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Rowan Atkinson

Rowan Atkinson live from the NME, 5 April, 1986.

If It Ain’t A Nerd It Ain’t Funny
Rowan Atkinson
Birmingham Hippodrome

It is traditionally accepted that comics cut their teeth performing before rowdy drunken louts who have never heard of their entertainer before. The criteria is always the same – if you get out alive, they like you.
After a few years with your name in lights and a couple of dozen television appearances notched on the nation’s funnybone, a show in front of 2,000 pandering punters paying £7.50 a head is a doddle, and many mirth-makers will rely on their good track record to pull them through the bad jokes.
Not our Mr Atkinson; his new revue, cunningly entitled The New Revue, is just that. A month previous at this very theatre, his Not partners in comic crime, Smith and Jones, gave us a greatest hits show with some material stretching back at least five years – quite funny, but quite old.
Atkinson’s two-hour show is brimming with virgin sketches penned by Dick Curtis and that comedy regular Ben Elton, but it is our Rowan who makes it work. All of it. Honestly, there is not a dull moment.
Whether it’s totally-over-the-top caricature like the army officer instructing squaddies on peace camp patrol (“Unfortunately legislation has yet to be introduced which allows Americans to run over lesbians”) or the memoirs of a laconic Irish name-dropper (“Me and Mick go back a long way, in fact it was me who gave him the Mars Bar”), Atkinson combines a credible acting talent with the kind of timing some members of The Comic Strip can only read about.
Add to that his rubbery face and bendy body and you have the nearest thing to a complete comic performer we can expect to see for years.
I must confess to being one of those cynics who sits in shows like this with arms folded saying “go on, you’re a bloody comedian, make me laugh”. Well, I’m still sniggering.

Terry Staunton

 

Punk Squat Rot

Black Sheep Co-op in the NME, 4 December, 1982.

Punk Squat Rot

“THE PUNKS’ PARADISE” screamed the indignant front page headline in London’s Evening Standard last Friday. What could possibly be the matter now? Anarchy in the UK? Sten guns in Knightsbridge? No, it was just that a ‘punk’ based housing co-op called Black Sheep – of which this writer is a member – was recognised by Islington Council, enabling it to obtain short life housing.
In the Standard piece – later echoed by the Daily Mail, LBC Radio, and the Islington Gazette – a Social Democrat MP for Islington South, Mr George Cunningham, claimed “There are thousands of ordinary people in the borough, young couples desperate for a decent home, but they don’t get a look in from the council. Labour councillors are too busy handing over property to politically motivated squatters.”
This seems fair until one looks more carefully. For instance, it is not mentioned that the houses that Black Sheep are to be given will be so run down that “ordinary people” do not want to live in them as they are not exactly the “decent homes” that the MP drools over. Also, Black Sheep’s search for houses is not politically motivated merely a wish for a more secure lifestyle. “I’m sick of moving from squat to squat. I used to be an electrician but how can you hold down a job when you’re moving all the time?” one of our members asked after hearing of the Standard‘s attack.
The Black Sheep Co-op is, in fact, a group of young people effectively organising their lives without hurting others.
Could it be that exaggerated and unfounded slurs like this have something to do with the SDP’s own ineffective housing policy when they held power briefly in Islington? Or is it their quest for newspaper glory at the expense of the Labour Council and any convenient minority group, with an imminent election in mind?

Richard North

Crew’s Missile

Letter about casuals in Sounds, 26 May, 1984 from Anti Social Workers singer, Paul Wellings.

Crew’s Missile

I have nothing against the “soccer casual” music and clothes movement. In fact most of my mates wear the gear when we go to see West Ham and it has style. But I really must have a go at the “under five mentality” from the younger elements of the once glorious ICF, and other well organised crews like Pompey Glory Boys, Scouse Scallies etc.
Cos these kids dress to kill (sometimes literally) in all the Tacchini, Fila, Burberry and Head gear, they seem to think the movement means giving our own kind a good kicking or sticking Uncle Stanley in some ordinary geezer’s kidneys.
I remember all the times I’ve followed West Ham (way back to the original ICF, Rejects, drinking, having a crack etc), and Spurs and Luton Town and have gone with people to actually watch the game. And I follow these three teams (even though I was born in Wapping, East London and should by rights murder anyone who doesn’t support West Ham), cos I love their style of football, cos I’ve moved to different areas and cos most of all I hate the mindless tribal, territorial warfare similar to the Krays vs the Richardsons.
At least when the old bill get hospitalised, it’s a welcome change from attacking the other teams’ fans. Some, like the ICF, have the style and organisation to ruck without getting nicked (but most of it is brainless tribal war) and others have more suss to know the filth are the real enemy.
It’s a pity anger was not saved for the rich scumbags in the directors’ boxes treating football like a monopoly game for real, or the nazi wankers bringing racist shit into our grounds (it would be great to organise leafletting on same scale as we did at Upton Park, White Hart Lane etc in the ANL days – where we got a terrific response). I’m very much a lumpen prole.
It’s better to attack these sort of people and enjoy our game again than thrashing some working class geezer like me or you, who lives down the road or up North, cos their team is different.
Soccer casuals, if it means anything, means pride in your background, going to the football with your girl, laughs, self-respect, style, soul, lover’s rock, funk etc. Like Mod and Tamla, Skins and Trojan reggae, Punks and the Pistols, Casual both music and clothes, as Garry Bushell said, comes from the streets and not the industries, and for those into it, it hasn’t meant reconsidering your mortgage to buy the gear – cos the black market is booming. (Ask Scotland Yard! Look sharp, think sharp!) – Paul (Geezer) of reggae rockers the Anti Social Workers, Wapping.

Welcome To The Notts Miners

from the 1985 Women Against Pit Closures anthology of children’s writing, More Valuable Than Gold.

Welcome to the Notts miners

We put a big sign up in the hall of our school and it said, ‘Welcome to the Notts Miners’. We had Punch and Judy, Doctor Smarty Pants and a big party in the hall. The miners’ children came and we played. One boy had a funny badge. It was a little clown saying, ‘If Thatcher gets up your nose, picket.’ Some of the children said they weren’t allowed to talk about the strike in their school. The newspapers said our school put little children out on the street for Arthur Scargill, which is silly. Then an inspector came to our schools, and the teachers were worried. There shouldn’t be any inspectors – all the children and all the grown-ups in the school should be the inspectors.

Anna Winter, 5, Hackney, London

Worsbro’ All Stars

Theatre by working class women during the miners’ strike from The Heart And Soul Of It, a 1985 book about the people of Worsborough lived through the 1984/85 strike published by Worsborough Community Group and Bannerworks Community Arts Project.

Worsbro’ All Stars

We are all working class women from mining families. We formed the ‘Worsbro’ All Stars’ three years ago, from the theatre workshop at Northern College, which we still attend every Monday night. Steve Trafford and Liz Mansfield from Leeds run the workshop and have helped us enormously both with choosing material and showing us how to put it across to an audience.
We began three years ago by putting on shows, plays or reviews at Northern College at the end of each term and then progressed to doing outside bookings. We have performed for Labour Party functions, women’s nights, unemployed socials and occasionally in working men’s clubs. More recently because of the miners’ strike we have done a lot of miners’ benefits.
We write much of our own material which is usually very political and often very funny. Our show includes two miners’ songs which we wrote about four months into the strike, also a song about BUPA, one about rape, nuclear war, and one about the DHSS, plus lots more topical material. We like to put our message across in a lighthearted way yet the message is always very serious.

Rita, Lorraine, and myself have been politically active for a long time, but we find that as the ‘Worsbro’ All Stars’ we can get our thoughts and beliefs across strongly and effectively. Obviously our commitment has been intensified during the strike, and we all support the fight 100%. If we can explain the miners’ case to people, spread the word and drum up support both on stage and off then that to us is all important. We will continue to do as much as we can both as individuals and as the ‘Worsbro’ All Stars’.
When this fight is won we will go on writing and singing songs which fight against the many injustices in our society, and the destructive effects of Thatcherism.