Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Music: Primal Scream - More Light - Live EP review

Some bands just don’t know when to quit - and Primal Scream illustrate that point perfectly.

A few decades ago, the group produced an album that defined a generation – the seminal Screamadelica. The album fused the finer points of Acid House with the swagger and song writing prowess of Beggars Banquet era Rolling Stones.

Their 2001 album XTRMNTR broke new grounds with its William Gibson inspired imagery of industrial decay clashing with spiky electronica and fuzz-laden bass grooves that pushed the rock genre into new and exciting territory.

But with the last decade being punctuated by a few lacklustre pub rock releases, the prospect of a new live EP by the band fills most fans of the Scream with a feeling of indifference.

Primal Scream have a reputation for excellent live shows – they are one of those bands that feeds on a crowd, gobbling up its energy and transforming it into something special. What is apparent from the outset is that, unfortunately, this magic hasn’t been captured on More Light – Live.

EP opener 2013 sounds clich├ęd with its tired rock riffs and squawking saxophone. It’s Alright, It’s Okay is reminiscent of a pleasant parody of their feel-good anthem Movin’ on Up. However, Culturecide is without doubt the most arresting track with its brooding bass-line, driving beats and paranoid vocals.

Instead of capturing the sense of urgency and vitality of their live performances, More Light - Live has ended up feeling lazy, sounding more akin to a demo than a fully realised release.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Film: Gory Days

The remake of Sam Raimi’s zombie classic The Evil Dead has got us feeling ghoulish. So we revisited some cult classics to learn some survival lessons. When the dead rise, all that hard-earned movie knowledge is really going to come in handy.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

To some, Dawn of the Dead represents a seminal moment in the oeuvre of auteur George A. Romero that is filled with scathing social commentary that satirises the excesses of consumerist culture – but those insights are useless when you’re trying to escape hordes of the undead. For the survivalist, it teaches you that the biggest danger in a zombie outbreak is biker gangs. It’s all well and good having an almost endless supply of food and zombie-smashing tools at your fingertips, but if you’re holed up in a shopping centre, every thug with a motorbike and a machete is going to want that place for themselves.

Bio Zombie (1998)

When it comes to underrated Chinese zombie films from the late nineties in which Lucozade has been tainted by some top secret military bioweapon that turns people into zombies, one of the best has to be Bio Zombie. Quirky, funny and lacking in the usual gore and violence of a traditional zombie flick, Bio Zombie is another shopping mall hide-fest, the film focusing around two video bootleggers who, during the course of the film, mug, scam and screw over as many people as possible, but you end up warming to them. The lesson for the survivalist? Be horrible and you’ll survive, be nice and you’ll end up dragging your carcass along with the rest of the ghouls.

Zombieland (2009)

When mad cow disease mutates to mad person disease and people start running around wanting to snack on the brains of the living, you have to do everything you can to survive. You could take the Tallahassee route and give yourself a quest to keep you busy and plough through zombie herds with a huge truck along the way, or you could give yourself a set of rules like Columbus to help you survive. The most important rule? Never kill Bill Murray – it might not help the survivalist, but it’s one I choose to live by.

This article was featured in Yorkshire Voice Issue 3.

Leeds Northern: Issue Three

Yorkshire Voice: Issue Three

Interview: Keeping the momentum of the Paralympics

Eight months since the Paralympic Games came to a close, it seems that Paralympic sport is growing from strength to strength, with a new generation of impaired athletes being inspired by the 2012 games.

Craig Spence, Director of Communications for the International Paralympic Committee spoke to Leeds Northern about the future of the Paralympic Games.

Craig Spence

“The 2012 games were great. It was the first time that a country had been determined to make a difference. Seb Coe was committed to making the games of equal splendour. The results are there for all to see, ticket sales were through the roof, we had 3.8 billion TV viewers around the world.” Craig explained.

But is not simply the number of people seeing the event that was important. It was the ability of the Games to change the perception of disabled people in wider society. He said: “The games have had some fantastic results when it comes to changing the perceptions of disabled people around the world – and the momentum is continuing. The plans that are in place for Rio actually go one step further.”

Indeed, the perception of the paralymic sport as something equally important to Olympic sport has been a challenge. But bring ticket prices in line with other elite sports has had a big impact in raising its profile. Craig explained: “You don’t go to an elite sporting event and not expect to pay. We charged a small amount at Athens and Beijing, but London was the first time we priced it like an elite sporting event – and it worked.”

What is perhaps more important than the games themselves, is the impact they have had on wider society beyond the games. Craig said: “We don’t like to talk about legacy - we talk about momentum. The momentum is that more people are practicing paralympic sport, there’s more coverage for paralympians outside of the Paralympic Games, and different attitudes to impairment are coming through.”

