; there’s barely a day goes by without me coming across yet another overt silents reference in a film, TV programme, computer game, music video or, especially, friends’ kids’ cartoons. Do you like WALL-E? he’s an amalgamation of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, two of the silver screen’s greatest-ever comedians, and the film itself is a quasi-silent one. Heard of Metropolis (1927)? If not, maybe you’ve heard of Star Wars, because that’s where C-3PO was born. So too was the dystopian vision of Gotham City in every Batman outing since 1989. (Speaking of which, Batman himself was based on silent film action hero Douglas Fairbanks, as was Superman!) How about Lord of the Rings? Yup: Metropolis is in there again. The list goes on and on. And on. That’s just one film – most people are already silent film fans and don’t even know it yet!

Additionally, much of the style and glamour of the silent era remain resolutely at the cutting edge of fashion and design and show no sign of ever fading.

One last crucial example of the silent era's ongoing relevance: incredibly, women in the film industry have never since enjoyed such wide-ranging power and autonomy as they did back then. They frequently rose to the top as some of the most highly-paid actors, directors and producers of the day. What's more, around 50% of all films made before 1925 were written by women; now it's around 10%. So much for progress... We seriously need to catch up again!

What first inspired you to start the website?

Easy: no-one else was doing it and I was fed up of waiting! I saw what was lacking online from the start and countless other silents fans I’ve met at screenings and film festivals, both at home and abroad, agreed it was a great idea. However, after unsuccessfully spending over a decade trying to cajole other, more tech-savvy folk to start such a site, it was clear that no-one actually wanted to take on such a huge task Eventually I took a deep breath and one year ago jumped into the heady world of social media to start heralding the site’s arrival, whilst simultaneously working on it. Finally, I just recently launched the site and got an immediate, great response. Tens of thousands of visitors already – and this is just the start!


How is Brenton Film different to other film sites?

That would require a whole article in itself, but fundamentally, I’m, trying to amalgamate and build on the existing global silent film community. Though in the real world it’s a thriving and healthy one, online it’s extremely fragmented, with a greatly diminished reach as a result. There are many smaller sites and blogs that do some parts of what I’m doing, but no single site is doing all of it. In addition to that, mine has several features that are unique, at least in the world of silent film. Chief amongst these is the Worldwide Events Calendar, the first of its kind I aim to get every relevant happening on there eventually. There are hundreds of them, on every continent, scheduled at any one time and it would be impossible for one person to keep track of them all. Therefore the calendar is a special interactive one that allows promoters and fans to upload dates themselves. I've got BuddyPress on there which is a sophisticated social networking facility. There are also features that people are more familiar with: chat forums, articles, news, reviews, prize giveaways, etc.

Brenton Film, including its calendar and forums, is built using WordPress so the entire site is completely integrated. Amongst other things this means that once you’ve signed in, using your own password or a social media account, you have the ability to create your own profile and post anywhere onsite, including leaving article comments, etc. I’m not claiming this to be unique but it must be a bit of a rarity, because I haven’t come across it anywhere else yet!

All of this is also promoted with targeted advertising and a large and very active social media presence, which are things that much of the silent film world in particular has been slow to adopt. I guess 'community' and 'interactivity' are my watchwords. I may have built the site but it really is intended for everyone to use and actively participate in.

How can people in Nottingham get involved?

Easy: use the site! Sign in, leave comments and post in the forums. If you know a lot about silents, share your knowledge; if you don’t know much yet, ask questions! Guest articles are always welcome: click here to contribute

Eventually I’d love to bring a proper silent screening – or even series of screenings – back to Nottingham. Somewhere a little out of the ordinary would be cool, like inside either Wollaton Hall or St Mary's in the Lace Market.

Any there any other Nottingham connections?

