Friday, 31 May 2013

Music: Interview with Wolf People

Skipton-based Wolf People have just released their second album. Jon Cronshaw spoke to them before their concert in a Leeds church.

Formed in 2006, Wolf People are one of the most exciting bands on the British psychedelic rock scene.

Their music harks back to the days when male grooming was an alien concept and rock music rocked.

From left: Tom (Drums), Jack (Vocals/Guitar), Joe (Lead Guitar), Dan (Bass).

Wolf People’s second album Fain was recorded here in Yorkshire, in an isolated house near Skipton.

Released last month, Fain draws influence from a mixture of traditional British folk music, Scandinavian progressive rock, and underground psychedelic rock from the 60s.

Drummer Tom Watts, 33, said: “For this album we took all of our gear up to guitarist Joe’s house in Yorkshire. 
It’s really nice to conceive 
of an album in such an inspiring place – we recorded our last album Steeple in a really nice location in Wales. This album was recorded in another beautiful place – location is really important for us.”

Although not from 
Yorkshire originally, lead guitarist Joe Hollick, 29, is proud of the fact that Fain was recorded in his adopted hometown of Skipton, North Yorkshire.

He said: “I’m a bit of a turncoat because I’m from Lancashire originally and 
I’ve defected across the Pennines. It meant a lot to record the album in Yorkshire because it’s quite nice to put Skipton on the map.

“I rented the house from the landlord under the proviso that we would be recording a four piece noisy rock band in the front room.

“It’d be good to drive past the house in the future and know that that was where Fain was recorded.”

Wolf People performing live at Holy Trinity Church
Wolf People’s sound has its roots in the British folk-rock and biker scenes of the late 60s and early 70s.

Their breakout single, 
Tiny Circle, with its punchy guitar and infectious flute riff have seen comparisons to British progressive rock band Jethro Tull – a comparison which the band initially resisted.

“I don’t think our sound has ever been a conscious decision like it is with many other bands.

“It’s not like we sat down and said ‘right, we want to make music, what kind of music shall we make?’ – we started making some music and this is what it sounded like,” explained lead vocalist and guitarist Jack Sharp, 31.

“I’ve probably known more about Jethro Tull through people talking about it 
and making comparisons than I did before Tiny 
Circle – it’s an accident that we’ve ended up sounding this way.

“I spent ages telling people that we don’t sound like Jethro Tull at all, but then you hear certain songs and you think ‘oh actually, I know what you mean’.”

The band, however, see some of their influences as being a little more modern, with guitarist Joe drawing inspiration from the ’90s indie scene.

He said: “John Squire from The Stone Roses and Nick McCabe from The Verve were massive influences on me. Before them I’d only heard of guitarists like Chuck Berry, Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton – but Squire and McCabe were the people who guitarists my age looked 
up to.”

When the band do make a conscious effort to 
draw influence from other artists, Joe said that it is 
often a fruitless task: “We listen to this stuff and get really excited by it, but when we all get into a room together we end up just sounding like us.”

It’s a sound which is both intricate and jarring, with urgent drumming and hard riffs making way for gentle vocal melodies. But for the unassuming Jack, Wolf People are a band aware of their limitations: “It’s fair to say that as musicians we are all quite limited.

“We’ve tried to emulate these records by people who are much better than us, so we’ve had to work out ways around it.

“So we’re always striving to reach it and not quite getting there – I think that’s defined our sound.”

With their show about to start at Leeds’s Holy Trinity Church, the band took a moment to take in 
the atmosphere of the building with the ethereal glow of the large stained-glass window creating a soothing ambience, and the ancient stones of the floors and 
walls making for an echoing sound that excited drummer Tom.

“It makes my drums sound like Led Zeppelin’s When 
the Levee Breaks,” he says. “Which in my eyes is a good thing.”

Bassist Daniel Davies, 37, believed that Wolf People’s traditional folk influences made it the perfect location for their vocal sound:

“Some of the melodies are quite plainsong, so they really suit this kind of setting.”

What came across when speaking to the band is just how passionate they are 
about their music, and how much they care about their songs.

For them being in a band is not merely a means to getting rich, but is a way to communicate something deep, beautiful and lasting. Tom says: “We don’t do things that are going to immediately grab people’s attention and pack gigs out.

“We want to make something that people will remember – something we can leave behind and be proud of.”

It is the legacy and longevity of the music that the band value most.

Jack explained: “We want to leave behind the absolute best records we can –what people say about it now doesn’t matter.

“But if people are still listening in 10, 20 years, then you can feel like you’ve actually achieved something.”

Wolf People – Fain is out now on CD/LP/Download from Jagjaguwar Records (Catalogue number: JAG230). Visit:

This article was originally published by the Yorkshire Post on May 31, 2013.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Theatre: Energetic young theatre company’s first major show

After What Comes Before is the first major performance by Leeds-based Manic Chord Theatre.

Established in 2012 by Alex Monk, 22, Sam Berrill, 22, and David Cartwright, 23, the company describes itself as a young and energetic professional theatre group with a clear emphasis on a physical and competitive style.

David Cartwright, one of the founding members and directors of Manic Chord Theatre explains: “Our theatre is playful, it’s energetic. We start with sports and games that encourage all those things that you associate with a group of lads – there’s a lot of banter and competition. If you think that theatre’s all skipping around and dancing, then come and watch us.”

