This is Robert Llewellyn's personal blog. The views contained in here are mine alone and do not reflect the views or opinions of anyone else I work with or for. Just thought I ought to make that clear.

Sunday
Jan122014

Clever Old Dog

Just been to a lovely party held by my old pals Roland and Claire Muldoon.

They organise comedy events all over the place, they used to run the Hackney Empire Theatre in London and before that they ran comedy gigs back in the 1980's when I started pratting about on stage.

And before that in the 1970's they ran a political theatre company called CAST, and before that when they ran wierd 'Art workshops' in London in the 1960's an American guitarist used to hang out at their flat in London. His name was Jimi Hendrix.

So they have quite a history, and what's great about Roland is, he's actually older than me. Result!

But that's nothing, Roland owns a legendary dog called Sid.

Here's Sid's hit YouTube video.

 

 

Wednesday
Jan012014

Here's to 2014.

Is it wrong that I’m not a big fan of the whole , three-ah, two-ah, one-ah, Happy New Year! shenanigans?

The anticipation of the midnight hour, the clock clicking from one year to another.

Well, okay, if you believe in the ‘Gregorian’ calendar, otherwise known as the Christian or Western calendar that was only finally agreed on in Europe in 1582, that is what happens, so it’s now 2014.

If you are Armenian it’s the year 1463, for your Buddhist’s it’s 2558, the Assyrian one is 6764 and for Chinese it’s 4710 so it’s all a bit random.

In my youth when I’d only ever lived on this island off the coast of Western Europe I, like most people, read a lot into this moment.

It was somehow magical that time could move on, that one moment you were in one historical period, the next moment, boom, it was all new.

Then I grew up and attended various New Years Eve parties which were often fun, sometimes a little lively but generally good humored and harmless.

I can’t remember all of them, there was one in a wonderful farmhouse outside Builth Wells in Wales, one in a Cottage in the Lake District and three in an amazing warehouse space in Bermondsey, London.

Then I started working on New Years Eve and that may be where the rot set in.

A night in the Melkweg club in Amsterdam where The Joeys, the comedy group I was a member of were performing.

That was a hard night to forget.

We were doing a one-week run of our show at the club, the audiences were fantastic, super cool Dutch people who laughed and clapped.

Until New Years Eve and then it was a very different atmosphere, much drunker and more rowdy, we had to work very hard to keep the show going.

We finished just before midnight when some performers from another show appearing at the venue did a ‘streak for New Year.’

For those of you privileged enough to have been born after the fashion for ‘streaking’ had passed, the activity consisted of taking all your clothes off and running around naked. Men and women had done it on football and cricket pitches since the 1970’s and oh, how we laughed.

Anyway, I was bowing at the end of a sweaty and difficult performance and the back of my hand brushed something small, warm and soft. It was the penis of a man called Jango Edwards, a truly extraordinary American performer who had run onto the stage to wish the highly excitable crowd a Happy New Year.

On another New Years eve, the last time I ever performed on the auspicious night, we were appearing at the Albany Empire in South East London, again we had to work extra hard to keep the show going, the audience were drunk, rowdy and just wanted to party. Instead they had to sit and watch 4 earnest young men doing their comedy act.

I spent that special moment as the clocks went from 1984 to 85 sitting in the dressing room with Arthur Smith moaning about life, show biz and the state of the nation.

Oh the joy we had.

Then I went to Australia and it was all very odd. I had my New Years Eve a full 10 hours before the population of the UK. By the time they were doing the countdown in London I was having my breakfast in the hot early morning sun.

That made the moment even more random.

Since having children I haven’t really noticed New Years Eve, I’ve generally been in bed because I would have to get up early to give my lovely babies their breakfast at 6:30am.

Oh, the joy they bring.

Then those divine babies grow up and start imbibing substantial quantities of fermented vegetable liquids. That can be messy.

