Happy Birthday Victoria Wood

On 19 May, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Victoria Wood CBE, the English comedienne, actress, singer-songwriter, screenwriter and director. Wood has written and starred in sketches, plays, films and sitcoms, and her live comedy act is interspersed with her own compositions, which she accompanies on piano. She is noted for her skills in observing culture, and in satirising social classes. Wood frequently works with long-term collaborators Julie Walters, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie.

Victoria Wood winning 2 BAFTAs in 2007


Victoria Wood started her career in 1974 by winning the ATV talent show New Faces. It wasn’t until the 1980s that she began to establish herself as a comedy star and became one of Britain’s most popular stand-up comedians starting with the award-winning television series Victoria Wood As Seen On TV. Wood began working at the BBC in 1984 and her sketch show Victoria Wood As Seen On TV went into production. Wood chose actors and actresses herself: her friend Julie Walters starred, as did Duncan Preston. Wood’s friend Celia Imrie was also cast, as well as Susie Blake and Patricia Routledge. As Seen On TV was notable for featuring classic sketches such as Acorn Antiques, a spoof of low-budget soap opera and rumoured to be named after an antiques shop in her birthplace. Acorn Antiques is remembered for characters such as “Mrs Overall” (played by Walters), the deliberately bad camera angles and wobbling sets, as well as Celia Imrie’s sarcastic tone as “Miss Babs”. Below is “Episode 1” of Acorn Antiques starring Walters, Imrie and Preston.

Between 1989 and 1999, Wood began to move away from the sketch show format and into more self-contained works, often with a more bittersweet flavour. The television film, Pat and Margaret (1994), starring Wood and Julie Walters as long-lost sisters with very different lifestyles, continued her return to stand-alone plays with a poignant undercurrent to the comedy. In 1998, she wrote her first sitcom, dinnerladies, which continued her now established milieu of mostly female, mostly middle-aged characters depicted vividly and amusingly, but with a counterpoint of sadder themes.

December 2000 saw the Christmas sketch show special Victoria Wood with All The Trimmings, starring her traditional troupe of actors and actresses as well as a string of special guest stars. Here’s her parody of Brief Encounter that was one of the sketches on the show.

Wood wrote her first musical, Acorn Antiques: The Musical!, which opened in 2005 at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, for a limited period, directed by Trevor Nunn. It starred most of the original cast, with Sally Ann Triplett playing Miss Berta (played in the series by Wood). Wood played Julie Walters’ character Mrs. Overall for matinee performances.

Wood wrote the 2006 one-off ITV serious drama Housewife, 49, an adaptation of the real diaries of Nella Last, and played the eponymous role of an introverted middle-aged character who discovers new confidence and friendships in Lancashire during World War II. Housewife, 49 was critically praised, and Wood won BAFTAs for both her acting and writing for this drama — a rare double.

In 2007, Wood appeared in her own travel documentary show on BBC One called Victoria’s Empire, in which she travelled around the world in search of the history, cultural impact and customs which the British Empire placed on the parts of the world it ruled. The three programmes covered India, Hong Kong, Borneo, Ghana, Jamaica, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Zambia, finishing at the Victoria Falls.

Wood returned to television comedy for a one-off Christmas comedy sketch-show special, her first in 9 years, titled Victoria Wood’s Mid Life Christmas, transmitted on BBC One on Christmas Eve 2009. The special, which reunited Wood with long-time collaborator Julie Walters, included a spoof of BBC period dramas Lark Rise to Candleford, Little Dorrit and Cranford entitled Lark Pies to Cranchesterford, a spoof documentary following Acorn Antiques star Bo Beaumont (Walters) titled Beyond The Marigolds and a reprise of Wood’s most famous song “The Ballad of Barry and Freda” (“Let’s Do It”).

Wood has received many awards in her long career. In 1997, she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Earlier in 1994, she was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Sunderland. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.

Wood has four BAFTA wins from fourteen nominations winning Best Light Entertainment Performance in 1986 for Victoria Wood As Seen On TV and in 1989 for An Audience With Victoria Wood. In 2007, Wood won Best Actress and Best Single Drama BAFTAs for Housewife 49. In December 2011, she received the British Comedy Awards award for “Best Female TV Comic” beating competition such as Sarah Millican.

Wood is a Quaker and a vegetarian, once remarking; “I’m all for killing animals and turning them into handbags. I just don’t want to have to eat them.” She lives in Highgate, North London.