After What Comes Before follows the story of three scientists who set out to 
create a machine which can extract thoughts. The scientists become consumed by their machine and trapped within the world of the laboratory, slowly becoming the subject of their own experiment.

David says: “There’s lots of energy, lots of chalk flying across the room. There are these three mad professors who become more insane as the show goes on.

“There’s all sorts of wonderful singing and dancing, and other craziness going on. We didn’t want to give answers with the show, but raise questions that an audience would go away and have their own conversations about.”

The ethos of Manic Chord Theatre is based on the Russian style of actor training where the actors, set designers, directors and managers all work together in the same space.

“There’s a kind of ensemble feel, with the ethic of everyone chipping in and everyone having an equal say,” he says.

“That doesn’t mean that when it comes down to it we don’t have a director who concentrates on the arc of the work and the vision of the piece.”

Based in Temple Works, Leeds, the group have been able to develop and refine their work. David believes that some of the building’s energy has filtered into their work: “I think that the space represents all of us – there’s a rawness, it’s a bit manic, it’s got that energy that we’ll hopefully take with us.

“Even though when we’re touring the show we won’t have the battered bricks and the dirty floor, it should still have that spirit to it.”

The path leading to their first major performance has not been an easy one. When the group are not rehearsing or writing, they spend almost all of their spare time working in bars and restaurants.

David reflected upon how lucky the group are to be 
able to continue working on their craft. He says: “We came off a university course 
of about a hundred or so people, and there’s only about five of us – two theatre companies, ourselves and Magpies Three – that have formed something out of that. I think if you have that passion, you don’t have to go down the standard route of getting a nine to five job – it is a risk.

“For me, theatre is about self-expression, it’s about vocalising your feelings or reflecting on your own life and having fun doing that. It provides a mirror – a critique. I would urge people to engage with it, because a lot of people don’t, and they’re not as well off for it.”

This article was published in the Yorkshire Post, May 24, 2013.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Art: Hepworth to open new gallery

The Hepworth Wakefield celebrates its second birthday with the announcement of a new 600 square metre contemporary art space that will open this later this summer.

The new space is located in an adjacent 19th century mill and continues the culturally-led regeneration of Wakefield Waterfront.

Caddies Wainwright Mill

The space's first exhibition will be Turner Prize-nominated artist, Roger Hiorns who will exhibit his entire body of Youth works for the first time.

The ground floor of Caddies Wainwright Mill, a 19th century former textiles mill on the River Calder, has been transformed into a new contemporary art space to be programmed in parallel to the main gallery.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Art: Saltaire Arts Trail continues to grow

The Saltaire Arts Trail is going from strength to strength with visitor numbers increasing yearly. Jon Cronshaw spoke to its creative director.

Now in its seventh year, the Saltaire Arts Trail brings the village to life as thousands of people come to see craft fairs, art exhibitions and displays in open houses.

It grew out of September’s annual Saltaire Festival which brings together many different art forms including music, performance and food. Because so many of Saltaire Festival’s visitors were drawn specifically to the visual arts on display, a decision was made to launch the Saltaire Arts Trail. And in 2011 the trail broke off from the festival and moved to May.

Since its inception, the Arts Trail has been run by a dedicated team of volunteers, who have worked hard over the year to make the event on a par with the well-funded galleries and events around Yorkshire. What makes it stand out, however, is that it is run by the local community.

“It’s gone from strength to strength,” says creative director Amanda Chinneck. “We’ve had excellent visitor feedback. People are coming to the village specifically because they are fans of contemporary art and crafts, and enjoy having a look around people’s houses.”

Last year’s event saw a 20 per cent rise in attendees from the year before with an estimated 9,000 visitors. The residual effect on the local economy cannot be underestimated, with cafés, shops and restaurants all feeling the benefit. This year, further efforts have been made to incorporate these venues into the Arts Trail.

“We introduced a new strand to the programme last year which was a way to better involve businesses in the Arts Trail rather than them just being a service provider. So what I introduced was the schools Art Trail. We recruited eight schools from the Bradford district to respond to a brief – this year’s theme was ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ – and they interpret that visually in any way they want. Then we link each school with a café or shop, and they display the art works within their premises.”

One of the most popular parts of the Saltaire Arts Trail is the open houses, where 13 properties around the village are open to the public, each with individually curated exhibitions. “I think it’s a bit of cliché to say that people are intimidated by visiting art galleries,” says Amanda. “But people do like the fact that they are seeing an artwork in a more domestic environment.”

Yvonne Carmichael has opened up her house for the past five years and thinks that the Arts Trail is a fantastic opportunity to see some high quality displays.

“I organise a lot of exhibitions in unusual places like empty shop units,” she says. “But you can get an empty shop unit in Leeds for three days and not have anywhere near the number of people who come through on the Arts Trail. I love the fact that it’s a really mixed audience – you don’t just have gallery-goers. You get a lot of people who perhaps wouldn’t go to a gallery.” Yvonne will be exhibiting a series of short videos under the title Chore-orgraphy. “They’re videos of me thinking about actions you might do in the house. There’s one video where I’m doing Shake and Vac on the stairs, but you can’t tell quite what it is that you’re looking at to start with. They’re done very carefully, and it’s thinking about how we look at chores, and then how you might choreograph those chores.”

It is the sense of community that Yvonne enjoys the most. She said: “It’s the one time of the year where you get to meet the people who live locally and actually talk to them.”

