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Issue 113 / April-May 2021

April-May 2021 issue of Bido Lito! magazine. Featuring: PIXEY, AYSTAR, SARA WOLFF, DIALECT, AMBER JAY, JANE WEAVER, TATE COLLECTIVE, DEAD PIGEON GALLERY, DAVID ZINK YI, SAM BATLEY, FURRY HUG, FELIX MUFTI-WRIGHT, STEALING SHEEP and much more.

April-May 2021 issue of Bido Lito! magazine. Featuring: PIXEY, AYSTAR, SARA WOLFF, DIALECT, AMBER JAY, JANE WEAVER, TATE COLLECTIVE, DEAD PIGEON GALLERY, DAVID ZINK YI, SAM BATLEY, FURRY HUG, FELIX MUFTI-WRIGHT, STEALING SHEEP and much more.

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ISSUE 113 / APRIL-MAY 2021

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

FREE!

PIXEY

Overcoming and arriving

AYSTAR

SARA

WOLFF

DIALECT

BIENNIAL


THE

STAVES

THE GOOD WOMAN TOUR

THE

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Tickets £20 standing £21 unreserved seating, Eventim, See, Dice.

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THEWENDYJAMES.COM/LIVE

SATURDAY 23RD OCTOBER 2021

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FEATURES

REGULARS

13 / PIXEY

Megan Walder tracks the rise and rise again of Pixey’s

effervescent pop evolution.

18 / AYSTAR

Following the release of Scousematic 3, the rapper talks

about finding his flow and staying true to Liverpool.

20 / SARA WOLFF

Exploring the literate, genre-dodging songs of the

Bergen-born singer-songwriter.

24 / DIALECT

Wil Baines delves deep into the respiratory sonics of

Andrew PM Hunt’s latest album.

26 / NORTH WEST IN FOCUS

A photography exhibition led by Tate Collective presents

the social intricacies of the North West in a new light.

30 / AMBER JAY

Peering out from behind the cover, the electro-pop whizz

guides us through the haunting atmospherics of her new EP.

32 / JANE WEAVER

On Flock, Cath Holland finds the ever in control Weaver

swapping the drone zone for shimmering pop.

34 / RECOVERY

Paul Fitzgerald learns how the arts, creativity and

togetherness is being utilised in addiction recovery

programmes at Damien John Kelly House.

38 / DEAD PIGEON GALLERY

If anything can be anywhere, then art can always be

somewhere – maybe where you least expect.

40 / DAVID ZINK YI

Showing at Liverpool Biennial, Remy Greasley speaks to

the filmmaker about a new installation centred on endless

performances of Afro-Cuban music.

10 / NEWS

Rounding up goings-on and developments

as the city region prepares to emerge from

lockdown.

12 / HOT PINK

A refreshing April shower of top-notch tunes

featuring Pizzagirl, The Coral, Borth, Seatbelts,

Spinn and Yammerer.

42 / SPOTLIGHTS

Profiles of fast-rising artists including Sam

Batley, Foxen Cyn, Furry Hug, Felix Mufti-

Wright and Jeztls.

48 / PREVIEWS

Stealing Sheep give us the lowdown on their

LightNight installation, Roger Hill introduces

a new-look PMS and Liverpool Biennial and

Independents Biennial get underway.

52 / REVIEWS

Reports from a virtual photography exhibition

and the latest Liverpool Digital Music Festival.

54 / ARTISTIC LICENCE

Featuring poems from last issue’s spotlight

artist Lyndsay Price.

55 / FINAL SAY

Mary Olive questions the safety of clubs and

music venues for women, transgender and nonbinary

people.


E D I T O R I A L

It’s often said that people from Merseyside are good talkers, but it’s

the buildings that say more than most. In every façade you can track a

running timeline of the city’s fate.

In the neoclassical grandeur you see prosperity through the trade

of human life. Areas like Scotland Road show the remnants of a once

swollen, cramped population moved on through slum clearance and lack

of work. Hollowed out churches serve as a reminder of conflict. Across the

water, Birkenhead’s waterfront wears the bruises of a declining shipping

industry. Facing back on the other side, post-war housing projects, such as

St Andrew’s Garden (The Bullring), reflect a time when municipal dreams

came before individualism.

It’s no different today. In the space of 15 years much of the inner city

stands unrecognisable. The early phases of this regeneration point to the

Capital of Culture makeover. Since then, the trend for developments have

been near uniform. Residential apartments and student accommodation

have pushed their way into any available spaces with the tenacity of

weeds nudging through pavement. Like much of the historical architecture

these buildings cast shadows upon, the socio-economic fate of the city is

contained in their presence.

The government’s council inspection report is undoubtedly a difficult

moment for the city. If whisperings on social media for the past decade

hadn’t already confirmed its findings, then the right-before-our-eyes

evidence was there; the shimmering clad pretence of build-at-any-cost

developments did little to charm a landscape washed out by central

government cuts.

The misdealing within planning, highways and regeneration appear to

be rife. Music venues and other cultural hubs are now in a more unforgiving

landscape due to these practices. Some have been squeezed out

altogether. But the public shaming at the hands of the Tories suggest an

endemic problem with cronyism at local government level, which doesn’t

provide the full picture. Liverpool rightly has to acknowledge the failures

of its council, but it’s important to face up to the actions that led us to

desperation and rampant opportunism.

Where the “awarding of dubious contracts” has seen many areas

of Liverpool change cosmetically, there remains countless skeletal

developments across the city – either failed or exhausted of funds. Their

bare concrete anatomies are the withered bones of austerity, a harsh

financial reality that Liverpool has swallowed for over a decade during

which its central funding

has fallen by almost 40 per

cent. When you push a city

to breaking point and due

diligence frays, opportunists

will find their way into the

cracks. The city had to find a

way of paying its way, but it

has instead been made to pay

the price itself. The imposed

commissioners in certain

areas will now only heighten

public distrust.

Trust is one of the

main issues that now faces Liverpool. Throughout the pandemic we’ve

seen other forms of opportunism through protest and the spreading of

conspiracy. With the added furore around the mayoral selection, politics is

now slipping to its lowest ebb off the back of the council report. Liverpool

deserves better than the hands it has been dealt both internally and

externally. And it’s looking further internally where we’ll find the figures

who’re worthy of our trust. Those who offer an alternative while aspects of

the council soul-searches.

These alternative leaders and decision makers don’t have to be

connected to institutional power. As has been covered in this magazine for

the past years, it’s those at the grassroots level who’ve been able to bring

about the most telling changes, rewriting narratives within communities

in the process. As Liverpool’s political framework is dredged, we should

remain hopeful that there is a new, alternative way to bring us through

the challenges ahead. Community leaders, facilitators, activists, artists,

musicians can and will lead us when we need it most.

Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder

Editor

“We should

remain hopeful

that there

is a new,

alternative way”

New Music + Creative Culture

Liverpool

Issue 113 / April-May 2021

bidolito.co.uk

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Cover Photography

Marieke Macklon

Words

Elliot Ryder, Lily Blakeney-Edwards, Sam Turner,

Matthew Berks, Sam Lasley, Megan Walder, David

Weir, Wil Baines, Leah Binns, Cath Holland, Julia

Johnson, Paul Fitzgerald, Remy Greasley, Andrew

Stafford, Jo Mary Watson, Ed Haynes, Sarah

McNee, RJ Ward, Lyndsay Price, Mary Olive.

Photography, Illustration and Layout

Mark McKellier, Marieke Macklon, Kate Davies,

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Smith, Rosa Brown, Amy Cummings, Sam Batley,

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NEWS

FACT REOPENS

FACT patrons will be treated

to a whole new experience

when the Ropewalks Square

hub reopens in line with the

government’s roadmap on 17th

May. Taking over the ground

floor cafe, The Wild Loaf bakery

will be providing nourishment

for visitors having made the

move during lockdown. Three

new exhibitions will be on

display, with the Biennial taking

over the ground floor and first

floor gallery spaces and a new

display from Kiara Mohammad

and ROOT-ed zine’s Fauziya

Johnson greeting visitors in the

atrium (preview on page 51).

Cinephiles will be jubilant to

welcome back Picturehouse as

their projectors whir into action

again from opening. fact.co.uk

FACT

THE FUTURE IS OUTSIDE

A new outdoor space will be opening in Birkenhead this spring

when Future Yard unveil a garden area for food, drinks and live DJ

sets. Opening in mid-April, ahead of the full opening of the venue’s

bar and cafe, it’ll provide the perfect opportunity to get to know the

venue ahead of a busy live programme which is taking shape for the

summer. Another exciting announcement from Argyle Street comes

in the shape of weekender Future Now, two days of live music across

Future Yard’s indoor and outdoor spaces. A line-up announcement is

expected imminently. futureyard.org

Future Yard

THE DEPOT IS NAMED

Liverpool’s reputation in the film industry has been given a further

boost. The former Littlewoods Building off Edge Lane has reached

a milestone with the topping out of two 20,000 sq ft sound studios

coinciding with the building given the moniker The Depot. Previously

known as a forthcoming ‘Pinewood of the North’, those aspirations

are closer to becoming a reality as the project looks to capitalise on a

period of huge growth for the sector in the region. It is predicted The

Depot will create a £24m economic boost for the regional economy,

creating 360 new jobs and 760 indirect jobs. liverpoolfilmoffice.tv

BYLINES IS BACK

Applications for the second programme of Bido Lito!’s writing

workshops, Bylines, is open now. The 10-week programme takes a

cohort of 16 to 25-year-old aspiring culture writers through various

facets of communicating music and arts through the prism of an

independent publication. Participants will learn how Bido Lito!

comes together, what to think about when pitching ideas to editors,

reviewing techniques and much more. Writers completing the course

will gain an Arts Award qualification and get the opportunity to write

for Bido Lito!. bidolito.co.uk/workshops

THE GIRL BANDS ARE IN KITCHEN STREET

Championing every woman in music, Where Are The Girlbands? are planning to make a triumphant

return to nightlife, as they collaborate with 24 Kitchen Street for a series of socially distanced events

that will take place from 10th June. Local RnB boss IAMKYAMI headlines the first event, with JAZMINE

JOHNSON supporting. The monthly series will focus particularly on women’s inclusion behind the scenes,

with women in the roles of sound engineers, venue staff, photographers, promoters, door staff and

organisation. The event promises to be full of good music, good vibes and a clear sense of community,

where all are welcome. @wherearethegirlbands

Kyami x Where Are The Girlbands?

10


Creative Street

CREATIVE STREET

Photographer Marieke Macklon, whose work adorns the cover of

this very magazine, has opened a new independent photo and video

studio in the Baltic Triangle. Creative Street Studio opens on 12th

April and will welcome creatives of all stripes to come in and book

the affordable facilities to turn their creative ideas into reality. The

studio, situated in the Northern Lights building, can also be used

for workshops, meetings, art showcases and more. To celebrate

the opening a special launch discount is available until 12th May.

creativestreetstudio.co.uk

TOILETS FOR EVERYBODY

Results published from the TDoV (Trans Day of Visibility) have revealed that almost 27 per cent of

respondents had experienced abuse or violence while trying to access a public toilet. Data from the

Great Liverpool City Region Loo Review, part of TDoV Liverpool’s Toilets for Everybody campaign, were

published to coincide with the international event celebrating transgender people which raises awareness

of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide. 42 per cent of respondents also returned that

they preferred self-contained rooms to traditional cubicles and two thirds of people interviewed said they

were comfortable using a toilet with signage that was not gendered. The campaign is funded by LCR

Pride Foundation Community Fund, which supports a variety of initiatives which benefit the local LGBT+

community. lcrpride.co.uk/bogstandard

BIENNIAL KINSHIP

On p7 you’ll find one of Liverpool Biennial’s Kinship pack stories.

For families with primary age readers, each story connects the

local histories and communities of Liverpool to the Biennial’s three

curatorial entry points – Porosity, Stomach and Kinship - presenting

different ways of thinking about and linking the artworks across the

festival theme of The Stomach and the Port. To read the Stomach

and Kinship stories, discover the Kinship Activity Pack along with

lots of other learning resources and activities for young people aged

between 5-19, visit liverpoolbiennial2021.com/learn.

SAE OPEN DAYS

Aspiring producers, music executives, videographers and animators

have the opportunity to explore the facilities and possibilities on offer

at SAE Institute at two virtual open days in April and May. At the

events, attendees can meet the staff and students at the Pall Mall

campus, check out the industry standard tech they work with and ask

questions about the plethora of creative courses they have starting in

September. SAE Institute is part of a network of campuses across the

world which have launched the careers of famous alumni, including

Grammy Award winner Jabari Tawiah and up and coming RnB star

Jayla Darden. sae.edu/grb

NEWS 11


HOT PINK!

A refreshing April shower of top-notch tunes comes courtesy of our Hot Pink! playlist this

month. As ever, Merseyside artists are at the top of their game as we’re treated to a selection

of bedroom pop, softly spun indie and bookworm grooves to help us bust out of lockdown into

the live rooms and club nights of tomorrow.

Seagoth

Eternity

Riding the clouds after her hypnotic Dreamworld release last year, homegrown

bedroom pop artist SEAGOTH unveils another generous synthscape offering in

Eternity. An altitudinal three-minute delight of trippy, rhythmic percussion and a wideopen

final third that sets everything right with the world – and then some. (MB)

The Coral

Lover Undiscovered

Making a career of bringing Haight-Ashbury to Wirral track-by-track has served THE

CORAL well and it doesn’t seem like they’ll be fixing any unbroken methods on their

forthcoming LP, Coral Island. Lover Undiscovered treads familiar but not unpleasant

territory with some trademark James Skelly turns of phrase and timeless melodies that

would find their way onto radio airwaves in any year since 1965. (ST)

Borth

Peach O.K.

BORTH knows how to write a pop tune. This track opens his EP Nettle Soup and it’s a

sign of the bizarro world therein. A melting pot of odd sounds, polyrhythms and slacker

sentiment, Peach O.K. is as disorientating as it is endearing. There’s enough familiar

melody to keep you grounded, while the mad sonic tangents give licence for repeated

listens. (ST)

Pizzagirl

car freshener aftershave

Nothing dampens PIZZAGIRL. Synths pump an eight-bit backdrop as he eclipses

the embarrassment of a thorny encounter with an ex. He parties on with the latenight

slummy of 40 per cent bottles and cold ready meals, still puckish and pert; he

slips across from sending up the celloholic ex to cadging his rent from another. It’s a

brilliantly manic lap around a Mario Kart map designed by a mind who finds glamour in

the gutters. (SL)

Paz

Ghost

It’s difficult not to raise a smile to PAZ’s track. The synthy groove of Ghost sets

nonsensical rhymes and poppy hooks over 90s gamer effects and laidback beats. It’s

mellow, cheeky and almost as much fun as hours on the SNES. (ST)

Words: Matthew Berks, Sam Turner, Sam Lasley, Lily Blakeney-Edwards.

Follow Hot Pink! on Spotify: bit.ly/bidohotpink

Photography:

Seagoth,

Seatbelts (Michael Kirkham)

Pizzagirl (Kate Davies),

The Let Go

idontknowwhy

THE LET GO take a cruise through San Junipero, emotional conflict and all. Blushing

guitar chords, homespun trap hi-hats and bittersweet synth motifs provide the

soundtrack as a lonesome heart narrates a night, a morning and a walk home that

keeps reoccurring. It sings insecurities into the sky and responds with celestial vocal

support at the chorus. (SL)

SPINN

Billie

We’d be lying if we said we haven’t been itching to hear back from SPINN, but the

mischievous four are more than happy to remind us that good things do come to those

who wait with their first release of 2021. Joining forces with Christie Simpson from

Yumi Zouma, the lyrics’ playful take on modern romantic expectations and embracing

our imperfections is just what the doctor ordered after a miserable old year. Welcome

back. (MB)

Seatbelts

Citylines

SEATBELTS’ latest offering, Citylines, evokes the feeling of a road trip. Maybe it’s

the atmospheric guitar licks, the descriptions of stripped-back cities sung in James

Madden’s gravelly vocals, or the dotted synth elements that motor the track along.

Either way, it is a welcome tonic for lockdown life. (LBE)

Yammerer

The Beachgoer

To say YAMMERER’s The Beachgoer marks a new path for the band is an

understatement. Listening, we find ourselves in the middle of the group’s surrealist

soundscape, that rattles through an array of emotions aided by angular guitars and

unhinged vocals. It’s unexpected and turbulent but relentlessly exciting; we can only

hope the group continue their experimentalist endeavours. (LBE)

12


OVERCOMING

AND ARRIVING

Megan Walder tracks the rise and rise again of Pixey’s effervescent pop evolution.

FEATURE

13


PIXEY

PIXEY’s thoughts are currently circling back to the once sample-happy newbie who fell

feet first into a BBC-backed whirlwind of support and success. “What have I got myself

into?” she laughs, recalling her first impression of launching a career in music four years

ago. There’s a clear a cautionary tone, one which breaks with the usual fervour that

arrives with the first signs of progress and recognition. In this case, the ascent happened so

quickly a feeling of vertigo soon followed.

Drowning in fear and ill-prepared for the reaction of her ever-growing fanbase, to say the

beginnings were overwhelming would be an understatement. A lot quickly unfurled from what

she once regarded as a “haphazard production” in her bedroom studio.

After a short break from music, the 2017 version of Pixey we first met is indistinguishable

through today’s Zoom connection. The figure on the other end of the call is bright and

intriguing. There’s no lingering shadow of nerves or self-doubt. As she puts it herself:

“I’m not just a newbie anymore… not just starting out for the first time.” The sense of

determination is palpable. It’s an energy that has weaved its way through her musical

career and pushed her out of the cocoon where she once sat so comfortably.

You have to look back five years to locate the central source of this drive. In 2016,

Pixey came face to face with her mortality. A sharp shock to the system in the form of

a health scare reset her perspective, seeing her finally make the steps she needed to

begin her journey and pursue a career in music. While dreams of becoming the next

Ed Sheeran had faded, the equipment she had gathered on this failed quest remained.

Blowing off the dust and downloading her trusted Ableton she set up a bedroom

studio – before it was mandatory.

Battling with illness and social anxiety, her innovative thinking saw her use

her talent and determination to not only heal herself, but to lay the foundation for

future her (the one we meet

today) to be able to survive

and thrive, regardless of

the circumstances. And

although she did not foresee

a global pandemic, her home

recording abilities definitely

made the adjustment to the

new normal easier.

Before the significant

social shifts 12 months ago,

Pixey had already shown

people what she was about.

With her early release, Young,

quickly gaining attention,

people had high hopes for

the new star. With her marketable pop sensibilities, combined with an

experimental approach by way of a lack of classical training, Pixey offered

a new voice to young women. Not offering up regurgitated tales of tortured

relationships and imperfect love. She captured what it is to be young and

free in the face of difficulty. BBC Introducing soon cottoned on.

But often success can lead to a feeling of inadequacy, leaving one

to doubt their ability and fear that any consequent project will not

live up to the standard that has been set. We see this internalised

battle constantly within creative fields and, for Pixey, it was one that

paralysed her.

After a recent break, she is back with a renewed motivation and a

backlog of people she feels need to be proved wrong. The fire under

her is regularly fuelled by the memory of being told ‘you’ll never

be as good as me’ by men she once associated with. To them, this

revitalised Pixey simply says “piss off” and carries on. Their words

have pushed her to better herself and become more than they

ever could be.

Apart from the flute, which was an unprecedented disaster,

Pixey has taken to every instrument she has picked up. Her

recent lockdown project saw her become the neighbour from

hell, refusing to rest and instead deciding it was “a good time

to be learning stuff”. Stuff, to the horror of her neighbours,

meaning drums. “I practised three hours a day,” she laughs.

But practise makes perfect and her once favoured choice of

programming drums is no more. Her lockdown release, Just

Move, premiered these talents.

The trend continues with The Mersey Line, as good

a love letter to Liverpool as we’ve ever heard, or more

specifically to Liverpool’s docks. Pixey’s slice of serenity is

by the water, a place that allows her to “reset and take the

next step”.

