Bido Lito June 2021 Issue 114




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ISSUE <strong>114</strong> / JUNE <strong>2021</strong><br />



FREE!<br />

PODGE<br />

Life is fun<br />

THE<br />

CORAL<br />




KATY J<br />


CINEMA<br />

IN THE<br />

CITY<br />

A new cinematic experience by<br />

FACT. Discover the best films<br />

in extraordinary places.<br />



JULY 2<br />

JULY 3<br />

JULY 4<br />

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets<br />

Ammonite<br />

Apples<br />


fact.co.uk/cinema-in-the-city<br />

Funded by<br />

Venue Partner


UNTIL 5 SEPTEMBER <strong>2021</strong><br />



FREE FOR<br />


Supported by the Don McCullin Exhibition<br />

Supporters Group and Tate Members<br />

Media partner<br />

Don McCullin Liverpool 8 in the early 1960’s 1963 © Don McCullin


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EVOL presents<br />




SATURDAY 7TH AUGUST <strong>2021</strong><br />

Doors 1pm - 1am - Last Entry 6pm<br />


PART 1<br />



SATURDAY 14TH AUGUST <strong>2021</strong><br />

PART 2<br />






Limited Early Bird Tickets £15 Advance On Sale 9am Wednesday 19th May<br />

Full Price Tickets £25 Advance On Sale 9am Friday 21st May via Seetickets.com<br />




In Liverpool<br />

2-year degrees<br />

and 1-year diplomas<br />

Study in September<br />


SAE<br />

How you want<br />

26<br />

<strong>June</strong><br />

On Campus<br />

Open Event<br />

sae.edu/openday<br />

On campus or virtual tours<br />

sae.edu/book-tour<br />

SAE Liverpool<br />

38 Pall Mall<br />

Liverpool<br />

L3 6AL<br />

03330 112 315<br />

enquiries@sae.edu<br />




13 / PODGE<br />

Niloo Sharifi delves deep into the open source identity<br />

that gives the artist’s music such soaring liberation.<br />

18 / THE CORAL<br />

On their 10th album, The Coral have never sounded so<br />

timeless – quite literally.<br />

24 / CRAWLERS<br />

Riotous, emotive and informing, Daniel Ponzini steps<br />

into the high-octane world of the four-piece.<br />


Elliot Ryder reports back from the first non-socially<br />

distanced live music events to take place in the UK<br />

since March 2020.<br />

30 / MAKING WAVES<br />

Adam Noor highlights the work of LIMF Academy<br />

and The Noise Project who came together to help<br />

musicians through lockdown.<br />

32 / STATE OF THE<br />



A new report suggests Liverpool is at risk of losing<br />

a large proportion of its artist studios. El Gray looks<br />

at the possible ramifications.<br />

34 / RON’S PLACE<br />

Uncovering the joyous oddities in the home of one<br />

of Wirral’s most prolific outsider artists.<br />

10 / NEWS<br />

Rounding up goings-on and developments as<br />

the city takes a big step towards the ending of<br />

lockdown.<br />

12 / HOT PINK<br />

A sun-fuelled batch of tunes featuring<br />

Hushtones, Jazmine Johnson, DSM IV, Ostrich<br />

and Georgie Weston.<br />

36 / SPOTLIGHTS<br />

Profiles of fast rising artists including Seagoth,<br />

Kokiri, Mondo Trasho, San Pedro Vision, Henry<br />

Jones and A Lesser Version.<br />

40 / PREVIEWS<br />

Katy J Pearson talks songwriting liberation<br />

ahead of a stop in Widnes while Abandon<br />

Normal Devices is set to sail art right across the<br />

Mersey.<br />

44 / REVIEWS<br />

Reports from Liverpool Biennial and<br />

Independents Biennial.<br />


Featuring a poem from last issue’s spotlight<br />

artist Felix Mufti-Wright.<br />

55 / FINAL SAY<br />

Tilly Foulkes outlines the strength of fan power<br />

as live music makes its long-awaited return.

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

Proximity has been a defining factor of the last year and a half. It’s<br />

been the measurement by which so much of our lives have been<br />

dictated.<br />

In the physical sense, it is where most of us will have<br />

experienced the most telling change. The required distance and separation<br />

from one another has been a necessary but peculiar sensation that’s<br />

contracted and loosened over the course of the pandemic. It’s in this sense<br />

where a new appreciation of physical proximity has kept the large majority<br />

safe. Equally, it has drawn us into a lonesome cold.<br />

Not only has an emphasis on proximity dictated our physical existence,<br />

it has been the underlying essence of our hopes, expectations and<br />

challenges. Just how close or far can anything be at one time? When the<br />

first lockdown arrived, many thoughts turned to how far off in the future a<br />

return to normality would be. News reports would elude to how close we<br />

were to developing a vaccine. When things took a turn for the worst for<br />

the third time, we were forced to consider how much further away ideas of<br />

progress now were.<br />

Before now, proximity has been a relative physical and conceptual<br />

sensation. But in many ways, the pandemic has unified personal sensations<br />

of distance and closeness. In having a unified goal of beating Covid-19,<br />

we’ve all reached out together in hope and been jerked back in unison<br />

through the darkest moments.<br />

This sense of things being in touching distance or pushed further<br />

away by setbacks have dictated so many mental states since March 2020.<br />

Even in my so-called distraction from the toughest parts of the pandemic,<br />

Liverpool FC has sought to show just how far away they are from their<br />

former selves – just how close they are to potentially making the best out of<br />

a dire situation.<br />

There’s been a continual ebb and flow to so much of the last year, a<br />

concertina of positives and negatives that have never allowed us to settle.<br />

It’s been a sensation all the more cruel and tantalising as music has had to<br />

wait at the back of the line before granted its return. Always so close, but<br />

seemingly so far.<br />

In a more conceptual sense, just how close to something can<br />

we actually be? How close can we be to a music scene, to an idea, a<br />

subculture, a movement? And how much of this relies on tangibility and<br />

shared physical space? The early stages of lockdown suggested physicality<br />

wasn’t a defining factor<br />

in how close we can be to<br />

something or someone.<br />

Many will have felt closer<br />

to the city, to certain<br />

communities, as physical<br />

separation injected an<br />

impetus to connect and<br />

be part of something – in<br />

whatever way possible. But<br />

come the final stretches of<br />

a long and arduous third<br />

lockdown, the belief that<br />

we can remain close to<br />

ourselves and what we<br />

stand for while being kept<br />

apart is frayed from fatigue. And so once again proximity comes to the fore<br />

with the promise of an end coming closer into sight.<br />

So many of the stories in this issue display different appreciations<br />

of proximity. As Niloo Sharifi learns from Podge, making music is less<br />

about moving closer to an end goal and more an expression within a<br />

defined, immovable space purely of its moment. For The Coral, Cath<br />

Holland uncovers how Coral Island is a display of distant dreams with the<br />

potential to draw them closer through nostalgia and imagination. In a more<br />

direct sense, El Gray outlines just how close Liverpool is to losing a large<br />

proportion of its artist studios – those which form the foundations of the<br />

city’s visual cultural offer. In my own report from Liverpool’s hosting of<br />

aspects of the events research programme, we see a roadmap to normality<br />

growing ever shorter. Perhaps most importantly, we see people shedding<br />

the barriers of social distancing to re-establish a joyous close proximity<br />

with one another and live music. Even looking at the news and previews<br />

sections, you can sense there really isn’t that far to go before things are<br />

well and truly better.<br />

Proximity has changed so much of what we feel and think over the<br />

course of the last 15 months. Everything now seems so much closer. An<br />

end, in whatever form it arrives in, is coming into sight. !<br />

Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder<br />

Editor<br />

“Just how close<br />

to something can<br />

we actually be; a<br />

music scene, to an<br />

idea, a subculture,<br />

a movement?”<br />

New Music + Creative Culture<br />

Liverpool<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> <strong>114</strong> / <strong>June</strong> <strong>2021</strong><br />

bidolito.co.uk | @bidolito<br />

Second Floor<br />

The Merchant<br />

40-42 Slater Street<br />

Liverpool L1 4BX<br />

Founding Editor<br />

Craig G Pennington<br />

Founding Editor<br />

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

Executive Publisher<br />

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

Editor<br />

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

Digital & Memberships Officer<br />

Matthew Berks - matthew@bidolito.co.uk<br />

Editorial Intern<br />

El Gray<br />

Design<br />

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

Branding<br />

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

Proofreader<br />

Nathaniel Cramp<br />

Cover Photography<br />

Robin Clewley<br />

Words<br />

Elliot Ryder, Sam Turner, Matthew Berks, El Gray,<br />

Shannon Garner, Ed Haslam, Niloo Sharifi, Cath<br />

Holland, Daniel Ponzini, Adam Noor, Matthew<br />

Hogarth, Lily Blakeney-Edwards, Emma Varley, Jo<br />

Mary Watson, Felix Mufti-Wright, Tilly Foulkes.<br />

Photography, Illustration and Layout<br />

Mark McKellier, Robin Clewley, John Johnson,<br />

Michael Driffill, Matthew Berks, John O’Loughlin,<br />

Seren Carys, Rob Battersby, Mark McNulty.<br />

Distribution<br />

Our magazine is distributed as far as possible<br />

through pedal power, courtesy of our <strong>Bido</strong> Bikes. If<br />

you would like to find out more, please email sam@<br />

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please email sam@bidolito.co.uk.<br />

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All contributions to <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! come from our city’s<br />

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join the fold visit bidolito.co.uk/contribute.<br />

We are contributing one per cent of our advertising<br />

revenue to WeForest.org to fund afforestation<br />

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our carbon footprint and ensures there is less CO2<br />

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

respective contributors and do not necessarily<br />

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

publishers. All rights reserved.

NEWS<br />


The <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! Social is back! Our<br />

regular gig celebrating new drops of the<br />

magazine returns in July, starting a run<br />

of bi-monthly shows going through to<br />

the end of the year. The inaugural gig<br />

is a special co-promotion with Future<br />

Yard as we bring dark dreampop duo<br />

WHITE FLOWERS to the Birkenhead<br />

venue. The gig is part of Future Yard’s<br />

FUTURE NOW series of events leading<br />

up to their bank holiday weekender in<br />

August. Support on the night comes<br />

from the brilliant MONKS and rising<br />


and SPQR are announced as headliners<br />

for the September and December<br />

Socials respectively. The Social is an<br />

opportunity for readers, contributors,<br />

artists and friends of the magazine to<br />

get together to watch the best new<br />

talent we profile in these pages.<br />

bidolito.co.uk<br />

Monks<br />


Allocated to organisations around the country, charity Youth Music’s Incubator Fund is<br />

designed to bring young people from underrepresented groups into the music industry. <strong>Bido</strong><br />

<strong>Lito</strong>! is currently on the lookout for two Digital Content Creators funded by the initiative. The<br />

six-month placement will see two young people help bring the stories, people and projects of<br />

the pink pages to life for the digital realm via film, audio and/or animation. Applications are now<br />

being accepted from 16 to 24-year-olds who have a passion for Liverpool music and expertise<br />

in multimedia production of any kind.<br />

bidolito.co.uk<br />


The climate emergency is here, and its implications are being disproportionately<br />

felt across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Returning on 16th<br />

July and running until 14th November, the 23rd Liverpool Arab Arts Festival<br />

(LAAF) will involve an artist-led response to the humanitarian crisis that is set to<br />

eclipse the Covid-19 pandemic. Taking place across the four full months for the<br />

first time, the festival programme will question and reimagine our future direction,<br />

asking: what can we learn from those stepping up to the climate crisis, and how<br />

can we collectively do more?<br />

arabartsfestival.com<br />


After a year of mostly being indoors, Liverpool 8 charity The Florrie is hoping to<br />

create an outdoor cinema in its new community garden. Helping with isolation<br />

and loneliness, the outdoor cinema will be full of experiences to positively<br />

impact physical and mental wellbeing. From socialising and taking part in fun<br />

activities, to picnicking and doing something outdoors, the concept of improving<br />

interaction within their new garden allows young and old to share a mutual love<br />

of film. The Florrie is looking to crowdfund the new initiative with a target of<br />

£16k to be reached by 19th July. Dig deep if you can.<br />

spacehive.com/community-garden-cinema<br />


Across the M62 an impressive roster of artists from around the world are<br />

partaking in this year’s Manchester International Festival. PATTI SMITH, ARLO<br />

PARKS and CILLIAN MURPHY are among the names featured on a programme<br />

which takes place in real life as well as online as we continue to transition<br />

back to normality. MIF’s future home, The Factory, will host many events, with<br />

others taking place across Greater Manchester. For the first time, the curation<br />

of the festival has been handed over to local people to offer a snapshot of these<br />

unprecedented times. Other names on the bill include LEMN SISSAY, AKRAM<br />

KHAN and AARON and BRYCE DESSNER of The National.<br />

Patti Smith<br />

mif.co.uk<br />


The Orielles - Photo: Rebekah Knox<br />


Following the first of the IRL festival trilogy selling out, promoters EVOL have announced<br />

details of two further shows featuring some of the finest names in new music around.<br />

FestEvol at the Invisible Wind Factory hosts KELLY LEE OWENS and WORKING MENS<br />

CLUB on 7th August and then THE BIG MOON and THE ORIELLES on the 14th August.<br />

The two all-dayers follow a date in <strong>June</strong> showcasing local talent at Future Yard. Also on<br />

the line-ups for the north docklands gigs are STEALING SHEEP, TEA STREET BAND,<br />


facebook.com/clubevol<br />


Since the pandemic, supporting local creatives has never been more<br />

important. Luckily, the popular Summer Arts Market – where you can find<br />

stalls from over 50 independent artists, designers and makers – is back.<br />

Located in the magnificent Liverpool Cathedral on 5th and 19th <strong>June</strong>,<br />

each event will feature new stalls. While browsing the wide selection of<br />

creative crafts, gifts, artworks and artisanal foods, you can also enjoy a<br />

drink or snack at the café in The Well space. The event will be socially<br />

distanced with limited tickets available.<br />

summerartsmarket.com<br />


Following a staggered start battling uncertainty, MERSEY ARTS ZONE (MAZ) burst<br />

open in May to offer “a creative space for artists, photographers, makers, designers,<br />

everyone!”. This is how director Dawn Reck encapsulates her vision for MAZ, a new<br />

community arts space in New Brighton. An inclusive and participatory space, MAZ<br />

will run workshops for the local community and offer an accessible space for local<br />

artists to exhibit their work. A photography exhibition displaying work from awardwinning<br />

wildlife photographers Richard Steel and Steve Ward will run for the first<br />

month, guaranteeing that MAZ will be off to a flying start.<br />

facebook.com/merseyartszone<br />


Calling all Liverpool City Region-based writers, Culture Liverpool wants you! As<br />

part of Liverpool’s <strong>2021</strong> Year of Writing, Liverpool City Council’s culture arm is<br />

launching a Writers Directory, compiling details of local freelance writers and<br />

their services (workshops, mentoring, readings) for schools, colleges, universities,<br />

agents and publishers to access. Embracing the transformative power of writing,<br />

the Year of Writing brings together arts and cultural organisations, writers, artists,<br />

educators and businesses to improve Liverpool’s literacy. An inclusive literary<br />

celebration, the Year of Writing is designed to discover new voices, publish new<br />

writing and inspire imagination and creativity across the city.<br />

cultureliverpool.co.uk/writers-directory<br />


For the first time since the beginning of 2020, SAE Institute is opening its<br />

doors for prospective students to experience the world-class facilities in<br />

real life. The Pall Mall creative media hub is hosting an open event on 26th<br />

<strong>June</strong> and is now taking bookings. The next intake for students is September<br />

when creatives can embark on courses on audio production, music<br />

business, animation, games, animation and film. At the event visitors will<br />

have the opportunity to meet the staff and students, learn about the career<br />

opportunities connected with the courses on offer and take in production<br />

demonstrations.<br />

sae.edu/gbr<br />


HOT PINK!<br />

Words: El Gray, Shannon Garner, Ed Haslam,<br />

Matthew Berks.<br />

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

We’re soundtracking our eagerly awaited <strong>June</strong> skies with an all-you-can-eat entrée of dancepunk,<br />

electronica and psych-pop courtesy of our weekly-updated Hot Pink! playlist. We may be<br />

allowed indoors, but these tunes have us pining for that vitamin D.<br />

The DSM IV<br />

Scumbag<br />

The current prognosis for dance-punk trio THE DSM IV is looking extremely positive<br />

with the release of Scumbag, an urgent and engaging track which juxtaposes<br />

disturbing lyrics with a compulsion to dance. Guy McKnight’s resonant vocals<br />

reverberate across the track as he lyrically explores the interplay of power and desire<br />

and its perverted consequences. This is underpinned by Jumanji-style drums and an<br />

insistent synth, creating a disorientating and compelling 80s-inspired anthem. EG<br />

Workstuff<br />

Hold On 2<br />

The more melancholic flipside to WORKSTUFF’s single, Mannequins, it’s no wonder<br />

Hold On 2 can be found on Spotify’s Doomer Tapes playlist, sharing the bill with<br />

Molchat Doma and Joy Division. But its spot here is deserving. With a repeating melody<br />

of haunting bells uttering throughout, the four-minute track – mastered at Liverpool’s<br />

What Studios – is soon submerged by an irresistibly monotonous baritone and a<br />

whooping synth drone pulsing its way through to the exit. MB<br />

Vice Möth and Pretentious Dross<br />

Ghost Dance<br />

It’s difficult to not get nostalgic to VICE MÖTH AND PRETENTIOUS DROSS’ track. The<br />

synthy 80s groove puts a new spin on two iconic hits – Kylie Minogue’s Slow and The<br />

Human League’s Being Boiled. The cornucopia of magical twists in Ghost Dance are<br />

unexpected for sure, yet something you will never want to end. SG<br />

Jazmine Johnson<br />

If I Ever<br />

Groovy, soulful and electric, JAZMINE JOHNSON’s latest single is laced with funky<br />

R&B beats and fused with extremely raw lyrics. Effortlessly written, If I Ever cruises<br />

through the regrets of opening up to somebody. The track commands to be listened to,<br />

especially in the breakdown towards the end where the vocals shine through. SG<br />

