Future Yard Festival Day Two – various venues, Birkenhead

Saturday 24th August, 2019

Future Yard wasn’t just about music. Oh no, there was art and photography and history too. I decided to start my second day of this brand new festival with “Walk on the Weird side” a history walk around Birkenhead. We met at the Priory, parts of which date back to 1150 and is the town’s oldest standing structure. It was here I learned the name Birkenhead is Saxon, deriving from the words for birch and head of river. Our walk took in the Georgian architecture of Hamilton Square, where there are more Grade One listed buildings than anywhere outside of London, and we heard tales of ghosts and ghouls that are said to haunt the area. The river was a rich seam of piratical and profiteering stories, murder most foul and ne’er-do-wells. The walk, in the blazing sun, went on a while, but was interesting and educational and for a non-local, it helped to place some sort of context to the weekend.

The Priory provided the backdrop to most of the rest of our festival experience, hosting not one, not two, but three areas of music. We ordered lunch from the big dub of love van, an absolutely excellent steak frites for me and a veggie plus steak curry pot for Tom. As we sat beneath the shade of a tree, eating gorgeous food, chatting with locals, looking up at a 12th Century Priory, I thought can life get any better? Then Ani Glass took to the stage and played some “cool Welsh pop songs” and it did. I loved her voice, clear as indeed glass and synth pop coolness to die for, she was ace. We tried to get into the very intimate space of the chapel to hear whoever was on in there, but as it was full we settled on heading to the local brewery for Tom to sample some beers and me to have a couple of soft drinks. Glen Affric if you are in the area and are in need of some refreshment. They make their own soft drinks, I highly recommend the rhubarb.

Suitably refreshed we headed back to the Priory gardens for some more al fresco music, this time from Gentis who were a huge band who had some brass (literally, not figuratively) who provided a great backdrop to the sunny afternoon. After that we decided we needed to check out the Bloom building, so that we could say we had been to all that Future Yard had to offer. Dry Cleaning were on and I liked their mix of laconically delivered lyrics and hard rock guitars. They were interesting and a bit different, we both liked them a lot. The Bloom building is a metal shed and so was far too hot to stay in any longer and we headed back to the Priory for Pylon. The Priory refectory was darkened, bean bags big enough to lie on were on the floor, smoke effects puffed away and at the centre, a pylon that would light up and gongs that would crash in harmony. It was part art installation, part happening, part musical experience, all sorts of weird and wonderful and I found it very relaxing and quite meditative. I lay back on my bean bag and let the gongs wash over me and floated away for a little while. I was so relaxed I almost forgot to go catch part of Nilufer Yanya’s set outside. The few tracks I heard sounded good, I wish I had stayed for more.

The end of our night, and indeed, Future Yard festival experience was to be Anna Calvi back at the town hall. Having spoken to the organisers earlier in the day, I was assured a chair would be available (I had been able to sit down everywhere else today, apart from the walk) and lo it was. Big sigh of relief for having that sorted. Anna Calvi is one of the best acts I’ve seen live in the past few years (high praise, I’ve been to a LOT of gigs) and I was aching with excitement at seeing her again. She can shred a guitar with the best, oozes charisma, has a voice that can melt you and makes relevant, political, angry, yearning, brilliant music that speaks to and of and for me. She commands respect and owns the stage, saying not a word between songs, letting her playing speak all the volumes in needs. The first half was just about loud enough to drown out the chatter around me. Then things took a downward turn. Someone sat on the platform behind me started to complain about me, but not to me, “her head keeps bobbing in my way” which made me so self-conscious about the way I was moving that I dared not move again and sat stock still (which took some effort, as I have to concentrate on not moving as a response to music) and then “I don’t even know why she is sat up here, she doesn’t need to be here” which really hurt. I would never question any other person using the disabled platform, if you are there, then I presume you need to be. End of. To be shamed by in that way by a stranger stung. She had no idea of why I needed help and assistance. Just because a disability isn’t visible doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Ditto that I am young (ish) and attractive (ish). I hide my pain well. I had taken four kinds of painkillers to be sat at this gig. I have a list of health problems as long as my arm. I should not need to explain any of that here, or to her, whoever she was. It took me down. So did how loudly sections of the crowd were chatting, behaving just as they had last night during Bill Ryder-Jones’ set. I do not care what you do before or after the act is on stage, but while they are, SHUT THE FUCK UP, don’t show your mates your holiday photos on your phone (which some guy a few feet away did) or behave in a way that is disrespectful to both the artists on stage and the people around you. It was such a shame, because other sections of the crowd were clearly really into Anna’s performance and having a brilliant time. It spoiled what could have been a very special night. For the first time ever I left a gig before the encore, as a direct result of the behaviour of other patrons.

