They really do get it right…….


Picture this, I’d been at Dot to Dot since roughly 12.30, it’s now about 9.15pm and I was thinking what’s next, I’d seen allot of great artists during the day, I could have stayed at Stealth or gone to the Rescue Rooms or of course there is always the headliner at Rock City.

In my view the track record of headliners at Dot to Dot over the years has not been great, the best I can think of being The 1975 a few years ago. So this year I thought I may as well give it a punt. I didn’t know the band (I’d checked out allot of the earlier acts) but with the headliners I thought I knew what I could be in for, and I had doubts.


It was just under 30 minutes from show time and Rock City was filling up very fast, I found the last space upstairs against the rail, I was looking over the edge of the stage. My mind was working on ‘if these guys are as good as last year I could always go early’. But something was different, the preparation of the stage was very exacting, then false foliage was put across parts of the stage. A silhouette of a person was added on both sides of the stage. This was definitely was not the usual fare…. so who exactly was going to turn up and what’s their music, ……Crystal Fighters…… could be anything.

Being so far to the side I saw 3 guys arrive on stage but could not see what was happening, it looked like they were playing drums, a very rudimentary glockenspiel and some small tubular bells…… but it was hard to see and this was looking as if it could be different, the 2 female singes came next and as things got started the lead singer arrived.


The next hour and a quarter blew the roof off, it was superb, it was very well produced, the sound was as near perfect as you could get, the music was great and it was allot of fun with a band that clearly wanted to share and build a relationship with the audience.

I can say with out hesitation it was one of the best gigs I’ve been to, all the fun, energy and stage presence of the Vaccines and a style and vibe I’d associate with St Etienne. For the first time in years the headliner was the highlight of the festival – well done Dot to Dot, the best show in years at a festival with quality from one end to the other.

I was not quite sure who was first on at 12.45 at Rock City, they had changed slots but it was good, after that it was in to Beta to see the Mocking Jays, I knew I was going to spend allot of time in Stealth and the first act I saw was ‘Robinson’. Stealth is almost the secret corner of the festival and the place where jewels are to be found, occasionally it’s packed and then you know a treat is coming. For Robinson it was packed – and she was brilliant. I saw 4 other acts there all good, Rachael Chinouriri was just a pleasure to listen to.


I did venture to Rock City before the headliner, in Beta Phoebe Green’s guy on rhythm guitar was fighting the technology, before that though I saw ‘Sheaves’ on the main stage in Rock City who delivered a great set with attitude, later I returned to see what ‘Swim Deep’ had……. I did not stay long, with this level of expectation I later returned to see the headliner…….

Crystal Fighters is a band I want to see again, they were a brilliant headliner – when Dot to Dot get it right they really do it in style, well done!!


This years Dot to Dot was not on the scale of last years, 44 venues had been reduced to 16 however the quality was still there. As is typical of Dot to Dot the best bands are not necessarily when or where you expect to find them.

Personally I always look at what’s on at 3 pm on the Rock City main stage, there is often a surprise. This year it was G Flip, a young drummer from Melbourne (Australia) who writes her music in her bedroom was here on her 2nd gig, she was awesome, it was a superb set, at one point the whole band was on percussion with 2 on drums, it was something special, a talented and creative young artist.

Late afternoon by chance I dropped into Stealth – you don’t normally expect it to be packed at 4pm, but with Haiku Hands on stage it was, they mix music and their art and the result is sublime, technically brilliant and full of attitude they are a must see band – and allot of people clearly knew this! This time more than in the past it was obvious that many of the festival goers knew who they wanted to see and got there early.


With so much great music hidden away in places and on early you had to be on the ball not to miss Jimi Mack, Swimming Girls, Our Girl and Kolars.

Last year I was critical of Sundara Karma who headlined – this year’s headline was the Horrors, well they lived up to the name, why at a festival for new bands do you have a headliner who made it 10 years ago and have done little since is beyond me, yet again the organisers dropped the ball with the headline act. The best way to view the Horrors is as the fill in band between 2 great bands before and after in the Rock City Basement.

The ‘Before’ was The Nectars who were fab, somewhere between Rock and Punk, full of energy they lifted the packed venue, this was their last date before returning home to New York, having just dropped their first album days ago they left on a high – and this is one defintey to buy. The ‘After’ was The Regrettes, from LA they packed the place and were awesome, they got to the final number and the opening drums I knew, but did not believe – Ballroom Blitz by the Sweet from 1974 – just so good in so many ways!!


Just as last year there were lots of great acts at Dot to Dot this year, look in all the interesting places, avoid the headliners and you’ll find some great bands, and some real treats who may not otherwise be here.

20180410_213009The last time the Vaccines played Nottingham was in 2015 – I think, I’m guessing  it was  with the release of  ‘English Graffiti’  and whilst I could have gone, despite wanting to I didn’t – I must have seriously lost plot at the time!

