Sunday, 28 June 2015

Volunteering at Togfest Festival. At a secret location in Milton Keynes!

I love music. It is not a secret.  So when a friend on my FaceBook suggested volunteering for a local festival, I decided I would give it a go.  It’s not like I am looking at a bucket list; but I do want to try lots more new experiences, challenges and really live my life to the full.

Togfest is a local festival in Milton Keynes.  It has been going for decades and started out as a celebration for the band Togmor.  But I hadn’t heard of it til last summer and then the dates clashed with another gig I was at.  But this time around I was not going to miss it.  It was very easy to put my name forward. I just rang and left a message.  The next thing I knew I was at a meeting to find out more about what was involved and health & safety procedures for the day.
I was emailed my shifts and turned up in plenty of time on the day to receive my free crew T-shirt.  I was given a hi-vis jacket, a radio and a position with instructions of what that position required.

It was a beautiful day in the sunshine and a pleasure to chat to the people who were coming along to the festival, help them with directions and just keep an eye out for any issues.  It hardly felt like work at all! I did three shifts with an hour break in between.  I was grateful for the break and the free food in the hospitality tent.  I got talking to several of the bands (some had travelled quite a way to be here).  I also met other volunteers, many also volunteering for the first time.  Lots of lovely people, great music and sunshine.  What more can you ask for?
Things that impressed me:

1.    Okay I know I don’t have anything else to compare it to as it was my first time volunteering in this environment, but it was extremely well organised.
2.    The bands were of a very high standard.  Very professional and delivered some great performances and it was their own work.  Hugely impressed with the level of talent in one place.

3.    Free T-shirt.  Free food and drink.  Free gig.  It felt like I was really looked after.

4.    Although we had security if we needed them, this had a real family feel to the festival and most of the festival-goers were in good spirits.

5.    Real toilets with lots of toilet roll.  I am not a fan of portaloos so to have real toilets and proper running water and soap to wash your hands with was a huge bonus.

6.    I learnt how to use a radio.  It may sound simple but it was something I had never done before.
The bands/artists were chosen to give a wide range of music styles.  From Reggie, Folk, Funk, pop and even hard rock.  The crowd seemed to enjoy all the acts no matter what music genre they fell into.
Here are a few of the bands/artists I was lucky enough to catch:

Reeds: Full of engery and enthuiasim; Reeds really kicked of the show on the main stage.
Jacob Szuleki: A beautiful fingerstyle guitarist.  Acoustic guitaring at its best!

Jasper in the company of others:  With Ukuleles and Fiddle, these guys really had a unique sound to their songs. And yes I did buy the album and EP!
The Waletones: Nice looking boys all smartly dressed reminded me of early Beatles.  And I would guess that The Beatles was an influence in their style of music too.  They even did a few Beatles and rock n roll tracks.

Inlak’esh: Okay it's not the easiest name to remember, but their distinctive acoustic guitar playing will not easily be forgotten.  Great unusual sound.
Rewired: Very professional band from Scotland that gave us some amazing tunes.  Really can see them becoming major players in the music industry.  Scotland is well-renowned for a stream of great artists (and no I do not mean The Proclaimers!).  Watch this space – Rewired are gonna be huge!

New Device: When a band describes itself as Hard Rock, I get a bit worried.  I like a wide range of music but not screechy guitar. But I had no need to be worried.  These guys were professionally awesome (I just made that up but it works!) and really rocked the joint.  They really had charisma and gave a fantastic performance.  People got up and started dancing to them (always a good sign) and their songs had great lyrics and tunes. Not screechy at all!.  Hugely impressed.  Talking to them after their gig I found out one of them likes Bowie. Another 10 points from me! Fabulous band that will make it huge in the metal world, but don't take my word for it - they supported Bon Jovi on their last tour!
The Shadow Cats: I don’t know how to describe them really, they have funk and reggae influences and the lead singer just started rapping freestyle to the crowd which was really impressive.  They were definitely a feel-good band and that was reflective in the mood of the crowd.

By this time I was seriously flagging and decided to go home.  This did mean I missed the headline band, Togmor, which I am gutted about.  But don’t worry – I intend to volunteer again next year!
This has been an amazing experience.  If you would like to join in the fun and volunteer with me next year, Togfest is always looking for new volunteers.  You don’t need any experience – just enthusiasm and an interest in music.  Email for more information. But don’t wait til next year – if your name is down now you can be sure someone will contact you back in plenty of time for next year.  You get a free T-shirt, free food and drink and a free gig.  You also have access all areas so you can hang with the bands.  Cool eh?

