ArtBeat 2014 – Day 9

All the arts were in evidence today: printing, dancing, literature and music. At College Court Sarah Kirby, one of Leicester’s foremost print artists, was exhibiting examples of the linocuts she has produced as part of the project she has been doing for the Department of Urban History at Leicester University. The idea is to represent in this print form some of the city’s beautiful industrial buildings such as the Corona machine tool factory. The exhibition is on for two more days until the end of the festival and Sarah will be talking about this project on Sunday morning at 11.30 – in College Court, Knighton Road.

There was a short performance of Indian classical dance for the elderly residents of South Lodge to enjoy in the afternoon. They were then invited to dance themselves along to the music that would have got them on the dance floor in their younger days. Some of those taking part had also enjoyed the tea dance earlier in the week.

In the evening at Avenue Primary School three of Leicester’s successful authors of fiction gave their audience a fascinating insight into the lives of writers. Janet Adams, Rod Duncan and Bali Rai talked about what and who got them writing in the first place, why they choose the particular genres (crime fiction and stories for young adults). There were some common threads running through much of what they said. They start with a sense of place, then find the characters and develop them, and then comes the plot. They tend not to know the end of the story when they start writing. They also said that 1000 words of new writing constituted a good day’s work.

Back to the Cradock late in the evening to catch the Andy Wales gig. Tremendous driving blues, drawing on the work of Robert Cray and B B king as well some of their own original stuff. There was an appreciative crowd who earlier had found the music from other bands engaging enough to distract them from watching on TV the Dutch destruction of the World Cup holders Spain in Brazil. The music at all the venues this last week has been varied and of high quality, reminding us of how much talent there is on our own doorstep and how accessible it can be.

ArtBeat 2014 – Day 8

The Botanic Gardens provided a splendid space for 25 children and adults to make their own sculpture out of clay. On a warm, sunny afternoon in the garden among the sculptures, installed but not yet curated, children became intensely involved in creating different shapes – towers, tree trunks and some quite abstract. People really seemed to get a buzz out of doing something creative in the outdoors “It was so good to be making something, not just looking” said one. A refreshing combination of sunshine, clay, garden………..and creativity!

There was more story-telling at the Knighton Library from city librarian Paul Gobey, this time for children over 8. The stories and refreshments were appreciated by the children and one parent said he thought this was a great way to get children into a public library.

In the evening Fingerprints in Queens Road was full for Memory Wire – atmospheric electronic music by Chris Conway and Jim Tetlow. Chris has been showcasing his talent with different instruments in different venues as part of ArtBeat this week, celebrating 25 years as a professional musician. There were some lovely floaty numbers that complemented  the warm summer evening brilliantly and the whole atmosphere was beautifully relaxed.

Meanwhile down at the Cradock there was some great gigging going on to a good-sized appreciative audience. The N’Ukes played covers of well-known classics from The Beatles, Rolling Stones, et al; The Bellatones played some of their original songs and were warmly received; The BrandyThieves, played a blend of gipsy, ska and punk with great gusto. It was fantastic to see bands with strong women performers playing and singing.

ArtBeat 2014 – Day 7

Events and activities did not start until this evening but then three different events, each in their different way, turned out to be stimulating and successful.

In a house in Howard Road, 25 people (children and adults) gathered to hear 11 year-old Anna, accompanied by her teacher, play pieces of Bach on the violin. She was joined by Alec on cello and Jonathan on piano. These were examples of music that Anna has learned to play through the Suzuki method and provided a delightful half an hour for listeners on a sunny evening. With the doors and windows open, it was lovely to hear the strains of the great composer wafting through the Clarendon Park air. Well done Anna and thank you!

Bryan Merton & Robert Colls. Meanwhile there was another gathering at St John’s Parish Hall opposite the school at the east end of Clarendon Park Road. Here between 40 and 50 people came to take part in an extended conversation with Rob Colls, Professor of Cultural History at De Montfort University, about his recently published and much acclaimed book George Orwell: English Rebel. It was a fascinating exploration of the many contradictions of this great writer best known for his novel 1984 and political allegory Animal Farm. Yet it became clear that some of his essays written about culture and politics in the 1940s probably represented his best work and have had a great impact on what has now become known as cultural studies. Rob’s detailed and intricate knowledge of Orwell’s life and work captured the attention of all those attending and proved to be a masterly display of public education. What an informative and hugely enjoyable evening.

Then down to The Cradock for an evening of top quality jazz. There were four bands culminating with the Happy Landings. Keyboard player Chris Conway, who seems to be a brilliant exponent of each of the many instruments he plays, said “who’d have thought I could have an audience like this just within walking distance from my house and not need to carry my instruments there”. It was a busy evening in the pub but the place never seems crowded with its many bars and people sitting out in the garden in the warm summer night. But there was a throng round the jazz players and no wonder – the calibre of the playing was very high.

ArtBeat 2014 – Day 5

What a full and varied programme!

Starting with a lunchtime concert at Christchurch of beautiful music wonderfully played by Mariko Terashi (piano) and Polly Tuckett (mezzo soprano) accompanied by Richard Woodrow. For just under an hour an audience of 50 was enthralled, the musical experience enhanced by the excellent acoustics and lovely space. Long established residents and newcomers to the area all testified to the high quality of the performances.

