Saturday, 22 December 2012

Pip, Pip and a Merry Christmas!

On Thursday, upstairs at the Prince Albert played host to a slightly more refined gathering than it’s used to, as Mr B brought his sold-out show to Brighton just in time for Christmas.

The evening started with an opera singer gliding through the G&T sipping crowd.  The Gentleman Rhymer’s yuletide show features many Chap-Hop staples taken from both his latest release ‘The Tweed Album’ and earlier offerings such as ‘I Say’.  There were a few festive treats thrown in, including new single ‘Oh, Santa!’ and a brand new take on ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’.

Showing his multi-instrumentalism, Mr B ‘[took] to the pianoforte, as all cabaret performers must do’ and then joked that the set was rather more smut-filled than he had intended, (after a particularly saucy ditty played on his table-top piano).

Mr B was joined onstage by his trusty Gentleman’s personal Gentleman, Carshalton, who performed his own below-stairs take on a blues classic.  

Excellent support from We AreGoose brought the perfect mix of comedy and music, a highlight being their song about a fight to the death of all the ‘Tims’ in the world (with an obligatory Timothy Dalton breakdown of course).

As always, the Brighton-based Mr B engaged the audience and encouraged audience participation and had everyone laughing as he proclaimed that he was definitely “chappy number 1 in Portslade”.

In the words of Mr B, ‘pip, pip and Merry Christmas’.

p.s. Mr B is hoping to get the 'Christmas no. 42' with 'Oh Santa'. I beleive you can get it from itunes, but I don't really understand all that (it's still records and CDs for me) but do have a look.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Southern Retro

Back in May, Mat Keller asked if I would sit for his project SouthernRetro, a photographic project ‘about individuals for whom reviving the past is part of their daily lives’.  I was quite honoured and of course said yes, but didn’t do anything for a few months as I didn’t have anywhere suitably ‘vintage’ to have the photoshoot.

Fast forward to me moving into my new house (with my lovely '50s kitchenette) and I was ready for my close-up, as they say.  So here are the photos.  Be sure to have a look on Mat's website to peruse lots of marvellous portraits and familiar faces (a fair few of whom I've interviewed!)

Friday, 14 December 2012

Competition time!

As I imagine you all know by now, I work for the Vintage News and this week we are running a competition to win a rather fabulous new album.  What could be better just before Christmas?

If you’ve read our review of The Jazz Age by The Bryan Ferry Orchestra, we’re sure you’re all eager to hear it.  Well, you are in luck!  We have one copy to give away to subscribers of our website.  Not already subscribed? Just click here and fill in the form.

After you’ve subscribed, to be in with a chance of winning just answer the following question:

Which 1927 collection of illustrations is the album artwork taken from?

hint: it might be worth taking another peek at the review ;)

Email your answer to with ‘The Jazz Age Competition’ as the subject

The competition ends midnight, Friday 21st December and the winner will be announced before Christmas – good luck!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Man who Made the Men who Made Menswear

I’d heard about this tour for a couple of months but had never managed to orchestrate it so that I was in London on the right day.  And then as luck would have it (or more a case of the tour guide, Russell Nash, being clever and knowing his audience) a tour was planned for the same day of the Chap's Grand Anarcho-Dandyist Ball (more of that later).

On the steps of the Athenaeum Club with George V
in the background (he didn't join us for the tour)
Meeting on the steps of the Athenaeum Club just off Piccadilly, we were treated to almost two hours of anecdotes and facts about some of the greatest figures in the history of menswear.  The tour takes you round St James’ and Mayfair, making stops at Jermyn Street, Savile Row and Burlington Arcade, among many other sartorially significant locations.

Russell Nash is clearly very passionate about his subject and this comes across in the engaging way in which he reveals interesting details about people you may already know a little about (such as Beau Brummel, Tommy Nutter and Bunny Roger).

With the statue of George 'Beau' Brummel at the bottom of Piccadilly Arcade
The tour charts the history of menswear over the past 200 years, starting with George IV and is brought up to date by the injection of (relatively) new talent on Savile Row such as Ozwald Boateng and Richard James.

I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and would like to see what Russell’s other walking tours of London are like.  I won’t reveal anymore about this one as I think you should all go and see it for yourselves!

