Fresh New Web Design

Like the new format? We’ve been doing some work on the design of the website recently, well, to be honest, when I say we, I mean Steve, my friend who works over at Jump Web in Wiltshire. He knows what he’s doing and is very creative. I’ll be the first to admit that the design of the site was looking pretty tired, it was put up in a rush a couple of years ago and hasn’t really had any TLC since, the occasional new web page has been added, and even they have been pretty few and far between. So I came to the conclusion that I should use it or loose it and asked Steve to give me a hand.

We had a chat about how I want the site to look, the main criteria is that it’s clean, easy to read and navigate, plus I wanted images to stand out on pages, I’m planning to start updating it much more less is bestregularly with art related stories so want the images to really jump out of the page.

The conclusion we came to over the actual design aspects was that it could well fall by the wayside again at some point in the future (yes I know that’s not the most optimistic attitude, but it’s realistic) so he didn’t want to spend too much time on design until he knew for sure that it would be updated, so suggested using a template which was already available and just tweaking it slightly for the time being, which is exactly what you now see.

I do like the clean lines and simplicity of it and I bet there are numerous design agencies who have charged their clients quite a lot of money for sites not entirely dissimilar to this one. I actually prefer it to the Jump Design website itself, although he assures me that he is in the process of simplifying that one too (could this be the future of web design? soon we will all just have one font, in one colour, with one header on a plain white background) Hmm, that would upset the big web design agencies!

simple design

So the next thing is to start working on the content, I’ve plenty of ideas and with the new plain colour scheme, images are going to be big and bold. I can also add things like additional menu’s and such to the footer so I’ll be making that much better over time, so the entire website looks shiny, new and loved again!

Has the entertainment industry suffered?

I have friends who work in a wide range of industries from Construction to music and solicitors to beekeepers (yes really I do know a professional beekeeper!) all of whom have said how their particular industries have suffered during the last 5 years of the recession or credit crunch, whatever you choose to call it.

But how has this impacted the entertainment overall? Now I appreciate that this is a much bigger question than I could comprehensively cover in one post, so I may be back to elaborate in the future, but for now, here are my general observations.

  • Theater Productions – Have had a bit of a mixed impact dependent on exactly what they are. For example, the big shows seem to be carrying on regardless, I suppose their audience are predominantly more well off and are therefore less financially affected anyway, likewise the small local productions who are generally seen by friends and family of the cast and are usually very cheap anyway are also unaffected. The ones which do seem to be suffering somewhat are those which sit somewhere between the two, often attended by normal people but who need to travel to get there.muddy at a music festival
  • Music Festivals – Have certainly suffered in the last few years, but this is probably also due to the weather, we haven’t really had a good long summer since the recession started. On occasion some events have been cancelled due to flooding of the sites, but I know from personal experience that a lot of people hold off until the last minute before buying tickets, to see what the weather will be like and then only go if it’s looking fine. This has no doubt had an impact on numbers.
  • Corporate Events – Have certainly been scaled down to some degree. Probably very much dependent on the success of the company overall and how much budget they have for events. An example being Sage UK, they used to host huge annual events for all their partners, but even a FTSE100 company has restricted these more recently, both in the sense of numbers attending and the entertainment provided.

Overall I’m sure that the industry overall and the smaller ones which support it, from the legal teams who write contracts to the guitar string manufacturers and the make up professionals to the PA and lighting rig hire companies, have all seen a difference in the last few years. So lets hop that things will start to improve again in 2013!

Is Photography a True Art Form?

When you consider art, we tend to think about the obvious, predominantly paintings, but also sculpture and to a lesser degree music (as that really is one of the true art forms), however photography isn’t something which naturally comes to mind, so is it really an art form?

There are convincing arguments on both sides, one claiming that the photographer has merely captured the moment, even though it could be a once in a lifetime moment, however they have not created the moment and therefore can’t be considered an artist in the true sense of the word. The other side however would most certainly argue that the photographer has created the image and is therefore a true creator of the item (in this case a photograph), both sides seem to have a valid argument, although I must admit I lean towards the latter of the two.

The reason for this in my own mind is quite clear really, a photographer spends time preparing the shot (or even if they don’t) to create something unique, original and usually, although not always, pleasant to the eye. The resulting images will speak for them self and if it’s a picture which is worth viewing it will sell, if not it won’t, simple.

So to take that a step further and move away from the more intentionally artistic shots, how about a typical wedding photographer, are they an artist? I still say yes, they can capture some fantastic moments from the wedding day, those which the bride and groom may have been a part of, or possibly were not, either way, they may not have noticed it happen as such. Provided the images are good, they will be bought and are therefore an art form which someone is prepared to pay money for.

That being said, if the bride did not end up with some great shots of her in a wonderful wedding dress, there would be hell to pay!

The camera and equipment used by the typical wedding photographer is digital these days, this is ideal, as it enables the person standing behind the camera to take a multitude of shots and save them onto a memory card or hard drive, so they can then go through them at a later stage and forward over the best ones.

So to summarise my feeling is that if someone is creating something them self and call it art, then it is art, regardless if they make a sculpture out of clay or stone, and likewise regardless if they take an arty picture or wedding photographs.

A Day in the Life of a Function Band – Part 2

The journey was pretty incident free, and after a couple of boring hours on the M5 we all enjoyed a fabulous fry-up at the utterly brilliant Woodleigh Coach House on the A30 near Cheriton Bishop. This is a superb family-run B&B, Café and Tea Rooms – pleasant surroundings with friendly staff and delicious home cooked food. I would highly recommend this hidden gem to anyone needing a stop-off on their travels.

Back on the road, and we found the venue with no problems – well done Satnav!  The best man welcomed the band to the family farmhouse home, and showed us where to set up. The barn had divided into two sections – the first was the dining area with circular tables and chairs and a long table to serve the buffet. The main high roofed area to be used for the band , bar and dancing been beautifully decorated with home-made bunting, wild cow parsley flower displays which smelt divine, and bails of straw placed strategically which softened the harsh concrete floor and added a real sense of country comfort.

A stage had been provided in the performance area, and so after unloading both vans, we set up our gear ready for the 6 piece band performance. A quick sound check confirmed everything was working, we balanced individual instrument volumes to ensure a good mix, and then popped on some cool jazz background music whilst wedding guests entered, mingled and then took their seats ready for the wedding breakfast. We tidied up the stage area, taped down leads, hid our boxes and then made our way to the B&B to settle in, get changed and be ready for the evening performance. I quickly rang my son to say hello, catch up on his news, and of course send my love and tell him I miss him.

We made our way back down to the barn to perform, waited for speeches to finish and then got the party started! The band played the Bride and Groom’s first dance request live (You’re just too good to be true – Andy Williams)  and then blasted out two rip-roaring sets of party classics to a packed dance-floor!  The brass section definitely makes a difference to the band’s overall sound, and hearing them play together in harmony on soul tracks such as on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ and Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ is amazing. The combination of the sax and trumpet is a wonderful addition to our standard line-up, allowing us to include other tracks that feature brass such as ‘Move on Up’ (Curtis Mayfield), ‘I Just Wanna Make Love to You’ (Etta James) and they can also be incredibly effective on more modern tracks such as Beyonce’s ‘Crazy Right Now’.

The evening was thoroughly enjoyed by all. We received a standing ovation from the wedding guests, and after much kissing, hugging and thank-you’s, the Bride and Groom made their way to their Hotel and Mum provided the band members with hot Cornish Pasties! Eventually people started to wend their way home and close family guests climbed onto a classic 1950 bus which was taking them back to St Agnes.  We packed down, (slowly because we were all shattered)  loaded up the vans and arrived back at the B&B at 2.15am. We watched TV for a while with cups of hot chocolate and then got our heads down. Rock n’ roll eh!

Breakfast was perfect, and we set off back home at 10.30am. Unfortunately Woodleigh Coach House was too soon in our journey to stop, so we ended up at Taunton Deane Services for a quick comfort break and a large Costa, and we arrived back in Swindon at 2.30 on Sunday afternoon.

My son was waiting at home with his Grandad who had looked after him in our absence, and I then spent some quality time with him for the rest of the afternoon playing a Wii game with him. You guessed it, Pirates of the Caribbean.

A Day in the Life of a Function Band – Part 1

I had fallen exhausted into bed at 4.15am that morning after a thoroughly enjoyable 14 hour gig in Greenwich the night before, the worst of which was the 3 and a half hour drive back along a very stormy, waterlogged and dangerous M4 – dangerous due to continuously having to overtake the obligatory middle lane hoggers with broken tail lights of course-  and so was not best pleased when I was rudely awakened at 7.15 by a full size orchestra ripping out the theme to Pirates of the Caribbean with supreme gusto and a ridiculous amount of energy for that time in the morning.

I suppose I should have felt relieved that it was only my 10 year old son playing his new Wii game at full volume rather than Simon Rattle’s musical horde in my 4ft square spare bedroom, but suffice to say I was feeling just a teeny weeny bit tired and ever so slightly annoyed that by the time I hadn’t had my planned lie-in. Well, as a good mother I popped my head round the door to say good morning to my youngest offspring. Then the usual ‘could do better mum‘ decided to catch another 30 mins snooze before the sound of battling Lego Pirates had literally driven me to the point of insanity. And possible murder.

After several hot caffeine injections and a burnt offering cleverly disguised as a piece of marmite toast I began to think about getting ready for the gig in Cornwall that night. I say that night – The band were due to leave Swindon at 1.00pm, and it was only 8.30am. Loads of time.  I mooched about a bit, sort of tidied up the house (a cat’s lick and a promise as my wonderful mother in law used to say), had a shower, straightened my hair and then decided to tackle my worst hated job in the whole world. I ironed the clothes worn but now washed after last weekends gigs – two stage dresses for myself plus a black shirt and trousers for guitarist hubby. I really hate ironing.

Next was to load up the van with the usual gig stuff. So I go through the usual check-list, contract, check. Mobile phone with all relevant numbers punched in, check. Purse with cash and card , check.  Directions (printed AA route-planner guide, UK Map and Satnav with charger) – check. Gig bags –check. 4 bottles of tap water – check. A stupid amount of diet red bull cans – check.

The gig that evening was a wedding, Pop of Ages 6 piece line up had been booked to play two hours from 8.30 to 11.30 with CD disco music for breaks and up until 12.00. It was a long way to Cornwall, and the client had kindly arranged for us to stop over at a wonderful B&B for the night (   Trewithian  Portscatho Truro TR2 5EJ.) I would highly recommend this place to anyone – friendly owners, spacious clean and comfortable, fab breakfast, en-suite facilities and is situated near Portscatho and St. Mawes on the magnificent Roseland Peninsula in South Cornwall.

Anyway, that meant I had to pack overnight bags and enough food and drink for me and hubby for 8 hours worth of traveling too. After much debate about how many spare pairs of socks and pants he should pack, and spending 30 minutes looking for the mobile phone charger – overnight bag & anything else we could possibly need ,check.

At 1.00 our child minder (grandad), singer and the bands drummer arrived. We loaded up some extra moving heads and spectres,  checked oil, water, high vis jackets and chocolate rations. All seems well, so looking very smart and professional in our logo T-shirts we head off to Cornwall, convoy style.

Read part 2 ……

Music and Film Pub Quiz Questions

I got collared to do a pub quiz last weekend, I’m not quite sure why!  Possibly not for my intellectual wit, probably more likely because the usual quizmaster was on holiday.  Anyway, here are the questions on music and film, just in case anyone can reuse them:

1.    Which childrens TV programme was first broadcast in 1969, had a further 25 episodes made,  then an additional but final episode was a four minute election special on October 10th 1974? – – – The Clangers
2.    What is the combination to the briefcase in Pulp Fiction? – – – 666
3.    In the Tarzan films, what was Jane’s last name? – – – Parker (Porter in the books)
4.    What role was actor Elmo Lincoln playing when he stabbed his co-star to death while filming a 1918 movie? – – – Tarzan (He stabbed a lion that attacked him)
5.    The car in the Knightrider series was called KITT. What does this acronymn stand for? – – – Knight Industries Two Thousand
6.    Which famous Hollywood actor was buried in his Dracula costume? – – – Bela Lugosi
7.    Who is the only character in Eastenders who has been in it since it was first aired in February 1985? – – – Ian Beal
8.    Spats Columbo is the bad guy in which popular black and white film? – – – Some Like It Hot
9.    What was the name of Sonny Crockett’s pet alligator in the TV series Miami Vice? – – – Elvis
10.    For each of the following real names, give their stage name:
a: Declan Patrick MacManus (singer-songwriter)
b: Brian Hugh Warner
c: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (singer-songwriter)
d: Maurice Cole
a: Elvis Costello
b: Marilyn Manson
c: Lady Gaga
d: Kenny Everett

Nice Design ?

Just wondering what you think about the new design of the website? It’s been done by a friend of mine Steve.  He is actually a specialist in search engine optimisation at Eco SEO but does dabble with design too, but discussing that and trying to sound like I have a clue what I’m talking about just ain’t gonna happen!

Anyway, he’s installed wordpress which is about the most popular CMS available and is really easy to do, believe me, I watched him do it.  Literally logged into the hosting account, clicked on fantastico, then installed WP from there, it asked for a few details which we added and then it was live.  He installed a few security related plugins and some others for a sitemap and other things which I’ve never heard of, showed me what to do and it’s up and running.

Next we selected a design, there are absolutely millions of them available, but he directed me to a couple of sites and suggested keeping the look of it quite simple, so we picked this one and he had it installed and running in no time whatsoever.

So I’m happy as I can log in now and update posts, include pictures and pretty much do anything I want, even change the design and install SEO plugins at some point, but I guess it’s all one step at a time.

Anyway, I said I would point people in the direction of his website if they need an SEO company or web developer, seeing as he helped me out for free so there we go, job done.

How to Become an Actor

Would it surprise you to learn that the production companies have to go looking for potential actors for all the films and programmes they make, from extras to leading roles and from theatre productions to game show contestants, almost everyone you see on the TV, in a Film or on the stage has probably followed up an advert for a role and been selected in an audition.

Remember that the A listers such as Brad Pitt (sorry I had to get a picture in here of Fight Club, this must be by far his best ever film, with the possible contender of Snatch) or Liz Hurley of course have an agent and companies would approach them, but for the vast majority they have to attend an audition. You probably remember Extras by Ricky Gervais and Steven Marchant, where poor old Barry from Eastenders was the butt of the joke, with his useless agent (played by Steven Marchant) never managing to even get him through the door, let alone actually getting the work.  Well, it doesn’t have to be like this as you can easily go out there and find it for yourself.

There are actually many companies and websites who specialise in finding actors and extras for all manner of productions from being in the background of a period drama shot, to being a Big Brother contestant (and yes I do know they aren’t making it any more, but for the purpose of this write up, I thought it was a good example as everyone has heard of the show and many tens of thousands of people have applied to be on it over the ten years it was running).

All the main TV channels have to go looking for their talent, so why not get yourself in front of them. If you register with the agents you can be on a list of suitable people in a certain area, or for a particular type of show or production.

Remember that when you do go along, you need to be well prepared, exactly as you would for any other type of interview, so if possible research the people involved, the tv channel and the show. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time too, you don’t want to get there late to find that your name was called first and you missed your chance, that would not be ideal, especially if you have spent a lot of time and money getting there.

So, to sign up for uk auditions or acting jobs have a look around and find a company you feel that you can work with, some with specialise in different areas such as film, theatre or TV, but whatever you do, just get yourself to the audition now or you will never end up with the job you want.

Davids Paintings

All of David’s paintings come with a legend, but the legends vary as widely as do his interests. David has painted a series on Mother Nature, portraying her in scenes ranging from her explaining the origin of woodpeckers, to fixing the ozone layer, to flying back from an intergalactic party after hearing that the life on Earth had gotten out of hand. David’s most recent inspirations have come from the field of physics. These paintings, too, come with stories. David’s irreverent sense of humour and history has made these paintings interesting and somewhat controversial


Sofia Martinez, glassware etching

Sofia creates beautiful designs on plates, glasses, and anything else she can get her hands on. Her designs are often inspired by Native American or Mexican folklore.

Click on a miniature picture to see an enlargement:

A native of Austin, Texas, Sofia has been living in Santa Cruz for several years.

For each of her pieces she creates a one-time stencil, so each one is unique. For Valentine’s Day, she is etching complemented sets of champagne glasses. When personalized, these glasses also make great toasting glasses for weddings and anniversaries. She also sells dinner plates, dessert plates, matched sets, wine glasses and assorted baubles.

For questions or to place an order, including custom orders (such as personalizations), you can contact her