As children we wore our Christmas sweaters all winter – They were more like the tasteful Nordic ones then only not as good crafting.
For anyone that has read or seen the Bridget Jones Diary (2001) movie, they will know that in the UK we wear silly pullovers at Christmas. Knitwear presents are popular and if your aunt has spent the year knitting that embarrassing sweater for you, then the least you can do is wear it to family gatherings over Christmas.
But since that film these jumpers have taken off in a big way. Sixteen years later, we now even import cheap acrylic ones from China. We have a Christmas jumper at work day to raise money for charity and Presenters even wear them on television! There are nights out and pub-crawls where it is compulsory to wear your Christmas jumper.
Here are more photos I took from the Christmas jumper night out at Southampton’s Christmas market – click on to enlarge:
Julia Hilling, one of my most charming friends died last August.
Her stage name was Julia Bretton. She began her career at the age of 17 as a Windmill Girl at London’s Windmill Theatre.
The Windmill was known worldwide as the theatre that “never closed” or should that be “never clothed”? Scantily-clad beauties performed in this basement theatre throughout WWII to keep up the morale of allies and locals alike. It was seen as an important beacon to keep spirits alight during a frightening time and always remained open while bombs dropped.
It was the subject of the award winning film “Mrs Henderson Presents” starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, and is currently being staged as a musical at the Nöel Coward Theatre in London’s West End.
Julia explained to me how, with the other ‘girls’ she slept at the theatre in their dressing room while performing in revues alongside people like Sir Bruce Forsyth. “We were well looked after and any men backstage behaved very gentlemanly”.
As well as starring in other staged musicals as Julia Bretton, she had minor roles in films (talkies) in the1940s.
She outlived five husbands – all of whom were, “absolutely wonderful! – “I loved them all!” One of whom is buried in a cemetery in the New Forest, Hampshire, but she could never remember whether it was in Lymington or Lyndhurst.
I first met her when I called auditions in the mid-90s. She had retired to live in Spain and I was directing The Sleeping Beauty, a pantomime I had drafted for the Salon Variétes theatre in Fuengirola. Julia was having problems remembering lines and moving around the stage by that time, but she had such audience charisma and was so regal that I gave her the part as the Queen, sat her on a throne and taped her lines to props. She was marvellous and even brought her own little Spanish hairdresser to tidy up her locks while she was off-stage.
Although much older than me, we remained friends as we both had a love of opera and Cole Porter. She did a wonderful rendition of “Mad About the Boy” and she belly-danced at my 50th birthday party. When theatre crowds are renowned to be bitchy, no-one I know has ever heard Julia utter a bad word about anyone.
In 2005 she, along with other colleagues on the Costa del Sol, was sold a dodgy, equity-release investment package by fraudulent financial advisors. After handing over the deeds to her home in return for living expenses until death, she was only given living expenses by the Rothschild bank for the first two years, then was expected to hand over her apartment. She took all this in her stride and refused to move.
This enigmatic woman deserves to be on the amazing-people-I-have-known list. She had charm, class and even well into her 80s, had sex-appeal.
Before I left to return to England she started dating another ‘amazing’ friend of mine called Sid – a famous Talk of the Town pianist who accompanied 1960s divas from Shirley Bassey to Julie Andrews.
Julia had a big sexual appetite apparently, and despite both being in their 80s then, Sid complained about the amount of viagra he was having to take to keep up. Sadly he also died. So she outlived him too.
My biggest memory is bumping into her in a Lidlsupermarket one morning. She was wafting around with a trolley, just after opening time, wearing a cocktail dress and full make-up including false eyelashes. “Julia! Look at you – always so glamorous” I remarked.
“Oh! I haven’t been home yet, Darling!” She explained: “I’ve been to a party. It lasted all night!”
I took part in The Victorian Festival of Christmas at Portsmouth’s Historical Dockyard this year. If you have ever wandered why so many British actors get the best parts in Hollywood movies, then perhaps take a look at this year’s festival slide showon YouTube (by photographer Steve Spurgin): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mPDpbDtbO8
With very little rehearsal, over 400 volunteers dressed in Victorian costume to bring this attraction to life, for thousands of tourists from all over the globe.
In the UK, we live and breath theatre from an early age, starting with making costumes to take part in the school’s nativity play. History is now taught by people dressing up and re-enacting the period they are learning about, be it Romans or WWII. To learn Shakespeare for exams we do not just read the play, we act it. More people belong to amateur drama groups in Britain than sports societies.
Portsmouth is the birthplace of Charles Dickens. The Historical Dockyard is where centuries-old ships, such as Nelson’s Flagship The Victory, HMS Warrior and The Mary Rose etc are moored.
