Friday, 27 November 2020

Giving Granny Covid For Christmas - Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

 


Brand new from the Socks, their seasonal ditty Giving Granny Covid For Christmas, fresh up on the Youtubes. Do please share and enjoy.

This and other nonsense will be in our Xmas show on December 11th on Zoom - book now!

As for whether the remainder of the Fingers Crossed Tour will be happening, this is very much in doubt. Yesterday it was announced that the locations of all three remaining shows (Clevedon, Lichfield, and Barton On Humber) are all in Tier 3, which means no live entertainment. However, the tiers are reviewed on December 16th, so there's a remote possibility that, with one day's notice, the shows (which are on December 17th, 18th & 19th) might still go ahead.

I won't hold my breath. Though, come to think of it, possibly that would help with the covids.


If you're damn fool enough - sorry, brave, kind and supportive enough - to buy advance tickets for these three shows which may not happen, tickets are still on sale. 

Dec 18 - Lichfield @The_Garrick

Dec 19 - @RoperyHall Barton On Humber


Thursday, 26 November 2020

Marooned in Tier 3


 Marooned! There’s us, the lonely island of Tier 3ers floating in a sea of Tier 2. So, if we want to spend a day out anywhere more interesting than Weston Super Mare, we’d better do it this weekend.

During Lockdown 2 we’ve been able to go to National Trust gardens (inc Killerton House in Devon) and interesting towns from Wells to Chippenham, Bath to Burnham. Now Lockdown’s lifted we can’t go to any of them. (Except Burnham, whoop de doo).
Meanwhile the rellies in Wales remain as inaccessible as ever.
On the plus side, the three Socks gigs that I declared cancelled yesterday might not be. They’re on Dec 17, 18 & 19, and the tiers get reviewed on the 16th. So I might still have three gigs (that literally no one is going to be mad enough to buy an advance ticket for) that I’ll know about with less than a day’s notice.
It’s a funny old world.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

MNDT comics in the post - and sketches


Midsummer Night's Dream has arrived, and it looks great. At time of writing I've just spent an entire day signing, packaging and posting copies to all the Kickstarter supporters. If I've calculated it correctly (I used Drop & Go, so I'm sure some items will turn out to cost more to post that I hoped) that lot cost £236 to post. They've gone as far afield as France, The Netherlands, Ireland, and to three people in Germany. And as for the USA, there are copies on their way to Florida, Arizona, New York, Virginia, Las Vegas, Indiana, New Hampshire, Maryland, Oregon and Texas.

A little earlier in the week they all got their sketches and pages of original art too. What's that you say? I haven't shown you their sketches yet? Well, cop a load of these babies..








Saturday, 21 November 2020

Harry Potty - a month of comics by kids

 


It's taken a month, but I'm happy to be able to post another collection of eight comics produced with kids in my Comic Art Masterclasses. And, for the first time since March, they include actual classes, taking place in real life, face to face with actual kids in a genuine classroom. Above are the first two to have come from a full day in a school, Eastern Green Juniors in Coventry.


Here we see the first comics run off on a photocopier since March. I still know how to do it, and they look great. Sadly my other live classes, which began at Backwell school with hour long after-school sessions with yr 7 & 8, only lasted a week in the real world before moving online, using the awkward and frustrating Microsoft Teams (not nearly as good as Zoom, I find). These have been a challenge because, instead of my usual concentrated 2 hour session which results in a simple comic, I'm doing 4 hours with each group. Their first two comic covers and caricatures are complete, and look dandy.



September was almost entirely classless, with just the one on September 1st, and October started off pretty quiet too. Schools, when I approached them at the start of term, had so much to cope with, returning to work for the first time in months, that a novelty like mine was going to be low on their to-do list. It wasn't until the Half Term holidays at the end of October that Zoom classes happened again.


The first such class being one organised by me. On the instigation of comedian Zena Barrie, who simply asked if there would be a class at half term that her daughter could do, I set one up. And, having found it difficult to attract a crowd for my last attempt in the summer, this time we drew a healthy throng, who come up with a suitably Halloweeny comic title.


