Italia '23 part tre: Palermo

Oh, great, now we've got to watch every Italian film released in 2024 to see if this restaurant is in it. (Click to embiggen the photo.)[previously: June 14-17, June 17-20]

Wednesday June 21

The BBG and I have stayed in student accommodation in Edinburgh in the past: we have coping mechanisms for sleeping in single beds. Still, it has to be said that sleeping in the double bed we actually paid money for in the first place would have been nice. To jump ahead briefly to the end, all our subsequent communications with GNV regarding any sort of a refund have been completely ignored by them. I mean yes, they got us to our destination, and we didn’t die, but screw those thieves anyway.

Still, I think, at least we had beds. There are people on this ship who haven’t got cabins, which presumably means they’ve had to spend the night sleeping in chairs. Except when we get downstairs to the deck where breakfast is being served, we find that the path through the bar is clogged by several inflatable mattresses that passengers have brought for themselves. The staff on the ship can’t do much about it: they’re too busy being yelled at by angry punters any time they stand still for more than fifteen seconds. Maybe it is going to be like the Orient Express after all, in the sense that lots of the passengers might eventually get together to collectively kill someone. (Spoiler.)

Continue reading "Italia '23 part tre: Palermo" »

Mostly MIF 2023 part 2

Relax, Australians, you appear to be irreplaceable. [photo by The BBG]Let’s start the second part of our MIF 2023 review (part one’s here) with a visit to Festival Square, the public face of the event. For the first decade or more, it was in Albert Square, the huge open space outside the town hall. But in 2021, the town hall was undergoing a massive refurbishment (it's still going on in 2023) and Albert Square was closed. So they moved it out to a space close to the cathedral, which had the benefit of still being relatively on the beaten track. We were doing social distancing back then, which meant there were often queues to get in, and occasional hiccups like the notorious Twat Island Incident. But it still felt like a big social hub where festivalgoers and the general public could mingle.

From now on, it looks like Festival Square is going to be in the space directly underneath Aviva Studios. It has its good points and its bad points: the robot beer dispensing machines that ejaculate pale ale out of the side if you haven’t lined up your glass in there perfectly could potentially fall into either category.

Continue reading "Mostly MIF 2023 part 2" »

Mostly MIF 2019, and Partly BrewDogging #65: Outpost Manchester

I was originally going to say 10 PRINT HELLO 20 GOTO 10, but that seemed a little too meta.Friday July 12th

2310: Manchester Piccadilly station
We've arrived back in my home town once more for a weekend at the 2019 Manchester International Festival, bringing my coverage back in-house after four consecutive Festivals elsewhere. (It's running till July 21st, so at the time of writing you still may be able to catch some of it for yourself.) Over the next 48 hours or so, we'll be revelling in MIF's commitment to bringing us artistic experiences that haven't been seen before. A journey that along the way will bring to us new colour, new dimension, new value. New new new.

2350: BrewDog Manchester
Okay, so not everything here's going to be new. But as we pop in for our nightcap beers, we're immediately confronted by a DJ playing Billie Jean at top volume: it's funny how quickly that became socially acceptable again, isn't it? And as we sip on our #Mashtag2015 and Jackie O's Oil Of Aphrodite, I can't help but notice that over its seven years in the city centre, BrewDog Manchester has gradually become just another place in town where the kids come to get bladdered on a Friday night. A group of merry girls asks me to take a photo of them holding their cocktails: another group gets told off by bar staff for standing on the seats in their booth: a bloke takes his shirt off to mark something on the stroke of midnight, and is discreetly escorted from the premises shortly after. There's no trouble as such, but something essentially BrewDoggy seems missing. It makes you wonder what the new place is going to be like.

Continue reading "Mostly MIF 2019, and Partly BrewDogging #65: Outpost Manchester" »


<insert reference to shitty Neil LaBute remake of The Wicker Man here>There's an unspoken subtext to my latest MostlyFilm piece, a roundup of things I saw at the 2017 Manchester International Festival. Our visit took place nearly two months after the bombing at the Manchester Arena. It made me rather proud of the city of my birth, seeing the way people came together in reaction to the atrocity. And there are still signs of that all over the city today: the 'WE MCR' banners hanging off every vertical surface in town (as seen at the top of the MostlyFilm article), along with the frequent use of the city's bee symbol. (The example here has been on the floor of the town hall for countless years, but it's the best picture I have.)

We were only there for a weekend, catching six different MIF events (seven if you count the computer game), and spending any time we had in between them in many of our old favourite haunts. A couple of new ones were added to the list this time: breakfast at Evelyn's Cafe & Bar (which was Superstore when we visited it last), and dinner at Bundobust (having enjoyed the Leeds branch so much last Easter).

As for the shows, the MostlyFilm piece will tell you most of what you need to know, but I've also got some video trailers and clips here for those of you hungry for Red Button Bonus Content.

Continue reading "MOSTLYFILM: Mostly MIF 2017" »

BrewDogging #29: Clerkenwell [inc. Small Venues 2015 exit interview]

It's literally only just occurred to me that BrewDog Clerkenwell is a Small Venue in its own right.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockholm, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona]

Clerkenwell! To be honest, it's not a part of London I've needed to visit for decades. But when I initially moved here in 1984, my first job was based in a Clerkenwell office. Coming up above ground at Farringdon station in December 2015 gave me all sorts of weird flashbacks, tempered by the fact that there's been a huge amount of development in the area over the last three decades. In the course of researching this piece, I decided to check up on my old work boozer from those days - the Sekforde Arms - only to find that it closed down as recently as last July.

