Strong Island Co.

Theatre and Dance

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens at the Kings Theatre

Over recent years the 4th May has become Star Wars Day across the planet and if I have to explain why that is then perhaps it isn’t worth you reading on.

On Wednesday 4th May at 6:30pm the Kings Theatre on Albert Road will be showing the seventh instalment of the Star Wars franchise.

The theatre has recently invested in a new projector, new screen and a 5.1 Dolby surround sound system to add to the natural acoustics of the auditorium. So this will be a one off event that shouldn’t be missed!

Tickets are priced at a bargain £7.50 (Concessions £6.50) and dressing up is encouraged whether you want to come full Wookie or just in your favourite Star Wars tee.


Kings Theatre

Live Screening from the Kings Theatre

The Kings Theatre starts its summer season with a selection of live screenings from productions from around the UK and the world to the victorian stage in Albert Road, Southsea. The live screenings include the following:

Shakespeare Live! From The RSC
Saturday 23rd April

Shakespeare Live! is a unique two-hour event marking the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. This wonderful event will be screened live from Stratford-upon-Avon on Shakespeare’s birthday, and it will be hosted by David Tennant with a star-studded show celebrating Shakespeare’s plays and their enduring influence on music, dance, opera, musical theatre and comedy. The Royal Shakespeare Company and its Artistic Director Gregory Doran are assembling a once-in-a-lifetime cast, including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Joseph Fiennes, Meera Syal, Al Murray, Alison Moyet, Noma Dumezweni, Ian Bostridge, English National Opera (ENO), Birmingham Royal Ballet, and Akala (Hip Hop Shakespeare) to perform in a unique tribute to the genius and influence of the world’s greatest playwright and storyteller.

Tickets are £13.50 (concessions £11.50), with all money taken for this performance going towards the restoration of the Kings Theatre.

National Theatre Live – A View from the Bridge
Friday 15th May

Following its smash-hit original broadcast, the Young Vic’s, ‘magnetic, astonishingly bold’ production of A View from the Bridge returns to cinema & theatre screens due to audience demand. The great Arthur Miller confronts the American dream in this dark and passionate tale, In Brooklyn, longshoreman Eddie Carbone welcomes his Sicilian cousins to the land of freedom. When one of them falls for his beautiful niece, they discover that freedom comes at a price. Eddie’s jealous mistrust exposes a deep, unspeakable secret – one that drives him to commit the ultimate betrayal.

This stunning production of Miller’s tragic masterpiece won a trio of 2014 Olivier Awards including Best Revival, Best Actor for Mark Strong (The Imitation Game; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and Best Director for Ivo van Hove.

Tickets are £13.50 (concessions £11.50).

RSC Live: Hamlet
Wednesday 8th June

Returning home he finds his world is utterly changed, his certainties smashed and his home a foreign land. Struggling to understand his place in a new world order he faces a stark choice. Submit, or rage against the injustice of his new reality.

Simon Godwin (The Two Gentlemen of Verona 2014) directs Paapa Essiedu as Hamlet in Shakespeare’s searing tragedy. As relevant today as when it was written, Hamlet confronts each of us with the mirror of our own mortality in an imperfect world.

Tickets are £13.50 (concessions £11.50).

André Rieu
Sunday 24th July

Known to millions as ‘The King of Waltz’, André Rieu is one of the world’s most popular music artists. His legendary annual Maastricht concert is the most eagerly anticipated cinema event of the year, last year setting new box office records in several countries. Spoken parts in English and Dutch with some English subtitles supplied.

Tickets are £21.50 (concessions £19.50).

Find out more about these live screenings and also to book your tickets online visit:

Shakespeare Live! From The RSC

Top Banana Easter Circus Workshops

Portsmouth based circus skills organisation Top Banana are back with their very popular circus skills workshops for people of all ages. On Friday 8th April at Portsmouth Guildhall street dancer & free runner Sacha Biloshitsky (from Funk Format and Urban Playground) will be leading two acrobalance workshops, one for young people aged 8-15 and one for 16 and above. The workshops focus on techniques for balance and counterbalance, include lifts, holds and poses and also some easy Parkour moves.

Booking for these workshops is essential and can be done online HERE.

To find out more check the flyer below and also visit the Top Banana Facebook page and website:

Top Banana Easter Circus Workshops

‘Ezra’ Play by Bernard Kops at The New Theatre Royal Minghella Studio

At nearly 90 years of age Bernard Kops continues to entertain, unsettle and surprise. Since his early success with his play The Hamlet of Stepney Green in 1958, he has produced an astonishing variety of plays, poems, novels, screenplays, essays, reflections, plus volumes of memoirs, all the while acting, teaching and raising a talented and lively family. His plays primarily tap into his Jewish roots and whether he writes of love, loss, change, dreams, sex, identity, fantasy or day-to-day reality there is always a sprinkling of wry humour, acerbic wit – and sometimes anger – to give a certain edge to his idiosyncratic creations.

He has often said of his plays that the one he has a particular fondness for is Ezra. As in so many of Kops’s works, tragedy and comedy jostle against each other to claim our attention as we experience the gradual disintegration of the once highly active – albeit perverse – imagination of the poet Ezra Pound. During World War 2 Pound was found guilty of broadcasting pro-Fascist, anti-semitic diatribes. When captured, he was incarcerated by the Americans in Pisa. In the play he is ‘visited’ by key characters from his past, such as Vivaldi, who have either shaped his consciousness or coloured his moods.

Productions of the play have been rare. It was originally performed in 1981 at the Half Moon Theatre. The new Minghella Studio at the New Theatre Royal will be home to two performances of Ezra by New Apollo, with support from Cop the Needle productions. Performances will be on the 1st & 2nd of April at 7:30pm, tickets are only £12 & £10 (concessions) from New Theatre Royal Portsmouth Box Office online and by phone: 02392 649000.

'Ezra' Play by Bernard Kops at The New Theatre Royal Minghella Studio

The Cold Room a New Play by Clare Campbell-Collins

The Cold Room is a new play by Clare Campbell-Collins that is currently in final rehearsals before its first performance later this month. Clare’s last play Thursday’s Child, was premiered by RopesEnd Theatre Company in Rosie’s Vineyard on Elm Grove back in 2013 and was really well received and a sell out.

“A powerful and heartfelt piece of writing which moved deftly from the humorous to the poignant, from the gentle to the fearsome…switches of mood which were beautifully handled by highly skilled players” Stuart Olesker

This new play is a black comedy, set in a Chapel of Rest where a young woman is mourning her father, at closing time the Undertaker is keen to go home but the young woman is unable to leave. What follows is an elaborate game of cat and mouse where she evades his every attempt to persuade her to go. As the game continues the two of them reveal more and more about themselves and gradually begin to develop a bond. The play is directed by Steve Blackham.

You can catch performances of The Cold Room at Gosport’s The Studio Theatre at St Vincent College, on the 17th, 18th & 19th March, with tickets only £8. To reserve tickets call 07545 921717 or email

The Cold Room a New Play by Clare Campbell-Collins

Joe Black’s House Of Burlesque returns to the Kings Theatre

On Saturday 27th February the Kings Theatre welcomes the masterful Joe Black and a cast of delightful companions to entertain us.

Heading the bill on the evening will be one of the UK’s most prestigious burlesque performers Miss Betsy Rose. Betsy’s work has seen her gain international recognition with GQ Italia listing her on their Best Burlesque Performers of 2015. As well as performing internationally the glamorous beauty has also been selected to work with some of the most influential fashion houses including Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy and Cointreau.

Betsy Rose 1
Betsy Rose taken by Dottie Photography.

