Riviera Cinema

There was an open day today at the old cinema in Teignmouth that sadly closed its doors back in 2000. The auditorium is still intact, repainted in a deep red and glorious gold. Still grand on a small scale, though the seats are past it and the floor stripped back to its bare bones. It felt strange to be standing again in a place where I spent many wet afternoons in my childhood and balmy evenings in my teeage years.

I saw Sleeping Beauty there with one of the scariest ever of Disney’s villains. I saw Bambi and can still remember the distraught sobs of another child at that awful, awful moment. I saw a much hyped-up Superman. The Return of the Jedi. Back to the Future. The Fisher King. It was always an occasion. Poppets and Revels, maybe an icecream. None of this over-priced, over-sized popcorn of the multi-screen complexes.  

So we filled in a questionnaire – what would we like to see happen with the cinema?

I’d like to see a community cinema. We should be able to make it work as a town of around 17000 residents. We can’t compete with the big cinemas of Exeter, our local city, so we should aim to offer a different experience. For starters the Riviera is right in the town centre. Convenient. Cheaper. No bus or train fares. No petrol costs. It is full of soul, not corporate branding. It should be a little cheaper to get a ticket. There’s not a lot of diposable income in Teignmouth but enough to fund a fairly regular night out at the pics.

Other towns have made it work. There’s the Flavel Arts Centre in Dartmouth which combines film, theatre, library, art and music etc. The Hebden Bridge Picture House. Bude Community Cinema. These are just a few I have heard about but there must be loads of others who have strived to make a local cinema work.

Teignmouth already has a film society to try and fill the gap left by the millenium closure of the Riviera. It is held once a month at the local secondary school – but wouldn’t it be fantastic to relocate to the old cinema and build on the enthusiasm there is for film in this small seaside town?

We could have a mix of mainstream films, art house films, foreign language, cult, and classic films. We could have special elevenses mornings, tea and cake afternoons, kids clubs, young people nights, themed nights… We may be small but we are a creative town. Surely we can make this happen?


Christian the Lion



A while ago now my daughter showed me a Youtube clip of Christian the Lion. He was spotted in Harrods in the 60s in a cramped cage by two Aussie friends. They couldn’t leave him. They bought him and took him home to their Kings Road flat. You should watch the clip, if you haven’t already. It’s incredibly moving (even against the cheesey music). This clip alone has nearly 5 million views but there are others too.


On the front page of The Guardian’s Family section today, there is a photo of the two friends back in the day, Christian happily riding along in their soft-top. And now a  film is being made, with none other than Zac Efron playing the part of John Rendall. A kind of Born Free. Christian changed the lives of these two Australian men and Christian is a huge testament to animal conservation.

A Lion Called Christian is published by Bantam Press, in a revised edition of the book written by Anthony Burke (Ace) and John Rendall which was a bestseller in 1971.

You’ve got to watch this clip!

First Ladies

I love Michelle Obama. She is strong and tough and yet so warm and caring, a mother and wife, a hot-shot lawyer, a first lady in so many ways. Watching her on the news last night was inspirational, her belief in a group of North London school girls who she has kept in touch with over the last two years, bringing them to Oxford to show them that the glittering spires are within their reach if they believe in themsleves, each other, and work hard. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2011/05/25/2011-05-25_first_lady_michelle_obama_meets_hardscrabble_north_london_schoolgirls_at_famous_.html

Meanwhile back in the USA, Oprah had her farewell show after 25 years of being on air. Watch this space.


Monday has arrived and we are all still here. The rapture that didn’t happen on Saturday (as predicted by Harold Camping of California) led me to think of a Blondie song. Then Sunday morning I heard her desert island discs. She has led a rock’s star life, survived the highs and the lows, and it is remarkable that she is still performing and doing what she does best. She has always been both cool and popular, a tricky and rare combination.   

Blondie’s music has been hard to define as it crosses over from punk to new wave to rock to disco. ‘Rapture’ perhaps isn’t typical Blondie (if indeed there is such a thing) as she actually raps. And the lyrics are weird. But I’ve been silently singing it all weekend, thanks to Harold.

As for the rapture-that-didn’t-happen I read an interesting piece in The Guardian on Saturday by the Rev Danielle Tumminio, an episcopal priest in Boston. She places more emphasis on Genesis 8:21 where God makes his promise to Noah to never again destroy every living creature. What do Harold Camping and his followers make of this?

From Deborah Harry to Noah.

Luke Bitmead Writer’s Bursary

If you are a struggling writer and want to be published, then think about entering the Luke Bitmead Bursary for new writers. The award was set up shortly after Luke’s untimely death in 2006 by his family to support and encourage the work of fledgling novel writers. The winner will receive a publishing contract with Legend Press, as well as a cash bursary.

This is the fourth year of the award. Andrew Blackman won the first year with On the Holloway Road. Ruth Dugdall won the second year with The Woman Before Me. And I was astounded to be the third winner with The Generation Game which will be published on August 1st.

If you have an unpublished novel that you want to share with the world, then give it a go. What have you got to lose?

My Lovely Horse

Eurovision used to be a big family occasion in our household when I was a kid – Abba and Buck’s Fizz and Lynsey de Paul’s Rock Bottom. And even early on in our married life, we’d invite friends around for an evening of excitement. But since it’s become political it is just not as fun. So I only briefly watched it on Saturday night and was lucky enough to catch Jedward. Which got me thinking about the best Eurovison song of them all – from Episode 5 of Series 2 of Father Ted, ‘A Song for Europe’.
Father Ted and Father Dougal

Where are you going, with your fetlocks blowing in the wind?
The sublime lyrics to My Lovely Horse have stuck in my mind all these years but I can’t remember any from Saturday…

Women in Leadership

I spent last evening with about eighty Baptist women (and two brave men) at the Dartbridge Inn in Buckfastleigh. The evening was entitled Stepping Up, aimed at ‘women in leadership and women who may have the potential for leadership in the future’.

Over a meal together we listened to women’s personal stories. We were reminded of some of the incredible women in the Bible who are sometimes overlooked. And we were given a brief but startling rundown of women leaders through 2000 years of church history, most of whom have been airbrushed out. I like to think of myself as a Feminist, believing God created us as different beings to men, but equal to men. Jesus knew our potential and I don’t believe he appeared first to a group of women after the resurrection by accident. (Nothing he did was by accident.) It was the women who stayed with him by the cross and the women who faithfully went to the tomb early on that first Easter Sunday. He told Mary Magdalene to go and tell everyone that he had risen. He gave her that authority and through her it has been handed down the ages.

And what about those other women who have carried on this tradition? We may know of St Hilda of Whitby and Catherine Booth of the Salvation Army, but what about Lizzie Hodgson who according to a Baptist Times article of 1911 filled the 1400 seat Lyric theatre with her preaching? Why had I never heard of her until last night? 

There are many other important women who led from the front, using their gifts to glorify God. So why are they largely forgotten?

We don’t all have to preach but we can be leaders in the field where are gifts and talents lie. Think of Fanny Crosby ‘the premier hymnist of the gospel song period’ (circa 1870-1920). She also wrote over 1000 secular poems, had four books of poetry published plus two best-selling autobiographies and was a proficient public speaker. And she was blind. 

In Britain now about 25% of trainee Baptist ministers are women. Exciting times. And not just for Baptists. This summer the Church of England General Synod will vote on whether women can be ordained as bishops. Wouldn’t that be something? Especially as Dawn French has hinted that she may return to do a Bishop Of Dibley… 

Sir Bruce?

It’s my birthday today. I’m more of a Christmas person than a birthday one but it does make you get a tad nostalgic as you see another year go by. As you get older you look back more – well, you have more to look back on. I was thinking about Bruce. I have thought about him a lot during the writing of my novel, partly inspired by him and Saturday night telly. Next month the Queen’s birthday honours list will be announced and maybe this time Brucie will get his knighthood. Seven decades in showbiz, in this country, what more does someone have to do?

But as the man himself has said, he’s in good company: Morecambe and Wise, the Two Ronnies, Tommy Cooper, Eric Sykes, Frankie Howard, Les Dawson, Bob Monkhouse. None of these entertainers were recognised with knighthoods. And it’s that word – ‘entertainer’ – that is perhaps the problem, or to be more specific, ‘comedy’. Is there a snobbery about comedy that means it is not recognised in this country?

And think of all those brilliant comic novels that have never won the big awards – Howard Jacobson’s ‘The Finkler Question’ possibly the start of bucking the trend. Why are ‘serious’ novels somehow considered more worthy (as if comedy isn’t deeply serious)?

And what about the women? We have many actresses (‘serious’) who are dames. But what about June Whitfield, Victoria Wood, Julie Walters et al?

Please, please take comedy seriously, powers-that-be. And please please give Brucie the knighthood he deserves.