A gig at a leisure centre? Okay then…

So I sing and play guitar in an originals band called ‘Gravity Dave’ (www.facebook.com/gravitydave). We’ve been going in one form or another for a year and a half now, and all of us played in various bands for many years before.

We work hard every Thursday night rehearsing and writing new material. We pay the practice room fee out of our own pockets and of course, all our equipment costs and maintenance and occasionally recording costs and such like. I’m sure you’ve heard all this before if you know anyone in a band, but live ‘band’ music really is becoming the lesser revered and funded sibling of the arts.

On Friday we played a gig in a leisure centre cafe. That’s right, a leisure centre cafe. As in, there were people filing in and out behind us on their way from/to various sporting activities. The night itself was organised by a local music promotions company and takes place in that venue every last Friday of the month. When we signed up for it, not unusually, the thought that the venue would actually be within diving distance of a swimming pool had not crossed our minds. But when we found out it didn’t matter, because we’ve played plenty of conventional venues without audience anyway, so it could be a turn up for the books, who knows? You see, that’s what it comes down to sometimes, just hoping we stumble across the places where folks still turn out for live bands and original music in Stoke & Staffordshire, wherever that may be.

As it happened, there weren’t really that many folk there. Each of the three acts had a small showing with them, mostly family and friends, and the organisers had mustered a small crowd, but all in all, we’re talking less than 20 I reckon (that includes the acts). I must say at this point that the actual music was great and well received by the few who attended. I didn’t really catch enough of the first act ‘The Carpet Lions’ to say much about them here (they had a flight of the concords thing going on, but it felt a little unformed, but they were only teens and it takes some confidence to try that kind of thing), but I did have the pleasure of catching ‘The John Macleod’ band’s set (www.facebook.com/mrjohnmacleod). As soon as they got on stage I relaxed. It would be one thing to play a gig in a leisure centre with next to no audience and a weird line-up (comedy acoustic acts followed by rock/punk acts?!) but seeing a ‘proper’ group take the stage at least gave me something to hold on to.

They played a great set which moved through prog to folk (which actually makes a lot of sense), with a charismatic front man (John Macleod), a synth/accordion player who was able to create studio-esque backing to the live music (adding buckets of ambience) and a meaty bassist working with the drummer to keep each tune powerful and driving. I’m not a music reviewer, so if you want an idea of how they sounded, half of the set sounded like ‘Cake’ and the rest was more traditional (yet brilliantly realised) rock/folk. I apologise emphatically if any of them read this and totally disagree – the long and short of it was, I thought they were great.

So after watching those guys, it was our turn and we did our thing. It’s not my place to review myself, but we were told by the Macleod guys and our support (and the sound guys) that the set was good and people enjoyed it, which is all we can hope for. The usual groan of “It’s a shame there weren’t many here…” came from all quarters, and after meeting some nice new people, swapping details and vowing to gig together at some point, we went home, happy with a nights work and glad to have made an impression on the few that were there, if nothing else.

I don’t know if there is a moral to all this. It’s hard for me to judge because playing in a band myself means I don’t always feel that obliged to go to other nights when I’m not on the bill. That’s not being egotistical, it’s just because all being well, those nights are all rolled into one and I can play and watch all at the same time. Playing at a leisure centre was weird but it still worked in the end because it’s quite simple – a couple of good acts and an audience in one room makes for a night (plus booze, there must be booze). The one element (at least in this area) that is missing is audience. I know you might scoff and say that’s because we don’t have one of our own, but it’s a catch 22 situation really – if the passing audience isn’t there to pick up new fans, how can you expect to get new fans?

My favourite nights are usually the free ones. This gig was £4 a ticket, and the band could get £1 for each sold. We were given 32 tickets, which even if we had of sold them all, would have been £32 between 4 people. That’s £8 each for a night that started at 6pm with the sound-check and ended past 11pm. That’s not the organisers fault as this isn’t unusual for a night like this, but when you think that we pay around £50 a month for our rehearsal room, that’s not even being covered, let alone our petrol and thousands of pounds worth of equipment costs. And anyway, we didn’t sell the tickets because it was out of our usual area, too expensive and  quite possibly, because it was in a leisure centre and I don’t think people’s brains could quite process that!

It’s a familiar story and I think the reason it happens is because we would do it anyway (most times) paid or not. So why pay for something that you can get for free? Well, because we would get better with more time and resources to develop. Your nights out would get better. The music in the country would get better. The charts would get better. The quality of people’s lives would get better (in cultural terms). The local music industries would be better funded. More money for recording studios, photographers, film makers, merchandise companies, venues, technicians etc… as a real culture of good quality live music is fostered. But hey, cover bands get paid. But cover bands need something to play! One day all the bands will be cover bands and when people finally get bored of the sets, it will be because no-one is left making original music anymore. We will be doomed to listen to bad versions of the Kings of Leon for all eternity. We will be Mustang-Sallyied to death.

So this may seem negative but I don’t mean to be. I know the sentiment was there with the organisers, and I’ve been in that position before as an event organiser myself where the last people you think about paying are the bands because all the other stuff takes so much money and time to put in place. Maybe one of the solutions for bands is merchandise – selling CD’s, downloads, badges, t-shirts and what not (we’re going to give that a go as we play our next few venues), but it is a shame in a way that it comes down to that when you’ve spent months or years coming up with a solid 40 minute set of original songs, played them, been appreciated, but not paid.

And it’s not all bad. We are surprised every now and again and we know that it’s up to us to seek out and play the better venues with the bigger crowds, though that will probably mean playing out of the county. Having experienced Liverpool’s music scene directly on occasion and vicariously through my older brother (who plays in two bands up there*), I know it exists. But then, Liverpool has a legacy, as does Manchester, London and Birmingham. Stoke’s legacy is a bit of a mixed bag, but there are bands in almost every spare room and dilapidated factory unit around here, brimming with enthusiasm and ability, trying to get out. I wish we didn’t have to ‘get out’. I like it here, it’s where I live. I mean, going further afield is cool, but it would be nice for that to be an optional extra, knowing that there are plenty of packed (and paying) venues back home in the meantime.

Well this has turned out to be a long post! I’d be surprised if anyone reads this far. If they do, confound my expectations by leaving a little comment. Even if it is just the world ‘splurge’. I’ll know what you mean by that, it will make me happy.

Finally, my band are quite busy at the moment so check out www.facebook.com/gravitydave for event information. I’m on local radio with them tonight, and I guess that might make it into my next blog anyway.

Ta for now. Splurge.


Ps. If anyone from VB Music reads this – Keep it up. I’m talking about the broader world we all find ourselves in. The unusual venue is a bit of a hard one to get your head around, especially with it not being near to a town centre, but the way the night was ran and the feeling among the acts was positive. Tickets prices are probably too high for a lot of people, especially when they also need to travel out by taxi to the venue and such like. Audience’s need incentives (free or cheap entry, easy location) and set up a merch table for the bands with someone to man it if possible. I hope this helps and doesn’t sound arrogant, but you do want to build these nights up I imagine and I reckon these few things would help.

* My bro’s bands – Check them out and all that:

https://www.facebook.com/HillaryandtheDemocrats?fref=ts – Hillary & the Democrats

https://www.facebook.com/goodgriefliverpool?fref=ts – Good Grief!


Ethical alternative? My guide to the Coop. (Plus June 2013 Update.)

Update: 17/06/2013

The post below this update was published on the 24th April 2013. In it I talk about the huge waste of customers money that went towards a failed IT upgrade, and the issuing of bonds to other banks by the Co=operative:

“The big selling point from the Coop is “Unlike other banks, we don’t have shareholders to worry about – our only shareholder is you, the customer”. Well that’s grand, except that the Co-op sells hundreds and millions of pounds worth of ‘debt’ bonds to the big banks (JP Morgan, Barclays, UBS, etc…) regularly on the money markets, and these guys want a return. They won’t invest in the first place unless they see the Coop doing the things they expect to see banks do.”

Well, not to worry you and all, but following this announcement today:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22932688 – (Co-op Banks Stock Market Future)

… I’d be worried. In the article Robert Peston brushes over the main holders of co-op bonds who are set to become share-holders:

“Although they are being offered shares in Co-op Bank and new bonds, holders of Co-op Bank’s subordinated debt will incur very big losses…These are mainly investment institutions, such as pension funds and life insurers.” – Robert Peston. BBC News.

He then goes on to talk about around 5000 small bond holders, each with around £1000 each (this bit doesn’t add up, literally, see the comments on the article). But don’t let that fool you – as far as I remember, the ‘investment institutions’ that hold the majority of the ‘subordinated debt’ bonds are the likes of UBS, Barclays & JP Morgan. As I mentioned in my original article, the treasurer used to update the company intranet with this information regularly.

So there you have it. If there ever was a shred of true alternative and ethics in the Co-op, it will surely be stamped out by the interests of it’s creditors now. How can it purport to maintain it’s ethical stance when being funded so heavily by companies that don’t hold the same ‘code’? The simple answer is, it can’t, it won’t, and I doubt any of the top dogs are really that interested anyway (outside of press statements). We now have a former HSBC boss running the show, and this is already happening.

And finally – they try to blame this on the debt of Britannia when they bought it. Can any Britannia customers/employees reading this who voted for the ‘merger’ remember ever being told about huge toxic debts that would have caused Britannia to fail if the co-op didn’t step in? No? That’s because they didn’t tell us. We were lead to believe this was a merger of equals, though I learned some years afterwards that Britannia would have failed, and that was the true reason for the  ‘merger’. Well, there is no way the Co-op wouldn’t have known they were taking on the debts they were, and is everyone forgetting the £500 million failed IT project? (that’s probably a conservative estimate – however, the creative accountants will have dumbed this down in any official reports).

So, let’s see what happens next. Apparently this deal would cause the big bond holders to take a significant loss in exchange for shares. Well, they won’t agree to that unless they think they are getting something out of it or that the resulting shares have the potential to greatly outperform the original return they agreed with the bond. And none of this answers the fact that the Co-op is still running on an old creaky IT platform and Britannia still isn’t integrated. Doesn’t sound like a very good investment to me. If I was JP Morgan – I would have my eye on another prize… takeover or asset stripping to reclaim my losses.

As I said, let’s see what happens next. My guess is, it won’t much resemble what they are saying today.

(original article below)

April 24th 2013:

It’s quite liberating to be able to talk openly and honestly about my former employer the Co-operative Bank, having now dived to safety some months ago, without the worry of falling foul of their ‘social media’ policy, effectively threatening employee’s with dismissal if they say anything negative on-line. (nothing unusual there for a big company nowadays).

Well, I don’t work for them any more so I can say what I like. I can say, beware of the Co-op, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It acted (and acts) almost exactly like any other bank with its schemes and pilfering of customer’s money, and in some respects, it’s worse because it hides behind the Rochdale pioneers ‘co-operative’ movement, which they have grown so far apart from, the pioneers themselves wouldn’t recognise it.

The big selling point from the Coop is “Unlike other banks, we don’t have shareholders to worry about – our only shareholder is you, the customer”. Well that’s grand, except that the Co-op sells hundreds and millions of pounds worth of ‘debt’ bonds to the big banks (JP Morgan, Barclays, UBS, etc…) regularly on the money markets, and these guys want a return. They won’t invest in the first place unless they see the Coop doing the things they expect to see banks do.

Are you a customer of the Co-op? Have you felt like you had a say in them wasting approx 500 million pounds on an IT system that never materialised? I worked on that project. Three years of project managers, consultants and contractors getting paid huge sums of ‘your’ money, and nothing was delivered. It was obvious from the outset that the company they had awarded the contract to (Infosys) was going to bleed the project for all it was worth, but they just ploughed on, and ploughed more and more money in. In the papers they said it was because of the upcoming ‘Lloyds branch’ deal that they had abandoned the IT development (at a huge loss) – but we had wound up the project in any realistic terms months and months before that. It was PR, and one thing the Coop doesn’t mind spending money on is PR.

For example, the Co-op’s mission statement (at least when I was there a few months ago) was something like ‘To be seen as a credible alternative to the big 5 banks etc…’. The thing to notice here (although I know the wording after was different) is ‘to be seen as’ – Now there is a big difference to being seen as something, and to actually be that thing. I shan’t go into the philosophy of that statement, but it kind of smacks of ‘expectation management’ doesn’t it?

And that leads me onto the next thing. The Coop is awash with middle to higher management, project leaders and ‘change’ management teams who get paid an inordinate amount of money to hold endless meetings while the people you want (those who answer your letters, open your accounts, do the actual work) are the lowest paid, stretched the farthest, and have ancient systems to work on. There is no need for you to wait any time at all for a bank to process your request – it could replace a handful of overpaid ‘yes’ men & women, with hundreds of front-line staff or better systems. But the guys running these places used to be one of the overpaid ‘yes’ men themselves and guess what, they just don’t care!

The poor front-line staff get told to save paper, work faster, be more efficient, be positive and so on, and they are under huge pressure to plug the staffing and capability holes created by the top heavy management. I don’t think this is poor planning, I think it is deliberate. There are inevitable cliques at the top, even in the ‘middle’, and they are concerned about one thing and one thing only – their own pay-packet and bringing their friends along for the ride. The piddly little operations business (the high street branches and so on) pale in insignificance to the vast sums of money they move around every day in the money markets – so where do you think the priorities lie? Funding a good service for small savers and Mortgage customers? No. Not that. If they wanted to do that they could do it tomorrow and be the best bank in business. But they would fold, because like all other banks, they actually rely on a balance of money market transactions, the buying and selling of debts, and (probably) tax manipulation. (For example, the Coop recently built that huge new swooping building in Manchester as the new HQ at a cost of millions of pounds. As soon as it was completed, they sold it and leased it back from another company. That may not be illegal, but it isn’t really that ethical either if it is a loop-hole).

And talking of ethics! When you paint yourself as a saint, you only need to do one un-saintly thing to be shown up. Well they miss-sold PPI folks and have been subsequently fined for not dealing with the complaints. Oh and when it comes to complaints, they score really high for customer service, but it was common knowledge amongst staff that they were let’s say, creative, with the reporting. So they didn’t get hit by the bigger scandals, but they are massively funded by the selling of debt bonds and such like to those banks that did. If the big banks go, the coop would go. So where do you think their priorities actually lie? (The treasurer used to post articles on the intranet informing us of the hundreds and millions raised from bond sales to big banks.) They buy and sell debt like anyone else, in fact, the now defunct purchase of the Lloyds branches was to be funded by a ‘subordinated debt’ loan from the wider Lloyds group! They were going to buy Lloyds, with debt, bought from Lloyds?! What is wrong with this picture?

Anyway. That’s my rant over. It was spurred on by the news today that the Lloyds deal fell through. Something the staff knew was going to happen a long time ago, but the PR department was on full steam, waiting for financial results to be announced and excused (something like 4-6 hundred million losses, caused mostly by the failed IT project that they wrote off as being abandoned because of the Lloyds deal… well, there’s no deal now, so what next?).

I wish the cooperative was the real alternative, but it isn’t  It is a huge conglomerate of commercial interests, covering vast swathes of various industries. A real cooperative is simple, inclusive, local with wider ties but connected to its members in a tangible and more direct way. It has become too big, to interested in big money, and focussed on its creditors and debtors. If this is the way, the wrong people are in charge and they are making a fortune while they are at it, like all big companies. So don’t be fooled. Being the best of the worst isn’t good enough. We deserve better.

I may add at this point that this is my opinion, all be it one developed as a former employee, and if you want to substantiate or deny any of the points raised in this blog, you are totally at liberty to do so. I am making no direct claims or accusations and my figures are approximates from memory. This is not an ‘article’ it is a blog about how I feel. Do not take my word for it. Research and see what you find out yourself. I was not a senior member of the group, I was involved in projects at a low level but came into contact with people right up to executive level as a result. I left of my own accord, I wasn’t sacked, and I had a good track record, but all the while I was biting my lip thinking ‘there has got to be a better way! But opinion counts for something. The way we were treated as ‘head count’ units on paper, the way we were internally advertised to at our desks, the rumours and ill-feeling which permeated every corner of the business I came into contact with. That counts for something I’m sure.

Some links. These are from the BBC so are pretty much just re-printed press packs from the Coop with all the spin, but the basic info is there.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22276082 (Lloyds deal falls through)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20909763 (PPI fine)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21879801 (this years losses)

Not good enough for the BBC part 3

Good morning world! (If you are indeed reading this in the morning)

I think I will loosen up my fingers this morning with another post about my failed topical one-liners. If you haven’t read the first two parts, check them out now! (and then I won’t have to go into the description of how these jokes were submitted to the BBC Radio 4 Extra topical comedy program ‘Newsjack’ and were not used… even though I did get a couple used. Oh, well there we go, I’ve done it now.)

So, all these are from my last page of submissions for the last episode in the series. Starting with the return of the pun!

‘Hundreds of scratch & sniff cards containing the scent of cannabis are to be sent out in order to help people identify cannabis farms in their area. The scheme has been set up by the Police and Crime-stoppers as part of a joint operation.’

This is one of those jokes that make you want to grab people by the collar and shout ‘JOINT OPERATION! JOINT! Get it?!!’… and that may have been the problem. Funnily enough, when I saw this story, the first thought I had was of people using the cards to make roach with (the little circles of card that are used instead of filters in joints), but I couldn’t think how to make that sound funny, and I wasn’t sure how okay with that sort of thing Radio 4 would be… as it happened, they used exactly that joke from another writer and I didn’t think it was one of the best, so my better judgement prevailed. Though it would have been nice if they had of used my superior gag instead. (Joint operation?! I mean, come on!)

Anyway, next up.

‘Tony Blair has said he has ‘no regrets’ over his decision to take on a tyrannical monster all those years ago, and despite all the difficulties that followed, he and Cherie are still going strong.’

Blair had been stroking his ego on the Andrew Mar show on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion… yes that’s right, invasion, not rescue mission. I tried to do a ‘make them think it’s about one thing and then come in with another’ style joke, which I’m sure there is a snappier title for. Maybe Cherie Blair jokes are a bit old-hat, but any opportunity to poke a bit of fun at war-criminal Blair is welcome, even if it didn’t get used.

Moving on…

‘This week a Greek footballer was banned from playing for his national team when he did a Nazi salute to the crowd. The footballer defended himself by saying it was an accident. Yeah, Reich. Oops! I mean… right.’

… So this is another one that depends on the reading. I like the idea that when reporting about someone who ‘accidentally did something Nazi’ that the reporter would do it themselves. The word ‘Oops’ jars a bit – I presumed that it would be interpreted differently from the page to the microphone. Not much else to say about this one really.

Getting down to the desperate last scrag ends of the submission page…

‘Doing something funny for money was taken to new records last Friday when millions and millions was raised by normal people (BEAT) in Cyprus.’

