Meet the Team

We hope you enjoy your Tyne Idols tour or event—remember the Team are here to help, that we might only heighten what we hope is already a "top deck" customer experience.


RAY LAIDLAW

Ray has been actively involved in music and TV for over 50 years. Following his education at Newcastle College of Art—and perhaps more importantly at Newcastle's legendary Club A Go-Go—in the 1960s, he began his career as drummer for the world-straddling British folk-rock group Lindisfarne.

After achieving global success in the early '70s, he co-founded two other bands, Jack The Lad and Radiator, before returning to Lindisfarne in the mid-'70s. Ray was appointed the band's manager in the mid-'80s, running concert and recording activities as well as continuing to play the drums.

In the 1990s Ray established a company producing original music for TV drama and advertising, a recording studio, and he managed a number of writers and performers. Clients and projects of that period included Chas Chandler, Jimmy Nail, EMI, and Kitchenware Records. In 1998 Ray co-produced a 1-hour TV feature Lindisfarne: Rock of The North, with Geoff Wonfor directing; they have worked together on many TV projects since.

The last 10 years has seen Ray produce many high profile events including Sunday for Sammy. He has been a member of Tyne Tees TV Consultative Panel, a mentor for the New Deal for Musicians and a director of the Whitley Bay Playhouse Trust.


PAUL IRWIN

Paul's interest in music began with underage forays to the likes of Mingles in Whitley Bay, Newcastle Mayfair and Tiffanys, suitably attired in sweaty denim and tooled-up with a false ID in order to take in perhaps more live gigs and festivals than was decent.

Hooked he became and, because those gigs and Tizers weren't cheap, he had a plan. His older brother, David, was a news editor for Northeast Press, persuading the editor that, if they were to feature gig and album reviews, life would improve immeasurably for all. Fortune shone and Paul got his hands on tickets and goodies a-plenty.

During the early '80s Paul played with local bands including NWOBHM-ers Warrior, Satan and the Tygers of Pan Tang until the spandex wore thin and the need to find a proper job kicked in.

In 1990 Paul started EastCoast Taxis with two cars, building up to a fleet of 200+ vehicles today. To diversify, EastCoast Tours was created, with trips around the breathtaking scenery, castles and coastline of Northumbria.

Paul, with Chris Wilson (q.v.), also published the successful Whitley Bay & Tynemouth Guide booklets which included original written pieces from local luminaries such as Ian La Frenais, Bob Langley, "Hairy Biker" Si King and many more.


CHRIS WILSON

A devout fan of all kinds of music almost since his own release date of May 10, 1966—the day after The Beatles recorded 'For No One' and the day before Beach Boy Brian Wilson began work on 'Heroes and Villains', trivia fans—Chris is a freelance graphic designer based in the Northumberland countryside.

Among countless design-centric ventures and adventures over the years, Chris has designed over 90 rock music biographies for London publishers, many local projects including the much-loved Whitley Bay & Tynemouth Guide (in collaboration with Paul Irwin—q.v.), and is responsible for the Tyne Idols logo, brand development and any design and publicity materials.

Many other gripping projects to speak of include creating the former website bananastan.com with the legendary Van Dyke Parks to promote and release the wonderful music of sunnier climes; designing the official biography for the great Jon Hiseman; working directly with several other long-time musical heroes on design assignments such as websites, publishing and advertising; and spreading the love for clients in places as far-flung as Italy, Zimbabwe, Canada, Nigeria, Los Angeles, and the Caribbean.

Currently living the country life and "bringing the ghetto to the gentry", Chris as Chrimson Graphics continues to work on various all-new, diverse and ethical design projects for 2017-18 that should take several nations by storm, as well as writing a regular blog in which musings on graphic design mix with attempts at humour.


CHRIS PHIPPS

A name linked with over three decades of music on television and other media, Chris Phipps has always maintained a talent for documenting the regional roots of pop and rock, showcasing his passion for the subject whether on a local or world platform.

Back in his native Midlands he told the story of "Brumbeat" in Channel 4's Motor City Music Years. In his adopted home of the North East he was recruited to co-produce C4's controversial music show The Tube, capturing superstars and unsigned acts alike on a global scale and throwing them into our front rooms every Friday evening from 1982 to 1987. It is for this that he has been described affectionately—or is it disparagingly—as a sort of "proto-Simon Cowell".

Since the Tube days he has been a consultant to ITV1 and Channel 4 popular music 'Top 100' programmes as well as major biopics like the truly sublime (reckons Wilson) Bob Marley—Time Will Tell, and co-producer of an award-winning TV series and spin-off book devoted to Northstars.

Chris is currently involved in the production of several documentaries on North East life and music for national TV and Radio. Tyne Idols is a bit of a welcome diversion for this in-demand public speaker, radio and TV guest, allowing him to talk incessantly for hours and share his knowledge of rock and pop non-stop. Oh and he's also a friend of Black Sabbath and once had Tina Turner sitting on his knee.


JULIE CLAY

Julie has a knowing acquaintance with the entertainment and courtesy business, working for many years at Newcastle Theatre Royal in booking and marketing, specialising in hospitality and customer care, not to mention sales for the venues Whitley Bay Ice Rink and Newcastle Arena, and organising many of her own events including setting up the collection of the Sir Bobby Robson’s tribute flowers from St James Park and having them composted to raise hundreds of pounds for his charity.

Julie currently runs Vintage Tea Party, a very successful china and bunting hire business. "My collection began after visits to the flea market at the very beautiful Tynemouth Station. I bought a pretty tea set for myself and was hooked!"

Quite how she finds the time for Tyne Idolry on top of all this is beyond us lot.

Whatever your booking or hospitality requirements, whether for 1 ticket or 70, Julie will tend to all from sales to welcoming you on board. Says Julie: "The Tyne Idols tour gave me goosebumps, memories of my youth came flooding back to me, and I would like to share this amazing experience with as many people as possible."

For all things 'bums on seats' and customer liaison, give Julie a tinkle.


KEITH NEWMAN

We’ve dug out our bondage trousers and safety pins to welcome our latest member. Punk radio presenter Keith “New Wave” Newman draws on his knowledge to enlighten our customers on the history of punk in the North East. He shares some of his most unusual and unexpected experiences from his 36 years of being a “nasty punk rocker” both with his 1979 band The Village Idiots and now as a fan.

In reality though, Keith is a canny lad really, he no longer has the blue spikey hair and tartan bumflap, and he’s managed to hold down a decent job. His role as MD of Highlights PR has seen him look after publicity for some of the biggest names in North East entertainment including Sunday For Sammy, the Auf Wiedersehen, Pet 30 year celebrations and, of course, Tyne Idols.

His popular New Wave With Newman show for Radio Northumberland has built up a loyal following and regularly has major artists almost insisting on an interview which have included Chris Difford from Squeeze, Wreckless Eric, and Bruce Foxton from The Jam.

As well as being an all-round asset, Keith is co-compère on our occasional Real Ale Mystery Tours and has established his own brilliant 'Gob On The Tyne' tour with us. In his spare time Keith enjoys listening to Abba, watching Balamory and ship spotting on the river.


JOHN BROWN

So impressed was John as an excitable passenger on our Real Ale and Music Heritage tours, he ended up actually driving our bus (though thankfully not on the same day).

John started playing with buses about 10 years ago, filling in whilst studying for a degree in Media Communication and Cultural Studies at Newcastle University. Other facets of John's endless talents have included lecturing in IT and Web Design at Newcastle College, and Corporate Training in London under his own steam.

Says John: "Nowadays I run Presentation and Communication Skills Workshops, occasionally, and I am also an Independent Civil Celebrant delivering non religious funeral services. Somehow I'm still driving at weekends—I guess I quite like it really." Phew, rock 'n roll eh!

Oh he hasn't finished yet… "My musical tastes vary through classic '70s metal, AC/DC, Led Zep, some newer stuff like System of a Down and Pantera but, weirdly," he snorts, "I'm also a bit partial to House and Dance stuff too." Think we'll just leave it at that eh.


TOMMY THORPE

Tommy is one of our 3 bus drivers, but he has so far neglected to give us any biographical details. So in the meantime, here's a quick recipe for Shepherd's Pie:

Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a large pot fitted with a steamer basket. Add potatoes and steam until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Add milk, butter and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Mash together to a chunky consistency. Cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb, onion, carrots and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until the lamb is no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle flour and oregano over the mix and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes more.

Ladle the lamb "stew" into 4 bowls and top with the mashed potatoes. Some people like to 'hedgehog' the mash with a fork, "But I like it with cheese on," says Tommy, "Mmmm I do, yes indeedy!”


LEYLAND ATLANTEAN

Buses have feelings too, but Tyne Idols' most important piece of travel kit, "PUA 300W", first saw active service as a workhorse in Huddersfield in its original drab burgundy and cream livery.

Now freshened-up in cheery Newcastle Busways colours and a whiff of Febreze or two, the bus has been lovingly restored and can be seen proudly tootling and tooting away around the streets of Tyneside, carrying passengers in search of fun. That's one rock 'n' roll tale with a happy ending!


AEC ROUTEMASTER

Our first proper bus for the use of. Now sadly retired, the handsome red Routemaster was designed for the relative flatness of London, not the steep hills and undulating contours of Newcastle upon Tyne. It was hairy at best on a hot summer's day when paused at the traffic lights at the top of Dean Street, the bus would snort and hiss as the burning clutch did its best to stop us all from rolling backwards down the hill.

And sadly so, being declared unfit for work, off it popped. We have no idea of its current whereabouts. Perhaps it has been re-imagined into a nightclub in Dubai. Or a travelling school across the savannahs of East Africa, the kids feeding cherries to giraffes through the upper windows. What a lovely thought—we can only dream—but it's probably rusting away with chickens in it.