ISSUE 111 / NOVEMBER 2020
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
COURTING / TABITHA JADE
RED RUM CLUB / MIC LOWRY
IN LOCKDOWN BY
FROM THE NORTH
JESSICA EL MAL
Funded by Supported by Commissioned by FACT Liverpool
for FACT Together, a new online
residency and artist development
opportunity set up in response
ISSUE 93 / OCTOBER 2018
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
SPQR / NIKI KAND / VILLAGERS
SHE DREW THE GUN / PUSSY RIOT
ISSUE 94 / NOVEMBER 2018
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
BILL RYDER-JONES / EAT ME + PREACH
JAMIE BROAD / HINDS / BIENNIAL
ISSUE 95 / DEC 2018/JAN 2019
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
CHELCEE GRIMES / REMY JUDE ENSEMBLE
MOLLY BURCH / BRAD STANK / THE CORAL
ISSUE 96 / FEBRUARY 2019
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
EYESORE & THE JINX / LADYTRON
LEE SCOTT / YVES TUMOR / ERIC TUCKER
ISSUE 97 / MARCH 2019
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
YANK SCALLY / BBC 6 MUSIC FESTIVAL
MUNKEY JUNKEY / SLEAFORD MODS
ISSUE 98 / APRIL 2019
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
XAMVOLO / YAMMERER
MC NELSON / THE ZUTONS
ISSUE 99 / MAY 2019
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
SUB BLUE / CLINIC / CATE LE BON
SOUND CITY 2019
ISSUE 101 / JULY 2019
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
BILL NICKSON / KITTY’S LAUNDERETTE
SPINN / ROLLING BLACKOUTS C.F.
ISSUE 102 / AUGUST 2019
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
THAT’S JUVEY? / STEALING SHEEP
ROY / CHINATOWN SLALOM
ISSUE 103 / SEPTEMBER 2019
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
SISBIS / WAVERTREE WORLDWIDE
SPILT / LOUDER THAN DEATH
ISSUE 104 / OCTOBER 2019
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
STRAWBERRY GUY / RICHARD HERRING
MARVIN POWELL / EDWYN COLLINS
ISSUE 105 / NOVEMBER 2019
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
THE MYSTERINES / RICHARD DAWSON
NUTRIBE / TRUDY AND THE ROMANCE
ISSUE 106 / DEC 2019/JAN 2020
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
BEIJA FLO / LO FIVE
ASOK / SIMON HUGHES
ISSUE 107 / FEBRUARY 2020
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
PIZZAGIRL BEIJA FLO / DAN / LO DISGRACE FIVE
SAVE KITCHEN ASOK / STREET SIMON HUGHES / AIMÉE STEVEN
ISSUE 108 / MARCH 2020
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
THE ORIELLES/ BEIJA FLO LOATHE / FIVE/ LUNA
THRESHOLD ASOK / FESTIVAL SIMON HUGHES / COURTING
ISSUE 109 / SEPTEMBER 2020
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
TEE BEIJA / ALL FLO WE / ARE LO FIVE / DECAY
JAMIE ASOK WEBSTER/ / SIMON MOLLY HUGHES GREEN
ISSUE 110 / OCTOBER 2020
NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE
AMINA ATIQ / BYE LOUIS
JACQUES MALCHANCE / DON MCCULLIN
WE ARE OPEN
40 SLATER STREET, LIVERPOOL. L1 4BX
01704 533 333
(Booking fees apply)
10 October – 12 December 2020
Image: The Triumph of Art, Nicolas Pierre Loir (1624–1679).
Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.
Celebrating the restoration of
a painting given to The Atkinson
in the late 19th century and
featuring highlights from our fine
New Music + Creative Culture
Issue 111 / November 2020
40-42 Slater Street
Liverpool L1 4BX
Craig G Pennington - email@example.com
Christopher Torpey - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam Turner - email@example.com
Elliot Ryder - firstname.lastname@example.org
Olivia Yoxall - email@example.com
Mark McKellier - firstname.lastname@example.org
Thom Isom - email@example.com
Elliot Ryder, Olivia Yoxall, Sam Turner, Mary Olive, Lily
Blakeney-Edwards, Adam Noor, Emma Varley, Alice
Langan, Orla Foster, Will Whitby, Sophie Shields,
Richard Lewis, Anthony Wilde, Matthew Berks, Cath
Holland, Leah Binns, Jennie Macaulay, Stuart Miles
O’Hara, Dan Cullinan.
Photography, Illustration and Layout
Mark McKellier, Marieke Macklon, Esmée Finlay, Michael
Kirkham, Nicholas Daly, Callum Mills, Anthony Wilde,
Mark Lycett, Broadie, John Johnson, Robin Clewley,
When society opened back up in early July, the
door to freedom was only ever left ajar. It was
much closer to swinging back shut than it was
ever wide open.
Not all of us were able to squeeze through the gap and
sample a taste of the before times. For those who it was safe
enough to do so, the life that greeted us on the other side was
familiar. However, there were glaring omissions that added to
its temporary feel. No live music, sport spectators, theatre. A
weariness of being around older family
members and members of the public
persisted. For all the thrill of being back
out, seeing people, places being open,
there was always a niggling doubt in the
back of the mind.
In March, it took a matter of weeks
to transition from blasé, ‹keep calm
and carry on’ to being one of the worst
affected nations of a raging global
pandemic. By July, it certainly didn’t feel
like the fires were fully stamped out as
we opened up. It only takes an ember to
ignite the fire. Two months into our new
future of mask wearing, signing in and
sanitising, the door was already creaking shut.
Moving into tier three of new lockdown restrictions was met
with a mixture of preparedness and fear. I’d done the three-and-ahalf-month
stretch of lockdown already. Reluctantly, I told myself,
you know what to expect. But there was a greater fear than the
first time. In March, the blanket closure nationwide came with a
partial safety net. It would keep the majority ticking over. Plans
were then shifted until Autumn. Budgets reshuffled. We waited.
The autumn months were where we’d turn a new leaf in a
year deprived of so much. That new leaf didn’t have time to turn.
Too quickly it was subjected to winter. It withered. Subjected to
“Time to put on
our masks and be
heroes of our own”
increased social distance, the safety net all but gone. Budgets
decimated. All plans cancelled. So much of what so many have
worked for hangs in the balance.
It was fitting that, as Liverpool City Region ventured alone
into lockdown, a caped crusader would appear. Liverpool was in
need of a hero. Someone to look to, to turn the tide, to make the
people believe in good triumphing over evil. The stunt double of
Bruce Wayne straddling the Liver Birds wasn’t who we needed.
But it at least set off this train of thought. The first wave was
defined by its heroes. We rightly stood up
and took notice of Liverpool’s essential
workers. They’re just as important now.
And yes, they include our musicians,
artists, community facilitators. We now
have a greater understanding of what is
an essential worker and the plaudits they
deserve. Being out on our own is less
lonesome in a city full of heroes. Those
who don’t glow under the Hollywood
spotlight, but are no less deserving.
History will note how we’ve been
here before. The stagnation of the 1980s,
the decline of Liverpool as a port. Once
again, we’re out on our own. Those
triumphs in the past, the city reinventing itself in the face of
decimation, didn’t happen overnight. It took the city taking
ownership of the situation and doing it its own way. We will
need more help. Our politicians/representatives and community
leaders will fight for this so livelihoods aren’t destroyed. We’ll
be together, as close as we can be, but there’s no doubting the
winter will be hard. Time to put on our masks and be heroes of
our own. !
Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder
Gotham? (Liam Jones / @liamjonesphotie)
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paid at least the living wage.
All contributions to Bido Lito! come from our city’s
amazing creative community. If you would like to join
the fold visit bidolito.co.uk/contribute.
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carbon footprint and ensures there is less CO2 in the
atmosphere as a result of our existence.
11 / COURTING
Nobody knows what’s going on, but Courting are here to help you
make sense of the madness.
16 / PLAYING IN
In our third report with University Of Liverpool, we look at
responses relating to releasing music and self-promotion during
the months of lockdown.
18 / TABITHA JADE
Orla Foster finds the singer-songwriter doing things her own
way as she looks to leave her mark on contemporary RnB and
20 / RED RUM CLUB
Following the release of their second album, Sophie Shields braces
the heights of the Sefton Sierra with its hometown heroes.
22 / PAST PRESENT FUTURE
The Real Thing and MiC LOWRY sit down to discuss their
experiences of black representation in Liverpool music.
26 / CHAMPION ONE, CHAMPION
Ahead of a new exhibition opening in November, Anthony Wilde
sheds light on his ability to capture moments of change and
30 / FOX FISHER
Homotopia’s artists in residence for 2020 provides an insight to
their personal and artistic journey, along with what to expect at
this year’s festival.
The views expressed in Bido Lito! are those of the
respective contributors and do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of the magazine, its staff or the
publishers. All rights reserved.
8 / NEWS
10 / HOT PINK!
26 / SPOTLIGHT
30 / PREVIEWS
32 / REVIEWS
38 / ARTISTIC LICENCE
39 / FINAL SAY
Journal To The Centre
Of The Universe
Bido Lito! Journal
Why is music important to you? Many people’s answer
to this question will have changed over the course of this
tumultuous year. Music has been one of few constants
providing succour and companionship through isolation
and uncertainty. The continued absence of live music
has fostered a resurgence of fondness, as longing for the
communal experience grows by the month. The question
is the central tenet to the 2020 Bido Lito! Journal.
While there’s been much to forget about 2020, we’ve
collected what’s worth remembering and interrogated
this central theme with the people we’ve met along the
way. Pre-order the premium coffee table magazine now
on our website or get it free when you sign up to a Bido
Lito! Membership and support all we do. bidolito.co.uk/
Cineaste Of Eden
The Liverpool Lighthouse is giving new life to its
cinema space with hope of a screen being installed
for March 2021. The Lighthouse opened its doors
back in 1988 as the UK’s first urban gospel arts
centre to up-skill disadvantaged groups within the
community and contribute to North Liverpool’s
regeneration. Ever since, the community hub has
looked to decrease isolation and create community
cohesion, while helping to develop people’s skills
and engage locals with the arts. Exciting plans
to refurbish the cinema space will carry winks of
acknowledgment to the original architecture as the
organisation calls out for donations to realise their
It’s All Academic
A whole new batch of exciting young artists have
been announced as the latest cohort for LIMF
Academy. The 10 emerging musicians will now
benefit from a suite of development activity to
help them on to the next phase of their careers. In
the Most Ready category this year are MICHAEL
ALDAG, ANTONIA and MICAYL. The trio will
receive cash to help them with their project and
various opportunities throughout the programme
as well as studio time and mentoring. A further
seven artists, including AMBER JAY, JAZMINE
JOHNSON and TY LEWIS, have also been chosen
by a panel of experts to go on to develop their
craft via workshops and exclusive opportunities.
Rethink, Reskill, Boot Off
A utopian festival for dystopian times is set to
launch across Liverpool in April 2021. Rocking
across three venues, including Invisible Wind
Factory as its main stage, FUTURAMA intends
to create a futuristic paradise for festival goers.
Born from the rebellious punks of the 70s as
a retaliation to government oppression, the
festival has not lost any of its punch. At a time
where artists are encouraged to “rethink, reskill,
reboot” the Futurama organisers tell us that it
is not good enough. A celebration of the power
of music and art, refusing to accept boundaries
and turning the volume up even louder, the
bill features PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT,
THEATRE OF HATE as well as THE LOVELY
EGGS, THE BLINDERS and JUST MUSTARD.
The Lovely Eggs
More Time For Linda
The Walker Art Gallery have announced
their popular Linda McCartney
Retrospective will have its run extended to
10 January 2021 due to popular demand. It
means even more photography enthusiasts,
Beatle completists, 60s rock fans and
general interested parties can see the
huge collection and follow in the footsteps
of the thousands who have attended the
exhibition since it opened in August. The
show is joined by a new thought-provoking
collection of photographs by members
of Crisis Photography Group who have
responded to the theme of ‘home’ and the
work of McCartney. liverpoolmuseums.org
Linda McCartney retrospective
Baltic-based graphic design studio
DOROTHY have unveiled their newest
creation. The Sneakerheads Cutaway
print pays homage to the iconic Nike Air
Max shoe and reveals a melange of key
moments in sneaker history. The print
celebrates the sneaker which took its
inspiration from the architecture of the
Pompidou Centre and has carved an
indelible mark on popular culture since
its arrival in 1987. Featured in the design
are Jesse Owens’ 1936 Olympics triumph
wearing Dasslers, Bruce Lee sporting
Onitsuka Tigers in Game Of Death and
Pelé’s Puma King-assisted third World Cup
win. The three-colour litho print is available
online now. wearedorothy.com
Sound City have followed up their
line-up and new date announcement
for 2021 with details of their Apply
To Play initiative. The programme will
provide local and undiscovered artists
the opportunity to play alongside REJJIE
SNOW, WORKING MEN’S CLUB and
THE MYSTERINES on the the weekend
of 30th April 2021 at the postponed
festival. Part of Sound City’s wider drive
to develop emerging talent, Apply To
Play is open for live acts and DJs to
apply now with 60 slots up for grabs.
The festival takes place over three days
in spaces across the Baltic Triangle for
what will be a long-awaited return next
Here For Culture
Liverpool’s culture community was given a muchneeded
shot in the arm in October as Arts Council
England unveiled the organisations which would
benefit from a share of the Government’s promised
£1.57bn Cultural Recovery Fund. Bluecoat, FACT,
Liverpool Philharmonic, 24 Kitchen Street and Bido
Lito! were among the many institutions who were
successful in securing funding. The money has been
distributed to plug the huge shortfalls in revenue
as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions
and should help towards organisations achieving
sustainable viability by March next year. Bido Lito!
will be using the funds to continue our Bylines
Writers Workshops programme into 2021, top up
fallen advertising revenues and continue printing
this monthly magazine.
Culture Recovery Fund
Support Your Local
Slice enthusiasts and Bido Lito! staffers
have cause for positivity as Parr Street
pizza purveyors Nightcrawler are
remaining open in their home of The
Merchant. Continuing to open from
midday seven days a week to 10pm,
delivering tasty slices, pitch perfect
playlists and beauty bevs, there’s plenty
of opportunity to get your pizza fix.
What’s more, there’s awesome deals
giving you half price slices, buy one get
one for £1 initiatives, and plenty other
reasons to pay your local pizza dealer a
This month, additions to our hot pink! playlist include a regressive hair transgression, a haunting folk tale,
a shiny pop barnstormer and much more to delve into. We are constantly adding to our mix of the best new
sounds on Merseyside and here is but a smattering of the bright new voices that are wailing from the very
top of tier three.
Send Me Away
Ecstatic, electric and enchanting, Gaffney’s latest single is laced with a catchy hook and celestial
sounding loops. Written to perfectly capture the beauty of a broken heart, this track is defiant in its
sorrow. The track commands to be listened to with a crescendo echoing The Verve, ignited with a
euphoria of drums, electric guitar and Gaffney’s haunting yet punchy soprano. (MO)
Heist Or Hit
A bright candy-pop banger where only good vibes are allowed in. If you’re missing having a boogie
– let’s be honest, who isn’t by now – turn this up to full and dance around your bedroom. Built
on SKIA’s catchy vocal and a funky guitar riff, this track echoes HAIM or Maggie Rogers, with an
irresistible, happy-go-lucky spring to it. It’s sure to have you humming along by the time the three
minutes are over. (MO)
This ode to Liverpool from three adopted Scousers is a hazy rock ’n’ roller with sliding, sleepy
vocals and a vibrant groove. Layered in sweet and simple melodies, wistfully swaying through the
dustbowl, the track brings to mind whiling away care-free evenings in lazy boozers. Remember
those? Take me back, please! (MO)
Eyesore & The Jinx
Bad hair day? Don’t sweat it, Eyesore & The Jinx are probably having a worse one – tragic enough to
inspire their recent snarling soundbite about a peacock feather ‘do, in fact. Imagine the lovechild of
King Nun and The Chats: inject a miniscule amount of sedative and force-feed it some unmistakably
Northern effrontery until it near explodes, and you’ve got the band’s latest punk rock earworm. (AL)
Atmospheric and otherworldly, Aimée Steven’s latest single is an indie pop daydream. Drenched
in hazy guitar reverb and atmospheric string samples, Steven mixes 80s-inspired production with
lyrics that capture the uncertainty of life in 2020 to create a track that feels timeless and fresh. Like
the songwriter herself, it’s a classic in the making. (LBE)
Under My Skin
KingFast has always been able to capture an audience with his raw vocals, but it’s on his latest
single that we see him at his most candid. Simplistic yet mesmerising muted piano chords accompany
the artist as he opens up about his heartbreak, with lyrics that feel closer to a conversation between
artist and listener than any typical songwriting. The result is a soulful, soul-searching diary entry
that is unapologetic in its honesty. (LBE)
Loris And The Lion
Loris And The Lion convey a haunting aura that’s right at home in the late weeks of Autumn. Their
latest single proves no different. Inspired by both traditional folk and the deft storytelling of Kate Bush
and Joni Mitchell, the track weaves a narrative as it develops, with complex melodies and enchanting
vocals from lead singer Georgia Harris, immersing whoever listens in an enveloping, chilling sound. (LBE)
iamkyami ft. Sonny Miles
Iamkyami’s easygoing groove makes mountains through its minimalism. The track’s stripped-back,
lo-fi inspired instrumentals let the artist excel, with her smooth vocals and dynamic melodies taking
centre stage. The Sonny Miles feature is equally compelling, as the two artists complement each
other with ease, all making for a lilting track that is captivatingly chill. (LBE)
Sub Blue ft. Khai
Soft, intimate soundscapes with late-night reflections and the kind of tragic romance that’s just
nuanced enough to still be cool; Sub Blue proves himself a neo-soul searcher offering confident
vulnerability, expert production and bags of talent. The addition of Khai’s stunning vocal feature on
this track takes Sub Blue’s work to a different level. It’s what we can only dream Frank Ocean and
SZA’s lovechild would sound like. (AN)
Mai 68 Records
Lovers of Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and all 1970s American psych/dream/whateverprefix-your-heart-desires
rock need to listen to this. Herein you’ll find the honeyed harmonies of Fleet
Foxes poured over long, rolling guitar tracks reminiscent of Zeppelin. Opening track Where You Gonna
Go comes in at seven minutes, which is perfect considering how much free time we all have now. (EV)
Words: Mary Olive, Alice Langan, Lily Blakeney-Edwards, Adam Noor and Emma Varley
Follow hot pink! on Spotify: bit.ly/bidohotpink
Photography from left to right: Loris And The Lion, Lucy Gaffney (Thom Southern), iamkyami,
A LAUGH WITH
Not caring is caring. Courting are here to help you make sense of the madness.
