Woodburner @ Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

Last night we spent a warm August evening at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden for Woodburner.
The previous Woodburner events we have attended have been at Chats Palace in Homerton, the music quality is always brilliant. First time at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and it is the perfect setting for this time of year. The garden is nicely designed with a wooden pavilion and seating scattered amongst the flowerbeds. The whole event was really nicely done and really made me appreciate the fact it was summertime. Everything was beautiful; the music, environment and people.
image
There was also amazing pizza. Seriously good. A big queue and we had to wait over an hour, but it was actually worth it when it got here.

Felix Hagan was first to play. I was a bit gutted to miss some of his performance but what I did hear was a quality musician and clever writer.

I did catch Swallow and the Wolf who treated the floor-seated audience to a lovely set. A two piece based in London, I’ll definitely be seeking them out again – their performance felt oddly intimate. Both comforting and refreshing, I’m keen to hear more.

image

image

Very beautiful sounds, you can get their 3-track EP Fire in the following places:

i-tunes – http://goo.gl/3NoOxz
youtube – http://goo.gl/P0CoAd
spotify – http://goo.gl/Oq0AMJ

Next up was Shyfinger! It was a welcome surprise for us to see some familiar faces, although Matt now claims that there is a direct correlation between my proximity to people I know from Manchester and how Northern my voice is. It was my first time seeing Ellis and Biff in this particular incarnation, Shyfinger are dangerously strong – as to be bloody expected.

Here is a video of them for your ears and eyes to feast upon! It was recorded as part of the Sessions of March (a killer project created by some of my favourite people as part of a cause close to my heart).

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is a wicked space for Woodburner and they are there every Tuesday for the rest of the summer – check out the line ups here and get yourself over!

Have a listen to – Parshmaune

With the sad news that PITP would not be going ahead this year, I have been revisiting some of the bands from last years fundraisers and the festival. If the festival itself cannot happen then let’s try and celebrate the music that goes into it.

One particular favourite from last year is Parshmaune. I first heard of these guys because of Party in the Park and then coincidentally met Zuri (part of the collective) whilst volunteering at a different event.

They are a collective working from London who have been writing and playing together for a while now. Their music is pretty intense, deep jazz foundations with a modern flavour.

They are deliberately ambiguous in how they describe themselves – preferring to do this through an absence of labels and expectations. I like that as it means you have to consider their music without help and if you are the type of person who needs to put things in boxes, you’ll have to build your own.

I find Jazz as a genre intimidating to wrap words around as I lack the nomenclature and knowledge to describe it properly. However in basic terms I can say there is a lot about these guys I like. I like the way that there is no compromising to make it more commercial and no fear of stepping outside prescribed boundaries. I find the video less considered than the music, but to me it makes the music more evocative as it gives me a reference point to latch the music onto. I feel like it expresses my own feelings at living in and travelling through London. There are a lot of complicated thoughts tied in with that, but basically feeling stimulated past saturation and rushed through something beautiful. As you can see from my crude attempts to express that through words it is extra-linguistic!

Please give them some love and attention:

Facebook

Twitter

Soundcloud

Youtube

Small White Elephant

Deep in the heart of Peckham, just off Rye Lane, lives our favourite coffee shop – Small White Elephant.  It was one of the best things about living in Peckham, which is saying a lot as the place is starting to contains a lot of coffee shops and artisan bakeries…

There is nothing wrong with an abundance of coffee shops; café culture has been a traditional part of European social culture for hundreds of years. People have used them to write, read, discuss ideas and entertain. As with many proponents of commercialism, multinational coffee outlets have appropriated this rich and positive aspect of our culture and reproduced it at a much lower cost but at the same time stripping it of its original charm through their inherent homogeny.  Small White Elephant is a welcome relief from these bland identikits.

