Issue 111 / November 2022




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ISSUE <strong>111</strong> / NOVEMBER 2020<br />






10 DIGITAL<br />





NIL00<br />











fact.co.uk/together<br />

Funded by Supported by Commissioned by FACT Liverpool<br />

for FACT Together, a new online<br />

residency and artist development<br />

opportunity set up in response<br />

to Covid-19.

NEVER<br />

ISSUE 93 / OCTOBER 2018<br />





ISSUE 94 / NOVEMBER 2018<br />





ISSUE 95 / DEC 2018/JAN 2019<br />





MISS<br />

ISSUE 96 / FEBRUARY 2019<br />





ISSUE 97 / MARCH 2019<br />





ISSUE 98 / APRIL 2019<br />





ISSUE 99 / MAY 2019<br />




SOUND CITY 2019<br />

ISSUE 101 / JULY 2019<br />





ISSUE 102 / AUGUST 2019<br />





ISSUE 103 / SEPTEMBER 2019<br />





AN<br />

ISSUE 104 / OCTOBER 2019<br />





ISSUE 105 / NOVEMBER 2019<br />





ISSUE 106 / DEC 2019/JAN 2020<br />





ISSUE 107 / FEBRUARY 2020<br />





ISSUE<br />

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ISSUE 109 / SEPTEMBER 2020<br />





ISSUE 110 / OCTOBER 2020<br />









Box office:<br />

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The<br />

Triumph<br />

of Art<br />

10 October – 12 December 2020<br />

Image: The Triumph of Art, Nicolas Pierre Loir (1624–1679).<br />

Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.<br />

Celebrating the restoration of<br />

a painting given to The Atkinson<br />

in the late 19th century and<br />

featuring highlights from our fine<br />

art collection.

New Music + Creative Culture<br />

Liverpool<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> <strong>111</strong> / <strong>November</strong> 2020<br />

bidolito.co.uk<br />

Second Floor<br />

The Merchant<br />

40-42 Slater Street<br />

Liverpool L1 4BX<br />

Founding Editor<br />

Craig G Pennington - info@bidolito.co.uk<br />

Founding Editor<br />

Christopher Torpey - chris@bidolito.co.uk<br />

Executive Publisher<br />

Sam Turner - sam@bidolito.co.uk<br />

Editor<br />

Elliot Ryder - elliot@bidolito.co.uk<br />

Editorial Assistant<br />

Olivia Yoxall - olivia@bidolito.co.uk<br />

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Mark McKellier - mark@andmark.co.uk<br />

Branding<br />

Thom Isom - hello@thomisom.com<br />

Proofreader<br />

Nathaniel Cramp<br />

Cover Photography<br />

Marieke Macklon<br />

Words<br />

Elliot Ryder, Olivia Yoxall, Sam Turner, Mary Olive, Lily<br />

Blakeney-Edwards, Adam Noor, Emma Varley, Alice<br />

Langan, Orla Foster, Will Whitby, Sophie Shields,<br />

Richard Lewis, Anthony Wilde, Matthew Berks, Cath<br />

Holland, Leah Binns, Jennie Macaulay, Stuart Miles<br />

O’Hara, Dan Cullinan.<br />

Photography, Illustration and Layout<br />

Mark McKellier, Marieke Macklon, Esmée Finlay, Michael<br />

Kirkham, Nicholas Daly, Callum Mills, Anthony Wilde,<br />

Mark Lycett, Broadie, John Johnson, Robin Clewley,<br />

Hannah Blackman-Kurz.<br />


When society opened back up in early July, the<br />

door to freedom was only ever left ajar. It was<br />

much closer to swinging back shut than it was<br />

ever wide open.<br />

Not all of us were able to squeeze through the gap and<br />

sample a taste of the before times. For those who it was safe<br />

enough to do so, the life that greeted us on the other side was<br />

familiar. However, there were glaring omissions that added to<br />

its temporary feel. No live music, sport spectators, theatre. A<br />

weariness of being around older family<br />

members and members of the public<br />

persisted. For all the thrill of being back<br />

out, seeing people, places being open,<br />

there was always a niggling doubt in the<br />

back of the mind.<br />

In March, it took a matter of weeks<br />

to transition from blasé, ‹keep calm<br />

and carry on’ to being one of the worst<br />

affected nations of a raging global<br />

pandemic. By July, it certainly didn’t feel<br />

like the fires were fully stamped out as<br />

we opened up. It only takes an ember to<br />

ignite the fire. Two months into our new<br />

future of mask wearing, signing in and<br />

sanitising, the door was already creaking shut.<br />

Moving into tier three of new lockdown restrictions was met<br />

with a mixture of preparedness and fear. I’d done the three-and-ahalf-month<br />

stretch of lockdown already. Reluctantly, I told myself,<br />

you know what to expect. But there was a greater fear than the<br />

first time. In March, the blanket closure nationwide came with a<br />

partial safety net. It would keep the majority ticking over. Plans<br />

were then shifted until Autumn. Budgets reshuffled. We waited.<br />

The autumn months were where we’d turn a new leaf in a<br />

year deprived of so much. That new leaf didn’t have time to turn.<br />

Too quickly it was subjected to winter. It withered. Subjected to<br />


“Time to put on<br />

our masks and be<br />

heroes of our own”<br />

increased social distance, the safety net all but gone. Budgets<br />

decimated. All plans cancelled. So much of what so many have<br />

worked for hangs in the balance.<br />

It was fitting that, as Liverpool City Region ventured alone<br />

into lockdown, a caped crusader would appear. Liverpool was in<br />

need of a hero. Someone to look to, to turn the tide, to make the<br />

people believe in good triumphing over evil. The stunt double of<br />

Bruce Wayne straddling the Liver Birds wasn’t who we needed.<br />

But it at least set off this train of thought. The first wave was<br />

defined by its heroes. We rightly stood up<br />

and took notice of Liverpool’s essential<br />

workers. They’re just as important now.<br />

And yes, they include our musicians,<br />

artists, community facilitators. We now<br />

have a greater understanding of what is<br />

an essential worker and the plaudits they<br />

deserve. Being out on our own is less<br />

lonesome in a city full of heroes. Those<br />

who don’t glow under the Hollywood<br />

spotlight, but are no less deserving.<br />

History will note how we’ve been<br />

here before. The stagnation of the 1980s,<br />

the decline of Liverpool as a port. Once<br />

again, we’re out on our own. Those<br />

triumphs in the past, the city reinventing itself in the face of<br />

decimation, didn’t happen overnight. It took the city taking<br />

ownership of the situation and doing it its own way. We will<br />

need more help. Our politicians/representatives and community<br />

leaders will fight for this so livelihoods aren’t destroyed. We’ll<br />

be together, as close as we can be, but there’s no doubting the<br />

winter will be hard. Time to put on our masks and be heroes of<br />

our own. !<br />

Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder<br />

Editor<br />

Gotham? (Liam Jones / @liamjonesphotie)<br />

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atmosphere as a result of our existence.<br />

11 / COURTING<br />

Nobody knows what’s going on, but Courting are here to help you<br />

make sense of the madness.<br />

16 / PLAYING IN<br />

In our third report with University Of Liverpool, we look at<br />

responses relating to releasing music and self-promotion during<br />

the months of lockdown.<br />

18 / TABITHA JADE<br />

Orla Foster finds the singer-songwriter doing things her own<br />

way as she looks to leave her mark on contemporary RnB and<br />

Afrobeat.<br />

20 / RED RUM CLUB<br />

Following the release of their second album, Sophie Shields braces<br />

the heights of the Sefton Sierra with its hometown heroes.<br />



The Real Thing and MiC LOWRY sit down to discuss their<br />

experiences of black representation in Liverpool music.<br />

.<br />


ALL<br />

Ahead of a new exhibition opening in <strong>November</strong>, Anthony Wilde<br />

sheds light on his ability to capture moments of change and<br />

transition.<br />

30 / FOX FISHER<br />

Homotopia’s artists in residence for 2020 provides an insight to<br />

their personal and artistic journey, along with what to expect at<br />

this year’s festival.<br />

The views expressed in Bido Lito! are those of the<br />

respective contributors and do not necessarily<br />

reflect the opinions of the magazine, its staff or the<br />

publishers. All rights reserved.<br />

8 / NEWS<br />

10 / HOT PINK!<br />

26 / SPOTLIGHT<br />

30 / PREVIEWS<br />

32 / REVIEWS<br />



NEWS<br />

Journal To The Centre<br />

Of The Universe<br />

Bido Lito! Journal<br />

Why is music important to you? Many people’s answer<br />

to this question will have changed over the course of this<br />

tumultuous year. Music has been one of few constants<br />

providing succour and companionship through isolation<br />

and uncertainty. The continued absence of live music<br />

has fostered a resurgence of fondness, as longing for the<br />

communal experience grows by the month. The question<br />

is the central tenet to the 2020 Bido Lito! Journal.<br />

While there’s been much to forget about 2020, we’ve<br />

collected what’s worth remembering and interrogated<br />

this central theme with the people we’ve met along the<br />

way. Pre-order the premium coffee table magazine now<br />

on our website or get it free when you sign up to a Bido<br />

Lito! Membership and support all we do. bidolito.co.uk/<br />

journal-2020<br />

Cineaste Of Eden<br />

The Liverpool Lighthouse is giving new life to its<br />

cinema space with hope of a screen being installed<br />

for March 2021. The Lighthouse opened its doors<br />

back in 1988 as the UK’s first urban gospel arts<br />

centre to up-skill disadvantaged groups within the<br />

community and contribute to North Liverpool’s<br />

regeneration. Ever since, the community hub has<br />

looked to decrease isolation and create community<br />

cohesion, while helping to develop people’s skills<br />

and engage locals with the arts. Exciting plans<br />

to refurbish the cinema space will carry winks of<br />

acknowledgment to the original architecture as the<br />

organisation calls out for donations to realise their<br />

vision. liverpoollighthouse.com<br />

Liverpool Lighthouse<br />

It’s All Academic<br />

A whole new batch of exciting young artists have<br />

been announced as the latest cohort for LIMF<br />

Academy. The 10 emerging musicians will now<br />

benefit from a suite of development activity to<br />

help them on to the next phase of their careers. In<br />

the Most Ready category this year are MICHAEL<br />

ALDAG, ANTONIA and MICAYL. The trio will<br />

receive cash to help them with their project and<br />

various opportunities throughout the programme<br />

as well as studio time and mentoring. A further<br />

seven artists, including AMBER JAY, JAZMINE<br />

JOHNSON and TY LEWIS, have also been chosen<br />

by a panel of experts to go on to develop their<br />

craft via workshops and exclusive opportunities.<br />

limfacademy.com<br />

Micayl<br />

Rethink, Reskill, Boot Off<br />

A utopian festival for dystopian times is set to<br />

launch across Liverpool in April 2021. Rocking<br />

across three venues, including Invisible Wind<br />

Factory as its main stage, FUTURAMA intends<br />

to create a futuristic paradise for festival goers.<br />

Born from the rebellious punks of the 70s as<br />

a retaliation to government oppression, the<br />

festival has not lost any of its punch. At a time<br />

where artists are encouraged to “rethink, reskill,<br />

reboot” the Futurama organisers tell us that it<br />

is not good enough. A celebration of the power<br />

of music and art, refusing to accept boundaries<br />

and turning the volume up even louder, the<br />

bill features PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT,<br />



futuramafestival.com<br />

The Lovely Eggs<br />


More Time For Linda<br />

The Walker Art Gallery have announced<br />

their popular Linda McCartney<br />

Retrospective will have its run extended to<br />

10 January 2021 due to popular demand. It<br />

means even more photography enthusiasts,<br />

Beatle completists, 60s rock fans and<br />

general interested parties can see the<br />

huge collection and follow in the footsteps<br />

of the thousands who have attended the<br />

exhibition since it opened in August. The<br />

show is joined by a new thought-provoking<br />

collection of photographs by members<br />

of Crisis Photography Group who have<br />

responded to the theme of ‘home’ and the<br />

work of McCartney. liverpoolmuseums.org<br />

Linda McCartney retrospective<br />

Dorothy<br />

Sneaker Pimps<br />

Baltic-based graphic design studio<br />

DOROTHY have unveiled their newest<br />

creation. The Sneakerheads Cutaway<br />

print pays homage to the iconic Nike Air<br />

Max shoe and reveals a melange of key<br />

moments in sneaker history. The print<br />

celebrates the sneaker which took its<br />

inspiration from the architecture of the<br />

Pompidou Centre and has carved an<br />

indelible mark on popular culture since<br />

its arrival in 1987. Featured in the design<br />

are Jesse Owens’ 1936 Olympics triumph<br />

wearing Dasslers, Bruce Lee sporting<br />

Onitsuka Tigers in Game Of Death and<br />

Pelé’s Puma King-assisted third World Cup<br />

win. The three-colour litho print is available<br />

online now. wearedorothy.com<br />

Apply Yourself<br />

Sound City have followed up their<br />

line-up and new date announcement<br />

for 2021 with details of their Apply<br />

To Play initiative. The programme will<br />

provide local and undiscovered artists<br />

the opportunity to play alongside REJJIE<br />


THE MYSTERINES on the the weekend<br />

of 30th April 2021 at the postponed<br />

festival. Part of Sound City’s wider drive<br />

to develop emerging talent, Apply To<br />

Play is open for live acts and DJs to<br />

apply now with 60 slots up for grabs.<br />

The festival takes place over three days<br />

in spaces across the Baltic Triangle for<br />

what will be a long-awaited return next<br />

year. soundcity.uk.com<br />

Here For Culture<br />

Liverpool’s culture community was given a muchneeded<br />

shot in the arm in October as Arts Council<br />

England unveiled the organisations which would<br />

benefit from a share of the Government’s promised<br />

£1.57bn Cultural Recovery Fund. Bluecoat, FACT,<br />

Liverpool Philharmonic, 24 Kitchen Street and Bido<br />

Lito! were among the many institutions who were<br />

successful in securing funding. The money has been<br />

distributed to plug the huge shortfalls in revenue<br />

as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions<br />

and should help towards organisations achieving<br />

sustainable viability by March next year. Bido Lito!<br />

will be using the funds to continue our Bylines<br />

Writers Workshops programme into 2021, top up<br />

fallen advertising revenues and continue printing<br />

this monthly magazine.<br />

Culture Recovery Fund<br />

Support Your Local<br />

Pizza Dealer<br />

Slice enthusiasts and Bido Lito! staffers<br />

have cause for positivity as Parr Street<br />

pizza purveyors Nightcrawler are<br />

remaining open in their home of The<br />

Merchant. Continuing to open from<br />

midday seven days a week to 10pm,<br />

delivering tasty slices, pitch perfect<br />

playlists and beauty bevs, there’s plenty<br />

of opportunity to get your pizza fix.<br />

What’s more, there’s awesome deals<br />

giving you half price slices, buy one get<br />

one for £1 initiatives, and plenty other<br />

reasons to pay your local pizza dealer a<br />

visit. themerchantliverpool.co.uk<br />


HOT PINK!<br />

This month, additions to our hot pink! playlist include a regressive hair transgression, a haunting folk tale,<br />

a shiny pop barnstormer and much more to delve into. We are constantly adding to our mix of the best new<br />

sounds on Merseyside and here is but a smattering of the bright new voices that are wailing from the very<br />

top of tier three.<br />

Lucy Gaffney<br />

Send Me Away<br />

Frictionless Music<br />

Ecstatic, electric and enchanting, Gaffney’s latest single is laced with a catchy hook and celestial<br />

sounding loops. Written to perfectly capture the beauty of a broken heart, this track is defiant in its<br />

sorrow. The track commands to be listened to with a crescendo echoing The Verve, ignited with a<br />

euphoria of drums, electric guitar and Gaffney’s haunting yet punchy soprano. (MO)<br />

SKIA<br />

Pocket<br />

Heist Or Hit<br />

A bright candy-pop banger where only good vibes are allowed in. If you’re missing having a boogie<br />

– let’s be honest, who isn’t by now – turn this up to full and dance around your bedroom. Built<br />

on SKIA’s catchy vocal and a funky guitar riff, this track echoes HAIM or Maggie Rogers, with an<br />

irresistible, happy-go-lucky spring to it. It’s sure to have you humming along by the time the three<br />

minutes are over. (MO)<br />

Motel Sundown<br />

Before Midnight<br />

This ode to Liverpool from three adopted Scousers is a hazy rock ’n’ roller with sliding, sleepy<br />

vocals and a vibrant groove. Layered in sweet and simple melodies, wistfully swaying through the<br />

dustbowl, the track brings to mind whiling away care-free evenings in lazy boozers. Remember<br />

those? Take me back, please! (MO)<br />

Eyesore & The Jinx<br />

Accidental Weller<br />

Eggy Records<br />

Bad hair day? Don’t sweat it, Eyesore & The Jinx are probably having a worse one – tragic enough to<br />

inspire their recent snarling soundbite about a peacock feather ‘do, in fact. Imagine the lovechild of<br />

King Nun and The Chats: inject a miniscule amount of sedative and force-feed it some unmistakably<br />

Northern effrontery until it near explodes, and you’ve got the band’s latest punk rock earworm. (AL)<br />

Aimeé Steven<br />

Today<br />

Jacaranda Records<br />

Atmospheric and otherworldly, Aimée Steven’s latest single is an indie pop daydream. Drenched<br />

in hazy guitar reverb and atmospheric string samples, Steven mixes 80s-inspired production with<br />

lyrics that capture the uncertainty of life in 2020 to create a track that feels timeless and fresh. Like<br />

the songwriter herself, it’s a classic in the making. (LBE)<br />

KingFast<br />

Under My Skin<br />

KingFast has always been able to capture an audience with his raw vocals, but it’s on his latest<br />

single that we see him at his most candid. Simplistic yet mesmerising muted piano chords accompany<br />

the artist as he opens up about his heartbreak, with lyrics that feel closer to a conversation between<br />

artist and listener than any typical songwriting. The result is a soulful, soul-searching diary entry<br />

that is unapologetic in its honesty. (LBE)<br />

Loris And The Lion<br />

Waxwing<br />

Loris And The Lion convey a haunting aura that’s right at home in the late weeks of Autumn. Their<br />

latest single proves no different. Inspired by both traditional folk and the deft storytelling of Kate Bush<br />

and Joni Mitchell, the track weaves a narrative as it develops, with complex melodies and enchanting<br />

vocals from lead singer Georgia Harris, immersing whoever listens in an enveloping, chilling sound. (LBE)<br />

iamkyami ft. Sonny Miles<br />

Slow Down<br />

Iamkyami’s easygoing groove makes mountains through its minimalism. The track’s stripped-back,<br />

lo-fi inspired instrumentals let the artist excel, with her smooth vocals and dynamic melodies taking<br />

centre stage. The Sonny Miles feature is equally compelling, as the two artists complement each<br />

other with ease, all making for a lilting track that is captivatingly chill. (LBE)<br />

Sub Blue ft. Khai<br />

3AM<br />

Soft, intimate soundscapes with late-night reflections and the kind of tragic romance that’s just<br />

nuanced enough to still be cool; Sub Blue proves himself a neo-soul searcher offering confident<br />

vulnerability, expert production and bags of talent. The addition of Khai’s stunning vocal feature on<br />

this track takes Sub Blue’s work to a different level. It’s what we can only dream Frank Ocean and<br />

SZA’s lovechild would sound like. (AN)<br />

Sunstack Jones<br />

Golden Repair<br />

Mai 68 Records<br />

Lovers of Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and all 1970s American psych/dream/whateverprefix-your-heart-desires<br />

rock need to listen to this. Herein you’ll find the honeyed harmonies of Fleet<br />

Foxes poured over long, rolling guitar tracks reminiscent of Zeppelin. Opening track Where You Gonna<br />

Go comes in at seven minutes, which is perfect considering how much free time we all have now. (EV)<br />

Words: Mary Olive, Alice Langan, Lily Blakeney-Edwards, Adam Noor and Emma Varley<br />

Follow hot pink! on Spotify: bit.ly/bidohotpink<br />

Photography from left to right: Loris And The Lion, Lucy Gaffney (Thom Southern), iamkyami,<br />

