2016 In Pictures – It’s Not All About Blackbird This Year

On April 16th 2016, my wonderful mum passed away following a long, proud and valiant battle against cancer and COPD.

Thankfully, in the month prior I was able to spend the weekend of Mother’s day with her, surprisingly without carers etc being needed, and she was in very good spirits. We blethered for ages, ate good food and drank fine wine together. She was delighted with the bouquet of flowers I’d brought for her and my surprise visit. Little did I suspect at the time that she would be gone within a month after that weekend.

The illnesses themselves alongside her medical treatments meant that when she had last visited me in Todmorden she had absolutely no appetite. I had so much wanted her to try the food at Blackbird, especially since she had inspired and encouraged my love for food and cooking since I was a small boy. It was only with hindsight after opening Blackbird that I realised she had made a love of good food part of my DNA. A current dish on the Blackbird menu is a almost a carbon copy of one she used to make, Persian spiced lentils with pan-fried cumin dusted cauliflower, crispy red onions and a cumin tahini dressing.

It was obviously going to be difficult to find any kind of silver lining for 2016, however the surprise of having Blackbird included for the second year running in The Waitrose Good Food Guide for 2017 definitely felt good and a little serendipitous under the circumstances. As I write, new dishes and menu ideas are being crafted, not for The Good Food Guide or anything like that, just for me, and my mum.

Sunset at Maidens, Ayrshire where my mother's remains were scattered

Sunset at Maidens in Ayrshire on September 2016, where my mother’s remains were scattered

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Postscript: Dale Hibbert of Kava Kafe in Todmorden

Well, it would seem that there was some kind of deliberate victim playing going on as regards Kava Kafe allegedly being reported closed on Tripadvisor. Following thorough investigations, Tripadvisor have apparently discovered that it was in fact Dale Hibbert who was repeatedly and falsely reporting The Bear as being closed instead. These sad and pathetic efforts to undermine a rival local business have had serious consequences. Tripadvisor has recently demoted Kava Kafe to the very bottom of the rankings as a result of these nefarious activities. It has also stripped Kava Kafe of it’s ‘Certificate of Excellence’. The phrase “poetic justice” comes to mind.

EDIT: Since this post was published, Dale Hibbert has somehow convinced TripAdvisor of his innocence, and the listing for Kava Kafe has been restored to somewhere appropriate in the rankings. And in the meantime he has accused me of doctoring the image above. This is completely and utterly untrue (and it can be proven if necessary) and is yet another attempted smear by someone who appears to be a very paranoid and insecure individual. No wonder at all that The Smiths got rid.

It’s not even as if Dale Hibbert gets rave reviews for the navel-gazing and self-interested ‘Boy, Interrupted’ or that Kava Kafe in Todmorden didn’t get recommended in The Good Food Guide or anything 😉

Competiton? No, I don’t think so at all.

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Boy, Interrupted – My Recent Encounters With Dale Hibbert of Kava Kafe & Very Briefly, The Smiths

Here’s an interesting insight into the psyche of the failed ‘The Smiths’ musician Dale Hibbert, by way of his hostile and absurd paranoia about a business which doesn’t even come close to achieving what he would even dare to dream. An allegedly experienced entrepeneur and hospitality expert cannot seem to handle the fact that Blackbird has achieved so much more than he can and in a shorter space of time, even when led by someone completely and utterly inexperienced in the industry. Nor can can he seem to accept he was a brief and very much a bit part player in the history of The Smiths, yet still continues to attempt to trade off his his minute and completely unsuccessful involvement, since Dale Hibbert was kicked out of The Smiths as soon as a worthwhile replacement made themselves known. You’ll find no songwriting credits to Dale Hibbert in The Smiths archives…

(Illustrations to follow..)


Still not heard a word from the police, which isn’t particularly surprising, since you have actually made no complaint.

I, on the other hand am going to publish this email conversation (and the previous one) and allow the cards to fall where they may as a result. I will also intend to make a full public statement about this jealous vandalism, this petulant and puerile nonsense of yours. You have no honour Dale.

