Dahn Sahf

Not so long ago I took a week-long journey to the south of England. Catching the bus to London, I got myself mixed up at the service station somewhere near Milton Keynes & got back on the wrong bus. By the time I got to London, pandemonium was about to kick off as a bird on the original bus – which had all my bags – stupidly quipped that I had said my bags contained a bomb. Security staff were just about to shut down Victoria station when I turned up demanding my bags & professing, ‘Im not a terrorist, Im from Burnley.’Not long after, I caught up with me old pal, Charlie, who put me up at his penthouse suite in Tulse Hill.

Charlie Fairclough

Charlie Fairclough

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The Old Bailey

The Old Bailey

Next day I was down to Brighton for a few days stay at the lovely pad of Jo, a girl Id met in Goa. The first night she took me to Tulley’s Farm Shocktober experience, & O my god it was well scary, hoods being put on yer head & led through tunnels full of chainsaw wielding psycopaths… genuinely unnerving.

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After partying with another bird Id met in Goa – the lovely Lula (I think she was number 8 or 9) – I got a wee Mumble mission, unearthing Brightons theaters, before setting off north Jo dropped me off at Crowborough. From there I walked a 7 mile hike along memory land, to Tunbridge Wells, the town where I began work on Axis & Allies back in 2001. It was cool, actually, for I was working on the final draft of the Jesus Jigsaw in the libraries of the south, & it was great to tinker with it in the town where I first took my writing seriously.

Pantiles, Royal Tunbridge Wells

Pantiles, Royal Tunbridge Wells

Clapham Library

Clapham Library

Hammersmith Bridge

Hammersmith Bridge

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Back in London, I had one last night with Charlie & set off walking to Victoria. En route, I stopped at the Latchmere theatre, near my old squat on Dorothy Road, Clapham, and mentioned I might be interested in sending some reviewers in. ‘Who are you’ they asked, ‘the Mumble’ I replied, ‘sure, you gave us our first five star review up in Edinburgh this August.’ That was a moment of pure serendipity, & I didint have the heart to tell them Divine – who reviewed the play – gave everyone 5 stars he so bloody hippyfied!

On Fealan Flot

In recent posts I have shown how Burnley was the site of the great battle of Brunanburh. Of the many clues that place the battle in that corner of East Lancashire was a passage in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle which states that the battle was fought somewhere between 15 & 40 miles from a place that could be navigable by Viking long-boats, from where they would enter the Irish Sea. The only other clue that the poem gives us as to the location of these is that the boats went to sea from a place described as ‘fealan flot,’ which translates something like ‘shingly place where boats can berth.’

The actual translations (from Boswoth & Toller’s Anglo-Saxon Dictionary) are:

Feallan: dusky brown (like all ancient names of colours, indefinite); of shingle

Flot: n. Water deep enough for sustaining a ship

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The above photograph is of Walton Bridge, a lovely grade II listed block of stones which spans the River Ribble in Preston, Lancashire, twenty miles to the west of Burnley. What we can recognize is that the Vikings would have used the Ribble as an entry point from the Irish Sea. Thus, the shingle beach at Walton Bridge is a perfect match for the ‘on fealan flot’ of the Brunanburh campaign. The bridge was built in 1712 on the site of a Roman ford, which makes it a perfect place for the sea-lanes to meet road traffic.

Close by, at Cuerdale, a great hoard of Viking silver was found in the 19th century, dated to roundabout the time of the Battle of Brunanburh (937 AD). Intriguingly, a antique Lancashire custom said that anyone who stood on the south bank of the Ribble at Walton-le-Dale, and looked upriver to Ribchester, would be within sight of the richest treasure in England. After re-examining the evidence, I found the crucial clue that dates the hoard to Athelstan’s reign. It is common knowledge that a number of coins, perhaps as many as 2000, ‘escaped’ the original hoard, rendering impossible an accurate dating. However, before these ‘thefts,’ one of the earliest numistatists to analyze the hoard. Joseph Kenyon (June 10th 1840), recorded a coin of Athelstan himself, as in;

The Anglo-Saxon coins are chiefly of St.Eadmund, Alfred, Edward the elder, and Athelstan; and as the last named monarch died in the 941, the coins have probably been buried for a period of about nine centuries.

