Rob talks about the cool uncle of British comedy, Bill Bailey.
Words: Rob Johnson
Bill Bailey is the cool uncle of British comedy. Whether it be appearing in cult sitcom Black Books, cult quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcocks or cult movie Hot Fuzz, Bailey picks his projects across a broad church of geekdom. He arrives at the Doncaster Dome for his Larks in Transit tour in high spirits and accompanied by various guitars, a theremin, a box of wonder (no, really), a keyboard and something that just plays bird calls. He is nothing if not unique.
It is customary for any comedian arriving at the Dome to joke about how odd it is to play a gig in a gymnasium, or as Bailey puts it ‘Donny Dome just reeks of show business’. This is delivered with an affection that is only fitting for one of the nicest guys in show business.
The first half of the set covers everything that floats into Bailey’s dandelion mind. Roald Dahl-esque descriptions of various Tory politicians (‘in a nice way’ offered as a caveat each time),fantastic wordplay (‘the stale pitta bread of self-loathing’) and a long section examining why the Doncaster crowd is so damn weird. When Bill asks the crowd generally if anyone is in a relationship, he is met with an uncomfortable but warm silence as if the crowd don’t want to admit to any kind of monogamy.
After the interval we are treated to a hilarious ‘poem’ about marriage which is basically a back and forth about why his wife has moved his keys, an examination of why the Loon has the most haunting birdsong, a German singalong and a delightful diversion into Indonesian phrase books. Bill Bailey’s performances are somewhere between stand-up, a rock show, and a conversation with a troll during which you have to answer a riddle to cross his rickety, old bridge.
One thing that is striking is that whenever Bailey touches any kind of musical instrument, his talent can’t help but shine through. It is astonishing that one man can be so musically gifted and yet that only be a secondary part of his live show.
Bill Bailey has often portrayed himself as a man who floats down the stream of life jumping from one barge to the other depending on what catches his eye. However, on a grey Wednesday night in Doncaster Bailey is focused, razor sharp and downright joyous. Hopefully his first ever Doncaster gig won’t be his last.
Check out Rob’s website HERE to read more of his reviews.
All The World On A One Way Street is a documentary project which looks closely at the people of Copley Road and the Nether Hall region in general.
Photography: Warren Draper
As many of you will be aware, we chose to build our studio-cum-gallery-cum-workshop -cum-think-tank-cum-venue-cum-laboratory on the corner of Copley Road and Broxholme Lane. If you haven’t visited Doncopolitan HQ yet, you should really find the time to drop in. It is one of the most creative and inspiring places in Doncaster – or the world for that matter. We didn’t choose to settle on Copley Road for financial reasons (OK, it was a little bit for financial reasons). We came here because, at the time, the Copley Road Project was one of the most exciting things happening in Donny. The Project has changed a lot over the last few years, but then so has Copley Road.
Not long ago it seemed like every other shop on Copley Road was empty. The Nether Hall region had been through a long period of economic decline. What had once been a thriving over-spill from the heyday of Doncaster Markets was a sad, dirty shadow of its former self. But in recent years the region has seen a real upturn. The vacant shops are being filled and the streets are alive with people. All kinds of wonderful, beautiful, colourful, powerful, painful, sorrowful, soulful, joyful people.
This regeneration isn’t the result of top-down planning or the injection of millions of pounds of UK or European grants. It has come from the hard-work of the people and businesses who live and work in the area. It doesn’t take a genius to see that many of these new businesses have been created by ‘new arrivals’ – people who have migrated to Doncaster to build a new life. This shouldn’t be a surprising fact in itself, migrants have always helped shape the local economy. Doncaster would never have been the productive area it was without the influx of Polish, Welsh and Geordies who spent their lives down the pit.The role of migrants in the regeneration of Nether Hall is made surprising by the fact that Doncaster was a key Brexit Town.
This article isn’t about taking sides over Brexit. I have written elsewhere of my disgust in the attitudes of some, left and the right, leavers and remainers, after the referendum:
We have learned anything from this referendum it is that the powerful and the political on both sides of the debate have nothing but contempt for everyday people. By ‘everyday’ I mean the people I spend every day with; the former – and formerly loved – ‘working class’ people of the regions which, once upon a time, made up the Labour heartlands. I live in Doncaster, where 69% of voters ticked the ‘Leave’ box.
Neighbours and work colleagues I’ve spoken were all hungry for more information. Rather than focusing on the immigration debate – which made up 90% of the vox pops in the media (a propaganda strategy used to reinforce classism for the last 50 years) – the majority of people voiced concern for the immediate welfare of their friends and family and many spoke about their fears for an uncertain future… the kind of thing which should be at the heart of every political decision.
People were truly torn and many felt that they were making a decision between a rock and a hard place… it is not as if we’re exactly thriving under the EU, despite the £millions of EU funding which has been pumped into the region. None of this was reflected in the media or in the attitudes of politicos… both left and right.
(For the full article, the first in a series of three, visit: https://warrendraper.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/the-echo-of-the-voiceless/)
I’m not going to pretend that I have the right to pass judgement on the result of the referendum. The truth is, I didn’t vote. I’m not against Britain or Europe, to me they’re just geography and interesting cultures, but when it came to deciding in a referendum I couldn’t really say that I was ‘for’ either of them. Me? What am I for? I’m for Doncaster.
This is not sitting on the fence. Everything I have been involved with creating, from Doncopolitan to Bentley Urban Farm, stems from my belief that regions are at their most creative and most resilient ( an increasingly crucial quality) when they are free to live autonomously. For all the good they may have done, when it comes to people having the freedom to design, create and maintain their own villages, towns and cities – the places they have chosen to make their home – Whitehall, Westminster and Brussels have all placed major obstacles in the road to self-determination. For me, the choice as it was set out in the referendum, was no choice at all. And besides, I have always tried to live by the old Jewish adage: “If somebody offers you two choices, take the third.” The dominant economic system offered by Europe and the UK does not offer the freedom I seek for Doncaster. Freedom can never be granted, only lived.
All The World On A One Way Street is a new documentary project which will look closely at the people of Copley Road and the Nether Hall region in general. Using photography, video, visual arts and written word, it will tell the story of the area’s recent regeneration and look at the long proud heritage one of Doncaster’s most interesting streets. Inevitably, Brexit will be it’s backdrop; we can’t look at a place like Nether Hall without wondering what it will hold for its diverse community. But this will be a story about people. All of the people, both new arrivals and families who have lived in the region for generations. To tell an honest story we must give equal voice to all. To tell an interesting story we must embrace the good, the bad and the bizarre. So if you’d like to tell your story, give your view, or want involved with an exciting new documentary project then why not take up my offer and pop along to Donco HQ.
All The World On A One Way Street launches on March 28th 6pm at Doncopolitan Studio, 83 Copley Road, Doncaster, DN1 2QP.
Rob talks about the amazing Richard Ashcroft at the Doncaster Dome.
Words: Rob Johnson
What makes a great frontman? An unforgettable voice? On-stage swagger? A right long face?Whatever it is, Richard Ashcroft has it. The former Verve man was clearly born to stand on a stage. Much in the same way that I was born to stand behind a bar and say ‘yes mate?’.
I’ve long defended the Dome as a venue and in Richard Ashcroft they have once again secure done of the UK’s biggest musical stars. The stage set up and the sound are impeccable throughout and only add to what is a stellar, show stopping performance from one of music’s great enigmas.
Ashcroft wanders on stage and looks so comfortable you would believe he had spent the afternoon casually using the Dome’s massive swimming pool. He does strike me as a man that would enjoy a good flume. Out Of My Body kicks things off and Ashcroft’s voice immediately transports me back to the ’90s. A decade of hot summers, Merlin’s premier league sticker albums and Britpop. In truth though, both the Verve and Ashcroft himself have transcended Britpop. His music has always been completely timeless. Sonnet follows and what a beautiful rendition it is, before Break The Night With Colour brings the house down.
I have always found Ashcroft’s solo work to be a little patchy but there is absolutely no doubting his sheer power as a live performer and in this greatest hits set, solo tracks such as Space and Time fit perfectly alongside Verve classics like Weeping Willow and Velvet Morning – a song that sounds utterly perfect here. Indeed, velvet is a fitting word to describe Ashcroft’s luxurious voice. Along with Paul Heaton, and me after seven pints, he is probably the most underrated singer of the ’90s.
Music is Power shudders through the Dome next with Ashcroft able to pull off the trite lyrics through sheer passion and force of will. He has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind and this is why doesn’t just get away with mawkish sentimentalism like Music is Power – he owns it. He turns it into something pure and beautiful.
A solo rendition of Lucky Man is not just the highlight of this set but the highlight of any set ever. As Ashcroft approaches the final chorus, they turn on the bright lights and the full band are revealed, kicking in to finish with an extended, bombastic and spine-tingling crescendo. This is a man who is at once genius and showman, professional and maverick. There really is only one Richard Ashcroft.
The encore consists of an acoustic rendering of The Drugs Don’t Work before a show-stopping finale of A Bittersweet Symphony. Ashcroft thanks those in attendance for spending their money on going to see him, a sentiment that, like everything else that comes out of his mouth, he clearly means from the bottom of his heart. And not for the first time at the Donny Dome, I leave feeling like I have witnessed something really special. One of rock music’s great survivors still at the top of his game. A bittersweet symphony indeed…
Check out Rob’s website HERE to read more of his reviews.
Emma talks about the creative events and opportunities for artists, currently happening this May in Doncaster.
Words: Emma Gullon
CAST have a vast range of theatre productions throughout the year; from big touring shows such as Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Lady Vanishes’ (3rd – 8th June) to up and coming theatre companies like Smashing Mirror’s Theatre with their new show ‘Three Emos’ (7th May).
CAST also host various workshops for the young and the young at heart such as A Very Bug Adventure Family Workshops and Opera North’s Little Singers. There’s also opportunities for local artists to develop their own work with events like the annual Scriptworks course, and even courses held by the cast and crew of visiting shows.
On the other side of town, The Doncaster Little Theatre may be small, but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t make an impact on the community. This is an excellent opportunity for local talent to showcase their own productions. 2 Act Theatre bring their brand new family show ‘The Pirates of The Curry Bean’ (13th -14th May). However, legendary talent will also be taking centre stage such as 60s’ The Swinging Blue Jeans on 9th May and singer songwriter Dean Friedman performing 2nd May.
For contemporary artists, the New Fringe visual arts group provides help and encouragement for the visual arts, as well as offer participative, open exhibitions outside the region. Apply for membership on their website for just £5.
The Point are running #pointFEST on 25th May, promising creative hands on activities for everyone.
Helm is a coworking office space where a community of creatives meet, work and collaborate together to help businesses, running workshops on the last Tuesday of the month.
Writing and poetry.
Hive Young Writers Group gives 14 -19 a great weekly meet up to show their work with a supportive young team as well as make new friends. There’s also a Saturday poetry group for 16 -25 year olds.
Queens Poetry Slam is on 14th May. This is a rare moment when hip hop and culture collide in spectacular fashion, with a collection of local spoken word and runs every SECOND Tuesday of the month.
On the 13th of May from 10.00am -12pm I will be hosting the monthly Creativity & Commerce networking event, which will be keeping creative minds up to date with everything cultural in our community.
We also have the weekly Mama Wheatley’s Craft Club every Monday from 6.30pm – 8.30pm who are currently working on Doncaster’s biggest yarn Bomb. Contact their facebook page to get in touch.
To keep up to date with all the artsy Donco happenings, click HERE to subscribe to our weekly mailing list.
Having featured the amazing Scarlett Lee from Extinction Rebellion Nottingham in the latest Doncopolitan (page 18) – who, as one of the thousand people arrested in London last week, has forced UK politicians to debate climate change – we decided to head down to the London for the XR protests to offer our support. Warren Draper tells us about the XR technique of ‘swarming’.
Words: Warren Draper
Photography: Warren Draper
MOMENTS AMONGST THE SWARM
This is how it begins. With a ‘human microphone’.
The human microphone, also known as a people’s microphone, is a way of communicating to large groups without an electric PA or megaphone. The speaker shouts “mic check” and the surrounding crowd shouts “mic check” back to confirm that they’ve heard the speaker. The crowd then repeats everything the speaker says so that everyone can hear the information being relayed. It works pretty well. Mostly. But the technique always raises a smile amongst the crowd as it is quite funny to witness. I’m smiling too. Partly because the call of ‘Mic check’ has put me in mind of Greta Thunberg, who, when addressing UK politicians, said:
Is my microphone on? Can you hear me?
‘You did not act in time’: Greta Thunberg’s full speech to MPs The Guardian 23rd April, 2017
With typical dry wit she was implying that politicians are not normally very good at listening. So it was good to see the MP for North Doncaster, Ed Miliband, in attendance. Time will tell if the government truly listened though.
Greta isn’t your stereotypical muscle-bound, comic-book, action-film hero, but she is exactly the hero the world needs right now. A shy, sixteen-year-old with Asperger’s (a condition on the autistic spectrum), she started a solitary school strike outside the Swedish parliament back in October 2018. This was in response to a landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which stated that urgent and unprecedented changes were needed within the next 12 years if we are to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Greta’s actions inspired children around the world. There are now hundreds of thousands of school kids, from over one hundred countries, striking every Friday (#FridayForFuture) to demand that their governments take action on climate change.
At the same time as Greta was starting her school strike the movement known as Extinction Rebellion (XR), who use the ESP designed extinction symbol and the motto #RebelForLife, published their first open letter of intent, which was signed by over a hundred academics.
Developed by the activist group, Rising Up!, XR uses the tactics of peaceful civil disobedience (inspired by Occupy, Gandhi, the suffragettes and Martin Luther King Jnr) to highlight the truth of both climate change and the less talked about (in the mainstream media at least) sixth mass extinction event. Human activity – burning fossil fuels, habitat loss and deforestation, industrial farming techniques, over consumption, unsustainable building techniques, warfare, excessive greed, neoliberal capitalism, etc. – has warmed our global climate to dangerous levels and increased the background extinction rate. The sixth mass extinction event is proving as deadly to life on Earth as the extinction event which wiped out the dinosaurs– only this time we are the asteroid.
The UK (already one of the most wildlife depleted countries on the planet) has lost 75% of its flying insect mass in the last 25 years. We rightly worry about the decline of bees, but they’re actually quite fussy feeders and pollinate just a tiny percentage of plants; the vast majority are pollinated by flies and other less romantic insects, but the loss of these insects is equally as devastating as the loss of honey bees. These are crucial times for all life on Earth, but until recently you were more likely to hear about Megan Markle’s ability to close a car door than about ecological collapse. Climate Strike and XR are part of a global grassroots movement committed to putting climate change and extinction in the mainstream media and on the political agenda.
But back to the mic check…
The people’s microphone is being used to describe the process of ‘swarming’ to the assembled XR activists. We’re told that under UK law the charge of Obstruction of a Highway (Section 137. of the Highways Act 1980) comes into force after eight minutes. So the tactic is to use pedestrian crossings to block the road for seven minutes. We then wait one minute before blocking that road, or another road, for another seven minutes, hence creating traffic problems (because fair’s fair, traffic is part of the larger climate problem) while keeping within the law.
It is a simple process which uses a few key roles to keep things running smoothly and everybody safe. The coordinator is the person who oversees the swarm, deciding where and when the road-block will take place. The strategy being to find key crossing sites which cause the quickest and longest traffic jams in a given area.
There are banner operatives who hold the banner – the banner leader is the person on the right-hand-facing edge of the banner (in the UK at least, where we drive on the left), they are the first person to walk out once the green light is showing and the person to lead everyone back to safety once the seven minutes are up.
There is an official timer to time the seven minutes (and the minute in between road-blocks if blocking the same crossing more than once) and a time-card holder, so that both drivers and activists can see how long they have to wait.
One of the most vital roles in a swarm is that of ‘de-escalator’. Ideally there are two of these for each lane of traffic. They move amongst the cars to apologise to drivers, hand out leaflets and explain why there is a need for Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA). Many carry gifts of food and our swarm even had an accordion player, which went down a storm with this lorry driver and the school coach trip in front…
As well as the de-escalators making sure than drivers were kept calm, there were also well-being volunteers looking after the mental and emotional well-being of all involved. There were trained legal observers, who are found at most protests and can be recognised by their pink vests, and a police liaison, who’s main job is to get advanced warning from the police so that they can clear the blockade if emergency vehicles need to get through at any time.
My role on the day was that of a pedestrian leafleter, talking to pedestrians (the most sensible way to travel in any city!) at the crossings and pavements as the blockade was going on and generally raising awareness about the crisis we face. It was a role which gave me the opportunity to make myself useful while still be able to take pictures.
Our group, named ‘Group Mike’ after our first elected coordinator (roles can change throughout the day), was deployed to the London Bridge area on the outskirts of the City of London, the plan being to disrupt the financial district which is responsible for investing £billions in the fossil fuels industry (and making £billions more from it). A full report on the day’s actions can be found here.
We did pass the London Mayor’s Office and discussed the possibility of an impromptu ‘die in‘, but decided to go ahead with the initial plan so that we would stay coordinated with the other swarms and have maximum impact on the traffic in the city.
Contrary to some reports, drivers are largely sympathetic to the demands of XR. There were the usual predictable comments from the minority. Things like “Get a job!” or “Get a wash, hippy!” from people who shout such things at anyone carrying a banner. But as a leafleter, I spoke to a lot of people and the vast majority were supportive. We even had one young lady join the protest there and then. The only real problem we faced was when we blocked a third carriageway instead of just two using a much smaller and less visible banner.
As the lights went green for the traffic a coach and a taxi drove straight at the road-block, but the activists, de-escalators and the police were quick to calm things down.
And the TV crew was quick to grab a sound-bite.
But for the most part the apologetic attitude and calming singing of the protesters, along with the fact that the majority of people we spoke to understood the enormity of the problems we face as a species, meant that our NVDA stayed exactly that, non-violent. Although we did learn the hard way that it is advisable to have large, day-glow banners if you want to block a road.
None of the swarmers were here because they wanted to be a nuisance. XR isn’t trying to force its ideas on anybody else. Its just that thirty years of misinformation, inaction and broken promises have brought us to the very brink of a perhaps irreversible crisis which threatens the future of life as we know it. XR and the Climate Strikers are rising simply because nobody else who has so far stepped up to the plate has been successful in their efforts. Because, love it or hate it, nobody can deny the successes that XR and the Climate Strikes have achieved in an incredibly short period of time. And this is just the beginning.
XR has also brought together beautiful, sensitive, funny, committed people who refuse to accept that there no alternative to business as usual… as one banner read: “Business As Usual = Death”.
XR is something new. It is something necessary. And it is something which anyone who has deep concerns regarding climate change and extinction can get involved with. As Antonio Gramsci famously said:
“The optimism of the action is better than the pessimism of the thought.”
As the sign says, “time is running out”. Let’s use it more wisely than we did when we thought we had all the time in the world x