With cuts to disability benefits and the closures of sports and leisure centres across the country, one might be led to assume that this would damage the momentum of Paralympic sport. Craig said: “I think that the government has actually done a good job engaging people – they’ve invested a lot in the British Paralympic Association. If you look at Sport England and UK Sport’s latest round of funding they’ve invested more money in Paralympic sport than ever before.”

This article was originally published by Leeds Northern.

Reportage: Horsforth promoted after 6-2 win

AFC HORSFORTH came back from the dead to beat AFC Broadwater 6-2 and secure promotion to Division Two of the Leeds Combination Sunday League.

After a difficult first half, which saw the team 2-0 down, Horsforth came into the second half firing on all cylinders with Dan Petty scoring four goals – the first within the first minute.

AFC Horsforth
Horsforth’s manager Dan Sheard, said: “To go into the half time break 2-0 adrift wasn’t a great position to be in.

“At half time the team came in extremely positive despite being behind.

“The self-belief that we could turn the deficit around was always there.”

By the 75 minute mark Broadwater’s spirit was broken and three goals were scored in quick succession with Petty’s final goal going in on the 75th minute, followed by Bobby Neesam in the 76th and Fred Dulwich in the 77th.

Horsforth’s attention now turns to creating more success and Sheard said: “The future is bright and we look forward to moving onto a higher division.

“We also are looking forward to bringing something back into the Horsforth community in the form of brand new junior set up using our first team squad as coaches.

“We are eagerly looking to get involved in the junior football scene and bring another successful junior set up to Horsforth.”

Horsforth will have another chance of winning silverware when they face Wagon Athletic in the final of the Luty Cup on Sunday May 5, kick off 11am.

The final is being played at the home of Farsley AFC.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Art: Einstein captured in bronze as he fled

In 1933, Albert Einstein was forced to flee Germany pursued by Nazi assassins. During his flight, he sat for a portrait by sculptor Jacob Epstein. The result is regarded as one of the finest portrait busts in 20th century art – and is currently on display at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, Leeds. How this sculpture came to be is one of the most dramatic stories in the history of art.

The story begins in summer 1933. Einstein had been falsely associated with a book entitled The Brown Book of Hitler Terror which outlined some of the worst Nazi atrocities to date. Anti-Semitic German newspapers printed shocking stories about “Einstein’s Infamy” and dismissed his Theory of Relativity as “Jewish physics”. One newspaper featured a large photograph on its front cover with the words “Not Yet Hanged” emblazoned across it, and a reward of £1,000 was offered by Hitler for the assassination of the physicist.

Jacob Epstein, Albert Einstein, (1933). Photo courtesy of the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery.
The real threat to Einstein’s life became unbearable, and he feared for the safety of those who had hidden him in Belgium. He made the heartbreaking decision to leave his family and friends behind in Europe for the sanctuary of America. With the Nazis calling for his blood, however, this was no simple task.

A plan was hatched by Einstein’s wife Elsa to have him secretly smuggled out of Belgium, and across the Channel to England in his first step towards reaching America. She contacted the Naval Commander and MP Oliver Locker-Lampson, a member of the UK’s refugee committee, to arrange Einstein’s covert rescue.

Locker-Lampson convinced a reporter from the Sunday Express to travel by boat to collect Einstein under the cover of night, with the risk of capture or death as a real possibility. With the mission a success, Einstein was taken to a small secluded shack on the outskirts of the seaside town Cromer on the east coast.

Once safe, there was a bizarre mixture of secrecy and publicity about Einstein’s newly-found refuge. While his location was kept a closely-guarded secret, pictures were released to the press showing Einstein posing with two attractive women holding large hunting shotguns, with Locker-Lampson’s words in caption: “If any unauthorised person comes near they will get a charge of buckshot.” Einstein later joked that “The beauty of my bodyguards would disarm a conspirator sooner than their shotguns.”

It was here, holed up in a run-down shed somewhere on the windswept Norfolk coast, that Einstein was to wait until arrangements could be made for him to leave for America. In a remarkable twist, Locker-Lampson saw fit to arrange for the noted Jewish sculptor Jacob Epstein to make a portrait of the scientist – perhaps fearing that Einstein, still with a bounty on his head, may not have the opportunity to pose for a portrait again.

At their first meeting, Epstein was immediately struck by the scientist’s formidable character. He recalled the scene in his autobiography: “Einstein appeared dressed very comfortably in a pullover with his wild hair floating in the wind. His glance contained a mixture of the humane, the humorous and the profound.”

Einstein spent two hours a day for a week sitting for the portrait. Epstein found it difficult to create the portrait because Einstein was such a heavy smoker, and the shack was so small and dingy that it made it difficult to see. He requested that Einstein not smoke during the sittings and that the two female bodyguards remove the door from its hinges to allow natural daylight into the shack – they sarcastically asked if he’d also like them to remove the roof.

Despite the pressures of his escape from the Nazis, Einstein was in good humour throughout the sitting. Epstein said: “He enjoyed a joke and had many a jibe at the Nazi Professors, one hundred of whom in a book had condemned his theory. ‘Were I wrong,’ he said, ‘one Professor would have been quite enough’.”

