Liverpool Chinatown Photographic Society

It’s an electric lapis lazuli sky, sitting in The Bluecoat gardens. A classical music score floats out of a window, splattering its notes onto the pavement floor. The sun blushes, batting her eyelashes, flirting with the people sitting in her rays. How many beautiful compositions do we take in on a daily basis? The eye is the ultimate camera, to snap pictures, to capture the moment.

When a collective of creatives come together with a shared interest in a particular discipline; like writing groups, photography clubs and arts associations, the results can be remarkable. A snapshot of a community and an important way to archive, celebrate and document an ever-evolving culture. One such organisation is the Liverpool Chinatown Photographic Society.

In the autumn of 2011, a few friends who share an interest in photography agreed that they could develop their photographic interests and skills by exchanging knowledge and ideas. The first meeting was held on 8th November after Nick Liu, Tommy Wong and Wing W Wong invited their friends to Chilli Chilli Restaurant in Liverpool Chinatown. As a result of that initial gathering, Liverpool Chinatown Photographic Society was born.

Stranded by Wing W Wong

Stranded by Wing W Wong

ten minutes hate caught up with Pak H Chan and Nick Liu to discuss their work and that of the group.

10mh: What inspires you?

Pak H Chan: Many things inspire me: the weather, nature, architecture, Liverpool’s waterfront, people on the streets, light and shadow.

Nick Lau: Capturing the moment of memory and appreciation.

10mh: Which artists have influenced you?

PHC: The photographers who have influenced me are Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bert Hardy and Don McCullin. I also admire the work of the Impressionist painter Renoir, though not sure if he has influenced me in any way.

NL: Bruce Lee (martial art/body movement).

10mh: Describe the work of the group in five words?

NL: Sharing interest, skills and views
PHC: Unique, diverse, personal, eye-catching, passion.

Ribbon Dancer by Nick Liu

Ribbon Dancer by Nick Liu

10mh: What plans do you have for the future?

NL: The Society is to be open to all with interests in: Chinatowns, photography, Chinese-ness as a feature…

PHC: I just hope to continue to take good photos, perhaps travelling more outside of Merseyside. I plan to photograph York as it has been recommended to me by a few people.

10mh: What advice would you give to people who want to take up photography?

NL: Have a passion for photography.

PHC: Learn the basics, like aperture, shutter speed and just go out there and enjoy photographing anything that looks interesting.

10mh: What most recently impressed you?

NL: Smartphone photography – user friendly, versatile and quality. A lot to be learned by users and more to be developed by the designers. Photography is getting more and more popular and diverse.

PHC: I took some photographs of stick-insects last week which impressed me. I learnt that nature has a lot to offer and maybe I will shoot more subjects from the natural world in future.

Anyone interested in photography is welcome to join the Society, whether amateur or professional, young or old, regardless of experience, knowledge or background. All that is needed is a passion for photography.

Chinese New Year by Pak Hung Chan

Chinese New Year by Pak Hung Chan

The LCPS meets once a month in Liverpool Chinatown, with various activities hosted in-between meetings. For more information, please see their ‘contact us’ page.

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Heroine

Heroine Zine is a platform to showcase the talents of creative women in the North-West of England and beyond. The zine originated last summer in Brighton and is now onto its third edition.

heroine mag

There is a current resurgence in this form of expression, originally championed by Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and later H.P Lovecraft and riot grrrl. A zine – an abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine – is most commonly a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced via photocopier. Generally circulated in editions of less than 100, profit is not the primary intent of publication. They are informed by anarchopunk, raw creativity and DIY ethos. (Let us not forget the Whaaat? zine, which gave rise to this very site.)

ten minutes hate had an audience with Heroine in FACT, Liverpool, to discuss their origins, their missive and future plans.

The zine?

The magazine celebrates women as they are, not constructed. We have a listed manifesto.

heroine manifesto

Inspiration?

Inspired by the 90s zine culture, riot grrrl.

Self-publishing gives a sense of complete control.

Jet the Cat?

The cat, our mascot, is taken from the suffragettes. When jailed for activity, the activists would go on hunger strike, which would make them so weak that they could no longer have the energy to protest and were sent out of the prisons, no longer a threat. They would then re-energise, eat and be ready to campaign again and then land themselves back in prison. A cat and mouse type of game.

jet the cat

Heroines?

