Welcome to the Issue One blog.

See the full magazine online at www.issueone.co.uk or pick up a copy around Bristol.


Friday, 30 July 2010

Pete Roe

Sitting in the Old Duke, enjoying a pint the day before his 'second home'-coming gig at the Louisiana, Pete Roe piques my curiosity when he turns mid-conversation to his floor-rested satchel. Without breaking conversation, he fishes out a nail file and goes to work on his surprisingly refined talons. It doesn’t sit with me that the auteur of truly laid-back folk wanderings would take on a level of beauty maintenance more Beyoncé Knowles than Bob Dylan. Did I get the wrong pub? Have I begun an impromptu interview with an innocent Peter Rose?

Such doubts and professional fears dissolve the following day, as the same scruffy-but-preened figure finds the step-up to the stage through the melee of the Louisiana’s capacity crowd. It has been a weekend of World Cup excess and sweltering heat, and the audience are a flustered, excitable bunch; it takes nearly a whole minute and several school-ground shushes until Pete and his musical pals are given the suitable silence to kick-off proceedings. He assumes stage centre and with full attention attained, pulls sound from his plectrum.

Although admirably open and spirited at first, during the slow course of our ciders in the Old Duke, Pete engages me further with his musical history to date. Having studied Engineering at Bristol University, he found more interest in the local music scene. He was eventually “nagged into performing” by a few of the musical acts who provided a nocturnal escape from his increasingly repellent studies. The Old Duke transpires to be an apt place to discuss his background; it was here chiefly that he contracted the fever for performance. Bristol became him it seems.

Towards the end of the set, Pete’s ease of surroundings is evident as he addresses the crowd before a tune. “This is an old song. Every other place I’ve felt a wally for saying that. Not here, because I know most of you!”
It could go some way to explaining the packed house; the Louisiana isn’t exactly arena-size and the genuinely nice Pete seems cast from that Dave Grohl mould of easy amiability. What group of pals wouldn’t come along and support him?

The Louisiana is a special venue. It isn’t wholly indefinable as to why it is special, but it is tricky. For one, it’s small. Yes, small indicates ‘intimate’ and that is an often-touted positive of a venue. But one wouldn’t call the White Stripes a band suited to intimate gigs, and yet they rocked this place out during their epic Elephant tour. So that doesn’t explain it. Neither is it glamorous or comfortable; there isn’t a decent air-con to speak of and the walls are rendered un-leanable by necessary drinks shelving. So? Well, it is dark. And windowless. No, really. In essentially resembling a cave, albeit one with whitewashed walls, ‘the Louie’ facilitates escapism with ease. Tonight, Pete Roe takes us to other places. Beaches, dusty countryside lanes and a cottage in Lancashire are all conjured up on the Louisiana’s blank canvas.

Pete’s ensemble of core band (not forgetting scene-stealing fiddler Jonathan Pearce) create a sound that varies over the night, but is best pinned down as Southern Belt country-and-western. An upbeat tempo and summer mood does pervade throughout: “it's a fine time to go outside, a fine time to travel to the sea”, suggests Pete. In this heat, half the crowd seem tempted to take heed of the advice. But of course they don’t, what with the great knees-up they’re enjoying. It takes two weeks and a sun-baked Glastonbury Festival until I see a collection of smiles like those on Pete’s night.

He is an engaging host and fun drinking partner, a modern act perfectly set for the emerging nu folk scene, an emerald-eyed bohemian destined for music-mag posters; and despite all this Pete is, well, old-school. You’ve already read that he employs the word ‘wally’ without any sense of irony; try adding ‘gosh’, ‘jolly’ and ‘whoops’ to the repertoire. He is simply as pleasantly English as they come. Marry that with a soft voice and sweetly tuned melodies, and Pete Roe is one folk act the public will surely embrace. He has the musical chops to back it too. His vocals are light but delivered with vigour and intent, his arrangements are catchy but avoid feeling too ‘tight’ and thus chart-orientated; and the cheerful mood never seems naive or sickly; even when he is recounting the homely Lancastrian folk song ‘A Man like thee’.

