Ciarán Ryan archived This is my archived site. See for my current site. Sun, 21 Apr 2013 03:31:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New Islamic centre for Sheffield Tue, 12 Oct 2010 03:37:19 +0000 Intro note: In 2004 I wrote about a new mosque for South Yorkshire. Here’s an extract from the BBC website:

The former Co-op building on Wolseley Road, Sheffield, that has served as a Masjid (a Muslim place of worship) for over twenty years is about to be demolished.

Construction work will begin on a new Sheffield Islamic Centre in September 2004.

The new building on the Wolseley Road site will be two to three times larger than the existing centre, with three levels and more than 2,800 square metres of floor space.

It will include classrooms and seminar rooms, a library and IT suite, an elderly day centre and Muslim funeral services, as well as providing two prayer halls, a balcony and six ablution / wash areas.

The existing building serves the south side of Sheffield. Four to five hundred people attend the centre each Friday.

“This is the largest centre, in terms of attendance, in Sheffield – we’re struggling to meet those needs, in terms of educational, cultural facilities and funeral services.” says Nawaz Khan, project co-ordinator.

“It‘s absolutely awful inside. The existing centre is now well beyond its use by date. We need a new centre.”


The new centre that will replace the existing building, has been designed by Archi-Structure Ltd, one of the leading mosque architects in the UK.

Nawaz: “We’ve built Islamic features into this. We’ve gone for very much a Persian design and mixed it into the local environment, with arches, windows, a dome and minarets.”

The new building has been specifically designed by architect A. Al Samarraie to be easily accessible to children, the elderly and the disabled.

A long journey

Reaching the construction stage in the redevelopment of the rundown centre has been a long process.

“The centre was established in 1983 and they’ve always wanted to renovate or redevelop.” says Nawaz.

Nawaz is a member of the Sheffield Islamic Centre (SIC) Development Steering Group. The Group was formed in 1997, by the trustees and management committee of the centre (a charitable voluntary sector organisation) to further the centre’s development aspirations.

To reach the construction stage the Development Steering Group have had to tackle many planning, development and highway issues.

“We’ve done the enabling phase for the work and we’ve been through three planning applications, court hearings (for the road closure) and two Development Orders.”

“We’ve had to close a road (part of Gifford Road, to the north of Wolseley Road) under the Development Order. We had to have Secretary of State approval for that.”

The ‘enabling phase’, for the new Masjid, in accordance with planning permission and highway authority requirements, included: site clearance, the provision of a 26-space car park, the provision of footpaths and lighting, new provision of gas, electricity and water and the installation of a new sewage and drainage system.

This work was completed in 2003. A second Development Order application submitted in October 2003 was authorised by the Secretary of State in January 2004.

”The development process over the last seven years has really been a true partnership effort with the City Council.” continues Nawaz.

”We are particularly grateful for the support from the many City Council Officers and Members involved over the last seven years, especially to Roger Wantling and Sue Haywood who have helped shape the development and brought it to the construction stage.”

Nawaz predicts the new centre will open in May 2006. During the construction period, the Masjid will relocate to a building on the edge of the site – formerly Gazzards Decorating.


Total development costs for the centre will be in the region of £3.5 million. There are no external (public) funds involved in the development of the new building. The whole project is being funded by the local, mainly Muslim, community.

They’ve raised, so far, approximately £500,000. The Steering Group are in the process of organising innovative ways of raising money.

Nawaz seems confident they’ll find the funds. He’s keen to stress the enthusiastic involvement of the local community.

“We recently received a £500 donation from King Egbert School – raised by the school’s pupils,” he says.

”And a group of local taxi drivers have set up a £10 a week donation scheme which has, so far, raised over £45,000!”

Community action

The local community are the key to the Masjid. It’s they who’ll ensure the new centre is a success, says Nawaz:

“This is the biggest self help community project in South Yorkshire. When we submitted our planning application back in 1998, we had a petition of over 1,000 signatures and over 40 letters of support from local organisations, including local schools and the voluntary sector.”

“Educational attainment levels among local ethnic minority communities here, leave something to be desired, they need huge amounts of improvement – it’s a key issue.” he says.

“As an Islamic community we’re lacking facilities locally. This new centre will meet that need. This is a once in a lifetime project to develop an Islamic centre that the whole Muslim community is united behind and supports. The new centre will mark the beginning of a new era for the local Muslim community and for Sheffield. “

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BBC The One Show blogs Tue, 12 Oct 2010 02:38:11 +0000 The image (below) is from the BBC website homepage.

