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Eleanor Forrest

IN CONVERSATION WITH: New Luna

WORDS BY: ELEANOR FORREST

Since featuring on BBC Music’s Introducing in Manchester, it’s clear that New Luna are hitting the ground running. The last time we met they were embarking on their first tour, playing gigs in the cities around the country. Since then New Luna, comprised of Tom Deedigan, Zack Bamber, Toby Duncan and Nathan Gray, have released the first track in a line-up of monthly releases for 2019. 

Titled Red the track incorporates a rawness to their music, demonstrating their musical evolution. Created a few years ago, the track was only played at live shows. Tom Deedigan who wrote the track stated, “It’s about two or three years old. I wrote the basics of the song and brought it to the band and they liked it a lot and a lot of our friends feel its one of their favourites. The sound is a little bit like, I don’t want to say grunge-y, but somewhere towards that.”

New Luna – Knew Too [live at HQ Studio]

New Luna perform Knew Too in a live acoustic session at HQ Recording Studio, Strangeways, Manchester, featuring Rachel Horton-Kitchlew on harp.Video produced by Conor Deedigan at Source Material MediaTickets on sale now: New Luna live at Gullivers, Manchester 01/03/19

Posted by New Luna on Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Production is something the band have focused on recently, as well as their online presence and communicating with their ever-growing fan base that the tour cultivated.

ZB: “We spent the last year trying control our own production with Tommy doing an internship that helped with the technical side and now we’ve been more and more involved in it to the point where, having just released our new track Red, we’ve done it ourselves and we want to do that going forward as well.”

TD: “We’ve even started printing our own T-shirts, it’s quite cool we’re getting back into it again and spent a lot of time getting good at recording and that sort of stuff.”

Touring was one of the things that allowed New Luna to see the fans in person, and amongst the many memorable moments, the fans were what stood out to the band and not just because they liked the T-shirts.

Nathan Gray: “I think the people make it more than anything, more than the venue. Those places that we went to were really friendly and open. They’re always like ‘come down!’ or ‘we’ll get you headlining the next show’ they’re just really nice people.”

When they’re not touring or rehearsing you can usually find New Luna at their usual haunt, Gullivers in the Northern Quarter. 

TD: “I don’t think I’ve ever played a gig there that was bad. Anytime I see a gig there, they’re always really good.” 

ZB: “It’s in the perfect place and the right size for us at the moment, obviously you want a room to be full but you also want it to feel like it’s a gathering. We just happened to have played a lot of shows where we felt like we played really well.”  

TD: “It’s our home turf.”

For 2019 you can expect the release of a huge catalogue of new music that the band have been working on.

ZB: “We’re at a point now where we’re still writing a lot because we have two songwriters in the band but we’re moving faster than our recordings can keep up.” 

TD: “We kind of want to chuck them all out now.”

To keep updated follow them on Facebook:

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ALBUM RELEASE: Rukhsana Merrise – ‘Child’

WORDS BY ELEANOR FORREST

Rukhsana Merrise has released the first half of her highly anticipated, debut album ‘Child’. But there’s a twist. The London singer-songwriter who’s previously toured with well-known artists such as Rag ’n’ Bone Man and Michael Kiwanuka, allows us to dip our toes into her new sound.

By releasing the first half of the album, entitled Child, it serves as a teaser for more to come. Famous for her honest stage performances, beginning all her shows with a quick ‘alright darlin’ to the audience, Rukhsana demonstrates her softer side with ‘Child’. 

Known for making music regardless of the genre, her musical evolution now features a variety of new sounds. This is most notable regarding the initial track, ‘Could’ve Been’. Incorporating elements of the country music genre and mixing it with an indie pop element, there is a contemporary feel to Rukhsana’s sound. Like any good album, ‘Child’ showcases the artists’ lyrical talent. With tracks like ‘Sober’ that incorporate the lines “I spend too much like my pennies are pounds” and “I gotta call you and finally get the words out” she relates all too familiar feelings and behaviours many of us understand. 

Taking on a different tone from her previous work a more heartfelt side is expressed with her angelic vocals. Rukhsana created a catalogue of work that opens the door on what we can expect in the future from the talented ‘So they say’- artist.

‘Child’ is an impressive teaser to what fans can expect with the release of the complete debut album. Utilising her lyrical and vocal abilities, she expresses herself in such a relatable manner that creates a unique familiarity. Ultimately allowing her to connect with her followers. Keep your eyes open for the rest of this already talented piece of work!

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

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Holding a Mirror up to Society: Whiskey Chow

Chinese-born Activist turned Artist and Drag King, Whiskey Chow, arrived in Manchester to showcase her newest performance adding to her already impressive catalogue of work. With a thoughtful but energetic demeanour Whiskey met me in the gallery she performed in, the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

From the beginning of our chat, Chow launched into a discussion of her experiences in the world of Performance Art and Drag, as well as the issues surrounding gender and sexuality both in China and the UK.

MCR: What drew you to performance art? 

Chow: As I began to grow as an artist, I began to use my body as a material. Performance Art is interactive and very human. Sometimes there will be a happy accident. In one performance in China, I was handing people a cigarette. Some refused but one woman took the cigarette from me, we finished our own cigarette while looking into each other’s eyes, in the end, she started kissing me. It adds layers to the performance, you never know what could happen but you have to let it happen and work with it in front of people. It’s an adventure for me. It also develops my own personality to become much more fluid. To do a performance, I can’t spend too much time thinking/planning, I have to follow my instinct because when the show time comes, I have to just do it! 

MCR: Your performance at the CFCCA, ‘Unhomeliness’ communicated vulnerability against an assault of typically ‘Chinese’ imagery added with the use of a mirror covering your face it implied that people see the fact that you’re Chinese rather than you as a person. Is that what you wanted to say? 

Chow: When people come to mean and think one thing, then someone else says another, it’s great. I don’t like giving a standard answer because then 100 people have one interpretation and by not defining what I mean it allows 100 people to have 100 different opinions. In my understanding, all the work isn’t limited to the/its performance but all the work is a combination of different symbols. The use of the mirror was playing on the fact that you might see your face on my face but you can’t see mine, I think my work such as drag, is all about performing as the Other. Regarding the Chinese imagery, the footage is shot in Chinatown, London. I go there very often and the feeling of a magical reality around there has never gone. They use too many strong symbols together to trigger a sense of belonging or directly informing those not from the culture, and both become a target. These things aren’t in China constantly and intensively, because Chinese people don’t need to have these dominant symbols every day. Chinatown and the London Gay village in Soho, another area full of dominant symbols, are right next to each other. One set of symbols is inserted among the other set and they don’t necessarily combine, but when people see them they are. It’s interesting to see what has been triggered by this random but ingenious combination for people from different places.

I have to point out that the timing of my work is poignant, this year is difficult for the Chinese LGBT community with the issues surrounding Eurovision, the removal of gay content on Weibo (which has now stopped) as well as many other incidents highlighting an obvious repression of the queer community. But people on Weibo protested the ban on gay content and the outcome is very exciting, many (non-activist) people have sent their voice to support the LGBT community. The movement isn’t small. 

MCR: You created a show in China, ‘For Vagina’s Sake’. What was the response like?

Chow: Some men felt uncomfortable. They said we should have ‘The Penis Monologues’ and then a gay man said we should have ‘The Anal Monologues’. But we did have a Q&A with the audience and a lot of people would say that it’s too heavy – why did you display that on the stage or what’s the solution? We mixed heaviness and happiness with more proportion of heaviness because that was the reality. We showed and shared what we see, but we’re not politicians or social workers so we are not providing solutions. The Hong Kong audience couldn’t understand the problem with sexual harassment between professors and students. Coincidentally, there was a famous case in China recently where a student committed suicide after being coerced and manipulated into a sexual relationship with her professor. 

 

MCR: Is sexual harassment in Chinese universities that prevalent? 

Chow: I won’t use the word ‘prevalent’, but we can’t deny that the exposure of these cases has been increasing. When students plan to study aboard, some of them have to ingratiate themselves to their professor to get the reference letter. Some male students also undergo this because the professor could demand everything. This kind of power abuse becomes common. Since the socio-political context and higher education system in Hong Kong are hugely different, they couldn’t understand how this could have happened – but that was actually the starting point of our conversation. People are very keen on going to the theatre to watch gender-related work as there were not many in the mainstream scene, so we reached the maximum capacity for the shows in Mainland China and had to turn people away. They really wanted to see the show and engage with this topic. 

MCR: What are the gender norms like in China? we’ve heard of ‘Leftover women’ but there aren’t any leftover men.

Chow: It’s a harsh gender culture for both men and women because most of the parents are expecting the man who wants to marry their daughter to own a flat, a car and have a decent job. The responsibility for men to provide is very heavy and intense. But there’s a saying in China that the female PhD is the third gender in Chinese society because most of the men are intimidated by their intelligence and independence. The whole society requires everyone to be the same so if you are different, even a little bit, you can expect to be questioned by people, like “why isn’t she married?” “why are they married but have no children?”  This kind of culture has a strong family value emphasis. A lot of queer people will say that Chinese New Year is a disaster for them because they are questioned about marriage when they reunite with their families. 

 

MCR: What goes into your process when creating a show? 

Chow: I went out a lot when I was studying and witnessed different types of performance including contemporary art, live art, queer cabaret and drag itself. I gained inspiration from everywhere and to do my piece at the CFCCA I did research of the work of Joan Jonas. Her practice is very interdisciplinary – she used video projection a lot in her live performance. My own practice is usually messy, I normally use paint and yoghurt, whereas Jonas’s work is quite clean. To keep getting inspired, you just need to look at the world carefully and curiously, not even need to visit galleries too frequent. For example, when I finished my most recent performance, I gained a lot of inspiration from exploring Manchester and taking pictures of anything I thought interesting. I remember when people were asking me about Chinese performance art of the 80s and 90s and its influence on me and I replied with “not a lot”. My motivation is not only from the study of performance art but also from myself. It focuses on the now. My activist experience also has a big impact on my practice. Making art is one of the careers in the world that you never really have time off, because everything you see, everything you think of, everything you make, are all somehow connected.

MCR: What interested you about drag? 

Chow: For me I think the masculine woman always has a special dynamic with their own female body, my MA dissertation researched into ‘butch in performance’. I read a book on drag kings in the 90s in London and New York and you can see the masculine performance as either the hyper-masculinity which is stereotypically the gay man’s sexuality or a straight man’s but there’s no in-between. I talked to Jack Halberstam who published the book and they asked me if I thought the drag scene is still radical and I think it’s a good question. I don’t go to drag shows very often now because I know what it’s going to be like and it’s very interesting to see it done in a new way. For my own drag practice, I am interested in creating the drag character in a different way to do with race and culture. As well as challenging the nature of existing drag shows themselves and the imagination towards the drag shows. I dragged myself by using the reference from my culture (Chinese Opera) and it’s history of cross-dressing from its own to the context of western drag scene.

MCR: What’s next? 

Chow: I’m not sure, it depends on what kind of opportunity I receive, I’m quite open about it. I would like some kind of long-term research based work and I want to explore more about cultures in China and have more of a conversation with the Chinese audience. For now, working in the UK allows me to have conversations with institutions and individual audience about queer culture, post-colonialism and Chineseness. To digest the feedback from the different audiences is an important way for me to look back at my practice, but the inspiration only happens when the conversation is at the same level. 

 

 

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square

Spotlight: Square Peg Theatre

We chat with the company’s Co-Artistic Director, Katie Robinson – Eleanor Forrest

Manchester’s ever-growing cultural capitol knows no bounds. This fact is only further cemented in the third and final episode of Spotlight where we meet up with Square Peg theatre’s Co-Artistic Director, Katie Robinson. 

Square Peg are a rare gem; their emphasis on behaviour and bodily movement – in theatre rather than speech & sets – demonstrates the creativity sat within this company, serving to create a unique performance for the audience. By focusing on a strong physical style, the company aims to create new work devised by themselves whilst also reimagining 21st-century classics. When we met, Katie discussed how she felt there needed to be more variety and challenge in drama and it was clear how much she loved what she was doing. 

Meeting Katie was a treat – her warm demeanour and excitement to discuss Square Peg was clear, and the conversation was really interesting. In revealing how the company came to exist, through a bit of serendipity (mixed with a passion and determination for physical theatre), Katie answered a casting call from Michael White, the future Co-Artistic Director and the second half of Square Peg.

There is definitely an appetite for Square Peg’s specific type of performance. Their most recent piece, The Return, was credited for its boundary-pushing style and high creativity by North West End which described it as a privilege to be in the audience, alongside a 5* review.

Though they are taking a break at the minute, Square Peg will be back next year with a revitalised performance of The Return and a brand new project in Spring 2019, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled! 

But these were just the highlights – listen through to our full conversation, below!

Check out our most recent Spotlight features, here.

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mad theatre company

Spotlight: MaD Theatre Company

Entering into the performing arts scene is difficult and, like many things, life has a tendency to get in the way somehow. However, that doesn’t take away from the achievements of a person in pursuit of their dream career – a factor that Rob Lees, MaD Theatre’s writer and director, wants people within the industry to acknowledge.

In this episode of Spotlight, we chatted with MaD Theatre’s writer and director Rob Lees. An Oldham native, Lees has a background in drama but from early on in his career noticed the need to provide a space for disadvantaged people to express themselves in drama and performance art. 

Lees discussed with us the changing landscape of Manchester (specifically the north-south divide throughout the city), and the effect of class in the drama world. Our discussion eventually led to highlight the benefits of drama, and the skills it teaches which people take with them & use throughout their lives, whether they become an actor or not. 

But what is MaD Theatre? Since 1996, MaD have produced over 40 original plays that grapple with real and emotive issues & as a charity, provide quality and affordable drama workshops for disadvantaged young people and adults. Most interesting is MaD’s ability to turn the space around them into a stage, performing at standard spaces like The Lowry alongside regular performances in Care homes, giving the residents some well-deserved entertainment. 

Furthermore, MaD’s workshops in hospitals and their collaboration with the Home Office to create ‘County Lines’ demonstrates the educational nature of their work – their ethos is to help not just those in the company, but for the wider community. 

At the centre of MaD is the need to create content for and about Manchester’s residents and with performances such as Shelagh Delaney’s ‘Sweetly Sings the Donkey’ and their upcoming ‘Me, You and George Clooney’ under their belt they have certainly achieved this.

Listen to the full conversation below.

‘Me, You and George Clooney’ will be arriving at The Lowry on September 13th, and you can buy tickets here.

Listen back to our previous episode, with Hope Theatre Company here.

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hope theatre co

Spotlight: Hope Theatre Company

In the first episode, we meet Artistic Director of Hope Theatre Company, Adam Zane.

The North of England is home to an array of unique, and oftentimes boundary-pushing arts projects and Manchester is largely the hub hosting the best of the best within the scene. In this series, we will be talking to a number of theatre companies that contribute to the Northern Powerhouse’s ever-growing cultural capital and gaining a deeper understanding as to what each brings to the diverse and unique city of Manchester.

In our first in-depth, we met the Artistic Director of the Hope Theatre Company, Adam Zane. Established in 2004, the Hope Theatre focusses on verbatim theatre to present challenging content for, and about, the LGBT+ Community. We met Adam in the Lowry Theatre, Salford, to chat through the reasons why he wanted to create Hope, the position of the LGBT+ community, the power of education and to divulge into everything that Hope Theatre contributes to within Manchester’s Arts and Cultural scene.

Adam, best known for playing accident-prone Dane in Channel 4’s Queer as Folk, gave an honest re-telling of his own experiences involving his friends’ and other members of the LGBT+ community – notably, discussing the effect of Government legislation regarding Gay rights led to a really insightful conversation into the scene, and the backstory for the company.

With patrons including Julie Hesmondhalgh (Coronation Street) and Warren Brown (Luther), the company has gone from strength to strength – a feat demonstrated through their recent applauded productions Gypsy Queen and Jock Night. Hope Theatre’s current production #BeMoreMartyn, saw a sell-out performance in 2017 and is back to tell the story of Martyn Hett, one of the victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena Bombing.

#BeMoreMartyn is at Hope Mill Theatre from Monday 21st May through ’til Saturday 26th May with stage times at 7:30pm, an extra performance at 2:00pm on Wednesday 23rd and Saturday 26th.

Limited tickets available – but you can purchase through this link!

Listen to our interview with Adam below.

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Manchester has always provided a vast array of fantastic events, every weekend the city is packed with gigs, club nights and more lined up for everyone and anyone. But if you’re thinking of trying something new or just want to explore more of Manchester, it will definitely be worth visiting Salford this coming Friday for a new offering, DISRUPT.

Hosted in the Atmosphere Bar in Salford University Students Union is an event that celebrates Afroswing, but with Fashion. A joint collaboration of fashion company, Ensuave and 19 year old student, Rima Tariwala, DISRUPT is a student night created for those that appreciate both Afroswing music and street fashion. 

An Afroswing fan herself, Rima has been involved in the hosting events since the age of 14, working with Grace Entertainment and Roy Media. Due to the enjoyment, she gains from hosting Rima hopes to become a presenter and events manager. 

Intrigued, I chatted with Rima to understand more about the event and why a fashion company would want to put together an event like this 

Should Afroswing be in more clubs and events?

RT: Definitely!

What’s it like putting together an event like this? 

RT: As you can imagine events like disrupt take up most of your hours in a day from brainstorming to organising but there are absolutely no complaints because we’re doing our best to offer a night of quality to our attendees. 

In 3 words how would you describe disrupt? 

RT: Art, Music and Fashion

How important are events like this to Ensuave and yourself?

RT: These events mean so much to Ensuave as it’s uniting those with a passion and creativity for a night of good vibes for the people. Similarly for myself, as a 19-year-old student convenience is everything from travel to attire so being able to create a project that is cost friendly, entertaining and unrestricted means so much.

What can people expect at the event this Friday? 

A night fuelled with good vibes coming straight from our DJ and host. As well as a Yeezy raffle with chances to win much more accompanied with £2 shots all night. 

The event is sure to be memorable with an array of up-and-coming artists such as, Just Rome, Pridoz, Charmzy and Tantzz.

But don’t take our word for it, if you want to fully experience Afroswing and also potentially get some Yeezys visit the Disrupt events page on ensuave.com.

Disrupt will take place on Tonight! Friday 20th April at Atmosphere Bar and Kitchen, Salford.

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¡Viva!

INTERVIEW: ¡Viva! Spanish & Latin American Festival 2018

In its 24th Edition, the Spanish and Latin American festival is back with the theme ‘Revolution’

HOME Manchester, a place for curiosity seekers and lovers of the dramatic. Since the one-of-a-kind venue’s opening in 2015, the organisation has challenged, educated and entertained by showcasing a broad selection of contemporary art, theatre and film. This fact is only proven with the conception of the Spanish and Latin American film festival, ¡Viva! finding it’s home at the art space. Since ¡Viva! first arrived to celebrate purely Spanish film 24 years ago, it has expanded to include Latin America and uses all three aforementioned forms of expression to highlight the individual culture of each country. From Europe’s first interaction with Latin America, the continent has been heavily romanticised – whether it is through means of gold, music, culture – and now even oil! – the continent continues to be described as a land of natural abundance and wealth. The same can be said for the talent of Latin American art, theatre and film meaning that combined with Spain’s own cultural capital the festival promises to be an amazing celebration of the arts & an incredibly diverse event. 