Then across the road to the Chinese Community Church where the congregation had an open house to show local people something of their culture. Paper cutting, calligraphy, cooking (delicious Dim Sum, pork dumplings), and traditional music played outside on the forecourt to attract the passers-by including the children and parents returning from St John’s school in the afternoon.

It was hard to tear myself away but the tea dance at Stoneygate Baptist Church was a must. Over 30 attended, and it was a joy to see some of our more senior neighbours tripping the light fantastic. Waltzes, fox-trots, something a little Latin, a square dance or two and some jive. Strictly Come Dancing come to Clarendon Park. And the teas were sumptuous. And it was great to see Charlotte and Katie, two young women from Wigston, accompanying their grandmother who seemed to be really entering into the spirit of the occasion. More please!

Early evening under the tree in North Avenue could be heard the strains of Irish music – I counted at least five button accordions – from the Leicester Comhaltas Senior Musicians. This was played at a deliberately slower pace to that of professionals, but this seemed absolutely fitting for the warm evening end of the working day. Great to hear music in the street like this. Very mellow.

For the second successive evening, the upstairs bar at Babelas was packed, not this time for poetry but for a talk and film about the history and current flourishing of the Queens Road allotments. An erudite account of the development of that part of Clarendon Park in the 19th century was followed by a film showing local people improvising to collect water, fighting slugs and cultivating the most wonderful produce. But it’s not just about fruit, vegetables and flowers; it’s about community as allotmenteers showed themselves to be co-operative bunch, sharing not only what they grow and how they do it but an allotment barbecue generating a great sense of camaraderie.

Then over the road to Dos Hermanos for an Open Mic Gig led by local legend Kenny Wilson that got better and better as the evening went on. “Monday evening, Clarendon Park, you’ve got a fiesta going on here!” exclaimed Becky O’Hara one of the excellent local musicians who created a great night out. Thanks to all of them for a terrific show and for Dos Hermanos for making the space available. It proved to be an excellent venue with plenty of room for about 70-100 enthusiasts throughout the evening. Eventually it came to a close soon after 11pm. More of this please at Dos, which is well suited as a showcase for local musicians to show how good they are and entertain appreciative audiences.

ArtBeat 2014 – Day 4

Another great day. Found myself in the Tart House on Holmfield Road at tea time where near neighbour and local MP Jon Ashworth spotted my ArtBeat tee-shirt and commended the festival for taking off and for blending in so well with the Art House week-end. Jon and his young family alongside many others were enjoying the garden and the teas, splendidly hosted by Lesley and Rick. And take a bow Lesley for baking those wonderful cakes until 3 in the morning in response to demand. They were delicious as my waistline will testify.

Back to the art. In the afternoon in the garden of Friends Meeting House children played Suzuki violin while indoors On Cue Arts ran a drama workshop for teenagers that went down very well and included improvised enactments of imagined scenes from The Diary of Adrian Mole.

At the Neve Shalom synagogue they had to put out more chairs to accommodate higher than expected numbers enjoying a selection of Jewish music enhanced by explanations and anecdotes told by synagogue chair Miriam Levine.

Later that evening the synagogue was host to a ukulele workshop for enthusiasts of all ages. Comments were overwhelmingly positive. As one person put it “I’ve never had so much fun whilst making so many mistakes”.

Meanwhile on the Queens Road, upstairs at Babelas was crammed with well over 40 people taking part in an Open Mic poetry evening led by the incomparable Rob Gee. As well as some bravura recitations of some of his own poems, he encouraged and supported local poets – some of whom were Open Mic ‘virgins’ – to read their own work. There was some strong and tender material all of which went down well with an appreciative audience. Thanks to Babelas for playing host and providing an informal and cosy ambience for people to ‘pop their cherries’, as one of the poets so expressively put it.

ArtBeat 2014 – Day 3

Saturday was definitely a day of two halves as far as the weather was concerned. Grey skies followed by steady, cold rain in the morning. Sunshine and warmth in the afternoon. But the elements had little bearing on turn-out at ArtBeat events where there were healthy numbers throughout.

Three workshops put on by Sir Jonathan North Community Collegeand LDFAS for 8-12 year-olds in photography, art and dance attracted 55 children in all. They all had a terrific time. In the photography session, the children made positive and negative images.

At Friends Meeting House, Jo Hunter led a session attended by families and people of all ages designed to bring out people’s creativity – it certainly did that.

There was a great atmosphere and good numbers for the Pagan Poets session where the hosts generously provided refreshments and music.

Those curious to learn about faith turned up to the Gurdwara for an illuminating talk about Sikhism, spiced with tasty snacks and music – fascinating.

After the early drenching the sun came out to greet the first buskers in Queens Road in almost 30 years – a sax and an accordion outside the post office. They made a sweet sound and their version of Summertime was particularly good – and the sun continued to shine. More, more, more!

Visits to some of the Art House venues showed that numbers are as good as previous years. Lots of positive comments on the way round about the way the two events seem to be adding value and interest in each other.

It was a great treat to be taken back to the melodies of the 1940s and 50s with a singing class resulting in a great rendition of the Doris Day classic The Black Hills of Dakota at Friends Meeting House in the afternoon.