So Christmas is on its way and I am ever more aware that I still have lots and lots to do (and that doesn’t even take into account buying presents)… so the break will see me in the edit suite no doubt.

In the new year we (by that I mean Hartlepool Borough Council and myself) will be running what we’re calling a ‘whisper campaign’. The aim is to send out regular emailer links to snippets of video from my piece, and in that way hopefully build up an ongoing awareness of the show in July.

Apart from the obvious publicity angle, this does actually serve a useful purpose. It focuses me on the narrative and, far from being a diversion, it helps me think through the process. I tend to see things in fragments, which I inevitably eventually draw together, so this exercise suits my working methods.

Here is the first one. I have posted other clips before, but this will be the actual FIRST in the series.

If I don’t get round to posting again before the break.. have a wonderful whatever floats your boat y’all!!



My Marion Keene doll lives! Karin in the States has done a great job of bringing mini Marion alive. The doll is a combination of poses from Marion’s 50’s heyday and I am looking forward to her arriving safe and sound from across the pond.

As you can see, her eyes are blue. I was beginning to get a little concerned for the real Marion as I knew she would ordinarily have been in touch with the vital eye colour info I requested a couple of weeks ago. Eventually she was; well her neighbour rang me up following my letter. Seems Marion is in hospital having fallen and broken her hip. She is on the mend now though and I’m hoping my continuing interest in her on-stage career (albeit somewhat virtual now) might cheer her up.

As you can see, I have collaged her into a couple of scenarios just to get a feel for how she might look in situ. When eventually the doll arrives I plan a number of scenarios. Firstly she will be filmed rotating on a turntable in front of a green screen, so I can effectively ‘collage’ her in a variety of scenes that have other backdrops. In the one here, where she is stood in front of the band, you can just see the real 14 year old Marion sat with the band – looking forward towards the ‘future’ Marion. I’m not yet sure how this is going to work, but I like the juxtaposition, and a major element of this piece is concerned with images being moved through time so I will experiment with these ideas.

My second plan is to have her go on a little journey around Hartlepool. I want to see her in a shopping centre… in the Grand Hotel and perhaps stood on a table in the local Subway… oh and a trip to the Marina is on the cards too…and the (closed) cinema she used to bunk off to. I’m thinking that the juxtaposition of her glamour next to the actuality of the here and now might provide an interesting tension. She should really be carried around by a little girl… I need to work on that.

As I am considering how my own narrative will work, in an attempt to draw things together a little, so one of my hoarded historical objects has come into play. The object in question is the Olivetti Lexicon 80 typewriter… first made in 1942 and retired in 1968. It fits the Rink Ballroom period perfectly, and it so happens that I have one. Last night was spent pushing a cloth into the hard to get to places that have gathered fluff and other unsavoury material. On the one hand I like things to not be too joined up, life is by its very nature fractured (hence my multi-screen video arrangement) ; but I also want to construct a more linear story out of some of this material to act as a counterpoint.

To make another arrangement of history and to impose a hitherto non-existent narrative.

My typewriter will be the visual device for this. Amazingly you can still get ribbons for the Lexicon 80 on eBay so I feel a purchase coming on. The ribbon still works though, and gives an appealingly uneven texture to the hammered keys on paper, so I shall see how that goes before replacing it.

In the gallery context , I’m thinking it would further underline the leap of technology (or perhaps the non-leap?) to have this part of the piece played back on a laptop; ceremoniously placed on a plinth.

Of course…how many of these ideas actually make it into the final piece…is a definite known unknown, but I am glad to have reached this stage of experimentation for as you know dear reader…

…All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!



Marion doesn’t answer the phone. I have resorted to writing a letter to try and raise a response.

The lady in the States who is making my Marion Keene doll for the show asked me what colour Marion’s eyes are and of course I don’t know. How could I? as we have never met, and all but one of the photos I have ever seen of her are in black and white. The one colour pic was taken just a few years back, but she had sunglasses on. Thing is… she is always on the end of the phone and rarely goes out, so if my letter goes unanswered I’m not quite sure what to do…

Better news with the Manfreds. The day (last Thursday) finally came for my interview with them at the Sage Gateshead. I had prepared by stalking them on YouTube mainly. Research is sooo much easier these days. Knowing I had only 30mins had made me take a more structured approach. I arrived with three sheets of A4 peppered with meaningful questions, designed to sound sort of general interest but slanted in a way that they might illicit less stock answers than might be the case in a more usual journalistic scenario.

Having run out of cash to pay anyone for anything at the mo – I am resorting to calling in favours. Ken the cameraman (he has always been called thus) was duly roped in. Ken has many years of experience as both a documentary film maker and a BBC freelancer, so I knew he would be safe hands in a situation where there would be some pressure. It so happens he was also my photography lecturer when I first arrived in Newcastle in 1974. Oh and he has also played in bands with me, so I thought he might actually enjoy meeting the Manfreds.

Having arranged the interview months before somehow it still transpired that I was busy emailing insurance documents and health and safety certificates to the venue on the actual day. Seemed like a lot of hoops to jump through but all was eventually well.

Stuck in traffic on the Quayside, Ken and I arrived at the Sage just in time. No probs getting through the stage door and then, scarily quickly, we were at the side of the stage watching the guys sound check. A dressing room was offered to me as a potential interview space, but was a bit claustrophobic, so I asked if there was any chance we could use the stage instead. The lighting guys were due to go on a break but Paul Jones shouted over and asked if someone could sort some lighting out for us. One of the crew was predictably grumpy but hey… it got sorted so – RESULT. There we were in the middle of the stage in Hall One and I was clutching my questions, a rifle mic and the collection of photos I had brought along as prompts.

I had worried I might go blank but the adrenalin pumped in and away we went. I was massively helped by the fact that the three Manfreds I had asked to interview, Paul Jones, Tom McGuiness and Mike Hugg were such genuinely nice guys. No pretensions, happy to engage and very generous with their time.

My questions didn’t all get asked of course. In fact I rarely looked at the sheets of paper as the conversation flowed. My interview technique is, shall we say, ‘unorthodox’, as I tend to ramble a bit before getting to the crux of the question. I have however enough experience to know when to do the ‘noddys’ rather than talk all over the answer.

Somehow I always seem to get people to talk longer than they intended. 30mins became 45 and even then we continued chatting after the camera was packed away.

Back at base I downloaded the footage, and then felt a little tired. It had been like doing a performance myself, but so worth doing for the project.

Bottles of strong booze in the post for my musical arranger Karl and another one for Ken.

Worth every penny.