Sweetie Pie And The Guttermen // An Introduction to: Sweetie Pie And The Guttermen // Out Now

First appeared on Never Enough Notes on 14 September 2011

Sweetie Pie And The Guttermen look like a band capable of a good old knees up. Armed with tambourines, harmonicas, a good bass and everything else needed for a proper country folk shin dig, they also have the depth of sound you would expect from a six-piece band.

Located in London, Sweetie Pie And The Guttermen have been together about a year getting their name from a short story by Sylvia Plath. This EP is billed as an introduction to the band and it fits the purpose, keeping it short and to the point.

First song, Love And Gin is a swinging track with all the right components there, nice intro, nice singing, nice tune, it’s very nice. Forget What Did and its uplifting harmonies are subtly cheery, in a look to the bright future kind of way, and The Puppeteer has an amiable clip clop beat with a country edge.

The EP is pleasing to the ear and has all the right things in the right places – it’s just a bit flat. It’s relatively early days though and the band has been out on the festival circuit this year putting in the ground work to grow for the future.



The Pooh Sticks // 03/09/11 // Globe, Cardiff

First appeared on Never Enough Notes on September 6 2011.

This is Swansea band The Pooh Sticks’ last ever show in Wales. Probably. Buoyed by a successful comeback after 15 years at last year’s Indie Tracks, the band have decided to give gigging another go for a limited time only.

It’s clear, from this packed room of raucous and excitable indie pop fans to Pulp’s successful reformation and performances at this year’s Reading and Leeds, that there is still a place for old-school indie pop in 2011. And it seems The Pooh Sticks can be thanked for this continuing success as Pulp, The Cranberries and Cast all supported them back in the day. As singer Huw Williams told the “South Wales Echo”, ‘it was quite depressing, supporting The Pooh Sticks meant that you were going to be selling hundreds of thousands of records two years later’.

Huw went on to have a successful career behind the scenes in the music industry, and that was that.

Tonight they are back at Cardiff’s Globe, a venue which has the Cardiff rumour mill in overdrive as at closes, opens, closes and changes hands. It is well and truly open for business now though and security must be biting their tongues as The Pooh Sticks continue to be a band they should issue hard hats for on the door. An inflatable pink ball bounces overhead throughout the set, including hitting most band members in the face at least once. There are also low flying chocolate éclair sweets, and a number of cardboard placards lovingly crafted by the band bob among the crowd stating things like ‘Swansea Posh’ and ‘Indie Pop Extremist’.

Indie Pop Extremists is a good description for The Pooh Sticks as they storm through their set, selecting songs from their history including the ‘early funny ones’ (complete with cardboard placard), and their more mainstream power pop tracks like “The World Is Turning On” from their 1993 album “Million Seller”. Williams has just the right amount of bravado and sarcasm for a frontman and long-term guest vocalist Amelia Fletcher also gives a great performance, impressive as it‘s her second set of the night after supporting with her band Tender Trap.

With every band member having so many other projects on it’s hard to say when they will gig again and whether the threat of this being their last ever Welsh gig will be realised. But when the time and place is right there is always room for the placards and self aware indie songs to return.


Palestine Film Festival 2011 Review: Children of the Revolution

First appeared on Ctrl.Alt.Shift on 16 May 2011

Amy Hall reviews Shane O’Sullivan’s Children of the Revolution. A film about complex mother/daughter relationships and the legacy of of two famous militants…

Families are complicated, and with every generation they get more so. This is the focus of Children of The Revolution, a documentary mainly described through the eyes the daughters of two notorious and controversial militants: Ulrike Meinhof and Fusako Shigenobu.

Neither daughter has followed in their mother’s footsteps but they have very different views on their upbringings and the things their mothers did to try and further their cause.

Both Ulrike Meinhof and Fusako Shigenobu became interested in violent direct action groups around 1968 when the smell of revolution was in the air across the globe. Although Meinhof, with her husband Klaus Röhl, had been heavily involved politics for a while, Shigenobu first became inspired into activism after joining a protest on student fees just before she started university.

Bettina Röhl, the daughter of Ulrike Meinhof, is now also a journalist with a small daughter and says that this has brought her further away from understanding her mother’s behaviour, especially towards her and her twin sister Regine. Mei Shigenobu, despite also being separated from her mother for long periods as she grew up in the Middle East, describes the loving community that surrounded her.

Perhaps what makes the film so interesting is that it contains a huge amount of archive material. As well as old photographs and news reel there are interviews with both of Bettina’s parents. It is easy to see the source of Bettina’s resentment for her mother and also how torn Meinhof felt as she says a female political activist is “disarmed by her children”, that her private life is set against her political life – the “source of women’s oppression”.

