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: