TWO Big Egos In A Small Car podcasters Graham Chalmers & Charles Hutchinson discuss Richard Bean’s Hull of a good new play, 71 Coltman Street.
Under debate too are Russia sanctions, Tchaikovsky and the arts; Barenaked Ladies’ non-PC moniker and Benny Hill; Harry Sword’s drone music book, Monolithic Undertow, plus Harrogate’s strangely Hollywood street names.
YORK Literature Festival’s celebration of the written and spoken word opens today.
More than 20 live events will be held at venues across the city centre, such as York St John University, St Peter’s School and York Explore Library and Archive.
Running until March 27, the festival launches this evening when two-time Booker Prize nominee Sarah Hall will be in conversation with Professor Abi Curtis at the new York St John University Creative Centre at 7pm, discussing her latest novel, Burntcoat, set in the first pandemic lockdown.
Pioneering reformer and president of the Supreme Court Lady Hale will discuss her autobiography, Spider Woman, A Life, in a free event at The Mount School, Dalton Terrace, tomorrow at 11am. Tickets are required.
Northern Film School graduate, producer of low-budget British horror film Heretic and Saber Productions director Bethany Clift will talk about her debut novel, Last One At The Party, and dystopian fiction with festival chair Dr Rob O’Connor at York Explore, Museum Street, tomorrow at 11am.
To be closer to the Brontes, Michael Stewart began walking the historic paths they trod while writing their most famous works, leading to his book Walking The Invisible: Following In The Brontes’ Footsteps. He will be appearing at York Explore tomorrow at 2pm in the wake of releasing his latest novel, Ill Will: The Untold Story Of Heathcliff.
After a long career in archaeology in York, Sarah Maine has drawn on her knowledge of the city’s vibrant past for her fifth novel, The Awakenings, set in two timeframes, the 790s and 1890s. Written when she was confined to York in the lockdowns, it now forms the subject of her In Conversation event at St Peter’s School, Clifton, tomorrow at 7pm.
Martin Figura and Helen Ivory will host the Try A Little Tenderness writing workshop at York Explore on Sunday from 2pm to 5pm, when they will explore how to write with feeling about those we care about without slipping into sentimentality.
The workshop price (£30) includes a ticket to writer-poet Figura and poet-artist Ivory’s poetry reading on Sunday at 7pm at the Hungate Reading Café, Hungate. The duo set up their Live From The Butchery online spoken-word series during lockdown.
The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen, from Channel 5’s Our Yorkshire Farm documentary series, will be in conversation with BBC Radio York’s Elly Fiorentini at St Peter’s School on Sunday at 7pm. The focus will be on her latest book, Celebrating The Seasons, part photography book, part recipe book and part family and farming memoir.
On Monday, at 7pm, St Peter’s School will play host to The Sunday Times’ Insight investigators Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott as they discuss Failures Of State, their exposé of the Conservative Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis: “one of the most scandalous failures of political leadership in British history”, they contend.
Female writers Jane Austin, Janet Dean Knight and Yvie Holder will explore ordinary lives against a backdrop of momentous global events, through poetry, fiction and memoir, in Encore Careers! Readings and Conversations on Tuesday at 7pm at Hungate Reading Café.
Creative writing students and staff at York St John University present Wednesday’s Beyond The Walls Student Showcase of readings at the Lord Mayor’s Walk campus in a free event at 7pm, but with tickets required via the festival website or at yorksj.ac.uk/events.
This showcase celebrates the annual Beyond The Walls anthology project , hosted and organised by students.
Further details on York Literature Festival will follow. For tickets and the full programme, go to: yorkliteraturefestival.co.uk.
LET’S do The Time Warp again? It’s just a jump to the left, and then a step to right, to enjoy plenty more of Charles Hutchinson’s recommendations.
Fancy dress invitation of the week: Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show, Grand Opera House, York, Monday to Saturday
KRISTIAN Lavercombe celebrates his 2,000th performance as Riff Raff as Richard O’Brien’s 1973 musical extravaganza enjoys yet another York run.
Alongside Lavercombe in Christopher Luscombe’s touring production will be 2016 Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba as preppy college nerd Brad Majors, Haley Flaherty as squeaky-clean fiancée Janet Weiss and Stephen Webb as castle-dwelling Transylvanian transsexual doctor Frank-N-Furter.