Orange on the outside, cosy and tropical on the inside it is like being inside a secret treehouse. I particularly enjoy all the toy dinosaurs and large novelty mushrooms. Matt likes the constantly changing art and their choices in music. Especially the music.  Through this place he first heard one of his now favourites, Karen Dalton.

small-white-elephant1

The food is hearty and healthy, think lots of avocado, chorizo and brownies. Many a morning have we sat there trying to quell our hangover’s rage by tricking it with vitamins and caffeine. The Vietnamese coffee is delicious. You have to wait for it to drip, so it takes a little longer. The coffee is dark and rich, served with a little condensed milk in the bottom of the glass. It is a wonderful combination of sweetness and stimulant.

04067de8514eae5cde70b339090fb9d3

They also have the occasional late night there, we went to a couple of jazz gigs, and they have poetry evenings.  There is also a big bookshelf right at the back, which operates a policy I usually see in hostels of ‘give a book, take a book’. I’m a fan of these magical bookshelves with unlooked for treasures.

What I like the most about this place is the eye for quality with lack of pretensions. There is interesting art, killer music choices and a warm, friendly environment. The whole place seems to have been carefully designed to replenish the body and refresh the mind. Jen and Dale are lovely and make you feel completely welcome.

My laptop still proudly bears the Small White Elephant sticker, although it’s looking a little bit worse for wear these days…

image

If you live around the Camberwell/Peckham area, go and have a nosy – it’s bloody lovely.

Property Guardians

Property Guardians

Matt and I have moved from Chorleywood and are now living in an old police station as building/property guardians. Guardian is a sick ass title, I feel like I’m protecting the city from danger. What it means in practice is that we pay the property guardianship company an amount every month in order to have a license to live here. This means we are not tenants, and therefore are not afforded the same rights as tenants. Even though in practical terms what we are paying is our rent, legally it is a fee for our license to live here.

IMG_7471

There are obvious positives and negatives to the situation.

Positive – I like living in an unusual building, and there is a lot of space. As a former police station there are cells, interrogation rooms and big communal areas. There is also a killer roof space.

Negative – The property guardianship company doesn’t have the same responsibilities towards us as a landlord would have. There are currently two showers intended for twenty people. There is a door outside our room labelled as a bathroom/shower room which contains a sink that has been knocked off the wall and a toilet. NOT THE SAME THING.

Positive – Coming from a large family, I like a house full of people and so far it looks like we are lucky enough to be living with an interesting group.

Negative – It’s difficult to get on with everyone no matter how good your intentions.

Positive – The rent is a lot cheaper than a normal flat, and the space we have access to is much larger. Rent is extortionate in London and people line up to pay it. Doing this is a relief financially.

Negative – There is a genuine housing crisis here and whilst this solution is working for us right now at this stage in our lives, it is not a fair way of providing housing for people who need it. We have fewer rights than tenants and have to accept bigger risks and responsibilities. Schemes like this are useful but are making it more acceptable to strip away protections which have been built into the law to protect tenants, because we are not legally tenants. Tenants are protected by law because people who own property have such a financial advantage over those who need to lease it. Especially somewhere like London where there are many people eager to take your place. We have to enter into contracts which contain terms we are not comfortable with, and are massively tilted in favour of the property company, because we need a place to live more than they need us as tenants.

Pros and cons aside, it is our decision to live here and I am happy with it. The building is safe and warm, even if the facilities are limited. It wouldn’t suit everyone but for now I’m pleased to call it home.

National Portrait Gallery – Grayson Perry and almost William Morris

National Portrait Gallery – Grayson Perry and almost William Morris.

Last weekend Matt and I went to the National Portrait Gallery. It wasn’t a planned trip, we’d been doing some errands and were in the area. I have been to the café areas in the V&A and the Natural History Museum, and so thought it would be a lovely place for a bit of coffee and crossword.  It was a bad shout on my part, the café area looks a bit like a nice McDonalds.  We decided to have a wander around while we were there. I’m really trying to make the most of the fact we have all of this fantastic culture on our doorsteps whilst we’re living in London.

504

I love bright clothes.