If you are interested in finding out more about the Togfest festival in general, this is their website:

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Milton Jones finds the temple of daft in Milton Keynes!

You know who Milton Jones is. He is the strange man from Mock the Week with the Hawaiian shirt and massive hair who delivers deadly one-liners in a deadpan style. What I really love about Milton is his respect for his audience. He treats us as if we are as intelligent as him and doesn’t need to explain it. This is the first time I have seen him live and I can say without any doubt that it was worth every penny.  His razor sharp wit is delivered so well and I didn’t stop laughing all night.

Here is an example of what I found funny:
He waved a Union Jack Flag…and gave it a voice. He then got a Scottish flag out and gave it another voice.
Scottish flag: I’m leaving

Union Jack: Don’t go. Don’t go

Scottish flag: I’m leaving

Union Jack: Don’t go. I’ll give you presents

Scottish flag: okay I’ll stay

Union Jack: Hooray.

Scottish flag: where are my presents?

Union Jack: Maaawaaawaaa

He gets a welsh flag out and gives it a voice

Welsh flag: I’m leaving

Union jack: go on then. You are too lazy to leave

Welsh flag: come over here and say that

I won’t go on about all the flags but have to share the chequered flag you get at the end of a race.

Chequered flag: Czech Republic…no I’m not I’m a Finnish flag!

Just pure genius!!
He has support from Chris Stokes, who looks like he is 18 but apparently he is 31. He did a great set including reasons why he is getting divorced. I think you’ll find his geekiness might be one of them.  Chris knew we were there to see Milton so described himself as the Gherkin on a burger. We want the burger but some people don’t want the gherkin. Others don’t mind it. Very clever analogy.

Milton comes back on and this is probably the time to say it is called Milton Jones and the temple of daft. He loosely has a story about teachers, a treasure map and a woman called Amber he met on a train but this is just a platform for his brilliant one-liners .
Examples of some that I can remember:

Dilemma. Dial Emma…no she had her chance. Dalai Lama.

My dad felt it was his job to put food on the table. My mum used to put it back on the plate.

Taylor Swift is swift at all. It took them three weeks to get my trousers back to me.

1x1=2. 2x2=4. But 0x0 = small brown cube that makes gravy.

He was in Leeds once. He saw a beautiful lady wearing a Miss Leeds banner. Good idea he thought.

His uncle was a country singer. ‘Greenland’. ‘Sweden’..(singing)

He fell down a drain once but was rescued by Diana Ross…sorry not Diana Ross. DynoRod!

He had a fantastic nickname from his teachers at school. He was constant Super-vision.

His PE teacher taught a bit of running.  ‘Run’. A bit of swimming. ‘Swim’. And a bit of Geography. ‘Jog’.
Okay, my delivery is not as good as his...this is why you need to see him live!  He is the new Bob Monkhouse. I totally loved him and laughed more than any other comedian I have seen live ever!!! (and yes I have seen a few). He is comedy gold and I would say to everyone reading this that you need this in your life. It is proven that laughing makes us live longer and who doesn’t want to laugh? Milton Jones is funny and if you don’t find him funny then you need an operation to find your funny bone!

National tour now on:




Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Spamalot looks on the bright side of life and finds its Milton Keynes!

Q: So what did you get up to on a Wednesday night in June?

Me: Well I went to see Spamalot at the Milton Keynes Theatre.
Q: And how was it?

Me:  Well I always like to look on the bright side of life.

I first saw Spamalot many years ago in the West end and decided that as it was coming to Milton Keynes, now was the time to revisit this classic show.  It has been updated to include references to Lady Gaga and as it was in Milton Keynes – the obligatory references to roundabouts and concrete cows.  Don’t worry – it’s not all about Spam. In fact there is not enough spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam!
It opens with the Fisch Schapping song because they misheard and thought he said Finland instead of England.  Finland looks much more fun than England in the dark ages.  England was a time of Plague, Plague and more Plague.  Do not despair – King Arthur of the Britons is here to save us with a quest (and a song or two).  He is not dead yet really sums up Monty Python humour and if you don’t find this funny, I’m afraid you have come to the wrong show and need a sense of humour implant stat! We are soon introduced to the Lady of the Lake.  She is played by Sarah Earnshaw and boy can this girl sing!  What an amazing voice.  I loved her acting, singing and diva quality she brought to the role.

