Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Old Man Pie is crowned as Yorkshire’s finest unsigned band in second round of Yorkshire Unplugged

Yorkshire Unplugged is a search for the region’s finest live, unsigned, & unplugged talent. This free to enter competition takes place every Thursday in March and April at The Forum in Sheffield.

The second round of the regions newest search for raw acoustic talent featured the Twin Bears, Old Man Pie, Don Barrel Gents, Spit N Strings and Andrew Tregoning. Before the competition got under way, we grabbed the bands for an exclusive insight into what they had in store for the night.

Up to six different acts are competing in each of the five rounds, with the audience voting for the winning act from each round. The winners are entered into the grand final, where the audience will crown Yorkshire’s Finest Live Unsigned & Unplugged Performers.

After a night of quality performances, the audience decided that Old Man Pie should enter the grand final, which will be held on 19th April 2012 at The Forum.

Yorkshire Unplugged is one of a number of events hosted by the Sheffield company BIG LIVE EVENT Limited. The company was recently set up by a group of entrepreneurial event management students with the help of Sheffield Hallam University’s Enterprise Centre.

BIG LIVE EVENT Limited aims to promote upcoming, unsigned artists from Yorkshire and Derbyshire and give them a chance to show their talent. Sam Wherrett, competition co-organiser and Managing Director at BIG LIVE EVENT Limited said;

“By running the Yorkshire Unplugged competition these musicians not only get the opportunity to play in front of audiences at a local musically prestigious venue, but get produced, photographed and paraded in front of local music industry professionals.”

The winners of Yorkshire Unplugged receive £1000 of professional recording and production provided by Dan Worrall Recordings, main stage performance at Limetree Music & Arts Festival, a promotional photographic shoot courtesy of Charlie Barker Photography and the Yorkshire Unplugged Trophy.

Round three of Yorkshire Unplugged is taking place on Thursday 29th at 7pm at the Forum, featuring The Savoy Ballroom, Matt Longden, Martyn Goldsack, Liberty Train, Just Jodi and Ichabod.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Yorkshire Unplugged: the audience decides who wears the crown in this live acoustic competition for local musicians

The Yorkshire Unplugged competition is a search for the region’s finest live, unsigned, & unplugged talent.

The free to enter competition is taking place every Thursday at the Forum Café Bar over the next five weeks. The second round will take place today 22nd March, featuring the Twin Bears, Old Man Pie, Joe Banfi, Don Barrell Gents, Climbing Trees and Andrew TregoningLocal up and coming comedian, Carl Maloney, will be hosting the competition.

Up to six different acts will compete in each of the five rounds, with the audience voting for the winning act from each round. The winners will enter the grand final, where the audience will crown Yorkshire’s Finest Live Unsigned & Unplugged Performers.

Yorkshire Unplugged is the regions newest search for raw acoustic talent organised by a new local company BIG LIVE EVENT Limited. The company was recently set up by a group of entrepreneurial event management students with the help of Sheffield Hallam University’s Enterprise Centre.

Competition co-organiser and Managing Director at BIG LIVE EVENT Limited, Sam Wherrett said, "It has become obvious to us that the region is rich in fine un-identified musicians who simply love playing to people. By running the Yorkshire Unplugged competition these musicians not only get the opportunity to play in front of audiences at a local musically prestigious venue, but get produced, photographed and paraded in front of local music industry professionals.”

BIG LIVE EVENT Limited have teamed up with what they consider ‘the very best organisations in the local music industry’ to offer the winners a staggering prize. This includes the Yorkshire Unplugged Trophy, £1000 of professional recording and production provided by Dan Worrall Recordings, main stage performance at Limetree Music & Arts Festival and a promotional photographic shoot courtesy of Charlie Barker Photography.

The Velcro Teddybears – Exclusive Interview.

The Velcro Teddybears are the winners from the first round of Yorkshire Unplugged. Sam Chadwick, Mike Griffin, Josh Griffin and Mike Holland are based in Sheffield, so we caught up with them for an exclusive interview.

The Velcro Teddybears at Yorkshire Unplugged by Charlie Barker Photography 

Which records do you come to for inspiration and which never leave your playlist?
Old School rock and roll is what all of the band grew up listening to, especially from the 60's and 70's, although we do have a tendency to give a fairly large nod to the Blues. Creedence Clearwater Revival never fail to make an appearance in our set, and their intelligent combination of riff and lyric is a constant inspiration.

What do you consider to be your defining moment to date and what would you like to be remembered for?
The full line up coming together in our first gigs was definitely one of those moments when we all realised what we had to offer, but also the rewards and recognition that have come through our constant efforts. Both in the evolution of our 'ballsy' rock and roll and the development of our live show have definitely come to define us.

Talk us through how you started out as an act.
The 'Velyteds' originally started as an acoustic duo, playing various open mics after a period of constant writing spawning from an ignorance of doing anything else. The addition of bass and the cajon only solidified what we knew we had and this in turn further developed the 'bluesy, rock and roll' sound we found for ourselves.

Why did you enter the Yorkshire Unplugged Competition?
After being approached by 'Big Live Event', it was obvious that this was something we could not turn down. We have always been committed to the raw acoustic sound and revel in being part of such an event. We were also aware of the quality of some of the other acts that had been offered the chance to play, and felt we had to put ourselves alongside.

How are you feeling about qualifying for the live heat stages of the Yorkshire Unplugged Competition?
The news that we had got through was obviously a massive compliment, and we appreciate everything that people did to aid in this. It is just a case of justifying our place now and that sort of pressure only excites us. Also to play at a venue that we have not frequented yet, alongside some other quality artists, is sure to provide a mixture of exceptional musical revelry!

What can people expect from your live heat performance in the competition?
We pride ourselves in playing proper acoustic rock n'roll and our show will differ a fair amount from some of the other more laid-back styles. With guitar inspired from timeless riffs, and a voice of present times, we give rhythm and blues back to the roots that have been lost by so many other bands. We give our songs with gusto and we'll have a drink in hand (mines a dark rum and coke). Find reviews on the MyBand section of our facebook page.

What form does the creative process take for you? Do you sit down with an instrument or do you write the lyrics first, then a melody? Or is there no set formula?
The creative process is definitely one that changes with every song. Every member of the band has the right to write, both lyrically and musically, and there is never a feeling that a single member of the band has ownership over any song. Some songs will take minutes to come together, where as others will develop over months at a time.

What is consistent however is the trend for content to derive from real life occurrences and observations. Having all grown up rurally, a bucolic theme has run through, although more encompassing themes such as inebriation and refusing to get out of bed have also made an appearance. We crave originality and this can sometimes be a limiting factor as more songs get rejected than come to stage. But this is something we all feel strongly about and has only served us well so far.

Are there any other exciting things you would like to tell us about that you have in the pipeline?
In the t'old pipeline the bears have what is looking to be an exciting summer ahead of them, kicking off with a full set on 4th April at the Metrodome, Barnsley. Various gigs are to be confirmed afterwards, working towards supporting the splendid 'Bad Manners' on 4th July at Mosbrough music festival. A variety of other summer festivals are to be confirmed around the country.

Peace and Pears...The Velcro Teddybears x

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Cucumber Lounge defies the Monday blues

A brand new Sunday event offering a mix of live music, art and DJ’s has come to Sheffield to remedy those end of the weekend blues. Combining art exhibitions, performance and music, The Cucumber Lounge endeavors to conclude our weekend with some pleasurable entertainment and a little bit of culture.

