Category Archives: Bloggery

Online diarising and the like

Once Upon A Time In The West Midlands: ‘Gangsters’

Maurice Colbourne in the pilot episode of ‘Gangsters’

The ever-excellent Scarred For Life recently tweeted about insane seventies crime/spy/relationship/racial politics drama/thriller/comedy (I don’t know, it’s…tricky to nail down exactly what it is) Gangsters.

I know when I came across in in the 00s I was blown away – watched the pilot and both seasons with growing astonishment – but somehow I never got round to blogging about it, apart from a quickie for Screenage Kicks.

But I have tracked down some enthusiastic notes I sketched out for various forums…

It’s not a feature film, but across its pilot and two TV series, Gangsters is definitely worth a mention here.

It was made in the mid-late seventies, set in a contemporary, multicultural Birmingham, and was as much influenced by Bollywood and Hong Kong action movies as by European auteurs and spaghetti Westerns and American avant-garde directors. Sorry, that sounds terribly pretentious – but honestly, watch a few episodes, you’ll see what I mean.

The main characters are an ex-SAS soldier just out of prison, and a Pakistani-British policeman. There are white gangs and black gangs, (south) Asian gangs and Chinese gangs; there’s drug trafficking and gun running, prostitution and protection rackets; there’s comedy and tragedy. Believe it or not, there are even prominent, strong roles for women in it. Did I mention that this was made in the seventies?

In many ways it is tinted throughout with racism and sexism and homophobia, but the programme addresses its own prejudices within the story – a fistful of meta, if you will. Watching it today I feel less distaste than I do when I watch something like, say, Life On Mars or Ashes To Ashes (both of which I like), because it does not hide behind the shallow defence of “well, we’re just making fun of the unenlightened bad old days” whilst simultaneously revelling in the ability to throw out racial epithets and treat women as sexual objects with no opinions of their own.

There are great, sometimes refined, sometimes broad performances, too: Maurice Colbourne and Ahmed Khalil are excellent in the main two parts, with a chemistry that is at odds with more modern TV drama pairings, which tend to just place a network’s contract star (a Ross Kemp, a John Hannah, a Robson Green) with someone cheap but reliable.

Alibe Cassidy is amazing as Sarah Gant, a woman with dignity and fire but also a heroin habit – it’s a shame she didn’t seem to get more meaty roles after this.

Then there is a torrent of familiar character actors like Saeed Jaffrey, Oscar James, Paul Barber, Robert Lee and Pat Roach, all given space to breathe. Oh, and Paul Satvendar is very enjoyable as Kuldip.

And the look of the show is adventurous, too: using stylistic cinematic devices from all around the world, as well as crash zooms and whip pans and a rich palette of colours, the show really digs deep to make it visually interesting as well as thematically stimulating. The pilot is particularly appealing in this way.

So if you find a copy, give it a go.

I also found this intriguing note on the ol’HD, which singles out an actor each from this and also grim seventies spook drama The Sandbaggers, which I think I first came across at the same time as Gangsters

You’re going to have your unmentionables torn off…

David Glyder as Jake Landy, S1E1

Police Sergeant in Grange Hill (S7) and A Perfect Spy (1987)
2nd Angler in Bergerac (1983 ALTL)


Maurice Colbourne as John Kline, Pilot (Play For Today) 9 September 1976-78
d.1989 aged 49, heart attack in Brittany (born Sheffield)

Jack Coker in The Day Of The Triffids (1981)
Tom Howard in Howard’s Way
Axe Man 1 in Hawk The Slayer


Melchester’s Year of Glory

Roy Of The Rovers - Melchester wins the 1984 Cup Final!

You cannot tell me that this is not what the web was built for – a play-by-play account of the legendary Melchester Rovers 1984 Cup Final run!

Roy Of The Rovers blog

A great little site which focuses on Britain’s premier football comic Roy Of The Rovers, and is currently covering its halcyon mid-80s days (not just Racey and the boys, but also ‘The Hard Man’, ‘Mighty Mouse, ‘Durrell’s Palace’ and ‘Simon’s Secret’). We’re only a year away from those big celebrity signings!

