Strong Island Co.

Music & Bands

Al’Burrito’s Silent Disco

On 26th March our friends over at Al’Burrito will be taking over the Wedgewood Rooms.

The pair will be hosting a huge silent disco featuring the Loco DJ’s. Doors open at 10pm and tickets are available for £5 on the Wedgewood Rooms website here. Those of you who finished up Icebreaker festival at the silent disco will know how great the venue is for such an event.

You can stay up to date on the Facebook Event page here.

Silent Disco by Jonny Bell Photography
Icebreaker Silent Disco by Jonny Bell Photography
Al Burrito Silent Disco

The Fourth Annual St Valentines Day Massacre

Annual St Valentines Day Massacre returns for its fourth outing on February 12th.

A collection of local bands will serenade you with their renditions of popular love songs. Each band will get 15 minutes to take your breath away and will include the likes of Battery Hens, Kelly Kemp and The Vipers, Noyo Mathis, The Drainz, The Stayawakes, Lovestorm and Smokey & The Bandits. Three of the above bands have been assembled specifically for the massacre.

Music choices range from the good, the bad and the ugly and draw from the last 60 years of pop music. Expect tales of lust, love and heartbreak performed to varying degrees of success as the band’s step outside their comfort zones in the name of love and charity.

As in previous years the event supports Youth Music and all of the money raised from the night will go towards musical equipment and education for those who may otherwise not have access to it. Over £500 was raised last year and event organisers hope to top that this year!

As with previous a raffle will be held on the night with some exceptional prizes up for grabs including the following:

* Two Saturday tickets to Victorious Festival.
* Two tickets to a film of your choosing at No.6 Cinema.
* Four £15 meal vouchers for Feed.
* Two pie and mash vouchers and T-Shirt rom Pie and Vinyl.
* £20 meal voucher for Le Cafe Parisien.
* £10 voucher for Wylde and Thyme.
* T-Shirt from Strong Island.
* Wedgewood Rooms Comedy tickets and
* Two Dials Festival tickets (one day festival at the Wedgewood rooms)

The event takes place at the Edge of the Wedge and will be transformed into a romantic love shack for the night. Doors will open at 7pm and music will start imminently. Entry is £5 and as mentioned all proceeds go to charity. Once the bands have finished, The Wolf Cub Club DJs will play until early hours.

For updates see the Facebook event page. Catch you there guys!

Valentines Day Massacre

Valentines Day Massacre

Valentines Day massacre
Photography by Joe Watson

Icebreaker Festival UK 2016

Usually sometime after Christmas and as we start to head into Spring, that well-known festival feeling starts to kick in. This is when I can mostly be found impatiently waiting for line-up announcements, daydreaming of wellies and ponchos, and meticulously planning just how many festivals I’ll be squeezing in this year.

Luckily for us on the South Coast, Portsmouth have introduced Icebreaker Festival, a very aptly named winter festival which has quickly grown into a fantastic indoor music event to tide you over in the cold months whilst you wait it out for “outside” festival season.

This year Icebreaker fell during Independent Venue Week – and what a great way to celebrate all the brilliant independent music venues we have on our doorstep in Southsea. From the Wedgewood Rooms at one end of Albert Road right the way up to The Honest Politician on Elm Grove, there were over 100 bands playing across ten venues so there was definitely something for everyone.

Icebreaker Festival focuses on bringing new and up and coming talent together and the best part is not recognising all of the bands on the line-up. This year we managed to stumble upon some amazing musicians that we’d never heard of before, as well as catching a couple of old favourites.

The first port of call was The Loft to grab our wristbands and the first beer of the day, and watch the five-piece rock band, We Capture Kings. This group were full of energy and gave a great performance to kick start our afternoon.

Next stop was Little Johnny Russells to catch last minute addition to the line-up, The Bayonettes. A powerful guitar driven indie-rock band, with an unstoppable rhythm section and edgy vocals. This band have a heavyweight modern sound, a hint of 90s Britpop and one hell of an enthusiastic drummer! As a long term fan, it was great for me to see them live again.