People to admire include Caitlin Moran and Laura Bates. And we also have great admiration for Madeline Heneghan, creator of the acclaimed Liverpool writing festival, Writing on the Wall. A business heroine. We admire women in day-to-day life, the ‘real people’.

Ambition?

World domination. We have a busy summer ahead, including a Heroine Fest with an event in Chevasse Park on 27 July, event parties, open-mic poetry events.

Talent?

We are looking all the time for any distinctive poets, artists and photographers.

We are always open for submissions to the zine, no themes, just your ideas. Pitch something to us at heroinemagazine – at – hotmail.com or through the submissions page and we’ll let you know what we think.

Thanks to Becki Currie for the image of Jet the Cat

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Thought Crimes

Today, Wednesday 25 June, was George Orwell’s birthday. While always unlikely that someone with a love of such strong tobacco would make it to the age of 100 – never mind 111 – we at ten minutes hate see no reason not to mark the occasion.

Make an incredibly intense pot of tea, or pour out a dram or three of Jura and join us in saying, ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. Orwell!’

TokyoRich:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

I feel the same way about George Orwell as I do about Tony Benn. Both are posh gits done well. They really set an example for anyone that has a conscience. A lot of the time, class conflict, north vs south, developed world vs. emerging economies and the like are painted as issues that have rigid boundaries, which creates unnecessary prejudices. Going back to Marx, one of the cheapest shots at him is that he was funded by Engels who enjoyed the fruits of capitalism because of his businesses. What Orwell, Benn and Engels show though, is that if you have the right attitude — a conscience about global injustices — and are willing to take the time to create a critical framework through which to view the world, your background doesn’t, and shouldn’t, matter.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

In nonfiction, Homage to Catalonia really tore away the romanticism of the Spanish Civil War for me, which was important.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying was a great piece of fiction. Perhaps it isn’t a masterpiece, but the way it deals with armchair socialism is entertaining and still makes me feel guilty.

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

No favourite image.

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

My desk at work.

public relations

Our Man in Abiko:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

I can’t remember now whether it was Orwell or Mark Twain that turned me on to the possibilities of writing, I often confuse the two. Both were at heart journalists, both armed with a keen eye for hypocrisy and a matter-of-fact style that targeted pretension as much as injustice. When I read Orwell, I think “I want to write like this.” And yet I can’t, at least not as well. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

I like his essays the most. Why I Write should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the written word and adding a few of their own.

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

He wasn’t the most photogenic. When I try to picture his face, all I can see are the tea-ring stained white and orange covers of the ’60s Penguin paperback editions on my Dad’s shelf. That’s what he looks like to me.

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

“As I write, highly civilised human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.” (The opening line of The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius.)

John Maguire:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

I admire the fact that Orwell was a master craftsman who loved his work. He wrote with conviction, passion and authenticity. His writing questions, provokes and encourages the reader to think.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

Keep the Aspidistra Flying, a socially critical exploration of opting out of the system. I think this really resonated with me because at the time I was working in a bookstore and writing poetry like the main protagonist Gordon Comstock. I also had a somewhat romantic vision of the writing life, I still have rose-tinted glasses but prefer contact lenses these days.

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

A photograph taken in 1946 by Veina Richards. I love the way he is looking at his son with such pride.

George Orwell

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

J. C. Greenway:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

I think, following on from what Rich said above, it is the way he broke free of his upbringing. Men of Orwell’s class weren’t meant to speak out about the injustices of the world and give the unheard a voice, they were bred to do a job and to keep quiet about any unsavory aspects of it. He recalls in his essays being quite taken with Kipling’s tales of Empire-building as a child and in The Lion and The Unicorn muses that in more peaceful times he might have been a vicar.

Yet he was transformed by Burma, Wigan and Spain into something far beyond the imaginings of the average Old Etonian. He actively sought out situations and people that he wasn’t familiar or comfortable with to broaden his view of the world and to inform his writing. I think that is why he has remained so relevant today.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

The Road to Wigan Pier. Although they were a few miles up the road from Wigan, the book echoes the stories my family told of the ‘Hungry Thirties’: terrified of the sack, hiding from the rent man, unable to afford the doctor for anything that wasn’t imminently life-threatening. My own grandfather and his brother walked from Liverpool to London and the South Coast to find work. And yet theirs was a world unknown to most outside the Northern industrial centres.

