The Carnival is Coming!

With the 2015 Colchester Carnival now just over a week away, Emma Harisson from the hard working Carnival Team previews this year’s event.

 
The Carnival is coming to Colchester this July, bringing a unique brand of fiesta spirit to our Town Centre streets! Saturday the 18th will see the more vibrant side of the Colchester community come alive, with everyone invited to get involved and celebrate summer!

 

Colchester Carnival

In its fifth year of being run by Colchester Ladies Circle and Colchester Round Table the event is a fantastic community occasion and has raised over £27,500 in the last four years for local good causes.

Weston Homes Plc has been the main sponsor for Colchester Carnival for the last four years.   The event is run entirely for the benefit of the local community and all profits go back to good causes in the Colchester area.  The generosity of Weston Homes has meant that many of the costs involved in putting on Carnival have been covered, ensuring more money goes to support good causes.

Colchester Carnival

The Carnival has been a huge success over the years.  Last year Colchester Carnival was attended by over 12,000 people, the procession had over 60 entries and 1,200 performers.  Lower and Upper Castle Park had more than 100 trade stalls with bands, dance and theatrical groups performing throughout the day.

This time around Colchester Carnivals theme is ‘Heroes and Villains’, with people from across the town invited to join in.

Colchester Carnival

The Carnival itself is split between a Family Fun Day in the Castle Park and a Procession that runs from one end of the town through to the other. The Castle Park events start at 11am and finish at 8pm and will include local bands, choirs and dance groups performing in the Arena, kid’s rides, trade stalls, food outlets and a beer tent.

The Procession will begin earlier this year 1pm to give spectators the opportunity to visit the Park after the Procession.  It starts from Abbey Fields, travels up Butt Road, down the High Street and end at Castle Park.

Colchester Carnival Leaflet 2015

The whole event is looking to be one that brings our community together, a day where we can all enjoy some Carnival spirit and hopefully some sunshine! So head on down, cheer the floats, try the rides and enjoy the bands.

You can find out more about this year’s Carnival on the official Colchester Carnival website.

Colchester Carnival Team
The Colchester Carnival Team

 

 

Parklife

Dragon Colchester Castle

When I was a teenager I lived in Riverside Estate, with Castle Park right on my doorstep, so I have many memories of playing football in the lower park, being chased on our bikes along the riverside path on our way home from school by the park keeper in his little Bedford van  – Colchester wasn’t so cycling friendly then and riding a bike in the park was forbidden – not forgetting sledging down the hill from the upper to lower park and trying to avoid a collision with the Roman wall at the bottom. I think maybe that familiarity at the time prevented me from appreciating what an amazing asset the park is to Colchester, and it is only since returning to live in the town after nearly twenty years spent in Wivenhoe, and living almost by its gates once again, that I truly understand the important role Castle Park plays in the town.

Park Smaller

Park

Over the past few months since my return I have really grown to love this wonderful green space that begins right in the heart of our town centre, behind the magnificent gates by the war memorial in Cowdray Crescent where the High Street meets East Hill, greeting us with its ornamental gardens, before sweeping down the hill to the Roman wall, then the wonderful green space beyond it that stretches along the river, with further grassy areas beyond the gates creating a swathe of green almost from East Mill, past Riverside Estate and Leisure World, taking in the cricket ground then onwards almost to North Station Road.

Castle Tower Reduced

Band

The jewel in the park’s crown is of course Colchester Castle. Built on the orders of William the Conqueror, the castle is the largest Norman Keep in Britain, and was the blueprint for its smaller relative, the Tower of London. The sheer size of the castle always amazes me, as does the thought that it stands on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius which was built by the Romans after they invaded 2000 years ago and made Colchester the country’s original capital. What a breathtaking sight that building must have been! And these days there is something special about seeing people sitting on the grass, enjoying the sun, just feet away from those castle walls that have stood there for nearly 1000 years.

Weir Reduced 1

Canoes

 

Weir

Living so close to the park these past few months, since the weather has become warmer it’s been a pleasure to take the longer walk home from town via the park after a Saturday afternoon lunch or shopping trip, with the occasional Sunday afternoon walk along the river thrown in. And in recent weeks there always seems to be something going on, whether it’s a brass band providing free entertainment in the bandstand, or the Food and Drink Festival bringing locals and other people into the park from the surrounding areas. And of course we still have the Free Festival to come, which this year we are promised is to be held over two days. But for me the park has really come into its own this past week since the giant television screen has been stalled for the duration of Wimbledon. What a wonderful idea this has been. Watching Wimbledon for free while sitting on the hill in the sun, armed with a picnic, a bottle of wine or couple of beers. Although I’m sure that hill has got steeper as I’ve got older! On days when I’ve been working from home it’s been hard to resist the temptation to slip off for an hour or so to watch the tennis with a cold drink. And, in even better news, Illuminate Design, who provided and installed the screen, are hoping to put on Colchester’s very own Winter Wonderland over the Christmas period to rival the one in London’s Hyde Park, complete with, yes they are serious… an ice skating rink. Fingers crossed they get the green light for this ambitious event which will bring people to the town from far and wide, many of whom will also spend money in the town’s shops, restaurant and pubs, putting money into our local economy.

