Viennese director and screenwriter Jessica Hausner attended last year’s BFI London Film Festival to support her latest film LITTLE JOE. She has been described as one of the most inventive and surprising auteurs in the Austrian arthouse scene.
In her intro on Jessica for the BFI website, Carmen Grey acknowledges through the work of Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl that we have come to expect from Austrian cinema, a perverse delight in revealing the darker impulses underneath the veneer of civilised society. Carmen writes that Jessica “leans towards that tendency, but is less interested in limit-transgressing provocation than in nudging audiences into a zone of radical uncertainty. Hausner’s are female-centred films of ideas and philosophical experimentation.”
She gained international attention in 2001, when her first feature, LOVELY RITA, a portrait of a young girl confined by family constraints, was selected for the ‘Un Certain Regard’ section at the Cannes Film Festival. Translated as ‘From another angle’, it is the prestigious French festival’s official selection of 20 films with unusual styles and non-traditional stories. Jessica’s 2019 feature LITTLE JOE has been described as a “floral Frankenstein horror.” It was in the official selection for the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where English-American actor Emily Beecham won the Best Actress Award for her portrayal of Alice Woodward, a floral breeder and single mother who creates a unique plant she calls ‘Little Joe’, after her son.
The BFI hosted ‘The Cinema of Jessica Hausner Retrospective’ from 21-29 February this year which Jessica attended. She signed this sketch when she arrived to participate in an ‘In Conversation’ event on the opening day.
One of France’s most influential contemporary filmmakers, screenwriter and director Celine Sciamma is known for exploring the themes of gender fluidity and sexual identity among women in her work. She cites David Lynch, Chantal Akerman and the writing of Virginia Woolf as major influences. Since her debut feature, WATER LILLIES in 2007, Celine has written and directed four features and was responsible for the screenplay for three other feature productions among other writing credits.
She has won numerous accolades, including a Cesar Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI, directed by Claude Barras and based on Gilles Paris’ 2002 novel ‘Autobiographies d’une Courgette’. The film was nominated for an Academy and BAFTA Award for Best Animated Feature in 2017.
Celine’s latest film, the erotic love story of two women in love, PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE screened at last year’s London Film Festival, which Celine attended along with both leads Adele Haenel and Noemie Merlant. It was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Queer Palm and the Best Screenplay Award for Celine. The film was also nominated for a Golden Globe, BAFTA and nine Cesar Awards. She is a founding member of the French branch of the ‘5050 by 2020’ movement, a group of movie industry professionals advocating gender parity in film.
Celine attended a screening and Q & A of the film at the Curzon Soho cinema last October, where she signed my sketch.
Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall has a simply simple signature. The band’s lead singer and songwriter was described by Q magazine as the “the most prodigious voice this side of Motown”.
Formed in Manchester in 1985, the soul-influenced group has sold over 50 million albums, reaching their peak from 1989 to 1995. They have had ten songs in the Top 10 UK Singles Chart and five No 1 albums. ‘Stars’ (1991) is one of the best-selling albums in UK chart history. ‘Holding Back the Years’ and ‘If You Don’t Know Me by Now’ reached number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Simply Red have won three Brit Awards with Mick winning Best British Male in 1993 and two Ivor Novello Awards, including Songwriter of the Year in 1992 and three Grammy nominations. After a five year hiatus, Simply Red reformed in 2015. Mick also produces wines from his base in Sicily under the label II Cantante’ (The Singer).
He signed his simply black sig on my drawing as he left Wogan House after the band played a cover of Otis Redding’s ‘The Dock of the Bay’ on Zoe Ball’s BBC Radio 2 show on 8 November last year, the same day they released their latest studio album ‘Blue Eyed Soul’.
American golfing sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda returned to the UK last month to participate in the Women’s British Open at Royal Troon in Scotland. Due to Covid-19 it was played without a crowd in attendance and Jessica had to withdraw at the last minute because of a non-coronavirus health issue. Both returned to the US and joined the field in the second major of the year, the ANA Inspirational on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, where Nelly narrowly missed winning her maiden major, finishing second equal after a three-way play-off with the eventual winner, Miriam Lee from South Korea and Canada’s Brooke Henderson. It did however move Nelly up to No 2 in the world rankings.
The daughters of Czech tennis Grand Slam winner Petr Korda, Jessica (27) turned professional in 2011 with Nelly (22) joining her on the LPGA tour six years later. Jessica, who has finished in the top ten in all five majors, has won five LGPA tournaments and Nelly has collected three titles. Both were members of the 2019 US Solheim Cup team.
I sent this sketch to Jessica and Nelly at Royal Troon and was delighted to receive it, signed by both. During the pandemic very few items have been coming back so I was very surprised and especially pleased when the mailman delivered this last week.
“Pam Ayres is absolutely essential to British humour, reminding us all to be tickled by the small joys and ridiculousness of everyday life,” wrote the Daily Mail in 2018. Considered one of England’s living treasures, the poet, comedian and songwriter was inspired by Bob Dylan to write poetry based on simple everyday subject matter.
Her idiosyncratic delivery is enhanced by a distinctive North Berkshire accent. She is one of the few authors who has had books in the Sunday Times bestseller charts in almost every decade since the 1970’s. In 2004 she received an MBE from the Queen.
Pam was a guest on Graham Norton’s BBC Radio 2 show last September, where she signed my sketch for me.
It took a few attempts to override spellcheck’s efforts to correct my typing of ‘Shakespears Sister’, but I prevailed, enhanching my skills as a serial misspeller. The group’s name was taken from The Smith’s song ‘Shakespeare’s Sister’, which was based on a 1928 Virginia Woolf essay and lecture. Delving further, it was apparently misspelt – dropping the final ‘e’ – in a woodcut artwork for the group’s first single sleeve. The apostrophe ‘subsequently surrendered to pop music.’
Anyway, after that rambling intro and a 26 year gap, Shakespears Sister reunited and played at the London Palladium last November as part of the ‘Ride Again Tour’ tour to support their compilation album ‘Singles Party’ and EP ‘Ride Again’. Formed in 1988, initially as a solo act by Irish singer-songwriter and former member of Bananarama, Siobhan Fahey, Shakespears Sister became a duet a year later when Siobhan was joined by American musician Marcella Detroit. Success and accolades followed with two Top 10 albums and a string of hits, including ‘Stay’ which, true to its meaning, stayed at No 1 on the singles chart for eight weeks, winning a 1992 Brit Award for Video of the Year. It also reached the Top 5 in the US. Their second studio album ‘Hormonally Yours’ achieved double platinum in the UK, spending 55 weeks on the charts with three Top 20 singles. It received the 1993 Ivor Novello Award. In May 2019 the duo performed ‘Stay’ on the Graham Norton Show, their first TV performance since 1993.
Siobhan and Marcella both kindly signed my sketch at the London Palladium after their 5 November performance.
British actress Fay Ripley’s breakthrough role was Jenny Gifford in Granada Television’s production for the ITV network’s award-winning comedy-drama COLD FEET. It’s one of my favourite TV shows, following three couples experiencing the ups-and-downs of romance. The six core cast members were James Nesbitt and Helen Baxendale (Adam and Rachel), Hermione Norris and Robert Bathurst (Karen and David) and Fay and John Thomson (Jenny and Pete).
The nine series includes 60 episodes, beginning with the pilot in early 1997. Fay was part of the main cast through to 2003, guest starring during series five, when she divorced Pete and moved to New York with their son. Fay returned for the second run, starting in September 2016 until February this year. COLD FEET has won 20 major awards, including the BAFTA for Best Drama Series and the National Television Award for Most Popular Comedy Programme. The series also received an International Emmy Award nomination.
Fay is the only cast member to be nominated for a BAFTA Award. She said of her character, “Jenny’s very ballsy and speaks her mind, but she’s more sensitive than people than people give her credit for. She’s seen as very hard, but I don’t think she is – it’s just that she won’t show her vulnerability to everyone.”
Fay signed my sketch at Wogan House after appearing on Graham Norton’s BBC Radio Two show in January this year.
Twenty-one year old Sam Tutty made his West End debut late last year to rave reviews. Playing the title character in the London run of the Broadway musical sensation DEAR EVEN HANSEN, Sam, a recent graduate from the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, plays a teenager with social anxiety. DEAR EVAN HANSEN was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre in the Winter of 2016. It was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning six.
The story of teenage isolation has provided and encouraged open dialogue about its themes of mental illness and youth suicide. Evan Hansen is assigned by his therapist to write daily letters to himself about why every day will be good, which becomes the catalyst for the plot-hence the title DEAR EVAN HANSEN.
It transferred to London’s Noel Coward Theatre with previews beginning in October 2019, before opening on 19 November. “It captures the agonies of youth, allows the songs to grow out of the action and boasts a great role, here memorably taken by Sam Tutty for its lead actor,” wrote the Guardian’s veteran critic Michael Billington.
Sam had stiff competition for the lead role during auditions-competing against 8,000 other aspirants. After 13 callbacks he was offered the alternate Evan Hansen before finally securing the lead. He has since won the WhatsOnStage Award for his performance and is nominated for an Oliver, which was due to be presented at the Royal Albert Hall in April, but was cancelled due to the coronavirus. An announcement of the winners is expected this Autumn.
Sam signed my sketch at the Noel Coward stage door in January this year prior the shutdown of the production due to the pandemic, but is due to reopen “as early as practical” in 2021.
One of the world’s best-known gymnasts, Romanian Nadia Comaneci won five Olympic gold medals, all in individual events. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics the fourteen-year-old Nadia became the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10 score, a feat thought unobtainable. After performing on the uneven bars the scoreboard only allowed three digits and was displayed as 1.00 until it was announced she had scored the perfect 10. She went on to achieve a further six perfect 10’s at that Summer Olympiad, three on the uneven bars and three on the balance beam.
Four years later at the Moscow Olympics, Nadia won another two golds for the balance beam and floor exercise. She has won a total of nine Olympic medals, collecting a silver and a bronze in Montreal and a silver in Moscow. Nadia also won two World Championship and World Cup gold medals and nine European Championship titles.
Since the early 1990s Nadia has lived in Oklahoma, where she and her husband American gold-medalist Bart Conner operate a Gymnastic Academy. I sent Nadia a sketch a few years ago, which came back signed, but damaged in the post so I sent another smaller drawing last year which arrived back this weekend.
One of Britain’s greatest living classical composer-conductors, Sir George Benjamin celebrated his 60th birthday leading the Philharmonia Orchestra in A DUET AND A DREAM at London’s Royal Festival Hall in early March this year. From composing at the age of seven Sir George has become one of today’s most prominent composers, conductors, pianists and music teachers, regularly appearing with some of the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles. Sir George taught composition at The Royal College of Music for sixteen years becoming the first Prince Consort Professor of Composition before succeeding Sir Harrison Birtwistle as the Henry Purcell Professor of Composition at Kings College London in 2001. The recipient of numerous international accolades, Sir George’s honours include the Commandeer de l’Ordre des Arts des Lettres and a Knighthood.
He kindly signed my sketch at the RFH after one of the Southbank venue’s last performances before it closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. All concerts have been cancelled until December this year.