Well, Alma Reville, or Mrs Alfred Hitchcock, as she was otherwise known, was from St Ann’s! As any true Hitch fan will know, she was well-established in the film industry before they met. Afterwards, she continued to be instrumental in the filmmaking process and was almost as much a part of all his films, including his silent ones, as he was himself. There are many other luminaries of the early British film industry that were born and brought up in Nottingham, amongst them Jackeydawra Melford (her actual, real name!), Holmes Herbert, Billy Merson, Norman Page and Sebastian Smith.

You want more? The history of film exhibition in Nottingham is as old as film itself, with the first public screenings occurring from 1896 onwards, just a few months after the Lumière brothers débuted projected motion pictures in Paris. Far more recently, the British Silent Film Festival, one of the finest such events anywhere and my first real induction into this wonderful world, had its home at the Broadway cinema for a decade. Since sadly having to depart in 2009 it’s become a nomadic one; this year it’s being held in September at Leicester’s Phoenix Cinema. Make the trip: you'll meet lots of lovely folk, have your filmic horizons broadened inordinately and might just become addicted too!

What’s your favourite cinema in Nottingham?

Why, the Savoy Cinema, of course. The last remaining bastion of my childhood cinematic dreams, I absolutely love it there. I’ll even tell you my favourite seat: Screen 1, front row centre, right of the aisle – my happy place! Note that this grand old lady celebrates her 80th birthday this November; I’ll see you at the party!

Brenton Film: The past, present and future of silent film
Website: BrentonFilm.com
Twitter: Twitter.com/BrentonFilm
Facebook: Facebook.com/BrentonFilm

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Importance Of Being Earnest Starring David Suchet At Nottingham Theatre Royal REVIEW

It was another sensational theatrical coup for the city last night as Nottingham played host to the premiere of the breathlessly-anticipated delightfully delicious Agatha Christie/Oscar Wilde mash up of rapier wit, immortal quotables, cucumber sandwiches, muffins, cups of tea and Poirot cross-dressing as Lady Bracknell in the latest inspired version of The Importance of Being Earnest.

It's his first ever performance as a woman and David Suchet is one helluva lady. Gliding imperiously onto stage as the legendary ultimate Victorian matron-diva s/he cuts a truly unforgettable figure, with completely convincing deportment, delivery and demeanor that is every inch the iconic corseted Titaness, from her skirt-swooshing, high heel-revealing indomitable gait, to the burgundy-enclothed impressive bosom, right up to the indignantly-quivering feathers in her hat.

Accompanied by a cast of vivaciously-flirting bright young things including Emily Barber as a sparklingly-posh Gwendolen Fairfax, and the mighty firecracker of Michele Dotrice as Miss Prism, reduced to giggly girly gesticulations whenever in the presence of a charmingly-wooing Richard O'Callaghan as Reverend Canon Chasuble, the play, split by two intervals, gains magnificently in momentum culminating in a mesmerising third act of precisely balanced rhythm, pace and perfect enunciation.

An exquisitely set performance showcasing the chemistry and the humour of the English language at its very finest and top class upper-class entertainment that had the audience up on its feet wild with applause, you can catch this production right here first in Nottingham weeks before it hits London's West End and confidentially, we candidly recommend you get on it like Lady Bracknell's bonnet.

The Importance of Being Earnest is at Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sat 16th May 2015. Full details and ticket prices can be found on the Theatre Royal website here

Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Benedict Cumberbatch at Sherlocked © Sandra Franklin

Sherlock teaches us many things, and being a fan of the latest BBC incarnation certainly teaches us patience. Over a year ago, we were tantalised with the promise of an official 'Sherlocked' convention, and I must admit I was beginning to suspect it would never happen, but a couple of months ago, the announcement we had all been waiting for was made, the game was on! A bewildering array of differently priced packages were launched in a wild flurry of internet bookings and website crashes, but I was in, I had my ticket.

The timing of the event attracted criticism, short notice for overseas fans and a very unfortunate clash with the London Marathon, meant that many hotels were already full and those rooms left were horribly expensive. I can only imagine that it really isn't easy to get the likes of Bendedict Cumberbatch, Mark Gatiss, Andrew Scott et al all in the same place at the same time, but I understand the frustration that was vented by many who couldn't attend.

Friday 24 April finally arrived. I boarded the train, full of excitement and anticipation, dragging a case brimming with photography equipment and cosplay and destined for the ExCel centre in London, my home for the weekend. Friday was registration day and the chance of a sneak preview of the displays and stands. The queues were well managed by cheerful event crew and it didn't take long to collect my pass, find some friends, and head into the exhibition area. The London theme was certainly evident, a full size London bus, black cab, red post box, army tank and front door of 221B Baker Street had all been transported into the hall, like a fleet of impossible ships in a bottle. Nestled between them was the BBC shop, traders stands and a Sherlock museum corner displaying props and costumes from the recent episodes.

Friday night was the first of the party nights and sadly the biggest disappointment of the weekend. With the promise of 'Two themed party rooms a night, overlooking the Thames with the London skyline in the background', I donned my PVC, tucked my riding crop under my arm and headed off for the Irene Adler's Boudoir/The Underground themed event. What greeted me looked like a 1980s wedding reception, a sad, tired conference room,  no theming at all, curious brown balloons tied to tables, a cheesy DJ in the corner and lots of confused looking attendees. There wasn't even a view as the blinds had been well and truly drawn. After 10 minutes or so, many of us left and headed back to our hotels wondering how the entertainment had gone so wrong. Saturday was apparently the same, with a lonely soul posting a picture of an empty room on Facebook, with a caption of 'Where is everyone?'

Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss at Sherlocked  © Sandra Franklin 

Despite the disappointment of the previous evening, I sprang out of my hotel bed on Saturday morning, excited to discover what adventures lay ahead. I assembled my Hound of the Baskervilles costume, my Femlock friend grabbed my lead, and off we bounded back to ExCel. The clash with the London Marathon led to some curious glances and one lady asking me 'are you going to run the whole way like that?'

Each day was a bit of a balancing act with talks taking place on two different stages, six photo-shoot sessions running simultaneously and guests signing autographs in between. Everything was tightly managed by ticket type and group, those who'd paid a whopping £3,000 getting priority. Most of the event crew coped admirably with the masses of people with masses of questions and provided excellent assistance to those with disabilities. Waves and waves of excited fans filled the massive ExCel hall with the sound of accents from across the world and the almost subliminal loop of the Sherlock theme tune.

Our very first stop was a photo shoot with Jonathan Aris, who couldn't be more different than the unloveable Anderson he portrays in Sherlock. Jonathan was charming and dashing, enthusiastically greeted us and seemed very laid back amongst all the hustle. One of the things I love about conventions is the chance to meet the supporting actors that never normally receive much attention and I came away with a new admiration for all of the cast who took part in Sherlocked.
Next came the biggie, my photograph with Benedict. Looking chiseled and immaculate, he politely greeted each guest, complying with requests for pointing poses, holding stuffed toys and lightly placing his arm around fans' shoulders. Suddenly it was my turn, Benedict held my lead, looked quizzical for the camera, and in a literal flash it was over.

We bounced along from shoot to shoot, signing to signing meeting Una Stubbs, Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue, Rupert Graves, Andrew Scott, Clive Mantle, Lars Mikkelsen, Lara Pulver, Louise Brealey, Elizabeth Coyle, Louise Breckon-Richards and Arwel Jones, all of whom were a joy to meet and took time to say hello and admire the multitude of costumes worn by cosplayers. I say admire, but Moffat just looked at me and exclaimed 'why?'.

