Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Such sadness with the news of the passing of one of our former SWWJ members, Wendy Hughes, a successful and prolific writer.  A  courageous and amazing lady, much loved and admired by all who knew her.


Here they are again - that delightful duo - Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are back in the spotlight with their new film which is gaining a whole new appreciation society.

One of my guests on Phoenix 98fm radio a few years back was Roger Robinson, a self-confessed Laurel and Hardy addict! He was introduced to the comedy duo, courtesy of Saturday Morning Pictures in the 1950s. As a member of ‘The Sons of the Desert’,  Laurel and Hardy Appreciation Society, for the last 16 years,  Roger has organised monthly meetings for the local group, ‘The Saps At Sea’, in Southend.

He is the editor and feature writer of a quarterly Laurel and Hardy magazine ‘The Perry Winkle’ which is sent to fans in the UK, Europe and America. The comedians appeared in Southend for a week during a tour in 1952 and Roger’s extensive research around their appearance resulted in the acclaimed ‘A Spot of Trouble in Southend’ book. The book includes many rare photographs, extensive information about supporting acts and personal letters. It was originally published in 2012 and a revised and updated version was published in 2015. 

In 2014, Roger wrote ‘UlverSTAN – The Bill Cubin Story’ to raise money for the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Ulverston, Cumbria, where Stan Laurel was born. Bill Cubin was a larger than life character, twice Mayor of Ulverston and the founder of the museum, now run by his grandson. The book is a touching tribute to a lovely man who was ultimately responsible for creating the permanent connections with Stan Laurel with a blue plaque of the house where Laurel was born and a bronze statue of Laurel and Hardy in the centre of the town.

A year or two back, Roger wrote his third book ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ which also has a Laurel and Hardy connection. Ron Stokoe is 90 years young and has lived in Southend since a child. He has had a remarkable life which includes being evacuated at the beginning of the Second World War,  joining the army in 1944 where he was posted to India, setting up his own taxi business, working at the Ekco factory and still organising Norfolk Regimental Reunions. When he was a taxi driver in 1952, he met Laurel and Hardy and their wives at Southend Central Station and took them to the Palace Hotel, where they stayed for the week. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019


Can it really be twenty years since the Essex Book Festival team gathered in Chelmsford to plan that very first Book Festival in 1999? I've been trying to find the initial brochure that brought so many readers (and writers) into the Chelmsford Library on launch day, aided and abetted by BBC Essex. 

Our current Festival Events Diary is outlined in our website and you can see for yourself what's in store.   Essex Festival Director, Ros Green, is always full of surprises and this year, she and her team have surpassed themselves.  On offer there are over 130 events taking place in 45 venues across the county and our theme for 2019 is UNCHARTED WATERS, inspired by the 80th anniversary of Arthur Ransome's Secret Water, which we will be marking as part of our opening weekend in Harwich. 

Since Essex Libraries founded the Festival in 1999, we are thrilled to be hosting events in over 24 libraries countywide. With so much controversy regarding closure of libraries in Britain, we really must support and make most of these wonderful places -  USE IT OR LOSE IT! 

Hope to meet many of you at some of the libraries in Essex hosting the Festival events from 1st to 31st March. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019


Currently writing an article for editor Hayley Anderson for her on-line  Enjoy Brentwood More! website looking at some of the schools that no longer exist in the town - shame, as so many local folk have great childhood memories.  This pic is on front cover of one of my earliest books Brentwood Voices published by Tempus Publishing (now the History Press of Stroud) showing Mr "Pop" Davis, headmaster of Junction Road Juniors. Not sure if some of those students were particularly happy about having their picture taken.  Date? Probably 1948/9. Shame the publishing illustrators did not use the whole line-up! 

Thursday, January 17, 2019


It's always pleasing for a regular blogger to return to earlier postings that brought in increased levels of page views.  Within my 1,120 articles, the artistic work of Stuart Wallace, a former English-born lad, has attracted many viewers within my current 320,000 pvs as well they should.   

Since creating the two artworks which were on display at the Eastgate Art Gallery in Basildon, Essex, Stuart, is delighted that both have been sold.  He now lives in Aurora, Denver, Colorado and has enjoyed even more popularity with his later creations. His  iconic and enigmatic portfolio has been exhibited in art galleries in several American cities, including New York and his work is gaining prominence in his home city of Denver, Colorado. Why not take a tour and see what I mean?

Stuart is grateful for the warm welcome that awaited his mother, the author Liz
Wallace when she helped organise Stuart's work in a prime position at the Basildon Art Gallery during last October. She used some of her time in England to sign some of her best selling book CHRISTMAS PAST IN ESSEX. 

But what happened to those two pieces of artwork flown over from the US? Here we have Linda Weiss who loves her piece of US skill which brings her some interesting comments. 
Linda Weiss

Jenni Elliott
Another proud owner, Jenni Elliott commented: "Really excited to receive this unique piece of Stuart's work as a Christmas present and it is so perfect. The painting enhances the room and I can't help but to stop and stare at it every time I go in - the colour, detail and texture are mesmerizing and I see something slightly different  each time  I look at it. I truly love it and will treasure it forever."

And one more devotee, Don Budy commented:  I am a working professional sculptor and have been an art educator for over 58 years. I have visited Museums and Galleries in New York, Paris, London and Rome and many in between. I have seen such work that was extraordinary and some that was not. When I saw the work of Stuart Wallace, I was blown away. His work is thoughtful, meaningful and shows a wonderful appreciation of the Rules and Principles of Art coupled with an incredible sense of Creativity. His use of color and form is exciting and refreshing. I would put his work next to any contemporary/abstract artist, living or dead. No, I am not a relative. I just appreciate creative quality art and that is what I see when I look at the work of Stuart Wallace.  If you are a collector, I would suggest that you follow this young man very closely.  Don Budy. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2019


Back to Basildon today to meet up with Trustees of the Eastgate Art Gallery at  their new address in this popular shopping mall. I was lucky to find Irene Butcher and Christine Sugg on duty and enjoyed a trip around this newly updated gallery with so many more pieces of great art on view.
Christine Sugg Trustee
Irene Butcher Trustee
Both talented Trustees had artwork on display, and while there I couldn't take my eyes off this fabulous butterfly which is to be auctioned by Basildon Rotary Concord Club in the spring.  Fortunately, I managed to have a word with the creator of the metal 'Peacock butterfly' Andy Wootton, who explained a little about his work as a former sheet metal welder. Both Terry Cohen and Gillian Howe, talented artists, began painting the artwork which is absolutely amazing and I can't wait to learn more about its future resting place.
Created by Andy Wootton, Terry Cohen and Gillian Howe - Eastgate Art Gallery, Basildon