Friday, 9 December 2016

The Copper Rivet Distillery


I have just been given some information about the Copper Rivet Distillery in Chatham and it got me thinking about local business. There are so many good young businesses out there and it is a refreshing change from the corporate cycle of products.

The Copper Rivet Distillery makes sprits, including gin and vodka, using locally sourced products. Here is some blurb from their website.

The Copper Rivet Distillery is an exciting and dynamic new Medway based craft distillery.  Drawing upon the area’s rich tradition of innovation and craft, the team will toil together to produce small batches of exceptional gins, whiskies and vodkas from scratch in bespoke stills, with the same skill that local craftsmen once fashioned world-class ships.

Kent is a dynamic and energetic county to live in with plenty going on. North Kent, especially in the Medway towns of Rochester and Chatham, have a very vibrant scene that enables young start-ups to successfully achieve their goals. Maidstone, although being the beating heart of Kent and the centre of operations for Kent County Council, does not have that same vibrancy.

The Copper Rivet Distillery looks cool; their website is neat and tidy and their products really look very good. Dockyard Gin is on my Christmas list  and Son of a Gun sounds a good and strong spirit, reminiscent of the Chatham dockyards gun-makers.

Maidstone does have a few things going for it though, and one of them is an excellent artists gallery in the Royal Star Arcade.  We also have a museum which does hold late nights and occasionally a pop-up cinema courtesy of Splintered Cinema. Their next movie night is in February and will be a classic romance movie.

Starting a new business is a daunting prospect, and can be very soul-destroying when you do not get the number of clients that you need in order to see a profit. Splintered Cinema is just over a year old now and although bookings have been coming in it has not been to the extent that I can leave the day job. I’m hoping that 2017 will be different. There is something exciting about it though, and although Splintered Cinema is now a year old, and having taken so much financially, the idea of the business still excites me and gets me to do all the things that I don’t like to do, like marketing.

Marketing is the hardest thing in the world (probably not really, brain surgery is harder than that), and trying to get  your head around the twists turns of it can turn farcical. It is also a very lonely thing to do, especially when you send out a series of emails or responses and getting nothing in return. It is the most important thing to do though for a business. Something that cannot be underestimated.

Marketing is the most important part of the business strategy, and something that some overlook. It is worth taking the time to familiar yourself with best practices and take a leaf out of other businesses books, the Copper Rivet Distillery would be a good place to start.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Poetry Project on Death and Grief


Another poetry project, this time centred around death and grief. I have written this solely as an exercise in trying to use imagery to tell the story. I hope it works.

 





The soft wind brushes against a bristled chin

And in his heart he holds a candle

She is dead, he can hear it in the bells that toll

Yet she walks with him for all to see

But him, he is blind and grief has tethered

Itself to his soul. Wrapped its icy fingers

Around his neck; causing his lungs to fight for

Breath.

“I can hear.” He cries inside, and no-one can hear

Him, for his eyes are strewn with tears, and in those

Tired ducts a pool forms that takes us away to

A majestic lagoon where she sits, in deepest

Thought, wondering if he will ever return to her.

Yet those tears do not form the heart of the lagoon

It is hers, as she sits waiting patiently. Wanting his

Arms to wrap themselves around her again. In his

Eyes he does not see this, in his eyes there is

Nothing but fear and pain, and his lagoon

Is black as night; inky waters stain the landscape.

“I wish you could hear me.” She says.

“I wish I could hear you.” He wails in his sleep.

And his nights are tormented by demons of his past

The structure of his life now bent and withered

Like an old iron gate which no longer opens.

The soft wind brushes his bristled chin

And his tears fall like a waterfall.

 

Next week I shall do a video blog, hopefully you will all enjoy me reading some more poetry and I shall take a pick of some of my favourites.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Just a Little Something about Writer's Block

Stuck for inspiration? It often happens and the thought of writing feels like a giant wall that you do not have the energy to climb over. But what is the answer?

I today feel as if I have nothing to say; I have three stories on the go and all of them I am stuck on. There is a synopsis that I am trying to write and it feels as if I am running through treacle. It makes no sense no matter what I do. I want to put pen to paper but my brain is out of ideas.

So what do I write? This blog entry, at least that way it gets me writing and gives me some kind of therapeutic satisfaction.

And if the words still fail me, then I will fill the blog with pictures, or share a poem that I had written a little while back.

The thing is that the muse will always come back to you; it just leaves for a little lie down here and there. It needs to rest, only to take up the gauntlet and run with the next crazy idea that flops into your head.

There is nothing worse than staring at a blank screen.






The pure whiteness of it is enough to drive you mad, a bit like snow-blindness; so fill it with colour and add a picture or two.

 This is Splintered Cinema showing Perfume: The Story of a Murderer at Bower Place in Maidstone. The film is very odd, and has a rather peculiar conclusion, but the audience appeared to enjoy it.
One day I will own my own cinema, and it will be roughly like this little gem in Bath. The Little Theatre looks very much like the Oast in Tonbridge internally, and it offers great films in a oddly beautiful location. One day, I will be the owner of such a cinema, and I will screen classics for all my friends to come and view.






