Thursday, 31 January 2013

Nigel Fairs

photo by Lisa Bowerman
The name Nigel Fairs seems to have been cropping up increasingly often in my posts recently so I thought I should find out more about him.

Actor, writer, director and composer, Brighton-based Nigel is certainly versatile. He originally graduated from Bretton Hall in 1984 and since then has had over thirty of his plays produced. He has also written and composed extensively for Big Finish who produce audio dramas and serials. Previous performances locally have included In Conversation With An Acid Bath Murderer and My Gay Best Friend. We have three very different opportunities to see his work in Eastbourne during February. See the end of the post for details ...

I first asked Nigel w
hat inspired My Gay Best Friend?

NF: Louise Jameson, really! She and I have worked together a lot – I met her when I wrote an audio drama for her about eight years ago and we’ve collaborated on many theatrical, audio and video ventures since. MY GAY BEST FRIEND was the first thing we’d written together.  We took ourselves off to Cornwall for five days with the notion of exploring the relationship between women of a certain age and their gay best friends, wrote a lot, walked a lot, drank, laugh and wept a lot and by the end of the train journey home we had a play!!  It’s not really changed an awful lot since then, though our director, Ronnie Roberts, made some quite brilliant cuts and suggestions, which really benefited the piece as a whole. 
It’s a challenge to perform – such an emotional rollercoaster – but I love it.  We got back this morning from two sell-out houses in Hull; there were laughs, there were tears!  We thought we might have got it a bit right when we won an award at the Brighton Festival last year, but it’s been quite a relief to have it go down so well in the provinces!!
tE: How did you get involved with Bootcamp Theatre?
NF: Steve Scott, who runs Bootcamp, was looking for a director for SECRET HONOUR, his one man show about Richard Nixon, and he asked me to do it.  I had such a good time directing him that I immediately said I’d be delighted to work on BENT, which, again, has been a surprisingly inspiring project.
tE: My Gay Best Friend and Bent are very different plays. How have you approached the challenge of working on them both at the same time?
NF: I’m actually working on five plays all at the same time!  I’m directing BENT and LARRY, Mark Burgess’s superb one-man show about Laurence Oliver, I’m operating the sound and lights for Lou’s one woman show about plastic surgery, PULLING FACES and  I’m performing in MY GAY BEST FRIEND and IN EXTREMIS, a wonderful play about Oscar Wilde the night before the Queensbury trial (I play Wilde). All have been performed or are going to be performed in Eastbourne at some point!

As regarding the challenge of working on all of them at the same time, I try to concentrate on one per day, though often I’ve been performing as Oscar during the day and directing BENT at night, or vice versa, which has been interesting!  What has been fascinating is that three out of the five involve gay issues and characters at various points in history.  Playing Oscar in particular has really driven home to me how important it is for us all to fight bigotry and ignorance.  In our so-called ‘enlightened’ age I find it obscene that some hateful voices are given credence, and often-misinterpreted religious writings offered as ‘proof’ that the ignorant are ‘right’. What I’ve found wonderfully inspiring whilst touring both plays is that the vast majority of people aren’t homophobic idiots, that’s just a very vocal and ill-informed minority.
tE: You've also been involved in a number of audio CD dramas. Do approach your performances differently for a purely aural audience?
NF: No, it’s the same process.  As an actor, you concentrate on your character’s past, present and potential future truth and that’s what you play, whether you’re on stage, film, tv or radio. The performances are technically different, obviously – if you gave the same performance on the telly as you did on stage at the National, you’d look ridiculous! But that’s just a question of style.  The pursuit of truth is absolutely the same, and very exciting, whether performing or directing.
tE: What's next for Nigel Fairs?
NF: I’ve got a new musical, CRUISING, that premiers at this year’s Brighton Festival in May (a 60s sci-fi diva finds herself stuck on a cruise ship with her husband, 200 fans and her ex-girlfriend!),   Lou and I are writing a DR WHO audio together for Big Finish (I’m writing another BLAKE’S SEVEN for them as well), I write and perform a new murder mystery every month for the Arundel Jailhouse (always set in the same Cornish village – it’s a ‘murder soap’ that’s been running for nearly three years now!) and we’re touring MY GAY BEST FRIEND and IN EXTREMIS until May. So fairly busy!
Oh, and I’m also trying to help create a baby with a gorgeous lesbian couple at the moment, which is where you find my character at the start of MY GAY BEST FRIEND!  Come see!

