Monday, March 27, 2023

Gig, Sarf London



I bought every A4 black frame from the Wilko in Fulham Broadway, Stratford and Kensington High Street. Every single one. 

I bought every A3 black frame from Hobbycraft in Borehamwood.

I bought 21 A4 clip frames from Snappysnaps in North End Road.

I framed all my portraits (or prints of them), all the copies for the people that I drew, and all the 'hand' portraits of the art class I've been running in the community centre.

I (with the fantastic assistance of Stuart the handyman) hung all the framed prints in the gallery on Friday, and marked up the display boards in the community centre today, ready for the talk I'm doing there tomorrow lunchtime.

I took two drawings over to Hackney today, one to be re-scanned because it wasn't good enough, and one to be scanned because I missed it out. I went to a framers on Friday to ask about getting a mount cut, because the aperture in the one in the frame I bought wasn't big enough, but they wouldn't do it without the print, which I'd left in the studio because of the rain (I'm feeling ultra-protective of my work).

Tomorrow, I'm showing some of my work in the Hub Community Centre in Aisgill Avenue and talking about it at 12.30, then whizzing round to open up the gallery at 2.

Here are the opening times over the next two weeks:

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Wednesday at The Hope and Ruin

It couldn't have been a better night if it had tried. Karina was on the same train as us ,and went off to meet Lorraine Bowen who was also coming to the gig. We walked to the pier and then inland for pre-gig chips.

Audiences really matter a lot. The atmosphere in the room was really great- everybody was excited and ready for a good night out. I can't tell you how great it feels to walk on to a stage and get that feeling from the crowd: it was a field of smiles and bonhomie, and it was almost scary to play to such good humour and positivity. The sound engineer at the Hope and Ruin, Leon, really knows what he is doing, and did a great job; I could hear what I was doing really clearly, and so I didn't have to worry about getting past a difficult onstage sound. I could see people- Pete and Lisa, June Miles Kingston and partner, Karina, Lorraine, Shelley and partner, Jerry, Alice and Nadya. And the people that I didn't know seemed like friends anyway. So much of the crap in my past life gets fixed by something like this, believe me!

The DJ was Grant Lyons, who I haven't seen for ages and who had suggested that I should be the support for the gig. It was great to see him and his partner again: thanks for the Vaultage 79 t-shirt too! And Gina's show was completely brilliant. Every time I hear the songs, they are better and better. The onstage show is exceptionally well-rehearsed without being slick, the humour and warmth emanating from the stage are to die for, and all seems well with the world for that chunk of time that we spend in the world of powerful, woman-led electronic/guitar music with bells on. They have an art roadie, Avis, to drive them around. Cool! Three cheers for us all, still powering through life with all its troubles and tribulations!

That pathetic apology for a human, Boris Johnson? 

Who'd be with him? 

Who ever would have been? 

I watched him on TV drain the energy from life yesterday, after purchasing more frames from Wilko in Stratford, picking up the remaining prints and catching up with my wonderful friend Fola who runs Reggae Choir. Alongside the sad, pathetic psychopaths who have wormed their way in to British politics, there are strong and vibrant people who put much more into life than they take out of it, and yet still hold the key to great personal happiness. I hope very much that I am one of them; it's a delight to be surrounded by them, anyway.

Photographs by Naimad.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Gina Birch in Brighton, 21st March

You must come to this if you can! Gina has a fantastic duo of women electronic/rock musicians as her band, and her songs sound absolutely amazing. I'll be supporting her, with my super dooper tasselled shirt, which had been languishing in an Etsy basket for a long, long time until I liberated it recently. It does need to be ironed though. See you tomorrow!

Friday, March 17, 2023

Fruity Day

One of the stallholders down North End Road is very popular with people in the art workshop I've been doing. One of the participants told him I'd done a drawing of him, and I was a bit worried in case he became paranoid, so I went to say hello yesterday, so I could explain that I'd be giving him a mini-portrait to keep. he was so chuffed he gave me this little box of strawberries. They were lovely. I shared them with Mimi in the community centre, where they'd just had a big donation of two boxes of bananas. So I took a small bunch of bananas home with me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Peculiarity of Privilege

I've just loaded 20 40 x 50 frames into my car to drive down to west Kensington, where I'll unload them all ready to start framing stuff on Monday. I'll also be photographing the Scout leaders for my last drawing, which I'll do tomorrow.

Oh, busy. My body is screeching 'Noooo'. It's not used to this. It thought walking 30 miles a week in the cold was bad enough!

Monday, March 13, 2023

Semitone Studios Gig, Marple

This was a gig postponed after Lockdown, and a bit of an orphan gig: I'd intended to add a few dates around it to make sense of the travel, but hadn't banked on suddenly (and very fortunately) becoming an artist in residence for the first three months of the year.