Because time was short, the artist considered the portrait to be unfinished. However, others regard it as one of Epstein’s greatest achievements – it is a sculpture that flickers with life and insight, and marks a dramatic period in the lives of two great men.

Albert Einstein (1933) is on display as part of the Jewish Artists in Yorkshire exhibition at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery until June 20.

Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) was an American-born Jewish sculptor who worked in Britain from 1905 until his death. He was famous for his vivid portraits including Winston Churchill, Joseph Conrad and Princess Margaret. He caused controversy with his unusual stone carvings including Jacob and the Angel, Adam, and his Tomb for Oscar Wilde. He was one of the first sculptors to champion Yorkshire-born artist Henry Moore. Many of his sculptures are part of Leeds City Art Gallery’s permanent collection, and his giant carving Adam is on display in the foyer of Harewood House.

This article was published in the Yorkshire Post, April 26, 2013.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Reportage: Guide Dogs reach for the sky

Tails were wagging this week as Leeds Bradford Airport opened its doors to a litter of guide dog puppies.

Five guide dog puppies between the ages of three and eight months and their volunteer puppy walkers were given a tour of the airport on Wednesday to help get the dogs used to different environments.

 Puppy training exercise in action at Leeds Bradford Airport with Fizz (left) and Penny (right).
Guide dogs live with puppy walkers for the first year of their lives, and are trained to be obedient and perceptive so that they can stay focused anywhere that a guide dog owner needs to go.

The pups were trained to work their way through check-in desks and help guide owners through security checks.

Nicola Morgan, puppy training manager from the Leeds Guide Dog Mobility team said: “The thing which is often hardest to achieve is keeping the pups calm in all sorts of situations. The airport provides an excellent setting for this, as it is a microcosm of many of the things that a guide dog could expect to encounter in its life. There are lots of people (that the pups need to ignore), new noises, announcements, and obstacles such as trolleys and wheeled suitcases, as well as different floor surfaces, lifts and stairs.”

Sophie Brown, Chief Financial Officer at Leeds Bradford Airport greets the Guide Dogs puppies in training and volunteer puppy walkers.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Art: Phase Revival - When art meets science

Science outreach and installation art might seem worlds apart. But a daring collaboration between artists Becs Andrews and Dave Lynch and chemical physicists from the University of Leeds aims to demonstrate scientific concepts to a wider audience.

Recently shown at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, Phase Revival is a fascinating art installation bringing together the worlds of art, music and hard science. A sharp beam of light is projected through a series of swinging pendulums, each of them swinging at a different rate. The result is a beautifully hypnotic projection that morphs and oscillates along with an abstract musical soundtrack.

Artist Becs Andrews explained how the concept for Phase Revival was formed. She said: “My husband’s a biologist, and a while back we started talking about the idea that it would be interesting to make some art work based on some of the scientific research he’s doing and how you could use theatre to communicate ideas in science in a more interesting way than a lot of science outreach.

“I was taught science so badly at school that I would have never considered it as a career, and having seen how rewarding it has been for my husband’s career, I wondered why I never saw it like that – it’s because of the way it was communicated.”

The piece represents an ‘optical harmonica’. Dr Mike Nix, a scientist who worked on the project, explained: “The optical harmonica is an artistic representation of how our science works. A harmonica’s notes are derived from harmonics. Harmonics are sound frequencies, but in our case we’ve turned the waveforms into something visual. It’s an optical harmonica because it comprises lenses. You see light being shone through those lenses, but the lenses are swinging back and forth - it replicates the way we see atoms in our lab.”

Mike specialises in ultrafast processes in photochemistry, especially the interplay between electronic states and vibrational motion. He said: “We were awarded £1,000 from the Royal Society of Chemistry to do a little bit of science outreach. This means taking science outside of the lab, outside of the university, and try to communicate ideas to people who maybe haven’t done much science recently.

“Traditionally, science outreach would take the form of a public lecture where you’d try and make it exciting, interesting and engaging for people. We decided to take a different approach in that we chose to produce a piece of art. The installation is design in such a way that it tells you something about science.”

Becs has spent much of her artistic life working on set and stage designs and believes that Phase Revival addresses a key issue in both the visual arts and science – that of communicating ideas. She said: “Some of the things I’ve seen in theatre or art galleries just don’t seem to have the same ‘wow’ factor that good science can give you. Artists have all this energy for communication – but what many of us are saying is personal and subjective.

“These ideas in science are things that people need to know about – it’s about telling people about this stuff in an entertaining way where they are learning about something but don’t actually feel like they learning about something.

“Art is more open to discussion, and it’s much easier than science to get involved with. Science is like a closed door thing for the experts, whereas art is something that people feel like they can have a go at.”