“If my head’s feeling cloudy or I’m feeling upset or I

feel confused,” she continues, “I’ll go down there for a

14

“It felt like I

was running an

uphill battle”


FEATURE

15


16


walk.” But the dual meaning of the track also follows her on

her journey along the train line when visiting her parents. The

coupling of these two tales left Pixey fearing that her love

letter could come across as “cheesy” and not the “lo-fi 90s

jingle” she was aiming for. In truth, it is actually a fitting label

for the track. Taking me back to first moving to Liverpool and

discovering the powerful, grounding power of the docks, the

track is undeniably a standout of the EP.

The singles she released in 2020 offered a taster of what

was to come on her brand new EP, Free To Live In Colour.

Just Move, the lovechild of The Prodigy, Nile Rodgers and

60s garage definitely scratched the itch while we waited

to see where her music was heading. “I wanted it to be

huge. But now I’m thinking, how am I going to recreate that

live?” Pixey ponders. It’s a new sound for her, but with more

confidence in her ability, the shoe fits. Although she does

admit to needing “some sort of live budget” to get all the

elements of the track covered.

Her formative track, Young has been overshadowed by

that which has followed. And while she refuses to completely

abandon utilising samples and programming her drums, it is

clear that Pixey has found a more personable sound through

her mastery of an ever-growing skill set. It is the armour

that she speaks of on Free To Live In Colour, her ability to be

self-sufficient. “I know it’s not a phase,” she clarifies, adding

weight to the authenticity she has found since following her

ambitions and goals within the music industry.

And yet, with all of the internal work she has done to

develop her trust in herself, she still faces the internalised bias

of those who do not believe that her work is all her own doing.

She is constantly interrogated about who produces her music

and who writes her lyrics. She herself acknowledges that

these questions are “not meant in a patronising way”, instead

they are a manifestation of the sexism that goes unchallenged

within society, of believing women aren’t capable of being

multi-faceted.

In a male-dominated industry, where according to the

USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative only 2.6 per cent of

music producers and three per cent engineers/mixers in the

industry are women, it’s unsurprising that Pixey is one of

the victims of such narrow-minded thinking. But she is not a

one dimensional being and it’s clear as she sits in her room,

pointing out instrument after instrument around her, that

she could never be restricted by these limitations. Instead,

she is simply Pixey, an ever-evolving creation. She recites

her favourite quote – “don’t assume, it makes an ass out of

u and me” – and I have to laugh. It perfectly sums up how

meaningless these judgements are.

Following the success of Young, she explains that she was

left with the exhausting task of proving she was “consistent

and can constantly reinvent and create”.

“It felt like I was running an uphill battle,” she elaborates,

“to prove that I could do something after that.” Now, thankfully,

this weight seems to have eased. “I can put a middle finger up

to those people who made me feel like I was only a one-trick

pony,” she states. “I want to do this for a long time.”

It is this refusal to be limited and a constant determination

to succeed that has allowed Pixey’s sound to evolve.

Blending baggy 90s sounds with the ever-renewing list of

instrumentation, her style is a personification of graft and

autonomy, of drive and creative control.

“It’s so liberating,” she explains of her self-sufficient

reality, “to be able to play the main, core instruments on your

own songs and also have the choice to programme them

too if you want.” With this drive to rely on no one has come

the challenge of being comfortable with others wishing to

collaborate and critique, to learn from those around her in

order to better her craft.

She admits being able to loosen her grip on the “personal

thing” she creates is a “struggle”, with it taking time to accept

that she wasn’t undermining herself by reaching out to ask

for help. Instead, it has allowed her to grow as a producer,

refining her skills and ear for what she wants in her tracks.

Her bedroom production roots are yet to loosen their grip

on her overall product. The events of the last year have done

little to usher her out. “Now a lot of people produce in their

bedrooms, which is fantastic,” Pixey observes, “a lot of women

as well, which is really cool.” This is something that visibly

brings joy to her. “Maybe people are more vocal about it now,”

she says, “but it’s really cool, it made me feel much better

about the way I was working.” With her previous illness and

anxiety-driven decision to set up in her bedroom becoming

a necessity for others, it’s clear to see how she went from

feeling like an individual to being surrounded by a community

of fellow bedroom producers.

In what has been a difficult 12 months for so many in the

industry, Pixey is humble in noting how it’s been a good year

for the rising star. “I feel privileged to be able to say that,”

she elaborates, crediting her new-found momentum for this

unexpected positivity amid a worldwide pandemic. And it was

a singular decision to ignore those who told her she “wasn’t

going to go anywhere and was wasting [her] time” that led to

her taking up her music career once more and send demos off

to Chess Club Records.

Boasting the likes of Alfie Templeman and responsible

for early releases by Wolf Alice, Chess Club are a force

to be reckoned with, and 2020 saw Pixey added to that

ever-impressive roster. A singular “vulnerable moment” of

sending off those unheard pieces led to one of the biggest

opportunities in her career so far. “It felt like a dream come

true,” she says, recalling sitting down with Will and Peter of

the label and signing on the dotted line.

The rose-tinted glasses of that experience feel slightly

tainted, she admits, by the music industry’s decline at the

hands of the Conservative government. Joy quickly turns to

anger when we progress into the future our community faces.

“The amount of idiocy,” she screams, “I’ve not given nearly

fucking seven years of my life to retrain.” And just like that,

I see what music truly means to her. While the rest of the

conversation showed love for her craft, it was in this moment

that it clicked. The girl in the pixelated image on my screen

is not comfortable simply succeeding as an individual, but

fights for those around her, too. Having shed the skin of the

nervous newcomer we once met, this is someone who owes

everything to music, who fully grasps the power it holds. And

as her anger rises, the jigsaw pieces itself together and the

image of who Pixey truly is feels complete.

Said image is repeated

in the single Free To Live

In Colour, written prior to

her recent signing. She

explains it as a “fever

dream of confusion”,

combined with “telling

“I’m not just a

newbie anymore”

everyone to fuck off”

because the system, well,

sucks. The song mirrors

Pixey’s own fight for

freedom to live as she

sees fit. It channels former

and current battles, like

keeping “a job as well as

writing and having no

money”, being a “conformative non-conformative person”

and being “free to live however and love whoever you want,

regardless of boundaries”. All of this emotion, combined with

a boundary pushing production, left Pixey impatient to release

the track after having sat on it for so long.

This impatience is mirrored in how she perceives the

world at the moment. Angry at the way creatives have been

undervalued and dismissed by the powers that be. “It’s not

just a piece of entertainment, people make their living off of

this and, for some, it’s a form of therapy,” she expresses. She

speaks from experience. Music was her way out of a dark time.

Her crutch. And following statements from Rishi Sunak about

creatives needing to “adapt and adjust to the new reality,” her

anger is more than justified. And as she laughs, recalling her

short-lived and poorly executed time as a waitress, it’s clear

that retraining just isn’t on the cards for Pixey.

But as venues all around us are being forced to close,

relocate and rethink their business plans, this fear for the

creative community is unavoidable. For Pixey, the way the

pandemic is “just chipping away at all the important little

venues” is taken personally. That was where she started. And

without places like “Zanzibar and Sound”, she wouldn’t have

had the chance to be the nervous, sample happy newbie.

Maybe she would never have had the opportunity to annoy

her neighbours while learning the drums, too. But as she says:

“If your music is worth it, it will have its time.” Her time is now. !

Words: Megan Walder / @M_l_Wald

Photography: Marieke Macklon / @mariekemacklon

Free To Live In Colour is available now via Chess Club

Records.

@iampixey

FEATURE

17


AYS TA R

Returning with the third instalment of his mixtape series, the rapper

talks musical growth, finding his flow and staying true to the city.

When AYSTAR used to hear a smart rap, it

left a bittersweet taste. “[I’d be] like, ‘That

was sick, why didn’t I think of that?’” he

says, thinking back to his initial inspiration

to take up the mic over 10 years ago.

Fast-forward to now and it is others within the grime

food chain who’re now looking up at Aystar with a similar

level of inspiration and envy. After the self-scrutinous

start, he’s formed a career that’s seen him go from viral

YouTube star to speaking today as an authority at the

apex of the scene.

Alongside Manchester’s Bugzy Malone, the Toxtethborn

rapper has stood as a provincial outlier since 2015

and helped shift the groundswell away from London to

rightly put eyes on the north. But rather than a quest to

gain recognition in the south, the journey has stemmed

from the innate belief he could match and better what he

was hearing in his youth. “I just fell in love with being able

to just fuck around with words and get your points across

while rhyming,” he says of the moment ambition and

ability started to crystallise. “And I realised, I’m just better

at that than a lot of other people.”

Ten years on, this sure sense of self hasn’t plateaued.

On his latest mixtape, Scousematic 3, he retains a

swaggering bravado that’s as unflinching as his equable

flow. “Look bro, I’ve gotta be top three in England when

it comes to just slappin’ on a rap beat,” he proclaims on

Straight In, with the added boast: “I made so

much dough last year I forgot to rap.”

The mixtape is a confident reassertion of

stature after a short while out of the spotlight,

but it isn’t all self-aggrandising. Aystar’s

unwavering flow and daring architectural

wordplay are baked into the heart of the

record. “She sees me fly past on crosses, now

she thinks I’m a Catholic,” he quips on In And

Out, just one of many razor-sharp lines that

carry the signature wit and self-awareness that

put the rapper on the pedestal he now enjoys.

Starting off as a freestyler operating in

hip-hop territory, his more recent mixtapes

have carried greater drill and grime sensibilities with

their bouncy production and staccato rhyme schemes.

Scousematic 3 follows suit for the most part, but there

are more expansive flourishes that lean into RnB on In

And Out, with weighty features across the record from

Giggs and Digga D marking his ascent to the top. Aystar

puts this down to natural progression. “I’m growing as

an artist,” he says, “so my music is going to reflect that

as well.”

Aystar caught his first break with his Bar Session

back in 2012. The video sees a fresh faced Aystar

freestyling down the back entry of a terraced street. With

bars laced with stories of drugs and violence, it’s his

straight-faced humour and gritty portrait of life coming

up in L8 and L15 that marked him out as a talent in the

making. “Guy got left with a popped eye, no spinach,

that’s what you’ll be getting if you think you’re the illest,”

he delivers, hood up and eyes fixed on the camera – no

hint of irony.

“I started putting freestyles out on MySpace and

they used to get crazy thousands of listens,” he says of

the formative years before the Bar Session. “I thought to

myself, ‘If I’m getting that on MySpace, if I do videos on

YouTube it’s got to get views’.” His instincts were right, with

the Bar Session now well on its way to two million views.

He credits his early inspiration to local collective

YOC for putting a Scouse stamp on a genre that wasn’t

yet known for a vernacular at home in the North West.

But where YOC’s lyrical flow matches that of mid-

2000s grime in its speed, with interspersed Scouse

inflections, Aystar’s own style would eventually bypass

any established norms and fall into the slowed down,

distinctive mould of his own voice.

“How can this Aystar yute have a lazier flow than

mine. This yute’s coooold,” announced Giggs back in

2016. The similarities in style would soon be heard

side by side on The Best taken from Giggs’ 2016 album

Landlord, but it was a deeper retreat into his own

personality that garnered Aystar national attention a few

years earlier.

“I remember years ago I was a bit more energetic,”

he says of his early style, before it switched to something

much slower and akin to a death stare marked by flashes

of unhinged twitchiness. It’s perhaps Scouse Matic

Freestyle, released in 2015, which signals the fullyfledged

arrival of its new form.

With its tantalising Mobb Deep-style beat, the track

becomes more flash fiction than song as Aystar stitches

together scenes lit by street lamps, gunfire and flashing

blue lights coming

into sight. With every

R elongated and C

“I want everyone

to know that

it’s straight

from our city”

crunching down harshly,

Aystar was producing

some of the Scousest

music ever made. The

accent becoming its own

instrument in the mix,

the local vernacular the

grounding flourishes and

authenticity that can’t be

plucked out of thin air by

producers. And with all

this, Aystar’s delivery keeps a straight face, barely moves,

or worries about simple rhyme schemes with words pingponging

between 16 bar arrangements. Nonchalant, lazy,

unfazed, unarsed, call it whatever – it’s a style that faces

its surroundings head on and doesn’t blink.

“I think that’s just a personality trait. Just the way that

I am, you know what I mean?” he says, when asked how

he arrived at the unflinching, slowed down flow he’s now

synonymous with. “I’m kinda’ like that anyway. So that’s

just how it comes out in my music. I never ever thought,

‘I’m gonna’ try and be like this, or like that’. When I rap,

it’s like me speaking to you,” he says, the tone in his voice

beginning to rhythmically shuffle forward like one of his

own bars. “I don’t change my voice. I don’t add a certain

energy. I just give you it the way I am.”

While Aystar now garners attention on a national

level, the lyrical content of his music hasn’t shifted far

from his life growing up around Toxteth and Wavertree.

He says the stories he tells on record aren’t necessarily

autobiographical, some stemming from real life events,

yet they still carry an air of first-person documentation

by way of geographical osmosis through remaining parts

of the areas he raps about. “I feel like you’ve got to live,

you’ve got to live and go through these experiences to

even be able to come up with the music,” he says. “If

I hadn’t experienced [certain things], I wouldn’t have

been able to come with that specific tune. It’s definitely

a mixture of what’s happening in life now. And what’s

happened previously.”

He outlines how Liverpool and his life here will

remain a core part of his music, irrespective of growing

national radio plays and attention from heavyweight stars

in the south. “That’s what brought me in the game. So, for

me to change the recipe now, I wouldn’t really be the guy

that I am.”

With London still an industry base for drill and grime,

the temptation to follow its lead is difficult to resist for

artists coming through. But for Aystar, the parallel reality

for rap artists up north offered its own chance to stand

out. “I’m trying to stay original. For a lot of people, when

they try and tap into the London scene, they forget who

they are,” he says. “I’ve been doing this from Liverpool for

so long that when people do take notice, I want everyone

to know that it’s straight from our city. You’re not mixing

me up with these London cats.”

Wearing the city’s colours so vividly in his music

comes with an apparent sense of pride. In many ways, it

comes across as a duty, an obligation to put his powers to

good use. “Being in the car and listening to the radio and

then hearing someone who’s representing your city, but

is actually good – it’s a good feeling,” he says. “Like, I’m

doing Liverpool justice, if anything,” he laughs. “If I was

making a show, I probably would have stopped a long

time ago.”

The notions of home are strewn across the cover

of Scousematic 3. With a Toxteth street sign partially

in view, a shot-up phone box and Aystar pensively

looking on, it seems to suggest a return to a scene of

social violence as an observer, rather than instigator.

Either way, it projects an image of authority, as if a

figure seeing the scenes shift around them while they

hold their ground. Perhaps a sense of contemplation in

the figure looking in the opposite direction within the

reflection of the broken glass.

It’s this sense of contemplation that marks this

current phase in Aystar’s career; no longer the hot new

talent, but something of a stalwart having made it 10

years in the game. While perspectives change, and the

palette of producers he’s working with, he doesn’t see

much else differently to the teenager who once felt slight

frustration that a clever rhyme wasn’t his own. “I know

who I am. You know what I mean? I know that I am

looked at as that person in Liverpool and in the north,” he

says, with air of consideration. “But at the same time, I

still just try and keep how I’ve been for the past 10 years.

I don’t let that change.” !

Words: Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder

Photography: Joe Harper

Scousematic 3 is available now.

@aystar__

18


FEATURE

19


20


SARA

WOLFF

Exploring the literate, genre-dodging songs of the Bergen-born singer-songwriter, scouring

away at the surface of butter-wouldn’t-melt-blokes in the process.

In the video for SARA WOLFF’s recent single Cotton

Socks, filmed by Mimi Šerbedžija, the camera meets

Wolff’s gaze as her eyelids flutter in time. Her head

appears framed, as if on a platter. She then tucks

into a dessert buffet of jellybeans, muffins, doughnuts

and a lovely looking Victoria sponge, Bruce Bogtrotterstyle.

It all ends with Wolff in a sugar coma, face and

hands covered in jam, looking like a cannibal passed out

at a crime scene. For a song that sounds like drowning

in honey, this saccharine display fits her barbed, sicklysweet

lyrics perfectly.

While society buffers, we’ve had ample time to

ponder what we’ve missed, as well as clarity to address

some serious issues surrounding inequality. And,

although it might have been written long before our

current winter of discontent, Wolff’s debut EP When You

Left The Room remarkably still captures the zeitgeist, as

Sara chews over that which she’s willing to stomach and

spits out the rest. Cotton Socks flaunts this in all its glory.

Couplets such as “Oh bless your little toffee heart

/ don’t you let them sting you when you tear their hive

apart” and “’Cause they are little bumblebees without a

single clue / they are bumping into everyone ’cause they

don’t know what to do” find Wolff biting back. Softly

spun melodies and wonky, woozy arrangements might

draw you in, but it’s the cunningly reflective songwriting,

with its pointed humour and carefully crafted narratives,

that’ll keep you hooked.

“Cotton Socks is a song about feeling underestimated

by someone,” she begins, speaking over video call, with

no traces of jam to be seen. “It could be about toxic

masculinity, a person who maybe has a skewed view

on women in general. It comes back to, I guess, the

expectations of women, or your feelings not being taken

seriously, being brushed off as someone who’s all over

the place. It’s a reaction to that by saying: ‘I know exactly

what’s going on and why you’re behaving this way… and

I’ll sting you any day’,” she explains, with an effortless

lyrical charm.

Through addressing men in this sympathetic,

mollycoddling manner, Wolff is able to poke holes in a

privileged sense of security. It could even be seen as

an impression of the belittling tone some do actually

take around the opposite sex. In this way it feels like a

predecessor to the equally eerie Scarf Song. Directed

by Wolff and Andy Martin, Scarf Song’s monochrome

music video has a more Lynchian slant with Sara and

Co. appearing onstage like mannequins. Yet it still serves

as an uneasy commentary about the treatment and

objectification of women. And when Sara dreams of

retaliation in the chorus (in this case, a light garrotting by

knitwear) it’s hard to blame, frankly.

Fiona Apple’s lyrics for Relay from last year’s

groundbreaking Fetch The Bolt Cutters spring to mind: “I

resent you for never getting any opposition at all / I resent

you for having each other / I resent you for being so sure /

I resent you presenting your life like a fucking propaganda

brochure”. It’s a directness

Wolff finds particularly

refreshing.

“We’re so much

stronger if we stand

together and lift

people up, rather

than tearing each

other down”

“My favourite song is

definitely Ladies,” Wolff

responds, “she’s singing

to her ex’s new girlfriend

and it’s all about women

standing together. She

says: ‘There’s a dress in

the closet that you can

have because it will look

way better on you, it

was actually left to me

by another ex who was

there before me’. I feel

like sometimes women can tend to fight each other, or

there can be this culture of competition. Usually you can

see that with any marginalised group, if there is a sense

there’s not space for you somewhere.

“I suppose in a male-dominated music scene,” she

continues, “there’s less space for women to begin with.

You suddenly have women turning against each other

because you’re fighting for those few slots that are

available for you. [Fiona Apple] definitely touches upon

something very important there. We’re just so much

stronger if we stand together and lift people up, rather

than tearing each other down.”

Naturally, we move onto the topic of female artists

being pigeonholed, as we question where her adopted

hometown fits into all of this.

“Being a woman musician isn’t a genre. The amount

of line-ups I’ve been put on billed as ‘Ladies Night’

or times it hasn’t made sense that I’m opening for a

band. The only similarity is our gender identity,” Wolff

explains. However, she is keen to note the supportive

aspects of Liverpool’s scene and the groups looking to

tackle unequal diversity. One of which she highlights is

Where Are The Girlbands, who she commends for their

promotion of female musicians, opening discussions,

covering the scene and connecting creatives.

Maybe this time is what we all needed, a little reset

and then we can come back with more objectivity,”

Wolff ponders in response to the prolonged pause of

live music. “Knowing that we’ve had some space to think

about what’s important to us and what we really want

the scene to look like: more inclusive, interesting and

accommodating.”

In September 2019, Sara visited Manchester’s Eve

studios to track the EP with her live band and coproducer/engineer

Adam Rothschild. Replete with vintage

synths, analogue outboard gear

and even a cat (also named Adam),

16-hour stints of recording found

the pair entirely submerged in the

project. Since then, she’s swapped

what was “basically an old mansion”

where King Krule, Everything

Everything and The Orielles record,

for the familiar makeshift duvet

vocal booth.

“I was just recording all of my

vocals under my little duvet castle

in my bedroom. There were dogs

barking outside the window, loads

of construction work going on,

plus my interface was really shit,

so whenever I had my computer plugged in it made a

buzzing noise,” she illustrates. “Somehow still, it’s nice, I

always feel most comfortable in my own surroundings.”

Thankfully, persistence and time invested honing

these tracks – the liquefied All We Are feel of Hands

having evolved significantly over the past six years

– means we’re now hearing Wolff at her most selfactualised

as an artist. Her stay at Eve and the room for

experimentation this allowed has only pushed her sound

further as well. A minimalist at heart, in-studio Sara

opted to either extract guitar parts in place of synths,

noise machines and the distinctive 1960s Farfisa organ,

or instead fed them through effects units, such as the

Roland Space Echo used to produce the delay we hear

tripping over itself on off-kilter standout You Like Talking

About Yourself.

Charged with all the manic energy and queasy

cutesiness of a carnival funhouse, in Wolff’s words

You Like Talking About Yourself is “a silly song about

someone who loves themselves too much and sucks all

the attention out a room”. In the chorus the kit actually

breaks down for a bar or two, mimicking the blowhard

losing steam, or rather his victims losing the will to

live. By the time we reach the bridge, it’s looking more

Dismaland than Disney, as Sara sings, “What have you

done? You ate my firstborn son” as raving voices pile up

against a wall of distortion.

Sara’s conscious use of contrast calls to mind Aldous

Harding and Cate Le Bon, but it would seem she’s not as

FEATURE

21


easy to corner on influences as that, as proven when she

elaborates on her process.

“You have to always strive to diversify what you

hear,” she says. “I try to take influence from as many

things as possible because I think it’s easy to go down

the rabbit hole of following trends. If you do that you get

lost in what you think people want to hear, instead of

what you really sound like. The thing is with trends they

always go away.”

She elaborates further, breaking down the concept

into a simplified form: “People might not like my music

now and might not resonate with it now, but sometime

there may be someone who will. That’s enough for me.

I’m just going to do my own thing, listen to as many

different things as I can, then hopefully I won’t steal

something by accident.”

There’s method also in the juxtaposition of creaking

eeriness and wide beaming smile that much of the EP

carries. “I find when I write about a particularly dark

subject I like to wrap it in a nice little soft package

instead,” she says. “Maybe it’s the shock factor?

Sometimes it can relay the message a little easier. [On the

EP] I was definitely playing a lot more with contrasts than

ever before. I was going for more angry and distorted

sounds because I feel as someone who works within

the folk genre and as a woman, sometimes it’s like the

22

‘generals’ just tell us what the desirable traits of being a

woman are: quiet, polite and modest.

“But, on the other side of the spectrum, you have

men who are allowed to express their anger more in

music – shredding, playing heavier – that’s normally a

very desirable trait in a man,” she adds. “It’s considered

sexy, whereas if a woman acts the same way it’s

considered bitchy. So, I guess I’ve been trying to embrace

this anger and stop being so careful all the time.”

For Sara to think of her music as a time capsule that

might someday make an impression is underselling its

charm and relatability. Take Bad Thoughts Compilation,

for example. This deep dive into despondency with its

delicate guitar work and bobbing melody recalling Rozi

Plain, could quite easily soundtrack a clip show of 2020’s

most tedious, thumb-twiddling groundhog days. “Let’s

stay at home, not follow through. Let’s burn the spark

right out of you” she sings, before ending the record

with the refrain, “I think I need to get away for a while”.

They’re sentiments not lost on us.

“Get Away For A While became more a goodbye to

past selves. ‘It happened when you left the room and I

think about it every day’. It’s like when you realise that

something’s changed, that something’s over, that you’re

going to have to adapt. I feel that’s what songwriting

is for me in general: just looking back at things I’ve

experienced with more of an objective view and reflecting

on changes that were maybe quite difficult when they

happened, but they’ve brought me to where I am today

and have offered a new perspective.

“That’s something I’ve felt this year more than ever,

just being by myself. Just feeling feelings very deeply

with nothing to distract you. Really coming to terms

with things and reflecting on who you are as a person.

I lost my job, I got out of a relationship, but lockdown is

the thing that’s taught me the most so far in my life. Just

letting go, allowing things to happen and just accepting

it. I feel like now, more than ever before, I have faith that

things will turn out in the end.”

On a record so fraught with goodbyes it’s comforting

to see Wolff’s found such room for growth. In letting go

she’s gifted a record that could not only help others feel

seen, it has the potential to aid us all in some small way,

as we each weather our own personal shitstorms. !

Words: David Weir / @BetweenSeeds

Photography: Marieke Macklon / @mariekemacklon

When You Left The Room is available now.

@saraw0lff


DIALECT

Breath, reinterpretation, community. Wil Baines pores over

the layers of Andrew PM Hunt’s latest works.

Andrew PM Hunt is a prolific composer and

electronic musician who has been an active

light in the Liverpool community for over

a decade now. His work as DIALECT (one

of his many musical projects) has been an exploration

in mixing his constantly evolving personal production

style with whatever impetus crosses his eye. Sonically,

this latest project Under~Between is an exploration of

electronic and acoustic performances latticed together

into some of the most widely accessible music I’ve had

the pleasure to come across. Exploring motifs of breath,

reinterpretation and community – it is to be consumed

whole.

Beginning our conversation, we talk over a mutual

interest in music, technology and its fringes (or rather

its trendy ‘bangs’). I ask Andrew to explain a little about

where his latest project materialised from, and what

drove the noticeable differences from the previous works

in his canon.

“In about 2017, I was asked to do a concert with Immix

Ensemble, who are a chamber group here in Liverpool who

specialise in collaboration,” he begins. “I did this concert

where I wrote a new piece for them, and they did different

arrangements of older pieces of mine. It went really,

really well, and so the next year I was

asked to be a composer-in-residence

for their concert series. So it’s

kinda like a live electronics

and chamber group thing,

and we did maybe five

concerts together over

the year, and that was

kind of the start of

this whole new

album project.”

Speaking

to Andrew only

briefly, I start

to realise that

maybe he is

starting to say this

record is about

letting people in;

a sentiment that I

believe listeners will

hold even more dear to

themselves after the last

year. He goes on to explain

that, after concluding these

concerts, he immediately had

ideas of dramatically reinterpreting

their contents. “The majority of 2019

I spent in the studio, working with individual

members of the ensemble, plus a whole host of other

people from the Liverpool music community,” he notes.

“Particularly the improvised music community, to reinvent

some of these pieces and also invent new ones.”

Dialect’s music is one of drawing inspiration from the

world around him, changing where he chooses to focus

his gaze. Something that is also evident across whatever

“musical crime fighting identity” he dons in each of his

projects. He mentions the word introspective multiple

24

times during our exchange, but I believe maybe a more

fitting term may be ‘omnispective’ – such are the number

of perspectives within his work.

We go on to talk about the sounds that made up the

record. I drop a technical term for classifying instruments

into my question and it prompts a smile – I think the

atmosphere of our conversation has confidently passed

some kind of litmus test. “Naturally working with a

group like Immix affected the palette of sounds I was

using very considerably, which is part of the reason why

the record sounds, on the surface at least, very different

from Loose Blooms.”

Referring to his previous release from 2018, we

briefly ponder any similarities between the two records

that are important to him, and possibly over his career

in general. He speaks about his keenness, throughout

his work, to reject the idea that sounds considered to

be ‘organic’ are good and preferable and those made by

technology are inferior. This is a moot point for him, and

he goes on to point out that something like a saxophone

at some point was the pinnacle of music technology. I

agree, and he thus underlines what we call his “sonic

thumbprint”. He details how this directly influenced

Under~Between:

“There’s something obviously

inherently natural about the pace

and phrasing of a human

breath,” he says. “On an

almost unconscious

level we recognise a

certain natural-ness

to the length of

human exhalation

– and that was

something I was

trying to work

into the record

over the second

half of 2019.”

It occurs

to me, as he

confirms, that

the process of

collaboration with

the members of

Immix Ensemble, and

his own experience as a

session saxophone player,

have played a huge role in

shaping not only the sound

of this latest record, but also the

way in which Andrew has produced and

arranged the tracks. Expanding on this clear motif

of human respiration and its intricacies he continues: “I

became aware of this tendency towards sounds where

you can really hear air moving in and out; and you really

get a sense of breath, and with that sense of breath a

sense of life and vitality.”

He goes on to pinpoint the track Flame Not Stone

and discusses how he begins the track with what he

calls ‘vocalese’, how that is a fragile and overtly intimate

sound, which goes on to trigger various MIDI events and

creates a web of sounds derived from the human breath.

“When you’re often working with electronics,” he

notes, “the derivation of sound can be quite obscured,

and often that’s the pleasure in it, but I think there’s

something really grounding about hearing a sound that

you can intuitively understand as being from a human

body. I’ve kind of always had that in my music one way or

another, but there’s more of a use of it in this record.”

Andrew continues to expand that this sense of

conversation or dialogue between electronic and ‘live’

instruments – or rather acoustic instruments – is one that

he hopes can be heard across the record. He explains

that he often seeks to have sounds ‘mimic’ other sounds.

I picture a parrot, a mockingbird and a lyrebird sitting

together in the mix; apart from they’re all Andrew and,

although the image begins to slightly disturb me, I

understand what he describes as “referential loops”.

As he goes on to explain, Andrew is somebody that

has a particularly outward perspective in his influences.

This has manifested in many ways. He discusses the idea

that in our society today distinctions between categories

in all forms are blurrier than ever, how that is often a

great thing, but that we are constantly surrounded by

people attempting to organise that chaos for one reason

or another.

I note how I think that his music is certainly a

meditation on that and go on to ask if his art could

be interpreted in a way that is a certain angle on

environmental activism. He says: “I think in many

ways those topics are best served by trying to avoid

being didactic in what you’re doing, you affect people

most deeply when you are able to engage both their

imaginations and inspire their own realisations, their

own epiphanies, and that is often best done in a slightly

more indirect way because it allows a listener more

agency… those conclusions are always going

to be more firm than when somebody

has been told what to think.”

This sentiment is certainly

one to be admired, and

one that he is keen to

reinforce. “Themes of

environmentalism,

or certainly an

obsession with

the natural world,

is very much

baked into the

music that I’m

making,” he

adds. “But

art should


“I’m trying to create

a profound sense

of vagueness”

be more open-ended than that, in my opinion. Personally,

I get more out of art that leaves space for somebody to

explore it in their own head.”

Many creatives, or in fact anybody, can relate to

this idea of gratification and impact. It is something that

we both note as having enjoyed in many records. “The

danger is always in over-composing things or overproducing

things,” he replies. “I have to fight against that

all the time when I’m working – to be like, ‘Oh no, I’ve

spelt it out too much’, or I’ve told people what it is.”

These interpretations are partially aided by the visual

accompaniment for Under~Between, directed by Sara

Ludy. In keeping with the theme of visual accompaniment

to his productions, though his chief medium as an artist

is sound, he outlines the desire to create and integrate

moving images into his music – creating moving images

from the perspective of sound, or vice-versa, what he

calls “essentially sound collage”. He underlines what is

quite a complex notion in a jovial manner: “I’m trying to

create a profound sense of vagueness. As we’ve said

before, in the vagueness is where people find their own

realisations and that’s what I think is important.”

As our conversation draws to a close, we touch

upon how Andrew started to feel almost arbitrary to be

arranging sounds on their own and how, in part, that

sentiment is also where the more collaborative nature of

Under~Between came from. Trying to introduce frictions

and differences, to let that manifest an event otherwise

inaccessible alone. In passing reference to a previous

interview with Bido Lito! I ask if this practice is going to

be a significant feature of his art going forward.

“As the years have gone on, I’m certainly less

interested in constructing any kind of mythos or

anything like this, that type of artifice, not least

because it’s a distraction on a practical level,

but it’s kind of a distraction from doing the

work. Some people are really into that kind

of thing. I don’t inherently have a problem

with that, but over time I’ve become more

interested in getting on with the work,

meeting people, exchanging ideas and the

community that comes from listening to

other people.”

Andrew PM Hunt has become a

perfect example of an artist that is both

extremely malleable and impressively

unique in his practice. He is in a constant

state of influential flux and the results

are fantastic. His latest record is further

evidence of that. !

Words: Wil Baines (They/Them)

Photography: Andrew Ellis / @ellis_samizdat

Illustration: Amy Cummings / @

amycummings_illustration

Under~Between is available now via RVNG

Intl.

dialect-trax.bandcamp.com

FEATURE

25


A new public-facing

exhibition, commissioned and

curated by Tate Collective,

will feature images of

Merseyside and the North

West displayed on billboards

across Liverpool. Featuring

landscape, portrait and

documentary photography

submitted by those aged

16-25, the collection of

images looks to build on

the work of Don McCullin

and highlight the social

intricacies of the region.

Leah Binns takes a closer

look at the works in question.

Isolation - Callum Cole

NORTH W

Since normal life as we know it has been

uprooted and as lockdown rules and statistics

continue to fluctuate, the coronavirus pandemic

has changed how we interpret imagery;

an emptied landscape, or a lone figure, has come to

represent a stronger feeling of solitude than it did before.

Photography taken at this time takes on a certain

quality, and there is a new framework for understanding

the world that reflects this tenuous and difficult period

of collective responsibility. Perhaps fitting for the way

in which we are continually adjusting to shifts in life’s

parameters, a current exhibition at Tate Liverpool

captures moments of social unrest, ranging from the

industrial North to international conflict, by British

photographer Don McCullin.

The images draw on very timely ideas of political

upheaval, as well as smaller moments that reflect the

everyday life of the subjects. Purposefully confrontational

and resistant, McCullin’s images push at the boundaries

of the viewer’s ethics, presenting scenes of poverty and

war with disturbing clarity.

Following a Tate Collective open call, billboards

across Liverpool will be filled with photographs from

young creatives inspired by McCullin’s work. Members

from the Tate Collective scheme, which is free to join

and open to all 16-25-year-olds, were invited to submit

photographs in response to the exhibition. In addition

to gallery discounts and £5 exhibition tickets, the Tate

Collective scheme gives access to free events and

creative opportunities, such as this ‘photographing the

North West’ open call.

From all of the submissions, 30 images have been

selected to appear on billboards throughout the city from

7th April and will be shown in the studio at Tate Liverpool

once the gallery is able to reopen later in May. The open

call was created by Tate Collective Producers, a group of

16-25-year-olds working with Tate to curate events and

opportunities for young people.

The thread that connects the images is the spirit of

the North West, through its communities, culture, and

landscape. While the results were wide-reaching, many

themes are recurrent, showing the persistence of certain

feelings in our collective consciousness; from isolation and

escapism, to community and protest. Some images explore

new understandings of landscape during lockdown, while

others touch on the North West’s playfulness, civic pride,

artistic outlook, or political histories.

Tate Collective Producers, Laura Wiggett and Niamh

Tam, who helped create the project, note how they

prioritised providing a platform for young creatives who are

currently being left stranded by

the lack of opportunities in the art

world. Breaking with the current

tendency for works and events

to move online, Laura highlighted

how the producers wanted

“something physical to have”.

As a public-facing billboard

project, a different understanding

of scale and space that is

disconnected from exhibition

conventions was necessary,

which opened up new challenges

for the producers themselves.

Laura stressed the importance of

making the exhibition “accessible for everyone”, both for

its contributors and in its reception. More sporadic than

a conventional exhibition, and framed by the city itself,

the project has the opportunity to directly exist within the

space it seeks to reflect.

“Looking at themes of protest through McCullin’s war

imagery, looking at landscapes through his images of

Liverpool, the images that we’ve chosen are a really good

reflection of the exhibition itself,” says Niamh.

“These images

follow in McCullin’s

footsteps by

exposing the

histories embedded

in the landscape”

The influence of McCullin’s landscapes is particularly

apparent in some images that are energetic natural

scenes with dynamic compositions. Photographs such as

Safe Travels, Neston and Thurstaston Beach respond to

a shift in our relationship to the local area, whether that

be a sense of absence as implied by our loss of a daily

commute, or a renewed interest in nature through daily

walks in lockdown. Safe Travels, Neston balances a sparse

scenic view with a lively flock of birds. Thurstaston Beach,

on the other hand, is far darker, with a more rocky, textured

feel, almost ghostly in how it is laden with gloom.

“Despite what it suggests,” says George Jones, the

photographer of the image, “the coast is often packed

with locals enjoying the smell

of the salty air, the joyous

atmosphere, or the vastness

of the sea at the mouth of

the Mersey. Hopefully what

Thurstaston Beach does signify

is the intertwining and treasured

relationship our local landscapes

have with their people.”

Discussing the influence

of McCullin, Jones adds: “What

I found exceptional about his

landscapes, having come after

the intense, excruciating images

of conflict, was the space and

expansiveness they possessed. The skies specifically

were so visceral, so epic, almost at times apocalyptic.”

For many, a daily walk in nature has come to

symbolise a way of sustaining normalcy, or routine,

through unusual times. The image of Thurstaston Beach

definitely reflects this; there is a sense of catharsis in its

vigour, in how it draws on expansive space as an antidote

to the confinement of lockdown.

Other images represent urban rather than natural

26


Cranborne - Oisin Askin

Safe Travels Neston - Connor Maxwell

Harry Arthur, homeless in Liverpool - Harry Saundry

EST IN FOCUS

A Flicker of Hope - Sean Tadman

FEATURE

27


28

Barry - Amelia Jones


Thurstaston Beach - George Jones

scenes, complete with new understandings of tranquility

and emptiness. Photographs such as Isolation, which

depicts a Manchester hotel with a single illuminated

room, play with light and a strong composition to

ignite a sense of loneliness, while being deeply

atmospheric in its use of colour. The Past is a Foreign

Country portrays another Manchester scene where

a modern cityscape looms nefariously over an old

industrial street. The image’s patchwork composition

exposes gentrification as something palpable, layered

and always in process, as well as demonstrating the

precarity of history in the landscape.

Expanding on human stories through a point of view

that is often marginalised, Harry Arthur, Homeless in

Liverpool is an image that depicts a man with the word

‘rich’ written across his fingers. Here, the hand replaces

the face as the traditional subject of the portrait, and

the viewer is confronted with a sense of identity from a

sidelined perspective.

Unity Is Strength, which illustrates a mostly

unpopulated Liverpudlian street decked out in flags

during the 2019 Champion’s League final, aims to

address the importance of togetherness during a time of

separation. Underscored by a table decorated in red, this

photograph is visually striking in its celebratory tone, and

its evocative depiction of community spirit.

“I wanted to subtly capture the smaller moments

of bliss and the honest expression of Liverpool’s

communities, says its photographer Oliver O’Callaghan.

“It’s important to daydream and reflect on these special

moments.” For this photographer, escape through

imagination is a crucial theme, and is here interpreted

by reflecting on past celebrations and communal events.

The tenacity of this image is clear, and its outlook is equal

parts nostalgic and forward thinking. When layered with

commemorative flags and banners, the city street starts

to represent something new, speaking to the social unity

of Liverpool’s people.

Cranborne, similarly, emphasises the importance

of community and friendship in the city, showing three

figures playing with a football in a Liverpool street. Its light,

composition and feeling of being in the midst of a game,

gives the image an idyllic sheen. Images like Barry, which

shows a cheerful man on the Albert Dock with pigeons

perching on his head and shoulder, also put an interesting

twist on the traditions of photojournalism, exposing the

unapologetically joyous side to Liverpool life.

Amelia Jones, who describes the photograph as

telling the story of a “Liverpool-born man who still lives

and works in the city, is proud to be a Scouser and is

happy to tell the world.” says that they hoped to show a

“happier side to documentary photography”, subverting

viewer expectations. “It shows that Scousers have a

joyful side, and that even the birds aren’t afraid to say

hello,” adds Jones. There is a familiar warmth and strong

sense of playfulness to this image of the photographer’s

father, which demonstrates the strength of family and

relationships in the local area.

The photographer of A Flicker of Hope, an image

of a Black Lives Matter protest last summer, was also

interested in the social histories of the landscape that

rests behind the image. Some of 2020’s most powerful

and dynamic imagery has come from protest and this,

as a photographic diptych that is almost sculptural in the

strength of its light, is no exception.

Sean Tadman explains that they took the photograph

on the steps of St George’s Hall: “This imposing structure

– a symbol of the fortunes made from the slave trade –

fuelled the notions of injustice felt by the subject as she

spoke about Liverpool’s history and the oppression faced

by black people today.”

The image exposes how the cityscape itself can be

complicit in sustaining dark political conventions: “I found

it shocking when looking into the historical significance of

Liverpool in relation to the slave trade and how little we

in the UK are taught about it, particularly as our colonial

history has so much influence upon the UK’s culture,

architecture, art, and oftentimes, financial relevance on an

international scale.”

According to Tate Collective Producer Niamh, this

image particularly captures “what has been happening

in the past year”: the changes, the protests, the Black

Lives Matter campaign. The photograph’s monochromatic

colour scheme is a deliberate attempt to flatten the

time between the Civil Rights movement of the 50s

and 60s and that of the present day, demonstrating the

contemporary relevance of these issues, and giving a

sense of urgency to the image and its cause.

Many of these images follow in McCullin’s footsteps

FEATURE

by exposing the histories embedded in the landscape,

while demonstrating social change as being an integral

part of our city’s political history. The final project is a

celebration of the imagery that evolves organically from a

time of constraint, as captured by local people. Speaking

on behalf of Tate Producers, Laura’s assertion that the

project “shows a feeling, in Liverpool, of openness”

expresses the success of the project and its stories; while

each image is unique and personal, they are fragments

of a greater whole, contributing to a collaborative

understanding of the North West through engaging with

young local talent. !

Words: Leah Binns

Unity is Strength - Oliver O’Callaghan

The works in the exhibition will be shown across

Liverpool from 7th April. Tate Collective will also run

several day takeovers across their social media channels,

showcasing entries and the artists involved. Locations of

the billboards and further information on the project can

be found via the link below.

tate.org.uk/tate-collective/photographing-north-west

@TateCollective

Tate Collective is supported by Jean and

Melanie Salata with additional support from Garfield

Weston Foundation, The Rothschild Foundation, and Tate

Patrons.

29


30


AMBER JAY

Bravely peering around the corner, Lily Blakeney-Edwards channels the spooky, spine-tingling

atmospherics of the electro-pop star.

AMBER JAY hates scary films, something

she confesses sitting in her family home,

surrounded by her pets and the sounds of

suburban mundanity. It’s a truth that offers its

own jolt of surprise.

Anyone who’s come across the young artist’s

eerie, dark-pop sensibilities would expect her to be a

horror flick fanatic. Eventually, however, there’s a telling

explanation. “I always obsess over the soundtracks,

though,” adding to her earlier statement. “I love it when

songs have a haunting influence on them; it gives them

such an intriguing atmosphere.” She pauses, before

continuing. “You know, that

white noise they play in horror

films sometimes? The kind of

noise where you don’t realise

it’s there, but it creates a really

unnerving atmosphere? It scares

you without you even knowing,

it’s like a subconscious effect.

When you can introduce that in

music, it makes it so much more

interesting.” She struggles to

contain laughter when concluding:

“The darker the better!”

We tail off and natter about

how much we long for pints and

fuzzy nights out. Her warmth is

transfixing, but alongside it resides longing, a glimpse in

her eyes that signals the young artist’s ambition. “To be

honest, I just want to get back into the studio and record,”

she admits, with noticeable drive.

Despite only appearing on the scene a few years

back, Jay has already carved out an artistic persona that

shines among the crowd. Inspired by spooky synth-pop

and modern-day indie darlings, she has quickly built up

a collection of tracks that walk the line of brooding and

bouncy – the ideal recipe for earworms. Her work ethic has

granted impressive results, with the artist releasing her

debut EP Never Too Far From A Dark Thought in March.

“It’s my first real body of work out there,” she tells

me. “I recorded a whole album when I was about 17 and,

as soon as I finished it, I hated it and never put it out. So,

while I’ve been writing and recording and performing

since I was a teenager, I’ve never had anything that really

captured me as an artist. To have a full body of work out

that really demonstrates what I do is amazing; I can’t get

over how happy I am with it.”

While Jay’s appetite has always motivated her to

push her musical abilities, she previously struggled to

match her talents with her identity as an artist. That was

until last year, which marked a dramatic transformation in

the artist’s persona and sound. “Previously, when I was

in this spoken-word band, we always used to write about

“I love it when

songs have

a haunting

influence”

topics like the NHS or homelessness and create a power

anthem around it,” she tells me. “I really miss it, [but] as

fun as it was, I had no idea of the direction I wanted to

go. The artist I was previously was good, but it wasn’t the

sort of music I want to make.”

This soon changed as Jay started working with

Scouse staples Zuzu and Munkey Junkey, who quickly

helped her find her sound. “I think working with different

artists around Liverpool really helped me embrace

different perspectives,” she explains. “I saw a post on

Instagram from Kurran [Karbal, aka Munky Junkey]

saying that he had set up a studio space. I sent him a

message out of the blue asking if

I could record there. He was really

lovely about it. I think they were

expecting me to want to stick to

the sound of my previous work,

but I was ready for my tracks to

have a new energy. I wanted it to

sound playful, to have fun and be

experimental, so I basically told

him there were no rules.”

Jay seems ecstatic now,

thinking about the wide-open

parameters of the recording

process. “I definitely think that

working with them has made such

a positive impact on my sound.

They were so encouraging as well; I’m not someone

who’s mega confident, but they really helped with that

just by telling me to be myself.”

With that, Jay evolved into an artist rooted in what

could be loosely regarded as horror pop. Littered with

looming synths that fester under Jay’s subtle vocals, the

acoustic backbone of the tracks remained, only electrified

by an eerie flair. “I write all my songs on guitar, so that

acoustic element is just there naturally. That’s the nature

of it, it all starts out from my guitar, but then, when I get

into a studio, I can introduce those beats and electronic

elements that make it sound edgier,” she tells me. “I also

take a lot of notes from Billie Eilish and artists who have

softer voices like mine. When they’re put against nontraditional

productions that you would associate with that

type of voice, it sounds amazing.”

The EP consists of five tracks that each present a

different persona within the overarching atmosphere

of the record. The House plays on the panic of being

apart from someone through relentless synth stabs and

distorted vocals. The closing track, Person, is softer and

ballad-like, utilising stripped-back arrangements to detail

the void of heartbreak.

“A lot of the songs are inspired by my own

relationships. Break-ups and heartbreak I felt, all that

lovely stuff of life,” she says with a grin. While Jay’s

FEATURE

own experience forms a large part of the narrative, it’s

not entirely autobiographical. “I’m inspired a lot by TV

and films and I like to write about the stories I see,” she

explains. “With TV, especially, the emotions are all there

for you and it’s so hyper and dramatic that I find myself

getting lost in it.”

The tracks are wildly diverse in intent, yet despite the

range of influences, it becomes apparent how much work

across the project was done single-handedly by Jay. “For

artwork I actually bought an iPad because I was trying

to find an artist who could work with me, but because of

lockdown it proved very hard, so I did it myself. Can you

tell?!” We both laugh. “But really, I loved doing it because

it feels home-made and every bit of the release comes

from me. I love collaboration, but when you’re trying to

communicate what you want to another person, you’re

always afraid it can come off as something different from

your previous vision.”

The dedication shows. From the dramatic vocal

pauses on Stay The Same, to the wall of harmonies on

My Own Way, Jay dissolves her personality into every

aspect of the works to a charming effect. What could

have been likable tracks in raw form are transformed into

playful, electronic stompers.

“I really hope my personality shines out in it. A lot

of the songs, although about dark subjects, are really

playful,” she says, with a smile. “If people can connect to

them, and maybe see a bit of themselves in the songs,

I would love that. When you listen to a song, you write

yourself into the narrative. The best songs are honest,

because people can really connect with them.”

It’s impressive that Jay is able to show so much of her

artistic persona so early in her career, but has an outlook

that surpasses any sense of herself. “By putting things

out and sharing them with people, you can really criticise

it and pick it apart, because then it’s not just your own.

It’s such a strange thing that happens,” she tells me. “As

much as I love the EP, I’m still looking out for ways it

could be different, or what I want to do next time.”

The call to the future may seem surprising

considering how recent her last release was, but Jay’s

ambition shines through once again. “I’ve got so much

stuff I’ve been sitting on for a long time, so I just want to

get back into the studio and record,” she announces with

vigour. “Only by doing can you get the ball rolling.” !

Words: Lily Blakeney-Edwards / @lilyhbee

Illustration: Abigail Smith / @camisado_design

Never Too Far From A Dark Thought is available now.

@iamamberjay

31


32


Following the release of her new album, Flock, Cath Holland speaks to the singer-songwriter

about stepping out of the “drone zone” and into some shimmering pop.

On the cover of Flock, her 11th album, JANE

WEAVER is very much a woman in charge of

all she surveys: bird boxes in shades of mild

but insistent pink, blue and green. The colour

palette corresponds with a piece of Pisces artwork she

has propped up on her fireplace at home. She’s unsure

what the image relates to, maybe trippy 70s star sign

paraphernalia you see in charity shops. That would be

apt; Flock leads out of Jane’s ever-present interests in

the other worldly. It’s the album she’s always wanted to

make, we’re told, which sees her take a different trip from

previous space rock adventures, embracing pop and the

rainbow of styles within.

Jane is in good spirits when we talk,

despite the inevitable circumstancedriven

delay sharing the record

with us. “It’s like giving birth,

just get it out there and

I can have a bit of a sit

down,” she jokes of the

waiting period. Birthing

a child is no easy task

and, as it turns out,

nor was making Flock.

But you’d not suspect

by listening to it that

the gestation until its

arrival late spring, so

perfectly in tune with the

lengthening days and a

slowly emerging sense of

guarded optimism, proved

“uncomfortable” for her.

We’re accustomed to

appreciating the conceptual aspect of

Weaver’s work, revolving around a topic or

person or film. 2017’s Modern Kosmology claimed Hilma

af Klint as a nourishing muse, the Swedish artist and

mystic’s creative process feeding into the record. We did

get the sense there was some soul searching going on in

the lyrics on Flock even before it came out, the single The

Revolution of Super Visions finds Weaver wondering “do

you look at yourself and find nothing?”

“It’s much easier to write about somebody else’s

world and go into that bubble and daydream about the

possibilities of what they did,” she says. “It’s nice and

comfy and the possibilities are endless. But when it comes

to doing something more personal it’s a bit horrible, really.

I don’t enjoy indulging in things about myself.”

Jane headed off to Anglesey before recording Modern

Kosmology, to reflect and write. For Flock she handpicked

the more glamorous surroundings of Brittany in France.

As she drove up the coast she had visions of browsing in

arty shops, buying ice cream, sipping wine in nice bars.

“But the whole town was dead, like a ghost town!”

she admits. “It’s a coastal town where I was staying. I

forgot, it was out of season ’cause it was December. One

restaurant open, on a Wednesday night. No bars open.

Aldi was open, or Lidl, and there were just loads of old

ladies walking around.”

Ultimately, the empty surroundings, deserted

holiday homes of the rich and famous with closed locked

shutters, proved to be a positive.

“I was pretty fed up anyway and miserable, but

I was trying to write these pop songs, so it was a bit

happy-sad, a bittersweet kind of thing. But the isolation,

the fact I wasn’t distracted, was perhaps the best thing

that happened.”

Flock might well be a diversion from her norm – if

there is such a thing for an experimentalist such as

Weaver – but we’ve experienced her pop side before.

Don’t Take My Soul and I Need A Connection from 2014’s

The Silver Globe are essentially pop songs after all.

“There’s still experimental stuff [on Flock] for sure, I

can’t help myself with that, but I just tried to make it fun.

Neater pop songs. So, they weren’t meandering for 10

minutes, the experimental bits in them are shorter and

contained,” she explains. “I love space jam, 10-minute

songs and being onstage and being in a big drone zone

– it’s like a gong bath or something. But I do

appreciate the power of when you’re

doing a pop song live. When I do

them live it’s a kind of arms-intheair

“I don’t enjoy

indulging in

things about

myself”

reaction from the crowd and I

do love that.”

She reflects on the irony of Flock

being designed for live performance. “I was

thinking, ‘This is gonna’ be good onstage, I’m gonna’

be doing this that and the other, wearing this’, and

then there’s no gigs and it’s, like, really upsetting,” she

laughs, making light out of the situation. “I had all these

grand plans and outfits and whatnot, which we’ll get to

eventually. We will get to do it.”

A substantial value of pop music is capturing the time

it’s in, like a time capsule. Does she think she succeeded?

“You’re right, it’s a fashion thing as well. But,

artistically, for me, because I’ve not done that for a long

time, just playing pop stuff is more interesting to do, I

guess. The main thing for me was to just try and push

the boundaries creatively and that meant do as many

kinds of pop as I could find.”

Jane allowed the songs to be themselves, she

reveals, to let them take the lead. Not lending themselves

to any particular genre, but if one went glam (like Stages

of Phases), she went with it. If it got its funk on, as on

Pyramid Schemes, she danced along the same path too.

Heartlow set its heart on wonderful guitar pop, so that’s

what it became.

“Just letting a song be, letting them sort themselves

out, really,” she illustrates.

The songs sprang from unexpected sources, ideas

nurtured from lost albums far away from 21st-century

northern England. Jane dove into Lebanese and Arabic

music, orchestral music from 1960 and 1970s. She fell

down a wormhole of Eastern European 80s pop on

YouTube, entranced by Russian aerobics music.

“And it sounds exactly as you would think it does

– it’s Russian language aerobics music!” she says

excitedly. She cites the power-pop elements of legendary

Australian band The Saints over their more dominant

punk side, leading her to investigate subcultures in 1970s

Australia, and the work of photographer Rennie Ellis.

She enjoyed the films in French director Éric Rohmer’s

Comedies and Proverbs series, the six films seeing the

characters driven by misunderstandings, dissatisfaction

and loneliness.

“I’ve probably watched all of them,” she admits.

“They do a disco scene in the 80s – a very simple party

scene – and it was, ‘What’s that music, that music’s

amazing!’ so I tracked down music from that. Things like

that led me on a journey to styles of pop music and what

I wanted to do.”

Her vocals are gorgeous on Flock. Louder in the

mix and she sings higher, too. She doesn’t seem overly

comfortable accepting compliments

on them, though.

“I don’t consider myself a singer,

I consider myself an artist, a writer. I

concentrate on the song as a whole

and the vocal being a part of that,”

she explains. “Not my singing or

whatever. I concentrate a lot on the

production and instrumentation and

how the mix is, and the song as a

whole.”

“It’s funny, when you’re not

confident as a new artist you’re

‘Turn my voice down’,” she

continues. “It’s hideous hearing your

own voice. It’s hideous now – ‘Oh

god, it’s me’ – but as you get older you think, ‘Sod it, I’ll

just do it’.”

Conversation tails off to chat about the other Weaver

– no relation – who was in the news recently. How it’s

inspirational to see a woman not in her first flush of youth

right up there and, yes, in charge.

“And up against that toxic masculinity as well,

which is hideous, and the way she just keeps her cool,”

Jane says of Jackie Weaver of Handforth Parish Council

meeting fame (Jane herself jokingly received multiple

‘You have no authority here, Jane Weaver’ tweets in the

aftermath). “The determination to take that woman down

was hideous and she just sailed through it all. We’ve all

probably had similar treatment somewhere in our lives.”

It’s interesting that, even now, Jane still gets asked

who produces her albums, with people often assuming

it’s her husband, Andy Votel. “And it’s like, why wouldn’t

you think that was me? It does say my name on it,” she

notes. “There’s just a generalisation. Some people think

there’s a man behind everything, I guess.”

The album reaches number 24 in the Official UK

Albums Chart the week after we talk. Its cover image

seems to be everywhere, Weaver poised on the 1970s

peacock chair on the cover and coolly regarding the

ground below. “Me waiting for my flock to return. Or

sat there like a mother hen,” she joked of her queenly

posture, but it firms up more than ever that, like her

partial namesake, Jane has all the authority here. !

Words: Cath Holland / @Cathholland01

Illustration: Rosa Brown

Flock is available now via Fire Records.

@JanelWeaver

FEATURE

33


34

RECOVERY

When Damien John Kelly House, an

abstinence-led residential recovery centre,

was established in Wavertree in 2019, it was

met with scorn and disapproval from local

residents. Two years on, the house is a core

part of the Wavertree community, offering those

in recovery a chance to reconnect with society

through a programme of arts, creativity and sport.

Paul Fitzgerald speaks to its residents and those

behind the house about its continuing journey.

all fuming here. There’s a school over the road from it, there’s a nursery

round the back of it. You’re going to have druggies robbing and making

more crime for the area.”

“We’re

“We feel like every garbage comes to Wavertree.”

“It’s the last straw that broke the camel’s back.”

In a 2019 article curiously headlined ‘An abandoned pub, a drug rehab row and the long decline

of one of our most famous streets’, the Liverpool Echo spoke to business owners in the Wavertree

area following ferocious local outcry at the suggestion that a residential centre for recovering addicts

could be granted planning permission at the old police station on Wavertree High Street. At one

particularly ill-tempered planning meeting, objectors railed against representatives of what is now

Damien John Kelly House, with shouts of “shame” and “disgrace”. One dissenter going as far as telling

them to “Burn in hell”.

When the Liverpool Watch Committee declared Wavertree to be a safe place for policemen to live

in the late 1800s, the decision was made to close the old lock-up on the village green and build a new

station on the high street. A warm office for the officers and a good amount of hard brick cells for the

regulars. Short-term stays for long-term guests. And on just a two-mile stretch containing more than 30

pubs, regular guests were in plentiful supply. Those who lived in the neat terraced streets of Wavertree

were a community of thousands, the great majority of them railworkers. The work was hard and the living

wasn’t easy, but people supported each other in whatever way they could. Such was, and is, working-class

life in Liverpool.

It’s understandable to see why the Wavertree residents of today were originally in such objection to the

idea of recovering addicts moving into the area. They were right. Their area has declined. Pubs and shops have

closed, there’s very little footfall compared to even recent times, and local businesses were already struggling

long before Coronavirus came to stay. The community felt fractured, lost to the wealth of investment in the city

centre; like so many across the city, they felt abandoned.

On top of this, and as with so many of us, they didn’t understand what happens to addicts in recovery, or

even what the word means in the context of addiction. Through fear, ignorance and the stigma still attached to

addiction (or more likely through a heady combination of all three), they perceived the opening of Damien John

Kelly House to be a further threat to their weakening sense of community. What they didn’t perceive, certainly at

that time, was that it could become a valuable asset, something to help grow the community from within and create

new opportunities for all.

Damien John Kelly House is an abstinence-led residential recovery centre. The residents are there because they

want to be. Some, but not all, have completed a 12-week rehabilitation, but it’s not a condition of acceptance. They’re

not in active addiction, but are seeking the next stage: recovery. If their recovery is robust and reliable, if they’re

familiar with mutual aid groups and the personal work they need to do, they can be welcomed into the programme.

Like the concept of community, recovery is not an end-game or destination, more an ongoing process, fluctuating

and growing at each turn. Recovery is reconnection; with yourself, with family, community and society. It is based on

honesty, on acceptance and willing. Especially willing. Recovery can only begin with willing, just as addiction begins

with trauma. There being no such thing as a ‘gateway drug’; trauma, all too often, is the true gateway to addiction.

Recovery never really ends.

To look at the old police station today, you wouldn’t know its current use. There are no signs, no banners. No visible

celebration of their purpose. But then, we don’t generally put signs on our homes to proclaim who we are and what we

do. And Damien John Kelly House is, first and foremost, a home. People live their lives there in ways they could have never

imagined when in the deepest recesses of addiction and life had left them broken. They thrive and flourish there. (When

I left after one of my visits for this article, I noticed the motto in Latin on the frontage of Wavertree Town Hall: ‘Sub Umba

Floresco’ which translates as ‘I Flourish in The Shade’).

Damien John Kelly, who the house is named after, was a catalyst. He brought people together. As an integral part in

The Brink – Britain’s first dry bar – Damien instilled a sense of hope in people who, like he had done, were turning their lives

around. He was a powerful force for change in people, an example and an inspiration.

PJ Smith, Recovery Lead at the house, was just one of the many people who turned his life around with the support,

guidance, love and encouragement of Damien.

Writing of his friend and mentor in a previous issue of Bido Lito!, he noted how he gave people “the impetus to change their

own lives. Instilling hope in people… He didn’t change his life by magic. He faced himself head-on. Sheer courage and willingness.

He always used to say, ‘If I can do it, anyone can’. He’s right, y’know? Hope rather than despair.”

This community is just a fraction of the huge legacy Damien Kelly left when he died suddenly and tragically in his sleep in

2019. In many ways, he lives on in the lives of those he never met.

The first part of becoming part of a community is to know that community and, with that in mind, the two disparate groups

came together as one at an open-door event when Damien John Kelly House opened. Residents and staff were on-hand to welcome

them, answer any questions, dispel a myth or two and, at the event’s conclusion, even to accept apologies from some of the most

previously vehement objectors. Honesty, acceptance and willing.

“We had over 300 objections when we started this,” Head of Services Jacquie Johnston-Lynch told me. “And now we’re in

demand,” adds PJ.

In more ways than one. The charity Action on Addiction reports an 86 per cent spike in those seeking help compared with this time

last year. As demand for addiction services grows, opportunities for post-rehab recovery support remain depressingly, worryingly and


FEATURE

35


dangerously thin on the ground.

PJ, whose own recovery has previously been

documented in these pink pages, told me: “Rehab is not

what we are and it’s important that people know the

difference. Rehab is a strict regime – you’re in groups, in

therapy all day, no phone. Then there’s recovery houses

where you’re basically just left. A key worker will come

and see you for an hour a week and that’s it. We wanted

to be something in the middle of those two.”

And that means offering more support, a different

kind of support?

“Yeah, so people have got sobriety behind them when

they come to us, they know the landscape of the recovery

world and what it requires of them. They’ve got their own

free time, but we offer a mini programme to open them up

to other things. Saying to people, ‘You’ve worked hard to

get clean and sober, but what for? To do what?’”

Structured around similar elements to those PJ

himself leant on, the programme sees art and culture,

music and sport as an integral part of recovery. For

those who’ve previously felt excluded by their addiction

– or perhaps more honestly, those who used addiction

to exclude themselves – there is an exposure to new

ideas, new thoughts, new ways for growth while also

reconnecting with the familiar. New priorities in life.

The cultural stream of the programme at the house

presents opportunities for residents to engage with

the wider community, through workshops, theatre and

gallery visits, and strong links between Damien John Kelly

House and Liverpool’s cultural sector. Creativity is actively

encouraged in all, in whatever shape or form that might

be. It is a powerful tool in recovery and can bring about

profound changes in the way people see themselves

and their future. It brings hope through expression and

honesty, which is the true keystone of recovery from

addiction. Art heals.

Sam is a photographer, artist, writer and – since he

put addiction behind him and entered Damien John Kelly

House – is now a filmmaker. When we first met, he spoke

of himself as Sam the addict. Sam the drunk. “Fucked

Sam” as he put it.

“Addiction is the death of self, the death of whoever

you thought you were,” he says. “You’ve built this thing

which isn’t you. When I came here I didn’t know who I

was or what I was. Didn’t know who my mates were. I

didn’t know anything. The thing about this house and this

programme is it’s allowed me to find personal meaning.

I’ve heard it before from people, they’ve said the same,

it’s allowed them to find the true them.”

Creativity was always in

him; collage, photography,

writing all coming together as

a single escape route which

he calls his ‘practice’. Each

element inspiring the others.

Even in the depths of his

addiction, he’d still create.

“It were fuckin’ sporadic,

like,” he says with a strong

South Yorkshire inflection. “I

knew I wouldn’t be able to get

where I wanted to be with it

if I kept getting fucked. I used

to joke about it… but I kept

getting fucked.”

Across the room from Sam, another resident, Wayne,

talks through his experiences of the programme at the

house. He’s found a new priority, a new way to the same

personal meaning Sam spoke of.

“I was supposed to be starting rehearsals for a play

at the Epstein Theatre before the first lockdown,” he

begins. “I first came to the house in July [2019] and by

November I’d done two shows, in Edge Hill and The Unity

Theatre, with Truth To Power Café, it was great.”

“People in Liverpool

have some kind of

addiction story in

their family. Our job

here is to create

recovery stories”

From there, with eyes opened anew to the wealth of

creative possibility recovery brings, Wayne paid a visit to

an open night, again at The Unity.

“It’s a new thing, a 20-week course. I had to apply

and do an audition, but I was accepted. There was only

eight of us who were accepted out of two hundred, then

lockdown happened…”

“We were working with directors, actors,” he

continues, “they said they saw something in me. I got

such a lot out of it, though, it was amazing. I’ve started

writing, I’ve got things in mind, get some funding.

Now I just want to grab it with both hands. For me it’s

connection and just not saying

no to these things. That’s what

being here has given me.”

Recovery stories, tales

of creativity, community,

regrowth. A future borne

of honesty, acceptance and

willing at Damien John Kelly

House.

As Jacquie puts it, “We

know that people in Liverpool

have some kind of addiction

story in their family; addiction

is rife in our communities.

We’ve all got addiction stories.

Our job here is to create recovery stories.”

And the people of Wavertree are now proud to be

neighbours. !

Words: Paul Fitzgerald / @NothingvilleM

Photography: Sam Batley / @sambatley

@HomesVitality

36


FEATURE

37


Oakfield Road/Homebaked CLT

DEAD PIGEO

If anything can be anywhere then, with Dead Pigeon Gallery,

art is always somewhere – maybe where you least expect it.

One consequence of the pandemic causing

spaces to close their doors is that it’s forced

visitors and institutions to really think about

what a ‘gallery’ actually is. In one sense

a gallery is still a venue, the spaces so many of us

are missing. But as we’ve all explored how to access

artworks in other ways, it’s become clearer than ever that

the idea of a gallery also has a less tangible meaning.

There are other elements beyond the four walls that

people identify with: community, aesthetic, or attitude.

DEAD PIGEON GALLERY, however, knew this

already. Their name comes from the site of their very

first exhibition – a space in what was to become The

Tapestry but was abandoned before their takeover. It

was, in the words of co-manager Jayne Lawless, “full of

dead pigeons – I mean, full – and alive [ones] and shit.

Everywhere I looked, there were live ones in the beams

and dead ones on the floor.”

It’s to Liverpool’s benefit that the team – a threesome

which includes Catherine Dalton and Josie Jenkins – saw

the potential of the space for that first exhibition. And

when it ended, they came to the realisation that it didn’t

have to mean the end of the project. “We can take it

wherever. We can just ask for people with spaces to host

us, so we became a ‘gallery in residence’,” says Lawless.

To date, the project has been in eight separate venues,

including an abandoned pub, a terraced house and a

Texan fire station.

Their current exhibition, Dockers, is the second

to be held in the office of Liverpool Walton MP Dan

Carden. With the office currently closed to the public,

the exhibition can instead be discovered through a video

interview with photographer Dave Sinclair.

Dockers is an exhibition of Sinclair’s photos

documenting the 1995-98 lockout. Nobody imagined

38

that when dockers refused to cross a picket line set up

by five colleagues it would turn into such a long-running

dispute and would, thanks to the story spreading on the

then-emerging internet, attract global solidarity. Sinclair

became embedded in events as an observer, and the film

works as a complementary piece to the exhibition, giving

Sinclair space to share his experiences and perspective.

With ongoing uncertainty around the post-Covid return

of jobs, rise of zero-hours contracts and British Gas

strikes making headlines, Dockers feels timely.

How the film has come into being typifies two of

DPG’s philosophies. It’s been shot by Harvey Morrison,

a filmmaker whose first experience of having work

exhibited was in DPG’s previous exhibition, High-Vis –

which took place in a former bakery in Kensington.

In High-Vis, Morrison’s film was shown in a sequence

beside work by Gina Tsang and Mark Leckey, a roster

that exemplifies how, while DPG take their art entirely

seriously, they’re far from pretentious about who and

what is featured.

One of DPG’s driving motivations has always been

the lack of space for grassroots artists to show their

work. Liverpool may seem spoiled for galleries, but they

haven’t traditionally been places where emerging artists

are given their first platform. Jenkins explains how, as an

artist, “you’re either doing studio shows – if you’re lucky

to even have a studio where you can have a show – or

you’re working to get an open call. Things are starting to

happen, like Output, but there still isn’t enough.”

DPG are particularly concerned with how this affects

artists from working class-backgrounds. Lawless and

Dalton grew up together around Anfield and Everton

and understand how working-class artists may face

additional barriers to exhibition, something which they

are determined to break down. “It’s not like we ask people

for documentation on what class you come from, explains

Lawless with shades of humour. “It’s just a statement of

intent with regards to people that we know don’t get the

same amount of opportunities.”

Consequently, participation in a DPG show is less

contingent on formal training and more on passion

and execution of a vision. “We put ourselves there as a

platform, where other working class-human beings have

the confidence to approach us. They go, ‘We’ve never had

a show, we’ve never put any work in an exhibition, we

haven’t done a degree, but we’re really, really into this’,”

says Lawless.

“The other thing that DPG does,” adds Jenkins, “is it

puts artists together from very different points in their

career. So, in the very first show, there was a painting by

Adrian Henri.” Such a lack of hierarchy is rarely seen in

group shows and it was certainly an opportunity valued

by Dalton, who had just graduated from Liverpool Hope

University when she exhibited in that first show.

“It’s a thing that you don’t think will ever happen

when you’re just fresh out of uni,” she says. “I went in

and said, ‘This is what I did’ and they were all like, ‘Oh

my God!’” They’ve found that everyone’s happy to be

involved, because even the most established artists

understand the value of having a significant place to

start. “A lot of the time [established] artists are just

really nice,” says Jenkins. “They’re like, ‘Yeah, I was like

that once. I want other people to have the opportunities

I had’.” The idea continues to work because everyone

involved – even Turner Prize winners, such as Leckey –

trusts DPG to curate a great show.

The word ‘trust’ comes up multiple times in our

conversation, in terms of working with both artists and

audiences. DPG want to build a relationship of trust with

their audiences, wherever the gallery is. Wherever you


Original DPG, London Road

Oakfield Road/Homebaked CLT

N GALLERY

visit one of their exhibitions, you’ll find conversation.

Whatever question or opinion you have, whether you’re

visiting as a regular art-goer or popping into the new

space across the road out of curiosity, the team always

take the time to make you feel welcome. This shouldn’t

feel as revolutionary as it does, Jenkins believes. “I’ve

always had a feeling in art galleries,” she says. “You step

in and, more often than not, it’s just silence. Why can’t

someone just say hi and chat?

It should be so obvious!”

In part, this is a result

of DPG’s itinerant nature.

Though borne out of necessity,

one of the advantages of the

approach is that they find

audiences in a very different

way – quite literally wherever

the gallery finds itself. During

my own visits to DPG’s various

sites over the years, I’ve seen

and heard about many of

these different interactions.

Perhaps somebody making

their way down L4’s Oakfield

Road decided to see what’s going on in a previously

abandoned house. Or somebody working across the road

pops in on their lunch break, who wouldn’t have time

to get to a city-centre gallery. Out of such off-the-cuff

interactions in the places where people actually live, and

where art is something of a surprising presence, have

arisen conversations and relationships which Lawless

describes as “literally life-changing”. It means that DPG

can lay down a marker for what it means to have an

artistic experience which might be very different to those

the casual visitor might have had in the past.

“We put

ourselves there

as a platform”

Lawless is aware of the barriers people put up for

themselves. “With the type of schools we went to... you

will literally be bullied for being interested in art or poetry

or music or dance. What I’m always interested in is that

we’re stripping it back. So, yeah, you see these incredible

images. But then you also see that it’s just a human being

who made this. And this human being might inspire you

to do [something] as well.”

This is certainly true of

Dockers, in which many of

the subjects are still living

and connected to the city –

including Dan Carden’s own

father, who was involved in the

strikes. The DPG team were

conscious that the personal

nature of this subject may

have pitfalls, as well as power.

“We were worried because it’s

someone’s nan, or someone’s

mum that you’re putting

photos up of, especially when

you start putting it on social

media,” Lawless says. In fact,

these personal connections ended up starting more

conversations and engaging more people in the show.

Dalton explains how “people are seeing their own fathers

and their uncles and their grandads. And they’ve seen

pictures up that they’ve probably never seen before and

been really quite emotional about it. It’s a nice legacy.”

This summer, DPG will be collaborating with the Fans

Supporting Foodbanks mobile pantry to bring another of

Lawless’ projects, North End Sketch Club, into DPG and

to sites around Liverpool. “For two days a week, I’ll be

with Sketch Club at the pantry. We’ll have guests, people

FEATURE

who can do anything that we can sketch,” Lawless

explains. The seeds of the idea were sown by the Fans

Supporting Foodbanks team, with whom Lawless has

volunteered, when imagining the possibilities of what

the mobile pantry could be. “It’s about breaking down

barriers and stigmas about going to something like a

pantry or food bank,” Lawless continues. “There’s other

things going on at the same time. It’s positive – and it’s

frigging fun as well!”

Having participated in Sketch Club as both artist

and model, I can attest to that. North End Sketch Club

is less about whether you think of yourself as a ‘good’

artist than about the buzz that comes from getting stuck

into creative activity – the positive atmosphere that

generates. And why can’t that atmosphere be created

wherever people go? This, after all, is at the heart of

DPG’s ethos: “anything can be anywhere”. They break

out of ideas about where art ‘should’ happen and who

‘can’ participate. Instead, they’ve gone from strength-tostrength

by being open to all possibilities and participants.

Whether it’s creating films, taking over abandoned spaces

or opening opportunities to art making to whoever wants

to get involved, the example set by DPG of what the art

world can achieve is a breath of fresh air. !

Words: Julia Johnson / @MessyLines_

Photography: Mark Loudon

Dockers can be viewed on YouTube via the link below.

linktr.ee/Deadpigeon

@DeadPigeonG

39


40


DAVID ZINK YI

Remy Greasley talks to filmmaker and artist David Zink Yi about capturing

‘endless’ performances of Afro-Cuban music, a process displayed in a

two-channel film set to be shown at Liverpool Biennial.

DAVID ZINK YI is difficult to pin down, both

in his art and his backstory. Born in 1970s

Peru, Zink Yi spent only a partial childhood

there. A childhood which was further broken

up by a stint in Kenya for his father’s job with the UN

Development Programme. Aged only 16, he relocated

to Germany to study. And it’s his Deutsch that he falls

back on when his English fails him. His native Español

comes in only occasionally, with offerings relevant to the

Hispanic music that colour not just his sculptures and

ceramics, but his films, too.

The circumstances of Zink Yi’s upbringing could suggest

two stories: the first of an ambitious, precocious youth,

eager to get sculpting in the sandbox of the world; the

second something akin to a military childhood, either on the

move or on-base, as those closest to him balance parental

love with their own efforts as part of a greater good.

Wary of crossing a personal boundary

I don’t question him on it, but I get the

impression there’s truth in both. Suggested

in part by the fact he hadn’t even finished

his Masters before being offered a

solo exhibition. And in part by his

conversational, empathetic sensibility,

as if he could fit anywhere, understand

anyone, talk to anybody. He’s both

convoluted and coherent. And there’s

a universal potency in Zink Yi’s words,

which have a profound and plastic

meaning that extends far beyond

that which is immediately relevant.

This is characteristic of his

art, too, to the point you wonder

where he ends and the art begins.

There’s a sense of connectedness

with the world in his films,

performances and sculptures

which are often combined;

a fundamental compassion,

the experience of which (even

by proxy) is so intense and profound that I suspect the

man in the box on the screen of my MacBook is closer to

enlightenment than his chill red Nike sweater and clearlensed

Aviators may want to admit.

Even so, it hasn’t been the easiest of months for

Zink Yi. His Being the Measure, a half-performative,

half-sculptural piece, was initially destined for 2020’s

postponed Liverpool Biennial. But thanks to you-knowwhat,

it became impossible to present the show, which

relies on a live performance by Zink Yi and select Cuban

musicians on playable sculptures and is intended for

a live audience. There’s a spatial element to the work,

with the audience’s own senses receiving the different

sections of the performance in a way that requires it to be

experienced first-hand.

Being the Measure was to be a perfect bulwark piece

for the Biennial’s theme of ‘The Stomach and the Port’.

With its live exploration of Afro-Cuban polyrhythms

(a broad kind of rhythm consisting of two or more

disconnected rhythms in tandem, though this is only

the beginning of a definition), it studies the relation of

individual personality with collective personality. As with

most of Zink Yi’s work, the piece’s true value draws from

deep in the ever pertinent, beautifully contradictory well of

the question of identity. Another work was also pondered

for the Biennial, but it proved too demanding in terms of

budget.

Instead, Zink Yi is bringing Horror Vacui to the Martin

Luther King, Jr. building. The film installation predates

Being the Measure by the length of an early childhood, but

it’s still incomplete. It is the culmination of work beginning

in 2002, when, in Cuba, Zink Yi formed De adentro y

afuera, perhaps the first of his now characteristic artisticmusical

projects. He began to film the band’s endless

performances, all in an attempt to understand what

he calls “this structural thing about Afro-Cuban music

which makes it so hypnotic”. This ‘structural thing’ is so

much more complicated than the polyrhythmic layering

mentioned earlier.

It’s a way of playing as much as it is a way of life, with

each musician given relative freedom in a collective sound,

relying on each other to fulfil their role, but never infringing

on their freedom of expression. It’s a chaotic process of

creation that only comes to an ephemeral completion in

the beholder, as their ear and eye and brain scatter to

locate themselves amidst what

Zink Yi refers to constantly and

so pertinently as a “magical

cosmos”.

“It becomes a

deconstructive moment of

yourself, trying to gain a

larger, a wider voice,” he says,

illustrating what it’s like to take

up a role in these performances.

“Your right arm is doing

something against your left

arm, and your right foot is doing

something following your left

arm, but not necessarily your right arm, and your left foot

is playing the clave, which is keeping everything together.”

Not just the whole performance, but the entire

space which houses it becomes a singular and ever in

flux body. This space, this body, extends to the rooms

of his exhibitions, and the audience within. It’s this

reliance on the audience to receive and amalgamate the

overwhelming pieces of experience that leaves Horror

Vacui incomplete, but by the same token universally

relevant.

The performances and rituals which Horror Vacui

juxtaposes were collected spontaneously over a period of

around five years. The main part of the film takes place in

“It becomes a

deconstructive

moment of yourself,

trying to gain a larger,

a wider voice”

the theatre of a synagogue in Havana, as Zink Yi tells me:

“We rehearsed for three days. I really put them inside and

locked the door, bought a lot of rum and let them play and

rehearse and arrange all our pieces.”

The camera shares its frame between musicians,

performers and instruments. “I was not filming individuals.

I mean, [he gestures to correct himself] I was, but I was

concentrating on the role in this specific context… not

trying to make a personal protagonist, but more a role

protagonist.” The style is minimal but it’s in no way nofrills.

The camera lets its vivacious subject sing.

It’s also influenced by Cuba’s material situation,

standing alone in history as perhaps the only country that

never said yes to the USA. This has impacted the film in

a way that is more than visual. The music owes much to

this isolation: for the virtuosity of the musicians, and the

nationwide popularity of the complex, polyrhythmic music

they play, as well as the eclecticism of that

same music. “My wife is Cuban. She’s a

dancer and when she hears the salsa from

outside Cuba, she cannot dance,” he says.

“The way things are arranged is a totally

different language.”

Not all Zink Yi’s projects have been

musical, however. His work in sculpture and

ceramics is equally as massive as his work in

video, quite literally, featuring egregiously thick

octopi tentacles and spawling Architeuthis

(giant squid) which required a custom-built kiln.

But it seems his latest efforts in ceramics are

moving away from this overwhelming enormity,

and into a place more nuanced. The pieces in last

year’s Rare Earths at the Hauser & Wirth gallery,

Zurich, were minute in comparison to the squid,

and more abstract too, exploring process and

reaction. The show had a great response, he tells

me, but his drive to create something entirely new

was so demanding that the lockdown arriving shortly

after its closing was like a lotion for the soul.

Zink Yi isn’t done with

video, though, or music.

Although he is moving away

from the human subjects

that’ve inspired so many shows.

His new muse? “A bird that’s

supposed to be the bird with

the largest repertoire in the

bird world.” It’s a bird that

is constantly learning and

forgetting to allow itself to learn

more. It’s with this bird that we

realise the sense of identity isn’t

solely a human construction.

