If you’re reading this post, thank you so much, but I do have a confession to make. This post is not really about Chris de Burgh. It’s about my mum (and her love of Chris de Burgh).
My mum is now 82 years old and in the grip of dementia. It’s early days as far as dementia goes, but bit-by-bit we’re all watching as she goes down a hard, sad road that we can’t go with her on.
My mum has loved Chris de Burgh for as long as I can remember. Buying her birthday and Christmas presents was always the easiest thing in the world when he had a new album out. My mum had an old ghetto blaster that she used to play her huge collection of Chris de Burgh albums on. She’d play them so loud the walls would rattle. The words and the songs seemed to permeate my subconscious by osmosis.
When we were young, our house had always been filled with my mum’s music. There was Neil Diamond, Doris Day, Charlie Rich. There were film soundtracks (a love I still have 40 years on), old Country 78’s and Petula Clark. My mum and my Aunty Pat (not a real aunty; a Scouse aunty) would dress up in fabulously glamorous maxi dresses in the 70s and go to the Wooky Hollow club to see old-school singers like Tony Christie. Music was always a huge part of my mum’s life and loves.
One of the first alarm bells that rang for me when we were going through the “Is it old age or maybe something else?” phase of my mum being assessed for dementia was when she gave me her entire collection of LPs, CDs and cassettes. She’d parcelled up the every last piece of the music that had filled her life for so long and asked me to give them to a charity shop. I begged her to reconsider, but she insisted that she didn’t want them any more. And that was that. From a woman who’s kept every single childhood note, every birthday card, every naff holiday trinket she’s ever been given. A lifetime of music bundled up and given away.
Of course, I didn’t give them to a charity shop and they’re still around the muddle of my house somewhere. And the vast majority of this collection is the work of Chris de Burgh.
And so, we come to Mr de Burgh’s upcoming gig at the Philharmonic this weekend, which I’m taking my mum to see. Well, we will. If you’re still with me so far, indulge me a little longer if you will. This is not the first time me and my mum have seen Chris de Burgh live. We’ve seen him quite a few times over the last twenty-odd years.
The first time I took my mum to see a Chris de Burgh gig, I was going through a full-on late 80s/early 90s acid house phase. My mum had bought two tickets for a de Burgh gig and couldn’t find anyone to go with her for love nor money. Not a soul. And so, with the singular bad grace of a twenty-something dragged from a rave, I said I’d go with her.
That first gig was de Burgh on his own with a guitar doing a one-man show. I grudgingly recognised de Burgh’s musicianship and his vast body of work and happily recognised my mum’s joy that being there.
And so began what was to become one of our “things”. Me and my mum. We’d go to Chris de Burgh gigs; sing along to the old classics and stand, arms waving aloft while belting out “High On Emotion”. I was once asked out on a date by a guy I’d fancied for a while and had to rebuff him with a barely believable, “I can’t see you on Friday, I’m taking my mum to see Chris de Burgh.” The guy never re-scheduled the date and my mum and I kept seeing Chris de Burgh concerts.
Which leads us (finally!) to this Friday. I have no idea when Chris de Burgh might come back to Liverpool after this tour. When he does, it might be too late for my mum. As I watch the person who my mum used to be unravelling like an old jumper as dementia pulls the fabric of her personality apart, I’m painfully aware that this could be the last time we do our “thing” of seeing a Chris de Burgh gig.
I hope that my mum remembers all the songs like she always has. I hope she remembers the gig afterwards for as long as she can. I hope she sends a hand-written thank you note to the Liverpool Echo, as she always has. And I hope that if she does, they print it so that she can cut it out, cover it in Sellotape and keep it with all the other notes and cuttings she never throws out.
I really hope that my mum’s love of music and her love of Chris de Burgh stays with her for as long as possible afterwards. I know that I’ll treasure it always.
Chris de Burgh & Band – The Hands of Man Live 2015 is on at The Philharmonic this Friday, 8 May
Tickets available from the Philharmonic box office and online
Save the date – Friday 15 May, 4pm til late
Hurray – One of our favourite nights of the year is coming up.
LightNight, Liverpool’s one-night arts festival returns to illuminate the city for a sixth consecutive year on Friday 15 May, when thousands of visitors will explore and celebrate the city’s world-class cultural offer late into the night.
The full events line up has been released online at www.lightnightliverpool.co.uk and in a printed festival guide which is available to order by post, or from participating venues in the lead up to the festival.
Using the theme Looking to the New World, over 100 organisations are joining forces to offer special free events for all ages from mass dance workshops, exhibitions and walking tours, to light installations, science demos, dress up photo booths and concerts.
For the first time a festival hub will be setup at LJMU Rodney House on Mount Pleasant where audiences can go to pick up the programme, learn more about the events and purchase tote bags and badges to support the festival.
As well as openings at major venues including Tate Liverpool, Liverpool Cathedral and St George’s Hall, many independent galleries and spaces will also open up to the public, including one-off open studios at 104 Duke Street, Fünf Studio and Road Studios. Liverpool Small Cinema will be open with screenings of short films (60 seconds or less) to show off the new space and The Well (a new non-profit creative community space) will open with a hands-on interactive light projection working with Between the Borders.
