Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Say what I mean... and mean what I say...

So it's goodbye to The Bill... After twenty-seven years.

You can officially colour me gutted.

I've been watching since Woodentop first aired in 1984.

Whilst TB has been one of my favourite programmes over the years, it has
been so much more in this household. In one of those "not a lot of
people know that" type stories, let me try to put into perspective what
TB meant to my family, and explain why its loss for some of the behind
the scenes, blink and you'll miss 'em crowd extras and walk on bit parts
is something of a disaster.

When my father passed away in 1976, I was still a schoolgirl. My mother
therefore fell back upon the only thing she was trained for. Acting. I
didn't think of school fees and all that jazz in those days, hey I was a
confused (and somewhat angry) child. "I, Claudius" was the first, but
you can trace my growing up through the television and filming work my
mother did, she kept me at that school, paying the extortionate fees...
until I was 18 and had staggered somewhat unsuccessfully through my A

Acting is a precarious profession at best. Work cannot be relied upon.
Fortunately for my mother and me, my mother believed in consummate
professionalism, it would have never occurred to her not to turn up on
time to do the work she was hired to do, even though sometimes it was
deathly dull. The nature of the acting world meant that my school fees
and general living expenses came about in the most fantastical ways.
Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate" paid my year's school fees and sorted
out the flat roof over the study in 1981... I could bang on at length
about the various films and televisual highlights which kept the wolf
from the door until I started full time work in 1985.

Then along came The Bill. Suddenly, something of a sea change took
place. Suddenly my mother's agents were asking her if she had done The
Bill lately, suddenly there was almost a guarantee of work. Something
almost unheard of in the industry. Through the late 80s, 90s and up to
2004 when my mother really retired from work, The Bill kept her in a
reasonable living. Where money was tight, she would get a walk-on or
crowd work and somehow bills would be paid and the wolf wouldn't be
licking paint from the door again.

The list of stars who got their breaks in TB either in the regular cast,
or as guests, is endless.

Now all that has gone. Almost three decades of virtual job security,
chucked away... and for what? Darned if I know... I only know this. It
is a very sad day for British Television.

Thank you, "The Bill"... for all the times I've laughed, all the times
I've cried... and for the amazing friends I've made along the way
because of you... and thanks to all those friends for putting me back
together when I somewhat lost the plot after my marriage collapsed. The
second time in my life I've been somewhat... angry.

TB maybe gone... but not likely to be forgotten...

Posted via email from mock-ing-bird's posterous

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Agent or No Agent...

Everyone is suddenly talking about them. So I thought I would chuck my
ten cents worth in there. Okay, I have to admit that a lifetime's
experience of agents has not been the best proving ground to trust their
abilities. My mother's theatrical agents were, broadly speaking, quite
good. But that was because she ditched the ones who made grandiose
promises and did zilch. By the time I was going to secretarial agencies
I was a committed cynic who heard blah, blah, blah when they started
speaking. First thing to remember, it is in their interests to keep you
on side. You are the cash cow. There in lies the first real problem. A farmer never has just one cow.
He has a whole herd of them. This is true of agents. They don't have
just one author, they have a whole herd of them. So they are not overly
worried about touting your work about. "I have got an agent." is just
the starting point. Once you have got one, you need to keep after them.
Not in a crazy stalker-ish way, but in a "I am not going to be fobbed
off and go quietly into the night" way. Some agents will only work hard
if their backs are to the wall and they are cornered like rats in a
trap. This is a simple fact that has served me well over the years.

Frankly, some of them are not up to the job. Being an agent requires the
persistence of a door to door brush salesman and the patience of Job;
but it also requires a deep understanding of markets, reading habits and
literature itself.

It pays to keep your ear to the ground. If you just leave everything to
your agent, it may be years before you hear anything at all. My view is,
that you will only get out what you are prepared to put in, an agent is
as potentially hard work as doing it all yourself.

Posted via email from mock-ing-bird's posterous

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Arts?

Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce
I had high hopes when I was proposed for Fellowship of the RSA. A
meeting of minds perhaps; a place where my interest in the arts, in the
process of creation, in the celebration of things that make life grand,
might be shared and appreciated.

Over the weeks and months, not very much has happened with my
fellowship. True, some of this is my fault, I haven’t particularly
engaged with any of my fellow Fellows, or gone to any meetings.

Therein lies the problem.

I am confused. Very confused.

The Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts holds meetings
with titles such as: “The Big Society Approach to Anti-Social Behaviour”
and has projects for Drug Addiction and Citizen Power, and the

Okay. These are all very worthy subjects, but seem to have remarkably
little to do with the arts (in any form), or manufacturing, or commerce.
I am not entirely sure what I did expect from the RSA but did not expect
to see a agenda focusing entirely on social issues.

There are any number of quangos, interest groups and government
departments whose sole purpose is the discussion and policy making in
relation to Society, or Drugs, Citizen Power, the Environment. I am
curious as to why the Royal Society which is supposedly for the
ENCOURAGEMENT of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce appears to be only
interested or engaged in the duplication of the work of all these other
quangos, interest groups and government departments.

There is a big problem with the Arts in this country. One that goes
largely unrecognised; and I need hardly add that Manufacturing and
Commerce amongst this once great nation of “shopkeepers” is floundering
too. Surely the Royal Society should be engaged in activity which does
something to right these problems. Yes, some social engagement is
necessary, in fact vital, but for it to be the bound and centre of
everything that the RSA does seems wrong and inappropriate.

Which leads me neatly to my next bugbear. The Big Society. Let me say it
now, and get it out of the way quickly so that the shouting and whining
can be over and done with.

95% of the people who are likely to read this will not have the
slightest nodding acquaintance with what the government and people with
posh job titles and high salaries are talking about. Politicians won’t
either. The media paints a view for the clucking classes to shake their
heads over and feel secretly grateful that they don’t have to live like
that. Very, very few of these people have ever lived the lives that
they talk about in such grandiose terms. They don’t understand it, and,
I am certain they wouldn’t survive it if they were suddenly plucked from
their nice hermetically-sealed, money-cushioned lives and dumped down in
this world.

I have. I moved up to Leeds, and for eight months I lived the life. And,
let me tell you that on my own, I would not have survived it. It is a
different world. Some of the societal ills people like to pontificate
about are inflicted upon the people living them. It is simply stunning
the number of times these shortcomings are brought to the attention of
the powers that be, and still nothing is done. This is not about the
last thirteen years, this malaise has been growing for at least the last
thirty years. You can probably trace the origins back to the post war

The cycle of dependency that has been created will not easily be broken.
The feelings of injustice and hopelessness will not be easily put aside
by some sort of social programme dreamed up by politicians and quangos.

The Big Society is another political initiative, put together by people
entirely divorced from the true reality of the lives they are talking
about. It will not succeed in the way that politicians think it will,
because they have failed to grasp the nettle of the things that have to
happen before it can have a hope of success.

Oddly it is in the Arts, and Manufacturing and Commerce where the
answers to some of these riddles would ultimately lie. Not in the social
agenda but in areas that the RSA apparently feels no need to commit to.

Posted via email from mock-ing-bird's posterous