In fact, it’s something far more

natural, far more embryonic. And it’s partially this same

understanding, which is in fact intrinsic to all Zink Yi’s

work, that makes it so damn overwhelmingly profound. !

Words: Remy Greasley / @Remygreasley

Photography: David Zink Yi

Horror Vacui will be shown at the Martin Luther King, Jr.

building from 17th May. Liverpool Biennial runs online

and across multiple venues across Liverpool until Sunday

6th June.

biennial.com

FEATURE

41


SPOTLIGHT

“I started seeing

my past as what it

was, and not what I

thought it was”

SAM BATLEY

A poetic storyteller through

word and image, the artist’s

latest project brings stories of

recovery to the film screen.

“It’s not meant to be like this, it’s meant to be

different,” utters SAM BATLEY in the closing line of

forthcoming short film Three Bull-Mastiffs in a Corner

Kitchen. The film, written by Batley in collaboration

with filmmaker Paul Chambers, is informed by Batley’s

continuing journey of recovery from addiction.

In the last year Batley has flourished as a writer and

photographer. This has led to live readings of his poetry at

La Violette Società and being part of a joint photography

exhibition at Love Wavertree Community Hub.

He is an artist who has faced up to his past and turned

his pain into purpose. He is now clearly grounded by his

creative outlets and talks with such passion about his love

of Liverpool, how it inspires him creatively and the energy

it gives him. “Liverpool’s saved my life, and I don’t say that

lightly. Liverpool saved me. I feel like I’ve found somewhere

I’ve started to put roots down,” he happily proclaims.

Although now relocated to Liverpool, Three Bull-

Mastiffs in a Corner Kitchen offers a raw portrayal of

his life as a young man growing up in a South Yorkshire

mining town, focusing on the cycles of addiction that

Batley was experiencing at that time.

The foundation of the film draws its main dialogue

from a poem that was the first thing Batley wrote in

recovery. “As I was getting into recovery, I was starting to

get some clarity over my past. Pieces started to fit together

and I started seeing my past as what it was, and not what

I thought it was,” he admits. “I was becoming more aware

of the feelings attached to the past. The whole thing was

about revisiting that part of myself and seeing it for what

it was.”

What he produced is a brutally honest piece of

writing, a pounding release of consciousness which

confronts old ways and habits. It acts as the heartbeat of

the film and provides a compelling energy through which

the film’s messages are conveyed.

The film’s title, which is the first line of the poem,

draws on Batley’s experiences when picking up drugs

from a dealer. The three dogs were used by the dealer

to go badger-baiting and would frequently be physically

damaged from the activity. “They are a representation of

the chaos and the foreboding of the space I used to go

into,” he recalls, “as the bull-mastiffs would be the first

thing that I’d see.” The dogs are omnipresent throughout

the film and act to highlight the spectre of addiction,

one formed in an isolated and long forgotten pit town

where hope and opportunity were overcast by the bleak

surroundings. “I can’t remember the pits, but I waint [sic]

forget, I’m not allowed to forget,” the poem reads.

The film powerfully captures the boredom of long

empty days, the endless cycle of nothingness which

enhances the attractiveness of substances as a means

for escape. Batley confirms this. “You’re bored as fuck, sat

about. There is an energy about the place, there’s fuck all

to do, the nature of pit villages is that they are isolated.

Just them days when there is fucking nowt to do.”

The theme of masculinity hangs heavy throughout

the film, framed succinctly on the promotional artwork

as “fragile masculinity, fragile ideas of pride” – ideas

and prescribed norms that are passed effortlessly

from generation to generation. The peer pressure that

demands this conformance is cleverly reflected in the

early scenes; the submergence in the everyday routine

of drug taking, the confusion of wanting it to be different

while doing nothing to change that. “No one gives a

fuck as much as me, I’m just willing to do absolutely

fuck all about it,” Batley’s narration poignantly outlines,

highlighting the feelings of entrapment.

By his own admission the whole project has been

a surreal experience; almost ghostlike seeing his life

played out on screen. “It was a roller coaster. It wasn’t

necessarily negative. Some parts were over-powering,

and some were really beautiful,” he says. “Revisiting

them spaces and experiences in a detached way, I’m still

processing it now.”

When the film is released it will be accompanied with

a behind the scenes documentary offering a closer look at

the personalities within the project. The documentary is

likely to be the happy ending the film doesn’t give us. As

well as Sam’s experiences it will draw out the stories of

the other members of the cast who are also in recovery.

Stories of hope, strength and positivity which the team

behind the project will aim to serve as an inspiration to

others in their own early stages of recovery, or even those

still struggling to take them first steps.

Three Bull-Mastiffs in a Corner Kitchen positively

underscores that people can recover from what has gone

before; there is a different way that’s about living and not

merely existing. As the film displays, Batley has found a

way for his life to be different. !

Words: Andrew Stafford

Photography: Sam Batley / @sambatley

Three Bull-Mastiffs in a Corner Kitchen will premiere later

this year. One Day At A Time is currently in production.

@sambatley

42


FOXEN CYN

Finding the self in esoteric

worlds of wonky electronica.

In the lingering haze of the early hours, FOXEN CYN

emerges. Confidently declaring their sound “everything and

the kitchen sink”, the artist, also known as Sean, is a rising

horror-pop hero, mixing brooding synths and experimental

sampling to create tracks oozing with smut and swagger.

“I’m just besotted with punk,” they admit. “I just fell into

all of this. I love it though, it’s so fun and frustrating. You

know like when you’re doing a really hard jigsaw with your

mammy and you start trying to smash cobblestone jigs into

the border?”

Despite their grungy sensibilities, the artist has

classical roots, first getting into music alongside their

brother. “The main thing that inspired me was jealousy,”

they tell me. “The first instrument I learnt to play was

clarinet, and that was purely because my brother was

learning to play guitar. They didn’t have guitar lessons left.

Or French horn. I really wanted to play French horn. I think I

learnt clarinet first in the end, because the embouchure has

left me with a better pout.”

However, the artist soon leaned into electronica, valuing

experimentation above all else. “Ages ago, in an old band,

I played a house party in Manchester on Halloween and

everyone hated us. It was great. All the other bands were

openly saying we were terrible and ruined the night. It was

so horrible and weird. I hope they ask me back as Foxen Cyn

at some point,” they explain. “I’d just say don’t be warded off

by something being out of your comfort zone. Music is an

amazing art form, because you can get into every asset of

creativity. You can’t really do that with am-dram or painting,

I reckon.”

Foxen Cyn’s first EP, Demonstration, was released in

2017 and, after a brief hiatus, the artist has made their

return with new single Cracking Up, a mesmerising, eclectic

offering that documents a personal journey.

“The lyrics are about coming out, my own experience,”

they explain. “A lot of coming out songs are very

empowering, which is good, and they should be. I don’t think

they show how scary it can be, though. My personal coming

out experience was great, and my family and friends have

all been so supportive, but that doesn’t take away from the

initial trepidation.”

Through a blend of distorted vocals and frequent,

pulsing drumbeats, the artist documents the surge of

emotions that comes with admitting queer identity, with

its liberation and exhilaration. However, the artist seems

hesitant to admit to heroism. “I don’t think, personally, I’m

doing anything of importance, I’m just being what I want to

be. I’d say that drag and being openly queer is still a strange

thing in the alternative music scene, though.”

The abstract track feels like a new beginning for Foxen

Cyn, their sound evolving both musically and emotionally. “I

suppose I’m trying to do for closeted kids what My Chemical

Romance did for me as a teenager,” they admit. “Audiences

probably see it as novelty, but as an artist I want to present

myself. I’m not a tall, skinny, cool guy, I’m a chubby little

party animal. If I show other people they can be as well, I’ll

be happy.”

In terms of the future, Foxen Cyn is only looking forward.

“I’m going to keep working on music, get a few more

releases out, but mainly I can’t wait to get back on stage and

get in people’s faces again.” It’s a closing statement that calls

to the dancefloor, and the blurry bliss of town after dark. !

Words: Lily Blakeney Edwards / @Lilyhbee

Cracking Up is available now via Emotion Wave Records.

“I’m a chubby little

party animal. If I

show other people

they can be as well,

I’ll be happy”

SPOTLIGHT

43


“I think

songwriting

is a way of

mythologising

yourself”

FURRY HUG

Confronting social anxieties

with breezy indie and rustling

folk tales.

FURRY HUG is a monster. Well, a Yaksha, a type of

nature-spirit. “I stole the name from an old Buddhist tale,”

says Jack Mee. “As soon as I saw it written down, I thought,

‘That’s the name for me’.” It became the perfect moniker

for what he describes as “playfully confused” music,

something which conveys a warm sensation of strangeness

mirrored in his first release, the On The Line EP.

Black holes, ladybird dots, imaginary friends and

social notions help make up the imagery of the EP’s

songs. Cacophonous swirls of solid rhythms and charmed

melodies peppered with additions of tuned percussion,

kazoo and saxophones.

Stocking a sonic curiosity shop is part of his process.

“It’s a little chaotic to be honest, he admits. “I’m not

very methodical with writing. I’m always working on

something, although I’m often planting more seeds than

seeing anything come to fruition.”

This restlessness surfaces throughout the EP: the

whiling beat of People Skills ticking away the time he has

to befriend the “one in seven billion”, the snare snapping

half a beat early on Ladybird as he ponders “how I missed

the boat” and the stuttering handclaps that crackle before

the closing vocal bursts of Panic Mode. Unconstrained in

his approach, Jack creates surprising and textural mood

boards; small details emerge with repeated listens like

finally seeing hidden mascarons in architecture.

Lockdown lent the necessary space to collate his first

release, the artist admits. “It was about time I released

something. I’ve been lucky enough to keep my job as

a support worker, since the pubs have been shut, I’ve

saved money that’s helped go towards the EP and some

recording equipment.” Working and releasing alone

allows him the autonomy to create these instrumental

playscapes in as much time as feels necessary. “Some of

my songs are written really quickly. Others take months,

or years to fully grow,” he says, using the time to instil

them with whatever theme or idea he likes.

Take Elwood’s Friend, a musical homage to Harvey, a

1950s James Stewart movie itself adapted from the 1944

Mary Chase play of the same name. “I love the film,” he

says, “[the idea] grew into a vague song about how ‘sane’

people address mental illness, which is what I think the

film pokes fun at.” The film’s titular character is a pooka

from Celtic folklore and the companion of the song’s titular

character. This second allusion to things fantastical and the

reworking of an old narrative reveals a wider fascination.

“I think songwriting is a way of mythologising yourself, or

someone or something else,” he explains. “Myths travel

through songs, especially in folk music. There’s something

mysterious about how myths help shape our lives and I

think music is good way of exploring that.”

Having been “raised on Bowie”, the notion of selfmythologising

doesn’t seem so strange. “He’s always

been a fatherly figure to me, musically.” And after

spending “a lot of time watching the Blues Brothers as a

kid”, his break came at the Preston Guild Hall, performing

at a tribute gig. “I was about eight or nine, in the full suit

and shades, and they pulled me on stage to sing with

them,” he recalls

Such encouragements led to playing drums since

the age of 11, a vocation which has shaped much he’s

done musically since. Manifesting in the percussive

consonants of “got to get me some” opening the EP, the

plinking xylophone that brightens every beat it bobs over

and collaborations with others, (drumming for Bye Louis

and Dilettante, based in Manchester) Jack is an artist

whose approach to rhythm feels apt for the beat besotted

customs of current music. Not surprising when he relates

“music is lifeblood for me, a sense of purpose. If I haven’t

written anything in a while, or learnt something new, it

affects my self-esteem. I’d be lost without it.”

Despite enjoying tackling his first release almost

singlehandedly, “recording the majority of [songs] in my

bedroom”, there’s readiness to relax and breathe. “I’ve

probably spent too much time living with my own music

and become too familiar with it. It’s kept me sane, but I’m

ready to go to gigs again and experience other people’s

work,” he confesses.

He’ll still be collecting new ideas, though. “I’ve toyed

with the idea of releasing demos, like a mixtape. You see

it in hip hop; artists release a mixtape to promote a future

‘official’ release, but as far as I know you don’t often see it

in indie or alt rock or whatever genre Furry Hug fits into.”

Stories of myth are difficult to pin down, their

histories often fragmented and obscured. I don’t know

when the next big chapter of the Furry Hug tales will

appear, but when it does, I’m certain it will be worth

passing on. !

Words: Samuel Lasley

Photography: Rob May

On The Line is out now via Haunted Jacuzzi.

soundcloud.com/furryhug

44


“I realised that

I could write my

own scripts, write

my own stories”

FELIX MUFTI-WRIGHT

Poet, actor, activist, writer,

theatre director and producer

– a force to be reckoned with.

FELIX MUFTI-WRIGHT (he/him) is a queer trans man

who is championing Liverpool’s LGBTQ+ community,

breaking boundaries and challenging the mainstream

through theatre, poetry and performance.

His creative endeavours started with youth theatre

when he was 14. He has since gone on to appear in

Cinderella (The Young Vic, R&D); Tin Star (Sky Atlantic);

The Uncomfortability of a Made Up Wor(l)d (Unity

Theatre).

Felix is also an organiser for Trans Pride Liverpool

and Transgender Day of Remembrance. In February he

released a video performance of Memories Burnt, a poem

about trans history, commissioned by the Museum of

Liverpool for LGBTQ+ History Month.

Speaking today, he sits in front of a wall that is as

full as his mind with ideas: a collage of photographs,

drawings, memories and inspiration. While talking he

smiles a lot and underlines the importance of his words

with movements and hand gestures.

For a creative trying to thrive in a capitalist context,

his work experiences read like the dream CV that can

open all doors: Felix is an actor, writer, performer,

facilitator and activist with years of experience under his

belt, despite being only in his early twenties.

He wanted to be an actor since he was little,

but when he came out as trans at the age of 13, he

quickly noticed that it is almost impossible to be an

active and successful part of an industry that does not

overwhelmingly welcome or support trans people. But he

did not let the discriminatory nature of the theatre world

dim his passion. “I realised that I could write my own

scripts, write my own stories,” he says, smiling proudly. “I

enjoyed it and I enjoyed acting and creating roles for the

communities, including myself.”

The wisdom his words carry is compelling, but at

the same time they arrive with a sadness, bearing the

experience of hardships overcome. Felix shares his

experiences and knowledge openly and generously; it

is clear that he wants to give people who belong to the

LGBTQ+ community space and opportunities to grow at

their own pace, making them feel understood and give

them the strength to reach out for help if they need it.

“It’s about the outreach and going into the communities

of people my work affects and make sure they see it,” he

says, “so they feel heard, they feel seen.”

Felix has been tackling inequality through all his work

and was recently able to take a massive step forward

when he co-founded Transcend Theatre company, with

Ailís Lord (she/her) and Ty Mather (they/them) in February

2020. They are a proudly queer-led, queer-focused and

queer-empowering company, pushing the limits of the

theatre industry and exploring underrepresented topics

that affect the LGBTQ+ community.

Felix says that theatre should be about telling real

life stories on stage, but he feels mainstream theatre has

moved away from that. “Everything Transcend does is

about telling queer stories authentically and I don’t really

see many theatre companies that are queer-focused,

especially trans-focused like we are. We don’t want it to

just be on stage either, we want as much of the team as

we can to be queer.”

Last year, Transcend Theatre was part of

“QueerCore”, which is Homotopia’s formal artist

development programme for early-career artists. This

year, they have already received funding from Arts

Council England for their current project How To Kill A

Rose, written and performed by Felix, as well as being

selected as part of Liverpool Unity Theatre’s Open Call

Programme.

Transcend aims to break boundaries between

Northern theatre and the rest of the country, both in

opportunities and perception. Felix describes various

situations where he has been seen as “rough” by others

because of his Scouse accent, the way he dresses

and carries himself. He laughs this off: “I’m the least

threatening person ever, I’m literally like a Build a Bear.”

Felix notes how he has faced regular discrimination

in his life and career, but he is clear in outlining the

supportive atmosphere of Liverpool, which has

contrasted to his experience of other places in the UK. He

points towards a “great supportive network” and makes it

explicitly clear how important it is to make this a common

reality for all trans people.

Moments of hardship have also been equally

significant in artistic growth. He notes how his school

years involved extreme transphobic behaviour from one

of the school’s teachers. This, he says, has shaped him. “I

remember thinking, in that moment, I will never apologise

for being myself again,” he recalls.

He emphasises how he is grateful to have found

acting, writing and creating as healthy ways to talk about

and deal with the things that have happened to him.

And there are no signs of stopping his creativity. He

is currently writing new work, soon to be produced by

Transcend Theatre. Be Gay Do Crime is a rap musical that

will be about gay drug dealers from Birkenhead. Felix

estimates a couple of years until staging. At the same

time, he is working on an all trans self-published poetry

book which he hopes to release by the end of this year.

It is clear that, no matter which topics and

experiences he is challenging and working through, he

will pour his heart in, and create opportunities unseen in

the mainstream. But most importantly, he is and always

will be radically and wonderfully unapologetic. !

Words: Jo Mary Watson / @JoMaryWatson (she/her)

Photography: Sam Vaughan

How To Kill A Rose will be performed later this year.

@transcendtheatre

@felixmufti

SPOTLIGHT 45


“I grew up on

Donk music, like

the Wigan Pier

remixes”

JEZTLS

Unearthing the full range of

emotions in PC Music.

Jamie Staples talks to me from a French suburb,

where he’s spending some time as part of his French

degree. He’s excited about early spring sun, contrasting

it with the wind and rain he associates with Liverpool.

However, the dreary weather doesn’t dispel his love for

the city where he arrived to study, and where his musical

exploits have begun to flourish in recent years. He

speaks enthusiastically about the culture here, excitedly

describing Liverpool’s musicians as “mad!”, but doesn’t

note whether he himself falls into this category.

Jamie’s reverence for his fellow musicians can

be seen in his work under the solo moniker JEZTLS

(pronounced jez-tulls), where he mixes influences from

around the world into his electronic led productions. His

upcoming EP El Paradiso mixes steel drums, trap beats,

dancefloor atmospherics and a variety of guest vocalists.

Taking an improvisational, trial and error approach,

Jamie’s focus is on “sounds that sound nice”, as he puts

it, sincere in its clunkiness. “It doesn’t even have to be in

the same key. It’s a lot more percussion based, and less

melody based,” he adds.

He contrasts this with the classical and jazz training

he received growing up, which he says has “nothing

in common” with his bedroom producing. “I couldn’t

stand being in that chair playing the trumpet or playing

the keyboard anymore with that pressure,” he says. So,

instead, he rebelled from his training out of a teenage

desire to be the “mastermind” behind Katy Perry-esque

chart hits.

It’s this background and his open approach which

makes him such a versatile producer, open to working

with whoever he thinks is making the best music. But, as

Jeztls, Jamie wants to bring the focus back to himself. “I

have a full body of work because I’ve always worked as

a producer for other artists, that’s my main thing. So to

finally find all these tracks coming up that I want to keep,

I wouldn’t want to give them away because they’re more

personal.”

Despite this focus “collaboration [remains] the most

important part of what Jeztls is”, he asserts, with features

from a varied pool of vocalists. There are guest vocals on

almost every track on the EP, including Papa Shiraz on

the dark Night To End and Apollo Kid on the breezy and

kinetic We Belong To The Summer.

The more personal approach is apparent on the

recent single, Tear Me Down (featuring Sintia), a track

Jamie started work on when he was just 14, which

explores ideas around masculinity, family and opening up

about emotions. There has been a lot of discussion about

men’s mental health in the last few years, and Jamie

shared his experience of hearing stock phrases, ‘man up,’

‘boys don’t cry”, from those close to him.

“I think a lot of the time it’s family that won’t let you

be emotional. I grew up with just my mother and I have

so much love for her, but at the same time I always felt

this pressure to be a certain way. But that’s probably the

most hurtful thing, that you’re not allowed to express

yourself emotionally if you identify in a certain way,” he

shares. “It’s crazy. It was always a struggle. Friends and

family would always tell me, ‘You’re way too emotional,

you think too much, you feel too much’.”

