On the Walford Gazette Making it to 25: ‘An Element of Freedom Not Beholden to Anyone’

       

By Larry Jaffee

A recent New York Times Magazine article titled “Why the Internet Didn’t Kill Zines,” captures perfectly why the Walford Gazette has entered its 25th year publishing continuously on a quarterly basis.

Karen Gisonny is the periodicals librarian at the New York Public Library and specialises in alternative publications and zines. She’s quoted by the Times writer Jenna Wortham that zines allow for an “element of freedom that’s not beholden to anyone.”

Wortham says, “We think of the web as a place for freedom, but with zines, authors control every aspect, from the design to the distribution.” She concludes, “And it perhaps reflects why zines can feel so much more intimate than a Facebook post. The deliberation and care that goes into making them is important.”

That’s exactly how I view this milestone. The Walford Gazette is barely a break-even proposition and the epitome of “a labour of love.” Last year’s revenue was off by a third and about $3,000 from 2015. Meanwhile, postage costs have doubled in the past decade. Most other publishers would have killed it years ago.

Over the years, it’s prevented me from collecting unemployment insurance after twice being laid off from six-figure publishing jobs.

The Walford Gazette is a calling. I view each issue as my art. I look forward to reader reactions, and am especially grateful to my subscribers and writer contributors.

I was also very pleased to join forces this issue with BritBox to help promote a much-needed service, especially at this time that public television is threatened. With always being pressed for time, as I’ve reinvented myself as an academic and maintain a busy freelance writing business, I’d honestly love to turn over the reins of the Gazette to someone else who also has the calling and keen interest in EastEnders. It takes gumption to put out a zine in the digital age.

If you’re interested, please get in touch by emailing me at walfordgazette@gmail.com. In the meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this issue.

 

Latest Social Media Stop: ‘EastEnders Unseen’ on Twitter

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By Larry Jaffee

Continuing our coverage of EastEnders fandom on social media, we now turn to Twitter and @ee_unseen, which considers imaginative and comical ‘what-if’ situations that the Elstree creative team either never conceived or wisely left on the cutting-room floor.

Even if you don’t have a Twitter account, you can still check out the hilarious tweets, within the constraints of 140 characters, sometimes coming several times a day, at https://twitter.com/ee_unseen.

Among its 289 followers are EastEnders actors James Alexandrou (Martin Fowler), Charlie Brooks (Janine Butcher), John Altman (Nick Cotton), Dean Gaffney (Robbie Jackson), Shaun Williamson (Barry Evans), Cliff Parisi (Minty), Ricky Groves (Gary), Natalie Cassidy (Sonia Jackson), Jessie Wallace (Kat Slater), Shane Richie (Alfie Moon), Lacey Turner (Stacey Slater), Ross Kemp (Grant Mitchell), Sid Owen (Ricky Butcher), Lucy Speed (Natalie), Adam Woodyatt (Ian Beale), Hannah Waterman (Laura) and Patsy Palmer (Bianca Jackson); Kris Green, EastEnders’ senior script editor; EastEnders scriptwriter Rob Gittins; Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling; and British comedians Matt Lucas (Little Britain), Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous), Dawn French (The Vicar of Dibley) and Rob Brydon.

The destination emerged in August 2016, and is especially partial towards yesteryear characters who have been off the show for some time, although it also covers the current UK characters so some names might not be familiar.

EastEnders Unseen is the brainchild of a 32-year-old fan in the south-east of England.

He prefers to be known as just “Scott.” He explains to the Walford Gazette his modus operandi:

“I’ve watched EastEnders off and on for most of my life – my mum has barely missed an episode in the show’s 31 years. I’d watch it for long periods then drift away when life got in the way and then come back. I’ve now not missed an episode in two years (which I know is peanuts compared to proper diehards!) and am quite sure that I’ll be sticking around for good from now on.

“I’ve had no reaction from the show. I only have 290-odd followers so I doubt they’re aware or remotely interested! But a few writers and actors involved with the programme do follow the account, which is lovely and very unexpected.

“I really just do it for the fun of it. I’m a very nostalgic person by nature so it’s nice to reminisce about the characters from the show’s past. I have huge affection for EastEnders and this account is a tiny way of paying tribute.”

Had Walford Gazette co-founder Dan Abramson, who once sold a joke to Jay Leno when he was a standup comedian, lived long enough to enjoy the social media era, he would no doubt appreciate EastEnders Unseen or perhaps contributed to it. To wit:

Nov 21: After a spate of lightning strikes hit the Square, Grant wonders if the relic he stole from the ancient Indian burial ground is to blame.

