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

Welcome back to part two of our interview with John Bagnall, a key player in bringing one of the biggest dates in the sporting calendar to Portsmouth in 1994. You can revisit part one here.

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Hi John, in part one we discussed what it takes to begin paving the way for a Portsmouth stage. What else did you have to organise or overcome on your road to June 1994?

The next obstacle we had was the police, mainly due to the fact they had never dealt with anything quite so big before. At the time you had the Milk Race and the Kellogg’s Tour Of Britain as the biggest cycling events in the UK. And those were done by rolling road closures: a police car or motorcycle in front and behind which leapfrogged each other to stop the traffic. The Tour wouldn’t contemplate that, it had to be a completely sterile loop. The police have an organisation called ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers), that oversee combined or national large scale operations. We got assigned an inspector who was a bit full of himself and quite jack the laddish. You could see why he had gone far in the police force; a rather strong personality. He came to the first meetings saying, “well you know, I can’t see it working but we’ll go through the motions”, it was that sort of attitude. This was partly because, to start off with, they couldn’t get their mind round what the Tour was and how it felt to be part of it. So we took him and a couple of his deputies, including another guy assigned by Hampshire Constabulary, to France the next year to see the race. The Tour kindly decided to put them in their control car as guests, and for two days they were able to experience their operations first hand.

Unfortunately we thought we’d blown it on the first day. By then they were into the mountains, and this particular stage finished at Sestriere in the Alps, which is one of the very famous climbs if not one of the very legendary ones. Sestriere is now in all of the record books because Claudio Chiapuccino won it with the longest by distance and time break away in Tour history. Claudio came in forty five minutes ahead of the rest, it was quite an incredible ride, and probably drug assisted at the time if the truth be known… But Sestriere is a mountain top and it was just gridlocked. There was no way you could get anywhere for hours afterwards and yet we were supposed to collect these ACPO guys in order to look after them. We just couldn’t make the physical connections. Mobiles were very new technology and there was no coverage on the tops of the alps, so we had no means of getting in touch with them. We thought we had really blown it, they will be pretty hacked off at being left stranded with French men. As it turned out our French counterparts realised the situation and said “don’t worry, we will look after you”. They dished up a really nice dinner, got them suitably drunk and they had a really good time. When we met up with them the following day we fully expected them to pull the plug on the whole affair, however they expressed a different kind of concern; “After what we saw yesterday I’m not sure that we, the English police force, could manage something so awe inspiring. It was so well organised, it is going to give us real problems matching it”. Thankfully this soon became an ego thing and before we knew it, the challenge had been set to do it better than the French.

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I recall in the first half of this interview you briefly mentioned the issue of legislation having to be created specifically for the Tour, could you give us more details on what had to be put into place?

What the police soon realised was that road cycling at that time, took place under a minor clause-of-a-sub-statute-of-a-bit-of-legislation dating back to 1948. This simply didn’t give them the powers they would need to create a completely sterile road closure. The existing legislation meant that it was okay for a police car to stop and for a policeman to halt traffic with his hands for 15 minutes, but not for a full day. So we shaped and drafted an Act of Parliament that was taken through as a private member’s bill. It was very discreetly done because this was still subject to confidentiality, all very hush hush. The bill went through Parliament and was enacted; giving all the relevant authorities the power to do whatever necessary to close the road and such like. This is the same legislation under which the Tour can take place in Yorkshire on Saturday.

That then just left all the towns and villages. We had numerous meetings with the county councils: Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex and Hampshire because the Tour want money to come. To be a start of finish town back then was around £100,000.00, which is quite a lot of money. And that was just for the Tour to come, so not including your organisation costs. All of that had to be negotiated through all of the various councils, but I think we had the political network working for us, everyone at Portsmouth City Council was up for it. By then a momentum was gathering and rumours started to appear. Cycling Weekly would phone up every so often and ask “what is going on?” “well what do you think is going on? I haven’t heard anything?”, all this bluff and counter bluff. Cycling is a small world, so they recognised that if they blew it then it could lift the lid on the whole thing. They were bound into it as well. Gradually we ticked off all the councils putting up the money for physical improvements. After this operation had been put into place the roads on the planned the route had never better for cycling; whole stretches were re-tarmacked because none of the councils wanted to be known for having bought a rider down.

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The next part of the operation was to simply identify all the businesses that would be affected; banks, supermarkets, retail outlets, etc. Staff would have problems getting in due to the roads being closed at five in the morning. Deliveries would not be able to take place and cash points would not be refilled. Memorably I researched every crematorium, cemetery and undertakers on 25 miles either side of the route in order to write to them saying “please be aware that on this day restrictions will be in place and you might not have access for mourners, don’t book funerals for that day”. Similar to this, part of the route was going up Ditchling Beacon where a very rare orchid grows, so rare that its location is kept a secret. Naturally the Environmental Agency were worried about it, so the area was coned off and marshal placed there specifically to protect this plant from cycling fans and plant collectors alike.

Then it was just down to getting people along the route to buy into it; we persuaded villages councils and the Department for Education to allow schools to close for the day so that their pupils were able to watch the race. By the time we had the national launch, Cycling Weekly was planning events and their editor, Martin Ayres, came on board on a freelance basis to help with the writing of our newsletter. Through our newsletters we were having to inform people who had never heard of the Tour de France what it was about. We had to get out there and convince the people who, not only did not cycle, but disapproved of cycling in general. All whilst keeping the cycling clubs and the aficionados happy. It all came together amazingly well, but it was a lot of hard work. During the winter of 93 -94, for three to four nights a week I was in village halls somewhere along the route; showing a film and telling people what would be happening. Often you would get people sitting there with their arms crossed saying “why should I pay my rates so that French men can race bikes past my house?”, we were dealing with that sort of mentality.

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By all accounts this was a successful stage, but can you tell me if there were any incidents that you had to deal with? With that amount of people massed together surely some issues cropped up?

The only incident in the whole thing was during the Portsmouth leg, when a child stepped out onto the curb after the peloton came round. Unfortunately he was clipped by the wing of one of the official’s cars who were following the riders, and momentarily we were quite concerned. Thankfully the Tour stopped one of its medical cars and called up one of their helicopters. The helicopter landed just behind where it happened and took the child and his mother to the hospital for the check-up. He had a headache and was slightly bruised but nothing serious. In truth it was fantastic PR on the Tour’s part to of done that, it added hugely to the concept of goodwill.

Over the two days, the police estimated between two and three million people had watched at the roadside. It had huge television coverage relative to the time, I remember Mr Leblanc saying that we have already seen the biggest stage crowd for the whole Tour, and we were only on stage four and five. The goodwill that was generated was just amazing, it’s fantastic anywhere you go on the Tour anyway, but the friendship and fun that was being had was truly magic. It laid the groundwork for the Tour to come back to England.

What would you say the aim was in bringing the Tour here, and what legacy did it leave? What do you think it brought to the city?

The immediate aim was to inform as many people as possible across the world, that there is a city called Portsmouth on the south coast of England. A city with an important heritage and history. A city that is open for commercial business. We were the people that started this whole thing, we are a city with a “can do” spirit. We are international and friendly. This was general promotion of sorts, for all kinds of different reasons and messages, and we very much hoped to ignite greater interest in cycling. Not to mention greater investment in cycling on the part of the city. We are on an island, the highest point in Portsmouth is twelve meters above sea level, it’s difficult to think of somewhere better, perhaps Cambridge apart, in physical terms for cycling. And yet the provision within the city is not good. Unfortunately I think Portsmouth just didn’t managed to capitulate on the immediate legacy of the Tour to achieve a tipping point that could be built on. In a way that you could argue that London has done with the Boris Bikes. There is still more work to do and I don’t entirely see who is doing it and where it is coming from. Southsea Cycle Club and various community projects are doing a great job in making it visible, but I don’t think it’s really come together as a critical mass in Portsmouth.