KingFast (Polyphonica).<br />




Not caring is caring. Courting are here to help you make sense of the madness.<br />




Everton Park is unusually busy for a Monday morning in<br />

September. Perhaps it’s the azure sky and foreboding<br />

temperatures leaning in from the afternoon, the kind of<br />

unexpectant heat that makes today’s autumnal attire<br />

regrettable. Or perhaps it’s the impending local lockdown coming<br />

into effect across Merseyside that’s drawing the numbers. From<br />

tomorrow no households can mix outdoors.<br />

At the highest point of the park Liverpool’s city centre<br />

and Wirral face back across. The two land masses make up<br />

the backdrop of this natural proscenium stage. To the front, a<br />

collection of familiar characters enter left and right in this final act<br />

before the lockdown curtain falls. There’s the processional flyby<br />

of wheelie poppin’ kids, a gaggle of aggressive dogs, loitering<br />

weed smokers and optimistic sunbathers. A light breeze nudges<br />

a flow of litter falling from parked cars absorbing the view.<br />

For a more succinct encapsulation of this semi-lockdown,<br />

Hogarthian picture of Liverpool, a few yards away graffiti spells<br />

out “there is such a thing as society”. The active park tells you this<br />

much, even if a second lockdown is looming. Yet, a few metres<br />

higher up sits the scribbled retort: “wake up, Liverpool”.<br />

It’s likely the characters passing us by are familiar to<br />

COURTING, who’ve made their ascent to meet on the hillside.<br />

Some of these characters will have had lines in their kitchen sink<br />

sketches set to angular post-punk arrangements, orchestrated by<br />

metronomic use of cowbell (they defined it “cowbell-core” in <strong>Issue</strong><br />

108). Though their music is less grand theatre and more slick<br />

improv, such is the urgency of their sardonic lyrical observations<br />

and apathetic-cum-activist demeanour. It’s a ripe combination for<br />

a climate where nobody knows what the fuck is going on.<br />

While Courting haven’t shied from broaching society’s bigger<br />

issues through a combination of guttural vocals and frenetic riffs,<br />

the five-piece are much more reserved in person. There’s no<br />

immediate desire to spell out right from wrong as we meet on the<br />

hillside. When our photographer begins to capture the scene, the<br />

pictures reveal a group of unassuming friends who are mostly still<br />

teenagers. Nothing seems particularly serious to them as they<br />

hide smiles for the photos. Conversation regularly tails off, noting<br />

how “Ringo is the best Beatle, isn’t he?”, or how two pigeons should<br />

sit atop the Liver Building as the true emblems of Liverpool.<br />

The band have had a better 2020 than most. Since the turn<br />

of the year they’ve released two singles, received plays on BBC<br />

Radio 1, been playlisted on BBC Radio 6 Music and made the<br />

final eight of Glastonbury’s emerging talent competition. All that<br />

while still holding onto the freshness in their faces. But it hasn’t<br />

all been plain sailing from day one. It’s been a rise so quick they<br />

can vividly remember when the landscape wasn’t so welcoming<br />

to their brand of irony-clad post-punk just two years ago.<br />

“When we started, we were really shit,” vocalist/guitarist<br />

Sean Murphy-O’Neill confesses, perched cross-legged in some<br />

tall grass at the peak of the park, his yellow shirt matching the<br />

wilted flowerheads dotted around. It’s an assessment reflected in<br />

the band’s early live reviews which were, well, damning. Yet, the<br />

band weren’t deterred.<br />

As well as tightening up on stage in the following months<br />

to take the form of the band we see today, they took literal<br />

ownership of their perceived ‘shitness’ – printing less than<br />

favourable review comments on a range of merch. It’s a move<br />

that typifies the band; embracing and owning theirs and<br />

contemporary society’s shit state of affairs and rolling it into<br />

something less fatalistic.<br />

“It seemed to work in our favour,” says bassist Sam Brennan.<br />

“We spun it,” says Murphy-O’Neill, before adding with<br />

measured confidence, “and now I don’t think we’re really shit at all.”<br />

Most of the band – including Sean Thomas on drums and<br />

Michael Downes on guitar – are friends from college. Newlyadded<br />

guitarist Josh Cope, whose Yorkshire accent is the anomaly<br />

to the south Liverpool drawl echoing between the four others,<br />

joined up while at university. Of the five, it is the two Seans who<br />

are the designated “parents” of the band, as they put it to me.<br />

Courting are still very much climbing the arc of their<br />

trajectory, but there was a distinct upward leap over the first<br />

half of this year. It’s one we reflect on, noting the transition from<br />

scathing review fodder to a band breathing down the studio<br />

glass of institutional radio waves. Although it still isn’t getting to<br />

their heads.<br />

“It’s a real ambition of ours to make music that sounds like<br />

we don’t give a shit,” says Murphy-O’Neill, looking down at the<br />

grass with a prophetic air.<br />


“It’s our mantra<br />

to stop guitar<br />

music from being<br />

a dirty word”<br />



In terms of merch designs, the assertion is evident. Yet their<br />

early releases do little to back up this asserted lack of care. First<br />

singles Not Yr Man and Football reflect the purposeful, snarled<br />

societal countenances of Shame and Idles, with distinct shades<br />

of local contemporaries Eyesore & The Jinx in the barbed lyrical<br />

humour decrying the washed-out English Rose. If anything, the<br />

songs emit a confused energy through a collision of apathy<br />

and protestation.<br />

Murphy-O’Neill notes how much of this feeling is centred on<br />

contemporary Englishness, with the rest of the band nodding in<br />

agreement. It’s a theme that places national identity in a frame of<br />

impassivity. A sort of headstrong carelessness in its day-to-day.<br />

“Let me be your Northern Rail/I wanna let you down”, he laments<br />

on the band’s first single Not Yr Man – a feverish two-and-a-halfminute<br />

stab at garish masculinity and lad culture.<br />

The swipe at the English pastime of mundane repetition is<br />

picked up again on Football, their follow-up single released in<br />

January. “It’s a bit more of an observational piece,” says Murphy-<br />

O’Neill of a song that screams football over 50 times in less than<br />

two minutes. “I think the community sport provides in this country,<br />

and that whole pub culture that goes with it, is what we’re taking<br />

the piss out of. When you subtract the racists from that equation,<br />

there’s something quite romantic about [English] culture – when<br />

you can overlook the awful politics that are omnipresent.”<br />

The pub culture, weekend casuals and casual racism Murphy<br />

O’Neill refers to serves as the centrepiece for the band’s breakout<br />

single, David Byrne’s Badside, released in May. Taking aim at<br />

English exceptionalism, the song pulls up a sticky bar stool at<br />

your average local before listening in on the “I’m not a racist,<br />

but…” mantra swirling between walls adorned with bric-a-brac<br />

championing colonial victories.<br />

“That was a big step for us. For the first few months, we<br />

were trying to do punky songs, then we wrote David Byrne’s<br />

Badside and thought ‘this is not very punk at all’, but it’s just as<br />

good,” he says of the song, which was released by indie label<br />

Nice Swan, where company has been shared by Sports Team,<br />

Queen Zee and Pip Blom.<br />

Stepping away from the clattering riffs, the track dials<br />

down the distortion and borrows the sails from Doherty and<br />

Barât’s good ship Albion for a breezier nod to mid-2000s indie<br />

– complete with sax solo and sarcasm. “I think from that point<br />

onwards, we just kind of make whatever music we want, where<br />

we’ll try to leave some kind of touchstones between the songs.<br />

So, for us, the lyricism is really involved,” Murphy-O’Neill explains.<br />

The lyrical touchstones, as the band elude to, coalesce<br />

around social discomforts. Personal discomforts for themselves<br />

– the social expectation to love football in a city defined by its loyalty to red or blue – and the wider<br />

communities of England. It’s well documented that the picture of little England is far from the sedate<br />

image framed on the walls of the Queens Arms, The Crown, Red Lion or The Ship. But the band don’t<br />

want to add to the barrage of sloganeering that’s caught hold of contemporary guitar bands. Instead,<br />

there’s only a deep-set irony worn as armour against the regressive tendencies of broken Britain.<br />

“I think it’s hard-pressed being one of those bands where their mission is to, like, save the world<br />

and, and fix all these problems,” says Murphy-O’Neill. “We know it’s impossible to do that as a band<br />

or as an artist. But, if you can, you can maybe start a conversation and do it in a way that’s not so<br />

pretentious and not so harsh. I think that’s kind of the way to go.”<br />

It’s a feeling that chimes well with Football, a song which questions so much of tunnel vision<br />

casual sports culture even when saying so little.<br />

“The fact that it got adopted by, like, actual people who like football was quite amusing to me,<br />

because it was just meant to be a bit silly,” laughs Murphy O’Neill. “It was a bit of a joke at the kind<br />

of bands where the chorus is just one word being shouted over and over again, just because it<br />

sticks in your head. But people took that quite seriously.”<br />

Seriousness is clearly something that goes against the raison d’être of the band.<br />

“Our goal is to not take anything we do too seriously. Everything should be taken with just a bit<br />

of a hint of piss-take,” Murphy-O’Neill confirms.<br />

“I think you can you can find that in most of our songs anyway,” adds Thomas. “The songs are<br />

centred on a topic which is serious, but then there’s other lines that will just, like, ease the tension<br />

a bit.” Namely references to The Chase, the appalling reliability of Northern Rail pacers, or the<br />

possible ill temperament of indie-god provocateur David Byrne.<br />

As Murphy-O’Neill stated earlier, there remains a fascination of English culture in Courting’s<br />

music. It’s one that draws on the jaded regression of contemporary politics and its tired rhetoric.<br />

This inadequacy of England’s hit and hope, cavalier spirit has been fairly evident since 2016<br />

and well-documented in cultural responses, too. That summer aggressively tore what was an<br />

already frayed national consciousness in two. Two neat cantons were left. On one side of the<br />

line, thankfully, for the safety of the world’s ears, there hasn’t been an uptake in pro-nationalist<br />

indie rock. Mainly just cry-arsing about whether a choral arrangement can shout about Britain’s<br />

colonial successes in late summer. But on the other side of the line there’s been a distinct rise in<br />

bands shouting about political injustice. Artists putting forward a charged antidote for the inherent<br />

blindness in Brexit Britain.<br />

It’s a frustration that is likely to have captured those who voted against the outcome in 2016,<br />

and the hopeless trudge in attempting to overturn the outcome in the years after. But for those<br />

who couldn’t vote at the time, like Courting, it’s been four long years of waiting for the inevitable.<br />

No say either way. There’s no sense in shouting at deaf ears, so why bother? It’s an attitude that<br />

punctuates their political outlook. A move where apathetically looking on in disgust has emerged as<br />

the most telling form of protest and activism.<br />

“I think there are a lot of bands who claim to be, like, politically charged, but they’re not really. I<br />

feel like it’s a bit of a label, isn’t it?” Murphy-O’Neill responds.<br />

“It’s really easy for young bands to be, like, you know, ‘Fuck the government’. It’s probably even<br />

easier with everything happening,” Thomas chimes in.<br />

It’s these charged affronts to the current socio-political dichotomy the band speak of that<br />

appear to miss the goal posts. Power is well versed in controlling aggression and outcry. 10 years of<br />

austerity and look where we are. Look who’s in power. Look what they’re doing to us. But it’s satire and<br />

humour that still offers an antagonistic retort which is beckoning ever more authoritarian censorship.<br />

“I think that’s it, [our lyrics] are meant to be a bit cheeky,” replies Murphy-O’Neill, as we<br />

continue to dig further into the band’s defence mechanism of irony.<br />

“A three-minute song where you’re just talking about politics won’t be as fun as a one-minuteand-52-seconds<br />

song where you shout the word football 50 times,” Thomas summarises.<br />

The point does stand. You need only to look back to the acid house explosion of the 1980s for<br />

evidence of this idea previously in action. Eight bars of LFO’s seminal track of the same name offers<br />

are more telling two fingers to Tory rule than Billy Bragg has managed in his entire career. Allowing<br />

space for interpretation can often be the more compelling battle cry than an overt statement.<br />

Ultimately, space is the necessary essence for any movement or protest.<br />

“Start a conversation<br />

and do it in a way that’s<br />

not so pretentious<br />

and not so harsh”<br />

“It’s up to people if they want to read into things,” says<br />

Murphy-O’Neill. “If people want to think it’s just a song about<br />

football, we’re not bothered. We’re not going to get on some sort<br />

of artistic high horse and be like…” He clears his throat to put on<br />

a snooty voice. “‘No, no, it’s not about football, you have to think<br />

about the politics’. We don’t give a shit. Like, if you want to shout<br />

football, that’s the fun of it. If you want to consider what it means,<br />

you can. We’re not really bothered. Our music is less inspired by<br />

Brexit and this idea that England has suddenly become shit. It’s<br />

more inspired by the fact that England has been shit for a long<br />

time. And, you know, you’re kind of born into that.”<br />

On a newly released 7” containing Football and David<br />

Byrne’s Badside, a small English flag is printed on the vinyl label.<br />

Innocuous as it may be, its presence in 2020 often suggests<br />

exclusion or xenophobic rebellion. But the band pin the flag to<br />

their lapel in the same manner they sincerely chant about the footy.<br />

“It sums up how we’re taking the piss,” begins Murphy-O’Neill,<br />

“how that flag is now a racist symbol. It’s seen as a bit nasty.”<br />

“Yeh, if you have it in your Twitter bio or something,”<br />

replies Cope.<br />

“That’s the piss-take,” says Murphy-O’Neill, “I don’t think<br />

we’re trying to reclaim the flag. I’m not arsed about the country<br />

as a country.” Its true presence is there to highlight the same<br />

contradiction displayed by those who celebrate the Georgian<br />

cross but practice casual racism and hostility to minorities, while<br />

ignoring that St George was a middle eastern man.<br />

Through this it’s further reinforced how ironic ownership is a<br />

defining aspect of Courting, a process of wearing the clothes and<br />

looking back in the cracked mirror to show the true sense of folly.<br />

It’s a move that’s typified the band’s visual aesthetic as well as the<br />

lyricism, notably on David Byrne’s Badside which is told from the<br />

perspective of a character with contradictory and racist tendencies.<br />

“We try and play characters of people we don’t like,” answers<br />

Murphy-O’Neill when we press on the subject further. “I read<br />

an interview with Country Teasers where [Ben Wallers] said he<br />

likes to play horrible, horrible people, and tries to sing from their<br />

perspectives. And I think that’s something we definitely took in<br />

mind on David Byrne’s Badside. I think we’ve managed to make<br />

it obvious, without just coming out and screaming what we’re<br />

against. An element of subtlety can actually make it hit a bit<br />

harder than if we were just really obvious.”<br />

The 90s Scottish band Murphy-O’Neill notes were<br />

chameleonic shapeshifters of the unsettling and captivating.<br />

Fat White Family are clear descendants in their quest for an<br />

atmosphere of lurid smut. But it’s the former who controversially<br />

would look to scuff the line between character-led performance<br />

and harboured point of view. The effect can be somewhat galling when listening back. I ask<br />

Murphy-O’Neill if he ever fears wearing the mask will leave an imprint.<br />

“There’s a line to it,” he asserts. “For Country Teasers, the line is blurred. I’m not an advocate for<br />

how they go about doing it. But I think that at least considering the point of view of the person you<br />

hate is maybe a good way of thinking of things to write about them.”<br />

He continues: “Listening to a band like Country Teasers can be incredibly difficult, which can be<br />

a good thing. Because when you listen to them, it kind of reminds you of your own morals, because<br />

you hear something so sickening, you think, ‘I’m glad that I’m repulsed by this’. Even though it’s<br />

coming from someone who is taking the piss, I’m glad it still bothers me. I’m glad I don’t listen to<br />

this in a complacent way when he says things that are so horrible.”<br />

We’ve been sat on the highest point of the hillside for close to an hour. An invasive drone circles<br />

above, a police helicopter treading in the air even higher. At this point the effects of no sun cream<br />

are becoming evident. Solely in sense of weather, the summer has been a good one. Ironically,<br />

it was meant to have been one where football came home again. That was before the pandemic<br />

struck and Euro 2020 was cancelled. Before then it was meant to have been football’s first return<br />

ticket since the summer of 96, another summer typified by its searing heat and national let down.<br />

Not to mention Britpop, a bracket the band are now popping up in.<br />

As genre tags go, the recent labelling of Courting as Britpop could seem a little reductive.<br />

Perhaps there’s similarities in sound on the steady chug and chorus led refrain of their most recent<br />

single, but Courting’s message is incongruent with the genre on the whole. Away from the time<br />

and place encapsulation of Definitely Maybe Oasis, or satirical social commentary of Pulp, they’re<br />

far from the Cool Britannia mould – a cut and paste factory line bearing the signature of faux-New<br />

Labour change. Britpop en masse is vacuous and dangerous apathy. As is ‘guitar music’. Courting<br />

isn’t so much apathy, more so standing your ground, observing the landscape in all its horror. I<br />

suggest Brexpop as a fitting tag, but they aren’t having it. The other genre tag, as Murphy-O’Neill<br />

states, offers up its own incentive.<br />

“We’d like to reclaim the phrase ‘guitar music’ and take it away from being a dirty word,” he says<br />

with a cheeky optimism. “When I hear it, I think of the most boring bands on the planet. I want guitar<br />

music to sound interesting again. That’s what we’re doing. The tag will come more from the music<br />

than the lyrics. It’s our mantra, to stop guitar music from being a dirty word and turn it into something<br />

that’s good again. We don’t want to be labelled as landfill. We want to be thought of as interesting.”<br />

Courting exemplify how not giving a shit is again inherently political. Or rather, they’re helping<br />

to shift the boundaries of protest: what it requires, who it’s aimed at, how it’s carried out. Shouting<br />

back at the Tory void will only lead to exhaustion. So many bands wear that tiredness. Capturing<br />

the miniature, the incidental, the idiosyncratic can reveal much more than making every song a<br />

political flag-bearer. Gyrating carefree to lashings of cowbell can be more rebellious than serving<br />

three chords and “fuck you” addressed directly to Boris Johnson. But even in this assessment it<br />

might be overplaying Courting’s aims. There’s lots of care in what they perceive is a lack of it.<br />

“It is just a laugh, you know. I’m not doing this to put on my CV, we’re not doing it so that we<br />

can just be liked,” say Murphy-O’Neill. “But, at the end of the day, if you want to make your career<br />

out of having a laugh, you’ve got to make sure you’re good at it.”<br />

“It’s a structured laugh,” replies Cope as we exit the hillside, the cast of characters still in their<br />

places. “It’s a laugh with some concern,” concludes Murphy-O’Neill. !<br />

Words: Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder<br />

Photography: Marieke Macklon / @mariekemacklon<br />

courtingband.com<br />

Pop Shop will be available from 6th <strong>November</strong> via Nice Swan Records.<br />





In this third report, detailing the findings of our musicians’ survey carried out in partnership with the<br />

University of Liverpool, we look at responses relating to releasing music and self-promotion during the<br />

months of lockdown. The findings illustrate a desire within artists to keep releasing music and retain<br />

visibility despite challenging circumstances, yet the ability to retain profile proved difficult with the greater<br />

emphasis on social media.<br />

The ensuing Covid-19 pandemic has seen venues<br />

close and changed the music industry as we know it.<br />

When the situation took hold in March, musicians were<br />

somewhat forced to take stock and evaluate their next<br />

steps moving forward.<br />

Was releasing new music a good idea when the opportunity<br />

of playing it live and testing the reaction was not possible? With<br />

everyone stuck at home, was lockdown a good opportunity to<br />

work on developing a greater online fanbase? The first lockdown<br />

came as a key crossroad for how some musicians operated dayto-day.<br />

Of the 175 respondents that took part in our survey, 39 per<br />

cent changed plans to release recorded music due to the impact<br />

of Covid-19. Of those that decided to change their plans, 73 per<br />

cent delayed their releases, put their release schedule on hold or<br />

cancelled their plans entirely.<br />

Out of the respondents that continued with plans, 52 per<br />

cent released a single, 28 per cent released a full album and<br />

31 per cent continued with an independent physical release.<br />

Additionally, 40 per cent of artists that responded had no<br />

intentions of releasing recorded music.<br />

For some, the hours of work that went into the studio<br />

production for releases – the nights toiling over the writing of<br />

songs, the days spent in practice spaces and the collaborative<br />

efforts from artists, managers and the press to help promote the<br />

release – all had to be put on hold as artists felt the climate was<br />

not conducive to releasing new music.<br />

The great uncertainty of what was to come in the following<br />

months was enough for some artists to delay releases until more<br />

sustainable times. One respondent said: “We put all plans on<br />

hold until we had an idea of how long this was going to last and<br />

what changes there would be.”<br />

Another common reason was the lack of practice spaces, live<br />

16<br />

shows and recording opportunities to develop new tracks before<br />

releasing, as potential changes were unable to be resolved<br />

without band members being in the same room. “A series of<br />

singles were to be recorded over<br />

the last few months with the<br />

band, but this hasn’t happened<br />

as we wanted to all be physically<br />

present when recording. We<br />

may have to abandon these<br />

plans altogether and do things<br />

differently,” one respondent said,<br />

with another adding: “With no<br />

live shows to promote the songs<br />

we thought it would be best to<br />

delay the releases indefinitely.”<br />

The problems weren’t only<br />

limited to independent artists.<br />

Acts signed to labels faced similar<br />

problems as three respondents<br />

with label support also delayed<br />

the release of an album, with one<br />

changing it from early summer<br />

2020 all the way to 2021. Others<br />

described the impact as “playing the waiting game”, “a damned<br />

shame” and a “total headache”.<br />

However, lockdown still proved an opportunity for some to<br />

weather the storm and keep going with intended plans. 21 per<br />

cent went ahead with their intended release schedules with 16<br />

per cent of respondents starting new PR campaigns.<br />

Although the inability to perform on a stage was damaging<br />

to some, others, as we saw in our last article, took to online<br />

streaming gigs as a means to continue the promotion of their<br />

music. Innovative use of online social media, more time to focus<br />

“I didn’t feel like<br />

it was suitable to<br />

promote myself when<br />

people were dying”<br />

on music and the continued release of material allowed the<br />

momentum to keep going and for artists to have the ability to<br />

put their music in front of fans who were also stuck at home.<br />

Of those that continued<br />

releasing, 38 per cent cited<br />

momentum as a key reason as<br />

they didn’t want all the hard work<br />

they did before to go to waste.<br />

For some independent artists<br />

who don’t follow the stricter setups<br />

of label release schedules,<br />

lockdown proved to be a time<br />

to test out new ideas and to see<br />

what worked. Halting operations<br />

completely could do more harm<br />

than good for an artist just<br />

starting out. “Why not?” said one<br />

respondent. “We finished two<br />

pieces of music we were really<br />

happy with and we’re still kind of<br />

starting out, there was no reason<br />

not to continue, really.”<br />

“There had been a lot of<br />

planning and money put into the release of the album. We<br />

wanted to also avoid the potential backlog of everybody else<br />

pushing back their releases until the end of the year,” another<br />

added.<br />

Wirral art-rock trio SPQR are one band who have remained<br />

active over lockdown, pressing on with putting out an EP, a 7”<br />

and uploading a collection of early tracks on streaming services<br />

via their own label Nuthin Gud Records. Lockdown gave the<br />

group a break from touring to focus on recording new material<br />

which proved positive for their artistic motivation. “Having that<br />

time to write and record has given me confidence,” said the<br />

band’s Peter Harrison. “I’ve never felt I’ve written anything this<br />

good as I’ve never had this much time [to put towards music].”<br />

Although the negatives and frustrations of not being able to<br />

perform live were present, Harrison saw a positive side moving<br />

forward. “Lockdown is just another setback that we have to get<br />

over,” he added. “We’ve had to go through a lot to get to where<br />

we are and this is just another challenge.”<br />

Before lockdown, social media was a key aspect of artist<br />

development as it provided an opportunity for them to connect<br />

with fans outside of a live music setting. Not all artists opted<br />

to utilise the platforms to their full potential. However,<br />

as lockdown removed the opportunities of physical<br />

interaction, social media became the only way for artists<br />

to connect with fans.<br />

Across our respondents an average of 40 per cent<br />

saw a growth in their social media interactions during<br />

lockdown, yet 19 per cent saw a decline.<br />

Looking deeper into the data displays some more<br />

interesting results: 31 per cent recognised they had<br />

actively engaged more on the platforms by adding<br />

more content, with 14 per cent showing a specific<br />

boost after live streaming activities. Additionally,<br />

19 per cent saw change when they released new<br />

music. Contrastingly, 22 per cent added less content<br />

with five per cent taking a social media break<br />

altogether seeing it as an opportunity to reassess and<br />

practice more on their music or personal lives.<br />

Artists engaged with the platforms in multiple<br />

ways, from posting video content in the form of<br />

covers, music videos, live streaming gigs and, in a few<br />

instances, even a DIY festival. Instagram Live proved<br />

a useful feature with artists using the platform for polls<br />

and quizzes and a unique opportunity to live stream<br />

performances and direct fan Q&As.<br />

One respondent saw the opportunity to watch videos and<br />

educate themselves on how to use social media effectively as<br />

“the one reason they were grateful for lockdown”.<br />

SPQR’s Harrison related to these frustrations of not being<br />

as active online as others and having concerns. “All of a sudden<br />

you’ve had to move from someone who writes songs to being<br />

a ‘content creator’ and a lot of us [musicians] just aren’t that at<br />

all,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t doing enough online and I was

worried the band would disappear.<br />

But then I thought ‘what does it<br />

actually mean?’<br />

“If you’re spending all your time<br />

on social media, it might not do you<br />

any favours. If I was posting every<br />

day to stay relevant it might not<br />

work because that’s not what me or<br />

the band is about.”<br />

However, reflecting on the<br />

impact of social media interactions<br />

on streaming figures produces<br />

mixed results. The continuing push<br />

of Spotify links proved successful<br />

as 29 per cent of artists saw a growth in streaming figures<br />

on the platform, with an 11 per cent rise on Apple Music and<br />

26 per cent on YouTube. Across all respondents only four per<br />

cent reported a decline in figures and around a third remained<br />

unchanged.<br />

Much like social media, the artists that saw growth on<br />

streaming platforms were the ones that were posting the most<br />

content and knew how best to engage. Although it might be<br />

frustrating for artists who don’t know how to manage online<br />

promotion to its highest potential; in a data-driven, online<br />

streaming age social media is an essential tool for artists in<br />

search of popular appeal.<br />

A key aspect of this study was to show compassion and<br />

understand the opinions of the artists behind the data. For some<br />

artists, not being able to perform and share their talents had a<br />

profound effect on their mental health as their creative worlds<br />

and livelihoods were dramatically changed.<br />

The resultant months of uncertainty became a crossroads for<br />

artists as it was a test of their abilities to conduct and promote<br />

themselves as a musician effectively at home during lockdown.<br />

A prevailing negative in the data shows a great lack of overall<br />

optimism, with 65 per cent saying they were not confident<br />

operating themselves, compared to only 32 per cent who were<br />

confident.<br />

The technical side of operating at home was the stand-out<br />

aspect of pessimism: 41 per cent said they were not confident<br />

promoting themselves online from home. However, many<br />

expressed that their lack of technical knowledge of social media<br />

platforms led to demotivation, with some avoiding it altogether.<br />

The moral questions surrounding promoting music during a<br />

global pandemic and times of increased social unrest made some<br />

feel “pushy” or “intrusive” for putting themselves out there for<br />

personal gains in collectively troubled times.<br />

One respondent said: “I was freaked out and didn’t feel like<br />

it was suitable to promote myself when people were dying.”<br />

Another, discussing their frustration with social media, said: “It<br />

just doesn’t cut the mustard and it’s not what music is supposed<br />

to be about. I don’t understand how anyone has time to make<br />

music with the amount<br />

of social media musicians<br />

are expected to do in<br />

the best of times, so<br />

switching to a world<br />

where it’s the only outlet<br />

for music/performance is<br />

grim.”<br />

Additionally, 11<br />

per cent described<br />

themselves as “live<br />

based artists” and<br />

therefore were unable<br />

to operate effectively<br />

at home; and another<br />

15 per cent stated live<br />

performances were key<br />

to their promotion and<br />

live streaming was not<br />

an effective method for<br />

them. One artist said: “I<br />

have managed to keep<br />

practising, but the lack of<br />

physical audience and other musicians makes for an existential<br />

crisis. It’s hard to justify your niche when you’re competing with<br />

literally the whole world on a given platform.”<br />

The results paint a depreciated picture for some artists during<br />

lockdown as many felt left out of the online circus of social media<br />

due to lack of technical know-how, motivation or ability to conduct<br />

themselves effectively. This suggests a need for more support<br />

and education for artists during crises so they can learn the skills<br />

of how to effectively promote themselves online without causing<br />

frustration or dismay.<br />

Lockdown is a temporary yet very frustrating setback for<br />

artists who choose not to become digitised. The mystique behind<br />

the music can sometimes feel lost when artists compel themselves<br />

to post on social media every day and broaden yet somewhat<br />

saturate their appeal.<br />

Reflecting on his<br />

feelings towards the past<br />

few months, Peter Harrison<br />

profoundly concluded: “I<br />

hope this lockdown will help<br />

artists to realise that it isn’t<br />

all about rushing around and<br />

the business side of it all.<br />

You’re still an artist if you’re<br />

at home making your art.<br />

Just because you’re not at<br />

a gig or there aren’t people<br />

watching you doesn’t make<br />

your music or art any less<br />

legitimate.” !<br />

Words: Will Whitby / @WillyWhitby<br />

Lead researchers and data analysis: Dr Mathew Flynn and<br />

Richard Anderson, University of Liverpool<br />

Illustration: Esmée Finlay / @efinlayillustration<br />

The next stage of this research will take place via a consultation<br />

event led by Bido Lito!, University of Liverpool and other<br />

musician support organisations on Tuesday 27th October via<br />

Zoom. The event will consider the wider impacts across the<br />

sector with venues, promoters, educators and other industry<br />

professionals encouraged to take part.<br />

To register head to bidolito.co.uk/consultation<br />





JADE<br />

Tabitha Jade is doing things her own way as she looks to leave a mark on contemporary RnB and Afrobeat.<br />

Orla Foster finds out why hard work and self-belief are all part chasing the dream.<br />

“I<br />

feel like with music, you can never rush things,”<br />

reflects TABITHA JADE. She’s on the brink of releasing<br />

debut EP No Label, but getting to this point has been<br />

quite a journey. In typical 2020 fashion, the release<br />

date was postponed, the studio visits rationed, the launch party<br />

cancelled. But still, she’s sanguine. “There was a lot of stress and<br />

I had to push things back. It’s been challenging! But you do have<br />

to be patient and get it right.”<br />

Luckily, patience is a virtue Tabitha cultivated a long time<br />

ago. Hailing from West Kirby, the 20-year-old has invested<br />

nearly a decade into her career already. After penning her first<br />

song at 11, by 14 she was the youngest act ever to play Sound<br />

City. The next few years were spent recording demos,<br />

entering contests and winning over the wine bars of Wirral<br />

before she was old enough to order a glass. She must be<br />

weary of people marvelling at her age, but it’s hard not to be<br />

impressed by what she’s achieved.<br />

“I was quite confident when I was younger. I wanted to<br />

get music out, and carry on with the journey,” she explains,<br />

lightly. “Doing competitions and getting constructive<br />

feedback just made me want to do better.”<br />

Still, that’s a pretty packed schedule for a teenager.<br />

What was it like juggling festival bookings with school?<br />

“Music never got in the way of my studies,” she tells me.<br />

“I went to Upton, which was a good school. I had to revise<br />

when I could, but it never really clashed. Singing was literally<br />

just my escape and something fun to do after classes.”<br />

I went to that school, too, but I can’t imagine being so<br />

focused. I recall myself moribund in a green uniform, walking<br />

endlessly to the sweetshop in the rain. It was a far cry from<br />

Tabitha Jade’s double life: double maths by day, aspiring RnB<br />

powerhouse by night. But back to those wine bars, and their<br />

acoustic nights. When did she realise her original material was<br />

strong enough to shelve the covers?<br />

“I didn’t have quite the same love for covers,” she admits.<br />

“Whenever I wrote a new song, I would just play it out in the<br />

open mic night and see if the reaction I got was good or bad.<br />

At the time, I hadn’t experienced too much, so I would just take<br />

inspiration from movies and other people’s experiences. But I<br />

always like to push myself, I don’t stay in my comfort zone.”<br />

Did she ever feel self-conscious, edging away from<br />

renditions of Amy Winehouse towards more biographical<br />

material?<br />

“Yeh, because a lot of my lyrics are very direct and have a<br />

clear storyline. I used to feel embarrassed for my family to hear<br />

them. Or for a guy to hear a hate song I wrote about him!” she<br />

laughs. “I mean, I’ll be shy for, like, a day, but once it’s out there,<br />

it’s out there.”<br />

Which song first cemented her sound?<br />

“Secret, because it really locked in who I wanted to be as<br />

an artist, and I felt like I was writing honest lyrics. It’s about this<br />

relationship… well, it wasn’t even a relationship. I was chatting to<br />

this guy for months and it wasn’t progressing anywhere. I was<br />

like, ‘Where is this going? I don’t want to be a secret, I don’t want<br />

to be hidden. Am I wasting my time?’”<br />

There’s a similar philosophy on latest single FYI, which is<br />

equally forthright in its skewering of male indecisiveness: “I<br />

wanted to bring the sass back!” she says, assertively. “That<br />

song’s about showing you know your worth, that you don’t want<br />

to be messed around, and that you respect yourself.”<br />

If the take-no-prisoners approach reminds you of Destiny’s<br />

Child’s landmark record The Writing’s On The Wall then it’s no<br />

accident; artists such as Destiny’s Child, Lauryn Hill and Ciara<br />

are key influences. Tabitha describes her aesthetic as “edgy,<br />

futuristic and glam”, words which sum up the songcraft as well<br />

as the visuals. While her style is maximal, with lots of metallics<br />

and immaculate make-up, recalling the visionary, slightly spaceage<br />

allure of millennium-era RnB, it’s the message of female<br />

empowerment which really hits home. This is a song about<br />

negotiating your own space and refusing to compromise.<br />

This brings us nicely to the new EP. It’s a blueprint for<br />

Tabitha Jade’s sound, with equal parts nostalgia and innovation.<br />

While the shimmering, melismatic vocals and sleek production<br />

feel like a timely throwback to Knowles and co., the Afrobeat<br />

stylings keep things anchored in 2020. But besides showcasing<br />

her love for 00s RnB, Tabitha Jade also wanted to encapsulate<br />

the myriad influences which have shaped her identity, starting<br />

with the title.<br />

“No Label has two meanings for me,” she explains. “The first<br />

is about not fitting into any mould; I grew up in a mixed heritage<br />

background, with a white mum and a black dad, and although<br />

they didn’t sing or play instruments, they’ve always been really<br />

interested in music,” she starts. “My dad collects vinyl and would<br />

always be showing me old American soul and jazz records, while<br />

my mum’s really into her<br />

dance. And playing in<br />

Liverpool means that I’ve<br />

always been surrounded<br />

by rock music, which<br />

is why my songs have<br />

“I’ve had to<br />

hustle and get<br />

things done”<br />

those powerful, punchy<br />

vocals.<br />

“The other side of it<br />

is about being an artist<br />

without a record label.<br />

I wanted to celebrate<br />

being self-motivated<br />

and not having to rely on<br />

anyone. Back in the day,<br />

especially, there was such emphasis on getting signed to make<br />

it. But being hands-on with your vision makes it come to life,<br />

makes your product exactly what you want it to be. If you leave it<br />

with other people, they won’t put the same effort in.”<br />

I agree that Tabitha’s autonomy is part of what makes her<br />

music exciting. You never see her stall or wait for permission:<br />

her career is safely in her own capable hands. At the same time,<br />

I’m wary of letting myself harp on about an artist’s resilience<br />

and self-sufficiency while the creative landscape around us gets<br />

torched to the ground. The UK’s musical infrastructure is not<br />

healthy. Why should young, talented artists have to shoulder all<br />

of the administration and financial risk of putting out a record?<br />

“I’m not saying that I would never want to be signed,<br />

because as you get bigger you may need more people on the<br />

team,” Tabitha expands. “But I am saying that, while you’re<br />

independent, you should enjoy it. I’ve had to hustle and get<br />

things done as cheaply as I can, but I also have freedom to totally<br />

oversee every project. I can build up beats myself, experiment<br />

with the vibe, direct videos and design cover art. It means that<br />

when I show ideas to a producer, they get the vision straight<br />

away.”<br />

It’s obvious Tabitha Jade is well equipped to weather the<br />

challenges of going DIY. Still, I’m curious if she ever experiences<br />

self-doubt, and if so, how she overrides it?<br />

“100 per cent,” she quickly replies. “Over lockdown, I was<br />

a lot more anxious, I felt weirdly pressured, there was almost a<br />

trend on social media saying ‘use this to your advantage!’, ‘get<br />

ahead of the game!’ I was like, ‘Right, I’m getting ahead of the<br />

game, let’s do this!’ But I put too much pressure on myself and<br />

genuinely cracked.<br />

“I think being nice to yourself is honestly the best thing to<br />

do. Most people get voices of doubt, but you can channel that<br />

energy,” she continues. “There are definitely times when I think,<br />

‘Oh my god, when is my day gonna come?’ But it’s about looking<br />

back at your achievements, celebrating them and knowing that<br />

you’re going to achieve a lot more.”<br />

Then again, if you’re Tabitha Jade, stopping to catch your<br />

breath barely seems an option. Even in March, when the<br />

lockdown was at its most weird and siege-like, she didn’t skip<br />

a beat, just picked up her guitar and streamed songs from her<br />

bedroom. Did that help her reconnect with her audience?<br />

“Personally, I didn’t like the Instagram lives too much,”<br />

she concedes. “It’s not human to me. There was no crowd,<br />

no atmosphere, and you’d just be starting a song then get<br />

random comments right away. I’m actually more nervous about<br />

streaming shows than I am on a festival stage in front of a<br />

thousand people.”<br />

I ask how she’s adapted her live show over time to reflect<br />

the artist she is today; for example, last summer’s stellar slot at<br />

Africa Oyé. She tells me about the band she’s worked with the<br />

past five years, and how their close rapport gives them freedom<br />

to deconstruct the songs, experimenting with samples and loops<br />

mid-set rather than just duplicating the recorded versions. One<br />

of the band members is her younger sister Eliza Mai, whose own<br />

musical career is rooted in earthy, 90s soul, and who has been<br />

a source of inspiration and support from the beginning. “We<br />

started this journey together,” she shares, “and it’s amazing to<br />

have someone your own age who understands your music so<br />

deeply. We’re always learning from each other.”<br />

While both artists are an asset to Liverpool’s music scene,<br />

being a female RnB artist isn’t always plain sailing in a city<br />

historically used to trumpeting its overwhelmingly male guitar<br />

bands. Although Tabitha is a versatile performer whose sound<br />

takes in plenty of different genres and influences, it’s still obvious<br />

that black voices in Liverpool aren’t always getting the exposure<br />

they deserve.<br />

But this, hopefully, is changing. Two days after we speak,<br />

Tabitha is due to perform at BlackFest, a festival championing<br />

black artists and communities in Liverpool. Although curfew<br />

restrictions mean there won’t be a full audience, she’s excited<br />

to play a gig IRL. She will also join a panel of young artists<br />

discussing their experiences of making music in Liverpool. What<br />

are her thoughts on the city’s representation of black music?<br />

“I think it used to be really overlooked,” she says. “Now I can<br />

see efforts from people, but there’s still a lot of work to do. We<br />

all know Liverpool for the indie, but there’s so much talent from<br />

RnB, rap, soul artists. Big names need to come out of Liverpool<br />

from that music.”<br />

Now based between Liverpool and London, Tabitha Jade’s<br />

influence extends beyond this city’s walls, but those Mersey ties<br />

are still strong – with local names like Tremz and Shak Omar<br />

guest-starring on her releases. After we brainstorm on what<br />

makes for a good day on the Wirral (a sunny beach walk, plus<br />

frozen yoghurt from Hoylake with extra Lotus sauce), I quiz her<br />

on the move. Now entering her third year at Goldsmiths, Tabitha<br />

Jade is equally at home in Shoreditch as on West Kirby’s sleepy<br />

shores. Was she ever worried about transplanting her life and<br />

career to a new city?<br />

“No, I wasn’t hesitant at all; I’m an adventurous person, I<br />

always want to experience new things. But if you want to meet<br />

people in London, you have to go out and make the effort,” she<br />

cautions. “It doesn’t just come to you.”<br />

There’s a frisson of that new-city excitement in last year’s<br />

music video for Right Here. Tabitha arrives in her dorm, unboxes<br />

her family photos, figures out where to put her plants, then<br />

bounds out into the neighbourhood to leaf through records and<br />

try on vintage clothes with friends. It’s a particularly happy,<br />

carefree snapshot of her life, which feels all the more poignant<br />

as she and her fellow students brace themselves for another<br />

semester of online tutorials. Having established a strong creative<br />

network with her university peers, lockdown must have come as<br />

a blow.<br />

Not that a global standstill could ever really slow Tabitha<br />

Jade down. In the year from hell, she’s delivered an excellent<br />

record and is already spilling over with ideas for the next. So<br />

what advice does she have for future generations of aspiring<br />

singer-songwriters, who might this very moment be borrowing<br />

their dad’s records and humming melodies into their iPhones?<br />

“Just have fun with your music and don’t be scared to make<br />

mistakes,” she replies, poised as always. “You only have one life,<br />

so you may as well just go for your dream.” !<br />

Words: Orla Foster<br />

Photography: Michael Kirkham / @MrKirks<br />

@tabithajadex<br />

No Label will be released in <strong>November</strong>.<br />



Stepping out as working-class, hometown heroes, Red Rum Club have<br />

planted their flag at the highest peak of the Sefton Sierra.<br />

The Sefton Sierra. It has a nice ring to it, even if it may<br />

seem a little far-fetched. But even if the slack waters of<br />

the Irish Sea and its soft dunes may appear incongruous<br />

with the arid mountains of El Paso, the Sierra<br />

connection isn’t empty. It’s one that’s been lapping up ever more<br />

on the banks of the Mersey in recent years.<br />

Just past the docks of Seaforth, RED RUM CLUB have been<br />

hard at work bringing in an exotic import of their own. It’s a<br />

spirited sound that’s injected a Latin American edge to our damp,<br />

windswept city.<br />

The sextuplet have gained a strong following across the North<br />

West of late, with a well-deserved rush of support arriving after<br />

the release of their debut album, Matador, in 2019.<br />

Today, as we catch up with frontman Francis Doran over<br />

the phone, all focus is on their party-starting second offering,<br />

The Hollow Of Humdrum.<br />

Comprising of Doran on lead vocals, Tom Williams (guitar<br />

and backing vocals), Michael McDermott (guitar and backing<br />

vocals), Simon Hepworth (bass), Neil Lawson (drums) and Joe<br />

Corby (trumpet), the collective has already attained quite the set<br />

of enviable millstones – all while still maintaining an ascent. The<br />

mariachi lads have tirelessly trodden the gig circuit, sold out the<br />

Liverpool O2 Academy with ease, played the BBC Introducing<br />

Stage at Glastonbury and are now gearing up to play one of their<br />

biggest shows to date, headlining Liverpool Sound City in 2021.<br />

The band have something of a cult status at home, but, if<br />

anything, they’re one of the centralised forces in Liverpool’s musical<br />

offering – such is their unifying level of reach. You only have to walk<br />

around the cobbled streets of Liverpool to see their posters on<br />

every corner, or someone sporting a Red Rum Club T-shirt, beer in<br />

hand at a bar. But they haven’t always been on the receiving end of<br />

such platitudes, owners of such status. It’s been a rise defined by<br />

good old Scouse graft and humility. Picking up the phone today, the<br />

sodden weather a far cry from the Sierra Madre, we begin at the<br />

start with Fran shedding light on how it all came to be.<br />

“Me and Tom are cousins,” Fran explains. “The other lads were<br />

all in different bands in different formations. We were all playing in<br />

the same pubs and clubs locally and we got to know each other.<br />

Mike made a bit of a dream team. He picked the five of us and<br />

said, ‘Do you fancy all coming to have a jam?’.” A standard band<br />

formation, nothing out of the ordinary. That’s until Tom came to join.<br />

“Our Tom wasn’t meant to be in the band,” Fran recalls, laughing,<br />

“but he had nothing to do that day and his mum rang my mum<br />

and made me take him to band practise.” Sometimes it pays having<br />

nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon. “We got serious about Red<br />

Rum Club around the end of 2016 and it just went from there.”<br />

At the time, Red Rum Club were a five-piece, sans trumpet,<br />

until their then manager encouraged them to try and think of<br />

ways to stand out from the crowd. “They told us to try something<br />

different. That week Mike bumped into Joe, who we went to<br />

school with, and he dropped into conversation that he played the<br />

trumpet. He came to practice, and we just haven’t been able to get<br />

rid of him since,” Fran jokes. I’m sure getting rid of Joe isn’t high on<br />

their list of priorities given his piercing fills have come to define so<br />

much of their sound.<br />

Inspired by northern bands like The Beatles, The Coral, Echo<br />

& the Bunnymen, The Zutons and The Last Shadow Puppets, the<br />

addition of the trumpet’s Latin influence gives them that no-holdsbarred<br />

edge they were after. “When we first got the trumpet in<br />

I think we thought it would be a bit more like The Last Shadow<br />

Puppets, a bit more big band,” Fran explains, “but over time we<br />

were writing songs that had more of a groove, more of a swagger.<br />

The guitar tones that Tom and Mike came up with were also<br />

very spaghetti western, Quentin Tarantino-esque and they just<br />

complemented this mariachi style. We just milked it then. We had<br />

a trumpet and a mariachi sound, so we started writing to [fit that<br />

atmosphere].”<br />

Fran recalls how the band was originally meant to be a skiffle<br />

group, like that of early Beatles incarnation The Quarrymen. While<br />

Red Rum Club might not have stuck with that swinging 60s rock<br />

’n’ roll sound of the Fab Four, they recognise how important the<br />

original lads from Liverpool have been on their own journey as<br />

a band. “A few days ago, I got asked to do a video about John<br />

Lennon, about being a musician in Liverpool, and I never really<br />

thought about [the significance of The Beatles on us] until I got<br />

asked,” he starts. “I realised that, subconsciously, I have a massive<br />

belief and I feel confident in the music industry because The<br />

Beatles had done it. They were just these lads from Liverpool that<br />

took over the music industry, they changed the world and music<br />

changed because of it.<br />

“I feel like we have a little bit more confidence a little bit more<br />

of a spring in our step, especially when we go further afield around<br />

the UK and Europe. We’ve got that Liverpool rubber stamp.”<br />

In Fran’s own words, the early days of Red Rum Club were all<br />

about a way to drink in pubs for cheap and impress girls, until it<br />

became clear that this was a career path they wanted to take. The<br />

hard work stepped up a gear, their named changed and original<br />

songs were produced.<br />

It hasn’t always been about selling out venues with ease<br />

and playing world famous festivals. Getting to that stage took<br />

time. “We reached the age, probably around 20 or 21 where<br />

you start thinking about what you want to do,” says Fran. “We<br />

just thought, let’s give this a go, [as] we enjoyed this more than<br />


“We did something<br />

and meant<br />

something to<br />

the city”<br />

anything else. It made it a lot easier that we were in it together,”<br />

he reflects, as I ask if there were ever any points where their<br />

belief was called on most.<br />

“I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like that, when you just<br />

have a night out together or go and play footy or go round to<br />

each other’s houses, it just rejuvenates you. It was like, ‘Are you<br />

enjoying it?’ ‘Yeh, I’m still enjoying it!’ ‘Let’s just carry on then<br />

and see what happens’. There were plenty of those moments.<br />

Sometimes you still get those days.”<br />

However, with the low points come the highs and these<br />

moments make all the hard work worth it. “There’ve been a few<br />

from an internal point of view,” Fran explains. “It was probably<br />

signing the record deal. We were confident in the songs and<br />

we knew that there was someone out there that would listen to<br />

them. If it all comes to nothing at least we can say we were a<br />

band that signed a record deal and put some albums out.”<br />

He continues: “From an external point of view, I think people<br />

started taking us more seriously when we started going on tour<br />

and selling out shows in Liverpool, London and Glasgow, as well<br />

as shows at festivals like Glastonbury.”<br />

The chance to play for the Worthy Farm crowd clearly stands<br />

out. “When people talk about the buzz you get when you come<br />

off stage, I felt exactly like that at Glastonbury. We had so long<br />

to build it up in our own heads. While we were on stage I was<br />

like, ‘This is Glastonbury! This is Glastonbury!’, but then when we<br />

came off stage it was like, ‘We did well there, didn’t we? We’ve<br />

just done Glastonbury!’ It really was a pinch me moment at the<br />

time, but afterwards it was a chin up-chest out moment.” I saw<br />

their Glastonbury performance and can confirm, yes, it was a hell<br />

of a show.<br />

There are still elements of those early rock ’n’ roll days, but<br />

now it’s all about the live performance. If you’re still to sample a<br />

Red Rum Club show, I’d highly recommend making it one of the<br />

first you go to when live music returns. Their festival vibe, highenergy<br />

performances are a true antidote, a shot of escapism.<br />

From start to finish Fran holds the audience in the palm of his<br />

hand, at the beck and call of their songs’ anthemic nature. From<br />

the experimental and more personal tones of Matador to the<br />

mature and self-assured, festival-pleasing tracks on The Hollow<br />

Of Humdrum, the lads have all the attributes worthy of the<br />

biggest stages.<br />

“We didn’t want to restrict ourselves on Matador,” says Fran,<br />

“we were just six lads in a band and we recorded it like that. For<br />

the second, we were very experimental because we didn’t want<br />

to be one thing live and be another thing on the record.” So much<br />

of their recording seems to clutch for the fevered energy of the<br />

live shows. “As our live sound grew and we became a pretty<br />

seasoned touring band playing some big stages, we walked<br />

into the studio for The Hollow Of Humdrum knowing we were<br />

worthy to be on these big stages at Glastonbury or the Isle Of<br />

Wight Festival. We had that idea in our heads and were like,<br />

‘Right, let’s make a big sound, big songs and not be hesitant to<br />

become more than just six lads in a band’.”<br />

With tracks such as The Elevation, a love song for the<br />

blue tick generation longing for a reply on WhatsApp, Vivo,<br />

a discussion about being working class Northern lads, and<br />

Ballerino, a Billy Elliot-esque social commentary of toxic<br />

masculinity, the new tracks owe themselves to a more mature<br />

way of thinking. But they don’t fail to bring the party.<br />

Speaking of parties, there is no doubt their headlining slot at<br />

Liverpool Sound City in May 2021 is going to be just that as they<br />

close the festival on the Sunday night. “I can’t stop looking at the<br />

top of the poster,” Fran exclaims, “naturally I always go to the<br />

small print at the bottom.” It’s clearly a proud moment for a band<br />

that will have spent many years on the other side of the stage<br />

at the festival. “There’s milestones from a musician’s point of<br />

view and I think, by headlining Liverpool Sound City, we can say<br />

we weren’t just a flash in the pan, we did something and meant<br />

something to the city.”<br />

Fran is incredibly humble when we get onto the subject of<br />

the band’s current popularity at home, noting how their fans are<br />

more like a community, or a ‘club’. “Liverpool is such a tight knit<br />

city, when people come up to me and say they love our stuff<br />

it feels like we’re mates then,” he explains. “That person who<br />

listens, buys the album, who stops me in the street, they’ve got<br />

just as much say in what Red Rum Club is and where we go.”<br />

Where they do go from here is the big question. Having achieved<br />

so much over the years, anything seems possible at the moment.<br />

“The blinkers are off,” Fran replies. “We feel like this is a<br />

career now. Rather than think about tomorrow, or the next single,<br />

we can think about the next two years and the next four tours.”<br />

With single Eleanor being picked up by BBC Radio 2, a UK tour<br />

starting in February (we hope), their second album bearing down<br />

on the top 40 and a headlining slot at a hometown festival, Red<br />

Rum Club have proven they are anything but humdrum. !<br />

Words: Sophie Shields<br />

Illustration: Nicholas Daly / @nickdalyart<br />

@RedRumClub<br />

The Hollow Of Humdrum is available now via Modern Sky.<br />



PAST<br />


FUTURE<br />


On Record – Untold & Retold festival takes over the Philharmonic Hall in October for a live streamed<br />

showcase highlighting the continuing black contribution to Liverpool music and culture. Two of the most<br />

successful groups the city has produced, The Real Thing and MiC LOWRY, will both perform on the night.<br />

Ahead of the showcase, Richard Lewis sits down with Chris Amoo and Ben Sharples to talk about the past,<br />

present and future of black representation in Liverpool’s musical landscape.<br />

Subject of the highly acclaimed documentary<br />

Everything that recently aired on BBC Four, Liverpool<br />

soul legends THE REAL THING are finally getting the<br />

recognition they’re long overdue. Their classic era<br />

line-up of Chris and Eddie Amoo, Dave Smith and Ray Lake –<br />

with the exception of post-Beatles solo projects – were the city’s<br />

sole flag bearers on the singles and albums chart throughout the<br />

1970s. You To Me Are Everything, which has sold upwards of<br />

half a million copies in the UK alone, has been a radio staple ever<br />

since. The follow up Can’t Get By Without You landed at number<br />

two the same year and Can You Feel<br />

The Force? secured a silver disc in<br />

1979.<br />

Wrapped in a sleeve that<br />

features the group stood on Upper<br />

Stanhope Street backed by a<br />

montage of their home suburb, 4<br />

From 8 has been compared by critics<br />

to Marvin Gaye’s landmark 1971<br />

LP What’s Goin’ On. Its centrepiece<br />

Liverpool 8 Medley features the<br />

stunning Children Of The Ghetto,<br />

covered by luminaries such as Mary J.<br />

Blige, Earth, Wind And Fire alumnus<br />

Philip Bailey and UK jazz legend<br />

Courtney Pine, along with being<br />

sampled a score of times over the<br />

past decade.<br />

Fast forward a few decades and vocal harmony group<br />

MiC LOWRY occupy a similar space. Formed by schoolfriends<br />

Delleile Ankrah, Kaine Ofoeme, Michael Welch and Ben Sharples<br />

in 2011, the band have become a flagship group for black<br />

Liverpool music in much the same way. Their biggest show to<br />

date saw them supporting US pop stalwarts Backstreet Boys at<br />

Manchester Arena last summer, while their most recent Liverpool<br />

gig last <strong>November</strong> saw a queue winding round outside of Arts<br />

Club several hours before showtime.<br />

With the two bands appearing at On Record – Untold &<br />

Retold festival in October, we arranged a chat between Real<br />

Thing lead vocalist Chris Amoo and MiC LOWRY’s Ben Sharples<br />

to compare notes on the experience for the past, present and<br />

future black musicians in Liverpool and the UK at large today.<br />

“The main place we used to rehearse was in my living room,<br />

basically all our equipment was a record player and a piano,”<br />

Chris says of The Real Thing’s earliest manoeuvres. “We used<br />

to put the records on and sing over them, that’s how we learnt<br />

harmonies. For a whole year after work, every single evening<br />

we’d practice and go through our parts. If you weren’t there<br />

and you didn’t show up, you got fined! There were not dreams<br />

of record deals, we just wanted to get onstage and perform. As<br />

things progressed, we rehearsed at a youth club, Stanley House.”<br />

The social club and community centre on Upper Parliament<br />

Street was one of a score of L8 clubs dotted around Parliament<br />

Street and Princes Avenue in the 1960s and 70s. “We lined<br />

brushes up in the room and pretend they were microphones<br />

and we were onstage,” recalls Chris. “It was difficult to get<br />

places to rehearse, we needed that much cos we didn’t have<br />

instruments. As we started to move on, if Stanley House held a<br />

ball they would allow you to bring musicians in. That was in L8,<br />

everything was L8, we didn’t go out of it,” Chris emphasises.<br />

The community aspect of a social hub has strong echoes<br />

decades later. Growing out of community choir Positive Impact<br />

founded by future band manager Barbara Philips, MiC LOWRY<br />

also began their journey in Toxteth. “There are so many<br />

similarities there,” Ben nods. “Barbara used to run Positive<br />

Impact at the Methodist Centre, also down in Toxteth. And if you<br />

were young and wanted to get into music, dance or drama, that<br />

was the place to go. It was brilliant singing in there, sonically, cos<br />

of the room reverb.”<br />

“Can you see the pattern between the two generations?”<br />

Chris smiles. “It’s basically the same. We started singing<br />

together when we were at school, we rehearsed in the Methodist<br />

Church as well.”<br />

“I think people like the fact that we grew up together,” Ben<br />

states. “When we were coming up there were a lot of these big<br />

X Factor bands, [so] I think, like, we seemed a bit more real and<br />

authentic.”<br />

Chris’ late brother, Eddie, eight years his senior, was a member<br />

of ground-breaking a cappella group The Chants in the 1960s, who<br />

backed The Beatles at several dates. The Real Thing benefited from<br />

Eddie’s industry experience with The Chants; similarly, MiC LOWRY<br />

were mentored by fellow Scouser Esco Williams.<br />

“Esco used to run a vocal workshop which was open to<br />

everyone, it was free to go along,” Ben recalls. “He brought a lot<br />

“I can see things<br />

bubbling in<br />

Liverpool… I’m<br />

feeling confident<br />

about it in the<br />

next five years”<br />

of industry experience. He was a big influence musically as well<br />

as helping us move up the ladder.”<br />

“Initially when we started off, due to Barbara’s connections,<br />

if an event needed music, she’d make sure we got on the bill,”<br />

Ben adds. “One of the first gigs was at the Brouhaha Festival<br />

in Princes Park. After a few years we started to do school tours<br />

which was great, you’d head up and down the country. That was<br />

the first time we’d done an actual tour with consistent dates.<br />

That was a big help that experience.”<br />

Winding back several decades, The Real Thing began<br />

to make inroads into the city’s<br />

clubs. “When we got an agent we<br />

started playing outside of Toxteth<br />

in places like the Mardi Gras on<br />

Mount Pleasant, which was run by<br />

[former BBC Radio Merseyside DJ]<br />

Billy Butler. That was the only club<br />

in Liverpool back then where all the<br />

American soul acts would play. To<br />

get in there was amazing.”<br />

An avenue that many musicians<br />

based outside the capital consider at<br />

some point is whether to move down<br />

to London, the allure of being in the<br />

Big Smoke the same now as it was<br />

in the 1970s.<br />

“When we started speaking,<br />

not many people expected a Scouse<br />

accent. A lot of people tend to think we’re American, and if we’re<br />

British they assume from London,” Ben explains. “There’s always<br />

the question of moving down there, like, when people get to a<br />

certain level that’s the done thing. We battled that for a little<br />

while and it’s in the back of your mind whether it’s something<br />

you should do. When we were coming up, the scene in Liverpool<br />

back then was indie, guitar-based bands. When we were trying<br />

to get on bills, there wasn’t really the appetite or the audience<br />

for it. When we started to build a foundation and grow, we<br />

could put on bigger shows in London than Liverpool, which was<br />

strange for us.<br />

“Liverpool’s a small place and everyone kinda knows<br />

each other. We’d go to London and we’d be a new thing,<br />

whereas we’d play Liverpool and it’d be like, ‘Oh, yeh, I went to<br />

Calderstones with one of those guys’. There’s not the same kind<br />

of excitement cos people think they know you.”<br />

“Basically it’s just as Ben said, he’s taken the words out of<br />

my mouth,” Chris, who still has strong connections to L8, states.<br />

“The difference is, when we came up there wasn’t anybody else<br />

apart from Eddie’s band The Chants. People certainly thought<br />

we were from America, we still get that even now, occasionally.<br />

London was the hub, that’s where our management was. If<br />

we wanted to do anything, it meant getting down to London,<br />

whether it was Top Of The Pops, Radio One. I know that I<br />

could’ve done a lot more collaborations with a lot more artists<br />

had I been living in London. When you’re not living down there<br />

you’re sort of off the radar, it’s a scene going on down there.<br />

“I’ve never wanted to move to London, none of us did,” Chris<br />

concedes. “Our manager advised us on many occasions to move<br />

down. We never wanted to. Liverpool’s our home. Even if it’s the<br />

case, like Ben says, of ‘Oh, they’re the guys from down the road’.<br />

When you make it, it’s even stronger. It’s a case of [proudly],<br />

‘They’re the guys from our city!’”<br />

A huge question to tackle, but do you feel that black music<br />

from Liverpool now gets the recognition and kudos it deserves?<br />

“No,” Chris says, sadly. “Same answer,” Ben adds. “As Chris<br />

was saying, there are people even now who don’t know The Real<br />

Thing are Scousers. As soon as you say you’re from Liverpool,<br />

people say it’s got such as great history and music heritage,<br />

but not a lot of it is dedicated to black music. It’s strange when<br />

you’ve got The Chants, The Real Thing, The Christians, there<br />

are so many amazing artists and groups who’ve come out of<br />

Liverpool”.<br />

“It’s not really renowned for soul music, really never has<br />

been,” Chris ruminates. “Liverpool’s more of a rock-oriented<br />

city, musically. There aren’t a lot of openings for black music in<br />

Liverpool itself. Which isn’t to say there aren’t any and you can’t<br />

do it, cos you can. But it’s a lot more difficult.”<br />

“I have a feeling that there will be some kind of breakthrough<br />

in the next five to 10 years,” Ben opines. “I think, when you look<br />

at – and I hate this term – ‘urban music’ is always associated<br />

with London. But if you look in the last five years or so, it’s<br />

stretched out to Birmingham and Manchester. You see a lot of<br />

black artists from those cities absolutely smashing it now. That<br />

wasn’t the case before. If you said you were from Manchester,<br />

everyone would associate you with an indie band. The scene’s<br />

developed more. I can see things bubbling in Liverpool where<br />

there might be a moment for that soon. I’m feeling confident<br />

about it in the next five years, definitely. There’s Culture Deck in<br />

Liverpool now. Their event at 24 Kitchen Street sold out, which<br />

is amazing. Five years ago I couldn’t picture that.” Culture Deck<br />

is one of a handful of emerging media collectives that give a<br />

platform for emerging rap, hip hop, grime and RnB acts in the<br />

city.<br />

“It was only when we got a manger like Tony Hall, who was<br />

probably one of the most respected people in black music at<br />

that time,” adds Chris, “that we noticed a change in reception.<br />

Hall had handled Jimi Hendrix’s UK promotion in the late 1960s.<br />

Because of the respect he had, DJ and industry people started to<br />

judge us on our own level, they started giving us a chance.”<br />

“There was only Radio One – if you didn’t get on that station<br />

you didn’t have a hit record,” he adds. “They had to cater to<br />

everyone, there were only so many soul records played per<br />

show. If The O’Jays, Stevie Wonder and The Stylistics had a<br />

record out the same week, they’re gonna get priority. It was<br />

the same thing with Top Of The Pops, they’re not gonna have a<br />

show dominated by black music, they’d have Abba, Slade and<br />

Paul McCartney on. That was what we had to come up against<br />

and we did it thankfully cos we had a great manager. We had a<br />

bit of talent as well…”<br />

“It’s a weird one with radio,” Ben replies. “When we first got<br />

signed we had a record out which was quite poppy, it wasn’t<br />

one of our more soulful ones. We took it to radio and there was<br />

the thing of, you need to go through urban radio in the States<br />

first, before you get to the pop one. Even though it’s the same<br />

track, the same record. Sometimes it can be frustrating when<br />

black artists can get limited to certain stations which wouldn’t<br />

have the same reach. These days, though, I don’t think radio is as<br />

important cos you’ve got all the streaming platforms, which gives<br />

people the power. Like Chris was saying about playlist meetings<br />

where a group of people make a decision over what gets heard,<br />

with Spotify people have the power, cos if our song’s out there<br />

and people are listening to it, they’ll look at the algorithms and<br />

go, ‘People like this, let’s put it on that playlist’. It becomes less<br />

about someone’s personal decision and more about what people<br />

like listening to, so that’s a big help.”<br />

“You can put music out there yourself now, you’re not relying<br />

on anyone else. If you’ve got something you believe in, you can<br />

get it out there and get in touch with people,” Chris nods.<br />

Throughout the conversation, there are distinct notes of<br />

progress over the 40 years that separated the two group’s<br />

careers – before continuing on in tandem. But what’s more telling<br />

are the systemic limitations and perceptions that have remained,<br />

both in Liverpool and across the UK. It shows we’re far from an<br />

end goal where artistry can speak for itself, free from prejudice.<br />

However, there’s a sense the tide is changing again for the<br />

better, as we begin to round off the conversation. Similar to<br />

Ben’s point about London becoming decentralised, the music<br />

of Liverpool’s black artists is no longer restricted to L8 or token<br />

support slots, with more and more artists applying their craft at<br />

the top of the bill on stages in the Baltic Triangle and city centre.<br />

Though it must be stressed there is further this inclusiveness and<br />

representation can go, with guitar music still the dominant offer.<br />

Equally, in tandem as technology has improved, the nature of<br />

industry gatekeepers has changed, with power less concentrated<br />

in the hands of a select few nowadays. As Ben notes, popularity<br />

can speak for itself and artists have a stronger level of control in<br />

writing their own futures.<br />

As we conclude the conversation, we return to the recent<br />

documentary, Everything. A scene sees Chris explain how he<br />

has altered the lyric from Children Of The Ghetto when singing<br />

live. From: “There’s no inspiration / To brighten up their day” to<br />

“There’s some inspiration”.<br />

Put simply then, do you feel the situation has improved since<br />

the release of 4 From 8 in 1977? “On a worldwide level, there’s<br />

a lot of inspiration around now for aspiring black artists,” Chris<br />

states emphatically. “The world’s your oyster.” !<br />

Words: Richard Lewis<br />

Photography: Callum Mills (MiC LOWRY) / Courtesy of The Real<br />

Thing<br />

therealthingofficial.com<br />

@miclowry<br />

The Real Thing and MiC LOWRY will appear at the On Record –<br />

Untold & Retold showcase live streamed from the Philharmonic<br />

Hall on 23rd October. limfestival.com/onrecord<br />




A new exhibition part of On Record – Untold & Retold will celebrate key figures of black music in Liverpool and<br />

their contribution to the foundations of the city’s culture. Curated and photographed by Anthony Wilde, the<br />

exhibition is characterised by the photographer’s deftness for capturing moments of change and transition.<br />

Before ANTHONY WILDE started taking photographs<br />

four years ago, he knew there was a particular depth<br />

to his vision. On an old iPhone 4, he recalls reams of<br />

incidental photos scattered throughout the timeline of<br />

the camera role. An unassuming collection to the untrained eye.<br />

But to his own, the photos revealed themselves as a delicate<br />

jigsaw of messages and moments waiting to be connected.<br />

“I’ve always been looking for something that stood out,<br />

something extraordinary,” he says over the phone, thinking back<br />

to the years before a lens became permanently attached to his hip.<br />

“I found something extraordinary in the simplicity [of the photos].<br />

It could be in anything. I always had a way of looking at things<br />

different, [so] I always wanted to document, see if there was<br />

anything in the moment at all.”<br />

Once a camera was in hand it became an entirely new way<br />

of seeing. The camera added an unrushed aspect to his process,<br />

with new levels of intricacy and momentary energy – equally,<br />

an added influence to share his art. “I’m always developing and<br />

learning when I pick up the camera, studying the frame. It reveals<br />

what happens in a moment,” he replies slowly, considering the<br />

magnitude of the subjects and scenes he’s trained his camera on<br />

over the last four years. “Not always great or beautiful, but always<br />

something worth saying,” he rounds off in an effortlessly profound<br />

manner.<br />

It’s these ‘moments’ which Anthony notes – the ability to<br />

extract a pristine singular freeze-frame from a life continuously<br />

on fast-forward – that have typified his work as a photographer.<br />

A process that converts the camera into a microscope, the finite<br />

details of society gently lit under its backlight. It is a consideration<br />

and precision echoed in the creation of his Evolving + Nostalgia<br />

zines.<br />

Over three issues, the zines have drawn a focus on creative<br />

development and emerging voices in a “new generational attitude<br />

to change”. The third issue was released back in August and<br />

focused on the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and the<br />

personal, unique stories of those taking a stand.<br />

“Every zine I’ve produced is<br />

never what I intended it to be at<br />

the beginning. Over the period of<br />

me making it, it shifts, evolves and<br />

changes,” he says of his usual process<br />

of planning and beginning to document.<br />

“Within in a few days of me starting the<br />

third one, things shifted completely.”<br />

Following the murder of George<br />

Floyd in May, a wave of worldwide<br />

protest barrelled into the streets of<br />

Liverpool. At St George’s Hall, where<br />

Anthony spoke at the first of two<br />

protests, the atmosphere was charged<br />

and committed. Rightly so for city with<br />

a strong colonial history and systemic<br />

racial tensions stemming from the 1980s, of which embers are<br />

still yet to go out. “We were in the midst of a storm,” comments<br />

Anthony, “you can sense the impact of everything that’s<br />

happening, but you can’t let that grasp a hold of you because<br />

it will influence how you document a particular moment.” With<br />

the camera in hand he’s committed to playing the narrator rather<br />

“If it wasn’t for<br />

these people, the<br />

community wouldn’t<br />

be as rich as what<br />

it is today”<br />

than director or composer. It’s this careful separation that gives<br />

breathing room to his subjects and stories.<br />

The resulting zine confronts the defining narratives of the<br />

protests, but it translates the deeply personal experiences<br />

of each subject. The responses documented in the work are<br />

far from homogenised, or as simple as black or white. “Every<br />

individual had vastly different experience,” replies Anthony.<br />

“You can put it under the same<br />

umbrella – racism, colonialism,<br />

oppression, marginalisation within<br />

our communities – but each person<br />

is vastly different in their experience.<br />

I was learning from a whole array of<br />

different people through the whole<br />

process of putting it together. I still<br />

am.”<br />

Alongside his original<br />

photography, the zines have<br />

been characterised by Anthony’s<br />

unwavering prose. It’s a symbiosis that<br />

is staunchly compelling. The words<br />

and images seem to combine in a way<br />

as if to finish one another’s sentence<br />

on the page. Similar to the photography, it’s an attribute that’s<br />

revealed through considered process. “I enjoy writing, but it just<br />

happens [when writing captions] for the photos. It’s not a case<br />

of, ‘I’ve taken a photograph, I must write something about it’. It<br />

might sit with me for a few months and eventually I’ll interpret<br />

it in the way I see, the way it makes me feel,” he says. “It’s just<br />



as important as the image. They’ll work with one another for<br />

whoever is viewing it.”<br />

Cliché suggests a picture paints a thousand words, but<br />

to Anthony the added context means the message “cuts a lot<br />

deeper”, with “more gravity”. “They’re both ingredients to what<br />

I’m creating,” he continues. However, there’s never a knee-jerk<br />

response to draw out conclusions. “I need to let the image sit with<br />

me, also the text. Then, I don’t know when, or how, it’ll come to<br />

me. I’ll make sense of it. The whole process is making sense of<br />

what I’ve taken.” It’s a process as organic as the subtle frames<br />

of existence pulled into view by his camera. “You need to let the<br />

photograph sit,” he adds, “then when you look through it again,<br />

I see minor details that turn the photo on its head and change<br />

the message.”<br />

Next month, Anthony’s work will become more familiar to<br />

Liverpool’s consciousness through the Champion One, Champion<br />

All! exhibition which will feature as part of On Record – Untold<br />

& Retold festival. Similar to his process of mining the density<br />

in passing moments of change, the exhibition will display 31<br />

portraits celebrating key figures of black music in Liverpool and<br />

the contemporary scene – two strands which form an integral<br />

foundation of Liverpool’s past, present and future cultural landscape.<br />

“It’s celebrating people, people in our community,” he says,<br />

“and if it wasn’t for these people, the community wouldn’t be as<br />

rich as what it is today.”<br />

The exhibition, to be housed at Museum Of Liverpool, takes<br />

in musicians, artists, promoters, venue owners and community<br />

facilitators. The diversity of those featured aims to challenge<br />

the homogenised view of black music – too often an expansive<br />

grouping that denies the individual merit of its intricacies. Equally,<br />

one that speaks for the music in a way that is not reflected in the<br />

myriad of genres that reside outside of the banner of ‘white music’.<br />

In Liverpool alone, it’s a perception that still needs breaking down.<br />

“We’re all so unique and delicate. It’s [about] being able to be<br />

the individual, be the person you are without all of the attachments<br />

and the bias,” says Anthony. “Trying to categorise, trying to<br />

categorise a people. This exhibition will disperse that way of<br />

thinking. When you see the images in the exhibition and you hear<br />

from the people and what it is that they’re doing, you’ll see how<br />

each individual has made a tremendous contribution.”<br />

In Anthony’s own distinct way, the photos extract 31<br />

moments still in motion, from those who’ve set the foundations,<br />

to those who’ve built the city’s future on top. “Black music is the<br />

most inclusive genre. It’s inclusive of all melodies. It’s within our<br />

culture. It’s within British culture,” he concludes. “It isn’t a colour,<br />

it’s culture. It’s more important than ever to put on an exhibition<br />

that is highlighting that.” !<br />

Words: Elliot Ryder<br />

Photography: Anthony Wilde / @en.official_<br />

Photos from left to right: Kof, Mia Thornton and Rachel Duncan<br />

- Go Off, Sis!, Ioan Roberts and Saad Shaffi - 24 Kitchen Street,<br />

Kadeem France - Loathe, Koj, Pelumi, Jennifer John.<br />

limfestival.com/onrecord<br />

Champion One, Champion All! runs at Museum Of Liverpool from<br />

9th to 23rd <strong>November</strong>.<br />

The sound of this city isn’t defined by one aspect<br />

of colour or ethnicity. However, we listen and<br />

savour the tones that have contributed to the<br />

steeple that has helped engrave an essence in our<br />

city’s identity, partnered by those of black heritage<br />

and surrounding.<br />

Liverpool breaks tradition and follows only the<br />

determined; the determined to understand, the<br />

determined to create, the purposeful will be<br />

spirited. Music and sounds hand us as people that<br />

first ripple in what can be our ocean if we choose<br />

to see what has yet been unrecognised. New<br />

creators in music are emerging everyday within<br />

Liverpool, ethnically together; communicating<br />

a dialogue that encourages and unify traditions<br />

while emerging sounds make way for the path<br />

we are now on. This collection of individuals here<br />

inside The Museum Of Liverpool display a sense of<br />

feeling, the city has been missing.<br />

This is no doubt a celebration of what we have<br />

created and contributed to the centre of where<br />

black music has as rich a space as anywhere in the<br />

world.<br />

Champion one, champion all.<br />

Anthony Wilde<br />




“Protest anything<br />

that tries to<br />

undermine the<br />

importance of<br />

creativity”<br />


The Queen Of Heartbreak opens<br />

up about her colourful artistry,<br />

charity shop gowns and silly sense<br />

of humour.<br />

What began as a means to make back the money lost from a<br />

withdrawn university scholarship for EVE HOWLETT (the result<br />

of a streaking session in her first year of studies) has now fully<br />

bloomed into a career as a life model, poet, wardrobe designer<br />

and performer.<br />

As a member of The Secret Circus, Eve performed at an Alice<br />

In Wonderland themed event as an anti-love poet. And so, The<br />

Queen Of Heartbreak was born. She is charming, quick-witted<br />

and just a little daft. “Pardon my alliteration,” she laughs, “but<br />

my performance poetry is piled high with puns and punchlines –<br />

period.”<br />

Combining all of her creative endeavours, Howlett is a unique<br />

and fabulous artist emerging in Liverpool. “I would describe<br />

myself as an over-the-top colourful creative,” she says, “who has<br />

fingers in far too many pies and a wig collection so big, they’re<br />

arguing over who gets teased the most.” Her style, inspired by<br />

her parents’ fancy dress shop and whatever “diamond bargains”<br />

she can find at a car boot sale, is consistently quirky, bold and<br />

joyful. Performing at events such as Eat Me + Preach and A<br />

Lovely Word, Howlett showcases her fantastic handmade<br />

wardrobe with heels and eyelashes that could make RuPaul gag<br />

Howlett’s poetry is packed with hilarity and a jovial need<br />

to enjoy life. “I usually find some small spark,” she explains, “a<br />

fleeting funny moment, like a pigeon flying into my room or<br />

something, and I blurt out a poem. Or, I’ll take something that<br />

pisses me off and turn it something comedic to take the power<br />

away from it. I’ve always looked for the joke in everything, to<br />

make myself laugh even if no one else is.”<br />

At a time where we could all use a few more laughs, Howlett<br />

is coming into the spotlight with an ability to not be consumed<br />

by the anxiety pressing down on all of us. Reflecting on these<br />

uncertain times Howlett shares: “Years of financial anxiety<br />

prepared me for the pandemic.” She further explains: “Being<br />

self-employed and freelance since university, I think I’d got used<br />

to having to be adaptable when you don’t know where the next<br />

pay check is coming from.” Although naturally an unsettling time,<br />

Howlett acknowledges some positives taken from lockdown.<br />

“Having a lot of time on my hands suddenly did give me the time<br />

and space to develop The Queen Of Heartbreak as opposed to<br />

doing a half-arsed, last-minute version of my original vision like I<br />

had done in the past. Being able to connect with people around<br />

the world and perform for events I would never be able to is a<br />

massive silver lining.”<br />

Her artistic career so far is packed with wild and wonderful<br />

adventures, with her experiences as a life model sparking a lot<br />

of joy and laughter for both Howlett and her fellow artists. “I’ve<br />

been talked into all kinds of mad stuff,” she reflects playfully,<br />

“like walking around in nothing but wellies filled with ink and<br />

water, pose on a trapeze, dance to YMCA and pretend to cook<br />

cardboard carrots in a cardboard pan.” As silly and wacky<br />

as these experiences have been, life modelling has been an<br />

enriching time for Howlett over the years. “After spending hours<br />

on end with nothing but yourself for company you have no choice<br />

but to experience every thought and feeling and, literally, sit with<br />

it,” she explains. “These are usually the times that I have time to<br />

think about creative ideas, write poems and think about what<br />

costume I’m going to wear next.”<br />

Howlett has no intention of slowing down with plans of<br />

releasing her own poetry book and a Queen Of Heartbreak<br />

vajazzle collection. With a resolute ambition to constantly do<br />

things her way, Howlett is sure to continue on her path as an<br />

original, authentic artist. “The way I write my poems, the way I do<br />

my make-up, the outfits I put together, it’s rarely by consciously<br />

following influences,” she explains. “I’ve always been someone<br />

who just does whatever they feel is right.” Inspired by herself,<br />

Howlett is an ambassador for people speaking their own truth.<br />

“I’m not sure I ever grew out of doing everything my own way,”<br />

she says, and we hope she never does.<br />

During a time of uncertainty where the worth of the arts has<br />

been called into question, Howlett reminds us that we are not as<br />

fragile as we may sometimes feel. “If you feel you have a bit to<br />

give, share the work of other artists, buy from independents and<br />

creatives, see if you can skill swap, see if you can collaborate,”<br />

she says. “And protest anything that tries to undermine the<br />

importance of creativity.” Howlett reminds us that we are not<br />

alone, we are valued and we matter. Our worth does not lie in<br />

the opinion of others and our validation comes only from within<br />

ourselves. She continues to encourage us to trust what our gut is<br />

urging us to do, and to smile while we are doing it. !<br />

Words: Mary Olive / @maryolivepoet<br />

Photography: Mark Lycett<br />

@thequeenofheartbreak<br />

Eve Howlett’s work will be displayed at 92 Degrees Coffee as<br />

part of Liverpool Nude 2 exhibition. Now extended until 31st<br />

October.<br />


STONE<br />

Fin Power wades in on the postpunk<br />

band’s relentless drive to<br />

share their message at full volume.<br />

“I wanted people to<br />

listen to everything<br />

I said and feel<br />

exactly what I am<br />

going through”<br />

If you had to describe your music in a sentence, what would<br />

you say?<br />

Knowledge, anger and tales of drunken mishaps straight from the<br />

bottom of the bottle.<br />

How did you get into music?<br />

For me it was watching videos of David Bowie as a kid and<br />

knowing there and then that it was what I wanted to do. I would<br />

just think in my childhood brain, ‘I wanna do that’. When I was<br />

younger, I drew a lot and wrote comics. This all then led to<br />

turning 15 and starting The Bohos. Suppose, looking back, we<br />

may as well have been an Oasis cover band.<br />

Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of music that initially<br />

