Icebreaker Festival 2019

Icebreaker Festival, Portsmouth, 25th-26th Jan 2019

Billed as ‘The South’s largest unsigned metropolitan music festival’ Icebreaker has become a staple in the winter festival calendar. Chasing away the January blues, this weekend saw over 150 artists play over 2 days in venues along Albert Road and Elm Grove in Southsea, leading to the much loved and established Wedgewood Rooms. As well as providing a host of stages large and small, there was a real community feel and the event clearly brought visitors and business into the local area.

The beauty of Icebreaker is not just in the number of acts to choose from but the diverse range of genres and music. With a lot of festivals it’s easy to go and see the bands you already know and love and maybe catch a few new ones too. At Icebreaker it’s equally easy to change that ratio; see a few favourites then take in as many new names as you can. And be left in no doubt that unsigned doesn’t mean there’s less quality around.

It’s impossible to see everyone but here’s how my Saturday played out. Despite being early in the day, The Vitrines opened Edge of the Wedge with bags of indie energy; down the road at Emporium Bar, Something Leather showcased their hauntingly gothic melodies and Currls kept everybody smiling with some soul-tinged new wave at Lord John Russell.

My first visit of the day to the Wedgewood Rooms was for BBC Introducing favourites Drusila, a two piece with a love of synth and some infectious tunes. It was a pleasure to see them perform and to slow things down later with an engaging acoustic set from Me and the Moon at The Wine Vaults.

Over at The Fat Fox there was a whole heap of reasons to stick around; a reminder from Heebie Jeebies that there aren’t enough saxophones about, suitably psychedelic lighting and much 60s style partying for Number 9 and plenty to please those looking for heavier riffs and fierce drumming from Violet Mud and You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons.

One of my favourite sets of the day came from The Howlers, currently gaining acclaim across the country with their raw psych rock performances. Pending live dates will be well worth checking out.

Back at the Wedgewood Rooms / Edge Of the Wedge – kudos to FLOWVERS (header photo) for having their own mosh pit at a packed main stage as well as being the pit for punk duo Bird Shoes’ next door in the Edge. Brother Deep completed a trio of local bands all getting a great reception and winning over new fans in the process.

Again, a tough call with headliners at every venue (I spoke to people throughout the day who were all finishing up in different places) but I opted to head back to a now very hot and sweaty Fat Fox for Skinny Milk’s closing set. Quality fuzz punk garage from one of many acts on the day whose sound belied the fact that there were only two of them on stage, a magic pedal board turning the bass into something much more dynamic and distorted. I chose well; the perfect way to end a solid day of being drawn in to see what I could hear from a distance – maybe the best part of any festival.

All in all, Icebreaker offers something different, an easily walkable multi venue festival with lots of choice and an excellent way to spend the weekend discovering new music. It looks likely to keep growing so keep an eye on announcements on their website later in the year to stake your place for 2020.

Words and photos by Siobhan

28th January 2019

 

Instore – The Twilight Sad at Rough Trade East

The Twilight Sad, Rough Trade East London, 24th Jan 2019

12 years since their debut Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, The Twilight Sad sound fresher than ever. Their latest album, It Won/t Be Like This All The Time, released last week is receiving huge acclaim; it feels like maybe this is the time that The Twilight Sad will get the wider recognition they deserve. Filled with tracks that call to mind the drums of Joy Division with a nod to the dramatic melodies of post punk / electro, the album is a masterpiece of haunting songs that it’s easy to be absorbed by – put in on in the car and you’ll want to keep driving. Recent release Videograms sounds a little like Kraftwerk might have if they were born from the Scottish rather than German scene and the gloomy undertones throughout are surprisingly uplifting.

Having recently completed dates supporting label mates Mogwai and before rejoining them alongside The Cure to play at the Glasgow Summer Sessions, the band have a headline tour of their own. During the last week, vocalist James Graham and guitarist Andy MacFarlane have been mesmerising fans with a run of acoustic sets played out in record shops across the UK. Last night brought them to Rough Trade East in London where a packed shop had the privilege of witnessing their stripped back set, kicking off with new track Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting and including favourites like The Room and The Wrong Car. There is no doubting the power of the songs, even without the power of amplification and a full band – the performance was stunning. It’s clear that the band genuinely appreciate the ongoing support they receive; equally it’s an absolute pleasure to see and hear them play.

Now signed to Rock Action Records, their position at number 5 in the mid-week charts was indeed, as James said, a testament to independent labels and people loving music enough to go out and buy physical copies. Apparently their top 5 space has been scuppered by a band called Fleetwood Mac – I’m sure we wish them all the best in their career!

It’s easy at this stage in proceedings to say that this is one of the best albums released this year but it looks absolutely likely that this will still be the case come December. Stick with The Twilight Sad and it won’t be too long before you’ll be able to celebrate all of those fourteen autumns.

Check their website for the latest from The Twilight Sad

Words and photos by Siobhan

25th January 2019

Photography – In Focus with Mik Connor

From behind the drum kit to behind the camera, photographer Mik Connor tells us how he made the switch and takes us through some of his favourite photos…

‘I’d just like to start off by stating I’m really not good at talking about myself or things that I’ve done so if I start waffling about nothing, please forgive me.

My name’s Mik, a music and portrait photographer based in Preston, Lancashire. Originally I was a drummer in a touring and recording self styled shitty pop punk band. We didn’t do too badly for ourselves (a few tours, a couple of festival appearances, radio and TV airplay) but we never hit the big time and as these things so often do, it came to an unfortunate end. I tried starting another band after that but it just wasn’t the same and I found myself struggling to have fun with the whole thing again so I decided it was time to walk away completely. Always felt that if you don’t enjoy doing something then there’s not much point in doing it.

When I’d stepped away from making music I knew I had to find another way of staying creative but I couldn’t draw a stick figure to save my life, I haven’t got the attention span to be able to sit down and write a book, I can make words rhyme but I couldn’t write poetry and it was at this point I remembered just how much I used to enjoy taking pictures on old family holidays.

I was always in control of the camera whenever me and my family went away somewhere. My Mum had a habit of cropping out people’s heads or having her finger across the lens, my Dad was always in charge of the video camera and providing his commentary of everything that was going on, so our little point and shoot or the old Kodak disposable was always handed down to me. I don’t know if it was because I made better pictures or it was just a way of keeping me quiet or entertained, either way, it worked.

While I was sat contemplating all of this a post from a friend popped up on Facebook offering her Mum’s camera for sale, without a second thought I messaged her saying I’d have it and later that evening I was round at hers to pick it up. I’d bought my first DSLR at 25 without a clue how to use it. In hindsight I probably should’ve thought it through a bit longer but too late for that now I suppose.

Anyway, a few years on from that now and here we are. I’ve had enough of talking about myself so now I’m just going to talk you through some of my favourite shots instead. I hope you like them and the stories around them as much as I’ve enjoyed taking (most of*) them.’

*story to follow

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The Picturebooks

This is from one of the first ‘proper’ gigs I ever shot in an official capacity with the relevant press pass, up until this point I’d just been shooting small pub/club gigs or sneaking a camera into slightly bigger gigs.

Being a fellow drummer this set up amazed me; all drums, no cymbals and a hell of a lot of sweat.

Such a great band to watch. There’s only two of them but they sound HUGE, highly recommended.

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Status Quo

Speaking of firsts, this was the first time I shot a ‘proper’ band and I probably couldn’t have picked a bigger one. This was one of those times I snuck my camera into the show and shot from the crowd. Don’t ask me how I got my 5DMKII with 70-200mm lens attached into the arena, I’ve still no idea how I actually managed it myself but I did and that’s all that matters.

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Portrait of my Mum

Now then, here’s a piece of advice. If someone you know is going on a 4×4 driving experience and asks you if you want to tag along to sit in the back and take photos as they go round, just say no. Also, don’t shoot a club night till 3am, make a hour and a half drive to a hotel for two hours sleep and get a McDonalds breakfast all before sitting in the back of a 4×4 taking photos.

I can’t remember the last time I felt so ill.

Portrait looks good though, all natural light.

*this was the one I didn’t really enjoy taking, I just wanted to go lie down in the fetal position until my stomach stopped spinning but nooooo, I had to get my Mum’s good side.  

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Save Me

This is another first, I’m starting to see a trend here. This was the first promo shoot I did with a band. Joe, the front man of Save Me, used to do about 99.9% of my old band’s photos so I thought it was only fair I returned the favour.

Handy tip though; if you’re shooting in the woods late at night when it’s dark, always make sure you know where you’re going just in case you take a step backwards to reframe a shot and accidentally end up with a tree branch where you shouldn’t.

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Alistair McGeorge

My good friend Alistair McGeorge. Part time singer songwriter, part time journalist. Known Alistair for years from him drinking in a pub I used to work in and while he was studying journalism he used to give the band some really great reviews back in the day so again, when I picked up the camera, I thought I’d offer something in return by giving him some promo photos. This was taken in my little studio space back at the beginning of 2018.

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Wheatus

Loved this shot as soon as I got it. When I shot Wheatus I was shooting for the venue and was given access to the sides of the stage after the traditional first three songs in the pit. Due to the way the band have their stage set up with the drummer at the front off to one side instead of banished to the rear of the stage, I managed to catch this great angle.

They’re also the first band I’ve seen go on stage without a set list and just ask those in attendance for requests.

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Carbomb

OK, so I wander into the photo pit for the first band of the night. “Drum kit is pushed right to the front of the stage, I’m shooting ultra wide with a 15mm lens, it’d be a crime to waste this opportunity as a fellow drummer; I’m getting some killer shots of this incredible kit.” That was my thought process until the relentless strobes started going off paired with harsh backlighting, managed to catch this through the mayhem though, loved it since. It’s been my desktop wallpaper for nearly 2 years now.

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Livewire (AC/DC Tribute)

Again I was shooting for the venue at this show (Guild Hall in Preston by the way, three great rooms in one venue) so I was just chilling at the side of the stage when the guitarist decides he’s going to climb on the shoulders of the lead singer and head off into the crowd for a change of scenery. I quickly ran to my camera bag, grabbed the flash gun I always carry in case of emergencies such as this one and decided to follow them into the baying sweaty masses. I like to think being covered in other people’s sweat and the odd bit of people’s pints was worth it for this shot.

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The DSM IV

Love this shot purely because it brought me out of a massive funk.

I hadn’t been shooting much and whatever I had shot I’d hated, I think everyone goes through something similar every now and again, then I got to shoot these guys. Guy McKnight is one hell of a front man with great energy and presence. I caught this just before I had to get out of the pit and I’m still so glad I did.

Another band you should most definitely check out if you get the chance.

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Pete Searle

Another old friend of mine, Mr Pete Searle. Pete got in contact with me at the back end of the summer 2018 and asked if I fancied taking some photos for his new music project as well as some for his own personal use (when a snapchat selfie just isn’t a good enough profile picture) so I said of course. Now I don’t know if this was a brave or stupid move on Pete’s part but he also told me I could have full creative control over the shots. He offered no direction other then he wanted some suited up and some casual. Quite proud of how they came out. Pete’s still speaking to me so he must’ve been happy too I guess.

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Patent Pending

Easily the most energy filled set I’ve had the pleasure of shooting. I don’t know how they kept it up, I was that knackered after shooting 3 songs I had to go for a lie down.

Getting this shot has now given me a new claim to fame though; Joe from Patent Pending dedicated a song to me for saving his life.

I didn’t really save his life, I just caught him as he came back over the barrier from his little venture, that story isn’t quite as cool though so I’m gonna stick to the original.

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Me

This last one is me.

I thought it’d be cool to set up a kind of ‘self employed/freelance christmas party’ for a bit of fun seen as all I was seeing on Facebook at the time was updates from everyone else’s regular works Christmas parties. First time I’d tried to dress a set properly like this and I’m really happy with how it turned out. Again, shot in my little studio space.

The shot is a result of me trying to look pretty and my Dad trying to throw the little paper streamers at the right time for about an hour because the party poppers I bought didn’t work.

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Well that’s all of them and I hope you’ve had fun. If you’re not sick of me by now feel free to give me a follow on Twitter (for more nonsensical ramblings and the odd photo) or Instagram (more photos than ramblings on there) and you can give me a like on Facebook (photo to rambling ratio is more or less equal on there) if you’re so inclined via Mik Connor Photography. You can also give my website a peek for full portfolios and the odd blog, that’s mikconnorphotography.com.

Anyway, I’ll see you around somewhere. Thanks for reading.

Peace
Mik

All photos are taken and copyrighted by Mik. If you’d like to see more of his work or book him for a gig or portrait shoot, please contact him via his website or the social media links above.