What really makes me sorry is if you cycle up of down the back or Portsdown Hill, you can see where the cycling tracks have been laid and marked out, but the tarmac has almost worn off. There is just the faint trace of a bike as you come up from Waterlooville and I think that is ever so sad, it’s symbolic of the tokenism that prevailed in the end in Hampshire and Portsmouth. They were given an opportunity to make themselves famous permanently in England as the cycling city, but the momentum was never really achieved in the first place. It was a very successfully stage and I think the longer term legacy wasn’t in the immediate benefits to the people who ride bikes in Portsmouth. However, to the cycling community in Britain as a whole it has had enormous benefits; it worked by laying one of the first foundation stones in what you could describe as a cycling wall. In the next course of bricks above Portsmouth 1994 you have Dublin in 1998, and then a couple courses of bricks above that you have London in 2007. Next you have smaller bricks above that: Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. Riders who, as kids, might of watched Portsmouth on Channel 4. I would love to know if Mark Cavendish did and whether it fuelled his desire to be part of such a legendary event. You cannot quantify this part of the legacy. By this weekend, Yorkshire 2014 will be at the top of the wall. Yet when you look closely; Portsmouth is still right there at the bottom, as a foundation stone. This is where it all began.

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I would like to express a huge thank you to John & Jan for allowing me into their home and sharing this great story with me. The 101st edition of the Tour De France begins on Saturday the 5th July, with ITV and ITV4 covering live stages and providing nightly highlights.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Help Build A Permanent Home For The Portsmouth FC Academy

On a day where football is going to be a hot topic amongst everyone in the city, it seems fitting that we help promote this campaign. Portsmouth Football Club has never owned its own training ground inside the city, and now they have a chance to build a permanent home for the club’s first team and the academy.

Financial stability has been brought to the club thanks to supporter investment, making the club the largest fan owned football club in the UK. With this new stability the club are looking to secure the clubs future and this starts with creating new training facilities.

On the 20th May, the club announced that work had begun on a £500,000 training complex at Roko in Hilsea. The funding for this was sourced through the Presidents, Directors and Supporters Trust. This will mean that, for the first time, the club will have their own dedicated training facilities for both the first team squad and the academy. But that’s just Stage One. One of the key elements to selecting Roko was the ability to expand in the future and they have already secured the option to immediately add an additional two pitches and facilities to the rear of the complex to provide a permanent base for the academy teams.

Pompey Academy Campaign

Pompey Academy Campaign

Last year when £2.5m was needed to save Portsmouth FC, fans were asked for an investment of £1,000 for a share in the club. Unfortunately, many fans simply couldn’t afford to but still wanted to contribute to the club that they love. When asked in a recent survey, a large number of fans said they wanted the club to run fan funded projects so they could make a difference. This project is a great way for everyone to get involved and contribute. If every Pompey fan contributed £10-£20 then this should be very much be achievable.

The below film will tell you more about the project. You can go a head and make your contribution by going to www.tifosy.com/campaigns/pompey-academy.

Portsmouth FC Murals by ilovedust (3)
Portsmouth FC Murals by ilovedust

Summer Solstice Tennisathon at Southsea Tennis Club

Southsea Tennis Club is organising a tennisathon on the day and night of the summer solstice. It starts at 1pm on the Saturday and continues right the way through to 1pm the following day. The event is an opportunity to play tennis and raise money for charity, all money raised will go to local charity, Sam’s Haven, which provides short respite holidays for families with children who have life-threatening or terminal illnesses. The target is £5,000, sufficient to sustain this small local charity, which works closely with the Paediatric Unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital, over the period of half a year and to enable it to offer 15 families a well-needed break away from all the stresses that the medical world brings.

