THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS
By Norman Warwick
Because of a recent hack-attack, we have a new e mail contact address of firstname.lastname@example.org where you can now contact us with any comments or enquiries or to submit for consideration any articles of your own you might like us to include on our pages.
We mailed our first post on this blog on August 1st 2019 and now, today´s post, number 164, celebrates our imminent first anniversary. We have followed Sidetracks & Detours to vantage points offering us a wider vista from which we have been able to look out on to some thriving arts communities and the new challenges that suddenly demanded attention.
That landscape fell into darkness earlier this year and instead of delivering the news, interviews, previews and reviews that are this organisation´s staple diet, we became only able, instead, to bring news initially of the various stages of the coronavirus lockdown, It wasn´t all bad news, though, as even after the stage lights had dimmed, and the concert were over, there were still artists delivering us good news.
Pablo & Humberto, a musical duo, sent us details of a crowd-funding project and asked for our help in publicising it. The album they were then seeking to finance has now been released due to the support of the general public for their crowd-funding appeal. That they received such deserved support was hardly surprising.
We had seen them play a piano and violin recital live at The El Grifo Bodega some months earlier and the talents of these two likeable musicians were very evident.
Similarly, Texan singer writer Kimmie Rhodes was able to crowd- fund a book about her late husband, Joe Gracey, a songwriter, musician and dj. We later brought details of her success in bringing his memoirs to publication but we were also able to raise awareness of her subscription newsletter, Sun Bird Songs.
We were also amazed to learn that ac apella choir, Songsmiths, of The University Of Leeds, had successfully financed a huge triumphant performance at The Edinburgh Fringe and so leave a legacy for each new intake of students in the future.
We took a long look at how the pandemic was affecting the arts economy, and although my wife will tell you I´m not good at balancing income and expenditure, I didn’t need to be a genius to recognise the immediate financial impact. We have looked at the economic effects of the lockdown using the American city of Austin, Texas as our study: a city placed under lockdown on the eve of its annual South By South West (SXSW) festival.
We have also looked at the impact of all this on arts venues, and artists´ incomes and I don´t think any of us need a crystal ball to see a future of much higher priced admission tickets to speed recovery.
Nevertheless, our investigation in to how the government here on Lanzarote went about re-funding those who had purchased tickets for concerts that were subsequently cancelled was, in fact, very reassuring when it revealed how proactive the government had been in ensuring everyone was reimbursed.
More recently, details have emerged of the easing of that lockdown. This last fortnight has shown a sun rise, far in the distant horizons, but which we can hope might return light and warmth and aspiration to the Arts.
This, of course, coincided in the UK with the anti-social distancing crowds of protesters tearing down grey, stone, forlorn, indifferent statues because Black Lives Matter. We tried to investigate all that from the admittedly one-eyed, perspective of what all this says about the arts, and their roles in reflecting and re-shaping in history. We will watch closely whether or not the arts will fight to deny commodification and mis-appropriation by any agendised organisation.
So long as this re-opening doesn´t prove to have been undertaken with unseemly haste we at Sidetracks & Detours will continue to deliver our broad range of coverage of diverse arts forms. This year we have reported across the spectrum, from ballet to circus. We have even brought you diversity from within particular art forms.
Our coverage of music, for example has looked at jazz, folk, blues, rock, country, opera, choral and classical and all points beyond and in between, such as the fado music of Portugal and the flamenco of Spain. We have brought music as diverse as the classical compositions of the likes of Beethoven and the wonderful contemporary interpretations of the great songbooks by artists like Barb Jungr. In fact, thanks to one or two of our occasional contributors in the UK, Sidetracks & Detours also even pointed readers in the direction of an organ recital delivered, virtually, from Rochdale Town Hall.
Having also opened our new Lendanear web site this year hosting all the songs my partner Colin Lever and I wrote and recorded over seven albums, many years ago, we can only hope one of a number of talented artists as Barb Jungr might even follow our Sidetracks & Detours to that treasure trove of great songs in search of a voice.
We have also, of course, reported on all the breadth of concerts we had been watching all year here on Lanzarote, by such as timple players and choirs. We have always kept an ear open for my first love of country singer-writer music and have been amazed to discover how Lanzarote seems to be a conduit for the music of Spain, The Canary Island, The UK and USA and Cuba as that music is shaken out all over the world into the Cajun areas, into the cowboy songs and across Southern America.
