History Hunters

History Hunters was a spin-off from the successful Channel 4 series Time Team. Channel 4 deleted the original site some years ago - all that's left is this summary page - but luckily I found the archive on an old CD-rom (that hadn't rotted) and decided to preserve it for posterity.

It was a sort of local history/geneaology programme in which two teams competed with each other to solve a mystery! The pilot episode was at Marshfield and at that time the proposed series was called Hands on History, later changed to Time Team Roadshow. It was my first experience of telly and it was very daunting, as presenter Tony Robinson would often cut to me pretending to type on my computer! (I sussed pretty soon that as it wasn't going out live, I didn't actually need to do any work on site, apart from scan images that wouldn't be available to me later - all the coding was done later at home.) The scanner and other stuff was usually transported by writer Nancy Duin in her car. Digital photographer was Simon Williams. For Marshfield, I hired a Mac laptop for the weekend at great expense - for later episodes I bought a G3 Wallstreet for just over £3,000. It was all great fun and should have gone to a second series, but it went out at a bad time on Saturday afternoon instead of the better Time Team Sunday slot.

I also worked on all the annual episodes of Time Team Live except the very first one, from August 1998 at King's Lynne until 2001, but that's another story. I also visited sundry regular Time Team digs (when it was still trendy to have a webmaster tapping away in the background) and worked on Tim Taylor's own Teamsite, which has also disappeared from the internet.

So, dive in - and enjoy! It's exactly as it was - tho it was designed to fit into a Channel 4 template - and some things may not work!


New Forest cycling weekend


Well, I won't say it wasn't hard, but it was! I'm not getting any younger and the New Forest seemed much hotter and hillier than it was last time I cycled here, back in 2005. Also the YHA experience was not great: 10 bunks full of snoring ramblers in a room, undressing in the dark and nowhere but the floor to dump your clobber! The breakfasts were fine however, and there was never any congestion in the showers or loos. I can honestly predict however, that it'll be a B&B next time and sod the kid's inheritance! Old Guildford girlfriend Jenny (I've known her since she was just 17) wrote a good account on the Clarion website and there are tons of photos on Flickr. Luckily I got a lift back to Brighton in Annie's Romahome, so avoided all the problems on the railways - and an unwanted trip to Clapham Junction. Anyway, 'Fellowship is life' as we say in the Clarion - I had a great time with some very dear friends - and some good beer and food too - and saw plenty of wildlife. Now looking forward to a quiet Easter to recuperate.


Birmingham & Pre-Raphaelite drawings

Pre-Raphaelite life drawings
En route for the NUJ DM in Southport, where I was to be a first-time delegate, I broke the journey in Birmingham to see The Poetry of Drawing: Pre-Raphaelite designs, studies and watercolours at the Art gallery. It was a fabulous exhibition comprising sketches and drawings, along with the paintings they were the studies for, from their student life drawings from casts at the Royal Academy Schools and drawings by their mentor Ford Madox Brown, through their entire careers and into the drawings of followers such as Frederick Sandys, Aubrey Beardsley and Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale. There was also a whole bay of textile designs, stained glass and ceramics by designers such as William Morris, William de Morgan and Florence Camm. But it was the Big Three - Rossetti, Holman-Hunt and Millais - I'd come to see and I wasn't disappointed. I particularly liked the cartoons and caricatures, such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti's scratchy pen drawing of Christina Rossetti in a tantrum (1862). Cost me a fiver to get in, and was well worth it. It's on until 15 May, then moves to Sydney.

Birmingham Art Gallery also has a fantastic permanent collection of Pre-Raphaelite art, including some chairs designed by William Holman-Hunt and the world's largest watercolour, by Edward Burne-Jones. The cafe gives a discount if you show them your ticket, but be warned they have those irritating stainless-steel teapots that dribble all over the place. That night I searched for the Balti Triangle (nobody in Brum seemed to know where it was) but eventually stumbled on Al Frash in Ladypool Road where I had a mixed-veg balti for £5.50. I really didn't need the rice and (small!) naan! A pint at the Briar Rose (a Burne-Jones connection) Wetherspoons round the corner from the hotel finished off the night nicely.

I stayed at the Premier Inn on Waterloo Street, which was really handy for New Street station and the art gallery and well recommended. On Thursday 7 April, I jumped on a 101 bus to the Jewellery Quarter to see the Pen Museum. I was a bit early so walked to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, passing Gillott's Victoria Works (I learnt later that the G in Gillott is a soft J, like in Gillette), where my favourite 303 nib was once made, the factory of Thomas Fattorini, where enamel badges are still made, and a cast-iron 'Temple of Relief' by the station, sadly not in use!