Just some of the festival highlights include: –
Liverpool Philharmonic open for the very first time on LightNight to celebrate their 175th anniversary. An ensemble of members of the RLPO will perform compositions which might have been heard by concertgoers in the 1840s, back when the organisation was founded.
LOOK/15: Exchange, the Liverpool International Photography Festival, launches with special exhibition previews and parties on LightNight; including Anna Fox party at Tate Liverpool and after show at Constellations.
Merseyside Maritime Museum open late with music, dance and poetry surrounding major new exhibition Lusitania: Life, Loss, Legacy commemorating the sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania during the First World War on 7 May 1915.
Merseyside Dance Initiative (MDI) takeover Liverpool Town Hall with the Big Dance Pledge where people of all ages and abilities can take part in a dance workshop and watch performances through the evening.
LIPA is also involved for the first time this year, with a showcase of student work entitled ‘Follow the Moths’ a trail of light installations including a glowing giant glowing cocoon suspended from above, a 3D moth eye light box, and light shows on the side of the building.
FACT will present a light projection by artist Erica Scourti in Ropewalks Square until midnight, which explores ideas of memory and erasure in relation to technology and our mental health.
Everyman Theatre open late with a collaborative event with LJMU. ‘Life on the Ocean Wave’ sees the ‘top deck’ theatre bar and balcony brought to life with music, deck games and high class cocktails celebrating the glamour and elegance of travel on board the liners.
Deep Hedonia takeover St George’s Hall Concert Room with an eclectic programme of AV performances that seek to challenge our perception of the past, present and future.
A LightNight audience member from 2014 described LightNight as:
“By far the most exciting, original and magical event in the city’s cultural calendar”
We couldn’t agree more!
When a Top 10 just isn’t enough
It’s that time of year when we look back on the last twelve months and look forward to the year ahead. As we scrape away the last of the turkey, think about what we’re doing for New Year’s eve and contemplate going back to work, I thought it would be good to look back at this year’s highlights.
And, man, have there been some! I’m aware that I’ve become a bit of a broken record when I say that this year and being made a Cultural Champion has changed my life, but you don’t have to be an official champion to change yours. You just need to put yourself out there. I promise you it will pay bigger dividends than you ever imagined.
So, in the spirit of end of year lists, which I love to an unnecessary degree, here are my Top 12 highlights of 2012. I can’t wait to see what the coming year will hold. What about you?
In no particular order…
1. Acetate Steps: In memory of the mix tape @ Arena Studios & Gallery
My very first venture into the arts in Liverpool could not have been more of a revelation. Nervous as hell and overwhelmed with information, I thought I’d start off with something small and intimate. This gallery and its artists have become one of my absolute favourites over the year. Set in the Baltic triangle, it’s well worth a visit. Great exhibits, a fantastic bar below and lovely, lovely people.
2. Five Days Out For A Fiver
When I filled out my application to apply for the role of Cultural Champion, in the section called “What would you like to get out of the role?” I answered something along the lines of “To get out of the house, please.”
One of the best things I’ve done is to have some time with my children without spending a bomb. We packed sandwiches, braved the lovely British weather and Liverpool’s public transport network and, boy, did we have a great time. It takes some planning and we still never had a picnic in a sun drenched meadow, but we had some great times together, giggled like mad and my kids loved it.
3. Light Night
John, Ray and I along with Ray’s wife, Pauline, and my favourite plus one, Vickie, headed out into the very, very rainy streets of Liverpool for Light Night in May. We saw the city lit up in all its architectural glory, we made our own art, encountered a zombie street takeover, met Andy Warhol (!) and saw a rain-drenched group of salsa dancers bringing some Brazilian style magic to the street. An absolute gem of a night.
4. Henry V @ The Playhouse
The standard of productions at The Playhouse in 2012 has been consistently superb. A close second here was A Streetcar Named Desire, featuring the most heartbreaking performance I’ve ever witnessed by Amanda Drew. There was also the innovative and excellent Swallows and Amazons as well as Jack & The Beanstalk, possibly the most bonkers panto I ever laid eyes on. It was so mad, that by the time Captain Spock and Wonder Woman flew on stage, I’d given up trying to make sense of it and just enjoyed the ride.But it was Henry V, which wins my prize for being the best play I’ve seen all year. It completely changed my 20-odd-year-old mindset that traditional versions of Shakespeare plays are generally tedious and fol-de-rol. It was lively, moving and beautifully acted. I urged everyone I knew to go and see it and every single person who went loved it. A great introduction to the bard and a perfect demonstration of why his work is still relevant today.
5. Sea Odyssey
On a bright and beautiful Friday morning in April I sat among a sea of volunteers in Stanley Park waiting to accompany the giants through our city. We watched in awe as the Little Girl Giant and her dog, Xolo, woke up and got ready to walk into Liverpool city centre to meet her long lost Uncle.