Other performances on the night will be coming from Tina T’urner Tea Lady, former X-Factor finalist and show tune siren Kitty Brucknell, the whip cracking vixen Ayesha H, aerial hoop duo & physical phenomenon Le Renn, Velma Von Bon Bon, Aurora Galore, Arran Shurvinton and the Terms Of Unnervement are also returning to Southsea to complete the line up.

To get your hands on tickets directly from the Kings Box Office in person or online here. Tickets are priced at £15.50 or £13.50 for concessions.

HOB Feb-16

Spamalot At The Kings Theatre

“Bring out yer dead!” for the much acclaimed production “Spamalot” is due to hit the Kings Theatre from Tuesday the 9th to Saturday the 13th of February. Bought to you by the Portsmouth Players, this 2005 Tony Award winner for Best Musical is a musical comedy “lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and was originally created by Eric Idle. King Arthur is traveling around England recruiting his Knights of the Round Table. When he and his band of misfit knights finally gather in Camelot, they receive a charge from God to find the Holy Grail. The quest brings King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table to strange places and into the company of strange characters, challenging them to keep their heads on straight or die terribly weird deaths.

So prepare your coconuts hooves, pack the holy hand grenade and try not to forget what your favourite colour is…

You can grab your tickets here.


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:

Jon Adams Performance Piece ‘Games with the Water Horse’ at New Theatre Royal

Portsmouth artist Jon Adams is a ‘lab associate’ at New Theatre Royal, which will be hosting his latest performance piece Games with the Water Horse on the evening of Saturday 30th January. Jon works across platforms using sound, drawing, written word, photographic manipulation, installation and more through ‘art in public’. His work references his Asperger’s and dyslexia weaving in fragments of autobiography, science and hidden metaphor.

Building on Jon’s experiences, learning and encouragement from Sir Peter Brook and cast of ‘Valley of Astonishment’, Games with the Water Horse is a performance instillation piece. At its heart, it is an exploration of consciousness, life story, art forms, and neurodiverse thinking. The piece involves Jon standing within a circle reading 60 ‘minutes of an hour’ which are scattered once read. These minutes interweave and explore 6 personal stories over multiple dates and times but which are all intimately connected. The performance journey calls on Japanese metaphor and imagery. There is an overarching imagery of water that pervades the piece, the title, for example, refers to the hippocampus, mythical water beasts but also the section of the brain responsible for memory and PTSD.

A two-part performance; the first half will see Jon perform his readings and the second-half will involve a ‘memory man’ Q&A with the audience. Before the performance the audience will be asked to remember a minute number they are interested in and Jon will recount the story behind the number.

Games with the Water Horse premiered at Venice Biennale 2015 and showcased at Turner Contemporary November 2015 during their ‘Risk’ season. Tickets are only £10 and available at the box office and online:

Jon Adams Performance Piece 'Games with the Water Horse' at New Theatre Royal

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

Next »


Old Cycle Race

At some point between the wars this was taken during a cycle race at the Alexandra Park velodrome up in Tipner, which is still there.

Cycle Race
(Click on image to see a larger version)

Vintage Southsea Postcards

I dug these off the internet a while back and forgot I had them. Some real old school winners here. Click the read more link at the bottom of this article to see the full set.



The Doomsday Project

From 1984 to 1986 people, in particular school children, all got involved in collecting information on their local area to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the Doomsday Book by creating a new, updated, electronic version. The collected information became The Doomsday Project which was a collection of laserdiscs and special BBC computers. The country was broken down in to ‘D’ blocks with the data collection done mostly by schools, the information included text on local geography, history, legends and also more contemporary personal things such as favourite music, games, etc. As well as the text each block could also contain up to 3 photos. Many schools bought the discs and computers as a learning resource (the World Wide Web as a concept was still some years away).

A few days ago the BBC launched a new website where all of this previously difficult to access information (only a handful of working systems still exist) is now online and searchable. It’s an amazing glimpse in to Portsmouth and Southsea life in the early to mid 80s and there are some great images. The new website also allows you to upload new information and photos too.

