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SPANK GOLD: London Film Festival 1992

Javier Mariscal's ludicrously perky design for the LFF 1992 poster. Again, it's too good to crop for landscape mode. We're four months into the Spank Gold project, and it strikes me that I've been a bit lax in namechecking the people working behind the scenes at the London Film Festival. Suze may well assume/hope that Sandra Hebron and her fetish boots have been around since the beginning of the festival in 1957. But back in 1992, we had Sheila Whitaker instead. Don't let the link to Socialist Review fool you (it's the only picture of her I could find): Sheila was a fun Director of the LFF, as could be gleaned from the way she'd outrageously milk her introduction to the Surprise Film each year. With the aid of Deputy Director Rosa Bosch (think a Spanish female equivalent of Michael 'Low Fat Morrissey' Hayden),  she presided over the LFF throughout its thirties, guiding it through a major period of growth during which it expanded into the West End from its initial South Bank base.

The 1991 experiment of taking over both screens in the Odeon West End for a week continued in 1992. As a consequence, the programme started to take on a peculiar split personality, with clear lines being drawn between the commercial fare (almost exclusively shown in Leicester Square) and the artier stuff (almost exclusively kept in the NFT and ICA). The interesting thing to me, looking back at the programme now, is how much great stuff there was in terms of early works by future big name directors - and how many of them I missed out on at the time, notably Wong Kar-Wai, Ang Lee and Takeshi Kitano.

25 items to report on this time, though two of those lasted an entire day apiece. No weekday matinees at all this year. Ready to see how it all worked out?

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SPANK GOLD: Edinburgh Festival 1992

From Mhairi Mackenzie-Robinson's intro to the 1992 Fringe Programme: 'Who would have thought that, in a period of economic depression and worldwide recession, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe would flourish, grow and blossom into the most spectacular celebration of the arts that Scotland has seen...' Ah, nostalgia.

[Because she asked nicely: the Fringe Programme 92 image used here was originally drawn by Shona Lees, who is now Shona Lenaghan.]

The stats are interesting for this one. (Yes they are, shut up.) In 1992, I saw nothing at all at the Book Festival, only one event in the International Festival (if you don't count the free fireworks), and eight or so movies. Everything else was a rather tediously mainstream selection of Fringe shows - although some of the acts involved didn't make it into the mainstream until a decade or so later. It'd be tempting to suggest that this was the point where I realised that going to Edinburgh every summer could start getting a bit repetitive, and that the odd year off might be useful. But I think I'd already realised that with a Major Birthday coming up in August 1993, I'd need to do something out of the ordinary for that.

As far as accommodation goes, once again I was staying in an out-of-town B&B booked at the last minute - the details are fuzzy, but I remember that Noises Off at Trafalgar Hall was one of the few things I could get to without the use of a bus or taxi. I seem to have kept up a respectable five-show-a-day average, though: it's always good to treat Edinburgh shows like fruit and veg. Here's how my RDA for 1992 panned out.

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Bohemian Like You: Christmas In Prague

What do Copenhagen, Prague, Warsaw, Minsk and Moscow have in common? Well, it turns out that if you randomly board a carriage on the 22:28 City Night Line train from Cologne, you could end up in any one of those five cities: somewhere around Hanover the train splits in a spectacular fashion, and bits of it go hurtling off in all directions.

We spent Christmas 2007 in Copenhagen: one year later, we took the same train to Prague for the festive season. I'm not necessarily saying that you can now deduce where we'll be going on holiday for Christmas between 2009 and 2011, but you never know.

So take a break from all those Easter eggs you're ploughing through today, as I tell you how and why The Belated Birthday Girl and I travelled to Prague by train last December. Yes, by train, again. When you get down to it, it's got to be an improvement on getting there by plane.

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Simian Substitute Site for April 2009: Ask The Flying Monkey!

Ask the Flying Monkey! "I love deadlines," Douglas Adams used to say. "I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." So let's try imposing one. By now, most of you have probably forgotten that I went to Prague for Christmas in 2008, and have certainly given up on ever seeing anything written about it here. Christmas 2008 has long receded into the mists of time, and Easter 2009 is nearly upon us. So: I'll aim to get my article on Prague posted here in time for Easter Sunday. There, let's see how that one works out. Have a video while you're waiting.

On the other hand, the Spank Gold project appears to be running more or less to schedule (and may well be responsible for the delays elsewhere on the site, but let's not think about that for now). So this month, you can expect hazy flashbacks to the Edinburgh Festival and London Film Festival of 1992. Plus, stuff I haven't really thought about yet. Maybe.

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