Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Very Merry Christmas Zine

My new Christmas jumper worn in rather camp fashion
So it’s the time of year where people actually have ten minutes to take a breather and start reading zines, blogs, magazines and even the Radio Times.
It’s been a great year here at ShadowPlay Towers, there’s been plenty of great music and festivals (see Field View Festival and our stint hosting craft sessions at Greenman) and even an issue of ShadowPlay itself. Having a think about my New Year’s Resolutions last night I decided not to put in my annual stipulation about a certain amount of hours spent working on ShadowPlay or issues per year, instead opting to say – look, let’s see how it goes and enjoy writing ditties about music, art, films and getting drunk and doing silly things if and when I fancy it. 
There’s always a noticeable guilt around many an editor’s intro to a fanzine I find, as if every month that real life gets in the way of cutting and sticking is an insult to the reader. Really a zine should be a special treat to a writer and a reader and fingers crossed that’s what we can be in 2012. Hope you all have a very merry Christmas and a rather fantabulous New Year. I’ll be heading to Nottingham to scoff chocs, binge on new music and maybe even do a little writing. I’ll leave you with a rather daft photo of me in my first Christmas jumper – have a good un! Alex

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Lovely Eggs: Foul-mouthed fun

Got to love a good merch stand

Great to see a packed gig on a Monday night for the sweary indie pop magic of The Lovely Eggs. The northern pair were hosting "a right party" to celebrate the release of their new single Allergies and a free gig at the redone hipster hangout that is The Old Blue Last was very welcome. 
The band constantly play on their Lancastrian routes and, given I've only seen then play in London, it's probably possibly unfair to say they overdo it. 
What has seemed footing is the initially sterile London crowds melt in the face of their truncated, sweary punk pop everytime. 
The duo are tighter than Jesus' carpenters vice and their "what you would call two songs stuck together and what we would call a medley" about bowling alleys and reporting for The Lancaster Guardian is charming.
A buzzing, lively gig and just what the folded arms of London town this Monday needed to loosen up. 

As a treat, here's The Lovely Eggs' most perfect piece of pop...

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tru Thoughts hits Camden

Quantic stole the show at the mega Tru Thoughts night detailed last week. Playing his own mellow madness in addition to version of his remixes – You Don't Love Me (No No No) proved a high watermark – in an excellent, incisive set. Elsewhere, Hidden Orchestra provided a hypnotic centrepoint to the early part of the night, Belleruche were on a bit early in reality and Rodney P provided some rough tongued entertainment for the Camden crowd.
A great evening, a some generous compilation CD giving were all in keeping with the ever-consistent label. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Bookbinding at The Make Lounge

Tucked away in two well kitted out studios in Islington, The Make Lounge knows how to get the creative juices flowing in a way only a certain Come Get Felt Up can rival. The crafty sessions hosted in the evenings and Saturday mornings include quilting, cake decorating and screen printing. Assuring myself that book binding is at the more manly end of delicate crafts in a ladylike environ (they host hen dos too), I set about creating a book. The process is relatively simple – take two bits of vinyl, glue them together, fold lots of sheets and stitch the two together – and to make a simple book is possible at home with the right tools. Engaging teacher Suzanne Cowan from Vancouver led the class of eight well and the materials (and booze) provided were very good.

Anna's (left) outclassed mine
Yours truly managed to make sure the class wasn’t over too quickly with some, erm, slight stitching issues. But the process was nice and straightforward (Anna and the rest of the class sailed through) and adding in the fastenings proved perhaps the most satisfying click I’ve heard since learning to snap my fingers. I would thoroughly recommend the workshop as a treat (it’s a bit on the pricey side) and warn that concentration levels mean it’s not as sociable as it could be. An excellent skill then, one to look out for.

Top tip:
Open the windows – the industrial glue has quite a whiff!
Pick your vinyl and thread carefully to complement each other
Use an extra length of thread to ensure there’s plenty left

Monday, 14 November 2011

Koko hosts monumental Tru Thoughts night

ShadowPlay’s own debauched and dastardly backyard, Koko in Camden is to host a funk and hip-hop night of monster proportions this weekend.
The glorious Brighton imprint Tru Thoughts Records has provided a huge cast list for the Soundcrash event which will leave musicheads drooling.
Tru Thoughts A&R man and all round good egg Rob Luis will host the night which will see the label give away a mix CD to all attendees.
Quantic, the backbone of the label for many years is coming across from Colombia, Nostalgia 77 is bringing his full live band to the UK, Belleruche will be performing tunes from their hugely successful three albums for the label and one of the UK’s unsung producers in Hint is on the decks. All the way from Melbourne, Australia Lance Ferguson (The Bamboos’ main man/Lanu) is a very special guest travelling especially for this night.
Add to this the new signings and it gets even better. London Posse legend and host for the evening Rodney P is joined by UK soul Godfather Omar and new Japanese signing and live genius Anchorsong in the crazily good line up.
More info on the night here.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Wilco at the Roundhouse, Camden

Great to see Wilco again last night, Jeff Tweedy on great form. Here's a clip from one of those people who wave their phones in the air.

For more info, check here

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Style and Substance: The Hepworth Wakefield

If there is one thing that is truly tragic about Barbara Hepworth’s death in a house fire in 1975 it’s that she didn’t live to see this gallery. I jumped at the chance to visit the relatively new Hepworth Wakefield gallery given the opportunity at the weekend and was not disappointed by the site which has already garnered more than 100,000 visitors since opening in May. A better conceived, designed and constructed gallery does not exist in England (even including my favourite, The Hayward). Full of the perfect light, the right stone and generous space, there’s little doubt that the attraction’s namesake would’ve given it an approving nod.
Hepworth (below, right), who was a DBE and mother to triplets, stands alongside Henry Moore at the very forefront of British sculpture and is more than worthy of such a grandiose space. Her works – many on loan from the Tate, others donated by her daughters – dominate much of the 11 rooms. Her smooth, unpretentious sculptures remind you how easy it is to engage with a simple object and admire good craftsmanship as well as shape. 
What elevates this site perhaps even above the idyllic Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden at her house – in which she died – in St Ives, Cornwall, is the level of practical detail and explanation about her working methods. Enough to satisfy curiosity, not too much as to cloud the facts and kill the interest. Elsewhere, Hepworth’s work is put into context with pieces from Moore himself, fellow St Ives artist Peter Lanyon who also died tragically – in a hang glider accident getting inspiration above the southern town – and even David Hockney. The other major exhibition is from Clare Woods whose giant aluminium paintings (below, left) of rocks and landscapes in acrylic are astonishing. Their size is complemented by the curious shape of the concrete gallery and good lighting to enjoy the detail.
The one downside, and there has to be one, is that the gallery’s location, in Hepworth’s hometown of Wakefield in which she lived until moving to Hampstead, London with her first husband in the late 1920s is it’s, well in Wakefield. On a noisy roundabout opposite a tiling centre and near a Chunky Diner, the town offers little in the way of a day out but this still remains a must-see destination. The gallery’s foundations lie in a weir by a boatyard so the space has an excellent floating feel, far from the only strangely pleasant sensation a visit should evoke.  

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Drink, Shop and Fold

Fanzine Fun – Wednesday, 30th November
ShadowPlay is going to be hosting a fanzine evening at Drink, Shop & Do in Kings Cross, London. The café/bar is more kitsch than a vintage tablecloth and their Madonna clay modeling and origami nights have made it a staple in the diary.

This is evening is your chance to create a new SUPERFANTABULOUS COMPILATION ZINE which will take the global zine scene by storm. 

