Left Lion: Radioheadcase

After a pint with their Literature Correspondent, when I was still in somewhat of a state of post-tour euphoria, it was decided to feature my Radiohead blog in Nottingham’s premier cultural free paper, Left Lion.

Here’s the Q&A and some extracts from the blog, which finds it’s new home here.

I dug out my old “Creep” badge and had my photo taken by David Baird and put James Walker in his place about infering that fans are crazy…
 

 

 

All You Have to do is say YES: Radiohead, Roundhouse, London 2016

I’ve been going to see Radiohead live since 1993 and I’ve been writing about them ever since. Prior to the tour dates in May 2016, I’d been compiling my experiences into a blog, from which I will be publishing extracts. First, my report on the three gigs they played at London’s Roundhouse Thursday 26th, Friday 27th & Saturday 28th May 2016.

Radiohead have been opening their recent live sets with an excerpt from an interview with the great Nina Simone.

Interviewer: “What’s ‘free’ to you?”

Nina Simone: “What’s ‘free’ to me? Same thing it is to you, you tell me.”

Interviewer: “No, you tell me!”

Nina Simone: “It’s just a feeling, it’s just a feeling…  I’ll tell you what freedom is to me – No fear! I mean really, no fear!

I’d been to see the opening shows of this short Radiohead tour in Amsterdam, then been home for a couple of days.

WEDNESDAY

I find myself calling 999 for a man making a delivery at work, we think he’s having a heart attack. I stay on the phone, relaying instructions, watching colleagues give him CPR. I can’t panic, everything moves too fast and is too important. Ambulances and a helicopter arrive and he is whisked to hospital, it’s quite possible that he just died in front of us, may not come round, even though they have forced him to breath again.

It’s shocking and sobering, too much fucking perspective, but oddly after something so awful gets lifted off you, there is a feeling that anything can happen. That anything is possible and that you should do it now, for you could go at any time.

THURSDAY

I head to London and to the Roundhouse for the first of three more shows.

At Chalk Farm (Camden) the queue is still fairly small by 4pm. I see old friends who have been travelling the world for this band, for years, but not as many of the usual crew because the tickets have been so hard to come by. Security are checking ID and wrist-banding people in the queue, ready to enter and have tickets scanned inside.

Thursday

Through the magic of Radiohead we end up at the front of the crowd. I’m in the middle of the barrier, which no matter how much I try to convince myself is not the be all and end all, is the best thing that could have happened. The Roundhouse is a lot smaller inside than I expected, the stage taking up almost one third of the space. After the ambulance adventure yesterday, I’m almost preternaturally calm, which is a strange feeling. I try to stay loose through Holly Herndon’s set, but being at the front, right in the middle, makes you self conscious.

Radiohead play the first five tracks from A Moon Shaped Pool as they have each night of the tour so far, then Lotus Flower, and Talk Show Host – a much loved, and exceptionally funky B side. They drop My Iron Lung, like they know what I like. Gloaming. Exit Music (not a personal fave but always a bit of a moment in the set, Phil audible on backing vocals). Separator (which for some reason has been really hitting me on this tour) Identikit, The Numbers, a down and dirty Myxomatosis, a minimal Reckoner, ravey Idioteque and a broken up Everything In Its Right Place.

They go off and come back on. “Shall we just stay and play everything? You don’t have anywhere to be right?” This band are more relaxed than I’ve ever seen them. Magpie, 2 +2 = 5, Nude

A harmonica noise comes from Jonny’s side of the stage and Thom chides him; “What’s up boss?” They start again, not missing a note. Planet Telex pleases this old fan and still sounds great. There There… and there is more.

Back for The Present Tense“We’re gonna play a new song coz it’s like hitsville” says Thom, then they drag the piano out for You And Whose Army and finally Paranoid Android “before your vegan kebab”.

The crowd is as into this as the band are, making final bows to us in the centre, Thom mimes going to sleep. Like a douche I’m trying to wink and shut my eyes. I’ve missed something. The Italian girls next to me squeal and my friend, Keiko, nudges me, Thom just pointed at me. Yeah well, I have been here a few times before!

