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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, October 31, 2004
    Keepin' it Rhyl
    The hour has changed but the weekend supplements are still predictably dull, boringly London-focused and consumer-shallow. Consumer-focused and London-shallow. For instance, "The OK Yahdie has Prince William looks, upturned collars and Fulham sensibilities, though he might have strayed as far out as Hackney" (one of them, today). They are no inspiration or comfort after a ten-hour day and a mischief night. I only buy them for the what's ons and new releases - I'm inclined to go back to the Radio Times, and the Rough Trade weekly email offers far more robust cd reviews.

    So - hallelujah for Plastic Rhino, a style mag which breaks out of all that dullness by devoting its second issue to a day trip around Rhyl. As handbag.com describe it,

    Plastic Rhino despatched a team including a photographer, designers, writers, models and make-up artists on a train bound for the town to "document in a day, the reality of Rhyl". The results are revealing. There's a photo shoot starring mams with prams (with clothes by Wade Smith and mams who "combine wheels, child and vogue into one supremely balanced triangle of style"), several disses of pensioners with motorised wheelchairs aka The Dawn Raiders, homages to the £1 donkey rides on the beach, the legendary Sun Centre, SeaQuarium, Casino Corner and a Readers' Knives shoot which was inspired by the shops on West Parade selling "a small, but impressive range of guns and knives." It puts Tracey Emin's cutesy beach hut images of Margate into perspective: if you want the real seaside deal, head to Rhyl.

    A highlight for me was the double page spread devoted to the team's attempt to RING THE ALARM in a phonebox outside Weatherspoon's. It takes a short while to realise that this is not an act of vandalism in an attempt to sound a siren; it is a telephone call to Rhyl's finest 1980s rockers, now reformed. Sadly Mike Peters is not answering, so the Plastic Rhino team turn their attention to noughties tricksters Gam, who sound far more interesting (eg, after Richey Manic famously carved 4REAL into his arm in 1991, Gam followed him by launching themselves with a song about pollution in the Dee estuary and, scrawled across their arms in red marker pen, the phrase 4RHYL...)

    The knives page is very disturbing; but it's real enough. Which is what's so good about this refreshing rag. It revels in reality - raw, ribald, redemptive reality:

    Head down Abbey Street and on your right is a storefront touting itself "Rhyl's Biggest Receiver of Stolen Goods." We did ask for truth in advertising, but: god damn. A bit further up on the left is Polish Joe's Cafe ... We're hoping to meet Joe but sadly find the place locked up, trays of beans are stacked on dusty tables and all the signs have been taken away and replaced with a single notice.