Archived entries for Home

Three Lions on a Shirt

England fan and academic Mark Perryman writes about how the England shirt could be the most appropriate national dress of an inclusive, progressive society and how a public holiday on St George’s Day, an English National Anthem and an England Football Team in the Olympics would all also be welcome.

Footballing Identity

‘Fuck off you racist, gypo cunts.’  Bulgaria vs England, 2 September 2011

It’s around the 70th minute in England’s well-deserved 3-0 victory over Bulgaria at Sofia’s Stadion Vasil Levski stadium. Tiresome and predictable, a bunch of the locals, wannabe hooligans, lose interest in their side going down to a heavyish defeat and resort instead to winding up our players. Not the catcalls and banter we’re more used to back home but richly offensive monkey grunts and gestures. In a split second the enjoyment of an England win turns to a collective fury at the way the likes of Ashley Young, Theo Walcott and debutant Chris Smalling are being singled out for abuse simply because of the colour of their skins.

This is an angry English, mainly white, mob, pumped up with Three Lions on our chest patriotism yet knowing precisely the nature of the offence being committed against our own is racism. Of course the contradictions in that anger matter: the anti-Roma prejudice, the sexism and the physical violence which would surely have erupted if the segregation between us and them hadn’t been maintained. But the reality of that anger directed at others’ racism should not be lightly discounted either. Continue reading…

Orbital, Royal Albert Hall (10 April 2012)

After a hiatus of eight years, dance veterans Orbital have returned with a new album and, to dust off the cobwebs, they’ve been back on the road with a short UK tour which closed with a Tuesday night rendezvous at the Royal Albert Hall. It isn’t your usual setting for throwing some shapes, and the various punters (many of whom appeared to be, shall we say, “of a certain age”) were probably as baffled as the uniformed staff – the former more used to being mashed in a field somewhere and the latter to rather more stately affairs. However, once things got going and the lights from the stage started strobing across the balconies of this venerable auditorium, it all kind of made sense. Continue reading…

Mervyn Peake

Hanging in the National Portrait Gallery, dated 1932, there is an oil painting of a young man with a distinctive shock of thick black hair, which seems to stand upright and undulate at the same time, like seaweed growing from the ocean bed. Surrounded by a dark, mysterious landscape of midnight blue skies and ominous mountains, he is wide-eyed, startled, leaning back fearfully from our gaze, his neat pencil moustache an almost comic contrast to his obvious eccentricity.

The subject and the painter of the portrait are the same man: Mervyn Peake. When he created this arresting self-portrait, he was twenty-one years old.

Those who have read Peake’s work might not be surprised by his own bizarre vision of himself. His most famous novels, Titus Groan and its sequel Gormenghast, could only ever been the work of the man in that portrait. Dream-like and melancholy, often sinister and full of bizarre characters – yet with a strong thread of humour running through them – the Gormenghast novels were ahead of their time when they were published in the 1940s. Frankly, they still are. Continue reading…


Ahead of the general cinema release this Friday of Kevin MacDonald’s documentary of Bob Marley, James Dickens reviews it for The Substantive.

I think it’s fair to say Bob Marley’s life was almost tailor-made for movie adaptation. The tough upbringing, rise to superstardom, political influence, religious excesses, womanising and eventual untimely and very public death was made for the big screen. Therefore I was very surprised at the lack of any cinematic depictions of the Reggae icon thus far.

However given the recent trend for musical biopics (Walk the line, Nowhere Boy, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll to name but three) the timing now seems right, and a biopic based on Bob’s wife, Rita’s, Autobiography is currently in production. Marley though is entrenched firmly in the documentary camp, more along the lines of Julian Temple’s Joe Strummer feature ‘The Future is Unwritten’.

This film has taken a while to get off the ground. It was initially supposed to be directed by Martin Scorsese but due to scheduling conflicts, it was passed onto famous music film maker Jonathan Demme. He then also dropped out, citing ‘creative differences’ with producer Steve Bing. So it was left to director of Touching the Void and Last King of Scotland, Kevin MacDonald, to finally finish the film for its 2012 release.

So the question really is, was it worth the wait? Continue reading…

Underneath the Arch

Much has been made about the FA Cup being marginalised this season due to the venue of the semi-finals, and the particularly bizarre kick-off time of the second semi between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea yesterday. But until 1989 the semi-finals kicked-off at 3pm on Saturdays, the same time as other League games, and with no live television coverage.

The events at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989 were heard in intermittent reports on BBC Radio 2 Medium Wave and on breaking news on Grandstand by people tuning to hear updates about a big match. That day the complacency and arrogance of ignoring the previous incidents at the Leppings Lane end in 1981 FA Cup Semi-Final cost 96 lives, and was compounded by lies, denials and “misplaced evidence” by the police, and smears by News International’s The Sun.

Last summer shed a light on later collusions between News International and police forces, but evidence of how their earlier propaganda worked was heard from large pockets of Chelsea fans around Wembley yesterday, who disrespected the “moments silence” for the Hillsborough victims and Piermario Morosini, who lost his life on Saturday while playing for Livorno. The apt response from Tottenham fans, who booed the Chelsea fans and were united in calling them wankers after the referee gave up on the Silence, was the real human element that the organizers at Wembley, who try to manufacturer atmosphere, could never dream of capturing. Continue reading…

Ally Clow’s March 2012 Film Round-up

The Hunger Games and a BFI re-issue were highlights in a month full of releases.

March is usually an interesting month for cinema patrons looking for a certain kind of film. Awards season has come and gone and spring yields mainstream films that were never in with a chance for your consideration as well as independent films at odds with the summer blockbuster crop to come.

Mainstream March included The Hunger Games and This Means War and had a bit of everything – comedy (21 Jump St), a new Aardman (The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists!), some 3D spectaculars (John Carter and Wrath Of The Titans), horror (Devil Inside), schmaltzy romcoms (Wanderlust, We Bought A Zoo) and even a gross out teen party movie (Project X).

On the independent side of things, Dexter Fletcher released his directorial debut Wild Bill, some arthouse auteurs returned to our screens such as Jafar Panahi (This Is Not a Film), Werner Herzog (Into The Abyss,), the Dardennes Brothers (The Kid With A Bike) and Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Once Upon A Time In Anatolia). Other strong independent fare included Michael, Trishna, Contraband, This Is Not a Film and Tiny Furniture as UK Box Office wise, the influence of 2011’s King’s Speech, Black Swan and Tangled was finally running its course. Continue reading…

The Olympic Park Run

Ten days ago James Dickens was amongst the first thousand people to run on the new athletics track in a public event at the Olympic Stadium, Stratford. He shares his experience as part of The Substantive’s series of writing on the London Olympics.

Back in the dim and distant past (July last year), I entered a ballot to run the 2012 National Lottery Olympic Run. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I run a bit and enter my fair share of races. A few friends had applied and I thought it would be nice to do it together. October came around and low and behold, I received an email saying my application had been successful. I rang my friends and none of them had got a place. It seemed this race was in quite high demand and I had dropped very lucky. Continue reading…

Pressure Drop

Before the weekend Roberto Mancini publicly said that the title race would be over if Manchester United were to beat Queens Park Rangers at home as expected, and Manchester City would then go on to lose at The Emirates later in the day. The look of City’s play suggested their players believed it was fait accompli even before they had kicked-off, with an abject performance that had all the ambition in their approach of a mid-table team with nothing to play for, combined with an indiscipline more befitting a team fighting relegation. City have looked vulnerable to pressure at times this season, and they have recently heaped much of it upon themselves. Continue reading…

Joan Baez, Brighton Dome (26 Mar 2012)

When I walked into the Brighton Dome on Monday night to hear Joan Baez perform the last of her 21-stop tour of the UK, the first thing I noticed was a sofa on the stage. Next to the sofa was a standard lamp and a table with a bowl of daffodils on it – a familiar and homely tableau. At the front of the stage was a microphone with percussion set up to the left and a keyboard and assorted instruments ranged to the right.

What was going to happen? Was Joan Baez going to sit on the sofa and talk to us? Continue reading…

Faro Documents

What makes us go and see the films we see?

For me, the answer to this deceptively simple question is we choose the films we see via the film culture of our times and location. I get a thrill when I think of what a film culture is and the potential it has to help passionate moviegoers on their journey of cinematic discovery.  What is a film culture? In a sense, it’s the circus surrounding the freak-show that is cinema, it’s the dust in the beam of light from the projector – not as essential as the movies themselves but a conduit for a richer movie-going experience. It’s the magazines we read, the blogs we skim over, the stars tweets we reply to in the hope they might recognise us mere mortals. It’s also film clubs and societies, pop-ups or otherwise, cinemas, television and now, whether we like it or not, streaming.

I went to a screening of two rare Ingmar Bergman documentaries at the Lexi Cinema on Sunday night in Kensal Rise, a beautiful boutique one-screener which looks like a converted village hall. The night was hosted by the new collective A Nos Amours. And although I could be wrong, I don’t think the two film-makers behind the new collective, Joanna Hogg (Unrelated, Archipelago) and Adam Roberts, like to stream movies much. Continue reading…

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