As we walked in there was a sign saying ‘Anarchy and Beauty – William Morris and his legacy’. I like all of those things, so meandered over towards it. We come to a large room, and there is information about Morris, as well as examples of his work up. The more I start reading, the more into it I get.  Although I learned about his work in school, and how it had influenced interiors and art during the Victorian period, I hadn’t been taught that he was a socialist. To be fair, I think the entire class was more about us cutting up potatoes and using them to create prints, political context can often be lost on eight year olds. What I particularly got a kick from was his idea of ‘art for all’. For me personally, the arts have been instrumental to my understanding of myself and the world around me. Exploring emotions and concepts that are often extra-linguistic. Art should be for everyone.

We get to the entrance of the exhibit and are turned away because we haven’t purchased tickets.

Having worked in an arts venue, I understand the need for an entity to be able to generate an income for itself. However, I find it absolutely laughable that they are charging entry for an exhibit based around a socialist who believed art should be for everyone. The tickets were £11.70. That might not sound like a huge amount, but when you compare it with weekly benefits allowances it seems ridiculous. It is a wonderful thing about the UK that so many of our museums and galleries are free of charge.  I am grateful for that, especially when I come back after being somewhere with lots of interesting but financially draining institutions, like Rome.  However, I feel that when curating an exhibit you should be respectful to the original artist’s views. It isn’t like they weren’t aware of them, they proudly announce them in the anteroom. It would be like insisting women are accompanied into the suffragette exhibit upstairs.

We laughed about the irony and moved on. As I said, I am grateful for the fact that there are many interesting free exhibits. Like  Grayson Perry: Who are you? Absolutely killer, really enjoyed it. My favourite two pieces were the hijab and the giant cash note. The hijab is beautiful. It tells the story of a young woman converting to Islam and leaving behind a life based on commercial values and booze. I particularly like the fact she is being supported and led by the women she has met. The shopping centre and mecca seem to be directly compared, both as distributors of identity. I don’t feel like one was being portrayed as any better than the other, although it did seem like the main character was getting more human support by converting to Islam. She seemed to be happier in her new direction as well.

grayson-perry-ashf_3081714b

The idea of the exhibit is to challenge and attempt to define British identity through a series of portraits of individuals at some kind of crossroad or transition. Identity was often strongest in the people or groups who had it repeatedly challenged.  I like the fact that although Britain is far from perfect, we are in a place which allows large variety in values, families and other cornerstones of identities that we end up with such diverse groups.

If anyone is around London I would recommend going and checking it out, it’s on til the 15th March.

Disobedient Objects @ The Victoria and Albert Museum

Disobedient objects exhibition

I fucking loved this. I went to see this with my friend Georgie a few weeks ago. The Victoria and Albert is housing the exhibition, which is made up of objects used in protest. I loved the contrast between this grand, traditional building, which was made possible by a monarchy, and items of disobedience against established systems being luxuriously displayed for us to see.

I can’t determine my own feelings, whether I liked the fact that these ideas and concepts were being presented to the public by an entity as established as the V&A or whether the irony was too much. The contrast added to naughty feeling you get from being disobedient. In my mind, making it obvious to people the other ideas we should be disobedient to – I found this quite daring. I especially liked that when you are looking for the exhibit in the building they had the sign for it ‘disobedient objects’ underneath a sign directing you to ‘wedding dresses’.

In the exhibit itself the objects were testaments to human ingenuity and necessity being the mother of invention. These items were designed most often by a group of people with a lot less resources than the system they were protesting. This meant that there were folk arts in there, which I really enjoyed. Weaving and painting.

The first two items I saw were a battered pot lid from an Argentinian revolution and a teacup and saucer from an Edwardian tea set supporting the Suffragettes. The contrast was effective. People have to use whatever techniques they can to get attention and support for their cause. They have to be loud and quiet, and use all methods available to them.

The exhibit was good for highlighting to me lots of different protests and movements that I wasn’t aware that had happened recently, and how successful these had been. It reaffirmed to me how controlled our media is, highlighting certain issues and not wanting us to be aware of alternative systems of managing ourselves that can work.

