Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Britain is a country with a department store called John Lewis which has commodified the loneliness of old men at Christmas

The charity, 'Age UK', which has given its blessing to the John Lewis campaign to highlight the plight of loneliness among pensioners, while at the same time maximising the company's profits at Christmas, said it was “delighted and touched” at the response so far. The main focus of John Lewis has been the multi million pound video ad called 'The Man on the Moon' which tells the story, to the words of Oasis 'Half the World Away' sung by Norwegian, Aurora, of a little girl called Lily who :

* sits next to her brother and is bored as he is engrossed with playing his xbox.

* looks at the moon through a telescope at the window in the lounge.

* focuses on a hut in a crater from which and old man emerges in total isolation.

* opens her mouth in awe and waves at the old man who looks up and sees nothing.

* skates outside on her scooter the next day and has a thought.

* goes back to the telescope while she eats her toast and sees the old man sitting on a bench on the edge of a crater.

* sees his blank eyes, stares back with open eyes and dashes upstairs.

* writes the old man a letter with a smiley hand and outside climbs a ladder.

* waves her envelope addressed to 'the Man on the Moon' at the old man.

* wraps the letter around an arrow and fires it, unsuccessfully, from the roof window at the moon.
* throws the letter, unsuccessfully, as a paper dart at the moon.

* looks fed up, while the old man bows his lonely head on the moon.

* runs down stairs to open her presents on Christmas Day, thanks her Mum and dances with the other kids.

* on the moon the old man raises his head at the approach of a gift wrapped present carried to him by a cluster of balloons.

While on the moon the old men :

*  eagerly opens his present, a telescope and looks at the people in the snow in Lily's road.

* pans his telescope across the festively lit houses and zooms in on Lily waving at him by her telescope.

* looks with a smiling eye through her lens while he sheds a tear from one eye looking through his lens.

* waves at Lily from his seat and 'Show someone they're loves this Christmas' is imposed on the night sky.

* followed by : 'John Lewis in store / online / mobile' is imposed on the night sky.

then :


John Lewis has said that the purpose of the ad is to raise awareness of the elderly and the importance of being together at Christmas through 'thoughtful gift giving.'  Apparently the John Lewis 'gift giving' to Age UK will consist of a modest  'hundreds of thousands' of pounds made from just three distinct products.

So has John Lewis 'commodified loneliness' as suggested by Christopher Hooton in an article in the 'Independent', when he asked the question :

'Is its heart in the right place? Or does it communicate corporate, materialistic, self-interest values under the guise of charity?'

The answer is that : it doesn't really matter. Clearly 'Age UK' doesn't care if it does or not. Esther Jackson, its 'Marketing and Fundraising Director' said: “We really hoped the ad would strike a chord with people - driving not only awareness, but importantly donations and actions to help some of the million older people who go for a month without speaking to anyone.  It’s also a great reminder to us all to reach out to older family members, friends and neighbours over the cold winter months.  We’ve been delighted and touched by the response so far - for both this activity with John Lewis and our wider ‘No one should have no one at Christmas’ campaign. We’ll be responding to all those who have got in touch about wanting to volunteer.”

In addition, more than 500 people in the last week have also called 'Contact the Elderly', which organises Sunday tea parties for people aged over 75 living alone, with many citing the advert as the reason. Mary Rance, Chief Executive of Charity said:
“We see first-hand how debilitating loneliness is for older people, and things like the John Lewis advert and the recent Bisto campaign are helping to highlight this more widely. Our dedicated network of over 8,000 volunteers make a huge difference to the lives of older people across the country by contributing just a few hours a month through our tea parties. We’re delighted that more people are coming forward to help. Our simple solution is one that works, and we’d love to extend our lifeline to more older people.”

Friday, 20 November 2015

Britain is a country and Scotland a nation which say "Farewell" to a scarce old, radio producer called Stuart Cruickshank

Stewart, who worked tirelessly as a radio producer for the BBC for the best part of 35 years and did much to heighten the profile of folk and related music, gave many young bands their first airtime, was held in esteem and with affection by musicians and listeners alike and never lost his boyhood enthusiasm for all things music, has died at the age of 64.

