Dub Pistols

Electric Palace 21 November 2015
BR Rating ****

By Jonah Corren

Everyone who’s ever been to a festival knows who these guys are. Not all of them can remember what they sound like, or why they loved them so much, but they know they did, and that’s why the Dub Pistols’ gig saw people making their way to Bridport from all across the county. And they were not disappointed.

Most notable in the band’s set were Dub Pistols classics such as Mucky Weekend, which the audience reacted to fantastically, singing along to the catchy lyrics. Another clear-cut favourite was Alive which featured a thumping bass line making dancing easy and enjoyable, and yet another catchy chorus which the audience were invited to sing part of, in a routine exercise which really showcased the group’s vast experience and talent. One really impressive brass-coordinated number included a selection of fantastic trumpet solos showing the breadth of the band’s repertoire and genre span.

Dub Pistols brought an infectious energy to the Palace with upbeat music given a creative edge by impressively fast and lyrical rapping from key vocalist T.K. Lawrence. Front man Barry Ashworth contributed his ever-powerful vocals and possibly even more powerful stage presence. These two MCs showed fantastic chemistry, backed up by brass, guitar and percussion. At one point Ashworth wore a pair of pink sunglasses borrowed from one of the audience, and I even caught the trumpet player doubling up his instrument as an air guitar. For the encore, T.K. entered the stage wearing a huge sombrero, with fake ammunition strapped to his chest.

After the set, Barry Ashworth could be found behind an impressive array of merchandise. “It’s been a mucky weekend,” he said. “Last night sold out, and tonight was just off the scale. Everyone was just rocking with us.”

If you do spot these guys on the line-up of a festival or doing a show nearby, they’re really worth a watch. But make sure you throw yourself into the experience as much as they do.

By |November 23rd, 2015|Jonah Corren, Music, Review|0 Comments

James Rebanks

James Rebanks1James Rebanks2The Shepherd’s Life

Electric Palace 13 November

BR Rating ****

By Martin Maudsley

More than once during his talk James Rebanks stops to (metaphorically) pinch himself: “I can’t believe I’m here – on a stage, in front of all of you!” It is indeed a remarkable story that a hard-working, humble hill shepherd in the Lake District, doing the one thing that he always wanted to do, has within a year become a best-selling author and fiercely in-demand speaker.

Rebanks’ book has sold 90,000 copies, been short-listed for a literary prize, and now there’s a new one hot off the press. Not that his shepherding life has eased – the sheep come first – and we’re fortunate that the Bridport Literary Festival managed to prise him away from the high hills of Cumbria to the gentle pastures of Dorset.

The illustrated talk that unfolds, organically and easily, scattered with wry rural humour, gives glimpses of his daily life as a shepherd in a part of the world where his roots are deep and his passion is unquestioned. Evocative photos, familiar to the many thousands who follow him on Twitter, reveal a cast of fells and farmers, Herdwick sheep and hustling dogs, each with a tale to tell; either read from the page or improvised on stage.

Throughout his talk James warmly, and genuinely, acknowledges the others intertwined around his own life-story: a boyhood hero grandfather (“who knew his place in the world”) and a fellow shepherding father who recently died and to whom the book is an open letter. Even Auntie Sue who read to him as a boy is suddenly called upon to be revealed within the audience.

As fate would have it, I ended up sitting next to the author’s wife, Helen, who is a surrogate bundle of nerves before James appears and then, sotto voce, provides a delightful running commentary on his performance: “Don’t read that bit… Stop rambling!” At one point, as he fails to find a passage he has in mind to read, Helen surreptitiously slips her own copy onto the stage – open at the right page. Clearly the shepherd’s life is underpinned by the shepherd’s wife.

James Rebanks is an authentic voice telling an authentic story, with real wit and warmth. But despite the heady success he’s recently achieved, there’s not much chance of his feet leaving the Cumbrian ground. Apparently one of his neighbours recently remarked: “You might be a fancy author these days, but you’ve left a bloody gate open and there’s sheep all over the road…”

By |November 19th, 2015|The Electric Palace|0 Comments

Satish Kumar

satish-kumar-photoBridport Literary Festival
Electric Palace 13 November
BR Rating ****
By Sam Barker

If there were a day for a saint, it was Saturday the 14th. In the rain and the wind, with new words such as ‘Bataclan’ staking a new place in reality, nearly 450 Bridport people came to hear Satish Kumar talk about his new book, Soil, Soul, Society.

A former Jain monk, who walked from India to Moscow to London and Washington DC, who practises peacefulness and environmentalism, Kumar sat on the stage as the living antithesis to the night of the 13th. One day earlier, only half the tickets had been sold. Come Saturday morning, everything had changed; people kept arriving, standing in the aisles, crowding into seats, bringing whole families to hear him speak.

Sitting on a chair beneath the stage lights, Kumar was at once diminutive and immense. An eighty-year-old man with the face of a benevolent eagle, he laid down the philosophy behind his book. His ethos is a reversal of the Maslowian hierarchy which says progression starts with the fulfilment of personal needs and ends with self-actuation. Instead, Kumar puts care for the soil at the core of well-being, followed by care for the soul and for society.

“Be the change that you want to see in the world,” he intoned. “Suppress your ego…be attentive…practise peace and non-violence every day.”

Someone posited a Manichean perspective during the questions that followed: “Didn’t he have the impression that a struggle between good and evil is taking place?”
“People are not evil, they are just unenlightened,” said Kumar. Light and dark both have their place in the world. Plurality is to be celebrated – no religion is better than another, respectfulness and celebration of difference are better than the compulsion to evangelize.

There were moments when English seemed too mean and guttural to express Kumar’s meaning. Twice, he switched to either Urdu or Hindi, and the lyrical otherness of the language resonated more deeply than the words that were more clearly understood.

When it was over, Kumar walked up the crowded aisle and it seemed that people were compelled to touch him. Outside, his book sold out almost immediately. Its message is unusually pertinent now.

By |November 16th, 2015|Books, Sam Barker|0 Comments

Meet Andrew Dickson

Andrew Dickinson2By Jonathan Hamer

On meeting Andrew Dickson, the award-winning film and theatre composer, actor and playwright, I was immediately struck by his sense of calm and openness as he flung open the front door of his peaceful new home near the centre of Bridport. To talk at length to Andrew about his career was a privilege and education for me especially since I recently finished an MA in Composition for Film and Television at Bristol University and want to embark on my own career in composition.

Andrew’s first musical steps came with guitar and piano, which he had learned by ear as a child, leading his teachers to believe that he had been reading the music and as he put it, “sort of cheating.” He couldn’t be bothered with learning to read music, which put an end to his formal musical education. This DIY approach became a common thread through the interview, revealing the natural talent behind his flourishing careers in music and theatre.

Through his passion for skiffle and growing love of drama, Andrew started performing during the folk boom, in London and around Coventry and the midlands. He also began a life-long side-career in teaching by entering teacher-training college and later working at a college for maladjusted students in what he fondly looks back on as a time of, “education as it should be,” perhaps making up for his loss of faith in the formal musical education he had received in earlier life.

Andrew recalled the start of his writing career in drama during a two-year stint at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, where he combined his love of education and drama through writing plays for children and composing songs and incidental music to accompany the performances. From this opportunity, sprung many more in fringe theatre groups and poetry shows around England, including the celebrated People Show.

As he became more prolific as a composer his work led him to a particularly interesting play by John Burrows called War Time Stories, about what the threat of a nuclear war does to a family. This play prompted Andrew to begin writing his music down as he scored the play with a string quartet, which then led to him becoming more comfortable with an orchestral palette, learning the capabilities and sound of a huge range of instruments.

It was from this work in theatre that Andrew then got his break into the world of film when Mike Leigh attended a play in which Alison Steadman (his wife at the time) was performing and admired the music, which Andrew had written. Mike had just finished production of Meantime (1983) and after a viewing session, asked Andrew if he would like to score it. This was the beginning of a very productive partnership that saw Andrew write the music for six Mike Leigh films over the course of two decades, the most recent of which is Vera Drake (2004).

Mike is well known for his rigorous rehearsal schedule in which actors explore and develop their own characters until a script evolves from such improvisations together with Mike’s ideas and direction. Andrew’s collaborative process with Mike was clearly just as creatively rigorous for Andrew recalls Mike being very precise about his vision for the film and, “supervising every semi-quaver”, which although demanding, pushed Andrew to write music he hardly knew he could.

Andrew remembered a particularly intense period of writing for High Hopes (1989) in which Andrew would write some twenty tunes on piano or guitar for particular scenes and characters and Mike would then come down to Andrew’s old house in Eype to hear them and pick one out of the twenty. Despite the pressure that Andrew was under, they became close friends and the results speak for themselves as Andrew was awarded the European Composer of the Year and the BFI Anthony Asquith Award for his score of High Hopes and went on to write music for many television programmes and work with other film directors, including Goran Paskelavic and Noemi Lvovsky.

Strangely enough, Andrew admitted to not actually being a film lover or a great film goer. That is certainly unusual for a film composer, but Andrew believes it may have given him a slight edge as he wasn’t aware of the baggage that comes with film music and as he put it, “gave me a certain naivety that was useful and that I played on”.

When watching Leigh’s films, his use of silence and emphasis on dialogue and ‘kitchen-sink realism’ is very apparent and very reminiscent of the stage so here in could lie the secret behind the success of Andrew’s and Mike’s partnership.
Andrew Dickinson
In general, the main lesson for a budding composer to take from Andrew is that success lies in putting yourself forward and trusting your ability to learn and to adapt creatively. Andrew attributes much of his success to mere luck but he also recognizes that like his approach to learning and teaching instruments, which is just pick it up and go with it, success in larger and more daunting projects comes from this spirit of inquisitiveness and self-belief. The picture of his wall inside his music room shows that he practises what he preaches. As Andrew puts it: “It’s amazing what you can do if you assume you can do it.”

By |November 12th, 2015|Music|0 Comments