Monday, July 05, 2021

And it's festival lift-off! Music, art & drama everywhere!

Frome Festival has begun its ten-day tour of the heart&minds of Frome, spreading dramatically and musically from the Merlin theatre to Marston Park where the lakeside band-stage is proving sensationally popular.  Talented singer/songwriter Leander Morales opened their festival bookings with a great set presented on Folk'n Funk Friday, and Saturday gave us a superb double bill: Al O'Kane with Andy Hill (above - you can hear them on 'Soundcheck' here) followed by Back of the Bus: covers that sizzle, from (to quote)"a 7-piece punk pop band, fronted by four female vocalists and backed up with a throbbing badass rhythm section, covering punk and pop classics with their own memorable twist." And their copy doesn't lie: a dynamic set that gave gothic drama to White Wedding as the sky darkened over the moonlit water. 

We Feed the World is an amazing photographic exhibition at The Station, the new complex opposite Frome's train station, with an overflow at the beautiful gallery in Whittox Lane. Both these venues are filled with photographs of small-scale farmers and fishers around the world, whose practices contribute to protecting, restoring, and rewilding as well as reviving and promoting traditional practices. Beside the striking photographs, explanatory wall posters clarify the grim facts about the way industrial practices degrade the soil and create wastelands for future generations. You can read more in the Frome Times - and definitely visit the venues. Here's Zuzana Pastorkova in Slovakia, posing for photographer Tina Hillier, who cultivates herbs, fruit trees, and 40 different kinds of vegetables on a small-holding that was her grandmother's, and claims her success is 'about being in tune with nature'. 

The Frome Festival Art Trail will feature in next week's bulletin, but here's an exhibition which is touring Somerset : Inch by IN:CH aims to bring art out of galleries and into public spaces. Frome Museum basement doesn't really fall into that category but it's interesting to get to see that area, especially filled with suitcases of curious work. I especially liked Fiona Campbell's decrepitised umbrellas as 'hope of a tree' and the glimmering lights in Philippa Edwards case, representing the bioluminescence of nature.

The big exhibition at Rook Lane is a tour through the 20 years of the life of Frome Festival. Succinctly and elegantly curated by Sue Bucklow, who must have had a dumper-truckful of events and memories to wade through, this shows the story-arc of the festival that came to grow from a dream in the mind of Martin Bax to one of the most highly rated festivals in the country, known for its enterprising diversity and egalitarian events. I was on the smug side of pleased to find that several events which were important to me personally have found their way onto the display screens. Especially pleasing is this reminder of the 2015 contribution from Nevertheless Productions: Midsummer Dusk was a site-specific theatre piece performed at the Dissenters Cemetery and probably my favourite production ever. (If this chimes fondly for you, too, you can check it out in this blog: type the title in the little box offered top left and you will be transported to13 July 2015 and offered images & a full review.)  

God of Carnage, Yasmina Reza's 2008 popular play about squabbling parents, translated from the french by Christopher Hampton, was the festival choice of Frome Drama, who managed to stay within regulations at the Assembly Rooms by limiting audience seating. The storyline - two parental couples meeting to agree how to ameliorate their offspring's quarrel and instead become fractious themselves - should be easy to make hilarious but actually the steep escalation of cultural & financial oneupmanship makes it hard to avoid over-egging, but the team did well, achieving a lot of laughs throughout. I particularly liked the brief boxing-ring fantasy that preceded the demure actual meeting of the two couples. 

And in other dramatic altercations: Flash-mob opera invaded the precinct on market day to the delight of a gathering crowd who heard a medley of arias wrought into amorous and acrimonious encounters by four incredibly talented performers. My comprehension of the lyrics was limited to andiamo so there's little else I can tell you, but it was magnificent - big thanks to the Cooper Hall foundation.

Finally, in this back-to-front, slightly late, report: last week also saw the launch of a new book from  Corinna Sargood, artist extraordinaire and Angela Carter's favourite illustrator: The Village in the Valley arrived at an elegant soiree in the garden of Rook Lane chapel on Wednesday. Corinna and her partner Richard have visited this Mexican village every year, since they discovered it over 20 years ago; her lino-cuts inspired by that first visit illustrate the second Virago Book of Fairy Tales, and now the village has its own story, along with other travels. It's published by Prospect Books, an elite London establishment which clearly has no notion of Frome culture as her publisher Catheryn brought only 2 boxes of books for this launch and was surprised that all copies were bought before many of the guests had even arrived. But the night was balmy and the bar was open, so we partied on. 

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