VAULT FESTIVAL 2020 – TOP FIVE SHOWS

by Carmina Masoliver

I previously wrote about Madame Ovary, which set the bar for me when it came to deciding my top shows from this year’s VAULT Festival. Aside from this, here are five more shows that hit the bar for me.

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‘INVERTING THE PROGRESSIVE’: ANTI-LEFTISM AND BBC’S NOUGHTS AND CROSSES

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by Ananya Wilson-Bhattacharya

warning: this review contains spoilers.

When I learned that the BBC was airing the first ever television adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s award-winning teen novel, Noughts and Crosses, I was instantly intrigued. How would Blackman’s vision of an alternately racialised society play out on the small screen in 2020? 

The speculative fiction novel (first of a series), published in 2001, follows a teenage friendship – later romance – between Callum, a member of the Nought (light-skinned) oppressed underclass, and Sephy, a member of the Cross (dark-skinned) ruling class. The adaptation is more adult, dramatic and violent – it also contains several new plot points.

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RAVENOUS – A BRIEF HISTORY OF CANNIBAL CAPITALISM

by Jack Brindelli

Released a year before the turn of the Millennium – a year which drew its primary significance as a milestone from being an anniversary of Jesus’ birth – Antonia Bird’s Ravenous took us on a darkly comic journey into that most sinister yet persistent aspect of the human condition; cannibalism. What is to be noted though, is that the film clearly foregrounds the fact cannibalism is not just a literal act, committed by black-eyed psychopaths in the American wilderness, it is the metaphorical process of manifest destiny, of the consumption of lands and human energy for profit that would underwrite the world that birthed our own 21st century world.Continue Reading

CORONAVIRUS AND THE POLITICS OF THE DEAD

by Jack Brindelli

Until recently, it turns out people all had rather twee conceptions of what they would do in the zombie apocalypse. Over the catastrophic few weeks it has taken for the coronavirus outbreak to become a seemingly uncontainable pandemic, the idea that everyone would easily assemble rag-tag bands of self-sufficient survivors, each with a set of key skills to contribute to staving off the undead horde – or even that they could coolly stroll to The Winchester and wait for this all to all blow over while sitting in the dark, cramming monkey-nuts into their faces – has somewhat been blown out of the water.

It turns out while the Keep-Calm-and-Carry-On-Blitz-Spirit-I’m-Alright-Jack-Brexit-Means-Brexit brigade who until recently seemed to have the nation in a never-ending strangle-hold might have slightly overestimated themselves. Instead, the ‘hardened survivors’ in the dog-eat-dog rat-race of neo-liberal Britain have largely prepared for the end times by hording enough TP to last six life-times of shit, and hanging timidly on every word of advice from a serial-fibber hermetically sealed in 10 Downing Street who seems to want their grandparents to die.

With regards to that though, as a horror enthusiast, I feel one of the few positives to come out of the UK’s rapid disintegration into an island-death-cult is that it surely ends the facile debate around whether zombies need to be fast to be scary. For years, casual fans of the horror genre would casually bleat that slow-moving zombies would be far too easy to contain. Not only could the all-powerful state machinery of the police and army quite simply outflank the shambling masses, the theory was that civil society – and its mass-dissemination of information through ever faster means in the late 20th and early 21st century –would mean the masses would all be more than ready and able to do their part in stopping a pandemic. What the last few weeks of utter disarray prove beyond doubt is that that was wilful ignorance.

one of the few positives to come out of the UK’s rapid disintegration into an island-death-cult is that it surely ends the facile debate around whether zombies need to be fast to be scary

The incumbent Government has spent a decade dismantling the very healthcare infrastructure it turns out Britain needs to weather a pandemic, while its sustained campaign of austerity has weakened the economy to the point a gust of wind could send the whole house of cards tumbling down. Realising his previously unassailable majority in the House of Commons is unlikely to survive the death of hundreds of thousands of his voters, as well as a recession of his making, Boris Johnson has engaged in a dogged exercise of covering his own arse via a campaign of disinformation, while consolidating his position by investing himself with emergency powers before shit hits the fan.

In the fallout of this, while ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ panic buyers strip the shelves of essentials they have more than enough of, and London’s commute is still crammed with gig-economy slaves too poor to self-isolate, under-resourced hospitals are having to kit nurses with improvised masks and re-used gloves. Not disconnectedly, the number of Covid-19 cases is still booming, and the body-count mounting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7ynwAgQlDQ

Sitting back and watching the chaos ensue, it is now thoroughly clear that the Rage virus of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later did not sweep the nation simply because the infected could  run, jump or vomit blood, but because it actually took place in an alternative timeline, where there was a Tory Government in 2002.

In deleted scenes, fictitious Prime Minister Joris Bohnson no doubt blundered his way through manic press-conferences, suggesting that “for all we know there could be 100,000 cases of Rage already, so really is there any point in trying to fight it?” Later he may even have suggested it was better to “just let it move through the population” in order to achieve the fabled herd immunity – before concluding in the meantime, the best thing we could do is go to crowded public places and stimulate the economy by purchasing blunt objects with which to defend ourselves from the growing horde of the undead.

