Suzanne Evans, Ukip, on Matt Forde’s “The Political Party” – review

Okay,  this is another podcast post. Well, not totally, it’s also about comedy and politics (I’ll try to let you know which is which). If you haven’t come across ‘Matt Forde’s Political Party’ before, imagine walking out of the room before the end of ‘Live at The Apollo’ and coming back in after ‘Question Time’ has started. As a format it sounds about as viable as Craig Levein’s revolutionary 4-6-0 tactic that he employed so miserably as Scotland manager, but actually it works exceptionally well and that’s a testament to Forde’s tremendous personal affability (and childishly contagious laugh).

A former political adviser in the Blair government, Forde is an unabashed Blairite – if you can refer to someone who talks about Tony Blair as though they were a mixture of Jesus, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Stuart Pearce as ‘just’ a Blairite – who has been holding these events regularly for the last 2-3 years. They’re uploaded as live events and the rapport between host and crowd adds greatly to the experience.

And they’re well worth listening to; regular readers of TVFA1 (of whom there are none) will know that I regard the Conservatives as somewhere between Necrotising Fascitis and Female Genital Mutilation in terms of desirability, but the show featuring former Conservative Vice-Chairman Michael Fabricant was 90 of the funniest, most anarchic minutes my ears have lived through.

The latest episode (linked above) features his third Ukip guest, Deputy Chair Suzanne Evans. I think to many Evans must be regarded as Ukip’s secret weapon, combining charm, intelligence and poise and providing a valuable counterpoint to the cult of Farage and Paul Nuttall’s tired everyman shtick. Describing herself as “centre-right-ish”, she is credited with creating Ukip’s first realistic manifesto, although personally I think that it was a shame we had to lose some of Ukip’s more progressive policies from the previous manifesto:

  • Encouraging “a return to the glamour, grace and style of the railway companies of the past”
  • Giving MPs more freedom over their expenses
  • Flat rate income tax of 31% for all incomes over £11,500
  • More swearing of allegiance to the Queen

Honestly, I can’t tell why everyone thought Ukip were as mad as a bag of left-handed spanners. Of her new manifesto, Evans says that it’s simply so good the media have ignored it.

And in that lies Evans’ weakness. Whilst an experienced political professional and lucid communicator, it occasionally feels like the polish is literally a veneer. A number of times she puts words into her colleagues’ mouths: “no, what he meant by that was…” and “I’m sure what he meant to say was…” and it feels like she’s making up policy and deciding the party line as she goes along. It’s perfectly possible that part of her brief includes smoothing over the rest of the party’s crass communication, but occasionally that comes across as sneering. When Forde talks about the SNP’s success and asks if they are a party that Ukip should aim to emulate, she answers with a dismissive “don’t be daft”. When asked about Godfrey Bloom’s idiotic rants, she’s quick to play down the offence that he caused. I’m sure the party is keen to move on from slags from Bongo-Bongo Land, but dismissing racism and sexism so flippantly doesn’t feel like a wise move.

Whilst discussing the immigrant crisis, she bats away claims that migrants are net contributors to the economy, pointing to a separate study by the impartially-named MigrationWatch which disputes those figures. She makes it clear that amongst her concerns is a worry that there’s insufficient housing, whilst neglecting to mention (not surprisingly) that she owned two homes and was part-owner of a third.

On the flipside, she’s a vociferous campaigner against FGM, and has to be lauded for the achievement in moving the popular perception of her party away from being a single-issue klan of sexist pub bores and casual racists (albeit to an agitprop professional political party full of sexist pub bores and casual racists).

Forde asks directly about that single issue: “what would Ukip do if the UK did leave the EU?” Evans didn’t have a prepared answer, which does point to a lack of ambition and belief in their own mission. Whilst their policies have moved on from pledging to restore the Crown symbol on pint glasses and they can point to many more votes than the 56 MP Scottish Nationalist Party, it does show that Ukip has a long way to go before it can really count itself part of the highest echelon of UK politics.

Bank account bans; aka, frantically digging for a story where there is none

I’m a big fan of podcasts. I have been since I first discovered them, probably because I’m just a geek for radio generally. I like all sorts of podcasts, whether they’re factual, like the BBC’s excellent ‘Witness’ series, or fictional, like ‘The Truth’; humorous ones such as ‘Football Weekly’, or topical ones like ‘The Political Party’; and ones that simply transcend pigeonholing, refusing to obey either the laws of causality or the rules of cricket. There is only of of those, of course: ‘Welcome to Night Vale’.

The BBC World Service ‘Documentaries’ series is another favourite. The standard is extremely high and the choice of topics fascinating. “The Killing of Farkhunda”, a recent episode, was exceptional (if horrific. If you don’t know the story of this 28 year old woman murdered by a mob, you should check it out). So when I saw there was a new episode, I downloaded it immediately.

“Bank account bans”, presented by former Torygraph chief political commentator Peter Oborne, promised a story that his former employers refused to run for fear of offender the paper’s major advertisers, HSBC. The bank was accused of closing down the bank accounts of both individual Muslims and Muslim organisations, and when his paper refused to run it, Oborne did the decent thing and resigned immediately. Oborne was very upfront about his Conservative leanings. “Hear a Tory criticise the banking industry?” I thought, “This I have to hear!”

Oborne breathlessly disclosed how a source had given him half an hour’s access to a confidential database, one that flagged up that his friend’s mosque – Finsbury Park Mosque, former home of Abu Hamza – had links to terrorism. Because of that HSBC had closed their bank account. Not just this mosque, but the bank accounts of other Muslim individuals, organisations and charities, without reason. The ‘rather dramatic journey’ that this information had sent him on led him to ask whether they were targeted by mistake, because they were terrorists, or [dramatic pause] simply because they were Muslim.

So far, so good. The idea that some secret database somewhere held critical information and was being withheld from us all was a good hook, especially if evil organisations (like banks) were using this supersecret system – the ominously-named “World-Check” – to discriminate against innocent parties. And that was the point that I stopped and thought, “wait a minute, I’m sure I know that name…”

I freely admit I’m a geek for computers and the internet. Not like, a sysadmin level geek or anything like that, but I like to think I know my way around. I’m not a hacker but I have been programming in Basic since 1984 – yes, Spectrum Basic still counts as programming – and I do work for a technology company. I built my first 286SX-based PC back in what, 1992, something like that? So, yeah, I’m not a n00b or anything.

Not that I needed any hacking skills to find out about this mysterious ‘World-Check’ system. I Googled it on my phone while I was still listening to the podcast, in fact. Basically, this confidential database is so amazingly highly supersecret that:

Basically, it’s about as secret as a Wile E. Coyote plan in a bright red folder wrapped in yellow and black hazard warning tape with a large stencilled-font sign on the side saying “TOP SECRET” inside a glass casket with a flashing red light and a very loud klaxon on top. Which is to say, not at all secret.

Undeterred by this complete lack of a story, Oborne looked up the Finsbury Park Mosque on World-Check. “It’s there!” he’s exclaimed. “It’s flagged with ‘Terrorism’!” He clicked on the entry to learn more about the Mosque’s terrorist links.

It did indeed talk about the links, from when Abu Hamza was there. It also said that that was some years ago, and there was a new board, and a new Imam. It was under new management, and the new management had no known links to terrorist activities. 0 for 2, Oborne.

Moving swiftly on, Oborne told the story of how HSBC had used this information and decided to close down the mosque’s bank account. He told how US authorities had been ruthless in clamping down with huge penalties against any financial institution accused of dealing with any organisation with possible terrorist links, and HSBC had taken a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach in closing off the mosque’s facilities. With two months’ notice, in writing, and an offer to help with the consequences of this decision. Heinous behaviour!

So, in a nutshell, the entire story of the podcast, and Oborne’s amazing, dramatic, exposé, is this: a business used widely-available commercial information to assess a potential risk and took a safety-first decision based on that information.

Doesn’t sound so exciting when you say it like that.

Magpie Mine (8/11)

The buildings still visible are enough to be able to construct a picture of what an 19th century leadmine must have looked like – except for the corrugated iron section which is a relic of the 1950s! Around the buildings there would also have been areas for crushing the ore and washing and dressing it prior to smelting.


Magpie Mine (7/11)

The sough enabled the mineshaft to be deepened to 728 feet, but despite this the mine never became profitable again and closed in 1883. It was worked again at intervals until 1923 and reopened in a limited way in the 1950s but only ever employed a few men and rarely made money.


Brighton Pier

Following my visit to The Photography Show the other weekend, I am inspired to finally give up Aperture Priority mode and properly master Manual.


Magpie Mine (6/11)

The sough was built between 1873 and 1881 – an epic undertaking since the rock proved to be mostly ‘toadstone’, a variety of basalt, and very hard. It was the last major sough to be constructed in this area and is now one of the best preserved. The cost was £18000, a very large sum for those days, and far more than the shareholders had budgeted for.


Magpie Mine (5/11)


Lead-mining was a speculative business with big profits to be made sometimes and huge losses at others, so the mine changed hands frequently. Though the mine was very profitable in the early 1840s, it closed from 1846 to 1868, and when it was re-opened a large Cornish pumping engine was installed in the engine house which is now the major building on the site. However, water was a problem in this mine as in many others and when the price of lead fell the cost of pumping made the mine unprofitable and led the owners to consider driving a ‘sough’ or drainage tunnel from the River Wye into the mine workings.


The loneliness of the long exposure photographer

Taken at dusk on Brighton beach last week. There were a number of people hacking about with cameras and tripods. Lots of people were (like this guy, I assume) doing long exposure photography judging by their activity. He and I were the only two that seemed to be on our own, and I was the only one without a tripod.




