You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
– Mahatma Gandhi
I haven’t been blogging much lately but I’ve been productive in other ways.
I produced two festivals for the Cat’s Back
and got great coverage and great crowds for both.
- The Putney Folk Debates in May (in partnership with Howard Monk from The Local): a lovely – and very busy – day bringing together contemporary folk artists and local activists and campaigners.
- Neighbour Day in August, or to give it its full name, Bring-Your-Neighbour-To-The-Pub Day, because there’s always space in the calendar for a new national day: with live music from Brazil and Congo – choro, bossa nova and soukous -, an all day BBQ and family, friends and yes, even neighbours, dropping by en masse from noon to midnight.
I worked with chamber opera company OperaUpClose
on a short-term contract to provide grantwriting, contracting, book-keeping and administrative support. I also acted as Company Manager on a few dates outside London, with the added bonus of lovely long train journeys with the cast, where I learned that opera singers are very thirsty after a performance. And sometimes even a little bit rowdy.
I spent a few days in Paris with musicians from the Manchester-based Efpi label / collective
as part of a project I initiated with Jazz North to facilitate creative and professional collaboration between artist collectives. The UK side of the exchange was represented by Anton Hunter, Johnny Hunter, James Adolpho (who form the Anton Hunter Trio), Cath Roberts (who co-runs the LUME nights and collaborates with Anton on a few projects) along with Ben Cottrell (musical director of Beats & Pieces Big Band and co-founder / director of Epfi). The French hosts were the Onze Heure Onze collective, headed by pianist / Rhodes player Alexandre Herer and coordinated by Stéphanie Knibbe. I’ll post a summary of the project report in the next few days, in the meantime here’s a musical moment captured by Nigel Slee (Jazz North).
I witnessed the second-ever public performance of Rodrigo Constanzo’s dfscore system at the Manchester Jazz Festival
The first happened at Rodrigo’s (and Anton’s) monthly randomised improvisation night The Noise Upstairs, quite early on in the project timeline – a great test for everyone involved, as it enabled Rodrigo to gather a group of improvisers to try out the system, write a few compositions, invite Sam Andreae as guest composer, and give a public outing (with a sympathetic audience) to a project in its R&D phase. The first gig was great – as the musicians involved testify below – and it helped Rodrigo to take the system to the next technological phase of development, a fully browser-based version, which was used for the Manchester Jazz Festival performance. As above, there will be a fuller project report ready soon, as well as more videos from the Manchester gig, which I’ll share in a future post.
I ate oysters in the Jardin des Professionnels, the VIP section at Jazz Sous Les Pommiers
and saw many great gigs in the few days I attended the festival (primarily to discuss the future of the Jazz Shuttle Franco-British exchange scheme). My personal highlights: Airelle Besson, who presented a new project but also appeared as guest performers in several other gigs, a nice way to embed an artist-in-residence into the festival; Ensemble Art Sonic, a gentle and playful take on the wind quintet with the luminous Sophie Bernado on bassoon (we shared a train journey back to Paris, where I learned that she is also a rapper and educator in tough suburban schools); and just like the previous year, I really enjoyed the Concerts-Promenades, this time with Ablaye Cissoko (kora and voice) & Volker Goetze (trumpet) in the barn of a 12th-century Abbey, and Didier Laloy (accordion) & Kathy Adam (cello) (video below) in the slightly disturbing setting of a provincial auction room (‘salle des ventes’). Last but not least, I was again completely blown away by the dedication of the team, volunteers and staff, who make this huge machine tick to perfection.
I did a bit of thinking and a lot of talking
which is leading me towards new ideas and collaborations. I will be relaunching the Art of Festivals website in the next few weeks to reflect this change of direction, and I’m also working on a new parallel project that will see the light of day around the same time.