However, I wanted a music adventure and decided to travel up for the night so I hopped on a train to Stockport, and from there got a local bus to Marple.

Taylor and Pete run the studio both as a recording facility and as a gig night. Both the venue and Taylor are decked out in red, white and black, and it's a very unusual place: it's basically a shop window facing a Texaco petrol station (also red, black and white), so you play not only to the very respectful and listening audience, but also to a further layer of people outside the window, local cheeky teens, which adds to the fun.

I was the featured artist of the evening and after a quick sound check, got to it all. A lovely woman called Elaine filmed the night and I'll post links to the songs when she has edited them.

The rest of the night was open mic; there was lot of very beautiful acapella singing, both traditional Irish songs, self-composed songs (including a lovely one about a woman's mother), readings from Alan Rusbridger's book, Schubert and Vaughan Williams, poetry from Elaine, and a gorgeous song from Taylor at the piano. I finished the night with a couple more songs.

I love this sort of gig. People chatting from the audience! It's like being part of an event rather than being apart from it. Such friendliness made it well worth the journey.

I stayed in the world's most odd Bed and Breakfast. Actually, that's probably all of them, isn't it? Anyway, when I got back after the gig, the landing was in darkness. I thought I'd found the door to the room that I was staying in, put the key into the lock, turned it, and walked in on a woman reading in bed. Did all the bedrooms have the same key? I'll never know!

Anyway, next morning I sang the praises of the venue to the breakfast waitress, who had told me she was a song writer. I hope she goes there. Good place for you too Rowen, if you still read this blog, and also Maria from Glasgow. Great Grand Piano, and you could record there too!

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

This and That

A week ago today, I went to Lucy O'Brien's book talk in a very swanky club off Shaftesbury Avenue; Lucy has just published the book Lead Sister, a biography of the wonderful and tragic Karen Carpenter. I'm looking forward to getting hold of a copy and reading it. Travis Elborough who was interviewing Lucy said he was moved to tears at the end of the book, so it's obviously a must-read. Here's the review in The Guardian: It's on my list!

On Saturday, I went to The Moth Club in Hackney to see The Loft, supported by David Lance Callaghan. Although I know three members of The Loft, I haven't explored their recorded material in depth and it was a very pleasant surprise to hear what I'd describe as sunshine pop with a bite. The audience was absolutely with them 100% and it was touching to see a group of people I know getting such a positive response. David's set was wonderful too. The sounds was very good so you could fully enjoy the intricacy of his playing and as for his guest drummer... well, this is the second time I've seen the duo and that guy is a marvel. I think he must have trained in a marching band. Such manual dexterity and such perfect tempo. Wow.

And on Monday- what and extraordinary night! Because we've done an animation collaboration based on apples (here:, Joan invited me to see Matthew Herbert's night at Tate Modern. We heard a talk about the apple industry from an expert based at The British Library; the sound (and smell) of burning dried apples as fragrant smoke drifted across the auditorium; a talk about migrant fruit pickers from an expert journalist; music made from the picking, washing, sorting and distribution prices, and poem about fruit stickers. Finally, we were all invited to rub, tap and bite into the apples we'd been given at the outset. Names to follow- what a brilliant and inspiring night!

Yesterday, I spent two hours waiting in queues of 2000 people for Eurovision tickets. Whenever I got to the front of the queue, the computer said 'no', there were no tickets left and would I like to try something else, at which point I went to the beginning of the next 2000-person queue. Great publicity for Ticketmaster, I'm sure, but a monumental c*ck up, actually, and I was relieved to give up. They shouldn't have been given the ticket franchise.

On another talk, a late arrival at my art workshop yesterday drew such a realistic pencil that two of us tried to pick it up to put away at the end of the session! Trompe d'oeil extraordinaire!

Friday, March 03, 2023

Bandcamp Friday!

Bandcamp Friday starts at 8 a.m. today!

Anarchy Skiffle digital album now only £5.00:

And of course, this CD and digital album which I'll be out playing again live very soon!

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

More Drawing

This is the second person I've drawn from the Sewing group. I'm not going to add anything to it now; I don't want to take the life out of it by distracting from her herself.

We had a really nice art workshop yesterday. I took in a pineapple and some lemons; most people chose to draw the pineapple, probably because it's such a dramatic fruit with so much going on. Every person saw something different in it to draw, even the people who came along and said they weren't going to join in. Pineapples have a lot of charm.

I'm waiting for a delivery of giclée prints of the drawings so far. I have about 15 now, but there are more on the go. I know I should start winding down soon; the residency ends at the end of March and I've got to sort out framing and so on, but honestly I don't want to stop.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Talking, Drawing, Walking

Despite my decision to withdraw from formal teaching, the day started with an online talk about She's At The Controls for some undergraduate students, more than 150 of them. I think I've realised that an hour's not really enough to slice through the cake and show all the different layers. Ten years' research can sound superficial if there is no foundation of prior knowledge to build on. However, a female student has already contacted me for advice and that is quite encouraging.

