Grevel Lindop

Poet, biographer, critic, essayist and writer on just about everything

Doña Oxford

Went to an amazing gig last Saturday by a band I’d never heard of before – the Doña Oxford Band. They played at Matt ‘n’ Phred’s, Manchester, and they were wonderful: a variety of rock, boogie-woogie, soul, R’n’B and maybe other styles – all of it powered by the superb piano playing of Doña Oxford herself.

Doña, a New Yorker, is one of those musicians who just thinks with total spontaneity through her keyboard. The powerful, inventive phrases just flow out of her. Even during the sound-check, when she was merely tinkling around on different registers of the keyboard, the little momentary improvisations made you want to shout for more. And when she launched into her set, powered by a driving rhythm section and the sharp, inventive, idiomatic guitar-playing of  xxxxxx the music was electrifying.

I often don’t stay till the end at Matt ‘n’ Phred’s, but this time I stayed until the band finished at 1.30 a.m. or so and I would gladly have stayed for more.

To try and characterise things a little in terms of the familiar, Doña’s keyboard playing ranges roughly between Jerry Lee Lewis at one end (rock, boogie) and Dr John at the other (elements of New Orleans and ‘stride’, Professor Longhair somewhere in the background). And she sings about as well as she plays – and to give a range again, I’d say maybe from Gladys Knight across to a bit of the Bessie Smiths. And yes, Doña has a notably powerful voice, and no trouble at all playing intricate piano while she sings.

Frustratingly I can’t discover the names of the other msuicians in her band: not on her website, not anywhere. Maybe the personnel changes often? All I can say is, her guitarist accompanied seamlessly and also solo’d in styles that range from the Chuck Berry-esque to prog-rock impro (but never going on too long – in fact he leaves you wanting more); the drummer gave powerful, intricate, latin-tinged percussion that gives exactly the accent and drama needed; and the bassist was inventive and sonorous, always powering and bouncing the music along but shading the music with plunky, twanging accents from time to time. As a bonus she just happened to be a gorgeous dark-haired brunette with the longest legs and the shortest skirt I’ve seen for a long time. Irrelevant? I don’t think so; stage music is also a kind of theatre, and the band’s look is impeccable, from the pale, stubbly, waiflike presence of the guitarist, to the powerful, Mama’s-gonna-sort-ya-out superwoman dynamism of Doña herself. And the two backing singers were totally professional – the right harmonies, the right musical emphases, the right hint of emotional drama – and they danced all the way through.

Doña Oxford is playing keyboards at the Stockport Plaza on Monday 4 May with what seems to be another band called Albert Lee and Hogan’s Heroes. And if you want to see her with her own band, in a more intimate setting, Doña says they’ll be back at Matt ‘n’ Phred’s (Manchester) in November. There  are a range of other dates, UK and US, on her website at http://www.donaoxford.com/index.htm You should think about going.

 

 

QUENTIN CRISP: STEWY’S CHORLTON PORTRAIT

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Chorlton-cum-Hardy, the Manchester suburb where I live, has a lot of interesting, quirky little features. One that I’m fond of is this charming, Banksy-style portrait of Quentin Crisp (1908-1999), painted by the street artist known as Stewy.

Quentin Crisp is remembered as a wit and raconteur, author of an autobiography called The Naked Civil Servant and a notable campaigner for Gay rights. He died in Chorlton, on the eve of beginning a tour of his one-man stage show. He didn’t die in Keppel Road, though: that was a few blocks further away again, in nearby Claude Road.

He’s famous for describing himself as one of ‘the stately homos of England’, and for his advice on housework: just don’t do it, because ‘after the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse’.

He was also a friend of my old friend and mentor, the poet and literary scholar Kathleen Raine. The picture shows him with his characteristic broad-brimmed floppy hat and silk neckscarf. Sadly, it’s a little battered now (not that Crisp himself wasn’t, by the time he came to Chorlton – dare one say it?).

Anyway I smile whenever I see this painting. For more Stewy artworks, including John Betjeman and Joe Orton, follow this link: http://stewystencils.tumblr.com/

Thank You, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital

This week I can only say one thing, which is a huge – infinite – THANK YOU to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, and particularly the emergency team there. On Tuesday my 9-year-old granddaughter suffered an asthma attack; her Mum took her to children’s A&E but the little girl collapsed and lost consciousness. The Emergency team saved her life – she had stopped breathing, her heart had to be restarted, and when I got there she was unconscious, covered in tubes, and being worked on by five or six people. It was the worst moment of my life. But they saved her.RMCH Building

Thanks to their immense expertise, patience, dedication and kindness, she is now fine, running about the ward, in and out of the playroom and demanding bacon sandwiches. What a week.

Can’t say much more at present. But THANK YOU again everyone at the hospital, THANK YOU to the NHS and to all the wonderful kind people who have looked after her so lovingly and well over the past few days.

Just in case you would like to DONATE to this wonderful  hospital to help its work, here’s the link:

http://www.rmchcharity.org.uk/donate.php

And thank you for reading this.

 

 

Epiphany: if you want to think about some big ideas

Sometimes someone contacts you with something so interesting you just have to follow it up. This has just happened to me with Mark Pickles’s Epiphany website, whose details were sent to me by a friend at the Temenos Academy.

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Pickles is a polymath, a philosopher, scientist (electronics) a painter (professional) and a bit of a joker (some of the jokes are quite good).

I don’t have a final view of what his work is worth – come to think of it, I don’t have a ‘final’ view of anything, and presumably won’t until just before my death; though I agree that could happen in the next thirty seconds, so let’s get out of these (il)logical knots and go back to the subject.

The point is that I find his website sufficiently interesting to be recommending it to you as worth investigating. If you are interested in the state of the world, in big questions, in religion, politics, the environment, science, the (lamentable) human condition generally, and in where we might go from here, you might be intrigued and might want to follow up, or argue with, some of the big ideas Mark weaves into his argument.

There’s a ‘Manifesto’, followed by a ‘Book’. Both of them are pretty long, and I haven’t yet finished reading the Book. But it all seems interesting enough for me to say ‘Take a look’. You can find Mark Pickles’s Epiphany website here. Give it two minutes. Have a look around and see what you think.

http://www.markpickles.co.uk/manifesto.html

Maybe you’ll curse me, but frankly it’s different from anything else I’ve seen and I am intrigued. You may be too.

MARYPORT LITERARY FESTIVAL 8-10 Nov

This weekend I’m going to be in Maryport, Cumbria. The Maryport LitFest – held at the Senhouse Roman Museum on the clifftop above the town – has grown from tiny beginnings to become an important event in the calendar. Many people from the Lakes, and the north-west generally, now come there each November for a weekend of events with some of the best national and local writers. I’ll be speaking there. Why not come and join us for this intimate and inspiring Festival?

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I’m going to make up the rest of this post from some highlights of the Festival programme. If you’re interested and can make it, come and enjoy some of the events. There are creative writing workshops, a poetry forum and other events besides what I’m selecting to list below. The Museum is at CA15 6JD, and for the full programme, or to book, go to http://www.senhousemuseum.co.uk/  – or

phone 01900 816 168.

 

22_melvyn_bragg[1]Friday 8 Nov, 7 pm: Festival launch by Melvyn Bragg. Lord Bragg will be opening the 2013 festival; after which he will talk about his new novel Grace and Mary, described by Salley Vickers of the Independent as  ‘a novel which beautifully conveys how the past is a continuum that constantly feeds our consciousness of the present’.  £15.00 – not included in season ticket (includes light refreshments)

Keith-Richardson[1]Saturday 9 Nov, 10.30 a.m.: Keith RichardsonThe Greta. Keith lives in the Lake District and is an award-winning author. His Jack’s Yak won the 2012 Lakeland Book of the Year Award. He will read from and talk about his latest book about the River Greta that flows through Keswick. £6.00

 

_46468612_eric_robson_226x170_skyworks[1]Sat 9 Nov, 12 Noon: Eric RobsonWet!  These days best known as chairman of Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, author, broadcaster, Chairman of the Wainwright Society and sheep farmer in Wasdale, Eric Robson will talk about all things watery and his new book Foreign Parts.£6.00

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Sat 9 Nov, 2.30 pm:  John Pepper – Cry Down River. One stormy winter’s night Ruth France accidentally drives into a flooded river. John’s book is his love letter to Ruth following her tragic death. ‘A brave, honest and beautiful book’.  £6.00

 

3488457263[1]Sat 9 Nov., 4 p.m.: Steven MatthewsA Lazy Tour in Cumberland.  Winner of this year’s Lakeland Book of the Year Award, Steven’s entertaining new book covers a trip by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins around Cumberland in 1847. He will talk about their time in Allonby and Maryport. Steven is an author, publisher and proprietor of the successful Bookcase and Bookends independent bookshops . £6.00

kathleenjones__main[1]Sat 9 Nov, 8pm: Kathleen JonesNorman Nicholson. Kathleen Jones was born and brought up in the Lake District, and lived in the Middle East and Africa for ten years before coming back to live in Cumbria. She is the award-winning author of seven biographies, a novel and a collection of poetry and was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Lancaster University.  Kathleen will be introduced by Irving Hunt (a friend of Nicholson’s) and will talk about her new biography of the poet. £10.00

Catherine-Kay[1]Sunday 10 Nov, 3 pm: Catherine Kay Wordsworth and the sea.  In this session she will explore the sea’s impact on Wordsworth both personally (the tragedy of his brother’s loss at sea) and creatively. £6.00

 

 

Sunday 10 Nov, 4 pm: Grevel LindopLiterary history of the Cumbrian Coast.  Poet, biographer and author of The Literary Guide to the Lake District Grevel will talk about literary connections with the CumbrianCoast and stories surrounding the many holy wells to be found in West Cumbria. £6.00

Plus writing workshops, poetry forum, book sales and signings and much more!