The event is organised by Sheffield Art Forge, a non-for-profit social enterprise offering arts programming and professional artistic development. Every second Sunday of the month artists and musicians will fill the rooms at Creative Arts Development Space with eclectic sounds and thought-provoking art and performance.
Billy Christmas, a Fine Arts student at Sheffield University, runs The Cucumber Lounge for Sheffield Art Forge. Billy said he was inspired by Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland in which there is a club called Cucumber Lounge. “It’s playful but surreal and as the event is on a Sunday evening I thought ‘lounge’ was quite appropriate. It’s a chilled out event that is about appreciating a bit of culture rather than getting wasted,” said Billy.
Sheffield Art Forge runs the arts programme for Creative Arts Development Space, a multi-purpose arts complex in Shalesmoor. Dan Butlin, Sheffield Art Forge curator and event organiser said this event is part of their outreach programme. “We’re trying to broaden the appeal to people who aren’t the contemporary art crowd by creating a synthesis between art and music.” Dan said that they are also creating opportunities for artistic development by giving artists like Billy Christmas the opportunity and freedom to run an event with the support of Sheffield Art Forge.
Entertainment at The Cucumber Lounge
The first Cucumber Lounge kicked off last Sunday with music from Meat, Motherfolkers and Loveboat accompanying art exhibitions from Jessica Wong and Stuart Faulkner. There was also free face painting, poetry by Stan Skinny and an art performance by Stephen Milligan.
Jessica Wong’s exhibition featured installation art exploring the idea of things that are beautiful and ugly at the same time. Her work explores items such as the human body, which is both beautiful in the way it works and yet its guts and gory insides are also ugly. Stuart Faulkner’s exhibition included paintings with a subversive pop-cultural reference, including a painting of Harry Potter with the body of an imp. This painting refers to the American Christian reaction to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. 
Stuart Faulkner's exhibition 
The music included a mixture of folk, punk and an eclectic mix of everything in between. Performance poet Stan Skinny, who ensured the atmosphere remained light-hearted and relaxed, entertained the audience between bands.
Stan Skinny
Billy has many ideas for future events. “I want to have people walking around with platters of cucumber sandwiches and I also wanted to have a poet selling custom poems for shrapnel, but he couldn’t make it this time.” Billy also hopes to incorporate The Cucumber Lounge into other Sheffield arts and music events like the SKINN festival and Tramlines or Peace in the Park.
If any bands or artists would like to get involved in future events you can email Billy Christmas at
Photos by 

Monday, 5 March 2012

James Dodd’s Olympic Dreams and the stories behind everyday lives

James Dodd is the kind of photojournalist every city needs, focusing on the people that make up the life of the city and portraying them in their everyday lives. James believes that there is an interesting and important story right on his doorstep. Instead of following the crowd and chasing the sensational or the shocking, James is determined to tell the real stories about real life in the city in which he lives.

Olympic Dreams Project © James Dodd
James’s Olympic Dreams project was the first of these stories. Inspired by a quote from David Beckham, the project explores the physical and mental pressures placed on children competing for the Olympics.

“David Beckham said he was so good at free kicks because he dreamt about doing them. This repetition meant that he became so comfortable doing them that is was just like an everyday activity,” said James, Sheffield based photographer and founder of Statement Images.

“These kids were obviously doing the same thing, going through the same routines, doing a dive twenty times over. I tried to convey the emotions that the kids were going through without showing the actual emotions, but showing images of them in this dream-like state.”

Olympic Dreams also questions the role of children in such high-pressure roles in our society. “I wanted to create really strong images which people could remember,” said James. He conveys the children in uncomfortable positions, isolated from everything else, whilst their bodies are tense in mid dive or grasping at the water as they swim towards the surface.

Olympic Dreams project © James Dodd
Neither photojournalism nor art, James said that people struggled to pigeonhole the project. Yet he has gained coverage from publications such as the Guardian, the BBC, Burn Magazine and Newsweek Japan. He also exhibited the project at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield in 2010.

James now has plans to create a photo documentary of life behind the scenes during the Olympics. Following the children who don’t get into the Olympic teams or the younger children who continue training whilst watching their older colleagues compete. James believes that there will be plenty of coverage of the Olympic teams but “these are the stories that need to be told.”

A qualified photojournalist, James believes in the hyper local and the importance of the everyday stories that are never told. “The Olympic Dreams project was the start of this idea that stories exist locally which can have national and international significance,” said James.

From the extremes to the everyday

James was inspired to become a photojournalist through renowned photojournalists like Robert Capa, James Nachtwey, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Don McCullin. Yet, his experience of journalism has led him along a different path to those he was inspired by.

After working as a freelance journalist and experiencing the limitations of news journalism, James began to question the mindset of his vocation. He had reservations about the chase for images of extreme sadness and destruction which newspapers often request. He questioned the virtues of chasing the image that would give him a career-break and the eagerness of his colleagues to travel to war torn countries or places of disaster to cover these ‘extremes’. “I thought, is that really what I want to be involved in? I’m more interested in the subjects within the world where I live, rather than chasing images around the world.”

