Sixties History

Next Saturday (3 June) will be a great day.   In the Galleywood Heritage Centre there will be a whole host of exhibitors showing different aspects of Chelmsford’s History, recent history and further back. I can’t really believe people consider the Sixties history – we are all still so young! but there will be The Essex Society for Family History, the Chelmer Canal Trust, the Essex Police Museum, the Western Front Association, and lots of others too. It’s free and there’s a cafe.

At 11.30 and at 1.30 I’ll be talking about my books ‘Beyond the Beehive’ (set in 1965 Chelmsford and coming out in a lovely new edition in the New Year) and reading from my new book set in 1966 – working title ‘The Girl in the Green Mac.’ Come and join in. What were you doing on 30th July 1966 when the World Cup match was being played?  What was your favourite record? Were you a Stones supporter or a Beatles fan?  Do you still have your Sacks and Brendlor Suede coat?

The Heritage Centre is off Margaretting Road, Galleywood Common, Chelmsford CM2 8TR It would be great to see you there.

And to get you into the mood here’s another chance to see the BBC documentary, first broadcast last year, about East Anglia in 1966.  See you on Saturday!

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The letter Z

So here is the news.

Beyond the Beehive has been purchased by the publisher Bonnier Zaffre. Beyond the Beehive is a story of female friendship and the search for love and adventure in Essex in the 1960s, a time of political and social change. The book will reappear in a fabulous new edition with a big Z on its spine, in a bookshop near you in the New Year.  It will be swiftly followed by a second 60s novel, in the summer.

I signed the contract last week, and I also went to Wimpole Street (think Elizabeth Barrett, Wilkie Collins, Paul McCartney – apparently he and John Lennon wrote ‘I Wanna Hold your Hand’ there) for a meeting with Bonnier Zaffre in their swish offices where lots of young people sat in front of computers in rooms buzzing with energy.

I’m so pleased for the characters in Beehive, it is a book which is close to my heart,.  So to all you out there who have bought the book, borrowed it from the library, talked about it in your book group, come to talks. Thank you.  You put it out there, in the air, and Bonnier Zaffre picked it up and run

I also love the way things have turned out because I rather like the letter Z. It is so Other. I can never believe l actually have a Z in my own name.  In my heart I’m surprised I’m not really called something like Penny. But Z has followed me throughout my life. When l was at Birmingham University there was a satirical ‘magazine’ pinned on to a wall in the Student Union building and l had a column on it under a pen-name.  And that name was Zoë Meldrum.  Zoë.  So let’s hear it for the letter Z.

                   

I’m Dreaming

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It’s nearly Christmas.  The snow isn’t snowing, the wind isn’t particularly blowing (not down here in the South, anyway), though at this time of the year there’s always a bit of a storm.  But what better way to weather the storm than by listening to the Phil Spector Christmas Album and singing along at full volume as you queue to get out of the car park at the supermarket.

My particular favourite is Santa Claus is Coming to Town by the Crystals – the actual song starts at about 30 seconds in.  Great stuff.

2016 – what a year it’s been.  I’ve written a sort of on-line round robin here about my year, but today, in this post I wanted to say thank you to all of you who’ve read this blog and been with me on the path to bring Beyond the Beehive into the warm light of day.

I’ve been writing the book for a very (very) long time, but it began to really take shape in March when I was contacted by Patrick McGrady of Wavelength Films to take part in the programme ‘Living in ’66.’  You can watch it here.

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That programme and the email I received from Pete Searles of Mark Shelley and the Deans – who later agreed to play at the Chelmsford launch – spurred me on to finalise the book and get it out there.

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And since it came out – the reaction has been fantastic.  People have bought the book, come to the events, laughed at the jokes, talked about their own experiences, and asked for more. I really loved writing this book and it’s been great for me to see it on the shelves of Chelmsford Foyles. So thank you to everyone.

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Have a Cool Yule and here’s the whole Christmas album.

Soho

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I was interviewed by Radio Gorgeous last week.  We had arranged to meet in the Society Club, a small cosy coffee shop and rare bookshop in Ingestre Place, but they were clearing up from a photo shoot, so we adjourned to the John Snow pub. It’s a dark wood, Victorian saloon bar, on two levels, filled with the low hum of conversation.  We talked about Beyond the Beehive, life and the universe.  The interview will be broadcast in January.

After I left the pub, I wandered along Broadwick Street in the direction of Carnaby Street.  I passed a row of shops.  One of them had a mod target outside.  I stopped and looked in the window.

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There were Fred Perrys and suits, a particularly delectable mauve suit on a tailor’s dummy, but there were also books – books aboout the Who and books I have myself including Sawdust Caesars by Tony Beesley.

It was Sherry’s.  I went inside and met Perry who works there.  I told him I’d written a book about mod girls.  ‘If it’s mod we should have it,’ he said.  ‘Speak to Bubbles,’ he said.  Bubbles is the owner.

So on Tuesday I went into the shop with a few copies of Beyond the Beehive.  Bubbles was there and was very friendly. ‘Yes,’ she said.  ‘We’ll display them.’

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Which all means that if you’re in Carnaby Street, buying new shoes or just looking at the lights, but despairing of knowing what to buy the mod in your life for Christmas – you can nip along the street to Sherry’s, buy a copy or two of the book and order yourself a sharp suit at the same time.  A Christmas outfit!

 

London launch of Beyond the Beehive

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Last Friday evening it was all go.  First the interview at Broadcasting House with Georgey Spanswick (listen here  my interview starts at 1 hour 10 minutes in).  She was so friendly and chatty I could have stayed talking all night – but had to dash from Oxford Circus to Shaftesbury Avenue to ensure everything was ready for the launch in the heart of Soho (Bakerloo line, one stop to Piccadilly Circus and then, if desired a one stop bus ride to the Curzon cinema and then a 20 yard walk to St Anne’s Church in Dean Street) (I know people like geographical details).

And it was ready! Team Beehive were working like … well, worker bees, and the room and the garden looked lovely (and that was without the bowls of crisps, popcorn and Twiglets).   Billie was there, looking even lovelier than she does on the cover of the book, Leila was poised ready to pour the drinks, sister Tess was arranging lighting and chairs, Gill took up her position behind the book stall, Caroline was lugging boxes around and ensuring everything was where it should be and then Christine (aka Sandra) and Barry arrived and got down and technical.  People trickled in and then a tidal wave of guests arrived and the hall was buzzing.

launch-91You can read the pieces from Beyond the Beehive which I read on Friday night here.

I’ve also written about the evening here.

It was a great night!

Beyond the Beehive – reading allowed

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Some of you may remember September 2016 – gloriously hot days, a bit of rain, the start of Strictly Come Dancing.  But you may also remember 2 September when I appeared at an event in Waterstone’s Covent Garden and read the first chapter of Beyond the Beehive.  It was an event organised by Novel London

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You may also remember that the event was videod and I know many people were anxiously waiting for the video to come out so that they could share in the joy of the occasion.  Unfortunately, and I am convinced it was not my fault, something happened so that there could be no video.  However, you can listen to me reading Chapter 1 here (this link takes you to my website, scroll down and it’s there after the blurb about the book).  Sit down with a cup of tea and a Bourbon biscuit and remember the 60s, the clothes, the perfume, the mods, the music.

The London Book Launch for Beyond the Beehive is on Friday 28 October – contact me for more details.

Before that listen to an interview on Woman’s Hour on Thursday 27 October at 10am.

Be there or be square!

The Beat Goes On

img_5520-2      It’s been a very busy week for Team Beehive.

It started with an interview with Jo Good on BBC Radio London.  It almost didn’t happen – the BBC building in Portland Place, just off Oxford Street in London, is a huge and sprawling place.  And sometimes people giving you directions forget which is left and right (don’t we all?).  I went into the main building and asked directions and following those directions, I turned left. They were setting up baricades for a TV One Show event.  One hopeful fan was hanging over the railing, but otherwise the place was full of people in puffa jackets with clipboards and people in hoodies rolling heavy black and silver equipment around.  I turned left again but that was the wrong building.  I hadn’t crossed enough roads.  Roads! Eventually someone gave me the right directions – he pointed – and in I went through the glass doors and up in the lift to the studio.

Jo Good was wonderfully friendly and began the interview by playing House of the Rising Sun by the Animals.  When you hear it played on good loud equipment you really understand why it has stood the test of time.  It’s over 50 years old for goodness’ sake. We talked about Beyond the Beehive, about life in the Sixties, saving up for weeks and weeks for a coat or a bag that you wanted, the importance of colour and style.  She asked me whether I thought the battles on the beaches at Bank Holiday time really had taken place.  Of course – I wasn’t there, my mum would never have let me go, even if I’d asked her.  But I think they did.  Maybe not as full on and terrifying as it seems in the film Quadrophenia but something went on.  And not just Brighton of course, Margate, Clacton, Great Yarmouth… I cut this letter out of the paper at about that time when there was talk of raising the age at which you could ride a scooter or a motorbike.

