Bido Lito! Magazine | Issue 114 | June 2021

bidolito

Featuring: SPINN, IAMKYAMI, VASILY PETRENKO, LIVERPOOL FOOTBALL THERAPY, MONKS, SUPER COOL DRAWING MACHINE, CULTURAL SHIFT, JAMES CORBETT, STARKEY THE MESSENGER, THE LET GO, THE LOVELY EGGS, SHAME, WYLDEST, AND MORE.

ISSUE 115 / JULY 2021

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

FREE!

SPINN

Looking on the

bright side

IAMKYAMI

MONKS

VASILY

PETRENKO

FOOTBALL

THERAPY


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MAIN ROOM DJS: JADE LI • BEAR GROWLS GARDEN DJS: KATIE OWEN • MRPAUL • LIQUIDATION SOUNDSYSTEM

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THE BIG MOON • THE ORIELLES • BLACK HONEY

SELF ESTEEM • LUCIA & THE BEST BOYS • BIG JOANIE

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FEATURES

11 / SPINN

Lily Blakeney-Edwards charts the continuing evolution of

Spinn and chats to the indie band about looking on the

bright side.

14 / IAMKYAMI

In a new space, iamkyami is thriving as she speaks to

Orla Foster.

18 / MONKS

With an 80s soundtrack and a collaboration giving them

a new lease of life, Monks deserve your attention.

20 / FOR THE LOVE OF IT

An exhibition of musicians’ artistic side-hustles gives

Cath Holland licence to speak to Richard Dawson, Cerys

Matthews and others about their creative motivations.

22 / A CULTURAL SHIFT

Can art and culture on Merseyside lead the green

revolution?

24 / VASILY PETRENKO

Stuart Miles O’Hara speaks with Vasily Petrenko ahead of

the maestro’s final concerts after 15 years at the helm of

the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

26 / A CITY OF VILLAGES

Author James Corbett wrestles with Liverpool’s varying

definitions of identity and belonging with his new novel

The Outsiders.

28 / HEADS UP

Matthew Berks explores the work behind Liverpool

Football Therapy, a football programme helping to save

lives through early intervention.

REGULARS

8 / NEWS

All the projects, initiatives and announcements

you need to know about in our region’s new

music and creative cultural sphere.

10 / HOT PINK

Our monthly selection of new tracks takes us

beyond the Summer Solstice, helped by Ruby

Walvin, Dead Nature, JVCK and more.

32 / SPOTLIGHTS

Introducing spoken word trailblazer Starkey The

Messenger and synth pop queens The Let Go.

34 / PREVIEWS

July may have heralded a false start but there’s

still plenty going on. We speak to The Lovely

Eggs and preview some of the best exhibitions,

gigs and festivals.

38 / REVIEWS

Our reviewers are back in the room for sociallydistanced

shows from Shame and Wyldest,

as well as reports from Reconnect festival and

more.

46 / ARTISTIC LICENCE

Megan Walder’s ode to the venue teases the

return of live music and all its small-moment

intricacies we took for granted.

47 / FINAL SAY

Conal Cunningham weighs up the challenges

that greet our new mayor as she gets to work

after her election victory.

6


E D I T O R I A L

This editorial will sadly be my last as editor of Bido Lito!. After three

years, various roles and 27 print issues, I’ve made the difficult

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

of Bido Lito! would forcibly state, new is good; new is challenging;

new is where we learn the most about ourselves and everything around

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

yet, knowing this does little to lessen the blow of departing.

Arriving at the magazine as a contributor four years ago, I was

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

years before then, writing had never been something that came naturally

to me. I was never into books or reading. My opinions were often kept

to myself. I would tremble when punching the numbers in for a phone

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

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

out).

As the years went by, I kept at it. I found myself reading regularly. I

pushed myself to write more. I started to be honest in what I was trying

to say – no longer trying to imitate writers and the output of those behind

successful Twitter handles. Perhaps, then, it was almost fate that I

eventually plucked up the courage and inquired about writing for Bido Lito!

– a magazine which carried much of the same DIY, self-taught credentials

that I now did. And what this somewhat self-indulgent paragraph is trying

to show, is that Bido Lito! remains and always will be an essential vehicle

for allowing people to be who they want to be. For people to achieve things

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

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

issue. Those who capture the imagery that adorns the pink pages.

Bido Lito! has weathered some significant challenges in its 11-year

history. A quick Google search of how many local print music and culture

magazines are still in circulation will offer a clue as to the landscape it has

been up against. Launching in the tight grip of austerity in 2010, seeing

the social dynamic of a city rapidly change throughout the decade, a large

portion of my editorship was equally not without its challenges.

I was downbeat when facing the reality of being editor at the

beginning of the pandemic. In a cosmetic sense, lockdown would rob Bido

Lito! of what’s set it apart all of these years – the dedication to remaining a

print magazine. Knowing

this, I questioned the

value of what I, and the

rest of the team, could

achieve. But, as likely the

case with many people

during the early phases of

the first lockdown, I was

questioning a lot at this

point in time.

What’s important?

That’s the question that

constantly stood out.

It’s the question that

everything I would write

and commission would

look to answer in its own

specific way – irrespective

of having a magazine to showcase it. Ironically, Bido Lito! became more

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

music was at a complete standstill. That phase is testament to what the

magazine stands for. When Liverpool, its artists, its communities needed

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

to answer. It campaigned. It platformed. It changed. I truly believe this. It

did what everything that strives to carry the independent torch should: it

showed us a new way of seeing, of being, of experiencing. It showed us

what Liverpool is, was and can be. Issue 75 of Bido Lito! proclaimed how

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

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

editor.

I’ve always hated endings for their helpless melancholy. I hate the

closing montage of televised football tournaments. I hate the last day

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

coming to an end. However, I think drawing a line under something allows

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

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

of it. Not even the last 16 months. Forza Bido. !

Special thanks to Craig, Chris and Sam for the opportunity and

continual belief.

Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder

Editor

Bido Lito! took on

questions it has

no right to answer.

It campaigned.

It platformed. It

changed. I truly

believe this”

New Music + Creative Culture

Liverpool

Issue 115 / July 2021

bidolito.co.uk | @bidolito

Second Floor

The Merchant

40-42 Slater Street

Liverpool L1 4BX

Founding Editor

Craig G Pennington

Founding Editor

Christopher Torpey - chris@bidolito.co.uk

Executive Publisher

Sam Turner - sam@bidolito.co.uk

Editor

Elliot Ryder - elliot@bidolito.co.uk

Digital & Memberships Officer

Matthew Berks - matthew@bidolito.co.uk

Editorial Interns

El Gray

Shannon Garner

Mia O’Hare

Design

Mark McKellier - mark@andmark.co.uk

Branding

Thom Isom - hello@thomisom.com

Proofreader

Nathaniel Cramp

Cover Photography

Gary Lambert

Words

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

Cath Holland, Lily Blakeney-Edwards, Shannon

Garner, Mia O’Hare, Orla Foster, Stuart Miles

O’Hara, James Corbett, Megan Walder, Alice

Williams, Alastair Dunn, Alfie Verity, Slinky Malinky,

Nina Newbold, Cat Caie, Poppy Fair, Hannah

Merchant, Conal Cunningham.

Photography, Illustration and Layout

Mark McKellier, Gary Lambert, Michael Kirkham,

Lucy McLachlan, Mark McNulty, Ant Clausen, Liam

Jones, Daniel Pattman, Frankie Beanie, Darren

Aston, Kevin Barrett, Jennifer Bruce.

Distribution

Our magazine is distributed as far as possible

through pedal power, courtesy of our Bido Bikes. If

you would like to find out more, please email sam@

bidolito.co.uk.

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or finding out about how we can work together,

please email sam@bidolito.co.uk.

All contributions to Bido Lito! come from our city’s

amazing creative community. If you would like to

join the fold visit bidolito.co.uk/contribute.

We are contributing one per cent of our advertising

revenue to WeForest.org to fund afforestation

projects around the world. This more than offsets

our carbon footprint and ensures there is less CO2

in the atmosphere as a result of our existence.

The views expressed in Bido Lito! are those of the

respective contributors and do not necessarily

reflect the opinions of the magazine, its staff or the

publishers. All rights reserved.

EDITORIAL 7


NEWS

A WEEK WITH PINS

Callin’ all burgeoning 16 to 21-yearold

musicians based in the triangular

belt of Greater Manchester, Cheshire

and Merseyside! You can spend a

free five-day music residency with

Manchester punk triplet PINS where

you’ll get to experience the full cycle

of artistic production, from initial idea

to onstage transformation. Taking

place in-person at The Met in Bury

from 26th to 30th July, the week-long

creative collaboration project includes

recording your own EP, taking part in

a photoshoot and getting stuck into

artist imagery, with the opportunity

to develop your creative collaboration

skills before performing live with PINS

at the award-winning venue in Bury.

Applications for the residency, courtesy

of North West music charity Brighter

Sound, close 27th June.

brightersound.com

PINS

UN-CONVENTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

unconventionhub.org

Un-convention

PRIDE MARCH ONLINE

To celebrate Pride month, LCR Pride Foundation are hosting a virtual march where

they are inviting individuals, groups and businesses to take part by submitting videos

and photos of themselves. This year they are encouraging those participating to

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

broadcast from their social media channels at midday on Saturday 31st July when the

physical march would usually take place. There will be videos of speeches from local

leaders and short interviews as well as individuals marching, cheering and holding

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

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

lcrpride.co.uk

YOUTH MUSIC NEXTGEN FUND

Young musicians and those wanting to get a jump start on a career in the music

industry have a fantastic opportunity with Youth Music’s NextGen fund. The

fund is built for creatives with big ideas who need the money to make their

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

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

to support individuals who are the future of the music industries, so singers,

managers, rappers, A&Rs, producers and agents, right through to roles yet to be

defined, are possible candidates.

youthmusic.org.uk/nextgen/nextgen-fund

SONIC SYNTHESIS

North West label Rhythm Lab Records are celebrating the release of

a special compilation, Sonic Synthesis, which explores collaboration

between artists by inviting them to swap their recording stems to rework

each other’s tracks from a new perspective. Among the artists on the

mix are former Liverpool resident MICCO, electronic balladeer CALLUM

HULTQUIST and rapper LINTD. The project is all about bringing up new

voices in the music industry and giving them the experience, skills and

expertise to forge a path and create fabulous work like Sonic Synthesis on

the way.

Micco

rhythmlabrecords.com

8


Dawn Penn

MANDELA DAY

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

revolutionary. Liverpool charity, Mandela8, are leading celebrations to promote awareness

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

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

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

or their community. Over at Museum of Liverpool, the Liverpool 8 Against Apartheid exhibition

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

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

mandela8.org.uk

POSITIVE VIBRATION

There’s good news from the Baltic Triangle as Positive Vibration have

announced the legendary DAWN PENN as their festival headliner this year.

The reggae titan joins a fantastic cast of stars of the genre, with ASIAN DUB

FOUNDATION, MAD PROFESSOR and HOLLIE COOK all getting involved.

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

discussions and the Art of Reggae poster exhibition. All the action takes place

across Camp & Furnace, District, Hangar 34, 92 Degrees, YARD and New Bird

Street over the weekend of 10-11th September.

posvibefest.com

TONY PHILLIPS AT BLUECOAT

A sequence of etchings narrating key events from 1900 to present day, titled 12

Decades, are on display at the Bluecoat. Tony Phillips has focused his artwork on

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

highlights the contradictions between technological advancements and the reality

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

this study of modern history for the past 40 years. The exhibition will complement

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

two venues.

thebluecoat.org.uk

THROUGH THE LENS OF MUSIC

The work of the region’s diligent music photographers is being celebrated at

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

Wool, are hosting exhibitions of work by local snappers at Bloom Building in

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

panels will also put the art and profession of music photography under a

microscope with guest speakers from Where Are The Girl Bands, Melodic

Distraction and Bido Lito! taking part. The events will create a platform for an

intrinsic element of our music ecosystem, an artform that is creative, inspiring,

emotional and skillful. The opening event at Bloom Building takes place at 4pm

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

WILLIAMSON REOPENS

After having their doors closed since March 2020 and encouraging art

enthusiasts to view collections online to stay involved, the Williamson Art

Gallery & Museum has reopened to visitors. Using viewers’ favourite pieces

from the online screenings, the new exhibition Your Williamson features

many paintings by artists with local connections, including two by the

recently deceased Geoff Yeomans. The artwork in this exhibition will be the

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

whole host of both new and previous favourite collections to enjoy.

williamsonartgallery.org

Williamson Art Gallery

NEWS 9


HOT PINK!

Words: Mia O’Hare and Shannon Garner

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

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

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

electronica and one or two curveballs to enjoy.

Dead Nature

Watch Me Break Apart

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

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

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

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

band, Spring King. Musa is the producer, mixer, songwriter and musician under the

DEAD NATURE pseudonym, and nothing seems to hold him back. (MOH)

Ruby Walvin

Without You

Gliding effortlessly against the soft electric guitar and drumbeats, RUBY WALVIN’s

voice is transcendent. A sonic pot of honey with angelic backing vocals rolling off

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

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

insomnia worries, to reminiscing about the glory days, each element of the track

compliments the other for a listening delight. (SG)

All Trades

Punch Hole

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

industrial house party or subterranean rave. The consistent punchy electronic beats will

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

build-up at the start of the track showcases the spontaneous programming and

terrifying power All Trades hold. (SG)

Murmurs

Not My Girl

MURMURS’ debut single echoes the sounds that rolled off the Mersey through the

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

rhythms of the guitar interplay with catchy melodies and the soft beat of the drum

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

who came before. (MOH)

Rachel Nicholas

Sloth

Clinic

Fine Dining

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

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

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

element to the post-punk troupe’s distinctive sound. (SG)

The Letrasets

Wait

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

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

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

away. The infectious melody is reminiscent of classic indie bands making it the perfect

soundtrack for summer. (SG)

JVCK

Feeds

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

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

reverb on the electric guitar instrumental halfway through the track, the song is the

perfect number to wind down to. (SG)

The Peach Fuzz

Never Wanna See The Light

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

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

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

the sunny months ahead. (MOH)

Photography from left to right: Rachel Nicholas, The Peach Fuzz, Ruby Walvin, Dead

Nature

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

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

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

continues to wrong-foot the listener with twists and turns and unpredictable time

signatures. (SG)

10


LOOKING ON THE

BRIGHT SIDE

On their new EP, SPINN loosen the roots to their established

sound but continue to search for the light within the dark.

FEATURE

11


S

P

IN

N

12


Conversations surrounding SPINN always go hand-in-hand

with tales of their chaotic charisma. Today, it still seems

like they’re feeling the effects of being up early and having

a camera lens aimed at their faces. It’s only after the

question “would you rather never cut your hair again, or your nails?”

is put forward that their infectious energy becomes abundantly clear.

It’s afternoon at the Baltic Fleet, and myself and the band are

huddled around a small wooden table. Pints in hand, Louis O’Reilly

(drums), Luke Royalty (guitar) and Sean McLachlan (bass) dive into

the conversation. Questions, quips and counterarguments erupt.

The debate becomes palpable across the lightly beer-soaked table.

“Is this just gonna be a would you rather? Should we just do that

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

There’s a fleeting silence before a definite, decisive answer. “Teeth

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

procedure, mind,” laughs Johnny.

The debate is continuing while the city slowly grinds into life

and an underlying sense of excitement emerges. It’s the weekend

of the much-awaited test events across Liverpool, and the first real

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

addictive – feeding into Spinn’s animated tendencies wonderfully,

as they constantly pass compliments, insults and general chatter

between them. As we watch the early partygoers make their way to

the weekend’s events, the conversation turns to the city’s live scene.

It’s clear that the grind of getting established seems a world

away from the group now. However, with the closure of so many

of the city’s staple music venues, the emotional resonance sticks.

“Our first gig was The Zanzibar, but we also played Phase One and

Sound quite a bit. Smaller venues really are a home for upcoming

artists and so many of them are gone now, the community will have

to find new places again,” Luke reflects.

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

scene will always change,” Johnny chimes in. “When we started,

indie was just blowing up, but Liverpool was still full of psychedelia.

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

post-punk now, dressing in black and talking about England. When

something closes, it just ups space for new creations.”

Like the scene they grew up in, Spinn have gone through a

number of iterations throughout their career, with a number of

previous bandmates having departed from the group over the

years. “We played throughout the city when we were coming up,

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

years, and then the old drummer quit to join the police. We soon

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

everything. We’ve gone in very different directions, mind.”

While the scene they came up in may be a thing of the past,

Spinn’s take on sun-kissed indie remains as prevalent as ever.

Epitomised by shimmery synths and lulling, heartfelt vocals, the

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

flinching from the trends of today. Though, as Louis explains, like the

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

over the last several years. “We spent years writing shoegaze music,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merging both past and contemporary influences, the group

quickly achieved success, releasing their self-titled album back

in 2018, to selling out Liverpool’s O2 Academy in 2019. Such

successes have seen them emerge as a type of modernised

boyband – epitomised by their dedicated fanbase and the band’s

constant online voice that blurs the lines between a fan-and-artist

relationship. But, as has become all too clear in recent months, the

directness of instant communication comes with its fears. “People

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

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

fanbase, but it is overwhelming at times, though, because it can all

change overnight. People try to find your personal info, like finding

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

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

people online. The other day I posted a picture of Penn and Teller

and got a full discussion going. We do look a lot like them though,

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

Fears of cancellation aside, the group’s charm and willingness

to adapt have led them to release a collection of kaleidoscopic popfuelled

offerings across their four-year journey. It’s an impressive

discography and yet, true to their ever-changing nature, the group

have their eyes on the horizon.