Hushtones<br />

I’ve Got Time<br />

HUSHTONES’ sunshine psych-pop guitars and effortless melodic sensibilities combine<br />

to create a highly repeatable indie-pop record in I’ve Got Time. The vocals are as<br />

sweet as honey and float upon cloudlike riffs and punchy retro drums. The gorgeous<br />

production accommodates this sonic landscape wonderfully, lending the charming little<br />

tune the warmth it deserves. EH<br />

Pizzagirl<br />

Bullet Train<br />

PIZZAGIRL continues to shine. The high-octane banger oozes technicolour electronic<br />

beats and showcases an array of chugging synth basslines under a rousingly anthem<br />

hook. Despite being an up-tempo track, Bullet Train is ironically downbeat as the<br />

protagonist eclipses the bitter parts of a nasty break-up. It’s a larger-than-life track,<br />

taking charge of its story through the 90s industrial synth-pop escapism sounds. SG<br />

Georgie Weston<br />

Going Far Away (This Time)<br />

For the fourth entry in his streak of introspective soft-rock mini-epics, the hopeless<br />

romantic GEORGIE WESTON once again uses analogue-minded ambition to reject the<br />

limitations of a cramped bedroom studio, proving the vast sonic possibilities of lockdown<br />

pop. Georgie’s rich soundscape of synth, saxophone and punchy bass guitar sparkles<br />

above Philly-soul grooves, while his anecdotal lyricism evokes vintage Macca. EH<br />

Seafoam Green<br />

House On The Hill<br />

A gutsy, rock-solid drum intro leads into a dirty melting pot of down-home Americana,<br />

generous on the Delta blues. SEAFOAM GREEN’S take on rustic blues-rock is delivered<br />

with such sincerity and authenticity that you genuinely can’t tell if they’d be more at<br />

home commandeering a stage at a major UK rock festival, or simply rattling the floors<br />

of a gutbucket Memphis rhythm and blues bar. EH<br />

Ask Elliot<br />

Flowers Of White<br />

ASK ELLIOT are festival-ready with their new jangly track. The dreamy guitar backing<br />

and bouncy bassline are almost Smiths-like, with the lyrics hitting the perfect balance<br />

between invention and cliché. Nevertheless, in evoking the excitement and confusion of<br />

falling for someone, Flowers Of White is a soundtrack for the perfect sunny day. SG<br />

Ostrich<br />

48 Hours<br />

Like stepping into a record shop and browsing its many categories, we are first treated<br />

to a surprisingly effective marriage of Americana vocals to a wonky synthesizer<br />

accompaniment. The latter lends a touch of electro-pop to otherwise War On Drugsesque<br />

rock as the song evolves, with the chorus followed by yacht-rock sax and<br />

indie-dance piano. It’s an eccentric mish-mash of quite disparate genres, but such<br />

bold experimentation is refreshing, and the result is a soothing record that evokes a<br />

cinematic montage of breezy heartland panoramas. EH<br />

Photography from left to right: Workstuff, Jazmine Johnson, Hushtones<br />



Podge has always refused to coalesce around conformity.<br />

Niloo Sharifi delves deep into the open source identity<br />

that gives the artist’s music such soaring liberation.<br />



14<br />


“Everyone has<br />

the capability<br />

to make art”<br />

It’s easy to forget that life is supposed to be fun.<br />

Music is a good way to remember. PODGE went<br />

about becoming a musician all backwards. “Before<br />

I considered myself good enough at guitar to start<br />

writing music, I was thinking what wacky shit I would<br />

do if I was having a TV interview,” they begin. “The<br />

reason I started [making music was for] the results that<br />

come from it – it kind of gets all the wires crossed. As I<br />

tried to get better at music, I learned that perspective is<br />

counterproductive. I feel like I started off making music for<br />

kind of selfish reasons, I was just trying to impress people.<br />

Then I fell in love with it. It’s like starting a job because you<br />

want to make money and then falling in love with the job<br />

over the years after you learn what it actually is.”<br />

It’s hard to imagine Podge as a self-conscious<br />

teen suffering under the yoke of elitism. Their new EP,<br />

Samuso, released via NTS, feels joyful, light and casually<br />

personal. It sounds like it was made by a heartbroken<br />

robot living at the end of time, who misses humans, so<br />

makes music to commemorate the living; scanning what’s<br />

left of the internet for cultural ephemera still in orbit –<br />

samples and feelings.<br />

Podge joins a growing contingent of magpie<br />

producers who don’t mind whether something’s<br />

expensive as long as it’s shiny; they’ll take anything from<br />

anywhere, choosing to ignore the confines of genre<br />

and intellectual property. “It’s weird that people are still<br />

against samples. It just feels weird to take ownership of<br />

stuff. I feel really weird about trying to make a living off<br />

music,” they say. “I’m pro pirating – I don’t know whether<br />

that’s just the internet mindset, but it feels weird to stop<br />

people from wanting to enjoy your art just ’cos they don’t<br />

wanna spend the money.”<br />

The genre-bending this cutpurse attitude results in<br />

does away with old hierarchies that draw a line between<br />

the significant and the trivial. Samuso features Podge<br />

singing catchy hooks, rapping, sampling all manner of<br />

things – Auto-Tuned voice notes; anime. Sugary synths,<br />

bleeps and bloops weave among acoustic and distorted<br />

guitars. So many influences thread themselves through<br />

the songs that it’s hardly worth getting into it. You just<br />

need to hear it. “You wouldn’t need to make the art if<br />

you could describe it in the first place,” they say. “It feels<br />

pointless making stuff that’s already been done, just ’cos,<br />

well, it’s already been done.”<br />

Pursuing the crooked, less-travelled road has its<br />

own challenges; the context of a commercial industry<br />

rewards what is quickly recognisable and easily summed<br />

up. “It’s hard to develop that kind of confidence when<br />

you’re doing something that you can’t draw parallels with<br />

what other people are doing,” they begin. “There’s not<br />

many people I can look at and think, ‘That guy’s doing<br />

it, so I could do it’, but when I do find people like that,<br />

I really latch onto them.” They are wearing a 100 gecs<br />

hoodie when we meet in the park today, a band who are<br />

a definite example of those who’re ‘doing it’ in a guise<br />

Podge is interested by. “Last year I was obsessed with<br />

JPEGMAFIA and Vegyn because they seem like they’re in<br />




their own lanes and they’re not following a formula, not<br />

just stylistically, but the way they navigate the industry,”<br />

they add.<br />

The diffuse pull of hybridity draws those attracted<br />

to it into a protracted search for a life that expresses a<br />

reality belonging only to you, unbound by location. “I<br />

don’t identify with where I came from at all, maybe to<br />

some extent my ethnicity. But my nationality, it seems<br />

weird identifying with where you’re from ’cos you didn’t<br />

have much control of it,” says Podge. “When you’ve got<br />

the internet and you can pick and choose from so many<br />

places in the world, it seems odd to make something you<br />

have no control of your identity.”<br />

With everything online, a purely localised sense<br />

of self starts to feel like a relic of an obsolete past, like<br />

internet dial-up. It’s hard not to find yourself immersed<br />

in a bigger picture than your immediate environment. It’s<br />

given Podge a certain overview. “It’s like nothing you’ve<br />

ever done is just you, even you being born someone else’s<br />

work’s gone into it,” they respond. “If anything, you’re the<br />

smallest part in it. It feels like most things you do you are<br />

flicking the domino and someone’s already set up all the<br />

dominoes to fall and make a pattern. So, it’s weird to be<br />

so attached to it. If it wasn’t for other people passing on<br />

the information you wouldn’t be able to do it ever.”<br />

Practicalities sometimes get in the way of this type<br />

of common sense. Artists have always had to get past<br />

some type of dragon, be it a patron or an industry.<br />

They always have to live in the distance between their<br />

dreams and mundane reality’s unalterable demands.<br />

The reasoning of a money world that prizes victory and<br />

possession infects everything – even what starts as<br />

playtime, something frivolous and in-the-moment. Art<br />

can start to feel like something you own in the same way<br />

you might own a plot of land. “When you take a step in<br />

the street you don’t look back on the path and think, ‘I<br />

was that step’,” says Podge, “but if I make an EP it’s hard<br />

not to think of it like a part of me. Like, obviously I’ve put<br />

effort into it, but, in the end, I’m not the thing I made.”<br />

There’s less ego at stake with every failure when<br />

you look at it like that. It becomes less about coming up<br />

with something that proves how great you are and more<br />

about letting something pass into the world through<br />

you. “Lots of people view it like they’re the person<br />

driving the car down the road and pushing the pedals,<br />

but it’s more like you’re the road,” they explain. “If the<br />

car’s not going down the road right, it might just be ’cos<br />

the car’s not as fast, but it could also be that the road is<br />

all beat up and it’s hard for the car to go down it.” If the<br />

artist is the road, then getting better at art is more about<br />

bearing the weight of it patiently, pressing yourself flat<br />

so it can go along you smoothly – rather than zooming<br />

around all the time, all wheels and metal.<br />

It’s a more relaxing perspective and, for Podge,<br />

learning how to relax helped them get there. “When I<br />

started doing meditation and stuff like that, it’s weird<br />

how much it improved my art, not in the sense that it<br />

made me a better technical person, but it allowed me<br />

to tap into those less thought-about parts of yourself.”<br />

Getting somewhere by turning away from it doesn’t<br />

sound like it would work. “I used to think that meditation<br />

doesn’t do anything because you’re not really doing<br />

anything. I thought, ‘I’ll try this for two months’, but<br />

those two months were just putting trust in it, and with<br />

music it’s kind of that in the long-term scale.”<br />

Enclosed within systems obsessed with zero-sum<br />

games, where one person’s win is another person’s loss,<br />

it feels like it makes sense to obsess about achievement<br />

and self-flagellate when we don’t succeed in reaching<br />

the top of the hill we’re desperately running at. But it’s<br />

not the only way to go about things. “I’ve heard that<br />

since I was a kid,” they reply, “not to think about the<br />

results and the fruits of your labour will grow on their<br />

own. But it’s so hard to see it that way until you’re<br />

backed into a corner and you’ve got no other way of<br />

looking at it.”<br />

Podge’s journey, which started with a desire to<br />

objectively succeed has revealed something unexpected,<br />

something weird and paradoxical at play that only<br />

reveals itself once you realise trying only gets you so far.<br />

“Don’t try just wait for what’s next/Don’t stress you’re<br />

probably next”, Podge tells us on Get_Up_Again.<br />

A more casual approach makes for a more constant<br />

flow and chill vibes. You can find Podge on Instagram<br />

letting you in on the process: making beats live, posting<br />

micro-tutorials and sampling bird noises in the forest<br />

with their OP-1. When you’re focused on the material<br />

outcome of the work, making mistakes feels like<br />

evidence that nothing will ever come of it;<br />

it’s helped Podge to realise that failure and<br />

continuous graft is part of the process. “No<br />

one ever said that making good art was<br />

easy. It’s just unhealthy the way that<br />

people portray artists a lot of the time,”<br />

they say. “You could find hundreds of<br />

hours of Jimi Hendrix playing guitar<br />

really good, but I don’t think I could<br />

find footage of Jimi Hendrix in the<br />

studio trying to redo a take, like, 10<br />

times in a row, which he obviously<br />

did, everyone does that.” The internet<br />

has helped to demystify the figure of<br />

the artist, dissolving the untouchable<br />

halo that creates a hierarchy of<br />

creatives and non-creatives. “It seems<br />

like everyone has the capability to make<br />

art,” Podge tells me.<br />

And by the same token, sometimes<br />

artists struggle to make art, and that’s just<br />

part of it. “I always viewed the enlightened<br />

artist as someone who can make good music<br />

whenever they want, but it’s<br />

more like someone who<br />

can understand<br />

that they don’t<br />

have any<br />

control<br />

over<br />

whether they<br />

make anything<br />

good or not. That’s why I<br />

really envied people who started<br />

it out of a love for music, ’cos they’re doing it for fun.”<br />

The future has a way of beckoning with strange hands<br />

– Podge might have started with backwards ideas,<br />

focused on the outward results, but that’s not where<br />

they ended up.<br />

It’s so hard to remember that life is supposed to<br />

be fun, but music makes it easier, even if it’s pointless.<br />

Without the self-imposed pressure of impressing other<br />

people or reaching a certain summit, it’s hard for them<br />

to even articulate the end goal. “I always think, ‘Would I<br />

make music if I was stranded on a different planet, and<br />

there was no chance of anyone else finding the stuff that<br />

I made?’ I think maybe I would,” Podge explains. “I don’t<br />

think I’ll ever properly know why I do it, but I think the<br />

reason for it is probably because I can’t explain it.” !<br />

Words: Niloo Sharifi<br />

Photography: Robin Clewley / robinclewley.co.uk<br />

Samuso is available now via NTS.<br />

“I’m not the<br />

thing I made”<br />




THE<br />

CORAL<br />

On their 10th album, The Coral have never sounded so timeless – quite literally –<br />

as they bottle the spectres from a world of sticky clock hands and fading lights.<br />

In one regard, the new album by THE CORAL is very<br />

much them all over. Shiny toe-tappers threaded with<br />

the more complex. The familiar Liverpool scally pop<br />

and Welsh psychedelic hybrid bonds are ever true.<br />

But with Coral Island we see further ambition not merely<br />

as a masterclass in musical and creative world-building,<br />

but in real terms. James Skelly sets out his targets<br />

humbly but with good humour during the second time<br />

we speak. “If you can break back into the top 10 in the<br />

UK charts on your 10th album – a concept album about a<br />

mythical seaside town with your grandad in it – it will be<br />

our biggest achievement since we got our number one.”<br />

He chuckles as he speaks, but it’s an accurate analysis<br />

of both album and scenario. Second album Magic And<br />

Medicine hit the top of the album chart back in 2003 and<br />

18 years is a long time in rock ’n’ roll.<br />

Coral Island waltzes us into a magical place of<br />

unspoken questions, reflecting on the<br />

faded glamour and unsettling nature<br />

of the fairground, the sounds, motion<br />

and people encountered. The album<br />

and accompanying book Over Coral<br />

Island, the latter written by keyboard<br />

player Nick Power, recalls the band’s<br />

childhood summer trips across Wales<br />

and the North West. Wirral’s very<br />

own seaside town, New Brighton,<br />

feels the ideal place to meet James<br />

and Nick to talk about their hopes<br />

for the record. We rendezvous on a<br />

stretch of flat grey concrete yards<br />

from the seafront. Paper cups of tea<br />

and coffee in the open air is quite the<br />

thing now, but undeniably it has an<br />

echo of bygone times and black and<br />

white photographs in family albums.<br />

Any artist’s 10th long-player is a milestone, we<br />

each agree, although the two men seem uneasy at<br />

being described as indie veterans, a term popping<br />

up in reviews with frequency. This point in time feels<br />

significant, not make-or-break exactly, but optimism in<br />

our conversation is offset by frustrations at the music<br />

industry, and personal regrets.<br />

The first section of the album, a soundtrack to the<br />

rides and arcades of summer fairground childhoods, is<br />

bathed in a brittle sunshine not unlike that in which we<br />

squint at each other on this Tuesday morning. Part one<br />

encompasses an idealistic memory, one maybe never<br />

really lived at all, James and Nick tell me. The sadness<br />

of nostalgia and a time gone by start to sink in further<br />

as the record progresses, and we are introduced to the<br />

curious characters living in society’s shadows.<br />

After an hour of talking, we go our separate ways;<br />

James and Nick to carry on with further promotion.<br />

This album is grabbing more attention from journalists<br />

than anything they’ve done for a while. During our<br />

conversation we’d talked about the role post-Elvis,<br />

pre-Beatles rock ’n’ roll and pop played in Coral Island’s<br />

formation. A strange yet fruitful few years of death<br />

ballads and vengeful love songs, giving a voice to the<br />

deep emotional intensity of the emerging teenage<br />

experience and identity. Coral Island’s songs are short,<br />

in keeping with pop conventions of that period. And<br />

what an absolute pleasure it is to hear and feel the<br />

influence of eternal broken-hearted outcast on the run<br />

Del Shannon. This led to playing some of his records at<br />

home afterwards and unearthing a memory of riding the<br />

Waltzer in Southport with his classic Runaway ringing<br />

in ears.<br />

Within days, all the audio from our interview has<br />

vanished, so we find ourselves having to talk again<br />

two weeks<br />

later, a surreal<br />

experience<br />

in itself. Nick<br />

“Coral Island was<br />

more this strange<br />

place just floating in<br />

the sea of your mind.<br />

Almost a metaphor<br />

for your imagination”<br />

is the first to<br />

retrace his<br />

steps. It seems<br />

appropriate<br />

to share the<br />

Del Shannon<br />

in Southport<br />

theory.<br />

“I think<br />

they’re still<br />

playing it now!<br />

You have to play<br />

pre-Beatles rock<br />

’n’ roll spooky<br />

death ditties<br />

with a little bit of Pink Floyd thrown in, and The Doors<br />

every now and then, some 80s, but go back to Gene<br />

Vincent and Wanda Jackson. It’s brilliant!” Nick laughs. “I<br />

think it’s an unwritten code fairgrounds stick to.”<br />

Why does he think that is?<br />

“They’re marginalised places, aren’t they?<br />

Totally off the map, never written about any more in<br />

mainstream culture. It’s outsider music. That’s what we<br />

tried to get across, another world in the real world. An<br />

unreality in reality.”<br />

Nick talks about The Dips in New Brighton, the green<br />

space used by families, and for performance or anti-social<br />

behavior depending on what time of day or year. How the<br />

fair sets up there, a sudden pop-up town. In the eve it’s<br />

kite-flying and dog walkers, the next morn dodgems blast<br />

out Roy Orbison and The Shangri-Las’ drama.<br />

“You might see a poster in a few closed down shops<br />

or chippys,” he says of the fair. “How did they get in?<br />


How did that poster get in there? That shop hasn’t been<br />

open for years. Then you’ll see it – bang – and the next<br />

night it’s gone. Magic.”<br />

Coral Island morphed into a double album as the<br />

band worked on it, he explains, expanded by James<br />

and Ian Skelly’s grandfather Ian Murray in the character<br />

of The Great Muriarty narrating between songs. It’s<br />

difficult to recall many contemporary double albums in<br />

the independent music arena, so Coral Island is either an<br />

anomaly, or maybe we simply make more space and time<br />

for things now. The album does play around with past<br />

and present and it’s true that, when we’re kids, summer<br />

holidays last forever, while cold hard adult reality<br />

confirms a fixed six-week length.<br />

“There’s a bit in the book about that, your experience<br />

of time, it massively changes as you get older,” says Nick.<br />

“Small things when you’re a kid seem mind-blowing.<br />

You’re in the present, totally rooted in the now. When<br />

you get older you live in the past or future a bit more,<br />

memories or anticipating.”<br />

Nailing down radio-friendly singles Faceless Angel,<br />

Lover Undiscovered, and Vacancy gave licence to sail<br />

into deeper, darker waters. Coral Island was created<br />

with a 1960s approach, writing and recording quickly<br />

while everything was still fresh. “This album was kinda<br />

like, let’s go for broke. Make something which the record<br />

company might advise against! If we can get the money<br />

for it, let’s just do what we want,” Nick explains.<br />

There is a strong narrative present, not only due<br />

to the spoken word, but noticeably so within the<br />

songwriting itself. The listener, and presumably the<br />

creators, go on a journey along with it?<br />

“It goes back to folk tales and things like that, or<br />

murder ballads or weird character studies. I love songs<br />

that tell a story, a lot of the ones we drew from for this<br />

album are like that, tell a story – mostly about people<br />

dying,” Nick laughs. “But as you said last time, it was<br />

early goth!”<br />

“There’s a lot in there, we very rarely just tell a<br />

straight story,” James Skelly explains, when we pick<br />

things up. He resists temptation to write literally, leaving<br />

enough suggestion for people to project their own<br />

stories. “The version in your head is always going to be<br />

better because you’ve made it for you.”<br />

The Great Muriarty, then, could be the ringmaster<br />

of the big top, or delivering Roald Dahl’s quite terrifying<br />

scenarios in the old Tales Of The Unexpected series.<br />

Sinister and not ghostlike exactly, but from behind an<br />

invisible veil.<br />

“That doesn’t exist anymore, the world he’s<br />

from, that generation,” says James of his story-teller<br />

grandfather who took him camping as a boy – these<br />

memories feeding into the record. “So, he’s actually, in<br />

a way, a time traveller. Like he’s going back to an older<br />


time. Even his voice, people don’t have that accent<br />

anymore. It’s a piece of time delivered to people.”<br />

The mechanics of the fairground seeped in<br />

the very production of Coral Island, the gear itself<br />

mimicking sounds and the oddness of a temporary,<br />

rootless community. It took a lot of graft to make it<br />

sound “wrong”, as James puts it.<br />

“To move something out of time so it would be<br />

not correct, or not in time. Or if the tape is broken<br />

and everything is moving at different times, it<br />

almost sounds as if you’re playing a music box with<br />

the batteries running out. If you go to those places,<br />

the seaside or a fair, and they turn the machines<br />

on they don’t just come on like they would if it<br />

was digital. It’s like coming to life. It’s not a digital<br />

moment. It’s real, the way the wind is real. Like a<br />

broken fairground ride.”<br />

So. Coral Island, the place itself. Does the band<br />

have an image of what it is, an idea of where it is<br />

located? Cardiff-based Edwin Burdis created a<br />

sizeable walk-in sculpture of the island, seen on<br />

the album artwork, but that is Burdis’ vision alone.<br />

Is Coral Island the band’s very own Coney Island<br />

but based locally? An actual familiar seaside place<br />

from all our childhoods: Blackpool, New Brighton,<br />

Llandudno, Rhyl?<br />

“I’ve always found it a place where I can relax,<br />

and I can’t always relax in some places. It’s a holiday<br />

from life, you come back to it,” James says of his<br />

Welsh holidays as adult and child, but his personal<br />

vision of the island takes him to more surreal<br />

territory, melting together 1960s sci-fi thriller and<br />

high-concept psychological drama The Prisoner,<br />

and folk horror movie The Wicker Man. With<br />

elements of Lost, maybe.<br />

“Like a series I wanted to see. It was more this<br />

strange place just floating in the sea of your mind.<br />

Almost a metaphor for your imagination. That’s<br />

what it was to me. Probably be something else to<br />

someone else. It can be what it is to you. That’s<br />

what it is. Half the time I don’t want to know what<br />

the person’s vision is in my head. My version would<br />

be better to me.”<br />

We’ve seen independent artists with a proven<br />

fanbase triumph in the album chart over the<br />

past few months – Jane Weaver went top 25,<br />

The Anchoress top 40, The Coral’s Modern Sky<br />

labelmate Jamie Webster at number six late last<br />

summer – which is doubly impressive given the<br />

zero opportunity to engage with audiences in the<br />

traditional sense. In the end, Coral Island surpasses<br />

James Skelly’s expectations easily, reaching number<br />

two. It feels timely to recall how the record’s single<br />

from March, Lover Undiscovered, reminds us of how<br />

as adults we view the world through cynical weary<br />

eyes.<br />

“One day you’ll see a seagull fly above the sea<br />

and it’s almost like CGI and think, have I manifested<br />

this? How is this happening? How has it gone from<br />

being nothing to just gas, or whatever it was when<br />

the big bang happened, to that? It’s a discovered<br />

moment again,” he told me.<br />

Maybe the message got through, via the<br />

airwaves. Through Spotify, and those vinyl copies of<br />

the album in every colour of the rainbow. How we<br />

take things for granted, take creatives for granted.<br />

Whatever it is, the mystical Coral Island is doing its<br />

magic for the band, both on the record and off it.<br />

The Coral Rediscovered, indeed. !<br />

Words: Cath Holland / @cathholland01<br />

Photography: John Johnson / @john.johno<br />

Coral Island is available now via Run On Records in<br />

association with Modern Sky.<br />

thecoral.co.uk<br />




17 July 2–4 July<br />

9 July<br />

HOME<br />

COMING<br />

Produced by Manchester International Festival in partnership with Homecoming.<br />

ALL OF<br />

THIS<br />

UNREAL<br />

TIME<br />

Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner & Jon Hopkins Composers<br />

Aoife McArdle Film Director, Cillian Murphy Actor<br />

Max Porter Writer<br />

Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival.<br />

ARLO<br />

PARKS<br />

Produced by Manchester International Festival. Image: Alex Waespi<br />

10–11 July<br />

1–18 July<br />

7–18 July<br />


Conceived & created<br />

by Deborah Warner<br />

A Pre-Factory Event. Commissioned by Manchester International Festival and<br />

Stanford Live at Stanford University. Produced by Manchester International Festival.<br />

MARTA<br />


Big Ben Lying Down<br />

with Political Books<br />

Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival.<br />

Image: Mario Cherrutti and Marta Minujín Archive<br />

NOTES<br />

ON<br />

GRIEF<br />

A new stage production, based on the<br />

essay by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.<br />

Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival.<br />

Image: Manny Jefferson<br />

1–18 July Conceived<br />

and created<br />

by Cephas<br />

Williams<br />


OF<br />

BLACK<br />


Commissioned by Manchester International Festival. Produced by Manchester<br />

International Festival and The Cephas Williams Company. Image: Sam Shaw<br />

2–18 July<br />

LAURE<br />


The Long Waited,<br />

Weighted, Gathering<br />

Commissioned by Manchester International Festival and Manchester Jewish<br />

Museum. Produced by Manchester Jewish Museum. Image: Lee Baxter<br />

A<br />


LIKE NO<br />

OTHER<br />

‘A Festival for the creatively<br />

courageous’ – BBC<br />

First release of tickets available<br />

from 20 May at mif.co.uk

Riotous, emotive and informing, Daniel Ponzini steps into the explosive world of the four-piece.<br />

“[Statues] is really fresh and really new – I don’t<br />

think anyone is writing music like that right now,”<br />

explains Holly Minto. It’s hard to disagree with<br />

her when you experience the passion in her vocal<br />

delivery on the track. The assemblage of sounds behind<br />

her resemble The Clash at their angriest or the Sex<br />

Pistols at their most enraged.<br />

The landmark single belongs to self-branded “North<br />

West misfits” CRAWLERS, a four-piece alternative rock<br />

band consisting of Minto (vocalist), Amy Woodall (lead<br />

guitar), Harry Breen (drums) and Liv Kettle (bass). Only<br />

released in March, the song has amassed well over<br />

75,000 plays on Spotify and sits comfortably with a<br />

discography bearing the hallmarks of a band very much<br />

on an upward trajectory.<br />

Previous releases Hush and So Tired have reinforced<br />

Crawlers’ assertion that rock ’n’ roll is still alive and<br />

24<br />

kicking. So far, they have displayed an ability to career<br />

into a chorus like a Midwestern emo band from the early<br />

2000s – Modern Baseball-esque – and navigate verses<br />

with a lyrical nous far beyond the blueprint of a regular<br />

rock outfit.<br />

In keeping with the theme of lyricism, you would<br />

think that the barrage of instruments on their latest effort<br />

would obfuscate any meaningful message Minto tries<br />

to convey, but their poised sensibility in these moments<br />

of madness creates a feeling akin to watching a sunrise<br />

across a clear-skied day. Her fierce image – curly red hair,<br />

pronounced lipstick, strong eyeshadow – is enough to<br />

make a boomer gasp. But don’t be confused by how this<br />

band masks sentimentality in the way they look. They<br />

may hold onto moments of careful lyricism and chord<br />

progressions by a thread, but they manage to achieve a<br />

poetic flair and elegance in the way they contrast love<br />

and loss through light and dark chord progressions, and<br />

happy and sad drum patterns. The contrast is captivating.<br />

Holly explains that the sense of urgency and<br />

exasperation that bleeds into Crawlers’ sound is born<br />

from the frustration of the last 12 months. “We had to<br />

become an online band,” she admits. While not being<br />

unable to tour (obviously) or work together in a closeknit<br />

environment had the potential to halt the band’s<br />

momentum, they refused to let it tamper with their<br />

progress, and instead found innovative ways to continue<br />

creating. “It depended on what part of lockdown we<br />

were in,” Minto says, referencing countless phonecalls<br />

and messages about song ideas. The only constant<br />

factor in this confusing scenario was the drive to create<br />

more and more.<br />

Since they started releasing music in 2019, Crawlers<br />

have collected fans from every corner of the country;

a fanbase that is willing to hang on every word Minto<br />

expels. But their new EP marks a shift. “All of the songs<br />

are newly written,” Minto explains, and are littered with<br />

the political topics that defined<br />

socially-charged lockdowns in 2020.<br />

Minto explains how “it’s a multiperson<br />

process” that drives the<br />

band’s creativity, both musically and<br />

visually. The cover art for Statues<br />

has the Statue of Liberty projected<br />

onto Minto’s face and, speaking<br />

about this creative decision, she<br />

expresses their discontent with the<br />

current socio-political arena. The<br />

symbol of freedom marks itself as<br />

the image on the EP as well as in<br />

the verses. “Writing felt liberating,”<br />

she states, alluding to the thoughtprovoking<br />

lyrics: “The president kills his people, and all<br />

the rooms are filled of all the sleeping people who this<br />

“The music is<br />

a combination<br />

of our<br />

personalities”<br />

country killed” she announces, over a droning guitar riff.<br />

It is obvious that political and societal discourse is a<br />

big part of this band’s image and sound. It is also clear<br />

to see the talent the band possesses<br />

when politicaly loaded lyrics like<br />

those on Statues are coupled with<br />

enchanting melodies that give the<br />

words a more profound meaning and<br />

purpose. If not a rock band, then they<br />

are activists.<br />

“There’s certainly a bit of<br />

Courtney Love in the lyricism,” Minto<br />

adds, citing their influences, while the<br />

rest of the band chip in with artists<br />

like Tool and Smashing Pumpkins.<br />

“The music is a combination of our<br />

personalities,” Minto and the band<br />

explain. Perhaps the ability to draw<br />

on all genres of music allows Crawlers to create a sound<br />

that they see as comfortingly personal.<br />


The band all nod in agreement when Minto suggests<br />

that they have “discovered their sound” on their<br />

forthcoming EP. It is clear to see that it is a body of work<br />

they are all proud of. “It shows all sides of Crawlers,” she<br />

says. Statues itself marks the arrival of a band who are<br />

determined to begin the inauguration of a new era for<br />

rock and alternative music, one that isn’t afraid to include<br />

political commentary in their art.<br />

It is a statement of intent and this band is here to<br />

stay – this is just the beginning of their efforts to make<br />

music that is more engaging, more topical and simply<br />

better. !<br />

Words: Daniel Ponzini<br />

Photography: Michael Driffill / @driffysphotos<br />

Statues and Breathe are available now via Modern Sky.<br />

@crawlersband<br />



Live music returned to Liverpool after 14 months as part of the government’s Events Research<br />

Programme. Elliot Ryder reports back from the shows taking place at Bramley-Moore Dock and<br />

Sefton Park and considers what it all means for the 21st <strong>June</strong> reopening.<br />

wild... fucking boss,”<br />

responds ZUZU when asked to describe<br />

playing to a non-socially distanced<br />

“Unbelievable…<br />

crowd for the first time in 14 months.<br />

Sat behind the 4,000-capacity big top tent at Sefton<br />

Park shortly after coming off stage, the magnitude of<br />

the occasion is still yet to sink in for the artist given the<br />

“honour” of opening proceedings. “I haven’t processed<br />

it at all,” she adds. Her face is a mix of happiness and<br />

disbelief when recalling the adoration from the tightlypacked<br />

bodies just a few metres away. “I didn’t realise<br />

how much of an impact live music had on artists’ lives<br />

until we couldn’t do it anymore. That first show back was<br />

beyond amazing. I’m so, so grateful that we got to do it. I<br />

was crying all the way off stage.”<br />

Within earshot, Wigan’s THE LATHUMS pick up<br />

the baton from Zuzu and rumble into their opener.<br />

Later, Stockport’s BLOSSOMS will play to a near-full<br />

capacity tent.<br />

Today’s event forms part of the government’s events<br />

research programme – a series of live events from which<br />

data is being collected and monitored in the hope it will<br />

inform the roadmap to allowing large scale events and<br />

gatherings to return from 21st <strong>June</strong>.<br />

While restrictions are minimal once inside, the events<br />

feature a core safeguarding measure for those with a<br />

ticket. Everyone on the inside of the festival perimeter<br />

walls has had to provide proof of a negative lateral flow<br />

test in the last 72 hours. Before arriving, they have been<br />

asked to take a PCR test at home, with a second five<br />

days after the event. The process doesn’t appear too<br />

taxing given the reactions of those in attendance. Making<br />

it through the gate, taking off masks and no longer<br />

having to adhere to social distancing brings out arguably<br />

some of the biggest cheers of the day. The big top tent<br />

stands as currently the most liberated bubble in the UK.<br />

Many can’t quite believe their luck.<br />

The 4,000 descending on Sefton Park aren’t the<br />

first crowd of its kind congregating in Liverpool over the<br />

weekend. Two days earlier, local promoters and record<br />

label Circus are the first to stage a non-socially distanced<br />

music event in the UK since the pandemic took hold.<br />

Inside the former warehouse at Bramley-Moore Dock,<br />

the 3,000-strong crowd are the most exciting import<br />

the structure has seen in recent memory. Throughout<br />

the afternoon, they’ll be guided by the selections of<br />

Liverpool’s own LAUREN LO SUNG and YOUSEF, with<br />

international heavyweights JAYDA<br />


and SVEN VÄTH taking to<br />

the decks through the afternoon and evening event.<br />

Being back in a large events space made for close<br />

contact brings with it a palpable euphoria. Many<br />

in attendance take a moment to themselves<br />

to stop and look on at a throbbing mass<br />

of people dancing towards the front of<br />

the crash barrier. The tangible image of<br />

people together legally incites the same<br />

level of internal ecstasy as when Jayda<br />

G hammers out Floorplan’s Never Grow<br />

Old. Groups of friends come together<br />

and pose to have their photo taken with<br />

the backdrop of the crowd akin to a trophy<br />

presentation. It’s a fitting reaction here on<br />

Merseyside, with the 15-month wait feeling<br />

more like the 30-year slog of Liverpool FC<br />

in attempting to be back in one’s rightful<br />

place – front and centre in the heart of<br />

the dance.<br />




“I’d convinced myself I would be as careful as<br />

possible and still try to social distance, but the lure<br />

of socialising won in the end,” says Ollie Adebsi who<br />

attended the Friday event. “People were smiling and<br />

talking about how lucky we all were to experience this.<br />

It seemed like the drinks, the DJs, the venue, the confetti<br />

were beautiful, but it all was unequivocal to the feeling of<br />

all 3,000 of us being together without pandemic rules for<br />

a few hours.”<br />

The Circus event is a landmark moment for those<br />

behind the decks as well as those partying on the other<br />

side. Videos of an emotional Lauren Lo Sung as she<br />

played the first record of the afternoon show just how<br />

much music and its shared experience means. The hole<br />

it’s left in people’s lives. It’s this feeling that perforates<br />

so much of this evening’s somewhat surreal unification<br />

of body, music and collective thought in a year where so<br />

much has felt splintered and distant.<br />

“From the moment I started to when I finished, I<br />

wanted it to be emotionally charged. I wanted it to be a<br />

release for me as well as the crowd,” says DJ and Circus<br />

co-founder Yousef speaking the week after the back-toback<br />

events at Bramley-Moore. “To be able to reconnect<br />

with strangers and be in the company of others without<br />

having to be told off – it was magical.”<br />

Both the Bramley-Moore events and that at Sefton<br />

Park share many similarities in their sense of making up for<br />

lost time. People arrive early and stay late. Perhaps to soak<br />

it all in. Maybe to hold on to a world of fewer restrictions<br />

for as long as possible. But there’s a clear desire for people<br />

to find themselves as a unified voice once again. Not<br />

beholden to rules of six or police aggression when taking<br />

necessary social action during lockdown.<br />

“I’m excited to see Blossoms later, to be back at a<br />

gig and screaming my heart out to some of my favourite<br />

songs,” says Zuzu. “[Some of the younger people in the<br />

crowd] have never had a chance to do this before. I think<br />

it means a hell of a lot to a lot of people.”<br />

This feeling courses through the expectant crowd<br />

of the big top between sets.<br />

Even the guitar tech receives a<br />

roaring ovation as they come out<br />

to tune up ahead of the bands.<br />

For those behind the scenes in<br />

the music industry, the past 14<br />

months will have been some<br />

of the hardest they’ve faced<br />

in their professional careers.<br />

One gig doesn’t make up for<br />

the damage industry workers<br />

have endured, but perhaps the<br />

crowd’s excitable reaction shows<br />

a new-found respect and value<br />

for those stood to the side of the<br />

stage and working across the festival site. It’s one that’ll<br />

need to continue as gigs come back into full swing.<br />

“The gig was everything I dreamed it could be.<br />

A celebration of music, community and all that we’ve<br />

been missing,” commented <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! photographer<br />

