Now that's what I call entertainment...


I've just had a weekend of what you might call less popular entertainment, albeit almost certainly popular with Jeremy Deller. On Saturday, I travelled by bus to Lewes, for the Lewes Folk Festival day of dance. On the Thursday I'd been (by train) to the Royal Oak to hear a talk by Shirley Collins on BBC collector Bob Copper, and to have a sing song with the Copper Family from Rotten Dean in the second half. That's what's missing from most entertainment these days - the opportunity to sing along!

I have a lot to thank folk music for: it got me in a pub age 16 (the Albion in Bury, I think it was) - I even stood up and sang a song accompanied by my grandad's mandolin (where is it now?). That exerience got me involved with the folk club at Battersea, and that led to my 15 minutes of fame in Helix. One of the first records I bought was an EP by A L Lloyd singing All for me grog.

Kettle Bridge Clogs

So, on Saturday I was greeted by some clog dancers as soon as I got off the bus outside Waitrose. Despite Bill Tidy's cartoon strip, The Cloggies, clogging seems to be the domain of the women dancers and Saturday promised at least four clogging sides in action. I wandered round the corner to another set of sides, to the John Harvey Tavern, thence to the Dorset at the far end of town where I succumbed to a pint of Harvey's Old, well you have to. Already dancing were the Kettle Bridge Clogs with their almost militaristic marching, with bells on their green clogs.

  Oyster Girls

Then there were the Oyster Girls from the Isle of Wight, and finally the non-clog-wearing locals The Knots of May, whose band included a Serpent! I love the repetitive music, particularly if the squeezebox and fiddle are augmented by a tuba and drums - and we all love the Morris Dancers smashing sticks to bits. On the way back to the bus stop, I caught the tail end of a side dancing in plain black clogs without bells, which seemed a bit more authentically Northern. I was yearning to ask one of them if I could photo their clogs, but afraid of being thought a foot fetishist!

Men banging sticks from Alan Fred Pipes on Vimeo.

In case you don't know what Morris Dancing looks like, here's a video of Brighton Morris banging sticks.

Compton theatre organ

On a rainy Sunday I was off to Portslade Town Hall to hear a mighty Compton theatre organ. At a recent Dome open day (14 September) I'd come across an organ recital by Dave Davies and was captivated. The organ must be the loudest acoustic instrument there is, and what with added bells and drums - invoked via foot pedals (see below) - makes a magnificent sound. At Portslade it was Christian Cartwright on organist duty, who looked a bit like Peter Kay and told christmas cracker jokes at the end of each set. He's assistant organist at the Pipes in the Peaks.

  Christian Cartwright

I must have been the youngest in the small but enthusiastic audience - we even had tea and KitKats at half time. The Portslade organ is a hybrid of several cinema organs with the original non-working Victorian facade of pipes - and what a sound! You have to experience a theatre organ live. He started with a Buddy Holly medley, including the appropriate Raining in my heart, then went on to the obligatory Dam Busters March, songs from the shows, a Beatles selection and a moving You'll never walk alone. The encore was New York, New York.

The theatre organ can also be the pub singer of musical instruments and sometimes it takes a while to unravel the tune from all the notes! It is also one of the few performance in which the performer has his/her back to the audience - a closed circuit Tv however was looking down at the keyboard, to be projected on a big screen so the side of the stage. Portslade Town Hall seems to be a very underused resource, let's hope the organ recitals are enough to keep it open. Next one is on 10 November: John Mann at 3pm.

Compton special effects

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