James decided that he wanted the time and space to work on stories which were important and interesting without the restrictions and limitations of news. So he sought advice from other photographers like Simon Roberts, an award-winning photographer who studied Human Geography at Sheffield University.  Simon, who was also the official Election artist in 2010, has become a mentor for James and has helped him to pursue his dreams.

This idea of exchanging ideas and expertise informed the creation of Statement Images, a collective of photographers from around the world. The collective acts as a support network and a forum for sharing ideas and projects. “We’ve all got similar goals and to some extent it is easier to pull together and to become known under one name.” James’s Olympic Dreams project led to the collective gaining a commission from Channel 4. “We’ve all got different sets of skills and we can pitch for each other,” said James.

An alternative platform- slow journalism

James is also co-editor of Street Reverb Magazine, a website dedicated to promoting, publishing and discussing contemporary street photography. James believes that the agenda-focused media has driven photojournalists to look for alternative platforms like Street Reverb and Statement Images as a means of publishing.

The inspiration to create such platforms has come from photographer Rob Hornstra and his Sochi Project. In 2014, the Olympic Games will take place in Sochi, Russia. Sochi is a largely impoverished region, next to the conflict zone Abkhazia. Rob Hornstra and filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen are spending the next five years documenting the extreme makeover of the region and how Sochi’s ‘economic crises is glossed over as much as possible’.

James marvels at how Rob and Arnold have created their own platform for their stories, without going through the standard publishing routes. He said that by creating their own platform they have ensured a level of control which means they do not have to follow the media’s agenda. “They cover stories that the newspapers aren’t interested in and concentrate on the daily life in the area,” said James.

One of their stories is about the Sochi singers and how in the Sochi culture the same traditional songs are sung in the same settings in every town in the region. James values the everyday nature of these stories, “It’s a very simple sharing of this way of life. It is not an ‘extreme’ of life but it is still intriguing.”

Sunday Morning Sales
James is currently working on his own project of similar simplicity and everyday nature. His Sunday Morning Sales project documents car boot sales across the country. James simply captures the people and their objects, portraying the tranquil nature of a car boot sale; a man relaxing in a chair in the middle of a field, a woman standing behind her table of trinkets staring into the sky and categories of books, clothes or toys neatly laid out for someone else to treasure.

Sunday Morning Sales project © James Dodd

James believes that each stall is a portrait of the sellers, “a piece of themselves spread out right there on decorating tables and on the floor for all to see and buy.”

Staying true to the ideas of alternative platforms, James plans to exhibit this work ‘in the context it was created in’. He is buying picture frames from the car boot sales in which he will place the photographs to exhibit at the car boot sales. He aims to use the work to approach new audiences who might not normally step into a gallery and who aren’t going with the purpose of seeing art

“They will also have an interest in the subject because they are part of it, there are few places you can exhibit where you know that 300 odd people will be interested in the subject,” mused James.

Sunday Morning Sales project © James Dodd 
Sheffield as a subject

Taking the idea of hyper local to its extreme, James has been working on Sheffield as a project for the last five months. “I want to find out more about the city which is the single geographical location that has the most connection to me, but I don’t feel this same connection to it,” said James.

He is exploring the idea of the city having seven hills and the fact there are more trees per person than any other city in Europe. James is also interested in where Sheffield’s industry has gone and what has replaced it. “I want to explore whether Sheffield’s identity has changed with its industry.”

Now that he has bought a house in Sheffield, James feels more of a need to explore the city, “I have lived here for 27 years and yet there are still areas I have never been to. I feel like I have explored other cities more as a photographer where as I’ve neglected my own.”

James is currently exploring Sheffield’s past through his Dead Photographers project. Using his father's removals company, James is collecting the unwanted items discarded during house clearances of the deceased. He has found whole photography archives of once keen photographers. James is using this collection to explore the relationship between photography and time, and how people’s attitudes towards photographs have changed.

With each new project James maintains a determination to simply document the everyday lives of people around him, exploring the intriguing stories of the regular person, the ‘stories that need to be told’.

A review by No Culture Icons, a collective of photographers and artists, sums up James’s style perfectly; “The images are without mystery or questioning, but instead revel in the few times in which there are no great unknowns to be fought against: here are the people, and this is what they do, what they buy and sell, what they are and what they want to be.” 

Sunday Morning Sales project © James Dodd