Where the Athelstan coins are now, we don’t know, but I expect them to have been part of the 149 given to Queen Victoria as a gift, most of which have dissapeared. Either way, unless Kenyon was lying – which seems improbable – the Cuerdale hoard must now be dated to Athelstan’s time, & its proximity to Walton Bridge makes a connection to Brunanburh quite likely.

The Plains of Othlynn

In my last post I showed how one particular site in Burnley has all the hallmarks of being that of the famous Brunaburh, after which fortification one of the greatest battles to have ever been fought in Britain was named. The discovery formed a vital link in a chain which connects several pieces of historical information, the assemblance of which ultimately hones in on a certain ‘Castle Hill,’ by Towneley Hall in Burnley. In the past, several sites have been offerred for Brunanburh, none of which have satisied all the geographical notifications found in the two priniciple sources for the Brunanburh site – the Anglo-Saxon poem Brunanburh, & the Icelandic text known as ‘Egil’s Saga.’ Aside from Burnley, the chief candidates are;

Burnswark – Dumfries & Galloway
Brinsworth – South Yorkshire
Bromborough – Wirral
Lanchester – Northumbria

Let us now follow a simple process of elimination which will whittle the candidates down.

Clue 1 – ‘They at camp gainst any robber their land should defend.’ (asc)

Here we are told the the Anglo-Saxons were defending their own territory. In 937, the limits of England stretched from north Lancashire to Berwick on Tweed. This would then preclude BURNSWARK from the picture, which is sited very much in Scotland.

Clue 2 – ‘He rode (from Brunanburh) to the South country and of his travel tis to be told he rode night & day til he came westward to Earl’s Ness.’ (egil)

From this we can discern that the battlefield lay in a north easterly direction from a sea-port named Earl’s Ness. During the journey, a border was crossed, which divided the territory in which Brunanburh was situated from the ‘South Country.’ The obvious choice would be the old Viking port at Ness on the Wirral, for travelling north would see the journeyman leave ‘Southumbria’& enter ‘Northumbria,’ the border of which stretched between the Mersey & the Humber estuaries. Support comes from the Orkeneyinga Saga, which places a ‘Jarl’s Ness’ near Wales. This would then preclude both Bromborough & Brinsworth from the equasion.

Clue 3 – ‘All the day the West Saxons pressed on the loathed bands… the northmen sailed in their ships, a dreary remnant, on Dingesmere, Over deep water, they sought Dublin.’ (asc)

These passages indicate that the battle was fought within a days retreat of the Irish Sea, the Dingesmere of the Brunanburh poem, probably named after the Viking Ting on the Isle of Man. Egil’s Saga gives extra information, saying the ships were ‘far’ from the field. It would be safe to say, then, that the field would be somewhere between 15 & perhaps as much as 40 miles away from a navigable site in which the Viking longships could wait. This would then preclude our penultimate candidate, Lanchester.

So, we are left with Burnley, whose situation fits every piece of geographical information provided by the the Brunanburh poem & Egil’s Saga. In my last post I showed the historic reference of a possible Saxon stronghold, which has always been connected to an area of Burnley called Brunshaw.

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This wonderful pictorial description of Towneley in the 18th century shows Castle Hill just behind it, that raised site upon which a typical Saxon burh was built. Once the military threat to the region had been removed, after the English conquest of Cumbria, it made sense for the local lord to resituate his abode in the level & pleasant clearings of Townley. Castle Hill is a fascinating candidate for Brunanburh, indeed the only one of any true merit, & I began to search for the actual battlefield, which was fought ‘ymbe,’ or around, Brunanburh. This led me to begin looking at the obscure entry in the Irish chronicle known as the ‘Annals of Clonmacnoise’ which places the battle at the Plains of Othlynn.

