Bido Lito June 2021 Issue 114

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June 2021 issue of Bido Lito! magazine. Featuring: PODGE, THE CORAL, CRAWLERS, RON'S PLACE, KATY J PEARSON, SEAGOTH, MONDO TRASHO, LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL AND MUCH MORE.

ISSUE 114 / JUNE 2021

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

FREE!

PODGE

Life is fun

THE

CORAL

CRAWLERS

LIVE MUSIC

RETURNS

KATY J

PEARSON


CINEMA

IN THE

CITY

A new cinematic experience by

FACT. Discover the best films

in extraordinary places.

COTTON EXCHANGE ROOFTOP GARDEN

WITH FOOD + DRINK FROM MARAY

JULY 2

JULY 3

JULY 4

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

Ammonite

Apples

TICKETS ON SALE

fact.co.uk/cinema-in-the-city

Funded by

Venue Partner


TATE LIVERPOOL

UNTIL 5 SEPTEMBER 2021

‘IRREDUCIBLE AND UNFORGETTABLE’

THE GUARDIAN

FREE FOR

TATE MEMBERS

Supported by the Don McCullin Exhibition

Supporters Group and Tate Members

Media partner

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


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EVERYTHINGS NICE / HOMOELECTRIC / IDLES DJ SET

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ALL DAYERS

SATURDAY 7TH AUGUST 2021

Doors 1pm - 1am - Last Entry 6pm

PLUS MORE ARTISTS TO BE ANNOUNCED

PART 1

KELLY LEE OWENS • WORKING MEN'S CLUB

STEALING SHEEP • TEA STREET BAND

SATURDAY 14TH AUGUST 2021

PART 2

THE BIG MOON • THE ORIELLES • BLACK HONEY • SELF ESTEEM

FULL LINE UP ANNOUNCEMENT 6PM MONDAY 24TH MAY

FULL VENUE EVENTS • MAIN ROOM & SUBSTATION LIVE STAGES

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FEATURES

REGULARS

13 / PODGE

Niloo Sharifi delves deep into the open source identity

that gives the artist’s music such soaring liberation.

18 / THE CORAL

On their 10th album, The Coral have never sounded so

timeless – quite literally.

24 / CRAWLERS

Riotous, emotive and informing, Daniel Ponzini steps

into the high-octane world of the four-piece.

26 / LIKE THE FIRST TIME

Elliot Ryder reports back from the first non-socially

distanced live music events to take place in the UK

since March 2020.

30 / MAKING WAVES

Adam Noor highlights the work of LIMF Academy

and The Noise Project who came together to help

musicians through lockdown.

32 / STATE OF THE

STUDIOS, STATE

OF THE CITY

A new report suggests Liverpool is at risk of losing

a large proportion of its artist studios. El Gray looks

at the possible ramifications.

34 / RON’S PLACE

Uncovering the joyous oddities in the home of one

of Wirral’s most prolific outsider artists.

10 / NEWS

Rounding up goings-on and developments as

the city takes a big step towards the ending of

lockdown.

12 / HOT PINK

A sun-fuelled batch of tunes featuring

Hushtones, Jazmine Johnson, DSM IV, Ostrich

and Georgie Weston.

36 / SPOTLIGHTS

Profiles of fast rising artists including Seagoth,

Kokiri, Mondo Trasho, San Pedro Vision, Henry

Jones and A Lesser Version.

40 / PREVIEWS

Katy J Pearson talks songwriting liberation

ahead of a stop in Widnes while Abandon

Normal Devices is set to sail art right across the

Mersey.

44 / REVIEWS

Reports from Liverpool Biennial and

Independents Biennial.

54 / ARTISTIC LICENCE

Featuring a poem from last issue’s spotlight

artist Felix Mufti-Wright.

55 / FINAL SAY

Tilly Foulkes outlines the strength of fan power

as live music makes its long-awaited return.


E D I T O R I A L

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

been the measurement by which so much of our lives have been

dictated.

In the physical sense, it is where most of us will have

experienced the most telling change. The required distance and separation

from one another has been a necessary but peculiar sensation that’s

contracted and loosened over the course of the pandemic. It’s in this sense

where a new appreciation of physical proximity has kept the large majority

safe. Equally, it has drawn us into a lonesome cold.

Not only has an emphasis on proximity dictated our physical existence,

it has been the underlying essence of our hopes, expectations and

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

first lockdown arrived, many thoughts turned to how far off in the future a

return to normality would be. News reports would elude to how close we

were to developing a vaccine. When things took a turn for the worst for

the third time, we were forced to consider how much further away ideas of

progress now were.

Before now, proximity has been a relative physical and conceptual

sensation. But in many ways, the pandemic has unified personal sensations

of distance and closeness. In having a unified goal of beating Covid-19,

we’ve all reached out together in hope and been jerked back in unison

through the darkest moments.

This sense of things being in touching distance or pushed further

away by setbacks have dictated so many mental states since March 2020.

Even in my so-called distraction from the toughest parts of the pandemic,

Liverpool FC has sought to show just how far away they are from their

former selves – just how close they are to potentially making the best out of

a dire situation.

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

concertina of positives and negatives that have never allowed us to settle.

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

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

seemingly so far.

In a more conceptual sense, just how close to something can

we actually be? How close can we be to a music scene, to an idea, a

subculture, a movement? And how much of this relies on tangibility and

shared physical space? The early stages of lockdown suggested physicality

wasn’t a defining factor

in how close we can be to

something or someone.

Many will have felt closer

to the city, to certain

communities, as physical

separation injected an

impetus to connect and

be part of something – in

whatever way possible. But

come the final stretches of

a long and arduous third

lockdown, the belief that

we can remain close to

ourselves and what we

stand for while being kept

apart is frayed from fatigue. And so once again proximity comes to the fore

with the promise of an end coming closer into sight.

So many of the stories in this issue display different appreciations

of proximity. As Niloo Sharifi learns from Podge, making music is less

about moving closer to an end goal and more an expression within a

defined, immovable space purely of its moment. For The Coral, Cath

Holland uncovers how Coral Island is a display of distant dreams with the

potential to draw them closer through nostalgia and imagination. In a more

direct sense, El Gray outlines just how close Liverpool is to losing a large

proportion of its artist studios – those which form the foundations of the

city’s visual cultural offer. In my own report from Liverpool’s hosting of

aspects of the events research programme, we see a roadmap to normality

growing ever shorter. Perhaps most importantly, we see people shedding

the barriers of social distancing to re-establish a joyous close proximity

with one another and live music. Even looking at the news and previews

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

well and truly better.

Proximity has changed so much of what we feel and think over the

course of the last 15 months. Everything now seems so much closer. An

end, in whatever form it arrives in, is coming into sight. !

Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder

Editor

“Just how close

to something can

we actually be; a

music scene, to an

idea, a subculture,

a movement?”

New Music + Creative Culture

Liverpool

Issue 114 / June 2021

bidolito.co.uk | @bidolito

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Editor

Elliot Ryder - elliot@bidolito.co.uk

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Matthew Berks - matthew@bidolito.co.uk

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Design

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Branding

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Proofreader

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Cover Photography

Robin Clewley

Words

Elliot Ryder, Sam Turner, Matthew Berks, El Gray,

Shannon Garner, Ed Haslam, Niloo Sharifi, Cath

Holland, Daniel Ponzini, Adam Noor, Matthew

Hogarth, Lily Blakeney-Edwards, Emma Varley, Jo

Mary Watson, Felix Mufti-Wright, Tilly Foulkes.

Photography, Illustration and Layout

Mark McKellier, Robin Clewley, John Johnson,

Michael Driffill, Matthew Berks, John O’Loughlin,

Seren Carys, Rob Battersby, Mark McNulty.

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NEWS

BIDO LITO! SOCIAL

The Bido Lito! Social is back! Our

regular gig celebrating new drops of the

magazine returns in July, starting a run

of bi-monthly shows going through to

the end of the year. The inaugural gig

is a special co-promotion with Future

Yard as we bring dark dreampop duo

WHITE FLOWERS to the Birkenhead

venue. The gig is part of Future Yard’s

FUTURE NOW series of events leading

up to their bank holiday weekender in

August. Support on the night comes

from the brilliant MONKS and rising

stars A LESSER VERSION. IAMKYAMI

and SPQR are announced as headliners

for the September and December

Socials respectively. The Social is an

opportunity for readers, contributors,

artists and friends of the magazine to

get together to watch the best new

talent we profile in these pages.

bidolito.co.uk

Monks

BIDO LITO! DIGITAL CONTENT CREATORS

Allocated to organisations around the country, charity Youth Music’s Incubator Fund is

designed to bring young people from underrepresented groups into the music industry. Bido

Lito! is currently on the lookout for two Digital Content Creators funded by the initiative. The

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

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

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

in multimedia production of any kind.

bidolito.co.uk

LIVE LAAF LOVE

The climate emergency is here, and its implications are being disproportionately

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

July and running until 14th November, the 23rd Liverpool Arab Arts Festival

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

eclipse the Covid-19 pandemic. Taking place across the four full months for the

first time, the festival programme will question and reimagine our future direction,

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

can we collectively do more?

arabartsfestival.com

COMMUNITY CINEMA

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

create an outdoor cinema in its new community garden. Helping with isolation

and loneliness, the outdoor cinema will be full of experiences to positively

impact physical and mental wellbeing. From socialising and taking part in fun

activities, to picnicking and doing something outdoors, the concept of improving

interaction within their new garden allows young and old to share a mutual love

of film. The Florrie is looking to crowdfund the new initiative with a target of

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

spacehive.com/community-garden-cinema

MIF BUSTERS

Across the M62 an impressive roster of artists from around the world are

partaking in this year’s Manchester International Festival. PATTI SMITH, ARLO

PARKS and CILLIAN MURPHY are among the names featured on a programme

which takes place in real life as well as online as we continue to transition

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

others taking place across Greater Manchester. For the first time, the curation

of the festival has been handed over to local people to offer a snapshot of these

unprecedented times. Other names on the bill include LEMN SISSAY, AKRAM

KHAN and AARON and BRYCE DESSNER of The National.

Patti Smith

mif.co.uk

10


The Orielles - Photo: Rebekah Knox

YOU TELL ME IT’S EVOL-UTION

Following the first of the IRL festival trilogy selling out, promoters EVOL have announced

details of two further shows featuring some of the finest names in new music around.

FestEvol at the Invisible Wind Factory hosts KELLY LEE OWENS and WORKING MENS

CLUB on 7th August and then THE BIG MOON and THE ORIELLES on the 14th August.

The two all-dayers follow a date in June showcasing local talent at Future Yard. Also on

the line-ups for the north docklands gigs are STEALING SHEEP, TEA STREET BAND,

BLACK HONEY and SELF ESTEEM.

facebook.com/clubevol

SUMMER ARTS MARKET

Since the pandemic, supporting local creatives has never been more

important. Luckily, the popular Summer Arts Market – where you can find

stalls from over 50 independent artists, designers and makers – is back.

Located in the magnificent Liverpool Cathedral on 5th and 19th June,

each event will feature new stalls. While browsing the wide selection of

creative crafts, gifts, artworks and artisanal foods, you can also enjoy a

drink or snack at the café in The Well space. The event will be socially

distanced with limited tickets available.

summerartsmarket.com

ART ACROSS THE MERSEY

Following a staggered start battling uncertainty, MERSEY ARTS ZONE (MAZ) burst

open in May to offer “a creative space for artists, photographers, makers, designers,

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

community arts space in New Brighton. An inclusive and participatory space, MAZ

will run workshops for the local community and offer an accessible space for local

artists to exhibit their work. A photography exhibition displaying work from awardwinning

wildlife photographers Richard Steel and Steve Ward will run for the first

month, guaranteeing that MAZ will be off to a flying start.

facebook.com/merseyartszone

WRITERS DIRECTORY

Calling all Liverpool City Region-based writers, Culture Liverpool wants you! As

part of Liverpool’s 2021 Year of Writing, Liverpool City Council’s culture arm is

launching a Writers Directory, compiling details of local freelance writers and

their services (workshops, mentoring, readings) for schools, colleges, universities,

agents and publishers to access. Embracing the transformative power of writing,

the Year of Writing brings together arts and cultural organisations, writers, artists,

educators and businesses to improve Liverpool’s literacy. An inclusive literary

celebration, the Year of Writing is designed to discover new voices, publish new

writing and inspire imagination and creativity across the city.

cultureliverpool.co.uk/writers-directory

OPEN SAE-SAME

For the first time since the beginning of 2020, SAE Institute is opening its

doors for prospective students to experience the world-class facilities in

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

June and is now taking bookings. The next intake for students is September

when creatives can embark on courses on audio production, music

business, animation, games, animation and film. At the event visitors will

have the opportunity to meet the staff and students, learn about the career

opportunities connected with the courses on offer and take in production

demonstrations.

sae.edu/gbr

NEWS 11


HOT PINK!

Words: El Gray, Shannon Garner, Ed Haslam,

Matthew Berks.

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

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

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

allowed indoors, but these tunes have us pining for that vitamin D.

The DSM IV

Scumbag

The current prognosis for dance-punk trio THE DSM IV is looking extremely positive

with the release of Scumbag, an urgent and engaging track which juxtaposes

disturbing lyrics with a compulsion to dance. Guy McKnight’s resonant vocals

reverberate across the track as he lyrically explores the interplay of power and desire

and its perverted consequences. This is underpinned by Jumanji-style drums and an

insistent synth, creating a disorientating and compelling 80s-inspired anthem. EG

Workstuff

Hold On 2

The more melancholic flipside to WORKSTUFF’s single, Mannequins, it’s no wonder

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

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

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

What Studios – is soon submerged by an irresistibly monotonous baritone and a

whooping synth drone pulsing its way through to the exit. MB

Vice Möth and Pretentious Dross

Ghost Dance

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

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

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

unexpected for sure, yet something you will never want to end. SG

Jazmine Johnson

If I Ever

Groovy, soulful and electric, JAZMINE JOHNSON’s latest single is laced with funky

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

through the regrets of opening up to somebody. The track commands to be listened to,

especially in the breakdown towards the end where the vocals shine through. SG

Hushtones

I’ve Got Time

HUSHTONES’ sunshine psych-pop guitars and effortless melodic sensibilities combine

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

sweet as honey and float upon cloudlike riffs and punchy retro drums. The gorgeous

production accommodates this sonic landscape wonderfully, lending the charming little

tune the warmth it deserves. EH

Pizzagirl

Bullet Train

PIZZAGIRL continues to shine. The high-octane banger oozes technicolour electronic

beats and showcases an array of chugging synth basslines under a rousingly anthem

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

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

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

Georgie Weston

Going Far Away (This Time)

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

romantic GEORGIE WESTON once again uses analogue-minded ambition to reject the

limitations of a cramped bedroom studio, proving the vast sonic possibilities of lockdown

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

above Philly-soul grooves, while his anecdotal lyricism evokes vintage Macca. EH

Seafoam Green

House On The Hill

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

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

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

home commandeering a stage at a major UK rock festival, or simply rattling the floors

of a gutbucket Memphis rhythm and blues bar. EH

Ask Elliot

Flowers Of White

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

and bouncy bassline are almost Smiths-like, with the lyrics hitting the perfect balance

between invention and cliché. Nevertheless, in evoking the excitement and confusion of

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

Ostrich

48 Hours

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

to a surprisingly effective marriage of Americana vocals to a wonky synthesizer

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

rock as the song evolves, with the chorus followed by yacht-rock sax and

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

bold experimentation is refreshing, and the result is a soothing record that evokes a

cinematic montage of breezy heartland panoramas. EH

Photography from left to right: Workstuff, Jazmine Johnson, Hushtones

12


LIFE IS FUN

Podge has always refused to coalesce around conformity.

