Friday, October 03, 2014

Ballet Rambert: Rooster: The Lowry, Thursday 2nd October.

  Four major pieces of modern dance were performed by Rambert  last night. The Strange Charm of Mother Nature, choreographed by Mark Baldwin, was based on particle science, each dancer representing a quark. It was a varied piece with so much going on it was not always easy to know where to look, a feature of some modern dance. The best passages for me were the slower, lyrical ones which were beautifully interpreted.
   Dutiful Ducks was a text sound composition from Charles Amirkanian, choreographed by Richard Alston. Very different and thought-provoking, this was a short piece of almost disintegrated language interpreted brilliantly by a lone dancer.
   The most impressive dance of the night for me came next in Sounddance. with electronic sound by David Tudor, a bit like the sort of radio static one might pick up from outer space, which was unnerving, unpredictable, chaotic and mesmerising. Merce Cunningham choreographed the seventeen minute piece originally, which starts and ends with a void and is open to many interpretations - is it about dance itself? Creation? A staggering performance that brought lengthy applause.
   The last piece was Rooster, a celebration of the music and times of the 60s and 70s, choreographed by Christopher Bruce and set to songs by the Rolling Stones. Now over twenty years old, this still retains its original vitality, humour and appeal. My favourite was the very slick choreography for 'Sympathy for the Devil.'

An excellent evening that was challenging and rewarding for the appreciative audience.

Black History Month

  October is Black History month and celebrations take place worldwide. The Bolton version of this month is funded by One Bolton, Bolton At Home and Bolton CVS. Around 120 people attended the opening ceremony yesterday in one  of the lecture theatres in the Central Library. The event was organised by the African Community Association of Bolton.
   The Mayor and Mayoress of Bolton opened the event. The Mayor spoke well about the benefits of integration and diversity for  Bolton. Nat Biney, the Chairman of ACAB, introduced a varied programme of events. One involved school children telling us about inventions by black people which few of us knew about: the potato chip was invented by a black chef; the fountain pen was invented by a black person. These are just two of a long list we were given by the children.

   Further entertainment was provided by a group of children from Starting Point, Bolton's International Family Centre, introduced by Caroline Lynch, who performed an impressive set of African drumming. Then Bollywood music and dancing were provided by Monica, Anna and Sacha who  got many of the schoolchildren present to join in with the moves which was great fun. A buffet lunch concluded the opening ceremony, the prelude to a month of planned activities to heighten awareness of Black History.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Live From Worktown Poetry Festival: International Day

       I was very grateful to be given a full day for an idea I had to celebrate the different languages in Bolton. I started by doing the rounds of shops and cafes in town, talking to people and trying to get them to write something in their language. It was not easy, but eventually some of them agreed. My first writer was Ranjan Rajani who wrote in Gujarati, thanks to a friend of mine, Bhakti Kotecha who put me in touch with Ranjan. Maria Arcuri, whom I already knew, agreed to write something in Brazilian Portuguese and Natalie Smalley, an established poet, provided some work in Russian.
     With only one or two maybes besides these I was struggling but then I met Mustafa Kaynak from Bolton Language School, having been put on to him by another Mustafa I knew from the Town Cafe. At Bolton Language School I also met one of the teachers, Syla Asghar, who was instrumental in getting her students to write for the event. All the writers did a very rough English translation.
     We held an afternoon workshop as part of the Festival and some helpers came along to polish up the translations by offering the writers various choices: my wife Susie, Kath Brown, Margaret Challender, Abi Idowu and Syla Asghar all helped. We did a rehearsal for the evening performance and practised using a microphone.
     The evening session was in two parts: the writers and English readers did the first hour and the second hour was devoted to Anjum Malik, a high profile Urdu poet from Manchester. At the end of the first session, all the writers were presented with a Certificate of Recognition which listed all the skills which they had demonstrated in the afternoon and evening sessions. 52 people were present. Anjum said that she had performed all over the country and abroad and never seen anything like it before. Her own set was excellent as usual.

this link will take you to the festival website. Page 2 of the archives will give you more reports on these events. You can also look at the Gallery and Video sections for more on these events.

     I hope there will be more to come from this initiative and want to include more languages and more writers and performers in future events.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the success of these events!

The writers were:

Ranjan Rajani
Maria Arcuri
Helenum Losasa
Kasia Niedbala
Natalie Smalley
Fazal Abdul Samadu
Majdi Elmajdob
Belen Laserna
Nina Nikolova
Abi Idowu
Syla Asghar

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Grey Mare, Monday 10th February

  There were a few more players in attendance on Monday and a couple of new voices in great harmony. For a change, as the regular bass player was on holiday, we had an excellent double bass which fitted in very well.