The heart of Burnley rests very much in a valley, parts of which are indeed very plain-like; stretching from Towneley to the River Brun. Beside the same river, the oldest parts of Burnley are to be found about St Peter’s Church, & are home to two very ancient monuments. One is Saint Paulinus’ cross, named after a 7th century preacher in the region, & the other is Saint Audrey’s well. Audrey was also a seventh century saint, whose name in Old English was Etheldreda.

Most scholars when looking at the etymology of Othlynn, plump for something like the pool (lynn) of Otha. Nobody, I believe, has looked at another possibility; that of the ash tree (ynn) of Othl. In the saints lives of Etheldreda, we are told how she fled the king of Northumbria, & on her journey south founded a monastery at a certain Alftham. Not long after leaving that place, she paused on a plain & struck her staff into the ground – which magically turned into an ash tree.

Etymylogically & historically, the ‘Plains of Othlynn’ are a perfect match for this obscure legend of Etheldreda. That she is remembered in the Burnley area for her sacred well is not the only way to tie Othlynn to Burnley, for Alftham would be the village of Altham four miles to the east of Burnley. A couple of miles later we come to Whalley, whose church was founded in the 7th century, fitting perfectly in with Etheldreda’s founding of a monastery at Alftham.

There is a certain natural beauty to the Othlynn solution, & one which reminds us just how much history can be packed into a single word. In this instance, there has been the killing of the proverbial two birds; that is the location of Etheldreda’s sacred ash, & the clinching evidence for Brunanburh having been in Burnley.

The Site of Brunanburh

 

Townley Hall

Townley Hall

 

In my last blog I’d recorded a recent visit to my Burnley hometown. While there I was working on Shakespeare, utilising Burnley library’s excellent & comprehensive collection of volumes published by the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society. I was basically trawling through every book, looking for stuff connected to Shakespeare’s stay in Lancashire, & while doing so came across the 1952-53 ‘transactions.’ These contained an account of excavations at Everage Clough by W Bennet, who in a footnote pointed me to an 18th century writer  - Thomas Dunham Whitaker – whose ‘History of the Original Parish of Whalley‘ was also to be found in Burnley library. Getting stuck in Kojak-style, I obtained the following passage;

The original site of townley appears to have been a tall & shapely knoll, southward from the present mansion, still denominated castle hill, & immediately adjoining to the farm called Old House, on the eastern & precipitous side of which are the obscure remains of trenches, which on the three more accessible quarters have been demolished by the plough. Here therefore, in every early times, and far beyond any written memorials, was the Villa de Tunlay, the residence, unquestionably, of one of those independent lords before the conquest who presided over every village & held immediately of the crown. When this elevated situation was abandoned it is impossible to ascertain from any written evidence or tradition; but the present house may in part lay claim to high antiquity.

Castle Hill - just south of Townley

Castle Hill – just south of Townley

In another post I showed how the burh of Brunanburh had to be somewhere in the Burnley area. I believe that we now can place Brunanburh beside the stately Townely Hall, on Castle Hill, whose fortifications were still to be seen in TD Whitaker’s day. I talked to my dad about the find, & despite living next to Townley itself all his life, he had never known there was a Castle Hill there. I guess this obscurity may have helped Brunanburh’s true site to be hidden from even the most hardiest of pro-Burnley enthusiasts.

 

Townley Park is the big blob of green, just to the east of Burnley & south of the River Brun

Townley Park is the big blob of green, just to the west of Burnley & south of the River Brun

 

A burh is a fortified Anglo-Saxon town of sorts, which formed the central administrative point of an Anglo-Saxon ‘Tun,’ from which we get the name Tunlay, & thus Townley. In the 12th century, Townley formed part of an ancient township called ‘Tunlay-with Brunshaw,’ the latter meaning ‘Brun’s wood.’ The clearing, or ‘lea’ in this wood, later on became Burnley, proving the greater antiquity of Brunshaw. This association of a Brun with a Tun tells us that the Saxon lord who ruled his ‘Tun’ from Castle Hill would have been called something like ‘Brun’ or ‘Bruna,’ thus giving us the etymylogical & historical foundations of the name Brunanburh.

 

Photothon

Muppet-by-muppet the world has fallen under the spell of Facebook, & I reckon there’s only me & a couple of Pygmies deep in the Belgian Congo who haven’t. I do appreciate the benefits of FB’s capacity to store photos – but luckily mi blog provides the same function. So, Im gonna tell the story of my past couple of months through the medium of the ‘photograph.’

Fireworks at Sunset during the Edinburgh Festival

Fireworks at Sunset during the Edinburgh Festival

 

Victor Pope's last 'infinitely more deluded' show @ the Edinburgh Festival

Victor Pope’s last ‘infinitely more deluded’ show @ the Edinburgh Festival

 

 

 

My three best pals, Victor Pope, Li-Bau & Nicky Stowell, lost in dinner-table chat, Edinburgh

My three best pals, Victor Pope, Li-Bau & Nicky Stowell, lost in dinner-table chat, Edinburgh

 

 

Kae-Lei Stowell working on our album, Kaelien

Kae-Lei Stowell working on our album, Kaelien

Which you can listen to here by the way

 

The Bendrix in 'Falkirk' mode

The Bendrix in ‘Falkirk’ mode

 

 

Teri & Dee

Teri & Dee

Courtyard at the Edinburgh School of Law

Courtyard at the Edinburgh School of Law

 

 

S-Club & Fred

S-Club & Fred

 

My god-daughter Kae-Lei Stowell & her cousin, Kenzie @ Linkey Lea

My god-daughter Kae-Lei Stowell & her cousin, Kenzie @ Linkey Lea

 

 

Dee @ Linkey Lea

Dee @ Linkey Lea

 

 

 

Li-Bau Stowell & Fergus Curran (my unofficial godsons) at Linkey Lea Festival

Li-Bau Stowell & Fergus Curran (my unofficial godsons) at Linkey Lea Festival

Dawn at TipiFest, Galloway

Dawn at TipiFest, Galloway

 

Jammin' at TipiFest

Jammin’ at TipiFest

 

 

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Mi best mate Nicky Stowell @ TipiFest

September Sun (TipiFest)

September Sun (TipiFest)

 

 

The Victor Pope Band shopping in the Corn Exchange, Leeds

The Victor Pope Band shopping in the Corn Exchange, Leeds

 

 

Me & Al Roberts at Townley Hall, Burnley

Me & Al Roberts at Townley Hall, Burnley

 

 

 

Burnley Pub Prices

Burnley Pub Prices

 

 

On the Moors over Burnley

On the Moors over Burnley

 

 

Me & the Niblings - my nephew Jacob & my niece, Rebecca (Burnley)

Me & the Niblings – my nephew Jacob & my niece, Rebecca (Burnley)

 

 

Burnley Wood

Burnley Wood

 

 

Tractor (near Worsthorne)

Tractor (near Worsthorne)

 

 

Back in Edinburgh - Derek @ The Artstation

Back in Edinburgh – Derek @ The Artstation

 

Flying Seaweed - Portobello Beach

Flying Seaweed – Portobello Beach

 

 

Lochend Park, Edinburgh

Lochend Park, Edinburgh

 

Our new pal, Dermot

Our new pal, Dermot

 

 

Wee James after a Kijiji at the Canon's Gait

Wee James after a Kijiji at the Canon’s Gait

 

 

Lochend Park

Lochend Park

 

Penicuik Estate

Penicuik Estate

 

 

More Penicuik Estate

More Penicuik Estate

 

 

Breaking Storm (Midl-othian)

Breaking Storm (Midl-othian)

 

 

Shakespeare & Brambles

 

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So that’s August over with – mental, absolutely mental. However, all’s good in the world of Damo. The Mumble’s gonna continue, with most of Edinburgh’s theaters & venues letting me send reviewers in, mi god-daughter Kae-Lei’s albums nearly finished & we’ve got a few gigs coming up, starting this weekend at Linkey Lea in Haddington. My Jesus Jigsaw book has reached its final edit with my Literary Agency, & they’re gonna take it to the Frankfurt International Book Fair next month… & of course, the brambles are oot!

