Louis Barabbas Bedlam at Mink

It is Saturday night and we are ensconced in the heart and fortunately the heat of downtown Middlesbrough. Outside Winter is blasting away any lingering hopes of Spring, inside and there is a maelstrom brewing up in Mink. Louis Barabbas is absolutely taking the place by storm.

Before Louis Barabbas and the Bedlam 6 there were two memorable sets by Fishburn lads, The Bluebuds. Playing as a two-piece the brothers returned to their stripped back roots beginning with a delightful song, dedicated to “our mam,” Julie. I’m sure she would be proud. That deep, earthy north eastern voice melds so well with the bluegrass rootsy sound played on acoustic guitars. Second song Déjà Vu is more jaunty, as if a trad jazz band has landed in Trimdon and been derailed by a troupe of folk singers making their way down from the hills of wild west Durham.

The second set is more traditional bluegrass and even roots-ier still with guitars eschewed for banjo and flying fiddle playing and gruff, gritty vocals shouted back of microphone. They have won over the crowd and Louis and the Bedlam boys stop to watch from the dressing room steps. A class act indeed, The Bluebuds are consummate live performers, very natural and putting down their own roots.

Louis Barabbas and his gang have been reduced to five tonight but who is counting? They more than make up for the missing number with a set of incredible energy and no less ingenuity. There is big, brassy trombone, a guitarist who looks like he is in Jethro Tull, a rhythm section that just about keep things pinned down and Louis himself with his high kicking, stage stalking, gruff singing vocals and geetar.

The act is almost vaudeville, the music, blues, rock’n’roll, jazz, dirt swing, and above all high energy. On and frequently off stage, Louis is a riot of movement and dicey dance steps while all around him the band and the audience are sucked into the dance. It all goes so well with the pine behind the stage, you could half close your eyes and imagine you were in a saloon on the American frontier perhaps, the weather whistling at the door certainly helps fuel that illusion.

Louis has just passed a significant birthday containing a 0 that is the only clue he will divulge but he “Aint done being young” he sings to us with the huskiest blues voice. As he launches himself across stage and into the crowd we certainly do believe him. There is advice on how to kill your wife but she will have her revenge later in the set. Mary has been cheating on him. Is there a Mary in the house? She has been cheating on him two times, three times, thirty times. And all the while the band play out that dirtiest, meanest, lowest, most high octane swing.

Roared back for an encore and Louis Barabbas whip up that storm to a frenzy. He camps it up further across the stage, while imploring “Why Did You Raise Me That Way.”

We arrived before 9pm for this event at Mink and so it was totally free of charge. You absolutely cannot fall off with top entertainment in a comfortable surrounding in the centre of town. What a way to spend Saturday.

As for Louis Barabbas and the Bedlam 6 I sincerely hope our paths cross again soon. By the looks of their website they are constantly touring, a real life tour de force. The Bedlam band serves up a rich musical recipe, Louis is a big personality projecting his stories of cheatin’, thievin’, grievin’, double crossin’, pardners. A smile is never far from that bristling moustache and a twinkle never far from that roving, staring and a glaring eye.

Totally irresistible rascals.

Photo – Tracy Hyman






Steps In The Write Direction

I have been writing creatively for many years and I’ve been walking for around five years. Well, actually, I’ve been walking since I took my first ever baby steps. What I mean to say is that I’ve been leading health walks as part of my profession for five years. It therefore made sense, to me, to combine these two aspects of my life in order to encourage writers to go take up walking and to be inspired by their outdoor environments.

As we all know, writers can be sitting at desks for long periods of time, only moving to turn on the kettle or to grab another biscuit or cake to go with that cup of coffee…or is that just me?

Okay, moving swiftly on then! As well as sedentary, writing can also be quite a solitary act so, along with the activity aspect, there was also the idea of socialising that appealed to me when coming up with my proposal. I was keen on providing an activity where writers and walkers could get together, not only to encourage writers to walk, but also to get walkers to give writing a try. I knew about Durham County Council‘s extensive walking programme which includes art and photography walks, so I contacted the organiser and asked if they would be interested in having me lead some writing walks. The response was a positive one and between us, we organised a pilot walk which was held in Durham City centre in July 2012.

St Oswald's cemeteryFifteen writers attended that first walk and as I remember it had been a fine day weather-wise. (Those who have attended my walks will confirm that I’ve had good, if not great, weather for every walk I’ve held to date). We walked along the river side, up to St Oswald’s cemetery, towards the cathedral and Palace Green and back to the starting point, stopping along the way to do some writing exercises.

Each walk is a circular and designed so that there is a good balance between the walking and writing. The pilot walk was such a success, I was invited to submit as many more walks as I would like, for each season’s brochure. I submitted a further three walks last season which all proved as popular as the first, especially the Bishop Auckland walk. Not only did we have exceptional weather and an overwhelming attendance, we had a fun day in the realms of fantasy, in and around Auckland Park.

