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.