Mike agreed, saying: “It doesn’t set out to teach you anything, or explain anything. It’s more art that is inspired by science, to show that science can be beautiful, but also to show that science can be exciting and interesting.”

Becs explained the work could appeal to a wide range of audiences. “Phase Revival seems to grab different audiences on different levels. For scientists, it’s a manifestation of what they already know. For people that know a bit, it tells them a bit more, and for people who don’t know anything about the science it’s like an open door into finding out more about it. And if people aren’t interested in science at all, they can just enjoy it as a work of art,” she said.

She added that Phase Revival’s reach could go far beyond an art gallery setting, saying: “Where is the audience for this? I think it’s in lots of different places. Could the audience be art galleries, schools, science museums, universities, theatres – I don’t see why the audience can’t be in all of those places, the more different audiences that experience it, the better."

Phase Revival was an inspiration and challenging experience for all involved. Mike said: “It’s been inspiring, it’s been interesting, we’ve learnt an awful lot about different ways of doing things – different ways of solving problems.”

Phase Revival was created by Andrews&Lynch with support from the Royal Society of Chemistry and DARE. Produced in collaboration with Jon Hughes, Dr Mike Nix and Prof Benjamin Whitaker, School of Chemistry, University of Leeds.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Theatre: Sweeney Todd set to chill this winter

With the appointment of new Artistic Director James Brining last year, the West Yorkshire Playhouse has gone through radical change. Jon Cronshaw went down to the Playhouse to preview James’s first season at the helm of one of Yorkshire’s most important theatres.

The major show of the Autumn/Winter season will be James’s own production of Stephen Sondheim’s spine-chilling musical Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. James will be revisiting his award-winning production that was originally staged in Dundee, 2010. It is collaboration between the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Manchester’s Royal Exchange theatre, and will run September 26 to October 26.

This year’s Christmas show will see the Quarry Theatre transformed into award-winning director Liam Steelinto’s vision of India with his production of Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel, The Jungle Book. The show will bring together dance, puppetry and physical theatre to tell the coming-of-age story of a feral boy, Mowgli.

Alice Nutter, former member of Leeds-based pop/punk group Chumbawamba, sees the premiere of her new play My Generation, from October 5 to 28. The Leeds-based writer follows one family over four decades – from the 1970s to the present day. It’s a story that encompasses social and political histories, as well as telling the story of family relationships.

Alongside the in-house productions will be the Playhouse’s usual mix of touring theatre productions. Northern Ballet will present A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Paines Plough bring their production of Jumpers for Goalposts, and Watershed Productions will show Charlie and Lola’s Extremely New Play – a name that will no doubt seem ironic by the end of its run.

For more information visit: www.wyp.org.uk

This article was originally featured in Yorkshire Voice.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Film: Stan Brakhage honoured at Bradford International Film Festival

He is one of the most important film directors of the 20th century, yet very few people have had the opportunity to see his work on the big screen.

Stan Brakhage is acknowledged as an enormous influence on directors Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas), Richard Linklater (A Scanner Darkly) and David Fincher (Se7en). His series of short films Dog Star Man (1961-64) are regarded as masterpieces of avant-garde film.

Many of his works are abstract and experimental – he wanted to strip film of all unnecessary elements such as sound, character and storyline, instead painting and scratching images directly onto the film’s celluloid surface.

Stan dedicated half a century to his artistic vision, producing dozens of abstract short films. He is being commemorated as part of Bradford International Film Festival. Programme organiser Tom Vincent explained why, a decade after his death, Bradford is paying tribute to Stan’s life and work.

“The festival likes people who plough their own furrow. And Stan Brakhage, more so than any other American filmmaker, dedicated everything of himself to pursuing his vision of what film could be,” Tom explained, “His work fits with the ethos of the festival because we like to show interesting short films in surprising ways. So the way I’ve organised the Stan Brakhage tribute is to show six very short films before feature films as an extra present for the audience – it harks back to when feature films used to be packaged with cartoons or newsreels.”

Night Music (Still), (1986)

With his films being more akin to animated abstract paintings than traditional movies, the films always elicit a mixed response from audiences. Tom said: “Film festivals are about people sharing their experience of films, so it’s fun to show Stan Brakhage because you’ll always get the reaction of ‘what’s that?’ and others who try to articulate that they like it or didn’t like it – they’re always a great talking point.”

Stan’s work relied upon the medium of film – the use of physical celluloid to produce his work, but 2013 marks the year that all of the major film distributors abandon the use of celluloid in favour of digital distribution. Tom said: “This is the reason to honour Stan Brakhage now. If there was no film, his films would not exist – you can’t do what he did digitally. The painting, the scratching and the splicing of images can only be achieved with celluloid.”

The films were intended to be a purely visual experience, with the editing making it difficult for the viewer to fix a definite meaning. Tom said: “The very rapid, flickering images create all kinds of associations that are very difficult to express in words.”

