Category Archives: Britain

2023 ➤ Fond farewells to the glorious Queen of the Telegraph fashion pages

Hilary Alexander, tributes, Daily Telegraph, fashion,

Farewell to Hilary Alexander on her retirement in 2011: the spoof front page every good hack deserves to cap their career. Read my own account linked below

“The dizzy industry doyenne”
Obituary at Vogue
https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/hilary-alexander-obituary

Fashion editors, tributes, obituary, Hilary Alexander, Suzy Menkes, Anna Wintour

The British fashion triumvirate in their heyday: Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune, Hilary Alexander of the Daily Telegraph and Anna Wintour of US Vogue

❚ ONE OF BRITISH JOURNALISM’S greatest characters has died and you won’t hear a harsh word spoken about her – apart from on the hilarious spoof tribute page produced for her 2011 leaving party after donkeys years as fashion director of the Daily Telegraph. During the 1980s-90s I worked regularly alongside Hilary Alexander and also dared go out on the town with her to witness her beaming smile and unique dress sense turn heads in all directions. As British fashion grew in credibility on the world stage, Hilary became one of a triumvirate of British fashion editors the international circuit took very seriously, the others being Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune and Anna Wintour of Vogue, who were to clock up two OBEs and a DBE.

On Saturday, the day before yesterday’s 77th birthday, Hilary died from a heart attack during an operation to treat a brain tumour, according to our mutual colleague Penelope McDonald. Penny herself recalls the laughs they had enjoyed over the years – especially at the annual Fenwick Christmas shopping evenings to which Hils attracted leading designers.

Fashion editors, tributes, obituary, OBE, Hilary Alexander, photos,

The umpteen faces of fashion queen Hilary Alexander as captured by Google

Paul Hill, Foreign Desk Manager at the Telegraph, also recalls: “She used to organise the Christmas shows in Canada Square, taking over the canteen for the day and putting catwalks in and often filming them for DVD circulation to staff. I was in one (as one of five Elvis impersonators singing appallingly badly All Shook Up) and Hils was everywhere with what started as a full bottle of scotch, but by the end of the show was almost empty and she was a very happy and relaxed director! She would inveigle all sorts of seriously-minded staffers into these annual events, famously Lord Bill Deedes to dress up – make-up and all – as Mick Jagger to mime along to Brown Sugar.”

Our selection of photos from a Google search for Hils sums up her unending exuberance (“I will not stop flying. I will not stop smoking.”). Her home life in Dulwich was surprisingly private and, having ended an unfortunate early marriage, she leaves no partner. Her funeral could be a starry event, though my own 2011 tribute in the link below is probably unbeatable!

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2011, The incomparable Hilary Alexander makes her own front-page news as she leaves the Telegraph

Fashion editors, tributes, obituary, Vivienne Westwood, Hilary Alexander,

Hilary’s last profile photo posted at Twitter 2022… Hils celebrates her retirement with Andreas Kronthaler and Vivienne Westwood in 2011

Fashion editors, tributes, obituary, OBE, HM Elizabeth II, Hilary Alexander,

Fashion royalty: Hilary Alexander was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen in 2013… Hils sports a black silk dress with a jazzy poppy print to coordinate with the OBE ribbon

THE BRITISH FASHION COUNCIL’S
VIDEO TRIBUTE TO OUR HILS

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2022 ➤ Farewell Terry Hall, chronicler of social unrest in the Eighties

Terry Hall, ska, pop charts, Swinging Eighties, obituary, singer

Terry Hall on the cover of The Face in July 1981 (Photo © Davies/Starr)

❚ IN POST-PUNK 1979 The Specials and their 2 Tone Records label were just about the only credible sounds in the blandly irrelevant pop charts of the time. This ska-revival band from Coventry defined the anger characterising the concrete jungle in recessionary Britain from their debut single Gangsters to Ghost Town in 1981. They notched seven chart hits while the fashion-conscious stylists who turned London’s Blitz Club into a poser’s paradise set about creating employment among their own ranks by reinventing the UK music scene itself.

The frontman of The Specials, Terry Hall, who from the outset felt uncomfortable becoming a pop celebrity, died on Sunday aged only 63 after a tough and often traumatic life. Yet his singing voice and charisma as a political militant, also expressed with the ironically named Fun Boy Three, ensured a substantial following in later life so that a comeback album titled Encore topped the UK chart in 2019.

Here’s how today’s Guardian obituary of Terry Hall starts, written by Adam Sweeting: “Singer with the Specials whose chart-topping Ghost Town evoked the sense of social collapse gripping Britain at the turn of the Eighties”

Famously deadpan, dour and slightly menacing, Terry Hall, who has died aged 63 after a short illness, shot to fame at the end of the 1970s with Coventry’s ground-breaking multi-racial band the Specials. They emerged in the aftermath of punk, with a fizzing, politically charged mix of ska and new wave, and enjoyed instant success with their debut album, The Specials, which reached No 4 on the UK chart. For a time, the Specials’ 2 Tone Records operation became the UK’s most successful record label, with releases from Madness, the Beat and the Selecter alongside the Specials’ own.

Hall commented that “I don’t believe music can change anything” because “all you can do is put your point across”, but the Specials caught the fraught and dangerous atmosphere of the turn of the 1980s with an eerie intensity. Ghost Town in particular chillingly evoked the sense of social collapse and economic decline gripping a riot-torn Britain.

The Specials found themselves in the eye of the storm, with neo-Nazis frequently targeting their gigs. Hall and the band’s keyboards player, Jerry Dammers, were both arrested when they waded in to try to break up fighting between fans and security guards at a gig in Cambridge. They were found guilty of “incitement to riot” and fined £400 each… / Continued at Guardian online

HALL AS SOLO ARTIST IN 1994:

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: 1981, Chant No 1 – Spandau revive the rumble of funk while hard times loom

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2022 ➤ New Romantics? Here are some who won’t own to that name

BFI Flare Film Festival 2022, Tramps!, Kevin Hegge, Brian Robertson, movies, New Romantics

After yesterday’s Gala premiere of Tramps! – BFI host at left, then director Kevin Hegge, Scarlett Cannon, Jeffrey Hinton, Philip Sallon, Verity Susman (music), Matthew Sims (music) and Brian Robertson (producer). (Photo © Tessa Hallmann)

❚ MAYBE IT TAKES AN OUTSIDER to see a whole decade with a fresh perspective? Saturday night saw the launch of a documentary called Tramps! that attempts to do just that in almost two hours.  The much-spun truths and fables of a movement which, even after this film’s premiere, refuses to own its given name, appears to have a new champion. In truth there was not just one group of people who started the emerging movement, there clearly were many who at times intermingled but also grew their own quiet revolutions under a greater umbrella that later came to be called a cult: the New Romantics. This is the story of some of them.

Tramps!, BFI Flare Festival, Mark Dooris, review, movies

FILM REVIEW BY
MARK DOORIS
(Photo Tessa Hallmann)

The Canadian Kevin Hegge’s film opens cleverly to a domestic picture of the model Scarlett Cannon tending to her sun-drenched garden as she recollects her formative years. In this unexpected view of a woman whose powerful and iconic imagery has been documented and used as one of the least compromising style statements of the Eighties (playing “key identity” for the V&A Museum’s major exhibition From Club to Catwalk), she speaks about simply being there!

Just like the film’s poster, this is well-placed bait that slowly draws you into what will turn out to be a very well-constructed game plan. A definitive film about the so-called New Romantics has yet to be made but this contribution to the BFI’s annual Flare Film Festival offers a well-stacked sandwich of people and events that gives a very personal view of their experiences through a uniquely creative period of history.

Driven by a musical score that both emotes and supports the story, we see unfolding before us spliced and collaged pictures and film clips of a selection of renegades who love and survive in punk’s underlying gloom and spend ten years carving out a brighter world through Thatcher’s hectic Britain. The patchworking together of views and motivations of some of the witnesses proves that the movement was bigger than its over-used title.

Judy Blame steals the show by saying it as it is. The unrepentant gay designer, who has sadly died since being interviewed by Hegge, is often overlooked for his contribution to Eighties style and gay culture. Disc jockey Princess Julia remains a constant through the film, as indeed she should, as a very relevant force in style and club culture to this day.

In a new twist, nightlife entrepreneur Philip Sallon was given credit and indeed respect for his very singular influence on both the scene and indeed the followers who helped change the growing movement. Unlike many previous interviews, this time they let his wit and views be heard rather than using him as the cymbal-clapping monkey who offers only light relief to the story of the times. At Saturday’s screening, the effervescently clad Philip asked the audience to be kind to each other and to look beyond the superficial outer paint to the person within and that, at its core, is what this film itself does.

BFI Flare Film Festival 2022, Tramps!, Kevin Hegge, movies,

Kevin Hegge, director of the documentary TRAMPS! © Kevin Hegge

“If you have a bone of contention with
the movie… make your own movie”
– director Kevin Hegge

John Maybury talks of his film-making career and the people who appear in the clips we see of his days in the legendary Warren Street squat, plus the influence and support that director Derek Jarman gave him to discover and use his skills after being invited to join what turned out to be the cult film Jubilee in 1977. Artist Andrew Logan with his occasional Alternative Miss World competitions is rightly identified as a pioneering force in the new bohemia party scene that was emerging, while the painter Duggie Fields added some graceful recollections of this time gone by, he too having passed on since filming.