Running around the exhibit were lots of excited school children with workbooks. I was pleased that kids at a young and impressionable age were being shown the possibilities bound up in protest. There was a strange moment when a young girl (10 or 11) asked her teacher what ‘Page Three’ was in response to the ‘ban page three placards’. My first reaction to this was to try and stop giggling, watching an adult explain anything with sexual connotations to a child is usually good for an awkward laugh. Listening to her halted explanation, I was pleased that the exhibit has such a modern focus. Most of the items are from the 1970’s onward and that fact demonstrates that there are still lots of systems we should be disobedient within, and lots of methods of achieving this.

If you can get down to this exhibit, try and make the effort. It is killer, gave me a lot to think about as well as being free!

If you want to read more about how they put the exhibit together – click here

Party in the Park – New Cross

Party in the Park

This year I was involved with the arranging of the local Party in the Park festival in New Cross’ Fordham Park. The experience was very enjoyable and I met lots of interesting people. I also learnt a lot as it was the first time I was involved at the planning stage of a festival of that size. One of the things I particularly liked about it was meeting so many people from local businesses. When I was in Manchester my job was so demanding I never really got to get outside of that particular bubble. Although New Cross does have a somewhat deserved bad reputation there is a real sense of community, of people being proud of where they are from and looking to help each other out and support each other.

The meetings were held at New Cross Learning, which if you are based in New Cross I do recommend you check out. They are a volunteer run library and provide all sorts of useful resources for local people. They also had very nice biscuits.

After a lot of emails, spreadsheets, cups of tea, stressing out, lists and discussions it somehow got to a few days before the event and set up began.

268

271

298

I was working on the day of the festival but managed to get out early and have a wander round.  The bands were great, I really enjoyed Rhiannon and the Nightmare’s performance. There was a real mix of people as you can see from the pictures.

343 338 351 390

The event has its origins in the Deptford Free Music Festival, which started in 1989 and grew into a massive open air party. A lot of the people who help arrange its modern incarnation have memories of this and so it was quite nostalgic. With south-east London being an absolute hotbed of musical activity, it makes sense to have a free festival that is celebrating the local music scene.

There was a deliberate effort to make this event more family friendly and there were traditional games, storytelling and face painting.

353 440

The Bird’s Nest made their presence known with their own stage, as well as cooking up some of their delicious burgers.

466

Oxjam @ Nestival

Oxjam @ Nestival

Recently, I’ve been volunteering as part of my local Oxjam team in New Cross. It’s been fun and great to meet people who are passionate about using live music as a way to bring people together and give back to charity. We had our first proper event at The Birds Nest as part of Nestival and it was mint.

The Birds Nest is a wicked little venue in Deptford, really nice atmosphere and every time I have been in the staff have been lovely. The burgers are also delicious. I went down early to help set up, it was nice meeting Tom and Joel and they were both so helpful – which is good as I would have probably broken my neck putting up those banners by myself!

IMG_4646

Nestival is a 5 day event at the Birds Nest with a killer line up for each evening, culminating in a performance from Kate Tempest on the final evening.

We had selected half of the Thursday night line-up and they had chosen the other half. The event kicked off with Black Plastic, one of their choices. Opening a show can be tricky sometimes but they gave no sign of this, delivering high energy performance that managed to enthuse the audience.

IMG_4660

The tone changed with the next performer – Lewis Floyd Henry. He was understated at first, with the sound building up into something mesmerising. A real treat to watch, as a one man band he absorbs your attention so casually it could almost be accidental.

Lazarvs played after, my favourite band of the evening. I first heard these guys at New Cross Inn and loved them. They create a smoky atmosphere when they play, you can almost see it unfurling beneath them. Have a listen to this and you’ll understand a bit of what I mean.

Little Mona – iPhone recording

Keep in mind that is an iphone recording. Wow.

