Category Archives: The Gogglebox

Telly by any other name

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


On Australian crime drama – from ‘Scales Of Justice’ to ‘Bikie Wars’

Been watching a few rather decent Australian crime dramas lately…

Firstly there’s Bikie Wars: Brothers In Arms, a recent based-on-true-events series revolving around the Comanchero-Bandido split that culminated in the 1984 Milperra Massacre (that’s not a spoiler, it’s presaged in an on-title screen before each episode).

Reviews I saw moaned about it being slow going, with lots of unanswered questions hanging in the air (like why did Jock Ross want to ‘expand’), but I’ve found it pretty decent viewing three episodes in. Plenty of familiar faces: Callan Mulvey (Drazic from Heartbreak High and Mark Moran in Underbelly series one), Damian Walshe-Howling (Benji Veniaman in Underbelly series one), Jeremy Lindsay Taylor (Norman Bruhn in Underbelly season four, Razors), Lauren Clair (Tracey in Underbelly series one), Richard Cawthorne, Anthony Hayes, Luke Hemsworth, Fletcher Humphrys etc. One bum note, though – what’s with ex-Australian rugby league player Matthew Nable (Gary Jubelin in Underbelly season five, Badness) and that terrible Scots accent?

Also based on real events is 2011’s Killing Time, which focuses on the events leading up to the imprisonment of Andrew Fraser, brief-of-choice for a bunch of Melbourne crims that includes the Pettingill family (subject of the film Animal Kingdom and the thinly-veiled earlier TV series Phoenix). With the notorious Walsh Street killings as its fulcrum, infamous real life grotesques such as Kath Pettingill, Dennis Allen and Victor Peirce all involved, and police incompetence/corruption endemic, it’s pretty dark stuff – and far less stylised than anything in the Underbelly franchise.

David Wenham is very strong in the lead role, and there’s beefy backup from the likes of Colin Friels as Lewis Moran (cf Underbelly series one, where he was played by Kevin Harrington), Richard Cawthorne and Fletcher Humphrys from Bikie Wars, Kris McQuade (Jacs Holt in the Prisoner reboot Wentworth), and Ian Bliss (science teacher Mr Bell in Heartbreak High, and Thomas Hentschel – originally anonymised as ‘Mr L’ – in Underbelly series one). All round, Killing Time is very strong.

Also recently I saw for the first time Joh’s Jury, a telemovie about the perjury trial of former Queensland Premier Johannes Bjelke-Petersen in the wake of an inquiry into corruption…

Good to see some familiar, solid faces in the cast: Norman Yemm (The Sullivans), an early appearance for Noah Taylor as a tetchy young juror, plus a strong performance from Malcolm Kennard (who appears a few years later in both Bikie Wars and Killing Time). In terms of staging, nothing outstanding, but a nice little mood piece that helps provide a bit of context for us non-antipodeans wading through period crime drama.

On the writing side, though, it packs a punch, thanks to the pen of Ian David (who would later be responsible for Killing Time). Previously he had written two other similar docu-drama style TV films about bent cops: Police Crop, about an investigation into corruption in New South Wales, and Police State – which covered the Fitzgerald Inquiry that forms the backdrop to Joh’s Jury.

Immediately after Joh’s Jury, David scripted the peerless mini-series Blue Murder, which looked at the symbiotic relationship between crooked detective Roger Rogerson, and career standover man Neddy Smith. That one covered a whole slew of grim true crimes, like the murder of Sallie-Anne Huckstepp, and includes real-life wackoes like Chris Flannery (as featured in series two of Underbelly as well as The Great Bookie Robbery and feature film Everynight … Everynight). Matching the bite of the story toothmark by toothmark, Blue Murder is directed in a gritty, almost documentary style by Michael Jenkins, who also handled Scales Of Justice in much the same way.

Meanwhile, handling direction for Joh’s Jury – as he did for Police Crop – is Ken Cameron. It’s unflashy (well, how flashy can a film largely set in a jury deliberation room be?), but gets the job done. Cameron also helmed a few other works of note, including internationally successful mini-series such as Brides Of Christ and Bangkok Hilton. Then there was The Clean Machine, a semi-fictionalised movie about a team of police ‘untouchables’ set up to get rid of corrupt cops in New South Wales, which he co-wrote alongside Terry Hayes. Hayes, who earlier had scripted also worked on Bangkok Hilton, later penned breakout Oz psychological horror film Dead Calm and then a clutch of Hollywood pictures (Payback, From Hell)…

The so far unmentioned element linking many of these dramas is the production environment. Many of them came out of Kennedy Miller Productions, the ambitious Australian company set up by George Miller and Byron Kennedy to manage the birth of Mad Max. Kennedy Miller then gave us lightning in the same place a second time with Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, which announced the arrival of professional, popular Australian film making, particularly in America.