Niloo Sharifi delves deep into the open source identity

that gives the artist’s music such soaring liberation.

FEATURE

13


14

PODGE


“Everyone has

the capability

to make art”

It’s easy to forget that life is supposed to be fun.

Music is a good way to remember. PODGE went

about becoming a musician all backwards. “Before

I considered myself good enough at guitar to start

writing music, I was thinking what wacky shit I would

do if I was having a TV interview,” they begin. “The

reason I started [making music was for] the results that

come from it – it kind of gets all the wires crossed. As I

tried to get better at music, I learned that perspective is

counterproductive. I feel like I started off making music for

kind of selfish reasons, I was just trying to impress people.

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

want to make money and then falling in love with the job

over the years after you learn what it actually is.”

It’s hard to imagine Podge as a self-conscious

teen suffering under the yoke of elitism. Their new EP,

Samuso, released via NTS, feels joyful, light and casually

personal. It sounds like it was made by a heartbroken

robot living at the end of time, who misses humans, so

makes music to commemorate the living; scanning what’s

left of the internet for cultural ephemera still in orbit –

samples and feelings.

Podge joins a growing contingent of magpie

producers who don’t mind whether something’s

expensive as long as it’s shiny; they’ll take anything from

anywhere, choosing to ignore the confines of genre

and intellectual property. “It’s weird that people are still

against samples. It just feels weird to take ownership of

stuff. I feel really weird about trying to make a living off

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

that’s just the internet mindset, but it feels weird to stop

people from wanting to enjoy your art just ’cos they don’t

wanna spend the money.”

The genre-bending this cutpurse attitude results in

does away with old hierarchies that draw a line between

the significant and the trivial. Samuso features Podge

singing catchy hooks, rapping, sampling all manner of

things – Auto-Tuned voice notes; anime. Sugary synths,

bleeps and bloops weave among acoustic and distorted

guitars. So many influences thread themselves through

the songs that it’s hardly worth getting into it. You just

need to hear it. “You wouldn’t need to make the art if

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

pointless making stuff that’s already been done, just ’cos,

well, it’s already been done.”

Pursuing the crooked, less-travelled road has its

own challenges; the context of a commercial industry

rewards what is quickly recognisable and easily summed

up. “It’s hard to develop that kind of confidence when

you’re doing something that you can’t draw parallels with

what other people are doing,” they begin. “There’s not

many people I can look at and think, ‘That guy’s doing

it, so I could do it’, but when I do find people like that,

I really latch onto them.” They are wearing a 100 gecs

hoodie when we meet in the park today, a band who are

a definite example of those who’re ‘doing it’ in a guise

Podge is interested by. “Last year I was obsessed with

JPEGMAFIA and Vegyn because they seem like they’re in

FEATURE

15


16


their own lanes and they’re not following a formula, not

just stylistically, but the way they navigate the industry,”

they add.

The diffuse pull of hybridity draws those attracted

to it into a protracted search for a life that expresses a

reality belonging only to you, unbound by location. “I

don’t identify with where I came from at all, maybe to

some extent my ethnicity. But my nationality, it seems

weird identifying with where you’re from ’cos you didn’t

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

the internet and you can pick and choose from so many

places in the world, it seems odd to make something you

have no control of your identity.”

With everything online, a purely localised sense

of self starts to feel like a relic of an obsolete past, like

internet dial-up. It’s hard not to find yourself immersed

in a bigger picture than your immediate environment. It’s

given Podge a certain overview. “It’s like nothing you’ve

ever done is just you, even you being born someone else’s

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

smallest part in it. It feels like most things you do you are

flicking the domino and someone’s already set up all the

dominoes to fall and make a pattern. So, it’s weird to be

so attached to it. If it wasn’t for other people passing on

the information you wouldn’t be able to do it ever.”

Practicalities sometimes get in the way of this type

of common sense. Artists have always had to get past

some type of dragon, be it a patron or an industry.

They always have to live in the distance between their

dreams and mundane reality’s unalterable demands.

The reasoning of a money world that prizes victory and

possession infects everything – even what starts as

playtime, something frivolous and in-the-moment. Art

can start to feel like something you own in the same way

you might own a plot of land. “When you take a step in

the street you don’t look back on the path and think, ‘I

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

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

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

There’s less ego at stake with every failure when

you look at it like that. It becomes less about coming up

with something that proves how great you are and more

about letting something pass into the world through

you. “Lots of people view it like they’re the person

driving the car down the road and pushing the pedals,

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

car’s not going down the road right, it might just be ’cos

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

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

artist is the road, then getting better at art is more about

bearing the weight of it patiently, pressing yourself flat

so it can go along you smoothly – rather than zooming

around all the time, all wheels and metal.

It’s a more relaxing perspective and, for Podge,

learning how to relax helped them get there. “When I

started doing meditation and stuff like that, it’s weird

how much it improved my art, not in the sense that it

made me a better technical person, but it allowed me

to tap into those less thought-about parts of yourself.”

Getting somewhere by turning away from it doesn’t

sound like it would work. “I used to think that meditation

doesn’t do anything because you’re not really doing

anything. I thought, ‘I’ll try this for two months’, but

those two months were just putting trust in it, and with

music it’s kind of that in the long-term scale.”

Enclosed within systems obsessed with zero-sum

games, where one person’s win is another person’s loss,

it feels like it makes sense to obsess about achievement

and self-flagellate when we don’t succeed in reaching

the top of the hill we’re desperately running at. But it’s

not the only way to go about things. “I’ve heard that

since I was a kid,” they reply, “not to think about the

results and the fruits of your labour will grow on their

own. But it’s so hard to see it that way until you’re

backed into a corner and you’ve got no other way of

looking at it.”

Podge’s journey, which started with a desire to

objectively succeed has revealed something unexpected,

something weird and paradoxical at play that only

reveals itself once you realise trying only gets you so far.

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

probably next”, Podge tells us on Get_Up_Again.

A more casual approach makes for a more constant

flow and chill vibes. You can find Podge on Instagram

letting you in on the process: making beats live, posting

micro-tutorials and sampling bird noises in the forest

with their OP-1. When you’re focused on the material

outcome of the work, making mistakes feels like

evidence that nothing will ever come of it;

it’s helped Podge to realise that failure and

continuous graft is part of the process. “No

one ever said that making good art was

easy. It’s just unhealthy the way that

people portray artists a lot of the time,”

they say. “You could find hundreds of

hours of Jimi Hendrix playing guitar

really good, but I don’t think I could

find footage of Jimi Hendrix in the

studio trying to redo a take, like, 10

times in a row, which he obviously

did, everyone does that.” The internet

has helped to demystify the figure of

the artist, dissolving the untouchable

halo that creates a hierarchy of

creatives and non-creatives. “It seems

like everyone has the capability to make

art,” Podge tells me.

And by the same token, sometimes

artists struggle to make art, and that’s just

part of it. “I always viewed the enlightened

artist as someone who can make good music

whenever they want, but it’s

more like someone who

can understand

that they don’t

have any

control

over

whether they

make anything

good or not. That’s why I

really envied people who started

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

The future has a way of beckoning with strange hands

– Podge might have started with backwards ideas,

focused on the outward results, but that’s not where

they ended up.

It’s so hard to remember that life is supposed to

be fun, but music makes it easier, even if it’s pointless.

Without the self-imposed pressure of impressing other

people or reaching a certain summit, it’s hard for them

to even articulate the end goal. “I always think, ‘Would I

make music if I was stranded on a different planet, and

there was no chance of anyone else finding the stuff that

I made?’ I think maybe I would,” Podge explains. “I don’t

think I’ll ever properly know why I do it, but I think the

reason for it is probably because I can’t explain it.” !

Words: Niloo Sharifi

Photography: Robin Clewley / robinclewley.co.uk

Samuso is available now via NTS.

“I’m not the

thing I made”

FEATURE

17


18


THE

CORAL

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

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

In one regard, the new album by THE CORAL is very

much them all over. Shiny toe-tappers threaded with

the more complex. The familiar Liverpool scally pop

and Welsh psychedelic hybrid bonds are ever true.

But with Coral Island we see further ambition not merely

as a masterclass in musical and creative world-building,

but in real terms. James Skelly sets out his targets

humbly but with good humour during the second time

we speak. “If you can break back into the top 10 in the

UK charts on your 10th album – a concept album about a

mythical seaside town with your grandad in it – it will be

our biggest achievement since we got our number one.”

He chuckles as he speaks, but it’s an accurate analysis

of both album and scenario. Second album Magic And

Medicine hit the top of the album chart back in 2003 and

18 years is a long time in rock ’n’ roll.

Coral Island waltzes us into a magical place of

unspoken questions, reflecting on the

faded glamour and unsettling nature

of the fairground, the sounds, motion

and people encountered. The album

and accompanying book Over Coral

Island, the latter written by keyboard

player Nick Power, recalls the band’s

childhood summer trips across Wales

and the North West. Wirral’s very

own seaside town, New Brighton,

feels the ideal place to meet James

and Nick to talk about their hopes

for the record. We rendezvous on a

stretch of flat grey concrete yards

from the seafront. Paper cups of tea

and coffee in the open air is quite the

thing now, but undeniably it has an

echo of bygone times and black and

white photographs in family albums.

Any artist’s 10th long-player is a milestone, we

each agree, although the two men seem uneasy at

being described as indie veterans, a term popping

up in reviews with frequency. This point in time feels

significant, not make-or-break exactly, but optimism in

our conversation is offset by frustrations at the music

industry, and personal regrets.

The first section of the album, a soundtrack to the

rides and arcades of summer fairground childhoods, is

bathed in a brittle sunshine not unlike that in which we

squint at each other on this Tuesday morning. Part one

encompasses an idealistic memory, one maybe never

really lived at all, James and Nick tell me. The sadness

of nostalgia and a time gone by start to sink in further

as the record progresses, and we are introduced to the

curious characters living in society’s shadows.

After an hour of talking, we go our separate ways;

James and Nick to carry on with further promotion.

This album is grabbing more attention from journalists

than anything they’ve done for a while. During our

conversation we’d talked about the role post-Elvis,

pre-Beatles rock ’n’ roll and pop played in Coral Island’s

formation. A strange yet fruitful few years of death

ballads and vengeful love songs, giving a voice to the

deep emotional intensity of the emerging teenage

experience and identity. Coral Island’s songs are short,

in keeping with pop conventions of that period. And

what an absolute pleasure it is to hear and feel the

influence of eternal broken-hearted outcast on the run

Del Shannon. This led to playing some of his records at

home afterwards and unearthing a memory of riding the

Waltzer in Southport with his classic Runaway ringing

in ears.

Within days, all the audio from our interview has

vanished, so we find ourselves having to talk again

two weeks

later, a surreal

experience

in itself. Nick

“Coral Island was

more this strange

place just floating in

the sea of your mind.

Almost a metaphor

for your imagination”

is the first to

retrace his

steps. It seems

appropriate

to share the

Del Shannon

in Southport

theory.

“I think

they’re still

playing it now!

You have to play

pre-Beatles rock

’n’ roll spooky

death ditties

with a little bit of Pink Floyd thrown in, and The Doors

every now and then, some 80s, but go back to Gene

Vincent and Wanda Jackson. It’s brilliant!” Nick laughs. “I

think it’s an unwritten code fairgrounds stick to.”

Why does he think that is?

“They’re marginalised places, aren’t they?

Totally off the map, never written about any more in

mainstream culture. It’s outsider music. That’s what we

tried to get across, another world in the real world. An

unreality in reality.”

Nick talks about The Dips in New Brighton, the green

space used by families, and for performance or anti-social

behavior depending on what time of day or year. How the

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

kite-flying and dog walkers, the next morn dodgems blast

out Roy Orbison and The Shangri-Las’ drama.

“You might see a poster in a few closed down shops

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

FEATURE

How did that poster get in there? That shop hasn’t been

open for years. Then you’ll see it – bang – and the next

night it’s gone. Magic.”

Coral Island morphed into a double album as the

band worked on it, he explains, expanded by James

and Ian Skelly’s grandfather Ian Murray in the character

of The Great Muriarty narrating between songs. It’s

difficult to recall many contemporary double albums in

the independent music arena, so Coral Island is either an

anomaly, or maybe we simply make more space and time

for things now. The album does play around with past

and present and it’s true that, when we’re kids, summer

holidays last forever, while cold hard adult reality

confirms a fixed six-week length.

“There’s a bit in the book about that, your experience

of time, it massively changes as you get older,” says Nick.

“Small things when you’re a kid seem mind-blowing.

You’re in the present, totally rooted in the now. When

you get older you live in the past or future a bit more,

memories or anticipating.”

Nailing down radio-friendly singles Faceless Angel,

Lover Undiscovered, and Vacancy gave licence to sail

into deeper, darker waters. Coral Island was created

with a 1960s approach, writing and recording quickly

while everything was still fresh. “This album was kinda

like, let’s go for broke. Make something which the record

company might advise against! If we can get the money

for it, let’s just do what we want,” Nick explains.

There is a strong narrative present, not only due

to the spoken word, but noticeably so within the

songwriting itself. The listener, and presumably the

creators, go on a journey along with it?

“It goes back to folk tales and things like that, or

murder ballads or weird character studies. I love songs

that tell a story, a lot of the ones we drew from for this

album are like that, tell a story – mostly about people

dying,” Nick laughs. “But as you said last time, it was

early goth!”

“There’s a lot in there, we very rarely just tell a

straight story,” James Skelly explains, when we pick

things up. He resists temptation to write literally, leaving

enough suggestion for people to project their own

stories. “The version in your head is always going to be

better because you’ve made it for you.”

The Great Muriarty, then, could be the ringmaster

of the big top, or delivering Roald Dahl’s quite terrifying

scenarios in the old Tales Of The Unexpected series.

Sinister and not ghostlike exactly, but from behind an

invisible veil.

“That doesn’t exist anymore, the world he’s

from, that generation,” says James of his story-teller

grandfather who took him camping as a boy – these

memories feeding into the record. “So, he’s actually, in

a way, a time traveller. Like he’s going back to an older

19


time. Even his voice, people don’t have that accent

anymore. It’s a piece of time delivered to people.”

The mechanics of the fairground seeped in

the very production of Coral Island, the gear itself

mimicking sounds and the oddness of a temporary,

rootless community. It took a lot of graft to make it

sound “wrong”, as James puts it.

“To move something out of time so it would be

not correct, or not in time. Or if the tape is broken

and everything is moving at different times, it

almost sounds as if you’re playing a music box with

the batteries running out. If you go to those places,

the seaside or a fair, and they turn the machines

on they don’t just come on like they would if it

was digital. It’s like coming to life. It’s not a digital

moment. It’s real, the way the wind is real. Like a

broken fairground ride.”

So. Coral Island, the place itself. Does the band

have an image of what it is, an idea of where it is

located? Cardiff-based Edwin Burdis created a

sizeable walk-in sculpture of the island, seen on

the album artwork, but that is Burdis’ vision alone.

Is Coral Island the band’s very own Coney Island

but based locally? An actual familiar seaside place

from all our childhoods: Blackpool, New Brighton,

Llandudno, Rhyl?

“I’ve always found it a place where I can relax,

and I can’t always relax in some places. It’s a holiday

from life, you come back to it,” James says of his

Welsh holidays as adult and child, but his personal

vision of the island takes him to more surreal

territory, melting together 1960s sci-fi thriller and

high-concept psychological drama The Prisoner,

and folk horror movie The Wicker Man. With

elements of Lost, maybe.

“Like a series I wanted to see. It was more this

strange place just floating in the sea of your mind.

Almost a metaphor for your imagination. That’s

what it was to me. Probably be something else to

someone else. It can be what it is to you. That’s

what it is. Half the time I don’t want to know what

the person’s vision is in my head. My version would

be better to me.”

We’ve seen independent artists with a proven

fanbase triumph in the album chart over the

past few months – Jane Weaver went top 25,

The Anchoress top 40, The Coral’s Modern Sky

labelmate Jamie Webster at number six late last

summer – which is doubly impressive given the

zero opportunity to engage with audiences in the

traditional sense. In the end, Coral Island surpasses

James Skelly’s expectations easily, reaching number

two. It feels timely to recall how the record’s single

from March, Lover Undiscovered, reminds us of how

as adults we view the world through cynical weary

eyes.

“One day you’ll see a seagull fly above the sea

and it’s almost like CGI and think, have I manifested

this? How is this happening? How has it gone from

being nothing to just gas, or whatever it was when

the big bang happened, to that? It’s a discovered

moment again,” he told me.

Maybe the message got through, via the

airwaves. Through Spotify, and those vinyl copies of

the album in every colour of the rainbow. How we

take things for granted, take creatives for granted.

Whatever it is, the mystical Coral Island is doing its

magic for the band, both on the record and off it.

The Coral Rediscovered, indeed. !

Words: Cath Holland / @cathholland01

Photography: John Johnson / @john.johno

Coral Island is available now via Run On Records in

association with Modern Sky.

thecoral.co.uk

20


FEATURE

21


17 July 2–4 July

9 July

HOME

COMING

Produced by Manchester International Festival in partnership with Homecoming.

ALL OF

THIS

UNREAL

TIME

Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner & Jon Hopkins Composers

Aoife McArdle Film Director, Cillian Murphy Actor

Max Porter Writer

Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival.

ARLO

PARKS

Produced by Manchester International Festival. Image: Alex Waespi

10–11 July

1–18 July

7–18 July

ARCADIA

Conceived & created

by Deborah Warner

A Pre-Factory Event. Commissioned by Manchester International Festival and

Stanford Live at Stanford University. Produced by Manchester International Festival.

MARTA

MINUJÍN

Big Ben Lying Down

with Political Books

Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival.

Image: Mario Cherrutti and Marta Minujín Archive

NOTES

ON

GRIEF

A new stage production, based on the

essay by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival.

Image: Manny Jefferson

1–18 July Conceived

and created

by Cephas

Williams

PORTRAIT

OF

BLACK

BRITAIN

Commissioned by Manchester International Festival. Produced by Manchester

International Festival and The Cephas Williams Company. Image: Sam Shaw

2–18 July

LAURE

PROUVOST

The Long Waited,

Weighted, Gathering

Commissioned by Manchester International Festival and Manchester Jewish

Museum. Produced by Manchester Jewish Museum. Image: Lee Baxter

A

FESTIVAL

LIKE NO

OTHER

‘A Festival for the creatively

courageous’ – BBC

First release of tickets available

from 20 May at mif.co.uk


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

“[Statues] is really fresh and really new – I don’t

think anyone is writing music like that right now,”

explains Holly Minto. It’s hard to disagree with

her when you experience the passion in her vocal

delivery on the track. The assemblage of sounds behind

her resemble The Clash at their angriest or the Sex

Pistols at their most enraged.

The landmark single belongs to self-branded “North

West misfits” CRAWLERS, a four-piece alternative rock

band consisting of Minto (vocalist), Amy Woodall (lead

guitar), Harry Breen (drums) and Liv Kettle (bass). Only

released in March, the song has amassed well over

75,000 plays on Spotify and sits comfortably with a

discography bearing the hallmarks of a band very much

on an upward trajectory.

Previous releases Hush and So Tired have reinforced

Crawlers’ assertion that rock ’n’ roll is still alive and

24

kicking. So far, they have displayed an ability to career

into a chorus like a Midwestern emo band from the early

2000s – Modern Baseball-esque – and navigate verses

with a lyrical nous far beyond the blueprint of a regular

rock outfit.

In keeping with the theme of lyricism, you would

think that the barrage of instruments on their latest effort

would obfuscate any meaningful message Minto tries

to convey, but their poised sensibility in these moments

of madness creates a feeling akin to watching a sunrise

across a clear-skied day. Her fierce image – curly red hair,

pronounced lipstick, strong eyeshadow – is enough to

make a boomer gasp. But don’t be confused by how this

band masks sentimentality in the way they look. They

may hold onto moments of careful lyricism and chord

progressions by a thread, but they manage to achieve a

poetic flair and elegance in the way they contrast love

and loss through light and dark chord progressions, and

happy and sad drum patterns. The contrast is captivating.

Holly explains that the sense of urgency and

exasperation that bleeds into Crawlers’ sound is born

from the frustration of the last 12 months. “We had to

become an online band,” she admits. While not being

unable to tour (obviously) or work together in a closeknit

environment had the potential to halt the band’s

momentum, they refused to let it tamper with their

progress, and instead found innovative ways to continue

creating. “It depended on what part of lockdown we

were in,” Minto says, referencing countless phonecalls

and messages about song ideas. The only constant

factor in this confusing scenario was the drive to create

more and more.

Since they started releasing music in 2019, Crawlers

have collected fans from every corner of the country;


a fanbase that is willing to hang on every word Minto

expels. But their new EP marks a shift. “All of the songs

are newly written,” Minto explains, and are littered with

the political topics that defined

socially-charged lockdowns in 2020.

Minto explains how “it’s a multiperson

process” that drives the

band’s creativity, both musically and

visually. The cover art for Statues

has the Statue of Liberty projected

onto Minto’s face and, speaking

about this creative decision, she

expresses their discontent with the

current socio-political arena. The

symbol of freedom marks itself as

the image on the EP as well as in

the verses. “Writing felt liberating,”

she states, alluding to the thoughtprovoking

lyrics: “The president kills his people, and all

the rooms are filled of all the sleeping people who this

“The music is

a combination

of our

personalities”

country killed” she announces, over a droning guitar riff.

It is obvious that political and societal discourse is a

big part of this band’s image and sound. It is also clear

to see the talent the band possesses

when politicaly loaded lyrics like

those on Statues are coupled with

enchanting melodies that give the

words a more profound meaning and

purpose. If not a rock band, then they

are activists.

“There’s certainly a bit of

Courtney Love in the lyricism,” Minto

adds, citing their influences, while the

rest of the band chip in with artists

like Tool and Smashing Pumpkins.

“The music is a combination of our

personalities,” Minto and the band

explain. Perhaps the ability to draw

on all genres of music allows Crawlers to create a sound

that they see as comfortingly personal.

FEATURE

The band all nod in agreement when Minto suggests

that they have “discovered their sound” on their

forthcoming EP. It is clear to see that it is a body of work

they are all proud of. “It shows all sides of Crawlers,” she

says. Statues itself marks the arrival of a band who are

determined to begin the inauguration of a new era for

rock and alternative music, one that isn’t afraid to include

political commentary in their art.

It is a statement of intent and this band is here to

stay – this is just the beginning of their efforts to make

music that is more engaging, more topical and simply

better. !

Words: Daniel Ponzini

Photography: Michael Driffill / @driffysphotos

Statues and Breathe are available now via Modern Sky.

@crawlersband

25


LIKE THE FIRST TIME

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

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

Sefton Park and considers what it all means for the 21st June reopening.

wild... fucking boss,”

responds ZUZU when asked to describe

playing to a non-socially distanced

“Unbelievable…

crowd for the first time in 14 months.

Sat behind the 4,000-capacity big top tent at Sefton

Park shortly after coming off stage, the magnitude of

the occasion is still yet to sink in for the artist given the

“honour” of opening proceedings. “I haven’t processed

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

disbelief when recalling the adoration from the tightlypacked

bodies just a few metres away. “I didn’t realise

how much of an impact live music had on artists’ lives

until we couldn’t do it anymore. That first show back was

beyond amazing. I’m so, so grateful that we got to do it. I

was crying all the way off stage.”

Within earshot, Wigan’s THE LATHUMS pick up

the baton from Zuzu and rumble into their opener.

Later, Stockport’s BLOSSOMS will play to a near-full

capacity tent.

Today’s event forms part of the government’s events

research programme – a series of live events from which

data is being collected and monitored in the hope it will

inform the roadmap to allowing large scale events and

gatherings to return from 21st June.

While restrictions are minimal once inside, the events

feature a core safeguarding measure for those with a

ticket. Everyone on the inside of the festival perimeter

walls has had to provide proof of a negative lateral flow

test in the last 72 hours. Before arriving, they have been

asked to take a PCR test at home, with a second five

days after the event. The process doesn’t appear too

taxing given the reactions of those in attendance. Making

it through the gate, taking off masks and no longer

having to adhere to social distancing brings out arguably

some of the biggest cheers of the day. The big top tent

stands as currently the most liberated bubble in the UK.

Many can’t quite believe their luck.

The 4,000 descending on Sefton Park aren’t the

first crowd of its kind congregating in Liverpool over the

weekend. Two days earlier, local promoters and record

label Circus are the first to stage a non-socially distanced

music event in the UK since the pandemic took hold.

Inside the former warehouse at Bramley-Moore Dock,

the 3,000-strong crowd are the most exciting import

the structure has seen in recent memory. Throughout

the afternoon, they’ll be guided by the selections of

Liverpool’s own LAUREN LO SUNG and YOUSEF, with

international heavyweights JAYDA

G, THE BLESSED MADONNA

and SVEN VÄTH taking to

the decks through the afternoon and evening event.

Being back in a large events space made for close

contact brings with it a palpable euphoria. Many

in attendance take a moment to themselves

to stop and look on at a throbbing mass

of people dancing towards the front of

the crash barrier. The tangible image of

people together legally incites the same

level of internal ecstasy as when Jayda

G hammers out Floorplan’s Never Grow

Old. Groups of friends come together

and pose to have their photo taken with

the backdrop of the crowd akin to a trophy

presentation. It’s a fitting reaction here on

Merseyside, with the 15-month wait feeling

more like the 30-year slog of Liverpool FC

in attempting to be back in one’s rightful

place – front and centre in the heart of

the dance.

26


FEATURE

27


“I’d convinced myself I would be as careful as

possible and still try to social distance, but the lure

of socialising won in the end,” says Ollie Adebsi who

attended the Friday event. “People were smiling and

talking about how lucky we all were to experience this.

It seemed like the drinks, the DJs, the venue, the confetti

were beautiful, but it all was unequivocal to the feeling of

all 3,000 of us being together without pandemic rules for

a few hours.”

The Circus event is a landmark moment for those

behind the decks as well as those partying on the other

side. Videos of an emotional Lauren Lo Sung as she

played the first record of the afternoon show just how

much music and its shared experience means. The hole

it’s left in people’s lives. It’s this feeling that perforates

so much of this evening’s somewhat surreal unification

of body, music and collective thought in a year where so

much has felt splintered and distant.

“From the moment I started to when I finished, I

wanted it to be emotionally charged. I wanted it to be a

release for me as well as the crowd,” says DJ and Circus

co-founder Yousef speaking the week after the back-toback

events at Bramley-Moore. “To be able to reconnect

with strangers and be in the company of others without

having to be told off – it was magical.”

Both the Bramley-Moore events and that at Sefton

Park share many similarities in their sense of making up for

lost time. People arrive early and stay late. Perhaps to soak

it all in. Maybe to hold on to a world of fewer restrictions

for as long as possible. But there’s a clear desire for people

to find themselves as a unified voice once again. Not

beholden to rules of six or police aggression when taking

necessary social action during lockdown.

“I’m excited to see Blossoms later, to be back at a

gig and screaming my heart out to some of my favourite

songs,” says Zuzu. “[Some of the younger people in the

crowd] have never had a chance to do this before. I think

it means a hell of a lot to a lot of people.”

This feeling courses through the expectant crowd

of the big top between sets.

Even the guitar tech receives a

roaring ovation as they come out

to tune up ahead of the bands.

For those behind the scenes in

the music industry, the past 14

months will have been some

of the hardest they’ve faced

in their professional careers.

One gig doesn’t make up for

the damage industry workers

have endured, but perhaps the

crowd’s excitable reaction shows

a new-found respect and value

for those stood to the side of the

stage and working across the festival site. It’s one that’ll

need to continue as gigs come back into full swing.

“The gig was everything I dreamed it could be.

A celebration of music, community and all that we’ve

been missing,” commented Bido Lito! photographer

Gary Lambert in the days after the event. “Nobody was

pretending that the last year hadn’t happened. Instead it

was a party for that moment.”

“I’d say this is the most important show I’ve ever

played,” says Zuzu, still coming down from the rush of

the set. It’s a feeling that’s reflected by Yousef. “My last

gig was to 25,000 people in Mexico City, which was the

best gig I’d done in my life. So, I was happy to have a

few months off – not knowing it was going to be 14.

But this has eclipsed it,” he says. “Not just that it was

an amazing gig, but the difficulty of getting to that

moment, putting that idea to the council, working so

hard to make it happen. It wasn’t just a gig, it was an

accumulation of effort.”

The journey to the two

test events in Liverpool

couldn’t have formed a

“It felt like we did

something that

was significant

for the city”

starker contrast to their

eventual happening. Just five

months prior the city was

battling its third wave of

Covid-19. Caseloads across

the city region pushed above

1,000 per 100,000 and

once again a lockdown was

introduced. It was a difficult

final chapter of a 2020 that

was just starting to offer

glimpses of optimism.

“In December there was a sense of achievement

as Liverpool emerged in Tier 2 after being the pilot city

for community testing,” says Mathew Flynn, lecturer

in music industry at the University Of Liverpool and

member of Liverpool City Region Music Board. “There

seemed to be a proactivity, but that was sort of ignorant

of the resurgence of the virus.”

Flynn outlines that, even with vaccine rollout clicking

into gear in January, there was a looming skepticism

that test events wouldn’t be able to take place until

28


late summer or even early autumn. “The pace of the

programme has been astounding,” he adds.

The turnaround in fortunes reignited optimism for

a summer schedule of live music and events – adding a

heightened importance to the two test events in Liverpool.

“From the view of Festival Republic [Sunday event

promoters], they want to be able to demonstrate that

they can run a Covid-secure event on mass scale with the

amount of festivals they’ve sold tickets for,” says Flynn.

“It’s similar with the promoters of dance events. It shows

that private companies can be given the responsibilities to

do those things and do them effectively and well.”

This decentralised control in the time of a global

pandemic does however add some greater levels of

risk for those planning large-scale events. “There’s a

reputational element to all of this if there is a resurgence

of the virus over the summer. There’s an awful lot of

risk, not just economically in hoping the government

will underwrite the insurance,” explains Flynn. “Where

will the responsibility lie? How much is on the venues to

manage risk and maintain reputation and how much of

this will be government mandated?”

While the test events could take place in highly

controlled environments that could ensure safety, it

remains to be seen what rules will remain in place for

events after 21st June. Though there is much optimism

surrounding the city’s recent test events - of which

Liverpool’s Public Health boss Matt Ashton noted he was

confident they would not lead to significant rises in cases

- the full findings are yet to be published. However, The

Times has reported that early indications suggest gigs

and shows are no more dangerous than eating out or

shopping. Even for large-scale promoters such as Circus,

providing their own testing and data operation would

come with large financial pressure. “It will be difficult

for small venues and also our venues,” says Yousef. “If

we have to charge our customers for the tests on top

of the ticket then it’s not going to be viable. Unless the

government are going to underwrite the tests, I can’t see

[testing continuing]. I can’t see how it will economically

stack up. And logistically, too.”

Mathew Flynn echoes a similar tone in looking

towards the landscape for events post 21st June and

whether a situation with no distancing or testing can

be a reality. “The margins at venue level are slim. But

most promoters will make their money through festivals.

Venues can be more progressive and test things out.

For festivals, one weekend it’s all or nothing. It’s a huge

undertaking. Unless you have resources to ride that out,

then it’s a huge risk,” says Flynn regarding the possibility

of any further cancellations due to local or national

restrictions returning.

“I don’t think what the live sector is asking of

government, to underwrite the events, is unreasonable,”

he continues. “It’s only a cost should they have to step

in. The insurance premiums are going to be higher. If the

government are so keen for people to reconnect and gain

that trust in the events sector again, it seems like a small

commitment of funds to give promoters the confidence

to put on mass events.”

The current landscape seems less zero-sum between

economic reopening and lockdown. The signals from

the test events show a pathway to safely return to mass

events. It is the economic reality of providing this safety

and confidence that will either be ignored or placed onto

the responsibility of promoters by the government in the

FEATURE

proposed further relaxing of restrictions. It is here where

the crux of the issue will lie for small venue owners who

will be taking on a greater reputational or financial risk

depending on which direction the government turn. “It’s

so important to those smaller venues. I want to be in

those venues as much as I want to be here playing to a

field of people,” says Zuzu. “The crowds of 4,000 are as

important as the crowds of 40.”

Whatever the outcome in the weeks leading to June

21st, the events at Bramley-Moore and Sefton Park won’t

be any less significant or an anomaly in the roadmap. “It

felt like we did something that was significant for the city,”

says Yousef. “I’m a proud Scouser and always have been,

so being able to contribute in some small way and to get

the whole world watching what we’re capable of as a

city, that felt really special.” Sometimes just one night can

sometimes make a world’s difference. “It was pure – and

filled me with hope as to how quickly everybody got back

into the mood,” concluded Lambert. “The future doesn’t

feel so bleak anymore.” !

Words: Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder

Additional reporting: Ollie Adebsi & Gary Lambert

Sefton Park Photography: John Johnson / @john.johno

Circus Photography: Jody Hartley / @jodyhartley

Circus returns with Sasha on 25th June at Invisible Wind

Factory.

@CIRCUSmusic

@thisiszuzu

29


MAKING

WAVES

Adam Noor highlights the essential work of the Noise Project and LIMF Academy which came

together to support young artists in a recent collaboration.

Faced with a decade of austerity and budget

cuts, organisations in Liverpool have worked

tirelessly to promote the artistic development

of young people and create spaces that

encourage individuals from all backgrounds to explore

their passion for music. However, the global pandemic

which took hold in March 2020 served to create a more

unforgiving landscape for young artists and musicians.

More positively, in the months that followed, it has also

seen adaptation from a wealth of organisations meeting

the demands of the new normal. One of the more recent

initiatives taking root here in Liverpool sees a collaboration

between the Noise Project and LIMF Academy.

The project began as the brainchild of local creative

consultant Yaw Owusu and practitioner Joe Carroll

(aka Amique) who each represent the scheme’s parent

organisations. Owusu is the creative force behind the

Liverpool International Music Festival and its artist

development scheme the LIMF Academy, which focuses

on artists at an industry level. He shared how the idea

for this group was conceived – during an hour-long,

impromptu conversation between the two men on a

street corner after they collaborated on the Levi’s Music

Project in Anfield earlier that year.

“We talked about doing something like [the Levi’s

Music Project] but a little bit more grassroots with artists.

[Amique] came back and said, ‘Well, let’s do something

as a partnership between the Academy and Noise’,”

Owusu explained. “I must give credit to Amique, it’s very

much his vision, but with me bringing what I do to the

table, it’s been a wonderful partnership.”

Amique is a successful musician himself. After having

performed at Wireless Festival and opening for artists

like Snarky Puppy and JP Cooper, he’s accustomed to the

harsh but alluring reality of the music industry. Alongside

this, Amique works as a music development worker at

the Noise Project on Hanover Street, which is where I

was introduced to him more than three years ago.

As a teenager, I’d been looking for a way to develop

my interest in music without the financial

pressures of private tutors and

expensive equipment. I

stumbled across

Noise

and, after meeting the team there, I felt completely

welcomed and comfortable exploring something I’d

always kept strictly within the confines of my bedroom.

The project manager of Noise, Garth Jones,

summarised what they do: “Noise is for young people

aged 11-25 from all areas of Merseyside. We offer free

tuition in guitar, piano, drums and voice, along with artist

mentoring sessions covering song

writing, music production and industry

insight.” The time I spent at Noise,

working closely with Amique, helped

me immensely with my confidence

at a time when most teenagers feel

unsure about what they should do

with their life and what they are

capable of. Amique has a true knack

for showing young musicians what

they can achieve and an almost

magnetic quality of drawing their

talents to the surface. When I heard

about his new scheme for emerging

artists, I knew it had to be something

worth looking into.

Unfortunately, before the project got a chance to

welcome its inaugural cohort, the Covid-19 pandemic

put a swift halt to all collaborative schemes within the

community, shepherding the group into an uncharted

digital workspace. This proved tricky to begin with for

those involved, like 20-year-old rapper and spoken word

artist DAYZY. “[It was difficult] due to everyone having to

work from home because of the pandemic, we can’t just

go to the studio,” he said. “One specific challenge was

recording and trying to fix any errors with

the sound.” Like many of us, the

artists have had to adapt

to a new way of

working with

“Music will

always find

its way”

technology but, luckily, they had the expertise of Amique

and Owusu to help them through it. “The project leaders

have been amazing with handling this,” said Dayzy, “and

also teaching us to solve the issues ourselves.”

The Liverpool-based artist spoke about his

upbringing around family and friends involved in the

city’s creative scene, whom he credits for inspiring him

to harness his music and teaching

him to grow into the artist he is

today. He also pinpointed the aptly

named Catalyst Performing Arts

programme as the birthplace of his

musical career – a project based in

Liverpool 8 which provides young

people with the opportunity to

express themselves through drama,

writing, dance and other activities.

Regarding the collaborative nature of

the LIMF Academy x Noise Project,

Dayzy said: “For me, personally, I

helped contribute to the project with

my rapping ability, however it has

pushed me to explore my skills in

music production much more than I thought it would.”

When asked about the most rewarding aspect of being

involved, he responded, “Using our creativity to create

sounds together with the other artists on the project, that

have a big meaning behind them.”

It appears Amique and Owusu place a huge

importance on encouraging an environment of shared

creativity and a mutual respect for all the artists’ work

within the group. The former elaborated on how this

translates into their weekly meetings. “Sessions

regularly feature group song evaluations

where the young artists

evaluate one another’s

music and

30


development, educational discussions about artistic

growth, dedicated and in-depth exercises designed to

generate artistic inspiration as well as several guest

speakers from PRS, Ditto Distribution, not to mention

industry experts such as Mike Cave (Lewis Capaldi/

The Charlatans).” The benefit of being exposed to

insider knowledge of the music industry is obviously

huge for emerging talents, and this begins the levelling

of the playing field for disadvantaged artists who are

susceptible to being eaten up by the industry, something

both Owusu and Amique felt strongly about.

“What I’ve always tried to do is make sure there’s

balance. To make sure that there are opportunities for

artists who don’t normally get them, and also make

sure that these opportunities are actually going to help

the artists, because sometimes things are put on that

may be tokenistic, sometimes the people who run it

don’t necessarily understand those artists that they’re

working with,” Owusu explained. The project goes to

great lengths to give invaluable insight into what being a

professional recording artist is like, in preparation for the

exciting things they predict their artists will go on to do.

One such artist is NI MAXINE, a 24-year-old

originally from Bristol, who describes herself as being

“on a journey of healing and self-discovery through

music”. The jazz singer spoke of her roots in church

choirs and cathedrals but noted the night she gave a

spontaneous performance at a jazz club as a turning

point in her career. “I asked the house band if I could sing

a song, to which they responded, of course. It seemed

to go down pretty well as they asked me to come back

and sing a number of times which was fun, even though

the owners couldn’t remember my name,” she recalled.

Despite being a seasoned performer, fronting the jazz

outfit River Of Beer during her time in Bristol, Ni thanks

the LIMF Academy x Noise Project for

helping her find the confidence

to trust her own music.

She describes

the

experience as being “really lovely during lockdown,

just having a virtual space to socialise in and meet new

people. If you’ve been working on a track, you can send

it in before the session and have it played to the group

before everyone offers feedback, which has been really

encouraging and has given me the confidence to start

putting my original music out there”.

Now, Ni is involved in The Wombat Supper Club, an

intimate live music and dining experience operating out

of her flat in Anfield. She holds the distinguished position

of resident chanteuse at The Wombat, where one of the

perks of the job is being able to host the audience from

the comfort of your very own living room. The concept

displays a sense of innovative resourcefulness that has

people fighting for one of 20 exclusive seats at the table.

Lamenting her inability to host these gatherings over

lockdown, Ni says, “I can’t wait to be able to invite people

to The Wombat once again – for food, conversation and

jazz! It’s going to be so nice to lay the table and prepare

a meal for guests; although, dinner for two has been fun

over the past year or so.”

Despite the setbacks of the pandemic and the

mounting pressure on voluntary services such as

the LIMF Academy x Noise Project, the young artists

involved seem hopeful about the future in their industry.

Dayzy commented on his eagerness to share his work.

“I am very excited about showing the world what us

creatives and musicians have been up to,” he said. “I will

be releasing three new tracks and a few music videos

this summer.”

On top of being involved with The Wombat,

Ni shared that she has been working on a body of

music over the past year. “I’m hoping to record in the

summertime,” she said, “ready for something exciting on

the 20th October, which just so happens to be my 25th

birthday. Save

the date!”

Their optimism is a testament to the resilience

of creativity against any obstacle, specifically for a

generation that too often seems to be set up to fail by

the powers that be. Owusu made a similarly positive

observation. “Music will always find its way,” he said.

“It’s like water, it’s so essential and so abundant that,

regardless of what’s going on, artists are going to create

music, people are going to consume and share music,

music is still going to be our soundtrack to everything we

do and everything we create – it’s not going anywhere.”

While no one disregards the struggles facing the

creative industries right now, especially after the loss

of so many live venues across the country in the past

year, these artists seem equally resistant to entertain

the idea that anything could stop them. And judging

by the success of this project and the artists involved, I

can’t help but agree. The LIMF Academy x Noise Project

is a perfect example of how we can adapt and change

and make something amazing in the face of adversity,

but above all it illustrates the necessity of spaces where

young people can be authentic, creative and together. !

Words: Adam Noor

Illustration: Matthew Berks

The LIMF Academy x Noise Project is set to return in

the next year. Follow the link below for updates on

applications.

@limfacademy

limfacademy.com

mya.org.uk/Project-Noise

Adam took part in Bido Lito!’s Bylines writers

programme, developing young culture writers of the

future. Bylines runs throughout the year for

more information and to find out about

the next intake go to bidolito.co.uk/

workshops

FEATURE

31


STATE OF THE

STUDIOS, STATE

OF THE CITY

A new report suggests that without support many of Liverpool’s artist studios are at risk of

disappearing. El Gray looks at the implication this could have on city-wide culture.

There is a certain disposition that defines coastal

towns, a familiarity with collision and change.

Liverpool’s coastal identity is paralleled in its

culture; a pulsing and varied ecosystem of artists

and musicians, poets and creators exist among otherwise

normality, clashing against each other and producing a

swirling, bubbling creativity. However, a recent report

from Art in Liverpool reveals one component of the city’s

creative ecosystem is slowly dying.

In the early months of the new decade, as the

pandemic intensified, arts organisations across Liverpool

found themselves “watching the world fall apart around

us”. In this context, Patrick Kirk-Smith, director of Art in

Liverpool, and arts PR consultant Laura Brown undertook

a report into the state of artist studios across the Liverpool

City Region.

Liverpool is home to 35 artist studios, providing

workspaces, studios, exhibition space and storage to over

500 artists. These studios form an integral part of the

artistic community and the wider communities they exist

within. However, the ‘State of the Studios’ report, produced

in collaboration with a collection of Liverpool’s artist studios,

reveals the entropy they’re facing: without immediate

support, 31 of Liverpool’s 35 studios face extinction.

A combination of unaffordable rents, demand for

development and insecurity in building provision has

gradually marginalised artist studios, forcing them out of

city centre spaces. The ‘Livelihood of Visual Artist’ (2019)

report by Arts Council England indicates that, on average,

artists earn £16,150 each year, ensuring studio rent

cannot be in parallel with other industries. In a competitive

property market, this leaves studios extremely vulnerable

to rising property prices and landlords seeking to gain

from more profitable ventures in attractive city centre

locations. The pandemic has revealed and exacerbated

32

these existing vulnerabilities, decimating studio funding

and creating chasms where cracks once existed. Studios,

therefore, inhabit a precarious existence, forced to move

further out of the city or close entirely, hollowing out the

city’s creative culture.

This is a familiar story among creative organisations in

Liverpool. A story of regeneration, exploitation, profit and

marginalisation. In its intricacies, the story reveals truths

about the role of cultural regeneration in Liverpool and the

particular values which define the use of urban space in

the city. It also presents an alternative utopian future. This

is the story of Liverpool’s artist studios. “It feels as though

Liverpool does not understand what they’ve lost,” says

Tony Knox of Road Studios.

Often, the role of artist studios appears mysterious

and ambiguous, defined by an existence seemingly both

inside and outside of conventional society. This obscurity

partly results from the fact that “it’s very difficult to define

what a studio does”, as Patrick Kirk-Smith indicates.

Liverpool’s studios encompass a vast array of art forms:

pottery, graffiti, sculpture, textiles and visual arts more

generally. “No one studio does the same thing. Most

studios have a specialism, and they support artists within

that specialism… there isn’t one definition.”

Despite this variation, artist studios are united as

vital components of the city’s arts scene. They operate as

creative laboratories, offering artists a dedicated space

to experiment and develop their craft. Critically, studios

enable networking and creative collaboration between

artists, providing a stimulating environment “surrounded

by people who can’t help themselves but make stuff”, as

Max Mallender, artist lead at The Royal Standard, explains.

Studios also offer a vital transitionary space for graduate

artists to receive mentoring and support. In this way,

artist studios provide the foundations for the city’s art

scene, operating as the “bloodline to the rest of the sector”

as Faye Hamblett-Jones, artistic director at The Royal

Standard, explains.

The forced closure or relocation of artist studios severs

this vital limb of the artistic community. In a previous

article for Bido Lito!, Charly Reed persuasively outlined the

case for small music venues in the city, highlighting their

importance for the wider music scene. Perhaps due to

the dominancy of Liverpool’s musical identity, or the more

insular, quieter nature of artist studios, their importance

is often underappreciated. However, the two spaces

perform a similar function in Liverpool’s diverse cultural

infrastructure – offering a dedicated space for embryonic

talent to grow. “Every time there has been a studio within

Liverpool’s city centre, they have been systematically

moved to the outskirts,” Tony Knox indicates. Without this

cultural infrastructure, “where do [we] expect talent to

grow?”

Knox’s question encapsulates the necessity of

affordable, accessible and secure studio spaces. Without

investment and consolidated support, the talent will end

up going and they won’t look back. “They won’t say, ‘That

was a great city’, they’ll say, ‘You done fuck all for me’,”

Knox warns. Liverpool risks suffocating the grassroots

artistic community and the evolution of the city’s arts

scene, creating a façade of culture with no underlying

structure. Artificial flowers with dead soil.

This story of underappreciation and perpetual

marginalisation reflects an underlying flaw in Liverpool’s

cultural landscape. Artists and artist studios are perceived

primarily as a mechanism for cultural regeneration,

rather than for their inherent non-commercial value. In

Liverpool’s current cultural landscape, this flaw manifests

itself in the dominance of property developers. “At the

moment, property developers dictate the art scene, and


therefore they stagnate the art scene,” Knox explains,

restricting affordability, accessibility and creative freedom.

Artists need space, either for temporary exhibitions and

performances, or as studio space and “the more central

spaces can be, the more visible independent artists can

be”, Patrick Kirk-Smith emphasises, allowing them to be

seen and heard. However, as Liverpool has developed and

become more attractive, artists are increasingly unable to

access affordable city centre spaces, or are exploited as

temporary solutions to reviving vacant or disused buildings

before being “systematically forced out”. “Everything is

monetised now,” Knox laments. “Buildings are bought and

they’re sat on… A lot of the buildings that were potentially

useful and could have been for artists to go into are no

longer available, because people see them as potential to

make money. They can’t see the bigger picture.”

During its history, Road Studios has faced two

evictions, a High Court ruling and constant uncertainty in

the fight to retain its city centre location on Victoria Street.

“[The property owners] systematically moved the goal

posts by taking away access to the building, it was literally

a building site… It got to the point where they actually

smashed the toilets as tenants were still in the building.”

Sadly, in 2019, Road was evicted and forced out of the

city centre, securing a space in the Baltic’s Northern Lights

building. Knox believes that property developers “play the

white knight”, purporting to support artist studios and

provide them with space, only to abandon them once a

more profitable option surfaces. The experience of Road

Studios encapsulates the situation facing artist studios

across the city and the hostile environment they face.

Artists recognise and champion their ability to

“add value to space” and “enrich communities”, as Faye

Hamblett-Jones explains, reviving the communities they

exist within. “Artist studios anchor creative people, art

and cultural activity in their neighbourhood,” as a report

from the National Federation of Artists’ Studios Providers

from 2014 indicates. In addition to providing local

amenities in the forms of cafés, workspaces and events or

workshops, the presence of artist studios creates a sense

of ‘something happening’, piercing through the stagnancy

that often dominates forgotten communities. “Artists

have [always] been used as a catalyst for regeneration,”

Knox acknowledges; however, artist studios want to be

seen as a permanent part of the city’s infrastructure, not

simply used to develop an area before being outpriced,

abandoned and marginalised.

Liverpool is a city that understands more than most

the power of culture to stimulate regeneration and

transform city landscapes. In recent years, invigorated by

the success of 2008, Liverpool has positioned culture as

a primary driver of revival and growth, defining itself as a

‘creative city’. This has transformed external perceptions,

reflected in the development of the tourism and leisure

industry, which was worth £4.9 billion in 2018. The

continuing relevance of this approach is epitomised today

in Liverpool City Region’s ‘Cultural Compact Strategic

Action Plan 2021-2026’ released earlier this year, which

positions culture as a dominant force in the city’s recovery

from the pandemic and in the economy over the next five

years. During an era in which many local authorities have

cut cultural provision and funding, Liverpool City Council’s

commitment to culture is commendable and the report

does emphasise the need for “inclusive growth”.

However, there is a sense among Liverpool’s artistic

community that they are continually exploited for

economic gain in the name of regeneration. “[Artists]

are always exploited,” Patrick Kirk-Smith states flatly.

Liverpool’s narrative of a creative city is potentially

damaging if culture is valued disproportionately for its

economic or regenerative potential, rather than for its

inherent non-commercial value.

This potential damage

is reflected in the recent

revelations of the Caller

Report, which revealed the

City Council’s “dysfunctional

management”, particularly

within its Regeneration,

Planning and Property

Management Departments,

and resulted in the deployment

of government commissioners

to oversee these departments

for the next three years. For

Liverpool’s artist studios, it is proof of the “systemic”

methods through which they have been exploited for

regeneration projects and the profit motive which has

dictated the city’s development, granting lucrative

development contracts and failing to prioritise communities.

Only time will tell whether the arrival of the

commissioners will limit the Council’s ambitions or

agency over Liverpool’s cultural strategy. However, one

thing remains clear: if Liverpool is to avoid the continuing

marginalisation and depletion of its artistic communities, it

must re-evaluate its use of urban space. Thankfully, artists

already have the solution – a utopian vision of a different

kind of city.

Max Mallender laughs when asked how he would

solve the problems facing Liverpool’s artist studios. It is

a resigned, knowing laugh, acknowledging the simplicity

of the solution but the difficult of actually enacting it.

“Property developers

dictate the art

scene, and therefore

they stagnate the

arts scene”

It encapsulates the situation facing artist studios in

Liverpool. They are tired. Tired of explaining themselves

continuously, tired of the same resurfaced issues, tired of

asking for support. Tired of knowing exactly how to solve

problems but lacking the power to achieve solutions. “If I

could solve the problems,” Max says, “I’d use all the empty

commercial space and all the empty retail space in the city

and I’d give it to [artists] to do stuff with.”

High streets are dying; empty façades stare out like

glazed eyes onto deserted pavements. Rather than this

apocalyptic scene, imagine if artists inhabited these empty

spaces. “Imagine if the high street changed, imagine if

every couple of months there was something different in

X space or Y space. There would be a constant draw for

people to come into the city,” Max enthuses. Patrick Kirk-

Smith agrees that “one day the experience of a high street

needs to change – it needs to not be about ‘big culture’.

It needs to be local, and community-led, and artists are

ideally placed to do that”. Faye Hamblett-Jones imagines

“open spaces where the public can come and engage with

art and artists”. Commercial

spaces are inherently exclusive,

dictating access based on

economic status. Artistic

spaces are democratic and

inclusive, inviting people in for

no other purpose than presence

and participation. These are

the kind of spaces that should

define Liverpool – those that

facilitate conversation and

creation, that compel and entice

interactions between disparate

people and ideas.

This utopian image of a dynamic and responsive

Liverpool city space is enticing, interspersing art and

creativity with other aspects of urban life. A diverse

ecology of art, retail, work and leisure where ordinariness

clashes against artistry – a buzzing metropolis which is

inclusive and inviting. This is what creates a fertile and

explosive culture. A tidal wave of creativity in the city

centre, honouring Liverpool’s coastal identity; an ebbing,

flowing, evolving city which keeps everyone afloat. This is

what is at stake. This is what can be saved. !

Words: El Gray / @Just__El

Illustration: John O’Loughlin / @jolworkshop

To read the full State Of The Studios report visit

studio-network-merseyside.co.uk

FEATURE

33


RON’S

PLACE

34


Following his death in 2019, the home of outsider

artist Ron Gittins revealed itself to be a secret

treasure trove of surreal sculpture and classical

painting. With efforts currently ongoing to save the

art and the flat itself, Matthew Hogarth stepped into

Ron’s dreamworld in an attempt to learn more about

the idiosyncratic artist.

Growing up, it was less footballers or television

personalities or even musicians who I was

truly fascinated with and inspired by. Instead,

it was those who frequented history books,

the world’s outliers. I was always drawn to Victorian

eccentrics with carriages drawn by zebras, or the likes

of Salvador Dalí, moustache curled, wide-eyed behind a

lobster phone. I was always fascinated by the worlds that

these characters inhabited, made for themselves and their

desire to refuse to conform to society’s standards.

These figures, however, always seemed completely

exotic from the post-industrial town of Birkenhead, where

I grew up. The local characters were always far more

pedestrian, lacking some of the je ne sais quoi of those

I obsessed over in large hardback books. My affinity

with such people never faded. I formed more recent

allegiances with outsiders like Daniel Johnston, while also

scouring charity shops for artwork at any opportunity.

So, it was with great surprise and excitement when

I first heard of the late RON GITTINS and his rented

house in Birkenhead. Within a mile of where I had grown

up was a modern-day Sistine Chapel: an ode to ancient

civilisations, historical

figures and underwater

worlds, gloriously

splayed out in household

paint, fibreglass, papiermâché

and concrete.

In an unassuming

suburb, between beige

interiors and hidden

behind drapes, lay an

entirely different world;

the fantastical home of

Ron, now affectionately

named RON’S PLACE.

Upon the unfortunate

passing of Ron, his

niece Jay Williams and

her husband Chris

Teasdale, who together run the roving art organisation

The Caravan Gallery, uncovered what had been decades

in the making. Although slightly cluttered upon first

entry, there was evidence of Gittins’ work quite literally

everywhere in the flat, which had become a work of art

of its own. His hall walls were adorned with Ancient

Egyptians, hieroglyphics and Cleopatra. This imagery is

quite apt – on entering the property you feel a little like

how Howard Carter must have felt upon discovering the

Tomb of Tutankhamun; there’s a wonderment which just

makes you smile.

“Mum and dad kept in touch, but he never invited

people to the house. We never lost touch, but we never

realised how amazing his place was until he died,” says

Jan .Walking round is a rather humbling experience.

There’s a true magic within the ground floor flat. Every

wall is a canvas, every ceiling a diorama, every floor

painted to the style that hangs above it.

“There’s something truly

refreshing in Ron’s work

in that it was created

for the love of it, for

something beautiful, to

live in and completely

lose yourself in”

Jan remembers her uncle growing up. “He was always

obsessed with power. He was born in Birkenhead. We

spent a lot of time there as kids, but Ron would go in the

outside toilet and recite Richard III in this really grandiose

voice,” she recalls. “My grandad would say, ‘Why are you

speaking like that, it’s not part of our background’. [But]

he would put on these really grand voices. He had this

really great air of confidence and grandiosity.”

His obsession with power manifests itself in his art,

too. Throughout the house it seems to be a common

theme. Books on kings and queens sit juxtaposed with

books on revolution and the likes of Henry VIII, Romans

and royals of old adorn his walls.

His non-conformism wasn’t just kept inside

the house, either. “A lot of what Ron did was very

performative. He’d be a familiar sight around Birkenhead

wearing crazy outfits and he often went to Wickes to

buy sand and cement dressed up,” notes Jan. This sand

and cement makes up perhaps the most eye catching

features inside: two huge home-made fireplaces, one a

lion, the other a minotaur. Inside both sit a couple of tea

lights. “He would go busking. A lovely thing that people

said was that, ‘Ahh your

Ron, mad but we love

him’. He was always

charming and he would

have time for you. And,

as family, we often saw

another side of him as

he was attention seeking

and he was often called

‘mad uncle Ronnie’ – part

of me thinks that’s great

as the status quo needs

to be challenged.”

To me, it’s that

Ron never let anyone

inside that makes the

place just so special.

“He really inspired my

creativity,” Jan tells us. The Caravan Gallery operates

with much the same ethos as Ron himself: offering up

art to those who may not otherwise get to experience it

while capturing the surrealism in everyday life. “I think

I was born creative and my parents always encouraged

our creativity. He made learning things really exciting

and always had lots of history books. I remember getting

obsessed with ancient Rome and he gave me a Roman

clay tile once. I just found it fascinating being able to

hold that connection between myself and people in

a completely different place in time. He always made

learning something interesting and exciting, and what’s

funny going through a lot of his stuff is how much we

have [in common]. My studio is absolutely chocka with

stuff I’ve saved, like books and papers and things that

might be useful to make things with.”

“He did it for himself,” Jan continues. “Even

when I was a kid, I remember he lived in a rented

FEATURE

accommodation with my nan and grandad in New Ferry

and even then he painted his bedroom ceiling as a whole

Roman scene. I think the neighbours got a bit pissed off

as he started to create a Roman wall in the garden. He

used to dismember my grandparents’ brushes to get

the bristles off to make Roman helmets and overran the

house with projects. There was always fibreglass and

glue and Plasticine everywhere. He was always doing

something and was always very proud of what he did.

So, he wasn’t being secretive in that respect. He often

made paintings for people, but it was more the fear of

losing the art within the house.”

A sculpture in the house still holds the tag from its

submission to The Royal Academy. Without wanting

to sound clichéd, there can often be a snobbery within

the world which can cause exclusion. Whether that be

through art being outside contemporary taste or not

fitting within parameters. Therefore, there’s something

truly refreshing in Ron’s work in that it was created

for the love of it, for something beautiful, to live in and

completely lose yourself in. It offers something unique

which could have been lost if it had to jump through

hoops and meet expected norms.