In Extremis, Under Ground Theatre, Sun 3rd Feb, 15:00.
My Gay Best Friend, Under Ground Theatre, Thu 14th Feb, 19:45.
Bent, The Little Theatre, Wed 27th Feb - Sat 2nd Mar, 19:45.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Towner Collection Store Tour (art)

Part of the Towner Collection Store

Membership of the Towner Gallery is something I have been considering for several months but the £30 a year cost had been putting me off. While it’s not a huge amount of money, it is the equivalent of 2 or 3 theatre tickets and cynical me wasn’t sure I’d take advantage of enough extras to make the cost worthwhile. However in a clever piece of marketing, the membership leaflet also offers a direct debit where joining is about the cost of a latte each month. As I’m supposed to be on a post-Christmas slimming kick anyway, this option seemed perfect so I sent off my form!

The membership team are very efficient and I received my new membership card within a few days. It is unusual, an artwork by Jodie Carey comprising of a photographic negative which I can have developed at the end of the year. I also received email invitations to a Collection Store Tour and a Preview of the new Kelly Richardson exhibition. At the time of writing, the Preview has not yet happened, but my Tour was last Thursday afternoon and was a fascinating experience.

There were only three of us. We met up with the lovely Terry and were escorted up to an unassuming white door. At first glance, the Store is surprisingly small. I had not taken into account that much of the work which comes to the Towner is only visiting so does not need to be accommodated permanently but even so, I expected the Store to be much bigger!  However once Terry, ably assisted by Kenny, began choosing paintings to display, I realised how concisely the works are kept. Nothing takes more space than it needs. With amazing knowledge of each picture between them, Terry and Kenny pulled out huge double-sided ‘fences’ hung with Victorian oils, 1960s abstracts, local scenes, imposing portraits, prints and drawings, the obligatory Ravilious(!) and many other names which I would need several Tours to even begin to remember. I spotted some works I had seen in previous exhibitions and others that I hope will be chosen soon. We were encouraged to discuss the paintings and it was interesting to hear everyone’s impressions. We also saw china and a few sculptures and briefly met art restorer, Corinne. The hour passed far too quickly and, although I did offer to stay behind on my own to see more of the Collection, this wasn’t taken up!

One Collection Store Tour is offered free to new Towner members. 
Public Tours are available at £5 for non-members (£4 concessions) with a 25% discount for members. Weekend Tours would probably be much busier than weekdays.
There is further information, including available dates and booking details, on the Towner website.

Huge thanks to Terry and Kenny for such an interesting visit!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Eugene Onegin (opera)

The classic Russian verse novel Eugene Onegin was written by Alexander Pushkin and published in the 1820s. Tchaikovsky's celebrated opera first appeared in 1879. The libretto by Tchaikovsky and Konstantin Shilovsky uses some of Pushkin's poetry. Apparently the idea to create an opera from the novel was that of singer Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya and, after originally rejecting her suggestion, the idea grew on Tchaikovsky and he soon set to work.

A tale of doomed young love, Eugene Onegin is far more intimate than most of the grand Russian operas. The Royal Opera House will be broadcasting their current production live 'for one night only' on the 20th of February and Cineworld at Sovereign Harbour is one of the venues. I saw the ROH La Boheme at Cineworld earlier this month and very much enjoyed it. Hopefully the subtitling issue will now be fixed though! Eugene Onegin will feature the Royal Opera Chorus and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House with their conductor Robin Ticciat. Kasper Holten directs in his first production for the ROH and the (no doubt gorgeous) sets are the work of Danish designer Mia Stensgaar.

The young Tatyana (Krassimira Stoyanova) is overwhelmed with love when she first meets Onegin (Simon Keenlyside) and writes him a passionate letter telling him of her feelings. He dismisses her however, explaining that he cannot love easily and is not suited marriage. Onegin's friend, Lensky (Pavol Breslik), persuades him to come to a ball given to celebrate Tatyana's name day and they dance together. But gossip angers Onegin who then dances with Lensky's fiancee Olga (Elena Maximova) instead. Lensky becomes jealous, renounces their friendship and challenges Onegin to a duel. Neither man has the courage to stop the duel and it ends with Onegin having shot Lensky dead. After several years travelling alone, Onegin is at another ball, feeling sorry for himself, and spots the now married Tatyana. He realises that he does love her after all but Tatyana will not be unfaithful to her husband, Prince Gremin (Peter Rose). She admits that she does still love Onegin but tells him he is too late.

Cineworld, Wed 20th Feb, 19:15.
Tickets £17.00 (£13.50 concessions), available online, by calling 0871 200 2000 or in the Cineworld foyer.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Leia Charleson (artist)

Leia Charleson art at Beanzz Coffee
After the vibrant paintings and prints of Corina Stupu Thomas, Beanzz Coffee in Grove Road has chosen serene and tranquil work to adorn their walls until the middle of February. Leia Charleson was for many years a practising aromatherapist and holistic healer. Two years ago, during a period of ill health when she was unable to continue with this work, she attended her first pastel workshop and discovered her affinity for the medium. I asked Leia about the origins of her current work.

LC: When I first started working in pastels I worked in a far more uncontrolled way- these pictures are not at Beanzz. Then last year after my brothers unexpected death (he was murdered) I found that I was creating more order in my pictures particularly circles which for me symbolised the experience of life and death. 