Talking about that work is always unsettling because there are so many things that are true and terrible. I was glad to go straight to the studio and continue this drawing, an A2 sized portrait of two street cleaners, one more shy than the other. I can not tell you how proud they are of their job: I just hope there is something in the drawing that conveys this.

Of course, it fits (just) into an A3 size, but then you'd lose the big nothingness around them and that's really important.

I uploaded 14 of the hi-res scans of the drawings to be printed, and then walked along to Kensington High Street to try to persuade Cass Arts to give me a discount on 30 frames. Alas, they were not persuadable and I tubed it home, finshing a trashy crime paperback on the way.

This has been quite a tiring day, but a nice thing happened. Often, people don't want to be photographed, but the manager of the Troubadour in Earl's Court called up and seemed delighted that I want to do a portrait of their sound engineer. Hooray!

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Gina Birch and The Unreasonables at Rough Trade East

Having missed the small gig at the Third Man shop the night before, there was no missing this. 

As soon as we got there we saw Gaye Black and her companion and soon Karina, Terry, Anna and Shirley showed up. It was an exceptionally friendly and supportive audience from the start.

This was a promo gig for the album I Play My Bass Loud, and it was wildly oversubscribed. we were ready for this! Flanked by her new musicians, the songs from the album were brought to life in the most wonderful way. Records always need to sound shiny, but tonight the songs sounded rocky and powerful. The two band members took on a lot of the stress of switching instruments, which happened almost without being noticed, and sorting out the monitor sound. Intensive rehearsals had paid off and then some: this is the first time for a long time that I've seen Gina be able to just sing and perform without having to address some kind of technical issue. 

Uninterrupted, the flow of songs was nothing short of fabulous. The vocals were really well-rehearsed, lead guitar and bass duties shared out between the three of them, and the flow of goodwill from the audience was almost like an additional band member.

I heard my bass line in I Play My Bass Loud the song! There were four of us playing on the recording in addition to Gina: Emily Elhaj (who plays for Angel Olsen), Shanne Bradley, Jane Monro and me. Jane was there too at the gig.

Afterwards there was a huge queue of people to have their albums signed. I will wait for mine. How lovely to have know these songs from their inception (almost), right up until now! 

BTW I sang on some of the tracks as well as playing bass and guitar on some of them, and co-wrote a couple of them too. You can hear Thurston Moore, Anne Wood and of course Youth and more on the album. It's very good and there are plenty of really catch songs on it with very perceptive and 'now' lyrics on them. Hooray for raging elder females!

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Online Gig Tomorrow



I'm watching an item on TV on bellringing and a shortage of participants for the coronation. 

I'm a trained campanologist (from when I was 14 and McMum suggested I joined what I couldn't beat, when I complained about the noise) but sorry: no way hosepipe!

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

More Drawings

Yesterday I went to Point101 in Hackney to get the first 15 drawings scanned- nine A3 drawings and six A4s. I have asked for a proof for glicee printing- fine art quality, and I'm just waiting for the go-ahead with that.

The community centre closed early and so I left my first attempt at an A2 drawing and decided to start something else (actually, it's still A3 size but just has plenty of breathing space). At home, where everything topples over because of lack of space, I drew this cat 'helping' a little boy to play football. As with all cats everywhere it wasn't quite sure of the rules, but the little boy was happy for the company.

Today's drawing is the chap at the fruit stall. I can't seem to get his foreshortened arm looking right, but his face is OK. I've spent hours drawing today and I'm just having a cup of ginger tea before the art workshop. They are so motivated that a group came last week, even though it was half term and I wasn't around. That's a good result, I think: they sat and drew and chatted. Let's see who shows up today.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Profane Embroidery Group, Whitstable

A couple of years ago I went to Folkestone to show Stories from the She-Punks, and came across the Profane Embroidery Group's work. I've been aware of what they were doing for a while, and jumped at the chance to submit an embroidered duster to their exhibition in Whitstable this weekend. In the Fishslab Gallery there were lots of different takes on 'homemaking', all featuring fruity language that would make a nun's toes curl. The Twelve Taps gin bar was festooned with dusters, many of them so intricately embroidered that they deserved featured billing themselves.

What a great excuse to get out to the coast. It was a grey day, but Whitstable's an interesting place because it's a working fishing port with oyster beds and all. So we had a walk on the beach, along to where we played Hutstock last summer, and had a nice plate of chips as well. 

Now that's a good Saturday!

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

All The Things That I Miss

They are all, or mostly all, outside my self- administered brief. And I didn't take photographs.

The market stall woman with the hot water bottle with a pale blue fluffy cover

The man walking along with two huge and magnificent navy-blue parrots on his shoulders

The man with a folded up pile of fake grass

A man loudly throwing up as I photographed a shop window

A shaman in West Kensington dancing and giving us all advice

A number of magnificent elderly ladies in (alas) real fur coats, permed curls and pearls, behatted and generally all done up fancy.

A lovely Bengal cat, 'playing football' with its owner, a little boy.

A woman marching down the road carrying a standard lamp on one shoulder as though it were a rifle.

A nattily-dressed gentleman in a trilby on a mobility scooter.

I am thoroughly embedded in this project!

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Discworld Draft

This is a photograph of an almost finished poster for a Scottish Feeglecon.

I hope they like it. Just got the tattoos to do.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Documentary Drawings

Because I've not been at the studio (horrendous cold), I went there on Wednesday, which was simultaneously a good and a bad idea. The barista whose portrait I'd been keeping back until they gave permission for me to use it seemed to be delighted with the drawing; I carried on along the road and there was an extremely nattily-dressed African academic just on the point of going into a restaurant; I also, with permission of the repair shop manager, photographed a mechanic mending a rather nice motorbike, plus the guy in the carpet shop which sells rolls of fake grass was also delighted to have his photograph taken.

But when I got home I had to go to bed at 7.30 and alas, yesterday I suffered too. I had withdrawn on the credit card of energy and spent the day blowing my nose from dawn till dusk and feeling very grumpy even at things that weren't annoying under normal circumstances. I did manage to do some drawing though: four hours solid, but I think I should have done an A4, rather than an A3 drawing of this particular subject.

Anyway, here's a catch up of the last few drawings. They don't look so dark in 'real life'.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

The Raincoats Last Night At The White Cube

I had an art workshop to do yesterday evening, but afterwards I raced over to the White Cube in Bermondsey to see as much of the Raincoats' set as I could. They had been invited to perform by the artist Imi Knoebel, whose work was being exhibited in the huge exhibition space.

Like a large tunnel, the space where the band was playing was absolutely packed with people who gave off an air of huge warmth and celebration. Every song was bookended by a roar of approval at its outset and wild applause at the end. There should be a gig like this at the beginning of every grey, cold and dull February to add some colour an optimism to the year ahead. Anne Wood, viola player extraordinaire, was with them, weaving between Gina and Anna and commenting on their vocal performances with flourishes of energetic playing. The drums were mixed perfectly and drove the music along at a perfect tempo for each song. The sound was amazing- so much better than it had been at the gig at Earth. It was and uplifting show with a proper party atmosphere. When Gina sang No-One's Little Girl at the end, I felt like crying: it struck such a chord. It takes a huge struggle and massive effort to get to this, to survive everything life throws at you. Here was a  group of women who were at the very margins of art and music for almost a lifetime, and here they were speaking to generations of men and women who knew and know the value of their creative output.

There was more than a smattering of rock royalty about, although still befuddled by my cold I wasn't sure who I knew and who I didn't. Lee was there, and Sean McCluskey. Debbie Smith from Thee Nuns was there with Est Ella  from Big Joanie, and we had a really nice chat. There were people that various people I was chatting to wondered if they were famous, or whether we just vaguely knew them. Typical London night out or really a London party, such was the atmosphere. I missed the free fish and chips, alas, but the conversation kept flowing and kept me going. Towards the end of the evening, several large bars of chocolate appeared on the long table we were sitting around in the dressing room. Green & Blacks. Nice.

Imi Knoebel's paintings are worth seeing. Some people I was talking to were not so keen, but I do love big statement paintings in primary colours and the gallery is such a dramatic place to see them. I had always wondered why people made such a fuss about polished concrete floors and now I know why. The colour of an ice rink being refrozen, the surface was indeed glossy enough to skate on, and a beautiful artefact in itself.

Hooray for music, and hooray for older women in bands who sing what they think and bust through glass ceilings, streets full of February fog, and polished concrete floors!

Monday, February 06, 2023

The Poisonous Suburbs

Sometimes I forget. I hate to write negative things, but sometimes reality is quite shocking even in this pretty suburb that thinks such a lot of itself.

I have been ill for a few days, bad enough to take to my bed and not go to the studio: I didn't want to pass anything on to anyone else, but also I've not felt so tired since a couple of years ago when (I think) I had a bout of Covid, pre-testing days. I've done two negative tests and had a normal temperature, but have been an addled-brained flop of a person, slouching around and completely devoid of energy.

I went to our local posh supermarket today to stock up on paracetamol and tins of beans. I bought an extra six-pack of beans for the food bank, and at the checkout I said to the checkout person that I would like to put them in the food bank box before returning to pay for the rest of the stuff. The tins were heavy, and I felt a bit post-viral feeble.

