Last weekend we went to Collider at the Science Museum, the exhibition about CERN, the LHC and the discovery of the Higgs Boson. It is £10 for an adult, gets drastically undermined by its introductory film – and I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed coming out of a major exhibition.
Is this what mainstream science-based curation is like?
Collider opens with a video introduction given by scientists inside a mocked up lecture theatre. It’s not clear if these are real staff members, or actors playing caricature. The lead is a Yaffle-ish cliché, over-enunciating like a first time local newsreader, giving us a kind of smug, self-absorbed monologue about peripheral, mostly meaningless stuff. Of course, if he’s a real CERN scientist I feel bad for dissing his delivery – but this whole section is desperate distraction rather than rich content. It feels like a hundred idiots tweaked the brief. It feels like a multi-agency fluff – where directors and editors entirely fail to establish target audience, or decide what needs saying, or oversee their presenters to be simple and economic. Actually, it feels as if the sole aim is not to explain the Higgs Boson or LHC at all, rather to ram home the point that scientists are interesting people with human lives. This is Cowellian distopic nightmare writ large and shoved worryingly deep into our science and innovation establishment. Emotive (and silly) personal life nonsense and generic “Whoa! how excited we are!” replaces any sense of authority or faith in the richness of what these experiments may mean. One scientist tells us she’s doing it all for the memory of her humble schoolteacher father – and her script reads exactly like one of those moments on X Factor when they force-grow audience empathy. My gears grind. We’re in a presentation to relentlessly tell us how important it all is, rather than showing us.
Also, they use the phrase ‘money shot’. How on earth did that get past an editorial team? “Mum, what does ‘money shot’ mean?”
There’s one teasing footage moment of Peter Higgs and some actual findings – less than three seconds – before we skim away again, uneducated and unmoved. Far more time is spent on an inane, irritating joke involving Brian Cox, who appears faced away from us, while a scientist calls him ‘new boy’ and demands a cup of tea from “what was your name again?” “Brian”. Meaningful look to camera.
And then one scientist makes this joke, with the clear implication that we’re meant to laugh with him, not at him: “My wife says I spend more time with the LHC than her. But I can get another wife.”
Gobsmacking. The scriptwriting is criminal. Imagine how much more powerful this film could’ve been if someone (yeah perhaps Cox, since they’ve paid him to show up anyway!) did the following simple steps: (1) explained the problems they wanted to solve, questions they wanted to answer in the first place (which don’t get a mention). (2) showed us clips of CERN at work and play, (3) then clips of the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs and maybe some Peter Higgs himself (that can be our emotional kicker). Finally (4) summing up (as simply as possible) what it all means. It’s, er, not rocket science. By god, an actual history lesson.
Collider’s opening salvo is sexist, badly put together and dumb, its compromised cheapness rendered obvious by the huge screen size. It fatally injures the rest of the exhibition, which without it (and without the entry fee) might’ve been perhaps mostly harmless. We need to suspend skeptism and, fundamentally, maintain interest in these scientists’ achievement in order to enjoy being briefly and vaguely immersed in their world. Instead we walk through the rest of Collider filled with the exact wrong responses. Sarcastic and flaw-spotting. Disengaged. There’s a high quality surround CG film that takes us ‘inside’ the LHC itself, whooshing around us on a huge screen, yet with no components or processes adequately explained. There are further scientist narratives which are much better; talking about individual aspects of CERN’s work. There’s the evocative recreation of an office space and corridor, which – again – aims to entirely prioritise the humanising of the staff, ahead of any explanation of what they do.
If Collider is this weak, it has a further problem: how vastly rich the experience is to simply walk through the rest of the Science Museum to get there. If you’re remotely engaged with, or interested in science, or if you have children who are interested in science, please visit the Science Museum, it’s a wonderful, overwhelming place. I found more of Prof. Cox’s trademark “Wonder!” in a single projected display showing vividly how many satellites there really are orbiting Earth (answer: a shitload, looking at it makes Gravity a ton more plausible) than the entire Collider walk-through. So please don’t spend the extra money to visit Collider. If they’re contributing to the Cowellising of culture like this, we’ll only encourage them if it’s successful. Instead, we can find other ways to discover and share the joys of the LHC and the stories of the scientists who built and used it. An hour on Youtube will probably do the job vastly better.