So, when faced with writer's block, write about what you know and what you would like; after all, it is better to write something than nothing at all and it might put you in the mood to do something else: a vlog perhaps, or a small film reading one of your poems. Search the net and see if anything takes your fancy, and then write about it. You can always go back to that project tomorrow, it won't go anywhere and sometimes a rest is just as good as writing 500 words of nonsense.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Poem: The Slow Train


1.

There’s a slow train away from the city that carries peacocks and pigs.

Every night, from 5pm, it trundles with a glow of inward satisfaction.

The pigs fight the peacocks for seats and acclaim, awarding themselves

With buckets of champagne, that spill over onto the hard plastic floor.

(Granted, they are all as bad as each other)But still they pretend to be

The bees-knees of the world, and supposedly in control of the city’s

Destiny.

 

2.

There once was a slow train that carried serfs and peasants towards

Doom and gloom and other such unapparent mischief.  Plastic lights

And heavy doors keep them cooped up like chickens ready for the cull.

To be processed into cuts of meat and sold by Tesco on the cheap.

Without thought, they buy these cuts and eat themselves into a corner

Of their room from where they cannot move without a motorised scooter.

 

3.

Now the train is a cattle-cart; once a vision of luxury advertised by a pervert.

Now the train is a perverted trolley that caters only for bandy legged peacocks

who sigh whenever the drinks trolley ventures into their goggles.  And then they

stare, google-eyed, like wolves sizing up their prey, before they leap into

the unknown and declare war on anyone that happens to pass them by.

Like birds, and bushes, and trees and seagulls. (Why is it that seagulls are no longer by the sea?)

 

4.

The driver does not stop for any peacock to pride himself.

He stops for the serfs to get off and make his train smell of roses again.

(Not that they smell of anything but damp and plastic.)

And if only those peacocks, with their strutting feathers and beaky noses

Pointing into the air, could see the damage that is done by their hands

Perhaps the world might be a better place for us peasants to be involved with.

Perhaps the smell of the train will come back to haunt them all.

Perhaps the sense of occasion will be nothing more than a drop of bird shit.

Perhaps it will all end with good humour and beer, a charm bracelet and canapes.

 

5.

For the end is near say the serfs and the peacocks, at least we agree.

When the train stops we reach the end of the line and there is no

Crossing of swords any longer. No more crossing of tracks; no more crossing

The line. Just infinite red light that meanders into blackness and causes

Everyone to itch their eyes in unison. For low is the bridge of deceit, and high

Is the knowledge of drug-fuelled stardom, that links those of us who do

Peacock and parade with the astral plain. Deluged from inches of rain.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Television


This week I inadvertently signed up to Amazon Prime. It’s a bit cheeky how they do it, you just click a button and…

HEY PRESTO!

You are signed up without even realising it. So know I have access to Amazon TV which based on last night’s entertainment is pretty good.  I sat down to watch The Man in the High Castle and was immediately struck by the high production values on offer. The show stars Rufus Sewell in what is going to be a very nasty Nazi character. Of course, he is British, so he would have to play a nasty person as in most US shows and movies.

I also have access to The Grand Tour, the new show from Jeremy Clarkson. He has apparently been paid a fortune to get his Top Gear crew back together (I’m assuming minus the producer who he thumped). Haven’t watched it, probably won’t, but Amazon are certainly getting their money’s worth out of him judging by the adverts for the new Fire Stick.

I was surprised as to how many movies are on Amazon, it really is another Netflix, and if you have Sky as well you would be paying a fortune to watch TV.

Let’s break it down:

NETFLIX :             £7.99 per month

AMAZON:           £79 per year

SKY:                       up to £50 per month

BBC:                       £140 per year

So per month this comes in at £76.17 for a month’s worth of TV, which in all honesty if you spent all your time in front of the screen is not too bad. The BBC comes in as the fairest in price at just £11 per month, followed by Amazon at £6.50ish. Of course, Sky are the most expensive and I have missed out BT because I don’t know anyone who has it!

With such good quality drama coming out of Amazon and Netflix their streaming service is really taking over the televisual nights. It would be interesting to get viewing figures for such shows as The Crown, or Designated Survivor, which have excellent production values and a strong audience; I guess it is measured by the number of subscribers.

The good thing with the Amazon Fire Stick or new Blu-ray players is that they make your TV a SmartTV, meaning you can access the internet on it and get the likes of Youtube and Facebook on your television. This means that when you wish to watch a movie and get the whole cinema experience you can watch a few trailers on Youtube, then flip over to the disc an watch the Blu-ray of your current film; sad, but it works.