The checkout person called me back straight away. 'You've left your purse here, and there are so many pickpockets around at the moment. And anyway not the food bank!'

Then they set off on a tirade where pickpockets and their ease of working in gangs due to the proximity of the tube station to the High Street, was delivered mixed in with 'Don't Give Food To The Food Bank They Have Three Holidays A Year You Look After Yourself They Don't Need It', and all sorts of really bigoted stuff about how well off poor people really are.

I couldn't get a word in edgeways, and was honestly feeling too rough to argue with her today. So I had to carry the beans for the food bank along with my own beans in one go, because the person at the checkout didn't think I should be donating them.

I know this probably sounds pathetic, doesn't it, not standing up to such vicious and irrational bigotry. The thing is, it completely took me by surprise; all I was doing was going shopping and I came home wishing that I lived somewhere else, and not here. Alongside the staff member in the Post Office who told me that 'Boris is doing a good job' during the pandemic, the person behind the till in the Oxfam shop a couple of years ago who was complaining loudly about 'asylum seekers' to a customer, and the person in the local Rymans saying that Sadiq Khan 'ought to be shot' (I complained about that one to the company, but that staff member is still there!), you'd be forgiven for wondering if this pretty suburb is Hell in Disguise.

The worst thing about such hatred is people's insistence on sharing it as though they expect everyone to agree with them. I can not understand this in the slightest. 

It makes me afraid to go shopping again in case I have to listen to any more venomous outpourings.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

What Do I Miss?

There isn't much that I miss about my previous life as an academic. It seemed that every time I managed to get something good going, the University management took it away. I fought tooth and nail to keep the visiting industry lecturers budget, because that was the only way to inspire the students by introducing them to people who looked and sounded like them. Those sessions inspired and energised me, too. They kept trying to take the budget away every year, and every year I explained that the visitors were standing in for a co-lecturer that had left two weeks before the module started, and that they could employ someone to do that job instead of the industry speakers, but that would be more expensive. Every year they backed down. What a waste of energy it all was, but how worth it to hear the experiences of terrific speakers and watch them excite the students about their future.

One year, in the gap between the end of the lectures, their attendant tutorials and leaving work for the very enjoyable drum-kit evening class I'd enrolled on at Camden Working Men's College, I would sit in my office following all sort of Northern Soul links on Youtube down an exciting wormhole of the imagination. A passing student heard what I was listening to and came in for a chat. He was a fan too, and ended up doing a placement as a Northern Soul DJ at an internet radio station.

There was something really luxurious about sitting listening to fabulous music in solitude after a day's work, and knowing that I was heading off to drum. I drummed for three years; we had a great teacher, Alan McCullough, who was eagle-eyed and could spot a slacker or a missed beat even in a class of thirteen students whacking practice pads. Every week I used to feel too tired to go, but as soon as I got there, I'd sit with everyone else for two and a half hours, reading the drum score and playing in unison until it was time to go home. It was Shanne who first persuaded me to go, and I'm so grateful to her for that. Alas, it all was ended by the pandemic. 

What I remember best was the feeling of bliss on a Friday morning when I woke up: drumming is good for your head, not because you're repeatedly hitting something really hard (you're not, you're manipulating the bounce of the taut drum-skin), but because by the time you've co-ordinated four limbs to create a rhythm, there's no room in your head for worries.

Maybe they should re-brand drumming as 'no worries'.

Pluses and Minuses

I haven't been able to get to the studio today to draw, which has been a big disappointment. Yesterday, I spent the day in bed with a raging sore throat, and today I was exhausted. It's something going round, but the Covid test that I did was negative. 
In my head are all the plans I had to finish my drawings of the two community police officers, and Jerome the busker.
Well, there are minuses and pluses. At five o'clock this morning, I woke up with a new melody in my head. I haven't written a fresh melody for about a month and a half, although I've had lots of ideas for lyrics. 'Receiving' the melody first is weird, because it's harder to fit lyrics into a new melody than to write a melody for a new lyric, but I've just worked out the chords to go underneath it.
I might even be able to catch up on a bit of drawing tomorrow at home if the sun shines enough.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Starting to Organise Gigs

I was so mad busy before Christmas that I neglected to think about gigs this year, and I need to start doing that. I'll be illustrating until the end of March and I have a couple of nice things to do before that, but I need to get my act together, quite literally.

I saw Mick, June, Laura and Danny for lunch in York on Saturday; we sat in a cosy café, drank tea and chatted till it was time for me to go home and not miss the train this time! It's always lovely to see them all and catch up with their news. They are good friends. On the way back I managed to finish an entire charity-shop crime novel. I realised on page one that I's read it before but decided to stick with it because I couldn't remember what happened. I read so many of the damn things that it's quite common to choose the same one again, buy it and bring it home before I realise.

