Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Monday, 30 November 2009
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Well, it seems there was every chance.
The news that a genuine Hollywood superstar would, quite literally, be lighting up the city, has caused a mixture of shock and awe in many circles. In our office alone a kind of minor hysteria has set in!
Friday, 20 November 2009
ither way I am pretty certain that due to their immense popularity at times that would have meant both a President Thatcher and a President Blair at one point. Both presidencies would have been very popular with their supporters – but would have incensed their opponents both here and abroad. And if you look at the nobody who has just become President of Europe that hardly inspires the Republican cause either. I doubt too many people will be buying tea towels with his face on it ....
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Friday, 13 November 2009
The Festival chose Komedia to be the host for its launch which I thought this was a very good, non-traditional venue for a film fest.
The film footage, which has only just resurfaced and has now been beautifully packaged, followed the somewhat shambolic opening preparations for this gig to its triumphant conclusion where the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, dominated the show. The footage of this remarkable man was enough to make the film itself but you had plenty of other great performances to admire from African and African-American artists - I loved Miriam Makeba, The Spinners, BB King and Bill Withers in particular . All performed so well you almost forgot how bad their flares were.
The real star however was the main man himself - Muhammad Ali. If there is a more watchable man on screen I have yet to see it, because you literally can't take your eyes off him or turn off your ears to what he says. The trip to Africa clearly had a profound impact on him and he used every opportunity to talk about the relationship between black and white people in a way that still strikes a powerful chord today, 35 years later. And it clearly inspired him in the ring as well - enough to help him win the big fight that followed....
But this is not a boxing film, it is a musical one and the music just burns brightly. The feet never stop tapping throughout and it was a genuine (and unexpected) pleasure to see a film end with enthusiastic applause from a live and lively audience.
So a great kick off for the Bath festival and look out for many fine films in the next few weeks from blockbuster names and much-anticipated premieres such as The Informant and A Prophet to weird little movies including a 'cricket slasher movie' (I kid you not) and old classics like The Belles of St Trinians.
More details on this great feast of film from http://www.bathfilmfestival.org/.
Get up, get on up!
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
The fact that Hugh’s album can de downloaded free all around the world (visit http://www.hooverdamdownload.com/) will greatly help that process.
- The Bath Chronicle has two tickets to give away for the gig. If you would like to win the pair then send an email to email@example.com with the answer to the question: in what year did Hugh and his fellow Stranglers release Rattus Norvegicus? The concert promoters will contact the winners direct.
Monday, 9 November 2009
If you were to ask people around me to list my most irritating faults, I am pretty certain that one thing that would crop up frequently is that I am forever banging on about the fact that I don't think I look my age. No matter what my passport or driving licence tells me in my own warped mind, I am convionced the mirror tells a different story.
However, sometimes something creeps up and bites you on the big bottom of life that cruelly destroys your self-delusion about your age.
And that happened to me last weekend when my eldest 'child', my 'little' girl, Charlotte, was 18. Yes, I am now the the father of an 18-year-old and no pretence that I look young enough to host Blue Peter can escape that fact.
It really is a sobering moment to realise your child is no longer your 'child'. She can see the same films as I do (not that we have the same tastes), vote in the same elections (not that she has the interest that I do) and do practically anything she wants really without ever uttering the immortal words 'Dad, can I.....?'
Actually that isn't strictly true. As every parent of a teenager will know, you become a taxi driver – and so, last Saturday night, my role was to help ferry her and her friends off to Poo Nah's Nah's in Bath. Nightclubs hey...and all this from that sweet little well-mannered girl who only a few years ago (in my memory) was taking her first dancing lessons at the age of just three.
Nowadays, in the world of social networking sites it is so easy to track the length of people's lives and learn all about them easily but for me, and the rest of the family, our pondering over Charlotte's 'big 1-8' has still been centred around digging out old photographs of baby competitions, first days at school, first holidays and so forth. It has been, as our American cousins say, emotional.
Perhaps the best way of tracking that time, however, is to see how different the world was when Charlotte was born (in 1991) to today.
For a start, the aforementioned social networking sites obviously didn't exist. It is amazing, considering their influence, to learn that Facebook is only six years old (and in reality was nothing like we know it today until two or three years ago), Twitter is just three years old and even the supposed 'grand daddy' of them all, Youtube, is astonishingly just four years old. How many other four-year-olds can genuinely be considered a world phenomenon?
Oh and as for Wikipedia (nine years old), if I had wanted to give Charlotte that much info as a birth gift I would have had to pay £200 for a book of dusty old encyclopedias – which would have been outdated the moment after purchase.
Those 18 years have, of course, seen many epic, often frightening worldwide events but it is probably this dramatic age of communication change that has characterised this past generation.
Many of you, may, for example be reading this online on my blog (hi there!) rather than in print and with so many developments of this kind happening so quickly one can only imagine how different the communications scene will look when one day Charlotte talks about her 'eldest's' 18th.
By then the world may not, for instance, be 'run' by the US and Europe as we pretend it is now but by the 'BRIC' countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China, the next global powers apparently). And I defy anyone to predict what life will be like then because no one, but no one, could have predicted life now the day 'Lotte' took her first breath.
So, a belated very happy birthday 'young' Charlotte. No dad in the world could be prouder of this but please don't be offended if you overhear me say: 'An 18-year-old daughter? When I look this young? Impossible....'
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
On Tuesday night I too had the pleasure of sitting on a Question Time style panel – but thankfully there wasn’t a BNP activist in sight.
For this proudly non-political panel was one that was there to highlight one of Bath’s greatest hidden assets – it’s lively and highly imaginative creative sector.
he event had been organised by the burgeoning Creative Bath group which is aiming to bring together the many different creative industries in our city. The term “creative industry” is obviously quite a wide-ranging one and among the members of the group are people involved in all forms of the written media, TV and film, writing, web designing, music, photography and other less ‘obvious’ creative fields such as architecture.
What unites them all is that they use their imagination and their brains to produce their wares. And what an enjoyably eclectic bunch they are too.
At this latest meeting a number of us were asked to be part of a panel discussion on how the recession and general downturn has affected the media/creative sector. Chaired enthusiastically by the ever-energetic Greg Ingham of MediaClash, I shared that panel with Bob Mytton, Malcolm Brinkworth, Mike Ellis, Richard Daws and John Weir and between us we represented a wide range of different organisations all of whom have had different challenges during the past 12 months.
I found all my fellow guests to be fascinating and full of insight and between us and the equally engaged audience I think we enjoyed a pretty lively debate.
What virtually all of us in the packed Ustinov Theatre shared was the realisation that yes, the creative sector has had a tough time, but that hadn’t dented the optimism, positivism or the imagination of those of us in this fascinating sector.W
hat this night also illustrated was just how vibrant the creative scene is in Bath. Organisations such as the Chronicle, Future and MediaClash are all quite high-profile but there are many pockets in and around the city where smaller groups of people are producing top-class work that collectively is providing millions of pounds for our city’s economy.
The figures of how much the creative industries bring to our area are staggering and it was revealed on Tuesday night that Bath is doing as well as anywhere in the South West in terms of its creative enterprise.
I am fairly certain that in many towns or cities which are much bigger than Bath you would not get the same number of people attending such events as this and Bath does seem to be like a magnet for many people who work in the creative field. It seems somewhat ironic that in a city which is so rightfully proud of its past that if you scratch at the surface you will find many people who are working hard in the industries of the future.
I also sense that, although the Creative Bath organisation already has hundreds of active and enthusiastic members, there may be many other people out there who are still not aware of the benefits this group brings. If that sounds like you then can I push you to the group’s website (www.creativebath.org) where you can find out how you can join an organisation which may not only be good for you as an individual, but could also boost your business and help our city’s economy grow.
PS I bet tonight’ s Question Time won’t be nearly as inspiring . . .
As many people will now know, two weeks ago the remains of Bath girl Melanie Hall - who had gone missing 13 years ago - were discovered off the M5.
It meant that here in Bath we faced a murder hunt.
I therefore combined my usual weekly column in the Chronicle with the paper's official Editorial Comment (which I also write) to make a plea for local people to do everything they can to help catch the killer.
This is the comment/editorial I wrote, printed on Thursday, October 15.
'The phrase ‘every parent’s nightmare’ is one that is heard so often in everyday usage that it is probably quite meaningless now.