inspired you?<br />

Leave It Out is when I realised why I loved to write. I realised that<br />

I wanted my message to be heard. I wanted people to listen to<br />

everything I said and feel exactly what I am going through.<br />

Do you have a favourite song or piece of music to perform?<br />

What does it say about you?<br />

Again, Leave it Out. The track is a genuine wall of sound and<br />

it was the first track I wrote with a spoken word flow. It’s an<br />

authentic snapshot of what I was thinking and feeling at that<br />

point in my life.<br />

If you could support any artist in the future, who would it be?<br />

The band might disagree, but I would probably want to support<br />

an early 2000s powerhouse, like Arctic Monkeys or The Strokes.<br />

What do you think is the overriding influence on your<br />

songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a mixture<br />

of all of these?<br />

The band’s influence comes from a need to be heard. Music-wise,<br />

we are heavily inspired by old school hip hop and post-punk. We<br />

tend to blend aspects of both to create our own thing. Ideologywise<br />

I guess I’m inspired by the 21st Century, you know, social<br />

media and all that.<br />

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed in? If so, what<br />

makes it special?<br />

Me and the band love The Zanzibar, it’s a venue we have all<br />

come through and all owe a lot to. Playing the Zanzi was a rite<br />

of passage for any Liverpool band and we are truly sad to see it<br />

closing.<br />

Why is music important to you?<br />

I’m often asked, ‘Why are you in a band? Is it to play music or for<br />

people to hear my message?’ I think it must be a mixture, because<br />

I thrive off both. The band and I love to perform and that’s<br />

the main thing. A big thing for me is hearing everything come<br />

together and knowing that it’s 100 per cent doing our message<br />

justice.<br />

Photography: Broadie<br />

@stoneliverpool<br />

Stay Silent is available now.<br />


The acoustic singer-songwriter underscores his creative<br />

inspiration and the importance of music and the arts.<br />

Have you always wanted to create music?<br />

I got into listening to different music from a young age, every<br />

Christmas and birthday I would ask my family to get me Pink<br />

Floyd and Beatles albums. I would spend my paper round money<br />

on CDs by artists like Bob Dylan and<br />

Neil Young. I started playing when I was<br />

around 10 or 11 years old after my dad<br />

got me guitar lessons.<br />

If you had to describe your style in a<br />

sentence, what would you say?<br />

My music is a melting pot of various<br />

styles and influences, including country,<br />

folk, blues, pop and reggae. I listen to<br />

different styles of music and like to keep<br />

it fresh for myself and for the listener.<br />

If you could support any artist in the<br />

future, who would it be?<br />

The Rolling Stones because they still put<br />

on a boss show and I’ve always wanted<br />

to be fly on the wall in their dressing room.<br />

“Music and arts are<br />

a crucial part of all<br />

our lives, crucial<br />

on a physical and<br />

emotional level”<br />

What do you think is the overriding influence on your<br />

songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a mixture<br />

of all of these?<br />

The songs can be influenced by anything, whether it be a certain<br />

emotion, a story, or conversations I’ve<br />

had. It can be dreams, nightmares or<br />

real-life affairs.<br />

Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of<br />

music that initially inspired you?<br />

I remember the first time I got one of<br />

them old MP3 players for Christmas, I<br />

uploaded Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix<br />

onto it and listened to it through<br />

headphones for the first time and it<br />

completely blew my head clean off!<br />

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve<br />

performed in?<br />

I loved playing in the Olympia last<br />

year as part of a BOSS Night. It is the<br />

second biggest venue in the city behind the arena, the building is<br />

amazing inside and there is so much history in there.<br />

Do you have a favourite song or piece of music to perform?<br />

What does it say about you?<br />

My latest single The Life I Left Behind it is pretty relevant to my<br />

life right now. It’s about moving on to better things and pushing<br />

through difficult times in general, whatever they may be. If I’m<br />

feeling down or negative, this song gives me hope, and I hope it<br />

can inspire others when they listen to it.<br />

Why is music important to you?<br />

Music isn’t just important to me, it is important to everyone. Even<br />

If you don’t know it, music and arts are a crucial part of all our<br />

lives, crucial on a physical and emotional level. To the numbercrunching<br />

Tory politicians trying to do away with the arts and<br />

music it is one of life’s great natural mediums accessible to<br />

everybody. I think it will be impossible to suppress.<br />

Photography: John Johnson / @John.Johno<br />

@music_burke<br />

The Life I Left Behind is out now via Nifty Records.<br />




“Transition was nothing<br />

less than alchemy. I<br />

am so blessed and<br />

privileged to have made<br />

peace with a body I<br />

once waged war with”<br />



Homotopia – 29/10-15/11<br />

Award-winning artist, filmmaker and campaigner discusses<br />

their artistry and upcoming residency at Homotopia festival.<br />

Homotopia’s arts and culture fest returns to Liverpool<br />

with a programme promising its unique blend of<br />

queer performance, visual art and new voices across<br />

the transgender spectrum. Celebrated annually since<br />

2004, the UK’s longest-running LGBTQIA arts and culture<br />

festival will this year invite award-winning filmmaker and trans<br />

rights campaigner, FOX FISHER, to be their artist in residence.<br />

Fisher will take part in a number of workshops, collaborative<br />

artwork events and a curated screening of My Genderation – a<br />

film project co-founded with Lewis Hancox celebrating the trans<br />

experience – followed by a discussion on trans life in the UK.<br />

Ahead of Fisher’s highly anticipated residency, we caught<br />

up with them to discuss the current transgender landscape,<br />

representation in the media and what they have planned for the<br />

16th arts and culture fest.<br />

You were invited to design the artwork for Brighton Pride 2020,<br />

an event which took place online for the first time in its history.<br />

How did its taking place online affect the event?<br />

As an awkward teen, my first ever Pride was Brighton Pride, so<br />

it meant so much to be asked to create the illustrations for this<br />

year’s event. I have to admit, I was disappointed to not see the<br />

illustrations put to use around the park, which is always so lively.<br />

It’s been a strange year for Pride. I was involved with so many<br />

online panels and events (including Brighton Pride) that I still<br />

managed to experience the annual Pride season burnout.<br />

For the past few months, the digital sphere has certainly<br />

become something of a refuge for those struggling<br />

with isolation. Has this greater dependency on global<br />

interconnectedness and the availability of social media<br />

transformed how trans people make sense of their identity?<br />

It certainly has. Although trans people have always existed, the<br />

internet is invaluable for trans people to recognise who we are.<br />

This is through creating profiles that match who we feel to be,<br />

and by having access to chatrooms on trans topics, and YouTube<br />

vlogs made by trans people sharing every part of the process of a<br />

social and medical transition. When I was starting my transition,<br />

and for many years before, I would feast off of trans vlogs that<br />

documented people’s medical transitions. I would particularly seek<br />

out those who were a bit similar to myself in stature, to see how I<br />

might look after taking testosterone for a while.<br />

Gaming also attracts a lot of trans people to create characters<br />

more fitting to who they are and recently we’ve been treated<br />

to the video game Tell Me Why, where one of the two main<br />

characters is a trans man.<br />

How have conversations and the greater transgender landscape<br />

changed since My Transsexual Summer back in 2011? Are we<br />

still waiting for language to keep up with conceptualisations of<br />

identity?<br />

When I came out as trans back in 2011, I knew I was coming<br />

out to a world that didn’t fully understand trans issues. A lot has<br />

happened since then and, while we’ve definitely moved forwards<br />

in terms of public understanding, we still have a long way to go.<br />

Many of us felt that 2015 was a tipping point for trans rights,<br />

with Laverne Cox on the front cover of Time magazine, but I don’t<br />

think it’s quite happened yet. In the past five years there has<br />

been a really harmful and visceral media campaign against trans<br />

people, with many of the current attacks focused on young trans<br />

people and their access to puberty blockers (which are life-saving<br />

and simply press pause on the wrong puberty) or trans people’s<br />

access to spaces and services that they need.<br />

We’ve also seen influential writers and figures speak out against<br />

trans rights and there is still a huge gap in people’s understanding<br />

of what it means to be trans and what we need to be safe in<br />

society. In recent years there have been more conversations about<br />

being non-binary, albeit sometimes at an absurd level, like when<br />

my partner and I were grilled for 15 minutes by Piers Morgan on<br />

live morning television.<br />

Seeing my comrade Munroe Bergdorf on the front cover of Time<br />

magazine this month ignites hope again.<br />

Your experiences on My Transsexual Summer inspired you to<br />

further explore and shed more light on the (often neglected)<br />

experiences of trans people. As you continue to grow and<br />

develop greater understanding about your own identity, has<br />

anything surprised you about yourself?<br />

I think the past years have definitely given me time to learn new<br />

things about myself and explore what it really means to be me.<br />

I first came out as trans at the same time I took part in the My<br />

Trans Summer series and C4 wasn’t ready for me to talk about<br />

being non-binary. In recent years, the conversation has opened<br />

up to what it is to be non-binary. Non-binary people have seen<br />

resistance and prejudice, even from within the trans community.<br />

I spent a long time trying to be someone I wasn’t, constantly<br />

trying to fit in and find some sort of peace. But coming out as<br />

trans has really given me that peace of mind and I’ve been able to<br />

really get to know myself and let everyone else get to know me.<br />

I guess my biggest surprise was that I’ve managed to achieve so<br />

much, to catch up for lost time, and that’s a direct result of being<br />

able to be myself.<br />

As an advisor to All About Trans, you help with representations<br />

of transgender people within the media. Could you tell us a little<br />

more about this role?<br />

All About Trans is a project run by the charity On Road Media,<br />

and it centres around creating a more positive portrayal for trans<br />

people in the media and beyond. Through my work with AAT I<br />

have been a part of many interactions, where we bring a group<br />

of trans people to meet a group of journalists (or staff) and spend<br />

the day together to learn more about trans issues in the media.<br />

We’ve visited most major platforms in the country, including The<br />

Guardian, [The S*n], The Daily Mail, BBC, daytime TV series, ITV<br />

and more. We’ve also been working with publishing companies<br />

like Hachette, so we reach a wide audience. What makes AAT<br />

so powerful is that we create an environment where journalists<br />

or staff can really connect to trans people on a human level and<br />

we can have honest, positive and constructive conversations,<br />

where they get a chance to learn from us. The impact has been<br />

huge and continues to be, including positive media stories, more<br />

accurate storylines on major TV series and a lot of connectivity<br />

and education from behind the scenes.<br />

The value of truth as the bedrock of civic society is currently<br />

being undermined and devalued across the world. For you, what<br />

does the next few years look like in terms of combatting fake<br />

news to ensure the experiences and validity of transgender<br />

people are heard in the media, social media, etc?<br />

I think one of the biggest dangers of fake news is that it is often<br />

used to incite hatred against minorities to divert away from<br />

real issues where our rights and liberty are being taken away.<br />

I think one of the biggest ways to combat that is to elevate trans<br />

people to tell their own stories, as most people learn about trans<br />

people from people who aren’t trans. This leaves a lot of room for<br />

disinformation to be spread and for people to get it wrong.<br />

This is why it’s so important for trans people to be ‘in the room’<br />

for content creation and relaying information. We need to see<br />

more trans people as news presenters, as directors, writers and<br />

producers, and in visible positions. We need people to understand<br />

that trans people are people you meet in real life, and we aren’t<br />

just an isolated group of people that doesn’t partake in society.<br />

We are your colleagues, your children’s teachers, your social<br />

workers, your NHS staff, your friends, your family.<br />

People need to be able to think for themselves a bit more and be<br />

critical of the information they are receiving online. I think a huge<br />

amount of work needs to be put into combatting this with real<br />

stories of real people.<br />

We’re looking forward to you being artist in residence at this<br />

year’s Homotopia, the theme of which is Show Your Working.<br />

What were your immediate thoughts on this theme and how<br />

did you go about designing your elements of the programme?<br />

As you can imagine, the theme for Homotopia changed and<br />

evolved as this unusual year progressed. I think Show Your<br />

Working is apt because activism can show someone’s stance on a<br />

topic but there needs to be an action point or initiative. Otherwise<br />

it risks being seen as slacktivism.<br />

We need people to be visible in their support. We’re essentially<br />

asking people to show their receipts, by asking what people are<br />

actually doing to help people who are being discriminated against<br />

or targeted because of their gender identity, gender expression<br />

or sexuality. Now is the time to speak up because simply being<br />

passive or quiet about it is negligent and potentially damaging.<br />

This idea of not claiming to know the answer but showing you<br />

have a plan is intriguing. Your voice and identity shines through<br />

your screen printing; how can ideas of gender and art work<br />

together to create a shared commonality among those who<br />

feel at the fringes of the UK’s creative culture?<br />

For me, transition was nothing less than alchemy. I am so<br />

blessed and privileged to have made peace with a body I once<br />

waged war with. My art is a reflection of that, where I am able<br />

to express what it is to be a human being with a variety of<br />

intersections, particularly being brown, queer, trans masculine<br />

and non-binary.<br />

I think art is one of the most powerful tools we have, and it can<br />

pave change and raise awareness of different issues, whether<br />

that’s art that is directly political and challenging, or even if it’s<br />

art pieces created by someone who has a voice. Art can really<br />

connect people from such different backgrounds, and I am<br />

always really excited to see people turn their experiences into<br />

something so powerful as art. !<br />

Words: Matthew Berks / @hewniverse_<br />

homotopia.net<br />

As well as being this year’s artist in residence, Fox Fisher<br />

is taking part in three Homotopia events: Transtopia on<br />

6th <strong>November</strong>, My Genderation on 7th and Fox Fisher In<br />

Conversation on 8th.<br />


yuppies music presents<br />

the musicians’ art show<br />

tickets available from:<br />

Featuring:<br />



night flight ‘CATE LE BON<br />





ED DOWIE<br />




ICHI<br />


















BIRKENHEAD: future yard NOV 12th-15th<br />



Jennifer John<br />



- UNTOLD &<br />

RETOLD<br />

Various venues - 23/10-23/11<br />

The sprawling programme for the inaugural On Record:<br />

Untold & Retold festival begins with a streamed launch<br />

event from the Philharmonic Hall. Liverpool legends THE<br />

CHRISTIANS and THE REAL THING will perform sets<br />

along with contemporaries MIC LOWRY and JENNIFER JOHN<br />

and the SENSE OF SOUND SINGERS before a panel discussion<br />

on restoring the contribution of black music to our heritage. The<br />

event sets the tone for a varied programme which aims to explore<br />

Liverpool’s black music history and shine a light on overlooked<br />

aspects to bring key artists, movements and places to the fore.<br />

Anthony Wilde’s Champion One! Champion All! exhibition runs at<br />

the Museum Of Liverpool from 9th to 23rd <strong>November</strong>. The portraits<br />

show pays tribute to 31 key figures in Liverpool’s black music scene.<br />

The exhibition will be launched with screenings of four documentaries<br />

commissioned especially for On Record. Untold Stories is a series of four<br />

shorts that looks at the story of Kirklands, successful songs from black<br />

artists from Merseyside, carnival and the next generation of artists.<br />

Contemporary artists TEE, IAMKYAMI, REMÉE, ELIZA MAI, DAYZY<br />

and TY LEWIS perform at the On Record x Culture Deck Live Sessions<br />

which reflect Liverpool’s vibrant and diverse black music scene today.<br />

The music continues with Toxteth Community Radio DJs providing<br />

mixes of 80s, 90s, 00s and current day tunes.<br />

Beats Of Heart is the project of poet CURTIS WATT who will<br />

be performing spoken word that reflects the ethos and narrative<br />

of the project. Revisiting the Next Stop New York project exploring<br />

Liverpool’s transatlantic ties, Beneath The Merseybeat is a podcast<br />

series featuring prominent voices reflecting on Liverpool music<br />

from the 1950s to 1980s. And bringing it back to the present day,<br />

a run of visual podcasts will see various topics relating to the city’s<br />

contemporary music discussed with key figures who have a stake in<br />

the scene. On Record is made possible funding by Culture Liverpool,<br />

with partnerships with LCR Music Board, LIMF, National Museums<br />

Liverpool and University Of Liverpool.<br />

The Christians<br />



Everyman Theatre - 13/11-14/11<br />

Mooncup Theatre<br />

The boards at Liverpool’s Everyman theatre will be trodden upon for the first time since<br />

March this month. Three shows from LGBTQIA festival Homotopia will be hosted by<br />

the Hope Street venue for an eclectic mix of theatre, spoken word, visual art and music.<br />

The performances follow the festival’s 2020 theme of Show Your Working with Friends<br />

Fabulous Cabaret, Plaster Cast Theatre and S/He/It Happens producing<br />

thought-provoking, fun and ground-breaking work.<br />

Homotopia’s talent development programme QueerCore present a night<br />

of drag, poetry and theatre featuring Pretentious Dross, The QueerBodies<br />

Poetry Collective and Mooncup Theatre for the opening night. The inaugural<br />

production was helped to be realised by LCR Pride Foundation Community<br />

Fund. Comedian and Playwright ERINN DHESI will also perform as a special<br />

guest for the opening evening at the storied venue.<br />

Following on from the Friends Fabulous Cabaret, there will be a double bill<br />

which puts trans performers and stories centre stage. Sound Cistem by Plaster<br />

Cast Theatre brings the audience into a night club filled with real life stories from<br />

trans and non-binary people. The show is a self-love manifesto told with the aid of<br />

riotous, glittering disco.<br />

MITCHELL JAY stars in S/He/it Happens, a performance which uses physical<br />

comedy to explore dysphoria and identity. Billed as their “farewell tits show”, it’s<br />

Mitchell’s last event performance before their surgery is due to take place later in the<br />

year.<br />

As well as these in-venue performances, there will be a drag promenade along<br />

Hope Street with workshops on drag tips for those wanting to partake. A queerimagining<br />

of city planning will take place via a Queer The City art crawl and A Lovely<br />

Word poetry evening will feature poet, actor and writer JADE ANOUSKA. Much of<br />

Homotopia will be broadcast via live stream this year and all performances will be<br />

appropriately socially distanced and Covid-safe.<br />




Various venues - until 01/12<br />

The Goddess Project Fest (TGPF) kick-started this October and will run until the start<br />

of December. With events in art, literature, business, spirituality, education and<br />

more, TGPF aims to inspire and empower black women to achieve greatness for their<br />

communities. With nine events taking place in association with various hosts across<br />

Liverpool, including Writing On The Wall, Homotopia and Everyman and Playhouse, the festival<br />

is an inclusive, inspiring and innovative event for women of colour across Merseyside and beyond.<br />

Events include Stage Your Story, a script writing workshop at the Everyman on 10th <strong>November</strong><br />

and I am Not Your Superwoman: Black Women’s Health and Vulnerability online discussion panel.<br />

The events will be taking place online in the hope to connect, support and care for black women<br />

during a time when mental health must be at the forefront of our minds. With talks about business<br />

from goddess Khadiijah and a podcast from Go Off, Sis, this virtual festival is set to open up a<br />

discussion about the well-being of women of colour within Liverpool. With opportunities for selfexpression,<br />

self-reflection and self-fulfillment, TGPF also focuses on holistic healing, creative output<br />

and productive positivity.<br />

The Goddess Project has been running in Liverpool for two years and has since grown into a<br />

network of women empowering one another through arts, wellness and research. They have been<br />

seen to support local, black creatives and business owners throughout their existence and show<br />

no sign of slowing down. Lockdown has presented various struggles and hardships for many of<br />

us, and The Goddess Project is here to help support people through this difficult time. Not allowing<br />

the restrictions of lockdown to hinder them, they have embraced their online community and have<br />

created a truly wonderful line-up of virtual events to help connect people in as many ways as they<br />

possibly can.<br />


Heywood and Condie: This Land<br />

The Atkinson - until 27/03<br />

Heywood and Condie bring the magic of Sefton’s coast to The Atkinson this winter season for an alternative and<br />

spellbinding experience. Including film, poetry, sculpture and paintings, this exhibition creates a journey woven with<br />

childhood memories and local fables. In this ode to Formby’s coastline, the artists TONY HEYWOOD and ALISON CONDIE<br />

will reignite wonder and adventure through their multimedia celebration of the natural world. Described as “one of the<br />

most haunting and mystical landscapes in the British Isles”, Heywood and Condie are inspired by the myth and magic<br />

surrounding these woods and coastline. The exhibition is free to attend, but donations are welcomed. With a reduced<br />

capacity operating in the gallery be sure to plan your visit ahead of attending.<br />

Heywood and Condie<br />


Super Cool Drawing Machine<br />

Future Yard - 12/11-15/11<br />

A touring exhibition of musicians’ visual arts side hustles is to go on display at Birkenhead venue Future Yard this<br />

month. The show, which features pieces from SHABAKA HUTCHINGS, CATE LE BON and RICHARD DAWSON, is<br />

going to independent venues around the country in lieu of musicians touring their day jobs. Painting, photography,<br />

drawings, ceramics and more will be on display for what is a colourful and interactive collection of work. The<br />

exhibition is curated by Somerset-based music bookers Yuppies Music. Tickets are available on the venue’s website.<br />

Super Cool Drawing Machine<br />


Crux With Scottee<br />

Online - 02/11<br />

In <strong>November</strong> performance artist SCOTTEE joins Metal Culture for a workshop on taking your next steps as a young<br />

creative. The free session for participants aged 16-19 is part of a series of workshops facilitated by the Edge Hill<br />

hub looking to keep people creatively active and connected. The online workshops look to alleviate the stresses and<br />

stultifying effects of lockdown and restrictions with exercises to help regain momentum and direction for artists not<br />

in formal education. In December, poet DEAN ATTA will be running another session for early career artists.<br />

Crux with Scotee<br />

TALK<br />

Windrush: Music Of The People<br />

Online - 29/10<br />

Academic Mykaell Riley’s project From SS Orbita to Orbital is<br />

the jumping off point for this event which bookends Writing<br />

On The Wall’s Black History Month programming. SS Orbita<br />

followed Empire Windrush to the UK, with both vessels<br />

bringing a generation of workers, artists and musicians<br />

who contributed a huge amount to British culture. What<br />

would become known as the Windrush Generation and their<br />

descendants gave us the likes of calypso great Lords Kitchener<br />

and Woodbine, 1970s reggae sound systems and Norman<br />

Jay’s Good Times and countless others who changed pop<br />

music and culture for the better. The project has produced<br />

a series of essays which will be previewed at this event will<br />

analyse these impacts and debate the legacy.<br />


Daniel Kitson: Dot. Dot. Dot.<br />

Online - 04/11-07/11<br />

Storyteller extraordinaire DANIEL KITSON brings<br />

a new work to the Everyman this <strong>November</strong>. An<br />

account of his own lockdown experience, written<br />

and conceived especially to perform in selected<br />

empty theatres across the land, the show will be<br />

streamed live from an unpeopled Everyman for four<br />

nights. Kitson has nurtured a cult following over the<br />

years with a string of critically acclaimed storytelling<br />

and stand-up shows wowing festival and circuit<br />

audiences across the world. The auteur returns to<br />

the Everyman for these virtual shows with tickets<br />

limited to the capacity of the theatre.<br />

Daniel Kitson<br />




She Drew The Gun (Robin Clewley / robinclewley.co.uk)<br />

She Drew The Gun<br />

NEAR NORMAL @ Future Yard – 19/09<br />

We’re all counting how many months since the last gig we<br />

went to. Seven, eight months is a common refrain, worn as a<br />

medal of war or endurance. The bedroom, kitchen, front room<br />

Insta shows of late Spring from singers in their slippers served<br />

well for the moment, and the later ones broadcast from the very<br />

venues where we’re used to having our feet firmly planted on the<br />

ground were, and are, strangely comforting. Watching Working<br />

Men’s Club in the basement of Manchester’s YES from my house<br />

kicked muscle memory into action, the familiar and distinct smells<br />

of the room filling my own nostrils.<br />

But no, it’s not the same, is it? Treading water. Waiting for<br />

the real thing. The first one back in the saddle was never going to<br />

be average, no matter what. At Future Yard’s inaugural event, the<br />

stage is to be christened by local heroes SHE DREW THE GUN.<br />

What sweet irony indeed that the first venue on Merseyside to<br />

open its doors and offer indoor shows will be in Birkenhead.<br />

The Wirral peninsula’s live music offerings are typically a<br />

blanket of covers bands and tribute acts, so, not to over egg the<br />

pudding, this day from dawn onwards feels revolutionary and<br />

unreal. I’m actually going to a gig and it’s in Birkenvegas, but the<br />

big emotional jolt is that a reduced-capacity, 60-strong audience<br />

suddenly seems an awful lot of people. It feels pertinent to touch<br />

base with She Drew The Gun’s Louisa Roach in the morning to<br />

see if her feelings about tonight chime with mine. They do, as it<br />

turns out.<br />

“It will be a lot less full than a normal gig, but it will still<br />

be the most people I’ve been in a room with since lockdown<br />

happened. And certainly the most people I’ve had a shared<br />

experience with for all this time,” she said. “Even coming to the<br />

venue and seeing the crew all working on getting the venue<br />

ready, and setting my gear up on stage, you don’t realise how<br />

much you miss those things.”<br />

That notion of community and shared experience is apparent<br />

once evening comes and the doors are open and warm smiles<br />

welcome us in at staggered times, safety first. Everything is new<br />

and shiny. The toilets smell of fresh paint. Social media replaces<br />

chat at the bar, and proves to be surprisingly effective. Ordering<br />

drinks through the app gets them brought to individual pods<br />

within an inspirational two minutes. Maybe all our settings have<br />

been readjusted to fit our phones. Maybe we’re all robots now.<br />

Either way, it works.<br />

She Drew The Gun enter the stage promptly as promised,<br />

to the most grateful and well behaved audience in the history<br />

of the world. Roach straps on her guitar and launches into the<br />

ever uncompromising Resister. Is the Revolution Of Mind album<br />

really only two years ago? So much has happened since then. It’s<br />

not until Something For The Pain that the realisation finally hits:<br />

this is happening, we’re standing in a room with living, breathing<br />

people around us, artist on stage, and we’re here for good times.<br />

It’s breaking the seal, popping the cork, hips swaying all around<br />

– firmly inside designated pods, of course. It might be just me,<br />

but have She Drew The Gun become way more danceable than I<br />

remember? We’re not meant to dance, forbidden fruit, but surely<br />

a little shuffle from foot to foot can do no harm?<br />

Arm Yourself has always been a call to arms of rebellion,<br />

yet tonight it’s a celebration instead (“So we dance dance dance<br />

dance…”) and even as I’m thinking this I realise what I’m doing is<br />

pulling out Louisa’s words, phrases and applying them to now,<br />

me, this very minute. That’s a tribute to her wordsmithery in part,<br />

but a need at this end to cement this experience.<br />

The Independent Venue Week poem from earlier in the<br />

year doesn’t need reading tonight, the audience is living its<br />

narrative already; but when Roach recites it, it’s a confirmation<br />

and underscore of what’s happening. The references to<br />

Birkenhead and “all in your hometown you don’t have to go far”<br />

raises a chuckle, tied in with thoughts of the hundreds of times<br />

Wirralians have struggled home from Liverpool on the wild west<br />

chaos that is the night bus after a late finish gig. No one leaves<br />

here tonight thinking they’ll never worry about losing their shirt<br />

bagging a taxi home from town ever again, but it sure as hell<br />

feels like a start. !<br />

Cath Holland / @cathholland01<br />

“The first one back in<br />

the saddle was never<br />

going to be average,<br />

no matter what”<br />

She Drew The Gun (Robin Clewley / robinclewley.co.uk)<br />


The Making Of Liverpool courtesy of OUTPUT Gallery<br />

“Liverpool can’t<br />

escape history. It’s<br />

really important to<br />

acknowledge that”<br />

The Making Of Liverpool courtesy of OUTPUT Gallery<br />

The Singh Twins:<br />

The Making Of Liverpool<br />

OUTPUT Gallery<br />

Produced in 2008 by world-renowned Merseyside duo THE<br />

SINGH TWINS, The Making Of Liverpool is an animated film that<br />

blends the 800-year history of Liverpool with the city’s artistic<br />

legacy. On display for the first time since its launch during the<br />

European Capital of Culture celebrations 12 years ago, the film<br />

aims to embody the diversity of people and of the city’s creative<br />

output, as well as provide an insight into the Singh Twins’ artistic<br />

process.<br />

Created in collaboration with local company Draw &<br />

Code, Bebington-based musician Steve Mason, and narrated<br />

by Liverpudlian actor Mark McGann, the film was made as an<br />

accompaniment to The Singh Twins’ painting Liverpool 800: The<br />

Changing Face Of Liverpool, which is on permanent display in St<br />

George’s Hall.<br />

The film opens with an animated reference to the city’s<br />

maritime history, and over its 13-minute duration, narrates the<br />

transition from these early beginnings to a city that presents<br />

itself as a world-class hub of culture and heritage. The Singh<br />

Twins describe the film’s scope as “starting from ancient roots,<br />

through to the medieval periods, the granting of the charter<br />

in Liverpool, and right the way up to the present day”. They<br />

foreground the idea that the history of the city is “not something<br />

that’s static, it’s something that’s always changing”.<br />

Despite the documentary format, the work is very painterly,<br />

and the influence of Indian miniature painting shines through.<br />

The piece suggests a compatibility between historical narrative<br />

and new media, as well as confirming that non-Western imagery<br />

has a place in our city. “We didn’t want it to be too digitised,”<br />

say the pairing, speaking to me over the phone. “We wanted<br />

the painting element of the style and the craft to still be in the<br />

animated piece itself.”<br />

There is a natural synchronicity to how Amrit and Rabindra<br />

Kaur Singh speak and work; they communicate together, and<br />

their visuals are similarly layered with varying influences. It is<br />

clear from their words that this piece indicates a shift in the<br />

twins’ process, introducing them to the possibilities of working<br />

with digital and film media, as well as collaborating with people<br />

outside of themselves. “It was a real catalyst,” they respond,<br />

“working with other people and opening up our horizons in<br />

terms of the types of media we use… the animation opened our<br />

eyes to the way we could use those mediums to be creative.”<br />

While they’ve previously used computer software to build<br />

up compositions that would then be used to structure their<br />

paintings, lately they have been producing work that, while<br />

incorporating painted elements, exists only as a digital file.<br />

Since their studies, the Singh Twins have been questioning<br />

Western history’s insular tendencies and inability to recognise<br />

the influence of non-Western imagery. “We had a point to prove<br />

from day one,” they say, referring to the art world’s rejection<br />

of decorative motifs as a frivolous or insignificant art form.<br />

“Our art represents all the taboos of contemporary Western<br />

art as perceived by the establishment today,” they begin. “It’s<br />

decorative, it’s figurative, it’s narrative, it’s small-scale, it’s coming<br />

from a non-European tradition. We couldn’t be more far removed<br />

from the art establishment and what they perceive contemporary<br />

art to be.”<br />

Mostly influenced by pre-Victorian art, the Renaissance and<br />

Art Nouveau, and working with styles outside of the European<br />

canon, their work is richly symbolic. This is evident in The Making<br />

Of Liverpool, which demonstrates that the narratives that<br />

history and religion give us have a place within digital mediums<br />

and contemporary art spaces. The film is interspersed with<br />

photography and illustrations of the city’s most iconic buildings,<br />

enhanced by the intricacy of the decorative arts. Reinterpreting<br />

the symbolism of the Liverpudlian coat of arms as a jigsaw<br />

puzzle, the artists piece together highly embellished puzzle<br />

pieces to show the diversity and creative expression of the city,<br />

further demonstrating their unity.<br />

“Our artworks are full of symbolism,” they say, “every detail<br />

tells a story in its own right.” Discussing their history through<br />

academia and comparative religion, they outline how “Research<br />

underpins everything we do. Inquiry into other cultures and<br />

histories has always been a part of who we are and fascinated<br />

us, and it has remained very much a part of our creative<br />

practice. We very much see ourselves as social and political<br />

commentators.” The academic tradition is vividly woven into their<br />

visuals, resulting in social commentary that does not shy away<br />

from vibrancy and ornamental forms. Politically, they intend to<br />

“give a balanced view,” adding, “Liverpool can’t escape history.<br />

It’s really important to acknowledge that, and the more people<br />

understand that side of our past, the better society will be in<br />

terms of dispelling the racial attitudes that are still lingering on<br />

from the colonial mindset of Western superiority.”<br />

The work reflects the city as a place of pride for many, but<br />

is unafraid of confronting Liverpool’s slave trade legacy. There is<br />

a fundamental balance to their work, as bleak histories coexist<br />

with lively ones. However, there is a distinct and overriding<br />

optimism in the film and in their words, and a sense of pride<br />

that runs through the artistic process. The dual meaning of the<br />

painting’s title, The Changing Face Of Liverpool – reflecting the<br />

city’s exterior and physical changes, while also referring to the<br />

inhabitants and diversification of the city – suggests that their<br />

work is a portrait of the people as much as the city. “We were<br />

seeing it very much as a portrait; Liverpool personified through<br />

the people that live there. The portrait of Liverpool is a portrait of<br />

its people, because the people are the city.” !<br />

Leah Binns<br />




The Guvnors in their Sunday Suits, Finsbury Park, London, 1958, © Don McCullin<br />

Shell-shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue, 1968, © Don McCullin<br />

Don McCullin<br />

Tate Liverpool – Until 09/05<br />

This DON MCCULLIN retrospective is far from a relaxing<br />

trip to the Tate, but remains an essential one. Endlessly snaking<br />

round the special exhibitions floor, the retrospective lifts the<br />

curtain on one of the UK’s most revered photojournalists as<br />

he reflects his world back in over 200 black-and-white prints,<br />

each produced in his own darkroom. Spanning over 60 years<br />

of award-winning photography, that world is one of conflict,<br />

poverty, and being the ‘inconvenient witness’ to some of the<br />

most sobering periods, places and people of the 20th Century.<br />

Featuring exclusive prints of Liverpool and other northern<br />

landscapes paying the price of industry, the curation is a window<br />

into this uncomfortable world. But it’s a necessary world, and is<br />

just as much a journey into McCullin’s eyes as it is evidence of<br />

how his craft has become his loudest voice, and, more recently,<br />

something of a saviour.<br />

“I didn’t choose photography – it seemed to choose me,”<br />

an 85-year-old Sir Donald McCullin CBE notes at the start<br />

of the exhibition. And perhaps it was nothing short of divine<br />

intervention that guided McCullin onto his righteous path in<br />

1958, when a staged photograph of former schoolmates-turnedlocal-gang<br />

made him the most sought-after photographer<br />

overnight. Taken on a twin reflex Rolleicord after returning from<br />

military service in Africa, The Guvnors In Their Sunday Suits In<br />

Finsbury Park, London (1958) was not just a chance meeting<br />

with the foundations of gripping photography, but the beginning<br />

of his life, as the World Press Photo Of The Year recipient notes.<br />

But as you progress with McCullin’s early photography taken<br />

in the smoky cafes of London’s East End, his work becomes less<br />

a result of careful choreography and more an innate affinity with<br />

irresistible storytelling. “I had an almost magnetic emotional<br />

sense of direction pulling me to extraordinary places,” he writes<br />

in one caption, referring to his British Press Award-winning<br />

trip to Berlin in 1961 when the Wall was just being built. An<br />

assignment he funded out of his own pocket, McCullin’s divided<br />

Berlin is a society juggling military occupation with the routines<br />

of everyday life. Here are West Berliners at Checkpoint Charlie<br />

peering over the wall to spot former neighbours and colleagues;<br />

here the glares of children as machines of war become one with<br />

their street playground.<br />

It is this powerlessness which runs central throughout the<br />

retrospective. The true cost of having that magnetic pull to<br />

extraordinary places was that it lured McCullin to some of his<br />

darkest assignments, most notably presenting faraway wars to<br />

audiences back home in weekend supplements. That McCullin is<br />

regarded by many as the UK’s greatest living war photographer<br />

– a label which sits uncomfortably with him – becomes apparent<br />

through his honest depiction of conflicts and humanitarian crises,<br />

from the Congo to Cyprus, Beirut to Vietnam. It was here, during<br />

the Tet Offensive – a campaign which soured America’s attitudes<br />

to the Vietnam War – where McCullin met his Shell-shocked US<br />

Marine, The Battle Of Hue (1968). “I kind of dropped down on<br />

my knees and took five frames with my 35mm camera of this<br />

soldier,” McCullin writes. “He never blinked an eye. His eyes were<br />

completely fixed on one place.” A chilling visualisation of PTSD<br />

before it was widely understood, the image of the 5th Battalion<br />

Marine is one of McCullin’s most enduring explorations into the<br />

futility of war.<br />

That futility would again punch through McCullin’s coverage<br />

of Biafra’s deadly struggle for independence from Nigeria – a<br />

chapter which left a devastating void after my two-hour visit. As<br />

victims of food blockades and human rights abuses, swathes of<br />

Biafrans suffered with starvation and severe deprivation. Sitting<br />

dignified as her child struggles for breastmilk, the Starving<br />

Twenty-Four-Year-Old Mother with Child, Biafra (1968) is a<br />

desperate plea to those standing before the print. Another is<br />

Biafra (1969), an image of a malnourished nine-year-old albino<br />

boy, living in a “position beyond description” as McCullin notes.<br />

So many of these images truly are beyond description. At every<br />

turn, the retrospective reveals that those who pay the most<br />

devastating price of war are so often those with the very least.<br />

But McCullin is just as suited to exposing the social wars<br />

taking place within our own communities as he is on statesponsored<br />

atrocities abroad. His prints of cities across northern<br />

England during the 1960s and 1970s reveal wars fought<br />

not with bullets and bombs, but with the social decays that<br />

followed industrial decline. Especially striking are his 14 prints<br />

of Liverpool, revealing a city facing the harsh consequences<br />

of both its shrinking port industry and its battle with the slum<br />

clearance programme in Toxteth – the result of which left a<br />

landscape not unlike the ruins of Berlin. So, too, are his prints on<br />

the chimney skylines and crowded homes of Bradford, each one<br />

unravelling the various faces of poverty. “I don’t pull my punches<br />

when I photograph poverty,” he noted in Bido Lito!’s October<br />

issue. “Mainly because I understand it.” Poverty, for McCullin,<br />

was a childhood constant growing up in London, and so there’s<br />

sincerity in offering a voice both to his subjects and to his own<br />

lived experiences through the prints.<br />

“What I hoped I had captured in my pictures,” McCullin<br />

writes in the gallery’s introduction text, “was an enduring image<br />

that would imprint itself on the world’s memory”. McCullin is still<br />

obsessed with making prints, but they’re not of war-torn places<br />

and displaced people. Allowing us to contemplate the difficult<br />

contents of the retrospective, the final section is a reconciliation<br />

of human devastation with the natural world. Serving as an<br />

antidote to the tormenting memories of war and of being that<br />

inconvenient witness to history throughout much of his career,<br />

these healing prints of Somerset’s countryside illustrate a<br />

photographer turning something of a page.<br />

Don McCullin doesn’t want to be remembered as a war<br />

photographer, preferring instead to leave a legacy of bringing<br />

landscapes closer to our eyes. Leaving the gallery, these final<br />

images leave me with the conclusion that, though McCullin may<br />

never be able to shake his reputation for capturing the world<br />

at its ugliest, he will no doubt be remembered for helping us<br />

appreciate it at its most beautiful.<br />

Matthew Berks / @hewniverse_<br />


German Revolution<br />

Expressionist Prints<br />

Lady Lever Art Gallery – until<br />

28/02<br />

The Lady Lever has a knack for quietly putting<br />

on world-class exhibitions. True to form, it is now<br />

hosting the Hunterian Gallery in Glasgow’s touring<br />

exhibition, German Revolution Expressionist Prints,<br />

which welcomes back visitors after the gallery’s<br />

recent enforced closure.<br />

Over three rooms, prints made by artists<br />

reacting to the 1918-1919 Revolution and<br />

exploring its social, political, moral and sexual<br />

consequences, and some earlier prints which acted<br />

as key influences, are displayed in an intimate<br />

(Covid-19 appropriate) setting.<br />

The prints are beautiful. Some are so detailed<br />

with such fine strokes that they resemble<br />

painstaking pencil sketches. The size of the prints,<br />

dim lighting and the deep red which continues<br />

through the three galleries serve to create a deeply<br />

personal experience.<br />

Works by world famous artists such as<br />

Picasso, Munch, Dix and Schiele will ensure footfall,<br />

but it is the work by lesser-known artists (at least<br />

to non-art historians) which is particularly striking.<br />

Max Beckmann’s The Martyrdom (Das Martyrium)<br />

depicts the 1919 execution of Rosa Luxembourg,<br />

one of the leaders of the revolution, at the hands of<br />

the Freikorps. The idea of the suffering of the city<br />

of Berlin, rather than Christ, in the Stations of the<br />

Cross is to jolt the viewer in to the reality shown in<br />

the print. Another unsettling print is Beckmann’s<br />

1922 lithograph Die Nacht (Night), which depicts<br />

inhabitants of an apartment crammed in to<br />

an attic and whose acute angles illustrate the<br />

claustrophobia and awkwardness of the living<br />

conditions that faced the Berlin poor.<br />

The galleries cover different areas: Love<br />

And Anxiety; A Bridge To Utopia and Conflict<br />

And Despair. They document chaotic times in<br />

Germany’s history with a gentleness and lightness<br />

of touch that makes it an affecting experience,<br />

and one which helps to provide an insight into the<br />

tumultuous times. It means that even those without<br />

a historical grasp of the period will be moved.<br />

The artists deal with the effects of the<br />

Revolution in different ways. While some<br />

wandered into realms of fantasy as a means of<br />

escape, others mirrored the turbulence of the<br />

period. By far the most hard-hitting works are in<br />

the Conflict And Despair section which depicts<br />

the struggles of the lower working class, including<br />

some pieces by Käthe Kollwitz. The prints very<br />

much represent the perspective of the oppressed<br />

and poor using Biblical allusions and satire to<br />

imbue the subjects with sympathy. The process<br />

of print making suited the artists’ intentions of<br />

questioning the new society as it enabled them to<br />

produce multiple copies, adding to their potential to<br />

be used to inform.<br />

It’s a poignant exhibition which documents<br />

reactions to a disordered period in history and<br />

shows the effects of the unfairness and ensuing<br />

injustices which were heaped on the weakest. Go<br />

while you can.<br />

Jennie Macaulay<br />

Prints in Lady Lever Gallery<br />

Pablo Picasso, Le repas frugal, 1904, etching cat. 25 © Succession PicassoDACS, London 2018.<br />

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra On Demand<br />

Online – 01/10<br />

With a top orchestra there may be 30 violinists onstage, but each one must be soloist calibre. In<br />

fact, many will have solo careers outside of the orchestra. The same goes for every player in every<br />

other section (yes, triangle included).<br />

Tonight’s concert, the first of seven to be live streamed from Hope Street, allows the Phil’s<br />

rank-and-file players to flex those muscles. With all pieces written for smaller ensembles than your<br />

typical orchestra, each musical line is left in the care of one or two musicians. These reduced forces<br />

are a necessity, enabling the RLPO to inhabit its home turf while still socially distancing.<br />

PAUL HINDEMITH’s musical language is pretty dissonant, but the RLPO players seize the<br />

jagged threads of Kammermusik 3 for all they’re worth, wringing a sense of direction and emotion<br />

from them, especially principal cellist Jonathan Aasgaard. This work is subtitled ‘cello concerto’, and<br />

he’s got the soloist’s flair to produce more than just a busy-sounding piece of music. With only a<br />

few lucky punters in the hall [capacity is cut down from 1,700 to 240 for this run of shows], players<br />

are free to perform for their colleagues on the stage, and perhaps that’s something that benefits<br />

music from the middle decades of the 20th Century, when modernism had lost its shock value but<br />

hadn’t yet achieved ‘classical’ status with audiences.<br />

IGOR STRAVINSKY’s Dumbarton Oaks is another sort-of concerto (like the Hindemith, one<br />

instrument or small group haggles with the rest of the ensemble), but one sounding much more<br />

old-fashioned. It’s part of Stravinsky’s neo-classical period, which puts 18th-century style through<br />

a prism, like Picasso’s cubism – taking the old-as-the-hills still life and rupturing it. This is also ‘busy’<br />

music, but some of the most beautiful stretches are the long, held chords at the end of the first<br />

movement, particularly by horn players Timothy Jackson, Simon Griffiths and Christopher Morley.<br />

Finally, DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH’s Chamber Symphony In C Minor is an arrangement of his<br />

String Quartet No.8 – probably last heard in Liverpool on the cusp of lockdown when Manchester<br />

Collective visited in March. That original, dedicated to “victims of fascism and war”, is a brittle,<br />

skeletal thing. This arrangement for string orchestra makes it seem inescapable; you can see and<br />

hear the effort of sawing away as hard as bowstrings allow, both the players’ and instruments’<br />

sinews taut.<br />

A review is supposed to tell you what it was like to be at a gig, but there’s no audience tonight.<br />

Given that classical music’s image is often bound up with its archaisms (bowing, applauding,<br />

standing/sitting), it’s quite endearing to hear the players compliment each other upon downing<br />

tools. Though not in the highest definition, the cameras do the right thing in lingering on individuals,<br />

usually during solos. With music scenes of all genres in dire straits as government guidance<br />

remains… changeable, it feels like a result to have 24 people onstage together. We’ll only know if<br />

streaming a concert is enough to break even after the fact, and admitting an audience small enough<br />

to socially distance makes little economic sense for most venues. The camerawork may bring you<br />

visually closer to what’s happening, but it’s no substitute for what we all want: to be in the same<br />

room, with sounds buzzing in the air around our heads.<br />

Stuart Miles O’Hara / @ohasm1<br />









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Monday 2 <strong>November</strong>, 6pm - 7pm.<br />

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This month’s selection of creative writing features members of Give<br />

Poetry A Chance. Poets Laura Ferris, Louise Evans and Cullo provide<br />

the words, all selected by Give Poetry A Chance founder Dan Cullinan,<br />

who shares his experience in running the initiative.<br />

Three Cherries<br />

The lights come up.<br />

Like a lot of lads, I didn’t really open up<br />

to people, so instead I opened up my<br />

phone and jotted down my thoughts.<br />

These thoughts turned into poems,<br />

and, by September 2017, I had left my job and<br />

moved to Vietnam. While in Vietnam, I collated<br />

my poems and released a short run of poetry<br />

books. When I returned to the UK in 2018, I<br />

gave copies to family and friends.<br />

One day in <strong>November</strong> 2018, I received a<br />

phone call from Mellowtone’s Dave McTague<br />

suggesting that I start my own poetry nights,<br />

as The Jacaranda would be interested in<br />

hosting them. Straight away I said yes and<br />

decided that the events would be called Give<br />

Poetry A Chance.<br />

We’ve now hosted 13 events across two<br />

venues, with our last event before lockdown<br />

being our anniversary event on 26th February<br />

2020.<br />

To celebrate our one-year anniversary,<br />

we released an anthology containing poems<br />

submitted by those who have supported Give<br />

Poetry A Chance throughout its first year.<br />

All proceeds raised are donated to Scouse<br />

Kitchen, a Liverpool-based homeless support<br />

community project. Homelessness can affect<br />

anybody and that is why we chose to support<br />

the amazing work that Scouse Kitchen do.<br />

Words: Dan Cullinan / @PoetryAChance<br />

@PoetryAChance<br />

Give Poetry A Chance: The Anthology is<br />

available to purchase now.<br />

Come To Think Of It<br />

We’re building buildings on top of buildings<br />

On top of buildings on top of buildings<br />

No green space left, no air to breathe<br />

We’re choking on concrete, living on cement<br />

There’s brick dust in the heroin<br />

People are dying in tents<br />

Opium epidemic, spice epidemic<br />

Come to think of it, the county’s in a crisis<br />

Food banks instead of corner shops<br />

No pints of milks, but gallons of blood<br />

Nobody’s crying when it’s spilt<br />

Violence has become the norm<br />

The libraries are closing down<br />

No books in the hands of children<br />

But knives in every pocket<br />

Innocence has gone from society<br />

Society has failed the young<br />

Come to think of it, we are society<br />

When will we step up?<br />

How many people must suffer<br />

Before enough is enough?<br />

We talk of mental health<br />

But what’s the next step?<br />

We receive the diagnosis<br />

But where is the medicine?<br />

Come to think of it, where is the funding?<br />

The NHS is crumbling<br />

God save the NHS<br />

You can keep the queen<br />

She’d rather protect the monsters<br />

And keep the people dreaming<br />

People are scared to walk<br />

In case they go hungry<br />

All because some idiot said “This is my country”<br />

But as humans we’re a family<br />

And family comes first<br />

How can you look into someone’s eyes and say<br />

“This is what you deserve”?<br />

One thing’s for certain<br />

We’re not on this earth for long<br />

Start doing what’s right<br />

Never choose wrong<br />

Cullo<br />

August Rain<br />

High July sun submits<br />

to August rain,<br />

summer soundtrack<br />

of water on glass<br />

and your beautiful name,<br />

in summer – and sugar rain<br />

crystals stream down the window pane.<br />

Suspended time<br />

morning coffee to midnight wine<br />

intertwined<br />

night then day<br />

then day then night then day again<br />

Skin on skin<br />

touch on touch<br />

I’m treading water, gilded,<br />

in a silver shiver, a river rush<br />

a dream awake, here we are awash<br />

in summer rain.<br />

It cleanses old sin,<br />

lets the freshwater in.<br />

We let go then we go again.<br />

Stage right/ I’m leafing through those postcard<br />

reproductions of famous masterpieces, you know<br />

the kind. I’m thumbing a Hopper and a<br />

Warhol/ wishing there was a Klimt here for me to<br />

take home and display in a frame and<br />

continue to not know its name/ or anything about it<br />

really.<br />

A voice swims up behind me, close enough for<br />

the hairs on the nape of my neck to respond,<br />

vulnerable.<br />

It’s metallic yet soft, this voice/ I hold<br />

my breath and freeze/ a fruit machine<br />

in my brain is rifling through<br />

possible responses and scenarios/ will I<br />

relax into it, hear what it’s got to say or<br />

will I turn and question why it has approached a<br />

perfect<br />

stranger in a perfectly strange gallery…<br />

will it get three cherries?<br />

It effortlessly breathes in my left ear/<br />

“these places make me so horny, babe.”<br />

I turn in engaged shock/ revolt –<br />

the feminist in me is pulling up her sleeves/ ready<br />

for<br />

a fight, another part is amused at this intruder/<br />

so contrite.<br />

“Sorry, I err… I thought you were my girlfriend.”<br />

A perfect stranger/ my dubious<br />

doppelganger, turns and painfully offers<br />

a conciliatory smile/ an awkward apology/<br />

a little wave and the voice sidles off.<br />

I find a Klimt tucked at the back.<br />

Louise Evans<br />

Laura Ferris<br />


SAY<br />


Ahead of White Ribbon Day, a worldwide movement established to end male violence against women, Cath<br />

Holland questions why dissatisfaction towards male offenders in the public eye is often only temporary and<br />

all too quickly forgotten.<br />

Throughout music history, the misdemeanours of<br />

cash cow male stars across the genres have been<br />

tolerated, brushed under the carpet, hushed up. The<br />

nearer to, or higher up, the popular music canon, the<br />

more easily and readily they are forgiven for bad behaviour. A<br />

collective amnesia takes over around inappropriate attitudes and<br />

actions towards women by successful, famous men. Focus on<br />

Slowthai’s behaviour at NME Awards 2020 was sidelined within<br />

days; a line drawn under Miles Kane’s attitude towards a female<br />

journalist in 2016 pretty sharpish following his inadequate<br />

apology.<br />

When Kasabian singer Tom Meighan was convicted of<br />

assaulting his former partner in July this year, the rest of the<br />

band reduced the assault to “personal issues” before cutting<br />

him loose proper. Meighan pleaded guilty at a time when<br />

many worked from home and had limited social lives outside<br />

our immediate family and friends. There were no gigs or<br />

football matches to divert our attention, leaving both time and<br />

opportunity for a wider conversation to be had about domestic<br />

violence and a chance for abusive men, famous or not, to<br />

examine and reflect on their habits, to take the opportunity to<br />

feel shame in the knowledge neighbours were at home more too<br />

and could hear through walls.<br />

But, as ever, debate or action on the subject fizzled to nowt<br />

within days, everyone agreeing that, yes, domestic violence is<br />

really bad, we’ll have to do something about it. At some point,<br />

when we get round to it, pass the peas someone. Domestic<br />

violence rates shot up alarmingly during the pandemic. Phumzile<br />

Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, called the<br />

increase a “shadow pandemic”. UK charity Refuge reported<br />

a massive 700 per cent increase in calls from mainly women<br />

to the National Domestic Violence Helpline on one day alone<br />

in April as lockdown bit hard. The same month as Meighan’s<br />

arrest, coincidentally. In fact, 16 women and girls were killed<br />

in cases of suspected domestic violence in the UK that month,<br />

more than triple the number from 2019.<br />

The shadow pandemic rates are bad news, and to use<br />

lockdown stress and worry as an excuse to abuse is wrong. We<br />

are all responsible for how we act towards others. That aside,<br />

when, year on year, one woman every three days in the UK is<br />

killed by a male acquaintance, 50 per cent by a current or former<br />

partner, the remainder by a male relative – son, stepson, father,<br />

brother, uncle – or a friend, or just a man they know, I suggest<br />

there is a longstanding and deep-rooted problem. The phrase<br />

‘isolated incident’ is often cited by police around such deaths<br />

and yet the Femicide Census – inspired by feminist campaigner<br />

Karen Ingala Smith’s blog Counting Dead Women – for 2018<br />

shows a total of 149 women killed, the highest number since<br />

the census began. That is an awful lot of isolated incidents.<br />

Murder, manslaughter, the sex game gone wrong defence,<br />

‘honour killings’, all add up to the same thing. Dress it up how<br />

you like, go at it from different angles, justify it, find reasons,<br />

but the end result is a dead woman. The violence cuts across all<br />

ages, incomes, classes, ethnic groups, whether disabled or ablebodied.<br />

If these women died in more public circumstances – a<br />

terrorist attack, perhaps – the headlines would last longer than<br />

the news that Kasabian no longer have a troublesome singer<br />

causing them embarrassment. I’ll go out on a limb here and say<br />

if 149 men were killed by women within a 12-month period<br />

annually, the country would be wondering why and loudly, the<br />

perpetrators rarely labelled a lone wolf acting independently, the<br />

entire female sex a spiteful coven instead.<br />

Domestic violence leads to deaths but incorporates<br />

emotional control on top of any enforced physical restriction<br />

of our movements and expression. It is hidden and unspoken<br />

about, this physical abuse through assault, rape, female genital<br />

mutilation (FGM), pressure for partners to have sex without<br />

adequate contraception, leaving them at risk of pregnancy<br />

and STIs, and mental abuse and coercive control, all within a<br />

private domestic setting, and so unseen. Maybe that’s why the<br />

“The public arena belongs<br />

to us as well. And men<br />

need to know this and act<br />

accordingly, individually<br />

and collectively”<br />

conversation around it peters out so quickly, because the world<br />

doesn’t have to acknowledge what it can’t see. Or maybe we<br />

just see it as normal. For the past five years, on International<br />

Women’s Day each March, Labour MP Jess Phillips reads<br />

out the names of women killed by men in the UK since last<br />

IWD, typically to an almost empty chamber in the House Of<br />

Commons. The seats are clear and clean of people who don’t<br />

want to know.<br />

Male creatives made credible through their art are<br />

permitted to get away with an awful lot with regards to<br />

women, while more mainstream pop stars are the easy target<br />

for faux outrage and provide a very effective route to deflect<br />

attention away from the valued music canon. We’re relieved<br />

to scorn international stars and tabloid fodder like Chris<br />

Brown; he’s remote and it doesn’t affect anyone’s career or<br />

status to call him out. But Ian Brown’s arrest for domestic<br />

violence in 2009, the exact same year, is an easily forgotten<br />

truth. How interesting it is though for both Browns, who bring<br />

in so much money to the music and entertainment industries,<br />

to carry on in their careers unhindered.<br />

It’s very easy to suck in cheeks disapprovingly when<br />

hearing of wealthy pop stars being nasty and bad, and<br />

sharing memes on Facebook saying how terrible it is. But that<br />

changes little for the woman or girl who lives down your street.<br />

Founded nearly 30 years ago, the annual White Ribbon<br />

Day each <strong>November</strong> is part of a global movement to end male<br />

violence against women, by engaging with men and boys to<br />

make a stand against male violence. They can pledge to fulfil<br />

the White Ribbon Promise to never commit, excuse or remain<br />

silent when they see or hear it taking place. The day is wellplaced<br />

in the calendar; Christmas one month later always<br />

shows a spike in male to female violence in the home.<br />

More awareness is necessary, and it’s not that hard to<br />

achieve. Helen Reddy who died recently, most widely known<br />

for the feminist anthem I Am Woman, wrote and sang “I’m<br />

still an embryo with a long long way to go until I make my<br />

brother understand”. Meaning, unless men get the notion of<br />

equality then it’s gonna be a tough road ahead. The song is<br />

months away from its 50th birthday and we’re still not there.<br />

For a woman to enter a traditional male or public space<br />

can be risky behaviour, as is being the sole woman in the<br />

company of men. The world of music consumption is a<br />

male-dominated space still, and when we are made to feel<br />

unwelcome at gigs because of harassment or ridicule it is<br />

a way of telling us ‘this is not your place, not your space’.<br />

It’s not unlike dogs marking their territory by pissing on a<br />

lamppost. When women and girls feel uncomfortable, we<br />

should be permitted to say so and be listened to whether at a<br />

gig, in the workplace or the street. The public arena belongs<br />

to us as well. And men need to know this and act accordingly,<br />

individually and collectively take action and change behaviour.<br />

Not remaining silent when women are spoken about<br />

disrespectfully, even if we aren’t present, is a constructive way<br />

of supporting us. For men who show women their intimate<br />

body parts to intimidate and scare us, to remind us who is<br />

boss, to let us know what could happen if we don’t toe the line,<br />

other men must speak up when shit like this happens.<br />

Women’s thoughts are heavily policed by those we don’t<br />

know, have never met. That’s a subject on its own, and instead of<br />

joining social media pile-ons and trolling women with opinions,<br />

respect her right to speak. No one is saying you have to agree<br />

with her.<br />

Controlling what women do and say and think, what they<br />

wear and where they go, is a national pastime both inside the<br />

home and out of it. And it has to stop. !<br />

Words: Cath Holland / @cathholland01<br />

Illustration: Hannah Blackman-Kurz / @Hbkurz<br />

whiteribbon.org.uk/what-we-do<br />

femicidescensus.org<br />

White Ribbon Day takes place on 25th <strong>November</strong>.<br />




SAT 20TH MARCH 2021<br />




Sonny2021_A3_AW_.indd 1 23/09/2020 12:32

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