Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Small Is Beautiful

The BBC is, according to a report in The Hollywood Reporter, going to court in an effort to identify the naughty individual or individuals responsible for posting a scene from the upcoming series of Doctor Who onto the Interweb. And, presumably, punish them most harshly - perhaps involving electrified nipple-clamps. Last week - as previously reported by this blog - a fifty three second clip from Jodie Whittaker's opening episode and two photo images of the actor were shared on Tapatalk and began circulating, widely, on the world wide web. They disappeared reasonably quickly, though not before they had been sought out and viewed by many, many, many punters. The Beeb is, the report suggests, 'taking the leak seriously' and 'wants to answer the question' of who posted it. On Friday, the BBC requested a clerk at the California federal court to issue a subpoena to Tapatalk, a mobile community platform on where the clip appeared. The broadcaster is being represented by an attorney at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, which has carved out something of a niché for itself in recent years in tackling piracy and other nefarious shenanigans. A spokesman added that BBC Studios 'will strive to protect our programme-makers, audiences and licence fee payers from any breaches of security - ensuring Doctor Who fans enjoy the final and fully completed version of the episode when it premieres.' BBC Studios began an investigation as soon as it was made aware of the leak. The unfinished clip reportedly had temporary music and had not gone through the process which determines the final visual look of the scene. That may help investigators to identify the part of the production chain where the leak originated. So, someone is probably going to get their knackers jammed in a vice over that malarkey. Still, for what it's worth, it was a very good clip if you missed it. It also appears that a small number of individuals on a different online platform, Discord, which is often used by gaming communities, had seen and discussed the scene almost a week before it was leaked publicly. Some online fans have speculated that the BBC may have planned to show a finished version of the clip at the San Diego Comic-Con later this month. It is not the first time that Doctor Who material has appeared online earlier than planned. In 2014 BBC Worldwide apologised after scripts and footage from the series were accidentally placed on a publicly accessible server and viewed by just about everyone and their dog. And, in 2005, an individual from Canada who allegedly leaked the first episode of the revived drama - Rose - was extremely sacked following an investigation.
The Doctor Who Magazine these days is nowhere near as good as it used to be when the great Tom Spilsbury was editing it but, the new issue - available with week from all good newsagents. And some bad ones - looks quite good. It includes interviews with Wendy Padbury, Carole Ann Ford and Sophie Aldred.
Meanwhile, Titan Comics and BBC Studios have announced details of The Thirteenth Doctor's comic debut this autumn. Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Vol. 0 - The Many Lives Of Doctor Who - a 'special primer edition,' will celebrate The Doctor's many lives and lead directly into Titan's Thirteenth Doctor comic series. This, despite the fact that the cover - which includes John Hurt's War Doctor - clearly suggests that the BBC themselves regard Jodie Whittaker as the fourteenth Doctor. Or fifteenth, if you count Richard Hurndall. Or sixteenth, if you count David Bradley. Et cetera.
The latest edition of the From The Archive: A British Television Podcast, produced in association with Kaleidoscope, the non-profit organisation which recovers and stores classic television programmes, focuses on the new Doctor Who series twelve Blu-ray set. In this episode of From The Archive, this blogger's old mucker Greg Bakun takes a look at how a team led by Russell Minton decided to evolve the range to not only make it more appealing to fans but unleash the floodgates of archive material never made available to the public before now. Greg talks to Russell about his vision for these Blu-ray sets, Richard Bignell about the research and work that went into providing the archive material extras to this set which have never been available to fans before now and Derek Handley not only talks about the work that goes into the photo galleries but also the BBC Photographic Library and his work tracking down photos we have not seen before. The podcast also includes an interview with Stephen Cranford who was a close friend to Graham Strong who recently died. Graham gave fans the gift of high quality audio recordings to many missing Doctor Who episodes from the 1960s and the podcast pays tribute to Graham's legacy. The podcast can be found here. And, a jolly good listen it is too.
Good God, dear blog reader, the finale of The Bridge actually had a happy ending (or, as close as they were ever going to get to a happy ending in The Bridge, anyway). This blogger is not entirely sure how he feels about that; surprised, mainly! Most viewers seemed pleasantly surprised, let it be noted. Though, perhaps inevitably, some whinging clunk of no importance at the Torygraph couldn't resist having a damned good whinge.