Systems thinking and sexual grooming; or, “be careful what you wish for”

“The force’s priorities at that time were mainly crimes including robbery, burglary and car crime due to mandatory targets set by the Home Office.” [1]


“The assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester police, Dawn Copley, acknowledged “mistakes were made and victims let down”. She laid some of the blame at the force’s focus in 2008–10 on targeting such crimes as burglary.” [2]


“In the early days of family planning in India, program goals were defined in terms of the number of IUDs implanted. So doctors, in their eagerness to meet their targets, put loops into women without patient approval.” [3]


The first quotation pertains to the systematic sexual grooming and abuse committed against young women in South Yorkshire, particularly Rotherham, dating primarily from 2007-2010. The second quotation relates to a similar set of crimes committed in Rochdale around the same time. The third quotation is from a 2008 book that stems from the thinking of Ludwig von Bertalanffy in the 1940s, and all three quotes are examples of the same thing. The thing is called ‘systems thinking’ and the  clue is in the  ‘targets’/’goals’ language.

I am a system. I am part of any number of larger systems; my company, my community, my country. Whilst I am a subsystem of those systems, I have subsystems of my own; my brain, my cardiovascular system, my central nervous system.

Each of them – subsystems, systems, parent systems – has a goal. Often, more than one goal, and generally one finds that the larger and more complex the system, the more goals it has. The smaller the system, or should I say the more specific the system, the fewer or more precise the goals are.

Let me give you an example. My lungs are a system, and their purpose is to transport oxygen from the environment into my bloodstream. They also transport carbon dioxide in the opposite direction. Actually lungs are a fabulously complicated system in themselves, but they have a very specific goal, generally speaking, so we can describe them as a small system.

My lungs are a subsystem of my body. They’re one of many subsystems that keep me moving, thinking, talking, sleeping, eating and, unfortunately for you, typing.

But they also help me (as a collection of subsystems) function as a subsystem of other systems; as an employee for example, or a central defensive midfielder with an eye for a Glenn Hoddle-esque long pass back when I could still pass as a functioning player (and could see more than 6 feet).

Each of the systems that I belong to has a goal, maybe more than one. My company wants to make money. My football team wanted to win games. And, very importantly, these goals can be measured. My company has a bank account, which we can check. My football team can look at the league table and see how many points it had.

The measures are important, for two reasons. Firstly, they can tell us how the system is performing. But secondly and possibly more importantly, if they’re badly designed, they can become goals of the system itself.

Let’s look at that second point more closely, because that explains exactly what happened in all three examples above. When the Home Office released their strategy to cut crime for the period 2008-2011, there was a focus on certain types of crime which were perceived by the public to be especially pernicious – burglary and car crime, to choose two main examples. These crimes were to be monitored, with targets set for cutting and solving crimes.

Many of you will already have worked out how this story ends. With a finite amount of resources (that were steadily, and in many cases heavily, being eroded due to financial pressure) Police forces concentrated on those crimes which were being measured. Crimes that were not being measured were – well, let’s not say ignored because I’m sure that that’s not correct, but they certainly did not enjoy as high a priority as other crimes, and were not investigated with as much zeal. Police forces measured on the amount of burglary and car crime = Police forces investigating burglary and car crime. And not much else.

There’s something else worth mentioning here, which is when systems clash. The Government’s goal is to be re-elected in five years; it’s disingenuous to suggest that a political party targets anything else. They do that by having a favourable perception with the public. If the Government believes that the public is most worried by burglary and car crime, then that’s what they (via the Home Office) tell Police forces to investigate. The goal of the Police force shifts, via a badly designed system goal, from being concerned with all crime to being concerned with politically trendy crime. And now, neither system is functioning correctly, because neither of them are keeping taxpayers and voters safe.

Let’s look at another example. Let’s imagine for a moment that you work for a certain chain of high street newsagents who are obsessed with flogging tat at the checkout whilst foisting on you an obscene number of vouchers and tokens that you don’t want.

Your line manager, the store boss, tells you that you can have a pay rise if you can increase the number of customers you serve in an hour. Fair enough, you think. My goal is to serve people who want to buy things. But your boss’s boss, the area manager, is being assessed on the amount of sales. So, when he visits, he tells you to make more of an effort to get people to buy bars of chocolate they don’t want during the checkout process. All of a sudden you have conflicting system goals – one is to serve people faster, and the other is to spend longer serving people so that you can upsell at the point of the sale. It’s common sense to say that those system goals are mutually exclusive.

In fact, a lot of systems thinking is common sense, which doubtless you’ve already thought at least once if you’ve made it this far. It does make you wonder why no one at the Home Office thought that the Police, faced with shrinking resources, would concentrate on investigating just those crimes they were being measured on. “It is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto non-existent blindingly obvious,” wrote Douglas Adams. “The cry ‘I could have thought of that’ is a very popular and misleading one, for the fact is that they didn’t, and a very significant and revealing fact it is too.”




[3] ‘Thinking in Systems: A Primer’, Donella Meadows, Chelsea Green Publishing

‘One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway’ by Asne Seierstad – book review

One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad (Author), Sarah Death (Translator)

For a long time, I’ve been interested in true crime books. Sure, I’ve read some Val McDermid, Stephen Booth, even tried Kathy Reichs, but they’re not the same thing. An incredible work of crime fiction is nowhere near as gripping as a mundane true crime, to me. Books about mental illnesses are really interesting too, particularly the serious ones like psychopathy. I read a lot about disasters, from the truly natural like the Japanese tsunami, the half and half, like Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, to the completely man-made like 9/11.

I wondered if it was because I was just a morbid old Cure fan, settling uncomfortably into middle age and being painfully aware of my own mortality. But the more I read, and the more I thought about it, I realised I was just interested in the breakdown of systems. It was nothing to do with an overwrought mortido, just a fascination with failure; tectonic plates, personalities, belief systems, buildings, nuclear reactors. What holds them together, what causes them to fail, and what happens when they fail?

It’s difficult to tell whereabouts the systemic failure occurs with Anders Behring Breivik, or what the precipitory causes are, exactly. In the Guardian, Ian Buruma describes Breivik’s life as “a ghastly story of family dysfunction, professional and sexual failure, grotesque narcissism and the temptation of apocalyptic delusions” but what I took out of Asne Seierstad’s book was an image of a lonely boy who never really grew up, and was probably always looking for his father’s approval.

A simplistic deduction to be sure, but its fingerprints are throughout the book. He tries to make out that he’s Oslo’s top graffiti tagger, but is mocked by his peers. He tries to hang around with the Pakistani gangs, but is rejected. He is rejected by the anti-immigration Progress Party and not selected to run for office. Even his mail order bride failed to work out. Always looking for approval, always longing for belonging, always failing, always lonely.

His relationship with his mother was similarly destructive. Mentally she was could not have been completely well herself, and it’s not difficult to imagine him picking up his mother’s prejudices:


This is her comment during her Police interview, shortly after learning of the crimes that her son had committed. Social workers told of inappropriate and sexually forward behaviour during meetings, whilst neighbours talked about the number of male visitors she had. Social workers discussed putting her children into social care, in foster homes. She held on to them, but it was close. There were concerns about her ability to look after herself, let alone her children.

To make up for his background, he invented one for himself, with grand titles and homemade uniforms, the stitching coloured in with felt tip pens. “Justiciar Knight Commander of the Knights Templar” and “Commander of the Anti-Communist Resistance Movement Against the Islamification of Europe and Norway”. When someone told him how ridiculous he looked wearing his amateur uniform and referring to himself with gibberish, made-up titles in court, he quickly and quietly dropped them. They were not central to his beliefs, just part of the delusion he’d built up to justify his actions to himself.

It’s a difficult book to read. It’s superbly written, and sensitively translated by the unfortunately named Sarah Death. There are some horrific parts, such as the description of two teen girls, part of a group playing dead to avoid being shot, whilst Breivik walks through the group putting bullets into their heads as they lay on the ground. The two friends hold hands as they wait for their turn to die.

Breivik wanted to be declared sane enough to stand trial. If he was criminally insane, his grand plan, his belief that he was making a political statement, would have failed. Two different reports argued that first he wasn’t, then he was, sane enough to stand trial.

Personally it’s difficult to believe that he was legally sane. At trial he refused to plead guilty, saying that although he admitted to the actions (the shootings and explosion) it was in self-defence, so there could be no guilt. His entire story smacks of a paranoid schizophrenic personality disorder – delusions of grandeur, irrational beliefs of persecution, failure of personal relationships. His story of repeated attempts to fit in, to belong, to find approval would be sad or pitiful if it were not for the awful consequences of his condition.

I’m only giving the book four out of five stars in my hastily made up scoring scheme, and I will tell you why. It’s a book that appeals very much to the emotions. I was hoping for a little more insight, to learn a little more about where everything went wrong. Actually, we saw quite a lot of where the Norwegian emergency systems went wrong, which was everywhere, and twice where possible. There was nothing that they could have done worse, or taken longer to do. But there was too little for my tastes about what made Breivik go bad, if that’s your opinion of him.

Of course, that’s my personal slant. The truth is, this will still be the best, most harrowing, most awful non-fiction book that you have read in a long time, and for a long time.


If you don’t know much about these events, I thoroughly recommend reading the book, but in the meantime there are a number of resources on YouTube:

Jon Ronson at The Showroom, Sheffield: a half-arsed review

I would argue that my generation has probably seen more change than any other.

