Bido Lito! Magazine | Issue 118 | December 2021-January 2022


Bido Lito! Magazine | New music & Creative Culture | Liverpool | Merseyside

House of Suarez Vogue Ball, Michael Aldag, Yaw Owusu, Gen and the Degenerates, Liverpool sobriety, Statues Redressed, Astles, Mo Stewart, Jeff Young, Olive Writes, News, Strawberry Guy, Police Car Collective, Nikki & the Waves, Tonia, Alright (okay), P3lz, Tilly Louise, Andrew Neal, Sebastian Gainsborough, Lonelady, 24 Kitchen Street, Mykki Blanco, Jarv Is..., Girls Don't Sync.








Self-love and inclusivity

with House of Suarez








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Having A Laugh

At The Playhouse


Nina Conti:

The Dating Show

WED 9 FEB 2022

Flo & Joan:

Sweet Release

THU 10 FEB 2022

Reginald D Hunter:

Bombe Shuffleur

WED 20 APR 2022

John Shuttleworth’s

Back Again!

SAT 23 APR 2022

Lou Sanders:

One Word: Wow

WED 4 MAY 2022

Count Arthur Strong:

And This Is Me!

Visit to see the full line-up of

what’s on at the Everyman & Playhouse theatres



EVOL presents by arrangement with Primary Talent



130 Bold Street, L1 4JA

7:30pm doors / 18+ show.

Tickets £10 advance plus booking fee from Seetickets & Skiddle.

Follow @clubevol @waltdisco

EVOL presents











A staple of Liverpool’s cultural calendar, Olive speaks

to the house mother as it continues its no-holds-barred

explosion of fierce inclusivity, expression and positivity.


Orla Foster peels back the pixelated layers of the

accidental TikTok star as he continues his tongue-incheek

takes on modern life.


The cultural powerhouse and champion of the underdog

sits down with Sam Turner to talk about finding focus

and looking to the future.


Alcohol and drugs are ingrained into Liverpool’s nightlife

economy, but are we reaching breaking point? El Gray

speaks with some of the city’s creatives on their search

for sobriety.


After being forced to move back home during lockdown,

the Southport native returns to Liverpool with a treasure

trove of new material – and a new-found confidence.


Gary Lambert catches up with the troupe who, once

outsiders to Liverpool’s music scene, have quickly made

themselves at home.


We reflect on the visual arts project which forced

a rethink of Liverpool’s bronze neighbours over the




Reflecting on the precarious fortunes of music and sport,

the DJ and sports journalist considers the double-edged

sword of nostalgia.


Exploring the city’s wont to transcend reality, Jeff Young

relays the visit of a mysterious white stag to Bootle.

67 / OLIVE

Olive catches up with cultural protean, Kolade Ladipo, to

explore the intersectionality of queer and Black identity.


Following the launch of their recent survey to improve gig

accessibility, Eve Machin from Where Are The Girl Bands?

makes the case for developing the scene further.


10 / NEWS

A museums update, a Zanzibar reopening, an Echo & The

Bunnymen reissue and more in our latest round-up of the

city’s affairs.



Strawberry Guy takes a brief hiatus from the flora and

fauna to discuss his debut album in our Long Player Short


15 / HOT PINK!

Warm your winter with our hand-picked selection of

Merseyside’s newest and pinkest releases, including

Police Car Collective, Nikki & The Waves, Tonia and more.


Enter the worlds of Alright (okay), P3LZ, Tilly Louise, and

Andrew Neal as they continue to season Liverpool’s sonic



Sebastian Gainsborough heads to Future Yard, LoneLady

pays a visit to 24 Kitchen Street, and we survey the city’s

upcoming theatre and exhibition offerings.


Dispatches from Jarv Is..., Mykki Blanco, Girls Don’t Sync

and more from our autumn events calendar.


Viewing a bus journey as a microcosm, Angie Woolfall’s

fly-on-the-wall poem is a celebration of community,

solidarity and hope.



Rosa Kusabbi, Ben Youdan and Dan Chan were all tasked with

celebrating Liverpool’s diverse queer identity across its public

spaces through a series of artworks. Featuring an illustration of

flamboyant cosmopolitans, empowering ransom note typography

and flora in righteous bloom, all three pieces were commissioned by

LGBTQIA arts and culture festival, Homotopia, in response to a spate of

violent homophobic and transphobic attacks over the summer.

Within a week of going on display as part of the festival’s outdoor

Queer the City exhibition, Kusabbi’s Hate Has No Place In Liverpool on

School Lane was ripped from its wall, while Youdan’s Queer With No Fear

at FACT was discovered scrunched up in a ball inside the Bombed Out

Church premises. While both of these pieces were an attempt to send a

unified response to the rise in LGBTQ+ hate crime, their titles alone speak

to the extent to which it has already infiltrated our streets.

The recent vandalism of LGBTQ+ artwork doesn’t just qualify as

hate crime – it represents an attack against queer visibility, against art as

activism, and an attempt to erase queer identity from our public spaces

altogether. After a summer in which hundreds of people protested to affirm

the rights of LGBTQ+ people to simply exist, homophobia has struck under

the cover of darkness to remind us once more that this city has a problem,

and this problem is more entrenched than many of us are prepared to

admit. Because while Liverpool has much to be proud of, it continues to be

plagued by a debilitating case of myopia. The belief in the city’s infallible

exceptionalism is not only grossly tone deaf – it’s something that should

make all of us very uncomfortable indeed.

Homophobia doesn’t always manifest through demonstrations of

physical violence or with beautiful artworks being torn down from walls.

The tentacles of this often

invisible force stretch

out to corrupt our micro

interactions, our urban

planning, and our justice

system. Its diseased tenets

are passed down into our

children’s playgrounds

where they are legitimised,

before rising up again

in the bowels of social

media echo chambers

where algorithms serve up

hate and division in feeds

funded by big business.

It thrives in indifference

and spreads through

inaction. Now more than

ever, the share of responsibility falls on each and every one of us to ensure

this city is one where its queer communities can be both visible and safe,

both celebrated and believed in. In our local leaders’ discussions around

regeneration and urban renewal, plans for how the city should look and

operate must take into account the lived experiences of those for whom it

has let down for too long.

The beautiful thing about cities is that different people experience them

in different ways. But for many in this city, their daily experience is one that

negates, challenges, and disputes their existence. We must acknowledge

that, despite continuing to be rightly admired for its historic solidarity,

community spirit and visceral identity, Liverpool has a long, long way to go

before it can truly be a welcoming home for our queer friends. !

Matthew Berks / @hewniverse_

Associate Editor

“The belief in the

city’s infallible


is something

that should make

all of us very


New Music + Creative Culture | Liverpool

Issue 118 / December 2021-January 2022 | @bidolito

Second Floor, The Merchant

40-42 Slater Street, Liverpool, L1 4BX

Founding Editor

Craig G Pennington

Founding Editor

Christopher Torpey -

Executive Publisher

Sam Turner -

Associate Editor

Matthew Berks -

Live And Partnerships Assistant

El Gray -

Digital Content Creators

Iona Fazer

Harry Robertson


Hannah Mitchell


Mark McKellier -


Thom Isom -


Nathaniel Cramp

Cover Photography

Daniel De La Bastide / @danieldelabastide


Sam Turner, Matthew Berks, El Gray, Lily Blakeney-

Edwards, Olive, Paul Fitzgerald, David Roskin,

Sarah Taylor, Iona Fazer, Orla Foster, Jack Ryder,

Emma Varley, Alannah Williams, Nina Newbold,

Alastair Dunn, Sam Lasley, Alice Williams, Alfie

Verity, Tilly Foulkes, Jennie Macaulay, Mo Stewart,

Jeff Young, Angie Woolfall, Eve Machin.

Photography, Illustration and Layout

Mark McKellier, Daniel De La Bastide, Emma

Lavelle, Anthony Wilde, Robin Clewley, Eve, Keith

Ainsworth, Lucy McLachlan, David Edwards,

Ollie Dignan, Adele Robinson, John Johnson, Chloé



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Whether you’re a Japanophile, a time traveller, a historian

or a contemporary art buff, there’s something for you

in National Museums Liverpool’s spring-summer 2022


Tickets are now on sale for the much-anticipated exhibition Doctor Who: Worlds Of

Wonder which opens in May. Visitors to the World Museum will be treated to the

monsters, costumes and props used in the cult series in a world premiere exhibition.

Over the water at Lady Lever Art Gallery from April, Kunichika: Japanese Prints will

feature one of the most important printmakers of the 19th century. A cornerstone of

Japanese culture, the woodblock prints of Toyohara Kunichika are recognised around

the world and this exhibition of more than 50 pieces will be a fantastic follow-on to the

popular Edo Pop showcase at the same gallery four years ago.

Also opening in April, but over at the Walker Art Gallery, the work of local artists will

be on display in the exhibition Refractive Pool: Contemporary Painting in Liverpool.

The exhibition is organised by the Refractive Pool project, which started in 2019 and

has explored contemporary painting in the city through events, a book and website

to highlight a diverse range of artists and styles. The exhibition at the Walker is being

curated by Liverpool-based artists Josie Jenkins and Brendan Lyons who have selected

the work of 20 artists for the show.

Sixty-eight works borrowed from the National Portrait Gallery will be on display as

part of The Tudors: Passion, Power and Politics, also at the Walker. The exhibition will

tell the story of the five Tudor monarchs and the dynasty’s reign over 16th-century

England, from 1485 to 1603. The World Museum has also invited comedian Daliso

Chaponda to interrogate and re-interpret the collections of the venue’s World Cultures

Gallery for a timely intervention. Artist Leo Asemota, along with Liverpool’s African

diaspora communities, will also be looking at the museum’s Benin collection to rethink

the presence of the looted royal artworks and other objects.

Daliso Chaponda (Steve Ullathorne)

Safe Spaces Trail

Yard Act


A city centre trail made up of artwork, writing and podcast episodes is

highlighting the spaces around Liverpool where young people feel safe.

Community interest company Comics Youth have worked with 11 to 25-year-old

creatives to commission work which will signpost areas ranging from cafes to

museums where they prefer to find comfort. The Safe Spaces Trail consists of 15

places that can be found on a map available to download from the Comics Youth

website, or picked up in physical form from stockists including Lovelocks Coffee

Shop, World Museum and Liverpool One Information Centre.


Liverpool music institution The Zanzibar has reopened its doors to the relief of artists

and music lovers across the city. The sad news of its closure last year left many reeling,

with a flurry of musicians citing the venue as the space that gave them their first

step on the ladder to musical success. Now under new ownership but maintaining

a dedication to providing the same opportunities to emerging musicians as well as

hosting more established artists from near and far, the Seel Street venue is a welcome

re-addition to the city centre’s gig circuit. Leeds indie upstarts YARD ACT are slated to

play the venue in May following the drop of their debut album in January, with many

more gigs populating the venue’s live calendar.



Artist development programme LIMF

Academy has unveiled the musicians

who have been chosen to benefit

from a suite of resources and activity

for the 2021-22 season.

The artists who have been deemed ‘most ready’ to

take on additional support and go on to the next level

of their careers are AMBER JAY, LAZYGIRL and NI

MAXINE. The trio of singer-songwriters will get time in

the studio, money towards their projects and tailored

support to advance in the music industry. A cohort of

seven other artists who will undertake a programme of

workshops and talks, as well as gain live opportunities

throughout the programme, consists of DAYZY,



bunch of musicians represent the best of Liverpool’s

next generation of musicians according to a panel of

music industry experts who sifted through hundreds of

applications after a call-out from the Academy earlier

this year. Previous alumni from the academy include Bido

Lito! cover artists Tee and Pizzagirl, as well as Michael

Aldag and Astles, who you’ll find in this edition of the

pink pages.

Amber Jay


There’s good news for theatre-goers

as one of the city’s key venues is to be

given a new lease of life. Hanover Street’s

Epstein Theatre closed its doors in March

2020 due to the pandemic but is coming

back under new management. Bill Elms,

Chantelle Nolan and Jane Joseph are the

new leaseholders taking the reins from

the end of this year. The trio have many

years combined experience in both music

and theatre and a rich history with the

theatre formerly known as the Neptune.

The venue will retain a familiar

programme featuring a variety of shows

from musicals and comedy to dance and

plays. The vintage venue can seat 380

and is over 108 years old, giving every

audience a bit of Liverpool history while

watching a performance. The venue is

due to open in December and is now

booking for Beauty and the Beast as this

year’s pantomime.

Ian McCulloch and Will Seargent


Echo & The Bunnymen have re-released their first four albums – Crocodiles, Heaven Up Here, Porcupine and Ocean Rain – on 180g

black vinyl, as well as on limited edition coloured vinyl available exclusively from Dig Vinyl. The reissues come as the celestial postpunkers

announce they will play a full UK and Irish tour in the spring of 2022 in celebration of their impressive 40-year career, which

has seen them earn 20 top 20 singles and nine top 20 albums all while helping to define the sound of a generation. The band play a

homecoming gig at Liverpool Philharmonic on 14th February.




North Yorkshire’s Deer Shed Festival have announced a stellar lineup

for their 2022 edition with a bevvy of top-quality artists including

two of Liverpool’s finest. The indomitable NADINE SHAH returns to

Topcliffe after a fabulous set at the family-friendly fest in 2018. She

is joined on the top line of the bill by the Queen of Denmark himself,

JOHN GRANT, and psych poppers DJANGO DJANGO. Merseyside is

represented by both BEIJA FLO. There are more Bido Lito! favourites

on the programme in the shape of DRY CLEANING, SNAPPED

ANKLES and KATY J PEARSON for what is a strong contender of

line-up of the summer. The festival have also announced Bristol

gig-going royalty and podcaster Big Jeff as artist-in-residence for the

12th iteration of the event, and the theme of Pocket Planet – with

programming and activities from all over the world.

Nadine Shah (Fraser Taylor)


An immersive, thought-provoking major exhibition is set to transform

Tate Liverpool in the summer 2022 to ask questions about land

ownership and our relationship with the landscapes of Britain.

Radical Landscapes open in May and will feature over 150 works

from artists such as Jeremy Deller, Ruth Ewan and Tacita Dean.

Ewan’s Back To The Fields 2015-22 is set to be a highlight, an

immersive installation made up of living plant installations, farming

tools and fruits of the land. Drawing on themes of trespass and

contested boundaries, the exhibition will explore our rights and

responses in accessing and exploring the countryside

Radical Landscapes


Merseyside’s romance with 60s psych folk rockers LOVE is well

documented. Magazines have plucked their names from clubs they

frequented and countless Scouse indie bands have name-checked

seminal album Forever Changes as their eureka record. Even if the

band’s sun-kissed Californian homeland shares little in common with

Liverpool’s overcast environs, the cosmic connection is strong. It is

most exciting, then to welcome original member Johnny Echols to the

region for a three-night residency at Future Yard. Echols’ band LOVE

REVISITED is to play each of his and Arthur Lee’s copper-bottomed

classic long-players Love, Da Capo and Forever Changes in full

on respective June evenings (23rd-25th). There’s also a Saturday

afternoon Q&A with the guitarist. Expect tales of The Doors, The

Byrds and other Laurel Canyon luminaries. Argyle Street has never

been so groovy.


As part of a long-term strategy to address food insecurity and create

a city “where everyone can eat good food”, communities across

Liverpool are being invited to join the Good Food Plan. The plan,

drawn up by the Food Insecurity Task Force – a coalition including

Liverpool City Council and Feeding Liverpool – aims to end chronic

food insecurity, acute hunger, and the need for foodbanks, while

working to improve access to nutritious food in schools. The coalition

has found that 32 per cent of adults in Liverpool – home to three of

England’s 10 most economically deprived ‘food deserts’ – are food

insecure, while 14 per cent of households experience fuel poverty, a

number significantly higher than England’s average.

Tickets on sale now.



After a Covid-enforced break for the Christmas that never was, The

Bido Lito! Christmas Quiz is back on 13th December. Taking place

at Future Yard in association with Liquidation, the event will raise

money for the Whitechapel Centre and MIND charities. Expect the

usual frivolities around the serious business of music trivia and some

top-notch prizes on offer for the teams who come out victorious.

Teams who wish to flex their quiz muscles and put themselves in line

to get their names etched on the famous trophy and into the quiztory

books are invited to enter with tickets on sale now from the Bido

Lito! and Future Yard websites. Spaces are limited so act fast.


The fifth edition of the annual Bido Lito! Journal lands in December.

Looking at 12 extraordinary months in the life of Liverpool’s new

music and creative culture, the premium coffee table magazine

distills features, opinion, images and more. Bido Lito! Members get

the journal as part of their subscriptions, while the book is available

to buy from the Bido Bandcamp page for £15. But hurry, it’s only

available while limited stocks last.


Baltic Triangle-based charity Liverpool Cares are on the look-out for new volunteers to join their network

of young people helping to reduce loneliness. The organisation run a programme of social clubs taking

place across the city every month, as well as their Love Your Neighbour initiative. Connecting older

and younger neighbours to combat isolation and anonymity, the charity does fantastic work to ensure

relationships flourish in an age of so much disconnection. In March this year volunteer Robyn, 24 was

matched with George, 81, due to their mutual passion for music. Robyn says: “We chatted about how

George met his wife, about the Liverpool music scene in the 60s and how George used to take his

Siamese kitten to Bold Street then into the Jacaranda basement! The cat loved it, apparently.” Find out

more on the charity’s website.


Responding to the resurgence of interest in analogue mediums,

dot-art have established a new darkroom in Liverpool City Centre.

The space contains everything required to transform black and

white film into sharp negatives and monochrome photographs. The

darkroom will play host to a series of workshops, offering learning

opportunities for everyone; from complete beginners to more

advanced artists, to explore the potential of analogue photography

with the guidance of professional photographers Clare Bailey and

Rachel Brewster-Wright. Dot-art, the Queens Avenue-based gallery

and artist network, will also launch a darkroom membership for those

with significant darkroom experience, offering unlimited access and

expert guidance.

Clare Bailey

Rachel Brewster-Wright





Raw, introspective and laced

with maturity. The release of

debut album Sun Outside My

Window marks a significant

moment for Strawberry Guy,

who takes a brief hiatus from

the flora and fauna for a Long

Player Short Interview.

The album’s eponymous track, Sun Outside My

Window, was the first single released. What were your

initial ideas when you were writing it?

Well, one day I was feeling pretty low, and sat down

at my keyboard and started playing the chords to the

song (which I had had for a while but hadn’t written

anything to them), and I remember the sun coming out

and beaming outside my window. It really lifted my

mood! So, the song is about that moment really and how

mother nature can really change our mood and lift us up

when we need it sometimes. It’s simple, but was a very

memorable moment for me, one that inspired the general

vibe of the album.

Could you tell us more about the beautiful impressionist

artwork for the single, and how this style feeds into

your output?

My mum really enjoyed Monet and I

remember seeing Monet prints and

impressionist prints around the house

growing up, so I was naturally drawn to

this style of art growing up really. I’m also

really inspired by 1800s Romantic period

composers like Debussy and Ravel, from

around the same time impressionist art

was beginning. I feel that my music

ties in very naturally with this style of


You headed to sunny Wales for the

music video – what is it about the

natural landscape that lends itself to

new ideas that you otherwise might

not find in suburbia?

This was very near to where my

parents live and places I used to

visit when I was a child. I think the

direction my music is going in with

this new album is to have more ‘natural’ sounds, moving

away from synths. The city isn’t quite calm enough to tie

in to my music, I feel. I’ve never particularly been directly

inspired by the city.

Conceptually, how does this album differ from your

previous work?

It sounds more mature than others, really. I feel like I

matured and learned a lot about myself from writing this

album. So, the album addresses some of those things. I

feel like through writing it I grew a lot. Sonically, I feel like

it’s dryer and more raw than my earlier work. Especially

the last track on the album, A White Lie. I did the vocals

and piano all in one take at about 2am.

It’s no secret that your fans love creating their own

music videos using your work – do you have any standout

favourites, and why?

I saw one that had F Song tied to movie clips of

Atonement on Instagram once. Atonement is one of my

favourite books, so it was really wonderful to see clips

of the film accompanied by my music! Maybe one day

I’ll have one of my songs in an actual film, or compose

for one even, that would be a dream. I feel like my music

incorporates a lot of emotion that can work well with

painting a picture or telling a story for films, which I guess

is why fans have put these videos together.

Sun Outside My Window is available now via Melodic.

28 Oct 21 - 20 Feb 22





Image: Yarli Allison, In 1875 We Met At the Docks of Liverpool 於 梨 花 埠 遇 上 (2021). Image by Rob Battersby.



Words: Sam Turner, Matthew Berks, El Gray,

David Roskin, Lily Blakeney-Edwards

Hot Pink! is the ever-evolving Bido Lito! playlist which showcases some of the most exciting

sounds coming from all corners of the Mersey music network. To submit your track for

contention, visit To hear the mix go to Recently,

we’ve been vibing to electro-rock anthems, RnB bangers and melodic industrial noise. Dive in.



