Issue 113 / April-May 2021




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ISSUE <strong>113</strong> / APRIL-MAY <strong>2021</strong><br />



FREE!<br />

PIXEY<br />

Overcoming and arriving<br />

AYSTAR<br />

SARA<br />

WOLFF<br />



THE<br />

STAVES<br />


THE<br />


<strong>2021</strong> UK CLUB TOUR<br />


JIMMY'S<br />


Wendy James<br />

'Queen High Straight'<br />

Wednesday 29th September <strong>2021</strong><br />





OUT NOW<br />

7pm doors 18+ show. Tickets £15 Advance<br />

plus booking fees available from Seetickets<br />

is available now from<br />

thewendyjames.com<br />

Tickets £20 standing £21 unreserved seating, Eventim, See, Dice.<br />

Doors 7pm<br />


SATURDAY 23RD OCTOBER <strong>2021</strong><br />







14+ / 7pm doors / £15 + booking fee via Ticketmaster / SEEtickets<br />

OUT NOW<br />

7pm doors 14+ show / Tickets £10 advance plus booking fees.<br />

Seetickets / Ticketmaster / Skiddle<br />



Department of Music,<br />

Media and Performance<br />



Combine your passions with with a BA (Hons) in Music Journalism<br />

Music professionals are involved at<br />

every stage of this degree which<br />

focuses on real-world experiences<br />

in music writing. Students have<br />

undertaken placements at Mojo<br />

and Mixmag and graduates<br />

have gone on to work at<br />

Kerrang! and the BBC.<br />

Open For<br />

Applications<br />

For <strong>2021</strong> Entry<br />




13 / PIXEY<br />

Megan Walder tracks the rise and rise again of Pixey’s<br />

effervescent pop evolution.<br />

18 / AYSTAR<br />

Following the release of Scousematic 3, the rapper talks<br />

about finding his flow and staying true to Liverpool.<br />

20 / SARA WOLFF<br />

Exploring the literate, genre-dodging songs of the<br />

Bergen-born singer-songwriter.<br />

24 / DIALECT<br />

Wil Baines delves deep into the respiratory sonics of<br />

Andrew PM Hunt’s latest album.<br />


A photography exhibition led by Tate Collective presents<br />

the social intricacies of the North West in a new light.<br />

30 / AMBER JAY<br />

Peering out from behind the cover, the electro-pop whizz<br />

guides us through the haunting atmospherics of her new EP.<br />

32 / JANE WEAVER<br />

On Flock, Cath Holland finds the ever in control Weaver<br />

swapping the drone zone for shimmering pop.<br />

34 / RECOVERY<br />

Paul Fitzgerald learns how the arts, creativity and<br />

togetherness is being utilised in addiction recovery<br />

programmes at Damien John Kelly House.<br />


If anything can be anywhere, then art can always be<br />

somewhere – maybe where you least expect.<br />

40 / DAVID ZINK YI<br />

Showing at Liverpool Biennial, Remy Greasley speaks to<br />

the filmmaker about a new installation centred on endless<br />

performances of Afro-Cuban music.<br />

10 / NEWS<br />

Rounding up goings-on and developments<br />

as the city region prepares to emerge from<br />

lockdown.<br />

12 / HOT PINK<br />

A refreshing <strong>April</strong> shower of top-notch tunes<br />

featuring Pizzagirl, The Coral, Borth, Seatbelts,<br />

Spinn and Yammerer.<br />

42 / SPOTLIGHTS<br />

Profiles of fast-rising artists including Sam<br />

Batley, Foxen Cyn, Furry Hug, Felix Mufti-<br />

Wright and Jeztls.<br />

48 / PREVIEWS<br />

Stealing Sheep give us the lowdown on their<br />

LightNight installation, Roger Hill introduces<br />

a new-look PMS and Liverpool Biennial and<br />

Independents Biennial get underway.<br />

52 / REVIEWS<br />

Reports from a virtual photography exhibition<br />

and the latest Liverpool Digital Music Festival.<br />


Featuring poems from last issue’s spotlight<br />

artist Lyndsay Price.<br />

55 / FINAL SAY<br />

Mary Olive questions the safety of clubs and<br />

music venues for women, transgender and nonbinary<br />


E D I T O R I A L<br />

It’s often said that people from Merseyside are good talkers, but it’s<br />

the buildings that say more than most. In every façade you can track a<br />

running timeline of the city’s fate.<br />

In the neoclassical grandeur you see prosperity through the trade<br />

of human life. Areas like Scotland Road show the remnants of a once<br />

swollen, cramped population moved on through slum clearance and lack<br />

of work. Hollowed out churches serve as a reminder of conflict. Across the<br />

water, Birkenhead’s waterfront wears the bruises of a declining shipping<br />

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

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

came before individualism.<br />

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

stands unrecognisable. The early phases of this regeneration point to the<br />

Capital of Culture makeover. Since then, the trend for developments have<br />

been near uniform. Residential apartments and student accommodation<br />

have pushed their way into any available spaces with the tenacity of<br />

weeds nudging through pavement. Like much of the historical architecture<br />

these buildings cast shadows upon, the socio-economic fate of the city is<br />

contained in their presence.<br />

The government’s council inspection report is undoubtedly a difficult<br />

moment for the city. If whisperings on social media for the past decade<br />

hadn’t already confirmed its findings, then the right-before-our-eyes<br />

evidence was there; the shimmering clad pretence of build-at-any-cost<br />

developments did little to charm a landscape washed out by central<br />

government cuts.<br />

The misdealing within planning, highways and regeneration appear to<br />

be rife. Music venues and other cultural hubs are now in a more unforgiving<br />

landscape due to these practices. Some have been squeezed out<br />

altogether. But the public shaming at the hands of the Tories suggest an<br />

endemic problem with cronyism at local government level, which doesn’t<br />

provide the full picture. Liverpool rightly has to acknowledge the failures<br />

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

desperation and rampant opportunism.<br />

Where the “awarding of dubious contracts” has seen many areas<br />

of Liverpool change cosmetically, there remains countless skeletal<br />

developments across the city – either failed or exhausted of funds. Their<br />

bare concrete anatomies are the withered bones of austerity, a harsh<br />

financial reality that Liverpool has swallowed for over a decade during<br />

which its central funding<br />

has fallen by almost 40 per<br />

cent. When you push a city<br />

to breaking point and due<br />

diligence frays, opportunists<br />

will find their way into the<br />

cracks. The city had to find a<br />

way of paying its way, but it<br />

has instead been made to pay<br />

the price itself. The imposed<br />

commissioners in certain<br />

areas will now only heighten<br />

public distrust.<br />

Trust is one of the<br />

main issues that now faces Liverpool. Throughout the pandemic we’ve<br />

seen other forms of opportunism through protest and the spreading of<br />

conspiracy. With the added furore around the mayoral selection, politics is<br />

now slipping to its lowest ebb off the back of the council report. Liverpool<br />

deserves better than the hands it has been dealt both internally and<br />

externally. And it’s looking further internally where we’ll find the figures<br />

who’re worthy of our trust. Those who offer an alternative while aspects of<br />

the council soul-searches.<br />

These alternative leaders and decision makers don’t have to be<br />

connected to institutional power. As has been covered in this magazine for<br />

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

about the most telling changes, rewriting narratives within communities<br />

in the process. As Liverpool’s political framework is dredged, we should<br />

remain hopeful that there is a new, alternative way to bring us through<br />

the challenges ahead. Community leaders, facilitators, activists, artists,<br />

musicians can and will lead us when we need it most.<br />

Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder<br />

Editor<br />

“We should<br />

remain hopeful<br />

that there<br />

is a new,<br />

alternative way”<br />

New Music + Creative Culture<br />

Liverpool<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> <strong>113</strong> / <strong>April</strong>-<strong>May</strong> <strong>2021</strong><br />

bidolito.co.uk<br />

Second Floor<br />

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40-42 Slater Street<br />

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Cover Photography<br />

Marieke Macklon<br />

Words<br />

Elliot Ryder, Lily Blakeney-Edwards, Sam Turner,<br />

Matthew Berks, Sam Lasley, Megan Walder, David<br />

Weir, Wil Baines, Leah Binns, Cath Holland, Julia<br />

Johnson, Paul Fitzgerald, Remy Greasley, Andrew<br />

Stafford, Jo Mary Watson, Ed Haynes, Sarah<br />

McNee, RJ Ward, Lyndsay Price, Mary Olive.<br />

Photography, Illustration and Layout<br />

Mark McKellier, Marieke Macklon, Kate Davies,<br />

Michael Kirkham, Joe Harper, Andrew Ellis, Abigail<br />

Smith, Rosa Brown, Amy Cummings, Sam Batley,<br />

Joel Hansen, Mark Loudon, David Zink Yi, Rob <strong>May</strong>,<br />

Sam Vaughan, Ruby Tompkins.<br />

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NEWS<br />


FACT patrons will be treated<br />

to a whole new experience<br />

when the Ropewalks Square<br />

hub reopens in line with the<br />

government’s roadmap on 17th<br />

<strong>May</strong>. Taking over the ground<br />

floor cafe, The Wild Loaf bakery<br />

will be providing nourishment<br />

for visitors having made the<br />

move during lockdown. Three<br />

new exhibitions will be on<br />

display, with the Biennial taking<br />

over the ground floor and first<br />

floor gallery spaces and a new<br />

display from Kiara Mohammad<br />

and ROOT-ed zine’s Fauziya<br />

Johnson greeting visitors in the<br />

atrium (preview on page 51).<br />

Cinephiles will be jubilant to<br />

welcome back Picturehouse as<br />

their projectors whir into action<br />

again from opening. fact.co.uk<br />

FACT<br />


A new outdoor space will be opening in Birkenhead this spring<br />

when Future Yard unveil a garden area for food, drinks and live DJ<br />

sets. Opening in mid-<strong>April</strong>, ahead of the full opening of the venue’s<br />

bar and cafe, it’ll provide the perfect opportunity to get to know the<br />

venue ahead of a busy live programme which is taking shape for the<br />

summer. Another exciting announcement from Argyle Street comes<br />

in the shape of weekender Future Now, two days of live music across<br />

Future Yard’s indoor and outdoor spaces. A line-up announcement is<br />

expected imminently. futureyard.org<br />

Future Yard<br />


Liverpool’s reputation in the film industry has been given a further<br />

boost. The former Littlewoods Building off Edge Lane has reached<br />

a milestone with the topping out of two 20,000 sq ft sound studios<br />

coinciding with the building given the moniker The Depot. Previously<br />

known as a forthcoming ‘Pinewood of the North’, those aspirations<br />

are closer to becoming a reality as the project looks to capitalise on a<br />

period of huge growth for the sector in the region. It is predicted The<br />

Depot will create a £24m economic boost for the regional economy,<br />

creating 360 new jobs and 760 indirect jobs. liverpoolfilmoffice.tv<br />


Applications for the second programme of Bido Lito!’s writing<br />

workshops, Bylines, is open now. The 10-week programme takes a<br />

cohort of 16 to 25-year-old aspiring culture writers through various<br />

facets of communicating music and arts through the prism of an<br />

independent publication. Participants will learn how Bido Lito!<br />

comes together, what to think about when pitching ideas to editors,<br />

reviewing techniques and much more. Writers completing the course<br />

will gain an Arts Award qualification and get the opportunity to write<br />

for Bido Lito!. bidolito.co.uk/workshops<br />


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

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

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

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

with women in the roles of sound engineers, venue staff, photographers, promoters, door staff and<br />

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

where all are welcome. @wherearethegirlbands<br />

Kyami x Where Are The Girlbands?<br />


Creative Street<br />


Photographer Marieke Macklon, whose work adorns the cover of<br />

this very magazine, has opened a new independent photo and video<br />

studio in the Baltic Triangle. Creative Street Studio opens on 12th<br />

<strong>April</strong> and will welcome creatives of all stripes to come in and book<br />

the affordable facilities to turn their creative ideas into reality. The<br />

studio, situated in the Northern Lights building, can also be used<br />

for workshops, meetings, art showcases and more. To celebrate<br />

the opening a special launch discount is available until 12th <strong>May</strong>.<br />

creativestreetstudio.co.uk<br />


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

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

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

published to coincide with the international event celebrating transgender people which raises awareness<br />

of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide. 42 per cent of respondents also returned that<br />

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

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

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

community. lcrpride.co.uk/bogstandard<br />


On p7 you’ll find one of Liverpool Biennial’s Kinship pack stories.<br />

For families with primary age readers, each story connects the<br />

local histories and communities of Liverpool to the Biennial’s three<br />

curatorial entry points – Porosity, Stomach and Kinship - presenting<br />

different ways of thinking about and linking the artworks across the<br />

festival theme of The Stomach and the Port. To read the Stomach<br />

and Kinship stories, discover the Kinship Activity Pack along with<br />

lots of other learning resources and activities for young people aged<br />

between 5-19, visit liverpoolbiennial<strong>2021</strong>.com/learn.<br />


Aspiring producers, music executives, videographers and animators<br />

have the opportunity to explore the facilities and possibilities on offer<br />

at SAE Institute at two virtual open days in <strong>April</strong> and <strong>May</strong>. At the<br />

events, attendees can meet the staff and students at the Pall Mall<br />

campus, check out the industry standard tech they work with and ask<br />

questions about the plethora of creative courses they have starting in<br />

September. SAE Institute is part of a network of campuses across the<br />

world which have launched the careers of famous alumni, including<br />

Grammy Award winner Jabari Tawiah and up and coming RnB star<br />

Jayla Darden. sae.edu/grb<br />


HOT PINK!<br />

A refreshing <strong>April</strong> shower of top-notch tunes comes courtesy of our Hot Pink! playlist this<br />

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

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

the live rooms and club nights of tomorrow.<br />

Seagoth<br />

Eternity<br />

Riding the clouds after her hypnotic Dreamworld release last year, homegrown<br />

bedroom pop artist SEAGOTH unveils another generous synthscape offering in<br />

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

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

The Coral<br />

Lover Undiscovered<br />

Making a career of bringing Haight-Ashbury to Wirral track-by-track has served THE<br />

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

forthcoming LP, Coral Island. Lover Undiscovered treads familiar but not unpleasant<br />

territory with some trademark James Skelly turns of phrase and timeless melodies that<br />

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

Borth<br />

Peach O.K.<br />

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

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

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

melody to keep you grounded, while the mad sonic tangents give licence for repeated<br />

listens. (ST)<br />

Pizzagirl<br />

car freshener aftershave<br />

Nothing dampens PIZZAGIRL. Synths pump an eight-bit backdrop as he eclipses<br />

the embarrassment of a thorny encounter with an ex. He parties on with the latenight<br />

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

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

brilliantly manic lap around a Mario Kart map designed by a mind who finds glamour in<br />

the gutters. (SL)<br />

Paz<br />

Ghost<br />

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

nonsensical rhymes and poppy hooks over 90s gamer effects and laidback beats. It’s<br />

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

Words: Matthew Berks, Sam Turner, Sam Lasley, Lily Blakeney-Edwards.<br />

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

Photography:<br />

Seagoth,<br />

Seatbelts (Michael Kirkham)<br />

Pizzagirl (Kate Davies),<br />

The Let Go<br />

idontknowwhy<br />

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

guitar chords, homespun trap hi-hats and bittersweet synth motifs provide the<br />

soundtrack as a lonesome heart narrates a night, a morning and a walk home that<br />

keeps reoccurring. It sings insecurities into the sky and responds with celestial vocal<br />

support at the chorus. (SL)<br />

SPINN<br />

Billie<br />

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

mischievous four are more than happy to remind us that good things do come to those<br />

who wait with their first release of <strong>2021</strong>. Joining forces with Christie Simpson from<br />

Yumi Zouma, the lyrics’ playful take on modern romantic expectations and embracing<br />

our imperfections is just what the doctor ordered after a miserable old year. Welcome<br />

back. (MB)<br />

Seatbelts<br />

Citylines<br />

SEATBELTS’ latest offering, Citylines, evokes the feeling of a road trip. <strong>May</strong>be it’s<br />

the atmospheric guitar licks, the descriptions of stripped-back cities sung in James<br />

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

Either way, it is a welcome tonic for lockdown life. (LBE)<br />

Yammerer<br />

The Beachgoer<br />

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

understatement. Listening, we find ourselves in the middle of the group’s surrealist<br />

soundscape, that rattles through an array of emotions aided by angular guitars and<br />

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

hope the group continue their experimentalist endeavours. (LBE)<br />




Megan Walder tracks the rise and rise again of Pixey’s effervescent pop evolution.<br />



PIXEY<br />

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

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

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

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

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

quickly a feeling of vertigo soon followed.<br />

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

beginnings were overwhelming would be an understatement. A lot quickly unfurled from what<br />

she once regarded as a “haphazard production” in her bedroom studio.<br />

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

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

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

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

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

career and pushed her out of the cocoon where she once sat so comfortably.<br />

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

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

a health scare reset her perspective, seeing her finally make the steps she needed to<br />

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

Ed Sheeran had faded, the equipment she had gathered on this failed quest remained.<br />

Blowing off the dust and downloading her trusted Ableton she set up a bedroom<br />

studio – before it was mandatory.<br />

Battling with illness and social anxiety, her innovative thinking saw her use<br />

her talent and determination to not only heal herself, but to lay the foundation for<br />

future her (the one we meet<br />

today) to be able to survive<br />

and thrive, regardless of<br />

the circumstances. And<br />

although she did not foresee<br />

a global pandemic, her home<br />

recording abilities definitely<br />

made the adjustment to the<br />

new normal easier.<br />

Before the significant<br />

social shifts 12 months ago,<br />

Pixey had already shown<br />

people what she was about.<br />

With her early release, Young,<br />

quickly gaining attention,<br />

people had high hopes for<br />

the new star. With her marketable pop sensibilities, combined with an<br />

experimental approach by way of a lack of classical training, Pixey offered<br />

a new voice to young women. Not offering up regurgitated tales of tortured<br />

relationships and imperfect love. She captured what it is to be young and<br />

free in the face of difficulty. BBC Introducing soon cottoned on.<br />

But often success can lead to a feeling of inadequacy, leaving one<br />

to doubt their ability and fear that any consequent project will not<br />

live up to the standard that has been set. We see this internalised<br />

battle constantly within creative fields and, for Pixey, it was one that<br />

paralysed her.<br />

After a recent break, she is back with a renewed motivation and a<br />

backlog of people she feels need to be proved wrong. The fire under<br />

her is regularly fuelled by the memory of being told ‘you’ll never<br />

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

revitalised Pixey simply says “piss off” and carries on. Their words<br />

have pushed her to better herself and become more than they<br />

ever could be.<br />

Apart from the flute, which was an unprecedented disaster,<br />

Pixey has taken to every instrument she has picked up. Her<br />

recent lockdown project saw her become the neighbour from<br />

hell, refusing to rest and instead deciding it was “a good time<br />

to be learning stuff”. Stuff, to the horror of her neighbours,<br />

meaning drums. “I practised three hours a day,” she laughs.<br />

But practise makes perfect and her once favoured choice of<br />

programming drums is no more. Her lockdown release, Just<br />

Move, premiered these talents.<br />

The trend continues with The Mersey Line, as good<br />

a love letter to Liverpool as we’ve ever heard, or more<br />

specifically to Liverpool’s docks. Pixey’s slice of serenity is<br />

by the water, a place that allows her to “reset and take the<br />

next step”.<br />

“If my head’s feeling cloudy or I’m feeling upset or I<br />

feel confused,” she continues, “I’ll go down there for a<br />

14<br />

“It felt like I<br />

was running an<br />

uphill battle”




walk.” But the dual meaning of the track also follows her on<br />

her journey along the train line when visiting her parents. The<br />

coupling of these two tales left Pixey fearing that her love<br />

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

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

for the track. Taking me back to first moving to Liverpool and<br />

discovering the powerful, grounding power of the docks, the<br />

track is undeniably a standout of the EP.<br />

The singles she released in 2020 offered a taster of what<br />

was to come on her brand new EP, Free To Live In Colour.<br />

Just Move, the lovechild of The Prodigy, Nile Rodgers and<br />

60s garage definitely scratched the itch while we waited<br />

to see where her music was heading. “I wanted it to be<br />

huge. But now I’m thinking, how am I going to recreate that<br />

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

confidence in her ability, the shoe fits. Although she does<br />

admit to needing “some sort of live budget” to get all the<br />

elements of the track covered.<br />

Her formative track, Young has been overshadowed by<br />

that which has followed. And while she refuses to completely<br />

abandon utilising samples and programming her drums, it is<br />

clear that Pixey has found a more personable sound through<br />

her mastery of an ever-growing skill set. It is the armour<br />

that she speaks of on Free To Live In Colour, her ability to be<br />

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

weight to the authenticity she has found since following her<br />

ambitions and goals within the music industry.<br />

And yet, with all of the internal work she has done to<br />

develop her trust in herself, she still faces the internalised bias<br />

of those who do not believe that her work is all her own doing.<br />

She is constantly interrogated about who produces her music<br />

and who writes her lyrics. She herself acknowledges that<br />

these questions are “not meant in a patronising way”, instead<br />

they are a manifestation of the sexism that goes unchallenged<br />

within society, of believing women aren’t capable of being<br />

multi-faceted.<br />

In a male-dominated industry, where according to the<br />

USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative only 2.6 per cent of<br />