What you possibly didn't know about Stewart, that he :
* was born in 1951 in Edinburgh to a mother who had won medals competing in 'Co-operative Society Singing Competitions' and stimulated his early interest in music to which he listened, when the fitful reception permitted, on Radio Luxembourg under the bedsheets at night and at the age of 11 attended the Trinity Academy, a grammar school in Edinburgh where he met his longtime pal, 'Will Smarties' and found they had a shared interest in Dinky Toys, Meccano and music.

* recalled that : 'In those days you could only afford to buy a single or an album once in a blue moon. But it was the era where, if you bought a record, you used to wander about self-consciously with it under your arm, like a badge of honour. School uniform was sacrosanct, so the only way you could show your individuality was carrying the record' and in his case walked about with the first record he bought, the Beatles 'Twist and Shout' EP.

* recalled that, on the occasion of the Beatles first visit to Edinburgh at the ABC Cinema in 1963, when he was 12, where he had been taken to see a number of bands on package tours by his parents indulging his love of rock and roll but where it was the Beatles who captured his heart and sent it racing.

* remembered it being : 'viscerally exciting because you knew you were part of a special moment and at the same time you felt you shouldn't be part of it. It was like sneaking into an X-rated movie, or going to the pub when you're under age. When they came on the stage, I never heard so much noise in my life. I don't think I was bothered though. You had the records if you wanted to hear the Beatles.'
* recalled that, at the age of 13 in 1964, he had heard George Gallacher (left) sing 'the eerily beautiful 'Now We’re Thru’ which marked 'the beginning of a life-long adventure in reverberation' http://ow.ly/UQYLS and in the early 60s favoured 'The Yard Birds', 'The Kinks' and 'The Byrds', sported Curzon shirts and kipper ties.

* was 16 when he picked up John Peel's 'Perfumed Garden' on pirate, Radio London in its last days before it was closed down by the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act in 1967 and found the programme’s eclectic mix of everything from 'Pink Floyd' and 'Grateful Dead' to 'Marc Bolan' and 'Bert Jansch' left their mark on him, in what he later described as  “a big defining moment" in his musical development.

* from 1969 started to visit 'Bruce's Record Shop' launched by the brothers Bruce and Brian Findlay in Rose Street. Edinburgh, which specialised in US imports and underground rock and was famous for its red carrier bags with the legend “I Found It At Bruce’s” :

* having passed his 'A' Level exams in 1969, took himself off with his guitar and Wilf, with whom he'd been playing since 1966, to Woodbridge in East Anglia and playing rhythm as 'Gilmore Wines' jokingly named after a local licence, formed 'Mowgli and the Donuts' having picked up Keith Rae on bass guitar at a university jam session and as 'Gilmore' was reported in the Ipswich Evening News in 1973 as saying : "Music needs a shot in the arm because it's become stagnant. People are too involved with electrical components instead of guitar strings" and contemporary music was "generally retrogressive" and contained "very little magic or atmosphere."

* posed for the paper at the age of 22 in a hat as 'rhythm' with Thorov to the left as 'road manager and mixer' and to the right Nick Jones, 'drums', his pal Wilfred Smarties as 'lead' and Keith Rae on 'bass' and recalled : “We lived in East Anglia and we were never famous, but we did loads of gigs, large and small."

* moved back to Edinburgh in 1977 undertake his undergraduate University studies in Economics and Economic History while Wilf got to work on his Phd in Chemistry, while continuing his association with the band and undertook experimental music where "Wizard used to support us at Tiffany’s" and the 'Theatre Workshop' with Wilf stating at the time : "A large part of our set comprises short, sharp numbers and bursts into controlled improvisation. We like to base our playing on the audience."

* performed his last gig with the band in 1980 and having graduated from University and picked up an additional qualification in 'Librarianship', turned up, at the age of 29, at BBC Scotland’s Queen Margaret Drive Headquarters in Glasgow’s West End, to undertake a trial as a 'gramphone librarian' and later reflected that : “As ever in life there was a certain element of coincidence. I was there initially for one week and it led to me working in broadcasting for the best part of 35 years. You work your way to becoming a producer then a senior producer and the way you do it is to learn and learn and I’ve never stopped learning, not just about music but about how radio can be put together.”

