Thursday 30 June 2022

North South East & West - travels with my art

 I put the miles in in June 2022. Let's just make a note of it all, lest I forget...

My thanks to teachers and staff unknown for these photos of me in class, taken from their Twitter posts.

Mon May 30 - finally got BT Broadband fitted. We'd ordered it on Feb 21st and we moved on March 3rd. Thought it would be fitted the following week. It took 8 planned visits, only 3 of which actually happened, to finally get someone with hoist to get to the top of the telegraph pole in front of our house, connect up a phone line, and give us broadband. For the first month we had no broadband that we could watch TV with, using our 4G signals and what BT Wifi we could nab. Then they gave us a 4G minihub which was marvellous. As of May 30th we had a normal supply. There's a First World Problem if you ever heard one.

Tues May 31st - Chipping Barnet Library
Fri 3 & Sat 4 June - Wildwords Festival, Herts
Mon June 6 - Socks preview in Otley, Leeds
Tues June 7 - Leeds Playhouse classes
Weds June 8 - Brough Primary, Cumbria
Thurs June 9 - Tweedmouth Middle, Berwick On Tweed (followed by 6 hour drive home)

Sat June 11 - Clevedon Literary Festival (above)
+ Socks preview at Tap Room, Neath
Sun June 12 - Housewarming Party
Mon June 13 - Socks preview at Notts Stuff Festival
Tues/Weds June 14/15 - Ruskin Juniors, Swindon
Thurs June 16 - car in for service
Fri June 17 - BBC radio interview with Socks (first use of Zoom since we moved house) to plug forthcoming Ludlow show
Sat June 18 - Class at Neath Community Centre
Sun June 19 - Class at Ludlow Womens Centre + Socks preview at same venue (below)

Mon June 20 - Jude & Doug visit
Weds June 22 - Inscape House, Cheadle
Thurs June 23 - Socks preview at Grassington Festival, Yorks
Friday June 24 - Socks headline slot at Camberley, Surrey. 
(These two gigs couldn't be a bigger contrast. Socks killed with their hour long preview in Grassington, to a full house of about 50. Then were met with stoney silence by a comedy club crowd, of about 50 in a 100 seater room, who had been equally subdued for the acts before us.)
Sat June 25 & Sun June 26 - Comics Salopia, Shrewsbury

Mon June 27 - car back in to Robins & Day to diagnose rattle that's happened since it was serviced a few weeks ago. It's the heat shield, which needs ordering. With that temporarily fixed, then drove up to Leeds.
Tues June 28 - Trinity Academy Leeds (above & below)
Weds June 29 - Arden Academy Solihull
Thurs June 30 (and Weds night) - Clevedon School
Fri July 1st - Trip to the tip, then a day catching up with invoices and colouring the covers from the past week's comics by kids
Sat July 2nd - Macc Pow comics event in Macclesfield, then overnight in Buxton, where I'm typing this ahead of a Socks preview in Derby tonight. 

Busy enough for you?

Kev F's Comic Art Masterclass - make a comic in a couple of hours. Suitable for kids age 7 and older, Taking bookings now

Monday 20 June 2022

Peppa Pig Goes Hunting For A Cig - new comics by kids

More fun nonsense dreamed up by kids, and some grown ups, at a cluster of Comic Art Masterclasses from Swindon to Neath, via Clevedon and Ludlow.

Ruskin Juniors is a school that, I realised, I've been going to for probably 12 years now. I worked this out from the Tardis mural they have on the side of a portakabin, which has the date 2011 on it, and I remember going there before that was painted. A dinner lady told me her son had had my class in year 6, and he's now 23.

Ruskin day 2, a half day, gave me a good cover to draw (and was less controversial than the Peppa Pig title, above) while the Chickens cover comes from a class, the previous Saturday, at Clevedon Literary Festival (after which I sold 50 quids worth of my books, which is something I'm able to do with public classes where the parents are watching from the back. More of those, please.)

Fat Joe came from a one-off class at Neath Community Centre. Similar to Clevedon in set up, this class was funded by the Neath Comedy Festival, meaning I got my full fee even though it was quite a small class, and it kept the ticket price down. Only £15 of books sold afterwards, which is fine.  

A class at Ludlow Fringe, lined up to be part of a package with a Socks show in the same venue that night, was fun. Being a doorsplit, it won't have been my most profitable class of the season, but they're always worth doing. Another £15 of books sold after, so that's par for the course.