Nov 17: Pauline takes drastic action as Martin’s Wotsits habit spins out of control. Ian buys a ouija board but is angered when it mocks his weight.

Nov 15: Peggy is attacked by a mule with a grudge – but how did it get into the cellar of The Vic? Ricky and Bianca accidentally buy a houseboat.

Nov 5; The global scientific community descends on Walford after Martin finds the fossil of a hitherto undiscovered dinosaur at the allotment.

Oct 18: Pat is worried when a series of apocalyptic warnings appear in the Walford Gazette. Barry eats a ball bearing. Beppe spontaneously combusts.

Oct 21: With Dr. Legg still held captive by the Russian cartel, Robbie and Wellard take matters into their own hands. Blossom suffers from lockjaw.

Oct 12: With Grant in a critical condition following the bear attack, Phil and Billy head into the woods to take down Great Bertha once and for all.

Oct 5: Frank’s plans to stand for mayor of Walford lie in tatters after he runs over a duck. Peggy’s painting of a centaur wins the Turner Prize.

Oct 14: Frank suffers a rare brain injury which renders him unable to see Peggy unless she wears a deerstalker hat. Huw and Lenny accidentally kiss.

Oct 6: With a curfew still in place after a spate of werewolf attacks, Ian realises he may be patient zero. Pat and Roy decide to try for a baby.

Sep 29: With the quicksand pit pulling Barry ever closer to his death, Pat and Roy reminisce about his funniest scrapes. Ian forgets how to read.

Sep 24: Sonia discovers a prehistoric neanderthal man encased in ice. Peggy’s birthday celebrations are marred by an outbreak of leprosy in Walford.

Sep 20: The Square is reeling when Frank converts the car lot into a scented candle shop. Ian spots an asteroid that’s heading straight for The Vic.

Sep 17: Barry fights a ghost in the toilets at The Vic. Pat is worried about Roy’s blossoming bodybuilding career. Phil gets struck by lightning.

Sep 13: Phil discovers The Vic is built on an ancient Indian burial ground. Dot is hit by a bus – but why was Wellard driving it in the first place?

Sep 9: Peggy eats too much cheese and is convinced the bust of Queen Victoria is talking to her. Barry comes down with diphtheria. Dot has fleas.

Sep 7: Beppe and Gianni train for the Winter Olympics – can they persuade Grant and Phil to join their bobsleigh team? Dot gets her tongue pierced.

Sep 6: Martin’s cold sore grows larger, shattering his confidence ahead of Walford’s Got Talent. Alfie tries parkour – with devastating results.

Sep 5: The Square is left reeling when circumstantial evidence suggests Patrick Trueman may in fact be notorious serial killer The Walford Slasher.

Sep 5: Ethel is distraught when her dog, Willy, suffers a heroin overdose. Frank is arrested for wearing inappropriately short shorts in The Vic.

Sep 3: Frank accidentally takes a walk-on role in an adult film. Ricky applies to MI5 but misses out after he fails to identify Britain on a map.

Sep 3: Ben is banned from Walford East Station after writing a lewd limerick on the wall. Martin gets a surprise call-up to the England squad.

Sep 1: Barry complains of a fix after Phil and Grant’s Right Said Fred performance wins The Vic’s karaoke competition. Sonia adopts a gazelle.

Sep 1: With the Great Fire Of Walford still raging, Sharon discovers who was responsible – but Lady Di has no intention of surrendering peacefully.

Aug 30: Arthur becomes a born-again Christian after eating a large Black Forest gateau. Cindy spontaneously combusts twice. Den befriends a badger.

Aug 30: Grant’s preparations for the Walford’s Strongest Man semi-final are in tatters when he is left wheelchair-bound after a fight with Wellard.

Aug 30: Dr. Trueman is struck off for drunkenly breaching patient confidentiality after Paul spikes his Ribena with gin. Janine kills a duck.

Aug 29: With the Bigfoot corpse revealed to be a hoax, questions are asked about Steve Owen’s role in discovering it. Beppe becomes a Scientologist.

Aug 29: Ian experiences snow blindness. Stacey and Bradley buy a tandem bike. Yolande is barred from The Vic after claiming that the Earth is flat.

Aug 29: Robbie writes a fan letter to his favourite wrestler, Big Flaps, but is devastated to see it returned unopened. Dot falls off a water tower.