The desperation to maintain the status-quo that had enriched the rich and influential meant they would obscure the bigger picture from the population

Indeed, on a global level, the level of wilful ignorance, gross negligence and criminal incompetence exhibited by the majority of the world’s governments (based in the Netherlands, I can tell you Mark Rutte’s management of this crisis has been every bit as bad as Boris’) – paired with the odious disregard for human life exhibited by businesses bent on ‘keeping the beaches open’ at all costs – show exactly how prescient filmmakers like George A. Romero were. In those films, the determination of the state and the private sector to maintain their wealth and power were truly the most horrific element of the story.

The desperation to maintain the status-quo that had enriched the rich and influential meant they would obscure the bigger picture from the population (the chaotic double-speak in Dawn of the Dead’s media coverage is scarily similar to that of the Covid-19 outbreak) for fear of prompting calls for governments and bosses to be held accountable for the mounting crisis, or to support the vulnerable people who would be the first victims. On top of this, it often meant they would brutally seek to put down the masses’ attempts to improve the situation, or to reclaim any power ceded to them during the collapse of society (as seen in Land of the Dead).

Running or walking then, the zombie genre stands as a stark warning to us, especially in times like these. When a crisis suddenly illustrates all the weak-points in a socio-economic system we are trained from birth to believe is not only superior, but natural, we must be ready to learn on our feet – and fight to upend the economic and governmental norms which are guaranteed to fail us in a time of crisis. Our very survival is on the line.

Since this was written, Covid-19 has been stricken by having to share a body with Boris Johnson. Our thoughts and prayers are with the virus at this trying time.

(originally published on IndyFilmLibrary, republished with permission)

 

Indy Film Library

Until recently, it turns out people all had rather twee conceptions of what they would do in the zombie apocalypse. Over the catastrophic few weeks it has taken for the coronavirus outbreak to become a seemingly uncontainable pandemic, the idea that everyone would easily assemble rag-tag bands of self-sufficient survivors, each with a set of key skills to contribute to staving off the undead horde – or even that they could coolly stroll to The Winchester and wait for this all to all blow over while sitting in the dark, cramming monkey-nuts into their faces – has somewhat been blown out of the water.

It turns out while the Keep-Calm-and-Carry-On-Blitz-Spirit-I’m-Alright-Jack-Brexit-Means-Brexit brigade who until recently seemed to have the nation in a never-ending strangle-hold might have slightly overestimated themselves. Instead, the ‘hardened survivors’ in the dog-eat-dog rat-race of neo-liberal Britain have largely prepared for the end times by hording enough TP…

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VAULT FESTIVAL: MADAME OVARY

By Carmina Masoliver

tw: mentions of terminal illness

It’s that time of year again, and we’re now coming towards the end of it. VAULT Festival, now in its eight year, has opened up the tunnels of Leake Street and surrounding areas to bring even more shows than ever before.

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AVENUES FOR JUSTICE – INTERVIEW WITH CINDY RUSKIN

by Ananya Wilson-Bhattacharya

This is the second instalment of the Interviews with NYC Artists series. Part 1 is available here.

Later on that cold December day, after my meeting with Sally, I battle my way through the New York snow to meet the artist Cindy Ruskin in her apartment in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The apartment is filled with art supplies, paintings and other works, including a renovated garbage can laden with small models and storytelling sketches. 

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ARE VENUES REALLY DISAPPEARING? MUSIC VENUES IN NORWICH ARE BUCKING THE TREND

by Alex Day

Clubs these days have it tough. 

Gentrification, some say, is killing our venues. Student flats, noise restrictions, Dry January

How does one make money with surging rents and a clientele streaming limitless online content from home, bed-ridden and booze-shy?

AND there’s the dubious authorities I imagine peering through the smoke and shadows, itching to close noisy night spots. One wrong move and they’ll surely revoke your license. 

Dingy nests for underground music are being smothered into obscurity – the narrative goes. 

There is evidence to support this. In the last decade, 35% of independent venues in the UK closed.  A UK ‘live music census’, conducted for the first time in 2018, found that a third of live music venues have experienced problems with property developments

As with live music, night clubs are also having a rough ride. Over just eight years, the capital has lost 50 per cent of its nightclubs. Fabric, a behemoth in London’s clubbing landscape, had their license revoked after two drug-related deaths (they subsequently reopened following a rapturous national campaign). 

In Bristol, clubs are also being barged adrift. Thekla, an infamous boat party, was threatened by a residential development in 2017 and, the following year, Lakota announced they may refashion themselves into a ‘mixed-use development’ (a by-word for swanky digs and a Co-op). 

 

Norwich Arts Centre, Space Studios and Gonzo’s Two Room remain fiercely independent and are teeming with dancers.