 

Elderberries & Brambles

Elderberries & Brambles

This is my third year of making Bramble wine, & I’m gonna get right on it. Already, mine & several friend’s freezers are starting to fill up with plastic bags full of brambles, while in my front room I’ve set off my elite wine-making factory system. Essentially, every 5 days I get to bottle 10 litres of wine – about 13 bottles, with the first lot due next week.  I’m gonna mix it with a couple of litres of pineapple juice, resulting in my first batch sporting the rather poetic title : Bramble & Pineapple Wine.

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I love picking the brambles, I’ve got loads of hotspots around Edinburgh, which of course is an immensely gorgeous & green place to wander about picking berries. This also presents my mind with the perfect places, moods & moments in which to muse & meditate upon my work. This led to a complete gathering of my Arthurian material, & a grand readying of it for the writing of a future book on the subject, which would contain my ultimate conclusions to several years of study, including a last minute swerve from the Yarrow Stone’s being Arthur’s grave, to actually being that of his grandsons.

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I did all that two days back, in the National Library of Scotland, finally freeing up my mind from the Dark Ages. But, I cant just shut off like that, & once back at home, in a sense of liberation, I thought I’d briefly check out my Shakespeare-in-Italy idea. I’ve had quite a lot of the bard’s books in my library for a long time now, but have always been waiting for the right moment to get into them – so I’m guess that’s just about now.

 

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I know I’ve got some kind of curious gift for historical research, & its all a bit like scrying as I get sucked into googling information, when within a few hours of work I have usually completely penetrated the mists which obscure some of the greatest mysteries on the planet. One of these is Shakespeare’s lost years (1585-1593) which took a little longer to solve – about 36 hours (including two sleeps), but I’ve definitely cracked it. So, I’ve decided to whip up a book on the subject in double-quick time, in which I shall show how Shakespeare not only toured Italy, but reached as far as Turkey, in which place he met the ‘dark lady’ of his sonnets….

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As a post-script to this blog, here are a few images of the fireworks ready to be fired from Edinburgh Castle. I was given access as part of the Mumble the other day, after which I found myself for the first time within the confines of the castle itself – a perfect reward for working my ass off through August.

 

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Happy Mumbling

Its been quite a successful August, really, for the Mumble (www.themumble.net). We manage to get into the national press, & also get our reviews & stars pasted up all across Edinburgh. After reviewing Made in Ilva myself, I got this lovely response back from the main actor.

Don’t know how to thank you
for getting so much our work with the terrific review of MADE IN ILVA
Is breathtaking
one of the deepest we got
thank you so much

 

So here’s just a few of those reviews/stars, plus a few photos of Edinburgh;

 

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That Adam Riches Eruption

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By Harry Venning (Guardian Newspaper)

Just as I was getting into writing poetry about the Edinburgh festivals, along comes some nobbish simpleton to knock me off my stride. His name is Dan Pursey, the boss of Mobius PR company from London. Back in July, Mobius had given me a press ticket for Adam Riches, which I gave to Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert to review. The morning after the show I recieved the following, which Mark admitted to writing while he was pissed. To give ark credit he rang me up beforehand & said Adam’s show was pointless, but I said he should still review it, though.

Adam Riches

Adam Riches

 

The review made me laugh out loud… so I put it up on the Mumble. A couple of days later, Anisha Fields at Mobius contacts me with the following;

Hey Damo, Hope you’re having a good Fringe so far. How are all the Damo doubles getting on around the city? Just wanted to send a quick email about Mark Divine’s review of Adam of the Riches. We’re really keen to support up and coming websites, and as you know, are happy to provide tickets to you guys to all our shows. We’re also completely open to critical feedback too, from anyone, provided it seems thought through. On the whole, I can see your site does that. But I’m afraid Mark’s review just felt, well, a bit lazy, (and full of grammatical errors), as well as being factually incorrect (…from yorkshire?) and it didn’t reflect well on you guys, which is a shame. We’re an agency, so when reviews like that do crop up we can have to answer to clients why that journalist was let in to begin with. Not in this case, but that will and has happened on other occasions, and I certainly wouldn’t want our relationship with you guys to suffer as a result of reviews like that. Anyway, that’s our two cents.

After replying, “he’s a special case is our ‘divine’ – & a law unto himself – he’s beyond the reach of both our remits,” her boss & the aforesaid bell-end, Dan Pursey gets involved. Basically he began to threaten to scupper the Mumble if I didn’t take the review down, which include;

1 – I’m afraid we can’t run the risk of booking press tickets for The Mumble if our clients are going to be met with such a lack of respect for their work. Obviously, I hope we can avoid canceling the rest and continue as we have been thanks a lot

2 – We’re going to cancel the outstanding tickets because we can’t trust that this won’t be repeated. In doing so, i am going to write to all the venue press offices and the Fringe press office to explain why. I am then going to write to other remaining press reps in Edinburgh to express our concerns about The Mumble, and explain the decisions we’ve taken. Alternatively – take the review down, and let’s not ruin a good thing.

3 – I hope that, when it comes to securing press tickets this year and in the future, you feel the moral stand you’ve taken in defense of the standards of writing in that review has been worth it.

At the end of the day, The Mumble is an honest website, designed to help would-be show-goers make an informed choice. We cannot be bullied out of our integrity.

 

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Dan Pursey – looks like a bell-end too!

 

So I went to sleep with his  threats rattling mi head. Waking up in the morning, however, & I thought the best thing to do was to put his threats up on Adam Riches review. Interestingly, Mark sent me a re-written version of the review – quite unprovoked – which I put up as well. You can see the full review here, including the initial response to it from a couple of Mumblers, including Mark himself.

Steve Bennet

Steve Bennet

A week or so later, the story began to break. First up was Steve Bennet of the Chortle, who wrote the following article


