Sunday, 25 June 2017

Abuse

Hello.

Not in a good place right now due to some disturbing developments on a recent matter, which has now reached the point where police are having to be informed.

I have faith in the police force to deal with these matters, they have helped me in the past. I won't be making any further public comment on this.

I simply want to get on with my life without hassle or intimidation.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

GSOH: The comic itch I had to scratch

Just how did I get into the modern stand-up comedy scene? The answer was when one of my favourite local pubs, the Horseshoe Inn, decided to put on a weekly comedy night on Sundays.

The idea of there being a regular comedy night just five minutes walk away from my doorstep really appealed to me. However, at the time, I was in a long-distance relationship with a woman in Swindon. I'd spend every second weekend with her in the Wiltshire sort-of-city-but-not-actually-a-city.

The Horseshoe Inn is run by landlady Debbie Dexter, with her husband Nick in charge of a lot of the stage presentation, in particular, sound. Since they took it over in 2005, the pub has a solid reputation as the home of live music in Wellingborough1.

My friends at the first night of comedy at The Horseshoe
Now, this wasn't the first time I'd seen comedy in my hometown. In fact, a local pub - The Royal Oak - put on a monthly night of comedy that my friend Marcus took us along to. The night we attended there was a bit of a disaster, not due to the comedians, but because of some of the drunken clientele really spoiled it. The MC for that night detailed that catastrophic night on a comedian's forum.

This was 2011, Debbie and Nick of The Horseshoe had been scouting around for new ideas. In the wake of the BBC showing stand-up in prime-time with Live At The Apollo and Michael McIntyre's Comedy Road Show, there had been (and arguably still is) an explosion of stand-up comedy across the UK.

Subsequently, pubs found it fairly easy to get a night of cheap entertainment with semi-pro comedians and open spot acts. Debbie and Nick saw such a night over in Northampton and approached one of the organisers of it to do the same thing for them.

Tweed-jacketed Will Morris may not have been the typical idea of a comedian, but he took charge of Horseshoe's comedy Sundays. The format was established in that around ten open spot comedians would do five minutes each on one Sunday, in a gong show. The following Sunday would be pro and semi-pro comics. Three in total, finishing on a decent 30-40m headliner. It'd alternative like that.

Being a huge fan of comedy, I came back early from Swindon to see the Horseshoe's first stand-up night, which was all open spot. This is where I had my comic epiphany. It is the reason why I'm doing comedy now, running two monthly nights, compering, booking acts, designing posters and being a prat in daft costumes.

More from the front row...
The moment came when one comedian asked the audience a question...

"What's the collective noun for slags?"

I instantly yelled out "Wellingborough", which caused everybody in the pub to erupt with laughter.

The comedian had to proceed with his planned answer - which was "limousine". Not a bad gag at all. Yet I had the bigger laugh. I'm not saying I was the better comedian, I just managed to think of something good at the right moment. And what a moment it was, those four seconds where an entire pub is laughing at something you said.

Later on that night I had managed to say something else that got a fairly good round of laughter2. I hasten to add that I'm not a heckler and I do try to keep my gob shut. However, there is something in the water over in Wellingborough which means the regulars do like to 'contribute', something that continues even today.

After about four or five pints and the entertainment ending, the huge lift I had from my spontaneous shout-outs had grown my ego to the size of a George Osborne deficit. I approached Will Morris, asking if I could "go on stage next week".

He looked stunned for a moment, spluttered and then insisted that it'd be a few months before I could have a spot. "And it can't be here. Not in front of your friends and family."

These are very very wise words indeed. However, at the time I was taken aback. I felt I could easily knock up five minutes of comedy and be on stage being the Bill Hicks I imagined I was. Will was already booked up for many of the following nights and in any case, he treated me perfectly. Not that I saw it at the time.

Will insisted that I do his mate's gong night over in Northampton before I could be ready to take the stage at the Horseshoe. I was rather taken aback, but he held the cards. He could green-light me if I did well in a place where I didn't know anyone. I was given a date and had to take it.

The following morning, I woke up, got washed and put on the shirt and trousers for work. On my forty minute trek I realised what happened the night before. I had to come up with five minutes of really funny material in a couple of months' time, or face public humiliation.

Uh-oh...

1: Very much helped by The Deportees' Rob Matheson's weekly acoustic nights on Wednesdays, plus Trina Breedon bringing loads of punk rock bands over.

2: Don't ask me what it was, I simply can't remember.


Sunday, 3 January 2016

GSOH: Seen and not heard

Kids, eh? Being a child is quite a popular pastime in the UK, especially among the under-16s. I myself have indulged in it. After just over a decade and a half though, you start to lose your natural talent at it and Simon Danczuk's just not that interested in you any more.

I've recently blogged about the first ever gig I did, as a child. That's not exactly the start of my interest in comedy. I was addicted watching slapstick on the television when I was three, with my earliest memories of seeing Laurel & Hardy shorts on Sunday mornings on BBC2; the utter silliness of The Goodies and of course the absolutely untouchable mayhem of Tiswas.

At some point in the infants school, I thought I could actually be funny. (Yeah, an adjective I still struggle to attain these days.) I'd do the Charlie Chaplin walk in the playground. Unsurprisingly, this didn't make me as popular as I thought it would. The kids just wanted to play 'War' as much as possible.

Me, before a crucial stage performance in 1978. I'm in the checked trousers.

Could it be possible to combine the thrill of imitation gunfire and slapstick comedy together? Film director Alan Parker thought so, and came up with Bugsy Malone.

The comedy what I wrote

Anyway, one Christmas, I had a brilliant idea to actually write some comic material. The opportunity came to me when my mum asked me to write a letter back to my uncle to thank him for the Christmas presents I got. I think I was six or seven. I can remember exactly what I wrote, but, it was really nowhere near as funny as I thought it was. It's not funny at all, to be frank.

Now, when a kid tries to come up with an original joke, the results are often confusing. They can result in laughter, but not in the way intended.

Take, for instance, the Tumblr blog Bad Kids Jokes, which catalogues rejected submissions to a children's joke website. Here's a fantastic example:

Q: what do you call a tiger with glasses on?
A: a scientist tiger

That is utterly magnificent. I like the way it ticks some of the boxes for being a joke, like the stereotype for a vocation and the off-beat anthropomorphic attribution. There's a good case for this being labelled as 'meta-comedy'.

A year ago, I was having dinner with the son of a very famous comedian1; plus two writers on classic comedy2. Our conversation turned to the comedic intentions we had when we were young. This led to one of my fellow diners reciting something his six-year-old daughter came up with...

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Crisp!
Crisp who?
Conker crisp!

Well, this one knocks it out of the park on sheer surrealism alone. I could dissect this one, but it's more fascinating for it to be left as it is.

So, what post-Christmas words did my uncle receive from me? Well, a sincere note of thanks for the gifts. You see, my mother took one look at what I originally wrote and stated that I couldn't send that. She didn't find it funny at all, and despite my protestations, I had to write a sensible thank-you letter.

She was bloody right, because this, in all its illogical glory, is what I wrote:

Thank you for the presents, they're better than fresh air. Well, I could do with fresh air because I need some for the tyres of my bicycle!

There's no getting away from how bad that is. There's not even any charm to it, unlike the previous two examples of kids' writing. If I had continued in that vein, I may as well have ended up as chief scriptwriter for short-lived Channel 4 show Tonightly.

1: Nick Emery, son of 1970s telly sketch legend, Dick Emery.
2: Georgy Jamieson, director of the British Comedy Society; Louis Barfe, biographer of Les Dawson and chronicler of light entertainment.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

GSOH: Wildling, you make my heart sing

The stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve saw me in a pub in Leicester, in the company of many local comedians who had just put on a storming end-of-year gig as part of Proper Funny. I was just there in punter mode, but having been introduced to these people throughout the preceding 365 days, ended up as the recipient of many kisses and an invitation to join Daniel Nicholas at his house party.

That was a fitting end to 2015. About a year ago, I was spending New Year's Eve/Day with my friend Monique. At that point, I hadn't performed for nearly two years and had agreed to organise and host a comedy night at a brand new pub in Market Harborough in January.

Monique's not a comedian but she has been locked and soaked inside the cage on Tiswas
I'd never compered before, but had still kept in contact with a few people on the local circuit, so getting the acts was not a problem. Trying to come up with material relevant to Market Harborough - a middle class picture-postcard town with a lot of high-end boutiques - was the tricky bit. Sure, I could go on and do bits of my usual set (I certainly did), but wanted to at least tailor my presentation to the audience for this one-off comedy night.

Slating the town you're in is a thing I'd seen many MCs do. It's a bit risky, so some tend to aim their comic vitriol at a nearby 'rival' town. If you're doing a gig in Newcastle, have a go at Sunderland. If you're in Sunderland, have a go at Newcastle. (Bonus points if you can say the same joke in both cities.)

Monique likes to introduce me to television I wouldn't normally watch, mainly stuff that's huge in America. I'm not entirely sure when the stroke of midnight occurred, but I know we were watching Bob's Burgers, which I enjoyed immensely. She's a huge fan of Game Of Thrones, something I had heard of (you'd have to live on Mars to not know of it), but wasn't too keen to start on.

After about three episodes, I was 1) hooked and 2) realising there was an idea in this. I believed this fantasy world could be partially modelled on Leicestershire.

Lions Eat Ice Cream Every Saturday

If you're not familiar with Leicestershire, well, I'd describe Leicester itself as a fairly decent city with a lot going for it. It is large, grey and sprawling, but with a bit more ambition than Nottingham or Birmingham.

I had dated a girl in Leicester back in 2010, and recall that she arranged a game of bowling for us over in Loughborough. We travelled 12 miles north to this desolate town, and it soon became apparent the sports centre was only host to Crown Green Bowling, not the cool American pin games we had been thinking of. She was mortified. I found it hilarious.

Loughborough is rather glum. It's primarily famous for the Ladybird books and Big Brother contestant Bonnie Holt. Until East Midlands Parkway was built, the town was the way you'd get to East Midlands Airport if you were on your way via train/bus. I spent an hour searching for the right bus stop with a past girlfriend, with some massive suitcases in tow. (Thankfully we did end up in Prague, avoiding the horrifying scenario of a Loughborough-based holiday.)

What has this got to do with Game Of Thrones anyway?


Well, for my first few minutes of hosting Beerhouse Comedy, I pretended to take a phone call from a very late act. I was giving them directions to Market Harborough - a town I decided they had not heard of, enabling me to describe the place.

"It's very posh. Full of Daily Mail reading farmers. They have Radio 4 played out from speakers on every lamp-post. And the streets are paved with tofu."

This went down well with the 70-80 Harborough residents who had turned up for the comedy night. I wasn't finished there. I continued with the phone conversation, ensuring that my (non-existent) comic foil wasn't even familiar with Leicestershire.

Having established my phone-based counterpart was a big Game Of Thrones fan, I then used its mythical world to describe Leicestershire. In the south, you've got Kings Landing, all posh, classy and where the wealth is. A bit north up from that, is Leicester - or should I say Winterfell - on account of it being cold and grey.

And anywhere further north from that? Beyond The Wall? It's all filled with zombies and incest. The perfect analogy for Loughborough.

I got a big round of applause for that one. I'd like to say I carried on with this hilarity for the rest of the night, but that wouldn't be true. Quite a few ideas I had, just flopped, but there was enough in there that established me as an adequate MC. The acts we had were pretty solid, and there's one final bit which had ensured a large audience and was a fantastic end. Pub owner Jon Pollard decided to set it as a monthly night - every third Thursday - which it continues to be.

In another time, I'll go into more detail into why that first night was pivotal in me having 2015 as a great year of comedy.

For anyone who is from Loughborough and is offended at my negative portrayal of their area, I give you the caveat that I describe my hometown - Wellingborough - as "the Loughborough of Northamptonshire". It's crap and we know it.

Friday, 1 January 2016

GSOH: Do you remember the first time?

Theoretically, your first gig is your worst gig. A newbie comedian starts off all shaky and nervous, does a few more, then ends up on Live At The Apollo and selling millions of DVDs. That's the idea, anyway and I'm sure I'm just a couple of gigs away from that success.

I'm not going make chronology a factor in the order I write posts in the GSOH blog, but I guess I have to start somewhere.

If people ask me about my first stand-up gig, I tell them it took place in 2011 in Northampton. Technically, that was my second gig. The first time I told gags to an audience was back in the mid-1980s.

Wellingborough's Victoria Junior School as it looks today
The third year at my junior school was fairly refreshing, as some of the more creative members of my class had the freedom to put on shows. Only about six girls really took part, along with myself.

One day we had decided to put on a talent show. I'd be telling jokes; Heena would be singing the Theme From Fame and Rebecca - my first ever girlfriend - did... well, I can't remember what she did. That's probably why I'm not with her now.

The class got to vote for their favourite act at the conclusion of the show. This was probably inspired by The Fame Game on ITV, something that's barely-remembered these days, but it was like a predecessor to Britain's Got Talent, although probably closer to Opportunity Knocks.

I reckon the big gender split in the voting had caused me to win. This was the time of your life when girls were all soppy, stupid and had fleas, after all. Although Heena's diabolical rendition of Irene Cara's sole hit probably helped.

My set was 100% unoriginal. It was a load of gags I took from the joke books of the day. Plenty of them were Irish gags. Come to think of it, a lot where of that "Englishman, Scotsman and an Irishman" trope that you never get any more. These went down really well with the class and the teacher. There you go, early signs of institutionalised racism.



Of course, these days I wouldn't dream of using a joke I've never written, but this was a simpler time, I was modelling myself on the old school bow-tie-and-velvet-jacket comics you'd get on the telly of the day. These pre-alternative comedians would use a 'pool' of gags and routines.

What went down really well for me, was a really childish shaggy-dog story- one with the Irishman being the victim of course. I'd told it in the playground many times, and even though everyone knew it, I stormed it with this utterly immature shaggy dog story...

There's an Englishman, Scotsman and an Irishman at the top of a slide (entirely plausible, I'm sure it's a common occurrence) and God tells them that whatever they say on the way down, they will land in.
The Englishman has the first go, and shouts "money!"
He lands in loads of coins and notes. He's a bit battered and bruised, but hey, he's rich, and he leaves.
The Scotsman is next, and he shouts "whiskey!" 
He lands in a big pool of whiskey and is happy. (See? Scots are all alcoholics. That's just the first hilarity, wait for the big pay off up next...)
The Irishman has a go, and he shouts "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
See? It's hilarious. I had learnt to end the gag there, because I knew when others told it, they added the unnecessary description of the Irishman landing in a vat of piss. Never telegraph the gag.

So yeah, first ever gig, smashed it. What could be funnier, in the minds of the assembled 10-11 year olds, than a man plunging into a load of urine? Nothing, really.

I suppose there is one exception. Another routine that did the playgrounds was the story of three schoolkids, respectively called Fuck Off; Manners and Shit. I very much doubt I'd get to utter such profanities in front of Mr Fisher without a ruler being thrown at me and a summoning to the headmaster's office, so this is why I decided to opt for the safer conclusion of a piss-drenched Irishman.

I'd like to assure you that, nowadays, my jokes are my own and they're politically situated a lot further to the left than the feeble Bernard-Manning-style material I cribbed in order to storm that vital Class 6 gig at Victoria Junior School.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

GSOH: Year Goggles

It's strange what a difference 365 days can make. Somehow I ended up running and hosting two comedy nights; performing at the Edinburgh Festival and getting my own 12-part television series. That's not supposed to happen to an open spot comedian in the space of a year.

My terrible Chris Tarrant impersonation on The A-Z Of Tiswas
Okay, let's rewind a bit. I was someone who did stand-up comedy very occasionally. At this point in 2014, it had been almost two years since I last stepped behind a mic to tell jokes.

Oh, and another thing - GSOH - this new strand of my blog that deals with my comedy work, is meant to be entirely honest about my tragedies as well as my triumphs. After all, a detailed review of a comic failing, can, perversely, end up making the reader smile. Nobody ever chuckled at someone showing off their 52-bedroom gold-plated  mansion, so I'll try to keep it light on any anecdotes of having "smashed it last night".

Three point turn

A lot of my professional life is spent in marketing, stating the good features of products and grabbing the reader with concise points to win them over.I think this is described by the layman as "making something sound more interesting and exciting than it actually is", and I'm guilty of doing just in the opening paragraph.

Let's just go over those three aren't-I-great points at the top of the blog entry with a bit of detail and reason.
  • Running and hosting two comedy nights. Absolutely true, I've got two monthly comedy nights in the east midlands, though there are people much younger than me doing a heck of a lot more.
  • Performing at the Edinburgh Festival. This happened this year, but unlike most comedians, I didn't book a few weeks, or even a single week. In fact, I didn't book a single venue for myself and spent only one night there. I performed my ten-minute set twice on the same night, on 'showcase' gigs, where a resident comedian introduces a bill of acts. Yes, my approach to Edinburgh is very much toe-dipping. Comics can spend up to five grand on rent, food and venue costs, ending up playing to three people and a dog most nights.
  • My own 12-part television series. Okay, this is largely based on material from Tiswas - the cult 70s-80s Saturday morning kids' show. I put together clips from Tiswas footage to a couple of theme that fits the 'A-Z' format. I get to voice it over with my own script. I've even put together fresh graphics and animation, plus it's my choice of music to illustrate certain scenes. And yes, I've taken turns in being front of camera, just for a silly link here and there, nothing that last more than 10 seconds. The resulting programme - The A-Z Of Tiswas - was a five-minute segment that aired weekly as part of a TV station's magazine-style round-up. The channel is one of those Jeremy-Hunt-instigated 'local TV' outposts. You can't pick it up if you're outside Birmingham or the Black Country, but it is viewable online. I suspect the viewing audience was minuscule.
So there you go, I am still an open spot act, albeit with some lucky breaks. The two comedy nights give me adequate pay, not exactly beer money but not enough to quit the day job. There are people more talented than I, who aren't doing as well. And plenty doing better.

2015 has been a blast, travelling hundreds of miles around the UK just to shout obscenities about the Prime Minister into a microphone. I've made a lot of great friends, had some superb gigs and a handful of duff ones. I'll be going into detail on these things as this blog continues...

1: Before you think I'm a complete bastard for being part of the advertising brigade, consider that the audience in that role is almost exclusively IT-focused. There's no point in trying to lie to technology experts, you'll get found out. I dare say it's probably the only part of the marketing industry where there's honesty. Plus, I'm a really shit liar, so it suits me as a day job.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Television Kingdoms: Yorkshire, Hill Communication

Remember that tour of the UK via television regions that I said I'd be doing? Started over a year ago and I haven't been arsed with blogging since. Well, somewhere over Stamford I conked out, just needed a jumpstart and here I am in the next spot, Yorkshire...

TV for thee

Even if you're not a telly nerd, you must be familiar with 'the Big Five'. The ITV franchises that dominated prime time in the days before it all turned into a unified mush of soaps, TOWIE, Kyle and Cowell. I'm referring to Thames; LWT; Granada; ATV/Central and Yorkshire.


Well, this is my first step into the territory of the Big Five and I dare say YTV is the smallest out of that elite ITV tier. In fact, Yorkshire's area was formerly served by neighbouring Granada on weekdays, with ABC - who would go on to become 51% of Thames) taking weekends. That was all before the 1968 change in the network.

There's something about the northern England, where it appears to those of us outside it, that they tend to hate each other, with the Pennines being a major dividing line between the north west folk and Yorkshiremen. Of course, I'm fairly sure hostilities ended in 1487 and the peoples are united in their hatred of anyone south of Worksop.

Why TV

So, I've travelled up here from my base in Anglia. And hey, the roads tell me to "keep two chevrons apart". Ha ha ha! You see? Because, um, Yorkshire's on-screen identity was a chevron. (Okay, that gag needs some work.)

According to many telly nostalgia forum users, the parping yellow chevron drilled fear into them as a child. Not for me, it just signalled the start of Tim Brooke-Taylor-narrated cartoon Gideon.


Having barely visited the region in my childhood (despite it being the birthplace for everyone on my mother's side) I can't really say I've had memories of growing up with the service. We holidayed for two weeks every year, but my parents tended to have 'northophobia', citing "the cold" as a reason to head southbound. Only twice was this rule broken - Blackpool and Scarborough.

On the Aire...

Come the age of the internet, my first meeting with someone online was over in Sheffield. A chap called Chris - a huge Sheffield Wednesday fan - took me on a walking tour of the Steel City. Fans of the Owls don't have a lot of respect for Leeds-based Yorkshire Television, with the station opting not to show any of Wednesday's post-match celebrations over Manchester United in the 1991 League Cup final, even though many other regions continued showing a rightfully exuberant SWFC.