For those of you unfamiliar with scripts, ‘BEAT’ is really just a pause/breath. You try not to use them too much, as it can be seen as dictating to the actor/director how they should interpret your words, which is their job, not yours. However, I though this was needed here at the time but in hindsight this sentence could have ran in one flow. I was of course, combining Comic Relief with the Cyprus ‘levy’ atrocity. Could have been better I think. I was desperately trying to think of funnies about the Cyprus affair, but it made me so unbelievably angry it was hard. (they’re coming after our bank deposits now! Yay!)

So last of all in this post, which may be the last, I don’t know…

‘Boris Johnson’s sister has said that David Cameron still looks up to Boris, much like he did back at Eton public school when Boris was head boy and Cameron was his junior. The only difference is that nowadays he doesn’t have to lick his shoes clean and warm the toilet seat for him at the same time.’

So this is a bit unwieldy (like the one ring to rule them all…). Too many words to make too slight a joke. But still, it was worth a shot. More time and practice and I would have boiled this down or found something better, but then, I heard worse on the show (though mostly I heard better) – so I think it does come down to the person reading the submissions being able to ‘hear’ the joke in the their minds-ear, and I think they get that wrong sometimes too. It would be wrong to say that Newsjack is consistently hilarious, as with all comedy shows, it has it’s hits and misses. Who knows if these one liners would have been hits? It is really hard to tell from the page. For example, this next, and last, joke is the second one I did get broadcast… who would have thunk it?

‘Scientists are now saying that it’s not just about how much you weigh, it’s about where you store your fat. Apparently if you are storing it in your body, that’s bad’

Success! And it came from a scientist joke (again) and it got a big laugh from the sound of it (Justin Edwards delivered it perfectly).

So there we have it. Not good enough for the BBC, except for the last one, which was…

Newsjack is back in the Autumn I think, and in the meantime there is another new submission show on the way featuring sketches on a theme. All my submissions are made and I eagerly await the upcoming round of rejections, and who knows, possibly, a hit.

Garry x

Attending an Anti-Capitalist Road Show.

So, last night I attended an ‘Anti-Capitalist’ Road Show (http://www.redmagic.co.uk/anticap/index.htm) at the Foxlowe in Leek (http://www.foxloweartscentre.org.uk/) which featured 5 musicians treating us to an evening of subversive music.

I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect and was worried it would pander to the left of the political system that I’m not very fond of either (the idea that if you’re not ‘one’ thing, you’re the ‘other’ as if the only alternatives in life are left or right doesn’t chime with me…) but actually it did nothing of the sort.

The performers treated us to a nicely balanced mix of the evocative, satirical, comical and in some cases stirringly angry sentiment about the state of things, the reality of the situation, the reason we were there.

The acts were, Peggy Seeger, Leon Rosselson, Grace Petrie, Janet Russell and Jim Woodland. I was encountering them for the first time, but they have some credentials between them! Strikingly, Leon Rosselson used to perform on ‘That was the week that was’ back in the 60s, while Grace Petrie was recently featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The NOW show’ but two weeks ago. That demonstrates really the generational range that, admittedly, Grace was doing a large part towards creating, but was present and vibrant in the set.

Okay, so there was a leaning towards folk, acoustic tweeness here and there, and I can’t imagine this format being the kick-start to a younger generation of subversion which we will need if things are ever going to change, but it was good reinforcement for people who felt that way, to hear their worries, anger and hope encapsulated in easy to digest, sing along ditties and anthems.

Highlights for me included Leon’s ‘Looters’ songs that cleverly linked the London riots to the British empire’s history of looting. There’s a great line about all we ever exported being, Cricket, The Bible and the Royal Family: http://www.myspace.com/leonrosselson/music/songs/looters-91952569

Peggy Seeger, though lacking her singing voice last night (apparently, I thought she sounded great), satirically posed the question ‘How do you sleep at night?’ to the rich, who replied something along the lines of, ‘Very comfortably thank you, in fine linen and silks, why do you keep asking us that?’. (http://www.peggyseeger.com/)

And Grace Petrie bellowed out the moving ‘They shall not pass’, about the Spanish civil war: (it can be found here http://gracepetrie.com/music/mark-my-words/)

Anyway, the night was interesting, clever, and more importantly it said something important. We are not tied to one way of thinking, when the opposition so closely resembles the power we reject where do we turn? There are more of us. Never accept the idea that there is no ‘alternative’ – anyone who ever tells you that is lying or misinformed. I suspect the former when it comes to economy, taxes, bail-outs and benefits.