Within the performance arts we have walked Sidetracks & Detours through comedy, drama, dance and musical. We have brought exclusive articles from the dance world, for instance, on organisations like Can´t Dance Can in Rochdale and Dance United Yorkshire as well as from world famous companies in America.
We also took a couple of in-depth looks at the impact of covid19 on the theatre, speaking to producers for their views on the future. All painted a bleak picture, with a heavy brush and influenced by very pessimistic estimations of a re-opening schedule. Incredibly, though, as I compile this piece only a couple of weeks later, it is in the knowledge that Boris Johnson is seeking and proposing to re-open theatre space in the UK by October. Whether or not that is good news might only be decided by whether we eventually begin to feel safe and comfortable again as audience members, after these past few, scary months.
We have visited creative writing groups and discussed with established and aspirant writers alike how such groups can work effectively and in what way creative writing is an art form.
In fact we have looked at the world of literature through the eyes of readers and writers, the published and their publishers and heard the viewpoint of book shop owners and retailers too. More than twenty posts in our first year have looked at the written word, and we have delivered an occasional series of ´Words From The Writer´, a series of exclusive conversations held by Sidetracks and Detours with writers like Rachel Abbot, Andrea Sarginson and Isobel Blackthorn.
In a similarly occasional series called In Praise of The Poets we have brought you other Sidetracks & Detours special delights including interviews with poets like Simon Armitage and Seamus Kelly and Ian and Andrew McMillan
In the visual arts we have visited several galleries and met exhibitors, sculptors and painters, and have also met with the guides who lead the organised tours of the major exhibitions. We have reported on the response of the galleries to coronoavirus and have been pleased to publish news of how many galleries are now creating virtual tours and posting them on line.
Of course we have taken Sidetracks & Detours to report on all this culture for you and it would have been remiss of us not to recently try out the best restaurants as they have recently, if slowly, re-opened, and we of course have sampled the best of the Lanzarote good food and fine wines. For those who prefer to hear more about the beer than the wine I would like to think I haven´t let you down, either.
Nevertheless, being born and bred in the UK and living now on Lanzarote we have been fascinated to learn of over a hundred cultural connections linking the homes of our lives over the last five centuries, from a book written by Larry Yaskiel, a man who is on of this island´s greatest imports. We have twice brought major interviews with this fascinating man and listened to him talk of his first career in the pop music industry of the fifties, sixties and seventies as a major manager with A & M records and of his second successful career as a life style magazine here on Lanzarote.
Larry told us how Shakespeare might have given the first ever Sidetracks & Detours style product placement when he mentioned the wines of Lanzarote and The Canary Islands in plays such as Henry1V, and how the Bard also spoke of the drunken dancing of The Canary after a half bottle or four.
A much more contemporary artist, working in a different format, is as revered today on Lanzarote as still is Shakespeare in the UK:
The late Cesar Manrique (right) was a painter who somehow sculpted and recreated from this eruption ravaged landscape a colourful clarity of wide open landscapes populated by windmills and artisan museums and all vibrantly reflecting what the old folk-lore celebrated in song and dance and a new creativity of artists ready to share his view of this island with their view of the world. We have trumpeted his name in several articles, as his remains the most loved name of an island that loves and celebrates all its artists, whether indigenous or immigrant.
We have reported from several major festival events, reviewed more than a hundred live events, printed over a dozen exclusive interviews with major artists and have of course reviewed books, music albums, cinema and restaurants.
Not only have we reviewed radio programmes but also have even published scripts and playlists of some of the programmes Sidetracks & Detours have co-produced with Hot Biscuits for an on-line audience.
In fact we have even produced a number of exclusive Sidetracks & Detours playlists and published the title and track-listing here on these pages so that any readers who wished to could follow our links and create their own cd.
None of this would have been possible without the support of readers who send in occasional news items they would like us to cover, and we also highly value the comments (almost invariably positive) that are posted in to our info@ facility.
We are grateful to those artists who keep us updated on their careers via press releases and newsletters. Many of these are Spanish, Russian, German or Dutch artists now living and plying their craft on Lanzarote and it is great to feel part of that enclave. Similarly, though, there are artists, such as jazz player and music teacher Helena Summerfield, in the UK helping us in the same way.
