North East Cultural Sector Comes Together To Denounce Racism

Everything Else, Show and Gig Reviews

Over the last two weeks, the Black Lives Matter movement has become incredibly prevalent and at the forefront of worldwide media, following mass protests against police brutality. This follows the tragic death of George Floyd, an African American man, at the hands of US police in Minneapolis, despite him being unarmed.

Rightly so, the black community and those against racism across the globe have had enough of the unfair treatment towards black people from authorities, and the systematic racism that has led to many people of colour being killed and oppressed by police.

In a bid of solidarity, this week has seen people from all over the world share George’s story, sign petitions, donate to charities supporting black families and organisations and raise awareness for black history. This has included many different companies and organisations giving their own messages of support to the Black Lives Matter movement, and actively push for inclusivity.

Today a collective of cultural organisations based in North East of England have publicly ‘Denounced Racism’, in a message and stance that holds their sector very much against racism of any kind.

Organisations, including Northern Stage, Alphabetti Theatre, New Writing North and Gosforth Civic Theatre to name a few, have shared the following message on their social media pages and on their websites;

“We stand to denounce racism in all its forms

The cultural sector of the North East declare that silence is not ok and silence is seen as complicity. Racism has no place in a just and humane society.

Whilst we cannot undo pain and neglect, we are calling on all of us in the arts, cultural, heritage sectors; professional and voluntary to work together to address racism and its deep roots. We must listen, have conversations and most importantly act, we know we need to do better. Everyone is part of the solution – artists, staff, trustees, partners, promoters, audiences and communities.

We want to tackle this together in sharing better understanding and practices. We stand united to bring about change in our thinking and actions as a collective of organisations and individuals.

In the weeks and months to come we will collectively act to build on this statement with concrete steps and actions to demonstrate our commitment to bringing about real change. We ask you to stand with us.”

Black Lives Matter, North East against racism, Newcastle against racism, Newcastle culture against racism, North East culture sector against racism, anti-racism in Newcastle, Black Lives Matter support one Newcastle, arts against racism

The cultural sector has and will continue to play an incredibly important role in spreading awareness of Black Lives Matter, as well as being inclusive and giving a platform to people of colour from many different backgrounds and heritage. As a region, it’s vital that our cultural organisations push the fight for equality.

For more information about Black Lives Matter, or to make a charitable donation, please visit;

https://blacklivesmatter.com

My Gift To Newcastle’s Live Venues

Everything Else, Music blog, Show and Gig Reviews

Without wanting to dwell on negatives too much, the last two months have been a strange, difficult and worrying time, not least for the arts and culture sector. 

In Newcastle, it’s been both great and hard to see lots of our wonderful live performance venues coming up with inventive ways to stay engaged with theatre and music lovers, as well as developing initiatives to raise money while needing to remain closed. You’re hard work has been incredible. 

Live music and theatre is part of the heart and soul of the North East. I can’t wait until shows can go ahead again for that wonderful stage magic and the buzz of an amazing gig. We may have to wait a bit before that can happen, but when it does and we can walk back through the doors of our favourite venues, it will be unbeatable. 

So, to raise a glass, to applaud and to celebrate our incredible venues, their dedicated staff and the fantastic creatives we’re lucky enough to have right here in Newcastle, this piece of art is for you. Designed by my very talented friend, Amy Hall, this artwork is a gift to all of the live venues in the city, as well as everyone who enjoys them. It symbolises that this isn’t a time of sadness but a time of hope and strength in the face of adversity. 

“We Will Be Back After This Short Interval”

With love, hope and excitement,

Tickets in Newcastle 

Review; Bedroom Farce at the People’s Theatre #AD

Show and Gig Reviews

First things first, I must start this review by saying how shocked at myself I am that this was my first ever visit to the People’s Theatre. As it sits on the corner between Heaton and Jesmond, there’s no excuse for it really as a live production lover. 

The upside to this was, of course, getting to go this lovely community theatre for the very first time and being completely taken in by its charms. Originally founded in 1911 and rebranded back in 2015, the theatre is a staple part of Newcastle’s culture and live performance scene.