The first picture which I created using circles was done in March 2012  and I used a handmade pair of compasses to allow me to measure very large circles. After that I decided to read about sacred geometry as this appeared to be how my work was developing. My next picture was the one at the top of the stairs in Beanzz and for me it marked a Transition in my work - hence its title.

Leia Charleson
Leia's pastel images remind me of the natural world, the shapes of wreaths, seeds and orbs. The image on the left in the top photo depicts a sleeping sun and moon nestled together.  
LC: The face - half sun and half moon was originally created as a commission for a friend's therapy room - this was the trial run and she then selected different colourways. I have done several of these for people and each one is individual as is all of my work.

I also like an almost monochrome image, second from the right, which is particularly detailed.
LC: The black and white circles entitled "Not everything is Black and White " was created at a time when I was living with the possibility of cancer within my body and using my personal awareness to give me power over my reactions to this. Hence the spot of red which symbolised hope.

LC: The blue and white picture - entitled in a Blue Spin was created when I found myself in a period of deep unhappiness and confusion because of my illness which resulted in the loss of my driving licence.The work helped to release the emotions and gave me comfort when it was completed as if order had been restored from chaos and I was recently intrigued to see that the centre resembles a steering wheel! 
As the year progressed and my health improved I created Fifth Rock and the Starlight Xpress  which were much more relaxed and irreverent pieces of work. The large picture downstairs in Beanzz entitled Order was symbolic of my return to my full time job after months of illness. Also downstairs is a pastel which shows the joy of Christmas (Poinsettia).

Leia Charleson
Many of Leia's pictures represent a significant event or time in her life but she also undertakes commissions, working with the colours that the individual feels are most important in their life at the time. Different colours hold a different energies and reflect different life aspects: green for fertility of mind and body, red for passion, pink for love and romance. Work can fit with rooms in homes and offices and particular subtle energies can be created as requested.All pastels are then mounted in a coordinating or contrasting colour and framed.

If you would like to talk to Leia about her work please email her at or visit her new Facebook page.

Beanzz Coffee, until 17th Feb.
Mon - Fri: 07:45 - 18:00, Sat: 09:00 - 18:00, Sun: 10:00 - 16:00.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Bent (theatre)

Martin Sherman's 1979 play Bent is to be Bootcamp Theatre's first production of 2013. Bent explores the persecution of gay men during the Holocaust and despite now being over thirty years old, is still controversial. A theatre in Texas was forced to close in 2009 when it attempted to put on the play. The Bootcamp production is being staged as part of LGBT History Month and I hope the harrowing storyline won't be too strong for Eastbourne audiences.

Max and Rudy are gay men living together in 1930s Berlin. When Max brings home a Sturmabteilung man one night, Rudy is understandably resentful, but his anger soon turns to fear. This is the Night of the Long Knives and when the SS discover and kill the man in their apartment, Max and Rudy are forced to escape the city. They find safety for a while with Max's uncle but eventually are arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Dachau. Max denies his sexuality and relationship with Rudy, believing he will be safer in the camp as a Jew.

Directed by Nigel Fairs (My Gay Best Friend, Secret Honour), the Bootcamp production will star Radley Mason (The History Boys) as Max and Ben Woodward (The History Boys, Art) as Horst. Also in the cast are Josh Impey, Mike Keegan and Bootcamp newcomer Jordan Quigley.

The play contains violence and strong language.

The Little Theatre, Wed 27th Feb - Sat 2nd Mar, 19:45.
Tickets £10 (£9 concessions) available online or by calling 0845 680 1926.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Cape Fear (film)

Psychological thriller Cape Fear is the Under Ground Theatre's art house film choice for February. They will be showing the 1962 original, not the 1991 Scorsese remake. Based on the John D MacDonald novel, The Executioners, the screenplay was written by James R Webb and the film was directed by J Lee Thompson. Thompson was a big Alfred Hitchcock fan and wanted his film to contain references to his hero's work. He filmed in black and white and also used lighting and music effects to convey a threatening atmosphere instead of actually showing all the violence outright.

When Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) is released from an eight year prison sentence for rape, he tracks down the lawyer he believes was responsible for his conviction. He subjects the lawyer, Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) and his family to a campaign of intimidation which includes the poisoning of their dog. Bowden can't prove that Cady is behind the poisoning so he hires a private detective, Charlie Sievers (Telly Savalas). Cady responds by viciously attacking a local woman and Bowden starts to seriously fear for his family.

Under Ground Theatre, Thu 21st Feb, 19:30.
Tickets £5, available online, by calling 0845 680 1926 or in person at the Under Ground Theatre.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Horses And Mythical Creatures (art)

The Towner Gallery is hosting a fun art workshop for children in February as part of nationwide celebrations marking the launch of a new website. Intrigued? Read on!

