Automatic transmission: is Britain ready for driverless cars?

By Lee Gale

Do you claim to be the best driver on the road? Well, your crown might be slipping. In last year’s budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond proclaimed that driverless vehicles will be seen on UK roads from 2021 – and that we’d better be prepared for it.

There are clear advantages of self-driving cars. For a start, the road would be opened up to people who previously were unable to get behind the wheel. The blind, disabled and elderly would find themselves with an independence that previous generations could only have dreamed about. And Friday nights at countryside pubs would be back on the agenda.

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Champion Sound: Moss from Daytoner

The bit of the website where someone of sonic sophistication supplies a selection of serious dance-floor stompers.

Moss from Daytoner, DJ, modern funk & soul leviathan and regular on BBC Radio 6 Music’s The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show.

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Out of the Question: a British Ideas Corporation evening with Luke Haines

If you were one of the 60-odd people in attendance at British Ideas Corporation’s inaugural Out of the Question Q&A evening at the Half Moon in Putney, London on 30 April – featuring stalwart singer-songwriter/author Luke Haines in the hot seat (well, it was more of a traditional wooden pub chair) – hopefully you’ll have been so impressed that it became the main topic of conversation over your fully cooked English and Nurofen the following morning. We had a smashing evening and can’t wait for the next Out of the Question on 25 June with Barnsley-born actor David Bradley (Billy Casper from Kes).

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The generator game: a visit to Drax Power Station

Despite the industrial ravages of the Eighties, the landscape of Doncaster in England’s unfeasibly flat north-east is still one of railway sidings, chimneys and canals. There is, however, a recent exclusion from the horizon. Colliery winding gear, so long a feature of the terrain, has vanished, although from the window of a Hull-bound train you’ll still see the odd slagheap sprawled out like an oversized, fast-asleep Labrador. Coal, which powered the industrial revolution and the engines of the British Empire, is no longer mined in Yorkshire. In 1984, there were 56 pits in the region but the 2015 closure of Hatfield and Kellingley collieries brought to an end an industry that had been active since Roman times.

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One foot in the groove: Cock & Bull Festival 2016

When your knees have started to knock and there are too many miles on the clock, the idea of spending a weekend in the sprawling metropolis of Glastonbury brings on a sense of unease rather than excitement. All that expanse, all those people and, can you believe it?, Coldplay!

Nowadays, of course, there are more festivals than bands but for those of us not overly fussed about standing three-quarters of a mile down a field to watch Muse on a distant screen, there are options. Take the Cock & Bull Festival near Bath, for example, a 500-capacity gathering that manages to mix music, DJs, farm animals, decent food and reasonably priced drinks. Cock & Bull is more Livestock than Woodstock, with pigs, cows and sheepdogs all delighted that you could make it.

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A load of Cock & Bull: the West’s truly alternative festival

So your mobile phone ran out of battery when you were trying to book tickets through the Glastonbury hotline and SXSW is a little too south by south-west for your building-society account to cope with. But ask yourself what you’re really missing. Are you desperate to listen to the foul-mouthed Adele jabbering to 100,000 revellers in an accent not heard in London since the doodlebugs were dropping? As for SXSW, it was in March – it’s gone, you’re too late.

There are still festival options if you’re willing to act quickly and not muck about. British Ideas Corporation heard great things about the 500-capacity Cock & Bull Festival in Bath last year, mostly from South-east-based DJs who had played sets on-site and convinced us that these more intimate gatherings were the future of UK summer fun, especially for people of more advancing years – whatever that meant. Some of this year’s acts are even appearing at major UK festivals, so here’s your chance to catch them close up. Like Glastonbury, the Cock & Bull is on a farm and also assisting a charitable cause – and we’re told the beer will be “normally priced”. We chat with Henry Trew, Cock & Bull’s event organiser, to find out more.

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Champion Sound: Andrew Collins

The bit of the website where someone of sonic sophistication supplies a selection of serious dance-floor stompers.

Andrew Collins, writer and broadcaster

“I rarely DJ any more outside of family gatherings, but could. When I sold my entire vinyl collection for practical reasons in 2005, I held on to my 7” singles, which, miraculously, fit into a flight case that’s too heavy to comfortably carry, and a selection of cherished Eighties 12”s that fit into a flight case that’s easy to carry. Between the two containers, I could do you a pretty sound Seventies/Eighties/Nineties disco night. Or, with my laptop, something for the kids, but never mind them.” – Andrew Collins, May 2016

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Recommended: Bad Wisdom

Bad Wisdom: The Lighthouse At The Top Of The World
Book by Bill Drummond & Mark Manning (Penguin, 1996)

It’s winter 1992 and self-proclaimed Zen Masters Bill Drummond, formerly of The KLF, Mark Manning aka Zodiac Mindwarp and former Jesus Jones roadie and Falklands War veteran Gimpo embark on a drive to the North Pole in a rental Ford Escort whereupon they intend to lay a picture of Elvis Presley on the ground, perform a kung-fu dance, light some joss sticks and save Earth. Written as part factual-ish on-the-road account and part fantasy adventure, the mix of endless driving, bingo, daytime radio and warped carnage (Viking ice-biker chainsaw battles, lakes of blood, extreme Nordic mind trips where you swim with dolphins for a billion years) means that once the journey is over, it’ll feel pointless ever booking a holiday again. LG

Brighton rock: The Great Escape festival

By Lee Gale

Seagulls pinching chips from kids is one thing but swiping a cheese-and-onion sandwich from the hand of a ravenously hungry adult is a dangerous new development. A flash of feathers and a flap of webbed feet and it’s off. To add insult to injury, a punch aimed at the departing bird goes wildly astray and for a moment, I am an unwitting and unpaid comedy act at Brighton’s Great Escape festival. Naturally, titters follow from lunchtime drinkers. The seagull flaps its mighty wings just twice and lands on the roof of a nearby Pizza Express: job done. Continue reading Brighton rock: The Great Escape festival