Monthly Archives: April 2011

Interview with David Wickenden of 4 Poofs and a Piano

Originally published on Thurs 14 April 2011 at

How did you meet?
We’ve been together getting on for 11 years now. Three of us met singing in a choir. About a year later David Roper joined us on piano. I used to work at the Groucho Club in Soho and our first gig was there. There was a producer in the audience, looking for ideas for the Jonathan Ross show, which was still in concept form at the time. They saw us, contacted us and asked us to go and try out, and we were pretty much involved with the show from day one!

What are the main musical influences on the band?
It’s a comedy influence more than anything else – visual, larger-than-life influences. Having said that, I’d say that Stephen’s main influence is Agnetha from ABBA; Ian’s is probably Dusty Springfield; David’s is Helen Shaprio; and mine would be Les Dawson!

You’re one of the singers in the band – do you play anything?
I do play – but not very well! I play the piano a little bit, I do one comedy number in the show – it’s quite simple.

Tell us about your new show.
Smoke and Mirrorballs is a show in two parts. The first half is a compilation of the best of our previous shows from over the years. The second half is essentially our Edinburgh show from 2009. It’s really high energy, really full-on good fun. We’ve been getting great responses from audiences – we were in Andover several nights ago and we had a really good night, people were really up for it. We love to interact with the audience and get them involved in the show: there’s lots of singing, lots of comedy songs, dancing and chatting with the audience. It’s all really good fun!

Have you played in Barnsley before?
No we haven’t, but we were in Sheffield a couple of weeks ago at The Crucible and we had a great night there. One of the guys in the band, Ian, is a Yorkshireman – he’s from Sheffield so we always get a really lovely welcome by all his family when we play there.

Where’s the best place you’ve visited in Yorkshire?
The North Yorkshire Moors are beautiful, and we love visiting Leeds – we always have a great night out when we’re there, we love the big gay scene in the city.

Do you have any rock and roll stories from your time on the road?
Apart from Stephen the Australian farting in the van, that’s about as rock and roll as it gets, we’re all tired with the long late night drives!

Wath Festival

Originally published on Thurs 14 April 2011 at

27 April – 2 May
Wath-upon-Dearne, South Yorkshire

Wath’s festival of music and dance returns for another year at the end of the month, with six days of events happening all around the town.

Now in its 39th year, Wath Festival has grown from a tiny May Day event to become South Yorkshire’s biggest musical festival. The organisers have been careful to ensure that the festival remains true to its community origins – although much larger in size than in 1972, the heart of the festival is still centred firmly in Wath.

With a lineup of roots, world and folk music, this year’s exciting lineup features both big names and some unusual ones too. The headliners include folk ‘supergroup’ Drever McCusker & Woomble – featuring Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble. Also appearing will be celtic musician Frances Black, the Orlyk Ukrainian Dancers and a range of folk musicians.

Plus, there’s Irish dancers, bhangra musicians, samba bands and – that all important festival feature – facepainting!

Other highlights include a huge procession through the town on Saturday, finishing at the church to bun-throwing from the steeple – clearly worth attending for this alone! Besides the concerts and dancing, there’ll also be music workshops, including African drumming sessions and ukulele masterclasses.

Tickets are on sale now, with prices ranging from £15/£16 for a day ticket to £60 for the whole weekend. Camping is available too. For more details, visit

Review: Her Name is Calla

Originally published on Weds 30 March 2011 at

Left Bank Leeds

Sunday 27 March


There’s a huge building in Leeds that, I think, is well on its way to being a legendary music venue.  You might not know about it – it’s not highlighted as a tourist attraction, nor is it in the trendiest part of the city.  It’s also a church.  And no, it’s not Halo…

Welcome to Left Bank Leeds: formerly the St. Margaret of Antioch church, a huge, Gothic-style building, constructed at the turn of the 1900s for the mill-workers of Hyde Park.  Looming over the chimneypots of this modern-day student metropolis, the austere brick structure strikes an imposing sight when approaching it in the dark.  Step inside, and you’re treated to something that’s more akin to the inside of a cathedral than a church: vaulted arches, huge columns and a giant stained glass window at one end.

The story of Left Bank Leeds begins in 1995.  Faced with a dwindling congregation, a decision was made to close the church, which remained abandoned for over a decade.  Fast forward to 2008, and a group of dedicated local people began the task of restoring the building, giving it a new lease of life as a performing arts centre and community space.

Tonight’s pretty chilly, and Left Bank has seemingly little in the way of heating, but that’s not stopped a good hundred people or so turning out to witness a performance of atmospheric, brooding music.  The stage is set on what I imagine was once the altar, with a scattering of seats and tables in place of pews before it.  The venue and the music couldn’t be more ideally suited – there’s a five-second natural reverb in the building, the arches and columns adding a real atmosphere to the ghostly whispers to opener Alicia Merz, aka Birds of Passage.

Hailing from New Zealand, Alicia plays guitar, keyboard and occasionally goes off to twiddle with a laptop.  Her voice is scarcely a whisper, sounding a little like Vashti Bunyan, but that’s where the similarity ends.  I’m not sure how she’s doing it (and I don’t wish to sound like a granddad by calling it ‘new-fangled electronic trickery’), but over a few minutes she carefully introduces layers of sound on sound, each layer blending gracefully into the next – the reverb slowly rising, creating an eerie barrage of faded chord fragments.  This is the sort of music that I think would be impossible to not sound good in a church building, as it is inextricably shaped by the fascinating acoustics of the space.

After a break, and a trip to the bar for a joyously warm cup of tea, the hotly-anticipated Her Name is Calla take to the stage.  Although signed to the German Denovali label, the six-piece come from a combination of Leeds, Leicester and York, and are tonight beginning an epic tour of Europe with Birds of Passage.  They play a range of instruments – with a trombone, banjo and violin all popping up – shifting from delicate ambient musings  to explosive ear-splitting cacophony without warning, unfolding a series of vast aural soundscapes through crashing guitars, booming drums and haunting vocals.

Hailed by no less an authority than Drowned in Sound as ‘one of the UK’s most daring and unconventional bands’, I found their set to be not so much a performance but an experience – the waves of sound multiplying and bouncing around the old church walls before cascading down with an epic crash of cymbals and noise.

In conclusion, then: ‘twas a cracking night.  Expect to hear great things spoken about Her Name is Calla very soon indeed.

  • Her Name Is Calla’s new album, The Quiet Lamb, is out now on Denovali Records.

The Half: Photographs of Actors by Simon Annand

Originally published on Thurs 31 March 2011 at

The Half‘ – a stage term given to the 30 minutes before the curtain goes up at the theatre. It’s got a special name because it’s a special moment, when actors begin to shed their own personality and take on the life of their stage characters.

It’s a moment that’s been encapsulated in a series of photographs by Simon Annand, soon to be on display at Scarborough Art Gallery and the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Capturing faces from stage and screen over the past 25 years, there’s glimpses of young unknowns from the 1980s – now household names – including Anthony Hopkins, Colin Firth and Daniel Day Lewis.

Annand’s unprecedented access offers a rare glimpse not only into a personal moment in an actor’s preparations, but also serves as a documentation of theatre history. Each actor is caught in the midst of their routines and rituals, preparing to transform into a new personality for the stage.

The Half is being held – appropriately – in two halves. The largest part of the exhibition is on display at Scarborough Art Gallery, consisting of black and white shots, moving into colour photography at the Stephen Joseph Theatre Gallery.

Simon Annand will visit Scarborough Art Gallery to discuss his work on Friday 20 May, from 12.30 – 1.30pm.

Easter Holidays Round-up

Originally published on Weds 30 March 2011 at

Haxby Scarecrow Festival
Saturday 30 April – Monday 2 May

The scarecrows of Haxby near York have been a fixture in the village for the past five years, and now locals have ensured they’re back for another outing this Easter. Organised by the Haxby and Wigginton Methodist Church, there’ll be five different trails of varying lengths, with a large number of scarecrows to be seen (there were 182 last year!). It’s all for a good cause – this year, the church is raising money for Phambili ngeThemba, a South African organisation working in impoverished townships, in addition to local causes around the region. You can find out more information – and register your scarecrow – at

Skipton Waterway Festival
Saturday 30 April – Monday 2 May

Over 100 canal boats will be making their way to Skipton as the picturesque Yorkshire Dales town hosts its annual Waterway Festival. The Leeds-Liverpool canal which runs through the town will be transformed into a menagerie of craft stalls and art exhibits, with music, dancing and comedy acts throughout the weekend. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to take a look round the colourful narrowboats – you could even take a ride in one too!

Bridlington Royal Wedding Celebrations and Easter Treasure Trail
Monday 25 April

Bridlington’s Old Town is a quaint area of cobbled streets, quirky shops and historical relics – including a set of stocks! It’s an ideal place for not one, but two events taking place in the town this Easter: a treasure trail, and a Royal Wedding party. There’s bound to be plenty of local stalls and entertainment too – but don’t get too carried away, or you could end up in those stocks!

Bridlington Easter Hockey Festival
Friday 22 – Sunday 24 April

For the last 67 years, Bridlington has held an annual Easter Hockey Festival, a 7-a-side tournament for both men and women. Held on grass pitches, the men play for three days (Easter Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and the women play for two (Saturday and Sunday). This year’s event is scheduled to be held at the Bridlington Astro Centre, a new facility at Bridlington School. There’s food, a bar and family entertainment too – so why not check it out?

Graves Park Easter Dash, Sheffield
Sunday 24 April

Had one Easter egg too many? Splashed out a bit too much at the end of Lent? If you think you’re up to it, you can join hundreds of others in a 5-mile run around Graves Park in Sheffield on Easter Sunday. Once part of the ancient Norton Estate, there’s been woodland at Graves Park since the age of William the Conqueror – nowadays there’s also tennis courts, a café and an animal farm to be found in the grounds. All money raised from the run will be donated to The Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline charity – plus, all runners get an Easter egg!

Easter Lambing at Whirlow Hall Farm
Thursday 21 April

Spring is in the air, and that means that lambs are on the way! Come and see the newborn lambs at Whirlow Hall Farm in Sheffield – there’ll be talks from the keepers, pony riding sessions and a craft fair. Plus, stick around for some food (hopefully lamb won’t be on the menu). Visit for more information.

Hebden Bridge Easter Duck Race
Monday 25 April

Sadly not real ducks – rather those of the bathtub variety. Hundreds of yellow little rubber ducks will be released from St. George’s Bridge at precisely 3.15pm. A bit like a raffle, you can ‘buy’ a duck, all of which will be numbered. The first ducks to cross the finish line downriver will be noted down and the winning ducks will be ‘crowned’ 45 minutes later. Fingers crossed!

While you’re there – check out the rest of Hebden Bridge, there’s tons of independent shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants – plus there’ll be live jazz, charity stalls and face painting – something for everyone!

Yorkshire Sculpture Park Easter Fun Trail
Saturday 23 – Monday 25 April

Take a wander around the magnificent Yorkshire Sculpture Park this Easter – there’s works to be discovered from Henry Moore, Turner Prize winner Martin Creed and many more. Set in 500 acres of rolling countryside, Yorkshire Sculpture Park has attracted thousands of visitors since opening in 1977, and it’s often while wandering around that you might chance upon an unexpected sculpture in an unusual place. Plus, there’s a stream, a lake and two indoor galleries to explore while you’re wandering!