Happy New Year!

To all my friends, all over the world, I wish you a happy and prosperous 2014.

Our celebrations for the New Year were this year in Bolton, departing from the tradition of spending it at Hannah’s house in Croft. We were helping John with another HCPT adventure, this one in an old church now used as a function room. We ran sound and lighting for the night, it was rather fun – although I was very poorly. Thanks Angela and Natalie for the Flu Plus tabs!

Despite my “lack of finesse” with live sound, I really enjoyed engineering the band, and it did sound pretty good. There’s a video here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151875424071818

Away from the world of light and sound, I’m looking forward to getting on the bike a lot more this year – especially with a view to raising a bit of cash for charities – but more on that later…

Nearly ready to hand in my logbook for 3 Sisters, I’ll post some photographs up shortly. After that, it’s straight on to A Little Night Music – PMA, 27th Feb – 1st March – See you there!!

More Shows. More Photos. More Blogs.

This feels strange, yet right. I’m going to start blogging again.

To catch up, I’m now in my second year at Drama School, have started knitting and sewing, I now love Pinterest, live with Sarah, and can programme an IP PBX.

I’m now a qualified British Cycling Ride Leader. It’s very nice, I lead work for SkyRide and lead on their Local events in small parks and along canal paths, out of Knowsley district. It’s top.

We’ve just finished working on Secret Rapture, which I’ll detail a little bit more about when the production photographs come in. I was the Lighting Designer, along with a couple of other friends from LIPA. Our show was in the small theatre, and was a lovely chance to crack out the old Hog III skills. We’ve also got a training session with Rob Halliday, leading UK lighting designer and programmer, coming up next month which I’m rather looking forward to.

Brick Wall

Finally, for now, have a browse of my latest shoot with Sarah, in Sefton Park. I built that bike!

Speak soon,

Liam x

Irish Night

Here are some photos from John’s Irish Night in Bolton.

The gig raised money for HCPT, The Pilgrimage Trust which takes disabled children to Lourdes. It costs £700 per child, so the fundraising efforts needed are huge. The event sold tickets to 250 people, with the band, equipment hire, venue hire, staffing and food all supplied for free.

Our rig was supplied by HSL Group in Blackburn. They sent 9 Robe 300E Spots, three Source 4 zooms, a Strata Cirus Hazer, 30 GDS wireless uplighters, power and data distribution and a RoadHog with Wireless Solution G4 DMX Transceiver. We provided eight LED pars for stage wash, along with the venue’s 12 ways of dimming including band keylight and rock-and-roll FOH par cans.

After rigging and setting up the [brilliant] hazer, I plotted the show whilst John dealt with projection. Having a desk set up on a flightcase in the middle of the auditorium at St Joseph’s Catholic High School, in Horwich, was most amusing as many of the organisers assumed it would be staying there, trailing cables and all, surrounded by tables. Instead, we built a steeldeck riser and ran the show from the back of the room.

The show ran well. We’d distributed the 30 GDS uplighters around the room, lighting up curtains, the bar and the brick walls. The only trouble we had was when the sound desk net to us blew up twenty seconds before the interval! Luckily, it was replaced by a member of the band with his own, smaller desk. Unfortunately this meant we missed our free pasties…

Special thanks to HSL Group Ltd who made our work on this event possible with their generous loan of equipment.

That’s Class

Sadly I missed Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 this afternoon,and if you did too, talk a quick listen to the 40 second clip below before reading the rest of this article…

First Class rail travel is certainly not what it used to be, as Mr William Hanson eludes to here. Hanson is the leading UK expert on etiquette, apparently including that for public transportation. In my experience, First Class travel is also far from what Hanson wishes to forbid the public from doing. Whilst it is true that First Advance tickets can now be bought very cheaply – occasionally cheaper than for Standard – it doesn’t mean that the extra legroom taken up by people who would ordinarily be packed into the other, less pricey carriages of the same train are unsavoury types.

