Thursday, July 26, 2012

London for visitors: a predictable 'alternative' guide

The Guardian's very pleased with itself thanks to its not-in-any-way predictable "alternative" London visitors' guide. Needless to say it's not funny, but is this going stop me doing my own version? Ha! I don't think so. The only downer is I'm not on some monster wedge to knock out this sort of gumph. Anyway, without further ado, here's my London tips

– Play "Find a Cockney". A near-impossible game which involves tracking down someone actually from London, and not a blandly accented phoney whose left-wing credentials haven't stopped them pricing out locals from the East End. One of them might be Banksy. Yikes!
– Keep count of the amount of meals that are served on enormous white plates/dishes in gastropubs. After a week you'll be in the hundreds, and you'll have eaten enough pork belly to last a lifetime. Note how old people have been clinically removed from these places, a bit like in Logan's Run
– Keep a record of everything you've done, then in two months time write an "alternative" guide to London for your local broadsheet newspaper. Concentrate on the East End and how its reinvented itself into a "virbant/edgy quarter" full of artists/software designers/anyone else who was crap at sport at school

– Start arguments in pubs. There's nothing more British than getting glassed. It'll also give you the chance to try out the NHS and see what G4S are like at mopping up blood
– Eat our amazing selection of crisps. Seriously, they'll make the piddling efforts in your Mickey Mouse country look like dog biscuits. That'll be a pack of prawn cocktail and one-nil to us, Jean-Pierre!
– Sleep with one of us. Seriously, we're easy and we'll do literally anything (including you-know-what) as long as there's some grog in it for us. Why go Faliraki for crap sex when you can come here and do some cool museums in your down time?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ormskirk: rebranding a north-west market town

Ormskirk is a town in north-west England. It lies on the outskirts of Liverpool and boasts a university, Edge Hill, that's one of the fastest growing in the country. Smack bang the most densely populated areas of the UK outside London, and with a population that's overwhelmingly middle class (and that includes the 25,000 students), this largely pretty town should be buzzing – but it's not. I also happened to be born there.

Like a lot of similar places around the country – and especially those in the north – Ormskirk town centre lies empty for much of the week, in this case because shoppers get one of the four-an-hour trains into nearby Liverpool or drive to Southport. The market may be the draw, but it's more Albion than Borough. 
Happily, a group of shop owners and business people have got together to try and do something about it. They call themselves Love Ormskirk and they're attamepting to get funding to improve the place as part of the Portas Pilot project. 

Inspired by their efforts I designed these posters as a way to highlight 'Ormy's' best qualities – shopping, history, nightlife and restaurants. I also make a lot of its proximity to Liverpool, firmly attaching it to the unbeatable brand of the city. 

How their bid gets on isn't clear yet, but its caught people's imagination, including my own, and that can only be a good thing.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Heaton Park vs Spike Island

So, after 44 years without talking to each other, Warrington and Sale’s The Stone Roses finally got it together at Heaton Park last week and put on a performance worthy of the hype. With a catalogue of undeniably boss tunes it should have been impossible for the band to mess up, but anyone who saw them between ’89-’91 will tell you that a good Roses performance was as rare as a fella without a moustache in Salford in 1983. Thankfully, they delivered.

The great mega gig of Madchester (and I’m using the term because I was there and I’m allowed) was of course, Spike Island, the ‘Woodstock of Baggy’, that saw 30,000 (real and pretend) Mancs decamp to a wildlife reserve in Widnes for the most culturally significant gig of 1990.

The concert has passed into legend as one of those events you had to be at, but with refreshing un-babyboomer truthfulness, anyone who was there will tell you how disappointing it was. Though not as disappointing as not going.

So, how do the two compare?

Spike Island: Gigantic flares and Joe Bloggs long-T-shirts, apart from about 300 Mancs who turned up in old school Adidas and white jeans with cropped hair. This made everyone else examine their own gear and realise just how shit they looked. By the World Cup a month later, flares had disappeared without a trace, like Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects

Heaton Park: A mix of Dad’s-gone-casual chic or Oi Polloi/Weavers Door clobber for the north- westerners. Flares, Reni hats and blag Roses T-shirts for the youthful Scots and Irish contingents, making sure they weren’t going to miss out on looking stupid this time around. Even though most of them weren't born in 1990

Spike Island: Pot, everywhere. Ecstasy and trips for the more experienced attendees. Nothing whatsoever for me due to mingebag, sixth-former’s budget

Heaton Park: Cocaine, five quid bottles of Fosters, stuff you give the kids to quiten them down of an evening, Buckfast

The crowd
Spike Island: 60/40 men to women. Most of them under the age of 21, many driving vans with Squire-influenced messy paint jobs – Bonehead from Oasis’s being one particularly good example

Heaton Park: 95/5 men to women. Even the ladies looked like blokes, though they refrained from the pre-concert entertainment of piss-throwing. You missed out, girls

The sound
Spike Island: Like listening to someone playing The Stone Roses album in a windtunnel

Heaton Park:  Like listening to The Stone Roses album through a really loud, but really small, telly

What it felt like…
Spike Island: The end of something

Heaton Park: The end of something – but in a good way