Category Archives: Music

Protest punk bridges the generation gap and highlights 2017 legacy challenge

Forty years after the release of God Save The Queen and seven days before a General Election, protest punk rock is alive and well in East Hull.

Or is it? I’ve still got that single. Asked my mum to pick it up while she was in town. Remember when Boots sold records? And I saw the Sex Pistols on the tour which followed.

Memories fade, but I’m sure I’d have remembered if Johnny Rotten had said: “Okay guys, let’s huddle round the microphone. I’ll croon. Sid ­– you do the ‘bom, bom’, Paul – you’re on the ‘oohs’ and Steve, can you manage the ‘ahs’? And we’ll all click our fingers!”

A capella? A ca-bleeding-pella? No, the punk of The King Blues is more polished, tuneful and melodic than the raw stuff that rocked the world in 1977. They bring out an electro acoustic guitar, a ukulele and even have a guy whistling at one point.

And that audience! There are teenagers, and couples nearly as old as me. They all know the words, and they don’t pull any punches. For some it would have been a tough choice between The King Blues, supported by Counting Coins, at the Freedom Centre or a not-quite-head-to-head debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn live on TV.

The abiding thought here was that if the Prime Minister really is too fragile to take on her main adversary face-to-face, these guys would chew her up and spit her out before the end of the sound check.

Some of the material was beautifully brutal – ferocious messages wrapped in a soft, snuggly blanket. A razor blade in the raspberry mousse. Trojan tunes, appropriately enough being played just down the road from Hull KR’s place on the eve of the appearances there by Paul Heaton and Billy Bragg, expert practitioners of this sort of thing from 30 years ago.

The King Blues combine punk played with power, tip-toeing and tub-thumping ska, spoken word with bark and bite, and a sense of humour to bring the house down. When the hair-trigger fire alarm forced the band to ditch the smoke machine, they pulled a young, volunteer vaper out of the crowd and gave him the job of sitting centre stage, exhaling at every chorus. Not an easy task when the human smoke machine was trying to sing along as well.

Counting Coins were Counting Coins. High energy from permanently pumped-up front man Harry, the tightest musicianship starring spectacular, soaring trumpet, and signs of greater accessibility in the band’s new material.

They’ll be back soon as the festival season gather pace, but what next for the Freedom Centre? It was a coup to get the Coins there, never mind a crew of the calibre of London-based King Blues, and it happened only because the Hull 2017 team pitched in with the Back To Ours programme.

Such initiatives are essential and, in the legacy sense, arguably worth more in the long term than a Radio One Big Weekend. One young fan said it was the first time he could remember being able to see established bands, with proper equipment and tech, playing within walking distance of his home just down the road. And all for a fiver.

The challenge is to do it again, but the couple of hundred people who formed this Freedom Centre audience would soon dwindle if the absence of subsidies pushed up the ticket price. There’s an opportunity here for Sesh or for Springboard to spread their wings. It all costs money, but the benefits of culture are innumerable and immense. Community groups and corporates can get together to make it happen.

Many thanks to @louiseaeardly for the pix.



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Music, murder, tea and cake

What sparks your Euphoria?
On the evidence of this remarkable new play from Dave Windass and Morgan Sproxton, cavorting around a dancefloor did the trick for them. As it would for many people. So why not write a play about it?
Windass already has, with his lively Ballroom Blitz recently playing to high-percentage houses at Hull Truck. Sproxton’s City Of Light, which has just finished a two-week run at Truck, showed a sharp eye for the archives as it traced personal relationships over 70 years of Hull Fair.
The themes come together here, but in a different way. Euphoria shows that Saturday night on the dancefloor may be rather different now from the nineties, the seventies and the forties, but that the eagerness remains the same as people wait for the weekend to rescue them from the humdrum.
It is inspired, intriguing and in five different venues.
The action is already under way when you step into Fruit. You’re instantly part of the production as you spot the kids dancing at the front, get yourself a drink, meet a few friends and stand, chatting, around the edges. When people walk into nightclubs that’s what they do.
Then the volume drops and the actors are easing out the extras. Poppy and Kellie speak up. Jake intervenes and in no time the atmosphere descends from one of euphoria into something much more uncertain, even unnerving. Soulmate or stalker? Prat or predator? Harmless fun or homicidal maniac?
And then the walkabout, with the next three scenes each taking place in other former fruit market warehouses along Humber Street. The promenade style has been done before, but not often, not for a good few years and not totally out of the blue.
Flashing blue is the colour for the fifth venue, – a police crime scene tent, taped off and teasing the audience as they go looking for clues.

So there’s no interval in Euphoria, just the natural breaks which come from strolling between one venue and the next, passing other members of the audience in the street, chatting among each other and trying not to forget that when the actors address you, staring intensely, you’re part of the play.
We meet the Saturday Night Fever obsessive, the pill-popping ravers and the old dear who will never forget her last dance with a handsome young airman before his one-way trip to the Second World War, and who served tea and the most wonderful cake while she told her story.
All three tales weave together and take you back to Fruit for the final scene. The kids are still dancing. We’re still part of the production, wallflowers drinking, stepping aside to let Jake through to the bar for another round of shots, giving up a seat because Poppy really isn’t feeling well.
You study her throughout the show, watching her switch from perfectly lucid as she narrates the background to slurred and shambling as the night progresses. It’s a brilliant performance by Laura Aramayo and one which left many asking whether it is harder to act drunk while sober or to act sober while drunk.
It’s only on tonight and tomorrow but it’s well worth the effort so check out @EuphoriaPlay and @FruitSpaceHull Oh – and save room for cake.

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Filed under By Phil Ascough, Clubbing, Drama, Hull, Literature, Media, Music, Theatre, Uncategorized

Gangster? Or just gossip in the sleazy bars of old Hull?

REASONABLE RATES: Still charging by the hour on Waterhouse Lane.

It wasn’t my first night job at the Hull Daily Mail – that was a review of the Sooty Show at the New Theatre.
But it was one of my first late shifts. Start at 2pm, an hour’s break in the Hull Cheese about six-ish then back to the desk with a Yankeeburger. And fries of course. Read the papers, bash a few stories out, ring round the police, fire and ambulance contacts.
“A what?”
“A body.”
“Oh. Er… I need to know about that then.”
My first murder. There had been one or two to cover at my first paper in Doncaster but I’d never been involved at the sharp end. Now I was the only person on the Mail who knew about it; it was up to me to lead our response.
Thankfully there was only so much I could do at getting on for 10pm on a Friday in late autumn. I say “thankfully” because you never really get used to covering murders, and because this being a Friday the aim was always to get finished at 10 on the dot, head back to the Cheese and then down to the Waterfront Club.
So we covered the bases. A snapper went and photographed what he could from the scene at Earles Road, the lane leading down to the old Victoria Dock. He didn’t get much, a few coppers milling around, one or two police vans. I typed up a holding story for the morning, when we would be able to get more information.
That came from a police press conference. I can’t even remember now whether it was at Queens Gardens or Tower Grange. But what I will never forget is the question from a freelance journalist who I would get to know quite well over the years. Jim Goodrick must have been well into his fifties then and always looked older, silver-haired and immaculately dressed, very proper with no time for Fleet Street wide boys or anyone who adopted their approach.
“Was she a sporting girl?” he asked. Even at the age of 21 I thought it a strange term for a prostitute – rough sex on a remote part of the dock estate right up there with football and rugby league, hockey and lacrosse.
Sporting girl, prostitute, sex worker. She was all three, and met her death at the hands of a trucker, lorry driver, punter.
The episode got me thinking, as young reporters do, that there was an in-depth feature to be written about prostitution. I chatted about it with colleagues and we decided, as young reporters do, that we would have to carry out some independent research before presenting the idea to the news desk. So on my day off, as young reporters do, I headed to begin my inquiries in a sleazy pub known to be at the heart of the sex industry.
Waterhouse Lane, across the main road from what is now Hull Marina, was always lined with women offering sex for sale. The infamous Earl de Grey pub stood on the corner at the end. In later years there were stories of the girls conducting their business in the pub toilets because some Middlesbrough football fans were running amok in the lane outside. The whole hooker operation was very visible.
On this Thursday lunchtime the place was packed. I’d just been paid and by the look of the lounge bar so had everyone else. The air was thick with cigarette smoke and there was just once vacant seat. I didn’t think for a second why no one would want to sit next to the big black man, the only non-white face in the room and first person I’d ever seen with tattoos on his face. He confirmed the seat was free so I joined him and we chatted.
And we chatted and drank and smoked until last orders, 2pm in those days. And then, new best friends, we climbed into a cab and headed a mile or so down Hessle Road to Gillett Street Club, one of the few places in Hull where you could drink all afternoon.
On such occasions it’s perfectly possible to spend an entire afternoon with someone yet learn next to nothing about them – work, family, even age, although I’d have guessed at about 10 years older than me. In the Earl de Grey I established his name was Ray. On arrival at the club I watched as he signed me in, carefully scratching out “Raymond June Harvey” like a kid tagging their homework.
“Weird,” I said, as I told my colleagues that evening.
“You could’ve been killed!” they responded.
Turned out Ray was a bit of a bad lad. Fancied himself as the hardest bloke in Hull and not many were up for challenging him.
The next time I saw him was a few months later when, covering proceedings at Beverley Crown Court, I spotted the name Raymond June Harvey on the sheet just as he arrived in the dock. I forget the charge and I can’t remember whether he got sent down or was let off with a suspended sentence, but it was all down to him threatening a lad of about 12 somewhere on Beverley High Road. Ray put a replica gun to the boy’s head and pulling the trigger. The lad was scared witless, but someone told the police.
A couple of years after that I found myself sitting in another pub with another big black man who enjoyed – no, that really is the right word – a reputation for violence.
“Didn’t you used to hang around with Ray Harvey?” I asked Les Hilton
“Oh. I thought you two were…”
“Ray Harvey used to hang around with me!” finished Les
Years later Ray became a regular at the Adelphi Club, turned a few heads with a pretty bizarre and probably drug-fuelled dance style that involved a lot of staring into space. But he was never any trouble.
And the last time I saw him, in early summer 2008, he was positively frail as he stepped out of the Cross Keys pub into the early evening sun and shuffled off to watch another band in another bar at the Springboard music festival in Cottingham.
His dreadlocks were as immaculate as his dress, but his stick was evidence that he wasn’t well, as was the black and white check coat, too thick and long for such a warm day but inadequate to conceal the stoop of a man who looked much older than he was. I helped him across the busy road.
It all came back to mind at the launch recently of Scream If You Want To Go Faster, the new book by local author Russ Litten, and full of the flavour of Hull.
Eddie Smith, formerly the singer with The Gargoyles, kicked off the proceedings with some of his poetry – the same crackpot style of his old band, just without the music.
And his first poem was about Ray, Eddie suggesting that the one-time tough-guy would have terrorised his way through the pearly gates and would now be bullying Jesus while God turned a blind eye to try and keep the peace.
“Is he dead then?” came a voice from the crowd.
“Well they cremated him last week,” replied Eddie.
And I just thought: “He’d better have been dead, because you don’t fuck about with Ray Harvey.”
Or maybe it was all talk. We’ll never know.
The Earl de Grey is still there, spared by the delayed redevelopment of land next to the Princes Quay shopping centre but boarded up and not looking like opening any time soon.
And Waterhouse Lane is there as well, but the girls have moved on and there isn’t even a street sign at either end of the road or hanging from the derelict buildings. Oversight or an attempt to ease the notorious knocking-shop of a street out of the memory?
There is one sign though, in the car park next to the Earl de Grey. It says: “PAY & DISPLAY WATERHOUSE LANE.” Which sums up its history as well as anything.


Filed under Beer, By Phil Ascough, Hull, Media, Music, Uncategorized

Ray’s beats Ramsey’s on Ruby Tuesday

In most curry houses of my acquaintance a dull thud after dinner is usually evidence of a drunk passing out.

But at Curry Corner in Cheltenham it’s a sign of confidence as the waiter drops a hefty comments book on your table.

And this is no ordinary comments book. The leather binding renders it mightily impressive from the outside, and a flick through the pages reveals some glowing endorsements from people who would claim to know their bhuna from their bhajee.

