Gate-crashed The Lawrence Society of Art’s Annual Exhibition!

Nipped into the Town Hall earlier, imagine, me, in the Town Hall. The Guardians will want me on their head chair before you know it; they should be so lucky! Ah, but there’s milling around The Assembly Rooms, few things still in boxes and a few ends to tie as The Lawrence Society of Art prepare for their annual art exhibition.

I’m informed I’m rather early, all will be running for the preview evening tonight, Wednesday 13th November, where all are welcome, from 6pm onwards. I sneaked a preview; you know me by now, just barge in uninvited, start randomly snapping phone photos and bust out of there like Billy Whizz on a promise, leaving everyone inside wondering “who was that guy with the chin?”

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The show ends on Saturday 16th November, I’d advise paying it a visit, for to my pleasant surprise, the range of paintings are diverse and the standard is outstanding. All local artists, members of the society, with the furthest away coming from over Trowbridge yonder, I’m told. For sale or browsing, I note our good friend Clifton Powell has a selection from his Africa series, and spotted some brilliant sketches from Rowde’s Alan Watters too. But more enlightening was the quantity of contributors I’ve yet to discover. From cubist to landscape, and abstract to fine art, the range is sundry with no apparent theme. I like this approach though, nothing open to interpretation.

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Proudly I’m informed the Lawrence Society of Art was formed back in 1953, and has actively fostered an interest in art with lectures, demonstrations, classes, outings, workshops and this major Annual Exhibition consistently since. The productivity of such an established association shows here today; my few pics will not do it justice.

The other major event of the society is usually in August. Their Art Trail, where participating shops and venues have a trail map, and there are about 30 shops in town showcasing members work, many available to purchase.

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Named after child prodigy Sir Thomas Lawrence, a leading English portrait painter and the fourth president of the Royal Academy, who picked up sketching aged ten while his Dad was proprietor of the Bear Hotel, The Lawrence Art Society has an annual membership fee, for regular meetings and workshops. If you dabble, this exhibition could be the perfect introduction, if you just fancy a browse, I’ll say it’s very worthwhile. The opening times are: 14th November 9.30 am – 5.30 pm, 15th 9.30 am – 5.30 pm and 16th November 9.30 am – 12.00 pm.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Eric Ravilious; the Downland Man

For the very first time Wiltshire Museum will be borrowing from major National Museums to bring an international standard art exhibition to the County. They’ve confirmed important loans from the Tate and V&A, as well as private lenders. They are also liaising with the Imperial War Museum, British Museum, National Museum of Wales and the prestigious Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, as well as private lenders, to secure a significant range of evocative watercolours for the display.

This ground-breaking exhibition celebrates watercolour artist Eric Ravilious, and his fascination with the sweeping downland landscapes of Wiltshire and Sussex. His watercolours have such a spirit of place you can almost feel the wind on your cheeks and hear the birds above. Wiltshire Museum say, “it will appeal to art lovers across the country and to local people who love the iconic local landscapes.”

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The exhibition is masterminded by guest curator, James Russell. James created the enormously successful Ravilious exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2015. He will also write an illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibition.

The importance of the downlands to Ravilious is well documented, but this exhibition will be the first to be dedicated solely to this subject. It will explore this area of his work and relate it to the national fascination with downland landscapes, mythology and archaeology, which gripped Britain between the wars. The exhibition will include darkly menacing war-time views of the coastline, including the famous ‘White Cliffs’ of Dover.

Items from the museum’s designated collections will be included in the exhibition. A highlight will be a sketch book Ravilious created in 1939 for the ‘Puffin’ series of children’s books. Although never published, it contains delicate pencil drawings of chalk hill figures, ancient monuments and prehistoric earthworks in Wiltshire. The idea behind the series of books was to promote patriotism in the youth of England as the Second World War loomed.

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Though Wiltshire Museum need your help to bring this important exhibition to life. You can support the appeal by clicking here. donations will provide invaluable match-funding for grant applications to make the exhibition possible. They have already had donations from private individuals and are seeking commercial sponsorship.

We will also be organising an events programme linked to the exhibition. If you are interested in bringing a group to see the exhibition, having a guided tour or a lecture to your group, then please get in touch with the museum.


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Top Twenty Best Vids of the Vizes!

Wet play project, can’t be bothered to go out. I’ve complied the best-loved videos documenting our crazy lil’ town, yet it can be updated if you know of a better one? And not one of your barbeque party where cousin Billy lost it on the trampoline; I’m not Harry flipping Hill and you won’t get two-hundred and fifty quid out of me, lucky to blag 10p. Let the arguments commence, but I’ve tried to top twenty the best, based on historical fact, entertainment value, general nostalgia and quantity of eighties short-shorts.

1- I was fascinated to watch this near on half-hour 1956 silent film, A Small Town Devizes. Made by cameraman David Prosser, from a series of similar Small-Town shorts. It features the lives of people in Devizes during Carnival Week August 1956. In the YouTube notes there’s an extensive list of people and companies which featured in the film. If it brings any notable points of interest it must surely be lobbying DOCA to reintroduce the drag-your-wife-along-in-a-pram-attached-to-a-motorbike race, methinks.

2 – Lion in the Hall! Courtesy of BBC Points West, the day in 1980 when escaped circus lions paid Devizes School a visit during the lunch hour goes down in history. Were you there, are you showing your age, and did you try feed the lion your mate’s school tie? What about today’s pupils, do you think Mr Bevan should reinstate this lion, maybe give him a TA job? Would your teacher benefit from fighting a lion, it might help to maintain the pupil’s interest in the lesson?

3 – Boto-X clip 1986. See, my Devizes born and bred better half told me about this strict health & safety regulated event and, if it hadn’t been Devizes, I’d probably have branded her a liar. Delighted to see Caen Hill Locks dig up a clip of this incredibly brilliant Boto-X from 1986. Stop! Win a Colour Telly!

4 – Oh get off my back, I’ve read Tess of the d’Urbervilles, just not any other of ol’ Tom Hardy’s books, it’s not like he’s going to hassle me about it. Far From The Maddening Crowd was his first major novel, and had four film adaptations. John Schlesinger’s 1967 MGM version was part filmed in Devizes, and Bill Huntly of Devizes Television loses his shit about it like it was Casablanca or Star Wars; bless. There are some great clips of the film in this interview, of people drunkenly singing and dancing in the Market Place; something you don’t see every day, eh? Yeah, I know, right, not that far from the maddening crowd at all really, wait for the bin to kick out.

5- Out of all Simon Folkard’s gorgeous aerial shot films, last year’s snow-covered town and canal was undoubtedly the most breath-taking. Oh, that Beast from the East, looks beautiful from above, but just to think, I was wheel-spinning a milk-float down there somewhere, holding on to me gold-tops for dear life.

6- While we’re on the subject of the milkman, here’s Madness disciple Mark’s moment in the spotlight as BBC Wiltshire focus on Plank’s Dairy. It has to be nine below zero before he puts his long trousers on, no one needs to see those knees, Mark. Ask him to whistle a Thin Lizzy tune on his round, I double-dare you.

7- 19 36- Last Train From Devizes. Post-punk poets, Browfort, ingeniously fuse synth-pop and local history in this video about The Beeching Axe and the last train from Devizes in 1966. There’s some great railway footage, mixed with their performance at The Bell on the Green. There’s no evidence to suggest the band will reform as Julia’s House to pay tribute to the first train from Devizes Parkway, when…. erm, if it happens.

8 – If you’re considering shoplifting for camera film in town, watch this early-eighties adaptation of the story of Ruth Pierce by Devizes Cine Club, and you’ll quickly be bored into submission. It really is so bad it’s good. I need not mock it, the acting, production and deviation of facts does it for me. Just to say though, is it me, or does the lead role sound a little like Claire Perry?!

9- We love our whacky historian John Girvan, the only man to enter the Town Hall lock up and live to tell the tale, save for feasting food festival fanatics who failed to note there’s the far comfier Peppermill across the road. But did you know, rather than most men whose interests lie more on what’s inside them, John confesses a love for brassieres? So, if your bra goes missing from the washing line, you know who to point the finger at.