Flux perfectly demonstrates the assets that made TONIA

a LIMF Academy Most Ready Artist in the last cohort.

Soulful yet vulnerable vocals ask whether his walls still

speak the singer’s name and if his dad still thinks she’s

insane (in the track’s few family-friendly lines). A lilting

RnB beat gives way to a distorted keyboard solo before

Tonia signs off with the ambiguous admission that lately

she’s been thinking. ST

Katy Alex


Exposing the vapid loneliness of extravagant wealth,

KATY ALEX’s Maliblues takes us to the dark side of LA to

prove diamonds aren’t always a girl’s best friend. Peeling

back the champagne-soaked layers of a fanciful Cali

lifestyle, its modern Gatsby-esque critique of materialism

is driven through with nostalgic synth and crisp

harmonies in a money-can’t-buy-love affirmation. MB

Police Car Collective


With the unstoppable rise of ‘internet kids with money’

and much of our burning world grinding to a desperate

halt following the recent six-hour hibernation of

Zuckerberg’s monster, POLICE CAR COLLECTIVE’s

Famous just hits different. Waxing lyrical about Instagram

clout, dopamine, pining for viral stardom and spending

money online to watch girls undress, the duo’s punching,

electro-rock anthem gobbles up all the unregulated

excesses of the modern internet age and spits them out

in all their seductive, disgusting glory. MB

Nikki & The Waves

in a cloud

Released on cassette as part of a two-song collection,

NIKKI & THE WAVES’ in a cloud is laced with a nostalgia

that is both tangible and formless. The track weaves

confessional lyricism, whining guitars and reassuringly

subtle brass to create a dreamy pop landscape which

reflects on the hallucinogenic quality of the past year.

Sung with an eye-rolling reluctance, this is music for

lonely, rain-soaked train journeys and car rides. EG


Come Over (Again)

Liverpool natives CRAWLERS have been taking over

the internet this year. Their latest self-titled EP is no

exception, racking up the streams at an incredible pace.

Come Over (Again) isn’t the Crawlers we expected, but

they excel in an almost classic rock ballad. Full of angst,

longing and pain, it’s testament to the range and talent

that lies within. DR


Shifting Sands

This latest drop from noisenik label Spine Records

and the debut single from experimental duo,

SHOCKCHORDS, is an absolute belter. A relentless but

pleasant percussive melody underpins a muttered croon

vocal with swirling atmospherics that put the listener on

edge before the fragments of a chorus bring the track to

a climactic revery. It’s a cover of The West Coast Pop Art

Experimental Band, but it’s still unlike anything else you’ll

hear. Unreal. ST

Natalie And The Monarchy


The latest release from NATALIE AND THE MONARCHY

evokes the atmosphere of a late-night cabaret. Angeline’s

pacing mirrors the roller coaster of new-found love and

the obsession that can follow. What begins as a lulling,

bass-driven serenade soon reaches its panting climax,

with jaunty piano melodies and the artist’s crescendoing

vocals twisting the track into a frantic ballad of tormented

affection. LBE

Photography from left to right: Nikki & The Waves, Katy

Alex, Police Car Collective, Crawlers











The House of Suarez Vogue Ball is a no-holds-barred

explosion of fierce inclusivity, positivity and celebration.

Founded by Darren Suarez, the event is a vital fixture

in Liverpool’s cultural calendar. Olive experiences

the event in all its self-love glory and speaks to the

house mother who each year makes it a reality.

“At this Vogue Ball baby, you belong!”

His lips are painted in pink glitter.

His sequin hot pants curve around fishnetted

stockings. His feet never settle for

a second.

On the runway this evening we see pose, we see

grace, we see sex, we see sea creatures and we see ‘clitpride’.

It is a chaos of bondage tape and glitter. It is a rare,

pure freedom of expression and artistic explosion. It is

the House of Suarez Vogue Ball, honey. Get into it.

Let’s rewind to the 1980s. We’re in the states,

New York City to be specific and it’s a bloodbath for the

LGBTQ+ community. While the majority of the white

hetero world preoccupies itself with boring things

like the stock market, brown suits and homophobia,

queer Black and latino bodies were building something

beautiful at the sidelines. Ballroom. A space for queer

expression where predominantly trans women and gay

men of colour could walk a runway head to toe in “looks”

designed to be “served” or “revealed” at the ball.

“Ballroom came from segregation. It comes from

a dark place of isolation,” Darren Suarez, founder of

House of Suarez and Liverpool’s balls, explains to me.

“It’s brutal in its story and its history.” It’s important to

honour this before we run away with our “yas kweens”

and “slay huns”. Darren adds: “It’s such a beautiful twist

how something so creative and beautiful came from [that


Ballroom offered a place for the LGBTQ+ community

to not only create, share and perform art for one another,

but it gave them a place of safety, family and security. In

most cases, it gave them a literal roof over their heads

where they lived with fellow dancers and walkers of the

ball. These groups operated as families, with a “mother”

taking care of all the waifs and strays taken under her

wings. These families are known as “houses” and at the

ball we see these houses compete in different categories

to celebrate dance, fashion, music and love.

As a House of Suarez dancer, Jack Dyche explains:

“A house is so much more than a company, it is your

chosen family.” Jack joined the family back in 2016 and

tells me, “I have found that I turn to my house to educate

and support me with things that my family and friends

outside of the [LGBTQ+] community can’t relate to.”

At the balls, house music, disco, drag and of course

vogue blossomed. Some of these art styles had already

been floating about (vogue itself began roughly back in

the 1960s) but they all bloomed at the ball. Voguing in

particular rocketed, a dance style created with elements

of hip hop, isolations and of course, posing.

Fast-forward to today, and the second floor of World

Museum Liverpool is all a pink glow. People adorned in

leather, feathers, sequins and silk decorate the space.

Flutes sparkle in elegant hands and fans flutter over

faces. The ball is about to begin.

“I’ve called it Night At The Poseum,” Darren tells me

in a café a few weeks prior, “and instead of it being just

one theme, each house will be given a different exhibition

to work with which will vary the runway and also bring

the museum to life.”

Across the course of the night, we see someone

hatch from an egg, four women embody lesbian sex

on stage, fierce dance battles and a lip sync that could

probably save a life (and I am not being dramatic in

saying this). We gorge ourselves on death drops and

bare skin, all screaming “I love myself!” because our host

Rikki Beadle-Blair tells us to, and because we mean it.

The environment Darren and his house create is

pouring with so much love and inclusivity, from the

second I step a white-heeled boot onto their floor, I feel

seen. “Our runway is a platform for people to feel like

they can be whatever they want to be,” Darren tells me,

his grounding energy rolling off him. “One of the things

I do believe in is increasing visibility. There are just not

enough safe spaces for [people to express themselves

and feel seen]. We can see it in Liverpool at the moment

“Vogue is a

way of life as

opposed to a

style of dance.

It’s an attitude”



with the amount of attacks happening. House of Suarez need to make sure we

keep working on how we support people.”

In addition to their aim to create a safe and inclusive space, House of Suarez

have created “an ecosystem” of voguers within the city. The ball nurtures new

artists to explore new styles, expand their creativity and gives opportunities for fresh

collaborations. “The balls are my ultimate favourite time of the year,” Jack says, after his

bold and unapologetic performance at the Poseum leaves flames in his wake. “Once

the theme has been chosen and promoted then the ideas and creativity start flowing.

You have your different categories: Fantasy, Sex Siren, Solo, Lip Sync and Choreography.

We work hard as a house to make sure the theme runs cohesively through all categories.

With collaborations from costume (Gordon Webber) to make-up and sound, we aim to

appeal to all senses.”

The night is glazed with empowerment, with all walks of life welcomed on the runway.

“We are working with DaDa [Disability and Deaf Arts organisation] and QTPOC [Queer

Trans People of Colour organisation]. We’ve also got Elements of Vogue which is an under

16s platform [who compete in a separate ball],” Darren outlines.

“My house is open to absolutely everyone,” Darren, or “Mama D” as he’s known to his

daughters, smiles. “I’m the mother of the house, or the father depending on your generation.

Whatever people want to call me.”

Darren is not only a house mother, but a commercial dancer and choreographer. In addition

to running the ball (which takes place three times a year after Darren brought the event to

Liverpool in 2008), he works alongside and trains dancers for festivals and other arts events

throughout the year.

“I learned to vogue in the 90s in Ibiza when it first came over from the States. The club kids

were over there, partying, and then that style came over to the UK,” Darren tells me. He speaks

eloquently, scooping up handfuls of stories from his well of knowledge as we chat. “Vogue is a way

of life as opposed to a style of dance. It’s an attitude, it’s a platform of presentation. Vogue helped

me through escapism when I was younger, running away from home and going through a hard time.

Coming onto the gay scene changed my life and my headspace. I needed that infrastructure. Voguing

really helped me to communicate with the world who I was as an adult. It gave me a family, however

dysfunctional,” his explanation is punctuated with a laugh.

The crowd inside the museum is wild with people snapping fingers, shimmying to the music and

shining with inner beauty. The room tastes like empowerment. A stunning celebration of queer love,

bodies and art which nourishes not only my soul but the soul of those surrounding me. At a time when

queer expression is threatened in Liverpool, nights like this instil hope for a community spreading only


The Night At The Poseum reminds me that the LGBTQ+ family will continue to be what it has

always been. Resilient. Powerful. Beautiful. It is a community that deserves so much more than the

hostility it has had to face for years and is still facing today on our city streets.

The spirit of queer expression will never be contained, crushed or cracked. When in the face of

hate, queer expression will always push back. It is armed with beauty and free love. LGBTQ+ liberation

is simply a freedom of the mind, body and soul, and queerphobia will never suffocate these voices. It’s a

light too vibrant to destroy.

My eyes well with tears and my heart expands to those around me as Rikki strides down the runway,

he of the sequin hot pants curved around fishnets, proudly dressed as the queen he is and tells us: “You are

not too anything at this ball, baby. At this vogue ball you belong here!”

This here is such a beautiful place to belong to, I think I’ll stay for a while longer.

What a time to hold no fear. To boldly be here. What a time to be proud and queer. !

Words: Olive / @olive.writing

Photography: Daniel De La Bastide / @danieldelabastide

“A house is so much

more than a company, it

is your chosen family”



















Underneath the slick veneer of viral

TikTokdom, Michael Aldag offers new

ways of understanding our bizarre

world. Orla Foster logs off and tunes

into the multifaceted artist to discuss

modern romance, social media and

switching off in our always-on world.



I’m meeting MICHAEL ALDAG outside so we can

talk about the internet. It’s one of those perfect New

Brighton mornings: flinty sunlight, Cornettos in each

hand and a breeze sharp enough to make your eyes

stream. Considering so much of the TikTok star’s music is

tied up with the pains of online communication, the fresh

air will probably do us both good. “I spend most of my life

looking at a phone screen,” he admits.

At least New Brighton is distracting. He’s heavily

nostalgic about the place, having spent many solitary

evenings here over lockdown, staring out across the water

lost in thought. When it comes to his hometown of West

Kirby, though, he’s less misty-eyed. “I never did much there.

Sometimes me and my mates would go the park where

pensioners played bowls, and hide in the bushes throwing

grapes,” he reflects. “Once we got chased by this old man,

which was one of the biggest rushes of my whole life.”

Juvenile deviancy aside, Michael’s backstory has a

wholesome ring to it. He kicked off his singing career as

a shepherd in the school nativity, joined the Liverpool

Philharmonic Youth Choir at 14, then picked up an acoustic

guitar to play open mic nights. The early songs were more

earnest than his recent material, penned with a degree of

maturity he now finds absurd. “I was a very small, ginger

boy, and it was quite hard to get taken seriously. So,

writing songs felt like a superpower. I could play an open

mic and people would start listening. They’d say, ‘Ah, you

sound like you’ve lived so many lives!’”

At 16, he discovered Logic Pro and started producing

his own music, replacing stripped-back compositions with

big synths and tight hooks. His writing developed a wry

edge, satirising peers in songs like the Lorde-inflected

Arrogance, and Trust Funds (picture Common People if

the guy took the path of least resistance and just lapped


up the freebies). Being accepted onto the Levi’s Music

Project and LIMF Academy allowed him to experiment

even further.

Musically, his influences are stadium-leaning. He loves

Bastille and The 1975, but above all The Killers, whose

biblical live shows convinced him to give music a shot. “It’s

the level of emotion. There’s always a point in the song

where it’s really heart-wrenching and climactic, which I

love. When I saw them live, I realised I wanted to have

that effect.” He’s equally devoted to the confessional lyrics

of Phoebe Bridgers, and rap artists like Headie One. It all

boils down into honest, quirky and idiosyncratic songs that

nevertheless activate whichever muscle makes people

want to wave lighters in the air and clamber onto each

other’s shoulders.

But, when lockdown happened, TikTok became his

stage instead. He started creating droll clips about people

his age enduring Freshers’ Week in breakout rooms, or

uploading pictures of gift-wrapped cars they couldn’t drive.

It’s the same posturing he dissects in his lyrics. As Entitled

puts it: “My crisis is bigger than yours is / When I cry I look

gorgeous, and you should too”. This plain-speaking critique

of the online rituals of his generation struck a chord, and

his following swiftly rocketed.

Blowing up on TikTok, however, meant building a

purely virtual fanbase, only encountering followers months

later when fully-formed crowds materialised at his first

live shows: “It was weird to see all these people that had

just been a number on a screen actually there singing the

songs. I kept taking out my in-ear to listen because it was

the biggest buzz ever.” Most of us didn’t emerge from

lockdown to a roomful of people screaming our name, but

TikTok’s deceptively intimate, parasocial format made fans

feel they knew him personally.

This, one might suspect, is helped in large part by

his distinctive appearance. We pass a barber shop, and

he flinches. He’s protective of the red curls that make

him immediately recognisable, and no, he would not

like to risk a portrait in the barber’s chair. We agree the

trauma of bad haircuts runs deep. I had a friend with hair

like his as a teenager, and he spent his life fending off

girls who wanted to touch it and straighten it at house

parties. Michael nods as if to say he’s been there before.

“Pensioners, mostly. I was in Morrisons and a lady came

up and grabbed it. And at a festival this lad recognised me

in the crowd and kept leaning over to ruffle it. I was like,

‘Alright, cheers, but stop now!’”

Besides women in supermarkets, plenty of people seem

to want a piece of Michael Aldag. Talking to those around

him, I hear about producers phoning from LA, clothing

brands cramming his wardrobe, young girls swooning on

the front row of sold-out shows. In September, TikTok even

swept him and various other creators off to London Fashion

Week, inspiring bitter broadsheet column inches about

teenagers bagsying the best seats.

At 19, he’s still in the thick of everything, so the songs

are often “super raw” and charged with emotion. Tonsillitis

and Divorce are particularly lacerating, because writing

them got him through a major break-up, not to mention

lockdown. He battled through endless drafts before

getting to the heart of what he really wanted to say. “I was

at rock bottom, but I found some kind of solace in writing,”

he says. “And once I’d written them, I was like, ‘Cool, I can

move on from this whole situation’.”

Tonsillitis opens by invoicing an ex for lunch, petrol

and six months of bellyaching, before describing his

granddad’s funeral going by without so much as a call

from the other person. This is a recurring theme in the

songs: people are permanently online yet fail to connect.

Does he think everyone is so used to passively watching

life unfold from a screen that they forget to reach out when

it matters? “Yeah, you can have so many interactions with

people that are just surface level,” he muses. “It’s complex

because it’s easy to message a lot of people, and mistake

that for something more meaningful than it is.”

Divorce is even more brutal. Rather than projecting

a picture-perfect relationship, the lyrics hold up a girl’s

mother as a damning blueprint of their future together,

with flash-forwards to her sourly heaping on criticism

and boring him senseless with Botox chat while he’s

left “crying in our bedroom because we’re selling the

apartment”. It’s a song in which absolutely nobody is living

their best life. What a relief. “I tend to be a bit meaner in

lyrics than I probably am in real life,” he continues. “But

I just want my music to be honest, you know? If I was

too scared, I’d write generic songs that wouldn’t upset

anybody, but also wouldn’t move anybody, in any way.”

Meanwhile, recent single Ghosted takes a more playful

tack. It’s about two people second-guessing each other

online: they pore over each other’s stories and shower

each other with likes, until communications suddenly and

inexplicably cease. The video is a riot of colour one minute,

a washed-out swell of grey tracksuits the next: a comment

on the ways people use social media to portray life at its

most bouncy and hyper-saturated, no matter what else is

going on. Considering the girl in question hates his songs

and recoils from his star-sign, getting ghosted should

come as a relief, but instead he’s left obsessively refreshing

her Snapchat score.

“If your Snapchat score is high, it means you’re very

active, you’ve sent a lot of texts. I’ve known people with

really high scores who just ping things to everyone. It’s

like they’re running a network of drama.” A pause. “I’m

complicit in this. I’m by no means playing God and saying

everyone’s doing all these things wrong. If you have a high

Snapchat score, maybe you just talk to your friends a lot,

and I’m bitter that I don’t.”

Except now he’s in the position where people are

pinging things at him from every platform. With so many

eyes awaiting your next move, you’re inevitably going to

amplify some features and minimise others, a quandary

he’s all too aware of: “You present a caricature of yourself

to protect who you actually are. That’s what Ghosted is

about; you’re trying to build this thing online that you have

to keep up. At the risk of sounding like I’m doing GCSE

English, it’s a façade. I’m definitely guilty of that.”

For artists who enjoy – and ultimately depend on –

building fanbases online, knowing when to disconnect and

when to engage is a difficult but necessary balance. “Social

media is a useful tool to harness, especially for music. But

your stability and happiness are also on the line, so it’s

very intricate and weird.” Still, a bit of online mythmaking

is better than letting chats shrivel up and die, a frustration

highlighted in the imaginary dialogues of Conversation,

and TikToks with titles such as ‘when someone replies to

your text with yeah aha’. It’s all too easy to commiserate.

On MSN, it was so awful when people torpedoed the

conversation with ‘true’ or ‘fair enough’.

He shrugs. “Yeah, at that point it’s like pitching jelly

up a hill. The conversation’s dead. You just have to start

valuing your time, so if somebody hits you with an ‘ahaha’

then just be like, ‘Alright, that’s the end of that’.” Surely

a drop of self-doubt is required to write as scathingly as

Michael Aldag does about being ignored or tearing your

hair out over half-arsed DMs. But, at the same time, he

doesn’t seem hesitant at all. Between our conversations,

he bounces in front of the camera as though he was born

to do it; the New Brighton waves lash over his trainers as

he leans in to catch the best light. Later, in the café, I watch

him gnaw obligingly on a piece of toast from every angle,

the shutter going full pelt.

He’s soft-spoken, but eager to engage, tugging a

chain between his teeth as he carefully weighs up each

response. He recognises things are taking off but seems

self-deprecating and occasionally embarrassed by the

hype. He reels off his immediate plans, which include

photoshoots with LFC, a forthcoming single and two gigs

before the month is out but admits to feeling stressed by

the realisation he can never switch off.

So, let’s fast-forward around a week. Like any musical

tale worth its salt, this one finishes up on stage: he’s been

booked for Live at Leeds festival, and dutifully brings his

A-game. At intimate venues like the students’ union bar

we’re stood in, it’s hard to predict if a soaring crescendo or

big chorus is going to land – but Michael’s got the measure

of the place. He dominates the stage, raising the microphone

high above his head and belting out every line from the

heart. Hangovers melt away. The pop Gods are appeased.

And then the sad songs arrive, with a disclaimer. “If

you don’t want to be miserable, you can just go on your

phone,” he tells the crowd with a grin. Finally, there’s your

permission from Michael Aldag to go ahead and ignore him

while he’s spilling his guts. But honestly? You’ll be much

better off if you just stick your phone on flight mode and

hear the guy out. The doomscrolling can wait. !

Words: Orla Foster

Photography: Anthony Wilde / @evolving_necessary

Love of my Life is available on 3 rd December via 3beat.

“Social media is a

useful tool to harness.

But your stability and

happiness are also on

the line, so it’s very

intricate and weird”





Yaw Owusu continues to change the Liverpool music landscape with LIMF, but the festival and

its Academy are only a small part of a 17-year career platforming talent and championing the

underdog. Sam Turner sits down with the creative playmaker as he looks to the next chapter.

As we come to the end of a near two-hour

chat, YAW OWUSU makes an interesting

and revealing analogy. Before striding away

across the upper levels of Liverpool One

he tells me why he turned away from the A&R and the

‘hype’ side of the music industry. In quite dramatic terms,

Owusu likens a musician missing their chance in the

industry to someone getting shot. “These are people’s

lives… it isn’t a war story,” he says animatedly, starting

to describe an imaginary battlefield. “If we were going

across and he was getting shot, they said ‘Go’ and then

were like, ‘Oh, we thought he could go…’ and then he

died. You killed him, career-wise, he doesn’t make music

anymore.” Owusu is in fact referring to an artist he

worked with, an incredibly talented musician who graced

the front of Bido Lito! and has admirers across Liverpool’s

music community. He no longer makes music due to their

craft not being appreciated by the powers that be.