The website in question is BBC Your Paintings. This fantastic project is endeavouring to photograph all the oil, tempera and acrylic paintings currently held by public galleries in the UK. The images are being published online so we can discover all the works held in our name and also find out where to see them for real. There are an estimated 212,000 oil paintings in British collections so this really is an incredible task and, I think, one very much worth supporting.

The Towner has chosen February 1982 by Christopher Le Brun from their oil painting collection to be the inspiration for a childrens' drop-in workshop on the 16th of February. February 1982 has already been photographed and catalogued for the Your Paintings website. The painting, which will be on show in the Level One Collection Corridor, shows a winged horse standing by trees and I think I can also see a running person over to the left side. Three artists, Jane Henderson, Ed Boxall and Alex Brattell will be on hand to help the children create their own mythical creatures and a collaborative dream-like forest. The workshop will be open for about 4 1/2 hours overall and is free to join in, but a £2 donation per child for materials would be appreciated.

Towner Gallery, Sat 16th Feb, 11:30-15:00.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Juan Martin Flamenco Dance Ensemble (music)

We saw the Juan Martin Ensemble, perhaps two years ago now, when Spyboy last brought them to Hailsham Pavilion and it was a wonderful evening. Flamenco has a very distinctive sound and style and the concert itself was simply staged with no extraneous gimmicks - just the musicians and dancers totally focused on their performance. The music was passionate and I absolutely loved the dancing which was made all the more impressive by being in such an intimate venue as the Pavilion.

The first flamenco artist to record with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Juan Martin was born in Andalucia and now divides his time between Malaga and London. He is considered to be one of the very the best Flamenco guitarists in the world and has surrounded himself with top class musicians and dancers. His compositions fuse traditional Flamenco and Gypsy jazz styles with Arabic, Indian and classical influences, and his most recent CD, Solo, beautifully showcases this fusion of the traditional and the modern.

Hailsham Pavilion, Sun 24th Feb, 19:30.
Tickets £21.50, available online, by calling 01323 841414 or in person at the Box Office.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Blue Dahlia (film)

The classic Sunday matinee film returns to Eastbourne on the 10th of February when the Underground Theatre will be screening The Blue Dahlia. This fast-moving film noir thriller stars Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake and has an excellent script penned by Raymond Chandler who got an Academy Award nomination for the work. The director was George Marshall.

Johnny Morrison (Alan Ladd) was a Navy pilot in the South Pacific. When he is invalided back to Hollywood, he discovers that his wife Helen (Doris Dowling) has been having an affair with the owner of The Blue Dahlia night club, Eddie Harwood (Howard Da Silva). Helen refuses to resurrect their marriage so Johnny spends the night at a hotel, coincidentally meeting Eddie's estranged wife Joyce (Veronica Lake). The next morning, Helen is found dead. The Police start hunting for Johnny but he has found a concealed message from Helen which indicates Eddie is the more likely suspect.

Underground Theatre, Sun 10th Feb, 14:30.
Tickets £6.50 to include tea and cake, available online, by calling 0845 680 1926 or in person at the Underground Theatre and the Tourist Information Office.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Adele tribute (music)

If you or your partner are Adele fans, you might be interested in the Eastbourne Downs Golf Club's Valentine's Day Dinner. The wonderful Adele tribute Helen Ward-Jackson will be singing during the evening to entertain diners. I'm not sure if the event is only open to Club members or non-members as well. 

Helen, as Adele, performs many hits from both the multi-platinum albums, 19 and 21, including Hometown Glory, Someone Like You, Rolling in the Deep, Turning Tables, Make You Feel My Love, Set Fire To The Rain, Chasing Pavements and Cold Shoulder. She also includes songs from Adele's most famous friends and other live performances of hers such as Amy Winehouse's Valerie, George Michael's I Can't Make You Love Me, You Got The Love by Candi Staton and I Just Wanna Make Love To You by Etta James. Together with accurate mannerisms and the same speaking voice, apparently audiences have to remind themselves that they are not watching the 'real deal'!

The YouTube clip below was filmed during 'An Evening With ...' at the Underground Theatre in March 2012.

East Sussex Downs Golf Club, Thu 14th Feb, 19:30.
Tickets £20. Further details on Eastbourne Downs Facebook page.

Crown And Anchor, Fri 22nd Feb, 21:00-00:00.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Evolution (musical theatre)

A couple of words on the Crown and Anchor ad in this week's Friday-Ad led to me discovering the Pocket Size Theatre Company who are performing their new musical show, Evolution, upstairs at the pub on the first weekend in February. 

Evolution is to be a cabaret-style evening of contemporary musical theatre featuring songs from such shows as The Book of Mormon, Ordinary Days, Departure Lounge, Next to Normal, Tales From The Bad Years and Catch Me If You Can. The eight Pocket Size Theatre singers will perform twenty-five new songs by composers including plus a few favourites from their previous shows. I asked Keith Smith to tell me more about the aims of the group.

KS: Pocket Size Theatre was formed to break away from the traditional Musical Theatre format. The company aims to produce Contemporary small cast Musicals and Cabaret Evenings of Contemporary Musical Theatre. We will also be branching out into small cast contemporary plays this year. Pocket Size was created by a group of friends stifled by the lack of diverse opportunities to perform. Frustrated by the standard format of Musicals and Plays the friends decided to form their own company and break free from the confines of local companies.

KS: We at Pocket-Size are committed to providing Eastbourne area audiences with a theatrical experience that they have not encountered before. We have ambitions to reach a wider audience whilst remaining true to our vision at the outset. We are a small company with big ideas and have faith in what we produce. Our aim is to entertain, and in some way educate our audiences about contemporary theatre.

Crown And Anchor, Fri 1st and Sat 2nd Feb, 19:30.
Tickets £10 (£6 concessions), available by calling 07971 740299 or emailing

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Annette Keen (author)

Eastbourne author Annette Keen is a familiar face to me as she runs the jazz nights at the Underground Theatre. There's always a high standard of music and I'm particularly looking forward to the February evening, Buster Plays Buster, a live jazz performance accompanying short silent movies.

I didn't know about Annette's writing until recently when I spotted a book signing to celebrate the publication of her first novel. Apparently she began self-publishing stories aged only eight but was discouraged by the labour-intensive process of writing out pages by hand and stapling them together! Some years later, with the acquisition of a word processor, her talent came to the fore again. Annette successfully experimented with the craft of short-story writing and around fifteen of her works have been published. She has also adapted more than a dozen novels for the Penguin English reading scheme, one of which was a finalist in the Language Learners Literature Award. More recently, her song lyrics have been set to music by jazz singer Sue Richardson. Three on the songs on Sue's album Fanfare were penned by Annette.

However, her greatest pride must be for her debut novel, The Generation Club, which was published in October 2012 by Sunbird Publishing. Annette describes its genre as 'Gran-lit' but I think this does the book a disservice as I am sure it has much wider appeal! Winner of the 2008 Yeovil Literary Prize, the novel is a well-observed look at the lives of six people, all of whom are first-call carers for elderly relations. From the cover art, I was expecting a 'fluffier' read, but The Generation Club does go to dark places. It is a real page-turner that left me quite irritable when I needed to put it down to do other things. I felt included in the lives of the 'the girls' and, although I hope not to end up in the same situation, I enjoyed seeing into their world and have missed them in the few days since I finished reading. I have no hesitation in recommending The Generation Club as a good cosy read for these cold winter evenings!

The Generation Club is available in paperback (£7.99), as an eBook and as a Kindle edition (£3.49 - click cover below to purchase).

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Annette Keen / Women's fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Briar Patch Arts & Crafts Fair

Pendant by The Glass Barge
Victoria Baptist Church in Eldon Road, Eastbourne is a new venue for my blog and also will be the first venue for a new venture, Briar Patch Arts and Crafts Fair. The inaugural Fair will be held on Saturday the 2nd of February from 10am until 2pm. The venue is indoors so no worries about inclement weather and admission is free for buyers. There are several interesting stallholders already confirmed and I have picked out a few here that particularly caught my eye. Hot food is also promised and I'm sure there'll be coffee and cake around somewhere too.

The wonderful local photographer Will Gudgeon will be there and I discovered the Fair's existence through his sharing of the flyer on Facebook. Will's announced that he has already put in a big order for new prints and cards for the Fair so buyers will have plenty of beautiful atmospheric landscape photographs from which to choose. 

 The Glass Barge are husband and wife, Pam and Andy Kallender, who create gorgeous fused glass jewellery both in their Eastbourne home and aboard their narrowboat, Enchanted Moon. They originally trained with John Dunn at the Open Studio in Brighton and have since sold their jewellery at local farmers' markets and village fairs.

Carn Photographic does photography workshops with Sussex Falconry so expect to see good wildlife shots as well as floral macro work. The Little Brick Company makes jewellery out of Lego and Dog Delights is a great company baking homemade doggie treats - Mackerel Flapjack anyone?

If you would like to have a stall, there was still space left when I wrote up this post, but that was five days ago so it might already be too late! Table sizes are limited and you can get in touch with Briar Patch through their Facebook page.

Victoria Baptist Church, Sat 2nd Feb, 10:00-14:00.
Free admission

Friday, 18 January 2013

Les Miserables (film)

Going to see the stage show of Les Miserables was a family treat a few years ago and I was absolutely blown away by it. The staging alone is fantastic and then when the stirring music, powerful singing and atmospherics are added in, it is simply wonderful. I had vaguely planned to take my partner to see the show as well - an excuse for me to see it again really! - but hadn't got around to it and, now there is a film version, I'm hoping he'll love the film enough to want to see both (unlike Phantom of the Opera where he walked out of the cinema half way through). I do have a couple of concerns: 'starring Russell Crowe' being one and 'by the director of The King's Speech' (Tom Hooper) being the other. Not to say that I disliked The King's Speech, because I did enjoy watching it, but the two films are very different prospects and I do hope this version of Les Miserables hasn't been too much altered for the screen.

Les Miserables was originally a French novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862. The stage show also originated in France. Its music was composed by by Claude-Michel Schönberg and the original French lyrics were by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel. An English-language libretto was then written by Herbert Kretzmer and the musical opened to very bad reviews at the Barbican in 1985. Fortunately audiences largely ignored the negative press and the globalisation of Les Miserables is a prime example of word-of-mouth marketing success.

In 1815, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole after being imprisoned for 19 years for stealing bread. He is sheltered by the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson) but steals from him during the night. When Valjean is arrested soon after, the Bishop saves him by saying the silver was a gift. As a result of the Bishop's kindness, Valjean breaks his parole and begins a new life as a factory owner, but cruel prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) vows to track down his former prisoner and return him to gaol. The cast also includes Anne Hathaway as desperate mother, Fantine, Helena Bonham Carter and Saha Baron Cohen as the publicans, the Thenardiers, Eddie Redmayne and Aaron Tveit as idealistic students, and Amanda Seyfried as the Fantine's daughter, Cosette.

Cineworld from 11th Jan.
Curzon from 11th Jan.
Hailsham Pavilion, from 1st Feb.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Buster Birch Quartet (music)

Buster Birch Quartet (photo by Matt Booker)
There's something a bit different planned for February's jazz night at the Underground Theatre. In a music/film crossover performance, The Buster Birch Quartet will be playing along to silent films to enhance the mood of the scenes.

I've seen Buster Birch drum before, with the Latin jazz band Heads South, and he is also a member of Branco Stoysin who played at the Underground recently. His Quartet includes saxophonist Jo Fooks, pianist Jim Treweek and bass player Pete Ringrose. Their first set will be played to a selection of short films, each of which has been created especially for the music it accompanies. Tunes will be jazz standards from great artistes such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Bill Evans. 

The second set is the one that gives the show it's title, Buster Plays Buster (do you see what they did there?). The Buster Keaton 1924 pre-talkie film ‘Sherlock Junior’ will be shown and accompanied with tunes from the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Harold Arlen, Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter. The film lasts around 45 minutes and, although each tune is timed to illustrate a certain scene, there is still plenty of room for improvisation.

Underground Theatre, Fri 8th Feb, 20:00.
Tickets £11 (£10 members/students), available online, by calling 0845 680 1926, or in person at the Underground and the Tourist Information Centre.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Hashim Akib - Vibrant Acrylics (art)

Leigh Relish by Hashim Akib
The Society of Eastbourne Artists meet every month and usually invite a guest speaker who talks about and demonstrates a different art technique or approach. Talks already booked for 2013 include Portraiture Using Time Lapse Photography by Stephen Cheeseman (this Friday, 18th Jan), Batik On Paper by Deborah Vallence (Friday, April 19th) and Vibrant Acrylics by Hashim Akib which will be on Friday the 15th of February.

SAA Artist of the Year 2009 (Society of All Artists), Hashim Akib is a roving demonstrator and speaker who also runs a number of workshops in Rayleigh and Hadleigh, Essex. He began his teaching career as a college lecturer in Southend. Hashim is also an experienced illustrator whose work has been used by such varied publications as the New Yorker and Time Magazine, Practical Parenting and Bella, Hawkin's Bazaar and Ideal Home. Search Press published his first book, Vibrant Acrylics, in April 2012 together with a demonstration DVD.

Lansdowne Hotel, Fri 15th Feb, 19:30.
Admission £4 non-members, free to SEA members. I believe non-members pay 'on-the-door'.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Titfield Thunderbolt (theatre)

I'm excited to have a trip to a new-to-me Theatre Company in a new-to-me Theatre coming up in February! I'm going to see Seaford Little Theatre's production of The Titfield Thunderbolt, a nostalgic comedy based on the 1953 Ealing film of the same name. 2013 is the film's 60th anniversary and there is a DVD release to celebrate. I don't know how closely the two versions mirror each other though so you might want to hold off watching the DVD until after you've been to Seaford! The play was adapted in 1997 by playwright Philip Goulding and necessitates the theatre being turned into a fully functioning village railway station. Alan Lade has taken on the challenge of the set design and The Titfield Thunderbolt is directed by Margaret Kennedy.