The people we would most like to thank, however, are those who contribute insightful articles on a wide range of topics. Our regular contributors seem to have a knack of dropping something in to our inbox just as we are scratching our heads wondering what we can write about this week.
Regular contributors have included people like Seamus Kelly, writing about poetry and bringing us exclusive interviews and reviews of writers like Sophie Hannah, novelist and poet. Seamus is show here (left) in conversation with me about his own thoughtful poetry, on an all across the programme at Crescent Radio a few years ago.
Graham Marshall )right), a composer and musician, has sent us several enthusiastic and informative reviews of classical concerts promoted by Rochdale Music Society. We really appreciate his generosity of spirit.
We have even re-cycled some of the best, and timeless, reviews submitted to me when I was at all across the arts, with jazz reviews by Alan Lawless and classical comments by Dr. Joe Dawson making refreshing reading.
So, too, we´d like to thank those who send us UK news which we can then re-circulate. Eileen Earnshaw, Katie Haigh, Ray Stearn, Catherine Coward: thank you, and many others, so much.
Andrew Moorhouse (left) has contributed articles on poetry, publishing and painting and classic Elvis Costello´. His own fine press poetry company produces exquisite books.
Dave Espin, who used to edit my sales pitches when we worked for a computer-data company decades ago, has also submitted an articleon The Incredible String Band, and is I hope in the throes of exalting another of his favourite bands, Jethro Tull.
Michael Higgins (right) gathers arts news from his Rochdale stomping ground but always manages to sketch that news into a national or even global picture. Former bohemian and local historian, as well as poet, musician and dialectician, Michael walks and talks quietly but carries a big stick, and has tackled some important subjects such as the recent demolition of statues in social protest.
There is one contributor who focuses on jazz and the arts classes he takes. Steve Bewick has brought us reports from jazz clubs in Tel Aviv and in London, and I really enjoy it when he and I collaborate on writing ´virtual´ radio programmes for our pages. We used to co-present a radio programme in the UK, despite our musical tastes being seemingly disparate. Hey ho, it made for great radio.
Speaking of great radio, we also really enjoy the support of Aileen Hendry at Monster Radio FM, broadcasting throughout Europe. We have brought exclusive interviews with her to these pages and she has returned the favour by inviting us on to her programme to discuss all the Side-tracks & Detours we follow.
Nevertheless, amongst all this, we also salute friends like Jim Loughrill, here on Lanzarote and Caroline Crossley and in the UK who regularly share our posts on their own social media outlets.
The whole concept of a news, interview, previews and reviews platform came when Robin Parker and I were writing the all across the arts pages in The Rochdale Observer many years ago. Robin is himself a fine poet and writer and is shown here with a copy of his book The Edenfield Scrolls, a collection of ´re-located´ Biblical stories. Robin is a member of Langley Writers and our photograph shows him with fellow members Carol Keys and Katie Haigh. The two women also are readers of their own poetry at the monthly meetings at The Baum, in Rochdale hosted by Robin and Eileen Earnshaw.
Insert photo 14 Before I left to come and live here, Steve Cooke had been working with me for quite some time, running the pages in the UK and it was intended that I would simply repeat the same process here on the island for our arts scene, and Steve would carry on working in situ from the UK. That worked well and amicably for some while but inevitably, as each arm of the organisation grew and developed, it became sensible become independent bodies. However, there still exists a really strong and rewarding synergy between the established ´all across the arts´ outlet and the now exactly one year old Sidetracks & Detours.
As a reward to ourselves, and we hope to readers, too, we are next week delivering five episodic features to celebrate our anniversary.
These will also take us on various routes of light years of travel but will all depart from the same place: that take off runway being the Rough and Rowdy Ways album by Bob Dylan, which took him recently, at the age of 79, to the top of the pops chart ! We mostly will focus on terminal two, which is the seventeen minute long second compact disc in the double album. The track Murder most Foul has already inspired hundreds of on-line articles telling us, or sometimes asking us, what the track is all about.
Follow your art down Sidetracks & Detours next week to consider what we mean when we speak of Dylan and put a note on your calendars that we also have a special week of five features on Paul Simon coming up in October.
We look forward to continued growth and a return to some kind of normality over the next year and thank everyone for their support. We will be waving our access-all-areas press passes as soon as live events return and will bring you, as they say on Match Of The Day, the best of the day´s action.
We appreciate your support.