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Now, the cake maiden is not known for her interest in football, but…

Even I recognised the significance of the man stood outside the betting shop in Levenshulme this morning, holding a copy of the paper, sports page out, bearing the legend ‘Champions!’, and grinning and gesticulating wildly.

‘Ah’, I thought to myself from my seat on the bus ‘Leicester City have done it then’.

On the way home, I spotted a handmade cardboard sign by a skip, also in Levenshulme, decrying the corrupt nature of the DHSS.

A day of polarities then.

This is a video made by Owen Winter of the Make Votes Matter campaign. This video is especially important as we come up to the 1 year anniversary of what was a gob smackingly disproportionate allocation of seats in the 2015 General Election, and as electoral reform is about to see thousands of unwitting voters slide off the electoral roll due to a combination of deviousness, inattentiveness and apathy.

Like me, Owen is a Green Party supporter.

 

 

Bus thoughts

Recently I have been reading Oliver Postgate’s excellent memoir Seeing Things while stuck in traffic on the bus. Often though, the bus is too crowded for reading and I get to thinking instead.

I’d like to say that I worry about the situation in Syria, and about the biggest mass migration of people since World War II, but I’m ashamed to say that I spent most of Wednesday’s morning commute considering the logistics of holding a ready to wear fashion show on a double decker bus. I’d almost nailed it by the time we reached Oxford Road as well, but it is admittedly a much easier one to figure out than the war in Syria, or mass migration. To which there are no easy answers, obviously.

 

 

Ablaze! coverKarren Ablaze! launched the long awaited issue 11 of her fanzine Ablaze! at last year’s Louder Than Words festival, where she also talked about self publishing with Route‘s Ian Daley and Ignite‘s Steve Pottinger, and about Riot Grrrl with Julia Downes.

I hadn’t seen Karren for fifteen years, so it was great to see her at the festival and hang out a bit. Following on from this meeting, I interviewed Karren via the phone in early December. We talked about fanzines and fanzine culture, Riot Grrrl, the internet, isolation, austerity and the anti austerity fightback, amongst other things.

My write up of my conversation with Karren has just been published over on The F-Word site and I’m really pleased with how well it’s turned out. One of the many reasons why I love writing for The F-Word is that they treat their writers well, and they always make articles look amazing.

It helped that Karren supplied with with some high quality scans of Ablaze! to illustrate the piece, and I really recommend that you buy Ablaze! 11 as it is fantastic.

 

I met Bob Follen at last months Louder Than Words literary festival in Manchester. Bob is an artist and model maker who creates imaginative and innovative portraits and cardboard models. At the festival, he was selling a selection of portraits and cards, including a number of his ‘one word missing’ series of portraits. I really enjoyed talking to Bob, and asked if he would mind being interviewed for Too Late For Cake. We had planned to do an interview on the Sunday but, for various reasons, there wasn’t time so an email Q&A was arranged instead…

 

When did you start Bob Art Models and what made you start creating art?

Bob Art Models started on January 1st 2014. Although, I had previous model-making and artistic training. I was schooled in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, then studied at colleges in both Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, finally after 7 years, graduated with an BA (with Hons) Degree in Model Design in 2003. Although “normal” jobs followed after the training, it was something I never fully left alone, and would draw and make things when I felt the urge.

 
Why cardboard?

BAM's SowerbyBridge BuildingFront

An example of Bob’s cardboard modelling

The initial model made from cardboard was just a little building front/panel, which had a design drawn onto it and was cut with scalpels pressed and raised, depending on the architectural design. The miniaturised “Building Front” idea, was really about appreciating where you live, and is also about trying to bringing the outside in. All the card used (to date), is from old removing boxes dating from when my other half and I relocated from London to Todmorden, right before Christmas 2013.

 
Even now it would seem an awful waste to throw out that much cardboard. Cardboard is very friendly model-wise. When not being used as models, it’s being cut up for sign-age, or as dividers in storage boxes.

 
Did you begin making cardboard models before drawing and painting your portraits?

Initially the models were first. I’ve never ever really for some reason felt comfortable being classed as a painter or artist, even though I did a lot of art training. I think I may have been more subconsciously excited by concept and the problem solving of “how to make something from nothing” with very little cost involved. When Bob Art Models was formed as time progressed, I was painting more and more. And adding in finer details on the Building Fronts or in the Portraits. My hand steadied pretty earlier on. Like with most things in life, the more you exercise the muscles needed, the better you become.

 
Who has been your favourite subject to draw and paint?

 

That’s a difficult one. I do a bit of information research especially image research for all of the subjects. I like painting someone who has quite a few really interesting facts about him or her. With someone like Rik Mayall, I really wanted to get it right, because of the amount of inspiration and fun he dished out, to an awful lot of people. A enormous talent gone far far too soon.

BAM's Rik&Ade OneWordMissing

Rik’n’Ade

 
Do any of your subjects own their portraits?

 

A good few do! John Lydon, David Gilmour (& Polly Samson) Jarvis Cocker, Robert Wyatt, Mark E Smith, Wilko Johnson, Peter Gabriel, Jimmy Page, Graham Fellowes, Robyn Hitchcock, Dr Brian May and a couple more….! Although, most only own a reproduction, as in Cards and the occasionally large print. I try not to think about the giants who might have seen the works. One chap came to see my work in Todmorden (via a gallery in Chiswick), he said he was a good friend of Peter Blake. And that he thought Mr Blake would really like my take on his relatively well known “Sgt Pepper” sleeve! Eek!

BAM's RobertWyatt OneWordMissing

Robert Wyatt

 
How did the collaboration with Louder Than Words come about?

 

Last year (2014) I painted a portrait of Robert Wyatt, and noticed via the web that author Marcus O’Dair had written a book in collaboration with My Wyatt, and that there was to be a series of talks about the book. One of which was happening in Manchester (at The Palace Hotel). I discovered the Louder Than Words Festival website, and purchased my tickets. Having chatted with Marcus on Twitter, we got to chat on the day. As I left I thought, someone from the Festival should really see the “One Word Missing” portraits, something about them seemed pretty relevant. The image is perhaps seen as Louder Than Words…etc! Getting an email address, I sent a message over and a meeting with Dr Jill was set up, and felt very lucky to have been given the opportunity and the encouragement, and the belief.

BAM's Philip Larkin OneWordMissing

Philip Larkin, ‘One Word Missing’ series

 

You relocated from London to Todmorden, what do you like best about Todmorden?

 

Todmorden is like most places in the UK, put down a bit, but it is definitely home to some very good hard-working businesses, and people. Sure, it may rain a bit more than anywhere else in the Calder Valley (occasionally feels like 99% of the year), but since setting up Bob Art Models in “Tod” I find myself believing in the following phrase “Ask yourself what you can do for town, and not what your town can do for you”. If you have that mentality, then you can achieve a lot. Tod, has all the basic good access requirements of a town, shops, libraries, train station, buses. It’s very lucky really. I’m originally from the Fens, and long before I appeared on the scene, Dr Beeching put an end to a large amount of train stations around there. So from an early age I got to know what a place is like when it has limited information and access to other places.

BAM's AlanBennett OneWordMissing

Alan Bennett, ‘One Word Missing Series’

 

Do you have any events and appearances coming up in the next few months?

 

Oohh! There are one of or two mooted plans, but the only concrete happenings so far are:

Concrete:
16th December – Benevolent Fund Stall, Deans Gate, Manchester

Thoroughly Mooted:
“TheBobArtGrotto” – Pop-Up Market Stall Residency – Brook Street, Indoor Market, Todmorden. 4 days a week, 10am – 5pm, making and selling pieces live. (Have previously done this over a 3 month period in another space inside the indoor market. It’s pretty hard going, but people get used to you being there…appreciate it, support it…and eventually the word spreads, and people flock in from far and wide.)

 
I think from a financial perspective it’s far better for me to be the one selling my wares than relying on another system. It’s also very good because people get to chat directly to the person responsible for producing the work.

You can contact Bob via Facebook and via Twitter @bobfollen

All art enquiries and commissions to the following email address: bobartmodels@gmail.com

All images copyright Bob Follen, Bob Art Models.

 

Louder Than Words

Friday, Saturday and today have been taken up by attending the annual Louder Than Words festival at the Palace Hotel. Louder Than Words is a “genre specific literary festival” organised by Jill Adam and John Robb, themed around music and writing about music, with a good dollop of poetry. I haven’t been before, largely due to a lack of planning on my part, but this year I decided to go, my thinking being along the lines of “Well, I am trying to get this punk women book done, I should be making an effort to get out and about and get myself seen.” Though, in reality, I am crap at networking, and I probably always will be. The events on the programme looked good though.