All the information on the event can be found on the website:

southseatennis.co.uk

Southsea Tennis

Proposal for Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup Headquarters

Currently one of the most contentious planning proposals in the city is the proposed new home for Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup headquarters, located on The Camber in Old Portsmouth. The story has been developing quickly over recent weeks and we have heard people’s opinions on both sides through messages on our Facebook and with emails. I think there is no doubt that having the city home to one of the best sailing teams in the World would be a huge boost to the city on many levels, be that employment, new skills and prestige. Personally I think the plans for the building are striking too, a new landmark for Portsmouth and also a symbol of the city’s development for every single passenger of every continental and IOW ferry that leaves and arrives in the harbour.

Concerning the design, which will fill much of the current Camber carpark, it is safe to say that this modern structure wrapped in curved ‘sails’ caught in a strong wind will cause controversy due to the close proximity of the historic Point and the streets of the Old Portsmouth district. Personally, I think architecture in these situations can work in two ways, either feel in keeping with the existing period design or be the opposite, a meeting of diametrically opposed styles that work together, combining the heritage of the city with dynamic contemporary architectural design. This has worked in numerous significant developments in recent years (even intimately such as the Great Court at the British Museum)…in a way this bringing together of the two styles can be representative of a city wishing to celebrate its heritage yet strike new ground with a view to the future too. Despite there still being questions regarding issues such as public access to the very popular Bridge Tavern (maybe the idea of the return of the bridge over the water isn’t a joke after all?) and the problem of parking in an area designed long before the car, the change of use from an area once piled high with power station coal could help power the city in new ways.

It seems like opinion is once again polarised from this development, in recent days councillors of all political persuasions have come out in support of the proposal plus a planning committee has also shown support yet many local residents are raising concern about possible problems with the proposal. Strangely pre-development work has already broken ground on the site too with businesses moving location to make way for the new building. A little worrying considering no formal approval has been given, but if the local businesses are happy about the changes, maybe that is a move in the right direction if a little presumptive. For me…it was important to see what opinion the Portsmouth Society might have on the issue and last week saw them also show support too. With that support in place and with Ben Ainslie’s apparent desire to choose Portsmouth over two sites in Southampton it looks very positive.

There is a consultation meeting this evening at 7.30pm at Cathedral House (next to Portsmouth Cathedral), after the first was postponed due to too many people arriving for the space available. At the meeting Sir Ben Ainslie will be making a presentation of the proposal in person and people are encouraged to attend to both raise any concerns but also to show local support for the plans. The final planning consent decision is very quickly approaching and the building is planned to start very soon so we could be seeing the very best racing yachts in Portsmouth Harbour and out on The Solent in the very near future.

One real concern regarding this development is if it will have any detrimental impact on the ARTches project, I would really hope that this local area is able to take both developments on and the council will ensure that this doesn’t become a situation where they only offer one out of the two large scale changes to the Old Portsmouth area to appease residents.

There is a petition showing support for the proposal, you can find out about it HERE.

Proposal for Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup Headquarters (3)

Proposal for Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup Headquarters (2)

Proposal for Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup Headquarters (1)

Si Digital Produce World Cup Web App

Local digital agency Si Digital like to have a tinker on their own projects which in the past have produced a remotely manipulated robot, tweetable electric shocks to their developer team and a Breaking Bad shoot-em-up game. In the run up to the World Cup they recently released a web app that allows you to see all of the fixtures, when and where they are played plus how to see them on TV. The app is a beautifully simple geometric design with team colours creating a list of scrollable blocks. You can also filter the display to show the teams you are following (hello everyone who ended up with sweepstakes teams) and the app is free and a doddle to use.

Have a play at: wcfixtures.co.uk

Si Digital Produce World Cup Web App

Strong Island World Cup 2014 Competition

So today see’s the beginning of the World Cup in Brazil and to help everyone get in the mood we thought we’d throw a football related competition this weekend. This week we will be giving away an awesome hat trick of prizes…

1) One of our Strong Island Clothing Co Portsmouth FC tee’s.
2) Local illustrator Angela Chick has kindly donated a unisex football tee.
3) Free Jug of Carlsberg, Strongbow or Doom Bar at the One Eyed Dog to be redeemed this Saturday evening when England play Italy.

