Sunday, 21 December 2014

A private screening at 20th Century Flicks

20th Century Flicks is a Bristol institution. A traditional video rental shop, it is still open and thriving after more than 30 years of business and has recently moved from Clifton to the quaintly-named Christmas Steps near the centre of Bristol.

The move has given it a more prominent location, a bigger floor space and – most excitingly – room for the Flicks Kino, a cinema for private viewings with a reasonable price tag, the choice of over 18,000 films and a BYO food and drink policy. We couldn't resist.

Yesterday we hired it out (£25 for couples/£50 for groups) for a private viewing of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, something as both a journo and adventurer I have really wanted to see since it came out. Watch the trailer below – it's a brilliantly imagined story of the demise of a print magazine set in some fantastic locations around the world.

We had complete control over the starts, stops and volume of our chosen flick and enjoyed cheese, cold meats, crusty bread and a bit of bubbly with it. The kino is decked out in a nostalgic plush red complete with an elegant chaise lounge and statuette. It's nestled within a decor dominated by exposed brick and inviting towers of DVDs.

A great alternative to Netflix alone in your flat, huh? A gem of a place, I would highly recommend a visit.


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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Pentax MV1

On a fateful day in October I left my very favourite possession – a 1970s Pentax K1000 – to the mercy of the number 75 Bristol bus route. The camera had fallen off my shoulder, tragically unnoticed and never to be seen again.

Denial, anger, depression – I went through all five stages of grief over the ensuing hours. And – worse – I was totally disappointed in myself for losing a camera my mother had bought when she was 16 years old and passed on to me to take with me all over the world – from Berlin to Iceland to the Greek Islands.

Help was soon at hand, though, and from the very fount of generosity that bestowed the original camera on me. My parents had ventured to the Promised Land that is eBay and found me a lovely little Pentax MV1 as a replacement. Forgotten in a dusty corner it seemed, the vendor was asking just £6.50 for the beautiful thing.

A compact 35mm SLR first produced in 1977, the MV1 has an auto function on its shutter speed so everything can be operated more quickly and easily than on the Pentax K1000. It also has a self timer (aka the selfie feature) and large rings to attach the carry strap to. I missed my K1000, but sensed that this was going to be the start of a brand new adventure; I was ready to move on.

And so – here are the first few snaps I have taken on my new Pentax: photographs of the colours and contrasts I have found in and around Bristol over the last couple of weeks. Enjoy.

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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Buy a song to save a life

The Portraits: The Rest of Time Emma Whittaker

English folk duo The Portraits have released a single to raise money for Emma Whittaker, a six-year-old girl who is suffering from a rare genetic condition and who needs a find a donor with her blood type by March. Emma's parents are already promoting their daughter's cause with their online Match 4 Emma and #pantsonyourhead campaigns and you can read Emma's moving story here.

The Rest Of Time features Ethemia and Minnie Birch, as well as the voices of 2000 people from across the UK, recorded by The Portraits over the past year. It's something that brings a huge group of people together to get Emma's message heard far and wide.

Singer Lorraine Reilly Millington of The Portraits says: “We wanted to create a huge national choir by layering the voices of different crowds we played to and every person that has sung will be credited on the single. There are enough people with an interest in its success that reaching the charts is really achievable, and this would make a huge noise for Emma and everyone else searching for a donor!”

She adds: “We’ve had such an amazing reaction from real people as we’ve recorded them. The UK has sung its heart out for one little girl, from Lancaster to Leighton Buzzard, Cornwall to Camden. The results are stunning and the song has a huge momentum behind it. Next stop, the charts!”

The Rest of Time is out on 28 December 2014 and is available to pre-order on iTunes and on CD now. For just 79p, you can help towards this fantastic cause – it's not much is it? So click on one of the buttons below to buy the single!

Watch a short documentary about The Rest Of Time below.


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Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Playlist: Lamb

Electronic duo Lamb (Lou Rhodes and Andy Barlow) released their first album in 1996. Eighteen years and seven studio albums later and I have found myself with a very sturdy seat on the Lamb-fan bandwagon. I saw them live twice within two weeks at two very different gigs recently – one on a lazy Sunday afternoon at Bristol's Rise and the other on a dark night at the O2 Academy.

Getting to know 'the old stuff' has of course been wonderful – what better love song is there out there than Cottonwool? And has any song ever carried as much emotional weight as Gabriel? But the great thing about being fairly new to Lamb's music is the luxury to appreciate the 'new stuff' with no bias toward the old.

The most recent album, released just over a month ago, is sublime. 'Backspace Unwind' opens with throbbing synths in In Binary, and includes We Fall in Love, Backspace Unwind and Nobody Else, which all hit it out the park. It is one of those albums that has very quickly becomes symbolic of how I feel about everything at the moment.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie and the advent of punk

Chris Stein/negative: me, Blondie and the advent of punk, Somerset House

I recently treated myself to a culture + party weekend in London. It was all about Gordon's dingy wine bar, steamy Soho, after-dark underground Dalston and a sleepy Sunday wander through Spitalfields Market

One highlight amidst these was a trip to Somerset House to see the current (free) exhibition of Chris Stein's photographs of his years hanging out with Blondie and the punk set in 1970s and 80s New York, where New Wave ruled with its favourite partners in crime – drugs, booze and sartorialism.

Debbie Harry of course takes fantastic pictures, and this is several rooms of brilliantly nostalgic, edgy and irresistibly hedonistic imagery – what's not to love? Chris Stein is a guitarist and co-founder of Blondie and offers an intimate vision of the band's behind-the-scenes lifestyle with his photographs.

Included in the exhibition is a large pamphlet of two essays by Stein and Harry talking about photography and voyeurism respectively ("I had no idea that Chris was a voyeur when I met him. How could I know? I'm joking... a bit").

It was Stein's piece on the universality of contemporary photography, specifically through Instagram,  that particularly struck me.

"Of late, I really like looking at Instagram. one hundred  fifty million people taking and putting up more than sixteen billion images that's somewhat like the one Cocteau spoke of ['film will only become art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper'].

"Instagram is filled with boring snapshots of pets and food as well as people who are aware of what they are pressing on their 'public.' But every now and then I will come upon an image that is fantastic in its innocence and, some little illuminated square that makes me really wonder if the person who took it knows how good it is."

This is an exhibition simple in curation and concept, but rich in the thought and inspiration it provokes. Catch it before it's gone.

Chris Stein/negative: me, Blondie and the advent of punk runs at Somerset House until Sunday 25 January. 


Photos: Chris Stein/Somerset House

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