Outside Lock & Co, St. James' Street

The last tour of this year – ‘Mayfair: High Born and Low Life' will be running on 12th December at 11am.  The Men Who Made Menswear and other tours, will be running again in the New Year.

For more information, see Russell’s website, or else follow him on twitter or instagram @MrRustyWoo

Let me know what you thought of the tour if you've already been or are planning on going - or even if you just like the pictures!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

"The Jazz Age" or why I started watching Roxy Music on youtube

I can’t admit to be overly familiar with Bryan Ferry’s oeuvre, apart from a few songs (notably, ‘Love is the Drug’, ‘Virginia Plain’ and ‘Let’s Stick Together’) as well as a beautifully haunting version of ‘The Only Face’ on one of Jools Holland’s albums.  So when I heard that he was releasing a new album, it didn’t stir much excitement within me.  When I heard that all of the songs were covers of 11 of his hits from the last 40 years, re-recorded in the style of a 1920s dance band, I was suddenly interested.

In what I think is quite a brave step, Bryan Ferry’s distinctive vocals are absent from this album, as all of the songs are instrumentals.  The remarkable change in style may also leave some of his more die-hard fans a little disappointed.  However, they should put their reservations aside and listen to what has immediately become my favourite album of the year!

After hearing the songs of ‘The Jazz Age’, I must say I did go through my mum’s record collection and listen to some of the originals, which really enhanced my appreciation of the reworked tracks.

Produced by Ferry and long-time collaborator Rhett Davies, The Jazz Age truly is a love letter to the music of the 1920s, not a half-hearted attempt to jump on the vintage bandwagon.  Bryan Ferry said I loved the way the great soloists would pick up a tune and shake it up - go somewhere completely different...”, a statement which is played out to great effect on the record.

Highlights are the joyously upbeat ‘This is Tomorrow’, the lovely lilting refrain on ‘Avalon’ and ‘The Only Face’ – in which I half expected Cab Calloway to start singing about a tragic woman’s demise! 

The album’s artwork is taken from the 1927 collection of illustrations ‘Le Tumulte Noir’ by the French artist, Paul Colin.  These illustrations were inspired by La Revue Nègre, which included among its stars, Josephine Baker (Colin’s muse and lover). 

I for one would love to see this album performed live, although I’m not sure how the show would work as Bryan Ferry wouldn’t be singing and of course, they would have to play in venues with an ample dance floor, not the stadiums I’m sure he normally commands!

The album was released on 26th November 2012 with the 10” vinyl folio set for release on 3rd December (hint, if anyone fancies buying one of the folios for me, I dare say I wouldn’t refuse it!)

 Keep an eye out on The Vintage News facebook and twitter as we will be announcing a competition to win a copy of The Jazz Age next week*.

*should point out that the competition ran in December 2012

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Amidst Communists and showgirls, The Hour returns

When first announced, The Hour was (somewhat unfairly) billed as the British Mad Men, a comparison that I think did it a disservice.  I am a huge fan of both series’ but they are worlds apart in both subject and tone.  While Mad Men is very insular, with occasional references to the outside world (the deaths of JFK and Marilyn Monroe for example), The Hour seemed to have a much wider scope, perhaps helped by the fact that the ever familiar BBC was the main setting for the show.  Series one of The Hour took place against the background of the political turmoil surrounding the Suez Crisis in 1956.

I can imagine some people started watching for the clothes and design, but then stayed for the intrigue of this Abi Morgan-penned cold war thriller.  Bel (played by Romola Garai) is the (somewhat overly) glamorous producer of the eponymous news show, with a wardrobe not dissimilar to a certain Joan Holloway.

The chain-smoking foreign correspondent Lix Storm (a bond-girl name if ever I heard one, played by Anna Chancellor) has a wardrobe reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn, lots of simple tailored trouser suits and blouses in a muted autumnal palette.

As the show is set mainly in the workplace, the majority of the men are of course wearing suits.  However, as the characters differ, so do the suits; from the arrogantly elegant Hector Madden (played with aplomb by Dominic West) to the straight-laced government press advisors, Angus McCain (in a sterling turn from Julian Rhind-Tutt).  Also interesting to see is the transition of Freddie Lyon (played by Ben Whishaw) from local hack (quite tweedy and scruffy) to co-anchor (still individual but deeper, crisper colours).