A seat in First Class will offer more than a seat with the peasants – although this varies from one Train Operating Company to another. Leading the way are Virgin Trains, who offer complimentary snacks and tea, free WiFi and a table and power socket for every seat. Trailing behind are my oft-frequented TOC, London Midland, who offer in First nothing more than a slightly bigger, reclining seat, and a power point between two. Sharing is caring! It is worth mentioning that the difference in service is reflected in the price you pay, by which logic I assume that in buying a First Class ticket on a CrossCountry service you get a lesson in how to drive a train from Isambard Kingdom Brunel himself…

I rather suspect that Hanson is being satirical here, a point rather missed by Clare Stutely on Facebook who said “William Hanson, what a pompous a**e you are. Who decided the First Class section is an extension of the office eh? When I last looked the train, all of it was classed as ‘Public’ transport…. Get over yourself Mr Hanson, and stay in the office if us ‘rif raf’ bother you so much” and a point well taken by Clare Wolf who said “How wonderful this caller was. If I see him in a first class carriage I will intentionally buy a first class ticket, grab the nearest noisiest snottiest child I can find and go and sit next to him. I will also ensure I’m wearing a pink cowboy hat and reading the Daily Mail!

Actually, a lot of the backlash on the Radio 2 Facebook Page is from those who might be predisposed to buy Standard Class tickets, but have snapped up ticket cheap upgrades to 1ST. They’ve often been greeted with rudeness, arrogance and the sort of snobbery business people would be clever to avoid. Ms Stutely’s comment regarding the train not being office space is reiterated by many of the 150+ commenters, a lot of whom seem to feel that the passengers that travel in the more expensive seats are those who see their carriage as a place of work, and wish for the same respect as if they were in their own office.

MPs, for example, feel that travelling in First Class is a right of their job, and is necessary for doing it correctly. That’s a different kettle of fish, frankly, but we remember the news story from October of a certain Chancellor who got himself into a spot of bother when he was travelling First Class without a ticket and allegedly refused to move.

Picture from an ITV reporter who was on the train at the time.

This incident occured on a Virgin Trains service, and whilst they were insistent that there was no disagreement at all, Mr Osbourne did not simply move seats to the lower class, he spent over £150 of taxpayer’s money on a seat upgrade. Probably because the commoners in cattle class would have made it difficult to concentrate on the film he was watching with his aide – I wonder what Hanson’s etiquette advice would be about that! It’s all too easy to pick on Hanson, actually – especially if your only source of moral information comes from Radio Two. Instead let’s pick on Macclesfield MP, Sir Nicholas Winterton, who said this:

“If I was in standard-class, I would not do work because people would be looking over your shoulder the entire time, there would be noise, there would be distraction. They [standard-class passengers] are a totally different type of people – they have a different outlook on life. They may be reading a book but I doubt whether they’re undertaking serious work or study, reading reports or amending reports that MPs do when they travel”

A charming chap, for sure. What’s interesting, among all of this, is that for a lot of people, train travel is one of the last places where a class system seems to exist. Whilst the upper tiers remain making money just for the sake of it, and the lower class are probably poorer than ever, [and neither take the train] everything in the middle is getting a bit blurred – maybe not at the extremes, but the transition between working class and middle class is more undefinable than ever. Except on trains it seems, where one is assigned to a certain carriage by their social status, and that is the end of it. That’s not exactly what Hansom says, but you know that’s what he means – bankers are hardly like to have a Gangam Style ringtone or “free-range” children, and he knows it.

Last time I travelled in First Class, I was on the 7:34 London Midland service from Liverpool Lime Street to Birmingham New Street. I was in the same carriage as an architect, who was preparing his presentation of designs for a new hotel in Birmingham. Everyone else looked rather serious, and sneered at the passengers who walked through the centrally-located First Class cabin to the loos at the other end of the train. I just sat their, munching my pasta salad, ignoring the glares through the seats. It’s true that I bought my 1ST ticket so that I could use the power point for my MacBook and work on the train. It became an extension of my working space, and I respected that it was calm. But I certainly didn’t have a problem with other passengers passing through. However, this view wasn’t shared by First Class passengers on the service featured on this week’s The Railway: Keeping Britain Moving when Liverpool-bound football fans returning home were moved to 1ST to maintain safety on the crowded service. Paying FC passengers feared for their safety, with one lady claiming “I was rather worried they might be sick on me, you know. On my head.”

Hanson’s amusing, if not slightly rude broadcast underlines a grey area of modern society that so many people feel different about. Should First Class be reserved as an area of the train where people can work, without disruption, so long as they have paid the price? Should all of the train be for the use of everyone, with different areas of the carriages just more expensive for the amenities of a plug socket and free coffee? Isn’t it much like an upmarket wine bar, which occasionally attracts lager louts by  virtue of it selling bottled Carlsberg? What is about train travel that brings out snobbery in people?

My opinion is that First Class certainly has its place. Largely, I think the people that listen to Radio 2 have got it wrong. Hanson was probably trying to be a bit funny, and the whole this has been exaggerated in a rather tiresome “them and us” fashion, it must be said. We don’t live in a communist country, and you will get people on different rungs of the social ladder sniping at each other – and it’s not unheard of for the BBC to incite situations like this. With comments such as “free-range children” Hanson – aged just 23 – will win no friends with BBC R2’s demographic, but the keyboard warriors slating him are riled just because they’ve missed the joke and they think they were insulted. In a somewhat capitalist manner, my belief is that if you’re willing to pay more for something, you may have it, and that entitles you to a certain expectation of behaviour – indeed, an etiquette…

Here’s more about William Hanson – with Russell Howard. Enjoy.

Catching Up

I remember Taz moaning a little while back that I never actually post about what I’m up to at the moment. Well, here goes.

I’ve just finished working on flys fro Stillness in a Mobile World, a dance show at LIPA. I’m having a little relax at the moment between that The 2ube Extra, which is the first assessed show that I have. It’s a big, week-long music festival in the main auditorium at LIPA which is being transformed into a full-on concert venue. Which means our first job is to remove all of the seats from the stalls…

It’s looking like a pretty top show at the minute, anyway, so if you’re around Liverpool 18th-22nd of March it’s well worth coming down for the evening. But if you can’t be there, but still want to watch, we’ll be broadcasting live over the Internet, so I’ll post links to that closer to the time.

Separate from LIPA, I find myself between projects at the moment. We’ve not long finished working on the fourth annual Michelle Ann School of Dance performance, which was a challenge more than usual as the venue had very few working lamps when we got there, and not being a full-time venue there were no spares in stock. Lots of fun… Coming up, I’ve got a big St Patrick’s Day party in March, in Bolton, raising money for HCPT. Following this and 2ube Extra I’m working on the Croft Show, which is set to be a big enthusiastic production following the passing of our Chairman, Mr Richard Rushin. It’s something about time travel this year, sounds good. Standby for hire lists, Taz…

As far as theatre and productions go, that’s about it for now. In terms of cycling however, things are ongoingly wonderful. I’ve started working for British Cycling as a Ride Leader, and my formal training commences in March. So if you fancy a Local SkyRide aroud the Knowsley area, give me a yell and we can arrange something!

I’ve finally started productively editing the Eireball film, following ditching Final Cut for it’s simpler cousin iMovie. So far, this has enabled me to work faster, with no drawbacks perceived as of yet. I’m still burdened with over 850 video clips though, so it’s a slow progress. Any other photography seems to be at a standstill currently, although I’ve been positively snowed under with Professional Development essays and show calls, and studying intently for my Driving theory test – which I passed yesterday!

Also – I went to see Phantom of The Opera this week – if you’ve not read the review yet, it’s here. A thrilling, simply perfect show.

There’re a few new things around this site recently. The first is a photo Gallery, suggested by Joe Stathers-Tracey. Secondly, I uploaded a Project page with all the information about Rob and Sarah’s Wedding. I received some very lovely feedback for this, from Ian Robottom, which can be read here.

So there’s not really much else to say – I hope you feel appropriately updated, and stay tuned for more!!

REVIEW: Phantom on Tour

There are certain shows that simply define our world. We see them occasionally – the odd show that reminds us why we do what we do.

The current Phantom tour is, without a doubt, one of those shows. It is a combination of  genius set design, stunning lighting and crystal clear sound, complementing brilliantly flawless performances from the cast.

With some of the greats of British theatre behind this production – namely Mackintosh, Lloyd Webber, Constable, Bourne – there was never any doubt in my mind that this show would be anything short of spectacular. As I sat in Liverpool’s beautifully ornate Empire Theatre, the anticipation in the air around the audience was as dense as the haze which was highlighting one of the most wonderfully lit presets I have ever seen.

And it was only up from there, with Paule Constable’s lighting design unobtrusively adding to the magic of the performance, which centres around the fantastic Paul Brown designed set – which revolves, breaks apart, and is so tall the top is hidden well beyond the Empire’s proscenium. It was just brilliant, and collaboration between the stage design and lighting effects was clear throughout – be it motorised footlights disappearing into the stage, or candles flying in from above. I’ll not hide that I am a huge Constable fan – we’re learning about CMY mixing from the latest moving fixtures, whist Paule is still finding new ways to create awe with a par can – Play Without Words, for example. This show is another gem in her crown.

Bringing Lloyd Webber’s adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s opera ghost to life was not Earl Carpenter, as advertised, as he was unwell. So instead we had the imponderable joy of watching John Owen-Jones wear the mask instead. He was superb, if not a little quiet at times. Playing Christine Daae opposite him was Katie Hall, an actress I loved from Les Mis 25th Concert and was very keen to see her tackle the role written for Sarah Brightman 26 years ago. She did not disappoint, and played a perfect Christine all the way through.

This is a new, re-choreographed, re-directed Phantom, completely reshaped for this tour by the delightful Cameron Mackintosh. In the programme, he talks of how he once crafted a theatrical success with Hal Prince, Gillian Lynne and the stars – Crawford, Brightman and Barton. This new production, directed by Laurence Connor, choreographed by Scott Ambler and with Owen-Jones, Hall and Simon Bailey (Raoul) playing it on the boards, brings it right into today’s theatre. With the revolving set, brilliant effects, and the all-important, all-new flying chandelier, the show is a visual spectacle. The music of the night is brought to our ears by Mick Potter, and although at times it maybe could have been a little louder, the audio was clear as crystal, sounding as bright and operatic as this production should. Throw in some clever processing and pan effects and it was positively a treat. Talking of orchestras, the band were top notch, although could clearly be seen chatting and miming when not playing – and frankly I am getting bored of conductors who feel the need to ham up any minuscule acknowledgement they are given in the script. Yes, it’s all very good, but it is a crack in a fourth wall they probably should think about filling.

I’ve nothing bad to say about this production, and neither did the 2,300 other audience members who laughed, cried, and were awed along with me in the nearly-sold-out Empire. The tour continues to run, and is a must see. Technically it is superb, with a perfectly cast group of actors presenting the classic, dark tale of the Phantom of The Opera in a beautiful new manner. 9/10.

Ian Robottom, Rob and Sarah’s Wedding.

A very lovely note from Ian following our work for Rob and Sarah’s Wedding.

It was around a year ago when Rob asked me to be one of his best men for his wedding to Sarah.   Of course I was delighted, but soon realized that in addition to the usual best man duties (speech, drinking, more drinking etc) that as myself and Rob had for years put events on, that this was going to be one evening doo that would have to impress.

Now, of course I could only be partly involved on the day and Rob could not be involved at all.  This was a major dilemma. As this had to be an event to impress, I was not happy to trust it to just anyone – I needed to be involved, but also could not be hands on.   

 This is when the obvious choice of Liam came to mind.  I had first worked with Liam at an Oxjam evening in Leicester where I was provided an outdoor PA.  Oxjam had, in the past, provided me staff to assist – All were keen, but technically useless.    In 2011 Liam was working as a volunteer, someone who not only was technically brilliant but understood event management and nothing appeared to faze him.  The Oxjam outdoor stage was a massive success that year, mainly down to Liam.

 Liam also assisted me at a ‘Roughshod’ event in Leicester – Again, just picking up work which needed to be done with no fuss and making my lighting look better that I had ever managed myself.

 So with all this in mind I put the call in to Liam to see if he was happy to design, source, manage, install and run a wedding evening doo the likes Leicester would not have seen before.  Liam was up for the challenge.  A few meetings were set up, a budget set and Liam, as always, just got on with the work with no fuss and a level of professionalism way beyond his years.

 Detailed plans for the lighting were produced, programming undertaken, detailed inventory and contracts for the hire companies completed and we were all set for the event. 

As with all events – Not everything will run exactly how you expect.  How you deal with the challenges shows the experience and professionalism of the team.

 There were a few ‘misunderstandings’ with the venue relating to clear down times.  These could have cause major issues.  However, with a few calls to the hire companies, collection times were re-booked and what could have been issues were avoided.   Many thanks to the hire companies for their flexibility.

 The wedding was a massive success.  The lighting was simply stunning.  I was able to enjoy the wedding knowing that the team in place was the best I had ever worked in.  The set-up, operation and pack down were slick, showing the importance of planning. 

I cannot thank Liam and Sarah-Jo enough for their hard work and dedication to this event.  I never doubted they could do it.  What they actually delivered far exceeded my expectations – The original spec of delivering a wedding night event to blow away all others, was achieved and then some. 

And the best bit?  I could relax, drink and carry out my best man duties knowing that I had the best of the best taking care of the event.

The next event?  Not sure, but I know who I will call first when I have something planned.

– Ian Robottom, Best Man / Production Manager, Rob and Sarah’s Wedding

God speed and God Bless, old friend. Tell Nan I’m doing well.

Croft Players

Croft Players sadly announce the passing of our society chairman, Richard “Dick” Rushin.

Dick had been with Croft Players for a very long time, held the society close to his heart and was at rehearsals on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, he suffered a stroke, and passed away in hospital surrounded by his family on Friday.

Croft Players extend our deepest sympathy to all of Richard’s family, many of whom are also involved with the society.

Richard will be greatly missed on the boards at Croft. Funeral details will be shared when they are available.

In the mean time, we pray for Richard, and his family, and take a moment to appreciate the presence of those we are surrounded by.

Rest in Peace, Richard.

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Theory Test Cycling ePetition

Cycling on the roads these days can be perilous. With angry drivers bandying around the term “cyclo-fascists” and the BBC producing documentaries which do nothing more than agitate the situation, it’s not hard to understand why people sometimes have a misinformed attitude towards those on two wheels. God damned road tax evaders.

Often the problem can extend a little further than people’s intolerance – indeed, it can be a question of ignorance of the correct way to deal with a cyclist in the road. Currently, British Cycling are supporting calls for harder tests with special cycle awareness sections as standard, and an online petition has been created, with those signing agreeing that the driving theory test should include the cycle awareness section.

Whilst the driving theory test has some optional cycling awareness questions, not everyone is tested with these and the practical driving test does not have any particular focus on cyclists. If drivers are not trained to be aware of cyclists and how to drive around them they will retain the lack of awareness after they pass their test.

For me as a cyclist who is currently learning to drive, the problem is clearly a lack of sufficient education, and there is no doubt that this petition will do some good. Currently, 15,000 signatures agree. Last year, 112 people were killed on British roads, with about 50% of that a result of a collision with a motor car. Insurance companies are quick to point out that newly passed drivers are at a higher risk of having an accident, with one in five new drivers being involved in a crash within their first year of driving. Accidents involving British Cycling’s Shane Sutton and hero Bradley Wiggins show the problems are often not a fault of dangerous or inept cycling as certain road users might suggest. Following the most successful year ever for cycling in Britain, 2013 looks set for more people to be taking to their bikes, with the potential risk of surpassing the death count of 2012 – in itself, a five-year high.

If a change to the driving theory test saves the life of just one cyclist every year, as a result of increased awareness from a new driver, then this effort is and will always have been worth it. Change now will not affect the millions of drivers on our roads, but it just takes a small change to bring about radical differences in public masses.

The petition is here. It takes twenty second or so to sign it – please give it a read and if you agree with making roads a safer place for everybody that use them, add your name.

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/44059