Images reproduced from gaylondontravel.com
Videos reproduced from YouTube/NickLotay and YouTube/cloogle
Biography text reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Win Tickets to BBC Good Food Show Winter

City Connect has teamed up with simply.food – the blog written by our Food Writer Nayna Kanabar – to offer readers the chance to win a pair of tickets to the BBC Good Food Show Winter taking place at the NEC Birmingham between 28 November and 2 December 2012. The Prize Draw closes on 15 November so don’t delay entering to win this fantastic opportunity to visit the Show for FREE!!!

BBC Good Food Show Winter is opening its doors on Wednesday 28 November 2012 to Sunday 2 December at the NEC Birmingham. As usual it will be packed with lots of exciting things to do, visit and shop. Some of the highlights of the show include:

Celebrity Chefs
See top celebrity chefs James Martin, Gino D’Acampo and the Hairy Bikers cooking live on stage in the Supertheatre. Plus the favourite hit TV programmes will be returning to the Show with Saturday Kitchen hosted by James Martin with celebrity guests and the Great British Bake Off with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry.

With over 400 exhibitors to choose from it is the perfect opportunity for Christmas shopping!

MasterChef Experience
The UK’s favourite TV cookery programme will be brought to life at the Show. MasterChef Champion Shelina Permalloo and Emma Kennedy, the champion of Celebrity MasterChef 2012, to the BBC Good Food Show Winter will battle it out live on stage in our MasterChef Cook Off sessions.

Producers’ Village
The Producers’ Village will be packed with small speciality producers who specialise in local and seasonal produce.The Producers’ Village, is a huge speciality food market at the heart of the show, packed with small artisan producers who pride themselves in the quality and provenance of their produce. It is the perfect place for picking up great festive produce ideal for Christmas gifts and recipes.

BBC Good Food Show Winter have teamed up with simply.food and City Connect to offer one of three pairs of tickets in this Prize Draw to 3 lucky winners. The Prize Draw is open to all UK residents and must be over 18 years of age.

For your chance to WIN one of 3 pairs of tickets, simply click here and follow the instructions to enter the prize draw. Closing date for enteries is 15 November 2012 at 6pm.

Good luck!

April Fools’ Day & Spaghetti Trees

April Fools’ Day is celebrated in many countries around the world on April 1 every year. Sometimes referred to as All Fools’ Day, April 1 is not a national holiday, but is widely recognized and celebrated as a day when many people play all kinds of jokes and foolishness. The day is marked by the commission of good-humoured or otherwise funny jokes, hoaxes, and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members and people known to the prankster.

A typical example is sending the “victim” of the prank on a so-called fools’ errand… my personal favourite was told to me by an old friend whose father sent him to the ironmongors for a “long weight”. The ironmongor (who was in on the joke) told the boy to stand in the corner… after 30 minutes of being stuck in the corner twiddling his thumbs, the ironmongor told the boy he could go back to his father because he’d had his long wait!

Traditionally in the UK the jokes only last until noon. Elsewhere, such as in France, Italy, Germany and America, the jokes last all day. In France children and some jovial adults traditionally stick paper fish on each other’s back as a trick and shout “poisson d’avril!” (translated as April fish).

But where did it all begin? What are the origins of April Fools’ Day?

Precursors of April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, held in March , and the Medieval Festival of Fools, on 28 December still a day on which pranks are played in Spanish-speaking countries.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392), the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon. Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. May 2, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean “March 32”, i.e. April 1. In Chaucer’s tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

In 1508 French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally “April fish”), a possible reference to the holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as “Fooles holy day”, the first British reference. On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”.

In the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25 in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year’s was a week-long holiday ending on April 1. Many writers suggest that April Fools originated because those who celebrated on January 1 made fun of those who celebrated on other dates.

One of my all-time favourite April Fools’ Pranks was in 1957 when the BBC fooled the nation with a report on the current affairs programme Panorama about a family in southern Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from the fictitious spaghetti tree.

"April Fools Day", "spaghetti tree", "panorama hoax", "BBC hoax"

Woman harvesting the "spaghetti tree"

The 3 minute clip was broadcast at a time when this Italian dish was not widely eaten in the UK and some people were unaware that spaghetti was in fact a type of pasta. The broadcast of the Swiss Spagetti Tree hoax was described by CNN years later as “the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled.” See the clip below that fooled a nation!

Video reproduced from YouTube / aptsarchive
Image reproduced from Wikipedia Commons
Content partly reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License