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You can listen to the interview here.** It starts an hour and 10 minutes in, and runs for about twenty minutes.  The interview finished with Pinball Wizard by the Who.  Jo Good said listening to it always made her feel very happy.  And I can see what she means.

**For those who listen to the interview and the piece that Jo Good read out and think – Panorama, on a Saturday? I don’t think so! Rest assured, I know Panorama was never on a Saturday. The piece she read was about a week night.  In fact, later in the programme – keep listening for a wonderful story about someone who had a scooter, and a helmet and a beehive, and the solution she found for keeping her hair-do in tact – someone picked up on that piece and Jo Good realised it was in fact, a school night.

Then it was up to Stroud Green Library for a meeting about a 60s Saturday which is happening on 12 November. There’ll be 60s music, memorabilia, Beyond the Beehive and you can take a selfie wearing a beehive wig!

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And then on to Chelmsford for an interview with Tony Fisher on BBC Radio Essex. No trouble locating my destination. I know where the BBC Radio Essex building is – it’s on New London Road, a ten minute walk from the Orpheus!  Listen to the interview here. It starts 2 hours and 10 minutes in and lasts about 20 minutes.

The interview began with Be My Baby by the Ronettes.  We talked about life in Chelmsford in the 60s and also about Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature – because in 1966 I saw Bob Dylan at the Albert Hall.  I’ve written about it here  It was the time when Dylan was changing from acoustic to electric and people in the audience called out ‘Get back to the good stuff.’  Dylan who was playing the organ at the time, rocked back and forth and said, ‘Good stuff, bad stuff, it’s all the same.’ So I told this story on the radio.  A friend who was listening said it was so realistic she thought she was listening to a news item.  See what you think.

Tony Fisher was really into Beyond the Beehive which was great.  Sometimes when you write a book you’re so immersed in it you don’t see the characters as they appear to the rest of the world.  He immediately understood bad boy Danny and he played Shotgun Wedding by Roy C, a record that used to float through the Orpheus if people announced they were getting married.  It was a really good afternoon, and not just because of the cake (it was Tony Fisher’s birthday).

Launch Party

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It was a great evening at the Ideas Hub – good book, great quiz (more details to follow) and a fantastic crowd.  My Auntie Rita (88) made it unexpectedly.  My sister-in-law struggled through the Saturday, post-football traffic, friends from Norfolk I hadn’t seen for 50 years suddenly appeared.  New friends came via the Chelmsford Remembered Facebook page and the Chelmsford Civic Society.  Old friends from those heady days in the Orpheus and the Corn Exchange.  And the piece de resistance was the group – Mark Shelley and the Deans, who did us proud. Christine and I even jived.  Video of this possibly to follow…

img_5982-3          Mark Shelley & the Deans 1.10.16

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Beyond the Beehive is out!

Beyond the Beehive front cover

This is almost unbelievable!  Beyond the Beehive is on sale now.  You can buy the paperback here and the Kindle version here. Thank you for the support of the readers and followers of this blog, and to Christine Wilkinson who designed the wonderful cover – back and front!

beyond-the-beehive-back-cover-1   Beyond the Beehive front cover

And also thanks to my oldest best friend Chris Wallace – without whom none of these stories would have been possible.  As I keep telling her, they are just stories, but if she and I hadn’t met in Chelmsford on the Woodhall Estate, all those years ago, we’d never have gone to the Orpheus together, we’d never have gone dancing at the Corn Exchange, or to Dace’s to buy records or Clarke’s to buy Valentine cards, and the book would never have been written.

Liz and Christine + mod boy + miniLots of things are happening over the next few weeks.  The first thing is the Chelmsford Launch. It’s next Saturday, 1 October, 6.30 pm and Mark Shelley and the Deans will be playing!

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I first saw Mark Shelley and the Deans in about 1963 playing at the YMCA.  I remember listening to the rhythm of the guitars and the crash of the drums, as they played all the rock classics – Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen and Nadine, the Isley Brothers’ Twist and Shout, and the Buddy Holly hits – That’ll Be the Day, Peggy Sue, and True Love Ways.  I know the group have been brushing up on all the old favourites for next Saturday (I’ve even written to Brian Matthew on Sounds of the Sixties, Saturday mornings on Radio 2, asking for a request to be played next Saturday for my sister – who gave me the idea for one of the characters in the book – and all the old Chelmsford mods – but I’m not holding my breath!) and it will be like stepping back in time!  You will think you really are back in the Corn Exchange.

If you would like to come to the launch it would be great to see you.  Contact me here.