The film does contain a lot of violent images, and neither daughters are in support of this. While Bettina sees her mother as simply a terrorist, Mei seems to think that was the way activists needed to get noticed at the time – doing a big action and then releasing statement. But she adds that with the growth of the internet and independent media means that this is outdated. It is also unclear what actions Fusako Shigenobu was actually involved in.

This film is a fascinating look at the intricate weavings of the family and relationship between mothers and daughters, which even those not interested in the political landscape can relate to. But it is also a snapshot of the revolutionary spirit of the late 1960s and 1970s and how sometimes that was exploited to commit acts of extreme violence. It is clearly rooted in the time period it is set, although there are links made between the movements the two women were involved in, there are not so many with the present. But then, as Mei points out as she is filmed in her work as a television anchor:  “From where you start history thinks look differently.”

Live Below The Line: Day 5

The final day of Live Below The Line is here. I must admit I’ve gone a bit crazy today, eating more than I have the rest of the week as I know what’s left so please don’t judge me when you read what I’ve eaten! I even managed the three course dinner this evening, half a tin of vegetable soup with pitta and then surprisingly good pasta with sauce and onion then chocolate biscuits.


One thing I am sick of the sight of is Basics ready salted crisps. I don’t really eat crisps normally and at first it was quite a treat but although they have been a useful snack, I should have bought something healthier and nicer – maybe some tinned fruit or something. I still had four packs left, so far have managed to give away two. Another thing I won’t miss is the lack of fruit, veg and pulses. It has made me think about how much I overeat though and also that I really need to cycle more.

Of course these are all things I can choose and again it reminds me about one of the aims of the challenge – to raise awareness about extreme poverty. I have had a glimpse that energy levels will suffer as a result of a diet without much fruit, veg and protein but I can choose to eat more healthily from tomorrow. If I actually lived in extreme poverty I wouldn’t be able to.

Also I only had a £1 a day budget for certain areas of my life whereas many people have that for everything. They also wouldn’t have the option of blowing any money left from that £1 a day at the end of the week as they would need to save it for the next.

Another thing that has been bothering me is how cheap the food can be in the supermarket. Is it really possible to make, package and sell for that? I know there is less packaging in value ranges and less of a mark up but I feel that people here and abroad, like farmers, small shopkeepers and people helping to manufacture what we buy must be loosing out.

Course 2

There is no ‘value’ option in many places. One of the only reasons we have the option of such cheap food is because massive corporations exploit the labour of vulnerable people across the globe as well as here in the UK. In a system where profit is king and economics is increasingly international and interdependent, multinationals, which can produce cheap and luxury goods for the wealthy have the biggest power.

I am glad my fundraising target has been hit and thank you so much to everyone who has sponsored me so far, it’s really generous and your money will be going to help some amazing projects all over the world run by local people and benefiting their communities. If you want to find out more about the kind of projects Christian Aid funds there’s a great Poverty Over section on the Guardian website here, including some inspiring short films.

I’m off to Brighton tomorrow with a couple of friends and would like nothing more than to spend the whole day eating vegetables, which would please my mother. I also fancy a massive drink, which might not.


Total Spent: 0p

Total money left at the end of the week: 7p

Food Eaten:

Breakfast – two remaining crumpets

Mid morning snack – chocolate biscuit

Lunch – one pitta with coleslaw, instant noodles, chocolate biscuit

Mid afternoon snack – chocolate biscuit

Waiting for dinner snack – toasted pitta

Dinner –  half tin of soup and pitta, pasta with sauce and onion, chocolate biscuit

If you have any spare cash you can sponsor me here 

Or if anyone fancies taking on the Live Below The Line challenge you can do it anytime, just check out the website here.

Live Below The Line: Day 4

With one day left to go I decided to blow the rest of my budget when I got back to London. As a vegetarian, I eat a lot of pulses but I realised last night that I haven’t been eating them this week and am really missing them. Pulses are such a good source of energy so I invested in a good ol’ tin of baked beans.


I’d worked out how much food I had left for the next two days and as well as being able to splash out on beans I discovered that cheapo pasta sauce actually costs less than tinned tomatoes in my local supermarket, and it serves four, and it has herbs in it. Apparently it tastes horrible but it has herbs, how can it be worse than plain tinned tomatoes? This, along with two onions, and the rest of the uncooked pasta, means I can cook up a three course meal for my friend who is staying tomorrow night. I had told her she would have to bring her own dinner but now we have a right feast to look forward to.