Their upcoming EP, Daydreaming, marks a new era for the

group, who are keen to show off changes in their sound to its fullest

extent. “We showcase different sides of ourselves on the EP,”

explains Louis. “There are tracks that are heavier, some dreamy indie

stuff and pure pop.”

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

The music we wrote at the beginning wasn’t bad, but we’ve

definitely improved the way we write,” Johnny admits. “On certain

tracks, we worked with four different producers to get it right. We

wanted to make sure the release was the best it could be.”

The energy of the EP is fuelled by unadulterated optimism,

as it bounces between genres and subject matters with blissful

ease. The Things She Says To Me deals with affection teetering on

sappy, as Quinn recites love-filled lyrics over a chiming acoustic

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

recommending books to your loved ones, proper wholesome,”

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

discloses. “I just love a banger!”

While Daydreaming sees the band branch out, one thing that

remains central is the group’s saccharine demeanour. Even on the

title track – a song about unrequited love littered with echoing

guitar riffs and unstoppable drums – Spinn’s sweetness simmers

throughout, mellowing it entirely. This outlook could be taken as

part of the band’s natural charm. But as Johnny elaborates on his

songwriting process, it becomes clear that the air of positivity is a

deliberate, integral choice. “Recently, I’ve been trying to centre my

songwriting around positive affirmations. Even on tracks that deal

with darker stuff, I still want to create proper upbeat pop tracks,”

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

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

Perhaps the track that feels most evolved from the group’s

origins is Billie, a melts-in-your-mouth offering that features

vocals by Christie Simpson of Yumi Zouma. True to indie-pop,

hazy synth leads dominate the track’s backing, while Simpson and

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

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

“The structure of the track was there to begin with, but to have a

different harmony on it transformed it completely. We’ll definitely

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

so it was the best of both worlds really.”

“Johnny’s the only one who’s actually met

her though,” Luke quips. “So many people

think she was in the studio with us, like it

was Elton John and Kiki Dee on Don’t Go

Breaking My Heart.”

It’s afternoon now, and faces begin to

dominate the city streets. It’s a welcome

sight, although the newness of it doesn’t

escape anyone. It’s a stark contrast with

only a few weeks before and it ignites

a level of reflective thought in the band.

“Lockdown has really slowed down the

output of music,” Luke explains. “Live music

has always been the centre of releases for

most groups. You release a track in line with

doing gigs, the whole thing revolves around

live music. Even us, we only released one song last year and we had

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

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

music relies on ticket sales, that it will drive new bands out or make

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

optimism. “But now that people are starting to write music again,

you don’t know what the next trend could be. People will hopefully

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

music – smaller artists hopefully, not just the bigger ones.” Johnny

dives in with a reminder: “Yeah, we are lucky we were established

beforehand because we have that security. I used to play loads of

gigs but never actually go to that many, which will obviously change

now. Though we’ve forgotten how to play everything anyhow,” he

smiles.

With the future so uncertain, questions of what’s next are

always hard to pin down. Spinn, however, remain ever enthusiastic

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

between each of them, seemingly desperate to give away secrets

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

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

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

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

Spinn’s accolades and brings an air of satisfaction that sits between

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

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

Words: Lily Blakeney-Edwards / @lilyhbee

Photography: Gary Lambert / @glamgigpics

Daydreaming is available from 30th June via Modern Sky.

@spinn_band

“It felt like one day

it just all clicked and

we started writing

pop tunes”

FEATURE

13


14


IAMKYAMI

Water, nurture and new space to thrive, Orla Foster tracks

the resilient journey of the singer-songwriter.

Maybe it was the Jacuzzi that was the final

straw. When the man upstairs decides he

needs to install a hot tub to entertain local

celebrities, that’s when you know the end is

nigh. For Kyami Russell, aka IAMKYAMI, it meant being

forced to wrap up her last days in Liverpool huddled in a

dank suburban bedroom, watching water cascade down

the walls while her neighbours splashed blithely overhead.

“Why a Jacuzzi, though? So boujie for no reason,”

she exhales. “It made everything so damp I had to throw

away all my clothes. After four months I was like, ‘Alright,

I’m out. I’m taking my shit and leaving’.”

It marked a slightly flat finish to her time in Liverpool,

where she’d been since 2017. But there’s nothing like

a damp bedroom to make you thirst for a fresh start, so

when Kyami finally did sling her hook, she headed for

Manchester instead. “I really did try to hold out as long

as I could in Liverpool,” she says.

What else could she have done, sit

and wait for the ceiling to collapse?

Before Liverpool and

Manchester, there was upstate New

York, where Kyami grew up, joining

her dad for local open mic nights

and envisioning a musical career

in the long run. But there was a

limit to how far she could progress

in the small city she called home,

even in a household overflowing

with music. As long as she stayed

there, she felt, she couldn’t really

grow.

“My dad and brother always produced music when

I was younger, but never taught me,” she reflects.

“Because subconsciously boys just assume girls can’t

produce music. I was always the singer and songwriter of

the house, but never the producer. So that’s what I wanted

to learn, when I was thinking of moving [to Liverpool].”

Not only that, the dubious honour of being voted

‘Most Unique’ by her classmates in high school was a

pretty strong indicator that her best years lay elsewhere.

“I stuck out. I always knew that I was different than

everyone else. But I didn’t think I was different in a bad

way, you know?”

But moving to the UK to enrol at LIPA wasn’t

the homecoming she dreamed of either. There, she

encountered a chorus line of wealthy classmates and

tutors mistily invoking past pupils who had gone on

to ghost-write mainstream hits. Her irritation at the

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

Lipa song. Teach. Me. Something’.” What the experience

ended up teaching her was to get the hell out of stage

school.

So she left, began seeking out new horizons and

“A lot of the

songs are really

hard to write

because they

come from such

a raw place”

turning up to shows alone. She got accepted into

LIMF Academy, became involved with a ton of creative

projects in the community and, for a while, things were

good. “I used to love going to gigs and events by myself

because, in my eyes, it’s easier to approach people – or

easier for people to approach you. I attribute a lot of my

success to just going out and meeting people outside of

the uni bubble.”

In the months that followed, she became relentlessly

prolific. She put out music and podcasts, was featured

by BBC Introducing, starred in a Pepsi ad with Mo Salah

and became a literal poster girl for Liverpool tourism. The

EP she released towards the end of 2020, Life Of Ky, is

a culmination of that period, featuring autobiographical

lyrics and soulful hooks about upholding self-belief

against a backdrop of long retail shifts and secondguessing

crushes.

So what went wrong?

Well, if anything, she felt

the scene was a little too quick

to champion her. No sooner

had iamkyami put her name out

there than she was being fêted

as one of the city’s premier RnB

talents. She was uncomfortable

at the accolades from blogs and

promoters, when she hadn’t even

decided quite how and if RnB

fitted into her sound. “I was still

trying to figure it out, and I couldn’t,

because I had so much pressure

to be this next RnB person from

Liverpool. And I didn’t like it, I felt it contributed to my

lack of writing and creativity. I wasn’t motivated, because

I thought I needed to fit into this box that everyone was

putting me into.

“There’s more to my sound than people have

experienced,” she continues, “but also there are a lot of

labels that go with being a queer, black and Japanese

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

the person to swoop in and try to save the scene. That’s

not who I am or who I want to be.”

There was also the fatigue of competing with the

city’s fleet of guitar bands: “I think we really need to

leave these white indie lad bands behind. Just drop it! It’s

so dead! In Liverpool, I’d go to venues and watch bands

and be like, ‘What the hell? I could be playing here, and

my band is 10 times better than whatever this is’. I would

actually be fuming all the time because there’s way

better acts you guys could be putting on, but you put this

on instead.”

One thing that hadn’t shifted since childhood was

the scepticism she met trying to prove herself as a

producer. Meanwhile the prowess of her male peers

FEATURE

went unquestioned. “I knew a lot of guys making indie

music and people would always be praising them. But

when I showed things I was working on, I got so much

scrutiny. I thought it was because my production wasn’t

good enough, but then I realised, it’s not actually about

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

I feel like – not only as a woman, but as a queer woman

of colour – it’s still really challenging to say to people,

‘Listen, I’m a producer’.”

Has it been any easier to make strides with this in

Manchester?

“There’s just more opportunity, more willingness to

collaborate. And people are starting to pick up on who

I am, I’ve been booked for a couple of things and I’m

having conversations with different record labels about

the kind of deals I want.”

For all that, Kyami doesn’t seem like the sort of artist

who relies on being part of some local ecology. You get

the feeling that if lockdown never ended, she could just sit

in her room stacking up projects, surrounded by notebooks

and brimming with ideas faster than she can jot them

down. Doesn’t that level of productivity get exhausting?

“Every day. I’m exhausted every day. I’ve been trying

to be this sort of music business shark and get my name

out there and do all these different things, but you know,

I would never give myself time to chill.”

What about her social media output, is that fun or a

chore? Because she makes it look pretty fun…

“My Instagram is my business card,” she clarifies. “I

only care about metrics, not about being popular. I used

to work full-time in make-up and they would try to force

us to be content creators and post all these different

looks – and on my own page as well, where I’ve got

people that want to see my music, not my frickin’ makeup!

So I was making all this content that I would watch

back and think, ‘This doesn’t make me laugh, it doesn’t

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

soon as I stop having fun making something, that’s when

I know that it’s not good.”

But on to her songwriting. I bring up her set in

the chapel at Future Yard festival in 2019, which in

iamkyami’s breakneck timeline, already seems a lifetime

ago. In that intimate setting, she came across like an old

friend, warm and funny, filling the gaps between songs

with anecdotal snippets about her life and what inspired

each lyric. Does she still feel comfortable sharing that

level of detail with strangers?

“I think I’ve tried to take a step back from writing

so personally about my own experiences,” she says.

“Because at the time when I was writing like that, and

really diving deep into certain aspects of my life, it was

more an emotional healing thing. A lot of the songs were

really hard to write because they come from such a raw

place.

15


“When I moved to the UK, I had no idea who I was.

I didn’t know what I wanted to represent, what kind

of relationship I wanted to be in, what kind of friends I

wanted to have. I was very confused about my sexuality

and my cultural identity and all this stuff. I feel like I come

across as very confident to other people, but there’s a lot

of things I’m insecure about, or have anxiety about, that I

kind of shoved to the side.

“I remember when I was writing Concrete Rose,” she

continues, “I was living in the first uni flat I ever had, and

my room was in the basement. So I was sitting on my

bed and just crying loads, and I thought, ‘I don’t know

how I could ever play this live because I will just cry’. I

think that’s why people resonate with that song. It comes

from a part of me that I needed to rectify with myself, of

like, not needing to be perfect. You just have to try your

hardest, and just be authentic, and be yourself. And that’s

something I’ve been trying to work on this whole time.”

Concrete Rose is like a lifejacket thrown to her

younger self, a tender reminder to stay strong. When

Kyami was growing up, who were the artists providing

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

think many artists I listened to had positive messages. I

liked Erykah Badu, who has a lot of self-empowerment

in her music, but most of what I listened to was super

sad, like Amy Winehouse and Adele. And beyond that,

16

really terrible misogynistic rappers and pop music. So

when I started writing that letter-to-self kind of song, it

wasn’t inspired by anyone else, it really was just about

my own healing.

“Actually, when I came to the UK, I didn’t even want

to be an artist, I wanted to be a ghost-writer because I

wasn’t super-confident in what I was doing. Now, looking

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

had never become an artist because I was stopping myself?”

Although if you happen to be a certain German

supermarket chain, those ghost-writing skills might still

be available for hire: “I don’t think anyone knows this

about me, but I love writing jingles. Lidl don’t have a

jingle but they need one.” She bursts into song. “A lot

for a little! Imagine walking into stores and hearing that

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

publishing deal so I can get these jingles out and get my

jingle money.”

We’re about an hour into the call and it occurs to me I

can stop reeling off questions like a bot and just enjoy the

conversation. What, I wonder aloud, is her track record

with houseplants? She scuttles off-camera and returns

with a tall, zingy specimen sprinkled with little blossoms.

The plant she rescued from the Jacuzzi-soaked flat hasn’t

fared so well, she says; it’s been infested with mould and

left for dead.

“My houseplants need some work, trust me. This

one is thriving and surviving, but the other one? I need to

figure that out.”

I think it will heal, I tell her. I know nothing about

plants, but I don’t let that stop me.

She brightens. “Yeah, we just gotta do a little

transplant. Cut off one of the arms and then replant it.”

Is it too schmaltzy to round this off with some readymade

analogy about repotting plants? Maybe. But for all

the upheaval of the past few years, iamkyami appears

like someone who will also thrive, no matter where she

decides to put down roots. A little change of scenery,

a little splash of water now and then, and she’ll stand

taller than ever. Just, for goodness sake, go easy on the

water. !

Words: Orla Foster

Photography: Michael Kirkham / @mrkirks

Iamkyami plays the Bido Lito! Social at Kazimier

Stockroom on 30th September. Tickets available via

SeeTickets with free admission for Bido Lito! Members.

@iamkyami


the everyday stories that

make our city extraordinary

Created by Chloë Moss

With original material by

Amina Atiq, Luke Barnes,

Roy, Aron Julius,

Rhiannon Jones,

Mandy Redvers-Rowe,

and the people of Liverpool

SAT 31 Jul to

Sat 14 Aug 2021

Book online at:

everymanplayhouse.com

Directed by Nathan Powell

Video & Projection Design by Tracey Gibbs

Costume & Props Design by Kirsty Barlow

Lighting Design by Jack Coleman

Sound Design by Xenia Bayer

Cast: Helen Carter, Chloë Clarke, Aron Julius,

Nathan McMullen and Jennifer Varda

Williamson Square, Liverpool, L1 1EL


MONKS

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

electrical current.

Three out of five members of MONKS clamber

into the stylish garden booths in The Merchant.

There are jokes and chatter about whether it’s

too early to order a few drinks. Classic Northern

behaviour on a sunny day. For funky outfits alone, it’s

10 out of 10 stylish points from me, and straight away,

it’s clear that this was going to be an interview full of

laughter.

Starting out properly in 2018, Monks fuse various

influences of psychedelic rock, jazz, and dream-pop.

However, the band as we now know them might have

never happened.

“At first, I wasn’t convinced about joining the band. I

heard the first demo and thought we were crap,” guitarist

Nathan Johnson jokes. It’s the band’s witty banter with

no filter that makes them so enjoyable to be around. That

fun, feel-good approach evidently spills over into their

music, especially in their latest release, 100 Percent.

The notion of labour typifies the make-up of the

band. Each member has their own role and they remain

equal at all times. With only three members of Monks

next to me, the band doesn’t forget to mention trumpet

player Joe Fay and bassist Liam Daly.

18

After the two years of focusing on recording tracks

and booking shows, Monks have now begun to alter their

sound, all agreeing that it has “changed for the better”.

“We went down to Sheffield and recorded with Ross

Orton who worked on Arctic Monkeys’ AM album. He

had a big influence on the new sound and from that one

session, he inspired a lot of ideas for new songs,” singer

and guitarist George Pomford states. Drummer Kali

Diston-Jones nods in agreement, before adding how the

new sound has also been a learning curve for them.

“The collaboration with Ross came around when we

were on tour,” George starts. It was a telling moment,

they agreed, when discussing how they jumped at the

opportunity before doing their research. “We were

performing in London and someone’s manager from

someone’s label was there. Basically, it’s a ‘someone’s

aunt’s cousin’s dog’ situation where someone had a

connection and sorted the collaboration out,” he adds as

laughter erupts from the cousin’s dog comment.

“If you told 13-year-old me that I would be working

with someone who worked with Arctic Monkeys, I just

wouldn’t have believed you. The kid in me was being a

fanboy,” Nathan continues. The appreciation and respect

for the producer is clear as they’re grinning ear to ear

when discussing the trip to Sheffield. “It felt amazing to

work with someone like that, knowing he worked on AM

and that he also liked our demo.”

While basking in the summer sun, being ultimate

fanboys, and reminiscing about a demo that was

something George had done during his GCSEs, the

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

liked the new song so we must be doing something

right,” Nathan reflects, as the topic shifts onto their debut

EP, set to be released this winter.

No longer recording with the live aspect in the back

of their minds, I ask the band how changing sound

has altered their songwriting and live performance

perspectives. “We are matching up a lot of bands that are

bigger than us now with how they incorporate backing

tracks and electronic sounds via SSD pads,” Kali begins.

“We’re not standing there thinking about how something

will sound live, we’re more thinking about how we can

add it to a backing track to amplify what we are doing

and to solidify the new direction we are taking.”

“And we’re going to try adding lights to our live

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


cuts in at the end.

The band move on to discussing their latest single

released later in July. Pushed further for the influences

on the new sound, George touches on the specifics for

Night Moves. “The inspiration for this song came from

changing my writing process,” he starts to tell me. “I was

watching loads of film and TV series clips on YouTube

but muting the sound; writing music to the clips I was

watching.

“I had a scene from Miami Vice on repeat for hours

where a car was just going past and, from that scene, I

started sampling the synths. I

think getting the visual before

the sound helps the songwriting

process because it’s hard to

write a song if you can’t see

where it’s going visually. I think

that’s why the new single is very

80s pop-inspired, because I was

looking at 80s-themed visuals.”

In between each comment

made about the upcoming EP,

George cannot hide how proud

he is of what they’ve produced.