A live-action version of the Halo computer game has been announced by US TV network Showtime. The adaptation of Microsoft's popular SF shooter franchise will be led by Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes director Rupert Wyatt and producer Kyle Killen. Showtime said the series, split into ten hour-long episodes, would 'dramatise an epic Twenty Sixth Century conflict' between humanity and the Covenant alien empire. Production will begin in 2019, with a premiere date yet to be announced. Showtime will produce the show in association with Microsoft, its 343 Industries studio and Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television. David Nevins, Showtime's CEO and president, described the project as its 'most ambitious series ever.' Originally launched in 2001, the Halo video game series - an exclusive on Microsoft's Xbox consoles - became one of the highest-grossing of all time. Players control iconic hero Master Chief as he battles numerous alien invasions. Following the release of Halo Five: Guardians in 2015, Microsoft announced lifetimes sales had surpassed five billion dollars with more than seventy million copies sold. The next instalment in the franchise, Halo Infinite, was announced at this year's E3 expo. Showtime's decision to commit to a TV adaptation of the game's universe follows numerous failed attempts to adapt Halo for the big and small screen. Ex Machina director Alex Garland produced an early draft of an ill-fated feature film project, to which Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson was attached. The project fell apart when director Neill Blomkamp - who replaced Jackson - chose to prioritise his 2009 debut District Nine. Microsoft later revealed plans to launch a TV series in 2013 as part of its Xbox Live original content drive. But the division was shut down before its release. Halo: Nightfall, a web series executive produced by Ridley Scott, arrived eventually but was cancelled after one series. Announcing the upcoming series, Nevins said fans would be 'thoroughly rewarded' for their patience. 'In the history of television, there simply has never been enough great science fiction,' he added. 'Kyle Killen's scripts are thrilling, expansive and provocative [and] Rupert Wyatt is a wonderful, world-building director. Their vision of Halo will enthral fans of the game while also drawing the uninitiated into a world of complex characters that populate this unique universe.'
Ofcom has received six hundred and fifty whinges over Sunday night's episode of Z-List Celebrity Love Island. The whinges were directly related to a scene where Dani Dyer was shown a misleading video of her 'boyfriend' Jack Fincham (no, me neither) rather than the fact that someone, somewhere thought this worthless pile of horse dung was worth inflicting on the public in the first place. A spokesman for Ofcom - a politically appointed quango, elected by no one - said: 'At this stage there have been six hundred and fifty complaints from last night's Love Island specifically relating to Dani being shown the video of Jack. These will be assessed against the broadcasting code before a decision is made whether or not to investigate.' Dyer, who has been paired up with Fincham since the beginning of the series, burst into tears as she watched the video of Fincham react with shock at seeing his ex, Ellie Jones, arrive. Although he did not give an overtly positive response to Jones's arrival or make any mention of any romantic intentions towards her, Dyer was visibly distressed. And this shite constitutes 'news' and 'entertainment', apparently. It's the Twenty First Century, dear blog reader, look upon our works, ye mighty, and despair.
Dani's - slightly more famous - dad has also been making the headlines this week. You might have noticed. Social media 'is still reeling' from the EastEnders actor Danny Dyer called the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, a 'twat' live on TV. And, for once, that doesn't mean a couple of dozen glakes you've never heard of on Twitter were talking about it, this was a shade more widespread than that. Now, the current PM Theresa May has, seemingly, defended Dyer's right to call Cameron 'a twat.' Speaking to the Independent, May's spokeswoman said: 'Much like columnists and others, people who appear on broadcast and newspapers are perfectly entitled to their opinion.' Dyer was appearing on the first edition of ITV's Good Evening Britain - an experimental attempt to cash in on the ratings after England and Belgium's World Cup game - and he went on a spectacular rant about Brexit. Hosts - oily and odious twat Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid - as well as guests Ed Balls, Jeremy Corbyn and Pamela Anderson were 'shocked and stunned into silence' (apparently) as Dyer went off on one. It was quite a sight. 'This whole Brexit thing ... who knows about Brexit? No-one's got a fucking clue what Brexit is,' Dyer suggested. 'You watch Question Time. No-one knows what it is! It's like this mad riddle that no-one knows what it is. So, what's happened to that twat David Cameron who brought it on? He can scuttle off, but he brought all of this on. Where is he? Is he in Europe with his trotters up?! Where is the geezer? He should be held accountable for it! Where?! Twat!' Testify, Dan! So there you go, dear blog reader, according to no less an authority than the Prime Minister's spokesperson, David Cameron is, indeed, officially a twat. Glad we got that on sorted out.
The Night Manager was one of the biggest TV success stories of recent years - this blog's programme of the year in 2016 for instance - and we've now had an update on the in-development follow-up. Starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman, the BBC/AMC project - based on John Le Carré's novel - produced some gorgeous visuals alongside its high-stakes narrative, so how is that second series coming along? Spy novelist Charles Cumming is one of the four-strong team of writers developing the new episodes and he told Event magazine that we can expect more of the same when the show returns. 'All I am permitted to say is that le Carré has given his blessing to the project,' Cumming explained. 'The four of us in the writers' room are sworn to silence. Some characters that the audience know and love will be returning, others will not. The locations will be sumptuous, the plot as thrilling and as thematically complex as a le Carré story should be.' While not everyone made it out of the first series alive, it is exciting to hear that some old faces are set to make an appearance when the second series finally drops. Le Carré himself won't be dipping his toes into the second series, with the author maintaining the tradition of no sequels unless they're based on one of his novels. This means the four writers attached to The Night Manager 2 are crafting their own original spy tale. 'Our job is to write a season that's going to be even better than the first one, but also stay faithful to the tone of the world that was created by le Carré and to the characters,' Cumming added. 'We are all aware that the bar has been set very high in terms of audience expectations. The challenge facing us is to meet those expectations, hopefully even to surpass them.'
If you were somehow hoping Game Of Thrones' final series would be a happy camaraderie of men, women and dragons, Sophie Turner is here to dash your hopes into a thousand tiny fragments. The actress has assured us that the upcoming eighth series will be 'bloodier' than ever. 'I can tell you that there's definitely a coming together of people,' she told Gold Derby. 'Everyone is coming together to fight the impending doom. There's a lot of tension between these little groups, battling for what they think is right. It's Game Of Thrones, so it's going to be bloodier and more death and more emotionally torturous than all the years before!'
The Crown's second series concentrated largely on Prince Philip's roguishness and the strains on Elizabeth and Philip's marriage. Downton Abbey creator, hateful old full-of-his-own-importance Tory Lord Snooty thinks that was 'a bit unfair' to the Duke of Edinburgh. As though anyone gives a toss what hateful old full-of-his-own-importance Tory Lord Snooty thinks. About anything. While hateful old full-of-his-own-importance Tory Lord Snooty praised the cast of the acclaimed Netflix series and writer Peter Morgan, he said he 'isn't comfortable dramatising people who are still alive.' 'It was beautifully acted, beautifully written,' hateful old full-of-his-own-importance Tory Lord Snooty told Katie Couric in her podcast. 'For me, I'm not completely comfortable with dramatising people who are still alive and still living their lives. Because I think it's possible to be unfair. And in the second series, I didn't think it was fair to Prince Philip, to the Duke of Edinburgh, based on very little.' Hateful old full-of-his-own-importance Tory Lord Snooty added that while the drama is 'more than deserving' of its success, the Duke doesn't deserve to have his personal life aired on TV, particularly after seventy years of public service. And racism. 'Now I'll be punished for that because it's a great success and it deserves to be,' hateful old full-of-his-own-importance Tory Lord Snooty continued. When Couric asked hateful old full-of-his-own-importance Tory Lord Snooty if he thinks The Crown stretches its artistic licence when it comes to its storylines and character portrayals, he replied: 'You're getting me into a tricky area here. I think that a lot of it was based on obviously very good research, but some of it was not. Some of it was extrapolation from a rumour or someone's rather prejudiced account. And then it was presented as fact. I'm not sure that's just.' Hateful old full-of-his-own-importance Tory Lord Snooty then asserted: 'But I'm a big fan of Peter Morgan, I repeat that. I think he's the best writer on television at the moment. And it's deservedly successful as far as I'm concerned.' That was hateful old full-of-his-own-importance Tory Lord Snooty there on The Crown, a drama which is one thousand times more interesting than any old class-examining shite he's ever been involved in.
James Norton may be leaving Grantchester in the upcoming fourth series, but now we know his replacement. Tom Brittney is playing Will Davenport, Grantchester's new, young parish priest who 'channels his boundless energy into a quest for social justice' and whose 'own troubled past is unearthed,' according to ITV. 'I am beyond excited,' Brittney said about joining Wor Geet Canny Robson Green on the popular period crime drama. 'From the moment I heard about the role of Will Davenport, it was something I wanted more than anything. It's a real honour to be joining such a wonderful series, with such a loyal fanbase.' Norton added: 'As excited as I am to be filming a new series of Grantchester, it's also heartbreaking to be saying goodbye to Sidney Chambers. I've loved this experience, and particularly working with such an extraordinary cast and crew. All the best to the fantastic Tom Brittney in his new role as the new vicar. He is a wonderful addition to the Grantchester family.'
ITV has offered an intriguing first look at John Simm's Strangers, LGBTQ drama Butterfly and more of its new autumn dramas. The channel took full advantage of having the eyes of the nation on its broadcast of the England versus Belgium World Cup match on Thursday night to launch a trailer promoting its autumn programming slate. The trailer also showed off a few fleeting glimpses of Olivia Cooke and Suranne Jones in the big-budget TV adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's classic novel Vanity Fair. The TV version has been written by filmmaker Gwyneth Hughes. Also previewed were the crime thriller Dark Heart and the latest series of From The North favourite Unforgotten.