The change is technology-driven and affects all spheres of our lives, from the micro to the macro. Synthesisers and computers have changed music forever, for example. I can perform music and DJ in a club using a tablet only a few inches long; meanwhile pop music will never sound the same. I can carry the world’s collective wisdom in ebook format on the same tablet and reference it anywhere, so I’ll never again go back into a library. I’ll never spend more than a few pounds without price-checking and reading reviews online, won’t visit somewhere without stepping through it virtually… I don’t even have phone numbers for half of my friends and if I did I probably wouldn’t use them because I use social media to keep in touch (also I don’t have many friends).

Social media has facilitated a great change in our thinking and behaviour. Interactions that I couldn’t have conceived of whilst I sat tapping in ZX Spectrum games out of a magazine are now commonplace, and frankly very little seems futuristic.

But, argues Jon Ronson in his new book, social media – twitter, primarily, due to the real-time nature of the interactions – has also facilitated a resurgence in a very old-fashioned behaviour: public shaming.

We saw Jon speaking live at Sheffield’s Showroom Cinema this week. The 8pm event was practically sold out, and as clocks ticked to 7:59 and we still queued outside, we (the audience) tweeted our exasperation – an irony not lost on Ronson, as he commented to those sat near the front as we all filed in.

The first thing you realise is that he’s not a rock star. He was pottering around onstage in a baseball cap and hoodie as we filed in; in the city that gave us Prince Naseem, this was no grand boxer’s entrance. He chatted to people on the front row as we took our seats. In fact, it was difficult to tell when the event actually started as he just wandered up to the mic and started chatting, and it was probably five minutes in before he stopped to say hello. It’s part of his style and his charm; everything feels like a chat. He frets endlessly as he talks, playing with his hair, his hands, the cords on his hood, rubbing his shoulder, cracking his knuckles. It would be cliché to call it neurotic, but that’s how it feels. He looks slightly uncomfortable on stage, the way that we might feel in his place, and that makes you warm to him.

He begins with an off-kilter story in which he makes an ass of himself, publicly. It’s funny, but slightly uncomfortable as you realise what the coming denouement is. The audience laughs, but it feels like there’s something behind the laugh, a sense of ‘I’m glad that happened to someone else’. Essentially that sums up both show and book:

If you remember the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet, and you recall the tweet below, you’ll understand what the show is about. Ronson’s hypothesis is that social media is facilitating a return of public shaming, and that we (as a society, not 100% of us) are indulging in it. Maybe it’s the supposed anonymity of social media or the safety of the herd, but we are revelling in the opportunity to point the finger, and laugh, and enjoy the indignation (whether real or not).

For my part, when I read the original tweet and followed the event in real time, I thought the tweet seemed racist. If not racist, then in supremely poor taste. But, when I saw it writ large on the screen in The Showroom, it no longer seemed racist but satirical. It seemed like something Cartman or one of the other (more offensive!) characters in South Park might say. Ronson himself says, that from talking to Sacco, her intention was to poke fun at the insular bubble that America keeps itself in. Maybe taking it away from the furore on twitter suddenly made that intention clearer.

As jokes go, it’s not great. It’s still poorly judged, even if it is satirical. But did Sacco deserve the public humiliation and shaming that followed? If she’d spoken those words out loud in a quiet restaurant, how many people who tweeted abuse or gleefully followed the story would have gone over to her table to remonstrate with her? And if they wouldn’t remonstrate in real life, what is it about twitter that changes people?

The evening ended as it started; with any slightly unhinged, discomfiting story in which Ronson makes an ass of himself in close proximity to a child. All in all an interesting evening, hilarious in parts but certainly with darker turns. Uncomfortable he may be on stage, but he’s a born communicator.

Jon Ronson, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, out now via Picador.

For more, better written information, take a look at Ronson’s article in the NY Times:

Magpie Mine (3/11)

The proximity of other mines often led to disputes, and the Magpie Mine and the Red Soil mine disputed the working of the Bole Vein on which they both lay. In 1833 this led to the deaths of 3 miners from the Red Soil Mine who were suffocated underground when the Magpie miners lit a fire to try to drive out the men from the opposing mine. Three miners were tried for murder, but acquitted. However, it was said afterwards that the Magpie was cursed and it never really prospered thereafter.



Magpie Mine (2/11)

The mine is at the junction of the Magpie vein, the Bole vein and the Butts vein, and was only one of several mines exploiting these veins – the Red Soil Mine and the Maypitts mine lay within only a few hundred metres of the Magpie. The mine is first recorded in 1795, though the workings are probably much older. It finally ceased operations in 1958, though the working in the 1950s mined little actual lead. The heyday of the mine was in the mid 19th Century.



Magpie Mine (1/11)

 The Magpie Mine, just South of Sheldon, was one of the most famous lead mines in the Peak District and is the only one with a significant part of its building still standing, having been taken into the care of the Peak District Mines Historical Society in 1962. The mine buildings can be seen from the Bakewell – Chelmorton road.



Urban photography examples

So, just to recap how we got here…

I have been trying to define urban photography. It all came about because of my interest in shooting in towns and cities. I don’t really class myself as a street photographer, but then I came across this term ‘urban photography’ and wondered if that was what I was doing and decided to look further into it.

In the first blog post in this series, we looked at three different definitions of urban photography from different people. Some parts of each definition worked for me, some didn’t. Last time out we looked at three types of photography that defined themselves as urban something or other, to get them out of the way as we work out what urban photography is.

So (I do love beginning sentences with ‘so’, it seems) I thought I would pick a few examples out from other photographers – sorry, actual photographers – and see if I can identify what it is that I like about the photos and what makes them ‘urban’ rather than ‘street’.

Laurence Winram, ‘Edinburgh – Dead of Night’

I found these whilst searching on Pinterest for urban photography. They’re from a flickr album called ‘Edinburgh – Dead of Night’ by Laurence Winram. Links to find Laurence online are below, but let’s ogle his pictures first because they’re really quite nice.

Edinburgh - Dead of Night

In my photography I’m a fan of extreme contrast ranges. I like my blacks to be as black as midnight on a moonless night, to quote FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, whilst the whites should be so white they would make Cillit Bang’s Barry Scott weep at their whiteness.

Edinburgh - Dead of Night

The first thing that catches my eye is the incredible contrast in each picture.

It might be because the contrast adds to the drama. I do like to achieve a lot of contrast in my photos. I’m not one for the Ansel Adams, 2048 shades on grey zone method. I like my shadows so dark they could be hiding any unknowable evil, whilst the whites should be bright enough to represent the piercing light of heaven. Or maybe I just don’t know how to read a histogram, either is perfectly possible.

Edinburgh - Dead of Night

Okay, these are my three favourite shots from the album, which you can find here:

My second observation is that none of them tell a story, which is often a stated aim of street photography. There’s no narrative. These are definitely about a feeling. I think that who you are could often make you feel different things too. I find the first picture quite claustrophobic, for example. There’s only a tiny bit of sky, and the high walls and metal grille leave me feeling quite boxed in.

The bottom one has menace. I could easily imagine this being a still from a movie about Jack the Ripper. The illuminated mist off stage left, for example; a figure with a long cape and hat drawn low over his brow could walk out of that any minute.

And my final observation is one that’s been bothering me. I noticed it a while back. It’s something about doors, portals, transitions between spaces. Doors and all manner of entrances pop up a lot in my photos and I really can’t work out what that means. Interesting (to me, not to you, obviously) that I’ve picked three photos from a huge album on flicker and they all have doors, windows, archways etc. featuring prominently in them.

Not urban photography? Urban exploration, urban landscapes, and urban portraits

So, last time out we talked about urban photography and tried to decide what it was.

We failed.

 We did manage to decide there was probably a difference between ‘street’ and ‘urban’, though, even if a precise definition of ‘urban’ eluded us. But there are different types and styles of photography that describe themselves as urban photography, and it’s worth taking a look at those.


Urban exploration

Urban exploration – ‘urbex’ – is much easier to define and applies a much more literal interpretation to both words. Quite simply, urbex is the act of exploring forgotten, remote or seldom seen urban locations:

(The cells beneath the old Sheffield Town Hall and Crown Courts)

This image is taken from a site called “Behind Closed Doors”, which is certainly one of the more professional looking sites of this genre – or any photographic genre, to be fair. The standard of photography is excellent and the site beautiful.

 I think there’s quite a bit of difference between urbex and urban photography, but also some overlap. For example, urbex has a very definite aim – to find and document forgotten and hidden places. That’s at odds with urban photography, which is very much about a current and/or ongoing human habitation of the environment. On the other hand, it is very much concerned with an urban setting – it wouldn’t really be either urbex or urban photography if it was looking at the natural environment.

 The best urbex photography, like the best in any genre, is stunning. Urbex photography is of necessity imbued with a certain poignancy, never more so than when we’re looking at fading hospitals and asylums, schools or churches. Urbex locations also have a knack for separating out those who have really mastered their cameras.

 There’s a lot on the web about urbex already, and there are certainly plenty of urbex photo opportunities to discover. And, being in the midst of a recession, I imagine new future urbex sites are being created all the time.

 Some sites you might like to check out include:


Urban landscapes

Not to be confused with urban landscaping, which is just posh gardening. The Urban Landscapes site ( uses a similar definition to those discussed before:

 Urban landscape is distinct from ‘street photography’, which looks at urban experience largely through a study of the people who live it, although the two genres may overlap. Urban landscape photographs often include people, but they are clearly situated and existing in the structures of the town or city.