As such, on Friday, I commuted in early and had tea at 8th Day while reading NME and Stylist, both of which are deposited in the cafe for customers to read. It’s been a long time since I had a look at NME, I last bought it when I was writing a piece for The F-Word about sexism and the music press, and I tended to buy it whenever Florence Welch was on the cover, but before that, I had long given up buying it every week. Thoughts on reading the newly free NME? In terms of look, layout and general vibe, it was largely indistinguishable from Stylist, which is a bit weird, and – in terms of content – I found myself being more swayed by Stylist. How very odd. Will stick to Private Eye and The Economist.

The Palace Hotel is, I’m pretty sure, the grandest hotel I have ever set foot in, anywhere. I arrived as a very large group in full black tie arrived, which only added to the palatial ambience of marble, stained glass and sweeping grandeur. It is a lovely building, albeit slightly daunting.

Manchester poet Mike Garry opened the festival, and I enjoyed him, but decided to give Paolo Hewitt on Oasis a miss on the basis that, while I’ve certainly got nothing against Paolo Hewitt, I never could stand Oasis, and often wonder what would have happened had Puressence been the dominant Manchester band of the 1990s rather than Oasis.

Feeling too shy to really speak to anyone, and feeling a bit of an imposter, I sat in the restaurant and nursed a pot of tea while making notes for blog posts in my notepad. It passed the time until Chris Salewicz was on, talking about his new book about the 27 Club with Chris Madden. I enjoyed this talk, despite it’s dark subject matter, albeit for somewhat different reasons than with the Mike Garry/CP Lee conversation.

The evening done, I walked down Whitworth Street and got the 192 home, feeling vaguely disappointed with myself for my inability to connect. A lot of people travelled from London for the event, and were staying in the hotel, and I had visions of missing out on late night conversations in the bar or in people’s rooms. This may or may not have happened, but it was hard not to feel at this stage that commuting in each day put me at a slight disadvantage so far as meeting people was concerned. On the other hand, I didn’t have to worry about travel and accommodation costs, and knew all the good places to buy food, so, pros and cons.

I felt decidedly knackered when I got up on Saturday morning, but did manage to drag myself out of bed and make and eat some porridge before heading out.

First up in the Keith Levene Suite was Karren Ablaze! and Julia Downes talking about Riot Grrrl. I haven’t seen Karren for 15 years, and I haven’t seen Julia for about 9 or 10 years, so it was lovely to catch up with them upstairs afterwards. Julia was toying with heading over to Ladyfest at Islington Mill, and I’d thought about it as well cos Lesley Wood was playing and I had a gap in the afternoon schedule in terms of finding stuff I wanted to see. In the end though, I chatted to the artist in residence, Bob Fallen, for ages while looking at his artwork. Then I went back to 8th Day and had Spiced Sausage And Pasta Bake while listening to some very lively MMU students on the next table.

Next up was Steve Ignorant and Slice of Life doing songs and spoken word. I liked some bits more than others, but the overall message and attitude was sound, and he seemed like a top bloke.

But the real highlight of Saturday, for me, was the Independent Publishing panel, with Karren Ablaze! (Mittens On), Ian Daley (Route) and Steve Pottinger (Ignite Books), which was utterly fascinating. What I really liked was the supportive nature of Independent Publishers, as well as the inventiveness and ingenuity, and all three of them just came across as very approachable, engaging, highly creative and positive people, which I loved. Given it was a small audience and quite informal discussion, I think a real sense of camaraderie developed. We all had a good chat afterwards, and I bought books from Ian and Steve when we all headed back downstairs for Richard Boon’s Jukebox Jury.

The night ends poignantly, with me reluctantly skipping Keith Levene in favour of an early night and the seemingly impossible task of getting two very full paper bags full of books, fanzines and a CD back down Whitworth Street, onto the bus, and home in driving wind and rain, without an umbrella. Things weren’t going too badly until I stood up to get off the bus in Heaton Chapel, and the bottom and one of the sides of one of the bags completely disintegrated, depositing my Coping Saw CD on the floor, and breaking the case. Cue quick undignified grab of said CD from the floor of the bus, desperate clutching of CD and remnants of case to chest along with increasingly soggy bags, and scurrying down the bus, stairs of bus, to the front, just as the bus reached the stop.

