[From Solihull Observer, 12 October 2017:]
Further to yesterday’s Club Vamporama update, here’s a screengrab of myself interviewing manager “Jude” (Melyza Fay) at the titular nightspot (portrayed here by Birmingham music venue Route 44, thanks to the generosity of owner Brendon Daly).
Above left: Dru Stephenson as “Jenni”. Above right: Melyza Fay as “Jude”.
In addition to our short film All Bad Things, work continues on our proposal for a tv series adapted from the comic strip Club Vamporama. My colleague Chrissie Harper and I spent the afternoon at Route 44 in Acocks Green, Birmingham, where we shot the second of three mock news reports featuring characters from the show; the third (with Lizzie Hastings as “Marie”) is scheduled for Friday morning.
It’s been a fascinating experience, not least because Chrissie roped me in to play the interviewer; I won’t pretend to have anything like the talent displayed by the actors I was working opposite, but I think I managed to avoid total embarrassment.
The project I alluded to in a previous entry moved another step forward on Tuesday evening, when Chrissie Harper and I met with Rob Hoffman, owner of Birmingham’s Robannas Studios, and Kerrang! Radio presenter Johnny Doom. It so happens that Johnny and I both used to appear on Made in Birmingham TV, and experienced much the same unceremonious farewell, so it was good to get together in a more upbeat environment.
Discussions are still at an early stage, but we will be making an announcement about this project very soon. In the meantime, those of you on Twitter can follow us here.
Chrissie and I were invited along to Birmingham’s Electric Cinema on 28 May, to meet Annabel de Vetten, founder of speciality bakery Conjurer’s Kitchen, and Victoria Price, author of Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography. The resulting interview turned out to be our final appearance on Made in Birmingham TV, as we finally lost patience with a company which treats its outside contributors with utter contempt.
It’s four days since I posted about the Birmingham FearFest, during which time I believe we’ve sold one additional ticket. I’m giving it until next Monday before making a final decision, but it would take a major shift in reality for this event’s fortunes to turn around. We’re grateful to everyone who tried plugging it via their social media outlets, but it appears to have little or no impact. Then again, neither did a print in The Dark Side, back in mid-February, so traditional media seems just as ineffectual. It’s not just that I don’t know the answers, I’m no longer even sure what the questions are.
Saturday evening found me back at the Two Towers Brewery, but for once it was not the Birmingham Horror Group which drew me there but Czech Club Birmingham, which had invited me to introduce a screening of the 1977 time travel comedy Zítra vstanu a oparím se cajem (aka Tomorrow I’ll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea). You can see the footage on YouTube, though it would have been nice to have the use of a real time machine to fix my comment that Josef Nesvadba was born in 1912 (it was actually 1926, a year he shared with the first true science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories).
One of the long-term plans for the Birmingham Horror Group when it launched in December 2015 was for members to host an old-style horror event in the city, as opposed to the soulless, commercially-orientated merchandise and autograph fairs which have proliferated since “geek culture” became fully monetised. After all, what’s the point in hanging out with friends in a pub, discussing old episodes of Doctor Who or your favourite comics, when you can stand in line to pay £45 to be photographed next to John Barrowman (£10 extra if he wears his “Captain Jack” overcoat) or buy five versions of the same superhero reboot with different covers but the same identical Manga-style interior art? In fact, why even hang out with friends in the first place, when there are thousands of “friends” willing to give pretty much any passing comment a ‘like’ on Facebook?
Well, I believed there was still life in the original concept — and boy, does it look as though I was wrong. Running the monthly group has long ago ceased to be the fun it should have been, the erratic turn-out proving most “fans” are now only willing to show up if there’s some kind of gimmick, like a guest speaker or a free screening, and prefer to scurry back to the warm glow of their computer screens as soon as that part’s over. As for the Birmingham FearFest, ticket sales have been embarrassingly lack-lustre, and we’re currently facing the very real likelihood of having to pull the plug on its incubator. It’s been suggested to me that it could simply be postponed until later in the year, allowing a new round of publicity, but I’m not convinced I have a sufficiently deep reservoir of energy or optimism.
A little over thirty years ago,so many people turned up at a Novacon I chaired in Birmingham that we ran out of programme books, and we’d printed more than 500. These days, I find myself quite literally unable to run a party in a brewery. The world has allegedly evolved, but I’m not sure whether I want any part of this latest mutation; it clearly wants no part of me.
Back in the autumn of 1993, I made several appearances on The Way Out, broadcast live on BBC Radio 5 each Friday night from Birmingham’s famous Pebble Mill studios. Shortly afterwards, Radio 5 was re-engineered beyond all recognition into 5 Live, ending my blossoming career as the show’s resident horror and science fiction pundit, whilst the studios were closed in 2004 and demolished the following year.
Anyhow, my rather busy Saturday began with a call from the regional station BBC Radio WM, so that morning presenter Mollie Green (no relation) could ask me about the Birmingham Horror Group, that evening’s guest appearance by Adam Nevill and plans for the first Birmingham FearFest. You can hear our conversation via the link above.
My colleague Chrissie Harper and I will be taking next Tuesday evening off, in order to join members of the Made In Birmingham TV team in celebrating the channel’s expansion onto Sky. We haven’t actually visited the company’s Walsall headquarters since my first appearance on The Big Picture six months ago, so it’ll be nice to have a little face-to-face contact with the presenters and studio crew.