Barton Bike Night 2017

Barton Bike Night, the highlight of East Coast motorbike culture, is usually held on a Wednesday but this year it took place on a Saturday, (July 8th to be exact) and we went along to take a look at the show.

There were, of course, motorcycles of all kinds on show, from vintage bikes to the most up to date, racers and scrambles machines, Harleys dripping with chrome, goth trikes decorated with skulls and even a motorbike and sidecar kitted out for delivering milk door to door.

The weather was gorgeous and thousands of riders and spectators descended on the town for a fantastic celebration of everything two wheeled and even a few three wheelers in the shape of classic Morgan three wheelers.

We’re not expert enough to tell you much detail about was on display so suffice it to say that everyone had a great time and here’s to next year. We’ll get our motors running for that.

The Peoples Visits Duffy’s Chocolate In Wilton Road

It can stop angry delivery drivers dead in their tracks and make them all sweetness and light”, explains Duffy Sheardown when I comment on the amazing aroma in his factory. “They come in all huffy and ‘I’ve just spent half an hour looking for you’ and then suddenly it’s ‘Wow what’s that amazing smell?’ And then they’re smiling like kids. Chocolate will do that to you.”

It’s certainly a rich and almost euphoria inducing aroma. And it seems to stay around. For several days after my visit I feel as if I get an occasional waft of it. In the park. In the living room. In the garden. For a few days it seems like the whole world is full of chocolate.

Duffy Sheardown has been producing high quality chocolate in his premises in Wilton Road for seven years. He’s a chocolate maker, not a chocolatier. Chocolatiers make things out of chocolate.
Before that he worked in the motor racing industry, fabricating bodywork components for teams in Formula 1 and in sports car racing. One wall of the factory is filled with colour photographs of the cars he helped build.

And then one day it just came to an end.

‘I was driving with the boss to look at a house to rent near the team base. He got a phone call in the car and it was the main sponsor announcing that he had pulled out. That was it. No more team. I was unemployed.’

So what led him into the chocolate industry?

‘I was looking for a challenge. I saw a TV programme that said that there was only one firm making chocolate from beans in the whole of the UK. And I thought “I could do that”’.
Did he have any previous experience?

‘No. but I thought “How hard can it be?” I did plenty of research. And then we set up.’

Was it difficult to learn?

‘Not really he says. We buy the best cocoa beans in the world and then we try not to make a mess of them. That’s about it.’

He says it so disarmingly for a few seconds I almost believe him. But not really.

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which are actually the dried and fermented seeds of Theobrama cacao, a tall elegant tree that grows in Central and South America, Africa and Indonesia. The best beans are from the new world, especially Venezuela, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Nicaragua. When processed they yield both cocoa solids and cocoa butter, a fine quality vegetable oil.

Of the three varieties principally used in chocolate making the rarest and most sought after (and therefore of course the most expensive), is the criollo. It is grown principally in the Americas but it’s a difficult crop and it makes up only 5% of world cocoa bean production.

Most common is the Forestero, grown extensively in Africa. The third variety of bean is the Trinitartio – a hybrid of the other two, again principally grown in the Americas.

Duffy’s chocolate is made only from Criollo and Trinitario beans. Mostly he produces single estate varieties so that customers know the exact source of the ingredients and he purchases via the Direct Cacao scheme, which is a bit like Fairtrade but better because under the Direct Cacao scheme growers are paid what they ask for their crop, with no quibbling. In return they commit to producing top quality beans that artisan chocolate makers require. Rather like good whisky it’s dark and richly flavoured with hints of vanilla or raspberries or citrus. Each estate’s product has its own unique flavour spectrum and it’s reassuringly expensive. Not arm and a leg second mortgage expensive but expensive enough that you know you’re buying something special. This isn’t lunchbox chocolate, this is artisan chocolate, for treating someone special.

Or for treating yourself.

Duffy’s call themselves ‘bean to bar’ producers which means that they take delivery of raw beans and process everything in house until the finished product is complete. No shortcuts, no substitutes.

The process starts with the roasting, shelling and sorting of the cocoa beans. Then they’re placed in large stainless steel vats where they are ground by rotating granite rollers. As the cocoa butter is released so the ground beans liquify. On the second day organic cane sugar is added and some cocoa butter for texture. At the end of the process a little sunflower lecithin is added to prevent the formation of bubbles. That’s all there is to it.