“Talking about it just makes me

so happy,” he enthuses.

While a wealth of contemporary music contains

overt political sentiment, it’s a route the band have

“We’re just

enjoying everything

and appreciating

it more”

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

political within the music industry and we think that’s

good. People should use their platforms for that type

of stuff,” Nathan affirms. “It’s such a complex subject

though, isn’t it? If you do it, you have to do it well and be

correct about what you’re saying,” George quickly adds.

“We have tried incorporating it into our lyrics in the past,

but it always sounds cringey or like we don’t know what

we’re talking about; it doesn’t match our sound.”

We’ve been speaking for an hour now. The sun has

made us all delusional as we ramble on about George’s

TikTok obsession, Olly Murs being

Kali’s guilty pleasure and Shrek 2.

It’s clear that the boys are ready

to enjoy a few drinks. But before

I let them go, I ask what life has

been like being in a band. “People

think that when you’re in a band

and on the road, you go out all

the time and get bevvied or do

different substances,” George

begins. They are pretty upfront

about a musician’s lifestyle and

openly divert themselves away

from the classic stereotypes. “I’d

say we’re pretty boring when it

comes to that. We’re the most boring band in Liverpool.”

“Hey, we have a nice presence!” Kali interrupts .

FEATURE

Having had the last year and a half of their usual

life of touring and recording together put on hold due

to the pandemic, the band made sure to touch on the

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

step back and appreciate what we do more,” Kali reflects.

“Pre-Covid, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to land

gigs or record deals, whereas now, we’re just enjoying

everything and appreciating it more,” adds George.

As the band continue to latch onto the end of each

other’s sentences, George ends the interview with a

summary of the last hour. “OK, so main influences for the

new sound: Olly Murs and Shrek 2. What other cringe

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

That’s us, Monks,” Nathan replies. As a closing maxim,

Kali proclaims: “A boring band with a nice presence, and

we have a trumpet! What major label doesn’t want to

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

Words: Shannon Garner

Photography: Lucy McLachlan / @Lucy_alexandra

Night Moves is available from 23rd July.

Monks headline the Bido Lito! Social at Future Yard on

Friday 30th July. Support comes from A Lesser Version.

Tickets available via SeeTickets with free admission for

Bido Lito! Members.

19


FOR THE

LOVE OF IT

A new exhibition in Birkenhead will display the visual artwork of a range of established

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

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

question where the lines sit between passion, creativity and work.

At the beginning of lockdown 1.0 over a year

ago, it was universally expected of musicians,

poets, DJs and artists of all kinds to get onto

Facebook Live sharpish and entertain the

masses. Online performances from bedrooms, kitchens

and bathrooms with admittedly great acoustics were a

halfway house of a live show, self-consciously awkward

and frustrating on both sides, from a lack of being bodily

in the present.

The pop star allure dims in such a hostage video setup,

and furlough concerts were never going to discover

the next big thing. Nevertheless, we expect another

Sandi Thom PR story at some point soon.

The demand and expectation for free entertainment

lead, in part, to the furore from creatives over the

unviable and unprofitable jobs message put out by the

government in the autumn. The inference that creativity

not churning out fat profits isn’t worth preserving

bruised us. And yet, we’ve chewed over the issues

around streaming rates for a good while, and the art

vs commerce debate has rumbled on since forever.

The perception and respect for the role and value of

artists of all disciplines has shifted as barriers between

them and their audience gradually broke down. The

democratisation effect of punk must have felt a bloody

great idea 40 plus years ago, but the rot of why pay

for something when you can get it for free is a direct

descendent.

The belief that creating pretty, wonderful, amusing

and enjoyable things is not work because the product is

agreeable or entertaining, is ingrained. It’s not framed as

work the same way conventional occupations are, and

definitely not hard work, the ultimate praise and flattery

for grafters. No one comes home from a day’s nine to five

and announces what an easy doss of a day they’ve had

at the office.

But when does something become work? At what

point does it become invoice-worthy? It’s a question

sparked by SUPER COOL DRAWING MACHINE, a new

exhibition at Birkenhead’s Future Yard which showcases

the wider artistic endeavours of established musicians.

“It becomes work when other people get involved

and need stuff off you, maybe,” says Paris-based Kate

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

it?” Kate quotes pop art nun Corita Kent’s famous rules

from half a century ago, that you have to do everything

as well as you can and the only rule is make or work. But

the world has moved on – or back, depending on how

we view things. In the Sister’s day, an artist, especially a

musician, didn’t have to justify building an economy for

themselves quite as much. Partly because of the music

industry’s alarming business model working for the

benefit of a tiny top per cent, but also the belief system

that creativity is not work and doesn’t need to be paid for.

Wearer of many hats from BBC Radio 6 Music,

Cerys Matthews has composed the music for We Come

From The Sun, an album of poetry by emerging UK

poets released in February. She challenges the notion of

creativity as an easy option. She enjoys the process and

result of her own lyric writing, for example, but stresses

the work and effort involved in making it how she wants

it.

“I enjoy the challenge, I

don’t find it easy, but I don’t

think anybody finds that

easy,” she says.

And by anybody, she

includes members of the

canon and those we view

through the historical genius

lens.

“Everyone used to

say about Dylan Thomas,

‘He turns on the tap and it

flows out of him’ and he’d

be fuming, saying, ‘I really

worked for hours, days and

months on that and I’m not

like a tap, I’m more like a

carpenter chiseling away

at a piece of wood making

sculpture out of wood, you know’. But what it is with great

poets like Dylan Thomas, they make it seem effortless.

The idea is you practice so much that on occasion the

variables line up and it can come to you, but, as Charlie

Parker said, you’ve just got to practice, practice, practice

and then when you’re on stage let it rip.”

And although musician Richard Dawson admits

himself feeling “grateful” to gain success in his field of

music, he believes, like Cerys, that because the process

of creating an art form is not evident, it adds to the belief

that it does not require work.

“You don’t see the workings of it the way you see the

workings of other jobs. It probably looks easier, and the

idea of it is a lot nicer than the reality.”

Other areas of the job – because that’s what it

is – take effort as well. Richard says about not always

realising how much it takes to put yourself out there,

for public consumption. There has to be an element of

steeling oneself for the response?

“Especially over the last few years, where the

atmosphere with social media and everything is a lot

more cynical. There’s more nastiness and it’s more

acceptable to be critical of people and shoot people

down. Actually, you’re giving up quite a lot by doing some

sort of performance job-based work.”

Kate and Richard are both contributors to the Super

Cool Drawing Machine exhibition stopping off at Future

Yard, and have given pieces of art they produce away

from music. Although Richard’s collage artwork is no

secret – he uses it as part of his album cover art and has

exhibited in galleries and bookshops – art is not what he

“Everyone wants to

communicate with

the outside world how

hard they’re working

and how difficult it is to

feel validated for what

they do or don’t do”

is known for. Music is his main creative output, but the

processes of both are, to him, similar.

“It all feels like the same stuff, whether it is something

you’ve made out of paper or paint or that you’ve made

out of the air or strung a bunch of words together. It’s

all problem solving – you get a raw lump of material and

you’ve just got to chip away

at it. So, the early stages of

a song or the early stages

of a collage tend to come

quite fast and then it’s the

refinement process that is

the slow bit; the closer you

get to the finish line the

slower it gets.”

Elliot Hutchinson has

three roles within music: at

nighttime he is a renowned

live DJ and also presents

shows on Liverpool’s Melodic

Distraction community radio

station; by day he is to be

found in the city’s Dig Vinyl

record shop. I put to him

that, from the outside, all

three could be viewed as a total dream, hanging around

behind the counter all day talking about music and selling

records, dealing with his chosen medium 24/7.

“It’s an enjoyable job, but there’s also a lot of hard

work,” he says of his role in the shop. “Because we

sell second-hand records there is a lot of cleaning. I go

out and buy huge collections and there’s a lot of graft

involved, manual work in order to get our stock to the

standard in which we want to sell it. There’s hours of

prepping, cleaning, editing, repairing sleeves.”

Dorcas Sebuyange is a multidisciplinary artist who

works in theatre, music and writing. All three disciplines

became work for her at different stages. But the

transformation of it ultimately came down to time and

money.

“Spending more time in each field and getting paid

for that time,” she says simply. “In the first few years it

never really felt like work to be honest, and I wouldn’t

class it as ‘working’ either. When receiving ‘work’ I would

find myself saying things like, ‘I got an opportunity’.”

As it became possible for her to make a living out of

what she loved doing, because she enjoyed it so much

she found her work-life balance out of kilter. It began to

dawn on her that that she wasn’t living out her life to the

full because she was too busy working.

“I had to realise that the whole time I was getting

these amazing opportunities, I was in fact working.

Your job, no matter how much you love it, is still a

job. Right now, I’m trying to find ways to continue

working while allowing space to take it easy and be

prudent rather than strive to be busy. Working hard

20


can look like lots of different things, a lot of good comes from it, but it can also wear you out.”

Musicians, poets and DJs aren’t hands-on life-savers, but there is a valuable role played in

areas of mental health, building and maintaining a sense of kinship and community. It cuts both

ways; for the creators themselves and audience. Elliot’s activities from day job upwards bring

their own rewards and feed into one another.

“[Club] DJing is quite a lonely thing to do sometimes,” he admits. “You don’t really interact

with anyone. On the radio, your interaction is with the other hosts, you’re listening to stuff

that you’ve never heard before and I think it creates a sense of community. I didn’t have that

access before in that way. Hosts, music fans, listeners all in the same place – you all learn

from each other.”

When lockdown first happened, he says, practicalities prevented him from livestreaming

from home. But he did have his records.

“When I was able to do radio again it was like I had a fresh outlook on my own music,

there was a lot of value I’d forgotten about. So, the first few radio shows I did I thought

of them more as a concept, I was missing that element of performance. The radio show I

was doing beforehand was literally gathering a load of records and playing them on the

radio, but I had more of an idea of what I was doing after lockdown.”

Kate has pinhole photography in the Super Cool Drawing Machine exhibition, which

she describes as “the most primitive photography there is”. She makes the cardboard

box camera herself; photographs can take from five seconds to five hours to take, and

she develops them herself. She enjoys taking photos on tour, the patience it requires is

an antidote to the sometimes frenetic activity on the road.

“I like the pace, not only because it slows you down in terms of taking the

photograph, but in terms of developing it as well. Being in a dark room and having

to put it through the different chemical processes is so soothing, and when you’re

taking the photograph you have to sit still. It’s nice and liberating, in these days of

taking loads of digital pictures on phones. I really like that it makes you sit still and

shut up.”

Richard appreciates the difference between what he does and the role of key

workers keeping essential services going. But him making music is important to

him and those who consume it. “You have to approach it with the seriousness

of work and give it its due. At the same time, you’re not going in to look after

patients all day long. I don’t save people’s lives; you’re not offering support as

a counsellor or putting out fires. You’ve got to keep both in mind. It’s deadly

serious, the most important work, and at the same time it’s also completely

frivolous.

“There’s an inner voice questioning, ‘Is this of worth?’,” he continues. “I

think it’s a healthy thing to always question why, is this of worth and what

value is it. Personally, I take it too far, beat myself up about that, whereas

it’s a lot of energy down the drain when I could be making more work. But

on the other hand, it’s probably quite healthy to keep yourself in check.”

The notion of hard work is difficult to define. Measuring it is

impossible, especially when we look at different disciplines. In the

conventional sense a manual labourer may physically work harder than

a writer or composer when measured by the amounts of calories burnt

and size of loads carried, but the mind carries burdens too. I joke to

Kate the coffee industry has a lot to do with the pressure to insist

loudly how hard we are all working, marketing to us that we need

the caffeine hit to keep us going ’cause we’re on our knees with

exhaustion otherwise.

“Everyone wants to communicate with the outside world how

hard they’re working and how difficult it is, to feel validated for what

they do or don’t do,” says Kate.

“And that’s a shame – you get people saying, ‘Artists, what a

bunch of slackers,’ and you get other people who say, ‘Oh, working

for the man’. I think it’s such a waste of time, this judgement. I’d

like it if people were more open-minded about what is work and

what deserves respect because it all deserves respect, all human

endeavour. We’re industrious beings, humans, and it’s alright

whatever you choose to do.”

Respect is the key factor here, and our emotional reliance

on the products of the creative industries and individuals. The

adage that musicians (for this, read artists of all disciplines)

and sex workers have much in common in that everyone

wants what you do but no one wants to pay for it, has never

been more true. We’d better start valuing what we get from

creativity and provide with it and do it pretty damn fast.

Everyone wanted justice for the fictional Fatima having a

cyber career forced on her after years of pain preparing

her nonexistent body for ballet, but the real issue is how

we demand it for ourselves. !

Words: Cath Holland / @Cathholland01

Artwork (top to bottom): Tomb of the Wizard by

Richard Dawson, Self portait by Kate Stables and

Reward Chair by Cate Le Bon.

Super Cool Drawing Machine is showing at Future

Yard from 15th to 18th July.

futureyard.org/listings/super-cool-drawingmachine

FEATURE

21


0 PLANET EARTH PROMOTlONS PRESENTS 0

WlTH SUPPORT FROM

CULTURE & CREATlVlTY

JULY 21

L|VERPOOL C|TY REG|ON 2021

A CULTURAL SHIFT

Following the launch of a new sustainability network for cultural

organisations in the City Region, El Gray looks at culture’s central

role in affecting and promoting climate change action.

22


Sometimes, I dream about tidal waves and

choking, saturated lungs with salty water or

smog. I dream of cities, crumbling. The Liver

Birds slowly submerged under a relentless tide.

I dream of the cathedrals and stained glass, shattering in

hurricane winds, proof of the destructive gods we have

become. Sometimes, the sunsets look like wildfires.

These images of rapture define imaginations of climate

change, extremities and catastrophe. In reality, the changes

will arrive more subtly here; a gradual transformation of

the physical environment. Stifling summers with thick air, a

heaviness everywhere. Violent winters with storm surges

that overwhelm the banks of the Mersey. It will be a slow

and gradual kind of rapture. But it will come, and it will

affect the most vulnerable first. In June 2019, Liverpool City

Region Combined Authority declared a climate emergency,

recognising the urgency of the threat and the scale of the

response required to address it. This is the paradox of

the climate crisis; preventing these subtle but devastating

changes requires radical transformation, not simply

modification or mitigation but a fundamental shift in the

way we operate, individually and societally, a series of

small revolutions.

This makes the climate crisis a cultural crisis. In March

2021, responding to this cultural necessity, Shift entered

Liverpool’s climate response. Shift is a sustainability network

for cultural organisations across the Liverpool City Region,

aiming to shrink the sector’s carbon footprint, divert away

from environmentally damaging practices and collectively

promote carbon reduction. Shift’s secretary, Nathalie Candel,

defines its purpose: “[It’s about] how we look at ourselves

as organisations, but also how we engage our audiences

within that and bring change into what they do.”

Climate change is a systemic issue, created and

perpetuated by an underlying system of values, norms

and behaviours which promote unsustainable practices:

overconsumption, individualism, dislocation from nature,

inequality. Claire Buckley of Julie’s Bicycle, a national charity

dedicated to mobilising the arts and culture to take action

on the climate crisis, summarised culture’s role in 2019:

“Policies, technology and investment alone will not be

enough to address it. We need hearts, minds and a shift

in our cultural values.” This is the new mission for culture,

engendering a shift in practice and a shift in perspective.

A SHIFT IN PRACTICE

In 2019, the Liverpool City Region Combined

Authority pledged to become net-carbon zero by 2040 – a

decade ahead of the UK’s national target. This year the

city published its Year One Climate Action Plan, outlining

an impressive array of climate initiatives to achieve this

ambitious target, including the Mersey Tidal Power

Project, with the potential to power up to one million

homes. However, achieving net-zero will require rapid and

concerted change across all sections of society, and culture

is not immune. The arts and culture do not operate in a

vacuum, they are part of a system of energy, transport and

waste with a carbon and environmental impact. According

to the Arts Council’s Environmental Report, it would take

115,000 trees 100 years to absorb the amount of CO₂

emitted by just 742 cultural organisations in 2018/19. The

cultural sector is a vital part of Liverpool’s economy and

future growth. If Liverpool is to achieve the pace and scale

of reductions required to reach carbon net-zero, culture

must also change.

Some cultural organisations in Liverpool are already

quietly responding. Meraki is pursuing an environmental

mission incongruous with its industrial surroundings. In

2019, the venue eliminated single-use plastics, saving

4500 straws a year, and stopped serving exotic fruit in

drinks, reducing their carbon impact from import emissions.

Although seemingly small decisions, these choices

contribute to normalising sustainable practices, entrenching

them in the public consciousness and impacting the supply

chain. George Griffin, Meraki’s director, is humble and

pragmatic about the venue’s environmental actions. “We

had the ability to do these things which are better for the

environment, so we did,” he says. “We didn’t do it for a PR

stunt, we did it because I think it’s something everyone

should be doing going forward.”

This pragmatism is echoed by Dr Ariel Edesess of

the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory, a collaborative project

between Liverpool John Moores University, University

of Liverpool and Lancaster University supporting

organisations in the city to understand and reduce their

carbon impact. Sustainability can no longer be considered

“a good thing to do, it should just be the thing to do…

we have to stop putting these things on a pedestal –

it’s just how it should be”, says Edesess. This kind of

comprehensive change is multifaceted and complex

and all encompassing. And that is the point. It requires

recognising the environment as implicated within, and

affected by, everything the cultural sector does and does

not do. However, this awareness of the climate crisis often

fails to translate into tangible action, remaining stunted in

distant hopes or theoretical commitments. For Edesess,

action on climate change can no longer be perceived as

aspirational. “I think we’re kind of past that,” she admits,

“it’s going to take everyone putting their foot down and

saying, ‘Nope, this is how it is’.”

Undoubtedly, there are limits to the changes

underfunded and under-resourced cultural organisations

are able to make. As Sean Durney, PHD researcher

for the Zero Carbon Research Institute and overseeing

member for Shift, notes: “There are lots of things that are

beyond the scope of the cultural sector, located within

policy frameworks for things like planning and building

regulation.” However, in recent years, there has been an

awakening to the severity of the climate crisis and the

international consensus is changing towards immediate

action. “These things will change whether we like it or not,

but I think the arts sector is ideally placed to smooth that

journey and make it go quicker and better.”

Through introducing small sustainable changes, the

arts and culture can challenge audiences to reflect on their

own lives and practices, creating the new perspectives and

expectations that underpin change. For Edesess it’s about

“making it the new norm and culture and art can really

influence what we consider the norm”. Griffin encapsulates

the reality of the climate crisis: “The onus is on everyone

to do their individual part and I don’t think cultural

organisations can use the excuse that no one held their

hand all the way through it.”

Culture is ingrained into Liverpool’s identity,

epitomising the city’s defiance, innovation and resilience.

Culture has a legacy of transformation in Liverpool, a

proven ability to lead in action

and narrative. It is ideally placed

to lead the city’s response to the

climate crisis. Nathalie Candel

encapsulates this natural role for

culture in the city: “Throughout

history, Liverpool has been so

important for culture, if there’s

something that we’re good at –

it’s culture. So, it makes sense

that our culture sector is pointing

attention towards sustainability

as well.”

In 2020, Liverpool was

chosen to host a Massive Attack

“super-low carbon” gig as part

the band’s project with the

Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, experimenting

with renewable power sources and alternative sustainable

transport options for audiences.

The collaborative project with Culture Liverpool and

various city authorities is testament to the city’s history

of cultural innovation, experimentation and pioneering

potential. Although postponed due to lockdown, there is

hope that the sustainable ambitions of the event will filter

down through the city’s cultural sector, provoking cultural

organisations to create and depict imagined futures.

There are similar strides being made across the Mersey.

Future Yard’s name defines their existence in the realm

of the potential, the prophetic. The Birkenhead venue is

committed to a long-term goal of becoming the UK’s first

carbon-neutral grassroots music venue, addressing its

energy consumption, building design and venue operation.

“We all have a responsibility to the environment,” Future

Yard’s director Craig Pennington asserts in the venue’s

eco-manifesto, and he wants to “create a place that has

a net positive environmental impact… not one that adds

to the problem”. It’s an ambitious vision, but as Dr Ariel

Edesess indicates, by setting a standard of zero-carbon in

music and culture “Future Yard is changing the standards

and leading the way as we all navigate this new normal”.

This encapsulates culture’s distinct role, ideally placed

to embrace the creative challenge of reimagining a more

sustainable world and leading Liverpool’s transition to a

greener future.

FEATURE

A SHIFT IN PERSPECTIVE

“To really get

[sustainability] inbuilt

into the way we

live, it’s down to the

people who are much

better at influencing

populations”

Culture’s role extends beyond internal change,

surpassing the technical and the measurable into the

abstract and the emotional. Liverpool’s Year One Climate

Action Plan states that avoiding the climate crisis

depends on “individual people making choices in their

life and work”. However, there is a powerlessness that

pervades climate change action, a resigned futility in the

face of intricate statistics and prophetic warnings. “It’s

hard to care when it’s not personal,” Edesess admits.

But culture is intensely personal. Cultural organisations

inhabit a privileged position with direct and intimate

access to individuals, capable of educating, inspiring and

challenging audiences. “Culture affects everything,” Sean

Durney explains, “the way you dress, what you listen to,

what you look at, visual aesthetics. [Cultural organisations]

are already so embedded into our daily lives, whether

we’re aware of it or not, and that’s where their influence

can be really strong.”

Durney highlights Toxteth local Squash as a “shining

example” of cultural organisations’ potential to promote

and normalise sustainable behaviours. The creative

community organisation embraces an arts, food and

environmental focus, educating and inspiring the local

community through local food growing projects and art

celebrating the seasons. “It’s an environmental message,

but it’s not a depressing one,” Durney indicates. “It’s

embedded in their programme, and it’s embedded in their

building [which is] very ecologically friendly.”

Squash epitomises how cultural organisations can

transform sustainability into something accessible,

inclusive and engaging, localising action and integrating

it into people’s everyday lives. As Dr Ariel Edesess

summarises: “At this point, we know the science. The

science is proven over and over and over again, but to

really get it inbuilt into the way we live, it’s down to the

people who are much better at influencing populations.” In

short: culture.

I try to imagine this level of cultural change. It feels

impossible. How do you shift an entire population’s

behaviour? How do you force

people to care about an invisible

and amorphous threat? And then

I think about the past year. The

pandemic has altered the realm

of possibility, demonstrating our

capacity for transformation. The

mass messaging that adorned

the walls of railway stations and

office blocks, that flickered on TV

screens and billboards, filtered

through cultural organisations

and their messaging: stay safe,

socially distance, wear a mask.

What would happen if this

same messaging were directed

towards sustainability? “If you’d

said a year ago, ‘This will be our life’, it would have felt

completely overwhelming, but bit by bit we just adapted

and got along with it,” Edesess reflects. What would

happen if this same level of messaging were directed

towards sustainability? If we began to perceive the climate

crisis as personal, as immediate? Culture can contribute to

this transmission of green thinking, making sustainability

as defining as any lockdown measure.

The future does not exist to race towards, we create

it in the racing. Now, and now, and now. In every action

and inaction. Sustainability isn’t about avoiding dystopian

images of the future; it’s about creating a more just and

sustainable present which continues with us. Sometimes,

on better days, I dream of greenery, an abundant verdancy

woven through city streets. I dream of flowers and birds

infiltrating grey facades. I dream of a tide that powers

music and wind that turns up the volume. I dream of a

culture that promotes, celebrates and reflects sustainability.

I dream of a different world, our world, just shifted. !

Words: El Gray / @just__el

Illustration: Mark McKellier / @mckellier

For more information on the work of Shift and the role of

culture in promoting sustainability, follow the link below.

shiftliverpool.com

23


24


VASILY PETRENKO

After 15 years at the helm of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko is

stepping down as Chief Conductor to (literally) take up the baton at the Royal Philharmonic

Orchestra. Ahead of his final concerts, Stuart Miles O’Hara speaks to the Saint Petersburg

native who transformed Merseyside’s oldest musical institution.

I

don’t know if you’ve read Bido Lito!, but we’re

mainly a pop magazine, and some readers might

wonder what exactly a conductor does. So, in your

own words, what is the job?

Most people think it is kind of a ballet. The thing to

understand is that it’s the conductor’s movements

first, then the sound. You create the sound by your

movements. What you see in the concert is the tip of the

iceberg. Pop groups prepare an album for months, they

create the songs, decide how to play them, rehearse,

record it, then go on tour. But for a classical orchestra

it’s the same story in three days. This is only possible

with a conductor, who defines the pace and emotional

content. In pop music this is defined by the three, maybe

five members of the group. In an orchestra we’re talking

80-100. Every one of them has their own opinion about

how to play the music and what it’s about: is it sad, or

funny, or tragic?

And thirdly, it’s mental training and motivation. Most

pop groups don’t survive over 10 years. It’s normal,

people get sick of each other, being so close for so

long, however talented they are. More talented is more

difficult, because they have stronger individuality! In an

orchestra, players perform with

each other for 20, sometimes

30 years. To keep those people

having a certain degree of joy

in coming to work is also a job

for the conductor.

It’s multifaceted, a lot

of musical and social skills,

and a lot is just knowledge

about every piece. When you

just listen to the music you

don’t quite understand the

depth of it. This week we’re

performing Vaughan Williams’

5th Symphony. I read about it;

it was written in 1943, quite

a bleak year, in London, but he started the sketches

in 1938 when he met his second wife. And also, you

have to know what the 4th Symphony is like, so entirely

different from the 5th. It’s a never-ending education for a

conductor. I did this symphony a month ago in Oslo, but

already I think a little bit differently about it, because I’ve

learned something, not just with the piece but from life

experience.

You started as Chief Conductor with the Royal

Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) in 2006, but

you had guest conducted the orchestra before, right?

Yeah, in December 2004.

You were the orchestra’s youngest ever conductor at

the time, aged just 28. Can you remember your first

impressions of the city?

Of course! It was one of my first times in the UK. I

didn’t know British mentality and culture yet. It was

a hotel designed for football fans with rooms where

you need to sit on the bed to open the cupboard, the

window looks onto the traffic lights, the breakfasts have

something you’ve no idea what it’s cooked from, and

it’s noisy because the fans are drinking in their rooms.

“It’s actually the

orchestra, the

management, the

organisation who are

the main heroes. I’m

just helping them”

By then I knew about the existence of the orchestra, but

not the history. It was late notice and low budget for

that concert. So I came with wide open eyes. The first

rehearsal was actually in Bootle.

Really?!

I arrived at Bootle Town Hall, a beautiful building but

a very booming, reverberant one, not one designed

for orchestras. It had refurbishment outside, so you

constantly had hammers knocking on the walls. I was

naïve, trying to argue with Scouse workers. I couldn’t

understand the answers, but I didn’t stop. For the first

day that was my impression: ‘Where am I? What is this?’

I felt potential in the orchestra from the beginning,

and there were a lot of young forces who wanted to

progress, that’s probably one of the most important

things. They wanted to discover, to improve, and

there was Capital of Culture coming up in 2008. This

combination of factors is how the story started.

You mentioned you’ve just been with the Oslo

Philharmonic (Petrenko was also their Chief Conductor

from 2013 to 2020) and you’ve led the National Youth

Orchestra of Great Britain, so

you have a busy international

schedule. But when you have

free time on Merseyside, what

do you do for yourself, apart

from classical music?

The Tate and the Williamson

Art Gallery, which is close to

my house in Wirral. One of the

positive effects of Covid (very

few of them!), for the first time

in years I was able to go fishing

in the docks! Usually I’m so

busy. I also play football with

the orchestra, just five-a-side,

more for health than anything.

The schedule is: midday football, three o’clock rehearsal,

7.30 concert.

If you were to reflect on your tenure at the RLPO, what

would be a standout concert?

I treat each concert as standout. Each one is the only

one. But what’s memorable is the opening of the [then-

Echo] Arena in 2008. The orchestra was on scaffolding

and I was in a scissor lift going up and down six metres

above the stage. If I remember right, we had 22 different

pop groups. To coordinate all that was very difficult!

Another was Mahler’s 8th Symphony in the Anglican

Cathedral in 2011. You hear it twice in there at the same

time [because of the echo], but the choir alone was

about 450, so that was a really spectacular thing. But

there were also concerts with [pianist] Simon Trpčeski

in St George’s Hall. The first time we were abroad in

Japan, the first Proms here in London, that was quite

memorable for everyone. I still think probably the best

are ahead.

Are there any pieces you’ve never conducted with the

RLPO that you wish you had?

The pool of music is endless. We’re so lucky that

FEATURE

300 to 400 years before us great geniuses wrote so

much. There are Russian composers who I still haven’t

introduced to Liverpool. Myaskovsky, who I think is due

better recognition, and there’s more of Vaughan Williams

to do. We haven’t performed enough Wagner. I’ve done

a few Bruckner symphonies, and I would like to do more.

The thing is, both of those composers have very special

audiences. We found that it sold well – actually better

than the marketing department expected – but they

rarely come to other concerts. There’s so many. We have

plans.

What about the new guy taking over as Chief

Conductor at RLPO, Domingo Hindoyan, have you met

him yet?

We’ve met, but we haven’t talked about the job. I think

it’s important to talk to the next Chief Conductor and

share your view on the orchestra. He’ll have his own,

but I think experience is important for everyone. He’s

41, relatively young for a conductor, so all the cards are

in his hands. He has a lot of enthusiasm from that great

Venezuelan school.

How does it feel to begin performing with an audience

again, in Liverpool and London?

This is the first time the RPO have seen the public for a

year! We’ll play socially distanced, 1.5 metres between

chairs, and only the wind players are allowed to take

their masks off, the rest must wear them all the way

through. But that’s life at the moment. When you look

into pubs at people standing shoulder to shoulder,

you think, ‘Really?’ You need to keep distance onstage

between orchestral musicians who are tested prior to

every project? It really is a time of double standards.

Petrenko isn’t leaving the Phil entirely, though. In

recognition of his being one of the longest-serving

directors in their 180-year history, they’ve made him

Conductor Laureate. Despite being one of the most

in-demand conductors around, and with half his career

still ahead of him (he’s only 44), he’s pretty modest

about his achievements for someone who stands in

front of 80 virtuoso musicians every night without

playing a note.

It’s not goodbye, it’s not farewell. I’ll still perform in

Liverpool, just less frequently. It’s always my love and my

pleasure. I always say: the RLPO existed well before my

birth and will exist after my death. I’m very honoured to

be part of its history, but it’s actually the orchestra, the

management, the organisation who are the main heroes.

I’m just helping them. !

Interview: Stuart Miles O’Hara / @ohasm1

Photography: Mark McNulty

Vasily Petrenko’s final concerts as Chief Conductor at

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra take place on 9th

and 10th July.

liverpoolphil.com/whats-on

25


A CITY OF VILLAGES

Following the release of his novel, The Outsiders, journalist and author James Corbett

considers the sense of place among Liverpool’s patchwork social landscape.

When I was writing my novel, The

Outsiders, I wanted Liverpool – my home

city – to not just form the backdrop to

what is ultimately a love story, but to exist

as a multi-textured canvas in which I could capture all of

the city’s brilliance and contradictions.

Liverpool’s complex modern history – race riots, mass

unemployment and poverty, misconceptions bred from

tragedies and its 21st-Century reinvention as a worldclass

destination – forms a significant part of the book.

However, an idea that also develops throughout The

Outsiders is of Liverpool as a city of villages and tribes.

Growing up in the north of the city in the 1980s

and 1990s, there was little sense of Liverpool’s diversity

and cosmopolitanism. There were two black kids in

our comprehensive school of 900 and, although there

was no sectarianism, the tiny number of Protestants

represented the extent of Crosby’s ‘exoticism’. We were

blind to Europe’s oldest Chinese community, or the West

African, Caribbean and Jewish communities that add to

Liverpool’s patchwork.

I’ll always remember our priest telling a story of

how he learned about the Toxteth riots. Returning from

a golfing weekend there were a number of concerned

26

messages asking about his wellbeing from parishioners

near and far, including a telegram from a missionary in a

West African war zone. It was only when he turned on

the BBC that he became aware of what had happened;

Toxteth to him might have been as remote as Congo or

Angola.

This sense that if you live in one part of the city or

one community, you may not have much interaction

with those from another is a theme that I explored when

writing The Outsiders. When the protagonists encounter

the Toxteth riots, they do so from the perspectives of

slightly wide-eyed teenagers from Grassendale and

an unnamed north Liverpool suburb (it’s an amalgam

of Crosby, Formby and Hightown) and can’t believe

what they’re seeing. This is not so much because of the

violence, but their white privilege is coming face to face

with a particular kind of black poverty that they didn’t

know existed.

I write about the whole notion of intra-city apartheid,

where some consider themselves ‘more Scouse’ because

of their neighbourhood. It’s something I joke about

with friends from different parts of the city even now:

one claims you’re not a proper Scouser unless you

have a purple bin; another, a Bluecoat old boy from

the southside, we mercilessly deride as ‘Lord Snooty’;

Wirralites are alternately dismissed as ‘Tunnel Rats’,

‘Wools’, or ‘Hyacinths’ (after its most famous daughter,

Patricia Routledge – AKA Hyacinth Bucket).

I say it’s a joke, but it’s serious too and the novel is full

of these interactions, where one person’s notion of what

it is to be from Liverpool is constantly challenged. That’s

why I called it The Outsiders, because no one is really

sure what it is to come from Liverpool and as such they

always feel like they’re on the outside.

For those of us who left for London in the 80s

and 90s seeking work or education opportunities that

Liverpool could not provide us at that time, there was

no Scouse mafia, no hangouts where we could meet

with other exiles and mourn the old country; little of

the support network other regional or ethnic groups

developed. It was the opposite of the Irish expat

experience – my wife is from Ireland and I always found

it slightly incomprehensible that the first thing an Irish

person would do upon landing in a new city, was to find

an Irish pub or Irish Centre where they could surround

themselves with those that they’d left behind.

By contrast, to catch an ex-pat Scouser unawares in

London could be to invite suspicion or at least a certain


THE OUTSIDERS

An extract from James Corbett’s debut novel.

You didn’t become a Liverpudlian simply by living there. You could be from the city, but not of it; call it

home, but never really belong. Other cities chewed you up then spat you out, but Liverpool was different:

it would turn up its nose and shrug you off with an ambivalence so damning that made it feel as though

you had never even fallen under its contemptuous glare. Everybody spoke of the sense of community, but

once away from the vicinity of family, friends and neighbours, and out into the wider city, you were nobody.

Because of the intra-city apartheid that seemed to rear its head in every loose encounter – the whole I’m

more local than you swagger – everybody was, in their way, an outsider.

These things kept coming back to Paul as he made the journey from the suburban outlands and into

the heart of the city where he was meeting his friends for a night out. In a vapid summer, the chance to see

Echo & The Bunnymen at the university was one of the few fixtures in Paul’s calendar.