All you have to do to win this prize is email stuart@strong-island.co.uk with your answer to the following easy question.

Name any former Portsmouth player who was picked in Fabio Capello’s squad for the World Cup in 2010?

The deadline for entries will be 10am this Saturday morning with the winners to be announced about 10:30am the same day.

Strong Island Clothing Co. 'Portsmouth FC' Tee - Mens (Blue & Gold) (3)

Strong Island Clothing Co. 'Portsmouth FC' Tee - Mens (White & Navy) (2)

Football Tee by Angela Chick

One Eyed Dog World Cup 2014

You can follow Angela on Twitter @MissAngelaChick, Facebook and on Tumblr.

Rocker Soccer 2014

Last Saturday was the annual (in some cases very) amateur Rocker Soccer football tournament. With teams from many of the local businesses including Bored of Southsea, Belle Isle and Champagne Justice. The winning team came from local music promoters Club 12th Hour.

This year the event is was raising raise money for the Feel Yourself Campaign, a local charity raising awareness on how cancer effects young people. FYC Founder Maddie Hanks describes that “the £250 raised that took us over the limit needed in the first year to become a charity instead of merely a small charitable institution. This opens huge doors for us so it’s quite significant.”

Photographer Matt Ankers was there to capture the day for Strong Island. You can check out more of Matt’s work on his website www.mattankers.com as well as following him on Twitter @Matt_A_Photos.

Rocker Soccer 2014 by Matt Ankers

Rocker Soccer 2014 by Matt Ankers

Rocker Soccer 2014 by Matt Ankers

Rocker Soccer 2014 by Matt Ankers

Rocker Soccer 2014 by Matt Ankers

Rocker Soccer 2014 by Matt Ankers

Rocker Soccer 2014 by Matt Ankers

Rocker Soccer 2014 by Matt Ankers

Rocker Soccer 2014 by Matt Ankers

Rocker Soccer Returns for 7th June 2014

The annual (in some cases very) amateur football tournament Rocker Soccer, with teams from many of the local creative and music businesses, is set to return in June. The event for some years was a regular summer highlight with not only the semi-shambolic Sunday league stylings of some teams through to the matching kit of the likes of ilovedust but also the infamous post games awards night at Little Johnny Russell’s, Albert Road.

There is no age limit but vast majority of teams will be over 18 years old. The event welcomes all abilities, this is a competitive tournament but played in good spirit. It’d be great if your team could represent something local, be that a pub, restaurant, business or charity. This year the event is encouraging teams to raise money for Feel Yourself Campaign, a local charity raising awareness on how cancer effects young people.

Check the flyer below and Facebook Group HERE for more details:

Rocker Soccer 2014

Ballys Boxing Gym By Matt Ankers

Local photographer Matt Ankers was given access to Ballys Boxing Gym on Milton Road. Ballys opened last year and offers facilities for beginners and the more experienced boxer. For more information check out their Facebook page HERE.

Matt describes “I set out to capture that edge and grit that you would normally associate with a Boxing Gym. I wanted to meet the fighters and trainers, getting an insight into their routine and personalities. I shot a lot of content in black and white with my two film cameras, the Mamiya C3 (120 film) and the Rollei 35 T (35mm film). The film came back imperfect and grainy; much like the location I was shooting. For me the outcome from using film told a truer story and evoked a stronger sense of place and personality.”

You can check out more of Matt’s work on his website www.mattankers.com as well as following him on Twitter @Matt_A_Photos.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

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Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

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Features

Photos from Head Jam 2014

For the second year running Head Mens Hairdressing, Strong Island and My Dog Sighs (this year with Lex Luthor) put on the Head Jam street art event on Albert Road in Southsea. The yard out the back of Head and the Strong Island HQ had last year’s artwork covered during last week and Saturday saw local artists My Dog Sighs, Los Dave, M-One, Lex Luthor, Mimic, Stu Linfield, I am Posy, freakSTATIC, Midge and Samo get involved with new artwork on all of the walls plus the new sculpture too. Extra artwork is also being added today by My Name is Leila. A huge thank you to all the artists and to everyone who popped by throughout the day.