BBC Homepage 12 March 2010

BBC Homepage

It’s promoting the live blog I put together for Christine Bleakley’s Sport Relief waterski challenge. The blog was popular – visited by hundreds of thousands of people.

Blogging was central to The One Show website – during the two year project we created a huge, lively community that debated the issues of the day.

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Staffordshire Regiment’s last march Fri, 08 Oct 2010 01:11:51 +0000 Intro note: On the 13th June 2007 I followed some interesting-looking soldiers from Wolverhampton train station, and wrote about what I saw on the BBC website. Here’s an extract:

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Wolverhampton city centre to welcome the 1st Battalion of the Staffordshire Regiment (Prince of Wales) back from Iraq. The Staffords will never again march through the city.

It was fortunate that the Staffords’ train delivered them to Wolverhampton with time to spare.

As the young men in camouflage uniforms walked from the city’s railway station to the start of the parade route they were often waylaid.

Teenagers shook their hands, workmen wished them well, pensioners and old soldiers stopped them for a chat and to reminisce.

It’s no suprise that the Staffordshire Regiment are greeted warmly by the people of Wolverhampton. The city’s got strong links to the Staffords – the local Infantry Regiment for the County of Staffordshire and the Black Country.

A famous regiment

For more than 300 years the young men of Staffordshire and the West Midlands have joined the regiment. It took them far from home and into the heart of the worst conflicts. The Staffords took part in the American War of Independence, the Crimean War and the Persian War. They fought in the two World Wars and, of course, most recently in Iraq.

The historic parade that took place on Wednesday 13th June 2007 marked the Staffords’ return from a second very difficult tour in Basra, Iraq.

The regiment lost three soldiers during their first tour in Iraq. In March, on the second tour, Private Jonathon Wysoczan, 21, was killed while on patrol.

Their last parade through the city

The parade was also the last time that the Staffordshire Regiment will ever march through Wolverhampton. In September 2007 they will merge with other regiments to become 3rd Battalion, of the Mercian Regiment.

Patrick Shepherd was one of the former Staffords who lined the route to watch the march.

“We did the Freedom March [through Wolverhampton] fifty years ago” he said. “It was on the 6th of August 1957, when we came back from Cyprus. There were crowds everywhere. It was in the papers that we were coming home and people turned out to see us.

“It’s sad that we’re losing the regiment.”

The parade got under way at 12.30pm. Three hundred men of the 500-strong regiment, bayonets fixed, and acting as one body. They marched for twenty minutes through Wolverhampton city centre. They marched to the beat of drums and a chorus of alarms as the stomp of their boots upset parked cars.

People lined the streets and clapped and cheered. Workers hung out of their office windows. Ladies wolf-whistled at the men in uniform.

The soldiers are sons and brothers, husbands and fathers and this event was more than a march – it felt like a family reunion.

The Staffords’ commanding officer has been with the regiment for 22 years. He denied that this was a sad day.

“This is a very enjoyable occasion” said Lt Col Tim Sandiford, standing outside the civic centre. “We’re taking the opportunity to thank the people of Wolverhampton and the West Midlands for their fantastic support that we’ve had through out our time in Iraq.”

Lt Col Sandiford is clear why the regiment is special.

“It’s the strength of the bonds that tie us together. It’s the strength that we get from recruiting from the same area. All knowing each other and all being friends. It will be very difficult to replace.”

He continued: “We become 3 Mercian later this year, but we continue to carry the title Staffordshire after our name, so although the cap badge will change, and that will be a sad day for us, what will not change is the spirit of the regiment.

“I am absolutely convinced that the 3rd Battalion of the Mercian Regiment will be as well regarded by the people of Staffordshire and the West Midlands as the Staffords are now.”

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Eagle Works feature Fri, 08 Oct 2010 00:56:20 +0000 Intro note: Eagle Works, in Wolverhampton, is one of the UK’s oldest artists’ studios. I wrote about them for the BBC website in 2005. Here’s an extract:

Eagle Works: An introduction

For 21 years a dilapidated former mattress factory in Wolverhampton has been a haven for the Black Country’s modern artists.

In the summer of 1984 Fine Art students from Wolverhampton Polytechnic cycled the length and breadth of Wolverhampton. They were looking for a building that they could use as a group studio.

