Author: David Atkinson

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The Amazing Story Of How My Music Fanzine Made History

The first issue, published May 1994

It was 1994.

I was a student on a postgraduate magazine journalism course in London with a project deadline.

Step forward Heaven Up Here, a music fanzine I put together with two fellow students.

We dreamed of jobs on Select magazine and loved getting on the guestlist for gigs at venues like the Astoria and the Water Rats.

It was the Nineties and we didn’t have a care in the world.

The first issue, published in 1994, featured a lead interview with film-noir favourites The Tindersticks and went backstage with Britpop breakthroughs Sleeper at the now-defunct TV show The Beat.

Last week I took a couple of issues from 1994 and 1995 to the London College of Communication.

There they will join the likes of Sniffin’ Glue and Smiths Indeed at the University Library Zine Collection. It has over 200 zines from punk to fashion from the late Seventies onwards.

You can find out more from the collection Facebook page.

It only lasted for three issues but our little fanzine helped to launch a career in the media for its founders. And it was lots of fun along the way.

As for the name? Heaven Up Here was the second album by Echo and the Bunnymen, my favourite band as a overcoat-wearing student in the early Nineties.

On the day that the NME sees its last ever print edition on the newsstands, my little bit of history is a reminder that, while we all now work multi-platform, print is still not dead.

Why I made the shortlist for the French Travel Media Awards

It was close but no cigar.

My story about a tour of the French Riviera [pictured above], first published in the Daily Telegraph, was shortlisted this week at the French Travel Media awards.

The article describes a trip in the footsteps of film stars and the Euro glitterati. It was timed around the 70th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival.

Here’s a taster of the text:

I was formulating my bid to be the next James Bond from the casino at Monte Carlo. All I needed was that powder-blue suit from the Hugo Boss store on La Croisette (a snip at a mere €750), a couple of well-promoted selfies on the red carpet outside Le Palais and a bit of luck with the croupier to thwart Le Chiffre’s plan to take over the world from a Monte Carlo gaming table. Watch your back Idris Elba. After a week on the Riviera, there’s a new leading man in the frame.

Better luck next time, then.

I’ve got my eye on Roman Nimes and Monet’s Giverny for next time.

Two terrific reasons for a half-term day out in Liverpool

I owe Gary Oldman a beer.

I’d tried pitching a story before about Western Approaches, the secret wartime bunker under an office block in Liverpool. It didn’t work out.

But with Darkest Hour cleaning up at cinemas and Mr Oldman tipped for an Oscar on March 4, Winston Churchill is writ large on screen once more.

Good timing then to try the story again with a new angle. After all, Winnie was a bit of regular at the nerve centre for the Battle of the Atlantic.

The timing was right for a feature timed for February half term. Here’s a preview:

Western Approaches HQ houses the original Gaumont Kalee Dragon projector [pictured above] Churchill used to watch secret war footage. Newsreel controlled by the Ministry of Information was then shown to the public in cinemas to boost morale.

I even managed to tie a Liverpool trip into the press preview of the new Terracotta Warriors exhibition at the World Museum.

Just don’t ask how many warriors made it across the Mersey.

Read the full story, Take the kids to Western Approaches, Liverpool.

101 good reasons why whisky is the drink right now

Forget your Ginuary.

My first assignment of a new year took me to the Lake District, the traditional domain of Romantic Poets and Gore-Tex botherers, for a wee dram.

The Lakes Distillery [pictured above] is to release this summer the first 101 bottles of the Lakes Single Malt, a limited edition whisky and Cumbria’s first in a century.

I travelled to the western Lakes, making base in Cockermouth, to find out more about a spirit-distilling tradition that dates back to the days of smugglers and bootleggers on the shores of Lake Bassenthwaite.

The article was commissioned by Immediate Media and will appear in magazines from March.

Here’s a preview:

The growth of The Lakes Distillery has coincided with the ongoing British spirits revival, making it the biggest of just 15 whisky distilleries in England and Wales.

Indeed, the spirits industry generates £9.8bn in UK sales with spirits now enjoyed by 43 per cent of British adults, according to The Wine and Spirit Trade Association 2016.