10- Proof that either the legendary ghost of Room 4, or stranger still, the Black Swan’s window cleaner has five fingers. In 2014 the Visual Paranormal Investigations team trucked their mystery machine into our town and, without the great Dane and giant sandwiches, set up an experiment to find out if the ghost broadcasts on FM, like Ken Bruce.

11- More actual evidence in this charmingly narrated clip, this time of the Muppetry of the new traffic light system on London Road. Evidence the road planning department of Wiltshire Council are, and I quote, “retarded!” Classic, don’t hold back Truthseeker. I don’t know who you are pal, but you’re defo not Philip Whitehead.

12- There’s countless musical performers I could include here, but perhaps the widest known and appreciated is blues legend Jon Amor. Here he is, at the International Street Festival 2015 with a lengthy but worthy song, Even After That.

13- Talented Arthur Plumb, the Juggling Unicyclist at Sidmouth Street Festival 2015. While there’s a vast amount of street acts posted to YouTube, from our street festivals and carnivals, if I could only pick one it’s this entertaining Devizes TV presentation of a rather youthful Arthur Plumb. Three years ago, Shambles trader Bill Huntly was fast becoming our town’s TV host, where did he go, someone nick his cravat? Seriously though, hope you are well Mr Huntly and wishing you all the best; we loved your short films.

14- Usually reserved for the still camera, Nick Padmore is a man loved by our local music scene, for capturing the essence of its performers. Here though he videos the man, Vince Bell at Sheer Music in the Fold. Not intending to post too many music-related videos here, this 2017 performance is a must, if not just for Ship of Fools, but his amusing ditty about Devizes, Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive, right at the end of this film.

15- If you ever wondered why Tesco shut its Devizes metro branch, this may go some way to explain why. Yep, never had a lick of paint applied to it since the release of Michael Jackson’s album Thriller. The staff were friendly though!

16- Set the captives free! No really, I think they’d have moved convicts before blowing Devizes prison to the ground to make way for housing in 1927, wouldn’t they? Or did they move into the houses? Might explain a few things. British Pathe have millions of videos on their website, search Devizes and you’ll find a carnival parade of the 1920s and an Army Football Cup final from 1955, to name a couple.

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/prison-walls-make-cottage-homes/query/devizes

17- There’s nothing sarcastic I can comment here, even I wanted to, which I wouldn’t, cos I’m not like that; a gorgeously edited film of Devizes at Christmas by Chris Watkins, accompanied by a song written and performed by the equally wonderful Kirsty Clinch, makes my bells go all jingly…I said my bells!

18- Well done Paige Hanchant, for the only Harry Hill style clip I’m going to allow; capturing this amusing moment on the canal, just when it was going so well too; who ordered the chubster? Awl, bless.

19- No one interrupted the march to nip into Greggs for a sausage and bean melt in 1983, not in this pleasant three-minute video of the parade at least.

20 – Moonrakers Fable. Vintage poem narrator Alan Doel puts on his best Wiltshire accent to recite Edward Slow’s 1881 telling of the Moonrakers fable, and illustrated with postcards and emblems, makes a fair job of it. Yet the tale is known only too well in Devizes, it be rioght gurt lush to ‘ear it read in ye olde Wiltshire dialect, ewe.

That’s all folks, well, I’m sure there’s many others, but these were my favs. Not to blow my own trumpet, but Devizine does have its own YouTube channel, mostly I create wobbly musical performance clips, with a cider in the other hand and standing far too close to the speaker to do the band or musician justice, but they seem like a good idea at the time. So, subscribe at your own risk. I set it up primarily to capture this meeting with local street magician Raj Bhanot in Café Nero last summer, and here he is for a bonus vid.

Perhaps, if we get another rainy day, which is doubtful, I’ll find another set of videos based in Devizes. If you know of any which should be included then do send the link. Saucy ones to my personal email though, please.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Never Mind The Heritage, Here’s an Art Show

Images by Gail Foster

 Si Griffiths teams up with Mike Long and Emma Sally for an all-together different art show…..in Chippenham!