21st January 2019

Interview – Jerry Williams

Portsmouth’s Jerry Williams is not just making waves in her seaside home town. With music industry interest on an international scale, things are looking more than promising for the singer songwriter dubbed ‘the singer you’ll be obsessed with in 2019’ by Top Shop’s fashion and culture blog. Following the recent release of her latest single David at the Bar, Jerry is setting out on tour and has much more in the offing. We had a quick catch up to find out what’s going on…

There seems to be so much happening for you right now! What did 2018 bring that you never expected?

Three record deals! In Germany, USA and Canada. It’s so crazy and so exciting. I love the three labels I’m working with and they totally get me. They love my music and stories which is amazing so I’m looking forward to working with them with everything coming up. It was a busy year.

Your latest single David at the Bar was written about someone you met – can you tell us a little more?

It’s about a man called David who I met in a bar, haha. Honestly, simple as that. The song is so true to what happened. I got speaking to him at the bar about life and I told him I’m a singer songwriter. He went on to say that he’s an alcoholic, ruined his life, he’s got a baby on the way and he’s really scared about it. He said if I wrote a song about him, he’d give up drink. So the next day, I wrote this song like I said I would and I haven’t seen him since. He just completely vanished. I hope he hears it, even if we don’t meet again.

You mentioned your overseas record deals – there’s some big ones outside Europe with Royal Mountain Records in Canada and Big Picnic Records in the US – how did they come about?

It was all pretty quick to be honest. My music just naturally reached the USA. With Royal Mountain Records, they came on board after they saw me supporting Finn Wolfhard’s band Calpurnia in Europe. They were like, yep yep, we wanna work with you, we love you. I was so overwhelmed but I’m sosososososo excited. They’re home to some of my favourite artists like Alvvays. I love Big Picnic. They’re proper music lovers, just like my German label Ferryhouse. They’re great people.

You’re just about to head out on tour – is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to visiting?

All of them, but Manchester will be great. The show has already sold out at Jimmy’s which is such a cool venue with neon signs everywhere and trippy wallpaper. But I can’t wait for every city and to meet everyone there.

Wild Front are supporting on the UK leg of the tour, are you involved in choosing your support acts?

Yes! I absolutely love Wild Front and am so honoured they’ll be playing with us on tour. Just watching them every night is gonna be perfect. Jeph are supporting in Southampton at The Joiners too. Their song Hey Baby was my top played on Spotify this year…SO GOOD!!! FLOWVERS supporting in London are great too.

And what’s in the pipeline for 2019?

I’m recording an album for autumn release which is super exciting. I can’t wait for people to hear what I’ve been working on. It’s more edgy and indie and I’ve got so many new stories. That’s the next thing…

Jerry’s headline tour starts on Saturday with dates in Germany before she heads back to the UK:

Jan 19th – Mucke Bei Die Firsche, Hamburg
Jan 20th – Kantine Am Berghain, Berlin
Jan 21st – Milla, Munich
Jan 23rd – Blue Shell, Cologne
Jan 24th – Nachtleben, Frankfurt
Jan 26th – Kasbah, Coventry
Jan 28th – Jimmys, Manchester
Jan 30th – Camden Assembly, London
Jan 31st – The Joiners, Southampton
Feb 1st – Tunbridge Wells Forum

You can keep up to speed with the latest news from Jerry Williams and listen to David at the Bar here

Photos via Lucid Online PR

17th January 2019

Rockaway Beach Festival 2019

Rockaway Beach Festival, Bognor Regis, 11th-13th Jan 2019

Rockaway Beach… almost impossible to say without adding rock, rock beforehand. Fast becoming an established player on the UK festival scene as well as a Ramones classic, Rockaway Beach is now in its fourth year, setting up camp without camping at Butlin’s Bognor Regis. Having moved from its original October slot to January, it’s the perfect antidote to the post Christmas lull and brings a plethora of respected acts and attendees to the south coast resort. For 2019 there were daily big name headliners in Maxïmo Park, Gary Numan and Echo and the Bunnymen, along with a multitude of breakthrough acts (in the real sense, not the awards sense). Clever scheduling meant that there was no crossover in stage times so no need to miss any of the live music. The big plus to this is that every set drew a big crowd; it would be ideal if that hadn’t included a faction who were just there to chat to their friends causing an annoying background hum of conversation. However, on the whole the crowds were more vocal in appreciation rather than small talk and all the artists received a really positive reception from the start to finish of each day, something you don’t tend to see at other festivals, particularly on the early slots. At Rockaway Beach, it’s wise to be there for the openers to avoid missing something special; this year kicked off with pop garage and plenty of high jumps from Rapid Tan on Friday, cool electro from Winter Gardens on Saturday and Squid offering up one of the best sets of the weekend and doubtless winning lots of new support on Sunday. Elsewhere, Algiers gave us industrial gospel and Art Brut (a smart substitution for the now defunct Spring King) brought smiles to everyone’s faces with their own brand of punchy punk and tales to match.

For those looking to take a break or recover from their silent disco exploits, traditional holiday camp entertainment was replaced with film screenings (everything from Quadrophenia to ET), DJ sets from Terry Hall and Steve Lamacq, Q&As with Gary Numan and Will Carruthers and enough arcade games to recreate Toy Story over breakfast.

A tough call with so much to choose from but here are some highlights…

Madonnatron – amongst some class acts on day 1, Madonnatron stood out with a wall of ethereal post punk, if there was a Twin Peaks remake they’d be playing at the Roadhouse.

Maxïmo Park – still playing with the same energy levels they started with over a decade ago, the bands’ love of performing is clear. A touching farewell to keyboard player Lukas Wooller before he heads for sunnier climes in Australia, the whole set, all 90 minutes of it, was a party from beginning to end.

Menace Beach – brilliant pop set over dense synths that just seem to get better with every album, great to see them playing live again.

Squid – with an early kick off and a watermelon on the drum kit, Squid woke up the Sunday crowd beautifully, ordered chaos with a New York vibe.

Yassassin – mid-way through day 3 and a welcome wake up with loads of energy and the still present watermelon finally making its way into the crowd, Yassassin have a lot of fun on stage and it’s contagious.

The Filthy Tongues – stalwarts of the Scottish music scene, think Nick Cave does glam rock replacing the glitter with heavy tunes and a fabulous beard. What more could you ask for?

When the summer festival announcements start to come through there’s always a repetition of acts being booked through the same promoters. This kind of takes the edge off discovering new events only to find virtually the same line up at each one. Again, Rockaway Beach sticks out from the crowd here; it’s clear that this is a festival set up around a love of music to showcase acts old and new with no compromise made on talent or innovation. It also demonstrates without doubt to the bigger players that there’s no problem with booking a diverse range of great performers of different genders and genres (don’t know why this is still a thing in 2019 and even needs a mention but it is so it does).

With The Jesus and Mary Chain already announced to headline in 2020, it looks certain that next year’s line up isn’t going to disappoint; worth bearing in mind if your idea of a perfect festival includes an eclectic mix of live music, rows of indoor deckchairs and a roof over your head that doesn’t involve tent pegs. Until next time…

Keep an eye on the Rockaway Beach website for more details about next year’s event as they unfold

Words and photos by Siobhan

15th January 2019

Exhibition – There Is A Light (Manchester Central Library)

Exhibition, Manchester Central Library, 11th Oct 2018 – 22nd Feb 2019
There is a Light that Never Goes Out

(Header shot: Buzzcocks © Jill Furmanovsky)

Amidst the early furore of punk, Manchester’s Buzzcocks created arguably the first DIY record with their independently released Spiral Scratch EP. It is apt then that the opening photo in this exhibition of the local music scene is one of Buzzcocks, now complete with hastily scribbled neon post-it notes stuck to a board below, tributes to the late, undeniably great Pete Shelley. The picture shows the band standing in front of rows of library books – subjects Fiction and Romance, begging the question was the location carefully found to match the song or is this maybe where the title came from?

Mark E Smith © Howard Barlow

Featuring artists past and present, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (‘a photographic celebration of Manchester’s rock music history’) is currently making its home in the first floor exhibition hall at Manchester Central Library. Presented by Rockarchive, it is curated by their founder and acclaimed photographer, Jill Furmanovsky and music writer Jon Savage, a noted journalist and author of the rise of punk narrative England’s Dreaming. Here, Jill explains how the exhibition came about…

‘Manchester is a city inextricably linked to its musical heritage.

When my Oasis DNA exhibition finished showing at this library in 2017, the idea of a Manchester rock music exhibition seemed a natural follow up. So in collaboration with writer Jon Savage and with help from the Manchester Digital Music Archive, we pulled together this unique collection of photographs.

We decided to concentrate on showing gritty images of those bands and musicians whose music is so deeply rooted in Manchester, one cannot imagine rock music or the city itself being the same without their contribution. Many of these are the bands and musicians that formed in the wake of punk, at a time when Manchester’s music scene was expanding in a unique and inimitable way.

So long is the reach of the city’s collective musical talent, we could have created an exhibition twice the size of this one. However, sadly we have not been able to feature every band or image we would have liked and the curators had some hard decisions to make.

We are thrilled to be showcasing work by many of the UK’s most talented music photographers, including Manchester based Kevin Cummins and his brilliant colleague, Pennie Smith, whose pictures of The Stone Roses shown define the very essence of a band that gel together effortlessly. Other contributors either lived locally and recorded the scene, or worked extensively with Manchester bands. They include Paul Slattery, Steve Double, Peter Walsh and Howard Barlow, who all had strong relationships with the musicians they worked with. A number of historic photographs from my own Manchester archive are also shown here.

The final section of the exhibition reflects Manchester’s vibrant and diverse current music scene, with photos of many of the contemporary acts who continue to keep the flame of Manchester music alive today. We have also devoted a wall to the musical outpourings and audience response that helped people express their grief and defiance after the tragic events at Manchester Arena in 2017.

Manchester’s musical legacy continues to dominate even to this day in a city whose light will never go out.’

(Jill Furmanovsky and the Rockarchive Collective)

Oasis © Jill Furmanovsky

An excellent collection documenting artists who have had a huge impact on music in the UK and internationally, There Is A Light offers an opportunity to see first hand some classic, instantly recognisable shots of the likes of Joy Division, The Fall, The Stone Roses, The Smiths and Oasis as well as lesser seen photos and numerous other acts who have played a part in the colourful history of the city’s music scene.

The final wall gives an indication of the ongoing talent in Manchester, including contemporary photos of Blossoms, Jane Weaver and Pale Waves to name just a few. Through the punk clubs and Tony Wilson’s Hacienda days with Factory Records, there are numerous reference points that will be of interest to fans of the music and the city alike. And for any music photographers out there – a chance to consider how some of these most memorable shots were conceived before the multitude of editing software available today came into play; lots to think about and take inspiration from.

A Guy Called Gerald and Graham Massey from 808 State play live at Victoria Baths during Tony Wilson’s Other Side of Midnight show © Peter J Walsh

Unsurprisingly, the exhibition has already attracted thousands of visitors and there’s still plenty of time to drop in. Oh, and that Buzzcocks photo? Back to Jill…

‘It was a typical music press type shoot in August 1977. No assistants, no lighting. Just me and the band with their press officer, in this case supremo Alan Edwards, walking about, stopping to take pictures by road signs, street art, in a fish and chip shop, on a climbing frame in a children’s playground, and finally in a local library where the band stood in front of two book shelves labelled Fiction and Romance. As scholars of punk will know, there is a Buzzcocks song of that name. The question that has still not been answered definitively, not even by the band themselves, is which came first, the picture or the song? I still maintain the picture came first…’

Joy Division © Jill Furmanovsky

Many of the photos in the exhibition can be purchased as prints from Rockarchive – with some already iconic images in the mix there’s no doubt these will be collectors’ pieces of the future. Further details are available on their website.

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out runs until 22nd February 2019 – free entry

Manchester Central Library, St Peter’s Square M2 5PD
Opening times: Monday – Thursday 9-8, Friday – Saturday 9-5, Sunday closed – please check the website for further details of this and other exhibitions before visiting

All images are reproduced with permission from Rockarchive and are copyrighted by the photographer credited

Additional words by Siobhan

8th January 2019

V&A Dundee

The Victoria and Albert in London is one of the largest design museums in the world as well as being one of the longest established, founded way back in 1852.