Everton Park is unusually busy for a Monday morning in
September. Perhaps it’s the azure sky and foreboding
temperatures leaning in from the afternoon, the kind of
unexpectant heat that makes today’s autumnal attire
regrettable. Or perhaps it’s the impending local lockdown coming
into effect across Merseyside that’s drawing the numbers. From
tomorrow no households can mix outdoors.
At the highest point of the park Liverpool’s city centre
and Wirral face back across. The two land masses make up
the backdrop of this natural proscenium stage. To the front, a
collection of familiar characters enter left and right in this final act
before the lockdown curtain falls. There’s the processional flyby
of wheelie poppin’ kids, a gaggle of aggressive dogs, loitering
weed smokers and optimistic sunbathers. A light breeze nudges
a flow of litter falling from parked cars absorbing the view.
For a more succinct encapsulation of this semi-lockdown,
Hogarthian picture of Liverpool, a few yards away graffiti spells
out “there is such a thing as society”. The active park tells you this
much, even if a second lockdown is looming. Yet, a few metres
higher up sits the scribbled retort: “wake up, Liverpool”.
It’s likely the characters passing us by are familiar to
COURTING, who’ve made their ascent to meet on the hillside.
Some of these characters will have had lines in their kitchen sink
sketches set to angular post-punk arrangements, orchestrated by
metronomic use of cowbell (they defined it “cowbell-core” in Issue
108). Though their music is less grand theatre and more slick
improv, such is the urgency of their sardonic lyrical observations
and apathetic-cum-activist demeanour. It’s a ripe combination for
a climate where nobody knows what the fuck is going on.
While Courting haven’t shied from broaching society’s bigger
issues through a combination of guttural vocals and frenetic riffs,
the five-piece are much more reserved in person. There’s no
immediate desire to spell out right from wrong as we meet on the
hillside. When our photographer begins to capture the scene, the
pictures reveal a group of unassuming friends who are mostly still
teenagers. Nothing seems particularly serious to them as they
hide smiles for the photos. Conversation regularly tails off, noting
how “Ringo is the best Beatle, isn’t he?”, or how two pigeons should
sit atop the Liver Building as the true emblems of Liverpool.
The band have had a better 2020 than most. Since the turn
of the year they’ve released two singles, received plays on BBC
Radio 1, been playlisted on BBC Radio 6 Music and made the
final eight of Glastonbury’s emerging talent competition. All that
while still holding onto the freshness in their faces. But it hasn’t
all been plain sailing from day one. It’s been a rise so quick they
can vividly remember when the landscape wasn’t so welcoming
to their brand of irony-clad post-punk just two years ago.
“When we started, we were really shit,” vocalist/guitarist
Sean Murphy-O’Neill confesses, perched cross-legged in some
tall grass at the peak of the park, his yellow shirt matching the
wilted flowerheads dotted around. It’s an assessment reflected in
the band’s early live reviews which were, well, damning. Yet, the
band weren’t deterred.
As well as tightening up on stage in the following months
to take the form of the band we see today, they took literal
ownership of their perceived ‘shitness’ – printing less than
favourable review comments on a range of merch. It’s a move
that typifies the band; embracing and owning theirs and
contemporary society’s shit state of affairs and rolling it into
something less fatalistic.
“It seemed to work in our favour,” says bassist Sam Brennan.
“We spun it,” says Murphy-O’Neill, before adding with
measured confidence, “and now I don’t think we’re really shit at all.”
Most of the band – including Sean Thomas on drums and
Michael Downes on guitar – are friends from college. Newlyadded
guitarist Josh Cope, whose Yorkshire accent is the anomaly
to the south Liverpool drawl echoing between the four others,
joined up while at university. Of the five, it is the two Seans who
are the designated “parents” of the band, as they put it to me.
Courting are still very much climbing the arc of their
trajectory, but there was a distinct upward leap over the first
half of this year. It’s one we reflect on, noting the transition from
scathing review fodder to a band breathing down the studio
glass of institutional radio waves. Although it still isn’t getting to
“It’s a real ambition of ours to make music that sounds like
we don’t give a shit,” says Murphy-O’Neill, looking down at the
grass with a prophetic air.
“It’s our mantra
to stop guitar
music from being
a dirty word”
In terms of merch designs, the assertion is evident. Yet their
early releases do little to back up this asserted lack of care. First
singles Not Yr Man and Football reflect the purposeful, snarled
societal countenances of Shame and Idles, with distinct shades
of local contemporaries Eyesore & The Jinx in the barbed lyrical
humour decrying the washed-out English Rose. If anything, the
songs emit a confused energy through a collision of apathy
Murphy-O’Neill notes how much of this feeling is centred on
contemporary Englishness, with the rest of the band nodding in
agreement. It’s a theme that places national identity in a frame of
impassivity. A sort of headstrong carelessness in its day-to-day.
“Let me be your Northern Rail/I wanna let you down”, he laments
on the band’s first single Not Yr Man – a feverish two-and-a-halfminute
stab at garish masculinity and lad culture.
The swipe at the English pastime of mundane repetition is
picked up again on Football, their follow-up single released in
January. “It’s a bit more of an observational piece,” says Murphy-
O’Neill of a song that screams football over 50 times in less than
two minutes. “I think the community sport provides in this country,
and that whole pub culture that goes with it, is what we’re taking
the piss out of. When you subtract the racists from that equation,
there’s something quite romantic about [English] culture – when
you can overlook the awful politics that are omnipresent.”
The pub culture, weekend casuals and casual racism Murphy
O’Neill refers to serves as the centrepiece for the band’s breakout
single, David Byrne’s Badside, released in May. Taking aim at
English exceptionalism, the song pulls up a sticky bar stool at
your average local before listening in on the “I’m not a racist,
but…” mantra swirling between walls adorned with bric-a-brac
championing colonial victories.
“That was a big step for us. For the first few months, we
were trying to do punky songs, then we wrote David Byrne’s
Badside and thought ‘this is not very punk at all’, but it’s just as
good,” he says of the song, which was released by indie label
Nice Swan, where company has been shared by Sports Team,
Queen Zee and Pip Blom.
Stepping away from the clattering riffs, the track dials
down the distortion and borrows the sails from Doherty and
Barât’s good ship Albion for a breezier nod to mid-2000s indie
– complete with sax solo and sarcasm. “I think from that point
onwards, we just kind of make whatever music we want, where
we’ll try to leave some kind of touchstones between the songs.
So, for us, the lyricism is really involved,” Murphy-O’Neill explains.
The lyrical touchstones, as the band elude to, coalesce
around social discomforts. Personal discomforts for themselves
– the social expectation to love football in a city defined by its loyalty to red or blue – and the wider
communities of England. It’s well documented that the picture of little England is far from the sedate
image framed on the walls of the Queens Arms, The Crown, Red Lion or The Ship. But the band don’t
want to add to the barrage of sloganeering that’s caught hold of contemporary guitar bands. Instead,
there’s only a deep-set irony worn as armour against the regressive tendencies of broken Britain.
“I think it’s hard-pressed being one of those bands where their mission is to, like, save the world
and, and fix all these problems,” says Murphy-O’Neill. “We know it’s impossible to do that as a band
or as an artist. But, if you can, you can maybe start a conversation and do it in a way that’s not so
pretentious and not so harsh. I think that’s kind of the way to go.”
It’s a feeling that chimes well with Football, a song which questions so much of tunnel vision
casual sports culture even when saying so little.
“The fact that it got adopted by, like, actual people who like football was quite amusing to me,
because it was just meant to be a bit silly,” laughs Murphy O’Neill. “It was a bit of a joke at the kind
of bands where the chorus is just one word being shouted over and over again, just because it
sticks in your head. But people took that quite seriously.”
Seriousness is clearly something that goes against the raison d’être of the band.
“Our goal is to not take anything we do too seriously. Everything should be taken with just a bit
of a hint of piss-take,” Murphy-O’Neill confirms.
“I think you can you can find that in most of our songs anyway,” adds Thomas. “The songs are
centred on a topic which is serious, but then there’s other lines that will just, like, ease the tension
a bit.” Namely references to The Chase, the appalling reliability of Northern Rail pacers, or the
possible ill temperament of indie-god provocateur David Byrne.
As Murphy-O’Neill stated earlier, there remains a fascination of English culture in Courting’s
music. It’s one that draws on the jaded regression of contemporary politics and its tired rhetoric.
This inadequacy of England’s hit and hope, cavalier spirit has been fairly evident since 2016
and well-documented in cultural responses, too. That summer aggressively tore what was an
already frayed national consciousness in two. Two neat cantons were left. On one side of the
line, thankfully, for the safety of the world’s ears, there hasn’t been an uptake in pro-nationalist
indie rock. Mainly just cry-arsing about whether a choral arrangement can shout about Britain’s
colonial successes in late summer. But on the other side of the line there’s been a distinct rise in
bands shouting about political injustice. Artists putting forward a charged antidote for the inherent
blindness in Brexit Britain.
It’s a frustration that is likely to have captured those who voted against the outcome in 2016,
and the hopeless trudge in attempting to overturn the outcome in the years after. But for those
who couldn’t vote at the time, like Courting, it’s been four long years of waiting for the inevitable.
No say either way. There’s no sense in shouting at deaf ears, so why bother? It’s an attitude that
punctuates their political outlook. A move where apathetically looking on in disgust has emerged as
the most telling form of protest and activism.
“I think there are a lot of bands who claim to be, like, politically charged, but they’re not really. I
feel like it’s a bit of a label, isn’t it?” Murphy-O’Neill responds.
“It’s really easy for young bands to be, like, you know, ‘Fuck the government’. It’s probably even
easier with everything happening,” Thomas chimes in.
It’s these charged affronts to the current socio-political dichotomy the band speak of that
appear to miss the goal posts. Power is well versed in controlling aggression and outcry. 10 years of
austerity and look where we are. Look who’s in power. Look what they’re doing to us. But it’s satire and
humour that still offers an antagonistic retort which is beckoning ever more authoritarian censorship.
“I think that’s it, [our lyrics] are meant to be a bit cheeky,” replies Murphy-O’Neill, as we
continue to dig further into the band’s defence mechanism of irony.
“A three-minute song where you’re just talking about politics won’t be as fun as a one-minuteand-52-seconds
song where you shout the word football 50 times,” Thomas summarises.
The point does stand. You need only to look back to the acid house explosion of the 1980s for
evidence of this idea previously in action. Eight bars of LFO’s seminal track of the same name offers
are more telling two fingers to Tory rule than Billy Bragg has managed in his entire career. Allowing
space for interpretation can often be the more compelling battle cry than an overt statement.
Ultimately, space is the necessary essence for any movement or protest.
“Start a conversation
and do it in a way that’s
not so pretentious
and not so harsh”
“It’s up to people if they want to read into things,” says
Murphy-O’Neill. “If people want to think it’s just a song about
football, we’re not bothered. We’re not going to get on some sort
of artistic high horse and be like…” He clears his throat to put on
a snooty voice. “‘No, no, it’s not about football, you have to think
about the politics’. We don’t give a shit. Like, if you want to shout
football, that’s the fun of it. If you want to consider what it means,
you can. We’re not really bothered. Our music is less inspired by
Brexit and this idea that England has suddenly become shit. It’s
more inspired by the fact that England has been shit for a long
time. And, you know, you’re kind of born into that.”
On a newly released 7” containing Football and David
Byrne’s Badside, a small English flag is printed on the vinyl label.
Innocuous as it may be, its presence in 2020 often suggests
exclusion or xenophobic rebellion. But the band pin the flag to
their lapel in the same manner they sincerely chant about the footy.
“It sums up how we’re taking the piss,” begins Murphy-O’Neill,
“how that flag is now a racist symbol. It’s seen as a bit nasty.”
“Yeh, if you have it in your Twitter bio or something,”
“That’s the piss-take,” says Murphy-O’Neill, “I don’t think
we’re trying to reclaim the flag. I’m not arsed about the country
as a country.” Its true presence is there to highlight the same
contradiction displayed by those who celebrate the Georgian
cross but practice casual racism and hostility to minorities, while
ignoring that St George was a middle eastern man.
Through this it’s further reinforced how ironic ownership is a
defining aspect of Courting, a process of wearing the clothes and
looking back in the cracked mirror to show the true sense of folly.
It’s a move that’s typified the band’s visual aesthetic as well as the
lyricism, notably on David Byrne’s Badside which is told from the
perspective of a character with contradictory and racist tendencies.
“We try and play characters of people we don’t like,” answers
Murphy-O’Neill when we press on the subject further. “I read
an interview with Country Teasers where [Ben Wallers] said he
likes to play horrible, horrible people, and tries to sing from their
perspectives. And I think that’s something we definitely took in
mind on David Byrne’s Badside. I think we’ve managed to make
it obvious, without just coming out and screaming what we’re
against. An element of subtlety can actually make it hit a bit
harder than if we were just really obvious.”
The 90s Scottish band Murphy-O’Neill notes were
chameleonic shapeshifters of the unsettling and captivating.
Fat White Family are clear descendants in their quest for an
atmosphere of lurid smut. But it’s the former who controversially
would look to scuff the line between character-led performance
and harboured point of view. The effect can be somewhat galling when listening back. I ask
Murphy-O’Neill if he ever fears wearing the mask will leave an imprint.
“There’s a line to it,” he asserts. “For Country Teasers, the line is blurred. I’m not an advocate for
how they go about doing it. But I think that at least considering the point of view of the person you
hate is maybe a good way of thinking of things to write about them.”
He continues: “Listening to a band like Country Teasers can be incredibly difficult, which can be
a good thing. Because when you listen to them, it kind of reminds you of your own morals, because
you hear something so sickening, you think, ‘I’m glad that I’m repulsed by this’. Even though it’s
coming from someone who is taking the piss, I’m glad it still bothers me. I’m glad I don’t listen to
this in a complacent way when he says things that are so horrible.”
We’ve been sat on the highest point of the hillside for close to an hour. An invasive drone circles
above, a police helicopter treading in the air even higher. At this point the effects of no sun cream
are becoming evident. Solely in sense of weather, the summer has been a good one. Ironically,
it was meant to have been one where football came home again. That was before the pandemic
struck and Euro 2020 was cancelled. Before then it was meant to have been football’s first return
ticket since the summer of 96, another summer typified by its searing heat and national let down.
Not to mention Britpop, a bracket the band are now popping up in.
As genre tags go, the recent labelling of Courting as Britpop could seem a little reductive.
Perhaps there’s similarities in sound on the steady chug and chorus led refrain of their most recent
single, but Courting’s message is incongruent with the genre on the whole. Away from the time
and place encapsulation of Definitely Maybe Oasis, or satirical social commentary of Pulp, they’re
far from the Cool Britannia mould – a cut and paste factory line bearing the signature of faux-New
Labour change. Britpop en masse is vacuous and dangerous apathy. As is ‘guitar music’. Courting
isn’t so much apathy, more so standing your ground, observing the landscape in all its horror. I
suggest Brexpop as a fitting tag, but they aren’t having it. The other genre tag, as Murphy-O’Neill
states, offers up its own incentive.
“We’d like to reclaim the phrase ‘guitar music’ and take it away from being a dirty word,” he says
with a cheeky optimism. “When I hear it, I think of the most boring bands on the planet. I want guitar
music to sound interesting again. That’s what we’re doing. The tag will come more from the music
than the lyrics. It’s our mantra, to stop guitar music from being a dirty word and turn it into something
that’s good again. We don’t want to be labelled as landfill. We want to be thought of as interesting.”
Courting exemplify how not giving a shit is again inherently political. Or rather, they’re helping
to shift the boundaries of protest: what it requires, who it’s aimed at, how it’s carried out. Shouting
back at the Tory void will only lead to exhaustion. So many bands wear that tiredness. Capturing
the miniature, the incidental, the idiosyncratic can reveal much more than making every song a
political flag-bearer. Gyrating carefree to lashings of cowbell can be more rebellious than serving
three chords and “fuck you” addressed directly to Boris Johnson. But even in this assessment it
might be overplaying Courting’s aims. There’s lots of care in what they perceive is a lack of it.