Saltaire Art Trail, May 25-27,

This article was published in the Yorkshire Post, May 24, 2013.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Gardening: Eggs and cress and flamethrowers

This past week, my wife Claire and I were handed the keys to our very own allotment. But the only thing I’ve ever grown in my life is some cress out of an eggshell with a face painted on it called Fred.

It’s all very exciting, but it quickly dawned on me that I barely know which end of spade is meant to go into the ground, and that I know next to nothing about how to grow things – especially things that I plan on feeding to my family.

Dummies? How rude.

For the last seven years, we’ve lived in a terraced house without a garden, so the idea of having a little bit of green space we can call our own and grow stuff in is a very attractive prospect. Especially as we now have a son who is almost eight months-old.

It’s quite a big plot, so we have decided to share the space with our friends Laura and Colin who seem to know a little bit more about growing things than we do.

On Friday, we went to survey our estate – sorry, that should read ‘state’ – it’s quite a mess. The plot has been left overgrown with grass and weeds, so we’re pretty daunted by the initial steps.

I was having a read through a book about starting an allotment that Claire took out of the library, and it said that I could use a flamethrower to clear the ground. A flamethrower! I thought that people only watched gardening programmes to stare at the breasts of Charlie Dimmock/Alan Titchmarsh (delete as appropriate) – I had no idea that there was the prospect of incendiary weapons.

Of course, flamethrowers were vetoed by every other sane person around, so instead I think we’re going to roll some plastic sheet over it and let everything die beneath. I prefer the scorched-earth policy, but this is a democracy and I was clearly outvoted.

But we’re not going to let it stop us growing stuff. I had the idea of getting loads of eggs, filling them up with cotton wool and growing cress in them. But the idea of getting some grow-bags to grow some potatoes for our first season seemed like a more popular idea.

This article was originally posted on Don't Know Allotment.

Yorkshire Voice - Issue Six

This issue of Yorkshire Voice was edited by Jon Cronshaw.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Art: Forms and functions - an interview with Haroon Mirza

Former Northern Art Prize winner Haroon Mirza’s new installation is about to be unveiled at The Hepworth Wakefield.

Artist Haroon Mirza’s latest exhibition, which goes on display this month, takes inspiration from its host gallery.

Utilising the adjacent River Calder to create a unique audio composition, the new installation of light, sound and found objects uses The Hepworth Wakefield’s art collection as materials for his own work.

“I’m interested in the idea of art being more than something that is just visual,” Haroon explains. “With the work at The Hepworth, one of the things I’ve been interested in looking at is the idea of ready-made materials, but also existing artworks. So I often work with works of art and incorporate them into my own installations – it’s turning works of art into material for art. So the collection at The Hepworth comes into this, and it sheds light on the idea that an artwork for me is the same as a found object.”

Haroon likes to play with the idea of function and is interested in how found objects can become works of art, and how works of art can become functional. “There’s the Marcel Duchamp tradition of the ready-made, where an artist takes an everyday object and places it within the context of art. But he also spoke about the reverse ready-made, which is the idea of taking a work of art and giving it a function,” he says.

“One of things I am doing is displaying plinths from The Hepworth – empty plinths with nothing on them. I’m displaying several plinths which are joined together by LED lights at their base, so the plinths become a support for LED lights.”

He says he doesn’t want gallery visitors to get bogged down in trying to understand his work on an intellectual level.“It’s an experience like you would have going to a gig or something like that.“

With the use of materials in his work that can expire, such as light bulbs and electronic equipment, it was interesting to hear Haroon’s position on the status of his artworks once things stop functioning as they were originally intended. “That’s the moment when the work becomes a sculpture,” he says. “If you’ve got this big assemblage of lights, and objects, and things all together that is generating sound, then it’s an audio-visual work. But when you switch it off, it’s still an interesting object.”

Haroon was awarded the prestigious Northern Art Prize in 2011. Since then his career has blossomed. “Winning the Northern Art Prize definitely helped things. It gave me the confidence as an artist,” he says. “Before that moment, I never really took myself seriously as an artist. It’s given me a lot more attention, especially in the north. Museums in the north have started collecting my work. Right now, I have work on show in Leeds, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, and now at The Hepworth. Immediately, it didn’t feel like it changed anything, but now I think that it’s one of those things that curators and museums look to with confidence – it’s a fantastic endorsement.”

Haroon began his artistic career in Sheffield, so returning to Yorkshire means a lot to him. “Yorkshire’s an incredible place with an amazing history and art history. For me it was being able to work in a big city like Sheffield, establish myself as an artist, and not have to worry about money as I might in London. I’m not surprised that people like David Hockney want to live in Yorkshire – it’s not just that it’s the subject for his art, but there’s this lifestyle that goes with it.”

Haroon Mirza, The Hepworth, Wakefield, 
May 25 to September 29.

This is article was originally published by the Yorkshire Post on May 17, 2013. Plus Yorkshire Evening Post and Metro newspapers.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Art: In Cloud Country - in conversation with Iwona Blazwick and Diane Howse

In recent years the reputation of art inspired by nature has taken something of a battering – especially if it has a tendency towards abstraction.

There is so much kitschy and inoffensive art littering the walls of hotel rooms and coffee shops that the idea of an exhibition focusing on the abstraction in nature is one that is easy to dismiss.

But the latest exhibition at Harewood House sees curators Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, and Countess of Harewood, Diane Howse, take a daring approach to the genre.

Diane Howse (left) and Iwona Blazwick (right). Picture by Bethany Clark.
In Cloud Country is an exhibition that doesn’t just capture your imagination – it teases and prods it, pulls at it and contorts it beyond recognition.

At each turn you are met with seeming unrelated works coupled together. One can see an early 19th century sketch by J.W.M. Turner hanging next a piece by contemporary artist Chris Ofili, who is best known for his paintings featuring elephant dung.

Iwona explained: “We felt we had a licence to do this partly because we had both seen an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in the 1990s curated by Michael Craig-Martin called Drawing the Line where he just ran amuck with a whole collection of drawings. You could see Leonardo Da Vinci next to Sol LeWitt – it was really liberating.

“So we thought why not travel across space and time and seeing if the concerns are the same. And sure enough, we found that there were these parallels. So, for example, we could see that you could put together an oil pastel by Degas and find it next a contemporary work by Julian Opie – they’re both intimations of something sublime, but the Julian Opie has a motorway in it.

“It was looking at the similarities, but also the differences, and rather than telling this story as a chronology, it was actually to say there are themes within this topic. The word ‘abstraction’ is as big as the word ‘nature’, and we wanted to find all different manifestations of it - hence the grouping of different themes."

The very definition of the words ‘nature’ and ‘abstraction’ are called into question throughout the exhibition. Diane said: “There’s a notion that if you work with nature that it’s about trees and landscapes seen from a certain perspective, but that’s not necessarily always so. Nature is everything that is in our physical world – there’s gravity, radiation, the movement of the planets, and so on. A lot of artists are working with that notion in the broadest sense, even though they are not in any way, shape or form landscape artists – it’s how we experience that landscape, or our relationship to the physical world.

“A lot of artists now work in the studio, completely removed from natural stimulus, so there’s a notion there of memory, embedded memory, and perhaps of personal memory or even some sort ancient memory that we all have.”

Iwona added: “Throughout the whole thing you get this miraculous process, this alchemical process where an artist can reduce an entire environment - a huge 360 degree panorama – onto a piece of paper. How do they do that? That’s what we’re hoping to show. These are the many ways that artists have done this over the last three centuries and continue to do so.”

J.M.W.Turner, Rome from Monte Mario, (c.1819).
The term ‘abstraction’ is used metaphorically throughout the exhibition. Iwona said: ”We’re looking at abstraction where art becomes a symbol, where nature becomes a symbol. So we’ve got a grouping of work around nature and society where we start with William Morris. And even though the drawing that we have, which is a design for a wallpaper, is really a very precise picture of petals, flowers and tendrils, the concept is an abstract one because he reflected a society where people saw the growth of Satanic mills and the way that human beings were losing touch with their environment and destroying it at the same time. Belching smoke, mines, factories, so Morris’s project was to bring nature back to urban society, and bring nature back into the home.”

Alongside the works of Morris and Turner are pieces by contemporary artists such as Imran Qureshi. Iwona said: “He has an extraordinary skill for depicting chrysanthemums and turning those into quite a shocking image of political trauma. That image is really about partition, and it’s a bloody footprint. But when you look more closely, you see that it made of these beautifully, exquisitely rendered chrysanthemum petals embossed with gold.”

Imran Qureshi, This Leprous Brightness, 
The exhibition ventures into the terrain of conceptual art, as Iwona explained: “There’s a thread of post-war conceptual art where language becomes another form of representation. The idea of a proposal such as Paolo Bruschi’s idea that he could colour the clouds over New York, or indeed Lawrence Weiner – one of the greatest conceptual artists in the world – evoking a structure made out of bamboo purely with words on a wall.”

But it is the historical scope of the exhibition that make it such an engaging and surprising experience for the audience. Iwona said: “You have these great, acknowledged art historical giants like Turner, but seen at their most intimate – the sketch. The deftness with which they capture something with pen and ink, or with watercolour, juxtaposed with some of the most important developments in modern and contemporary art.

“It has a strong locus of the British art scene and within British collections. We’re sad not to have Van Gogh or Mondrian, or the Barbizon school, but we do have a Degas and a Matisse. We’ve tried to map the key moments right up to Richard Long, perhaps one of the greatest post-war British artists, who uses his body as a form of mapping. He describes his journey across the moorland to create a sort of conceptual sculpture.”

In Cloud Country breaks the trend for exhibitions to focus on oil paintings or sculptures, and instead relishes in the spontaneity and potential associated with works produced on paper. Iwona said: “What's thrilling about working with works on paper is that they are rarely seen except for in small galleries and storerooms. There’s this ‘what if?’ potential about them – they’re quite utopian. They’re about grabbing something fleeting – they’re about the possibility of something more. And that somehow gives them a tremendous energy which oil paintings lack.

“I hope people come away feeling excited and maybe even grab a pen themselves, and find themselves drawing and reacting to the natural environment around them.”

In Cloud Country is on display at Harewood House until June 30.

Features: The top 5 apps for visually impaired Android users

With everyone banging on about how great iPhones are, spare a thought for those of us who can’t see their fiddly little screens. Here are my top five free apps for visually impaired Android users.

1. Walky Talky
There are dozens of free satnav apps out there, but few of them are of use to a visually impaired user who doesn’t drive, but needs help with navigation. What makes Walky Talky stand out from the pack is that it is made for walking and using public transport. It constantly updates you on your location – even down to the house number you’re walking past, and vibrates if you're going the wrong way.