Cue fabulously camp fun and even camper costumes, shlock-horror comedy and science-fiction send-ups, audiences in fancy dress and sassy songs such as Sweet Transvestite, Science Fiction/Double Feature and The Time-Warp singalong. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.
Exhibition launch of the week: Imogen Hawgood and Horace Panter, Hyperrealism in America and Japan, at According To McGee, Tower Street, York, from 11am today until March 25
NEW According To McGee signing Imogen Hawgood, from County Durham, introduces her collection of realist paintings in a duo show with Pop artist and Ska legend Horace Panter, The Specials’ bassist.
Panter’s Edward Hopper-inspired depictions of Midwest motels, inner-lit Japanese kiosks and sun-warmed Coca-Cola crates complement Hawgood’s exploration of Americana icons and the idea of “the road” as a transitional landscape.
Rock horror show: Steve Steinman’s Vampires Rock – Ghost Train, Grand Opera House, York, tonight (12/3/2022), 7.30pm
NOTTINGHAM singer and producer Steve Steinman returns to York with his tongue-in-cheek show stacked high with rock anthems, guitar gods and vampy vampettes.
Steinman’s Baron von Rockula and his vampires take refuge in an old fairground’s ghost train as he seeks a new virginial wife after the death of his beloved Pandora. Ordering faithful sidekick Bosley to find him one, enter Roxy Honeybox.
Now in its 20th year, Vampires Rock sets a cast of singers, dancers and musicians loose on Queen, AC/DC, Bonnie Tyler, Meat Loaf, Bon Jovi, Journey and Guns N’ Roses chestnuts. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.
York gig of the week: Glenn Tilbrook, The Crescent, York, Sunday, 7.30pm
THIS is a standing show…and an outstanding one too as endearing and enduring Deptford singer, songwriter, guitarist and troubadour Glenn Tilbrook makes his debut appearance at The Crescent.
More than 45 years after he first answered an ad placed by Chris Difford looking for like-minded sorts to form the band that became the evergreen Squeeze, an ending is nowhere in sight, even if he called his fourth solo album Happy Ending in 2014. Expect silver-tongued Squeeze and solo numbers, peppered with audience requests, tomorrow night.
Squeeze up, by the way, because this Gig Cartel-promoted gig has sold out. Fingers crossed for any returns (www.thecrescentyork.com), but otherwise you’re really up the junction for a ticket.
Literary event of the week: Alexander McCall Smith, York Theatre Royal, Monday, 7.30pm
YORK Literature Festival plays host to Alexander McCall Smith as he discusses the new instalment in his long-running Scotland Street series, the warm-hearted, humorous and wise Love In The Time Of Bertie.
Fiona Lindsay pops the questions, intertwined with footage shot on location in Edinburgh, wherein McCall Smith invites guests into his study, where he writes surrounded by paintings and books, and visits key landmarks from the books.
The festival follows from March 18 to 27 with full details at yorkliteraturefestival.co.uk. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Postponement of the week: Joe Jackson, Sing, You Sinners! Tour, York Barbican, moving from March 17 to July 29
BLAME Covid for this delay to only the second ever York concert of singer, songwriter and consummate arranger Joe Jackson’s 44-year career.
“After months of uncertainty, it finally became clear that continuing Covid restrictions (particularly on venue capacity) in certain countries, would make our Spring European Tour un-viable as planned,” says Jackson’s official statement. “We can’t tour at a loss, and the situation did not look like changing soon enough.”
Tickets remain valid for the new July 29 date when Jackson promises hits, songs not aired in years and new material. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Storytelling show of the week: Sam Freeman, Every Little Hope You Ever Dreamed (But Didn’t Want To Mention), Cold Bath Brewery Co Clubhouse, Harrogate, Monday, 7.30pm; York Theatre Royal Studio, Friday, 7.45pm
FORMER York Theatre Royal marketing officer and 2009 TakeOver Festival co-director Sam Freeman heads back to his old stamping ground with his solo rom-com for the lonely hearted and the loved-up, armed with a projector, a notebook, wonky spectacles and nods to Richard Curtis’s Notting Hill.