I can’t explain how this feels and heaven knows I have tried. It’s the same feeling back again, THIS, the most important thing. And they know.

FRIDAY

Late afternoon I head back to Camden. My ticket for tonight has been bought by another old friend who won’t arrive until 5pm. I decompress in a pub near Camden Lock and “The Wibble Factor” kicks in; I talk fast, my hands shake, my eyes are wide. Things are out of my hands tonight and I’m nervous in a weird charged way that only happens at Radiohead gigs.

We hole up in the Roundhouse bar, check which entrance we have to use, and order more beer. I try to relax a little and talk to some long time fans. It’s easy to start trading stories once you discover what this band means to people.

We arrive in the auditorium half way through the support set, but saunter over to the far end of the stage, Jonny-side. The view is not as good as last night, but we’re still enough in the thick of it to see and to feel part of the show. It hurts less, not having to stand completely still, being able to get in and out and to move.

Friday 1

The new songs are getting into my system. Then they blow it up with Airbag and Kid A. Separator doesn’t kill me this time, but No Surprises tries.

Then Glass Eyes, just Thom on electric piano. Pyramid Song (one of my favourites) with Jonny bowing his guitar. National Anthem, The Numbers, Identikit, Myxomatosis again, Thom enjoying the rant of it, smiling like I’ve never quite seen before, he’s free up there. Bloom, Present Tense, Everything, Tinker Tailor, Arpeggi… they go off and back on for Bodysnatchers, Jonny punishing his guitar, trying to beat the ghosts out of it.

They end on Karma Police, the others leave the stage but Thom stands on the lip, still clutching his acoustic, willing the audience to keep singing (has he ever done it quite like that before?). He wants us to keep going. For a minute there I lost myself.

We tumble to the foyer, oh look up there is Nick Cave looking for a place to smoke his fag. I run into Jonny who says I looked like I fainted last night. I refute the accusation – I was just bending my knees. “You look like you’re enjoying yourselves up there”.

“Yeah,” he says, “We realised it’s fun at last.” We spot the actor Toby Jones, in a pork pie hat (apparently there were more famous folk somewhere else  – reports of Kate Bush, PJ Harvey and Benedict Cumberbatch do the rounds later).

Stumbling out into the night, rather soaked in gin, I pass a man in biking gear talking on his phone. Double take and realise it’s Chris Morris, and he’s just exited the back of the Roundhouse. Wonder if he’s been in the back talking Blue Jam with Thom?

SATURDAY

I don’t have a ticket for tonight, but I call in a favour and show up in time for doors opening to wait and see if one can be made to appear. We feel it will happen. The same girl from security is on the gate, she is used to me by now. I hang around, standing back to let the increasingly star studded guest list inside. Samantha Morton, Polly Harvey again, at least two Peaky Blinders and a ridiculously cool looking fella, who on second glance is Mad Men’s John Hamm (in mirrored shades, jeans on just right, he couldn’t look more like a movie star if he tried).

They’re closing the gates and I’m starting to lose hope, when my contact comes to ask if I have cash on me. I’m whisked to the box office and sold one of the very last tickets in the place. The door staff are starting their final countdown to stage time and I just have time to rush to the toilet (my need to pee was becoming stronger than my need to see the band at this point) and they spark up Burn The Witch just as I make it inside.

Saturday

A Saturday night crowd in full effect: I’m stuck at the periphery of the space where people are drinking and talking, not necessarily as enraptured as those nearest the stage. It’s frustrating but at least I’m in. I try to see, I try to hear, I try to get out of the way of the bloody pillars that hold the roof up. I get beer and dodge other people, trying to have MY gig, but surrendering to it being THEIR gig. I nearly have a stand up row with two blokes in front, who are incessantly talking. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if they were saying something meaningful but it’s a pub chat, a slight disenchantment with the new songs. I pull faces until one of them turns on me.

“I just want to know why you would pay £65 to talk to your mate?” I ask. He does that thing which middle aged blokes do, and tries to sound like he knows better than little old me. They saw Richard Ashcroft here last week from the front row, and this is crap compared to that. I want to ask him why the hell he’s bothered coming. Getting tickets for this show was an effort for everyone. But I hold myself back.  I could tell him how many times I’ve seen this band, but I don’t want a conversation, I want some fucking respect.

I move to the bar and find myself among more cheerful types, who hug me when they find out I’ve been at all three shows. They sing along, are happy to hear the old ones, I let it wash over me, I dance, I stop straining to see. They can’t top last night and I don’t want them to. But there’s Like Spinning Plates and there’s my boys again.

I meet some more of the old crew, their kids now grown up and at the gigs with them. More drinks and I get a bit emotional, it always hits me at the end. I should keep my eyes open. It’s just a feeling, it’s just a feeling. Radiohead gigs are where I am most alive and where I am completely free – so don’t tell me where to stand, don’t drown out the best voice of his generation, don’t push me around, because you can’t hurt me, you can’t spoil it.

“Half my life, no fear,” says Nina in the interview.

“Half my life,” says Thom, backwards at the end of Daydreaming.

Half my life (well a bit more) I’ve been coming out for this band, and they still hit me harder than anything else.

What is free to me? THIS THIS THIS.

This blog was originally published by The Zine, creators united by passion!
Afterword: The casualty mentioned in this blog is now thankfully recovering.

Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair, Albert Hall, Nottingham 10/6/16

In these post-post-modern times anything from the 1920s to the 1980s seems to count as “Vintage”. Is it all bunting and nostalgia? I went along to Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair to find out.

The term “Vintage” tends to get bandied around rather loosely and has degrees of meaning from “genuinely antique and collectable” to merely “second hand”.

Nottingham has had a healthy “Vintage” scene since the 1990s, when the kitsch emporium Daphnie’s Handbag was a stalwart purveyor of crimplene frocks, over-sized sunglasses and easy listening vinyl, at their shop on Mansfield Road. These days Daphnie’s (and many other dealers) find their home in Hopkinson, a warehouse full of trinkets, homeware, clothes and other tastefully aged rammel.*

With the demise of Trinity Walk’s Vintage To A Tea, where genuine 1930s to 1970s clothes came with the wonderful expertise of the proprietor, I was hoping to see some good examples of Vintage clothes at Lou Lou’s.

Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair is a national concern with gatherings most weekends in cities across the UK. Winner of ‘Best Vintage Fair’ in the UK at the National Vintage Awards 2015, some impressive photos in their Facebook marketing led me to go along to the Albert Hall to check it out. As an avid rammel hunter myself, my expectations were high.

There were several clothes stalls at Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair, with a good spread of women’s and men’s garments, edging towards the garish end of the dressing up spectrum. Prices were fairly high (more in line with Nottingham’s Braderie, Cow and Wild Clothing vintage stores) but there were a few genuine gems if you had the cash to splash.

The best clothes of the day were spotted on fellow fair-goers, with several spectacularly turned out 1950s ladies in evidence (full net petticoats and co-ordinated head gear present and correct) and more than one or two gents in tweeds.

loulous 2

A soundtrack of 1960s girl groups segued into Bowie as I moved between the two floors of the Albert Hall, holding at least 30 stalls. Many concentrated on jewellery and other accessories, offering a rather hit and miss selection of proper old stuff and more modern bling. For the prices, I would have preferred more focus on the original pieces, some dealers have a good eye for the real thing, others offer all their wares at a fixed price and leave it to the customer to dredge the gems from the dreck.

Several of the traders who make their day to day home in Hopkinson had stalls at Lou Lou’s, including Woolf Vintage and Arts, who had a nice line in earrings and the Forgotten Library who turn old books into clocks.

Other traders such as Derby’s Soboho, made a showing (with a lovely 1960s handbag that was sadly out of my price range) and hat designer Alice Ball entertained a steady stream of customers trying on her vintage-inspired creations.

