Category Archives: Music

Review, Faina and The Snow Beast, Scratchworks Theatre Company and Jack Dean, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This year has been the year of the audio. Scratchworks Theatre Company have brought their original stage play, written by Jack Dean to an audio tale with accompanied Science experiments for children.

Combined in a couple of audio sections, Faina and The Snow Beast features the tale of an Orphan, Faina, who dreams of becoming a scientists. Raised by the owl who found her abandoned, Maud, who believes in the magical and extraordinary, the two, with the help of Faina’s mother’s journal, undertake the most exciting adventure full of trials and tribulations to find The Snow Beast.

The story is very easy to get into. Able to download, you can dip and dive into the story whenever you want to. With the talented voices of Scratchworks, a range of different character’s are animated within our consciousness with the use of accents and skillful voice acting, evoking images and fueling our imaginations of the character’s and their adventure.

Known for their brilliant voices and musical styling, Scratchworks bring in magical yet homely and folk like music to accompany the story, making the atmosphere and the story feel sensational, with a Disney-like quality to the story in drumming up visions of the adventure.

Punctuated with their science pack, children are able to listen to the story and are encouraged and inspired to follow Scratchworks and make their own scientific experiments. The story highlights that science and the extraordinary are not necessarily different to one another. Maud states something along the lines of why should you only have the choice of belief in science or of the magical and unusual. By bringing the two together in a theatrical story telling and with science to attempt, children and adults alike can enjoy the magic of science and stories.

Faina and The Snow Beast aims itself at children, but adults are also fully taken away to far away lands, flying in hot air balloons and feeling the blizzardy atmosphere The Snow Beast creates. A joyous and sensational story.

The Power of Dance is Magical! Simone Sistarelli and Popping For Parkinson’s

Hi Simone great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Thanks for having me! I am Simone Sistarelli, and I am the founder of Popping For Parkinson’s ®, a project that transforms Parkinson’s patients into Popping dance students. I am passionate about inspiring people. I am a dance artist, a social entrepreneur, a musician and public speaker. I am in the Universal Hip Hop Museum Hall of Fame for my contribution to Hip Hop Culture.

I have a BA in Contemporary Dance from Trinity Laban and an MSc in Dance Psychology from the University of Hertfordshire.

What got you interested in the arts?

I fell in love at first sight with dancing at age 10, and I have not stopped being in the arts world since! The arts are an incredible vessel of expression, and they feel liberating to me. 

You have been running Popping For Parkinson’s since 2015. On your website you describe your approach as

“Using Popping dance techniques as an innovative therapeutic tool for improving the physical condition of people affected by Parkinson’s disease. Participants see improvement in their natural movement capacities, but also gain confidence, feel less socially isolated and have fun.”

It sounds like a fascinating approach. Where did the project originate?

 I had the original idea in 2012 while training at Trinity Laban Conservatoire. It originated as a result of various inputs, from my granddad having Parkinson’s to the similarities between the Parkinson’s tremors and Popping dance. I thought: people with Parkinson’s shake without the beat;I train my whole life as a Popping dancer to shake to the beat. In my head, people with Parkinson’s could turn their symptom into a superpower! After years of research on Parkinson’s, dance, music therapy, dance therapy and more, I developed a methodology, started a collaboration with SLYPN (South London Younger Parkinson’s Network), I offered the first dance class as a trial run, people loved it, and we haven’t stopped since!

How does someone get involved, do they need to have any prior dance experience?

Absolutely no prior experience is needed! People can simply sign up for the online classes through our website and join us!

How would you like the project to develop?

There are around 10 million people with Parkinson’s worldwide. The ultimate aim of the project is to reach all of them and empower them all to become dancers! In practical terms, I am working on future developments by exploring different ways to reach people, from writing a book to creating dance tutorials (both on streaming platforms and DVDs), creating bespoke music for dance classes and more.

You might not normally think of Hip-Hop culture and Parkinson’s as strong partners. What has the reaction been to the project in the Hip Hop community?

My work has been recognised by the Universal Hip Hop Museum, the ultimate dream for anyone in the Hip Hop community. I hope I can inspire people in the Hip Hop world as much as Hip Hop inspired me in the first place.

There is a lack of Diversity in mainstream cultural provision. Do you think your project has connected with people who might not normally think of themselves as Dancers?

Yes! Dance is so much more than solely performing, and appreciating that is key to inviting more people to improve their life through social artistic movement.

Music is a key element of Hip Hop. How do you select the tracks to use in your class and if you had to choose one, what’s your favourite?

As a musician myself, I carefully choose the songs for my classes. I know the impact that a good tune can have! I am a record collector and I have a vast collection of songs to start from, then depending on the theme/mood of the class I will pick the most appropriate songs. Songs can go from classic Popping tunes (Cameo, Zapp) to Popping beats (Slick Dogg, Beatslaya), from recent Electro-Funk releases (Mofak, Makvel) to my own music productions. 

Asking for a favourite song/album to a collector is like asking for the favourite child to a parent, it’s impossible to answer! One of the songs that I keep going back to though is Brass Construction’s “Get up to Get Down”.

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers that people living with Parkinson’s face to access dance and your organisations work? If you have identified any, have you been able to reduce these barriers in any way?

People with Parkinson’s face several challenges on a daily basis. Some of these limitations are specific to accessing dance classes. We did encounter some of them and we tried to reduce the impact that they had. One example was offering both seated and standing classes, so that people with limited mobility can access Popping dance (which tends to be a standing dance style).

Another limitation was costs, so from the very start of the project we offered the classes free of charge for participants (thanks to the support of funders such as the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the National Lottery Community Fund). 

Now that classes are online only for obvious reasons, barriers are different. For example, commuting to class can be challenging for people with Parkinson’s, yet this particular limitation is not present online. At the same time, online classes present other barriers, such as technological knowledge, Zoom fatigue, access to broadband (especially for older people). We want to expand and offer several ways of participation, from interactive classes via Zoom to pre-recorded classes on YouTube, from dance tutorials to DVDs (coming soon) in order to minimise the impact that barriers create to people with Parkinson’s. It is a constant work-in-progress. 

The video below is a taster video of a Popping For Parkinson’s Class

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues and theatres. If theatres want to attract people living with Parkinson’s what do you think they should do?

Venues should understand the needs of people with Parkinson’s in order to accommodate them, making sure that venues are accessible and that staff are trained accordingly. 

 If you were able to fund an area of the arts what would this be and why?

All of them! But if I had to choose, I would dedicate way more funding to the phenomenal individuals that dedicate their lives to supporting people through artistic expression. The value that individuals bring to the arts is immense, and without them organisations could not thrive. 

