Thursday, 11 December 2008

Davy Hammond 1928-2008

David Hammond passed away near the end of August. I heard so a few weeks after the event, and it's only today that I was properly put in mind to have a look about at some of the obituaries. I see the BBC ran a good obituary and a collection of tributes, and at the foot of both of those pages is a lovely little video that offers glimpses of his singing and filmmaking and a remembrance from Seamus Heaney. Another of the friends remembering him therein comments that essentially Davy was all about taking time when time otherwise moved too fast: this is why Hammond was such a great man for noticing things, seeing their value, passing that on.
I was introduced to Davy by his friend the great Matthew Evans, subsequently Lord Evans of Temple-Guiting - the kind of distinction in life about which Davy was very wry. The one occasion Davy and I spent good time together in Belfast, round 2000, we managed to drink a bottle of Irish whiskey right down to 'the heel', as he called it, and I've used that fine expression of good near-drunk bottles in honour of him even since.
Anyone can look at film or recordings of Davy Hammond and see that he was beautifully gifted and wise and a life-affirming presence in this world. He could pick up a guitar very casually and charm a packed room, but in that charm he was instructive - he was incredibly canny under the avuncular exterior, could cut to the core of things with a slight remark, which must be part of why the likes of Seamus Deane and Tom Paulin treasured his friendship - and the sharpness under the warmth didn't seem to me any kind of a ruse on his part, in fact it's a quality intrinsic to the very best of Belfastmen, as Davy Hammond was and will always be.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Esquire (January) now on stands: includes RTK on HST

Plenty good meat inside the new issue. (BTW there's also a female on the cover this month, which is always welcome, periodically.) I'm looking forward to settling down with a long piece about the so-called 'Natwest Three'. Elsewhere my own contribution is a review of the previously mentioned Hunter Thompson documentary Gonzo by Alex Gibney, which I recommend wholeheartedly. I suppose my chief feeling about it is in the following extracts:
'Gibney shows great footage of Thompson on the stump [during his run for sheriff of Pitkin County], repaying his debt of love to the ‘long fine flash’ of generational energy he’d found in the 1960s; also living out his profound conviction that if one has a serious beef with politicians then one has to get actively involved in politics...'
And yet...:
'In a way, Thompson was too pure for workaday politics. (Gary Hart dismisses him as ‘infantile’.) His drug intake too, however awe-inspiring, clearly generated stores of fear and loathing in him that he couldn’t wholly process...'

Monday, 8 December 2008

Northern Lights Film Festival 2008

Had a good laugh and a decent drink on Tyneside last Saturday, at my favourite festival in the whole wide world, where I've done a turn every year since its inception back in 2003. In the afternoon I conducted what felt like an interesting public discussion with Steven Sheil, the smart and talented director of the deeply unsettling low-budget horror film Mum and Dad, which gets an all-windows release on Boxing Day. Also on the panel, a great guy called David Pope who makes inspired horror/comedy shorts, including Gasoline Blood. In the evening at the closing do hosted in some style by the Baltic Gallery I handed over a Script Development Award, the jury of which I had been part, to a clearly outstanding young writer/director, Deola Folarin. The runner-up Simon Fellowes was also on hand, and I had the pleasure of telling Simon I own a few 'records' he made back when he recorded as Intaferon. Other good, good people it was great to see up there by the broad majestic Tyne included the Better Things team of Samm Haillay and Duane Hopkins, the playwright Fiona Evans, critic Jason Solomons, distributor Eve Gabereau, and the festival's stalwarts Patrick Collerton, Mark Dobson and Melanie Iredale. To 2009, then...

Sean Penn's 'Mountain of Snakes'

Sean Penn's reportage of visits to Venezuela and Cuba, and encounters there with Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro, was published in two parts a fortnight ago on the Huffington Post under the title 'Mountain of Snakes': here are Part 1 and Part 2. I'm rather surprised there hasn't been more media attention paid to these, though the blogosphere seems to have been buzzing at a low level. For a while I had the impression that Sean was minded to make this material into the stuff of something larger, between covers, but I'm glad they've surfaced now for our attention in any case.

Hang the DJ: some Willie on Willie action

Over on Hang the DJ's blog they just began a week of guest entries devoted to Musical Moments of 2008, with one post a day from five of the book's esteemed contributors: Peter Murphy, Richard Milward, Willy Vlautin, Laura Barton and Tom McRae. The justly celebrated Mr Vlautin is first up today, talking about Willie Nelson, dontcha know?

Newcastle United 2 Stoke City 2: living the nightmare still...

How long, o Lord, how long? As notes quite rightly, "the Stoke fans captured the true story of the game when they sang, "2-0 and you f***ed it up.""