On this site Peter Marshall comes up with a few bullet points to define urban landscape photography:

  • in some way describes a town or city
  • represents an attempt to understand our experience of the city
  • shows a dedication to the subject, expressed through a body of work rather than isolated images
  • concentrates on structures or processes rather than on people
  • may deal in either details or a broader view

Some of these are really interesting – it had never occurred to me that a genre needed to be expressed as a body of work, for example. From the site I’ve picked an example photo taken by Mike Seaborne, from a collection called ‘The North London Line’:

(Kensal Rise)

 It’s a really interesting pic and I would have been very happy to take this. There are a number of juxtapositions – old and new, ordered and disordered, living and dead, reaching up and burrowing down. In fact, there’s a lot in this that I would call urban photography, which just goes to show that the whole exercise of labelling genres is really quite pointless. This is a landscape though, and I’m not sure I agree with the idea that landscape photography can include details, as the last bullet point above suggests.

 There’s less about this on the internet than there is urbex, but this site offers a nice mix of photos and writing with some theoretical work thrown in. There are some nice examples on the National Geographic site too, at:


Urban portraits

You might think that urban portraits are just portraits taken in an urban setting, and to an extent you would be right. But there seems to be three distinct approaches when you look closer:

  1.  Portraits of people taken in their natural urban setting – a trader working on a market stall, for example – someone who was already in situ and you simply asked if you could take their picture (asking is important – taking an opportunistic photo whilst they are unaware is not the same thing).
  2. A regular posed portrait, just in an urban setting, where the urban element is merely a backdrop and not contextual.
  3. A posed, styled and lit portrait in an urban setting, with the intention of looking cool but edgy – hence, ‘urban’. Some of them are very much fashion or high fashion based, whilst others spill over into being almost glamour or boudoir.

 The first definition is obvious, I think that’s easy to picture. But as examples of the second two:


This is by Ekaterina Izmestieva and is taken from the Flickr Urban Portraits pool. I love the contrast; very much my personal preference. You can imagine the histogram for this one, it would have a spike at either end with a dip in the middle.


(Stina Sanders)

This is taken from Damian Lovegrove’s website. If you don’t know Damian’s work, you should go have a look round his website ( He’s a master of lighting set-ups, especially for location work, and his black and white photos are to die for. A lot of his work is done with mirrorless CSC cameras, proving that you don’t need huge SLRs or medium format cameras to make striking pictures.



St. Mary’s Church, Nottingham

I spotted this door during a photowalk in Nottingham, early one Saturday morning. I have an obsession with doorways, windows, any points of transition; I haven’t really got to the bottom of what it means yet.

You can’t really get a sense of scale from the picture, but the door is tiny. It’s child-sized. I don’t know enough about this church to say what it is yet, and a rudimentary Google search didn’t bring anything up. I’ll keep looking.

In the meantime, if you know anything, please leave a comment below. I would be very grateful!

What is urban photography?

I love photography. I love looking at great photos, and I love reading about how they were made, and the thought processes that go into creating photos. There isn’t a lot written in terms of the critical theory behind photography, beyond the most well-known and obvious works – Barthes, Berger, Sontag, etc. I’m always interested in reading about photography rather than about photographic techniques.

I wrote once before that there came a time in my photographic learning journey (quite early on in it, as I recall) when I realised that I knew all I was interested in knowing about f-stops, ISO, shutter speeds, hyperfocals, parallax and so on. I’m not saying I knew all there was to know – you only have to look at one of my pictures to see that’s not true – just that I knew all that I could be bothered to know.

For me, pictures aren’t made up of those things. If I look at, say, Bill Brandt’s wonderful image “Nude, East Sussex, 1957″…


… do I care what the f-stop was? Do I worry about the shutter speed? Or do I care about the meaning?

I realised, when looking critically at my own photos, I like taking photos in an urban setting. I love taking photos in large cities and small villages equally. For some reason I only noticed a few weeks ago, I take lots of pictures of doors, windows; transitions of any kind.

 I did some reading about street photography, to see if that could help me understand what compelled me to take photos of doors and suchlike. Reading about street photography led me to discover urban photography.


What is ‘urban photography’ and why does it matter?

 ‘Urban photography’ is just a label that we apply to a particular type of photography; it’s just happens to be one of my favourite types of photography, which is why I’m writing about it. Assigning that label lets us say something about the type of photograph it is, and what we should expect to get from seeing it. Unfortunately, there are lots of definitions of urban photography and whilst there’s overlap, there’s not a lot of actual agreement. So, I wanted to look at a few different definitions and see how they stand up to my own thoughts.


Warning label

Firstly, a warning. I have a mania for labels. They’re very important, because they give essential context to a text without having to say stuff about the text itself first, meaning that you can get balls deep into the subject straight away. Here’s another warning; I use phrases like “balls deep” indiscriminately (as I do semicolons).

The genres that we assign to films and books are just labels, but important nonetheless. Knowing the genre lets you set appropriate expectations and treat the text accordingly. And if you don’t think that’s important, try this thought experiment. Imagine seeing ‘28 Days Later’, ‘Dawn of the Dead’ or ‘World War Z’ for the first time, under the absolute belief that it was a documentary or news report, and not a horror film.


Adding definition

Back to urban photography. While researching this piece I looked up a few other definitions. I’m going to start with what I think is the best, or at least, my favourite.


Cliff Davidson, Toronto Urban Photography Festival website

“…urban photography seeks to encapsulate not just people, but also objects, cityscapes, the surreal. Not only that, but urban photography moves away from the surfaceness of neo-street photography to a photography that critically examines objects, subjects, and landscapes and how they are (dis)connected and constituted by/constitutive of the city. Urban photography is not only a visual representation of an idea, a capturing of ‘the decisive moment’, no, it is also a commentary on contemporary life in an ecological space.”


Davidson creates his definition by saying what urban photography isn’t, and what it isn’t is street photography. There’s a lot to unpack in this snippet of Davidson’s piece, so let’s take a closer look.

 “…not just people, but also objects, cityscapes, the surreal…” One of the points that Davidson makes is that what he calls neo-street photography – either candid photos, environmental portraits or posed portraits in a street environment which are the hallmark of modern street photography- lacks, or diminishes, the urban setting. The street becomes merely a backdrop to the photo, whilst the human subjects become of overriding importance. Pictures taken in the street, not of the street.

 …a photography that critically examines objects, subjects, and landscapes and how they are (dis)connected and constituted by/constitutive of the city…” Building on from the last point, what neo-street photography lacks is any critical close reading of the urban environment. It offers no commentary on the city, its architecture or situations. The link between the different elements of the photo and how they constitute an urban setting is downplayed or dissolved outright. The chance to comment on how the city informs the elements of the photo, and how the elements of the photo make up the city, is passed up.

 Urban photography is not only a visual representation of an idea, a capturing of ‘the decisive moment’, no, it is derriere-la-gare-saint-lazare
also a commentary on contemporary life in an ecological space.
” This is where I start to wonder about Davidson’s excellent discussion. The phrase ‘the decisive moment’ has, for me, become very much wrapped up in the modern definition of street photography. It’s a very Cartier-Bresson phrase, and one that has become attached to the image ‘Derriere la gare Saint-Lazare, Paris, France, 1932’ of the figure leaping over the puddle. For me, this is how manypeople interpret street photography – right place, right time, as though there were no skill or forethought attached, just dumb luck. However, the last part of Davidson’s passage is the closest single-line distillation of the idea of urban photography that I came across – ‘a commentary on contemporary life in an ecological space’.


Darren Rowse, Digital Photography School

 Rowse refers to ‘urban landscape photography’, which is a term I’ve seen used interchangeably.

 “Urban Landscape photography is a little slippery to define as it sits between a number of other genres. For the purposes of this article let me contrast it with a few related photographic genres:

  • Cityscape Photography – urban landscapes go beyond the capturing of the big picture cityscape that is usually quote polished and clean.
  • Architectural Photography – urban landscapes are less interested in the building and it’s architectural style and more interested in what happens in and around it.
  • Candid Street Photography – urban photography focussed more upon the city itself (and it’s life) than the people who live in it.”

 Again – not so much a definition of what it is, as what it isn’t. But overall, I agree with the sentiments. I think Rowse is reaching for the intangible aspect of urban life and urban photography. What it lacks is Davidson’s attempt to say what either of those actually is. Bonus points for the clarity of language, though…


Paul Halliday, Urban Photo Fest

 “Urban photography is an interdisciplinary field of visual practice concerned with the evocation and representation of urban spaces and the lives of those living, working and moving through such spaces. It takes many forms including architectural, landscape, portrait, street, object, performance, documentary, archaeological, design and fine-art photography; all attesting to the rich diversity of practices constituting an ongoing conversation about the nature of contemporary and historic visualisations of city spaces. As a field of intersecting practices, it is closely related to urban research and reflects many of the themes explored by sociologists, cultural theorists, artists, anthropologists, geographers, historians and writers concerned with the story of the city.”

 Gosh. It sounds a little hifalutin, but when we examine it, the important points are covered. “…evocation and representation of urban spaces…”, “…the nature of contemporary and historic visualisations of city spaces…”, “…reflects many of the themes explored by sociologists, cultural theorists, artists, anthropologists, geographers, historians and writers concerned with the story of the city…”. These are large claims and cover many of the things that I think urban photography is. It’s interesting that Halliday thinks that urban photography is more of a collective noun, encompassing different types of photography.


Where does that leave us?

 We’ve looked at three definitions, admittedly two of which are definitions from what they are not. But there are some commonalities:

  • Going beyond the surface to a critical examination
  • More than just people and portraits, includes the city setting
  • Trying to represent the intangible aspects – the feelings and emotions inspired by city life
  • Faces, places and spaces


Faces, places and spaces

 Okay, so the last one’s phrased a little flippantly to make the childish rhyme scheme. But when you think about it, it’s not that far off a combined definition of the three viewpoints reviewed above:

  • Faces – the lives of people in the city, the characters that inhabit it.
  • Places – the buildings and other structures that comprise the city.
  • Spaces – the arrangement of the different features in the city.