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People’s Theatre in Newcastle

As I entered the venue, I was truly impressed with the smart looking foyer and bar area, lined with jazzy works of art and furnished with a jumble of mix matched tables and chairs. It has a real comfy meets modern feel. The auditorium itself was also much bigger inside than I had expected, seating up to 500.

People’s Theatre, People’s Theatre Newcastle, Bedroom Farce, Newcastle upon Tyne, Bedroom Farce review, theatre in Newcastle, theatre review
Bedroom Farce at People’s Theatre, Newcastle

The show Bedroom Farce was written in 1975 by Alan Ayckbourn, and this modern production directed by Steve Hewitt and Ellie North did a fantastic job of going back in time to that decade. The stage was set up brilliantly, using two different levels to encompass three separate bedrooms.

I noted throughout the show that even though this play was based in the 70s, the tones and themes that it explores, including relationships, communication, the link between physical and mental intimacy, even violent relationships and mental health, were still all very relevant today. 

Regardless of the more serious messages portrayed, the show was equally hilarious and gained many laugh out loud moments from the audience. The lovely lady sitting next to me enjoyed herself so much I found myself as entertained with her reactions as with what was going on on stage. 

I was extremely impressed with all of the cast, who all proved themselves to be very talented stage actors. Each gave their own performance of one of the eight different characters, all paired up in couples, with a loving energy for each ones unique personality and perspective. Developing highly believable scenarios it was hard not to be endeared by each one of them. Even Adam Owers, who did a grand job of portraying the shows egotistic narcissist, Trevor, and acts as the catalyst for the drama that unfolds at a house party and causes havoc for all of the four couples involved.

Bedroom Farce at Peoples Theatre, Newcastle

The cast were so involved and convincing, that I think during one particular scene staring Kate Lundy and Adam Thompson, they may have actually broken part of the set as they came crashing down on a bed in a hilarious physical struggle. I was also very impressed by Kate’s fearless removal of her hair rollers on stage, which I can’t do myself at home, never mind on stage in front of hundreds of people! 

It was lovely to watch a script come to life that looked into human relationships with a humorous but almost every day approach. Characters Ernest and Delia, played by Roger Liddle and Maggie Childs, manage to portray that, even with an age difference between the other married couples, the same struggles in communication and intimacy can still be apparent. Whereas Kate and Malcolm, played by Ellie Pullen and Ian Willis, show that even the most ‘ordinary’ of couples can still have their own trials. Ian’s devoted performance of building a set of drawers for his wife was also particularly heart-warming. 

As the show drew to a close, we were drawn to the character of Susannah, Trevor’s troubled wife, brilliantly played by Emily Jeffrey. Highlighting a fight with mental health and self-worth, it was a performance that I’m almost certain most women will, to a degree, be able to relate with at some level. It left the show with a note of ‘the show must go on’, even if misguided or in the strangest of circumstances. 

Bedroom Farce plays at the People’s Theatre until this Saturday 14th March, and you can purchase tickets from the theatre’s website, here;

http://www.peoplestheatre.co.uk

My tickets for this show were gifted by the lovely people at the People’s Theatre in return for a review on the show.

Bedroom Farce at People’s Theatre, Newcastle

Review; W*nk Buddies at Live Theatre

Show and Gig Reviews

I love visiting any theatre for the first time, and for me my debut visit to the Quayside’s Live Theatre was a particularly lovely one! Albeit I’m shocked at myself for not going sooner.

Not only is the theatre foyer a wonderful mixture of modern build meets countryside pub, but the theatre itself is well set out with a corner shaped stage and adapted seating.

As I walked in I saw that the stage was set up with a noticeably interesting set. Simple but effective, a double bed took centre stage next to a clothes rail of ensembles, all in different shades of bright pink.

The intimate venue was the perfect setting for W*nk Buddies. Lasting only an hour, the show needs no more and no less time to tell the story of two friends bonding at a house party.

As the stars of the show, Cameron Sharp and Jake Jarratt, take to the stage to introduce themselves, they tell the audience about the typical student house party they find themselves at whilst studying drama at university. The audience quickly realises that they’re in for a treat.

Cameron Sharp and Jake Jarratt in W*nk Buddies

Cameron enjoys dancing the night away while Jake prefers to stand back and look for a potential lass to chat up. Showing from the onset that the pair have very differing personalities, the show tells a gorgeous story of a friendship growing out of misunderstandings through, what starts as, unwitting communication.

Swinging from hilarious one liners and hitting tones of political and emotional heartache, W*nk Buddies is the perfect show to establish and create conversation around the complex issues that young gay men face, and how barriers created by cultural stereotypes can be broken.

Themes of societal homophobia are tackled brilliantly in this two man performance, as well as class, relationships and, erm, Baywatch…

Cameron Sharp and Jake Jarratt in W*nk Buddies

Talking you through their night of sharing a room together, Cameron and Jake play off each other perfectly throughout. From arguing to play fighting to an all out incredible and side splittingly funny dance routine to Britney Spears. There was nothing not to fall in love with about this show.

As it drew to a heartwarming close, the audience was left with a beautiful sense of happiness and emancipation. W*nk Buddies is a gloriously feel good production that should be seen across the country.

W*nk Buddies is now touring the UK

Review; Slipknot Live at Newcastle’s Utilita Arena

Show and Gig Reviews

Last night, Newcastle’s Utililta Arena was taken over by 9 piece metal band, Slipknot. And I was there.

For anyone that knows me, this might seem strange, as I’m unashamedly a huge fan of artists such as Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, and in general more pop and R&B focussed artists. So, I was pretty out of my depth last night when my boyfriend and I went to see one of the US’s most well known bands for being, well, a bit crazy.

Me looking out of place during Slipknots gig

As we got to the arena we were greeted with the usual security checks, as should be, and as we walked in I couldn’t help but notice that there was an abundance of the crowd dressed in almost all black. A staple but practical colour for metal gigs to be honest.

Supporting Slipknot were Polish band Behemoth, who I had been warned by my boyfriend (adorning their T-shirt) were even heavier and harder than Slipknot themselves. To say the least, he wasn’t wrong. Behemoth came crashing onto the stage with a Satanic style set design, from their logo hanging above them, to the costumes and, of course, the screaming/ shouty/ deep voiced vocal sound that could only belong to a blackened death metal band. I couldn’t understand any of the words they were singing, but they had clearly well established their niche and they worked the crowd up fantastically. Well done, boys.

Behemoth performing at Newcastle Utilita Arena

During the interval, I tried to battle my way through the crowd to reach the toilet. Although the corridors at Newcastle arena are pitifully small, I couldn’t help but think it was the slowest moving crowd to wonder between their seats and the foyer area that I’d met at the arena. Maybe everyone was saving their energy for some serious head banging, or maybe their metal trimmed boots were too heavy to walk in. Either way, the whole crowd were pretty chill and everyone seemed excited.

After arriving back at my seat safely after wading through a stream of pints of beer and leather jackets, the lights went down and the audience were here.for.it.

I put in the ear plugs that Andy had given me earlier, with the wise advice that it would take the edge of any hissy noises and save us from getting bad tinnitus. Thank goth heaven, he wasn’t wrong.

As Slipknot one by one took to the floor and unveiled their incredible set design, I couldn’t not be impressed by the elaborate, huge stage. Lit all in blue and featuring a deep floor space, with industrial inspired podiums for the drummers and a treadmill for the guitarists to move back and forth on, it was definitely one of the best stage designs I’ve seen a band use.

As they all started to hype up the crowd with atmospheric keyboard and electric guitar riffs, lead singer Corey Taylor began belting out their first song of the night, Unsainted.

One of the first things I noticed about the show was how intensely happy all of the audience were. The second was how glad I was that I bought us seated tickets instead of standing. Even though the band surely do put on a great show, I spent half of the night crowd watching as a sea of Slipknot T-shirt wearing rockers moshed out to the music. Creating a sweaty, high energy formation of movement and circles throughout the main event. I was genuinely impressed at the fans ability to enjoy themselves while essentially pushing each other around. Though I was surprised that none of the mosh pits I saw were extremely violent, in fact a lot of them were just men running around in circles while someone stood in the middle doing a jig. There were also countless numbers of crowd surfers, and some awkwardly attempted crowd surfers, that rode their way through the arms of other moshers to the front of the stage, where they were quickly plucked out and escorted away by security.

Slipknot performing live at Newcastle Utilita Arena

I was also happily surprised at the fact that, actually, the bands lead singer has a fantastic singing voice when he’s not shouting. I’d always associated Corey Taylor with the line of metal bands that mainly use angry and suspenseful noises to create their music, and hadn’t actually appreciated until last night that Corey, and the whole band, are in fact very, very talented. And they’d have to be, considering that Slipknot have now been going for 20 years.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about the night was how genuinely appreciative the band were of the fans. They noted on at least 3 separate occasions how much they loved and are thankful for their fans, and passionately talked about them as family.

Throughout the whole setlist, I knew two of their songs, which is more than I thought I would. But it didn’t really matter because the stage presence and performance value of each of the bands 9 members was fascinating. From Corey’s intense front of stage singing and crowd interaction, to the drummers and guitarists wondering around the rig like creatures from a horror movie, it was great to watch. Of course with the band members each wearing their iconic and eerie style masks, it only added the metalness of their, well, metal performance.

It wasn’t my scene, it wasn’t my music, and you will never, ever catch me in a mosh pit, but I was never bored and left the venue happy to have seen Slipknot live. In fact, I really enjoyed the whole night and left with a much deeper appreciation for them as performers, and as a band who has had a clearly profound influence on the rock and metal music scene. Cheers for a great show, guys!

Slipknot performing live at Newcastle Utilita Arena

Review; Sibling Rivalry at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House

Show and Gig Reviews

Stars of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Monét X Change and Bob the Drag Queen, took to the stage in Newcastle’s beautiful Tyne Theatre last night, in the first show of the UK leg of their Sibling Rivalry tour.

The tour was born from a weekly podcast that the duo produce, and fans in the audience certainly weren’t left disappointed in the live show! Brought to the UK by Klub Kids, a well known promotion and events company championing the drag community, Sibling Rivalry went down a storm. 

Though the show got off to a couple of technical hitches, as the audio for their on screen stage introduction failed twice, Bob the Drag Queen kept the crowd laughing over the mic from backstage, so if anything it added to the hilarity of the night. When Monét and Bob did get on stage, they performed a medley of dance routines inspired by a collection of movies such as Dream Girls and The Shining. Changing into an assortment of fantastic stage outfits throughout, both performers received non stop adoration from the crowd from the moment they began.

Monét X Change and Bob the Drag Queen performing Sibling Rivalry at the Tyne Theatre

Sibling Rivalry was perhaps one of the best and most seamlessly put together drag shows that I have seen live, despite slips, trips and fits of laughter. It was clearly well rehearsed, but also left enough room for on the spot ad libs and fun interaction between the queens and the audience. There was both a movies and family theme to the tour, with Bob the Drag Queen and Monét X Change of course being drag sisters, and they ended the first half of their show with Bob performing an Adams Family inspired routine, and Monét with a Black Panther themed performance. 

After a short interval, Monét and Bob started the second segment of the show by recording a live Sibling Rivalry podcast from the stage, discussing recent topics such Meghan Markle and Prince Harry stepping down in their duties to the Royal Family, or #Megxit as Monét called it, famous YouTuber Nikki Tutorials announcing that she is transgender, to a huge round of applause from the crowd, and this weekends upcoming first ever RuPauls DragCon in London. The queens then invited Klub Kids very own Mutha Tucka to interview some audience members, who asked Bob and Monét some well, and some not so well, thought out questions. The highlight of this section though was definitely Monét X Change falling from her chair after excitedly telling a story!

Bob the Drag Queen and Monét X Change performing Sibling Rivalry at the Tyne Theatre last night

The finale to the show was a high energy and from the hip ‘drag suicide’, which involves the queens performing to a random collection of songs, lip sync for your life style. Including uproarious renditions of songs such as Baby Shark, Dolly Parton’s Jolene and not to mention Monét reenacting the Circle of Life scene from The Lion King with the only child in the audience, it was an absolute hoot. 

Being the professionals they are, the queens also kindly stayed back after the show to sign merchandise for fans, and I even got to breathlessly tell them how much I loved the show.

Monét X Change and Bob the Drag Queen signing merch for fans

The tour will continue in Manchester tonight and in London on the 18th January. You can purchase tickets from the Klub Kids website, here;

http://www.klubkids.co.uk

You can also listen to the Sibling Rivalry podcast, here;

https://www.siblingrivalrypodcast.com

Review; Ariana Grande’s Sweetener World Tour

Show and Gig Reviews

Yesterday saw the release of Ariana Grande’s first live album ‘k bye for now (swt live)’, which was of course the live recording or her roaring Sweetener World Tour.

Released moments after finishing the final and 100th show of the tour, the album was instantly available across streaming services for fans. From start to finish, the live album showcases Ariana’s incredible voice and impressive vocal range. The album also features recordings from different shows, including performances from her UK leg in London.

Attending the show in person at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro Arena on 17th September, Ariana’s stage presence and set list was even more remarkable. Although for me the show was slightly bittersweet, as I had purchased a VIP meet & greet ticket at the time the tickets were released, which was unfortunately cancelled two weeks before the show. This still meant that I had pit tickets though, which was an experience in itself. After being present myself at the tragic events at Ariana’s Manchester Arena concert on 22nd May 2017, I was eager to enjoy the show and celebrate her incredible strength as an artist and human being.

As always with VIP tickets from Live Nation & Ticketmaster however, the ‘VIP’ factor leaves room to be improved. Keeping fans guessing as to where to queue for the VIP concierge and then being lined up outside in the cold for an hour, it didn’t feel like a VIP experience. However, upon entering the venue and taking my spot directly in front of the B stage, it was clear that the show itself was going to be amazing.

I certainly wasn’t proved wrong. From the subtle but touching tribute to her late boyfriend Mac Miller by playing his song ‘Dang!’ just before she took to the stage, to Ari belting out the first notes of her track ‘Raindrops’ before rising onto the stage with her dancers along a table, the whole crowd was awestruck.

Ariana Grande performing her song ‘Side to Side’ at Glasgow Hydro Arena.

The entire show was filled with hits and fan favourites from each of Ariana’s albums, most notably from her most recent albums ‘Sweetener’, which was released in August 2018 and ‘Thank U, Next’, which was released only six months later in February 2019. The stage was tactfully designed so that audience members from every corner of the venue had a great view of the show. With a stage that protruded in a circular shape around the standing area, holding the pit and B stage inside of it, Ariana and her team of dancers energetically lead the performance around the crowd. Wearing her signature platform high heels, perhaps the most impressive part of the whole show was Ariana’s effortless dancing without so much as stumbling in her shoes.

Halfway through the concert, Ariana made her first visit to the B stage. To say that I and the fans around me were ecstatic is an understatement! Singing, dancing and just generally being glorious right in front of me, Ariana’s warm personality and stage talent was utterly undeniable. Up close, it’s clear to see how much she enjoys what she does and the love she has for her fans. Although security had to intervene with an overly enthusiastic fan at one point as Ariana held her hand out to the crowd, she kept her poise and graciousness at all times while on the tiny second stage.

Ariana Grande performing her song ‘Everytime’ at Glasgow Hydro Arena.

She’s a true professional and perfectionist as well as being very humble when it comes to her fans. Ariana has made no secret of the fact that this tour has been a labour of love whilst dealing with anxiety, but that sharing this experience with her fans has helped her to heal. I can only say that I’m honoured to have played a very small part in that while watching her glow on stage.

The set list featured a perfect collection of songs, including some of my favourites ‘God is a Woman’, ‘Into You’ and ‘No Tears Left to Cry’. For the finale, Ariana ended the show flawlessly with possibly her most commercially successful single ‘Thank U, Next’. Taking two final laps of the stage, Ariana used the sassy hit to thank her fans for coming and tell them that she loved them before exiting.

Following such an amazing show, my after concert blues were real. But, that’s how you know you’ve been to a truly great gig. Thank U, Ari.

Ariana’s live album, ‘k bye for bye (swt Live)’, is available on streaming services now.

Review; Mabel’s HMV Mad Love Tour

Show and Gig Reviews

If you haven’t heard of Mabel yet, you’re going to. While she’s already had massive chart success with her singles Don’t Call Me Up and Fine Line, there’s definitely much more to come from her.

Last month I had the privilege of seeing her perform for the second time, after seeing her headline show at Newcastle Uni last December. This time, as part of a string of shows promoted by HMV, Mabel brought her Mad Love tour to Newcastle’s quayside venue Riverside. 

Though at 31 I felt like I was likely one of the oldest people in the crowd, the audience were clearly excited and the venue was filled with a great atmosphere. Mabel had clearly come a long way in just the one year I had her seen prior to this show. With a collection of very talented dancers and a more refined and styled look, Mabel took to the stage like a pro. Though I’d enjoyed her performance last year, it was obvious that Mabel has put a lot of hard work into her performing style, dancing and overall stage persona.

Mabel performing her song Don’t Call Me Up at Riverside, Newcastle.

Smiling and interacting with the audience throughout, the show lasted an hour altogether, perfect timing for Mabel to fit in all of her big hits, as well as songs from her new album High Expectations. She clearly had some devoted fans in front of the stage, lovingly singing along to her every word. 

Watching the show, it really felt like Mabel is starting to come into her own on stage and is definitely growing as an artist. There was a feel good vibe in the room for the whole performance, and this was evident as she sang my favourite songs of hers Finders Keepers and Bad Behaviour. One of the nicest additions to the evening, was seeing Mabel’s team visibly support her and hype her up in the crowd. She clearly has a genuine and supportive team around her. 

As Mabel becomes more of a household name and continues to stamp her mark on the UK R&B pop scene, I’m hopeful to see her playing much larger venues in Newcastle in the future.

Her album High Expectations is available in HMV and on streaming services now.

Why you should definitely go and see Lighthouse Family at Newcastle City Hall this February

Show and Gig Reviews

Lighthouse Family have been bringing an uplifting and melodic twist on British pop-soul since they burst into popularity in the UK charts in the mid 90s. 

One thing that certainly hasn’t changed since their debut album Ocean Drive was released in 1995, is their undeniable ability to captivate their audience. Founding members Tunde, vocals, and Paul, keyboard, have a friendship that shines through on stage, and two unmistakable talents that seem to have only gotten better in the over 20 years that they have been making music together.

Lighthouse Family performing live at Newcastle City Hall.

Standing at the bar in Newcastle’s City Hall for the Lighthouse Family’s first Newcastle show of their latest tour, the excitement in the crowd was clear. From the moment Tunde and Paul walked on stage, they certainly made the most of the incredible atmosphere amongst the audience. The City Hall was deservedly sold out and the performers noted on stage that Newcastle was the city that brought the two of them together as an act and helped to create Lighthouse Family’s first record. It was clear to see how much they enjoyed being back on stage in the toon.

Playing a mixture of their iconic hits such as Lifted, High and Raincloud as well as tracks from their new album Blue Sky in Your Head, the whole set was glorious. Tunde and Paul also brought some heartfelt personal memories to the meaning behind a lot of the songs, and both had a fantastic aura when interacting with the crowd.

A simple stage was all they needed as Tunde’s unmistakably smooth singing voice and the rest of the bands talented instrumentals brought all the entertainment. Tunde’s charismatic stage presence certainly didn’t go a miss with some of his clearly loyal fans!

Lighthouse Family performing their song ‘Lifted’ live at Newcastle City Hall.

After a roar of cheering for an encore, the band all returned to the stage for an extra four songs, including adding some festive cheer with a Christmas style song. 

To make sure that you don’t miss out on Lighthouse Family’s next performance in town, visit Newcastle City Hall’s website to snap up some of the limited tickets that are currently available for their show on 21st February 2020, here;

Lighthouse Family