There was more crockery and homeware than I’d been anticipating, with a good showing for Meakin coffee sets, china cups and a smattering of flashback-inducing toys. There was an air of grandma’s attic about some of these and a little more curation of the objects would perhaps justify the asking prices. A surfeit of cake stands was overshadowed by the “everything’s a pound” cups and saucers, but there were an impressive haul of cake forks and cutlery on offer.

crockery collage

The refreshment stall was mercifully free of cup cakes, serving beverages in china cups and saucers in the busy foyer. Alongside them, the Diamond Diva’s Beauty salon was setting hair in victory rolls – I didn’t spot any beehives but it was consistently busy.

Lou Lou’s seems like a really popular event, with a steady stream of people through the doors all day, I don’t know how much stuff people actually buy at such events, but plenty of folk rummaged through the displays.

*Rammel: Notts noun. Discarded or waste matter, junk, rubbish.

Exploring the Creative Quarter: A Guidigo Tour of Nottingham

http://www.picturedbylamar.co.uk/
Picture ©Lamar Francois http://www.picturedbylamar.co.uk/

These days Nottingham has thriving art and music scenes, independent shops, decent coffee and even the first independent UK book shop to be opened this century, Five Leaves Books.

Working in association with Walking Heads, my colleagues based in Glasgow, we realised that these two great post-industrial cities have much in common as they re-invent themselves for the challenges of the 21st century.

The tour looks at the history of the area of Nottingham now designated as The Creative Quarter and meets some of the people who work in the varied creative industries in the area.

Lace Market Square (CQ), The Adams Building, Back Door Detail, Broadway & Birkin Building (Geograph.org.uk),
Lace Market Square (CQ), The Adams Building, Back Door Detail, Broadway & Birkin Building (Geograph.org.uk)

The tour takes in The Lace Market, Hockley and Sneinton Market including New College Nottingham, where students of art and design learn their trade, and established independent craft practitioner Debbie Bryan who takes inspiration from the Nottingham’s lace heritage. There is art from leading gallery Nottingham Contemporary and curator Jennie Syson; Find hidden gems in unexpected places, like a Morris & Co window in the largest pub in town. Dig down to the caves and secret passageways of The Galleries of Justice, one of Nottingham’s top tourist attractions and discover some remarkable stories from the history of St Mary’s, Nottingham’s oldest and largest church and find out how it is used as a creative venue today; Learn about local cultural magazine Left Lion, who bring Nottingham musicians, actors and writers into the limelight. Explore the regenerated Sneinton Market and the thriving gallery scene around St Ann’s and Sneinton.

Unitarian Church Morris & Co; Nottingham Contemporary detail (geograph.org.uk), St Marys on Light Night (Kevin Marston); The Galleries of Justice (GoJ).
Unitarian Church Window by Morris & Co; Nottingham Contemporary detail (geograph.org.uk), St Marys on Light Night (Kevin Marston); The Galleries of Justice (GoJ).

Celebrate 25 years of Nottingham media and cinema, at Broadway and find out about the “playable building” that is home to the National Videogames Arcade. Finally step through the gate of the transformed Cobden Chambers to find independent businesses getting established with the help of Creative Quarter, not to mention tales from Dawn of The Unread, where Nottingham’s literary past is woven with the many layered history of the textile and lace industries which built the grand architecture of The Lace Market…

The tour is narrated by Nottinghamshire-born Dorothy Atkinson, who you may know from her work in films made by Mike Leigh… we recorded at JT Soar, a nearby studio & music venue which used to be a Fruit and Veg warehouse.

Dorothy Atkinson at Sneinton Market
Dorothy Atkinson at Sneinton Market

The tour features archive photos from Picture The Past, who have kindly let me use images as a pilot scheme.

Photos from Picture The Past courtesy NCC. The Adams Lace Brown Room; Old Town Hall (Nottingham Historic Film Unit); High Pavement; Sneinton Market 1937.
Photos from Picture The Past courtesy of NCC. The Adams Lace Brown Room 1914; Old Town Hall c.1870s (Nottingham Historic Film Unit); High Pavement pre 1960s; Sneinton Market 1937.

The tour is available to download free on Guidigo (which is also free) on iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

Feature image photo credits: Sneinton Market Fountains Daniel Hodgett; Broadway at Night by Ashley Bird; National Videogames Arcade by Eve Bentley; Cobden Chambers courtesy of Bildurn.

Death & Chips: But I Know This City, B S Johnson in Nottingham

This weekend saw me drop everything and head into Nottingham for a series of connected events that I only realised were taking place when I fortuitously caught a tweet promoting this article in Left Lion.

Left Lion #73 November 2015
Left Lion #73 November 2015

I had forgotten or perhaps misremembered that Nottingham was the unnamed but vividly described city that features in B S Johnson’s book-in-a-box The Unfortunates. I had added this experimental novel to my very long list of “books to get around to” after devouring Jonathan Coe’s biography of Johnson, Like A Fiery Elephant some years ago, but never found a copy and it had fallen out of my mind as newer books with less dark themes had usurped my attention.

On Friday night it transpired that Jonathan Coe was to be in Nottingham at the behest of the Broadway to present Dead of Night the celebrated Ealing Studios portmanteau film made in 1945. As it turns out, the keen cinéaste Coe uses the structure of five connecting stories for his latest novel Number 11… his earlier novels What A Carve Up and The House of Sleep are among my favourites.

After Dead Of Night, talking about his new book and signing copies for the faithful, Coe stayed at Broadway to present a rare screening of films by B S Johnson including the idiosyncratic documentary Fat Man On A Beach, which had introduced Johnson’s work to Coe when he was a child…

BS Johnson in Fat Man On A Beach (The Arts Desk)
B S Johnson in Fat Man On A Beach (The Arts Desk)

Fat Man On A Beach is funny, strange, confounding, silly and, with the fore knowledge of Johnson’s early demise just weeks after it was broadcast in 1974, deeply effecting.

It served as a wonderful re-introduction to the author and a fitting prelude to the following day’s event, But I Know This City a community reading of The Unfortunates organised by Excavate theatre for Being Human Festival.

Not entirely sure what to expect, my friend and I showed up at Broadway for the first chapter and began a whole day of extraordinary experiences finding readers at locations all over Nottingham.

The beginning... the first sighting of Bryan at Broadway.
The beginning… the first sighting of Bryan at Broadway.

In 25 cafes, basements, bookshops, several pubs, a parked car, a front room (on the Promenade, my dream street), inside the Council House and performance pods at Nottingham Playhouse, we found ourselves asking “Are you Bryan?”.

But I Know This City Map
But I Know This City Map (Excavate)

Rehearsed readers at each location read the loose-bound chapters of The Unfortunates and gradually the novel was reconstituted as Johnson’s memories of Nottingham, reporting on football matches, his student days and his friend Tony came into focus. Descriptions of food (memorably some chips that redeem a meal), of meetings and visits, of friends and lovers recur through the story woven around recollections of the illness and heartbreaking early death of Johnson’s Nottingham friend Tony.

Readers in L
“Bryan” in Lee Rosies, Rough Trade and Bookwise

The Nottingham of the 1960s was vividly conjured as many of the locations we visited over 8 hours (with a long break for lunch) were described.

An examination of grief and the nature of memory, The Unfortunates is at times raw and intensely moving, qualities emphasised by these intimate readings, leaning in to hear in the noisier venues, huddled around pub tables, scurrying through the freezing dark to find the last few venues…

Following Bryan all the way to the top floor of City Arts
Following Bryan all the way to the top floor of City Arts.

Back at Broadway we tracked down the last two readers, driven inside by the cold. Two more chapters read to us in the bar.

We managed to witness the final chapter (thank you Andy) and the collected props in the Broadway’s lounge and were among around a dozen people to experience all 27 chapters… including Jonathan Coe’s recording of the shortest chapter.

The end. Some of the props, collected in the Broadway lounge.

Tweets from the day #ButIKnowThisCity

Nottingham author (and Bryan for the day) David Belbin’s blog on But I Know This City of Literature.