The fact that the interior of the flat was kept

secret is perhaps somewhat of a double-edged sword.

Having used household items, some of the art is in a

fragile state. “We’ve had the head conservator from

National Museums Liverpool over and she said there’s

been no damp in there and it’s been kept in really good

condition, but some of it really does need attention,”

admits Jan. Alongside National Museums Liverpool, the

space has also attracted the attention of art specialists

worldwide, as well as the likes of filmmaker Martin

Wallace and Jarvis Cocker who have become patrons of

the space. Somewhat ironic for Ron I’m sure, achieving a

posthumous fame with work we’re not sure he wanted

people to see.

As I walk out of the house, adjusting my eyes to

the sunshine and leafy suburbia that surrounds me,

it hits me how much value the house possesses. Not

only as an archive of a lifetime of art and the unique

individual behind it, but the lessons it holds in the joys of

individuality and the expression of self. I may not have

had the pleasure to meet Ron, but his art tells a lot of this

story and provides the interview he couldn’t give. !

Words: Matthew Hogarth

Photography: Serena Ambrose Ellis / @serenambroseellis

You can support and preserve the legacy of Ron’s Place

via the Patreon link below

patreon.com/ronsplacewirral

@RonsSaving

35


SPOTLIGHT

SEAGOTH

“Songwriting

allows me to be

emotional in a

pretty raw and

healing way”

Channelling emotion through

joyous sprinkles of synth.

If you had to describe your music/style in a sentence,

what would you say?

Waves of synthesizers and waves of emotion.

Have you always wanted to create music? How did you

get into it?

Pretty much, I used to write a lot of poetry as a way of

expressing my tween-self. So, when I got into playing

music, coming up with lyrics came almost naturally to

me. Growing up listening to bands like Linkin Park and

Evanescence with their heavily emotional lyrics inspired

me, sort of; it made me realise that music didn’t have to

just be about ladies and booze.

Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of music that

initially inspired you?

The first ‘gig’ I went to was an All Time Low show at the

Manchester Arena in 2016. I was never super into their

music, but I was going with my friend who was. At this

point I was really passionate about music so being there

with people who were also passionate was amazing. I

remember being in the moment and seeing all the guys

on stage and thinking, ‘That’s what I wanna do’. Pretty

lame, but it was a defining moment for me because I

realised I loved live music.

What do you think is the overriding influence on your

songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a

mixture of all of these?

I’d definitely say all of the above. Songwriting allows me

to be emotional in a pretty raw and healing way. Letting

your mind flow while writing about something deeply

personal and then singing about it helps me get over

things, I think.

If you could support any artist in the future, who would

it be?

Without a doubt, Declan McKenna.

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed in? If

so, what makes it special?

The Cavern, definitely, because so many stars have

walked on that stage and the energy down there is

indescribable.

Why is music important to you?

Music helps me give context to my emotions, listening

to it elevates me emotionally and it always has. It’s so

universally enjoyed that, even in times of incredible

divide, we all listen to the same songs.

Seagoth plays St Barnabas Church on 28th May and

RivFest in Warrington on 8th August

36


KOKIRI

A producer and DJ of full-bodied house music.

If you had to describe your music/style in a sentence,

what would you say?

It sits on the borders of melodic house, with elements of

soul, disco and classic house hiding in there too.

Have you always wanted to produce? How did you get

into it?

I got into production when I was about 12/13. My brother

showed me a song he had on vinyl and explained to me

that the lad who had made it produced it in his bedroom.

It blew my mind. I thought that you needed a big

expensive studio to release music. When I realised I could

make tracks on my PC, I became obsessed.

Do you have a highlight in your career so far?

For me, it happened about six years ago, when I’d put

together a song called Retrospect. As soon as it was

released, it was being played at shows, festivals and even

topped the Radio 1 Dance Chart. It then went on to be

released by Ministry of Sound.

To what extent has Liverpool’s electronic music

scene and clubbing scene influenced your work as a

producer?

One of the reasons I wanted to produce music was

because of Mike Di Scala. He was basically running

the Scouse house scene when I started. He was doing

exactly what I aspired to, just a lad making music and

playing it out at shows; this was a massive inspiration to

me.

What was the inspiration behind your newest track So

Free? Any particular musical influences?

The original idea for the song was made back in 2015.

I came across a sample that had a tribal vibe and spent

a couple of hours playing around with it. Fast forward a

few years later, I had a writing session with Jem Cooke

who appears on the track. I found an old mp3 of the idea

and asked if this was something she’d be interested in

writing to. She loved the original idea, so we went from

there. I was introduced to Todd Terry through my label

and showed him some of my demos. He loved it, and I

suppose the rest is history.

You’ve already worked with legends such as Todd

Terry. Is there anyone who you aspire to collaborate

with one day?

Collaborating with Todd was definitely a bucket list

moment for me. I could probably list about 100 people

who I’d love to collaborate with, with but I’ll narrow it

down to my top three: Ben Böhmer, Tom Misch and Roy

Ayers.

Why is music important to you?

I just love that you can hear a song that you haven’t heard

for years and it has the power to transport you instantly

to a different point in your life. I want to be able to give

people that feeling. I want listeners to relate to my music,

understand why I’ve created it and leave them with a

lasting effect.

So Free is available now via Perfect Havoc

@kokirimusic

MONDO TRASHO

Breathless surf rock with a recording

prolificacy to keep pace.

If you had to describe your music/style in a sentence,

what would you say?

Jay (guitar/voice): Scouse surf-rock/garage noir.

Chris (Organ): With added cinematic feel. A mix of

grandiose Echo And The Bunnymen and the dirt-surf

garage from The Cramps and the Dead Kennedys.

Have you always wanted to create music? How did you

get into it?

C: I started mostly by getting few instrument lessons in

school. As soon as I was shown a power chord or a Nirvana

song on drums I never looked back. We’ve always been

in some sort of band, from the cover groups we started

at school, to our three-chord punk bands we were in as

teenagers.

What drew you towards the lo-fi garage sound in

particular?

C: We feel like with new recording and production methods

the surf sound can get over-produced.

J: It’s important we have some grit.

C: We want our music to sound like it’s been buried in a

damp basement for decades.

You’ve just released a series of three EPs. How does each

release connect with each other, and how do they differ?

C: Each EP is distinct, while all staying true to our sound.

The first, That’s Trash, showcases how diverse our songs

are. We picked one of our grand cinematic tracks with

Running Scared, a fast garage track with 86’d and slow

surf track with One Eyed Jacques.

J: More Trash has three darker tracks both in feel and lyrical

content.

C: And Pure Trash has tracks you can dance to, with songs

like Tear It Up.

What do you think is the overriding influence on your

songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a

mixture of all of these?

J: It stems from wanting to do something artistic. You know,

just to leave something here for when you’re gone, to

prove you existed. I quite like thinking about the future and

someone saying, “Here’s my uncle’s old band.”

C: Or, “My granddad was in a band, you know, on this old

website called Spotify.”

It’s a break from your working life. I like thinking art, old

horror films, John Waters films, B-movies and Twilight Zone

episodes inspire us.

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed in? If so,

what makes it special?

J: We only had the chance to play about three venues

before the pandemic, but Drop The Dumbulls sticks out. It’s

DIY to its core.

Why is music important to you?

J: It’s everything.

C: It’s something that’s always there. Music is the perfect

tonic. It’s the principal thing.

Photography: Mat Colfar

That’s Trash, More Trash and Pure Trash are out now and

play Shipwrecked at Future Yard 14th August.

SPOTLIGHT

37


SPOTLIGHT

A LESSER

VERSION

Liam Evans introduces their new project which

is mushrooming into a shoegaze force.

“Music has evoked

the strongest and

longest lasting

feelings in me”

If you had to describe your music/style in a sentence,

what would you say?

Deviated rock music for non-music enthusiasts.

Have you always wanted to create music? How did you

get into it?

I’ve always been creative in different ways, but it wasn’t

until I was around the age of 16 that I fell in to playing

instruments and trying to play songs that I had written

with friends.

Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of music that

initially inspired you?

When I first heard Ceremony by New Order, I felt

compelled to share my stories and emotions and things

I’d written and I’ve carried on doing it ever since. I was

always making things prior to that, but I think that was

one of the first times that I felt inspired to make art in the

ways that I do now.

Do you have a favourite song or piece of music to

perform? What does it say about you?

I like playing a song called Perfect Circles, which is the

last song on the album Excess (which we are releasing

later this year). I think the things I want to say in my art

at this moment in time are communicated as simply as

possible in that song.

What do you think is the overriding influence on your

songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a

mixture of all of these?

I try to pull from any and every influence, whether it is

from the things I see and feel and experience or things

happening around me and in the world. Making art is a

very cathartic experience for me and I have to be able

to talk about different things in order to make sense of

them.

If you could support any artist in the future, who would

it be?

Probably Paul McCartney, predictably. Or Brian Eno, in

some way.

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed in? If

so, what makes it special?

My favourite venues have probably been Sound in

Liverpool, The Prince Albert in Brighton, and Aatma in

Manchester.

Why is music important to you?

Music is the easiest way for me to express myself and I

can’t imagine it not being something I would do. Music

has generally evoked the strongest and longest lasting

feelings in me compared to other art and, for that reason,

it has been central to everything I do for as long as I can

remember.

Sylvia and A07042 are available now. I Drown is out 11th

June. A Lesser Version play the Bido Lito! Social at Future

Yard on 30th July.

@alesserversion

38


SAN PEDRO’S VISION

The psychedelia fuelled five-piece explore experiences of the mind.

If you had to describe your music/style in a sentence,

what would you say?

Progressive psychedelia with bits and bobs of different

genres thrown into the mix.

Have you always wanted to create music? How did you

get into it?

Bottle: Everyone has always just wanted to play music.

Me, Sam and Stu had been in various different bands

together since we were kids, and found our way once

Chris, Alannah and Luke joined.

Your music sounds like a blend of grunge and heavy

psych. What drew you to the genre?

Psychedelics! Seriously though, we started off as a blues

band back when we were kids, and eventually moved

over to psych-pop. After that, we moved over to heavier

music that really summed us up as a new band.

Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of music that

initially inspired you?

Bottle: The first time I heard Floyd’s The Piper At The

Gates Of Dawn it blew my mind.

Stu: Pink Floyd Live in Pompeii.

Sam: Stop Making Sense, because it showed that gigs

can be more than just music. The possibilities for different

ways to entertain are endless.

Chris: Watching Anders Flanderz playing Girls Just Want

To Have Fun through a Vocoder. He was banging a water

tank over his head with bells around his ankles.

Alannah: My first gig was Alice Cooper when I was nine.

The drama of the show, the awesome performance, got

me really excited about music.

Luke: Alfa Mist and Yussef Dayes at Abbey Road, playing

Love Is The Message.

What was the biggest inspiration behind your new EP?

We wanted to elucidate the psychedelic experience of the

mind, the journey you go through, and the light and dark

that goes with it.

How do your latest release differ from your previous

work?

It’s a lot darker. We moved away from the psych-pop

sound we had developed over a couple of years. The

world’s a dark place and we wanted to capture it, but also

reach for the light too.

How was the process of making the EP?

B: I had been messing round with alternate tunings on

the guitar to form The Nerve Centre and Subconscious.

Chris brought in Reflection. Once we had Alannah join

the tracks gained that kick that made us think we need to

get these recorded.

Why is music important to you?

Music is the food of the soul. Everyone is the same when

it comes to feeling music. It’s amazing that something

personal to us is personal to someone else for a

completely different reason.

Photography: Olivia Hunt and Ade Henry

Subconscious Reflection is available now.

@sanpedrosvision

HENRY JONES

Searching for the melody through

method acting songwriting.

If you had to describe your music/style in a sentence,

what would you say?

Sometimes poppy, sometimes more experimental. I am only

recently beginning to own how inconsistent my style is.

Have you always wanted to create music? How did you

get into it?

I have always had an emotional connection to it. My

family are all music lovers, so I was always surrounded

by great music. I found music was always the best tool to

process my emotions, too. My mum says I used to sing a

lot as a child. Mostly school hymns.

Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of music that

initially inspired you?

I used to jam out to Give Me Oil In My Lamp in assembly.

I’m not Christian, but Jesus can sure write a hit. One time

me and my brother found a pile of rap CDs behind some

kid’s house. His parents had thrown them out, probably

because of the language. We salvaged them and gave

them a lot of spins over the years. I would say those

memories always stick out because that was my first

experience of discovering music for myself.

What do you think is the overriding influence on your

songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a

mixture of all of these?

I would say most of my creativity comes from when

I’m feeling down. Break-ups are usually my fuel for

writing. I always find I’m super creative when my room

is messy and I’m unwashed. It’s like method acting but

for songwriting, creating an environment that mirrors the

music I’m trying to make.

If you could support any artist in the future, who would

it be?

It’s between Alex G, Andy Shauf or Chastity Belt at the

moment.

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed in? If

so, what makes it special?

The Reeds was definitely a stand-out, it was so small

you were literally face to face with the audience. Sound

Basement was always a great setting for a good night,

too. It’s sad to a see a lot of them are no longer open. My

heart aches for them. That makes the memories even

more special now.

Why is music important to you?

I am such an anxious and shy person, so I always find

music helps me communicate with people better, there

isn’t anything in the world more intimate than listening

to music with another person and being completely in

silence for the whole song or album. To me, that silence

tells me more about a person than any small talk ever

could.

Photography: Michael Davies

Something About The Rain is available now.

@hank_markdukas

SPOTLIGHT 39


PREVIEWS

“If I’d just had it

easy, I probably

wouldn’t be doing

this now”

GIG

KATY J PEARSON

Get It Loud In Libraries @ Widnes Library – 06/06

As the dust settles following her 2020 debut album, Return, the boho’d silhouette of Wild West

Country gunslinger Katy J Pearson heads for the Mersey shores.

An afternoon gig? In a library? In Widnes?

Stranger things have happened over the last

12 months, but if this is the so-called new

normal then count me in. With over 800 of

them locking up for good since 2010, our libraries have

known sacrifice long before the viral apocalypse reached

these shores.

But there’s something far more noble at play here.

Get It Loud In Libraries aren’t just signalling the gig

drought’s end, they’re helping to bring live music –

and the wider creative opportunities it affords – to

our metropolitan peripheries; our towns and suburbs

that have, for far too long, become something of a live

performance no-man’s land that never get as much as a

whiff of a tour van’s exhaust pipe.

Beyond references to Spike Island and Widnes train

station’s claim to Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound, the

music annals of the Liverpool City Region Borough of

Culture 2021 are somewhat muted. But if any venue is to

welcome KATY J PEARSON’s West Country Americana

to the Viking shores of Halton, then Widnes Library’s as

good a start as any.

Having departed the charts-churn pressures of

a former major label to join the Heavenly Recordings

family, the self-crowned “70s Texas mom” is ready to

hit the highway after releasing her country-pop debut in

November 2020. She phones in to reveal all.