Tear Me Down comes from the sense of liberation

Jamie found when he stopped listening to the people

telling him to hide his emotions. “It just hit me, why on

Earth should I not be able to be emotional? Where’s that

rule? There is no rule! It’s a social construct that’s been

placed on people to not be allowed to be emotional. Once

I realised that, so much in my life changed, I cried and I

didn’t feel bad, it was so liberating. I had tears down my

face, but I was feeling good about myself. When you do

that, you get to realise your own self-worth.”

While happy to talk about his background and

identity, as a gay man he’s keenly aware of the boxes

artists can be shoehorned into. There have been some

comparisons between Jeztls and SOPHIE, and while

there are some similarities, that can read like sticking the

two together based on queerness. “It’s like there’s two

options, there’s sexuality, and slight genre, so if you fit

this box, you go over there,” he admits.

While talking about this comparison, it’s clear Jamie

just wants to talk about the music. “I love PC Music and

the whole subgenre that’s come from that. For me, I

grew up on Donk music, like the Wigan Pier remixes,

it was very bouncy and fast BPM.” He says this while

enthusiastically pointing out how the picture of who

listens to PC Music has changed from “Fiat 500s driving

around blasting it out their speakers” to “these LGBTQ+

teenagers sat in their bedrooms, truly vibing”.

It’s his love for a variety of music that animates

him and drives him. From his classical training, through

making tracks on GarageBand with his cousin’s MIDI

keyboard, all the way to his current producer work,

it’s his excitement about finding new sounds that is

constant. Jeztls is his way to explore that, away from the

constraints of classical performance, or producing other

people’s music. As he succinctly puts it: “With Jeztls, I can

just do what I want to do.” !

Words: Ed Haynes / @teddyhaynes (They/Them)

El Paradiso is available from 30th April via Virile Music.

@jeztls

46


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PREVIEWS

“The band

is going to

become a human

instrument”

PERFORMANCE

STEALING SHEEP: SONG MACHINE

LightNight – 21/05

After a one-year hiatus, LightNight returns with a diverse range of events and installations

spread across the city – one of which will involve an open source performance by Stealing Sheep.

After the trudge of lockdown, it’s fitting that the

first festival to be held this year is LightNight.

While a celebrated staple of Liverpool’s

cultural calendar, this year’s festivities arrive

as a shining light at the end of a tunnel, a re-introduction

of in real life culture to our soon-to-be bustling city

centre.

Hosted on the 21st May, the one-night arts festival

will shine a spotlight across the city, with over 100

organisations collaborating to create an inspiring trail of

events with talks, workshops, performance and music –

all of which are following this year’s theme of ‘Play’.

STEALING SHEEP are among those producing an

installation for this year’s festival. The synth-pop trio

need little introduction having been a core pillar of the

local scene for over a decade now.

The group are marking their return to LightNight with

new project Song Machine, an interactive performance

that invites the audience to write words into a website

that will be sung in real time by Stealing Sheep. To learn

more about the proposed installation, Lily Blakeney-

Edwards caught up with Stealing Sheep’s Lucy and Emily

to gain more insight into this year’s events, their own

project and the emotional impact of the festival’s return.

This year’s LightNight is going to be particularly special

for a lot of people. How are you feeling about this

year’s event?

Lucy: A little bit nervous about it, but very excited.

Emily: We’ve not done a performance in a long time. Our

last one was in Manhattan? So, it’s been a whole year. It’s

quite daunting in that respect. It will be nice to entertain

people in real life, rather than virtually.

L: The thought of being in the middle of a crowd, trying

to see over people, it just feels so distant! It’ll be nice to

get back to that.

You’re planning to debut your project Song Machine at

the festival. Can you tell us what it entails?

E: The band is going to become a human instrument!

L: The idea is that the public will use social media to send

in song lyrics, and then we’ll go live and be an instrument!

E: We’re still working on logistics, like how it will look,

but it’s very exciting. We want it to involve the whole

community, so get everyone together to make it a mass

collaboration with Liverpool. We just want as many

people as possible to get involved.

The theme for this year’s festivities is ‘Play’. How does

your piece integrate into that topic?

L: The interactive element of it, with people joining in

and helping us make music really fits into the theme. I’m

hoping the lyrics sent in will be light and playful.

E: I was thinking that the whole idea of a song is quite

playful. Everyone joining in, and making music – it’s just

fun, isn’t it? Everyone’s desperate to play, see people

and interact, so I think it will really bring people together.

Even though we’re at the centre of it, if everyone gets

involved it will feel like a community voice.

How do you want this year’s events to impact audiences,

both within your own piece and further afield?

L: I want people to share a bit of time together.

E: Yeah, no matter how it shapes out, I want people to

come together. I want a celebration and a sense of relief.

A bit of reconnection to the community.

E: And for everyone to go home with a pint!

Stealing Sheep have made regular appearances at

LightNight over the years, in some form or another.

What are some of your highlights from recent years?

E: I did this thing at the Tate inspired by Tony Conrad

in 2019. I was in a group of musicians who did a drone

piece. It was mad, because we played a one-note piece

for an hour without stopping. It felt like such a special

event, that had such a massive impact. George Moore

was doing it as well, playing this really unusual long,

longbow instrument.

L: Oh, I loved that. It was so powerful. We also did a light

up drum performance a few years back, which was great.

And we’ve done some marching band work as well, been

involved in parades and that.

E: Every year there’s so much brilliant stuff on though. I

try and run around and see as much as I can.

L: I always wish I could see it all, but you have to pick

your favourites! But just seeing a few bits is amazing.

How does Liverpool’s culture and community influence

LightNight festival?

E: Liverpool’s a small city, so it really bubbles up with the

amount going on. There are so many pockets of scenery

everywhere, so there’s so much to get stuck into. It links

everyone, all the amazing spaces. It makes it seem like

one big celebration.

L: And all of the destinations are so epic. Like the Cathedral

or the Invisible Wind Factory… Even the small spaces are

decked out completely. So many amazing venues.

E: Yes! We love intimate spaces, because you can really

connect to the audience. The Kazimier, The Bluecoat…

The Stockroom is fantastic as well, one of our favourites.

Finally, how would you sum up the event in three

words?

E: Exciting!

L: Interesting!

E: Buzzing!

L: And bright!

E: That’s definitely more than three! We’re just so excited

to come together as part of LightNight, the three of us. !

Interview: Lily Blakeney-Edwards / @Lilyhbee

LightNight takes place in person and online on 21st May.

The venue for Song Machine will be announced ahead of

the event.

lightnightliverpool.co.uk

48


FESTIVAL

LIVERPOOL

BIENNIAL

until 27/06 – Various venues

Mark McNulty

Having installed sculptures and installations from the likes of Larry

Achiampong, Linder and Rashid Johnson across the city and launched an

online portal showcasing sonic and digital commissions, the Biennial’s ‘Inside’

chapter begins in May.

Flags by artist Larry Achiampong can already be found at 10 locations from

the Cunard Building to St George’s Hall. Other outdoor commissions include Rashid

Johnson’s Stacked Heads at Canning Dock, a piece by Teresa Solar at Exchange Flags

and Linder’s Bower Of Bliss at Liverpool One. Close by, the mural Mauvaise Alphabet by

Jorgge Menna Barreto has been unveiled on the side of Bluecoat.

The theme of this years festival is The Stomach and The Port with the timely aim of

exploring concepts of the body as fluid and being continuously shaped by, and actively

shaping its environment. In May, the Biennial’s partner venues will begin opening

exhibitions interrogating the theme. FACT host an exhibit by Black Obsidian Sound

System (B.O.S.S), a London-based collective who bring together queer, trans and nonbinary

black and people of colour involved in art, sound and radical activism through

projects influenced by sound system culture. Hong Kong based artist Zheng Bo will also

exhibit at the Ropewalks Square venue. The artist creates weedy gardens, living slogans

and eco-queer films.

Tate Liverpool host an expansive exhibition including the work of Jamaican artist

Ebony G. Patterson who works with embellished textiles to explore post colonialism,

working class identity and other disenfranchised communities. In the Bluecoat, mutual

exchange between humans and nature is explored in Laura Huertas Millán’s film, Jíibie,

which examines the cultural importance of the sacred coca leaf for the Muiná-Muruí

community in the Colombian Amazon. The work of photographer Zineb Sedira and

filmmaker Alberta Whittle will explore the meaning and social history of the world’s

oceans and docks in exhibits at Open Eye Gallery. Over in the Lewis’s Building an

eclectic collection of sculpture from artists such as Kathleen Ryan and Reto Pulfer look

at the body and what it means to be human.

FESTIVAL

INDEPENDENTS BIENNIAL

Until 06/06 – Various venues

Independents Biennial, the grassroots celebration of the creative culture that’s

brewing across the length and breadth of the Liverpool City Region will feature a

roster of emerging artists who will develop new and exciting perspectives on how

Merseysiders perceive and create art around them. Through various disciplines, the

artists in this year’s Independents Biennial focus on the art process itself, including how

the artists approach their practice and how that practice might mutate throughout the

duration of the programme.

Working in partnership with the Open Eye Gallery, Montse Mosquera, Feiyi Wen

and Sam Venables will explore themes of reverse culture shock when living in a foreign

country, interpretations of landscapes from different cultural perspectives and the reuse

of closed public houses as McDonald’s restaurants.

More Indy Biennial delights come in the form of a series of poems by quarterly

creative zine ROOT-ed – which promotes and supports creatives of colour in the North

West – and a portrait project by Mark Hobbs aimed at dismantling gendered views of

male parenting.

Meanwhile, Emmer Winder’s St Helens Social Pharmacy invites everyone to

share their own mantras, affirmations and phrases that have helped them through the

pandemic. Advice will be transformed into prescriptions on medicine bottles and shared

on Instagram (@socialprescriptiontracker) to promote wellbeing in the face of adversity.

Also exploring the experiences of 2020, Head of Photography at Carmel College

Kevin Crooks and writer Callan Waldron-Hall are collaborating on a project in the Thatto

Heath area of St Helens, which sees the combination of photography and redrafted

written accounts from locals create a snapshot of the area’s experiences and hopes for

the future.

Multimedia artist Sorrell Kerrison presents work exploring experiences of

motherhood, with a series of self-portraits taken before and after childbirth. SciArtist

Jay Hampton’s intimate exploration of mother nature aims to reappraise our perceptions

of what we consider to be weeds. Hampton’s project assesses UK public spaces left

unattended by councils as a result of lockdown, whose natural developments have

created havens for a host of wildlife species that are re-emerging as symbols of tenacity

and regrowth.

As we experience something of a rupture across our sociocultural zeitgeist – with

Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, the murder of Sarah Everard and Covid-19 all demanding

a rethink of society’s inequalities – Sufea Mohamad Noor’s residence at Independents

Biennial will investigate the evolution of diversity and inclusion terminologies used

to describe racially marginalised groups, using academic research, exploring online

activism and holding discussions with PoC and allies. Using research and her

conversations, Sufea will produce text paintings in the studio as well as using Metal’s

kitchen and garden to create a shared experience in a pandemic.

Sam Venables, Hippo (2021)

PREVIEWS

49


PREVIEWS

RADIO

THE

POPULAR

MUSIC

SHOW

BBC Radio Merseyside

After almost a year off the

airwaves, PMS’s Roger Hill

provides the lowdown on the

show’s new format.

The events of the last year have severely

shaken the metronomic balance of the cultural

calendar. As restrictions have seen live music

reduced to a rare, socially-distanced hum, ghost

lights continue an extended run on theatre stages and

festivals move online, the aftershocks have been felt on

institutional radio, too.

From national to local stations, the BBC was forced

to restructure its programming to meet the limitations

and demands of the new normal. The changes meant

that, from March 2020, certain shows and presenters

covered elongated hours, while others were removed

from the schedule altogether as the Corporation assumed

a more defined role as a public broadcaster.

On BBC Radio Merseyside, one such programme

that was placed on hiatus was THE POPULAR MUSIC

SHOW. Fronted by Roger Hill and a revolving team of

presenters, the programme is lauded for its left turns,

deep digging and connoisseur curation of sounds from

Merseyside to the far reaches of the world. To this day

it remains the longest-running alternative music show

in the UK. However, the 43rd year of its running was far

quieter than the team had expected as it departed its late

Sunday night slot.

After a challenging year, the

programme has returned to BBC

Radio Merseyside, albeit with a few

tweaks and new features to meet

the continuing impacts on scheduling.

Roger Hill fills us in on the set-up of the

new show, the future of late-night radio

and the importance of presenting new,

expansive cultural discoveries on a local

public broadcaster.

PMS spent the best part of a year off air

due to the pandemic and the resulting

changes to schedules. Did you notice the

landscape of radio changing in that period

of time?

It was very easy to notice, because the BBC

completely restructured local radio. There was

no space for pretty much anything that was

individual programmes, so many, like ours, went

off.

I saw that the BBC decided, for the first time in

a long time, what it wanted to use local radio for.

In other words, what this access to local people was

about. People do like to be talked to as though they live

somewhere particular, provide information, raise spirits –

local radio does that. It’s the first time in almost 40 years

of my being involved with it that local radio actually got

its mission back.

With this restructuring, did you think there was a gap

left in terms of the cultural offer and exploration in a

musical sense? How did this affect your planning when

returning to the air in January?

I said to the team, ‘Who listens to us anyway? Who

are the people who either go on iPlayer or listen late at

night and want to hear what we were doing?’ It boiled

down to a combination of the culturally aware and the

independent thinkers, if you like, the doers, the people

who go to gigs, get Bido lito! for example. We framed the

new show around the idea that there was a community

there that, essentially, the rest of Radio Merseyside

wasn’t speaking to.

Do you think there is a new frame around radio itself,

a new way of looking at it? And is this something that

you’ve taken on, or is it a case of repurposing what you

had?

At the moment, monthly at least, we will have an

extension to PMS that can be heard on Melodic

Distraction. The change for us, I think, is in thinking about

what we do as the one-hour show. Just as Bido Lito!

became more than a magazine, similarly PMS becomes

more than a programme; it becomes an information

system, it could become an online platform, regular email

newsletter. It becomes a focus for something. But we

don’t want to do this too much, otherwise we’ll never get

any more time back from the BBC!

Talk me through the reformat a little bit and how the

show might be operating differently.

The first thing that’s important is the new time [9pm]

and I think that is important as we’ll capture people

who wouldn’t necessarily be coming to find us. We’ve

introduced spoken word, too, and we’ve had some

really good features from that so far this year. We’re

still the only programme on the station that plays world

music. Although we can’t do festivals currently, we’re

obviously keeping people abreast of developments in

that area. Every programme has mentions in it, too, as

we call it now. And they’re not always just musical, but

they’re about cultural activities and online activities.

And also, we’ve got a five-minute section, which is five

recommendations, five aspects to look forward to. That is

definitely a nod towards cultural events and happenings.

If the first section is really kind of music and speech, the

second is about what to do during your week, the third is

about the electronic, the digital, the online and everything

else. And then, finally, we have a 15-minute flourish at

the end, where we remind people that we’ve got a very

deep, good archive, and remind people about what’s on

our mixes.

As you know, over the past 40 years or more, latenight

radio slots like John Peel’s were presented as a

particular kind of exploration and cultural navigation.

Do you think that this slot for music programmes still

has merit? And do you think that can come back? Or do

you think we’re moving into an age where everything

has to be a little bit more on demand?

It’s a good question, but a question that’s very hard to

give an answer to at the moment, except to say that

since [last] March late-night radio no longer exists locally.

The BBC has gone through so many revolutions over the

years. It will be past my time, I think, but eventually there

may come a time when the BBC rediscovers the joys of

what we might call ‘free floating navigation late-night

radio at a local level’. I mean, I don’t think it’s completely

out, I think it just happens to be what the BBC is into at

the moment. It knows it’s in a tougher market than it was

10 to 20 years ago. There are far more radio stations

out there, far more niche radio stations. We were very

loose on the old show, but it’s not like that now. But that

doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for that kind of radio.

We are now definitely in the structured programme

market that we weren’t in, originally.

Do you think local radio will be at a loss without the

more freeform late-night music programming?

I think, bearing in mind the bigger picture, we’re just

going to have to embrace it, to be honest. But it’s

one of those things where I often wondered whether

the listeners who joined us at midnight on a Sunday

had actually been listening to anything else on Radio

Merseyside. They may only have parachuted in for us

and then parachuted out again and, therefore, the radio

station didn’t get any huge benefit from the numbers

which transfer out into the rest of the station. So, I think

the BBC probably wouldn’t go back and do it again.

Does it matter to you to remain on a public service

broadcaster? Does that change the essence and the

ethos of the programme?

I took the view, and I’ve always had this, that there was

something about working for the BBC and broadcasting

on the BBC airwaves and being part of the BBC

information system, which was a dignifying – if dignity

is something that we want to attach to our kind of music

– but also empowering. I think I always thought that it

would be best to keep something that was PMS on Radio

Merseyside, even if we had to start thinking outside the

box a bit.

It does matter to be on the BBC for me personally. But

then, of course, I started out that way. I suppose maybe

there’s a real sense of loyalty, sentimentality, a sense of

the BBC is a generally good thing and it’s nice to be part

of a good thing with a kind of international dimension

to it. So, for me, there is a benefit of being there. But we

are, as you can tell, reaching out and putting ourselves

outside the BBC as well as inside. And in a sense, because

we’ve always been a bit of a trailblazer as a programme,

maybe we will be the model of how the developments will

happen in the future. !

Interview: Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder

The Popular Music show now runs bi-weekly at 9pm on

BBC Radio Merseyside. The next live broadcasts are on

2nd, 16th, 30th April.

pmsradio.co.uk

bbc.co.uk/programmes/p098fwxp

50


FESTIVAL

Threshold Festival

09-10/04 – Online

Over 100 artists will participate in the rescheduled online iteration of Threshold Festival

this year. The event blends music, performance and visual arts with interviews and panel

discussion which can all be enjoyed virtually. The mammoth line-up announced in March

includes BEIJA FLO, ZEE DAVINE, KINGFAST and many more representing the grassroots

music scene from Liverpool and beyond. As well as the core online activity, Threshold are

displaying public art in their Baltic Triangle home with details still to be announced at the time

of writing. Ticket holders will be treated to the District Sessions live sets while the rest of the

festival will be free to attend.

Beija Flo (Robin Clewley)

GIG

Table Service w/ Positive Vibration

02/05 – Meraki

Reggae festival Positive Vibration are serving up an all-day helping of dub

at Meraki on the May Bank Holiday weekend as guests for the weekend’s

Table Service event. Groups of up to six people will be able to enjoy DJ sets

throughout the Sunday from DUB DEFENDERS, KEITH MARLEY, BEAT

DETECTIVE FT. LION YUTE & MOTORMOUF and the festival’s own selectors.

The gig will serve as a nice taster for what is to come from Positive Vibration

festival when it returns to the Baltic Triangle in September this year.

FESTIVAL

Abandon Normal Devices

27/05-11/07 – Various venues

Exploring the post-industrial landscapes of the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship

Canal, AND Festival returns this year. Described as a “nomadic festival of digital culture,

art and film”, the programme of activity for the 2021 edition will take place online as

well as in and around the waterways which it is looking to interrogate. Visitors will

be able to take in an ambitious programme of in-real-life field trips via augmented

reality seascapes, immersive voyages and floating laboratories, together with an online

programme of radical and disruptive artworks, film screenings, performances, talks and

workshops.

FESTIVAL

Writing On The Wall Festival

Throughout May – Various venues

Celebrating their 21st year in existence WOWFest returns with a programme of literary flavoured events throughout May. With last years online iteration of the festivals bringing

the like of Noam Chomsky and Marlon James, there’ll be high hopes of similar big hitters joining the event for this landmark year. WOW were victorious at the LCR Culture and

Creativity Awards earlier this year bagging the coveted Arts Organisation of the Year gong. Well-deserved for an organisation that delivers a year-long programme of projects,

events and competitions that benefit our community. Details on the festival programme were still to be announced at the time of writing.

GIG

All We Are

09/04 – Future Yard

Genre chameleons ALL WE ARE feature in Future Yard’s latest run of high

production streamed shows in April. Following gigs from Barberos and Lydiah,

the Birkenhead venue will be beaming out a live set from the Domino Records

lovelies as they look to finally showcase 2020 LP Providence in a live setting.

The feel-good hit of last year is much more suited to a world of dancing and

good times so hopefully it’ll get its just deserts in the more liberated landscape

of a vaccinated world. The online gig will deliver an opportunity to limber up in

your living room before hitting the dancefloors in June.

CONCERT

Sheku Kanneh-Mason

01/06 – Philharmonic Hall

Liverpool Philharmonic is once again hosting live music with On Demand concerts taking

place from 6th April and live events with audiences going ahead from 20th May. Superstar

cellist SHEKU KANNEH-MASON visits the hall at the start of June to perform the last concerto

written by Czech legend Antonin Dvořák. Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll will also be performed at

the event which will be available to watch via Zoom accompanied by a pre-concert programme

presented by Radio 3 broadcaster Stephen Johnson. Elsewhere on the Phil’s listings, there’ll

be a world premiere of Dani Howard’s Trombone Concerto and Klezmer-ish perform The

Lockdown Songbook!, a mix of pieces recorded during lockdown for a new album.

EXHIBITION

Soft Boys

17/05-29/08 – FACT

Soft Boys

What does it mean to be a man? Poking fun at gender norms and exploring the ways we live

alongside each other and our environment, Soft Boys, from Liverpool-based multidisciplinary

artist Kiara Mohamad, goes on display at FACT for their reopening in May. The exhibition,

curated by ROOT-ed zine’s Fauziya Johnson, examines what it means to be a man through

various disciplines documenting cooking, dancing and textiles while celebrating queer and

trans joy. Exhibits weave in traditions from Somali culture and address trauma for what will be

a thought provoking and revealing show.

PREVIEWS 51


REVIEWS

“Change is one

of few constants

in Liverpool”

Three lads on bikes, Maud Street and Elaine Street, L8 1979, Ian Clegg, as part of Tell It Like It Is

L—A City Through Its People

Open Eye Gallery – online

There are three images missing from Emma Case’s RED

exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery’s L—A City Through

Its People, each of which can be found three miles away

on the Homebaked terraces of Oakfield Road adjacent

to Anfield stadium. Together with the 93 photographs

on display inside Open Eye, those remaining three bring

Case’s archive total to 96. It’s a number we’re all familiar

with, and it’s a number that will likely never disappear

from conversations about who and what Liverpool is.

As a football fan, an Evertonian in fact, even I see

myself in these photographs taken outside Herr Klopp’s

(now fragile) fortress and in the homes and pubs of his

followers; both as a boy picking out my first scarf, and

later as a teenager speculating who might make the

line-up over an afternoon pint with my dad – each of us

drowned out by a cacophony of ‘same again loves’ and

half-cut tactical suggestions by those who never did

quite manage to leave the Kendall days behind.

Look hard enough and every football fan and their

dog will see themselves in these photographs, too, and

in turn will see so much of what has been taken away

from them by you-know-what. Not just fans, but from

those whose fixture-bound livelihoods depend on the

ecology of what it means to go the game – to the chippy,

the café, the pub, to the memorabilia stalls. But if the

sights, sounds and smells of football matches seem a

distant dream, then these images are, however brief, an

assurance that they haven’t really gone forever.

The 96 images are part of RED’s wider archive

spanning four years on what it means to be a Red, which,

alongside Emma Case’s material, also contains fans’

personal photographs, home interviews and amateur

home-made memorabilia. There are no footballing

celebrities in this collection, only a Crown Paintsclad

collective inheriting the batons of tribal solidarity

and community spirit. The same spirit passed to new

generations and whipped up with each rattle of the

turnstile and again reawakened in homes, streets and

inner ideals.

Tribal solidarity and community spirit – these ideas

flow through the city in abundance, stopping to resurface

once more in the Open Eye’s next collection. This sees

Scottie Press – Britain’s longest-running community

newspaper – present an archive of original photographs

and iconic headlines presented in line with the paper’s

50th anniversary – celebrated in February.

When the paper first printed in February 1971,

entering the decade under Conservative PM Edward

Heath, Scottie Press and those it served in and around

the Scotland Road area would see the city’s social fabric

ripped up with containerisation and a domino decline

in heavy industry. The move would have devastating

repercussions for the city that would endure well into the

80s and 90s. The resulting 50-year record of Liverpool’s

shifting social, political and religious landscape on display

here in Scottie Press’ exhibition is an intimate chronicle of

the city’s enduring activism, its places of work, worship

and what it did in its free time.

If RED and Scottie Press’ archives unveil what

Liverpool is, it’s fitting that, in closing L—A City Through

Its People, the final exhibition examines what Liverpool

once was – how it was perceived, shared and lived by

its people. Tell It Like It Is, an image-text collaboration

between photographer Ian Clegg and writer Laura

Robertson, is a series of prints on silver gelatin with

accompanying creative-contextual writing which

complement the archive’s fragmented moments of

nostalgia.

The 24 prints – shot on a “battered Nikon” with HP5

film and left to foment under Clegg’s bed for several

decades – are loosely grouped by geographical area,

leading you through the neighbourhoods within Toxteth,

the city centre and the docks. From L1 through L8, Tell

It Like It Is shows us equally battered street landscapes

in partial ruin, bordered up premises and giddy, feral-like

childhoods spent roaming through town on your bike

with your mates.

But, if these three exhibitions tell us of a city

confronting hardship, loss and deprivation, then just

as quickly, L— A City Through Its People tells us of

something we’ve no doubt always known about this

place: change is one of few constants in Liverpool, and its

people are what gets it through.

Matthew Berks / @Hewniverse_

Peggy by Emma Case, RED

52


Liverpool Digital Music

Festival Rise

Online – 27-28/02

Predictable playback issues aside and although, like

everyone else, I’ve just about adjusted to living mostly

online, I wasn’t sure what to expect when experiencing a

two-day festival via my laptop. After the aforementioned

streaming issues are ironed out, Liverpool Digital Music

Festival Rise begins with an inviting scene on the screen

courtesy of AMELIA WALLACE.

Sunlight beams into the centre of the room and

refracts into a rainbow splodge for a welcome contrast

to the dark currently outside my window, and the first

song is in progress. The natural light gradually fades

in seemingly perfect sync with the closing phrases of

increasingly sparse piano and softer vocal to finish to the

performer’s enticing, relaxed opening number.

A quick switch to acoustic guitar and brief intro

leads into Where (Do We Go)?. The refreshing change

of accompaniment allows Wallace’s voice to explore

a wider, impressive register and timbre. Beginning

delicately, as though blending out from the previous

song, the dynamics of the performance peak with a

hearty vocal power that successfully expresses a calm,

comfortable performance to listeners. Sticking to guitar,

Wave follows, with more intimate lyrics woven into

agile melody underscored by bluesy chord progressions

delivering an effective ebb and flow in emotional force

again. Along with the calmness and clear enjoyment

coming across in the performance style, listening to a

controlled, skilled voice with accompanying instrument

calibrating together with ease commands attention, even

via a wi-fi connection. The final song encapsulates the

warm essence of the set, but with more pace, keeping

a healthy connect between music and the imagery it

invokes.

On the Sunday night we experience an eccentric

highlight of the festival. Instead of verbally announcing

the band, SWEET BEANS utilise a humorous gimmick

by way of introduction. Their empty living room is

greeted with a clumsy leap into frame by the drummer,

as the guitarist followed by two brass players enter

in sequence. On screen text of name, instrument, or

niche nickname accompanies their entrances like a

modern pastiche of a retro swing band. An interesting

start, though somewhat unstable. The timing in the

opening playing of the trombone and sax’s syncopated

groves aren’t fully together. It reminds me slightly of

The Nightmare Before Christmas when the ghoulish

instrumentalists wonder what’s up with Jack.

Though they are connected as performers, and

clearly having fun, I’m unsure if I am too at this early

stage. But like consuming enticing baked goods that

transpire to be mind-altering edibles, it at first tastes

a bit strange, but you can’t help but keep eating.

The performance becomes moreish and weirdly too

interesting, then the goodness seems to exponentially

kick in. As trombone switches to bass guitar in this

continued chaotic adventure, otherworldly tonality,

rhythm and an ambitious soundscape advances this

eclectic set and quickly traverses from lukewarm and

uncertain, to bizarre and intriguing. Densely packed

ideas make it tricky to decipher where one idea ends and

another begins. The growing sonic kaleidoscope paired

with sprinkles of odd theatrics between band members

has switched me from a tentative listener to happily

bewildered by the end of their act. This band definitely

stands out for a mixture of mostly good reasons.

Sharing a similar sense of authentic and creative

practice to Amelia Wallace, NATALIE AND THE

MONARCHY first greet the festival and mentions being

in New Jersey, thereby introducing the theme of the

first song. We’re given a humble but alluring set-up

with a background of vintage cloth draped like the

dusty curtains of a forgotten theatre hall, with some

delightfully tacky Christmas lights wrapped around the

mic stand. It’s a satisfying aesthetic mixture of burlesque,

steampunk and gothic influences that somehow makes

sense. This self-assured individuality translates to an

engrossing musical flavour. When The Ice Melts Away

exudes this well with nostalgic melancholy in lyricism,

guitar texture, and manipulatively emotive vocals.

Natalie’s accent and chatty demeanour as she announces

(perhaps improvised) set choices feels assuring

between songs. One cover song interjects the set,

giving more variety not just through the keyboardist’s

accompaniment and fun costume change, but with a

more storytelling angle behind the voice that nicely

highlights the theatrical personality of the band. Though

saying that the final song Take Me As I Am is a “lovely

pop song that’s a bit out of character for me”, a strong

sense of artistic direction doesn’t abandon the set.

Through a softer change of pace, the musical forms and

performance retains this artsy, vague sentimentality.

Initial hesitancy diminished; the festival has provided

a fine substitute for the in-venue expeditions for fresh

music we all long for. Lending us hope for what lays

beyond, a well-packaged reminder of surviving creative

activity is uplifting.

RJ Ward

A Lovely Word: Hannah

Swingler

Online - 04/03

As if counting down to the start of tonight’s Zoom

meeting the date shows as 4/3/21 on my laptop screen.

Equally prescient, A Lovely Word presents their regular

evening of poetry on World Book Day this evening. The

event is headlined by Birmingham poetry queen and

esteemed face and voice of 2019 Nationwide building

society ad High Street Romance, HANNAH SWINGLER.

The poet herself is the author of a prepandemic

collection entitled This Dress Has Pockets,

from which some of tonight’s pieces are read. Hannah

speaks openly about the struggles she’s encountered

during the previous months and tells her online audience

how her idea to use lockdown as a writing retreat has

not gone as planned, nevertheless she has started to

work on a new project studying women’s history.

Her first poem, Dance Show, is a delightful insight

into Hannah’s childhood mind, effortlessly captivating

her listeners and inviting them to travel back in time as

she showcases her nine-year-old imagination. The poem

Yet draws attention to the writer’s feelings of uncertainty

and hope associated with the titular word. Hannah

points out the relevance of the piece in these unsettled

times. However, the performer does embrace the

comforts associated with not being venue-bound tonight

as she performs sitting at her table in her slippers.

The rhythmic tones and her Birmingham accent,

teamed with her subtle mannerisms and facial

expressions, make for a compelling performance as

Hannah’s passion for art and history are apparent

from the variety of themes in her work. Hannah, who

is a secondary school teacher by day, addresses the

importance of equality on this noteworthy day, before

reading her final poem of the evening, Dear Mary. It

is written and delivered in the style of a letter and the

poet was inspired to write it after hearing from an old

neighbour that a lady named Mary owned her house

many years ago. After stripping back the layers of

wallpaper from previous tenants, Mary’s personality is

unveiled, enabling Hannah to relate to the faceless name

through the original decor. The poet radiates a sense

of longing for the simplicity of Mary’s life in those times

compared to now.

Although the writer touches on some serious

matters tonight, her positivity naturally shines through

in the performance. She is able to instil her hopeful

insights onto her audience through an enthralling night

of stanzas and storytelling.

Sarah McNee

REVIEWS

53


ARTISTIC

LICENCE

This issue’s selection of creative

writing is by Lyndsay Price, a

collection of works that channel

the discovery in loss.

Lyndsay Price is a co-host of A Lovely Word and curator

of Salt Water Poetry.

@lyndsaywritespoems

lost things

have you ever loved someone so much you let them leave?

let them sidestep out of your life ever so seamlessly?

i wish i could quote emily dickenson and say i wish you a kinder sea

but, like leather and teeth,

some things in this world just aren’t meant to be that sweet

ultimately we’re both worthy of being loved properly

but i’ll tell you this, you could have had all of my poetry

for now i’ll remember you howling with wine in your blood

and a full moon in your heartbeat

in many ways i feel like you saw the woman i could be

but we’re on different pages, books, bookcases

even different libraries

i’m a mile up in the sky and you’re a thousand kisses deep

ultimately we’re just superheroes with a lot of anxiety

so it’s time to move on, take advice from the animal kingdom

and snap the necks of the young who won’t make it

cause our situation is certainly not the time for us to be squeamish

so today i took a breath, today i divorced my ghosts,

today i performed an exorcism on the very depths of my soul

but because of you, i’m learning to leave myself love notes

because of you i no longer see my body as a hand grenade

despite the fire that’s in your eyes, you taught me to feel safe

to move forwards, i’d say to get your hands dirty with life and

consume more of the things that fill you

but to close up wounds that cut this deep,

well that’s not something you can rush through

my mother tells that i need to know this world is tough

now i look both ways when i cross the road because darling,

this was dangerous enough

and does anyone know the exact difference in which two magnets

can no longer feel an attraction?

because i’ve tried trains and hotel rooms and i can still feel you

i’ve tried not talking on the telephone but i can still hear you

i know when you’ve had a bad day

because the sky looks dark and thundery

and i know when you’ve had a good day

because the trees genuinely smile at me

i’m not entirely sure how you’re controlling the weather around me,

but i don’t question it because i know this life is full of mystery

i’ve tried salt baths for days

but my bones won’t stop repeating your name

teaching my body to forget about you is a full time job these days

tell me this:

does your car sometimes circle my house

the way my thoughts trace the outline of your name?

does your finger hover over the bell

the way mine hovers over deleting your name from my phone book?

when you give in and drive back home,

tell me darling, do you feel lonesome?

last night i went to bed with artificial feelings,

woke up with a coca-cola heart

but despite me lying to myself,

the truth is that i love you and i’m sorry if it seemed like i forgot

for now, i want to say goodbye in the sweetest way

because i can be good at staying gone

i wish you a lifetime of butterflies

i’ll forever have a sunshine heart

to quote aa. milne,

how lucky i am to have something

that makes saying goodbye so hard

the search

i overturned stones,

moss side facing up

i shouted your name into the creek

i lit a cigarette

and let the smoke curl into the sky

leaving me to wonder

if you had ever even been

54


THE FINAL

SAY

“When authority

is built on the back

of racism and

misogyny, how can

it keep us safe?”

Music venues and nightclubs are essential arenas for communality and

expression. While we await their reopening, Mary Olive questions the extent

they offer refuge and safe space for women, transgender and non-binary people.

[Trigger Warning] Mention of sexual abuse, assault,

harassment

I’ve written so many new openings for this piece

over the past few weeks. Searching somewhere for

words. It’s been deeper than writer’s block. It’s an

exhaustion I feel deep to my bones.

To be honest, I don’t want to have to keep writing

about these issues. But then, I see the pain of my sisters

and non-binary siblings and I find myself writing even

more. It hurts me because I have lived it too.

A few years ago, I was sexually assaulted. And

afterwards, I cloaked myself in shame. The hurt sank so

deep into my being I found it hard to trust the world. Since

then, I found my voice as a writer and I promised to be a

protector. A one-woman army. I swore I would make it

mean something. To push that fire in my belly to fuel some

change, somehow, somewhere. And so, here we are.

I am telling you this because I need you to know I

understand this pain. Having been groped, grabbed, cat

called and rated out of ten since my school days I need a

moment to push back. If this makes you uncomfortable

you need to keep reading.

To all the beautiful women, transgender and nonbinary

people reading this, I see you. Especially the

women of colour who are still to this day alarmingly

vulnerable. You have always been worth the world and

more and you should not have to fight for your peace. I

am tired too.

To the men reading, I am talking to you directly now.

Pay attention.

The fact is our city is not a safe place for everyone.

One of the most dangerous places for anyone who is not

a man is a nightclub or music venue. I cannot tell you the

amount of times I have experienced sexual harassment

from men in these spaces. It happens in every single

music venue in Liverpool. It happens everywhere.

It will always hurt to watch some promoters spend

all of their time, money and energy into creating their

idea of an ideal event, but actively chose to ignore the

safety of their crowd. It is not good enough. It has never

been good enough.

Liverpool can be a very ugly place sometimes. A “city

of music” which, instead of protecting its women, will

name an airport after a man who beat them up.

If you are waiting for a wake-up call, this is it.

So how do we grow through this? A starting point is

increasing the visibility of women, transgender and nonbinary

people at music events, including all job roles and

the people in the crowd. I always feel more relaxed when

the space I am entering is not male dominated. It’s like a

bloody breath of fresh air.

People who are not male want to feel thought of and

recognised when entering music events. We want to feel

like the space accommodates us rather than having to

accommodate the (often hyper masculine) space. Visible

cues to tell the crowd what the promoter’s/event’s values

are is a really simple way of making people feel safe.

I would love to see femineity and gender nonconformity

celebrated more at music events; for people

to empower one another and for spaces to feel safe

for exploration of gender expression and sexuality.

There are, of course, places that do this (usually ran by

the LGBTQ+ community or women) and I’d love to see

that energy spill out into everything. Maybe I’m just an

optimist, but I still hold hope for that utopia.

For now, we must acknowledge that we do have

a problem with safety at music events. This has to be

addressed and properly confronted by everyone if we

want to move past it.

The first place I go to for comfort when I feel unsafe

at an event is the bathroom.

Here, I find myself surrounded by my sisters and

non-binary siblings who understand. Here, we kiss each

other’s faces, swap lipstick and have a cry if we need to.

And then, once we’ve caught our breath, we head

back out into the arena.

This is because bouncers do not make me feel safe.

I have experienced more harassment than reassurance

from male security guards to feel comforted by their

presence.

We need to see specific staff training for how to

handle sexual harassment. There has to be a complete

zero tolerance policy for this.

GOOD NIGHT OUT is a brilliant organisation offering

workshops and training of this kind. Some venues in

Liverpool have already started working with them and I

urge more promoters, venues owners and music industry

professionals to follow.

The prospect of undercover police circling the

dancefloor does not fill me with hope for when events

do return. It feels like the government are pouring petrol

onto a forest fire.

Police officers have been heavily criticised for

abusing power countless times just this past year, from

racial profiling to sexual violence. Understandably, their

presence does not always make people feel protected.

Our institution is run by people with the exact same

mindset as the people who abuse us in nightclubs. When

authority is built on the back of racism and misogyny,

how can it keep us safe? While the system still protects

the lives of abusers more than the lives of those abused

it cannot serve its people.

Instead, we need to see empowerment at the roots

of our communities. We need to rebuild what we have

made. Education is the real to key to all of this.

I can’t put everything into one piece, it is too big a

conversation. But I will say this. You, now in this very

moment can bring about change. You have the power to

grow and help others to heal as you work to amplify the

voices around you.

It’s the jokes your mates make which you let slide.

It’s the porn you watch. It’s the people you surround

yourself with. It’s the choices you make. The moments

you speak, and the moments you fall silent. It’s what

you chose to see, and what you chose to ignore. It’s an

overwhelmingly complex issue rooted in generations of

pain and confusion, but it all ends with you.

You may not feel like you can take on the world. But

you will impact the lives around you. Whether you like

it or not, we are all connected to one another and how

we act has a direct impact on the people around us. Not

acting is just as harmful as abusing.

No, it is not all men. But in a room full of five silent

men, and one abusive, I am still torn to pieces.

So, let this be the moment of change. Have those

difficult conversations. Educate yourself. Listen to others

when they speak.

Open your heart to the world around you. And

maybe one day, we can all dance together in peace.

Words: Mary Olive / @maryolivepoet (she/her)

Illustration: Ruby Tompkins

@goodnightoutcampaign

55


In Liverpool

2-year degrees

and 1-year diplomas

Study in September

Attend a Virtual Open Event

24 April

22 May

sae.edu/gbr/openday

SAE Liverpool

38 Pall Mall

Liverpool

L3 6AL

03330 112 315

enquiries@sae.edu

sae.edu/gbr


21 May 2021

5pm – late

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one-night arts festival

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