And today, it was back to the sunny studio, not too cold today, and carrying on with a drawing that I started last week: the newspaper seller at Earl's Court Tube station. This was an A3 sized drawing, and even though I don't cover the whole page, it still takes a long time to do one of these.

I'm finishing a poster tonight for a gig in March, but I've left my computer charger at the studio so I won't be able to scan it tonight, alas.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Wednesday's Gig

Dear seven people who now read my blog,

I'm going to tell you about Wednesday night so I don't forget myself what fun it was.

I got there early so that I could eat and organise. The Betsey Trotwood does nice food, and because the downstairs was booked out for an office do early on, I sat upstairs and gradually members of the family started congregating. By sound check time, it felt half full already. A glass half full! That's the way to start a gig!

By 8 o'clock the room was full up and we were ready to go. I've never seen James do his songs live before and he had the audience in the palm of his hands and laughing (and in one case, crying) with his pointed lyrics. There's something very Ivor Cutler about the way he writes lyrics, and of course we were both brought up on a diet of Ivor, so that's hardly surprising. It was wonderful to see his first real solo gig so well received.

It was also quite hard to follow (that's when you know someone's done a good gig), but the warmth carried over and there was a thoroughly lusty singalong chorus to The Sea, which of course will soon become illegal to sing if toxic Suella Braverman gets her way. It was lovely to hear a whole room sing in defiance on a cold January evening. We don't believe in being nasty, most of us.

After another short break, we played our Chefs cover songs: Food, Let's Make Up, Records and Tea and 24 Hours. There were some original Chefs fans in the audience and it was quite daunting to play these versions to them, but they went down very well and I think the two guitars styles we have blended together to make something new out of them.

And then.... fnurrrr.... the eatroridnary piercing whine of Karine's rubberglovepipe started up, Paul Davey appeared from the audience with a soprano sax and one of those tartan hats with a ginger wig, Offspring One volunteered to hold up the huge cards with the words (I'd written out one of the verses twice by accident due to stress earlier in the day), and in honour of Burns Night we sang Donald Where's Your Troosers, completely chaotic and hilariously funny. The audience were better than us (we couldn't see the words) and would probably still be singing today if they had had their way.

What a brilliant evening. Thank you to everyone who came; you have no idea how much it meant to us to be able to do this. And huge thanks to Karina and Paul. Look at the Youtube footage (scroll down on the bog and it's there). The best overhear of the night was a member of my nephew's band  saying about the rubberglovepipe: "We need one of those in [band name] Glitterwound!".

Thank you to my glamorous helper for filming it, selling CDs and doing the door. There could not possibly have been a better thing to do on a chilly Wednesday January night, and I can't imagine the gig being any better in any way!

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Betsey Trotwood Gig

I'll be spending most of today writing out the lyrics to Donald Where's Yer Troosers to sing at the end of the gig with the audience.

I had a massive nightmare last night: the promoter (even though that's me!) had put on an extra support band with about 30 people in it, and they were sound checking when we got there. There were too many of them to ask them to leave and they spread their backing vocalists and microphone stands all over the floor where the audience stands. The worst thing was, they were really good!

There are a few tickets left; I've just added a few more, and they come off sale at 12 today.

Door entry is £12 and it's cash only for door and merchandise; I haven't got a card reader, sorry.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Drawing Again

A full drawing day today, doing a bit more work on shop dummy with a missing hand (whaddya mean that's not a portrait), and starting tis one, an A3 drawing which is taking a while to do (the A3 drawing usually take two days, so I hope to finish it tomorrow).

I think I drew for about 5 hours today, with a break for lunch with Offsprog One, who came to take a look at where I work. It gets cold, and I forget that I'm cold because I'm concentrating.

When I left, the District, Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City lines were all suspended. There was trouble fitting on to the trains. It was the number of feet. Eventually, a bit like a jigsaw, passengers managed to slot their feet together into an awkward, uncomfortable pattern and we all managed to stand in the carriage.

Good. I've walked more than six miles today scoping out the area. I'm not sure if I'm a spy or a psychogeographer, or simply a nosey parker. Or maybe it's simply what I said on the application form- I want to draw people that normally get ignored. This chap was great!

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Review of Glasgow Glad Café Gig in 'Is This Music'

Before Christmas I moved heaven and earth to get to the Glad Café for this gig! It was so worth it, even if it took me weeks to recover from the cold. Found this review online, which was originally just on Facebook, but here it is:

Coincidentally, Howie came across Ben Wilson the Chewing Gum Painter in Dundee the other day. Funny how itinerant people bump into each other all over the place!

Colour-Coded Outputs

When you work in academia, anything theoretical you publish and anything you create or make is submitted as an output to the Research Excellence Framework (trips off the tongue, doesn't it?), and is then evaluated to assess how much you're University should be allotted in research funding.

