Sunday, April 27, 2008

And another campaign

While we're on the campaigning trail, here's something else to go after.

Two weeks ago, I hiked in Topanga Canyon and absolutely loved it - my only regret is that I only had one day, because I would love to do more hikes out there - it's more than beautiful, it's space for air and tranquility.
That day I also would've loved to have hit Topanga State Beach for a dive into the sea after my hot and sweaty striding out to Eagle Rock

This might not exactly be Topanga Beach, but its a really cool photo Nez took on our drive along the PCH.

And there are huge numbers of other beautiful places I would love to visit, to hike or just to hang out. People think of LA and this celebrity-soaked urban busy space, and often aren't aware that close by are the most amazing beaches and wilderness areas, within easy reach - great for visitors like me, but more importantly, essential outdoor spaces for LA people.

But if the Governator has his way, there won't be State Parks and State Beaches for much longer. Budget cuts mean there are proposals to shut down access to many outdoor spaces in California. As someone who benefitted immeasurably from the Kinder Trespasses of the 1930s in terms of opening up access to wilderness areas, I find it alarming that budget cuts might result in padlocks on car parks and citations for people going for walks - we need our open spaces, we need fresh air and tranquility, we need to get out and look at beautiful things and hear nothing but the sound of our breathing in our ears and our feet hitting the ground. Defend access, act to protect our right to just go out in the country for a walk.

Here's the link for Topanga and Will Rogers parks;

Here's the link for the campaign to save all the California state parks.

Stopping short-sighted stupidity?

Regular readers will know that I am a graduate of the Writer Development Programme run by Yorkshire Art Circus, a fabulous organisation based in Castleford, which began life to help regenerate the coalfields decimated by job losses in the late 70s and early 80s; since then, they have supported all kinds of creative developments within their immediate community and beyond - WDP covered the whole of Yorkshire, and included me from East Yorkshire, plus people who have become friends from North, West and South Yorkshire. They are not only an organisation who support the creative endeavours of their immediate population and preserve the stories of their locality via oral history, poetry and short stories, they also reach out across the county to bring writers together and build up supportive networks.

It's really simple: I would not be where I am now without the help and support of YAC, and in particular, Lesley, Angela, Beccy and Lucy.

And now they need my help, and by extension, I'm hoping any ex WDPers reading this, or anyone who really cares about community arts, or oral history, or anyone who thinks that people's stories should be heard, will act.

This is the letter I got from them this week:

Dear friends of YAC,
YAC had hoped to celebrate our 30th anniversary next year, but unfortunately Wakefield Council has decided to cease supporting those organisations that are not regularly funded by the Arts Council. This affects a number of grass root organisations, and for YAC the consequences are serious. Angela, Beccy and myself are officially on redundancy notice, and unless there is a complete turn around from WMDC we will be winding the charity down and we will be made redundant at the end of this month (next Weds 30th April). we were informed of this decision at 4.30pm on 31st March, so the cuts were immediate from the following day (start of the financial year). Upon hearing of the consequences of their decision Wakefield Council has expressed some real concern and desire to help us. They have asked us to supply them with information about the affect we have had on the groups we have worked with, so we are trying to contact all of the writers who have gone through our Writer Development Programme. Any words of support from you would certainly be listened to!

To me it seems insane - the Arts Council has taken away your money, so we'll take it away too. Where's the logic in that?

Please, if you have had any contact with YAC and they've helped you at all, write and support them. Send your letters to Lesley Wilkinson at YAC, School Lane, Glashoughton, Castleford. If you'd like to see the press release, or would like any more info, please get in touch.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Am now home (and freezing cold) and have walked straight into a busy week as it's "Glimmer!", the Hull International Short Film Festival right now. I just got back from tonight's screenings of UK shorts, an eclectic mix of drama, comedy, film installation, and quirky vignettes. Tomorrow's looking good - "Anatomy of a Film" at 2pm with Sue Everett and Rob Speranza discussing the making of "Mother Mine", their recent short, followed at 5pm by a panel discussion on "Films, Filmmakers and Film Festivals", which I will be taking part in as a panellist, so if you've ever wondered what I get up to at the film festivals I go to, come and listen (and ask questions, so long as they're not rude!). Then at 8pm we have one of the sessions I'm most looking forward to, the screening of all the BAFTA nominated shorts for 2008, including Simon Ellis' "Soft", and BAFTA winner, "Dog Altogether" directed by Paddy Considine.

On Saturday there are more UK shorts, and a BAFTA Screentalk with Simon Ellis at 7pm, amongst other things.

On Sunday, there's the Hull competition and the Yorkshire competition, and I'm a jury member for both which is pretty exciting because I've never been a film competition jury member before. We have the award winners showcase at 7pm at Reel, and the closing night party and screening run by Slack Video at Lamp at 9. This features a DVD free-for-all, so if you have a film but missed the deadline, or just happen to have a DVD of your short about your person on the day, come to the party and if there's time, they'll screen it.

There's more information about the festival here at ITV Local, including interviews and clips, and the full programme is here so check it out and come along. And whether or not you can make it, tell everyone you know who is interested in short films and film making to come too, because it's going to be a fab weekend.