I got some good runs of ROTR from my local library’s comic swap-box – though it’s a zero-sum game, and ultimately it cost me pretty much all my Look-Ins…

The Bristolian is back! (slight return)

The Bristolian returns (again)

So, it seems that Bristol’s “favourite muck-raking scandal sheet”, The Bristolian, has returned (again).

Now in its third iteration (lovingly retconned to v4.0 through a quick history lesson that drags in James Acland’s 19th century anti-establishment rag serendipitously of the same name), there’s also a website to back it up, plus Twitter account and Facebook page. How terribly modern!

One gripe: first issue seems to be rather council-focused (I know, it does say ‘CRAP COUNCIL SPECIAL’ in big letters on the cover) – hopefully they shall be casting their net a little wider with future issues.

Anyway, there’s stuff on outgoing council capo Graham Sims getting a sweetheart deal from new Mayor George Ferguson, a new crap legal supremo replaces old crap legal supremo, and some righteous anger at adventure playgrounds & youth centres being dumped as large swathes of our public play facilities and services are privatised…

There’s a growing list of places to pick up paper copies (I suspect it will take a while to get it out though, so might be best to contact the Bristolian people first before trekking out).

BristolBloggerGate: Three years on – the University of Liverpool, WordPress & censorship

Three years on from the original incident, fellow blogger EcoLogics has recapped some of the salient points in what some called BristolBloggerGate as something of a valedictory to the WP platform…

Exactly three years ago today, on 5 January 2010, WordPress took down several of this blog’s posts.

Actually, Ecologics didn’t fare too badly; even as a handful of my posts vanished without warning, WordPress, or rather its parent company, Automattic, closed down the entire blogs of some other writers (at least one has subsequently managed to find an alternative home). To be sure, WordPress also agreed to republish the censored posts. What we the censored bloggers had in common was that we had all published information about one Howard Newby, the former vice-chancellor (director) of the University of the West of England. It seems that Newby took exception to our views regarding a financial scandal which erupted around him in 2007, and which involved a private training firm which subsequently went bust (Carter & Carter).

Soon after the scandal emerged, and only about a year and a half since he first took up the post, Newby left UWE. But most peculiarly, it was not before three years had passed that the legal department of the University of Liverpool, Newby’s new home, got Automattic to close the blogs with information about Newby’s practices at UWE […]

I hope to revisit some of these issues again myself when I have the time. Perhaps even The Bristol Blogger – now relocated beyond the walled garden of, but quiet for nearly a year – might themself pipe up once more some time in 2013.

In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of the various pieces I wrote about the whole Sir Howard Newby/Lady Sheila Newby/Kevan Ryan/University of the West of England/University of Liverpool clusterfuck:

2013 – unlucky for some

Well, for no reason in particular I’m going to have a crack at nailing at least one post a day in 2013. Why not, eh.

That said, not really got anything interesting to impart today. Eugene Byrne, however, has. Go check out his post on workhouses.

Personally I reckon that it’s high time the political right started calling for the return of the workhouse. I’ll write you the script:

First, you get some think-tank to source and publish “research” that shows that by late Victorian times, the parish workhouse wasn’t nearly as awful as Dickens portrayed it a generation earlier. Then some politicians wade in to start a “debate”. Workhouses would be more “fair” to the taxpayer as every able-bodied inmate would be obliged to work for their keep. You know, they might even ultimately be cost-neutral for the taxpayer as private companies would obviously want to pay for use of a pool of cheap labour. And the workhouse would provide them with food and accommodation so the national welfare bill would be reduced. Obviously there would be initial costs in building and running them, but this can be done very competitively by the private sector on PFI contracts[…]

Best wishes to you and yours; and here’s hoping enough of us make it through to the other end of this year, no matter how much shit these bastards sling our way.

The BRISTLE – full of lovely comicky goodness including rare Judge Dredd strip and behind-the-scenes photos from Eagle Mk II launch!

Okay, so this is nothing more than a shameless cross-blog promo plug for The BRISTLE!

But who wouldn’t want to know about the rare 1990 John Wagner/Ian Gibson ‘Judge Dredd’ strip?