The Bayonettes 1 by Jonny Bell Photography
The Bayonettes by Jonny Bell Photography
The Bayonettes by Jonny Bell Photography
The Bayonettes by Jonny Bell Photography

After a while it was time to head to The Wedge for something a little heavier, which came in the form of three-piece metal band, Hummune (Immune to humans). This band have been around for seven years and kicked off 2016 with a very loud set which we really enjoyed headbanging along to.

Other highlights from the day included acoustic trio Villiers, and self-described ‘pessimistic music for optimists’ band, Battery Hens, both performing at The One Eyed Dog. We also heard great things about Kill ‘Em Dead Cowboy, metal band Belligerence, and The Aviators – just a shame we couldn’t see everyone! Not to forget the awesome silent disco to end the night’s festivities.

You’d be really hard pushed to find a live event featuring this much musical talent anywhere else at this time of year, so Icebreaker Festival has definitely become an unmissable addition to our ever-growing music scene here in Southsea. With brilliant musicians of all genres and a great range of venues to choose from – it wasn’t a bad way to spend a chilly Saturday this winter.

If you would like to stay up to date with all things Icebreaker 2017 then go and give them a follow on Facebook and Twitter @IcebreakerUK.

Hummune by Jonny Bell Photography
Hummune by Jonny Bell Photography
Melt Dunes by Jonny Bell Photography
Melt Dunes by Jonny Bell Photography
Icebreaker Festival by Chantelle Wyatt
Kill’em Dead Cowboy by Chantelle Wyatt
Icebreaker Festival by Chantelle Wyatt
Kill’ em Dead Cowboy by Chantelle Wyatt
Silent Disco by Jonny Bell Photography
Silent Disco by Jonny Bell Photography

Victorious Festival 2016

Victorious Festival have announced the first wave of acts to perform at this August’s festival. Portsmouth has always been very much an ‘indie city’ and the news that Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds will be taking stage on Southsea Common is likely to excite most of Portsmouth. Joining Noel will be Manic Street Preachers and Mark Ronson.

Saturday night will see The Manic Street Preachers performance will coincide with the 20th anniversary of their triple platinum selling album Everything Must Go.

“We’re so excited to be announcing this line up. It’s taken a lot of hard work but we couldn’t be more pleased to be bringing Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and The Manics to Portsmouth. It’s going to be an incredible year for both Victorious and Portsmouth.” – Andy Marsh, Festival Director.

Also announced for the festival will be The Levellers, Ash, The Coral, Jack Savoretti, Space, Echo & the Bunnymen, Will Young, Selector and Emmy the Great. Of course you can expect a host of the best local acts performing at the festival.

If you need reminding of what you missed last year then check out the highlights from Strong Island Media.

The organisers are always looking to evolve and develop and have also announced that this year there will be a giant circus tent up in the kids’ arena as well as a whole host of free entertainment and activities for children and their families. It goes without saying that you will see Strong Island and many other local traders offering some of the finest food, booze, craft and clothing.

The festival will take place on Saturday 27th (my birthday!) and Sunday 28th of August. Don’t be surprised if they managed to beat last years figures which saw 100,000 spectators on Southsea Common over the weekend. If you would like to be there this year then you can get your hands on tickets from their website

You can stay up to date on all things Victorious via Facebook and Twitter @VictoriousFest, or by signing up to the mailing list HERE.

Victorious Festival 2016 Initial Line-Up

Victorious Festival by Todd Lawton
Photo by Todd Lawton
Victorious Festival 2015 by Jack Daly
Photo by by Jack Daly
Victorious Festival by Gavin Withey
Photo by Gavin Withey

Undergrowth Collective on Tour – Andy Skellam & Jet McDonald at Al Burrito

Bristol hits Portsmouth for the second time this week (after Massive Attack) with the west country’s Undergrowth Collective performing at Al Burrito tomorrow night (Thursday 4th). In conjunction with Southsea Folklore Society, The Undergrowth Collective’s Andy Skellam, shapeshifting fingersmith and surrealist songwriter and painter, and Jet McDonald, big haired songman and whoopla bookwriter and storyteller, will be upstairs at Al’Burrito, Albert Road from 8pm, free entry.

Andy Skellam
Andy is a Bristol based musician who creates an idiosyncratic blend of surreal folk & dissonant blues using acoustic/electric guitar, banjo and his baritone singing voice. ‘Green Moat’ plays like a surreal dreamscape.

Jet McDonald
Jet McDonald emerged from the Cleaner Collective of folkish Bristol musicians which included Kate Stables (This is the Kit Brassland) , Rozi Plain (Fence/Lost Map) and Rachael Dadd (Broken Music). He has toured and played nationally at festivals including Fence Home Game and End of the Road.

For more information check out:

Undergrowth Collective on Tour - Andy Skellam & Jet McDonald at Al Burrito

Creative Census Portsmouth 2015 is Now Closed

Creative Census Portsmouth 2015, a project run by Strong Island and Claire Sambrook with the support of Portsmouth City Council to take a snapshot of the many people & businesses in the Portsmouth area who work in the creative industries, has now closed for submissions. A huge thank you to everyone who took part!

We’re now in the process of collecting all the data together and in the coming months we’ll be creating a report which we aim to release to the public before the summer. The report will contain all of the interesting information drawn from the data and we’re working with award winning Portsmouth graphic designer Sam Barclay on its design.

We’ll let you know as things progress and visit the Creative Census website for more information:

Last Couple of Days to Take Part in Creative Census

We’re coming down to the last couple of days when people can get involved with the Creative Census, a project run by Strong Island and Claire Sambrook with the support of Portsmouth City Council. The project aims to try and engage with as many people & businesses in the Portsmouth area who work in the creative industries. We are also hoping people & businesses outside Portsmouth (but who work in the city often) will also get involved too.

To take part in the Creative Census you or your business/charity/organisation just need to work in the creative sector (e.g. photographer, illustrator, designer, craft, architect, songwriter, fashion designer, etc. – see the website for the full list) and be based and/or work in the city – from a volunteer all the way through to a large agency or organisation.

Deadline to take part is midnight Sunday (31st).

It takes a few minutes to complete and will go to help us build (for the first time) a snapshot of statistics and information that we hope can really show how Portsmouth and Southsea are on the national creative map. Check the photos below for just a few of the great Portsmouth & Southsea creatives who have already taken part.

To take part simply visit the website:

Creative Census Portsmouth – Measuring the creative temperature of the city of Portsmouth

Our Tips For Icebreaker 2016

With Icebreaker Festival 2016 upon us this weekend we felt it only right that we gave you a few of our own tips of who we think you should check out this weekend.

Veludo Planes at Little Johnny Russell’s

The Mighty Bern at Little Johnny Russell’s

El Morgan at the The Atrium

Bellyeyesmile at the Edge of the Wedge

The Melt Dunes at the Fat Fox

For information on set times check out the listings which will be available on the day. There are a number of tickets available priced at £10 in advance or £12 on the day from the Wedgewood Rooms box office, for more info on how you can get yours click here. You can follow the event on their Facebook and Twitter @IcebreakerUK.

Icebreaker Festival 2016

Valentine’s Day Massacre 2016

What kind of Valentine are you? Candlelit dinner, roses and romance? Or New York chili, cask ales and acrimonious anecdotes?

Whichever your preference, consider something a little more alternative this year. Choose beer. Choose cheese. Choose rage. Choose the Valentine’s Day Massacre to celebrate this February 14th.

Portsmouth Bookfest kicks off with an evening of vitriol, vengeance and Wessbier with the talented writers and musicians of Portsmouth Writers Hub who brought you Day of the Dead.

Stories and songs from 6pm, Sunday 14 February 2016. Located upstairs at The Wave Maiden, 36 Osborne Road, PO5 3LT. Entry to the event is £6 (£4 concessions).

Find out all the official details on the Facebook event HERE.

valentine's day massacre

Last Few Days to Take Part in Creative Census

We’re coming down to the last few days when people can get involved with the Creative Census, a project run by Strong Island and Claire Sambrook with the support of Portsmouth City Council. The project aims to try and engage with as many people & businesses in the Portsmouth area who work in the creative industries. We are also hoping people & businesses outside Portsmouth (but who work in the city often) will also get involved too.

To take part in the Creative Census you or your business/charity/organisation just need to work in the creative sector (e.g. photographer, illustrator, designer, craft, architect, songwriter, fashion designer, etc. – see the website for the full list) and be based and/or work in the city: from a volunteer all the way through to a large agency or organisation.

Deadline to take part is the end of January.

It takes a few minutes to complete and will go to help us build (for the first time) a snapshot of statistics and information that we hope can really show how Portsmouth and Southsea are on the national creative map.

To take part simply visit the website:

Creative Census Portsmouth – Measuring the creative temperature of the city of Portsmouth

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Created Local – Carl Partridge

Portsmouth’s Carl Partridge is a local artist and photographer currently studying MA Communication Design up in that there London at Central St Martins. As well as all the awesome artwork on his website we particularly liked his Lomo Diana photos from round Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Be sure to look through the good work over at



When The Tour Came To Portsmouth – A Conversation With John Bagnall – Part 1/2

With the 101st edition of the Tour de France due to begin on Saturday and a summer of sport well underway, I believe the time is right to delve into the past and look to when the world’s greatest cycling race crossed the channel to our shores. On the 7th of July 1994 Hampshire was gripped with cycling fever; a 187km long 5th stage was about to begin and end in Portsmouth. Half a billion eyes around the world were glued to television sets as the peloton, which included cycling legends Marco Pantani, Miguel Indurain, Chris Boardman and a young Texan called Lance Armstrong, powered past HMS Victory in the Historic Dockyard. For a day, Portsmouth played host to one of the most prestigious sporting events on the calendar. So how did this extraordinary day come about? In a two part post, I catch up with Southsea resident and ex-council employee John Bagnall, a key player in bringing the event to the city.


Hi John, thank you for taking time out to speak to us. First of all can you tell us what you were doing during the lead up to 1994?

I was the Marketing Communications Manager at Portsmouth City Council, it was looking after press and media relations.

And I believe that this whole venture arose from a discussion over a pub lunch, is that right?

My colleague David Knight, head of leisure for the city council said to me “What can we do that will really put Portsmouth on the map and be a counter point to the D-day commemorations? What is international, bright, young and youth orientated?”

So when you say the commemorations? This was the 50th D-day celebrations? Quite a big deal.

Yes, it was the 50th anniversary of D-day. So for a week at the start of June, Portsmouth became centre to the world in terms of commemorating the liberation, or the beginnings of the liberation of Europe. Clinton and the Queens were here, many world leaders came to Portsmouth and stood in a special bandstand built on Southsea Common. There was a huge international flypast, I think a couple of hundred planes came over Portsmouth; Spitfires, Lancaster Bombers, Flying Fortresses, it really was the world solemnly marking D-day and the beginning of the end of World War Two.


OK, so press-wise, a pretty good window of opportunity here. What was discussed over lunch?

As I said to David over that pub lunch “Hey, why don’t we bid to get the Tour De France to England?” I’d never really thought at that moment there was a realistic prospect of getting them here, I just thought the council would probably laugh it out of court anyway. Even if we did get as far as sending an invitation to them they would just turn round and say “I’m sorry, why would we come to England? You have no history or heritage of cycling”.

So to add a little context, I believe The Tour had come to England once before? In 1974?

Yes, the time before they raced on the newly completed, but not yet opened, Plympton By-pass near Plymouth. It was just coned off at each end and they went up the dual carriage way for X number of laps. And that was it. I think a few hardcore cycling clubs came to see some of the riders of that time, but there was no broadcast coverage and precious little coverage in the newspapers. By all accounts it was very dull and very boring. The Tour didn’t like it because of the amount of time it took to get the riders there and then take them back again.


I see, so it seems like The Tour organisers weren’t exactly scrambling to recreate another UK leg?

No, the tour had no thoughts of coming to England ever again after the Plymouth stage. So during that pub lunch the idea really was to “fly a kite”, let’s do something a bit crazy. My argument to David was; they will probably say no even if they bother to reply, but I can still get some publicity out of that. Perhaps a little story into the cycling friendly The Guardian about how a town in Portsmouth bids to get France’s biggest sport event there (wry laugh)… So David and I went to talk to a guy called Richard Tryst who was the chief executive of the council. Richard was quite a frightening man with a hawkish and cynical sharp manner, but he didn’t suffer fools gladly. He liked boldness and directness. We went to see him and basically said “it’s crazy but we think this is a good thing to do, it ticks all the boxes of what the council are looking at”. He sorted of nodded and said “well yes, there are a lot of other questions to answer as well, but we’ll keep this alive”.

Richard bought in the then leader of the conservative council, a guy called Ian Gibson, who like all local politicians that get to be leaders of the council, was a very upfront, bold and visionary guy. And he got really excited about it as well. So on the 18th of December 1990 I drafted a letter to Henry LeBlanc who was the president of Amaury Sports Organisation, which was the company that controls the Tour De France. And about two weeks later they came back basically saying; “Subject to commercial confidence we are interested, and we are very grateful for your support”. They went on to explain that the Tour at that time was losing direction as the Tour De France; it had this great tradition attached to it but it wasn’t going anywhere with it. What they were trying to do was to introduce a policy that they called “mondialisation”. The organisers wanted to take it global and they were actively looking for other European countries that they could go to. They even discussed the possibility of, and this was back when people were excited by Concorde, to go across the Atlantic and even starting it in America or Canada. So to have an approach from an English city saying “what can we do to help?” was brilliant to them.


Could you perhaps detail some of the ins and outs of trying to organise an event of this scale whilst remaining compliant with the confidentiality agreement? Seems impossible to me.

We had to sign legally binding documents with them not to divulge the fact that they might be coming here, and from there it became a planning operation. The organisers want to be able to book up every hotel going within, in some cases, 50 to 60 miles of a particular stage town. And at a competitive rate too. If it was common knowledge that the Tour was coming to Portsmouth every hotel in Hampshire, Sussex and Dorset would be ratcheting up their prices. Not only that but we had to make sure that the public knew where to be and what they were going to see. We took care of safety and we made sure there were no embarrassing blockages such as level crossing gates being down. It was a massive planning operation that went into incredible detail; and day after day more and more levels of detail were added.

One of the first things that came up was that the Tour uses a massive bandwidth of transmission frequencies. Back then, before radios were used with the riders, the teams still had their private frequencies so that the Director Sportif could talk to the team cars and any other helpers he needed to contact. The race officials too needed an overall race frequency that everybody could listen to, as did the aid operations, the radio operations, the feeding operations, the signing operations and for the clearing up of the signing operations. The list just went on and one. Hundreds of frequencies and sod’s law would have it that was the most of them were in the band of frequencies used in the UK for hospital radio paging systems. There was no way that we could bring the Tour through with hospitals being disrupted and lives being put at risk because of radio interference.

Immediately we set up a meeting with a government agency called the Radio Communications Agency. This was a formal meeting with about 30 of their wise men. We bought over the communications manager of the Tour and a specialist from France Telecoms. During the meeting’s presentation you could see various people around the table shaking their heads; “impossible”, “far too hard”. But a couple of the right senior people listened intently, and one of them I think the deputy chief executive said “well look, I have no idea how were are going to do this because it will be a massive problem, but leave that to us, if we can’t solve it we shouldn’t be doing our job, we think we can do it.” Suddenly the head shakers were agreeing. We got their commitment. From then on the RCA also undertook all that was necessary to make sure that the hospitals, for those two days, would be working from a different wavelength and there would be no clash.


Another major issue was that the overall physical envelope of the Tour is massively more than just the peloton. You have the advanced publicity caravan, you have the people who would have gone over two or three days prior: putting up signage, checking access to the routes, checking where they can take off vehicles that might break down. All the kind of technical aspects. They are physically working several days, and perhaps hundreds of miles distance, from where the Tour is at that particular point. It is all part of the live event. Then you have the security operation that physically surrounds the tour: the motorbike marshals that escort the official’s cars, that monitors the press and first aid cars. They have their own radio frequencies and take up physical space on the roads. Amongst those you have the camera bikes that are filming the close-up of the derailleurs and the break-aways. They are beaming a signal up to a helicopter above and there will be four to five other helicopters covering the breakaways and the peloton. Each group of cyclists needing their own cameras.