 This last is the interesting one. ‘Spaces’ may refer to the arrangement between buildings and other (non-building) features of the city – the open spaces, not just parks and green spaces, but simply the places where buildings aren’t. ‘Space’ can also mean the elapsed time between two events, which echoes Halliday’s definition with its ‘ongoing conversation’ and ‘historic visualisation’. And finally, the Oxford Dictionary provides another definition of space as ‘The freedom to live, think, and develop in a way that suits [some]one’, in the way we would talk about ‘a teenager needing their own space’. So by ‘spaces’ we’re talking about an arrangement of features, viewed over time, and the symbiotic relationship that they have with people’s lives.

So, with ‘faces, places and spaces’, have we accidentally stumbled on a succinct and all-encompassing definition of urban photography? At least, insofar as it relates to my interpretation?



 There’s an elephant in the darkroom, and that is psychogeography. I’m not sure whether it even exists or whether it was a prank dreamt up by people who really needed a proper job. From Wikipedia:

 “Psychogeography is an approach to geography that emphasizes playfulness and “drifting” around urban environments. It has links to the Situationist International. Psychogeography was defined in 1955 by Guy Debord as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.””

 Street and urban photography both seem like perfect tools to drive Debord’s drift, the dérive. Pick up your camera, head out into the city, follow the camera lens. I did it just yesterday walking around Nottingham, walking around the city for almost eight miles and apart from the first 10 minutes and the last 5, I didn’t really know where I was. Whether it’s real or not, it certainly sums up a lot of my photographic method (and doubtless accounts for the haphazard quality of the results).


Some thoughts about reviews

A while back, I was thinking about writing a review of Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’. Not for any particular reason, just because I thought it was a good record, I like pop music, I like writing things and, statistically, at least one of my six regular blog readers will be a Taylor Swift fanatic. But I couldn’t. As with celery, Microsoft Outlook and whoever designed the springs on the Mk II Vauxhall Corsa, I have an issue with reviews.

It appears to me that there are two distinct schools with their own methods when it comes to reviews. The first type of review I like to call “The Philip French Observer Film Review Method” after the method used for reviews of films written for the Observer by Philip French.

For your 2000 words, you’d get 1750 words on any subject other than the film at hand, the intention being to prove how much smarter than you Philip French was. Invariably you’d get references to Marxist theory, postwar Italian cinema and (if the lead was a female) something about Laura Mulvey – unless the lead female was either pregnant or a mother, in which case it would be Creed and Kristeva references.

The final 250 words would be a series of snippish, snarkish asides even if French liked it and the film turned out to be the most popular film of all time. The whole effect is just to prove French’s cerebral superiority as he lathers himself towards an intellectual orgasm over the course of the review before unleashing his egghead ejaculate all over the reader’s face.

The second type I call “The Smash Hits Method” and involves writing about the thing being reviewed in a way that describes what it is like and lets readers decide whether they might like it. Consider this video:

Now consider the way that Tom Hibbert described it in Smash Hits in 1985:

“It sounds like Richard Clayderman having a fight with Frankie Goes To Hollywood in a coal scuttle.”

Hibbert could have said that it sounded like pulsing electronic pop dance music full of clever production tricks, catchy keyboard riffs, slightly nasal male vocals, an odd series of arhythmic metallic clanking sounds and two kitchen sinks. He’d have been right, of course, he just didn’t need to; the comment above said all that. No mentions of poststructuralism, the mating habits of Pier Paolo Pasolini or Sasha Grey’s new-found credibility as a serious actress.

In the end, and luckily for you, I couldn’t be bothered to write a review of 1989, not least because everyone from Top Gear to Portable Restroom Operator magazine wrote a think piece about it. Also because I have the attention span of a squirrel trapped in a barrel full of blue Smarties and I started thinking about something else. And what I thought about was this: why do we only review new stuff?

Specifically, I was thinking about media products – music, books and films, chiefly. There’s such a clamour to review new ones, but that model doesn’t really reflect the new democracy of digital media.

Example: some years ago I participated in the light-hearted campaign to purchase Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of” and keep the latest miming dance monkey from rhomboid-headed pop svengali Simon Cowell ((c) XFM Manchester) off the Christmas number one position. Not because I cared either way, I just liked the record and it was good to hear it on the radio. In fact that remains the only time I’ve listened to the chart rundown since my mid-teens and the only time I’ve listened to Radio 1 since Mark and Lard left, but that’s not the point. Well it kind of is, but I haven’t made it yet.

The whole campaign was only possible because iDevice owners could go online and download the song from the iTunes store, and purchases made that way counted towards chart positions. Now things have moved on apace and not only do we have the Google Play Store and the Amazon Store, but streaming plays also count. I have no idea how that works; if a couple of thousand of us decided to leave the same song looping for a week, could we get a song to number one that way?

Anyway. The point that I’m not exactly speeding towards is that now there’s a literally endless amount of media available to us all online, such that we could never hope to consume more than an insignificant fraction of what’s available.

So, why the rush to review new stuff?

Most of us can’t buy anything significant without reading reviews of it. If you’ve been on, you’ll know that product reviews are a tricky minefield to negotiate (editor’s note: Amazon product reviews should never end with a kiss, people). A helpful curator’s hand would be a real benefit here. I think there’s a lot that you could get from going back and comparing what you love now to what went before. For example, at the minute, I’m quite enjoying stripped back, electronic rap like Iggy Azalea’s ‘Fancy’ or Chanel West Coast’s bizarrely hypnotic ‘Karl’:

Let’s take ‘Karl’ as an example. Sparse, electronic beats, a single note synthesizer melody, monotone vocals, and a general air of computer music, as opposed to organic manmade music.

Sound familiar?

‘Karl’ is from 2013; ‘Scorpio’ from 1982. There are straight lines between the two. I’m not talking about plagiarism, I’m talking about heritage. And heritage is relevant whether you’re listening to Jack White and Robert Johnson, watching J.J. Abrams and Alfred Hitchcock, or reading Terry Pratchett and Ambrose Bierce.

So, I was wondering why people concentrate on reviewing new releases when there’s now so much old stuff now available, and worth looking up. One of the problems I have with a new band or author is the binge syndrome; when I like something I want to hear a lot more. Difficult for a new artist, but less so when you realise they realised ten albums throughout the 70s and 80s. I’m not putting myself forward as a reviewer of old stuff, because I’m an ENFP and I like the start of projects rather than running them for years and years. I’m just making a (long-winded) point.

14/365 – Linacre Wood, long exposure experiment #3

So, this is the last of the recent batch of experiments with long exposures. Here’s what I learnt.

  • I’m glad I wore a woolly hat.
  • Using circular filters stacked on top of each other means you can’t zoom in very far; if you do, you’ll see the filters in the very corner, like a vignette.
  • I was using ND4 and ND8 filters stacked on top of each other, ISO100, and f/22. And that still wasn’t enough to get exposures of more than 30 seconds in mid-morning sunlight.
  • The skies burn out badly, so either I need a graduated filter at the top, or to compose pictures with no sky.

It was a good experiment though. I’ve been meaning to try long exposures for a while, and I’m glad I did. So, step 2: three times as many stops, graduated filters for the sky, much longer exposures.




13/365 – Linacre Wood, long exposure experiment #2

So, here’s the second of the long exposure experiments. Keen-eyed viewers amongst you will have noticed that I am already behind on my photo a day challenge, as if anyone really expected any different.

This is the overflow from the middle reservoir to the lower. The camera was mounted as high as my tripod would go, pointing down over the railing. I was using my 18-55 kit lens rather than my preferred 17-70 lens, because that’s the lens that I had the ND filters for (although I don’t imagine the extra 1mm would make much difference on my Canon 60D, because of the crop sensor).

I would however have liked to get more water motion. This was a 30s exposure and I would have liked 1-2 minutes. Need to invest in darker ND filters.


Photo details
Location Chesterfield
Date taken 01/17/15, 10:32 am UTC
Dimensions 2592 x 1728
File name Linacre_reservoir_4256.jpg
File size 2.7M
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Focal Length 18 mm
Exposure 30s
F Number f/22
ISO 100
Camera make Canon
Flash Not used
Exposure Bias




12/365 – Linacre Wood, long exposure experiment #1

I’ve been meaning to experiment with long exposure photography for a while and with the sun threatening to break out over Derbyshire (while other parts of the country were shivering under the snow), I thought I’d head out to Linacre Reservoir.

It’s called ‘Linacre Reservoir’ although technically there are three, which with pleasing common sense are called the upper, middle and lower reservoirs. And technically I guess they’re no longer reservoirs, as they stopped being operational in the mid-90s. I guess they’re just lakes now. They’re maintained by Severn Trent Water and props to them, because the site is always fantastically maintained.

Here’s the first attempt. Surprisingly for me it’s in colour. I was using two circulars filters stacked, ND4 and ND8, plus ISO100 and F22 to cut the exposure times down (this was 30 seconds and is still over-exposed). I will explain more about how I went about doing it with the next post, but the first thing I realised was that I need darker (or more) ND filters.

It’s not bad, for a first attempt. The water in the foreground is pleasingly smooth. I did take multiple exposures and I guess I could have tonemapped them, but this was more about the long exposure experiment than anything else.


Photo details
Location Chesterfield
Date taken 01/17/15, 10:05 am UTC
Dimensions 2592 x 1728
File name Linacre_reservoir_4235.jpg
File size 3.54M
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Focal Length 21 mm
Exposure 30s
F Number f/22
ISO 100
Camera make Canon
Flash Not used
Exposure Bias





11/365 – Chesterfield Magistrate’s Court

This odd fish is one of my favourite buildings in Chesterfield. If you know the town, it’s in front of the Town Hall. It’s the former magistrate’s court building, although the court has moved and I believe the building is up for sale now. Part of my plan for a double Euromillions rollover win is to buy this building and basically scoop out the interior to make a club/live music venue (although if you knew me, you’d know that was my plan for pretty much every building).