It takes between two and three days to completely turn to chocolate and for all the complex flavours to come through and each batch of 30kg of beans produces only 300 bars of completed product. Of course they could buy machines to do a lot of the work and increase production massively but you just know from being here that that isn’t the point.

The liquid chocolate is tempered on a granite slab and poured into moulds, cooled and then wrapped by hand ready to go out to specialist shops and enthusiasts all over the world.
(If we’ve whetted your appetite for knowing more then there’s some fascinating background information and an excellent video on the Duffy’s website at www.duffyschocolate.co.uk.)

And of course it tastes fantastic and it’s in high demand from chocolate enthusiasts all over the world. The factory only produces about 25,000 bars a year however so it doesn’t hang around. It’s available by mail order and via the Duffy’s website as well as from a select few retailers, including not only Deli-Licious in St Peter’s Avenue and Fortnum & Mason’s in Piccadilly but chocolate specialists all round the world. They have been awarded gold medals twice by the Academy of Chocolate.

We’re visiting the factory on the occasion of its open day, celebrating the businesses extension into the unit next door, in which Lindsay Gardner of Louth’s very own Spire Chocolates will be making her famous chocolate products including boxes of chocolates, chocolate bark, polar bears and alpacas. It’s an ideal tie up – superb Lincolnshire chocolate and delicious Lincolnshire chocolates made on the same premises.

They’ll be offering courses and experience days as well and if you’re a chocolate aficionado then a visit to Duffy’s, for a chocolate making and tasting session is something you won’t want to miss.

And then there’s the smell. Did I mention the smell?


Further information about Duffy’s Chocolate and their online shop can be found on their website at www.duffyschocolate.co.uk

Spire Chocolates are at www.spirechocolates.co.uk

Don’t Let the Robots Eat Me (At Least Not In Hull)

The Flaming Lips
Zebedee’s Yard , Hull
25th May 2017

Hull’s newest music venue is Zebedee’s Yard, close to the quayside. a car park by day, hemmed in by the backs of Victorian warehouses and office buildings. It might sound unglamorous but in practice it works just great, and while it’s probably destined to be a one summer only thing for the City of Culture celebrations it would be nice if it could continue to be used for the future because the city needs an pop up venue like this.

It certainly makes a great and slightly disorientating backdrop for The Flaming Lips,a band for whom great and slightly disorientating are the rule rather than the exception and they give us a show that certainly makes it into my top ten ever, an explosion of music, colour and joy whose psychedelia is only enhanced by the venue’s anachronistic red brick bowl.

Everybody’s favourite young fogeys, Public Service Broadcasting, are the main support, equipped with tech and traditional instruments in equal measure and dressed as if they knew the yard’s buildings when they were young.

It’s the first time I’ve seen them live and I’ll admit to sometimes harbouring grave suspicions about bands that play computers on stage. I’ve vented them in QRO reviews on occasion, so I’m ashamed to admit that I have relatively low expectations of PSB. In my defence I’ll just say that it takes about fifteen seconds to realise that they aren’t what I’m expecting at all. No crouching over the decks gesticulating like they’re communicating in some sort of sign language for the constipated. No dancing on tables. None of the shouting “Come on Hull make some fucking noise” which usually passes for literacy for players of the Apple Mac and related instruments.

Their complex weaving of live music and samples is completely thrilling and even if I’m not dancing, (which puts me very much in the minority), I am completely mesmerised. No good asking me about the first few songs because I’m busy with cameras but I spend the rest of the set getting my head round their sound, which takes some time.

It’s not until The Other Side, which deploys samples from the Apollo 8 mission, that I start to pick the threads from the complexity sufficiently to understand what’s going on. It’s a great track with the tension rising throughout,like a hundred heartbeats woven into one until it reaches a massive crescendo.

Favourite tracks are hard to call because it still all felt very new but Everest, which closes the set, is incredible and when Public Service Broadcasting leave the stage I have a new favourite band.

And then we’re all set for the main event. As a prequel nets filled with huge balloons are manoeuvred into the gangway at the side of the stage but so bijou is Zebedee’s Yard the crew are unable to get them past the scaffold structure. After several minutes of effort, filled with the sound of popping rubber, they give up and the balloons are distributed to the crowd by way of a human chain. It’s an impressive piece of work.

