Rib Shakk

Rib Shakk is the latest Leeds venture by the prolific Anthony Flynn – well known to all who live in West Yorkshire for his handful of restaurants, cafes and foodie establishments in Leeds.

Anthony is a man who knows food well – any chef that did a stint at El Bulli in Spain is clearly a cook to be reckoned with. So I did find it a little strange that he  decided to add a Rib joint to his empire in the Corn Exchange in Leeds.

The premise is simple: order food and drink at the counter and pay for it up front. Now I have to confess that I love doing this – it means a quick getaway after the meal which I think is one of life’s little pleasures. Sometimes the endless faffing waiting for the bill, then the machine and then catching the eye of the waiting staff can be a chore. So paying up front scores big points for me.

Leeds has a gaping hole where a decent rib place can slot in nicely. There’s Cattle Grid of course, but I’m not sure about that place – the food is a bit iffy and the service not so hot either. So Rib Shakk is perfectly placed to steal a march on other meaty eateries.

Based in the side cafe area of the Corn Exchange, Rib Shakk has a relatively concise menu laden with all things rib. We opted for the rib platter and the pulled pork Boston Butt. Pleasingly, the platter included beef ribs which are rarely seen on menus but done properly are a huge treat. Eating with my two ‘young adult children’ is often an expensive experience due to the appetites associated with growing/grown-up kids. Not so on this occasion as the opening offer of half price food if you follow on Twitter made the meal an absolute bargain.

The food arrived on huge wooden platters and there was plenty of it. This a place for big appetites and tucking in. Chicken wings, slaw, fries and beans all complement the rib by main event perfectly. A selection of home made sauces were lip smackingly good. Apparently Anthony has some high tech cooking method which cooks the ribs long and slow to melting tenderness. I have no idea how its done – the end result is perfection. If you’ve ever eaten ribs in the States and bemoaned the fact there’s nothing as good over here, well look no further.

I didn’t take any pictures because a) the place is quite dark and b) the platter didn’t stay intact long enough to get my camera out!

Lets be clear – this is not a sophisticated dining experience.

It’s a roll your sleeves up, get sauce on your chin, beer slurping, full bellied kind of place. The meat is exquisitely cooked and the flavours all deliver the punch you’d expect with Anthony personally at the helm. I recommend that you get along there whilst the offer is still on – Rib Shakk offers one of the most satisfying nosh ups in Leeds.

Inappropriate baking ads

I fully accept it;s my juvenile sense of humour, but these made me laugh out loud. I love it when there’s more than a nod and wink going on between the creative person who thought up the ads and the reader. Unusually, these ads are from Canada – not renowned for the wittiest of creativity. All the same, I enjoyed them.

Screaming Hand

I’m a lover of all things connected to surfing. And this famous graphic was designed by Phillips for famous surf brand Santa Cruz. It sums up perfectly the anarchy of an anti-establishment brand (that isn’t really, but once was before it became a huge corporate) and connects accurately with the cool surfing dudes.

Me and my big mouth


As we’re getting near the end of the year, I’m trying to round up a few stray posts that I thought you may have missed. This post recounts a rather memorable hour or two in the genteel surroundings of Ilkley’s Kings Hall.

After a lot of effort, I managed to blag a free ticket for the Ilkley Literature Festival to see John Cooper Clarke (in mitigation, I thought it was sold out). You may have seen a version of this post on Culture Vultures, but I’ve been thinking about The Bard of Salford a bit recently. And I’ve chuckled to myself about some of his lines, so I thought it worth a re-visit.

I first encountered JCC at Leeds University Refectory in 1979 as part of a punk poet triple bill which included Linton Kwesi Johnson and Benjamin Zephaniah (I think) and back then, he was at the forefront of shaking everything up: if musicians can tear up the musical rulebook, then why can’t writers and poets do the same? This ethos underpinned everything he did at the time and as far as I can tell, everything since then. It was a weird evening for a young art student from Bramley I can tell you, but it was the beginning of a journey for me.

These days, JCC’s work packs less of a punch because there is so much of this kind of writing out there being performed and it’s easy to forget what a visceral thrill his work was back in the late seventies and early eighties. We were easily shocked back then. JCC was the complete package: stick thin demeanor, sunglasses all the time, huge vocabulary of swearwords and an impeccable working class background from Salford.

I saw him live a couple of times and over the years, always loved his work but kind of lost touch with his newer work. When I saw that he was appearing at the Ilkley Literature Festival this year, I got it into my head that I had to go see him. After re-acquainting myself with some of his greatest hits, I headed across to Ilkley to see what’s become of him.

His act has developed from the relentless machine gun delivery of poetry of old into a more relaxed, conversational – almost stand-up comedy act. At first the slow pace of this is hard to get used to but his genuinely funny stories and one liners add light and shade to his act and do allow the poems to shine.

He’s as gloriously potty-mouthed as he always was and there was plenty for the Ilkley crowd to laugh about too. One particular location-based gag around the requirement to wear head-gear when visiting Ilkley Moor being ‘Otley Disputed went down a storm and we were in his hands from there on in.

Delivering only a handful of poems and lots of anecdotes, it seemed like this was a show that had been cut in half. The show started at 7.30, was finished with the encore by 8.45 and seemed to be just getting going – but that’s a small criticism. The old adage of leaving ‘em wanting more was never truer this evening.