Location Chesterfield
Date taken 12/31/14, 8:28 am UTC
Dimensions 2592 x 1728
File name magistrates_court_4184.jpg
File size 2.46M
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens 17-70mm
Focal Length 25 mm
Exposure 1/30
F Number f/5.6
ISO 1000
Camera make Canon
Flash Not used
Exposure Bias

10/365 – Chesterfield Magistrates Court; or, Attack Decay Sustain Release

If you’re a fan of Joel Tjintjelaar’s photography, you’ll get the reference in the title. I wasn’t planning to blatantly copy his work when I took this pic – I was just scoping the building out and when I looked through the pics when I got home, there it was. If you’re not a fan of his work, well firstly why not, it’s amazing (; but secondly, the shape of the building from this angle takes the form of a sound (attack, decay, sustain, release). That’s a theme that Mr Tjintjelaar explores a lot in his work and he does it brilliantly. Go check it out.



Location Chesterfield
Date taken 12/31/14, 8:27 am UTC
Dimensions 1629 x 2521
File name magistrates_court_4182.jpg
File size 1.46M
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens 17-70mm
Focal Length 17 mm
Exposure 1/40
F Number f/5.6
ISO 1000
Camera make Canon
Flash Not used
Exposure Bias

9/365 – Lamp and seats

Another colour picture, although it’s practically duotoned.


Location Chesterfield
Date taken 12/31/14, 8:26 am UTC
Dimensions 1728 x 2592
File name lamppost_4180.jpg
File size 3.82M
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens 17-70mm
Focal Length 23 mm
Exposure 1/160
F Number f/5.6
ISO 1000
Camera make Canon
Flash Not used
Exposure Bias

8/365 – War memorial and Crooked Spire


Location Chesterfield
Date taken 12/31/14, 8:02 am UTC
Dimensions 1728 x 2592
File name spire_4167.jpg
File size 2.27M
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens 17-70mm
Focal Length 21 mm
Exposure 1/50
F Number f/5.6
ISO 3200
Camera make Canon
Flash Not used
Exposure Bias -2 EV

7/365 – Doorway

Similar to yesterday – I was trying to create a sense of something (menace, unease, tension) through the use of negative exposure compensation,


Location Chesterfield
Date taken 12/31/14, 7:47 am UTC
Dimensions 1673 x 2538
File name doorway_4141.jpg
File size 1.28M
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens 17-70mm
Focal Length 33 mm
Exposure 1/40
F Number f/8
ISO 3200
Camera make Canon
Flash Not used
Exposure Bias -2 EV

6/365 – Streets in the sky

This is some generic block of flats near us. I can’t even remember what they’re called. People move in, stay for three months, then move out because of the noise from other tenants. The walls are made out of the same stuff that those Flying Saucers sweets were made out of, you know the ones that were filled with sherbert? If you’re under 35 you probably won’t get that reference.

I was trying to create a sense of menace or unease in the picture, like the lights aren’t strong enough to keep the darkness at bay. I did some of that in PhotoShop, but mostly with-2EV exposure compensation dialled in. The fact that it was early in the morning did the rest.



Location Chesterfield
Date taken 12/31/14, 7:46 am UTC
Dimensions 1579 x 2463
File name IMG_4138.jpg
File size 926.49K
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens 17-70mm
Focal Length 48 mm
Exposure 1/160
F Number f/5
ISO 3200
Camera make Canon
Flash Not used
Exposure Bias -2 EV

5/365 – Tree at sunset

On the same walk as when I took pic #4, we came across this tree. It’s on a regular route of ours. We were stunned to see that a large bough had actually broken off under the weight of the snow – probably the third or fourth tree that we’d seen like that on the walk.


Location Chesterfield
Date taken 12/30/14, 4:03 pm UTC
Dimensions 1728 x 2592
File name tree_4136.jpg
File size 4.88M
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens 17-70mm
Focal Length 23 mm
Exposure 1/2500
F Number f/3.5
ISO 500
Camera make Canon
Flash Not used
Exposure Bias

4/365 – Winter sunset


Location Chesterfield
Date taken 12/30/14, 3:51 pm UTC
Dimensions 1728 x 2592
File name snowy_sunset_4133.jpg
File size 3.52M
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens 17-70mm
Focal Length 17 mm
Exposure 1/2000
F Number f/3.5
ISO 500
Camera make Canon
Flash Not used
Exposure Bias –

3/365 – Gazebo, Queen’s Park, Chesterfield

This is the bandstand/gazebo in the middle of Queen’s Park, Chesterfield.

Location Chesterfield
Date taken 12/27/14, 9:46 am UTC
Dimensions 1683 x 2544
File name gazebo_4111.jpg
File size 2.09M
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens 17-70mm
Focal Length 23 mm
Exposure 1/4000
F Number f/3.5
ISO 800
Camera make Canon
Flash Not used
Exposure Bias n/a


2/365 – Falcon Statue, Falcon Yard, Chesterfield

Falcon Yard is part of the town centre that’s had quite a bit of work on it. It’s a collection of yards and lanes where the buildings have been renovated to house shops, boutiques, cafes etc. There are two statues – this one, which is ace, and another one of a slumbering dog that doesn’t quite work.

I deliberately wanted to include the buildings behind, warped through the glass. Usual knobbing about with PhotoShop and Silver Efex.

Location Chesterfield
Date taken 12/27/14, 9:13 am UTC
Dimensions 1728 x 2115
File name falcon_yard_4088.jpg
File size 3.12M
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens 17-70mm
Focal Length 25 mm
Exposure 1/200
F Number f/5.6
ISO 800
Camera make Canon
Flash Not used
Exposure Bias n/a

1/365 – Spital Church (deconsecrated); or, The Photo-A-Day Challenge #1

I finally did it.

I finally decided to take the plunge and try the photo-a-day challenge. I mean, technically it’s the second attempt as I had an abortive, half-arsed attempt once before. But that was pants, I wasn’t really invested in it, I don’t think I even started it at the start of the year. I won’t get to take a photo every day, but I do aim to post a new one. Yes, that is cheating, sue me.

This is one of my favourite subjects -Spital Church, which is the closest church to where we live. The building is deconsecrated now, although the graveyard is still in use. I’m cheating a little because I took this on the morning of 27/12/2014, which was the day of the first snow of the winter. I love wandering around the grounds, it’s usually very peaceful. On this morning I stumbled across (almost literally) a homeless man sleeping rough in the doorway.

As is normal for me, this was spannered about with on PhotoShop and Silver Efex 2. I’m going to try and remember to reproduce all the details alongside each pic; if nothing else, it gives me a way to quickly scan through all the pics this year and see how my camera use changes (or doesn’t).

Location: Chesterfield
Date taken: 12/27/14, 8:14 am UTC
Dimensions: 2592 x 1728
File name: Spital_church_4051.jpg
File size: 3.31M
Camera Canon EOS 60D
Lens: 17-70mm
Focal Length: 17 mm
Exposure: 1/13
F Number: f/5.6
ISO: 1600
Camera make: Canon
Flash: Not used
Exposure Bias: n/a



Some snaps from Norfolk

We’ve spent the last few days in Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. Because we’ve been a couple of times before I didn’t bother taking any of my bigger cameras, just my Panasonic Lumix LX-5. I’ve processed some of the photos this morning, using Photoshop CS5 and the Google Nik Collection.

If you don’t know Wells, it’s a small harbour town on the north-facing North Norfolk coast. It has a small working harbour, a large beach and significant areas of unspoilt salt marsh.

The Quay

This is the main seafront road. The large boat in the middle ground with the lights is The Albatross, which is permanently moored and is open as a restaurant.


Winds on the beach

When we were there, the tail end of ex-hurricane Gonzalo was hitting the UK. This is the worst we saw of it. The light-coloured streaks in the foreground is loose sand, which blows around at ground level, never more than a couple of inches off the ground. It’s a real struggle to stay on your feet, whilst the sand looks like spirits blowing across the ground.


A view of the quay

The beach is just over a mile from the town, on land that was actually reclaimed from the sea in the nineteenth century. This is a view of the quay from the path down to the beach.


Beach huts

The beach huts at Wells are very famous and stretch for a long distance along the edge of the beach, where it meets the pine forest. It was clear that a lot of them had been repaired/rebuilt/redecorated following the horrendous storms in the winter of 2013/2014.




Holkham beach

Holkham is the ancestral seat of the Duke of Leicester. Apart from a small village, huge stately home amid excellent grounds, a nature reserve and a really excellent pub (the Victoria), Holkham has excellent beaches. They’re huge and utterly unspoilt.



General elections and general bias

I was going to write a well-reasoned article. It was going to be analytical and hard-hitting, flawless in its logic and merciless in its execution.

But then my dishwasher broke and 6 weeks after paying £180 there’s still a useless lump of metal in my kitchen. There’s also a lump of useless metal in the extension too, looking suspiciously like a thing that was a working boiler not that long ago. And hey! On the drive! There’s another lump of useless metal in the shape of a 1986 Corsa that failed its MOT.

I’ve been angry all day (I’ve been angry since 1970) but my mood was not improved by the news about the TV debates. I am, I guess, a socialist. A Fabian socialist, which is to say that I stopped believing in immediate global revolution and started to understand the virtue of a gradualist, reformist approach. I believe that society is only as strong as its weakest link, and I believe that society is best served by helping those at the bottom climb up rather than hoping that those at the top will allow some of their wealth to trickle down (how many altruistic millionaires do you know?).