The celebrities these six groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Elon Musk, Donald Smelly Trump (their giggle-inducing words, not mine), Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson (twice), Johnny Depp, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Kev F's Comic Art Masterclass - make a comic in a couple of hours. Suitable for kids age 7 and older, Taking bookings now

Friday 17 June 2022

3 Bonus Socks previews - Otley, Neath, Nottingham

Fab gig Monday night in Nottingham at Stuff - The Student Theatre Fringe Festival. 

The Socks have actually had three bonus preview shows of Eurovision Sock Contest that we didn’t even publicise ourselves and have all been sellouts and great gigs: Otley last Monday, Neath on Saturday, and Nottingham on Monday. The show’s really shaping up, and should be even brighter and shinier in time for the advertised show at Ludlow Fringe this Sunday.

Otley was organised by Roger Poulter, and I'd managed to schedule the night before a day of classes in Leeds. The big surprise for me was finding that the venue, a cafe in the village centre, is run by Tony Wright, former lead singer with Terrorvision, who I recognised instantly. There were two Edinburgh previews on the night, the first being Alex Leam's highly enjoyable Joy Of Decks, all about his time as a mobile DJ. Then the Socks gave them Eurovision.

The big success of this preview run has been that audiences are getting Eurovision who've never seen the Socks before, and taking to it well from the start. I'm not having to throw in old favourites or fall-back material. And, unlike the over-complicated multi-charactered storylines of Roll Up and Superheroes (with their various Nicole Kidman, Killer Clown, and Racist Brother characters to keep track of), the audiences aren't haven't to wrestle with anything hard to follow. It's just a string of new funny songs, linked with sketches. We should keep it this simple more often.

One takeaway from Otley was an observation by an audience member afterwards that Deep C Diva and Ignore The Song might come away as transphobic. I hadn't even considered that, but as a result I have subsequently edited the song and the material before it, to make sure it wasn't being misinterpreted.

Saturday night in the Neath suburb of Cimla was another surprise one, this time organised by Paul James, and populated entirely by the locals from the estate for whom this is essentially their social club. A community-supported wine-bar style pub in a shop unit, everyone knew each other, and I was worried, during the excellent support set by The Great Baldini, that they might not warm to the Socks slightly less populist style. So I had crowd-pleasing routines, inc Magic and Michael Jackson, all ready to go in case. It wasn't needed, and they warmed instantly to the Eurovision Sock Contest format. 

The improv song, where the punters choose a country that we're not otherwise doing in the show, is an interesting variable every night. In Cimla they chose Wales, and the subject matter was a local story about a woman called The Cimla Gusher, from which the Socks got great laughs, to the tune of Max Boyce's Hymns & Arias. The winner of the Sock Contest, in both Otley and Neath (and so far most times) was the UK's Fine Fare singing Stick Your Brexit Up Your Arse.

Between Neath and Nottingham's Stuff Festival I was able to do some writing and editing. Most significantly a whole verse was removed from Ignore The Song, and a lot of the gag material tightened up. When it came to performing, the student audience was amazing. No one had seen us before, they warmed to us instantly, and were full of laughs throughout. The improv song was China singing about spaghetti and toilet paper, and most noticeably the vote at the end gave us a tie between France and Germany. France is routinely the least popular song, opening the show as it does, so that was a very pleasing result, helped by my changing the material beforehand to make it more audience-facing. Mind you, I'd done the same with Deep C Diva, the penultimate number, and she got fewer votes than ever, so what do I know?

You can catch the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's brand new hour-long musical comedy extravaganza The Eurovision Sock Contest live on stage in a series of previews, in the run up to their return to the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

See them now at:

June 18 7pm - Ludlow Fringe

June 23 - Grassington Festival

Sun July 3 6.15pm - Derby Bar One 

Fri July 15 7pm - Beverley Puppet Fest

Sun July 17 3.25pm - Sheffield New Barrack Tavern

Sat July 23 - Bedford Fringe 

August 3 - 13 - Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe, for 11 nights only, 4.30pm. Tickets on sale NOW! 