Last night my daughter had a New Years Eve party at our house, only a handful of truly delightful teenagers attended and they were all lovely. Okay, they were a little the worse for wear by midnight but there were no calamities and everyone seemed happy.

I was asleep as the midnight bell tolled in the village church. I don’t remember anything about it, and d’you know what. It’s fine.

Now I don’t ‘hate’ New Years Eve like I used to. It’s an excuse for a big party, have fun, do the countdown, cheer, get pissed, wake up on January the 1st feeling like a dog’s scrotum has been resting in your mouth all night and compare notes.

I cooked the teenagers a load of bacon sandwiches this morning and some of them managed to eat them.

It’s all very peaceful now.

So, here’s to a wonderful 2014.

 

Tuesday
Dec242013

Happy General Stuff

Just want to wish everyone who bothers to read the random updates on my blog a very happy Christmas/Winter Solstice/Holiday season thing

Here's to a wonderful, exciting, challenging, technologically advancing, peaceful and emotionally stable 2014.

And here, in the modern tradition of the season are my images of 2013.



Monday
Dec162013

I'm an idiot, I still love the BBC

I have an abiding memory of my early work on Red Dwarf.

Back in 1989 we used to rehearse at the BBC’s rehearsal rooms at West Acton in London, we’d then all pile on a bus and trudge up to Manchester to record the shows at the BBC’s Oxford Road studios.

When we were there members of the Manchester crew told us that BBC management had just spent over £1 million refurbishing the offices on the top floor.

The budget for Red Dwarf (in terms of viewing figures the most successful show ever produced for BBC 2) was nowhere near that.

I had a quick look around the offices with Danny John Jules one night, we didn’t break in, we were escorted by BBC staff so it was all above board.

Having refitted a couple of buildings myself I knew an expensive plug socket when I saw one.

The hundreds of plug sockets in the BBC Manchester offices where flush, brushed steel wall sockets, the most expensive on the market. Those offices were very high end, very swish.

This is nothing surprising, why should BBC employees have to work in damp wooden sheds with antiquated wiring. Of course they shouldn’t.

But a little reminder, we paid for them.

However Manchester residents will be well aware of the fact that these offices are no more. They’ve been demolished because the BBC have moved to even more plush, even more expensive new development at Salford Quays.

So, okay, the BBC spent a million quid on posh offices in 1989 and then threw it all away.

Recently there’s been a deluge of stories of BBC executives getting staggering pay offs after a few weeks having lunch and ‘making management decisions’ like ‘where to have lunch.’

George Entwistle (who’s he?) worked at the BBC as director general for 54 days and got a £470,000 hand out when he left.

Ker-ching!

Now, classify me as a low end, embittered ex BBC employee if you want to. I should point out that Red Dwarf was an independent production made for the BBC so although I’ve done a few kosher BBC gigs (Bottom) I’ve never been a BBC employee.


I bloody wish I had, give me a pay-off, half of George Entwistle’s, I’ll be well chuffed.

The danger with this easy target BBC bashing is of course that it plays into the hands of the ultra right wing British press, the Daily Fails, the Torygraphs, the vicious boot grinding into the face of the British working class otherwise known as the Sun.

Behind them, News International and the Murdoch empire and just in case you are wondering, they hate the BBC more than anyone. Why would that be? Beats me.

They all hate the BBC and contrary to the tone of this blog, I do not.

I think it’s a vitally important part of British life and needs defending.

The people who actually make programs at the BBC are in a totally different category, they make programs which is, after all, what the BBC is about.

But it can often appear that this activity is crushed down by this vast, amorphous, self serving management structure that absorbs billions of pounds a year doing what?

As an outsider, even someone ostensibly in the industry like me, it is utterly baffling.

What do these bloody boring people do all day?

I’ve never met any of them, they make ‘management decisions’ I assume.

They guide the BBC, they oversee the organisation, they make editorial decisions, I don’t know, I’m making it up as I go along.