Harrow Arts organised a second class at The Beano centre on Rayners Lane, which involved the kids watching me on the big screen. That's an interesting way of working, in contrast to the individual-screen model I mostly do with Zoom, and once again got good results and sent away a group of happy teenagers.


Wiltshire Creative organised their class from Salisbury Arts Centre, where I've worked many a time in person. A fun example of how the comic I draw and email back to the kids is very much finished after the fact. Whereas, in the actual classroom, I have to get the cover drawn in the duration of the session in order to get it on the photocopier (see Harry Potty above, including the kids' own contributory scribbles), in these virtual classes I spend more time attending to the kids, and just do enough drawing on the cover to show them what I'm doing. In this instance I then did the colouring, and the mirror-imaging in Photoshop, giving them a nice virtual takeaway to print at home.


Gil at Hexham Book Festival, who's taken me up to Northumberland to do my sessions innumerable times now, managed to get two schools to have me in for Zoom sessions this week. Sadly only the Seaton Sluice class, above, was able to go ahead. The Tweedmouth classes had to be postponed because, adding complications to complications, some classes had to self isolate, disrupting their plans. It's a difficult world schools find themselves in, and my heart goes out to all of them. Meanwhile I have a couple of dates scheduled for virtual classes and one invitation to a real life school in January, and I dearly hope to get some dates back in my diary in the new year. 



The celebrities these eight groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Lady Gaga, Harry Potter, Barack Obama, Bob Dylan, Boris Johnson, Robert Downey Jr, Ariana Grande, and Jesy Nelson out of Little Mix.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres - AND NOW ONLINE VIA ZOOMemail for details. His debut graphic novels Findlay Macbeth , The Prince Of Denmark Street and The Midsummer Night's Dream Team are available on Amazon. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here


Tuesday, 17 November 2020

32 Agents emailed

Today I have mostly been emailing agents, this time pitching Midsummer Night's Dream Team. I found their names on this list, and emailed 32 of them. 11 send an automatic email of receipt, plus one that was so well worded I choose to believe it was written by hand. (If it was, then top marks to go Lucy Irvine of PFD).

These 32 agents were all in the UK. In the summer I seem to have concentrated my fire on US agents, only including a few Brits. However I have definitely emailed Brits, as I discovered when I typed one name into the email, only for it to auto-fill and throw up an email I'd sent back in September.

"How could I have forgotten sending that so recently" I thought to myself. Until taking a closer look and realising I had emailed her in September 2018 (at that time plugging my Women Of The Bible stories, which are waiting to see print still, but that's another story). She still hadn't quite got back to me.

Let us see what response, if any, I get from these enquiries. The agents I emailed were (in no particular order):

PFD, United Agents, RCW, Watson Little, Ki, Soho Agency, The Bent Agency, Ampersand, Teresa Chris, Sophie Hicks, Rocking Chair Books, Pew Literary, North Bank Talent, Miles Stott, Marjacq, Lutyens Rubenstein, LBA Books, KHLA, Johnson and Alcock, Jo Unwin, Janklow, Holroyde Cartey, Hardman Swainson, Greene Heaton, Dorie Simmonds, Eddison Pearson, DKW, Darley Anderson, Christine Green, Caroline Sheldon, Bell Lomax, and Artellus. 

My day of emailing was sparked by receiving a polite rejection from the 12th US agent this morning. 

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres - AND NOW ONLINE VIA ZOOMemail for details. His debut graphic novels Findlay Macbeth and The Prince Of Denmark Street are available on Amazon. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here



Sunday, 15 November 2020

Thought Bubble and other virtual events


 Selfies ain't what they used to be are they? A screen grab is the new selfie, when it comes to Zoom events, and I'm not even in this one I notice. This, however, was the highly enjoyable Thought Bubble Happy Hour bar, hosted as part of the comic festival we all should have been at in Leeds this weekend. I could only really join in for half an hour, plus an hour of listening in while Hev & I watched Strictly, but it was great to see familiar faces from my days back in the Bristol comic festival days, and even earlier at the old UKCAC. I could get used to going back to proper comic events, which was of course this year's original plan.