Orwell’s gift is to take the myths created to keep the system running – miners keeping coal in their baths, the Dole being so high it encouraged the poor to marry – and destroy them with calm analysis and journalistic style, while never losing his compassion for those trapped within.

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

Having attempted to make tea according to the steps laid down in ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’, it has to be this one.

george-orwell-drinking-tea

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

“Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Mark Woff:

1. What do you admire about George Orwell?

Orwell taking a bullet in the neck for anti-fascism is a source of inspiration. I also admire his understated, dry humour.

For balance,  I am not so keen on the ex-policeman’s liking for lists of wrongdoers. I suppose I can understand where he was coming from, but still.

2. What is your favourite Orwell book?

Inside the Whale and other essays… tied with 1984, of course!

3. Do you have a favourite image of Orwell?

orwellcigtea

4. What is your favourite quote from Orwell?

“Orthodoxy, of whatever colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style.” (Politics and the English Language)

 

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Alejandro Monge, ‘Spanish Pavilion’ at Fallout Factory

alejandro

Fallout Factory, 1 June – 31 July | Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 5pm

Alejandro Monge has achieved a brilliant career in a very short time, creating a handful of images that define it: powerful and disturbing faces, inscribed on a black background. The work suggests baroque influences and approaches a hyper-realism that does not exclude the gloomy.
Specially commissioned as part of the International Festival for Business, Fallout Factory is currently playing host to ‘Spanish Pavilion’, a new and exciting collaboration between Fallout Factory and overseas Spanish galleries. ten minutes hate caught up with the maverick Spanish artist on the eve of his Liverpool exhibition.

10mh: Alejandro, what inspires you?

Inspiration comes day by day, but I have better inspirations the bad days than the good ones, makes me feel more, I can go deeper in my creativity.

10mh:  Which artists have influenced you?

I think that Caravaggio is my favourite.

10mh: Describe your work in five words?

Very, very, very, very dark.

10mh: What do you want the viewer to feel about your work?

I’d like that people feel my works as something real, in three dimensions.

10mh: Do you have a favourite piece?

Always it is the last one. Because in there are my last feelings.

10mh: What advice would you give young artists?

Work, work and more work, because the more you work the better paintings you get. But at the same time you have to train your mind as well, because the ability of art is in your mind not in your hand. The good inspiration will come after 999 bad ideas.

Exceptional pieces of art take the everyday, the mundane and forces you to look at it again. It lifts the subject to another plain. We all look at each other, daily in cafés, bars, even at home with reality rubbish on the TV. Alejandro’s canvases make you really appreciate the subtle beauty of the human being. Blonde beard, shadow silhouettes of facial features, always with a warmth and deep affection for the sitter.

alejandro monge
The collection has a distinctive style in the way you can immediately identify it as his work, like Lucien Freud, Tamara De Lempicka and Francis Bacon. When you see the work you know it is the artists’ distinctive style.

I’ve seen quite a few exhibitions in my 36 years, I’ve encountered self-proclaimed artists who do not follow the Stanislavski dictum which is essential for any creative,

One must love art and not the concept of oneself in art.

Alejandro clearly loves his work, passion and authenticity splash right off his canvas.

alejandro euro

I have always loved Spain and her cultural exports, Pedro Almodóvar and tapas. Now I have another thing to admire about this great country. I am exceptionally excited about this artist’s future creative projects, please watch this space, one day Alejandro Monge is going to paint his way into the history sketch book of contemporary art.

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Peter Tatchell Flagship lecture: the unfinished battle for LGBT equality

The University of Liverpool continued its celebrated Flagship public lecture series in May with ‘The Unfinished Battle for LGBT Equality: The flaws of same-sex marriage law and other inequalities that remain to be overturned.’

LGBT Flagship logoThe event was hosted by The School of Law and Social Justice. The talk was given by the exemplary activist, Peter Tatchell. Tatchell last visited Liverpool in 1984. A very different social and political landscape.

Peter Tatchell

Peter was born in 1952 in Melbourne, Australia, and has been campaigning since 1967 on issues of human rights, democracy, civil liberties, LGBT equality and global justice.