I would very happily return to Birkenhead, and not just for another Future Yard festival. The area has much to explore (I’ll blog about what else I got up to on the Wirral in another entry) and there is plenty to recommend a trip to the other side of the Mersey.  For a first time festival, it was ambitious, and the team behind it deserve a lot of credit for getting most of it right. Well done, enjoy a few well earned days off before you start planning Future Yard 2020. I’ll see you there.

 

Future Yard Festival Day One – Birkenhead Town Hall, Birkenhead

Friday 23rd August, 2019

Tom and I were supposed to be having a weekend by the seaside in Southport. When I saw this festival announced, with Bill Ryder Jones and Anna Calvi  headlining we changed plans and moved down coast to the Wirral for the weekend.

Future Yard is a brand new festival, located in Birkenhead, just across the river Mersey from Liverpool. An opportunity to showcase some up and coming bands, local talent, and reinvigorate the town. Once a grand place, the fine architecture of Hamilton Square attests to that, Birkenhead has weathered the loss of its docks and shipbuilding industries, being bombed during the second world war and the ignomy of being where the Mersey tunnel begins/ends. With house prices lower than the rest of the region and excellent transport links (Mersey rail, buses and that tunnel) Birkenhead has attracted people to it and there was a palpable sense of new beginnings in the air last weekend.

Using the Woodside ferry terminal building as the box office/wristband exchange was an excellent idea and I really liked the food units in the building. Flavours both local, you can get a bowl of scouse, and from further afield, the tacos were superb, mingling together with traditional cakes and ice creams for ferry daytrippers. Woodside has been a ferrying point for nearly a thousand years, when monks from the nearby abbey (more on that later) took passengers back and forth across the great Mersey river. The way the Victorian terminal hall has been updated and repurposed as a bar/restaurant units works. We were off to a good start.

We headed to the Town Hall, a splendid Vctorian stone wonder, with grand staircases, tiling and painted inlays in the ceiling paying homage to great writers, artists, scientists and composers, it felt like a great place to start us off. The line up included Willie J Healy, who had been support act to Gaz Coombes last year. What we didn’t know was that Mike, who drums with Gaz, was playing with Willie. What a lovely surprise it was to see him! Smashing chap he is. There weren’t many of us in the hall, which is a great shame, as Willie is a talented lad. His music was bluesier and heavier than I remembered it being, which is no bad thing at all.

By this point I had been standing for about an hour and half and my back was not happy. The venue’s website had indicated that there would be chairs available, and when I could see none, I approached security who were not able to help. Mike gallantly stepped in and fetched me a chair from backstage so that I was able to enjoy the rest of the night sat on the access platform. Thank you. This would be about my only niggle about the organisation of the entire festival. It wasn’t easy to locate someone from the festival staff at the venues and the chairs should have been on the platform from the start. Otherwise they had done a bang up job of putting the whole thing on.

I remember liking Charles Watson, who was next on, but more than that I cannot say. Anyhow I liked Charles Watson and thought the line up so far had been good.

The place was still mostly empty, and that didn’t change until about 10 minutes before Bill Ryder Jones was due onstage when half of Birkenhead descended into the hall. Now I love Bill and have seen him a few times, both with the band and solo. I’m sure even he will admit that this was not his finest night. He was not helped by about the worst crowd I’ve ever had the misfortune to share a venue with. I’m an experienced gig goer (this was the 68th gig I’ve been to this year alone) and know that festivals are always a bit different etc but when the act has to implore you, angrily to shut up “hard as it may be to believe, but some of these good people have actually paid money to hear me sing” you know things aren’t great. Bill admitted to be nervous and “possibly drinking more than I should” which did also, sadly, mar this performance to an extent. Bill is a great songwriter, has a wonderful voice and can play the guitar better than almost anyone out there, so even under the trying circumstances he gave a good show. It just could have been better without a load of tanked up, probably on a freebie, audience members behaving badly.

Despite the scheduled late finish (which I think should change next year to make getting home easier for all) and the frustrations with the crowd, I’d had a good night and was impressed with Birkenhead’s and Future Yard on day one and was excited for the rest of the weekend.