Freeman, marketeer, occasional writer, director and stand-up comedian, combines storytelling and whimsical northern comedy in his multi-layered story of a chance encounter between two soulmates, how they fall in love, then part but may meet again. Box office: Harrogate, harrogatetheatre.co.uk; York, 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Shaking up Shakespeare: Northern Broadsides in As You Like It, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Tuesday to Saturday; York Theatre Royal, March 23 to 26
MARKING Northern Broadsides’ 30th anniversary, artistic director Laurie Sansom’s diverse cast of 12 northern actors captures the “sheer joy of live performance and the crazy power of love to change the world” in his bold, refreshing take on Shakespeare’s most musical comedy.
Exiled from the court, high-spirited Rosalind, devoted cousin Celia and drag queen Touchstone encounter outlaws, changing seasons and life unconfined by rigid codes in the forest.
Gender roles dissolve and assumptions are turned on their head in a natural world of endless possibilities. Box office: Scarborough, 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com; York, 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Touring show of the week: Utopia Theatre in Here’s What She Said To Me, York Theatre Royal Studio, Thursday and Friday, 7.45pm
MEET Agbeke, Omotola and Aramide, three generations of proud African women connecting with each other across two continents, time and space, in Oladipo Agboluaje’s distaff drama, conceived and directed by York St John University graduate Mojisola Elufowoju.
Together the women share their struggles, their joys, tragedies and broken dreams, in order to find healing in the present. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
FROM an ice trail to Spring Awakening, a very happy pig in mud to sibling rivalry in a salon, Charles Hutchinson points you in the right direction for days and nights out.
Exhibition opening of the week: Beyond Bloomsbury: Life, Love & Legacy, York Art Gallery, until June 5
YORK Art Gallery’s spring exhibition, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery and Sheffield Museums, explores the lives and work of the extraordinary Bloomsbury writers, artists and thinkers.
Active in England in the first half of the 20th century, they included the writer and feminist pioneer Virginia Woolf and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, as key figures.
On show are more than 60 major loans of oil paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs by Bell, Dora Carrington, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, Paul Nash, Gwen Raverat and Ray Strachey, plus four commissions from Sahara Longe, painted in response to the Bloomsbury legacy, and Bloomsbury-inspired murals and fireplaces designed by graphic artist Lydia Caprani.
Spectacle of the week: York Ice Trail, today and tomorrow
MAKE IT York and Visit York invite you to “pack your suitcase, grab your passport and embark on a journey around the world” in the return of the York Ice Trail.
Sculptures of solid ice await discovery at 43 locations this weekend, inspired by international cultures and a love of travel. Live carving is promised too.
In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the National Railway Museum has withdrawn its Faberge’s Trans-Siberian Railway Egg in Low Petergate, but a newly added ice sculpture in support of Ukraine will be on display in St Helen’s Square.
Dance show of the week: Giovanni Pernice: This Is Me!, York Barbican, 7.30pm
AFTER partnering Rose Ayling-Ellis to Glitterball Trophy success in the 2021 series of Strictly Come Dancing, Giovanni Pernice pays homage to the music and dances that inspired his journey from competition dancer to television favourite.
“I just want to try and do something different, something that you haven’t seen before,” says Sicilian stallion Pernice, 31. “I want to challenge myself and show off my hidden talents.” Cue ballroom and Latin dances and more besides. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Children’s show of the week: Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 1pm and 4pm; Thursday, 10am and 1pm
PEPPA Pig is so excited to be heading off on a special day out with George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig in a road trip full of adventures, songs, games and laughter.
From castles to caves, dragons to dinosaurs, ice creams to the obligatory muddy puddles, there will be something for all the family to enjoy. Look out for Miss Rabbit, Mr Bull and Gerald Giraffe too on “the best day ever for Peppa Pig fans”. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.
Salon appointment of the week : Buglight Theatre in Jane Hair: The Brontes Restyled, York Theatre Royal, Studio, Thursday, 7.45pm
SIBLING rivalry meets literary debate one explosive evening when stylists Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte cut, colour and style while sharing their hopes and dreams in Bradford’s most creative beauty salon.
Buglight Theatre writers Kirsty Smith and Kat Rose-Martin offer this chance to meet the modern-day versions of three determined young women from Yorkshire who set the literary world on fire. For returns only, ring 01904 623568.