The Jewelley Quarter Museum is the old works of gold bangle makers Smith and Pepper - a time capsule that closed in the 1980s, full of old machinery and dies that would give a factory health and safety inspector nightmares. Cost £5.50 for the guided tour and well worth it. There's a nice cafe too. Back at the Pen Room (I prefer Pen Museum), I joined a party being shown round, not just the front rooms, but another large room crammed full of nibs and fountain pens at the back. There's such a lot of stuff to see. We were shown how a Mitchell's nib was made in stages, and all encouraged to have a go. It's housed in what was once the factory of pen maker W E Wiley, now the Argent Centre, who used the steam from the factory boilers to heat a Turkish Baths - an early example of combined heat and power! Time was up - no chance to see Moor Street Station or Thinktank...

Southport is a very strange place, where it seems impossible to see the sea. The waitress at the Leicester Hotel said to see the sea in Southport you have to go to Blackpool. The trip from Liverpool to S'port was interrupted by vandals putting something on the line between Waterloo and Crosby. The train was full of tipsy scantily clad orange ladies who were presumably returning from a day at Aintree. The DM was quite hard work, with early starts and long days, in a 1930s Floral Hall that had been encapsulated into a modern (not Modernist!) complex - but it was scorching outside. My account of proceedings is here. I didn't manage to get to see the Lawnmower Museum, nor ride to the end of the pier, and the Art Gallery was closed for two years, but I did see some interesting buildings and sample some real ale and we were well looked after at the Conference. Now it's a few days respite until the BiG outing to Pallant House on Wednesday and the Clarion New Forest excursion this Friday!


The Poetry of Drawing

The Poetry of Drawing, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, review - Telegraph: excellent review from the Torygraph of the exhibition i shall be visiting on Wednesday.

6023 - King Edward II

Was never ever really fussed by GWR locos, what with their lack of Pacifics and all those twiddly brass bits, but the newly restored 6023 King Edward II is surely sex on wheels! A visit to Didcot is in order...


Brighton nudes are Britain's best

In a quiet corner of Bury Fair, back in the very early 1960s, amongst the more spectator-oriented attractions such as the Wall of Death, freak shows and boxing ring, was the Nude Show. For sixpence you got a few minutes in a tent listening to a foul-mouthed comedian introduce various tableaux of naked ladies (well, maybe there was just the one) striking artistic poses, standing absolutely still when the curtain opened. It was more than a poor boy could take, being brought up on glimpses of topless native women in National Geographic magazine or maybe a sneaky playground peek at the mummsy airbrushed photos in Spick or Span. It was how I imagined the Windmill Theatre was, before the Lord Chamberlain allowed nudes to move on stage. It was some time (1968) before I again saw a naked woman, at a life drawing class in Battersea.

So to last night's Still Life at the tiny Marlborough Theatre. Five 'stunners', as Dante Gabriel Rossetti called his models, presented re-enactments of famous paintings and photographs, from the Rokeby Venus (modelled by Francesca Cluney with Emma Sandham-Kings as Cupid) to Man Ray's Le Violon d'Ingres, with Kiki played by the multi-talented Kate Shields, who also played the saw whilst posing! Johanna Samuelson did Otto Dix's Sylvia von Harden, and Lucy Potts modelled as well, in Egon Schiele's Wally in red blouse. They were accompanied by a cute cellist and virtuoso pianist, recorded jazz and projections, and Francesca Cluney also did a beautiful Loie Fuller butterfly dance. On the door and by the side of the stage throughout were two delightful Pierettes and the whole evening was compered by the deadpan gorgeous Rosey Carrick, who joined in with the finale pose. Oh, and there was a performance poet, Dolores Luxedo (bloke), who knocked over my drink, but as I got accused of spilling a woman's drink at The Governess presents last week, I guess we're karma quits!

The night before I'd been privileged to attend the premiere of Beach Party Animal, directed by Joe Murray and Liz Aggiss. Joe, assisted by Max and Wolfie, put on an exemplary PV, with drinks carefully tailored to each guest (mine was a Bath Ales Dark Side), with a child's portion of fish and chips thown in! There were three performances of this beautifully paced 20-minute film that night - each audience (which included such Brighton faces as Louise Rennison and Tony Haas) got the same star treatment and (I heard later) each got rowdier as the night progressed. This too included nudity, but not the Two Wrongies, who managed to keep their clothes on for once. No, it was the naked arse of author and actor Tim Crouch, running into the English Channel for his all-weather morning dip!

It's events like these that make you glad to be alive and living in Brighton, the best of all possible towns. No moaning today...