This session had been preceded over the last few week by Zoom events connected to the Lakes comic festival. They're good. They're not the real thing, but they are good. 


This was another Zoom event I attended this week, where Chelsea Hart talked us all through Tik Tok and how to become a success on it. I'm not sure it'll be for me, it seems more suited to younger folk, but the session was a great inspiration. When Chelsea's connection fell out, the rest of us stayed on and had a fun conflab, just about comedy and technology and such. Apropos of nothing, it was akin to the nonsequital conversations you'll have in the Loft Bar at Edinburgh, and just as much fun. Albeit in the middle of the afternoon instead of the middle of the night.

Then I did two classes with kids, on Microsoft Teams. Don't get me started, Teams is not as good as Zoom.


Noise - The Next Generation

We haven’t had a problem with neighbour noise for some time now. That’s not to say we haven’t had problems with neighbours. It went unrecorded in my blog, but 2019 was a very difficult year because of building work we were having done, and two of the four flats in our building causing problems with things. It’s a long story I don’t want to go into here, but suffice it to say there remained no love lots between us and one particular flat. Unfortunately that one flat is the one whose floor is attached to our ceiling.

Lockdown has been a challenging time for everyone. And a development that can’t have been easy for them is that they entered lockdown in March with a baby and a two year old. 9 months later they have a one year old and a three year old, and as they have grown, so has the weight and sound, and frequency, of their footsteps.


Since the autumn has come down, and everyone’s been obliged to spend more time indoors, we have developed a big big problem with constant running, skipping, cantering, and what sounds like ball games and the occasional toppling of furniture. It’s only possible to discern, or guess at, the difference between activities because, from where we sit in our lounge, they just come through as thumps.


Each blow resonates as a bass level pounding, which goes right through our lounge as if it were a speaker cabinet, so it can be felt on the floor beneath our feet. The heavier blows rattle our radiators, and the stuff on the shelves, and a worrying set of cracks in the ceiling have grown. Not every blow from every footfall is the loudest, but they come in constant batches. And the cumulative effect is one of never being able to work in silence. A problem particularly for Hev, since the lounge is where she works. And the work she’s trying to do is writing (which, along with the reading that goes with it, really requires silence).


It’s lockdown, so her trips to the library to read or a cafe to write are out of the question. And much as we enjoy our walks, it’s galling to be obliged to take them, in whatever autumn weather, just to be free from the constant bombardment.


I know people have bigger gripes than this, and we are both so so sympathetic to the two parents above who have the headache and responsibility of raising a three year old and a one year old in a flat without a garden. But we really have to come to some arrangement by which we, the downstairs neighbours, don’t have to have them pounding through our heads all day every day - or the tense anticipation of when the noise will resume, if there’s been a break, which is a form of Chinese Water Torture in itself.


We’ve written polite emails. And, dear reader, I fear I have to say there have been raised voices from our flat, exasperated screams, and thumping on the wall. As I type this, on Sunday afternoon, a combination of the above seem to have brought about a truce, however temporary.


An irony of this situation is that, during the first lockdown starting in March, they broke the rules and went to stay with their family, a few times, sometimes for up to a fortnight at a time. We don’t understand why, right now, when they’re causing us so much anguish, they’re breaking the bloody rules again. We didn’t rat on them then, we won’t rat on them now, if they’ll only give us some peace!