It’s a common story, but one that hurts when you

care as much as Owusu does. Stopping to talk only

between the time necessary to see off a Pizza Express

margarita, Owusu outlines the various motivations behind

his many achievements in a 17-year career in the music

industry. It’s a career that has taken him from helping out

his cousin to being the go-to for internationally significant

brands and record labels. “I know what connects all

this now,” he tells me at one point. It was only during

lockdown that he was able to take off his many hats –

manager, curator, producer, consultant – for long enough

to take stock and work out some common themes of his

work, as well as identify what he wants to do and what

he does best.

A central motivation for Owusu from the beginning

has been a yearning to ensure talent gets the help it

needs and the opportunity it deserves. “Artists have a

window, they only have a short period of time,” Owusu

says. “I’d say, when you get to 27, 28, it becomes harder

to justify trying to make it as an artist. So, we’ve all got

to work a way to spot the talent early and get them

to the next stage where it’s on them, and the industry

structure, to do whatever they can do.” Specifically, he is

talking about the proliferation of opportunities for artist

development which have been established in Liverpool

in the wake of his LIMF Academy. But, moreover, it’s

obvious the thought is a driving force behind much more

of what he does.

The Academy started at the same time as Liverpool

International Music Festival in 2013 and is a prime

example of Owusu’s skillset and ambition manifesting

themselves into a successful initiative that benefits young

musicians as well as the city. While the festival and the

Academy are perhaps well-known hallmarks of the selftitled

creative consultant’s output, they are only a small

part of the story.

The desire to help artists and realise talent began

with Owusu helping his cousin, Kof. An artist out of the

first wave of East London’s early noughties grime scene,

Young Kof (his artist name at the time) wanted to make

it on Merseyside after being transplanted to the region

for university at Edge Hill. Owusu was fresh out of a law

degree and unable to take a US basketball scholarship

due to injury. Accepting his aunt’s request, he managed

Kof and quickly found that opportunities for a rapper in

Liverpool were limited. “Our whole thing at the beginning

was to start a company, a music culture entity,” Owusu

says of those early days. “We’d make music and release

music, but we’d drive the culture forward.” However,

while RnB and associated genres were being supported

in the clubs in Liverpool, an infrastructure for original

music was lacking. This helped to inspire the formation of

Urbeatz – a multimedia creative organisation specialising

in a range of services, including artist management,

consultancy, film and design.

Kof was the creative force in the Urbeatz operation

and Owusu provided the organisation, the business

acumen, as well as a keen ear for “what music should

feel like”. Creating the requisite labels, club nights and

radio shows for the music they felt needed to heard led

to more and more opportunities and more and more

influence on listening habits in Liverpool. At a time when was banned in schools across Merseyside

(too many pupils were logging on during lessons),

Owusu and Young Kof were taking to the national

airwaves via a regular slot on BBC Radio 1Xtra. At the

same time, schools and arts organisations were hiring

the duo to engage audiences with Black music and its

heritage, and quarterly mixtapes were selling out as fast

as they were dropping. Out of sheer necessity, Urbeatz

was the only game in town which sated a hunger for new

voices in rap and

hip hop – voices

with Liverpool

accents – while


people on the

city’s rich

Black music



Having establised Urbeatz at a grassroots level,

Owusu furthered his ambitions by founding the agency

Nothin But The Music (NBTM) which worked with

national and international brands curating events such

as the MOBOs when they came to Liverpool. NBTM also

continued to release music, secure sync opportunities

and build on the solid local foundations in various facets

of the music industry. While at Radio 1Xtra Owusu met

Ray Paul, whose entertainment company The Playmaker

Group partnered with NBTM. Kof stepped back into the

studio to go back to his first love of creating and Owusu

continued his mission of driving the culture forward as

well as indulging another of his loves – storytelling.

Dropping in anecdotes about giving Shaggy his

opinion on new releases and overseeing Wiley’s record

label operation, while carefully charting the trajectory of

a rapidly accelerating career, it’s clear that Owusu is a

gifted raconteur. What is interesting is how the Maghull

man has transposed this skill to large-scale projects and

events to reclaim narratives. “What attracted me about

LIMF is being able to tell a different narrative for the city

of Liverpool, a contemporary one,” Owusu tells me.

It’s difficult to underplay the sea change that

Liverpool International Music Festival represented for

the city. The event, and its academy off-shoot, blew

open the narrow parameters of music representation

on Merseyside. It changed the narrative. On a train back


from London in 2012, Owusu and Kof were debating

whether to put their hat into the ring for what would be

the successor to the ailing Mathew Street Festival. At the

time, Liverpool City Council were putting out to tender

ideas for a new event which would replace the festival of

tribute acts that took over the city centre every August.

“It was the usual suspects, so I thought, ‘I’m not going

there because I’m not part

of that Liverpool’,” was

Owusu’s argument against

answering the call. “They

carve up the city for them

and I try to get people

involved. I still don’t feel

part of that Liverpool.” In

the end, the pair came to

an agreement: “I’d just go

and say whatever I want

knowing that it’ll probably

just piss them off and they

won’t want to go with it.

[I’d] just be honest.”

The plan didn’t work.

A Culture Liverpool

representative (the

council’s creative arm)

rang Owusu the next

day inviting him to be the

curator of the first LIMF. “I

didn’t know what a curator

was,” Owusu admits. The

gauntlet was thrown down

to overcome the politics

that come with realising

the flagship event for a

music city, commissioned

by the local authority. The

curator would need to placate an array of stakeholders

while achieving something altogether more progressive

than Classic Clapton on the Water Street Stage.

“We’ve all got to

work a way to

spot the talent

early and get

them to the next

stage where it’s

on them, and the

industry structure,

to do whatever

they can do”

A sprawling programme of events taking place

over several weeks across venues city-wide showcased

Liverpool legends such as Deaf School and The

Christians, while the world of contemporary pop was

represented by the likes of JLS and Ady Suleiman.

There were also artists such as Martha Wainwright,

Steve Mason and All We Are making appearances.

The inaugural event

managed to live up to its

promise of representing

the city’s past, present

and future. “My focus is

project design but for

brands, organisations

and creatives that are

internationally focused,”

Owusu tells me, and with

LIMF 2013 he had aligned

the city’s contemporary

music ambitions with his


Such brands on

Owusu’s CV have latterly

included Levi’s and PRS

Foundation. As disparate

as the jeans company’s

artist development

programme seem to the

music charity’s Power Up

initiative to fight industry

inequality, Owusu feels

they are linked. He lays

out the challenges in

each project, “Levi’s

coming to Liverpool,

they could get that really

wrong. Power Up want

to do this national programme. There’s loads of things

to think about [such as] intersectionality, regionality,

nations, politics, [it has to be] commercially interesting

to the labels and investors. [They’re] the underdog here,”

Owusu explains. “Kof: underdog, Urbeatz: underdog…”

Which leads us onto his most recent project and another

initiative which marries up his passions and calls on his

accrued experience and talents.

The second edition of On Record festival took place

in October to November. Three weeks of events which

celebrate contemporary Black music in Liverpool as

well as finally giving due prominence to the artists and

projects which came before. The programme is typically

ambitious and thought-provoking. Black music in

Liverpool has a rich, proud heritage but is somehow the

underdog. On Record looks to shine a light on this history

while ensuring the next generation get the kudos they


One strand in particular captures Owusu’s raison

d’être. The Liverpool ONE Project: Take Two looks to

a selection of artists operating in Liverpool 10 years

ago making Black music and representing the zenith

of their disciplines. In partnership with the University

of Liverpool, Urbeatz mapped the artists’ projects and

analysed the opportunities they got to make it out of their

local scene. A decade later only three of the 12 artists still

make music.

It’s saddening and all too familiar, again resonating

with Owusu’s war story analogy. The On Record project

will look at whether things have changed in 2021. The

staggeringly talented Koj, P3lz and Remée are three of 20

artists who’ll hopefully be given more resources to fulfil

their potential and pick up the baton in a very different

Liverpool. Owusu has played no small part in making that

difference. The likes of LIMF Academy and Levi’s Music

Project provide the development, LIMF festival affords the

opportunities and myriad other national and international

brands look on as the talent that should be platformed

is getting the spotlight it deserves and there are fewer

career casualties. !

Words: Sam Turner / @SamTurner1984

Photography: Robin Clewley /


BOOK NOW: 0161 832 1111














































































































Alcohol as currency: is

Liverpool’s booze-fuelled

music scene reaching

breaking point? El Gray speaks

to some of the city’s creatives

choosing sobriety.



There are some things that are more important

than a name. For some people, numbers have

more gravity. Markings of time etched onto

identity. Personal anniversaries: six months,

two years, four years. The minutes matter. I’m talking

to a handful of musicians, photographers and DJs about

their experiences of sobriety within the music and

clubbing scene. Each conversation begins the same, with

a confirmation of dates and times, a reestablishment of

the self through time travel. These conversations are

becoming louder, more prevalent. In September 2021,

in the incongruous setting of District, a conversation

occurred on the emergence of sobriety in the dance

music scene, as part of the Electronic Sound Summit.

In the absence of vibrating bass and propulsive lights,

District echoed instead with personal testimonies and

contemplations on the reality of substances and sobriety

within the scene. The discussion hints at a creeping trend

towards sobriety both in wider society and within the

world of music and clubbing.

The pandemic accelerated this trend. According to

Alcohol Change UK, around four million people embraced

sobriety during the first lockdown. Although isolation

and boredom led some to drink more, sharpening the

extremes, the result was the same: a re-examination of

our relationship with substances, both individually and

collectively. Ubiquity is the same as invisibility. Within the

music and nightlife scenes, drug and alcohol consumption



are so prevalent and ingrained that they appear innate,

unseen and assumed. Sobriety pierces this invisibility,

revealing the reality of the sector’s unhealthy addiction to

substances, and the possibilities for recovery.

Addiction is often framed as a dichotomy, divided

between caricatures of addicts desperately searching

for another fix and those who use substances without

an issue, frivolous and blasé. However, the reality is

more of a spectrum, varying from casual use to an

uncomfortable dependence, a sentiment echoed across

those who are sober within the industry. Josh Miller,

vocalist and bassist for Eyesore & The Jinx, is six months

sober. “I knew I had a funny relationship with the booze,”

he explains. “I wasn’t an alcoholic or anything like that


and that’s not really why I’ve given up. But I also didn’t

have a healthy relationship with alcohol.” Gary Lambert,

a music photographer, is 27 months sober and holds a

similar perspective. “I’ve never been alcohol dependent,

but now I know I have problems with how I used alcohol.”

The stories are different, but the conclusion is the same.

At some point, substance use became abuse, forcing

a reassessment of their relationship with substances


Lee Butler, one of Liverpool’s most prominent DJs,

is over five years sober. Butler co-founded Break Free, a

community interest company supporting those struggling

with substance abuse. He reveals the reality of this

spectrum of addiction. “The first thing most people say

to me when they reach out, whether it’s a girl, a mum, a

dad, a young lad, is, ‘I haven’t got an addiction. I’m just

drinking and using every weekend. I don’t use every day. I

don’t use through the week. But the weekend comes and

I’m using through the weekend and it’s starting to affect

me through the week’.”

Substances are associated with release, a

detachment from yourself, stresses and social norms,

allowing for an imagined freedom and shedding of

responsibility. In this way, they are inherently connected

to weekend nightlife. A 2020 ONS report indicated that

the use of powder cocaine was 12 times higher among

those who had visited a nightclub at least four times in

the past month (19.1 per cent) compared with those who

had not visited a nightclub (1.6 per cent). This association

suggests the extent to which the music and nightlife

scene normalises excessive drug use and potentially

obscures addictive behaviour. “[People] don’t know any

different,” Lee Butler explains.

“I didn’t. I was convinced that

was the norm. I needed to

drink and take drugs to go to

work, to go to clubs, to go to

raves.” It creates an illusory

sense that drugs are innate

to music and nightlife, to the

extent that it becomes difficult

to imagine a gig or an event

without them. “In retrospect,”

Miller continues, “since I’ve

stopped drinking, I’ve realised

that it’s not just socialising,

everything [is] kind of more

geared towards alcohol rather than the actual socialising.

For example, going to gigs, it wasn’t so much about going

to watch a band or an artist, it was more to go and have

a few drinks.”

This reliance on substances as a form of escapism is

exacerbated by underlying mental health issues, seeking

the diluting effects of intoxication. Alcohol and drugs

are often confined within the paradigm of “weekend

escapism”, employed as a means to disengage after a

long week, notes Matthew Thomas Smith, member of

Psycho Comedy, co-founder of JARG Poetry and four

years sober. “I’d had suicidal ideation and I’d been on and

off anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication; I’d been

self-medicating with drugs and alcohol,” he continues,

plainly. “I always found myself turning to the bottle.” Gary

Lambert reiterates this seductive escapism. “I would drink

because, after a while, I knew my mind would go numb

[…] Come Friday, 5pm, I knew that I could have as many

drinks as I wanted all weekend, and I wouldn’t have to

think about work until 9am on Monday.”

Mental health issues are more prominent within the

music community; a 2018 report by the Music Industry

Research Association indicated that 50 per cent of

musicians reported symptoms of depression, compared

to less than 25 per cent of the general population,

suggesting a pre-existing vulnerability to addiction

among artists. This vulnerability is heightened, and

the pursuit of sobriety challenged, by an environment

saturated with the constant presence of drugs and

alcohol, and an atmosphere which normalises excessive

consumption. “The whole cultural scene seems to be built

around having a bevvy,” Smith reflects “So I do find it

difficult […] I will go to gigs and events, but I have to set

quite a few boundaries to protect myself.”

This sense of a necessary symbiosis between drugs

and music is intensified by an underlying mythology

and romanticisation. Historically, drugs and alcohol have

been perceived as integral to the image of the reckless

“My addiction really

tried to convince

me I will not be able

to keep my job if I

stopped drinking

and using drugs”

and defiant rock star, the transcendent creative, and

necessary for access into certain ‘networking’ spaces.

There’s an “obsession with nostalgia, the idea that bands

were more rock ‘n’ roll” in the past, Lambert indicates.

Miller agrees that “You’ll always have that bullshit NME

journalist who’s peddling this myth of sex, drugs and rock

‘n’ roll and we go out and we get wrecked, and we do as

much coke as we can because that’s what bands do [...]

that’s still lingering in the communities that we move in –

the mythologising of that kind of lifestyle.”

The pressure to fulfil this mythologised role can

make sobriety seem impossible within the music and

clubbing scene. “My addiction really tried to convince

me I will not be able to keep my job if I stopped drinking

and using drugs,” Butler says, “It really used the link of

music and nightlife to talk to me, to tell me, ‘Well, that’s

it then, if you pack drinking in and snorting, you’re not

going to be able to fucking work anymore’.” He eloquently

externalises what it’s like to be consumed by addiction;

repeating demanding instructions, examples of the

dialogues that once occupied his head, conversations

influenced by the romanticisation of drugs within the


This glamourisation of overconsumption is possibly

more persuasive in Liverpool, reinforcing the challenge of

sobriety within the city. “Liverpool will always be a city of

excess,” explains Smith, rooted in a defiant determination

to prove ourselves against tired clichés and internalised

stereotypes. “I think a lot of those [stereotypes] have

stuck to us a bit and we have them in our heads

sometimes. I think it makes us want to prove ourselves

even more. But that can be in ways that aren’t necessarily

productive.” Substance use

becomes “almost competitive

as people look to be the one

who can go wildest”, Lambert

notes. Butler remembers

“drinking Saturday, Sunday,

Monday. I’d be sitting up in

mine on a Monday, still getting

coke delivered and then taking

sleeping tablets at night. I’d

wake up Wednesday and I’d

be boasting to my friends

on the phone, ‘Ah, I was on

it Friday, Saturday, Sunday,

Monday’, ‘Oh, you’re fucking

boss, you’. That’s the culture, we boast about it […] That’s

where addiction starts”.

Despite this persuasive mythology, the truth is that

sobriety is more provocative and defiant. “Rock ‘n’ Roll

is supposed to be radical and revolutionary,” Smith says,

“but ale, by its very makeup and its chemistry, dulls

you and dilutes all of that.” Sobriety has provided an

enhanced presence, creativity and control, revealing the

limitations of intoxication. “I’ve been more present over

the last few years. Everything I’m writing just feels a lot

more truthful,” Smith states. However, this presence is

challenging in itself, creating a heightened awareness

and sense of responsibility for audiences’ behaviour. “I

think noticing things in the crowd and people’s behaviour

is still something I’m getting used to, and something I’m

trying to ignore while I’m playing so I can enjoy myself

a little bit more,” Miller admits. He was unaware of how

much he relied on “having some alcohol beforehand to

settle [his] nerves” but acknowledges “one of the perks

of being sober is that I’m a lot more in control of my

actions and emotions”. Lambert indicates the seriousness

sobriety has lent to his craft: “Now, the thought of doing

something that would weaken my chances of getting the

photo I want is such an alien concept to me.”

There is evidence that the romanticisation of drugs

within the scene is fading. “I think people are becoming

a little wiser to the bullshit of that kind of myth,” Miller

says. The younger generation are more health conscious,

aware of “what they’re putting into their body” and

critical of received wisdom and systems. Lambert

highlights the changing attitudes towards sobriety:

“There’s not just more people becoming sober, but there’s

also a lot more understanding and acceptance of people

who are sober.” Sobriety is vulnerable to connotations

of solemnity, there is a gravity and a restraint attached

to it that feels limiting, antonymous to the frivolity and

hedonism of the nightlife scene. However, in reality,

sobriety is more immersive, engaging and unflinching – a

direct interaction with the moment and yourself. There is

nothing revolutionary about escapism.

Addiction and consumption habits are often framed

as individual choices, perceived as either a consequence

of individual restraint or indulgence. However, structural

factors embed substances within the music scene,

ensuring sobriety – or even simply participating less

– remains elusive. Within the grassroots music scene,

alcohol is currency. “It’s absolutely ingrained in the

culture,” Miller explains. “You might only get £50 for a

show but you get your beer as well. It’s kind of unspoken.

That’s what the fee is. The alcohol tops up the fee and

it’s taken as currency in the community.” Although

understandable in the face of tight overheads and

limited funding, this reliance on alcohol can perpetuate

problematic relationships with substances. “You’re

potentially feeding someone’s habit. It’s well intentioned,

but it’s pretty detrimental to everyone’s wider health,”

Miller admits. “There should be an acknowledgement

that not everyone drinks,” Smith says, referencing the

constant presence of alcohol on artist riders. Miller

explains the challenge this poses to sobriety: “It’s almost

like it’s testing you. It’s an extra layer for you to overcome

and an extra hurdle for you to deal with.”

Alcohol’s currency status also operates to maintain a

poor economic model, failing to value artists adequately.

Although he suggests alternative payment options,

such as offering vouchers for studio sessions, Lambert

indicates that there is “no solution until there are other

ways of creating value at the lowest end of the food

chain”. Miller agrees, suggesting that “it’s part of a wider

cultural issue about Britain not really taking artists

seriously. People want something for nothing. Until that

attitude changes, I don’t see how we can implement the

changes needed”.

This economic reliance on alcohol is mirrored across

the music and nightlife sector. According to the Music

Venue Trust, 65 per cent of income for grassroots music

venues comes from their wet sales, stating that “it is not

possible to deliver an economically viable event in this

sector without the financial support provided by alcohol

sales”. Meanwhile, the council’s #DrinkLessEnjoyMore

campaign reveals the tension between prioritising

nightlife as vital for the city’s economy while not

promoting unhealthy substance use. Alcohol’s economic

importance forces venues and nightlife operators to

encourage excessive consumption and reveals the

possible threat posed by increasing sobriety; if trends

towards sobriety continue, music venues may struggle to


However, Liverpool has always been a pioneer

of experimental and innovative nightlife. Embracing

sobriety offers an opportunity for a more creative use of

music venues, providing a sanctuary from the substance

driven night-time economy – a place of direct and

undiluted experience. The Brink was the UK’s first dry

bar and a social enterprise dedicated to helping those in

treatment while operating as a cultural and community

hub. Although it sadly closed in 2020, Lee Butler has “a

driving ambition to create a proper dry bar in Liverpool”,

reviving the spirit of The Brink and providing a space

for those in recovery and those who simply choose not

to drink. He is also determined to “start a proper sober

night”, building on the success of Freedom to Party:

A Sober Rave held at The Brink in December 2019.

