Monday, 26 May 2014

White Gold @ Greenock Sugar Sheds

Magic Torch have a bit of history with the Sugar Sheds, having first proposed them as a potential cultural space way back in 2002, then through our campaign of a few years back. So we're always interested in seeing what's happening in them as time moves slowly on. And what's happening in June, is a really ambitious performance piece called White Gold, staged as part of the Commonwealth Games celebrations.

It's a show you can only see here, about people from this town, featuring local folks performing in one of our most historic buildings. Last week, I was lucky enough to get a wander through the sheds and a spoiler free overview of some of the things that are planned for the performances. It sounds fantastic. Take a friend, take yer school, community group, darts's a real one off that looks like it might be something pretty special. Seriously. Get your tickets now.

Obviously, whatever future there may one day be for the Sugar Sheds, longer term it needs to help generate local jobs and income - just like they did many years ago. There are no shortage of ideas, from heritage centre and community workshop, to a Wee Tate art gallery and a live music venue. The reality is, that the space is so huge, you could probably get away with doing a few of those without ever getting in the road of one another. And of course, at the moment, the sheds also play host to a successful marina. Ideas aren't actually the hard bit though, doing things is the hard part - and if it was easy to solve the puzzle of the Sugar Sheds, someone would probably have done it by now...and to be clear, that time they nearly burned down doesn't count :)

For now doing things in the sheds takes risk and investment, not the easiest things to get people interested in, particularly with some of the unique challenges that the sheds face. Though folks interested in making the Sheds or any other historic buildings work for communities alongside private investment should check out the excellent new Building Resources Investment and Community Knowledge programme from Princes Trust.

Meantime though, and while there is no definite master-plan for the building, projects like White Gold help shine a light on the space, and generate a debate about what's to be done with them. All of which is better than simply leaving them to slowly crumble again, especially after so much money has been spent to get them wind and watertight. Let's not be afraid of having our expectations raised, lets try enjoying it for a change.

White Gold ticket sales

Friday, 23 May 2014

Fifteen on a dead man's chest? Fifteen...minutes of fame?

No...fifteen years since we started doing things as Magic Torch.
That's AGES. It doesn't feel like ages obviously, it feels much longer than that.

And so, a big thank you and a tip of the birthday hat to anyone who has helped us out over the years with our plans and schemes in our 100% voluntary efforts to have fun with local culture and heritage.

Here are five favourite bits of our story...

The handcarved cover to our first project - an illuminated manuscript
telling the story of Inverclyde for the Tall Ships 1999

From the days before we had photoshop, which would have made this picture much cheaper to of the massive posters from our billboard heritage project... (2004)

Neil sits ready to pass judgement at the retrial of Captain "Ray" Kidd in Greenock Court (2001)

Balloons from our hugely popular / unpopular Greenock Sugar Sheds Campaign (2011)

The formal introduction of our hero, Sir Glen Douglas Rhodes,
ushering in a bold new era of Magic Torch comics (2013)

Now seems as good a time as any to also remind ye about some of our publications from down the and otherwise...

Wee Nasties free online via Scribd

Captain Kidd Comic and many more are available in our Olde Online Shoppe

Tales of the Oak folktale collection on amazon

Tales of the Oak Comic on comixology

Tales of the Oak Comic - Mr Cube Strikes

Local Heritage, Local People - Heritage as a Community Asset

We've so much cool stuff getting organised just now for release throughout August / September / October. We cannae wait to share it.

Finally, if ye want to write for the blog, or get involved with what we do, whatever that happens to be this month, just drop us a wee email.

Thursday, 22 May 2014


I'll be the first to admit this is a niche post, even for this blog...but if ye fancy playing classic ZX Spectrum pirate platformer Booty (and even if you don't think you do, you probably do) head over to World of Spectrum and enjoy. Watch out for the ships parrot.

And while we're enjoying the dubious merits of actual digital piracy, here's a clip of the Doctor Who story The Pirate Planet. Doctor Who has tackled pirates a few times, but this is the only time that that Douglas Adams wrote the script and the only one featuring a robot parrot...

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Treasure Hunters

Caribbean Treasure Hunters (audio transcript, 1981)

Well this all took place some time in the fifties. Fifty five maybe? I was 8 or 9 at the time. At that time we were living not too far out of Salem, Massachusetts. And I guess you know that whole area has a sort of association with witches and the like - lot of nonsense obviously, just some poor women all in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anyway, the other thing that whole area has, Boston in particular, is a history with pirates. It was a major trading port y'see, so a natural place for all sorts of interesting characters and ne'er do wells to turn up. And ever since I was little, you would hear this old one and that old one talking about where they'd heard buried treasure was and how to find it. From Misery Island off Salem up to Long Island itself that whole coastline was a pirates paradise. So they said. I was never really one for pirates, Cowboys were more my thing, but my dad, he'd been obsessed since he was a boy himself. My grandfather had dazzled him with all sorts of tall tales when he was little, Henry Morgan, Edward Teach, Anne Bonny, all the greats. Well when something catches a real hold of you that young, sometimes it holds on forever. That's how it was with my dad. He learned to sail, spent weeks on end looking over old maps and sea lanes. In fact, he even proposed to my mom in the Captain Kidd restaurant on Redondo Beach. I know, how romantic?

Lots of folks believed Kidd had buried his treasure elsewhere though, there were all sorts of stories about the Oak Island Gold...the money pit? No? It's an island off Nova Scotia. The buried treasure is apparently down at the bottom of a sinkhole protected by all these traps. The stories go way back centuries. Plenty of people had been looking, most of the island was like swiss cheese all the holes that had been dug over the years. But my dad reckoned he had a lead no one else had explored. Sure.

These treasure hunters, there's a whole network of them, it's like a club or something, all of them sending one another clues and information on the promise of being cut into the deal whenever something gets found. Lots of fakers and conmen in amongst that, and I daresay my dad must have fallen foul of some of these people over the years. We had so many treasure maps in our house I used to wonder why we didn't live in a palace. Anyway, he'd taken up with some English guy, and they had ben writing letters to one another, he would read bits of the English guys letters out at the dinner table in a sort of Lavender Hill Mob voice. This guy claimed he had a machine that would be able to get safely down into the money pit and check if there was really any treasure there at all. Well my mom was near at the end of her rope with dad's treasure hunting and how much it was costing us, and she warned him that if he went after this, if he spent money on some crazy machine, that she and I would be out the door for good.

The next day, it was he and I that were out the door, really early before mom woke. I was real upset at first, worried I wouldn't see her again, worried we'd get lost. I think I was happy he took me along, I just didn't want to stay away for ever. And even at that age, I knew my dad wasn't as reliable as my mom. I probably had more sense than he did. Well I mean, clearly I did, he'd just kidnapped me to go looking for treasure. He kept telling me we'd be going back, he really believed we were heading off to get rich and that when we went back home to mom with all this treasure, everything would be forgiven.

We met the guy somewhere before the Canadian border, he had sailed over from England with this massive crate. I think the deal was that dad had the location and the English guy had the machine, so a sort of fifty fifty thing? Anyway, while he and dad went out to discuss the specifics, I was left in a motel with the crate. Any kid would have looked. Any kid. So I did, I pulled at the front of the crate until there was enough of a gap. I think I was expecting it would be some sort of digger, but it wasn't, it was a robot. I know how that sounds. But that's what I saw. And what's more, it saw me. It's eyes lit up in the dark of the crate and then, it started talking. It had a funny voice, kind of rusty sounding? It asked me to let it out. I said I couldn't or I'd get into trouble. It asked me where it was, and I told it that it was heading for Canada to look for pirate treasure...that sounds weird when you say it out loud...anyway, it asked if it was Kidd's treasure. When I said yes, it started trying to get out of the crate, saying that we shouldn't disturb what Kidd had hidden, that it wasn't treasure at all. I was starting to get real scared, and that's when my dad and the other guy came back. They were in a real hurry, and ran out to the guys truck with the crate, with the robot still trying to get out. My dad didn't even look back when they drove off. The police turned up right after that, my mom had them tailing us. Didn't take too long to get back home to her, she just hugged me for hours. We never saw dad again. I hope he found what he was looking for, and that it was as dangerous as the robot said it was.

A wee fictional diversion from my kids book, Tin Jimmy, set in and around Inverclyde and involving lost of different local myths, legends and monsters, including Captain Kidd, you can read more of Tin Jimmy on the Stramashed blog

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

"Pirates and Mermaids" at Dutch Gable House

The Dutch Gable House, in association with The Beacon Arts Centre, have a unique storytelling performance on offer this week, Pirates and Mermaids - A Fairytale for Adults...

Cameron is in NYC. Eilidh lives in Scotland. The technology in their pockets keeps them constantly in touch but you can't hold someone in your arms over Skype and a text doesn't show you someone's smile. A challenging, ambitious and universal story told on a very human scale, Pirates and Mermaids is an uplifting and surprising show about true love, family advice, favourite sweets and what whisky can do to you.

There are two shows on Friday 16th May, 6pm and 8pm.

Tickets £10 available from the Beacon Box Office or online...

Monday, 12 May 2014

Anne Bonny

Captain Kidd has had many comic adventures, he even had his own Pirate showcase title, which told "true pirate action stories". You can read the full adventure of Anne Bonny Sorceress of the Briny Deep, over on Heroines in Fiction

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Batman - Captain Kidd's Capers

Not sure this image really needs too much explaining. We have recently acquired an original copy of this 1966 Batman Topps Trading Card for the revamped Captain Kidd exhibit we are developing for Dutch Gable House.

Text on the back reads...

Bruce Wayne found himself captured by a crook dressed as Captain Kidd and made to walk the plank. Changing underwater into the Batman, he returned to stop the mad pirate before he managed to locate the treasure he was seeking.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Free Comic Book Day / Gies Peace

Capn Kidd by Andy Lee

To celebrate Captain Kidd Month and Free Comic Book Day, pop down to The Dutch Gable House on Saturday 3rd May to grab a FREE copy of Tales of the Oak comic and some lovely free Captain Kidd and Sir Glen badges from our new 13 Commonwealth Tales project.

There will also be comic documentaries and motion comics showing downstairs in the Secret Cinema.

And if after that, you're up for some MORE comics and a splash of music n drama too, head over to the Gies Peace Showcase event which is on at The Beacon from 5 - 7. We are one of the groups who worked with the Gies Peace team, alongside St Columba's school, to produce a comic strip based around anti sectarian and hate crime's a wee peak...

Rainbow Girl, created by St Columba's pupils art by Andy Lee

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Captain Kidd Month 2014

We are taking a short break from Commonwealth fun this month, because as ever in May, we are focussing on our favourite misunderstood miscreant - Captain Kidd. And this year, given our current comic projects, we are going to share a few related four colour adventures from across the years. We'll also have a few new videos a short story or two, maybe some preview illustrations from our latest Kidd adventure and (all being well...) some information on our first crowdfunding campaign.

But if your after more instant Pirate's a look at Black Sails, described (by the folk who want you to watch it) as Game of Thrones with Pirates. There will be booty. (that's an actual promotional slogan from the show by the way, not a derogatory remark...)