They eventually settled upon the Eagle Works in Alexander Street, Graiseley, Wolverhampton – a three storey semi-derelict Victorian industrial building with smashed windows and a friendly landlord.

Wolverhampton’s Heritage and History Society believe that before falling into disuse and disrepair, the building was used as a mattress factory, a bicycle factory, and a brass and gun metal foundry.

Assisted by small grants from the Arts Council, the Eagle Works Visual Arts Group converted the shell of a building into individual studio spaces. In 1987 they opened a gallery at Eagle Works where they exhibit their work.

In 2005, the building provides working space for 18 local, mostly “research based”, contemporary artists. There’s a waiting list of artists who’d like a studio at Eagle Works.

George Holt, Simon Francis, Simon Harris, Sylbert Bolton, Jane O’Reilly, Derek Jones, Julie McNally-Hayes, John Hampton, Knighton Hosking, David Smith, Rupert Miles Smithson, James Millichamp, Jain McKay, Dave Hilliard, Giancarlo Facchinetti, Maggie Walker and Rosemary Terry are the emerging and established contemporary artists who work from the building at present.

The members of the Eagle Works Visual Arts Group mostly produce abstract paintings, name a style, a medium or a concept and someone in the group will be working in that area. Apart from painting, the Eagle Works group also produces sculpture, conceptual art, montage and video installation.

Although the group has produced no household names so far, it is a respected studio. Eagle Works artists have received public commissions. Their work is collected.

In 2005, the gallery space at Eagle Works held ten exhibitions of the group’s work. They’re planning a new exhibition programme for 2006, possibly a series of dual shows.

“It must be one of the most stable and long lasting artists’ studios in the whole country.” says sculptor Rosemary Terry, who’s worked from the building for nearly 20 years.

“When the place started up people tended to come for a year or two and then move on elsewhere. I think we have a population of artists now who are settled in the area because they have jobs, they work here, or maybe they’re even retired – so that’s one reason why the place is still here.”

“We’ve been around a long time. We have, often, advertised nationally in the past. We’ve had national and international artists showing in our gallery in the past.

“I don’t think any of us would regard ourselves as commercial artists. If we do sell work that’s a good by-product of our practice. This is space to work and is also space to fraternise with other artists, be able to operate collectively and have group shows.

“We’re all modern artists because we all live now. We’re definitely not chocolate box artists, and we wouldn’t necessarily encourage chocolate box artists or people who make landscapes paintings to come here. And I don’t think they’d want to either, because it’s a pretty basic building.

“It’s cold it’s damp – but because it’s [Eagle Works] an industrial building there’s 24 hour access, people can make as much noise and mess as they want to, in the course of producing work – so, from that point of view it’s just right for fine artists.”

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Meeting the British Wheel Gymnastics team Fri, 08 Oct 2010 00:31:09 +0000 Intro note: In 2004 I went to meet the British Wheel Gymnastics team in Suffolk, and wrote about it for the BBC website. Here’s an extract:

The British Wheel Gymnastics team roll around Rendlesham on Friday nights.

It’s Friday night at the Rendlesham Sports Centre. The usual trappings of the international athlete are absent; there are no sponsorship deals in evidence, no hordes of screaming fans. Yet a national squad are gracing the building – the British Rhoenrad squad, and they’re sharing the hall with a hockey match.

Anthony, 23, has been Rhoenrading, with the Torwood Wheelers, on and off for three years.

”It’s nice to be able to say I’m part of the British team.” he says.

”Of course, we wouldn’t have too much competition in a UK championships – because we’d be the only team competing.”

”And as the Torwood Wheelers is the only club in the whole of the UK,” says fellow Rhoenrader, James, a modern apprentice at British Telecom in Martlesham, “I guess this is the national team.”

What is Rhoenrads?

Rhoenrads, also known as Wheel Gymnastics, was devised by Otto Feick, in 1920s Germany. When Feick was in prison (for spying!), he resolved to recreate a pleasant experience from his childhood: using barrel rings to roll down a hill. Feick lived in Rhön in Germany and ‘-rad’ is German for wheel, thus Rhönrad or Rhoenrad.

After his release Feick developed his “Rhoenrad”, patenting the wheel and spreading the word with tours of Europe and the US.

Gradually, the sport is becoming more popular. The first German Championships took place in 1960 in Hannover, the first European Championships in Switzerland in 1992.

The first World Championships were held in 1994, after the foundation of an international organisation for the sport: the IRV (Internationaler Rhönradturn Verband).