What excites you about the arts at the moment?

Two main aspects really inspire and excite me at this stage. One is dance science, getting a deeper understanding of the relationship between arts and health, as I believe there is unlimited potential there.

The other one is the creation of new cross-disciplinary experiences that engage a diverse audience through the combination of several media (for example, from the genre-defying dance film TOM by Wilkie Branson to choreographing for drones).

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

Seeing my students come to class with severe difficulties and then leaving energised, smiling and confident is an experience I still cannot get used to after many years! The power of dance truly is remarkable, so much so that sometimes it feels magical!

Thanks for your time Simone

Thank you

You can checkout the PoppingFor Parkinsons Spotify playlis here

If you are interested in finsing our more abour Simone and his work you can do so at the links below.

Website: www.poppingforparkinsons.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/poppingforparkinsons

Facebook: www.facebook.com/poppingforparkinsons

Simone’s personal website: www.simonesistarelli.com

Review, The Answer, Jodie Marie by Gareth Williams

Muscle Shoals comes to Pembrokeshire as singer-songwriter Jodie Marie releases her latest genre-defying album ‘The Answer’.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Welsh singer-songwriter Jodie Marie is an artist who refuses to play by the music industry rules. Her latest album The Answer is an exemplary response to those who would wish to classify her sound under a single heading. For though there is a blues thread that runs soulfully through this 12-track collection, the genre-blending that goes on both within and between each song makes this a musical tapestry of the highest quality. It is rich with meaning, drawing on inspiration from the past and mixing it with a contemporary sound to create something that is both reminiscent yet highly original. The result is a sublime record that makes for a captivating listen.

The Answer opens with the smooth funk and soul of ‘You are my Life’. It is characteristic of much of the album insofar as it transports you back some fifty years whilst remaining firmly rooted in the present. ‘Ain’t No Doubt about It’ echoes this same feeling, with a gorgeous arrangement that soaks you in the sounds of Motown whilst being resonant of the music of people as eclectic as Amy Winehouse, Paolo Nutini and CeeLo Green. It demonstrates an altogether playful approach to music making as Jodie mixes and matches various flavours to compose songs that are replete with nods to the past. In doing so, she does not just pay homage to the music she grew up listening to but, on songs such as ‘A Whole Lot of Loving’, she breathes new life into these timeless sounds. Nowhere is this more evident than on ‘Don’t Go Telling Me (That It’s Over)’, a ludicrously enjoyable song that combines classic doo-wop with electric guitar blues to create an incredibly moreish track.

Even when she strips things back to produce moments of acoustic tenderness, Jodie’s sound remains impossible to clinically define. ‘Carageen’ washes over you like the gentle crashing of waves on a shore. Its central metaphor seems to represent a kind of spiritual grounding for Jodie: a place that centres her and from which her music, in all its eclectic glory, therapeutically flows. ‘Saving Grace’ offers up a beautifully intimate picture of love that requires deep listening. It is storytelling in the vein of a Nashville Songwriter’s Round yet one cannot claim it as pure country. Just as ‘Kiss These Tears Away’ cannot simply be a ballad of the blues. Instead, Jodie manages to weave enough elements into each track so as they become wonderfully ambiguous. This is most true in the title track. ‘The Answer’ contains hints of modern country, ‘60s rock, and Welsh electro-pop, undercut with a blues vibe and layered with pure soul. The result is a raw and rousing sound of real emotion and depth.

‘Hanging by a String’ is like an audio illustration of the kind of building blocks that go into making Jodie Marie’s overall sound. From its humble intro, Jodie stacks brick upon brick of musical instrumentation to construct a track that is perfectly-formed and insulated with solid soul. ‘This House’ is built on the blues and is kitted out with the best of classic rock. Such rock is infused with pop to create a catchy refrain on ‘Curse the Day’ that sparks with electricity. The Answer is brought to life by such commingling of genres which, one cannot help but feel, reflects the beating heart of Jodie herself. This is what makes the album so special. She has not compromised or standardised on anything. Instead, she has made a record that is truly her. And that authenticity shines through. Jodie Marie is a champion of artistic vision over and above what the industry demands. The Answer is the answer to anyone who thinks otherwise.

Click here to listen to the album on Spotify.

To find out more about Jodie Marie and/or purchase the album, visit her website here.

Review by
Gareth Williams

An Interview with Writer Neil Bebber

In our latest Playwright interview Director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell chats to Wales based Playwright Neil Bebber. Neil discusses his career to date, his latest project “Short Stories for Stressed Grown-Ups” and his thoughts on opportunities for Playwrights in Wales.

Hi Neil great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hello! I’m a playwright, screenwriter, copywriter and graphic designer. I enjoy cycling, sea swimming, hiking at night under star-stuffed skies, endlessly scrolling though Netflix trying to find something good to watch, cooking (though my recent attempts at culinary genius have fallen short) and playing online Scrabble with strangers. For the record, I haven’t lost a game. Yet.

So, what got you interested in the arts?

Pantomime. Probably. I remember the feeling I had watching a school panto when I was maybe ten years old. The Seven Dwarves had left for the day to hi-ho off to work and Snow White was left alone in the space. A sequence followed where she just made the most of having the space to herself and I was transfixed.

From an early age, I was curious about the world. Talking to people as soon as I could talk. Asking “why” even more than most other kids. That question can take a child either way. Science allows us to understand how something works. The arts allow us to explore how something makes us feel. I’m a combination of the two. But, having turned down a potentially lucrative career in banking, in favour of a poorly-paid graphic design “apprenticeship” (that’s a whole other story!) I’d chosen my path.

Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas come from?

I used to fool myself into believing the romantic notion that I could only write when I was wallowing in a pool of self-indulgent pity, but I now realise that’s not true. I don’t know who said it, but writers write. So, the most important part of the process is to start by writing something.

It’s a cliché, but it is a muscle. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. And the more addictive it is. On the many courses I’ve been on, the forensic detail of process has been useful, but I’ve always got more from the automatic writing exercises. It’s a great way to unlock the unconscious mind and discover those seeds lurking in there between the teeth of doubt.

And I make a lot of notes. The romance of a notepad and fountain pen has been superseded by the iphone, but I’m glad that, should I ever hit a pothole on my bike and find myself flattened by an oncoming bus, nobody will ever get to access my notes. There’s a lot of strange musings there. Today I wrote a paragraph about how a crow, battered by the wind, seemed to be perfectly content to walk across the road sideways. And how that might serve as a metaphor. But I don’t know what for yet.

GULL, the play recently read on Zoom by the brilliant The Far Away Plays came about like that. A note about watching gulls rip apart bin bags and hungrily tuck into a pile of used nappies. The revulsion fed the atmosphere of the play.

In terms of dialogue, I believe that writing good dialogue is more about listening than writing. Before our freedoms were curtailed by a microscopic enemy, I used to sit in a lot of coffee shops, just listening to exchanges and watching people’s body language. In recent years, I probably haven’t been the best company, socially, choosing to observe and makes notes, rather than get involved.

Can you describe your writing day? Do you have a process or a minimum word count?

Writing days vary depending on the project. I’m also lucky enough to be able to supplement an artist’s income with commercial copywriting. But, either way, I start early. Check emails, social media between 8 and 8.30 and then make a start on the writing. At the moment I’m in the process of editing an audio play for a competition, writing a new speculative TV drama and also writing, recording and editing my stories for my YouTube channel, “Short Stories for Stressed Grown-Ups”.

Producing my own work has also made me realise the amount of time that’s needed for its design and promotion. The “Short Stories…” project needed to have an eye-catching brand, as well as accompanying visuals for each story. And all of this needs to be shared with the online world. I hope I’m finding the balance between, “oh, that’s interesting, I’m so glad he let me know” and “for God’s sake, not another post about his bloody stories!” If there’s anyone brave enough out there, do let me know!

Why and where do you write? 

I write because I have something to say. About something I‘ve seen or something I’ve heard. Or something I feel passionately about.

I write because it’s a compulsion. A bit of an addiction. Especially when I get to see how an audience responds to it, good or bad. Maybe that’s some deep-seated need for validation. But then maybe that’s why any artist creates anything.

I write because it helps me repair. Relax. Forget. Make sense of a world (or of people) I don’t always understand.

I write because it’s satisfying and often surprising to be taken on a journey by imaginary characters, into unfamiliar scenarios and behaviours.

In terms of where I write, I can write anywhere. As long as I have something to balance a laptop on and a reasonably comfortable chair to sit on, I can write. There’s no ritual, no lucky desk or chair of inspiration. So, the photo is of a number of places where I could easily write. And the list is always being added to…

You are a prolific writer working across multiple mediums and forms. How has the Covid-19 Pandemic affected you and your creative process?

It was clear from the beginning that the lockdown, and the continuing response to a global pandemic, was going to fundamentally change a world that relied on the physical gathering of human beings in close proximity, whether audience or performer.

But, pretty early on, I saw an opportunity to get work out to a wider audience. Admittedly, it’s not the same experience as sitting in a studio theatre, tightly-packed with an appreciative audience, breathing the same air and having a collective experience.

When Jordan Bernarde contacted me about re-staging BREATHE (to avoid him climbing the walls during the first lockdown), after a short and successful run at The Bread & Roses the year before, I jumped at the chance. And it’s success has shown that there’s an audience for online theatre.

Theatres talk a lot about diversifying their audience base and this provides the perfect opportunity to do just that. Anyone who might previously have been intimidated by physically visiting a venue, can now watch a performance online and maybe discover that it isn’t the inaccessible, exclusive experience they may have expected. And, from a writer’s perspective, there’s an entire planet’s worth of connected people looking for content. The challenge is standing out amongst the noise!

From my own point of view, there’s been a shift towards demand for more audio drama. I’ve been working on a new play for the Papatango prize, which this year will be awarded to three audio works. And I was commissioned at the end of last year to write a multiple choice audio drama, which would be navigated purely through using Alexa. Exciting stuff!

One of your latest initiatives is the new new YouTube-based spoken word project, ‘Short Stories for Stressed Grown-ups’

You’ve written a number of short stories, which you’ve also narrated yourself. This is how you’ve described the project: 

“Remember when you were a kid? And how it felt to be all tucked up and have a story read to you? What a shame that, as adults, we don’t get to enjoy the sheer, indulgent escapism of those moments anymore. Well, now that’s changed. Short Stories for Stressed Grown-ups by Neil Neil is now live! So all you have do is find somewhere quiet, where you won’t be disturbed, and listen to an original short story that will transport you from the troubles of your day. 

Whether you use it to help you get off to sleep, or to re-set in the middle of a busy day, every story is written just for you.”

What response have you had to this new area of writing and storytelling?

The short stories were a suggestion by a producer friend of mine, Simon Regan, who I’d worked with on an arts podcast, EVOLUTIONS, shortly before the pandemic kicked off

I was frustrated at the time it took to get work “out there” so he suggested I might do it myself.

I researched the short story market, as well as potential gaps in provision for audio content and I thought a combination of meditative and escapist character-based short stories, narrated in the style of a bedtime story, might work.

The response has been really encouraging. The audience has been very frank about what’s working and what isn’t, the real-time feedback giving me an opportunity to modify the style and content of each new story. I’m also keen to interact with the audience, using names for characters taken from contents pages and maybe asking for suggestions on story ideas and destinations.

It’s great to know, too, that these stories are temporarily distracting people from the stresses of their day and, in some cases, helping them sleep. I’m hoping my voice doesn’t have the same effect during face-to-face conversations, when we return to the “real” world!

In November your latest play GULL was read online by the team at The Far Away Plays. We think the Far Away Plays have been one of the highpoints of creative activity in Wales during the Pandemic. Have you had an opportunity to listen to any of the other Far Away Plays, play readings?  And how was it to have your latest play produced on Zoom?

GULL was originally scheduled to be performed at WMC’s Ffwrnes Scratch night in March 2020, but then the world plunged into chaos. So I was thrilled when The Far Away Plays chose it for one of their online performances late last year. Their commitment to getting work out to online audiences, as well as dealing with all the logistical stages in between, has been immense.

I was also excited to be able to cast three incredible RWCMD alumni. Luke Nunn, Cecilia Appiah and Meredith Lewis were just some of the standout actors from 2020 and it was a real privilege to witness their brilliantly instinctive and nuanced performances, especially given the limited time they had to rehearse.

The director James O’Donnell also deserves a special mention. Having put a callout on social media for a director at late notice, James answered the call. The way he was able to take a potentially static medium and turn it into such a dynamic performance was miraculous. I always get really nervous before any production of my work, but it was clear within minutes that GULL was in safe hands, so I was actually able to sit back and enjoy it!

I’m waiting to hear from FAP if there’s a recording I might be able to share with all of the Artistic Directors who weren’t able to make it, because, as good as it was to see the work performed online, this play would (and this team!) clearly work brilliantly on stage.

There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales-based writers, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you? Is it possible to sustain a career as a writer in Wales and if not what would help?

“Healthy” might be a misleading term. The opportunities are available, but I wonder how writers are made aware of them. For opportunities, my go-to is BBC Writer’s Room Opportunities page. Then I check London Playwrights, which is another brilliant resource. I’m not sure if there’s a central database for opportunities in Wales. If not, it would be great to have one, where all aspects of writing were covered, plays, films, TV, etc.

Also, there are a number of theatres offering writer’s courses and residences, but there are rarely the resources available to sustain the momentum, once they’ve happened. I’ve been on three writer’s courses and one residency and none of these led to a tangible, ongoing relationship with the respective theatres.

In terms of sustaining a writing career, I think it’s important to diversify. I’m lucky to also be a freelance copywriter and graphic designer, but, even if I was commissioned to write three plays a year, the income generated wouldn’t be enough to sustain a family, mortgage and other regular day-to-day commitments. From what I can gather, to make any sort of living, TV writing seems to the way forward. Ideally I’d like to be able to do a bit of everything, though, as I’ve been lucky enough to so far.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

I think a TV writing academy would be a valid investment now. As Wales becomes used increasingly as a destination for production, and companies like Bad Wolf continue to thrive, a joined up, sustained TV writing “lab” could help nurture home-grown talent and ensure Wales was increasingly self contained, moving forward. Especially given the increase in demand for content from online providers like Netflix and Prime.

Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner from production company Bad Wolf 

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

Diversity. The sheer extent of opportunities to make and view art for a country with a reasonable small population. I’m hesitant to use the term, “punching above its weight”. Oh, too late. I have.

And then there’s always the occasional parallel universe curveball of one of Tactile Bosch’s performance art nights. That’s what first made me realise I was living in a capital city. Ah, I miss Kim Fielding. What a lovely man.

Image Credit Emmageliot’s Blog

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

There are so many things that have either left me speechless, laugh uncontrollably or made me cry, sometimes all at the same time.

I remember sitting down in my office (in the middle of the first lockdown), with headphones on, to watch Complicite’s “The Encounter”, and feeling within minutes as if I’d been transported to another world, by both the performance and its remarkable aural soundscape. Not sure if it’s still available to view online, but there’s more, here:

Charlie Kaufmann’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (on Netflix), whilst sometimes being incomprehensible, felt like a pure artist’s vision, unimpeded by the demands of people-pleasing. Maybe the best art is selfish. And this felt like that. But in the best possible way.

And no conversation (I say conversation, though this has all been a bit one way) with me goes without a music mention. The Dandy Warhols’ 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia has been my favourite album for years. And at the end of last year, they performed a live stream of it, in its entirety, for the first time. For that hour, I was there, front and centre, dancing like a kid in a sweet shop. The sweets being the songs. But not in jars. Obviously.

Anyway, that’s three. Because there’s never any shortage of great things to share.

Thanks for your time

And thank you for this brilliant opportunity to ramble.

Interview with Welsh singer-songwriter Jodie Marie, as part of BBC Horizons’ ‘Tour of Wales’ 2021

Throughout the past week, BBC Horizons have been touring the nation, stopping off at some of Wales’ most treasured independent music venues to bring us a series of live sessions from some of the country’s top, upcoming musicians. From the mountain top venue of Neuadd Ogwen in Bethesda, to the Queen’s Hall in Narberth on the west coast, to the inner city hub of Le Pub in Newport, across seven days we have seen and heard the crucial role that Grassroots Music Venues (GMVs) play both in their local communities and in fostering the next generation of musical talent.

Artists who have performed across the week have included emerging artists from a wide range of genres: from hip-hop artist Mace the Great to rock band Those Damn Crows; stripped-back sessions from Ifan Pritchard and Rona Mac; and alt-pop from female duo Body Water and solo artist Malan. You can check out all the sessions here.

Here at Get the Chance, we caught up with singer-songwriter Jodie Marie, another of the artists who performed as part of this special project in association with Independent Venues Week. She chatted to us about the importance of the Queen’s Hall both as a music venue and community hub, the vital role that Horizons and BBC Radio Wales play in supporting home-grown talent, and the artists that have influenced her unique sound. She also reveals what we can expect from her upcoming new album, as well as what she’s been up to in lockdown.

To find out more about Jodie Marie and/or to pre-order her new album The Answer, released February 12th, click here.

To check out the full week of sessions, visit the Horizons website, or follow them on social media, where the team would love to hear your stories and experiences of GMVs, especially those in Wales.

The ‘Tour of Wales’ has been supported by Creative Wales and BBC Introducing, and is championed by the likes of BBC Radio Wales’ Adam Walton and Bethan Elfyn.

Review, The Goat Roper Rodeo Band, Theatr Clwyd, by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Or so it seems. The arts sector is not out of the woods yet by any means. But there is a glimmer of hope. Like the neon bulbs dangling across the stage at my first live gig since March, there are rays of optimism breaking through the darkness. As the sun set on the magnificent red brick building towering over us, aglow with rainbow-coloured light, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of joy and relief that I am back. That I have been able to come back. That my theatre, unlike others, still stands.

It never stopped, of course. It innovated; collaborated; diverted its resources; sought creative solutions. And now, it is slowly returning to a sense of the old normal. Not indoors, mind, but out. On a grassy field marked with white boxes and filled with makeshift chairs of all shapes and sizes. A tapestry of camping and outdoor furniture laid out before a plain black stage, simply lit and acoustically sound. Onto it step three lads with three instruments ready to entertain the throngs that have ventured out on this Friday evening. And entertain us they most certainly do, with a barnstorming hour of country, blues, and alternative folk.

Their blistering set was much needed to get the toes tapping; to counter the cold wind blowing across the site. The audience applauded in enthusiastic appreciation throughout, determined to enjoy an hour of music after the dearth of live performance over the past few months. The Goat Roper Rodeo Band certainly offered plenty of enjoyment and more besides, an eclectic sound keeping things fresh and lively, with no let-up in their high-octane delivery. Even in the slow, ballad-like songs such as Toss and Turn and Old Joanna, there was intensity in their presentation, perhaps caused by the welcome release that this post-lockdown opportunity presented for them. Whatever the case, it only added to the brilliance of the evening. With a carefully-crafted back-catalogue of wonderfully-catchy songs – reminiscent of Mumford & Sons one minute, sounding like a 1950s WSM Radio broadcast the next – The Goat Roper Rodeo Band certainly left their mark on proceedings in an hour that went by way too fast.

It was a very different experience of Theatr Clwyd to the one that I am used to. But it is moments like these that weave themselves into our memories. They are the unexpected surprises that make our relationship to a place so rich with meaning. They crystallise into a particular instance on our timeline that helps us tell the story of our lives to those that come after, when we recall how this theatre and its work has impacted us down the years. It may appear to the one looking in and gazing upon the photographs that this was just another outdoor gig. But to those who were there, or to me at least, this show marked the occasion when the arts began to breathe again, as the tightly-bound corset of Covid-19 restrictions was loosened enough to allow for such a socially-distanced gathering to take place.

There will be many bumps in the road to come. We are not out of the woods yet. But beyond the many trees still to wind past to get to the edge of what can seem an overwhelmingly-bleak scene, there is a light that shines. It will not be the same one we left behind. And neither should it be. Lockdown has been an opportunity to view and do things differently. Live performance as we knew it will return I’m sure. But the arts sector must also move forward. Change must be embraced.

Click here to find out more about The Goat Roper Rodeo Band.

Click here to find out what’s coming up at Theatr Clwyd.

Reviewed by Gareth Williams

“An Empowering Narrative for what is usually, a very Disempowered History” An Interview with Lawrence Hoo.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Bristol based poet, Lawrence Hoo. It was a truly enlightening conversation and we discuss all things Race, Class and Education. You can find out more about his latest projects at www.lawrencehoo.com or more about the Cargo project at @cargomovement on Instagram and social media. (Becky Johnson)

Read Part 1 below to see what he had to say:

Hi Lawrence, it’s lovely to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hi, my name is Lawrence. I live in Bristol, well I’ve lived in Bristol for almost my whole life, and I’m a poet.

I was born in Birmingham and grew up in mostly marginalised communities in Bristol. I spent a lot of my youth in and out of the care system. I went to 6 secondary schools and after that, I didn’t have any form of education. I was a feral kid on the street from the age of 6 and a runaway. When I was 19, I had cancer and I went through a bad stage of my life after that. I thought that the cancer was going to kill me anyway and I went back to living on the road.  And then at 30, I became a father for the first time. To be honest, it scared the living daylights out of me. But that’s about it vaguely.

I wanted to see if I could make myself a better person and make more of my life. So I went back and re-educated myself and began to teach others how to use computers. I did that for four years and got burned out. So, I started to do my poetry.

My poetry came from a place of rage and from questioning why the authorities were allowing situations to occur in these certain environments rather than in the rest of Britain. All the laws that need to protect people exist but for some reason the action isn’t being taken to enforce them.

 A point of that was when my partner was picking up our young son from nursery in Saint Pauls and she was approached. We then, campaigned against paedophiles being allowed to stay in the hostel which backs onto our nursery. It came out and we succeeded to make Bristol safer.

And that’s why I use poetry as a platform to try and make these changes happen.

I acknowledge that a lot of your previous work and ethos is grown around Bristol and the things that surround you there. I know that similarly to Tiger Bay in Cardiff, Bristol is going through a huge gentrification process. I was wondering on what not only your thoughts are on this but also what impact you have already seen from this?

I think is painful to see the gentrification. It goes back to those laws again., they hold all of these problems in communities.

In Saint Pauls there would be safe houses to protect those from people who have committed crimes as well as hostels for those who have committed crimes. There was drug rehabilitation centres and parole offices, but they were put next to the only place in Bristol, where you could legally sell drugs on the streets. They put the drug users next to the drug dealers, they put the people at risk from sexual crime next to those who have committed sexual crimes and they put prostitution on the streets by schools.

They took all of these issues and put them into an area which was where the African Caribbean communities are, so they often associate these problems with the African Caribbean communities. But, if we take things back to sherlock Holmes times, there were people smoking opium and he would investigate the murders of prostitutes. All these problems came along a long time before we came to Britain.

The children who are growing up in Saint Paul’s, because of the violence, lose their innocence way too young. That’s what I find heart-breaking. The way Saint Paul’s was policed (well actually I say policed but it was more so ‘contained the issues so they didn’t affect the other communities’) means the influence and protection of those other communities, is so different to what happens in Saint Paul’s.

Building prices are going up which is forcing working class people to move out of the areas which they grew up in. With Saint Paul’s it’s the council assets. The things that the working class need the most will be the first things to go. There’s no chance for people to come back into the communities they’re from. And with the services are removed, the communities become very affluent causing the communities to shift and there is nowhere for those that grew up there to live in the area.

So adding onto that, what do you think of the increase of students and the spreading of students away from Gloucester road and into Saint Paul’s? Is this bringing a positive impact, or is it doing the opposite and removing opportunities for those that are from the area?

It was always going to be a natural progression that Saint Paul’s was going to be reclaimed because of where it is located. It’s just an expansion of an affluent area but, at the same time, all it has done is push out the communities that was there before. It just benefits one community and marginalises another. It’s heart-breaking.

I’ve grown up there and lived there. It’s always been my safe spot. Regardless of all of the chaos of the city, if you’re from African Caribbean descent, it’s a safe place. It’s just devastating. Gentrification is devastating. I don’t see any positives from gentrification.

As a homeowner, gentrification has increased the value of my property. But there’s not much of my community left. I feel like a stranger. Some people say yeah but you can make money from it, but I’ve lost my home. I’ve got my house, but the community is my family. That whole family aspect of life is gone. My home is gone.

I don’t think people actually understand what it’s like to lose that familiarity, that security and that family. What it’s like when its gone.

The university of Bristol is such a huge entity in the city, and it needs to do more. I’m working with the university now, but I want to work with it to help collect the wider communities of the city and to support them. Everybody says black lives matter. But working-class people’s lives matter.

The whole city is classist.

Its problem the main issue of the city. There’s the golden circle for a mile around the city which makes a very affluent area. But one thing that’s very rare to hear in this area is a Bristolian accent. A lot of Bristolians are cast out of opportunities here. I believe it’s time for those big institutions to connect and to gather communities to raise their platforms with them. A part of Bristol is accelerating so quickly but it is leaving a huge part of Bristol behind.

So your latest project, the Cargo project, has recently received National lottery funding (congratulations). Why was the Cargo project initiated and how was it developed into the current version in which it sits?

In 2007 I did a collection called HOO stories. Which was a response to the abolition to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It was an opinionated set of poems that held a non-Eurocentric view. It was holding up a light to the actions of Europeans and gave a positive light to people of African descent, allowing it to be seen from an African-centric view. It pointed out people that had contributed greatly to society but who had pretty much been emitted from history.

Cargo was an extension of this. Looking at what people have been told has been done and then showing what has actually been done as well as looking at what you have actually done yourself. Cargo showed African resilience and African’s generating opportunities.

The beginning of the collection probably looks at the first 400-500 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, when people were just classed as cargo. Covering that journey and how they were put in the conditions that made them in slaves as well as the achievements of those of African descent. It starts in Bristol and then goes into the slave trade, the Hacienda revolution, H Samuel Sharp, and the uprisings and then continues with those that fought against and contributed to civilisation. An empowering narrative for what is usually, a very disempowered history.

It was done because I live in Bristol and you cannot get away from Bristol’s history. Every building you look at is made from Bath stone which came from that industry. I live in a city that’s very painful to live in.  

As a young black man, I couldn’t get my head around the fact that men didn’t fight to defend their wives and children. I always thought, my people didn’t fight then but I can fight now. When I realised that they did fight and rebel, that changed for me. I thought that people were so dehumanised that they stopped seeing themselves as human and it breaks my heart. But then, you realise that they did fight and what happened to them, was crimes.

But they saw that evil, and they fought and fought and fought. I wanted my children to not grow up with the same anger that I had and that’s where the collection came from. I want to give the children of Britain the opportunity to not be me.

It started off as an installation as four different shipping containers on College Green (Bristol). The idea of using shipping containers removed the permissions needed to display this information e.g. the approval of museums and galleries. We didn’t want to have to prove that our work had value to other institutions. So that although there were permissions needed, it was a lot more flexible than the others.  But because of Covid-19, the idea of putting people in a confined space walking around stopped being possible.

Covid-19 took the installation and we thought, how do we keep this moving forward? How can we make it more digital? We wanted to give people accessibility to information. So we went forwards with the Classroom project. The installation although on hold, is still in process.

The Cargo Classroom project is so important and it’s brilliant that you’ve been able to kick off something as monumental as this. What do you believe is the next step to get this information into mainstream education?

We produce a product that they feel they can’t not use, that’s the first step. Making something that people want to use and then work towards getting that into the curriculum.

This is the crazy thing, for years, we’ve been pushing and pushing but because of what’s happened in the last 6 months, people have actually come looking for us. That has been a huge change. The most important thing for us to do, is to keep focussed on what we have already been doing and to not get involved in loads of things. This is what we were doing before we got national attention. We need to make sure we deliver what we set out to deliver before we then look at what the other opportunities are.

The funny thing is, I’m so excited for what were doing. The possibilities are insane. This is the right time, we have the right product and we have the willpower to push it.

The attention will soon fall off if people aren’t prepared to put the work in. What is happening currently isn’t new, we had a global black lives matter campaign 4 years ago. And literally, outside of America, in a few weeks, it had gone.

We don’t need huge numbers as long as we keep pushing the right buttons. The group who did the protest a few months ago are still going and are making sure its not going anywhere. This young group, I believe they’re going to keep it going and make some change, for real.

Here in Wales, where Get the Chance is based, there is a campaign calling for Black history to be taught to Welsh pupils in school which has received more than 30,000 signatures within days of it being set up,  educating pupils on subjects like British colonialism and slavery.

Whilst many ministers in government (both in Wales and England) acknowledge the need to shine a light on how colonisation has been glorified, why do you think the latest bill passed through parliament was rejected?

Through fear.

I think a lot of this information has been oppressed for so long that if too much of the information came out too quick, it would undermine the whole of the UK government. The whole industrial revolution was built off the back of Africans.

What is actually owed? People ask are there reparations for the past? The gains are still received today. Companies are still using Africa as a resource. They gave the countries back their independence and to the people they gave back their freedom, but it was only on the surface level that they gave it back. They didn’t give back the land or the wealth that was generated from the land. Africa is not just filled with Africans. There are huge debts to be paid.

How would the English pay off the compensation that is needed? They could give them their natural resources, and then the interest of anything earned off those resources, and then, maybe, Europe would need the aid and Africa doesn’t. The economic balance would collapse.

We need to teach people their worth, their value and what was truly stolen from them. Not only their names, identities and homes were taken but so was the ability to nourish themselves from their ancestral background.

They’re afraid to teach the history because what happened was absolutely appalling and everyone would see that. England played its part right through the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the South African apartheid in the 1990s… The 1990s.

There’s just a lot of fear. With the crimes that were committed, there’s a lot of responsibility. People think Africa contributed a lot less to society than it has because a lot of African history has been emitted. But over time the internet will allow people to get this information, which before would have been through privilege. This will add some truth to history. And European governments will have to be accountable for their actions.

In part two (coming soon) Lawrence discusses Change and what changes we need to see (and make) to make a fairer and more equal future for us all.

“Art is about People and isn’t Something that Should be Contained by Old Notions of Performance and Presentation.” An interview with Daisy Howells

Hi Daisy, it’s lovely to meet you and to get the opportunity to pick your brains. So just to introduce yourself to our readers, please can you give them some background on yourself and how you define yourself as an artist?

Hey Guy! Yes, so I am a Contemporary Dancer/Director based in Manchester. I trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance where I graduated in 2018 with a Masters in Contemporary Performance.

I am Welsh born and proud, so split my time between working in North Wales and across the North of England. My work is a whole mix of things really, from teaching to choreographing, to performing professionally and directing my own company. I like to spin many plates!

At the moment my artistic practice is very much based in collaboration, working heavily with digital creators, movement makers and sound artists. Concerning a definition, I am a person whose artistic world is constantly changing, so I am more of a chameleon than anything else! I like re-developing and re-branding who I am as an artist. I don’t like getting boxed in. So with my practice as a maker, teacher and mover, I feel like I have my own specific interests and style, but also something tangible that is reactive to the situations and people around me.

Your company has a Virtual Performance Party on the 28th of August. You will be premiering your new work, ‘Night People’, which is described as a “visual art, rave inspired, dripping with dance and bass, screen-dance film! Inspired by nightlife adventures and underground club nights, we bring to you an evening of music, movement and misfit mayhem!” This sounds like an exciting event! Can you tell me more?

 
Of course! This is all very exciting as it is the first time myself and collaborators have made a purely digital work, made for screen. I currently work within a trio, consisting of myself (Director of Brink Dance Company), Animation Powerhouse ‘Howl Creative’ and Composer ‘LSMarley’. Together we make cross-collaborative performance work that focuses on the electric blend of animation, visual art, contemporary dance and sound. We draw upon the themes of Rave Culture and the Dnb scene, bringing to life these underground landscapes of community, escapism and midnight mayhem. We began our collaborations whilst training in Leeds, with our passions to bring contemporary art to a new scene of young people and venues uniting us together. Over the years we have worked in various Club settings and Theatres, alongside showcasing our work in Churches, Bars and Shopping Centres.

www.anniefengphotography.com

Our new work “NIGHT PEOPLE” is our latest ambition, commissioned by Social Conventions London. The whole event aims to bring the night out to your night in, offering an insane mix of dance work, visual creations and DJ sets direct to your screens. We are fiercely attempting an online festival line up, one that follows the storyline of a collection of Pro Ravers on their night out, whilst showcasing a range of DJ and Visual Art sets in between. The whole event is geared towards those missing the party scene and the nightlife culture. However this event is also geared towards those interested in Digital Art, DJ mixes, Animation, Motion Capture, and simply for those who want a fun and energetic Friday Night to enjoy! Tickets can be found on our Facebook Page at Brink Dance Company and cost as little as £1. This is a brand new look at how we can create connection and party via this new lockdown world, so come and join the movement!

Artists features include sets by the incredible DJ and Visual Artist, Izzy Bolt, a completely new soundscape of Dnb/Experimental goodness by LSMarley, Movement & Groove from the phenomenal dancers Iolanda Portogallo and Maya Carrol, Digital Creations and Film from the fantastic Howl Creative and much much more….

Contemporary Dance can be perceived as an elitist art form do you think your practice seeks to break down any perceived barriers?

Completely. Coming from a very traditional dance background, I will always have a love for pure dance on stage, with the theatre audience watching and bows at the end. However as I began figuring out my movement style whilst training, I realised this didn’t always connect with me. My experiences dancing at raves, exploring the club scene and finding connection in these places of music and groove, were the reasons my love for dance and performance grew. I found my feet. I found a place where my body understood how to move. I found a style that expressed who I truly was. And it was amazing. From then on, I wanted dance to move from a place of tradition and bring it to a new scene of people, locations and communities.

www.anniefengphotography.com


My work aims to bring contemporary dance and mix-medium performance to audiences that may never have set foot in a theatre. I wanted to showcase how dance can be used as a tool for communication and dialogue, rather than something people simply observe from afar. I think art is about people and isn’t something that should be contained by old notions of performance and presentation. My work strips this away and offers a raw physicality and emotive landscape of people communicating what they really feel. It is also a reason I have taken dance away from just dance in its pure form. I wanted to work with other creators and other mediums to enhance my process and thankfully through luck and chance I was able to connect with some incredible artists who have helped make this happen. Breaking down notions of art forms being apart or away from each other has been a career changer for me and essential in breaking down limitations of how I view dance and where I see dance going creatively. It is about learning from new sources and being open to the fact you don’t have all the answers. Giving into this and entering various scenes of art, creation and rave enabled my process to blossom and is a huge reason why my work has taken many twists and turns.

It all begins to sound very arty as I describe it but essentially I owe a great deal of my creative ethos to the rave scene. As a maker and particularly as a dancer, this unlikely scene of haze, bass and underground antics moved me in such a way it broke down my perceived barriers of what I thought art was and what it could be. These places of sheer music and escapism shook my creative habits to a point of change and enabled me to see what I truly cared about as an artist. My practice has grown from this place of joy and boundless energy, removing personal and professional barriers so that I can reach audiences beyond the rigidity of traditional performance. Taking my work off stage and opening the doors to all manners of performance, audiences and venues has been an incredible journey and one I hope I can continue in the future.

Rave culture informs a great deal of your practice, how do you curate the music that becomes part of Brink’s artistic vision. What tunes are exciting you now, personally and artistically?

I am blessed to work and be friends with the incredible LSMarley.

We began collaborating on one of my first commissions in partnership with Light Night Leeds and Light Waves Manchester in 2018. We met Luke and it just clicked. Luke has a fantastic ear for sound and composition, alongside being able to produce incredibly unique tracks that gel effortlessly with movement. His music has been a huge influence on the aesthetic and overall movement style of our work. Essentially I think our music and movement is curated through genuine pleasure and joy. We make what feels right and makes us feel good.

I wouldn’t say it is an overly thought out process, it is more about sensation and being honest with each other. It is also through observation and taking interest. I listen to Luke’s music within my everyday ongoings. Luke has watched me perform and dance countless times. We have been in the studio playing and jamming together for the last three years. I think through simple experience and listening to each other we have naturally come to an understanding. I think it is all a little unspoken and I think this is what makes it so magical.

Apart from Luke’s sound, my music style for work takes inspiration from various pools of EDM artists and DNB creators. Some of my favourite ‘going out/research’ tracks are by Lenzmen, Calibre, Nicolas Jaar, Caribou, Thundercat, Marcelus, Chimpo Halcyonic and G Roots and Children of Zeus.

You were recently working for Theatr Clwyd providing arts based activities to key worker children. How did you approach delivery given the limitations of Covid 19 and do you have any hints for colleagues as regards delivery of participatory activity?


Ah this was such an incredible part of lockdown! One of my biggest passions is teaching and working with young people. It was such an honour working back in North Wales and helping these children experience art and dance after such a tough lockdown!

Delivery was all focused on protection for both teachers and students, alongside creating a super safe and welcoming atmosphere. We were lucky enough to work in a huge theatre, so that really helped keeping the 2m distance rule. We had colourful 2m squares painted on the floor for the children to work in and have as their own which was really lovely. The main actions we took were developing games and activities that would involve a whole group whilst keeping distance, so there was lots of re-inventing the classic games and making them Covid safe! We wore masks around the building at all times, apart from in sessions and washed our hands religiously! Having hand sanitiser on you was key and we made sure the kids we routined in regular hand washing within all sessions.

It was a crazy experience diving into this work environment and I know for many dance teachers re-entering the scene feels risky and under-researched. I guess the main factor when it came to delivery was prioritising your safety as a teacher and making sure the space was set up in a way so that you could keep distance, whilst being able to lead. Little things I got into the habit of doing was taking spare clothes to change into throughout the day so I wasn’t taking ‘unclean’ clothes into my car/living spaces, disinfecting materials and surfaces I used regularly (my phone/speakers/trainers) and being very clear and open with the students about when they should wash their hands and the importance of keeping distance. It is totally possible to make a teaching space fun, enjoyable and feel relatively normal, you just have to be super on it with hygiene and be creative with your practice!

How has lockdown affected you as an artist? What long term effects do you see Covid-19, having on your artistic practise?

Big question. And I feel one where the negatives could naturally be the main answer here. Obviously the financial impact is huge, especially on freelance artists. Alongside loosing months of passion projects, contacts, performances and creative support, there was also a huge loss of momentum for freelancers self generating their own work and putting endless hours into making their ideas come to life. Through a loss of income and creative development, I still feel a sadness for all the things that were cancelled and taken away once lockdown hit. These impacts have been truly devastating for many artists and I cannot deny the damaging affect this loss of time, money and security has had on many.


However I think it is also incredibly valuable to look at the long term positive effects. Covid-19 was a huge blow for my freelance practice. I lost all my work over night and I had to basically start again. BUT (and this is a big but) when there is a will there is a way and damn I was going to find a way! Due to lockdown I switched up my aims, practice and pretty much my overall artistic outlook and set out to learn a bunch of new things. During this time I have been lucky enough to develop my skills in film and digital media, take lectures in screendance and movement capture. I was able to be part of online R&D’s and several digital creations, alongside delving into my writing practice and developing my online classes. I’ve managed to reconnect with old artistic ambitions and have the space to come up with new ones. I’ve become more efficient and savvy with finding work and directing my passions. I’ve had chance to think long term and not rush from one project to the next. There have been so many things I would have never done and I feel beyond grateful to have had these experiences come my way. I think there has to be a big shout out to all ALL artists and organisations taking Covid-19 on with re-invention and innovation and I feel very proud to be part of an artist community that is pushing new boundaries and re-shaping the path forward.

The Get the Chance team are big fans of the ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ podcast and something they do on each episode is ask their guest “If they were in government as an advisor for their specialist field, what would be the first change that they would make?” So I’d like to ask you, if you were an advisor/ representative for the Arts sector, what would be the first change that you would make?

Diversity and accessibility. I think a great deal of work is still needed in these areas, to help make art that is a true representation of the communities we live in and offers diversity in voice, experience and narrative. I think more has to be done to create an arts sector that offers fair opportunity and reflects the social changes that are part of our current 2020 lives. I think the arts sector can be seen as a liberal place but it is also stuck in tradition, old schools of thought and certain infrastructures that limit artistic creation from a truly diverse pool of artists. I believe art is for everyone and what we generate, create or shape can make a real impact to those who engage with it. It can be a kick starter for social change, dialogue and awareness and I would love to see the scene develop further in audience outreach, art inclusion and diversity in engagement and opportunity. I think a great deal of this comes from employers and art funders being aware of their positions of power and the change they can implement through re-shaping old ideas concerning art creation and its outlook. I see innovation happening across the sector, from dance and music, to visual and digital media, to how we showcase art and offer accessibility through viewing and participation. However I know a great deal more is to be done and that these conversations need to move from discussion and board meeting chats, to quicker modes of change and action.

To conclude, is there anything that you’re currently working on or anything that you’d like to highlight/ share with our readers?


I wanted to share the Instagram links of the fantastic artists I am lucky enough work with for our NIGHT PEOPLE project. Their talents, artistry and love for their craft has made this event what it is and I am so proud to have collaborated with this team of wonderful humans! Check out their work below at…

Instagram Names:

@mayarosecarroll


@lsmarley

@howl_creative


@boltizzy


@_.iole._

Follow @brinkdancecompany for further info, ticket links and exciting updates about the work, and yes…go buy a ticket! You won’t regret it!



Review, Laura Evans, Running Back to You EP, by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

When I composed my ‘Top 5 Welsh Country Music Artists’ for a recent article, I made a glaring omission. How could I forget Laura Evans? Yet such has been the success of the Aberdare-born singer-songwriter, one can easily forget that her roots lie on this side of the pond. Her music has been featured on several US TV shows. She has performed at the famous Bluebird Café in Nashville. In fact, her time spent in Music City, writing and producing songs, means that she could easily pass for an American citizen.

On saying that, her voice retains a certain Welsh flavour that is evidenced on her latest EP Running Back to You. Her sultry tones are reminiscent of fellow Welsh warbler Duffy. Indeed, the strong soul vibe on the title track cannot help but evoke such a comparison. It is also shot through with blues, and contains some delicious guitar licks in the middle that make for a tasty listen. Its catchy groove sits nicely alongside the music of namesake Laura Oakes – though it is much more layered than Oakes’ straight-laced pop sound.

Laura Evans is no one-trick pony. This EP is defined by eclecticism that ranges from the heavy rock of ‘Drag Me Back In’ to the traditional country-sounding ‘Take Me Back Home’. The latter confirms her Welsh roots with a call to home that is beautifully written and played with gorgeous simplicity. Its sound is embedded in Nashville-inspired song which could belie the distinctly Welsh imagery within the lyrics. It fails to do so however, the two marrying well to create a lovely, heartfelt lovesong to Aberdare. Following on, as it does, from the heart-wrenching ballad ‘Mess of Me’, about the lasting damage that can be caused by a broken relationship, the track takes on further resonance that was perhaps unintended. Here, ‘Take Me Back Home’ takes on a Prodigal Son vibe in light of the despair contained in ‘Mess of Me’. It suggests the healing power of home which, given Wales’ Celtic spirituality and natural beauty, has the potential for truth.

Whatever the potential significance of the song choices and their running order, Running Back to You displays the type of music that showcases why Laura Evans is so highly thought on both sides of the Atlantic. She is a genre-crossing artist whose songs all have the potential for broad appeal. I think it will be only a matter of time before she is given much wider recognition on national radio here. It will be the least she deserves.

Listen to the EP on Spotify here.

Click here to find out more about Laura and to purchase her EP.

Reviewed by Gareth Williams

Review, Bryony Sier, Personal Monster EP, by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

It is hard to categorise Bryony Sier. The Welsh singer-songwriter has a rather eclectic sound. There are bits of blues, flecks of folk, glimpses of gospel. She is cut through with country, with a slice of soul, lightly packaged in pop. Her new EP Personal Monster displays an exciting mix of all of these various sounds, sown together to create a mottled tapestry from a thematic thread of personal identity. Despite the deeply personal nature of this record however, its musings on mental health in particular speak to a universal experience which make it highly relatable.

The title track is one on which the disruptive and destructive nature of anxiety is expertly exposed by Sier. It makes for a rather sharp sword that penetrated right through to my own heart, all-too-familiar, as it is, with those tall tales telling me ‘I’m not worthy’ and ‘if I jump it will be my biggest mistake’. The song’s infectious rhythm belies its lyrical darkness, the sort of paradox that seems to mark much of Bryony’s music. Merry Go Round, for instance, exudes a form of pessimism that actually feels remarkably reassuring. Its tune is shot through with a melancholic hope that put me a wonderfully pensive mood. Meanwhile, Hurricane combines the whimsical movement of a Celtic folk song with the darkened sky of a gritty Johnny Cash number. The musical arrangement goes off on some unusual and unexpected tangents, producing a mystical quality that ends the EP on a rather intriguing note. I went back to listen to it again straight away, such was my fascination with Sier’s honest exploration of her own inner world as well as the astute observations of those around her.

Personal Monster represents a broad horizon of musical sounds upon which Bryony Sier feels free to explore. She borrows from here and there, constructing a multi-coloured road of sound along which she travels into the dark recesses of her anxious mind. It is a record that makes one feel less alone, and provides reassurance that the monster within us is perhaps not as personal as we might think.

Click here to listen to Personal Monster on Spotify.

Click here to find out more about Bryony Sier.

Reviewed by Gareth Williams