A thread of Communism wove its way throughout the first series, a theme that is given greater prominence in the second with the Britain of 1957 preoccupied by the Soviet launch of Sputnik 2 and a fear of impending nuclear disaster.

The second series will also involve a lot of excursions to El Paradis, a Soho club and from the trailer I can see there will be a fair few showgirls– so lots more gorgeous costumes!  Peter Capaldi and Hannah Tointon are joining the cast as the new Head of News and Kiki the showgirl (I’ll let you decide which is which!)

I am very much looking forward to the new series starting – I mean I work for a vintage news crew and it is as though they were filming a day in the life of The Vintage News (apart from all the murder, spies, government interference and a proper studio)!  Apart from the obvious parallels with my life, I also enjoyed that The Hour has a much grittier storyline than is afforded most period dramas (although with a few slightly shy-making pieces of dialogue) and of course I loved the costumes (designed with remarkable detail by Suzanne Cave).

 Actually, this one is quite a lot like my job!

The second series of the Hour will start on BBC2 on the 14th of November.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Book review of 'Wartime Farm', based on the BBC show

After being told by three separate people I’d love Wartime Farm, I thought it was probably worth a look.  Having missed Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm, I had no idea what format the show would take but my friends were right, I did love Wartime Farm!  Presented by historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Peter Ginn and Alex Langlands, the show is a year in the life of a Hampshire farm under wartime restrictions, which got tougher and tougher as time went on.
However, I am not here to review the programme but the accompanying book (which was kindly sent to me by Octopus books).

L-R Peter Ginn, Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands

The book is split into eight chapters covering different aspects of the wartime experience on a farm ranging from the livestock and growing food, to where all the labour came from and how people they made everything go that little bit further.

How to darn stockings – hair was often used in place of thread

The tone of the book is very similar to the show, very relaxed and friendly – not just a series of regurgitated facts.  I think because the presenters experienced some of the wartime difficulties personally, it gave the book a much more engaging tone.  I was also impressed at how humbled the writers seemed to be, acknowledging that no matter how hard they found it, at least they were never living in fear of being bombed and knew that it would eventually end.  Also, the course of the show condensed the six years of war into just 12 months.

Comparing the military timeline with what was happening on the home front

The layout of the book is very good, everything is very clearly set out and all of the information is very easily accessible.  Stills from the show abound, as do many contemporary photographs and government posters, a few of which I’d not seen before.

One thing I particularly liked about the book, is that even if you have read the original government issue books and pamphlets such as Food Facts for the Home Front and Make-do and Mend, having all the different topics collected in one volume really shows how the war really affected every aspect of a person’s life.

There is a whole chapter entitled ‘Make Do and Mend’

For those readers that are feeling a little creative, there are instructions on how to make a toy spitfire from scrap metal, how to darn stockings and how to make your own shampoo, roof tiles and soft cheese for starters!

Ruth making the dubious-looking
‘Baked Potato Pudding’

Overall, I am rather impressed with this book as I think some people will find it a very good resource as it combines many different elements of the social and agricultural history of the countryside.  As it covers so many topics, it may not go into enough depth for some, however I think it is a good starting off point for many.

Alex making a ‘skep’ for bee-keeping

I’m not sure where the series can go from the Second World War, as the country has not faced the same shortages of food since – I can’t imagine how the country would cope with the threat of impending starvation nowadays.  However, I would really like to see any subsequent series’ – and indeed books – from Peter, Ruth and Alex.

Peter making a camouflage ‘ghillie’ suit, as used by the Home Front

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Just Like a Chap

Hello, this is just a quick post as I am awfully tired after a rather wonderful Halloween (thanks to the Vintage Mafia girls for putting on a splendid party).

Mr B has just released his video for his new song Just Like a Chap and I thought you might like to take a peek.

Filmed in the dying days of the summer at the headquarters of the New Sheridan Club, it involved sitting in a pub for five hours with like-minded sorts (mostly members of the aforementioned club) and standing outside for approximately 10 minutes.  We were joined by such esteemed chaps as Gustav Temple (Editor of the Chap) Mr Bruce of the Correspondents, (who had very recently broken his foo).

Featuring lots of fabulous people including Clayton, Pandora, Auntie Maureen, as well as a certain Vintage News presenter...


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Eating invisible pocorn and drinking Cosmos on the bonnet of a car...