Aug 29: Phil poisons Walford’s water supply to increase custom at The Vic. Kat’s charity bungee jump is cancelled due to an elastic shortage.

Aug 27: With Kathy near death after the combine harvester accident, Phil considers pulling the plug. Ricky accidentally becomes a Jehovah’s Witness.

Aug 27: Pat and Roy renew their wedding vows but the ceremony is ruined by Barry’s gastroenteritis. Huw and Lenny finish building their robot.

EastEnders Unseen ‏@EE_Unseen Aug 27

The Square is overrun with tourists after a Japanese guidebook wrongly identifies Walford as the site of Stonehenge. Peggy bars them all.

Aug 26: Barry panics when Pat starts speaking in tongues. Dot is increasingly convinced her fridge may be haunted. Yolande gains her pilot licence.

Aug 26: After shocking new evidence comes to light, Frank is forced to deny any involvement in the Watergate scandal. But will Peggy stand by him?

Aug 26: Dot is aghast when Mr. Papadopolous turns the launderette into a nightclub. Bianca dumps Ricky after he blows all their savings on trifle.

Aug 26: Jules and Blossom’s chess tournament in The Vic ends in bloodshed. Tiffany sees apocalyptic warnings in the Walford Gazette’s crossword.

Aug 25: Paul and Anthony Trueman swap bodies after an electric shock from Patrick’s new toaster. Big Mo is attacked by a kestrel twice in one day.

Aug 24: Grant and Phil hatch a plan to steal Terry’s rare butterfly collection. Billy’s tight trousers ruin Peggy’s ‘Family Fun Day’ in the Square.

Aug 24: Pat and Peggy both experience poltergeist activity. Mark Fowler finds a microfilm in the Minute Mart that may reveal who really killed JFK.

Aug 23: David Wicks is humiliated when only two people turn up to his dance class. Ian suffers from more night terrors. Barry contracts the plague.

Aug 23: Gus and Robbie come to blows over Wellard’s unhealthy diet. Spencer and Alfie foil a telemarketing scam. Dr. Trueman falls down a sinkhole.

Aug 22: Grant is hurt when Sharon criticises the swishing sound his jeans make when he walks. Michelle takes up the clarinet – with deadly results.

Aug 22: Ian’s had enough after Beale’s Plaice comes under another attack from a fish rights group. Nana Moon trains for the Walford half-marathon.

Aug 21: Gita and Sanjay adopt a llama but it struggles to acclimatise to life on the Square. Frank’s new answerphone greeting is widely condemned.

Aug 21: Robbie is jealous when Sonia’s trumpet-playing attracts the attention of a talent agent. Grant’s hay fever worsens – will it claim his life?

Aug 21: Barry is convinced he has found the Shroud of Turin in a bin behind The Arches. Minty tries bare-knuckle boxing. Dot gets a tattoo.

Aug 20: Pete Beale is in the dog-house when Kathy discovers he’s spent their holiday savings on World War I Airfix models. Lofty gets kidney stones.

Aug 20: Big Mo finds out she’s distantly related to a minor royal. Peggy trials non-alcoholic beer in the Vic. Beppe and Ian accidentally kiss.

Aug 19: Pauline grounds Martin after catching him listening to rap music. Grant claims he can eat fifty eggs in one hour – will Phil take the bet?

Aug 19: Tiffany wins big on a scratchcard but Wellard runs off with it. Sonia becomes depressed after watching a documentary about deforestation.

Aug 19: Ian is frustrated as he fails to understand Sudoku. Martin buys a Tupperware set but leaves it at Walford East station. Denise goes blind.

‘Phil Mitchell Would Break My Legs’

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Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks reimagined by Doug Pledger

By Larry Jaffee

London artist Doug Pledger has found an unusual muse in Phil Mitchell, and his memes dedicated to the EastEnders hard man often go viral in social media, collected at www.utterphilth.com.

Pledger, whose other artwork is showcased at www.douggy.com, graciously shared insight into why he pays homage to someone who many fans consider to be an Albert Square menace.

Walford Gazette: What was the catalyst for using Phil Mitchell as a muse, and how old is the site? 

Doug Pledger: About 10 to 15 years ago, I did a few jokey photoshopped images of Phil, in fake film posters and what not, just to send to mates, and over the years have done a few here and there. My friend osymyso had also dabbled in messing with EastEnders, having made a musical track ‘Pat and Peg’ which had done the rounds in the late 1990s. We thought we’d rub our brains together and do a few more bits and pieces and make a website – Utter Philth, which we started in March 2016. Osymyso does the music for the videos, and I do all the designs/cartoons/photoshop stuff along with the video editing. It caught on pretty quickly thanks to the Facebook page, and kind of took off overnight. We haven’t made a single penny from it, but it sure is a laugh.