The talks were divided over two stages, the main stage impressively decorated as Sherlock's living room, it really was one of the best looking sets I've seen at any convention panel talks. The second stage hosted the lower key talks, which were still well worth attending, if you happened to have a handy time-turner or TARDIS with you. Moffat and Gatiss kicked off the panel sessions together, appearing very relaxed and comfortable in each other's company. Moffat throwing back his head in laughter as Gatiss entertained the crowd with Americanisms straight from a TV chat show, 'I've done this little show called Doctor Who, pause for applause'. Benedict's panel, although more reserved by comparison, was captivating, despite Benedict fighting a cold. He talked of how normal it seemed to be there with us all, but that he would never get used to being spotted whilst shopping, mentioned his excitement at soon becoming a father and was bemused at the thunderous applause for having got married. He fielded the crowd's questions well, throwing in a Chewie impression and using his Smaug voice to announce he was not a performing monkey. The odd naughty word slipped out, but who could possibly not forgive him.

Andrew Scott followed Benedict's session, very different, but utterly brilliant. Andrew is cheeky and delightful where Benedict is polished and polite, but both fantastic viewing. Watching Andrew on stage, it is hard to imagine just how he transforms into the chilling menace that is Moriarty. Warm and funny, he won everyone's hearts by talking about how fabulous he thought fans of the show are, to much applause. But in true Jim style, he left us with an instruction not to get nervous or worried about anything, we'd all be dead soon so it didn't matter.

Andrew Scott at Sherlocked © Sandra Franklin
I must admit to feeling an involuntary chill in the presence of Lars Mikkelsen, almost waiting for Magnussen to spring to life, but his relaxed air was an excellent balance to Rupert Graves' exuberant naughtiness as they took to the stage together. Saturday ended with a big screen showing of A Scandal in Belgravia, introduced on stage by Benedict. One last glimpse of our favourite consulting detective before he disappeared for the weekend.

Despite the lack of Benedict, Sunday was probably the highlight for me. There were noticeably fewer attendees which made it much easier to move around and not to mention cooler, which certainly went down well with this hound in a corset! We started the day with Jonathan again, now feeling like old friends, just time to grab an autograph from him before he kicked off the main stage sessions with Rupert. They were followed by Andrew and Mark, which I felt was the jewel in the crown on the whole event. Irreverent, wicked and razor sharp, they really should have their own late night chat show. Topics hurtled from scripts and filming, to gay marriage and integration. We learnt that they ARE both beach body ready, even if it is Morecombe in the winter and that yes, Mark does shave for Sherlock, but he's not telling you where. It was the session I hoped would never end and I have bruises from where my corset fought with my laughter-racked body.

As a seasoned convention goer, it was a delight to see the second stage reduced to standing room only for the cosplay parade. My hound scuttled along with Femlocks, Watsons, Irenes and Moriartys abound. The grand prize went to a very worthy Mary, every inch of her costume stitched, dyed and beaded by hand.

All too soon, the end neared. Just time for one last photo shoot, with the awe inspiring Mark Gatiss, who I think we had all well and truly fallen for over the weekend. Greeted with a 'hello again puppy', he grasped me firmly by the lead and generated the picture that still has me laughing days later.
I staggered to the tube with a grin on my face, fighting my way through spent runners who had completed the marathon that afternoon. Yes I was exhausted, yes it was expensive, yes there was lots and lots of queuing but this is all par for the course in the world of fandom. Apparently there were nearly 7,000 of us there over the weekend, but what was really special was that I have never heard so many people say it was their first ever convention. Not only that, they had flown from Japan, Germany, Poland, Chile, America and Australia to worship at the doorstep of 221B Baker Street. So Sherlock definitely does teach us patience as we wait for episodes, wait in queues, wait for the next titbit, but it also teaches us the value of newly forged friendships, comfortable shoes and that sometimes, just sometimes, a bit of magic can leak out of that TV screen.


You can find more photos of the Sherlocked event in glorious technicolor on the official Sandra Franklin Photography page here  All photos property and copyright of Sandra Franklin Photography.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Morrissey At Nottingham Capital FM Arena REVIEW

By Friday, life has killed me, but by Friday night King Quiff of Quips's all conquering opening UK tour gig at a meat-free-for-the-night Nottingham Capital FM Arena dripping with still-got-it honey-voiced musical heartbreakers had kissed me a helluva lot better.

