Young Laureate: an essay on Simon Armitage

With this weekend’s announcement of Simon Armitage’s appointment as poet laureate, many of us have been reminiscing about when we first came across him in the late 80’s. My partner, Sue Dymoke, did her first public reading with him in 1987 and our friend John Harvey published him early on in the fine Nottingham-based poetry magazine Slow Dancer (celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year – Sue was the UK poetry editor for many years). 29 years ago, enthused by Simon’s early work, I wrote an essay about him for Slow Dancer. I wanted to give him a boost, but his career was moving so quickly, he’d already taken flight. Over on Facebook, Andrew Moorhouse asked me to dig out this first ever essay on Armitage and copy…

Marc Almond, Nottingham Royal Centre, 6.5.19

My review from today’s Nottingham Post. Photo below by their Kevin Cooper. At 61, Marc Almond is entitled to take it easy. He has no album to promote, he tells a packed house, but wants to keep tonight ‘populist’, singing lots of favourite songs, most of them by old stars: ‘who tend to be dead stars, so they’re never going to let you down.’ He kicks off with Charles Aznavour’s I Have Lived, then it’s straight into a Scott Walker tribute, with The Big Hurt and, later, a fine Big Louise. There’s Billy Fury’s I’m Lost Without You and T.Rex’s Cosmic Dancer, which leads into a Bowie section featuring Starman, John, I’m Only Dancing and Brel’s Amsterdam. Four numbers are done nearly acapella, with his…

Nish Kumar at Nottingham Playhouse 16.3.19

Live comedy’s all about timing. With ‘The Mash Report’, the 33-year-old Kumar has positioned himself as our prime political comedian, the only satirist doing what US audiences take for granted in ‘The Daily Show’. After a somewhat shaky start, it’s established itself as the only UK topical news comedy worth watching, although, at six episodes per season, can’t compare to its US equivalent. How to deal with an ever-changing political situation? A show written some months back might not cut it, and Kumar has a rep to maintain. The last week has been so tumultuous that I was curious about how Kumar would incorporate these farcical events into his set. I needn’t have been. He doesn’t. After a well-received warm-up set by Rosie Jones, weaponising…

Two Grey Rooms

My favourite Joni Mitchell song (though, thankfully, no-one’s forcing me to choose) is from the 80s. ‘Two Grey Rooms’ is about a narrator who rents a flat so that they can watch somebody walking to work, someone who used to be their lover, though he or she looks to be too young. You look so youthful/time has been untruthful/heaven knows, I loved you thirty years ago. Joni once told the LA Times the song was inspired by a story from the youth of the German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It’s a story of obsession… about this German aristocrat who had a lover in his youth that he never got over. He later finds this man working on a dock and notices the path that…

2018: The Sleeve Notes

It’s that time of year again. This is the thirtieth year in which I’ve made a best of the year compilation (on cd since 2000) to send out to friends instead of a card, and, for half that time, I’ve also written some online sleeve notes, updating approximately daily from today until New Year’s Eve. I haven’t posted this year’s out yet, so if you’re one of our regular recipients and don’t want spoilers, look away. It’s been a good year. I could have easily filled two cds worth of great stuff (I know somebody who sends out three) but selection and sequencing is all. I’ve broken a couple of my self-imposed rules this year. I’ll explain that and discuss what I couldn’t find space…