When asked why Stan never used sound in his films, Tom said: “We are under strict instructions never to project his films with sound. He thought that the ocular experience and the rhythm of the editing was kind of a sound in itself. He was interested in the psychology of the visual experience. He thought that the inclusion of sound would take something away from that.”

Stan’s films explore the medium of film as a pure art form. These screenings are a fitting tribute to an American director who carved his own path and dedicated his creative life to his own unique vision.

This article was originally featured in Yorkshire Voice.

National Media Museum.
Follow: @MediaMuseum.

Reportage: Leeds Northern launches

The trainee journalists at Leeds Trinity University launched a print magazine and newspaper last week, as well as a frequently updated news website featuring multimedia content.

A team of eight trainee journalists will be releasing Leeds Northern – a hyper-local newspaper covering Horsforth, Rawdon, Yeadon and Otley areas, and Yorkshire Voice which has features and reviews about things to do and see in Yorkshire.

Lisa Bradley, acting course leader of post-graduate print journalism at Leeds Trinity University said: “This is more than a student project, it is a professionally run newsroom staffed by journalists studying for their industry exams, overseen by tutors who are still practising in their field.

“So the quality of the stories are top notch, and this year we are delivering a web first product, so we are now a daily newspaper and magazine thoroughly covering a local patch.

“In our first week we have had more than 1000 hits, which I am sure will just be the starting point. Local news delivered directly to local people is what regional newspapers and magazines are all about.”

The trainees have a range of specialisms from arts and music to politics and crime and are hoping that the people of Leeds will get behind the project and help to promote it online so that that the journalists of the future can get as much exposure and feedback as possible.

Leeds Northern website: leedsnorthern.wordpress.com
Follow on Twitter: @LeedsNorthern

This article was featured on The Culture Vulture.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Film: Bradford Film Festival: Something for all tastes... and hooray for Bollywood films

This week sees the opening of the 19th Bradford International Film Festival – and this year’s festival promises to be their biggest and most varied to date.

With the centenary celebrations of Indian film, the festival will be showing a series of films which highlight the history and legacy of Bollywood cinema, from the silent movie Raja Harishchandra (1913), to the hotly anticipated Mumbai’s King, which will be receiving its UK premiere. There will also be a talk on Indian film led by Bollywood expert Irna Qureshi.

Raja Harishchandra (1913)

The festival is not all about Bollywood, however. On the opening night, there will be a screening of one of the most anticipated films of the festival, Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love starring Steve Coogan and Anna Friel. Coogan plays Paul Raymond, the 'King of Soho' – a pornographer and nightclub owner who amassed a fortune of billions of pounds and became the richest man in England. The script was written by BAFTA award winner Matt Grenhalgh (Nowhere Boy, Control), who will be attending the screening at the National Media Museum.

As well as feature films, there will also be a series of carefully selected documentaries. The work of Bradford born filmmaker C. H. Wood will be shown during a one-off screening at Bradford Cathedral on April 17. The 90 minute film brings together historical footage of Bradford shot between 1897 and 1970, giving a rare glimpse into the city’s rich past.

There will also be screenings of avant-garde short films by the much vaunted filmmaker, Stan Brakhage. His highly-influential series of experimental shorts Dog Star Man (1961-4) will be shown, along with the flickering visual collage Moonlight (1963), and The Gardens of Earthly Delights (1961) which draws its inspiration from Hieronymus Bosch’s vision of the fall of man. Brakhage’s films are abstract and disturbing, and seek to explore film as a pure art form free from the confines of plot and character. These screenings are a fitting tribute to an American director who dedicated his creative life to his own singular vision.

Fans of contemporary Russian cinema will be glad to see a survey of the work of Aleksey Balabanov - a controversial and irreverent director. Films to be screened include the dark comedy Cargo 200 (2007) which tells the story of a feud between a psychotic police captain and an atheist university professor; the dark and violent A Stoker (2012); and the sardonic and philosophical crime drama Me Too (2012).

During the festival, veteran actor Sir Tom Courtenay will be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Dresser (1983), Sir Tom came to prominence in the 1960s for his roles in films including The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), Billy Liar (1963) and Dr. Zhivago (1965).

Comedian and broadcaster Adam Buxton (BBC Radio 6 Music, The Adam and Joe Show) will present his music video show BUG for the first time in Bradford. BUG began in 2007 as a series of shows at the British Film Institute, London, which aimed to showcase the creativity of music videos from across the globe. The highlights of these videos have been brought together in The Best of BUG: The Evolution of Music Video.

With a whole host of movie premieres, independent films and guest speakers, there is will something for everyone – whatever your taste.

Visit: Bradford International Film Festival
National Media Museum.

This article was originally published by Yorkshire Post.

Leeds Northern: Issue One

Yorkshire Voice: Issue One

Reportage: Government green lights controversial North Leeds development

A ‘ludicrous decision’ to overrule Leeds City Council’s decision to refuse a controversial housing development in Horsforth has been met with anger from the community.

The plans by Harrow Estates to build 400 homes on Calverley Lane was rejected by the council in 2011 after residents voiced concerns that the town didn’t have the infrastructure to cope with it.

But the decision was overturned by the government who ignored the pleas of local residents and has given the project the green light.

Councillor Cleasby at Clariant Works site
Now Councillors and residents are furious that the development can go ahead, which will see the building of new houses and shops on the grounds of the old Clariant Works chemical plant.

Coun Brian Cleasby said: “It’s in a ridiculous position, it’s completely daft – it really is unsustainable.”

A spokesperson for Harrow Estates said: “The opposition by local councillors throughout the promotion of this site is disappointing given the overwhelming pressure for new homes in Leeds.”

The original proposals were rejected in the most part because of the difficulty residents will have gaining access to local shops, schools and the public transport network without the use of a car.

However, a Leeds City spokesperson said this week: “The scheme will bring new jobs, new homes and meet a number of other needs of the local neighbourhood as well as contributing to the ambitious housing target the city has for the future.”

Horsforth resident Ruth Morris, 26, said: “They haven’t thought it through at all. The A65 is a nightmare already at most times and the Horsforth roundabout is a nightmare at rush hour because you cannot get across it.”

Coun Cleasby explained that when a proposal is considered by the council, it has to be evaluated with consideration to factors such as the layout of local roads and the amount of cars on them.

He said: “The only way to get off the site is to use the ring road – which was our first objection. Going to work, going to school, they’d have to use the ring road.

Concerns have also been raised over school places.

Coun Cleasby added: “What’s most ridiculous is that the site falls under an LS18 postcode. This means that now Horsforth School has changed their admissions policy, they’ll have to give priority to the new families moving into the new houses. There’s no extra capacity, and we’ve got a minimal amount of money for more secondary school places.”

Artist's impression of the new development
A spokesperson from Leeds City Council said: “The site will deliver 50 affordable housing units with a mix of two and three bedroom flats along with two shops. The developer will be subsiding a new bus service which will operated seven days a week along with making a financial contribution to the provision of new schools in the area.”

And a spokesperson from Harrow Estates added: “In addition to providing much needed new homes and affordable housing, the development will also be funding significant improvements to the ring road as well as a bus service, providing approximately £1m to be spent on primary education locally as well as enhancing the existing green spaces used by local cricket and football clubs as part of the former site.”

This article was originally featured in Leeds Northern.

Reportage: Flash mob homeless protest in Leeds

A flash mob came together at 5pm yesterday on City Square in Leeds city centre to raise awareness of homelessness in the city.

City Square flash mob

The gathering was organised by homelessness charity Simon and the Streets, and saw around 30 protesters holding makeshift signs to raise awareness of the wider issues effected homeless people.

Director of the charity, Simon Sandle, said: “We had the idea of doing a flash mob with people holding realistic signs to try and give people a better insight. We’re trying to make people think about the fact that you can’t solve homelessness with homes – it’s a much bigger, wider problem than that.”

He added: “There are a lot services available for homeless people, but unfortunately the people with the most complex needs often slip through the net.”

Visit: Simon on the Street.

This article was featured on Leeds Northern.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Features: The Hate Camel cometh

A Horsforth writer has bucked the trend and has unleashed his own unique take on the print magazine to an unsuspecting public.

The Hate Camel is a magazine that harks back to the days of early 90s grunge ‘zines, with a mish-mash of handwritten and typed articles being stuck down and photocopied onto low quality paper. The magazine’s founder, Stevie Kilgour, 30, said: “The whole basis of it is satire. It’s an opportunity for Leeds to take a look at itself and have a good laugh. It started off as a bit of fun. I wanted to poke fun at the glossy magazine culture in Leeds – they’re about 90 percent adverts, five percent listings, and maybe five percent interest in what’s going on.”

Instead of your usual magazine fare, Stevie wants to publish bizarre and unusual writing that would never make into a commercial magazine such as unedited free-writing, and hate-filled teenage stories. He said: “Parts of it are handwritten. I’ve had one contribution that was an old birthday card that contained very vicious story from when they were in school about setting fire to a ginger kid. It’s obviously complete fairytale, perhaps more nightmare, but I’ve photocopied that, cut it out, stuck it down with gaffer tape, and sent it off to the printers so that it looks even more tatty than it did first time round.”

Stevie hopes that The Hate Camel will offend and outrage its readers, but hopes that this will encourage people to get involved in something more akin to a collaborative art project than a traditional magazine. He said: “I’m hoping that people will pick it up and, through beer-glazed eyes, be absolutely outraged by it. Then you’ll find someone with the same twisted and dark sense of humour as me and think that it is absolute genius and want get involved with it themselves.”

Stevie explained that he wanted the magazine to be in print form only, and have no online version. He said: “The whole idea of it not being online is just to make people work for it. There’s so much information out there that is just given to people. I want to make people go out and find it, as opposed to getting it straight onto their smartphones and iPads.”

You won’t find The Hate Camel on the shelves of your local newsagent. The magazine is free, and is distributed haphazardly around some of the bars and pubs in Leeds. Stevie said: “We’ve got 300 copies that we will be distributing around various bars. We’re not going to keep going back to the same places.”

The Hate Camel is out now, somewhere.

Follow: @hatecamelhq on Twitter.
Stevie J. Kilgour's website.
Stevie's Art Fist portfolio.

This article was originally featured on Leeds Art Scene.

Music: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito album review

When New York indie hipsters Yeah Yeah Yeahs burst onto the global music scene in 2001, their energy and quirkiness immediately pigeonholed them as a trendy flavour of the month. But with over a decade behind them and their fourth full-length album Mosquito in the bag, Karen O and her band of geekish rockers are still breaking new ground.

Mosquito is an album that captures what made Yeah Yeah Yeahs so exciting on their self-titled debut EP in 2001. They have an uncanny ability to seamlessly combine the urgent sensibility of early Stooges records in songs like ‘Area 52’, with the sensitive, melancholic songwriting of tracks like ‘Subway’ and ‘Always’.

Beneath the album’s sound is a clear nod towards the New York dance-punk scene of the late-70s, with tracks like ‘Slave’ and ‘Mosquito’ drawing from the same well as the achingly underrated ESG – this influence being clearly bolstered by the production talents of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, and Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio.

Mosquito is a very good album that demonstrates how with each new release, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have made a commitment to evolving their sound in ways that make them still as arresting as they were in 2001.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs official.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Features: Priscilla Queen of the Ring : Leeds Wrestling gets a makeover

With one of the biggest weeks on the professional wrestling calendar drawing to a close stateside, Leeds-based wrestler Priscilla Queen of the Ring sheds light onto the local wrestling scene that sees grown men dress up and pretend to fight each other for the entertainment of paying customers – and urges Yorkshire to give it a chance.

Ollie Burns as Priscilla, Queen of the Ring
Priscilla is the alter-ego of classics undergraduate, Ollie Burns. The 25 year-old is well-mannered and intelligent, but when he hits the ring he transforms himself into a devious drag queen – dressed in a leotard and blowing kisses to a hostile crowd. Ollie explained his character: “I wear women’s clothes, that’s the long and short of it – I feel comfortable wearing lipstick. I love that moment when you step through the curtains, and the room looks around and it all goes silent. There are 200 people staring at me going ‘what is this?’ and then they realise ‘oh, it’s a man in a dress’ –either everyone cheers and starts laughing, or everyone boos.”

Priscilla is a bad guy – known in wrestling circles as a “heel.” His job is to get the crowd to boo and jeer, and make the good guy – known as the “baby-face” – look good in the match. Ollie said: “I take quite an aggressive stance with the audience – I figured it was easier to be disliked than liked when you’re a man wearing a dress.”

Originally from Portsmouth, Ollie has wrestled throughout England for over a decade, and now trains young hopefuls at the KGW wrestling school in Knottingley, West Yorkshire. He started wrestling as a 13 year old and soon became a regular on the local wrestling circuit. He said: “I started off as a serious wrestler, and wrestled for six years working on my craft. I then decided to get a gimmick, and that’s how Priscilla developed. Even though I prance around in a dress or leotard, I still know that my wrestling’s still pretty good.”

When asked what made him want to become a wrestler, he said: “I love the costumes and the characters, and how larger than life it can be. I’m fascinated by the storylines and how the characters interact with each other.”

Wrestling is often dismissed by critics for being a fake sport, but for Ollie, wrestling is a form of entertainment. He explained: “As a man who wrestles as a drag queen, I personally see wrestling as a sport with a pantomime twist. People aren’t stupid – I don’t think you can promote it as a real sport anymore. I feel we’ve got away from that ‘wrestling is real’ image now. If we keep trying to push it as real, we’re only going to look stupid. If we patronise people, we’re only going to do ourselves damage.”

Photos courtesy Ollie Burns
Most people will probably be familiar with names like Big Daddy, Hulk Hogan and The Rock, and Ollie believes that this is why local wrestling companies can find it difficult to draw large crowds. He explained: “British wrestling at its best has amazing mat wrestling and good drama, but until more money comes into the business, it’s really hard to get the best performers for a small promotion. We need some guys who can define British wrestling to a wide audience, but without TV contracts that’s not going to happen. When WWE come over from America, they sell out huge arenas, but at some of the local shows it can be hard to get 20-30 people in to watch – we just don’t have the star power.”

Wrestlers, even at the local level, are prone to genuine and serious injuries – from broken bones and torn muscles, to head injuries and lacerations. Though the wrestlers try to be as safe as possible, there is always the risk of injury. However, Ollie wasn’t banking on being attacked by a riotous crowd: “I had a match in Leeds at the end of last year. We were in a room full of rugby players who really weren’t happy that I was there and some kids who really didn’t understand what was going on. The kids had bought a load of inflatable hammers, and when I went out of the ring they set on me. There were fists and feet flying at me – I never knew that an inflatable hammer could be so painful! I was knocked on the back of my head, which made me woozy – it was a genuinely scary moment.”

Ollie really dropped the ball during a wrestling show in Cookridge, when an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction was seen by everybody except him. Ollie said: “I didn’t realise for quite a large part of the match what had happened, until I was ringside, walking along eye level with all the kids in the audience, and a barman goes ‘excuse me mate, you’ve popped out’ – so I think that was the day my career ended!”

The social clubs and sports halls of Yorkshire might be a far cry from the sell out crowds of WWE’s WrestleMania, but even at a local level there’s something for everyone. Ollie said: “There’s wrestling going on in Yorkshire all the time, you just have to look for it. For kids there’s acrobatics, showmanship and excitement, and for adults there’s always a bar, so you can get drunk and have a laugh, and poke fun at the drag queen.”

Priscilla Queen of the Ring can be found on Facebook and wrestles regularly for Yorkshire based promotions KGW, GBW, BWA and K&S Wrestling.

This article was originally featured in Yorkshire Voice.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Art: Jewish Artists in Yorkshire

In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Leeds Jewish community, the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery is hosting an exhibition which celebrates the contribution of Jewish artists in Yorkshire.

The exhibition is based around the major Jewish artists in the University of Leeds Art Collection, including Jacob Kramer, Philip Naviasky and Willy Tirr.

Other important works will feature from other public and private collections, including works by Joash Woodrow.

Contemporary artists are also represented by Lydia Bauman, Gillian Singer and Judith Tucke.

The exhibition will be held April 17 – July 20.

Jacob Kramer, The Jew (1916)

More information:

The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery.
Follow: @SaBGallery.

Art: Contemporary art takes on Scouting

Leeds-based artists Rob Goodall and Alex Sickling are about to embark on a series of exhibitions under the title Mates.

The first exhibition in the series will feature graphic art on the theme of Scouts. The show will highlight the positive, inquisitive nature and valuable skills learned at Scout groups.

Alex Sickling works on paper, through innocent, intricate, black and white drawings in ink as well as through ceramic objects. Rob Goodall celebrates the deeper value Scouts learn through a variety of media, including wood carving.

The exhibition will be held at Mexico Project Space, Wharf Chambers, Leeds, April 12-14.

Further information:

Facebook event page.  
Mates exhibition Facebook page
Follow: @matesexhibition.

This article was originally published on Leeds Art Scene.

Art: ‘Robert Filliou: The Institute of Endless Possibilities’ exhibition review

The Henry Moore Institute has taken a punt with its latest exhibition, ‘Robert Filliou: The Institute of Endless Possibilities’. The exhibition seeks to explore the nature of gambling and the absurdity of games by utilising a bizarre array of cardboard boxes, double-sided playing cards and a dice-filled, room which were produced by Robert Filliou during the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Robert Filliou, Eins, Un, One, (1984)

Patrons are invited to learn the rules to the bizarre card game called ‘Leeds’. The game features double-sided playing cards and requires the players to be blindfolded while an onlooker makes bets. This is an exercise in pointlessness and ridiculousness, but it is one that can be quite appealing in the visual arts.

What is perhaps most engaging about the show is presented in the final gallery. There is a room filled with 16,000 die. They can be manipulated by visitors to make forms and shapes of their own choosing without fear of being told off by the invigilators. Like the double-sided playing cards, the die are also unusable in in conventional games of chance – each dice only has the number one on each of their six sides, hence the title of the piece ‘Eins, Un, One’ – is the game rigged, or is it making a mockery of chance?

Other exhibits include a roulette wheel which helps patrons create random poetry, harking back to the ideas of writers like William
S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.

Some of the work on display could be quite confusing to people who are unfamiliar with conceptual art. This is not to say that it is a bad exhibition, but it may not appeal to a lay audience, and may indeed come across as being quite elitist and alienating. For example, the playing cards which are put on top of music stands are very strange and obscure, and even to those versed in conceptual art, this work is impenetrable to those of us who can’t speak French.

As with many of the exhibitions at the Henry Moore Institute, this show is limited by the building itself. The unusual space of the Institute – three different sized rooms – only serves to limit curatorial choices and makes the flow of many of their exhibitions seem incredibly samey.

Although the exhibition is by no means as dry as many of the Henry Moore Institute’s exhibitions between 2006 and 2010, ‘Robert Filliou: The Institute of Endless Possibilities’ is not one of their best. It’s a show with some quirky highlights, but will inevitably leave most visitors feeling bemused.

Robert Filliou: The Institute of Endless Possibilities is on display until June 23.

This article was originally featured in Yorkshire Voice.

Exhibition Homepage.
Filliou on Wikipedia.