Whilst Byron Kennedy died in 1983, the company went on to produce an impeccable run of theatrical features, TV movies and mini-series, including Dismissal, about the constitutional shenanigans that led to PM Gough Whitlam being booted out, The Cowra Breakout (about a little-known mass escape of Japanese PoWs from an Australian camp), Bodyline – about the notorious 1932/3 Ashes tour – and, of course, the third installment of their post-apocalypse franchise, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985.

The magic did not stop there – next came historical mystery The Riddle Of The Stinson, then Vietnam, about the Aussie involvement in southeast Asia, Hollywood star-packed hit The Witches Of Eastwick, the more parochial The Year My Voice Broke, domestic epic The Dirtwater Dynasty and then the aforementioned The Clean Machine.

Rounding out the 1980s were Dead Calm, which gifted the world Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman and Billy Zane (well, I take it we’re not calling Omen 3, BMX Bandits or a telemovie about the Hillside Stranglers year zero for these three actors), followed by Bangkok Hilton (another strong performance from Kidman), and then from writer-director John Duigan 1991’s Flirting, a continuation of his earlier The Year My Voice Broke. In both Duigan films young Noah Taylor was afforded the opportunity to shine – much as he would again in Joh’s Jury. John Duigan had previously notched up story credits on Vietnam, which he co-directed along with Chris Noonan, who also helmed The Cowra Breakout and The Riddle Of The Stinson for Kennedy Miller, before taking on Police State for ABC in 1989. It was back to Kennedy Miller that Noonan returned in 1995 for his biggest hit: Babe, the talking pig kids’ flick. And there we leave KMP, as we’re straying far from the crime drama path.

But the point is clear: in the 1980s-1990s there was a real concentration of creative talent in Australian television and film, which – particularly when backed by strong production support, whether from an independent like Kennedy Miller, or from a broadcast network like ABC – meant that the local industry was boxing well above its weight.

Moviedrome revisited

I can’t quite recall why, but the other day someone mentioned something which put me in mind of Moviedrome, the BBC2 banner under which first Alex Cox, and then Mark Cousins, selected and introduced films.

I always preferred Cox’s era (1988-1994) to Cousins’ (1997-2000). For a start it coincided with me being of an age where I was hungry for brain food, and Cox – Elvis sneer, palsied chops, assertive voice and all – was ready to deliver. Cousins, with his nervous, Celtic purr, just seemed too artsy, too formal.

But they both introduced me to some great films. True, some pretty meh ones too, occasionally, but damn, looking down the list compiled by Kurtodrome, an impressive strike rate.

Looking through the list I decided to finally tally up how many movies Moviedrome had actually initiated me into. Of course, the passage of time buggers up one’s memory somewhat, so I can’t always definitively say if I first saw a film on Moviedrome or not; but I have had a crack. List is as follows…

RED = HAVEN’T seen it (on Moviedrome or anywhere else)
PINK = HAVE seen it but NOT on Moviedrome
AMBER = HAVE seen it and FAIRLY CERTAIN saw it on Moviedrome
GREEN = HAVE seen it on Moviedrome

The Wicker Man
Electra Glide in Blue
Big Wednesday
Fat City
The Last Picture Show
The Hired Hand
Johnny Guitar
The Parallax View
The Long Hair Of Death
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers
The Fly
One From The Heart
The Man Who Fell To Earth
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
One-Eyed Jacks

The Man With The X-Ray Eyes
The Thing From Another World
The Incredible Shrinking Man
California Dolls
THX 1138
Stardust Memories
Night Of The Comet
The Grissom Gang
The Big Carnival
(AKA Ace In The Hole)
Two-Lane Blacktop
The Buddy Holly Story
Five Easy Pieces
Sweet Smell Of Success
Sunset Boulevard

Assault On Precinct 13
Get Carter
Goin’ South
Dead Of Night
The Terminator
The Honeymoon Killers
Ulzana’s Raid
The Loved One
An American Werewolf In London

A Wedding
The Phenix City Story
Walk On The Wild Side
Il Grande Silenzio
Quien Sabe?

The Beguiled
Something Wild
Carnival of Souls
/ The Prowler
At Close Range
The Duellists
/ Cape Fear (duels)
The Music Lovers
Hells Angels on Wheels
/ Rumble Fish (gangs)
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?

Mad Max II / F for Fake
Dead Ringers / Rabid (Cronenberg)
The Serpent And The Rainbow
Les Diaboliques
La Strategia Del Ragno
Escape From New York
/ Q – The Winged Serpent
Wise Blood
/ The Witchfinder General
Play Misty For Me
The Day Of The Locust
/ The Big Knife (Hollywood satires)

House Of Games
Escape From Alcatraz
/ Un Condamné À Mort S’est Échappé (prison)
The Hill
/ Lenny
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers
(1978) / Romance Of A Horsethief
/ The Navigator
The Terminator
Get Carter
/ Week-end
Rebel Without A Cause
/ 200 Motels
/ Grim Prairie Tales
Run Of The Arrow
/ Verboten! (Fuller)
The Long Riders
The Big Combo
Face To Face
¿Qué He Hecho Yo Para Merecer Esto?

1994 (Alex Cox’s final year)
The Andromeda Strain / Fiend Without A Face
Talk Radio
Carnal Knowledge
Coogan’s Bluff
/ The Narrow Margin
The Harder They Come
The People Under The Stairs
Halloween / The Baby
Girl On A Motorcycle / Psychomania
Race with the Devil
/ Detour (keep death on the road)
/ 84 Charlie Mopic (experimental filming)
To Sleep With Anger
/ Le Mépris
/ Nothing Lasts Forever
Naked Tango
/ Apartment Zero (Buenos Aires)
Major Dundee
/ Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia (Sam Peckinpah)
Kiss Me Deadly

/ Demon Seed (futuristic)
The Fly
/ Society
Blue Collar
/ American Gigolo (Paul Schrader)
Dazed And Confused
/ La Vie Sexuelle Des Belges (growing up)
The Girl Can’t Help It
/ Take Care Of Your Scarf, Tatjana (music)
The Warriors
/ La Haine (gangs)
Spanking The Monkey
Logan’s Run
/ Fahrenheit 451 (future)
The Fog
/ Darkness in Tallinn
/ Ruthless
Vanishing Point
/ The Devil Thumbs A Ride (road movies)
Bad Timing
The Conversation
All That Heaven Allows
/ The Reckless Moment

/ Force Of Evil
Funny Bones
Cat People
The Killers
Caged Heat
Thunderbolt And Lightfoot
/ Le Samourai
El Patrullero

Ed Wood
/ The Body Snatcher (B-film)
/ Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
Carlito’s Way
The Osterman Weekend
Mommie Dearest
Johnny Guitar

Branded To Kill
The List Of Adrian Messenger
One-Eyed Jacks

Blood And Wine / Plein Soleil (nouvelle vague directors)
Rumble In The Bronx
/ Clubbed To Death (“guilty pleasures”)
The Killers
(1964) / On Dangerous Ground
The Underneath
/ The Hitch-Hiker (film noir)
/ Don’t Look Now (Nicolas Roeg)
White of the Eye
The Last American Hero

Totting up, I make that:

  • A total of 203 different films aired;
  • Of which I have seen 109 films;
  • 99 of those films I am either definite (56) or fairly certain (43) that I caught them on Moviedrome;
  • 10 films shown I missed on Moviedrome but have since caught elsewhere;
  • 94 films broadcast on Moviedrome I have not seen at all…

Hmmm, 94 films – reckon I have a new project for 2012…

So, how many films did Moviedrome introduce you to? Any memories of Moviedrome presentations? Who did you prefer, Cox or Cousins?


On his website Alex Cox supplies PDFs of the two Moviedrome guides, which collect together notes on the films covered in the 1988-1993 series:


After realising some films (Get Carter, One-Eyed Jacks, Johnny Guitar, The Terminator, Carrie) were repeated, I have revised the above numbers to make them more accurate – my bad.

“What’s that, then – ‘happy birthday’?


I want to send a telegram to-

Can I have your number please?

Uh, 7-6-2-4-3-4-1-X

The name of the person you’re sending it to?

Wednicki: W-E-D-N-I-C-K-I.

And the address?

MS Warszawa: W-A-R-S-Z-A-W-A. Is a ship due in shortly. Port of London, Millwall Dock.

Thank you. At what rate, please?


And the message?

Two words. ‘Ty zginesz’. T-Y Z-G-I-N-E-S-Z.

No signature?


Insert forty pence in the box, please.

<4 x 10p inserted>

Your greetings telegram to Wednicki, MS Warszawa, Millwall Dock, Port of London. The message reads, ‘T-Y, Z-G-I-N-E-S-Z’.


What’s that, then – ‘happy birthday’?

No. It means, ‘you will die’.

From Special Branch S3E5, ‘Polonaise‘.

PS Google Translate has ‘ty zginesz’ down as ‘you bend’.

…But when will we get the Festivals, Community Arts & Film Manager fly-on-the-wall documentary?

Following on from last week’s post noting that Bristol City Council is advertising for a new arts boss (“helping grow Bristol’s headline artists of tomorrow“) for ten grand more than the salary offered to social workers overseeing foster care, with somewhat accidental synchronicity this Tuesday the Beeb started screening Protecting Our Children, a new series following social workers around Bristol.

The first episode – Knowle West was it? – was pretty hard viewing. Bristol 24-7 has a guest post by one of the social workers who appears in the programme.

