Monthly Archives: March 2011

Review: Jesca Hoop

Originally published on Weds 23 March 2011 at

Jesca Hoop / Elijah at Sea /Me and My Friends

The Cockpit 3, Leeds, 23 March 2011


“It’s like playing in an air raid bunker in here”, Jesca Hoop announces from the stage, as I struggle to find space to stand in The Cockpit’s tiny third room.  I’m inclined to agree – the low, metal-clad semicircle roof adds a certain Anderson shelter quality to the place.  I can imagine too how I wouldn’t last long in such a setting: peering over rows of heads in a vain attempt to see the stage, I find myself fighting off the urge to cause harm to a tall youth behind me, who has had cause to intermittently clap with deafening velocity through her last few quieter songs.

I suspect that Jesca is used to performing in more pleasant surroundings.  Last time I saw her was at the Hebden Bridge Trades Club, a cosy, guitars-and-ale sort of place, where she performed a terrific folky-jazzy-rock set with a full band.  Tonight though, it’s stripped down: Jesca and her guitar plus a backing singer (whose name – I’m sorry to say – I can’t recall) are performing tracks from her new album, Snowglobe.  She’s comparable with Regina Spektor – not simply because she’s a solo female artist, but because of their shared love of bare chords, an intense lyrical emotionality, and striking vocal creativity.

Raised by a Mormon family in Northern California, Jesca recently swapped her native, warm surrounds for slightly rainier Manchester.  Since doing so she’s received heaps of critical acclaim  – including from Tom Waits, no less – but, sadly, there’s something missing this evening.  Perhaps it’s the room, or the aforementioned clapping youth, but she doesn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders.  In fact, I think she’s been outshone by the support acts on this measure.

In particular, I find myself leaning towards the possibility that tonight’s openers, Me and My Friends, have stolen the show.  With a combination of reggae-infused folk combined with a hint of bossa nova and jazz, they’re the sort of band that you usually only find in a festival tea tent at 4am.  Between them, there’s a congas, clarinet, cello and, as they huddle on stage, it’s just about possible to make out lead singer and guitarist Nick Rasle, a man with a lovely gentle voice reminiscent of Devendra Banhart.  Listening to them is musical sunshine: just as the artist John Ruskin once remarked that ‘one cannot be angry when one looks at a penguin’ – it’s also true that one cannot be sad when listening to Me and My Friends.

Elijah at Sea have to cram on stage even more, with seven or possibly more members in various states between standing and crouching over their instruments – but the result is some fiercely energetic shouty alt-rock.  (I never thought I’d write that).  Not particularly my cup of tea, but I do appreciate the dramatic posing of the rhythm guitarist during the set.

At the end of the gig, Jesca announces that she’ll be with the full band in Manchester on Friday 26th March.  I’d recommend that you check her out again there – to me, at least, that’s how she sounds best.

York Open Studios

Originally published on Weds 23 March 2011 at

Don’t miss one of the biggest events on the artistic calendar this year as 119 artists open their doors to the public around York in a spectacular celebration of the city’s artistic talent. From April 1 – 3, take the opportunity to pop in on an artist at work in their home, studio or exhibition space, and get a taste of new art being made in Yorkshire’s picturesque city.

Joining the lineup of exhibition spaces is a new addition, Bar Lane Studios, which opened on Micklegate last May. Formerly the York Sony Centre, it’s been transformed by a group of artists into a new community arts space, the only one of its kind in York. It’s home to eleven local artists, who’ll be showcasing their work over the weekend.

This year’s event is a special one – it’s the 10th anniversary of York Open Studios. To celebrate, all artists from previous years have been invited back, so if you had a favourite from last year or before, you’ll be able to enjoy their work again over the weekend.

There’s so much to see and do that you’ll be wise to consult their hefty programme and plan your route around the city. You can find it, and much more about the artists appearing, at the York Open Studios website.

Heeley City Farm Spring Fayre

Originally published on Weds 23 March 2011 at

Thirty years ago, Sheffield’s Heeley City Farm opened its doors on a patch of derelict inner city land. This wasn’t what the planners originally had in mind – a few years previously, rows of Victorian terraces that stood here were demolished to make way for a bypass.

Fortunately, that bypass was never built – and Heeley City Farm has become one of the UK’s most celebrated urban farms, picking up numerous national and international awards over the years for its work on inner city sustainable development.

You’ll be able to visit the farm and take a look at its progress over the decades at the Heeley City Farm Spring Fayre. There’s something for everyone – you can explore the farm’s renewable energy centre, enjoy some live entertainment, and take a browse through local food, craft and gift stalls. And – as it’s a farm – you’ll be able to meet the animals, too!

The farm works closely with young and elderly people, people with disabilities and long term unemployed adults in growing and cooking local food, developing sustainable energy and organising healthy eating projects. The farm’s renewable energy centre is full of ideas and practical examples of how to save energy and fuel costs, drawing power from solar panels on the roof and a wind turbine in the garden.

Heeley City Farm has come a long way over the past 30 years – head to the Spring Fayre and support it as it heads into the future. The fayre takes place on Saturday 2 April, 11am – 4pm. Entry is free. For more information, visit Heeley City Farm’s website.

Hull Truck Food Festival Fundraiser

Originally published on Tues 15 March 2011 at

If you’ve ever wanted cookery classes from one of the ‘100 Sexiest Men in the World’ (and a Michelin-starred, 5AA Rosette-winning, Frenchman, too), then join celebrity chef Jean Christophe Novelli at Hull Truck Theatre for some scrumptious food – and help raise money for the theatre at the same time.

Hull Truck’s second annual Food Festival comes round on Sunday 27 March, with cookery demonstrations and stalls from local food producers. It’s all in the aim of generating some cash for the theatre, and exploring a range of exciting produce from around the region.

There’ll be tasting sessions too – try a bit of local cheese, or a range of different chocolates – before moving onto beer tasting and cocktail classes. Experts will be on hand to discuss the history and culture behind the food, as well as offering cookery tips and guidance.

For those with kids, there’s a ‘Scrumdiddlyumptious’ storytelling session, facepainting sessions and drama workshops. Take time out from browsing the food stalls to sample some of Hull Truck’s own cuisine, with a special menu prepared by the Head Chef, James Allcock. Plus, pick up a brochure, and you’ll get 10% off your food next time you visit.

It’s certain to be a sell-out – so if you’re a food fan, book your ticket now!

Full details can be found on Hull Truck’s website at

Leeds Young People’s Film Festival 2011

Originally published on Tues 15 March 2011 at

Now in its twelfth year, the Leeds Young People’s Film Festival kicks off on March 28th, with some special surprises in store for young and old alike. Visitors will be treated to films from around the world made both for and by young people, plus there will be workshops and masterclasses from film industry insiders.

Guests at this year’s festival will be able to take a sneak preview of the new 3D blockbuster Rio, from the makers of the hit Ice Age series. There’ll also be a special day of anime films, with a pre-screening discussion from expert Jonathan Clements for fans wanting to know more. Other highlights include the charming stop-motion A Town Called Panic and Adam Elliot’s dark animation Mary and Max featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Younger film fans will be enthralled by Ploddy the Police Car Makes a Splash, as he battles to save his town from the dastardly Badger brothers.

Big-name guests include Fast Show creator and star Charlie Higson, discussing his new zombie thriller series The Enemy and his love of all things horror. Rachel Hurd-Wood (Perfume, Dorian Gray, Solomon Kane) will also introduce a special preview of her new film Tomorrow, When the War Began, a dramatic story based on the best-selling books.

That’s not all – there’s a Harry Potter day for Hogwarts fans and the prestigious National Young Filmmaker’s Award showcase – plus more films than there’s room to write about!

If you’re a young person and you’re interested in film, then don’t miss this amazing festival! Full details of the programme can be found at

Preview: Left Bank Leeds hosts Her Name is Calla

Originally published on Tues 15th March 2011 at

Looming over the chimneypots, deep in the student metropolis of Hyde Park, there’s a huge, towering building that strikes an imposing sight over the takeaways and coffee shops. This is the former St Margaret of Antioch church, a once-decaying Victorian relic that has been beautifully transformed into Left Bank Leeds – a vibrant arts centre, music venue and performance space.

In 2008, a team of dedicated local volunteers began work to save this huge Grade II*-listed building from ruin. The result is a space like no other in Leeds – a cavernous room, with valuting Gothic arches and church pews. It’s out of sync with the trendy bars that surround it, which gives it buckets of character.

The building’s shape and size produces an impressive natural reverb and atmosphere that makes it ideal for a band like Her Name is Calla, appearing at Left Bank on Sunday 27th March. You could call them ‘post-rock’, but they’re so much more than that – expect brooding guitar chords, sweeping strings and pounding, cymbal-smashing drums.

The band’s debut album, The Heritage, was released in 2008 to critical acclaim – with Drowned in Sound calling them ‘one of the most daring, unconventional bands the UK has to offer’. Their use of a wide variety of instruments – ranging from banjo to trombone to theremin and lots in between – offers a broad sonic palette that is perfectly suited to the equally unconventional surroundings of Left Bank Leeds.

You can catch them on Sunday 27 March. Tickets are £8 on the door/£7 advance. Read a review of the gig on next month!

My writing portfolio: an update

Since November 2010 I’ve written reviews, previews and events listings on the cultural website  Here’s a portfolio of my work so far.

For the latest, I’d recommend that you subscribe to my site via RSS using something like Google Reader – it’s dead easy.  Watch this video for tips on how to do it.

You can find this page in the writing section of my site, too – take a browse!

New mixtape: The Winter Blues Beater

It’s been a while, but I’ve made a new mixtape!  Why? Well…we’re all skint/out of work/in debt.  And it still isn’t warm enough yet.  So I made this – The Winter Blues Beater Mixtape!  Listen and you’ll find some gems from Nigeria, Ghana, Cuba, Brazil and Colombia (including the mighty Martina Camargo, a real favourite in my Colombian drumming band, Tambores Lejanos).

Enjoy – and if you liked it, please let me know by leaving a comment!  I plan to arrange some live gigs really soon, so watch this space.

Muchos besitos!

The Winter Blues Beater Mixtape by Jed Skinner (productions)


1. Tony Grey Super 7 – Yem Efe
2. Seguida – Love Is
3. Max B. – Bananaticoco
4.Afrosound – Caliventura
5.Wganda Kenya – Fiebre De Lepra
6.Manteca – Abacua
7.Martina Camargo – El Playón de Santa Rosa
8.Banda Black Rio – Gafieira Universal
9.Orquestra E Côro – Kriola
10.Orlandivo – Onde Anda O Meu Amor
11.Teo – Adeu Ceara
12.Jorge Ben – Comanche
13.Gang do Tagarela – Melo da Tagarela
14.Ofo The Black Company – Egwu Aja


Review: Musicport Day, Coastival


Musicport Day, Coastival
Scarborough Spa, Sunday 20 February 2011


Originally published on Tuesday 22nd February 2011 at

“Would the owner of a silver estate car parked outside the main entrance please move it immediately. It is about to be swept away”. So announces our glamorous compere, as the roaring waves crash over the sea wall and sweep across the road. As I gaze out of the Spa’s aptly named Ocean Room, I begin to wonder if the Victorians hadn’t pondered building it a bit further back.

Being balmy February, it’s the ideal time for Coastival, a magnificent festival with hundreds of things happening across town. There’s art installations, gigs and even sword dancing workshops. Friday’s opening night saw the Levellers kick off proceedings, followed by comedian Count Arthur Strong on Saturday.

Today’s highlight is Musicport Day, curated by Jim and Sue McLaughlin of the local Musicport Festival. Beginning in 2000, Musicport has become the largest indoor world music festival in the UK, held in nearby Bridlington each autumn. Today’s a taste of what you can expect to find, including people from countries all over the world, and fascinating music you’ve never heard before.

Three of the four bands appearing today are from Yorkshire. As world music is a bit of a niche, this is either an excellent indication of our region’s cultural diversity, or a rather exaggerated territorial claim encompassing several continents.

First up are The Everly Pregnant Brothers, a band of ukulele-wielding Sheffielders, who count among their ranks comedian Toby Foster. They’re a covers band, but specialise in that difficult subgenre of ‘Yorkshire’, subtly altering the lyrics of hits like ‘Sex on Fire’ to ‘Me Chip Pan’s On Fire’. That particular one’s been circling in my head for days, along with ‘No Oven No Pie’.

Next on stage are Rafiki Jazz, also from Sheffield, with heritage from countries including Brazil, Colombia, Gambia and Zimbabwe. The music drifts from serene Senegalese poetry to pounding global dance, held together by Mim Suleiman, a ray of human sunshine blessed with a powerful, soulful voice. Mixing steel drums with tabla, kora with guitar and berimbau with beatbox, Rafiki Jazz quickly fill the dancefloor with an amazing fusion of sounds that, in their words, “comes from a special place… over there!”

Following on are The Hut People, a two-man band consisting of former Beautiful South percussionist Gary Hammond and accordion player Sam Pirt. Despite being lower on members, they’re able to generate a huge, beefy sound that rivals Rafiki Jazz’s barnstorming set, veering from English morris songs to Finnish dances and clog dancing for good measure. “This one’s our drum and bass number”, Sam announces, shortly before Gary pounds a large stick adorned with beer bottle tops rhythmically into the floor. “A good activity to do with the kids”, he suggests, shortly before the dancefloor is rushed with scores of gyrating bodies.

To finish the night are Berlin’s 17 Hippies. As they arrive on stage, an announcement is made over the PA. “Don’t count!” Shock! There’s only twelve. This, of course, doesn’t matter, as they launch straight into a blazing Eastern European fiddle’n’banjo dance number that sounds like there could in fact be 117 hippies on stage. They’re huge in their native Germany and France, but seem to love the fact they’re playing in Scarborough. “In Berlin, we’re so far from the sea”, vocalist Antje Henkel says. “But here, it’s right there!”

Indeed, it is – and as I venture outside afterwards, I notice that it’s closer still. I’d forgotten how cold it was – the music had transported me to more exotic climes. Although the weather’s cold in Scarborough, it’s a cultural hotspot this weekend. But, as I look out at the approaching waves in the darkness, I can’t seem to pick out that silver estate car.