If tonight’s taster is anything to go by, his new album ‘The Merry-Go Round’ will evoke spring blossom blown towards the coast, down the cliffside road to a joyful new adventure. It is a summery treat to rival strawberries and cream. Pete would surely enjoy them too.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

East African Playground Interview

East African Playgrounds (EAP) is a UK-based charity that sends out teams of volunteers from the UK and builds playgrounds for schools, orphanages, charities and other organisations in East Africa. Tom Gill and Carla Powell, two enterprising graduates, founded the charity in 2009. I put my questions to Tom, to discover how you get a charity up and running and what drives the project. Their journey has been one full of upsets and hard work, yet truly inspirational and I have a feeling it has only just begun….

Can you tell us a little about you both?
Tom: I developed the idea of building a playground after working and travelling in Tanzania. I realised that the children had nothing to do after school, and remembered how much I loved my local playground. I went back to Tanzania the following year after raising £6,000 and recruiting two volunteers – which resulted in the three most exhausting months of our lives! I was approached by others in Tanzania to continue my work… and there began East African Playgrounds. I am a mature student and am now finally in my third year at Leeds University studying Social Policy. I also have a lot of experience in the building trade and these expertises come in handy on project! It’s an honour to be able to see the joy that our playgrounds bring into the lives of so many children.

Carla: I jumped at the opportunity to set up EAP with Tom, and to spread happiness through playgrounds. My experience of Africa started with volunteering for a month building schools in Uganda, followed by a month of travelling Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya. This gave me a great overview of each of the countries and confirmed my love for Africa. I have just graduated from Leeds University with a degree in Childhood, Education and Culture. My degree gives me a great foundation for my involvement in EAP, and I am able to apply ideas about education and socialisation through play, but I constantly seem to be learning more. Bringing play into children’s life is so important – play brings far more than just enjoyment into children’s lives.

Staring a charity at such young ages is an achievement. What have been the biggest and most unexpected challenges?
Thank you very much, to give you a full answer of the biggest challenges is quite hard. Everything we do has a very exciting element to it, so that always makes any challenge easier to over come. So far everything has come along really well and EAP has grown organically. I think the biggest challenge is just trying to fit in running EAP as well as our jobs (Tom is in part-time work and Carla works full time) and studies (Tom is in his final year of studies at Leeds University). We are currently trying to find funding so that we can take EAP on a more full-time basis.

Where did you learn the more practical skills vital for building playgrounds?

Over the years I have worked for several people in the building trade, bricklayers, window fitters, conservatory builder and house renovators. After several summers in Tanzania I gained a few more basic skills. We actually utilise local skills to build the playgrounds. We use local carpenters for all the woodwork and we use local welders for the building of the structures. This way we can not only build playgrounds, but also support the local tradesmen and the local economy of the areas in which we work.

How do you balance project management with other work and commitments?
Currently this is the most difficult part of running EAP. We generally do EAP work when every we get spare tie. Lunch breaks, study breaks, evenings and weekends.

EAP is one of many charities working in East Africa, most of which concentrate on helping to provide more basic human rights. Why do place such importance on creating playgrounds for children?
In Africa, children often have very little time to be children. Many work in their homes, orshambas, once they are old enough to perform basic chores. We recognise that there are many excellent charities and organisations in Africa that assist with people’s basic needs. There are, however, little resources dedicated to providing space for children as part of their right to childhood. As a charity, EAP follows article 31 of the United Nations ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’, which states that children have the right ‘to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child’.
Building playgrounds will not change the world, but it will complement the work of existing charities and give children something that many others take for granted. And we think that’s very important.
In short we are in the business of promoting fun to as many people as we can.

Who else does the scheme benefit apart from the children?
The way we have set up EAP is to help as many people as we can. We like to think that we are helping all the volunteers that we take away by providing them with a unique experience that will hopefully help them in the future, and maybe even lead them into further work in areas of the world that it is greatly needed. We try to support the local people we work with through employing local tradesmen and also we employ a local cook (often we rotate which local does the cooking each week so that we can support the maximum number of people). We purchase almost all of the material locally, so we are supporting local economies also. We try our best and often we ask local crafts people to come and teach us how to paint, make jewellery and carve.

You rely on the help of volunteers, how does the experience change them?
We hope that it opens their eyes to other cultures, ways of life and issues that Africa has as well as all the amazing things about east Africa and the people we live with. We also hope that they learn new skills. Most of our volunteers come away with an experience that changes them and changes what they do and the way they look at the world. Most of all though, our volunteers learn from the people of the areas we work in and take those lessons into their future endeavours.

How can you see the charity expanding in 2010 and in future years?
We are hoping to have 3 fantastic projects in the summer of 2010. After that we are hoping to move EAP forward. We have some big plans that include building more inclusive and interactive playgrounds, building a wider range of equipment, getting business support, getting more universities involved and more design schools involved in design new things for us, we hope to enable their people and other charities to benefit from EAPs structure and our design. We are currently looking for new funding to help us move to the next stage in our development.

To find out more about East African Playground and find out how to get involved or donate visit: www.eastafricanplaygrounds.org.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


Like most things in life, live music is best experienced alongside a bowl of delicious noodles, and Mr Wolf’s proved adept in providing that necessity for its punters. Some bars draw the line at peanuts, but the quick-witted staff at ‘Wolfies’ know better; that live music crowds are demanding, angry beasts that can only be sated with a sufficient amount of gastro-stuffing.

Nestled in a side-street just off the centre, the popular venue has played host to many club nights, Communion being one of its most popular and acclaimed.
Founded by Ben Lovett (Mumford and Sons), Kevin Jones (Cherbourg) and producer Ian Grimble at the Notting Hill Arts Club in 2006, Communion has since expanded to incorporate English venues as well as Melbourne, Australia! To say it has been a success is to be making quite the mild statement.

Issue One was curious to see if the necessary combination of musical quality, emotion and good ol’ finger-clicking, clog-stompin’ entertainment would come together.
Well by gum it certainly did.

Kicking of this surge of appreciation was Rob Bravery, whose light-hearted opening soothed the crowd after their no doubt hectic weekends.
Switching between finger-plucked guitar and the keyboard, all his songs retained a common thread of free-wheeling abandon, as tunes were dispensed with mid-performance. Rob later explained “My music is like a train- once it goes off the rails, there’s no way of putting it back on later!”.
(Post-set, I was informed by a friend of Rob’s that she was perhaps to blame for his ramshackle performance, as she had led him on a mammoth drinking session the night before. See what we mean by ‘no-doubt hectic weekends’...)

Such an account is of no disservice to his talent, as he proved himself quite the bohemian auteur with intricate keyboard arrangements such as ‘Hedonistic Graveyard’, which swooped from a lustrous and rousing opening to a stuttering vocal chorus through which his music intermittently reappeared.

As the night’s title would imply, the reception to Rob’s music revealed a good-natured, sociable crowd and Mr Wolf’s seemed the perfect host; a low-lit hideaway where the audience hung to the sides, tucked away with draught beers and spirited gossip.

Toyface were the next act charged with wooing the listeners. A six-piece set-up akin to Arcade Fire, they took to the stage swiftly, and lead singer Tamsin exposed a fiery voice during an a cappella intro that melted into a gorgeous melodic composition.
Jemma Brett added gravitas with a disarming performance on violin, her contribution best exposed on following track ‘Death of an Oldboy’. An ode to the vocalist’s recently departed grandfather, it was a quietly poignant number best captured by the repeated refrain “Fire burns, breeze blows dust away”.

From this point on the crowd were theirs, rattling through up-tempo bluegrass numbers, a candy-coated cover of ‘Happy Days’ and achingly serene tunes.

If Toyface were well-received, then Matt Corby was by comparison a full-house standing ovation. The biggest buzz on the night was focused on this chap and it wasn’t just for his roguish good-looks or, more importantly, his crowd-stealing performances on Australian Idol three years previous.

If limited to vocals alone, Matt would have still brought grown-men to tears; as it was, his delivery of layered vocals amongst minimalist guitar meanderings drew an instant silence over the venue.
His songs were delicate, haunting affairs- notably on standout track ‘My False’- and his confident performance exhibited the product of a hard-grafting ethic, honed through years of post-Idol touring.

A remarkable talent for a man so light on years (he was only 16 when he came runner-up in the Australian Idol 2007 finals), Matt seemed to be breaking hearts as he played, his sparse, whispered vocals then racing upwards to a soul-drenched wail behind which his patterned guitar layers trembled.

Departing to riotous applause, Matt made way for Howlin’ Lord, who took charge of shaking the crowd from their reverie with a barrage of punkish attacks infused with a keen sense of blues.
Employing an American twang (in the lead’s accent, not just guitar style) they made their allegiances clear with the eponymous Howlin’ Lord sporting an ‘I Love Neil Young’ t-shirt and his band producing a sound reminiscent of Springsteen, The Black Lips and the early albums of the Kings of Leon.

They succeeded in tempting the audience to their feet, with a raucous bluegrass tempo- albeit to songs that urged their listeners to “don’t go falling in love”.
Their tunes were infused with a kind of abandoned, reckless ennui. The howled vocals of “for every ray of sunshine, there’s a thousand drops of rain” would seem to say it all, but the music was a different notion- a loosely upbeat sound coined ‘Fuck-you-grass’ by the ‘Lord’.

Final act Pete Lawrie happily continued this feel-good affair, contributing to the atmosphere with the rumbling freight-train racket that Johnny Cash made famous. Soon to make a name for himself on the ‘Introducing...’ stage at Radio 1’s Big Weekend, the Welsh wonder had Mr Wolf’s in a toe-tapping, hootenanny uproar.

‘How Could I Complain?’ went down a storm; and as a parting thought it was apt.
Given the broad spectrum of progressive folk music on offer and a community spirit that engendered friend-making and the sharing of drinks and noodles, there seemed very little to complain about at Communion.

Communion runs monthly at Mr Wolf’s, on each second Sunday night.
Visit communionmusic.co.uk for more details

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Peng Sound – Bringing a better vibe to Bristol

The city of Bristol is famous for producing some of the best sounds of the past twenty years, often being the centre for some of the most forward thinking artists – Tricky, Massive Attack, Roni Size to name but a few. Fast forward to 2010 and, instead of the usual names burning the ears of eager club goers, it’s the underground bass scene that’s been causing a stir on the streets of this city. Basement 45, The Black Swan, Timbuk2 all showcasing the best of Bristol; with artists such as Appleblim, Forsaken, Pinch, Peverelist and Jakes playing every weekend to likeminded people all ready to consume and digest bites of Bristol beats.

It was with this in mind and drawing on his own passion for the underground scene that Daniel Davies, also known as Ossia, decided to set up Peng Sound – a once monthly night, set to the backdrop of Stokes Croft in the small, but special, Take Five Café. Whilst not wanting to compete with the array of successful nights already taking place, he aimed to produce something slightly different for the vast number of music lovers desperate for unconventional venues and a house party vibe. It’s a night that knows no bounds, boasting an array of forward thinking and reminiscent bass and roots music – music that Dan feels is often looked upon as unconventional for the dance floor.

The name Peng Sound comes from the sound made in Jamaican dancehalls as a salute to big tunes; a perfect label for a night making big waves in the Bristol scene. With decorations of endless balloons, UV lights, lasers and a very reasonable entry price of £3, Peng Sound is the answer Stokes Croft has been crying out for. Its debut took place on October 10th, with the likes of Positive Vibration and Dubba taking to the decks; the second instalment came on November 20th; sets coming from Dub Boy, Julio Bashmore and Neek. However, it’s not just the decks securing a crowd on the dance floor; Dan also wanted to bring a live aspect to the table, adding positive vibe MC’s called Intalek to keep the crowd’s spirits flying high. This was taken care of by Dubkasm, the headliners of Peng Sound’s third and most successful night to date. The guys brought with them live sax, melodica and the infamous dub sirens to keep the crowds hungry for more; support came from Ossia, Silly Tang and Oli B.

What makes Peng Sound so special is the atmosphere – every one there is out to have a great night for the right reasons; for drink, dance and dub. Think of it as your own personal party, with lashings of great music and great people. Leigh Dennis, a.k.a. Leewok praises the laid back crowd, preferring to play his set at Peng Sound rather than at any other bass night. Regular attendee Jacob Martin, a.k.a. Hodge, explains it as ‘a night unlike any other; it’s like the ultimate house party, showcasing Bristol’s bass culture where it’s all about having a good time'. And it’s not just the bass lovers that are catered for. Peng Sound is a night that knows no musical bounds where you can expect to hear as many rhythms and tempos as your musical taste buds can handle.

The next Peng Sound will be taking place in March, with its date, line-up and location being kept well under wraps; be sure to check out Gloucester Road and Stokes Croft for flyers – you really won’t want to miss it. As local underground talent and established artists come together to mash up the dance, you’ll be welcomed with open arms, sultry beats and bass lovers galore.

By Sammy Maine

Ship Shape

The rich cultural history of Bristol Harbour has made it one of the key epicentres of the city, with an annual Harbourside festival attended by hundreds of thousands of visitors every summer, that is a recent addition to the Bristol Festival showcasing hundreds of artists, performers and musicians each September. Then, of course, there are the numerous art galleries, bars and clubs that surround the water, as well as water taxis, ferries and the majestic SS Great Britain that keep Bristol’s waterways in use all year round.

While boating was once only a pastime of the rich, many people are turning to narrow boats as a cheap way to get on the property ladder, or as a floating holiday home for the summer months.

I’ve always fancied myself as something of a sailor, trapped in a pedestrian’s body. The idea of living on a narrow boat conjures up images of a quaint, Rosie & Jim lifestyle and I’m quite confident I can pull off the nautical look with ease. It is for these reasons, then, that I find myself battling the elements on a bleak Wednesday morning, snow blowing into my face as I approach the harbour.

After negotiating the snow covered steps down to the pontoon and treading gingerly onto a beautiful cream and red narrow boat, I’m relieved to be greeted with a cup of tea and a small but warm gas fire by Diana and her two dogs.

Diana has lived on her narrow boat, Penhale, with her partner Richard for six years, since the couple bought the shell and kitted it out from scratch. With backgrounds in cooking, neither of the couple had ever undertaken such a large DIY project, but took on everything from plumbing to woodwork to create the home of their dreams.

From May to November the couple, who are semi-retired, travel around the waterways of England and Wales in Penhale, returning to Bristol Harbour each winter to work. They chose the boating lifestyle after spending Bank Holidays renting narrow boats and decided to take the plunge and buy their own boat to live on.

Penhale is 57ft long with a bedroom, bathroom and large kitchen and an open plan living area just big enough for Diana, Richard and their two dogs. Despite its narrow width, the distinguishing feature of a narrow boat being its 7ft or less width, Penhale feels warm and inviting, with all the creature comforts of a well loved living room.

Out on the partly frozen harbour, the snow covered boats attract an air of intrigue and sympathy but Diana says these boats are built to withstand the elements and the only real problem boaters face is the threat of damp. “As long as we keep the fire going and the air circulating, then damp isn’t really a problem. People from work used to feel sorry for me coming back to in the winter but we have the fire going all day so the place is always nice and warm.”

The waterways around Bristol are particularly popular with young professionals because of local career opportunities and a cheaper way of living. A fully kitted out narrow boat can cost as little as £60,000 – a fraction of the price of most property and, with the option of a mortgage, narrow boats are the first rung of the property ladder.

After an annual mooring fee and licence, outgoings are minimal as appliances are run from the engine or generator. Gas cylinders are used for heat and cooking, as is coal, depending on the kind of heating on the boat, while a 12 volt generator can power everything from a TV to a vacuum cleaner when a boat is on the move.

Mark Dahill is a 32 year old medical student who lives on nearby Bess, a 58ft semi-traditional narrow boat. Bess is his second boat and he has previously moored in London and Bath, enjoying “the flexibility of living in different places but coming home to the same home”. Mark decided that investing in a narrow boat was an “interesting and cheap way to get on the property ladder”.

Mark and his partner are expecting their first child in April and are reluctantly selling Bess, but will miss the sense of community on the pontoon. “Boating has a far better sense of community than living in a house. We frequently cook for each other and help each other out with all sorts of stuff. It's a really friendly lifestyle where you see/speak to/help your neighbours almost on a daily basis."

Diana agrees that the boating community around the harbour is laid back and friendly. “We all come back at the same time each year and I think is a lot friendlier than if you were to live in a house in Bristol. Everyone wants to help each other; someone is always there. If somebody is in trouble then everyone rallies round.”

Bristol definitely seems to attract friendly, sociable boaters who want the benefits of both city life and the freedom of regular travel. Mark is reluctant to give up Bess and sums up the boating scene in Bristol perfectly: “It’s flexible and friendly and we'll miss it.”

For more information on Bristol Docks and moorings visit the Bristol City Council website at www.bristol.gov.uk

By Sarah Pusey

A Call to Arms

I have heard it stated by many an ex-student that the key skills gained and so desperately needed throughout the course of their degree are the multi-tasking abilities of the entrepreneur. These skills are most notably put to use in the aftermath of their degrees, as they clutch at every straw that glances in their direction, and the lessons learnt encourage them to apply themselves to a myriad of projects. Such projects are frequently self-funded ones that require more hours than people know they have, but they keep the outcome in sight, because they will hopefully one day reap what they now sow.

...But none of this would ever work without (and please forgive me the use of a cheesy term) “teamwork”.

One such self-funded project that lies close to my own heart is the beginning of a small festival that has grown out of our adolescent tendencies. The concept of this festival began many years before its potential was even recognised by one of the key organisers, who started it purely for the reason 'of making something happen'. Hindsight, being the sweet music that it is, reminds us that such causes are possibly what we spent our teenage years preparing for: a copious mix of music and high enthusiasm. Unfortunately, that is not all that is needed to make a festival happen.

The first year of the festival was a largely makeshift affair that greatly exceeded even our wildest expectations, demonstrating what can be achieved when we put our minds to something. The sheer enthusiastic effort that emerged from those involved demonstrated the scale of a multi-skilled collective, willing and able to work towards producing a great event. However, a great deal of growing up and acknowledgement of how little we previously knew has occurred in recent years. Initiative and enthusiasm, being such virtuous traits, caused us to kick-start such programmes into action, but they are also required by all those involved in maintaining momentum within the group. These traits are even more fervently needed when disappointment or failure arrives on our doorstep. Therefore, we have to remind ourselves of what is so frequently stated by our superiors, that we must learn from our mistakes. Which we do. We stand up again, remember why this is so important, and remind ourselves that we can achieve anything if we are determined enough.

Some would say this is bloody-mindedness but, if that is what works, then so be it. ??

This year finds the festival propelling itself towards its third year, initiating even more interest by word of mouth and evoking more ideas that slowly expand upon the original festival. But, essentially, it maintains its core intention of 'making something happen', while simultaneously encouraging interest in little-known music. However, as with many annual events, the proof of the pudding may be in the eating and the outcome of 2010's event may tell us whether it's time to start taking ourselves more seriously and to develop future events further. Do we up the stakes thus pushing events beyond the realms of word of mouth...?

Festivals such as these create good opportunities for unknown bands that, although possessing great musical talent, are provided with little opportunity to prove their worth. One very positive aspect that duly epitomises opportunities given to young people by such projects was when an unplanned appearance of one local band attending the festival, later featured on a prime-time Radio One slot, thus spreading word of the event. This impromptu occurence created new opportunities through association, demonstrating that, on occasions such as these, no one ever quite knows what might develop from them. One lesson that has certainly been learnt is that, although no one can ever quite prepare enough, that is most definitely where part of the magic lies.

By Bex Case

Winter/Spring 2010 Arts Guide by Vickie Fear.

Happy New Year. How about a resolution to see a bit more art and get to know Bristol’s galleries and art spaces a bit better? Well, I have a couple of suggestions to get you started and, if you already know them pretty well, then here’s a top up with some vital dates.

Firstly, I have a couple of favourites to recommend. Spike Island is back on form this season with Sanity Assassin; a show resulting from Amanda Beech’s residency at the gallery last summer. The show opens on the evening of 22nd January and runs through until 11th April; expect exciting video works and chainsaws (!). Opening on the same night is the new exhibition, 10 Seconds or Greater at Picture This on Mardyke Ferry Road. 10 Seconds or Greater is the work of London based Rachel Reupke and the artist will be in conversation with writer Marina Vishmidt on the 11th February. Contact the gallery for further information. Behind Spike Island Richard Wilson’s exhibition of preparatory drawings, models and documentation, Force Quit continues at Works/Projects until the 31st January. Following this show, Edwina Ashton exhibits sculptures and drawings of “limbless creatures...dandified insects” and solar powered motor cars from 19th February-28th March at Works/Projects. Don’t forget that all of these galleries and the numerous private artists’ studios will open their doors for the annual Spike Open Event throughout the first May Bank Holiday weekend.

Craftivism at the Arnolfini continues until the 14th February, so head down there and make the most of the interactive pieces waiting to be built, sewn and sat on. Janek Simon’s exhibition overlaps from the 30th January and is open until the 5th April. The main highlight at the Arnolfini this coming season, however, has to be Augusto Corrieri’s performance on the 13th February. As we speak, ten volunteers from Bristol are learning a dance piece via YouTube and will meet for the first time on stage that night, so anything could happen.

The RWA on Queen’s Road have a couple of big exhibitions this year, not least the tasty pair of Celebrating Paper and Urban Evolution running parallel from the 17th January- 21st February. Celebrating Paper is an exhibition of sculpture, origami, artists’ books and wall-hung pieces which could alter the way we see and use the everyday material, whilst Urban Evolution showcases the printmaking skills of Anne Desmet RE RWA.

Bedminster’s BV Studios is nearly complete and, in the gallery space, Motorcade/ Flash Parade on Phillip Street, sculptor Fraser Cook exhibits his first solo show Bally and Barnstorming from the 22nd January until the 7th February. Keep an eye on the Motorcade/Flash Parade website for updates of their following shows.

Finally, a couple of other treats to hunt out: Micro Pages, a touring exhibition of artists’ books on microfilm is at the Bristol Reference Library until the 31st January before moving on to Glasgow. Don’t miss it. Monthly exhibition and live graffiti event A-OK returns to The Junction in 2010. Have a look at their blog for up-to-date information, as February’s date was unavailable when we went to press. Last but not least, Bristol favourite, the Cube Cinema continues its series of exhibitions alongside its film and live music events. In February, Felix Wilkinson and Yurim Gough exhibit their snow delayed show. Following that, I take up the gauntlet with Inside My White Cube; a selection of photographs accompanying a live performance in the bar area. Pop down and whisper me a hello whilst I sit in my knitted cube or leave me a comment on the Issue One blog.


It was an unsettling sight to behold. Highlighted cruelly by the sharp winter sun, there it stood alone. Empty.

For anyone who has struggled through its thronging masses on a peak Saturday afternoon, the sight of a soulless Queen’s Road and Park Street would probably fill you with immediate terror- cowering down before the arrival of the undead invasion soon to start pouring from alleyways and rooftops.

In fairness, this was to be seen at early morning on New Year’s Day. Still, even blighted by the traditional hungover stumble to work, it was a sobering sight to behold. Where were the hordes of shoppers so often prevalent on these pavements?

By midday, any fears or hopes for a cultural abstinence from retail activities were soon extinguished. At Sainsbury’s, where I am grateful to be employed, customers appeared in droves, filling our tills until we closed six hours later.

Of course, a grocery store like ours is a necessity in most people’s lives; our dependence on food marginally more important than our need to aimlessly shop. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we are soon undone. On the next step in our evolutionary progress, we will soon be able to derive all nutritional needs from a 5-a-day of H+M, Jack Wills and Primark.

Before this is dismissed, quite fairly, as the ramblings of a disgruntled shop assistant, take heed from the department of National Statistics. Year on year, ‘the volume of retail sales in November was 3.1 per cent higher than in November 2008’. Indeed food sales were on the increase too, albeit by a considerably smaller 1.7 per cent increase.

If a national, nay global, recession doesn’t curb our consumer habits, surely it is something that we should be concerned about. Given the abundance of health warnings and finger-waggings doled out concerning smoking and drinking, I am surprised by the lack of cutting Government TV adverts trying to wean us off our mindless spending. Except, of course, the government’s need at present is to have us pour money back into the economy, at any cost. Never mind how the proceeds are then being spent by the Government - be it to fund an ongoing war overseas, or to help feed its own people - the support we give by shopping will never be curtailed, nor will we know how the taxes from this are spent.

All of which means, sadly, that we will never switch on to the advert break to see a homebound shopping addict trying to ring up their selection of mugs on an imaginary kitchen till.

To be honest, if I’m going to waste my money on the government, I’d rather ply myself with alcohol and cigarettes than try to derive equal pleasure from a cashmere sweater.

The Zen Hussies Aboard The Matthew

On a cold, dark December night all is quiet and still. Then, from a corner of Bristol harbour, a fever of foot stomping, gypsy-jazz-jiving, swing-ska comes rocking from aboard The Matthew… The culprits? The Zen Hussies!

With an infectious sound and energy, combining 40’s swing with a double helping of Dixieland, ska and gypsy-jazz, the band draws on a variety of musical genres. Combined with a jaunty showmanship, they succeed in creating a unique and exciting musical atmosphere. The band possess a similar sound, life and humour to The Squirrel Nut Zippers, but their Bristolian roots shine through.

'The Matthew', John Cabot’s replica ship, was moored outside the Arnolfini during a recent series of fundraising events to help keep the historic boat afloat. Just before Christmas, decorated with lights and flags, and with a small bar serving drinks and mulled wine, there was a subtle magic in the air. The Zen Hussies hauled in a large crowd, filling the top deck; all dressed in hats, gloves and scarves (including the band!) But the boat was soon warmed up with hot music and raucous rhythms - a perfect evening to dance away those winter blues!

If you missed The Matthew gig, fear not - with a passion for boats it seems, another evening of swashbuckling swing is guaranteed at their next Bristolian gig aboard The Thekla on the 22nd of January.

Also, on 14th of February, The Zen Hussies are creating some romance, hosting their very own Valentines Ball along with the equally infectious band - Top Shelf Jazz (‘fine purveyors of filthy swing’). The evening is being held at Metropolis, Cheltenham Road.

So if the Zen Hussies tickle your fancy, keep an eye out for them around Bristol and the UK. But be warned, one gig and you could be hooked!

HYPERLINK "http://www.myspace.com/thezenhussies" www.myspace.com/thezenhussies
HYPERLINK "http://www.myspace.com/topshelfjazz" www.myspace.com/topshelfjazz

By Paula Bowles