* learnt the ropes as a 'recorded music librarian' alongside producing 'Radio Scotland’s Top 40' and researching for the 'Ken Bruce Show' and by the mid 1980s produced radio documentaries : 'Beatstalking', a history of Scottish rock music presented by Muriel Gray and 'Street Fighting Years', profiling 'Simple Minds' and went on to found and co-produce the long-running indie rock show 'Beat Patrol' and presented it with Sandy Semeonoff and Peter Easton and like them, in his own time, with a third of every show devoted to Scottish bands and gained acclaim by giving early airplay to 'Belle and Sebastian', 'The BMX Bandits', 'The Bachelor Pad' and 'Baby Lemonade' and in the process built up a loyal listenership.

* in addition, produced sessions with 'The Delgados' and 'Bis' and went on, with Rab Noakes and Donald MacInnes, to create Radio Scotland’s 'Be-Bop to Hip-Hop Jazz Pogramme,'  'Original Masters' with John Cavanagh and pilot the series, 'Celtic Connections' from which Glasgow’s Winter Festival took its name and handled the challenge of  broadcasting 'T in the Park', the major Scottish music festival, held annually since 1994, named after its sponsor, the brewing company Tennents, originally providing for the thousands of campers at Strathclyde Park, Lanarkshire, then, from 1997, the disused Balado Airfield, Kinross-shire.

* became involved in his old hero, John Peel's first radio sessions in Scotland and with the long-running 'Travelling Folk' and especially 'Iain Anderson's Show' and along the way introduced Ricky Ross, Roddy Hart and Karine Polwart to the niceties of radio presenting.

* had also worked on a  BBC Radio 2 series covering 'Ray Davies', 'The Sex
Pistols' and 'The Who' and spent time in California and New York compiling shows which were subsequently networked globally, interviewing Jackson Browne and Lou Reed with whom he spent two days, recalled by producer John Cavanagh as : "the people who commissioned that on Radio 2 said "Oh, we've got our big boys and they can't get anything out of Lou Reed and this little guy from Scotland will never do it" and Stewart went there, started talking to him about Do-Wop and radio stations and they hit it off like a house of fire."

* at the age 48 in 1999, produced a programme about the album 'Deserters’ Songs' by the US rock band 'Mercury Rev,' which won a 'Gold Disc' and was senior producer for 'Music Live 2000' from Shetland and in 2001 was conferred a 'Fellowship of the Royal Society of the Arts' for his 'Contribution to UK Music Radio' and in the same year had George Gallagher and Fraser Watson sing on the occasion of his 50th birthday and reflected, on the occasion of  George's passing in 2012 : 'The application of eloquence and economy in language: George Gallacher. Not for nothing did Andrew Loog Oldham sign The Poets.'

* during 'Celtic Connections 2011', was in discussion with Iain Anderson and Rab Noakes on the subject of the influence of Scottish and Irish traditional music on Bob Dylan and began the programme with a well-researched an erudite analysis of possible Scottish influences on Dylan in his youth : "I've been lucky in my career because I'm a radio producer and I've become friends with and I've worked with many of the people who know Dylan. I don't know Dylan himself, I've never met him, but the people that I do know pretty well like Roger McQuinn, Judy Collins, Eric Andersen, Tom Paxton and many, many others and they would all attest to the fact that Dylan was voracious in his appetite for music. He wanted to drink it in and that included Scottish music."
(7m16s)  http://www.canstream.co.uk/celticmusic/index.php?id=623

* left BBC Scotland in 2006, but continued to co-produce the 'Iain Anderson Show', in association with the production company Bees Nees and finally retired at the age of 73 last October and reflected : “I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been honoured to showcase tens of thousands of hours of dazzling musical talent on radio, from Scotland and way, way beyond. It began and will continue with them.”

* in 2011 attended the launch of Arne Bellstorf's novel, 'Baby's in Black' at the Library of the Goethe-Institut, Glasgow, based on the author's conversations with photographer and artist Astrid Kircherr and participated in the discussion focussed on the Hamburg subculture of the early 1960's with those attending the free event invited 'to join us after the reception for a “swally” as we carry on the evening at a nearby venue with Stewart Cruickshank, where he’ll be playing Beatles tunes and more from the DJ booth.' 

* also in 2011, gave his opinion to 'Public Radio International', of the importance and influence of Bert Jansch, on the occasion of his death at the age of 67.

* in 2013  at the age of 72, returned to where he started with the 'Mowgli Project' and the reformation of 'Mowgli and the Donuts' spent a week in a cottage in deepest Derbyshire , converted by Wilf Smarties into a recording studio and along with him, Keith Froude and Iain Veitch, made music :
Mowgli Christmas

The Wheels on the Bus

Help File Rag

Indian Summer

* in July 2015 in the 'Herald Scotland', delivered his critique of Government plans for the Future of the BBC in an article entitled 'BBC Green Paper threatens privatisation by stealth'  and stated : 'I agree there isn't a lot to my taste on BBC One. I can happily live, and do, without The Voice, Strictly et al. And, yes, I'll throw the radio or TV or whatever out the window in response to perceived "bias" in its news content. But that's not the point. Mr Whittingdale's agenda is intentionally designed to, yet again, leave the BBC stuck between a rock and a hard place.'

* continued : 'Funding trashed. End of public service broadcasting. The next move would be to give us the option to pay to not receive adverts on the BBC. Perish the thought' but thought it was a good idea to 'shed the layers of pseudo management which clog up the BBC system and re-channel public money into the talents who produce the content' and had kept up 'with ongoing developments for BBC Radio in this public/private sector hybrid' and concluded : 'It is still one of the world's largest brands - and about to expand. It costs relative buttons, but radio always will be the BBC's greatest international ambassador. Mr Whittingdale, please take note.'

* had his passing commemorated on BBC Radio Scotland in 'Remembering Stewart Cruickshank' with John Beattie joined by journalist and broadcaster Siobhan Sinnott, the music producer John Cavanagh and musician Roddy Hart who was in some ways discovered by him and said : "He loved to talk music. He had time for everybody and he was in many ways a renegade at the heart of the BBC, because I think he saw himself as a rock and roller. He came from music, he played music, he knew what it was like to be out there gigging every night, putting yourself out there as an artist at whatever level and that element of being a renegade was why he connected with so many musicians and why they responded to him so brilliantly." http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p038bgsv

* Roddy continued : "He had an absolute undeniable magic and he was a metaphorical as well as a literal 'arm around the shoulder' to artists, but also to cultivating talent. He did it with me, with the radio. I had no clue when I started putting together a radio show, about presenting. Stewart was amazing at just being able to choose his moment to say : "Don't worry about what other people think. What you are is important" and he did that with music and musicians across the board. Not just in Scotland but to many people that he met."

and concluded :  
"He wasn't afraid to approach musicians and talk to them on their level, because he realised at the end of the day all musicians are music fans. That's why they do it in the first place and that's the place Stewart Cruickshank came from and that's why he was so important to Scottish music."

What better epitaph might an old music show radio   producer have ?

Friday, 13 November 2015

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old, pioneering film camera engineer and Prince of Studio Lighting called Bill Vinten

Bill, who had a career connected to film and television which spanned 50 years of the twentieth century and was inspired by his father to use his practical genius to solve the problems of camera management and studio lighting, has died at the age of 95.

What you possibly didn't know about Bill, that he ;

* was born in the summer of 1920 in Kingston, Surrey, the son Ellen and William, who ten years before had borrowed £600 from his wife and set up 'W. Vinten Cinematograph Engineers' manufacturing Kinecolour projectors in Wardour Street in the heart of London's film district, made the first metal camera  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cf0hQXZYbCk&t=0m38s and during the First World War and designed a camera for the Royal Flying Corps, the Model B, the first that could be operated while hung over the side of the cockpit.

