Actors’ Workshop Correspondence & VAT Invoice, 23 & 29 November 1994

Some sundry correspondence and a VAT invoice (which must have baffled Mike Ward) with The Actors Workshop in late 1994, while I was registered for VAT in my own name in order to get Z/Yen started.

I sent Mike stuff for his New Year Revels shows for several years, sometimes wrote material to order (from memory, not that year) and occasionally attended with Janie.

No need to redact the address for this correspondence – the premises was fire-bombed in 2001, soon after Casablanca The Musical brought the house down – another story.

Apologies for the rogue apostrophes in the correspondence below – I was young and foolish back then.

Mike Ward                                  23 November 1994
Actor’s Workshop
West Grove Terrace
Hopwood Lane
Halifax, West Yorkshire
Dear Mike


Thank you for your letter, cheque and note re Save The Children Fund. I hope the preparation for your show is going well. I enclose my invoice (VAT regulations, who needs ’em?).

I look forward to hearing from you / seeing you soon.
Yours sincerely
Ian Harris

The enc:

FAO Mike Ward      Date: 23 November 1994
Actor’s Workshop      Tax point: 23 November 1994
West Grove Terrace
Hopwood Lane
Halifax, West Yorkshire
INVOICE TO: Actor’s Workshop

In respect of songs and sundry patter for the New Year Revels show scheduled for January 1995.

VAT @ 17.5% 5.96

TOTAL £40.00
This amount has been received, with thanks.

…and one more letter…

Mike Ward 29 November 1994
Actor’s Workshop
West Grove Terrace
Hopwood Lane
Halifax, West Yorkshire
Dear Mike


Thank you for the call yesterday. I enclose the tape you requested. If you need anything else, do get in touch.

Hope to see you soon.
Yours sincerely
Ian Harris


Newt Gingrich, NewsRevue Lyric, 22 November 1994

I’m not sure what happened with this one, but the log dates it as above whereas the electronic file is dated July 1995. Perhaps just a tiny tweak and resubmission, probably in vain.

Slow numbers need to be spot on. I don’t think this one is.

(To the Tune of “Moon River”)


BILL: For the sake of harmony on Capitol Hill, I am prepared to listen to any ideas the new speaker, Newt Gingrich, might wish to advance.

NEWT: Mr President, your wife’s a bitch!

(Immediately, an incessant female nonsense whine starts across the PA)

BILL: (to off) Yes, Hillary, I’ll tell that ass-hole where to get off, don’t you worry your pretty little bitch of head about that, he ain’t getting away with that remark.(To Newt) With all due respect, Mr Gingrich, that’s not quite the kind of harmony I had in mind. Try this for size.


Newt Gingrich,
What a crazy name,
Competing for my fame and cares;
New speaker,
And rule tweaker,
The house that you’re chairing’s preparing for prayers.

(Hillary starts again with the whining)
BILL: Yes, Hillary, I’m telling him, I’m telling him good and proper.


Two parties try to share the power,
But you’re so gruff and sour, please see;
We’re after the same rainbow’s end,
Let me tax and spend,
Then you can be friend,
Newt Gingrich and me.


Bill Clinton off to save the world,
You chase your tail and girls loosely;
I’m after a sane rainbow’s end,
Although I’m round the bend,
My cuts will never mend,
Newt Gingrich, that’s me.

Here is Moon River with the lyrics set out below the vid:

Commerce With Ben Murphy, Autumn Correspondence, Culminating 15 November 1994

Ben Murphy is/was a very funny fellow and I enjoyed doing business with him. But several of the NewsRevue writers struggled with him, usually at the “getting paid” level.

He certainly wasn’t very business-like (but then nor are some of the NewsRevue lot), so I suspect that my correspondence felt a bit more urgent to him.

I always got paid eventually, for as long as he wanted more material, as I’d simply withhold new stuff until I was paid for the old stuff after a while.

The other problem dealing with him was working out where he was. He moved around a lot, partly for summer season purposes but possibly for other reasons. I hope he didn’t pay me rather than the rent that month…perhaps that explains the move.

Anyway, the correspondence and invoices below (from the early Z/Yen days when I needed to invoice) give a good flavour of it all.

I got paid and got continuing business for a couple more years. Ben started calling me Z/Ian after the second of the letters below.

Ben Murphy                  12 October 1994

(Wells address redacted)

Dear Ben


As promised, Ben, here are those new songs. Hope you can use them..

Looking forward to receiving the dosh soon. Hope to increase my volume of output again shortly – so watch this space.

Do let me have your new address and phone number a.s.a.p. Speak to you soon.

Yours sincerely
Ian Harris


…and with a little more urgency…

Ben Murphy                                   15 November 1994

(Wells address redacted)

Dear Ben


Thank you for the telephone message that I have just received. I hope this letter gets to you, as your message did not identify your new address and telephone number.

I enclose copies of my fee notes (bloody yuppie he’s becoming) and copies of the very small number of new songs I’ve produced since we last spoke (nice guy ‘tho’, how could you possibly hate him on principle?).

I shall resort to private detectives and all sorts of shit unless I get a new address and telephone number out of you by the end of the month. I’ve just got to get these new songs to you!!

Love and kisses.

Yours sincerely
Ian Harris


…and the invoices…

VAT REG NO GB 646 1995 04

FAO Ben Murphy Date: 12 September 1994

Tax point:14 August 1994

(Wells address redacted)

INVOICE TO: Ben Murphy
In respect of songs and sundry patter for your summer season, May to 12 August 1994.



TOTAL £125.00
This amount is now due. Many thanks in advance of your prompt attention.



FAO Ben Murphy Date: 12 September 1994
Taxpoint: 12 September 1994

(Wells address redacted)

INVOICE TO: Ben Murphy
In respect of songs and sundry patter for your summer season, mid August to September 1994.

VAT @ 17.5% 4.47
TOTAL £30.00
This amount is now due. Many thanks in advance of your prompt attention.

Accountancy Age Awards, The Brewery, 9 November 1994

In the annals of accountancy folk lore, 9 November 1994 will forever be an historic day, not that you would easily find a reference to it on-line…

…until now.

For that evening in 1994 was the very first Accountancy Age Awards, now operated as a separate venture by the looks of it and/or rebranded as the British Accountancy Awards.

And I was there.

Not just there, I was an honoured guest. For I had been one of the judges on one of the panels for that very first year of the Accountancy Awards. I had been on the judging panel for accounting systems, no less. Selected for the role while I still worked for Binder Hamlyn, although I had left to form Z/Yen in the meantime. Accountancy Age were told about the move but didn’t mind. Nor did Binders.

A few weeks or months earlier, while still at Binders.

According to my 1994 diary, I spent the afternoon of 13 September 1994 at the Accountancy Age offices. During those few hours, I and the rest of the panel “examined” several systems, to decide which were worthy of  awards. You can imagine just how methodical and scientific that judging process must have been.

It was my first experience on an awards judging panel and I learnt a lot that afternoon to stand me in good stead since, whenever I have subsequently sat on (or in some cases chaired) such panels… mostly I learnt how NOT to judge awards from the Accountancy Awards experience.

But on awards night itself the judging was all behind me. My hard work was done. My black tie outfit was donned. I think I might have still been hiring black tie gear back then. It looks from my diary as though I worked from home that day, thus avoiding the worst excesses of “black tie day misery”: lugging clobber around all day, knowing you’ll have to change into that tux in some smelly bog, early evening. Or, in many ways worse, wandering around town all day in black tie, explaining to each client in the morning and afternoon meetings that you are so darned busy with back-to-back meetings that you are already dressed for a pompous evening do.

I have two lingering but fitful memories from the evening. The first relates to Bob Monkhouse, who hosted the show. I remember discovering that Debbie Barham was writing gags for Bob Monkhouse when he did this kind of gig, by mentioning this event to Debbie at a NewsRevue writers meeting. Debbie was a young, supremely talented comedy writer, whose subsequent tragic story was posthumously written by her dad in this book – click here.

I cannot remember whether Debbie and I had that conversation about Bob before or after the event itself. I do remember that, once we’d had that conversation, I’d get occasional e-mails from Debbie (she, like me, was a relatively early e-mail adopter) asking me for background information, buzz phrases or just something for her to latch onto when she was writing patter for similar commercial events, usually for Monkhouse or another serial awards offender, such as Ned Sherrin or Rory Bremner. Little did I know at that time how obsessive Debbie’s work habits would become and how tragically her situation would end.

But on the Accountancy Awards evening itself, I recall finding Bob Monkhouse’s jokes rather predictable but very professionally served. As was the food.

My second memory relates to George Littlejohn. By good chance, I was placed next to George. He was also an honoured guest, in his case in the capacity of a former editor of Accountancy Age magazine. George had subsequently moved on to bigger and better things; yes that really is possible.

George is a most interesting chap with a very good sense of humour. The latter came in especially handy that evening. There is always something incongruous/pompous about awards ceremonies done “Oscars-style” for matters less glamorous and more mundane than the Oscars. Accountancy Awards, for example, are, in my opinion, just a tad less glamorous and a smidgen more mundane than Oscars.

Perhaps George Littlejohn remembers the evening differently; if so, I hope he chimes in with a comment or three. We’ve kept in touch all these years, our business interests overlapping occasionally, but in any case we always enjoy meeting up. I occasionally run into George at cultural events, as indeed I did on New Years Day 2017 at the Curzon Bloomsbury – click here – which triggered me to write up this 1994 event now.

I particularly recall the last award, Accountant of the Year, being delivered with extreme fanfare, won by a big-haired young woman. Her excellence as an accountant I couldn’t possibly question, but it seemed (to us at least) that she had primarily been chosen for the award because she would utterly look the part in the press photos. In any event, she rapidly got busy, kissing Bob Monkhouse spontaneously, looking elatedly happy and supremely excited about it all. Meanwhile, the flash guns went on firing and the thumping music went on blaring. George and I couldn’t stop giggling for quite some while.

Still, the event must have been a great success – it is still being held every year, at the same venue I believe – for sure it was again at The Brewery, Chiswell Street in 2016. The event even has its own website and strap line – click here.

Although I have no pictures to show you of the event from 1994, the good news is, Accountancy Age have put up an album of pictures from the 2016 event. I have to tell you that, apart from the absence of me, George Littlejohn and of course the late Bob Monkhouse, the photo album looks just how the event looked in 1994 – it’s an uncannily similar look – click here.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that there is no record on-line from the 1994 event; who needs it? As another great George, Santayana in this case, succinctly put it:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Black Yeti, NewsRevue Lyric, 6 November 1994

Presumably someone found a yeti’s remains in Hunan province.

I don’t think this lyric made it into NewsRevue.

(A Quickie To the Tune of “Black Betty”)

Wo-oh Black Yeti – Hunan man,
Wo-oh Black Yeti – Hunan man;
The Yeti has been seen – Hunan man,
In a Chinese ravine – Hunan man;
He’s abominable -Hunan man,
And he finds it hard to pull – Hunan man;
We’ll make his mark -wo-oh Black Yeti,
A Chinese theme park – wo-oh Black Yeti;
Hunan man.


Wo-oh Black Yeti – Hunan man,
Wo-oh Black Yeti – Hunan man;
Boy that Yeti was mean – Hunan man
Fried up with yellow bean – Hunan man;
Black Yeti was a male – Hunan man,
We threw him in jail – Hunan man;
Without a trial – wo-oh Black Yeti,
Chinese style – wo-oh Black Yeti,
Human rights.

Sorry, human rights is off. Try number 23 – summary execution without trial or appeal.

Here is Ram Jam singing Black Betty with lyrics on the screen: