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Manchester Jazz Festival launches

I like to think of myself as a touch bohemian.

I’ve been to Matt and Phred’s more than 10 times, I’ll have you know. And not only when the free pizza offer is on.

To be fair, I’ve also gone international with my fondness for jazz and its clubs, for example paying a visit to New York’s famous Birdland club and last September seeing my birthday in, in a charming little jazz club in Paris, whilst sipping full bodied red and foot tapping and head shaking with the best of them. Get me.

Last night I attended the launch of this year’s Manchester Jazz Festival, and, whilst there, got talking to one of the lovely trustees about the common misconceptions of jazz and the sheer breadth of the genre.

I need no convincing, but understand that many perceive jazz in its most abstract extreme (I quite like that extreme), declaring, just like Johnny (once again betraying my age with an 80s popular culture reference), they…

hate jazz.

Although to be fair I hate heavy metal, but this declaration is based solely on my very narrow perception of it to be noisy and scary.

And so, should Manchester hold its own Heavy Metal festival, perhaps I should take my own advice and attend (please don’t, Manchester).

But for now be swayed by my own tastes and share my excitement for this year’s programme of events.

Gathering at Brasserie Abode last night, the said gathered were tantalised with tales of what is to come to our great city, 20 – 28 July 2018.

Manchester Jazz Festival, is indeed the city’s longest running music festival, bringing together contemporary jazz not only from the North West, but from across the UK and, indeed, abroad, including national premieres of original work and international debuts.

Typically more than 60,000 people in attendance, the festival is a mixture of both paid and free gigs, with the aim to be accessible to all, and funded and supported by Arts Council England, Manchester City Council, PRS for Music Foundation, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Irwin Mitchell.

Some of the finest talent in jazz will be showcased at an eclectic range of Manchester venues , including Salon Perdu and Festival Square, Night and Day Café, RNCM, The Midland Hotel, Matt and Phred’s Jazz Club, Band on the Wall and St Ann’s Church.

Highlights of this year’s programme will include:

  • Cross Currents Trio featuring Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain, Chris Potter – three living legends of jazz, uniting in a rare UK performance fusing contemporary jazz and world music virtuosity.
  • The 2018 Irwin Mitchell mjforiginals commission – Esther Swift: Light Gatherer – Esther’s interest in poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s contribution to the arts, and especially the voice she gives to women, has inspired her to deconstruct Duffy’s works and create new texts using the same themes.

  • Hackney Colliery Band – inspired by New Orleans marching bands, Balkan beats, hip-hop, sizzling Latin brass and high-octane rock, with a few unexpected covers of the likes of Goldie, The Prodigy, Kanye West and even (my favourite) Toto, they bring the UK colliery brass band tradition bang up to date.

This is the tip of the jazzy iceberg (whatever that might be), and the full programme can be found on the Manchester Jazz Festival website here.

Kindly provided with a brochure of events by the festival organisers at last night’s launch, I have already set about it like any decent person would with their Christmas copy of the Radio Times, ringing and marking off multiple events coming this July.

With tickets going on sale today, 25 April 2018, at 9am, join me in securing my place at this summer’s hot event, the Manchester Jazz Festival.

It truly…

sounds fantastic.

For all the latest news, tickets and booking information, head to www.manchesterjazz.com

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Culture Events Manchester News Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Theatre review – Minefield

Walking into HOME theatre on Thursday night, my plus 1 and I discussed the subject matter of the production we were about to see; that of the Falklands War.

Both of a similar age (he 15 months older – devil is in the detail), we both agreed that the Falklands was one of the first significant ‘news’ events we were aware of at infant age. The second was the Miners’ Strike, some time later. The latter, mainly because I was scared of Arthur Scargill – the man who…

shouted on the television.

I am not pitting (sorry, that was truly not intentional) any one side against the other by having that particular fear. In fact, everyone from that era seemed to be ‘shouting on the television’ at one time  or another. It was very much the intonation du jour.

And so whilst the Falklands War was one of my earliest memories, it is admittedly a conflict that I know less of than the World Wars of earlier decades. Phrases such as ‘the sinking of the Belgrano’ and ‘Goose Green’ are familiar to me, but the details less so. In fact it is indeed pointed out on stage that it is not a conflict that is taught in schools.

And it should be.

And I now know a lot more.

And it is thanks to the incredible company who, as part of the Viva! Festival at HOME, brings those two months vividly to life in Lola Arias’ Minefield.

I need to be careful not to fall into a trap of looking like I’m (arrogantly) reviewing six men’s experiences of war, rather than a play. But here lies the fascination, if you like, because the six men who stood before us on stage last night are not only acting out and, yes, entertaining us with an account of the Falklands. It is their account. And their memories. And their lives which are being laid bare before audiences.

At this point, I should also strive to call the Falklands, the Malvinas too. Or at least reference this name as the six veterans were from both sides of the conflict:

Gabriel Sagastume – a soldier who never wanted to shoot a gun and who is now a criminal lawyer;

Marcelo Vallejo – a mortar direction controller who today is a triathlon champion;

Ruben Otero – who survived the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano, and who now plays in a Beatles tribute band;

David Jackson – who spent the war listening and transcribing radio codes and who now listens to other veterans in his role as a counsellor;

Sukrim Rai – a Gurkha and knife-expert who now works as a security guard; and

Lou Armour – who was on the front page of every UK newspaper when the Argentinians took him prisoner on 2 April 1982. Today he is a teacher for children with learning difficulties.

To give you a sense of the purpose of the production, Argentinian Director, Lola Arias, says

War isn’t what interests me, it’s what comes after that interests me. What matters to me is what happens to a person who went through that experience. What matters to me is what memory has done, what it has erased, what it has transformed.

Never has a vision been so realised than in Minefield. Not only in the accounts that as an audience member, you feel moved and privileged to be privy to, but in the imaginative, clever, informative and humorous ways in which the play does so.

I want everyone I’ve ever met to go and see this production (no mean feat, given that it’s only on for two more nights; 13 and 14 April 2018, and hence my review being a little shorter than I might like, given my desperation to get it out asap on my lunch hour), and so I won’t commit to any spoilers because I have true faith in all of you going straight online to book your tickets (see details at the end of this post).

However, I will throw in some phrases to give you something of what the production brings to the table in just one hour and 40 minutes of live theatre of which I have never experienced before and will stay with me for some time:

  • An account of a veteran who transported body parts in what was his own blanket (and remained so, sleeping under it for the duration of the conflict
  • Maggie Thatcher as you’ve never seen her before (nice legs David Jackson)
  • Diaries, letters, blankets, and stark, stark memories of a period shared with a captivated audience
  • A striptease
  • On stage therapy as one veteran shares his searingly honest and painful memories of the war to another, now trained as a Psychologist;
  • An Argentinian Beatles tribute band; and
  • so much, much more.

As my plus 1 and I left the theatre, largely in silence (we hadn’t had a spat), we broke that silence to marvel at what we’d just seen and how we’d describe it to someone who hadn’t seen it.

A better writer than me may come up with a strong tagline but all I can say is, if you can see it, please do. And if you can’t, read about these men, and all those who are not with us to share their own personal tales. Be it on a drum kit or in drag.

Picture credits: Tristam Kenton

To book your tickets (do it), please do so here.

For more information on the Viva! Festival and the full programme of events, please click here.

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Culture Events Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Theatre review – The Winslow Boy

Coming home from The Lowry theatre last night, my designated plus 1 in theatre and basically life, told me the story of the snail and the ginger beer.

It’s a little like the owl and the pussycat. Well actually nothing like it.

The snail and the ginger beer was the court case Donoghue v Stevenson, which was heard in the House of Lords. In summary (more details can be found here), in 1928, Mrs Donoghue was quietly drinking her bottle of ginger beer in a café in Paisley. In a departure from the classic ‘waiter there’s a fly in my soup’, Mrs Donoghue fell upon a dead snail in the bottle.

Upon seeing the decomposed snail float out of the bottle into her glass, Mrs Donoghue duly felt ‘ill’ from the sight, complaining of stomach pains. A subsequent diagnosis was given by Glasgow Royal Infirmary of gastroenteritis and shock.

In short, the case went to the highest court in the land and became a legal first when Mrs Donoghue successfully sued the ginger beer manufacturer, Mr Stevenson, in that he owed a duty of care to her which was breached. To quote lovely old Wikipedia , ‘this was an evolutionary step in the common law for tort and delict, moving from strict liability based upon direct physical contact to a fault-based system which only required injury’.

And so from here a thousand hot apple pies did scald a thousand fast food consumers, resulting in a thousand court cases. You get the general idea.

My plus 1, whilst generally a font of all knowledge, did actually have a point to this molluscesque (the word is patent pending), account. It was the tale of a seemingly insignificant occurrence leading to a landmark case and legal judgement, which brings us to Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy.

Playing at The Lowry Theatre until this Saturday 14 April, the play tells the story of young Ronnie Winslow (Misha Butler), who has been expelled from the Royal Navy College, for stealing a five shilling postal order. Set in 1910, his parents Arthur (Aden Gillett) and Grace (Tessa Peake-Jones) are devastated by events.

His father is determined to clear his son’s name and, risking his family’s reputation – financially and socially – and with significant consequence to the lives of both his daughter Catherine (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) and eldest son Dickie (Theo Bamber), enters the realms of national scandal along the way.

Based on the real-life landmark case – Archer-Shee v the King (1910), the play is a snapshot of Edwardian London and the social and political landscape of the time.

Daughter, Catherine (Bennett)is a delightfully intelligent force to be reckoned with, references to her membership of the Suffragette movement displayed both explicitly through the dialogue and demonstratively through her steely determination, and progressive thinking and attitude to both the case and in her relationships.

Stylistically, the set is simple yet attractive, all acts playing out in the family’s drawing room, the subject matter and action punctuated with humour (special mention to Soo Drouet’s Violet the maid)…

and, what may not have been written as knowing nods to how society was to evolve, some humorous moments found from scenarios such as the novelty of a female journalist turning upto the house (Miss Barnes played by Sarah Lambie) – who, there to write about the case, becomes distracted by the finer details of the curtains hanging in the drawing room (it should be worth noting that this was the press night performance, one or two female journalists seated in the audience – the scandal!).

What was mostly an ensemble cast (although look out for the delightfully and seemingly dastardly Sir Robert (Timothy Watson), the play kept me captivated by its clever, rapid and witty dialogue and delivery, and I would recommend you book for what is an evening of historical and social insight (and, not least, top notch theatre).

For full cast details and how to book, please click here

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New Music Launch! Manc favourites Jess Kemp & David Gorman to hit The Deaf Institute

Fans of singer/songwriters Jess Kemp and David Gorman will be thrilled at this double bubble news that they will be co-headlining a gig at top city venue, The Deaf Institute, on 18 May 2018.

Each will be individually taking to that iconic stage with a full band, to launch some brand new music to treat the senses!

Jess Kemp

Readers of this blog will be familiar with Jess’s work, having recently sold out The Whiskey Jar.

From her debut single Stars, to her debut EP Camden, Jess went onto headline small spaces round the city such as Manchester Academy 3.

However it was the release of VondelPark last year, which catapulted Jess to stages such as Kendal Calling and Bluedot, as well as recently picking up ‘Best Songwriter’ at the Unsigned Music Awards.

Clint Boon said

I was knocked out the first time I saw Jess Kemp perform live.

She’s not just a world-class songwriter, she’s a fantastic performer.

Who are we to argue with Clint?! Head over to hear Jess’s new singles No Shouting and On the Ground on the 18th.

http://www.jesskemp.co.uk/

https://www.youtube.com/user/JessKemp94

https://spoti.fi/2I7ePvb

David Gorman

If you’re a fan of Mumford & Sons, Benjamin Francis Leftwich and Sunday mornings, David Gorman is most definitely for you.

David has already enjoyed a fantastic year so far, starting with a nomination from the Bolton FM Unsigned Show for the ‘Best Male Solo Act of 2017’ and having his latest release Another Midnight long-listed by The Unsigned Music Awards for ‘Best Produced Record of the Year’.

Having already played gigs around the country including London, York, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield, he’s back to Manchester and taking to The Deaf Institute stage on 18 May to launch brand new single Chicago is Calling, featuring the beautiful harmonies and finger-picking style style synonymous with his music.

https://davidgormanmusic.weebly.com

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaToPrKr1pz2E3fKYTwQmeQ

https://spoti.fi/2I5B3xC

All the deets

So what are you waiting for Manchester ?

To book to see both amazing talents on 18 May 2018 at The Deaf Institute, click on the link below:

https://www.seetickets.com/event/jess-kemp-dave-gorman/the-deaf-institute/1200292

Doors open at 7pm and tickets are on sale for £6 each.