But if the phrase ever had any true meaning, it was in the distressing situation facing Steve and Pat Hall about the disappearance of their daughter, Melanie.
Thirteen years ago this bright, vivacious girl who had everything to live for, made a rare visit to a nightclub in Bath. She was never to return.
In the days, weeks and months that followed there were many theories about what might have happened to Melanie but time and time again the hopes of finding her were dashed and her parents were left in the most appalling state of limbo.
As those months turned to years the hopes that Melanie may one day turn up unexpectedly on the doorstep started to fade away totally but the mystery of what actually happened to her on that evening and where she was now never went away.
Until now that is.
The discovery of Melanie’s body on the side of the M5 last week and the subsequent, sadly inevitable, conclusion that she was the victim of a murder has reopened for her parents the whole awful nightmare again.
For Pat and Steve Hall the news of their daughter’s final resting place brought a welcome closure to the unanswered question that dominated their lives but also reopened the floodgates of pain once again. By throwing themselves into their work and hobbies – Pat was a senior player at the Royal United Hospital and Steve made a massive impression on Bath City Football Club – the couple had been able to create a life for themselves where they were not only the parents of a missing girl.
Now their world has been shaken again and their private anguish has become very public once more.
When the news broke for the family they had very mixed emotions. Although they were obviously distressed to realise the circumstances that led to their daughter’s death, they were at least comforted by the fact that now she can be laid to rest and they can give her the funeral and celebration of her life that she had been hitherto denied.
For the family, the police and indeed the whole city, the closure of this one door has opened another one – and it is one which is hard for us to all face. And that is that somebody – and possibly even somebody who is reading these words – killed Melanie and has escaped justice.
The best way we as a community can now help to respect the memory of Melanie and help her family to get through this new phase of their grieving is to try to do everything we can to help the police track down her murderer. Although this crime took place 13 years ago and there have been many investigations and false dawns since, the discovery of Melanie’s last resting place may well provide some of the vital clues that have eluded the police over the past decade.
The remarkable advances in forensic science and DNA mean that police have far more tools at their disposal to deal with crimes of this nature than ever before, and the clues that should be available by this discovery may well help to solve this long-standing crime. The most important tool of all, however, is still in the hands of the people of this city. Since the discovery, more than 100 calls (now 200) have been made to the incident room from people offering information and help about the case and we once again can only reiterate that if you were a witness or you were around Walcot Street on the night of June 8/9, 1996 and the renewed publicity has triggered something in your mind, no matter how small, then please contact the police.
The police would rather take a 1,000 calls that led nowhere than miss the one crucial one that could make the difference so please don’t hesitate to contact them with any information you have. (You can call them on 0117 945 5811 or via Crimestoppers Confidential on 0800 555111.)
And there is a whole new set of people who can help this case – people who may have been nowhere near Walcot Street in the summer of ’96. And they are the people who may have had suspicions that somebody close to them may have been involved in this terrible crime. None of us would like to face up to these suspicions, but we owe it to the memory of this young girl – and maybe others like her who were in similar circumstances – to act upon those doubts.
Perhaps if this is you, you had the thought at the back of your mind that maybe this case wasn’t as bad as it might have been. But now you know that we are talking about a brutal murder, it is time to act.
It is time to pick up that phone.
The disappearance of Melanie Hall has been a painful part of our city’s life for 13 years. Melanie’s parents cannot speak highly enough of the support they’ve had from people in Bath and the Bradford on Avon area. They know that everyone locally would like to see a resolution to this crime once and for all – let us give them that support to do so.
Finally, let us pay a tribute to Melanie Hall herself. She was a much-loved daughter and sister with an appetite for life and a wonderful spirit and in the weeks and months to come let us remember and celebrate that fact. She had a terrible death but a wonderful life before and let us all try to remember the girl and not just the victim.
Rest in peace, Melanie.
Sam Holliday, Editor
Friday, 9 October 2009
Last week I had the pleasure of adding the word ‘art’ to the growing CV of things I have had the chance to judge over the years.
As I said in this column a few weeks ago, my position as editor has led me to judge everything from rock competitions to beauty competitions (and practically everything in between) but until last Thursday, I had not had the pleasure of having a say in who should win prizes (totalling £5,000 no less) for the quality of their art.