In other good news, maybe too much information, but the saddle sore I experienced yesterday morning has nearly disappeared after a day and a half off the bike. It was safe and sound when I arrived back at work this evening but I did loose my bike lock keys twice today and had visions of either trying to break the lock and being accused of stealing my own bike, having to break the rules again and getting the bus home, or walking four miles back, not the option I would have chosen but it would have been my own choice if I actually lived in extreme poverty. If I actually lived in extreme poverty I would be lucky to have a bike in the first place, even if it is nearly as old as I am.


Pasta sauce – 18p

Baked Beans – 28p

Two Onions – 21p

Total Spent: 67p

Food Eaten

Breakfast – crumpet and apple

Lunch – The rest of the leftover pasta and more coleslaw

Mid afternoon snack – crisps

Dinner – Beans on toasted pitta bread and two chocolate biscuits

I’ve found out that the musical experience that is Marc Nicholas have a song dedicated to the Sainsbury’s Basics range – it is my theme for the week and you can find it here.

If you have some spare cash and want to sponsor me, you can visit my fundraising page here.

Live Below The Line: Day 3

OK, so its time to come clean: I’d actually broken my own rules before I’d even started. Last week, when I’d already set up my fundraising page, I found out I had an interview tomorrow…in Cardiff. I could have said no to it I guess but I didn’t so I decided to relax my rules and buy a return bus ticket to Cardiff costing £12.50 which I am sat on as I start to write this. It’s just another reminder that, lucky for me, this isn’t my life.

I cycled to work as normal leaving my bike there to walk to the bus. I will then do the same in reverse on the way home tomorrow – hope there’s not many bike thieves reading this!

Going away for 24 hours means I have had to plan ahead with food, bringing my meals with me, despite my boyfriend, who I’m staying with, wanting to feed me. I am sat on the bus trying hard not to eat tomorrow’s rations as I write this.

I am over half way through the challenge now and its going well (apart from the bus blip) but I am really starting to miss fruit and vegetables and regretting not investing in more pulses. Things to keep in mind if I do it again next year.

The end is in sight though and I’m only £10 away from my fundraising target of £150.

If you have some spare cash and want to sponsor me, you can visit my fundraising page here


Food and socialising £0

Travel £12.50

Food Eaten

Breakfast – crumpet and apple

Mid afternoon – chocolate biscuit

Lunch – instant noodles, crisps

Mid after noon – chocolate biscuit

Bus ride snack – crips, chocolate biscuit

Dinner – tomato soup and pitta bread

Live Below The Line: Day 2

Just a quick one tonight as my bed is calling me. Mainly sharing some things I have learnt today:

I am not fit. I used to be a lot less tired after cycling the amount I have today, but I think a combination of poor diet and lack of fitness means today has tired me out a bit.

Places look different in the day than in the night. I went to review a film for work (technically work and free for a review ticket so no rules broken – review to follow) which started at 8.30pm. Part of me wanted to stay around in town and avoid cycling home and back but I also thought most waiting around options would involve spending, or being tempted to spend so I took advantage of cycling back to drop of some stuff and have an hour to myself. I then proceeded to get lost at lest twice on the way to the cinema, met my friends in a sweaty mess. I thought I had the journey back nailed but then got really lost. I seemed to have missed a crucial turning so followed cycle route signs to Camberwell, the next biggish place I needed to be. Turns out, what I knew but seem to have forgotten tonight, that cycle routes are not always the most direct route but I got there in the end.

My sweet tooth is very demanding. Although I have been full most of the time over the last two days, I saw the person opposite me at work (also on Live Below the Line) tuck into a custard cream and realised that was what I was craving, some kind of sweet snack. So on my trip to the shop on the way home I got a pack of chocolate digestives and have already eaten four.

There are so many ways to do this challenge. After comparing motes at work people seem to have different, equally as good approaches. Some have gone for blandness over quantity whereas others are eating less but having more extravagant meals. Our web editor though seems to have an impressive stash partly thanks to scouring the shelves for things going cheap about to go out of date, including cheese which would normally blow a fair chunk of the budget. The competitiveness has set in though and he found himself having to prove over email that, yes he could get all that food for £3.50, photos and all.


Chocolate Digestives – 37p

Pitta Bread – 25p

One apple – 16p

Total spent: 78p

Non Live Below The Line Spending: £4.50 on a pack of tights

Food Eaten

Breakfast – apple and crumpet

Lunch – coleslaw in pitta bread and a packet of crisps

Mid Afternoon – packet of crisps

Dinner – left over pasta and coleslaw, two biscuits

Midnight snack – two biscuits

If you have some spare cash and want to sponsor me, you can visit my fundraising page here