YTV had decided that its viewers would enjoy the scheduled American import, War Of The Monster Trucks. Such disdain for Sheffield has had accusations slung over at Kirkstall Road for having a bias to West Yorkshire. The incident spawned a Wednesday fanzine to sarcastically adopt the name. Indeed, my online friend described the regional news show as CaLeedsar. Admittedly, that's a rather weak pun, but seeing as I've just used a gag about road chevrons, who am I to complain?

So, for those you that don't know, Yorkshire is actually four counties. It's also our true midlands, if you take Great Britain into consideration. As such, playing cricket, regarding tea as a science and moaning about change - all Yorkshire stereotypes - can be considered the beating heart of our country.



There are three things on British television that convey their own vision of Yorkshire to the rest of the country. Last Of The Summer Wine; Emmerdale and Heartbeat. The first one, undoubtedly a stalwart of the BBC schedules up until recently, portrayed the massive hills and valleys to the point where they actually played a part in the comedy.

Woolpacking in them

I really really wish I could state that Rising Damp has been Yorkshire Television's biggest and most prolific export, but the sorry truth is that it's Emmerdale, ITV's 'B' soap, has that title. Probably the biggest money spinner for the franchise, the farm-based serial started life as Emmerdale Farm - filler for afternoons in 1972 when the IBA allowed ITV to broadcast non-stop through the day.

As someone with no time for soaps, I've very little to say on them, but even I recognise Emmerdale. The earworming melody of the theme tune followed by 27 minutes of rural tedium. It was a sneered-upon parochial offering back in the day, at a time when ATV's Crossroads was neck-and-neck in a prime-time war with Coronation Street from Granada.


Of course, by the early Noughties, the roles were reversed. Crossroads was the daft hopeless afternoon filler, whereas Emmerdale had already cemented its place in the evening schedules thanks to a 1993 plane crash storyline. That epoch had turned the soap from dreary Archers-on-TV mediocrity to being an eyebrow-raising 'drama serial' with realism-defying incidents. A bit like every other prime time soap on telly.

I'll recognise Rising Damp as the greatest thing Yorkshire Television have ever produced. It's a bit of a cliche, but most folk will agree it's the best sitcom ITV have ever made. To this day, it deservedly forms part of the ITV3 listings. Miserly landlord Rupert Rigsby, with his right-wing leanings, is played brilliantly as a pathetic petty character by Leonard Rossiter. Students Alan (Richard Beckinsdale) and Philip (Don Warrington) were the target of Rigsby's spite.

Alan's hippy-esque ways and, sadly, Philip's skin colour, would bring out the worst in Rigsby. Thankfully, he always came a cropper, making it a delight to see an on-screen bigot fail every week, just like Alf Garnett over on the Beeb. Unifying all the male tenants' attention was spinster Ruth Jones (Frances De La Tour).

Having established a ratings hit, Yorkshire kept Rising Damp's writer Eric Chappell employed throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Subsequent sitcoms from his pen were Only When I Laugh; The Bounder; Duty Free; Home to Roost; Singles and Haggard. Of those, I could only say I heard of Duty Free and Home To Roost. Rising Damp was always going to be a tough act to follow.

Les is more

A huge face in comedy, figuratively and literally, Les Dawson had won ABC's talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1967. He went on to be compere on BBC2's International Cabaret. In 1969, with Yorkshire Television being a year old, he was signed up for their comedy panel show Jokers Wild, helmed by comic mastermind Barry Cryer.


Now, there are two genres of television that are highly prolific these days. The TV talent contest and the comedy panel show. Two things that have me reaching for the 'off' button. However, with Les Dawson on board, you can bet it was a joy to watch. Alas, I was suffering with Not Being Born at the time.

Yorkshire must have taken a shine to the gruff Blackpool-based comic, as they handed him his own star vehicle, Sez Les. This sketch show ran for eleven series and various specials. It was the birthplace of 'Cissie and Ada', where Roy Barraclough and Les dragged up to play the northern gossipmongers. Also, John Cleese joined the series after exiting Monty Python's Flying Circus. Despite the jaw-dropping differences in their comedy styles, the two became great friends.

Kirkstall Road continued to pay Les's mortgage for much of the rest of the 1970s, as Yorkshire continued with a news series - Dawson's Weekly and various specials, such as Dawson And Friends. In 1978, he signed a contract with the BBC, largely sticking with the broadcaster for the rest of his life.

Based on Un Dos Tres, Devised by Ibanez Serrador

A really massive thing YTV was famous for in the 1980s, was the evening game show 3-2-1. It's a cliche to point out how the clues were totally unfathomable. Mind you, all game shows were baffling to me at that age. What kept me amused was the way Yorkshire's chevron could whizz around the screen in the animated titles, before landing in a bin.



This receptacle for refuse would then transform into Dusty Bin. Well, that's the magic qualities of the mighty Yorkshire chevron. It all went tits up by the mid-80s when they took on computer graphics, with the animation so incredibly stilted, they may as well have pointed a camera at a real bin.

Of course, computer graphics would also infiltrate the Yorkshire ident itself. According to TVS's The Television Show, the new sequence where a solid 3D chevron rose out of liquid gold, cost a million pounds.


"Hello, 'Benders!"

So far I've not really mentioned anything of Yorkshire's contributions to kids' television. The station tended to contribute a fair bit to the lunchtime pre-school strand, keeping former Rutle Neil Innes busy with the cartoon Raggy Dolls and wizard-based antics in Puddle Lane.

The Book Tower remained part of Children's ITV for a very long time, having started long before the strand existed. Its title sequence was utterly terrifying, the exterior of some empty stately home, soundtracked by Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Variation 18 - a doom laden piece of orchestral prog-rock. Once that ordeal was over, we had the host, a post-Doctor-Who Tom Baker. Actually, that didn't make things any less scary. The series ended in 1989, with Timmy Mallett as host.

The TV-am irritant also got his own vehicle, Utterly Brilliant, in the early 90s. While this show tried to take on a 'cool' street style, it wasn't going to go far with Timmy Mallett as host. Also, around this time, another TV-am refugee - Mike Morris - ended up fronting Calendar, the region's evening news.


Now, for my money, Yorkshire Television didn't put a foot wrong when commissioning Round The Bend - an 'electronic comic' (thankfully Krankies-free) that was devised by cartoonists/writers Patrick Gallagher; Tony Husband and Mark Rodgers, at a time when their own comic - Oink! (a sort of junior Viz) was facing an uncertain future.

This really was a televisual Oink! Of course, there was no Uncle Pigg battling it out with Mary Lighthouse. We had a puppet Doc Croc hosting the show from the comic's offices - based in a sewer - with all kinds of rodents struggling to get the show together. A bit like The Muppet Show with snot-and-bogey humour. All puppets were put together by the Spitting Image workshop. Tony Husband, now more famous for his Private Eye work, has every episode available to view on his website.

Naturally, anarchic humour has always been right up my street and I usually found that ATV/Central could deliver that in spades. However, Yorkshire did well with the aforementioned Round The Bend, plus a little known school-based comedy, Behind The Bike Sheds, featuring a pre-omnipresent Tony Slattery and numerous child actors. Maybe it could be seen as the parent of Hardwicke House or Palace Hill, but having just viewed a bit of it, it's way too song-and-dance heavy. I do recall the final show doing a bit of fourth-wall breaking, by just announcing they were in a television studio all along as the cast dismantled the set.

Whiteley Rose

I don't know whether to go with stuff outside of ITV for the Television Kingdoms strand of the blog, but then, early Channel Four was pretty much like an extension of the ITV network. Well, you don't get much more early Channel Four than Countdown - the first show on the fledgling station and it's still there today.

A Yorkshire Television production from the off, Countdown probably gave viewers the impression that Channel Four was a second ITV (and sets of the day would literally have 'ITV2' on such a button).


As unlikely as it sounds, Countdown actually began life as a branded spin-off from regional news programme Calendar, as Calendar Countdown. It was only screened on ITV in the Yorkshire region, and didn't get networked. Like YTV's other game show behemoth, 3-2-1, it was actually a format from the continent. Des Chiffres Et Des Lettres had been running since 1965.

Also, I'm stunned at how Yorkshire slapped their Calendar brand (itself a rather generic word that has no connotation to the region) on the show in its pre-Channel-Four days. They did the same with short-lived music show Calendar Goes Pop. Taking YTV's logic, maybe my home region could have produced About Anglia Sale Of The Century.

Anyway, Countdown is cemented in the Channel Four schedules and, as you'd suspect, it attracts a huge audience of pensioners. My friends from ATVLand.productions got to see the last edition Carol Vorderman worked on, and reported how the warm-up man constantly reminded the silver-haired demographic - without any irony - to take their pills during the breaks.

With the near mothballing of the Leeds Studios towards the end of last decade, Countdown was taken away from Kirkstall Road by ITV and relocated to the Granada region at Salford's MediaCity.


Now, if we're channel-hopping, I guess we could give a nod to BBC2's dark sitcom The League Of Gentlemen, as all the interior scenes were filmed at Kirkstall Road. This isn't too surprising, given that the BBC didn't really have any suitable studios in the area.

World Of Pub

Quite possibly the most Yorkshirest thing ever shown on TV has to be Indoor League. A none-more-1970s daytime filler that covered pub games like skittles, shove ha'penny and arm wrestling. This was actually networked (and is astonishingly out on DVD), but most people my age only really came across it when Frank Skinner and David Baddiel highlighted it on BBC2's Fantasy Football League.



The sight of Baddiel in drag as a darts-throwing old lady, replete with a Yorkshire Television badge, during one Phoenix From The Flames sketch had me cackling for about five minutes after it aired, despite me not having a clue about this utterly low-budget show.

Just tyke that...

Now, as I said at the start, I don't have much of a personal connection to the station or region. However, there is one incident which left me rather dismayed with Yorkshire Television Limited, to give it its full title.


During a rather extended break 'between jobs' in 1993, the DSS had myself and a friend join one of those 'job restart' clubs, designed to gently encourage long-term dole-ites into work. I could say it worked for me, using the reasoning that it was incredibly depressing to go to these daily meetings. I recall a former butcher at the table moaning that "increasing vegetarianism" was to blame for his redundancy. Quite a few of the assembled tutted and sneered when they saw a guy come in to set up a computer.

"That's where it's all at, these days," said the ex-butcher. "It's all bloody computers."

I nervously shuffled in my seat. Only my friend knew that I'd spent two years at college studying Information Technology and thankfully he stayed quiet on that subject. So, what does this have to do with Yorkshire Television?

Well, one day we were treated to a documentary on gaining employment. The programme was supplied on VHS tape and was shot just like a typical schools programme. The subject was Yorkshire Television and we saw the company giving auditions to would-be lunchtime newsreaders and a day in the life of an outside broadcast engineer.



I have no idea what the documentary was called and I very much doubt it was aired on actual television. The newsreading auditions included quite a bit of fluffing from nervous women, no doubt put off by the fact there was also this documentary camera crew present as well as the news crew gauging the performance.

The part that fascinated me was the outside broadcast truck. The narrator explained that, Yorkshire was very much physically different to other regions, due to having such massive hills and valleys. Having become a motorist three years ago, I can certainly attest to the eye-popping landscape. I've felt my ears pop as I've driven down hugely steep hills in the Whitby area. I've felt my car beg for mercy at the thought of driving up a steep cobbled road in Scarborough. I've had my breath taken away by the cliffs between Bradford and Keighley, where my mother and uncle spent their childhood.

The engineer was interviewing assistants and - with an implied wink - mentioned the need to 'sweet talk' authority figures into allowing the broadcast truck to spend some extended time in spots where a decent line of sight could be established over to Leeds. Evidently, their counterparts in Anglia would have it very easy.

A low point was when a black interviewee was asked about how his interview went. Sitting in the YTV canteen, he gave a rather negative view of the company and, with a nod towards a nearby black cleaning lady, said "that's probably the only kind of job people like me will get here". I hope he was wrong.

People's Republic of Yorkshire

I started work on this blog on Saturday 26th December 2015, at a time when a fair bit of Yorkshire (as well as the north west) was flooded. These events are unrelated to my decision to restart this blog, it's just down to having the spare time available.

By the following morning, ITV Yorkshire itself was facing Neptune's revenge, with the nearby River Aire having reached their archive building.


Now, the vast majority of ITV's archives are stored over in Leeds, partly due to the expertise of the staff and also due to having the space available. If you've ever travelled along Kirkstall Road, you'll notice that ITV Yorkshire spans quite a few buildings, a bit like a university campus.

Thankfully, I learnt from archivist Chris Perry that all was well. "ITV have replied and said that nothing has been lost in the flood. They had already made plans for this eventuality and all went smoothly."

So this goes to show that while it's at the opposite end of the M1 to ITV's major base in London, the Yorkshire HQ is still a major cog in the network.