“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
can just be liked,” say Murphy-O’Neill. “But, at the end of the day, if you want to make your career
out of having a laugh, you’ve got to make sure you’re good at it.”
“It’s a structured laugh,” replies Cope as we exit the hillside, the cast of characters still in their
places. “It’s a laugh with some concern,” concludes Murphy-O’Neill. !
Words: Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder
Photography: Marieke Macklon / @mariekemacklon
Pop Shop will be available from 6th November via Nice Swan Records.
In this third report, detailing the findings of our musicians’ survey carried out in partnership with the
University of Liverpool, we look at responses relating to releasing music and self-promotion during the
months of lockdown. The findings illustrate a desire within artists to keep releasing music and retain
visibility despite challenging circumstances, yet the ability to retain profile proved difficult with the greater
emphasis on social media.
The ensuing Covid-19 pandemic has seen venues
close and changed the music industry as we know it.
When the situation took hold in March, musicians were
somewhat forced to take stock and evaluate their next
steps moving forward.
Was releasing new music a good idea when the opportunity
of playing it live and testing the reaction was not possible? With
everyone stuck at home, was lockdown a good opportunity to
work on developing a greater online fanbase? The first lockdown
came as a key crossroad for how some musicians operated dayto-day.
Of the 175 respondents that took part in our survey, 39 per
cent changed plans to release recorded music due to the impact
of Covid-19. Of those that decided to change their plans, 73 per
cent delayed their releases, put their release schedule on hold or
cancelled their plans entirely.
Out of the respondents that continued with plans, 52 per
cent released a single, 28 per cent released a full album and
31 per cent continued with an independent physical release.
Additionally, 40 per cent of artists that responded had no
intentions of releasing recorded music.
For some, the hours of work that went into the studio
production for releases – the nights toiling over the writing of
songs, the days spent in practice spaces and the collaborative
efforts from artists, managers and the press to help promote the
release – all had to be put on hold as artists felt the climate was
not conducive to releasing new music.
The great uncertainty of what was to come in the following
months was enough for some artists to delay releases until more
sustainable times. One respondent said: “We put all plans on
hold until we had an idea of how long this was going to last and
what changes there would be.”
Another common reason was the lack of practice spaces, live
shows and recording opportunities to develop new tracks before
releasing, as potential changes were unable to be resolved
without band members being in the same room. “A series of
singles were to be recorded over
the last few months with the
band, but this hasn’t happened
as we wanted to all be physically
present when recording. We
may have to abandon these
plans altogether and do things
differently,” one respondent said,
with another adding: “With no
live shows to promote the songs
we thought it would be best to
delay the releases indefinitely.”
The problems weren’t only
limited to independent artists.
Acts signed to labels faced similar
problems as three respondents
with label support also delayed
the release of an album, with one
changing it from early summer
2020 all the way to 2021. Others
described the impact as “playing the waiting game”, “a damned
shame” and a “total headache”.
However, lockdown still proved an opportunity for some to
weather the storm and keep going with intended plans. 21 per
cent went ahead with their intended release schedules with 16
per cent of respondents starting new PR campaigns.
Although the inability to perform on a stage was damaging
to some, others, as we saw in our last article, took to online
streaming gigs as a means to continue the promotion of their
music. Innovative use of online social media, more time to focus
“I didn’t feel like
it was suitable to
promote myself when
people were dying”
on music and the continued release of material allowed the
momentum to keep going and for artists to have the ability to
put their music in front of fans who were also stuck at home.
Of those that continued
releasing, 38 per cent cited
momentum as a key reason as
they didn’t want all the hard work
they did before to go to waste.
For some independent artists
who don’t follow the stricter setups
of label release schedules,
lockdown proved to be a time
to test out new ideas and to see
what worked. Halting operations
completely could do more harm
than good for an artist just
starting out. “Why not?” said one
respondent. “We finished two
pieces of music we were really
happy with and we’re still kind of
starting out, there was no reason
not to continue, really.”
“There had been a lot of
planning and money put into the release of the album. We
wanted to also avoid the potential backlog of everybody else
pushing back their releases until the end of the year,” another
Wirral art-rock trio SPQR are one band who have remained
active over lockdown, pressing on with putting out an EP, a 7”
and uploading a collection of early tracks on streaming services
via their own label Nuthin Gud Records. Lockdown gave the
group a break from touring to focus on recording new material
which proved positive for their artistic motivation. “Having that
time to write and record has given me confidence,” said the
band’s Peter Harrison. “I’ve never felt I’ve written anything this
good as I’ve never had this much time [to put towards music].”
Although the negatives and frustrations of not being able to
perform live were present, Harrison saw a positive side moving
forward. “Lockdown is just another setback that we have to get
over,” he added. “We’ve had to go through a lot to get to where
we are and this is just another challenge.”
Before lockdown, social media was a key aspect of artist
development as it provided an opportunity for them to connect
with fans outside of a live music setting. Not all artists opted
to utilise the platforms to their full potential. However,
as lockdown removed the opportunities of physical
interaction, social media became the only way for artists
to connect with fans.
Across our respondents an average of 40 per cent
saw a growth in their social media interactions during
lockdown, yet 19 per cent saw a decline.
Looking deeper into the data displays some more
interesting results: 31 per cent recognised they had
actively engaged more on the platforms by adding
more content, with 14 per cent showing a specific
boost after live streaming activities. Additionally,
19 per cent saw change when they released new
music. Contrastingly, 22 per cent added less content
with five per cent taking a social media break
altogether seeing it as an opportunity to reassess and
practice more on their music or personal lives.
Artists engaged with the platforms in multiple
ways, from posting video content in the form of
covers, music videos, live streaming gigs and, in a few
instances, even a DIY festival. Instagram Live proved
a useful feature with artists using the platform for polls
and quizzes and a unique opportunity to live stream
performances and direct fan Q&As.
One respondent saw the opportunity to watch videos and
educate themselves on how to use social media effectively as
“the one reason they were grateful for lockdown”.
SPQR’s Harrison related to these frustrations of not being
as active online as others and having concerns. “All of a sudden
you’ve had to move from someone who writes songs to being
a ‘content creator’ and a lot of us [musicians] just aren’t that at
all,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t doing enough online and I was
worried the band would disappear.
But then I thought ‘what does it
“If you’re spending all your time
on social media, it might not do you
any favours. If I was posting every
day to stay relevant it might not
work because that’s not what me or
the band is about.”
However, reflecting on the
impact of social media interactions
on streaming figures produces
mixed results. The continuing push
of Spotify links proved successful
as 29 per cent of artists saw a growth in streaming figures
on the platform, with an 11 per cent rise on Apple Music and
26 per cent on YouTube. Across all respondents only four per
cent reported a decline in figures and around a third remained
Much like social media, the artists that saw growth on
streaming platforms were the ones that were posting the most
content and knew how best to engage. Although it might be
frustrating for artists who don’t know how to manage online
promotion to its highest potential; in a data-driven, online
streaming age social media is an essential tool for artists in
search of popular appeal.
A key aspect of this study was to show compassion and
understand the opinions of the artists behind the data. For some
artists, not being able to perform and share their talents had a
profound effect on their mental health as their creative worlds
and livelihoods were dramatically changed.
The resultant months of uncertainty became a crossroads for
artists as it was a test of their abilities to conduct and promote
themselves as a musician effectively at home during lockdown.
A prevailing negative in the data shows a great lack of overall
optimism, with 65 per cent saying they were not confident
operating themselves, compared to only 32 per cent who were
The technical side of operating at home was the stand-out
aspect of pessimism: 41 per cent said they were not confident
promoting themselves online from home. However, many
expressed that their lack of technical knowledge of social media
platforms led to demotivation, with some avoiding it altogether.
The moral questions surrounding promoting music during a
global pandemic and times of increased social unrest made some
feel “pushy” or “intrusive” for putting themselves out there for
personal gains in collectively troubled times.
One respondent said: “I was freaked out and didn’t feel like
it was suitable to promote myself when people were dying.”
Another, discussing their frustration with social media, said: “It
just doesn’t cut the mustard and it’s not what music is supposed
to be about. I don’t understand how anyone has time to make
music with the amount
of social media musicians
are expected to do in
the best of times, so
switching to a world
where it’s the only outlet
for music/performance is
per cent described
themselves as “live
based artists” and
therefore were unable
to operate effectively
at home; and another
15 per cent stated live
performances were key
to their promotion and
live streaming was not
an effective method for
them. One artist said: “I
have managed to keep
practising, but the lack of
physical audience and other musicians makes for an existential
crisis. It’s hard to justify your niche when you’re competing with
literally the whole world on a given platform.”
The results paint a depreciated picture for some artists during
lockdown as many felt left out of the online circus of social media
due to lack of technical know-how, motivation or ability to conduct
themselves effectively. This suggests a need for more support
and education for artists during crises so they can learn the skills
of how to effectively promote themselves online without causing
frustration or dismay.
Lockdown is a temporary yet very frustrating setback for
artists who choose not to become digitised. The mystique behind
the music can sometimes feel lost when artists compel themselves
to post on social media every day and broaden yet somewhat
saturate their appeal.
Reflecting on his
feelings towards the past
few months, Peter Harrison
profoundly concluded: “I
hope this lockdown will help
artists to realise that it isn’t
all about rushing around and
the business side of it all.
You’re still an artist if you’re
at home making your art.
Just because you’re not at
a gig or there aren’t people
watching you doesn’t make
your music or art any less
Words: Will Whitby / @WillyWhitby
Lead researchers and data analysis: Dr Mathew Flynn and
Richard Anderson, University of Liverpool
Illustration: Esmée Finlay / @efinlayillustration
The next stage of this research will take place via a consultation
event led by Bido Lito!, University of Liverpool and other
musician support organisations on Tuesday 27th October via
Zoom. The event will consider the wider impacts across the
sector with venues, promoters, educators and other industry
professionals encouraged to take part.
To register head to bidolito.co.uk/consultation
Tabitha Jade is doing things her own way as she looks to leave a mark on contemporary RnB and Afrobeat.
Orla Foster finds out why hard work and self-belief are all part chasing the dream.
feel like with music, you can never rush things,”
reflects TABITHA JADE. She’s on the brink of releasing
debut EP No Label, but getting to this point has been
quite a journey. In typical 2020 fashion, the release
date was postponed, the studio visits rationed, the launch party
cancelled. But still, she’s sanguine. “There was a lot of stress and
I had to push things back. It’s been challenging! But you do have
to be patient and get it right.”
Luckily, patience is a virtue Tabitha cultivated a long time
ago. Hailing from West Kirby, the 20-year-old has invested
nearly a decade into her career already. After penning her first
song at 11, by 14 she was the youngest act ever to play Sound
City. The next few years were spent recording demos,
entering contests and winning over the wine bars of Wirral
before she was old enough to order a glass. She must be
weary of people marvelling at her age, but it’s hard not to be
impressed by what she’s achieved.
“I was quite confident when I was younger. I wanted to
get music out, and carry on with the journey,” she explains,
lightly. “Doing competitions and getting constructive
feedback just made me want to do better.”
Still, that’s a pretty packed schedule for a teenager.
What was it like juggling festival bookings with school?
“Music never got in the way of my studies,” she tells me.
“I went to Upton, which was a good school. I had to revise
when I could, but it never really clashed. Singing was literally
just my escape and something fun to do after classes.”
I went to that school, too, but I can’t imagine being so
focused. I recall myself moribund in a green uniform, walking
endlessly to the sweetshop in the rain. It was a far cry from
Tabitha Jade’s double life: double maths by day, aspiring RnB
powerhouse by night. But back to those wine bars, and their
acoustic nights. When did she realise her original material was
strong enough to shelve the covers?
“I didn’t have quite the same love for covers,” she admits.
“Whenever I wrote a new song, I would just play it out in the
open mic night and see if the reaction I got was good or bad.
At the time, I hadn’t experienced too much, so I would just take
inspiration from movies and other people’s experiences. But I
always like to push myself, I don’t stay in my comfort zone.”
Did she ever feel self-conscious, edging away from
renditions of Amy Winehouse towards more biographical
“Yeh, because a lot of my lyrics are very direct and have a
clear storyline. I used to feel embarrassed for my family to hear
them. Or for a guy to hear a hate song I wrote about him!” she
laughs. “I mean, I’ll be shy for, like, a day, but once it’s out there,
it’s out there.”
Which song first cemented her sound?
“Secret, because it really locked in who I wanted to be as
an artist, and I felt like I was writing honest lyrics. It’s about this
relationship… well, it wasn’t even a relationship. I was chatting to
this guy for months and it wasn’t progressing anywhere. I was
like, ‘Where is this going? I don’t want to be a secret, I don’t want
to be hidden. Am I wasting my time?’”
There’s a similar philosophy on latest single FYI, which is
equally forthright in its skewering of male indecisiveness: “I
wanted to bring the sass back!” she says, assertively. “That
song’s about showing you know your worth, that you don’t want
to be messed around, and that you respect yourself.”
If the take-no-prisoners approach reminds you of Destiny’s
Child’s landmark record The Writing’s On The Wall then it’s no
accident; artists such as Destiny’s Child, Lauryn Hill and Ciara
are key influences. Tabitha describes her aesthetic as “edgy,
futuristic and glam”, words which sum up the songcraft as well
as the visuals. While her style is maximal, with lots of metallics
and immaculate make-up, recalling the visionary, slightly spaceage
allure of millennium-era RnB, it’s the message of female
empowerment which really hits home. This is a song about
negotiating your own space and refusing to compromise.
This brings us nicely to the new EP. It’s a blueprint for
Tabitha Jade’s sound, with equal parts nostalgia and innovation.
While the shimmering, melismatic vocals and sleek production
feel like a timely throwback to Knowles and co., the Afrobeat
stylings keep things anchored in 2020. But besides showcasing
her love for 00s RnB, Tabitha Jade also wanted to encapsulate
the myriad influences which have shaped her identity, starting
with the title.
“No Label has two meanings for me,” she explains. “The first
is about not fitting into any mould; I grew up in a mixed heritage
background, with a white mum and a black dad, and although
they didn’t sing or play instruments, they’ve always been really
interested in music,” she starts. “My dad collects vinyl and would
always be showing me old American soul and jazz records, while
my mum’s really into her
dance. And playing in
Liverpool means that I’ve
always been surrounded
by rock music, which
is why my songs have
“I’ve had to
hustle and get
those powerful, punchy
“The other side of it
is about being an artist
without a record label.
I wanted to celebrate
and not having to rely on
anyone. Back in the day,
especially, there was such emphasis on getting signed to make
it. But being hands-on with your vision makes it come to life,
makes your product exactly what you want it to be. If you leave it
with other people, they won’t put the same effort in.”
I agree that Tabitha’s autonomy is part of what makes her
music exciting. You never see her stall or wait for permission:
her career is safely in her own capable hands. At the same time,
I’m wary of letting myself harp on about an artist’s resilience
and self-sufficiency while the creative landscape around us gets
torched to the ground. The UK’s musical infrastructure is not
healthy. Why should young, talented artists have to shoulder all
of the administration and financial risk of putting out a record?
“I’m not saying that I would never want to be signed,
because as you get bigger you may need more people on the
team,” Tabitha expands. “But I am saying that, while you’re
independent, you should enjoy it. I’ve had to hustle and get
things done as cheaply as I can, but I also have freedom to totally
oversee every project. I can build up beats myself, experiment
with the vibe, direct videos and design cover art. It means that
when I show ideas to a producer, they get the vision straight
It’s obvious Tabitha Jade is well equipped to weather the
challenges of going DIY. Still, I’m curious if she ever experiences
self-doubt, and if so, how she overrides it?
“100 per cent,” she quickly replies. “Over lockdown, I was
a lot more anxious, I felt weirdly pressured, there was almost a
trend on social media saying ‘use this to your advantage!’, ‘get
ahead of the game!’ I was like, ‘Right, I’m getting ahead of the
game, let’s do this!’ But I put too much pressure on myself and
“I think being nice to yourself is honestly the best thing to
do. Most people get voices of doubt, but you can channel that
energy,” she continues. “There are definitely times when I think,
‘Oh my god, when is my day gonna come?’ But it’s about looking
back at your achievements, celebrating them and knowing that
you’re going to achieve a lot more.”
Then again, if you’re Tabitha Jade, stopping to catch your
breath barely seems an option. Even in March, when the
lockdown was at its most weird and siege-like, she didn’t skip
a beat, just picked up her guitar and streamed songs from her
bedroom. Did that help her reconnect with her audience?
“Personally, I didn’t like the Instagram lives too much,”
she concedes. “It’s not human to me. There was no crowd,
no atmosphere, and you’d just be starting a song then get
random comments right away. I’m actually more nervous about
streaming shows than I am on a festival stage in front of a
I ask how she’s adapted her live show over time to reflect
the artist she is today; for example, last summer’s stellar slot at
Africa Oyé. She tells me about the band she’s worked with the
past five years, and how their close rapport gives them freedom
to deconstruct the songs, experimenting with samples and loops
mid-set rather than just duplicating the recorded versions. One
of the band members is her younger sister Eliza Mai, whose own
musical career is rooted in earthy, 90s soul, and who has been
a source of inspiration and support from the beginning. “We
started this journey together,” she shares, “and it’s amazing to
have someone your own age who understands your music so
deeply. We’re always learning from each other.”