The Titfield branch line is losing money and British Rail is intent on closing it down. The villagers decide to take charge and run it themselves. As well as convincing the railway authorities that they are competent they have to face problems with Vernon Crump (Mike Piller) and his competing bus service. The cast also includes Angie James, Roland Boorman, Jenny Humphries, Sue Shephard, Martin Adams, Andrea Lowe, Phil Armstrong and Lee Powney. To cap it all there is also a cameo stage debut for backstage boy David Heathcote.

Seaford Little Theatre, the company, has been in existence since 1945 and their home, The Little Theatre, was opened in 1957 after a concerted effort by members and local people to raise the funds. The company now put on four plays a year and have a 98-seat auditorium with a hearing loop and disabled facilities.

The Little Theatre, Fri 15th to Sat 23rd Feb, 19:45, £8.
Matinee, Sat 16th Feb, 14:30, £7.
Tickets available (from 25th Jan onwards) in person at Sussex Eyecare Ltd, 9 Broad Street, Seaford.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Katrina Evans (artist)

Crocheted Turtles
Several years ago, I opened an Etsy account, sold a bit, bought a bit, then had a couple of bad buying experiences and lost interest in the website. I was recently encouraged to reactivate my account, particularly through seeing links to work on there by Imogen Skelley and Corina Stupu Thomas. There's now far more British work on Etsy and I have discovered several very local people including today's interviewee, counsellor and crocheter Katrina Evans. Her whimsical creations caught my eye as I think some, especially these Turtles and the little Mouse pictured at the end of the interview, might be cute gifts for Valentine's Day!

tE: Can you remember the very first item you crocheted?
KE: Yes I can actually! I have a memory of my grandmother (Ethel) teaching me to crochet at the age of about 7 as I was sitting on her knee, and also I remember my mother (Phyl) teaching me to knit. My first project was a pair of blue bootees which I made at about that same age when my cousin James was born.

tE: What inspired you to begin crocheting again?
KE: Following this, I have over the years had some attempts at crocheted and knitted cardigans and blankets, usually never finished, and then a year or so ago by chance I saw a book advertised called ‘How to make Knitted Fairies’ and on a whim I requested it for Christmas 2011. I then realised that there were lots of free toy patterns on the internet and as I have always found crocheting easier and faster than knitting, I had a go at a tiny elephant and so my current passion was born! I am now thoroughly addicted and cannot stop. I thought maybe I could sell some of my toys and this is how Katy Jane Creations has developed – my name is Katrina Jane and my mother has always called me Katy Jane as a nickname.

Finished Angel from Katrina's pattern
tE: What are your favourite designs to make?
KE: I most enjoy making toys, especially ones with lots of character, and now find myself moving more into making miniatures. I have so many ideas I can’t keep up, and would like to try needle felting soon too. As I have learned more and more, I have started to think that I could write my own patterns and so this week my first pattern was published for sale online.

tE: Tell us about your new shop?
KE: My partner and I have recently opened Malaika at 95 Cavendish Place, prompted by our two other business ventures involving Wedding and Event planning, and Counselling. I was granted a New Enterprise Allowance through the government’s scheme via the Job Centre because I was made redundant from my job of 20 years and so had to sign on for 6 months. I used my redundancy money to qualify as a Counsellor through the Wealden Institute of Psychology in Crowborough. At the same time, my partner Rachel was awarded the same NEA for starting up the wedding and events business and she has an international qualification now in wedding design. The scheme offers a volunteer mentor in order to help write a business plan and mine was Stephen Lloyd MP, who has been very supportive and came to open our new shop just before Christmas. The Mayor also came to open it on that same day and now we are excited to have been given the opportunity to make 70 table centrepieces for the Mayor’s Ball this year.

Mouse in Walnut Shell Bed
tE: And how do you see the future?
KE: We plan now that the shop will provide three aspects – Wedding and Event planning / Counselling / Craft Supplies and Classes. It's a big shop with plenty of space. We have a therapy room at the back of the shop with a separate entrance. I use it for counselling clients and we would also like to rent it to other therapists. We would like to be able to offer craft making classes for adults and children. I could teach others to crochet, and Rachel also works as a primary school teacher. With her experience, she wants to offer classes for younger ones in various media such as fimo clay modelling. We are open to suggestions from anyone who would like to rent the space in order to offer their own classes too. We had tables at some craft fairs in local schools before Christmas, and as a result we have just booked our first children’s craft-making birthday party (the theme is Princesses and Pirates). These parties can be held in our premises for a small group of children or in a hall for a larger number. We have so many ideas!

See Katrina's work online at her Etsy shop - Katy Jane Creations - or in person at Malaika, 95 Cavendish Place, Eastbourne. Malaika is open Wed-Sat 10:00-16:00.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Tosca (opera)

If the Spanish flavour of Carmen didn't tempt you to a night at the opera, perhaps its sister performance, the Italian melodrama Tosca by Puccini will do the trick. Set in Rome, this traditional production is a heady mixture of true love, torture and treachery, with two of the best roles for tenor and soprano, plus a truly blood curdling villain. Also an Ellen Kent production, for this one audiences will be treated to spectacular costumes, beautiful Roman-style scenery and Nabucco, the magnificent Golden Eagle.

