Issue 111 / November 2022

bidolito

November 2020 issue of Bido Lito! magazine. Featuring: COURTING, TABITHA JADE, RED RUM CLUB, THE REAL THING, MIC LOWRY, ANTHONY WILDE, STONE, BEN BURKE, FOX FISHER, SHE DREW THE GUN, THE SINGH TWINS, DON MCCULLIN and much more.

ISSUE 111 / NOVEMBER 2020

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

COURTING / TABITHA JADE

RED RUM CLUB / MIC LOWRY


FACT TOGETHER

10 DIGITAL

ARTWORKS CREATED

IN LOCKDOWN BY

EMERGING ARTISTS

FROM THE NORTH

NIL00

JESSICA EL MAL

MILDA BAGINSKAITĖ

ELLE BULGER

SHONAGH SHORT

TAMMY REYNOLDS

GREGORY HERBERT

MICHAELBRAILEY

UMA BREAKDOWN

DAY MATTAR

EXPERIENCE ONLINE

fact.co.uk/together

Funded by Supported by Commissioned by FACT Liverpool

for FACT Together, a new online

residency and artist development

opportunity set up in response

to Covid-19.


NEVER

ISSUE 93 / OCTOBER 2018

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

SPQR / NIKI KAND / VILLAGERS

SHE DREW THE GUN / PUSSY RIOT

ISSUE 94 / NOVEMBER 2018

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

BILL RYDER-JONES / EAT ME + PREACH

JAMIE BROAD / HINDS / BIENNIAL

ISSUE 95 / DEC 2018/JAN 2019

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

CHELCEE GRIMES / REMY JUDE ENSEMBLE

MOLLY BURCH / BRAD STANK / THE CORAL

MISS

ISSUE 96 / FEBRUARY 2019

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

EYESORE & THE JINX / LADYTRON

LEE SCOTT / YVES TUMOR / ERIC TUCKER

ISSUE 97 / MARCH 2019

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

YANK SCALLY / BBC 6 MUSIC FESTIVAL

MUNKEY JUNKEY / SLEAFORD MODS

ISSUE 98 / APRIL 2019

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

XAMVOLO / YAMMERER

MC NELSON / THE ZUTONS

ISSUE 99 / MAY 2019

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

SUB BLUE / CLINIC / CATE LE BON

SOUND CITY 2019

ISSUE 101 / JULY 2019

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

BILL NICKSON / KITTY’S LAUNDERETTE

SPINN / ROLLING BLACKOUTS C.F.

ISSUE 102 / AUGUST 2019

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

THAT’S JUVEY? / STEALING SHEEP

ROY / CHINATOWN SLALOM

ISSUE 103 / SEPTEMBER 2019

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

SISBIS / WAVERTREE WORLDWIDE

SPILT / LOUDER THAN DEATH

AN

ISSUE 104 / OCTOBER 2019

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

STRAWBERRY GUY / RICHARD HERRING

MARVIN POWELL / EDWYN COLLINS

ISSUE 105 / NOVEMBER 2019

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

THE MYSTERINES / RICHARD DAWSON

NUTRIBE / TRUDY AND THE ROMANCE

ISSUE 106 / DEC 2019/JAN 2020

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

BEIJA FLO / LO FIVE

ASOK / SIMON HUGHES

ISSUE 107 / FEBRUARY 2020

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

PIZZAGIRL BEIJA FLO / DAN / LO DISGRACE FIVE

SAVE KITCHEN ASOK / STREET SIMON HUGHES / AIMÉE STEVEN

ISSUE

ISSUE 108 / MARCH 2020

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

THE ORIELLES/ BEIJA FLO LOATHE / FIVE/ LUNA

THRESHOLD ASOK / FESTIVAL SIMON HUGHES / COURTING

ISSUE 109 / SEPTEMBER 2020

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

TEE BEIJA / ALL FLO WE / ARE LO FIVE / DECAY

JAMIE ASOK WEBSTER/ / SIMON MOLLY HUGHES GREEN

ISSUE 110 / OCTOBER 2020

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

AMINA ATIQ / BYE LOUIS

JACQUES MALCHANCE / DON MCCULLIN

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New Music + Creative Culture

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Issue 111 / November 2020

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Words

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,

Hannah Blackman-Kurz.

EDITORIAL

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

FEATURES

“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

Editor

Gotham? (Liam Jones / @liamjonesphotie)

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Bido Lito! is a living wage employer. All our staff are

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All contributions to Bido Lito! come from our city’s

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We are contributing one per cent of our advertising

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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

Afrobeat.

20 / RED RUM CLUB

Following the release of their second album, Sophie Shields braces

the heights of the Sefton Sierra with its hometown heroes.

REGULARS

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

ALL

Ahead of a new exhibition opening in November, Anthony Wilde

sheds light on his ability to capture moments of change and

transition.

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


NEWS

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/

journal-2020

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

vision. liverpoollighthouse.com

Liverpool Lighthouse

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.

limfacademy.com

Micayl

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.

futuramafestival.com

The Lovely Eggs

8


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

Dorothy

Sneaker Pimps

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

Apply Yourself

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

year. soundcity.uk.com

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

Pizza Dealer

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

visit. themerchantliverpool.co.uk

NEWS 9


HOT PINK!

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.

Lucy Gaffney

Send Me Away

Frictionless Music

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)

SKIA

Pocket

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)

Motel Sundown

Before Midnight

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

Accidental Weller

Eggy Records

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)

Aimeé Steven

Today

Jacaranda Records

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)

KingFast

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

Waxwing

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

Slow Down

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

3AM

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)

Sunstack Jones

Golden Repair

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,

KingFast (Polyphonica).

10


A LAUGH WITH

SOME CONCERN

Not caring is caring. Courting are here to help you make sense of the madness.

FEATURE

11


COURTING

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

their heads.

“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.

12


“It’s our mantra

to stop guitar

music from being

a dirty word”

FEATURE

13


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

and protestation.

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,”

replies Cope.

“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

courtingband.com

Pop Shop will be available from 6th November via Nice Swan Records.

14


FEATURE

15


PLAYING IN

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

16

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

added.

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

actually mean?’

“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

unchanged.

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

confident.

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

grim.”

Additionally, 11

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

legitimate.” !

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

FEATURE

17


18


TABITHA

JADE

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.

“I

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

material?

“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

things done”

those powerful, punchy

vocals.

“The other side of it

is about being an artist

without a record label.

I wanted to celebrate

being self-motivated

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

away.”

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

genuinely cracked.

“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

thousand people.”

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

they deserve.

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

a blow.

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

@tabithajadex

No Label will be released in November.

FEATURE

19


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,

windswept city.

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

atmosphere].”

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

20


“We did something

and meant

something to

the city”

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

biggest stages.

“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

@RedRumClub

The Hollow Of Humdrum is available now via Modern Sky.

FEATURE

21


PAST

PRESENT

FUTURE

22


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

1979.

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

past decade.

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

authentic.”

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

bubbling in

Liverpool… I’m

feeling confident

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

Liverpool”.

“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

city.

“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

Thing

therealthingofficial.com

@miclowry

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

FEATURE

23


CHAMPION ONE,

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

manner.

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

zines.

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

community wouldn’t

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

am.”

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

24


CHAMPION ALL

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

the message.”

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.

limfestival.com/onrecord

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

and surrounding.

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

world.

Champion one, champion all.

Anthony Wilde

FEATURE

25


SPOTLIGHT

“Protest anything

that tries to

undermine the

importance of

creativity”

EVE HOWLETT

The Queen Of Heartbreak opens

up about her colourful artistry,

charity shop gowns and silly sense

of humour.

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

and performer.

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 –

period.”

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

@thequeenofheartbreak

Eve Howlett’s work will be displayed at 92 Degrees Coffee as

part of Liverpool Nude 2 exhibition. Now extended until 31st

October.

26


STONE

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

going through”

If you had to describe your music in a sentence, what would

you say?

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

inspired you?

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

closing.

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

justice.

Photography: Broadie

@stoneliverpool

Stay Silent is available now.

BEN BURKE

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

emotional level”

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

real-life affairs.

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

performed in?

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

@music_burke

The Life I Left Behind is out now via Nifty Records.

SPOTLIGHT

27


PREVIEWS

“Transition was nothing

less than alchemy. I

am so blessed and

privileged to have made

peace with a body I

once waged war with”

FESTIVAL

FOX FISHER

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

identity?

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

and non-binary.

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_

homotopia.net

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.

28


yuppies music presents

the musicians’ art show

tickets available from:

Featuring:

BEX BURCH (VULA VIEL)

BRYONY JARMAN-PINTO

night flight ‘CATE LE BON

H.HAWKLINE

TIM PRESLEY’

CLOUDSHOES

DAISUKE TANABE

ED DOWIE

FRÀNÇOIS & THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS

HAIKU SALUT

HOLYSSEUS FLY

ICHI

JEFFREY LEWIS

LEAFCUTTER JOHN

LONNIE HOLLEY

MAMMAL HANDS

PETER BRODERICK

POPPY ACKROYD

RACHAEL DADD

RICHARD DAWSON

RHODRI DAVIES

ROZI PLAIN

SEB ROCHFORD

SHABAKA HUTCHINGS

SNAPPED ANKLES

TARA CLERKIN

THIS IS THE KIT

YAMA WARASHI

YUMI AND THE WEATHER

BIRKENHEAD: future yard NOV 12th-15th

www.supercooldrawingmachine.com


PREVIEWS

Jennifer John

FESTIVAL

ON RECORD

- UNTOLD &

RETOLD

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.

The Christians

THEATRE

HOMOTOPIA

Everyman Theatre - 13/11-14/11

Mooncup Theatre

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

year.

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.

30


FESTIVAL

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

possibly can.

EXHIBITION

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

EXHIBITION

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

WORKSHOP

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

TALK

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.

THEATRE

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.

Daniel Kitson

PREVIEWS

31


REVIEWS

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

turns out.

“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)

32


The Making Of Liverpool courtesy of OUTPUT Gallery

“Liverpool can’t

escape history. It’s

really important to

acknowledge that”

The Making Of Liverpool courtesy of OUTPUT Gallery

The Singh Twins:

The Making Of Liverpool

OUTPUT Gallery

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

process.

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

George’s Hall.

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.” !

Leah Binns

REVIEWS

33


REVIEWS

The Guvnors in their Sunday Suits, Finsbury Park, London, 1958, © Don McCullin

Shell-shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue, 1968, © Don McCullin

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_

34


German Revolution

Expressionist Prints

Lady Lever Art Gallery – until

28/02

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

personal experience.

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.

Jennie Macaulay

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’

sinews taut.

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

REVIEWS 35


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ARTISTIC

LICENCE

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.

Three Cherries

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

2020.

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

@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

Cullo

August Rain

High July sun submits

to August rain,

summer soundtrack

of water on glass

and your beautiful name,

in summer – and sugar rain

crystals stream down the window pane.

Suspended time

morning coffee to midnight wine

intertwined

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

really.

A voice swims up behind me, close enough for

the hairs on the nape of my neck to respond,

vulnerable.

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

perfect

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

for

a fight, another part is amused at this intruder/

so contrite.

“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.

Louise Evans

Laura Ferris

38


SAY

THE FINAL

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

apology.

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

accordingly, individually

and collectively”

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

with her.

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

whiteribbon.org.uk/what-we-do

femicidescensus.org

White Ribbon Day takes place on 25th November.

THE FINAL SAY

39


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