I was invited – and I like to think as a representative of you all – to be one of the judges for The Bath Prize, a splendid new competition which encourages artists from this country and beyond to “celebrate the glory of our World Heritage city” with a painting depicting an inspiring view.
The competition attracted more than 150 high-quality entries from 100 different artists and the results of their endeavours are now on view for all to see at a superb free exhibition in the stunning venue of The Octagon in Milsom Place.
I think it is fair to say straight away, however, that if it takes an artist to know an artist then I should have been in big trouble.
To quote possibly the world’s oldest cliche, “I don’t know much about art but I know what I like” and I like to think I have a good eye for a striking image. But my own ‘talents’ with a pencil or paintbrush are so limited as to be laughable.
Indeed, one of my abiding memories of my school days was when we had to draw a self-portrait in our art class. The bushily-bearded and often incoherent art teacher who, frankly, was never my biggest ‘fan’, sat at the front of the class with all the completed images, lifted them up one by one and, without looking at the name on the front, was able to identify all of the names of the people who had drawn them because they were so accurate. And then he came to my picture in the last book he had. I was obviously the only person who had not received my book back and yet he still uttered the crushing words:
“Looking at this, I have absolutely no idea who this person is.”
My days as an artist were over. Before they had actually begun.
So, I took great delight thinking about “Mr Bushy Beard” as I became an art critic for the day along with several other judges who thankfully knew far more about how to use a paintbrush than I ever could. Indeed I was almost as impressed by the way my fellow judges (David Lee, Laura Gascoigne and two of Bath’s indisputedly nicest men –- the mayor Colin Barrett and Richard Hall from Future Bath Plus) explained the qualities of the work we were reviewing, as I was by the actual pictures themselves.
Between us our judging mixture of punters and experts (and guess which one I was)? produced a winning selection of which I hope the city can be proud.
It was not an easy choice because we ended up with dozens of images in the supposed ‘short’ list, such was the quality, variety and diversity of some of wonderful work.
I know art and paintings aren’t everybody’s first choice of cultural entertainment but I really believe that The Bath Prize is something which the whole city can enjoy and so I hope thousands of people will go into the Octagon (pictured right to view the images of some of the best-known parts of our city and some which will leave you scratching your head thinking “now where the heck is that place...”
The best thing of all for me was seeing the different way in which different people viewed our city and its attractions. Some images were straightforward representations of famous scenes, others were romanticised, some were surreal but nearly all were utterly compelling. So, yes, I don’t know much about art – but I do know what I like. And in this case, what I like (and very much) is this fantastic exhibition which I would urge as many people as possible to try to view over the next week or so. Our winning pic is here......
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Why I found this somewhat surprising is because in many ways it doesn’t feel as though we’ve ever properly defined this period at all and it seems odd to wave goodbye to a decade we have barely said hello to.
One of the reasons for the lack of identity for this time is that even now, as we enter the last weeks of 2009, nobody has really found a decent, universally understood name for it. We all have images flash into our mind the moment anybody says the 1970s (Abba, punk, Silver Jubilee etc), the 1980s (Thatcher, new romantics, the wedding of Charles & Di etc), or the 1990s (Oasis, the rise of New Labour and Britpop) but this decade’s name just doesn’t have the same immediacy. The phrase ‘the noughties’ just doesn’t do it in the instant-warmth, instant-memory sphere does it?
The truth is, when I think we do look back on the noughties (for that looks to be the name which will go down in history), I suspect any of its great music or cultural events will be dwarfed by the really bad stuff. Forget the Beatles being the enduring image of the 1960s, for instance; I’m afraid this past period will best be remembered for 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, climate change, economic meltdown and that appalling fellow George W Bush.
But, if the noughties were a bad dream best forgotten, what are we going into next?
Are we going into a nice easy-to- identify, well-named decade like the 20s, 40s or 80s again? No, of course not. Sadly, we’ve got another decade with an ‘identity crisis’.
The preferred name (apparently) for the next ten year stretch (2010-2019) is the ‘twenty-tens’. Others prefer the ‘two thousand and tens’, some go for ‘the tens’ and the odd person (well, me to be specific) prefers ‘the teens’. OK, I accept that ‘the teens’ is fine for the year 2014 but not so great for 2011 but, heck, I still like it.