Gary Lambert in the days after the event. “Nobody was<br />

pretending that the last year hadn’t happened. Instead it<br />

was a party for that moment.”<br />

“I’d say this is the most important show I’ve ever<br />

played,” says Zuzu, still coming down from the rush of<br />

the set. It’s a feeling that’s reflected by Yousef. “My last<br />

gig was to 25,000 people in Mexico City, which was the<br />

best gig I’d done in my life. So, I was happy to have a<br />

few months off – not knowing it was going to be 14.<br />

But this has eclipsed it,” he says. “Not just that it was<br />

an amazing gig, but the difficulty of getting to that<br />

moment, putting that idea to the council, working so<br />

hard to make it happen. It wasn’t just a gig, it was an<br />

accumulation of effort.”<br />

The journey to the two<br />

test events in Liverpool<br />

couldn’t have formed a<br />

“It felt like we did<br />

something that<br />

was significant<br />

for the city”<br />

starker contrast to their<br />

eventual happening. Just five<br />

months prior the city was<br />

battling its third wave of<br />

Covid-19. Caseloads across<br />

the city region pushed above<br />

1,000 per 100,000 and<br />

once again a lockdown was<br />

introduced. It was a difficult<br />

final chapter of a 2020 that<br />

was just starting to offer<br />

glimpses of optimism.<br />

“In December there was a sense of achievement<br />

as Liverpool emerged in Tier 2 after being the pilot city<br />

for community testing,” says Mathew Flynn, lecturer<br />

in music industry at the University Of Liverpool and<br />

member of Liverpool City Region Music Board. “There<br />

seemed to be a proactivity, but that was sort of ignorant<br />

of the resurgence of the virus.”<br />

Flynn outlines that, even with vaccine rollout clicking<br />

into gear in January, there was a looming skepticism<br />

that test events wouldn’t be able to take place until<br />


late summer or even early autumn. “The pace of the<br />

programme has been astounding,” he adds.<br />

The turnaround in fortunes reignited optimism for<br />

a summer schedule of live music and events – adding a<br />

heightened importance to the two test events in Liverpool.<br />

“From the view of Festival Republic [Sunday event<br />

promoters], they want to be able to demonstrate that<br />

they can run a Covid-secure event on mass scale with the<br />

amount of festivals they’ve sold tickets for,” says Flynn.<br />

“It’s similar with the promoters of dance events. It shows<br />

that private companies can be given the responsibilities to<br />

do those things and do them effectively and well.”<br />

This decentralised control in the time of a global<br />

pandemic does however add some greater levels of<br />

risk for those planning large-scale events. “There’s a<br />

reputational element to all of this if there is a resurgence<br />

of the virus over the summer. There’s an awful lot of<br />

risk, not just economically in hoping the government<br />

will underwrite the insurance,” explains Flynn. “Where<br />

will the responsibility lie? How much is on the venues to<br />

manage risk and maintain reputation and how much of<br />

this will be government mandated?”<br />

While the test events could take place in highly<br />

controlled environments that could ensure safety, it<br />

remains to be seen what rules will remain in place for<br />

events after 21st <strong>June</strong>. Though there is much optimism<br />

surrounding the city’s recent test events - of which<br />

Liverpool’s Public Health boss Matt Ashton noted he was<br />

confident they would not lead to significant rises in cases<br />

- the full findings are yet to be published. However, The<br />

Times has reported that early indications suggest gigs<br />

and shows are no more dangerous than eating out or<br />

shopping. Even for large-scale promoters such as Circus,<br />

providing their own testing and data operation would<br />

come with large financial pressure. “It will be difficult<br />

for small venues and also our venues,” says Yousef. “If<br />

we have to charge our customers for the tests on top<br />

of the ticket then it’s not going to be viable. Unless the<br />

government are going to underwrite the tests, I can’t see<br />

[testing continuing]. I can’t see how it will economically<br />

stack up. And logistically, too.”<br />

Mathew Flynn echoes a similar tone in looking<br />

towards the landscape for events post 21st <strong>June</strong> and<br />

whether a situation with no distancing or testing can<br />

be a reality. “The margins at venue level are slim. But<br />

most promoters will make their money through festivals.<br />

Venues can be more progressive and test things out.<br />

For festivals, one weekend it’s all or nothing. It’s a huge<br />

undertaking. Unless you have resources to ride that out,<br />

then it’s a huge risk,” says Flynn regarding the possibility<br />

of any further cancellations due to local or national<br />

restrictions returning.<br />

“I don’t think what the live sector is asking of<br />

government, to underwrite the events, is unreasonable,”<br />

he continues. “It’s only a cost should they have to step<br />

in. The insurance premiums are going to be higher. If the<br />

government are so keen for people to reconnect and gain<br />

that trust in the events sector again, it seems like a small<br />

commitment of funds to give promoters the confidence<br />

to put on mass events.”<br />

The current landscape seems less zero-sum between<br />

economic reopening and lockdown. The signals from<br />

the test events show a pathway to safely return to mass<br />

events. It is the economic reality of providing this safety<br />

and confidence that will either be ignored or placed onto<br />

the responsibility of promoters by the government in the<br />


proposed further relaxing of restrictions. It is here where<br />

the crux of the issue will lie for small venue owners who<br />

will be taking on a greater reputational or financial risk<br />

depending on which direction the government turn. “It’s<br />

so important to those smaller venues. I want to be in<br />

those venues as much as I want to be here playing to a<br />

field of people,” says Zuzu. “The crowds of 4,000 are as<br />

important as the crowds of 40.”<br />

Whatever the outcome in the weeks leading to <strong>June</strong><br />

21st, the events at Bramley-Moore and Sefton Park won’t<br />

be any less significant or an anomaly in the roadmap. “It<br />

felt like we did something that was significant for the city,”<br />

says Yousef. “I’m a proud Scouser and always have been,<br />

so being able to contribute in some small way and to get<br />

the whole world watching what we’re capable of as a<br />

city, that felt really special.” Sometimes just one night can<br />

sometimes make a world’s difference. “It was pure – and<br />

filled me with hope as to how quickly everybody got back<br />

into the mood,” concluded Lambert. “The future doesn’t<br />

feel so bleak anymore.” !<br />

Words: Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder<br />

Additional reporting: Ollie Adebsi & Gary Lambert<br />

Sefton Park Photography: John Johnson / @john.johno<br />

Circus Photography: Jody Hartley / @jodyhartley<br />

Circus returns with Sasha on 25th <strong>June</strong> at Invisible Wind<br />

Factory.<br />

@CIRCUSmusic<br />

@thisiszuzu<br />


MAKING<br />

WAVES<br />

Adam Noor highlights the essential work of the Noise Project and LIMF Academy which came<br />

together to support young artists in a recent collaboration.<br />

Faced with a decade of austerity and budget<br />

cuts, organisations in Liverpool have worked<br />

tirelessly to promote the artistic development<br />

of young people and create spaces that<br />

encourage individuals from all backgrounds to explore<br />

their passion for music. However, the global pandemic<br />

which took hold in March 2020 served to create a more<br />

unforgiving landscape for young artists and musicians.<br />

More positively, in the months that followed, it has also<br />

seen adaptation from a wealth of organisations meeting<br />

the demands of the new normal. One of the more recent<br />

initiatives taking root here in Liverpool sees a collaboration<br />

between the Noise Project and LIMF Academy.<br />

The project began as the brainchild of local creative<br />

consultant Yaw Owusu and practitioner Joe Carroll<br />

(aka Amique) who each represent the scheme’s parent<br />

organisations. Owusu is the creative force behind the<br />

Liverpool International Music Festival and its artist<br />

development scheme the LIMF Academy, which focuses<br />

on artists at an industry level. He shared how the idea<br />

for this group was conceived – during an hour-long,<br />

impromptu conversation between the two men on a<br />

street corner after they collaborated on the Levi’s Music<br />

Project in Anfield earlier that year.<br />

“We talked about doing something like [the Levi’s<br />

Music Project] but a little bit more grassroots with artists.<br />

[Amique] came back and said, ‘Well, let’s do something<br />

as a partnership between the Academy and Noise’,”<br />

Owusu explained. “I must give credit to Amique, it’s very<br />

much his vision, but with me bringing what I do to the<br />

table, it’s been a wonderful partnership.”<br />

Amique is a successful musician himself. After having<br />

performed at Wireless Festival and opening for artists<br />

like Snarky Puppy and JP Cooper, he’s accustomed to the<br />

harsh but alluring reality of the music industry. Alongside<br />

this, Amique works as a music development worker at<br />

the Noise Project on Hanover Street, which is where I<br />

was introduced to him more than three years ago.<br />

As a teenager, I’d been looking for a way to develop<br />

my interest in music without the financial<br />

pressures of private tutors and<br />

expensive equipment. I<br />

stumbled across<br />

Noise<br />

and, after meeting the team there, I felt completely<br />

welcomed and comfortable exploring something I’d<br />

always kept strictly within the confines of my bedroom.<br />

The project manager of Noise, Garth Jones,<br />

summarised what they do: “Noise is for young people<br />

aged 11-25 from all areas of Merseyside. We offer free<br />

tuition in guitar, piano, drums and voice, along with artist<br />

mentoring sessions covering song<br />

writing, music production and industry<br />

insight.” The time I spent at Noise,<br />

working closely with Amique, helped<br />

me immensely with my confidence<br />

at a time when most teenagers feel<br />

unsure about what they should do<br />

with their life and what they are<br />

capable of. Amique has a true knack<br />

for showing young musicians what<br />

they can achieve and an almost<br />

magnetic quality of drawing their<br />

talents to the surface. When I heard<br />

about his new scheme for emerging<br />

artists, I knew it had to be something<br />

worth looking into.<br />

Unfortunately, before the project got a chance to<br />

welcome its inaugural cohort, the Covid-19 pandemic<br />

put a swift halt to all collaborative schemes within the<br />

community, shepherding the group into an uncharted<br />

digital workspace. This proved tricky to begin with for<br />

those involved, like 20-year-old rapper and spoken word<br />

artist DAYZY. “[It was difficult] due to everyone having to<br />

work from home because of the pandemic, we can’t just<br />

go to the studio,” he said. “One specific challenge was<br />

recording and trying to fix any errors with<br />

the sound.” Like many of us, the<br />

artists have had to adapt<br />

to a new way of<br />

working with<br />

“Music will<br />

always find<br />

its way”<br />

technology but, luckily, they had the expertise of Amique<br />

and Owusu to help them through it. “The project leaders<br />

have been amazing with handling this,” said Dayzy, “and<br />

also teaching us to solve the issues ourselves.”<br />

The Liverpool-based artist spoke about his<br />

upbringing around family and friends involved in the<br />

city’s creative scene, whom he credits for inspiring him<br />

to harness his music and teaching<br />

him to grow into the artist he is<br />

today. He also pinpointed the aptly<br />

named Catalyst Performing Arts<br />

programme as the birthplace of his<br />

musical career – a project based in<br />

Liverpool 8 which provides young<br />

people with the opportunity to<br />

express themselves through drama,<br />

writing, dance and other activities.<br />

Regarding the collaborative nature of<br />

the LIMF Academy x Noise Project,<br />

Dayzy said: “For me, personally, I<br />

helped contribute to the project with<br />

my rapping ability, however it has<br />

pushed me to explore my skills in<br />

music production much more than I thought it would.”<br />

When asked about the most rewarding aspect of being<br />

involved, he responded, “Using our creativity to create<br />

sounds together with the other artists on the project, that<br />

have a big meaning behind them.”<br />

It appears Amique and Owusu place a huge<br />

importance on encouraging an environment of shared<br />

creativity and a mutual respect for all the artists’ work<br />

within the group. The former elaborated on how this<br />

translates into their weekly meetings. “Sessions<br />

regularly feature group song evaluations<br />

where the young artists<br />

evaluate one another’s<br />

music and<br />


development, educational discussions about artistic<br />

growth, dedicated and in-depth exercises designed to<br />

generate artistic inspiration as well as several guest<br />

speakers from PRS, Ditto Distribution, not to mention<br />

industry experts such as Mike Cave (Lewis Capaldi/<br />

The Charlatans).” The benefit of being exposed to<br />

insider knowledge of the music industry is obviously<br />

huge for emerging talents, and this begins the levelling<br />

of the playing field for disadvantaged artists who are<br />

susceptible to being eaten up by the industry, something<br />

both Owusu and Amique felt strongly about.<br />

“What I’ve always tried to do is make sure there’s<br />

balance. To make sure that there are opportunities for<br />

artists who don’t normally get them, and also make<br />

sure that these opportunities are actually going to help<br />

the artists, because sometimes things are put on that<br />

may be tokenistic, sometimes the people who run it<br />

don’t necessarily understand those artists that they’re<br />

working with,” Owusu explained. The project goes to<br />

great lengths to give invaluable insight into what being a<br />

professional recording artist is like, in preparation for the<br />

exciting things they predict their artists will go on to do.<br />

One such artist is NI MAXINE, a 24-year-old<br />

originally from Bristol, who describes herself as being<br />

“on a journey of healing and self-discovery through<br />

music”. The jazz singer spoke of her roots in church<br />

choirs and cathedrals but noted the night she gave a<br />

spontaneous performance at a jazz club as a turning<br />

point in her career. “I asked the house band if I could sing<br />

a song, to which they responded, of course. It seemed<br />

to go down pretty well as they asked me to come back<br />

and sing a number of times which was fun, even though<br />

the owners couldn’t remember my name,” she recalled.<br />

Despite being a seasoned performer, fronting the jazz<br />

outfit River Of Beer during her time in Bristol, Ni thanks<br />

the LIMF Academy x Noise Project for<br />

helping her find the confidence<br />

to trust her own music.<br />

She describes<br />

the<br />

experience as being “really lovely during lockdown,<br />

just having a virtual space to socialise in and meet new<br />

people. If you’ve been working on a track, you can send<br />

it in before the session and have it played to the group<br />

before everyone offers feedback, which has been really<br />

encouraging and has given me the confidence to start<br />

putting my original music out there”.<br />

Now, Ni is involved in The Wombat Supper Club, an<br />

intimate live music and dining experience operating out<br />

of her flat in Anfield. She holds the distinguished position<br />

of resident chanteuse at The Wombat, where one of the<br />

perks of the job is being able to host the audience from<br />

the comfort of your very own living room. The concept<br />

displays a sense of innovative resourcefulness that has<br />

people fighting for one of 20 exclusive seats at the table.<br />

Lamenting her inability to host these gatherings over<br />

lockdown, Ni says, “I can’t wait to be able to invite people<br />

to The Wombat once again – for food, conversation and<br />

jazz! It’s going to be so nice to lay the table and prepare<br />

a meal for guests; although, dinner for two has been fun<br />

over the past year or so.”<br />

Despite the setbacks of the pandemic and the<br />

mounting pressure on voluntary services such as<br />

the LIMF Academy x Noise Project, the young artists<br />

involved seem hopeful about the future in their industry.<br />

Dayzy commented on his eagerness to share his work.<br />

“I am very excited about showing the world what us<br />

creatives and musicians have been up to,” he said. “I will<br />

be releasing three new tracks and a few music videos<br />

this summer.”<br />

On top of being involved with The Wombat,<br />

Ni shared that she has been working on a body of<br />

music over the past year. “I’m hoping to record in the<br />

summertime,” she said, “ready for something exciting on<br />

the 20th October, which just so happens to be my 25th<br />

birthday. Save<br />

the date!”<br />

Their optimism is a testament to the resilience<br />

of creativity against any obstacle, specifically for a<br />

generation that too often seems to be set up to fail by<br />

the powers that be. Owusu made a similarly positive<br />

observation. “Music will always find its way,” he said.<br />

“It’s like water, it’s so essential and so abundant that,<br />

regardless of what’s going on, artists are going to create<br />

music, people are going to consume and share music,<br />

music is still going to be our soundtrack to everything we<br />

do and everything we create – it’s not going anywhere.”<br />

While no one disregards the struggles facing the<br />

creative industries right now, especially after the loss<br />

of so many live venues across the country in the past<br />

year, these artists seem equally resistant to entertain<br />

the idea that anything could stop them. And judging<br />

by the success of this project and the artists involved, I<br />

can’t help but agree. The LIMF Academy x Noise Project<br />

is a perfect example of how we can adapt and change<br />

and make something amazing in the face of adversity,<br />

but above all it illustrates the necessity of spaces where<br />

young people can be authentic, creative and together. !<br />

Words: Adam Noor<br />

Illustration: Matthew Berks<br />

The LIMF Academy x Noise Project is set to return in<br />

the next year. Follow the link below for updates on<br />

applications.<br />

@limfacademy<br />

limfacademy.com<br />

mya.org.uk/Project-Noise<br />

Adam took part in <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>!’s Bylines writers<br />

programme, developing young culture writers of the<br />

future. Bylines runs throughout the year for<br />

more information and to find out about<br />

the next intake go to bidolito.co.uk/<br />

workshops<br />






A new report suggests that without support many of Liverpool’s artist studios are at risk of<br />

disappearing. El Gray looks at the implication this could have on city-wide culture.<br />

There is a certain disposition that defines coastal<br />

towns, a familiarity with collision and change.<br />

Liverpool’s coastal identity is paralleled in its<br />

culture; a pulsing and varied ecosystem of artists<br />

and musicians, poets and creators exist among otherwise<br />

normality, clashing against each other and producing a<br />

swirling, bubbling creativity. However, a recent report<br />

from Art in Liverpool reveals one component of the city’s<br />

creative ecosystem is slowly dying.<br />

In the early months of the new decade, as the<br />

pandemic intensified, arts organisations across Liverpool<br />

found themselves “watching the world fall apart around<br />

us”. In this context, Patrick Kirk-Smith, director of Art in<br />

Liverpool, and arts PR consultant Laura Brown undertook<br />

a report into the state of artist studios across the Liverpool<br />

City Region.<br />

Liverpool is home to 35 artist studios, providing<br />

workspaces, studios, exhibition space and storage to over<br />

500 artists. These studios form an integral part of the<br />

artistic community and the wider communities they exist<br />

within. However, the ‘State of the Studios’ report, produced<br />

in collaboration with a collection of Liverpool’s artist studios,<br />

reveals the entropy they’re facing: without immediate<br />

support, 31 of Liverpool’s 35 studios face extinction.<br />

A combination of unaffordable rents, demand for<br />

development and insecurity in building provision has<br />

gradually marginalised artist studios, forcing them out of<br />

city centre spaces. The ‘Livelihood of Visual Artist’ (2019)<br />

report by Arts Council England indicates that, on average,<br />

artists earn £16,150 each year, ensuring studio rent<br />

cannot be in parallel with other industries. In a competitive<br />

property market, this leaves studios extremely vulnerable<br />

to rising property prices and landlords seeking to gain<br />

from more profitable ventures in attractive city centre<br />

locations. The pandemic has revealed and exacerbated<br />

32<br />

these existing vulnerabilities, decimating studio funding<br />

and creating chasms where cracks once existed. Studios,<br />

therefore, inhabit a precarious existence, forced to move<br />

further out of the city or close entirely, hollowing out the<br />

city’s creative culture.<br />

This is a familiar story among creative organisations in<br />

Liverpool. A story of regeneration, exploitation, profit and<br />

marginalisation. In its intricacies, the story reveals truths<br />

about the role of cultural regeneration in Liverpool and the<br />

particular values which define the use of urban space in<br />

the city. It also presents an alternative utopian future. This<br />

is the story of Liverpool’s artist studios. “It feels as though<br />

Liverpool does not understand what they’ve lost,” says<br />

Tony Knox of Road Studios.<br />

Often, the role of artist studios appears mysterious<br />

and ambiguous, defined by an existence seemingly both<br />

inside and outside of conventional society. This obscurity<br />

partly results from the fact that “it’s very difficult to define<br />

what a studio does”, as Patrick Kirk-Smith indicates.<br />

Liverpool’s studios encompass a vast array of art forms:<br />

pottery, graffiti, sculpture, textiles and visual arts more<br />

generally. “No one studio does the same thing. Most<br />

studios have a specialism, and they support artists within<br />

that specialism… there isn’t one definition.”<br />

Despite this variation, artist studios are united as<br />

vital components of the city’s arts scene. They operate as<br />

creative laboratories, offering artists a dedicated space<br />

to experiment and develop their craft. Critically, studios<br />

enable networking and creative collaboration between<br />

artists, providing a stimulating environment “surrounded<br />

by people who can’t help themselves but make stuff”, as<br />

Max Mallender, artist lead at The Royal Standard, explains.<br />

Studios also offer a vital transitionary space for graduate<br />

artists to receive mentoring and support. In this way,<br />

artist studios provide the foundations for the city’s art<br />

scene, operating as the “bloodline to the rest of the sector”<br />

as Faye Hamblett-Jones, artistic director at The Royal<br />

Standard, explains.<br />

The forced closure or relocation of artist studios severs<br />

this vital limb of the artistic community. In a previous<br />

article for <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>!, Charly Reed persuasively outlined the<br />

case for small music venues in the city, highlighting their<br />

importance for the wider music scene. Perhaps due to<br />

the dominancy of Liverpool’s musical identity, or the more<br />

insular, quieter nature of artist studios, their importance<br />

is often underappreciated. However, the two spaces<br />

perform a similar function in Liverpool’s diverse cultural<br />

infrastructure – offering a dedicated space for embryonic<br />

talent to grow. “Every time there has been a studio within<br />

Liverpool’s city centre, they have been systematically<br />

moved to the outskirts,” Tony Knox indicates. Without this<br />

cultural infrastructure, “where do [we] expect talent to<br />

grow?”<br />

Knox’s question encapsulates the necessity of<br />

affordable, accessible and secure studio spaces. Without<br />

investment and consolidated support, the talent will end<br />

up going and they won’t look back. “They won’t say, ‘That<br />

was a great city’, they’ll say, ‘You done fuck all for me’,”<br />

Knox warns. Liverpool risks suffocating the grassroots<br />

artistic community and the evolution of the city’s arts<br />

scene, creating a façade of culture with no underlying<br />

structure. Artificial flowers with dead soil.<br />

This story of underappreciation and perpetual<br />

marginalisation reflects an underlying flaw in Liverpool’s<br />

cultural landscape. Artists and artist studios are perceived<br />

primarily as a mechanism for cultural regeneration,<br />

rather than for their inherent non-commercial value. In<br />

Liverpool’s current cultural landscape, this flaw manifests<br />

itself in the dominance of property developers. “At the<br />

moment, property developers dictate the art scene, and

therefore they stagnate the art scene,” Knox explains,<br />

restricting affordability, accessibility and creative freedom.<br />

Artists need space, either for temporary exhibitions and<br />

performances, or as studio space and “the more central<br />

spaces can be, the more visible independent artists can<br />

be”, Patrick Kirk-Smith emphasises, allowing them to be<br />

seen and heard. However, as Liverpool has developed and<br />

become more attractive, artists are increasingly unable to<br />

access affordable city centre spaces, or are exploited as<br />

temporary solutions to reviving vacant or disused buildings<br />

before being “systematically forced out”. “Everything is<br />

monetised now,” Knox laments. “Buildings are bought and<br />

they’re sat on… A lot of the buildings that were potentially<br />

useful and could have been for artists to go into are no<br />

longer available, because people see them as potential to<br />

make money. They can’t see the bigger picture.”<br />

During its history, Road Studios has faced two<br />

evictions, a High Court ruling and constant uncertainty in<br />

the fight to retain its city centre location on Victoria Street.<br />

“[The property owners] systematically moved the goal<br />

posts by taking away access to the building, it was literally<br />

a building site… It got to the point where they actually<br />

smashed the toilets as tenants were still in the building.”<br />

Sadly, in 2019, Road was evicted and forced out of the<br />

city centre, securing a space in the Baltic’s Northern Lights<br />

building. Knox believes that property developers “play the<br />

white knight”, purporting to support artist studios and<br />

provide them with space, only to abandon them once a<br />

more profitable option surfaces. The experience of Road<br />

Studios encapsulates the situation facing artist studios<br />

across the city and the hostile environment they face.<br />

Artists recognise and champion their ability to<br />

“add value to space” and “enrich communities”, as Faye<br />

Hamblett-Jones explains, reviving the communities they<br />

exist within. “Artist studios anchor creative people, art<br />

and cultural activity in their neighbourhood,” as a report<br />

from the National Federation of Artists’ Studios Providers<br />

from 2014 indicates. In addition to providing local<br />

amenities in the forms of cafés, workspaces and events or<br />

workshops, the presence of artist studios creates a sense<br />

of ‘something happening’, piercing through the stagnancy<br />

that often dominates forgotten communities. “Artists<br />

have [always] been used as a catalyst for regeneration,”<br />

Knox acknowledges; however, artist studios want to be<br />

seen as a permanent part of the city’s infrastructure, not<br />

simply used to develop an area before being outpriced,<br />

abandoned and marginalised.<br />

Liverpool is a city that understands more than most<br />

the power of culture to stimulate regeneration and<br />

transform city landscapes. In recent years, invigorated by<br />

the success of 2008, Liverpool has positioned culture as<br />

a primary driver of revival and growth, defining itself as a<br />

‘creative city’. This has transformed external perceptions,<br />

reflected in the development of the tourism and leisure<br />

industry, which was worth £4.9 billion in 2018. The<br />

continuing relevance of this approach is epitomised today<br />

in Liverpool City Region’s ‘Cultural Compact Strategic<br />

Action Plan <strong>2021</strong>-2026’ released earlier this year, which<br />

positions culture as a dominant force in the city’s recovery<br />

from the pandemic and in the economy over the next five<br />

years. During an era in which many local authorities have<br />

cut cultural provision and funding, Liverpool City Council’s<br />

commitment to culture is commendable and the report<br />

does emphasise the need for “inclusive growth”.<br />

However, there is a sense among Liverpool’s artistic<br />

community that they are continually exploited for<br />

economic gain in the name of regeneration. “[Artists]<br />

are always exploited,” Patrick Kirk-Smith states flatly.<br />

Liverpool’s narrative of a creative city is potentially<br />

damaging if culture is valued disproportionately for its<br />

economic or regenerative potential, rather than for its<br />

inherent non-commercial value.<br />

This potential damage<br />

is reflected in the recent<br />

revelations of the Caller<br />

Report, which revealed the<br />

City Council’s “dysfunctional<br />

management”, particularly<br />

within its Regeneration,<br />

Planning and Property<br />

Management Departments,<br />

and resulted in the deployment<br />

of government commissioners<br />

to oversee these departments<br />

for the next three years. For<br />

Liverpool’s artist studios, it is proof of the “systemic”<br />

methods through which they have been exploited for<br />

regeneration projects and the profit motive which has<br />

dictated the city’s development, granting lucrative<br />

development contracts and failing to prioritise communities.<br />

Only time will tell whether the arrival of the<br />

commissioners will limit the Council’s ambitions or<br />

agency over Liverpool’s cultural strategy. However, one<br />

thing remains clear: if Liverpool is to avoid the continuing<br />

marginalisation and depletion of its artistic communities, it<br />

must re-evaluate its use of urban space. Thankfully, artists<br />

already have the solution – a utopian vision of a different<br />

kind of city.<br />

Max Mallender laughs when asked how he would<br />

solve the problems facing Liverpool’s artist studios. It is<br />

a resigned, knowing laugh, acknowledging the simplicity<br />

of the solution but the difficult of actually enacting it.<br />

“Property developers<br />

dictate the art<br />

scene, and therefore<br />

they stagnate the<br />

arts scene”<br />

It encapsulates the situation facing artist studios in<br />

Liverpool. They are tired. Tired of explaining themselves<br />

continuously, tired of the same resurfaced issues, tired of<br />

asking for support. Tired of knowing exactly how to solve<br />

problems but lacking the power to achieve solutions. “If I<br />

could solve the problems,” Max says, “I’d use all the empty<br />

commercial space and all the empty retail space in the city<br />

and I’d give it to [artists] to do stuff with.”<br />

High streets are dying; empty façades stare out like<br />

glazed eyes onto deserted pavements. Rather than this<br />

apocalyptic scene, imagine if artists inhabited these empty<br />

spaces. “Imagine if the high street changed, imagine if<br />

every couple of months there was something different in<br />

X space or Y space. There would be a constant draw for<br />

people to come into the city,” Max enthuses. Patrick Kirk-<br />

Smith agrees that “one day the experience of a high street<br />

needs to change – it needs to not be about ‘big culture’.<br />

It needs to be local, and community-led, and artists are<br />

ideally placed to do that”. Faye Hamblett-Jones imagines<br />

“open spaces where the public can come and engage with<br />

art and artists”. Commercial<br />

spaces are inherently exclusive,<br />

dictating access based on<br />

economic status. Artistic<br />

spaces are democratic and<br />

inclusive, inviting people in for<br />

no other purpose than presence<br />

and participation. These are<br />

the kind of spaces that should<br />

define Liverpool – those that<br />

facilitate conversation and<br />

creation, that compel and entice<br />

interactions between disparate<br />

people and ideas.<br />

This utopian image of a dynamic and responsive<br />

Liverpool city space is enticing, interspersing art and<br />

creativity with other aspects of urban life. A diverse<br />

ecology of art, retail, work and leisure where ordinariness<br />

clashes against artistry – a buzzing metropolis which is<br />

inclusive and inviting. This is what creates a fertile and<br />

explosive culture. A tidal wave of creativity in the city<br />

centre, honouring Liverpool’s coastal identity; an ebbing,<br />

flowing, evolving city which keeps everyone afloat. This is<br />

what is at stake. This is what can be saved. !<br />

Words: El Gray / @Just__El<br />

Illustration: John O’Loughlin / @jolworkshop<br />

To read the full State Of The Studios report visit<br />

studio-network-merseyside.co.uk<br />



RON’S<br />

PLACE<br />


Following his death in 2019, the home of outsider<br />

artist Ron Gittins revealed itself to be a secret<br />

treasure trove of surreal sculpture and classical<br />

painting. With efforts currently ongoing to save the<br />

art and the flat itself, Matthew Hogarth stepped into<br />

Ron’s dreamworld in an attempt to learn more about<br />

the idiosyncratic artist.<br />

Growing up, it was less footballers or television<br />

personalities or even musicians who I was<br />

truly fascinated with and inspired by. Instead,<br />

it was those who frequented history books,<br />

the world’s outliers. I was always drawn to Victorian<br />

eccentrics with carriages drawn by zebras, or the likes<br />

of Salvador Dalí, moustache curled, wide-eyed behind a<br />

lobster phone. I was always fascinated by the worlds that<br />

these characters inhabited, made for themselves and their<br />

desire to refuse to conform to society’s standards.<br />

These figures, however, always seemed completely<br />

exotic from the post-industrial town of Birkenhead, where<br />

I grew up. The local characters were always far more<br />

pedestrian, lacking some of the je ne sais quoi of those<br />

I obsessed over in large hardback books. My affinity<br />

with such people never faded. I formed more recent<br />

allegiances with outsiders like Daniel Johnston, while also<br />

scouring charity shops for artwork at any opportunity.<br />

So, it was with great surprise and excitement when<br />

I first heard of the late RON GITTINS and his rented<br />

house in Birkenhead. Within a mile of where I had grown<br />

up was a modern-day Sistine Chapel: an ode to ancient<br />

civilisations, historical<br />

figures and underwater<br />

worlds, gloriously<br />

splayed out in household<br />

paint, fibreglass, papiermâché<br />

and concrete.<br />

In an unassuming<br />

suburb, between beige<br />

interiors and hidden<br />

behind drapes, lay an<br />

entirely different world;<br />

the fantastical home of<br />

Ron, now affectionately<br />

named RON’S PLACE.<br />

Upon the unfortunate<br />

passing of Ron, his<br />

niece Jay Williams and<br />

her husband Chris<br />

Teasdale, who together run the roving art organisation<br />

The Caravan Gallery, uncovered what had been decades<br />

in the making. Although slightly cluttered upon first<br />

entry, there was evidence of Gittins’ work quite literally<br />

everywhere in the flat, which had become a work of art<br />

of its own. His hall walls were adorned with Ancient<br />

Egyptians, hieroglyphics and Cleopatra. This imagery is<br />

quite apt – on entering the property you feel a little like<br />

how Howard Carter must have felt upon discovering the<br />

Tomb of Tutankhamun; there’s a wonderment which just<br />

makes you smile.<br />

“Mum and dad kept in touch, but he never invited<br />

people to the house. We never lost touch, but we never<br />

realised how amazing his place was until he died,” says<br />

Jan .Walking round is a rather humbling experience.<br />

There’s a true magic within the ground floor flat. Every<br />

wall is a canvas, every ceiling a diorama, every floor<br />

painted to the style that hangs above it.<br />

“There’s something truly<br />

refreshing in Ron’s work<br />

in that it was created<br />

for the love of it, for<br />

something beautiful, to<br />

live in and completely<br />

lose yourself in”<br />

Jan remembers her uncle growing up. “He was always<br />

obsessed with power. He was born in Birkenhead. We<br />

spent a lot of time there as kids, but Ron would go in the<br />

outside toilet and recite Richard III in this really grandiose<br />

voice,” she recalls. “My grandad would say, ‘Why are you<br />

speaking like that, it’s not part of our background’. [But]<br />

he would put on these really grand voices. He had this<br />

really great air of confidence and grandiosity.”<br />

His obsession with power manifests itself in his art,<br />

too. Throughout the house it seems to be a common<br />

theme. Books on kings and queens sit juxtaposed with<br />

books on revolution and the likes of Henry VIII, Romans<br />

and royals of old adorn his walls.<br />

His non-conformism wasn’t just kept inside<br />

the house, either. “A lot of what Ron did was very<br />

performative. He’d be a familiar sight around Birkenhead<br />

wearing crazy outfits and he often went to Wickes to<br />

buy sand and cement dressed up,” notes Jan. This sand<br />

and cement makes up perhaps the most eye catching<br />

features inside: two huge home-made fireplaces, one a<br />

lion, the other a minotaur. Inside both sit a couple of tea<br />

lights. “He would go busking. A lovely thing that people<br />

said was that, ‘Ahh your<br />

Ron, mad but we love<br />

him’. He was always<br />

charming and he would<br />

have time for you. And,<br />

as family, we often saw<br />

another side of him as<br />

he was attention seeking<br />

and he was often called<br />

‘mad uncle Ronnie’ – part<br />

of me thinks that’s great<br />

as the status quo needs<br />

to be challenged.”<br />

To me, it’s that<br />

Ron never let anyone<br />

inside that makes the<br />

place just so special.<br />

“He really inspired my<br />

creativity,” Jan tells us. The Caravan Gallery operates<br />

with much the same ethos as Ron himself: offering up<br />

art to those who may not otherwise get to experience it<br />

while capturing the surrealism in everyday life. “I think<br />

I was born creative and my parents always encouraged<br />

our creativity. He made learning things really exciting<br />

and always had lots of history books. I remember getting<br />

obsessed with ancient Rome and he gave me a Roman<br />

clay tile once. I just found it fascinating being able to<br />

hold that connection between myself and people in<br />

a completely different place in time. He always made<br />

learning something interesting and exciting, and what’s<br />

funny going through a lot of his stuff is how much we<br />

have [in common]. My studio is absolutely chocka with<br />

stuff I’ve saved, like books and papers and things that<br />

might be useful to make things with.”<br />

“He did it for himself,” Jan continues. “Even<br />

when I was a kid, I remember he lived in a rented<br />


accommodation with my nan and grandad in New Ferry<br />

and even then he painted his bedroom ceiling as a whole<br />

Roman scene. I think the neighbours got a bit pissed off<br />

as he started to create a Roman wall in the garden. He<br />

used to dismember my grandparents’ brushes to get<br />

the bristles off to make Roman helmets and overran the<br />

house with projects. There was always fibreglass and<br />

glue and Plasticine everywhere. He was always doing<br />

something and was always very proud of what he did.<br />

So, he wasn’t being secretive in that respect. He often<br />

made paintings for people, but it was more the fear of<br />

losing the art within the house.”<br />

A sculpture in the house still holds the tag from its<br />

submission to The Royal Academy. Without wanting<br />

to sound clichéd, there can often be a snobbery within<br />

the world which can cause exclusion. Whether that be<br />

through art being outside contemporary taste or not<br />

fitting within parameters. Therefore, there’s something<br />

truly refreshing in Ron’s work in that it was created<br />

for the love of it, for something beautiful, to live in and<br />

completely lose yourself in. It offers something unique<br />

which could have been lost if it had to jump through<br />

hoops and meet expected norms.<br />

The fact that the interior of the flat was kept<br />

secret is perhaps somewhat of a double-edged sword.<br />

Having used household items, some of the art is in a<br />

fragile state. “We’ve had the head conservator from<br />

National Museums Liverpool over and she said there’s<br />

been no damp in there and it’s been kept in really good<br />

condition, but some of it really does need attention,”<br />

admits Jan. Alongside National Museums Liverpool, the<br />

space has also attracted the attention of art specialists<br />

worldwide, as well as the likes of filmmaker Martin<br />

Wallace and Jarvis Cocker who have become patrons of<br />

the space. Somewhat ironic for Ron I’m sure, achieving a<br />

posthumous fame with work we’re not sure he wanted<br />

people to see.<br />

As I walk out of the house, adjusting my eyes to<br />

the sunshine and leafy suburbia that surrounds me,<br />

it hits me how much value the house possesses. Not<br />

only as an archive of a lifetime of art and the unique<br />

individual behind it, but the lessons it holds in the joys of<br />

individuality and the expression of self. I may not have<br />

had the pleasure to meet Ron, but his art tells a lot of this<br />

story and provides the interview he couldn’t give. !<br />

Words: Matthew Hogarth<br />

Photography: Serena Ambrose Ellis / @serenambroseellis<br />

You can support and preserve the legacy of Ron’s Place<br />

via the Patreon link below<br />

patreon.com/ronsplacewirral<br />

@RonsSaving<br />




“Songwriting<br />

allows me to be<br />

emotional in a<br />

pretty raw and<br />

healing way”<br />

Channelling emotion through<br />

joyous sprinkles of synth.<br />

If you had to describe your music/style in a sentence,<br />

what would you say?<br />

Waves of synthesizers and waves of emotion.<br />

Have you always wanted to create music? How did you<br />

get into it?<br />

Pretty much, I used to write a lot of poetry as a way of<br />

expressing my tween-self. So, when I got into playing<br />

music, coming up with lyrics came almost naturally to<br />

me. Growing up listening to bands like Linkin Park and<br />

Evanescence with their heavily emotional lyrics inspired<br />

me, sort of; it made me realise that music didn’t have to<br />

just be about ladies and booze.<br />

Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of music that<br />

initially inspired you?<br />

The first ‘gig’ I went to was an All Time Low show at the<br />

Manchester Arena in 2016. I was never super into their<br />

music, but I was going with my friend who was. At this<br />

point I was really passionate about music so being there<br />

with people who were also passionate was amazing. I<br />

remember being in the moment and seeing all the guys<br />

on stage and thinking, ‘That’s what I wanna do’. Pretty<br />

lame, but it was a defining moment for me because I<br />

realised I loved live music.<br />

What do you think is the overriding influence on your<br />

songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a<br />

mixture of all of these?<br />

I’d definitely say all of the above. Songwriting allows me<br />

to be emotional in a pretty raw and healing way. Letting<br />

your mind flow while writing about something deeply<br />

personal and then singing about it helps me get over<br />

things, I think.<br />

If you could support any artist in the future, who would<br />

it be?<br />

Without a doubt, Declan McKenna.<br />

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed in? If<br />

so, what makes it special?<br />

The Cavern, definitely, because so many stars have<br />

walked on that stage and the energy down there is<br />

indescribable.<br />

Why is music important to you?<br />

Music helps me give context to my emotions, listening<br />

to it elevates me emotionally and it always has. It’s so<br />

universally enjoyed that, even in times of incredible<br />

divide, we all listen to the same songs.<br />

Seagoth plays St Barnabas Church on 28th May and<br />

RivFest in Warrington on 8th August<br />


KOKIRI<br />

A producer and DJ of full-bodied house music.<br />

If you had to describe your music/style in a sentence,<br />

what would you say?<br />

It sits on the borders of melodic house, with elements of<br />

soul, disco and classic house hiding in there too.<br />

Have you always wanted to produce? How did you get<br />

into it?<br />

I got into production when I was about 12/13. My brother<br />

showed me a song he had on vinyl and explained to me<br />

that the lad who had made it produced it in his bedroom.<br />

It blew my mind. I thought that you needed a big<br />

expensive studio to release music. When I realised I could<br />

make tracks on my PC, I became obsessed.<br />

Do you have a highlight in your career so far?<br />

For me, it happened about six years ago, when I’d put<br />

together a song called Retrospect. As soon as it was<br />

released, it was being played at shows, festivals and even<br />

topped the Radio 1 Dance Chart. It then went on to be<br />

released by Ministry of Sound.<br />

To what extent has Liverpool’s electronic music<br />

scene and clubbing scene influenced your work as a<br />

producer?<br />

One of the reasons I wanted to produce music was<br />

because of Mike Di Scala. He was basically running<br />

the Scouse house scene when I started. He was doing<br />

exactly what I aspired to, just a lad making music and<br />

playing it out at shows; this was a massive inspiration to<br />

me.<br />

What was the inspiration behind your newest track So<br />

Free? Any particular musical influences?<br />

The original idea for the song was made back in 2015.<br />

I came across a sample that had a tribal vibe and spent<br />

a couple of hours playing around with it. Fast forward a<br />

few years later, I had a writing session with Jem Cooke<br />

who appears on the track. I found an old mp3 of the idea<br />

and asked if this was something she’d be interested in<br />

writing to. She loved the original idea, so we went from<br />

there. I was introduced to Todd Terry through my label<br />

and showed him some of my demos. He loved it, and I<br />

suppose the rest is history.<br />

You’ve already worked with legends such as Todd<br />

Terry. Is there anyone who you aspire to collaborate<br />

with one day?<br />

Collaborating with Todd was definitely a bucket list<br />

moment for me. I could probably list about 100 people<br />

who I’d love to collaborate with, with but I’ll narrow it<br />

down to my top three: Ben Böhmer, Tom Misch and Roy<br />

Ayers.<br />

Why is music important to you?<br />

I just love that you can hear a song that you haven’t heard<br />

for years and it has the power to transport you instantly<br />

to a different point in your life. I want to be able to give<br />

people that feeling. I want listeners to relate to my music,<br />

understand why I’ve created it and leave them with a<br />

lasting effect.<br />

So Free is available now via Perfect Havoc<br />

@kokirimusic<br />


Breathless surf rock with a recording<br />

prolificacy to keep pace.<br />

If you had to describe your music/style in a sentence,<br />

what would you say?<br />

Jay (guitar/voice): Scouse surf-rock/garage noir.<br />

Chris (Organ): With added cinematic feel. A mix of<br />

grandiose Echo And The Bunnymen and the dirt-surf<br />

garage from The Cramps and the Dead Kennedys.<br />

Have you always wanted to create music? How did you<br />

get into it?<br />

C: I started mostly by getting few instrument lessons in<br />

school. As soon as I was shown a power chord or a Nirvana<br />

song on drums I never looked back. We’ve always been<br />

in some sort of band, from the cover groups we started<br />

at school, to our three-chord punk bands we were in as<br />

teenagers.<br />

What drew you towards the lo-fi garage sound in<br />

particular?<br />

C: We feel like with new recording and production methods<br />

the surf sound can get over-produced.<br />

J: It’s important we have some grit.<br />

C: We want our music to sound like it’s been buried in a<br />

damp basement for decades.<br />

You’ve just released a series of three EPs. How does each<br />

release connect with each other, and how do they differ?<br />

C: Each EP is distinct, while all staying true to our sound.<br />

The first, That’s Trash, showcases how diverse our songs<br />

are. We picked one of our grand cinematic tracks with<br />

Running Scared, a fast garage track with 86’d and slow<br />

surf track with One Eyed Jacques.<br />

J: More Trash has three darker tracks both in feel and lyrical<br />

content.<br />

C: And Pure Trash has tracks you can dance to, with songs<br />

like Tear It Up.<br />

What do you think is the overriding influence on your<br />

songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a<br />

mixture of all of these?<br />

J: It stems from wanting to do something artistic. You know,<br />

just to leave something here for when you’re gone, to<br />

prove you existed. I quite like thinking about the future and<br />

someone saying, “Here’s my uncle’s old band.”<br />

C: Or, “My granddad was in a band, you know, on this old<br />

website called Spotify.”<br />

It’s a break from your working life. I like thinking art, old<br />

horror films, John Waters films, B-movies and Twilight Zone<br />

episodes inspire us.<br />

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed in? If so,<br />

what makes it special?<br />

J: We only had the chance to play about three venues<br />

before the pandemic, but Drop The Dumbulls sticks out. It’s<br />

DIY to its core.<br />

Why is music important to you?<br />

J: It’s everything.<br />

C: It’s something that’s always there. Music is the perfect<br />

tonic. It’s the principal thing.<br />

Photography: Mat Colfar<br />

That’s Trash, More Trash and Pure Trash are out now and<br />

play Shipwrecked at Future Yard 14th August.<br />




A LESSER<br />


Liam Evans introduces their new project which<br />

is mushrooming into a shoegaze force.<br />

“Music has evoked<br />

the strongest and<br />

longest lasting<br />

feelings in me”<br />

If you had to describe your music/style in a sentence,<br />

what would you say?<br />

Deviated rock music for non-music enthusiasts.<br />

Have you always wanted to create music? How did you<br />

get into it?<br />

I’ve always been creative in different ways, but it wasn’t<br />

until I was around the age of 16 that I fell in to playing<br />

instruments and trying to play songs that I had written<br />

with friends.<br />

Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of music that<br />

initially inspired you?<br />

When I first heard Ceremony by New Order, I felt<br />

compelled to share my stories and emotions and things<br />

I’d written and I’ve carried on doing it ever since. I was<br />

always making things prior to that, but I think that was<br />

one of the first times that I felt inspired to make art in the<br />

ways that I do now.<br />

Do you have a favourite song or piece of music to<br />

perform? What does it say about you?<br />

I like playing a song called Perfect Circles, which is the<br />

last song on the album Excess (which we are releasing<br />

later this year). I think the things I want to say in my art<br />

at this moment in time are communicated as simply as<br />

possible in that song.<br />

What do you think is the overriding influence on your<br />

songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a<br />

mixture of all of these?<br />

I try to pull from any and every influence, whether it is<br />

from the things I see and feel and experience or things<br />

happening around me and in the world. Making art is a<br />

very cathartic experience for me and I have to be able<br />

to talk about different things in order to make sense of<br />

them.<br />

If you could support any artist in the future, who would<br />

it be?<br />

Probably Paul McCartney, predictably. Or Brian Eno, in<br />

some way.<br />

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed in? If<br />

so, what makes it special?<br />

My favourite venues have probably been Sound in<br />

Liverpool, The Prince Albert in Brighton, and Aatma in<br />

Manchester.<br />

Why is music important to you?<br />

Music is the easiest way for me to express myself and I<br />

can’t imagine it not being something I would do. Music<br />

has generally evoked the strongest and longest lasting<br />

feelings in me compared to other art and, for that reason,<br />

it has been central to everything I do for as long as I can<br />

remember.<br />

Sylvia and A07042 are available now. I Drown is out 11th<br />

<strong>June</strong>. A Lesser Version play the <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! Social at Future<br />

Yard on 30th July.<br />

@alesserversion<br />



The psychedelia fuelled five-piece explore experiences of the mind.<br />

If you had to describe your music/style in a sentence,<br />

what would you say?<br />

Progressive psychedelia with bits and bobs of different<br />

genres thrown into the mix.<br />

Have you always wanted to create music? How did you<br />

get into it?<br />

Bottle: Everyone has always just wanted to play music.<br />

Me, Sam and Stu had been in various different bands<br />

together since we were kids, and found our way once<br />

Chris, Alannah and Luke joined.<br />

Your music sounds like a blend of grunge and heavy<br />

psych. What drew you to the genre?<br />

Psychedelics! Seriously though, we started off as a blues<br />

band back when we were kids, and eventually moved<br />

over to psych-pop. After that, we moved over to heavier<br />

music that really summed us up as a new band.<br />

Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of music that<br />

initially inspired you?<br />

Bottle: The first time I heard Floyd’s The Piper At The<br />

Gates Of Dawn it blew my mind.<br />

Stu: Pink Floyd Live in Pompeii.<br />

Sam: Stop Making Sense, because it showed that gigs<br />

can be more than just music. The possibilities for different<br />

ways to entertain are endless.<br />

Chris: Watching Anders Flanderz playing Girls Just Want<br />

To Have Fun through a Vocoder. He was banging a water<br />

tank over his head with bells around his ankles.<br />

Alannah: My first gig was Alice Cooper when I was nine.<br />

The drama of the show, the awesome performance, got<br />

me really excited about music.<br />

Luke: Alfa Mist and Yussef Dayes at Abbey Road, playing<br />

Love Is The Message.<br />

What was the biggest inspiration behind your new EP?<br />

We wanted to elucidate the psychedelic experience of the<br />

mind, the journey you go through, and the light and dark<br />

that goes with it.<br />

How do your latest release differ from your previous<br />

work?<br />

It’s a lot darker. We moved away from the psych-pop<br />

sound we had developed over a couple of years. The<br />

world’s a dark place and we wanted to capture it, but also<br />

reach for the light too.<br />

How was the process of making the EP?<br />

B: I had been messing round with alternate tunings on<br />

the guitar to form The Nerve Centre and Subconscious.<br />

Chris brought in Reflection. Once we had Alannah join<br />

the tracks gained that kick that made us think we need to<br />

get these recorded.<br />

Why is music important to you?<br />

Music is the food of the soul. Everyone is the same when<br />

it comes to feeling music. It’s amazing that something<br />

personal to us is personal to someone else for a<br />

completely different reason.<br />

Photography: Olivia Hunt and Ade Henry<br />

Subconscious Reflection is available now.<br />

@sanpedrosvision<br />


Searching for the melody through<br />

method acting songwriting.<br />

If you had to describe your music/style in a sentence,<br />

what would you say?<br />

Sometimes poppy, sometimes more experimental. I am only<br />

recently beginning to own how inconsistent my style is.<br />

Have you always wanted to create music? How did you<br />

get into it?<br />

I have always had an emotional connection to it. My<br />

family are all music lovers, so I was always surrounded<br />

by great music. I found music was always the best tool to<br />

process my emotions, too. My mum says I used to sing a<br />

lot as a child. Mostly school hymns.<br />

Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of music that<br />

initially inspired you?<br />

I used to jam out to Give Me Oil In My Lamp in assembly.<br />

I’m not Christian, but Jesus can sure write a hit. One time<br />

me and my brother found a pile of rap CDs behind some<br />

kid’s house. His parents had thrown them out, probably<br />

because of the language. We salvaged them and gave<br />

them a lot of spins over the years. I would say those<br />

memories always stick out because that was my first<br />

experience of discovering music for myself.<br />

What do you think is the overriding influence on your<br />

songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a<br />

mixture of all of these?<br />

I would say most of my creativity comes from when<br />

I’m feeling down. Break-ups are usually my fuel for<br />

writing. I always find I’m super creative when my room<br />

is messy and I’m unwashed. It’s like method acting but<br />

for songwriting, creating an environment that mirrors the<br />

music I’m trying to make.<br />

If you could support any artist in the future, who would<br />

it be?<br />

It’s between Alex G, Andy Shauf or Chastity Belt at the<br />

moment.<br />

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed in? If<br />

so, what makes it special?<br />

The Reeds was definitely a stand-out, it was so small<br />

you were literally face to face with the audience. Sound<br />

Basement was always a great setting for a good night,<br />

too. It’s sad to a see a lot of them are no longer open. My<br />

heart aches for them. That makes the memories even<br />

more special now.<br />

Why is music important to you?<br />

I am such an anxious and shy person, so I always find<br />

music helps me communicate with people better, there<br />

isn’t anything in the world more intimate than listening<br />

to music with another person and being completely in<br />

silence for the whole song or album. To me, that silence<br />

tells me more about a person than any small talk ever<br />

could.<br />

Photography: Michael Davies<br />

Something About The Rain is available now.<br />

@hank_markdukas<br />



“If I’d just had it<br />

easy, I probably<br />

wouldn’t be doing<br />

this now”<br />

GIG<br />


Get It Loud In Libraries @ Widnes Library – 06/06<br />

As the dust settles following her 2020 debut album, Return, the boho’d silhouette of Wild West<br />

Country gunslinger Katy J Pearson heads for the Mersey shores.<br />

An afternoon gig? In a library? In Widnes?<br />

Stranger things have happened over the last<br />

12 months, but if this is the so-called new<br />

normal then count me in. With over 800 of<br />

them locking up for good since 2010, our libraries have<br />

known sacrifice long before the viral apocalypse reached<br />

these shores.<br />

But there’s something far more noble at play here.<br />

Get It Loud In Libraries aren’t just signalling the gig<br />

drought’s end, they’re helping to bring live music –<br />

and the wider creative opportunities it affords – to<br />

our metropolitan peripheries; our towns and suburbs<br />

that have, for far too long, become something of a live<br />

performance no-man’s land that never get as much as a<br />

whiff of a tour van’s exhaust pipe.<br />

Beyond references to Spike Island and Widnes train<br />

station’s claim to Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound, the<br />

music annals of the Liverpool City Region Borough of<br />

Culture <strong>2021</strong> are somewhat muted. But if any venue is to<br />

welcome KATY J PEARSON’s West Country Americana<br />

to the Viking shores of Halton, then Widnes Library’s as<br />

good a start as any.<br />

Having departed the charts-churn pressures of<br />

a former major label to join the Heavenly Recordings<br />

family, the self-crowned “70s Texas mom” is ready to<br />

hit the highway after releasing her country-pop debut in<br />

November 2020. She phones in to reveal all.<br />

Hello Katy, it’s been quite a year. What were your initial<br />

thoughts when you released Return as we went into<br />

that second lockdown back in November?<br />

It was challenging for me, because it’s taken such a long<br />

time to finally release my album and of course you have<br />

so many expectations about what that’s going to be<br />

like. But it was really frustrating when I realised that it<br />

was going to be coming out in lockdown when I couldn’t<br />

celebrate with my label, friends or family. But there were<br />

so many positives that came out of it. I felt it got more<br />

of a reach because so many people had pulled their<br />

campaigns. As a new artist I had nothing to lose by doing<br />

that, so we were like, ‘Let’s do it’. I kind of just got over it<br />

and realised that, you know, I’m still releasing my album;<br />

I’m still getting to hold it and, to be honest, looking back<br />

now, I’m so happy with how it’s gone down.<br />

The album is not without its own backstory, which has<br />

been well documented, regarding some unfortunate<br />

experiences with a former major label and its pressures<br />

of hit-making. Is it fair to say we see something of a<br />

new beginning in Return?<br />

Definitely. I’m 25 now, I didn’t go to university – I went<br />

straight into working with a major label when I was 19.<br />

I had just left my foundation art course and me and my<br />

brother were living such a weird kind of life where all our<br />

friends were at uni doing uni stuff and I was, like, doing<br />

really serious music stuff. They were my first few years of<br />

being a young adult and having to really get challenged<br />

and, in a way, if I’d just had it easy, I probably wouldn’t<br />

be doing this now, because I think having that challenge<br />

made me even more determined that this was what I<br />

wanted to do.<br />

Has this migrated over to your creative process? Are<br />

you more in-tune with who you were all along now that<br />

you have a much more independent scope?<br />

One hundred per cent. I have such a good team around<br />

me, and I feel so comfortable just doing whatever I want.<br />

I think all I needed to do was to get that first album out<br />

and know that I could do it and achieve it. And, in terms<br />

of directing my music videos, they were all collaborative<br />

except for Something Real, so I was very much involved.<br />

It’s just given me that confidence that, you know, I can<br />

really get stuck into all aspects of the project and not just<br />

be the writer and singer. I can spread myself all over it.<br />

Speaking of your videos, from sunset-glazed equine<br />

shots to line-dancing and rhinestone-embroidered<br />

suits, they provide such a cinematic backdrop to your<br />

country storytelling. What’s it like bringing your music<br />

to the screen and how did you manage to choreograph<br />

Cher the horse in Fix Me Up?<br />

I just think filming music videos when you’re on a shoot<br />

with a crew and you’ve got your friends involved as<br />

extras is so fun. We filmed Fix Me Up at this lovely horseriding<br />

centre in Clapton-in-Gordano just outside Bristol<br />

on the way to Portishead – there was a really lovely<br />

couple that ran it, and they were the sweetest. But with<br />

Cher the horse, she was like, huge. I was quite scared<br />

because she was just so done listening to my songs and<br />

kept neighing really loudly and I was just holding her<br />

reins thinking, ‘I’m gonna die’. But it was all fine and Cher<br />

was an absolute star.<br />

Your music marries country inflections with earworm<br />

pop melodies, and you’ve even covered songs from the<br />

likes of Lucinda Williams and Jackson C Frank for your<br />

Covers & Others series. Where do these country heroes<br />

come from? Is it something that was incubated growing<br />

up around the plains of Gloucestershire?<br />

My parents were really into their music and my dad<br />

especially. He gave me music and brought me and my<br />

brothers up on the classics like The Beatles, The Beach<br />

Boys and Joni Mitchell, so I had a strong start and,<br />

because I was listening to them from such a young age,<br />

I was such a big fan. But in terms of the folk and country<br />

stuff, I’ve always loved it and as I’ve got older and got<br />

to know myself more – as we all do when we get older<br />

– I’ve kind of just met certain people that have shown<br />

me more of that kind of music. I really love Doc Watson,<br />

Bert Jansch and Jackson C Frank. In the darker days of<br />

lockdown, their music was a very safe bubble to retreat<br />

to. Lucinda Williams is the most fantastic, too, and I<br />

actually didn’t hear of her until I got signed to Heavenly.<br />

Jeff [Barrett, founder] came down and said, ‘Oh, you<br />

sound like Lucinda Williams,’ and I was like, ‘Who’s that?’<br />

And I listened to her and that was it – I just loved it!<br />

You’re set to stop by Widnes Library as part of your<br />

tour. How hopeful are you of returning to the live circuit<br />

in general, and how does playing in a library sound?<br />

I feel more hopeful than I did before. I think all of us who<br />

create music – and music fans in general – are just quietly<br />

hopeful. But we’ve got to go ahead with it now otherwise<br />

the music industry will just disintegrate. People really<br />

need live music. This album has been out for quite a while<br />

now and I haven’t played it live to people who have heard<br />

it, so I think performing in these new places and venues<br />

that I haven’t been to before in front of people that know<br />

my music is going to feel so crazy. We’ve all been in our<br />

own little bubbles, so to have a live crowd enjoying it is<br />

going to be a really special thing. !<br />

Interview: Matthew Berks / @Hewniverse_<br />

Photography: Seren Carys<br />

Katy J Pearson plays Widnes Library on 6th <strong>June</strong>. Return<br />

is available now via Heavenly Recordings.<br />

@katyjpearsonband<br />



AND<br />


27/05-11/07<br />

Various Locations + Online<br />

Exploring the flows of shipping, energy and political<br />

power structures on our waterways through<br />

installations, augmented reality, film screenings,<br />

workshops, performances and more, Abandon<br />

Normal Devices Festival has returned to disrupt, provoke<br />

and reflect. The <strong>2021</strong> edition of the festival will utilise the<br />

fertile settings of the River Mersey and Manchester Ship<br />

Canal to invite audiences to consider how our way of living is<br />

affecting the world around us.<br />

The experimental arts festival has a sprawling<br />

programme of live and online activity, with commissions from<br />

artists from all over the world. Augmented reality seascapes,<br />

immersive voyages and floating laboratories as well as<br />

online artworks, film screenings, performances, talks and<br />

workshops will take place from 27th May until 11th July.<br />

American composer KALI MALONE brings an immersive<br />

audio experience to Birkenhead’s Central Hydraulic Tower.<br />

Does Spring Hide Its Joy was created and recorded at<br />

MONOM in the empty Berlin Funkhaus during the first<br />

lockdown and will be presented as a four-day multichannel<br />

sound installation in the 19th century tower in the heart of<br />

the Birkenhead docklands.<br />

Liverpool born artist YAYA BONES and 3D visual artist<br />

aio0o0o0 present a live audiovisual broadcast which reflects<br />

a childhood on the Mersey shores. The work combines<br />

operatic siren calls and technological earth beats with<br />

undulating meditative dunes for a thought-provoking<br />

performance on 26th <strong>June</strong>.<br />

Bidston Observatory host an open air cinema on the<br />

weekend of 2nd July. Theo Anthony’s experimental film<br />

All Light Everywhere features in the programme for a live<br />

cinema event that reckons with our industrial past and offers<br />

prophetic glimpses of what is to come.<br />

Connecting the port cities of Rotterdam and Liverpool,<br />

Dutch collective New Emergences present Weedweavers on<br />

the 9th July. Taking inspiration from cutting-edge research<br />

into algae forms conducted by a group of formidable women<br />

on Merseyside in the early 20th century, the workshop and<br />

live event explores feminist and non-traditional science<br />

practices, as well as myths, recipes and stories. The event is<br />

led by artists Angeliki Diakrousi and mariëlle verdijk.<br />

Taking place onboard the Mersey-built vessel the<br />

Daniel Adamson, By The Sounds Of Things is an immersive<br />

audiovisual experience which invites audiences to feel the<br />

epic scale of the modern shipping industry. The installation<br />

will reflect the disruption of man-made ship noise on the<br />

marine eco-system with hypnotic binaural soundwork and<br />

a film which juxtaposes the extraordinary and the banal<br />

realities of the global sea trade.<br />

Elsewhere on the festival programme there are New<br />

Cinema Shorts reflecting the year’s theme, artist Anita<br />

Fontaine updates the conventional river tour with a future<br />

fairytale presentation aboard the Mersey Ferry and, over<br />

in Ellesmere Port’s National Waterways Museum, WetLab<br />

allows creative minds to explore the rivers and canals with<br />

workshops, experiments and discussion. Go to the AND<br />

website to see more of the nautical programme.<br />

Central Hydraulic Tower, Birkenhead<br />

Bidston Observatory<br />

Central Hydraulic Tower, Birkenhead<br />

New Emergences, Weedweavers<br />




GIG<br />

VLURE<br />

15/06 - Future Yard<br />

Vlure<br />

Hotly-tipped Glasgow five-piece VLURE make their Merseyside debut<br />

with a socially distanced show at Future Yard. The post-punk noisemakers<br />

dropped single Shattered Faith on Permanent Creeps records in<br />

2020 and promise to continue their ascent with a confronting mélange<br />

of synthy hooks, dub sensibilities and forthright lyrics. Future Yard has a<br />

comprehensive social distancing policy offering a safe experience to giggoers<br />

as the last of the Covid restrictions remain. These shows precede<br />

a busy season of gigs commencing at the venue in August.<br />

CLUB<br />

Sasha<br />

25/06 - Invisible Wind Factory<br />

After the success of the Bramley Moore Dock pilot test shows, Circus continue to make up for lost time with a special night at Invisible Wind Factory this month. House stalwart<br />

SASHA headlines with a four-hour set, with locals JAMES ORGAN and LAUREN LO SUNG reliably bringing the beats in support. Taking place across the two floors of the venue,<br />

LOLIFE and SIAN BENNETT also join the party. North Wales native SASHA has an international reputation but has sustained ties with the North West, making this the ideal<br />

booking as we emerge from lockdown onto the dancefloor.<br />

ONLINE<br />

Stock Footage<br />

27/05-08/07 - Kazimier Stockroom<br />

Dialect - Photo: Andrew Ellis<br />

A TV show with a difference is being broadcast from the Kazimier<br />

Stockroom. Live sets from local artists such as STEALING SHEEP, PODGE<br />

and THE ALEPH is coupled with chat and games for Stock Footage, an<br />

internet series due to begin on 27th May. Feature artist in issue 113 of <strong>Bido</strong><br />

<strong>Lito</strong>! DIALECT is the opening act to feature on the show. The sound artist,<br />

whose latest album Under~Between is winning rave reviews, will play a set<br />

and answer questions about his artistic process and more. Episodes of the<br />

show will be broadcast weekly online into July.<br />


The Last Bohemian: Augustus John<br />

Until 30/08 - Lady Lever Art Gallery<br />

This brand-new exhibition showcases around 40 works by one<br />

of Britain’s most iconic and controversial artists. Having moved to<br />

Liverpool in 1901, the new exhibition explores his time in the city<br />

which greatly influenced his life and career. Often described as<br />

bohemian, John’s paintings were uncompromising and famously<br />

captured the true character and personality of each sitter. Taking the<br />

spotlight, Lord Leverhulme’s infamous ‘beheaded’ portrait examines<br />

the extraordinary events that provoked Lever to destroy his own<br />

portrait and when leaked to the press, caused outrage and protests.<br />

Augustus John<br />



Y’MAM: Young Man’s Angry Movements<br />

16-26/06 - Everyman Theatre<br />

In an incongruous combination, Majid Mehdizadeh’s solo show fuses spoken<br />

word, music and movement with an examination of modern masculinity.<br />

Y’MAM (Young Man’s Angry Movements) is an autobiographical exploration<br />

of the anger, anxieties and fantasies that provide the foundation for toxic<br />

masculinity. The play will run at the Everyman from 16th to 26th <strong>June</strong>,<br />

inviting audiences to consider the cultural pressures that create modern<br />

men and the love required to overcome them.<br />

Y’MAM<br />


Liverpool Biennial <strong>2021</strong> - Second Chapter<br />

Until autumn – Various venues<br />

Liverpool Biennial continues its diverse roster of multidisciplinary art as it finally opens the full exhibition programme for the 11th edition, The Stomach and the Port. Curated by<br />

Manuela Moscoso, the UK’s biggest contemporary visual arts festival will see nine lead venues – including Lewis’, FACT and Bluecoat – showcase up to 50 artists’ interpretations<br />

of the body and their experiences of being in the world. On 27th May and 17th <strong>June</strong>, the festival’s Liquid Club events continue with New York-based artist Xaviera Simmons and<br />

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, who will explore the working practices of society and the sounds of the Brazilian rainforest respectively. Advanced booking is recommended, with<br />

one ticket per visitor, per venue required for visiting multiple Liverpool Biennial exhibitions at different venues.<br />

GIG<br />

Rachel Newton<br />

25/06 - Storyhouse, Chester<br />

Musically combining the past and the present, singer and harpist RACHEL NEWTON incorporates ancient poems and ballads into her contemporary sounds and compositions,<br />

creating a rich and experimental melodic folklore. In <strong>June</strong>, Newton presents her most recent album To The Awe at Storyhouse, an auditory exploration of the female experience<br />

throughout history. The record is a tribute to the women who have inspired Newton throughout her life and reflects her recent work around the representation of women in the<br />

music industry. Pieced together throughout lockdown, with vocals recorded in Newton’s bedroom wardrobe, To The Awe will finally receive the audience it deserves.<br />

GIG<br />

Rossa Murray & The Blowin’ Winds<br />

5/06 - The Atheneum<br />

Rossa Murray & The Blowin’ Winds<br />

In the grand and unusual surrounds of Liverpool’s Athenaeum newpromoters-on-the-scene<br />

Bed and Breakfast host two hugely promising<br />

talents with ROSSA MURRAY & THE BLOWIN’ WINDS and LYDIAH.<br />

The socially distanced and seated show is part of a series of gigs taking<br />

place around the city, all in venues away from the beaten track. Alt folk<br />

rock favourite Rossa headlines this <strong>June</strong> show having picked up a name<br />

for himself over recent years. Emerging star Lydiah is also winning<br />

many fans with her captivating performances. It’s a line-up that is<br />

fitting for the plush environs of the iconic venue.<br />



Rashid Johnson, Stacked Heads, 2020. - Photo: Mark McNulty<br />

Liverpool Biennial <strong>2021</strong><br />

Multiple venues, Liverpool – until<br />

27/06<br />

LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL has contributed to some of<br />

the city’s most well-known pieces of art: Peter Blake’s<br />

Everybody Razzle Dazzle (2015), Jaume Plensa’s<br />

Dream (2009) and Antony Gormley’s Another Place<br />

(2005). It has garnered international recognition as one<br />

of the UK’s largest contemporary art festivals, attracts<br />

visitors from around the world, and has made great<br />

strides in upholding the city’s cultural reputation. Yet,<br />

while its former artworks are well established in the<br />

cultural geography of Liverpool, there have remained<br />

questions where the Biennial itself has truly been able<br />

to do the same – to fully connect with the city and its<br />

people, and balance international appeal with a distinctly<br />

Liverpudlian identity.<br />

In recent editions, Liverpool Biennial has faced<br />

criticism locally over its failure to incorporate the city in<br />

a meaningful way; to drop pretensions, reach out to the<br />

local communities, and make it earn its title of being the<br />

‘Liverpool’ Biennial. However, this particular ire is not<br />

directed at other events that tout Liverpool in the title,<br />

nor are other events expected to show a distinct link to<br />

Liverpool itself. So why does the Biennial have so much<br />

to answer to?<br />

The theme for the <strong>2021</strong> Biennial, The Stomach and<br />

the Port, seems to suggest a conscious decision had<br />

been made to make Liverpool’s context take center stage<br />

in the curation of this year’s festival. Originally set for<br />

2020, the theme explores the concept of the body, of<br />

porosity and transmission, and of kinship and identity.<br />

How different would the notions of our bodies be had we<br />

not experienced a pandemic that turned our own bodies<br />

against us, and isolated our bodies, and denied us the<br />

primitive need for touch. And how have the masses of<br />

bodies coming together in protest changed our notions<br />

of not just our own, but the bodies of other people; dead<br />

bodies; of George Floyd’s body, and Sarah Everard’s<br />

body?<br />

These are global conversations, but the city’s identity<br />

is not swamped by their magnitude. It instead localises<br />

them and humanises them. Liverpool’s maritime history<br />

as a major port; its role in globalisation and colonialism;<br />

the uneasy truth that the city owes its wealth to the slave<br />

trade; its diaspora communities and own strong sense<br />

of identity. Even with themes of kinship and identity, the<br />

festival seems to have addressed the suggestions of<br />

their own lack thereof within Liverpool, albeit possibly<br />

unwittingly.<br />

One look at the festival’s route map shows the very<br />

conscious decision to feature Liverpool’s spaces outside<br />

of the usual four white walls of its art galleries. To see<br />


Invernomuto & Jim C. Nedd, GRITO – Las Brisas de Febrero, <strong>2021</strong>. Cotton Exchange Building - Photo: Rob Battersby<br />