If you are 38+ you may well have memories of being involved in the project in collecting and writing information. Personally I remember the day my group went out to a tiny village in Essex in the hot summer but instead of writing things we played near the river and weir. Oh well. Does anyone have any memories of taking part in the project? If so please add a comment, would love to hear people’s memories.

You can find out more about the original project on HERE and the BBC article and access the online version below:

Domesday Project


The now defunct Brickwoods Brewery was Portsmouth’s largest local brewer before it’s final demise in 1983. Many old pubs (and many houses that are converted old pubs) still have tiles and signs with the old brewery’s name on so in a way, it still lives on, just in the city’s background. Keep your eyes peeled. You can find out more about the company here too.

I came across these amazing beermats via Google, some interesting designs. Notice the sun motif…


Transport No. 1: Portsmouth Trolleybuses

With Portsmouth’s long history and particular geography it’s public transportation systems have been varied and have changed dramatically over the years. Over the next few weeks we are going to focus briefly on some of the more interesting ones, starting with the Portsmouth Trolleybuses.

The Portsmouth Trolleybus service provided by the Portsmouth Corporation was first introduced on the 4th August 1934 and covered most of the island and up to Cosham. The trolleybuses themselves were like normal double decker buses but were powered by overhead power cables like trams. The power lines for the trolleybuses criss-crossed overhead above the roads with routes and these wires became a constant in the city’s skyline, much like modern San Francisco and Vancouver.

The Guildhall (buildings in the distance are where the council buildings are now)

The trolleybus service continued until the 27th July 1963 and then sadly the wires torn down and almost all of the trolleybuses scrapped, today only two of the trolleybuses survive. No. 201, which was in Portsmouth’s transport museum before being moved, now lives on display in Milestones Museum in Basingstoke. No. 313 was the very last trolleybus to run but now is in fully restored working order and running at East Anglia Transport Museum (see it running here).

Ready for scrap (with the old airport in the background)

You can find out about all of the trolleybuses and see more photos here and watch below to see them in action with super8 footage from the 1950s and 1960s. Still looks strange seeing traffic through Guildhall Square.

P.S. Will the Portsmouth transport museum ever find a new home?

Thomas Ellis Owen Shaper of Portsmouth, ‘Father of Southsea’ by Sue Pike

I’ve been holding on to this for a while now as I wanted to make a feature of it and had to wait for the exhibition to finish to give it pride of place on the front page. If like myself you’re always looking around at our local architecture you will have noticed many of the buildings within the book Thomas Ellis Owen Shaper of Portsmouth, ‘Father of Southsea’. Some could even be right on your doorstep but you have never noticed, or peeked over that high wall. Thomas Ellis Owen’s work is all over the city and you’d be forgiven for walking past as a lot of it is hidden or down those streets you may not stroll down too often. Other buildings however are right in your face. Ever noticed the huge block of flats at the entrance to Waitrose, the detailing on the building at Dover Court opposite the old Havana bar?

“Thomas Ellis Owen is probably the best known of Portsmouth’s nineteenth century architects, his construction of villas and substantial terraces in Southsea being responsible for the emergence of the district as a middle class locality. His work was recognised by Pevsner and Lloyd in their magisterial Buildings of England: Hampshire, and later by a rather more detailed architectural enquiry by two students, Preedy and Stewart. My own research was principally concerned with dating Owen’s properties and analysing their inhabitants. What Sue Pike has done is to cast the net very much wider, not only by providing great detail about Owen’s family, but also by demonstrating the impressive breadth of his activities outside architecture. Indeed, his interests were so wide that there must have been few aspects of Portsmouth’s development in the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s in which he was not involved. Infrastructural fields such as gas supply, the Portsea Canal, railways, the Camber Docks and hospitals lay within his purview, while he assisted in the purchase of land for one of Portsmouth’s defining features, the Palmerstonian forts. His tithe map has proved of inestimable value to local historians. Meanwhile Owen was an important local politician. All these facets of Owen’s life have been fully laid bare in this thoroughly well researched book by Sue Pike, who is to be congratulated on her labours.” Professor Ray Riley