Musical of the week: Central Hall Musical Society in Spring Awakening, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm, 7.30pm
CENTRAL Hall Musical Society (also known as CHMS, York), from the University of York, present Duncan Sheik and Steven Slater’s 2006 rock musical revamp of a once-banned Frank Wedekind play, directed by Abena Abban.
A group of teenagers in a small German village in 1891 find the oppressive structures upheld by their parents and teachers to be at odds with their own awakening sexuality.
Spring Awakening explores themes of sex, puberty, coming of age and a yearning for a more progressive future, refracting old-fashioned values through a 21st-century lens. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Family show of the week; Le Navet Bete in Treasure Island, York Theatre Royal, Thursday, Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm.
LAST in York last September to reveal a vampire’ secrets in Dracula: The Bloody Truth, physical comedy company Le Navet Bete now go in search of buried treasure in a swashbuckling family adventure, Treasure Island.
Peepolykus artistic director and writer John Nicholson directs a cast of four, playing 26 characters in a fresh take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale laced with contemporary comedic twists, tropical islands, an unusual motley crew of pirates, a parrot called Alexa (straight from the Amazon), a white-bearded fish finger tycoon and unforgettable mermaid. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Gig of the week outside York: David Ford, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm
WHAT happens when you shut a creative force in a room for two years? The answer is a tornado blast of a new album from Eastbourne singer-songwriter David Ford documenting the tumultuous events of 2020 and 2021, as he charts the rise of Covid and fall of Trump, although both are still stubbornly refusing to go away.
Ford will air songs from the imminent May You Live In Interesting Times, along with compositions written in two days and recorded in one with American support act Annie Dressner. Look out for their six-track EP on sale at the Pock gig. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
AS Black Country, New Road head out of the departing Isaac Wood’s song world, podcasters Graham Chalmers and Charles Hutchinson review sophomore album Ants From Up There and ponder where they might roam next, now they are six.
Under debate too in Episode 79 of Two Big Egos In A Small Car are PJ O’Rourke’s righteous literary legacy; Peter Jackson’s newly revealing Beatles rooftop concert film and American musicians’ love of British indie acts.
TWO Big Egos In A Small Car arts podcasters Graham Chalmers and Charles Hutchinson compare notes on their separate interviewing experiences with Marti Pellow, smarty fellow of pop, ahead of his York Barbican greatest hits show on May 3.
Prompted by his Wet Wet Wet exit, Chalmers & Hutch then discuss famous bands’ substitute singers, from Genesis to AC/DC, Black Sabbath to Buzzcocks.
Plus why Kenneth Branagh’s second Agatha Christie revamp, Death On The Nile, bristles with much more than Poirot’s monumental moustache; Harry Sword’s deep dive of a book on drone music, Monolithic Undertow – In search Of Sonic Oblivion… and a Sting in the tail end.
YORK poet, musician, academic and photographer Oz Hardwick is exhibiting “very much a labour of long-standing obsession” at City Screen, York.
On show in the upstairs corridor until February 19 are his photographs of Hawkwind, one of the earliest space rock groups, who formed in Ladbroke Grove, London, in 1969 and have since gone through many incarnations, taking in hard rock, prog rock and psychedelic rock.
Lemmy, later of Motorhead, and Silver Machine, the June 1972 single that peaked at number three, are but part of a story that Oz has photographed from 1980 to 2021.
For many years he has focused on poetry and the academic world, way back in the 1970s, Plymouth-born Oz trained as a photographer, combining that skill with his passion for music and alternative culture.
Over the years, he has contributed to many album covers and books, most recently being the main photographic contributor to Martin Popoff’s Hawkwind: A Visual Biography, published by Wymer last year.
Oz exhibited a selection of his photographs at a festival at the Alhambra in Morecambe in 2018. “Then I was going to have a little exhibition to coincide with the band’s York Barbican show on their 50th anniversary but that didn’t quite work out,” he says.
“And so, it was going to be City Screen to coincide with the 50th anniversary of their first album [August 1970’s Hawkwind by Hawkwind], which was in 2020, so that didn’t happen either.
“But here it is at last, upstairs in City Screen, a bit of a celebration of a countercultural institution that’s probably been more influential than most people realise and is still going strong.”