The BBC is reportedly 'in talks with Channel Four' to mount a five hundred million knicker bid to take control of UKTV, which broadcasts channels including Dave and Gold. UKTV has a mix of ten free-to-air and pay-TV channels as well as a free streaming service. It is fifty per cent controlled by BBC Worldwide, with the remaining stake owned by US media company Discovery. BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, wants control of UKTV because it is the biggest driver of its profits and source of funds it funnels back to the BBC each year. UKTV's profits have rocketed from twenty nine million knicker to more than ninety million quid in the past eight years. It pays fifty four million notes a year to BBC Worldwide for the rights to an extensive library of BBC shows from Top Gear, Qi and Would I Lie To You? to Dad's Army, Blackadder and Porridge. Much of the content on UKTV channels recycles BBC archives, but channels such as Dave and Yesterday have commissioned their own programming, including the - extremely shit - comedy panel show, Taskmaster and the much better but now, sadly, ended Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish. But, BBC Worldwide does not have the financial flexibility to buy out Discovery, which is understood to be a seller if the right deal can be reached and has been seeking a partner. Channel Four has about on hundred and ninety million knicker in cash reserves, including a seventy five million smackers revolving credit facility, which it could use as part of a strategic package toward a takeover of UKTV. It is understood - by the Gruniad Morning Star if not anyone more credible - that the state-owned broadcaster is also allowed, in some circumstances, to raise 'significant further funds from financial markets.' UKTV is also of huge strategic importance to Channel Four as it handles the two hundred and twenty five million quid-a-year TV advertising sales contract for the broadcaster. A tie-up would, at a stroke, provide Alex Mahon, Channel Four's new chief executive, with instant exposure to a new revenue stream in the pay-TV market. Channel Four is not allowed to own production companies, so it cannot follow rivals such as ITV in driving income from creating global TV hits and pressure from advertisers shifting spend to digital firms such as Google and Facebook continues to mount. Discovery, which owns broadcasters including Eurosport, inherited the five hundred million smackers stake in UKTV when it took over Scripps Networks in a nine billion knicker deal last year.
The publisher of the Daily Mirra, Sunday Mirra and Sunday People has topped up its fund for dealing with phone-hacking claims against its newspapers by an eye-watering seven-and-a-half million smackers, taking the total amount set aside to seventy million notes. Reach, the new name of the publicly listed company formerly known as Trinity Mirra, said on Friday that while it had 'continued to make progress,' fees for lawyers representing claimants were 'outstripping its estimates.' Which is, obviously, very sad although they might like to reflect on the notion that had they not illegally hacked people's phones in the first place, it would have been a lot less expensive for them. 'Whilst we continue to make progress on settling civil claims in relation to phone-hacking, the costs associated with settling these claims, predominantly the legal fees of the claimants' lawyers, are expected to be higher than previously estimated,' the company told investors in a stock market filing. 'Although there remains uncertainty as to how these matters will progress, the board remains confident that the exposures arising from these historical events are manageable and do not undermine the delivery of the group's strategy.' In October, lawyers representing the former TV presenter John Leslie, the actor Ralf Little and former Z-List Celebrity Big Brother type person Chantelle Houghton claimed in high court that the board of Reach and its legal team were 'aware' of hacking whilst it was happening and did nothing to stop it at the company's newspapers. Lawyers for Trinity Mirra told the court the evidence presented did not show that company executives or the legal team were aware of hacking. One or two people even believed them. Last summer, the company said it had settled more than eighty per cent of phone-hacking cases against it. Since 2015, Reach has faced a series of hacking claims from a, b, c and z-list celebrities and other public figures. Last April, the company settled with forty four people, including convicted perjurer Jeffrey Archer, Patsy Kensit, Denise Van Outen, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Kevin Keegan and the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke for undisclosed sums. Last May, a payout to Elizabeth Hurley is believed to have broken the record two hundred and sixty thousand smackers paid to Sadie Frost by the publisher in 2015, which at the time was thought to be the single largest privacy damage payout since the phone-hacking scandal broke in 2010. In November 2016, Reach paid out more than five hundred thousand quid to settle phone-hacking claims by twenty nine victims, including Les Dennis, Natasha Kaplinsky and EastEnders actor Steve McFadden. In December 2015, the Crown Prosecution Service said that no further action would be taken against companies and journalists accused of phone-hacking. The CPS said there was insufficient evidence to bring corporate charges against billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's News UK and criminal cases against ten current and former employees on newspapers owned by Reach.
