Monday, 30 June 2014

When not at Glastonbury...

For the first time in six years, I did not spend my last weekend of June at Glastonbury. Not jumping on that train to Castle Cary on Wednesday afternoon felt like missing a homecoming; at best, it was like not turning up for work. There is a slight twinge in the gut when you hear of thousands of people gathering where numerous times you have gathered yourself to experience your very favourite thing – live music performed by some of your favourite bands of all time.

The only thing that made it much-more-than-bearable was spending the weekend in Cornwall. There is nothing quite like whiling away a gloriously sunny weekend at home with your friends and family after a busy few weeks. On Friday we hurtled down the M5 towards the very end of the land and my home, St Just in Penwith.

I am lucky to be from one of the most beautiful places, I think, on earth and the universe so willingly conspired with us as to give us the perfect weather. We were able to enjoy a languorous pint or two at the local pub, indulge in a barbecue of mythic proportions, reminisce with conversations around a dying fire and visit Golowan festival's Quay Fair Day, all in the space of just over 24 hours.

Golowan is Penzance's celebration of midsummer – a revival of the Feast of St John which died out in the 1890s before being revived a century later. The main event, Mazey Day, takes place in the centre of Penzance and is flanked by Mazey Eve on Friday and the quieter Quay Fair Day on Sunday.

Quay Fair Day happens around Penzance's harbour with stalls and fairground rides thronged by hundreds of relaxed people. We heard music by community groups and waved regularly at familiar faces.

And so, whilst I am kicking myself for missing Blondie, Warpaint, Anna Calvi, Goldfrapp, M.I.A., Lykke Li and London Grammar (to name just a few) at Glastonbury, I am confident that it would have taken something pretty spectacular to beat this special weekend.

A single rose | photo: Rosie Pentreath

The new farmyard residents | photo: Rosie Pentreath

The pop-up pedi factory | photo: Rosie Pentreath

Mum's ferocious fire | photo: Rosie Pentreath 

photo: Rosie Pentreath
St Michael's Mount | photo: Rosie Pentreath 
Tom Leaper's memorial of Cornish fishermen lost at sea | photo: Rosie Pentreath

Newlyn stream | photo: Rosie Pentreath

Looking towards Quay Fair Day, Penzance | photo: Rosie Pentreath 
Cheap thrills | photo: Rosie Pentreath

Penzance harbour | photo: Rosie Pentreath

The loyal companion | photo: Rosie Pentreath


Sunday, 22 June 2014

Theatre: London Road – Bristol Old Vic

On Thursday, while most of the British population were settled in front of the England-Uruguay game, I went over to Bristol Old Vic for one of the best pieces of theatre I have experienced for a long time. Bristol Old Vic Theatre School's production of Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork's 2011 musical London Road was utterly compelling from start to finish.

Set in 'small-town' Ipswich, the musical is based on interviews with residents of London Road taken after their lives were shaken up by the murders of five prostitutes by Steve Wright in 2006. It was difficult to know what to expect from a musical about murders.

It opened in the bustle of a local neighbourhood watch meeting. Dialogue and songs were set in the verbatim style – taken from and scored closely around naturalised speech – and soon revealed a clever and utterly absorbing brand of theatre. The pauses, ums and likes in the script were strengthened by the fact that the music's rhythm, pitch and timbre closely imitated them.

It is no wonder that the original production, shown at the National Theatre in 2011, received universally great reviews and numerous five-star ratings from national press.

The BOVTS actors lived up to the original, portraying brilliantly colourful characters and giving the music the conviction it deserves: the songs proved to be catchy and memorable despite the verbatim setting. The delicate subject was handled bravely but sensitively by this production.

The only thing, if anything, that was slightly weaker about the performance was the pit orchestra. The young players were generally very tight and accurate, but some of the textures could have been more subtle and fast passages handled more neatly. But, in terms of timing, they had it.

London Road finished yesterday. For the sake of those who haven't had a chance to see it, I hope it is picked up by another company soon: it's brilliant.


Thursday, 12 June 2014

First Aid Kit: Stay Gold

First Aid Kit – sisters Joanna and Klara Söderberg – have just released their third studio album, Stay Gold. Like The Lions Roar, the melodies of all the tracks are immediately striking, the instrumental arrangements incredibly warm, and the lyrics poignant. So genuine is their American-style country sound that you would think that these girls were born in the Mid-West. With those close harmonies and rich textures, it never fails to feel genuine.

Waitress Song particularly evokes the grit of small-town America – probably a little too obviously in caseI could move to a small town / And become a waitress / Say my name was Stacey – as does the beautiful Cedar Lane. The title track Stay Gold has a strikingly bold chorus and the opening My Silver Lining stands out with its whining folk fiddles and fast lyrics that spout hardship and realism.

Coast after coast, cities and states / My world's an empty map where nothing remains / The place we belong is quietly gone / While we were making plans, it drifted away – Cedar Lane

The album has a more diverse range of timbres than its predecessor with a lively flute refrain in The Bell and a mellow clarinet accompanying Master Pretender

Like the past albums, the songs are maps of journeys, love – love the most of all – and moral tales. These are moving accounts filled with true emotion: First Aid Kit has given us another album to cherish.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A photowalk through Paris...

Just over three weeks ago I was lucky enough to be meandering happily through the streets of Le Marais, Saint-Germain-des-Prés and those parallel to the Seine in Paris. The weather was sublime and the city aesthetically perfect. I came back with two rolls of dazzlingly bright film. Here is a selection of the prints...

In Les Jardins des Archives Nationales | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Jumelles | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Paris City Hall | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Le carousel | Photo: Rosie Pentreath
Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Le Pont Neuf | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Musée de Louvre | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Á part | Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
Le Grand Palais | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Le Grande Palais | Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
Le Grand Palais | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Guerlain | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Photo: Rosie Pentreath

At the Cathédrale Notre Dame | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Visit: to see more photography from my travels

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Playlist: Foxes

Foxes is the word on everybody's music lips these days. I kept hearing the singer – real name Louisa Rose Allen – mentioned everywhere before I picked up the free iTunes download from Starbucks the other week and, after that, finally listened to her debut album, Glorious.

Glorious it is too. Youth, the song that iTunes offered in the Starbucks promo, sounds fresh and dancey, and is that perfect blend of optimism mixed with angst perfect for the summer days of a twenty-something. Other great tracks on the album are Talking to Ghosts, with those great opening synths, and White Coats for interesting rhythms and a bit of mystery. Echo has a chorus worthy of many a chart-topping banger.

Allen has a strong voice and blends gently melancholia with driving beats and instantly appealing electronics. A new favourite.