Drink

Gym Reduced

 

Burgers Reduced

Fence

Ducks

As the weeks go by I find I love Castle Park more and more. New York’s Central Park may be the most famous public park in the World, but it’s got nothing on Colchester’s Castle Park.

Simon
 Simon Crow
Simon runs Media48 sponsors of Colchester 101

Classical Music Picks

Our Classical Music columnist Liz Leatherdale, founder and owner of Colchester Classics, brings you her pick of July’s Classical Music events in, and around, Colchester.

July 2015

This month hear the Colchester Symphony Orchestra under Chris Phelps perform an important early Romantic work: Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique or Fantastic Symphony. This was the first music to use over 90 orchestral players and history suggests Berlioz may have written some of the music under the influence of opium. Berlioz’s gentler masterpiece the song-cycle Les Nuits d’Ete with soprano soloist Verica Grmusa and the orchestral  Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, without doubt Debussy’s most famous work, will be performed at 7.30pm on Saturday 11 July 2015 in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester.

Tickets: £14 (01206 271128)

 

On 4 July the Hervey Benham Young Soloists concert offers some of our gifted local musicians the opportunity to perform with an orchestra. Soloists include Sam Marde (Organ), Kerenza Newcombe (trumpet) and Zachary Kleanthous (tenor). Zachary, a former pupil of Colchester Royal Grammar School, starts a chorister scholarship at Chelmsford Cathedral in September. St Botolph’s Music Society Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Abbott.Tickets: Saturday 4 July 2015 in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester at 7.30pm.

Tickets £12.50

 

The Harwich Festival ends on Sunday 5 July 2015 with the Royal College of Music  Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir performing exhilarating period favourites such as Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, Purcell’s ‘Come Ye sons of Art’ and Handel’s Zadok the Priest. Sunday 5 July at 6.30pm, St Nicholas Church, Harwich.

Tickets: £12.00

 

The weekend of 3 – 5 July, the Roman River Festival has its first mini-festival: a Schubertiade with three concerts, bringing James Gilchrist and other distinguished musicians to the idyllic villages of Wivenhoe, Boxted and Fingringhoe.

Tickets: £15. Telephone (01206 729356 for details on both the mini and also main festival)

 

Colchester Town Hall’s majestic Edwardian organ in the magnificent setting of the Moot Hall has been recently renovated to its former glory. This month sees the launch of Organ Fest on Tuesday 21 July with a concert by Gillian Ward-Russell and the following week a concert by Colchester’s Borough Organist, Ian Ray.

 

The Thaxted Festival is held each summer in the magnificent setting of the church at the heart of this small medieval town. The festival includes concerts by Red Priest, the wild and extraordinary interpreters of Baroque and early music, a family concert with the Brandenburg Sinfonia and closes on July 12 with Tenebrae performing some beautiful choral works from Allegri to John Tavener.

Telephone: (01371 831421)

 

Start your love affair with Classical Music at www.colchesterclassics.co.uk and take a minute to watch their company video:

 

Liz Leatherdale

Liz Leatherdale

 

 

 

The Appetite Book Club

For almost ten years Jo Coldwell has run the Appetite Book Club in Colchester. Jo introduces us to the club and discusses one of the books they have read.

Appetite Book Club
We are an informal book club, meeting monthly in Colchester on the last Wednesday evening of the month to discuss a book over supper and wine. The idea is that you read the book before you turn up. PRE BOOKING and PRE PAYMENT IS ESSENTIAL and the evening includes a two-course supper and a glass of wine at a local, independently owned cafe .

People are encouraged to come on their own or in a group… either way I split people into groups so that there are no cliques and everybody is made to feel equal. Each month between 40 and 70 people meet.

On arrival everybody mingles at the bar with a glass of wine… the wine helps to loosen the tongue. We then sit down to eat at tables of four, which means that any book chat is always in a small and intimate group and is less intimidating! Between main course and pudding we all change around to a different table.  This keeps the conversation fresh and means we meet new people all the time.

We started in 2007 at the now closed Cafe/Bar APPETITE and moved to THE OLD COURT HOUSE who have fully embraced the club and even provided curry and buying balti dishes when we read Q&A (a.k.a Slumdog Millionaire)!

Generally we choose fiction, but one month we discussed the remarkable war diaries of a courageous and beautiful, young Vietnamese doctor ‘LAST NIGHT I DREAMED OF PEACE: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram’

Last Night I Dreamed Of Peace

The background to this choice came about when a friend, Bill Hayton (based in Colchester), offered to come to book club and talk about his time as a BBC correspondent living in Vietnam.  This coincided with the release of his own book VIETNAM: RISING DRAGON – well reviewed by The Spectator, The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Irish Times – which called it a “fascinating primer … a cleverly pitched book, one that will appeal equally to a businessman or investor… an old Asia hand, or an inquisitive backpacker”. Bill however modestly swerved us away from his own book and suggested ‘PARADISE OF THE BLIND’ by Duong Thu Huong, which was banned in its own country; the first novel from Vietnam ever published in the USA.

Vietnam Rising Dragon

Paradise of the Blind

With a large selection of people meeting at book club I like to ensure that we can access the book in different ways, the cheapest being the library, and the best being the one to give you a warm glow of local loveliness –  the independent RED LION BOOKS. On further investigation Essex Libraries only had 0ne copy and I felt it unfair to narrow our options. RED LION BOOKS recommended some others; LAST NIGHT I DREAMED OF PEACE being one of them.  Captivated by the beautiful title, we went for this.

Lots of our group loved the book.  It was historical, poignant and illuminating.  For me, reading a diary can feel disjointed and interrupts the literary flow. There can be sharp stabs of emotion scattered with gaping holes. With this book there is literally a whole chunk missing where Than lost a large section of her diary during a bomb raid.   Reading a female and medical account of this notorious war, was however, a gem, and throughout I was acutely aware of Than’s innocence through her description of unrequited love, which was as poignant as her despair of war. As a young girl she was not concerned with military minutia but more about the emotional morale of her people.

Book club led to a debate on diary writing generally.  We have all read purpose written diaries, destined for publication – which despite being in diary form have structure and rhythm (Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones spring to mind). A diary like Than’s, written as a personal memoir and published in its rawest form, oozes credibility, but it also becomes the victim of monotony. The footnotes and preface lifted the mood, giving another dimension and making it a relevant read. We learn from these notes that Tram’s diary, when found after her death, was no bigger than a cigarette case, handwritten and sewn together. Other notes give an articulate chronology of the war, reminding us of the humanity of this young girl who desperately wanted to channel her compassion into the Party she believed in.  It is interesting how the Party rebuff her offers initially as they are suspicious of her ‘bourgeois tendencies’.

I’m pleased we discussed this diary but my preference would be to now read Bill‘s book, which is not in a diary format and is written about the future of this incredible country. A country which is still heavily linked with images of the horrific war they endured.  RISING DRAGON will appeal to a more optimistic reader, inquisitive about confronting the current issues facing Vietnam and the future choices it has to make.

I don’t think we will rush to read another diary for a while but I’m pleased for the discussions it created.

Best wishes and happy reading, Jo.

Jo Coldwell

Jo Coldwell

Jurassic World

Jurassic World

JURASSIC WORLD, much like its terrifying central monster threat, is a bit of a strange beast pulling its DNA from a variety of sources. Fortunately none of it appears to have been extracted and transposed from a turkey: When it’s good, it’s very, very good, when it’s not it’s okay, just a bit silly and at worst a bit slow; unfortunately it’s good only about 40% of the time.

Set some 22 years after the events of the original Jurassic Park (JW never mentions or references the other two sequels, and I’m pretty much happy go along with that) Jurassic World is the dream of John Hammond made real: Isla Nublar has been open for 10 and years attracts thousands of visitors every day to bask in its resurrected dinosaur attractions. Unfortunately, the park has now been open long enough for dinosaurs to (according to those most dreaded of things: Focus groups) become a bit passé, leading to the decision to create a new scarier, more aggressive attraction from the DNA of various other dinosaurs and creatures. Obviously, creating this new iDinosaur is a bad idea, a bad idea that has horrific results when it inevitably escapes and goes on the rampage, as Jeff Goldblum’s (sadly missed) character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, would have it, “Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming.”

The lead actors are appealing enough and keep just this side of being cardboard, although it would be a real push to actually describe any of them as fully rounded. Chris Pratt, so likeable in last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, plays ex-Navy man Owen Grady seconded to the park to wrangle velociraptors (yeah, that’s never satisfactorily explained, so don’t ask me), but basically he’s Doug McClure: mildly cheeky but stoic and always, always right. Bryce Dallas Howard plays JW Director of Operations, a career woman with no time for relationships or family who… well, you can guess where her arc is heading, especially when she and Pratt have to race toward the oncoming danger in order to rescue her nephews, dumped on her by their divorcing parents and lost somewhere in the park.

Jurassic World

Irrfan Khan turns up as the park owner who flip-flops between running Jurassic World for the benefit of science, the animals and profit and whose fate is pretty much laid out the first time we meet his character. Vincent D’Onofrio plays the unnecessary bad guy who actually isn’t that bad at all and whose arc could have been excised completely and nobody would notice.

But it’s in the action scenes that JURASSIC WORLD excels. Director Colin Trevorrow harks back to Spielberg’s original, using many of the same action beats and conceits to create an exciting and sweaty palmed thrill ride. The iRex escape is especially good, I say “Good”, I mean terrifying, the pacing is terrific and there is a sense of awe as everything drops into place (I should just say that this is probably the scene which will upset younger viewers the most, it’s a 12A certificate and I would say it’s the upper end of 12A). The final action sequence turns into a Battle Royale of dino’ badasses which is fun but not quite as fist-pumpingly good as you would hope, not like that moment the T-Rex turns up at the end of the original.