2. Catch Notes
This is your basic note-taking and memo app. It’s infuriating to try and take notes on a touchscreen phone, especially if you are visually impaired. But with the app’s compatibility with Google’s latest voice recognition software, it can transcribe your natural speech in real time. Great for budding novelists – and just think, even with the occasional lapses in accuracy, you’ll still write better than Stephanie Meyer.

3. Ideal Accessibility Installer
Beneath its clunky interface lie some great features for visually impaired and blind Android users, including KickBack, SoundBack and TalkBack. The installer allows the user to add audible, vibration and spoken elements to any Android device.

4. Your Magnifying Glass
Using a smartphone to enlarge print is simple, yet ingenious, and Your Magnifying Glass is simply brilliant. Utilising your phone’s camera, you can zoom in and out over text, freeze the image, flip it, invert the colours, light up the page with the camera’s flash, and then save the image onto your Google Drive to view later.

5. Audioboo
There is a large visually impaired community on Audioboo, and the Android app gives you access to all of the site's features through a user-friendly interface. It’s perfect for catching up with the audio version of the Guardian, packages from Radio 4’s Today, and podcasts from all manner of people – I recommend Sean Dilley and Documentally.

Google Play Store.

This article was originally published by Leeds Northern.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Art: Jewish artists celebrated in Leeds

It is 150 years since the first synagogue was built in Leeds, marking the Jewish community’s official establishment in the city. And now a new exhibition celebrates the landmark by showcasing the community’s contribution to the Yorkshire art scene. Jon Cronshaw hears more from curator Layla Bloom.

Jewish Artists in Yorkshire is based around the major Jewish artists in the University of Leeds’ art Collection, including Jacob Kramer, Philip Naviasky and Willy Tirr. Layla said: “We felt this would be the perfect opportunity not only to celebrate the artists in our collection, but also to pay tribute to some of the great patrons in our history. The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery is named after some fantastic Jewish patrons – so we’re really thankful to them as well as the artists.”

Philip Naviasky, Street Scene, Staithes (detail), oil on canvas, Private Collection, Yorkshire  © Estate of the Artist
As well as important artworks from the Leeds collection, other works by Jewish artists are also Represented, including Jacob Epstein’s stunning bronze portrait of physicist Albert Einstein (1933) and Jacob Kramer’s painting about Jewish identity, ‘The Jew’ (1916). Layla said: “We were sure from the start that we didn’t just want this to be about the local area. So we’ve got artists featured like Jacob Kramer and Jacob Epstein who are well known internationally. But we also wanted to feature them alongside artists who are well-known locally, as well as some contemporary artists who aren’t as well-known as they should be, but hopefully will be in the future.”

The grouping of artists based on religious or ethnic grounds can be incredibly tricky for a curator and in the past has inflamed racial and religious tensions. Layla outlined the careful balance that needed to be maintained: “We were trying to show the diversity of the community. There were a lot of people who were concerned when they heard about the exhibition that we were trying to pigeonhole people into some kind of ethnic stereotype. That’s not the case – what we’re here to do is celebrate a very diverse community, and one that is very important to Leeds.”

Jacob Kramer, The Jew, 1916, oil on canvas, University of Leeds Art Collection. © Estate of John David Roberts/By courtesy of the William Roberts Society/Photo: Norman Taylor
 The range of artists represented in the exhibition all have their own unique relationship to their Judaism. Layla said: “The artists interpret the world in many different ways - some through the lens of their Jewish identity, and some not at all. It can be just a religion for people, it’s certainly an ethnic heritage for a lot of people, and some people have very little connection to it – but it’s up to the individual artist to define for themselves.”

The response from the wider community in Leeds has been an enthusiastic one. Layla said: “I’m overwhelmed - this is the most popular exhibition opening we’ve ever had. I don’t know the numbers yet, but we ran out of wine! We had to bring out the kosher wine which we were reserving just for the religious people – and that was only 15 minutes into the exhibition opening.”

The exhibition has encouraged members of the local Jewish community to donate paintings to the gallery’s collection so that they can be seen by the wider public. Layla said: “People have a lot of pride in their heritage. We’ve had a lot of people from the community who heard about the exhibition and got really excited about it. We’ve had two people give gifts of paintings by Jewish artists for our permanent collection.”

Joash Woodrow, Mr Woodrow’s Shop, Chapeltown Road, Leeds, c. 1945, gouache on paper, Private Collection © The Bridgeman Art Library courtesy of The Joash Woodrow Family

Jewish Artists in Yorkshire is on display at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, Leeds, until June 30.

More information:

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

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Reportage: Zines celebrated in temporary Bradford shop

A new temporary zine shop is set to open on Bradford's Market Street for one week only from May 13.

Bradford Baked Zines is a week-long event that celebrates self publishing and DIY cultural activity.

Artists, musicians and zine makers will be setting up stalls selling their unique wares of self-bound books and magazines.

A zine is simply a do-it-yourself magazine which came to prominence during the 1970s punk scene.

As well as functioning as a shop, there will be a zine exhibition, library, workshops, and series of talks, discussions and presentations about self-publishing and DIY culture.

The shop is located at 13 Market Street at one of Fabric Art's empty shop spaces.


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Art: Sensuous sadness of Hans Josephsohn's sculpture

Since his death in August 2012, Hans Josephsohn's reputation as an artist has continued to grow, and with his latest exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, his legacy as one of Switzerland’s most important modern sculptors will surely be cemented.