Of course there are simple jokes for people like me.  For example the knights on their quest are going to different countries, interpreted by dance such as Irish, Chinese and Russian.  At the end of the Russian dance they say ‘Hey’ and someone brings a bale of hay onto the stage.  This is funny stuff!
I am sure this was a personal performance as they seemed to keep trying to make each other laugh and with the talented Joe Pasquale as King Arthur who is also a very quick witted comedian, he tried to make the knights laugh on this occasion by mentioning we were peaking too soon with our clapping and need to save it as Janet Street-Porter is coming on shortly with a badger.  Well most of the knights corpsed at this but Will Hawksworth who plays Sir Robin, held it together, just.  Yes Brave Sir Robin and his poor elbows. (want to know more?  – go see the show!).

Of course there is classic Python such as the Knights that go Ni…who changed their name, I think it maybe something different every night but tonight it included a whole verse of Do Wah Diddy Diddy. Even Joe was laughing at this.  And yes they go looking for a shrubbery as a side quest.
Of course no King is ever alone, even when he sings ‘I’m all alone’.  But Patsy (played by Joe Tracini)  is there by his side and has been outstanding in his performance.

How disappointed was I not to be sitting in seat D1 – for that is where to find the Holy Grail.  If only Indiana Jones had known this in Raiders of the lost Ark!  But seriously they drag this man onto the stage and sing with him (and joke that he really made an effort to dress up).  It was funny as I had had this conversation with my family before we left.  For in my opinion we should all dress up for the theatre.  This is a personal performance.  It is not cinema where no one cares.  Theatre is real people giving something personal and that is why I love it.
Back to the show.  Of course everyone was fabulous.  I cannot really pick one or two people out as the show really did need everybody to make it what it is.  A real ensemble.  Joe Pasquale made a perfect King Arthur, and when he asks the lady of the lake to marry him her outfit turns from blue to white in an instant. (I must ask where she got that dress from – I want one!)

This is a fabulous show, so it doesn’t matter if you love Monty Python or have never seen the Holy Grail film, this show is for you….now remember
Always look on the bright side of life……


Monday, 8 June 2015

Only After Dark celebrates its 6th birthday with Rusty Egan.

Imagine opening a club from scratch.  It must take a lot of effort.  Promotion and marketing takes time and money.  Promoting it enough at least to break even.  But you believe in it.  You know there are others out there like you.  Who like what you like.  You believe that if you build it, they will come. (Yes I stole that from Field of Dreams but it fits.)

Now you know you have a USP.  You want to make it so that nothing after 1983 is played.  But hold on – there was a lot of naff music in the 70’s too – we can’t possibly listen to ‘The Pina Colada song’ or ‘Shaddup you face’.  Let’s build a club on a theme of The Blitz Club.  Brilliant.  We know the period in time the music comes from and now have a genre too.  Plus a good dose of Bowie will always help attract like-minded people.
The truth is I don’t know how David Wright first decided how to build Only After Dark, but this weekend we celebrated its 6th birthday. It has gone from strength to strength and changed venues to accommodate more and more people to the point it has started to reach capacity and had to turn people away. This can only be down to the dedication of David, Sara and Sam who regularly make this my ‘go to’ club.

So how do you celebrate six years of great music, diverse fashion and new friendships?  You invite the original DJ from The Blitz Club to DJ there.  Rusty Egan is a legend and of course knows his music.  He is the perfect choice for this celebration.  And what a celebration it was!
It was full of Bowie, Soft Cell, Roxy Music and many many other fabulous songs that kept the dance floor full all night.  And Rusty found time to meet everyone, pose for photos and chat to the Darklings.  It was a fabulous night and a very great way to celebrate six wonderful years.

The Darklings are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met and it is always lovely to meet up again, especially as I live 80 miles away.  And I am not the only one who travels.  People come from Scotland, Peterborough and yes even The Netherlands!  Now that is a sign of a success!
Where do we go from here?  Well I don’t know but all I know is OAD is for me.  I have even been made an honoury Brummie because I spend so much time in Birmingham now. Its success it not just about the music.  It’s not just about wearing fashion that I have no other opportunity to wear.  It’s about friendships . It about the people.  May the world always be full of Darklings.  A huge thank you to David, Sara, Sam and everyone who makes OAD what it is.  Long may OAD continue to thrive and grow.