Now with the release of ‘Combat Sports’ they are back on the road again with a long tour taking in the UK and Europe and including headlining Reading and Leeds.  I did wonder why they were back at Rock City rather than the Arena, but hey,  I know Rock City and some things you only question momentarily!

Doors opened at 7.00 and the band were on at about 9.00, the set was simple with 4 huge film lights and a massive glitter ball, and no fuss and no frills. Plus of course huge batteries of lights and smoke machines to the sides.

20180410_215400Coming on to Abba’s Waterloo, with the exception of a few minutes when they went off (to solicit an encore) they played solidly for 80 minutes.  It really was as simple as if you knew it they played it including parts of Combat Sports. Unlike other bands who have changed as they have developed new audiences the Vaccines have stayed true to where  they started and what they are great at. They put on a show and then some,  in answer to my initial question why Rock City again – you just couldn’t do it any other  way!

At a relentless pace it was fun, it was loud and it was brilliant, best party ever!  and the best thing I’ve seen at Rock City for years and I must have been going for the last 25-30!


Bales and an Old Railway Line


It would appear that my blog sporadically deals with a remarkably narrow range of subjects,  this time I have been out walking as I have done most of the winter,  again this blog is about my walk.

With the change in the clocks and a warm spring day I was out walking as usual.  I have long taken an interest in the old railway lines near where I live, they are fascinating both from the stories could tell and the remarkable number of apple trees that line the route.  No doubt the result of drivers, firemen (and possibly guards) throwing apple cores off the foot plate, not giving a thought to what may result, now many years later these mature trees line what was the route of the track and bear fruit every year.

Some tracks are no more than a shallow tree lined trough in the ground where a track and bank used be,  in one a farmer has put bales and debris to block the former route, now overgrown the bales are degrading and producing a fascinating landscape.


This weekend started on Thursday, it was not the plan however a professional networking event in London was the start. I planned to stay overnight and the following morning made the short journey to the National Gallery, the plan was to see the Monochrome Exhibition and that I did.


It was a diverse and interesting show, particularly showing how artists would start with a painting, produce an intermediate monochrome print before going onto produce etched prints, interestingly the two in the show were in mirror (reversed). This way they could produce a product to sell at a comparatively low cost compared to the original painting.


Whilst there it was fascinating to look the portraits and how the various artists had handled light, there were a couple of other shows, and it was such a pleasure to wander round a small show of Degas work that was one of the best things there, I do like his work and the delicate was he handles light.


At the end of it all it was back home to the Midlands and over the weekend I have enjoyed the countryside and the lovely light late in the day. On Saturday I was out in the sunshine with a Polaroid camera, on Sunday I was out with an old friend – a tiny little compact digital camera, pocket sized. It was lovely weather and on occasions it really is just the simple things that is all one needs.


Perhaps it’s just me but isn’t it funny how remote places with wild histories are attractive. Last year after my holiday I left the Shetlands that are a very beautiful collection of Islands with a feeling  of the modesty of the location in a very harsh environment, being at 60degrees latitude brings with it certain unique features.

As I left I had the feeling that I needed  the wildness and uncompromising feeling of the  West Coast next year,  and the most extreme place on the West Coast is St Kilda,  almost 100 miles off the mainland and only just visible from the Outer Hebrides on a bright clear day even so they are obscured by the curvature of the earth.


Taking a 9 day trip we sailed (yes sailed) from Oban over a couple of days to St Kilda,   we struggled with the weather because we were on the edges of 2 storms, one as we set out and another mid week however there was a 2 day window we could spend on St Kilda.  The wind direction and weather means that getting into Village Bay can be quite restrictive and there are  conditions when you simply should not be there.

I have been to St Kilda before so knew what to expect,  last time once on the Island we walked North towards Mullach avoiding the Bonxies, this time I wanted to head South West arround the other side of the bay to Ruaival.

Of course we spent time in Village Bay and on the evening of the first day it was great, the light was lovely, I was shooting on film mostly in black and white.


Whilst there I also picked up George Seton’s book ‘St Kilda Past and Present’  that is a survey of the island and island life when he went in 1876. This draws on much of the islands history known at the time and goes back way into it’s past. This is a fascinating book that lacks the romance of some of the more narrative publications. A few weeks later it was wonderful to sit in bed reading about islands I had recetly left and see in my minds eye the same landscape he described as good as unchanged.  It describes a way of life and lifestyle and a series of connections that you would not expect.  The one that has made most impact is that of sailors leaving Norway on a journey that took them to the Orkneys and then onto St Kilda well over 130 years ago.


There was a huge problem with child mortality,  later attributed to infant tetanus that is described in detail, it is facinating to see how the arguments unfolded about the cause of this very high mortality, at that time the actual cause was not known.  From Seton’s book it reads as if it was happening in real time rather than almost 150 years ago.





Over the Bank Holiday Weekend I met one of my closest friends at YSP – it’s a regular haunt of ours, we get to see the latest show and with such a good restaurant we spend ages catching up with what’s important in each others worlds.


Rather than tell you family stories let me tell you about the visit to see the new Tony Cragg show, it was one of 2 in the space of a few days. The second was to hear Tony talk about his work, his lecture was mind blowing it was in effect the 40th anniversary lecture of Tony’s departure to live and work in Germany and the 40th anniversary of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Tony did one of those remarkable things and delivered a lecture lasting almost an hour without a power point slide, an illustration, or any other visual material, yet he held the audience in the palm of his hand hanging onto every word for the entire lecture. It was one of the most detailed and complex lectures I’ve ever heard, every line of reason and argument sat tightly against every other.

Fortunately it was videoed and will appear on YSP’s youtube channel so I can see it again and revisit his lines of thinking and fully understand the depth of his lecture. Every aspect of life right down to it’s molecular structure it was argued was sculpture and in such a complete way it got into how metaphysically sculpture exists.


The work is stunning, the thought that has gone in to the outdoor show is incredible, what is so apparent is how the outdoor work relates both to itself and to the landscape as if it was meant to be there.

I need to revisit my notes, see the work again and hopefully see the lecture again, there is still so much there to understand.

This years Dot to Dot in Nottingham was massive, I’ve not counted up  the number of acts, but spread over 40 venues in Notts with some venues opening their doors at 1pm and not closing them until 1am, there was a huge number of artists across many genres.


From many years of going I have learnt a number of things, firstly the headliners may not be the best acts around the festival and secondly interesting things can be found on the smaller stages and many will be just out of the lime light of the big acts. But in 2 or 3 years they will be the ones breaking through,  a few years ago Ragandbone man was on in a basement just after the headliner had finished elsewhere – he was clearly superb then.

Someone in that vein is Ellie Rose, she has a great voice, and on her own with a guitar on a small stage she held the filled room in her hand at 3.30 in the afternoon – little signs, but they are all there. Early in the evening Luis Berry at Rock City made Amber Run and the headliner Sundara Karma look second best,  the two later acts were very competent, and for Amber Run it was a homecoming.  Luis Berry just had that special something, the band came on – and he came on 15 seconds later  to greet his audience,  it was his gig, he had fun, and we had fun with him,  most of the set he had a smile on his face he also had backing singers who lifted the vocal and added that bit of depth and detail to his sound. Whilst it was his show he introduced and valued every member the band.  He’s already had allot of success and I’m sure nobody will be able to keep him down.


Other early acts that looks as if they have something are Shrives and Ashfield, on the unusual end of the scale was Bone Cult,  I’m not sure what they have but live it was good!   The great thing about Dot to Dot is that you are looking for the winners from about 2-3 years out,  and again this year I think I’ve  found a couple!



I have already mentioned my love of film, in my own work I’m shooting on film more and more.

There is something about shooting film you don’t get with digital, with digital you can ‘hose it down’ with images, with film you can’t, you have to know what you want to shoot and get it in the fewest possible number of frames.

It’s a great discipline and unless you have shot film you don’t realise how alive this makes you feel, it sharpens the senses,  it focuses your mind, it gets you to think more tightly about every aspect of what you want to shoot, and with this sharpness as you look you’ll be surprised how much more you see. Keep in mind though there are limits,  every film behaves differently particularly when you ask it to do something it was not designed to do, and if you do when you get it back it will contain all sorts of interesting surprises.

With digital you can ‘machine gun’ every angle of a set and every expression made by your model  in the knowledge that you can find the one that works later when you get everything on screen, after all ‘it has to be in there somewhere’.  With digital you don’t have to commit to anything on set when you shoot, equally nor does your client, but the danger is that this can become a mind set, and for some it is.


It’s very simple with film you have to take almost all your decisions in real time, right in the moment as you shoot, with digital you can take almost all the decisions retrospectively once you get back to the screen, it’s no wonder film is so exciting.

Some years ago I attended Werner Herzog’s Rogues Film School, he recounted the story of shooting Bad Lieutenant with Nicholas Cage (Herzog was the Director).  They started shooting at 10am and Herzog had everything he wanted by mid day,  however the Assistant Directors (AD) wanted allot more incidental footage covering every possible angle and detail they could find so they could add and tweak the film in the cutting room. Herzog said no, he had what he wanted, the AD’s were not happy and they continued to make demands, that was until Cage also said no telling the AD’s they were ‘working with a man who knew what he was doing’.


I enjoy walking when I get chance,  near me there is a circular walk of around 5-6 miles, my walk is on borrowed time due to HS2 and the ambitions of the local authority to cover every bit of Nottingham and the surrounding area with tram lines. What is rural space is soon to be rural no more.

There are the remains of what were railway cuttings and the tell tale signs of random apple trees still growing strongly beside lines that have long since closed.

The walls beside one cutting are reverting back to nature and there is a combination of wall and roots together creating some wonderful shapes and forms, it’s as if the roots are finding weakness in the stone as it degrades and filling those weakness and binding the wall providing both strength and support.

Shot on film these images are a pleasure!img110img114img112