I don’t really have a lot of faith in Labour at the moment, but I’ve written about that before. We don’t have a whole lot happening to shake up the left hand side of the political spectrum, and I’ve written about that too. The Conservatives have the knuckle-dragging elements on their side of things – UKIP, the EDL, the BNP – I can’t tell which is which – but at least they’re shaking things up for those amongst the populace who are elderly white landowners who have never heard of YouTube.

I was angry about the format of the debates, and I was angry about the medium for the debates. Other people have written more eloquently about it, so instead you can have my stream of consciousness ranting.

Oh, wait, that one wasn’t part of the rant. It’s part of a different rant. If you want to know what nothingness tastes like, what the space inside Joey Essex’s head is like, try M&S porridge.

Here’s where it starts. I’m not a fan of Ukip, I’m sure it shows, I don’t appear to be the only one.


Shenanigans 8 – Cut and Paste Vol.1 – mixtape

“Let’s just think about this for a moment, shall we? Why would I, a DJ with 18 years of experience DJing in Chesterfield, Sheffield, Manchester and London, want to mix Right Said Fred’s “Deeply Dippy” with “Passion” by Gat Decor? That does not make sense! But more important, you have to ask yourself: what does this have to do with the Royal Baby? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with the Royal Baby! It does not make sense! Look at me. I’m a half-decent DJ with great spelling confident in using vinyl, CDs, MP3 decks and Ableton Live, and I’m talkin’ about the Royal Baby! Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense! None of this makes sense! And so you have to remember, when you’re in that rubbish town centre bar in Chesterfield that plays the same records from the Radio One A playlist as every other bar in Chesterfield and looks just like every other bar in Chesterfield and is piled high with 17-year old chavs buying coke to mix with the £8 bottle of Morrisson’s vodka that they’ve got stashed in their cheap handbag just like every other bar in Chesterfield, does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen with excellent musical taste, it does not make sense! If this mix does feature Right Said Fred’s “Deeply Dippy” expertly mixed with “Passion” by Gat Decor, you must hire me to DJ in your bar and make it better! The (Chewbacca) defence rests.”

So, there was a bit of a thing when I did this. Because I’m one of those stupid wilful people, once I’m made the master of the mix I deleted my source files so I was never ever tempted to go mess with it again. Upon playing it back, which you’d think any reasonable person would have done before deleting the source files, I discovered there was a slight SNAFU at the end of “Let Me Know”/the start of “Something’s Jumping In My Shirt”. I’ve just segued them together to make good of the screw-up, which I’m particularly miffed about because it had Lisa Marie’s little spoken introduction to “Something’s Jumping…”

Anyway, the mix itself begins my obsession with using as many tracks as I can in one mix that will still fit on a single CD – there’s 83 songs used here. Bonus points if you can identify the movie that I used two spoken dialogue sections from.


  1. Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime
  2. Prince – Sign Of The Times
  3. KC Flightt – Planet E
  4. Cream – Sunshine Of Your Love
  5. Notorious BIG – Hypnotize
  6. Adam Freeland – Smells Like Freeland
  7. LaBelle – Lady Marmalade
  8. Right Said Fred – Deepy Dippy
  9. Gat Decor – Passion
  10. Who Da Funk – Shiny Disco Balls
  11. Fun Boy Three – Tunnel Of Love
  12. Dada ft. Sandy Rivera and Trix – Lollipop
  13. Girls Aloud – Close To Love
  14. Beastie Boys – Body Movin’
  15. Se:Sa – Like This Like That
  16. Till West and DJ Delicious – Same Man
  17. Fatboy Slim – Everybody Loves A Carnival
  18. DJ Kool – Let Me Clear My Throat
  19. Ida Corr vs Fedde Le Grand – Let Me Think About It
  20. The White Stripes – The Hardest Button To Button
  21. The Funky Worm – Hustle! (To The Music)
  22. The Gibson Brothers – Cuba
  23. Basement Jaxx – Plug It In
  24. Stonebridge – Put ‘Em High
  25. Anita Ward – Ring My Bell
  26. Me’Shell NdegeOcello – Who Is He And What Is He To You
  27. Pet Shop Boys – In The Night
  28. House Master Boyz and the Rude Boy of House – House Nation
  29. Barry Manilow – Copacabana
  30. Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance
  31. Belouis Some – Imagination
  32. Freda Payne – Band Of Gold
  33. Sugababes – Red Dress
  34. Roisin Murphy – Let Me Know
  35. Malcolm McLaren and The Bootzilla Orchestra – Something’s Jumping In My Shirt
  36. Garbage – When I Grow Up
  37. The Gibson Brothers – Que Sera Mi Vida
  38. Uniting Nations – Ai No Corrida
  39. Bobby Blanco and Miki Moto – 3AM
  40. Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
  41. Erasure – Drama
  42. Girls Aloud – It’s Magic
  43. Girls Aloud – Call The Shots
  44. Rogue Traders – Watching You
  45. The Go-Gos – Our Lips Are Sealed
  46. Stretch & Vern – I’m Alive
  47. Klubbheads – Klubbhopping
  48. Noir – It’s All About The House Music
  49. Freeform Five – No More Conversations
  50. Black Eyed Peas – My Humps
  51. Farley Jackmaster Funk and Darryl Pandy – Love Can’t Turn Around
  52. Adamski – Killer
  53. 5ive – If Ya Gettin’ Down
  54. Beastie Boys – Intergalactic
  55. Stacy Lattislaw – Jump To The Beat
  56. New Order – Fine Time
  57. Sugababes – Round Round
  58. New Order – True Faith
  59. The Chemical Brothers and The Flaming Lips – The Golden Path
  60. ESG – Dance
  61. Bobby “Boris” Pickett and The Crypt Kickers – Monster Mash
  62. The Cure – Inbetween Days
  63. Electrovamp – I Don’t Like The Vibe In The VIP
  64. Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride
  65. The Beatles – We Can Work It Out
  66. Orange Juice – Rip It Up
  67. DJ Yoda – Wheels
  68. Beck – Where It’s At
  69. The Chi-Lites – Are you My Woman
  70. Evelyn Champagne King – Love Come Down
  71. Raze – Break 4 Love
  72. FPI Project – Going Back To My Roots
  73. Hound Dogs – I Like Girls
  74. Goldfrapp – Twist
  75. Steps – Better The Devil You Know
  76. Armand van Helden – Touch Your Toes
  77. The Real Roxanne – Bang Zoom Let’s Go
  78. Axwell – I Found You
  79. Syntax – Pray
  80. Bob Sinclar – I Feel For You
  81. Kathy Brown – Turn Me Out
  82. Candi Staton – You Got The Love
  83. Todd Terry – House Sermon

DforDerivative - Shenanigans 08 - Cut & Paste Volume I by Darrenmwinter on Mixcloud

The lost chapel at Brackenfield

Drive for five minutes from Ogston Reservoir in Derbyshire, first along the B6014 (Dark Lane) and then down White Carr Lane, tracking through the muddy imprints of tractors and SUVs owned by Conservative voters who don’t realise they’re useless in the snow.

You won’t see it.


Built in the early sixteenth century, Trinity Chapel stood on the outskirts of the village it served. It had the right to hold baptisms and marriages, but not burials; in 1637, 1s 8d was paid out for “watching the churchyard” for illegitimate interments. Thomas Clarke was paid 8d to search the churchyard for the body of the Parson of Morewood’s wife. In all likelihood the poor unfortunate was a suicide and therefore burial in consecrated ground was forbidden.

The position on the edge of the village was soon seen as an annoyance, and by the seventeenth century there were calls for a new church closer to the centre of the village. It took a long time to happen, the new church not being dedicated until 1856.

The original chapel is now a place of pilgrimage. Once a year, people from the local village make the walk from the new church to the old chapel.








This is the view from the edge of the conifer plantation, looking east to Ogston Reservoir. The chapel is in the woods to the left.


All these photos were taken with a Canon EOS 60D fitted with a 17-70mm lens. Very little post-processing, except for a slight contrast tweak and a touch of sharpening. And unusually for me they’re in colour!


Shenanigans XV – mixtape

Lots of tracks in here that I’ve never used in a mix before; and also, a few shiny new bootlegs from those lovely people over at The one that crosses The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” with “Machine Gun” by The Commodores is particularly bodacious.

Other highlights: a splendidly funky mix of Alabama 3, some Soulwax insanity courtesy of remixes of Pulp and MGMT, some Rage Against The Machine and KRS-1 mixes (as found on the wonderful Life Support Machine blog, also worth an hour of your time to explore), and an opening guest vocal from John Locke.