The event recognised the difficulty or impossibility of

socialising in the usual social spaces while in recovery,

while rejecting the notion that sobriety must be quiet,

restrictive and dull. As places of community and

connection, music venues are the ideal spaces for sober

events; allowing people to check in rather than check out,

subverting the expectations of weekend escapism and

exploring the freedom of existing without substances.

Conversations about sobriety are often tainted with

the same atmosphere as the word itself, quiet, downbeat,

respectful; swimming in pain and the memory of

addiction, framed only in restraint and onward struggle.

But the reality of sobriety is expansive. It is not a sacrifice,

a burden nor a last resort. It is a choice – an exercise

in self-trust and the belief that you are capable of

experience and sensation, without a substance to create

it for you. !

Words: El Gray / @Just__El

Illustration: Eve / @inkycapz



























Forcing the Southport singer-songwriter back to his hometown, lockdown gifted time for reflection.

Now he’s back with an arcade’s worth of new material as well as new-found confidence.

The years have not been kind to Southport, it’s

fair to say. Its cracked, salt-crusted frontage

faces away towards the Irish Sea. Stoic but

defeated, it looks almost ashamed of what’s

happened behind its grand, faded façade. There is a sad

magic about the demise and decay of a seaside town

with such a grand and illustrious history, especially in

the cold, quiet months. It has long been a town free of

investment. The cranes of greed have yet to make it up

the coast, and so Southport is left to make the most of

itself by trading on its past.

The seagulls who foolishly remain here on a breezy

but bright October Monday do battle for the scraps of

what’s left of the summer, strutting and certain, almost as

if they, like this provincial seaside town itself, think they

deserve better.

Funland is open. Funland is always open. Tucked

away in a pub garden behind, a singer, tightly wrapped

against the cold, promises a scattering of elderly daytrippers

a Bruno Mars song, like they know who Bruno

Mars is. It’s all a bit Phoenix Nights meets Coral Island.

But this isn’t the product of somebody else’s sense of

humour or the vivid, romanticised seaside of another’s

imagination. Astles grew up here in Southport having left


Liverpool at the age of six. “We were sort of the wools of

the family.” From boy to man to musician and back again,

Astles has always called Southport home.

Nobody else is on this pleasure walk. It’s just me,

those cocky bastard gulls and the ghosted memories

of my youthful adventures. The colourful cast of giant

fibreglass swan-shaped pedalos here gathered look

inward with indifference, tightly chained nose to nose in

protection against the oncoming winter and attacks from

bored, guffawing, balloon-wielding teenagers with little

else to do for fun on dark nights.

We make whatever fun we can, after all, and

growing up in a town such as this offers precious few

opportunities for youth to flourish, the assumption

perhaps predictably being that they’ll grow up and move

away soon enough. And they do. Astles did. And as with

many artists, lockdown brought him home to these sand

dunes, these charity shops and candy floss stalls.

And there he is, silhouetted alone on the bridge

crossing the boatless boating lake, arms raised to the

salty skies for the camera as though in triumph. Like he’s

gone all Rambo on us. Not exactly the sort of pose we’ve

come to expect from what was once, at least, a most

personal and introspective songwriter and performer.

Astles’ early shows saw him spotlighted alone on

the stage, a very singular, almost timid but charming

presence. The Astles we see today seems different, more

confident and settled in his own songwriting skin.

Hunched over coffee in a confused looking building

at the end of the pier, we talk of his songs, the writing

process and the unwitting effect he found in returning

home to Southport and the splendid isolation of


“There was that moment of stop. For me that was

very therapeutic and helpful towards my songwriting. It

felt like it advanced it. I could breathe and I could think

about things that had been bothering me and consult

them in songs. I started writing a lot more about things

I had written about before. My relationships with my

parents and my brother, and with my uncle.”

Astles never knew his uncle Joseph, but that man’s

legacy and influence on him is strong and lasting. Growing

up in an all-boys school in Birkdale where “you were either

into footy or you were a nerd”, he was neither. Or perhaps

both. In terms of finding his musical tribe at school, “There

was the metal heads and the jazz band and that’s it.”

Clearly, Astles ticks neither box, and so he embarked on his

road of musical discovery very much alone.

There was no group of friends with similar interests,

no tribe for him to find, and nobody prepared to let their

guard down and admit the same desire to release their

thoughts through music and song. Nobody to gaze

in awe with at the unaffordable, out of reach guitars

in music shop windows on a

Saturday afternoon.

“It just felt like it was my

thing, really. Even in the family,

nobody was much into music. It

was isolating, but in a nice way,

really. Growing up in Southport,

people don’t really have their own

thing, so to do it that way was

good. You get there at your own

pace, in a way. Like, my favourite

Liverpool songwriters, people

like Mick Head and Bill Ryder-

Jones, if I’d have had someone

telling me about them early, they

wouldn’t have the same effect on me as they did when I

discovered them for myself.”

Inspiration eventually did make its way to him,

courtesy of his uncle Joey’s old record collection. From his

mixtapes and musty, treasured copies of the NME. From

precious gig tickets and reviews he’d written. A treasure

trove of memories.

“That was kind of the only thing I had, from beyond

the grave…there was this one mixtape called ‘Soundtrack

For The 21 Bus Home’ and it’s just amazing. Through that

“You do it to learn

about yourself.

That’s what it is

with songs for me”

I discovered the Bunnymen, Radiohead… he’d put these

mad interludes in, Kerouac reading poetry or a lesson

in how to say ice cream in French. But it still felt like I’d

discovered it myself, because he wasn’t there saying, ‘Get

on this, get on this’. I was looking through all this stuff

one day and found a record with

a banana on the front and Andy

Warhol written on it. I put it on,

and it changed my life. I probably

had terrible music taste until I

was 16.”

Working, too, with someone

he admires so very much in Bill

Ryder-Jones, is an undeniable

thrill, but for Astles and

songwriting, it’s the connection

which is worth just as much.

Where he may have found his

own music “a bit wet or whatever,

not cool” – such is the insecurity

of every writer – Bill begged to differ. “The things I was

insecure about, that was the stuff that Bill really liked.”

“I’ve loved Bill’s music for ages and all of the band

has as well. It’s things like, when I’m doing my vocal and

thinking Bill’s listening, and he says, ‘Sounds amazing, I

love that’. Well, if he says it sounds good, then I believe

that. He’s so good as a producer. It’s people like Bill and

Sophie Ellis, who we recorded with in London. It’s those

people who you actually respect as musicians. When

they’re telling you they like what you’re doing, it helps


your confidence indefinably. It’s sort of worth more than

how many streams you’ve had. It’s them connections.”

So, while early releases and appearances by Astles

were always a strictly solo affair and he still mainly writes

alone, he now lives with his band in true Monkees fashion,

the house a rehearsal space, a recording studio and a

micro-community where Astles finds himself at home.

And that’s the point. Today, Astles feels at home. With his

band, on his own, in his writing and in his music, he’s at

home with himself and confident in what’s to come.

“You do it to learn about yourself. That’s what it is

with songs for me. I don’t really reflect on things, I can’t

really, but then I’ll write a song and then recognise that

that’s how I’m feeling, because that’s how it’s come out

and how the words have put themselves together. That’s

how I use songs. I’m more honest in my songs than I am

in normal life.”

Next year will see more than its fair share of the fruits

of the songwriter’s labours at Ryder-Jones’ Yawn studios

and more besides. A full-band December headline show

at Ullet Road Unitarian Church and future releases will

testify to an Astles that is settled, happy and confident.

Much like the seagulls in his hometown, except he

doesn’t go around stealing people’s lunch. !

Words: Paul Fitzgerald / @nothingvillemusic

Photography: Keith Ainsworth /

Astles play at the Ullet Road Unitarian Church on 11 th





Once outsiders to Liverpool’s patchwork music scene, Gen and the Degenerates are proud

dyed-in-the-wool heirs to the city’s DNA. Unplugging from their operatic performances, the

genre-eschewing troupe sit down with Gary Lambert ahead of a hometown headliner.


their rehearsal room, the first thing that hits

is the collective energy radiating from the

band. As tight off stage as they are on, the

band each bristle with excitement at being in each other’s

company. Intense eye contact flits between them, and

laughter bursts out at every moment. It isn’t even the first

time the band have seen each other in a long time – far

from it, in fact.

It seems to me that some bands have gone on hold

during the enforced lay-off over the last eighteen months,

while others have used the time to push themselves on by

working on their craft. Gen and the Degenerates definitely

fall under the second category, with a wild performance

at FestEvol earlier this year being an obvious statement of

intent. “It was our first proper show back, on a big stage,

and the chance to thank Revo for all the support he has

given us.” “We’ve put two singles out with another to

come,” Evan continues, “and I don’t think there’s a part of

the country we haven’t been to playing shows.”

“After all that time off, it felt like we made up for


it almost immediately,” adds Jay. Evan continues “we

obviously couldn’t do anything about the time off, but

we’ve come back with a record deal and live agency (both

with Marshall) and songs to put out, so we feel like we

used that time well.”

Gen and the Degenerates are a band who exist

to perform in front of audiences; it is their oxygen. We

quickly move on to discussing their show at Burn It Down,

an alternative music festival in Torquay. The alternative

scene is where the Degenerates, but not Gen, spent their

formative years watching and being nurtured as musicians

and performers. “That scene is where our on-stage ethic

comes from,” Sean tells me. “We might not be making the

same type of music, but in terms of energy and ideology of

performance, we are there.”

For Gen, those festival shows are essential to

introducing their sound to new listeners, regardless

of who they primarily turn up to see. “I think there’s

something for most crowds in our set. We’ve got the pop

sensibilities to our tracks which make them listenable,

danceable and fun. Plus, we don’t take ourselves too

seriously, so we get on well with crowds up for a good

time. The main thing for me is that the live shows are fun

and that everybody has a good time. It’s important to

us that our lyrics create a conversation, but it is equally

important that our fans feel included in that conversation.”

Gen and the Degenerates are not a band who sit

comfortably in one particular genre or scene. As is

the usual case for large bands with larger-than-life

members, there is no obvious blueprint to follow, as

everybody’s influences get mixed together. In contrast

to the Degenerates’ teenage love of rock and metal,

Gen’s influences come from further afield. “I’m always

hammering blues scales in my vocal melodies. My

songwriting sensibilities come from pop and country,

genres that allow for more biographical and storytelling

aspects. Even if I stray from my direct experiences, I’ll still

be working within a concept or a metaphor created by my

own experience.”

Having entered the Liverpool music scene from the

outside, I can’t help but wonder what those experiences

may look like. “Is this where you get to call us bad

wools?” Gen snaps. Despite none of them being born in

Liverpool – with most living outside the city – Gen and the

Degenerates consider themselves to be a band grown

in, and representing, the Liverpool music scene. Yet it

wasn’t easy for them. As out-of-town students studying

English Language at the city’s

universities, they didn’t know

how to go about getting

shows. So, they decided

to put on their own shows

instead, with Gen acting as

the promoter and introducer.

“It was actually a great

way to get started,” she

begins. “We aren’t music

scene people who have

been in loads of bands and

know loads of the necessary

people – we didn’t fucking

know anybody. It can be

really difficult to get into it,

especially if you’re not a Scouser. It was also imperative

that we had a house party after the show every month.

That would be my advice to all new bands. Throw a house

party after your gig, invite everybody performing to come

along, stay up until the early hours with people you’ve

only just met.” With their gang mentality, lyrics about

living their lives proudly and their infinite love of partying,

“It’s important to us

that our lyrics create a

conversation, but it is

equally important that

our fans feel included

in that conversation”

Gen and the Degenerates are a prime example of it’s not

where you’re from, it’s where you’re at, and they are, I

promise, not bad wools.

With their biggest Liverpool show to date on the

horizon, the band understand that for things to grow

as they intend, they need to

give people a reason to buy

tickets and turn up. “We are

a live band,” Evan says. “It

doesn’t matter if we’re playing

a support set for Zuzu or in

between proper metal bands

like at Burn It Down – we

are going to play like we

play. We won’t fake it and

try to start circle pits at the

metal shows, and then have

phones in the air moments at

indie shows. We just do our

thing.” Jay hammers the point

home. “From my perspective,

I just want to get up there and have fun. Fortunately, my

favourite way of having fun is doing what we do, getting

up on stage and playing with loads of energy and making

the most of it with my gang and the people watching us”.

According to Gen, “We’re going to have some people

come along too to do extra shit that we can’t afford to do

when we’re on the road.”

Before the madcap fun arrives at Jimmy’s, the band

have a new single ready to unleash to the world. Wild

Thing is a roaring, uplifting explanation as to why Gen

Degenerate is the person she is, and nobody is going to

change that. “We recorded it with Kurran Kurbal (Munkey

Junkey), a lovely human and the sixth Degenerate,” Evan

explains. “We’ve worked with him for ages, and he is the

best at getting the most out of us. He meets the needs

of the label in terms of getting what they want out of the

band, but enables us to do what we want to do.”

As for the song itself, Gen confesses, “I did nick the

name from The Troggs, but in an earnest and wholesome

way, not straight up plagiarism. When I was a baby, Wild

Thing was what my mum used to sing to me as my lullaby,

so I’ve taken inspiration from that to say, ‘This is how I

am, this is how I’ve always been, and there’s nothing I’m

going to do about it’. I have, at times, been a rebellious and

dangerous person,” she concludes. You’ve been warned. !

Words: Gary Lambert / @glamgigpics

Photography: Lucy McLachlan / @lucy_alexandra

Wild Thing is available on the 3 rd December via Marshall

Records. Gen and the Degenerates play Jimmy’s on

18 th December.





















Liverpool’s public spaces abound with figures

cast in bronze. Indeed, the city itself boasts more

public sculptures than any other in the United

Kingdom outside of Westminster. Journey in

by train and you’re met with immortalised copies of Ken

Dodd and Bessie Braddock. Come in by sea, and your

passage into the city is carefully framed by a tribute to

four of its most exported sons. When Liverpool’s public

spaces are bereft of human activity, its network of statues

serve as reminders that this most Victorian of public

rituals continues to dominate ideas about our public

spaces and how they are used.

And yet, many of us pass our bronze neighbours

without much more than a quick glance. Towering

above our commutes to work and strolls in the park, our

indifference to these pedestalled giants had become

as assured as the thick coat of oxidised green that now

covers their former grandeur.

That was until June 2020, when the statue of slave

trader Edward Colston was torn down and rolled into

the Bristol harbour in the wake of the Black Lives Matter

movement following the murder of George Floyd.

Since then, our statues have become much more

noticeable. Not only that; they’ve become more

perceptible to public considerations about who we

choose to memorialise, who we choose to celebrate, and

who gets to make those types of decisions.

A bellwether of what we were about to witness in

many of our public squares – a defaced Churchill plinth

and the voluntary removal of a statue commemorating

Scouts founder Robert Baden-Powell – Edward Colston

cuts deep into the modern statues debate.

In the days following Colston’s removal, Liverpool

was one of the first cities in the UK to confront both its

statues and its relationship to the transatlantic slave trade

from which it built its enormous wealth. Conversations

around (in)famous street names, architecture and the

school curriculum were quickly and powerfully funneled

into wider questions about how our city’s policymakers

plan on directing the energy for change into considered


Over the Summer, many of Liverpool’s statues were

reimagined as part of a project between Sky Arts and

Culture Liverpool, the council’s cultural engagement arm.

Decorating many of the city’s most famous statues with

fabric and other artwork, Statues Redressed challenged,

celebrated and reframed public discourse around the

modern function of statues and the role, if any, that public

memorials should play.

Karen Arthur, one of the artists invited to take part in

Statues Redressed, was tasked with reimagining Derby

Square’s neo-Baroque monument to Queen Victoria. “I

love the idea of reimagining statues and getting people to

think more deeply about the monuments they walk past,”

she tells us. “I was interested in drawing the connection

between her and the abolitionist movement that was

happening at the beginning of her reign.”

A main source of inspiration for Karen’s artwork came

from an unusual relationship Queen Victoria had with a

woman born into slavery. “During my research I learned

about a Black woman named Martha Ricks who was born

into slavery but moved freely to Liberia,” Karen continues.

“She was an accomplished quilter and gifted Queen

Victoria with a satin quilt that she had made herself.”

Featuring Ankara prints in a nod to the direct link

between the continent of Africa and the exchange of

human labour that built Liverpool’s wealth, Karen’s

fabric similarly became a tangible memorial to her Black

ancestors. “As a Black woman it was sometimes difficult

to process and comprehend the pain in our shared

history. Black History is everyone’s history and it’s been

hidden or ignored for centuries.” !

Statues Redressed is available to watch on Sky TV

on demand and on the NOW streaming service.




“The last year

has been a crazy

dichotomy. It was

definitely a struggle

over lockdown but

I’m so happy we

persevered and

made new music”


Love at first sound: Alright (okay) are hard to pin down, and

even harder to ignore.

ALRIGHT (OKAY) have arrived on the music scene at

full throttle with their own unique brand of wobbly guitar

pop. Sitting down in their practice studio, the four friends

– who like to “unintentionally cause a bit of carnage” –

reveal they’ve spent the last three years “jamming and

jiving” in the hopes of bringing that little bit of extra joy to

their fans.

Alex, Jonah, James and Will are all well versed in

the ways of Liverpool. Having all met at university, the

boys have spent the past few years growing and thriving

alongside Liverpool’s vibrant music scene. Forming at the

back end of 2018 after Alex and Will met on a night out,

the band instantly hit it off, with James describing the

relationship between the four as “love at first sound”.

Picking their brains on the unusual name of the band,

Jonah divulges that “Clown Funeral” and “Casual Scythe”

were both plausible contenders. Alex chimes in to clarify:

“I remember seeing a post online somewhere showing

signs homeless people would use when travelling to

different places, usually marking where they had food

or shelter, or what the general area was like. There was

a sign with an X and underneath it read ‘alright (okay)’,

which I quite liked the wording of. I guess it was to tell

people the area wasn’t that bad to be in. Once we looked

at what names we had come up with, that one spoke to

us the most.”

If the name has a clear lineage, then the band’s sound

is much more difficult to pin down. This, of course, isn’t

necessarily a bad thing; their unique ability to flit between

genres sets them apart from the sea of indie bands

currently rising through the ranks. I’m eager to hear their

own take. “Like if Frank Zappa had a chance to meet

System of a Down to discuss the global financial crisis

of 2008,” philosophises Jonah. “Or, if you want a serious

answer, fun and fast-paced post-punk riffs over a wall of

crushing drums.”

Though eager to bring their Zappa-Tankian tonic to

the world, much like the rest of society the boys found

their plans halted with you-know-what. Noting that the

pandemic made them appreciate the little things in life,

Jonah jests with a profound decision that “pubs are the

backbone of society”.

But despite the carnage ensuing around them,

lockdown did help the band find a new direction for

their music. Writing a lot of new tracks acoustically, the

band found re-entering the studio to be a breath of fresh

air. Having performed their first ‘gig’ as an Instagram

livestream, the group found themselves making up for

lost time once they could finally let their debut single,

Coffee, out into the world. “The last year has been a crazy

dichotomy,” James reflects. “From having to practice

acoustic sets at Alex’s house to being able to play in

front of crowds for the first time is unbelievable. It was

definitely a struggle over lockdown, but I’m so happy we

persevered and made new music.”

Coffee bookmarks a defiant page in the growing

anthology of Alright (okay), having originally been penned

when Alex was 17, and recorded in Vulcan Studios, the

post-punk cut offers a high-energy take on break-up

anthems. “It’s about that strange limbo period you can

sometimes find yourself in when you know you’re done,

but they’re still occupying your mind or they’re trying

to stay close with you. The tune was quite a bit slower

to start, but once I brought it to the band it became its

own beast.” Eyes fixed firmly on the next chapter, Jonah

divulges they’re currently adding finishing touches to

their next single, After Paris, with a debut EP on the


Despite having only played to a virtual crowd, the

quartet stumbled into selling out a show at Liverpool’s

Jacaranda. Described as “absolute carnage” by Alex (not

least owing to him breaking his guitar string three songs

in), the band navigated their way through a bustling,

sweaty mosh to deliver their lockdown-penned tracks

to a live crowd for the first time. With James noting

that the band had been working their way towards this

moment for their entire career, it was surely a night not

to be missed. “To see all the faces we’ve been unable to

see for 18 months smiling and having a nice time with

one another was truly a special moment.” Jonah cheekily

adds: “Did get a bit sweaty. You’ll have to check our

Instagram to see topless Will and James.”

Discussing the amazing talent they find themselves

surrounded by in the 21 st -century indie scene, the band

tip their hats to DEAD ANIMALS and MONDO TRASHO,

who coincidentally will be supporting the boys at their

headline show at Jimmy’s in February. For now, the band

continue to be humbled by their craft. I ask Jonah what it

is about performing live that he just can’t get anywhere

else: “Tinnitus.” !

Words: Alannah Williams / @swimdeeeplana

Photography: Ollie Dignan / @mm_dignan

Alright (okay) play the Bido Lito! Social on 27th January.




Eyes set firmly on the stars, the journey has only

just begun for Toxteth’s wise wunderkind.

As I wait for my guest, I’m smug with pride at picking

the perfect location. A multi-use building on Windsor

Street with its arms wide open, Toxteth TV is a space

that magnetises the urban dweller with the charm of its

garden space and informal cafe. Soon after losing myself

in its throwback decadence – boasting an old school

games arcade and a VHS rental store – I find myself

face-to-face with P3LZ. Armed with a soft smile, she

swings her braided hair out of her face – the pieces of

gold aluminium that coil her locks clinking together ever

so quietly.

Do not be fooled. Despite being only 17, the force

in front of me has caught the attention of several

high-profile brands and platforms, from Nike to LFC,

off the back of various freestyle videos that have gone

viral online. I admit to her that I can’t fathom what an

experience that must be. “At first, working with big

brands was daunting because they’re high up and they’re

known,” she explains. “So, getting associated with them

is not a normal thing. It was exciting and as I did it more

often, I got used to it. Then I was able to understand how

they work, learn from them and build connections.”

Since the release of her first official track, Broken

Homes, she has grown and I can’t help but wonder if she

was pleased with the reaction to it. It could have been

better, she tells me. “It was my first track, but I think

things will pick up after I’ve done some more stuff. It was

exciting and I’ve done something new. I think I expected

what I got, but obviously I’m hoping for better in the


From my experience in the Liverpool urban music

scene, there’s an assumption that it’s standard for a

teenager to be heavily influenced by their surroundings

and create music that revolves around a hedonistic

existence of drinking, partying and experimenting with

various substances. However, P3Lz’s music is mindful,

defined by the ability to focus the lyrics on the current

moment and calmly present her thoughts through

calculated lyricism. In regard to her process of writing, the

technique itself is a natural reflection

of her recent venture into the rap

scene. “I kind of go on YouTube to

get beats. At the start that’s all I did

because I didn’t know where else to

get them.”

But it’s also the opportunities to

grow that have aided her to develop

a relationship with music that sees

it as just one potential career. “I

enjoy music, it’s my passion and

I am serious about it, but I’m still

figuring out if it’s what I want to put

100 per cent into. At the moment I

have other things I want to do. I’m

really into my academics and going

to university. I don’t want to be half-hearted if I was to do

music; I want to be able to put everything in – my whole

time and effort. If you’ve got other options, then you

shouldn’t just cut them out because that would be silly.”

Stunned by her maturity, I feel that P3Lz is wise

beyond her years, and there’s a wholesome energy to

her attitude. After all, she does have her whole life ahead

of her, and it’s one that will no doubt be shaped by an

adolescence spent growing up in Toxteth. Her recent

“I want to give

back as well if I

can, because I

feel like this place

needs something

big to boost it”

appearance in Almost Liverpool 8 – a documentary

vignette of L8 and a celebration of its diverse community

– is an embryonic biography of those experiences, bottled

up and unleashed with sharp-edged spoken word.

“I think growing up in Toxteth has had an impact

on my music because it’s given me the drive and the

motivation to be able to aim and strive for things that

are better than here. Although I love

living here it’s like a really deprived

area so, obviously, I’m not trying to

stay here forever. I want to give back

as well if I can, because I feel like this

place has got really low morale and

it needs something big to boost it

so that people don’t run away from

here and want to live here and buy

houses here.”

Her motivations are pure and it’s

a case of when, not if, she goes on to

take the rest of the country by storm.

I’m in such anticipation of her future

and I wonder what’s on the cards.

“There’s something mad coming at

the start of 2022. It’s called Remedy and it’s going to be

a sick drill track.” I give her a smile so big that I have to

call it a beam. There’s nothing I can do but take her word

for it. !

Words: Iona Fazer / @ionafazer97

Photography: Anthony Wilde / @evolving_necessary

Remedy is available soon.




The hometown heroine’s

bubblegum pop shimmers in

an affirmation of optimism.

Calypso is a romantic pop ballad with an interesting

title – tell us more!

I wrote Calypso in 2018 as a cutesy little dance song,

based loosely around a Simpsons episode when Marge

and Homer had their prom, and Homer was sad about

Marge going to it and dancing with someone else. I

wanted to make it a little happier and something the

audience could get involved with. Whether that’s singing

or clapping, just to get everyone dancing is the key to

this song really!

Who were your inspirations when you were growing


I had plenty – Paramore, Alanis Morissette, Haim,

Fleetwood Mac. Whatever my cousins were into, really,

they’re the coolest people I know so I just followed suit.

As I’ve gotten older my taste has obviously changed but

those bands have stuck around.

What’s your favourite album in your collection?

At the minute my favourite album in my vinyl collection

has to be Orla Gartland’s Woman On The Internet. I think

Orla’s writing has always been amazing, but this album

is something special – it’s so authentically her.

Who would you like to collaborate with?

I think a collaboration with Will Joseph Cook would be

cool. I feel like our music is very similar and our voices

could blend quite nicely. I’d love to collaborate with

Paramore or Zuzu, too.

What’s a favourite venue you’ve performed in?

Up to now my favourite venue must be the Arts Club.

I also loved playing Future Yard, too. It’s such a special

place to me as I loved the 2019 festival there and, also,

how often do you get to play a boss gig in Birkenhead?

Tilly Louise supports Zuzu at the O2 Academy

on 5th Demember.

Tilly Louise (Adele Robinson)


Andrew Neal (John Johnson)

Country-inflected Merseybeat

meets heel-stomping Americana

in a sway of raw storytelling.

Describe your music to us.

Each song has a different sound and feeling. I write all of

my songs on acoustic guitar, this gives the backbone of

rhythm and melody to the song, allowing me to compose

other instrumentation around the rhythm guitar. I pretty

much use this method of writing for all of my songs so

although they are different in sound and feeling, I think

you can hear my style clearly in each song.

Who were your inspirations when you were growing up?

I had a brilliant mixture of music growing up; from Soul

and Motown to Folk and Country and, of course, good

old Rock and Roll.

Paint The Dark, is a toe-tapping, brisk infusion of

country and blues – is there a specific emotion or

memory that inspired the song?

After experiencing some difficult times and low points

when I was feeling lost, I came through on the other side

in a much better place and state of mind. This gave me

the inspiration to write Paint the Dark. As much as it

sounds like a cliché, I wanted to write a song to articulate

how there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

What’s your favourite album in your collection?

It’s difficult but I would have to say Bob Marley’s Survival.

You probably wouldn’t think I would choose that listening

to my songs but it’s a perfect album from start to finish.

It has everything, from the production in terms of

arrangements and composition, the vocals and meaning

in the lyrics with over all brilliant musicianship.

What’s a favourite venue you’ve performed in?

I did two tours supporting The View in my previous band

The Stamp. We played in a lot of amazing and wellknown

venues. Two stand out gigs were in Amsterdam

and Paris. Paris was made all the more special as Liam

Gallagher came down to watch us play.

Who’ve you seen live recently?

Like all of us, I was missing live music during lockdown.

Although I haven’t been able to get to many live gigs

since things started to open up, I was thrilled to support

The Sonder at EBGBS a couple of months ago. I caught

their performance after I had finished my set and thought

they did a great job - I love the variety of musical talent

coming through on the Liverpool music scene at the


I Won’t Be Living Here Anymore is available soon.




Music missionaries Manchester

Collective stop by Future Yard as

part of their Heavy Metal tour on

11th December. A new commission


aka Vessel, takes pride of place

in the programme. Stuart O’Hara

speaks to the composer about the

story of his new piece, the meaning

of ‘classical’ and collaboration.


Vessel, should have featured in these pages a

long time ago. But maybe it was worth waiting

for his collaboration with contemporary classical

group Manchester Collective. This one’s different; it’s

a commissioned work for orchestral instruments and

electronics, and it’s going on tour in December. With

umpteen audiovisual collaborations under his belt

(Immix Ensemble, Pedro Maia, Anouk de Clercq) and

2018’s album Queen of Golden Dogs established as

a recent classic, the promise of new material from Mr

Gainsborough is exciting precisely because the only

certainty is that you won’t be able to guess what

it’ll sound like. Never safe, never predictable, always


His commission for Manchester Collective, Squint,

will speak to audiences. It’s a sequence of sounds that

contains multitudes. Water bubbles past a medieval

French chanson, hammered dulcimers nestle alongside

beeps and beats. As it builds, ever more insistently,

it’s like looking up at the clear night sky out in the

countryside – the longer you look, the more is revealed.

The longer you listen, the more you hear.

Do you find your music takes on a different life when

you go out and perform it live?

I’m curious too. This will be the first time I’ve made music

that I will have no part in performing live. I was talking to

[co-founder and chief executive of Manchester Collective]

Adam Szabo, and I was just assuming that I would be on

stage mucking about as well. He had to gently remind

me that that isn’t traditionally how a commission works,

which was actually quite a shock. Performing live is

such a crucial part of it all, for me. It’s also my space for

what can be an ecstatic communion. I honestly feel quite

uncomfortable about not being able to take part in that,

but who knows? Perhaps it will be surprisingly delicious.

You’ve worked with [Manchester Collective violinist

and co-founder] Rakhi Singh before, on Passion. That’s

kind of classical in its form and instrumentation – three

movements, strings, voice and electronics. Apparently,

it was partly inspired by the novels of Clarice Lispector.

Do you often draw inspiration from non-musical


Yes, I do. I pour ideas into my brain, usually via books, and

turn on the cement mixer. Afterwards I can’t remember

anything of what I’ve read. For this piece, I was

completely obsessed with female Christian mystics of the

Middle Ages, so I’ve done a lot of reading and research

around that.

The main text in Squint, which is spoken word and

runs throughout, is taken from

another collaboration I took part

in. This piece is called One and is a

video work written and conceived

of by the artist and filmmaker

Anouk De Clercq. The singer and

performer Helga Davis speaks

the words. We’ve now made

three pieces together and it’s hard

to overstate how precious this

collaboration is to me. They’re

quite tricky to summarise neatly,

but if anyone would like to find

out more, searching the title with

Anouk’s name will bring up all the


What’s the French song at the centre of Squint?

Je Suis Trop Jeunette. There’s a French band called

Malicorne who did a rendition of it, which I love and

have partly followed here. This tune is apparently pretty

old (some sources date it to 1480, but who knows).

Although this is totally unverified, I’ve concocted the idea

that it shares some DNA with the fin’amor [courtly love]

movement of around the 12th century, and subsequently

also the Beguines, a mystical and semi-heretical Christian

movement who were, at least in part, known for their

eroticised, ambiguously gendered relationship with

God. It’s just a folky love song, really, but if you imagine

that the focus of the singer’s attentions is mystical

transcendence rather than some spotty adolescent, then

it takes on quite a different character, and a useful one for

me in the context of this piece.

Let’s say it is from 1480. Which elements of 21 st -

century music might have a chance of surviving 500

years from now?

I’m going to say 2000s RnB and pop stuff. Some of that

music is so mind-blowing. Talk Talk and Scott Walker.

George Michael and Björk. As soon as you start writing

names so many spring up that humans couldn’t possibly

stop finding relevant and amazing.

What is ‘classical music’ to you, right now?

I’m not sure if I have any unique insights into the nature

“I pour ideas

into my brain,

usually via books,

and turn on the

cement mixer”

of classical music, I don’t know much about it. I’m often

brutally pragmatic when it comes to music, generally. I

don’t listen to a huge amount of it, and when I do, I tend

to become obsessively fixated on whatever it is, primarily

because I want to learn from it. I’ve

listened to Bartók’s string quartets,

or Laughing Stock by Talk Talk

countless times, for example, and

obviously I love that music beyond

words, but it’s also about finding


That said, I do think that we are

starting to see more people who

traditionally would have been

excluded or alienated from classical

music start to be platformed more

and, surprise surprise, a lot of that

work is – to me, at least – much

more interesting, much more exciting than dusting off yet

another performance or record of a piece from 200 years

ago which has already had more than enough exposure.

I’m pretty allergic to the overtones of public relations that

this term has acquired, but ‘disruption’ is crucial. Any

form of art which is actively resistant to change, as you

could argue classical music frequently has been, is going

to rot. So, bring on the vultures, I guess.

Heavy Metal is being billed as a ‘loud and intense

programme’. Press release jargon aside, are you

naturally a loud and intense artist?

I love loud music; I think it can be really useful sometimes.

I’m much more interested in quiet music at the moment,

but I’m sure that will change again. I don’t usually think of

myself as anything particular, to be honest. I find it’s quite

an odd idea, really, to take a pleasure in categorising

oneself. I feel like a lot of the time we – artists? Humans?

– look to amplify any possibility that we might be just

a little bit different to everyone else, a little outside of

categories. Which is often a bit delusional, I guess, but

useful, nonetheless.

Words: Stuart Miles O’Hara / @ohasm1

Heavy Metal from Manchester Collective is at Future Yard

on Saturday 11th December.

Read this interview in full on



“Music contains all

these multitudes.

It’s always been

a multi-sensory

experience for me”



15/01/22 – Harvest Sun @ 24 Kitchen Street

Under the pseudonym of LONELADY, Julie Campbell’s creativity pours into an audio-visual

amalgam of art pop, post-punk and electronic grooves. Speaking to the self-described “hybrid

artist” from the heights of her brutalist tower block in the heart of Manchester over Zoom, Julie

discusses what fuelled her innovation following the release of her third record, Former Things.

LONELADY has steadily acquired a coterie of

famous fans including New Order and Brian

Eno; having been invited to support the former

on three shows (an experience she describes

as “mind-boggling”), she unexpectedly received a synth

from the latter. She recalls the anecdote of him walking

into her studio space and complaining about having too

many synths. After jokingly offering to take one, days

later, “a huge package arrived and it was a big heavy

synth wrapped in foam. It’s a Korg Triton so it’s got a very

crisp sound to it. It’s the main piano riff that features on

the song Time Time Time”.

She describes her 2010 debut, Nerve Up as

“economical post-punk.” For her 2015 follow-up,

Hinterland, she added embellishments of funk, but

plucked lyrical inspiration from the industrial Mancunian

spaces of her surroundings. “I’d just go on long walks

around the edge of the city. I’m drawn to leftover unloved

spaces. I also love to walk back to Audenshaw where I’m

from. I think where you’re from has a real kind of pull, like

ley lines.” Former Things is LoneLady’s most personal

record to date, lyrically drawing on Campbell’s childhood.

“Musically it’s a bit softer and sadder, more vulnerable

sounding. I was laying it bare a bit more than previous


Julie has remained busy in the six intervening

years since her previous release. For part of this time,

she took up a residency at London’s revered Somerset

House, recording the larger part of Former Things at

an erstwhile rifle range. “I got all this new electronic

hardware. It was a real opportunity to play with my

new toys, test them out, turn the volume up loud. […] I’d

start by programming beats on the sequencer. I just love

building that scaffolding of beats, playing around with

different textures of drum machines and then bringing in

a bassline with an analogue synth.”

Despite the change of scenery from her usual urban

cityscape, Julie explains “the subject matter is inside. It

comes with me”. Her hometown remains resonant in her

lyricism: “I had this strong image in my mind of me sitting

on my bed as a teenager watching VHS tapes and the

flicker from the screen. There was an orange streetlight

outside, and I was dreaming about the future and what I

was going to be when I grew up.” Things took an unusual

turn when Julie completed the album in the rural greenery

of Macclesfield, staying at a friend’s farmhouse to add the

finishing touches.

True to her moniker, Julie rarely works with other

musicians. As a multi-instrumentalist, she laughs “when

I’m not on tour my life resembles lockdown”. When the

world seemed to be on hold, she remained optimistic,

relishing the opportunity to experiment and take the time

to hone her craft. “I certainly am a perfectionist,” she


A former fine art student with a keen interest in

psychogeography, Julie eloquently explains the audiovisual

element of her artistic vision. “Music contains

all these multitudes. It’s always been a multi-sensory

experience for me.” The album art for Former Things

was designed by Julie herself, an image inspired by

the medieval painting style she wrote a dissertation

on at art school, each detail intentional in its intricacy.

She describes the image as “a modern-day Joan of Arc

wandering through the industrial streets of my past. All

very romantic”, she laughs. “I designed the banner; had it

hand embroidered. Everything has a meaning. The mesh

fence and rough concrete floor continue the theme from

Hinterland of a post-industrial environment.”

Over the past decade, Julie has continued to create

visual art, namely with her Scrub Transmissions project,

wherein she sporadically installs an MP3 device into the

fabric of a structure. “What’s beautiful about them is that

they’re in very personal locations, and also unglamorous

locations, off the beaten track.” For Julie, it’s a way

of “installing a self into the fabric of the city. There’s

something really haunting about the idea of my voice

looping around in a wall”. However, she’s not opposed

to the idea of expanding the project into other cities or


She will embark on the second leg of her Former

Things tour in early 2022, including a headline show

at Liverpool’s 24 Kitchen Street on 15 th January. At the

beginning of her career, she performed alone, weaving

guitar melodies over a pounding drum machine.

Gradually, she’s built up a live band of friends, and now

plays with “a lean and mean three-piece”. The idea of

recruiting session musicians anonymously does not

appeal to her because she “would find that quite soul

destroying”. For the current live iteration of LoneLady,

Julie has put her guitar to one side, an experience which

allows her to “inhabit a song emotionally”.

She’s already thinking about album number four but

remains elusive: “I think now it’s just a case of alternating

between playing live and having little chunks of writing

time.” In the decade since she made her debut as

LoneLady, Julie remarks on how much she’s learned from

technical skills to the complexity of instrumentation. She

smiles: “Everything’s a new adventure for me.” !

Words: Sarah Taylor / @tayl0rsarah

Photography: Alex Hurst




31/01-06/02 - Various venues

Arriving to destroy the post-Christmas

blues and define the New Year as one filled

with community, creativity and celebration,

Independent Venue Week returns from

Monday 31st January.

present a series of panel discussions on pertinent issues within the city’s music sector,

titled Sustaining Independence and Safe Spaces. Details of the panels are yet to be

announced at the time of writing but are guaranteed to offer a sharp critique and

thoughtful consideration of the hostile environment facing independent venues within

the city, as well as the opportunities for progress.

The Kazimier will also play host to a film screening on Tuesday 1st February,

collaborating with upcoming film makers and producers. The evening will screen

three contemporary and independently curated short films, exploring topics such as

gender acceptance and rave culture unity. The event will also provide an opportunity to

engage with grassroots producers, revealing the inspiration, challenges and realities of

underground cinema.

The IWF Substation will conjure an evening of “chin stroking subculture”, filling

Liverpool’s iconic basement venue with hardcore breaks and unusual dance music.

Expect the experimental and iconoclastic.

The diversity of these events serves to highlight the vital role played by independent

music venues, operating as multi-use spaces for performance, community gathering,

education and release.

This year, 121 venues from 66 different villages, towns and cities have already

signed up to take part, 89 per cent of which are outside of London, proving the diversity

and strength of the grassroots scene. Despite the challenges facing independent venues

locally and nationally, Independent Venue Week is proof that they are valued, respected

and more necessary than ever. EG

The annual event is a celebration of the UK’s independent music venues and

the communities which sustain them. It is a national festival at a local scale,

recognising the vital role that independent venues play in fertilising the wider

music scene through the provision of local support, encouragement and early

career development for artists and those behind the scenes.

A selection of the Merseyside’s finest independent venues will be hosting gigs,

events, discussions and parties in defiance of the challenges they have faced over the

past 18 months and in celebration of the contribution of grassroots music spaces to the

wider sector.

Future Yard excel with a non-stop offering of live music throughout the week. The

week begins with the ascending TERTIA MAY, gracing Birkenhead with her intoxicating

audio concoction of hip hop, jazz, soul and pop. On Tuesday 1st February PENELOPE

ISLES return to the venue after their sold-out socially distanced show last year. The

dreamy pop duo explore the confusions of 20-something life through alt-rock and psych

pop tunes. Throughout the week, DU BLONDE, ONIPA and OPUS KINK will also join the


Meanwhile, the Invisible Wind Factory and Kazimier Stockroom team up to






08/12-02/01 - Playhouse

Liverpool Playhouse is eschewing the usual yule trappings for an altogether more empowering affair this

Christmas. From the producers of the international phenomenon that is SIX, Fantastically Great Women Who

Changed The World is set to be an equally innovative and uplifting production which carries an important message for

theatre-goers. The story follows school pupil Jade who meets great historic heroines such as Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks,

Emmeline Pankhurst for a night of pop-infused lessons in humanity’s game-changers. Dramatist Chris Bush, who was

behind the smash hit Richard Hawley-inspired musical Standing At The Sky’s Edge, has collaborated with one-woman

hit factory Miranda Cooper (Girls Aloud, Kylie Minogue) to adapt the famous picture book by suffragette descendant

Kate Pankhurst. Audiences can expect razor-sharp pop songs and a narrative that will inspire and move.

The world premiere of the stage production opened in Southampton in November and only visits Norwich before

taking up residency for four-weeks of shows at the Williamson Square venue. SIX visited the same venue two years

ago for a sell-out run and has won awards across the industry, including two Olivier Awards for Best New Musical and

Outstanding Achievement in Music. ST




Words: Jack Ryder, Richard Lewis, Alannah Williams, Sam Turner, Emma

Varley, Matthew Berks, Lily Blakeney-Edwards, Ryan McNee, Nadia Newman,

El Gray, Stephanie Hernandez.


Future Ages Will Wonder

28/10-20/02 - FACT

Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, Dust to Data (2021). Image courtesy the artists.jpeg

History is written by those with the power, and while we work to uncover the

stories of those who were not (and are not) in power, countless voices have

been lost to history. FUTURE AGES WILL WONDER presents an “alternative

museum” of artworks that reimagine our past, present and future by combining

traditional mediums with modern science and technology and asking who

will write our own stories? Future Ages Will Wonder marks the launch of

‘Radical Ancestry’, a year-long exploration into ancestral history and how new

technology can reshape the past and reassess our sense of belonging. EV


Secret Night Gang

09/12 – District

Collectively known as SECRET NIGHT GANG, Callum Connell and Kemani Anderson bring

their take on jazz, soul and funk to Parr Jazz this December, with Anderson on vocals,

complimented by Connell’s razor-sharp sax instrumentation. Describing their sound as

limitless, the group also knit gospel, RnB and soul jazz into their sound. Their self-titled

album is the warm and reassuring pick-me-up we all surely need to get us through the

winter months. Connell describes it as “not music to think to, but to dance to”. After

immersing themselves into the Manchester jazz scene, the band accumulated bassist

Stu Whitehead and drummer Myke Wilson (Corinne Bailey Rae, 52 nd Street.) The band

now harbours Juneroy on bass, and guitar from Jack Duckham, as well as guest vocal

appearances from Manchester’s own Mali Hayes and Doreen Edwards. The night promises

a welcome retreat from the cold. JR

Secret Night Gang


The Wonder Pot: I Hate Models

27/12 – 24 Kitchen Street

I Hate Models

I HATE MODELS has sculpted his sound around techno, industrial

and trance, while never conforming solely to one genre. The French

DJ brings emotive dance music to Kitchen Street this December,

an infusion of sounds blended to encapsulate his own feelings,

contrasting light with dark, joy with sorrow. The artist, known to his

mates as Guillaume Labadie, has produced music on labels like Arts

and Perc Trax, the latter of which released his 2019 album L’Âge Des

Metamorphoses. Within a heartbeat, glimmering melodies can crumble

into sheet metal. Expect emotive, nostalgic soundwaves not just made

to dance to, but to be appreciated as a body of art that can stand

strong outside of a club setting (but the disco ball does help). JR



05/02/22- Future Yard

Aussie groovers BANANAGUN are set to serve up their tropical cocktail of psychedelia,

exotica and Afrobeat to Birkenhead’s Future Yard in February 2022. And we can’t wait

to take a sip. The Melbourne five-piece join us midway through their UK tour, finally able

to take their incredible debut LP on the road. Released in 2020 when the world was

locked down, The True Story of Bananagun was, for many, a joyful tonic that transported

us to sunnier places we couldn’t access. Its seamless blend of Fela Kuti-esque rhythms,

colourful psych melodies and jazz-soaked sonorities made for a dose of pure escapism.

Self-described as “a party unto ourselves”, their live show is set to be a completely

intoxicating affair. Expect bongos, brass, strings and cowbells aplenty. Combined with

their infectiously joyous stage presence, it’s going to be hard to walk out of this one

without a smile on your face. AW




Collective Matters

Until 12/12 - Open Eye Gallery

Collective Matters explores photography’s role in creating resilience and a closer sense of community after the

isolation engendered by the pandemic. The exhibition runs across three galleries at Open Eye. Gallery One presents

a collaboration between photographer Stephanie Wynne and Wirral Women, considering themes of safety through

3D space as a rejection of the 2D realm we have been forced into over the past year. Gallery Two exhibits work from

recent University of Salford graduates, displaying the future of socially engaged practitioners. The exhibition differs

from others in its embrace of public contributions. It encourages involvement with the work by having roles of paper

and pens for people to express their responses, making every showing different and collaborative. HM

Collective Matters



04/02 - Leaf


Azniv Korkejian, better known by her stage name BEDOUINE, has garnered impressive

comparisons to eclectic singer-songwriters from Vashti Bunyan to Nick Cave. Her sound,

however, is completely her own. The unique cloud of 60s Laurel Canyon mysticism she

creates is brought down to earth by her sensitive songwriting. Korkejian makes music for

those who enjoy basking in a maudlin mood or need a palliative for unrequited love. Her

new album, Waysides, evokes a rainy day in a sad café, making Leaf on Bold Street the

perfect venue for her to debut her third album in Liverpool. SH



03/12 - Arts Club

Making waves as the ‘new voice’ of modern pop-punk, GIRLI is set to hit the Arts Club

on the 3rd December, as part of her ongoing UK tour. Her debut album Odd One Out

received critical acclaim across the board for its melding of sounds and bombastic

lyricism, cementing the artist as a name to look out for. Now, after recently coming

out as bisexual, signing to an independent label AllPoints and releasing her latest EP

Damsel In Distress, 2021 marks a new era for GRILI – approaching her upcoming live

dates with a newfound self-assurance that is guaranteed to set the stage alight. LBE




10/12 - Arts Club


Ask for an early Christmas present and you shall duly receive it in the form of

an evening with Liverpool’s superlative metalcore group, LOATHE, at the Arts

Club. Treating followers to 2020’s hard-hitting I Let It In And It Took Everything

in its entirety, the five-piece – nominated for best UK breakthrough band at the

Heavy Music Awards – promise an industrial tonic of emotional rage and gritty

cinematics for their sold-out show. MB


The Districts

28/01 - Arts Club

Hovering on the cusp of adulthood, all aged 17, the members of Pennsylvanian quartet THE DISTRICTS

were launched to viral success in 2012 with a live HotBox YouTube session. Filled with haunting harmonica,

private prayers transposed into song, and Rob Grote’s raw and raspy vocals, the session encapsulated

the band’s approach to raw folk rock which has continued to define their sound. In January, The Districts

arrive in Liverpool for a twice re-scheduled show, performing songs from 2020’s You Know I’m Not Going

Anywhere; an album exploring uncertainty in the modern world. The show takes place ahead of the release

of their fifth album Great American Painting, written during two months Grote spent living in a woodland

cabin during the pandemic. Anticipate a night of emotional catharsis and reaching sounds. EG

The Districts



Jarv Is...(Stuart Moulding)

Jarv Is…

Evol @ Invisible Wind Factory - 05/11

Some artists are almost mythical in their existence.

Having carved out their own legacy through inventive

projects, a keen eye and understanding of the issues

affecting the masses, and a determined work ethic fused

with sheer talent, the status of cultural icon is thrust upon

them. Undoubtedly, Jarvis Cocker is one of these people.

After fronting one of the best pop bands to come out of

Britain, there’s high expectations for everything he does.

His newest project, JARV IS…, exceeds all of them.

The apprehensive synthesizer of Pulp’s She’s A

Lady begins our descent into the fairy tale world of Jarv

Is…. Their music is mostly whispered spoken word over

spooky and hypnotic art dance sounds, so this slots

snugly into their set. Invisible Wind Factory is an apt

choice of venue, too; the disused factory-turned-weirdwonderland

seems like it should exist in a similar, but

seedier, more surreal world.

Dressed like a Wes Anderson character in a brown

velvet suit, Cocker saunters out to a screaming crowd.

He places one foot on a monitor and pauses – before

lowering a sprig of red grapes into his mouth. As the

song accelerates, he scans the room. He launches the

remaining grapes into the crowd and flings himself full

force into song. This defines the rest of the evening we’re

about to experience.

Performing their debut album almost in its entirety,

as well as a couple of solo singles from Cocker’s back

catalogue, there’s not one lull in the excitement and

energy the band provides. Whether he’s holding up an

old mirror to the crowd or

throwing tiny chocolates

at us, Cocker remains

animated, lively and

tireless. His body jerks and

stutters along to the music,

uncurling his long limbs

like a magician revealing

a trick, and moving his

legs like a walker on stilts.

He cuts a celestial figure:

lanky, ethereal, camp.

Sonically, Jarv Is… are

robust. Each musician is

rigorous in their focus,

creating graceful and

often cinematic tracks

that oscillate in tune to

the crowd’s participation.

Cocker describes songs as

a “way of communicating with one another”, and in the

case of Jarv Is…, it’s certainly true – the performance feels

interactive and communal. There’s a consistent back-andforth

between performer and fan – when his 2006 single

“After fronting one of the

best pop bands to come

out of Britain, there’s

high expectations for

everything Cocker does.

His newest project

exceeds all of them”

Running The World inspires an impassioned ‘Maggie’s

in the mud’ chant, the band improvises an instrumental

accompaniment, much to everyone’s amusement.

Between tracks, Cocker is delightful and effortlessly

charismatic. He relays facts he’s scrawled on a piece

of A4, including an old

Liverpool festival line-up

Pulp played with a band

called Eat My Dog. He

answers most heckles

with a coy smile and a dry

response, including when

fans request old Pulp

songs, to which he feigns

confusion: “You’ve got the

wrong group!”

Cocker is an innate

performer, and Jarv Is… is

one of his most interesting

projects to date. It’s unique

and brilliantly weird;

completely unparalleled

by anything else. Musically

compelling and fascinating

to experience first-hand,

Jarv Is… put on a show you’d like to go on forever.

Tilly Foulkes / @tillyfoulkes


Girls Don’t Sync

Melé - Palm Trax

Boiler Room x ENRG @ Invisible Wind

Factory - 07/10

The start of the night feels intimate. GIRLS DON’T

SYNC spread love and authentic connection to their

crowd with friends including Liverpool-based artist

Kolade Ladipo dancing behind the decks with them.

Spinning classic vocal samples including Destiny’s

Child and Lauryn Hill over eclectic beats, they

slip in and out of genres like skipping through a

flip book of music. I stumble into two shufflers

bopping about at the back of the crowd and as

they snap their feet to the rhythm, I too lose

myself in the groove.

The crowd sing as they two-step, flicking


G33 and SOPHIA VIOLET all hop on and off

the decks. The quartet ensure the crowd

around them are hyped from the moment

they set foot in the venue. “There’s no better

feeling than playing out to people who sing

and dance to the music you select,” they

summarise after their set, “but being able

to do that together, as genuine mates,

there’s no feeling like it.”

Determined in their passion for

making our dance spaces more inclusive,

Girls Don’t Sync are coming through

with flames. The Girls will make a noise

when they need to and trust that they

know their worth. And, with their USB

sticks in hand and headphones slipped

over their ears, they’ll make you realise your own too.

At Invisible Wind Factory, MELÉ follows and keeps

me dancing and my energy levels topped up. There is,

however, a noticeable shift in the crowd once he settles

into his set. Feeling uncomfortable surrounded by so

many lads, I find refuge on the dancefloor stretching

out behind him. I appreciate being able to drift around

the decks, the panoramic dancefloor brings a novelty

to clubbing with it. The Boiler Room intimacy is slightly

lacking, though, with the crowd kept at bay by metal

fencing, no video stream and a general separation of

artist and audience. But the crowd is excited and it’s

good to be a part of it.

PALM TRAX brings his expected groove, with a

few samples of Eurodance tunes layered over energetic

Italo. He keeps everyone bopping along until the end

and there’s a good crowd as the lights are flicked on. If

not remarkable, the night is peppered with moments of

something intriguing. A bit like waiting for a sneeze, I

never quite tip into full release of strobe lights and bodies

grooving around me before it’s time to call the taxi home.

However, there’s another story tonight. Watering the

roots of Liverpool’s dance music scene, Girls Don’t Sync

have worked relentlessly to nurture their community. Not

playing as if on a higher level to their crowd, they are one

with them. They are friends to their dancers, supporters

to their siblings in the crowd, and an inspiration to up

and coming DJs in the city. Their own roots are firmly

set in their love for music and celebration, empowering

everyone who two-steps into their energy field.

As a community promoting safety, inclusivity, and

fresh talent, Girls Don’t Sync carry love on their wings

as they’ve flown across the UK in recent months.

Establishing themselves in Liverpool and since venturing

to London and Manchester, they show no signs of

slowing down. “Liverpool will always have the biggest

place in our hearts,” they tell me. “The crowd and energy

[at Boiler Room] was extremely special.”

Olive / @olive.writing

Girls Don’t Sync (Anthony Wilde)

“Girls Don’t Sync have

worked relentlessly

to nurture their

community. Not playing

as if on a higher level

to their crowd, they

are one with them”

Mykki Blanco

Remée – Coucou Chloe

Harvest Sun @ 24 Kitchen Street -


MYKKI BLANCO wants you to feel at home. You’re

not a mere spectator, but a friend, brought into a room

full of characters with common interests and perhaps

from similar walks of life.

REMÉE and COUCOU CHLOE open the show,

forcing an admittedly sleepy crowd to gather closer

together. Remée gives us experimental RnB. She’s the

personification of a siren, sporting crimson red tresses,

a flawless mug and a pitch perfect vocal that hypnotises

us. We can’t draw our attention away.

It’s a relaxed and welcome appetiser before Chloe,

who brings the party, bouncing around the stage to a

supposedly “shit” demo, a Shygirl collab and a remix of

Lady Gaga’s Stupid Love, which appears on the Dawn

of Chromatica album. It’s almost comical that someone

in the crowd yells, “What’s your name?” She humours

them, replying in her seductive, southern French accent:

“My name is Coucou Chloe, what is your name?” before

dedicating the next song to Jim or Jill or whoever. She

ensures we’re all in good spirits, guaranteeing Blanco’s

team gets the welcome

they deserve.

As Blanco’s band

performs a cinematic intro

piece, the California-born

rapper casually strolls

around the corner and

onto the stage, embodying

an alluring milk maiden,

quite literally embracing

everyone in sight one

by one. The corset must

not hinder movement

too much though, as she

slut-drops and prances

around stage, rapping expressively through all manner

of accents, the theatrics limitless. With the growls, wide

eyes and body language, I’m reminded of a 2012 Minaj,

or Azealia Banks. But the aforementioned were never

quite so unpredictable.

Blanco commands us to form a circle, as she rips a

metal barrier from the side of the stage, rolling around

“It’s almost as though

she’s too vibrant for the

venue – a superstar

forced to perform in

the confines of a box”

on the floor with it, as though trapped in a cage, before

proceeding to hoist herself up onto the bar (to the joy

of the staff, who seem to be as full of adrenaline as the

rest of us). She shoves the

iconic Kitchen Street disco

ball without hesitation and

knocks over a speaker,

which we have to set back

onstage. It’s almost as

though she’s too vibrant

for the venue – a superstar

forced to perform in the

confines of a box – but

she won’t let it stifle her


She informs us that, as

this is an intimate venue,

“I’m gonna be looking you

dead in your fuckin’ eyes.” She does exactly that. Every

lyric bores through to the soul, which could be unnerving,

but it feels like we know each other already, the artist

confirming that she’s already falling in love with the city.

“I’ve always wanted a Northern boy,” she announces to

the delight of the crowd, who’d like to think we have a

shot at a post-gig rendezvous. Cont.




Every band member gets their moment in the

limelight, Blanco dipping off stage while her two back-up

singers zap us into a whirlpool of vocal runs, weaving

gospel renditions of Ja Rule’s Always on Time, Ghost

Town DJs’ My Boo and Crystal Waters’ Gypsy Woman

into the set. The live translation of I’m In A Mood from

Blanco’s self-titled 2016 album is magical. The studio

version is distorted through heavy auto-tuning, but she

lets her band take the wheel on the chorus, harmonising

perfectly as they croon, “My life’s on play play fuck shit /

Aka my killa muppet / Gucci girl realness with dem villains

if you feeling lucky”.

There’s a clear musical theatre influence throughout

her set, but during Gypsy Woman, it’s as though we’re

at a rave with a refreshing twist; like a Boiler Room set

but with live vocals, and then we’re back to hip-hop

again, reflecting Blanco’s constant experimentation with

different genres throughout her discography. Having

been making music for 10 years (from the age of 25) the

show is an ode to her past work, showcasing how it all

knits together to create her current sound: a New Age

melting pot of styles.

She opens up about her HIV-positive diagnosis,

and how she assumed going public would be the end

of her career. But it did quite the opposite, bringing new

people and experiences into her life, introducing her to

a warm and supportive community that she wouldn’t

have been acquainted with otherwise. She voices this

before performing Hideaway, a track that depicts the

tale of a person falling in love with someone diagnosed

as positive, and the stigma that comes with it. The song

is infused with gangster rap clichés, a decision that

somehow works.

But there’s a femininity to her rap, an expressiveness

and precision that is seldom found in other artists:

“Getting twisted, they hella lifted, they askin ’bout them

xans / trouble making these baby faces, I’m blunted with

some man / asking me about poetry and I wanna leave

but I can’t”. There are no rules or limits to her wordplay.

The way she intonates and recounts cautionary tales

about boys, high school and drug use is captivating. It

feels as though she’s channelling her Lil’ Kim inspired

alter ego to teleport us to a campfire in Orange County;

we’re huddled around, listening intently to every bar.

The two songs that might cultivate the most

response from the crowd feature Big Freedia and Blood

Orange. The Freedia track infuses New Orleans bounce

music into the mix, while the Blood Orange tune reminds

us of Blanco’s West Coast origins, through a subtle

homage to Lana Del Rey: “Or some EPT / or some you

need me / I’m high by the beach / Lana please save me”.

We’re left feeling warm afterwards, as though Blanco

is on our team, and that everyone here kind of gets it.

We hover around for a bit, hoping she makes another

appearance, which she does. But wearing an orange

crochet bucket hat this time around, and significantly less

sweaty, having pushed her body to its limits for three

hours straight. She invites the Kitchen Street staff to

head over to the Homobloc party with her entourage in

Manchester, all travel expenses paid for, and we have to

stop ourselves from being groupies even though we want

to be. I tell her how magical the set was, and she talks

to each of us with no exasperation, very down to earth,

despite being preternatural onstage.

Having been unsure if Blanco was my cup of tea

upon the first few listens, I leave the gig reeling. I can’t

resist becoming a fan knowing what I do now. It’s the

countless stories behind each tune, the theatricality of

their live renditions, and the life and enthusiasm her

team bring to a room that makes Mykki Blanco a very

special and unique artist. She deserves to win, and for a

predominantly queer fanbase, it’s empowering to see her

doing just that.

Jack Ryder / @holidayfather

Mulatu Astatke

24 Kitchen Street - 27/10

The double-doctor and legend in his own time,

MULATU ASTATKE performs a set of 11 songs that

perfectly showcase the hypnotic musical concoction of

his own invention: Ethio-Jazz.

The band’s trumpet player, in true jazz musician

fashion, arrives only 10 minutes before the gig. With

soundcheck off to a late start, the venue won’t open

for another 45 minutes (Mulatu is something of a

perfectionist) – but through the open door, the sound

of smooth jazz plays along with an empty can of Red

Stripe that’s rolling down the street. There’s a woman at

the front of the queue who is Mulatu’s self-proclaimed

biggest fan; she tells me that his sound “is pure sex…

and it isn’t world music, but it is of the world”. She’s

right, Mulatu has seemingly soaked up music from every

corner of the globe.

At the age of 16, he was sent from his hometown

of Addis Ababa to North Wales, where he attended

Lindisfarne College and subsequently Bangor University,

with the intention of studying aeronautical engineering.

His gift for music, however, created another path for him.

Studying piano, clarinet and harmony at Trinity College

of Music in London, and then at Eric Gilder School

of Music in Twickenham, his musical repertoire was

constantly expanding. Gigging around the clubs of Soho

while playing the congas, vibraphone and piano, his ears

absorbed everything his fellow expatriate jazz musicians

were putting down.

In 1963, Mulatu became the first African student to

enroll at Berklee College of Music in Boston; where the

innovative Gary Burton attended, who invented the fourmallet

technique that Mulatu has more than perfected.

Moving to New York, he became immersed in the Latin

jazz sounds that poured out of the clubs of Spanish

Harlem. Truly a man of the world, he returned to Addis

Ababa in 1969 where he began his ambitious fusions of

everything he’d been exposed to, but most prominently

Ethiopian folklore and American jazz.

With a lengthy and thorough soundcheck

complete, 24 Kitchen Street fills to the brim as quickly

as the bartenders can pour pints. The already steamy

warehouse fills with smoke and the band makes its way

onto the stage. Mulatu tells the expectant crowd that he

wants us to experience his Ethio-Jazz with a song that

was inspired by four centuries of the Ethiopian Orthodox

Church. Using his intricate four-mallet technique, Mulatu

coaxes sound out of the vibraphone and strategically

uses the pedal to create an instantaneous hypnotic


Following his opener with an up-tempo sambastyle

tune, the upright-bass becomes the heartbeat

of the song while everything else is just flourish, and

Mulatu Astatke (Glyn Akroyd)

the trumpet and tenor sax blasts are enhanced by

synchronised dance moves. In just two songs, the group

already has the audience in the palm of their hand.

Although everyone is packed together tightly, there’s not

a single person who can keep their head from bobbing or

their foot from tapping.

Moving from a Latin feel to a more Ethiopian sound,

Mulatu shifts between the vibraphone and the congas

for the third song. With his percussion stylings at the

forefront, and the tenor sax ripping through the room,

the vibraphone fills out the sound nicely. About halfway

through the song, the band drops into half time, padding

the room with a raunchy atmosphere.

In between each song, Mulatu genuinely thanks the

audience for listening, the mark of a sincere artist. He

also takes the time to introduce the members of his band

soloing in the following song, proving he’s not stingy

over the spotlight. Introducing the fourth, and arguably

most popular, song of the evening, Mulatu gives a

special shout out to Bill Murray; the star lothario from

Jim Jarmusch’s 2005 film, Broken Flowers. He uses the

vibraphone to sketch a rich soundscape for the instantly

recognisable trumpet and sax riff of Yèkèrmo Sèw (A

Man of Experience and Wisdom), one of the songs that

features prominently in the film. The sophisticated and

slightly psychedelic sound earns an immediate response

from the audience, with extra applause each time the

group returns to the coda of the song.

Throughout his set, Mulatu adds a melange of

different instruments from all over the world: a cello,

a krar (Ethiopian six-stringed lyre), a masenqo (single

string-lyre), a flute, a güiro, a woodblock, and others

that couldn’t be seen through the crowded venue but

could absolutely be heard. From a technical standpoint,

what gives Mulatu his singular sound is not only the

“world music” instrumentation, but the combination of

the traditional Ethiopian pentatonic and non-tempered

scales, with the musical vocabulary of American jazz.

Instrumentally, the sound is both familiar and exotic; the

Western trumpet and tenor saxophones play along with

the more traditionally Ethiopian timings, giving them the

musical equivalent of speaking with an accent.

By this point, people are dancing on top of the bar,

cheering along when they recognise one of Mulatu’s

countless riffs that have been sampled throughout

the history of hip hop. Playing through the funky Chik

Chikka, the nostalgic Motherland, and the groovy

Yekatit, the sound pulses through the walls of the room,

managing to reach each audience member individually.

As someone who intended to be an aeronautical

engineer, Mulatu has sure come a long way in the

world of sound; he’s become a multi-instrumentalist,

he invented a genre, and he continues to divulge the

hidden secrets of his home country to the Western world

through his music.

Stephanie Hernandez


Snapped Ankles (Brian Sayle)

Snapped Ankles

Mermaid Chunky

Harvest Sun @ District - 22/10

On the back of their new album Forest Of Your

Problems, arty post-rockers SNAPPED ANKLES hit

District for a night of experimental visual and sonic

offerings. As the minutes draw near to the start of the

show, the little venue gets ever more crowded, only

hinting at the visceral energy and movement to come.

The evening’s emphasis on compositional

experimentation is established immediately as two-piece

MERMAID CHUNKY enter the stage with their flowery

costumes. What starts thinly as a simple vocal melody,

eventually becomes a soaring and dense experience,

layered with steadily added loops throughout the

progression of each piece. The first thin layer guides

the piece, however, which is soon to be adorned with

layers of synths, glossy piano chords, and many vocal

harmonies. This live approach to composition allows for

many colours and emotional drives behind the music;

some moments are dreamy, some are groovy, and

some are downright bizarre. The addition of folkloric

recorder on King of the Herbs, adds a landscape vision

to the music which certainly captures the audience’s

imagination. The consistent dynamic switches throughout

Mermaid Chunky’s set elevate the music to a progressive

and avant-garde plane, which leaves the audience both

astonished and perplexed. Either way, the arresting

visuals and sonic experimentation more than lay the

groundwork for Snapped Ankles to take the stage.

In stark contrast to Mermaid Chunky’s dynamically

shifting and genre-spanning set, Snapped Ankles make

their intentions clear straight off the bat with Rhythm Is

Our Business; immediately earmarking the angular bass

lines and rigidly consistent grooves. In true post-punk

style, these grooves inspire the movement and mosh pits

throughout the mobile crowd, but with the addition of the

carefully considered visuals the band has crafted for itself.

From the projections of urban landscapes and natural

woodlands, to their forest-like ghillie suits, Snapped

Ankles seamlessly blend a primitive and meditative

aesthetic with a whimsical and unrelentingly mobile

setlist. This establishes a nice juxtaposition that presents

the act of seeing a highly animated show as a necessary

and cathartic release of energy, which ought to feel as

natural as the primitive and urban landscapes projected

behind the band.

With the absence of guitars, the use of synths act

as a colouring effect throughout the otherwise raw

instrumentation, creating a dream-like sensation which

serves as the main link between the contrasting audiovisual

experience. This is only added to by the murky

coloured lighting through which we squint to see the

forest-like figures.

What either gives or takes from this mystery (I’m

not so sure), are the occasional breakings of the fourth

wall, as the lead vocalist with his staff-like microphone

stand joins his entranced audience. As myself, and other

audience members gather round him, the artist and

audience connection is both thrilling and playful, that’s

until it looks like he’s handing the microphone around to

spectators to sing, so I do what any self-respecting postpunk

amateur would do; I run away.

The unrelenting rhythmic pull of Snapped Ankles

and the support present a consistent theme throughout

the evening, seamlessly blending intense rhythmic

and timbral experiences with colourful, entrancing and

arresting imagery. Most of these projected images serve

to compliment the liberating release of visceral energy

and movement saved up for a Friday evening, making it

as ordinary as the projected urban landscapes we occupy

in our everyday mundane lives.

Luke Furlonger-Copeland



The Mysterines


Evol @ O2 Academy Liverpool -


Lucy McKenzie

Tate Liverpool - Until 13/03

If I were to lift the lid off Tate Liverpool and peer into

its LUCY MCKENZIE retrospective, it would be like diving

head-on into a patchwork quilt of over 20 years’ worth

of her work: a loud, can’t-quite-take-your-eyes-off quilt,

incorporating various squares of juxtaposing material, each

stitched together with powerful commentaries on feminism,

mass media and gender power relations.

Showcasing 80 works of the Glasgow-born, Brusselsbased

multimedia artist, Tate Liverpool takes the crown for

presenting the UK’s first major retrospective of McKenzie’s

work to date. With signature hyperrealistic architectural

paintings, illusionistic trompe-l’œil exercises, fashion

items and even furniture the artist designed herself, the

exhausting curation marks an assertive arrival of the

internationally celebrated artist to the docks of Liverpool.

There’s art in unexpected places here: on ceilings,

mannequins and TV screens, overflowing across several

walls and into glass boxes. Not only does the exhibition

shun the white cube aesthetic, it celebrates its very

antithesis – satisfying the most diverse of artistic appetites.

Walking through the collection, each room is both a

demonstration of McKenzie’s multidisciplinary talent and

a natural showcase of time spent at decorative painting

school – all despite being an established artist at the time.

The illusionistic trompe-l’œil paintings, with their sublime

lifelike detail, warrant special mention. The first of these

works to raise my eyebrow, Quodlibet XIII (Janette Murray)

(2011) also forced a study from various perspectives to

reassure myself I wasn’t in fact viewing something threedimensional.

Alongside a dedicated space to replicate nostalgic

scenes from Nova Popularna – an underground bar and

performance space she managed with Paulina Olowska in

Warsaw – the works of McKenzie’s fashion label, Atelier

E.B, are also present, with some items even for sale. Her

partnership with designer Beca Lipscombe – exploring

fashion research, commercial display and exhibition

Lucy McKenzie

design – has made her interests even more expansive and

demonstrates the more collaborative side of her work. “She

dips into bits of history and looks at the work of different

artists and different architects and designers,” curator

Tamar Hemmes tells me. “It’s a way of using existing

imagery rather than inventing her own and re-evaluating

or re-examining it.” This is exemplified explicitly in the

second room of the exhibition, where an array of work is

presented focusing on media representations of athletes in

the Olympic Games. In the oil painting Curious (1998), we

observe from behind a runner bending over the starting

blocks, highlighting popular media’s obsessive sexualisation

of female athletes.

This feminist undercurrent runs deep throughout the

gallery space, particularly in McKenzie’s later works which

become slightly more autobiographical. Documenting a real

incident, the 2013 painting Quodlibet XXVI (Self Portrait)

incorporates a private letter addressed to a list of curators

and artists who wanted to use pornographic pictures of

McKenzie during the 1990s for an exhibition without her

permission. By publicly sharing the exchange (undoubtedly

something that many would have preferred to keep private),

McKenzie subverts masculine entitlement and retains

ownership of her body.

Upon closing the lid on the Tate, the display doesn’t

make much sense at all. There’s no chronology and there’s

certainly no order, either. But I didn’t feel the need to

question it, and nor did I want to. “The works all sort of

interact in a way where you can see different connections in

different rooms,” Hemmes reassures. For a gallery space to

hold so many contrasting ideologies, materials and artforms,

it’s enchanting to experience the sense that each work has

every right to be there. The more you peel back the lid and

interrogate this exhibition, the more layers that fold out

effortlessly in front of your eyes – whether you spot them at

first or not.

Bryony Large / @confessionsofanartjunkie

THE MYSTERINES need no introduction.

Emerging in 2016, the Merseyside quartet have

accelerated through support slots for the likes of

Royal Blood and collaborations with Paul Weller to

tonight’s long awaited return to Liverpool for their

biggest hometown headliner to date.

STONE were called to the occasion mere hours

before they take to the stage. Enigmatic frontman

Fin Power is a punk poet of sorts, evoking a

Liverpudlian Mike Skinner with his provocative

lyrics and sung-spoken delivery. At times, he

wields his guitar like a machine gun, enthralling

the audience with the tumultuous Leave It Out and

latest single Let’s Dance to the Real Thing. “Stick

this one on your playlist,” he yells.

Anticipation builds as the lights dim and The

Mysterines appear under a scarlet stream of light.

On the eve of Halloween, Lia Metcalfe exudes

witchy vibes, dressed in a 70s-style black velvet

ensemble that would put Stevie Nicks to shame.

Her powerful PJ Harvey-esque vocals cut through

the crowd, sometimes snarling and sometimes

sonorous. Bassist George Favager dons a burgundy

blazer and enhances each song with relentless


They tear into Life’s a Bitch (But I Like It

So Much), an exhilarating number showcasing

Metcalfe’s cutthroat lyricism and abrasive guitar

licks. The Mysterines are known for their heavyhitting

tunes, but this number quite literally turns

the place upside down, with Metcalfe’s vocals

permeating far beyond the walls of the venue. The

sizzling stomper In My Head follows, receiving a

rapturous response from concertgoers, who sing

its anthemic chorus.

The Bad Thing, with its blues rock

embellishments and droning melody, inclines the

audience to nod in time, before it transforms into

tumultuous riffs and a tightly wound drumbeat

courtesy of recent additions, Callum Thompson

(guitar) and Paul Crilly (drums). Old Friends /

Die Hard plays out in a similar vein, sonically

resembling something between The Doors and The


The formidable four-piece play the title track

from their upcoming debut album, Reeling, which

is set for release on 11 th March 2022. Recent single

Hung Up packs a punch, with its scathing lyricism

and grinding guitars inciting a riotous response.

Meanwhile grungy fan-favourite Hormone

embraces the first mosh-pit of the night. A chorus

of concertgoers can be heard belting out its

memorable refrain: “Youth / Is it my excuse?”

After a brief exit, Metcalfe re-enters the stage

cradling an acoustic guitar for a spellbinding solo

performance of Still Call You Home. Her sultry

vocals supported by gentle guitar strums stir the

room to a standstill.

The band close their set with the double

assault of Death Don’t Have No Mercy and Love’s

Not Enough propelling the crowd into a frenzy,

as a rogue crowd surfer floats overhead. An

electrifying energy pervades the building, the mark

of a glorious return for Merseyside’s most exciting


Sarah Taylor / @tayl0rsarah


My White Best Friend – North

The Everyman - 16/10/21

The anticipation prior to the readings is heightened

by a minimalist set, with only a DJ booth and singular

table and chair, reserved for the actors who will enter

the stage alone. This Everyman iteration of Rachel

De-Lahay’s original concept, MY WHITE BEST FRIEND,

features letters from Liverpool-based writers Levi Tafari,

Kiara Mohamed Amin, Dominique Walker and Brodie

Arthur. The correspondence deals with something the

writer couldn’t openly say, addressed to the person who

needed to hear it most. The letters are sealed, to be

opened live for the first time in front of an audience and

performed by an actor without rehearsals or preparation.

Tonight’s production is the moment of revealing.

The letters, centring around race, encourage the

audience to see each writer as an individual, and not as a

collective group. In a world where Black voices are often

silenced or grouped together, individual experiences

can easily be invalidated or disregarded. My White Best

Friend provides a safe and open platform to speak freely

about Black writers’ unique lived experiences. The choice

of letters as a means of expressing these experiences

means the personal stories are transformed for collective

consumption; despite the intimate setting and distinct

voices, there is a sense of personal yet public disclosure.

The bravery of the cast and writers is astonishing.

Opening and reading the sealed letters for the first

time in front of an audience, the performers’ reactions

vary between laughter, sadness and discomfort. It is a

courageous act to allow someone to share your personal

story. In a way, the actor is almost a mask for the writer.

The writers provide them the creative freedom to express

their story, which allows for a more raw and honest

depiction of the writers’ truth.

The first letter was written by the originator De-

Lahay and read by Liverpool actor Luke Barnes. Barnes

hesitates before reading the letter on which the concept

is based. Few know what to expect. De-Lahay, writing to

her original white best friend, describes the pair’s close

and valued friendship, her memories with the addressee

as a youngster, getting drunk, going out, making

unforgettable memories.

However, it slowly takes a more serious tone. It’s

clear that the letter’s original recipient is an ally but

exemplifies the unlearning we must all do in our daily

lives. It’s not the responsibility of Black people to keep

fighting against racism. Racism surrounds us every day;

on social media, in our social circles, in subtle exchanges,

and to not call it out is to be complicit.

Throughout the letter, Barnes displays compassion

and by the end of it seems to have a deeper

understanding of the writer’s perspective. Examining the

trope that having a Black friend automatically makes you

anti-racist, De-Lahay instead implores you to recognise

your privilege and to not be consumed by white guilt.

Kiara Mohamed Amin’s letter begins

unconventionally. It starts with Ubah Egal reading out

Amin’s detailed instructions for both herself and the

audience. Audience participation is encouraged and

is followed by a series of affirmations paired with the

tapping of pulse points or “energy hot spots”, a technique

known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). The

purpose of EFT is to reduce anxiety and emotional

distress. We go through each energy point on the face

while repeating after Egal, stating the affirmations out

loud. Although initially, there’s apprehension at this

unexpected and unusual approach, by the end the

majority of the audience are participating.

Perhaps others take this moment for reflection.

Amin’s letter not only moves the audience, but Egal too.

We share the grief and sadness that Amin experienced

and Egal often pauses for moments of respite. There is

no judgement from the audience but rather kindness

towards Egal and acceptance and empathy towards

Amin. Although we may not have experienced

Amin’s grief, there are tears shed and compassion felt

throughout the letters. Towards the end of Amin’s letter

there is a return to EFT, necessary after the hard-hitting

letters Egal eloquently expressed, in both English and

Somali. A collective feeling of calmness settles over

the audience. Egal’s delivery and Amin’s letter act as a

reminder that kindness and acceptance can go a long


Throughout the four letters, there is a reoccurring

theme of education. Whether that’s through school

curriculums, calling out friends or educating family

members. Education and a listening ear are presented

as the key to understanding each other on a deeper

level. These letters give Black writers an opportunity

to express themselves in a safe environment and share

things they may not have dared to before. A leap of faith

is required from the writers, and it pays off as the letters

are expressed brilliantly.

My White Best Friend is a breath of fresh air to

Black people and people of colour. Liverpool DJ Hannah

Lynch plays familiar RnB tunes between letters, clearly

recognising this need for a breather, and invites any

people of colour to the stage to congregate in a safe

and accepting space at the end of the performances.

Looking around the room for a final time, there are mixed

emotions, but in the best way possible. People crying,

smiling and chatting. The individual experiences shared

in the letters are unique, but we all share their underlying

pain and happiness, and without a doubt, we’re in awe of

their bravery.

Hannah Merchant



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Mo Stewart


In Mo Stewart’s exploration of the intertwining fortunes of sport and

music, the sports journalist and DJ investigates the poisoned chalice

of nostalgia, and whether memory lane is the best road to take.

Although this issue covers December and

Janaury, I wanted to say something about

Black History Month. October should be a

time for anyone with an audience to shout a

bit louder than normal about Black culture, Black industry

and Black people, for those who are still unaware. It

shouldn’t be a token gesture to avoid bad PR. Believe it

or not, we’re actually here all year round. Black people are

for life, not just October.

If you’re Black and have been asked to contribute to

a project that you believe to be disingenuous or boxticking

– reply on 1 st November. You will know one way

or another.

History of another kind has been on my mind

recently. Despite some improvements, the present still

kind of sucks. Remembering former glories can ease

the pain, but as a society, we’re in danger of becoming

addicted to nostalgia.

Everyone’s at it: 20 th anniversary reissue/movie/

tour of artist’s ‘classic’ album. Limited edition throwback

jerseys. Christmas covers albums. Hiring a popular but

ill-equipped former hero to placate a restless fanbase.

Which brings me on nicely to Exhibit A, our

neighbours over in Manchester. Their biggest football

team (they are still the biggest) have a manager – at the

time of writing – whose main qualification was scoring a

goal 22 years ago. They then spent £75m and two years

chasing “the next Ronaldo”, only to put him on the bench

and sign the real-life Ronaldo.

Anyone who lives in either city or felt the shockwaves

from Manchester United 0 Liverpool 5 will know how well

that’s going. One of the oldest maxims in sports is “you

never go back”, and people have been ignoring it for just

as long. The temptation is obvious. Who wouldn’t want

to relive the best time of their life? Nevertheless, I’m not

digging my skateboard out and drinking snakebite and

black. Time has moved on. The landscape has changed.

Over-indulgence in the past becomes a barrier to

the future. Instead of fixing the problems of the present,

nostalgia acts as a distraction, waving in front of our eyes

like a bad magician.

There are no magicians in our current government,

but there are plenty of clowns. The latest joke came

in chancellor Rishi Sunak’s autumn budget, where, as

part of the levelling up agenda, £2m was announced

for a new waterfront development billed ‘The Pool’ – an

immersive, future-focused

celebration of The Beatles.

Yes, another one. Aside

from some fantastic

lyric-related putdowns on

social media, it’s an utterly

pointless exercise.

Promises of a sleek

waterfront attraction

comes at a time when live

venues are closing across

the city, an iconic, world

class recording studio on

Parr Street has been lost,

and Brexit red tape has

made it harder than ever

for our musicians to share their music with the world.

What about helping to create the next Beatles,

instead of wringing these ones dry?

All this sounds familiar. Oasis, once tipped as the

next Beatles, also have a complicated relationship with

nostalgia. Noel Gallagher will tell you with a straight face

that he’s against it, which is why the band are yet to

reform. This despite thinking that three High Flying Birds

albums warrant a greatest hits collection, and knowing

in his soul that every single audience member at every

single gig is just waiting for Don’t Look Back In Anger.

Liam has no such qualms. He hits them with Rock ’N’ Roll

Star straight out of the gate, although he’s always been a

little more… Shameless.

Nostalgia can have its uses. A friend of mine loves

Oasis, and passed that love onto her son, after years of

car karaoke. They’ve seen Liam in London, the Knebworth

documentary and have tickets of their own for Liam’s

return there next summer.

Oasis might have been the catalyst, but the boy

“Promises of a sleek

waterfront attraction

comes at a time when

live venues are closing

across the city”

has plenty of modern heroes of his own, such as Jamie

Webster and Tom Rogan. He’s starting his own band,

inspired by his peers as much as his heroes – and more

than any museum.

Nostalgia will always be big business. While humans

are still achieving, other

humans years down the

line will remind us of those

achievements, usually

for their own benefit.

Manchester City claims

Madchester as their own

to sell T-shirts and no

one bats an eyelid as

their culture is eroded.

I look forward to the

advert featuring Shaun

Ryder singing about Pep

Guardiola to the tune of


I can’t say that I’m

completely immune from the odd indulgence. I will be

watching the new Beatles documentary by Peter Jackson

just as intently as I watched Paul McCartney breaking

down his songwriting process with one of the modern

giants of production, Rick Rubin. I’ve spent hours on

YouTube watching Aaron Rodgers make unbelievable

plays in the aftermath of defeat for my own Green Bay

Packers. It’s great to remember the good old days once in

a while, but we can’t stay there.

