Saturday, 28 February 2009

Twelfth Night at the New Cut Arts Centre

On Friday I did publicity shots for Black Ram, a small theatre company. Perhaps I should rephrase that; I shot some documentary photographs as they had nearly completed the run of their production of Twelfth Night which had been touring East Anglia to excellent reviews when they realised they hadn't obtained any decent photographs for their archive, website and so on.

It was a bit frantic to say the least but then all theatre shoots are, even for the RSC, and the lot of the theatre photographer is not an easy one.

The theatre director Terry Hands wrote in The Guardian in his obituary of the Royal Shakespeare Company photographer Ivan Kyncl:

“It is difficult to be a theatre photographer in Britain. Conditions are poor – often only a single dress rehearsal with costumes, lighting even actors still uncertain – and the final prints are usually selected not by the photographer but by the marketing department.

Theatre practitioners want excitement, movement, the "feel" of a show; newspapers all too often want high definition and both ears. And commerce usually wins, so we are left with talented performers, on both sides of the camera, being represented by static photographs that could be of any play at almost any place or time.”

An hour before the curtain up the cast kindly assembled to show me a few scenes into which I ploughed in and tried to capture the essence of in a few seconds. Meanwhile the director and the house technician were resetting all the lighting cues and the cast needed to ready themselves for the performance so between the lighting constantly changing and the subjects changing wardrobe and the lobby filling up (in gratifying numbers) with an expectant audience, it was a challenge I hope I satisfactorily met.

Their website describes the Black Ram company thus:

The 25 actors, directors, writers and stage crew of the Black Ram Theatre Company are passionate about making quality entertainment and drama for the local community. Black Ram is a new theatre company aiming to bring new life to classic works of theatre and trying to bring regional theatre back into its own field, refreshing tired old traditions whilst guaranteeing an entertaining night out for everyone.

The company began in October 2006 as a partnership between Artistic Director Ross McGregor and Production Coordinator Melisa Ramadan. Past productions have included Alan Ayckbourn's Norman Conquests Trilogy, his more recent dark comedy Wildest Dreams, Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution, Noel Coward's double bill of Private Lives and Blithe Spirit, Pinter's Betrayal and a recent adaptation of Jane Eyre.

Pictured is Tom Holloway (l) as Orsino and an actor I forgot to write the name down (sorry, see above) at the New Cut Arts Centre. More images can be found in my Facebook and Flickr galleries.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Southwold radio station granted license

It has been reported that my local community radio station has been granted a broadcast license. I hadn't realised we already had a community radio station broadcasting on the internet but now I will be able to hear it around the house on my 'cracklin' Rosie', I've since offered myself as a volunteer.


Ofcom awards four new community radio licences

Ofcom has today announced the award of four new community radio licences, all of which are to serve a locality in the county of Suffolk.

Community radio services typically cover a small geographical area and are provided on a not-for-profit basis focusing on the delivery of specific social benefits to enrich a particular geographical community or a community of interest.

Ofcom has awarded community radio licences to:

  • Blyth Valley Radio (Southwold)

  • Radio West Suffolk (Bury St Edmunds)

  • Felixstowe Radio (Felixstowe)

  • Zeta Digital FM (Forest Heath)

Details of these four new community radio licensees in Suffolk are as follows:

Blyth Valley Radio

Contact: William Jagger

29 Oaklands, Covert Road, Reydon, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6TW.

Phone: 01502 726106; mobile: 07717 066259



Blyth Valley Radio will provide a service to Southwold and surrounding villages. It will give local people the chance to access training in radio and social skills, and enable local community and charitable, social and voluntary organisations to promote themselves. It will encourage local talent and raise awareness of issues which affect the community, and provide entertainment, local information and news.

Radio West Suffolk

Contact: Mrs Julie MacLeod

Phone: 01284 713403



Radio West Suffolk will serve the people of Bury St Edmunds. It will provide programmes that will be interesting and challenging to its community both as listeners and as programme makers. Programmes will be entertaining and cover local events, issues and concerns. The service will feature local musicians as well as live events from venues in Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding area. Its speech output will include coverage of local sports and it will provide an opportunity for local groups to communicate with their audience.

Felixstowe Radio

Contact: Ann Kearney

3 Great Eastern Square, Felixstowe IP11 7DY

Phone: 01394 273028; mobile: 07746 474186



Felixstowe Radio will serve the Colneis Peninsular, including Felixstowe, Walton and surrounding villages. It aims to create a real sense of community and provide a platform that any local person or organisation can use. It will provide local news and information, including port and other maritime information, as well as entertainment.

Zeta Digital FM

Contact: Jeff Davis

Phone: 01638 711 873



Forest Heath Public Radio will serve the people of the Forest Heath area of West Suffolk by providing a radio service run by its members. It will offer programmes with social action content so listeners can make more informed choices about their own lives, programmes in languages other than English and engage with young people – to give them a sense of belonging and self-worth. The service will offer training to local people and organisations to allow them to make their own programmes under their own editorial control. Forest Heath Public Radio aims to foster understanding, integration and social cohesion, and will work in partnership with local organisations.

Licences are awarded for a five-year period.

A statement setting out the main determining factors for the award of the four community radio licences referred to above will be available shortly from the Ofcom website.


1. In addition to the licence awards detailed above, Ofcom considered one further application, but decided not to award a licence to the following group:

  • Coast Community Radio (Clacton-on-Sea, Essex)

2. Applications for community radio licences are being invited on a region-by-region basis. Further details can be found on the Ofcom website at:

Monday, 16 February 2009

Down your lane....

Thursday 26 March 2009. The Cut Arts Centre, Halesworth.

How to bring extraordinary arts into your community....

'Down your lane, up your street' is an inspirational day that will give you ideas for developing events in your community. If you are looking to book an entertaining act for your fete, get more going on in your village hall, bring an artist into your school or programme a village or town festival, then this event is for you.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Walking, Cycling and Greening of the Arts

One of the traditions of the long running Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts are the walks in the middle of the first and second week.

Benjamin Britten and his chums thought the festival audience should have the opportunity in the schedule to be rejuvenated in the landscape that
provided his inspiration.

The 62nd Aldeburgh Festival 12-28 June 2009 will hold a walk along the River Orwell on 17 June and one in
Bonny Wood near Needham Market on 25 June. Coach departures are from the Moot Hall, Aldeburgh at 9.30 AM. Subscribers can book now with theAldeburgh Music box office 01728 687110 and tickets will go on sale to the general public in March.

As the impact on of climate change from carbon emissions becomes ever more apparent, especially in the coastal areas of Suffolk, it becomes everyone's duty to reduce their environmental impact. It is obviously in Aldeburgh Music's interest to consider their environmental impact in order to protect the landscape that makes Aldeburgh such a special place to have a music festival. A component in the huge carbon footprint of music festivals and similar events is the travelling required, not just in bringing international artists and orchestras to perform, but that of the audiences travelling to hear them.

Although their transport is the audience's choice more than the producers, arts organisations must consider how their audiences travel and they must enable the use of more sustainable alternatives.

Transport options are very limited in rural places such as the Snape Maltings (the home of Aldeburgh Music) but the possibilities of travelling there from Ipswich or London by a combination of bicycle and train (with the cooperation of National Express) is in my experience quite feasible. The concert hall at Snape is 25 minutes (for this middle aged cyclist) from
Saxmundham railway station and the last departure to Ipswich and London on Monday through Saturday is approximately 22.20 (and even later northbound); usually allowing enough time at an evening concert to hear the encore before pedalling back to catch the train.

Which is why I have proposed that Aldeburgh Music builds on the tradition of festival walks and hold a festival cycle ride or consider offering free admission to a concert to people who arrive on bicycles; a Bicycle Prom if you will.

It's not an entirely original idea nor that unusual for Aldeburgh Music. Over five days in 2003 the chairman Lord Stevenson and chief executive Jonathan Reekie cycled from Lands End to Lowestoft to raise money for the new 'creative campus' opening in May 2009.

In Suffolk the natural surroundings (a paucity of hills), the quiet traffic-free lanes and the infrastructure around Snape Maltings, with cafes, bars and accomodation and pubs and restaurants along the way could make a Bicycle Prom a very attractive proposition.
New Cut Arts Centre in Halesworth is mere yards from Halesworth station on the same line as Saxmundham, this venue also should consider offering incentives to cyclists. Suffolk has many signed cycle routes and several firms already offer holidays for cyclists. If anyone ever takes up my suggestion for a cycle path along the old Southwold Railway line, this could make Suffolk a leader in green cultural tourism.

Some arts organisations have gone much furtheralready, even developing
human powered lighting and amplification by 'human dynamo' is a regular feature of the Suffolk Greenpeace Fair.

In London on March 8th there will be an event
Cycle East, where the audience can spend the afternoon visiting three venues and seeing three performances for only £10 if transport between each venue is by bicycle.

There is also talk of a cycle path from London to Paris, running along the old Dieppe to Paris railway line opening in time for the 2012 Olympiad. Can't wait to do it.

If you like the idea of this proposal (or don't), please comment.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Auctions and the copyright of old photographs

The world of photography is agog that Annie Leibovitz has pawned the copyright of all her past photographs and all her future photographs to raise £15M to pay her debts. This and the story I am about to tell you should illustrate why copyright is so important to every photographer.

On a break between classes yesterday I went to an auction at St Andrews Hall in Norwich which are regularly held by Barnes Auctioneers.

It was mostly tat, stuff from house clearances and not a fancy antiques show. The auctioneer stood on a chair by the tables piled with mixed lots of old books, crockery and naff ornaments and with each sale moved on to the next table, the hammer falling every 30 seconds or so.

One lot there caught my eye though. There were two leather albums of photographs taken apparently by an autograph hunter between the 1950/60's who had taken hundreds of photos of celebrities visiting Norwich. Starting with brownie sized prints, they later acquired an Instamatic. Some of the better shots were blown up and subsequently signed by the subjects. Many of the people are forgotten now but some like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton would be of interest to anyone. I was amazed to think that here was the life's work of Norwich's very own
Gary Lee Boas.

I'm always interested in personal photo albums as a rich source of social history but there are many people who can turn a buck with unseen images of celebrities. You just never know who that dame on the arm of a movie star caught in the street might turn out to be. As Boas has shown, there is a market now for amateur paparazzi or fan photos that never existed a few years ago. It was one of the last lots so I had a few minutes to peruse it and I fell in love with it but I knew I wouldn't go above £20 for it (even though I didn't know at the time the auctioneer expected £600 to £800 for it).

When the auctioneer finally got to lot 179, they described the lot as one having great interest - so obviously other people think as I do - and he had several bids on his book and went on to say as they were unpublished photos of celebrities there was obviously some commercial value in them and the successful bidder would acquire copyright.

This statement amazed me. The first proposition was likely true but only on the second proposition being a fact. How could the auctioneer say that? If the photographer was dead, whatever heirs there were would have the copyright of these images for 75 years.

I checked with auctioneer's clerk, there was no provenance or paperwork with the lot. Anyone buying the album could not publish or put these images into a photo library without violating the unknown photographer's copyright and just because they didn't know who the photographer was, it didn't give them the right to do it.

All the buyer got when the hammer fell for £280 was the paper of the photographs and the albums, not the right to publish them.

I think this incident illustrates that every photographer (and artist) should make a will and should explicitly state who inherits the copyright to their work. You never know how such things might be valuable. And people in the antiques trade need to brush up on their knowledge of artists and authors copyright.

Incidentally Gary Barnes the auctioneer had recently been on TV's Bargain Hunt (to be broadcast in March 2009) and had lost the competition and so he flogged his fleece jacket from the show for £2.

A box of sheet music came up and when nobody bid ten pounds, the auction went into reverse and I got the lot for £1 (plus 10p premium). I took it back to school and unpacked the box on the common room table which attracted the interest of other students. Also in the box were some embroidered rambler's patches and a few vintage souvenirs and an old cricket book which people readily offered me 50p and £1 each for so turning me a quick profit.

Although I had just bought all this sheet music at the auction, I'm sure BMI or ASCAP would assert most forcefully that I didn't then have the right to publish it, wouldn't they?

Pub closures: Opportunity for Social Enterprise?

There is no escaping the fact that village pubs are in crisis.

I was in the Star Inn at Wenhaston last night for a regular meeting of my water tower society and I learned that we may not be able to schedule our next meeting in April as the pub might close after the present landlord leaves at the end of March.

The Star is a very popular village pub but the hearsay in the bar was that it has always had difficulties in
attracting tenants, partly due to the tied terms offered (and hearsay again) because the brewer Adnams allegedly treats it like unwanted step-child as the site it occupies is a very desireable building plot.

The trade The Star gets from the loyal community plainly isn’t a source of great profits but the pub makes a living although sales have been falling. This can be due to many factors including the turnover of landlords the pub has had. Having lost its shops and hardware store, losing the pub would be a disaster for Wenhaston and would turn it into a bedroom community for Halesworth (god forbid!). In 2008 nearby Holton lost their Lord Nelson pub and its building and grounds are beginning to show signs of neglect now.

This raises all sorts of questions about the role of pubs in the community. They are firstly a business and most often are owned by a conglomerate who appear willing (as their duty to their shareholders dictates) to close unprofitable pubs. But what exactly makes them unprofitable? In the case of many it may be the terms the landlords have to work under. Some landlords find the terms applied in marginal locations too onerous and so move on, as has been the case allegedly with the Star. Although, given the number of pubs closing, the brewers may need to readjust their terms otherwise there will be no outlets to sell their beer from.

Punch Inns have recently announced they are reducing charges to their tenants aligned with the fall in the retail price index.

There is one news angle in this that there are rumours of a proposal for Wenhaston worthies to form a consortium to buy the Star and suggestions from elsewhere do the same with the Lord Nelson. Holton unfortunately does not have the wealth that Wenhaston does. It would be in Wenhaston's interests to shore up their property values to keep the pub going and the latter proposal would require applications for funding to run the pub as a social enterprise to establish an affordable restaurant and create employment. It would make sense to make a pub kitchen into a commissary for a local meal-on-wheels service or provide school lunches or become a wholesome take-away. The sad fact is these are pipe dreams. Nobody has stood up yet and said they would or could do this. Such ideas do exist and have succeeded though.

In the depths of the Great Depression, the one in the 1930's, Clifton's Cafeteria was set up in Los Angeles serving cheap wholesome food and became famous for never turning anyone away because they couldn't afford to eat. It's still going, even thriving today. In their own words "10,000 ate free before Clifford (Clinton, the owner) could open an emergency "Penny Cafeteria" a few blocks away to feed, for pennies, the two million "guests" who came during the next two years. He could have gone bankrupt honoring his childhood promise were it not for faithful suppliers, generous vendors and the grace of God, who saw him through those difficult days..."

One reason I don't visit pubs myself is that my income can't support present beer prices unless it's a Weatherspoons (with their very welcome £1 pints thank you!) and living in a rural area without practical public transport, you have little alternative but to drink or drive. And I don't feel the desire to drink alcohol that much socially anyway. To relax, I would rather have a cup of decent tea of coffee and sit in a comfy sofa and talk with friends if they were around or have Wifi and read newspapers and books if they weren't. I have yet to find a decent latte in a pub.

My vision would be to turn the Lord Nelson into a rural 'Starbucks' or a continental Relais offering decent coffee, wi-fi, cheap wholesome food and offer a place for people to grab a coffee in the morning on their way to work, to gather socially, for clubs to have meetings (as the water tower society supports the The Star six times a year) and have their social functions such as birthday parties. It would serve alcohol but enticing customers to neck down booze would not have the emphasis that brewers naturally would want. Therefore it will never happen.


There now appears to be local govt funding for pubs to diversify. The EADT reports that under the Suffolk Rural Economy Scheme, rural pubs can benefit from a cash injection of up to £5,000 to help them diversify their business to include services such as a grocery or newsagent shop to serve their local community. Nick and Debbie Sumner - landlords of the Wissett Plough - plan to open a village store to run alongside their pub with a £5,000 of that provided by Suffolk County Council's Rural Economy Scheme.

But not everyone welcomes their pubs diversifying. Serial poster Simon Cockerill of Offton wrote on the EADT website:

What a load of twaddle.. Diversification requires a skill set that cetrain people may not have, it may require adittional staff that some wont be able to afford. Allow smoking back in pubs, that's what's killed the trade, simple. Now you suggest turning them into a greengrocery, or newsagent... yes, that's the great british pub isn't it... Wake up and smell the coffee people YOU'RE killing the face of Britain with all these poxy rules and regulations.. It's not the pubs and working man that needs to adapt, it's our stupid halfwit government!!

Yes, exactly. Smell the coffee. That's what I'd like to do.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Look what they done to my town Ma...

I am beginning to feel despair that my home town of Halesworth, and the county of Suffolk in general, has taken a turn for the worse. Until recently I was very positive about its potential. Things like The New Cut arts centre opening and the Latitude Festival and even the Prime Minister's holiday were seen by me as signs of an improvement in the quality of life locally and that the prospects for my children were getting brighter. Even though reports state that extreme rural poverty exists in north east Suffolk, evidence abounded that Halesworth's charms were being discovered by others attracting investment. I even cheered the thought that Waitrose would be coming to nearby Saxmundham since John Lewis has bought the Somerfield store there.

Now, after too many assaults on my sensibilities, with several issues needing urgent opposition all at once and competing with each other for public protest and vigilance, I am despondent that elected officials of every stripe appear to be letting me down. Waveney is an
under performing council and I fear if this all comes to pass, Halesworth could soon become a prime contender for The Idler's 'Crap Towns'.

Not in any particular order:

Plans for 340,000 chickens to be
intensively farmed at Thorington have been approved. Nobody can tell me these birds won't stink. My own chickens stink. Chicken farms account for 17% of environmental complaints resulting from agriculture. I regularly travel past several poultry farms and they all stink, even from miles away. The smell will probably reach me when the wind is from that direction. Then there's the threat to surface and ground water from chicken manure and litter. Of course precautions will be taken and systems put in place to manage and treat the effluent, blah de bloody blah, but, as we have seen many times, inspection and certification systems can fail. These risks can be managed by complex and expensive methods but not totally eradicated. With millions of Bernard Matthews birds nearby (see below) we only increase the chances of this area becoming a avian flu factory. I know indirectly the people behind this plan and although they are what you would call "good people"; the court proceedings from the very small proportion who have been prosecuted for agricultural pollution (rather more indicating lax enforcement than fewer perpetrators) shows that waste management compliance decreases as cost pressures increase.

closure of Middle Schools. This is a complete upheaval of my children's education. The best teachers are already leaving the affected schools and the County Council is rather tight lipped about the fate of the Halesworth Middle School playing field. This concerns the town council but they are powerless on education matters. It's obvious to a blind bat that this open space will be sold off to a developer to pay for this wicked plan. The only acceptable use of that open space is one the County Council can't raise money with. It's idiotic to increase the hundreds of children travelling every day to Bungay High when there are more children in Halesworth than Bungay. If Suffolk wants to be green about transport, surely the smaller population of Bungay children should be coming to Halesworth.

Besides, I don't recall any parents ever complaining about the three-tier system either. Throughout the whole process the council have promised consultations yet those consultations haven't made a jot of difference. Those in the know that I know tell me it's a foregone conclusion. It has to be by now if its going to be implemented according to the promised schedule. Parents are fatigued enough and although there have been protests, this kind of protester is easy to divide and conquer and dis-courage. But fight on we will! If the credit crunch thwarts this it will be a blessing in disguise.

Bernard Matthews' Wind Farm. I am all for wind power but 400 foot high wind turbines to power turkey sheds brings no benefit to the community. It's not power for the people but to warm a lot of intensively reared meat that I don't want to buy or eat. Bernie's PR machine is using green arguments to ensure he can continue with a totally unsustainable practise. I find it galling he brands his turkey fillets 'Big Green Tick'. There's nothing green about them unless you keep them past their sell by date.

As for the ongoing effluent problems and smells from intensive poultry farming and processing and the risks of another bird flu outbreak see above. Around here, lazy children get told that if they don't apply themselves to their lessons they'll end up at Bernies. People in Halesworth are very leery of openly criticizing Bernard Matthews as local jobs used to depend on him (and with a net worth somewhere around £300M his lawyer can beat up your lawyer) but if he shut up shop in Holton tomorrow, I doubt anyone would really care except Lowestoft's buy-to-let landlords, the pound shops and the Portuguese workers bussed in every day who now make up 30% of his 6000 person workforce. I'll miss their coffee shops and pasteis de nata but that's a small price I'll pay.

There have been long running complaints to the Holton Parish Council about smells from Bernies but I gather that if you complain to Environmental Health, you have to declare that or it becomes public record when you sell your house which has made sure a lot of people remain silent. Bernie can buy friends in one parish by letting a museum use a building and the only opposing voice in another parish was a councillor who believes a nuclear power station at Holton over a wind farm is a rational alternative!

Bernie recently ran an ad campaign claiming his staff were proud all his turkeys were 100% British born and bred, unlike his staff of course.I'll spare discourse on what that actually means in product marketing terms, not a lot really, and so what does he grow at his Hungarian and Brazilian farms then? His website has revolving banner ads of his employees saying "I'm proud to work at Bernard Matthews". None of the workers making that claim were named Joao or Costanca though and there were also many testimonials by African-Americans during the civil rights era that they were perfectly happy with Jim Crow too. Bernie's PR campaigns are style without substance and designed to diffuse, deflect and obfuscate.

My opposition is nothing personal or directed at Bernard Matthews in particular, it's just that intensive meat production and processing is not the way forward. Why don't they grow some tomatoes there instead and put them on trains instead of trucks, like when London's food markets were supplied by the East Suffolk line with fish from Lowestoft docks and milk from Halesworth dairy.

Nuclear Power: First there was Sizewell A, then B,
now plans are afoot for C. Then D and....? Do we really have to sell out future generations for tens of thousands of years for the sake of five hundred jobs? I reluctantly agree there is some role for nuclear power but we must do everything we can to improve efficiency and exhaust every alternative first. And, if it's so safe as 'they' claim, nuclear power stations should be in the middle of cities so the population that depends on them lives with the consequences in a fair proportion of use and responsibility.

flooding of Blythburgh. There's a lot of bad karma in the river and sea defences arising from the actions taken during their building centuries ago by selfish landowners - detailed in Rachel Lawrence's 'Southwold River' - which have been maintained by the public purse until recently. But there is very important infrastructure there now and letting the sea flood the marshland around Walberswick and Dunwich will also have a devastating impact further inland. Now we are being promised improvements to the A12 to prevent the flooding closing it but this money will probably come at the expense of something else. Several villages desperately need bypasses and there should be more cycle routes.

The Tesco Battle. If not Tesco, then ASDA or something worse like Budgens or Lidl will eventually arrive in Halesworth. Despite a recent makeover, the Co-operative store still needs to up its game. Its failure creates the demand its rivals are keen to fulfil. Locals want an alternative which is why I support the idea of a Waitrose nearby. At the top of my ethical supermarket scale (I realise it is an oxymoron) is the Co-operative Society, then John Lewis. Running in the middle of the pack is Sainsburys. At the bottom sits Tesco and ASDA aka Wal-Mart whose low prices come at high costs.

The Beccles Loop: Enabling more than one train every two hours in each direction between Saxmundham and Lowestoft. We had a dual track railway line until 1984 but to save money one track was torn up. Now it will take over £12M to reinstate just one mile at Beccles so trains can pass and double the line's capacity. It's long promised but I'll give four to one we soon hear it's a victim of the credit crunch.

Anyone with news of any positive signs is welcome to post here. I am looking for them, believe me.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

The Boulder Pledge

The Boulder Pledge is a personal promise, first coined by film critic Roger Ebert in 1996 not to purchase anything offered through email spam. The pledge is worded by Ebert as follows:

“Under no circumstances will I ever purchase anything offered to me as the result of an unsolicited e-mail message. Nor will I forward chain letters, petitions, mass mailings, or virus warnings to large numbers of others. This is my contribution to the survival of the online community."