Come and discover the world of underground self-publishing by writing and drawing your own and reading the best zines we've collected from Grimsby to Gran Canaria. Glue, scissors, inspiration and typewriters will be provided and your efforts will be combined to create a brand new zine. 7-10pm, Free

Drink, Shop & Do is only a 2 minute walk from Kings Cross Station at 9 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9DX.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Boom Bip - Zig Zaj

Great to see Cincinatti beat mangler Boom Bip return with a new release on the magnificent Lex Records. Following on from his Mercury Music Prize-nominated Neon Neon project with Gruff Rhys, this album also features a variety of vocal tracks. 
But Zig Zaj is still very much a Boom Bip solo album; maintaining the lush and powerful instrumental melodic elements of his previous work. He's got quite the celeb cohort on board for this latest output with Luke Steele (Empire Of The Sun), Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Josh Klinghoffer (Chilli Peppers), Money Mark, Cate Le Bon (Neon Neon) and members of Warpaint and Bon Iver all appearing. At times it sounds just like that, going in many directions but there's a mark of quality synonymous with Lex that is never lost. Ten years as one of the pre-eminent hip-hop labels and still right up there. 

Read full review of Zig Zaj - BOOM BIP on ©

Sunday, 25 September 2011

La Volume Courbe - Theodaurus Rex

Photo courtesy of Andrew Kendall

It’s excellent to see La Volume Courbe’s Charlotte Marionneau back releasing music after almost four years absence and there’s no doubt this EP provides an interesting development in a promising career. The ever-modest Frenchwoman has set up a new label, Pickpocket Records, with none other than My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields to distribute the new material. In an interview with Marionneau in 2007 while promoting her last release, Freight Train, she told me working Shields and Hope Sandoval – a connection brokered by former Creation and Poptones boss Alan McGee – rovided a wealth of ideas to work on. Here, Marionneau appears more melancholic than her previous work – released on Honest Jons and Trouble Records – with a dreamy, fragile touch to each of the four tracks. Her broken English proves endearing while there’s a vulnerability (“thank you for everything that you do” on I Love the Living You) that underlines each track. 

The pick of the bunch is Lazy which has a catchy “you’re crazy and lazy, you know how much I love you” refrain and is punctured intermittently with short busts of heavy riffing, strangely thrilling in their bizarre juxtaposition. Elsewhere there’s beautiful violin, a track that featured as the closing track in Nick Moran’s film The Kid last year and artwork which features Belgian surrealist Paul Nouge’s La Bras Revelateur. Plenty to enjoy here. 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Interview: Kelpe and electronica Christmas carols

ShadowPlay caught up with Kelpe main man Kel McKeown to discuss DC Recordings, gigging in communist outposts and electronica reworkings of Christmas carols

As we wait anxiously by the letterbox each day to hear whether ShadowPlay’s Dutch choral beatboxing demo has been picked up by Warp Records, we can empathise with the feeling Kelpe’s Kel McKeown must’ve felt when his bedroom audio daubings were picked up by DC Recordings. “I was into the label when I was younger and DJing, really into Depth Charge and that stuff. Then quite a few years later a friend told me they were still releasing a lot of good records and recommended I send a demo in to them, they were keen and phoned me up straight away and we worked out an EP of material,” he says. DC has provided a swish, cool home to the likes of Padded Cell, The Emperor Machine and White Light Circus and gained a kudos in clubs rarely afforded for long. “They were always into releasing stuff that was different from the norm, some quite gritty, hard-edged stuff but also a lot of funky, sleazy stuff and a lot of hip-hop-inspired music and disco. Then later they got more into live bands with a krautrock feel,” he adds. 
Usually home to Sensible World of Soccer fanatics, the Amiga computer kick-started Kel’s fervour for computer aided sounds which he has honed since. Combining the less than trendy machine with a sampler and cassette deck aged 14, he moved on to a four track and then PC as he formed Kelpe in 2002 and released his first material a year later. Rich in experimental, gravel-y sounds, Kelpe has always mastered the art of sounding like a man in a field rattling a handful of curtain hooks with a genuine ear for a tune which has left him DJing across London, playing live with drummer Chris Walmsley since 2008, curating countless mixes and most importantly, creating the most incredible electronica-prog theremin heavy version of Silent Night you’re ever going to hear. Fact.