Try and catch this road show if you can, that’s the main thing.


(Here are some other links you might like!:)



Not good enough for the BBC – Part 2

Hello again.

If you haven’t read part 1 of this blog, then basically, I sent off a lot of jokes and sketches to the BBC for Radio 4 Extra’s ‘Newsjack’ series that recently aired. I got a couple of hits, but a lot more misses. So, in these blog entries I am sharing some of my misses… (For more info read the intro to part 1!).

So here we go again!

This first one highlights the trouble with ‘gags’. You see a news story, you realise there’s a gag in there, but you worry it’s just too damn cheesy. Then you panic because you want to get something in for the deadline and include it anyway!

“Guerilla Knitting groups in Leicester are hoping to reduce crime by hanging pom-poms from trees in notorious crime spots to make the areas look more cosy and safe. So far the scheme has been a success and the police are hoping other communities will soon cotton on.” 

I mean – it’s not bad I don’t think. Perhaps part of the problem with this one is that the news story it’s based on was just so damn weird in the first place! They may not have believed it was genuine. You see, you always find yourself looking for the quirky local or magazine style stories that offer up these kind of angles.

Next up – During the time I was writing these jokes, Justin Beiber was all over the press as he was touring the UK. I was slightly loathed to have to read the articles and enter into that fake-pop world, even briefly, but then this wasn’t about me, it was about the news, and the news was full of him.

“There was anger this week amongst music fans and parents when after a delay of two hours at the 02 academy,  Justin Bieber actually turned up.”

I think on a good day this could have got through, but it was probably one of several hundred Bieber jokes they had sent in. There was at least one in a few of the episodes, so it was worth a punt.

This next one is an example of where I think it could be funny, if the delivery was right. So there’s no big punchline or gag, but the performance could carry it through. Problem with that is that you need whoever reads the scripts first to recognise that. I obviously have every faith in the performers of the show to realise anything they were given, but didn’t get chance to find out if this one would have ‘worked’:

“In a rare newspaper interview, Syria’s embattled President Assad has accused the UK of ‘bullying’. Foreign secretary William Hague has responded with new sanctions to cut off the President’s supply of milk and dinner money. In a statement he said ‘Are you going to cry? Are you? Who’s a little cry baby?’”

Okay, one more for now I think. This is another where the idea was there but perhaps not the wording. I imagine (and the tips on the BBC website make this quite clear) that if you don’t get your wording spot-on, your gag is unlikely to make it through unless the concept and idea are so strong it’s worth a re-write… Well…

“The Lancet has published a report saying that the UK is lagging so far behind the rest of Europe when it comes to health that they think it has probably sat down for a minute or two to catch its breath and then gone to the pub for a pie and a pint instead.”

In my head, I had the idea of the various Europeans running a race and Britain lagging behind with a stitch and deciding not to bother. Perhaps I didn’t get this across, but it was worth doing anyway to see how it came out. As I said in part 1, you may as well get something in. The worse that can happen is some script reader just puts it on the slush pile and moves on to the next writer. You’re not going to get blacklisted or penalised for something that doesn’t get made! (I think, unless your material was really inappropriate!)

So there we have it. Some more jokes that failed to hit the mark, which was good for Mark (bless him), but not so good for me.


Not good enough for the BBC! Part 1

I recently had a bit of luck getting a couple of my one liner jokes on BBC4 Radio Extra’s ‘Newsjack’ (if for any strange reason you don’t believe me check out the credit list! http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kvs8r/features/series-8-2 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kvs8r/features/series-8-6).

Anyway – Newsjack is an open submission programme, so basically you have a deadline each week and can send in your jokes or sketches, cross your fingers and hope they get chosen out of the hundreds of submissions. So although I got two jokes in (praise the lord of media), I wrote dozens more that didn’t get in. Quite simply they weren’t good enough for the BBC. They may well just not have been good enough in general, it was my first attempt at writing weekly topical gags after all.

So, I’m going to treat you to some of the rejects. That’s right. Content doesn’t get much better than this! All the bits the Beeb didn’t want. Not all at once mind, that would be a waste. This is part 1 – some one liner attempts from the first two shows. By the way, these were topical about two months ago.

This joke about Swedish parenting habits was probably a little too gross…

“It emerged this week that it is common practice for Swedish parents to leave babies outside in freezing temperatures for their evening nap. This has raised health concerns, not due to the sub zero conditions, but because of defrosting them in the microwave afterwards.”

– One of the things I learned as I went along is that they have to be ‘snappy’. The wording’s a little clumsy in this, and the joke may be too crude for Radio 4!

Some of the most fun things to write about were the many “scientists have found…” stories that pop up almost everyday. Both the jokes I got on air were in this format. This one didn’t get on air, but hey…

Scientists have found that female golden moles choose a mate based on the size of their penis, but being blind they have to do this by touch and smell. In a separate study, male golden moles have been found burrowing into warehouses and stealing pepperami’s

Again – could be snappier. I am trying really hard not to edit these for this blog as the whole point is that these didn’t get used for a reason! Maybe not funny enough or maybe jokes about Mole penises just don’t hit the mark.

Okay, one more. I wasn’t able to resist temptation when the horse-meat scandal broke. I knew that everyone in the world was making jokes about it, so I was trying to avoid it, but then this little quote from Nick Clegg came up during the by-election and I just had to…

Nick Clegg has said that the Eastleigh by-election is a two-horse race, or as it’s better known, the Tesco family-sized frozen lasagne, race.

Not the best horse meat joke in the world! It was just that it brought two stories together into one pun, which I guess must massively increase the chances that you are writing something unique. If you just write plain gags about the biggest news story, you are unlikely to come up with something different from the rest. As it happened, this wasn’t sufficiently different or funny enough to get used.

So there we have it! My first collection of BBC rejects. I will post some more at some point, but not all. Having just gone back over them for this post, there are some that are so poor I can’t believe I sent them in, but then, writing is about finishing things, even if you aren’t happy with it, get it finished at least and then re-draft or move on if it’s that bad. Just don’t never write or send anything because you don’t think it’s good enough – how will you get any better if you don’t finish anything? Eh?!! Yeah. You heard.


My way of an introduction…


It’s so hard to write introductions and ‘about me’ sections on things, it’s bizarre really. As a writer you’d think that putting words down about a subject I know a lot about (myself) would be relatively easy, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

But here I am and here I go. My name is Garry Abbott, I’m 31, I live in Staffordshire with my girlfriend and my two cats, and I’m a writer and a musician.

That’s the really short version of my life story, but that’s not really why I’m doing this blog. As a writer I often end up with random things, submitted and rejected material, ideas and hard-to-categorise things that could do with a breath of fresh air every now and then. So that’s really what I intend to put up here. All the words that are left over and some new ones.

I am also studying Philosophy with the Open University and have found myself doing short essays on various subjects just for the fun of the thinking, so those will probably land here too. Hopefully this will lead to some thought provocation and discussion if anyone is kind enough to bless these words by pointing their eyes at them.

I may post a few reviews if I feel so compelled, who knows? I certainly don’t, and if someone else does, that’s really weird because it’s my blog.

So expect some jokes, poetry, prose and essays, reviews, snippets and ramblings.

That wasn’t so bad after all. If you want to know some more about me and my work you can find some links and details here http://www.garryabbott.co.uk

Bye for now, you.


P.s. One thing I am not is an artist who does pictures. As you can see here…