Thursday 16 June 2022

Comic Cuts - new episode from Wildwords

On the Jubilee weekend, when much of the country was celebrating Royal nonsense, some of us were in a field in Hertfordshire for the Wildwords Festival. I'd been very kindly invited by Emma Byrne to record a live episode of Comic Cuts The Panel Show there, and that's precisely what we did. The first episode in nearly a year, with guests Jeevani Charika and Alan Snow, is here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

As if that wasn't enough, on Friday evening I took part in an enjoyable live role-playing games event with the RPGeeks, and on Saturday morning gave a Comic Art Masterclass. All of these events taking place in marquees, battling occasionally with the wind, it was a highly enjoyable weekend. I think Emma would have liked more people to be there, but this event having been planned long before the Jubilee weekend events were announced can't have helped attendance. The fact that we clashed with the Hay On Wye festival, only the biggest literary festival in the country, will have contributed. However, it was a very well organised event, which it would be good to see happen in the future. And if I'm invited again I hope I'll be able to go.

Above: RPGeeks Ali Jennings, Shamini Bundell and Emily Bates.

Kev F's Comic Art Masterclass - make a comic in a couple of hours. Suitable for kids age 7 and older, Taking bookings now


Wednesday 15 June 2022

House warmed

On Sunday afternoon we had our housewarming party. The first proper party in the house and our first ever garden party, and the weather held out which was marvellous. The theme was Georgian, the title on the invite was Vanity Fairground, and our idea had been to have a lot of themed games in the garden in case people got bored. They didn't, but people took advantage of the photo cutouts (above you see Paul and Anita therein), though nobody played with the Pin The Tail On The Bronte prop, which will have to have another use sometime.

Let's see if I can remember everyone who was there. There were the neighbours: Rachel from next door right, Kate from next door left, Tom & Nam from number 12, and Mark and Nina from number 8. From Chepstow there was Kerrie & Nigel (Thurgar), and from just down the road in Monmouth, Noni & Andy, with whom we've been reunited after I met Andy at an event last year (Noni was in the Sitcom Trials nearly 20 years ago). From Bristol there was Vince & Alex, Tilly & James, and Polly & Chris. 

From the Clevedon contingent, via Portishead, were Rachel & David. The furthest travelled was Tracey, who we met at the Talking Pictures Christmas party, and John (sadly Adam Roche, and Steve our party staple, weren't able to make it), who'd come from Kent and was making a weekend of it. Nearly as far in distance, and further in time since we'd last seen them, were Rob & Jayne, from Birmingham, who we've not seen for years and who it was great to see again. Likewise Sara Menage, who we've not seen since she moved down to Penzance before lockdown, good to see her back. 

But winners of the long-time-no-see award went to Anita, who Heather hadn't seen for nearly 40 years, since Exeter. I have, of course, seen her at Ludlow Fringe in recent years, and to which I'll be returning this coming weekend.

Given that we also had a good few people who would have been there but couldn't (Steve, Felicity & Tom, Darren Hoskins, Ally & Mike, Adam Roche, Hugh & Rachel) it was a splendid turnout and could have been our biggest party in living memory (certainly since the 90s, when I think we had a bit of an open-door all-back-to-ours attitude). I'll collect up the photos in a book at the end of the year. In the meantime, here's just a few.

Tuesday 14 June 2022

Review ads for my books

 An approach I've seen a number of authors take on Twitter, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to do so myself. I've turned my (very few) reviews of my books into ads.

Kev F's Comic Art Masterclass - make a comic in a couple of hours. Suitable for kids age 7 and older.

Wednesday 8 June 2022

Lady Macbeth Sleepwalks Into A Pool Of Acid - comics by kids

From a field in Hertfordshire, to working for the British Library in Leeds, from Chipping Barnet to Berwick On Tweed, this has been a busy week and a bit in the world of comics.

Chipping Barnet library was a class that was supposed to take place in February but got postponed by the storms that were so fierce they blew our fence over, in the house that we left at the start of March and haven't given a moment's thought to since. In all honesty I don't know if the new flat owners have ever gotten round to putting the fence back up. The reconvened class gave me the chance for one of my favourite and most colourable covers of the season.

The Exploding Toilet cover was very much a speedily rattled off job, produced in my class in a tent at the Wildwords Festival, in a field in Hertfordshire, where I also appeared on a game playing panel and hosted a live edition of Comic Cuts The Panel Show, for the first time in a year. Then came this Lady Macbeth cover, produced as part of a couple of small classes on a Macbeth theme, organised by the British Library at Leeds Playhouse. It was good to challenge myself to a different sort of class, and a bit of an honour to be being asked to do things by the British Library. The flipchart page got quite elaborate and Shakespearey, as I had more time than normal to doodle it.

Having driven all the way up to Leeds for Tuesday's classes, which were preceded by a Socks gig in Otley on Monday night (at a venue owned by Tony Wright, the former lead singer of Terrorvision, which was a surprise on arrival), the next day I was up at Brough in Cumbria, staying overnight in Appleby In Westmorland which is playing host to visiting travellers for the Appleby Fair, which is an interesting sight (any gardeners should get up there with a bucket and shovel is all I can say). The morning's comic, whose class included some year 2s (far too young for my class usually), and fell foul of my ignorance or naivety or just not playing attention. The original title the kids chose seemed innocent to me. Until the teacher pointed out at breaktime that it wasn't, and the kids, however young they might be, were fully aware of it. So I swiftly amended it...

Day four of my tour of the North was not quite as well planned as I thought. Having gone smoothly from Leeds, to Brough, I then found myself at Tweedmouth school which, because I'd been there before, I thought couldn't be that far away. I forgot that, when I'd been there before, I'd flown. It's in Berwick On Tweed, meaning I'd have at least a six hour drive home afterwards.

These kids in Tweedmouth were Year 8, with all that entails. So if Chang Wee turns out to be racist, and Big Fat Ting turns out to be another Bonzo Winky that's crept under the radar, I'm afraid the damage is done.

The celebrities these groups chose to star in my demonstration strip included some good first-time appearances in Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and Amber Heard, alongside David Attenborough, Kim Kardashian, Johnny Depp (providing some coincidental balance, this being the week after the Depp v Heard trial ended) and Ed Sheeran. (Wildwords Fest and Leeds Playhouse didn't get to choose a celebrity, through pressure of time). 

Wednesday 1 June 2022

Socks on Britain's Got Talent - where were they?

 So, whatever became of the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre’s appearance on Britain’s Got Talent? A good question. Let me tell you all about it…

At the end of last year I got a call from researchers at BGT who wanted the Socks to appear on the show. We said yes, and were lined up to do an audition appearance, on the stage of the London Palladium, in January 2022. All very exciting, this sort of thing can really boost an act’s career, so we’re told.

I suggested lots of material we could do in our 3 minute slot, from our ‘Magic/ Sawing A Sock In Half’ routine, to our rendition of Star Wars. I’d definitely aim for the Socks to do, as they do on stage, some of their best short gags to engage the audience, and some of their most visual stuff to make the most of that short slot.

The team at Thames, though, had their heart set on a routine they’d found us doing online, the Post Codes routine. The clip they had found was us doing it on BBC3’s Comedy Shuffle way back in 2008. It’s not my favourite routine, and indeed we’ve not had it in the show for over 10 years, but they were dead set on it. So I figured, if we front-load the set with good gags and interaction, we can get into this routine which, in common comedy parlance you “wouldn’t open with”.

So we did an audition video, showing exactly, to the word, what we were going to perform. We opened with a bar of “I’m A Sock” as we’d done on Comedy Shuffle, cutting ourselves short after the word “cock”. Obviously this wasn’t going to work on a primetime family show (neither would the line “shit, he’s got a guitar”). They wouldn’t even allow us to stop a beat earlier with “you wear me on your foot, not on your-“ because even the suggestion of cock is unacceptable on ITV.

So we opened with two lines that weren’t as funny as the bits if they have the words in that make you laugh, then we were to go into the Postcodes routine, which opens with “I have to do this now, I have a disorder - Obsessive Compulsive Postal Order”). No. That had to go, you can’t allude to disorders on primetime ITV. So, instead we were to go straight into the routine, effectively opening with material you’d never open with. But this was what they wanted and I figured the Socks, who in all our recent shows have very much been on a roll, could carry it off. We usually get laughs as soon as our sock heads pop up on the screen, after all.

So we went to London for the big day in January, and during the day, at the hotel where all the other acts hang out, I sat behind my Socks set, the Socks popping out to do interviews, two-handers with other acts, and pieces to camera, every single one of which we nailed. I know I would say this, but everything we recorded in the daytime was comedy gold, we were on form. We were getting laughs from the crew, which is always a good sign. I was confident that, however our time on stage went, those bits would look good in the edit.

After many long hours, I was driven to the London Palladium and we set up ready to perform. The techs were really efficient, particularly the sound tech who had my music cue all ready, so that as soon as we started speaking, she knew the exact line we’d say and she’d play in our “I’m A Sock” music and off we’d go.

Then the Socks set was carried to the stage, the curtain lowered, and I get into position behind it ready to perform. Just before the curtain is lifted, a floor manager speaks to me and says “so, when the curtain goes up you’ll chat to the judges?” and I say that, no, we’ve haven’t prepared for that cos the sound tech is going to play my music in as soon as I speak, and suddenly we’re on.

The curtain rises and the Socks begin. And as we start I’m already kicking myself cos we should have spoken to the judges. Ad-libbing is what we do,  that would have been a good and funny thing. It’s what we’d been doing successfully to camera all day. But we’d realised too late that there was chance for that. So the Socks begin their routine, with the two lines that have had their funny words removed, and the song that doesn’t really serve any point, and into the routine which, coming into it cold, is a bit hard to understand what they're on about. But we start to get some laughs, not many, but a few.

Then a buzzer goes. So the Socks stop.

If you’re a viewer of Britain’s Got Talent, you’ll know that a buzzer sounding means that one judge has buzzed you off, but not necessarily the other three. If, however, you’re a comedian hidden behind a sock puppet set, who can’t see what lights have lit up, you could easily mistakenly assume that meant you’d just been buzzed off entirely. Which is what I thought. So the Socks stopped, and at this point the judges started discussing us. 

Their discussion was quite positive, Simon standing up for us, saying “I like them, they’re a very funny act” - which I was looking forward to putting on the posters. While David, who had buzzed us, played Devil’s Advocate and slagged us off. We got a little bit of backchat in, but really the spotlight wasn’t on us and we were eventually buzzed off by the others.

We then got the best laugh of our time on stage when I picked up the set to waddle off with it. I mistakenly waddled into a bit which wasn’t the exit, so had to waddle back on and off again. This went down very well and would, I figured, look good in the edit.

So we hadn’t got through to the semi finals - a fact that I was forbidden by my Non Disclosure Agreement from telling anyone - but we’d done such good stuff in the interviews and ad-lib stuff beforehand, that I knew we’d edit down into a good bit of telly.

I then got on with my life, which involved moving house which is a very good way of taking your mind off such things, until the TV listings magazines came out announcing Britain’s Got Talent was starting soon. And, to my delight, both the TV Times and another listings mag featured a photo of us and mentioned our name, something which they didn’t do for any other act. We looked like we were being promoted as the stars of the show, quite possibly in the first episode.

So we, and all our friends, braced ourselves for that first appearance. We recorded it, to fast-forward over the adverts, obviously . And, with 90 minutes blissfully shortened to about 15 minutes of fast-scrolling, no Socks were to be seen in the first episode.

After we didn’t appear in the second episode I gave up watching the show which, to be honest, is not something we’ve ever watched or would be in a hurry to watch again, settling for checking Twitter occasionally, while watching or doing something else, to see if we’d been mentioned.

This past weekend, the final round of auditions came and went, and no Scottish Falsetto Socks had appeared. I’d contacted Thames to ask when we’d be on, but it would seem that the various runners and producers I’d been dealing with had already moved on to other shows, and no one was able to answer me.

So, the Socks hit the cutting room floor, and someone somewhere has the video files of us being drop-dead hilarious in a whole load of interviews and pieces to camera, as well as an awkward couple of minutes on the stage of the London Palladium. But, unless we get very famous pretty soon, and someone sees the virtue of digging the footage out for It’ll Be Alright On The Night, or Before They Were Famous or some such, it’ll never be seen.

Apologies to all of my friends, family, and Socks fans who I forced to watch endless hours of Britain’s Got Talent waiting to see our big moment. I can only imagine your pain.

Hopefully we’ll see you all at Edinburgh in August or in the preview shows before then. And the good news is, there won’t be hundreds of Britain’s Got Talent viewers cluttering up the place, desperate to see the end of the Postcodes routine.

"What IS the postcode for Ormskirk?" they must still be wondering.

You can catch the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's brand new hour-long musical comedy extravaganza The Eurovision Sock Contest live on stage in a series of previews, in the run up to their return to the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

See them now at:

June 18 7pm - Ludlow Fringe

June 23 - Grassington Festival

Sun July 3 6.15pm - Derby Bar One 

Fri July 15 7pm - Beverley Puppet Fest

Sun July 17 3.25pm - Sheffield New Barrack Tavern

Sat July 23 - Bedford Fringe 

August 3 - 13 - Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe, for 11 nights only, 4.30pm. Tickets on sale NOW!

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