Hear, hear.

The Day The Music Died: 50 years on

In October 1986 I was drivng across the USA and I found myself in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Because of the mythology around 'American Pie' I went to look for the 'Buddy Holly' crash site. Twenty years ago, before the world wide web, Clear Lake's claim to fame wasn't encouraged by the Chamber of Commerce and they denied knowing where the crash site was but they did send me over to the Surf Ballroom who sent me to the Mason City Globe-Gazette who put me in touch with the photographer
Elwin Musser who had taken this photo.

Now thousands of people visit Clear Lake in the midst of winter to remember Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper and a good number of them come from Britain. The British contingent have founded a tradition of having breakfast at the Chit Chat Cafe as part of the annual rituals. I'm glad the Chamber of Commerce has since come to their senses and welcomes visitors at a slow time for Iowa tourism.

Learning that I was a photographer from Britain, Elwin and his wife Elsie very kindly invited me to dinner. We talked late into the night about his photography, 3D cameras and life in newspapers and when I left Elwin gave me one of his last sets of prints. He still didn't tell me where the crash site was exactly but, with a twinkle in his eye, he hinted that by lining up the features in the photos with the map I could find the site to pay my respects. Now there is memorial and signs everywhere to the site but the silos and trees I found it by are the same

Elwin took the photo above (one of 16 plates) on a Speed Graphic at around 11 AM when the coroner arrived on the scene and he only spent a few minutes there. Only eight images have been published but the rest of them show little of public interest.
At the scene are: Jim Collison - reporter with Elwin's paper (far left), A Boyd Arnold, - Mason City Fire Chief, Eugene Anderson - FAA Investigator, Fred Buchetti - FAA Investigator, an unknown State Trooper, Ralph Smiley - Coroner (seen in other photos wearing a stetson and fur parka but out of frame here).

The body lying on the ground you might as well know is Ritchie Valens. The Big Bopper's foot is on the right edge of frame (he was thrown forward) and the pilot Roger Peterson is inside the wreckage. Buddy Holly lies just outside the bottom left of frame which I have cropped from the original.

The first point of impact is about 600 yards back where the plane bounced then the nose ploughed into the ground, flipping over as the cabin rolled the tail around itself like a ball of string and throwing the passengers out and coming to rest on the fence. Contrary to the millions of words recounting this event it was actually planted with beets at the time; Iowa and cornfields being a lazy writer's cliche.

I live myself very near the site of two plane crashes. On the 13th February 1974 a RAF English Electric Lightning's  engine caught fire and the pilot Fl Lt Terry Butcher ejected and instead of continuing to the North Sea as expected, the aircraft XR715 from RAF Wattisham smashed into the ground mere yards from my house at Watermill Farm, Wenhaston, the home of the late North Norfolk MP, John Hill

In August 1944 Joseph P. Kennedy Jr's craft exploded over Blythburgh so changing the course of history (had he lived there would have been no Dallas). There many other wartime crash sites and bits of plane turn up all the time when ploughing.

Elwin said he never thought there would be much interest in these photos. A plane crash in New York the same day pushed this story aside in the headlines except in the victim's home states. On 22 Aug 1954 a Braniff Douglas DC-3 crashed at Mason City in a thunderstorm and Musser's photos of that event went on the front pages nationwide. Musser had a book published of his work in 1994 and hundreds of his images are accessible through the Mason City Public Library.

Elwin recalls that fateful day in a video on the
Globe Gazette's website and hopefully from there you'll be able to look at the slideshow of his work too.

This photo is the copyright of the Mason City Globe Gazette. You can order your own uncropped copy from or link to it from there.

New architecture in Southwold

A post I hope to greatly expand on later but there is a good deal of architectural history in our corner of Suffolk. In the 1930's some modernist architects came here on holiday and then built homes here. Lately the local brewer Adnams has been busy with building a well commended distribution centre at Reydon and has now opened a new retail development in Southwold.

picture by Jason Bye lifted from BD Online.