When JCC did let rip with some of his well-known poems – ‘Hire Car’, ‘Beasley Street’ and the symmetrically superb ‘Beasley Boulevard’ he was really on form. A couple of new poems included a hilarious diatribe against U2’s frontman called ‘Bongo’s Trousers’ and a tickly chested ‘Guest List’ (JCC hadn’t been well, ladies and gentlemen, but he was here, for us all, laughing through the tears).

The performance was also being signed for deaf people and the signer on stage deserves an award for what has to the fastest signing I’ve ever seen. Although I couldn’t be sure that she was keeping up, it looked pretty sharp.

As the audience filed out, there were a lot of delighted faces, clearly not sure what to expect but very pleasantly surprised. Although I was captivated by the show, I would have liked to have seen more poems and I suspect that this was more about JCC getting caught out with the timings of an early, shorter show than anything else.

One reviewer recently insisted JCC had to decide whether he was a stand-up or a poet. I don’t agree. Both can work together if the balance is right. Although I would have dearly loved to see him perform ‘Kung Fu International’, ‘I married a monster from outer space’, ‘Evidently chickentown’ or even ‘Twat’, that gives me another reason to go see him again when he comes to Yorkshire again.

By the way, the title of this post refers to the first JCC album I ever bought on vinyl when I was at Jacob Kramer College of Art in Leeds. The album cover is at the top of the post and although a ‘compilation’ of sorts, it was truly an eye opener for me.


Here’s a post I wrote on our work blog. Thought you might like to read it…

Like it or not, retail advertising and Christmas have always come hand in hand.

Brands are so intrinsically entwined with the festive holiday that even its most iconic secular figure has a brand to thank for his famous red attire. Similarly, forget the arrival of robin red breast; it is the TV commercials that herald the beginning of the festive season.

In the old days, Woolworths traditionally used to be the favourite spot to watch out for. The media would be rife with anticipation about what their ad extravaganza might entail, who it might star and what their budget might be. However, much like the brand itself, those days are long gone. In these days of austerity, the Christmas blockbuster commercials resemble something entirely different altogether.

John Lewis provides the most prominent example of how this particular landscape has changed over recent years. The ad has, as is tradition, triggered a phenomenal amount of buzz. It has filled newspaper columns, sparked debate and even sneak previews on Twitter and YouTube meant that the ‘twitterati’ were twittering at a high volume before the ad aired. However, the reason why people actually care has altered dramatically.

John Lewis is one of those brands that seems to have acquired a uniquely special place in the nation’s heart. It is a brand universally adored by middle England and has become increasingly adept at tapping into the mood of the county. During a time of economic turmoil, where brands need our custom more than ever, John Lewis opted to produce a heart-warming and emotive piece that contrasts entirely against the commercially focussed norm.

This year’s ad portrays a simpler, generous and more innocent time. People repeatedly comment on how timeless it seems, indicating that it appeals to people on a far more human level. In short, it completely abandons any sense of crass commercialism.

This is highly unusual for a high street retailer and it is a refreshing change to see a brand take the moral retail high ground; in fact they seem to have carved themselves a monopoly of being the only brand that can authentically achieve this. This ad doesn’t overtly sell products, but the emotion and spirit of Christmas. While there are many cynics who may dispute its genuine intentions, that little boy who is so excited to give his parents their presents, has created more Christmas joy than all the other attempts by brands put together.

Now that’s something really worth talking about.


Steve Hanson

Back when I was a designer in the eighties and early nineties, I worked closely with a handful of photographers that I trusted. Just as now, these photographers really made our lives easier and had a huge part to play in the identity of the design work that we created.

Steve Hanson was one of those photographers. I first started working with Steve on the iconic Opera North design work of the late eighties and he was already on board and working directly with the client and producing his signature brooding black and white imagery for a forward thinking client. From a design perspective, this was a marriage made in heaven and before long we were creating some of the most beautiful design to be seen in the region (in my humble opinion of course).

This work then formed a platform and I worked alongside Steve on a range of  projects ranging from Northern Ballet Theatre, Phoenix Dance, Leeds Film Festival and Rowan Yarns. Steve’s image ‘style’ was moody and intense and heavy on the post production processing – as there was no Photoshop in those days he relied heavily on traditional darkroom techniques.

Steve was always a pleasure to work with – challenging the brief, not always following it, which often resulted in a winning images. His intense personality combined with a passion to get the job  right and do great work meant that it wasn’t always plain sailing working with Steve. But the credit Photo: Hanson was a badge that meant a lot in the design and cultural community.

Over time I’d lost touch with Steve as our paths went different ways. I was increasingly less and less a hands on creative and I wasn’t responsible for commissioning photography and he was off pursuing other interests in London.

I was really sad to find out that Steve died recently – he’d been living on Holy Isle following his lifelong passion for landscape photography. I got a call out of the blue from a designer who also used to work with Steve who told me the news –  It was quite a shock. Have a look at his latest work here, it’s still beautiful.

So this weekend I dug out some of our old work we did together. It was stashed away in the garage in a box, so it wasn’t in the best shape. Nevertheless it stands the test of time I think and Steve’s images are as striking and evocative as ever. Steve once told me he loved how great his shots looked in my designs and it was one of my proudest moments as a designer.

The world has lost a wonderful image maker who cared immensely about everything he did from the mundane to the spectacular. You will be missed Steve.