It was early evening and men in suits were disembarking from the Southport train to go home to their

wives and children, their squares of garden and the last of the day’s sun. Liverpool had broiled again under

clear skies and a high sun. Beyond the city the expanse of the Irish sea lay flat, brown and benevolent, the

coastal breeze which usually cooled it on such days conspicuous by its very absence. The air was still and

dense.

Liverpool also sweated under the gaze of a hundred television cameras as a media frenzy descended

upon the city. Liverpool 8, the inner-city district that incorporated Toxteth, had exploded into violence after

local residents took an aggressive stand against police brutality. Overnight it became a latter-day Saigon

as journalists filled its streets and ran with the rioters. Buildings burned, vehicles were overturned and set

alight, while youths hacked away at the wreckage, creating a makeshift arsenal of bricks and masonry.

Social commentators lined up to condemn the moral degradation that bred the violence, while police

deflected accusations of brutality by inviting camera crews into local hospitals, where entire wards were

handed over to bruised bobbies. One man was dead, hundreds of others injured. Bishops appealed for

calm; community leaders claimed the battles were over.

For the rest of the city, however, life carried on as normal. People went to work, women shopped, and

children played. Concerned relatives telephoned from afar to check up on family, but in a city of suburbs for

most people Toxteth’s riots were a TV phenomenon: remote, somewhere else.

With his parents, Paul watched the previous evening’s Nine O’Clock News with a rising sense of

bewilderment as the sombre voice of Richard Whitmore spoke over footage of burning buildings: ‘Liverpool

burns as its inner cities rampage.’ As the picture cut to a line of policemen forming across the top of a

Victorian street, Paul’s father leant over and turned up the volume. The police held plastic riot shields in

one hand, while in the other metal batons glistened menacingly. ‘150 injured as police battle rioters,’ said

Whitmore and the picture cut to Margaret Thatcher climbing from a ministerial Jaguar and up the steps of

10 Downing Street. ‘The Prime Minister convenes an emergency meeting of the cabinet as tensions rise

and police anticipate more trouble this evening.’

“On the rampage because one of their lot got pulled over by the police.” Paul’s father pronounced.

Paul winced at his father’s easy distillation of the report. His mother walked urgently towards the

netted curtains and looked out anxiously onto their darkened cul-de-sac. There was a sudden nervousness

about her, as if a mob might also come rampaging down their little street several miles away.

But the riots, although just eight miles away, may as well have existed on another planet.

The Outsiders is available now via Lightning Books.

coolness, particularly when you weren’t bound by a

shared footballing affinity. I’m not sure why this was

or if it’s still completely true today. For some, I’m sure,

there was a certain stigma, a shame that came from

leaving certain parts of the inner or outer city that said,

‘I escaped, I made good, that’s part of my past, I don’t

need you to remind me’. For others, I found, the ones

who stake great emphasis on their origins, who play

on the unruliness and misconceptions of the city – ‘I’m

a bit dangerous, a bit of a lad, a bit of a wag’ – semiprofessional

Scousers, for want of a better description,

they might not want to be found out. If their naive

southern audience knew what Mossley Hill or Childwall

or Formby was really like, the act would have been killed.

And so a guard inevitably went up. You might let on

that you’re of the same city, but it would be the bear in

the room, something not really up for discussion – at least

at first. You didn’t talk about ‘going home’ in the way that

Irish people perennially did. In my book, there is a scene

where the great Liverpudlian novelist Beryl Bainbridge

comes face to face with Paul, the book’s protagonist and

a well-known journalist.

“‘I know who you are,’ Bainbridge said to Paul

without greeting. ‘You’re like me: you escaped Liverpool.’

Although they spent the next hour in each other’s

company, she never alluded to his work or their shared

home again.”

This was entirely my experience during 14 years

of living in the capital, and I think, looking back, it

ultimately came down to coming from this city of villages.

The Liverpool experience is so unique, so varied, and

notions of what it is to be a Liverpudlian so lacking in

definition that we put up a shield so as not to have others

challenging conceptions of who we were.

I left Liverpool in 1998, but the city has never left

me. Until the pandemic

I was there all the time,

spending hundreds of hours

and thousands of pounds

every year on Virgin Trains,

Ryanair flights and P&O

ferries. I maintained my

Everton season ticket and

even bought one for my son

– the sixth generation of my

family to hold one – despite

living in a different country.

I set up a business in the

city [deCoubertin Books], at

once an act of insanity that

for a long time cost me my

health and colossal sums of

money, but a symbolic gesture too; a show of faith that a

creative business could thrive beyond the London bubble.

Many of my friends and most of my blood relations live

there, and the ones that left have either returned or plan

to do so.

And yet I probably never will. There are ultimately

“No one is really sure

what it is to come

from Liverpool and

as such they always

feel like they’re

on the outside”

professional and family reasons underlying this and I have

a nice life away from the city, away from England. But I’m

lucky too in the sense that I have enough good reasons to

return often and throw myself headlong into the Liverpool

experience, drinking and chatting and yarning my way

around the city for a few days; a highlights package

of all its best bits, before

heading off home and quiet.

This means I’m largely

immune to Liverpool’s

less appealing facets –

London Road bagheads

and quadbike ninjas; Dock

Road traffic jams and

inner city blight; gobby

pensioners and moody

waitresses; upwardly mobile

gangsters encroaching upon

the suburbs and gangs

terrorising other parts of

the city.

If that’s a sanitised and

sentimentalised version of

Liverpool, then so be it. But you could live in the city of

villages all your life and there’s a chance that you may

never really know it at all. !

Words: James Corbett / @james_corbett

Photography: Ant Clausen / antclausen.com

FEATURE

27


HEADS UP

The story of Liverpool Football Therapy is one forged in collective vulnerability, courage,

and acceptance. As the team continue to triumph on and off the pitch, Matthew Berks

explores the work behind the organisation saving lives through early intervention.

Contains references to suicide and depression.

When Liverpool Football Therapy lifted

the inaugural Mental Health Football

Association tournament cup on 22nd

May, it was difficult not to witness more

than just a modest piece of silverware being lifted into

the sky. Despite coasting through an unbeaten run to

beat Man Marking in the final, the trophy lift was as much

a celebration of the journey many had been on up to

that day as it was recognition of one team’s exceptional

form. As the club were crowned champions, there was a

similar sense of pride and victory for the other 14 clubs

hailing from across the UK who competed as one to

kick the stigma surrounding mental health. Nowhere on

Merseyside had ‘This Means More’ rang truer than right

here on a community pitch in Huyton.

Two days before kick-off at City of Liverpool FC’s

Purple Hub, Colin Dolan reported the 100th sign-up

to Liverpool Football Therapy – a Community Interest

Company (CIC) that uses football to improve the physical,

mental and social wellbeing of adults with mental ill

health. It’s a milestone that speaks to the popularity of

the initiative as much as the severity of a mental health

crisis that sprung it into existence. Up until the country’s

first lockdown, Colin was managing approximately 40

participants in one session. He now runs three two-hour

sessions every week for players ranging from 18 years

old to 60, and plans to expand the programme. “These

are all people who regularly use the services,” he tells me

over a decaffeinated latte wearing his coaching attire,

with initials CD stitched into the jacket’s chest. “That

number is only going to grow.”

In assembling 15 football clubs and 160 players from

Birkenhead to Greenock in Scotland, the first Mental

Health FA tournament appraised the role of football

as a tool for mental health recovery. One of the clubs

competing, the All Stars, boasted a star-studded line-up

including Ian Byrne MP, The Farm’s Peter Hooton and

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram, who,

speaking in front of the Fans Supporting Foodbanks

van, saw the day as an opportunity to raise the platform

of football therapy. “Kicking a football around a pitch

is one of my favourite pastimes, so I’m combining the

two – doing some good but probably making myself

feel better in the process. Hopefully people are much

more aware now that far too many young men take their

lives. We need to talk about things like mental ill health.”

Paul Manning, chairman of tournament hosts City of

Liverpool FC, reinforced the mayor’s views. “A lot of it

has to do with self-esteem. It’s a team game, you feel

part of something instantly,” he said. “Football can mean

anything to anyone, you can go on a pitch and be anyone

28


you want to be. It’s the whole gamut of human emotions.

Football is life.”

On occasions when football shares conversations

with mental health – of having the power to transform

and improve our lives – it’s often met with surprise from

some who see the sport as little

more than light entertainment.

In this reality, football’s

parameters are contained within

a set of goals and 90 minutes of

playing time; it’s a game of zerosum

absolutes, with two teams

competing until the spectacle

ends, seeing players and fans

return home to more ordinary

lives.

Like any one of the other

mental health teams at the

tournament that day, Liverpool

Football Therapy doesn’t begin

and end with the blow of a

whistle. Its work isn’t confined

to a pitch for 90 minutes. Its

players don’t suddenly return to a different life when

the spectacle is over. It’s a project that, since beginning

formally in 2019, has continued to provide a platform for

adults affected by mental ill health, with the squad acting

as an immediate peer support network on and off the

pitch.

Colin Dolan, the programme’s founder and chief

executive of Mental Health FA, began to write the first

chapters of Liverpool Football Therapy following his own

continued experiences with mental ill health, including

bipolar disorder. “I’ve suffered from mental ill health since

my early 20s and have been depressed for a number of

years, on and off. I have had lots of periods with suicidal

thoughts and, sadly, I’ve succumbed to those thoughts on

a few occasions by trying to take my life five times.”

Colin’s adolescence in Glasgow’s East End strikes at

the heart of the stigma surrounding mental health: the

perceived shame that prohibits the ability to seek help,

“Where you’re

supportive of each

other on the pitch,

you’re supportive

off the pitch.”

particularly in more masculine environments. “It was very

much a macho environment where showing weakness

was just not an option – you were bullied and abused. I

certainly didn’t want to tell people how bad I was. I put

[my first suicide attempt] down to just a silly mistake

and no one in my family ever

spoke about it. I was very much

embarrassed and always hoped

that no one would find out.”

Finally diagnosed with bipolar

in 1997, Colin had spent years

unable to acknowledge and find

recourse for his condition. “I had

gone all those years without

seeing doctors and psychiatrists.

I thought I knew better than

them, like most of us do at

times.”

Following a move to

Liverpool in 1995 that was

decided by the flip of a coin,

Colin continued to experience

mental ill health right up to 2012

when he was voluntarily hospitalised for his own welfare.

“When I came out of hospital, I went into a friend’s

house in Toxteth while I waited for a house with my wife,

Michelle. For about six months I was in my bedroom not

wanting to come out, just getting lost.” It was here when

Michelle signposted Colin to Imagine Your Goals, a mental

health football programme run in partnership between

Everton in The Community (EITC) and Mersey Care.

“These are all people who are diagnosed and under

mental health services. It can be a long drawn out

process to get on board, but I went through it. Not only

did EITC change my life, they saved my life and helped

me become the person that I’d always hoped to be.” Colin

saw in football-led therapy a way to combine the benefits

of exercise with the peer support each session would

naturally provide. “Football has always been my escape

from everything in life. But the Everton [programme]

just seemed that bit more special compared to any

football club or organisation I’d ever been to, because

I was surrounded by so many people who were also

on their journeys through mental ill health.” The course

of Liverpool Football Therapy was set. “That’s what I

decided to do – dedicate my life to helping other people,

and that’s never going to change.”

Those who have had to navigate the complex

world of mental health services will be familiar with the

numerous barriers and bureaucratic hurdles required to

access appropriate treatment. Owing to lengthy referral

processes – together with the stigma around help – Colin

knew there existed a number of adults who were slipping

through the net. “[Getting referred] can take a long, long

time, through no fault of Mersey Care or EITC – sadly

neither have enough funding to push the process through

quicker. So, I saw there were people who wouldn’t go

to the doctors, or people who would go but wouldn’t go

and see a psychiatrist. Some might see a psychiatrist

but won’t take medication – they won’t go on the books

of Mersey Care because they don’t want to be seen as a

regular, so we have all these barriers.”

When Colin began the sessions for Liverpool Football

Therapy in 2019, they were founded on the principle that

early intervention can buy time. As such, he maintains

a no-referral joining process to ensure the programme

remains accessible to all, diagnosed or undiagnosed.

“Early intervention saves lives. Someone with stress or

a mild form of depression may never experience suicidal

thoughts – but they could, and if we can nip it in the

bud then there’s at least a better chance that it’ll never

happen at all.”

For many of the players, the programme brings

purpose, responsibility and focus back into their lives.

Luke McNulty joined Liverpool Football Therapy in

the Summer of 2019 and lives with ADHD. “Liverpool

Football Therapy has been the best thing on the planet

for me. At the time I joined, I was going through a really

dark patch and wanted to commit suicide every day of

my life. I had no real motivation to get out of bed, so this

has been an outlet for me.” Enjoying the opportunity to

socialise with peers living with mental ill health, Luke

James’ Place

FEATURE

29


Colin Dolan

Luke McNulty

also acknowledges the unique space that the programme

offers for opening up. “In the real world, there’s a stigma

around mental health. Someone could ask you how you’re

feeling and the answer you give might not be the answer

you want them to hear. But in this sort of environment,

you kind of know what everyone’s going through, so it’s a

little bit easier to have those conversations.”

Such is the programme’s close-knit environment

that players are more like family than teammates, all

at varying stages of recovery. Ryan Spencer has been

a player for over two years and was parachuted in as

captain at the tournament following his teammate’s

injury. “The opportunities I’ve had off Colin have been

unbelievable. I’ve met so many new friends on it, so many

good people. The majority of players are friends for life

now – we’re like a family. People on the programme have

all got different mental health issues, but we all stick

together when one of us is down, and I think that’s the

biggest part of it. Not the football side – I think because

we’re like a pack.”

As head patron of the team, Colin has witnessed the

familial bonds take flight beyond the pitch. “We reach

out for each other all the time. You sense that feeling of

belonging, of brotherhood and sisterhood. When we’ve

got that bond, you know you can put your arm around

anyone to help them.”

This sense of belonging is just as strong at the

sidelines as it is during a game. Like most clubs, Colin

begins each session by having players stand in a line

30

for team selection before playing commences. “What

happens at the side of the pitch – that’s different,” he

says with a smile, as if letting me in on the programme’s

best kept secret. “That’s when the banter starts, and

that’s when the peer support comes in, because people

will highlight stuff that’s been said in the WhatsApp

group and ask if they need help. Where you’re supportive

of each other on the pitch, you’re very supportive off the

pitch.”

Provisional data from the Office for National Statistics

reveal that in 2020, 4,902 deaths by suicide were

recorded in England, with men accounting for 75 per cent

at 3,674. In many of these cases, access to mental health

support would have arrived too late, if at all. Jane Boland,

centre manager and clinical lead at James’ Place – a

Liverpool-based suicide prevention centre for men named

after a young man who died by suicide – was at the

tournament to cheer on the centre’s debut appearance.

“James went looking for help but the help that he needed

didn’t come. Our mission is to make sure that when men

get to that crisis point, they can access help and that the

help comes quickly.”

Liverpool Football Therapy’s mix of age, gender,

sporting abilities and life experience allows for a much

more diverse environment where support is continually

bounced off one another. “They’re aware that it’s not just

about football,” Jane continues, “it’s about looking after

each other as well. [Support] goes both ways, because

the older fellas are actually in the highest risk group, so I

think perhaps sometimes the older fellas are being taught

by the younger men that it’s alright to talk to each other –

it’s alright to show that you’re a bit vulnerable.”

When Liverpool Football Therapy lifted the Mental

Health Football Association tournament cup on 22nd

May, they were showing not just the strength to confront

mental ill health together, but the strength to show

it’s alright to be vulnerable. As he saw his footballing

family lift the trophy, Colin saw something he’d known

ever since his first therapy session as a player himself

all those years ago: football therapy works. “My players

won’t always need me – they can do it themselves,” he

concludes. “Many of them now have the confidence to

become leaders and go, ‘I’ll come and sit with you’.” !

Words: Matthew Berks / @hewniverse_

Photography: Liam Jones / @mailjones

Liverpool Football Therapy hold sessions every Tuesday

at Evans Road Speke, every Wednesday at Goals Soccer

Centre Netherton, and every Friday at The Purple Hub

Huyton.

The Samaritans (116 123) operate a free 24-hour mental

health listening service available every day of the year.

@LiverpoolFT_


liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ai

#aimorethanhuman

Exhibition curated and organised by Barbican International

Enterprises. The City of London Corporation is the founder

and principal funder of the Barbican Centre. Co-produced

by Forum Groningen, Netherlands.


SPOTLIGHT

“There’s huge

power in having

people focus just

on your words”

STARKEY THE MESSENGER

A musical polymath handing out generous helpings of knowledge.

STARKEY THE MESSENGER has his fingers in every pie.

He’s written, produced, mixed, and mastered his three

singles to date (Wildfire, Seventh Step, Cocoa Butter),

which are a unique blend of alternative hip-hop, melodic

rap and jazz. The musician’s output aims to reflect current

social and political issues, including police racism and

brutality as well as support of the Black Lives Matter

movement. Starkey manages to address these subject

matters through euphonious and soulful notes paired

with smooth production.

“When I get into writing, I’d say emotions and current

affairs inspire me a lot,” says Starkey. “I would say my

writing is focused on a balance between the two, in the

sense that I express how I personally feel affected by

what’s going on, and then try and contextualise that in

the wider narratives surrounding the issue.”