While both artists are an asset to Liverpool’s music scene,
being a female RnB artist isn’t always plain sailing in a city
historically used to trumpeting its overwhelmingly male guitar
bands. Although Tabitha is a versatile performer whose sound
takes in plenty of different genres and influences, it’s still obvious
that black voices in Liverpool aren’t always getting the exposure
But this, hopefully, is changing. Two days after we speak,
Tabitha is due to perform at BlackFest, a festival championing
black artists and communities in Liverpool. Although curfew
restrictions mean there won’t be a full audience, she’s excited
to play a gig IRL. She will also join a panel of young artists
discussing their experiences of making music in Liverpool. What
are her thoughts on the city’s representation of black music?
“I think it used to be really overlooked,” she says. “Now I can
see efforts from people, but there’s still a lot of work to do. We
all know Liverpool for the indie, but there’s so much talent from
RnB, rap, soul artists. Big names need to come out of Liverpool
from that music.”
Now based between Liverpool and London, Tabitha Jade’s
influence extends beyond this city’s walls, but those Mersey ties
are still strong – with local names like Tremz and Shak Omar
guest-starring on her releases. After we brainstorm on what
makes for a good day on the Wirral (a sunny beach walk, plus
frozen yoghurt from Hoylake with extra Lotus sauce), I quiz her
on the move. Now entering her third year at Goldsmiths, Tabitha
Jade is equally at home in Shoreditch as on West Kirby’s sleepy
shores. Was she ever worried about transplanting her life and
career to a new city?
“No, I wasn’t hesitant at all; I’m an adventurous person, I
always want to experience new things. But if you want to meet
people in London, you have to go out and make the effort,” she
cautions. “It doesn’t just come to you.”
There’s a frisson of that new-city excitement in last year’s
music video for Right Here. Tabitha arrives in her dorm, unboxes
her family photos, figures out where to put her plants, then
bounds out into the neighbourhood to leaf through records and
try on vintage clothes with friends. It’s a particularly happy,
carefree snapshot of her life, which feels all the more poignant
as she and her fellow students brace themselves for another
semester of online tutorials. Having established a strong creative
network with her university peers, lockdown must have come as
Not that a global standstill could ever really slow Tabitha
Jade down. In the year from hell, she’s delivered an excellent
record and is already spilling over with ideas for the next. So
what advice does she have for future generations of aspiring
singer-songwriters, who might this very moment be borrowing
their dad’s records and humming melodies into their iPhones?
“Just have fun with your music and don’t be scared to make
mistakes,” she replies, poised as always. “You only have one life,
so you may as well just go for your dream.” !
Words: Orla Foster
Photography: Michael Kirkham / @MrKirks
No Label will be released in November.
Stepping out as working-class, hometown heroes, Red Rum Club have
planted their flag at the highest peak of the Sefton Sierra.
The Sefton Sierra. It has a nice ring to it, even if it may
seem a little far-fetched. But even if the slack waters of
the Irish Sea and its soft dunes may appear incongruous
with the arid mountains of El Paso, the Sierra
connection isn’t empty. It’s one that’s been lapping up ever more
on the banks of the Mersey in recent years.
Just past the docks of Seaforth, RED RUM CLUB have been
hard at work bringing in an exotic import of their own. It’s a
spirited sound that’s injected a Latin American edge to our damp,
The sextuplet have gained a strong following across the North
West of late, with a well-deserved rush of support arriving after
the release of their debut album, Matador, in 2019.
Today, as we catch up with frontman Francis Doran over
the phone, all focus is on their party-starting second offering,
The Hollow Of Humdrum.
Comprising of Doran on lead vocals, Tom Williams (guitar
and backing vocals), Michael McDermott (guitar and backing
vocals), Simon Hepworth (bass), Neil Lawson (drums) and Joe
Corby (trumpet), the collective has already attained quite the set
of enviable millstones – all while still maintaining an ascent. The
mariachi lads have tirelessly trodden the gig circuit, sold out the
Liverpool O2 Academy with ease, played the BBC Introducing
Stage at Glastonbury and are now gearing up to play one of their
biggest shows to date, headlining Liverpool Sound City in 2021.
The band have something of a cult status at home, but, if
anything, they’re one of the centralised forces in Liverpool’s musical
offering – such is their unifying level of reach. You only have to walk
around the cobbled streets of Liverpool to see their posters on
every corner, or someone sporting a Red Rum Club T-shirt, beer in
hand at a bar. But they haven’t always been on the receiving end of
such platitudes, owners of such status. It’s been a rise defined by
good old Scouse graft and humility. Picking up the phone today, the
sodden weather a far cry from the Sierra Madre, we begin at the
start with Fran shedding light on how it all came to be.
“Me and Tom are cousins,” Fran explains. “The other lads were
all in different bands in different formations. We were all playing in
the same pubs and clubs locally and we got to know each other.
Mike made a bit of a dream team. He picked the five of us and
said, ‘Do you fancy all coming to have a jam?’.” A standard band
formation, nothing out of the ordinary. That’s until Tom came to join.
“Our Tom wasn’t meant to be in the band,” Fran recalls, laughing,
“but he had nothing to do that day and his mum rang my mum
and made me take him to band practise.” Sometimes it pays having
nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon. “We got serious about Red
Rum Club around the end of 2016 and it just went from there.”
At the time, Red Rum Club were a five-piece, sans trumpet,
until their then manager encouraged them to try and think of
ways to stand out from the crowd. “They told us to try something
different. That week Mike bumped into Joe, who we went to
school with, and he dropped into conversation that he played the
trumpet. He came to practice, and we just haven’t been able to get
rid of him since,” Fran jokes. I’m sure getting rid of Joe isn’t high on
their list of priorities given his piercing fills have come to define so
much of their sound.
Inspired by northern bands like The Beatles, The Coral, Echo
& the Bunnymen, The Zutons and The Last Shadow Puppets, the
addition of the trumpet’s Latin influence gives them that no-holdsbarred
edge they were after. “When we first got the trumpet in
I think we thought it would be a bit more like The Last Shadow
Puppets, a bit more big band,” Fran explains, “but over time we
were writing songs that had more of a groove, more of a swagger.
The guitar tones that Tom and Mike came up with were also
very spaghetti western, Quentin Tarantino-esque and they just
complemented this mariachi style. We just milked it then. We had
a trumpet and a mariachi sound, so we started writing to [fit that
Fran recalls how the band was originally meant to be a skiffle
group, like that of early Beatles incarnation The Quarrymen. While
Red Rum Club might not have stuck with that swinging 60s rock
’n’ roll sound of the Fab Four, they recognise how important the
original lads from Liverpool have been on their own journey as
a band. “A few days ago, I got asked to do a video about John
Lennon, about being a musician in Liverpool, and I never really
thought about [the significance of The Beatles on us] until I got
asked,” he starts. “I realised that, subconsciously, I have a massive
belief and I feel confident in the music industry because The
Beatles had done it. They were just these lads from Liverpool that
took over the music industry, they changed the world and music
changed because of it.
“I feel like we have a little bit more confidence a little bit more
of a spring in our step, especially when we go further afield around
the UK and Europe. We’ve got that Liverpool rubber stamp.”
In Fran’s own words, the early days of Red Rum Club were all
about a way to drink in pubs for cheap and impress girls, until it
became clear that this was a career path they wanted to take. The
hard work stepped up a gear, their named changed and original
songs were produced.
It hasn’t always been about selling out venues with ease
and playing world famous festivals. Getting to that stage took
time. “We reached the age, probably around 20 or 21 where
you start thinking about what you want to do,” says Fran. “We
just thought, let’s give this a go, [as] we enjoyed this more than
“We did something
anything else. It made it a lot easier that we were in it together,”
he reflects, as I ask if there were ever any points where their
belief was called on most.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like that, when you just
have a night out together or go and play footy or go round to
each other’s houses, it just rejuvenates you. It was like, ‘Are you
enjoying it?’ ‘Yeh, I’m still enjoying it!’ ‘Let’s just carry on then
and see what happens’. There were plenty of those moments.
Sometimes you still get those days.”
However, with the low points come the highs and these
moments make all the hard work worth it. “There’ve been a few
from an internal point of view,” Fran explains. “It was probably
signing the record deal. We were confident in the songs and
we knew that there was someone out there that would listen to
them. If it all comes to nothing at least we can say we were a
band that signed a record deal and put some albums out.”
He continues: “From an external point of view, I think people
started taking us more seriously when we started going on tour
and selling out shows in Liverpool, London and Glasgow, as well
as shows at festivals like Glastonbury.”
The chance to play for the Worthy Farm crowd clearly stands
out. “When people talk about the buzz you get when you come
off stage, I felt exactly like that at Glastonbury. We had so long
to build it up in our own heads. While we were on stage I was
like, ‘This is Glastonbury! This is Glastonbury!’, but then when we
came off stage it was like, ‘We did well there, didn’t we? We’ve
just done Glastonbury!’ It really was a pinch me moment at the
time, but afterwards it was a chin up-chest out moment.” I saw
their Glastonbury performance and can confirm, yes, it was a hell
of a show.
There are still elements of those early rock ’n’ roll days, but
now it’s all about the live performance. If you’re still to sample a
Red Rum Club show, I’d highly recommend making it one of the
first you go to when live music returns. Their festival vibe, highenergy
performances are a true antidote, a shot of escapism.
From start to finish Fran holds the audience in the palm of his
hand, at the beck and call of their songs’ anthemic nature. From
the experimental and more personal tones of Matador to the
mature and self-assured, festival-pleasing tracks on The Hollow
Of Humdrum, the lads have all the attributes worthy of the
“We didn’t want to restrict ourselves on Matador,” says Fran,
“we were just six lads in a band and we recorded it like that. For
the second, we were very experimental because we didn’t want
to be one thing live and be another thing on the record.” So much
of their recording seems to clutch for the fevered energy of the
live shows. “As our live sound grew and we became a pretty
seasoned touring band playing some big stages, we walked
into the studio for The Hollow Of Humdrum knowing we were
worthy to be on these big stages at Glastonbury or the Isle Of
Wight Festival. We had that idea in our heads and were like,
‘Right, let’s make a big sound, big songs and not be hesitant to
become more than just six lads in a band’.”
With tracks such as The Elevation, a love song for the
blue tick generation longing for a reply on WhatsApp, Vivo,
a discussion about being working class Northern lads, and
Ballerino, a Billy Elliot-esque social commentary of toxic
masculinity, the new tracks owe themselves to a more mature
way of thinking. But they don’t fail to bring the party.
Speaking of parties, there is no doubt their headlining slot at
Liverpool Sound City in May 2021 is going to be just that as they
close the festival on the Sunday night. “I can’t stop looking at the
top of the poster,” Fran exclaims, “naturally I always go to the
small print at the bottom.” It’s clearly a proud moment for a band
that will have spent many years on the other side of the stage
at the festival. “There’s milestones from a musician’s point of
view and I think, by headlining Liverpool Sound City, we can say
we weren’t just a flash in the pan, we did something and meant
something to the city.”
Fran is incredibly humble when we get onto the subject of
the band’s current popularity at home, noting how their fans are
more like a community, or a ‘club’. “Liverpool is such a tight knit
city, when people come up to me and say they love our stuff
it feels like we’re mates then,” he explains. “That person who
listens, buys the album, who stops me in the street, they’ve got
just as much say in what Red Rum Club is and where we go.”
Where they do go from here is the big question. Having achieved
so much over the years, anything seems possible at the moment.
“The blinkers are off,” Fran replies. “We feel like this is a
career now. Rather than think about tomorrow, or the next single,
we can think about the next two years and the next four tours.”
With single Eleanor being picked up by BBC Radio 2, a UK tour
starting in February (we hope), their second album bearing down
on the top 40 and a headlining slot at a hometown festival, Red
Rum Club have proven they are anything but humdrum. !
Words: Sophie Shields
Illustration: Nicholas Daly / @nickdalyart
The Hollow Of Humdrum is available now via Modern Sky.
On Record – Untold & Retold festival takes over the Philharmonic Hall in October for a live streamed
showcase highlighting the continuing black contribution to Liverpool music and culture. Two of the most
successful groups the city has produced, The Real Thing and MiC LOWRY, will both perform on the night.
Ahead of the showcase, Richard Lewis sits down with Chris Amoo and Ben Sharples to talk about the past,
present and future of black representation in Liverpool’s musical landscape.
Subject of the highly acclaimed documentary
Everything that recently aired on BBC Four, Liverpool
soul legends THE REAL THING are finally getting the
recognition they’re long overdue. Their classic era
line-up of Chris and Eddie Amoo, Dave Smith and Ray Lake –
with the exception of post-Beatles solo projects – were the city’s
sole flag bearers on the singles and albums chart throughout the
1970s. You To Me Are Everything, which has sold upwards of
half a million copies in the UK alone, has been a radio staple ever
since. The follow up Can’t Get By Without You landed at number
two the same year and Can You Feel
The Force? secured a silver disc in
Wrapped in a sleeve that
features the group stood on Upper
Stanhope Street backed by a
montage of their home suburb, 4
From 8 has been compared by critics
to Marvin Gaye’s landmark 1971
LP What’s Goin’ On. Its centrepiece
Liverpool 8 Medley features the
stunning Children Of The Ghetto,
covered by luminaries such as Mary J.
Blige, Earth, Wind And Fire alumnus
Philip Bailey and UK jazz legend
Courtney Pine, along with being
sampled a score of times over the
Fast forward a few decades and vocal harmony group
MiC LOWRY occupy a similar space. Formed by schoolfriends
Delleile Ankrah, Kaine Ofoeme, Michael Welch and Ben Sharples
in 2011, the band have become a flagship group for black
Liverpool music in much the same way. Their biggest show to
date saw them supporting US pop stalwarts Backstreet Boys at
Manchester Arena last summer, while their most recent Liverpool
gig last November saw a queue winding round outside of Arts
Club several hours before showtime.
With the two bands appearing at On Record – Untold &
Retold festival in October, we arranged a chat between Real
Thing lead vocalist Chris Amoo and MiC LOWRY’s Ben Sharples
to compare notes on the experience for the past, present and
future black musicians in Liverpool and the UK at large today.
“The main place we used to rehearse was in my living room,
basically all our equipment was a record player and a piano,”
Chris says of The Real Thing’s earliest manoeuvres. “We used
to put the records on and sing over them, that’s how we learnt
harmonies. For a whole year after work, every single evening
we’d practice and go through our parts. If you weren’t there
and you didn’t show up, you got fined! There were not dreams
of record deals, we just wanted to get onstage and perform. As
things progressed, we rehearsed at a youth club, Stanley House.”
The social club and community centre on Upper Parliament
Street was one of a score of L8 clubs dotted around Parliament
Street and Princes Avenue in the 1960s and 70s. “We lined
brushes up in the room and pretend they were microphones
and we were onstage,” recalls Chris. “It was difficult to get
places to rehearse, we needed that much cos we didn’t have
instruments. As we started to move on, if Stanley House held a
ball they would allow you to bring musicians in. That was in L8,
everything was L8, we didn’t go out of it,” Chris emphasises.
The community aspect of a social hub has strong echoes
decades later. Growing out of community choir Positive Impact
founded by future band manager Barbara Philips, MiC LOWRY
also began their journey in Toxteth. “There are so many
similarities there,” Ben nods. “Barbara used to run Positive
Impact at the Methodist Centre, also down in Toxteth. And if you
were young and wanted to get into music, dance or drama, that
was the place to go. It was brilliant singing in there, sonically, cos
of the room reverb.”
“Can you see the pattern between the two generations?”
Chris smiles. “It’s basically the same. We started singing
together when we were at school, we rehearsed in the Methodist
Church as well.”
“I think people like the fact that we grew up together,” Ben
states. “When we were coming up there were a lot of these big
X Factor bands, [so] I think, like, we seemed a bit more real and
Chris’ late brother, Eddie, eight years his senior, was a member
of ground-breaking a cappella group The Chants in the 1960s, who
backed The Beatles at several dates. The Real Thing benefited from
Eddie’s industry experience with The Chants; similarly, MiC LOWRY
were mentored by fellow Scouser Esco Williams.
“Esco used to run a vocal workshop which was open to
everyone, it was free to go along,” Ben recalls. “He brought a lot
“I can see things
about it in the
next five years”
of industry experience. He was a big influence musically as well
as helping us move up the ladder.”
“Initially when we started off, due to Barbara’s connections,
if an event needed music, she’d make sure we got on the bill,”
Ben adds. “One of the first gigs was at the Brouhaha Festival
in Princes Park. After a few years we started to do school tours
which was great, you’d head up and down the country. That was
the first time we’d done an actual tour with consistent dates.
That was a big help that experience.”
Winding back several decades, The Real Thing began
to make inroads into the city’s
clubs. “When we got an agent we
started playing outside of Toxteth
in places like the Mardi Gras on
Mount Pleasant, which was run by
[former BBC Radio Merseyside DJ]
Billy Butler. That was the only club
in Liverpool back then where all the
American soul acts would play. To
get in there was amazing.”
An avenue that many musicians
based outside the capital consider at
some point is whether to move down
to London, the allure of being in the
Big Smoke the same now as it was
in the 1970s.