It’s all well and good using the past to inspire the

future, but if you can’t secure the present, what kind of

future will it be? !

Mo Stewart is a writer, presenter, pundit, and DJ. He

can be found writing for, presenting for

The Anfield Wrap and DJing in Motel on Friday nights.


Illustration: Chloé Stephenson


Jeff Young



Exploring our city to find hidden tensions and overlooked beauty, author

Jeff Young follows the visitation of a mysterious white stag to Bootle and

ruminates on a city’s wont to transcend reality.

But once in a while the odd thing happens,

Once in a while the dream comes true,

And the whole pattern of life is altered,

Once in a while the moon turns blue.

W. H. Auden

In the opening scene of Michael Cimino’s Bambi, a

woman drives along a north Liverpool road, past car

showrooms and junk-sprawl rental sheds. The driver

doesn’t know it yet, but she has passed through a

mysterious rip in reality, into a wilder, stranger Liverpool, an

altered state of wonder and impossible possibility. Through

the windscreen she sees, suddenly, a fantastic beast and

she cannot believe her eyes – a white stag running, past

Skoda and Volkswagen dealers, into a version of Bootle

that no one has ever dreamed of. Liverpool’s reality has

tilted off its axis into a mythic dream-warp and the antlered

beast is a spectral visitant from a wilder region beyond the

city sprawl...

Let’s put to one side for a moment the obvious/

regrettable fact that Michael Cimino didn’t make a

live action film version of Disney’s Bambi and set it in

Bootle. On Twitter, for a few, fleeting moments, one of

Liverpool’s most boring stretches of road is made strange,

re-enchanted. I watch the beast as it runs along the

roadside, heading north towards the container docks in

Seaforth, dragging strangeness in its slipstream. Where

has it come from? Where is it going? What is it thinking?

It comes out of a secret portal like a half-forgotten myth

out of a storyteller’s throat; something strange – at last! –

something unexpected in the humdrum everyday grey. I

watch the footage several times, scraps of myth-memory

assembling in my imagination, out of the pages of Man,

Myth & Magic, of Celtic legends in childhood picture

books, of fantasy novels. White stag, messenger from the

underworld, the beast that appears when a taboo has been

transgressed, when we are in trouble. An omen, a warning.

Once in a while the odd thing happens, an

unexpected event or vision startles us into seeing the

city in a different light, as if the subconscious of the city

has broken through its skin like a dream-fiction escaping,

becoming part of the external reality, messing with the

document. In Naples I watched crystal meth addicts

outside the train station, dancing in slow motion in a

half-asleep choreography. Five minutes later I saw a lion

tethered in a fruit and veg shop when I stopped to buy

some oranges. Ten minutes later I was browsing in a

shop full of puppets in a street full of wedding dresses.

Sometimes the city has its own imagination, it is a

dreamer and the dream. When I was 17 and working

as a filing clerk in the city’s business quarter, I watched

an airship slowly circling the tower block I worked in.

I walked through a plague of ladybirds – a moving

sidewalk of insects in their thousands, crawling like a

beautiful disease over the terraces and aerial walkways

of New Hall Place’s brutalist sandcastle. For three days

the city became a hybrid of architecture and insect, a

melding of the revolting and the beautiful. Instead of just

moving through the city from workplace to sandwich

shop, to train station, the unexpected moment made me

pause, and look, and wonder. The city wasn’t just the

monochrome grind of work, shops, traffic, commute, work

– it was spontaneous and strange. It had become science

fiction, like the J.G. Ballard books I was devouring at the

time, like a Roxy Music B-side.

Sometimes the unexpected moment is a place, rather

than an event. In Liverpool I duck through

the covered alley into the secret garden

of the Bluecoat Chambers, into a different

atmosphere, a decompression chamber, a pause

that slows the city down. It has a different

mood to the surrounding streets, a different

tempo, a different music. It is an altered state

and, in turn, it alters us. I stand in front of

the old Wine Lodge on Moorfields, missing

Richard Wilson’s Turning the Place Over, that

audacious perforation in the ruins – abandoned

architecture transformed into art. And then the

bucket fountain in Beetham Plaza, the sound

of falling water and kinetic clang and spill of

Richard Huws’ glorious mechanical water theatre – again,

a pause, a different urban atmosphere. (And don’t listen

to the property developers when they say they love the

fountain and want the best for it, and that’s why they

want to move it somewhere else because that is utter


So, this white stag running, this glimpse of something

unexpected – it startles me. Spontaneous glimpses of

wonder don’t happen very often in the junk-sprawl of

the North End docklands, in that mediocre subtopia of

multi-storey car parks – an array of parking options – and

iconic Grade A office developments. It’s unlikely we’ll turn

a corner in some visitor economy development and catch

a glimpse of something that makes our hearts leap with

joy – unless you’re the sort of person who gets excited by

a conference centre or yet another office block that Junk-

Sprawl PLC describe as ‘iconic’ when they really mean

imagination failure…

Once in a while the odd thing happens – Batman is

on the roof of the Liver Building and Liverpool is Gotham

City – the ever vigilant Caped Crusader watching over

the city that never sleeps; day after day at sunset,

God switches on his glorious free cinema and the sky

hallucinates a dissolving dream of reds, pinks and

yellows; in the dark of an autumn night I lie on the ground

and watch the space station passing over Otterspool like

a sky-spider unspooling a thread of light across the night;

on the Mersey, seven porpoises head upstream on the

incoming tide, as if the river is rewilding itself; I come out

of the Brewery Tap and suddenly see the artist ATM’s

Northern Dune Tiger Beetle scuttling across the bricks

of a Stanhope Street building; look up there, above the

Cathedral and spot the peregrine falcons, up there on the

edge of things, the Gothic silhouette...

I wander through the North End docks, looking for

tomorrow. Even though the developer’s brochures and

websites tell us these

non-places are the future

of the city it feels like the

“Sometimes the

city has its own

imagination, it is

a dreamer and

the dream”

end. This is not the city,

this stultifying ‘seamless

extension’ of car parking

options, wheelie bin

storage areas and ‘varied

range of leisure and

lifestyle amenities’. There

is no sense of place,

no story, no dream, no

imagination, no heart or

soul – the main reason

being there is hardly a soul to be seen.

Michael Cimino’s Bambi doesn’t end well. The white

stag keeps running north, trailing memories, dreams,

stories and visions in its slipstream in a doomed attempt

to warn us that our soul is being sold. That the story is

being erased. That the odd thing is being repurposed

as a nothing. In a car park on some industrial estate the

white stag – trapped, wild eyed, panicked and desperate

– is cornered by the police. And then it’s shot. It doesn’t

belong here, in the last days, in the dead days of the

non-place. Once in a while the odd thing happens. It

happened. It’s over. Black out. The dream did not come

true. !

Jeff Young is a writer for theatre, radio, sound art

installations and performance. His memoir, Ghost Town: a

Liverpool Shadowplay is out on Little Toller.

@ jeffyoungwriter

Illustration: Chloé Stephenson
















































































Telling stories of wellbeing and safety in light of a spur of homophobic attacks in Liverpool, poet

Olive speaks to multi-disciplinary artist Kolade Ladipo about queer expression, creating queer

roles within the acting world and the intersectionality of queer and Black identity.

Liverpool is my home, but it keeps stepping on

the necks of my queer family and it’s splitting

my heart down the middle. Although we remain

resilient in standing up against these hate crimes,

we need our allies now more than ever to make this city a

space to be queer without fear.

The energy spiralling around me is wrapped up in

artist Kolade Ladipo, who sits before me with a warm

smile and tender self-confidence. We order two herbal

teas and watch the people splashing past us down Bold


A shape-shifter, Kolade channels all the aspects of

himself through various art forms. Whether capturing

intimacy through his photography, slipping into new

characters as an actor, or dancing on stage in heeled

boots and flames beneath his feet, Kolade is woven with

intention whatever discipline he steps into.

Having survived a homophobic attack in Liverpool

this summer, Kolade shifts around conversations of safety

and self-expression. My heart is heavy with these stories. I

wonder when we will allow artists to just create art and let

them remove this crown of activism they’re often forced to

wear for their own survival.

“I’m comfortable here. It’s my home, too, and I need

to make sure this city is safe for other queer Black people.

Not that it’s my job to, but it’s what I feel I need to do,”

Kolade tells me, sipping on a sweet chamomile tea, his

gold chain bouncing the light back to me.

“Me and my friend (Felix Mufti-Wright) started a

collective called Here And Queer which was created after

my attack this summer,” Kolade explains. “It’s an ongoing

project where we take photos of queer people in either

safe spaces, or the spaces they were attacked in. Taking

photos is such a powerful thing, but it’s not the only thing

we do. We are reaching out to more venues and spaces

and bridging that gap between them and other companies

who can train them on specifically queer and racial safety.

To help people understand what their venue needs to be

doing, especially to ensure the safety of queer and Black


This discussion of safe spaces comes up a lot,

especially within the LGBTQ+ community. A main issue

which continues to arise is that the majority of queer folk

will automatically wrap themselves in defensiveness (even

subconsciously) when in a space which is not visibly queer.

“As queer people we feel the need to ‘come out’,”

Kolade adds. “We’ve had to spend such a long time hiding

ourselves, so when we try to find our safe space where we

feel like we can be our authentic selves, it tends to be in

only queer spaces. I’m in a place on my journey where I can

express myself anywhere, but there are still times when

I feel on edge. [We need to work on] making sure we

take the right steps so venues are as safe as they can be.

Letting people be safe no matter where they are.”

This intersects with Kolade’s Black identity, too. “I

want to see more Black people within industries, working

in shops. Same for queer people.” Kolade paints the air

with his hands as he releases his frustration: “I want to see

more visibly queer people in industries. Where is visibly

queer [in Liverpool] where I can go to, besides ‘gay town’?

Which isn’t a Black space either.”

At this point, visibility and inclusivity should be a

given within any industry, but it is sadly not always the

case. “Growing up, every time I watched a rom-com it was

always with a straight couple, but when I saw one with

two men, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I get it’.” Still, it seems that

cis, white, heterosexual characters are the default. There is

hope, however, with TV shows such as Pose bursting onto

Netflix’s most popular watch list.

This issue gets

stickier, however,

when straight people

are casting to play

queer roles within the

acting world. “When

it comes to queer

people playing straight

roles that’s a different

thing,” Kolade explains.

“Often, queer people

have gone through life

being assumed they’re

heterosexual. But when

people act trans or queer and they’re heterosexual, it’s

false. You can’t understand or bring your own truth to their

struggle,” Kolade explains. “It’s frustrating because there

are always queer people who are qualified to play the role


The issue stems from who controls access to these

creative industries. It can feel impossible when the

gatekeepers to opportunity are locking doors to new talent

who exist outside of the white, cis, hetero world. Kolade

shares with me how this has impacted his experience as

a third year acting student at LIPA. “In the whole of third

year across all of the courses there is maybe maximum

15 Black people,” he tells me. “On my course I am the

only Black person. It’s frustrating because there are areas

literally on the doorsteps of these drama schools that they

hardly tap into, like Toxteth, for example.”

Kolade’s art and voice are a light of hope in places that

feel shrouded in darkness. It occurs to me that his work as

an artist has taken the path of activism when this may not

be his only creative goal. “It’s the unintentional prejudice

of people,” Kolade sighs, “which I then have to explain to

“I need to make sure

this city is safe for other

queer Black people. Not

that it’s my job to, but it’s

what I feel I need to do”

them and then they feel bad about it. But it’s like, ‘I don’t

want to deal with your white guilt’. I go to university to

learn acting. But because I am so active with social rights

people expect me to always talk about it. And I want to,

but I also don’t want to burn out. I shouldn’t have to be the

one to step up all the time.”

And I agree. It would be much easier if people just did

their own work and artists didn’t have to become activists

or teachers all of the time. If only our art could exist for

ourselves and not always have to be a political statement.

If only our music, dance, photography – and yes, even our

columns printed at the back of pink magazines – didn’t

have to be filled with stories of conflict. But here we are.

This work to make our city safer and better is of

course so important, but it hurts that it is needed. “We all

have to be more aware of each other,” Kolade concludes.

“As animals, we are selfish and primal, but as human

beings we can be

compassionate and

caring. At the moment

I feel we can be lacking

that for each other.

Especially in the arts


This compassion

for each other is where

everything ends and

begins. Removing the

labels we place on one

another and allowing

ourselves to stand

bare and human before each other is the only way. We

need to see each other with love and openness; to allow

expression to blossom and hold space for all people.

Otherwise, we stay stagnant. Otherwise, we are still not

safe. Otherwise, our creative city becomes a cesspit.

There’s so much good blooming in this city. I have felt

the love here with authenticity and a fullness that can only

be conjured from genuine connection and acceptance.

Water these spaces. Step up for the people whose voices

are sore from shouting for their freedom.

Stand with us. Be the light. Be the love.

And maybe one day, we can proudly say that our

waterfront city is a loving home of a flourishing LGBTQ+

family. Until then, we have our hope and our voices. I

think it’s time to use them. !

Olive is a queer poet, spoken word artist and music

journalist currently based in Liverpool. Her work is

inspired by nature, mysticism and human connection.



Join us to celebrate a new issue of

Bido Lito! and see some of the best

emerging talent live on stage.

28th January

Kazimier Stockroom


J. Madden

alright (okay)





Advance tickets via



Saturday 11 th December


Friday 24 th December ROB STRINGER



NEIL YATES Saturday 4 th December



Rob Stringer singing all your festive favourites!

Saturday 18 th December




Ma Boyle's Alehouse & Eatery, 7 Tower Gardens, Liverpool L3 1LG

PARRJAZZ_BIDOLITO.indd 1 22/10/2021 12:50



“We’re facing a time of cultural

and social readjustment

after a rupture in our normal

lives, and this gives us the

opportunity to rethink some

of our social conventions”

After a series of events challenging accepted norms around live music gigs, Where Are The Girl

Bands? are looking to continue asking questions and maintain a dialogue with the gig-goers of

Liverpool. As they launch a new survey, Eve Machin talks about developing the city’s live music

offer into a place for everyone.

The case of Sarah Everard drew attention to

women’s safety, especially at night. Downloads

of location tracking apps increased, many

music venues reiterated their safety policies

and there was a flurry of advice, some of it addressing

men and their behaviour on nights out. We at Where

Are The Girl Bands? debated hosting an open discussion

with men who are willing to learn more about the issue.

In fact, we’ve wanted to encourage the involvement of

men in our work and discussions for a long time, as our

audience is inevitably female dominated. It can feel like

we are somewhat preaching to the choir, and this is a

time for men to engage. However, it’s a sensitive subject,

essentially telling men how they ought to behave, and I

don’t think there’s any right way to go about it. Instead,

we turned to the idea of hosting an open discussion with

gig venues open to people of all genders to participate

with the aim of coming to a kind of plan.

We had conversations with the likes of Keychange, a

global network looking to restructure the music industry

in reaching full gender equality, and Girls Against, a nonprofit

organisation campaigning against sexual assault at

gigs. We also looked into encouraging venues to undergo

safety training with the likes of Good Night Out to prevent

harassment and assault in their spaces. It’s still very much

our plan to engage local venues in this discussion and

point them in the direction of organisations doing fantastic

work to ensure safety on the live music scene.

Bloom Building in Birkenhead contacted us offering a

space to host events and provided a perfect opportunity.

We’d test out some of our ideas around challenging

conventional gigs and put some of the project into

practice. We wanted to ask some fundamental questions:

why do gigs follow that same pattern? Why are we stood

up, holding a beer? Why’s it so loud you can’t hear your

mate talking? Should we even talk over music? Is there

any need for the amount of flashing lights they have?

Does it need to be this dark? Do gigs even necessarily

need to be at night? After all, there have always been gigs

that think outside the box – look at the Great Gig In The

Sky, or Max Richter’s eight-hour symphony performed to

a sleeping audience. But these are still huge spectacles

and not entirely normalised concepts.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good thrash around at a

gig and I like them the way they are, but thinking about it,

a lot of events are pretty inaccessible to a lot of people. A

few discussions with our network led to an understanding

of what people wanted to see more of – and less of – at

gigs. We got an idea of what we could do to make ours

safer and more accessible, kicking off with a launch event

in July. Among the mentioned factors were disabled

access, a lack of zero-tolerance policies and the presence

of female security guards.

While easing back into live music, we wanted the

gig to be tranquil and easygoing. We hosted discussions

around accessibility in gig spaces, encouraging people

to start conversations and feel more at ease. This

was followed by a reiki meditation session led by the

wonderful Lyndsay Price, which really highlighted

that sense of intimacy and created a different level of

engagement with the music that followed. The audience

were seated or reclining on cushions and beanbags, as

Sophie Bernice played a dreamy set of soft folk songs. It

was a lovely evening, with audience members invited to

give feedback afterwards, several remarking how different

it was from anything they’d been to before.

As well as looking at the format and the line-up,

we ensured the venue was fully wheelchair accessible;

gender-neutral toilets were available, as well as quiet

spaces for people to use if they needed. We offered

concession prices on tickets and established a zerotolerance

policy towards harassment. It’s small actions

behind-the-scenes that ensure gigs are fully accessible

to all; equality, diversity and inclusion checks as well as

frameworks to prevent labour exploitation, and venues

should be making checks on their accessibility and safety

policies. If we’ve learned one thing, it’s that communication

with your audience is the most important thing. This makes

events more enjoyable and accessible to all and appealing

to a wider pool of people.

We’re not saying ours is the ultimate solution and the

quintessential model that everyone should follow. But,

for many, it made for a successful transition back into

live music. Equally, being public and transparent about

real policies and genuine steps made avoids an air of

performativity and makes gigs safer and more enjoyable

for all.

Following our launch event, we also hosted a series

of Development Days and workshops open to all. Over

the years, our network has grown from musicians to other


creatives working in the music industry – photographers,

writers, artists, producers and more. In order to provide

for everyone, we have been inviting local artists to lead

workshops in these disciplines, bringing together the local

creative community, encouraging networks and enabling

personal and professional development and collaboration.

Our hope is that venues reconsider how they use their

spaces. A gig space, for example, can be used not

exclusively for shows but to nurture the local community

of creatives that use it and make it what it is.

The events series comes hand in hand with a survey,

which we’d really encourage everyone who’s ever been to

a gig to fill out. This is all about addressing the needs of

the local community and scene, and Ella and I alone aren’t

representative of that, of course. More than anything, we

just want to chat about what works on the scene – it may

be perfect and there’s not a thing you’d change – and

what doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head for you. We’re

also excited to be running a competition as part of the

survey. Submit a gig idea to us – as radical as you like –

and the winner will get their gig idea realised at Bloom


Epidemics and pandemics are markers for change.

Often, after a catastrophe, recovery is needed which

often requires new discourse, new ideas and new modes

of living. The impact the pandemic has had on culture is

undoubtedly enormous. We’re facing a time of cultural

and social readjustment after a rupture in our normal lives,

and this gives us the opportunity to rethink some of our

social conventions.

Although everything can supposedly legally go back

to normal, and although I am thrilled that this means

financial stability for venues and joy for audiences and

artists alike, the reality of the experience of live music for

some people will be far from that. Gigs and venue spaces

still need to account for financial loss, new audiences,

new technology and adapting to the pandemic itself.

Music, after all, is for everyone – alternatives need to be

made available. !

Visit to fill out the Live Music Spaces


Words: Eve Machin / @wherearethegirlbands

Photography: Lucy McLachlan / @lucy_alexandra




Angie Woolfall is a Liverpool-born writer and member of the Poised Pen Writers Group

whose work has been published in Writing on The Wall’s Write Minds anthology.

Examining a bus journey as a microcosm of Liverpool, Travelling Light is a celebration

of community, solidarity and hope.

Words: Angie Woolfall / @ a_word_slinging_woolf

Travelling light

The collective consciousness rolls by on its wheels

Inhabitants talking or eating their meals

Students, locals and classic bohemia

Gazing from windows

Scrolling through media

Workers and carers

Mothers and lovers

Sharing the journey

Looking out for each other

Giving up seats

Picking up toys

Precious belongings of the girls and the boys

A dog climbs aboard

We smile as a whole

The unspoken contract

With love as its goal

Smile and be smiled at

That’s how we fly

Accept that some won’t

But don’t assume why

Made harsh by life’s sharpness

They have to save face

But given the chance

Most have good grace

The kind and brave pool where solidarity wins

And hate is for losers and fascists get binned

A city built by migrants

We pick people up

No tolerance for arrogance

We’ll fill up your cup

With smiles or with ale

Kindness and change

The weird and the wonderful

The bold and the strange

As we get off the bus

‘Can I squeeze past you there’

A community condensed

A collective of care.




















































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