The riverside at Castlefields

The riverside at Castlefields

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Buttermarket

Those of a certain age will remember when The Buttermarket was known by a much less romantic name: Howard Street Warehouse. In the mid-1970s the place was a wreck, plaster peeling from its walls, holes in the roof, the once-proud (but by then rather sad) words ‘British Railways’ across the front of the building, the letters of those words battered by decades of wind and rain.
But this week a new chapter begins in the long and chequered history of this great structure as its new owner announces a £1 million investment alongside the promise of 60 new jobs.
The fortunes of this grand old survivor of the canal age are about to rise again.
Just watch carefully over the next few months and see what the sprinkling of a little magic dust can do.
The place was recently purchased by Shrewsbury entrepreneur Martin Monahan who already owns three venues in the town – the Peach Tree restaurant, the C:21 nightclub, and the Spirit Champagne bar and nightclub, all of which are based in Abbey Foregate.
“I’m very excited about taking over The Buttermarket and returning it to its rightful place as Shrewsbury’s premier entertainment venue,” says Mr Monahan.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge but one that my team are certainly looking forward to meeting head on.”
His words will remind some of the huge challenge met head on some 35 years ago by another team which marched with enthusiasm into this fine and fascinating building – the teenagers who, under the auspices of the Manpower Services Commission, cleaned and swept and mended and painted until a place, unloved for so long, began to look decent again.
Today, Mr Monahan is not to be drawn on specific details about the forthcoming refurbishment, but is set to reopen the cellar part of the venue within a few months. This is tremendously exciting in itself as the atmospheric cellar – evocative of course of places like Liverpool’s legendary Cavern where The Beatles first began to captivate music fans – is simply a perfect music venue; inviting and mysterious.
Many will recall the days of the much-missed Jazz and Roots Club (hosted by the effervescent Dave Bassett) which found its home there.
If you have a feel for history, you cannot help but fall in love with a place like The Buttermarket. It was built in 1835 as the terminal warehouse of the Norbury branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. Look carefully and you can still see where the canal came in and where the butters and cheeses were loaded onto barges. Eventually, it was used as a warehouse for the nearby railways. And in more recent times it has of course been a successful nightclub.
“We’ve got some amazing ideas and plans,” says Mr Monahan. “I have no doubt that we will, with the support of Shropshire’s general public, put The Buttermarket back on the map as a major multi-purpose entertainment venue for the whole county.”
Just compare the Shrewsbury of today to the Shrewsbury of a few years ago. Now we have the Theatre Severn, the multi-screen Cineworld, the new football stadium, and The Buttermarket heading for a big comeback.
Reasons to be cheerful.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Beatles and hornets

Boy oh boy! I see the enthusiasm I expressed on this blog recently for the Bootleg Beatles has stirred up a hornets' nest. My younger brother Tony and my good friend Tim Quinn (both of whom I love dearly of course) hurled vitriol in my direction for supporting a (spit! spit! spit!) tribute band. (The Mysterons and Captain Black weren't too happy with me either, but then they are bent on the destruction of Planet Earth so perhaps I shouldn't take too much notice of their opinions on pop music).
Tony and Tim found common ground in (a) loathing the “bunch of Mike Yarwoods” who make up tribute bands, and (b) having to put up with the eccentric tastes of older brothers.
So I suppose I must apologise for (a) enjoying the Bootleg Beatles, and (b) being an older brother.
As recompense for any offence caused, I am posting the superb Show of Hands video which Mr Quinn sent me as an example of REAL MUSIC.
I'm often accused of being too easily pleased (and maybe I am) which might account for my enjoyment of the Bootleg Beatles. I don't analyse these things, guys. I just have a good time.
To eloquent ranters and oxymorons everywhere, Peace and Love.
Please follow this link to Show of Hands..........

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Bootleg Beatles

Tom Stickley pointed out to me (at the Prince of Wales on Christmas Eve) that I hadn't written anything on my blog for ages and ages and ages . . . . (he's a fan, you see).
Indeed, it seems I haven't put anything on my blog since last August when I included the sleeve to the classic single, Orville's Song, by Keith Harris and his giant green duck, Orville. This 1982 smash had been a favourite of our dad's.
So, yes, it really is about time I added something fresh to my blog before my fans abandon me in their thousands and go off in search of a blog that is updated more regularly!
Tonight then I offer you a few paragraphs about the Bootleg Beatles.
My darling wife Carol, my darling son Tom and darling son Alex, along with dear, dear, darling friends Kerri and Julie, set off just before Christmas for that dear, dear, darling little intimate venue they call the NIA. And we all had a lovely, lovely, darling time.
This is the darling review wot I wrote for the newspapers for which I work:

The Bootleg Beatles Birmingham NIA by Phil Gillam For those of us whose love of The Beatles runs deep, witnessing a Bootlegs concert - especially if the atmosphere is right - can be akin to a religious experience. And such was the case last night at the NIA. The lads have been together since 1980, formed from the West End musical, Beatlemania, and are not only technically spot-on in terms of the instrumental sound they make, but are also often breathtakingly realistic in their on-stage personas. Having said that, Bootleg Paul last night did sometimes, during his between-songs patter, sound rather more like Ken Dodd than Macca. And the vocal performances of Bootleg Ringo sounded a little odd. But these are minor points. Over all, this was another superb show from one of the longest-lived tribute acts. From I Wanna Hold Your Hand to A Hard Day's Night, from Help to Paperback Writer, from Magical Mystery Tour to Strawberry Fields, and from While My Guitar Gently Weeps to Come Together, the band told the story of the Fab Four with temendous panache. I must have seen them at least half a dozen times over the years - in venues including Whitchurch Town Hall, Shrewsbury School, Oakengates Theatre and Wolverhampton Civic Hall - and they never fail to deliver the goods. Hey look - we're talking about the week before Christmas and the music of the greatest group of them all being performed live on stage with energy, wit and style. It doesn't get much better than this. I recommend them unreservedly. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.