I had heard vague references to events in Paris throughout the day, but one of the disadvantages of not owning a smartphone, or being inclined to carry your laptop about with you, is that you isolate yourself from ongoing events and rolling news. Generally, this is a positive thing for me, but occasionally it’s not.

When I got home I had a shower and got my tea, then sat down to eat it while listening to an interminable debate on Radio 4 while waiting for the 11 o’clock news. I’d forgotten it was Saturday, not Sunday, and as such The World Tonight wasn’t on. The 11pm bulletin didn’t tell me enough about Paris, so I turned over to the World Service, and discovered the full horror all in one go.  Went to bed feeling deeply sorry for the French and, as with 9/11, with the thought that nothing any of us create is worth anything when it can be destroyed in seconds by incendiary devices wielded by zealots. Only the names of the groups change, nothing else.

I managed to put these thoughts aside this morning, probably because I was even more knackered then than I was on Saturday. I had to go into Piccadilly to find a cash machine, and on my way to the Palace Hotel I observed Manchester’s homeless sleeping in their sleeping bags and tents in doorways and on the pavements of Oxford Road. No doubt about it, the visible evidence of Manchester’s homeless problem is increasingly in your face. I remember noticing the rate of visible homelessness around Oxford Road starting to creep up in 2010, although there has always been visible evidence of homelessness in Manchester, and the supposed fat years of Labour government between 1997 and 2010 certainly didn’t change it. Still, over the past year, homelessness has become much more politicised, and there have been the homeless protest camps, first outside Central Library, now under the Mancunian Way flyover and by Altrincham Street on the fringes of Piccadilly. The flyover camp is in MMU territory, and MMU have erected barriers all around campus buildings on Oxford Road, seemingly to stop the homeless sleeping or camping out too close to the buildings. Manchester University, as far as I know, haven’t done anything about the one by Altrincham Street, but its not actually on campus, so it may get left alone. As more and more camps spring up, I keep thinking about Hooverville and 1930s depression hit America.

Having grabbed a latte and a sarnie for later at Patisserie Valerie from a girl who seemed to be about as sleepy as I was, I decided to go to the Fact To Fiction workshop with Olivia Pietkarski, rather than do the Stiff Records Story.

As with the Independent Publishing event, this proved to be a very absorbing and interesting event, with participants from all sorts of backgrounds, and with all sorts of interesting stories to tell. As with the Independent Publishing panel, discussions continued outside of the workshop, emails were exchanged, friendships begun, and a great deal of enthusiasm was generated.

I skipped Pauline Black talking to John Robb in favour of Unconvention: Is The Enemy Really Free? But, on balance, I think I would have got more out of seeing Pauline Black as Steve Pottinger said she was brilliant. Unconvention wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t for me. It was a debate around ‘free’ music, journalism, etc, and digital disruption, but it was mostly about music, not really about journalism. Barney Hoskyns was the only journalist on the panel, and the musicians in the room were very intent on discussing that, so I kept quiet and kept my thoughts to myself.

After that, I went to watch Jon Savage being interviewed by John Robb about his new book 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded. Savage was in a playful mood, and the two of them interacted well, making for a very entertaining conversation. Afterwards he was signing books, so I got him to sign my incredibly battered copy of England’s Dreaming and my much less battered but equally loved copy of Teenage. Didn’t get the chance to talk to him, so didn’t tell him how he’d helped me fail most of my GCSE’s. I bet he’s heard that line before…

After that, I went to watch the by now rather hoarse John Robb interviewing Mike Harding, who was an absolute delight.

I lugged my incredibly heavy bag of books I’d bought/brought with me to get signed back down Whitworth Street while being followed by a posse of London journalists with suitcases, presumably heading to Piccadilly train station, and then waited for a 192. I was more prepared in terms of bags today, plus it wasn’t raining, so there were no spillages. A very polite but clearly struggling young man asked me for money while I was poised to flag down the slowly approaching bus, and I gave him some.

The view from Market Street

The view from Market Street

Inspired by October’s TUC march in Manchester, I’ve been thinking about modern day marching songs.

While the music playing through the PA system on the day was a mixture of things, some feel good rebellion songs (The Who’s ‘My Generation’, some Bob Marley, Clash, Jam…) it did come to rely, increasingly on the 1990s Britpop songbook, climaxing with Pulp’s ‘Common People’ and Oasis ‘Don’t look back in anger’ as we neared the Tory Party Conference at GMEX.

Now, personally, I felt ‘Common People’ worked, and did have a kind of political charge to it, but ‘Don’t look back in anger?’ If it’s a slice of Mancunian sentimentality you’re after, give me Elbow any day…

While I never really bought into Britpop at the time, there are other reasons for being uneasy about the prominence of Britpop on the march soundtrack. For one, Britpop was notoriously co opted by New Labour in 1997, and by extension, the use of Britpop on the march might be seen to be suggesting a nostalgia for the days of Blair: Things have moved on, both politically and musically since 1997. There’s a whole generation of politically interested teenagers who didn’t even live through Britpop going on marches for one, what are they listening to? Does modern protest even have a soundtrack, or, as Dorian Lynskey argued very persuasively in 33 Revolutions per minute, is the modern protest song a dying breed?

As such, I propose 19 songs for possible co-option or inclusion on the soundtrack of any future protest marches you might be planning to attend or organise. Some of the choices may well seem a bit odd, but my choices are steered by personal taste as well as overall vibe and feel of the song, and as such are bound to be idiosyncratic. Your list will no doubt be different.

With one notable exception (which I’ll explain in a minute) all songs were released post 2000, and in order of playlist, they are:

Daft Punk ‘Revolution 909’: Because every march needs a warm up song for a bit of ambience.

Le Tigre ‘Get off the internet’: Because you can sort of dance along to it while marching or waiting to set off, and it promotes direct action over digital activism, which is kind of what marching is I suppose.

Sleaford Mods ‘Tweet Tweet Tweet’: I think there may have been some Sleaford Mods on the TUC march soundtrack, but a bit more never does any harm.

Poppy and the Jezebels ‘Sign in, dream on, drop out!’: Their 2012 paen to youth unemployment. Bang on, and relatively up to date.

Pretty Girls Make Graves ‘Parade’: Perfect: A song with a marching band tempo, about going on strike and union activism. Suitably bolshy.

Aaran Fyfe ‘All These Days Of Changing’: Bang up to date, came out a month or so back I think. A songwriter for whom the words ‘Voice of a generation’ will probably be applied at some point? Only time will tell…

Jake Bugg ‘Lightning Bolt’: This qualifies as a fast paced feel good one with a positive kind of attitude while being vaguely stroppy. Keeps the feet tapping and spirits up.

Sleaford Mods ‘The Wage Don’t Fit’: There’s always more than one voice of a generation… The definition of ‘Austerity Pop’ surely?

Santigold ‘Disparate Youth’: For it’s general sense of discontent and unease in the modern world

MIA ‘Galang’: Mainly because I think it’ll be great fun to march through Manchester, en masse, chanting ‘YAH YAH YEY…’ etc, and it will encapture a vague sense of warrior spirit or something…

La Roux ‘Uptight Downtown’: It just sounds like it was written about the 2011 riots to me, and has a similar sense of unease and discontent as the Santigold track, albeit with a vague sense of elation as well. But it would work as a marching song because it has that kind of Nile Rogers esque swagger to it, while encapsulating Britain today quite well.

Ting Tings ‘We Walk’: Perhaps I’m being a bit literal here, but it is called ‘We Walk’ isn’t it. As the lyric goes, ‘When it all goes wrong, we walk’

Georgia ‘Move Systems’: Just for general attitude and sound, bang up to date.

Stereolab ‘Ping Pong’: This is cheating because it came out in 1996 (I think…), but, lyrically, it was clearly light years ahead of its time…

Elbow ‘Lost Worker Bee’: Fast enough to march to, vaguely fits the mood.

Doyle and the Forefathers ‘Welcome To Austerity’: Our first defining example of ‘Austerity Pop’, or ‘Austerity Agitprop’. And it still sounds good, five years down the line.

Grace Mitchell ‘NoLo’: ‘How do you know, what the top looks like when you’re living on the bottom?’ She may not have meant it that way, but, if the tune fits…

Florence + The Machine ‘Spectrum’: If for no other reason than doing a conga to ‘Spectrum’ would beat the pants off singing along halfheartedly to ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, for me anyway. I class ‘Spectrum’ as my euphoric, feel good moment towards the end of the march song.

Elbow ‘One Day Like This’: Compulsory moment of Mancunian sentimentality as march closes.

The playlist is in Spotify if you want to see if it works. 

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