Scrap the ‘Festival of Brexit Britain’, the UK has had enough of political festivals | Liam O’Dell

Theresa May’s plans for a festival to celebrate the best of post-Brexit Britain in 2022 comes at a time when the public want big ideas, not political conferences.

It’s an idea which draws up images of exaggerated patriotism. The Prime Minister’s ‘Festival for Brexit Britain’ aims to “celebrate our nation’s diversity and talent and mark this moment of national renewal with a once-in-a-generation celebration”, taking inspiration from the 1851 Great Exhibition and the 1951 post-war carnivals.

Not only is the patriotism archaic, but so is talk of yet another political festival. The British public are proactive, and want something different.

We’ve already seen failed political events in the form of Labour Live or ‘JezFest’. While over 13,000 people attended the festival, it still had to cut ticket prices and run promotional offers to attract an audience. With the exception of party conferences, events run under the banner of a political party fail to engage the public.

Instead, ideas must be allowed to grow in a public space without political framing. As soon as ideas are shoehorned into a political allegiance, then we run the risk of falling into the echo chambers which our society is desperately trying to move away from. Thoughts should be free and presented in an environment where views can be challenged.

Tory MP George Freeman learnt this when it came to his Big Tents Ideas Festival, which had its second year earlier this month. Initially dubbed ‘the Tory Glastonbury’, this year’s event seemed to be more cross-party than Conservative.

“I have made it non-party political so that MPs, peers and others from the centre left can also get involved,” the Mid Norfolk MP told The Guardian. The end result was nearly 2,000 people heading to the event near Cambridge to discuss topics such as artificial intelligence, education and social justice.

If Conservative festivals are to be viewed as desperate attempts at replicating the success of Glastonbury Festival, then it’s worth looking at what makes the biggest UK festival so popular in terms of politics. The answer? It’s left-wing tone is never front-and-centre – ideas and music are.

Alongside the expected £120m price tag, its planned launch in 2022 and all this talk of a “celebration”, the PM also says the ‘Festival for Brexit Britain’ is targeted at a “new generation”.

If it is indeed another push to recruit more young people to the Conservative Party – whether that attempt be outright or more subliminal – then it won’t work. While it does appear to shine a light on British industries, it would still be unable to shake off its ties to the Tories. An opportunity for young people to have their say on post-Brexit life would be far more beneficial and engaging than a glamourised showcase.

The British public are more involved and engaged in politics than ever, and they have ideas for change. If political festivals want to provide an opportunity to discuss ideas, then opinions must be free from political allegiance, challenged and unrestrained.

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#NewMusicFriday: ‘Brighter Days’ by Sigala feat. Paul Janeway

The title track from British DJ Sigala’s long-awaited debut album Brighter Days, featuring Paul Janeway from St. Paul and the Broken Bones, is a strong deep house opener packed with euphoric, feel-good vibes.

With it being just over three years since Norfolk-born Bruce Fielder released his smash debut hit Easy Love, dance fans have become quite accustomed to the producer’s particular style across the many singles the 25-year-old has released to-date. Take vibrant tropical house with the occasional funk and deep house influences and you have Fielder’s traditional sound which has seen him achieve seven Top 40 hits.

These seven chart successes all appear on the album, with 10 of the 16 tracks already being released as singles. While the popularity of these songs has already been proven, it’s the new collaborations with big names such as Kylie Minogue and Kodaline that have fans interested. Yet, while they show the range of Sigala’s tropical house sound, they fall short of conjuring up the last drop of summer – something which is probably not helped by the record’s autumnal release.

Of the few tracks which we haven’t heard before, it’s opener Brighter Days which is particularly distinctive. Janeway’s vocals have a noticeable Sam Smith/John Newman twang which is far from unfamiliar to Fielder and his listeners. What’s new and different is the deep house hook which is something fans have heard more of in live performances than in the studio (with the exception of his track with Blonde and Imani Williams, I Don’t Need No Money). Lyrics like “the sun breaking through those clouds” and “holding on for the brighter days” are typical Sigala – summery, vibrant and optimistic.

It’s a strong introduction to the record, with the underlying bass and heavy, hazy synth foreshadowing tracks such as Just Got Paid (feat. Ella Eyre, Meghan Trainor and French Montana) and You Don’t Know Me (feat. Shaun Frank, Flo Rida and Delaney Jane). However, Brighter Days and Sigala’s track with Nina Nesbitt and HRVY – Somebody – are the only two new, stand-out songs from the album. Yet, with so many featured artists and tracks we’ve heard before, there’s likely to be something for everyone on Sigala’s eagerly anticipated debut.

Brighter Days is the title track from Sigala’s album of the same name, available now on Apple Music and Spotify.

‘Heathers: The Musical’ review – Carrie Hope Fletcher storms the stage in this wild play full of big fun

Wacky, edgy and off-the-scale, actress and YouTuber Carrie Hope Fletcher leads a stellar cast in a production bursting with energy and enthusiasm – ★★★★★

A zany tale about the adventures at Westerberg High has attracted a whole new cult following 30 years after the movie was first released. As costumed audience members shout and cheer across multiple musical numbers, Fletcher is right to say that the show feels more like a rock concert than a musical.

Carrie Hope Fletcher (pictured) is sensational in this wacky musical based on the popular 80s film. Photo: Pamela Raith.

With bold, vibrant fanfare, songs such as Beautiful and Dead Girl Walking radiate confidence and passion as Fletcher demonstrates her powerful vocal ability as lead girl, Veronica Sawyer.

Swap these for the emotional Seventeen and we not only see a seamless switch to the more poignant side to the musical, but also the musician’s natural chemistry with Jamie Muscato’s sharp and menacing JD.

Such a chemistry extends out to the wider cast as the Heathers (Jodie Steele, Sophie Isaacs and T’Shan Willimans as Chandler, McNamara and Duke respectively) bounce off each other for brilliant comedic effect. Double-act Chris Chung and Dominic Anderson deliver hilarious performances as troublemakers Kurt and Ram and Andy Fickman’s imaginative direction quite literally shines in the magical Shine A Light.

One other notable performance is that of Jenny O’Leary, who plays the charming and loveable Martha Dunnstock. Verbally abused and bullied for most of the story, Martha’s number Kindergarten Boyfriend is perfectly executed in a way which is equally moving and heart-wrenching in nature.

With outstanding deliveries from the whole cast, it’s a production which shows off the collective’s familial chemistry, whilst also allowing each actor’s individual talents to shine.

Heathers: The Musical is a musical thrill ride which packs a punch. So much so that when the curtain falls, you’ll want to do it all over again.

Heathers: The Musical is now playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 24 November.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘White Star Liner’ by Public Service Broadcasting

After exploring the Welsh coal mining industry in their third album Every Valley last year, retro-alternative trio Public Service Broadcasting turn their attention to the sinking of the Titanic with their latest track, White Star Liner – the lead track taken from their upcoming EP of the same name.

With an almost Kings of Leon-style sound, the single has a driving drums and tight guitar melodies guiding along the speaker’s description of the ill-fated ship. Chronicling the launch of the vessel, the London group once again capture all the expected emotions that were felt at the time.

Fast-paced and loud like Go! but also tight and restrained at times, White Star Liner encapsulates the excitement of the Titanic setting sail, as well as what was likely to be some concern about how successful its first voyage would be.

Public Service Broadcasting’s new EP, White Star Liner, is set to be released on digital and CD on 26 October, and on vinyl on 7 December.

‘4.48 Psychosis’ review – Sarah Kane’s play gets a powerful retelling in this new bilingual production

Combining spoken English with British Sign Language (BSL), Deafinitely Theatre add a new, expressive dimension to Kane’s emotive writing in this bold exploration of mental health – ★★★★☆.

There’s an important underlying message in this version of Sarah Kane’s final play. Deaf health charity SignHealth says deaf people are twice as likely to experience mental health issues than those who are hearing, and that they struggle to access support due to communication barriers “which only make their symptoms worse”.

Photo: Becky Bailey.

As the cast navigate the small set, sealed off to the audience with three see-through panes, these barriers become physical and all the more visible. Actors Brian Duffy and Adam Bassett deliver strong performances as the two leads struggle to communicate their feelings to others.

Communication and language are, of course, so closely tied to mental health and support. In 4.48 Psychosis, we see written text projected onto the stage, floating across the screen and complimenting creative choreography and mesmerising mimed sign language. Spoken English merges with BSL to give Kane’s writing a new, expressive impact.

At times, the subtitles disappear and we are left with just sign language on the stage. For those who are not fluent in BSL, there’ll likely be times where it’s hard to figure out what’s being conveyed. Yet, when one considers the point about communication barriers, this perhaps alludes to a wider issue.

With impressive direction from Paula Garfield and strong performances from all four of the cast, Deafinitely Theatre’s latest production offers a new, raw take on an incredibly important subject.

4.48 Psychosis is now playing at the New Diorama Theatre until 13 October.

Why ‘Kiss’ is the stand-out track on Pale Waves’ monotonous debut

Hard-hitting drums and buzzing guitar melodies makes Kiss the punchiest track on Pale Waves’ repetitive debut album. Here’s why…

When it comes to breakthrough releases, the best show off the range of the artist or band, flirting with the fringes of their talent, whilst also strengthening their familiar, traditional sound. For this Manchester goth-pop group, My Mind Makes Noises is just more of the same.

Save for a few stripped-back songs such as SheWhen Did I Lose It All? and the emotional Karl (I Wonder What It’s Like To Die), most tracks follow particular structural motifs. If it’s not tight bass notes introducing a track, then it’s sharp snares. Heather Braon-Gracie’s howling vocals are more monotonous than explorative, and there’s always a brief pause before the chorus in a bit to make it more impactful than it actually is. It’s a sense of rigidity and structure which strips each track of its creativity and much-needed ‘oomph’.

Then, when you consider the fact that single Kiss is one of Pale Waves’ older songs, written when Baron-Gracie was in her late teens, one can see why this packs a punch many of their newer songs lack. If one was to adopt a popular criticism of most bands, then Kiss is the band’s vibe before they were associated with The 1975 and launched into the musical mainstream and its focus on having one specific “sound”.

Here, we see instrumentals which are much more wedded to each other than their own individual part of a song. In the verses, drum and bass work together, along with Heather’s unconventional lyrical structure to give the song a slight driving rhythm on what is a rather steady tempo. Guitar solos feel so much more creative and expressive than just a simple filler, and as such, the drums feel so much more present.

A sophomore album isn’t easy for any musician or group, as it offers a choice of similarity or a whole new direction. Yet, when it comes to Pale Waves and their debut, a return to where it all started may be the answer to creating fresh, catchy and exciting music.

My Mind Makes Noises is available now on Apple Music and Spotify.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Woman of the World’ by Amy Macdonald

With empowering Scottish soul, the This is the Life singer returns with a strong lead single from her upcoming greatest hits album.

Amy Macdonald has been one of the few one-hit wonders to stick in one’s mind over the singer-songwriter’s 11-year career. Now, the musician reflects on the journey with a new album, Woman of the World – of which the title track is out today.

Traditional and impactful, a driving beat and underlying electric guitar give the track a punchy, gritty kick which serves the meaning of the song well. A beautiful chord progression provides the soft tone for Macdonald’s lyrical delivery, which comes packed with emotion and a hint of sass worthy of a confident break-up hit.

Woman of the World: The Best of 2007-2018 will be released on 23 November 2018.