Bido Lito! Magazine | Issue 114 | June 2021




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ISSUE 115 / JULY <strong>2021</strong><br />



FREE!<br />

SPINN<br />

Looking on the<br />

bright side<br />


MONKS<br />

VASILY<br />




NEW<br />

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sae.edu/gbr/games-programming<br />

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2-year degrees<br />

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Book a campus tour<br />

at a time that suits you<br />

sae.edu/gbr/book-tour<br />

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enquiries@sae.edu<br />



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DJ SET<br />

SAT 24TH JULY<br />



EVOL presents<br />



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

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

PART 1<br />






PART 2<br />







Tickets £25 Advance On Sale Now via Seetickets.com & Skiddle.com<br />







11 / SPINN<br />

Lily Blakeney-Edwards charts the continuing evolution of<br />

Spinn and chats to the indie band about looking on the<br />

bright side.<br />

14 / IAMKYAMI<br />

In a new space, iamkyami is thriving as she speaks to<br />

Orla Foster.<br />

18 / MONKS<br />

With an 80s soundtrack and a collaboration giving them<br />

a new lease of life, Monks deserve your attention.<br />

20 / FOR THE LOVE OF IT<br />

An exhibition of musicians’ artistic side-hustles gives<br />

Cath Holland licence to speak to Richard Dawson, Cerys<br />

Matthews and others about their creative motivations.<br />


Can art and culture on Merseyside lead the green<br />

revolution?<br />


Stuart Miles O’Hara speaks with Vasily Petrenko ahead of<br />

the maestro’s final concerts after 15 years at the helm of<br />

the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.<br />


Author James Corbett wrestles with Liverpool’s varying<br />

definitions of identity and belonging with his new novel<br />

The Outsiders.<br />

28 / HEADS UP<br />

Matthew Berks explores the work behind Liverpool<br />

Football Therapy, a football programme helping to save<br />

lives through early intervention.<br />


8 / NEWS<br />

All the projects, initiatives and announcements<br />

you need to know about in our region’s new<br />

music and creative cultural sphere.<br />

10 / HOT PINK<br />

Our monthly selection of new tracks takes us<br />

beyond the Summer Solstice, helped by Ruby<br />

Walvin, Dead Nature, JVCK and more.<br />

32 / SPOTLIGHTS<br />

Introducing spoken word trailblazer Starkey The<br />

Messenger and synth pop queens The Let Go.<br />

34 / PREVIEWS<br />

July may have heralded a false start but there’s<br />

still plenty going on. We speak to The Lovely<br />

Eggs and preview some of the best exhibitions,<br />

gigs and festivals.<br />

38 / REVIEWS<br />

Our reviewers are back in the room for sociallydistanced<br />

shows from Shame and Wyldest,<br />

as well as reports from Reconnect festival and<br />

more.<br />


Megan Walder’s ode to the venue teases the<br />

return of live music and all its small-moment<br />

intricacies we took for granted.<br />

47 / FINAL SAY<br />

Conal Cunningham weighs up the challenges<br />

that greet our new mayor as she gets to work<br />

after her election victory.<br />


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

This editorial will sadly be my last as editor of <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>!. After three<br />

years, various roles and 27 print issues, I’ve made the difficult<br />

decision that it’s time for something new. But, as the raison d’être<br />

of <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! would forcibly state, new is good; new is challenging;<br />

new is where we learn the most about ourselves and everything around<br />

us – everything that has come before. New is far from a sad occasion. And<br />

yet, knowing this does little to lessen the blow of departing.<br />

Arriving at the magazine as a contributor four years ago, I was<br />

somewhat of a late bloomer still trying to find my feet in journalism. In the<br />

years before then, writing had never been something that came naturally<br />

to me. I was never into books or reading. My opinions were often kept<br />

to myself. I would tremble when punching the numbers in for a phone<br />

interview. On the basis of evidence, I was never particularly cut out to be a<br />

compelling writer or journalist (even at this stage, the jury is very much still<br />

out).<br />

As the years went by, I kept at it. I found myself reading regularly. I<br />

pushed myself to write more. I started to be honest in what I was trying<br />

to say – no longer trying to imitate writers and the output of those behind<br />

successful Twitter handles. Perhaps, then, it was almost fate that I<br />

eventually plucked up the courage and inquired about writing for <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>!<br />

– a magazine which carried much of the same DIY, self-taught credentials<br />

that I now did. And what this somewhat self-indulgent paragraph is trying<br />

to show, is that <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! remains and always will be an essential vehicle<br />

for allowing people to be who they want to be. For people to achieve things<br />

they didn’t think was possible. Giving the new their chance. Not just those<br />

on the cover, but those who’re reflected back in the inky scrawl of each<br />

issue. Those who capture the imagery that adorns the pink pages.<br />

<strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! has weathered some significant challenges in its 11-year<br />

history. A quick Google search of how many local print music and culture<br />

magazines are still in circulation will offer a clue as to the landscape it has<br />

been up against. Launching in the tight grip of austerity in 2010, seeing<br />

the social dynamic of a city rapidly change throughout the decade, a large<br />

portion of my editorship was equally not without its challenges.<br />

I was downbeat when facing the reality of being editor at the<br />

beginning of the pandemic. In a cosmetic sense, lockdown would rob <strong>Bido</strong><br />

<strong>Lito</strong>! of what’s set it apart all of these years – the dedication to remaining a<br />

print magazine. Knowing<br />

this, I questioned the<br />

value of what I, and the<br />

rest of the team, could<br />

achieve. But, as likely the<br />

case with many people<br />

during the early phases of<br />

the first lockdown, I was<br />

questioning a lot at this<br />

point in time.<br />

What’s important?<br />

That’s the question that<br />

constantly stood out.<br />

It’s the question that<br />

everything I would write<br />

and commission would<br />

look to answer in its own<br />

specific way – irrespective<br />

of having a magazine to showcase it. Ironically, <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! became more<br />

important than it’s ever been at a time when it could not be printed and live<br />

music was at a complete standstill. That phase is testament to what the<br />

magazine stands for. When Liverpool, its artists, its communities needed<br />

it most, it didn’t shirk responsibility. It took on questions it has no right<br />

to answer. It campaigned. It platformed. It changed. I truly believe this. It<br />

did what everything that strives to carry the independent torch should: it<br />

showed us a new way of seeing, of being, of experiencing. It showed us<br />

what Liverpool is, was and can be. <strong>Issue</strong> 75 of <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! proclaimed how<br />

it still remained “the opposition” as it reached a new, slicker phase in its<br />

existence. I think this is still the case as I sign off on my last magazine as<br />

editor.<br />

I’ve always hated endings for their helpless melancholy. I hate the<br />

closing montage of televised football tournaments. I hate the last day<br />

of a music festival. I hate the last episode of Friends. I don’t like things<br />

coming to an end. However, I think drawing a line under something allows<br />

what came before to shine under a new light. I hope that’s the case as I<br />

indulgently bow out, here. It’s been a wild ride. I wouldn’t change a second<br />

of it. Not even the last 16 months. Forza <strong>Bido</strong>. !<br />

Special thanks to Craig, Chris and Sam for the opportunity and<br />

continual belief.<br />

Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder<br />

Editor<br />

“<strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! took on<br />

questions it has<br />

no right to answer.<br />

It campaigned.<br />

It platformed. It<br />

changed. I truly<br />

believe this”<br />

New Music + Creative Culture<br />

Liverpool<br />

<strong>Issue</strong> 115 / July <strong>2021</strong><br />

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

Second Floor<br />

The Merchant<br />

40-42 Slater Street<br />

Liverpool L1 4BX<br />

Founding Editor<br />

Craig G Pennington<br />

Founding Editor<br />

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

Executive Publisher<br />

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

Editor<br />

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

Digital & Memberships Officer<br />

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

Editorial Interns<br />

El Gray<br />

Shannon Garner<br />

Mia O’Hare<br />

Design<br />

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

Branding<br />

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

Proofreader<br />

Nathaniel Cramp<br />

Cover Photography<br />

Gary Lambert<br />

Words<br />

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

Cath Holland, Lily Blakeney-Edwards, Shannon<br />

Garner, Mia O’Hare, Orla Foster, Stuart Miles<br />

O’Hara, James Corbett, Megan Walder, Alice<br />

Williams, Alastair Dunn, Alfie Verity, Slinky Malinky,<br />

Nina Newbold, Cat Caie, Poppy Fair, Hannah<br />

Merchant, Conal Cunningham.<br />

Photography, Illustration and Layout<br />

Mark McKellier, Gary Lambert, Michael Kirkham,<br />

Lucy McLachlan, Mark McNulty, Ant Clausen, Liam<br />

Jones, Daniel Pattman, Frankie Beanie, Darren<br />

Aston, Kevin Barrett, Jennifer Bruce.<br />

Distribution<br />

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

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

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

bidolito.co.uk.<br />

Advertise<br />

If you are interested in adverting in <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>!,<br />

or finding out about how we can work together,<br />

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

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

amazing creative community. If you would like to<br />

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

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

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

projects around the world. This more than offsets<br />

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

in the atmosphere as a result of our existence.<br />

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

respective contributors and do not necessarily<br />

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

publishers. All rights reserved.<br />


NEWS<br />


Callin’ all burgeoning 16 to 21-yearold<br />

musicians based in the triangular<br />

belt of Greater Manchester, Cheshire<br />

and Merseyside! You can spend a<br />

free five-day music residency with<br />

Manchester punk triplet PINS where<br />

you’ll get to experience the full cycle<br />

of artistic production, from initial idea<br />

to onstage transformation. Taking<br />

place in-person at The Met in Bury<br />

from 26th to 30th July, the week-long<br />

creative collaboration project includes<br />

recording your own EP, taking part in<br />

a photoshoot and getting stuck into<br />

artist imagery, with the opportunity<br />

to develop your creative collaboration<br />

skills before performing live with PINS<br />

at the award-winning venue in Bury.<br />

Applications for the residency, courtesy<br />

of North West music charity Brighter<br />

Sound, close 27th <strong>June</strong>.<br />

brightersound.com<br />

PINS<br />


Reflecting, learning, adapting. The in-person 106th Un-Convention takes place at Manchester’s O2 Ritz on<br />

8-9th July, assembling a mix of artists, organisations and professionals from across the independent music<br />

spectrum. Looking back on how music scenes have adapted and the lessons we have learnt over the last year,<br />

the convention will welcome the likes of FRANK TURNER, Radiohead’s ED O’BRIEN and Mogwai’s STUART<br />

BRAITHWAITE, buttressed by a host of key industry protagonists joining the discussions. Greater Manchester<br />

Metro Mayor ANDY BURNHAM will also be speaking, with celebrated poet TONY WALSH returning to the<br />

event that will celebrate and bring together people at the coalface of independent music from across the UK.<br />

unconventionhub.org<br />

Un-convention<br />


To celebrate Pride month, LCR Pride Foundation are hosting a virtual march where<br />

they are inviting individuals, groups and businesses to take part by submitting videos<br />

and photos of themselves. This year they are encouraging those participating to<br />

make pledges to support their <strong>2021</strong>/22 theme ‘From Now On’. The organisation will<br />

broadcast from their social media channels at midday on Saturday 31st July when the<br />

physical march would usually take place. There will be videos of speeches from local<br />

leaders and short interviews as well as individuals marching, cheering and holding<br />

placards in their own homes. For those wishing to take part, they are asked to submit<br />

a landscape photo or 20-second video of them celebrating by Wednesday 14th July.<br />

lcrpride.co.uk<br />


Young musicians and those wanting to get a jump start on a career in the music<br />

industry have a fantastic opportunity with Youth Music’s NextGen fund. The<br />

fund is built for creatives with big ideas who need the money to make their<br />

dreams a reality. Applications to NextGen close on 9th July and are open to 18<br />

to 25-year-olds looking for grants of up to £2,500. Youth Music are looking<br />

to support individuals who are the future of the music industries, so singers,<br />

managers, rappers, A&Rs, producers and agents, right through to roles yet to be<br />

defined, are possible candidates.<br />

youthmusic.org.uk/nextgen/nextgen-fund<br />


North West label Rhythm Lab Records are celebrating the release of<br />

a special compilation, Sonic Synthesis, which explores collaboration<br />

between artists by inviting them to swap their recording stems to rework<br />

each other’s tracks from a new perspective. Among the artists on the<br />

mix are former Liverpool resident MICCO, electronic balladeer CALLUM<br />

HULTQUIST and rapper LINTD. The project is all about bringing up new<br />

voices in the music industry and giving them the experience, skills and<br />

expertise to forge a path and create fabulous work like Sonic Synthesis on<br />

the way.<br />

Micco<br />

rhythmlabrecords.com<br />


Dawn Penn<br />


Nelson Mandela International Day returns on Saturday 18th July in honour of the anti-apartheid<br />

revolutionary. Liverpool charity, Mandela8, are leading celebrations to promote awareness<br />

and community cohesion across the City Region with their campaign My 67 Minutes. They’re<br />

encouraging everyone to spend 67 minutes of their day – one minute for every year that<br />

Mandela spent fighting for social justice – to pay it forward and do something for someone else<br />

or their community. Over at Museum of Liverpool, the Liverpool 8 Against Apartheid exhibition<br />

also tells the story of how the city’s Black community supported the anti-apartheid movement<br />

of the 1980s through demos, product boycotts, the Free Nelson Mandela Campaign and more.<br />

mandela8.org.uk<br />


There’s good news from the Baltic Triangle as Positive Vibration have<br />

announced the legendary DAWN PENN as their festival headliner this year.<br />

The reggae titan joins a fantastic cast of stars of the genre, with ASIAN DUB<br />

FOUNDATION, MAD PROFESSOR and HOLLIE COOK all getting involved.<br />

As well as a faultless music line-up there will also be family activities, panel<br />

discussions and the Art of Reggae poster exhibition. All the action takes place<br />

across Camp & Furnace, District, Hangar 34, 92 Degrees, YARD and New Bird<br />

Street over the weekend of 10-11th September.<br />

posvibefest.com<br />


A sequence of etchings narrating key events from 1900 to present day, titled 12<br />

Decades, are on display at the Bluecoat. Tony Phillips has focused his artwork on<br />

pioneering inventions of the 20th century, with the main focus on flight. His work<br />

highlights the contradictions between technological advancements and the reality<br />

of our progress. Born in Liverpool, now living in Italy, Phillips has been working on<br />

this study of modern history for the past 40 years. The exhibition will complement<br />

Phillips’ new installation in the Bombed Out Church, with a trail of art between the<br />

two venues.<br />

thebluecoat.org.uk<br />


The work of the region’s diligent music photographers is being celebrated at<br />

a series of events this month. Local promoters Sumati, along with Lens Of A<br />

Wool, are hosting exhibitions of work by local snappers at Bloom Building in<br />

Birkenhead (3rd-9th July) and Liverpool’s Jacaranda (10th-17th July). Social<br />

panels will also put the art and profession of music photography under a<br />

microscope with guest speakers from Where Are The Girl Bands, Melodic<br />

Distraction and <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! taking part. The events will create a platform for an<br />

intrinsic element of our music ecosystem, an artform that is creative, inspiring,<br />

emotional and skillful. The opening event at Bloom Building takes place at 4pm<br />

on 3rd July. For more details, visit Sumati’s Facebook page (@sumatipresents).<br />


After having their doors closed since March 2020 and encouraging art<br />

enthusiasts to view collections online to stay involved, the Williamson Art<br />

Gallery & Museum has reopened to visitors. Using viewers’ favourite pieces<br />

from the online screenings, the new exhibition Your Williamson features<br />

many paintings by artists with local connections, including two by the<br />

recently deceased Geoff Yeomans. The artwork in this exhibition will be the<br />

first gallery you visit as you enter using the one-way system, along with a<br />

whole host of both new and previous favourite collections to enjoy.<br />

williamsonartgallery.org<br />

Williamson Art Gallery<br />


HOT PINK!<br />

Words: Mia O’Hare and Shannon Garner<br />

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

Each issue we round up some of the best tracks from the region and add them to our Hot<br />

Pink! playlist. This month we’ve got some psych legends, indie classics in the making, a dab of<br />

electronica and one or two curveballs to enjoy.<br />

Dead Nature<br />

Watch Me Break Apart<br />

This one-man band has hit the ground running with a fuzzed-up indie-pop track that<br />

spills out Tarek Musa’s inner insecurities in a loud and brash way. From thoughts of<br />

sleepless nights and the feeling of being isolated, Musa is brutally honest on this title<br />

track from his debut album, but manages to keep it all upbeat, reminiscent of his old<br />

band, Spring King. Musa is the producer, mixer, songwriter and musician under the<br />

DEAD NATURE pseudonym, and nothing seems to hold him back. (MOH)<br />

Ruby Walvin<br />

Without You<br />

Gliding effortlessly against the soft electric guitar and drumbeats, RUBY WALVIN’s<br />

voice is transcendent. A sonic pot of honey with angelic backing vocals rolling off<br />

her tongue to put the listener in a trance. With honest and raw lyrics, Without You<br />

lays bare Walvin’s inner fear of living without someone in an impeccable way. From<br />

insomnia worries, to reminiscing about the glory days, each element of the track<br />

compliments the other for a listening delight. (SG)<br />

All Trades<br />

Punch Hole<br />

The first track on ALL TRADES’ debut EP Theoretical Functions is the start of an<br />

industrial house party or subterranean rave. The consistent punchy electronic beats will<br />

vibrate through the floors and is enough to get you in the clubbing spirit. The haunting<br />

build-up at the start of the track showcases the spontaneous programming and<br />

terrifying power All Trades hold. (SG)<br />

Murmurs<br />

Not My Girl<br />

MURMURS’ debut single echoes the sounds that rolled off the Mersey through the<br />

rhythm and blues era of the 60s through to the Britpop takeover in the 90s. The jangly<br />

rhythms of the guitar interplay with catchy melodies and the soft beat of the drum<br />

lines, which are all fuelled by nostalgia. It’s evocative indie that gives a nod to all those<br />

who came before. (MOH)<br />

Rachel Nicholas<br />

Sloth<br />

Clinic<br />

Fine Dining<br />

CLINIC’s new single Fine Dining is a slice of dancefloor fun, combining the band’s love<br />

of the exotic and having a good time. Full of pulsing synths and a repetitive disco drum,<br />

the new track folds in a sense of 70s American fantasy drama that adds a poppier<br />

element to the post-punk troupe’s distinctive sound. (SG)<br />

The Letrasets<br />

Wait<br />

THE LETRASETS know how to write an indie-pop banger and this opener to EP Tiger<br />

Sports Grandma is nothing but addictive. Full of catchy riffs and an upbeat chorus,<br />

Wait is a track meant for screaming, sweaty crowds, which hopefully aren’t too far<br />

away. The infectious melody is reminiscent of classic indie bands making it the perfect<br />

soundtrack for summer. (SG)<br />

JVCK<br />

Feeds<br />

Feeds is a calming and relaxing electronic indie track with JVCK’s soft, light vocals<br />

coming in from the background to add an overriding sense of comfort. With a hint of<br />

reverb on the electric guitar instrumental halfway through the track, the song is the<br />

perfect number to wind down to. (SG)<br />

The Peach Fuzz<br />

Never Wanna See The Light<br />

After splitting from their record label last year, THE PEACH FUZZ return with an upbeat<br />

summer track to mark the start of new beginnings. The five-piece have perfectly<br />

blended indie psych-pop with 80s influences to create a much-needed optimistic hit for<br />

the sunny months ahead. (MOH)<br />

Photography from left to right: Rachel Nicholas, The Peach Fuzz, Ruby Walvin, Dead<br />

Nature<br />

RACHEL NICHOLAS keeps you guessing in her new track. It has a little bit of<br />

everything. From strings and piano to electric guitar, it is an enchanting mix of<br />

various genres underneath musical theatre-like vocals to keep you on your toes. Sloth<br />

continues to wrong-foot the listener with twists and turns and unpredictable time<br />

signatures. (SG)<br />




On their new EP, SPINN loosen the roots to their established<br />

sound but continue to search for the light within the dark.<br />



S<br />

P<br />

IN<br />

N<br />


Conversations surrounding SPINN always go hand-in-hand<br />

with tales of their chaotic charisma. Today, it still seems<br />

like they’re feeling the effects of being up early and having<br />

a camera lens aimed at their faces. It’s only after the<br />

question “would you rather never cut your hair again, or your nails?”<br />

is put forward that their infectious energy becomes abundantly clear.<br />

It’s afternoon at the Baltic Fleet, and myself and the band are<br />

huddled around a small wooden table. Pints in hand, Louis O’Reilly<br />

(drums), Luke Royalty (guitar) and Sean McLachlan (bass) dive into<br />

the conversation. Questions, quips and counterarguments erupt.<br />

The debate becomes palpable across the lightly beer-soaked table.<br />

“Is this just gonna be a would you rather? Should we just do that<br />

instead [of the interview]?” says Johnny Quinn, the group’s frontman.<br />

There’s a fleeting silence before a definite, decisive answer. “Teeth<br />

for hair,” they all agree. “You could cut it all off! Be a bit of a painful<br />

procedure, mind,” laughs Johnny.<br />

The debate is continuing while the city slowly grinds into life<br />

and an underlying sense of excitement emerges. It’s the weekend<br />

of the much-awaited test events across Liverpool, and the first real<br />

taste of live music in the UK as a whole. The buzz is restless and<br />

addictive – feeding into Spinn’s animated tendencies wonderfully,<br />

as they constantly pass compliments, insults and general chatter<br />

between them. As we watch the early partygoers make their way to<br />

the weekend’s events, the conversation turns to the city’s live scene.<br />

It’s clear that the grind of getting established seems a world<br />

away from the group now. However, with the closure of so many<br />

of the city’s staple music venues, the emotional resonance sticks.<br />

“Our first gig was The Zanzibar, but we also played Phase One and<br />

Sound quite a bit. Smaller venues really are a home for upcoming<br />

artists and so many of them are gone now, the community will have<br />

to find new places again,” Luke reflects.<br />

“I guess that’s just the nature of things though, isn’t it? The music<br />

scene will always change,” Johnny chimes in. “When we started,<br />

indie was just blowing up, but Liverpool was still full of psychedelia.<br />

That’s died off slightly, and so has the indie scene. Everyone’s into<br />

post-punk now, dressing in black and talking about England. When<br />

something closes, it just ups space for new creations.”<br />

Like the scene they grew up in, Spinn have gone through a<br />

number of iterations throughout their career, with a number of<br />

previous bandmates having departed from the group over the<br />

years. “We played throughout the city when we were coming up,<br />

it’s strange to see it changing,” notes Sean. “We played for a few<br />

years, and then the old drummer quit to join the police. We soon<br />

met Louis, though, while drunk in a bar. That was the proper start of<br />

everything. We’ve gone in very different directions, mind.”<br />

While the scene they came up in may be a thing of the past,<br />

Spinn’s take on sun-kissed indie remains as prevalent as ever.<br />

Epitomised by shimmery synths and lulling, heartfelt vocals, the<br />

group’s music draws from the joy of old-school indie, while never<br />

flinching from the trends of today. Though, as Louis explains, like the<br />

band’s current line-up, it’s a sound that had to be carefully cultivated<br />

over the last several years. “We spent years writing shoegaze music,<br />

which, although a nice genre, didn’t fit with our style as a band at<br />

all,” he explains. “It felt like one day it clicked and we started writing<br />

pop tunes,” Johnny nods. “When everyone’s homing in on one<br />

sound, only one or two bands will get big or ‘make it’ and, even then,<br />

it’s just luck. That’s why current trends don’t tend to influence us<br />

much. As far as we’re concerned, we just want to write pop music.”<br />

Merging both past and contemporary influences, the group<br />

quickly achieved success, releasing their self-titled album back<br />

in 2018, to selling out Liverpool’s O2 Academy in 2019. Such<br />

successes have seen them emerge as a type of modernised<br />

boyband – epitomised by their dedicated fanbase and the band’s<br />

constant online voice that blurs the lines between a fan-and-artist<br />

relationship. But, as has become all too clear in recent months, the<br />

directness of instant communication comes with its fears. “People<br />

have tried to cancel us before, so it’s always a fear. We could<br />

be called Spinn scum!” laughs Johnny. “We’re so lucky to have a<br />

fanbase, but it is overwhelming at times, though, because it can all<br />

change overnight. People try to find your personal info, like finding<br />

you on Facebook and all,” he pauses. “It is cool though, it’s just about<br />

balance.” Louis chimes in: “I’ve had some amazing convos with<br />

people online. The other day I posted a picture of Penn and Teller<br />

and got a full discussion going. We do look a lot like them though,<br />

me and Luke,” he laughs. “We could support the band on tour!”<br />

Fears of cancellation aside, the group’s charm and willingness<br />

to adapt have led them to release a collection of kaleidoscopic popfuelled<br />

offerings across their four-year journey. It’s an impressive<br />

discography and yet, true to their ever-changing nature, the group<br />

have their eyes on the horizon.<br />

Their upcoming EP, Daydreaming, marks a new era for the<br />

group, who are keen to show off changes in their sound to its fullest<br />

extent. “We showcase different sides of ourselves on the EP,”<br />

explains Louis. “There are tracks that are heavier, some dreamy indie<br />

stuff and pure pop.”<br />

“I’d also say we’re a bit more mature now, composition-wise.<br />

The music we wrote at the beginning wasn’t bad, but we’ve<br />

definitely improved the way we write,” Johnny admits. “On certain<br />

tracks, we worked with four different producers to get it right. We<br />

wanted to make sure the release was the best it could be.”<br />

The energy of the EP is fuelled by unadulterated optimism,<br />

as it bounces between genres and subject matters with blissful<br />

ease. The Things She Says To Me deals with affection teetering on<br />

sappy, as Quinn recites love-filled lyrics over a chiming acoustic<br />

melody. “It really goes back to old-school Spinn, I think. It’s about<br />

recommending books to your loved ones, proper wholesome,”<br />

says Johnny. “I’ve got such a good feeling about that song,” Louis<br />

discloses. “I just love a banger!”<br />

While Daydreaming sees the band branch out, one thing that<br />

remains central is the group’s saccharine demeanour. Even on the<br />

title track – a song about unrequited love littered with echoing<br />

guitar riffs and unstoppable drums – Spinn’s sweetness simmers<br />

throughout, mellowing it entirely. This outlook could be taken as<br />

part of the band’s natural charm. But as Johnny elaborates on his<br />

songwriting process, it becomes clear that the air of positivity is a<br />

deliberate, integral choice. “Recently, I’ve been trying to centre my<br />

songwriting around positive affirmations. Even on tracks that deal<br />

with darker stuff, I still want to create proper upbeat pop tracks,”<br />

Johnny explains. “I think it works with our identity as a band. This EP<br />

is as heavy as our sound gets and, even then, it’s still pretty boppy.”<br />

Perhaps the track that feels most evolved from the group’s<br />

origins is Billie, a melts-in-your-mouth offering that features<br />

vocals by Christie Simpson of Yumi Zouma. True to indie-pop,<br />

hazy synth leads dominate the track’s backing, while Simpson and<br />

Quinn’s vocals add new-found textures for the group’s sound. “It’s<br />

interesting to [hear] someone else’s vocals on it,” Johnny ponders.<br />

“The structure of the track was there to begin with, but to have a<br />

different harmony on it transformed it completely. We’ll definitely<br />

move forward with stuff like that. Plus, she’s a proper lovely person,<br />

so it was the best of both worlds really.”<br />

“Johnny’s the only one who’s actually met<br />

her though,” Luke quips. “So many people<br />

think she was in the studio with us, like it<br />

was Elton John and Kiki Dee on Don’t Go<br />

Breaking My Heart.”<br />

It’s afternoon now, and faces begin to<br />

dominate the city streets. It’s a welcome<br />

sight, although the newness of it doesn’t<br />

escape anyone. It’s a stark contrast with<br />

only a few weeks before and it ignites<br />

a level of reflective thought in the band.<br />

“Lockdown has really slowed down the<br />

output of music,” Luke explains. “Live music<br />

has always been the centre of releases for<br />

most groups. You release a track in line with<br />

doing gigs, the whole thing revolves around<br />

live music. Even us, we only released one song last year and we had<br />

to cancel shows. It’s as if nobody knows how to fathom it. I worry<br />

it’ll be hard for new bands to find spaces to thrive. So much of live<br />

music relies on ticket sales, that it will drive new bands out or make<br />

it harder to get noticed.” There’s a pause, and then a final breath of<br />

optimism. “But now that people are starting to write music again,<br />

you don’t know what the next trend could be. People will hopefully<br />

appreciate live music a bit more,” he smiles. “That translates to all<br />

music – smaller artists hopefully, not just the bigger ones.” Johnny<br />

dives in with a reminder: “Yeah, we are lucky we were established<br />

beforehand because we have that security. I used to play loads of<br />

gigs but never actually go to that many, which will obviously change<br />

now. Though we’ve forgotten how to play everything anyhow,” he<br />

smiles.<br />

With the future so uncertain, questions of what’s next are<br />

always hard to pin down. Spinn, however, remain ever enthusiastic<br />

about their trajectory as a band. There’s an air of mischief that sits<br />

between each of them, seemingly desperate to give away secrets<br />

about what’s in store. “Really, we just wanna have fun, like Cindy<br />

Lauper!” Johnny laughs, as the band agrees wholeheartedly. “We’re<br />

just four young lads, we have our whole lives ahead of us. It’s been<br />

pretty swell so far though.” It’s an admission that holds the weight of<br />

Spinn’s accolades and brings an air of satisfaction that sits between<br />

each member comfortably. “All we need now is a Wiki page,” he<br />

declares, with a gleam in his eye. “That’s all I ever really wanted.” !<br />

Words: Lily Blakeney-Edwards / @lilyhbee<br />

Photography: Gary Lambert / @glamgigpics<br />

Daydreaming is available from 30th <strong>June</strong> via Modern Sky.<br />

@spinn_band<br />

“It felt like one day<br />

it just all clicked and<br />

we started writing<br />

pop tunes”<br />





Water, nurture and new space to thrive, Orla Foster tracks<br />

the resilient journey of the singer-songwriter.<br />

Maybe it was the Jacuzzi that was the final<br />

straw. When the man upstairs decides he<br />

needs to install a hot tub to entertain local<br />

celebrities, that’s when you know the end is<br />

nigh. For Kyami Russell, aka IAMKYAMI, it meant being<br />

forced to wrap up her last days in Liverpool huddled in a<br />

dank suburban bedroom, watching water cascade down<br />

the walls while her neighbours splashed blithely overhead.<br />

“Why a Jacuzzi, though? So boujie for no reason,”<br />

she exhales. “It made everything so damp I had to throw<br />

away all my clothes. After four months I was like, ‘Alright,<br />

I’m out. I’m taking my shit and leaving’.”<br />

It marked a slightly flat finish to her time in Liverpool,<br />

where she’d been since 2017. But there’s nothing like<br />

a damp bedroom to make you thirst for a fresh start, so<br />

when Kyami finally did sling her hook, she headed for<br />

Manchester instead. “I really did try to hold out as long<br />

as I could in Liverpool,” she says.<br />

What else could she have done, sit<br />

and wait for the ceiling to collapse?<br />

Before Liverpool and<br />

Manchester, there was upstate New<br />

York, where Kyami grew up, joining<br />

her dad for local open mic nights<br />

and envisioning a musical career<br />

in the long run. But there was a<br />

limit to how far she could progress<br />

in the small city she called home,<br />

even in a household overflowing<br />

with music. As long as she stayed<br />

there, she felt, she couldn’t really<br />

grow.<br />

“My dad and brother always produced music when<br />

I was younger, but never taught me,” she reflects.<br />

“Because subconsciously boys just assume girls can’t<br />

produce music. I was always the singer and songwriter of<br />

the house, but never the producer. So that’s what I wanted<br />

to learn, when I was thinking of moving [to Liverpool].”<br />

Not only that, the dubious honour of being voted<br />

‘Most Unique’ by her classmates in high school was a<br />

pretty strong indicator that her best years lay elsewhere.<br />

“I stuck out. I always knew that I was different than<br />

everyone else. But I didn’t think I was different in a bad<br />

way, you know?”<br />

But moving to the UK to enrol at LIPA wasn’t<br />

the homecoming she dreamed of either. There, she<br />

encountered a chorus line of wealthy classmates and<br />

tutors mistily invoking past pupils who had gone on<br />

to ghost-write mainstream hits. Her irritation at the<br />

memory is palpable: “I’m like, ‘I don’t care about the Dua<br />

Lipa song. Teach. Me. Something’.” What the experience<br />

ended up teaching her was to get the hell out of stage<br />

school.<br />

So she left, began seeking out new horizons and<br />

“A lot of the<br />

songs are really<br />

hard to write<br />

because they<br />

come from such<br />

a raw place”<br />

turning up to shows alone. She got accepted into<br />

LIMF Academy, became involved with a ton of creative<br />

projects in the community and, for a while, things were<br />

good. “I used to love going to gigs and events by myself<br />

because, in my eyes, it’s easier to approach people – or<br />

easier for people to approach you. I attribute a lot of my<br />

success to just going out and meeting people outside of<br />

the uni bubble.”<br />

In the months that followed, she became relentlessly<br />

prolific. She put out music and podcasts, was featured<br />

by BBC Introducing, starred in a Pepsi ad with Mo Salah<br />

and became a literal poster girl for Liverpool tourism. The<br />

EP she released towards the end of 2020, Life Of Ky, is<br />

a culmination of that period, featuring autobiographical<br />

lyrics and soulful hooks about upholding self-belief<br />

against a backdrop of long retail shifts and secondguessing<br />

crushes.<br />

So what went wrong?<br />

Well, if anything, she felt<br />

the scene was a little too quick<br />

to champion her. No sooner<br />

had iamkyami put her name out<br />

there than she was being fêted<br />

as one of the city’s premier RnB<br />

talents. She was uncomfortable<br />

at the accolades from blogs and<br />

promoters, when she hadn’t even<br />

decided quite how and if RnB<br />

fitted into her sound. “I was still<br />

trying to figure it out, and I couldn’t,<br />

because I had so much pressure<br />

to be this next RnB person from<br />

Liverpool. And I didn’t like it, I felt it contributed to my<br />

lack of writing and creativity. I wasn’t motivated, because<br />

I thought I needed to fit into this box that everyone was<br />

putting me into.<br />

“There’s more to my sound than people have<br />

experienced,” she continues, “but also there are a lot of<br />

labels that go with being a queer, black and Japanese<br />

woman. It’s sad to see, but at the same time I can’t be<br />

the person to swoop in and try to save the scene. That’s<br />

not who I am or who I want to be.”<br />

There was also the fatigue of competing with the<br />

city’s fleet of guitar bands: “I think we really need to<br />

leave these white indie lad bands behind. Just drop it! It’s<br />

so dead! In Liverpool, I’d go to venues and watch bands<br />

and be like, ‘What the hell? I could be playing here, and<br />

my band is 10 times better than whatever this is’. I would<br />

actually be fuming all the time because there’s way<br />

better acts you guys could be putting on, but you put this<br />

on instead.”<br />

One thing that hadn’t shifted since childhood was<br />

the scepticism she met trying to prove herself as a<br />

producer. Meanwhile the prowess of her male peers<br />


went unquestioned. “I knew a lot of guys making indie<br />

music and people would always be praising them. But<br />

when I showed things I was working on, I got so much<br />

scrutiny. I thought it was because my production wasn’t<br />

good enough, but then I realised, it’s not actually about<br />

how good it is, it’s about me and who I am as a person.<br />

I feel like – not only as a woman, but as a queer woman<br />

of colour – it’s still really challenging to say to people,<br />

‘Listen, I’m a producer’.”<br />

Has it been any easier to make strides with this in<br />

Manchester?<br />

“There’s just more opportunity, more willingness to<br />

collaborate. And people are starting to pick up on who<br />

I am, I’ve been booked for a couple of things and I’m<br />

having conversations with different record labels about<br />

the kind of deals I want.”<br />

For all that, Kyami doesn’t seem like the sort of artist<br />

who relies on being part of some local ecology. You get<br />

the feeling that if lockdown never ended, she could just sit<br />

in her room stacking up projects, surrounded by notebooks<br />

and brimming with ideas faster than she can jot them<br />

down. Doesn’t that level of productivity get exhausting?<br />

“Every day. I’m exhausted every day. I’ve been trying<br />

to be this sort of music business shark and get my name<br />

out there and do all these different things, but you know,<br />

I would never give myself time to chill.”<br />

What about her social media output, is that fun or a<br />

chore? Because she makes it look pretty fun…<br />

“My Instagram is my business card,” she clarifies. “I<br />

only care about metrics, not about being popular. I used<br />

to work full-time in make-up and they would try to force<br />

us to be content creators and post all these different<br />

looks – and on my own page as well, where I’ve got<br />

people that want to see my music, not my frickin’ makeup!<br />

So I was making all this content that I would watch<br />

back and think, ‘This doesn’t make me laugh, it doesn’t<br />

make me smile, I don’t think this is good in any way’. As<br />

soon as I stop having fun making something, that’s when<br />

I know that it’s not good.”<br />

But on to her songwriting. I bring up her set in<br />

the chapel at Future Yard festival in 2019, which in<br />

iamkyami’s breakneck timeline, already seems a lifetime<br />

ago. In that intimate setting, she came across like an old<br />

friend, warm and funny, filling the gaps between songs<br />

with anecdotal snippets about her life and what inspired<br />

each lyric. Does she still feel comfortable sharing that<br />

level of detail with strangers?<br />

“I think I’ve tried to take a step back from writing<br />

so personally about my own experiences,” she says.<br />

“Because at the time when I was writing like that, and<br />

really diving deep into certain aspects of my life, it was<br />

more an emotional healing thing. A lot of the songs were<br />

really hard to write because they come from such a raw<br />

place.<br />


“When I moved to the UK, I had no idea who I was.<br />

I didn’t know what I wanted to represent, what kind<br />

of relationship I wanted to be in, what kind of friends I<br />

wanted to have. I was very confused about my sexuality<br />

and my cultural identity and all this stuff. I feel like I come<br />

across as very confident to other people, but there’s a lot<br />

of things I’m insecure about, or have anxiety about, that I<br />

kind of shoved to the side.<br />

“I remember when I was writing Concrete Rose,” she<br />

continues, “I was living in the first uni flat I ever had, and<br />

my room was in the basement. So I was sitting on my<br />

bed and just crying loads, and I thought, ‘I don’t know<br />

how I could ever play this live because I will just cry’. I<br />

think that’s why people resonate with that song. It comes<br />

from a part of me that I needed to rectify with myself, of<br />

like, not needing to be perfect. You just have to try your<br />

hardest, and just be authentic, and be yourself. And that’s<br />

something I’ve been trying to work on this whole time.”<br />

Concrete Rose is like a lifejacket thrown to her<br />

younger self, a tender reminder to stay strong. When<br />

Kyami was growing up, who were the artists providing<br />

that kind of reassurance for her? “To be honest, I don’t<br />

think many artists I listened to had positive messages. I<br />

liked Erykah Badu, who has a lot of self-empowerment<br />

in her music, but most of what I listened to was super<br />

sad, like Amy Winehouse and Adele. And beyond that,<br />

16<br />

really terrible misogynistic rappers and pop music. So<br />

when I started writing that letter-to-self kind of song, it<br />

wasn’t inspired by anyone else, it really was just about<br />

my own healing.<br />

“Actually, when I came to the UK, I didn’t even want<br />

to be an artist, I wanted to be a ghost-writer because I<br />

wasn’t super-confident in what I was doing. Now, looking<br />

back at it, I just think, ‘Wow, that was dumb’. Imagine if I<br />

had never become an artist because I was stopping myself?”<br />

Although if you happen to be a certain German<br />

supermarket chain, those ghost-writing skills might still<br />

be available for hire: “I don’t think anyone knows this<br />

about me, but I love writing jingles. Lidl don’t have a<br />

jingle but they need one.” She bursts into song. “A lot<br />

for a little! Imagine walking into stores and hearing that<br />

little jingle. I’m just saying, you know, that’s why I need a<br />

publishing deal so I can get these jingles out and get my<br />

jingle money.”<br />

We’re about an hour into the call and it occurs to me I<br />

can stop reeling off questions like a bot and just enjoy the<br />

conversation. What, I wonder aloud, is her track record<br />

with houseplants? She scuttles off-camera and returns<br />

with a tall, zingy specimen sprinkled with little blossoms.<br />

The plant she rescued from the Jacuzzi-soaked flat hasn’t<br />

fared so well, she says; it’s been infested with mould and<br />

left for dead.<br />

“My houseplants need some work, trust me. This<br />

one is thriving and surviving, but the other one? I need to<br />

figure that out.”<br />

I think it will heal, I tell her. I know nothing about<br />

plants, but I don’t let that stop me.<br />

She brightens. “Yeah, we just gotta do a little<br />

transplant. Cut off one of the arms and then replant it.”<br />

Is it too schmaltzy to round this off with some readymade<br />

analogy about repotting plants? Maybe. But for all<br />

the upheaval of the past few years, iamkyami appears<br />

like someone who will also thrive, no matter where she<br />

decides to put down roots. A little change of scenery,<br />

a little splash of water now and then, and she’ll stand<br />

taller than ever. Just, for goodness sake, go easy on the<br />

water. !<br />

Words: Orla Foster<br />

Photography: Michael Kirkham / @mrkirks<br />

Iamkyami plays the <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! Social at Kazimier<br />

Stockroom on 30th September. Tickets available via<br />

SeeTickets with free admission for <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! Members.<br />


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Williamson Square, Liverpool, L1 1EL

MONKS<br />

Shedding their unassuming demeanor, the five-piece take a leap to their next phase atop a 1980s<br />

electrical current.<br />

Three out of five members of MONKS clamber<br />

into the stylish garden booths in The Merchant.<br />

There are jokes and chatter about whether it’s<br />

too early to order a few drinks. Classic Northern<br />

behaviour on a sunny day. For funky outfits alone, it’s<br />

10 out of 10 stylish points from me, and straight away,<br />

it’s clear that this was going to be an interview full of<br />

laughter.<br />

Starting out properly in 2018, Monks fuse various<br />

influences of psychedelic rock, jazz, and dream-pop.<br />

However, the band as we now know them might have<br />

never happened.<br />

“At first, I wasn’t convinced about joining the band. I<br />

heard the first demo and thought we were crap,” guitarist<br />

Nathan Johnson jokes. It’s the band’s witty banter with<br />

no filter that makes them so enjoyable to be around. That<br />

fun, feel-good approach evidently spills over into their<br />

music, especially in their latest release, 100 Percent.<br />

The notion of labour typifies the make-up of the<br />

band. Each member has their own role and they remain<br />

equal at all times. With only three members of Monks<br />

next to me, the band doesn’t forget to mention trumpet<br />

player Joe Fay and bassist Liam Daly.<br />

18<br />

After the two years of focusing on recording tracks<br />

and booking shows, Monks have now begun to alter their<br />

sound, all agreeing that it has “changed for the better”.<br />

“We went down to Sheffield and recorded with Ross<br />

Orton who worked on Arctic Monkeys’ AM album. He<br />

had a big influence on the new sound and from that one<br />

session, he inspired a lot of ideas for new songs,” singer<br />

and guitarist George Pomford states. Drummer Kali<br />

Diston-Jones nods in agreement, before adding how the<br />

new sound has also been a learning curve for them.<br />

“The collaboration with Ross came around when we<br />

were on tour,” George starts. It was a telling moment,<br />

they agreed, when discussing how they jumped at the<br />

opportunity before doing their research. “We were<br />

performing in London and someone’s manager from<br />

someone’s label was there. Basically, it’s a ‘someone’s<br />

aunt’s cousin’s dog’ situation where someone had a<br />

connection and sorted the collaboration out,” he adds as<br />

laughter erupts from the cousin’s dog comment.<br />

“If you told 13-year-old me that I would be working<br />

with someone who worked with Arctic Monkeys, I just<br />

wouldn’t have believed you. The kid in me was being a<br />

fanboy,” Nathan continues. The appreciation and respect<br />

for the producer is clear as they’re grinning ear to ear<br />

when discussing the trip to Sheffield. “It felt amazing to<br />

work with someone like that, knowing he worked on AM<br />

and that he also liked our demo.”<br />

While basking in the summer sun, being ultimate<br />

fanboys, and reminiscing about a demo that was<br />

something George had done during his GCSEs, the<br />

humour doesn’t die out. “My nan’s a bit critical, but she<br />

liked the new song so we must be doing something<br />

right,” Nathan reflects, as the topic shifts onto their debut<br />

EP, set to be released this winter.<br />

No longer recording with the live aspect in the back<br />

of their minds, I ask the band how changing sound<br />

has altered their songwriting and live performance<br />

perspectives. “We are matching up a lot of bands that are<br />

bigger than us now with how they incorporate backing<br />

tracks and electronic sounds via SSD pads,” Kali begins.<br />

“We’re not standing there thinking about how something<br />

will sound live, we’re more thinking about how we can<br />

add it to a backing track to amplify what we are doing<br />

and to solidify the new direction we are taking.”<br />

“And we’re going to try adding lights to our live<br />

shows! We’ve had a lot of time to plan,” George excitedly

cuts in at the end.<br />

The band move on to discussing their latest single<br />

released later in July. Pushed further for the influences<br />

on the new sound, George touches on the specifics for<br />

Night Moves. “The inspiration for this song came from<br />

changing my writing process,” he starts to tell me. “I was<br />

watching loads of film and TV series clips on YouTube<br />

but muting the sound; writing music to the clips I was<br />

watching.<br />

“I had a scene from Miami Vice on repeat for hours<br />

where a car was just going past and, from that scene, I<br />

started sampling the synths. I<br />

think getting the visual before<br />

the sound helps the songwriting<br />

process because it’s hard to<br />

write a song if you can’t see<br />

where it’s going visually. I think<br />

that’s why the new single is very<br />

80s pop-inspired, because I was<br />

looking at 80s-themed visuals.”<br />

In between each comment<br />

made about the upcoming EP,<br />

George cannot hide how proud<br />

he is of what they’ve produced.<br />

“Talking about it just makes me<br />

so happy,” he enthuses.<br />

While a wealth of contemporary music contains<br />

overt political sentiment, it’s a route the band have<br />

“We’re just<br />

enjoying everything<br />

and appreciating<br />

it more”<br />

tried to steer clear from so far. “It’s very on-trend to be<br />

political within the music industry and we think that’s<br />

good. People should use their platforms for that type<br />

of stuff,” Nathan affirms. “It’s such a complex subject<br />

though, isn’t it? If you do it, you have to do it well and be<br />

correct about what you’re saying,” George quickly adds.<br />

“We have tried incorporating it into our lyrics in the past,<br />

but it always sounds cringey or like we don’t know what<br />

we’re talking about; it doesn’t match our sound.”<br />

We’ve been speaking for an hour now. The sun has<br />

made us all delusional as we ramble on about George’s<br />

TikTok obsession, Olly Murs being<br />

Kali’s guilty pleasure and Shrek 2.<br />

It’s clear that the boys are ready<br />

to enjoy a few drinks. But before<br />

I let them go, I ask what life has<br />

been like being in a band. “People<br />

think that when you’re in a band<br />

and on the road, you go out all<br />

the time and get bevvied or do<br />

different substances,” George<br />

begins. They are pretty upfront<br />

about a musician’s lifestyle and<br />

openly divert themselves away<br />

from the classic stereotypes. “I’d<br />

say we’re pretty boring when it<br />

comes to that. We’re the most boring band in Liverpool.”<br />

“Hey, we have a nice presence!” Kali interrupts .<br />


Having had the last year and a half of their usual<br />

life of touring and recording together put on hold due<br />

to the pandemic, the band made sure to touch on the<br />

impact that it had on them. “We’ve been able to take a<br />

step back and appreciate what we do more,” Kali reflects.<br />

“Pre-Covid, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to land<br />

gigs or record deals, whereas now, we’re just enjoying<br />

everything and appreciating it more,” adds George.<br />

As the band continue to latch onto the end of each<br />

other’s sentences, George ends the interview with a<br />

summary of the last hour. “OK, so main influences for the<br />

new sound: Olly Murs and Shrek 2. What other cringe<br />

things have we said?” he questions. “I think that’s it.<br />

That’s us, Monks,” Nathan replies. As a closing maxim,<br />

Kali proclaims: “A boring band with a nice presence, and<br />

we have a trumpet! What major label doesn’t want to<br />

sign that?” Perhaps the heat is getting to all of us today. !<br />

Words: Shannon Garner<br />

Photography: Lucy McLachlan / @Lucy_alexandra<br />

Night Moves is available from 23rd July.<br />

Monks headline the <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! Social at Future Yard on<br />

Friday 30th July. Support comes from A Lesser Version.<br />

Tickets available via SeeTickets with free admission for<br />

<strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! Members.<br />


FOR THE<br />

LOVE OF IT<br />

A new exhibition in Birkenhead will display the visual artwork of a range of established<br />

musicians and their wider creative endeavours. Ahead of its opening, Cath Holland speaks to an<br />

array of artists including Cerys Matthews, Richard Dawson and This Is The Kit’s Kate Stables to<br />

question where the lines sit between passion, creativity and work.<br />

At the beginning of lockdown 1.0 over a year<br />

ago, it was universally expected of musicians,<br />

poets, DJs and artists of all kinds to get onto<br />

Facebook Live sharpish and entertain the<br />

masses. Online performances from bedrooms, kitchens<br />

and bathrooms with admittedly great acoustics were a<br />

halfway house of a live show, self-consciously awkward<br />

and frustrating on both sides, from a lack of being bodily<br />

in the present.<br />

The pop star allure dims in such a hostage video setup,<br />

and furlough concerts were never going to discover<br />

the next big thing. Nevertheless, we expect another<br />

Sandi Thom PR story at some point soon.<br />

The demand and expectation for free entertainment<br />

lead, in part, to the furore from creatives over the<br />

unviable and unprofitable jobs message put out by the<br />

government in the autumn. The inference that creativity<br />

not churning out fat profits isn’t worth preserving<br />

bruised us. And yet, we’ve chewed over the issues<br />

around streaming rates for a good while, and the art<br />

vs commerce debate has rumbled on since forever.<br />

The perception and respect for the role and value of<br />

artists of all disciplines has shifted as barriers between<br />

them and their audience gradually broke down. The<br />

democratisation effect of punk must have felt a bloody<br />

great idea 40 plus years ago, but the rot of why pay<br />

for something when you can get it for free is a direct<br />

descendent.<br />

The belief that creating pretty, wonderful, amusing<br />

and enjoyable things is not work because the product is<br />

agreeable or entertaining, is ingrained. It’s not framed as<br />

work the same way conventional occupations are, and<br />

definitely not hard work, the ultimate praise and flattery<br />

for grafters. No one comes home from a day’s nine to five<br />

and announces what an easy doss of a day they’ve had<br />

at the office.<br />

But when does something become work? At what<br />

point does it become invoice-worthy? It’s a question<br />

sparked by SUPER COOL DRAWING MACHINE, a new<br />

exhibition at Birkenhead’s Future Yard which showcases<br />

the wider artistic endeavours of established musicians.<br />

“It becomes work when other people get involved<br />

and need stuff off you, maybe,” says Paris-based Kate<br />

Stables of This Is The Kit. She adds after a pause, “Or is<br />

it?” Kate quotes pop art nun Corita Kent’s famous rules<br />

from half a century ago, that you have to do everything<br />

as well as you can and the only rule is make or work. But<br />

the world has moved on – or back, depending on how<br />

we view things. In the Sister’s day, an artist, especially a<br />

musician, didn’t have to justify building an economy for<br />

themselves quite as much. Partly because of the music<br />

industry’s alarming business model working for the<br />

benefit of a tiny top per cent, but also the belief system<br />

that creativity is not work and doesn’t need to be paid for.<br />

Wearer of many hats from BBC Radio 6 Music,<br />

Cerys Matthews has composed the music for We Come<br />

From The Sun, an album of poetry by emerging UK<br />

poets released in February. She challenges the notion of<br />

creativity as an easy option. She enjoys the process and<br />

result of her own lyric writing, for example, but stresses<br />

the work and effort involved in making it how she wants<br />

it.<br />

“I enjoy the challenge, I<br />

don’t find it easy, but I don’t<br />

think anybody finds that<br />

easy,” she says.<br />

And by anybody, she<br />

includes members of the<br />

canon and those we view<br />

through the historical genius<br />

lens.<br />

“Everyone used to<br />

say about Dylan Thomas,<br />

‘He turns on the tap and it<br />

flows out of him’ and he’d<br />

be fuming, saying, ‘I really<br />

worked for hours, days and<br />

months on that and I’m not<br />

like a tap, I’m more like a<br />

carpenter chiseling away<br />

at a piece of wood making<br />

sculpture out of wood, you know’. But what it is with great<br />

poets like Dylan Thomas, they make it seem effortless.<br />

The idea is you practice so much that on occasion the<br />

variables line up and it can come to you, but, as Charlie<br />

Parker said, you’ve just got to practice, practice, practice<br />

and then when you’re on stage let it rip.”<br />

And although musician Richard Dawson admits<br />

himself feeling “grateful” to gain success in his field of<br />

music, he believes, like Cerys, that because the process<br />

of creating an art form is not evident, it adds to the belief<br />

that it does not require work.<br />

“You don’t see the workings of it the way you see the<br />

workings of other jobs. It probably looks easier, and the<br />

idea of it is a lot nicer than the reality.”<br />

Other areas of the job – because that’s what it<br />

is – take effort as well. Richard says about not always<br />

realising how much it takes to put yourself out there,<br />

for public consumption. There has to be an element of<br />

steeling oneself for the response?<br />

“Especially over the last few years, where the<br />

atmosphere with social media and everything is a lot<br />

more cynical. There’s more nastiness and it’s more<br />

acceptable to be critical of people and shoot people<br />

down. Actually, you’re giving up quite a lot by doing some<br />

sort of performance job-based work.”<br />

Kate and Richard are both contributors to the Super<br />

Cool Drawing Machine exhibition stopping off at Future<br />

Yard, and have given pieces of art they produce away<br />

from music. Although Richard’s collage artwork is no<br />

secret – he uses it as part of his album cover art and has<br />

exhibited in galleries and bookshops – art is not what he<br />

“Everyone wants to<br />

communicate with<br />

the outside world how<br />

hard they’re working<br />

and how difficult it is to<br />

feel validated for what<br />

they do or don’t do”<br />

is known for. Music is his main creative output, but the<br />

processes of both are, to him, similar.<br />

“It all feels like the same stuff, whether it is something<br />

you’ve made out of paper or paint or that you’ve made<br />

out of the air or strung a bunch of words together. It’s<br />

all problem solving – you get a raw lump of material and<br />

you’ve just got to chip away<br />

at it. So, the early stages of<br />

a song or the early stages<br />

of a collage tend to come<br />

quite fast and then it’s the<br />

refinement process that is<br />

the slow bit; the closer you<br />

get to the finish line the<br />

slower it gets.”<br />

Elliot Hutchinson has<br />

three roles within music: at<br />

nighttime he is a renowned<br />

live DJ and also presents<br />

shows on Liverpool’s Melodic<br />

Distraction community radio<br />

station; by day he is to be<br />

found in the city’s Dig Vinyl<br />

record shop. I put to him<br />

that, from the outside, all<br />

three could be viewed as a total dream, hanging around<br />

behind the counter all day talking about music and selling<br />

records, dealing with his chosen medium 24/7.<br />

“It’s an enjoyable job, but there’s also a lot of hard<br />

work,” he says of his role in the shop. “Because we<br />

sell second-hand records there is a lot of cleaning. I go<br />

out and buy huge collections and there’s a lot of graft<br />

involved, manual work in order to get our stock to the<br />

standard in which we want to sell it. There’s hours of<br />

prepping, cleaning, editing, repairing sleeves.”<br />

Dorcas Sebuyange is a multidisciplinary artist who<br />

works in theatre, music and writing. All three disciplines<br />

became work for her at different stages. But the<br />

transformation of it ultimately came down to time and<br />

money.<br />

“Spending more time in each field and getting paid<br />

for that time,” she says simply. “In the first few years it<br />

never really felt like work to be honest, and I wouldn’t<br />

class it as ‘working’ either. When receiving ‘work’ I would<br />

find myself saying things like, ‘I got an opportunity’.”<br />

As it became possible for her to make a living out of<br />

what she loved doing, because she enjoyed it so much<br />

she found her work-life balance out of kilter. It began to<br />

dawn on her that that she wasn’t living out her life to the<br />

full because she was too busy working.<br />

“I had to realise that the whole time I was getting<br />

these amazing opportunities, I was in fact working.<br />

Your job, no matter how much you love it, is still a<br />

job. Right now, I’m trying to find ways to continue<br />

working while allowing space to take it easy and be<br />

prudent rather than strive to be busy. Working hard<br />


can look like lots of different things, a lot of good comes from it, but it can also wear you out.”<br />

Musicians, poets and DJs aren’t hands-on life-savers, but there is a valuable role played in<br />

areas of mental health, building and maintaining a sense of kinship and community. It cuts both<br />

ways; for the creators themselves and audience. Elliot’s activities from day job upwards bring<br />

their own rewards and feed into one another.<br />

“[Club] DJing is quite a lonely thing to do sometimes,” he admits. “You don’t really interact<br />

with anyone. On the radio, your interaction is with the other hosts, you’re listening to stuff<br />

that you’ve never heard before and I think it creates a sense of community. I didn’t have that<br />

access before in that way. Hosts, music fans, listeners all in the same place – you all learn<br />

from each other.”<br />

When lockdown first happened, he says, practicalities prevented him from livestreaming<br />

from home. But he did have his records.<br />

“When I was able to do radio again it was like I had a fresh outlook on my own music,<br />

there was a lot of value I’d forgotten about. So, the first few radio shows I did I thought<br />

of them more as a concept, I was missing that element of performance. The radio show I<br />

was doing beforehand was literally gathering a load of records and playing them on the<br />

radio, but I had more of an idea of what I was doing after lockdown.”<br />

Kate has pinhole photography in the Super Cool Drawing Machine exhibition, which<br />

she describes as “the most primitive photography there is”. She makes the cardboard<br />

box camera herself; photographs can take from five seconds to five hours to take, and<br />

she develops them herself. She enjoys taking photos on tour, the patience it requires is<br />

an antidote to the sometimes frenetic activity on the road.<br />

“I like the pace, not only because it slows you down in terms of taking the<br />

photograph, but in terms of developing it as well. Being in a dark room and having<br />

to put it through the different chemical processes is so soothing, and when you’re<br />

taking the photograph you have to sit still. It’s nice and liberating, in these days of<br />

taking loads of digital pictures on phones. I really like that it makes you sit still and<br />

shut up.”<br />

Richard appreciates the difference between what he does and the role of key<br />

workers keeping essential services going. But him making music is important to<br />

him and those who consume it. “You have to approach it with the seriousness<br />

of work and give it its due. At the same time, you’re not going in to look after<br />

patients all day long. I don’t save people’s lives; you’re not offering support as<br />

a counsellor or putting out fires. You’ve got to keep both in mind. It’s deadly<br />

serious, the most important work, and at the same time it’s also completely<br />

frivolous.<br />

“There’s an inner voice questioning, ‘Is this of worth?’,” he continues. “I<br />

think it’s a healthy thing to always question why, is this of worth and what<br />

value is it. Personally, I take it too far, beat myself up about that, whereas<br />

it’s a lot of energy down the drain when I could be making more work. But<br />

on the other hand, it’s probably quite healthy to keep yourself in check.”<br />

The notion of hard work is difficult to define. Measuring it is<br />

impossible, especially when we look at different disciplines. In the<br />

conventional sense a manual labourer may physically work harder than<br />

a writer or composer when measured by the amounts of calories burnt<br />

and size of loads carried, but the mind carries burdens too. I joke to<br />

Kate the coffee industry has a lot to do with the pressure to insist<br />

loudly how hard we are all working, marketing to us that we need<br />

the caffeine hit to keep us going ’cause we’re on our knees with<br />

exhaustion otherwise.<br />

“Everyone wants to communicate with the outside world how<br />

hard they’re working and how difficult it is, to feel validated for what<br />

they do or don’t do,” says Kate.<br />

“And that’s a shame – you get people saying, ‘Artists, what a<br />

bunch of slackers,’ and you get other people who say, ‘Oh, working<br />

for the man’. I think it’s such a waste of time, this judgement. I’d<br />

like it if people were more open-minded about what is work and<br />

what deserves respect because it all deserves respect, all human<br />

endeavour. We’re industrious beings, humans, and it’s alright<br />

whatever you choose to do.”<br />

Respect is the key factor here, and our emotional reliance<br />

on the products of the creative industries and individuals. The<br />

adage that musicians (for this, read artists of all disciplines)<br />

and sex workers have much in common in that everyone<br />

wants what you do but no one wants to pay for it, has never<br />

been more true. We’d better start valuing what we get from<br />

creativity and provide with it and do it pretty damn fast.<br />

Everyone wanted justice for the fictional Fatima having a<br />

cyber career forced on her after years of pain preparing<br />

her nonexistent body for ballet, but the real issue is how<br />

we demand it for ourselves. !<br />

Words: Cath Holland / @Cathholland01<br />

Artwork (top to bottom): Tomb of the Wizard by<br />

Richard Dawson, Self portait by Kate Stables and<br />

Reward Chair by Cate Le Bon.<br />

Super Cool Drawing Machine is showing at Future<br />

Yard from 15th to 18th July.<br />

futureyard.org/listings/super-cool-drawingmachine<br />






JULY 21<br />

L|VERPOOL C|TY REG|ON <strong>2021</strong><br />


Following the launch of a new sustainability network for cultural<br />

organisations in the City Region, El Gray looks at culture’s central<br />

role in affecting and promoting climate change action.<br />


Sometimes, I dream about tidal waves and<br />

choking, saturated lungs with salty water or<br />

smog. I dream of cities, crumbling. The Liver<br />

Birds slowly submerged under a relentless tide.<br />

I dream of the cathedrals and stained glass, shattering in<br />

hurricane winds, proof of the destructive gods we have<br />

become. Sometimes, the sunsets look like wildfires.<br />

These images of rapture define imaginations of climate<br />

change, extremities and catastrophe. In reality, the changes<br />

will arrive more subtly here; a gradual transformation of<br />

the physical environment. Stifling summers with thick air, a<br />

heaviness everywhere. Violent winters with storm surges<br />

that overwhelm the banks of the Mersey. It will be a slow<br />

and gradual kind of rapture. But it will come, and it will<br />

affect the most vulnerable first. In <strong>June</strong> 2019, Liverpool City<br />

Region Combined Authority declared a climate emergency,<br />

recognising the urgency of the threat and the scale of the<br />

response required to address it. This is the paradox of<br />

the climate crisis; preventing these subtle but devastating<br />

changes requires radical transformation, not simply<br />

modification or mitigation but a fundamental shift in the<br />

way we operate, individually and societally, a series of<br />

small revolutions.<br />

This makes the climate crisis a cultural crisis. In March<br />

<strong>2021</strong>, responding to this cultural necessity, Shift entered<br />

Liverpool’s climate response. Shift is a sustainability network<br />

for cultural organisations across the Liverpool City Region,<br />

aiming to shrink the sector’s carbon footprint, divert away<br />

from environmentally damaging practices and collectively<br />

promote carbon reduction. Shift’s secretary, Nathalie Candel,<br />

defines its purpose: “[It’s about] how we look at ourselves<br />

as organisations, but also how we engage our audiences<br />

within that and bring change into what they do.”<br />

Climate change is a systemic issue, created and<br />

perpetuated by an underlying system of values, norms<br />

and behaviours which promote unsustainable practices:<br />

overconsumption, individualism, dislocation from nature,<br />

inequality. Claire Buckley of Julie’s Bicycle, a national charity<br />

dedicated to mobilising the arts and culture to take action<br />

on the climate crisis, summarised culture’s role in 2019:<br />

“Policies, technology and investment alone will not be<br />

enough to address it. We need hearts, minds and a shift<br />

in our cultural values.” This is the new mission for culture,<br />

engendering a shift in practice and a shift in perspective.<br />


In 2019, the Liverpool City Region Combined<br />

Authority pledged to become net-carbon zero by 2040 – a<br />

decade ahead of the UK’s national target. This year the<br />

city published its Year One Climate Action Plan, outlining<br />

an impressive array of climate initiatives to achieve this<br />

ambitious target, including the Mersey Tidal Power<br />

Project, with the potential to power up to one million<br />

homes. However, achieving net-zero will require rapid and<br />

concerted change across all sections of society, and culture<br />

is not immune. The arts and culture do not operate in a<br />

vacuum, they are part of a system of energy, transport and<br />

waste with a carbon and environmental impact. According<br />

to the Arts Council’s Environmental Report, it would take<br />

115,000 trees 100 years to absorb the amount of CO₂<br />

emitted by just 742 cultural organisations in 2018/19. The<br />

cultural sector is a vital part of Liverpool’s economy and<br />

future growth. If Liverpool is to achieve the pace and scale<br />

of reductions required to reach carbon net-zero, culture<br />

must also change.<br />

Some cultural organisations in Liverpool are already<br />

quietly responding. Meraki is pursuing an environmental<br />

mission incongruous with its industrial surroundings. In<br />

2019, the venue eliminated single-use plastics, saving<br />

4500 straws a year, and stopped serving exotic fruit in<br />

drinks, reducing their carbon impact from import emissions.<br />

Although seemingly small decisions, these choices<br />

contribute to normalising sustainable practices, entrenching<br />

them in the public consciousness and impacting the supply<br />

chain. George Griffin, Meraki’s director, is humble and<br />

pragmatic about the venue’s environmental actions. “We<br />

had the ability to do these things which are better for the<br />

environment, so we did,” he says. “We didn’t do it for a PR<br />

stunt, we did it because I think it’s something everyone<br />

should be doing going forward.”<br />

This pragmatism is echoed by Dr Ariel Edesess of<br />

the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory, a collaborative project<br />

between Liverpool John Moores University, University<br />

of Liverpool and Lancaster University supporting<br />

organisations in the city to understand and reduce their<br />

carbon impact. Sustainability can no longer be considered<br />

“a good thing to do, it should just be the thing to do…<br />

we have to stop putting these things on a pedestal –<br />

it’s just how it should be”, says Edesess. This kind of<br />

comprehensive change is multifaceted and complex<br />

and all encompassing. And that is the point. It requires<br />

recognising the environment as implicated within, and<br />

affected by, everything the cultural sector does and does<br />

not do. However, this awareness of the climate crisis often<br />

fails to translate into tangible action, remaining stunted in<br />

distant hopes or theoretical commitments. For Edesess,<br />

action on climate change can no longer be perceived as<br />

aspirational. “I think we’re kind of past that,” she admits,<br />

“it’s going to take everyone putting their foot down and<br />

saying, ‘Nope, this is how it is’.”<br />

Undoubtedly, there are limits to the changes<br />

underfunded and under-resourced cultural organisations<br />

are able to make. As Sean Durney, PHD researcher<br />

for the Zero Carbon Research Institute and overseeing<br />

member for Shift, notes: “There are lots of things that are<br />

beyond the scope of the cultural sector, located within<br />

policy frameworks for things like planning and building<br />

regulation.” However, in recent years, there has been an<br />

awakening to the severity of the climate crisis and the<br />

international consensus is changing towards immediate<br />

action. “These things will change whether we like it or not,<br />

but I think the arts sector is ideally placed to smooth that<br />

journey and make it go quicker and better.”<br />

Through introducing small sustainable changes, the<br />

arts and culture can challenge audiences to reflect on their<br />

own lives and practices, creating the new perspectives and<br />

expectations that underpin change. For Edesess it’s about<br />

“making it the new norm and culture and art can really<br />

influence what we consider the norm”. Griffin encapsulates<br />

the reality of the climate crisis: “The onus is on everyone<br />

to do their individual part and I don’t think cultural<br />

organisations can use the excuse that no one held their<br />

hand all the way through it.”<br />

Culture is ingrained into Liverpool’s identity,<br />

epitomising the city’s defiance, innovation and resilience.<br />

Culture has a legacy of transformation in Liverpool, a<br />

proven ability to lead in action<br />

and narrative. It is ideally placed<br />

to lead the city’s response to the<br />

climate crisis. Nathalie Candel<br />

encapsulates this natural role for<br />

culture in the city: “Throughout<br />

history, Liverpool has been so<br />

important for culture, if there’s<br />

something that we’re good at –<br />

it’s culture. So, it makes sense<br />

that our culture sector is pointing<br />

attention towards sustainability<br />

as well.”<br />

In 2020, Liverpool was<br />

chosen to host a Massive Attack<br />

“super-low carbon” gig as part<br />

the band’s project with the<br />

Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, experimenting<br />

with renewable power sources and alternative sustainable<br />

transport options for audiences.<br />

The collaborative project with Culture Liverpool and<br />

various city authorities is testament to the city’s history<br />

of cultural innovation, experimentation and pioneering<br />

potential. Although postponed due to lockdown, there is<br />

hope that the sustainable ambitions of the event will filter<br />

down through the city’s cultural sector, provoking cultural<br />

organisations to create and depict imagined futures.<br />

There are similar strides being made across the Mersey.<br />

Future Yard’s name defines their existence in the realm<br />

of the potential, the prophetic. The Birkenhead venue is<br />

committed to a long-term goal of becoming the UK’s first<br />

carbon-neutral grassroots music venue, addressing its<br />

energy consumption, building design and venue operation.<br />

“We all have a responsibility to the environment,” Future<br />

Yard’s director Craig Pennington asserts in the venue’s<br />

eco-manifesto, and he wants to “create a place that has<br />

a net positive environmental impact… not one that adds<br />

to the problem”. It’s an ambitious vision, but as Dr Ariel<br />

Edesess indicates, by setting a standard of zero-carbon in<br />

music and culture “Future Yard is changing the standards<br />

and leading the way as we all navigate this new normal”.<br />

This encapsulates culture’s distinct role, ideally placed<br />

to embrace the creative challenge of reimagining a more<br />

sustainable world and leading Liverpool’s transition to a<br />

greener future.<br />



“To really get<br />

[sustainability] inbuilt<br />

into the way we<br />

live, it’s down to the<br />

people who are much<br />

better at influencing<br />

populations”<br />

Culture’s role extends beyond internal change,<br />

surpassing the technical and the measurable into the<br />

abstract and the emotional. Liverpool’s Year One Climate<br />

Action Plan states that avoiding the climate crisis<br />

depends on “individual people making choices in their<br />

life and work”. However, there is a powerlessness that<br />

pervades climate change action, a resigned futility in the<br />

face of intricate statistics and prophetic warnings. “It’s<br />

hard to care when it’s not personal,” Edesess admits.<br />

But culture is intensely personal. Cultural organisations<br />

inhabit a privileged position with direct and intimate<br />

access to individuals, capable of educating, inspiring and<br />

challenging audiences. “Culture affects everything,” Sean<br />

Durney explains, “the way you dress, what you listen to,<br />

what you look at, visual aesthetics. [Cultural organisations]<br />

are already so embedded into our daily lives, whether<br />

we’re aware of it or not, and that’s where their influence<br />

can be really strong.”<br />

Durney highlights Toxteth local Squash as a “shining<br />

example” of cultural organisations’ potential to promote<br />

and normalise sustainable behaviours. The creative<br />

community organisation embraces an arts, food and<br />

environmental focus, educating and inspiring the local<br />

community through local food growing projects and art<br />

celebrating the seasons. “It’s an environmental message,<br />

but it’s not a depressing one,” Durney indicates. “It’s<br />

embedded in their programme, and it’s embedded in their<br />

building [which is] very ecologically friendly.”<br />

Squash epitomises how cultural organisations can<br />

transform sustainability into something accessible,<br />

inclusive and engaging, localising action and integrating<br />

it into people’s everyday lives. As Dr Ariel Edesess<br />

summarises: “At this point, we know the science. The<br />

science is proven over and over and over again, but to<br />

really get it inbuilt into the way we live, it’s down to the<br />

people who are much better at influencing populations.” In<br />

short: culture.<br />

I try to imagine this level of cultural change. It feels<br />

impossible. How do you shift an entire population’s<br />

behaviour? How do you force<br />

people to care about an invisible<br />

and amorphous threat? And then<br />

I think about the past year. The<br />

pandemic has altered the realm<br />

of possibility, demonstrating our<br />

capacity for transformation. The<br />

mass messaging that adorned<br />

the walls of railway stations and<br />

office blocks, that flickered on TV<br />

screens and billboards, filtered<br />

through cultural organisations<br />

and their messaging: stay safe,<br />

socially distance, wear a mask.<br />

What would happen if this<br />

same messaging were directed<br />

towards sustainability? “If you’d<br />

said a year ago, ‘This will be our life’, it would have felt<br />

completely overwhelming, but bit by bit we just adapted<br />

and got along with it,” Edesess reflects. What would<br />

happen if this same level of messaging were directed<br />

towards sustainability? If we began to perceive the climate<br />

crisis as personal, as immediate? Culture can contribute to<br />

this transmission of green thinking, making sustainability<br />

as defining as any lockdown measure.<br />

The future does not exist to race towards, we create<br />

it in the racing. Now, and now, and now. In every action<br />

and inaction. Sustainability isn’t about avoiding dystopian<br />

images of the future; it’s about creating a more just and<br />

sustainable present which continues with us. Sometimes,<br />

on better days, I dream of greenery, an abundant verdancy<br />

woven through city streets. I dream of flowers and birds<br />

infiltrating grey facades. I dream of a tide that powers<br />

music and wind that turns up the volume. I dream of a<br />

culture that promotes, celebrates and reflects sustainability.<br />

I dream of a different world, our world, just shifted. !<br />

Words: El Gray / @just__el<br />

Illustration: Mark McKellier / @mckellier<br />

For more information on the work of Shift and the role of<br />

culture in promoting sustainability, follow the link below.<br />

shiftliverpool.com<br />




After 15 years at the helm of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko is<br />

stepping down as Chief Conductor to (literally) take up the baton at the Royal Philharmonic<br />

Orchestra. Ahead of his final concerts, Stuart Miles O’Hara speaks to the Saint Petersburg<br />

native who transformed Merseyside’s oldest musical institution.<br />

I<br />

don’t know if you’ve read <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>!, but we’re<br />

mainly a pop magazine, and some readers might<br />

wonder what exactly a conductor does. So, in your<br />

own words, what is the job?<br />

Most people think it is kind of a ballet. The thing to<br />

understand is that it’s the conductor’s movements<br />

first, then the sound. You create the sound by your<br />

movements. What you see in the concert is the tip of the<br />

iceberg. Pop groups prepare an album for months, they<br />

create the songs, decide how to play them, rehearse,<br />

record it, then go on tour. But for a classical orchestra<br />

it’s the same story in three days. This is only possible<br />

with a conductor, who defines the pace and emotional<br />

content. In pop music this is defined by the three, maybe<br />

five members of the group. In an orchestra we’re talking<br />

80-100. Every one of them has their own opinion about<br />

how to play the music and what it’s about: is it sad, or<br />

funny, or tragic?<br />

And thirdly, it’s mental training and motivation. Most<br />

pop groups don’t survive over 10 years. It’s normal,<br />

people get sick of each other, being so close for so<br />

long, however talented they are. More talented is more<br />

difficult, because they have stronger individuality! In an<br />

orchestra, players perform with<br />

each other for 20, sometimes<br />

30 years. To keep those people<br />

having a certain degree of joy<br />

in coming to work is also a job<br />

for the conductor.<br />

It’s multifaceted, a lot<br />

of musical and social skills,<br />

and a lot is just knowledge<br />

about every piece. When you<br />

just listen to the music you<br />

don’t quite understand the<br />

depth of it. This week we’re<br />

performing Vaughan Williams’<br />

5th Symphony. I read about it;<br />

it was written in 1943, quite<br />

a bleak year, in London, but he started the sketches<br />

in 1938 when he met his second wife. And also, you<br />

have to know what the 4th Symphony is like, so entirely<br />

different from the 5th. It’s a never-ending education for a<br />

conductor. I did this symphony a month ago in Oslo, but<br />

already I think a little bit differently about it, because I’ve<br />

learned something, not just with the piece but from life<br />

experience.<br />

You started as Chief Conductor with the Royal<br />

Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) in 2006, but<br />

you had guest conducted the orchestra before, right?<br />

Yeah, in December 2004.<br />

You were the orchestra’s youngest ever conductor at<br />

the time, aged just 28. Can you remember your first<br />

impressions of the city?<br />

Of course! It was one of my first times in the UK. I<br />

didn’t know British mentality and culture yet. It was<br />

a hotel designed for football fans with rooms where<br />

you need to sit on the bed to open the cupboard, the<br />

window looks onto the traffic lights, the breakfasts have<br />

something you’ve no idea what it’s cooked from, and<br />

it’s noisy because the fans are drinking in their rooms.<br />

“It’s actually the<br />

orchestra, the<br />

management, the<br />

organisation who are<br />

the main heroes. I’m<br />

just helping them”<br />

By then I knew about the existence of the orchestra, but<br />

not the history. It was late notice and low budget for<br />

that concert. So I came with wide open eyes. The first<br />

rehearsal was actually in Bootle.<br />

Really?!<br />

I arrived at Bootle Town Hall, a beautiful building but<br />

a very booming, reverberant one, not one designed<br />

for orchestras. It had refurbishment outside, so you<br />

constantly had hammers knocking on the walls. I was<br />

naïve, trying to argue with Scouse workers. I couldn’t<br />

understand the answers, but I didn’t stop. For the first<br />

day that was my impression: ‘Where am I? What is this?’<br />

I felt potential in the orchestra from the beginning,<br />

and there were a lot of young forces who wanted to<br />

progress, that’s probably one of the most important<br />

things. They wanted to discover, to improve, and<br />

there was Capital of Culture coming up in 2008. This<br />

combination of factors is how the story started.<br />

You mentioned you’ve just been with the Oslo<br />

Philharmonic (Petrenko was also their Chief Conductor<br />

from 2013 to 2020) and you’ve led the National Youth<br />

Orchestra of Great Britain, so<br />

you have a busy international<br />

schedule. But when you have<br />

free time on Merseyside, what<br />

do you do for yourself, apart<br />

from classical music?<br />

The Tate and the Williamson<br />

Art Gallery, which is close to<br />

my house in Wirral. One of the<br />

positive effects of Covid (very<br />

few of them!), for the first time<br />

in years I was able to go fishing<br />

in the docks! Usually I’m so<br />

busy. I also play football with<br />

the orchestra, just five-a-side,<br />

more for health than anything.<br />

The schedule is: midday football, three o’clock rehearsal,<br />

7.30 concert.<br />

If you were to reflect on your tenure at the RLPO, what<br />

would be a standout concert?<br />

I treat each concert as standout. Each one is the only<br />

one. But what’s memorable is the opening of the [then-<br />

Echo] Arena in 2008. The orchestra was on scaffolding<br />

and I was in a scissor lift going up and down six metres<br />

above the stage. If I remember right, we had 22 different<br />

pop groups. To coordinate all that was very difficult!<br />

Another was Mahler’s 8th Symphony in the Anglican<br />

Cathedral in 2011. You hear it twice in there at the same<br />

time [because of the echo], but the choir alone was<br />

about 450, so that was a really spectacular thing. But<br />

there were also concerts with [pianist] Simon Trpčeski<br />

in St George’s Hall. The first time we were abroad in<br />

Japan, the first Proms here in London, that was quite<br />

memorable for everyone. I still think probably the best<br />

are ahead.<br />

Are there any pieces you’ve never conducted with the<br />

RLPO that you wish you had?<br />

The pool of music is endless. We’re so lucky that<br />


300 to 400 years before us great geniuses wrote so<br />

much. There are Russian composers who I still haven’t<br />

introduced to Liverpool. Myaskovsky, who I think is due<br />

better recognition, and there’s more of Vaughan Williams<br />

to do. We haven’t performed enough Wagner. I’ve done<br />

a few Bruckner symphonies, and I would like to do more.<br />

The thing is, both of those composers have very special<br />

audiences. We found that it sold well – actually better<br />

than the marketing department expected – but they<br />

rarely come to other concerts. There’s so many. We have<br />

plans.<br />

What about the new guy taking over as Chief<br />

Conductor at RLPO, Domingo Hindoyan, have you met<br />

him yet?<br />

We’ve met, but we haven’t talked about the job. I think<br />

it’s important to talk to the next Chief Conductor and<br />

share your view on the orchestra. He’ll have his own,<br />

but I think experience is important for everyone. He’s<br />

41, relatively young for a conductor, so all the cards are<br />

in his hands. He has a lot of enthusiasm from that great<br />

Venezuelan school.<br />

How does it feel to begin performing with an audience<br />

again, in Liverpool and London?<br />

This is the first time the RPO have seen the public for a<br />

year! We’ll play socially distanced, 1.5 metres between<br />

chairs, and only the wind players are allowed to take<br />

their masks off, the rest must wear them all the way<br />

through. But that’s life at the moment. When you look<br />

into pubs at people standing shoulder to shoulder,<br />

you think, ‘Really?’ You need to keep distance onstage<br />

between orchestral musicians who are tested prior to<br />

every project? It really is a time of double standards.<br />

Petrenko isn’t leaving the Phil entirely, though. In<br />

recognition of his being one of the longest-serving<br />

directors in their 180-year history, they’ve made him<br />

Conductor Laureate. Despite being one of the most<br />

in-demand conductors around, and with half his career<br />

still ahead of him (he’s only 44), he’s pretty modest<br />

about his achievements for someone who stands in<br />

front of 80 virtuoso musicians every night without<br />

playing a note.<br />

It’s not goodbye, it’s not farewell. I’ll still perform in<br />

Liverpool, just less frequently. It’s always my love and my<br />

pleasure. I always say: the RLPO existed well before my<br />

birth and will exist after my death. I’m very honoured to<br />

be part of its history, but it’s actually the orchestra, the<br />

management, the organisation who are the main heroes.<br />

I’m just helping them. !<br />

Interview: Stuart Miles O’Hara / @ohasm1<br />

Photography: Mark McNulty<br />

Vasily Petrenko’s final concerts as Chief Conductor at<br />

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra take place on 9th<br />

and 10th July.<br />

liverpoolphil.com/whats-on<br />



Following the release of his novel, The Outsiders, journalist and author James Corbett<br />

considers the sense of place among Liverpool’s patchwork social landscape.<br />

When I was writing my novel, The<br />

Outsiders, I wanted Liverpool – my home<br />

city – to not just form the backdrop to<br />

what is ultimately a love story, but to exist<br />

as a multi-textured canvas in which I could capture all of<br />

the city’s brilliance and contradictions.<br />

Liverpool’s complex modern history – race riots, mass<br />

unemployment and poverty, misconceptions bred from<br />

tragedies and its 21st-Century reinvention as a worldclass<br />

destination – forms a significant part of the book.<br />

However, an idea that also develops throughout The<br />

Outsiders is of Liverpool as a city of villages and tribes.<br />

Growing up in the north of the city in the 1980s<br />

and 1990s, there was little sense of Liverpool’s diversity<br />

and cosmopolitanism. There were two black kids in<br />

our comprehensive school of 900 and, although there<br />

was no sectarianism, the tiny number of Protestants<br />

represented the extent of Crosby’s ‘exoticism’. We were<br />

blind to Europe’s oldest Chinese community, or the West<br />

African, Caribbean and Jewish communities that add to<br />

Liverpool’s patchwork.<br />

I’ll always remember our priest telling a story of<br />

how he learned about the Toxteth riots. Returning from<br />

a golfing weekend there were a number of concerned<br />

26<br />

messages asking about his wellbeing from parishioners<br />

near and far, including a telegram from a missionary in a<br />

West African war zone. It was only when he turned on<br />

the BBC that he became aware of what had happened;<br />

Toxteth to him might have been as remote as Congo or<br />

Angola.<br />

This sense that if you live in one part of the city or<br />

one community, you may not have much interaction<br />

with those from another is a theme that I explored when<br />

writing The Outsiders. When the protagonists encounter<br />

the Toxteth riots, they do so from the perspectives of<br />

slightly wide-eyed teenagers from Grassendale and<br />

an unnamed north Liverpool suburb (it’s an amalgam<br />

of Crosby, Formby and Hightown) and can’t believe<br />

what they’re seeing. This is not so much because of the<br />

violence, but their white privilege is coming face to face<br />

with a particular kind of black poverty that they didn’t<br />

know existed.<br />

I write about the whole notion of intra-city apartheid,<br />

where some consider themselves ‘more Scouse’ because<br />

of their neighbourhood. It’s something I joke about<br />

with friends from different parts of the city even now:<br />

one claims you’re not a proper Scouser unless you<br />

have a purple bin; another, a Bluecoat old boy from<br />

the southside, we mercilessly deride as ‘Lord Snooty’;<br />

Wirralites are alternately dismissed as ‘Tunnel Rats’,<br />

‘Wools’, or ‘Hyacinths’ (after its most famous daughter,<br />

Patricia Routledge – AKA Hyacinth Bucket).<br />

I say it’s a joke, but it’s serious too and the novel is full<br />

of these interactions, where one person’s notion of what<br />

it is to be from Liverpool is constantly challenged. That’s<br />

why I called it The Outsiders, because no one is really<br />

sure what it is to come from Liverpool and as such they<br />

always feel like they’re on the outside.<br />

For those of us who left for London in the 80s<br />

and 90s seeking work or education opportunities that<br />

Liverpool could not provide us at that time, there was<br />

no Scouse mafia, no hangouts where we could meet<br />

with other exiles and mourn the old country; little of<br />

the support network other regional or ethnic groups<br />

developed. It was the opposite of the Irish expat<br />

experience – my wife is from Ireland and I always found<br />

it slightly incomprehensible that the first thing an Irish<br />

person would do upon landing in a new city, was to find<br />

an Irish pub or Irish Centre where they could surround<br />

themselves with those that they’d left behind.<br />

By contrast, to catch an ex-pat Scouser unawares in<br />

London could be to invite suspicion or at least a certain


An extract from James Corbett’s debut novel.<br />

You didn’t become a Liverpudlian simply by living there. You could be from the city, but not of it; call it<br />

home, but never really belong. Other cities chewed you up then spat you out, but Liverpool was different:<br />

it would turn up its nose and shrug you off with an ambivalence so damning that made it feel as though<br />

you had never even fallen under its contemptuous glare. Everybody spoke of the sense of community, but<br />

once away from the vicinity of family, friends and neighbours, and out into the wider city, you were nobody.<br />

Because of the intra-city apartheid that seemed to rear its head in every loose encounter – the whole I’m<br />

more local than you swagger – everybody was, in their way, an outsider.<br />

These things kept coming back to Paul as he made the journey from the suburban outlands and into<br />

the heart of the city where he was meeting his friends for a night out. In a vapid summer, the chance to see<br />

Echo & The Bunnymen at the university was one of the few fixtures in Paul’s calendar.<br />

It was early evening and men in suits were disembarking from the Southport train to go home to their<br />

wives and children, their squares of garden and the last of the day’s sun. Liverpool had broiled again under<br />

clear skies and a high sun. Beyond the city the expanse of the Irish sea lay flat, brown and benevolent, the<br />

coastal breeze which usually cooled it on such days conspicuous by its very absence. The air was still and<br />

dense.<br />

Liverpool also sweated under the gaze of a hundred television cameras as a media frenzy descended<br />

upon the city. Liverpool 8, the inner-city district that incorporated Toxteth, had exploded into violence after<br />

local residents took an aggressive stand against police brutality. Overnight it became a latter-day Saigon<br />

as journalists filled its streets and ran with the rioters. Buildings burned, vehicles were overturned and set<br />

alight, while youths hacked away at the wreckage, creating a makeshift arsenal of bricks and masonry.<br />

Social commentators lined up to condemn the moral degradation that bred the violence, while police<br />

deflected accusations of brutality by inviting camera crews into local hospitals, where entire wards were<br />

handed over to bruised bobbies. One man was dead, hundreds of others injured. Bishops appealed for<br />

calm; community leaders claimed the battles were over.<br />

For the rest of the city, however, life carried on as normal. People went to work, women shopped, and<br />

children played. Concerned relatives telephoned from afar to check up on family, but in a city of suburbs for<br />

most people Toxteth’s riots were a TV phenomenon: remote, somewhere else.<br />

With his parents, Paul watched the previous evening’s Nine O’Clock News with a rising sense of<br />

bewilderment as the sombre voice of Richard Whitmore spoke over footage of burning buildings: ‘Liverpool<br />

burns as its inner cities rampage.’ As the picture cut to a line of policemen forming across the top of a<br />

Victorian street, Paul’s father leant over and turned up the volume. The police held plastic riot shields in<br />

one hand, while in the other metal batons glistened menacingly. ‘150 injured as police battle rioters,’ said<br />

Whitmore and the picture cut to Margaret Thatcher climbing from a ministerial Jaguar and up the steps of<br />

10 Downing Street. ‘The Prime Minister convenes an emergency meeting of the cabinet as tensions rise<br />

and police anticipate more trouble this evening.’<br />

“On the rampage because one of their lot got pulled over by the police.” Paul’s father pronounced.<br />

Paul winced at his father’s easy distillation of the report. His mother walked urgently towards the<br />

netted curtains and looked out anxiously onto their darkened cul-de-sac. There was a sudden nervousness<br />

about her, as if a mob might also come rampaging down their little street several miles away.<br />

But the riots, although just eight miles away, may as well have existed on another planet.<br />

The Outsiders is available now via Lightning Books.<br />

coolness, particularly when you weren’t bound by a<br />

shared footballing affinity. I’m not sure why this was<br />

or if it’s still completely true today. For some, I’m sure,<br />

there was a certain stigma, a shame that came from<br />

leaving certain parts of the inner or outer city that said,<br />

‘I escaped, I made good, that’s part of my past, I don’t<br />

need you to remind me’. For others, I found, the ones<br />

who stake great emphasis on their origins, who play<br />

on the unruliness and misconceptions of the city – ‘I’m<br />

a bit dangerous, a bit of a lad, a bit of a wag’ – semiprofessional<br />

Scousers, for want of a better description,<br />

they might not want to be found out. If their naive<br />

southern audience knew what Mossley Hill or Childwall<br />

or Formby was really like, the act would have been killed.<br />

And so a guard inevitably went up. You might let on<br />

that you’re of the same city, but it would be the bear in<br />

the room, something not really up for discussion – at least<br />

at first. You didn’t talk about ‘going home’ in the way that<br />

Irish people perennially did. In my book, there is a scene<br />

where the great Liverpudlian novelist Beryl Bainbridge<br />

comes face to face with Paul, the book’s protagonist and<br />

a well-known journalist.<br />

“‘I know who you are,’ Bainbridge said to Paul<br />

without greeting. ‘You’re like me: you escaped Liverpool.’<br />

Although they spent the next hour in each other’s<br />

company, she never alluded to his work or their shared<br />

home again.”<br />

This was entirely my experience during 14 years<br />

of living in the capital, and I think, looking back, it<br />

ultimately came down to coming from this city of villages.<br />

The Liverpool experience is so unique, so varied, and<br />

notions of what it is to be a Liverpudlian so lacking in<br />

definition that we put up a shield so as not to have others<br />

challenging conceptions of who we were.<br />

I left Liverpool in 1998, but the city has never left<br />

me. Until the pandemic<br />

I was there all the time,<br />

spending hundreds of hours<br />

and thousands of pounds<br />

every year on Virgin Trains,<br />

Ryanair flights and P&O<br />

ferries. I maintained my<br />

Everton season ticket and<br />

even bought one for my son<br />

– the sixth generation of my<br />

family to hold one – despite<br />

living in a different country.<br />

I set up a business in the<br />

city [deCoubertin Books], at<br />

once an act of insanity that<br />

for a long time cost me my<br />

health and colossal sums of<br />

money, but a symbolic gesture too; a show of faith that a<br />

creative business could thrive beyond the London bubble.<br />

Many of my friends and most of my blood relations live<br />

there, and the ones that left have either returned or plan<br />

to do so.<br />

And yet I probably never will. There are ultimately<br />

“No one is really sure<br />

what it is to come<br />

from Liverpool and<br />

as such they always<br />

feel like they’re<br />

on the outside”<br />

professional and family reasons underlying this and I have<br />

a nice life away from the city, away from England. But I’m<br />

lucky too in the sense that I have enough good reasons to<br />

return often and throw myself headlong into the Liverpool<br />

experience, drinking and chatting and yarning my way<br />

around the city for a few days; a highlights package<br />

of all its best bits, before<br />

heading off home and quiet.<br />

This means I’m largely<br />

immune to Liverpool’s<br />

less appealing facets –<br />

London Road bagheads<br />

and quadbike ninjas; Dock<br />

Road traffic jams and<br />

inner city blight; gobby<br />

pensioners and moody<br />

waitresses; upwardly mobile<br />

gangsters encroaching upon<br />

the suburbs and gangs<br />

terrorising other parts of<br />

the city.<br />

If that’s a sanitised and<br />

sentimentalised version of<br />

Liverpool, then so be it. But you could live in the city of<br />

villages all your life and there’s a chance that you may<br />

never really know it at all. !<br />

Words: James Corbett / @james_corbett<br />

Photography: Ant Clausen / antclausen.com<br />



HEADS UP<br />

The story of Liverpool Football Therapy is one forged in collective vulnerability, courage,<br />

and acceptance. As the team continue to triumph on and off the pitch, Matthew Berks<br />

explores the work behind the organisation saving lives through early intervention.<br />

Contains references to suicide and depression.<br />

When Liverpool Football Therapy lifted<br />

the inaugural Mental Health Football<br />

Association tournament cup on 22nd<br />

May, it was difficult not to witness more<br />

than just a modest piece of silverware being lifted into<br />

the sky. Despite coasting through an unbeaten run to<br />

beat Man Marking in the final, the trophy lift was as much<br />

a celebration of the journey many had been on up to<br />

that day as it was recognition of one team’s exceptional<br />

form. As the club were crowned champions, there was a<br />

similar sense of pride and victory for the other 14 clubs<br />

hailing from across the UK who competed as one to<br />

kick the stigma surrounding mental health. Nowhere on<br />

Merseyside had ‘This Means More’ rang truer than right<br />

here on a community pitch in Huyton.<br />

Two days before kick-off at City of Liverpool FC’s<br />

Purple Hub, Colin Dolan reported the 100th sign-up<br />

to Liverpool Football Therapy – a Community Interest<br />

Company (CIC) that uses football to improve the physical,<br />

mental and social wellbeing of adults with mental ill<br />

health. It’s a milestone that speaks to the popularity of<br />

the initiative as much as the severity of a mental health<br />

crisis that sprung it into existence. Up until the country’s<br />

first lockdown, Colin was managing approximately 40<br />

participants in one session. He now runs three two-hour<br />

sessions every week for players ranging from 18 years<br />

old to 60, and plans to expand the programme. “These<br />

are all people who regularly use the services,” he tells me<br />

over a decaffeinated latte wearing his coaching attire,<br />

with initials CD stitched into the jacket’s chest. “That<br />

number is only going to grow.”<br />

In assembling 15 football clubs and 160 players from<br />

Birkenhead to Greenock in Scotland, the first Mental<br />

Health FA tournament appraised the role of football<br />

as a tool for mental health recovery. One of the clubs<br />

competing, the All Stars, boasted a star-studded line-up<br />

including Ian Byrne MP, The Farm’s Peter Hooton and<br />

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram, who,<br />

speaking in front of the Fans Supporting Foodbanks<br />

van, saw the day as an opportunity to raise the platform<br />

of football therapy. “Kicking a football around a pitch<br />

is one of my favourite pastimes, so I’m combining the<br />

two – doing some good but probably making myself<br />

feel better in the process. Hopefully people are much<br />

more aware now that far too many young men take their<br />

lives. We need to talk about things like mental ill health.”<br />

Paul Manning, chairman of tournament hosts City of<br />

Liverpool FC, reinforced the mayor’s views. “A lot of it<br />

has to do with self-esteem. It’s a team game, you feel<br />

part of something instantly,” he said. “Football can mean<br />

anything to anyone, you can go on a pitch and be anyone<br />


you want to be. It’s the whole gamut of human emotions.<br />

Football is life.”<br />

On occasions when football shares conversations<br />

with mental health – of having the power to transform<br />

and improve our lives – it’s often met with surprise from<br />

some who see the sport as little<br />

more than light entertainment.<br />

In this reality, football’s<br />

parameters are contained within<br />

a set of goals and 90 minutes of<br />

playing time; it’s a game of zerosum<br />

absolutes, with two teams<br />

competing until the spectacle<br />

ends, seeing players and fans<br />

return home to more ordinary<br />

lives.<br />

Like any one of the other<br />

mental health teams at the<br />

tournament that day, Liverpool<br />

Football Therapy doesn’t begin<br />

and end with the blow of a<br />

whistle. Its work isn’t confined<br />

to a pitch for 90 minutes. Its<br />

players don’t suddenly return to a different life when<br />

the spectacle is over. It’s a project that, since beginning<br />

formally in 2019, has continued to provide a platform for<br />

adults affected by mental ill health, with the squad acting<br />

as an immediate peer support network on and off the<br />

pitch.<br />

Colin Dolan, the programme’s founder and chief<br />

executive of Mental Health FA, began to write the first<br />

chapters of Liverpool Football Therapy following his own<br />

continued experiences with mental ill health, including<br />

bipolar disorder. “I’ve suffered from mental ill health since<br />

my early 20s and have been depressed for a number of<br />

years, on and off. I have had lots of periods with suicidal<br />

thoughts and, sadly, I’ve succumbed to those thoughts on<br />

a few occasions by trying to take my life five times.”<br />

Colin’s adolescence in Glasgow’s East End strikes at<br />

the heart of the stigma surrounding mental health: the<br />

perceived shame that prohibits the ability to seek help,<br />

“Where you’re<br />

supportive of each<br />

other on the pitch,<br />

you’re supportive<br />

off the pitch.”<br />

particularly in more masculine environments. “It was very<br />

much a macho environment where showing weakness<br />

was just not an option – you were bullied and abused. I<br />

certainly didn’t want to tell people how bad I was. I put<br />

[my first suicide attempt] down to just a silly mistake<br />

and no one in my family ever<br />

spoke about it. I was very much<br />

embarrassed and always hoped<br />

that no one would find out.”<br />

Finally diagnosed with bipolar<br />

in 1997, Colin had spent years<br />

unable to acknowledge and find<br />

recourse for his condition. “I had<br />

gone all those years without<br />

seeing doctors and psychiatrists.<br />

I thought I knew better than<br />

them, like most of us do at<br />

times.”<br />

Following a move to<br />

Liverpool in 1995 that was<br />

decided by the flip of a coin,<br />

Colin continued to experience<br />

mental ill health right up to 2012<br />

when he was voluntarily hospitalised for his own welfare.<br />

“When I came out of hospital, I went into a friend’s<br />

house in Toxteth while I waited for a house with my wife,<br />

Michelle. For about six months I was in my bedroom not<br />

wanting to come out, just getting lost.” It was here when<br />

Michelle signposted Colin to Imagine Your Goals, a mental<br />

health football programme run in partnership between<br />

Everton in The Community (EITC) and Mersey Care.<br />

“These are all people who are diagnosed and under<br />

mental health services. It can be a long drawn out<br />

process to get on board, but I went through it. Not only<br />

did EITC change my life, they saved my life and helped<br />

me become the person that I’d always hoped to be.” Colin<br />

saw in football-led therapy a way to combine the benefits<br />

of exercise with the peer support each session would<br />

naturally provide. “Football has always been my escape<br />

from everything in life. But the Everton [programme]<br />

just seemed that bit more special compared to any<br />

football club or organisation I’d ever been to, because<br />

I was surrounded by so many people who were also<br />

on their journeys through mental ill health.” The course<br />

of Liverpool Football Therapy was set. “That’s what I<br />

decided to do – dedicate my life to helping other people,<br />

and that’s never going to change.”<br />

Those who have had to navigate the complex<br />

world of mental health services will be familiar with the<br />

numerous barriers and bureaucratic hurdles required to<br />

access appropriate treatment. Owing to lengthy referral<br />

processes – together with the stigma around help – Colin<br />

knew there existed a number of adults who were slipping<br />

through the net. “[Getting referred] can take a long, long<br />

time, through no fault of Mersey Care or EITC – sadly<br />

neither have enough funding to push the process through<br />

quicker. So, I saw there were people who wouldn’t go<br />

to the doctors, or people who would go but wouldn’t go<br />

and see a psychiatrist. Some might see a psychiatrist<br />

but won’t take medication – they won’t go on the books<br />

of Mersey Care because they don’t want to be seen as a<br />

regular, so we have all these barriers.”<br />

When Colin began the sessions for Liverpool Football<br />

Therapy in 2019, they were founded on the principle that<br />

early intervention can buy time. As such, he maintains<br />

a no-referral joining process to ensure the programme<br />

remains accessible to all, diagnosed or undiagnosed.<br />

“Early intervention saves lives. Someone with stress or<br />

a mild form of depression may never experience suicidal<br />

thoughts – but they could, and if we can nip it in the<br />

bud then there’s at least a better chance that it’ll never<br />

happen at all.”<br />

For many of the players, the programme brings<br />

purpose, responsibility and focus back into their lives.<br />

Luke McNulty joined Liverpool Football Therapy in<br />

the Summer of 2019 and lives with ADHD. “Liverpool<br />

Football Therapy has been the best thing on the planet<br />

for me. At the time I joined, I was going through a really<br />

dark patch and wanted to commit suicide every day of<br />

my life. I had no real motivation to get out of bed, so this<br />

has been an outlet for me.” Enjoying the opportunity to<br />

socialise with peers living with mental ill health, Luke<br />

James’ Place<br />



Colin Dolan<br />

Luke McNulty<br />

also acknowledges the unique space that the programme<br />

offers for opening up. “In the real world, there’s a stigma<br />

around mental health. Someone could ask you how you’re<br />

feeling and the answer you give might not be the answer<br />

you want them to hear. But in this sort of environment,<br />

you kind of know what everyone’s going through, so it’s a<br />

little bit easier to have those conversations.”<br />

Such is the programme’s close-knit environment<br />

that players are more like family than teammates, all<br />

at varying stages of recovery. Ryan Spencer has been<br />

a player for over two years and was parachuted in as<br />

captain at the tournament following his teammate’s<br />

injury. “The opportunities I’ve had off Colin have been<br />

unbelievable. I’ve met so many new friends on it, so many<br />

good people. The majority of players are friends for life<br />

now – we’re like a family. People on the programme have<br />

all got different mental health issues, but we all stick<br />

together when one of us is down, and I think that’s the<br />

biggest part of it. Not the football side – I think because<br />

we’re like a pack.”<br />

As head patron of the team, Colin has witnessed the<br />

familial bonds take flight beyond the pitch. “We reach<br />

out for each other all the time. You sense that feeling of<br />

belonging, of brotherhood and sisterhood. When we’ve<br />

got that bond, you know you can put your arm around<br />

anyone to help them.”<br />

This sense of belonging is just as strong at the<br />

sidelines as it is during a game. Like most clubs, Colin<br />

begins each session by having players stand in a line<br />

30<br />

for team selection before playing commences. “What<br />

happens at the side of the pitch – that’s different,” he<br />

says with a smile, as if letting me in on the programme’s<br />

best kept secret. “That’s when the banter starts, and<br />

that’s when the peer support comes in, because people<br />

will highlight stuff that’s been said in the WhatsApp<br />

group and ask if they need help. Where you’re supportive<br />

of each other on the pitch, you’re very supportive off the<br />

pitch.”<br />

Provisional data from the Office for National Statistics<br />

reveal that in 2020, 4,902 deaths by suicide were<br />

recorded in England, with men accounting for 75 per cent<br />

at 3,674. In many of these cases, access to mental health<br />

support would have arrived too late, if at all. Jane Boland,<br />

centre manager and clinical lead at James’ Place – a<br />

Liverpool-based suicide prevention centre for men named<br />

after a young man who died by suicide – was at the<br />

tournament to cheer on the centre’s debut appearance.<br />

“James went looking for help but the help that he needed<br />

didn’t come. Our mission is to make sure that when men<br />

get to that crisis point, they can access help and that the<br />

help comes quickly.”<br />

Liverpool Football Therapy’s mix of age, gender,<br />

sporting abilities and life experience allows for a much<br />

more diverse environment where support is continually<br />

bounced off one another. “They’re aware that it’s not just<br />

about football,” Jane continues, “it’s about looking after<br />

each other as well. [Support] goes both ways, because<br />

the older fellas are actually in the highest risk group, so I<br />

think perhaps sometimes the older fellas are being taught<br />

by the younger men that it’s alright to talk to each other –<br />

it’s alright to show that you’re a bit vulnerable.”<br />

When Liverpool Football Therapy lifted the Mental<br />

Health Football Association tournament cup on 22nd<br />

May, they were showing not just the strength to confront<br />

mental ill health together, but the strength to show<br />

it’s alright to be vulnerable. As he saw his footballing<br />

family lift the trophy, Colin saw something he’d known<br />

ever since his first therapy session as a player himself<br />

all those years ago: football therapy works. “My players<br />

won’t always need me – they can do it themselves,” he<br />

concludes. “Many of them now have the confidence to<br />

become leaders and go, ‘I’ll come and sit with you’.” !<br />

Words: Matthew Berks / @hewniverse_<br />

Photography: Liam Jones / @mailjones<br />

Liverpool Football Therapy hold sessions every Tuesday<br />

at Evans Road Speke, every Wednesday at Goals Soccer<br />

Centre Netherton, and every Friday at The Purple Hub<br />

Huyton.<br />

The Samaritans (116 123) operate a free 24-hour mental<br />

health listening service available every day of the year.<br />


liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ai<br />

#aimorethanhuman<br />

Exhibition curated and organised by Barbican International<br />

Enterprises. The City of London Corporation is the founder<br />

and principal funder of the Barbican Centre. Co-produced<br />

by Forum Groningen, Netherlands.


“There’s huge<br />

power in having<br />

people focus just<br />

on your words”<br />


A musical polymath handing out generous helpings of knowledge.<br />

STARKEY THE MESSENGER has his fingers in every pie.<br />

He’s written, produced, mixed, and mastered his three<br />

singles to date (Wildfire, Seventh Step, Cocoa Butter),<br />

which are a unique blend of alternative hip-hop, melodic<br />

rap and jazz. The musician’s output aims to reflect current<br />

social and political issues, including police racism and<br />

brutality as well as support of the Black Lives Matter<br />

movement. Starkey manages to address these subject<br />

matters through euphonious and soulful notes paired<br />

with smooth production.<br />

“When I get into writing, I’d say emotions and current<br />

affairs inspire me a lot,” says Starkey. “I would say my<br />

writing is focused on a balance between the two, in the<br />

sense that I express how I personally feel affected by<br />

what’s going on, and then try and contextualise that in<br />

the wider narratives surrounding the issue.”<br />

Starkey has always been obsessed with music, especially<br />

since his family are musicians, meaning music was a<br />

part of his life from an early age. He grew up playing the<br />

piano and reflects that “it was something I really enjoyed<br />

and was a lot better at than other things”. As an early<br />

teenager he got his first guitar and so grew his interest in<br />

creating music.<br />

At first, Starkey set up a covers band with his friends,<br />

but when he was 13 he started writing songs. “I became<br />

obsessed, really, I loved that every time I wrote a new<br />

song it was better than the last, it was almost addictive.”<br />

As Starkey grew, so did his passion for the process of<br />

creating music. At 16 he started producing, which led to<br />

his music taste expanding from indie and rock towards<br />

hip hop, RnB and jazz. It was from that point that Starkey<br />

started writing raps.<br />

“At that time, I was very set on production and never<br />

saw myself making my own tracks,” he admits, “so I<br />

kept putting beats out and producing for my mates, but I<br />

never stopped writing songs.” Through producing music,<br />

Starkey was able to discover a wider range of music as<br />

well as becoming more confident in himself. In 2020 he<br />

recorded his first single Wildfire and shared it out on<br />

his social media platforms. The track narrates the death<br />

and violence caused by racism and police brutality from<br />

the perspective of someone who is grappling with the<br />

idea that they could be the next to be targeted. Starkey’s<br />

newfound confidence shines through as he eloquently<br />

addresses the prevalent discussions of discrimination of<br />

racism across the world.<br />

Spoken word and poetry are key influences that stand<br />

out in Starkey’s songs. He has only recently got into<br />

spoken word but says it “was massive for me creatively”<br />

after discovering Black British poets like George the Poet,<br />

Suli Breaks and Kai Isaiah Jamal. “There’s something<br />

so raw and vulnerable about poetry – without a unique<br />

or catchy flow or cadence to take the focus, without a<br />

song or a beat to hide behind, the emphasis is entirely<br />

on the words.” Starkey has found this way of writing and<br />

performing a powerful tool since there are more freedoms<br />

in communicating exactly what he wants to say. “I think<br />

poetry on its own can easily come across as dry, and<br />

that’s why rap exists in the first place – to communicate<br />

the same ideas more engagingly. But there’s huge power<br />

in having people focus just on your words, and it can<br />

very easily be the spark that develops a good idea into<br />

reaching its full potential.”<br />

Music by other artists also inspire Starkey. “I am quite<br />

competitive, so I always want to make better music than<br />

everyone!” He says that other art helps to show him<br />

different approaches and new ideas that he would not<br />

have thought of. “I’d say other art inspires me most to<br />

pick up the pen, because if someone writes something<br />

that’s really amazing, I’ll be annoyed that I didn’t write it<br />

first or haven’t written something better yet.”<br />

But Starkey’s main influence comes from Kojey Radical a<br />

grime-y hip hop, alternative rap and spoken word artist.<br />

“His album Cashmere Tears influenced me massively<br />

because it’s the first time I’d heard an album that unique,<br />

versatile and ambitious come out of the UK rap scene.<br />

It’s an immaculate project, which packs so much content<br />

into such a small amount of time; stylistically, lyrically and<br />

musically.” Kojey Radical’s innovative style and refusing<br />

to be labelled is shared by Starkey and he is an artist he<br />

wishes to support if the future if he could.<br />

Lockdown has played a huge role in Starkey’s<br />

development. All three of his singles have been released<br />

since the first lockdown period in March 2020. “I wrote<br />

a lot more poetry than music in lockdown, I think just as<br />

therapy. So, it definitely helped me grow my confidence<br />

in that area.” It has also provided him with the chance<br />

to practice playing instruments and finding new music.<br />

“Generally, I think I’ve found that out of lockdown I have<br />

more experiences to draw from and being able to grow<br />

more because of them has helped me process a lot.”<br />

However, that didn’t stop him from counting down the<br />

days until he could return to the studio. “I missed the<br />

studio so much,” says Starkey.<br />

Despite still being in the early stages of his musical<br />

career, Starkey has received recognition from DJ Ace<br />

and his first single was played on BBC Radio 1Xtra.<br />

“I think sometimes it takes that kind of recognition to<br />

reaffirm your belief in your craft and shut up the imposter<br />

syndrome that I think everyone gets when they’re doing<br />

something new.”<br />

Starkey is an exciting, fresh and versatile artist who has<br />

a deep connection with music. “It’s the only thing that<br />

makes sense, in a senseless and confusing society, and it<br />

makes people feel good.” !<br />

Words: Mia O’Hare / @mia_ohare<br />

Photography: Daniel Pattman / @daniel_pattman<br />

Cocoa Butter is out now.<br />

@starkeymusic<br />


“There is no better<br />

way to get someone<br />

to understand our<br />

message than<br />

getting it stuck in<br />

their head with a<br />

catchy melody line”<br />

THE LET GO<br />

Finding their own feet and shaking off the female comparison.<br />

THE LET GO have been gaining a fair bit of attention<br />

from the local scene since 2019 when they released their<br />

catchy rock-pop track Act One. Since then, the indie-pop<br />

duo have continued to cultivate their 80s glam aesthetic<br />

while simultaneously progressing their musical ability.<br />

Relatable lyrics fused with nostalgic 80s synth sounds<br />

are a common theme on their debut EP, Feeling Lonely,<br />

and with each song, it is evident that the pair always<br />

have something to say. “We both very much implement<br />

our own emotions and life experiences through our<br />

music,” Cole Bleu starts. “Writing is something that<br />

allows us to deal with real shit when we can’t seem to<br />

find words to say it. It helps us express ourselves without<br />

having to explain.”<br />

With one of their most popular tracks, WOMAN, being<br />

a female empowering song lyrically, it didn’t come<br />

without its challenges. “Writing WOMAN was honestly<br />

a struggle,” Bleu admits. “At the end of the day we just<br />

want to be artists. We don’t want to be specially treated<br />

or even mistreated because we are women in this<br />

industry,” she continues. “We just want to coexist with<br />

any other artists out there – and that’s why writing this<br />

song was difficult. We tried to be as clear as possible<br />

that we aren’t furthering the divide between men and<br />

women within the industry, just trying to collectively<br />

succeed together.” In an industry dominated by men, the<br />

last few years have seen strides made towards a more<br />

equal gender mix on radio playlists and festival line-ups,<br />

but one area where women are still underrepresented<br />

is where the music is made – the studio. “In a way, the<br />

writing process was the start of us getting over the divide<br />

as it was the first time we began to fiddle with producing.<br />

It definitely initiated our curiosity, despite the field of<br />

music production being predominantly run by men,”<br />

Scout begins. “Writing this song took the fear out of the<br />

process and helped us prove to ourselves that it’s not this<br />

menacing thing, and that we are fully capable of learning<br />

the ins and outs.”<br />

While proving to themselves that they are capable of<br />

doing what men can do in the studio, growing up, The<br />

Let Go found it hard to gather inspiration due to the<br />

lack of women in the industry to look up to. “As females<br />

[growing up in the music scene], I found it quite difficult<br />

to find people to look up to or feel as if I could follow a<br />

similar path,” Bleu opens up. “Being a small kid, most of<br />

the music I would listen to would be classic rock and roll<br />

courtesy of my father. Because of this though, I felt like<br />

there wasn’t many female bands that resonated with me,”<br />

she continued. There are numerous female fronted bands<br />

and artists in the rock and alternative genres (Paramore<br />

and Evanescence are referenced), but Bleu gets ‘pissed<br />

off’ with such comparisons: “There’s many female fronted<br />

bands and artists that are killing it, but for some reason<br />

nothing really clicked with me – and that really pissed me<br />

off. And it didn’t help that when we first started playing<br />

gigs, people would always compare us to Paramore or<br />

Evanescence,” she admits. The other half of the duo<br />

agreed with the lack of female fronted bands to instil<br />

inspiration: “Other than enjoying the way music sounds,<br />

I can’t say much inspired me other than the urge I felt to<br />

prove that girls can play guitar without using capos. In a<br />

way, all live gigs inspire me because of the small number<br />

of females fronting, and especially the severe lack of them<br />

playing instruments.”<br />

Having moved from Washington, DC to Liverpool<br />

and going from strength to strength, the female duo’s<br />

vision to get people moving their feet across the globe<br />

is starting to become a reality. “Every small milestone<br />

we’ve reached since January has stood out for me. We<br />

found a lovely manager and had a lot of support from<br />

Spotify by getting on editorials. These things have never<br />

happened to us before, and it just feels incredible to see<br />

the progress we’ve made in such a short amount of time,”<br />

Bleu adds. “Every day stands out as we continue to reach<br />

more and more people with our art,” Scout continues.<br />

“Nothing is more rewarding than adding to the clique and<br />

relating to people who resonate with us.”<br />

The Let Go’s inquisitive disposition means their love of<br />

music lies in the never-ending pursuit. “Creating music<br />

allows us to make our message more impactful. There<br />

is no better way to get someone to understand our<br />

message than getting it stuck in their head with a catchy<br />

melody line,” Scout tells us.<br />

Bleu reaffirms their ambition to produce music that<br />

people can identify with. “We want to impact this<br />

generation culturally. Music has always been something<br />

we both have latched onto in order to channel emotions<br />

and thoughts. And as we do this, we hope to be blunt<br />

and straightforward so that everyone can find something<br />

to relate to.” !<br />

Words: Shannon Garner / @shannonmayy_<br />

Photography: Frankie Beanie<br />

Feeling Lonely is available now.<br />

@theletgo_<br />




GIG<br />

LOVELY<br />

EGGS<br />

Harvest Sun @ Phase One - 16/07<br />

Six attempts and counting,<br />

THE LOVELY EGGS are heading<br />

to Merseyside, maybe not<br />

this month, but hopefully<br />

next at the latest. At the<br />

time of writing the above<br />

date and venue is pencilled<br />

in, but also at the time of<br />

writing the industry is reeling<br />

from an extension to indoor<br />

restrictions. Watch this space.<br />

After a tumultuous year and a hell of a lot of<br />

time to work on new projects, including the<br />

recently released album I Am Moron, THE<br />

LOVELY EGGS’ next release could be a career<br />

high. A collaboration with punk royalty Iggy Pop, I, Moron<br />

is an auditory accumulation of appreciation and shared<br />

passion.<br />

Following numerous failed attempts to sync our<br />

calendars, I finally managed to catch up with The Lovely<br />

Eggs’ Holly Ross (singer/guitarist) for a quick chat about<br />

such an impressive, career-defining moment. In our busy,<br />

regulation-reduced lives, I still pinch myself at the idea of<br />

a live calendar returning. Thankfully, this band will soon<br />

be back on tour, and any memory of Covid’s impact on<br />

our lives will be where it should be, in the past.<br />

Six attempts at rescheduling later and you’re finally off<br />

on tour.<br />

Yeah! The original tour was for April last year. So, a sixth<br />

time rescheduling, we’re getting a bit sick of it now.<br />

We’ve always got shit to do, but the live gigs are what<br />

really make it real for us. Our fans, playing live to people,<br />

it’s the joy of being in a band like ours. There’s only two<br />

of us. We make a lot of noise, but there is only two of us.<br />

We live together in a shithole town, in the North West of<br />

England, which is a bit like the Twin Peaks of the north.<br />

And it’s mad and magical at the same time. It’s very<br />

mundane, but it’s magical. It’s lovely living here, but it’s<br />

also wonderful to go out and see the wide world and<br />

meet like-minded people and hanging out with people<br />

who like our music. It’s kind of like living on Mars but then<br />

getting on the International Space Station and meeting<br />

loads of really cool people and then getting off for a bit.<br />

We’re really missing that at the moment, I can’t lie about<br />

that. If we can get back out on tour and just see our<br />

people again, that would be cool.<br />

But, while you’re missing that, you’ve been doing some<br />

amazing things in the meantime.<br />

Well, we’ve done a single with Iggy Pop, which is pretty<br />

amazing for our band. Doing something with a giant like<br />

Iggy Pop is pretty mind blowing. The single – a 7” – sold<br />

out within hours of going on sale, so we’ve just been<br />

busy packaging stuff up and getting everything ready for<br />

it. Sitting at home and doing a bit of rehearsing, hoping<br />

that we can go on tour soon which we still don’t know.<br />

Yes, we can only hope this will be the final schedule<br />

for the tour. With venues closing, the world of social<br />

distancing and limited capacity, I can imagine you won’t<br />

be wanting to do that again anytime soon.<br />

It’s just monotonous. You do it once, you do it again. It’s<br />

like a crossword puzzle, really. Trying to fit all the dates<br />

in the right order so you’re not playing Aberdeen one<br />

day and Brighton the next. But, as a DIY band, we’ve<br />

built fabulous relationships with so many UK venues and<br />

UK promoters, they have become like family to us. This<br />

band is our life. And I know that the promoters and the<br />

venues, a lot of them feel so similar about what they do.<br />

A lot of venues, they’re not just a venue, not just a pub<br />

or whatever. Each venue means something to a lot of<br />

people, and it means something to the people who run it.<br />

The sense of community has been amazing. I don’t think<br />

I could have booked a tour six times without all the help<br />

from the promoters and the independent venues in the<br />

UK.<br />

But the stars aligned.<br />

Exactly. That’s what I’m on about. I believe in shit like<br />

that. I know I shouldn’t, but there’s too much coincidence<br />

that’s happened in my life and the life of the band that<br />

I’ve just got to believe in it. A lot of weird things happen<br />

to us, I still get surprised with all the odd shit, the weird<br />

stuff. It’s never easy with us, never a straight or through<br />

line, it winds its way through a million totally mental<br />

scenarios before it gets to it actually happening. But we<br />

enjoy the ride to be fair.<br />

The synchronicity between Iggy featuring on I, Moron,<br />

and your B-side being Dum Dum Boys, off The Idiot<br />

album, is that another example of cosmic forces?<br />

It sounds like we did it on purpose doesn’t it and we<br />

didn’t at all. The way it all came about was strange but<br />

true. He’s been into our band for a while now, he’s played<br />

us quite a lot on his [BBC Radio 6 Music] show, which is<br />

enough for us really, we couldn’t believe it. I, Moron was<br />

initially going to be one of the tracks on the I Am Moron<br />

album, but the bit Iggy is in, we didn’t have anything<br />

for. We were working on it and one day David went,<br />

we should get Iggy Pop to do those bits. He was joking<br />

of course, but I took it dead seriously and sent him a<br />

message.<br />

And the outcome is an obnoxious yellow single with a<br />

three-headed monster of you, David and Iggy?<br />

It’s pretty full-on. That’s our style, really. Everything’s got<br />

to be turned up full, including the colour and everything.<br />

And Casey [Raymond, illustrator] is just amazing. We<br />

always try and include him somehow into getting up to<br />

no good and doing the illustrations for us. And he always<br />

“Can you<br />

have it all?<br />

You can try”<br />

seems to knock it out of the park. It’s almost like we’ve<br />

made a visual connection with him. A lot of mine and<br />

David’s existence is very insular, that’s how it is 90 per<br />

cent of the time, but if you can spend 10 per cent of the<br />

time working with great artists or great producers or<br />

even with friends, just dicking about doing stuff, it feels<br />

good.<br />

It’s important to find that connection with people. But<br />

by the running theme of ‘morons’, I’m going to presume<br />

you’re not blind to the downfall of man.<br />

We got a bit obsessed with that theme. I suppose it’s that<br />

thing where we’re saying, ‘Yeah, everything is fucked’.<br />

The world and what we do is absolutely stupid and we’re<br />

just laughing at the state of it, which we do constantly.<br />

But we’re not blameless either. We’re not saying we’re<br />

not a part of that, we are a part of that. That’s just human<br />

nature. We will always be twats. We’re like a stick of rock<br />

with twat running through us. Every single fucking one of<br />

us. And if anyone thinks different then they’re not human.<br />

Being human has a few perks. If you’re surrounded by<br />

complimentary people.<br />

That’s what I love about going on tour and meeting our<br />

fans, because it’s nice to find like-minded people out<br />

there, rather than just pictures on a screen. It’s a bit fake,<br />

really. But touring is great. We’ve got an eight-year-old<br />

kid as well, just to add that into the mix. We’re literally<br />

obsessed, we take him on tour with us everywhere<br />

we go. And we have done since he was four months<br />

old. That just adds to the madness of it all.<br />

Never do anything by halves.<br />

That’s it, that’s it. It’s about not having to give stuff up.<br />

You’ve got to change when you become a mum or a dad,<br />

you have to change and adapt. But I was born a punk<br />

rocker and as soon as I was 14, I picked up a guitar and<br />

I’ve been in a band ever since. And it just doesn’t feel<br />

natural for me to not be in a band. So, I’m not going to<br />

have a kid and then pack it all in and go and get a job in<br />

a shop or an office and be a normal mum, it’s just never<br />

going to happen. Sometimes, I think it’s good just not to<br />

change and to keep on.<br />

I 100 per cent respect that. Society often tells women<br />

they can’t have it all, but sod that.<br />

I think it’s true, a couple of late nights and bloody hell.<br />

Can you have it all? You can try, but you’re not going to<br />

feel very good the next day. You do have to change a little<br />

bit, but not so much so that it stops you doing what you<br />

feel like you’re born to do.<br />

DIY in the truest sense.<br />

That’s it. When it’s good, it’s fucking brilliant and when<br />

it’s bad it is hard work. But the good outweighs the bad. !<br />

Words: Megan Walder (she/her) / @m_l_wald<br />

Photography: Darren Andrews<br />

I Am Moron is out now on Egg Records.<br />

@TheLovelyEggs<br />





24/07–16/01/22 - Tate Liverpool<br />

This summer will be the first time in over 30 years that works of Lucian<br />

Freud have been put on display in the North West. Tate Liverpool will host<br />

a significant presentation of the artist’s work, a painter who has long been<br />

considered a master of modern portraiture. The exhibition will feature some<br />

of Freud’s most iconic paintings as well as photographs that provide an insight into his<br />

personal life.<br />

Lucian Freud: Real Lives highlights the artist’s sitters who were family members,<br />

friends, other artists and lovers. The display tracks the personal and artistic life of Freud<br />

who was regarded as deeply private and guarded. Through his work, we get to know<br />

the artist over a career spanning more than 60 years.<br />

Freud’s paintings are classed as unapologetic and frank celebrations of the human<br />

form. The Tate exhibition will include some of his most celebrated works including<br />

portraits of performance artist Leigh Bowery, his first wife Kitty Garman, friend and<br />

studio assistance David Dawson and his mother Lucie Freud. The show also provides<br />

a rare opportunity to take in all of Freud’s work within the Tate collection, including Girl<br />

with a Kitten (1947) and Girl with a White Dog (1950-1).<br />

The display will feature examples of Freud’s etchings which demonstrate some<br />

of his early experiments in the 1940s. As well as some of the large and complex<br />

compositions the artist created in the early 1980s when he rediscovered the medium.<br />

Freud typically depicted the same sitters in both printmaking and paint form and so the<br />

exhibition gives a great insight into his mastery of the mediums.<br />

Alongside Freud’s artwork, there will be a selection of photographs on display<br />

which will reveal more about his work and life and how intertwined the two were. The<br />

photos include Cecil Beaton’s image of Freud in the 1950s at the start of his career<br />

and later images of him in the early 1990s and 2010, which show Freud working in his<br />

studio with his sitters, giving a rare glimpse into the artist at work.<br />

lisa luxx<br />


Lucian Freud, Girl with a White Dog 1950-1 © Tate<br />



16/07–14/11 - Various venues<br />

The new-look version of the annual festival returns this summer with an<br />

extensive multidisciplinary programme of digital and in-person events to<br />

showcase Arab culture. The first wave of the festival programme, spanning<br />

from July to August, includes the world premiere of Eating the Copper Apple<br />

by poet lisa luxx (16-25/07) which raises questions about identity from several complex<br />

perspectives.<br />

An installation by artist Jessica El Mal named Grounds for Concern (16/07-15/08)<br />

questions the concept of land ownership and the true boundaries enforced by<br />

human-made borders. An insightful panel discussion entitled Our Women on the<br />

Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World (22/07) will focus<br />

on journalists reporting on their changing homeland. Among the guests are Aida Alami,<br />

Eman Helal, Heba Shbani and the editor of the book on which the event is based Zahra<br />

Hankir.<br />

LAAF is the UK’s longest running festival of Arab arts and culture, encouraging<br />

people to explore and appreciate Arab people and their rich heritage. This year’s event<br />

will be an artist-led response to the climate emergency in the Middle East and North<br />

African region (MENA). The climate crisis is being disproportionately felt in the MENA<br />

region as it faces scorching temperatures, rising sea levels and diminishing resources.<br />

Through performances and visual art, the festival will see artists express the lived<br />

experiences of those from the region as well as addressing the interconnected issues<br />

of imperialism, climate justice and capitalism.<br />

There will also be a new LAAF commission titled 22, a major project that invites<br />

22 Arab creatives from 22 nations to create a multidisciplinary artistic anthology of<br />

climate emergency in the MENA region today.<br />

In response to Covid-19, this year’s LAAF will be expanding from its usual twoweek<br />

festival period in the summer to a much longer festival spanning nearly four<br />

months. The programme will include a mix of physical and online events to celebrate<br />

the best in Arab arts and culture, while connecting physical audiences in Liverpool<br />

with digital audiences around the world.<br />





Manchester International Festival<br />

01-18/07 - Various venues<br />

Damon Albarn<br />

Taking over the warehouse city’s rich tapestry of venues and art spaces<br />

for the eighth time, Manchester International Festival returns July for<br />

18 days of visual art, residencies, talks and music. Recently announced<br />

performances include techno boffin and Haçienda legend LAURENT<br />

GARNIER’s UK film premiere of Off The Record, tracing the story of UK<br />

club culture and his involvement in it (Manchester Central, 11/07), plus<br />

a live solo and string quartet appearance from festival friend DAMON<br />

ALBARN (Manchester Central, 13/07). Indoor venues subject to limited<br />

capacity following Covid-19 guidelines.<br />

FILM<br />

Cinema in the City<br />

02-04/07 - Cotton Exchange Rooftop Garden<br />

Panoramic and cinematic views collide this summer with FACT’s Cinema in the City. Supported by Film Hub North, the project offers audiences the chance to experience new<br />

critically acclaimed and award-winning independent films against the backdrop of Liverpool’s iconic architecture atop the resplendent Cotton Exchange on Bixteth Street. The<br />

premieres will be preceded by shorts from emerging local filmmakers, recognising and promoting the city’s local talent. This series features screenings of recently released indies,<br />

including screenings of Francis Lee’s Ammonite starring Kate Winslet and Apples from Greek weird wave director Christos Nikou. Refreshments come from Maray, bringing their<br />

signature Middle Eastern-inspired menu to the rooftop location.<br />

GIG<br />

Max Cooper<br />

03/07 - Grand Central Hall<br />

Max Cooper<br />

London based DJ, MAX COOPER is bringing his intensive visual art<br />

performance to Liverpool’s Grand Central Hall. With sounds ranging from<br />

stark electronica remixes of huge bands like Hot Chip to the fuzzy, buzzing<br />

dancefloor sounds everyone loves, Cooper has developed a mixed-media<br />

approach to creation. Interrogating and furthering the intersection between<br />

electronic art and visual art, Cooper brings his AV performance to life<br />

through the exploration of technology while referencing that which came<br />

before it and does so in a human way.<br />


Little Liverpool Theatre Festival<br />

12-18/07 – St Luke’s Bombed Out Church<br />

A week-long celebration of new and diverse shows that have never been seen by<br />

Liverpool audiences takes over the Bombed Out Church. Set up after the success of<br />

Liverpool Theatre Festival last September, the programme includes cabaret, comedy,<br />

family entertainment and theatre from black, disabled, LGBTQ+ and a diverse array of<br />

makers. The original event was created to help revive the city’s live performance sector<br />

following the effects of Covid-19 and organisers have followed the success with an<br />

open call for creatives to be premiered at the festival. A panel of industry experts then<br />

selected the final line-up from works submitted, curating a programme of shows which<br />

run between 50 and 75 minutes.<br />

St Luke’s Bombed Out Church<br />


CLUB<br />

I Hate Models<br />

09/07 - 24 Kitchen Street<br />

The bandana-clad titan of the techno scene debuts at 24 Kitchen Street<br />

after becoming one of the most in-demand underground DJs in Europe. I<br />

HATE MODELS is a mysterious French producer who first broke onto the<br />

techno scene in 2015 and has been ripping up the rule book ever since. He<br />

has embraced acid, EBM, trance, rave culture and psychedelics to create<br />

a unique high energy set. This rescheduled event courtesy of promoters<br />

Wonder Pot also features sets from DJs NIKKI CHONG and BEN SLEIA.<br />

I Hate Models<br />

CLUB<br />

Antal<br />

30/07 - Meraki<br />

An all-day event that is set to bring all the house heads back to the<br />

dancefloor takes over Meraki at the end of the month. It’s one of the<br />

club’s biggest events to date and will see DJ sets from ANTAL, NABIHAH<br />

IQBAL, DAR DISKU and GIOVANNA in the day, while YOUNG MARCO<br />

and ANU take over the stage at night. It’s a milestone occasion for the<br />

former taxi garage-turned-venue, now an intimate club space with a<br />

powerful soundsystem and a DIY ethos that has won an army of loyal<br />

patrons.<br />

Nabihah Iqbal<br />

GIG<br />

PVA + Lazarus Kane<br />

04/07 - Birkenhead Central Library<br />

Initially formed in the aftermath of a house party, three-piece PVA<br />

have since earned a fearsome reputation as one of the capital’s<br />

premier live outfits. Known for raucous live performances, the band<br />

are giving a special all-ages matinée performance at Birkenhead<br />

Central Library on 4th July. While also performing noteworthy<br />

DJ sets, live performances have been the focal point for the trio<br />

of musical polymaths and garnered them hardcore support in<br />

their still formative years. In their string of upcoming independent<br />

shows, PVA are joined by newly signed LAZARUS KANE and<br />

supported by FOLLY GROUP.<br />

PVA<br />

GIG<br />

Monks<br />

30/07 - Future Yard<br />

Good things come to those who wait, and we<br />

welcome with open arms – and a huge sigh of<br />

relief – the first <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! Social in nearly two<br />

years at Birkenhead’s suntrap venue, Future Yard.<br />

Soundtracking our celebration of issue 116 next<br />

month will be headliners MONKS, with support<br />

coming from Wirral sweethearts A LESSER VERSION<br />

and another artist to be announced. Everyone is<br />

welcome at the <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! Social – an opportunity to<br />

experience the music of artists appearing in the pink<br />

pages. <strong>Bido</strong> <strong>Lito</strong>! Members go free!<br />


Under The Mask<br />

08/07-10/07 - Playhouse<br />

Hundreds of final year medical students had to finish their<br />

studies early and start work on the frontline in March of<br />

last year. Under the Mask follows the journey of Jaskaran,<br />

a newly qualified doctor during the Covid-19 crisis. On<br />

her first day on the Covid Intensive Care Unit, Jaskaran is<br />

not prepared for what she finds. The show was recorded<br />

on location using sounds from real Covid wards with<br />

fully immersive 360-degree sound. The audience listens<br />

through headphones and are given a doctor’s perspective<br />

on the pandemic as they uncover a story of resilience,<br />

hope and strength.<br />

*All dates were correct at the time of writing. Please<br />

check listings as some events may have been moved<br />

or social distancing measures put in place due to the<br />

extension to government restrictions.<br />



Shame (Darren Aston)<br />

“They play this<br />

60-capacity room<br />

in Birkenhead<br />

like it’s Wembley<br />

Stadium”<br />

Shame<br />

Future Yard – 31/05<br />

It’s an unusually warm Tuesday evening in<br />

Birkenhead and Future Yard is practically sizzling<br />

with a strange sense of anticipation. Apprehension,<br />

even. After all, for many of us this is the First Gig Back<br />

post-lockdown. Tables of two, six feet apart, masks, no<br />

standing up, no dancing, ordering pints on an app. These<br />

are all unfamiliar things even for seasoned gig-goers.<br />

But as soon as SHAME fly onto the stage, any<br />

apprehension quickly dissipates. Like greyhounds<br />

released from the traps, the South London six-piece<br />

launch straight into a riotous hour of pure post-punk joy.<br />

From the off, frontman Charlie Steen has us completely<br />

under his control. He has a certain look in his eyes as if<br />

he’s bursting with things to tell us – and we’d better be<br />

listening.<br />

“I hope that you’re hearing me” goes the hook of<br />

first album favourite Concrete and, well, we certainly<br />

are. Steen’s voice carries its power not only through its<br />

sheer volume, but through the conviction and clarity of<br />

his diction. Every syllable is carefully executed and is<br />

accompanied with a corresponding point of the finger,<br />

a swing of the mic, a jab of the chin. It almost feels<br />

choreographed. It’s utterly captivating.<br />

Steen’s moves are no better demonstrated than<br />

on set highlight, Nigel Hitter. It is a tight, slick affair<br />

that reflects their growth from an angsty first album<br />

back in 2018 to the more sophisticated sound of this<br />

year’s Drunk Tank Pink. As such, latest single Born<br />

In Luton is another standout. Oscillating between a<br />

jagged, incessant guitar riff in the verses and a haunting,<br />

cinematic chorus, it encapsulates all the intricate<br />

complexities that made Drunk Tank Pink so triumphant.<br />

Oldies like One Rizla are indeed met like the familiar<br />

anthems they are, but it’s their new material that really<br />

impresses.<br />

What is perhaps most striking is that, behind all<br />

the bravado, Shame are a remarkably humble band.<br />

Instead of moping about the irony of playing postpunk<br />

to what looks like an exam<br />

hall full of wooden desks due to<br />

government-enforced rules, they<br />

play this 60-capacity room in<br />

Birkenhead like it’s Wembley<br />

Stadium. They seem genuinely<br />

grateful to be here; a gratitude<br />

that is undeniably reciprocated<br />

by their audience tonight.<br />

Before we know<br />

it, the soaring Station<br />

Wagon brings the set to a<br />

spectacular close. At the<br />

song’s crescendo, Steen is<br />

teetering on the edge of<br />

the stage, standing tall,<br />

arms outstretched, sweat<br />

dripping. It makes for<br />

a dramatic concluding<br />

tableau that lingers in<br />

our minds as we’re<br />

thrust out, stunned,<br />

back into the early<br />

evening sunshine.<br />

The First Gig<br />

Back was always<br />

going to be loaded<br />

with expectation. But tonight, Shame have dispelled any<br />

anxieties that might have been felt an hour ago. Instead,<br />

we’re left with an overwhelming feeling of optimism.<br />

After over a year deprived of live music, there was no<br />

better band than Shame – and no better venue than<br />

Future Yard – to welcome us back.<br />

Alice Williams<br />

Shame (Darren Aston)<br />


Penelope Isles<br />

+ Last Living Cannibal<br />

Future Yard – 19/05<br />

For the first show post-lockdown in a country<br />

starting to flicker back to life, it seems appropriate<br />

that two of the most promising current UK acts are<br />

on the bill. This is the second date of PENELOPE<br />

ISLES’ socially-distanced spring tour and, after what<br />

I think we can probably all agree has been a slightly<br />

underwhelming year for live music, it really is a great<br />

pleasure to be, well, back in the room.<br />

Before the headliners, LAST LIVING CANNIBAL<br />

opens the show. Currently promoting his impressive,<br />

self-released debut LP 7 Years, his set is a<br />

demonstration of complex, intricate songwriting.<br />

Opener The Overground is perhaps a perfect<br />

encapsulation of his style-blending hooky, repeated<br />

riffs with intriguing synth leads and understated vocal<br />

lines. The set-up is simple: distorted guitar played<br />

over a pre-programmed backing track, but the effect<br />

is captivating. For the first strains of live music outside<br />

of Zoom streams we have heard in a long time you<br />

could definitely do much, much worse.<br />

Since the release of their first album Until The<br />

Tide Creeps In in 2019, Penelope Isles have, through<br />

relentless touring, developed into one of the best<br />

live bands in the country. Tonight’s performance<br />

only confirms that fact. Brother and sister duo Jack<br />

and Lily Wolter have always been the driving force<br />

in the group but new members Henry Nicholson on<br />

bass and Joe Taylor on drums make up an impressive<br />

rhythm section. Chlorine gets things moving nicely<br />

and is an example of the band’s winning formula of<br />

fusing shimmering morsels of pop with fuzzy sections<br />

of noise-rock experimentation. Just when you’re<br />

settling into the appealing lull of a pristine melody, the<br />

song suddenly plunges into unexpected dissidence. In<br />

this way no track ever feels stale or overwrought.<br />

Not Talking is a showcase for Jack Wolter’s vocal<br />

range. Dream-like and ethereal, the track manages to<br />

convey a sense of fragility with sparse percussion and<br />

delicate chord progressions. One of Penelope Isles’<br />

biggest strengths is the symbiotic vocal harmonising<br />

between the two Wolter siblings and this track<br />

emphasises that in abundance. Leipzig takes the set<br />

into more kinetic territory with its off-kilter, wonky<br />

riffs and 60s, French pop-infused vocal delivery. The<br />

band have been working on their second album and<br />

tonight we are treated to some of the new material<br />

alongside the well-known fan favourites. If these<br />

latest tracks are anything to go by then the new<br />

record may well even be an improvement on their first<br />

effort.<br />

As the set draws to a close, there is a distinct,<br />

triumphant feeling in the room. Even though the<br />

audience is sitting at tables huddled in pairs, it is clear<br />

that a new dawn beckons. Live music is back. The<br />

current experience might feel slightly unfamiliar, but<br />

if the other shows on the horizon feel anywhere near<br />

as good as this one then it won’t matter. Live streams<br />

have gone some way to satiate the hunger for all of<br />

this during the past year, but it doesn’t touch the real<br />

thing. So, get yourself back in the room as soon as<br />

possible. You won’t regret it.<br />

Alastair Dunn<br />


+ Tosin Trio<br />

+ Beija Flo<br />

+ MC Nelson<br />

Future Yard – 30/05<br />

Today, for the first time in what feels like a lifetime, the sun is beaming hot. The black and pink colour palette of<br />

Future Yard’s garden space, where the RECONNECT all-dayer – presented by Future Yard’s Sound Check programme<br />

– begins with an arts fair, DJs and poetry performances, is illuminated in glorious hues. It feels like a world away from<br />

the past year-and-a-half, something more joyous, brighter.<br />

And yet, it’s hard to forget things aren’t fully normal yet. When the live music begins indoors, seated in a pair,<br />

spaced apart from others, you’re reminded that there’s something missing. The smoke, the purple lighting, the taste of<br />

a cold cider, that’s all here, but we’re not able yet to celebrate music fully together, to stand shoulder to shoulder as we<br />

sing along.<br />

As MC NELSON hits the stage, however, you’re distracted from your surroundings quickly. The Aigburth rapper’s<br />

buoyant personality shines through in his performance and is effortlessly engaging. Nelson is an exceptional talent,<br />

marrying established musical references with a fresh perspective and style. He raps with an assurance, commanding<br />

focus from the audience.<br />

Nelson is captivating beyond his stage presence, too. His lyrics celebrate Merseyside culture, while deftly tackling<br />

urgent topics: racism, colonialism, identity. For a festival branding itself as a celebration of Merseyside culture, he’s an<br />

excellent representative. His love for Liverpool is clear, but he continues to always envision a brighter future, the ways<br />

things could be better.<br />

Glam-pop artist BEIJA FLO follows. Reminiscent of both Lorde and Peaches, there’s a theatricality in her art which<br />

is enchanting. Her singing is powerful, explosive, filling every corner of the room. Between songs, her humour and<br />

honesty are endearing. “We’re all in this together,” she jokes at the start of her set. The sentiment feels truer the more<br />

her performance progresses.<br />

Beija Flo talks candidly about human topics; she discusses the body and sexuality with a personable wit. She talks<br />

about her struggles with MRKH syndrome, and quips that she’ll speak about it at every performance until there’s more<br />

awareness. The physical gap between audience and performer shrinks here; she welcomes you into her world, and<br />

she encourages you to take something from it.<br />

The event closes with a performance from blues-rock outfit THE TOSIN TRIO. Like their predecessors, the<br />

performance is a fascinating one. Each member of the group performs their role with a devoted intricacy. Their songs<br />

are expansive, they meander and shift, but you’re invited to follow along, to lose yourself in the journey.<br />

The performance encourages us to pause and think closely about our surroundings. Frontman Tosin Salako (guitar,<br />

vocals) asks us to picture a new world, one not tied to finances, when the band begin their performance of Money,<br />

and the trio’s bluesy cover of The Beatles’ Come Together resonates well tonight: it’s Merseyside culture, but with a<br />

twist. The escapist feeling present here, the instruction to envision something different, is what ties tonight’s three<br />

performances together.<br />

Wyldest<br />

+ Charity Shop Pop<br />

+ Blackaby<br />

Glasswerk @ Grand Central – 22/05<br />

Alfie Verity<br />

It’s hard to ignore the cyclists, cars and passers-by outside the window of the intimate Grand Central. It all so<br />

looks so chaotic out there. For us though, we’re looking forward to our first gig in what seems like forever, and this one<br />

feels like it’s going to be one of those constantly-smiling-to-strangers-because-it’s-all-so-wholesome kind of nights.<br />

Touring her latest album Monthly Friend, WYLDEST is supported by CHARITY SHOP POP and BLACKABY. Monthly<br />

Friend is a reflective journal of 2020, with its main theme being inequality, inspired by events of 2020 from #MeToo<br />

to Black Lives Matter. The LP shows the versatility in Wyldest’s writing and her ability to evolve by harnessing new<br />

sounds and themes.<br />

Ormskirk-based indie-pop artist Charity Shop Pop presses play on the event. His tongue-in-cheek style and<br />

charming personality instantly remind us of what we’ve been missing all this time. His set, although relying on some<br />

pretty modern equipment for a backing track, could live comfortably on the setlist of a high school prom band from a<br />

noughties teen movie. Reminiscent of The 1975, Charity Shop Pop successfully delivers an advert for the summer.<br />

Blackaby takes his seat behind his flower-dressed kick drum and foot-operated snare. Along with his notched<br />

guitar and angelic voice, Blackaby dedicates every last muscle to his indie folk music. We are in a daze from the off,<br />

hypnotised by its beauty. He jokes that one of his songs was inspired by a chatty audience member from a past show.<br />

That won’t be an issue for this event, though. We daren’t speak over this.<br />

Finally, it’s the headliner. Wyldest is the moniker of Zoe Mead, a North London artist whose latest album is the<br />

third of her career. She wastes no time in painting the walls with colour and creating thick sheets of harmony through<br />

trigger pads and loops, confidently demonstrating the value of creating your own backing track live. Wyldest has<br />

such maturity in her writing and a clear vision in her set, which is really quite remarkable given that this project is still<br />

relatively new. Her voice glides from note to note effortlessly and possesses a real folk quality. She compares her voice<br />

to the lottery and states that it’s a risk if her voice is “going to be there,” but we certainly got the three cherries in a row<br />

on this one.<br />

Slinky Malinki<br />




Tristan Fewings<br />

AI: More Than Human<br />

World Museum – until 31/10<br />

Any mention of artificial intelligence (AI) will likely elicit visions of a dystopian future, where humans are<br />

subordinate to some kind of sentient, machine overlord. However, at the World Museum’s AI: More Than Human<br />

exhibition, it’s a lot more complicated than we think, raising the question of how technologies should be used and<br />

what that could mean for us.<br />

Despite the expansive space, I feel dizzy as if thrown into orbit. I face an onslaught of sounds and visuals coming<br />

from every direction, with intrigued faces glued to the interactive displays. Some are typing away to chatbots, while<br />

others stand to attention, receiving a full body scan. The future is in this room.<br />

The exhibition opens by mapping humanity’s enduring fascination with bringing to life the non-living. From early<br />

religious mythologies to Frankenstein’s monster, the nature and narrative of these creations have differed wildly across<br />

the centuries. Yet there is one glaring connection: the flourishing of artificial life ultimately leads to the downfall and<br />

destruction of its creator.<br />

“You’re a good boy, aren’t you, Aibo?” croons one visitor’s assistant as she pets a small, barking robot dog made<br />

by Sony. Through the use of sensors, little Aibo responds to your speech and touch, and even performs a few tricks<br />

if you stick around long enough. “It’s like a real dog, but without the mess,” I’m reassured, finding it hard to match her<br />

enthusiasm.<br />

The deeper you venture through the displays, the more immersive and thought-provoking they become. One<br />

captivating video shows how, in 2016, Google’s DeepMind developed a computer which used intuitive machine<br />

learning to become the first AI to beat world champion, Lee Sedol, at the strategy game, Go. Yet defeat by this<br />

artificial player did not discourage Sedol for long. In fact, it led him to develop innovative new strategies that had been<br />

unimaginable before. Are we seeing the first beginnings of human-AI competition?<br />

Transitioning from robotic pets into Deep Fake videos of Barack Obama, the displays provide a sobering reminder<br />

of the more dubious ways that technology can be put to use. AI drones mobilised as autonomous weapons reinforce<br />

feelings of inevitable annihilation, while developments in biotechnology have the potential to extend life, and in doing<br />

so challenge the very notions of what we consider ‘natural’.<br />

Then there are the more naturalised forms of AI that are already used every day, one of them being our<br />

smartphones. From shopping habits to political outlooks, our phones and computers employ complex algorithms that<br />

constantly fight for our attention. Though convenient for our busy lives, Big Tech’s countless data security scandals in<br />

recent years have exposed just how susceptible we are to manipulation from the Data Gods we so willingly hand our<br />

information to.<br />

As if walking a tightrope, there is a fine balance to this exhibition. Never does it seek to prophesise where AI will<br />

take us, but rather lays bare its diverse potential and some of the cultural and ethical implications it raises. Tackling<br />

a topic of such complex size and scope, it dips a tentative toe into an ocean we will be forced to dive head-first into<br />

soon. If we are, as it suggests, both “unwitting and active participants” in AI’s evolution and expansion, the biggest<br />

question of this exhibition is one of power and accountability. Technology has no moral compass, unless we equip it<br />

with one. After all, who was the real monster, Frankenstein or his creation?<br />

Nina Newbold / @ninanwbld<br />

Tristan Fewings<br />


Bull + Eggs<br />

YEP Directors’ Festival @ The Everyman -<br />

04/06<br />

The annual YEP Directors’ Festival showcases the work of the<br />

Young Everyman and Playhouse’s emerging directors’ programme.<br />

As theatres began to welcome back audiences, our writers took in<br />

two of the productions.<br />

Rossa Murray & The Blowin’ Winds<br />

+ Δnna<br />

Bed & Breakfast @ The Athenaeum – 05/06<br />

Rossa Murray (Kevin Barrett)<br />

Much like the royal red of the venue, the atmosphere of The Athenaeum is warm and welcoming. A<br />

chandelier frames the stage, casting diffracted light on the audience’s chattering faces, who are catching<br />

up on lost time. Most noticeable is the fresh scent which contrasts the customary wild gig smell of spilt<br />

beers and sweaty moshpits. Instead, the set-up is more like a live show in a pub – quirky, personal and<br />

exclusive.<br />

ΔNNA, the first act, fits this environment perfectly. Starting in an endearingly self-conscious way,<br />

she soon draws the attention of the crowd. As she effortlessly finger-picks her way through the songs,<br />

her confidence increases and the smile on her face gets wider and more compelling. She manages to<br />

take up the space by use of her homemade backing tracks and her dexterous guitar-playing. There’s<br />

empowerment within the cynical lyrics, notably evident in Not Your Girl. A sassy, bass-driven track, it<br />

crowns the performance and leaves the audience with a lasting impression.<br />

The room doesn’t appear to notice as the long French windows introduce us to night-time as ROSSA<br />

MURRAY & THE BLOWIN’ WINDS walk onto the stage. It’s only at this point that the dichotomy of a fine<br />

establishment and plastic cups become apparent. Wearing bohemian shirts over plain t-shirts, the band<br />

colours the stage in oranges, purples and blues. Although the music is well suited to the setting, their fans<br />

seem more used to rowdy loud concerts. Yet, the comfort the band exhibits as they begin their set settles<br />

around the room like a blanket.<br />

The shadowed silhouettes of the band members meet on the wall behind the stage, mirroring the<br />

coming together of the harmonies and the harmonious development of the night. Their passionate<br />

head-shaking draws you in as much as the evocative lyrical story-telling does. The lively stage banter<br />

and remarks about paying for a parking ticket don’t detract from how charged even the absence of noise<br />

is. Each aspect of the performance unfurls into a new resounding curiosity, with guitar layering, a cover<br />

of Passionfruit by Drake and the introduction of a trumpet. As the lead singer belts out the notes, I’m<br />

reminded of Paolo Nutini, singing of experiences that only come with age. This band knows where their<br />

music sits and gladly runs with it.<br />

The final song is met in the form of a solo ode to Liverpool. Dedicated to Rossa Murray’s oldest pal,<br />

the crowd sings along loudly to Sophie, in a carefree Irish pub kind of way. Those who don’t know the<br />

lyrics sit in awe, content in the here and now.<br />

Cat Caie<br />

It’s a sell-out show of minimal people tonight – every table is<br />

occupied with huddled pairs leaning over cups and tealights. On the<br />

tables are programmes for half a dozen plays over the next fortnight.<br />

You’re reminded you’re actually seeing something in the flesh again<br />

as you see people’s heads twitch and hair shake when they laugh.<br />

Theatre is back.<br />

There’s a projection of a matador dipping and flickering in a<br />

moving picture show, all black and white with static audio. Then the<br />

music cuts dead and there’s a brash light over an office scene. The<br />

stage is very much our red rag.<br />

Bull was written by Mike Bartlett in the early 2010s – winning<br />

Best New Play at the UK Theatre Awards in October 2013 – and<br />

hasn’t aged in nearly 10 years, especially in the hands of tonight’s<br />

director, Olive Pascha. It’s been 15 months without indoor theatre,<br />

but worth the wait. This is a production that requires a live<br />

enactment; it’s claustrophobic, awkward and sour in a way that<br />

couldn’t be translated to video. There’s ratty management and sneaks<br />

orchestrating the moment to suit themselves. To the audience, it reads<br />

as a sort of bearbaiting of the protagonist, Thomas, as he’s twisted<br />

into a raging grass.<br />

The schoolyard was never a place, it was a conglomerate of<br />

snarky individuals, and according to this they’ve all compressed<br />

themselves into one conference room somewhere in Merseyside. They<br />

confuse people for the hell of it, then rub their nose in the aftermath,<br />

and it’s that universal superior suck-up vantage point that makes<br />

every character, bar Thomas, bitter and gleeful at the same time.<br />

The parallel metaphors of secondary school bullying (recreated<br />

accurately in laboured swearing and insults) and the more classical<br />

bullring comparison are screwed together satisfyingly, revealing<br />

the savage backstabbing of the corporate world with a strange<br />

repertoire of black humour and goading. Never was there more snark,<br />

snidery, snitching, shoe-licking, shit-stirring, feigned ignorance and<br />

competition condensed into 50 minutes of snot-nosed adults nettling<br />

each other for millimetres of the upper-hand. It’s pathetic in the best<br />

way possible.<br />

The titular theme of Eggs is subtly mentioned throughout<br />

this comedy about female friendships and fertility. Fertility, along<br />

with an easter egg and even a sex toy, are all referenced. Florence<br />

Keith-Roach’s play is a Fleabag-esque production that follows the<br />

lives of two young women navigating life, friendships and societal<br />

expectations.<br />

Director Mary Savage handles the writer’s approach to the<br />

subject of sex confidently as both characters are shown to openly talk<br />

about their relationships and sexual history. The rocky relationship<br />

between the characters delves into the ways women are pulled<br />

in various directions due to societal expectations, but are able to<br />

withstand this, as the importance of female friendship is shown to be<br />

paramount. Character A seemingly has her life together, with a steady<br />

relationship, office job and a potential baby on the way. Character B<br />

goes down an unconventional route and questions the plan society<br />

has set out for her, as she feels unfulfilled by her dog-walking job<br />

and wishes to find more meaning in life. Her monologues about life,<br />

consciousness and fulfilment immerse the audience in a captivating<br />

stream of consciousness. Not only do these women feel a career<br />

pressure and an expectation to have the time of their lives in their 20s<br />

– the ticking time bomb of motherhood also hangs over them.<br />

Savage evidently doesn’t think in binaries as there is no defined<br />

hero or villain. Neither character is perfect, nor does Savage try<br />

to shame either for the paths they choose to take. Rather, both<br />

characters are portrayed as flawed individuals that have work to<br />

do on themselves, their relationships and outlooks in life. Coming<br />

away from this production, the audience is reassured with a sense of<br />

comfort as we see ourselves in these characters.<br />

The relatability of the characters and familiarity of locations such<br />

as Ormskirk and Edge Hill create a sense of belief, not only in the<br />

cast but the director, too. The audience understands Savage’s implied<br />

message. Society is complex, but so are we.<br />

Poppy Fair / @_poppyfair_ and Hannah Merchant / @han.merchant<br />


1–4 July<br />

Manchester Central<br />

1–18 July<br />

Manchester Arndale<br />

CEPHAS<br />


Sunday 11 July<br />

Manchester Central<br />

ALL<br />

OF<br />

THIS<br />

UNREAL<br />

TIME<br />

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

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

Max Porter Writer<br />


OF<br />

BLACK<br />




OFF<br />

THE<br />

RECORD<br />

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

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

The Cephas Williams Company. Image: The image above of Cephas Williams was photographed by Sam Shaw<br />

Produced by Manchester International Festival.<br />

Saturday 17 July<br />

Manchester Central<br />

HOME<br />

COMING<br />

LIVE<br />

Featuring<br />

Rema, Midas the Jagaban, Anz<br />

Hosted by Julie Adenuga<br />

Plus Special Guests<br />

Saturday 10 July<br />

Manchester Central<br />

ROOT<br />

ED<br />

IN<br />

RHYME<br />

Featuring DJ Semtex, SVMI, Culps, Lady Ice,<br />

Rago Loco, Victoria Jane, DJ G-A-Z, DJ Basha<br />

2–18 July<br />

HOME & around Manchester<br />

POET<br />

SLASH<br />

ARTIST<br />

Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist & Lemn Sissay<br />

Live event curated by Cerys Matthews<br />

Produced A Pre-Factory by Manchester Event. International Commissioned Festival in by partnership Manchester with Homecoming. International Festival and<br />

Images: Stanford Anz (bottom Live at left) Stanford by Joseph University. Burton, others Produced courtesy of by the Manchester artists International Festival.<br />

Wednesday 14 July<br />

Manchester Central<br />

MIF ×<br />

SALAAM<br />


Produced by Manchester International Festival in partnership with Unity Radio and the Manchester<br />

Hip Hop Archive. Images: courtesy of artists<br />

From 1 July at<br />

virtual-factory.co.uk<br />

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

A<br />


LIKE NO<br />

OTHER<br />

Read more and book for live<br />

and online events at mif.co.uk<br />

Muneera Williams<br />

Sona Jobarteh<br />

Orchestral Qawwali:<br />

Abi Sampa, Rushil, Amrit Singh<br />

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

Images: courtesy of artists<br />


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

Image: Eleanor Davis




















ookings<br />

@stepping_tiger<br />


noya rao / NIMBUS SEXTET / Renato paris /<br />

matters unknown / daisy george / b-ahwe /<br />

chiminyo / quinn oulton / rosie frater-taylor /<br />

zenel / yoni mayraz / don't problem /<br />

yaatri / raffy bushman / tom ford / moman [dj]<br />

maeve [dj + live] / wayne dickson [dj]<br />



IS BACK!<br />

30th July<br />

MONKS<br />

A Lesser Version<br />

+ more TBA<br />

Future Yard<br />

30th September<br />


Seagoth<br />

Furry Hug<br />

FREE<br />


BIDO LITO!<br />


Kazimier Stockroom<br />

3rd December<br />

SPQR<br />

Mondo Trasho<br />

Torture and the<br />

Desert Spiders<br />

Future Yard<br />

bidolito.co.uk/<br />




This month’s selection of creative writing comes from Megan<br />

Walder, a piece which channels the sanctity of live music and<br />

the comfort it offers.<br />

It was once I who would be the guardian of a venue. The one with the honour of trading those paper tickets for a<br />

stamp that would stain your skin for the next week. As I fed off of your energy, you would feed off mine.<br />

Your excitement would sustain me until my next fix. Your eagerness to enter another dimension, one that exists solely<br />

in the present, unaffected by the woes of before and the stress of what’s to come. A place where sweat drips from<br />

the ceiling and bodies collide in unison, dancing to a familiar beat.<br />

It was my home for three years. My roots digging deeper with every hit I got, nourished by the community that<br />

formed around me. And one day I awoke to see that the rug, once firmly planted under my feet, had disappeared, and<br />

my lifeline with it.<br />

No honourable dismission or grand leaving party. Just the unfamiliar unease of unsteady ground. My roots began to<br />

rot and my connection to those I once held dear was severed. My portal to the home plains had gone.<br />

The world sat off-kilter as we were starved of normality. Our lives drab and unfulfilled by the wire from the news to<br />

our brains. Confused by inconsistency and boredom. Watching online performances that didn’t quite scratch the itch,<br />

spending money you didn’t have in an attempt to keep those keyholders to the other land afloat.<br />

We scraped by but have not been left unscathed.<br />

The sour taste, ubiquitous this past year, is lessening. No longer does it flow through my veins and poison my<br />

outlook. My roots have begun to regrow, and I’ve tied lost connections back together with scraps of string. I’m edging<br />

closer to a now visible rug, a tangible connection to what once was. Just a couple more steps.<br />

Pass me your paper ticket as my toes edge onto the rug. I’ve not seen home in quite some time, but as the ink from<br />

the stamp finds its way between lines on the back of your hand, usually invisible to the naked eye, I hear a shift.<br />

The shift of a door not there, a window unseen and a world like no other. But a shift. Back to normality, back to a<br />

world unknown. To those who mock our love for these ceremonies, we offer only pity. For they heard nothing, their<br />

heads in clouds that offer no escapism, only ignorance. But you heard that shift, too. And we know that our way out<br />

of here is coming.<br />

It’s not like before, but it’s as close as we’ve got in over a year and for that we praise the powers that be. So, sit and<br />

fidget, thrive in the discomfort of not being able to dance to your favourite song. Hold on to the possibilities that lay<br />

ahead. Order your drinks off an app that makes no sense and, for God’s sake, wear your mask.<br />

The venue understands. As the building nods apologetically and the staff smile under covered mouths, we get why<br />

you’re anxious to return home alongside us. The journey is longer than we first expected.<br />

We’re all as out of practice as one another. Clapping offbeat as the artists faff with an amp that had an inch of dust<br />

atop of it just minutes before soundcheck.<br />

Be prepared for what once would be the worst experience of live music you could have possibly envisioned. To grasp<br />

at the shortest straws imaginable. It should have you wishing for the good old days. But it doesn’t. Because you’re<br />

back amongst your people.<br />

As the power of live music encompasses the room, the presumptions of how you’d feel are left at the door. For all the<br />

inconveniences this world now has us endure, this is better than nothing.<br />

Because, like me, you feel your soul return. Like me, the rug is under your feet once more, and each gig you sit at is<br />

just an inch closer to the safe zone. To the point where you can once again visit the dimension that you call home.<br />

The place where you found yourself. Where you could shed the preconceptions others had of you, drop the socionormative<br />

cloak that you wear day in, day out, and simply be.<br />

But until then, we take what we can get. So, pass me your hand and accept these new conditions. Because they’re<br />

only temporary.<br />

We hope.<br />

Words: Megan Walder / @m_l_wald<br />



SAY<br />

Joanne Anderson (Jennifer Bruce/Liverpool City Council)<br />

“Progressive<br />

policies to protect<br />

both the creative<br />

industries and<br />

the planet can<br />

work in tandem”<br />

Conal Cunningham considers what Joanne Anderson’s mayoral election means for the climate,<br />

communities and culture of the city.<br />

At the local elections in early May, Joanne<br />

Anderson made history as the first black<br />

woman to be elected mayor of a major UK<br />

city. Considering the turmoil Liverpool has<br />

faced of late, after a year of coronavirus restrictions and<br />

criminal investigations into senior council members, her<br />

victory perhaps did not get the attention it deserved. So,<br />

along with her promise of a fresh start, what is the newly<br />

elected mayor offering us in terms of change, hope, and<br />

progressiveness?<br />

A triple lock of ‘people, planet, equality’ is Mayor<br />

Anderson’s mantra for the future of Liverpool and is<br />

guaranteed to be at the heart of the council’s every<br />

decision moving forward. This means that investment in<br />

jobs, infrastructure and regeneration will all be determined<br />

on how it can most benefit people in the community,<br />

with a pledge that all voices will be heard in the decision<br />

process. Equality of opportunity across the city region is<br />

also a priority, and the environmental impact of all local<br />

policies will be assessed in order to achieve Liverpool’s<br />

ambitious 2030 carbon net-zero target.<br />

In the short to medium term, commitment to people<br />

and equality are elements of the new mayor’s mantra<br />

that will likely be focused on. Without doubt, rebuilding<br />

transparency and trust within the council, addressing<br />

social inequalities and ensuring a thorough recovery from<br />

the pandemic are pressing issues that must be worked<br />

through diligently.<br />

The existential threat of climate change, however, is<br />

something which must take precedence. With extreme<br />

weather patterns becoming ever more frequent, the cost<br />

of inaction foreshadows a future not wholly unimaginable<br />

from the present; a warming world where the extreme<br />

becomes commonplace, a life susceptible to natural<br />

disasters, an existence with an escalating loss of habitat.<br />

Considering Liverpool’s coastal locality, and the havoc<br />

extreme flooding could wreak on the city, the time to act<br />

is now.<br />

This is not to say that there have been no steps<br />

towards becoming a greener city, however. Over the<br />

past 15 years, with an increasing switch to green energy,<br />

there has been a 42 per cent reduction in the city’s carbon<br />

emissions. Nonetheless, it is evident that this action must<br />

be ramped up in order to meet Liverpool’s net-zero target<br />

by the end of the decade.<br />

Looking into Mayor Anderson’s policies, the former<br />

Princes Park councillor has pledged that, moving forward,<br />

the council will only work with contractors that reduce<br />

their impact on the environment. This includes initiatives<br />

to build energy efficient public buildings and council<br />

houses, as well as a ‘retrofitting revolution’ to ensure the<br />

region’s homes become carbon neutral.<br />

In addition to this, there are promises to protect the<br />

city’s green spaces, an introduction of ‘green corridors’ to<br />

promote active (walking and cycling) travel, as well as the<br />

creation of high-quality green jobs.<br />

This all sounds very promising, although at present<br />

there is not too much in the specifics of what these green<br />

jobs will look like or where they will be created, apart from<br />

them assisting with the ‘clean growth’ of the city. This<br />

means that community participation in local government<br />

and future policy conversations is essential. If investment<br />

in green energy, technology and infrastructure is going to<br />

be ramped up, it is critical that the communities impacted<br />

have a say on where this money is to be spent, and no<br />

area of the city is left behind or disadvantaged by the<br />

changes.<br />

As the city shifts with rapid and permanent changes<br />

towards green energy, it is vital that this message is<br />

articulated and understood by everyone in the region,<br />

with changes coming at no detriment to any person or<br />

industry. The inevitable shift towards electric vehicles for<br />

personal and public transport, for example, should be fully<br />

explained and come with no added complications or costs<br />

to the consumer.<br />

Bringing people along in these decisions and working<br />

together to build a truly sustainable city has the perceived<br />

benefits of increasing community spirit across the region,<br />

yet more importantly, it is perhaps the only way to meet<br />

the city’s radical net-zero goal – set two decades ahead of<br />

the overall UK target.<br />

Of course, alongside the necessary commitments<br />

towards green energy, there are other promises in the<br />

mayor’s manifesto, including investment in our culture,<br />

arts, creative and digital sectors. This is reassuring, but<br />

must be followed through with appropriate assistance<br />

considering the devastating impact the pandemic has had<br />

on these industries.<br />

Aligned with Anderson’s green, community-driven<br />

mantra, this pledge will bring hope to the music and arts<br />

communities of the city, as the skewed preference of<br />

infrastructure over the arts may finally begin to become<br />

more balanced. Under the former mayor’s tenure, the city<br />

centre has been consistently built upon, with excessive<br />

gentrification and rising rents forcing the closure of some<br />

of our much-loved independent venues and studios – with<br />

the Kazimier, Nation, Sound, and Constellations to name<br />

but a sorely missed few.<br />

Crucially, however, progressive policies to protect<br />

both the creative industries and the planet can work in<br />

tandem. Restrictions on over-construction will inevitably<br />

bring down construction emissions and spiralling rents,<br />

while the preservation of the city’s cultural scene will<br />

guarantee tourism, job protection, community satisfaction,<br />

and the great tradition of being a world-leading city of<br />

music and culture.<br />

So, while there may be distrust and scepticism in the<br />

city council at present, Mayor Anderson’s pledges provide<br />

an encouraging, progressive step forward. While action<br />

will certainly need to match her rhetoric, her inclusive,<br />

ambitious policies can help to rebuild relationships with<br />

communities as the city recovers from the pandemic.<br />

Working towards this along with the pivotal task of<br />

reaching carbon net-zero by the end of the decade, the<br />

mayor and the council will undoubtedly need our full<br />

support. !<br />

Words: Conal Cunningham<br />


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