Who can compete with BARBIE?

You could have bet on it that as soon as the school holidays began the weather would turn from summer into autumn overnight.  In truth it would be hard to complain too much when you see the wildfires and ‘Death Valley’ temperatures of southern Europe but it does get a little wearing after a while.

But, and if I can continue with the weather analogies…every cloud comes with a silver lining especially for indoor entertainment. 

Chatting and singing with Mike Read at The Savoy in Monmouth

In the old days the End of the Pier shows used to pray for rain at Britain’s seaside resorts.  With miners fortnight and other block bookings towns like Blackpool, Morecambe or Weymouth would be packed with stranded visitors.  The rain would keep them off the beaches and needing something to do.  A wet summer afternoon meant the family went to the slot machines and amusement arcades, the end of the pier show or the pictures.

This week has seen 2 massive blockbuster films grabbing the headlines. One tells a story so shocking that it has caused outrage on social media, the other tells the story about the man behind the weapon that still has the potential to destroy us all! Still strikes me as odd that Barbie seems the more controversial of the two.

After years of being involved with the ‘Cappuccino Girls’ I am more than happy in pink and with 2 daughters who have had their own struggles in a world still dominated by the ‘Patriarchy’ I stand with Barbie. But its not the film itself that got me thinking it was the budget and the box office and what chance does anyone else have to break through.

It is said the budget for Barbie started at $100 million but soon rose to $145 million.  Then you think of all the money they must have spent on advertising.  Barbie is everywhere. All of those posts and adverts and special events cost a lot of money.  Oppenheimer has been fighting for attention with a budget of only $100 million.  I mean, how can it compete.  In fact how can anyone compete with those sorts of investments?

Outside the beautiful Savoy Theatre Monmouth

But I’m here to say there is a way to find a path through if you have enough passion, and persistence.

Last weekend I was a guest at ‘A Weekend in Wales With Talking Pictures TV’ at the Savoy Theatre in Monmouth. Talking Picture is a TV channel available free to air on Freeview, Virgin and Sky as well as having an online channel. It is a family run business set up by Noel Cronin.

Noel with daughter Sarah, Managing Director.

Noel started as a post boy at Rank Films before becoming a film editor based in Soho.  He then started a film distribution company before moving into DVD.  As the years passed people thought new was always better.  Those old black and white films were ignored as people wanted Dolby surround sound and CGI. 

Noel decided that someone better rescue these films before it was too late.  He bought the rights to as many as he could and started licensing them to channels looking for product to fill their ever expanding satellite channels and releasing them on DVD.

With the explosion of TV channels on Freeview and Satellite Noel decided he would like to start his own channel dedicated to his ever expanding collection. Now I’ve been in that place where Noel was.  You have a dream and a passion, and you also have a plan but convincing people you’re not completely nuts can be difficult.  Slowly but surely he managed to break down those barriers and get his channel on air.

COVID was horrendous for us all and its hard to really remember how strange life was during lockdown.  When you couldn’t go out to the cinema or theatre people relied on the TV’s to help pass the time and entertain them. Once you had done Sky films and all of the Netflix box sets people started to get a little bit bored…then they discovered Talking Pictures.

As Talking Pictures is a family fun business they could work together much easier than many companies in lockdown. They continued with their personal choice of content that meant repeats were kept to an absolute minimum.

As well as old films Talking Pictures has taken on old TV series like ‘Crown Court’, ‘The Champions’ and in recent weeks they have managed to secure the rights to ‘Thunderbirds’. It is aimed at the audience who grew up with those shows and films but as with Vinyl records kids are now discovering what they have been missing for all these years.

The reason I was involved in ‘A Weekend in Wales With Talking Pictures TV’ is through another inspirational character, broadcaster Mike Read.  Just like Noel Cronin, Mike saw that ‘Heritage’ artists were having trouble getting their new music heard.  70’s 80’s and 90’s themed stations would play hits they had written and recorded when they were kids but wouldn’t be interested in their new music.

Three years ago Mike decided to set up a new chart dedicated to new music from mature artists and so the ‘Heritage Chart’ was born.  Over the past 3 years the chart has grown into a platform to promote the music of musicians who would otherwise struggle to find some space to share their new music.  The chart now regularly features the new work of artists like the Pet Shop Boys, Sparks, Bruce Springsteen…and even Mal Pope.

It was a few years ago when I got a message telling me one of my new songs had entered the chart. Since then a number of my releases have made an appearance with my last single ‘Looking for Love’ getting to the NO 1 spot.

Mike wasn’t content with his chart show only being syndicated on radio. He soon put together a weekly TV Chart Show featuring videos and live performances and that show now appears weekly on Talking Pictures TV.  Over the weekend Mike interviewed all sorts of people from the world of Film TV and Music.  On Sunday afternoon he chatted to William Gaunt who had starred in TV show ‘The Champions’ and just before me his guest was Maureen Evans.

Maureen Evans. Her record ‘Like I Do’ was No 3 in January 1963

Maureen Evans was a top pop star in the early 1960’s with 4 UK Top 40 hits and selling well over One Million records.  When they played a show reel of her hit records you could see the audience faces light up in anticipation of the star.

Maureen had brought a mini bus filled with her children and grandchildren and told some great stories.  All the way home I played Maureen on Spotify and was amazed by the great sound and production of those classic hits. And that’s the point if these films, TV shows and songs don’t get airtime and exposure we don’t know what we are missing.

By the time I walked on stage at the wonderful Savoy Theatre in Monmouth I felt I was walking into a room full of friends.  When I played some songs they knew them from the Heritage Chart Show.

It might seem impossible to see a dream through but when I meet people like Noel from Talking Pictures, and Mike Read from the Heritage Chart I’m inspired to keep going.

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