A considered opinion?
Threat to block ‘disrespectful’ blog’s free tickets

A row has erupted on the Edinburgh Fringe after a PR company threatened to withdraw free press tickets from bloggers for not showing enough respect to the comedians they are writing about.
Publicists at Mobius laid down the ultimatum after Mumble Comedy wrote a three-star review of former award-winner Adam Riches – saying that if the review was not altered or removed, they would not issue any more tickets, and spread the word to venues across the festival, too.
In return, the blog accused the company of trying to intimidate them into taking down a poor review – saying: ‘We cannot be bullied out of our integrity’.
However, some changes to the review, by Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert, were made after Mobius first got in touch – including correcting the spelling of Riches’s name.
The row is likely to spark debate over the line between established media and fans setting up an online presence in order to score free tickets.
Mumble’s review as it currently stands reads as follows:
‘It was a damp and wind-swept night and the welcoming warmth of the Pleasance Dome began to relaxed me into a state of mind ready for comedy. Tonight it was Adam Riches, a successful comedian with more awards that you can shake a stick at. Joining me was a capacity audience who clearly knew what we were in for. Alas I didn’t. With lots of audience participation, Adam humiliated his carefully chosen audience members who were middle class and loving every moment of it. Adam utilises different characters drawn from history, all of whom had a Yorkshire accent, which is a star point in itself. Taking his lead from vintage comedy telly, Adam was silly, pointless and yes, good fun. Which is just what his audience wanted. If you like trashy throw-away telly. Adam’s your man. Two Stars and one extra for being from Yorkshire. So That’s Three. Stars.’
Riches was was born in Cambridge, and raised in Glasgow and London – not Yorkshire. Although his opening character, Sean Bean, is from there.
Mumble Comedy’s ‘CEO’, Damo Bullen revealed the pressure from Mobius in a message beneath the review, accusing them of ‘chucking their toys out the pram & ask[ing] me to take it down’.
He refused saying: ‘Everyone’s entitled to their opinion & that Mark simply could not get into the comedy of Mr Riches.. The Mumble is an honest website, designed to help would-be show-goers make an informed choice. We cannot be bullied out of our integrity.’
Despite Bullen’s defiance, Dan Pursey from Mobius said the review HAD been changed since it first appeared – although Bullen insists any changes were ‘cosmetic’.
Pursey said: ’The original review also contained some very odd references that, apart from anything else, gave the impression our client’s work hadn’t been met with the respect, care and attention it deserved. These have since been removed. ‘
‘We really do support and encourage new titles, websites and critics and like to offer them access to write about our clients’ work where we can. We also totally acknowledge that everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion.
‘But when we initially (very diplomatically) expressed our concerns the site representative was quite uncooperative, and my worry was that this could be an attitude that stretched across the site. I’m sure it isn’t, but had there been more evidence of care, I wouldn’t have had to push quite so hard to get them to pay attention.’
It’s understood that after the original contact from Mobius the sentences ‘Taking his lead from vintage comedy telly’ to ‘Adam’s your man.’ were added, and references to the critic’s urge to go home and ‘listen to his Tricky CD’, and spend more time in his leopard print pyjamas with a large mug of tea were removed.
Speaking to Chortle, Bullen added: ‘Do you know what annoyed me the most – it was his brash, aggressive condescending attitude that wanted to sink my ship when a lot of people – performers, reviewers, back stage staff – have benefited from it.’
Mumble Comedy – a free WordPress blog that uses unlicensed clip art to illustrate the number of stars – was set up for last year’s Fringe and only publishes for the festival. It currently has 140 ‘likes’ on Facebook.
And they haven’t got around to writing their ‘About Us’ page, which says: ‘This is an example of a page. Unlike posts, which are displayed on your blog’s front page in the order they’re published, pages are better suited for more timeless content that you want to be easily accessible, like your About or Contact information. Click the Edit link to make changes to this page or add another page.’

 

Brian Logan

Brian Logan

Next to get hold of the story was Brian Logan of the Guardian, whose own article on the matter reads;

Critical condition: how comedy coverage at the Edinburgh fringe is changing

Adam Riches
Review controversy?

As the mainstream press withdraws from Edinburgh, there’s been a rise in alternative voices. Some new reviewers will be learning on the job – just like novice standups

My colleague Lyn Gardner wrote last week about “a critical exodus from the fringe by the mainstream press”, and I share her concerns. The issue is discussed in comedy circles too: I’ve spoken to several PRs who say they haven’t had much to do at this year’s fringe, because coverage in the mainstream press is so diminished. Of course, the flourishing of alternative critical voices online is an exciting development, but perhaps not yet an adequate replacement – as one confrontation last week made clear.

The contretemps – as reported at Chortle.com – was between the arts PR agency Mobius and the website Mumble Comedy, and it concerned the latter’s review of the former’s client, the comedian Adam Riches. Mobius contacted the website to express displeasure at – and request amendments to – a three-star review that lacked “the respect, care and attention [Riches] deserved”. That was met with what Mobius call an “uncooperative” response, which led to the PR threatening to withdraw free tickets from the website. The blog’s editor, Damo Bullen, posted an angry response, insisting “we cannot be bullied out of our integrity”.

The review that caused the fuss can no longer be read in its original form. Mobius’s complaint seems to be, not that it was critical of Riches’ show, but that it was half-arsed (it misspelled Riches’ name, for example). Even the revised version is a little slapdash and impressionistic. But does that justify Mobius’s threatened withdrawal of privileges? And what does the fuss tell us about the state of fringe criticism?