Almost any academic will tell you that there's a hierarchy in terms of who gets sabbaticals to work on their stuff, and most people do their research in their own time. I do feel very proud of what I've written: two books, The Lost Women of Rock Music ( and She's At The Controls (, a couple of book chapters and several journal articles. 

This book, edited with aplomb by Asif Siddiqi, contains my last academic chapter, 'Oh Bondage! Up Yours (1977), which pulls apart the way the track was reviewed and sometimes weaponised against Poly herself. It's a fascinating book, alas too expensive for general consumption, but definitely orderable from libraries. You can read more about the book and it's other chapters here:

It arrived in the same erratic post delivery as this compilation from Cherry Red, which includes The Chefs track Sweetie. Oddly, they are colour co-ordinated. Have the publisher and the record label colluded in some way? 

We shall have to consult the conspiracy theorists!

Friday, January 20, 2023

Interview for Psychedelic Baby

This is a fantastic interview and has come out just in time for our gig next Wednesday- sorry not to have written up Wednesday night yet, but last night I went to the screening fo Joan Ashworth's work in progress on Sylvia Pankhurst- brilliant- and I'm tired!

Here's the link to the interview:

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Monday, January 16, 2023

McCookerybook and Rotifer on Wednesday

Monday Already

So it's the second week of my residency as a community portrait artist. I spent part of today drawing a woman smallholder selling fruit from a stall at North End Road, and the rest of it walking around seeing who was about. Two women were chatting, one in a basement front garden and another at pavement level. They seemed friendly, looked amazing and I asked them if I could photograph them. 


Okay, that's okay. I always ask because some people do not like the idea; but some people really do like it. 

At Earl's Court Tube, a gentleman was sheltering from the rain. I'd heard his steel pan drum in the distance, and I asked him if I could photograph him for a portrait. He was delighted, and went back to his pan to play. I put some money in his collection. 'I'm divorced', he said, maybe hoping for a double helping of cash. 'So am I' I said, and we laughed.

By now, it was pouring with rain and I went for a cup of tea. On my way back to the studio, the two women were still chatting, rain or no rain. Now that's friendship for you.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Finished Sheep Plate

Just my finished painted ceramic: the Offsprogs' ones are lovely!

I nipped to Brighton this morning, braving the upward-slanting rain and just deciding to get wet when the wind blew my brolly inside out. Picked these up, had a coffee and a croissant, and came home reading the Sunday papers on the train.

Jacket potato in the oven.

From Sunday Drawing Club on Wednesday

From yesterday evening's Drawing Club. How lovely to see everyone again! It may seem odd to do a black and white drawing of such a colourful banner but I've been working in colour all week and it was good to have a change.

On another note, I think my blog has been hacked. I got a message two weeks ago saying I'd posted some offensive content (I haven't), and since then the reader stats have shrunk by more than 90%. This is the internet, and the internet gets hacked, doesn't it?

Bloggers and Twitterers often ask for comments to confirm that people are reading what they post, but because I don't have a regular commenting/follower thing going on, I'm not going to do that because I like the idea of this being a drop-in blog, and not a proscriptive daily readership duty! So I'm going to carry on, and see what happens. If it dwindles to zero then I may have to relocate, which is possibly what the hackers want if they are trying to drain Blogger of its energy. Let's see what happens!

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Starting a New Job and Abba's Voyage

My new job for the next three months started, and I spent part of the morning walking around and taking  look at the area around Earl's Court. I photographed a delivery man with a pile of exciting looking boxes, and a woman in a charity shop, as well as making a mental list to go back and meet some of the people in the shops that weren't open yet.

I'll be running art workshops, and I made a poster for that and chatted to the woman who runs the community centre where I'll be working. I even drew the delivery man, because I need to get going, even with background work.

In the evening, I went with Offsprog One to see Abba Voyage in its own purpose built arena opposite Pudding Mill Lane Docklands Light Railway station. This was my birthday present from my Offsprogs; they had remembered that I'd said I wanted to go, even though I knew it would be weird. And it definitely was! The holograms were really clever, but the avatars were a little on the glitchy side (which was quite pleasing). There was a live band, which seemed to confuse everyone because we'd realised that there was no point in applauding holograms. But then the band appeared out of a hole in the ground, so everything changed. There was some beautiful animiné in a couple of the songs. There were too many new Abba songs that we didn't know, but the old favourites sent the audience wild, and that was us too. It was hilarious to see the vanity of the male members (sic) of the band, who in avatar form had lost the hamster cheeks and chubby chins of their youth and who looked quite elfin. There was also a notable chumminess between the holographic band members that had been nowhere to be seen back in the day: they were well known for their frosty performances with absolutely no onstage camaraderie. But that made it all the better really because artificiality is what it's all about, and there was a lot of knowing reference to that fact: 'costume changes' in the dark, and so on. We were in the mosh pit, along with the girl gangs (fun) and the tall men who talked all the way through (not fun). the latter disappeared shortly after being asked not to FaceTime their mates during the performance (seriously!). It was a genius birthday present. Thank you, Offsprogs.

I didn't mind the rain today. On my way to the studio, I spied a fabulous postie in a voluminous fluorescent anorak pushing a trolled and I asked if I could photograph him, and explained that I would be making a portrait from the photo. 'Yes', he said, 'So long as you don't show my face'.

I think I may have more stories like that before this project is finished!

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Bob and Roberta Smith's Codex

I'm about to start a portrait artist residency for the Earl's Court Development Company, and will be running some community art workshops as part of what I do. I've done the same with music, often, and it's an interesting change to think about activities that might appeal to adult workshop participants.

Bob and Roberta Smith's project involved autobiographical storytelling by residents of Thamesmead, and this wall of stories, presented in Bob and Roberta Smith's recognisable style, is an inspirational artwork for someone embarking on a new art project. At first sight it's a million miles away from what I plan to do, but ultimately any community arts project should validate individual people who participate in it, however it 'works'.

So yes, a very interesting afternoon. It included a few minutes on the Thames beach, watching a woman feed iceberg lettuce to some very friendly swans. Sundays, eh?

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Cabaret and Helen Chadwick

January can be dismal, and so it's a good month to refuse to be unhappy. 

I got paid for my illustrations, and that meant that I could go with my Champagne Friend to see Cabaret yesterday afternoon. It was really wonderfully put together, with a particularly good actor playing the MC, a part originally played in London by Eddie Redmayne. Somehow, it was almost better to not know who the actor was this time around: it allowed him to inhabit the part as himself, free from reputation. The band/orchestra was superb, the costumes were perfectly suited to the different moods expressed in the script, and the stage was really well-designed. So much thought had gone into the whole thing: vodka shots for the audience on arrival at the 'Kit Kat Club' (alas, neither of us drink!), a pianist in the bar, wandering musicians and acrobatic/erotic dancers. The joint main story line about the landlady rejecting her Jewish lover was heartrending, especially his assurances that nothing could possibly go wrong in Germany, so he did not need to leave the country. The Nazis would never take over. Someone behind us was in floods of tears by the end. The song Cabaret was reserved till the penultimate scene, where it was performed as a macabre and chilling precursor of the social and political upheaval that was to lead to the holocaust. 

Occasionally the singing was rather shrill, but the performers appeared to realise this and reined themselves in. Even the programme sellers were impressed at the energy of the production. I'm so glad to have seen it.

Today, Gina took me out for lunch for my birthday. French Onion soup, perfect for January. Then we walked over to Mayfair to see the Helen Chadwick exhibition at the Richard Saltoun Gallery. Oh, what a wonderful person she was! The gallery was showing her final year film made in 1976 at Brighton Art College, featuring lots of people that I knew back then, dressed in Helen's fabulously pervy costumes yet presented in all innocence and normality just as she aways did it. She was so clever, and all against the backdrop of proper old-fashioned art college misogyny and conservatism. 

One of the lecturers in the film audience actually used to go to Carrera and paint big blocks of marble: absolutely beautiful and timeless, but (sorry) also absolutely mindless. Another  lecturer used to pat me on the head, so I cropped all my hair off, close to my scalp, so I looked 'ard. Another used to go into a cupboard with an MA student and....

Oh dear, what a soap opera it was! Please go if you can- it's on till Saturday. The film is completely charming.

Monday, January 02, 2023

Making a Real Time Video for 'Beachwalk'

After a long walk yesterday along the Parkland (from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace, through a disused railway station complete with platforms near Highgate), today is a day of peace and creativity. There were hundreds of people and thousands of dogs, but we all ambled along amenably, and occasionally spoke to each other. It was a nice way to spend New Year's Day 2023.

I'd had the idea of making a real-time video of Beachwalk for ages, and today we finally did it. There were three takes: it was hard to get the rhythm right, but the second take was The One. It was fun to draw really quickly, instead of slowly and precisely and 'in the zone'; I had to make sure that the correct colours were on hand.

I have finally recovered from the harsh experience of travelling to Glasgow amidst rail strikes and the coldest and most frozen December for years. I'm so glad to have got there, to have stayed with my friends Kenji and Till, and seen so many pals at the gig itself; I got home in once piece and was able to enjoy Christmas with my Offsprogs and a really lovely birthday in Brighton, also with them.

Life will rev up again soon enough. Exciting things will be happening from next week onwards, and there's more culture to come both this week and next. I'll post about the January gigs soon. Meanwhile, here are the three Beachwalk takes: