Rowan is a recent graduate, breaking the surface after a 3-year deep dive into the (mostly) wonderful world of academic philosophy. He is a writer, an activist, a foodie and a nerd. He believes in the beauty of the present, the importance of dancing, good grammar, green politics, eating local, the value of incomprehensible complexity, and the power of a good game.
Sunflower Bean are a band who know what they’re about. Sitting down with the trio of 22 year old New Yorkers ahead of their show at Norwich Open on March 26th, it becomes immediately apparent how certain they are of their musical and political convictions. Drummer Jacob Faber, guitarist Nick Kivlen, and bassist & vocalist Julia Cumming made quite a splash with 2016’s debut Human Ceremony and its fresh-yet-eerily-familiar blend of indie, punk, psych and alternative sounds.
Since their formation in the early ‘90s, Californian Rock & Rollers The BellRays have befuddled the expectations of music media and the industry, just as much as they have thrilled audiences. They’ve taken an open-minded approach to the genre that has defined American music for the past seven decades, and they’ve been an independent outfit that whole time.
The BellRays have self-published their nine albums through a variety of independent labels, including Upper Cut and Alternative Tentacles. 2017 saw the release of EP Punk Funk Rock Soul vol 1, the long-awaited follow up to 2010’s Black Lightning, and last month gave us the album-length Punk Funk Rock Soul vol 2. I caught up with Lisa Kelaula & Bob Vennum, the band’s permanent members, before they went on stage at Norwich Arts Centre last Friday.
Today, Essex-born folk singer Beans On Toast releases his ninth album, ‘Cushty’. Last night, I saw Beans play live for the ninth-ish time (if I’m honest, I’ve lost count, but the symmetry is pleasing). If you’ve been to a British festival in the past decade you’ve probably run into Beans as well – he’s the kind of musician who pops up everywhere. With a new album out every year since 2009, he’s perpetually turning up in your town on tour, or supporting one of his many musical friends, or appearing at festivals you didn’t know he was on the bill for.
(03.08.17) – Sail Away, Professor Holmes. You Won’t Be Missed.
As the farce of university bosses’ salaries has finally entered mainstream debate this year, I’ve often found myself wishing that the kind of people who are comfortable taking pay rises six times larger than their average member of staff, and who don’t see a problem in sitting on the committees that decide their salary, would just piss off out of our universities altogether. So when I read the FT’s interview* with Bolton Uni VC Prof George Holmes the other day, I’ll admit I was a little surprised to read his proposal for a method of achieving just that.
(24.05.17) – Review: Butterflies, the Debut Album from ZAIA
with Liam Hawkes
“We break the rules”
So says lead singer Amy MacKown on Simple Tune, the penultimate track of the debut album from Oxford’s current premiere Reggae outfit, ZAIA. We wouldn’t say they break the rules so much as blend and bend them, juggling genres and playing with preconceptions throughout this fascinating and infectious summertime record.
I was recently excited to hear of a new module being run in the Politics department at UEA next academic year entitled ‘Activist Campaigning’. Module convenor Dr Ben Little was good enough to let me interview him about the course, its history, and his hopes for its future at UEA.
(27.01.17) – Norwich Stands Up To Trump
With Hannah Rose
Last Friday, on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, people gathered all over the world to protest against his message of division and hatred. In Norwich, 200 people came together outside City Hall to attend a rally of our own. As well as hearing speakers from several local activist and community groups, the protesters took part in a symbolic stunt, dismantling a wall and building a bridge from the parts. Hannah was there, and Rowan helped organise – here they give us their takes on the event.
One of the biggest and most poorly kept secrets in higher education – that many teaching staff are employed under terms more often associated with a Sports Direct factory – has been breaking into mainstream media attention lately. To get an inside perspective on this casualisation of teaching work, and an idea of the scale and nature of the problem both locally and nationally, I spoke to three members of teaching staff who have worked on casual contracts in English universities in recent years. Two were employed at UEA, and one at Warwick University, where they are a part of the campaign group Warwick Anti-Casualisation (WAC).
(09.12.16) – Review: Kate Tempest, Let Them Eat Chaos – Live
And they will run to the highest hill, consult their old books
Ask the dead mystics for wisdom they don’t trust
– Kate Tempest, Don’t Fall In
Kate Tempest’s latest album Let Them Eat Chaos is probably the most insightful and important work to be produced on this small island this year. On Monday night, Tempest and her band performed it in full, without interruption, to an enraptured crowd of strangers at the Waterfront in Norwich. Witnessing this storm of synths, bass, drums and words – words fleeting and clear as raindrops in a monsoon downpour – was an incredible experience.
A couple weekends ago I was lucky enough to find myself a guest at the wonderful Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative. Outside, the outlines of all my hopes and beliefs in the good student co-ops can do stood tall before me, made visual, physical as two blocks of flats facing a green expanse. Up steps, inside, and the lines flashed full with the colour and life of possibility made real. A brief first encounter – tea with friends, then out again for an evening social.
Several months since the safe spaces debate reached the public eye, I’m sure most of you are by now overly familiar with the arguments being made on both sides. Likely you have had the misfortune of hearing someone say that, instead of attempting to exercise some control about when and how they are exposed to traumatic material, students should just ‘man up’ and ‘soldier through it’ like a certain group of people did ‘back in the day’. Recently, I heard academic John Gray on BBC radio 4’s ‘A Point of View’ making his case against safe spaces, and noticed a worrying number of parallels between his apparently sophisticated arguments and those that start with the command to ‘grow a pair’. I hope that deconstructing Gray’s 9-minute monologue can reveal a bit about how these kinds of substanceless arguments and the prejudices that motivate them attempt to veil themselves with legitimacy.
With just four days until polling day, the EU referendum continues to dominate news headlines and pub conversations. Like many, I have been exhausted by the fearmongering, unconvincing and generally depressing arguments churned out by the mainstream campaigns on both sides. So when The Norwich Radical asked me to interview Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, about the positive Green case for staying in the EU, I was excited to hear some refreshing ideas on the topic. I also got the chance to speak to David Raby, a Green Party City Councillor in Norwich.
(09.12.14) – An Oil Rig is the Perfect Christmas for UEA
So it’s that time of year again. It gets real cold out, warm alcohol is consumed in considerable quantities, and people give each other gifts. At UEA, the People and Planet Society decided that the University management deserved a very special kind of christmas present. As you may have heard, People and Planet have been running a branch of the Fossil Free campaign at UEA. Unfortunately, the University has not responded to our concerns in any meaningful way, so we decided that we should send a more direct message. Judging by their investment choices, it seems that UEA are rather fond of Fossil Fuels – so what better present than their very own oil rig?
(28.09.14) – The People’s Climate March, London: An Account.
‘Climate change is the defining issue of our time. For once I’m resisting the philosopher’s urge to insert the word ‘arguably’ into that sentence, because right now I really believe it. My inspiration arose from the People’s Climate March which took place around the world on Sunday the 21st of August, and the creativity, commitment and love of the people involved.’