The Evening Standard has reported a loss of ten million knicker for last year to the end of September, as the cost of 'strategic investment' under new editor George Osborne pushed the London free daily newspaper deep into the red. Parent company ESI Media, which is controlled by the Russian oligarch Evgeny Lebedev, also reported that stablemate the Independent has almost doubled profits in its first full year as a digital-only publication. The company said that the Evening Standard's swing to a major loss was because it has embarked on a strategic investment programme to develop the brand, editorial product and advertising proposition. It made a £2.2m operating profit in 2016. In 2015, it made £3.3m. ESI Media said the investment phase included 'strong editorial innovation under former chancellor George Osborne,' who controversially took over as editor in May last year. Since his appointment, there has been a comprehensive redesign of the paper and the word 'London' has been dropped from the title to reflect greater national and international ambitions. The paper has also invested heavily in the event market, including a London food festival. However, the title, which has a circulation of almost nine hundred thousand, was also hit hard by the ongoing slump in the advertising market. As a freesheet, it does not have the benefit of additional income from sales of each copy, making it particularly vulnerable. 'We're investing significantly in the Evening Standard,' said Manish Malhotra, group managing director at ESI Media. 'Although the title has been subject to some broader issues that have impacted on all news brands, the brand is now enjoying strong digital growth and the emergence of a successful events business to complement the print title reinvigorated under George's editorship.' The Standard also took on costs as a result of the closure in 2016 of the print edition of stablemates the Independent and Independent on Sunday. Profits at the digital-only Independent increased ninety four per cent year-on-year to the end of September. ESI Media said that the figures were 'a validation of the difficult decision to close the print edition and demonstrates the viability of its online-only model.'
A man has been extremely arrested on suspicion of starting a moorland blaze on Winter Hill in Lancashire, close to a TV transmitter mast. Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service went to the moorland fire on the hill near Bolton on Thursday. A twenty two-year-old man from Bolton is being held as part of a joint investigation between the fire service and police. Greater Manchester Fire Service said that it was tackling a second fire in Bolton which broke out on Friday morning. Lancashire fire crews, who had been in a reserve role supporting colleagues in Greater Manchester dealing with a huge blaze near Saddleworth Moor, were moved to the Winter Hill fire on Thursday evening. Work on the Saddleworth fire, which spread across seven square miles, saw soldiers from A Company of the Fourth Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, join firefighters. Eighteen fire engines remain at the scene on Winter Hill, including crews from Cumbria and Merseyside, alongside specialist wildlife units. About one hundred firefighters, who resumed their work at first light, are being assisted by mountain rescue officers and a helicopter from water firm United Utilities. The aircraft will be taking water from the nearby Rivington Reservoir to drop on the affected area. A fire service spokesman said that while there was 'no immediate risk' to livestock, domestic properties or infrastructure, people living nearby 'should keep windows and doors closed.'
Britain faces 'a summer invasion by Asian super-ants' known to 'chomp their way through electrical cables and spark fires.' And if a story with the screamed headline Fears Asian 'electric ants' could invade Britain after discovery of huge colony doesn't turn up as a plotline in the next series of Doctor Who then yer man Chris Chibnall needs his head examining! Pest controllers have reportedly discovered 'a rare colony of a million of the insects,' also known as fire ants, on two streets in Eastbourne. Paul Bates of Cleankill Pest Control, which is dealing with the infestation, said that it was the biggest colony he had ever seen. He told the Daily Scum Mail: 'It's the biggest infestation I've heard of in Britain - it stretches across two residential streets in Eastbourne and if it wasn't caught in time it could have spread exponentially. We are dealing with it at the moment, but would warn people to look out for them as they are attracted to electricity and can cause blackouts and fires.' The ants tend to gather around electricity cables or junction boxes and have been known to chew through cables causing fires in homes. The ants are hard to kill because they form huge colonies consisting of tens of thousands of inter-connected ants and have become resistant to treatments. The creatures first arrived in the UK in imported pot plants and the first colony was found in Gloucestershire in 2009. As this episode of Mock The Week proves. In 2014, a huge infestation of ants were found at a home in Hendon.
A man in Wisconsin was reportedly injured after a camera installed in his shoe exploded, local police say. The thirty two-year-old had installed the device to take illicit photographs of women under their skirts. Local police say that he handed himself in but was not charged because he had not taken any images or video before the camera battery exploded. Madison Police Chief Mike Koval wrote about the unusual incident on a blog published on Tuesday. 'When the explosion happened, he got treatment for minor burns, then disclosed what happened to his mentor, a clergyman,' Officer David Dexheimer told the Wisconsin State Journal newspaper. The man then reportedly handed himself into police reporting 'a sex offence.' On his blog record of the incident, Koval logged that the man had been 'counselled on his actions' and then released. Upskirting - the act of secretly filming or photographing someone under their clothing without permission - was signed into law as a felony offence in Wisconsin in 2015. The offence carries a maximum punishment of three-and-a-half years in The Big House.
Drone footage capturing off-road 'bike louts running amok' on an industrial estate has been released by police. Video of bikers speeding and 'pulling wheelies' at the Seven Stars business park in Coventry was shared by West Midlands Police. More than twenty people were very arrested at the scene and nine bikes, seven of which were stolen, were seized. The operation was prompted by a 'flood' of complaints from industrial estate staff and the public. The suspects will be questioned after the incident on 17 June and could be charged with public nuisance offences, police said. Inspector Andy Bridgewater said that some businesses are open twenty four hours and staff have been 'intimidated by the bike louts' who have 'caused issues' for work vehicles and deliveries. 'The drones give us a great vantage point from about four hundred feet and provides great quality footage which will help us secure convictions against offenders,' he said. Police said the bikers drive through Coventry while wearing face coverings or balaclavas, pulling stunts in the streets, riding on pavements, 'direct traffic as though they own the roads' and , generally, being a damned nuisance. On some weekends, the force said they have received up to sixty calls from people living in the area. The force's new drone capability has been funded by money recovered from criminals at court.
Morrissey has postponed his July UK and European tour due to 'logistical circumstances beyond our control,' his management claim. Or, more likely, due to the fact that the tickets weren't selling after even his biggest fans were put off by some of his recent, highly dubious, outbursts. The former Smiths frontman had been due to play five UK shows next month, beginning in Edinburgh on Wednesday, as well as gigs in Germany and Sweden. The tour was due to include two shows in his home town of Manchester. The announcement came less than a day after his manager attacked plans for an anti-racism protest event in the city. The Love Music Hate Racism night was organised by DJ Dave Haslam in response to contentious comments by the singer about religion and politics. Morrissey's manager, Peter Katsis, responded by saying: 'We are in the business of creating music and performing music. We are actually not in the business of politics.' Although, no one seems to have told Morrissey himself about that. However, the plans to perform music have now been put on hold until a South American tour in November and December. 'Due to logistical circumstances beyond our control, the UK/European Morrissey concerts scheduled for July will be postponed,' said a statement attributed to the management. 'We deeply regret any inconvenience to the fans and promise to reschedule UK and European dates as soon as possible.'
A notorious gangster is on the run after escaping by helicopter from a prison in the Paris region. Redoine Faid was helped by three heavily-armed men with assault rifles. Two gunmen in balaclavas used smoke bombs and angle-grinders to break into the visitors' room where Faid was talking to his brother. A third man in the prison courtyard guarded the helicopter and its pilot - a flying instructor whom the men had taken hostage. The helicopter flew to the nearby Gonesse area, where it was found by local police. Faid, a very naughty man indeed, had been serving a twenty five-year stretch for a failed armed blag during which a police officer was killed. This is the armed robber's second prison break: in 2013, he escaped after seizing four guards as human shields and blowing several doors off with dynamite. He staged that escape less than half-an-hour after arriving at a prison in Northern France and spent six weeks on the run before being recaptured. Nearly three thousand French fuzz have been drafted into the manhunt, an alleged police 'source' allegedly told AFP. 'Everything is being done to locate the fugitive,' an interior ministry official claimed. France's Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet, who travelled to the Sud-Francilien prison in Réau on Sunday evening, called it 'a spectacular escape. It was an extremely well-prepared commando unit that may have used drones to survey the area beforehand,' she said. The prison courtyard where the helicopter landed was the only area not protected by anti-aircraft netting. Prison union representative Martial Delabroye said that was because inmates do not use it, 'except to leave the prison.' Nobody was injured during the jailbreak. The captured pilot was released and, later, taken to hospital suffering from shock. Faid's accomplices had taken the flying instructor hostage at a small flying club in Fontenay-Trésigny, where he was waiting for a student and ordered him to fly to the prison. Faid initially got out of the helicopter and into a black Renault Megane which was seen heading for the A1 motorway. That getaway car was later found abandoned and burned out at a shopping centre car park in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a Paris suburb. Born in 1972, Faid grew up in a notoriously rough part of Paris. In the 1990s, he ran a gang involved in armed robbery and extortion in the French capital. He has said his lifestyle was inspired by Hollywood gangster films, including the Al Pacino thriller Scarface. He is devoted to US director Michael Mann's stylised crime thrillers, especially 1995 gangster film Heat. He once approached Mann at a Paris film festival and told him: 'You were my technical adviser.' Faid claimed to have watched the film 'dozens of times' to hone his skills as a bank robber. In 2009, Faid wrote a book about his experiences of growing up in Paris's crime-ridden suburbs and graduating into a life of law-breaking. He claimed to have turned his back on criminality, but a year later was involved in the botched robbery which earned him a prison stretch in Réau, in the Seine-et-Marne region. French police have nicknamed the gangster L'Écrivain - 'the writer' - in acknowledgement of his autobiography and subsequent media tour. One of Faid's most recent prison supervisors said he was 'never in conflict' with guards, but that 'we must always be wary. In the corner of his mind, he never lost the idea of escaping. Behind all his manners - he is very polite - he always hid his game,' the supervisor said. Faid's cycle of imprisonment and escape began with his arrest in 1998 on multiple counts of armed robbery and bank theft. In 2009 he was freed on parole, swearing that he was 'a changed man' - but by 2011, he had breached his terms of release and was back behind bars. Last year, Faid was sentenced to ten years' in The Pokey for his 2013 jailbreak from Séquedin prison, outside Lille. He was also given eighteen years for masterminding the 2010 robbery in which a young policewoman, Aurélie Fouquet, was killed. The fugitive is not the first to escape a French jail by helicopter. In 2001, three armed robbers fled a prison in Draguignan in Southern France, after an accomplice hijacked a helicopter from an airfield in nearby St Tropez. Two years later, inmates accused of running an international drugs ring escaped a remand centre near Aix-en-Provence by similar means.