The dry dock is also where parts of Les Miserables was filmed. So all these scenes were brought to life by costumed actors, singers, school groups, historical and Victorian interest societies such as steam-punks or the Victorian Strollers.People from 5 to 80 years-of-age played famous Victorian or Dickensian characters for three full days and with very little breaks. It was in the open air while the tale-end of Hurricane Desmond was blowing a gale and in addition there were a few down-pours.
First visitors are greeted by carollers, then those in Victorian Uniforms, dockyard workers, stilt-walking-police, postal clerks, servicemen, sailors. Then by beggars, prostitutes and suffragettes – undertakers, a ruthless judge in a courtroom setting, prisoners, gliding angels, pearly kings & queens singing cockney musical hall ditties, workhouse children being enticed to steal by Fagin and the Artful Dodger, chimney sweeps, a green-gowned Father Christmas. There were snow machines, carousels, a Downton-Abbey type dinner table set with turkey and trimmings, various stage sets. There were three a pubs – one mock, one real with bands singing sea shanties and even an inflatable one. There was a market selling Christmas crafts and fayre from mulled cider to hog roasts.
I was part of Groundlings Theatre that organised around 200 of us. I played an aristocratic snob preaching Victorian manners. “It is the height of rudeness to have one’s elbows on the table.” At the end of each sketch, Charles the Butler pushes a custard pie in my face. I endured around 40 of those!
The finale each year is a parade lead by a full pipe band in kilts and bear-skins and headed by Queen Victoria. We were not allowed to carry phones and cameras, so I could only took a few snap-shots in the Green Room. Most of these photos are from Portsmouth News.
This post is from another Sotonian blogger ‘The Parcel Talks’ and her memories of an area that Love Productions (makers of Benfits Street) tried to make a controversial programme about called Immigration Street. Southampton as a port has always been multi-cultural. But many who live in this area have been here for two or three generations. True Sotonians in city of transient people. When will they be called British? Most refused to take part in the film.
Idly channel hopping one night I stumbled upon Channel 4’s pseudo-documentary, Immigration Street. I had remembered the surrounding furore in the media from when it was being filmed in my home town, Southampton. I had hoped that the controversy would prevent it from going ahead, and duly forgot about it.
Symbols of Southampton.
Due to the inflammatory title and controversy over the production company’s previous series, Benefits Street, this was never going to be a balanced and reasoned discussion on the subject of immigration. Nor was it likely to be a positive representation of the area of St. Mary’s, Southampton. It started off innocently enough, but as the programme progressed, it descended into chaos. Clearly out of their depth, the production team defensively struggled to keep control amid growing dissent, culminating in disturbing scenes of violent unrest in the community. The selective editing reminded me of Martin Parr’s sneering lens, disingenuously…
This is a tribute to the Grand Budapest Hotel. The hotels above, were believed to be the inspiration for the set of Oscar-winning ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ by Wes Anderson, although filming took place in Germany. The movie sparked a cult to stay at Grand Hotels all over Europe. George Ezra’s song Budapest was such a big hit last year that the British have been flocking to Budapest for their holidays. The English folk singer was given a special ‘thank you’ trophy from Hungary’s Minister for Tourism.
My house in Budapest
My hidden treasure chest,
Golden grand piano
My beautiful Castillo
I’d leave it all – George Ezra
The film company released each scene of their official trailer as a gif which you can download online. An excellent marketing ploy! I could not decide which one to use so I thought I would just link the whole lot from their wonderful trailer on YouTube. It’s very short do visit (or copy and paste to visit):http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Fg5iWmQjwk
This is where I heard about The Secret Cinema Club, which for the last eight years had been holding large scale cinema screenings which pop up in amazing locations (mainly in London) that echo the film that it is showing. The audience and actors dress and stay in-character as if you are in the movie.
For the screening of Prometheus they transformed a London warehouse into a spaceship. For The Shawshank Redemption audiences began their journey at Bethnal Green Library and travelled by prison van to the ‘cinema’ based in an old school, the mock prison! These events are spectacles thought up by Fabien Riggall’s Future Cinema Company, and traditionally follow the rule that customers do not know the film they are paying to see before they visit the event. For the performance we went to however they had revealed the performance title in advance, I’m guessing as it would have been a bit of a give away since the whole front of the hotel housed the name in big letters!”
Not everyone is depressed in Southampton. Many are very happy.
I just love this video made by film/graphic design student (?) Valerio Chiarini as part of course in Southampton.
It features the track “Happy” Verve by Pharrell Williams