A very Britsih carnival in Market Square: pragmatic yet sexy.
Every year the Council tries to inject a bit of holiday summer into the Market Square by dumping a few tons of sand into it and setting up a funfair and a beach bar. Then they pray as hard as they can for some sunshine so people don’t get soaked by miserable drizzle trying to order a mojito ten yards away from a Socialist Worker stand. It sometimes works. By the time last Friday night came around those prayers had run out and it lashed it down, making the dancers and musicians of Paraiso Samba seem a little out of place as they tried to evoke the spirit of the summer carnival in the middle of slab square. Not that it discouraged them. And, wonderfully, it turns out there are few more heartening sights than lasses in jewelled bikinis, high heels, feathered headdresses, full glam makeup and a sensible clear plastic mac dancing their hearts out while the fag-end of British summer does its level best to make everyone cold and wet. One dancer, clearly hardcore and in no mood to let a little rain ruin the party, eschewed the mac and wore goosebumps instead. This was the intermission entertainment for ArtReach’s Night of Festivals 2013 ¬– two days of poetry, storytelling, art, dance, live music and performance – whose stated aim was to celebrate democracy and freedom through innovation.
Chris Redmond drove six and a half hours to spend an hour or so in a tent in Market Square.
The evening’s entertainment took place in the vast tent, dubbed The Dome, set up for the occasion and decorated overhead by scores of fabric squares illustrated with slogans on a theme of freedom by Nottingham folk who’d attended workshops at the Contemporary Gallery. Those lucky enough to snaffle free food and booze at the opening reception were treated to David Hindmarch’s sound installation, Beyond The City’s Calling, which combined sounds from Leicester and revolutionary Cairo. Rachael Young’s punchy, funny performance lecture, The Way I Wear My Hair, followed the intermission and saw audience members donning improvised afros to proclaim that they too were strong women, while Rachael sang and talked her way through stereotypes and the difficulties in taking off high heels while wearing boxing gloves.
Chris Redmond and the three piece Tongue Fu Band took the stage for the main event, kicking things off with Let The Pig Out, a call to arms for sulky 12 year olds forced to take drumming classes and mustering only ‘a shit beat’ across the world. Redmond asked the crowd what music they would like this performed to and the hospitalble locals requested Death Metal and Bangra. Thus a new genre of music was born this night in Nottingham: Death Bangra. Three poets then followed, performing against a backdrop of improvised music from the band drawn from instructions by the poets themselves. Nottingham’s own Aly Stoneman’s modern day take on Robin Hood recast him as an anarchist who meets a sticky end protesting inside a bank, while her paen to white vans throwing off the shackles of oppression and yomping off across fields and dales to run free settled a pleasing mental image of migrating herds of Ford Transits crossing the Peak District.
Va Va Broome
Next up was the excellent SureShot, AKA Michael Brome, surely one of the few people alive to combine a day job as a prison guard and evenings as a poet. Ably backed by the band, who responding obediently to his directions (“The word of the day is ‘sinister’”), SureShot delved into his deep and abiding love of jazz. With beautifully assured delivery he quoted from Porgy and Bess, invoked the great Charlie Mingus and spoke lovingly of Ella and Nina. This was exactly the sort of thing Tongue Fu does so well, complimenting poetry and driving the performance of it to new heights. The final act was Femi Martin whose funny, touching story of coffee, chemotherapy and panic attacks was followed by one based on the hilarious statistic that 35% of people on dating websites are married. Once more Tongue Fu provided thematically perfect backing music delivered off the tops of their heads, interrupted only by the bells striking nine and, somewhere off in the distance, what sounded like the samba band still gamely showing Nottingham it’s never too cold to strut your stuff in a headdress and a neon bikini.
Night of Festivals was created by ArtReach and will tour through Boston (Lincolnshire) on the 12th and 13th October before visiting Slough and Leicester. Writing East Midlands is working in collaboration with ArtReach to support the spoken word ingredients of the programme with performances from local and regional writers