First point of business today is this superb all-dayer fundraiser at the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff being put together by the redoubtable Ian ‘Uh Oh’ Watson, fine artist, sculptor, noise-maker and humanitarian. The event is raising funds and awareness of the plight of refugees, with particular emphasis on the current situation in Calais. Hope to see as many of you as possible there to enjoy this rather super line-up, all for a worthy and most important cause. Donations and gifts of unwanted clothing in good condition will also be gratefully accepted at the event:
— Ian Watson (@uhohwatson) May 18, 2016
And yes, I am only too aware that the above tweet sits to one side of the page and makes the website look untidy. You couldn’t possibly have more OCD impulses currently being triggered over this than I have. But what’s much more important right now is that you absorb the information in contains and turn up on the day with lots of items of clothing (and perhaps some cash) so that the good folk of Newport2Calais can put them to the best use possible. It’s also Howlround’s first trip to Wales, which is quite exciting. What’s not to like? See you there!
Speaking of Howlround, thanks to everyone who came down to Bad Timing’s sold-out event The Other Side: An Audiophonic Séance last week for giving me and the tape machines such a warm welcome. A tip of the hat must go to fellow performers Evie Salmon and James Riley, English Heretic’s ‘Documents’ project and especially Bad Timing mainstay Jo Brooks, who did quite spectacular things throughout the evening with a handful of old cassette and CD walkmans (walkmen?) and a contact mic. Thanks must also go to @StrayTaoist for taking the above rather spiffy photo of the performance. Even on four hours sleep and with a stubborn cold, I really do seem to just smoulder in black and white, don’t I? What a pity life has to be so colourful the rest of the time. Which brings us semi-neatly to…
By strange coincidence, at roughly the same time as I was snottily dragging a suitcase full of tape machines off the Cambridge train, my latest piece for BBC Radio 4 regarding the previous week’s Great Gatsby-inspired evening at Senate House was being given an airing on PM. Having a report on this flagship of current affairs is always a significant event for me, as it’s the one time there’s even the remotest likelihood that any of my work will reach Mother in her kitchen and win me some much-needed parental approval points. Though I think she prefers Radio 2 nowadays, for some reason…
The purpose of this most glamorous event, as hostess Sarah Churchill breathlessly explains, is not only to pay tribute to this classic novel of prohibition-era New York, but also to debunk a few famous myths and give us a better idea of the kind of world Scott Fitzgerald was addressing when he wrote it; thus helping us to view the story in new and often dramatically different ways. To receive the full effect one required authentic period food, costume, ‘historical perfumes’, newsreel footage, appropriate dances (not the Charleston!) and the nagging feeling of being decidedly under-dressed, despite wearing that one button-down shirt kept for job interviews and funerals. It is true that such glamourous shindigs are not usually my stomping ground, but my editor seemed to feel that such an evocative event might benefit from a little Radiophonic treatment – plus I still haven’t paid off my last tape machine repair bill, so it’s a welcome cash-injection. It’s equally true that something of a complete tonal gear-change is required when moving from the ragtime, evening gowns and bathtub gin of London to the more honest Cambridge fare of tape loops, coleslaw sandwiches and a bottle of lucozade. Nonetheless, temporally-speaking these two very different ships did more-or-less pass in the night and I like to think I managed to avoid sinking either of them. Have a listen and hopefully you’ll agree.
And finally this week, with yet another tonal gear-shift, it’s time to present the latest edition of Resonance FM’s Near Mint show, where Hannah Brown and myself look back on 2016 so far and pull out some of our favourite releases. It’s a brisk and breezy selection and by the time you get to the penultimate contribution by Brood Ma, you may well find yourself grinding your teeth along in sympathy. I would even have described the show as ‘banging’ if Hannah hadn’t spent six whole minutes telling me off for trying to do so. Apparently such a word is not to be bandied about by a gentleman of my cultural cache, time of life or income-bracket. It’s a real minefield out there, isn’t it?
Apart from the exceptionally high quality of each of the tracks featured here, there will be no major surprises if you’ve been regularly visiting these pages over the last few months, with the one possible exception of the rather enigmatic Freeholm Wilson; who seems to have rather sprung up from nowhere all of a sudden. Superb debut album Children Of June is currently only available digitally, but I do happen to have got my tacky paws on an advance copy of the clear vinyl edition and hopefully you’ll be able to as well before too long.