music producers and three per cent engineers/mixers in the<br />

industry are women, it’s unsurprising that Pixey is one of<br />

the victims of such narrow-minded thinking. But she is not a<br />

one dimensional being and it’s clear as she sits in her room,<br />

pointing out instrument after instrument around her, that<br />

she could never be restricted by these limitations. Instead,<br />

she is simply Pixey, an ever-evolving creation. She recites<br />

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

u and me” – and I have to laugh. It perfectly sums up how<br />

meaningless these judgements are.<br />

Following the success of Young, she explains that she was<br />

left with the exhausting task of proving she was “consistent<br />

and can constantly reinvent and create”.<br />

“It felt like I was running an uphill battle,” she elaborates,<br />

“to prove that I could do something after that.” Now, thankfully,<br />

this weight seems to have eased. “I can put a middle finger up<br />

to those people who made me feel like I was only a one-trick<br />

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

It is this refusal to be limited and a constant determination<br />

to succeed that has allowed Pixey’s sound to evolve.<br />

Blending baggy 90s sounds with the ever-renewing list of<br />

instrumentation, her style is a personification of graft and<br />

autonomy, of drive and creative control.<br />

“It’s so liberating,” she explains of her self-sufficient<br />

reality, “to be able to play the main, core instruments on your<br />

own songs and also have the choice to programme them<br />

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

the challenge of being comfortable with others wishing to<br />

collaborate and critique, to learn from those around her in<br />

order to better her craft.<br />

She admits being able to loosen her grip on the “personal<br />

thing” she creates is a “struggle”, with it taking time to accept<br />

that she wasn’t undermining herself by reaching out to ask<br />

for help. Instead, it has allowed her to grow as a producer,<br />

refining her skills and ear for what she wants in her tracks.<br />

Her bedroom production roots are yet to loosen their grip<br />

on her overall product. The events of the last year have done<br />

little to usher her out. “Now a lot of people produce in their<br />

bedrooms, which is fantastic,” Pixey observes, “a lot of women<br />

as well, which is really cool.” This is something that visibly<br />

brings joy to her. “<strong>May</strong>be people are more vocal about it now,”<br />

she says, “but it’s really cool, it made me feel much better<br />

about the way I was working.” With her previous illness and<br />

anxiety-driven decision to set up in her bedroom becoming<br />

a necessity for others, it’s clear to see how she went from<br />

feeling like an individual to being surrounded by a community<br />

of fellow bedroom producers.<br />

In what has been a difficult 12 months for so many in the<br />

industry, Pixey is humble in noting how it’s been a good year<br />

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

she elaborates, crediting her new-found momentum for this<br />

unexpected positivity amid a worldwide pandemic. And it was<br />

a singular decision to ignore those who told her she “wasn’t<br />

going to go anywhere and was wasting [her] time” that led to<br />

her taking up her music career once more and send demos off<br />

to Chess Club Records.<br />

Boasting the likes of Alfie Templeman and responsible<br />

for early releases by Wolf Alice, Chess Club are a force<br />

to be reckoned with, and 2020 saw Pixey added to that<br />

ever-impressive roster. A singular “vulnerable moment” of<br />

sending off those unheard pieces led to one of the biggest<br />

opportunities in her career so far. “It felt like a dream come<br />

true,” she says, recalling sitting down with Will and Peter of<br />

the label and signing on the dotted line.<br />

The rose-tinted glasses of that experience feel slightly<br />

tainted, she admits, by the music industry’s decline at the<br />

hands of the Conservative government. Joy quickly turns to<br />

anger when we progress into the future our community faces.<br />

“The amount of idiocy,” she screams, “I’ve not given nearly<br />

fucking seven years of my life to retrain.” And just like that,<br />

I see what music truly means to her. While the rest of the<br />

conversation showed love for her craft, it was in this moment<br />

that it clicked. The girl in the pixelated image on my screen<br />

is not comfortable simply succeeding as an individual, but<br />

fights for those around her, too. Having shed the skin of the<br />

nervous newcomer we once met, this is someone who owes<br />

everything to music, who fully grasps the power it holds. And<br />

as her anger rises, the jigsaw pieces itself together and the<br />

image of who Pixey truly is feels complete.<br />

Said image is repeated<br />

in the single Free To Live<br />

In Colour, written prior to<br />

her recent signing. She<br />

explains it as a “fever<br />

dream of confusion”,<br />

combined with “telling<br />

“I’m not just a<br />

newbie anymore”<br />

everyone to fuck off”<br />

because the system, well,<br />

sucks. The song mirrors<br />

Pixey’s own fight for<br />

freedom to live as she<br />

sees fit. It channels former<br />

and current battles, like<br />

keeping “a job as well as<br />

writing and having no<br />

money”, being a “conformative non-conformative person”<br />

and being “free to live however and love whoever you want,<br />

regardless of boundaries”. All of this emotion, combined with<br />

a boundary pushing production, left Pixey impatient to release<br />

the track after having sat on it for so long.<br />

This impatience is mirrored in how she perceives the<br />

world at the moment. Angry at the way creatives have been<br />

undervalued and dismissed by the powers that be. “It’s not<br />

just a piece of entertainment, people make their living off of<br />

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

speaks from experience. Music was her way out of a dark time.<br />

Her crutch. And following statements from Rishi Sunak about<br />

creatives needing to “adapt and adjust to the new reality,” her<br />

anger is more than justified. And as she laughs, recalling her<br />

short-lived and poorly executed time as a waitress, it’s clear<br />

that retraining just isn’t on the cards for Pixey.<br />

But as venues all around us are being forced to close,<br />

relocate and rethink their business plans, this fear for the<br />

creative community is unavoidable. For Pixey, the way the<br />

pandemic is “just chipping away at all the important little<br />

venues” is taken personally. That was where she started. And<br />

without places like “Zanzibar and Sound”, she wouldn’t have<br />

had the chance to be the nervous, sample happy newbie.<br />

<strong>May</strong>be she would never have had the opportunity to annoy<br />

her neighbours while learning the drums, too. But as she says:<br />

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

Words: Megan Walder / @M_l_Wald<br />

Photography: Marieke Macklon / @mariekemacklon<br />

Free To Live In Colour is available now via Chess Club<br />

Records.<br />

@iampixey<br />



AYS TA R<br />

Returning with the third instalment of his mixtape series, the rapper<br />

talks musical growth, finding his flow and staying true to the city.<br />

When AYSTAR used to hear a smart rap, it<br />

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

was sick, why didn’t I think of that?’” he<br />

says, thinking back to his initial inspiration<br />

to take up the mic over 10 years ago.<br />

Fast-forward to now and it is others within the grime<br />

food chain who’re now looking up at Aystar with a similar<br />

level of inspiration and envy. After the self-scrutinous<br />

start, he’s formed a career that’s seen him go from viral<br />

YouTube star to speaking today as an authority at the<br />

apex of the scene.<br />

Alongside Manchester’s Bugzy Malone, the Toxtethborn<br />

rapper has stood as a provincial outlier since 2015<br />

and helped shift the groundswell away from London to<br />

rightly put eyes on the north. But rather than a quest to<br />

gain recognition in the south, the journey has stemmed<br />

from the innate belief he could match and better what he<br />

was hearing in his youth. “I just fell in love with being able<br />

to just fuck around with words and get your points across<br />

while rhyming,” he says of the moment ambition and<br />

ability started to crystallise. “And I realised, I’m just better<br />

at that than a lot of other people.”<br />

Ten years on, this sure sense of self hasn’t plateaued.<br />

On his latest mixtape, Scousematic 3, he retains a<br />

swaggering bravado that’s as unflinching as his equable<br />

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

it comes to just slappin’ on a rap beat,” he proclaims on<br />

Straight In, with the added boast: “I made so<br />

much dough last year I forgot to rap.”<br />

The mixtape is a confident reassertion of<br />

stature after a short while out of the spotlight,<br />

but it isn’t all self-aggrandising. Aystar’s<br />

unwavering flow and daring architectural<br />

wordplay are baked into the heart of the<br />

record. “She sees me fly past on crosses, now<br />

she thinks I’m a Catholic,” he quips on In And<br />

Out, just one of many razor-sharp lines that<br />

carry the signature wit and self-awareness that<br />

put the rapper on the pedestal he now enjoys.<br />

Starting off as a freestyler operating in<br />

hip-hop territory, his more recent mixtapes<br />

have carried greater drill and grime sensibilities with<br />

their bouncy production and staccato rhyme schemes.<br />

Scousematic 3 follows suit for the most part, but there<br />

are more expansive flourishes that lean into RnB on In<br />

And Out, with weighty features across the record from<br />

Giggs and Digga D marking his ascent to the top. Aystar<br />

puts this down to natural progression. “I’m growing as<br />

an artist,” he says, “so my music is going to reflect that<br />

as well.”<br />

Aystar caught his first break with his Bar Session<br />

back in 2012. The video sees a fresh faced Aystar<br />

freestyling down the back entry of a terraced street. With<br />

bars laced with stories of drugs and violence, it’s his<br />

straight-faced humour and gritty portrait of life coming<br />

up in L8 and L15 that marked him out as a talent in the<br />

making. “Guy got left with a popped eye, no spinach,<br />

that’s what you’ll be getting if you think you’re the illest,”<br />

he delivers, hood up and eyes fixed on the camera – no<br />

hint of irony.<br />

“I started putting freestyles out on MySpace and<br />

they used to get crazy thousands of listens,” he says of<br />

the formative years before the Bar Session. “I thought to<br />

myself, ‘If I’m getting that on MySpace, if I do videos on<br />

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

the Bar Session now well on its way to two million views.<br />

He credits his early inspiration to local collective<br />

YOC for putting a Scouse stamp on a genre that wasn’t<br />

yet known for a vernacular at home in the North West.<br />

But where YOC’s lyrical flow matches that of mid-<br />

2000s grime in its speed, with interspersed Scouse<br />

inflections, Aystar’s own style would eventually bypass<br />

any established norms and fall into the slowed down,<br />

distinctive mould of his own voice.<br />

“How can this Aystar yute have a lazier flow than<br />

mine. This yute’s coooold,” announced Giggs back in<br />

2016. The similarities in style would soon be heard<br />

side by side on The Best taken from Giggs’ 2016 album<br />

Landlord, but it was a deeper retreat into his own<br />

personality that garnered Aystar national attention a few<br />

years earlier.<br />

“I remember years ago I was a bit more energetic,”<br />

he says of his early style, before it switched to something<br />

much slower and akin to a death stare marked by flashes<br />

of unhinged twitchiness. It’s perhaps Scouse Matic<br />

Freestyle, released in 2015, which signals the fullyfledged<br />

arrival of its new form.<br />

With its tantalising Mobb Deep-style beat, the track<br />

becomes more flash fiction than song as Aystar stitches<br />

together scenes lit by street lamps, gunfire and flashing<br />

blue lights coming<br />

into sight. With every<br />

R elongated and C<br />

“I want everyone<br />

to know that<br />

it’s straight<br />

from our city”<br />

crunching down harshly,<br />

Aystar was producing<br />

some of the Scousest<br />

music ever made. The<br />

accent becoming its own<br />

instrument in the mix,<br />

the local vernacular the<br />

grounding flourishes and<br />

authenticity that can’t be<br />

plucked out of thin air by<br />

producers. And with all<br />

this, Aystar’s delivery keeps a straight face, barely moves,<br />

or worries about simple rhyme schemes with words pingponging<br />

between 16 bar arrangements. Nonchalant, lazy,<br />

unfazed, unarsed, call it whatever – it’s a style that faces<br />

its surroundings head on and doesn’t blink.<br />

“I think that’s just a personality trait. Just the way that<br />

I am, you know what I mean?” he says, when asked how<br />

he arrived at the unflinching, slowed down flow he’s now<br />

synonymous with. “I’m kinda’ like that anyway. So that’s<br />

just how it comes out in my music. I never ever thought,<br />

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

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

beginning to rhythmically shuffle forward like one of his<br />

own bars. “I don’t change my voice. I don’t add a certain<br />

energy. I just give you it the way I am.”<br />

While Aystar now garners attention on a national<br />

level, the lyrical content of his music hasn’t shifted far<br />

from his life growing up around Toxteth and Wavertree.<br />

He says the stories he tells on record aren’t necessarily<br />

autobiographical, some stemming from real life events,<br />

yet they still carry an air of first-person documentation<br />

by way of geographical osmosis through remaining parts<br />

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

you’ve got to live and go through these experiences to<br />

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

I hadn’t experienced [certain things], I wouldn’t have<br />

been able to come with that specific tune. It’s definitely<br />

a mixture of what’s happening in life now. And what’s<br />

happened previously.”<br />

He outlines how Liverpool and his life here will<br />

remain a core part of his music, irrespective of growing<br />

national radio plays and attention from heavyweight stars<br />

in the south. “That’s what brought me in the game. So, for<br />

me to change the recipe now, I wouldn’t really be the guy<br />

that I am.”<br />

With London still an industry base for drill and grime,<br />

the temptation to follow its lead is difficult to resist for<br />

artists coming through. But for Aystar, the parallel reality<br />

for rap artists up north offered its own chance to stand<br />

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

they try and tap into the London scene, they forget who<br />

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

so long that when people do take notice, I want everyone<br />

to know that it’s straight from our city. You’re not mixing<br />

me up with these London cats.”<br />

Wearing the city’s colours so vividly in his music<br />

comes with an apparent sense of pride. In many ways, it<br />

comes across as a duty, an obligation to put his powers to<br />

good use. “Being in the car and listening to the radio and<br />

then hearing someone who’s representing your city, but<br />

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

doing Liverpool justice, if anything,” he laughs. “If I was<br />

making a show, I probably would have stopped a long<br />

time ago.”<br />

The notions of home are strewn across the cover<br />

of Scousematic 3. With a Toxteth street sign partially<br />

in view, a shot-up phone box and Aystar pensively<br />

looking on, it seems to suggest a return to a scene of<br />

social violence as an observer, rather than instigator.<br />

Either way, it projects an image of authority, as if a<br />

figure seeing the scenes shift around them while they<br />

hold their ground. Perhaps a sense of contemplation in<br />

the figure looking in the opposite direction within the<br />

reflection of the broken glass.<br />

It’s this sense of contemplation that marks this<br />

current phase in Aystar’s career; no longer the hot new<br />

talent, but something of a stalwart having made it 10<br />

years in the game. While perspectives change, and the<br />

palette of producers he’s working with, he doesn’t see<br />

much else differently to the teenager who once felt slight<br />

frustration that a clever rhyme wasn’t his own. “I know<br />

who I am. You know what I mean? I know that I am<br />

looked at as that person in Liverpool and in the north,” he<br />

says, with air of consideration. “But at the same time, I<br />

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

I don’t let that change.” !<br />

Words: Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder<br />

Photography: Joe Harper<br />

Scousematic 3 is available now.<br />

@aystar__<br />





SARA<br />

WOLFF<br />

Exploring the literate, genre-dodging songs of the Bergen-born singer-songwriter, scouring<br />

away at the surface of butter-wouldn’t-melt-blokes in the process.<br />

In the video for SARA WOLFF’s recent single Cotton<br />

Socks, filmed by Mimi Šerbedžija, the camera meets<br />

Wolff’s gaze as her eyelids flutter in time. Her head<br />

appears framed, as if on a platter. She then tucks<br />

into a dessert buffet of jellybeans, muffins, doughnuts<br />

and a lovely looking Victoria sponge, Bruce Bogtrotterstyle.<br />

It all ends with Wolff in a sugar coma, face and<br />

hands covered in jam, looking like a cannibal passed out<br />

at a crime scene. For a song that sounds like drowning<br />

in honey, this saccharine display fits her barbed, sicklysweet<br />

lyrics perfectly.<br />

While society buffers, we’ve had ample time to<br />

ponder what we’ve missed, as well as clarity to address<br />

some serious issues surrounding inequality. And,<br />

although it might have been written long before our<br />

current winter of discontent, Wolff’s debut EP When You<br />

Left The Room remarkably still captures the zeitgeist, as<br />

Sara chews over that which she’s willing to stomach and<br />

spits out the rest. Cotton Socks flaunts this in all its glory.<br />

Couplets such as “Oh bless your little toffee heart<br />

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

apart” and “’Cause they are little bumblebees without a<br />

single clue / they are bumping into everyone ’cause they<br />

don’t know what to do” find Wolff biting back. Softly<br />

spun melodies and wonky, woozy arrangements might<br />

draw you in, but it’s the cunningly reflective songwriting,<br />

with its pointed humour and carefully crafted narratives,<br />

that’ll keep you hooked.<br />

“Cotton Socks is a song about feeling underestimated<br />

by someone,” she begins, speaking over video call, with<br />

no traces of jam to be seen. “It could be about toxic<br />

masculinity, a person who maybe has a skewed view<br />

on women in general. It comes back to, I guess, the<br />

expectations of women, or your feelings not being taken<br />

seriously, being brushed off as someone who’s all over<br />

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

what’s going on and why you’re behaving this way… and<br />

I’ll sting you any day’,” she explains, with an effortless<br />

lyrical charm.<br />

Through addressing men in this sympathetic,<br />

mollycoddling manner, Wolff is able to poke holes in a<br />

privileged sense of security. It could even be seen as<br />

an impression of the belittling tone some do actually<br />

take around the opposite sex. In this way it feels like a<br />

predecessor to the equally eerie Scarf Song. Directed<br />

by Wolff and Andy Martin, Scarf Song’s monochrome<br />

music video has a more Lynchian slant with Sara and<br />

Co. appearing onstage like mannequins. Yet it still serves<br />

as an uneasy commentary about the treatment and<br />

objectification of women. And when Sara dreams of<br />

retaliation in the chorus (in this case, a light garrotting by<br />

knitwear) it’s hard to blame, frankly.<br />

Fiona Apple’s lyrics for Relay from last year’s<br />

groundbreaking Fetch The Bolt Cutters spring to mind: “I<br />

resent you for never getting any opposition at all / I resent<br />

you for having each other / I resent you for being so sure /<br />

I resent you presenting your life like a fucking propaganda<br />

brochure”. It’s a directness<br />

Wolff finds particularly<br />

refreshing.<br />

“We’re so much<br />

stronger if we stand<br />

together and lift<br />

people up, rather<br />

than tearing each<br />

other down”<br />

“My favourite song is<br />

definitely Ladies,” Wolff<br />

responds, “she’s singing<br />

to her ex’s new girlfriend<br />

and it’s all about women<br />

standing together. She<br />

says: ‘There’s a dress in<br />

the closet that you can<br />

have because it will look<br />

way better on you, it<br />

was actually left to me<br />

by another ex who was<br />

there before me’. I feel<br />

like sometimes women can tend to fight each other, or<br />

there can be this culture of competition. Usually you can<br />

see that with any marginalised group, if there is a sense<br />

there’s not space for you somewhere.<br />

“I suppose in a male-dominated music scene,” she<br />

continues, “there’s less space for women to begin with.<br />

You suddenly have women turning against each other<br />

because you’re fighting for those few slots that are<br />

available for you. [Fiona Apple] definitely touches upon<br />

something very important there. We’re just so much<br />

stronger if we stand together and lift people up, rather<br />

than tearing each other down.”<br />

Naturally, we move onto the topic of female artists<br />

being pigeonholed, as we question where her adopted<br />

hometown fits into all of this.<br />

“Being a woman musician isn’t a genre. The amount<br />

of line-ups I’ve been put on billed as ‘Ladies Night’<br />

or times it hasn’t made sense that I’m opening for a<br />

band. The only similarity is our gender identity,” Wolff<br />

explains. However, she is keen to note the supportive<br />

aspects of Liverpool’s scene and the groups looking to<br />

tackle unequal diversity. One of which she highlights is<br />

Where Are The Girlbands, who she commends for their<br />

promotion of female musicians, opening discussions,<br />

covering the scene and connecting creatives.<br />

“<strong>May</strong>be this time is what we all needed, a little reset<br />

and then we can come back with more objectivity,”<br />

Wolff ponders in response to the prolonged pause of<br />

live music. “Knowing that we’ve had some space to think<br />

about what’s important to us and what we really want<br />

the scene to look like: more inclusive, interesting and<br />

accommodating.”<br />

In September 2019, Sara visited Manchester’s Eve<br />

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

Adam Rothschild. Replete with vintage<br />

synths, analogue outboard gear<br />

and even a cat (also named Adam),<br />

16-hour stints of recording found<br />

the pair entirely submerged in the<br />

project. Since then, she’s swapped<br />

what was “basically an old mansion”<br />

where King Krule, Everything<br />

Everything and The Orielles record,<br />

for the familiar makeshift duvet<br />

vocal booth.<br />

“I was just recording all of my<br />

vocals under my little duvet castle<br />

in my bedroom. There were dogs<br />

barking outside the window, loads<br />

of construction work going on,<br />

plus my interface was really shit,<br />

so whenever I had my computer plugged in it made a<br />

buzzing noise,” she illustrates. “Somehow still, it’s nice, I<br />

always feel most comfortable in my own surroundings.”<br />

Thankfully, persistence and time invested honing<br />

these tracks – the liquefied All We Are feel of Hands<br />

having evolved significantly over the past six years<br />

– means we’re now hearing Wolff at her most selfactualised<br />

as an artist. Her stay at Eve and the room for<br />

experimentation this allowed has only pushed her sound<br />

further as well. A minimalist at heart, in-studio Sara<br />

opted to either extract guitar parts in place of synths,<br />

noise machines and the distinctive 1960s Farfisa organ,<br />

or instead fed them through effects units, such as the<br />

Roland Space Echo used to produce the delay we hear<br />

tripping over itself on off-kilter standout You Like Talking<br />

About Yourself.<br />

Charged with all the manic energy and queasy<br />

cutesiness of a carnival funhouse, in Wolff’s words<br />

You Like Talking About Yourself is “a silly song about<br />

someone who loves themselves too much and sucks all<br />

the attention out a room”. In the chorus the kit actually<br />

breaks down for a bar or two, mimicking the blowhard<br />

losing steam, or rather his victims losing the will to<br />

live. By the time we reach the bridge, it’s looking more<br />

Dismaland than Disney, as Sara sings, “What have you<br />

done? You ate my firstborn son” as raving voices pile up<br />

against a wall of distortion.<br />

Sara’s conscious use of contrast calls to mind Aldous<br />

Harding and Cate Le Bon, but it would seem she’s not as<br />



easy to corner on influences as that, as proven when she<br />

elaborates on her process.<br />

“You have to always strive to diversify what you<br />

hear,” she says. “I try to take influence from as many<br />

things as possible because I think it’s easy to go down<br />

the rabbit hole of following trends. If you do that you get<br />

lost in what you think people want to hear, instead of<br />

what you really sound like. The thing is with trends they<br />

always go away.”<br />

She elaborates further, breaking down the concept<br />

into a simplified form: “People might not like my music<br />

now and might not resonate with it now, but sometime<br />

there may be someone who will. That’s enough for me.<br />

I’m just going to do my own thing, listen to as many<br />

different things as I can, then hopefully I won’t steal<br />

something by accident.”<br />

There’s method also in the juxtaposition of creaking<br />

eeriness and wide beaming smile that much of the EP<br />

carries. “I find when I write about a particularly dark<br />

subject I like to wrap it in a nice little soft package<br />

instead,” she says. “<strong>May</strong>be it’s the shock factor?<br />

Sometimes it can relay the message a little easier. [On the<br />

EP] I was definitely playing a lot more with contrasts than<br />

ever before. I was going for more angry and distorted<br />

sounds because I feel as someone who works within<br />

the folk genre and as a woman, sometimes it’s like the<br />

22<br />

‘generals’ just tell us what the desirable traits of being a<br />

woman are: quiet, polite and modest.<br />

“But, on the other side of the spectrum, you have<br />

men who are allowed to express their anger more in<br />

music – shredding, playing heavier – that’s normally a<br />

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

sexy, whereas if a woman acts the same way it’s<br />

considered bitchy. So, I guess I’ve been trying to embrace<br />

this anger and stop being so careful all the time.”<br />

For Sara to think of her music as a time capsule that<br />

might someday make an impression is underselling its<br />

charm and relatability. Take Bad Thoughts Compilation,<br />

for example. This deep dive into despondency with its<br />

delicate guitar work and bobbing melody recalling Rozi<br />

Plain, could quite easily soundtrack a clip show of 2020’s<br />

most tedious, thumb-twiddling groundhog days. “Let’s<br />

stay at home, not follow through. Let’s burn the spark<br />

right out of you” she sings, before ending the record<br />

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

They’re sentiments not lost on us.<br />

“Get Away For A While became more a goodbye to<br />

past selves. ‘It happened when you left the room and I<br />

think about it every day’. It’s like when you realise that<br />

something’s changed, that something’s over, that you’re<br />

going to have to adapt. I feel that’s what songwriting<br />

is for me in general: just looking back at things I’ve<br />

experienced with more of an objective view and reflecting<br />

on changes that were maybe quite difficult when they<br />

happened, but they’ve brought me to where I am today<br />

and have offered a new perspective.<br />

“That’s something I’ve felt this year more than ever,<br />

just being by myself. Just feeling feelings very deeply<br />

with nothing to distract you. Really coming to terms<br />

with things and reflecting on who you are as a person.<br />

I lost my job, I got out of a relationship, but lockdown is<br />

the thing that’s taught me the most so far in my life. Just<br />

letting go, allowing things to happen and just accepting<br />

it. I feel like now, more than ever before, I have faith that<br />

things will turn out in the end.”<br />

On a record so fraught with goodbyes it’s comforting<br />

to see Wolff’s found such room for growth. In letting go<br />

she’s gifted a record that could not only help others feel<br />

seen, it has the potential to aid us all in some small way,<br />

as we each weather our own personal shitstorms. !<br />

Words: David Weir / @BetweenSeeds<br />

Photography: Marieke Macklon / @mariekemacklon<br />

When You Left The Room is available now.<br />



Breath, reinterpretation, community. Wil Baines pores over<br />

the layers of Andrew PM Hunt’s latest works.<br />

Andrew PM Hunt is a prolific composer and<br />

electronic musician who has been an active<br />

light in the Liverpool community for over<br />

a decade now. His work as DIALECT (one<br />

of his many musical projects) has been an exploration<br />

in mixing his constantly evolving personal production<br />

style with whatever impetus crosses his eye. Sonically,<br />

this latest project Under~Between is an exploration of<br />

electronic and acoustic performances latticed together<br />

into some of the most widely accessible music I’ve had<br />

the pleasure to come across. Exploring motifs of breath,<br />

reinterpretation and community – it is to be consumed<br />

whole.<br />

Beginning our conversation, we talk over a mutual<br />

interest in music, technology and its fringes (or rather<br />

its trendy ‘bangs’). I ask Andrew to explain a little about<br />

where his latest project materialised from, and what<br />

drove the noticeable differences from the previous works<br />

in his canon.<br />

“In about 2017, I was asked to do a concert with Immix<br />

Ensemble, who are a chamber group here in Liverpool who<br />

specialise in collaboration,” he begins. “I did this concert<br />

where I wrote a new piece for them, and they did different<br />

arrangements of older pieces of mine. It went really,<br />

really well, and so the next year I was<br />

asked to be a composer-in-residence<br />

for their concert series. So it’s<br />

kinda like a live electronics<br />

and chamber group thing,<br />

and we did maybe five<br />

concerts together over<br />

the year, and that was<br />

kind of the start of<br />

this whole new<br />

album project.”<br />

Speaking<br />

to Andrew only<br />

briefly, I start<br />

to realise that<br />

maybe he is<br />

starting to say this<br />

record is about<br />

letting people in;<br />

a sentiment that I<br />

believe listeners will<br />

hold even more dear to<br />

themselves after the last<br />

year. He goes on to explain<br />

that, after concluding these<br />

concerts, he immediately had<br />

ideas of dramatically reinterpreting<br />

their contents. “The majority of 2019<br />

I spent in the studio, working with individual<br />

members of the ensemble, plus a whole host of other<br />

people from the Liverpool music community,” he notes.<br />

“Particularly the improvised music community, to reinvent<br />

some of these pieces and also invent new ones.”<br />

Dialect’s music is one of drawing inspiration from the<br />

world around him, changing where he chooses to focus<br />

his gaze. Something that is also evident across whatever<br />

“musical crime fighting identity” he dons in each of his<br />

projects. He mentions the word introspective multiple<br />

24<br />

times during our exchange, but I believe maybe a more<br />

fitting term may be ‘omnispective’ – such are the number<br />

of perspectives within his work.<br />

We go on to talk about the sounds that made up the<br />

record. I drop a technical term for classifying instruments<br />

into my question and it prompts a smile – I think the<br />

atmosphere of our conversation has confidently passed<br />

some kind of litmus test. “Naturally working with a<br />

group like Immix affected the palette of sounds I was<br />

using very considerably, which is part of the reason why<br />

the record sounds, on the surface at least, very different<br />

from Loose Blooms.”<br />

Referring to his previous release from 2018, we<br />

briefly ponder any similarities between the two records<br />

that are important to him, and possibly over his career<br />

in general. He speaks about his keenness, throughout<br />

his work, to reject the idea that sounds considered to<br />

be ‘organic’ are good and preferable and those made by<br />

technology are inferior. This is a moot point for him, and<br />

he goes on to point out that something like a saxophone<br />

at some point was the pinnacle of music technology. I<br />

agree, and he thus underlines what we call his “sonic<br />

thumbprint”. He details how this directly influenced<br />

Under~Between:<br />

“There’s something obviously<br />

inherently natural about the pace<br />

and phrasing of a human<br />

breath,” he says. “On an<br />

almost unconscious<br />

level we recognise a<br />

certain natural-ness<br />

to the length of<br />

human exhalation<br />

– and that was<br />

something I was<br />

trying to work<br />

into the record<br />

over the second<br />

half of 2019.”<br />

It occurs<br />

to me, as he<br />

confirms, that<br />

the process of<br />

collaboration with<br />

the members of<br />

Immix Ensemble, and<br />

his own experience as a<br />

session saxophone player,<br />

have played a huge role in<br />

shaping not only the sound<br />

of this latest record, but also the<br />

way in which Andrew has produced and<br />

arranged the tracks. Expanding on this clear motif<br />

of human respiration and its intricacies he continues: “I<br />

became aware of this tendency towards sounds where<br />

you can really hear air moving in and out; and you really<br />

get a sense of breath, and with that sense of breath a<br />

sense of life and vitality.”<br />

He goes on to pinpoint the track Flame Not Stone<br />

and discusses how he begins the track with what he<br />

calls ‘vocalese’, how that is a fragile and overtly intimate<br />

sound, which goes on to trigger various MIDI events and<br />

creates a web of sounds derived from the human breath.<br />

“When you’re often working with electronics,” he<br />

notes, “the derivation of sound can be quite obscured,<br />

and often that’s the pleasure in it, but I think there’s<br />

something really grounding about hearing a sound that<br />

you can intuitively understand as being from a human<br />

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

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

Andrew continues to expand that this sense of<br />

conversation or dialogue between electronic and ‘live’<br />

instruments – or rather acoustic instruments – is one that<br />

he hopes can be heard across the record. He explains<br />

that he often seeks to have sounds ‘mimic’ other sounds.<br />

I picture a parrot, a mockingbird and a lyrebird sitting<br />

together in the mix; apart from they’re all Andrew and,<br />

although the image begins to slightly disturb me, I<br />

understand what he describes as “referential loops”.<br />

As he goes on to explain, Andrew is somebody that<br />

has a particularly outward perspective in his influences.<br />

This has manifested in many ways. He discusses the idea<br />

that in our society today distinctions between categories<br />

in all forms are blurrier than ever, how that is often a<br />

great thing, but that we are constantly surrounded by<br />

people attempting to organise that chaos for one reason<br />

or another.<br />

I note how I think that his music is certainly a<br />

meditation on that and go on to ask if his art could<br />

be interpreted in a way that is a certain angle on<br />

environmental activism. He says: “I think in many<br />

ways those topics are best served by trying to avoid<br />

being didactic in what you’re doing, you affect people<br />

most deeply when you are able to engage both their<br />

imaginations and inspire their own realisations, their<br />

own epiphanies, and that is often best done in a slightly<br />

more indirect way because it allows a listener more<br />

agency… those conclusions are always going<br />

to be more firm than when somebody<br />

has been told what to think.”<br />

This sentiment is certainly<br />

one to be admired, and<br />

one that he is keen to<br />

reinforce. “Themes of<br />

environmentalism,<br />

or certainly an<br />

obsession with<br />

the natural world,<br />

is very much<br />

baked into the<br />

music that I’m<br />

making,” he<br />

adds. “But<br />

art should

“I’m trying to create<br />

a profound sense<br />

of vagueness”<br />

be more open-ended than that, in my opinion. Personally,<br />

I get more out of art that leaves space for somebody to<br />

explore it in their own head.”<br />

Many creatives, or in fact anybody, can relate to<br />

this idea of gratification and impact. It is something that<br />

we both note as having enjoyed in many records. “The<br />

danger is always in over-composing things or overproducing<br />

things,” he replies. “I have to fight against that<br />

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

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

These interpretations are partially aided by the visual<br />

accompaniment for Under~Between, directed by Sara<br />

Ludy. In keeping with the theme of visual accompaniment<br />

to his productions, though his chief medium as an artist<br />

is sound, he outlines the desire to create and integrate<br />

moving images into his music – creating moving images<br />

from the perspective of sound, or vice-versa, what he<br />

calls “essentially sound collage”. He underlines what is<br />

quite a complex notion in a jovial manner: “I’m trying to<br />

create a profound sense of vagueness. As we’ve said<br />

before, in the vagueness is where people find their own<br />

realisations and that’s what I think is important.”<br />

As our conversation draws to a close, we touch<br />

upon how Andrew started to feel almost arbitrary to be<br />

arranging sounds on their own and how, in part, that<br />

sentiment is also where the more collaborative nature of<br />

Under~Between came from. Trying to introduce frictions<br />

and differences, to let that manifest an event otherwise<br />

inaccessible alone. In passing reference to a previous<br />

interview with Bido Lito! I ask if this practice is going to<br />

be a significant feature of his art going forward.<br />

“As the years have gone on, I’m certainly less<br />

interested in constructing any kind of mythos or<br />

anything like this, that type of artifice, not least<br />

because it’s a distraction on a practical level,<br />

but it’s kind of a distraction from doing the<br />

work. Some people are really into that kind<br />

of thing. I don’t inherently have a problem<br />

with that, but over time I’ve become more<br />

interested in getting on with the work,<br />

meeting people, exchanging ideas and the<br />

community that comes from listening to<br />

other people.”<br />

Andrew PM Hunt has become a<br />

perfect example of an artist that is both<br />

extremely malleable and impressively<br />

unique in his practice. He is in a constant<br />

state of influential flux and the results<br />

are fantastic. His latest record is further<br />

evidence of that. !<br />

Words: Wil Baines (They/Them)<br />

Photography: Andrew Ellis / @ellis_samizdat<br />

Illustration: Amy Cummings / @<br />

amycummings_illustration<br />

Under~Between is available now via RVNG<br />

Intl.<br />

dialect-trax.bandcamp.com<br />



A new public-facing<br />

exhibition, commissioned and<br />

curated by Tate Collective,<br />

will feature images of<br />

Merseyside and the North<br />

West displayed on billboards<br />

across Liverpool. Featuring<br />

landscape, portrait and<br />

documentary photography<br />

submitted by those aged<br />

16-25, the collection of<br />

images looks to build on<br />

the work of Don McCullin<br />

and highlight the social<br />

intricacies of the region.<br />

Leah Binns takes a closer<br />

look at the works in question.<br />

Isolation - Callum Cole<br />

NORTH W<br />

Since normal life as we know it has been<br />

uprooted and as lockdown rules and statistics<br />

continue to fluctuate, the coronavirus pandemic<br />

has changed how we interpret imagery;<br />

an emptied landscape, or a lone figure, has come to<br />

represent a stronger feeling of solitude than it did before.<br />

Photography taken at this time takes on a certain<br />

quality, and there is a new framework for understanding<br />

the world that reflects this tenuous and difficult period<br />

of collective responsibility. Perhaps fitting for the way<br />

in which we are continually adjusting to shifts in life’s<br />

parameters, a current exhibition at Tate Liverpool<br />

captures moments of social unrest, ranging from the<br />

industrial North to international conflict, by British<br />

photographer Don McCullin.<br />

The images draw on very timely ideas of political<br />

upheaval, as well as smaller moments that reflect the<br />

everyday life of the subjects. Purposefully confrontational<br />

and resistant, McCullin’s images push at the boundaries<br />

of the viewer’s ethics, presenting scenes of poverty and<br />

war with disturbing clarity.<br />

Following a Tate Collective open call, billboards<br />

across Liverpool will be filled with photographs from<br />

young creatives inspired by McCullin’s work. Members<br />

from the Tate Collective scheme, which is free to join<br />

and open to all 16-25-year-olds, were invited to submit<br />

photographs in response to the exhibition. In addition<br />

to gallery discounts and £5 exhibition tickets, the Tate<br />

Collective scheme gives access to free events and<br />

creative opportunities, such as this ‘photographing the<br />

North West’ open call.<br />

From all of the submissions, 30 images have been<br />

selected to appear on billboards throughout the city from<br />

7th <strong>April</strong> and will be shown in the studio at Tate Liverpool<br />

once the gallery is able to reopen later in <strong>May</strong>. The open<br />

call was created by Tate Collective Producers, a group of<br />

16-25-year-olds working with Tate to curate events and<br />

opportunities for young people.<br />

The thread that connects the images is the spirit of<br />

the North West, through its communities, culture, and<br />

landscape. While the results were wide-reaching, many<br />

themes are recurrent, showing the persistence of certain<br />

feelings in our collective consciousness; from isolation and<br />

escapism, to community and protest. Some images explore<br />

new understandings of landscape during lockdown, while<br />

others touch on the North West’s playfulness, civic pride,<br />

artistic outlook, or political histories.<br />

Tate Collective Producers, Laura Wiggett and Niamh<br />

Tam, who helped create the project, note how they<br />

prioritised providing a platform for young creatives who are<br />

currently being left stranded by<br />

the lack of opportunities in the art<br />

world. Breaking with the current<br />

tendency for works and events<br />

to move online, Laura highlighted<br />

how the producers wanted<br />

“something physical to have”.<br />

As a public-facing billboard<br />

project, a different understanding<br />

of scale and space that is<br />

disconnected from exhibition<br />

conventions was necessary,<br />

which opened up new challenges<br />

for the producers themselves.<br />

Laura stressed the importance of<br />

making the exhibition “accessible for everyone”, both for<br />

its contributors and in its reception. More sporadic than<br />

a conventional exhibition, and framed by the city itself,<br />

the project has the opportunity to directly exist within the<br />

space it seeks to reflect.<br />

“Looking at themes of protest through McCullin’s war<br />

imagery, looking at landscapes through his images of<br />

Liverpool, the images that we’ve chosen are a really good<br />

reflection of the exhibition itself,” says Niamh.<br />

“These images<br />

follow in McCullin’s<br />

footsteps by<br />

exposing the<br />

histories embedded<br />

in the landscape”<br />

The influence of McCullin’s landscapes is particularly<br />

apparent in some images that are energetic natural<br />

scenes with dynamic compositions. Photographs such as<br />

Safe Travels, Neston and Thurstaston Beach respond to<br />

a shift in our relationship to the local area, whether that<br />

be a sense of absence as implied by our loss of a daily<br />

commute, or a renewed interest in nature through daily<br />

walks in lockdown. Safe Travels, Neston balances a sparse<br />

scenic view with a lively flock of birds. Thurstaston Beach,<br />

on the other hand, is far darker, with a more rocky, textured<br />

feel, almost ghostly in how it is laden with gloom.<br />

“Despite what it suggests,” says George Jones, the<br />

photographer of the image, “the coast is often packed<br />

with locals enjoying the smell<br />

of the salty air, the joyous<br />

atmosphere, or the vastness<br />

of the sea at the mouth of<br />

the Mersey. Hopefully what<br />

Thurstaston Beach does signify<br />

is the intertwining and treasured<br />

relationship our local landscapes<br />

have with their people.”<br />

Discussing the influence<br />

of McCullin, Jones adds: “What<br />

I found exceptional about his<br />

landscapes, having come after<br />

the intense, excruciating images<br />

of conflict, was the space and<br />

expansiveness they possessed. The skies specifically<br />

were so visceral, so epic, almost at times apocalyptic.”<br />

For many, a daily walk in nature has come to<br />

symbolise a way of sustaining normalcy, or routine,<br />

through unusual times. The image of Thurstaston Beach<br />

definitely reflects this; there is a sense of catharsis in its<br />

vigour, in how it draws on expansive space as an antidote<br />

to the confinement of lockdown.<br />

Other images represent urban rather than natural<br />


Cranborne - Oisin Askin<br />

Safe Travels Neston - Connor Maxwell<br />

Harry Arthur, homeless in Liverpool - Harry Saundry<br />


A Flicker of Hope - Sean Tadman<br />



28<br />

Barry - Amelia Jones

Thurstaston Beach - George Jones<br />

scenes, complete with new understandings of tranquility<br />

and emptiness. Photographs such as Isolation, which<br />

depicts a Manchester hotel with a single illuminated<br />

room, play with light and a strong composition to<br />

ignite a sense of loneliness, while being deeply<br />

atmospheric in its use of colour. The Past is a Foreign<br />

Country portrays another Manchester scene where<br />

a modern cityscape looms nefariously over an old<br />

industrial street. The image’s patchwork composition<br />

exposes gentrification as something palpable, layered<br />

and always in process, as well as demonstrating the<br />

precarity of history in the landscape.<br />

Expanding on human stories through a point of view<br />

that is often marginalised, Harry Arthur, Homeless in<br />

Liverpool is an image that depicts a man with the word<br />

‘rich’ written across his fingers. Here, the hand replaces<br />

the face as the traditional subject of the portrait, and<br />

the viewer is confronted with a sense of identity from a<br />

sidelined perspective.<br />

Unity Is Strength, which illustrates a mostly<br />

unpopulated Liverpudlian street decked out in flags<br />

during the 2019 Champion’s League final, aims to<br />

address the importance of togetherness during a time of<br />

separation. Underscored by a table decorated in red, this<br />

photograph is visually striking in its celebratory tone, and<br />

its evocative depiction of community spirit.<br />

“I wanted to subtly capture the smaller moments<br />

of bliss and the honest expression of Liverpool’s<br />

communities, says its photographer Oliver O’Callaghan.<br />

“It’s important to daydream and reflect on these special<br />

moments.” For this photographer, escape through<br />

imagination is a crucial theme, and is here interpreted<br />

by reflecting on past celebrations and communal events.<br />

The tenacity of this image is clear, and its outlook is equal<br />

parts nostalgic and forward thinking. When layered with<br />

commemorative flags and banners, the city street starts<br />

to represent something new, speaking to the social unity<br />

of Liverpool’s people.<br />

Cranborne, similarly, emphasises the importance<br />

of community and friendship in the city, showing three<br />

figures playing with a football in a Liverpool street. Its light,<br />

composition and feeling of being in the midst of a game,<br />

gives the image an idyllic sheen. Images like Barry, which<br />

shows a cheerful man on the Albert Dock with pigeons<br />

perching on his head and shoulder, also put an interesting<br />

twist on the traditions of photojournalism, exposing the<br />

unapologetically joyous side to Liverpool life.<br />

Amelia Jones, who describes the photograph as<br />

telling the story of a “Liverpool-born man who still lives<br />

and works in the city, is proud to be a Scouser and is<br />

happy to tell the world.” says that they hoped to show a<br />

“happier side to documentary photography”, subverting<br />

viewer expectations. “It shows that Scousers have a<br />

joyful side, and that even the birds aren’t afraid to say<br />

hello,” adds Jones. There is a familiar warmth and strong<br />

sense of playfulness to this image of the photographer’s<br />

father, which demonstrates the strength of family and<br />

relationships in the local area.<br />

The photographer of A Flicker of Hope, an image<br />

of a Black Lives Matter protest last summer, was also<br />

interested in the social histories of the landscape that<br />

rests behind the image. Some of 2020’s most powerful<br />

and dynamic imagery has come from protest and this,<br />

as a photographic diptych that is almost sculptural in the<br />

strength of its light, is no exception.<br />

Sean Tadman explains that they took the photograph<br />

on the steps of St George’s Hall: “This imposing structure<br />

– a symbol of the fortunes made from the slave trade –<br />

fuelled the notions of injustice felt by the subject as she<br />

spoke about Liverpool’s history and the oppression faced<br />

by black people today.”<br />

The image exposes how the cityscape itself can be<br />

complicit in sustaining dark political conventions: “I found<br />

it shocking when looking into the historical significance of<br />

Liverpool in relation to the slave trade and how little we<br />

in the UK are taught about it, particularly as our colonial<br />

history has so much influence upon the UK’s culture,<br />

architecture, art, and oftentimes, financial relevance on an<br />

international scale.”<br />

According to Tate Collective Producer Niamh, this<br />

image particularly captures “what has been happening<br />

in the past year”: the changes, the protests, the Black<br />

Lives Matter campaign. The photograph’s monochromatic<br />

colour scheme is a deliberate attempt to flatten the<br />

time between the Civil Rights movement of the 50s<br />

and 60s and that of the present day, demonstrating the<br />

contemporary relevance of these issues, and giving a<br />

sense of urgency to the image and its cause.<br />

Many of these images follow in McCullin’s footsteps<br />


by exposing the histories embedded in the landscape,<br />

while demonstrating social change as being an integral<br />

part of our city’s political history. The final project is a<br />

celebration of the imagery that evolves organically from a<br />

time of constraint, as captured by local people. Speaking<br />

on behalf of Tate Producers, Laura’s assertion that the<br />

project “shows a feeling, in Liverpool, of openness”<br />

expresses the success of the project and its stories; while<br />

each image is unique and personal, they are fragments<br />

of a greater whole, contributing to a collaborative<br />

understanding of the North West through engaging with<br />

young local talent. !<br />

Words: Leah Binns<br />

Unity is Strength - Oliver O’Callaghan<br />

The works in the exhibition will be shown across<br />

Liverpool from 7th <strong>April</strong>. Tate Collective will also run<br />

several day takeovers across their social media channels,<br />

showcasing entries and the artists involved. Locations of<br />

the billboards and further information on the project can<br />

be found via the link below.<br />

tate.org.uk/tate-collective/photographing-north-west<br />

@TateCollective<br />

Tate Collective is supported by Jean and<br />

Melanie Salata with additional support from Garfield<br />

Weston Foundation, The Rothschild Foundation, and Tate<br />

Patrons.<br />




Bravely peering around the corner, Lily Blakeney-Edwards channels the spooky, spine-tingling<br />

atmospherics of the electro-pop star.<br />

AMBER JAY hates scary films, something<br />

she confesses sitting in her family home,<br />

surrounded by her pets and the sounds of<br />

suburban mundanity. It’s a truth that offers its<br />

own jolt of surprise.<br />

Anyone who’s come across the young artist’s<br />

eerie, dark-pop sensibilities would expect her to be a<br />

horror flick fanatic. Eventually, however, there’s a telling<br />

explanation. “I always obsess over the soundtracks,<br />

though,” adding to her earlier statement. “I love it when<br />

songs have a haunting influence on them; it gives them<br />

such an intriguing atmosphere.” She pauses, before<br />

continuing. “You know, that<br />

white noise they play in horror<br />

films sometimes? The kind of<br />

noise where you don’t realise<br />

it’s there, but it creates a really<br />

unnerving atmosphere? It scares<br />

you without you even knowing,<br />

it’s like a subconscious effect.<br />

When you can introduce that in<br />

music, it makes it so much more<br />

interesting.” She struggles to<br />

contain laughter when concluding:<br />

“The darker the better!”<br />

We tail off and natter about<br />

how much we long for pints and<br />

fuzzy nights out. Her warmth is<br />

transfixing, but alongside it resides longing, a glimpse in<br />

her eyes that signals the young artist’s ambition. “To be<br />

honest, I just want to get back into the studio and record,”<br />

she admits, with noticeable drive.<br />

Despite only appearing on the scene a few years<br />

back, Jay has already carved out an artistic persona that<br />

shines among the crowd. Inspired by spooky synth-pop<br />

and modern-day indie darlings, she has quickly built up<br />

a collection of tracks that walk the line of brooding and<br />

bouncy – the ideal recipe for earworms. Her work ethic has<br />

granted impressive results, with the artist releasing her<br />

debut EP Never Too Far From A Dark Thought in March.<br />

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

me. “I recorded a whole album when I was about 17 and,<br />

as soon as I finished it, I hated it and never put it out. So,<br />

while I’ve been writing and recording and performing<br />

since I was a teenager, I’ve never had anything that really<br />

captured me as an artist. To have a full body of work out<br />

that really demonstrates what I do is amazing; I can’t get<br />

over how happy I am with it.”<br />

While Jay’s appetite has always motivated her to<br />

push her musical abilities, she previously struggled to<br />

match her talents with her identity as an artist. That was<br />

until last year, which marked a dramatic transformation in<br />

the artist’s persona and sound. “Previously, when I was<br />

in this spoken-word band, we always used to write about<br />

“I love it when<br />

songs have<br />

a haunting<br />

influence”<br />

topics like the NHS or homelessness and create a power<br />

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

fun as it was, I had no idea of the direction I wanted to<br />

go. The artist I was previously was good, but it wasn’t the<br />

sort of music I want to make.”<br />

This soon changed as Jay started working with<br />

Scouse staples Zuzu and Munkey Junkey, who quickly<br />

helped her find her sound. “I think working with different<br />

artists around Liverpool really helped me embrace<br />

different perspectives,” she explains. “I saw a post on<br />

Instagram from Kurran [Karbal, aka Munky Junkey]<br />

saying that he had set up a studio space. I sent him a<br />

message out of the blue asking if<br />

I could record there. He was really<br />

lovely about it. I think they were<br />

expecting me to want to stick to<br />

the sound of my previous work,<br />

but I was ready for my tracks to<br />

have a new energy. I wanted it to<br />

sound playful, to have fun and be<br />

experimental, so I basically told<br />

him there were no rules.”<br />

Jay seems ecstatic now,<br />

thinking about the wide-open<br />

parameters of the recording<br />

process. “I definitely think that<br />

working with them has made such<br />

a positive impact on my sound.<br />

They were so encouraging as well; I’m not someone<br />

who’s mega confident, but they really helped with that<br />

just by telling me to be myself.”<br />

With that, Jay evolved into an artist rooted in what<br />

could be loosely regarded as horror pop. Littered with<br />

looming synths that fester under Jay’s subtle vocals, the<br />

acoustic backbone of the tracks remained, only electrified<br />

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

acoustic element is just there naturally. That’s the nature<br />

of it, it all starts out from my guitar, but then, when I get<br />

into a studio, I can introduce those beats and electronic<br />

elements that make it sound edgier,” she tells me. “I also<br />

take a lot of notes from Billie Eilish and artists who have<br />

softer voices like mine. When they’re put against nontraditional<br />

productions that you would associate with that<br />

type of voice, it sounds amazing.”<br />

The EP consists of five tracks that each present a<br />

different persona within the overarching atmosphere<br />

of the record. The House plays on the panic of being<br />

apart from someone through relentless synth stabs and<br />

distorted vocals. The closing track, Person, is softer and<br />

ballad-like, utilising stripped-back arrangements to detail<br />

the void of heartbreak.<br />

“A lot of the songs are inspired by my own<br />

relationships. Break-ups and heartbreak I felt, all that<br />

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


own experience forms a large part of the narrative, it’s<br />

not entirely autobiographical. “I’m inspired a lot by TV<br />

and films and I like to write about the stories I see,” she<br />

explains. “With TV, especially, the emotions are all there<br />

for you and it’s so hyper and dramatic that I find myself<br />

getting lost in it.”<br />

The tracks are wildly diverse in intent, yet despite the<br />

range of influences, it becomes apparent how much work<br />

across the project was done single-handedly by Jay. “For<br />

artwork I actually bought an iPad because I was trying<br />

to find an artist who could work with me, but because of<br />

lockdown it proved very hard, so I did it myself. Can you<br />

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

it feels home-made and every bit of the release comes<br />

from me. I love collaboration, but when you’re trying to<br />

communicate what you want to another person, you’re<br />

always afraid it can come off as something different from<br />

your previous vision.”<br />

The dedication shows. From the dramatic vocal<br />

pauses on Stay The Same, to the wall of harmonies on<br />

My Own Way, Jay dissolves her personality into every<br />

aspect of the works to a charming effect. What could<br />

have been likable tracks in raw form are transformed into<br />

playful, electronic stompers.<br />

“I really hope my personality shines out in it. A lot<br />

of the songs, although about dark subjects, are really<br />

playful,” she says, with a smile. “If people can connect to<br />

them, and maybe see a bit of themselves in the songs,<br />

I would love that. When you listen to a song, you write<br />

yourself into the narrative. The best songs are honest,<br />

because people can really connect with them.”<br />

It’s impressive that Jay is able to show so much of her<br />

artistic persona so early in her career, but has an outlook<br />

that surpasses any sense of herself. “By putting things<br />

out and sharing them with people, you can really criticise<br />

it and pick it apart, because then it’s not just your own.<br />

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

much as I love the EP, I’m still looking out for ways it<br />

could be different, or what I want to do next time.”<br />

The call to the future may seem surprising<br />

considering how recent her last release was, but Jay’s<br />

ambition shines through once again. “I’ve got so much<br />

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

get back into the studio and record,” she announces with<br />

vigour. “Only by doing can you get the ball rolling.” !<br />

Words: Lily Blakeney-Edwards / @lilyhbee<br />

Illustration: Abigail Smith / @camisado_design<br />

Never Too Far From A Dark Thought is available now.<br />

@iamamberjay<br />



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

about stepping out of the “drone zone” and into some shimmering pop.<br />

On the cover of Flock, her 11th album, JANE<br />

WEAVER is very much a woman in charge of<br />

all she surveys: bird boxes in shades of mild<br />

but insistent pink, blue and green. The colour<br />

palette corresponds with a piece of Pisces artwork she<br />

has propped up on her fireplace at home. She’s unsure<br />

what the image relates to, maybe trippy 70s star sign<br />

paraphernalia you see in charity shops. That would be<br />

apt; Flock leads out of Jane’s ever-present interests in<br />

the other worldly. It’s the album she’s always wanted to<br />

make, we’re told, which sees her take a different trip from<br />

previous space rock adventures, embracing pop and the<br />

rainbow of styles within.<br />

Jane is in good spirits when we talk,<br />

despite the inevitable circumstancedriven<br />

delay sharing the record<br />

with us. “It’s like giving birth,<br />

just get it out there and<br />

I can have a bit of a sit<br />

down,” she jokes of the<br />

waiting period. Birthing<br />

a child is no easy task<br />

and, as it turns out,<br />

nor was making Flock.<br />

But you’d not suspect<br />

by listening to it that<br />

the gestation until its<br />

arrival late spring, so<br />

perfectly in tune with the<br />

lengthening days and a<br />

slowly emerging sense of<br />

guarded optimism, proved<br />

“uncomfortable” for her.<br />

We’re accustomed to<br />

appreciating the conceptual aspect of<br />

Weaver’s work, revolving around a topic or<br />

person or film. 2017’s Modern Kosmology claimed Hilma<br />

af Klint as a nourishing muse, the Swedish artist and<br />

mystic’s creative process feeding into the record. We did<br />

get the sense there was some soul searching going on in<br />

the lyrics on Flock even before it came out, the single The<br />

Revolution of Super Visions finds Weaver wondering “do<br />

you look at yourself and find nothing?”<br />

“It’s much easier to write about somebody else’s<br />

world and go into that bubble and daydream about the<br />

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

comfy and the possibilities are endless. But when it comes<br />

to doing something more personal it’s a bit horrible, really.<br />

I don’t enjoy indulging in things about myself.”<br />

Jane headed off to Anglesey before recording Modern<br />

Kosmology, to reflect and write. For Flock she handpicked<br />

the more glamorous surroundings of Brittany in France.<br />

As she drove up the coast she had visions of browsing in<br />

arty shops, buying ice cream, sipping wine in nice bars.<br />

“But the whole town was dead, like a ghost town!”<br />

she admits. “It’s a coastal town where I was staying. I<br />

forgot, it was out of season ’cause it was December. One<br />

restaurant open, on a Wednesday night. No bars open.<br />

Aldi was open, or Lidl, and there were just loads of old<br />

ladies walking around.”<br />

Ultimately, the empty surroundings, deserted<br />

holiday homes of the rich and famous with closed locked<br />

shutters, proved to be a positive.<br />

“I was pretty fed up anyway and miserable, but<br />

I was trying to write these pop songs, so it was a bit<br />

happy-sad, a bittersweet kind of thing. But the isolation,<br />

the fact I wasn’t distracted, was perhaps the best thing<br />

that happened.”<br />

Flock might well be a diversion from her norm – if<br />

there is such a thing for an experimentalist such as<br />

Weaver – but we’ve experienced her pop side before.<br />

Don’t Take My Soul and I Need A Connection from 2014’s<br />

The Silver Globe are essentially pop songs after all.<br />

“There’s still experimental stuff [on Flock] for sure, I<br />

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

Neater pop songs. So, they weren’t meandering for 10<br />

minutes, the experimental bits in them are shorter and<br />

contained,” she explains. “I love space jam, 10-minute<br />

songs and being onstage and being in a big drone zone<br />

– it’s like a gong bath or something. But I do<br />

appreciate the power of when you’re<br />

doing a pop song live. When I do<br />

them live it’s a kind of arms-intheair<br />

“I don’t enjoy<br />

indulging in<br />

things about<br />

myself”<br />

reaction from the crowd and I<br />

do love that.”<br />

She reflects on the irony of Flock<br />

being designed for live performance. “I was<br />

thinking, ‘This is gonna’ be good onstage, I’m gonna’<br />

be doing this that and the other, wearing this’, and<br />

then there’s no gigs and it’s, like, really upsetting,” she<br />

laughs, making light out of the situation. “I had all these<br />

grand plans and outfits and whatnot, which we’ll get to<br />

eventually. We will get to do it.”<br />

A substantial value of pop music is capturing the time<br />

it’s in, like a time capsule. Does she think she succeeded?<br />

“You’re right, it’s a fashion thing as well. But,<br />

artistically, for me, because I’ve not done that for a long<br />

time, just playing pop stuff is more interesting to do, I<br />

guess. The main thing for me was to just try and push<br />

the boundaries creatively and that meant do as many<br />

kinds of pop as I could find.”<br />

Jane allowed the songs to be themselves, she<br />

reveals, to let them take the lead. Not lending themselves<br />

to any particular genre, but if one went glam (like Stages<br />

of Phases), she went with it. If it got its funk on, as on<br />

Pyramid Schemes, she danced along the same path too.<br />

Heartlow set its heart on wonderful guitar pop, so that’s<br />

what it became.<br />

“Just letting a song be, letting them sort themselves<br />

out, really,” she illustrates.<br />

The songs sprang from unexpected sources, ideas<br />

nurtured from lost albums far away from 21st-century<br />

northern England. Jane dove into Lebanese and Arabic<br />

music, orchestral music from 1960 and 1970s. She fell<br />

down a wormhole of Eastern European 80s pop on<br />

YouTube, entranced by Russian aerobics music.<br />

“And it sounds exactly as you would think it does<br />

– it’s Russian language aerobics music!” she says<br />

excitedly. She cites the power-pop elements of legendary<br />

Australian band The Saints over their more dominant<br />

punk side, leading her to investigate subcultures in 1970s<br />

Australia, and the work of photographer Rennie Ellis.<br />

She enjoyed the films in French director Éric Rohmer’s<br />

Comedies and Proverbs series, the six films seeing the<br />

characters driven by misunderstandings, dissatisfaction<br />

and loneliness.<br />

“I’ve probably watched all of them,” she admits.<br />

“They do a disco scene in the 80s – a very simple party<br />

scene – and it was, ‘What’s that music, that music’s<br />

amazing!’ so I tracked down music from that. Things like<br />

that led me on a journey to styles of pop music and what<br />

I wanted to do.”<br />

Her vocals are gorgeous on Flock. Louder in the<br />

mix and she sings higher, too. She doesn’t seem overly<br />

comfortable accepting compliments<br />

on them, though.<br />

“I don’t consider myself a singer,<br />

I consider myself an artist, a writer. I<br />

concentrate on the song as a whole<br />

and the vocal being a part of that,”<br />

she explains. “Not my singing or<br />

whatever. I concentrate a lot on the<br />

production and instrumentation and<br />

how the mix is, and the song as a<br />

whole.”<br />

“It’s funny, when you’re not<br />

confident as a new artist you’re<br />

‘Turn my voice down’,” she<br />

continues. “It’s hideous hearing your<br />

own voice. It’s hideous now – ‘Oh<br />

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

just do it’.”<br />

Conversation tails off to chat about the other Weaver<br />

– no relation – who was in the news recently. How it’s<br />

inspirational to see a woman not in her first flush of youth<br />

right up there and, yes, in charge.<br />

“And up against that toxic masculinity as well,<br />

which is hideous, and the way she just keeps her cool,”<br />

Jane says of Jackie Weaver of Handforth Parish Council<br />

meeting fame (Jane herself jokingly received multiple<br />

‘You have no authority here, Jane Weaver’ tweets in the<br />

aftermath). “The determination to take that woman down<br />

was hideous and she just sailed through it all. We’ve all<br />

probably had similar treatment somewhere in our lives.”<br />

It’s interesting that, even now, Jane still gets asked<br />

who produces her albums, with people often assuming<br />

it’s her husband, Andy Votel. “And it’s like, why wouldn’t<br />

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

notes. “There’s just a generalisation. Some people think<br />

there’s a man behind everything, I guess.”<br />

The album reaches number 24 in the Official UK<br />

Albums Chart the week after we talk. Its cover image<br />

seems to be everywhere, Weaver poised on the 1970s<br />

peacock chair on the cover and coolly regarding the<br />

ground below. “Me waiting for my flock to return. Or<br />

sat there like a mother hen,” she joked of her queenly<br />

posture, but it firms up more than ever that, like her<br />

partial namesake, Jane has all the authority here. !<br />

Words: Cath Holland / @Cathholland01<br />

Illustration: Rosa Brown<br />

Flock is available now via Fire Records.<br />

@JanelWeaver<br />



34<br />


When Damien John Kelly House, an<br />

abstinence-led residential recovery centre,<br />

was established in Wavertree in 2019, it was<br />

met with scorn and disapproval from local<br />

residents. Two years on, the house is a core<br />

part of the Wavertree community, offering those<br />

in recovery a chance to reconnect with society<br />

through a programme of arts, creativity and sport.<br />

Paul Fitzgerald speaks to its residents and those<br />

behind the house about its continuing journey.<br />

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

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

more crime for the area.”<br />

“We’re<br />

“We feel like every garbage comes to Wavertree.”<br />

“It’s the last straw that broke the camel’s back.”<br />

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

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

area following ferocious local outcry at the suggestion that a residential centre for recovering addicts<br />

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

particularly ill-tempered planning meeting, objectors railed against representatives of what is now<br />

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

them to “Burn in hell”.<br />

When the Liverpool Watch Committee declared Wavertree to be a safe place for policemen to live<br />

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

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

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

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

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

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

life in Liverpool.<br />

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

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

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

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

centre; like so many across the city, they felt abandoned.<br />

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

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

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

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

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

new opportunities for all.<br />

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recovery never really ends.<br />

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

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

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

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

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<br />

Floresco’ which translates as ‘I Flourish in The Shade’).<br />

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

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

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

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

guidance, love and encouragement of Damien.<br />

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

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

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

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

2019. In many ways, he lives on in the lives of those he never met.<br />

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

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

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

previously vehement objectors. Honesty, acceptance and willing.<br />

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

demand,” adds PJ.<br />

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

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



dangerously thin on the ground.<br />

PJ, whose own recovery has previously been<br />

documented in these pink pages, told me: “Rehab is not<br />

what we are and it’s important that people know the<br />

difference. Rehab is a strict regime – you’re in groups, in<br />

therapy all day, no phone. Then there’s recovery houses<br />

where you’re basically just left. A key worker will come<br />

and see you for an hour a week and that’s it. We wanted<br />

to be something in the middle of those two.”<br />

And that means offering more support, a different<br />

kind of support?<br />

“Yeah, so people have got sobriety behind them when<br />

they come to us, they know the landscape of the recovery<br />

world and what it requires of them. They’ve got their own<br />

free time, but we offer a mini programme to open them up<br />

to other things. Saying to people, ‘You’ve worked hard to<br />

get clean and sober, but what for? To do what?’”<br />

Structured around similar elements to those PJ<br />

himself leant on, the programme sees art and culture,<br />

music and sport as an integral part of recovery. For<br />

those who’ve previously felt excluded by their addiction<br />

– or perhaps more honestly, those who used addiction<br />

to exclude themselves – there is an exposure to new<br />

ideas, new thoughts, new ways for growth while also<br />

reconnecting with the familiar. New priorities in life.<br />

The cultural stream of the programme at the house<br />

presents opportunities for residents to engage with<br />

the wider community, through workshops, theatre and<br />

gallery visits, and strong links between Damien John Kelly<br />

House and Liverpool’s cultural sector. Creativity is actively<br />

encouraged in all, in whatever shape or form that might<br />

be. It is a powerful tool in recovery and can bring about<br />

profound changes in the way people see themselves<br />

and their future. It brings hope through expression and<br />

honesty, which is the true keystone of recovery from<br />

addiction. Art heals.<br />

Sam is a photographer, artist, writer and – since he<br />

put addiction behind him and entered Damien John Kelly<br />

House – is now a filmmaker. When we first met, he spoke<br />

of himself as Sam the addict. Sam the drunk. “Fucked<br />

Sam” as he put it.<br />

“Addiction is the death of self, the death of whoever<br />

you thought you were,” he says. “You’ve built this thing<br />

which isn’t you. When I came here I didn’t know who I<br />

was or what I was. Didn’t know who my mates were. I<br />

didn’t know anything. The thing about this house and this<br />

programme is it’s allowed me to find personal meaning.<br />

I’ve heard it before from people, they’ve said the same,<br />

it’s allowed them to find the true them.”<br />

Creativity was always in<br />

him; collage, photography,<br />

writing all coming together as<br />

a single escape route which<br />

he calls his ‘practice’. Each<br />

element inspiring the others.<br />

Even in the depths of his<br />

addiction, he’d still create.<br />

“It were fuckin’ sporadic,<br />

like,” he says with a strong<br />

South Yorkshire inflection. “I<br />

knew I wouldn’t be able to get<br />

where I wanted to be with it<br />

if I kept getting fucked. I used<br />

to joke about it… but I kept<br />

getting fucked.”<br />

Across the room from Sam, another resident, Wayne,<br />

talks through his experiences of the programme at the<br />

house. He’s found a new priority, a new way to the same<br />

personal meaning Sam spoke of.<br />

“I was supposed to be starting rehearsals for a play<br />

at the Epstein Theatre before the first lockdown,” he<br />

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

November I’d done two shows, in Edge Hill and The Unity<br />

Theatre, with Truth To Power Café, it was great.”<br />

“People in Liverpool<br />

have some kind of<br />

addiction story in<br />

their family. Our job<br />

here is to create<br />

recovery stories”<br />

From there, with eyes opened anew to the wealth of<br />

creative possibility recovery brings, Wayne paid a visit to<br />

an open night, again at The Unity.<br />

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

and do an audition, but I was accepted. There was only<br />

eight of us who were accepted out of two hundred, then<br />

lockdown happened…”<br />

“We were working with directors, actors,” he<br />

continues, “they said they saw something in me. I got<br />

such a lot out of it, though, it was amazing. I’ve started<br />

writing, I’ve got things in mind, get some funding.<br />

Now I just want to grab it with both hands. For me it’s<br />

connection and just not saying<br />

no to these things. That’s what<br />

being here has given me.”<br />

Recovery stories, tales<br />

of creativity, community,<br />

regrowth. A future borne<br />

of honesty, acceptance and<br />

willing at Damien John Kelly<br />

House.<br />

As Jacquie puts it, “We<br />

know that people in Liverpool<br />

have some kind of addiction<br />

story in their family; addiction<br />

is rife in our communities.<br />

We’ve all got addiction stories.<br />

Our job here is to create recovery stories.”<br />

And the people of Wavertree are now proud to be<br />

neighbours. !<br />

Words: Paul Fitzgerald / @NothingvilleM<br />

Photography: Sam Batley / @sambatley<br />

@HomesVitality<br />




Oakfield Road/Homebaked CLT<br />


If anything can be anywhere then, with Dead Pigeon Gallery,<br />

art is always somewhere – maybe where you least expect it.<br />

One consequence of the pandemic causing<br />

spaces to close their doors is that it’s forced<br />

visitors and institutions to really think about<br />

what a ‘gallery’ actually is. In one sense<br />

a gallery is still a venue, the spaces so many of us<br />

are missing. But as we’ve all explored how to access<br />

artworks in other ways, it’s become clearer than ever that<br />

the idea of a gallery also has a less tangible meaning.<br />

There are other elements beyond the four walls that<br />

people identify with: community, aesthetic, or attitude.<br />

DEAD PIGEON GALLERY, however, knew this<br />

already. Their name comes from the site of their very<br />

first exhibition – a space in what was to become The<br />

Tapestry but was abandoned before their takeover. It<br />

was, in the words of co-manager Jayne Lawless, “full of<br />

dead pigeons – I mean, full – and alive [ones] and shit.<br />

Everywhere I looked, there were live ones in the beams<br />

and dead ones on the floor.”<br />

It’s to Liverpool’s benefit that the team – a threesome<br />

which includes Catherine Dalton and Josie Jenkins – saw<br />

the potential of the space for that first exhibition. And<br />

when it ended, they came to the realisation that it didn’t<br />

have to mean the end of the project. “We can take it<br />

wherever. We can just ask for people with spaces to host<br />

us, so we became a ‘gallery in residence’,” says Lawless.<br />

To date, the project has been in eight separate venues,<br />

including an abandoned pub, a terraced house and a<br />

Texan fire station.<br />

Their current exhibition, Dockers, is the second<br />

to be held in the office of Liverpool Walton MP Dan<br />

Carden. With the office currently closed to the public,<br />

the exhibition can instead be discovered through a video<br />

interview with photographer Dave Sinclair.<br />

Dockers is an exhibition of Sinclair’s photos<br />

documenting the 1995-98 lockout. Nobody imagined<br />

38<br />

that when dockers refused to cross a picket line set up<br />

by five colleagues it would turn into such a long-running<br />

dispute and would, thanks to the story spreading on the<br />

then-emerging internet, attract global solidarity. Sinclair<br />

became embedded in events as an observer, and the film<br />

works as a complementary piece to the exhibition, giving<br />

Sinclair space to share his experiences and perspective.<br />

With ongoing uncertainty around the post-Covid return<br />

of jobs, rise of zero-hours contracts and British Gas<br />

strikes making headlines, Dockers feels timely.<br />

How the film has come into being typifies two of<br />

DPG’s philosophies. It’s been shot by Harvey Morrison,<br />

a filmmaker whose first experience of having work<br />

exhibited was in DPG’s previous exhibition, High-Vis –<br />

which took place in a former bakery in Kensington.<br />

In High-Vis, Morrison’s film was shown in a sequence<br />

beside work by Gina Tsang and Mark Leckey, a roster<br />

that exemplifies how, while DPG take their art entirely<br />

seriously, they’re far from pretentious about who and<br />

what is featured.<br />

One of DPG’s driving motivations has always been<br />

the lack of space for grassroots artists to show their<br />

work. Liverpool may seem spoiled for galleries, but they<br />

haven’t traditionally been places where emerging artists<br />

are given their first platform. Jenkins explains how, as an<br />

artist, “you’re either doing studio shows – if you’re lucky<br />

to even have a studio where you can have a show – or<br />

you’re working to get an open call. Things are starting to<br />

happen, like Output, but there still isn’t enough.”<br />

DPG are particularly concerned with how this affects<br />

artists from working class-backgrounds. Lawless and<br />

Dalton grew up together around Anfield and Everton<br />

and understand how working-class artists may face<br />

additional barriers to exhibition, something which they<br />

are determined to break down. “It’s not like we ask people<br />

for documentation on what class you come from, explains<br />

Lawless with shades of humour. “It’s just a statement of<br />

intent with regards to people that we know don’t get the<br />

same amount of opportunities.”<br />

Consequently, participation in a DPG show is less<br />

contingent on formal training and more on passion<br />

and execution of a vision. “We put ourselves there as a<br />

platform, where other working class-human beings have<br />

the confidence to approach us. They go, ‘We’ve never had<br />

a show, we’ve never put any work in an exhibition, we<br />

haven’t done a degree, but we’re really, really into this’,”<br />

says Lawless.<br />

“The other thing that DPG does,” adds Jenkins, “is it<br />

puts artists together from very different points in their<br />

career. So, in the very first show, there was a painting by<br />

Adrian Henri.” Such a lack of hierarchy is rarely seen in<br />

group shows and it was certainly an opportunity valued<br />

by Dalton, who had just graduated from Liverpool Hope<br />

University when she exhibited in that first show.<br />

“It’s a thing that you don’t think will ever happen<br />

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

and said, ‘This is what I did’ and they were all like, ‘Oh<br />

my God!’” They’ve found that everyone’s happy to be<br />

involved, because even the most established artists<br />

understand the value of having a significant place to<br />

start. “A lot of the time [established] artists are just<br />

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

that once. I want other people to have the opportunities<br />

I had’.” The idea continues to work because everyone<br />

involved – even Turner Prize winners, such as Leckey –<br />

trusts DPG to curate a great show.<br />

The word ‘trust’ comes up multiple times in our<br />

conversation, in terms of working with both artists and<br />

audiences. DPG want to build a relationship of trust with<br />

their audiences, wherever the gallery is. Wherever you

Original DPG, London Road<br />

Oakfield Road/Homebaked CLT<br />


visit one of their exhibitions, you’ll find conversation.<br />

Whatever question or opinion you have, whether you’re<br />

visiting as a regular art-goer or popping into the new<br />

space across the road out of curiosity, the team always<br />

take the time to make you feel welcome. This shouldn’t<br />

feel as revolutionary as it does, Jenkins believes. “I’ve<br />

always had a feeling in art galleries,” she says. “You step<br />

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

someone just say hi and chat?<br />

It should be so obvious!”<br />

In part, this is a result<br />

of DPG’s itinerant nature.<br />

Though borne out of necessity,<br />

one of the advantages of the<br />

approach is that they find<br />

audiences in a very different<br />

way – quite literally wherever<br />

the gallery finds itself. During<br />

my own visits to DPG’s various<br />

sites over the years, I’ve seen<br />

and heard about many of<br />

these different interactions.<br />

Perhaps somebody making<br />

their way down L4’s Oakfield<br />

Road decided to see what’s going on in a previously<br />

abandoned house. Or somebody working across the road<br />

pops in on their lunch break, who wouldn’t have time<br />

to get to a city-centre gallery. Out of such off-the-cuff<br />

interactions in the places where people actually live, and<br />

where art is something of a surprising presence, have<br />

arisen conversations and relationships which Lawless<br />

describes as “literally life-changing”. It means that DPG<br />

can lay down a marker for what it means to have an<br />

artistic experience which might be very different to those<br />

the casual visitor might have had in the past.<br />

“We put<br />

ourselves there<br />

as a platform”<br />

Lawless is aware of the barriers people put up for<br />

themselves. “With the type of schools we went to... you<br />

will literally be bullied for being interested in art or poetry<br />

or music or dance. What I’m always interested in is that<br />

we’re stripping it back. So, yeah, you see these incredible<br />

images. But then you also see that it’s just a human being<br />

who made this. And this human being might inspire you<br />

to do [something] as well.”<br />

This is certainly true of<br />

Dockers, in which many of<br />

the subjects are still living<br />

and connected to the city –<br />

including Dan Carden’s own<br />

father, who was involved in the<br />

strikes. The DPG team were<br />

conscious that the personal<br />

nature of this subject may<br />

have pitfalls, as well as power.<br />

“We were worried because it’s<br />

someone’s nan, or someone’s<br />

mum that you’re putting<br />

photos up of, especially when<br />

you start putting it on social<br />

media,” Lawless says. In fact,<br />

these personal connections ended up starting more<br />

conversations and engaging more people in the show.<br />

Dalton explains how “people are seeing their own fathers<br />

and their uncles and their grandads. And they’ve seen<br />

pictures up that they’ve probably never seen before and<br />

been really quite emotional about it. It’s a nice legacy.”<br />

This summer, DPG will be collaborating with the Fans<br />

Supporting Foodbanks mobile pantry to bring another of<br />

Lawless’ projects, North End Sketch Club, into DPG and<br />

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

with Sketch Club at the pantry. We’ll have guests, people<br />


who can do anything that we can sketch,” Lawless<br />

explains. The seeds of the idea were sown by the Fans<br />

Supporting Foodbanks team, with whom Lawless has<br />

volunteered, when imagining the possibilities of what<br />

the mobile pantry could be. “It’s about breaking down<br />

barriers and stigmas about going to something like a<br />

pantry or food bank,” Lawless continues. “There’s other<br />

things going on at the same time. It’s positive – and it’s<br />

frigging fun as well!”<br />

Having participated in Sketch Club as both artist<br />

and model, I can attest to that. North End Sketch Club<br />

is less about whether you think of yourself as a ‘good’<br />

artist than about the buzz that comes from getting stuck<br />

into creative activity – the positive atmosphere that<br />

generates. And why can’t that atmosphere be created<br />

wherever people go? This, after all, is at the heart of<br />

DPG’s ethos: “anything can be anywhere”. They break<br />

out of ideas about where art ‘should’ happen and who<br />

‘can’ participate. Instead, they’ve gone from strength-tostrength<br />

by being open to all possibilities and participants.<br />

Whether it’s creating films, taking over abandoned spaces<br />

or opening opportunities to art making to whoever wants<br />

to get involved, the example set by DPG of what the art<br />

world can achieve is a breath of fresh air. !<br />

Words: Julia Johnson / @MessyLines_<br />

Photography: Mark Loudon<br />

Dockers can be viewed on YouTube via the link below.<br />

linktr.ee/Deadpigeon<br />

@DeadPigeonG<br />




Remy Greasley talks to filmmaker and artist David Zink Yi about capturing<br />

‘endless’ performances of Afro-Cuban music, a process displayed in a<br />

two-channel film set to be shown at Liverpool Biennial.<br />

DAVID ZINK YI is difficult to pin down, both<br />

in his art and his backstory. Born in 1970s<br />

Peru, Zink Yi spent only a partial childhood<br />

there. A childhood which was further broken<br />

up by a stint in Kenya for his father’s job with the UN<br />

Development Programme. Aged only 16, he relocated<br />

to Germany to study. And it’s his Deutsch that he falls<br />

back on when his English fails him. His native Español<br />

comes in only occasionally, with offerings relevant to the<br />

Hispanic music that colour not just his sculptures and<br />

ceramics, but his films, too.<br />

The circumstances of Zink Yi’s upbringing could suggest<br />

two stories: the first of an ambitious, precocious youth,<br />

eager to get sculpting in the sandbox of the world; the<br />

second something akin to a military childhood, either on the<br />

move or on-base, as those closest to him balance parental<br />

love with their own efforts as part of a greater good.<br />

Wary of crossing a personal boundary<br />

I don’t question him on it, but I get the<br />

impression there’s truth in both. Suggested<br />

in part by the fact he hadn’t even finished<br />

his Masters before being offered a<br />

solo exhibition. And in part by his<br />

conversational, empathetic sensibility,<br />

as if he could fit anywhere, understand<br />

anyone, talk to anybody. He’s both<br />

convoluted and coherent. And there’s<br />

a universal potency in Zink Yi’s words,<br />

which have a profound and plastic<br />

meaning that extends far beyond<br />

that which is immediately relevant.<br />

This is characteristic of his<br />

art, too, to the point you wonder<br />

where he ends and the art begins.<br />

There’s a sense of connectedness<br />

with the world in his films,<br />

performances and sculptures<br />

which are often combined;<br />

a fundamental compassion,<br />

the experience of which (even<br />

by proxy) is so intense and profound that I suspect the<br />

man in the box on the screen of my MacBook is closer to<br />

enlightenment than his chill red Nike sweater and clearlensed<br />

Aviators may want to admit.<br />

Even so, it hasn’t been the easiest of months for<br />

Zink Yi. His Being the Measure, a half-performative,<br />

half-sculptural piece, was initially destined for 2020’s<br />

postponed Liverpool Biennial. But thanks to you-knowwhat,<br />

it became impossible to present the show, which<br />

relies on a live performance by Zink Yi and select Cuban<br />

musicians on playable sculptures and is intended for<br />

a live audience. There’s a spatial element to the work,<br />

with the audience’s own senses receiving the different<br />

sections of the performance in a way that requires it to be<br />

experienced first-hand.<br />

Being the Measure was to be a perfect bulwark piece<br />

for the Biennial’s theme of ‘The Stomach and the Port’.<br />

With its live exploration of Afro-Cuban polyrhythms<br />

(a broad kind of rhythm consisting of two or more<br />

disconnected rhythms in tandem, though this is only<br />

the beginning of a definition), it studies the relation of<br />

individual personality with collective personality. As with<br />

most of Zink Yi’s work, the piece’s true value draws from<br />

deep in the ever pertinent, beautifully contradictory well of<br />

the question of identity. Another work was also pondered<br />

for the Biennial, but it proved too demanding in terms of<br />

budget.<br />

Instead, Zink Yi is bringing Horror Vacui to the Martin<br />

Luther King, Jr. building. The film installation predates<br />

Being the Measure by the length of an early childhood, but<br />

it’s still incomplete. It is the culmination of work beginning<br />

in 2002, when, in Cuba, Zink Yi formed De adentro y<br />

afuera, perhaps the first of his now characteristic artisticmusical<br />

projects. He began to film the band’s endless<br />

performances, all in an attempt to understand what<br />

he calls “this structural thing about Afro-Cuban music<br />

which makes it so hypnotic”. This ‘structural thing’ is so<br />

much more complicated than the polyrhythmic layering<br />

mentioned earlier.<br />

It’s a way of playing as much as it is a way of life, with<br />

each musician given relative freedom in a collective sound,<br />

relying on each other to fulfil their role, but never infringing<br />

on their freedom of expression. It’s a chaotic process of<br />

creation that only comes to an ephemeral completion in<br />

the beholder, as their ear and eye and brain scatter to<br />

locate themselves amidst what<br />

Zink Yi refers to constantly and<br />

so pertinently as a “magical<br />

cosmos”.<br />

“It becomes a<br />

deconstructive moment of<br />

yourself, trying to gain a<br />

larger, a wider voice,” he says,<br />

illustrating what it’s like to take<br />

up a role in these performances.<br />

“Your right arm is doing<br />

something against your left<br />

arm, and your right foot is doing<br />

something following your left<br />

arm, but not necessarily your right arm, and your left foot<br />

is playing the clave, which is keeping everything together.”<br />

Not just the whole performance, but the entire<br />

space which houses it becomes a singular and ever in<br />

flux body. This space, this body, extends to the rooms<br />

of his exhibitions, and the audience within. It’s this<br />

reliance on the audience to receive and amalgamate the<br />

overwhelming pieces of experience that leaves Horror<br />

Vacui incomplete, but by the same token universally<br />

relevant.<br />

The performances and rituals which Horror Vacui<br />

juxtaposes were collected spontaneously over a period of<br />

around five years. The main part of the film takes place in<br />

“It becomes a<br />

deconstructive<br />

moment of yourself,<br />

trying to gain a larger,<br />

a wider voice”<br />

the theatre of a synagogue in Havana, as Zink Yi tells me:<br />

“We rehearsed for three days. I really put them inside and<br />

locked the door, bought a lot of rum and let them play and<br />

rehearse and arrange all our pieces.”<br />

The camera shares its frame between musicians,<br />

performers and instruments. “I was not filming individuals.<br />

I mean, [he gestures to correct himself] I was, but I was<br />

concentrating on the role in this specific context… not<br />

trying to make a personal protagonist, but more a role<br />

protagonist.” The style is minimal but it’s in no way nofrills.<br />

The camera lets its vivacious subject sing.<br />

It’s also influenced by Cuba’s material situation,<br />

standing alone in history as perhaps the only country that<br />

never said yes to the USA. This has impacted the film in<br />

a way that is more than visual. The music owes much to<br />

this isolation: for the virtuosity of the musicians, and the<br />

nationwide popularity of the complex, polyrhythmic music<br />

they play, as well as the eclecticism of that<br />

same music. “My wife is Cuban. She’s a<br />

dancer and when she hears the salsa from<br />

outside Cuba, she cannot dance,” he says.<br />

“The way things are arranged is a totally<br />

different language.”<br />

Not all Zink Yi’s projects have been<br />

musical, however. His work in sculpture and<br />

ceramics is equally as massive as his work in<br />

video, quite literally, featuring egregiously thick<br />

octopi tentacles and spawling Architeuthis<br />

(giant squid) which required a custom-built kiln.<br />

But it seems his latest efforts in ceramics are<br />

moving away from this overwhelming enormity,<br />

and into a place more nuanced. The pieces in last<br />

year’s Rare Earths at the Hauser & Wirth gallery,<br />

Zurich, were minute in comparison to the squid,<br />

and more abstract too, exploring process and<br />

reaction. The show had a great response, he tells<br />

me, but his drive to create something entirely new<br />

was so demanding that the lockdown arriving shortly<br />

after its closing was like a lotion for the soul.<br />

Zink Yi isn’t done with<br />

video, though, or music.<br />

Although he is moving away<br />

from the human subjects<br />

that’ve inspired so many shows.<br />

His new muse? “A bird that’s<br />

supposed to be the bird with<br />

the largest repertoire in the<br />

bird world.” It’s a bird that<br />

is constantly learning and<br />

forgetting to allow itself to learn<br />

more. It’s with this bird that we<br />

realise the sense of identity isn’t<br />

solely a human construction.<br />

In fact, it’s something far more<br />

natural, far more embryonic. And it’s partially this same<br />

understanding, which is in fact intrinsic to all Zink Yi’s<br />

work, that makes it so damn overwhelmingly profound. !<br />

Words: Remy Greasley / @Remygreasley<br />

Photography: David Zink Yi<br />

Horror Vacui will be shown at the Martin Luther King, Jr.<br />

building from 17th <strong>May</strong>. Liverpool Biennial runs online<br />

and across multiple venues across Liverpool until Sunday<br />

6th June.<br />

biennial.com<br />




“I started seeing<br />

my past as what it<br />

was, and not what I<br />

thought it was”<br />


A poetic storyteller through<br />

word and image, the artist’s<br />

latest project brings stories of<br />

recovery to the film screen.<br />

“It’s not meant to be like this, it’s meant to be<br />

different,” utters SAM BATLEY in the closing line of<br />

forthcoming short film Three Bull-Mastiffs in a Corner<br />

Kitchen. The film, written by Batley in collaboration<br />

with filmmaker Paul Chambers, is informed by Batley’s<br />

continuing journey of recovery from addiction.<br />

In the last year Batley has flourished as a writer and<br />

photographer. This has led to live readings of his poetry at<br />

La Violette Società and being part of a joint photography<br />

exhibition at Love Wavertree Community Hub.<br />

He is an artist who has faced up to his past and turned<br />

his pain into purpose. He is now clearly grounded by his<br />

creative outlets and talks with such passion about his love<br />

of Liverpool, how it inspires him creatively and the energy<br />

it gives him. “Liverpool’s saved my life, and I don’t say that<br />

lightly. Liverpool saved me. I feel like I’ve found somewhere<br />

I’ve started to put roots down,” he happily proclaims.<br />

Although now relocated to Liverpool, Three Bull-<br />

Mastiffs in a Corner Kitchen offers a raw portrayal of<br />

his life as a young man growing up in a South Yorkshire<br />

mining town, focusing on the cycles of addiction that<br />

Batley was experiencing at that time.<br />

The foundation of the film draws its main dialogue<br />

from a poem that was the first thing Batley wrote in<br />

recovery. “As I was getting into recovery, I was starting to<br />

get some clarity over my past. Pieces started to fit together<br />

and I started seeing my past as what it was, and not what<br />

I thought it was,” he admits. “I was becoming more aware<br />

of the feelings attached to the past. The whole thing was<br />

about revisiting that part of myself and seeing it for what<br />

it was.”<br />

What he produced is a brutally honest piece of<br />

writing, a pounding release of consciousness which<br />

confronts old ways and habits. It acts as the heartbeat of<br />

the film and provides a compelling energy through which<br />

the film’s messages are conveyed.<br />

The film’s title, which is the first line of the poem,<br />

draws on Batley’s experiences when picking up drugs<br />

from a dealer. The three dogs were used by the dealer<br />

to go badger-baiting and would frequently be physically<br />

damaged from the activity. “They are a representation of<br />

the chaos and the foreboding of the space I used to go<br />

into,” he recalls, “as the bull-mastiffs would be the first<br />

thing that I’d see.” The dogs are omnipresent throughout<br />

the film and act to highlight the spectre of addiction,<br />

one formed in an isolated and long forgotten pit town<br />

where hope and opportunity were overcast by the bleak<br />

surroundings. “I can’t remember the pits, but I waint [sic]<br />

forget, I’m not allowed to forget,” the poem reads.<br />

The film powerfully captures the boredom of long<br />

empty days, the endless cycle of nothingness which<br />

enhances the attractiveness of substances as a means<br />

for escape. Batley confirms this. “You’re bored as fuck, sat<br />

about. There is an energy about the place, there’s fuck all<br />

to do, the nature of pit villages is that they are isolated.<br />

Just them days when there is fucking nowt to do.”<br />

The theme of masculinity hangs heavy throughout<br />

the film, framed succinctly on the promotional artwork<br />

as “fragile masculinity, fragile ideas of pride” – ideas<br />

and prescribed norms that are passed effortlessly<br />

from generation to generation. The peer pressure that<br />

demands this conformance is cleverly reflected in the<br />

early scenes; the submergence in the everyday routine<br />

of drug taking, the confusion of wanting it to be different<br />

while doing nothing to change that. “No one gives a<br />

fuck as much as me, I’m just willing to do absolutely<br />

fuck all about it,” Batley’s narration poignantly outlines,<br />

highlighting the feelings of entrapment.<br />

By his own admission the whole project has been<br />

a surreal experience; almost ghostlike seeing his life<br />

played out on screen. “It was a roller coaster. It wasn’t<br />

necessarily negative. Some parts were over-powering,<br />

and some were really beautiful,” he says. “Revisiting<br />

them spaces and experiences in a detached way, I’m still<br />

processing it now.”<br />

When the film is released it will be accompanied with<br />

a behind the scenes documentary offering a closer look at<br />

the personalities within the project. The documentary is<br />

likely to be the happy ending the film doesn’t give us. As<br />

well as Sam’s experiences it will draw out the stories of<br />

the other members of the cast who are also in recovery.<br />

Stories of hope, strength and positivity which the team<br />

behind the project will aim to serve as an inspiration to<br />

others in their own early stages of recovery, or even those<br />

still struggling to take them first steps.<br />

Three Bull-Mastiffs in a Corner Kitchen positively<br />

underscores that people can recover from what has gone<br />

before; there is a different way that’s about living and not<br />

merely existing. As the film displays, Batley has found a<br />

way for his life to be different. !<br />

Words: Andrew Stafford<br />

Photography: Sam Batley / @sambatley<br />

Three Bull-Mastiffs in a Corner Kitchen will premiere later<br />

this year. One Day At A Time is currently in production.<br />

@sambatley<br />



Finding the self in esoteric<br />

worlds of wonky electronica.<br />

In the lingering haze of the early hours, FOXEN CYN<br />

emerges. Confidently declaring their sound “everything and<br />

the kitchen sink”, the artist, also known as Sean, is a rising<br />

horror-pop hero, mixing brooding synths and experimental<br />

sampling to create tracks oozing with smut and swagger.<br />

“I’m just besotted with punk,” they admit. “I just fell into<br />

all of this. I love it though, it’s so fun and frustrating. You<br />

know like when you’re doing a really hard jigsaw with your<br />

mammy and you start trying to smash cobblestone jigs into<br />

the border?”<br />

Despite their grungy sensibilities, the artist has<br />

classical roots, first getting into music alongside their<br />

brother. “The main thing that inspired me was jealousy,”<br />

they tell me. “The first instrument I learnt to play was<br />

clarinet, and that was purely because my brother was<br />

learning to play guitar. They didn’t have guitar lessons left.<br />

Or French horn. I really wanted to play French horn. I think I<br />

learnt clarinet first in the end, because the embouchure has<br />

left me with a better pout.”<br />

However, the artist soon leaned into electronica, valuing<br />

experimentation above all else. “Ages ago, in an old band,<br />

I played a house party in Manchester on Halloween and<br />

everyone hated us. It was great. All the other bands were<br />

openly saying we were terrible and ruined the night. It was<br />

so horrible and weird. I hope they ask me back as Foxen Cyn<br />

at some point,” they explain. “I’d just say don’t be warded off<br />

by something being out of your comfort zone. Music is an<br />

amazing art form, because you can get into every asset of<br />

creativity. You can’t really do that with am-dram or painting,<br />

I reckon.”<br />

Foxen Cyn’s first EP, Demonstration, was released in<br />

2017 and, after a brief hiatus, the artist has made their<br />

return with new single Cracking Up, a mesmerising, eclectic<br />

offering that documents a personal journey.<br />

“The lyrics are about coming out, my own experience,”<br />

they explain. “A lot of coming out songs are very<br />

empowering, which is good, and they should be. I don’t think<br />

they show how scary it can be, though. My personal coming<br />

out experience was great, and my family and friends have<br />

all been so supportive, but that doesn’t take away from the<br />

initial trepidation.”<br />

Through a blend of distorted vocals and frequent,<br />

pulsing drumbeats, the artist documents the surge of<br />

emotions that comes with admitting queer identity, with<br />

its liberation and exhilaration. However, the artist seems<br />

hesitant to admit to heroism. “I don’t think, personally, I’m<br />

doing anything of importance, I’m just being what I want to<br />

be. I’d say that drag and being openly queer is still a strange<br />

thing in the alternative music scene, though.”<br />

The abstract track feels like a new beginning for Foxen<br />

Cyn, their sound evolving both musically and emotionally. “I<br />

suppose I’m trying to do for closeted kids what My Chemical<br />

Romance did for me as a teenager,” they admit. “Audiences<br />

probably see it as novelty, but as an artist I want to present<br />

myself. I’m not a tall, skinny, cool guy, I’m a chubby little<br />

party animal. If I show other people they can be as well, I’ll<br />

be happy.”<br />

In terms of the future, Foxen Cyn is only looking forward.<br />

“I’m going to keep working on music, get a few more<br />

releases out, but mainly I can’t wait to get back on stage and<br />

get in people’s faces again.” It’s a closing statement that calls<br />

to the dancefloor, and the blurry bliss of town after dark. !<br />

Words: Lily Blakeney Edwards / @Lilyhbee<br />

Cracking Up is available now via Emotion Wave Records.<br />

“I’m a chubby little<br />

party animal. If I<br />

show other people<br />

they can be as well,<br />

I’ll be happy”<br />



“I think<br />

songwriting<br />

is a way of<br />

mythologising<br />

yourself”<br />


Confronting social anxieties<br />

with breezy indie and rustling<br />

folk tales.<br />

FURRY HUG is a monster. Well, a Yaksha, a type of<br />

nature-spirit. “I stole the name from an old Buddhist tale,”<br />

says Jack Mee. “As soon as I saw it written down, I thought,<br />

‘That’s the name for me’.” It became the perfect moniker<br />

for what he describes as “playfully confused” music,<br />

something which conveys a warm sensation of strangeness<br />

mirrored in his first release, the On The Line EP.<br />

Black holes, ladybird dots, imaginary friends and<br />

social notions help make up the imagery of the EP’s<br />

songs. Cacophonous swirls of solid rhythms and charmed<br />

melodies peppered with additions of tuned percussion,<br />

kazoo and saxophones.<br />

Stocking a sonic curiosity shop is part of his process.<br />

“It’s a little chaotic to be honest, he admits. “I’m not<br />

very methodical with writing. I’m always working on<br />

something, although I’m often planting more seeds than<br />

seeing anything come to fruition.”<br />

This restlessness surfaces throughout the EP: the<br />

whiling beat of People Skills ticking away the time he has<br />

to befriend the “one in seven billion”, the snare snapping<br />

half a beat early on Ladybird as he ponders “how I missed<br />

the boat” and the stuttering handclaps that crackle before<br />

the closing vocal bursts of Panic Mode. Unconstrained in<br />

his approach, Jack creates surprising and textural mood<br />

boards; small details emerge with repeated listens like<br />

finally seeing hidden mascarons in architecture.<br />

Lockdown lent the necessary space to collate his first<br />

release, the artist admits. “It was about time I released<br />

something. I’ve been lucky enough to keep my job as<br />

a support worker, since the pubs have been shut, I’ve<br />

saved money that’s helped go towards the EP and some<br />

recording equipment.” Working and releasing alone<br />

allows him the autonomy to create these instrumental<br />

playscapes in as much time as feels necessary. “Some of<br />

my songs are written really quickly. Others take months,<br />

or years to fully grow,” he says, using the time to instil<br />

them with whatever theme or idea he likes.<br />

Take Elwood’s Friend, a musical homage to Harvey, a<br />

1950s James Stewart movie itself adapted from the 1944<br />

Mary Chase play of the same name. “I love the film,” he<br />

says, “[the idea] grew into a vague song about how ‘sane’<br />

people address mental illness, which is what I think the<br />

film pokes fun at.” The film’s titular character is a pooka<br />

from Celtic folklore and the companion of the song’s titular<br />

character. This second allusion to things fantastical and the<br />

reworking of an old narrative reveals a wider fascination.<br />

“I think songwriting is a way of mythologising yourself, or<br />

someone or something else,” he explains. “Myths travel<br />

through songs, especially in folk music. There’s something<br />

mysterious about how myths help shape our lives and I<br />

think music is good way of exploring that.”<br />

Having been “raised on Bowie”, the notion of selfmythologising<br />

doesn’t seem so strange. “He’s always<br />

been a fatherly figure to me, musically.” And after<br />

spending “a lot of time watching the Blues Brothers as a<br />

kid”, his break came at the Preston Guild Hall, performing<br />

at a tribute gig. “I was about eight or nine, in the full suit<br />

and shades, and they pulled me on stage to sing with<br />

them,” he recalls<br />

Such encouragements led to playing drums since<br />

the age of 11, a vocation which has shaped much he’s<br />

done musically since. Manifesting in the percussive<br />

consonants of “got to get me some” opening the EP, the<br />

plinking xylophone that brightens every beat it bobs over<br />

and collaborations with others, (drumming for Bye Louis<br />

and Dilettante, based in Manchester) Jack is an artist<br />

whose approach to rhythm feels apt for the beat besotted<br />

customs of current music. Not surprising when he relates<br />

“music is lifeblood for me, a sense of purpose. If I haven’t<br />

written anything in a while, or learnt something new, it<br />

affects my self-esteem. I’d be lost without it.”<br />

Despite enjoying tackling his first release almost<br />

singlehandedly, “recording the majority of [songs] in my<br />

bedroom”, there’s readiness to relax and breathe. “I’ve<br />

probably spent too much time living with my own music<br />

and become too familiar with it. It’s kept me sane, but I’m<br />

ready to go to gigs again and experience other people’s<br />

work,” he confesses.<br />

He’ll still be collecting new ideas, though. “I’ve toyed<br />

with the idea of releasing demos, like a mixtape. You see<br />

it in hip hop; artists release a mixtape to promote a future<br />

‘official’ release, but as far as I know you don’t often see it<br />

in indie or alt rock or whatever genre Furry Hug fits into.”<br />

Stories of myth are difficult to pin down, their<br />

histories often fragmented and obscured. I don’t know<br />

when the next big chapter of the Furry Hug tales will<br />

appear, but when it does, I’m certain it will be worth<br />

passing on. !<br />

Words: Samuel Lasley<br />

Photography: Rob <strong>May</strong><br />

On The Line is out now via Haunted Jacuzzi.<br />

soundcloud.com/furryhug<br />


“I realised that<br />

I could write my<br />

own scripts, write<br />

my own stories”<br />


Poet, actor, activist, writer,<br />

theatre director and producer<br />

– a force to be reckoned with.<br />

FELIX MUFTI-WRIGHT (he/him) is a queer trans man<br />

who is championing Liverpool’s LGBTQ+ community,<br />

breaking boundaries and challenging the mainstream<br />

through theatre, poetry and performance.<br />

His creative endeavours started with youth theatre<br />

when he was 14. He has since gone on to appear in<br />

Cinderella (The Young Vic, R&D); Tin Star (Sky Atlantic);<br />

The Uncomfortability of a Made Up Wor(l)d (Unity<br />

Theatre).<br />

Felix is also an organiser for Trans Pride Liverpool<br />

and Transgender Day of Remembrance. In February he<br />

released a video performance of Memories Burnt, a poem<br />

about trans history, commissioned by the Museum of<br />

Liverpool for LGBTQ+ History Month.<br />

Speaking today, he sits in front of a wall that is as<br />

full as his mind with ideas: a collage of photographs,<br />

drawings, memories and inspiration. While talking he<br />

smiles a lot and underlines the importance of his words<br />

with movements and hand gestures.<br />

For a creative trying to thrive in a capitalist context,<br />

his work experiences read like the dream CV that can<br />

open all doors: Felix is an actor, writer, performer,<br />

facilitator and activist with years of experience under his<br />

belt, despite being only in his early twenties.<br />

He wanted to be an actor since he was little,<br />

but when he came out as trans at the age of 13, he<br />

quickly noticed that it is almost impossible to be an<br />

active and successful part of an industry that does not<br />

overwhelmingly welcome or support trans people. But he<br />

did not let the discriminatory nature of the theatre world<br />

dim his passion. “I realised that I could write my own<br />

scripts, write my own stories,” he says, smiling proudly. “I<br />

enjoyed it and I enjoyed acting and creating roles for the<br />

communities, including myself.”<br />

The wisdom his words carry is compelling, but at<br />

the same time they arrive with a sadness, bearing the<br />

experience of hardships overcome. Felix shares his<br />

experiences and knowledge openly and generously; it<br />

is clear that he wants to give people who belong to the<br />

LGBTQ+ community space and opportunities to grow at<br />

their own pace, making them feel understood and give<br />

them the strength to reach out for help if they need it.<br />

“It’s about the outreach and going into the communities<br />

of people my work affects and make sure they see it,” he<br />

says, “so they feel heard, they feel seen.”<br />

Felix has been tackling inequality through all his work<br />

and was recently able to take a massive step forward<br />

when he co-founded Transcend Theatre company, with<br />

Ailís Lord (she/her) and Ty Mather (they/them) in February<br />

2020. They are a proudly queer-led, queer-focused and<br />

queer-empowering company, pushing the limits of the<br />

theatre industry and exploring underrepresented topics<br />

that affect the LGBTQ+ community.<br />

Felix says that theatre should be about telling real<br />

life stories on stage, but he feels mainstream theatre has<br />

moved away from that. “Everything Transcend does is<br />

about telling queer stories authentically and I don’t really<br />

see many theatre companies that are queer-focused,<br />

especially trans-focused like we are. We don’t want it to<br />

just be on stage either, we want as much of the team as<br />

we can to be queer.”<br />

Last year, Transcend Theatre was part of<br />

“QueerCore”, which is Homotopia’s formal artist<br />

development programme for early-career artists. This<br />

year, they have already received funding from Arts<br />

Council England for their current project How To Kill A<br />

Rose, written and performed by Felix, as well as being<br />

selected as part of Liverpool Unity Theatre’s Open Call<br />

Programme.<br />

Transcend aims to break boundaries between<br />

Northern theatre and the rest of the country, both in<br />

opportunities and perception. Felix describes various<br />

situations where he has been seen as “rough” by others<br />

because of his Scouse accent, the way he dresses<br />

and carries himself. He laughs this off: “I’m the least<br />

threatening person ever, I’m literally like a Build a Bear.”<br />

Felix notes how he has faced regular discrimination<br />

in his life and career, but he is clear in outlining the<br />

supportive atmosphere of Liverpool, which has<br />

contrasted to his experience of other places in the UK. He<br />

points towards a “great supportive network” and makes it<br />

explicitly clear how important it is to make this a common<br />

reality for all trans people.<br />

Moments of hardship have also been equally<br />

significant in artistic growth. He notes how his school<br />

years involved extreme transphobic behaviour from one<br />

of the school’s teachers. This, he says, has shaped him. “I<br />

remember thinking, in that moment, I will never apologise<br />

for being myself again,” he recalls.<br />

He emphasises how he is grateful to have found<br />

acting, writing and creating as healthy ways to talk about<br />

and deal with the things that have happened to him.<br />

And there are no signs of stopping his creativity. He<br />

is currently writing new work, soon to be produced by<br />

Transcend Theatre. Be Gay Do Crime is a rap musical that<br />

will be about gay drug dealers from Birkenhead. Felix<br />

estimates a couple of years until staging. At the same<br />

time, he is working on an all trans self-published poetry<br />

book which he hopes to release by the end of this year.<br />

It is clear that, no matter which topics and<br />

experiences he is challenging and working through, he<br />

will pour his heart in, and create opportunities unseen in<br />

the mainstream. But most importantly, he is and always<br />

will be radically and wonderfully unapologetic. !<br />

Words: Jo Mary Watson / @JoMaryWatson (she/her)<br />

Photography: Sam Vaughan<br />

How To Kill A Rose will be performed later this year.<br />

@transcendtheatre<br />

@felixmufti<br />


“I grew up on<br />

Donk music, like<br />

the Wigan Pier<br />

remixes”<br />

JEZTLS<br />

Unearthing the full range of<br />

emotions in PC Music.<br />

Jamie Staples talks to me from a French suburb,<br />

where he’s spending some time as part of his French<br />

degree. He’s excited about early spring sun, contrasting<br />

it with the wind and rain he associates with Liverpool.<br />

However, the dreary weather doesn’t dispel his love for<br />

the city where he arrived to study, and where his musical<br />

exploits have begun to flourish in recent years. He<br />

speaks enthusiastically about the culture here, excitedly<br />

describing Liverpool’s musicians as “mad!”, but doesn’t<br />

note whether he himself falls into this category.<br />

Jamie’s reverence for his fellow musicians can<br />

be seen in his work under the solo moniker JEZTLS<br />

(pronounced jez-tulls), where he mixes influences from<br />

around the world into his electronic led productions. His<br />

upcoming EP El Paradiso mixes steel drums, trap beats,<br />

dancefloor atmospherics and a variety of guest vocalists.<br />

Taking an improvisational, trial and error approach,<br />

Jamie’s focus is on “sounds that sound nice”, as he puts<br />

it, sincere in its clunkiness. “It doesn’t even have to be in<br />

the same key. It’s a lot more percussion based, and less<br />

melody based,” he adds.<br />

He contrasts this with the classical and jazz training<br />

he received growing up, which he says has “nothing<br />

in common” with his bedroom producing. “I couldn’t<br />

stand being in that chair playing the trumpet or playing<br />

the keyboard anymore with that pressure,” he says. So,<br />

instead, he rebelled from his training out of a teenage<br />

desire to be the “mastermind” behind Katy Perry-esque<br />

chart hits.<br />

It’s this background and his open approach which<br />

makes him such a versatile producer, open to working<br />

with whoever he thinks is making the best music. But, as<br />

Jeztls, Jamie wants to bring the focus back to himself. “I<br />

have a full body of work because I’ve always worked as<br />

a producer for other artists, that’s my main thing. So to<br />

finally find all these tracks coming up that I want to keep,<br />

I wouldn’t want to give them away because they’re more<br />

personal.”<br />

Despite this focus “collaboration [remains] the most<br />

important part of what Jeztls is”, he asserts, with features<br />

from a varied pool of vocalists. There are guest vocals on<br />

almost every track on the EP, including Papa Shiraz on<br />

the dark Night To End and Apollo Kid on the breezy and<br />

kinetic We Belong To The Summer.<br />

The more personal approach is apparent on the<br />

recent single, Tear Me Down (featuring Sintia), a track<br />

Jamie started work on when he was just 14, which<br />

explores ideas around masculinity, family and opening up<br />

about emotions. There has been a lot of discussion about<br />

men’s mental health in the last few years, and Jamie<br />

shared his experience of hearing stock phrases, ‘man up,’<br />

‘boys don’t cry”, from those close to him.<br />

“I think a lot of the time it’s family that won’t let you<br />

be emotional. I grew up with just my mother and I have<br />

so much love for her, but at the same time I always felt<br />

this pressure to be a certain way. But that’s probably the<br />

most hurtful thing, that you’re not allowed to express<br />

yourself emotionally if you identify in a certain way,” he<br />

shares. “It’s crazy. It was always a struggle. Friends and<br />

family would always tell me, ‘You’re way too emotional,<br />

you think too much, you feel too much’.”<br />

Tear Me Down comes from the sense of liberation<br />

Jamie found when he stopped listening to the people<br />

telling him to hide his emotions. “It just hit me, why on<br />

Earth should I not be able to be emotional? Where’s that<br />

rule? There is no rule! It’s a social construct that’s been<br />

placed on people to not be allowed to be emotional. Once<br />

I realised that, so much in my life changed, I cried and I<br />

didn’t feel bad, it was so liberating. I had tears down my<br />

face, but I was feeling good about myself. When you do<br />

that, you get to realise your own self-worth.”<br />

While happy to talk about his background and<br />

identity, as a gay man he’s keenly aware of the boxes<br />

artists can be shoehorned into. There have been some<br />

comparisons between Jeztls and SOPHIE, and while<br />

there are some similarities, that can read like sticking the<br />

two together based on queerness. “It’s like there’s two<br />

options, there’s sexuality, and slight genre, so if you fit<br />

this box, you go over there,” he admits.<br />

While talking about this comparison, it’s clear Jamie<br />

just wants to talk about the music. “I love PC Music and<br />

the whole subgenre that’s come from that. For me, I<br />

grew up on Donk music, like the Wigan Pier remixes,<br />

it was very bouncy and fast BPM.” He says this while<br />

enthusiastically pointing out how the picture of who<br />

listens to PC Music has changed from “Fiat 500s driving<br />

around blasting it out their speakers” to “these LGBTQ+<br />

teenagers sat in their bedrooms, truly vibing”.<br />

It’s his love for a variety of music that animates<br />

him and drives him. From his classical training, through<br />

making tracks on GarageBand with his cousin’s MIDI<br />

keyboard, all the way to his current producer work,<br />

it’s his excitement about finding new sounds that is<br />

constant. Jeztls is his way to explore that, away from the<br />

constraints of classical performance, or producing other<br />

people’s music. As he succinctly puts it: “With Jeztls, I can<br />

just do what I want to do.” !<br />

Words: Ed Haynes / @teddyhaynes (They/Them)<br />

El Paradiso is available from 30th <strong>April</strong> via Virile Music.<br />

@jeztls<br />






SHOWS<br />



SOLD-OUT<br />













SOLD-OUT<br />




ONIPA<br />





“The band<br />

is going to<br />

become a human<br />

instrument”<br />



LightNight – 21/05<br />

After a one-year hiatus, LightNight returns with a diverse range of events and installations<br />

spread across the city – one of which will involve an open source performance by Stealing Sheep.<br />

After the trudge of lockdown, it’s fitting that the<br />

first festival to be held this year is LightNight.<br />

While a celebrated staple of Liverpool’s<br />

cultural calendar, this year’s festivities arrive<br />

as a shining light at the end of a tunnel, a re-introduction<br />

of in real life culture to our soon-to-be bustling city<br />

centre.<br />

Hosted on the 21st <strong>May</strong>, the one-night arts festival<br />

will shine a spotlight across the city, with over 100<br />

organisations collaborating to create an inspiring trail of<br />

events with talks, workshops, performance and music –<br />

all of which are following this year’s theme of ‘Play’.<br />

STEALING SHEEP are among those producing an<br />

installation for this year’s festival. The synth-pop trio<br />

need little introduction having been a core pillar of the<br />

local scene for over a decade now.<br />

The group are marking their return to LightNight with<br />

new project Song Machine, an interactive performance<br />

that invites the audience to write words into a website<br />

that will be sung in real time by Stealing Sheep. To learn<br />

more about the proposed installation, Lily Blakeney-<br />

Edwards caught up with Stealing Sheep’s Lucy and Emily<br />

to gain more insight into this year’s events, their own<br />

project and the emotional impact of the festival’s return.<br />

This year’s LightNight is going to be particularly special<br />

for a lot of people. How are you feeling about this<br />

year’s event?<br />

Lucy: A little bit nervous about it, but very excited.<br />

Emily: We’ve not done a performance in a long time. Our<br />

last one was in Manhattan? So, it’s been a whole year. It’s<br />

quite daunting in that respect. It will be nice to entertain<br />

people in real life, rather than virtually.<br />

L: The thought of being in the middle of a crowd, trying<br />

to see over people, it just feels so distant! It’ll be nice to<br />

get back to that.<br />

You’re planning to debut your project Song Machine at<br />

the festival. Can you tell us what it entails?<br />

E: The band is going to become a human instrument!<br />

L: The idea is that the public will use social media to send<br />

in song lyrics, and then we’ll go live and be an instrument!<br />

E: We’re still working on logistics, like how it will look,<br />

but it’s very exciting. We want it to involve the whole<br />

community, so get everyone together to make it a mass<br />

collaboration with Liverpool. We just want as many<br />

people as possible to get involved.<br />

The theme for this year’s festivities is ‘Play’. How does<br />

your piece integrate into that topic?<br />

L: The interactive element of it, with people joining in<br />

and helping us make music really fits into the theme. I’m<br />

hoping the lyrics sent in will be light and playful.<br />

E: I was thinking that the whole idea of a song is quite<br />

playful. Everyone joining in, and making music – it’s just<br />

fun, isn’t it? Everyone’s desperate to play, see people<br />

and interact, so I think it will really bring people together.<br />

Even though we’re at the centre of it, if everyone gets<br />

involved it will feel like a community voice.<br />

How do you want this year’s events to impact audiences,<br />

both within your own piece and further afield?<br />

L: I want people to share a bit of time together.<br />

E: Yeah, no matter how it shapes out, I want people to<br />

come together. I want a celebration and a sense of relief.<br />

A bit of reconnection to the community.<br />

E: And for everyone to go home with a pint!<br />

Stealing Sheep have made regular appearances at<br />

LightNight over the years, in some form or another.<br />

What are some of your highlights from recent years?<br />

E: I did this thing at the Tate inspired by Tony Conrad<br />

in 2019. I was in a group of musicians who did a drone<br />

piece. It was mad, because we played a one-note piece<br />

for an hour without stopping. It felt like such a special<br />

event, that had such a massive impact. George Moore<br />

was doing it as well, playing this really unusual long,<br />

longbow instrument.<br />

L: Oh, I loved that. It was so powerful. We also did a light<br />

up drum performance a few years back, which was great.<br />

And we’ve done some marching band work as well, been<br />

involved in parades and that.<br />

E: Every year there’s so much brilliant stuff on though. I<br />

try and run around and see as much as I can.<br />

L: I always wish I could see it all, but you have to pick<br />

your favourites! But just seeing a few bits is amazing.<br />

How does Liverpool’s culture and community influence<br />

LightNight festival?<br />

E: Liverpool’s a small city, so it really bubbles up with the<br />

amount going on. There are so many pockets of scenery<br />

everywhere, so there’s so much to get stuck into. It links<br />

everyone, all the amazing spaces. It makes it seem like<br />

one big celebration.<br />

L: And all of the destinations are so epic. Like the Cathedral<br />

or the Invisible Wind Factory… Even the small spaces are<br />

decked out completely. So many amazing venues.<br />

E: Yes! We love intimate spaces, because you can really<br />

connect to the audience. The Kazimier, The Bluecoat…<br />

The Stockroom is fantastic as well, one of our favourites.<br />

Finally, how would you sum up the event in three<br />

words?<br />

E: Exciting!<br />

L: Interesting!<br />

E: Buzzing!<br />

L: And bright!<br />

E: That’s definitely more than three! We’re just so excited<br />

to come together as part of LightNight, the three of us. !<br />

Interview: Lily Blakeney-Edwards / @Lilyhbee<br />

LightNight takes place in person and online on 21st <strong>May</strong>.<br />

The venue for Song Machine will be announced ahead of<br />

the event.<br />

lightnightliverpool.co.uk<br />





until 27/06 – Various venues<br />

Mark McNulty<br />

Having installed sculptures and installations from the likes of Larry<br />

Achiampong, Linder and Rashid Johnson across the city and launched an<br />

online portal showcasing sonic and digital commissions, the Biennial’s ‘Inside’<br />

chapter begins in <strong>May</strong>.<br />

Flags by artist Larry Achiampong can already be found at 10 locations from<br />

the Cunard Building to St George’s Hall. Other outdoor commissions include Rashid<br />

Johnson’s Stacked Heads at Canning Dock, a piece by Teresa Solar at Exchange Flags<br />

and Linder’s Bower Of Bliss at Liverpool One. Close by, the mural Mauvaise Alphabet by<br />

Jorgge Menna Barreto has been unveiled on the side of Bluecoat.<br />

The theme of this years festival is The Stomach and The Port with the timely aim of<br />

exploring concepts of the body as fluid and being continuously shaped by, and actively<br />

shaping its environment. In <strong>May</strong>, the Biennial’s partner venues will begin opening<br />

exhibitions interrogating the theme. FACT host an exhibit by Black Obsidian Sound<br />

System (B.O.S.S), a London-based collective who bring together queer, trans and nonbinary<br />

black and people of colour involved in art, sound and radical activism through<br />

projects influenced by sound system culture. Hong Kong based artist Zheng Bo will also<br />

exhibit at the Ropewalks Square venue. The artist creates weedy gardens, living slogans<br />

and eco-queer films.<br />

Tate Liverpool host an expansive exhibition including the work of Jamaican artist<br />

Ebony G. Patterson who works with embellished textiles to explore post colonialism,<br />

working class identity and other disenfranchised communities. In the Bluecoat, mutual<br />

exchange between humans and nature is explored in Laura Huertas Millán’s film, Jíibie,<br />

which examines the cultural importance of the sacred coca leaf for the Muiná-Muruí<br />

community in the Colombian Amazon. The work of photographer Zineb Sedira and<br />

filmmaker Alberta Whittle will explore the meaning and social history of the world’s<br />

oceans and docks in exhibits at Open Eye Gallery. Over in the Lewis’s Building an<br />

eclectic collection of sculpture from artists such as Kathleen Ryan and Reto Pulfer look<br />

at the body and what it means to be human.<br />



Until 06/06 – Various venues<br />

Independents Biennial, the grassroots celebration of the creative culture that’s<br />

brewing across the length and breadth of the Liverpool City Region will feature a<br />

roster of emerging artists who will develop new and exciting perspectives on how<br />

Merseysiders perceive and create art around them. Through various disciplines, the<br />

artists in this year’s Independents Biennial focus on the art process itself, including how<br />

the artists approach their practice and how that practice might mutate throughout the<br />

duration of the programme.<br />

Working in partnership with the Open Eye Gallery, Montse Mosquera, Feiyi Wen<br />

and Sam Venables will explore themes of reverse culture shock when living in a foreign<br />

country, interpretations of landscapes from different cultural perspectives and the reuse<br />

of closed public houses as McDonald’s restaurants.<br />

More Indy Biennial delights come in the form of a series of poems by quarterly<br />

creative zine ROOT-ed – which promotes and supports creatives of colour in the North<br />

West – and a portrait project by Mark Hobbs aimed at dismantling gendered views of<br />

male parenting.<br />

Meanwhile, Emmer Winder’s St Helens Social Pharmacy invites everyone to<br />

share their own mantras, affirmations and phrases that have helped them through the<br />

pandemic. Advice will be transformed into prescriptions on medicine bottles and shared<br />

on Instagram (@socialprescriptiontracker) to promote wellbeing in the face of adversity.<br />

Also exploring the experiences of 2020, Head of Photography at Carmel College<br />

Kevin Crooks and writer Callan Waldron-Hall are collaborating on a project in the Thatto<br />

Heath area of St Helens, which sees the combination of photography and redrafted<br />

written accounts from locals create a snapshot of the area’s experiences and hopes for<br />

the future.<br />

Multimedia artist Sorrell Kerrison presents work exploring experiences of<br />

motherhood, with a series of self-portraits taken before and after childbirth. SciArtist<br />

Jay Hampton’s intimate exploration of mother nature aims to reappraise our perceptions<br />

of what we consider to be weeds. Hampton’s project assesses UK public spaces left<br />

unattended by councils as a result of lockdown, whose natural developments have<br />

created havens for a host of wildlife species that are re-emerging as symbols of tenacity<br />

and regrowth.<br />

As we experience something of a rupture across our sociocultural zeitgeist – with<br />

Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, the murder of Sarah Everard and Covid-19 all demanding<br />

a rethink of society’s inequalities – Sufea Mohamad Noor’s residence at Independents<br />

Biennial will investigate the evolution of diversity and inclusion terminologies used<br />

to describe racially marginalised groups, using academic research, exploring online<br />

activism and holding discussions with PoC and allies. Using research and her<br />

conversations, Sufea will produce text paintings in the studio as well as using Metal’s<br />

kitchen and garden to create a shared experience in a pandemic.<br />

Sam Venables, Hippo (<strong>2021</strong>)<br />




RADIO<br />

THE<br />


MUSIC<br />

SHOW<br />

BBC Radio Merseyside<br />

After almost a year off the<br />

airwaves, PMS’s Roger Hill<br />

provides the lowdown on the<br />

show’s new format.<br />

The events of the last year have severely<br />

shaken the metronomic balance of the cultural<br />

calendar. As restrictions have seen live music<br />

reduced to a rare, socially-distanced hum, ghost<br />

lights continue an extended run on theatre stages and<br />

festivals move online, the aftershocks have been felt on<br />

institutional radio, too.<br />

From national to local stations, the BBC was forced<br />

to restructure its programming to meet the limitations<br />

and demands of the new normal. The changes meant<br />

that, from March 2020, certain shows and presenters<br />

covered elongated hours, while others were removed<br />

from the schedule altogether as the Corporation assumed<br />

a more defined role as a public broadcaster.<br />

On BBC Radio Merseyside, one such programme<br />

that was placed on hiatus was THE POPULAR MUSIC<br />

SHOW. Fronted by Roger Hill and a revolving team of<br />

presenters, the programme is lauded for its left turns,<br />

deep digging and connoisseur curation of sounds from<br />

Merseyside to the far reaches of the world. To this day<br />

it remains the longest-running alternative music show<br />

in the UK. However, the 43rd year of its running was far<br />

quieter than the team had expected as it departed its late<br />

Sunday night slot.<br />

After a challenging year, the<br />

programme has returned to BBC<br />

Radio Merseyside, albeit with a few<br />

tweaks and new features to meet<br />

the continuing impacts on scheduling.<br />

Roger Hill fills us in on the set-up of the<br />

new show, the future of late-night radio<br />

and the importance of presenting new,<br />

expansive cultural discoveries on a local<br />

public broadcaster.<br />

PMS spent the best part of a year off air<br />

due to the pandemic and the resulting<br />

changes to schedules. Did you notice the<br />

landscape of radio changing in that period<br />

of time?<br />

It was very easy to notice, because the BBC<br />

completely restructured local radio. There was<br />

no space for pretty much anything that was<br />

individual programmes, so many, like ours, went<br />

off.<br />

I saw that the BBC decided, for the first time in<br />

a long time, what it wanted to use local radio for.<br />

In other words, what this access to local people was<br />

about. People do like to be talked to as though they live<br />

somewhere particular, provide information, raise spirits –<br />

local radio does that. It’s the first time in almost 40 years<br />

of my being involved with it that local radio actually got<br />

its mission back.<br />

With this restructuring, did you think there was a gap<br />

left in terms of the cultural offer and exploration in a<br />

musical sense? How did this affect your planning when<br />

returning to the air in January?<br />

I said to the team, ‘Who listens to us anyway? Who<br />

are the people who either go on iPlayer or listen late at<br />

night and want to hear what we were doing?’ It boiled<br />

down to a combination of the culturally aware and the<br />

independent thinkers, if you like, the doers, the people<br />

who go to gigs, get Bido lito! for example. We framed the<br />

new show around the idea that there was a community<br />

there that, essentially, the rest of Radio Merseyside<br />

wasn’t speaking to.<br />

Do you think there is a new frame around radio itself,<br />

a new way of looking at it? And is this something that<br />

you’ve taken on, or is it a case of repurposing what you<br />

had?<br />

At the moment, monthly at least, we will have an<br />

extension to PMS that can be heard on Melodic<br />

Distraction. The change for us, I think, is in thinking about<br />

what we do as the one-hour show. Just as Bido Lito!<br />

became more than a magazine, similarly PMS becomes<br />

more than a programme; it becomes an information<br />

system, it could become an online platform, regular email<br />

newsletter. It becomes a focus for something. But we<br />

don’t want to do this too much, otherwise we’ll never get<br />

any more time back from the BBC!<br />

Talk me through the reformat a little bit and how the<br />

show might be operating differently.<br />

The first thing that’s important is the new time [9pm]<br />

and I think that is important as we’ll capture people<br />

who wouldn’t necessarily be coming to find us. We’ve<br />

introduced spoken word, too, and we’ve had some<br />

really good features from that so far this year. We’re<br />

still the only programme on the station that plays world<br />

music. Although we can’t do festivals currently, we’re<br />

obviously keeping people abreast of developments in<br />

that area. Every programme has mentions in it, too, as<br />

we call it now. And they’re not always just musical, but<br />

they’re about cultural activities and online activities.<br />

And also, we’ve got a five-minute section, which is five<br />

recommendations, five aspects to look forward to. That is<br />

definitely a nod towards cultural events and happenings.<br />

If the first section is really kind of music and speech, the<br />

second is about what to do during your week, the third is<br />

about the electronic, the digital, the online and everything<br />

else. And then, finally, we have a 15-minute flourish at<br />

the end, where we remind people that we’ve got a very<br />

deep, good archive, and remind people about what’s on<br />

our mixes.<br />

As you know, over the past 40 years or more, latenight<br />

radio slots like John Peel’s were presented as a<br />

particular kind of exploration and cultural navigation.<br />

Do you think that this slot for music programmes still<br />

has merit? And do you think that can come back? Or do<br />

you think we’re moving into an age where everything<br />

has to be a little bit more on demand?<br />

It’s a good question, but a question that’s very hard to<br />

give an answer to at the moment, except to say that<br />

since [last] March late-night radio no longer exists locally.<br />

The BBC has gone through so many revolutions over the<br />

years. It will be past my time, I think, but eventually there<br />

may come a time when the BBC rediscovers the joys of<br />

what we might call ‘free floating navigation late-night<br />

radio at a local level’. I mean, I don’t think it’s completely<br />

out, I think it just happens to be what the BBC is into at<br />

the moment. It knows it’s in a tougher market than it was<br />

10 to 20 years ago. There are far more radio stations<br />

out there, far more niche radio stations. We were very<br />

loose on the old show, but it’s not like that now. But that<br />

doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for that kind of radio.<br />

We are now definitely in the structured programme<br />

market that we weren’t in, originally.<br />

Do you think local radio will be at a loss without the<br />

more freeform late-night music programming?<br />

I think, bearing in mind the bigger picture, we’re just<br />

going to have to embrace it, to be honest. But it’s<br />

one of those things where I often wondered whether<br />

the listeners who joined us at midnight on a Sunday<br />

had actually been listening to anything else on Radio<br />

Merseyside. They may only have parachuted in for us<br />

and then parachuted out again and, therefore, the radio<br />

station didn’t get any huge benefit from the numbers<br />

which transfer out into the rest of the station. So, I think<br />

the BBC probably wouldn’t go back and do it again.<br />

Does it matter to you to remain on a public service<br />

broadcaster? Does that change the essence and the<br />

ethos of the programme?<br />

I took the view, and I’ve always had this, that there was<br />

something about working for the BBC and broadcasting<br />

on the BBC airwaves and being part of the BBC<br />

information system, which was a dignifying – if dignity<br />

is something that we want to attach to our kind of music<br />

– but also empowering. I think I always thought that it<br />

would be best to keep something that was PMS on Radio<br />

Merseyside, even if we had to start thinking outside the<br />

box a bit.<br />

It does matter to be on the BBC for me personally. But<br />

then, of course, I started out that way. I suppose maybe<br />

there’s a real sense of loyalty, sentimentality, a sense of<br />

the BBC is a generally good thing and it’s nice to be part<br />

of a good thing with a kind of international dimension<br />

to it. So, for me, there is a benefit of being there. But we<br />

are, as you can tell, reaching out and putting ourselves<br />

outside the BBC as well as inside. And in a sense, because<br />

we’ve always been a bit of a trailblazer as a programme,<br />

maybe we will be the model of how the developments will<br />

happen in the future. !<br />

Interview: Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder<br />

The Popular Music show now runs bi-weekly at 9pm on<br />

BBC Radio Merseyside. The next live broadcasts are on<br />

2nd, 16th, 30th <strong>April</strong>.<br />

pmsradio.co.uk<br />

bbc.co.uk/programmes/p098fwxp<br />



Threshold Festival<br />

09-10/04 – Online<br />

Over 100 artists will participate in the rescheduled online iteration of Threshold Festival<br />

this year. The event blends music, performance and visual arts with interviews and panel<br />

discussion which can all be enjoyed virtually. The mammoth line-up announced in March<br />

includes BEIJA FLO, ZEE DAVINE, KINGFAST and many more representing the grassroots<br />

music scene from Liverpool and beyond. As well as the core online activity, Threshold are<br />

displaying public art in their Baltic Triangle home with details still to be announced at the time<br />

of writing. Ticket holders will be treated to the District Sessions live sets while the rest of the<br />

festival will be free to attend.<br />

Beija Flo (Robin Clewley)<br />

GIG<br />

Table Service w/ Positive Vibration<br />

02/05 – Meraki<br />

Reggae festival Positive Vibration are serving up an all-day helping of dub<br />

at Meraki on the <strong>May</strong> Bank Holiday weekend as guests for the weekend’s<br />

Table Service event. Groups of up to six people will be able to enjoy DJ sets<br />

throughout the Sunday from DUB DEFENDERS, KEITH MARLEY, BEAT<br />

DETECTIVE FT. LION YUTE & MOTORMOUF and the festival’s own selectors.<br />

The gig will serve as a nice taster for what is to come from Positive Vibration<br />

festival when it returns to the Baltic Triangle in September this year.<br />


Abandon Normal Devices<br />

27/05-11/07 – Various venues<br />

Exploring the post-industrial landscapes of the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship<br />

Canal, AND Festival returns this year. Described as a “nomadic festival of digital culture,<br />

art and film”, the programme of activity for the <strong>2021</strong> edition will take place online as<br />

well as in and around the waterways which it is looking to interrogate. Visitors will<br />

be able to take in an ambitious programme of in-real-life field trips via augmented<br />

reality seascapes, immersive voyages and floating laboratories, together with an online<br />

programme of radical and disruptive artworks, film screenings, performances, talks and<br />

workshops.<br />


Writing On The Wall Festival<br />

Throughout <strong>May</strong> – Various venues<br />

Celebrating their 21st year in existence WOWFest returns with a programme of literary flavoured events throughout <strong>May</strong>. With last years online iteration of the festivals bringing<br />

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<br />

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,<br />

events and competitions that benefit our community. Details on the festival programme were still to be announced at the time of writing.<br />

GIG<br />

All We Are<br />

09/04 – Future Yard<br />

Genre chameleons ALL WE ARE feature in Future Yard’s latest run of high<br />

production streamed shows in <strong>April</strong>. Following gigs from Barberos and Lydiah,<br />

the Birkenhead venue will be beaming out a live set from the Domino Records<br />

lovelies as they look to finally showcase 2020 LP Providence in a live setting.<br />

The feel-good hit of last year is much more suited to a world of dancing and<br />

good times so hopefully it’ll get its just deserts in the more liberated landscape<br />

of a vaccinated world. The online gig will deliver an opportunity to limber up in<br />

your living room before hitting the dancefloors in June.<br />


Sheku Kanneh-Mason<br />

01/06 – Philharmonic Hall<br />

Liverpool Philharmonic is once again hosting live music with On Demand concerts taking<br />

place from 6th <strong>April</strong> and live events with audiences going ahead from 20th <strong>May</strong>. Superstar<br />

cellist SHEKU KANNEH-MASON visits the hall at the start of June to perform the last concerto<br />

written by Czech legend Antonin Dvořák. Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll will also be performed at<br />

the event which will be available to watch via Zoom accompanied by a pre-concert programme<br />

presented by Radio 3 broadcaster Stephen Johnson. Elsewhere on the Phil’s listings, there’ll<br />

be a world premiere of Dani Howard’s Trombone Concerto and Klezmer-ish perform The<br />

Lockdown Songbook!, a mix of pieces recorded during lockdown for a new album.<br />


Soft Boys<br />

17/05-29/08 – FACT<br />

Soft Boys<br />

What does it mean to be a man? Poking fun at gender norms and exploring the ways we live<br />

alongside each other and our environment, Soft Boys, from Liverpool-based multidisciplinary<br />

artist Kiara Mohamad, goes on display at FACT for their reopening in <strong>May</strong>. The exhibition,<br />

curated by ROOT-ed zine’s Fauziya Johnson, examines what it means to be a man through<br />

various disciplines documenting cooking, dancing and textiles while celebrating queer and<br />

trans joy. Exhibits weave in traditions from Somali culture and address trauma for what will be<br />

a thought provoking and revealing show.<br />



“Change is one<br />

of few constants<br />

in Liverpool”<br />

Three lads on bikes, Maud Street and Elaine Street, L8 1979, Ian Clegg, as part of Tell It Like It Is<br />