I met with ¡Viva! festival coordinator, Jessie Gibbs, to learn more about the event and her own opinions regarding Spain and Latin America. 

 

How/why was ¡Viva! created? 

Jesse Gibbs: That’s actually one of the most asked questions, but one of the most difficult to answer because the event goes back 24 years. It started off purely as a Spanish Film Festival by a woman called Linda Pariser through a combination of personal interest and a love of Spanish cinema – as well as the audience the festival already had.  Since then, about 4/5 years after it expanded, ¡Viva! then grew to include both Spain AND Latin America. When HOME was set up we were able to involve theatre as well to achieve a cross-artform to the festival. Our aim is to have something for everyone. 

Why did you decide to focus on politics for 2018’s installment? 

JG: The Revolution theme was a sidebar idea for this year’s theme and visual-art links in with this – it is very powerful in Latin America. I think the politics, left or right, have been quite tumultuous in Latin American history and they loom large in people’s ideas perhaps in Latin America… and it led on from last year. We’d focused on Spain in our theme because we were looking at the transition to democracy and the anniversary of the end of censorship, so we also wanted to have a theme for Latin America. Having a theme is a way to get the creative juices flowing, and to find what we want to look for, rather than an obvious “what are the latest releases”.

What went into choosing the content? Did each country have a theme? 

JG: No, we wouldn’t want to necessarily schedule our programme by a predetermined idea that has to be “this”, even with the Revolution theme. Whilst we have that theme, it doesn’t cover the whole festival. We try to have spread nationalities, there will always be several films from Spain. We then try to have at least one film each from lots of different Latin American countries – the biggest film industries celebrated under the ¡Viva! umbrella tend to be that of Argentina and Mexico, so there’s always going to be a couple from there.  We also work with certain sales agents and we see what they want to offer us, but it is very much about having a range of films that will appeal to a range of people from a range of countries. However, they all have to be high quality – which I know is completely subjective – but more or less… objective. We’re a team of three that are choosing these films and we’ve already begun choosing for next year, its a very long process.

viva

Whenever Latin America is discussed, in the news and the media, its always described as one area despite the differences each country in the continent has. Why do you think that is?

JG: Perhaps a lack of education about the area? I think its also the way that sales agents might use it to market the area – Latin America has a stronger image than any specific Latin American country, so they will use that. Obviously, there is a shared history and – for many – there’s a shared language and cultural background. There are definite similarities and there’s a sense of solidarity but on the other hand, they’re also wildly different. If you think that within the size of the UK we all have like our own certain identity and area quirks – think about that, and if you multiplied that by the size of Latin America. Although there’s a linguistic-link between the countries, you will find that someone from Chile could struggle to understand the accent of somebody from Cuba because they’re quite different. And then, of course, there are indigenous languages – the continent seems more homogenous than in reality. Plus then there are the non-Spainish people in parts of Latin America which makes it even crazier to lump the place together. 

I guess the simplest way to understand why this is comes from the fact that Latin America is just very far from home and it has an exotic label which has been going on for decades, since the 1950s with Carmen Miranda and fruit piled on her head, – all those stereotypes do persist today. In fact, that is one of the things that we try and do with the festival, we want to bring out the different identities and different parts of Latin America to audiences.  

In your opinion, are UK cinemas too US orientated? Should more mainstream cinemas be following in HOME’s footsteps and playing more foreign language films? 

JG: Personally I would love that, and that’s definitely one of the things that HOME does well. Mainstream cinemas and multiplexes tend to be dominated by Hollywood films, blockbusters, and its all about “who’s got the most money and star appeal” – it’s definitely not judged by quality as far as I can see. 

So that’s something important for this festival – to promote independent and foreign language film, which I think we’re doing a really good job of! It would be nice if there were more independent cinema venues around like ours. Its difficult to counteract that with money-motivated multiplex’s. I’m proud to say that’s not our primary motive.  

¡Viva! began on the 12th April and will be running until the 5th May 2018, visit HOME for more details.

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