the entire programme, you must walk through every<br />

corner of the city and in doing so you are immersed in its<br />

context: the docks, the Georgian Quarter, the Ropewalks<br />

– their history, what that history represents and their<br />

roles in the formation of the city. At times, the context<br />

overwhelms the art. Yael David’s Wingspan of the<br />

Captive (<strong>2021</strong>) at Central Library is almost diminished<br />

by the grandeur of the room itself, and the surrounding<br />

displays of material that inspired the work – the rich 19th<br />

century illustrations of American birds by J. J. Audubon<br />

and letters from the Hornbys, the Liverpool family the<br />

room was named after – make the sculpture itself look<br />

more like an accompaniment to the collection, designed<br />

to complement, rather than a work born independently<br />

of inspiration.<br />

At other times, the city and the art meld so<br />

seamlessly that it is a wonder that the piece had not<br />

sprung from the very spot it stands. Rashid Johnson’s<br />

Stacked Heads (2020) is one such work. Set in the<br />

Albert Dock, the two bronze ‘heads’ are covered in<br />

etchings of the abstract faces from Johnson’s Anxious<br />

Men series, with yucca and cacti plants positioned to<br />

look as though they had grown organically, as though the<br />

sculpture had always been there. The piece encourages<br />

contradictions: the plants are not indigenous but can<br />

survive the harsh saline winds that never seem to drop<br />

along the docks; it fits with the other metal sculptures<br />

in the area – the statue of a dock horse, a propeller from<br />

the RMS Lusitania, old railway machinery – but its crude<br />

style and totem pole form makes it seem foreign, almost<br />

tribal. When first opened to the public, its positioning<br />

next to the temporarily installed rainbow bridge made<br />

it appear small and unassuming despite its ten feet,<br />

experienced as something you have passed every day,<br />

made inconsequential by its familiarity, imbued with<br />

a faded permanence as something that has and will<br />

always be there.<br />

If the uneasy co-existence of nativeness and<br />

foreignness is a muted whisper in Johnson’s piece, then<br />

it is an unbridled scream in Invernomuto & Jim C. Nedd’s<br />

Grito – Las Brisas de Febrero (<strong>2021</strong>) at the Cotton<br />

Exchange. The visit itself feels climactic, as the building<br />

is rarely open to the public. The art is displayed in the<br />

basement, underneath the modern, recently regenerated<br />

offices, where it is old and cold, with empty rooms full<br />

of peeling paint, moulded cracked windows, exposed<br />

woodwork and metal chains hanging from the ceiling.<br />

Through the rooms, in front of four empty white plastic<br />

chairs, a large screen plays footage of a pico competition<br />

– street parties where neon-painted sound systems go<br />

head to head playing records – in the Colombian village<br />

of Palenque. The film is a celebration of culture, of<br />

kinship, and plays almost in defiance of the building it is<br />

being played in. The vibrancy, sound and movement of<br />

the bodies on screen contrasts harshly with the empty<br />

dereliction of the building so much so that a strange<br />

sensation of jealously emits from the walls, as though<br />




haunted, not by people, but by the death of the cotton<br />

industry, the slave trade, by its own former prosperity,<br />

now decaying, and watching from the four empty white<br />

plastic chairs the freedom and life of the bodies on<br />

screen.<br />

With both pieces, the city’s identity reforms the<br />

work and, in turn, the works both react to and reform<br />

the city’s spaces that they are in. There are plenty of<br />

further pieces in the festival that are worth viewing<br />

– Ane Graff, Jes Fan and Pedro Neves Marques in the<br />

Lewis’s Building and Kathleen Ryan at the Bluecoat –<br />

but where the Biennial really succeeds is where it has<br />

utilised Liverpool’s spaces and contexts. However, it<br />

is still clear that there is some disconnection between<br />

the curators, the artists and the city. Linder’s Bower of<br />

Bliss (2020) in Liverpool ONE is supposedly a Dadaesque<br />

photocollage tribute to Liverpudlian women, yet<br />

the only recognisably Liverpudlian elements – nestled<br />

next to anatomical drawings of hands and pictures of<br />

lizards – are the overly-tanned smiling woman and the<br />

top half of a seagull. But the festival isn’t about Liverpool,<br />

and it isn’t necessarily for Liverpool, and there will<br />

always be a baseline level of highbrow thinking with<br />

any contemporary art event that simply does not fit<br />

with the levity of the Scouse wit. Will an internationallyled<br />

festival ever fully connect to a city whose sense of<br />

identity, and pride, and protectiveness of that identity,<br />

is as strong as Liverpool’s? Perhaps not. But this year’s<br />

incarnation is a step in the right direction, and one the<br />

city can stomach. !<br />

Emma Varley<br />

Emma took part in <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>!’s Bylines writers<br />

programme, developing young culture writers of the<br />

future. Bylines runs throughout the year for more<br />

information and to find out about the next intake go<br />

to bidolito.co.uk/workshops<br />

“At times, the city<br />

and the art meld<br />

so seamlessly that<br />

it is a wonder that<br />

the piece had not<br />

sprung from the<br />

very spot it stands”<br />


Independents Biennial <strong>2021</strong><br />

Online + various venues – until 06/06<br />

Linder, Bower of Bliss , <strong>2021</strong>. - Photo: Mark McNulty<br />

Currently in its 22nd year, Liverpool Independents Biennial is a festival which celebrates<br />

the art and artists of Liverpool City Region and aims to shine a light on how people make, see<br />

and interact with art.<br />

Instead of focusing on outcomes, it works without a theme, highlighting how ideas<br />

can form and change at any time and point in the creative process. Art in Liverpool, the<br />

programme’s coordinators, describe the Independents Biennial more as a R&D programme<br />

than solely an (online) exhibition. They say that “one of the biggest challenges facing visual<br />

art organisations this year has been presenting context, and contextualising presentation”. By<br />

creating transparency regarding ideas, work, processes, progress and things not working out,<br />

they are trying to address this.<br />

There are various ways to learn about and engage with this approach, including online<br />

workshops and conversations, as well as a public Google Drive folder that gets updated<br />

constantly. You can follow work as it happens and are encouraged to get involved at any time.<br />

Working in residence as part of the Independents Biennial myself, I spend a lot of time<br />

engaging with artists and audience, trying to document the festival with my practice (which is<br />

mainly writing, but also chaos).<br />

I join the Zoom workshop Make Your Own Portal, created and led by artists Grace Collins<br />

(they/them) and George Gibson (she/they) to explore time travel, portals and bookmaking.<br />

We’re getting taught how to turn a<br />

piece of paper into a 16-page zine<br />

and are given prompts to fill the pages<br />

however we like. It is interesting to see<br />

the other six participants work and<br />

notice the differences in style, working<br />

pace and approaches regarding having<br />

the same resources.<br />

Fiona Stirling also works with the<br />

theme of time. She is an artist and<br />

mother, researching the impact of time<br />

and space on painting practices. She<br />

uses the terms “painting ad hoc” and<br />

“inbetweener painting” to describe<br />

the process of painting in between<br />

other jobs or responsibilities. This<br />

feels especially relevant as, due to<br />

“It is chaotic,<br />

always changing<br />

and never finished;<br />

an accumulation<br />

of ideas, things,<br />

words, experiences<br />

and processes”<br />

lockdowns, the borders between work, other responsibilities and self-care are still blurry, if<br />

even existent.<br />

The need to find new ways of working and feels more existential than a year ago. During<br />

a conversation on Twitch with artists Sam Venables, Feiyi Wen and Montse Mosquera, festival<br />

director Patrick Kirk-Smith and responsive programme coordinator at Open Eye Gallery,<br />

Sorcha Boyle, Patrick wants to know if there has been a shift in how work is created and<br />

presented compared to a year ago. Feiyi Wen shares something that I really like: the way<br />

she works is flexible and she is embracing fluidity; especially in a time when everything is<br />

standing still, it feels freeing to have things that are not fixed and can be moved.<br />

After virtual events and conversations, I am excited to be able to go to an actual space<br />

to see GROUND: an exhibition by artists John Elcock, Julie Lawrence Paul Mellor and Sarah<br />

Jane Richards in Cass Art Liverpool. The artists are using paper-based media to explore<br />

wilderness, empty landscapes and distant horizons while looking at the seasons, changing<br />

light, patterns of nature and weather. It is captivating to look at the colours and images<br />

others have noticed on their countless walks. I enjoy Sarah’s Walks In Wild Places and John’s<br />

Swifts Feeding for their sense of liberation and draw to nature. A small point, but the works<br />

could benefit from being exhibited in a bigger space. More room around each work gives<br />

the audience the possibility to focus on one thing at a time without having as much in their<br />

peripheral vision.<br />

The threads I notice running through the programme are connection and collective<br />

understanding. Even though everyone’s approach and practice differ, sharing one’s process<br />

feels both vulnerable and brave and seeing others do the same wakes feelings of belonging<br />

and being supported. Everybody has different experiences, but they are connected in some<br />

way and all the work carries the wish to understand and be understood more.<br />

A difficult thing I found is trying to reach people who are not already in the ‘art-bubble’,<br />

knowing about the festival anyway. It would have been extremely interesting to see the<br />

audience in the physical space in North Liverpool would we have been allowed to open. I do<br />

hope that will be possible next time.<br />

Nevertheless, Liverpool Independents Biennial fits into the current situation perfectly.<br />

It is chaotic, always changing and never finished; an accumulation of ideas, things, words,<br />

experiences and processes that are in some way or other shared and connected.<br />

Jo Mary Watson / @JoMaryWatson<br />






SHOWS<br />





SOLD-OUT<br />



SOLD-OUT<br />


















PONGO<br />

LEIFUR<br />



IS BACK!<br />

30th July<br />

MONKS<br />

A Lesser Version<br />

+ more TBA<br />

Future Yard<br />

30th September<br />


Seagoth<br />

Furry Hug<br />

FREE<br />


BIDO LITO!<br />


Kazimier Stockroom<br />

3rd December<br />

SPQR<br />

Mondo Trasho<br />

Torture and the<br />

Desert Spiders<br />

Future Yard<br />

bidolito.co.uk/<br />


Tara Finney Productions<br />

in Tara association Finney Productions with Hull Truck Theatre present<br />

in association with Hull Truck Theatre present<br />



THE WORLD...<br />


Directed Directed by by Raz Raz Shaw Shaw<br />

Starring Starring Julie Julie Hesmondhalgh<br />

Independent<br />

Evening Standard<br />

The Stage<br />

The Stage<br />

Edinburgh<br />

Award<br />

2018<br />

The Herald<br />

WhatsOnStage<br />

Broadway World<br />

A A universal love story, that shows the<br />

human race race in in all all its its glorious messiness,<br />

confusion and and joy. joy.<br />

Tues 29 Jun - Sat 3 July <strong>2021</strong><br />

Tues 29 Jun - Sat July <strong>2021</strong><br />

Williamson Square, Liverpool L1 1EL<br />

Williamson Square, Liverpool L1 1EL<br />

everymanplayhouse.com<br />

everymanplayhouse.com<br />

Originally produced in association<br />

with Originally Royal produced Exchange Theatre in association<br />

with Royal Exchange Theatre



This month’s selection of creative writing comes from Felix<br />

Mufti-Wright, a poem inspired by a youth playing The Sims and<br />

finding a simulated love in the grim reaper.<br />

i married the grim reaper<br />

as the raindrops coat r skin,<br />

we walk through 2 the scene of the sin,<br />

the tree tops block r vision from things we don’t want 2<br />

see,<br />

u tell me u have friends in high places,<br />

theres so many things we could see.<br />

the branches of the trees kiss the surface of my face,<br />

as my little legs struggle to keep up with ur 6 foot 2<br />

pace,<br />

dont know if its u or the cold air thats making my heart<br />

race.<br />

the clouds start to clear as the sun goes down,<br />

u ask me what i wanna be doing when the night comes<br />

around.<br />

i say ‘i really miss the stars,’<br />

u say u know a place we can see some.<br />

u grab my hand even tho my fingers r numb,<br />

we set up a blanket in a clearing in the trees,<br />

can hear ur heart beats symphony mingling with the<br />

breeze,<br />

u light up a spliff,<br />

i say ‘save us ends please?’<br />

not sure if i see smoke or warm breath in the cold air,<br />

not sure how comfy i am laying against ur shoulder.<br />

ngl,<br />

i dont think we’ll know eachother when we’re older.<br />

we try to make a fire but all we get is a smoulder.<br />

if i tell u how i feel in a forest and no one is around to<br />

hear it,<br />

did it ever really happen?<br />

doesn’t feel like this should be happening.<br />

is this really happening?<br />

but u do look so cute when the moonbeams hit your<br />

face,<br />

as u whisper in my ear that it was so nice to get away.<br />

it feels nice to get out the city,<br />

im still scared of the quiet<br />

but know u’d never let anyone hurt me.<br />

u pull out ur blade<br />

and ur flask thats filled with whiskey.<br />

i dont know how to say with my mouth that i want u to<br />

hold it to my neck<br />

scar me in a way ill never be able to forget<br />

i say i love it when u chat shit<br />

and carry on like its philosophic.<br />

u say u love it when its toxic,<br />

when we’re poisoning each other from the inside out<br />

is this what that’s about<br />

u take my tongue right out my mouth<br />

cant say anything<br />

can just taste the drought<br />

ive channeled my destruction<br />

in2 ur finger tips<br />

let it release more from my body<br />

than i let pass my lips<br />

i try and take ur hood down<br />

u shrug it back up<br />

u dont wanna look in my eyes<br />

u heard it makes u fall in love<br />

the way u think hurts me head<br />

makes me wonder where to tread<br />

say u only come to people who think of death<br />

want them to say ur name with their last breathe<br />

askin me if im ready 2 transcend<br />

askin me if im ready for my beauty 2 be ethereal,<br />

telling me i knew my fate when i picked him as my<br />

boyfriend,<br />

telling me i couldnt get this comfort from anything<br />

material<br />

ur in my bloodstream,<br />

not just on my skin,<br />

the connection we have cuts deeper,<br />

thats what i get for falling in love with the grim reaper<br />

Felix Mufti-Wright / @felixmufti<br />



SAY<br />

“Die-hard fans<br />

are the backbone<br />

of the music<br />

industry”<br />

Queuing endurance and crash barrier dedication, Tilly Foulkes<br />

celebrates the power of fan communities which will be restored<br />

in tangible form as live music makes its long-awaited return.<br />

In 2016, a week before my 18th birthday, I woke<br />

up at 4.30am. My mum, lovingly yet begrudgingly,<br />

drove me to the nearest station so I could catch the<br />

earliest train to Manchester. I arrived at Deansgate<br />

at 7.30am, got extremely lost, got a Greggs and asked<br />

for directions, then finally found the old Gothic chapel<br />

that is the Albert Hall. I sat outside the entrance for 10<br />

hours – in the bitterly cold December rain – to secure a<br />

spot at the barrier to see Peter Doherty. I was the first<br />

person in the queue, and the only one there until midday,<br />

when a Swedish girl arrived and explained she’d booked<br />

weeks off work in order to follow Doherty on tour. It<br />

wasn’t the first time she’d done this.<br />

It was the first time I’d see him, but far from<br />

the last. After setting up the silver fences and ushering<br />

everyone behind them, security sat and spoke to<br />

me about waiting. He said he’d ensure I’d get to the<br />

very front. When you fall into diehard fandom – for<br />

me, this was born out of my Tumblr dashboard and<br />

Twitter timeline – the barrier becomes a symbol of your<br />

dedication. It’s the best spot in the house; you can sling<br />

your coat over it, there’s more room to dance and you can<br />

pester security for loads of cups of water. It also works<br />

as a gateway to getting the most cherished trophy of the<br />

night – the setlist. It’s the prize for you bunking school<br />

and freezing yourself half to death on the pavement.<br />

It’s a long-lasting souvenir that seemingly hasn’t lost its<br />

value through decades of fandom. My own mother has<br />

heaps of scrapbooks with setlists and ticket stubs stuck<br />

in them.<br />

The queue, however, is the most important part for<br />

any fan community. I spent a lot of my teenage years<br />

queuing for gigs. I met all kinds of people I otherwise<br />

wouldn’t have; many of whom would go on to become<br />

my closest friends, even if we only get together twice a<br />

year.<br />

The day would start off with a nervous ‘hello’ to a<br />

group of strangers, but soon enough you’re swapping<br />

snacks and stories about the previous times you’ve seen<br />

the band, or your favourite albums. The ‘older’ fans,<br />

who’d queued before – usually women in their early to<br />

mid-20s – would welcome you in, feed you water and<br />

nip over to Starbucks or Spar to get coffee and crisps. It’s<br />

a rite of passage in some fan circles. It’s your initiation<br />

into the group. When you are a fan of a band that has<br />

a particularly cultish following, the queue is where you<br />

find your tribe. They are, for the most part, welcoming,<br />

friendly and homely.<br />

The camaraderie of the queue would be impossible<br />

without the people who devote their days to supporting<br />

an artist. This is mostly young women and teenage girls.<br />

When I would queue for the Manic Street Preachers at<br />

age 15, the women in their early-20s would always take<br />

me under their wing for the evening. They became my<br />

protector from creeps in the crowd and were meticulous<br />

in their checking that I was both hydrated and could see<br />

James Dean Bradfield. There’s a real sense of solidarity<br />

between us girls that spend days upon days waiting<br />

around, and a real sense of affinity.<br />

The die-hard fans are the backbone of the music<br />

industry. Without their unwavering dedication, we’d<br />

never have had bands like The Beatles being spurred into<br />

success. It’s the teenage girls spending their last pennies<br />

on merchandise and streaming songs non-stop that are<br />

holding up the industry on pure love and devotion. Rest<br />

assured, if an artist has a following of teenage girls,<br />

they will do everything in their power to ensure that<br />

artist is successful. Teenage girls are shamed for their<br />

commitment to their idols – even more so when they<br />

support pop icons like One Direction or Justin Bieber. I<br />

don’t think they should be. There is truly no greater force<br />

than a crowd of teenage girls. I think their devotion to<br />

music is inspiring and something to be cherished. I’m<br />

eager to defend this community with every strength I<br />

have, and I’m proud to be in it: it’s a community based<br />

entirely on shared love and admiration for art.<br />

With the perpetual hope that the pandemic is finally<br />

coming to an end, I can’t wait to share plastic cups with<br />

strangers before screaming some half-garbled chorus<br />

with them. It’s this community of music fans I’ve missed<br />

the most. I’m looking forward to the delight of live music,<br />

certainly the elated shouting and the overpriced rum and<br />

cokes. But, mostly, I’m excited to return to my spot on<br />

the barrier, bump into the familiar faces, give them a hug<br />

and ask them what they’ve been up to, because it really<br />

has been too long. !<br />

Words: Tilly Foulkes / @tillyfoulkes<br />

Photography: John Johnson / @John.Johno<br />

Tilly took part in <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>!’s Bylines writers programme,<br />

developing young culture writers of the future. Bylines<br />

runs throughout the year for more information and to<br />

find out about the next intake go to<br />

bidolito.co.uk/workshops.<br />


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