On the former point, I don’t think any publication – not the Guardian, not Mumble Comedy – has a divine right to free tickets. With rights come responsibilities: publications have to demonstrate a degree of professionalism, commitment and (pace Mobius’s complaint) respect. (They probably also need a readership – or the likelihood of acquiring one.) On the latter point, well, there’s clearly a frustration in some quarters that – as the mainstream press withdraws from Edinburgh – acts are ever more dependent on the opinion of often inexperienced and unauthoritative reviewers.

That’s not meant to denigrate amateur criticism, or professional online criticism, which supplies much of the best writing around the fringe. (It’s also worth noting that critics of all stripes have been unpopular with artists since the year dot.) But we should be more explicit about the fact that – as BAC artistic director David Jubb discussed on Twitter last week – “Edinburgh is [the developing] critic’s equivalent of scratch” – ie a place to learn in public, and seek feedback in order to improve.

The them-and-us, /de haut en bas/ relationship between critics and artists (or their representatives) is never helpful, but least of all when many critics have yet to earn trust or demonstrate commitment to the artform they’re writing about.

In that context, dialogue is good. The world of Fringe reviewing is changing, and it’s in everyone’s interest that the new model – which will include a far wider range of reviewers and publications than the old – foregrounds lively and intelligent discussion of the artform. That’ll only happen if all parties speak to one another about what they want criticism to be.

It’s a shame the conversation got antagonistic, but Mobius did the right thing by contacting Mumble Comedy with their concerns. We probably all intuit that some writing – the careful, attentive, “respectful” kind, perhaps? – constitutes valid criticism, and some writing doesn’t. We’ll only know where that line should be drawn if we talk about it.

Next to chip in  were Fringepig, an anti-fringe website whose Billy Coconuts offered ‘respect to The Mumple for oupigging us,’ while dissing the site a bit at the same time.  Its all rather nteresting, & it sounds like I’m some kind of harbinger in some kind of revolution in comedy reviewing! So anyway, to conclude the wee saga, Harry Venning of the Guardian does that wicked lampoon that began this blog. All-in-all, a successful re-launch of the Mumble – in the next post I’ll show how much the name was used by acts all acrosss Edinburgh.

 

Fringepig's version of one of our pages

Fringepig’s version of one of our pages

Tuesday 5th August

Shows – 13
Hangovers – 3

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A mental shift to music, I have writ
Some lovely songs, & over years have found
A heap of great musicians to help raise
My music to the tapestries of art,
But never a great singer, til the voice
Of mine own god-daughter, Kae-Lei Stowell
My best mate’s daughter only just fourteen

These past few days Ive organised two gigs
For her to play a week or two from now
One down the Cowshed, the other up Tron Kirk,
& so as chessmasters think well ahead
I head down to Wee Al’s, yon Lochend Park
I start to teach the set we soon shall play

After an hour I trip off into town
& Venue 13 off the Royal Mile
A special little theater that gives
Those special little companies a chance
To strut their stuff upon this global stage
& sitting in the theater I wait
For entertainment, & a play called Fleeced!

There is a certain talent in our youth
Ebullient, with voices pure as air
Im whisked into a childish fairytale
Of Golden Fleeces, & the Golden touch
Of Midas, ebony Odysseus
A true highlight, his numibian skin
Assuaged by his delightful debonair

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I wander thro the streets to Summerhall
Old college veterinary, the hub
Of proper art, y’know the kind that bites
The senses, as when Eve her serpent met
& with a chomp the wisdom of the world
Formed Zarathustran prophecies long lain
Dormant in the recesses of the mind
Where scowling wolverines scavenge for food

To a cramp’d & musty brickwork cellar…
A stage of innovation, crowd stood round
A table, two actors perform ‘The Flood,’
Right in our faces, two metres away
A sad tale of this centenary year
Of World War One, betwyx soldier & nurse
Through letters & leave, their love murder’d short

“Will it be my last act, to scream your name
As I lie dying, dismember’d, wet trench…”

& so into the sunshine shuffling slow
My sense humbl’d, quality perform’d
To such keen heights, I fall in love once more
With the human ability to find
A certain truth, tho’ feigning to pretend
That there is truth eternal in our ways!

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