They include some very satisfied locals, a few tourists and even a small handful of celebs. Indeed the pages are printed with the testimonials of Rick Stein, Richard Branson and Gordon Ramsey.

It’s all a bit bogus of course because good manners dictate that you don’t spice up the comments book with fiery feedback. If the curry isn’t up to scratch surely you just tell them? Or do a runner?

Imagine Stein writing: “I’d rather have fish and chips.”

Branson: “Powerful enough to fly my balloon.”

Ramsey: “******* brilliant!”

But we know that’s what Ramsey really thinks because this place was the second-best curry venue in his TV challenge last year for local restaurants, beaten only by an even trendier joint in Birmingham.

While I wouldn’t say I have a problem with the concept of Michelin-starred Madras, it is a fair step from my curry house comfort zone.

My long-time favourite, Ray’s Place in Hull, has its roots in Bradford, a city where if you want cutlery you generally have to ask. The norm was, and still is in many places, to dip and dunk with your naan, chapati, paratha or house equivalent.

In some ways Ray’s is more sophisticated than that; in others not. With us it became a tradition during the 80s – plenty of beer in the local, top live music at the Adelphi club and then a curry at Ray’s, same day every week. We called it Ruby Tuesday.

And then there was a place in Attercliffe, just outside Sheffield city centre. I remember the food was great, the cutlery was absent and there were No Waiting cones on the tables, so it must have been a stag night.

In both of those places four or five of us could have eaten handsomely for the prices charged at Curry Corner, but they were much more modest establishments and it was nearly 30 years ago. The beer was plentiful, not that we hadn’t knocked back enough before we arrived. Indeed if someone had presented us with a comments book we’d have struggled to write our own names.

At Curry Corner we couldn’t fault the food or, given the surroundings, the price. But the beer selection was limited to bottles, which always means higher prices, and the serving dishes, when not quite empty, were whisked away before you could decide whether to dip or dunk.

So if we’d contributed to the comments book it would have been with three tips that may (or not) help the place take first prize in Ramsey’s new TV challenge.

  1. Let’s have some draught beer please instead of just bottles.
  2. Slow down. It’s not speed-dating (unless it is on a Tuesday night in Cheltenham and no one told us).
  3. Let’s have a nicer pen please. I bet Gordon Ramsey wasn’t offered a pound shop ballpoint with a broken clip.

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Turn off the TV, tune in to the sound of Springboard

Danny Landua (right), live at the Springboard Festival.

With the BBC showing the musical wilderness that is the Eurovision Song Contest and ITV seemingly trying to take over the world with the freak show that is Britain’s Got Talent the Springboard Festival provided a desperately-needed escape route.

It’s one of those lesser music events that struggles for mainstream media space against the big extravaganzas and even – it would appear round here – against bog-standard village fetes and parties in urban parks, but Springboard is growing up in its own quiet(ish) way.

From cautious beginnings at a couple of pubs in the village of Cottingham, a few miles outside Hull, Springboard now boasts eight stages in six pubs and a roster of about 170 live performances over four days and three nights.

Add the impromptu buskers and wandering minstrels and you end up with a musical feast and pubs packed with people who thankfully prefer the real thing to the mass-produced drivel on their TV screens.

If there’s a criticism it’s that the event is now becoming a tad too big for venues which don’t have the ideal stage and viewing area and for the organisational expertise of the people running the show. But that doesn’t mean Springboard needs to get bigger every year – it just needs to find its level.

That level varies depending on things like the time of day, the style of music on offer, the sun, the rain and the amount of alcohol consumed.

For families it’s perhaps unfortunate that the curfew is creeping forward a little every year. Kids used to congregate in comfort as late as seven, eight or even nine of an evening. This year they were being pushed out by increasingly wobbly grown-ups by about 6pm.

That probably had as much to do with the combination of fine weather and the prospect of a Bank Holiday lie-in. Less easy to justify was the foul-mouthed repertoire of one performer in a family pub just before 5pm on a Sunday.

“That man kept singing the F-word!” said our seven-year-old daughter as we headed for the door and the performer began his next song. About masturbation.

But it would be unfair to dwell on the negatives. We’ll go again next year and if Springboard don’t learn from their mistakes then we will. We’ll arrive earlier in the afternoon and leave earlier in the evening, but we’ll still be confident of having plenty of fun given the great variety of styles on offer.

Our seven-year-old drew the line at the comedy antics of some bloke belting out “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” to the accompaniment of a gloved fist smashing into a beer tray.

“If that man went on Britain’s Got Talent he’d get three crosses,” she commented.

Still at the quirky end of the spectrum, but more positively received, was Mark Robinson punching out his bouncy 70-s style World Cup anthem on a low-slung shoulder synthesiser.

Testtone3 from York delivered a style of glam-rock, the guitarist playing with his teeth and the whole set giving a nod of acknowledgment to Spinal Tap. Danny Landau is a singer-songwriter who deserves bigger audiences, Georgia Seddon has a unique, chirpy singing style over some very deliberate piano-playing and shared the stage with Marie Sioux, a rising singer-songwriter star from California, on their way to a gig at the legendary Hull Adelphi Club.

If you’re into live music check them all out via the usual search engines. Have a look also for Adrian Byron Burns, visiting from France and a Springboard regular of international renown. And the loud, growling sound of the James Dean Syndrome and the punky reggae ska rap rock combinations of Counting Coins, my personal highlight.

And in the middle of it all was a heavy metal band whose output made me think of something extremely heavy being dropped from a great height and very aggressively on Britain’s Got Talent. If only…

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Filed under Britain's Got Talent, By Phil Ascough, Eurovision Song Contest, Music

World Cup kicks off summer of multicultural fun

Flying the flag for Angola.

Of greater personal concern than the outcome of the general election is the fact that where I live the BNP came fourth.

They finished behind, respectively, the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour and ahead of the English Democrats and the trailing Greens.

That means 1,583 voters were of the view that neither the English Democrats nor sitting MP David Davis were sufficiently right-wing. Which in turn makes you wonder whether such individuals should be entrusted with anything so sharp as a polling station pencil.

Thankfully relief and some joy came at the weekend with the arrival, just over the border, of the first Hull World Cup.

A community organisation called the Goodwin Development Trust came up with the idea. Their aim was to assemble 16 teams; they attracted 20. Local residents represented the home nations, eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.

As a mini-festival of international football, food and music it was a good start. To develop into a bigger event embracing the wider community Goodwin needs to expand the off-field activities beyond the handful of tents and food vans present on Saturday, but with a promise of 30 teams for next year the signs are encouraging. There is even talk of expanding nationally.

No one should really be surprised by the success. Hull has an image problem, but one created by a failure to balance the negative publicity with a few column inches about some of the good stuff. Many people think Hull is rough, or they don’t think about it at all.

And the city does have a decent heritage when it comes to tolerance, stretching back through its years as a major port to the beginnings of the 19th century when the locally-born William Wilberforce led the abolition of the slave trade.

There’s more to come with the Springboard music festival ( about to attract more than 170 performers on the weekend of 28 May to eight or nine stages in six pubs in the nearby village of Cottingham. And on 5 June back in Hull the Vista festival ( promises more multicultural fun with live bands and some workshops from the award-winning Hull Truck Theatre.

Meanwhile back at the football the standard was mixed, much like the real thing. England as hosts had the strongest support, DR Congo the coolest shirts with light-blue and red sleeves, Ghana the brightest hat and the most passion, singing their anthem before every game they played.

Stereotypes did kick-in to a degree. The African nations had individuals capable of brilliance but lacked depth, England had a man sent off early in their first game and Scotland caused more of a surprise when their result against Latvia was corrected to a win than when it was originally announced as a defeat. For the record the Kurdish team beat Iraq in the final.

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Filed under By Phil Ascough, Election, Football, Music, Uncategorized

Polling day? Let’s play politician, preacher, burglar, terrorist

In readiness for a stroll along the campaign trail, some Red Guitars.

One of the truly great indie bands and a favourite of the late John Peel. Check out the wonderful, updated site at and, while there, the typically topical lyrics to Steeltown:

“It doesn’t matter how I vote, the same confederacy of fools get in.”

Which puts me in the mood for a bit of electoral mischief as I wander into the centre of Cottingham, maybe the biggest population centre in Haltemprice and Howden, currently held by former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis.

It’s market day, the last one before the General Election, so the village should be buzzing with politicians and public, maybe even press and pollsters.

Having met Ricky Knight (Green, Bristol West) a couple of days earlier I’ve promised to pass on his best wishes to his colleague Shan Oakes. I’ll also thank her for the leaflet that came through my front door. Apart from Oakes, only the Tories have bothered to do that.

So I want to see the Lib Dem candidate to ask if a vote for him is really a vote for David Cameron, and the Labour candidate to ask whether it’s worth voting for him at all. Apparently we’ve also got the BNP and English Democrats, so I’ll ask them whether collectively they can compensate for the absence of a Monster Raving Loony.

Cottingham claims to be the biggest village in England. It’s got more than 17,000 people, three or four opticians, a few chemists and bakers, two butchers and too many charity shops. And nine pubs, most of which are not very good. The electoral profile is shaped more by the army of elderly from the various sheltered housing developments than the hordes of students from the University of Hull’s halls of residence.

The old dears shuffle with their bags on wheels between the Sense, Red Cross, Oxfam, Dove House Hospice and British Heart Foundation shops, all the time vulnerable to a smarmy, smiling candidate armed with a wet kiss. If the students have registered to vote it’s either not for this constituency or it’s from a long forgotten address that they haven’t occupied for months.

Early signs are promising. Remember the old adage: “Where there’s a TV camera there’s a politician.”

Walk past the fruit and veg stall, the place selling loads of stuff for old ladies’ cats, the lady with a table creaking under the weight of some rather substantial cakes and pies, the take-away food trailer and at last there’s the first sign of a candidate.

A Green Party placard is propped against a tree. And there, clutching a mug of tea and chatting to someone in the bus shelter, is Shan Oakes.

As I pass on the message from Ricky Knight, the only politician in the village is distracted. She’s spotted the TV crew and is off, only to return moments later: “It’s the weather girl from the local BBC. They’re asking people whether they’ll vote if it rains on election day.”

We discuss, briefly, the merits of engaging in debate with a TV weather girl. Where is Lembit Opik when you really need him?

Then I ask what’s happened to the other candidates. Not surprisingly Oakes doesn’t really care. It’s a nice day and she’s got the market crowd to herself.

David Davis though is known for avoiding the competition. Devious or just serial scaredy-cat? If you find him please ask him.

In 2008, when he prompted a by-election over not having a big enough milk monitor’s badge, Davis reportedly declined the challenge of addressing a youth assembly alongside the Greens, who were his closest rivals in a field of 26 shorn of Lib Dem and Labour but comprising everything else from racists to Elvis impersonators, Miss Great Britain and David Icke. Then he tiptoed off and organised his own event.

During this campaign he’s said to have ducked out of a hustings organised by two vicars, claimed he hadn’t been invited in the first place, and then prodded the preachers as if to emphasise that his boss is bigger than theirs. I’d wanted to ask David Davis about all this but he was nowhere to be found.

Maybe his former service with the Territorial Army SAS enables him to sneak into the constituency undercover, kiss a few pensioners and sneak out again. Or maybe SAS means he only works on Saturdays and Sundays.

A plummy adolescent with a blue rosette sought permission for Davis to visit one of the local pubs last week, though not of course before checking there was absolutely no danger of falling into a debate with another candidate.

The licensee declined, but later temporarily lifted the ban on political discussions to consider the trustworthiness of politicians against…

Vicars: “Well obviously a vicar is much more likely to tell the truth.”

Burglars: “They do say there’s honesty among thieves.”

Terrorists: “At least most of them have the courage of their convictions.”

It was the former Prime Minister John Major who told the House of Commons during the 1990s that he was “putting an end to the ‘something for nothing’ society.” In doing so he was supporting the expansion of the “what’s in it for me” society.

Now the Tories are pinning their hopes on people backing their “Big Society.” Round here it looks more like a “Big Secret Society.”

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Filed under By Phil Ascough, Election, Music, Red Guitars, Uncategorized