Was having a studio conversation yesterday with Hoodrats (mainly Ben) about favourite films. Here’s Ben’s Top 10 from his blog. He pointed out a significant gap in my cultural experience: that I’ve hardly seen any great, significant European cinema. Anyway, afterwards I went back to the couple of times I’ve worked out lists before – and made a new favourites list. Then I fell asleep on the sofa and froze in the night.
1. Leon (Luc Besson)
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick)
3. Silent Running (Douglas Trumbull)
4. Prince Mononoke (Hayao Mayazaki)
5. Enter The Void (Gaspar Noe)
6. Stop Making Sense (Talking Heads/Jonathan Demme)
7. When Harry Met Sally (Rob Reiner)
8. A Matter Of Life & Death (Powell & Pressburger)
9. Local Hero (Bill Forsythe)
10. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis)
11. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)
12. Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Mayazaki)
13. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman)
14. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz)
15. Alien (Ridley Scott)
16. All The President’s Men (Alan Pakula)
17. I Am Cuba (Mikhael Kalatozov)
18. 12 Angry Men (Syndey Lumet)
19. Sunshine (Danny Boyle)
20. A Bout De Souffle (Jean-Luc Godard)
21. The Searchers (John Ford)
22. Children Of Men (Alfonso Cuaron)
23. Battle Royale (Kinji Fuakasaku)
24. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
25. Life Of Brian (Terry Jones)
I wonder if this list means I don’t get much of my deeper emotional nourishment from cinema: instead just want to be shown stuff in a way I haven’t expected, or seen before, and/or get top line emotional escapism.
In 2012 I got really into the world of speaking and discussions: always loved Radio 4 but now I owe a big debt to Franz Nicolay, who introduced me to American podcasts on tour last autumn, which made a huge impact. So I listened to less music and more words, though it was a decent year for albums. Also, I enjoyed more films and art galleries than the past few years, so this year’s lists feel better balanced than previous.
By the way, I’ve given up trying to filter out people I know personally from my end-of-year lists. Full disclosure: three albums in my top 10 are on Xtra Mile Recordings and a lot of these top 10s include folks I know a bit. But fuck it, it’s just my favourites, not some be-all-and-end-all about what’s ‘best’.
Anyway, you’re very welcome to add your reaction, or your top 10s in the comments section if you feel like it. Here we go…
1. Future Of The Left – The Plot Against Common Sense
2. Taylor Swift – Red
3. Jack White – Blunderbuss
4. Lau – Race The Loser
5. Bellowhead – Broadside
6. Ian Vine – Held/Always/Immer/Gehalten
7. The Pure Conjecture – Courgettes
8. Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun – Death
9. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball
10. Retrospective Soundtrack Players – The Catcher In The Rye
Honorary mentions: how did Tom Williams & The Boat or the gay orange dude from Odd Future not make it on here? I don’t know but they didn’t. Nor did Neil Young’s Psychedelic Pill, though it’s bloody great. Jess Morgan’s beautiful Aye Me only just got edged out. Singing Adams might’ve smashed it but their LP is only out this week and they didn’t send me one or anything, so I’ve not heard it yet. Ditto, Martin White & The Fax Machine Orchestra’s bonkers Master Flea.
1. Sinead O’Connor at St George’s Church, Brighton
2. Pearl & The Beard at The Green Door Store, Brighton
3. Jim Bob, Driving Jarvis Ham tour, various venues
4. Midwinter Picnic 4, Brighton
5. Future Of The Left / Fever Fever / Clowns at The Haunt, Brighton
6. Jess Morgan at Villa Marina Arcade, Douglas, Isle Of Man
7. Elliott Brood at The Palmeira, Hove
8. Thor Magnusson (live music coding) at Brighton Digital Festival closing party
9. Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun at Great Escape, Brighton
10. Pip Mountjoy at Stereo, York
I missed several gigs (after getting tickets/guestlist) that might have made it into this top 10, through cock-ups at my end – just last month both Robyn and Carter USM shows, at Brixton Academy, could’ve likely made the top 5.
Honorary mentions: Gill Sandell, Paul Kingsnorth and Ingrid Plum at Dark Mountain book launch, Eliza Shaddad in Ipswich, She Makes War at various venues on tour, Luke Sital Singh at Great Escape, Keith Top Of The Pops’ cacophony at Brixton Windmill, Oxygen Thief somewhere or other, Franz Nicolay’s end-of-tour show in Brighton, 45 minutes of Turner at Wembley, Jim Lockey (again) opening for Turner at Brighton Dome and the Rock Academy Isle Of Man end-of-week concert.
In 2012 I played 71 shows (versus 112 in 2011 and 120+ in 2010), with only one Hoodrats show (sans Johny). I didn’t perform at all outside the UK, despite killer opportunities to do so, which was a big downer. So, not a classic gigging year – but still some unforgettable moments. And funnily enough the two things I did this year that probably made the biggest impact were non-musical (TEDx talk and Not Just Shit But Dangerous article).
Anyway, as usual, I’ve listed these gigs solely based on how much I enjoyed being onstage, not how well I performed (though that affects it obviously), or how cool or big the show was…
1. Greenbelt Festival, Cheltenham (biblical thunderstorm)
2. QEH, South Bank Centre, London, with Spiers & Boden (A.A. Milne show)
3. Hebden Bridge Festival (eccentric night, lush crowd, longest ever set)
4. Three Legs Festival IOM, songwriters circle with Matt Creer, Jess Morgan & Christy D
5. The Lamb, Devizes
6. piano jam in Gypo & Jo’s living room, Port St Mary, IOM
7. St Martin-In-The-Fields Church, London, SMK Awards (just ‘M1 Song’)
8. Brighton Corn Exchange (doing the TEDx talk)
9. New Zealand House, London
10. Battitude 2012 at Brixton Windmill (Jon & Jen as rhythm section)
btw I’ve now played 1,996 shows in my adult life, so fairly early in 2013 I’ll hit my 2,000th. Needs something special, I reckon.
1. Oliver Sachs – Hallucinations
2. Jonathan Rose – The Intellectual Life Of The British Working Classes
3. Jim Bob – Driving Jarvis Ham
4. various contributors – Dark Mountain Issue 3
5. Hilary Mantel – Bring Up The Bodies
6. Ben Murray – Reading Proust (not published yet)
7. Maajid Nawaz – Radical
8. Robert & Edward Sidelsky – How Much Is Enough? The Love Of Money
9. Thomas Heatherwick – Making (this is a picture book really)
10. Haruki Murakami – IQ84 1-3
1. Thomas Hetherwick at the V&A
2. Shardcore’s Great Escape auto-generated fanzine scam
3. James Kendall’s photos at The Hope for BPB
4. Miro at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
5. The Rain Room at The Barbican
6. Carne Griffiths ink and tea work at Ink_d Gallery
7. Shardcore’s portrait of Jeremy Clarkson
8. British Design at the V&A
9. Mishfit’s Lakshmi graffiti on our back wall
10. Trevor Paglen at the Lighthouse for BPB
1. The Kid With A Bike
2. The Muppets
3. Beasts Of The Southern Wild
4. Bloody Cuts series of British horror shorts
5. Moonrise Kingdom
8. Cabin In The Woods
10. The Dark Knight Rises
Honorary mention: Princess Mononoke screened on film (not digital) at the Duke of Yorks. Ironically, for Brighton Digital Festival.
2. Adventure Time
3. Olympics and Paralympics Opening Ceremonies
4. Forbrydelsen (The Killing) III
5. The Walking Dead
6. The Thick Of It
7. Game Of Thrones
8. Felix Baumgartner’s jump from space live-stream
9. Nina Conti: A Ventriloquist’s Story
10. The Tube documentary series
ps. I know Breaking Bad was probably the best TV of the year but I’m saving the final couple seasons for later.
Honourable mentions: regained access to Daily Show and Colbert, also Veep, Smash! (loved the first few, gave up by episode 6), Wallander season 3, The Newsroom (yes!), Homeland series 1 (season 2 has gone bonkers, though performances are still excellent), Jon Stewart vs Bill O’Reilly: The TV Debate, Have You Heard From Johannesburg? documentary series. US Presidential election (watched simultanously on three channels + twitter), and that whales and dolphins TV series narrated by Stephen Fry
Also honourable mention for James Burke’s Connections, made in 1979 and the original TV series of Edge Of Darkness. Both of these would be in my top 3, if they’d been made this year.
LIVE TALKS & STAND-UP
1. James Burke talk at dConstruct
2. Bruce Springsteen’s keynote speech at SXSW
3. Tig Notaro’s live stand-up set, days after finding out about breast cancer
4. Storytellers Club: Mark Thomas’ story of activist betrayal, with Jim Bob and Isy Suttie
5. Hannah Lewis reads from ‘On This Site of Loss’ at Dark Mountain book launch
6. Meaning 2012: especially Indy Johar, Vinay Gupta and Caroline Lucas
7. Stewart Lee – Carpet Remnant World
8. tour guide’s bullshit ‘transvestite seduction’ story during the Blue John Cavern tour
9. Tom Armitage on Toymaking at dConstruct
10. Brian Aldiss, Jeff Noon and Lauren Beukes at Brighton SF
If I was to merge the categories, judge all culture as one, James Burke’s dConstruct talk would be my #1 of 2012. My mind was utterly frazzled and my heart opened. Listen to it here but only if you’ve the space to concentrate for an hour; it’s exceptionally rich food.
At this point, a nod of respect and gratitude to Brighton UX agency Clearleft. Not only were three of these talks under their wing (a hat tip to developer Jeremy Keith (@adactio) for curating and hosting both dConstruct and Brighton SF on one intense long weekend, the madman) but the company also invited me to tag along on their office outing, trawling London art exhibitions, two of which ended up in my art exhibitions top 10, above. That was a kick-arse day out.
RADIO / PODCASTS
1. This American Life: Our Friend David Rakoff (memorial edition)
2. Slate Gabfest during US Presidential primaries and election
3. In Our Time – Radio 4
4. David Sedaris reads his 2004 essay ‘Possession’ on Radio 4
5. WTF with Marc Maron, especially Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips) interview
6. Slate Culture Gabfest – Stephen Metcalf’s consistent insight into culture is extraordinary
7. Kermode and Mayo
8. Planet Money podcast
9. Mike Daisey’s episode of This American Life and and subsequent redaction
10. This American Life: Little War On The Prairie
And that’s my lot. Comments / disagreements / things I’ve missed out, all very welcome. If you want to compare it to last year’s top 10s, they’re here. Roll on 2013.
I knew Kim Gavin’s Closing Ceremony would be the antithesis of the crazy-beautiful joy that Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce brought to the opening night: I knew it would be predictable and mainstream. But that was fine, we’d have a laugh, enjoy the music acts we like and I honestly thought it would still be funny after three hours. Witnessing the pop stars and lickspittles trying to equal Boyle’s heady brew. Art is subjective, after all.
I was mistaken: it was a numbing, disheartening disaster. The biggest floating turd we ever did whiff; reducing, demeaning and re-squishing Britain, at the very moment we’d felt shifted long-term for the better by these liberating Olympic Games. In one fattened pig of a gong-show, Gavin forced us back into clunky shackles that Boyle and Boyce briefly, tantalisingly freed us from, only a month ago. Far worse than just being bad, what unfolded was – I think – proper fucking dangerous. You know that phrase: the banality of evil. So.
There’d been rumblings that Danny Boyle didn’t put enough Churchill in. Our war leader, fast deposed in peacetime, wasn’t given enough of a strident voice for organisers’ tastes. Because obviously we need thoughts of conflict and top-down triumphalism, not co-operation and shared effort, to show us off to the world on the eve of a big sports pageant. Dur. Anyway, Kim Gavin kicked off by correcting that error, with admirable actor Tim Spall bellowing something from The Tempest, stretched over a noisy background canvas in awful parroting rasp, reprised in broader strokes from his performance in The King’s Speech. Not a fresh moment then; instead lifted from someone else’s casting and someone else’s process.
This flags up clearly what was about to happen for fucking hours: piles of stuff presented as unique, weighty or historical that was actually just re-staged ubiquity; hackney carriaged bits and bobs, flung up-and-out on stadium scale, nothing new added. Constantly disappointing, the show repeatedly heralded musical legends who weren’t there; Bowie, Bush, they didn’t appear, just backing tracks over a tannoy. Desperately a commentator tells us Kate Bush re-recorded her vocal part for the ceremony. Why even bother, though?
Another outing for Emeli Sandé. In the Opening Ceremony she performed too but it wasn’t so much about her, then, as what she was singing: The Meaning had little to do with her domestic fame or career path. This time it was the opposite: entirely about Sandé as a PR machined product – and she went on for ages. I have to believe both Adele and Leona turned down Gavin, for Emeli to have got this length of slot; I’ve forgotten anything about the song except the totally Adele-ish solo piano accompaniment. Foghorn Florence was too edgy to appear, or too smart.
Gavin couldn’t get Oasis to reform; instead relying on Liam’s Beady Eye to karaoke ancient song Wonderwall. And what the fuck has happened to Liam’s voice? Once perhaps the greatest sneering, louche roar this country has produced – a rich, northern counterpoint to Johnny Rotten – yet now I guess ravaged by cocaine, inactivity, far too much soft cheese, it’s a horrible whining dither. Like when The Fast Show one week swapped Jazz Club for Indie Club (ha, there’s a boring, outdated 90s reference for you) it was a disinterested parody of ‘alternative’.
I reckon George Michael’s live auto-tune was still on as he spoke between his two songs, so his voice glitched out as if he’d breathed helium.
And the most audaciously lazy bit of all: the entire audio track of the opening section then replayed as backing soundtrack to the athletes arriving and partying. Gavin couldn’t even be bothered to pick some different tunes to play out over the PA. Even the shittest amateur wedding DJ wouldn’t pull that stunt. So cheapskate, one almost expected the Spotify adverts to interrupt halfway through.
Such relentless, vacuous prioritising of burger van iconography over real-life performance (or talent) is summed up by Russell Brand’s song’n’dance number. I like Brand but he is a stand-up comedian, television presenter and sometimes a useful cultural commentator. None of these are here, instead we rely on his hyperdriven celebrity itself to carry something that is patently (and self-knowingly, since he played it for laughs) drivel. Now I’m getting carried away slagging it off but there is a more important thing needs highlighting about this show, with a direct comparison:
From the Opening Ceremony, take Atkinson-as-Bean’s comic bit around Sir Simon Rattle conducting Chariots Of Fire. Whether or not you enjoy Bean, this was an undercutting and re-humanising of an epic ‘classic’ piece of music that – without fundamentally lessening its power (it was subsequently used throughout the Olympics) – took it to a previously unseen, interesting, funny place. THAT is how to treat an icon. It was Gerard Hoffnung-esque, de-mythologised the orchestra and took itself lightly without deadening itself. Meanwhile, there was Akram Khan’s powerful Indian dance in near silence, linked to Emile Sande singing Abide With Me in tribute to fallen comrades. Here, crucially, the ethnicity, or ‘exoticism’ of the dance is not the point of the dance, rather it is presented as part of a bigger ‘us’, while the emotion in the dance is its strength and focus.
Compare those two sections to their near parallel in the Closing Ceremony; where Eric Idle flounces through Python smash Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life before being interrupted by, again, some Indian dancers, who befuddle and confuse him, throw dust on him, leave him distracted. On a quality level; again nothing new or rare. Performances of this song take place every night somewhere across the UK as part of Spamalot. On a political level, it no way captured any of the subversive silliness of the original from Life Of Brian. All reference to the film’s edgy content exorcised, of course.
But far worse, this routine was entirely about the otherness and exoticism of the Indian dance juxtaposed against Idle’s familiarity; this was the dancers’ sole point; to be alien where previously there was comfort. This is deeply malignant. Idle’s uncomfortable adversity was cultural diversity, because that is how this ruinous establishment needs us to feel about multi-culturalism, even as we pay lip service to difference. We already saw clearly – for example in far-right Tory arsewipe Aiden Burley’s “multi-cultural crap” tweet and a Daily Mail piece so bursting with racism even they re-edited it – how Boyle’s opening work was drastically radical by comparison: ethnicity and background properly enmeshed and un-highlighted.
Kim gave a similar bashing to gender, sensitivity perhaps heightened by how the past three weeks has been an extraordinary Olympic Games for women; with significant, real steps taken. The ‘fashion biz’ segment in the Closing Ceremony was an unfathomably regressive bit of choreographed objectification. It felt deliberate, as if designed to rein in any aspiration or hopes that briefly glimpsed light this past month. Huge photos of girls in posh frocks. Superstar models appear, celebrified, apeing their runway work on flatbeds. It wasn’t a fashion show in itself, or a true celebration of design (which would’ve told us something about design). It was more like the revenge of the owner of the commodified clothes-horse: as if womankind needed to be ritually re-objectified, after a short respite month of being valued in a better way. Ramming back home the wider truths of rape culture and wealth-based costumery idealism.
Appalling on both fronts: politically (not party-politically but in its representation of us as a people, a nation, to the world) and culturally, through its sheer, gobsmacking lack of material. Kim Gavin’s ceremony contained not a single new or unexpected idea. Not one! Just relentless looping of overly-seen bits from other big recent shows, produced by the same hegemony. The Who perform. Tick. Brian May does a big guitar solo. Tick. Ed Sheeran. Tick. There is no content and no meaning here whatsoever.
They were perfectly within their rights to produce a poor show – or rather, a show I personally didn’t enjoy: one person’s piece of crap is another person’s fun party. But what they weren’t within their rights to do was claw back the goodness. They stole our rapture and they put John Lennon’s dead face onto commodified conventionalism. Kim Gavin is the perfect example of an endemic disease in the modern British arts industry: a hugely powerful establishment creative director who is not actually a creative person, or if he was, long ago outsourced it for status and pies. His show was not cookery but mere assemblage – a Lego house built from bricks we all saw already, outdated values and the co-opting and commodifying of grace. And not even an interestingly shaped whole.
What Boyle’s Opening Ceremony had done was open up the doors; a box of delights; the best of what we are and what we can be in Great Britain, how we built this motherfucker. Showing us our truthful crazy-beautiful spirit and heralding in two weeks of sport in such a way that we felt something could be reclaimed and changed. We repaid him by being the best athletes, volunteers and audience in history.
What Gavin’s Closing Ceremony has done is to throw Britain back in the box and slam it shut; fiercely and unquestioningly placing current hegemonies back in charge; re-infantilising and re-exoticising all that Boyle had tried to unlock for us; a revenge for the otherness and the hierachy and the celebrity-for-its-own-sake, just as these bullshit Cowellian things had seemed to be proven unneeded. It was a boot on our face. I wonder how we’ll repay him.
MY FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2011
I think it’s been a fantastic year for LPs. Even if fewer punters want to listen to whole records, still the classiest talents want to make them. How did Decemberists, Sam Duckworth, She Makes War, The Horrors, MJ Hibbett, Standard Fare, EMA, Grace Petrie, tUnE-yArDs, Metronomy and Matt Creer not even make it into my Top 10? All made superb records in 2011. But oh no they di’in’t, my 10 favourites are…
1 PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
2 Scroobius Pip – Distraction Pieces
3 Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
4 The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient
5 Nicola Roberts – Cinderella’s Eyes
6 British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall
7 Something Beginning With L – Beautiful Ground
8 Fucked Up – David Comes To Life
9 Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones
10 Tom Williams & The Boat – Too Slow
The Muppets – ‘Am I A Man Or Am I A Muppet?’
Standard Fare – ‘Darth Vadar’
Joanna Neary – ‘Youth Club’ closing song
Franz Nicolay – ‘Do The Stuggle’
Jim Bob – ‘Mr Blue Sky’
James Blake – ‘A Case Of You’
This Is The Kit – ‘Easy Pickings’
tUnE-yArDs – ‘Bizzness’
The Singing Adams – ‘The Old Days’
Hugh Laurie – ‘Swanee River’
Second annual honourable mention for Jon Boden’s Folk Song A Day project, which in June successfully completed a new recording of a traditional tune every day for a year. Inspiring and brilliant. Also excellent was Darren Hayman’s January Songs, where he wrote and shared a new song each day for a month. Insightful into process.
FAVOURITE GIGS OF THE YEAR (AUDIENCE)
Carter USM, Tim Ten Yen at Edenfest, Mr Spoons’ garden, south-east London
Clowns at The Hydrant, Brighton
ONSIND and others at Book Yer Ane Fest 5, Dexter’s, Dundee
Robyn at The Roundhouse, London
Jim Jones Revue at Blissfields 2011
Midwinter Picnic 3 at West Hill Hall, Brighton
Tom Williams & The Boat, My First Tooth, She Makes War, The Borderline
The Singing Adams at The Basement, Brighton
Frank Turner, Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo, Franz Nicolay at Newport Centre
Dive Dive at The Frog & Fiddle, Cheltenham
FAVOURITE GIGS OF THE YEAR (PLAYED)
In 2011 I did 112 shows (solo, Hoodrats, Milne, activist stuff, short spots and a few public talks). This top 10 is just based on how much I enjoyed the time onstage – doesn’t mean much about the whole night, or audience quality, or even how well I played. It’s just that magic (hard to explain) ‘thing’ onstage:
1 Laurence, Jølle and Kenneth’s basement party, Copenhagen
2 The Hoodrats in Cheltenham, Swindon & Art Uncut gig, London
3 Falmouth University on their new Yamaha CF6 grand piano
4 Carter USM, me and Tim Ten Yen in Neil’s garden
5 Cambridge Portland, supported by MJ Hibbett and Anna Madeleine
6 The Church stage at Indietracks Festival
7 frantic Pecha Kucha talk about Twitter and post-Capitalism at Brighton Digital Festival
8 Edinburgh Fringe – pretty much the whole thing, especially the final two weeks
9 York, maybe Edinburgh and/or Reading on Franz Nicolay’s tour
10 Robin Ince’s late night show, Comedy Stage, End Of The Road Festival
Honorable mention to Matt Creer’s brilliant gig in a church in Douglas on the Isle Of Man, which was magic but for the absence of some Manxie friends. Also honourable mention to the Aberdeen Lost & Found show where (entirely coincidentally) the stage set was toilets, because they’d had a play on set in a public loo.
FAVOURITE TV OF THE YEAR
Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle
Game Of Thrones
The Shadow Line
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Bruce Parry’s Arctic
The 10 O’Clock Show
(I’m sure The Killing and The Slap would be in here but I haven’t watched them yet)
*EDIT* just realised (watching Adam Curtis on the Screenswipe review of 2011) that I forgot the magnificent series All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace. Stick that in at number #1 and drop the 10 O’Clock Show off the list. 🙂
FAVOURITE OTHER CULTURAL THINGS
1. Isy Suttie ‘Pearl & Dave’ at Edinburgh Fringe
2. Adam Curtis’ BBC archive blogs
3. collection of English and Scottish ballads Franz Nicolay found me in Buxton, published in 1868
4. Private Eye, a vintage year for Hislop & co.
5. Joanna Neary ‘Youth Club’ at Edinburgh Fringe and the Three And Ten, Brighton
6. Jason Burke – The 9/11 Wars (book)
7. Louis CK’s Beacon Theatre $5 special
8. debate about protest songs at Interrogate! Festival in Dartington Hall
9. Caitlin Moran – How To Be A Woman (book)
10. Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast, thanks to Franz Nicolay
11. Margaret Cho at Edinburgh Fringe and Brighton Comedy Festival
12. Boring 2011 (even though I only saw 2 hours)
13. Tom Price ‘Say When’ at Edinburgh Fringe
14. MJ Hibbett & Steve’s ‘Moon Horse’ at Edinburgh Fringe
15. Charlotte Young and Mark Dean Quinn’s Darwin show
16. Josie Long in various places
17. revisiting Chomsky vs Foucault
18. Crunch Festival in Hay-on-Wye
honorable mention: Jim Bob’s second novel is extraordinary and brilliant but I’ll list it when it’s published (2012 I believe).
HERO OF THE YEAR
Time Magazine named ‘the protester’ and I agree. Specifically, my heroes of the year are: UK Uncut, Anonymous, Art Uncut, @BendyGirl and The Hardest Hit, Josie Long and Neil Griffiths’ Arts Emergency campaign and the global Occupiers.
VILLAIN OF THE YEAR
Of course: government, bankers, corrupt media and the tax dodging corporates are ugly villains but I’ve got a personal one this year: celebrity conductor Charles Hazlewood. He briefly got involved with a project developing an orchestra for musicians with disabilities, which UK charity Drake Music had been working on for years. But when his participation didn’t work out and he walked away, suddenly he was developing his own near identical project with TV production company What Larks. I wrote about it in the Morning Star and Private Eye picked up the story – but mainstream press steered clear, with the Evening Standard even publishing a puff piece for his plans. I can’t imagine much worse than stealing ideas from a charity.