Wheel gymnastics is now truly international – the IRV counts Japan, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands amongst its members and there are many more countries that practice, including the USA, Argentina, Italy and China.

Rhoenrads in Suffolk

John Colles, Anthony’s father, gymnastics instructor and coach, brought Rhoenrads to Suffolk.

“About seven years ago, we had a gymnastics club which was getting very big and we wanted to split it into two – I wanted something different for the older ones to do.

”I’d seen these wheels about 30 years before, when I was doing gymnastics (with the Southern England display team) in Switzerland. I’d stood in one, rocked and thought it looked like fun.”

After securing two unused wheels for the club, John and the gymnasts began to teach themselves how to use them.

What do you do?

”All the moves are categorised as different difficulties,” says John. “In actual competition you’d have to do so many ‘A’ moves, so many ‘B’s, so many ‘C’s – which are different difficulties.

”You must keep the wheel rolling – you mustn’t touch the floor unless it is part of a move. You have to perform the moves smoothly as you go along, not look as though you’re falling off.”

James continues: “The disciplines are Spiral, Vault, which is where you jump over the top of it, and Straight Line – where you roll backwards and forwards. There’s so many variations of each type of move that you can do.”

“The week before last was quite a breakthrough,” says Anthony, “I finally got the hang of spirals. They’re the ones where you tilt the wheel onto one rim and roll around, in a circle. I’ve got a bit of a habit of hitting the wall at the moment, still, I’m working on it.”

Jo, 19, a Rhonrader for a “few months” gives a different perspective:

”I kind of like going upside down. The first time I went upside down I hated it – I thought I was going to fall out and kill myself – but then once I’d done it, I kind of like doing it.”

“We’d like to see the club expand…”

John Colles estimates that there are “under 20” Rhoenraders in the UK, nearly all of whom will have had contact with the Torwood Wheelers.

“There are a few odd people dotted around” says John. “There’s a girl up in Norwich who comes down to us every now and then.” Stuntman Ben? “Ben’s a bit like Rhoenrads – difficult to describe” says John ”He’s a character on his own… travelling around, with girlfriend, in a mobile home… “

Tony, 50, helps John with the coaching:

”We’d like to see the club expand – we’ve always wanted to see the club expand. But the trouble is getting people here and interested. We did have a junior class which was very good – children are very interested – but once they reach 16 they’ve got other things, GCSEs – they go onto university, other interests…”

When the students who live locally return to their universities, the numbers attending the club fall dramatically, so John and son Anthony have taken the wheels to the people.

Raising the public profile

”We went along to Rendlesham fayre to do a bit of promotion for the club – that was a good laugh.” says Anthony. “We covered the wheels in old bike tyres, to protect them because we were working on the road.

”You say to some people ‘Do you want to have a go?’ And it’s like ‘I’ll just have a go when I come back’. Other people, their kids are like ‘Oh Dad! Can I have a go at that?!’ They really enjoy it – they scream all the way round and then at the end they go ‘That was brilliant! Can I do it again?’ ”

”We’ve been to a number of fetes.” says John. “In the summer we were at ‘Picnic in the Park’, Woodbridge. As we arrived a queue formed and it was there the entire day – we were just pushing people up and down in wheels, non-stop the whole day long.”

They want you

Tony: “I’d recommend people come along to the Centre and give it a go – it’s totally different. We’ve had people here who totally hate it. When they go upside down they just lose all confidence and never come back again, but others, once they’re upside down, spinning around, they absolutely love it.

”With a 16 – 19 year old we can put them in a wheel and they’d be wheeling on their own within an evening.”

Emma, 19, a student teacher from Martlesham, agrees:

”I’m not sure how you pronounce it. I just know it as wheeling – it’s only my third week.

”It’s just something different – it’s fun – you meet different people and try out something new – definitely recommended.”

An international family

Although Rhoenrad may be largely unknown in the UK, there is a thriving international community. James took part in a trip to Finland last month:

”It was a big international event,” he says, “A 12 day Rhoenrad training course. There were 300 people from all over the world. It was really good.”

“The different Rhonraders had different styles. The Australians were chilled out. The Germans were very kind of formal about it. Some of the Americans were just loopy – completely suicidal.”

Will the British ever be top wheel gymnasts?

”The Germans are the best nation”, says James “but with a bit more practice I think we’ll get there!”