Check some of the photos from the day below, you can see a load more on our Flickr (which is a growing archive of our photography over the last 6 years) or on our Facebook page and if you want to pop in and have a look visit Head at 53 Albert Road.


































Southsea Comedy Festival Competition | Win Two Tickets

The first ever Southsea Comedy Festival opens with Eddie Izzard performing his most recent show ‘Force Majeure’ on 31st July and 1st August. We have a pair of tickets to give away for the Thursday 31st July performance. All you have to do to win this prize is email stuart@strong-island.co.uk with your answer to the following three questions.

1) What is the name of the character voiced by Eddie in Cars 2?
2) In which American city did Eddie begin his 2014 tour Force Majeure?
3) For which charity did Eddie run an incredible 43 marathons in 51 days?!

The deadline for entries will be midnight Monday 21st July with the winner being announced Tuesday 22nd in the evening.

If you don’t want to risk missing out then Southsea Comedy Festival tickets are available by calling 0844 847 2362 and online at www.southseacomedyfestival.co.uk. You can follow the Southsea Comedy Festival on Twitter @SouthseaComedy.

Eddie Izzard Southsea Comedy Festival Logo

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Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection

We’ve been exceptionally busy over at Strong Island HQ for the best part of 2014 so far and the latest Strong Island Clothing Co range has been in development for some time. We are now proud to announce the launch of our latest line of tee and crew designs for the Summer. This is the biggest run we have done to date and we wanted to ensure it was a really strong range so didn’t want to rush it.

We have a wide range of new colours and designs including our first 2 colour print on the popular Refuse to Sink and a return to our second tee style back in 2010 with a backprint (this time in navy) in the classic Strong Island logo. We also have a seriously strong collaboration with University of Portsmouth graduate and award winning letterform designer Andy Lethbridge AKA Hand Type. These are something truly special and we’re really stoked how they came out, the detail in the print really reflects the brush strokes of Andy’s work. We will have more on Hand Type and the development of these designs on Strong Island soon in a full interview. We also have pocket tees with the new Down the Hatch design which form part of something we are keeping under our hats for bit…some old favourites have been revisited too with new colourways and 2 new graphic tees as well. Our latest crew retains the same quality as before featuring ribbed side panels, a back neck loop, deep cuffs, a double v-insert on the neckline and raglan sleeves but with new striped cuffs. With a more contemporary and slimmer fit than most sweatshirts it’s certainly a more premium line. As always all our tees and crews are hand screenprinted in East London by the mighty Lovenskate, including the anchor signoff on the back and detail on the inside neck.

We have a few more mini launches coming up over the next few weeks including more tees, something for the cyclists out there, some very special hand produced items from Poland using original 1940′s techniques and also something to lounge on in summer and keep you warm in the winter. Not to mention another very special artist collaboration too.

All of the tees and crews from the main, initial drop will be available this weekend during Head Jam at Head Hairdressing, 53 Albert Road, Southsea (weather permitting). They will then go online in Shop Ahoy next week.

For now please enjoy our latest Lookbook shot by Strong Island Media over at Dell Quay, Chichester. The perfect day to go for a wander around the marina, fields and woodlands with a few cheeky beers at the Crown & Anchor.

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (1)

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Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (10)

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Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (12)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (13)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (14)

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Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (16)

Strong Island, Lex Luthor & My Dog Sighs present Head Jam 2014 – Saturday 19th July

Last years Head Jam was such a resounding success with some of the nations best street artists that we eagerly began talking about the following year before the paint had even dried. We discussed how we could run the event again and where to do it, but the answer was simple and literally looking right at us. We hold it in the same place again. Make the courtyard at Head Hairdressing the centre of an annual event where the outcome is available to view for the year, then return, white wash the previous artwork away, and do it all again. After all, street art is an ever changing and developing media in it’s own right and in it’s usual environment where it gets ripped down, tagged, covered in fly posters, lost to demolition and built on, the artists have no fear of their art being lost. It’s part of the job so to speak…

Rick from Head Hairdressing at 53 Albert Road (just along from the Wine Vaults and next to Southsea Gallery) conceived the idea of having the courtyard to the rear of the local barbers transformed in to a permanent giant art piece. From precision multilayered stencils, through bubble gum cutsie to surreal illustrative mayhem, Lex Luthor and My Dog Sighs have hand picked some of their favourite artists to produce the ultimate street art dreamscape courtyard…again!

