Kerr's Corner

Kerr's Corner is a regular feature in East Antrim and Newtownabbey editions of The Wizard. David Kerr would like to hear your memories of life in your own area. Maybe you'll trigger some thoughts for a future column.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Belfast as Brixton

PASSING through Lower North Street, in Belfast the other day, I noticed a few strange things – a London Metropolitan Police car following a number of suspicious looking Black youths. That’s odd, I thought, then I saw the cameras and it dawned on me. The film stars Vinnie Jones and the former boxer, Lennox Lewis. We’ll have to look out for that one when it reaches the cinemas if only to check out the locations for familiar landmarks.


FOR A LONG time now, Wizard Ads has carried an entertainments section, featuring various reviews of films, DVDs, CDs and the like. These reviews have always appeared on a different page from Kerr’s Corner. As these reviews have always been very popular, I thought it would be a good idea to tag them onto this Blog site.

To kick off this new venture, we take a look at The Ramones: End of the Century, The Motorcycle Diaries and Old Boy.

Let me know what you think of these reviews – I’d be interested to receive any feedback. As usual you can contact me

Ramones: End of the Century

Runtime: 110 mins.Country: USA.Colour/Black and WhiteLanguage: EnglishCertificate 15 Reviewed by Pat Harrington.

WATCHING this film brought back a lot of memories for me: of playing I want to be Sedated loud on headphones; of jumping up and down at Hammersmith Odeon when they played there and even of seeing the truly awful film Rock and Roll High School at the Scala in London. I loved the Ramones. They just had so much energy. Their music reflected that energy – tight and fast – like an assault on the senses. Their image was unique (at that time) and cool, black leather jackets and jeans.

To see the music played on screen was great. But the performances aren’t what make this film. The extensive and crosscutting interviews with band members, managers, and people from other bands, most notably, the late Joe Strummer of The Clash make it stand out. We get to understand the individuals and their relationships. This documentary is raw and real. Joey is just so sensitive that you wonder how he ever get through the day. DeeDee seems to have tried to find every possible way to abuse substances and his body. Johnny comes over as a bit of a dictator but also as someone with incredible drive and self-discipline. In fact this discipline ran through the whole band. In all their years they missed only one concert due to band misbehaviour and Johnny fired Marky over it. It seemed from this film that they just never stopped touring.

Now they are all dead. There is a poignant moment towards the end of the film when the off-screen interviewer asks Johnny, after Joey’s death, if he felt something when Joey died. Johnny says, yes, he felt something, he felt bad all the week of Joey’s death, even after not calling him while he was dying, not speaking for nearly two decades. Why, probes the interviewer, why did you feel something? Johnny replies because he was a Ramone, because he loved the Ramones, the group, and the music.

The Motorcycle Diaries

Certificate 15 (UK)Runtime: 128 minsReviewed by Jacqueline Sharp
THIS FILM is adapted from a journal written by Che Guevara when he was 23 years old. It recounts how he and his friend Alberto Grando crossed South America on a clapped out motorcycle (The Mighty One) in the 1950s. All the way from their home city of Buenos Aires through the Atacama Desert to Machu Pichu and ending in a leper colony near to Manaus in Brazil.

This Che (played by Gael Garcia Bernal of Y Tu Mama Tambien and Bad Education) is not yet the revolutionary leader and icon he was to become. Yet Brazilian director Walter Salles (Central Station) slowly introduces social commentary and we see Che being affected by the experiences he has. We can see the slow awakening of his social conscience. This film does not explain or depict strongly his ideology but it does show how he reacts very emotionally to any forms of injustice or need which he encounters. Perhaps this avoidance of a direct political message was deliberate in order to gain a wider audience. Those interested can delve deeper if they choose.
The tone of this film is warm – of friendship and shared journeys. Rodrigo De la Serna (playing Alberto Grendo) provides a relief from the serious Che with his comic and lusty performance. The visual images of South America are breathtaking, particularly those of Machu Pichu (one of the highest points in the area).

Old Boy

Certificate 18 (UK)Reviewed by Patrick Harrington
TARANTINO is said to be in awe of this film. The story is a disturbing one. A man who is held captive for fifteen years - and whose wife is murdered – is released suddenly and given money. He tries to discover why he was held prisoner. It is an intense film that tugs at your emotions with each twist and turn of the plot.

It depicts extreme violence but not gratuitously. It uses all the tools available, sound, music, cinematography, and acting, to really affect you. I particularly liked the haunting musical score. The performance of lead actor, Min-Sik Choi as Dae-su is outstanding. He is fearless, funny and wholly heartbreaking. The whole gambit of emotions is run from harmless drunkenness to pure despair.

Don’t let the fact that it’s subtitled put you off. It’s worth the effort. This film delivers and packs a punch. Director Chan-wook Park is someone to look out for in the future.

Monday, August 01, 2005

End Of An Era

ANYONE WHO knows me will probably confirm to you that I have more than one or two books around the house. New books are great but older books are more interesting. You can get more or less the same books at any one time in any branch of Waterstones but every second-hand bookshop is different. Until a few days ago, one of the most fascinating was Volume One books in the Haymarket between Royal Avenue and Gresham Street – one of my regular Saturday morning haunts. I was shocked to find it closed up the other day and to hear that it has closed. The owner, John Clancey, has been in the book trade for a great many years. He first started in the legendary Harry Hall’s in Smithfield before opening a shop in Winetavern Street beside the Elephant bar. In 1989, after about twenty years he moved to the Haymarket.

Wee John the Book, as he is known to most of his friends and clients, is virtually unique. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of his regular customers’ literary interests and when buying books he would often have particular clients in mind. Quite often when I would walk in the door, he would say “David, just look at this. I thought this might interest you”. More often than not he’d be absolutely right. He had a policy of giving local authors and small publishers shelf and window space. He stocked copies of my own booklet on WF McCoy and items from Island Pamphlets, The Rushlight, and the verse of Albert Haslett among others.

His shops have always been a haven for devout book collectors from all over Ireland and even further afield. He has even been featured on local radio and an RTE documentary. I have a video tape in my possession showing him selling a book to my old pal, the late Harry Irwin. I hope that like that other great survivor, Terry Hooley – whose new record shop, Phoenix Records is also in the Haymarket – John Clancey will soon bounce back. The world of bookselling in Belfast will be much worse off without his knowledge and experience.

In Conversation with … 3rd Cloughfern Brownies

RECENTLY I came across an old copy of the Newtownabbey Times. One of its main articles was a photo-feature, which celebrated the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Brownies. The article also specifically looked at Cloughfern Brownies who were founded in the 1950s. It was a fascinating story – complete with some excellent pictures both from yesteryear and more recent times.

I’m particularly interested in traditional groups or organisations that have stood the test of time. However, I must admit I knew next to nothing about the Brownies themselves. To find out more I spoke to Leanne McConnell, who is Assistant Brownie Guider for the 3rd Cloughfern Brownies.

I must admit I had no idea of the type of person who would volunteer to become a Brownie leader. To my surprise I found out that Leanne was only 22 years old. She gained a Higher National Diploma in Social Care Practice at East Antrim Institute of Further and Higher Education. At the moment she works as a Senior Project Worker for the Praxis Care Group. (The Praxis Care Group, a registered charity, established in 2002, is a major provider of services for adults and children with a learning disability, mental ill health, acquired brain injury, and older people. The group was established in 2002 by the merging of four well-established charities in Northern Ireland). In time Leanne hopes to compete a degree in social work and explore a range of differing client groups to work with.

She told me that she’d been in the Brownies herself. “I attended Mossley Brownies from age eight until I was ten. I really enjoyed those two years. I was 15 when a family friend asked me to help out with her Brownie pack and I jumped at the chance”.

So where and when do the Brownies meet – and where do they come from? Leanne advised me that the 3rd Cloughfern Brownies were just one of a number of differing groups who meet in the Church Halls at the Church of the Ascension, near Cloughfern Corner. “Although we’re now on our summer break, our Brownies meet every Tuesday at 7 pm to 8.15pm. There’s around 13 Brownies – all girls between the ages of seven and ten. I help look after them along with my Guider-in-Charge, a Unit Helper and two Young Leaders”.

Leanne advised me that most of the 3rd Cloughfern Brownies came up through the ‘ranks’. They started in the Rainbows, which takes girls from age four to seven. They then join the Brownies until they’re ten. They can then move onto the Guides until they’re 14. After that there’s the Rangers which caters for girls up until they are 18. (The Rainbows, Guides and Rangers also meet at the Church of the Ascension). The vast majority of the Brownies are also local – from Rathcoole, Rathfern, Rushpark and Fernagh.

I was also interested in their range of activities. Leanne told me that the main activity would be badge work. “There’s a range of differing badges. Girls choose interest badges that suit their own likes and hobbies. We also complete general badges - for example, studying about world cultures, art, disability awareness and so on. Badge work involves a complete range of activities such as artwork and role play”. The Brownies also have guest speakers at their meetings. These range from the PSNI, Fire Service and even a snake handler! They also play games have quizzes but above all the emphasis is on having fun.

However, for many Brownies the highlight of the year must be the Pack holiday. Holidays are usually taken at Lorne (Guide HQ – Ulster Division), the Ulster Folk Museum at Cultra and Dunluce Guide House near Portrush. The Pack holiday is very much a working holiday as badge work – relating to subject as diverse as housekeeping, cooking and hostess - continues. However, there are also activities such as day trips, treasure hunts and nature walks. The Pack holiday always ends with a themed party with prizes and certificates.

The 3rd Cloughfern Brownies are now on their Summer break. However, they resume their activities in September and Leanne told me that they expect to have about six spaces available. These spaces are always at a premium so “if any parent wants to find out more about the Brownies I’d encourage them to phone me on 077 3247 7373 as soon as possible. I’ll contact them nearer our start date and they – and their daughter - can come along and see what sort of activities we do”.