As we escorted the Giants through the streets of Anfield I witnessed actual magic happen before my eyes. No-one who saw the giants was not caught up by the magic. Whole groups of people, some of whom may never have set foot in a theatre or art gallery, thronged the streets to become part of this wondrous event.
I escorted the Giant Uncle back to Stanley Park in the afternoon with my fellow Benevols, a particularly marvellous group of people. We watched in awe as a group of exotic, athletic, sweaty French men and women operated (or should I say “served”?) the giants. I went home with one of the worst migraines I ever had, having walked next to an enormous bank of speakers for hours on end, but it was worth every bit of pain.
The Sea Odyssey will never be forgotten by anyone who saw it. Brilliant.
6. The Kazimier Garden
I’ve discovered some great little venues in the city over the last year. But the Kazimier Garden wins first prize hands down for the best night I’ve had all year. Featuring a barbecue, two outdoor bars, a man sporting a bird of prey playing the role of MC, a tiny mechanical boat and the ropiest toilets I’ve encountered in a long time, by the time the house krunk band came on and blasted the place with the sound of drums and trumpets, I was in love.
Like taking a trip through the looking glass, it’s a shock when you leave and find yourself still in urban Liverpool. A total delight of a place.
7. The Mathew Street Festival
“What?” I hear you exclaim. Considering just how much I’ve banged on about how much I hate the Mathew Street Festival and its awful culture of drunken unpleasantness, you might well wonder why it’s here in my list of highlights of the year. Well, I’ll tell you.
I gave it a go. I tried something. And I found, to my genuine surprise, that hidden among a whole bunch of awfulness, you can find something pretty special. We discovered a little oasis of family friendliness in St John’s Garden and we rocked up on a boat that was part of the Mathew Street Fringe that was reminiscent of early 90s raves. Just goes to show it’s well worth putting yourself out there, because you never know what could happen.
8. The One Show
It started off with a t-shirt. I’d had some made for John, Ray and I as we were taking part in the Guinness World Record attempt at the most people singing a song in the round at the new cruise liner terminal in October. I was dropping John’s t-shirt off at the time he was filming for The One Show with the gorgeous and luminescent Carrie Grant. John was launching “The Fifth Beatle” – his dream of getting people who hadn’t played an instrument for years to play again.
John, Carrie and a rather dishy BBC director harangued me into being a backing singer. Now let me tell you, I am by no stretch of the imagination a singer. No way. Not a chance. But egged on by an extremely excitable Johny, I took the rest of the day off work and ended up performing John and Carrie’s beatuful arrangement of ELO’s Livin’ Thing live on the BBC with a bunch of genuinely talented people in Eric’s.
I was as nervous as I’ve ever been, but I wanted to show my kids that even if you’re seriously afraid of something, you can still do it. And now I can say I’ve performed on the same stage as U2, The Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, Joy Division and a whole host of my musical heroes. One to tell the grandkids.
9. Music on the Waterfront
At a time when Liverpool City Council is fighting economic misery, this was a great example of getting it just right. This series of free concerts at the Pier Head showed that if you invest in the arts, it will bring people and money into the city.
With an eclectic, but high class, mix of performers, my personal highlight was seeing the magnificent Jocelyn Brown. I may have embarrassed myself my bopping about in a manner unseemly for a woman in her 40s, but it was a glorious night. And a great place to go with the whole family.
This needs to be an annual event.
10. The Phil
I can’t single out a particular event I’ve seen at the Phil, the whole range of performances over the year have been fantastic. From the glorious old school movies, to contemporary comedians and 80s pop stars, the Phil has a knack of putting on great shows in a beautiful environment.
Particularly brilliant have been the family concerts, arranged by the exuberant Alastair Molloy, and the so good you’ve got to see ’em to believe it Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain. The variety of shows is so mind boggling, there’s something there for anyone, no matter what your taste.
11. Richard Herring: Talking Cock @ The Epstein Theatre
After being accused by my eldest child of hating all comedians, I belly laughed my way through this amazing show. Based on the results of a survey of over 10,000 men and women on the subject of, ahem, the male appendage, this had my sides and jaw aching with laughter.
Richard Herring even stayed behind afterwards and gamely chatted to me about a question I had about the logistics of one of the answers to a question in the show. He did the actions and everything, bless him. Made me be prepared to give comedians another chance.
I’m not the easiest person when it comes to making friends and meeting new people. But I’ve made a deliberate effort this year to be more open as I’ve gone about being a Cultural Champion. I’ve got in touch with people I know vaguely to invite them to events. I’ve stopped and chatted to strangers at events about what they think. I’ve emailed total strangers to ask them about what’s happening around the city. And it’s been a revelation!
Everyone I’ve come across has been brilliant. The people I’ve encountered who are involved in the arts in Liverpool are across the board a warm and welcoming bunch. Sure, I’ve had a couple of loudly ignored emails, but in general everyone I’ve met or come across has been great.
Getting out and about and experiencing culture in Liverpool has changed all of my relationships and I’ve met some new and fantastic people who I won’t be letting go of. It’s definitely the people I’ve been involved with who’ve made this year so, so special. I’m not going to get all teary Oscar winner, here, but you know who you are.
So that was 2012. Can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store.