Another highlight for me was Elephants and Castles. I’ve seen their name dotted about the south east of London a fair amount and wasn’t sure what to expect.  At the beginning they explained that their debut album ‘Fashanu’ was named for the football player Justin Fashanu, he was Britain’s first black footballer to command a £1m transfer fee. He then took his own life in 1998 after coming out as gay and being subjected to harassment and abuse. Their performance was a combination of solid song writing with delicious harmonies and despite the tragic inspiration behind the album, it managed to be fun.

IMG_4910

I also had a lot of love for First, another 3 piece. I was flagging when they made it onto the stage, a combination of too much ale and sleepiness, but was soon rejuvenated.

I was gutted to be working nights the next few days as it would have been mint to see the rest of the acts. However, it was lovely to work with Matt again. He kindly agreed to sound engineer in return for booze and food.

IMG_4949

New Town & Old Friends

I just spent a wonderful, if not bittersweet, weekend with three of my old friends. Two of them came down from Manchester for Lovebox and one of them came just for a visit. Myself and Matt have just moved to Peckham, literally getting the keys to the place on the same day they arrived. It did mean that they were kipping in chaos but they knew what they were letting themselves in for when they decided to stay with us.

Peckham is completely new to me, being a Mancunian I had no views on the area, had heard nothing about it and didn’t know what to expect. The reason I picked this place is because I really loved the flat and it is a lot closer to work, for me…

Peckham seems to be very vibrant, with lots going on. You’ll have to forgive me for speaking in northisms but it has the multiculturalism of Rusholme with the nice bars and art spaces of the Northern Quarter. Or at least that’s how it looks after two whole days here!

Two of our friends went to Lovebox and with our third friend, a beautiful spinning creature of madness, we chilled out, drank some wine and then decided to find somewhere to go dancing. Having spoken to a couple of people from work about Peckham, we had the Bussey Building recommended to us.

Walking in to be greeted by ‘Earth Wind & Fire – September’ was a joy. I really liked the venue, reminded me of where I used to work in Manchester, similar vibes. The production quality was a lot higher though. The fact you can choose from a variety of floors and genres also worked well for someone with an attention span like mine.

J + J didn’t make it back to us from Lovebox that night, the journey down and the festival wiping  them out completely.  The next day though we all went for breakfast at Café Viva. When I’m hungover I always try to trick my body with fresh fruit into feeling okay again, their berry smoothie did the trick. I could tell at this point that I’d become numb to London’s inflated prices for everything when my friends were reacting to the prices. It is commonly repeated but the price difference between north and south, in this case Manchester and London, is ridiculous. Café Viva’s food was lovely, delicious bagels and really good coffee- perked me up enough to realise the best thing to do would be to go to another bar.

DSC_0100

Franks. I had heard conflicting things about this place. From someone who had lived in Peckham for a while it seemed to be almost an embodiment of evil. From a guy from work who hadn’t been here long (also from Manchester) it was meant to have great views and nice booze. It is a bit tucked out of the way, but to be honest I like that quality in somewhere I am drinking. It makes me feel removed from the world and able to relax a bit more. After we’d settled down we could see that the views were overwhelming. It was such a bright but hazy day the colours all looked  cold and brittle, it felt like I was seeing some kind of dystopian future. On a hot day though I would recommend it as there was a breeze up there that cut through the hot muggy day.

I used to work with all three people who had come to visit us. I left the business in very unusual circumstances and there was a lot of strain all around. For them and for us. Spending that time with them reassured me that friendship goes deeper than our circumstances. When you form a bond with someone out of understanding and respect, not because you share the same geographical location, it can still be there regardless of unintentional hurts on both sides. It does make it harder when they leave. We shared a lovely afternoon drinking cider, getting told off by a friendly security guard and sharing our plans before it ended and they had to head home.
I smiled through the hugs and goodbyes but as soon as they went up the stairs I cried my way out of the station. It is good to know that even when people are apart from you they can have love for you, and not time or geography can change that.