Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pile of Songs

Studio tomorrow: today has been spent working out BPMs! There are nine songs here, all on A3 layout sheets and all equally catchy: well done group!

Music, Politics, Agency in the Digital Age Symposium

The Centre for Cultural Studies Research
                                    presents the second of four symposia


Music, Politics, Agency in the Digital Age:

Gender, Sexuality and Sound

Wednesday 7 March 2012, 14:00-18:30, UEL Docklands Campus, Room: EB.G.11

Lisa Blanning (The Wire)

“A Feminist Reading of Gangsta Rap"

Freya Jarman-Ivens (University of Liverpool)

"Classical Music, Affective Marketing, and Distributed Subjectivities"

Tim Lawrence (UEL)
"Networking and Contact: Samuel Delany, Queerness and the New York Dance Floor, 1980-83"

Helen Reddington (UEL)
“Outside the Box: Gendered Mediation in Contemporary Recording Practice”

Jeremy Gilbert (UEL)

      All Welcome, Entry Free

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

93 Feet East

We had a really successful student gig at 93 Feet East last night. It's a bar on Brick Lane in east London, navigated via a maze of one way streets and diversions which meant that I had to leave my car (I was roadying, amongst other things) a ten-minute walk away and at one point I did wonder if I could remember where it was!
The students drifted in, and we started with a DJ before a series of poets, singer songwriters and even a drummerless band entertained a pretty full house for a Monday night. A couple of rappers dropped in with a CD and we gave them a spot: it was a true variety night that finished with a short drum'n'bass DJ set.
There will be more, perhaps next time with the red Las Vegas rope lights that I left behind in my car boot, fifteen minutes away (what is life without exaggeration?)

Monday, February 27, 2012


It is always important to have a mentor- I had two. One was my lovely art history tutor at art college, Stuart Morgan, who went on to edit Artscribe Magazine (sadly, he died a few years ago but I will be including a song tribute to him on the next CD that I do) and the other was Vi Subversa from the band Poison Girls, who is now making music just outside Barcelona. Vi loved and encouraged everyone, even when she didn't agree with them politically- that's a great generosity of spirit. And Stuart was kind and loyal, and always my friend. I will always remember my oldest child as a bald and very beautiful baby being thrilled by Stuart's shaved head. At last! An adult who also had a hairless head!
I don't think mentors always realise what they have been doing. Jane Abernethy, one of my ex-students, just sent me this link, and I am so touched to be mentioned this way.
In one of my jobs, I am finding things very tough; this has helped redress the balance to say the least! Added to some lovely gigs (like the little one at the Stuart Low Trust on Friday) and a very special song writing project with some carers who seem to be spontaneously developing into amazing songwriters, this makes life seem much more rosy!
It goes without saying that I am hugely proud of Jane, especially after she signed Merrill Garbus. She has always had a unique ear for music and has been able to stick to her guns about what she likes. The Beggars Group are lucky to have her, and that's a fact.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


I was just about to pop this delicious morsel into my mouth when I realised that it was, in fact, a brooch, so I wore it instead (thanks Jacob!).
Jamie McDermot is doing a session on Radio 2 this week, on Thursday I think: I'll let you know so you can listen in!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Spooky Ad. Ugh

Soon as I'd posted that, this appeared:
Join a Modern Choir
Singing Pop, Rock, Disco & Gospel in Essex Suffolk & London

Yesterday All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away

I shook hands with Basil Meade yesterday, the musical director of the London Community Gospel Choir. How exciting! I have a live tape of them performing somewhere that I got off the radio, one miserable Christmas when I was just out of my teens. It cheered me up not end. I also went to see them once at the Royal Albert Hall. They have phenomenal voices and the vocal arrangements are like being fed gorgeous food!
Later, I went to Jame  and Jacobs warehouse in Barnet (no, I didn't believe there were such things either!).
It is a huge white-painted space with red chairs and red tulips in a glass vase. Jamie is an amazing cook and he made us a three-course meal and we talked until out teeth fell out of our mouths. Almost!
Thank you, you two, for being such great company.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


The dying chap on the detective programme is whispering the secret of it all with his last breaths... the washing machine has leapt into spin cycle... RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!
Now I'll never find out who the murderer is!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012


Tomorrow I shall purchase Girls by the Moments and Whatnauts.
"The ones that aren't so good-looking, they're the ones that do the best cookin'."
Ha ha! Eat your heart out, Gangsta Rappers!
Also on  my shopping list is Led Zeppelin's Lemon Song and Some Girls by the Rolling Stones.
A shopping list of offensive songs jus in case I need 'em.
The guitarist from Joby and the Hooligans (who had been in a relationship with a man before we got together) used to sing Girls to one of the lesbian women at the Resource Centre where we used to print posters for our gigs upstairs from The Vault in Brighton, in an attempt to wind her up.
It completely backfired.
Is this what is called being at the forefront of the sexual revolution?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Boy in a Dress by LaJohn Joseph

