Why you love sport, part 7

Because sometimes moments of history happen because the other team just forget how to play the game …

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At the match: Easington Sports v Wellingborough Town

Two men and a dog. The dog does not share their interest. (Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2015)

“Why are you here?” was the first question we were asked and throughout our time at Easington Sports, a club tucked away in an unseen bit of Banbury, it was assumed by everyone connected with the home side that we must be from the visitors.  I’m guessing not many folk roll by, especially not for a pre-season friendly with the bestriped hosts missing five first teamers and, apparently, their manager.  Needless to say Wellingborough (The Doughboys) made short work of it.  Whereas the boys in red and white had commitment, Wellingborough, with their covered up Specsavers sponsorship, had systems and strikers.  It was no contest.

That said, it was fun.  The first four goals for Wellingborough were scored by Jake Newman.  He looked at embarrassed by three of them, tap-ins after others had done the hard work.  After that the scoring was shared – the pick being a blast from Remy Brittain that was celebrated in equal measures of joy and incredulity.  Easington did have a go but they lacked the speed and strength, not to mention coordinated play, of Wellingborough.  So, in the end, it was a comprehensive win for the United Counties Premier over the Hellenic First Division.

Not sure when I’ll be back this way.  You have to really want to be at Easington Sports after all.  But they have plans.  A stand was mentioned, a walkway round the pitch – and floodlights.  Who knows?  For now, the attention turns to the season ahead and Easington have two weeks to find those missing players and manager in time for a visit to Cirencester Town Development.  Wellingborough just need to make sure Jake Newman and his friends have bought their shooting boots when their United Counties season gets underway.

I took some photos.  They’re here.

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On BBC 2: Artsnight – Samira Ahmed – Photography

Gemma by Laura Pannack, who featured in the programme

I still mourn the loss of the Pearson/Parsons/Paulin three-way ‘discussion’ of things that I would never, ever, get to see and the rather vague and useless way Late Review changed from a forty-five minute in-depth evaluation of a few things into whatever-title-it-has-now covering goodness know how many things in 27 led me to the off switch.  So the creation of these Artsnight strands entirely passed me by.  Nearly my loss as Samira Ahmed used her time to showcase the work of a good handful of British documentary photographers.

Ahmed introduced the programme by saying that she was interested in British documentary photography because of its authenticity.  It’s a nice idea but it was undermined throughout.  Documentary photographers are no different to others and whilst they may not Photoshop in the same way as fashion togs there is still editing, cropping or plain posing to get through.  One of those featured, Richard Billingham, revisiting his scorching Ray’s A Laugh series was even using actors this time around owing to the deaths of his parents who were the original subjects.

We started with Martin Parr who, as always happens when Martin Parr is featured, was sent somewhere English and asked to take pictures.  It wasn’t a success.  He rather candidly admitted that on a good day one photo out of 350 might be quite good (I’d take that hit rate) but the ones they flashed up were like flickr attempts to be Parr rather than from the master himself.  The only truly memorable shot being a close-up of some weighty bull testicles.

In addition to Billingham, who came across well, we had three others and it was a nice selection.  To my shame I’d not heard of Vanley Burke before but his images of Jamaican life in Birmingham – captured in true British documentary black and white – were remarkable.  A mix of the personal, universal and political.  He showed us a photo of a black boy on a bike with union flag affixed (during a time of race riots) and then tell us he’d also photographed the funeral of the boy’s son, a victim of senseless violence.  Burke’s work is going to the Ikon Gallery and hopefully when I’m next in Brum it will still be there.

Giles Duley’s empathetic and inspiring work from warzones, in particular Afghanistan, was harrowing but beautiful in a terrible way.  The fact that he is now a triple amputee thanks to an IED hasn’t stopped him continuing to show all that is best and worst in humanity.  He himself seems quite incredibly calm about it all.

The final photographer was Laura Pannack who takes photos of West London teenagers.  The style is heading into the Dazed and Confused territory of posed shots of blank faces but it’s well done and I like that she uses film on vintage cameras.  I’d have liked to see a bit more from her and it’s a shame she only got a few minutes before the credits rolled.

All in all this was an excellent survey of some engaging and interesting photographers.  I doubt it’ll be enough to get me watching whatever the BBC are doing with arts review programmes again but it was a welcome find on the iPlayer.

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Online exhibition: Byker Revisited – Sirkka Liisa-Konttinen

David with daughters Kadie and Robyn and Ty-dog, 2008 (Photograph by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Finnish photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen moved to northeast England in 1969 as part of the (then) newly-formed Amber Collective.  Her documentary photography project Byker on the eponymous working-class estate in Newcastle captured a community on the brink of being broken-up in the name of improvement: the slums were already being knocked down and the people dispersed.  It’s a striking and emotionally fraught collection that often features in surveys of the best of ‘British’ documentary photography.  From 2003, Kontinnen, still based in Newcastle-Gateshead, ‘returned’ for Byker Revisited.  Thirty of her images from that repeat visit are in an online exhibition on the Amber website.

There are strong similarities with the earlier series in terms of photographic variety.  Personal portraits sit alongside candids.  Glorious light pours in, and people are often looking out, but the spaces in which they live and interact are tight, and they often seem too big for them.  There is a constant contradictory feeling of both promise and of lives being passed by.  The quality of the work throughout is of the highest level.

By the time of Byker Revisited the population had massively changed.  The overwhelming majority of the original residents were long gone.  But, in their place, are people living eerily similar lives – and Kontinnen’s work is a stark but beautiful recording of their experience.