Thrown aside are the frilly shirts in favour of the BodyMap duo of David Holah and Stevie Stewart, offered up as the fashion revolutionaries who, hand in hand with Michael Clark and Les Childs, danced to a different beat. Performance artist Leigh Bowery is featured throughout the film and images of his eccentricity almost drive the visual impact with its cinematic styling and its Venus in Furs-esque vibe. An intriguing insight is given into the apparent genius of Bowery’s room-mate Trojan (Guy Barnes), his part in the Taboo nightclub set and the impact he might have continued to make if not for his untimely death.

Michael Costiff and his amazing partner Gerlinde are acknowledged for their roles in both the club world and the counter culture that was emerging, as were Miss Binnie and the Neo Naturists who are almost forgotten in most reviews of the Eighties. Sadly many people were lost to the Aids epidemic that cut its way through the careers of others referenced within the film and their contribution to gay culture, as was the demise of many in the drug-fuelled parts of club world. What and who are missing is a list too long to type but a refreshing and often underplayed star emerges in disc-jockey Jeffrey Hinton’s outlook during a pivotal chapter in the history of style.

Curiously, the title Tramps! and its poster are misleading about the ground this film covers and what it offers instead, but as an insight into how key people saw their time in the sun, it’s a winner. And impressively moving.

The Gala evening was not awash with big names from the Eighties and indeed a grave lack of New Romantic superstars was evident at both screening and drinks party after. Sadly the promised Questions and Answers section never really hit the mark and no chance was given for the audience to question the director or cast. That said, Tramps! made a great choice for the closing night of the Flare Festival.

❏  The film is not yet on general release

Blitz Kids, film, New Romantics, Swinging 80s, Michele Clapton, George O’Dowd, Lee Sheldrick , Princess Julia, Kevin Hegge, Tramps!, BFI Flare Festival

Leading the Goth wave in 1980: Blitz Kids Michele Clapton, George O’Dowd, Lee Sheldrick and Princess Julia, on the rooftop at St Martin’s School of Art, photographed by Graham Smith and dressed in Gothic mode for Stephen Linard’s “Neon Gothic” collection in the second year’s Alternative Fashion Show

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: 1981, Who are the New Romantics, what are their sounds and how do they dance?
➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, The year the Blitz Kids took their first steps into the headlines

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2011 ➤ Relive Duran’s 30th-anniversary comeback with All You Need Is Now

10
YEARS
ON

❚ THIS WEEK IN 2011 Duran Duran’s album All You Need Is Now was released as a 14-song CD in Europe and North America. Shapers of the 80s gave extensive coverage to Duran’s glorious comeback tour of North America and their 30th anniversary party for the same week in 1981 when their debut single Planet Earth entered the UK Top 20 where it was to reach No 12. Relive these highlights on the album’s tenth anniversary…

Duran Duran, streaming, live concert, Amex,YouTube, Unstaged, David Lynch, Los Angeles

Duran live on YouTube, 2011: a choice of three camera streams and “Lynchian effects” smothering John Taylor’s performance on All You Need Is Now

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Crazee or crazed? David Lynch’s view of Duran from within his hellish cave…

❚ WHAT RUM NIGHTMARES DAVID LYNCH must have in bed at night, but then, he did direct Eraserhead after all. For the best part of two hours, today’s much vaunted Duran Duran live web concert in the Unstaged series kept making you want to hurl virtual cabbages at the screen, enraged by a director whose intent was to obscure the act from view with his relentlessly potty toy-box full of widgets. From 2am UK time till almost the dawn chorus, the band onstage in California had no idea what web audiences in 22 overseas territories (432,000 channel views by 6.30am) were enduring as they pushed on through 18 numbers… / Continued inside

Duran Duran, US tour, 2011, SXSW, interview, video

John Taylor and Nick Rhodes at SXSW in Texas, March 2011: Rhodes claimed to have 100,000 photos in his personal archive he’d like to get published somehow

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Despite some sniffy critics, this is ultimately Duran’s best album since their glory years – Comprehensive round-up

Still hungry after all these years —
Adrian Thrills writes in the Daily Mail:

The band’s 13th album is much better than most of us could have anticipated. The nine new songs benefit from a diverse cast of special guests. Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters adds a seductive rap on Safe (In the Heat of the Moment). New York soul diva Kelis impresses on The Man Who Stole A Leopard. But if Mark Ronson’s input provides a creative spark, the most impressive thing is Duran Duran’s return to form as songwriters. The frontman, to his credit, also supplies some wonderful, multi-tracked vocal harmonies, superbly augmented by Rhodes’ clever electronic prompts and the urgent grooves of the rhythm section … / Much more inside

Spandau Ballet, 2009, press conference, HMS Belfast, pop music, free CD

Spandau Ballet answering my question at their own reunion press conference

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: In 2011 Spandau and Duran square up for battle just like the old days

❚ EVEN AS A UNIQUE CD COMPILATION of Spandau Ballet’s landmark hits was set for massive free distribution with The Mail on Sunday, Duran Duran announced a global concert live online at YouTube, along with their own album release on CD. It could be the 80s all over again when the two arch-rival bands vied for the title of leaders of Britain’s New Romantics movement. So which veteran band scored the bigger hit in 2011?… / Continued inside

Duran Duran, 2011, All You Need Is Now, YouTube, live stream, pop music

Duran Duran earlier in 2011, a year of US and European tours, plus a streamed concert

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2021 ➤ Olly Alexander fronts new C4 drama series exploring Aids in the Eighties

TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, It’s A Sin, Channel4, Olly Alexander

Gay activist as Aids casts its shadow: Olly Alexander as Ritchie in It’s A Sin

GAY TIMES has teamed up with Channel 4 for a series of video conversations between cast members from tonight’s new series It’s A Sin and artists and activists who lived through the decade, offering social and political context to the themes explored in this LGBTQ+ drama from Russell T Davies. . .

Gay Times, Omari Douglas, Andy Polaris, video, It's A Sin,

Comparing notes: Omari Douglas and Andy Polaris in conversation for Gay Times

❏ “People forget how homophobic and racist it was in the 80s. People would actually say to you bluntly ‘You’re going to die of Aids – this is going to happen to you.” So says Andy Polaris – Eighties pop-singer with Animal Nightlife – to Omari Douglas, star of It’s A Sin. Omari plays a character called Roscoe who is forced to leave home when he’s 17 and his family finds out he is gay. The character quickly finds his tribe and a new group of friends who support each other during the decade that revealed the horrors of a new deadly virus.
➢ Click to watch Omari and Andy’s conversation at Gay Times

TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, It’s A Sin, Channel4, Olly Alexander

Hedonism in Heaven: Olly Alexander on the dancefloor in It’s A Sin

Russell T Davies has given us iconic television shows such as Queer As Folk, Years & Years, Banana, Cucumber, A Very English Scandal, and more. Set during the 80s, his new queer drama It’s A Sin has a soundtrack (guided inevitably by Murray Gold) that evokes the youth, vibrancy and gay sensibility of the era – big electronic anthems that have stood the test of time and changed the musical landscape.

Asked for an iconic tune that he loved, singer-actor Olly Alexander chose for his ambitious and complex character who leads the show Hungry Like The Wolf by Duran Duran. Omari chose Respectable by Mel and Kim, saying: “I just went through a phase of being completely obsessed with them.”

It’s A Sin starts today 22 January at 9pm on Channel 4, with all episodes available immediately after on All 4.

TRAILER PLUS DISCUSSION


❏ At YouTube, the BFI organised a 40-minute panel discussion on It’s A Sin, hosted by comedian Matt Lucas with guests Russell T Davies, exec producer Nicola Shindler, director Peter Hoar, Channel 4 head of drama Caroline Hollick, and from the cast Olly Alexander, Keeley Hawes, Omari Douglas, Callum Scott Howells, Lydia West and Nathaniel Curtis. The trailer for the series precedes the discussion.

➢ AnotherMag airs the vital role today of It’s A Sin with its creator Russell T Davies who declares: “Cast gay as gay – you not only get authenticity; you get revenge”

A HIT WITH REVIEWERS

TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, It’s A Sin, Channel4, Omari Douglas

It’s A Sin: Omari Douglas assumes the role of entertainer

➢ Aids drama is a poignant masterpiece – Lucy Mangan in The Guardian: “Humour and humanity are at the heart of this sublime series about London’s gay community in the 1980s, from the creator of Queer as Folk.”

➢ Aids drama is a reminder to find joy in the scariest times – Ed Cumming in the Independent: “For anyone who’s been through the agony of coming out, especially to a hostile family, or who lost loved ones to Aids, this series will be especially moving.”

➢ Living young, free and under the shadow of Aids in the 1980s – Hugo Rifkind in The Times: “Russell T Davies is a thousand miles away from, say, Hugo Blick or David Hare with their darkness and portentous heft. And yet I’m pretty sure he’s a far more important dramatist than either of them.”

➢ A dance in the face of death – Euan Ferguson in The Observer: “Russell T Davies depicts with wisdom how so many, shunned and ‘othered’ for most of their lives, might have chosen to adopt a defiant mood towards yet another orthodoxy, that of scientific reason.”

➢ Aids-crisis drama will break your heart and fill you with joy – Anita Singh in The Telegraph: “Russell T Davies’s best series so far.”

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