  I managed to forget the camera and the phone so no photos again but next time...  I did a couple of Gershwin instrumental numbers and an old Michael Murphy song, Calico Silver. Highlight of the evening for me was a Tom Waits G minor blues by Eric and Ian that was really well performed.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Best Of Bolton

                                        The audience starts to settle in for the Best of Bolton

  This event was a very pleasant surprise for me. Not only was the Octagon Studio full but the actors' (Hilton and Amy's) interpretation of the stories and poems was astonishingly good, as was the direction by Elizabeth and Amy.

  The standard of work was variable but generally extremely high. The actors managed to lift even the less impressive pieces and invest them with insightful reading.  One or two of the stories suffered in my opinion from an excess of Victoria Wood or even Balzac - so rambling or so detailed that the plot got left behind.  Unnecessary adverbs on the signifiers (not quite 'asked inquisitively' but getting close), put in an appearance, but most of the stories were well written and got deserved applause. The poetry was a mixture with not too many tumteetum forced rhymers or imageless rants and many that I wished I had written.

  For one awful minute I thought my phone had rung but it was the woman's next to me and it stopped quite quickly. Unbelievably, another member of the audience kept looking at her phone and reading texts on it, casually, not in any urgent sort of way. Same person managed to make a lot of noise eating an ice cream. I was tempted to shove the latter in her visage.

  In all there were three hours of excellent interpretation of writers from all over Bolton. It is possible the event may move to the main theatre next year. Bank Street Writers were out in force. A very enjoyable evening.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Best of Bolton

On Friday 31st January at the Octagon Theatre at 7.30 pm we will be able to hear a selection of writing by Boltonians including many contributions by Bank Street Writers. I always seem to be elsewhere when this is on but am making an effort this year to be there. Tickets are available from the Octagon. I am informed the event sells out.

Grey Mare Rivington, Monday 13th January

We were slightly down in numbers with only ten musicians at this singalong, but the quality was good. As expected, there were quite a few Everlys tributes given the recent demise of Phil Everly. A wide range of other music was played ranging from the Beatles to traditional folk songs to Gershwin to players' own compositions. This evening is a good opportunity for local musicians to try out their material in a supportive environment. Most solo efforts are accompanied instrumentally and vocally by other musos present. I'll try to remember to take some photos next time.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Father of Fitness

     Susie and I had a very enjoyable meal last night in the company of author Ken Heathcote and his wife Brenda. Ken recently launched his second book, The Father of Fitness, which I was privileged to edit for him. Ken started the Health Club business in this country and is highly respected in the field. But the book is a lot more than a follow-up to his first book, The Gym Business.        

    This one is actually his autobiography and is full of stories from his very full life. As one would expect, many world famous personalities feature in the book, from Arnie and Darth Vader to celebrity footballers, top weightlifters, athletes and squash players like Jonah Barrington. 
    The book is bang up to date in its treatment of the drugs culture now rife in sport and in almost every Health Club in the country.  There are stirring accounts of marathons and mountains climbed, of feats of endurance that very few of us could undertake, with plenty of human interest content along the way and loving portraits of his family members and their idiosyncrasies.  

The book  launch last month was packed  and Ken is in great demand for signings across the country.  

To find out more about the book visit

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Preston, Glasgow, Lowe

    This trio played at Matt and Phred's on Wednesday night. The three young musicians are very talented - virtuosi in fact. The line up is guitar, bass and drums which might sound fairly banal, but each player was able to play very impressive solos which had the audience enthralled.
 I was particularly impressed with Kevin Glasgow, whose six string bass produced solos which any guitarist would have been proud of. David Preston's astounding guitar was also a real treat to hear, with some great altered  chord arrangements and a good range of different tones and colours. Laurie Lowe was quite simply one of the best drummers I have heard in a long time. All three have played with many big names already and they are still in their twenties. They play their own music.

  A CD will be out after this tour. If you like the music of Allan Holdsworth, this band will not disappoint.

Oliver Lomax

  I was lucky enough to catch a short performance by local poet Oliver Lomax recently at the Dog and Partridge in Bolton on a very wet Saturday night last week.
  These particular poems deal with juxtaposition. This is a poetry of contrasts contemplated by the poet, both now and in his childhood, the subjects ranging from hand me down toys, to home thoughts from abroad, to the tragic setting on fire of an aviary, to Silvio Berlusconi and Chopin. 
  Each poem has its own dichotomy: in 'Priced out of the Revolution', the rich protester hangs off the Cenotaph; in 'Letter to Chopin' the poet apologises for what the statue of Chopin has to see: 'I am sorry for our corporate youth.'  These poems are informed by wry comment on the crassness of society. A good performance before an appreciative audience.

Two films

  I have seen two films of note recently. The first was 'Captain Phillips' a tale of modern piracy.  Well filmed and acted, with Tom Hanks as the captain, the one flaw for me was the unnecessary repetition of 'seat 15' which was rather more than glaringly obvious. Worth a look.

  The other was 'Philomena', a true story of yet another example of the Catholic Church's inhumanity, starring Judy Dench and Steve Coogan. Very moving.