Another good reason for getting a Smart TV is that this means you are in HD, and this looks great when you watch a series like The Crown. Another great series on Netflix is Stranger Things, a creepy and very watchable series set in the American suburbs of the 1980’s. It reminds the viewer of E.T. or those early John Carpenter movies. The music in this series of amazing, and very Carpenter-esque, it harks back to the good old days of decent viewing, great imagination and eerie music. It takes me back to my childhood, and that is something that, post-forty, I seem to be enjoying a little too much.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Maidstone, where are all the artists?

Maidstone is the heart of Kent and its county town; the river Medway runs keenly through it, giving a murky air to the beautiful buildings that encroach on this old town. Maidstone is the scene of great battles during the English Civil War, most notably on Penenden Heath where the royal forces were penned back by the Parliamentarians.

Maidstone has a wonderful museum, which houses the mummified body of a young girl; and is the location for great shopping in the form of Fremlin Walk. The town has one of the oldest pubs in Kent and is surrounded by villages and hamlets that are the best that this country can offer.

So I have to ask a question, with so much beauty and history surrounding the town of Maidstone, where are all the artists?

In my travels around the town I have encountered one poetry group and an art installation that is not for profit. The Hazlitt Theatre, which is home to a delightful studio theatre, has the poetry group and the art installation is in a little out-house, wonderful though it is, I would expect more from the county town of Kent.
The Hazlitt is a big disappointment to me. Coming from an area where arts groups thrived, I find it very difficult to understand a theatre that does not promote new play writing. Perhaps there is no call for it, perhaps there is not a single person in Maidstone interested in producing or writing their own work. The trouble is, everyone I talk to about seems to agree, there is a lack of arts in the town centre.

Compare that to Rochester and Chatham, where cinema groups thrive, plays are produced, theatre groups do re-enactments and Dickens is key to a lot of that; where artists display their work on regular occasions and there is always an exhibition somewhere along the line, you have to ask what is Maidstone doing wrong.
You cannot argue that there is no infrastructure for arts installations and groups, as Maidstone has plenty of opportunity to house such things; there is the aforementioned museum and theatre, as well as a host of empty spaces all crying out for some use. The theatre is well supported so there is an audience for this sort of thing, and when I produced a pop-up cinema event in the museum we had a large group attending that.
Is there a desire for arts in Maidstone? Perhaps it is the local authority putting a barrier up where there should be none. Money talks as they say and if something is produced, like an arts festival for
instance, and it does not make any money for the local authority then it will be the first thing to be culled. In times of austerity it is the arts that suffer, being as it is felt that it is not an essential service to be offered to the public. But this is wrong; art can help communities in all sorts of ways, especially in mental health issues, where it can be a release for some people.

Art is another form of communication, and I am surprised that Maidstone, being the central town for Kent, does not offer more artists more opportunities. Where are the festivals, the installations, the poetry readings, the new plays, the pop-up events; the local filmmakers?

Councils have a duty to serve their community and by introducing new art to their people they are serving that community; by supporting up and coming artists with their work and giving the opportunity to showcase their work is also serving the community. Maidstone it seems is falling behind when it comes to artists living in Kent.

Friday, 11 November 2016

In War, Art Often Flourishes


Today is the day where we remember those that fell during the First World War, apparently the war to end all wars, if only that were the case.

In tragedy it seems, art flourishes, and there have been many great pieces to come out of wars in general. Some electrifying works of art for instance; some heart-wrenching poetry and some powerful plays.

Most notable of these for me is the play Journey’s End, written by ex-soldier R.C. Sherriff. It is a deeply harrowing play apparently based on his experiences in the trenches of the Great War and tells of a young officer who joins the front line to be confronted by Captain Stanhope, a young man battered by the evils of war. The play follows their relationship as the young officer, an eager and keen man who wants to please his superiors, and who also has previous knowledge of Stanhope during their lives black in Britain, comes to terms with the changes to his hero and the psychological and physical damage that has happened to the captain.

Journey’s End was originally performed in London with Laurence Olivier in the main role as Captain Stanhope. It was such a success that it was quickly transferred to the West End and helped Olivier along on his way to theatre and movie stardom.

The play is in three acts, and has some able support in the form of the Lieutenant , the cook, and other officers. It is not all doom and gloom, although there are some very powerful scenes, light relief is offered by the cook and by the portly officer, Trotter and Mason respectively.

I have been lucky to appear in a production of this play in 2008 at The Oast Theatre in Tonbridge, where I played the captain. It was a brave and wonderful production, with a brutally honest ending that brought tears to the eyes of the audience.

The play was also turned into a film starring Malcolm McDowell as the Captain, now a Major, and the action being relocated from the trenches of Northern France to the airfields. Aces High had a mixed reception when it was released and continues to split audiences, some of whom find it a little twee, and some critics calling it standard fare; although the aerial photography did get much praise.

The play has much going for it, and stands the test of time. It is fitting that this should be remembered on  a day like today, when we should all remember those that fell at the Somme and at the various brutal battles that took place during the Great War.