Occasionally the film tries to be a bit “Meta”, working as a critique of itself and the whole blockbuster/Summer tent-pole phenomenon (for instance, it’s no coincidence that the Mosasaur is fed with a Great White Shark), it’s a bit obvious and doesn’t really cut it on that level for me. It also tries to say something about the way we interact with experiences, through the screens on our phones rather than face to face somewhat more successfully, but that’s just a throwaway aside, a clever observation but, again, unnecessary.

There’s plenty of fun to be had in JURASSIC WORLD, just a little more of it would have been nice. It’s not Jurassic Park but, by the same token, neither is it The Lost World or JPIII, thank goodness.

Check out the showtimes and even book your Odeon seats online.

 

Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver

Tea & Sympathy – Grimm Tales of Funk

At Colchester 101 we love to hear about, and support, new, unique, and interesting events, so when Tea & Sympathy told us about their ‘Imaginative, Decadent & Unique’ pop up themed parties that they throw every six weeks or so around Colchester we wanted to know all about them. Melissa Porter and Jo Coldwell, the imagineers behind Tea & Sympathy, tell us more.

Tea & Sympathy

Two friends opened Tea & Sympathy in Crouch Street in 2012 as a one year pop up adventure. The most exciting thing that seemed to evolve during our time in the shop were the themed parties after we closed up for the day. We wanted to create an experience, not just a place to have a drink with friends. We wanted people to stumble across secret rooms where you could have your Tarot cards read by a mysterious woman in black, discover a hidden room where you find yourself at the centre of an immersive theatre experience, be invited to watch a Fire Performance in the secret garden, drink one or two Cocktails and dance with new found friends to some fabulous tunes.

Tea & Sympathy Reading

Tea & Sympathy

We left Crouch Street in September 2013 with a whole load of new friends and a little tear in our eye. We knew that we wanted to continue with the parties, we still had so many themes that we wanted to explore. Since then we have gone all Nautical on the Red Lighthouse Boat at The Hythe Quay, danced our socks off at a Northern Soul inspired night at St Martins Church, channelled our inner Mia Wallace at ‘A Little Bit Quentin’ – a Tarantino night at the Colchester Arts Centre. We’ve created our own little worlds themed around Alice in Wonderland, Narnia – Winter Wonderland, Acid House, Moulin Rouge, Tim Burton Ghost Ship, Dirty Pop, The Night Circus, Lucha Libre and The Great Gatsby to name a few!

Tea & Sympathy
11312215_10153367454301354_1487707577_n
On Saturday 6th June Tea & Sympathy wish to entice you into the inky pages of The Brothers Grimm we invite you to explore the Lighthouse Ship, Hythe Quay from 8pm-1am for …

‘GRIMM TALES OF FUNK’

You enter the ships Main Bar, frozen in time and overgrown with bindweed. This is the festering heart of the witches domain. But fear not, for that vaudevillian psychobillie ‘DJ Lloyd’ will hold the fell spirits at bay with his blend of FUNK & DISCO from bygone eras and forgotten lands.

Follow the trail of breadcrumbs to the witches’ lair where we entice you with potions and brews from Tea & Sympathy’s lavish Jam Jar Cocktail Menu.

Follow the ugly sisters into the depths of the dark forest, where magic and mystery await.

Understar delights and performances from;

Fyreflies & Holly High Heels from Helles Belles Burlesque

Food by Red Pig Chorizo Co.

Dress: Anything Grimm inspired

Tea & Sympathy

Tea & Sympathy

Tickets are just £10. Email alittlesympathy@gmail.com for your paperless ticket in advance. We operate a cash only bar, tickets will also be available on the door, email your names for the guest list to guarantee entry.

For more information check out the Tea & Sympathy Facebook Book page.

Tea & Sympathy

We hope to meet you there.

Jo and Melissa

Jo and Melissa

An Affair with The Affair

Affair Club

Of all the bars and clubs that have come and gone in Colchester over the years including, to name just a few, the Windmill, the Andromeda, L’Aristos and the Colne Lodge, one that is still remembered equally fondly by many is the former Affair Club on the corner of Culver Street East and Queen Street. Its former home, a rather grand looking red brick building, is now a branch of Italian chain restaurant Prezzo and when I pass it I often wonder how many of their customers realise that the restaurant’s basement, now home to the kitchen, stockroom and toilets, was once the coolest, and cosiest, nightclub in town.

My own affair with the Affair began the summer I left school when, one Monday evening, a friend and I plucked up the courage to venture down into this subterranean world that we’d been so desperate to visit since we’d heard as kids that the Radio Caroline DJs used to make a beeline for it when they came ashore at Harwich. With two years added to our dates of birth, and our pretend birthdays memorised to tell ‘Big Jill’ on the door if she asked when we were born, we were finally in and heading down the narrow stairs, with their red brick walls and arched ceiling, into this exciting new world where we enjoyed our first few under-age pints of Skol lager while sounds from the likes of Soft Cell, Human League and Duran Duran filled the air.

We continued this for the next three or four years as Monday night regulars, miraculously during our first couple of years managing to dodge the occasional Monday night police raids to catch us under-age drinkers, with the occasional Friday or Saturday night visits in-between to mingle with the weekend crowd, nights which offered live music too. Our spot down there was usually in the corner at the end of the long bar, but we’d hit the dance floor behind the arches the moment the likes of New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ or Heaven 17’s ‘Temptation’ came on.

There was always a great crowd at the Affair, from the more colourful punks to New Romantics and all points in between. I’m sure there may have been the occasional incident, but I personally never witnessed any trouble, and nobody ever seemed out to prove themselves, except with their hair, clothing and make up, and of course on the dance floor. Everyone mixed well and many new friendships were formed.

This amazing video dating from 1984 was kindly sent to me by Stephen Munson and is a magical look back to a time, and a nightclub, that is long gone, but not forgotten. How many faces to you recognise?

Stephen, whose band Living in Texas were playing that evening, now lives in Paris where he manages and performs with French singer Swann. He has fond memories of the Affair Club:

“I think the video was made by Anton Rapley’s dad, a Wivenhoe man. Anton was the band’s tour manager for quite a few European tours. He was also the drummer for a great band called the Bugs and a very well-known Colchester teddy boy. It’s Chris’s sound system and the opening spot was a poetry reading rant from Colchester student Paul Kennedy. What I loved about the Affair club was it was a club for everyone.  I’m wondering whether my first experiences were back in 1974 or 5… when it was strictly basket meals, port and lemon and hot-down disco… I only got in (so young ) because I worked at the Andromeda. I remember you had to be a member but no-one ever used to remember to bring their cards. I think my best night ever there was falling in love with Tania Bryant all over again. (1976 or 77) It was a really regular place to go for me on a Friday night (always a Friday ) from the mid to the end of the 70s, and of course, from time to time in the 80s, though I spent much of that time in London. Tuesday night was the Windmill. Friday or Saturday was the Copdock, or the Tartan House, or the Affair, depending on who I was going out with… haha! Would miss all the clubs for a good gig at the Uni, the Tech or Woods… and as the 70s ended it was the Lyceum or the Venue or some such exotic place. The Affair was a great example of a great provincial nightclub… a place to go until 2 in the morning… always great music, great dark corners for doing what young people do when the world didn’t need dating agencies and you rarely went home alone.”

Carl Seager, who you can spot in the video at 1:35 and who also now lives in France, remembers the Affair, and Colchester’s music scene at the time:


“Colchester has always had a great musical heritage. Always mixed it up and encouraged different genres to listen to each other. One week we’d be playing Rock with the Linton Band or Flying Heroes, next week we’d be rubbing shoulders with the New Romantics, Punks… you name it. The Affair was right up there and helped set the trend which still carries on in Colchester today. Great music scene as always, ably carried on by the likes of Ben’s (Howard) events, Jamie’s Cosmic Puffin, Dave’s gigs at The Bull… and so many other organizers and venues in and around the town. Bloomin’ wonderful stuff and long may it continue.”

Corroll Beales, one of Colchester’s very first punks (2:29) in her Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirt also recalls:

“The Affair club was a place during the 80’s that myself and friends from Colchester used to go to see local bands play. Some of the members of the bands were friends, or they became friends through going to see them.  What I liked about it, even though it was a rather small club, was that we all knew each from around Colchester, or became friends rather quickly with each other. The bands were great and although I was into Punk at that time I still used to go and see the other bands play that weren’t necessarily of that scene.”

All good things come to an end, and eventually the Affair closed and stood empty for many years before it was eventually converted into a chain restaurant. A few months ago I was back in the building for a college reunion, my first visit since the 80s, and took these pictures downstairs of what remains of the old club. It was rather weird making my way down those familiar stairs for the first time in three decades, and it was wishful thinking to expect the club to be there at the bottom exactly as I remember it. The bar has disappeared, swallowed up by the new kitchen and toilets, but peeping through a door built into a new wall that now cuts across the basement I saw that beyond it time really has stood still save for the addition of some white emulsion over the once bare brickwork. The familiar arches that we used to stand around are still there, and beyond them the dance floor remains very much intact, these days though instead of playing host to the latest tunes it is a storeroom. It was wonderful to see that whilst some of it may be lost, the old club is still down there in some form, and I’m sure if you listen carefully when the restaurant upstairs has closed for the night you might still be able to faintly hear the musical soundtrack, along with the chatter and laughter, of generations gone by.

The Stairs - virtually unchanged in 30 years

The Stairs – virtually unchanged in 30 years

 

The dance floor is now a store room. The wall is the far wall that runs parallel with Queen Street

The wall is the rear wall of the dance floor that runs parallel with Queen Street

 

The dance floor now a storeroom

Looking through one of the arches at the dance floor which is now a storeroom. The little room where the DJs worked would have been behind the boxes to the right

 

Simon

Simon Crow
Simon is the owner of Media48, sponsors of Colchester 101

 

 

 

 

Roy McDonough – Football’s Hard Man

With Colchester United’s ‘Great Escape’ from the dreaded drop down to League Two the other week still fresh in people’s minds, my thoughts turned to events 23 years ago when the U’s were actually relegated out of the football league, only to make a triumphant under Layer Road legend Roy McDonough. So I thought I would give another airing to a post from my personal blog and publish an edited version of my 2012 interview with the big man himself.

Roy McDonough

Of all the players and managers who have come and gone over the years at Colchester United, Roy McDonough is still the one who is remembered most fondly by many fans. He was certainly one of the most charismatic. And controversial.

When I wrote the original post, at the time it was 20 since one of the most memorable seasons in the club’s history, which culminated in the Boys of ’92 earning promotion back into the Football League, along with the little matter of the club’s first ever Wembley appearance. So I had thought with Big Roy’s autobiography Red Card Roy, which he co-wrote with Bernie Friend and which Amazon described as “ …the jaw-dropping story of terrace cult hero Roy McDonough – Britain’s wildest footballer who was sent off a record 22 times in a career of more than 650 games, 100s of goals, thousands of beers and, allegedly, 400 women” being released at the time, it was a good time for a chat with the great man himself.  So I caught up with ‘Big Roy’ in Spain where he and his wife Liz had been living for the past nine years, and where they still live.

Roy’s last competitive game of football was back in 2003 playing for Harwich & Parkeston, where he played two games under former U’s team mate Steve McGavin who, at the time, was the non-league club’s player manager. With his boots finally hung up for the last time a new life in Spain beckoned, and Roy is now enjoying success a second time around as a partner in a Spanish property company.

During a playing career that saw him make over 650 appearances, and score some 150 goals, for a host of professional and non-league clubs including Birmingham City and Southend, with of course two spells at Colchester, Roy earned himself a reputation as one of the game’s ‘hard men’.  Did he model himself on anyone in particular? “Not at all. I think I was a full blooded, honest player who took no prisoners when going for the ball. Everyone should be the same for his team. Roy Keane and Mark Hughes were two of my idols for obvious reasons.”

Roy McDonough

It was a philosophy that saw him earn the record for the most career dismissals, 22 in total, with him being shown 13 of those red cards in the Football League, a record he shares with former Leicester City and Coventry defender Steve Walsh.  Does he think his record will ever be broken? “Probably not,” he says, dismissing the very notion.  “The modern game is full of pussies I’m afraid.”

For U’s fans it was Roy’s second spell at Layer Road as player manager that earned him legendary status and the gratitude of generations of fans. At the end of the 1989/90 season the club had dropped out of the football league into the GM Vauxhall Conference. Roy’s predecessor, Ian Atkins, had failed to get us back into the League at our first attempt, in spite of having a full time squad, and there was a very real fear that we would end up a part time club and never find a way back up.

However, in a moment of brilliance, the board appointed Roy player manager when Atkins, who had brought Roy back from bitter rivals Southend United, departed the club. He then set about putting together a squad to win promotion, and instilled in them the battling mentality needed to get the job done

There was only one other Conference side capable of spoiling the party, Martin McNeill’s Wycombe Wanders, and they quickly became our bitter rivals.

The tight stadium and atmosphere at ‘Fortress’ Layer Road has often been credited with giving the Us an edge at home, well when things were going our way at least. I ask Roy if he thinks it made a difference in our home match with Wycombe that season. 20 years later Roy is was quick to dismiss O’Neill’s efforts: “We didn’t need an advantage, we were far better than them all season! A full Layer Road did create a great atmosphere though.” It’s classic Roy, one of the game’s great characters who liked nothing better than to wind up O’Neill, and never more so than when we were  3 – 0 up in that same game and he looked over at O’Neill on the bench and said to our players “No more goals, let’s play keep-ball”.

“We had to take the mick, it was lovely. Trust me” Roy reminisces, adding that these antics extended to using the local press to rattle O’Neill. “Some herbert who worked for the Gazette was a Wycombe fan, so the odd remark thrown their way didn’t hurt, did it.”

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Roy’s mickey taking would have stung O’Neill all the more when, at the end of the season, it was the Us, and not Wycombe, who were crowned Conference champions. And just to rub his nose it in even further Roy also took us to our first ever Wembley Final in May 1992, and won it in style of course, adding the FA Trophy to the club’s trophy cabinet. It was the town’s biggest ever day out and it seemed like nearly everyone in Colchester made their way by car, coach and train to the famous Twin Towers to see the U’s demolish Witton Albion 3 – 1. It also led to unbelievable scenes in the High Street a couple of days later as 1000s turned out to welcome the team home.

And Roy’s fondest memory of that season? “Winning the Conference the last game of the season.”

But of course.