L—A City Through Its People<br />

Open Eye Gallery – online<br />

There are three images missing from Emma Case’s RED<br />

exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery’s L—A City Through<br />

Its People, each of which can be found three miles away<br />

on the Homebaked terraces of Oakfield Road adjacent<br />

to Anfield stadium. Together with the 93 photographs<br />

on display inside Open Eye, those remaining three bring<br />

Case’s archive total to 96. It’s a number we’re all familiar<br />

with, and it’s a number that will likely never disappear<br />

from conversations about who and what Liverpool is.<br />

As a football fan, an Evertonian in fact, even I see<br />

myself in these photographs taken outside Herr Klopp’s<br />

(now fragile) fortress and in the homes and pubs of his<br />

followers; both as a boy picking out my first scarf, and<br />

later as a teenager speculating who might make the<br />

line-up over an afternoon pint with my dad – each of us<br />

drowned out by a cacophony of ‘same again loves’ and<br />

half-cut tactical suggestions by those who never did<br />

quite manage to leave the Kendall days behind.<br />

Look hard enough and every football fan and their<br />

dog will see themselves in these photographs, too, and<br />

in turn will see so much of what has been taken away<br />

from them by you-know-what. Not just fans, but from<br />

those whose fixture-bound livelihoods depend on the<br />

ecology of what it means to go the game – to the chippy,<br />

the café, the pub, to the memorabilia stalls. But if the<br />

sights, sounds and smells of football matches seem a<br />

distant dream, then these images are, however brief, an<br />

assurance that they haven’t really gone forever.<br />

The 96 images are part of RED’s wider archive<br />

spanning four years on what it means to be a Red, which,<br />

alongside Emma Case’s material, also contains fans’<br />

personal photographs, home interviews and amateur<br />

home-made memorabilia. There are no footballing<br />

celebrities in this collection, only a Crown Paintsclad<br />

collective inheriting the batons of tribal solidarity<br />

and community spirit. The same spirit passed to new<br />

generations and whipped up with each rattle of the<br />

turnstile and again reawakened in homes, streets and<br />

inner ideals.<br />

Tribal solidarity and community spirit – these ideas<br />

flow through the city in abundance, stopping to resurface<br />

once more in the Open Eye’s next collection. This sees<br />

Scottie Press – Britain’s longest-running community<br />

newspaper – present an archive of original photographs<br />

and iconic headlines presented in line with the paper’s<br />

50th anniversary – celebrated in February.<br />

When the paper first printed in February 1971,<br />

entering the decade under Conservative PM Edward<br />

Heath, Scottie Press and those it served in and around<br />

the Scotland Road area would see the city’s social fabric<br />

ripped up with containerisation and a domino decline<br />

in heavy industry. The move would have devastating<br />

repercussions for the city that would endure well into the<br />

80s and 90s. The resulting 50-year record of Liverpool’s<br />

shifting social, political and religious landscape on display<br />

here in Scottie Press’ exhibition is an intimate chronicle of<br />

the city’s enduring activism, its places of work, worship<br />

and what it did in its free time.<br />

If RED and Scottie Press’ archives unveil what<br />

Liverpool is, it’s fitting that, in closing L—A City Through<br />

Its People, the final exhibition examines what Liverpool<br />

once was – how it was perceived, shared and lived by<br />

its people. Tell It Like It Is, an image-text collaboration<br />

between photographer Ian Clegg and writer Laura<br />

Robertson, is a series of prints on silver gelatin with<br />

accompanying creative-contextual writing which<br />

complement the archive’s fragmented moments of<br />

nostalgia.<br />

The 24 prints – shot on a “battered Nikon” with HP5<br />

film and left to foment under Clegg’s bed for several<br />

decades – are loosely grouped by geographical area,<br />

leading you through the neighbourhoods within Toxteth,<br />

the city centre and the docks. From L1 through L8, Tell<br />

It Like It Is shows us equally battered street landscapes<br />

in partial ruin, bordered up premises and giddy, feral-like<br />

childhoods spent roaming through town on your bike<br />

with your mates.<br />

But, if these three exhibitions tell us of a city<br />

confronting hardship, loss and deprivation, then just<br />

as quickly, L— A City Through Its People tells us of<br />

something we’ve no doubt always known about this<br />

place: change is one of few constants in Liverpool, and its<br />

people are what gets it through.<br />

Matthew Berks / @Hewniverse_<br />

Peggy by Emma Case, RED<br />


Liverpool Digital Music<br />

Festival Rise<br />

Online – 27-28/02<br />

Predictable playback issues aside and although, like<br />

everyone else, I’ve just about adjusted to living mostly<br />

online, I wasn’t sure what to expect when experiencing a<br />

two-day festival via my laptop. After the aforementioned<br />

streaming issues are ironed out, Liverpool Digital Music<br />

Festival Rise begins with an inviting scene on the screen<br />

courtesy of AMELIA WALLACE.<br />

Sunlight beams into the centre of the room and<br />

refracts into a rainbow splodge for a welcome contrast<br />

to the dark currently outside my window, and the first<br />

song is in progress. The natural light gradually fades<br />

in seemingly perfect sync with the closing phrases of<br />

increasingly sparse piano and softer vocal to finish to the<br />

performer’s enticing, relaxed opening number.<br />

A quick switch to acoustic guitar and brief intro<br />

leads into Where (Do We Go)?. The refreshing change<br />

of accompaniment allows Wallace’s voice to explore<br />

a wider, impressive register and timbre. Beginning<br />

delicately, as though blending out from the previous<br />

song, the dynamics of the performance peak with a<br />

hearty vocal power that successfully expresses a calm,<br />

comfortable performance to listeners. Sticking to guitar,<br />

Wave follows, with more intimate lyrics woven into<br />

agile melody underscored by bluesy chord progressions<br />

delivering an effective ebb and flow in emotional force<br />

again. Along with the calmness and clear enjoyment<br />

coming across in the performance style, listening to a<br />

controlled, skilled voice with accompanying instrument<br />

calibrating together with ease commands attention, even<br />

via a wi-fi connection. The final song encapsulates the<br />

warm essence of the set, but with more pace, keeping<br />

a healthy connect between music and the imagery it<br />

invokes.<br />

On the Sunday night we experience an eccentric<br />

highlight of the festival. Instead of verbally announcing<br />

the band, SWEET BEANS utilise a humorous gimmick<br />

by way of introduction. Their empty living room is<br />

greeted with a clumsy leap into frame by the drummer,<br />

as the guitarist followed by two brass players enter<br />

in sequence. On screen text of name, instrument, or<br />

niche nickname accompanies their entrances like a<br />

modern pastiche of a retro swing band. An interesting<br />

start, though somewhat unstable. The timing in the<br />

opening playing of the trombone and sax’s syncopated<br />

groves aren’t fully together. It reminds me slightly of<br />

The Nightmare Before Christmas when the ghoulish<br />

instrumentalists wonder what’s up with Jack.<br />

Though they are connected as performers, and<br />

clearly having fun, I’m unsure if I am too at this early<br />

stage. But like consuming enticing baked goods that<br />

transpire to be mind-altering edibles, it at first tastes<br />

a bit strange, but you can’t help but keep eating.<br />

The performance becomes moreish and weirdly too<br />

interesting, then the goodness seems to exponentially<br />

kick in. As trombone switches to bass guitar in this<br />

continued chaotic adventure, otherworldly tonality,<br />

rhythm and an ambitious soundscape advances this<br />

eclectic set and quickly traverses from lukewarm and<br />

uncertain, to bizarre and intriguing. Densely packed<br />

ideas make it tricky to decipher where one idea ends and<br />

another begins. The growing sonic kaleidoscope paired<br />

with sprinkles of odd theatrics between band members<br />

has switched me from a tentative listener to happily<br />

bewildered by the end of their act. This band definitely<br />

stands out for a mixture of mostly good reasons.<br />

Sharing a similar sense of authentic and creative<br />

practice to Amelia Wallace, NATALIE AND THE<br />

MONARCHY first greet the festival and mentions being<br />

in New Jersey, thereby introducing the theme of the<br />

first song. We’re given a humble but alluring set-up<br />

with a background of vintage cloth draped like the<br />

dusty curtains of a forgotten theatre hall, with some<br />

delightfully tacky Christmas lights wrapped around the<br />

mic stand. It’s a satisfying aesthetic mixture of burlesque,<br />

steampunk and gothic influences that somehow makes<br />

sense. This self-assured individuality translates to an<br />

engrossing musical flavour. When The Ice Melts Away<br />

exudes this well with nostalgic melancholy in lyricism,<br />

guitar texture, and manipulatively emotive vocals.<br />

Natalie’s accent and chatty demeanour as she announces<br />

(perhaps improvised) set choices feels assuring<br />

between songs. One cover song interjects the set,<br />

giving more variety not just through the keyboardist’s<br />

accompaniment and fun costume change, but with a<br />

more storytelling angle behind the voice that nicely<br />

highlights the theatrical personality of the band. Though<br />

saying that the final song Take Me As I Am is a “lovely<br />

pop song that’s a bit out of character for me”, a strong<br />

sense of artistic direction doesn’t abandon the set.<br />

Through a softer change of pace, the musical forms and<br />

performance retains this artsy, vague sentimentality.<br />

Initial hesitancy diminished; the festival has provided<br />

a fine substitute for the in-venue expeditions for fresh<br />

music we all long for. Lending us hope for what lays<br />

beyond, a well-packaged reminder of surviving creative<br />

activity is uplifting.<br />

RJ Ward<br />

A Lovely Word: Hannah<br />

Swingler<br />

Online - 04/03<br />

As if counting down to the start of tonight’s Zoom<br />

meeting the date shows as 4/3/21 on my laptop screen.<br />

Equally prescient, A Lovely Word presents their regular<br />

evening of poetry on World Book Day this evening. The<br />

event is headlined by Birmingham poetry queen and<br />

esteemed face and voice of 2019 Nationwide building<br />

society ad High Street Romance, HANNAH SWINGLER.<br />

The poet herself is the author of a prepandemic<br />

collection entitled This Dress Has Pockets,<br />

from which some of tonight’s pieces are read. Hannah<br />

speaks openly about the struggles she’s encountered<br />

during the previous months and tells her online audience<br />

how her idea to use lockdown as a writing retreat has<br />

not gone as planned, nevertheless she has started to<br />

work on a new project studying women’s history.<br />

Her first poem, Dance Show, is a delightful insight<br />

into Hannah’s childhood mind, effortlessly captivating<br />

her listeners and inviting them to travel back in time as<br />

she showcases her nine-year-old imagination. The poem<br />

Yet draws attention to the writer’s feelings of uncertainty<br />

and hope associated with the titular word. Hannah<br />

points out the relevance of the piece in these unsettled<br />

times. However, the performer does embrace the<br />

comforts associated with not being venue-bound tonight<br />

as she performs sitting at her table in her slippers.<br />

The rhythmic tones and her Birmingham accent,<br />

teamed with her subtle mannerisms and facial<br />

expressions, make for a compelling performance as<br />

Hannah’s passion for art and history are apparent<br />

from the variety of themes in her work. Hannah, who<br />

is a secondary school teacher by day, addresses the<br />

importance of equality on this noteworthy day, before<br />

reading her final poem of the evening, Dear Mary. It<br />

is written and delivered in the style of a letter and the<br />

poet was inspired to write it after hearing from an old<br />

neighbour that a lady named Mary owned her house<br />

many years ago. After stripping back the layers of<br />

wallpaper from previous tenants, Mary’s personality is<br />

unveiled, enabling Hannah to relate to the faceless name<br />

through the original decor. The poet radiates a sense<br />

of longing for the simplicity of Mary’s life in those times<br />

compared to now.<br />

Although the writer touches on some serious<br />

matters tonight, her positivity naturally shines through<br />

in the performance. She is able to instil her hopeful<br />

insights onto her audience through an enthralling night<br />

of stanzas and storytelling.<br />

Sarah McNee<br />





This issue’s selection of creative<br />

writing is by Lyndsay Price, a<br />

collection of works that channel<br />

the discovery in loss.<br />

Lyndsay Price is a co-host of A Lovely Word and curator<br />

of Salt Water Poetry.<br />

@lyndsaywritespoems<br />

lost things<br />

have you ever loved someone so much you let them leave?<br />

let them sidestep out of your life ever so seamlessly?<br />

i wish i could quote emily dickenson and say i wish you a kinder sea<br />

but, like leather and teeth,<br />

some things in this world just aren’t meant to be that sweet<br />

ultimately we’re both worthy of being loved properly<br />

but i’ll tell you this, you could have had all of my poetry<br />

for now i’ll remember you howling with wine in your blood<br />

and a full moon in your heartbeat<br />

in many ways i feel like you saw the woman i could be<br />

but we’re on different pages, books, bookcases<br />

even different libraries<br />

i’m a mile up in the sky and you’re a thousand kisses deep<br />

ultimately we’re just superheroes with a lot of anxiety<br />

so it’s time to move on, take advice from the animal kingdom<br />

and snap the necks of the young who won’t make it<br />

cause our situation is certainly not the time for us to be squeamish<br />

so today i took a breath, today i divorced my ghosts,<br />

today i performed an exorcism on the very depths of my soul<br />

but because of you, i’m learning to leave myself love notes<br />

because of you i no longer see my body as a hand grenade<br />

despite the fire that’s in your eyes, you taught me to feel safe<br />

to move forwards, i’d say to get your hands dirty with life and<br />

consume more of the things that fill you<br />

but to close up wounds that cut this deep,<br />

well that’s not something you can rush through<br />

my mother tells that i need to know this world is tough<br />

now i look both ways when i cross the road because darling,<br />

this was dangerous enough<br />

and does anyone know the exact difference in which two magnets<br />

can no longer feel an attraction?<br />

because i’ve tried trains and hotel rooms and i can still feel you<br />

i’ve tried not talking on the telephone but i can still hear you<br />

i know when you’ve had a bad day<br />

because the sky looks dark and thundery<br />

and i know when you’ve had a good day<br />

because the trees genuinely smile at me<br />

i’m not entirely sure how you’re controlling the weather around me,<br />

but i don’t question it because i know this life is full of mystery<br />

i’ve tried salt baths for days<br />

but my bones won’t stop repeating your name<br />

teaching my body to forget about you is a full time job these days<br />

tell me this:<br />

does your car sometimes circle my house<br />

the way my thoughts trace the outline of your name?<br />

does your finger hover over the bell<br />

the way mine hovers over deleting your name from my phone book?<br />

when you give in and drive back home,<br />

tell me darling, do you feel lonesome?<br />

last night i went to bed with artificial feelings,<br />

woke up with a coca-cola heart<br />

but despite me lying to myself,<br />

the truth is that i love you and i’m sorry if it seemed like i forgot<br />

for now, i want to say goodbye in the sweetest way<br />

because i can be good at staying gone<br />

i wish you a lifetime of butterflies<br />

i’ll forever have a sunshine heart<br />

to quote aa. milne,<br />

how lucky i am to have something<br />

that makes saying goodbye so hard<br />

the search<br />

i overturned stones,<br />

moss side facing up<br />

i shouted your name into the creek<br />

i lit a cigarette<br />

and let the smoke curl into the sky<br />

leaving me to wonder<br />

if you had ever even been<br />



SAY<br />

“When authority<br />

is built on the back<br />

of racism and<br />

misogyny, how can<br />

it keep us safe?”<br />

Music venues and nightclubs are essential arenas for communality and<br />

expression. While we await their reopening, Mary Olive questions the extent<br />

they offer refuge and safe space for women, transgender and non-binary people.<br />

[Trigger Warning] Mention of sexual abuse, assault,<br />

harassment<br />

I’ve written so many new openings for this piece<br />

over the past few weeks. Searching somewhere for<br />

words. It’s been deeper than writer’s block. It’s an<br />

exhaustion I feel deep to my bones.<br />

To be honest, I don’t want to have to keep writing<br />

about these issues. But then, I see the pain of my sisters<br />

and non-binary siblings and I find myself writing even<br />

more. It hurts me because I have lived it too.<br />

A few years ago, I was sexually assaulted. And<br />

afterwards, I cloaked myself in shame. The hurt sank so<br />

deep into my being I found it hard to trust the world. Since<br />

then, I found my voice as a writer and I promised to be a<br />

protector. A one-woman army. I swore I would make it<br />

mean something. To push that fire in my belly to fuel some<br />

change, somehow, somewhere. And so, here we are.<br />

I am telling you this because I need you to know I<br />

understand this pain. Having been groped, grabbed, cat<br />

called and rated out of ten since my school days I need a<br />

moment to push back. If this makes you uncomfortable<br />

you need to keep reading.<br />

To all the beautiful women, transgender and nonbinary<br />

people reading this, I see you. Especially the<br />

women of colour who are still to this day alarmingly<br />

vulnerable. You have always been worth the world and<br />

more and you should not have to fight for your peace. I<br />

am tired too.<br />

To the men reading, I am talking to you directly now.<br />

Pay attention.<br />

The fact is our city is not a safe place for everyone.<br />

One of the most dangerous places for anyone who is not<br />

a man is a nightclub or music venue. I cannot tell you the<br />

amount of times I have experienced sexual harassment<br />

from men in these spaces. It happens in every single<br />

music venue in Liverpool. It happens everywhere.<br />

It will always hurt to watch some promoters spend<br />

all of their time, money and energy into creating their<br />

idea of an ideal event, but actively chose to ignore the<br />

safety of their crowd. It is not good enough. It has never<br />

been good enough.<br />

Liverpool can be a very ugly place sometimes. A “city<br />

of music” which, instead of protecting its women, will<br />

name an airport after a man who beat them up.<br />

If you are waiting for a wake-up call, this is it.<br />

So how do we grow through this? A starting point is<br />

increasing the visibility of women, transgender and nonbinary<br />

people at music events, including all job roles and<br />

the people in the crowd. I always feel more relaxed when<br />

the space I am entering is not male dominated. It’s like a<br />

bloody breath of fresh air.<br />

People who are not male want to feel thought of and<br />

recognised when entering music events. We want to feel<br />

like the space accommodates us rather than having to<br />

accommodate the (often hyper masculine) space. Visible<br />

cues to tell the crowd what the promoter’s/event’s values<br />

are is a really simple way of making people feel safe.<br />

I would love to see femineity and gender nonconformity<br />

celebrated more at music events; for people<br />

to empower one another and for spaces to feel safe<br />

for exploration of gender expression and sexuality.<br />

There are, of course, places that do this (usually ran by<br />

the LGBTQ+ community or women) and I’d love to see<br />

that energy spill out into everything. <strong>May</strong>be I’m just an<br />

optimist, but I still hold hope for that utopia.<br />

For now, we must acknowledge that we do have<br />

a problem with safety at music events. This has to be<br />

addressed and properly confronted by everyone if we<br />

want to move past it.<br />

The first place I go to for comfort when I feel unsafe<br />

at an event is the bathroom.<br />

Here, I find myself surrounded by my sisters and<br />

non-binary siblings who understand. Here, we kiss each<br />

other’s faces, swap lipstick and have a cry if we need to.<br />

And then, once we’ve caught our breath, we head<br />

back out into the arena.<br />

This is because bouncers do not make me feel safe.<br />

I have experienced more harassment than reassurance<br />

from male security guards to feel comforted by their<br />

presence.<br />

We need to see specific staff training for how to<br />

handle sexual harassment. There has to be a complete<br />

zero tolerance policy for this.<br />

GOOD NIGHT OUT is a brilliant organisation offering<br />

workshops and training of this kind. Some venues in<br />

Liverpool have already started working with them and I<br />

urge more promoters, venues owners and music industry<br />

professionals to follow.<br />

The prospect of undercover police circling the<br />

dancefloor does not fill me with hope for when events<br />

do return. It feels like the government are pouring petrol<br />

onto a forest fire.<br />

Police officers have been heavily criticised for<br />

abusing power countless times just this past year, from<br />

racial profiling to sexual violence. Understandably, their<br />

presence does not always make people feel protected.<br />

Our institution is run by people with the exact same<br />

mindset as the people who abuse us in nightclubs. When<br />

authority is built on the back of racism and misogyny,<br />

how can it keep us safe? While the system still protects<br />

the lives of abusers more than the lives of those abused<br />

it cannot serve its people.<br />

Instead, we need to see empowerment at the roots<br />

of our communities. We need to rebuild what we have<br />

made. Education is the real to key to all of this.<br />

I can’t put everything into one piece, it is too big a<br />

conversation. But I will say this. You, now in this very<br />

moment can bring about change. You have the power to<br />

grow and help others to heal as you work to amplify the<br />

voices around you.<br />

It’s the jokes your mates make which you let slide.<br />

It’s the porn you watch. It’s the people you surround<br />

yourself with. It’s the choices you make. The moments<br />

you speak, and the moments you fall silent. It’s what<br />

you chose to see, and what you chose to ignore. It’s an<br />

overwhelmingly complex issue rooted in generations of<br />

pain and confusion, but it all ends with you.<br />

You may not feel like you can take on the world. But<br />

you will impact the lives around you. Whether you like<br />

it or not, we are all connected to one another and how<br />

we act has a direct impact on the people around us. Not<br />

acting is just as harmful as abusing.<br />

No, it is not all men. But in a room full of five silent<br />

men, and one abusive, I am still torn to pieces.<br />

So, let this be the moment of change. Have those<br />

difficult conversations. Educate yourself. Listen to others<br />

when they speak.<br />

Open your heart to the world around you. And<br />

maybe one day, we can all dance together in peace.<br />

Words: Mary Olive / @maryolivepoet (she/her)<br />

Illustration: Ruby Tompkins<br />

@goodnightoutcampaign<br />


In Liverpool<br />

2-year degrees<br />

and 1-year diplomas<br />

Study in September<br />

Attend a Virtual Open Event<br />

24 <strong>April</strong><br />

22 <strong>May</strong><br />

sae.edu/gbr/openday<br />

SAE Liverpool<br />

38 Pall Mall<br />

Liverpool<br />

L3 6AL<br />

03330 112 315<br />

enquiries@sae.edu<br />


21 <strong>May</strong> <strong>2021</strong><br />

5pm – late<br />

Liverpool’s free<br />

one-night arts festival<br />

Produced by<br />

Funders<br />

Principle Sponsor<br />


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