My nephew came over yesterday to do work experience with me; we sat in the kitchen at the computer, puzzling away at Logic and adding backing vocals to one of Shippy's tracks, playing with reverbs, equalization and stereo. I showed him how to edit and how to loop. We exhausted ourselves. As McSis came to collect him, Gina phoned and invited me to the Oval House, just next to the Cricket Ground in South London, to see Boy in a Dress, an autobiographical play by LaJohn Joseph. It sounded like the perfect antidote to a week of hard work and I put on my best skirt and hoofed it to the tube, armed with a copy of No Logo by Naomi Klein, which I have been reading as I'm doing a lecture on branding this coming week.
I recognised LaJohn as being one of the Teaists, a group of artists, musicians and flaneurs who met up every so often for tea in fancy places. I had taken tea with them at the Wallace Collection (postings passim) and was looking forward to seeing what LaJohn did apart from taking tea!
Gina's cousin, Sarah Chew, has directed it and we said hello before the start. The Oval House is a modern and inclusive venue. In spite of living literally five minutes down the road for thirteen years, I only think I have ever been there once before. London has so many layers of activity and the venue is indentified with queer theatrical performance rather than music; at the time of living in the area I was either a musician on tour, or a Mum. I never even went to the Oval cricket matches (the ground is just opposite), even though as a sometimes-unemployed resident I would have qualified for free tickets. But I digress.

LaJohn has a remarkable twinkling cap of red hair, celebrated throughout the performance with red sequinned gowns, a red tracksuit and even a bright red cocktail- all the things you are supposed to avoid if you have red hair. She told us harrowing tales about her childhood- her four 'fathers', one of who was caught with his trousers down just about to do something horrible to next-doors' six year old child, and another of whom smashed everything breakable in the house with a hammer when LaJohn intervened by getting a neighbour to prevent the husband from smashing his mum with it. From early childhood, LaJohn was mistaken for a girl, and she described her child's habit of gendering everything: a cat as a girl, a dog as a boy, forks as a girl, knives as a boy, and a spoon... that was LaJohn herself, in between an knife and fork, with a space of her own.
There were songs, played with aplomb by Jordan Hunt (one of the Irrepressibles), and Anna Lewenhaupt performed roles as diverse as a transvestite man, a party girl and a scene-changer, chalking on the floor or painting LaJohn with thick blue paint, spray painting around him and chalking a New York skyline on the scenery, emerging from a wardrobe whenever she was needed.
There were stories that made some of the audience laugh (wry wit can mask a lot of pain). I couldn't laugh, but I found the stories mesmerising, as many stories of survival against the odds are. I am so glad that she has made such a vibrant and entertaining show from her life: we need to hear about the different routes that people take from there to here, all the many different ways of being alive and yes, surviving.
Afterwards, we all applauded loudly and sincerely. I left feeling energised and full of appreciation for right here and now. Thank you, LaJohn, for a fabulous evening!
(I think it's on for the next two weeks, starting at 8 p.m. See

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

News from the f-Word

Many thanks to Cazz Blase at the f-Word for posting this about the Hyde gig:

Fruity Storylet

As a little child, Offsprog One could not say 'helicopter': she called them 'heliclo'.
Sh did, however, hugely enjoy eating apricopters.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Art and Rocketts

Our gig in Gateshead was lovely: the Shipley Art Gallery is a big airy space, and watched over benignly by paintings, Pauline Murray played a short but sweet set of self-composed songs. She has become much more confident since last year's February gig with Gina and Viv and it was a pleasure to hear her play again. Her whole family had turned up to hear her play: that's her partner Rob (bass player with Penetration), Martin and Pauline over there on the left.
I borrowed Martin's Telecaster to play (the Martin acoustic is playing up and won't give me nice clear bass notes to play although it's going to Brian's shop to get fixed up tomorrow) and felt quite rocky at times; Martin and Fin McCardle joined me for a couple of songs and after a short break Martin played his set which included one of my favourites of his, Nairn Beach. He had his Line 6 radio-controlled DI and wandered round the gallery playing; it was very funny, especially when he caught a punter dozing over his beer and serenaded the poor unsuspecting guy until he woke up with a start! It was an amazing venue to play, everything about it was special. It even has old-fashioned Victorian locks on the doors and the staff were sweet and smiley, the sound was perfectly clear, Shippy the promoter was in very good spirits and it couldn't have been better.
This afternoon, we went to Colin's studio-in-his-garage in Darlington and recorded a couple of tracks with Stephenson's Rocketts. It was great to see the guys again, and with Colin's help we recorded a couple of rockin' tracks, Sugar Hill and Sweet Sally, with Joe Guillan's scorching guitar, John Cavener's steady bass, Martin's energetic rhythm guitar and Keith Shepherd's skittering drums, with Colin at the controls (that's him on the left). He is the lead singer with the Sureshots (Joe's band) and his partner Mandy is a double bass player. What a brilliant band to play with; it's so exciting when we all get going: learn the song, run it a couple of times then record it. We have not all been together in the same room since the Loch Lomond gig in the summer, and we just need Young Johnny's sax and then the songs will be finished.
Spontanaiety, the spice of life!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Details about Shipley Art Gallery Gig from...



Shouts to Reni's Cafe on Barnet High Street. What a lovely place to sit and chat over a coffee and a sandwich on a snowy day, with smiling staff and home-made food. Long may they prosper! And at the other end of the street, All Aboard, with the singing sales assistant who gave me a toy helicopter to take home with my 1960s cardi!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Shipley Art Gallery

Saturday... Martin and myself have a gig at the Shipley Art Gallery, with a short guest spot from Pauline Murray and percussion from Fin McCardle.
Be there and be a Geordie!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


You know. Last Tuesday, Grayson Perry came to the University of the East, my all-time favourite contemporary artist. I remember the moment of bliss I felt as I walked around the Turner exhibition, and I remember floating on air back home with a big smile on my face.
Alas, I had a seminar scheduled for the very time that he was talking and I spent the afternoon helping students with their CVs. It was so busy iI didn't even have time to imagine myself into the lecture hall.
My Office Pal went and said it was fantastic- she even had a front row seat.
I have, however, managed to get a ticket to the British Museum show and I am looking forward to that with bated breath.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Long Day

What a. Time stretched, patience stretched. Half an hour added on to everything at both ends. Fantastic speaker came to talk to students; new students appeared from mystery origins. Students hated me and I loved them back to spite them. Martin cheered me up: gigging together on Saturday in Gatesheed, recording a bit on Sunday with Joe Guillan, John Cavener, Little Johnny and Keith Shepherd.
Cup of tea steaming away, early night, welcome tomorrow in spite of freezing slush!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Big Up Ben Wilson
Ben has an 'exhibition' on the streets of Docklands!
I had wondered what he was up to. This is the tiny painting that he did for the cover of Suburban Pastoral.
I didn't realise that no-one would twig how tiny it actually is. It's one of the few left in Barnet where the nasty council ripped up the paving stones after taking him to court. They are absolute philistines.
You can still just about see this by the side of the Old Magistrate's Court on the corner of Normandy Avenue. It has been scuffed by feet but that's sort of the point, according to Ben.
He painted it there because that's where he thought I lived, but I actually lived in Bedford Avenue (though I don't any more) and that's where I wrote all the songs on the album.
Local musician makes local songs and asks local artist to paint picture for cover!
When I listened to them, I heard the songs of a very unhappy and unloved middle aged suburban housewife. And that was me!
Not any more.
Still middle aged though.

Sandie's Film of Mr and Mrs Songsmith

Sandie filmed this at the Camden Eye- thank you! This song is going to be on The Cafe of Tiny Kindnesses along with two instrumentals, and songs by Martin and myself:

Beachwalk (instrumental)
The Cafe of Tiny Kindnesses
Steal You Away
You and Me Time
Samba Blue (instrumental)
All Systems Go!
Mandy Rose
Gaudi's Garden
Sunny and Blue

It's going to be a digipack for private sale only, at gigs and off Martin's mailing list and mine: email me if you would like me to keep you a copy

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Something To Do In Hove Tomorrow

My friend Kim has been involved in organising this: what a perfect antidote to snowiness and dark skies!
Put on your wellies and gardening gloves and your trousers with inbuilt kneeling pads... or even your sparkling evening wear... think of the spring and the summer; plan for lots of Sunday lunches with your own home-grown vegetables and herbs, flowers for your mothers and your lovers or even just for you.
Alas, I shall be sitting here writing humungously long and intricate lectures. But I do have a little box of tropaeolum that will go into the soil as soon as it's thawed, and some snowdrops just about to emerge, next to a pot of dwarf irises, Katharine Hodgkin ones.
And I will be imagining the green fingered folk of Brighton and Hove pottering around the stalls with steaming mugs of coffee talking nerdy seed-speak (not the same as seedy nerd-speak, I assure you), just as they are imagining future warm days in abundant gardens and allotments......

Gig in Hyde

Chefs Release Date

23rd April!!!!!


I have just floated back from Edinburgh: Ayr first to do External Examining duties (what an interesting course and what good lecturers!) and then back to fairytale city with its drillings-into-the-road for a tram system that sounds more like a train set than a tram service.
I chatted to a retired Chemistry lecturer and ate shortbread at McMum's gaff, silver hair and gossip aplenty.
The weather has been so beautiful- cold and clear, a bit like the feeling just after you've brushed yer teeth with spearmint.
I should probably work today but I'm not, partly in celebration. The washing machine pump stopped working on Wednesday and I had to head north with a machine full of water and clothes stew. I'd tried to trick it into pumping again but to no avail. This avo, an old-fashioned chap turned up with a toolbox and a moustache and within five minutes had removed a button from the pipe and fixed it; the clothes don't even smell.
Amazing what boring postings I can do, isn't it?