“When we started speaking,
not many people expected a Scouse
accent. A lot of people tend to think we’re American, and if we’re
British they assume from London,” Ben explains. “There’s always
the question of moving down there, like, when people get to a
certain level that’s the done thing. We battled that for a little
while and it’s in the back of your mind whether it’s something
you should do. When we were coming up, the scene in Liverpool
back then was indie, guitar-based bands. When we were trying
to get on bills, there wasn’t really the appetite or the audience
for it. When we started to build a foundation and grow, we
could put on bigger shows in London than Liverpool, which was
strange for us.
“Liverpool’s a small place and everyone kinda knows
each other. We’d go to London and we’d be a new thing,
whereas we’d play Liverpool and it’d be like, ‘Oh, yeh, I went to
Calderstones with one of those guys’. There’s not the same kind
of excitement cos people think they know you.”
“Basically it’s just as Ben said, he’s taken the words out of
my mouth,” Chris, who still has strong connections to L8, states.
“The difference is, when we came up there wasn’t anybody else
apart from Eddie’s band The Chants. People certainly thought
we were from America, we still get that even now, occasionally.
London was the hub, that’s where our management was. If
we wanted to do anything, it meant getting down to London,
whether it was Top Of The Pops, Radio One. I know that I
could’ve done a lot more collaborations with a lot more artists
had I been living in London. When you’re not living down there
you’re sort of off the radar, it’s a scene going on down there.
“I’ve never wanted to move to London, none of us did,” Chris
concedes. “Our manager advised us on many occasions to move
down. We never wanted to. Liverpool’s our home. Even if it’s the
case, like Ben says, of ‘Oh, they’re the guys from down the road’.
When you make it, it’s even stronger. It’s a case of [proudly],
‘They’re the guys from our city!’”
A huge question to tackle, but do you feel that black music
from Liverpool now gets the recognition and kudos it deserves?
“No,” Chris says, sadly. “Same answer,” Ben adds. “As Chris
was saying, there are people even now who don’t know The Real
Thing are Scousers. As soon as you say you’re from Liverpool,
people say it’s got such as great history and music heritage,
but not a lot of it is dedicated to black music. It’s strange when
you’ve got The Chants, The Real Thing, The Christians, there
are so many amazing artists and groups who’ve come out of
“It’s not really renowned for soul music, really never has
been,” Chris ruminates. “Liverpool’s more of a rock-oriented
city, musically. There aren’t a lot of openings for black music in
Liverpool itself. Which isn’t to say there aren’t any and you can’t
do it, cos you can. But it’s a lot more difficult.”
“I have a feeling that there will be some kind of breakthrough
in the next five to 10 years,” Ben opines. “I think, when you look
at – and I hate this term – ‘urban music’ is always associated
with London. But if you look in the last five years or so, it’s
stretched out to Birmingham and Manchester. You see a lot of
black artists from those cities absolutely smashing it now. That
wasn’t the case before. If you said you were from Manchester,
everyone would associate you with an indie band. The scene’s
developed more. I can see things bubbling in Liverpool where
there might be a moment for that soon. I’m feeling confident
about it in the next five years, definitely. There’s Culture Deck in
Liverpool now. Their event at 24 Kitchen Street sold out, which
is amazing. Five years ago I couldn’t picture that.” Culture Deck
is one of a handful of emerging media collectives that give a
platform for emerging rap, hip hop, grime and RnB acts in the
“It was only when we got a manger like Tony Hall, who was
probably one of the most respected people in black music at
that time,” adds Chris, “that we noticed a change in reception.
Hall had handled Jimi Hendrix’s UK promotion in the late 1960s.
Because of the respect he had, DJ and industry people started to
judge us on our own level, they started giving us a chance.”
“There was only Radio One – if you didn’t get on that station
you didn’t have a hit record,” he adds. “They had to cater to
everyone, there were only so many soul records played per
show. If The O’Jays, Stevie Wonder and The Stylistics had a
record out the same week, they’re gonna get priority. It was
the same thing with Top Of The Pops, they’re not gonna have a
show dominated by black music, they’d have Abba, Slade and
Paul McCartney on. That was what we had to come up against
and we did it thankfully cos we had a great manager. We had a
bit of talent as well…”
“It’s a weird one with radio,” Ben replies. “When we first got
signed we had a record out which was quite poppy, it wasn’t
one of our more soulful ones. We took it to radio and there was
the thing of, you need to go through urban radio in the States
first, before you get to the pop one. Even though it’s the same
track, the same record. Sometimes it can be frustrating when
black artists can get limited to certain stations which wouldn’t
have the same reach. These days, though, I don’t think radio is as
important cos you’ve got all the streaming platforms, which gives
people the power. Like Chris was saying about playlist meetings
where a group of people make a decision over what gets heard,
with Spotify people have the power, cos if our song’s out there
and people are listening to it, they’ll look at the algorithms and
go, ‘People like this, let’s put it on that playlist’. It becomes less
about someone’s personal decision and more about what people
like listening to, so that’s a big help.”
“You can put music out there yourself now, you’re not relying
on anyone else. If you’ve got something you believe in, you can
get it out there and get in touch with people,” Chris nods.
Throughout the conversation, there are distinct notes of
progress over the 40 years that separated the two group’s
careers – before continuing on in tandem. But what’s more telling
are the systemic limitations and perceptions that have remained,
both in Liverpool and across the UK. It shows we’re far from an
end goal where artistry can speak for itself, free from prejudice.
However, there’s a sense the tide is changing again for the
better, as we begin to round off the conversation. Similar to
Ben’s point about London becoming decentralised, the music
of Liverpool’s black artists is no longer restricted to L8 or token
support slots, with more and more artists applying their craft at
the top of the bill on stages in the Baltic Triangle and city centre.
Though it must be stressed there is further this inclusiveness and
representation can go, with guitar music still the dominant offer.
Equally, in tandem as technology has improved, the nature of
industry gatekeepers has changed, with power less concentrated
in the hands of a select few nowadays. As Ben notes, popularity
can speak for itself and artists have a stronger level of control in
writing their own futures.
As we conclude the conversation, we return to the recent
documentary, Everything. A scene sees Chris explain how he
has altered the lyric from Children Of The Ghetto when singing
live. From: “There’s no inspiration / To brighten up their day” to
“There’s some inspiration”.
Put simply then, do you feel the situation has improved since
the release of 4 From 8 in 1977? “On a worldwide level, there’s
a lot of inspiration around now for aspiring black artists,” Chris
states emphatically. “The world’s your oyster.” !
Words: Richard Lewis
Photography: Callum Mills (MiC LOWRY) / Courtesy of The Real
The Real Thing and MiC LOWRY will appear at the On Record –
Untold & Retold showcase live streamed from the Philharmonic
Hall on 23rd October. limfestival.com/onrecord
A new exhibition part of On Record – Untold & Retold will celebrate key figures of black music in Liverpool and
their contribution to the foundations of the city’s culture. Curated and photographed by Anthony Wilde, the
exhibition is characterised by the photographer’s deftness for capturing moments of change and transition.
Before ANTHONY WILDE started taking photographs
four years ago, he knew there was a particular depth
to his vision. On an old iPhone 4, he recalls reams of
incidental photos scattered throughout the timeline of
the camera role. An unassuming collection to the untrained eye.
But to his own, the photos revealed themselves as a delicate
jigsaw of messages and moments waiting to be connected.
“I’ve always been looking for something that stood out,
something extraordinary,” he says over the phone, thinking back
to the years before a lens became permanently attached to his hip.
“I found something extraordinary in the simplicity [of the photos].
It could be in anything. I always had a way of looking at things
different, [so] I always wanted to document, see if there was
anything in the moment at all.”
Once a camera was in hand it became an entirely new way
of seeing. The camera added an unrushed aspect to his process,
with new levels of intricacy and momentary energy – equally,
an added influence to share his art. “I’m always developing and
learning when I pick up the camera, studying the frame. It reveals
what happens in a moment,” he replies slowly, considering the
magnitude of the subjects and scenes he’s trained his camera on
over the last four years. “Not always great or beautiful, but always
something worth saying,” he rounds off in an effortlessly profound
It’s these ‘moments’ which Anthony notes – the ability to
extract a pristine singular freeze-frame from a life continuously
on fast-forward – that have typified his work as a photographer.
A process that converts the camera into a microscope, the finite
details of society gently lit under its backlight. It is a consideration
and precision echoed in the creation of his Evolving + Nostalgia
Over three issues, the zines have drawn a focus on creative
development and emerging voices in a “new generational attitude
to change”. The third issue was released back in August and
focused on the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and the
personal, unique stories of those taking a stand.
“Every zine I’ve produced is
never what I intended it to be at
the beginning. Over the period of
me making it, it shifts, evolves and
changes,” he says of his usual process
of planning and beginning to document.
“Within in a few days of me starting the
third one, things shifted completely.”
Following the murder of George
Floyd in May, a wave of worldwide
protest barrelled into the streets of
Liverpool. At St George’s Hall, where
Anthony spoke at the first of two
protests, the atmosphere was charged
and committed. Rightly so for city with
a strong colonial history and systemic
racial tensions stemming from the 1980s, of which embers are
still yet to go out. “We were in the midst of a storm,” comments
Anthony, “you can sense the impact of everything that’s
happening, but you can’t let that grasp a hold of you because
it will influence how you document a particular moment.” With
the camera in hand he’s committed to playing the narrator rather
“If it wasn’t for
these people, the
be as rich as what
it is today”
than director or composer. It’s this careful separation that gives
breathing room to his subjects and stories.
The resulting zine confronts the defining narratives of the
protests, but it translates the deeply personal experiences
of each subject. The responses documented in the work are
far from homogenised, or as simple as black or white. “Every
individual had vastly different experience,” replies Anthony.
“You can put it under the same
umbrella – racism, colonialism,
oppression, marginalisation within
our communities – but each person
is vastly different in their experience.
I was learning from a whole array of
different people through the whole
process of putting it together. I still
Alongside his original
photography, the zines have
been characterised by Anthony’s
unwavering prose. It’s a symbiosis that
is staunchly compelling. The words
and images seem to combine in a way
as if to finish one another’s sentence
on the page. Similar to the photography, it’s an attribute that’s
revealed through considered process. “I enjoy writing, but it just
happens [when writing captions] for the photos. It’s not a case
of, ‘I’ve taken a photograph, I must write something about it’. It
might sit with me for a few months and eventually I’ll interpret
it in the way I see, the way it makes me feel,” he says. “It’s just
as important as the image. They’ll work with one another for
whoever is viewing it.”
Cliché suggests a picture paints a thousand words, but
to Anthony the added context means the message “cuts a lot
deeper”, with “more gravity”. “They’re both ingredients to what
I’m creating,” he continues. However, there’s never a knee-jerk
response to draw out conclusions. “I need to let the image sit with
me, also the text. Then, I don’t know when, or how, it’ll come to
me. I’ll make sense of it. The whole process is making sense of
what I’ve taken.” It’s a process as organic as the subtle frames
of existence pulled into view by his camera. “You need to let the
photograph sit,” he adds, “then when you look through it again,
I see minor details that turn the photo on its head and change
Next month, Anthony’s work will become more familiar to
Liverpool’s consciousness through the Champion One, Champion
All! exhibition which will feature as part of On Record – Untold
& Retold festival. Similar to his process of mining the density
in passing moments of change, the exhibition will display 31
portraits celebrating key figures of black music in Liverpool and
the contemporary scene – two strands which form an integral
foundation of Liverpool’s past, present and future cultural landscape.
“It’s celebrating people, people in our community,” he says,
“and if it wasn’t for these people, the community wouldn’t be as
rich as what it is today.”
The exhibition, to be housed at Museum Of Liverpool, takes
in musicians, artists, promoters, venue owners and community
facilitators. The diversity of those featured aims to challenge
the homogenised view of black music – too often an expansive
grouping that denies the individual merit of its intricacies. Equally,
one that speaks for the music in a way that is not reflected in the
myriad of genres that reside outside of the banner of ‘white music’.
In Liverpool alone, it’s a perception that still needs breaking down.
“We’re all so unique and delicate. It’s [about] being able to be
the individual, be the person you are without all of the attachments
and the bias,” says Anthony. “Trying to categorise, trying to
categorise a people. This exhibition will disperse that way of
thinking. When you see the images in the exhibition and you hear
from the people and what it is that they’re doing, you’ll see how
each individual has made a tremendous contribution.”
In Anthony’s own distinct way, the photos extract 31
moments still in motion, from those who’ve set the foundations,
to those who’ve built the city’s future on top. “Black music is the
most inclusive genre. It’s inclusive of all melodies. It’s within our
culture. It’s within British culture,” he concludes. “It isn’t a colour,
it’s culture. It’s more important than ever to put on an exhibition
that is highlighting that.” !
Words: Elliot Ryder
Photography: Anthony Wilde / @en.official_
Photos from left to right: Kof, Mia Thornton and Rachel Duncan
- Go Off, Sis!, Ioan Roberts and Saad Shaffi - 24 Kitchen Street,
Kadeem France - Loathe, Koj, Pelumi, Jennifer John.
Champion One, Champion All! runs at Museum Of Liverpool from
9th to 23rd November.
The sound of this city isn’t defined by one aspect
of colour or ethnicity. However, we listen and
savour the tones that have contributed to the
steeple that has helped engrave an essence in our
city’s identity, partnered by those of black heritage
Liverpool breaks tradition and follows only the
determined; the determined to understand, the
determined to create, the purposeful will be
spirited. Music and sounds hand us as people that
first ripple in what can be our ocean if we choose
to see what has yet been unrecognised. New
creators in music are emerging everyday within
Liverpool, ethnically together; communicating
a dialogue that encourages and unify traditions
while emerging sounds make way for the path
we are now on. This collection of individuals here
inside The Museum Of Liverpool display a sense of
feeling, the city has been missing.
This is no doubt a celebration of what we have
created and contributed to the centre of where
black music has as rich a space as anywhere in the
Champion one, champion all.
that tries to
The Queen Of Heartbreak opens
up about her colourful artistry,
charity shop gowns and silly sense
What began as a means to make back the money lost from a
withdrawn university scholarship for EVE HOWLETT (the result
of a streaking session in her first year of studies) has now fully
bloomed into a career as a life model, poet, wardrobe designer
As a member of The Secret Circus, Eve performed at an Alice
In Wonderland themed event as an anti-love poet. And so, The
Queen Of Heartbreak was born. She is charming, quick-witted
and just a little daft. “Pardon my alliteration,” she laughs, “but
my performance poetry is piled high with puns and punchlines –
Combining all of her creative endeavours, Howlett is a unique
and fabulous artist emerging in Liverpool. “I would describe
myself as an over-the-top colourful creative,” she says, “who has
fingers in far too many pies and a wig collection so big, they’re
arguing over who gets teased the most.” Her style, inspired by
her parents’ fancy dress shop and whatever “diamond bargains”
she can find at a car boot sale, is consistently quirky, bold and
joyful. Performing at events such as Eat Me + Preach and A
Lovely Word, Howlett showcases her fantastic handmade
wardrobe with heels and eyelashes that could make RuPaul gag
Howlett’s poetry is packed with hilarity and a jovial need
to enjoy life. “I usually find some small spark,” she explains, “a
fleeting funny moment, like a pigeon flying into my room or
something, and I blurt out a poem. Or, I’ll take something that
pisses me off and turn it something comedic to take the power
away from it. I’ve always looked for the joke in everything, to
make myself laugh even if no one else is.”
At a time where we could all use a few more laughs, Howlett
is coming into the spotlight with an ability to not be consumed
by the anxiety pressing down on all of us. Reflecting on these
uncertain times Howlett shares: “Years of financial anxiety
prepared me for the pandemic.” She further explains: “Being
self-employed and freelance since university, I think I’d got used
to having to be adaptable when you don’t know where the next
pay check is coming from.” Although naturally an unsettling time,
Howlett acknowledges some positives taken from lockdown.
“Having a lot of time on my hands suddenly did give me the time
and space to develop The Queen Of Heartbreak as opposed to
doing a half-arsed, last-minute version of my original vision like I
had done in the past. Being able to connect with people around
the world and perform for events I would never be able to is a
massive silver lining.”
Her artistic career so far is packed with wild and wonderful
adventures, with her experiences as a life model sparking a lot
of joy and laughter for both Howlett and her fellow artists. “I’ve
been talked into all kinds of mad stuff,” she reflects playfully,
“like walking around in nothing but wellies filled with ink and
water, pose on a trapeze, dance to YMCA and pretend to cook
cardboard carrots in a cardboard pan.” As silly and wacky
as these experiences have been, life modelling has been an
enriching time for Howlett over the years. “After spending hours
on end with nothing but yourself for company you have no choice
but to experience every thought and feeling and, literally, sit with
it,” she explains. “These are usually the times that I have time to
think about creative ideas, write poems and think about what
costume I’m going to wear next.”
Howlett has no intention of slowing down with plans of
releasing her own poetry book and a Queen Of Heartbreak
vajazzle collection. With a resolute ambition to constantly do
things her way, Howlett is sure to continue on her path as an
original, authentic artist. “The way I write my poems, the way I do
my make-up, the outfits I put together, it’s rarely by consciously
following influences,” she explains. “I’ve always been someone
who just does whatever they feel is right.” Inspired by herself,
Howlett is an ambassador for people speaking their own truth.
“I’m not sure I ever grew out of doing everything my own way,”
she says, and we hope she never does.