Colchester United FA Trophy

Fast forward 20 years to 2012… and Roy was back in Colchester for a reunion with the Boys of ’92 squad, including American Mike Masters who had flown in from the US especially for the event. Roy was also inducted into the U’s Hall of Fame, and told me in typical style when I asked him how it felt “Delighted pal. I think the whole team should be in the hall of fame”.

These are a few of my own pictures from our day out at Wembley and the celebrations back in Colchester.

Colchester United Bakers Street

 

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Bus

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TownHall

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And his thoughts on the Weston Homes Community Stadium? “The new stadium is great.” But would the kind of facilities the Us players enjoy these days at the new stadium have helped give the Boys  of ’92 an even greater edge over Wycombe during the epic promotion battle 20 years ago? I’ll let Roy have the final word “To be fair we didn’t need an edge over Wycombe because we easily beat them most times when I was there.”

Red Card Roy by Roy McDonough and Bernie Friend is available on Amazon.

Simon

Simon Crow

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond

If you enjoy that feeling of relaxing on your sofa on a Sunday afternoon, switching on the telly for a second-tier, 1980’s kid’s action adventure sci-fi movie you remember fondly from your own childhood, only to discover that, contrary to your memories, it’s embarrassingly bad then Tomorrowland: A World Beyond is the movie for you.

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Irritating, frustrating, structurally a mess, Tomorrowland (I’m dropping the “World Beyond” coda from this point as it’s just a piece of annoyingly pointless affectation) is not without its good moments but, overall, it is a film you can live without. It’s a kind of Channel 5 Sunday afternoon movie thirty years too early.

Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is hopeful, an optimist, a dreamer. She’s sabotaging the dismantling of the launch platform at Cape Canaveral and this brings her to the attention of a mysterious younger girl, Athena (Raffey Cassidy). Pre-teen Athena is from Tomorrowland, an alternate dimension full of the sort of stuff that people in the 1950’s thought people in the 21st century would be wearing, using and living in, you know: jet packs, flying cars, litter free cities and everybody is Aryan thin, that kind of thing. Athena slips Casey a badge that allows her to glimpse the tomorrow of Tomorrowland and the two set off to find the only person who can get them there, Frank Walker (George Clooney), the only man ever to be thrown out of Paradise.  Frank was a child prodigy who made it into Tomorrowland because he too was a dreamer, he invented a jet pack that doesn’t quite work but his “Anything’s possible” philosophy allowed him a sneaky, back door “in”. Then there’s a lot of running, a lot of chasing, a lot of blowing stuff up but, unfortunately, there’s very little in the way of plot.

The problem is that all this stuff happens before the film even begins to tell a story, there are no recognisable stakes until about three-quarters of the way in, and when they are explained they’re all a bit vague. The film keeps telling us the future is running out but doesn’t define what this actually means, I’m guessing end of the world, Apocalypse, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. Who cares?

Clooney seems miscast. Frank is a cranky, bitter old man who lives alone in his booby-trapped farmhouse full of future tech inventions he refuses to share with the outside world. Basically, Frank is the anti-Clooney. Robbed of his charisma and smile, Clooney struggles and Frank becomes irritating (not to mention the fact that he’s still obsessed with the constantly pre-teen Athena). You know who would have been great as Frank? Who could have really sold this curmudgeon with his crumpled demeanour and burnt out boy genius? Hugh Laurie. Laurie, in fact, plays the charismatic Governor of Tomorrowland, whose only real villainy is to stand by while this dimension’s future runs out. George Clooney would’ve killed this role. Hmm.

Tomorrowland

Britt Robertson, on the other hand and despite looking about ten years too old for the character she’s playing, is very good and I wish she had a better movie to star in, she probably will and deserves to. The fact that Robertson is so good makes it particularly galling that the climax of Tomorrowland sucks so hard. Casey (whose super power is, I kid you not, the power of positive thinking) kind of gets side-lined in the finale; a finale that goes all anti-science and just falls into lazy, clichéd tropes; a finale that gives us one really creepy, uncomfortable moment where it looks like Clooney might actually kiss a nine year old.

There’s a great scene in a nostalgia shop that’s funny, inventive and fun which raises some interesting thematic ideas. But that’s about it, Tomorrowland is shaggy, often corny and mostly boring.

I don’t disagree with some of the things the film is trying to say: Yes, we could do with more optimism in the world; yes, we need to galvanise the young for the future and not make them fear it. But hanging these points in a movie that espouses a super-secret, technologically advanced world that hides its advances from plebeians like us, that only allows entry to the finest minds and thinnest bodies smacks of something unsavoury.

For show times and booking visit Odeon Colchester.

Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver

Mad Max: Fury Road

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There’s been a lot of debate recently about whether or not posh chefs should serve their increasingly avant garde meal on a shovel or in a flat cap or in a bin or whatever. Make no mistake, (director) George Miller doesn’t go in for any of that kind of fancy nonsense, he’s a plain white plate kind of guy, but what he serves up is every bit as exciting as a Michelin starred chef at the top of his game. In an age of blockbusters bloated with artificial computer generated additives, over ripe dialogue, frighteningly calorific exposition and syrup conflict, Mad Max: Fury Road is a refreshing, low fat, high fibre concoction that totally satisfies your stomach-rumbling hunger for a really great action movie.

Following the collapse of civilisation, desert wanderer Max (Tom Hardy) finds himself captured by self-proclaimed god, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and used as a “blood bag” for one of Joe’s Warboys (read “followers”), Nux (Nicholas Hoult). When one of Immortan Joe’s most trusted Generals, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) makes a break for freedom (along with five of Joe’s wives), Max finds himself, still intravenously attached to Nux, chained to the front of a pursuit car like a literal figurehead. And that, basically, is all you need to know about the plot. Fury Road is a propulsive, breathless, pounding chase movie that, when it reaches the end of the road, simply about turns and races back again.

Mad Max is the role that launched the global superstardom career of Mel Gibson (or more precisely Mad Max 2, the first movie was largely overlooked in the US where, bizarrely, it was dubbed by American actors), but this time around Max’s mismatched boots are filled by the heir-apparent to Brando’s throne, Tom Hardy. It‘s thirty years since Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome (the slightly disappointing third Max Movie) and whilst it would have been interesting to see Gibson back as an older Max, the appointment of Hardy has given the franchise a fresh new impetus. Hardy isn’t doing a Mel Gibson impression and the loose continuity of the series allows him to step into Max’s world seamlessly. Hardy’s Max is charismatic and charming, exasperated, baffled and, surprisingly, very funny, many of the best moments of the film are Hardy’s reactions to the chaos in which he’s embroiled.

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But it’s not Hardy’s Max who is the central driving (ahem) force or protagonist of Fury Road, but Charlize Theron’s Furiosa and she is magnificent. Theron plays her with savage ferocity, a warrior who has had enough of the horrors of Immortan’s dictatorship; she’s taking a principled stand, even if it costs her her life. Despite the steampunk hand and the alarming proficiency with firearms, Furiosa always feels like a woman, she never becomes masculinised in a James Cameron kind of way. Her motivations are not vengeance or power, it’s to save the five sex-slave wives of Immortan Joe.

In a lesser movie the wives (played by Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntinton-Whiteley, Rylie Keough, Abbie Lee and Courtney Eaton) would all be background noise, showing up to be menaced eye candy ripe for sexual assault. But in Fury Road each one of them has their own character arcs and moments and each reacts to their situation differently. Some cower, some fight, some want to return to the familiarity of their abuse, but all react as humans, not plot devices. “We are not things” is written on the wall of the chamber they have escaped from. And just to upset the whining, man-baby “Meninists” even more, a whole other bunch of female warriors show up, gun-toting, motor-cycle riding, Hell’s Grannies who are equally as amazing.

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Hugh Keays-Byrne’s Immortan Joe is a terrifying figure, a pale, red-eyed, aging warlord in a skeletal, horse-toothed respirator mask and Keays-Byrne sells every bit of his ruthlessness and nastiness. He’s an all-timer great villain every bit as great as Mad Max’s Toecutter (again played by Keays-Byrne) or 2’s hockey-mask horror, Lord Humungous.

But the real star of Mad Max: Fury Road is the action. With very little cgi (well apart from one terrifying, swirling, ferocious sandstorm) you feel every crash, you draw back at every explosion, you wince at the bone-crunching stunt work. It’s full of bonkers imagery: men hanging onto poles mounted on the rear of speeding vehicles, swinging back and forth; a guy playing a double neck guitar (with a flame thrower attached, obviously) on a truck stacked with amplifiers and drummers beating out a battle charge mounted on the back.

You know what’s truly great about Fury Road? Instead of upping the stakes through increased and escalating chaos, 70 year old director Miller ups the stakes via emotion and character arcs. Yes, this film is full of emotion, so full that in one horrific yet moving scene we are even made to feel for Immortan Joe and his terrifying son, Rictus, “A brother. I had a brother!”  It’s also filled with sublimely smart themes, themes like the patriarchy and the myth of the benevolent rich; the perpetual war machine culture; faith, hope and redemption. There are critiques hidden amongst the explosions and touching character moments deftly squeezed in between the crashes. Miller wants it all, he wants the mayhem and excitement of great action movies and he wants the character development and depth of the best science fiction. He wants it all. He gets it all. He gives it all to us.

And, while that action is astonishing, the imagery as mad as a two headed lizard, the world of the Apocalypse harrowing, Mad Max: Fury Road is capital letters F.U.N. It’s a good time. The colours are bright and saturated to the point of popping off the screen. The action is stunning and visceral but rarely cruel. It’s a total blast that will have you punching the air, stomping your feet and shaking in your seat with excitement. If the “Menininists” are right and this is feminist propaganda, then I for one welcome our new female overlords (overladies?).

Check out the show times and even book your seats online at the Odeon

Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver

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