In an interview with ten minutes hate after his lecture, Peter Tatchell discussed his years of campaigning and the influences that have shaped his outlook:

Parliament has usually been the last place to get the message. It’s taken extra parliamentary action to push MPs to legislate equality and civil rights. My inspirations are people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, they pioneered non-violent direct action as a way of pushing human rights issues onto the public and political agenda. Their strategy was very effective, the strategy I sought to pursue pushing forward LGBT rights.

10mh: Can you discuss your early campaign work with OutRage! and  its impact on LGBT rights?

With a protest every other week, it helped normalise LGBT issues, raising public awareness about the scale of discrimination, putting political leaders under pressure to change their policies.

10mh: UKIP and other far right parties are gaining votes due to public disenchantment with mainstream political parties. What would your advice be to non-voters?

Support for more conservative right-wing parties is still significant, a worrying trend if that is sustained over an extended period of time. The support UKIP is getting is a protest vote, people disaffected by the main parties.

My response is if people are disaffected by the main parties, why not vote for a more progressive party like the Greens? It is worrying that people who are disenchanted by the political system choose to gravitate towards a party that certainly has a lot of prejudiced members, even if their policies are not avowedly negative.

10mh: The T in LGBT is sometimes overlooked, what are your views on this?

Transgender rights are the new frontier, the new front line: gender identity, not just for Trans people, for everyone. ‘Behave a certain way because you are a man, because you are a woman’ impacts on the spontaneous nature that we may have.

People should be free to express their gender and sexuality in whatever way they see appropriate, we need to break down masculine/feminine – it inhibits people from fulfilling their true potential.

10mh: Some Universities have allowed far right Islamist preachers, or hate clerics, into campuses to provide lectures on the grounds that they can talk but cannot preach hate crime. Is this acceptable?

These organisations have a right to hold their own meetings in their own premises or to hire a hotel but they certainly should not be given publicly funded premises like Universities.

Those who host meetings and insist women are segregated from men, extremist preachers who advocate killing gay people should not be allowed to speak. The Federation for Student Islamic Societies is not doing enough to block those speakers and not practice gender segregation.

Universities are supposed to be places of enlightenment and equality. It clearly sends the wrong signal – making LGBT people feel under threat in some universities.  Some of these extreme groups advocate punishment for women who have sex out of marriage who are not veiled, also preach that Muslims who turn away from their faith should be killed.  These kinds of reactionary views need to be challenged and blocked from taking place on campus.

Hate preachers should not be given any platform, no place at a university. Organisations like the BNP, Nick Griffin, given his past record, even if he was going to talk about his love of flower arranging.

Fascism has no place in a University. Free speech does not include inciting hatred and violence to other human beings.

The lecture looked at the significant legal LGBT changes in the last decade. Celebrating victories that have been won only by a collective effort and illustrating the work that still needs to be done.

Peter Tatchell 2

It is assumed that the United Kingdom has always been at the forefront of positive change; however, it was alarming to note that most aspects of gay life remained criminal until recent years. Tatchell highlighted how in 1999 the UK had the most anti-gay laws in the world. The Draconian law that imprisoned Oscar Wilde in 1895 for gross indecency was only repealed in 2003. A law against buggery that was drawn up in 1533 was only repealed eleven years ago, under the term ‘unnatural offences’. Even the very language of the law was bigoted.

Surprisingly, the 1949 Marriage Act was the UK’s main marriage law. It does not stipulate that marriage partners have to be male and female.  In the early 1970s, there was no ban on same-sex marriage: it was de facto legal. The prohibition was introduced in response to the emergence of the gay liberation movement and the fear that a lack of legal impediment would allow transgender and same-sex couples to marry. Marriage between two people of the same gender was outlawed under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

Realistically it would have made perfect sense for the government to just revert the seventies law, instead of creating a new one. So-called ‘Gay Marriage laws’ still have discriminative elements attached. With regards to pension schemes, the bill does not grant LGBT married couples the same entitlements as married heterosexuals. It allows companies to limit surviving same-sex spouses’ pension payouts to post-2005 accrual only, even if the deceased partner had been paying into their pension since 1970. This perpetuates pension inequalities enshrined in civil partnership law.

The talk underlined campaigning that still needs to be undertaken.
Schools should be a safe environment. All forms of prejudice need to be challenged. Bullying in schools needs to be tackled, specifically addressing LGBT. Children are not born bigoted, they become bigoted and this should be challenged. Lessons in equality and diversity should be required by law in primary schools onwards. Tatchell proposed that equality and diversity need to be exam subjects and put into school reports, as important as core subjects. Sex and relationship education should be a mandatory requirement.

Training is the key and it has to come from the top, Michael Gove, it’s not fair for teachers to just know.

The speaker also highlighted the mistreatment of LGBT refugees in asylum detention centres, with just 14 days to fast track their asylum case. A process which ignores the time it takes to collate evidence. The aim seems to be to fail as many refugees as possible to appease The Daily Mail. It is a sad indictment of our society and values that questions are proposed to asylum seekers like ‘do you read GT magazine?’ or ‘Do you go to Heaven nightclub?’ Stereotypes being crassly applied.

The assumption that you can tell a person’s sexuality on the grounds of how somebody looks is ridiculous. Comments like, ‘she doesn’t look like a lesbian!’ or ‘We don’t believe you are gay’. It is a horrifying factor that people are photographing and or filming themselves having sex to prove that they are of a certain sexual orientation. Some of the cultures are very private and nudity is inappropriate.

The coalition government promised it would end some of the injustices but have only conducted some home office training on equality. This needs to change.

Then there is the work to be done with football. The Football Association is not using its power and wealth in an exemplary way. Positive ways forward could include putting adverts with anti-homophobic slogans in programmes. A video needs to be made with famous footballers talking about homophobia.

Homophobic hate crimes still exist 1 in 3 people have been subjected to insults, abuse or threats. In London in the last year there were over 100 homophobic attacks and that’s just the ones that were actually reported. So it is still a major problem. All hate crime should be unacceptable in a democratic civilised society.

To help combat these battles, he urges people to vote for LGBT friendly candidates to wipe out the vicious behaviour of the likes of UKIP and the BNP.

The young LGBT are growing up in a Britain worlds apart from the one of the past. A world where there was hardly any LGBT visibility and no out public gay figures. So essentially we have moved mountains but there are still a few hills. Tatchell encourages solidarity and community activism as the way forward:

I am one, we are many.

The Peter Tatchell Foundation (PTF) seeks to promote and protect the human rights of individuals, communities and nations, in the UK and internationally, in accordance with established national and international human rights law.

Meriel Box, Peter Tatchell and John Maguire

Peter Tatchell is a pioneer and a distinctive voice in British politics. His portfolio of campaigning includes opposing Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988,the controversial addition of Section 2A to the Local Government Act 1986 (affecting England, Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland), enacted on 24 May 1988.

The amendment stated that a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. It was repealed on 21 June 2000 in Scotland as one of the first pieces of legislation enacted by the new Scottish Parliament, and on 18 November 2003 in the rest of Great Britain by section 122 of the Local Government Act 2003.

Tatchell has boosted tolerance and understanding, a human rights approach to personal but political beliefs.

  • In 2009, he co-proposed a UN Global Human Rights Index, to measure and rank the human rights record of every country – with the aim of creating a human rights league table to highlight the best and worst countries and thereby incentivise governments to clean up their record and improve their human rights ranking.
  • He coordinated the Equal Love campaign from 2010, in a bid to challenge the UK’s twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. The following year, he organised four gay couples and four heterosexual couples to file a case in the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that sexual orientation discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law is unlawful under Articles 8, 12 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • He has proposed an internationally binding UN Human Rights Convention enforceable through both national courts and the International Criminal Court; a permanent rapid-reaction UN peace-keeping force with the authority to intervene to stop genocide and war crimes; and a global agreement to cut military spending by 10 percent to fund the eradication of hunger, disease, illiteracy, unemployment and homelessness in the developing world.

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‘Opera for Chinatown’ by The Sound Agents

The Sound Agents are artists specialising in oral history, funded by Heritage Lottery (HLF) to record the oral history of Liverpool Chinatown.

TheSoundAgents

Liverpool Chinatown is home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe. It has the largest arch outside of China and is probably the smallest Chinatown in the world. The streets are steeped in history. People from all over the world stayed in boarding houses in Nelson Street on their way to America. Some stayed thinking they had arrived in America when they docked in Liverpool, making Chinatown a unique cosmopolitan area.