During a time of uncertainty where the worth of the arts has
been called into question, Howlett reminds us that we are not as
fragile as we may sometimes feel. “If you feel you have a bit to
give, share the work of other artists, buy from independents and
creatives, see if you can skill swap, see if you can collaborate,”
she says. “And protest anything that tries to undermine the
importance of creativity.” Howlett reminds us that we are not
alone, we are valued and we matter. Our worth does not lie in
the opinion of others and our validation comes only from within
ourselves. She continues to encourage us to trust what our gut is
urging us to do, and to smile while we are doing it. !
Words: Mary Olive / @maryolivepoet
Photography: Mark Lycett
Eve Howlett’s work will be displayed at 92 Degrees Coffee as
part of Liverpool Nude 2 exhibition. Now extended until 31st
Fin Power wades in on the postpunk
band’s relentless drive to
share their message at full volume.
“I wanted people to
listen to everything
I said and feel
exactly what I am
If you had to describe your music in a sentence, what would
Knowledge, anger and tales of drunken mishaps straight from the
bottom of the bottle.
How did you get into music?
For me it was watching videos of David Bowie as a kid and
knowing there and then that it was what I wanted to do. I would
just think in my childhood brain, ‘I wanna do that’. When I was
younger, I drew a lot and wrote comics. This all then led to
turning 15 and starting The Bohos. Suppose, looking back, we
may as well have been an Oasis cover band.
Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of music that initially
Leave It Out is when I realised why I loved to write. I realised that
I wanted my message to be heard. I wanted people to listen to
everything I said and feel exactly what I am going through.
Do you have a favourite song or piece of music to perform?
What does it say about you?
Again, Leave it Out. The track is a genuine wall of sound and
it was the first track I wrote with a spoken word flow. It’s an
authentic snapshot of what I was thinking and feeling at that
point in my life.
If you could support any artist in the future, who would it be?
The band might disagree, but I would probably want to support
an early 2000s powerhouse, like Arctic Monkeys or The Strokes.
What do you think is the overriding influence on your
songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a mixture
of all of these?
The band’s influence comes from a need to be heard. Music-wise,
we are heavily inspired by old school hip hop and post-punk. We
tend to blend aspects of both to create our own thing. Ideologywise
I guess I’m inspired by the 21st Century, you know, social
media and all that.
Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed in? If so, what
makes it special?
Me and the band love The Zanzibar, it’s a venue we have all
come through and all owe a lot to. Playing the Zanzi was a rite
of passage for any Liverpool band and we are truly sad to see it
Why is music important to you?
I’m often asked, ‘Why are you in a band? Is it to play music or for
people to hear my message?’ I think it must be a mixture, because
I thrive off both. The band and I love to perform and that’s
the main thing. A big thing for me is hearing everything come
together and knowing that it’s 100 per cent doing our message
Stay Silent is available now.
The acoustic singer-songwriter underscores his creative
inspiration and the importance of music and the arts.
Have you always wanted to create music?
I got into listening to different music from a young age, every
Christmas and birthday I would ask my family to get me Pink
Floyd and Beatles albums. I would spend my paper round money
on CDs by artists like Bob Dylan and
Neil Young. I started playing when I was
around 10 or 11 years old after my dad
got me guitar lessons.
If you had to describe your style in a
sentence, what would you say?
My music is a melting pot of various
styles and influences, including country,
folk, blues, pop and reggae. I listen to
different styles of music and like to keep
it fresh for myself and for the listener.
If you could support any artist in the
future, who would it be?
The Rolling Stones because they still put
on a boss show and I’ve always wanted
to be fly on the wall in their dressing room.
“Music and arts are
a crucial part of all
our lives, crucial
on a physical and
What do you think is the overriding influence on your
songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a mixture
of all of these?
The songs can be influenced by anything, whether it be a certain
emotion, a story, or conversations I’ve
had. It can be dreams, nightmares or
Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of
music that initially inspired you?
I remember the first time I got one of
them old MP3 players for Christmas, I
uploaded Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix
onto it and listened to it through
headphones for the first time and it
completely blew my head clean off!
Do you have a favourite venue you’ve
I loved playing in the Olympia last
year as part of a BOSS Night. It is the
second biggest venue in the city behind the arena, the building is
amazing inside and there is so much history in there.
Do you have a favourite song or piece of music to perform?
What does it say about you?
My latest single The Life I Left Behind it is pretty relevant to my
life right now. It’s about moving on to better things and pushing
through difficult times in general, whatever they may be. If I’m
feeling down or negative, this song gives me hope, and I hope it
can inspire others when they listen to it.
Why is music important to you?
Music isn’t just important to me, it is important to everyone. Even
If you don’t know it, music and arts are a crucial part of all our
lives, crucial on a physical and emotional level. To the numbercrunching
Tory politicians trying to do away with the arts and
music it is one of life’s great natural mediums accessible to
everybody. I think it will be impossible to suppress.
Photography: John Johnson / @John.Johno
The Life I Left Behind is out now via Nifty Records.
“Transition was nothing
less than alchemy. I
am so blessed and
privileged to have made
peace with a body I
once waged war with”
Homotopia – 29/10-15/11
Award-winning artist, filmmaker and campaigner discusses
their artistry and upcoming residency at Homotopia festival.
Homotopia’s arts and culture fest returns to Liverpool
with a programme promising its unique blend of
queer performance, visual art and new voices across
the transgender spectrum. Celebrated annually since
2004, the UK’s longest-running LGBTQIA arts and culture
festival will this year invite award-winning filmmaker and trans
rights campaigner, FOX FISHER, to be their artist in residence.
Fisher will take part in a number of workshops, collaborative
artwork events and a curated screening of My Genderation – a
film project co-founded with Lewis Hancox celebrating the trans
experience – followed by a discussion on trans life in the UK.
Ahead of Fisher’s highly anticipated residency, we caught
up with them to discuss the current transgender landscape,
representation in the media and what they have planned for the
16th arts and culture fest.
You were invited to design the artwork for Brighton Pride 2020,
an event which took place online for the first time in its history.
How did its taking place online affect the event?
As an awkward teen, my first ever Pride was Brighton Pride, so
it meant so much to be asked to create the illustrations for this
year’s event. I have to admit, I was disappointed to not see the
illustrations put to use around the park, which is always so lively.
It’s been a strange year for Pride. I was involved with so many
online panels and events (including Brighton Pride) that I still
managed to experience the annual Pride season burnout.
For the past few months, the digital sphere has certainly
become something of a refuge for those struggling
with isolation. Has this greater dependency on global
interconnectedness and the availability of social media
transformed how trans people make sense of their identity?
It certainly has. Although trans people have always existed, the
internet is invaluable for trans people to recognise who we are.
This is through creating profiles that match who we feel to be,
and by having access to chatrooms on trans topics, and YouTube
vlogs made by trans people sharing every part of the process of a
social and medical transition. When I was starting my transition,
and for many years before, I would feast off of trans vlogs that
documented people’s medical transitions. I would particularly seek
out those who were a bit similar to myself in stature, to see how I
might look after taking testosterone for a while.
Gaming also attracts a lot of trans people to create characters
more fitting to who they are and recently we’ve been treated
to the video game Tell Me Why, where one of the two main
characters is a trans man.
How have conversations and the greater transgender landscape
changed since My Transsexual Summer back in 2011? Are we
still waiting for language to keep up with conceptualisations of
When I came out as trans back in 2011, I knew I was coming
out to a world that didn’t fully understand trans issues. A lot has
happened since then and, while we’ve definitely moved forwards
in terms of public understanding, we still have a long way to go.
Many of us felt that 2015 was a tipping point for trans rights,
with Laverne Cox on the front cover of Time magazine, but I don’t
think it’s quite happened yet. In the past five years there has
been a really harmful and visceral media campaign against trans
people, with many of the current attacks focused on young trans
people and their access to puberty blockers (which are life-saving
and simply press pause on the wrong puberty) or trans people’s
access to spaces and services that they need.
We’ve also seen influential writers and figures speak out against
trans rights and there is still a huge gap in people’s understanding
of what it means to be trans and what we need to be safe in
society. In recent years there have been more conversations about
being non-binary, albeit sometimes at an absurd level, like when
my partner and I were grilled for 15 minutes by Piers Morgan on
live morning television.
Seeing my comrade Munroe Bergdorf on the front cover of Time
magazine this month ignites hope again.
Your experiences on My Transsexual Summer inspired you to
further explore and shed more light on the (often neglected)
experiences of trans people. As you continue to grow and
develop greater understanding about your own identity, has
anything surprised you about yourself?
I think the past years have definitely given me time to learn new
things about myself and explore what it really means to be me.
I first came out as trans at the same time I took part in the My
Trans Summer series and C4 wasn’t ready for me to talk about
being non-binary. In recent years, the conversation has opened
up to what it is to be non-binary. Non-binary people have seen
resistance and prejudice, even from within the trans community.
I spent a long time trying to be someone I wasn’t, constantly
trying to fit in and find some sort of peace. But coming out as
trans has really given me that peace of mind and I’ve been able to
really get to know myself and let everyone else get to know me.
I guess my biggest surprise was that I’ve managed to achieve so
much, to catch up for lost time, and that’s a direct result of being
able to be myself.
As an advisor to All About Trans, you help with representations
of transgender people within the media. Could you tell us a little
more about this role?
All About Trans is a project run by the charity On Road Media,
and it centres around creating a more positive portrayal for trans
people in the media and beyond. Through my work with AAT I
have been a part of many interactions, where we bring a group
of trans people to meet a group of journalists (or staff) and spend
the day together to learn more about trans issues in the media.
We’ve visited most major platforms in the country, including The
Guardian, [The S*n], The Daily Mail, BBC, daytime TV series, ITV
and more. We’ve also been working with publishing companies
like Hachette, so we reach a wide audience. What makes AAT
so powerful is that we create an environment where journalists
or staff can really connect to trans people on a human level and
we can have honest, positive and constructive conversations,
where they get a chance to learn from us. The impact has been
huge and continues to be, including positive media stories, more
accurate storylines on major TV series and a lot of connectivity
and education from behind the scenes.
The value of truth as the bedrock of civic society is currently
being undermined and devalued across the world. For you, what
does the next few years look like in terms of combatting fake
news to ensure the experiences and validity of transgender
people are heard in the media, social media, etc?
I think one of the biggest dangers of fake news is that it is often
used to incite hatred against minorities to divert away from
real issues where our rights and liberty are being taken away.
I think one of the biggest ways to combat that is to elevate trans
people to tell their own stories, as most people learn about trans
people from people who aren’t trans. This leaves a lot of room for
disinformation to be spread and for people to get it wrong.
This is why it’s so important for trans people to be ‘in the room’
for content creation and relaying information. We need to see
more trans people as news presenters, as directors, writers and
producers, and in visible positions. We need people to understand
that trans people are people you meet in real life, and we aren’t
just an isolated group of people that doesn’t partake in society.
We are your colleagues, your children’s teachers, your social
workers, your NHS staff, your friends, your family.
People need to be able to think for themselves a bit more and be
critical of the information they are receiving online. I think a huge
amount of work needs to be put into combatting this with real
stories of real people.
We’re looking forward to you being artist in residence at this
year’s Homotopia, the theme of which is Show Your Working.
What were your immediate thoughts on this theme and how
did you go about designing your elements of the programme?
As you can imagine, the theme for Homotopia changed and
evolved as this unusual year progressed. I think Show Your
Working is apt because activism can show someone’s stance on a
topic but there needs to be an action point or initiative. Otherwise
it risks being seen as slacktivism.
We need people to be visible in their support. We’re essentially
asking people to show their receipts, by asking what people are
actually doing to help people who are being discriminated against
or targeted because of their gender identity, gender expression
or sexuality. Now is the time to speak up because simply being
passive or quiet about it is negligent and potentially damaging.
This idea of not claiming to know the answer but showing you
have a plan is intriguing. Your voice and identity shines through
your screen printing; how can ideas of gender and art work
together to create a shared commonality among those who
feel at the fringes of the UK’s creative culture?
For me, transition was nothing less than alchemy. I am so
blessed and privileged to have made peace with a body I once
waged war with. My art is a reflection of that, where I am able
to express what it is to be a human being with a variety of
intersections, particularly being brown, queer, trans masculine
I think art is one of the most powerful tools we have, and it can
pave change and raise awareness of different issues, whether
that’s art that is directly political and challenging, or even if it’s
art pieces created by someone who has a voice. Art can really
connect people from such different backgrounds, and I am
always really excited to see people turn their experiences into
something so powerful as art. !
Words: Matthew Berks / @hewniverse_
As well as being this year’s artist in residence, Fox Fisher
is taking part in three Homotopia events: Transtopia on
6th November, My Genderation on 7th and Fox Fisher In
Conversation on 8th.
yuppies music presents
the musicians’ art show
tickets available from:
BEX BURCH (VULA VIEL)
night flight ‘CATE LE BON
FRÀNÇOIS & THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS
THIS IS THE KIT
YUMI AND THE WEATHER
BIRKENHEAD: future yard NOV 12th-15th
- UNTOLD &
Various venues - 23/10-23/11
The sprawling programme for the inaugural On Record:
Untold & Retold festival begins with a streamed launch
event from the Philharmonic Hall. Liverpool legends THE
CHRISTIANS and THE REAL THING will perform sets
along with contemporaries MIC LOWRY and JENNIFER JOHN
and the SENSE OF SOUND SINGERS before a panel discussion
on restoring the contribution of black music to our heritage. The
event sets the tone for a varied programme which aims to explore
Liverpool’s black music history and shine a light on overlooked
aspects to bring key artists, movements and places to the fore.
Anthony Wilde’s Champion One! Champion All! exhibition runs at
the Museum Of Liverpool from 9th to 23rd November. The portraits
show pays tribute to 31 key figures in Liverpool’s black music scene.
The exhibition will be launched with screenings of four documentaries
commissioned especially for On Record. Untold Stories is a series of four
shorts that looks at the story of Kirklands, successful songs from black
artists from Merseyside, carnival and the next generation of artists.
Contemporary artists TEE, IAMKYAMI, REMÉE, ELIZA MAI, DAYZY
and TY LEWIS perform at the On Record x Culture Deck Live Sessions
which reflect Liverpool’s vibrant and diverse black music scene today.
The music continues with Toxteth Community Radio DJs providing
mixes of 80s, 90s, 00s and current day tunes.
Beats Of Heart is the project of poet CURTIS WATT who will
be performing spoken word that reflects the ethos and narrative
of the project. Revisiting the Next Stop New York project exploring
Liverpool’s transatlantic ties, Beneath The Merseybeat is a podcast
series featuring prominent voices reflecting on Liverpool music
from the 1950s to 1980s. And bringing it back to the present day,
a run of visual podcasts will see various topics relating to the city’s
contemporary music discussed with key figures who have a stake in
the scene. On Record is made possible funding by Culture Liverpool,
with partnerships with LCR Music Board, LIMF, National Museums
Liverpool and University Of Liverpool.
Everyman Theatre - 13/11-14/11
The boards at Liverpool’s Everyman theatre will be trodden upon for the first time since
March this month. Three shows from LGBTQIA festival Homotopia will be hosted by
the Hope Street venue for an eclectic mix of theatre, spoken word, visual art and music.
The performances follow the festival’s 2020 theme of Show Your Working with Friends
Fabulous Cabaret, Plaster Cast Theatre and S/He/It Happens producing
thought-provoking, fun and ground-breaking work.
Homotopia’s talent development programme QueerCore present a night
of drag, poetry and theatre featuring Pretentious Dross, The QueerBodies
Poetry Collective and Mooncup Theatre for the opening night. The inaugural
production was helped to be realised by LCR Pride Foundation Community
Fund. Comedian and Playwright ERINN DHESI will also perform as a special
guest for the opening evening at the storied venue.
Following on from the Friends Fabulous Cabaret, there will be a double bill
which puts trans performers and stories centre stage. Sound Cistem by Plaster
Cast Theatre brings the audience into a night club filled with real life stories from
trans and non-binary people. The show is a self-love manifesto told with the aid of
riotous, glittering disco.
MITCHELL JAY stars in S/He/it Happens, a performance which uses physical
comedy to explore dysphoria and identity. Billed as their “farewell tits show”, it’s
Mitchell’s last event performance before their surgery is due to take place later in the
As well as these in-venue performances, there will be a drag promenade along
Hope Street with workshops on drag tips for those wanting to partake. A queerimagining
of city planning will take place via a Queer The City art crawl and A Lovely
Word poetry evening will feature poet, actor and writer JADE ANOUSKA. Much of
Homotopia will be broadcast via live stream this year and all performances will be
appropriately socially distanced and Covid-safe.
THE GODDESS PROJECTS FESTIVAL
Various venues - until 01/12
The Goddess Project Fest (TGPF) kick-started this October and will run until the start
of December. With events in art, literature, business, spirituality, education and
more, TGPF aims to inspire and empower black women to achieve greatness for their
communities. With nine events taking place in association with various hosts across
Liverpool, including Writing On The Wall, Homotopia and Everyman and Playhouse, the festival
is an inclusive, inspiring and innovative event for women of colour across Merseyside and beyond.
Events include Stage Your Story, a script writing workshop at the Everyman on 10th November
and I am Not Your Superwoman: Black Women’s Health and Vulnerability online discussion panel.
The events will be taking place online in the hope to connect, support and care for black women
during a time when mental health must be at the forefront of our minds. With talks about business
from goddess Khadiijah and a podcast from Go Off, Sis, this virtual festival is set to open up a
discussion about the well-being of women of colour within Liverpool. With opportunities for selfexpression,
self-reflection and self-fulfillment, TGPF also focuses on holistic healing, creative output
and productive positivity.
The Goddess Project has been running in Liverpool for two years and has since grown into a
network of women empowering one another through arts, wellness and research. They have been
seen to support local, black creatives and business owners throughout their existence and show
no sign of slowing down. Lockdown has presented various struggles and hardships for many of
us, and The Goddess Project is here to help support people through this difficult time. Not allowing
the restrictions of lockdown to hinder them, they have embraced their online community and have
created a truly wonderful line-up of virtual events to help connect people in as many ways as they
Heywood and Condie: This Land
The Atkinson - until 27/03
Heywood and Condie bring the magic of Sefton’s coast to The Atkinson this winter season for an alternative and
spellbinding experience. Including film, poetry, sculpture and paintings, this exhibition creates a journey woven with
childhood memories and local fables. In this ode to Formby’s coastline, the artists TONY HEYWOOD and ALISON CONDIE
will reignite wonder and adventure through their multimedia celebration of the natural world. Described as “one of the
most haunting and mystical landscapes in the British Isles”, Heywood and Condie are inspired by the myth and magic
surrounding these woods and coastline. The exhibition is free to attend, but donations are welcomed. With a reduced
capacity operating in the gallery be sure to plan your visit ahead of attending.
Heywood and Condie
Super Cool Drawing Machine
Future Yard - 12/11-15/11
A touring exhibition of musicians’ visual arts side hustles is to go on display at Birkenhead venue Future Yard this
month. The show, which features pieces from SHABAKA HUTCHINGS, CATE LE BON and RICHARD DAWSON, is
going to independent venues around the country in lieu of musicians touring their day jobs. Painting, photography,
drawings, ceramics and more will be on display for what is a colourful and interactive collection of work. The
exhibition is curated by Somerset-based music bookers Yuppies Music. Tickets are available on the venue’s website.
Super Cool Drawing Machine
Crux With Scottee
Online - 02/11
In November performance artist SCOTTEE joins Metal Culture for a workshop on taking your next steps as a young
creative. The free session for participants aged 16-19 is part of a series of workshops facilitated by the Edge Hill
hub looking to keep people creatively active and connected. The online workshops look to alleviate the stresses and
stultifying effects of lockdown and restrictions with exercises to help regain momentum and direction for artists not
in formal education. In December, poet DEAN ATTA will be running another session for early career artists.
Crux with Scotee
Windrush: Music Of The People
Online - 29/10
Academic Mykaell Riley’s project From SS Orbita to Orbital is
the jumping off point for this event which bookends Writing
On The Wall’s Black History Month programming. SS Orbita
followed Empire Windrush to the UK, with both vessels
bringing a generation of workers, artists and musicians
who contributed a huge amount to British culture. What
would become known as the Windrush Generation and their
descendants gave us the likes of calypso great Lords Kitchener
and Woodbine, 1970s reggae sound systems and Norman
Jay’s Good Times and countless others who changed pop
music and culture for the better. The project has produced
a series of essays which will be previewed at this event will
analyse these impacts and debate the legacy.
Daniel Kitson: Dot. Dot. Dot.
Online - 04/11-07/11
Storyteller extraordinaire DANIEL KITSON brings
a new work to the Everyman this November. An
account of his own lockdown experience, written
and conceived especially to perform in selected
empty theatres across the land, the show will be
streamed live from an unpeopled Everyman for four
nights. Kitson has nurtured a cult following over the
years with a string of critically acclaimed storytelling
and stand-up shows wowing festival and circuit
audiences across the world. The auteur returns to
the Everyman for these virtual shows with tickets
limited to the capacity of the theatre.
She Drew The Gun (Robin Clewley / robinclewley.co.uk)
She Drew The Gun
NEAR NORMAL @ Future Yard – 19/09
We’re all counting how many months since the last gig we
went to. Seven, eight months is a common refrain, worn as a
medal of war or endurance. The bedroom, kitchen, front room
Insta shows of late Spring from singers in their slippers served
well for the moment, and the later ones broadcast from the very
venues where we’re used to having our feet firmly planted on the
ground were, and are, strangely comforting. Watching Working
Men’s Club in the basement of Manchester’s YES from my house
kicked muscle memory into action, the familiar and distinct smells
of the room filling my own nostrils.
But no, it’s not the same, is it? Treading water. Waiting for
the real thing. The first one back in the saddle was never going to
be average, no matter what. At Future Yard’s inaugural event, the
stage is to be christened by local heroes SHE DREW THE GUN.
What sweet irony indeed that the first venue on Merseyside to
open its doors and offer indoor shows will be in Birkenhead.
The Wirral peninsula’s live music offerings are typically a
blanket of covers bands and tribute acts, so, not to over egg the
pudding, this day from dawn onwards feels revolutionary and
unreal. I’m actually going to a gig and it’s in Birkenvegas, but the
big emotional jolt is that a reduced-capacity, 60-strong audience
suddenly seems an awful lot of people. It feels pertinent to touch
base with She Drew The Gun’s Louisa Roach in the morning to
see if her feelings about tonight chime with mine. They do, as it
“It will be a lot less full than a normal gig, but it will still
be the most people I’ve been in a room with since lockdown
happened. And certainly the most people I’ve had a shared
experience with for all this time,” she said. “Even coming to the
venue and seeing the crew all working on getting the venue
ready, and setting my gear up on stage, you don’t realise how
much you miss those things.”
That notion of community and shared experience is apparent
once evening comes and the doors are open and warm smiles
welcome us in at staggered times, safety first. Everything is new
and shiny. The toilets smell of fresh paint. Social media replaces
chat at the bar, and proves to be surprisingly effective. Ordering
drinks through the app gets them brought to individual pods
within an inspirational two minutes. Maybe all our settings have
been readjusted to fit our phones. Maybe we’re all robots now.
Either way, it works.
She Drew The Gun enter the stage promptly as promised,
to the most grateful and well behaved audience in the history
of the world. Roach straps on her guitar and launches into the
ever uncompromising Resister. Is the Revolution Of Mind album
really only two years ago? So much has happened since then. It’s
not until Something For The Pain that the realisation finally hits:
this is happening, we’re standing in a room with living, breathing
people around us, artist on stage, and we’re here for good times.
It’s breaking the seal, popping the cork, hips swaying all around
– firmly inside designated pods, of course. It might be just me,
but have She Drew The Gun become way more danceable than I
remember? We’re not meant to dance, forbidden fruit, but surely
a little shuffle from foot to foot can do no harm?
Arm Yourself has always been a call to arms of rebellion,
yet tonight it’s a celebration instead (“So we dance dance dance
dance…”) and even as I’m thinking this I realise what I’m doing is
pulling out Louisa’s words, phrases and applying them to now,
me, this very minute. That’s a tribute to her wordsmithery in part,
but a need at this end to cement this experience.
The Independent Venue Week poem from earlier in the
year doesn’t need reading tonight, the audience is living its
narrative already; but when Roach recites it, it’s a confirmation
and underscore of what’s happening. The references to
Birkenhead and “all in your hometown you don’t have to go far”
raises a chuckle, tied in with thoughts of the hundreds of times
Wirralians have struggled home from Liverpool on the wild west
chaos that is the night bus after a late finish gig. No one leaves
here tonight thinking they’ll never worry about losing their shirt
bagging a taxi home from town ever again, but it sure as hell
feels like a start. !
Cath Holland / @cathholland01
“The first one back in
the saddle was never
going to be average,
no matter what”
She Drew The Gun (Robin Clewley / robinclewley.co.uk)
The Making Of Liverpool courtesy of OUTPUT Gallery
escape history. It’s
really important to
The Making Of Liverpool courtesy of OUTPUT Gallery
The Singh Twins:
The Making Of Liverpool
Produced in 2008 by world-renowned Merseyside duo THE
SINGH TWINS, The Making Of Liverpool is an animated film that
blends the 800-year history of Liverpool with the city’s artistic
legacy. On display for the first time since its launch during the
European Capital of Culture celebrations 12 years ago, the film
aims to embody the diversity of people and of the city’s creative
output, as well as provide an insight into the Singh Twins’ artistic
Created in collaboration with local company Draw &
Code, Bebington-based musician Steve Mason, and narrated
by Liverpudlian actor Mark McGann, the film was made as an
accompaniment to The Singh Twins’ painting Liverpool 800: The
Changing Face Of Liverpool, which is on permanent display in St
The film opens with an animated reference to the city’s
maritime history, and over its 13-minute duration, narrates the
transition from these early beginnings to a city that presents
itself as a world-class hub of culture and heritage. The Singh
Twins describe the film’s scope as “starting from ancient roots,
through to the medieval periods, the granting of the charter
in Liverpool, and right the way up to the present day”. They
foreground the idea that the history of the city is “not something
that’s static, it’s something that’s always changing”.
Despite the documentary format, the work is very painterly,
and the influence of Indian miniature painting shines through.
The piece suggests a compatibility between historical narrative
and new media, as well as confirming that non-Western imagery
has a place in our city. “We didn’t want it to be too digitised,”
say the pairing, speaking to me over the phone. “We wanted
the painting element of the style and the craft to still be in the
animated piece itself.”
There is a natural synchronicity to how Amrit and Rabindra
Kaur Singh speak and work; they communicate together, and
their visuals are similarly layered with varying influences. It is
clear from their words that this piece indicates a shift in the
twins’ process, introducing them to the possibilities of working
with digital and film media, as well as collaborating with people
outside of themselves. “It was a real catalyst,” they respond,
“working with other people and opening up our horizons in
terms of the types of media we use… the animation opened our
eyes to the way we could use those mediums to be creative.”
While they’ve previously used computer software to build
up compositions that would then be used to structure their
paintings, lately they have been producing work that, while
incorporating painted elements, exists only as a digital file.
Since their studies, the Singh Twins have been questioning
Western history’s insular tendencies and inability to recognise
the influence of non-Western imagery. “We had a point to prove
from day one,” they say, referring to the art world’s rejection
of decorative motifs as a frivolous or insignificant art form.
“Our art represents all the taboos of contemporary Western
art as perceived by the establishment today,” they begin. “It’s
decorative, it’s figurative, it’s narrative, it’s small-scale, it’s coming
from a non-European tradition. We couldn’t be more far removed
from the art establishment and what they perceive contemporary
art to be.”
Mostly influenced by pre-Victorian art, the Renaissance and
Art Nouveau, and working with styles outside of the European
canon, their work is richly symbolic. This is evident in The Making
Of Liverpool, which demonstrates that the narratives that
history and religion give us have a place within digital mediums
and contemporary art spaces. The film is interspersed with
photography and illustrations of the city’s most iconic buildings,
enhanced by the intricacy of the decorative arts. Reinterpreting
the symbolism of the Liverpudlian coat of arms as a jigsaw
puzzle, the artists piece together highly embellished puzzle
pieces to show the diversity and creative expression of the city,
further demonstrating their unity.
“Our artworks are full of symbolism,” they say, “every detail
tells a story in its own right.” Discussing their history through
academia and comparative religion, they outline how “Research
underpins everything we do. Inquiry into other cultures and
histories has always been a part of who we are and fascinated
us, and it has remained very much a part of our creative
practice. We very much see ourselves as social and political
commentators.” The academic tradition is vividly woven into their
visuals, resulting in social commentary that does not shy away
from vibrancy and ornamental forms. Politically, they intend to
“give a balanced view,” adding, “Liverpool can’t escape history.
It’s really important to acknowledge that, and the more people
understand that side of our past, the better society will be in
terms of dispelling the racial attitudes that are still lingering on
from the colonial mindset of Western superiority.”
The work reflects the city as a place of pride for many, but
is unafraid of confronting Liverpool’s slave trade legacy. There is
a fundamental balance to their work, as bleak histories coexist
with lively ones. However, there is a distinct and overriding
optimism in the film and in their words, and a sense of pride
that runs through the artistic process. The dual meaning of the
painting’s title, The Changing Face Of Liverpool – reflecting the
city’s exterior and physical changes, while also referring to the
inhabitants and diversification of the city – suggests that their
work is a portrait of the people as much as the city. “We were
seeing it very much as a portrait; Liverpool personified through
the people that live there. The portrait of Liverpool is a portrait of
its people, because the people are the city.” !
The Guvnors in their Sunday Suits, Finsbury Park, London, 1958, © Don McCullin
Shell-shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue, 1968, © Don McCullin
Tate Liverpool – Until 09/05
This DON MCCULLIN retrospective is far from a relaxing
trip to the Tate, but remains an essential one. Endlessly snaking
round the special exhibitions floor, the retrospective lifts the
curtain on one of the UK’s most revered photojournalists as
he reflects his world back in over 200 black-and-white prints,
each produced in his own darkroom. Spanning over 60 years
of award-winning photography, that world is one of conflict,
poverty, and being the ‘inconvenient witness’ to some of the
most sobering periods, places and people of the 20th Century.
Featuring exclusive prints of Liverpool and other northern
landscapes paying the price of industry, the curation is a window
into this uncomfortable world. But it’s a necessary world, and is
just as much a journey into McCullin’s eyes as it is evidence of
how his craft has become his loudest voice, and, more recently,
something of a saviour.
“I didn’t choose photography – it seemed to choose me,”
an 85-year-old Sir Donald McCullin CBE notes at the start
of the exhibition. And perhaps it was nothing short of divine
intervention that guided McCullin onto his righteous path in
1958, when a staged photograph of former schoolmates-turnedlocal-gang
made him the most sought-after photographer
overnight. Taken on a twin reflex Rolleicord after returning from
military service in Africa, The Guvnors In Their Sunday Suits In
Finsbury Park, London (1958) was not just a chance meeting
with the foundations of gripping photography, but the beginning
of his life, as the World Press Photo Of The Year recipient notes.
But as you progress with McCullin’s early photography taken
in the smoky cafes of London’s East End, his work becomes less
a result of careful choreography and more an innate affinity with
irresistible storytelling. “I had an almost magnetic emotional
sense of direction pulling me to extraordinary places,” he writes
in one caption, referring to his British Press Award-winning
trip to Berlin in 1961 when the Wall was just being built. An
assignment he funded out of his own pocket, McCullin’s divided
Berlin is a society juggling military occupation with the routines
of everyday life. Here are West Berliners at Checkpoint Charlie
peering over the wall to spot former neighbours and colleagues;
here the glares of children as machines of war become one with
their street playground.
It is this powerlessness which runs central throughout the
retrospective. The true cost of having that magnetic pull to
extraordinary places was that it lured McCullin to some of his
darkest assignments, most notably presenting faraway wars to
audiences back home in weekend supplements. That McCullin is
regarded by many as the UK’s greatest living war photographer
– a label which sits uncomfortably with him – becomes apparent
through his honest depiction of conflicts and humanitarian crises,
from the Congo to Cyprus, Beirut to Vietnam. It was here, during
the Tet Offensive – a campaign which soured America’s attitudes
to the Vietnam War – where McCullin met his Shell-shocked US
Marine, The Battle Of Hue (1968). “I kind of dropped down on
my knees and took five frames with my 35mm camera of this
soldier,” McCullin writes. “He never blinked an eye. His eyes were
completely fixed on one place.” A chilling visualisation of PTSD
before it was widely understood, the image of the 5th Battalion
Marine is one of McCullin’s most enduring explorations into the
futility of war.
That futility would again punch through McCullin’s coverage
of Biafra’s deadly struggle for independence from Nigeria – a
chapter which left a devastating void after my two-hour visit. As
victims of food blockades and human rights abuses, swathes of
Biafrans suffered with starvation and severe deprivation. Sitting
dignified as her child struggles for breastmilk, the Starving
Twenty-Four-Year-Old Mother with Child, Biafra (1968) is a
desperate plea to those standing before the print. Another is
Biafra (1969), an image of a malnourished nine-year-old albino
boy, living in a “position beyond description” as McCullin notes.
So many of these images truly are beyond description. At every
turn, the retrospective reveals that those who pay the most
devastating price of war are so often those with the very least.
But McCullin is just as suited to exposing the social wars
taking place within our own communities as he is on statesponsored
atrocities abroad. His prints of cities across northern
England during the 1960s and 1970s reveal wars fought
not with bullets and bombs, but with the social decays that
followed industrial decline. Especially striking are his 14 prints
of Liverpool, revealing a city facing the harsh consequences
of both its shrinking port industry and its battle with the slum
clearance programme in Toxteth – the result of which left a
landscape not unlike the ruins of Berlin. So, too, are his prints on
the chimney skylines and crowded homes of Bradford, each one
unravelling the various faces of poverty. “I don’t pull my punches
when I photograph poverty,” he noted in Bido Lito!’s October
issue. “Mainly because I understand it.” Poverty, for McCullin,
was a childhood constant growing up in London, and so there’s
sincerity in offering a voice both to his subjects and to his own
lived experiences through the prints.