As I recently posted on Twitter, I will actively and jealously protect the jobs of the people I employ in defiance of hate-filled people like yourself and others in this town. What yourself and the narrow-minded, moronic bullies of this town forget, is that trying to destroy me or Blackbird has greater consequences for the 15 staff I employ. All of whom have been informed about the events on your Facebook page, complete with screenshots.

I have thus far done nothing wrong or untoward with regards to you or your business, yet you clearly make it your own business to damage, malign and attempt to destroy mine in spite of this.

Shame on you, and be prepared.


Kevin McDougall

On 11 Jul 2016, at 12:45, Kava wrote:

Well, as I said, I haven’t heard back from them yet. But I think they should be aware that you think I am an “utter bastard”, and have made what I consider to be threats. It’s always reassuring to have a paper trail lodged with them. It’s quite likely they will tell me to ignore you, but at least our written conversations will be on record.

All the best

On 11 July 2016 at 12:39, Kevin McDougall wrote:

Believe me. You have a great deal more to worry about by involving the police.

If you give me the crime number you were quoted, I’ll be happy to discuss the matter with them.


Kevin McDougall

On 11 Jul 2016, at 12:35, Kava wrote:

Well, I suppose if the Police deem in not a threat, then it cant be, but I am still awaiting a response from them. I’m quite happy to involve them, as you suggested.

All the best.

On 11 July 2016 at 12:27, Kevin McDougall wrote:

Sorry, but you’re mistaken. It is not a threat.


Kevin McDougall

On 11 Jul 2016, at 12:24, Kava wrote:

“However, the consequences of your allowing this to occur will be felt.” Kind of sounds like a threat.

On 11 July 2016 at 12:21, Kevin McDougall wrote:

Let me be abundantly clear.

As long before, I do not consider Kava as competition to Blackbird. Have no grudge against you, Svetlana or your business. I don’t even talk about you. Why? Because my determined efforts to bring some degree of success to Blackbird are self-evident by it’s busyness, it’s entry in the Good For Guide and the many favourable TripAdvisor advisor reviews it garners. And thus, I have absolutely no reason to put you or your business down, because it does not matter to me at all.

I may not particularly like you, but I would not do what you have done, or have allowed to be done. It’s evidently you that has the problem Dale.

And crucially, I do not make threats.



On 11 Jul 2016, at 12:09, Kava wrote:

Well, here’s my conundrum. As we are now listed as open, I was going to remove the post as its now irrelevant, and I like to tidy up outdated stuff.

Problem is that you might now think thats down to you, which it isnt, so we get caught in a testosterone fuelled situation, because we clearly dont like each other.

You can threaten as much as you like, it has no impact on me.

On 11 July 2016 at 11:59, Kevin McDougall wrote:

I have not and would not EVER allow Blackbird’s Facebook page to be used to smear and damage the reputation of any other business or individual whether directly or by implication as is the case here. It is truly vile to do so!

You are allowing this to happen and continue to do so, quite deliberately I would imagine, since you choose to be obtuse about rectifying the situation.

I have NEVER wronged you, Kava or Svetlana, not once. And your maturity in dealing with this matter is a great deal more in question than mine.


Kevin McDougall

On 11 Jul 2016, at 11:52, Kava wrote:

Thats it? Seriously.

On 11 July 2016 at 11:49, Kevin McDougall wrote:
Boy, interrupted.

On 11 Jul 2016, at 11:47, Kava wrote:

They will be “felt” ooohhhhhh Grow Up.

On 11 July 2016 at 11:44, Kevin McDougall wrote:
Clearly. However, the consequences of your allowing this to occur will be felt.

It was mentioned, however neither I nor Blackbird need to be explicitly mentioned for an offence to occur, especially when there is historical evidence of myself and my business being much more directly targeted by this individual.


Kevin McDougall

On 11 Jul 2016, at 11:36, Kava wrote:

But I’m not a responsible person, I am in your words an ” utter bastard”.

Pity the police weren’t interested. Cant be arsed to check the thread, but fairly sure Blackbird wasnt mentioned.

On 11 July 2016 at 11:25, Kevin McDougall wrote:

The police will not be contacting you as being the person responsible for any offences, which may also include those covered by The Malicious Communications Act. However, I will be pointing out that you allowed the offences to occur. I already have much evidence of the person (whom I have never even met) conducting a lengthy hate campaign over several years, which has recently been reignited.

I do not want you to post anything at all about Blackbird. What i want you to do is remove the offending comments, which any responsible person would have already done unless they were happy to see them being posted.


Kevin McDougall

On 11 Jul 2016, at 11:18, Kava wrote:

Please do make it a police matter. I’ll expect them to contact me in due course.

I’ll ask people on the thread not to write negative reviews about Blackbird and post your concerns there. Although this may draw attention to yourselves, as I did not name any person or business.

All the best

On 11 July 2016 at 10:59, Kevin McDougall wrote:
You’re allowing it to happen Dale, and are therefore complicit!

You’re allowing customers to conduct a hate campaign on your page. Allowing them to suggest that they write negative reviews of Blackbird.

Two of the people commenting are sincerely disturbed and I’ve been a victim of their deeply malicious nature several times own the past.

Frankly, I’m inclined to make this a police matter vis-a-vis offences under the Protection From Harassment Act.

Should any suspect negative reviews subsequently appear on TripAdvisor, I will report them with screenshots of the thread and hold Kava entirely responsible for those reviews by allowing people to make those kind of suggestions on it’s page.

I took the photographs of the signage to send to Rhian, since I found it amusing that you could make petty comments about two A-boards and then put up yet other piece of signage.


Kevin McDougall

On 11 Jul 2016, at 10:37, Kava wrote:

Didnt say it was you, you need to get your paranoia under control. Interesting what you say about Bear though, I thought it was a workers cooperative, but the ownership hasnt changed for 20 years?

One thing I do strongly suspect, was that when our illuminated sign went up, you were taking a picture of it, then it was reported to planning. This of course might be coincidence, and planning wouldnt give me the name of the single objector, but when I suggested the complaint was on commercial grounds, they dismissed the complaint.



I have never considered Kava to be a rival business. Firstly, because it isn’t even open during Blackbird’s busiest service periods. Secondly, it’s not regularly turning customers away because it is full to capacity, and thirdly because as you say it is a different customer base.

No, I do not know the reviewers you find so difficult to accept criticism from. I was talking with a regular customer who said I should look at your management response.

Your comments below about hygiene rating (irrelevant anyway as 95% of issues rectified), your comments on Tripadvisor and on your website, reveal your antipathy very clearly.

The comments on the website are particularly revealing. The irony being that your anti-Bear remarks seem to overlook the fact that you have eaten at Blackbird yourself!


Sent from my iPhone

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2015 In Pictures – It’s All About Blackbird

Around this time of year, I usually post a selection of photos either taken or received by me, to sum up what kind of year I’ve had. However, this year has ultimately been defined for me by one thing and one thing only. Blackbird, and it being featured in the Waitrose Good Food Guide 2016.

When I initially opened the letter and gave it a cursory glance, I presumed it was an advertising mailshot, and was too busy doing the washing up at Blackbird, since the kitchen porter had failed to show up for work that day. So, I just left the letter on top of the dishwasher and carried on getting through all the dirty dishes. Three days later, the kitchen porter had again failed to show up for work and I found myself up to my elbows in dirty crockery and pans again. During a break, I wondered whether the letter was still on top of the dishwasher. It sure was, and when I gave it a more thorough read, it completely blew my mind.

There are few achievements in my life which can match the surprise, elation and satisfaction which finding Blackbird listed in the Good Food Guide elicited. And with tongue firmly in cheek, I still occasionally joke with customers that Blackbird even achieved a higher cooking score than the illustrious Ivy in London.

So anyway, here it is. My 2015 In Pictures. Well, just one really. Sorry to disappoint!

Blackbird in the Good Food Guide 2016

Visit the website of Blackbird in Todmorden

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2014 In Pictures

Typically rushed and random selection of pictures either taken or sent to me over 2014. I thought I’d had a fairly quiet year, seems like the exact opposite is true according to the pics. Apologies for the overkill on Sorcha photos, but she is a bit cute..

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Roma… Ti Amo!

I just can’t get enough of Rome.

Every time I visit, I fall in love with the place a little more. It’s just, right, as a city for me. It vibrates like a city should, it is stunningly beautiful to look at from almost any angle, and goddam I’ve never eaten so amazingly well in any other city including New York, Paris or London, and many other well-renowned foody cities. Rome is just a fantastic place, to be.

So anyhoo here’s a few shoddy snaps from what is easily becoming my favourite city-break and holiday destination, Rome.

PS – Excuse the black splodges on the photos. Think my phone must’ve acquired some sand back at Macarelleta Beach, Menorca earlier this year in May.

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“You are not a number, and don’t fucking forget it!”

The above quote, paraphrasing ‘The Prisoner’, is from the musical genius Steve Mason (previously of The Beta Band) as he finished his incredible set at Festival No. 6 in Portmeirion, Wales this weekend.

Steve’s fantastic gig was one of a number of highlights over this spectacular three day music festival in the picturesque faux-Mediterranean coastal town of Portmeirion in North Wales, previously used as the setting for the slightly bizarre 60’s televison series ‘The Prisoner’ starring Patrick McGoohan.

For me the other great performances over the weekend were Beck, Kelis, Candelas, tUnE-yArDs, and a rare glimpse of the Motown legend Martha Reeves performing classics like “Nowhwere To Run’ and ‘Dancing In The Street’. Beck set the main stage and the whole festival alight on the Saturday night, with a set full of energy, musical brilliance, and humour.

I’d highly recommend booking up early for Festival No.6 in 2015. After this year’s blazing success, it is shaping up to be the best music festival in the UK, in a setting which is definitely second to none.

Anyhoo, here’s a handful of snaps (and a video snippet of Beck) from my awesome weekend at Festival No.6 2014.



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2013 In Pictures – Streetcars Named Desire

Quickly throwing up this handful of photos from the past year which are roughly in chronological order I think. There are one or two that I especially treasure as memories from 2013, but mostly just snaps either taken or sent to me. The Streetcars title is a reference to the Todmorden taxi firm that I used extremely frequently over the Summer, so much so that I eventually didn’t have to give my name or destination when I called them.

It is definitely, definitely not in any way at all a reference to the Tennessee Williams play, or the character of Blanche DuBois, which was so cleverly portrayed in the excellent Blackshaw Head Players performance of the play this year.

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Andy Kershaw – No Off Switch

I’ve recently been lucky enough to have had the privilege of maintaining and developing broadcasting legend (and newly resident in Todmorden) Andy Kershaw’s website. Andy is someone whom I admire and respect a great deal, and he is also a bizarre one-degree of separation from so many of my musical heroes such as Bob Dylan, Joe Strummer, and Neil Young to name only a few.

The website has been evolving from the previous incarnation built by publishing giants Random House to promote No Off Switch, Andy’s incredible autobiography, and I’m extremely pleased with the way it’s heading. It is most definitely a massive improvement on that first website built by Random House, in terms of both presentation and ease of managing content.

Recently, I’ve added the ability for users to  buy and download Audio Book and E-book versions of the No Off Switch book, using a plugin which handles both the payment transaction and the fulfillment of downloads extremely well. Not that other content delivery channels are any less well suited, such as iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon, but the simplicity with which the book can be sold directly in either format, is definitely empowering for any artist or author.

If you’ve not read Andy’s autobiography yet, I’d highly recommend it. As would the hundreds of 5 star reviewers on Amazon. Andy’s experiences as a broadcaster and journalist make compelling reading/listening, and his journey is both fascinating and inspiring.

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2012 In Pictures

This is a fairly random selection of photographs taken by me plus a handful received from friends over the course of 2012. They’re in chronological order from my January trip to Alpandeire, through to New Year’s Eve at The 3 Wise Monkeys in Todmorden, stopping off at various holidays and events on the way.

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