See you there!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cute gal, hiking

We hired a car the other day, a cute little Chevy we nicknamed Hamster. The rental guy offered us a really good deal on a huge tank-like vehicle, and looked at us a bit oddly when we said actually, we'd rather have that little white hatchback in the corner. Nerys has been doing all the driving, because though Tiny, she is also Brave. I, on the other hand, have had the demeanour of Alarmed Chicken at the very thought of taking the wheel in LA. However, Nerys set off home at dark o'clock this morning, so finally, I did it. I drove in LA. And actually, it was pretty OK. The oddest thing was driving an automatic. I couldn't help my left foot twitching every now and then, and my hand going for the gearstick, but it wasn't anywhere near as scary as I thought it might be. So, sorry Nerys, for being a wimp while you were here!
So, having mastered going forwards and stopping, I drove all the way down Santa Monica Boulevard to the Pacific Coast Highway and thence to Topanga Canyon Boulevard and eventually to the Trippet Ranch parking lot on the Topanga State Park. I set out on the Musch Meadow Trail, which was fairly low level and gentle, and as you'd guess from the name, made up of meadows:

and also some nice leafy glades, vital for shady moments as LA is having a heatwave at the moment:

I got to Eagle Junction and still felt like walking, so decided to carry on going, and was walking past a group of women resting at the camping ground while their leader was giving them a bit of a talk about the trails. "If you carry on walking like this cute gal here," she said, as they all turned to look at me and waved, "you'll get to Eagle Rock". So, I thought I'd go to Eagle Rock. "There are a few steep bits," she continued, "but it's a great walk."

Did I mention it's a heatwave here? Or that there are steep bits? And the steep bits happen to be above the shady bits, and climbing a steep trail is the very hot heat is absolutely bloody knackering. However, it was worth it:

There are views towards the ocean and also panoramic views inland and over Topanga Canyon:

It took about an hour and 20 minutes up, and an hour and ten down, so I ended up hiking for about three hours which was about three times longer than I'd originally thought I'd do, but it was a really great hike and well worth the effort. And I love Topanga.

Then I drove back to West Hollywood, via Sunset Boulevard, and got here with only one "oops I'm stuck in a 'right lane must turn right' lane" - so, driving wasn't too bad at all, and I didn't even once utter the never-to-be-forgotten phrase "Oh my God, I'm bloody driving on the ****ing left hand side!"
Actually, that OMG occurence, which happened shortly before we went to see The Tonight Show on Thursday, just made Keanu's story about biking in Australia ("not that side, this side") that bit funnier.

So, I got back here sweaty, dusty and hot, but pleased not to have damaged anyone or myself or the car. Phew.
Later, met Chris from Million Dollar Screenwriting at Barney's Beanery and had a bite to eat and a really good chat.
And tomorrow's my last day here. Have checked in online, so I basically have all day to do something or other. Wander about, eat salad, and shop, probably. Might go back to Book Soup, which is a fab bookshop on Sunset. And if I can find the place, go to Billy's booksigning.
PS Did I mention that the cute gal was me?

Friday, April 11, 2008

And now for something completely different

Just a quick reminder - it's Hull Short Film Festival next week, and all the details are here. It's a packed programme with lots of great films from around the world, including all the BAFTA shorts, film maker panels, a Screentalk session with well known short film maker Simon Ellis, parties, and loads of networking opportunities. Check out the programme, and come to Hull! Get in touch if you're coming over, and feel free to ask if you've got any questions about getting to Hull, where to stay, where to eat, etc etc.

Hope to see lots of people there.

Want to see what we saw?

Then watch Tonight with Jay Leno tonight!
We were in the studio audience, and guests were Keanu Reeves, an indie band from Chicago (I think) called Redwall, and a comedian called Chelsea Handler.
Oops, it's taken me so long to sort this post out that the show's about to start on NBC! Back later with details!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The story so far

We're online in Starbucks having our breakfasts, blogging and watching the world go by on Santa Monica Boulevard, and I have a bit of time to do a trip update.

We went to the Farmers' Market and The Grove on Sunday; had lunch with Peggy and her mate which was fun. The Farmers' Market wasn't what we expected - I thought it would be lots of produce stalls, but in fact there were a few produce stalls and lots of food stalls selling pretty much any kind of food you could want to eat. We got lunch from a Mexican place; I had tacos and cactus salad, which I've never had before - and having tried it once, don't really feel the need to have it again. Then Nez and I went up to Hollywood Boulevard and did a good chunk of the Walk of Fame, including this time finding Keanu's star, which was hidden under the preparations for the Oscars last time I was here.
Then we met some of Nez's friends, Annabelle, Alicia and Audrey, for dinner at La Clafoutis on Sunset which was good - nice food and an excellent people-watching spot.

Monday, Annabelle and Alicia picked us up and we went to the Getty Villa at Malibu which was interesting - a reconstruction of a villa of the sort that would have been built at Herculaneum, with beautiful gardens and water features (which I just wanted to get in - it's pretty hot here for a Northern girl). We had a guided tour from an ex teacher who made us all feel a bit like we were on a primary school trip - but it was worth getting the tour just to get the history of the place.

Then we drove up the PCH (which has to be one of the best roads in the world) for shrimp and fries (of course) at Neptune's Net.

Tuesday we all went to downtown LA so Nez could take photos for her project; saw the Disney Hall, and then had a bit of afternoon tea in the Biltmore Hotel where the Oscars were held in the 1930s.

Yesterday Nez and I went up to the Griffith Observatory which is ace - fantastic views over LA, high up so you get a lovely breeze. We both took loads of photos because I bought myself a fab little Nikon.

And later today we're due to do something pretty exciting but I'm not going to jinx the possibilities by saying anything. I'll tell you later!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Guess where I am...

Back with a proper update later - we're off out for the day so Nez can take lots more photos! And then we're going to the Chateau Marmont for a drink. Ooh, my life's tough.