 

If, like me, you like your art with edge, and you don’t stand on convention, a trio of Chippenham artists have a DIY exhibition at the Yelde Hall you really need to see.

With a poster akin to the cover of Never Mind the Bollocks, Never Mind The Heritage, Here’s Our Art Show show does just that, it grabs the conventional art world where it hurts and hurls it away, but in a satirical manner rather than all-out anarchy.

We’ve had a few moments with Si Griffiths online in the past, it was a great opportunity to meet him in person, but more so, see his paintings for real. It’s an argument I try convey to many non-art-lovers; it’s one thing to see a 72dpi Google image, even a print in a book, but something all together different to view the original in a gallery.

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Part-psychedelic-part-punker painter with a penchant for clowns, there’s always narrative to Si’s work, hidden meanings, repeated symbolism and a counter-culture ethos. With a dark satirical edge, his paintings often reflect underground comix of yore. Think Rick Griffin rather than Vaughn Bode, and principally pre-Fredrick Wertham’s censorship assault on US comic books in the fifties, such as the daring EC line. A couple even have hand painted text in a similar font to EC comic books.

While it’s the comic influence which initially drew me in his work, others show a proficient hand at life drawing, but all are psychedelia, explosive with colour and hold disturbing undertones. Tattoo-like devils, skeletons, but particularly misplaced clowns, often in unusual or dangerous predicaments, say with hookers and guns, or sitting alongside a table depicting disciples in Da Vinci’s Last Supper, with Jesus as a jester. There’s a slight element to pop art and surrealism, with a plethora of cultural references, Freddy Kruger and that guy with the pins in his head! Yet Si’s work is highly unique and stylised, accurately rendered, with running symbolism such as yin and yan, and Edvard Munch’s the Scream seems to hang on the walls of many scenes.

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Emma Sally with Si’s work behind her

We talked over many influences, I mentioned Pieter Bruegel, but in turning a corner to the second artist, Mike Long, I noted he had an even greater influence to Bruegal, and L. S. Lowry too, with some pleasing busy scenes you could examine for an age and still discover something new. I feel this similar element brings both artists together, yet this is a varied show, and Mike’s take is different from Si’s angle.

I breezed past some still life, something faithfully enlightening in concept, and onto some scenes which defied the laws of perspective. This took me to mention Hogarth, for his play on perspective, but from a larger scenic painting Mike pointed to a group of fairground attendees in a pose akin to Goya’s classic The Third of May 1808; again, I see why these two artists complement each other perfectly, Goya had a cartoony style, of sorts, yet both Si and Mike retain their individualism. Mike expressed the scenes are real, with alternative angles to various parts, like the cubist approach.

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Mike Long’s Goya-styled fairground attraction

I loved a painting on the end of the board, of a steampunk airship, and Mike elucidated his inspiration came from the frame he used. This then was an entirely new approach to me, not fathoming the frame is anything more than the sum of its parts, a frame, a border to the end of the piece. With this notion I looked back at his still life paintings, and across the board there was a definite relationship to the frame in each painting. While in some the frame matched the style or theme, in others the painting extended out across the frame in an inimitable fashion.

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Mike explains the relationship with the border in this steampunk inspired peice

Between the two, Emma Sally’s work displayed some beautiful still life with expressive attention to reflection, but as I progressed to the other side of the wall, I witnessed a move to veiled meanings, of freedom, of love and passion. These are highly skilled paintings, breath-taking photographic renditions, and a series of oriental fashioned female poses, they were absolutely awesome, I demanded our lady of the lens, Gail, takes a snap of this one, as I think it alone will lure you in to this wonderful and friendly little exhibit.

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That’s the painting I’m on about from Emma, totally drew me in for ages!

It’s free folks, the works are extremely fair-priced, and I could think of three billion ways less productive and interesting to kill an hour in Chippenham! What is more, The Yelde Hall is a lovely space for it, central in Chippenham and I hope it inspires more artistic happenings in the town. It’s on until Thursday 26th September, open daily from 10am until 4pm, except Sunday.

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The legend, Kieran J Moore dropped in during his lunchbreak to show us some magic tricks!!

