Jemima Rooper – under-exposed?

London Actor Jemima Rooper was recently on our screens in the remake of Bouquet of Barbed Wire but why so fleeting on our screens?

Jemima Rooper crops up in a lot of my favourite television programs but often in very cursory roles such as in Sugar Fix as the Rock Group lead singer Montana with a brief night of passion with Olivia Hallinan’s Kim, and as Gerry in the Luke Watson directed Random Quest.

She has played more substantive characters such as Nicki Sutton in As If and Thelma in Hex but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

I find her a funny and charismatic performer and am disappointed about her lack of screen parts.

She was centre stage as Amanda Price in the Jane Austen inspired Lost in Austen where Pride and Prejudice and present day London collide – her character and Elizabeth Bennett (played by another British acting treasure Gemma Arterton) swap places – sci-fi meets classical romantic literature!

The show’s premise was imaginative and the show itself was well written and delivered with good ensemble acting. It was Jemima Rooper’s humorous and passionate performance though that the show pivoted on.

So please film or television directors cast her in something more enduring!

Princess Catherine Doll – and other Royal souvenirs

I received an Email today from Gadget site Firebox where all the merchandise listed was to cash in – sorry, honour! – the coming Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

From Top Trumps to Tea Towels.

I think they have likely hit a winner with this Princess Catherine Doll though – at £35 a pop Firebox and its manufacturers really could be minting it.

If I were ever to be famous I think being turned into a mass-production doll would be one of celebrity’s more pleasing outcomes!

I was amused by the disclaimer too ‘Posable doll bearing a purely coincidental resemblance to Kate Middleton’.

I just wonder how many more royal wedding souvenirs with an unintended passing likeness to the future monarch there will be!

Shazam – another kind of magic

Screen cap – no point clicking on it!

I was watching the behind the scenes video of the Top Shop high summer shoot – no voiceover just a bright and breezy pop song providing the soundtrack. But what was that song? No information on the website page and no-one with me to ask.

Then I remembered that mobile App that allows you to identify music just by holding up your phone up to it – Shazam (taken from the DC Comic strip Captain Marvel where his alter ego Billy Batson incites the name of Wizard Shazam to do, well magic, a bit like this mobile app claims to do!) – well now I could discover for myself.

I downloaded the app and re-ran the video holding my iPhone up to it and ‘Shazam!” it identified the tune as ‘Bang Bang Bang’ by Mark Ronson and The Business International.  I then went into Spotify to verify that it was the song being used – and it was – wow.

The app can do other stuff but for the time-being I just had to share that it can do this – just so clever.

It is a magical product, voodoo tech. I will be keeping my iPhone and Shazam holster-ready now when watching TV as commercials in particular are a rich source of songs and sounds past and present not always known to me.

Whistles happily off into the distance…!

By the way when she sings ‘Feathers I’m plucking feathers’ I was hearing it as ‘Clever I’m fucking clever’ – you too, or is it just me?!

Mary Portas – shopping with Mary

The Secret Shopper

Having enjoyed Mary Queen of Shops I was looking forward to Mary Portas’ new project Secret Shopper from production company Optomen aired on Channel 4.

In Mary Queen of Shops the focus was on the shop as business and how best for it and its staff to promote itself. For Mary Portas: Secret Shopper the focus was on the customer.

Mary Portas considers that we in the UK have some of the worst service in this area in the world – though I am not sure exactly the basis for that claim – clearly she has not been shopping in every country in the world! She explains in an interview on the Channel 4 website her hopes for the program and the reasons for it.

The program addressed service without a smile and what might be done to change this. It is clear that some customers are pretty awful and the mantra of ‘the Customer is always right’ must be pretty challenging to adhere to in every circumstance. It was also clear that a lot of retail staff are minimum wage with minimum training – by bosses who short-sightedly see training as a cost rather than an investment. The low wages themselves are not going to guarantee staff loyalty and motivation.

On the Channel 4 website there is a lot of feedback about the program – both from customers disgruntled with staff and staff disgruntled with customers.

I always have some suspicion about these programs that the very presence of a television crew and the prospect of an audience of millions may change behaviour while the cameras are on but wonder whether it lasts when the last crew-member has packed away their camera and mic?!  In the fashion make-over shows How To Look Good Naked hosted by Gok Wan and previously What Not to Wear with Trinny & Susannah; and in the restaurant food and service shows Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay and Big Chef Takes on Little Chef with Heston Blumenthal to name just a few and the best of them – this was addressed to some extent in that they would re-visit a year or so down the line to see whether the lessons learnt were still being acted upon.

Like these hosts Mary Portas is a larger-than-life charismatic go-getting figure – very motivational and who clearly has great experience and understanding of retail from both sides of the till.

At four episodes duration the series was not long.  I can understand why in that each episode must involve a lot of production time and work – both in preparation and implementation and then not to spread herself and her team too thinly across other retail outlets.

Perhaps though that is the limitation too of being over-reliant on one charismatic individual.  The aims of this program are big and perhaps require a bigger team to carry out.  But again perhaps it is not the sole role of a television program to do such a thing – rather it acts as a campaigning voice and rallying cry for wider consumer action.

The real success of Mary Portas won’t be a few changes to a few shop branches here and there but a cultural change to shopping service itself – and that is a big ask.  Alongside the program she is running a campaign to celebrate the best and castigate the worst in customer service – not just in shopping retail as I understand but in other areas too such as banking and transport.

Another good series and television idea from Mary Portas.  She left the BBC for Channel 4 for this show – I can well imagine both these channels wrangling over her for her next television opus!

Caroline Flint – a Labour leader in waiting?

On Question Time

Another good panel on Question Time last Thursday on BBC 1 – Jeremy Hunt and Jo Swinson fielded well for the Coalition, Professor Lord Winston and actor Simon Callow provided insights from their own particular fields but it was Caroline Flint for Labour who impressed me most.

She made her arguments clearly, forcefully and passionately.

Her points about the radical NHS reforms not being in either of the coalition parties manifestos and that the spending cuts being as much an ideological choice as a fiscal need resonated well with me.

Her views against the Alternative Vote I found less convincing and not just because I am in favour of it!  Lord Winston was also against it and made a more thoughtful and persuasive case.

Overall though Caroline Flint presented well the Labour cause and with some free-flowing passion amongst often complex and difficult ideas which I would like to see more of from Ed Milliband.

I still have reservations though about her and Labour – in particular due to the financial crisis.  She rightly reminded the panel and audience that it was the bailing out of the banks that ballooned the national debt but overlooked that this happened on Labour’s watch. It was Labour keen to be bedfellows with the Haute L’argent of the City along with its light-touch regulation of the banking sector that contributed to that particular financial melt-down.

Likewise under them the gap between the rich and the poor in our society grew – the distribution of the national wealth became ever less equitable.  This again lies with their taxation policy – trying to out-Tory the Conservative Party.

They did in the 1990’s need to ditch aspects of Old Labour to become electable but having achieved this they then seemed more about schmoozing the wealthy than improving the lot of the rest-of-us.

The financial crisis was not just a sector event but totemic of a crisis in capitalism itself – it is tottering on its heels with no signs of recovery just more voodoo economics.  And New Labour sadly still seem as wedded to the Crony Capitalist ethos as the coalition parties.

There is popular opposition to the banking model yet I feel the Coalition and Labour only respond to this because of their populist instincts, not because they really get it. Sound bites and rhetoric but not really matched with actions to address for example moral hazard and too big to fail.

No mainstream party seems to be embracing social democratic values – perhaps the Labour Party needs a coup from within – and I am not sure if Caroline is the person to do it.

That person might be the quiet unassuming former Chancellor Alistair Darling – but that’s another post!

Rodarte – fashion as art, art as fashion

Is fashion art?  A new exhibition dedicated to the work of the Mulleavy sisters Kate and Laura suggests that it is.


I received an unsolicited but welcome copy of The Mini International magazine a few days ago. Quite a glossy it turns out to be too.  I was expecting lots of articles about carburettors and speccing out my Mini interior – instead Lifestyle and Culture features if with a Mini thread!

One article in particular caught my attention in their Events section titled ‘Rodarte sisters’ inspired by The Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles (MOCA) dedicating an exhibition to the brand ‘Rodarte: States of Matter’.

Alas I am not going anywhere near LA soon but thanks to the web further information * and a video on this exhibition is available on the MOCA website.

Rodarte: States of Matter from MOCA on Vimeo.

The installation in the museum’s words ‘portrays garments as charged sculptural objects’.

Much of haute couture is art. Not to say much ready to wear – whether gowns, shoes, handbags or other ensemble combinations – the question is whether such items belong in a museum?  Shopping boutiques can themselves be a living art gallery of ever changing style and fashion imagination.

Fashion is to be worn and is at its most artful worn – a museum exhibition cannot do justice to fashion items simply coldly exhibited?

On the other hand much haute couture is priced beyond most of our purses and perhaps the only opportunities of getting to watch it close up beyond the rarified environs of a fashion runway is in the accessible public space of a museum – where we can come and contemplate it with the reverence it deserves.

  • The information link is no longer current (27 July 2020)