Starkey has always been obsessed with music, especially

since his family are musicians, meaning music was a

part of his life from an early age. He grew up playing the

piano and reflects that “it was something I really enjoyed

and was a lot better at than other things”. As an early

teenager he got his first guitar and so grew his interest in

creating music.

At first, Starkey set up a covers band with his friends,

but when he was 13 he started writing songs. “I became

obsessed, really, I loved that every time I wrote a new

song it was better than the last, it was almost addictive.”

As Starkey grew, so did his passion for the process of

creating music. At 16 he started producing, which led to

his music taste expanding from indie and rock towards

hip hop, RnB and jazz. It was from that point that Starkey

started writing raps.

“At that time, I was very set on production and never

saw myself making my own tracks,” he admits, “so I

kept putting beats out and producing for my mates, but I

never stopped writing songs.” Through producing music,

Starkey was able to discover a wider range of music as

well as becoming more confident in himself. In 2020 he

recorded his first single Wildfire and shared it out on

his social media platforms. The track narrates the death

and violence caused by racism and police brutality from

the perspective of someone who is grappling with the

idea that they could be the next to be targeted. Starkey’s

newfound confidence shines through as he eloquently

addresses the prevalent discussions of discrimination of

racism across the world.

Spoken word and poetry are key influences that stand

out in Starkey’s songs. He has only recently got into

spoken word but says it “was massive for me creatively”

after discovering Black British poets like George the Poet,

Suli Breaks and Kai Isaiah Jamal. “There’s something

so raw and vulnerable about poetry – without a unique

or catchy flow or cadence to take the focus, without a

song or a beat to hide behind, the emphasis is entirely

on the words.” Starkey has found this way of writing and

performing a powerful tool since there are more freedoms

in communicating exactly what he wants to say. “I think

poetry on its own can easily come across as dry, and

that’s why rap exists in the first place – to communicate

the same ideas more engagingly. But there’s huge power

in having people focus just on your words, and it can

very easily be the spark that develops a good idea into

reaching its full potential.”

Music by other artists also inspire Starkey. “I am quite

competitive, so I always want to make better music than

everyone!” He says that other art helps to show him

different approaches and new ideas that he would not

have thought of. “I’d say other art inspires me most to

pick up the pen, because if someone writes something

that’s really amazing, I’ll be annoyed that I didn’t write it

first or haven’t written something better yet.”

But Starkey’s main influence comes from Kojey Radical a

grime-y hip hop, alternative rap and spoken word artist.

“His album Cashmere Tears influenced me massively

because it’s the first time I’d heard an album that unique,

versatile and ambitious come out of the UK rap scene.

It’s an immaculate project, which packs so much content

into such a small amount of time; stylistically, lyrically and

musically.” Kojey Radical’s innovative style and refusing

to be labelled is shared by Starkey and he is an artist he

wishes to support if the future if he could.

Lockdown has played a huge role in Starkey’s

development. All three of his singles have been released

since the first lockdown period in March 2020. “I wrote

a lot more poetry than music in lockdown, I think just as

therapy. So, it definitely helped me grow my confidence

in that area.” It has also provided him with the chance

to practice playing instruments and finding new music.

“Generally, I think I’ve found that out of lockdown I have

more experiences to draw from and being able to grow

more because of them has helped me process a lot.”

However, that didn’t stop him from counting down the

days until he could return to the studio. “I missed the

studio so much,” says Starkey.

Despite still being in the early stages of his musical

career, Starkey has received recognition from DJ Ace

and his first single was played on BBC Radio 1Xtra.

“I think sometimes it takes that kind of recognition to

reaffirm your belief in your craft and shut up the imposter

syndrome that I think everyone gets when they’re doing

something new.”

Starkey is an exciting, fresh and versatile artist who has

a deep connection with music. “It’s the only thing that

makes sense, in a senseless and confusing society, and it

makes people feel good.” !

Words: Mia O’Hare / @mia_ohare

Photography: Daniel Pattman / @daniel_pattman

Cocoa Butter is out now.

@starkeymusic

32


“There is no better

way to get someone

to understand our

message than

getting it stuck in

their head with a

catchy melody line”

THE LET GO

Finding their own feet and shaking off the female comparison.

THE LET GO have been gaining a fair bit of attention

from the local scene since 2019 when they released their

catchy rock-pop track Act One. Since then, the indie-pop

duo have continued to cultivate their 80s glam aesthetic

while simultaneously progressing their musical ability.

Relatable lyrics fused with nostalgic 80s synth sounds

are a common theme on their debut EP, Feeling Lonely,

and with each song, it is evident that the pair always

have something to say. “We both very much implement

our own emotions and life experiences through our

music,” Cole Bleu starts. “Writing is something that

allows us to deal with real shit when we can’t seem to

find words to say it. It helps us express ourselves without

having to explain.”

With one of their most popular tracks, WOMAN, being

a female empowering song lyrically, it didn’t come

without its challenges. “Writing WOMAN was honestly

a struggle,” Bleu admits. “At the end of the day we just

want to be artists. We don’t want to be specially treated

or even mistreated because we are women in this

industry,” she continues. “We just want to coexist with

any other artists out there – and that’s why writing this

song was difficult. We tried to be as clear as possible

that we aren’t furthering the divide between men and

women within the industry, just trying to collectively

succeed together.” In an industry dominated by men, the

last few years have seen strides made towards a more

equal gender mix on radio playlists and festival line-ups,

but one area where women are still underrepresented

is where the music is made – the studio. “In a way, the

writing process was the start of us getting over the divide

as it was the first time we began to fiddle with producing.

It definitely initiated our curiosity, despite the field of

music production being predominantly run by men,”

Scout begins. “Writing this song took the fear out of the

process and helped us prove to ourselves that it’s not this

menacing thing, and that we are fully capable of learning

the ins and outs.”

While proving to themselves that they are capable of

doing what men can do in the studio, growing up, The

Let Go found it hard to gather inspiration due to the

lack of women in the industry to look up to. “As females

[growing up in the music scene], I found it quite difficult

to find people to look up to or feel as if I could follow a

similar path,” Bleu opens up. “Being a small kid, most of

the music I would listen to would be classic rock and roll

courtesy of my father. Because of this though, I felt like

there wasn’t many female bands that resonated with me,”

she continued. There are numerous female fronted bands

and artists in the rock and alternative genres (Paramore

and Evanescence are referenced), but Bleu gets ‘pissed

off’ with such comparisons: “There’s many female fronted

bands and artists that are killing it, but for some reason

nothing really clicked with me – and that really pissed me

off. And it didn’t help that when we first started playing

gigs, people would always compare us to Paramore or

Evanescence,” she admits. The other half of the duo

agreed with the lack of female fronted bands to instil

inspiration: “Other than enjoying the way music sounds,

I can’t say much inspired me other than the urge I felt to

prove that girls can play guitar without using capos. In a

way, all live gigs inspire me because of the small number

of females fronting, and especially the severe lack of them

playing instruments.”

Having moved from Washington, DC to Liverpool

and going from strength to strength, the female duo’s

vision to get people moving their feet across the globe

is starting to become a reality. “Every small milestone

we’ve reached since January has stood out for me. We

found a lovely manager and had a lot of support from

Spotify by getting on editorials. These things have never

happened to us before, and it just feels incredible to see

the progress we’ve made in such a short amount of time,”

Bleu adds. “Every day stands out as we continue to reach

more and more people with our art,” Scout continues.

“Nothing is more rewarding than adding to the clique and

relating to people who resonate with us.”

The Let Go’s inquisitive disposition means their love of

music lies in the never-ending pursuit. “Creating music

allows us to make our message more impactful. There

is no better way to get someone to understand our

message than getting it stuck in their head with a catchy

melody line,” Scout tells us.

Bleu reaffirms their ambition to produce music that

people can identify with. “We want to impact this

generation culturally. Music has always been something

we both have latched onto in order to channel emotions

and thoughts. And as we do this, we hope to be blunt

and straightforward so that everyone can find something

to relate to.” !

Words: Shannon Garner / @shannonmayy_

Photography: Frankie Beanie

Feeling Lonely is available now.

@theletgo_

SPOTLIGHT

33


PREVIEWS

GIG

LOVELY

EGGS

Harvest Sun @ Phase One - 16/07

Six attempts and counting,

THE LOVELY EGGS are heading

to Merseyside, maybe not

this month, but hopefully

next at the latest. At the

time of writing the above

date and venue is pencilled

in, but also at the time of

writing the industry is reeling

from an extension to indoor

restrictions. Watch this space.

After a tumultuous year and a hell of a lot of

time to work on new projects, including the

recently released album I Am Moron, THE

LOVELY EGGS’ next release could be a career

high. A collaboration with punk royalty Iggy Pop, I, Moron

is an auditory accumulation of appreciation and shared

passion.

Following numerous failed attempts to sync our

calendars, I finally managed to catch up with The Lovely

Eggs’ Holly Ross (singer/guitarist) for a quick chat about

such an impressive, career-defining moment. In our busy,

regulation-reduced lives, I still pinch myself at the idea of

a live calendar returning. Thankfully, this band will soon

be back on tour, and any memory of Covid’s impact on

our lives will be where it should be, in the past.

Six attempts at rescheduling later and you’re finally off

on tour.

Yeah! The original tour was for April last year. So, a sixth

time rescheduling, we’re getting a bit sick of it now.

We’ve always got shit to do, but the live gigs are what

really make it real for us. Our fans, playing live to people,

it’s the joy of being in a band like ours. There’s only two

of us. We make a lot of noise, but there is only two of us.

We live together in a shithole town, in the North West of

England, which is a bit like the Twin Peaks of the north.

And it’s mad and magical at the same time. It’s very

mundane, but it’s magical. It’s lovely living here, but it’s

also wonderful to go out and see the wide world and

meet like-minded people and hanging out with people

who like our music. It’s kind of like living on Mars but then

getting on the International Space Station and meeting

loads of really cool people and then getting off for a bit.

We’re really missing that at the moment, I can’t lie about

that. If we can get back out on tour and just see our

people again, that would be cool.

But, while you’re missing that, you’ve been doing some

amazing things in the meantime.

Well, we’ve done a single with Iggy Pop, which is pretty

amazing for our band. Doing something with a giant like

Iggy Pop is pretty mind blowing. The single – a 7” – sold

out within hours of going on sale, so we’ve just been

busy packaging stuff up and getting everything ready for

it. Sitting at home and doing a bit of rehearsing, hoping

that we can go on tour soon which we still don’t know.

Yes, we can only hope this will be the final schedule

for the tour. With venues closing, the world of social

distancing and limited capacity, I can imagine you won’t

be wanting to do that again anytime soon.

It’s just monotonous. You do it once, you do it again. It’s

like a crossword puzzle, really. Trying to fit all the dates

in the right order so you’re not playing Aberdeen one

day and Brighton the next. But, as a DIY band, we’ve

built fabulous relationships with so many UK venues and

UK promoters, they have become like family to us. This

band is our life. And I know that the promoters and the

venues, a lot of them feel so similar about what they do.

A lot of venues, they’re not just a venue, not just a pub

or whatever. Each venue means something to a lot of

people, and it means something to the people who run it.

The sense of community has been amazing. I don’t think

I could have booked a tour six times without all the help

from the promoters and the independent venues in the

UK.

But the stars aligned.

Exactly. That’s what I’m on about. I believe in shit like

that. I know I shouldn’t, but there’s too much coincidence

that’s happened in my life and the life of the band that

I’ve just got to believe in it. A lot of weird things happen

to us, I still get surprised with all the odd shit, the weird

stuff. It’s never easy with us, never a straight or through

line, it winds its way through a million totally mental

scenarios before it gets to it actually happening. But we

enjoy the ride to be fair.

The synchronicity between Iggy featuring on I, Moron,

and your B-side being Dum Dum Boys, off The Idiot

album, is that another example of cosmic forces?

It sounds like we did it on purpose doesn’t it and we

didn’t at all. The way it all came about was strange but

true. He’s been into our band for a while now, he’s played

us quite a lot on his [BBC Radio 6 Music] show, which is

enough for us really, we couldn’t believe it. I, Moron was

initially going to be one of the tracks on the I Am Moron

album, but the bit Iggy is in, we didn’t have anything

for. We were working on it and one day David went,

we should get Iggy Pop to do those bits. He was joking

of course, but I took it dead seriously and sent him a

message.

And the outcome is an obnoxious yellow single with a

three-headed monster of you, David and Iggy?

It’s pretty full-on. That’s our style, really. Everything’s got

to be turned up full, including the colour and everything.

And Casey [Raymond, illustrator] is just amazing. We

always try and include him somehow into getting up to

no good and doing the illustrations for us. And he always

“Can you

have it all?

You can try”

seems to knock it out of the park. It’s almost like we’ve

made a visual connection with him. A lot of mine and

David’s existence is very insular, that’s how it is 90 per

cent of the time, but if you can spend 10 per cent of the

time working with great artists or great producers or

even with friends, just dicking about doing stuff, it feels

good.

It’s important to find that connection with people. But

by the running theme of ‘morons’, I’m going to presume

you’re not blind to the downfall of man.

We got a bit obsessed with that theme. I suppose it’s that

thing where we’re saying, ‘Yeah, everything is fucked’.

The world and what we do is absolutely stupid and we’re

just laughing at the state of it, which we do constantly.

But we’re not blameless either. We’re not saying we’re

not a part of that, we are a part of that. That’s just human

nature. We will always be twats. We’re like a stick of rock

with twat running through us. Every single fucking one of

us. And if anyone thinks different then they’re not human.

Being human has a few perks. If you’re surrounded by

complimentary people.

That’s what I love about going on tour and meeting our

fans, because it’s nice to find like-minded people out

there, rather than just pictures on a screen. It’s a bit fake,

really. But touring is great. We’ve got an eight-year-old

kid as well, just to add that into the mix. We’re literally

obsessed, we take him on tour with us everywhere

we go. And we have done since he was four months

old. That just adds to the madness of it all.

Never do anything by halves.

That’s it, that’s it. It’s about not having to give stuff up.

You’ve got to change when you become a mum or a dad,

you have to change and adapt. But I was born a punk

rocker and as soon as I was 14, I picked up a guitar and

I’ve been in a band ever since. And it just doesn’t feel

natural for me to not be in a band. So, I’m not going to

have a kid and then pack it all in and go and get a job in

a shop or an office and be a normal mum, it’s just never

going to happen. Sometimes, I think it’s good just not to

change and to keep on.

I 100 per cent respect that. Society often tells women

they can’t have it all, but sod that.

I think it’s true, a couple of late nights and bloody hell.

Can you have it all? You can try, but you’re not going to

feel very good the next day. You do have to change a little

bit, but not so much so that it stops you doing what you

feel like you’re born to do.

DIY in the truest sense.

That’s it. When it’s good, it’s fucking brilliant and when

it’s bad it is hard work. But the good outweighs the bad. !

Words: Megan Walder (she/her) / @m_l_wald

Photography: Darren Andrews

I Am Moron is out now on Egg Records.

@TheLovelyEggs

34


EXHIBITION

LUCIAN FREUD:

REAL LIVES

24/07–16/01/22 - Tate Liverpool

This summer will be the first time in over 30 years that works of Lucian

Freud have been put on display in the North West. Tate Liverpool will host

a significant presentation of the artist’s work, a painter who has long been

considered a master of modern portraiture. The exhibition will feature some

of Freud’s most iconic paintings as well as photographs that provide an insight into his

personal life.

Lucian Freud: Real Lives highlights the artist’s sitters who were family members,

friends, other artists and lovers. The display tracks the personal and artistic life of Freud

who was regarded as deeply private and guarded. Through his work, we get to know

the artist over a career spanning more than 60 years.

Freud’s paintings are classed as unapologetic and frank celebrations of the human

form. The Tate exhibition will include some of his most celebrated works including

portraits of performance artist Leigh Bowery, his first wife Kitty Garman, friend and

studio assistance David Dawson and his mother Lucie Freud. The show also provides

a rare opportunity to take in all of Freud’s work within the Tate collection, including Girl

with a Kitten (1947) and Girl with a White Dog (1950-1).

The display will feature examples of Freud’s etchings which demonstrate some

of his early experiments in the 1940s. As well as some of the large and complex

compositions the artist created in the early 1980s when he rediscovered the medium.

Freud typically depicted the same sitters in both printmaking and paint form and so the

exhibition gives a great insight into his mastery of the mediums.

Alongside Freud’s artwork, there will be a selection of photographs on display

which will reveal more about his work and life and how intertwined the two were. The

photos include Cecil Beaton’s image of Freud in the 1950s at the start of his career

and later images of him in the early 1990s and 2010, which show Freud working in his

studio with his sitters, giving a rare glimpse into the artist at work.

lisa luxx

FESTIVAL

Lucian Freud, Girl with a White Dog 1950-1 © Tate

LIVERPOOL ARAB

ARTS FESTIVAL

16/07–14/11 - Various venues

The new-look version of the annual festival returns this summer with an

extensive multidisciplinary programme of digital and in-person events to

showcase Arab culture. The first wave of the festival programme, spanning

from July to August, includes the world premiere of Eating the Copper Apple

by poet lisa luxx (16-25/07) which raises questions about identity from several complex

perspectives.

An installation by artist Jessica El Mal named Grounds for Concern (16/07-15/08)

questions the concept of land ownership and the true boundaries enforced by

human-made borders. An insightful panel discussion entitled Our Women on the

Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World (22/07) will focus

on journalists reporting on their changing homeland. Among the guests are Aida Alami,

Eman Helal, Heba Shbani and the editor of the book on which the event is based Zahra

Hankir.