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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A Touching Conclusion to Clifton’s First Marlborough Open Studio

If you need a feelgood story this week, as the Marlborough Open Studios closes for another year, newcomer to the event and our friend here at Devizine, artist Clifton Powell made a big impact with a heart-warming conclusion.

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Founder member of the Marlborough Open Studios, Elizabeth Scott exhibited every year from 1985 at her studio at Minal, until she moved to Savernake Forest in 2006. There she continued to show in Newbury Open Studios.

Elizabeth starting as a photographer in Rome in the 1960s, where she chronicled Italy through the many people she met there. She settled into family life in Wiltshire in the 1980s and the inheritance of dark room equipment from her brother-in-law led her to study photography at Swindon College.

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Commissioned to produce a series of local portraits, she gained an interest in painting. This second half of her artistic career took her from Marlborough College Summer School to study at the Slade Summer School at St Ives, the Verocchio Arts Centre in Italy and more recently for the Rabley Drawing Centre. Her painting, drawing and etching from these travels, along with inspiration from the Wiltshire downs were all shown in her open studios and exhibited further afield.

All this came to an abrupt halt in 2017 when Elizabeth had a pulmonary embolism, following a number of mini strokes. Determined to keep up her art she joined a local watercolour class and then was offered a place in an Arts Together group in Pewsey. This is where she met Clifton Powell, one of a number of volunteer artists who lead the groups.

Marlborough Open Studios chose an annual charity to support, and this year it was Arts Together. If you recall, I spent a special day visiting Clifton at a group in Melksham, here is how it went, it also goes some way to explain the importance of the work Arts Together does.

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This final weekend of the Open Studios came to an emotional pinnacle for Clifton, who was displaying some of Elizabeth’s work within his own open studio exhibit in Potterne. Elizabeth made a surprise visit at the studio. She took great pleasure in seeing her work on show again. Good friend, Bev said, “The whole family came, eight of them, all the way from London, and they had a family picnic in our lounge! It was very touching.”

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Her family commented, “Arts Together has been without doubt the most human and empathetic support offered to her during difficult times.” Showing some of Elizabeth’s work at this year’s Open Studios was an opportunity to both honour her work as an artist, her founding contribution to Open Studios and the ongoing work of Arts Together.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


 

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Marlborough Opens Studios in July

Imagine, if you will, don’t feel you have to on my account, but imagine an art gallery the size of a county, with forty artists exhibiting over a whole month. For some that may be overload, it’s understandable; there’s only so much trudging through an art gallery one can do without the need to scream “where’s the door, my head can only take in so much?!”

If there’s also apprehension from the artist, it’s understandable, if you even get to meet them. It’s a gallery, you’re a potential customer, they’ve got to be sober, wear plastic smile and clothes not splattered in gouache. Art galleries can often be perceived as chic, swanky places, the chinking of wine glasses and ho-ray Henries chortling, “oh, how awfully common.”

How better to visit a more relaxed artist, at their home or studio? That’s the beauty of an Open Studios event, and we have a whopper on our doorstep. Often lonesome by occupational hazard, those creative minds open up their studios in faith you’ll pay them a visit. They call it Marlborough Open Studios, but it pans across the downs from Calne and Devizes to Hungerford, and from Pewsey to Wroughton.

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Arty Pumpkin

We previewed it last year, don’t think we got much of a thanks or response from the committee, truth be told; probably favouring pressing the local rag and those ritzy websites and publications with covers of models in Harris Tweed suits and shooting rifles over their shoulders, prancing about woodland. There’s the whole systematic issue with art today, it’s considered too hoity-toity for the average, chips-from-the-chippy type person. I despise this stereotype; art appreciation should be for the masses. I like art, I don’t wear a beret, never have.

Anyway, I’m waffling. Thing is, with forty artists on show this year, I couldn’t possibly cover them all. So, I encourage you to browse their comprehensive website or pick up the guidebook distributed locally. I’m going to flick through, highlight some I like the look of, the rest is up to you.

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Normandy Barcelo-Soto

It is free to visit any artist, and they open for the first for Saturdays and Sundays of the month of July, but you need to check ahead for the particular artist as not all open every weekend. Some have special events and workshops which may incur a cost.