It’s my first live encounter with The Flaming Lips, a band whose shows have achieved legendary status. The previous night they were at Glastonbury, closing things up on the Park Stage. Tonight it’s a car park in Hull. It might seem like a bit of a come down but you have to remember that this year Hull is the official UK city of real, proper culture, and Glastonbury is, as ever, the home of middle class beardy weirdy wannabe culture.

It’s difficult to know how to approach a Flaming Lips review. If you’ve seen them before you won’t need a description. If you haven’t then you probably won’t believe me.

The balloons having been pretty much eliminated by the end of Race For The Prize, Wayne Coyne, dressed in crimson velvet, is joined on stage by several large inflatable manga characters for a glorious Yoshimi. For the first time ever I miss loads of shots because I am too busy singing along. When There Should Be Unicorns trots in Coyne rides a ten foot luminous equine monocerous into the crowd. It’s a dangerous thing to attempt and the only safety gear with which he is equipped are some inflatable rainbow wings and a pair of fluffy green crocodile feet. If it all sounds a bit predictable then all I can do is promise you that it’s great. The unicorn completes a full circuit of Zebedee’s Yard and Coyne dismounts.

After that it all gets a bit weird.

The hamster ball comes out for a strangely poignant Space Oddity and there’s a giant rainbow, more confetti cannons than you can shake a stick at, and a large inflatable Fuck Yeah Hull sign which has a much more pleasing symmetry than the previous night’s bottom heavy Fuck Yeah Glastonbury.

What’s most important though is that at no point in the whole bizarre process does the quality of the performance ever slip below fantastic. There may be a lot of nonsense in the air but it isn’t allowed to compromise the music.

The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song is a huge singalong and Coyne seems pleasantly surprised at how many people are able to join in with verses as well as chorus. The show winds up with a storming She Don’t Use Jelly and a tender and lovely Beatles tinged Do You Realize, which has the crowd singing as they leave.

JEFF LYNNE’S ELO DAZZLE AT THE KCOM STADIUM

Sometimes you leave a show with a review almost written in your mind already. Sometimes you can’t think of a word to say. And sometimes you just leave shaking your head gently and thinking did I really just see that and how am I going to describe it to people who weren’t that lucky.

The visit of Jeff Lynne’s ELO to the KCOM Stadium in Hull on Saturday July 1st was one of the latter kind, not just great music but a light show that would have been worth going to see in its own right plus excellent support from the Shires and Ben Chaplin, formerly of Keane.

The good people of Hull turned out in force to welcome a man who has become synonymous with a sound, achieving a celebrity not unlike that of Brian Wilson, as the guiding light and chief creative force behind one of those bands who had maybe slipped our minds for a while but for whom the zeitgeist has returned so that they’re probably bigger now than they ever were in their heyday.

Nostalgia? We’ll leave that for another night. This was simply a joyful celebration of everything that’s fine about great pop music. Yes the hits kept coming. Yes mums and dads, and some of their mums and dads too, were up and dancing away, (in many cases pretty well) but there were plenty of kids and grandkids present and many times the biggest cheers were for lesser known songs from the ELO canon, such as Rockaria or Can’t Get It Out Of My Head.

When I Was A Boy from 2015’s Alone In The Universe wass well received, as were The Travelling Wilbury’s Handle With Care and Xanadu, which most of us remember as an Olivia Newton John song (although ELO wrote and played the soundtrack and Lynne provided paranthetic vocals on the original).

Technically it was a masterpiece. How do they get the music to sound almost exactly like the original album cuts in a football ground? Heaven knows, but they do. As for the staging, well what can you say. One of the widest stages I’ve ever seen, so much so that they set it along one side of the stadium and not a the goal ends, equipped with huge davits full of lights, screens that towered into the night sky, and surmounting it all the red, yellow and blue disc of the ELO spaceship which emitted lights and clouds of steam as appropriate during the course of the evening.

Of course the hits are what people have come to see, and why not, and there are plenty of them from Evil Woman, near the beginning of the show to closer Mr Blue Skies, for which we all stand singing ‘the sun is shining in the sky’ into the blackness and while it’s true that there isn’t a cloud in sight that’s because it’s too dark.

By the end of the show Lynne and the band have done just about enough to remind us what a unique sound they have/had and so they finish with a neat and dirty version of Roll Over Beethoven. It’s like saying “Look I fooled you all. It’s just rock and roll really.” And it may well be, but it’s great rock and roll.