“What I hoped I had captured in my pictures,” McCullin
writes in the gallery’s introduction text, “was an enduring image
that would imprint itself on the world’s memory”. McCullin is still
obsessed with making prints, but they’re not of war-torn places
and displaced people. Allowing us to contemplate the difficult
contents of the retrospective, the final section is a reconciliation
of human devastation with the natural world. Serving as an
antidote to the tormenting memories of war and of being that
inconvenient witness to history throughout much of his career,
these healing prints of Somerset’s countryside illustrate a
photographer turning something of a page.
Don McCullin doesn’t want to be remembered as a war
photographer, preferring instead to leave a legacy of bringing
landscapes closer to our eyes. Leaving the gallery, these final
images leave me with the conclusion that, though McCullin may
never be able to shake his reputation for capturing the world
at its ugliest, he will no doubt be remembered for helping us
appreciate it at its most beautiful.
Matthew Berks / @hewniverse_
Lady Lever Art Gallery – until
The Lady Lever has a knack for quietly putting
on world-class exhibitions. True to form, it is now
hosting the Hunterian Gallery in Glasgow’s touring
exhibition, German Revolution Expressionist Prints,
which welcomes back visitors after the gallery’s
recent enforced closure.
Over three rooms, prints made by artists
reacting to the 1918-1919 Revolution and
exploring its social, political, moral and sexual
consequences, and some earlier prints which acted
as key influences, are displayed in an intimate
(Covid-19 appropriate) setting.
The prints are beautiful. Some are so detailed
with such fine strokes that they resemble
painstaking pencil sketches. The size of the prints,
dim lighting and the deep red which continues
through the three galleries serve to create a deeply
Works by world famous artists such as
Picasso, Munch, Dix and Schiele will ensure footfall,
but it is the work by lesser-known artists (at least
to non-art historians) which is particularly striking.
Max Beckmann’s The Martyrdom (Das Martyrium)
depicts the 1919 execution of Rosa Luxembourg,
one of the leaders of the revolution, at the hands of
the Freikorps. The idea of the suffering of the city
of Berlin, rather than Christ, in the Stations of the
Cross is to jolt the viewer in to the reality shown in
the print. Another unsettling print is Beckmann’s
1922 lithograph Die Nacht (Night), which depicts
inhabitants of an apartment crammed in to
an attic and whose acute angles illustrate the
claustrophobia and awkwardness of the living
conditions that faced the Berlin poor.
The galleries cover different areas: Love
And Anxiety; A Bridge To Utopia and Conflict
And Despair. They document chaotic times in
Germany’s history with a gentleness and lightness
of touch that makes it an affecting experience,
and one which helps to provide an insight into the
tumultuous times. It means that even those without
a historical grasp of the period will be moved.
The artists deal with the effects of the
Revolution in different ways. While some
wandered into realms of fantasy as a means of
escape, others mirrored the turbulence of the
period. By far the most hard-hitting works are in
the Conflict And Despair section which depicts
the struggles of the lower working class, including
some pieces by Käthe Kollwitz. The prints very
much represent the perspective of the oppressed
and poor using Biblical allusions and satire to
imbue the subjects with sympathy. The process
of print making suited the artists’ intentions of
questioning the new society as it enabled them to
produce multiple copies, adding to their potential to
be used to inform.
It’s a poignant exhibition which documents
reactions to a disordered period in history and
shows the effects of the unfairness and ensuing
injustices which were heaped on the weakest. Go
while you can.
Prints in Lady Lever Gallery
Pablo Picasso, Le repas frugal, 1904, etching cat. 25 © Succession PicassoDACS, London 2018.
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra On Demand
Online – 01/10
With a top orchestra there may be 30 violinists onstage, but each one must be soloist calibre. In
fact, many will have solo careers outside of the orchestra. The same goes for every player in every
other section (yes, triangle included).
Tonight’s concert, the first of seven to be live streamed from Hope Street, allows the Phil’s
rank-and-file players to flex those muscles. With all pieces written for smaller ensembles than your
typical orchestra, each musical line is left in the care of one or two musicians. These reduced forces
are a necessity, enabling the RLPO to inhabit its home turf while still socially distancing.
PAUL HINDEMITH’s musical language is pretty dissonant, but the RLPO players seize the
jagged threads of Kammermusik 3 for all they’re worth, wringing a sense of direction and emotion
from them, especially principal cellist Jonathan Aasgaard. This work is subtitled ‘cello concerto’, and
he’s got the soloist’s flair to produce more than just a busy-sounding piece of music. With only a
few lucky punters in the hall [capacity is cut down from 1,700 to 240 for this run of shows], players
are free to perform for their colleagues on the stage, and perhaps that’s something that benefits
music from the middle decades of the 20th Century, when modernism had lost its shock value but
hadn’t yet achieved ‘classical’ status with audiences.
IGOR STRAVINSKY’s Dumbarton Oaks is another sort-of concerto (like the Hindemith, one
instrument or small group haggles with the rest of the ensemble), but one sounding much more
old-fashioned. It’s part of Stravinsky’s neo-classical period, which puts 18th-century style through
a prism, like Picasso’s cubism – taking the old-as-the-hills still life and rupturing it. This is also ‘busy’
music, but some of the most beautiful stretches are the long, held chords at the end of the first
movement, particularly by horn players Timothy Jackson, Simon Griffiths and Christopher Morley.
Finally, DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH’s Chamber Symphony In C Minor is an arrangement of his
String Quartet No.8 – probably last heard in Liverpool on the cusp of lockdown when Manchester
Collective visited in March. That original, dedicated to “victims of fascism and war”, is a brittle,
skeletal thing. This arrangement for string orchestra makes it seem inescapable; you can see and
hear the effort of sawing away as hard as bowstrings allow, both the players’ and instruments’
A review is supposed to tell you what it was like to be at a gig, but there’s no audience tonight.
Given that classical music’s image is often bound up with its archaisms (bowing, applauding,
standing/sitting), it’s quite endearing to hear the players compliment each other upon downing
tools. Though not in the highest definition, the cameras do the right thing in lingering on individuals,
usually during solos. With music scenes of all genres in dire straits as government guidance
remains… changeable, it feels like a result to have 24 people onstage together. We’ll only know if
streaming a concert is enough to break even after the fact, and admitting an audience small enough
to socially distance makes little economic sense for most venues. The camerawork may bring you
visually closer to what’s happening, but it’s no substitute for what we all want: to be in the same
room, with sounds buzzing in the air around our heads.
Stuart Miles O’Hara / @ohasm1
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Deciding on your next steps
as a young creative?
FREE workshops for people aged 16-19,
to keep you creatively active and connected.
Open to people interested in any art form
and those still discovering their practice.
Crux with Scottee
Monday 2 November, 6pm - 7pm.
An evening of short scribbling tasks that will
help you understand why you wanna make
work, who it is for and what is the reason you
are making it.
To book: www.metalculture.com
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This month’s selection of creative writing features members of Give
Poetry A Chance. Poets Laura Ferris, Louise Evans and Cullo provide
the words, all selected by Give Poetry A Chance founder Dan Cullinan,
who shares his experience in running the initiative.
The lights come up.
Like a lot of lads, I didn’t really open up
to people, so instead I opened up my
phone and jotted down my thoughts.
These thoughts turned into poems,
and, by September 2017, I had left my job and
moved to Vietnam. While in Vietnam, I collated
my poems and released a short run of poetry
books. When I returned to the UK in 2018, I
gave copies to family and friends.
One day in November 2018, I received a
phone call from Mellowtone’s Dave McTague
suggesting that I start my own poetry nights,
as The Jacaranda would be interested in
hosting them. Straight away I said yes and
decided that the events would be called Give
Poetry A Chance.
We’ve now hosted 13 events across two
venues, with our last event before lockdown
being our anniversary event on 26th February
To celebrate our one-year anniversary,
we released an anthology containing poems
submitted by those who have supported Give
Poetry A Chance throughout its first year.
All proceeds raised are donated to Scouse
Kitchen, a Liverpool-based homeless support
community project. Homelessness can affect
anybody and that is why we chose to support
the amazing work that Scouse Kitchen do.
Words: Dan Cullinan / @PoetryAChance
Give Poetry A Chance: The Anthology is
available to purchase now.
Come To Think Of It
We’re building buildings on top of buildings
On top of buildings on top of buildings
No green space left, no air to breathe
We’re choking on concrete, living on cement
There’s brick dust in the heroin
People are dying in tents
Opium epidemic, spice epidemic
Come to think of it, the county’s in a crisis
Food banks instead of corner shops
No pints of milks, but gallons of blood
Nobody’s crying when it’s spilt
Violence has become the norm
The libraries are closing down
No books in the hands of children
But knives in every pocket
Innocence has gone from society
Society has failed the young
Come to think of it, we are society
When will we step up?
How many people must suffer
Before enough is enough?
We talk of mental health
But what’s the next step?
We receive the diagnosis
But where is the medicine?
Come to think of it, where is the funding?
The NHS is crumbling
God save the NHS
You can keep the queen
She’d rather protect the monsters
And keep the people dreaming
People are scared to walk
In case they go hungry
All because some idiot said “This is my country”
But as humans we’re a family
And family comes first
How can you look into someone’s eyes and say
“This is what you deserve”?
One thing’s for certain
We’re not on this earth for long
Start doing what’s right
Never choose wrong
High July sun submits
to August rain,
of water on glass
and your beautiful name,
in summer – and sugar rain
crystals stream down the window pane.
morning coffee to midnight wine
night then day
then day then night then day again
Skin on skin
touch on touch
I’m treading water, gilded,
in a silver shiver, a river rush
a dream awake, here we are awash
in summer rain.
It cleanses old sin,
lets the freshwater in.
We let go then we go again.
Stage right/ I’m leafing through those postcard
reproductions of famous masterpieces, you know
the kind. I’m thumbing a Hopper and a
Warhol/ wishing there was a Klimt here for me to
take home and display in a frame and
continue to not know its name/ or anything about it
A voice swims up behind me, close enough for
the hairs on the nape of my neck to respond,
It’s metallic yet soft, this voice/ I hold
my breath and freeze/ a fruit machine
in my brain is rifling through
possible responses and scenarios/ will I
relax into it, hear what it’s got to say or
will I turn and question why it has approached a
stranger in a perfectly strange gallery…
will it get three cherries?
It effortlessly breathes in my left ear/
“these places make me so horny, babe.”
I turn in engaged shock/ revolt –
the feminist in me is pulling up her sleeves/ ready
a fight, another part is amused at this intruder/
“Sorry, I err… I thought you were my girlfriend.”
A perfect stranger/ my dubious
doppelganger, turns and painfully offers
a conciliatory smile/ an awkward apology/
a little wave and the voice sidles off.
I find a Klimt tucked at the back.
Ahead of White Ribbon Day, a worldwide movement established to end male violence against women, Cath
Holland questions why dissatisfaction towards male offenders in the public eye is often only temporary and
all too quickly forgotten.
Throughout music history, the misdemeanours of
cash cow male stars across the genres have been
tolerated, brushed under the carpet, hushed up. The
nearer to, or higher up, the popular music canon, the
more easily and readily they are forgiven for bad behaviour. A
collective amnesia takes over around inappropriate attitudes and
actions towards women by successful, famous men. Focus on
Slowthai’s behaviour at NME Awards 2020 was sidelined within
days; a line drawn under Miles Kane’s attitude towards a female
journalist in 2016 pretty sharpish following his inadequate
When Kasabian singer Tom Meighan was convicted of
assaulting his former partner in July this year, the rest of the
band reduced the assault to “personal issues” before cutting
him loose proper. Meighan pleaded guilty at a time when
many worked from home and had limited social lives outside
our immediate family and friends. There were no gigs or
football matches to divert our attention, leaving both time and
opportunity for a wider conversation to be had about domestic
violence and a chance for abusive men, famous or not, to
examine and reflect on their habits, to take the opportunity to
feel shame in the knowledge neighbours were at home more too
and could hear through walls.
But, as ever, debate or action on the subject fizzled to nowt
within days, everyone agreeing that, yes, domestic violence is
really bad, we’ll have to do something about it. At some point,
when we get round to it, pass the peas someone. Domestic
violence rates shot up alarmingly during the pandemic. Phumzile
Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, called the
increase a “shadow pandemic”. UK charity Refuge reported
a massive 700 per cent increase in calls from mainly women
to the National Domestic Violence Helpline on one day alone
in April as lockdown bit hard. The same month as Meighan’s
arrest, coincidentally. In fact, 16 women and girls were killed
in cases of suspected domestic violence in the UK that month,
more than triple the number from 2019.
The shadow pandemic rates are bad news, and to use
lockdown stress and worry as an excuse to abuse is wrong. We
are all responsible for how we act towards others. That aside,
when, year on year, one woman every three days in the UK is
killed by a male acquaintance, 50 per cent by a current or former
partner, the remainder by a male relative – son, stepson, father,
brother, uncle – or a friend, or just a man they know, I suggest
there is a longstanding and deep-rooted problem. The phrase
‘isolated incident’ is often cited by police around such deaths
and yet the Femicide Census – inspired by feminist campaigner
Karen Ingala Smith’s blog Counting Dead Women – for 2018
shows a total of 149 women killed, the highest number since
the census began. That is an awful lot of isolated incidents.
Murder, manslaughter, the sex game gone wrong defence,
‘honour killings’, all add up to the same thing. Dress it up how
you like, go at it from different angles, justify it, find reasons,
but the end result is a dead woman. The violence cuts across all
ages, incomes, classes, ethnic groups, whether disabled or ablebodied.
If these women died in more public circumstances – a
terrorist attack, perhaps – the headlines would last longer than
the news that Kasabian no longer have a troublesome singer
causing them embarrassment. I’ll go out on a limb here and say
if 149 men were killed by women within a 12-month period
annually, the country would be wondering why and loudly, the
perpetrators rarely labelled a lone wolf acting independently, the
entire female sex a spiteful coven instead.
Domestic violence leads to deaths but incorporates
emotional control on top of any enforced physical restriction
of our movements and expression. It is hidden and unspoken
about, this physical abuse through assault, rape, female genital
mutilation (FGM), pressure for partners to have sex without
adequate contraception, leaving them at risk of pregnancy
and STIs, and mental abuse and coercive control, all within a
private domestic setting, and so unseen. Maybe that’s why the
“The public arena belongs
to us as well. And men
need to know this and act
conversation around it peters out so quickly, because the world
doesn’t have to acknowledge what it can’t see. Or maybe we
just see it as normal. For the past five years, on International
Women’s Day each March, Labour MP Jess Phillips reads
out the names of women killed by men in the UK since last
IWD, typically to an almost empty chamber in the House Of
Commons. The seats are clear and clean of people who don’t
want to know.
Male creatives made credible through their art are
permitted to get away with an awful lot with regards to
women, while more mainstream pop stars are the easy target
for faux outrage and provide a very effective route to deflect
attention away from the valued music canon. We’re relieved
to scorn international stars and tabloid fodder like Chris
Brown; he’s remote and it doesn’t affect anyone’s career or
status to call him out. But Ian Brown’s arrest for domestic
violence in 2009, the exact same year, is an easily forgotten
truth. How interesting it is though for both Browns, who bring
in so much money to the music and entertainment industries,
to carry on in their careers unhindered.
It’s very easy to suck in cheeks disapprovingly when
hearing of wealthy pop stars being nasty and bad, and
sharing memes on Facebook saying how terrible it is. But that
changes little for the woman or girl who lives down your street.
Founded nearly 30 years ago, the annual White Ribbon
Day each November is part of a global movement to end male
violence against women, by engaging with men and boys to
make a stand against male violence. They can pledge to fulfil
the White Ribbon Promise to never commit, excuse or remain
silent when they see or hear it taking place. The day is wellplaced
in the calendar; Christmas one month later always
shows a spike in male to female violence in the home.
More awareness is necessary, and it’s not that hard to
achieve. Helen Reddy who died recently, most widely known
for the feminist anthem I Am Woman, wrote and sang “I’m
still an embryo with a long long way to go until I make my
brother understand”. Meaning, unless men get the notion of
equality then it’s gonna be a tough road ahead. The song is
months away from its 50th birthday and we’re still not there.
For a woman to enter a traditional male or public space
can be risky behaviour, as is being the sole woman in the
company of men. The world of music consumption is a
male-dominated space still, and when we are made to feel
unwelcome at gigs because of harassment or ridicule it is
a way of telling us ‘this is not your place, not your space’.
It’s not unlike dogs marking their territory by pissing on a
lamppost. When women and girls feel uncomfortable, we
should be permitted to say so and be listened to whether at a
gig, in the workplace or the street. The public arena belongs
to us as well. And men need to know this and act accordingly,
individually and collectively take action and change behaviour.
Not remaining silent when women are spoken about
disrespectfully, even if we aren’t present, is a constructive way
of supporting us. For men who show women their intimate
body parts to intimidate and scare us, to remind us who is
boss, to let us know what could happen if we don’t toe the line,
other men must speak up when shit like this happens.
Women’s thoughts are heavily policed by those we don’t
know, have never met. That’s a subject on its own, and instead of
joining social media pile-ons and trolling women with opinions,
respect her right to speak. No one is saying you have to agree
Controlling what women do and say and think, what they
wear and where they go, is a national pastime both inside the
home and out of it. And it has to stop. !
Words: Cath Holland / @cathholland01
Illustration: Hannah Blackman-Kurz / @Hbkurz
White Ribbon Day takes place on 25th November.
THE FINAL SAY
CREAM & CIRCUS PRESENT
SAT 20TH MARCH 2021
BRAMLEY MOORE DOCK
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