 

Thekla and Fabric continue to host parties, but their rocky rides remind us our favourite clubs are not immune to urban development nor police authority. Corporate hegemony seems to be erasing independent venues. 

Yet, in spite of such cataclysmic headlines, music venues in Norwich are hitting their stride. Norwich Arts Centre, Space Studios and Gonzo’s Two Room remain fiercely independent and are teaming with dancers. They have not suffered the pesky erasure that plagues other cities.

I spoke to the managers and programmers involved to find out how they do it. 

Gonzo’s Two Room is a “breath of fresh air’” says Levi, a promoter with 12 years’ experience. Last year the club rehoused, abandoning Bermuda Bob’s for a space darned with sophisticated interior, rooftop terrace and ‘sweaty 250 cap’: “we’re blessed to have it’” Levi concurs. So far, Gigi FM, Peach and Joy Orbison have graced the booth. 

Like Gonzo’s Two Room, Norwich Arts Centre (NAC) has embarked on an upgrade. The bar and auditorium have been refurbished and a gender-neutral toilet is incoming, supported by a £500,000 grant; all part of the NAC Regenerations Project. 

Space Studios is a smaller, 100-capacity, venue and ‘the closest thing to a house party’, according to Abraham, the manager. It is a hotbed for new promoters, like Bass in Space and Utopia 4 Junglists, and live bands. Abraham booked 100 bands last year. 

So what’s their secret? 

One way to turn a profit is to diversify. As well as music, Gonzo’s offers a monthly comedy night and operates a ‘Tea Room’ downstairs, whilst Space Studios houses yoga, meditation and 18 artist studios. NAC is also eclectic, presenting spoken word and theatre.  No venue is aligned to just live music. 

 

…when local artists develop, shows improve and audiences flock faster

 

Another approach helping sustain these venues is to work closely with the local community.  At the top of Abraham’s agenda is to “‘develop a scene and support local talent”. He admits it’s “difficult to turn a profit”, but such a component is unimportant when partnerships are fuelled by goodwill. At NAC, ‘True Stories Live’ invites amateur raconteurs to the stage, voicing local stories to a local audience. Gonzo’s supports local promoters, like Our House and Keep on Dancing, which has a synchronous effect: when local artists develop, shows improve and audiences flock faster. 

Amongst the local talent, these venues are platforming marginalised communities. Gonzo’s aim for a 50/50 gender split in DJ bookings; evidenced by recent headliners Éclair Fifi and Moxie. The NAC are a long-term supporter of House of Daze, a leading Norwich drag show, and began this year with a discussion on ‘representation’.  Space Studios have also announced a monthly ‘House of Daze’ event. To thrive, venues must be accessible and open-minded.

Grassroots venues are helped further by city-wide festivals, such as Wigflex City Festival and Simple Things, which draws punters to unchartered destinations in Bristol and Nottingham. Last year, Norwich was enlivened by Wild Paths, a three-day music festival that celebrates venues, as much as music. All the programmers I spoke to were busy assembling gigs for a flurry of footfall this October, when Wild Paths returns. 

All this ingenuity is, crucially, being supported by our local council. Whilst transitioning into Gonzo’s Two Room, Levi felt the “the council were great” and “understood what you were doing”.  The figures confirm: Since 2017, the council has granted 100 new licenses and no venues have been closed due to noise complaints. 

At national government level, optimism abounds: small and medium music venues can look forward to a 50% reduction in business rates, which the Music Venue Trust estimates will save each site an average of £7,500 a year. And, Arts Council have renewed their Supporting Grassroots Live Music Fund, a pot that amounts to £1.5 million, until 2021. 

Still, venues embedded in Norwich’s compact lanes are not immune from noise complaints. Bermuda Bob’s renamed and relocated after a neighbouring pub issued a noise complaint last year (although they weren’t evicted). Space Studios, which is not a nightclub in a traditional sense, abides by strict decibel rules to deter from confrontation and encourage conversation. A few years ago, they closed temporarily due to ‘licensing issues’. 

Running venues is rarely plain sailing. To avoid instances of ‘statutory nuisance’ in future, property developers and politicians must continue to support the creative calisthenics performed by our limber venues. This means sound-proofing new developments and appointing a night-czar, like Amy Lamé. Beer-glugging youths, poised with gun fingers, may be underrepresented at the director’s table, but their access to culture should not be limited. 

Our nightspots are bolstered by diverse events and offering their platform to local and marginalised groups – smart remedies for a tough climate. Yet, without the approval and financial backbone of local and national government, venues vanish. 

Head out and support. Here’s a programme of events that invite you to shuffle:

https://www.facebook.com/events/3040736312638075/

https://www.facebook.com/events/2723143201139464/

https://www.facebook.com/events/158872398865144/

 

[In light of recent COVID-19 expansion and news, please be aware that these events may now not be taking place as originally described.]

Featured image credit: Gonzo’s Tea Room Facebook Page


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