 

Loneliness

I had some bad health news today. I need to talk to someone about it. Someone who really knows me, who loves me, who understands, who has all the history at their fingertips. Such a person doesn’t exist in my world. They just don’t. Family? I have none, not really. My Mum died 4 years ago and my Dad and I speak sporadically. and see each other even less. Besides he knows nowt about my real life, I’ve been playing pretend perfect daughter my whole life. My brothers, estranged and hundreds of miles away. Again, they know a version of me in their memories, the little sister needing protection and annoying them. Not who I am now and how I got to be here. Childhood friends? Nope. I keep in very loose touch with one or two, but it has been a long time since we actually met and I have not very much in common with them anymore. I’m not a middle class, respectable, home owner who cares about gardens and having a nice glass of wine. Work colleagues? Well yes, thankfully, I am still employed and I do get to have meaningless chit chat conversations about their families and pets, but none of it is real, deep or meaningful. They are just wallpaper. I am to them too, if they pay me any mind other than “Emma the weirdo” I’d be surprised. Let’s put it this way, one of them got married last year and didn’t tell me. Friends? Well I do have a couple of those, one of them is celebrating her birthday this weekend, one works shifts and the other is a sort of buck yourself up type. Not really what I need right now, if I’m honest. Two of them have moved away. I’ve seen each of them once or twice this year.

I am not very good at maintaining these relationships, I simply don’t know how. When you aren’t built with the innate social skills required to get on in life it is really hard. When it feels like flim flam and all you really want to talk about is whatever is on your mind and that’s it, when you forget how to play pretend and put your mask on and you cannot be your really weird self, it is quite hard to make friends. When your communication style does not match the socially acceptable one it is even harder to keep them. A partner? Well, yes, I do have one, but he lives thousands of miles away and there is a five hour time difference between us. So where do I turn? Who do I talk to? All that well meaning mental health advice about “talk to someone” doesn’t mean very much when you are alone.

I can go for weeks without spending time in the company of another adult, other than work. Imagine that, just imagine night after night of coming home to an empty house or one shared only with a 12 year old. Where you get an adult hug, or any kind of physical contact with another adult, every few weeks. That can be pretty lonely even on your best days, but ones where things aren’t so great. What then?

Loneliness isn’t just about old people. It is about all those of us who are different, odd, strange, who don’t fit in. Those with disabilities, low incomes, chronic illnesses. It is hard for us to get out and make friends too. And Lord it isn’t like I haven’t tried. I did the baby groups, I talked to Mum’s at school gates, I joined a political party ffs, I went to a book group, I joined meetup, I chat to strangers all the bloody time, I’m on social media, I have used online support groups. I am kind and good and care enormously about other people. The trouble is, I am not like other people. They don’t want to be friends with me. Even if they do, at first, when they get to know me, or whenever my mask slips, and they see my true self, they disappear. It has happened so often, that much like bullying in the workplace, I just expect it now. I begin every relationship expecting it to turn out badly, to be let down, because that is all the life experience I have. Five years is about how long people usually last. In jobs it is about a year, eighteen months if I’m lucky. I’ve had more jobs than you’ve had hot dinners. My personal best is being fired twice in six months!

I miss companionship. I miss having someone to make me a cup of tea. I miss someone to sit with on the sofa and watch TV with in silence sometimes. I miss hugs. You can’t provide those from the other side of the Atlantic, which is where my boyfriend lives. I miss having a history with someone. I miss laughter and in jokes. I miss being part of a family. I miss knowing someone will always have my back. I miss hearing and saying the words I love you to anyone other than my son. We all need to know we are loved. And we all need to give love, too.

Today I had some bad health news and I need to talk to someone about it. I need a hug. I need to cry and get angry with the world about it for a bit. Then I need a cup of tea and to research the hell out of my options and to make a plan. I can’t do all of that alone.

I don’t even know why I am writing this, sometimes words help me to process. I used to be a talker, but when there is no-one to listen to you speak, you have to type instead and hope that ears are found somewhere I guess. Thank you for listening if you did.

 

Marika Hackman – Rough Trade, Bristol

Sunday 11th August, 2019

Another day, another gig. This week has been a very busy one, which is unusual for August. I had heard Marika on BBC6 Music, went to see her live at the end of 2017 and loved her attitude, sass and music in equal measure so when this intimate show to help launch her new album was announced I was on it.

The live room at Rough Trade is way better than the back of a shop needs to be, and that is why I love it. Holding a couple of hundred when full it can be a bit packed, but it is also a real treat to get to see artists in such an intimate space up close and often acoustic.

The tracks from the new album sounded great. Marika’s husky vocal taking centre stage with her on acoustic guitar with only another guitar for support. As much as I like the sound of her full band, it was also great to hear the songs stripped back like this. I think she played Wanderlust, All Night, I’m Not Where You Are, Hand Solo and Any Human Friend from the new album with a couple from her earlier works chucked in for good measure. I had only heard the album through once before hearing it live, so it mostly sounded very fresh, filthy and fucking ace to me. Hand Solo has to be a standout, a song about masturbation that was *ahem* thoroughly researched apparently! This is why I love Marika’s music. She is feminist, sexual and brimming with confidence. It is so wonderful to see and hear women making music that they control, talking about their desires, wants and needs and not being the playthings of men and boys. It is really liberating for me, as a middle aged woman, I wish there had been a Markia Hackman when I was younger. The crowd was way more female and that was also great to see, and be part of. Knowing that Marika, Christine and the Queens and Anna Calvi are all out there making great music is such a thrill.

Get the album. Get a ticket to see her on her autumn tour. Support women making music this good. Please.

Book Review – The Electricity of Every Living Thing by Katherine May

This is new territory for me, I’ve not written a book review before. I follow Katherine on twitter and she was looking for people to review her book, so I said, I have a blog, mostly about music, would that count? She graciously said yes and sent me a copy. I had been wanting to read The Electricity of Every Living Thing ever since I heard about Katherine’s story. We seemed to share so much, I wondered if I would recognise myself in her words.

As a child I devoured books like some children breathe. I was taught to read at 3 by my patient mother because I keep asking and she taught me to shut me up! I practically lived in our local library. I even won an award for being one of Barking & Dagenham’s brightest young readers; a book token, presented by the Mayor. I wore a new dress Mum made for me, dusky pink with a white cowl collar and a huge red bow. Pigtails and a toothy grin completed the look. Wonderful archivists at Barking Library helped me find an article from the Barking Post to confirm the accuracy of my memories.  I wish my Mum was here to reminisce.

I am not a huge reader anymore. Being forced to read at University quelled my love of the written word. It almost ended my love of film and TV too – when you are trained in how to pull apart things to find their meaning forensically and without any joy it tends to kill the sense of wonder and astonishment you once found. Nowadays I am happiest reading non-fiction, although Marian Keyes is a rare exception. I adore her writing, her warmth, wit and ability to tackle difficult subjects are second to none.

I digress. The point was to say that I am not a big reader anymore, but I do have an underlying love of words, nurtured in childhood and that this was a book I was dying to read.

I read at two speeds. Either slowly, savouring every word, or rabidly as I try to absorb everything at speed. With Electricity I did both. Spurts of “Oh My God!” speed reading interspersed with languid spells of I don’t want this to end.

It tells of Katherine’s journey, metaphoric and real, around the South West Coastal Path. At the beginning it is all planning and dogged determination. It becomes less a physical journey and more of one to the heart of oneself. An examination of, among other things, motherhood, friendship, coping strategies and self realisation. You can see why I wanted to read it. The parallels with my own story are all there. I nodded so hard reading sections of this book that I hurt my neck! I could see myself in the awkward outsider on a seemingly pointless quest that ended up being a journey to yourself and finding out who you really are.  There were entire paragraphs I wanted to highlight and send as quotes to those who love me to say “look, here I am!” as I felt so understood and seen by them. I read through the first couple of hundred pages quite quickly, then stopped. I do this, feeling as if I stop reading them they will somehow go on forever, willing the story to not have an end point. I forced myself to pick it back up and to keep going, I owed Katherine this review. I also owed myself the luxury of the time to savour what I had read. I still do.

I have a feeling that this will be a book I return to, over and over again, as a source of quiet acceptance and reflection. Thank you Katherine for being generous enough to let me have a review copy, and for the honesty with which you write. I will not be the only woman who reads it and sees herself reflected, perhaps for the first time.

The Electricity of Every Living Thing is a book of one woman’s walk away from and yet ultimately towards herself. If you have ever felt lost, confused or lonely, you will find acceptance in it as I did.

 

 

 

Old Man Luedecke – The Folk House, Bristol

Saturday 10th August, 2019

I spend a fair amount of time looking at venues’s websites, cross referencing dates with my diary, looking for gigs to attend. One of the venues I always check is the Folk House. They put on fewer gigs that many other places, but the ones they have tend to be very good quality and it is a great, quirky place that I enjoy visiting. That was how I found this gig. Canadian banjo folk. Not tried that before. Old Man Luedecke sounded off centre enough to be the sort of thing I would like.

At the time I booked it I had known that I would be quite tired, having been away with my boy for a few days and then working. I hadn’t factored in any other events. Then I went and added Session and Sam Fender and I was a lot more tired than I thought I would be! The problem with that is that fatigue is both a symptom of and a trigger for a lot of chronic health problems. My joints were complaining and something weird was going on with my cervical spine nerves again, the result of which was pain in my right elbow and hand. It is much harder to relax and enjoy yourself when you are in pain. A certain portion of your brain and energy are required to deal with pain and so you have less to deal with everything else. It also meant I couldn’t clap – for which I had to apologise to Old Man Lueedecke. I did my best my tapping on the table, or my leg, but I was unable to clap enthusiastically with the rest of the intimate crowd. I had consoled myself with a decaf tea and a small slice of gluten free cake and found a seat near the front (can you see why I like the Folk House so much now?!)

I liked Old Man Luedecke as soon as he came out, wearing a purple check sports coat with buttons of co-ordinating but not matching colours. He was charming and funny and ever so polite, in the way only Canadians are. I felt I was in safe hands and his warmth and humour were peppered throughout his songs. Some of them were sweet, some funny and others touching. Weaving lyrics about losing his father with the state of democracy was sad and dark, but still a loving tribute to the bond they shared. There was a lot of love and warmth; for his children, his wife, local pirate myths, sardines, friendship, hula hoops and much more. Wistful, surreal and self deprecating, despite the challenges of nerve pain, I enjoyed the gentleness and deapan wit of Old Man Luedecke. It may be a while before he gets back here to play again, but in the meantime his latest album Easy Money will tide me over.

 

Sam Fender – SWX, Bristol

Friday 9th August, 2019

August is usually a quiet month for gigs, it’s festival and holiday season and so not much is on. I was scoping out venue listings, planning for autumn, when I found this rescheduled date of Sam’s at SWX for only £12.50. Excellent I thought, I’ve heard him on Chris Hawkins’ early breakfast show on BBC6 Music, he’s good. I clicked for tickets. Sold out. Crap. I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to get a spare ticket and in desperation I posted in the event Facebook group on Friday morning. Lo and behold, someone with a spare ticket popped up and I arranged to meet them outside the venue that night. I’ve just had a few days away with my boy and as a result I have £20 to last me til Monday. The ticket was going to be £15. I have food in the cupboard and bus tickets on my phone app – fuck it, music feeds my soul more than anything.

Sometimes I get a gut feeling that a gig is going to be special, worthwhile and that I just NEED  to be there. I cannot explain it better than that, I just get a feeling sometimes. Sam Fender was one of those. It has nothing to do with knowing the artist, I’ve had this sensation about people I’ve never heard of to. And the musical sixth sense has, so far, steered me in the right direction. I’ve not yet been proved wrong. Would Sam be worth blowing almost my last £ on? Would my instinct be correct?

SWX is a funny old place. Known and loved in the memories of multi generations of Bristolian’s as a nightclub where they pulled as youngsters (they still operate as a club as well as a venue, some traditions never die) I have seen Ride, Anna Calvi and Sharon Van Etten there. When it is full it can be a really uncomfortable place for me. I found a little spot on the balcony, towards the back, and hoped for the best. Thankfully it worked out. I had a barrier to lean on and a post to lean back against (my joints decided to play up again so this was blessed relief) and only a few people came to stand behind me. I had picked well as the rest of the place looked heaving. And very, very lively! The crowd was a pleasing age mix, Sam is only 23 and so attracts his own generation as well as older musos like me. There were a worrying number of ‘lads’ but even they were ok – the bunch of blokes in front of me respectful of space and not too much chatting. Phew.

Support came from Hector Gannet who were alright. A loud guitar-based band from the North East. The final two tracks they played were the better ones of their short set. A sensible choice of support for Sam, a solid warm up.

Sam was a warm and likeable presence from the moment he slunk onstage “we are finally fucking here!” (the gig had been much postponed, due to illness) and with his band they pumped out loud guitar indie rock that has left my ears ringing today (and I was towards the back of the venue!) Mostly I am not into white boys playing guitars anymore. So if I say one is good, they must be. And Sam is very good indeed. That gig instinct of mine had steered me right. The crowd were well up for it, singing along, arms aloft, moshing like good ‘uns. I had forgotten how wonderful a sight that is, as long as I am safely not in it of course, the musical ties that bind people together in those moments are special and meaningful. We live in times that are divisive and abusive, music brings us together, even if only for a little while.

When Sam thanked us all for coming out, in the rain, he really meant it, it was heartfelt and lovely to see a young working-class lad making good. With that sort of humility and genuineness I hope he goes far. I expect he will. He has something special about him. I usually watch the crowd, the rest of the band, as well as the singer, but I couldn’t take my eyes of him. He has it, whatever it is. Coupled with great song writing ability and a cracking indie voice he has talent beyond his age. The yearning, plaintive cries in Dead Boys (easily his best track) were chilling. Hairs stood up in slow motion down the back of my neck. Yes, it is jangly indie guitar music, but the lyrics speak of more than just trying to pull birds down the local. They are articulate and clever and packed full of meaning if you want to find it. A better picture of what it means to be a young, white, straight, working class man today I don’t think you’ll find musically. I was seriously impressed. Not all of it landed, or was intended for me. I’m a 42-year-old woman, not a 23-year-old boy. I more want to nurture and parent him than take him out for a pint, but Sam Fender is a talent and talent speaks across all sorts.

I was disappointed in the final song, a cover of Oasis. The only one in the audience who was I think, it went down very well indeed! However, Sam, if you read this, you are better than that. Seriously. The Gallagher’s write generic music that speaks to and of a narrow set of perspectives. Their lyrics aren’t clever or articulate like yours are.  They are base music for boys. You, Sam, are more than that. You could be so much more than that. Maybe you won’t sell millions like Oasis did, or hoover up industrial quantities of cocaine, or marry a model, but you will have integrity and the soul of a decent human being. You will be a better man for it. And your music will carry and reach beyond the narrowing confines of straight, white men. To the rest of us who love music to and want to hear emotionally open men singing about their lives. Then perhaps we will see fewer dead boys in all our home towns.

Sam Fender has real potential to become a huge star. I hope he does and I hope he maintains the humility and decency he seems to have now. When he gets it right, which he did frequently at this gig, he gets it very right indeed.

Was it worth blowing £15 of my last £20 on? Yes, wholeheartedly. Were those musical divining rods in my soul correct again? Yes, they were. Sam Fender was excellent.

 

 

Session:Still House, Empire Sounds & Steppaz – The Station, Bristol

I heard rave reviews on social media and so I thought why not take a chance on street dance? Dance party, gig and social they promised. I’m in for the dance and the gig parts of that.

The Station is a youth project/cafe/arts space/event hire venue right in the middle of town. I’ve been there once for some training so had no idea what to expect. Besides this was to be outdoors. Even in the forecast rain.

Sitting on a camping stool wearing a cagoule helped to lend the evening a festival vibe and the crowd appeared to be up for some fun. We got bags of that. The dancers were dynamic and fast. A troop of 10 in every combination you can imagine – solos, duos. formation, weaving in and out of themselves and us, it was high energy hip hop/afrobeat/street dance to get your blood pumping and a place a smile on your face. The dancers energy was infectious and I was fighting the urge to get up and join in for a lot of it! Embarrassing chair dancing may have occurred. The band were excellent, providing the right beat dropping back drop and some nice harmonising drum solos with the movement. It all worked together seemlessly to create a great atmosphere.

A second troupe of dancers, fronted by a wickedly bendy small girl (she only looked about 7) with attitude to die for.  These girls and young women were awesome, full of spirit and power. On the strength of tonight, the future is female and the future is black. It was wonderful to see young women, brimming with confidence, taking up space and being themselves. It was almost like being in a Rhythm Nation era Janet Jackson video (or something more contemporary, I’m old, that’s my cultural reference point!)

Right at the end I got my chance to get up and join in, as we were all encouraged to dance like no-one was watching. I couldn’t even begin to tell you the last time I danced in the rain, but it felt really, really good. My joints started to give up so sadly I had to stop dancing and become an observer. What I saw was a lot of smiling faces and what I felt was a lot of collective happiness.

All the reviews I read were right, this was a joyful event, bringing people together to enjoy dance and music and have a good time. What’s not to love about that?