Tempers flared in Australia over the weekend as retailers implemented a ban on single-use plastic bags. One customer reportedly grabbed a shop assistant by the throat, while another called staff 'money-grabbing scum.' The ban on single-use bags is part of a national push to reduce waste. Retailers in four of six Australian states now face fines for using them. More than sixty countries including the UK have now introduced bans or levies on single-use bags. The UN environment agency estimates that up to five trillion single-use bags are consumed worldwide each year. Australian chain Woolworths introduced a ban on the bags on 20 June, ahead of the 1 July deadline, offering reusable bags for fifteen cents instead. But customer 'bag rage' pushed the chain to reverse the policy and offer the reusable bags for free until 8 July. 'They just want a little extra help from us to get through the transition,' said Claire Peters, Woolworths managing director, in a statement. Another chain, Coles, said it would open every checkout lane on Sunday to reduce queue lengths and put on extra staff to explain the change to customers. 'We are taking a proactive step,' a Coles spokesperson said. A retail staff union urged customers to treat staff members with respect. 'While we understand that some customers may be frustrated by this change, there is absolutely no excuse for abusive or violent behaviour towards retail staff,' said Gerard Dwyer, national secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association. The union surveyed one hundred and thirty two of its members and said fifty seven reported suffering abuse over the ban. More than eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world's oceans each year, according to the UN, which has called for single-use bags to be eliminated completely by 2022. The main way that plastic gets into the seas is via the world's major rivers. Research suggests that ninety five per cent of plastic is transported in this way. Eight of these rivers are found in Asia. Most of the plastic comes from China, but Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet'nam also rank among major polluters. Consumer behaviour in developed countries including the UK, Europe and the US is also a major factor in pushing plastic into the world's waters. Last December, one hundred and ninety three countries committed to a UN plan to stop plastic waste entering the oceans. But the commitment is not legally binding and doesn't have a timetable and different countries have adopted different schemes. Around forty have banned single-use plastic bags, with charges or outright prohibitions in place in China, Bangladesh and about fifteen African countries. Other nations, including the UK, are moving to ban plastic straws and cotton buds.
The actress and playwright Helen Griffin has died at the age of fifty nine. Helen appeared in the 2006 Doctor Who episodes Rise Of The Cybermen and The Age Of Steel, playing Mrs Moore, who joined The Doctor, Rose and Mickey in the fight against Cybus. Helen was born in Swansea and initially studied to be a psychiatric nurse at nursing college alongside comedienne Jo Brand and was a psychiatric nurse until 1986, when her passion for acting took over. She is best known for playing the masseuse Lynette in the movie Twin Town, a 1997 dark crime comedy-drama film filmed and set in Swansea. Her first full-length play was Flesh & Blood, which she adapted into the screenplay for the film Little White Lies, in which she also starred, winning a Welsh BAFTA for her performance. Helen also appeared at The Edinburgh Fringe festival, alongside former colleague Jo Brand, in a collaborated play called Mental, based on their experiences as medical students. Other television appearances include The Sherman Plays, Mortimer's Law, A Mind To Kill, Prime Suspect, The Life & Times Of Vivienne Vyle, Casualty, Gavin & Stacey, Criminal Justice, Coronation Street and Going Forward. In a statement, her agent said that Helen 'died peacefully on Friday night surrounded by her loved ones. She was a beautiful, talented, funny, clever and an inspirational woman who is much loved and will be sorely missed by all who knew her.' Twin Town director Kevin Allen added: 'Helen was a fantastic actor and a terrific writer, she was deeply principled but approached everything she did with a twinkle in those gorgeous, sexy eyes of hers. She was an intuitive, unselfish and very clever actor. The Welsh film industry has lost someone very special and she will be so sorely missed.'
The artist Peter Firmin, who died this week aged eighty nine, was a pioneer and an icon of children's TV. The classic programmes that he made with Oliver Postgate - including Ivor The Engine, Bagpuss and Clangers - were beloved by generations of British viewers. The world they created during their thirty-year partnership involved a crude but innovative animation system. Characters were moved by magnets positioned under a table that acted as the set - in a studio established inside a disused cowshed at Firmin's farmhouse in Blean, near Canterbury. Postgate came up with programme ideas, wrote the scripts, directed and produced them and provided the narration whilst Firmin designed the characters - whether drawings, models or puppets - and the sets. Their first major success, Ivor The Engine (1959 to 1964), the story of a Welsh steam train that wanted to sing in a male-voice choir, was Firmin and Postgate's first series made by their own production company, Smallfilms. The thirty two black-and-white episodes commissioned by ITV were so popular that, a decade later, Ivor The Engine was revived by the BBC for forty colour films.
An even bigger hit was Bagpuss (1974), voted the most popular children's programme of all time in a 1999 BBC poll. It featured a pink-and-white-striped 'saggy, old, cloth cat, baggy and a bit loose at the seams' in thirteen episodes which were repeated regularly for the next decade and beyond - but one of the secrets of its success was the result of an error. 'I drew a picture of a marmalade cat,' Firmin told the journalist Richard Webber. 'I then asked a company in Kent to produce some marmalade-striped material, but a mistake with the chemicals left it pink!' The cat's owner, Emily (based on one of Firmin's daughters), collects objects for her 'shop,' Bagpuss & Co, but nothing is for sale. She puts them in the window alongside Bagpuss, who sleeps on a cushion until woken from his slumber by Emily's magic words, spoken entrancingly by Postgate at the start of each episode. One of Firmin's own favourites among the programmes he made with Postgate was Clangers (1969 to 1974), featuring small, pink, knitted, mouse-like creatures living on a blue moon, with neighbours including The Soup Dragon and The Froglets. It was the first of their productions to be made in colour. Firmin designed the characters and his wife, Joan (whom he married in 1952), knitted them. The series was revived three years ago, with Michael Palin narrating it in the UK and William Shatner in the US and with Firmin as executive producer and design consultant. Made in stop-motion, rather than the modern CGI, the new Clangers won a BAFTA award as the best pre-school animation. 'I hate CGI faces on humans because you look in the eyes and there's nothing there,' said Firmin. 'There's no soul.'
Without Postgate, Firmin had created the 1960s TV puppets Fred Barker and Ollie Beak, as well as the mischievous fox Basil Brush for Ivan Owen to operate and voice in the manner of the British actor Terry-Thomas in an ITV series, The Three Scampis (1962 to 1965). Basil returned in the magician David Nixon's series' Now For Nixon and The Nixon Line before beginning his own long-running BBC Saturday evening programme The Basil Brush Show in 1968.
Peter Arthur Firmin was born in Harwich in 1928, the son of Lewis, a railway telegrapher and Lila. On leaving school, he gained diplomas from Colchester School of Art (1947) and the Central School of Art and Design (1952) in London, either side of two years national service in the Navy. He then painted pictures of saints for the celebrated stained-glass artist Francis Spear. 'I've always had the fault of drawing people with heads that are too big for their bodies, looking slightly humorous,' Firmin recalled. 'Some of the saints in my stained-glass windows had rather large noses and funny faces.' After work designing posters in a London publicity studio, he went freelance as an illustrator for New Scientist and other magazines. In 1958, while teaching at Central, he met Postgate, who was working as a stage manager on children's programmes at the ITV London company Associated-Rediffusion and was looking for someone to draw the characters and backgrounds for his own creation, Alexander The Mouse (1958). This was followed by The Journey Of Master Ho (1958), the story of a Chinese boy and his buffalo - aimed at children with hearing difficulties - for which Firmin created a willow-pattern background. The pair's first series for the BBC, The Saga Of Noggin The Nog (1959 to 1965) was Firmin's idea, based on Norse legends after he had seen The Lewis Chessmen at the British Museum. It was later revived, in colour, in 1982. In 2016, in an interview with the BBC at the unveiling of an exhibition of his work, Firmin said of his relationship with Postgate: 'He wrote and imagined things and I brought them to life as pictures. We sometimes disagreed, but generally we agreed in the end as we had the same sort of taste and, also, we both rather liked the idea of stories where there was no aggression really and everyone was rather happy, gentle and content.' The duo's other early programmes included The Seal Of Neptune (1960), about sea horses in an undersea kingdom and Pingwings (1961 to 1965), featuring penguin characters in Firmin and Postgate's first series with stop-frame animated puppets rather than painted cards. The Pogles, made for the BBC's Watch With Mother strand in 1965, was deemed to be too frightening for pre-school children with its story of two countryfolk threatened by a witch and its six episodes were never repeated. However, the programme returned as Pogles' Wood (1966 to 1968), a more family-friendly version with a family living in the root of a tree and minus the witch. Postgate and Firmin's final series were Tottie: The Story Of A Dolls' House (1984), based on Rumer Godden's novel, with a sequel, Tottie: A Doll's Wish (1986) and Pinny's House (1986). They were jointly presented with the 2007 Action for Children's Arts JM Barrie Award 'for a lifetime's achievement in delighting children.' Postgate died the following year and Firmin received a special award at the 2014 BAFTA children's awards. In retirement, Firmin enjoyed engraving and print-making, skills he had learned at art school. He is survived by Joan and their six daughters - Charlotte, Hannah, Josephine, Katharine, Lucy and Emily.
Finally, dear blog reader, for those following Keith Telly Topping's World Cup blog, the latest two updates are here and here. The latter including details of something that is properly unique - England actually winning a World Cup penalty shoot out!