Of course, the one thing that can cheer us all about the decade to come is that we can already see some bright lights on the horizon.
There is nothing in the America constitution that could allow George Walker Bush to stand again (although I understand there are more Bush’s lurking in the, err, bushes) and let’s not forget this country will be given an enormous boost in 2012 when we will have the Olympics and hopefully six years later if we get the football World Cup. Even if you’re not a sports fan, you have to admit that at least it’s something positive to look forward to after the pretty uninspiring and rather bloody decade we’re vacating.
The end of a period like this will, inevitably, mean a plethora of newspaper and magazine reviews where we look at the highlights and lowlights of the years gone by. There will be Best of the Noughties CDs galore and you can bet your life that the TV schedules are already bulging with retrospective programmes about a decade I suspect many of us will actually quickly want to forget.
So what has (apart from the truly gruesome things mentioned earlier) really defined the noughties in the UK? I personally suspect it will be the rise of reality TV in all its guises from Big Brother and X Factor to the reality-TV-for-people-who-claim-they-
don’t-like-reality-TV such as The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den. Such programmes have revolutionised TV and made everyone believe, sadly, that ‘celebrity’ is the ultimate profession to aim for.
So, reader, George W Bush and Simon Cowell could well be THE defining faces of the noughties.
Bring on the ‘teens’....
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Every editor of every local newspaper ever will at some point, (and usually quite frequently), be accused of being biased.
Because we live in a world where everybody has an opinion on everything, a lot of people assume that local newspapers (and their editors) are equally one-sided in their views and will do everything in their power to persuade others to follow it.
Well, guess what, – you are half right.
Yes, we journalists are as opinionated and passionate about causes as the next man but we are also a pretty professional bunch in the local media and we all subscribe to the view that the only bias we can ever exhibit is to our readers.
Opinions can be made in columns, blogs like this or in our Comment piece (and we are not shy of launching campaigns on issues we care about) but the news is 100 per cent untainted and totally free of bias.
I say this today because last Friday Bath (and the Bath Chronicle offices) had a visit from David Cameron.
The visit of the Tory leader provoked a lively debate on our website, www.thisisbath.co.uk, and it didn’t take long for someone to accuse my erstwhile opinion-free deputy Paul Wiltshire for being akin to a Tory lackey.
This, we found particularly amsuing, as a few weeks ago he had been called a Lib-Dem lackey as well. He is clearly therefore a lackey – albeit one who is awfully confused about his politics
I suffered the same at a previous newspaper I worked at in Tamworth, in the Midlands. That was a very tight Labour/Tory marginal seat and I was frequently told by the Labour lot that they knew that I was a Tory while the Tories equally said that they knew I was a Labour man. This to be proved that I was doing my job right – if all politicians think you’re against them, then you’re probably putting the interests of the readers above the parties. And that’s how it should be.
Returning to Mr Cameron, I can’t deny that I was very grateful to our local Conservative hopeful, Fabian Richter, for bringing his party leader into our office where I was able to chat to him about issues of concern in our industry and our community. He was kind, generous with his time and tried to meet and talk to as many of our staff as possible.
Even one or two dyed-in-the-wool Labourites (for yes, shock horror, our office is the same as every other in covering all political persuasions!) were quietly impressed I think.
I then went to hear Mr Cameron address the people of Bath at his very interesting and informative public meeting. He was put on the spot by local people on a wide variety of important issues and he handled himself extremely well to my eyes.
It says a lot, I think, about how politics has become so centerist that I mentioned to my colleague Paul (he’s the Tory/Lib-Dem lackey remember) that I think if you analysed what was said , you would not have heard anything from David Cameron that Tony Blair would not have said. I’m sure both Mr Blair and Mr Cameron would be pretty aghast by that comparison but the truth is there is a consensus in our politics today that means that sometimes it is different suit, different party – but the same words, themes and ideals.
Friday’s visit also showed that Bath is very much in the Tory’s sights. We already have a very good sitting MP I think (oh my God I’m being biased again!) but we also have a very strong Tory challenger too now (oh my God more bias!) and so next May/June's elections suddenly looks very interesting indeed ...
Please send all your accusations of bias in this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, I joined the procession of people who headed for the record stores to buy copies of the newly re-mastered albums by The Beatles on the day of their release.
As is the wont of every serious music fan, I am a real admirer of all things Beatle and so I was mightily tempted by the re-release of all their classic albums in a new improved format. I therefore bought my copy of Revolver (just how good is Here, There and Everywhere?) and was most gratified when the charming assistant in HMV in Bath assured me I was one of many who had done the same on this much-hyped day.
So many others did the same, in fact, that a few days later the official album chart saw no fewer than four of these 60s written beauties in the top ten and a further seven in the top 50 charts. Amazing.
True, these are remarkable albums by a remarkable band and they do look and sound pretty nifty but the actual change to the CD quality isn’t that different to my uneducated ears and yet we have all fallen for this wonderful marketing hype.
But I didn’t learn my lesson for, yes, I was ‘hyping it up’ again the week after.
Along with many thousands of others, I had pre-ordered my copy of the latest Dan Brown book, The Lost Symbol. This is the much-anticipated follow up to The Da Vinci Code, that ridiculous piece of entertaining religious hokum which sold more than 80 million copies worldwide.
It is easy (OK, it’s actually very easy) to take the proverbial Michael out of Dan Brown’s somewhat simplistic way of writing but there is no denying this guy is a fantastic story teller and I had been snared by all that advanced hype yet again forcing me to purchase on day of release.
I am sure that part of the desire to get things like this on the day they are launched even if it does mean I have the words ‘hype victim’ tattooed on my brow probably stems from my journalistic desire to always find out something before everybody else.
I love to hear other opinions and read reviews but there’s nothing like discovering something for yourself and sharing your views with others before they do the same to you.
Indeed, returning to music, I think perhaps some of the magic has gone out of buying new material in that tracks are now played on radios and TV stations and YouTube weeks before release to tempt purchasers.
I much preferred the old way when normally the first time you would actually get to hear a record was when you bought it yourself and you became part of the advertising campaign all on your own.
Right, can I start the hype about the next (not even yet written) Stranglers album? Thought not.
A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of being invited to be one of the judges at the Frome Agricultural and Cheese Show.
You may feel this is because of my expert knowledge about both agriculture and cheese. But your feeling would be wrong.
As a newspaper editor (and in this case it is with my hat on as editor of our sister papers, the Somerset Standard & Guardian), you are regarded as an independent person who can bring something fresh and unbiased to the judging table.
It is for this reason that over the years the words “judges include Sam Holliday” have been applied to a bewildering range of events.
I have judged (among others) dog shows, baby shows, short stories, rock bands, art competitions, firework posters, singers, young business people, newspapers, sportsmen and sportswomen, various personalities of the year awards and a somewhat embarrassing number of beauty competitions.
At each turn I’ve tried to be as independent and as bias-free as possible because I think as editor I am really there representing all our readers and therefore I have to be as impartial as possible and just look for the best in the various categories put in front of me.
I have to say that although it is a great honour to judge, it is not as easy as you think and particularly when you find yourself in the very dubious position of judging people by their looks.
Over the years I have helped to select a Miss Bath, a Miss Tamworth, a Miss Sutton Coldfield and a Miss Walsall. This may make me sound like an appalling letch, but I assure you I’m far from being so.
I’ve always been invited because we’ve tended to publicise such events and our ‘reward’ is a seat on the judging panel. The irony is, I sort of think this thing is all a bit outdated and I’m in the bizarre situation of feeling quite embarrassed at times in not knowing quite where to look . . .
In Bath, of course, all the young ladies who entered tended to be very articulate and intelligent and so we were able to judge people as a whole, as it should be, but I remember with a wince one of the years when I judged Miss Walsall, where, shall I say, there were more tattoos on view than GCSEs with oen or two of the ladies. I can still recall one horrible moment when I was in the men’s toilets during the interval and a very large man with less hair than a snooker ball said to me: “You’re one of the judges aren’t you? My girlfriend never got through the first round – are you saying she’s ugly?” The answer (of course) was I didn’t – but what could I do about the rest of those judges apart from recommend a trip to Specsavers?