Sunday, April 23, 2017

A mixed bag ~ words, art, cool music and hot argument...

Let's start with a bit of social history. Tom Fort, author of The A303 and currently The Village News, came to Hunting Raven Books in Frome on Wednesday evening and gave a fascinating summary of the development of villages: firstly into settlements where people lived and worked the land, and latterly to a retirement status for the affluent middle-class. "The social space was never the village hall, it was the doorstep," he says, and claims the enemy of village survival is Conservation Status ~ "I'd like to burn all conservation documents - you can't preserve a village in a state of visual perfection, what matters is the heart." Tom has a delightful discursive style, apparently effortlessly intimate, and responds with endearing honesty to questions ~ as when, apropos his book on the A303 ("commissioned," he responds tersely, adding with feeling "I'll never write another book about a road,") he was asked his opinion on the prospective tunnel under Stonehenge: "It’s an utter waste of millions and a conspiracy by English Heritage to get people to their beastly centre."  Well said that man.

Next out from the mixed-bag, music: Masses of it this week as Saturday was Record Store Day, an opportunity for live music in the streets which Frome never ignores. Covers Vinyl Record Store on Catherine Hill offered moody melodic 'anthemic angst' from All That Glitters while our national treasure Raves from the Grave, the indie record store that makes people move home to live near, offered not only local legend Carl Sutterby with his punk-rock band The Wochynskis, but an international legend too: Chris Difford, musician-songwriter from The Squeeze.
Cheap Street was totally jammed with happy-memory smiles as a massed chorus sang Up the Junction along with him. Cool for Cats was even more evocative as Chris not only wrote this one (back in 1979) but sang it on the album too: he seemed pleased, and oddly surprised when we nostalgically crooned the chorus...
Record Store Day ended with dancing at The Artisan with Rebel Heroes ~ best Bowie tribute band I've heard ~ you can sample soundcloud tracks like Ashes to Ashes on their site. There were other days of free live music too ~ Thursday wasn't a one-off thing like take-your-dog-to-work-day. We had the usual open mic sessions and on Wednesday Roots Sessions at the Grain Bar offered self-written songs from musician Ben Morgan-Brown, and Circe's Diner.
Circe in Greek mythology was a minor goddess with a knack of necromancy and powers of transformation which she used to turn Odysseus's men into beasts, but it's unclear which of her witchy skills would be required in the catering trade so this was an intriguing name for a singing duo who certainly offered something very different.
And the Cornerhouse offered mellow Sunday afternoon music from Three Corners, somehow now morphed from triangle to octagon or at least octet, but still delightful.  Here's singer/songwriter Caroline with Tom, one of the new members.

Art now, and down to the Black Swan where Frome Art Society's Annual Spring Show opened with a prize-giving on Friday. It's a popular show as the exhibition has a self-selecting process so is widely representative and the paintings are all accessible. You can see the winners here.
Friday evening was also the opening at the Round Tower of a shared exhibition by Lizbeth Spurgeon and Suzanne Woodward, whose very different painting styles combine impressively and look great against the stone walls.

Now for something completely different. Regular readers (thankyou, much appreciated) will know this is an Arts Blog - a personal record compiled by me as a kind of self-appointed (self-important you may say) monitor of Frome's live arts scene and other things arty in the Southwest, so there's very little about family & friends and even less about politics.
But now is no time to be teetering on the fence and seething, so while Art is as important as life and death, this is more important: a debate in Bristol run by the Canary on the topic How did we get into this mess, and what can we do about it? If you're unfamiliar with the Canary's 'frank and fearless' journalism you might find it helpful to know the name is derived from the use of these birds in mines to warn of impending crisis... hence the expression 'sing like...' meaning tell of hidden wrong-doings. The panel on Thursday however was not all as left-wing as Canary's Editor-in-Chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza: next to her sat Steven Woolfe, an ex-UKIP independent MEP, persistently proving that if you scratch an ex-UKIP you find... a UKIP.
Talking more sense than Woolfe's self-laundering babble about the need for managed immigration and grammar schools, the star of the show for me was Adam Ramsey, editor of Open Democracy and, sadly for us, a Scot, who answered the question in the title succinctly thus: After the English lost their empire and could no longer go round the world killing people and taking their assets, they turned on their own, which is why housing has become primarily for investment not homes and London is the money-laundering capital of the world. Ask the Mafia. Fourth panel member was Dr Susan Newman, lecturer in politics, who explained that thanks to neo-liberal economic theory developed as an alternative to Keynesian liberalism, we have a broken economic system which promotes capitalism over equality and our main GDP comes from Finance, employing few and creating nothing. Brexit has compounded our problems: As Adam explains, withdrawal from EU agribusiness systems leaves us with a US-style system, we've ripped up the Good Friday agreement that safeguarded Ireland and Scotland may withdraw from the UK without radical constitutional change. Susan agrees: Corbyn's 10 Pledges are a good place to begin to save the future of next generations.
Kerry-Anne went further: Adam’s not kidding about how severe the Tory Brexit will be. This will be a bonfire of rights that took hundreds of years to achieve. Corporates will abuse you and your children in the way they do in places like China with no rights. Unexpectedly, we've been given a chance, but only because we're supposed to blow it... so the clearly-presented consensus of the panel led overwhelmingly to only one solution: get them out. Vote with your heart if you can, but do whatever you have to do to stop them.
Which is what I am am saying now. If you live in the UK, please make this dystopian horror end.
In the words of Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens ~ and as it's World Book Day today, that brings this back to being an Arts blog ~ "There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws and no justice outside the common imaginations of human beings. People understand that 'primitives' cement their social order by believing in ghosts and spirits... The principal difference between modern business people and tribal shamans is that they tell stranger tales." 

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