When ShadowPlay caught up with Kel, he’s just returned from SATTA festival in Lithuania, playing live in a run down outdoor communist lecture theatre packed from lecturn to top step with 2,500 people under a full moon. “[I was there with] with Paul White, Machinedrum, Gaslamp Killer, 100names. Debruit, Loops Haunt, and a load more top names in that type of music,” he explains. “It was generally a raucous time partying with my friends and musical heroes, and the kind of weekend that makes you feel its all worth doing.”
So how have things progressed in the studio? “I recorded a lot of drums and synths last year and need to get the recordings into shape. I think as a lot of electronic musicians will tell you, I've got like 100 half finished tracks, and its about selecting the ones that are worth pursuing.” With the new record just weeks away from release, and several 12”s in the pipeline, expect Kelpe to return in fine style. 

Monday, 29 August 2011

How to make a zine

Nice little stop frame on how to make a zine here. Just shows how easy it is, you can make a decent zine in a couple of hours and a great one in just a day.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Sheffield Publicity Department launches

I received an interesting missive from Tom Common, formerly one half of the Toms who ran the excellent Go fanzine and tried valiantly to save Sheffield's greatest landmarks, the Cooling Towers, today about the launch of the Sheffield Publicity Department. An interesting new project I hope you'll agree. 

"Dear ex-Go fans.
Hope you're all well, and enjoying Sheffield's many new piles of rubble. Isn't St Paul's tower looking iconic and well-built? 
Introducing you to a new project that, like Go, aims to celebrate this silly old city of ours. Step forward, the Sheffield Publicity Department
The Publicity Department is a dream tourist agency for the city. It's not your usual tourist agency: we don't know what's on at the Crucible, and we haven't got the phone number for that Travel Lodge near Argos.* Instead, we aim to show residents and visitors alike the things that make this city so special, and where to find them: maps to the best views, tours of the terraces, postcards of the sunsets. We want to help people see the Sheffield we know and love.
With this in mind, we're doing a new project: tree-rubbings posters, celebrating Sheffield's beautiful urban forest. We're putting together special tree-rubbings packs, containing everything you need to get up close and personal with our trees, and create your own unique, DIY publicity poster for the city. 
Plus, we're running a workshop this Thursday, at the Site Gallery, to take you to some trees, and get you started. It's part of Site's DIY Summer, which has got all sorts of other creative things to make and do. Why not come?
There's more info on our blog, and on this facebook thing. And here's our twitter
Here ends the plug. Thanks for reading. 
Yours fondly,
Tom Common
Publicity Officer, SPD.
* We can recommend a restaurant though. Zeugmas. Thanks."

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Accidental Tourist: Inside the EU

As you know, ShadowPlay is a staunch pillar of the fourth estate and believes our journalism can breach any boundary. To prove a point, our intrepid reporter Emily Macintosh donned some sensible shoes and went undercover in the European Union

We all know there is nothing worse than a traveller who insists they are not a tourist – and in the same vein, although I work in Brussels, I assure you I am not a Eurocrat, honestly.

To understand the ‘Brussels bubble’, first you need to learn the lingo. To the uninitiated, turns of phrase like "Oh well it is a Strasbourg week" will seem bizarre. 'Strasbourg week' is when the whole European Parliament moves in vans and on trains once a month from Belgium to France. This writer has never been in a position that merits her a trip to this mysterious junket, but reliable sources relay tales of long-suffering Strasbourg residents boarding up their windows as they hear the MEPs descend.
Back in Brussels, the after-work beers are to be found in Place Luxembourg, or ‘Plux’ as some like to call it. It is a square of bars outside the European Parliament attracting a mixed crowd of tourists, young workers from the EU institutions and NGOs. They are joined by the many Brussels based law and consultancy firms, excited underpaid stagiaires (French for interns), and minor political celebrities like UKIP Nigel Farage MEP who for someone so intent on hating the EU and Belgium as a full time job seems not to mind a few lunchtime pints of Guinness while on the continent.
Those unfamiliar with Farage’s work might remember him from his headline grabbing plane crash, where the light aircraft he was travelling in was brought down after his election banner got caught in the propellers. Before this adventure in the skies he tried to play the naughty schoolboy by calling well-respected Belgian politician and president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy a “damp rag” with “the charisma of a bank clerk” in a blatant attempt to shake up a few news agendas in the run up to the UK general election. He refused to apologise for his childish remarks, conceding only to state that he hadn’t meant to offend any bank clerks. No surprise really that people have a bad opinion of the British.
But aside from the MEPs jostling for headlines, behind the scenes there exists a whole network of European Commission civil servants who are either writing carefully choreographed speeches for commissioners or, in an institution where you need to fill out a request form to move a chair from one room to another, keeping the administrative wheels well oiled.
And if you don’t want people in the rest of Brussels to know you are part of this world, be sure not to head out of the European quarter brandishing the free canvas bag you just picked up at a policy launch or that handy umbrella with the EU flag on it – if not you only have yourself if you are dubbed a Eurocrat.

Monday, 25 July 2011

ShadowPlay's problem page with Piney Gir: Part Two

The second part of our Agony Aunt Piney Gir’s helping advice corner features horticultural quizzing and a person in a genital pickle…

Dear Piney Gir
Last night I googled "what is the origin of the phrase shaking like a leaf?" The first three returns didn't give me the answer. Can you find it for me?
Tom Whalley, Holloway
Dear Tom,
I think the answer is that a leaf shakes quite a lot as it's only lightly anchored to the tree by a little stem and when the wind blows the leaves really go for it like it's part-time. I hope that answers your question.
Piney x
Dear Piney,
I’ve been a post-op transsexual for several years now, but I’m a bit fed up and would like my manhood back. Is it easily reversible?
Adam, London
Dear Adam,
Suffering is a relative thing. Did you find the first time you had the sex-change procedure easy or difficult? You are likely to experience a similar level of pain the second time around. However, if being a man trapped in a post-op transsexual’s body is generating mental torture and anguish for you, then remember that physical pain is temporary, sexual transformation is forever (or in this case for as long as you want it to be). You might want to consult a nice therapist before you go for another great big change though. Try this place; they charge you according to your income so you can afford it!
Piney x
Dear Piney,
I’m addicted to wearing stripes but fear I may get piegonhold as a stripe-wearer – what do you advise?
Dear Anonymous,
I kind of think it’s not such a bad thing to be known for. If you are really concerned about being known as ‘Stripes’ or ‘Stripeytime Tennessee’ or ‘Stripe-o McGee’ then give all your striped items to the charity shop and start again sans stripes. OR you could draw contrasting stripes over the existing stripes on your clothes and you could be ‘Checkers Checkofferston’ for a while. If that doesn’t appeal, try taking up a new hobby where stripes are encouraged. Have you ever considered miming?
Piney x

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

ShadowPlay's problem page with Piney Gir

Our resident Agony Aunt was so concerned about ShadowPlay’s confused, depraved and downright weird readership last time out she’s returned to answer your queries. Here, country pop starlet Piney Gir, whose new album Jesus Wept is out now on Damaged Goods Records, offers a helping hand in part one of our series

Dear Piney,
The high-volume of fish-related TV in the past week is making me want to stop eating fish. What do you think I should do?
Tom Bonnett

Dear Tom,
What you decide to eat and what you decide not to eat is entirely up to you and only you. Don’t let any posh-o celebrity chef push you around, and don’t let your concerned family and friends worry you about how much protein you are getting. If want to eat fish/ or not eat fish… that’s your choice. If you don’t want to eat fish but you want to trick the people around you into thinking you are eating fish, you could make fish shaped cookies and cakes and eat them in public places. Get a friend to photograph you eating the fish-shaped/fish-free items and tag you on facebook. Then your mom won’t bug you about where you get your protein from, and if a posh-o celebrity chef shouts at you say, “hey man they are just cookies shaped like fish, back off!” Piney x

Dear Piney,

For about two weeks now I have been unable to stop watching old episodes of the hit circa early 90s programme Blossom (you remember, the girl who wore the cool hats). Some kind soul has uploaded a plethora of these 20 minute gems onto youtube and watching one is never enough for me. It is starting to really affect my sleeping patterns, my relationships, my eyesight, my sanity, my humour and my fashion sense. Please help me resist!
Emily Macintosh

Dear Emily,
I feel your pain, I really do. It is tough to resist the nostalgic and wholesome appeal of Blossom! I would recommend you firstly tell the people closest to you about your issue with Blossom and explain to them how important it is that you wean yourself off of it. You will need a strong support network in the coming weeks. I would then instil what I call 'the treat' system. That is… when you finish your homework treat yourself to an episode (only one episode) of Blossom. When you helped the little old lady that lives on the fifth floor carry all her groceries you can treat yourself to an episode again. This should reinstall your Blossom vs life balance. Piney x

Dear Piney,

Do skittles count as one of your 5 A DAY? (or even five of your 5 A DAY what with there being 5 flavours?)
Bridget Tompkins

Dear Bridget,
I’m pretty sure that for each colour Skittles you eat, that counts as 1 of your 5 A DAY. As you very accurately pointed out, there are five flavours of Skittles so if you eat one bag of Skittles then you are defo getting all kinds of vitamins and nutrients. Keep up the good work! Piney x

Monday, 20 June 2011

New Facebook page for The Anoraks

So we decided that life is really too hard. It's too stressful to tie your shoelaces, too busy to put your hand out for a bus so we've decided to make it really, really easy. Stand by for life changing news. Yes, The Anoraks have hit Facebook. The fortnightly show Alex Lawson, Alex Burnard and Tom Bonnett present for Shoreditch has hit your favourite social media site and is getting settled in with a cup of tea and a comfy Karrimor here. Hope you enjoy, if you want to make sure you never miss a show then subscribe to our Mixcloud page here, just nip to the bottom of the page and enter your email. You can subscribe to iTunes here.

Monday, 13 June 2011

ShadowPlay Interview: Ólöf Arnalds

Icelandic singer and multi-instrumentalist Ólöf Arnalds has collaborated with the likes of Múm and Björk while carefully carving out a fledgling solo career. ShadowPlay caught up with the diminutive arts graduate ahead of the release of her new single Surrender

“There seems to be some sort of idea about Icelandic music that it’s something that’s magical and mythical and so Icelandic musicians get a lots of questions about whether it’s the nature, or the water, that creates so much good music. These questions are asked over and over and I feel like cutting to the chase that the most important acts that have come from Iceland have been noticed for their individuality and their hard work.”
Refreshing words from a musician not afraid to burst the often sickening media bubble surrounding certain countries, ‘scenes’ or genres which take their fancy that month. What makes Ólöf Arnalds even more refreshing is her acknowledgement that without these musicians she would not be sat in the Vortex in Dalston preparing to play a second consecutive sold out night at the venue. While expressing a feeling of guilt that the playing field is not level, the 30-year-old readily accepts that her associations, firstly as a touring “hired gun” for electronic experimentalists Múm, and then in working with Björk on the ethereal new single, she has raised her profile.
In fact her debut solo album Við og Við, released in 2007 on 12 Tonar, was produced by Kjartan Sveinsson of Sigur Rós, a band whose success appears to be escalating faster than a rickshaw driven by Usain Bolt munching on a particularly large box of chicken nuggets.

What’s clear is that in any language Arnalds will command the stage – as she did at the Vortex – with a quiet, jovial authority, stopping to make jokes, steward the crowd and even lead some birthday celebrations. Her lilting tones are evocative of a harsher Cat Power or a toned down Kate Bush while her musical versatility across various instruments belies the fact she was classical trained and harbours busting pocketfuls of intuition. There’s little doubt it soon won’t matter what language you speak, you’ll have heard of Ólöf Arnalds. 
Arnalds released her second album Innundir Skinni – Under the Skin – on One Little Indian last year and revealed she could take a radical step forward and sing in English in future. “When I made my first record I was going through grief after losing my father – it was a healing record. The birth of my son was a big inspiration on the second – only these little things like life and death hey. But I want to make a joyful, blissful record now. I’ve started writing a few songs in English for this new record so I can interact with the audience in a different way, I live increasingly in an English-speaking world and play one out of 50 concerts in Iceland but some people have said I may lose the mystique of the Icelandic language.”

Friday, 10 June 2011

Go Crease Lightning: An evening of intense folding

It’s not often you’ll find me in a seminar room learning about maths. Yes, that is an understatement. But last night I went along to the London Knowledge Lab’s rather swish HQ off Lamb’s Conduit Street to hear the fantastic Mark Bolitho impart his knowledge on origami to students and members of the British Origami Society in the session. Bolitho is a pre-eminent origami exponent who gave up his job as an accountant to pursue a passion that has taken him all over the world.
Bolitho showed the group how to create small animals (classic origami), pyramids and interlocking geometric cubes. He also ensured plenty of maths was covered, displaying tricks to create shapes with ridiculous numbers of sides as well as some informative stuff on tessalation. Bolitho (above right, with me) is the man behind the glorious range of Muji origami packs and an inspiring figure, not least because he owns the best domain name ever – – do check it out. 

Monday, 6 June 2011

Time to get creative

Creative energy is an interesting entity. It manifests itself in so many different ways, is expended at vastly varying frequencies and means so many things to so many people. The one thing that is widely acknowledged is, it ain’t easy.
Despite the fact I don’t see myself as a creative person and am, objectively shit at drawing, presentation or writing in long hand, in the eight years that ShadowPlay has been in existence the increasing hold television, new media and most importantly, phenomena like the invention of Facebook have created a nation of young people that make bashing out some words, stealing artwork and photocopying them look vibrantly expressive. There are two elements at play in this conundrum: dedication and raw talent.
I see and envy people with the latter all the time, marvel at the way they can find a creative spark and envisage an idea instantaneously. What makes me turn even more green is that, on the whole, many people who turn their hand to one thing – say drawing – and succeed usually find themselves a consummate Jack of all trades at a number of skills.
The central conceit of my day job, journalism, works on this basis. That artists are somehow set apart, that their work means they have achieved an ‘otherness’ and the more lauded they are the more license they have to talk about more quasi-psychological and social matters. Whether it’s just more convenient to work this way is another matter but certainly a few notable examples of artists interviewing each other in music magazines have yielded eminently readable results.
As for dedication, that implies that you can learn to be creative. That absorbing enough information will help bred the skill forcibly but this is a flawed concept, assuming that creativity comes from the conscious, rather than the subconscious.
In truth, their co-dependent. There’s no point having raw talent if you’re not prepared to work for it. I have recently started working on two fledgling projects run by dedicated an admirable Londoners – as reviews editor for football website and as a presenter on (The Anoraks – stream and download at The dedication of the volunteers who work for both projects has been promising but not always consistent. Personally I find myself compartmentalising creativity outside of my 9-5 life, thinking it’s not possible to think in a more expansive manner when concentrating on busy day-to-day tasks, which is pathetic. So how can young people be convinced that it’s work putting in the time and energy to find a creative release outside study, work or an increasingly common unemployed malaise?
Looking at my monthly night Come Get Felt Up (run at the Book Club along with the legendary Anna Harding, Nathan Crawley and Tom Whalley) each month, the small release that participating in a silly competition in which people craft Blue Peter style for naff prizes get from the creativity is particularly evident. So unleash your creativity – glue an egg box, write a letter or build a wonky boxcar – you might just feel better for it.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Keep calm and carry on waiting

Coming home today on the tube, I got angry and distracted from my paper by the fact the train didn’t move for a full three minutes. When I got home, from where I didn’t intend to leave this evening, I promptly sat down and waste 20 minutes watching some pap on the telly.
Opposite me in the carriage a bloke sat, slumped down in this big brown coat, looking really content despite the fact it was an infuriating and unexplained stoppage. I envied him. So how can he left go and let it wash over him and I’m a nervous, furious young man?
I’ve always been uptight, a worrier, I mean that’s par for the course in fanzine circles. But do actions belie happiness? In the last three months, for various reasons, I have felt happier than I have in five or six years, happier at times than I have ever been. But this is not about being smug, and I certainly easily get down at times too. No, this is about how happiness manifests itself.
Surely, if you have an underlying feeling of happiness, of being content with how life is moving, that should superceed the day-to-day anger, or at least temper it? I’m yet to discern whether this is a personal thing, whether others, while essentially happy, still get wound up by very small things and are wound tight.
The reality is there’s always going to be hang ups but if you can find ways to distract yourself from certain common sources of irritation – wheelie suitcases, poor grammar, a shocking ignorance of basic defending (see Sheffield Wednesday’s defence in the last four months) – and pressure points then perhaps it’s possible to alleviate some of that irrational, stupid stress. Sometimes knowing yourself inside out and facing up to your largely unchanging personality is the only option.