We thought it was about time we got some professional shots of us at the Vintage News, and we could think of no-one better than our good friend Hanson Leatherby (assisted by his girlfriend, the lovely Jeni) to take them. 

Our first stop was the amazing Worthing Dome cinema. It is the most splendid and sumptuous cinema I have ever been to.  The luscious, plush crimson seats, the gold balconies and mirror adorned walls really make you feel as though you have stepped back in time to when the studio system ruled the silver screen.  Add to that the fact that I had accidentally dressed as an usherette (albeit with a slightly more ostentatious hat) and you had the complete effect.  We had a lovely spot of lunch in the adjoining vintage tearooms before heading to our second location.

I was quite nervous when the photos were being taken at the cinema, but by the time we had found the perfect country lane for the second half of the shoot, I was more relaxed (the Cosmopolitan cocktail I had for a ‘prop’ may have helped).  Jeni and I had wisely sat in their car while the boys were outside in the cold setting up the shot.  The original plan of me changing a tyre (!) was quickly put aside and I chose instead to sit on the bonnet of our trusty car Betsy (I couldn’t very well do anything effortful like standing).

I’m so pleased with how the photos came out, especially the one above - I think Hanson is right, it looks like an Edward Hopper scene.

Thank you so much to Hanson and Jeni and the lovely people of the Worthing Dome for opening up the cinema early for us.

 ©Hanson Leatherby

I’d love to hear what you think of the pictures, feel free to leave a comment.

Look at the acting!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Hollywood Costume at the V&A

I had been looking forward to the Hollywood Costume exhibition at the Victoria and Albert for at least a year – whenever it was that I heard it was opening.  So when I found out we were going to the press launch I was understandably rather happy.

Like a child in a sweetshop, I was running from costume to costume, catching my breath at the names of who wore some of them: Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Mary Pickford and Claudette Colbert to name but a few.  Not only is the calibre of actors who inhabited these costumes the highest you could imagine, to be able to see costumes from luminaries of design such as Adrian, Edith Head, Travis Banton, Orry-Kelly and Travilla was amazing.

The exhibition is split into three sections ‘Deconstruction’, ‘Dialogue’ and ‘Finale’.  Deconstruction deals with how a designer can create a character from just a few clues in a script, even if the effect goes unnoticed by most of the audience.  Highlights for me were Kim Novak’s green ensemble from Vertigo and Vivien Leigh’s ‘curtain’ velvet gown from Gone with the Wind.

The second room, ‘Dialogue’ examines the collaboration between directors and costume designers.  It also looks at how the role of the costume designer has changed with advances in film-making and how the aesthetics of each era influence period films made at the time.  Claudette Colbert’s green satin gown from Cleopatra and Joan Crawford’s red-beaded dress from The Bride Wore Red are absolutely exquisite.

The Senior Guest Curator, Deborah Nadoolman Landis (the Oscar-nominated costume designer on films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Blues Brothers and Coming to America) said of the finale, “it’s just meant to blow your mind”.  There were some wonderful costumes (particular favourites in room 3 were that green dress from Atonement, Marlene Dietrich’s top hat, white tie and tails from Morocco and two of Marilyn’s dresses, from The Seven Year Itch and Some Like it Hot).

The exhibition is full of digital displays of the creative processes the designers go through, interviews with directors, designers and actors as well as clips from the films themselves.

The exhibition marks the first time a pair of the Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz have ever been displayed outside of the US (only for a month though!)  The V&A was also able to announce that they have just been given 700 costumes from the British Film Institute, making them the national archive of cinematic costume overnight.

The end of the exhibition seems a little cramped with Kate Winslet’s incredible hobble-skirted white suit from the beginning of Titanic was also sadly lost at the back of a scene.  The final costumes of the exhibition (two dresses that will possibly draw the crowds  more than any others), the iconic white halter dress work by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch and Judy Garland’s Dorothy outfit from The Wizard of Oz, are just tucked away at the end which seemed a bit of a shame.

The exhibition is absolutely amazing, and for anyone interested in cinema, design, fashion history or just pretty things it is a must.  I can’t wait to go back!

Oh, and I was interviewed for Chinese TV while we were there!

Hollywood Costume opens tomorrow, 20th October and runs until 27th January 2013 and tickets start at £9.00. You can find more information here.