Again, the Open Studios committee select some exhibiting artists for a bursary award, these this year go to Japanese inspired furniture maker Josh Milton and bespoke hatmaker, Sophia Spicer.

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Mark Somerville 

I’m delighted to say The Marlborough Open Studios has chosen Arts Together to be supported charity this year. I’ve covered the charity some months ago, when I attended a workshop by artist Clifton Powell, one of a number of volunteer artists who lead the groups.

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Clifton @ Arts Together

It should be noted that Clifton Powell will also be exhibiting his fine realism paintings from his Potterne home, a variety of wildlife, locally and throughout his travelling, and the most poignant theme of unrest in the world.

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Roy Evans

Here’s my alphabetical rundown of other favourites to attend:

Anne Swan at Rowde: Botanical coloured pencil drawing.
Arty Pumpkin at Wroughton: urban mixed media printmaker with word and image combinations.
Diccon Dadey in Hungerford: amazing modern metal life sculptures.
Jenny Pape at Chirton: Oil Landscape artist.
Mark Somerville at Ogbourne St George: Lens based urban artist.
Mary Wilkinson at Mildenhall: oil and pastel landscape artist.
Normandy Barcelo-Soto in Froxfield: Mexican modern surrealist.
Roy Evans at Potterne: Coppersmith sculptures of nature.
Sarah Burton at Chirton: Expressive landscape artist.
Susan Kirkman in Ramsbury: multi-media landscape collages.
Susie Bigglestone at Calne: abstract photography.
Tania Coleridge at Wroughton: Textiles, pastel and paint imagery.

Yet, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, there is so many others to explore. Do check the website.

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Cuban meets African, in Devizes: All About Grupo Lokito

You know, I have my ska-reggae show on Boot Boy radio, that’s while I’m so looking forward to Barb’dwire playing the Devizes Arts Festival in June, but feel I differ from its, generally, skinhead cohorts with instantaneous love for all Caribbean styles of music.

There’s something so colourful and lively in these many styles from the islands in the sun, but in my excitement for the ska night, I’ve overlooked the other intriguing main musical booking, London-based Afro-Cuban group Grupo Lokito, and wow, they sound tremendous!

Rhumba down to Corn Exchange on Saturday 15th June, where Grupo Lokito fuse contemporary Congolese and Cuban; I leave a few videos here, certain to wow you as they have me. In addition, we’re lucky enough to have Lokito’s manager and keyboardist, Sara McGuinness to enlighten.

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Keen to scoop some background, I asked Sara about managing a number of Cuban groups in London, Grupo Lokito being just one, and if they were Cuban by birth.

“I have played Cuban music and salsa for most of my life, as a piano player on the UK Latin scene,” Sara tells me. “In the mid-2000s I decided I wanted to investigate Congolese music, found a, at that time, vibrant underground Congolese music scene and started playing keyboards in a Congolese band. Congolese music is one of the few styles that is popular pan- Africa. The fact it has a modern but distinctly African sound is often cited as one of the reasons. It’s vibrant, fantastic music. What became clear to me the minute I started working with Congolese musicians within their community was that the music the African audience, the ‘home’ audience if you will, liked was quite distinct from the music favoured by the world music audience. The Congolese liked the old and the modern stuff, whereas the tastes of the world music audience stopped in the 60s. I loved the modern music that I was playing with the Congolese bands. Furthermore, I could see many similarities in performance practice and musical structure between that music and Cuban music. So, together with a Congolese singer, I wrote some tunes and we brought together musicians from the two traditions.”

“We were lucky as, working within both scenes, we had insider knowledge about who to work with. What was striking was that the two groups of musicians had never met each other or mixed at all before we brought them together in this band. Together in the band we worked hard to absorb each other’s musical styles. I was determined not to have a ‘fusion’ group which played a pastiche of the two styles. Grupo Lokito have a large original repertoire which combines different elements of Congolese and Cuban music. All of the band are dedicated to playing the music well and with an amazing groove.”

I asked Sara to breakdown the band’s origins.

“I’m the bandleader, born in the UK. The two lead singers, the lead guitarist and, on this occasion, the drummer are from the Democratic republic of Congo. The bass player and the percussionist are from Colombia and the trumpet player who is guesting with us on this occasion, is Cuban. What is more important than our origins are we are all Londoners, we have all chosen to make London our home and contribute to the rich cultural fabric of this great city.”

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This Cuban/Congolese fusion, I had to ask; are African fusions common in Cuba’s contemporary music scene, or something unique to Lokito?

“Absolutely not. My experience of Cuba is that most Cubans know very little about contemporary African music. Yes, there are many African derived musical traditions in Cuba but these hark back to an imagined Africa and African of 200 years ago. My experience is that initially the Congolese musicians I involved in the project had more idea about Cuban music, albeit a little old fashioned, than the Latinos did about Congolese music. The band is unique.”

The idea of an “imagined” Africa of yore is interesting, I think akin to all Caribbean music, particularly reggae. On Cuban styles though, I can’t believe it’s been over 20 years since the Buena Vista Social club album when, Ry Cooder popularised the genre. I wondered what Sara thought about this, does she think it’s been good for Cuban bands in the UK, as it’s probably the only album the masses would recognise from a bucket of “world music” albums.

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“The Buena Vista Social Club project certainly was part of the opening up of Cuba and popularity of Cuban music in the world,” she explains, “It is often said to be a Ry Cooper project, but was actually a consortium of Juan De Marcos Gonzales, Nick Gold (World Circuit) and Ry Cooder. They decided to bill it as Ry Cooder in order for the project to gain wider popularity and not just end up in the world music bin; it worked!”

“In terms of it being good for Cuban music in the UK there are positive and negative consequences. On the positive side; many people became interested in Cuban Son and there was more call for Cuban bands to play old style, Cuban Son. On a negative side, it did create a nostalgic, polarized image of what Cuban music is and created a standard repertoire that bands were required to play. In fact, the island of Cuba has a huge number of musical styles which have come out of the island, a product of the mix of cultures on the island: Mainly European and African but also Chinese, and other.”

My research suggested Cubano Son is the style associated with an African and Latin fusion in Cuba, which has been around since the 1920s. So, is Grupo Lokito similar? But does Sara think this wouldn’t be popular in Cuba today.

“I don’t agree Son is the style associate with African and Latin in Cuba,” Sara corrected me, I’m here to learn! “There are definite African and European roots to son,” Sara continues, “Son has been constantly developing since the 20s and, as you point out most people are not listening to son in the style of the 20s. Cuba has definitely opened up to the world and there is a lot of music coming out of Cuba now, from Jazz to Hip hop, timba, son.”

But Grupo Lokito brings together contemporary musicians from two musical traditions, okay, similar more so to Soukous, a popular dance music from the Congo Basin derived from Congolese rumba, or better still, stop pigeonholing Worrow! Grupo Lokito write their own original tunes: stories of life ranging from love tales, reflections on the trials facing musicians trying to make a home away from home, the wisdom of the elders, to the simple joy of dancing, and sounds awesome!

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To return this fascinating and enlightening chat to the beginning, what of reggae and ska, surely the most popular forms of Caribbean music in the UK, due to the Windrush generation. I asked Sara, what she thinks African, or Cuban styles would have to do to become as ingrained in our culture as them, is that even possible does she think, and is it something to aim for?

“I think it depends who ‘we’ are,” Sara replied. “There are many second, third and more generation British people of African descent and for them, the music of home is embedded in their culture. Latin-American music, in cities such as London, where there are large Latin American communities, particularly Colombian and again, second and third generations have Colombian musical styles ingrained in their culture. I definitely think that multi-cultural society is something we should be proud of. I do realise the London is a cultural bubble and the rest of the UK, particularly outside the large cities, is far less multi-cultural. If you look at some of the new music being created in the UK cities it will all be in there.”

Ah, but this be Devizes me lover! I’m extremely grateful for Sara’s time in chatting with us, must say, it’s a great example of the diversity on offer at this year’s Devizes Arts Festival, and something exotic and exciting for us bumpkins!

 

Tickets to Grupo Lokito are on sale now at £18.

 

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