Who would want to be left in the dark about Ron Smith, John Gillatt and Gerry Embleton working on ‘Dan Dare’ designs for the rebooted Eagle?

And who in all honesty isn’t interested in a letter sent by the assistant editor of a British comic to an eleven year old boy in 1988?

So get thee over to The BRISTLE – it’s a Bumper Bonanza of Inky-Fingered Fun!

Great news, chums – new UK comics-related blog The BRISTLE launched!

As part of a slowly-unfolding plan to hive off different aspects of this blog to more focused efforts, I am pleased to announce the launch of my new venture, The BRISTLE!

Devoted to all sorts of stuff connected to UK comics, The BRISTLE will be a handy resting place for musings on the peculiarly British anthology titles – both of yore, and contemporary efforts too.

So whether you were a fan of DC Thomson’s perennials like The Beano and The Dandy, or IPC’s more off-the-wall funnies like Whoopee!! and Oink!; or a boys’ adventure paper junkie revelling in The Victor and Valiant; or a pure child of the 70s with your Battle and Action and 2000AD, I shall endeavour to root around my boxes of delights for rare strips, odd titbits and aged newspaper cuttings to share with you.

Already I have posted up a ‘Judge Dredd’ six-pager by John Wagner and Ian Gibson that was exclusively published in Sinclair User magazine to tie-in to a Spectrum ZX game – so keep your eyes peeled on The BRISTLE for more such treats in the future!


In tangentially-linked news, British comic writer par excellence Pat Mills has endorsed on of my posts about cop-spook-turned-academic Bob Lambert MBE!

The unsung engineer of British comics: Pat Mills – welcome to the blogosphere!

Just a quickie: Pat Mills – probably the comic writer who most inspired, influenced and guided me – has taken up blogging, and his first post, on the genesis of 2000AD and ‘Judge Dredd’, is a corker…


The legacy of Die Hard

You may like this blog post: The legacy of Die Hard, a look at thirty films (and a TV show episode) that rip off, homage or otherwise seem mighty similar to the white vest trials and tribulations of John McClane.

MikeyMo’s enthusiasm for his subject matter is strong enough that you forgive him the occasional typo. Definitely worth following his blog, methinks.

Balkans Scrapbook – remembering the Yugoslav Civil War through news cuttings, photographs and documentaries (plus Bolivian adventurers, Hungarian fascists, Irish bouncers, British spy cops…)

See for more info

I’ve long been interested in the Balkans and the break up of the former Yugoslavia, so it’s good to see Balkan Scrapbook, a blog pulling together newspaper clippings, pictures and documentary film on what went down in the early 1990s.

It’s not been up long, but there’s already some interesting content, with new stuff being uploaded all the time. The focus at the moment seems to be on foreign fighters taking part in the conflict, and the death of journalist Paul Jenks near Osijek in east Slavonia, Croatia. Jenks was investigating the earlier death of Swiss reporter Chritian Würtenberg, who himself had joined the International Platoon (PIV) fighting with the Croatian HOS militia whilst looking into links between it and a pan-European fascist network. John Sweeney (he of shouting-at-Scientologists fame) was a colleague and a friend, and he returned to Osijek nearly three years after Jenks’ death to try and uncover what had happened – which made for a riveting documentary film, Dying For The Truth, which opened the Travels With My Camera strand on Channel 4.

The whole torrid tale brought together damaged ex-servicemen in search of excitement, wannabe warriors, and some seriously scary political soldiers – not least Eduardo Rózsa-Flores, a Bolivian-born Hungarian-Spanish Catholic fascist (try saying that in a hurry) who came to lead the PIV. Flores had turned up in Croatia ostensibly to work as a journalist, but soon set up the PIV under the patronage of Branimir Glavaš, a regional powerbroker subsequently convicted of war crimes.

After the deaths of Würtenberg and Jenks, and a third PIV volunteer, Anthony Mann Grant – all blamed on Serbs, but with many unanswered questions hanging in the air – Flores did a runner to Zagreb, before melting away from the Balkans. Ultimately he was involved in a right-wing secessionist movement in Bolivia, and he was shot dead by security forces there in 2009, alongside fellow mercenaries Mario Tadic, a Croatian, and Előd Tóásó, variously described as a Romanian and a Hungarian, plus Irishman Michael Dwyer.

Dwyer had been a security thug working at Shell’s Corrib gas pipeline project in County Mayo, where Integrated Risk Management Services had accrued a reputation for violence against environmental protesters, before he was apparently recruited for the Bolivian adventure by other IRMS goons with a background in Magyar autonomist politics. As if to demonstrate how the world is getting smaller, the Metropolitan Police’s “vancop” agent provocateur PC Mark Kennedy, AKA Mark ‘Flash’ Stone, had previously infiltrated the anti-Corrib activist groups, which were of great interest to Irish and British police as well as business interests and private security groups.

But I digress – if you’re interested in the former Yugoslavia and all that happened there in recent history, then keep an eye on Balkan Scrapbook.

Edited 9 September 2012 to reflect move of blog.

Vote for Italian Film Review in the Total Film blog of the year awards!

My giallo-obsessed internet chum Nigel is in the running for the Total Film 2011 Movie Blog Awards.

His Italian Film Review site is currently in second place in the Best Fan Blog category.

So if south European slashers-n-psychos cinema is your thing, get thee over and vote for Italian Film Review!

“Andy Coulson is guilty” says Roy Greenslade

So I went to the ‘What’s The Blogging Story?‘ event at the Watershed I mentioned earlier. Bit of a curate’s egg, really – some interesting panelists, but very little chance to actually talk about blogging, the social web or much else. Frankly it was not worth the seven quid I paid to go.

Ex-Mirror editor-turned-Guardian media pundit Roy Greenslade had a stab at being a bit quote-worthy on former News Of The World boss-turned-Tory spin king Andy Coulson and his involvement (or otherwise) in the hacker scandal*:

Just go to Coulson now… The only reason anyone can get hot under the collar about Andy Coulson is because The Guardian have exposed him. Because they have exposed him, because The Independent have taken it up as a big cause as well.

Now that’s a perfect example of the way in which the other press, self-interestedly, because they either support the Tories, or they support Rupert Murdoch, covertly, allow this to go forward.

But there’s plenty of stuff on the net about Coulson, plenty of material available, and I think that… By the way, we haven’t dropped the Coulson thing, none of us have dropped the Coulson thing. I mean, I know the guy is guilty. Is that being tweeted?

I know, I know, I know an editor must have known. I do, I do, I did say on a public platform recently that it is either a case that he knew, and therefore is lying, or it is a case that he didn’t know, and is therefore the most incompetent editor Fleet Street has ever known. Is that being tweeted? Because that’s the truth of the situation.

So he’s either a liar or incompetent, and therefore he shouldn’t be director of communications of our Prime Minister’s office. And we will pursue this.

I think that the line-up went something like this…



2nd table:

Download Greenslade’s Coulson soundbite | Download audio of whole event (approximately 2hrs/107MB)

I’ve been mulling over tonight, and will back up a few thoughts tomorrow if I get the chance.

* The scandal being so many papers – tabloids and broadsheets alike – were/are at it.


I’ve been out of the blogging saddle awhile, so that I’ve been tweaking this post so much I’ve given it jogger’s nipple, soz.

Bristol Festival of Ideas: What’s The Blogging Story (tonight, Watershed)

Afternoon there.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. Things have been rather hectic on the home front, happily so I hasten to add. The reasons why would be clear to anyone who’s endured the photos I periodically throw onto my twitfeed, so I won’t compound the saccharine assault here with further explanation.

Anyhow, I think i shall be getting back into the blogging in coming days. Plenty to rabbit on about – a new Evil Empire, rather a lot of new films (thanks to my eBay penny bid DVD strategy), a vast backlog of screengrabs, local shenanigans, the usual stuff really.

If you are of a blogging persuasion, you may be interested in the Festival of Ideas event at the Watershed tonight. Terrible name (‘What’s The Blogging Story?‘), greatly overpriced (seven squiddlies!), with the wrong names too high up the marquee (Greenslade, Belle de Jour).

But Sarah Ditum from Paperhouse and Anton Vowl from Enemies Of Reason will be speaking, so I think it could be moderately interesting. I may see you there.