LAAF is the UK’s longest running festival of Arab arts and culture, encouraging

people to explore and appreciate Arab people and their rich heritage. This year’s event

will be an artist-led response to the climate emergency in the Middle East and North

African region (MENA). The climate crisis is being disproportionately felt in the MENA

region as it faces scorching temperatures, rising sea levels and diminishing resources.

Through performances and visual art, the festival will see artists express the lived

experiences of those from the region as well as addressing the interconnected issues

of imperialism, climate justice and capitalism.

There will also be a new LAAF commission titled 22, a major project that invites

22 Arab creatives from 22 nations to create a multidisciplinary artistic anthology of

climate emergency in the MENA region today.

In response to Covid-19, this year’s LAAF will be expanding from its usual twoweek

festival period in the summer to a much longer festival spanning nearly four

months. The programme will include a mix of physical and online events to celebrate

the best in Arab arts and culture, while connecting physical audiences in Liverpool

with digital audiences around the world.

PREVIEWS

35


PREVIEWS

FESTIVAL

Manchester International Festival

01-18/07 - Various venues

Damon Albarn

Taking over the warehouse city’s rich tapestry of venues and art spaces

for the eighth time, Manchester International Festival returns July for

18 days of visual art, residencies, talks and music. Recently announced

performances include techno boffin and Haçienda legend LAURENT

GARNIER’s UK film premiere of Off The Record, tracing the story of UK

club culture and his involvement in it (Manchester Central, 11/07), plus

a live solo and string quartet appearance from festival friend DAMON

ALBARN (Manchester Central, 13/07). Indoor venues subject to limited

capacity following Covid-19 guidelines.

FILM

Cinema in the City

02-04/07 - Cotton Exchange Rooftop Garden

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

critically acclaimed and award-winning independent films against the backdrop of Liverpool’s iconic architecture atop the resplendent Cotton Exchange on Bixteth Street. The

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,

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

signature Middle Eastern-inspired menu to the rooftop location.

GIG

Max Cooper

03/07 - Grand Central Hall

Max Cooper

London based DJ, MAX COOPER is bringing his intensive visual art

performance to Liverpool’s Grand Central Hall. With sounds ranging from

stark electronica remixes of huge bands like Hot Chip to the fuzzy, buzzing

dancefloor sounds everyone loves, Cooper has developed a mixed-media

approach to creation. Interrogating and furthering the intersection between

electronic art and visual art, Cooper brings his AV performance to life

through the exploration of technology while referencing that which came

before it and does so in a human way.

THEATRE

Little Liverpool Theatre Festival

12-18/07 – St Luke’s Bombed Out Church

A week-long celebration of new and diverse shows that have never been seen by

Liverpool audiences takes over the Bombed Out Church. Set up after the success of

Liverpool Theatre Festival last September, the programme includes cabaret, comedy,

family entertainment and theatre from black, disabled, LGBTQ+ and a diverse array of

makers. The original event was created to help revive the city’s live performance sector

following the effects of Covid-19 and organisers have followed the success with an

open call for creatives to be premiered at the festival. A panel of industry experts then

selected the final line-up from works submitted, curating a programme of shows which

run between 50 and 75 minutes.

St Luke’s Bombed Out Church

36


CLUB

I Hate Models

09/07 - 24 Kitchen Street

The bandana-clad titan of the techno scene debuts at 24 Kitchen Street

after becoming one of the most in-demand underground DJs in Europe. I

HATE MODELS is a mysterious French producer who first broke onto the

techno scene in 2015 and has been ripping up the rule book ever since. He

has embraced acid, EBM, trance, rave culture and psychedelics to create

a unique high energy set. This rescheduled event courtesy of promoters

Wonder Pot also features sets from DJs NIKKI CHONG and BEN SLEIA.

I Hate Models

CLUB

Antal

30/07 - Meraki

An all-day event that is set to bring all the house heads back to the

dancefloor takes over Meraki at the end of the month. It’s one of the

club’s biggest events to date and will see DJ sets from ANTAL, NABIHAH

IQBAL, DAR DISKU and GIOVANNA in the day, while YOUNG MARCO

and ANU take over the stage at night. It’s a milestone occasion for the

former taxi garage-turned-venue, now an intimate club space with a

powerful soundsystem and a DIY ethos that has won an army of loyal

patrons.

Nabihah Iqbal

GIG

PVA + Lazarus Kane

04/07 - Birkenhead Central Library

Initially formed in the aftermath of a house party, three-piece PVA

have since earned a fearsome reputation as one of the capital’s

premier live outfits. Known for raucous live performances, the band

are giving a special all-ages matinée performance at Birkenhead

Central Library on 4th July. While also performing noteworthy

DJ sets, live performances have been the focal point for the trio

of musical polymaths and garnered them hardcore support in

their still formative years. In their string of upcoming independent

shows, PVA are joined by newly signed LAZARUS KANE and

supported by FOLLY GROUP.

PVA

GIG

Monks

30/07 - Future Yard

Good things come to those who wait, and we

welcome with open arms – and a huge sigh of

relief – the first Bido Lito! Social in nearly two

years at Birkenhead’s suntrap venue, Future Yard.

Soundtracking our celebration of issue 116 next

month will be headliners MONKS, with support

coming from Wirral sweethearts A LESSER VERSION

and another artist to be announced. Everyone is

welcome at the Bido Lito! Social – an opportunity to

experience the music of artists appearing in the pink

pages. Bido Lito! Members go free!

THEATRE

Under The Mask

08/07-10/07 - Playhouse

Hundreds of final year medical students had to finish their

studies early and start work on the frontline in March of

last year. Under the Mask follows the journey of Jaskaran,

a newly qualified doctor during the Covid-19 crisis. On

her first day on the Covid Intensive Care Unit, Jaskaran is

not prepared for what she finds. The show was recorded

on location using sounds from real Covid wards with

fully immersive 360-degree sound. The audience listens

through headphones and are given a doctor’s perspective

on the pandemic as they uncover a story of resilience,

hope and strength.

*All dates were correct at the time of writing. Please

check listings as some events may have been moved

or social distancing measures put in place due to the

extension to government restrictions.

PREVIEWS 37


REVIEWS

Shame (Darren Aston)

“They play this

60-capacity room

in Birkenhead

like it’s Wembley

Stadium”

Shame

Future Yard – 31/05

It’s an unusually warm Tuesday evening in

Birkenhead and Future Yard is practically sizzling

with a strange sense of anticipation. Apprehension,

even. After all, for many of us this is the First Gig Back

post-lockdown. Tables of two, six feet apart, masks, no

standing up, no dancing, ordering pints on an app. These

are all unfamiliar things even for seasoned gig-goers.

But as soon as SHAME fly onto the stage, any

apprehension quickly dissipates. Like greyhounds

released from the traps, the South London six-piece

launch straight into a riotous hour of pure post-punk joy.

From the off, frontman Charlie Steen has us completely

under his control. He has a certain look in his eyes as if

he’s bursting with things to tell us – and we’d better be

listening.

“I hope that you’re hearing me” goes the hook of

first album favourite Concrete and, well, we certainly

are. Steen’s voice carries its power not only through its

sheer volume, but through the conviction and clarity of

his diction. Every syllable is carefully executed and is

accompanied with a corresponding point of the finger,

a swing of the mic, a jab of the chin. It almost feels

choreographed. It’s utterly captivating.

Steen’s moves are no better demonstrated than

on set highlight, Nigel Hitter. It is a tight, slick affair

that reflects their growth from an angsty first album

back in 2018 to the more sophisticated sound of this

year’s Drunk Tank Pink. As such, latest single Born

In Luton is another standout. Oscillating between a

jagged, incessant guitar riff in the verses and a haunting,

cinematic chorus, it encapsulates all the intricate

complexities that made Drunk Tank Pink so triumphant.

Oldies like One Rizla are indeed met like the familiar

anthems they are, but it’s their new material that really

impresses.

What is perhaps most striking is that, behind all

the bravado, Shame are a remarkably humble band.

Instead of moping about the irony of playing postpunk

to what looks like an exam

hall full of wooden desks due to

government-enforced rules, they

play this 60-capacity room in

Birkenhead like it’s Wembley

Stadium. They seem genuinely

grateful to be here; a gratitude

that is undeniably reciprocated

by their audience tonight.

Before we know

it, the soaring Station

Wagon brings the set to a

spectacular close. At the

song’s crescendo, Steen is

teetering on the edge of

the stage, standing tall,

arms outstretched, sweat

dripping. It makes for

a dramatic concluding

tableau that lingers in

our minds as we’re

thrust out, stunned,

back into the early

evening sunshine.

The First Gig

Back was always

going to be loaded

with expectation. But tonight, Shame have dispelled any

anxieties that might have been felt an hour ago. Instead,

we’re left with an overwhelming feeling of optimism.

After over a year deprived of live music, there was no

better band than Shame – and no better venue than

Future Yard – to welcome us back.

Alice Williams

Shame (Darren Aston)

38


Penelope Isles

+ Last Living Cannibal

Future Yard – 19/05

For the first show post-lockdown in a country

starting to flicker back to life, it seems appropriate

that two of the most promising current UK acts are

on the bill. This is the second date of PENELOPE

ISLES’ socially-distanced spring tour and, after what

I think we can probably all agree has been a slightly

underwhelming year for live music, it really is a great

pleasure to be, well, back in the room.

Before the headliners, LAST LIVING CANNIBAL

opens the show. Currently promoting his impressive,

self-released debut LP 7 Years, his set is a

demonstration of complex, intricate songwriting.

Opener The Overground is perhaps a perfect

encapsulation of his style-blending hooky, repeated

riffs with intriguing synth leads and understated vocal

lines. The set-up is simple: distorted guitar played

over a pre-programmed backing track, but the effect

is captivating. For the first strains of live music outside

of Zoom streams we have heard in a long time you

could definitely do much, much worse.

Since the release of their first album Until The

Tide Creeps In in 2019, Penelope Isles have, through

relentless touring, developed into one of the best

live bands in the country. Tonight’s performance

only confirms that fact. Brother and sister duo Jack

and Lily Wolter have always been the driving force

in the group but new members Henry Nicholson on

bass and Joe Taylor on drums make up an impressive

rhythm section. Chlorine gets things moving nicely

and is an example of the band’s winning formula of

fusing shimmering morsels of pop with fuzzy sections

of noise-rock experimentation. Just when you’re

settling into the appealing lull of a pristine melody, the

song suddenly plunges into unexpected dissidence. In

this way no track ever feels stale or overwrought.

Not Talking is a showcase for Jack Wolter’s vocal

range. Dream-like and ethereal, the track manages to

convey a sense of fragility with sparse percussion and

delicate chord progressions. One of Penelope Isles’

biggest strengths is the symbiotic vocal harmonising

between the two Wolter siblings and this track

emphasises that in abundance. Leipzig takes the set

into more kinetic territory with its off-kilter, wonky

riffs and 60s, French pop-infused vocal delivery. The

band have been working on their second album and

tonight we are treated to some of the new material

alongside the well-known fan favourites. If these

latest tracks are anything to go by then the new

record may well even be an improvement on their first

effort.

As the set draws to a close, there is a distinct,

triumphant feeling in the room. Even though the

audience is sitting at tables huddled in pairs, it is clear

that a new dawn beckons. Live music is back. The

current experience might feel slightly unfamiliar, but

if the other shows on the horizon feel anywhere near

as good as this one then it won’t matter. Live streams

have gone some way to satiate the hunger for all of

this during the past year, but it doesn’t touch the real

thing. So, get yourself back in the room as soon as

possible. You won’t regret it.

Alastair Dunn

RECONNECT

+ Tosin Trio

+ Beija Flo

+ MC Nelson

Future Yard – 30/05

Today, for the first time in what feels like a lifetime, the sun is beaming hot. The black and pink colour palette of

Future Yard’s garden space, where the RECONNECT all-dayer – presented by Future Yard’s Sound Check programme

– begins with an arts fair, DJs and poetry performances, is illuminated in glorious hues. It feels like a world away from

the past year-and-a-half, something more joyous, brighter.

And yet, it’s hard to forget things aren’t fully normal yet. When the live music begins indoors, seated in a pair,

spaced apart from others, you’re reminded that there’s something missing. The smoke, the purple lighting, the taste of

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

sing along.

As MC NELSON hits the stage, however, you’re distracted from your surroundings quickly. The Aigburth rapper’s

buoyant personality shines through in his performance and is effortlessly engaging. Nelson is an exceptional talent,

marrying established musical references with a fresh perspective and style. He raps with an assurance, commanding

focus from the audience.

Nelson is captivating beyond his stage presence, too. His lyrics celebrate Merseyside culture, while deftly tackling

urgent topics: racism, colonialism, identity. For a festival branding itself as a celebration of Merseyside culture, he’s an

excellent representative. His love for Liverpool is clear, but he continues to always envision a brighter future, the ways

things could be better.

Glam-pop artist BEIJA FLO follows. Reminiscent of both Lorde and Peaches, there’s a theatricality in her art which

is enchanting. Her singing is powerful, explosive, filling every corner of the room. Between songs, her humour and

honesty are endearing. “We’re all in this together,” she jokes at the start of her set. The sentiment feels truer the more

her performance progresses.

Beija Flo talks candidly about human topics; she discusses the body and sexuality with a personable wit. She talks

about her struggles with MRKH syndrome, and quips that she’ll speak about it at every performance until there’s more

awareness. The physical gap between audience and performer shrinks here; she welcomes you into her world, and

she encourages you to take something from it.

The event closes with a performance from blues-rock outfit THE TOSIN TRIO. Like their predecessors, the

performance is a fascinating one. Each member of the group performs their role with a devoted intricacy. Their songs

are expansive, they meander and shift, but you’re invited to follow along, to lose yourself in the journey.

The performance encourages us to pause and think closely about our surroundings. Frontman Tosin Salako (guitar,

vocals) asks us to picture a new world, one not tied to finances, when the band begin their performance of Money,

and the trio’s bluesy cover of The Beatles’ Come Together resonates well tonight: it’s Merseyside culture, but with a

twist. The escapist feeling present here, the instruction to envision something different, is what ties tonight’s three

performances together.

Wyldest

+ Charity Shop Pop

+ Blackaby

Glasswerk @ Grand Central – 22/05

Alfie Verity

It’s hard to ignore the cyclists, cars and passers-by outside the window of the intimate Grand Central. It all so

looks so chaotic out there. For us though, we’re looking forward to our first gig in what seems like forever, and this one

feels like it’s going to be one of those constantly-smiling-to-strangers-because-it’s-all-so-wholesome kind of nights.

Touring her latest album Monthly Friend, WYLDEST is supported by CHARITY SHOP POP and BLACKABY. Monthly

Friend is a reflective journal of 2020, with its main theme being inequality, inspired by events of 2020 from #MeToo

to Black Lives Matter. The LP shows the versatility in Wyldest’s writing and her ability to evolve by harnessing new

sounds and themes.

Ormskirk-based indie-pop artist Charity Shop Pop presses play on the event. His tongue-in-cheek style and

charming personality instantly remind us of what we’ve been missing all this time. His set, although relying on some

pretty modern equipment for a backing track, could live comfortably on the setlist of a high school prom band from a

noughties teen movie. Reminiscent of The 1975, Charity Shop Pop successfully delivers an advert for the summer.

Blackaby takes his seat behind his flower-dressed kick drum and foot-operated snare. Along with his notched

guitar and angelic voice, Blackaby dedicates every last muscle to his indie folk music. We are in a daze from the off,

hypnotised by its beauty. He jokes that one of his songs was inspired by a chatty audience member from a past show.

That won’t be an issue for this event, though. We daren’t speak over this.

Finally, it’s the headliner. Wyldest is the moniker of Zoe Mead, a North London artist whose latest album is the

third of her career. She wastes no time in painting the walls with colour and creating thick sheets of harmony through

trigger pads and loops, confidently demonstrating the value of creating your own backing track live. Wyldest has

such maturity in her writing and a clear vision in her set, which is really quite remarkable given that this project is still

relatively new. Her voice glides from note to note effortlessly and possesses a real folk quality. She compares her voice

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

on this one.

Slinky Malinki

REVIEWS

39


REVIEWS

Tristan Fewings

AI: More Than Human

World Museum – until 31/10

Any mention of artificial intelligence (AI) will likely elicit visions of a dystopian future, where humans are

subordinate to some kind of sentient, machine overlord. However, at the World Museum’s AI: More Than Human

exhibition, it’s a lot more complicated than we think, raising the question of how technologies should be used and

what that could mean for us.

Despite the expansive space, I feel dizzy as if thrown into orbit. I face an onslaught of sounds and visuals coming

from every direction, with intrigued faces glued to the interactive displays. Some are typing away to chatbots, while

others stand to attention, receiving a full body scan. The future is in this room.

The exhibition opens by mapping humanity’s enduring fascination with bringing to life the non-living. From early

religious mythologies to Frankenstein’s monster, the nature and narrative of these creations have differed wildly across

the centuries. Yet there is one glaring connection: the flourishing of artificial life ultimately leads to the downfall and

destruction of its creator.

“You’re a good boy, aren’t you, Aibo?” croons one visitor’s assistant as she pets a small, barking robot dog made

by Sony. Through the use of sensors, little Aibo responds to your speech and touch, and even performs a few tricks

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

enthusiasm.

The deeper you venture through the displays, the more immersive and thought-provoking they become. One

captivating video shows how, in 2016, Google’s DeepMind developed a computer which used intuitive machine

learning to become the first AI to beat world champion, Lee Sedol, at the strategy game, Go. Yet defeat by this

artificial player did not discourage Sedol for long. In fact, it led him to develop innovative new strategies that had been

unimaginable before. Are we seeing the first beginnings of human-AI competition?

Transitioning from robotic pets into Deep Fake videos of Barack Obama, the displays provide a sobering reminder

of the more dubious ways that technology can be put to use. AI drones mobilised as autonomous weapons reinforce

feelings of inevitable annihilation, while developments in biotechnology have the potential to extend life, and in doing

so challenge the very notions of what we consider ‘natural’.

Then there are the more naturalised forms of AI that are already used every day, one of them being our

smartphones. From shopping habits to political outlooks, our phones and computers employ complex algorithms that

constantly fight for our attention. Though convenient for our busy lives, Big Tech’s countless data security scandals in

recent years have exposed just how susceptible we are to manipulation from the Data Gods we so willingly hand our

information to.

As if walking a tightrope, there is a fine balance to this exhibition. Never does it seek to prophesise where AI will

take us, but rather lays bare its diverse potential and some of the cultural and ethical implications it raises. Tackling

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

soon. If we are, as it suggests, both “unwitting and active participants” in AI’s evolution and expansion, the biggest

question of this exhibition is one of power and accountability. Technology has no moral compass, unless we equip it

with one. After all, who was the real monster, Frankenstein or his creation?

Nina Newbold / @ninanwbld

Tristan Fewings

40


Bull + Eggs

YEP Directors’ Festival @ The Everyman -

04/06

The annual YEP Directors’ Festival showcases the work of the

Young Everyman and Playhouse’s emerging directors’ programme.

As theatres began to welcome back audiences, our writers took in

two of the productions.

Rossa Murray & The Blowin’ Winds

+ Δnna

Bed & Breakfast @ The Athenaeum – 05/06

Rossa Murray (Kevin Barrett)

Much like the royal red of the venue, the atmosphere of The Athenaeum is warm and welcoming. A

chandelier frames the stage, casting diffracted light on the audience’s chattering faces, who are catching

up on lost time. Most noticeable is the fresh scent which contrasts the customary wild gig smell of spilt

beers and sweaty moshpits. Instead, the set-up is more like a live show in a pub – quirky, personal and

exclusive.

ΔNNA, the first act, fits this environment perfectly. Starting in an endearingly self-conscious way,

she soon draws the attention of the crowd. As she effortlessly finger-picks her way through the songs,

her confidence increases and the smile on her face gets wider and more compelling. She manages to

take up the space by use of her homemade backing tracks and her dexterous guitar-playing. There’s

empowerment within the cynical lyrics, notably evident in Not Your Girl. A sassy, bass-driven track, it

crowns the performance and leaves the audience with a lasting impression.

The room doesn’t appear to notice as the long French windows introduce us to night-time as ROSSA

MURRAY & THE BLOWIN’ WINDS walk onto the stage. It’s only at this point that the dichotomy of a fine

establishment and plastic cups become apparent. Wearing bohemian shirts over plain t-shirts, the band

colours the stage in oranges, purples and blues. Although the music is well suited to the setting, their fans

seem more used to rowdy loud concerts. Yet, the comfort the band exhibits as they begin their set settles

around the room like a blanket.

The shadowed silhouettes of the band members meet on the wall behind the stage, mirroring the

coming together of the harmonies and the harmonious development of the night. Their passionate

head-shaking draws you in as much as the evocative lyrical story-telling does. The lively stage banter

and remarks about paying for a parking ticket don’t detract from how charged even the absence of noise

is. Each aspect of the performance unfurls into a new resounding curiosity, with guitar layering, a cover

of Passionfruit by Drake and the introduction of a trumpet. As the lead singer belts out the notes, I’m

reminded of Paolo Nutini, singing of experiences that only come with age. This band knows where their

music sits and gladly runs with it.

The final song is met in the form of a solo ode to Liverpool. Dedicated to Rossa Murray’s oldest pal,

the crowd sings along loudly to Sophie, in a carefree Irish pub kind of way. Those who don’t know the

lyrics sit in awe, content in the here and now.

Cat Caie

It’s a sell-out show of minimal people tonight – every table is

occupied with huddled pairs leaning over cups and tealights. On the

tables are programmes for half a dozen plays over the next fortnight.

You’re reminded you’re actually seeing something in the flesh again

as you see people’s heads twitch and hair shake when they laugh.

Theatre is back.

There’s a projection of a matador dipping and flickering in a

moving picture show, all black and white with static audio. Then the

music cuts dead and there’s a brash light over an office scene. The

stage is very much our red rag.

Bull was written by Mike Bartlett in the early 2010s – winning

Best New Play at the UK Theatre Awards in October 2013 – and

hasn’t aged in nearly 10 years, especially in the hands of tonight’s

director, Olive Pascha. It’s been 15 months without indoor theatre,

but worth the wait. This is a production that requires a live

enactment; it’s claustrophobic, awkward and sour in a way that

couldn’t be translated to video. There’s ratty management and sneaks

orchestrating the moment to suit themselves. To the audience, it reads

as a sort of bearbaiting of the protagonist, Thomas, as he’s twisted

into a raging grass.

The schoolyard was never a place, it was a conglomerate of

snarky individuals, and according to this they’ve all compressed

themselves into one conference room somewhere in Merseyside. They

confuse people for the hell of it, then rub their nose in the aftermath,

and it’s that universal superior suck-up vantage point that makes

every character, bar Thomas, bitter and gleeful at the same time.

The parallel metaphors of secondary school bullying (recreated

accurately in laboured swearing and insults) and the more classical

bullring comparison are screwed together satisfyingly, revealing

the savage backstabbing of the corporate world with a strange

repertoire of black humour and goading. Never was there more snark,

snidery, snitching, shoe-licking, shit-stirring, feigned ignorance and

competition condensed into 50 minutes of snot-nosed adults nettling

each other for millimetres of the upper-hand. It’s pathetic in the best

way possible.

The titular theme of Eggs is subtly mentioned throughout

this comedy about female friendships and fertility. Fertility, along

with an easter egg and even a sex toy, are all referenced. Florence

Keith-Roach’s play is a Fleabag-esque production that follows the

lives of two young women navigating life, friendships and societal

expectations.

Director Mary Savage handles the writer’s approach to the

subject of sex confidently as both characters are shown to openly talk

about their relationships and sexual history. The rocky relationship

between the characters delves into the ways women are pulled

in various directions due to societal expectations, but are able to

withstand this, as the importance of female friendship is shown to be

paramount. Character A seemingly has her life together, with a steady

relationship, office job and a potential baby on the way. Character B

goes down an unconventional route and questions the plan society

has set out for her, as she feels unfulfilled by her dog-walking job

and wishes to find more meaning in life. Her monologues about life,

consciousness and fulfilment immerse the audience in a captivating

stream of consciousness. Not only do these women feel a career

pressure and an expectation to have the time of their lives in their 20s

– the ticking time bomb of motherhood also hangs over them.

Savage evidently doesn’t think in binaries as there is no defined

hero or villain. Neither character is perfect, nor does Savage try

to shame either for the paths they choose to take. Rather, both

characters are portrayed as flawed individuals that have work to

do on themselves, their relationships and outlooks in life. Coming

away from this production, the audience is reassured with a sense of

comfort as we see ourselves in these characters.

The relatability of the characters and familiarity of locations such

as Ormskirk and Edge Hill create a sense of belief, not only in the

cast but the director, too. The audience understands Savage’s implied

message. Society is complex, but so are we.

Poppy Fair / @_poppyfair_ and Hannah Merchant / @han.merchant

REVIEWS 41


1–4 July

Manchester Central

1–18 July

Manchester Arndale

CEPHAS

WILLIAMS

Sunday 11 July

Manchester Central

ALL

OF

THIS

UNREAL

TIME

Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner & Jon Hopkins Composers

Aoife McArdle Film Director, Cillian Murphy Actor

Max Porter Writer

PORTRAIT

OF

BLACK

BRITAIN

LAURENT

GARNIER

OFF

THE

RECORD

Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival.

Commissioned by Manchester International Festival. Produced by Manchester International Festival and

The Cephas Williams Company. Image: The image above of Cephas Williams was photographed by Sam Shaw

Produced by Manchester International Festival.

Saturday 17 July

Manchester Central

HOME

COMING

LIVE

Featuring

Rema, Midas the Jagaban, Anz

Hosted by Julie Adenuga

Plus Special Guests

Saturday 10 July

Manchester Central

ROOT

ED

IN

RHYME

Featuring DJ Semtex, SVMI, Culps, Lady Ice,

Rago Loco, Victoria Jane, DJ G-A-Z, DJ Basha

2–18 July

HOME & around Manchester

POET

SLASH

ARTIST

Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist & Lemn Sissay

Live event curated by Cerys Matthews

Produced A Pre-Factory by Manchester Event. International Commissioned Festival in by partnership Manchester with Homecoming. International Festival and

Images: Stanford Anz (bottom Live at left) Stanford by Joseph University. Burton, others Produced courtesy of by the Manchester artists International Festival.

Wednesday 14 July

Manchester Central

MIF ×

SALAAM

FEST IVAL

Produced by Manchester International Festival in partnership with Unity Radio and the Manchester

Hip Hop Archive. Images: courtesy of artists

From 1 July at

virtual-factory.co.uk

Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival and HOME.

A

FESTIVAL

LIKE NO

OTHER

Read more and book for live

and online events at mif.co.uk

Muneera Williams

Sona Jobarteh

Orchestral Qawwali:

Abi Sampa, Rushil, Amrit Singh

Produced by Manchester International Festival in partnership with Salaam Festival.

Images: courtesy of artists

ROBERT YANG

Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival.

Image: Eleanor Davis


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whats-on


ARTISTIC

LICENCE

This month’s selection of creative writing comes from Megan

Walder, a piece which channels the sanctity of live music and

the comfort it offers.

It was once I who would be the guardian of a venue. The one with the honour of trading those paper tickets for a

stamp that would stain your skin for the next week. As I fed off of your energy, you would feed off mine.

Your excitement would sustain me until my next fix. Your eagerness to enter another dimension, one that exists solely

in the present, unaffected by the woes of before and the stress of what’s to come. A place where sweat drips from

the ceiling and bodies collide in unison, dancing to a familiar beat.

It was my home for three years. My roots digging deeper with every hit I got, nourished by the community that

formed around me. And one day I awoke to see that the rug, once firmly planted under my feet, had disappeared, and

my lifeline with it.

No honourable dismission or grand leaving party. Just the unfamiliar unease of unsteady ground. My roots began to

rot and my connection to those I once held dear was severed. My portal to the home plains had gone.

The world sat off-kilter as we were starved of normality. Our lives drab and unfulfilled by the wire from the news to

our brains. Confused by inconsistency and boredom. Watching online performances that didn’t quite scratch the itch,

spending money you didn’t have in an attempt to keep those keyholders to the other land afloat.

We scraped by but have not been left unscathed.

The sour taste, ubiquitous this past year, is lessening. No longer does it flow through my veins and poison my

outlook. My roots have begun to regrow, and I’ve tied lost connections back together with scraps of string. I’m edging

closer to a now visible rug, a tangible connection to what once was. Just a couple more steps.

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

the stamp finds its way between lines on the back of your hand, usually invisible to the naked eye, I hear a shift.

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

world unknown. To those who mock our love for these ceremonies, we offer only pity. For they heard nothing, their

heads in clouds that offer no escapism, only ignorance. But you heard that shift, too. And we know that our way out

of here is coming.

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

fidget, thrive in the discomfort of not being able to dance to your favourite song. Hold on to the possibilities that lay

ahead. Order your drinks off an app that makes no sense and, for God’s sake, wear your mask.

The venue understands. As the building nods apologetically and the staff smile under covered mouths, we get why

you’re anxious to return home alongside us. The journey is longer than we first expected.

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

atop of it just minutes before soundcheck.

Be prepared for what once would be the worst experience of live music you could have possibly envisioned. To grasp

at the shortest straws imaginable. It should have you wishing for the good old days. But it doesn’t. Because you’re

back amongst your people.

As the power of live music encompasses the room, the presumptions of how you’d feel are left at the door. For all the

inconveniences this world now has us endure, this is better than nothing.

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

just an inch closer to the safe zone. To the point where you can once again visit the dimension that you call home.

The place where you found yourself. Where you could shed the preconceptions others had of you, drop the socionormative

cloak that you wear day in, day out, and simply be.

But until then, we take what we can get. So, pass me your hand and accept these new conditions. Because they’re

only temporary.

We hope.

Words: Megan Walder / @m_l_wald

46


THE FINAL

SAY

Joanne Anderson (Jennifer Bruce/Liverpool City Council)

“Progressive

policies to protect

both the creative

industries and

the planet can

work in tandem”

Conal Cunningham considers what Joanne Anderson’s mayoral election means for the climate,

communities and culture of the city.

At the local elections in early May, Joanne

Anderson made history as the first black

woman to be elected mayor of a major UK

city. Considering the turmoil Liverpool has

faced of late, after a year of coronavirus restrictions and

criminal investigations into senior council members, her

victory perhaps did not get the attention it deserved. So,

along with her promise of a fresh start, what is the newly

elected mayor offering us in terms of change, hope, and

progressiveness?

A triple lock of ‘people, planet, equality’ is Mayor

Anderson’s mantra for the future of Liverpool and is

guaranteed to be at the heart of the council’s every

decision moving forward. This means that investment in

jobs, infrastructure and regeneration will all be determined

on how it can most benefit people in the community,

with a pledge that all voices will be heard in the decision

process. Equality of opportunity across the city region is

also a priority, and the environmental impact of all local

policies will be assessed in order to achieve Liverpool’s

ambitious 2030 carbon net-zero target.

In the short to medium term, commitment to people

and equality are elements of the new mayor’s mantra

that will likely be focused on. Without doubt, rebuilding

transparency and trust within the council, addressing

social inequalities and ensuring a thorough recovery from

the pandemic are pressing issues that must be worked

through diligently.

The existential threat of climate change, however, is

something which must take precedence. With extreme

weather patterns becoming ever more frequent, the cost

of inaction foreshadows a future not wholly unimaginable

from the present; a warming world where the extreme

becomes commonplace, a life susceptible to natural

disasters, an existence with an escalating loss of habitat.

Considering Liverpool’s coastal locality, and the havoc

extreme flooding could wreak on the city, the time to act

is now.

This is not to say that there have been no steps

towards becoming a greener city, however. Over the

past 15 years, with an increasing switch to green energy,

there has been a 42 per cent reduction in the city’s carbon

emissions. Nonetheless, it is evident that this action must

be ramped up in order to meet Liverpool’s net-zero target

by the end of the decade.

Looking into Mayor Anderson’s policies, the former

Princes Park councillor has pledged that, moving forward,

the council will only work with contractors that reduce

their impact on the environment. This includes initiatives

to build energy efficient public buildings and council

houses, as well as a ‘retrofitting revolution’ to ensure the

region’s homes become carbon neutral.

In addition to this, there are promises to protect the

city’s green spaces, an introduction of ‘green corridors’ to

promote active (walking and cycling) travel, as well as the

creation of high-quality green jobs.

This all sounds very promising, although at present

there is not too much in the specifics of what these green

jobs will look like or where they will be created, apart from

them assisting with the ‘clean growth’ of the city. This

means that community participation in local government

and future policy conversations is essential. If investment

in green energy, technology and infrastructure is going to

be ramped up, it is critical that the communities impacted

have a say on where this money is to be spent, and no

area of the city is left behind or disadvantaged by the

changes.

As the city shifts with rapid and permanent changes

towards green energy, it is vital that this message is

articulated and understood by everyone in the region,

with changes coming at no detriment to any person or

industry. The inevitable shift towards electric vehicles for

personal and public transport, for example, should be fully

explained and come with no added complications or costs

to the consumer.

Bringing people along in these decisions and working

together to build a truly sustainable city has the perceived

benefits of increasing community spirit across the region,

yet more importantly, it is perhaps the only way to meet

the city’s radical net-zero goal – set two decades ahead of

the overall UK target.

Of course, alongside the necessary commitments

towards green energy, there are other promises in the

mayor’s manifesto, including investment in our culture,

arts, creative and digital sectors. This is reassuring, but

must be followed through with appropriate assistance

considering the devastating impact the pandemic has had

on these industries.

Aligned with Anderson’s green, community-driven

mantra, this pledge will bring hope to the music and arts

communities of the city, as the skewed preference of

infrastructure over the arts may finally begin to become

more balanced. Under the former mayor’s tenure, the city

centre has been consistently built upon, with excessive

gentrification and rising rents forcing the closure of some

of our much-loved independent venues and studios – with

the Kazimier, Nation, Sound, and Constellations to name

but a sorely missed few.

Crucially, however, progressive policies to protect

both the creative industries and the planet can work in

tandem. Restrictions on over-construction will inevitably

bring down construction emissions and spiralling rents,

while the preservation of the city’s cultural scene will

guarantee tourism, job protection, community satisfaction,

and the great tradition of being a world-leading city of

music and culture.

So, while there may be distrust and scepticism in the

city council at present, Mayor Anderson’s pledges provide

an encouraging, progressive step forward. While action

will certainly need to match her rhetoric, her inclusive,

ambitious policies can help to rebuild relationships with

communities as the city recovers from the pandemic.

Working towards this along with the pivotal task of

reaching carbon net-zero by the end of the decade, the

mayor and the council will undoubtedly need our full

support. !

Words: Conal Cunningham

47

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