The final word must go to John Colles: “Unlike a sport like football where you’re playing against each other, with gymnastics or Rhoenrads you’re all working to the same target and helping each other. I think that makes it a much more friendly sport.

”When you see someone who is really good at it, it’s a dance in a wheel – it’s beautiful.”

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Pogues review Fri, 08 Oct 2010 00:13:53 +0000 Intro note: In 2004 I reviewed The Pogues at the Birmingham Carling Academy for the BBC website. Here’s an extract:

He’s not dead yet. Smiles spread across the faces lining the balconies. Three songs in and Shane MacGowan is still standing, still singing.

Downstairs, in the sold-out Academy, the crowd are roaring their approval, spilling their drinks and leaning on each other. We’re not dead yet. The younger audience members are jumping up and down.

Then Cait O’Riordan, runs onto the stage and sings ‘I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’. Her voice is strong and clear and slurring Shane, just for a moment, cuts a slightly sad figure, tired and old and deflated.

Next ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’ and Shane is awake and centre-stage, louder and clearer, singing:

”One summer evening drunk to hell
I stood there nearly lifeless
An old man in the corner sang
Where the water lilies grow…”

Shane takes a break and Philip Chevron does his ‘Thousands Are Sailing’. MacGowan returns for a thumping sing-along ‘Body of an American’. A huge cheer greets ‘Dirty Old Town’ – the Academy has sung the first verse before Shane gets started.

It’s a classic Pogues line up – Spider Stacy, Jem Finer, Philip Chevron, Terry Woods, Andrew Ranken, James Fearnley and Darryl Hunt combined with Macgowan’s lyrics and charisma is a powerful mix.
Shane at the Academy
Shane at the Academy

Then ‘The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn’:

“There’s devils on each side of you with bottles in their hands
You need one more drop of poison and you’ll dream of foreign lands…”

A glorious noise, The Pogues own these songs.

Dancing Cait O’Riordan is back on stage for ‘Sally MacLennane’ and a brilliant, shambolic ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’.

‘The Irish Rover’ and ‘Boys From The County Hell’ rush by. During ‘Fairytale Of New York’ foam ‘snow’ falls and Shane and Cait waltz around the stage.

I’m pleased to report that The Pogues are still entertaining, still vital. An experience like no other – great songs, great front-man, great band.

They close on ‘Fiesta’:

”Come all you rambling boys of pleasure
And ladies of easy leisure
We must say Adios! until we see
Almeria once again.”

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Rob Manuel interview Thu, 07 Oct 2010 23:54:08 +0000 Intro note: Years ago (2003) I interviewed Rob Manuel, co-founder of the influential B3ta for the BBC website. It was, I think, his first long-ish interview – and it got a mention in the geeky NTK. Here’s an extract:

Rob Manuel interview

Hello, how are you?
I’m very well thank you. I’m showered, awake and ready for an exciting new day.

You grew up in Wolverhampton and lived there until you were 23? Tell us about it…
I’m very fond of Wolverhampton, and defend it to it’s many mockers, but I wouldn’t really want to live there myself these days. There isn’t much opportunity for interesting work in the area.

I grew up on a dividing line between Finchfield and Castlecroft. As befits the stereotype of the west side of an industrial town, it’s all leafy suburbia really, brass door knockers and people washing their cars on a Sunday.

Favourite area?
Valley Park Railway is a disused railway track that pretty much travels from Wombourne to Wolverhampton town centre. It’s stunningly beautiful and I spent much of my childhood cycling up and down it. The canal is wonderful too, particularly idyllic in the winter when the snow falls on the frozen water.

A good and a bad W-ton memory?
Hmm. I joined Zip – a local theatre group one summer and we did a production called “Wolverhampton – The Musical.” It was utterly ridiculous but amused the hell out of me. Bad? I guess that would be drunken townees shouting “Oi! Ginger!” every day as I wandered about town.

Smestow Comprehensive School. Not a bad school at all. I was quite proud to get consistent D’s in P.E for 5 years running.

What did your parents do? What did they do to you to make you love kittens?
My mum lives in Ironbridge these days. In a lovely little cottage next to the river. She works for the V.A.T and hasn’t seen any of the web stuff that I do. I’ve tried explaining it but she gets a bit glassy eyed.

Kittens? Er.. there was always cats about the house when I grew up. Both my mum and dad were big fans so I got a double genetic dose of kitten love. I’ve got a cat now called Rocky – because he’s a fighter.

What do your family think of your work?
They don’t really know about it. I’ve tried to explain but they don’t really get it.

Tell us about something traumatic that happened to you.
I once went to Amsterdam and got a bit paranoid after sampling some of the local fun. I tried to find somewhere safe to chill out in. Wandered into a building saying “Exhibition” – turned out it was a sales conference of people from Dorset selling caravan holidays to the Dutch.

Please list a few of your previous jobs? How did you get to where you are now?
I’ve watered plants, been a barman, and framed pictures. But then back in about ’95 I decided I wanted to learn how to make a website and in response to the BSE crisis I set up a site called “Cow Liberation Front”.

I was stunned when journalists started phoning me up asking for my opinions on cows. I realised that I knew nothing about cows, but I clearly knew something about websites. So I closed down the site and got myself a job at a web agency working for clients such as Greenpeace.

I worked making client sites for a few years, and then realised I was bored so I started perusing a few personal projects. I met the guy who ran Popbitch, who thought I was onto something and gave me a lot of encouragement. He then got me a job working on “special projects” at Emap. We put together a little team, me, a designer called Denise Wilton and a programmer called Cal Henderson. And we started B3ta.

Emap didn’t think it was right for them, so we took it away and carried on under our own steam. This was about 2 years ago and the site has grown from strength to strength.

Did you expect you’d be doing this?
No, not really. I thought I would end up a member of Duran Duran. Can’t think why that never happened.

In a recent interview The Guardian described you as “in charge of editorial content for cult online community” – what does this mean?
I preferred it when they described B3ta as a “puerile digital arts community.” Ok – basically there’s a lot of people out there who like making stupid web stuff.

The deal is they send it to us, we have a look and if we like it we write about it in the newsletter. We send this to about 70,000 people so it’s in people’s interest to send us stuff.

As well as being entertainment, the newsletter is read by a lot of TV, magazine and ad agency people. So if something is good it has a habit of reaching other media – or being nicked for an ad campaign.

Sounds like an unusual job…
Well it’s not really a job. No one pays me for it. But that’s the wonder of the web isn’t it?

Why do it?
I like it. I love seeing people’s projects. Not agency stuff – but the stuff people dream up in the pub to make their mates laugh.

How many people subscribe to the B3ta newsletter?
About 70,000. With about another 40,000 who read it on the site. I was reading some dotcom b******* the other day saying that each subscriber is worth $100, making B3ta have a value of $11million. Er.. those were the days. Ha ha. We’d sell it for 50p. is very popular – what does this mean? Cultural significance?
a.. There’s a lot of bored people in the office who need entertaining
b.. If you’ve got a good idea and you’re prepared to put the donkey work in then you’ve got a good chance of succeeding
c.. People like us. Er…

Are you a cult leader?
I’m David Koresh without the Jazz fusion.

How does B3ta make money?
It’s not for profit. However, we take donations to cover our costs. This is essential as we use a lot of bandwidth and I’m certainly not going to pay for it.

You’re at a party – how do you quickly describe what you do?

Remember that Introducing Monday thing with the ginger fingers? That was me. People normally know that or one of the rude quizzes.

Which is the favourite stupid web thing you’ve done?
My favourite bit of client work has to be the project for Lastminute. Mainly for the song writing really. I spent a lot of my teenage life writing crap songs, with everyone telling me that they were crap. I had enormous satisfaction in being able to sell one to a client.

So, you enjoy your work?
Yeah I enjoy it. Mostly. As long as the jobs keep coming in, and I don’t have to return to fulltime employment.

Tell us about your working day – do you have a working day?
Not really. Simply depends on what job is on at the moment.

How old are you?
Never you mind.

You’ve now got a radio show (Resonance FM – London). Why?
They got in touch asking to do an interview, I turned up and they said “Do you fancy doing a slot?” and I said, “Yeah.” Basically life is more interesting doing stuff like this yourself rather than watching others from the sidelines.

Your favourite journey? Tell us about it?
The short walk from my house to the nearest pub. The anticipation of a lovely cold glass on beer on a hot summers day.

Your songs…
I think of them more as jingles really. I don’t have the patience for writing long songs, they bore me. I don’t like padding, so I try and just write two lines of a chorus and be done with it.

Tell me a secret.
I’ve got a tail.

What’s the best thing you’ve learnt from the users of the B3TA message board?
The power of the catchphrase is not to be ignored.

Are you rich?

Where do you live now?

Kentish Town. The best place to live in London I reckon. And so do the tramps.

How famous are you?
I’m not famous. But a lot of people have seen stuff I’ve made.

Do you, deep down, consider yourself to be a serious artist – in a medium not yet recognised by the mainstream?

Don’t we all darling. I’m just trying to bring opera to the masses.

What would you be doing if there was no internet?

Well, I’d go and do something people were interested in then! It’s much more fun having people like your stuff and react to it, rather than ignoring it.

Do you write serious songs?
They are serious. I don’t know why you’re laughing at them.

Again: do you write serious songs?
Yeah, but B3ta isn’t really the right place for them.

Are you happy?
Sometimes. Are you?

Are you a geek?
I’m geek on my father’s side of the family.

Are computers art?
Are computers art? Huh? Is a paintbrush art? Nope, it’s a tool.

Ideally – what would you be doing now?

Do you eat meals in front of the computer?
Nope. My butler insists that I dine in the west wing.

Your current family life – married?
Girlfriend and cat. Oh, and the butler of course.

Do you have any celebrity fans?
I interviewed Miles Hunt of The Wonder Stuff for .net magazine the other day and he mentioned that his girlfriend knows all the words to the “I love you kitten” song and sings them down the answer phone to him. He said, “So you’re to blame.”

What makes you laugh?
My girlfriend. I spend much of my time making her impersonate cabbies, the mad lady down the road and a Polish friend of her mothers.

A favourite book?
‘How to have a number 1 – the easy way’ by The KLF. Entirely useless but utterly inspirational.

Favourite website? – fantastic source of royalty free images.

Proudest moment?

Having the Birmingham song played on BRMB radio.

What has life taught you? Do you have a motto?
Don’t procrastinate – do it.

To be as silly as you are must take a lot of work. Are you wasting your talents?
Yep. I’d like to write a hit record for Victoria Beckham. It looks like she needs a bit of help. I couldn’t believe that single, “I’m not so innocent.” Sheesh – she’s a married mother of two. That’s so the wrong song for her.

Tell us about projects you’ve got lined up.
I’m going to build a huge wicker kitten and fill it full of the staff of crap agencies that produce shoddy work. I’m going to burn it, and take all their jobs.

Plans for TV programmes?
I’d like to make a Freak Idol show where people came on and showed off their deformities. The public could vote on the best ones and make a cast of a freak show which could tour the land. It would be presented by Jeremy Beadle. You work at the BBC, can you pitch that to someone?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’d like to do a few films in Hollywood and then get into politics. Well, that’s what Arnold Schwarzenegger said to the same question in the 70s and look at him now.

You’re not big. You’re not clever – when are you going to grow up?
You’ve been talking to my mum haven’t you?

What next?
Secret secret stuff that would make your head explode. Literally.

Do you have a proper job?
Yeah, I do freelance stuff for cash. Anything to avoid having to work full time at stuff I hate. Recently I’ve been writing for .net magazine, making some sites for C4, working with a record company on launching a new act and in a couple of weeks I’ll be working with a TV station writing format ideas for a quiz show.

What would you be doing if you were not answering these questions?

Well, I should be preparing the next newsletter at the moment. I didn’t realise you’d ask quite so many questions.

Will computers rule the world? Do they rule the world already?
IT staff rule the world. If I wanted to start a cult and take over the world I’d get all the put upon IT workers to strike. Having no email would bring the media to it’s knees.

What frightens you?

Death, spiders, cancer, warts and rotting vegetables.

Are you a Baron of the internet?

If that means I get to wear a sword on public transport then yes. Oh and I’d like a Pickelhauben too. (German spiked helmet.)

Tell us a joke.

What’s grey and comes in pints? An elephant.

Much of your stuff could be perceived as being in poor taste – lots of swearing etc – is there a generation gap…

Kids love it. I get a lot of mail from 13 year old boys saying they look at it in the classroom, and sing the songs to wind up the teachers.

If I was Terry Wogan would you touch my knee?

If you were Terry Wogan I’d say, “Stop it with this Channel 5 nonsense, and get the BBC to give you a chat show.”

Has anything changed (around you/in your life) since you began answering these questions?
I’m a bit hungry.

I’m giving you an Oscar – you are standing on the stage – who would you like to thank?
I’d go round the room and get autographs of all the famous people and flog them on e-bay. Reckon you could clear a few grand for a night’s work. Not bad I reckon.

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