Since The Smiths changed the world in the 80s, the world has changed and Morrissey has and hasn't. With a show that kicked off with a decidedly old school retro half hour compilation of familiar film clip faves including the New York Dolls, Charles Azvanour and hearty Northern gags, a still maturely devilishly handsome Morrissey and band appeared on stage, performed an endearing bowing ceremony and launched into a knockout gloriously technicolour goldened oldie The Queen is Dead complete with royal one finger salute to a suitably manic uproarious reception followed by an equally rousing wowzer version of Suedehead.

Plundering that almighty back catalogue arsenal with songs from the recent heavenly World Peace is None of Your Business interspersed with thrillingly chills-down-the-spine Smiths classics What She Said and Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before, the real jaw-dropper show-stopper was the extraordinary ear-splitting agony-amplified Meat Is Murder, accompanied by a harrowing animal activist film, delivering an intense throwback impact to those of us who remember it the first time round.

With references to local hero Arthur Seaton and a waggish attack on the Brit Awards "Do you think it perfectly represents British music? So why does the damn thing exist?" the standing mosh pit near the stage gained increasingly frenzied mangled rush and crush momentum throughout the gig with several fans being pulled out of the crowd but who managed to clasp Morrissey's hand to cheers from the arena before an undignified carry-out exit. But returning for a Speedway/ Irish Blood, English Heart mash-up encore, Morrissey ended with that indefatigable fabulous flourish that never gets old, ripping off his shirt, baring that always magnificent chest and flinging his shirt into the outstretched arms of the audience.

Still packing a voice that stays profoundly and emotively relevant to every generation, still packing arenas worldwide with an army who will throw their arms around him, still disarmingly charming the pants off everyone, nothing's changed, we still love you, Morrissey Forever x

Monday, 23 February 2015

Jared's Restaurant At The Old Angel REVIEW

Saturday afternoons in the city are great, but once all of the shopping and socialising takes its toll, nothing beats a good old pub lunch. Except maybe, a good old pub lunch from Jared's at The Old Angel on Stoney Street, in the well known arts-oriented Lace Market area.

With a passion for good food, Samuel – the dedicated chef behind the enterprise – says that having worked in various levels of catering, there's no reason why a traditional pub lunch can't be done to the same standard. Sam creates all of his ingredients from scratch – even down to baking the bread for the burger buns himself. His meat is locally sourced from the Victoria Centre market, and so is the veg. The burger we had was made in front of me from ground mince with seasoning. No filler or processed junk here!

The menu is focused on the staple pub meals, from Burger, to Roast Dinner, to snacks such as sandwiches and chips – and all a great price. The meal we had was the Angus Burger with chips, for £6.50, which is the same ball park that the larger pubs charge for a pre-prepared/frozen burger cooked hastily with possibly with the use of a microwave. None of that here though, our meals were fresh and cooked to order.

The meals were substantial enough that they left us filled for the evening, without that heavy feeling one sometimes gets after a pub lunch. The meat was cooked with great attention to detail, not too overdone, and the chips likewise. We also tried the Sloppy Joe burger, and the beef chilli was rich in flavour and spices without being overpowering, or having too much of a kick. As burger lovers, these definitely rate with some of the best burgers we've eaten – and for that price range we'd say the best we've had.

If you want a high quality, fresh, locally-sourced pub lunch then I recommend Jared's at The Old
Angel. The food itself is great, but it also showcases local independent talent and what can happen when someone with an honest love of their craft meets with a great idea – and manages to hit the nail
on the head.

Davey Rocks

Jared's at The Old Angel is at 7 Stoney Street, Nottingham, NG1 1LG. Full details about Jared's including opening times can be found on The Old Angel website here