I’ve received many compliments and comments from attendees and learned that one couple in particular had thoroughly enjoyed the walk as one was a writer, the other was a keen walker and my creative writing walk meant that they could spend time together, both enjoying what they love to do. I’ve also had a number of walkers, who haven’t written before, attend the walks and who have been inspired to write for the first time.

I am looking forward to the new season of walks where, along with the three walking routes from last season, I will be leading three new walks as part of certain festivals. At the start of the season in April, I will be leading a Walk at Beamish Museum as part of their Old King Coal Festival and at the end of the season, as part of the North Pennines Walking Festival, I will be leading a creative writing walk along High and Low Force. I will also be leading a walk which will take people to the site of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s birthplace. I’m sure such a place will be a great inspiration to writers and walkers alike.

People who wish to come on the walks are asked to bring their own notebooks and pens, refreshments and a folding chair or stool if they wish to sit down during the writing exercises. I do try to find areas where seating is provided but this isn’t always possible. The walks begin with introductions and a quick writing warm up, and end with a get-together where people can share the work they have written, if they wish.

Anyone interested in the walks can view, download or request a booklet from the Durham County Council Countryside website at www.durham.gov.uk/countryside or telephone 0191 372 9100. For further information on Chris Robinson you can email her at crobinson59@ymail.com check out her blog at http://chrisrobinsonwriter.blogspot.com or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Robinson/220756984644390



Reach For The Sky: Kilimanjaro

Reach for the sky! Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling will swap the TV studio for the thin air of Mount Kilimanjaro in June when he joins former football stars Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett in a massive fundraising effort.

The trio will be part of a group of 15 intrepid explorers who will attempt to reach the 4,895m summit of Africa’s highest mountain to raise vital cash for the Finlay Cooper Fund in aid of children’s charities.

The Fund was set up by former Middlesbrough, Millwall and Nottingham Forest defender Cooper and his wife Julie in memory of their son, Finlay, who died in a tragic choking accident shortly before his second birthday 10 years ago.

Also heading for Africa are Middlesbrough fans Andy Gunn, Tony Dye, Phil Dinsdale, Chris Masterson, Stephen Ainsley, Newcastle supporter Dave Rowlands, plus Millwall supporter Jason Pickering.

The group will fly out to Africa on June 7 and hope to reach the summit on June 14.

To sponsor Jeff and his fellow Kilimanjaro trekkers visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/finlaycooperfund

Any business interested in being main sponsor of the expedition should contact Graham Fordy on 07802 553553 to discuss the range of potential benefits.


Fly: Is this the biggest challenge you’ve done for the Finlay Cooper Fund?

CC: Oh way, way and above. And I think there’s less people involved in this than there’s been in anything we’ve done, whether it’s the 5 and 10k round Middlesbrough or the Great North Run or the dinners and balls that we’ve had. We’ve had a lot less people but the logistics of getting 15 people to the top of a mountain. One of the trusties Nick Waites brought it up, he suggested it earlier on. Where I was a little bit wary and a little but scared I suppose, he kept chipping away and in the end I said yeah lets go for it. So it’s something completely different but something we’re really looking forward to.

Fly: And it’ll raise the profile of the trust as well won’t it?

CC: Yeah you’re right. Myself and Craig (Hignett) keep it very local to the area but with Jeff Stelling coming on board, he’s taken it national for us and it’s given us a completely different profile, one that I’m very very grateful for.

Fly: You do a lot of work in South East London as well as here, with Millwall fans, notably Jason Pickering don’t you?

CC: Yeah, well Jason is coming on the climb as well which is great and I’m really chuffed that he has chosen to come. Ian from Millwall as well, so I’m really pleased that we have all the links from all the various places. As well as myself, Craig and Jeff there’s another 10/12 really good men coming on the climbing trip, I’m really looking forward to it. As well as it being a huge challenge it will hopefully be one of those lifetime things you look back on and say “yeah, I did that!”

Fly: Have you ever done anything like this before?

CC: No, no I’m completely wet behind the ears. I’ve got no idea what I’ve put myself forward for. I do tend to keep myself at a reasonable level of fitness but this has got absolutely nothing to do with fitness, this is about altitude and whether your body is ready to go that high. It’s just short of 5000 metres above sea level so I think it’ll be a big challenge to get to the top but, fingers crossed. Finger crossed, I can take a little Dragon Fly and leave it at the top of Kilimanjaro.

Fly: You were a good team player; this is about team work isn’t it?

CC: Yeah it could be, I mean at the end of the day we are helping each other, to help the Finlay Cooper Fund, help other people. I’m really looking forward to it, I really am.

Fly: Two weeks ago you made big donation to Teesside children’s charities…

CC: Yeah we’re continually looking to make donations, I think in the current climate some of the people we have helped in the past, certainly the hospices, are finding it very hard to raise funds. So what we’ve done this year, which is probably slightly different, we’ve kind of put a figure to the hospices to just help with running costs. Normally, we supply equipment which we have done with Daisy Chain in Stockton, but with Zoe’s Place, The Butterwick Children’s Hospice and Demelza Children’s Hospice in South East London it’s more about them struggling to keep funds raised to keep these places open. So this year has been slightly different from that point of view but it’s something we are really pleased to be able to do.

Fly: I Guess actually just tagging their names to publicity just reminds people that these places constantly need money…

CC: With all due respect to ourselves we are very fortunate; everything we have done in the last 6 years has been fantastically well supported. The fundraisers at Zoe’s Place and at the Butterwick, they’re constantly fundraising 12 months a year so I know they’re having it hard. So as I say, slightly different this year but we’re happy to help.

Fly: So this is in June isn’t it?

CC: Yeah, June 7th through to the 16th. We fly out on the 7th and fly back on the 16th hopefully in one piece, with Kilimanjaro conquered.



Fly: Chris Kamara climbed Kilimanjaro a couple of years ago, did he offer much advice?

JS: Yes he did, he said don’t do it! No, he didn’t, he said that it was a fantastic experience and one of the toughest weeks of his life and that he wouldn’t do it again but he recommended it, once in a life time experience. But he made no bones about it; it was going to be tough.

Fly: What in particular is tough about the trek?

JS: It’s tough because it’s 19,000 feet, there’s no way you can train for that amount of altitude. You know Teesside University have got their altitude tent but I live along way from here now so basically it’s going to be long walks, which I do anyway. I think I’m relatively physically fit; the one thing you can’t do anything about is the altitude. You can take some precautions but if it gets you, it gets you. And that’s that.

Fly: A lot of people do this challenge, but there’s a percentage in every expedition that the altitude gets to them…

JS: There is yeah, there are tablets for it and you can go to the altitude tents and things like that but if you get it and get it badly then the advice is you turn back. I think everyone gets an element of it you know there is no doubt. Colin, Craig and I and a few of the other lads have been joking around about it this morning but I think there will be times on the way up there when we will feel a bit ropy, it’s just a question of to what degree.

Fly: And obviously it’s a team thing isn’t it…

JS: Yeah it is, I think it’s a state of mind. The physical challenge, I think we’ll all be able to cope with that, but it is a state of mind because conditions are going to be pretty unpleasant. I’m a southern softy these days, a 58-year-old southern softy as well. I’m not used to sleeping in a tent on a hard floor, and I’m not used to not being able to have a bath or a shower and I’m not used to not being able to have a beer. Those are the things you have to get tuned into. Look it’s a week, a week for a fantastic cause, just keep going. I’m sure we’ll all support each other.

Fly: It is a fantastic cause, the Finlay Cooper Trust isn’t it?

JS: Yeah, fantastic cause. You know I have kids of my own so it’s a subject close to my heart. If we can raise a 6 figure number to help local hospices in particular then that’s a fantastic cause. I’m lucky because I have a little bit of profile, that I don’t really deserve because I was never a footballer or earned a living out of football effectively, it’s nice to be able to give back. And have a good time as well by the way; you have to take that chance.

Fly: It’s a personal challenge as well isn’t it?

JS: Yeah, look it’s not something I ever thought about doing. I’m not an adventurer, I’m not a trekker. My idea of doing something adventurous is going to a football match at Millwall, which was pretty dangerous. But I’ve never done anything like this. In saying that I think I’d rather go up Kilimanjaro than do that again! I’m only joking, Jason one of the guys coming with us is a big Millwall fan.

Fly: Which do you think is the biggest achievement, you getting to the top of Kilimanjaro or Hartlepool escaping relegation?

JS: Well, we’ve both got our mountains to climb haven’t we? I think their achievement would be greater, the greatest footballing escape probably of all time. You think to how hopeless it all seemed and how far behind we were; now suddenly there’s just a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. There is still a long way to go, we’re going to need some great results between now and the end of the season. But it’s not impossible, not impossible. And I think that’s what every Pools fan would have said at Christmas, that it was impossible so you know who knows?

Fly: As Middlesbrough fans know, everything can change after Christmas…

JS: Yeah, I tell you I don’t get to see much of Boro but obviously I watched the live game when they were away at Leicester and they were absolutely fantastic that night and I thought, this is a side that’s going up.  Just hasn’t worked out so far has it, big shame.

Kilimanjaro Finlay Cooper Expedition


The Chapman Family Georgian Birthday

The Chapman FamilyInvite The Chapman Family to your birthday party and they will make a right mess of the place; glitter, space dust, burst balloons all over the floor afterwards. But it is well worth it for the lasting aftertaste of an intense and immense experience from a band that go from strength to strength and idea to idea.

Last weekend The Georgian Theatre was celebrating 20 years as a music venue with a gig of rare quality. The studious looking Bisons got the show on the road, the driving beat and anguished gritty voice contrast beautifully with the ringing tightly controlled guitar. A three-piece that put real rhythm into their math punk. Have a listen to their superb song, Not Lucid, available as a free download online.

Sax on the balcony is not the name of a new cocktail but the amazing sight of north east super group B>E>A>K’s saxophone player playing high up on the balcony above the audience. Disguised in their different coloured bird masks B>E>A>K pile on the power in their hardcore instrumentals. With plenty of brass and percussion to the fore, the band are a bundle of energy as well as feathers. The perfect uplifting band for the discerning party goer.

The Chapman Family entered the stage after a sinister silent film fluttered across the red velvet curtains. Dressed in white shirts ties and braces and with singer Kingsley’s face encased in white greasepaint they were clearly here for a performance. With their sleeves rolled up they also clearly meant business. What followed was an hour of sustained onslaught on the senses. Aggressively the words were spat out, no more lies; this is the death of truth. Those words were stampeding over a wall of sound, with gothic keyboards clipping through the blistering guitars, all set to a jaunty, rockabilly beat. Bright lights splintered into strobes. Dry ice bathed the scene. A dramatic torture chamber cut through by Kingsley’s impassioned appeals. Confrontational and highly theatrical, from the heat of battle but also from the heart.

The Chapman Family  Pop and Kingsley

The current free download, “Adult” sat perfectly in this dissection of our Cruel Britannia. Yet by the forthcoming single, “This One’s For Love” The Chapman Family had railed in the all out attack and rolled over to expose a more tender side Perhaps.

You can never be certain with The Chapman Family. We ought to expect the unexpected from any gig by a band that like to keep us guessing. The Chapman Family rocked the old place to its 18th century foundations ending the night in exuberant excess. A fabulous performance for a special landmark evening. The Chapman Family play cruel to be kind.

Photos – Tracy Hyman www.tracyhymanphotography.co.uk/

Twitter: @pinkpopple


Teesside-Naturally – Dennis Roddam

Award winning local wildlife artist Dennis Roddam is sick of people knocking Middlesbrough and if we allow ourselves to look through his eyes we too can be inspired by the natural world at work all around us.

A new exhibition by award-winning local wildlife artist Dennis Roddam is now open at Middlesbrough’s Dorman Museum. Born in Newport in the 1940s and moving as a boy to East Middlesbrough in 1952 Dennis was inspired by his childhood adventures walking into the hills from his Thorntree home. He would be fascinated by the birds, mammals, reptiles and insects that he found along his way. On visits to his gran’s house in Grove Hill he would drop into the Dorman and his imagination would be fired up by the sight of the lion and the stuffed birds and animals.

A Fitter by trade Dennis continued to break away from work and go out into the field and develop his artistry. Now he finds he has more time to devote to his depictions of the natural world many of which are on display upstairs at the Dorman Museum.

There are woodcuts, lino cuts, watercolours and some charming arts and crafts William Morris inspired prints onto ceramic tiles. These highly decorative designs include gannets, spotted on a Bempton Cliffs visited from Primrose Valley. Eiders first seen at the Nelson Room of the Dorman. Salmon leaping from the Esk, Dennis is delighted that salmon have now returned to the cleaned up River Tees. Old Ralph’s Cross is painted, just a short hop from Young Ralph’s Cross on the middle of the North Yorks Moors, a resource on our doorstep.

Then there is a bottle green predator, Mister Pike, a tile painting inspired by Dennis’ uncle’s tall tales about the Albert Park lake pike. A beautiful patterned adder wriggles amongst the ferns and a grass snake camouflaged in the vegetation were once feared and still much maligned.

Autumn Harvest perhaps sums up Dennis outlook on the natural world. He was waiting near a hedge one November, a time of the year when nature is supposed to be shutting down. He peered into that hedge and saw “a hive of activity.” You don’t have to go to Africa as Dennis once did with work to be captivated by the natural world it is quite literally on your doorstep.

All the work is available to buy at very reasonable prices from a man who has lately received national recognition as a finalist in the BBC’s Wildlife Artist of the Year competition and as a regular exhibitor at the annual National Exhibition of Wildlife Art.

The exhibition runs until July 21, 2013. I would heartily recommend it for anyone that likes taking a closer look at their surroundings. In Dennis Roddam we have a Middlesbrough artist to be proud of whose love of nature and wildlife was first stirred from being brought up in the Boro.