Monday, 25 April 2011

East End Film Festival arrives

Now in its tenth year, the East End Film Festival (EEFF) has established itself as an event not afraid to flex its muscles beyond the boundaries of simply seats, screens and popcorn. It is perhaps unsurprising then that EEFF HQ is home to a hive of ‘to do’ lists longer than an Elizabethan skirt on visiting just two days before the gala opening. Besides the weird and wonderful of contemporary and revived cinema, the five-day festival (27 April – 2 May) features live music, exhibitions, DJs, VJs, masons, stars, bars and, yes, popcorn.

Under the stewardship of artistic director Alison Poltock, the festival has landed some impressive names. Portishead’s Adrian Utley is to give a presentation at the UK premiere of the digitally re-mastered version of Martin Scorsese’s iconic Taxi Driver at the beautiful Aubin cinema; St Etienne and the Guillemots are to curate two afternoons of music and cinema as part of the Sonic Film programme in conjunction with fellow decade-old hedonists Camden Crawl and the festival is open with a world premiere of The Libertines – There Are No Innocent Bystanders. The debut feature from music photographer Roger Sargent is an all-access documentary into a band that only a glance at will reveal are an intriguing car crash of moderate talent crushed beneath the weight of expectations and, well, large quantities of drugs.

The event is backed by Tower Hamlets council, Film London, National Lottery funding and sponsors including the likes of Clash magazine, Sheffield Doc Fest and Old Spitalfields Market, which is to host an orchestra made of people turning up chiming bicycle bells.

The festival’s enthusiastic head of marketing Andrew Simpson, who has experience of both the Edinburgh and London film festivals as well as moving up from an internship at EEFF last year, is bristling with excitement ahead of the event. “The EEFF started ten years ago funded by Tower Hamlets council as a community festival. The area has more filmmakers than anywhere else in the UK, it’s such a hive of activity, such an incredibly vibrant, creative, productive area,” he says.

“It’s very much about grasping the nettle of the potential the area holds,” Simpson (pictured) continues. “There’s an audience for local output and every type of cinema from around here which makes the festival what it is. We can pick up the pulse of what’s happening around the globe and it’s amazing how coherent the programme comes together but that’s often the artists reactions to what’s happening around the world.”

Simpson cites several particular highlights. In conjunction with The Romanian Cultural Institute and award-winning filmmaker Bobby Paunescu, the festival has put together a strong line-up of Romanian films and events including the UK premiere of Bogdan George Apetri’s Outbound. Beyond this, there’s atmospheric horror in Sir John Soane’s church in Bethnal Green, films on secret societies in Masonic haunts and a swath of free activities on 2 May across 88 venues.

“It’s a real group effort, everyone pitches in, there’s no real hierarchy. It’s hard work, but very, very rewarding. It’s going to be a lot of intense fun,” concludes Simpson. An accurate statement one suspects, don’t forget the popcorn.

27 April – 2 May
Various venues, London

Monday, 18 April 2011

ShadowPlay #28 comes out

ShadowPlay returns with a blockbuster issue featuring more intrigue and excitement than a distant-sounding ice cream jingle.
The likes of Icelandic starlet and Bjork collaborator Olof Arnalds and downbeat techno DJ Chloe Thevenin hone into ficus with interviews in a zine jam packed with characters.
Elsewhere our resident Agony Aunt Piney Gir returns to deliberate romantic troubles and debates over fish-based TV; graffiti artist Baron tells us about his new film Dots and we send Emily Mac under cover in the European parliament.All that and the usual rambling,short stories and musical musings.

Email‏ for a copy.