The Agents – John Campbell and Moira Kenny – have written a play based on the stories they have been recording about the Blue Funnel Sailors, the forced Chinese repatriation and the Liverpool Chinese children who featured in the film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

The piece of theatre is called ‘The Curious Disappearance of Mr Foo’ and will be at the Unity Theatre Liverpool on 21 June. (Starring Tina Malone and Simon Wan. Directed by The Sound Agents.)

Currently the creative collective are exhibiting photographs, audio and artefacts from the oral history in the Open Eye Gallery alongside Bert Hardy, Martin Parr and UK-based photographer Jamie Lau. The exhibition Ebb and Flow is a visual chronicle of Liverpool Chinatown, an audio-visual survey of the history and changes, from 17 May – 22 June.

Sound Agents Sans Cafe

Working with Iliad and Liverpool City council they are also creating a photographic installation on three Georgian Terraces in Duke Street for the end of May.

Opera for Chinatown 3

The terrace’s artwork is called ‘Opera for Chinatown.’ The Sound Agents’ overall aim is to set up a site-specific Chinatown Museum in Liverpool. They have a particular mantra,

We do not believe in failure.

When working in Chinatown the artists employ local people and are keen to provide opportunities and experience to showcase women in roles traditionally reserved for men – thereby promoting the proverb, ‘women hold up half the sky.’

Opera for Chinatown 7

Pictured are Blue Funnel Shanghai sailors, Mr Yue, Mr Lau and Mr Woo.

Opera for Chinatown 10

Their pictures appear on the building.

Opera for Chinatown 13

I asked the Agents, what is the most interesting Chinese phrase that you have picked up? To which they coyly replied,

Better not repeat it. We hang around with retired Chinese sailors.

All pictures by kind permission of the Sound Agents

This post was updated on 6 June as the director of the Unity Theatre play changed

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Slave to her Rhythm

It is a simple equation, sass plus attitude = SASSITUDE. There has been a roll call of ladies with an attitude through the years who have inspired and impressed – Mae West, Bette Davis, Anna Magnani, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn, Ute Lempur, Marlene Dietrich, Isabella Rossellini, Kate Bush, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Frida Kahlo, P.J Harvey, Alison Goldfrapp, Annie Clark and of course Madonna – to name a select few.

But this week I would like to salute the disco ball that hovers around the Cosmos of the one and only, Ms. Grace Jones. In an era when people are all the more obsessed with age, I love the fact that Madame J just keeps on dancing. Ignoring the usual sneers, ‘she’s too old to wear that, to dance that way’ etc. As if suddenly you hit an age and you lose who you are. Dis-Grace keeps performing in underground night clubs, mixing music with Tricky and Eno, even hula-hooping for Her Majesty’s pleasure. I wonder if Ms. Jones has a portrait in the attic of Studio 54, as she looks no different to her Seventies’ self.

Grace Studio 54Apparently her svelte, curved figure is crafted by cycling across the British countryside. She also has an alleged penchant for red wine, prompting her mates to nickname her ‘Grapes’.

I remember having a re-occurring nightmare about Grace when I was a kid. At the time she was in a car advert, where an automobile bolted out of her mouth. I also recall she was a more fearsome James Bond villain than Jaws, Oddjob or any of the other cast of crooks, playing Mayday. Even making Roger Moore’s eyebrow rise higher than usual! A feat in its own right.

grace-jones mayday

I fulfilled one of my life ambitions by seeing her in concert a few years ago in Manchester. She was promoting the mesmerizingly mega music scape that was ‘Hurricane’. The album came complete with photography and art work composed by Banksy. A surge of surreal images of Grace working at a chocolate factory on the production line, the chanteuse sculpting an image of herself to be consumed commercially. Something I regretted did not make the shelves of Thornton’s or any other confectioners.

The performance that night in Manchester was wonderfully electric. With the diva arriving on stage on a cherry-picker, wearing just a black corset and a melee of Philip Treacy hats and fascinators. A unique style being modelled for each song. Pure, unadulterated Cabaret!

I’ve also seen other self-titled divas perform, who rely too, too heavily on theatrics and special effects to woo and wow their audiences. To distract from not really having too much talent, all concert entertainment by numbers, with audio and visuals modified for the DVD release. So ladies and gentleman, Ms. Grace Jones, long may she reign. This year on her birthday, May 19th, I raised a glass in honour of Amazing Grace.

grace

I will always be a slave to her rhythm. Now get me to a discothèque.

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