Whatever your feelings about social workers, it is certainly interesting to see how they work.

FAIL #001: The Gallic Wars

If there’s one thing that the Asterix books teach us, it’s that no one remembers Alesia. If there’s one thing that cheap ‘documentary’ television teaches us, it’s DON’T LEAVE THE ONSCREEN TITLES TO THE UNPAID INTERNS.

Transcript of Newsnight discussion about the TSG and policing of G20, 7/7/9

On BBC2’s Newsnight yesterday there was an interesting report by Richard Watson looking at the involvement of the Territorial Support Group (TSG) in the policing of the G20 protests in light of the high level of complaints against its officers and the HMIC’s report, which came out on Monday.

There then followed a studio discussion about the points raised, which was all the more interesting for the involvement of Keith Vaz MP, who chairs the Home Affairs Committee, which published its own report into the policing of the G20 protests a week earlier.

Neither the HMIC nor the HAC reports dwelt on the involvement of TSG officers in much of the most violent incidents, such as the fatal assault on Ian Tomlinson by a TSG constable (who had apparently resigned from the police previously over allegations of violence, before rejoining with no investigation), the ‘Fisher hitter’ TSG sergeant, or the violent clearance of the peaceful Climate Camp by massed ranks of the TSG.

Indeed, in the Newsnight discussion it quickly becomes apparent that Keith Vaz does not seem to have realised that the highly experienced, well-trained public order specialists of the TSG had been on the frontline throughout the policing of G20. Lest we forget, his Committee found that ‘inexperienced’ and ‘untrained’ officers on the frontline had been a major contributing factor of the many problems.

I find his lack of awareness regarding the involvement and presence on the frontline at G20 of the TSG rather astounding. On the day the HAC report came out, I wrote to Keith Vaz with my concerns that his Committee’s report appeared to overlook the integral involvement of specialist units such as the TSG, the Forward Intelligence Teams, and the City of London Police dog units at each of the most controversial contact points. I also pointed out that the commanding officers both on the ground and directing the operation from headquarters were experienced in public order matters, and named them.

The next day I received a reply from a representative of the HAC which expressed the view that the Committee had not been able to comment specifically on matters which may be subject to court proceedings. However, it was clearly stated that the Committee might further look into specialist police units such as these in the future.

So, can we expect Commander Bob Broadhurst and other senior Met officers to be dragged back before the Committee to explain just why they gave such a plainly inaccurate picture? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, in case you missed Newsnight, you can (if you are in the UK) still catch it on the iPlayer until late next Tuesday night (the segment begins at around 14mins into the programme).

The audio of the report on the TSG and subsequent studio discussion is also available here. A full transcript of the studio discussion (which begins at around 6mins45s into the audio clip) is below.

Transcript of Newsnight studio discussion on TSG, 7/7/9

  • EM = Emily Maitlis, Newsnight presenter hosting the discussion
  • BP = Brian Paddick, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police, and onetime LibDem candidate for London Mayor
  • JJ = Jenny Jones MLA, Green Party member of the Metropolitan Police Authority
  • KV = Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee

EM: Now joining me in the studio Brian Paddick, a former deputy assistant commissioner in the Met; Jenny Jones, who’s a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority; the MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, which also recently released a report into G20 policing, welcome to all, thanks for coming.

Brian Paddick, you were in charge of south east Territorial Support Group in your time, does what you’ve heard here this evening surprise you?

BP: Well, it’s a great concern of mine because it appears to be history repeating itself. The Special Patrol Group, the predecessor of the Territorial Support Group, which was disbanded when Blair Peach was killed in a demonstration in 1979, started out as a very professional outfit, they were the elite of the Metropolitan Police, and gradually the gang mentality took over, and in the end they had to be disbanded.

What I am very concerned about is the Territorial Support Group – again, the elite, um, took very great pride in their appearance, their fitness – could be showing signs of going the same way as the Special Patrol Group.

EM: But you think you know it wasn’t like this under your command? How well did you know it?

BP: It certainly wasn’t like that under my command, and I went out with the officers, on patrol, and it was a very different situation in those days. But the alarming thing is, one of the things that young man said, about being hit with the hat, one of the traditional TSG punishments amongst officers is a ‘hatting’, which is to hit a fellow officer with hats. So that story has a very sinister ring of truth about it.

EM: Jenny Jones, this didn’t just happen overnight, this doesn’t even reflect what happened in the G20…

JJ: I think that probably there is a much wider problem, I think the TSG has deep problems about the sort of robust policing they are trained for. But I think also, I’ve heard senior officers for example, say things like, they ‘differentiate between things like innocent people and protesters’, as if a protester cannot be an innocent person; now to me that suggests there is a deep thought process, and they can’t understand the real function of protest, and that it can be utterly peaceful.

EM: Keith Vaz, isn’t it extraordinary that we’ve had a whole report on the G20 and the policing of it, and barely a mention of this controversial group?

KV: Well, I’m very disappointed with what I’ve just seen on your programme. The fact is I think this is a very strong report, it’s very critical of certain aspects of what the police did during G20, and it very much echoes what we said in our select committee report a week ago.

But what we were told in evidence, that the people on the frontline were inexperienced and untrained officers, we were not told in our evidence, something that Brian has just told me, as we were going on this programme, that actually the Territorial Support Group are usually in the frontline as far as these protests are concerned…

EM: …But that was pretty obvious, that was pretty obvious from the footage we’ve seen in the last few months, why would you put inexperienced officers on the frontline?

KV: Well… It may be pretty obvious, but we can only produce reports on the basis of the evidence that we have received, and certainly the evidence that came to us, the evidence that was given to us in this inquiry, was that the people on the frontline were untrained and inexperienced, and basically that’s why we concluded that the police were pretty lucky in this instance…

BP: …The worrying point, Emily, is that the most senior, the most serious complaints that have been made, for example the ones regarding Ian Tomlinson, all involve Territorial Support Group officers, not the young inexperienced, untrained officers that the senior officers who gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee say were to blame for losing control during that situation.

In my experience it is the experienced Territorial Support Group officers who are more likely to overstep the mark rather than beat officers who are drafted into that situation.

EM: I mean, you talk about overstepping the mark, look at that case study: A young man, picked up off the street, called a ‘fucking Paki’, slapped around… The police have recognised that this is a legitimate complaint…

KV: They have, and they should, it is totally unacceptable behaviour, even though in certain circumstances what the police do in terms of tactics they say is within their rulebook, it’s totally unacceptable behaviour for any individual to be beaten, or…

EM: …But why then, 137 outstanding complaints, we’re talking about one in three officers.

KV: …Well there shouldn’t be, and one of the problems that I think we’ve had is what G20 has spawned, quite rightly, is a number of complaints that cannot be dealt with in the timeframe, that’s why one of the recommendations we put forward, is that additional resources have to be given to the IPCC in order to be able to deal with these complaints. At the moment a third of the entire caseload of the IPCC is actually complaints against officers who were participating in the G20 protest.

EM: Jenny Jones, it does seem extraordinary that at this point we’re just talking about the process to handle complaints. Do we actually need the Territorial Support Group?

JJ: Well, as a Green I’d like to say ‘no, we don’t need them’, but in fact of course I think there will be times when you need that sort of very strong policing, because there are extreme incidents, but I think they are used too frequently, I think that the officers themselves are not rotated enough so they get out of what Brian calls this ‘gang culture’, and I think there could be better training about civil liberties. They’re clearly not doing their job properly.

BP: Let’s put some balance in here though, because these are allegations, they’re being investigated, these officers have not been convicted of any wrongdoing, and we have the word of one person, at the moment, who has made this complaint about their treatment at the hands of the Territorial Support Group, that investigation has not concluded yet.

The second thing to say is what Chris Allison said, which is Territorial Support Group officers quite often are put in the frontline, and so you would expect to some extent them to have more complaints, perhaps, than other officers who are not put into those very stressful situations.

EM: Alright, but let me put you back as, in charge, if you like… These are allegations and you have to deal, let’s imagine, with those allegations. What would you do now, from inside the Met? I mean a complete reshuffle, a complete retrain? Would you disperse them so there isn’t an elite force as such?

BP: Well, you need to have a highly mobile force ready to deal with either a spontaneous outbreak of disorder or to deal with, we’re on the anniversary of the seventh of July bombings, the Territorial Support Group was an extremely useful resource in that sort of situation.

But what you’ve got to make sure is that there’s rotation of those officers on a regular basis so that these cliques do not develop, that they don’t become a law unto themselves, which is the problem we had with the Special Patrol Group before.

EM: Keith Vaz, I come back to my previous point, neither in the report today nor in your report from the Home Affairs Select Committee did we hear any mention of the problems or the scale of the complaints against this force. Don’t you think that’s a pretty bad mess?

KV: It is a pretty bad mess, but you can only produce reports on the basis of evidence that has been given to you, and if a Select Committee is given evidence about the type of officers who were on duty during protests of this kind, we can only conclude on the evidence that we’ve got.

But don’t forget, Denis O’ Connor’s report is an interim report in any event, this was brought out relatively quickly, in order to ensure that some of the main points were dealt with.

But we will certainly return to this subject as a result of the consultations that we will have following the publication of this report. This isn’t the end of it, I think the debate about policing with consent of major events of this kind, which, frankly, this report very helpfully talks about, is something that we have to return to…

EM: Okay…

KV: What the G20 gives us is the opportunity to have that debate with the public.

EM: Jenny Jones, you’ve had that pledge here from Keith Vaz tonight, from the MPA’s perspective, what would you actually like to see in concrete terms?

JJ: Well, I think we have seen the start of a public debate which has not happened before, over many years I have complained about police tactics and mostly I’ve been ignored on the Police Authority, because people just haven’t believed them, we are now in a different era, when we’ve seen some very bad behaviour, the police, I think have got to change.

EM: Thank you very much indeed, thanks for joining me.

Headline Of The Day: Star Wars Baddie On Big Brother Goody

Green Cross Code Man/Dying Reality TV

From the Evening Post, naturally.

The ‘story’ continues:

He revealed his illness earlier this week on Absolute Radio in an attempt to raise money for the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

Speaking from his home in Croydon, Surrey, he said: ”I now know what it’s like to go through this treatment, and I have sympathy for anyone in the same position.

”Jade should be commended for her achievements, and should be thoroughly proud of raising the awareness of cervical cancer.

”She has done more than anyone else in memory to convince women to go for regular tests.”

Married father-of-three Prowse, who stands 6’7” tall, added: ”If I can do the same for prostate cancer in men, then I will be happy.”

Body-builder Prowse was chosen to play the villain in Star Wars in 1976, but because of his West Country accent the character’s lines were spoken by the deep-voiced American actor James Earl Jones.

He told Absolute Radio’s Christian O’Connell that he was making good progress and felt ”fantastic” despite his condition.

He said: ‘I’m undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, would you believe. I’m having my very last treatment this morning.

”I’ve had two months of radiotherapy at the Royal Marsden. It’s the most fantastic hospital. I feel fantastic, no problems whatsoever.”

Jade, 27, spent Sunday with her two sons Freddie, four, and Bobby Jack, five, her mum Jackiey (corr) Budden, 50, and her 21-year-old hubby Jack Tweed.

She has already made full arrangements for her funeral, which she hopes will be a ‘celebration’ of her life.

Jackiey said: ”It’s not day by day now. It’s more like hour by hour.”

Leaving the sub’s note on spelling in there is a nice touch, adds that gritty realism that the story demands.

NTBCW #002: Cheryl Baker – from Buck’s Fizz to Yippee Ki Yay, Motherfucker

Cheryl Baker from Buck's Fizz

This is Cheryl Baker from early eighties Eurovision-winning pop group Buck’s Fizz, who subsequently presented her own Saturday morning kids’ cookery programme, Eggs ‘N’ Baker before joining the Record Breakers team.

NTBCW#002: Cheryl Baker in Road House

This is Cheryl Baker from late eighties Patrick Swayze vehicle Road House, in which her husband (pictured centre) offers a grope of her chest to any man for $20. If you missed her performance as ‘Well-Endowed Wife’, perhaps you recall her in Die Hard, where as the more simply named ‘Woman’ she was dragged from her half-dressed office party tryst with a co-worker by sleek-haired European terrorists (see below).

NTBCW #002: Cheryl Baker in Die Hard

I understand that she has also had roles in Steve Martin’s LA Story (Changing Room Woman) and Lethal Weapon (Girl In Shower #1). If I can track these down, I shall add them here.

“Just one more thing…”

So it wasn’t common-or-garden forgetfulness, and it wasn’t genius sleuthing, it was just Alzheimer’s


Columbo – the only honest cop.

Keep on banging up those greedy rich bastards!

Frayling at the edges

The other day I watched a programme in a series called Nightmare: The Birth Of Horror*, in which Christopher Frayling looked at the creation and success of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Today on Shadowlands I noticed a reference to “Sir Christopher Professor Frayling”.

This led me to have a quick look on Wikipedia to find out more about Frayling.

Apparently, when Frayling was knighted, he

chose “PERGE SCELUS MIHI DIEM PERFICIAS” as his motto, which translates as “Proceed, varlet, and let the day be rendered perfect for my benefit”. In more modern English, the phrase would say: “Go ahead, punk, make my day”.


* This programme also taught me the word ‘bibliogenesis’ (in Frayling’s words, “birth by books”).

Names That Obey No Gender Conventions #002: Michael Michele

That be Ms Michael Michele, formerly of Homicide: Life On The Street and ER.

Wikipediaphile: The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

The other night I watched a documentary called The Lost Legions Of Varus. It was about how the eastward expansion of the Roman Empire across the lands we call Germany was checked by a tactically imaginative ambush by local tribes coordinated by a Romanified Cherusci nobleman called Arminius in 9CE.

The programme posits the idea that this single event laid the foundations for the division of much of Europe into two camps – those of the Romance nations and those of the Germanic – and all that entailed for the next two millennia. Whilst this is something of a sweeping assertion, it’s still a fascinating story. The battle saw the Romans lose three whole legions, and subsequently they withdrew to a boundary west of the Rhine and south of the Danube.

Wikipedia on the actual battle:

Varus’s forces included three legions (Legio XVII, Legio XVIII, and Legio XIX), six cohorts of auxiliary troops (non-Roman allies) and three squadrons of cavalry (alae), most of which lacked combat experience with Germanic fighters under local conditions. The Roman forces were not marching in combat formation, and were interspersed with large numbers of camp-followers. As they entered the forest (probably just northeast of Osnabrück [show location on an interactive map] 52°24′38″N 8°07′46″E / 52.41056, 8.12944), they found the track narrow and muddy; according to Dio Cassius a violent storm had also arisen. He also writes that Varus neglected to send out advance reconnaissance parties[citation needed].

The line of march was now stretched out perilously long — estimates are that it surpassed 15 km (9 miles), and was perhaps as long as 20 km (12 miles).[1] It was then suddenly attacked by Germanic warriors. Arminius knew Roman tactics very well and could direct his troops to counter them effectively, using locally superior numbers against the spread-out Roman legions. The Romans managed to set up a fortified night camp, and the next morning broke out into the open country north of the Wiehen mountains, near the modern town of Osterkappeln. The break-out cost them heavy losses, as did a further attempt to escape by marching through another forested area, with the torrential rains continuing, preventing them from using their bows, and rendering them virtually defenseless, as their shields too became waterlogged.

They then undertook a night march to escape, but marched straight into another trap that Arminius had set, at the foot of Kalkriese Hill (near Osnabrück). There, the sandy, open strip on which the Romans could march easily was constricted by the hill, so that there was a gap of only about 100 m between the woods and the swampland at the edge of the Great Bog. Moreover, the road was blocked by a trench, and, towards the forest, an earthen wall had been built along the roadside, permitting the Germanic tribesmen to attack the Romans from cover. The Romans made a desperate attempt to storm the wall, but failed, and the highest-ranking officer next to Varus, Numonius Vala, abandoned the troops by riding off with the cavalry; however, he too was overtaken by the Germanic cavalry and killed, according to Velleius Paterculus. The Germanic warriors then stormed the field and slaughtered the disintegrating Roman forces; Varus committed suicide.[1] Velleius reports that one commander, Ceionus, “shamefully” surrendered, while his colleague Eggius “heroically” died leading his doomed troops.

Around 15,000–20,000 Roman soldiers must have died; not only Varus, but also many of his officers are said to have taken their own lives by falling on their swords in the approved manner.[1] Tacitus wrote that many officers were sacrificed by the Germanic forces as part of their indigenous religious ceremonies. However, others were ransomed, and the common soldiers appear to have been enslaved.

As a longtime lover of Asterix, I found it most interesting to hear about these non-Gothic tribes in the German lands. (The Asterix books are set around sixty years prior to the events in the Teutoburg Forest; in reality the Gothic tribes did not play a significant role in history until the third and fourth centuries.) Of course, all this leads on to a perpetual hunt through Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Huns, Vandals, Burgundians, Theodoric, Alaric and all. Frankly (ahem) it all gets rather confusing.

A sas birtokol leszállt (még nem…): The Hungarian Eagle-reading refugees story, part 2

Time for a brief update on the Hungarian-refugees-read-Eagle story I mentioned the other day. I’ve been in and out and rather busy the past week (including going to the rather spiffing Endorse It In Dorset festival with the wonderful ladyfriend at the weekend), so I have been a little remiss in following all this up.

First off, thanks again to Steve Holland at Bear Alley for blogging it, and to John Freeman at DownTheTubes for sounding out Eagle enthusiasts.

On the downside, after wading through the much vaunted BBC Archive system, I drew no clues – the BFI’s Screenonline website surrendered far more information and proved much more user-friendly – so I used a standard ‘contact the BBC’ form to try and glean some information about the film footage used in the programme. Unfortunately all this yielded was a breezily polite yet thoroughly empty declination:

Dear Chris

Thanks for your e-mail regarding ‘The Rock N’ Roll Years’.

I understand that you’re interested in a particular piece of film from the 1957 series.

As the BBC is committed to ensuring that we derive the best possible value for all Licence Fee payers, we can no longer justify researching some of the unique, individual enquiries we were previously able to handle. We regret that your request falls into this category and are sorry that we are unable to supply the information you requested on this occasion. We hope that you will understand the reasons why.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.


BBC Information

Whilst I have no personal grievance with Sarah from BBC Information, this did somewhat tickle my complaining bone, so I am currently considering various approaches in order to prolong this avenue of investigation, drawing heavily from the school of persistent irritation. This will likely entail requests for details on the criteria employed to discern whether an enquiry should be assisted; a contextual hint that this might relate to a copyright issue; the suggestion that this refusal will lead to a range of official complaint procedures which themselves would take up more resources than simply looking at a file card or microfiche to find out where film for this episode came from; and an insistence that the factual error in the response means that I wish to resubmit the query. Frankly I’m embarrassed at myself, but the ends justify the means.

On a far more positive note, I’ve noticed that a Hungarian comics blog, Panel, has now covered the story. My Magyar is a little rusty, but through the power of InterTran I believe it’s a straightforward pick-up of the original.

I suspect help in resolving this little mystery will ultimately come from either comics fans or from those tapped into Hungarian folk memory – emigrés from that time, their relatives or even historians – so I am especially grateful for this mention.


PRSC Says: Stop the yuppie developments! Save Lakota!

Right, so I been a lazy little blogger, been away, yadda yadda yadda, but anyhow, that busy bee Chris at the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft has done my work for me by putting out another call to arms to the people of the Croft and the STP…

As you may know, Lakota – one of Bristol’s most significant nightclub venues, and a progenitor of local underground dance culture – is under serious threat of being knocked down to make way for (yes, you’ve guessed it) more yuppie flats. I wrote about the earlier stages of all this back in 2006, and sadly Clockwork has now fallen to the speculators; but we do still have the chance to execute a blocking manoeuvre on the profiteers wanting to socially cleanse our neighbourhood by sticking together and routing them on the Lakota issue. How can we do that? Well, over to Mr Chalkley:


TIME AND VENUE: WEDNESDAY, 11th JUNE 2PM, at the Council House.

The Lakota building is up for demolition. A development of The Lakota and the Coroner’s Court is proposed (See attached images), which will mean the demolition of the former malthouse, now the Lakota, and the construction of 57 residential units, ground floor commercial units, to include a restaurant/cafe and an element of affordable business space.

The Lakota is a former malthouse which has its origins in the 18th Century… and falls within the Stokes Croft Conservation area, and is identified as “an unlisted building of merit.” 197 letters and e-mails have been received by the Council, of which 21 were in favour of demolition, the rest being against… most people citing the loss of the club… Be warned: this is not a valid reason as far as the planning is concerned…

We invite you to peruse the relevant documents, and there are many (See the two links at the bottom of the email)… and would ask you to attend the meeting…

Everybody has a right to speak at this meeting for up to three minutes, to put one’s point of view. In order to do this, you must contact Steve Gregory at the Council by 12 o’clock the previous day [midday, Tuesday 10th June], with details of what you are going to say… Tel. 01179224357 or email

The proposed development has some merit, but we feel that, even though the Lakota building is in poor repair, and is a simple utilitarian warehouse building, there is no valid reason for its demolition. The reason that Stokes Croft is “Known as much for its individuality, culture and diversity, as for its perceived decay” is precisely because it has managed to retain an eclectic mix of historic buildings that have managed to escape the blandification of commercial re-development. It is arguable that the reason that the Lakota night club came into existence, is that the building was not locked into one specific use… Essentially it is a large box.

With developments taking place all over the City currently, we believe that it is increasingly important to retain whatever historic fabric that remains within the City Centre, and to retain buildings that offer the possibility of many different uses. By creating more accommodation, we remove these buildings and potential space from the possibility of public/creative/commercial use. In fact, we believe that to demolish the Lakota would do the City an enormous disservice, and risk setting a precedent for further re-development throughout Stokes Croft that neither ‘preserves’ nor ‘enhances’ its status as a Conservation area.

Jamaica Street Arts Studios in the centre of Stokes Croft is an old industrial building which was similarly under threat in the early 1990’s. By working with English Heritage, the owners managed to keep the building alive, and it is now a flourishing Arts studio complex, and houses over 40 working artists in a refurbished historic building.

One thing is certain: If we demolish the Lakota, we cannot un-demolish it a few years later… So, if there is the slightest element of doubt, we must work to preserve it…

If you wish to speak, then please get in contact Steve Gregory Tel. 01179224357 email
Or… contact us [PRSC], with a view to co-ordinating our response.

Lakota planning app on BCC website
Address: Lakota 6 Upper York Street Bristol BS2 8QN
Council reference: 08/00155/LC
Online Reference: Not Available
Date opened: 25/Jan/2008
Status: Current

Coroner’s Court planning app on BCC website
Address: Former Coroners Court Backfields And The Lakota Club Upper York Street Stokes Croft Bristol BS2 8JW
Council reference: 07/04779/F
Online Reference: Not Available
Date opened: 01/Nov/2007
Status: Current


People’s Republic of Stokes Croft

Turbo Island Studio,
37, Jamaica Street,
Stokes Croft,

Mobile: 07866627052

Oh, and the pic directly above? That’s the coroner’s court standing in for Peckham Town Hall in the 1996 Only Fools And Horses Christmas special, ‘Heroes And Villains‘. Guess it’s time for our councillors to decide which they are themselves…