Here Oz answers CharlesHutchPress’s questions about that “labour of long-standing obsession”.
What first drew you to Hawkwind, Oz?
“In 1972, I was a 12-year-old boy who loved music, with a particular enthusiasm for glam rock and a growing interest in heavy rock that came via my elder sister’s friends. I’ve read many times how David Bowie’s Starman on Top Of The Pops ‘changed everything’ for many people, and I remember the performance.
“However, it was the week after that Silver Machine appeared and for me that was really exciting. It’s up on YouTube now, but in those days all your friends would be watching the same thing at the same time, and I recall having to ask a friend the next day what this band had been called, because the clip – filmed in concert and cobbled together to accompany the single (and watched on a black-and-white TV) – had absolutely blown me away.
“I had no idea what was making some of those noises, the energy was like nothing I’d heard, and the band looked unhinged. It wasn’t just an exciting new group; it was a little glimpse of an alternative universe, which looked way more exciting than the one I was in. These people weren’t dressing up like Bolan and Bowie (who I really liked, by the way); there was a sense of this being real.
“And then, when I finally acquired an album the following year – the monumental Space Ritual – there were passages of poetry accompanied by unearthly electronic sounds. I’d picked up a love of poetry by osmosis from my grandfather who lived with us.
“He’d had no education, really, but had a passion for the Lake Poets and Burns, who were deeply attached to the places where he’d grown up and become a farm worker, and this was something which set that linguistic energy into the cultural context in which I was growing up – pop music, Apollo-era science fiction, and so on. And the artwork was amazing, too. It was the full package.”
Did you meet Lemmy [Hawkwind’s bass player from 1972 until being fired in 1975, when he formed Motorhead]? If so, what are your memories?
“Lemmy was still in the band when I first saw Hawkwind in Plymouth Guildhall in February 1974, but I didn’t meet him until the early Motorhead days.
“When they started out, they were getting awful reviews and nobody much was interested as they were slogging around fairly grotty little clubs. I, of course, turned up to their first Plymouth gig early – I always wanted to get down the front – and the first few of us to arrive were roped into carrying a grand piano down the fire escape.
“Those were the days. It meant we got to hear the soundcheck, and I think we were let in free, too. And there was a bit of a tongue-tied greeting.
“They played a few times locally while they were still struggling along, and the band were always really welcoming, chatty, funny and down-to-earth. Then they went off to be pretty huge and no longer played to small but passionate audiences in sticky-floored clubs. “However, several years later I was at an open-air Hawkwind gig at Crystal Palace – the legendary event at which they shared the stage with Vera Lynn – and during the afternoon I happened to be walking vaguely towards Lemmy in the field.
“Amazingly, he stopped me and asked how I was. He was a fully-fledged rock star by then, but he still remembered those people who supported the band when there weren’t all that many of us. And I don’t think many people would be like that.”
You know the drill: “First three numbers only. No flash”. What are the challenges of photographing a band in concert under those circumstances?
“They will insist on moving about! I think the particular challenge with rock music is the lighting changes. It’s true with many artists, but Hawkwind were always particularly tricky as there was never much light on the band, who were quite often shadowy figures against brighter backgrounds. There’s still some of that, but less so than there used to be.”
Do you prefer photographing a band on stage, in the studio or off-guard?
“I much prefer photographing bands on stage. I’ve done some more posed off-stage work from time to time, but my enthusiasm has always been for capturing artists doing what they do, rather than imposing myself too much on things.
“When I was training as a photographer, I got really into theatre work, and it grew out of that, I think. Also, I’m a very socially awkward person (cripplingly so when younger), so it’s good to vanish into the background.
“In relation to this, I have to say how generous Hawkwind were, letting this awkward young bloke with a camera onto the side of the stage, into the dressing room, and so on. Again, I think this is probably quite unusual, to say the least.”
Where and when did you train in photography?
“I was at Plymouth College of Art in the late 1970s. I’d already learned the basics there on Saturday mornings while I was at school and I’d taken an O-level, so it was the logical next step – and I had no idea what else I might do.
“I’ve never been very career oriented. I’m now professor of creative writing over at Leeds Trinity University, but it’s not something I ever intended: I just always wanted to create things and was looking for ways to do so that worked for me. These days I only do a little bit of photography and it’s mostly writing, but they’ve both been constants for years, with just the balance shifting.”
You describe Hawkwind as a “countercultural institution”. In what ways?
“They emerged from that vibrant countercultural movement which had a bit more edge and political substance, which drew on agit-prop theatre, cutting-edge graphic design, the alternative press, and so on.
“They were effectively the ‘house band’ of that culture, supporting various causes, and while things have changed immensely, they have remained on the edge. They were at the heart of the free festival culture of the 1980s, for example, and they still have close associations with the Sea Shepherd and wildlife charities in particular.
“And they are a band who have evolved their own community, too, with their own small festivals and also taking artists under their wing to an extent.”
How have Hawkwind “probably been more influential than most people realise”?
“Anyone with a vague interest in ‘classic’ rock music will know Silver Machine but the chances are good that they won’t know anything else. Their influence is disproportionate, though.
“Because of the directness of their music and their disdain for the mainstream, they were a major – and frequently cited – influence on punk rock, while most of their contemporaries were being derided.
“Their experiments with electronics fed into ambient and New Age soundscapes and that was one of the roots of synth-pop, and the extended, repetitive structures are one of the foundations of the dance music that evolved from the late 1980s and continues to do so. In the diverse niches of contemporary alternative rock, they’re pretty much everywhere.”
Playing devil’s advocate, what does it take for a band to survive for 53 years on one hit?
“Now, that’s a complex one to answer, but part of it, I suspect, is that there was just the one hit. The follow-up, Urban Guerilla, was famously withdrawn amidst controversy as its release coincided with terrorist attacks, and that was pretty much it for pop stardom.
“Instead, they used the money from Silver Machine’s success to fund the elaborate staging of their ambitious Space Ritual tour, which led to the double album that is still regularly cited as one of the best live rock records ever.
“With the live reputation they built up, they didn’t really need to be on Top Of The Pops. I guess the ‘what if?’ scenario raises the question of whether, if they had managed a couple of follow-up hits, they might have had a brief flare at the top and just disappeared once they started slipping down the ratings.
“Interestingly, a couple of albums in recent years have made higher chart placings than anything they’ve released since the mid-’80s, so things haven’t worked out too bad. And, of course, they still have the instantly recognisable big hit on pretty much every ’70s rock compilation that gets released, which in itself is one up on thousands upon thousands of bands.”
When did you first photograph Hawkwind; when did you last photograph them?
“My earliest (not great) photos are from 1980, the most recent from 2021. As it happens, though, the first time I ever took a camera to a gig was a Motorhead show in, I think, 1978, so there’s a connection there.”
What is the story behind you exhibiting your Hawkwind photos at a festival in 2018?
“The band organise their own little festivals and suchlike. In 2018, they had a weekend at the Alhambra in Morecambe, which was put together with poet, performer and all-round good guy Matt Panesh, to contribute towards keeping this beautiful old theatre open in quite a deprived part of the country.
“Hawkwind played a couple of times, along with assorted friends and relations; there were performances of plays by the late Robert Calvert (who, along with mainstay Dave Brock, wrote Silver Machine) and amongst the peripheral events and attractions I had a small photographic exhibition, with a number of pictures that had been on album covers, in books, and so on.”
How did you select the photos now on show in the City Screen corridor?
“The exhibition features most of those I had printed for Morecambe, along with a few more oldies and some taken in 2021. Though it was another terrible year for the performing arts, Hawkwind managed a couple of shows.
“The highlight was definitely their Hawkfest over a sunny weekend in north Devon last summer. With a little under a thousand attendees and a great line-up – including two sets by Hawkwind and various members playing with other bands – and a lovely bunch of like-minded people getting together after months of lockdowns, it was a wonderful celebration of the music and of that community I mentioned earlier. There are a few photos from that weekend.”
How has the art of rock music photography changed over the past 40 years?
“I think it’s changed in the way all photography has changed. In the 1980s and 1990s, you’d really read the performance and get a few gems from your 36 or maybe 72 frames. Nowadays, anyone with a phone can get a couple of good shots from the 600 they take, all of which they upload onto Facebook.
“If I can get a bit cosmic for a second, though, the relationship between a photographer and the performance is very, very different. There’s an intensity of focus in the moment, coupled with a kind of acquired second sight, whereas I suspect someone waving their phone over their head is outside the moment. But we can maybe talk about ‘art’ another time!”
Which camera do you favour?
“The shorthand techie answer is Nikon for film and Canon for digital. Really, though, it’s anything that can capture a decent image (and most can) because all a camera does is capture what you see. It’s much more about looking than technology. As an aside, I do rather like seeing what the flaws in really poor cameras can do – I do like a bit of chaos.”
Do you keep a list of the album covers and books to which you have contributed photographs?
“I’m really bad at keeping records. I’ve built up quite a body of work in both writing and photography and am generally looking at the current project and the next thing. In terms of Hawkwind, the photos that have given me most satisfaction are the front cover and booklet of TheFlicknife Years box set of 1980s’ recordings.
“I was following the band all over and really immersing myself in that wonderful world I glimpsed on Top Of The Pops back in ’72, and the idea of having something on the front of an album just seemed like fantasy.
“There were two United States reissues in the’90s – Zones and Do Not Panic – that came with posters of my photos, which were special to me in themselves, but also my parents had them on their hall wall for the rest of their lives and would proudly show them to all visitors. “Beyond that, there are a lot of album covers by the band and also off-shoots (there are a lot of ex-members after 53 years).
“Of the books, I’ve a number of pictures in Ian Abrahams’ Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins, the revised edition of which has one of mine on the front; and last year’s Hawkwind: A Visual Biography, by Martin Popoff, has well over 200 of my pictures, including the front cover. “Again, there are other books and magazines and so on. None of which I could even have imagined as I sat dumbstruck in front of that rented black-and-white telly half a century ago.”
Oz Hardwick’s Hawkwind exhibition runs at City Screen, York, until February 19.
ECHO & The Bunnymen are heading out on their spring tour, opening with two Yorkshire gigs at Sheffield City Hall tomorrow (1/2/2022) and Leeds O2 Academy on Wednesday.
Billed as “celebrating 40 years of magical songs” – although the Liverpool band formed in 1978 – the 20 dates book-end the February 18 vinyl reissue of the Bunnymen’s first compilation, 1985’s Songs To Learn & Sing.
Available on heavyweight black vinyl and a special-edition splatter vinyl, complete with an exclusive seven-inch pressing of debut single Pictures On My Wall/Read It In Books, the resurrected compilation follows last October’s vinyl re-issue of their first four studio albums, Crocodiles, Heaven Up Here, Porcupine and Ocean Rain, also on black or limited-edition coloured vinyl.
“It’s about making the albums look good,” says guitarist Will Sergeant, who remains at the core of the Liverpool post-punk legends with singer Ian McCulloch. “There’ve been versions out there, like the ones with hard cardboard sleeves a couple of years, that I did some liner notes for. I just got a few copies…with a bit of scrounging!
“There’s loads of Bunnymen records I haven’t got. I never get sent anything! People come up to you and ask you to sign records, and you think, ‘I’ve never seen that one before’.”
Sergeant notes the resurgence in buying vinyl, but says: “I’ve never given up on vinyl. You wouldn’t throw out old photo albums, so why throw out your vinyl? I’d never sell them.
“There was this bloke with all the original Beatles albums on mono, selling them for nothing at a car-boot sale, and I said to him, ‘what are you doing, selling them for that’, and he ended up putting them back in his car!“
He is delighted by the Bunnymen’s ongoing reissue programme, “I’m made up that they’re being brought out on vinyl, as I love it, though all I know is that they’re being re-released. I’ve not really been consulted, though I’m sure they’ll have been tarted up a bit!”
The album sleeves, revelling in their return to the 12-inch canvas, bring back memories for Sergeant, now 63. Like the freezing-cold day in 1982 they shot the cover for 1983’s Porcupine at Gullfoss, the ‘Golden Falls’ waterfall in southwest Iceland.
“It was 30 degrees below! I think Bill Drummond had been there as a kid, going to Iceland on a fishing boat. We just went there to do the album cover. It was the middle of winter, and we had to get up at two in the morning, setting off across the tundra in these four-wheelers. It took all of three hours to get to the end of this glacier.
“I was wearing a parka and some boots, and Ian had some ‘ladies’ slippers from with little knots on them and fur inside. He used to call them his banana boots ’cos they went yellow.”
The sleeve image looks spectacular, but doing the shoot was “mental”, says Sergeant. “There was a 200ft drop just two feet away on this ice cap. If we’d slipped, we’d have been down in this chasm,” he recalls. “But I’m glad we did it. The great thing is that it’s real. It’s not photoshopped. We really had to go to these places.”
Next came Ocean Rain, the 1984 masterpiece trailered by McCulloch’s advert boast proclaiming it to be “the greatest album ever made”. “We shot the cover in an old slate mine in Cornwall. Jake Riviera, the big cheese on Stiff Records, had this cave on his land at the bottom of his garden, and the photographer, Brian Griffin, had worked with Jake and knew this place,” says Sergeant.
“We were always looking for natural settings. We’d done the sea, we’d done the woods, we’d done the glacier, so we said, ‘let’s do a cave.”
Once in the cave, at Carnglaze Caverns, Liskeard, they decided to use the rowing boat in there. “It’s naturalistic, but the way Brian lit it makes it look likes the water curves round the tunnel. Beautiful.”
Sergeant has always loved the look of vinyl, the size of the album sleeve, that all contributes to the iconic status of classic albums. “The good thing about records, if you have a collector’s spirit, is that you want all of it: all of The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, so it’s great that vinyl’s coming back. Not just for the old collectors, but the young hipsters.”
Looking ahead to the tour, Sergeant says: “It’ll be pretty much the greatest hits and maybe a couple of new ones. We’ll decide the day before.
“We did start recording new stuff, but the pandemic put the kybosh on that, so the momentum was lost. We’ll see.”
He did use lockdown, however, to bring his book, Bunnyman: A Memoir, to the finishing line for publication last July (and subsequently in the United States in November on Fairman Books, musician Jack White’s publishing house).
Sergeant’s memoir recounts how he grew up in Liverpool in the 1960s and ’70s, “when skinheads, football violence and fear of just about everything was the natural order of things, but a young Will Sergeant found the emerging punk scene provided a shimmer of hope amongst a crumbling city still reeling from the destruction of the Second World War”.
“I’d already started writing it, in 2019, I think, but the first lockdown helped me to concentrate on it, doing it every day for nine months, then it took time to find the photos – there aren’t a lot, as the book focuses on my time as a kid, growing up, and the first year of the band before Pete [drummer Pete de Freitas] joined, when we had a drum machine. The next book will be about what happened after that,” says Sergeant.
Reflecting on his back story, he says: “I remember a lot of things from when I was a kid, because we had a bit of a tumultuous childhood, with a lot of violence and heaviness in the house because my parents didn’t get on.
“I didn’t keep a diary, but with the Bunnymen, every day is a diary day because people keep details and lots of it has stayed in the memory – and it’s the bits that you remember that are important.
“My big thing is truth. I don’t like people who lie. That’s why there are lots of truths in the first book that some people would have left out.”
Echo & The Bunnymen play Sheffield City Hall tomorrow (February 1) and Leeds O2 Academy on Wednesday. Box office: gigsandtours.com/tour/echo-and-the-bunnymen.
TWO Big Egos In A Small Car arts podcasters Graham Chalmers and Charles Hutchinson interview Heath Common, poet, publisher, journalist, presenter and musician, about his Kerouac Lives project.
As part of Independent Venues Week, this cabaret night will celebrate the life, work and impact of legendary Beat writer Jack Kerouac at Wadsworth Community Centre on February 4 at 7.45pm (doors, 6.45pm).
Heath Common will be joined by Simon Warner and John Hardie for an evening of conversation, key readings and a specially composed soundtrack to mark the centenary of the Massachusetts writer’s birth.
Kerouac Lives contends that Jack Kerouac is a voice like no other, transcending his era. “His works become a symbol of change in an increasingly conformist system, leading the iconic Beat movement,” the event blurb states.
“It also inspired the next generation of rebels for decades to come. He was a champion of freedom, individuality, and authenticity.” Tickets are selling fast on 07731 661053 and 07890 205890.
Episode 75 of Two Big Egos In A Small Car concludes with Chalmers & Hutch’s discussion onthe impact of the freezing – and potential easing out – of the BBC licence fee.