Why do they need to be paid so much?

The answer is always ‘We need to attract top talent.’

Piss off!

Everyone who’s held a key job at the BBC goes on to insanely overpaid jobs in large media companies all over the world. It’s a brilliant calling card, ‘I used to run the BBC.'

So I am suggestion they should be paid half what the people who actually produce television and radio shows make, they should work in a damp shed in an unfashionable part of Doncaster, they should all cycle to work and have meetings in tents.

Then I’d respect them.

It does feel like a particularly ugly part of a much wider malaise in the ‘developed world.’

A very few people pay themselves a truly sickening amount of money because they have wheedled their slimy way into a position where they decide how much to pay themselves.

We as license payers fork out to support the BBC and they are literally laughing in our faces for being such dumb suckers.

This government hate the BBC, the previous government hated the BBC, any powerful people who want to exert their will over the rest of us hate the BBC and these few twats at the top are making sure the BBC’s life expectancy is seriously curtailed.

This government obviously want to flog the BBC to News International, just like they’re flogging the hospitals we paid for to their dodgy mates in private medicine. 

We should be angry and shouty about it, we should make it clear to BBC executives that they need to show us in very clear terms exactly what it is they do for these ridiculous sums. 

For more details on the truly appalling levels of fat bastard paydeals, have a look at this

 

Wednesday
Dec112013

Lore

Having grown up with a father who fought in World War Two gave me an insight into that terrible conflict.

If I did an exam on European history from 1939 to ’45 I’d probably get quite a high score.

If I did an exam on European history from 1945-47 I’d be a total flop.

However that period, particularly the first year after the cessation of hostilities has held an increasing interest for me.

What happens when men stop shooting each other?

My dad wasn’t much use on this period as he was flying planes around India immediately after the war.

An old family friend who recently passed away was an officer in the British Army stationed in German during and immediately after the war. His photograph album was fascinating and horrifying.

As a man in his mid twenties he arrived at the gates of a camp somewhere in Germany and witnessed first hand a truly nightmarish vision of Fascism.

I will never forget the day he let me look at the pictures, I would have been 13 or 14 years old and it’s not something you can forget.

There is something far more personal seeing pictures taken by someone you know, small black and white Kodak images stuck in the classic 1950’s family album with the little red triangle stickers holding them in place.

Piles of bodies as high as a house, rows after rows of bodies on the ground, the shrunken forms of the emaciated living staring at the camera.

But he also had pictures of charming towns in rural Germany where the scars of war were barely in evidence, often towns quite close to the camps.

‘Surely they must have known it was happening?’ I asked

‘They all knew.’ He said grimly. ‘They claimed they didn’t, but of course they knew.’

Then I recently watched a wonderful German film on Netflix.

It’s called Lore and stars a very talented young German actress called Saskia Rosendahl.

It is set in May 1945 just after the fall of the Third Reich.

Her father is an SS officer, her mother is a fervent Nazi and the kids are all perfect Aryan specimens.

Lore is very much a young girl’s view of the obscenities of war, of a young soul emerging from the vile corruption of the Nazi mind-set.

The film gives a taste of the utter devastation, confusion and chaos that must have been experienced by the people of Europe in those first few months, terrible losses, chronic hunger, revenge killings, mass denial and the eyes of the world looking at you from such moral high ground you couldn’t hope to reach.

So when I visit Germany now, which I love to do, it is with enormous respect at what they have achieved since this hideous period of their history.

Although my generation of Brits seem still obsessed with the conflict, still making Heil Hitler salutes at the very mention of Germany, the German people have moved on.

No longer in denial but looking ahead and achieving amazing things.

I haven’t of course mentioned the Russians who made victory over the Third Reich possible, or the mind numbing cruelty of the Stalin regime, or the terrible crimes inflicted on the German population by Soviet forces, that’s a whole other story.

But if you get the chance to watch Lore, take it.