Born in the East Prussian town of Königsberg in 1920, Josephsohn was an unusual artist who dedicated his career to producing intimate sculptures of people who he loved and cared about.

Josephsohn left home at the age of 17 to study art in Florence. This would be the last time he ever saw his family, who ended their lives in the Nazi death camps, a fate which inevitably had a profound effect on his work.

Hans Josephsohn (1920-2012)

Clare Lilley, head curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, explains: “His work is very sensuous and there’s an incredible intimacy in the work. But there is also an inherent sadness. For me, even before I knew anything about him, I saw this melancholy – if it touches you, it absolutely touches you.”

It was this profound loss that also affected how Josephsohn worked on a day-to-day basis, and the way he interacted with other artists. Ulrich Meinhertz, the head curator at Kesselhaus, a museum in Zurich dedicated to Josephsohn’s life and work explains: “Josephsohn was only interested in his own work. He did not look around at the art world. He would look at his own early pieces and try to solve their problems. So we get a series of more or less similar pieces on the same subject with slight differences. In the exhibition, you will see a row of seven big busts which at first view seem quite similar, but then when you look closely, you will see how he was finding new solutions for similar problems.”

Though Josephsohn is fast becoming regarded as an incredibly important artist, he only
Clare agrees, emphasising Josephsohn’s unique position in the art world: “He never worked with anyone else, which is very unusual for a sculptor. In one sense he was a bit insular, but in another it meant that he wasn’t prey to fashion. He would do his time in the studio every day and then go home – he was incredibly disciplined.”

He started to see success in the last decade of his life. “In his own country, he had very little success,” says Ulrich. “He was well known in the inner-circle of the art world, but he was not very successful in a commercial sense. Sometimes he couldn’t afford to cast his work, and he didn’t sell many of his pieces. He was very happy when people began to recognize his work at the end of his life.”

But Josephsohn did not measure success in terms of financial gain. “For him, it was important to do the pieces and have the opportunity to show them, and obviously to sell them,” says Ulrich. “But not because of the money, because a buyer will exhibit the piece elsewhere. He was very proud that he had found this success.”

Ulrich and Clare are both pleased they are able to exhibit Josephsohn’s work in the open air. “I knew right from the beginning that I wanted to put Josephsohn’s work in the formal gardens,” says Clare. “And I also knew that I didn’t want it to be a large indoor show. One of the reasons that I wanted to show him outdoors was because of the relationship between his work, the architecture of the formal terrace and the soft nature of the garden below.”

Josephsohn opens on May 11. The works in the Bothy Gallery are on show until November 3, and those in the gardens until January 5 next year.

This article was originally published in the Yorkshire Post.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Features: It’s all about the buzz – training to be a journalist in the digital age.

For the past month, the Leeds Trinity University postgraduate journalism trainees have been running a fully functioning newsroom. 

Each week we have been producing a hyper-local newspaper, Leeds Northern, which covers the Horsforth, Rawdon, Otley and Yeadon areas north of the city. We also produce a weekly magazine, Yorkshire Voice, which has features, reviews and opinion pieces relating to Yorkshire.

Yorkshire Voice and Leeds Northern

Each week one of the team acts as editor. We have had to write stories and features, source images, sub-edit and proof each other’s work, and lay it out in Quark. This is alongside our NCTJ exam commitments, and my own role as acting arts correspondent at the Yorkshire Post.

There’s an incredible buzz in the newsroom, and although I am training to be a magazine journalist, we have been encouraged to write for each of the publications. It was such an amazing feeling when I got the splash for the first issue of Leeds Northern and the cover feature for Yorkshire Voice.

I’ve interviewed artists, councillors, aristocrats, playwrights and even a drag queen wrestler. I’ve learnt how to make text come alive on a page. And I am starting to be known on my patch as an aspiring culture journalist.

The watchword for our content is online first. As well as putting together a print magazine and newspaper, we have a regularly updated news website, as well as social media and SEO to manage.

We have also been encouraged to embrace multimedia content. I was initially quite sceptic about this – I saw myself as a journalist, not a broadcaster. But now I have become quite passionate about the importance of supporting content to add further dimensions to my writing.

During our training we’ve had talks from a wide range of online journalists from established organisation including the BBC and the New Statesman, to a blogger who is carving his own niche in the digital world – Documentally.

I’ve been writing constantly for over a decade, and the course has helped to hone and sharpen my existing skills. But when I look back at how I used to curate content on my website, I can see how much I’ve moved on.

In fact, I never used to think of blogging as curating content at all – for me it was a case of writing huge chunks of text with long cumulative sentences and throwing in an image at a push.

Now my website features stand-firsts, embedded audio and video, short paragraphs, and links to other websites. I’ve even learnt how to use Twitter properly, which for someone who went into this as something of a social media hermit, has been an eye opener.

Of course the one thing that is always emphasised is that the best kind of social networking is the kind that you do face-to-face. The words of advice I have received over the past few months from established journalists have been invaluable.

Follow: @Yorkshire_Voice.

This was originally published on the Journalism Diversity Fund blog.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Theatre: Challenging play that combines dance and theatre

Dogs Land, the latest work by playwright Joanne Hartley has just seen its debut performance at the Square Chapel Centre For The Arts, Halifax.

Made in collaboration with Mad Dogs Dance Theatre, Dogs Land brings together the worlds of contemporary dance and experimental theatre.

“Dogs Land is about relationships and the mistakes we make in love,” explains Hartley. “There’s some spectacular choreography. It’s raw, it’s emotional, it’s beautiful. Dogs Land isn’t a piece of work that’s designed to be read – it’s a piece that is designed to be felt.”

Having been an experimental playwright for more than a decade, the 36-year-old had never worked in dance before embarking on this latest project. Daunting, perhaps, but according to Hartley also incredibly rewarding.

“It’s been an organic process that has taken us in all manner of directions that I couldn’t have foreseen,” she says. “The choreographer and I have come at this project speaking a completely different language with completely different priorities.

“He’s got a completely different process to me, he’s highly attuned to movement and visuals, and a lot of what he does is by gut feeling and instinct. Whereas I come from a place with rules – story rules, narrative structures – they’re ancient and intuitive.

“We’ve had moments in our process where we’ve struggled. There have been times when the actor’s process, the writer’s process and the choreographer’s process have been at odds.

“It’s taken quite a long time to take three separate ways of working and make them into one. But the bits that get lost in translation are actually the bits that are the most interesting creatively because it has forced us all out of our comfort zones.”

Working alongside Mad Dogs Theatre has also forced Hartley to reasses her future plans.

“I’m interested in moving from an intellectual, wordy theatre into something more visceral – something that is experienced, something that is felt. When it’s designed to be experienced and not understood, it becomes more enjoyable for an audience.”

Producing experimental theatre has its challenges for a playwright, especially when it comes to getting work shown in mainstream theatres.

“I don’t think that the mainstream would embrace the kind of work that I make – that makes things tricky for me,” she says. “Perhaps it’s the way that’s sold, the way that it’s packaged, the way that it’s delivered.”

Joanne’s relationship with the mainstream theatre is an ambivalent one. Although she enjoys and respects a lot of the work which comes out of some of the big theatres, she feels that mainstream productions could benefit from exploring and embracing new possibilities.

“I’m frustrated by theatre that doesn't push further than it could,” she says. “Saying that, I’ve seen some really stunning mainstream theatre at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, particularly the Tennessee Williams play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that was on last season – I thought that was absolutely astounding. But then I see a lot of theatre that just looks like more of the same. I think there are new things can be said in new ways.”

Dogs Land, Barnsley Civic May 4. 01226 327000,; Stage@Leeds, May 14, 0113 343 8730.

This article was featured in the Yorkshire Post, May 3, 2013.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Music: Wolf People - Fain album review

The old adage that if something isn’t broken then don’t start tinkering with it is one that London-based Wolf People seem to live by.

Their 2010 debut Steeple had its roots firmly planted in the prog/folk scene of the late-60s/early-70s, finding influence in bands like Focus, King Crimson and Rush.

With their Tolkienesque imagery, complex guitar riffs, and flute sections that could fit comfortable on any Jethro Tull record, it’s easy to dismiss them as throwbacks, but Steeple was a phenomenal album.

Fain, is no different. The band is still mining the same era of history for their influences – but this is no bad thing. Indeed, originality can come by looking to pilfer where others have not.

Indeed, Australian psychedelic rockers Tame Impala have made an art of emulating the Beatles at their most experimental, yet are the darlings of the indie music press.

Wolf People might not have shifted as many units as Tame Impala, but if Fain tells us anything, it is that Wolf People are superior song-writers.

Tracks like Empty Vessels and Hesperus are built around delightfully twiddly electric guitar noodling. When the Fire is Dead in the Grate and All Returns harken back to the indulgent, driving rock that could only be heard at a biker festival during the early hours of the morning.

Fain is the perfect album to blast out of your wound down windows on a summer afternoon whilst hurtling through the North Yorkshire Moors in a 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429.

This article was originally featured in the Yorkshire Post, May 3, 2013.

Features: Temple Works - The most extreme venue in Leeds

Situated in the heart of Holbeck is one of Leeds’ most intriguing buildings. Temple Works is a cultural hub that houses artists, writers and theatre groups. It is the home of all things extreme, from hosting hard-core punk festivals to acting as a set for low budget horror movies and gothic fashion shoots. And apart from Leeds Town Hall, it is the only Grade 1 listed building in the centre of Leeds. Its facade is based on the Temple of Horus, Egypt, and it once laid claim to the largest room in the world – at a staggering two acres. Yet few people in Leeds know of its existence.

Temple Works was built under the vision of industrialist John Marshall in 1838-40 as a flax mill by the architects Joseph and Ignatius Bonomi. Marshall was one of the early champions of workers’ safety and education and was concerned about the dangers inherent in running a textile mill.

Susan Williamson, Director of the cultural project Temple.Works.Leeds with her company Cornerstone Strategies, explained: “He was concerned that textiles were extremely flammable. He made sure that there were 25 fire escapes, and instead of having a multi-storey building where people would get trapped in the stairways, he wanted to try out having a single storey. So this was his magnum opus.”

Marshall’s concerns for his workers went further, as he also felt socially responsible for his workers’ families. Susan said: “The under-croft is where the children of the original mill workers had dormitories, shops, doctors, a church and an adjacent school above ground. So they lived there during working hours until the age of 12.”

The massive two-acre room at the heart of the building is stunning to say the least. With its wide open space, huge skylights and pillar-like pipes, it is a room that glows with an aura of natural light. The huge masonry roof was originally stabilised by hollow rainwater pipes which act as both as columns and help to collect rainwater. Susan explained: “The roof was originally grassed and mowed by sheep. It was grassed to wick the moisture from the air and bring it down the rainwater pipes to make steam with water from the nearby Hold Beck to power all of the machinery here. With all of the solar energy gained from the skylights, it was able to have a solid 78 degree temperature to keep the air moist and keep the flax from breaking.”

With such a heavy roof being stabilised by the fragile columns, cracks soon began to show - literally. Susan said: “The whole building was originally built under compression, which meant that the weight of the roof was supposed to keep it stable. It is like having an incredibly heavy brick being stabilised by toothpicks. But it failed immediately. The architect then did something that no one had ever done, and no one has ever done since – he went in and put the building in tension - which is completely mad. The building expands and contracts – and we believe this helps cause the cracks we are struggling with today.”

As well as the grandeur of Temple Works’ main space, the front of the building is equally striking with its frontage taking its inspiration from ancient Egypt. Susan said: “A lot of great industrialists expressed their wealth and supposed education through their buildings. We’re lucky here because the facade is an exact reproduction of the Temple of Horus at Edfu - the way they could justify it was that flax came from Egypt.”

Temple Works also has a historical claim to fame – it is the place where the hydraulic lift was first invented, but it wasn’t invented to move people or goods, it was used to move sheep. Susan explained: “This was the home of the lift because sheep can’t climb ladders and they can’t walk down stairs – seriously. The sheep had to come in for maintenance, so they invented an early hydraulic lift.”

When the flax industry collapsed in the 1870s due to the textile market being flooded with cheap cotton, Temple Works became a normal textile mill.

In the 1950s, the building became the northern office of Kay’s catalogue, and remained so until the company folded in 2004. Throughout this period, it was the largest employer in South Leeds.

Kay’s last owners were the developers the Barclay Brothers who were attracted to the site partly because of its logistical value for its catalogue goods. When Kay’s closed pplans were drawn up for a mixed use development by the owners, with Temple Works as a cultural hub within the development. After initial planning applications were turned down, Cornerstone Strategies were called in to help rethink Temple Works’ use.

In 2010 the owners were granted planning permission to run the Temple Works site as a cultural venue. Susan said: “The plan was that this hall would be like the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, but for extreme performing arts.”

The cultural project Temple.Works.Leeds has transformed the site into a thriving cultural hub that regularly host events from music festivals to experimental theatre. Susan said: “We have events that come to us - art events, music events, collaborative events. We’ve had the country’s biggest punk and metal event in April. We like extreme stuff here. We don’t get programme funding from anyone – we’re quite proud of the fact that we’re self-sufficient.”

Temple Works has been used frequently as a set for filmmakers and photographers. Susan said: “We’ve got a myriad of spaces and the details are extraordinary. We stripped away anything that looked modern here - we stripped everything away that was a signifier of time. So if you filmed here it could be set any time. We specialise in vampire, zombie, sci-fi, etc. We do punk and gothic photo-shoots. We’re the premiere destination for dead people!”

The building is also home to a number of creative people. Susann explained: “We have a fluctuating group of residents. But generally, it always includes filmmakers, artists, musicians, photographers, and theatre groups. We are also home to the Leeds Model Railway Society – they’re our prize possession, they’re very extreme! They’ve been at it since 1947 and one of their founding members is still there. No one’s paid here, not even myself, but we can make money out of Temple Works and that’s what makes it interesting for everyone involved.”

The biggest concern is the large cracks that have appeared in the main room. Susan explained: “We have a really serious structural problem here. So our big task here really is to restring the building – which will take a lot of time and money. The big question is who is going to pay for the repairs? Just because the building is privately owned, it doesn’t mean to say that they are obliged to foot the repair bill for a massive national monument – there’s a public responsibility as well.”

Temple Works is a place that few Leeds residents know about – but when they do, it’s difficult not to fall in love.

Visit: Temple Works Leeds..

Reportage: New jobs for town as troubled Yeadon pub re-opens

Forty new jobs are to be created in Yeadon as The Clothiers starts serving on May 7.

The pub on Yeadon High Street is set to re-open as part of the JD Wetherspoon chain of pubs, bringing 40 new jobs to the area.

Manager Craig Smith preparing for The Clothiers grand re-opening

Before its closure, The Clothiers had an unsavoury reputation in the local area. But with a complete redevelopment and new pub manager Craig Smith, it is hoped that the pub will be more welcoming to families.

Mr Smith, 43, said: “The pub’s reputation took a real pounding towards the end of its life. It got known locally for the wrong things – that’s not going to happen again. We want to make sure that it’s a family-friendly environment. I know it was a great pub in the past, and I know it will be again.”

Local shopkeepers and pub landlords believe that the re-opening of The Clothiers will provide a much-needed boost to the local area. Landlady of the Crown Inn, Sarah Tiffin, 45, said: “Anything that brings more people into the centre of Yeadon is good news. We’re really pleased, it should give a real boost to the High Street.”

As well as creating jobs, it is hoped that the pub will also boost the wider economy by featuring beers from local independent breweries.

Mr Smith said: “We’re going to be celebrating local breweries. So from our first week we’re going to have an event with Leeds Brewery on Wednesday night where you get to meet the brewer. And the week after we’ll be doing the same thing with the Wharfedale brewery.”

Preview of the pub's interior