Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Not ONE but TWO gigs at Nottingham's Chameleon Arts Cafe

It's a while since I've been to Nottingham's Chameleon Arts Cafe - back in December, I think, for one of the gigs promoted by my teen - then, last week, I went twice!

Lewis Bootle

The first time was to see a guy from London who goes by the name of Gecko, on tour with Lewis Bootle - and if you'd been at Glastonbury over last weekend you could have found them playing there.

The second gig was a slimmed down version of the first gig promoted by my teen - John Allen and Patrick Craig. Folk/punk singer-songwriter John may not be well known here, but in his native Germany he's opened for Frank Turner and played for thousands! 

Patrick Craig

Both were shows that I'd have thought would bring folk in - but they didn't. Both turned out to be intimate, friendly gigs, and all the musicians put on as good a show as if the room had been packed. I enjoyed both evenings perhaps better than if the room had been packed to capacity - but it doesn't pay the musicians' travel costs, nor cover the venue's overheads.

John Allen

Now, The Chameleon is a shy, secretive sort of place - down an alleyway off Angel Row, and then up a flight of stairs to the bar, and another to the performance area. Once you're settled in the bar, with its cafe-style tables and flickering tea-lights, there's a fabulous view over Market Square. Upstairs, the gig venue is more basic but has a great sound system and the biggest speaker-stacks I've ever seen (far taller than I am!)  But the snag about a venue that's so very secret is that people rarely seem to find their way there by accident. I just hope people DO find it, because I'd hate to see it close down, but also, if they're playing to empty space, musicians won't be coming back to Nottingham.

Thursday, 23 June 2016


The longest day started wet and unpleasant, short bursts of sun disrupted by heavy rain, but by midafternoon the sky had cleared leaving high clouds and a change to catch the solstice full 'strawberry' moon.

Appropriately, the first strawberries have ripened this week, and from the allotment we have lettuce and peas. Apples are starting to swell on the trees and grapes in the greenhouse.

The flower beds have moved on from their Ikea blue and yellow (forget-me-nots and welsh poppies) of a fortnight ago to the pink and purples of foxgloves, flowering sage, lavender, hardy geraniums and even some pink-tinged love-in-a-mist, against the backdrop of the creamy-white climbing roses.

...and now while the weather stays dry and bright, for a couple of days at least, it's time to get out, pick elderflowers and make wine

Saturday, 11 June 2016

A Music Festival that's Curious, Civilised and suitable for the Cautious!

Recently I've been talking a lot about trying out new things, expanding my horizons now I'm entering that post-children stage of life (let's not call it middle-aged, please!). We've always tried to make time for theatre and literary events but live music has been something missing. That's all changed this last few months with trips out to pubs for open mic nights and small music venues, but now Summer's here, and everyone is talking about festivals, so I'd like to spread my wings a little more and try one.

It's a huge step and, as this would be my first time, the thought of a music festival is a bit daunting. Through news, social media, and gossip via my teen, I know all about the mud, the queues for toilets, how bad they can be once you've reached them (I heard of one teen who left Leeds festival and nipped out to loos in the nearest supermarket!), and the danger of having drunks flatten your tent in the middle of the night! Not my idea of fun, so I was almost put off the whole idea - going to take that easy way out of claiming "I'm too old".

Then, through our book blog, I was offered the chance to go to the Curious Arts Festival - it's a mix of many things - part book festival (I've been to several and they're always nice sensible events with well behaved crowds), part music festival, part comedy, with everything from bug hunts for the children to opera for the grown ups. 

It's held, not in a farmer's field, but the grounds of Pylewell Park in the New Forest, with gardens to explore and views opening up to the Solent.

And the catering! No greasy bun burgers, but a choice ranging from a pop-up sushi restaurant to meat-free Levantine cuisine, with a fab-looking Moroccan tent for afternoon tea and cake.

Mentioning tents reminds me that that's normally the accommodation at music festivals - a tiny tent pitched in some mud (or a river-like flood if you were at Download festival this weekend). Now the last time I went camping was back before my age had reached double digits, so this is another thing to be faced with trepidation ... but again, Curious Arts Festival have a solution - you can choose to be as basic or extravagant as you like, with options from taking your own tent, hiring a basic ready-erected one to glamping in a bell tents with timber camp beds, coir carpets underfoot, all bedding and towels provided. Could camping get more glamorous?

Taking everything together this sounds like the perfect way for a ageing novice like myself to test out the whole festival experience. It definitely sounds Curious, but also civilised, and suitable for the cautious such as myself. Where else am I going to find the likes of Billy Bragg and Skinny Lister on the same bill as Deborah Moggach and Carol Ann Duffy?  It seems to good to miss, and I'm just hoping that my personal circumstances allow me to go. If not this year, then maybe next ...

If, like me, you're 'curious' about this event check out their website here

                                          ... and to see how it went, see here

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Who decides if you're too old?

A couple of weeks back, I'd planned in a vague way to go to a local gig, to catch a young punk/folk Billy Bragg style singer playing support on a tour, but then I began to worry because I thought at my age, and at that venue, I'd stick out like a sore thumb!

I'm comfortable enough to go to open mic nights and small gigs in pubs, because generally they attract a wide age-group, both performers and audience.
Although I've not been to any, I'd imagine I'd be comfortable with the anonymity of a large stadium-size gig. For that matter, I've seen photos shared on social media from theatre-style venues, generally featuring a come-back artist on tour, where the audience members have looked FAR older than I am, and if I'd been able to afford to see Bruce Springsteen some time this last week or so, I think I'd have had plenty of company of my own age.
But it's the thought of that in-between size venue putting on up-and-coming artists, themselves often in their early 20s, and attracting an audience in the same age range, that makes me feel uncomfortable.
At the younger end of the age scale, it's easy to know if teens are allowed - there'll be an age limit clearly signed - but who should decide if you're too old? Imagine though that you walk into a club and everyone else there is half your age ... Will they think you've taken a wrong turn? that you're delusional about your age? or that you're only along because you're a relative of someone in the band? This is something after all that seems to apply (in my head at least) only to music venues. The other sorts of places I go - theatres, cinemas, book events - don't feel like they have this unstated age limit.

Long story short, I chickened out.

Then a couple of days afterwards, I saw this article  from the Independent - one of many being shared round the web telling a story about an elderly Polish couple who visited London and headed out to a nightclub. At first people assumed they were lost, but, no, it turned out they'd heard good reviews of the place and bought tickets before their trip!
Well, I've decided that if they can go out, mix with the youngsters, and have fun, then so can I! I shan't be off out clubbing - it's not my scene at all - but in future I shan't let my age stand in the way of listening to a band I want to hear.