Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Warriors Of Moss Side - new comics by kids

My Comic Art Masterclasses have again taken me around the country, and as always I try and represent the kids in the class if I can, when they come up with titles for the comic the class produces together. So we have the Year 5s of St Marys Primary in Moss Side depicted as a hijab-wearing Wasp, and Captain Moss Side looking more like an average kid in the class, in skin tone if not in muscle mass. And I always love having a pastiche to draw, so not only did I have fun with the cover of Avengers No 4, but also the poster for Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

Oh how drole kids can be. When you have older teenagers - and these groups at Sunday masterclasses in Burgess Hill's Martlets Hall included kids from 7 to 17 - you get the ironic titles. Hence Creatively Named Comic, on which I've depicted the runner-up title, a Kangaroo with a solar panel.

They came up with cats in Burgess Hill and they came up with cats in Guildford, at the G Live Centre. And potatoes. Kids love potatoes, chicken, and cheese. You're never far away from those foodstuffs when you get kids to come up with a random title.

I was trying to make this baby look like a baby, and didn't want him to look totally bald. Call me overly-politically-correct, but my picture research suggested to me that BAME babies tend to be born with more hair than caucasian babies. Trouble is I may have been rushing it, so we end up with a baby who looks like it's been born with creeping alopeceia. I can only apologise. The Planet Of The Apes cover was done in a class spread over two days, so I was able to colour it when it was only half-finished, the pupils having not yet added their contributions, which they do while I'm drawing their caricatures.

The celebrities these groups close for my demonstration strip were Benedict Cumberbatch, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mel B, Donald Trump (three times), and, most original suggestion of the week, Mr Tumble.

Comic Art Masterclasses coming up in 2017:
June 24 - Ludlow Assembly Rooms

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Aaaaaaaargh it's the Edinburgh Fringe Programme

I've just enjoyed the annual treat of reading the Edinburgh Fringe programme. If you've read this blog in the past, you'll know I've had this pleasure almost every year since 1984, and have watched closely the changes in the festival, and of its programme.

Back in 2015 I noted that the programme grew by about 20 pages a year. That seems to have slowed, with it having grown only 18 pages in 2 years, up from 2015's 440 pages to this year's 458.

The comedy section has remained about steady over recent years, weighing in this year at 142 pages. In 2015 it was down to 137 from 2014's 141 and 2012's 143. This compares to the first year I was in the programme, 2001, where there was a mere 33 pages of comedy.

On which subject, of course, I'm missing this year's Fringe, with the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre taking only their second year off since 2007. But it's good to see lots of familiar faces, and tropes of the programme, that carry on without us. Here are some of the choicest bits.

Aaaaaaaaaaargh. Way back in 1984, Malcolm Hardee made it a tradition to be first in the Fringe programme by naming his show Aaaaaaaaaaargh! It's Malcolm Hardee. In those days there were no separate sections for Comedy, Music, Theatre etc, so Malcolm took pride of place in the alphabetical order with this bit of silliness and originality. This year there is not one, not two, not three, but an astounding nine shows that have all named themselves Aaargh...something. From Aaaaaaaargh! The Malcolm Hardee Awards - who, let's face it, can claim some ownership of the idea - to Aaaaargh! Macbeth. There are also two shows that have begun their show title Aaaand Now..., and five that begin AAA. For the record the first legitimate act's name in the alphabetical listing is Sitcom Trials alumni Aaron Twitchen, who you should go see for that reason alone (as well as because he is excellent).

Acts without their name in the title. I don't know if this was a feature of previous year's programmes (I don't have them to hand at time of writing) but it's noticeable that a lot of comedians, with familiar names, don't appear in the alphabetical listings where you'd expect them to. Their show title is there prominently, but in many cases their name is in the subtitle only. So, hoping it doesn't affect their sales too much, have fun finding the shows by Janey Godley (filed in the Fs for For Godley's Sake), Maff Brown (under T for There's Always One), Jarlath Regan (under O for Organ Freeman), or Don Biswas (under L for Left Wing Conspiracy Theorist). They're far from the only ones to have fallen into this trap (into which we fell with our second show in 2008, The Return Of The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, which was under R in some listings, and T in others!)

Pushing Their Luck With The Title Award goes to the show, Luke McQueen: The Boy With Tape On His Face. Is he banking on the fact that the real Boy With Tape On His Face, who is also appearing this year, now goes by the name of Tape Face? Or is it a gag that's way too clever for me to appreciate?

Wrong Prime Minister On The Poster Award goes, for the second year running, to Newsrevue who had to suffer all last August with David Cameron on their poster and advert, he having unexpectedly resigned a month after the programme was published. This year they have Theresa May on their advert. At time of writing, no-one knows how out of date that will look by August.

Pun titles. Come on, who doesn't love a great pun title. Here are my 14 favourites from this year's programme.

Aaron Twitchen - Curtain Twitchen
Kae Kurd - Kurd Your Enthusiam
Gareth Mutch - Mutch Ado About Nothing
Sarah Iles - The Silly Iles
Georgie Morrell - The Morrell High Ground
Henning Wehn - Westphalia Is Not An Option
Cally Beaton - Super Cally Fragile Lipstick
Gary Tro - SupercalifragilisticexpiGARYTROcious
Adam Kay - Fingering A Minor On The Piano
Ashley Storrie: Morning Glory
Archie Maddocks - IlluminArchie
Lily Lovett Lovett Lovett, I'm Loving It Like That
Nazeem Hussain - Hussain In The Membrane
Mickey Sharma - Sharma Sharma Sharma Sharma Sharma Comedian

And this brilliant question, from the Facebook page of comedian James Cook:

What connects:

Assisted Suicide, Bat Boy, Brexit, Communism, Ouija, Pinkalicious, Scientology, Stimela, Suicide, Thrones and X? (*Answer at foot of blog)

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are not appearing at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe

*The answer is they're all followed by the words "The Musical" in this year's Fringe programme.

2017 TOUR
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 20 - Grassington Festival, Yorks
June 23 - Hertford Comedy Festival
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe
August 16 & 17 Camden Fringe

Saturday, 10 June 2017

The DUP Explained - new video by the Socks

After the longest break they've ever taken from video-making, the Scottish Falsetto Socks have returned to the studio with a short piece about the DUP, who are in today's news and, one can only hope, not in it for too long. But, being the day after the General Election, we're learning that not only is a week in politics a long time, every half an hour in politics sees something unpredictable happen. In the half hour that this video was uploading, Labour took Kensington for the first time ever, and Sinn Fein suggested that working with the DUP breaks the Good Friday Agreement. Interesting times.

And this video has proved pleasantly popular. Just 12 hours after it went up on Youtube it's had over 1500 views, while on Facebook it appears to have been even more popular, with 20,000 supposed views, 129,000 people "reached", 300 likes and 450 shares. This is fun, we should do more of this stuff.

UPDATE: 10.30pm Saturday night, our Facebook video is on 73,000 views, 274,908 people reached, 667 likes, and 1467 shares. Original Youtube video on 2847 views, subtitle version on 202.

7am Sunday: Facebook 82K views, 298,028 reached, 708 likes, 1590 shares. Youtube 3150 & 284.

7pm Sunday: Facebook 102,650 views, 343,457 reached, 822 likes, 1921 shares. Youtube 3510 & 353.

4pm Monday: 122,629 views, 393,288 reached, 924 likes, 2201 shares. Youtube 4101 & 434.
7am Tuesday: 131,869 views, 412,607 reached, 965 likes, 2327 shares. Youtube 4326 & 527.
11.30pm Tues: 140,938 views, 429,316 reached, 1K likes, 2459 shares. Youtube 4451 & 563.
11pm Thurs: 148,125 views, 450,078 reached, 1K likes, 2546 shares. Youtube 4710 & 642.

Saturday June 17: 150,000 views (they stop telling you the exact number after that point), 456,533 reached, 1K likes (they long since stopped giving an exact figure) and 2558 shares. That'll do, pig, that'll do.

2017 TOUR
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 20 - Grassington Festival, Yorks
June 23 - Hertford Comedy Festival
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe
August 16 & 17 Camden Fringe

Friday, 9 June 2017

On the side of the angels? My election posts

Delighted as I am with the General Election result (at time of writing it's a hung parliament, Theresa May's nose bloodied, Jeremy Corbyn on top of the world), my Facebook posts over the past couple of months may have suggested I'd be anything but. Looking back over them now, my pessimism and cynicism seems positively doom-laden. What can I say? I'm delighted to have been proved wrong. Here's a selection of dim-witted futurology from yours truly.

May 2
Having slagged off the opinion polls in my last post, I do love a good graph. I've bookmarked this, the Poll of Polls for the election. It looks like it shows you something significant, until you look at the foot of the graph and realise it's effectively meaningless unless the polls are separated out constituency by constituency. SNP on 4%? In Tunbridge Wells maybe, in Maryhill & Govan not so much. Still, enjoy those meaningless upticks stat-fans. Only 7 more weeks of this nonsense to go.

May 2
I made an interesting discovery about the word Stable, while trying to write a Shakespearian "Strong & Stable" tweet at the weekend. In Shakespeare's day, stable just meant a place where you keep your horses. It didn't mean steady. I'm now trying to find out when it took on that meaning. In the meantime, you may still need this Strong & Stable Bingo Card for the next time Theresa May opens her face.

May 2 Independent -  The Tories dropped by 10 points in the polls in the first week of the campaign. That could grow as the public gets to know Theresa May

Uh oh, a headline about an opinion poll that makes a prediction about a future opinion poll. Have these people not heard of regression to the mean? It is much more likely that the next poll will see the graph move the other way. Then the one after that will bounce back up again and so on. But still the lazy journalists will report each jerk of the graph as "closing the gap" or "plunging towards doom" or some other nonsense. Have we learned nothing from the 4 successive votes? Referendum, election, referendum, election, every poll got it wrong in the end. Every exit poll was greeted with "well I didn't see that coming". Nobody knows anything. Still, as this blog attests, you gotta say something.

May 6 
Why are we so surprised when the working classes reject Labour? It is much more surprising when they vote Labour. They've really only done it three times in living memory. Attlee in 1945 (and that took a war), Tony Blair in 1997 (and that took 18 years of Tory rule), and Harold Wilson in 1964 (and that took The Beatles). Seeing this image (and many more like it) since the election result brings back many memories. For I am old enough to remember 1979. They coined the term "Basildon Man" for the unprecedented phenomenon of the working class voter who'd inexplicably shifted their allegiance from Labour to Tory, even though the Tories had spent half of the previous decade trying to destroy the union movement, and were vowing to do the same if they got into power. Plus ca change.

May 2 Guardian -  Tories under fire for banning local paper from filming Theresa May

More Theresa May media mismanagement that will make absolutely no difference to any voters whatsoever. Have you ever met a Tory who wasn't going to vote for someone cos it turns out that person doesn't like common people?

May 3 Guardian -  Brexit could wipe out Welsh farming, say union

Dear Farmer who voted for Brexit. You'll just have to sell a lot more of those Turkeys who voted for Christmas to make up the shortfall.

May 9 Guardian - Corbyn says he will not quit as leader if Labour loses

Of course he won't. He's the Black Knight out of Monty Python & the Holy Grail. "''Tis but a flesh wound. The real fight starts here. "

May 9 Guardian -  With its bedrock smashed to pieces, Labour cannot win

What? There isn't "an obvious alternative (in Wales) like the Scots have with the SNP"?? I hope no Plaid Cymru supporters read The Guardian. Why are Welsh voters going Tory rather than Plaid?

May 9 BuzzFeed News denied access to Corbyn events after interview

What'll he be doing next? Calling them 'fake news'? Way to get the media on your side, Labour.

May 10 
Are Labour throwing this election or being sabotaged? I just realised I haven't seen any of Labour's star players on the telly or in the news. Where's Chuka Umunna? Where's Yvette Cooper? Where's Harriet Harman? Where's Hilary Benn? Where's Caroline Flint? We once had a line up of great speakers, vote-winning charismatic figures who could pop up on Question Time and make you say "go Labour go Labour." Are they all deliberately holding back so that, when Labour lose, they can step back into the fray and rescue the party? Or are they simply being ignored by the media, who've always found Nigel Farage so much more camera friendly?

May 10 Guardian - Labour hints that it will pledge to abolish university tuition fees

Labour hints? "Hints"????? Yes, cos this is the time to be vague! It doesn't matter if it's true, it doesn't matter if you mean it. Write it on the side of a bloody bus and be proud of yourselves! "Hints", my God.

May 12 Guardian article: Labour has a chance if it replaces Corbyn. Look at Australia in 1983

Interesting. Not gonna happen here, but interesting. Did not know this.

May 21
A nice find on today's internet. Whenever the Tories mention Jeremy Corbyn's support for Sinn Fein, remind them there's a Tory councillor in Croydon who was literally, physically, genuinely in the actual IRA!

May 22
Dementia Tax U-Turn. Great name for a band.

May 22 Independent: Recording shows Theresa May is not telling the truth about the Dementia Tax

I hesitate to say we're clutching at straws with this Dementia Tax story, but here I go retweeting it to the choir regardless.

June 2 NME - Jeremy Corbyn cover shoot

Ah the good old NME. I used to read it back when it won the 83, 87, and 92 elections for us.

May 27 Daily Mirror -  Tory slates 'Jeremy Corbyn quote' - then awkwardly realises who actually said it (Boris Johnson)

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha they're still going to win aren't they?

June 1
I'm getting a bit bored with the repetitive echo-chamber that is my Facebook. (In brief, my friends and I are lefties, so we're either grabbing at every straw that suggests the polls are closing, repeating every meme that laughs at Theresa May & the Tories, or moaning because we find not everyone thinks the same way we do.) So here, for light relief, is what elections were like when we were kids. Enjoy (Monty Python video).

June 1 Guardian - BBC have banned a song that calls Theresa May a liar (even though it's number one)

If you need any more reminders of how 2017 and 1983 are, in so many ways, the same year, let's all remember Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

June 1 Independent - London's favourite for prime minister is Jeremy Corbyn

An opinion poll taken in London? Wow! That's so relevant to every other constituency in the country. Said no one ever.

June 2 Guardian - How satire could swing the UK election

I'm reminded of Peter Cook who spoke of "the satirical Berlin cabarets of the ’30s, which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the Second World War."

June 2 Evening Standard - Labour slashes poll gap again as female voters desert Theresa May

Remember polls are there to motivate voters (in this case complacent Tories) not for information.

June 3 Indy100 - Guerilla anti-Tory adverts appear all over London

Anti Tory posters? All over London? Yes that'll do it.

June 5 Independent - Tories will lose out on majority by 21 seats, YouGov results find

Repeat after me, everyone: "Opinion polls are a device for influencing public opinion, not a device for measuring it". And YouGov was founded by Stephan Shakespeare - a Tory candidate and Tory pollster! This news is put out to scare Tories into remembering to vote. If you think it is an indication Labour are going to do well, you haven't been paying attention.

June 6 
Thanks to Ferg Handley for directing me to this website. It shows you the last election's results in your constituency. Here's mine. Hmmm, a 53% vote for Liam Fox. C'mon guys, if we get all the Lib Dems and Greens to vote strategically and, er, grow some new people...

June 7 The Times - 'Unwell' Abbott caught out after turning down Womans Hour debate

For weeks now I've been suggesting Diane Abbott was unwell, and that her faltering TV interviews were a result of this. Having been told she's ill, the right wing press has now leapt on her because they got footage of her travelling home and talking on a phone. Their argument seems to be you can't be that ill if you have the energy to get on a train and hold a phone to your ear. Enough with the bullying. (God, imagine how much worse the bullying would be if she were female or black).

June 7 - V for Vendetta

Anyone fearful for the future after tomorrow's election might care to remember these words of doom and woe. "It’s 1988 now. Margaret Thatcher is entering her third term of office and talking confidently of an unbroken Conservative leadership well into the next century. My youngest daughter is seven and the tabloid press are circulating the idea of concentration camps for persons with AIDS. The new riot police wear black visors, as do their horses, and their vans have rotating video cameras mounted on top. The government has expressed a desire to eradicate homosexuality, even as an abstract concept, and one can only speculate as to which minority will be the next legislated against. I’m thinking of taking my family and getting out of this country soon, sometime over the next couple of years. It’s cold and it’s mean-spirited and I don’t like it here anymore." - Alan Moore, the preface to V For Vendetta.

(Spoiler alert: the 90s didn't turn out all that bad.)

Gloaty McGloatface - my Election Predictions revisited

So, how did my election predictions from April 18th pan out? I predicted, purely off the top of my head:

Conservative 306 (down 24)
Labour 240 (up 8, inc seats in Scotland)
Lib Dem 36 (up 28, inc seats in Scotland)
UKIP 0 (as is)
SNP 50 (down 6)
Greens 2 (up 1, gaining a Bristol seat)

I also predicted Jeremy Corbyn wouldn't resign, and that Theresa May would form a minority administration not a coalition. Here, trawled from the Facebook archive, are some of the comments that were made on the day.

Gordon Rennie I like how you think Labour will gain seats, when their poll numbers suggest they're an electoral basket case at present.

Tim Read I would love something like this to be true, but I am not hopeful.

Clive Greenwood Nope I predict an overall majority for Tories, Labour will be a wipeout and Corbyn will be forced out- Momentum will be expelled and join with the SWP and pester Saturday morning shoppers to sign petitions for years, LibDems claw a few seats back UKIP ...See More

Steve Bright Labour in Scotland, once THE party, is now deader than a dodo. I see no signs of resurrection under Kezia. The Libdems have one MP and he should have resigned after the last General Election. The one Tory is about as popular as herpes. Libdems do not represent the only Remain party in Scotland - the SNP is the only good bet for that. Walkover!

Jools Constant There will be major protest votes against TM and I see major gains for lab & Lib Dem's with no overall majority for anyone.

Alan Cowsill If only... can't see labours vote improving under Corbyn as a lot of remainders will be switching. The Tory remainers will be interesting.... unfortunately I think may will win by a landslide. The best I can hope for is a resurgent lib dem pact with labour

Rupert Wainwright No way could we LibDems ally with Labour. Labour were collectivist, misogynist traditional racists in the 80s when I first got involved and seem all too prone to go back to tradition now. LibDems are mostly more pro individual freedom and anti-collectivist, than anti-Tory, even if the traditional left has now caught up on more enlightened social attitudes.

Austin Flynn · Friends with Steve Bright
I think Labour under Jeremy will do better than predicted. The SNP appear to be turning into a parochial party, frightened to go for the jugular and concentrating on attacking Labour, which, in itself is funny as they do not appear to appreciate that the Tories are the villains. Strange.

Finlay McAllister I'm torn. I support Corbyn and believe that his wider support has been grossly underestimated, but am sceptical of the either/or Momentum argument - guess I'll vote 'tactically' as I have in most elections, despite the slap in the face I got last time but one :/

Cloodleff Choodlepmoodlen You're probably right, although on those numbers, a three way Lab/SNP/LD coalition wouldn't be impossible.

Allan Toombs · Friends with John Freeman and 2 others
I expect Labour to lose 10-20 seats, primarily to Lib Dems but a few to the Conservatives. Is it also possible that some of the dissenting voices in the Tory party will be replaced with candidates who are enthusiastic Brexiters?

And the actual result? Turns out I was way closer to the mark than almost anyone else thought (Jools Constant got the result closer than anyone).

At time of writing the result is:

Conservative 318 (I said 306)
Labour 261 (I said 240)
Lib Dem 12 (I said 36)
UKIP 0 (spot on)
SNP 35 (I said 50)
Greens 1 (I said 2)

So my optimistic guess underestimated Labour's success, and also underestimated the SNP's fall from grace. Meanwhile the poor old Lib Dems were my worst guess. Nick Clegg's lost his seat and their big bounce back may have to wait quite a while. 

Allow me, if you will, a wee gloat.  

Friday, 2 June 2017

Why didn't I fly to Inverness?

As this blog post from the same time in 2015 attests, I have always been prone to falling into traps when it comes to booking my travel arrangements. With all the travelling I have been doing I fear I may have suffered a brain fade to make Donald Trump looks dangerously sane.

I'm gigging in Inverness tonight. I've gigged in Inverness loads of time. But my travel plans are totally mental and I have no idea why I've booked them this way.

I'm flying to Glasgow, hiring a car, then driving to Inverness. I'll get there just in time to do the gig ( a 90-minuter) then I have to drive to my hotel, which is a further 30 minutes drive, hotel prices having been prohibitively high in Inverness itself. Then the next morning I have a 4 hour drive to get back to Glasgow airport, then I fly home. 

That's a lot of travelling. From when I leave the house at 10.30 to prepare for my 12.30 flight, to when I get to my gig at, hopefully, 6.00, that's 7 and a half hours travelling. The next day it'll be about 8 hours.

Why didn't I fly to Inverness? I genuinely do not know what was going through my mind when I booked this flight to Glasgow. Could it be that I'd just booked the previous weekend's trip to Aberdeen, where there was no such direct option, and unthinkingly followed the same fly/drive pattern? I do not know. Looking at the Easyjet site it looks like (though it's far too late to change today's flights) if I were to fly next week I could get to Inverness - as I have done half a dozen times before! - for less than £100 return, inc bags.

As it is my flight to Glasgow is £175, my hire car is £45, my petrol will be £40, my parking is £30 and the cheapest hotel I could find was £55. By my reckoning that comes to £345. You will never guess how much I get paid for playing a 90 minute show at Eden Court in Inverness. Suffice it to say that, with the extra cost of the hotel breakfast that I've just spotted, this will not be the most profitable gig on the Socks Do Shakespeare 2017 tour.

Let's make it a good one, eh?

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Donald Trump Sucks - comics by primary school kids

A wee bit of travelling for this week's visits to schools, taking me up to Southport in Merseyside for two days at Bank St Stephens primary. I effectively taught the entire school, doing an assembly to the whole lot of them, then classes with the years 3 to 6s (of whom there are only 3 groups, the school being that small), then an afternoon spent just doing caricatures of every single pupil in the school, from reception (who are as hard to draw as puppy dogs, by the way, you try keeping them still), through years 1 and 2. I don't think I've drawn an entire school before. Skills to pay the bills.

It's interesting to see the titles the kids choose for their comics, and tracing a slight maturity as we ascend through the years. So year 3/4 choose Sweet Mania, year 4/5 choose The Teacher With The Big Head, and year 6 give us Donald Trump Sucks. Giving me the opportunity to draw the highly topical "orb of evil" picture from yesterday's news, for which many thanks.

You can usually predict that, when a school has something rural in its name, that it'll be on a council estate. Words to look out for are Farm and Wood. Thus we find Fair Furlong Primary in Bristol, a lovely bunch of kids whose year 6 pupils had classes with me this week. Hello must take the prize as least inspiring title of the month, though I can hardly talk. Look at my cover for Capoop and compare it with Sweet Mania, above. Coming to the end of a cold all week and still feeling rather drained, you can see I pretty well phoned in these covers (drawn during the class, as ever, so it's amazing I ever get anything better drawn. But I usually do.)

The celebrities these five classes chose for my demonstration strip were Donald Trump, Simon Cowell (twice, he's making a comeback), Keith Lemon, and The Queen.

Comic Art Masterclasses coming up in 2017:

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here.
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