Thomas Ellis Owen Shaper of Portsmouth, ‘Father of Southsea’ is a really interesting read and contains stunning colour photos of many Owen properties in Southsea and Alverstoke by Gosport photographer, Tim Martin. There is no real target audience and hopefully it will appeal to old and young alike. The detailed captions may be helpful to first year architecture students but it showcases Southsea well and may well appeal equally to academics, photographers, interested newcomers and people who just want a really nice book to put on their coffee table. I’m a huge fan of both history and architecture so this book is a real winner for me, and I have no doubt that if that’s not really your bag you will still appreciate what Thomas Ellis Owen Shaper of Portsmouth, ‘Father of Southsea’ has to offer.

You can purchase a hardback copy for £25 via the publishers and and read up on the book and the author Sue Pike over at

CHAOS – 20 years & out!

20 years!!!! That has to go in the books as Southsea longest running night? Give or take, most people you bump in to have been to a least one Chaos night, and most spent a grimy late one down the pier dancing like idiots and spilling Newcastle Brown all over the place. I’ve a lot of fond memories of the earlier days at Chaos, mostly after skating and sitting in the pub saying I’m not going. Not this week. Then 8 pints later jumping in a taxi…

If you have any stories or cool photos from Chaos we’d love to see them. Or even some of the old flyers. There have been some pretty interesting designs over the years. I’ll always remember the photo flyer of the kid on the dance floor with a girl and his ‘wandering hands’.

Jay Dunstan got in contact and had this to say:

“To coincide with our 20th Birthday on Saturday 26th November – we’re announcing that this will be the last ever “Chaos”.

Starting in 1991 at South Parade Pier, moving to the Wedgewood rooms in 2008 – we’ve been crowned the South Coasts longest running Independent Club night, winning The Guide Awards “Best club night”, “Best DJs” (x 2) and the promoters Ped & Jay being awarded a special award for contribution to the Portsmouth Music Scene. Chaos has provided Dj’s and club nights at Guilfest, Southsea Fest & Isle of Wight Festivals.

Having been a constant in our lives and the Portsmouth clubbing & music scene for 2 decades – Its been a very tough decision to stop the regular club night. But we feel that now is the best time to unplug the speakers for the last time.

Chaos was always quite literally about being ‘alternative’ – alternative in music policy, but also offering an alternative to the traditional and mainstream clubs. Our ethos was always simple – play music we liked, to people to we liked & do it prime time on a Saturday night 52 weeks a year!

Our feeling is that the current scene is very different now and although still loving every element of the gigs, festivals and guitars – a regular club night offering everything we did, now isn’t whats required. Clubbers will always want an alternative, but the music scene is now so split and venues, pubs & clubs are all competing for survival – we felt it was a good opportunity to step back, take a deep breath & raise a glass to rock n roll!

We want to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of Chaos over the last 20 years – venue managers, bar staff & door stewards – sound & light technicians – – street teams – performers & bands and of course the roll call of DJ’s past & present that have provided the soundtrack to so, so, so many silly, drunken and above all fun Saturday nights.

Hey ho, lets go!”

The 20th Birthday & Last EVER Chaos – Saturday 26th November 2011

Flyer: Chaos Flickr

Old Southsea Skate Photos

Check the Skate Library for the first of a growing list of old Southsea photos including this one of Lance Mountain grinding the Law Courts back in 1988 (photo by Tim Leighton-Boyce).

After skating…

…the boys enjoy a sit down at the seafront on a Sunday. Photo courtesy of the ever busy Quiet Corners lensman Paul Gonella. Perfect days, albeit still cold.

Local Photographer – Eamon Lane

A recent arrival to Portsmouth, Eamon Lane has been out and about the city recently shooting photos on the street and at local events such as Love Your Bike. Below are a few examples of Eamon’s photography, visit I Love Slugs to see more.

Strong Island Clothing Co.