What a performance …

Posted on December 22nd, 2015

It was a win-win evening at poetrywivenhoe for Martin Newell and The Hosepipe Band on December 10: impeccable poetry from Martin (Black Shuck in the first half, Song of the Waterlily in the second), magical and original music from the Band, and a receptive and respectful audience.

“What a great evening at poetrywivenhoe,” wrote Alex Toms, “listening to Newell’s haunting pieces Black Shuck and Song of the Waterlily, which were accompanied by the brilliant Hosepipe Band.”

What a shame that a different atmosphere prevailed at Firstsite the following evening – when Song of the Waterlily should have been a delightful companion piece to the compelling James Dodds exhibition Wood to Water. The Band were not well served by being crammed up into the far end of the gallery, beyond the bar. Despite Martin’s best efforts to persuade the drinkers to move down and further away, the punters at the bar ignored the poetry and the music, and continued their loud chatter throughout the whole performance.

Some may say that public performers have to become inured to such behaviour, but if only Firstsite management had thought to give Martin and the Band a better location – the auditorium perhaps, or the entrance foyer – then maybe they would have been received with a bit more respect.

Please don’t imagine that I am just being a fusspot – the performers themselves felt undervalued. Comment from Simon of the Band: “It wasn’t easy on Friday – unlike the delightful night we had with you on Thursday. You’re right – we were in the wrong place. The other thing was nobody [in charge] made the link explicit between the Waterlily poem and the James Dodds exhibition.”

And from Martin: “It was quite hard and I wish that the Poetrywivenhoe gig had been the one we’d gone out on, rather than Firstsite … yes, we were placed next to a bar rather than in the entrance foyer Oh and our playing times were changed…
Nelson [bass] and I, veterans of rock bands, are well-versed in such ignominy if not actually inured to it. It still stings sometimes, however. I was more indignant on behalf of those other members of the Hosepipes from the more genteel folk fraternity. They were genuinely shocked by the bad behaviour of all these grown-ups supposedly  attending a flagship cultural event.  Still, no victims, only volunteers, as we say. It wasn’t an entire disaster. There were people enjoying, or at least attempting to enjoy the event under the racket. I encountered such situations often in my early years and more often in Colchester than in any other town. A bit chastening to experience it again, so far down the line.
I sometimes think that Firstsite will be doomed whatever it does. And yet, there is something about the place, which is good and, like a lot of rough places encourages robust art and characters.”

Well said. But finally, a note of good cheer from Simon and the Hosepipes: “… to give you advance notice – some time in the New Year we may be doing music for Martin’s new poem, The Green Children of Woolpit. All good fun.”

Simon – poetrywivenhoe looks forward to it.



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