Discovered and mentored by the great band leader Bert Ambrose, Kathy Kirby was groomed in the image of his ideal woman – a kind of late 1950s hybrid of Marilyn Monroe and Diana Dors, with crisply styled peroxide hair and startlingly glossy red lips. Ambrose’s concept was dated even by the time Kirby became a major television star on the strength of her early 1960s appearances inStars and Garters. But somehow – largely thanks to a winning and cheerful personality that knew instinctively how to reach a television audience beyond the camera and, crucially, a voice of spectacular power and emotional force, which commanded attention whatever she was singing – she transcended the stylistic straightjacket he imposed on her.

As so often in the annals of show business, Kathy Kirby’s life eventually came to mirror the more dramatic lyrics of some of her songs. This, combined with the unique qualities of her voice, dusted her with an almost mythical fascination, long after her active career had waned.

Ambrose had given Kirby her first break as a teenager, employing her on a short contract as a vocalist for his dance band after she had persuaded him to let her sing for him at the Palais de Danse in Ilford when she was just 16, in 1954. She spent the next few years paying her dues on the club circuit, singing with Ambrose on and off, and gaining valuable show-business experience. But it was not until he became her manager and took control of her recording and television career that things really took off, culminating in hit singles and albums for Decca, and some hugely popular television series. Their relationship soon developed privately and they would be together until his death in 1971, an arrangement that would have disastrous consequences for Kirby.

A new play, KATHY KIRBY: ICON, running at THE WHITE BEAR theatre, Kennington, sets the record straight about Kathy’s life,both in and out of the glare of publicity.

Listen to an interview by the actress who plays kathy on BBC Radio London. The interview is apprx 2hrs 13mins into the programme


28-09-2015 19;20;25

GILMARTIN – a new play

My report on Sunday’s reading of Gilmartin at Pentameters:IMG_7398IMG_7395
The first thing to say is that there were quite a few surprises. The first was that we nearly had a full house for the occasion! It’s usually unheard of to get more than a handful to come to readings. The second was that the cast got a standing ovation at the end. The third was that a life-long friend of Gilmartin’s fetched up from Luton, and was so moved by the occasion that he almost broke down in tears at the q/a session afterwards. He did manage to issue an invitation to us to repeat the exercise in Luton, where he said we would have no problem getting a couple of hundred to come.  But the biggest surprise of all was that Tom’s  son and daughter turned up. They were very complimentary about the whole thing, particularly Tom Jr, who felt that we had got the essence of the story, and more importantly, the essence of his father. Phew…thank God for that!
As for the play itself, I thought it worked very well as a piece of theatre – much better than I expected. I wasn’t sure if the audience would get the story, being quite mixed, and story being so Irish, but they got it in spades! It seems to be a universal tale; corruption at high level, and contemptible treatment of the ordinary man/woman. The script still needs a little tweaking here and there, but not much, and I did get some useful insights to the man from Tom Jr – which I can add to the mix.
Where do we got from here? Not sure yet; we may go for a run at Pentameters later in the year or early next year, and we may well take up the invitation to do the gig in Luton, but there were also serious suggestions that we should do it in Dublin. The topic is still very hot in Ireland; and all the main protagonists are still walking around free as birds over there. They should be prosecuted but I don’t think the relevant authorities have any appetite for doing it. Apparently Bertie Ahern was on Irish radio yesterday being questioned about the bank scandal so none of it has gone away.
I think it could be a ‘big’ play if we could get the right backing, and my feeling is that a tour of Ireland, starting in Dublin, could be the way to go. It’s early days yet, so I think we will await developments for now.



London is to wealth what

The jungle is to the orang-utan ;

Its natural habitat,

But it is feeding on its poor,

Who dare not live there anymore.

The cranes swing crazily

Building stepping-stones

Even nearer the stars

While oligarchs look on hungrily

Aboard their super turbo-charged yachts and cars.

The skyline plundered for profit

Daily now it seems

The dark star of the economy

Sucking in resources and people, even Queens.

Now even modest railway arches are upgraded

Out with the old in with the new

Shops and delis, pretentious and expensive

Now ‘prettify’ the view.

In a culture that is unstoppably,

Entrepreneurially driven.

Soon there will be corridors of steel and glass

From Limehouse to Kings Cross;

Miles of safety-deposit boxes in the sky

And nobody to occupy them –

Certainly not the like of you and I.

At night it becomes a wall of black

Punctuated by an occasional square of illumination;

In the boxes nobody is at home

And won’t be for a generation.

Then there are all the iceberg houses

Subterranean monstrosities

That dwarf the pygmy shacks

That sit a-top of them.

And their underground swimming pools,

Tennis courts, and cinemas

As large as  dance halls can be seen

Where London isn’t aiming for the stars

It is becoming a subterranean city

With nothing but an empty shell in between.


27-06-2015 20;00;42

When Bertie Ahern resigned on May 6th 2008 after 11 years as Irish Taoiseach and more than thirty years all told in the corridors of power, it was as a direct result of the fall-out  that occurred from the treatment meted out to Irish businessman, Tom Gilmartin, which only emerged in its entirety at the conclusion of the Mahon Tribunal, which had sat for almost 15 years before reaching its conclusions in 2012.

Tom Gilmartin had emigrated to Luton in the 1950’s from Sligo, and over the years had built up a successful business in construction and engineering, in Luton and South East England. Now a multi millionaire he decided in the late 1980’s to invest his experience – and money – in some projects in Dublin, where unemployment was high, and where poverty had once again seen many young Irish people cross the water in the hope of a better life.

Tom had ambitious plans for several major retail developments in the city, which he hoped would provide work for hundreds, if not thousands, in the city,  but little did he know that in order to do business in Dublin, senior politicians and public officials would want a slice of the action – in large amounts of cash.

Embittered and impoverished by his experiences, Tom finally blew the whistle on the corruption at the heart of government and the city’s planning system. His complaints resulted in the setting up in 1997, by order of the Oireachtas, of the Mahon Tribunal to look  into ‘certain planning matters and payments’. Ironically, it was championed by none other than one Bertie Ahern.

Length…2 hours approx./Setting…Dublin 1990’s – 2000’s



Wormwood isn’t here

The sign said, rather waspishly.

It wasn’t the Wormwood I remembered;

Scrubs Lane on a wet Sunday

The outback in West London

No buses, no cars, no people

Just limp grass, acres of the stuff

And, oh yes, the finest redbrick edifice

Victoria’s henchmen could construct.

No rotting bodies in here, my friend.

Not Newgate, not by a long shot

Though debts must still be paid

And some may still get laid

Lord Alfred Douglas lay here,

As did Charles Bronson,

Keith Richards, Leslie Grantham.

And  George Blake

Scurrying along in his traitor’s gait

Till the day he pole-vaulted to freedom

More or less

Before waving goodbye

To his English life,

His liberty and his wife

And all those Wormwood scrubbers



The French House was humming

Bodies leaning on the counter

Furiously puffing the cigs they had been bumming

This was Bohemia in action

Rich and poor, straight and gay

No sign of fighting or faction.

Down the street at Bambino’s

The Very Miss Dusty O

Was manning the door in drag

A king-size always on the go

It wasn’t corporate, it wasn’t mundane

Way back then

And Francis Bacon frequently came by

To eye up the available young men.

There was Trannyshack on Wednesday nights

Where punks met pimps

And gays, straights, dragsters, hipsters and pop stars

Regularly mixed with Colonel Blimps.

And Grace Jones might be found

Dancing on a table to one side

With Gaultier and Donatelle Versace

Leading the Conga in the road outside.

67 – A collection of 71 poems

2nd edition now available on amazon; paperbook & ebook


The graffiti spreads like muck along the walkways

In the lifts and on the stairs;



The stench of urine everywhere

This calcified menagerie

Bakes hearts as hard as concrete

Solidifies old attitudes, buries hope

Deifies ignominy

Here, echoes of hollow laughter

Ghost through the floors

Children play high-rise hopscotch

And stilettos click rhythmically

Along tuneless corridors

Another circus of misfits

Adrift in the maze

Cocooned in captivity

In this graceless legacy

Of the stack-em-high days



The sun also rises over concrete

Over this puff-adder sky

And the pricked-up chimneys

Looking like piss-horns in the stark morning

There are no shadows yet

On this marbled plain

So tender in years

But so sparing with love

I shiver at the bus stop

Admiring this proliferation of granite;

So cold, so hard,

So like you….