* later remembered, at the age of 8 or 9 'toiling up three flights of stairs', walking around the old workshop and the smell of machinery and cutting oil, before it moved to Cricklewood when 'Mother had to sell the house to help pay for the factory to be put up and the family lived in a flat above it, which for me was fine, I enjoyed that. The only spooky thing was you had to park your bike round the back of the factory, then walk through this absolutely blacked out, silent factory and though the stores. At 10, 11, 12, I can remember feeling very spooky walking through the silent place before getting up into the family home. But it did give me the wonderful opportunity to learn all the machine tools.'

* looked up to his father as 'a great machinist ' who if he said : "Can I have a new this or that for my bike ?"  Would say : "Why don't you go down and make one rather than go to the shops and buy it ?" He taught me to use lathes and milling machines in my teens. That's been useful all my life.'

* was seventeen when his Father died in 1937, leaving his eldest son Charles in charge of the Company and witnessed the 'The British Kinematograph Society Journal' pay tribute when it acknowledged that the  Kinematograph Industry had : 'lost not only an outstanding personality technically, but a man of vision, shrewdness and quiet generosity, whose qualifications gained him not only universal respect but the personal affection, and, in many cases, gratitude, of those who were fortunate enough to know him well.'

* left school before the outbreak of the Second World War and studied mechanical engineering and tool making at Northampton Engineering College and following a car accident, as a student which damaged his left eye, had a brief stay with the company, but because of his stormy relationship with brother Charles, left and took a number of engineering jobs.

* then had 'the offer of a clapper/loader job from family friend Claude Friese-Greene'(right), embarked on career as cameraman' and recalled : 'Doing a film called 'The Silver Darling' on location in Wick in Scotland. We used a Vinten, an old Model H. The film was the story of herring fishing.'

* was drafted to work as a cinematographer with the Royal Navy Film Unit which was, as he recalled : "a bit of a funny outfit actually because film types and naval discipline didn't mix very well, but we did our best and we made a lot of training films"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwZnSPGBoBU7t=0m07s while at the company the increased demand for reconnaissance cameras saw the family business's military contracts secure a world market presence, particularly with the F24 camera and recalled : "It was an enormous surge of work. In 1938/39 there was probably 35-40 people. By '43 there was over 300. We had to convert the company very quickly from a hand built engineering company into a mass production company. We did it in about 3 months, but it was a bit of a rush. The people we employed, none of them were engineers or operators. They came from all walks of life - musicians and writers who had nothing else to do."

* after the end of the War in 1945, 'worked in the Gate Studios in Elstree, the smallest and therefore the cheapest to run Rank Studio, so we used to get a lot of experimental projects coming in. We did all the work for the 'Independent Frame' there. The idea was that you'd have very little furniture,  no sets, just back projection screen and you would back project all the sets. David Rawnsley (left) was chief of it. We did all the research there for the back projection machines, getting a completely flat back projection and being able to shoot it at various angles at the same speed.'

* started as a camera operator and and rose to lighting and participated in the Studio's ground breaking innovations when 'they had the idea of putting television camera on the studio floor for the very first time and recording the image remotely in a separate room. It was Cintel - Cinema Television - who got this idea going. We had three American Du Mont cameras on the floor and they modified an old projector as a recorder. We made a film called 'Mister Marionette' with that system.'

* found himself : 'lighting for television, which was a bit of a shock as it was an entirely different technique. Those 3 inch image orthicon cameras needed light everywhere. Any deep shadow and it all went grainy and grey and horrible. I had to relearn all my lighting technique. I went down to the BBC now an again to see what they did : they just poured light on from every direction. So I tried to refine it and make it a film-type look for television cameras.'

* began to build his reputation to the extent that : 'When Marconi were developing their 4½ image orthicon and trying to make a far better image someone said : "Bill Vinten's an ex- film camera man who's started lighting for television, why don't we get him along ?" and as a result, gave advice at their research labs at Chelmsford and did the same when Pye were developing their Pesticon and later reflected that he : 'became the one ex-film cameraman who jumped over the wall, so to speak, to light for television, much to the disgust of all the fellow film cameraman, who thought I was helping the opposition. But is was obvious to me that if you could really see, - get instant feedback from - the effect of different lighting, that must be the way for the future.'

* at the age of 32, rejoined his Brother, Charles (right), in the family company and took a seat on its Board in 1952 with responsibility for designing their range of film an tv equipment but continued to land contacts for lighting and found himself well placed when, in 1955, with the advent of commercial television 'High Definition Films were set up to make very nice- looking advertisements and I used to go and light things for them.

* in 1956 created his pan and tilt mechanism for the Marconi Mk III camera in which he eschewed the use of fluid and used risers and cams only to maintain the centre of gravity which made the tilting of heavy cameras relatively easy and considered it to be his finest achievement 'because it was an entirely different approach to a very old problem that had been bedevilling the film industry all its life - trying to make a spring compensate for a rotting mass. My solution was cams : keep the centre of gravity level the camera would be in balance.'

* found his pan and tilt head to met the BBC’s specifications for manoeuvrability and later recalled :  “The moment I knew this was a breakthrough came when Marconi stopped work on their own pan and tilt head. They had already spent large amounts of time and money developing a torque-bar head, but I took the prototype MKIII to them and the research director said to the mechanical designer, ‘well, you can forget that one’.”

* in 1958 , at the Queen's request, to be used for her second Christmas Day Speech broadcast live from Sandringham, designed  the 'Vinten Outside Broadcasting Dolly' to replace its lumbering and obtrusive predecessor and ran it on solid or pneumatic tyres, with a narrow profile which could be wheeled easily along a narrow passage or through a royal living room, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwZnSPGBoBU&t=3m37s at the same time for studio work designed the 'Vinten Pathfnder MkII', converted from the original Pathfinder Film Studio Dolly for television work and which allowed the BBC greater movement and flexibility in drama and light entertainment.

* by 1964 was playing a major role in the Company, 'W.Vinten Ltd' and was responsible for its move from Cricklewood to a new purpose-built factory in Bury St. Edmunds and three yeas later was awarded the 'Queen's Award for Technological Innovation' for his invention of the 'Peregrine crane' and three years later launched the 'Vinten Kestrel Outside Broadcast Crane' which provided a large variation in camera height for location work.

* in 1972 became involved with Dick Hibberd, in the creation of the 'Guild of Television Cameraman' because he : 'rather resented the film cameraman and their attitude, looking down their noses at television and thinking that all 'real art' was in the film world. I thought this wasn't necessarily true. They are two entirely different skills. You couldn't put a film cameraman on a television pedestal, he'd be completely lost, and so I was for starting the Television Guild. The antagonism spurred me on.'

* in 1982 retired from executive duties in the company to became a non-executive director, in the same year that his sister Jean and Company Chairman, Michael Brown, founded 'The William & Ellen Vinten Trust' to provide charitable donations to further the education and training of Vinten employees and people in the local area of Bury St. Edmunds and ten years later retired from the company at the age of 72 and brought the Vinten Family's involvement with it to an end.

* at the age of 90 in 2010, received from the 'Guild of Television Cameramen Award' for 'Fostering and Improving the Art and Craft of the Professional Television Cameraman' and with Chairman Graeme McAlpine praising his  “innovative products” which had “undoubtedly changed the world of broadcasting. The family and the company have provided cameras and cameramen with 100 fantastic years of support”.

* in 2012, in co-operation with the GTC set up the 'Bill Vinten GTC University Award', to recognise universities and graduates who demonstrate outstanding camera craft skills with the winner receiving work experience, paid with expenses, equivalent to £2,500, plus one year’s associate membership of the GTC with President Dick Hibberd stating : “The future and success of our craft relies not on the quantity but on the quality of new entrants," and Chairman adding : "Bill Vinten’s generous offer will allow recognition to be awarded in the most advantageous way to encourage and champion a successful career in camerawork. While craft skills can never replace content, craft skills will always enhance content.”