Still, that's not the bar I've come here to visit. I'm here with The Belated Birthday Girl to check out BrewDog's latest London opening, and then move on to another bar to see a comedy show. Which has a major bearing on the rest of this article, as you'll see.

Continue reading "BrewDogging #29: Clerkenwell [inc. Small Venues 2015 exit interview]" »

MOSTLY FILM: Mostly MIFfy 2015

The former Cornerhouse, which recently shut up shop and relocated down the road at Home. Hopefully the building will be restored back to the fully-functioning porno cinema it was in the old days.It's July in an odd-numbered year: which means it must be time for the Manchester International Festival again. Which also means I've written a review of the festival - or at least five of its performances - for Europe's Best Website, in a piece you can now read there entitled Mostly MIFfy 2015. Which also also means that there's some Red Button backup content for the article to be found right here.

This was a bit of a hit-and-run visit for The Belated Birthday Girl and me - we arrived in Manchester around 11am on Saturday morning, and left around 7pm on the following day. In those 32 hours we saw the five shows I reviewed on Mostly Film, slept at the Premier Inn Portland Street, had two excellent dinners at The Round at The Royal Exchange and James Martin Manchester, and ate breakfast at Gorilla and Home. The last of those is worth expanding on, because it was our first visit to Manchester's newest art centre since its opening in May. It's unnervingly quiet early in the morning, and the cafe bar's brunch menu is a little abbreviated. But the dishes themselves are lovely (including a terrifically oversized croque madame), and we had a very chilled time there, not realising that just twelve hours later Douglas Gordon would be twatting the place with an axe.

As for the shows we saw in the festival, all of them have videos of one sort or another associated with them, so they'll make up the bulk of this page.

Continue reading "MOSTLY FILM: Mostly MIFfy 2015" »

The Last Days Of Limehouse

"Save the clock tower!" No, wait, that's the other one.Less than a week has elapsed since it all started going wrong, but I think it's safe to say that more or less every possible angle on the Secret Cinema Back To The Future debacle has already been covered elsewhere. I thought I had a new one myself, and originally the whole of this first paragraph was based around it. And then I had to bin it when I decided, just to be on the safe side, to see if anyone else had recently used the phrase "your cousin Marvin Cinema."

Nevertheless, here's an angle that might be of interest to the lost hordes left wandering around Hackney in fifties gear after the BTTF cancellations. Because right now, in another part of East London, there's a second theatrical promenade production which immersively recreates 1950s life inside a found space. Yellow Earth's The Last Days Of Limehouse, however, has been made by people who know what the hell they're doing.

Continue reading "The Last Days Of Limehouse" »

The Death Of Klinghoffer

Spoiler Alert! Alan Opie as Leon KlinghofferCasual operagoers of London! Here's a useful tip for you. If you ever find yourself purchasing a ticket for the English National Opera, be sure to give them your mobile number and ask them to pester you with marketing offers. Ironically, I did just that in 2010 for a production that I wasn't able to attend on the day - the Punchdrunk collaboration The Duchess Of Malfi, which by all accounts was a bit of a dud anyway.

But since then, whenever ENO has had a few spare seats going for a particular production, they've sent me a text on the day offering them at a massively reduced rate. Which is how I started one day last week with no plans for the evening, and ended it sitting in an Upper Circle seat at the Coliseum that cost me £20 instead of the usual £59, watching THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL OPERA IN THE WORLD.

Continue reading "The Death Of Klinghoffer" »

MOSTLY FILM: The Book Of Mormon

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, at the opening night of The Book Of MormonWhat's been the most memorable thing that's happened in 2011? Some would say the wedding of Will and Kate, others the death of Osama bin Laden. But all these events pale into insignificance against the launch of Mostly Film, which has firmly established itself as Europe's Best Website in less than nine months of existence.

Currently, the writing team on Mostly Film are taking a look back at the year, just like everyone else, and asking contributors to write about one of 2011's cultural highlights. Several of these have been movies: films such as Margaret, Confessions, Beginners, Submarine and A Separation have all been discussed in depth so far, as well as a roundup of the activity in London's rep cinemas

But as the name implies, the site's brief is Mostly Film. So we've also had a piece on the year's best song: and today, it's my turn to focus on theatre, and specifically the Broadway production of The Book Of Mormon that impressed me so much on our trip to New York earlier this year. I look at how it fits into the careers of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, ponder on how Robert Lopez has tweaked their approach for the stage, and generally try to spoil as few of the jokes for you as possible. You can read it here.

Continue reading "MOSTLY FILM: The Book Of Mormon" »

Pressure Drop

Brewing up with Billy BraggThe Wellcome Collection is one of London’s hidden gems. It's so well hidden, in fact, that I was barely aware of it until last year. Its permanent collection of Sir Henry Wellcome's medical curiosities is a wonder to behold: its temporary exhibitions take a series of interesting diversions into topics related to healthcare and wellness. And it's generally all free to visit. If you haven't been there before, you need to check it out smartish.

If you go there before May 13th, though, you'll have to pay some money, because its main exhibition space has been turned into a performance area for a play called Pressure Drop. As part of their ongoing Identity Project looking at what it means to be us, Mick Gordon's play looks specifically at what it means to be English. (Which is why half a dozen of us ended up seeing it on St George's Day. That's what we're like.) It's being advertised as part gig, part play, and part installation – that's a lot of parts, and they don’t really fit into a wholly satisfying whole. But this isn't the sort of site that believes overambition is in itself a bad thing, so let's concentrate initially on the parts that work.

Continue reading "Pressure Drop" »