Hello Katy, it’s been quite a year. What were your initial

thoughts when you released Return as we went into

that second lockdown back in November?

It was challenging for me, because it’s taken such a long

time to finally release my album and of course you have

so many expectations about what that’s going to be

like. But it was really frustrating when I realised that it

was going to be coming out in lockdown when I couldn’t

celebrate with my label, friends or family. But there were

so many positives that came out of it. I felt it got more

of a reach because so many people had pulled their

campaigns. As a new artist I had nothing to lose by doing

that, so we were like, ‘Let’s do it’. I kind of just got over it

and realised that, you know, I’m still releasing my album;

I’m still getting to hold it and, to be honest, looking back

now, I’m so happy with how it’s gone down.

The album is not without its own backstory, which has

been well documented, regarding some unfortunate

experiences with a former major label and its pressures

of hit-making. Is it fair to say we see something of a

new beginning in Return?

Definitely. I’m 25 now, I didn’t go to university – I went

straight into working with a major label when I was 19.

I had just left my foundation art course and me and my

brother were living such a weird kind of life where all our

friends were at uni doing uni stuff and I was, like, doing

really serious music stuff. They were my first few years of

being a young adult and having to really get challenged

and, in a way, if I’d just had it easy, I probably wouldn’t

be doing this now, because I think having that challenge

made me even more determined that this was what I

wanted to do.

Has this migrated over to your creative process? Are

you more in-tune with who you were all along now that

you have a much more independent scope?

One hundred per cent. I have such a good team around

me, and I feel so comfortable just doing whatever I want.

I think all I needed to do was to get that first album out

and know that I could do it and achieve it. And, in terms

of directing my music videos, they were all collaborative

except for Something Real, so I was very much involved.

It’s just given me that confidence that, you know, I can

really get stuck into all aspects of the project and not just

be the writer and singer. I can spread myself all over it.

Speaking of your videos, from sunset-glazed equine

shots to line-dancing and rhinestone-embroidered

suits, they provide such a cinematic backdrop to your

country storytelling. What’s it like bringing your music

to the screen and how did you manage to choreograph

Cher the horse in Fix Me Up?

I just think filming music videos when you’re on a shoot

with a crew and you’ve got your friends involved as

extras is so fun. We filmed Fix Me Up at this lovely horseriding

centre in Clapton-in-Gordano just outside Bristol

on the way to Portishead – there was a really lovely

couple that ran it, and they were the sweetest. But with

Cher the horse, she was like, huge. I was quite scared

because she was just so done listening to my songs and

kept neighing really loudly and I was just holding her

reins thinking, ‘I’m gonna die’. But it was all fine and Cher

was an absolute star.

Your music marries country inflections with earworm

pop melodies, and you’ve even covered songs from the

likes of Lucinda Williams and Jackson C Frank for your

Covers & Others series. Where do these country heroes

come from? Is it something that was incubated growing

up around the plains of Gloucestershire?

My parents were really into their music and my dad

especially. He gave me music and brought me and my

brothers up on the classics like The Beatles, The Beach

Boys and Joni Mitchell, so I had a strong start and,

because I was listening to them from such a young age,

I was such a big fan. But in terms of the folk and country

stuff, I’ve always loved it and as I’ve got older and got

to know myself more – as we all do when we get older

– I’ve kind of just met certain people that have shown

me more of that kind of music. I really love Doc Watson,

Bert Jansch and Jackson C Frank. In the darker days of

lockdown, their music was a very safe bubble to retreat

to. Lucinda Williams is the most fantastic, too, and I

actually didn’t hear of her until I got signed to Heavenly.

Jeff [Barrett, founder] came down and said, ‘Oh, you

sound like Lucinda Williams,’ and I was like, ‘Who’s that?’

And I listened to her and that was it – I just loved it!

You’re set to stop by Widnes Library as part of your

tour. How hopeful are you of returning to the live circuit

in general, and how does playing in a library sound?

I feel more hopeful than I did before. I think all of us who

create music – and music fans in general – are just quietly

hopeful. But we’ve got to go ahead with it now otherwise

the music industry will just disintegrate. People really

need live music. This album has been out for quite a while

now and I haven’t played it live to people who have heard

it, so I think performing in these new places and venues

that I haven’t been to before in front of people that know

my music is going to feel so crazy. We’ve all been in our

own little bubbles, so to have a live crowd enjoying it is

going to be a really special thing. !

Interview: Matthew Berks / @Hewniverse_

Photography: Seren Carys

Katy J Pearson plays Widnes Library on 6th June. Return

is available now via Heavenly Recordings.

@katyjpearsonband

40


FESTIVAL

AND

FESTIVAL

27/05-11/07

Various Locations + Online

Exploring the flows of shipping, energy and political

power structures on our waterways through

installations, augmented reality, film screenings,

workshops, performances and more, Abandon

Normal Devices Festival has returned to disrupt, provoke

and reflect. The 2021 edition of the festival will utilise the

fertile settings of the River Mersey and Manchester Ship

Canal to invite audiences to consider how our way of living is

affecting the world around us.

The experimental arts festival has a sprawling

programme of live and online activity, with commissions from

artists from all over the world. Augmented reality seascapes,

immersive voyages and floating laboratories as well as

online artworks, film screenings, performances, talks and

workshops will take place from 27th May until 11th July.

American composer KALI MALONE brings an immersive

audio experience to Birkenhead’s Central Hydraulic Tower.

Does Spring Hide Its Joy was created and recorded at

MONOM in the empty Berlin Funkhaus during the first

lockdown and will be presented as a four-day multichannel

sound installation in the 19th century tower in the heart of

the Birkenhead docklands.

Liverpool born artist YAYA BONES and 3D visual artist

aio0o0o0 present a live audiovisual broadcast which reflects

a childhood on the Mersey shores. The work combines

operatic siren calls and technological earth beats with

undulating meditative dunes for a thought-provoking

performance on 26th June.

Bidston Observatory host an open air cinema on the

weekend of 2nd July. Theo Anthony’s experimental film

All Light Everywhere features in the programme for a live

cinema event that reckons with our industrial past and offers

prophetic glimpses of what is to come.

Connecting the port cities of Rotterdam and Liverpool,

Dutch collective New Emergences present Weedweavers on

the 9th July. Taking inspiration from cutting-edge research

into algae forms conducted by a group of formidable women

on Merseyside in the early 20th century, the workshop and

live event explores feminist and non-traditional science

practices, as well as myths, recipes and stories. The event is

led by artists Angeliki Diakrousi and mariëlle verdijk.

Taking place onboard the Mersey-built vessel the

Daniel Adamson, By The Sounds Of Things is an immersive

audiovisual experience which invites audiences to feel the

epic scale of the modern shipping industry. The installation

will reflect the disruption of man-made ship noise on the

marine eco-system with hypnotic binaural soundwork and

a film which juxtaposes the extraordinary and the banal

realities of the global sea trade.

Elsewhere on the festival programme there are New

Cinema Shorts reflecting the year’s theme, artist Anita

Fontaine updates the conventional river tour with a future

fairytale presentation aboard the Mersey Ferry and, over

in Ellesmere Port’s National Waterways Museum, WetLab

allows creative minds to explore the rivers and canals with

workshops, experiments and discussion. Go to the AND

website to see more of the nautical programme.

Central Hydraulic Tower, Birkenhead

Bidston Observatory

Central Hydraulic Tower, Birkenhead

New Emergences, Weedweavers

PREVIEWS

41


PREVIEWS

GIG

VLURE

15/06 - Future Yard

Vlure

Hotly-tipped Glasgow five-piece VLURE make their Merseyside debut

with a socially distanced show at Future Yard. The post-punk noisemakers

dropped single Shattered Faith on Permanent Creeps records in

2020 and promise to continue their ascent with a confronting mélange

of synthy hooks, dub sensibilities and forthright lyrics. Future Yard has a

comprehensive social distancing policy offering a safe experience to giggoers

as the last of the Covid restrictions remain. These shows precede

a busy season of gigs commencing at the venue in August.

CLUB

Sasha

25/06 - Invisible Wind Factory

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

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,

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

booking as we emerge from lockdown onto the dancefloor.

ONLINE

Stock Footage

27/05-08/07 - Kazimier Stockroom

Dialect - Photo: Andrew Ellis

A TV show with a difference is being broadcast from the Kazimier

Stockroom. Live sets from local artists such as STEALING SHEEP, PODGE

and THE ALEPH is coupled with chat and games for Stock Footage, an

internet series due to begin on 27th May. Feature artist in issue 113 of Bido

Lito! DIALECT is the opening act to feature on the show. The sound artist,

whose latest album Under~Between is winning rave reviews, will play a set

and answer questions about his artistic process and more. Episodes of the

show will be broadcast weekly online into July.

EXHIBITION

The Last Bohemian: Augustus John

Until 30/08 - Lady Lever Art Gallery

This brand-new exhibition showcases around 40 works by one

of Britain’s most iconic and controversial artists. Having moved to

Liverpool in 1901, the new exhibition explores his time in the city

which greatly influenced his life and career. Often described as

bohemian, John’s paintings were uncompromising and famously

captured the true character and personality of each sitter. Taking the

spotlight, Lord Leverhulme’s infamous ‘beheaded’ portrait examines

the extraordinary events that provoked Lever to destroy his own

portrait and when leaked to the press, caused outrage and protests.

Augustus John

42


THEATRE

Y’MAM: Young Man’s Angry Movements

16-26/06 - Everyman Theatre

In an incongruous combination, Majid Mehdizadeh’s solo show fuses spoken

word, music and movement with an examination of modern masculinity.

Y’MAM (Young Man’s Angry Movements) is an autobiographical exploration

of the anger, anxieties and fantasies that provide the foundation for toxic

masculinity. The play will run at the Everyman from 16th to 26th June,

inviting audiences to consider the cultural pressures that create modern

men and the love required to overcome them.

Y’MAM

FESTIVAL

Liverpool Biennial 2021 - Second Chapter

Until autumn – Various venues

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

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

of the body and their experiences of being in the world. On 27th May and 17th June, the festival’s Liquid Club events continue with New York-based artist Xaviera Simmons and

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, who will explore the working practices of society and the sounds of the Brazilian rainforest respectively. Advanced booking is recommended, with

one ticket per visitor, per venue required for visiting multiple Liverpool Biennial exhibitions at different venues.

GIG

Rachel Newton

25/06 - Storyhouse, Chester

Musically combining the past and the present, singer and harpist RACHEL NEWTON incorporates ancient poems and ballads into her contemporary sounds and compositions,

creating a rich and experimental melodic folklore. In June, Newton presents her most recent album To The Awe at Storyhouse, an auditory exploration of the female experience

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

music industry. Pieced together throughout lockdown, with vocals recorded in Newton’s bedroom wardrobe, To The Awe will finally receive the audience it deserves.

GIG

Rossa Murray & The Blowin’ Winds

5/06 - The Atheneum

Rossa Murray & The Blowin’ Winds

In the grand and unusual surrounds of Liverpool’s Athenaeum newpromoters-on-the-scene

Bed and Breakfast host two hugely promising

talents with ROSSA MURRAY & THE BLOWIN’ WINDS and LYDIAH.

The socially distanced and seated show is part of a series of gigs taking

place around the city, all in venues away from the beaten track. Alt folk

rock favourite Rossa headlines this June show having picked up a name

for himself over recent years. Emerging star Lydiah is also winning

many fans with her captivating performances. It’s a line-up that is

fitting for the plush environs of the iconic venue.

PREVIEWS 43


REVIEWS

Rashid Johnson, Stacked Heads, 2020. - Photo: Mark McNulty

Liverpool Biennial 2021

Multiple venues, Liverpool – until

27/06

LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL has contributed to some of

the city’s most well-known pieces of art: Peter Blake’s

Everybody Razzle Dazzle (2015), Jaume Plensa’s

Dream (2009) and Antony Gormley’s Another Place

(2005). It has garnered international recognition as one

of the UK’s largest contemporary art festivals, attracts

visitors from around the world, and has made great

strides in upholding the city’s cultural reputation. Yet,

while its former artworks are well established in the

cultural geography of Liverpool, there have remained

questions where the Biennial itself has truly been able

to do the same – to fully connect with the city and its

people, and balance international appeal with a distinctly

Liverpudlian identity.

In recent editions, Liverpool Biennial has faced

criticism locally over its failure to incorporate the city in

a meaningful way; to drop pretensions, reach out to the

local communities, and make it earn its title of being the

‘Liverpool’ Biennial. However, this particular ire is not

directed at other events that tout Liverpool in the title,

nor are other events expected to show a distinct link to

Liverpool itself. So why does the Biennial have so much

to answer to?

The theme for the 2021 Biennial, The Stomach and

the Port, seems to suggest a conscious decision had

been made to make Liverpool’s context take center stage

in the curation of this year’s festival. Originally set for

2020, the theme explores the concept of the body, of

porosity and transmission, and of kinship and identity.

How different would the notions of our bodies be had we

not experienced a pandemic that turned our own bodies

against us, and isolated our bodies, and denied us the

primitive need for touch. And how have the masses of

bodies coming together in protest changed our notions

of not just our own, but the bodies of other people; dead

bodies; of George Floyd’s body, and Sarah Everard’s

body?

These are global conversations, but the city’s identity

is not swamped by their magnitude. It instead localises

them and humanises them. Liverpool’s maritime history

as a major port; its role in globalisation and colonialism;

the uneasy truth that the city owes its wealth to the slave

trade; its diaspora communities and own strong sense

of identity. Even with themes of kinship and identity, the

festival seems to have addressed the suggestions of

their own lack thereof within Liverpool, albeit possibly

unwittingly.

One look at the festival’s route map shows the very

conscious decision to feature Liverpool’s spaces outside

of the usual four white walls of its art galleries. To see

44


Invernomuto & Jim C. Nedd, GRITO – Las Brisas de Febrero, 2021. Cotton Exchange Building - Photo: Rob Battersby

the entire programme, you must walk through every

corner of the city and in doing so you are immersed in its

context: the docks, the Georgian Quarter, the Ropewalks

– their history, what that history represents and their

roles in the formation of the city. At times, the context

overwhelms the art. Yael David’s Wingspan of the

Captive (2021) at Central Library is almost diminished

by the grandeur of the room itself, and the surrounding

displays of material that inspired the work – the rich 19th

century illustrations of American birds by J. J. Audubon

and letters from the Hornbys, the Liverpool family the

room was named after – make the sculpture itself look

more like an accompaniment to the collection, designed

to complement, rather than a work born independently

of inspiration.

At other times, the city and the art meld so

seamlessly that it is a wonder that the piece had not

sprung from the very spot it stands. Rashid Johnson’s

Stacked Heads (2020) is one such work. Set in the

Albert Dock, the two bronze ‘heads’ are covered in

etchings of the abstract faces from Johnson’s Anxious

Men series, with yucca and cacti plants positioned to

look as though they had grown organically, as though the

sculpture had always been there. The piece encourages

contradictions: the plants are not indigenous but can

survive the harsh saline winds that never seem to drop

along the docks; it fits with the other metal sculptures

in the area – the statue of a dock horse, a propeller from

the RMS Lusitania, old railway machinery – but its crude

style and totem pole form makes it seem foreign, almost

tribal. When first opened to the public, its positioning

next to the temporarily installed rainbow bridge made

it appear small and unassuming despite its ten feet,

experienced as something you have passed every day,

made inconsequential by its familiarity, imbued with

a faded permanence as something that has and will

always be there.

If the uneasy co-existence of nativeness and

foreignness is a muted whisper in Johnson’s piece, then

it is an unbridled scream in Invernomuto & Jim C. Nedd’s

Grito – Las Brisas de Febrero (2021) at the Cotton

Exchange. The visit itself feels climactic, as the building

is rarely open to the public. The art is displayed in the

basement, underneath the modern, recently regenerated

offices, where it is old and cold, with empty rooms full

of peeling paint, moulded cracked windows, exposed

woodwork and metal chains hanging from the ceiling.

Through the rooms, in front of four empty white plastic

chairs, a large screen plays footage of a pico competition

– street parties where neon-painted sound systems go

head to head playing records – in the Colombian village

of Palenque. The film is a celebration of culture, of

kinship, and plays almost in defiance of the building it is

being played in. The vibrancy, sound and movement of

the bodies on screen contrasts harshly with the empty

dereliction of the building so much so that a strange

sensation of jealously emits from the walls, as though

REVIEWS

45


REVIEWS

haunted, not by people, but by the death of the cotton

industry, the slave trade, by its own former prosperity,

now decaying, and watching from the four empty white

plastic chairs the freedom and life of the bodies on

screen.

With both pieces, the city’s identity reforms the

work and, in turn, the works both react to and reform

the city’s spaces that they are in. There are plenty of

further pieces in the festival that are worth viewing

– Ane Graff, Jes Fan and Pedro Neves Marques in the

Lewis’s Building and Kathleen Ryan at the Bluecoat –

but where the Biennial really succeeds is where it has

utilised Liverpool’s spaces and contexts. However, it

is still clear that there is some disconnection between

the curators, the artists and the city. Linder’s Bower of

Bliss (2020) in Liverpool ONE is supposedly a Dadaesque

photocollage tribute to Liverpudlian women, yet

the only recognisably Liverpudlian elements – nestled

next to anatomical drawings of hands and pictures of

lizards – are the overly-tanned smiling woman and the

top half of a seagull. But the festival isn’t about Liverpool,

and it isn’t necessarily for Liverpool, and there will

always be a baseline level of highbrow thinking with

any contemporary art event that simply does not fit

with the levity of the Scouse wit. Will an internationallyled

festival ever fully connect to a city whose sense of

identity, and pride, and protectiveness of that identity,

is as strong as Liverpool’s? Perhaps not. But this year’s

incarnation is a step in the right direction, and one the

city can stomach. !

Emma Varley

Emma took part in Bido Lito!’s Bylines writers

programme, developing young culture writers of the

future. Bylines runs throughout the year for more

information and to find out about the next intake go

to bidolito.co.uk/workshops

“At times, the city

and the art meld

so seamlessly that

it is a wonder that

the piece had not

sprung from the

very spot it stands”

46


Independents Biennial 2021

Online + various venues – until 06/06

Linder, Bower of Bliss , 2021. - Photo: Mark McNulty

Currently in its 22nd year, Liverpool Independents Biennial is a festival which celebrates

the art and artists of Liverpool City Region and aims to shine a light on how people make, see

and interact with art.

Instead of focusing on outcomes, it works without a theme, highlighting how ideas

can form and change at any time and point in the creative process. Art in Liverpool, the

programme’s coordinators, describe the Independents Biennial more as a R&D programme

than solely an (online) exhibition. They say that “one of the biggest challenges facing visual

art organisations this year has been presenting context, and contextualising presentation”. By

creating transparency regarding ideas, work, processes, progress and things not working out,

they are trying to address this.

There are various ways to learn about and engage with this approach, including online

workshops and conversations, as well as a public Google Drive folder that gets updated

constantly. You can follow work as it happens and are encouraged to get involved at any time.

Working in residence as part of the Independents Biennial myself, I spend a lot of time

engaging with artists and audience, trying to document the festival with my practice (which is

mainly writing, but also chaos).

I join the Zoom workshop Make Your Own Portal, created and led by artists Grace Collins

(they/them) and George Gibson (she/they) to explore time travel, portals and bookmaking.

We’re getting taught how to turn a

piece of paper into a 16-page zine

and are given prompts to fill the pages

however we like. It is interesting to see

the other six participants work and

notice the differences in style, working

pace and approaches regarding having

the same resources.

Fiona Stirling also works with the

theme of time. She is an artist and

mother, researching the impact of time

and space on painting practices. She

uses the terms “painting ad hoc” and

“inbetweener painting” to describe

the process of painting in between

other jobs or responsibilities. This

feels especially relevant as, due to

“It is chaotic,

always changing

and never finished;

an accumulation

of ideas, things,

words, experiences

and processes”

lockdowns, the borders between work, other responsibilities and self-care are still blurry, if

even existent.

The need to find new ways of working and feels more existential than a year ago. During

a conversation on Twitch with artists Sam Venables, Feiyi Wen and Montse Mosquera, festival

director Patrick Kirk-Smith and responsive programme coordinator at Open Eye Gallery,

Sorcha Boyle, Patrick wants to know if there has been a shift in how work is created and

presented compared to a year ago. Feiyi Wen shares something that I really like: the way

she works is flexible and she is embracing fluidity; especially in a time when everything is

standing still, it feels freeing to have things that are not fixed and can be moved.

After virtual events and conversations, I am excited to be able to go to an actual space

to see GROUND: an exhibition by artists John Elcock, Julie Lawrence Paul Mellor and Sarah

Jane Richards in Cass Art Liverpool. The artists are using paper-based media to explore

wilderness, empty landscapes and distant horizons while looking at the seasons, changing

light, patterns of nature and weather. It is captivating to look at the colours and images

others have noticed on their countless walks. I enjoy Sarah’s Walks In Wild Places and John’s

Swifts Feeding for their sense of liberation and draw to nature. A small point, but the works

could benefit from being exhibited in a bigger space. More room around each work gives

the audience the possibility to focus on one thing at a time without having as much in their

peripheral vision.

The threads I notice running through the programme are connection and collective

understanding. Even though everyone’s approach and practice differ, sharing one’s process

feels both vulnerable and brave and seeing others do the same wakes feelings of belonging

and being supported. Everybody has different experiences, but they are connected in some

way and all the work carries the wish to understand and be understood more.

A difficult thing I found is trying to reach people who are not already in the ‘art-bubble’,

knowing about the festival anyway. It would have been extremely interesting to see the

audience in the physical space in North Liverpool would we have been allowed to open. I do

hope that will be possible next time.

Nevertheless, Liverpool Independents Biennial fits into the current situation perfectly.

It is chaotic, always changing and never finished; an accumulation of ideas, things, words,

experiences and processes that are in some way or other shared and connected.

Jo Mary Watson / @JoMaryWatson

REVIEWS 47


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whats-on


Tara Finney Productions

in Tara association Finney Productions with Hull Truck Theatre present

in association with Hull Truck Theatre present

THE THE GREATEST PLAY

IN IN THE THE HISTORY OF

THE WORLD...

BY BY IAN IAN KERSHAW KERSHAW

Directed Directed by by Raz Raz Shaw Shaw

Starring Starring Julie Julie Hesmondhalgh

Independent

Evening Standard

The Stage

The Stage

Edinburgh

Award

2018

The Herald

WhatsOnStage

Broadway World

A A universal love story, that shows the

human race race in in all all its its glorious messiness,

confusion and and joy. joy.

Tues 29 Jun - Sat 3 July 2021

Tues 29 Jun - Sat July 2021

Williamson Square, Liverpool L1 1EL

Williamson Square, Liverpool L1 1EL

everymanplayhouse.com

everymanplayhouse.com

Originally produced in association

with Originally Royal produced Exchange Theatre in association

with Royal Exchange Theatre


ARTISTIC

LICENCE

This month’s selection of creative writing comes from Felix

Mufti-Wright, a poem inspired by a youth playing The Sims and

finding a simulated love in the grim reaper.

i married the grim reaper

as the raindrops coat r skin,

we walk through 2 the scene of the sin,

the tree tops block r vision from things we don’t want 2

see,

u tell me u have friends in high places,

theres so many things we could see.

the branches of the trees kiss the surface of my face,

as my little legs struggle to keep up with ur 6 foot 2

pace,

dont know if its u or the cold air thats making my heart

race.

the clouds start to clear as the sun goes down,

u ask me what i wanna be doing when the night comes

around.

i say ‘i really miss the stars,’

u say u know a place we can see some.

u grab my hand even tho my fingers r numb,

we set up a blanket in a clearing in the trees,

can hear ur heart beats symphony mingling with the

breeze,

u light up a spliff,

i say ‘save us ends please?’

not sure if i see smoke or warm breath in the cold air,

not sure how comfy i am laying against ur shoulder.

ngl,

i dont think we’ll know eachother when we’re older.

we try to make a fire but all we get is a smoulder.

if i tell u how i feel in a forest and no one is around to

hear it,

did it ever really happen?

doesn’t feel like this should be happening.

is this really happening?

but u do look so cute when the moonbeams hit your

face,

as u whisper in my ear that it was so nice to get away.

it feels nice to get out the city,

im still scared of the quiet

but know u’d never let anyone hurt me.

u pull out ur blade

and ur flask thats filled with whiskey.

i dont know how to say with my mouth that i want u to

hold it to my neck

scar me in a way ill never be able to forget

i say i love it when u chat shit

and carry on like its philosophic.

u say u love it when its toxic,

when we’re poisoning each other from the inside out

is this what that’s about

u take my tongue right out my mouth

cant say anything

can just taste the drought

ive channeled my destruction

in2 ur finger tips

let it release more from my body

than i let pass my lips

i try and take ur hood down

u shrug it back up

u dont wanna look in my eyes

u heard it makes u fall in love

the way u think hurts me head

makes me wonder where to tread

say u only come to people who think of death

want them to say ur name with their last breathe

askin me if im ready 2 transcend

askin me if im ready for my beauty 2 be ethereal,

telling me i knew my fate when i picked him as my

boyfriend,

telling me i couldnt get this comfort from anything

material

ur in my bloodstream,

not just on my skin,

the connection we have cuts deeper,

thats what i get for falling in love with the grim reaper

Felix Mufti-Wright / @felixmufti

54


THE FINAL

SAY

“Die-hard fans

are the backbone

of the music

industry”

Queuing endurance and crash barrier dedication, Tilly Foulkes

celebrates the power of fan communities which will be restored

in tangible form as live music makes its long-awaited return.

In 2016, a week before my 18th birthday, I woke

up at 4.30am. My mum, lovingly yet begrudgingly,

drove me to the nearest station so I could catch the

earliest train to Manchester. I arrived at Deansgate

at 7.30am, got extremely lost, got a Greggs and asked

for directions, then finally found the old Gothic chapel

that is the Albert Hall. I sat outside the entrance for 10

hours – in the bitterly cold December rain – to secure a

spot at the barrier to see Peter Doherty. I was the first

person in the queue, and the only one there until midday,

when a Swedish girl arrived and explained she’d booked

weeks off work in order to follow Doherty on tour. It

wasn’t the first time she’d done this.

It was the first time I’d see him, but far from

the last. After setting up the silver fences and ushering

everyone behind them, security sat and spoke to

me about waiting. He said he’d ensure I’d get to the

very front. When you fall into diehard fandom – for

me, this was born out of my Tumblr dashboard and

Twitter timeline – the barrier becomes a symbol of your

dedication. It’s the best spot in the house; you can sling

your coat over it, there’s more room to dance and you can

pester security for loads of cups of water. It also works

as a gateway to getting the most cherished trophy of the

night – the setlist. It’s the prize for you bunking school

and freezing yourself half to death on the pavement.

It’s a long-lasting souvenir that seemingly hasn’t lost its

value through decades of fandom. My own mother has

heaps of scrapbooks with setlists and ticket stubs stuck

in them.

The queue, however, is the most important part for

any fan community. I spent a lot of my teenage years

queuing for gigs. I met all kinds of people I otherwise

wouldn’t have; many of whom would go on to become

my closest friends, even if we only get together twice a

year.

The day would start off with a nervous ‘hello’ to a

group of strangers, but soon enough you’re swapping

snacks and stories about the previous times you’ve seen

the band, or your favourite albums. The ‘older’ fans,

who’d queued before – usually women in their early to

mid-20s – would welcome you in, feed you water and

nip over to Starbucks or Spar to get coffee and crisps. It’s

a rite of passage in some fan circles. It’s your initiation

into the group. When you are a fan of a band that has

a particularly cultish following, the queue is where you

find your tribe. They are, for the most part, welcoming,

friendly and homely.

The camaraderie of the queue would be impossible

without the people who devote their days to supporting

an artist. This is mostly young women and teenage girls.

When I would queue for the Manic Street Preachers at

age 15, the women in their early-20s would always take

me under their wing for the evening. They became my

protector from creeps in the crowd and were meticulous

in their checking that I was both hydrated and could see

James Dean Bradfield. There’s a real sense of solidarity

between us girls that spend days upon days waiting

around, and a real sense of affinity.

The die-hard fans are the backbone of the music

industry. Without their unwavering dedication, we’d

never have had bands like The Beatles being spurred into

success. It’s the teenage girls spending their last pennies

on merchandise and streaming songs non-stop that are

holding up the industry on pure love and devotion. Rest

assured, if an artist has a following of teenage girls,

they will do everything in their power to ensure that

artist is successful. Teenage girls are shamed for their

commitment to their idols – even more so when they

support pop icons like One Direction or Justin Bieber. I

don’t think they should be. There is truly no greater force

than a crowd of teenage girls. I think their devotion to

music is inspiring and something to be cherished. I’m

eager to defend this community with every strength I

have, and I’m proud to be in it: it’s a community based

entirely on shared love and admiration for art.

With the perpetual hope that the pandemic is finally

coming to an end, I can’t wait to share plastic cups with

strangers before screaming some half-garbled chorus

with them. It’s this community of music fans I’ve missed

the most. I’m looking forward to the delight of live music,

certainly the elated shouting and the overpriced rum and

cokes. But, mostly, I’m excited to return to my spot on

the barrier, bump into the familiar faces, give them a hug

and ask them what they’ve been up to, because it really

has been too long. !

Words: Tilly Foulkes / @tillyfoulkes

Photography: John Johnson / @John.Johno

Tilly took part in Bido Lito!’s Bylines writers programme,

developing young culture writers of the future. Bylines

runs throughout the year for more information and to

find out about the next intake go to

bidolito.co.uk/workshops.

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