Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Alison Franks Daughter of The Late & Great Billy Franks With The Lives & Times Bowel Cancer Charity Book

I have received this lovely photo from Billy Frank's daughter, Alison Franks, holding her copy of the Lives & Times charity book that I have published to raise funds for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. Billy sadly passed away last September, and I heard the tragic news the week that we had my Mum's funeral after she'd lost her 4 year battle with bowel cancer. Billy had recently completed the Camino Frances 780km from France across the Pyrenees into Spain. When I donated to his crowdfunding appeal for the walk he returned my donation. Knowing at that time how poorly my Mum was he said that there were more important things in life. It was a measure of the man and something now that I will never forget. 

On the numerous occasions that I saw Billy play live, Alison, her sister Billi and their friends were always at the gigs. They all knew how to enjoy themselves, or even more than that, they knew how to enjoy Billy's music. They danced, they smiled and were quite infectious on the rest of us there. I can only imagine how happy and proud that must have made Billy feel...

Billy was a lovely man, a hugely underestimated songwriter and musician. I saw Billy's band The Faith Brothers support The Alarm back in the 1980s and they were without doubt the best support band I ever saw. Much more than that they became one of my favourite bands and it was always a mystery how commercial chart success just eluded them. I was reacquainted with Billy's music through the joys of social media and the internet. It was over the last 15 years or so that I got to know him through his wonderful live gigs and solo albums. He always had time for his small, but loyal band of fans and would always have a hug for you and he knew everyone at his gigs by their first names. 

For some chapters in the Lives & Times bowel cancer fundraising book I was able to combine business (not that I considered the book as work) with pleasure. One such chapter was photographing Billy at The Union Chapel in London. He was a keen a supporter of my fundraising efforts and more than happy to meet up to be photographed for the book. The original idea we came up with for the book photo was to photograph Billy in Fulham, doing a now and then type idea with present day Billy versus Billy from the 1980s. However when the concert at The Union Chapel was announced it was too good an opportunity to miss. For the first time in his career Billy played an acoustic show back by a gospel choir. To see his songs performed in such a way was truly magical and The Gospel Touch Choir were magnificent. Sadly for me this was the last time I saw Billy...

I can barely begin to imagine how painful it must be for Alison and Billi at the moment. Billy was lost to them far too young. Grief and the pain that comes with it is something that is different for all of us, and we all deal and cope with it in our way.

Love and best wishes to Alison and Billi x  

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Lives & Times Meets The Stranglers at SUB 89 in Reading

Tuesday July 8th, 2014 was the day I got to photograph the legendary Stranglers for the Lives & Times fundraising book in support of the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. They were playing a low key festival warm up show at SUB 89 in Reading. Even on the day it was by no means a foregone conclusion that it would happen. In the end I was only given a couple of hours notice and invited to go along to the sound-check. This meant I raced home from work, got on my bike and cycled into Reading just in time to meet the band at the venue. It was fascinating seeing the guys sound-check and I was given a free reign to wander around during the couple of songs that they played and snap away. I remember thinking that it sounded spot on to me and when I returned as a fan later in the evening to watch the gig the sound indeed was excellent, and it was a cracking show. The whole experience is documented alongside photos in Lives & Times.

Back in March 2016 I got to see The Stranglers play at the Hexagon in Reading on their "Black and White" tour when they were supported by The Alarm who also feature in the book. It was a fantastic night watching two of my favourite bands... There was no special treatment for me this time though as I returned to my normal gig going status.

Please support Lives & Times and help me raise as much money as possible. All proceeds raised are donated to Beating Bowel Cancer. Bowel cancer remains the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, but if detected early has a survival rate of over 90%. My Mum was diagnosed in 2012 and after many battles she passed away August 29th, 2016.