Allotment Plot update – June 2008

Time for an update on how our growing is going. I thought I’d start off by a quick explanation about the real reason we’ve become such keen gardeners. Our plot is a mere 215 feet from the house. If it wasn’t for that fact we wouldn’t pay it half as much attention.

So in late June our plot is beginning to mature nicely. I’ve already mentioned our lovely new spuds – lots more to come there as I’ve dug up only about a fifth of the plants. Despite picking lots and lots of rhubarb there’s still some to go. I did bake an apple and rhubarb crumble which was nice (touch of ginger and cinnamon) so I’ll make use of the last of the season’s pickings soon.

Runner beans are coming along nicely and flowering although the peas seem a little stunted. A neighbouring tenant gave me some leeks from France which are in the ground and haven’t died – a success by anyone’s standards. I stole some sweetcorn seeds from my neighbouring tenant (he offered me a some seeds to sow and I put the whole packet in – not what he meant, sorry) and they’ve come through but it’s very late to be planting these so I’m not even sure they’ll be big enough to pick come autumn.

runner beans leeks sweetcorn 

We’ve now got lots of lettuce of many varieties. Both on the patio and on the plot itself. There’s not a single slug chomp on any of them and they taste delicious. On a fun side note, we have decided to update our stone patio design next year so that we can have even more veggies at our door.


Finally, our cauliflowers are blooming (no heads yet though), some cabbages are in, our onions aren’t too far away from coming up and I’ve got tons of main crop potatoes for harvesting at the end of the summer (so many that they’ll no doubt be a give-away of those so get your orders in). Oh and we’ve got a couple of pumpkins on the go as well.

The plot itself still needs a tidy-up at the front and the back half of it is still completely overgrown although there are raspberries and redcurrants there for the picking.

Stand-up Comedy circa 1996

More from the archive. This time it’s 1996 and a group of us (myself directing, Matt Eccles on camera and Clair Daintree producing) decide to make a video about the stand-up comedy scene.

Ha Bloody Ha from Dave Harte on Vimeo.

Filmed largely in Birmingham (Glee Club and The Bear in Bearwood feature) this focuses on two up-and-coming comedians from the time, Andy Robinson and Natalie Haynes. Much of the focus is on the latter as female comedians doing the circuit were even rarer then than they are now. Natalie has gone on to great things of course with a Perrier nomination, a headlining tour or two, appearances on the Beeb, a column in the Times, she’s even written a book. Back then she barely got paid for a gig. Worth having a read of a review on the Laughter Track blog.

Natalie HaynesAndy Robinson

Andy is still a stalwart of the Birmingham circuit and has supported major comedians on national tours. Jenny Eclair also features in an interview.

The programme stands up quite well despite the occasional contrived scene. This version is from the S-VHS master and has some sound drop-outs – more at the start actually so stick with it.

The Triangle Cinema – Gosta Green, Birmingham

[Update – December 2012: I was sad to read that Peter Walsh, who featured in the video below, has passed away. Not only was Peter really helpful to us at the time we were making the video, allowing us access to all areas of the Triangle buildings, but through his programming of the Triangle Cinema effectively opened my eyes to the joys of non-mainstream and world cinema. Ian at Flatpack has written a short piece about him as well.]

After much searching I have at last found the video I made in about 1988 about the Triangle Cinema in Gosta Green, Birmingham. I can’t fathom why there is so little is writen about this place during its Birmingham Arts Lab period in the 1970s or later, when I used to go there, as The Triangle. It was originally a cinema and in the late 1960s a TV studio for the BBC.

The video was produced whilst I was a trainee at a place called Handsworth Viewpoint about which I may write more at some point.

There is a longer version of this video somewhere, I’m sure it was about 10 minutes long. This is a 5 minute version which was on a VHS video labelled ‘Dave Harte showreel’. The other stuff on the showreel hasn’t really stood the test of time – this at least has some historical interest and a top soundtrack by Big Audio Dynamite:

mmm potatoes

Take a look at my new spuds:


Go on, click on the picture to get the large version. They look good don’t they? They taste good as well. I only got into this allotment larky in oder to grow spuds and here are my first ones. I can’t recall what variety I planted but have got about 20 plants worth – the above being the bounty of a couple of them.

Will do a full June allotment plot update soon – betcha can’t wait….


Money for film festivals

Chubb Buildings pic by Pete Ashton

I sit on the board at Wolverhampton’s Light House Media Centre which, in case you didn’t know, is a cinema come media training, come gallery, come bar in the centre of Wolverhampton. It’s a great place and I’m chuffed to note that yesterday the UK Film Council awarded £50,000 to support Deaffest, the UK’s only deaf-led film & TV festival, which runs at the Light House from 28th to 30th November. The festival is co-organised by Zebra Uno, a Wolverhampton production company/consultancy that aims to break down communication barriers between deaf and hearing people.

7 inch cinema, based in Birmingham, also did well out of the same funding pot getting £70,000. Well done them.

Both the above awards are spread over three years which, when you do the maths doesn’t amount to a significant amount each year but does at least secure their future and allow them to go fishing in other funding pots to match what they got. Nice to see the news getting picked up across the pond by the Hollywood Reporter.

Are you going to organize film festival? Hire Executive Protection for the safer event.

Birmingham Pirate Radio in the 1990s

I’ve been looking through old VHS tapes from my student days and have digitised one a group of us did in 1995 about Pirate Radio in Birmingham. It makes for an interesting historical document partly as it’s about PCRL, Birmingham’s most significant pirate station in the 1980s and 90s but also because it features enough shots of Brum that are no longer there to make it feel ancient already. 

The DJs featured are Rebel D and Pilot. Both get a mention on the PCRL DJ profile page (Rebel D doesn’t seem to have an individual page).

It’s just under 9 mins long:

There’s a couple more Birmingham related VHS tapes I did that I’ll upload at some point.

Birmingham half-marathon is go

At last, after first being announced before Christmas, the full details of the Birmingham half-marathon are out and entries are open. It takes place on 26th October with a 9.30am start. Hot on the heels of the recent climate change festival the event is being billed as the ‘Race against Climate Change’. EDF are the sponsors being the responsible energy types they are.

Here’s the route. The link to a higher-res PDF of the route doesn’t seem to work but I’ll do an update if they sort it out is here.


To me it looks like a straightforward 3.5 miles down the A34 from Alexander Stadium to Dale End and through to Victoria Square, down towards the Mailbox going under the inner ring road, back up to Broad st for a bit before crossing to the Hagley road. You then divert off on a circuit around Edgbaston before getting to Bearwood and doubling back for a two and a bit mile straight run back to Centenary Square for the finish. I think it’ll be undulating but maybe with a slight dip overall. Not really a fast course but it’ll be fun to run around the centre of Birmingham. 

Entries are £20 for runners affiliated to a running club, over 60s and students. £22 for everyone else. That sounds about right for a big city half-marathon. Nottingham for example is £22.50/£24.50 but that is a very big, well established event. 

You can enter online but beware – it looks like they’ll add a 10% charge on to the fee. In the small print it says forms will be available in city council leisure facilities or by calling 0844 888 3883 to request a form.

I’m up for it – hope you are too! 

Hat-tip to Bournville Harriers for the news

mmm pie

Many many thanks to Sue (partner of Tony from Bournville Harriers) for this pie. She took the rhubarb from our allotment plot and made something extraordinary with it. A quite delicious apple and rhubarb pie. This is a before pic:
mmm pie

And this is the after pic:

mmm pie after

As I say, thanks Sue.

Social Media’s hidden legacy

This is a cross-post from my blog at the Birmingham Post

Two things trouble me about social media. The first is that everyone I read or connect to via Twitter or Facebook or whatever, seems to be having a much more exciting life than me. It’s a world of gallery openings, launches, great nights out or simply wonderful sunny, lazy days untroubled by personal dramas or upheavals.

Not that I’m jealous of course. Well actually of course it’s because I’m jealous. I even get invited to some of the same events that my friends and colleagues go to I just never seem to get round to going to them – either through a lack of willing babysitters or, more likely, a general acceptance that I’m a long way from being renaissance man. A beer and night in front of the telly are usually all the cultural activity I can muster after a day at work.

The key thing that troubles me though is what historians will make of the social media footprints we’re leaving behind us. Specifically, I wonder what social historians will make of Birmingham and its people when they come to look back on our early 21st century twittering. I suspect they’ll immediately smell a rat – what, they’ll ask, are these people hiding? Was life really a joyous social whirlwind? What kind of lives did Birmingham people live and why didn’t they use the new media tools available to tell us about it?

If you lay out this city’s social media network in front of you it would be a bit like those formal, rigid family portraits that adorn our walls as they did our grandparents’ walls. That is, they conceal more than they reveal. The great academic Stuart Hall, himself linked to Birmingham through his time at Birmingham University’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in the 1960s and 70s, pointed out how immigrant communities of the 1950s were represented by stiff family portraits, dressed in their Sunday best. What they concealed were lives plagued by prejudice, persecution and social injustice.

Of course Hall was talking about a medium that was already mature. Its rhetorical devices, particularly in portraiture, were already well established. If you popped into your local high street photographer back then the only input you had into the image-making process was what background you would be sat in front of. Social media on the other hand allows for endless choices of expression. Okay so with Twitter you’ve got a maximum of 140 characters but there’s nothing to stop you twittering all day if you want to.

Although social media platforms are in their earliest phases the historian’s gaze will inevitably turn to them as a source of evidence to tell stories about us, probably sooner than it did with photography. It took until the 1970s for academics to see value in personal photography as an area of study and immediately they realised the interesting stuff was behind the image rather that in it.

Plenty of people tell me Birmingham seems to have been quick on the uptake with Social Media. Both in terms of using and testing new services and in terms of having a small group of entrepreneurs who are trying to develop new social media applications from which there is business to be made.

But if we are at the forefront then we need to listen to ourselves now and again. At best we demonstrate the vibrancy of living in an exciting city with lots to offer but at worst it descends into a curious uncritical mush and represents our city as one with its head in the sand – too excitable to see the wheat from the chaf or tell the good times from the bad.

It’s time to think about what’s not being said. Not so much ‘Digital – More Power or Powerless’ but ‘Useful or Useless’.

10 things I learnt on Tour

Here are ten things I learnt during this week’s Tour of Bournville:

  1. Using the same number every night is better in theory than in practice although it does allow for some interesting improvisation.
  2. Sean Rose is faster than me. Actually I already knew this. We all knew this. The best I could have hoped for was some astonishing loss of form from him but it wasn’t to be. Despite the occasional claim of sore calf muscles I knew he was playing with me. He beat me by 1min 53secs overall.
  3. Birmingham is a lovely place. During my marathon training I used to run down the Bristol Road to Longbridge and then up through West Heath amongst other grim urban routes. More fool me as South Birmingham is full of parks and quiet lanes if this week is anything to go by. 
  4. I look ridiculous when I’m running. In every single shot I’ve got my thumbs up. What is with that? Next time you see me please break both my thumbs. 
  5. Doing all five races allows you to eat crap all day. One of the most frequent things I get asked about my running is: “do you have a special diet.” Yes, I have a special diet comprising fry-ups and chocolate. This week I have averaged two breakfasts, several large lunches and quite a bit of mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. Yum.
  6. The club has some good photographers. I’m unsure if this one below is a Paul Foot, Mark Lynock or Mike Scotney pic but it’s my favourite of the bunch – shows us all working hard. Those thumbs though – I really need to do something about them.
  7. Race 5

  8. The tour is good for socialising. I’ve chatted to more club members this week than ever. Partly because of the blog but I’ve had good chats with lots of people about all kinds of stuff. I even managed to get rid of some of my allotment rhubarb to Tony A’s other half. Apparently I’m to get a rhubarb pie as payment. More yum!
  9. Blogging rocks!. More of you should do it. It’s really very easy to set up. One of the good things about it is that people can comment on what you write. I haven’t had many comments this week but just having a few people say “good run” or something similar is really quite heartening. Our club website operates a bit like a blog anyway but having your own space to write your thoughts allows you to connect different aspects of your life and interests together and to connect to others who share those interests. Blogging about running also increases traffic to your website. My stats show a three-fold increase in readers of this blog since the link from the club website was made. Yes, that’s up from 3 visitors a day to 9 – wow!
  10. Some male members of this club are way more popular with the ladies than I am. I got a polite round of applause when I went up to receive my hat and bottle of wine but at least one of our male colleagues was rewarded with a chorus of female yelps and wolf whistles when he went up. What’s his secret?…
  11. Finally, something I already knew: we’ve got a great running club at Bournville of which I’m proud to be a member. Well done to everyone who took part in the tour and thanks once again to the organisers. Now it’s back to the grindstone of training – the cross-country season will be here before you know it.
Thanks to all those Bournville Harriers members who are new to this blog. Please keep reading as I do write about my running from time to time. Now in order to demonstrate the power of blogging you all need to write something in the comments about how this week’s Tour was for you…