We’re keeping a dairy of the noise from above. Here, as a flavour, is a slice from the most recent entry:


4.35 Running, thumping, rattling radiator. 4.37 Rattling radiator from running.

4.38 Running / cantering / distant door slam / running / skipping / big thump

4.39 Running and thumping

4.47 Running / rattling radiator / running 4.48 Cantering / Big running / thumping

 - We turn radio up to send signal

4.50 Running continues. A thump.

4.51 Hev shout “stop thumping on our ceiling”

Running and thumping continues / cantering / radiator rattling

4.53 Hev has a primal scream

Running continues

4.54 Running / heavy running x2 / 

- Hev thumps repeatedly on wall (our kitchen, should carry to them)

Running continues. Thumps / something dropping 

5.03 - We send them an email

Running / skipping continues

5.10 Hev moves to bedroom to escape noise

Ironically noise stops and has remained quiet till now, 5.38


The quest for peace continues.


Monday morning (the next day). We get an email that reads 

"Sorry Kev

There’s not much I can do x is learning to walk and they are 3 and 1 so they are going to play. I can’t stop them from having fun. What do you expect me to do?"
Hev has a major crying and screaming fit, the worst I have seen her have ever. She is completely broken by this situation.
I get a ballpark quote on soundproof underlay and suggest it to upstairs in an email.


Friday, 13 November 2020

Socks Facebook lunchtime gig

 


By way of experiment, as much as anything, the Socks just did a short free tryout gig on Facebook this lunchtime (Friday 13th). If it's still there, you'll find it here

We gave them I'm A Sock, the What Kind Of..? Covid song, and 4 Horsemen, with a short Hitchcock routine (from Hallo Ian), Shall I Compare Thee (from Shakespeare) and other gags loosely strung together. It was just 20 minutes long, and served to show that I can stream live from Zoom to Facebook, and pick up viewers with just 45 minutes advance warning. My thought is that, perhaps, occasional short free gigs can serve to build publicity for our main paying gigs.

We got a few comments:



Chris Laidlaw Hehe

Jenni Hirst Brilliant. Cheers, guys!

Michael Mooney 👏

Nick Ratcliffe Thank you.

John Logan Thanks saw you in Belfast. Hilarious

Mike Collins 👏👏👏

Michael Ratcliffe 👏

Nick Ratcliffe 👏👏

Jenni Hirst 😂👏👏

Lindsey David Vigor Loving this - what an unexpected treat

Rod Crawford Toes surely? For the cutting.

Michael Mooney Getting smooth with the segues into videos (though the levels go to pot)

Nick Ratcliffe Sound a bit distant?

Garry D. Philip Love it. Even the ad-lib fluffs 🙂 Glad I’m old enough to get the gross 🙂

Nick Ratcliffe Blood, Blood !!

Jenni Hirst Yay, blood!!

Nick Ratcliffe Hallo Ian?

Michael Mooney He'll forever after by Grayson Grayson Perry Perry to me.

Garry D. Philip Badum tish 🙂

Nick Ratcliffe and we're back in the room...

Garry D. Philip Trained musicians 🙂

Lindsey David Vigor Wonderful surprise

Jenni Hirst Well, this is an unexpected delight ❤

Nick Ratcliffe Seamless!!

Garry D. Philip Unexpected after work bonus

Rod Crawford Its popular with me.

Nick Ratcliffe Bonus Socks gig.... 😀

John Logan Stop luke and listen

Rod Crawford Brilliant Would watch in future.

Lindsey David Vigor Yyyaaaayyyyyyyyyy

Nick Ratcliffe 👏👏

John Logan Tourette's helpline for an idea

Michael Mooney Tartan guitar

John Logan Ssh they don't know how its done

Michael Mooney Loving the logo

Shane Poole It will work at some point

Okay, now I read the 42 comments and realise they came from the same half dozen people, maybe I had been a little overexcited about the sudden size of our audience. Still, from little acorns...

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

The Curse Of The One Word TV Title


If there’s anything that’s spread virally this year and made things harder for so many of us, it’s been the one word TV title. 

I’m only a month away from writing up my TV Of The Year. And, with more shows than ever to select from (yes, amazingly, even I’ve watched more TV than a normal year) there seems to be a veritable plague of shows with really unhelpful, indistinguishable single word titles.


Can anyone remember which was which out of these 2020 shows: Industry, Upload, The Nest, Them, Twin, Quiz, Pose, Staged, Hollywood, Stateless, Life, Us..?


Okay, one of those was actually made up. But, for all I know it was a real show that I just didn’t get to see (probably cos it was on Sky Atlantic).


Someone out there must know the maths for how much more chance a title has of being unique when it has two words rather than one, but it seems pretty obvious. A show called Bad would get confused with a dozen others, as might a show called Breaking. But call your show Breaking Bad and, be honest, is anyone ever going to stumble across that combination ever again?


To be fair, I’m struggling with a few multi-word titles. Which one was The Other One again? And can I remember the difference between Out Of Her Mind, Living With Yourself, After Life, The Boys, The Duchess, Avenue 5 and Unorthodox? And why the hell was Avenue 5 called Avenue bloody 5 in the first place?


Current contenders for Worst Single Word Title are the BBC’s Us (which shares its name with at least 5 movies on imdb, not least last year’s Jordan Peele hit) and Life (which was the name of at least two other TV miniseries, one crime and one nature documentary, and films various).  


Any troublingly unmemorable titles you’ve come across recently?


Saturday, 7 November 2020

Return to school, and random Facebook posts

 


This week saw my first appearance in an actual classroom since March, when Backwell school had me in to present the first of a series of after school classes. Just one hour sessions, with "bubbled" groups of 12 kids apiece, yr 7 on Wednesday and yr 8 on Thursday. And it was brilliant. The biggest difference between a live class and a Zoom class is the laughter. Hearing a dozen kids laugh in the places where they're supposed to is fantastic. And of course you can "feel" them laugh, you sort of see them moving out of the corner of your eye while working on the flipchart, and even the quietest titter is audible, none of which is the case with Zoom. 

Of course, after these two days of classes (the second of which took place as the new supposed 'lockdown' started), it was decided by the school that we have to move to virtual classes. And they don't use Zoom, so next week I will be learning the vagaries of Microsoft Teams. I have one 'actual' invite still outstanding, to a school in Coventry. We have a week and a bit to see if that happens. Meanwhile next week sees 4 days (or part days) of virtual classes. It's good to be working.


We're loving The Queen's Gambit (only up to ep 3, no spoilers). And top marks to David Leach who managed to spot and screen-grab this magazine rack from episode 2.

(Having been alerted to this in advance I could hardly see it in the episode itself, by the way). But, given how much praise is being lavished on TQG for getting its Chess so right, somebody really screwed up on getting these 1963 period comics wrong.

How can an art director manage to dress a set with anachronistic items - every one of which literally has THE DATE ON THE FRONT!



Who can explain this then? I'm trying to promote my graphic novels on Amazon. Two are approved no problem. But when it comes to Findlay Macbeth, I get:

"Your ad titled "Findlay Macbeth" no longer complies with our current Creative Acceptance Policies. Specifically for the following reasons: Your ad contains content that is prohibited from advertising. Please ensure your ad does not contain any excessive violence or gore."

Can anyone spot the problem? And anyone had this problem before?

Gore? In Macbeth? The very thought!


This year's pumpkin, a Pennyworth for your thoughts. Mwah ha ha haaaaa.

Here's a fun fact for comic fans. Kanye West has received more votes this year than Howard The Duck received in the 1976 US Election. At a rough guess, about twice as many.

Sad to lose the brilliant John Sessions, at just 67 years old. He gave us the phrase "waving my intellectual underpants" (in an NME interview, circa 1981) which I still use to this day.

The other quote I remember is from Whose Line Is It Anyway. In the round entitled Worst Person To Share A Lift With, Paul Merton said "hello, I'm John Sessions." I bet that doesn't make the obits.


Oct 27: Great Comics Zoom chat tonight with Hannah Berry et al on Zoom. Just went to get a cup of tea and found it had ended, so no post match chat. But it was good while it lasted.


Happiness is getting your new @EquityUK diary.
Hope it ends up with more in it than this year’s!


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