  1. Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know
  2. Alabama 3 – Woke Up This Morning (Chosen One Mix)
  3. Beastie Boys – Sabotage (Alex Metric Mix)
  4. The Rolling Stones – You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Soulwax Remix)
  5. School of Seven Bells – Secret Days
  6. Destiny’s Child vs. The Smiths – How Soon Is Independence? (Soulwax Mix)
  7. Nelly vs. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Country Grammar
  8. Jessie Ware – 110%
  9. Lily Allen vs Robert Palmer – Kinda Fair
  10. Stetsasonic – Talkin’ All That Jazz
  11. Lou Rawls – For What It’s Worth
  12. Midfield General – Disco Sirens (acapella)
  13. Midfield General vs. Sydney Sampson – Riversirens
  14. Simian Mobile Disco – Cruel Intentions
  15. Elvis Presley – Baby Let’s Play House (Spankox Re:version)
  16. The Phenomenal Handclap Band – 15 to 20
  17. Audioweb – Test The Theory (Freestylers mix)
  18. The Rolling Stones vs. The Commodores – Machine Gun Shelter
  19. Shannon vs. The Rolling Stones – Let The Music Play
  20. !!! – Slyd
  21. Toro Y Moi – Say That
  22. Disclosure ft. AlunaGeorge – White Noise
  23. Breach – Jack
  24. The Count and Sinden ft. The Mystery Jets – After Dark (Extended Club Mix)
  25. Holy Ghost! – Dumb Disco Ideas
  26. We Have Band – Divisive (Tom Starr Mix)
  27. Azealia Banks – 212
  28. Pulp – After You (Soulwax Remix)
  29. MGMT – Kids (Soulwax Remix)
  30. Rage Against The Machine – Sleep Now In The Fire (Sketi Refix)
  31. KRS-1- The Sound of the Police (Heapy’s Brooklyn Fire Bootleg)
  32. The Chemical Brothers – Electronic Battle Weapon 05
  33. Casino – Only You (Paul Gotel’s Resurrection Soundscape)


DforDerivative - Shenanigans XV by Darrenmwinter on Mixcloud

St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Old Brampton; B&W infra-red photography

This is St Peter and St Paul’s Church, in the village of Old Brampton, Chesterfield, near the eastern edge of the Peak District National Park. The church is notable for the clock, which for some reason is divided into 63 minutes.

The picture was taken with a Canon EOS 400D, modified for infra-red photography with an 830nm filter replacing the high pass filter.

“Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe, for #NationalPoetryDay

Seeing as it is National Poetry Day today, here’s my number one favourite poem of all time.

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

The Poe Society provides this analysis of the poem:

Poe wrote this poem in the autograph album of Lucy Holmes, later Lucy Holmes Balderston. The poem was never printed during Poe’s lifetime. It was first published by E. L. Didier in Scribner’s Monthly for September of 1875, in the form of a facsimile [exact reproduction]. The facsimile, however, included the addition of a title and date not on the original manuscript. That title was “Alone,” which has remained. Doubts about its authenticity, in part inspired by this manipulation, have since been calmed. The poem is now seen as one of Poe’s most revealing works.

(Edgar Allan Poe Society. “Original”. 5 Aug. 2011. 12 September 2011.<;)

Haruki Murakami, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage” – review

It was about halfway through reading Murakami’s thirteenth novel that I realised quite why I love his books so much.

 I’m a Feedly addict. I use it like twitter. I’m probably following about 400 different sources, from ‘Weird News from Huffington Post’ with its stories about images of Jesus appearing inside melted USB plugs, to the official Fabian society blog and its complaints about the superficiality of the ‘One Nation’ message. Severe weather and natural disasters, photography, archaeology, politics, football tactics, psychology – my Feedly feed is a real morass of seemingly unconnected stuff. I dip in and out several times a day, just scrolling through each story précis until I see something worth reading.

 That’s what a Murakami novel feels like.

If I’ve met you, chances are that I’ve recommended Murakami to you. I find that most of the people who do read him then don’t like him, and that elicits two responses from me. Firstly, I ask silently why isn’t there a real life Unfollow button; but secondly, I ask out loud why they don’t like probably the world’s best living novelist, as the Observer dubs him. And the response is often the same, “because his books never go anywhere”. To paraphrase Bart Simpson, they’re just a bunch of stuff that happens. A morass of seemingly unconnected stuff.

 What is true is that, in “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki…”, the plot darts about all over the place like a puppy chasing butterflies in the garden. It was during a short discussion between three characters on how having six fingers is a dominant genetic trait that I had my Feedly eureka moment. There are lots of discussions that appear incidental to the plot, or bits of backstory that fill out Tsukuru’s world; side dishes, accompanying a main course that would otherwise appear meagre in size, although tantalising to taste. Frederick Forsyth’s best books do it, Douglas Adams did it, and it’s no surprise that they also appear in my top five favourite authors list.

 But, the puppy isn’t darting around the garden just for the exercise. There’s purpose to his play, just as there’s purpose to Murakami’s meanderings. And after all, this is a mystery novel, of sorts. There’s a crime, a murder, and a victim. There’s also the aftermath – the years of pilgrimage from the title (in one sense).

 The text is poetic, in that every word is considered and used judiciously, with no waste. Every word is required, and it’s the right word to use at that time, and the cumulative effect is by turn beautiful, moving, funny and beguiling. It contains all the hallmarks of a Murakami book. Music plays a huge part, and the obligatory interest in sex is present. There’s a meditation on memory and nostalgia, and the effect that love and music play on both. The main character is an utterly ordinary chap, as many of Murakami’s heroes are. Just an everyday bloke to whom surreal things happen, whilst he just tries to get on with his life.

 If I was to level a criticism, it’s that I wanted a resolution. I wanted to know what happens to our titular hero, and how his life plays out in the immediate three days after the book ends. But, I realised quickly, that’s missing the point of the book. Tsukuru grows, moves on, by experiencing the events of his pilgrimage, just as a piece of music can only be experienced by listening to the whole thing. The beauty, the growth, the sense of fulfilment lies in trials of the journey, not in reaching the destination. To want to know what happens after the book finishes is therefore to deny the properties of the journey, just as to complain that Murakami’s books have no plot is to deny the incredible journey from the first page to the last.

On clerihews

Sir Humphry Davy

Abominated gravy.

He lived in the odium

Of having discovered sodium.


So goes the first recorded clerihew.

For those of you who are uninitiated – which is to say, practically everyone of sound mind and body – a clerihew is a four-line poem with an AABB rhyme scheme. Named for its owner, former Telegraph journalist Edmund Clerihew Bentley, the clerihew is a comic poetic form with deliberately exaggerated features and a single subject, which must be a person of some note. There is no single agreed set of rules for what defines a clerihew and indeed the inventor of the form seemed somewhat fluid with the format himself. To most minds that can be bothered to think on the subject, the following seem to be stable features of a true clerihew:

  • As mentioned above, it must be four lines only with the first and second line rhyming, the third and fourth likewise.
  • The first line must contain the name of the subject; indeed, their name should always come at the end of the first line. In many cases the person’s name, or their title and name, is the whole of the first line.
  • The rhymes should be deliberately contrived. Part of the reason for making sure the person’s name comes at the end of the first line is to try and make for a contrived rhyme of the first couplet. The use of foreign words and hyperbaton to contrive these rhymes is fully supported.
  • The metre and foot should be inconsistent, exaggeratedly so. Lines should be of different length so that the rhythm is disturbed.


  • Wikipedia says that “clerihews are not satirical or abusive, but they target famous individuals and reposition them in an absurd, anachronistic or commonplace setting” but then fails to provide a citation for that assertion.

I quite like the idea of a clerihew being gently satirical. There’s a lot you can say about someone in three badly written lines – pointing out their foibles, highlighting inconsistent or hypocritical behaviour, or just having a little gentle fun at their expense. When I write clerihews (and I confess to them being a secret fascination of mine) I tend to write them because some story of that nature in the press or popular media has caught my eye or ear.

As an art form, the clerihew has utterly failed to catch on. Apart from Bentley’s originals, other writers have from time to time tried their hand at them – notable fellows too, such as W. H. Auden. Personally I think it’s because they’re so nonsensical. People expect them to be a serious poem with proper rhymes and lines of a similar length. The absurd features don’t make sense to someone who isn’t expecting a comic verse, and then they very much miss the point of the verse.

Nevertheless – clerihews are great fun to write, assuming you think of writing poetry as being fun at all. Once you start and your unconscious mind takes over, you realise that you’re devising ‘proper’ lines of poetry, lines that scan and flow correctly. It’s a great creative writing exercise, having to engage your brain to write something bad well, and the form means that you can come up with the germ of a good clerihew in the space of a ten minute train ride.

Oh, did I mention that I write them myself? Well, I do, and they’re uncommonly bad…


Was never nearly as happy
As when lecturing women on their sexual proclivities
Whilst indulging in exhibitionist activities

 The first clerihew I wrote, inspired by a story in the media. As far as this one goes, there are two headlines you need to know about. The first is, “Ofcom receives complaints about Dappy’s sexist comments” . And the second is, “Celebrity Big Brother: Dappy pokes Jasmine with his erect penis”.


Jason Orange
Thought he was safe because nothing rhymes with ‘orange’
I wonder if he’ll join Tenacious D as singer to replace Jack?
You know what they say – Orange is the new Black.

 It’s incredible how I managed to combine excellent topicality (the TV show ‘Orange is the new Black’) with a supreme lack of topicality (Tenacious D, a band who haven’t had a hit since the same week as Showaddywaddy’s first single. Look ‘em up on Wikipedia, kids).


Mark Reckless
Denounced by his party for being feckless
Avoiding Grant Shapps’ call by hiding in his garage
So he could defect to UKIP and join Nigel Farage

This one really serves no purpose but to annoy Nigel Farage. If you’re one of the people who pronounces ‘garage’ as ‘garr-idge’ then your brain will want to pronounce ‘Farage’ as ‘Farr-idge’ and that would annoy Nigel Farridge, a lot. Obviously if you pronounce some both of them to end in ‘-ahhhge’, then I’m just some git that overthinks things, but hey, what’s new.


Brooks Newmark
Entrapped by the Sunday Mirror in a supposed “news” lark
Thought he was sexting with a twentysomething floozie
As if a twentysomething wouldn’t be more choosy

 I look forward to seeing The Sunday Mirror defend this one to our brand new press standards agency. Quite how they can defend what is a clear case of entrapment and call it public interest if, as is being reported, they tried to entrap half a dozen of his colleagues first, I have no idea. They’ve already apologised for stealing photos from the Internet to perpetrate their sting.