For two days they would have to touched on Gatwick’s airspace and the approach path for Heathrow. I remember being in the office when Alan Rushton called Directory Enquiries (this was pre internet days) to get the number for the Civil Aviation Authority. He phoned up the switchboard and asked to speak to whichever department was responsible for closing the airspace above British airports. You could sense the stunned silence on the other end of the phone. Thankfully the CAA came back very quickly with a can do attitude. The only stipulation being that any emergency aircraft landings would have to take priority, but otherwise they would work with the French air traffic specialists to bring the Tour through safely.


Be sure to check in on Wednesday, when we bring you the second part of our interview with John. We will touch on what else was required to bring the race here and what cycling legacy (if at all) the Tour left, not just in Portsmouth, but for the UK.

Vintage Skatepark Photographs

I’ve been holding on to these truly amazing vintage photographs that Simon Tiller kindly sent in as we went through a pretty heavy skateboard period and thought we should chill back a little. Loving the roller hockey team photos too. The 1978 trophies photo is a epic and they were British Champions in 1973 too. Belated congratulations to you all.

This is just a small picking from the Southsea Skatepark website Check them out and if you see anyone you recognise or want to bring something to our attention then remember to add your comments at the bottom of this post.

Special props to the final photo and all the Southsea boys representing ‘back in the day’. Some young looking faces there. Rippers.

Created Local – John Illsley

We got sent a link to John Illsley’s website recently, loads of amazing photos including many from all over Southsea and Portsmouth, be sure to check it out. Here are a few examples:

John Illsley

John Illsley

Vintage Southsea Skatepark articles

Articles about Southsea Skatepark can be hard to come by, and articles from 1988 even more so. I found these on the ‘when we was rad’ website a while back. I remember having the picture of Tommy Guerrero pulling that slob torn out and on my wall for years. Sick.

Telly Savalas Looks at Portsmouth

There’s more than ‘meats’ the eye to Portsmouth. A city where everyone in the know goes. Classic stuff. Kojak takes time between sucking lollipops and fighting crime to give us the 411 on Portsmouth city through the ages. Love the eclectic soundtrack. Thanks to Harry for posting this up for us in a previous article. Here’s looking at you Portsmouth…

Harbour Tour

If you’re brave enough at this chilly time of year head on down to Gunwharf and take a tour around the home of the modern Navy. With aircraft carriers, the HMS Ark Royal, HMS Illustrious and Invincible, there’s plenty to see. Oh, and they sell beer on board.

Friday, Saturday & Sunday in Southsea

We couldn’t possibly of asked for better weather this weekend. From straight out of the door after work on Friday till finally retiring to our couch on Sunday evening the sun was blazing and Southsea was rich with activity and happy people. We spent pretty much the entire weekend outside on the seafront, changing the vista every now and then and sinking more than our fair share of corner store beers. Let’s hope it keeps up for at least a while longer hey. Check my Flickr for a few more Sunny Southsea photographs.






Ben Schroeder Skating Southsea

Back in the 80s and early 90s Southsea would regularly be on the list of skateparks visited by American skaters as they toured the UK and Europe. Sometime around 1990ish the pool was built to replace the old reservoir at the end of the slalom and not long after American pro skater Ben Schroeder came through and (figuratively) destroyed the new bowl and the halfpipe, so much so that his frontside ollie transfer out of the bowl, over the platform and landing in the steep bank is legendary.

To cut a long story short Ben got in contact recently with some footage from the day. I’m going to go through the old skate magazine archives and hunt around for photos but for now, here is that footage. To find out more about Ben check out his Juice Magazine interview.

Southsea Common Barbecue Zones

I’m sure a lot of you enjoyed the fantastic weather this weekend and many of you no doubt had a barbecue on The Common. I was out of town on Saturday but heard it was seriously busy down the seafront. A few of us had a BBQ on Sunday and we’re approached by some council officials regarding our position. They were very polite and let us carry on as we were already cooking and handed us some details of all the new zones.

Unfortunately the new zones now means hundreds of people are going to be packed in to single areas. The main common by the War Memorial will be extremely busy over the summer. More so than usual for sure. I fully back having these zones in place, but feel I’ll no longer be going to the common for BBQs if I can help it as they have made a lot of areas no go zones. It was always more appealing when you could spread out from other groups.

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