Tosca the opera is based on a verbose French language play, La Tosca, which was written by Victorien Sardou in the late 1800s. Apparently Puccini saw the play when it toured Italy in 1889 and managed to buy the rights, but it took a further four years and many arguments before the French play became an Italian opera. The libretto was translated and written by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. The Eastbourne performance will be sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Congress Theatre, Fri 8th Feb, 19:30.
Tickets, various prices, available online, by calling 01323 412000, or in person at the Box Office and the Tourist Information Office.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Seaford Young Musician of the Year

2012 Young Musicians
photo by Geoff Lowles
The Rotary Club of Seaford have recently announced that they are organising their Young Musician of the Year competition again in 2013. The very first competition last year was a great success, proudly hosted at Newlands School whose Year 9 student Emily Pearce took third place singing an Adele song. Lamiah Davey was second, also singing, and the winner was pianist Lea Todd.

This year's competition will be held on Sunday the 3rd of March, again at Newlands School in Eastbourne Road, Seaford. It is open to anyone aged between eleven and seventeen who either lives or goes to school in Seaford. All competitors will perform a solo piece lasting up to five minutes and both instrumentalists and vocalists are welcome. It is free to enter and there will be cash prizes for the winners! So, if you fancy your chances, pick up an entry form from reception at either Seaford Head School or Newlands School, or download a copy from the Rotary Club website. Entries need to be in by the end of January.

Newlands School, Sun 3rd Mar, time tbc.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Victoria Brook (artist)

The Library by Victoria Brook
I think Eastbourne artist Victoria Brook is destined for great things! I was first introduced to her work at the Francis Perry Gallery when I visited before Christmas and Jill very proudly showed me around the examples they had on show. Plus, when you've finished reading this blog post, Philip Perry wrote up an interesting interview with Victoria for the Nov/Dec/Jan issue of ethemagazine. There might still be a few copies around if you haven't already seen it. (New issue out in a week or so!)

Victoria graduated from Reading University in 2008 with a first class degree in Fine Art. Having grown up in Eastbourne, it is great to see that she has stayed in the town and now works from a studio here "with a big window". She is inspired by children's literature, particularly authors such as Tove Jansson, Shirley Hughes and Edward Gorey. Some of the prints I saw were inspired by the Philip Pullman Dark Materials books, and I can certainly see Gormenghast in The Library, although I have no idea if Victoria did! The accompanying photo from my phone really doesn't do the image justice so do make time to seek out 'the real thing' if you can. (I believe there is a sale on at Francis Perry at the moment but I don't expect that these prints will have been reduced!)

All of Victoria's paintings are available as Giclee prints in various sizes and are limited to 150 of each image. She is happy to discuss bespoke pieces and also undertakes commissions for commercial work, portraits and book illustration.

Francis Perry Gallery, Mon-Sat 10:00-17:00. Free admission.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The Impossible (film)

I love this time of year at the cinema. It seems like every studio holds back their best films until as close to the Oscars as possible so we have eight on our hit list for the first weeks of 2013. Whether we'll get to them all remains to be seen!

Third on the list, after The Hobbit and Life Of Pi, is The Impossible (Lo Imposible), a disaster epic based on the events of the 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of South East Asia. The film is a Spanish production written by Sergio G Sanchez and directed by J A Bayona. It is based on the true story of a Spanish family although they have been made British "in order to create a universal film in which nationalities were irrelevant to the plot" (J A Bayona). I think it's a shame the family hasn't kept their actual nationality, especially as so much is being made of the 'true story' label in the marketing campaign, but I suppose financial considerations had a lot of influence.

Ewan MacGregor is good as the father, Henry, and Naomi Watts and Tom Holland are superb as the mother, Maria, and the eldest son, Lucas. Spanish sensibilities mean that there is very little saccharin-sweetness in the script or direction, even at the most emotional moments, so The Impossible does feel frighteningly realistic. I thought that the most incredible part of the film is the soundtrack during the underwater sequences. Without giving anything away that you (probably) won't already have guessed, there is a long sequence of Maria and Lucas trapped rushing along in the current. The water is murky and we cannot clearly see what is happening to them so the thuds, gurgles and squishes are all the more effective as our only real point of reference. I was briefly reminded of the techniques in Berberian Sound Studio. This was the most memorable part of The Impossible for me and I believe the scenes will stay with me for a long time.

The Impossible is not very gory although there are images of dead people and one wound shot that I would rather not have seen. I am a bit squeamish. It is rated 12A and I don't think it is really suitable for children much younger than that age.

Cineworld, Mon 7th to Thu 17th Jan, various times.