The online exhibition is here.

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On S4C: Parch

I first heard about Parch because Charlotte Church tweeted that her friend was in it and it was very good.  That’s how modern I am.  And how thoroughly modern, and because of that, thrillingParch was.  A story of a conflicted modern female vicar dealing with the pressures of family, requited but unattainable love, an unlovely soon-to-be-married couple, visions of a ghostly ex-priest, declining church attendances, life-threatening illness and the madness of twenty-first century life, Parch could very well rank up there with the best things S4C has ever done.  And if you think that’s damning with faint praise, I speak as someone who has watched Sgorio for over twenty years.

Myfanwy is the vicar of a (presumed Anglican) parish in Welsh-speaking Wales whose Sunday attendance is down to four but which has, as is the usual case, a bigger impact than that in the local community.  People want to be buried there, couples want to marry there … and the previous incumbent, “TJ”, was held in high regard.  Myfanwy can only fail in his shadow.  In the first episode we learn two things: that she has feelings for funeral director Eurig and that she needs surgery on a brain tumour which is causing her to see visions.  Over the following seven episodes these, and other interweaving stories, were explored before ending in a final half hour or so of surprising, and earned, emotional wallop.

For much of the time, Parch was visually arresting – I particularly enjoyed seeing the garb of the visions Myfanwy was prey to ranging from ballroom dancer to ice cream salesman – and I liked that it wore its convictions and plot devices on a sleeve of humour.  I also liked that having been filmed, in part at least, in Llantwit Major, my parents’ old back garden seemed to feature.

The faith of the vicar was never mocked, but similarly the atheism of Terwyn, Myfanwy’s suffering and cause-of-suffering husband was given sympathy.  Dialogue fizzled as well.  My Welsh being just about good enough to pick out some of the phrasing but the subtitling being clever enough to draw out a lot of subtlety.  I think all of the characters, with the exception of Terwyn’s student stalker Angharad, were given a fair appraisal and allowed their own foibles and angsts.  But even Angharad was well-played and the ensemble cast throughout were superb.  It was generous and sympathetic writing from Fflur Dafydd that created a believable group and then gave them the chance to shine.  The understated performance from Lowri Steffan as Ceriann, Eurig’s wife, encompassing a whole range of emotions, especially in the final episode will live long in the memory.

But, obviously, the performance on which the whole series stood or fell was that of Carys Eleri as the central character and it’s fair to say she was excellent.  And I’m not just saying that because I fear that Charlotte Church will unleash a twitter army on me if I say otherwise.  It can’t have been the easiest role to work through and to play it all with such a light touch whilst also allowing decent emotion in is an impressive thing to pull off.

There was ambiguity at the end.  In fact, virtually none of the myriad stories was properly resolved.  But Parch managed to be satisfying and then some.  There is now talk of a second series although I’ll need convincing it can hit the same heights.  But maybe I should learn from Parch itself before prejudging.  After all what is needed, really, is faith.

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At the match: Banbury United v Nuneaton Town

It’s that time of year when football teams come together with varying degrees of seriousness whilst many in the crowd still want to discuss holiday plans or the cricket score from Lord’s.  There was an extra enticement for the fair few who made there way to Banbury United to keep their eyes on the pitch – at least for an hour or so – as former Aston Villa (et al) star Marlon Harewood was playing for the visitors having signed for Boro (as Nuneaton Town call themselves in honour of their historic incarnation) on a one-year contract.

The game finished 3-0 without Harewood troubling the scorers (cricket terms are unavoidable on such a summer’s day) although revealing a potential role as the immovable object to whom the Nuneaton team will be lobbing their attacks.  Banbury will have learnt that they’re pretty resolute in defence but are going to need to be a bit smarter to unlock teams whose centre halves have met before the game.  Nobody was injured and everybody got a game.

In keeping with general trend of the match I wandered with a camera rather than purposefully engaged in anger.  Some photies of the day are here.

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At Banbury Museum: Jan Niedojadlo “Podules” (Sensory Pods)

This is what you want.  Jan Niedojadlo’s immersive sensory pods, seemingly inspired by the functions and rhythms of the human body, but also clearly drawing on inspiration as diverse as 1950s sci-fi sets, the bible and the joy of walking on a shagpile carpet, are about as much fun as you should legally expect in an Oxfordshire museum located in a shopping centre on a Saturday morning.

This is at least the second time the Banbury Museum has hosted Niedojadlo’s pods.  There are two this time.  One is obviously a brain and the other caused some debate but we settled on ‘something digestive’.  Both are fully explorable and are a mix of touches, smells, sounds and sensations.  There are also some smaller pods into which you can fold yourself and where you can lie on a carpet surface and soak up the lavender smell.  Should you be so inclined you can also model your own smaller pod from a selection of sensory items.

Obviously a very clear target market here is special needs children who seek out such experiences on a daily basis anyway.  But this is also grown-up art, albeit an art that gives permission for childlike behaviour.  It is surprisingly restful to lay back in an oversized brain listening to a humming noise whilst a voice intones a piece of scripture.  But then there is no dignified way to clamber out.

Do go along and experience this exhibition if you can.  The friendly folk at Banbury Museum would welcome your custom and there’s a nice cafe for coffee and cake afterwards.  And do add to the comments book.  I’m rather proud that the first comment in the book comes from my elder son – himself autistic and sensory seeking: “I really enjoyed it”, it says.  Because kids get to the point whereas adults take four paragraphs to say the same thing.

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