WG: But why Phil?

DP: I think the fact that Steve McFadden is the only actor in EastEnders who doesn’t do that much in the way of interviews/chat shows gives an air of mystery about him, almost like he really is Phil. He’s great to plonk into different situations, as he has various traits that work really well for comedy/tragedy. He’s famously angry, confused and sad, never really that happy… unless he’s drunk or doing someone over. He’s certainly the best thing about the show, by a million country miles.

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WG: Have you received any recognition from the BBC of your Utter Philth efforts?

DP: The BBC certainly know about Utter Philth as I have worked freelance for the EastEnders social media department; this was before Philth took over. I did a bunch of non-Phil-related images and designs, which were used on their Facebook/Instagram/Twitter etc. They did post a few of the early Utter Philth images but due to some of the stuff being pretty backward and just plain odd, they haven’t embraced it that much. This has all taken off in a weird direction now anyway. We like the idea of creating an alternate Phil Mitchell. One who’s scared of Kermit and has a sick Rubik’s Cube addiction.
WG: How many Utter Philth memes have you created?

DP: The amount of ‘memes’, as you say, so far I think there are more than 100 photos and 23 videos. There are also probably about that many again that’ll never see the light of day as they’re either too awful or just too unholy.
WG: What is the thought process behind creating such a meme?

DP: There isn’t really a thought process on any of this. Things just pop into your head, mostly due to what clips and photos surface. It’s a lot easier getting ideas from watching and looking rather than having an idea, then spending all day looking for a photo where he’d look good on a skateboard, for example.

WG: Why do you do it?

DP: FUN. Nobody’s paying us to do any of this, so it’s more like a hobby. The fact that it’s being banded around the web is just icing on the cake. I’ve been doing stuff like this forever, for the love of making stuff.

WG: If you met Steve McFadden, and he realized Utter Philth was your creation, what would you say to him?

DP: If I met Phil, I mean Steve, I would go weak at the knees probably because he’d be breaking them. Has he even seen it? I have no idea. I’d have to say hello though, shake his hand and check out that thumb of his. You know what… up until recently I couldn’t stand the guy, not Steve, but Phil. It’s only been this year I think and that he’s gotten older, that I’ve realised how fucking brilliant he is. Always known he’s a great actor and admired his skill but never really took to him. Maybe because when he was younger he was just this “well ’ard thug,” but now, he’s kind of still that, but he’s more of a character. But maybe that’s always been there. As I said before, I don’t really watch the show so I’m not really the best person to judge. Would love to have a drink with him though.
WG: Have you received any acknowledgment from Steve?

DP: My fiancée Caroline went to school with his son and is friends with him on Facebook. She said one day, “Oh look! Matt’s liked one of your Phil videos” so we know his son’s seen it … that’s as close to the holy grail we’ve got.
WG: To what extent do you watch the show for ideas?

DP: I have a one-year-old daughter, so I don’t really get much time to watch TV outside of CBeebies, but I do try to skim through the EastEnders episodes on the BBC iPlayer to see if Phil’s been in it. To be honest, I don’t watch the show, I see bits and pieces here and there, but I really couldn’t tell you what three quarters of the characters are called or what they’ve been up to. I’m just about up to date with Phil, but haven’t seen any of this week. Osymyso is the same, but I think between us we manage to keep on top of things. I do get told from time to time by people… “Doug, did you see EE last night, Phil was on form.” It’s good to have these informants.
WG: How many social media followers does Utter Philth have?

DP: Facebook has 57,740 followers and the videos have millions of hits. Is that good? Sounds good … but then you might find a page dedicated to a snowman that has double that, I’m really not that clued up on all this. The fans on there are great though, the best, they’ve really taken to the nutty stuff.

New Gazette (No. 95) At Printer

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The new issue features our usual pot pourri of EastEnders analysis and insight into characters including Pat Butcher and Dot Cotton, current series developments, such as the imminent return of Lord Cashman whose Colin left the show in 1989, and of course, humour. To wit, check out the brilliant mind behind “Utter Philth” devoted to all things Phil Mitchell.

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Another article is about a woman who likes Pat Butcher so much she has a tattoo of her.

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