Head Jam will run all day so feel free to pop along, take a look, have a chat, hang out, meet the artists and enjoy the atmosphere. There will be music on all day, a BBQ turning over in the background if you want to stick a burger on (not supplied), and please feel free to bring along a beer too. Everyone is welcome, so bring the kids so they can see some of the finest street artists working together in this unique environment.

Attending artists include: MyDogSighs, Lex Luthor, Mimic, Fark, Nova, M-one Art, Los Dave, Stu Linfield, Morf, Freakstatic and Ooberla. Wow, this is going to be amazing! If you pop along please be sure to tag the event on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #HeadJam and we will put up a series of your photos from the day.

Strong Island Clothing Co will also be launching their latest range of tees and crews before they go online the following week. So if you want to get in there for an exclusive purchase before anyone else head on down and check it all out. Everything will be out to view, and there is a sneak peak at the end of this post (the full look book will go up this week). Also all of our PFC tees and crews are on offer, bargain. We look forward to seeing you all.

Old paint on a wall

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (1)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (2)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (3)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (4)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (5)

Head Jam, photo by Paul Gonella

Photos: Matt Maber

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Strong Island Blissfields 2014 Review By Sophie Perryer and Grace Aquilina – Day Three

Despite the effects of the night before, those who have arisen from their partially soggy tents and dared to walk through alcohol and rain sodden hay look forward to listen to live music at The Wild Stage and in The Hustle Den at midday. In keeping with the wildlife theme the crowd was littered with all sorts of animal themed costumes, and what I can only expect was a stag party of monkey’s.

Burning Beaches took to the stage at 12:00pm in The Hustle Den, where sleepy eyes were literally opened in awe of the band’s soft rock sound. Heavy bass woke even the most sluggish and grungy vocals perfectly complimented a latte. The vocals echoed around the tent, emphasising the roughness and fervency.

Blissfields is without a doubt well-deserved of it’s reputation for finding and nurturing local artists and upcoming talent, and this year was no exception; Saturday brought with it the chance for discovering yet more new artists, one of which being Australian singer-songwriter Ry X. His hazy almost whispered vocals drew comparisons to The xx and Blissfields favourites London Grammar, and Ry X transfixed the audience throughout his set with his soft tenor tones. His track ‘Berlin’ is well worth a listen.

Later on in the afternoon, Floella Grace wowed her audience in The Larch to complete silence and a dream-like-state. Her dreamy, sobering vocals accompanied by fellow string player Gareth and two silvery-voiced backing singers made for an awesome and enlightening performance. The ukulele was played sweetly and harmoniously with the slightly more robust guitar; the entire performance being one of sincerity courtesy of her unvarnished, honest lyrics.

After Floella Grace’s soothing and lulling performance, the audience was re-awakened with the The Boy I Used To Be’s garage pop sound. With breathy, low vocals and slightly metallic guitar riffs, the band’s ‘sun-drenched’ sound ironically complimented the gloomy Great British Weather.

A personal highlight of Saturday was the chance to catch Laurel in the Hustle Den; she has truly developed her own distinctive style, although it is easy to see why over the last year she has been compared to Lana Del Ray, Lorde, and Laura Marling. On stage, she mesmerises the crowd with her sultry and coquettish presence, and switches effortlessly between softer and louder tracks, such as the lead song from her Blue Blood EP, which showcases the depth and richness of her voice.