Its new family member, V&A Dundee, is a baby in comparison, a project almost 10 years in the making, opened to the public in September 2018. Designed by award-winning Japanese architect Kengo Kuma (also charged with designing the Olympic Stadium for Tokyo 2020), the striking building in made up of curved concrete walls supporting 2,500 rough stone panels, set to replicate a Scottish cliff-face and resembling the shape of a ship. Sitting on the waterfront with the River Tay as its backdrop, it somehow manages to blend in and stand out all at once.

V&A Dundee houses examples of Scottish design from fashion to furniture; music fans will appreciate the inclusion of record sleeves designed by Glasgow’s David Band for Aztec Camera and Altered Images. For fans of another famous Glaswegian, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Oak Room has been painstakingly reconstructed as it would have been seen originally in Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tearooms in the early 1900s.

Additionally, temporary exhibitions, events and activities will run throughout the year and there is a cafe, restauarant and a range of suitably aesthetically pleasing items available in the gift shop all on site. It will be interesting to see how the museum develops and hopefully brings new business and tourism alike to the area and its community.

V&A Dundee, Riverside Esplanade DD1 4EZ

Free entry, some exhibitions have an entrance fee

Opening times: Monday – Sunday 10-5 – please check the website for further details and prices of current exhibitions before visiting

Words and photos by Siobhan

4th January 2019

Exhibition – Martin Parr (Manchester Art Gallery)

Exhibition, Manchester Art Gallery, 16th Nov 2018 – 22nd Apr 2019
Martin Parr: Return to Manchester 

‘Martin Parr shows how the lives of Mancunians have changed but also reveals how there is continuity in how we live our lives.’

(Header shot  above: Ashton-Under-Lyne, Yates Wine Lodges, 1983)

Manchester Art Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition of photographer Martin Parr’s work. The collection offers a wry, observational social commentary on the city and its characters. Parr has a knack of capturing the ordinary in an extraordinary way; each shot suggesting a story to be told.

Manchester, Moss Side, 1970

Parr studied photography in Manchester in the early 70s but was hooked in much earlier whilst accompanying his amateur photographer grandfather, learning how to use a camera and helping to develop and print the shots at home. His pictures are honest and far from glamorous at times, but reflect an affection and respect for his surroundings and a place that has clearly had a significant impact on his life. His earlier black and white photos carry an air of nostalgia, some proudly posed, others caught in a moment. The picture below is from a set taken with the residents of June Street in 1973 in collaboration with Daniel Meadows. The pair set about finding the ‘real Coronation Street’ and gained agreement from the families living there to take portrait shots in their front rooms. It’s fascinating to see the variety of furnishings and ornaments on display and obvious to see the subjects’ pride in their homes; moments that wouldn’t have been available for much longer as the street was scheduled for demolition at the time.

Salford, Greater Manchester, ‘June Street’ in collaboration with Daniel Meadows, 1973

A variety of other early projects included in the exhibition document patients at the Prestwich Mental Hospital, ‘Love Cubes’ (in which Parr photographed couples separately and you can play the game of trying to match them up before seeing the shots of them together) a photo set depicting some of the regulars at Yates Wine Lodges and another portraying bad weather, where his use of flash brings a clever contrast to the dark and wet surroundings.

The introduction of bold colours into his work documents the changing environment around him up until the present day. The birthday party shown below is celebratory in its focus and brightness. The tattooed barber underneath gives a nod to traditional cut-throat shaving in modern surroundings, slightly threatening at first glance but with the subject actually using the most delicate of methods. Both shots draw the eye with their vibrancy and careful composition.

Manchester, Levenshulme, Royal Nawaab, 21st Birthday Party, 2018

While some photography exhibitions only show a small number of pieces, there are hundreds of photos here spanning Parr’s career and filling the entirety of the second floor. Some of the later colour shots will remain as part of the gallery’s permanent collection but you would be wise not to miss out on the ones that won’t. This is a captivating stroll through the decades with one of the UK’s finest photojournalists and well worth setting aside some time for.

Manchester, Barton Arcade, Barber Barber, 2018

Martin Parr: Return To Manchester runs until 22nd April 2019 – free entry

Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL
Opening times: Monday 11-5, Tuesday – Sunday 10-5, first Wednesday of every month open until 9 – please check the website for further details of this and other exhibitions before visiting

All images are reproduced with permission and are © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos / Rocket Gallery apart from ‘June Street’ which is by Martin Parr and Daniel Meadows

Words by Siobhan

2nd January 2019