As 2016 comes to a close, Getintothis looks back at the top events in the arts in Liverpool over the past twelve months.
The past year has been typically diverse, with lots to see and enjoy in the city. Some events have been thought provoking, others aesthetically pleasing or have motivated debate, and served to inspire. Your ever helpful Getintothis has rounded up the finest arts events across Merseyside, varying from small spoken word nights to large, flamboyant extravanganzas very much part of the city’s annual calendar.
So sit back and reflect on what Liverpool had offered us in 2016 and look forward to even more delights in 2017. If the new year is anywhere as good as this past one there are sure to be plenty of treats in store for lovers of the arts and culture in the city and beyond.
- The Mersey Swing Winter Ball: Black-E, Liverpool
Take a closer look and it’s clear that this panorama is made up of many different stories. There’s a range of skill on display; professionals share the floor with newcomers and there’s no segregation between the two. In fact, experienced dancers usually jump at the chance to guide a newbie through recently acquired moves. You can divide the crowd in other ways too. Some people are dressed in meticulous vintage outfits while others don’t bother. A fair number here tonight were born in an era when said vintage outfits were simply considered ‘clothes.’ Age, gender, race, sexual orientation, where you live, who ya dad was. Honestly, nobody cares. They just want to dance with you.
Depending on your disposition, this kind of event might sound like an anxiety inducing nightmare. Asking strangers to dance? Risking the embarrassment of messing up in front of everybody? No thanks, article imploring me to change my life. And I hear you. The first time I went to a night like this, I was shaking more than Little Richard if he downed five cups of coffee and then sat on an EpiPen. But the atmosphere at the Mersey Swing Winter Ball is incredibly inclusive. Before you have time to run away, somebody’s already asked you to give it a whirl and you’ve just said, ‘Yeah!’ And of course, scary as it is, you’re just putting into practice what you’ve been learning in class. Jamie Carragher
- FACT Liverpool presents Ryoichi Kurokawa’s unfold
Ryoichi Kurokawa has an instinct for image and sound. He possesses a natural understanding of the relationship between audio and visual and how these two mediums can be combined to achieve a fully immersive and tactile experience. With unfold he achieves this. Combining art and science isn’t a new concept but one carried off with this level of skill is rare. Artist and astrophysicist work together in perfect harmony. Taking established scientific models, Kurokawa has interpreted the formation of a star through sound and vision. While astrophysicist Vincent Minier has provided the raw data, it is clearly Kurokawa‘s vision that is presented; he re-interprets existing 2D stellar modelling, infusing these images with depth, texture and hyper-reality. Kurokawa transforms these images into 3D models of such dazzling beauty that the viewer can almost step inside and wrap the stellar cloud around them. Mike Stanton
- MCM Comic Con: Exhibition Centre, Liverpool
For first time visitors to a Comic Con, or anything even vaguely similar, it is a bit bonkers. What’s more bonkers, is that after about 20 minutes of negotiating your way through the main room of stands and stalls a thought crossed our minds. We stand out. Everyone’s looking at us like we’re weird. We’ve never felt more under-dressed in our lives. There’s an Ewok giving a Stormtrooper a piggy back but somehow it’s us left feeling stupid. And why the hell not, that teaches us for being boring narks and not getting into the spirit of it. Guilt, shame and disappointment follow. Why on earth didn’t we dress up, look how much fun everyone else is having? Especially considering how much we’ve always wanted to do a Marty McFly and Doc Brown combo and OH MY GOD THERE’S THE DELOREAN. Missed. Opportunity. Vicky Pea
- Threshold 2016: Baltic Triangle, Liverpool
Now in it’s sixth year, Threshold has become a cornerstone of the Liverpool calendar; a coming together of music, art, theatre, dance and anything else you could possibly throw at them. It has settled very quickly into its familiar and welcome kaleidoscope of colour and sound, and arguably the most important weekend for grass roots art in the city, with platforms available for just about anyone to do just about anything. For some of us, Threshold is a much more interesting weekend than, say, Sound City, or Liverpool Music Week because there really is no telling what you are going to walk into next.
- You Can’t Be What You Can’t See: Everyman Bistro, Liverpool
Organised by Bido Lito! and Writing on the Wall, the speakers at this event were Laura Snapes, culture writer and contributing editor at Pitchfork; Sarah Lay from Louder Than War; Amy Roberts from the blog Clarissa Explains Fuck All, and Lorna Gray, music journalist and founder of Fierce Babe Network.
Tonight’s panel are bang on when they say that even well-meaning male writers can get it wrong sometimes, behaviourally or on the page, by writing about and regarding women musicians in different terms to their male peers. It is this writer’s view that anyone who uses the terms “all girl” or “female fronted” band should be taken outside, put up against a wall and shot. It’s the only way they’ll learn.
‘Male writers are offended by accusations of sexism when they are called out on it,’ says Laura Snape tonight, ‘On social media especially, men are very defensive on the subject.’
Twitter can be a tough place for women expressing opinions anyway, instructing us why we’re wrong and advice on how to do better next time.
‘The best journalists at the moment are young women,’ adds Snape. ‘Don’t let those who call you out put you off. They are scared of the power you have. Wield that power.’ Cath Bore
- LightNight: various venues
A warm summer evening helps as we wander through the city centre, drinking it all in. Starting at teatime, the Bluecoat garden has people sketching and reading, listening to music, the DJ playing a sitar interpretation of Jumping Jack Flash. That’s different, for sure. Summer Breeze by The Isley Brothers comes on next, and the garden starts to fill with families. A woman waddles in with a double bass bigger than she is, and there’s a giant bird cage mic-ed up in the courtyard. We’re intrigued, but must plough on.
CassArt on School Lane arrange paints and brushes and a trestle out on the pavement outside their shop with the instruction “make a spash”. Intended to amuse children, we suspect, but we can’t resist playing at being Picasso anyway. There’s something playful about LightNight, and not in an adult colouring book sort of way. It’s all very European, and fun.
- Grrrl Power Liverpool: Constellations, Liverpool
In August, Grrrl Power Liverpool hosted their first exhibition event in Constellations, featuring work from female artists from Liverpool and beyond.
An analysis of modern culture well defined the spirit of the exhibition, as well as the spaces that were created. Queen of the Track are a group mainly known for their zine, but also for developing broader art experiments. Their workshop focused on identifying how a patriarchal society holds women accountable for female behaviour that goes against the grain of its proscribed norms.
The spark of Grrrl Power Liverpool was lit by a group of women that have become allies. The art on show over the weekend burnt bright. It gave us hope in the possibility of creating a cultural shift with this type of unity in which women do not divide themselves because they recognise each other as competition, judging each other through the ‘male gaze’, but are activists in their staunch dedication to celebrate one another. Keep you’re ears to the ground for more riotous Grrrl Power events – as the grrls themselves stated, “this is not over“. Sue Bennett, Sinead Nunes and Janaya Pickett
- John Cooper Clarke: Mountford Hall, Liverpool
John Cooper Clarke has recently attracted a new audience via the inclusion of the cover of I Wanna Be Yours at the end of the Arctic Monkeys‘ A.M. album. This is evidenced by the eclectic band of fans trundling into the sweltering fug of Mountford Hall. Clarke himself notes “I don’t like being cold but this is fucking ridiculous”. The audience is still dominated somewhat by 40 years plus couples of a certain hairstyle who have followed The Bard of Salford around since those heady days of Mancunian splendour, when he was part of the ensemble which included Tony Wilson, Joy Division and The Fall.
The spirit of that era is immediately captured by Clarke’s first guest tonight, the incredible Mike Garry. A Mancunian everyman with a poetic talent that simply threatens to take the spotlight off the main act within minutes. He has been touring with Clarke for years and as his work unfolds this marriage of Mancunian minds makes sense. He opens with a safe bet, a poem that exudes his love of Liverpool, name checking so many streets and pubs with affection and awe, he wins the audience over with ease. Del Pike
- Tim Burgess and Stephen Morris talk Tim Book Two: Oh Me Oh My, Liverpool
Tim recites a passage from the book that, without spoiling it for you, contains a trip to New York, a couple of t-shirts, a hypnotic shop keeper and Steve Martin. It’s surreal in its hilarity and leads on to another recounting, this time the subject of which is the endearing cult icon Lawrence, frontman of Felt, Denim and Go-Kart Mozart (and whose name renders a small but significant cheer from the back row of Getintothis attendees) that ends beautifully with a chance meeting of legendary proportions – we won’t give it away as Tim’s take on the encounter deserves to be read in all its glory.
Through his recitals shines honesty, innocence and a glimpse into the fun he must have had both compiling the book, and embarking on the adventures laid before him in it’s pages. The sadness on his face when he talks about losing A through to C of his collection on a runway in LA and his almost inexplicable fondness of collecting every edition of Love’s Forever Changes projects a man deeply in love with, we think, not so much the records themselves, but the act of discovering them, wanting them, finding them and treasuring them. The night ends in the only way fitting, by spinning some records. Vicky Pea
- Steve Reich’s Different Trains: Edge Hill Train Station, Liverpool
It becomes almost apocalyptic with Bill Morrison’s accompaniment, visually tracing the early locomotive roots of steam power trains on warped celluloid, which evolves and fades into stirring footage of transporting holocaust victims to death camps, showing war-torn cities and the eventual post-war rise of affluence in America and the steadfast use of trains.
The beauty behind Steve Reich’s Different Trains piece is that it draws from his own distinctive personal experience of travelling between his two parents’ homes of Los Angeles and New York, when in joint custody, yet combines it with the widespread impact of one of the most devastating tragedies of the 20th century, this transcendental meditation on time and change is something that comes through every note of the music.
His unmistakable surging repetitive rhythms have left its trace throughout every corner of pop music, from the jazz-tinged Tortoise to the ephemeral Brian Eno, even Electric Counterpoint itself was recently performed by Jonny Greenwood, one man’s influence has never been so far reaching, and this innovative and groundbreaking performance of two of Steve Reich’s incredible pieces only adds another feather in his cap as the senior composer reaches into his octogenarian years. Joseph Giess
- Voodoo Ball: Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool
Ahead of the drummers The Anahi’s dance troupe lead the way with a vibrant exhibition of shimmering moves, their voodoo burlesque chic setting the tone. It’s a longer route than usual and alongside the open mouthed children and cheering adults a fair few stag and hen parties join in the fun, Abe Lincoln in hotpants showing off some particularly lively moves. A throbbing Mathew Street is treated to a spectacular, thunderous climax as a bass drum spins high into the air above a forest of raised hands.
Out at the North Docks we find a vibrantly lit and attired IWF, rows of huge red, blue and yellow flags hang from the ceiling, up on the balcony, backed by a rich red velvet curtain, the Lords gaze down on their kingdom and the Punks below. A burnt out car shell, psyched out paint job courtesy of Zap Graffiti, smoulders throughout the night. Glyn Ackroyd
- Liverpool Irish Festival: various venues, Liverpool
The year marked 100th anniversary of Dublin’s Easter Rising that took place in 1916. On April 24, 1916, around 1,500 Irish rebels occupied key buildings in Dublin and read a proclamation declaring a republic. A century later, there is a general climate of political uncertainty. There has been an 83% rise in Irish citizenship applications post-Brexit. With something like that, the impact of demographical exchange on cultures comes into question once again.
The aforementioned historical and political aspects were the main grounds of the academic and exhibit-related part of the festival. The Liverpool Central Library showcased a handful of exhibits related mostly to the around fifty individuals from Liverpool that contributed to the Easter Rising and other revolutionary efforts of the time.
With personal records, photographs, medals, journals and diaries and other such artefacts, a humane connections could be felt to these individuals who travelled all the way to Ireland to help out in something they felt was right. Though limited in size, the display seemed to be the place where someone who is unversed about the Easter Rising should start his or her exploration. Amaan Khan
- Vogue Ball 2016: Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool
Transforming the vast warehouse space was a fifty foot catwalk, decked out with neon, glitz and a whole lot of camp, as the venue prepared for the most iconic night of the year… Entering the space, visitors were greeted by the night’s compere; the divine and hilarious Rikki Beadle-Blair, whose stage presence and outrageous commentary throughout the evening set the tone for a truly memorable night. Combining fierce, fast dance offs, outrageous costumes, a buzzing carnival atmosphere, and more drag queens than you’d find on a Friday night in Superstar Boudoir, the stage was set for the iconic ball.
For those unfamiliar with the ballroom world of gay culture, it’s a scene of competitive modelling, dress-up, and sharp, sexy voguing; a highly stylised dance dance movement that evolved out of Harlem in the 1980s, most famously depicted in Jennie Livingston’s cult documentary Paris is Burning.
On Saturday night, House of Suarez, House of Cards, House of Rare and many more competed against each other for iconic status – and the crowd lapped up every minute. Offering a bit of context, the audience were first treated to a brief history of ballroom culture, before the catwalk opened for business – welcome to the runway! Sinead Nunes
- A Lovely Word: Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
Poems previously confined to private notebooks are being shared throughout the city. Through the backrooms and bistros, Liverpool’s spoken word scene reverberates. But since when did public poetry get so popular? Tonight, Liverpool’s premier showcase, A Lovely Word, promises to lift the lid on the phenomenon.
Tucked away in the basement bistro of the Everyman Theatre, A Lovely Word is an open mic night that takes place every second Monday of the month. For all the plaudits that the rebuilt Everyman received – The Stirling Prize for architecture no less – there was, initially, an air of hesitancy among locals when the theatre reopened in 2013. An impressive building, sure, but where was the soul? The Everyman of Willy Russell and Roger McGough, of Julie Walters and Pete Postlethwaite was rough around the edges.
Never fear: A Lovely Word is injecting the Everyman spirit back into the building. A quick scan of the audience, illuminated by the sea of bulbs dangling from the ceiling, tells you that something special is going on. Seats are full – there must be well over a hundred here – and the audience refuses to fall into any one demographic. Out of this crowd, ten to twenty five poets will emerge. After delivering up to three poems, they’ll step away from the microphone and be swallowed back into the ranks of the audience. Jamie Carragher
- Cunard Exhibition: Shipping Forecast, Liverpool
Late 1940s Liverpool mustn’t have held much opportunity for its youth. Battle-scarred, the landscape peppered with bomb craters, whole communities scattered, the city had been pretty much left to drag itself up, dust itself off and start again. In the picture houses across the city, the vision of another world outside of the city supplied by the Hollywood stars of the day, gave some young people a touch of wanderlust, an urge to leave, to find new adventures in far off lands. All through the ’50s, this incredible music flooded the city, seeping into the consciousness of a youth so keen to experience the outside world, the sights and sounds of America. To the youth, growing up in stern, frugal, post-war Britain, the music, these clothes and lifestyle will have seemed like some technicolour utopia, where the sun always shone, the music played, and everybody looked like a film star. Paul Fitzgerald
- No Homer’s Club: Constellations, Liverpool
There are few popular culture phenomena that inspire the level of devotion that The Simpsons enjoys. It is quite frankly the defining TV show of it’s generation (at least in the 90s, not so much now). This is pretty clear with No Homer’s Club, who staged their second Simpsons-themed exhibition.
Although the feeling in the air wasn’t quite at the level of excitement as the first event – which is to be expected, and we wouldn’t have noticed if we weren’t at the last one – it was still a great success, and worthy of the greatest TV show ever made. We had to jump the last train, so we left during The Simpsons karaoke (there was a mass singalong of Happy Birthday Lisa as we walked out the door). It gave us time to ponder on the journey home. Shaun Ponsonby