By now sky was taken over with cloud but with temperatures still high anticipation grew for the headliner, 2ManyDJs, the semi-incognito side project of prolific 90s DJs Soulwax. The Dewaele brothers’ experience was evident throughout their set, with their ability to bring the crowd effortlessly through highs and lows, and build the sweat and alcohol fuelled festival-goers into a frenzy. However, while there were certainly some sore heads as Sunday morning dawned, there were plenty of wide grins too.

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Daniel O'Neill Blissfields 2014
Cosmo Sheldrake @ The Hustle Den
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Beans On Toast Presents… At The Larch Stage
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Chlöe Howl @ The Wild Stage
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Laurel @ The Hustle Den
Daniel O'Neill Blissfields 2014 Laurel
Laurel @ The Hustle Den

The History of Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth – Cornelia Parker’s ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’

We continue with our co-published history articles with aspex Gallery, researched by Laura McLean-Ferris who has recently been crawling through the Aspex Gallery archives and has produced a series of articles for aspex about their 33 year history. We’re very happy to partner up and cross post their aspex history blog posts here on Strong Island, you can see the original aspex blog post HERE. This fourth article in the series today looks at how aspex worked with Cornelia Parker in the late 1980s, and how Art Space Portsmouth & aspex became separate organisations.

Now in the Tate collection, Cornelia Parker’s Thirty Pieces of Silver (1988-89) is an installation of over 1000 pieces of silverware that the artist had flattened by a steamroller. Each is suspended from the ceiling using copper wire, hanging a few inches above the gallery floor in clustered puddles, forming a kind of grid. The work transforms domestic items, such as cigarette cases, trophies, and tableware, into pure elemental material, and yet each flat silver disc contains within it the ghost of a former life. Silver is commemorative – and many of the items are suggestive of occasions such as birth, retirement, engagement, triumph or memorial. The work displays Parker’s interest, around this time, in acts of material violence that expand the viewer’s engagement with the objects and materials around them.

The History of Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth - Cornelia Parker’s ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’ (1)

Les Buckingham, then director of aspex, recalls seeing 30 Pieces of Silver at Ikon Gallery and being particularly taken with it, and so approaching Parker to invite her to show the work at aspex. ‘I knew the director of Ikon, Antonia Payne’, Buckingham remembers, ‘and she agreed that I could approach Cornelia about a second showing. The piece was installed at Ikon in the basement and was smaller than intended. When I talked to Cornelia she jumped at the chance to show it in a large and high space. The installation was the most complex of my career, filling the entire gallery, (1600 sq feet), and involving three weeks work and miles of fuse wire. Six to ten people worked on the project with the artist and the results were spectacular.’ Amusingly, there’s a note in the aspex archives which details that the height for suspension was ‘One toilet roll plus a piece of hardboard’.

The History of Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth - Cornelia Parker’s ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’ (2)

In contrast to the way the work is now shown, visitors were able to walk between the pools of sculptures. Following a visit to aspex by the Arts Council the work was selected for the British Art Show. The artist discussed the time-lag that it took for the work to make an impact in a recent interview with The Guardian. ‘I made Thirty Pieces of Silver for the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham and it didn’t get a single review’, she says. ‘It wasn’t until it was shown at the British Art Show at the Hayward a year later that people noticed.’ The work was purchased for the Tate Collection in 1998.

aspex was also going through changes during this period. Following several years of working as an artist-run space, the threat of climbing rents compelled the organisation to transform to its status to a charity, which meant transforming the structure of aspex. In an effort to protect the gallery and studio artists from high rents, the decision was made to seek charitable status and Aspex Visual Arts Trust was formed. Buckingham remembers this as a complicated period of transformation for the organisation, which essentially split the studios from the gallery, but it was one that was necessary to secure aspex, as a resource that would continue to exist after its founders were no longer involved. Though the two are now separate entities, the Trust continues to work together with the artist founders at Art Space Portsmouth.

The History of Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth - Cornelia Parker’s ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’ (3)

All images courtesy of the Aspex Visual Arts Trust Ltd. and the artist.