Tag Archives: community

Hull Help for Refugees: A Night of Hull Talent

So often we read the horrific tales of refugees making their way to safety, some not surviving the journey. Hull Help for Refugees does everything it can to support those in need, not only here in Britain but further afield in such places as Calais and Greece.

On the night of January 28th, a cold evening with a scattering of stars marking the sky, the charity held a fundraiser at Kardomah94. It wasn’t an evening to wallow in misery. We can do that by watching the news. This was a night for likeminded people to get together and enjoy local music and raise some money for a fantastic cause.


Emmie Craft opened the night with a cover of Guns and Roses ‘Sweet Child of Mine’. It was a fitting start for many reasons: it’s a popular and well-known song the audience could connect with; it highlighted elements of the images of refugee children shown on the slideshow which filled the brief intervals; it showcased Emmie’s fantastic, malleable voice. That opening song established the professionalism with which this young performer brings to an event, as well as setting the pace of the evening.

She performed a mixture of covers and own compositions, not sticking to one genre but mixing rock with modern and classic pop. What struck me the most was how much her own songs stood out against the cover tracks. One girl and her guitar, she owned the stage with her words. Singing about memories and love and the beauty of the world, she captured my full attention with an original track she has yet to name.


One performer in, the crowd was surging, and the room was already buzzing with energy. Emmie had warmed the night, and we welcomed Warthilas to the stage. Warthilas is a man named Farid whose stage-name means Without Borders. His collection of songs were sung in English, Berber, Spanish and French, and his banter even chucked some Deutsch in there too. It took no time at all for the audience to join the stage: tapping feet, clapping along, singing the chorus of “Freedom” to one song.

The whole room became one body: a community brought together by the solidarity of passionate entertainment and a worthy cause.

Central to the evening, Little Crooked Weather took the stage; a stripped-back version of the main band, consisting of Will, John and Roy. I’ve seen the band in various guises – stripped right back to just Holly and Will, to the full six-piece ensemble – and timg_7074hey always deliver a fantastic set. Their sound is country, rock, folk. It’s catchy and soothing and possesses the soul.

Their sound has the power to engage with you one-to-one regardless of the size of the crowd. And I spend every set saying I love each song. My stand-out favourite is ‘Control Your Blues’ which I was blessed with having dedicated to me on the night. The guitar introduces the beat in which possesses your body, you’re swaying slowly to the sound, from one side to the other. Will’s deeply soothing voice enters your mind, releasing any negativity. You are liquid, floating above the floor as you are taken into the embrace of the music. And Roy’s harmonica is the final casting spell to take your mind drifting away.



Sometime after performing this, they invited the next artist onto the stage prematurely. Cecil Jones, with his saxophone, was welcomed to join them. And his addition, which Will described as a battle between saxophone and harmonica, created such a powerful moment. The somewhat improvised instrumental with which their set finished lingered throughout the night, with people returning to it in their discussions.

And so when Cecil took to the stage on his own, we were all already enticed. His performance was a mixture of popular songs, with Cecil alternating between lead vocals and instrumental performance. Tracks such as George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’ took on a new life, and brought every age bracket and nationality in the room together.

His final track was his own composition celebrating the twinship between Hull and Freetown, Sierra Leone. It celebrated the City of Culture and touched on the similarities between the two.img_7004

In a couple of the intervals, we’d had further entertainment from two young lads, Ronith and Shobal. They had performed a song together and Shobal had wowed the audience – shocking and very much impressing them – with his street dance moves and light-up shoes. As our final act, Rowland took to the stage, he was joined by Ronith. A young teenager, he’s not had many performances on a stage such as this, but his confidence was uncountable. Together they performed a couple of tracks, completely unprepared. It summarised the freedom of the night: it was one to celebrate any local talent that was willing to take to the stage. All the performers volunteered their time, and Rowland went that extra little mile to support another young and enthusiastic performer before completing his own set.

Mark Rowland’s sound has adapted over the last couple of years since I reviewed his EP. With a loop pedal, he is able to create a more layered sound, performing his own melodies and beats. His song ‘Bread and Butter’ talked to us about the need to embrace each other regardless of our background, and this ideology summed the evening up wonderfully.


It was late by the time his set started, and as we’d had some young members of the audience, many of them had departed for the night. The handful of us who stayed until the end were able to enjoy his track ‘Tears Fall’ which was written with the current wars and violence in mind, and was first performed at his own fundraiser for War Child.


I think Will from Crooked Weather actually summed up the night perfectly: “Eclectic, diverse and beautiful.” It was an evening of people who were enthusiastic both about music and the plight of refugees. The event didn’t pigeon-hole any aspect of the night. It was a night for everyone with the aim to support as many people as possible.


Thanks to all who attended the evening and donated money to the cause. Hull Help for Refugees raised over £400 with this event. To keep up to date with the work of the charity, please visit their Facebook page (link above).


Photos | © Melvyn Marriott

Finding the Right Words | Hull Language Cafe

Hull, like most cities, is home to a mixture of people. And every other Wednesday evening there’s an event which invites many of these people to share in the delights of their varied personalities.

A year and a half ago, Hannah Shaw decided to start a Language Café in this city where so many cultures live side by side. She got the idea while travelling in Europe, an opportunity undertaken through ERASMUS.  Living abroad, these events seemed common, and offered a chance for someone new to the area, and not always confident in the native lingo, to meet new people and immerse themselves in both the language and lifestyle.

Upon her return, she realised that Hull didn’t have anything available to the general public in the way that they were so readily available in mainland Europe. So, she set one up.

IMG_1364 (800x531)


 “The cake helps!”

Originally held at Wagons on Princes Avenue, it then moved to the intimate Lydia’s Cakeaway on Newland.

The venue is quaint and simple, and what makes it truly splendid is that it is open solely for the purpose of the Language Café on these nights. From 7pm to 9pm, people from all over Hull come to drink tea, eat cake and discuss whatever they feel capable of in whichever language they choose. Whether you’re studying a language, reengaging with a lost language or are holidaying soon and want to learn some useful phrases, you are made welcome at this fortnightly gathering – which has been known to get very busy, as Hannah described nights where there had been standing room only and she was filled with guilt as people turned away.


“Friendships have been made here.”

When you first enter, the room is flowing with conversation. Some you can pick up; other segments are lost in a language you may not know. You’re given a sticker on which is written the languages you wish to practise: some have one language, while others have two or three. There’s tea, coffee and delicious tempting cakes.

The crowd is one which quickly feels friendly. On my first Language Café night, I was quickly invited to join the main group. It was a quiet night – the university students on a break – and I was nervous about testing out my shaky language skills on strangers. But after a few minutes of chatting in English, we launched into a conversation in German, learning about each other in a language in which I was once fluent. I wasn’t anxious for long, and, although my German is very unstable, I found I was laughing at the jovial stories and enjoying the broken flow of words. We stumbled over vocabulary, we jumbled the grammar somewhat, but we successfully managed a conversation almost entirely in German.

And two Wednesdays later, I was filled with anticipation as I took those steps along Newland Avenue. The lure of using my language skills again stronger even than the desire for a cupcake of some ingenious design.


“This is migration to Hull.”

There are people of all ages and nationalities who attend. When asked how many languages she’d encountered over the eighteen or so months, Hannah stumbled. She rattled them off: French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Persian, Thai… languages spoken by people from Europe, South America, Asia… A true mixture and a reflection of the diversity in this small city.

Most advertising is done word of mouth. There’s a Facebook page and events are set up in time for each event. There’s the board in Lydia’s with the necessary details. But from that point it is people like myself who have attended for a few nights and then shared their experience with friends and family.

We all share language. Not everyone has the desire to learn several, but what can be enjoyed on the night is this one thing which joins us all together. The crowd not only share their knowledge but also their experiences and their differing cultures. People gather with the confidence that they will not be judged, that we are all there to enjoy this same thing and learn with enthusiasm.

The next meeting is Wednesday 8th June.


Originally written for Browse Magazine, culture section.

Streaming Lights Headline The Sesh 30.06.2015

Last time I was at the Sesh, we were interviewing Streaming Lights. On the stunning evening of the 30th, I met up with the lads again for their headline slot and launch of their new single ‘Box Room Boy’.

Imogen Hart
Imogen Hart

A small crowd had gathered quickly, there near the front of the room to support 16-year old Imogen Hart. This was her debut at Sesh, though she has performed at other events. Imogen has a voice which you can easily lose yourself in; her songs laced with emotions. There are many young singers surfacing – from Freedom Road Creative Arts, as Imogen has, as well as other institutes – and she is one of the brilliant performers who will be taking to the In Training Youth Stage at Humber Street Sesh.

It was a powerful warm-up which got you moving to the beat. Mak compared her to Emily Moulton, stating that he was “in awe” of her talents. I have to say that I am rather enjoying these Sesh nights which start with an acoustic act: after a long day at work, you often find the need to be gently eased into the mood.

Jon Calvert - Coaves
Jon Calvert – Coaves

Next up were Coaves, who don’t do anything in moderation. They started their set in high energy with ‘Waves’, a summery upbeat number which you’d struggle not to dance to. The crowd were clapping along, singing the chorus and moving with the boys on stage. Even with their slower tracks, all four bandmembers are bouncing with energy – it’s really quite intoxicating – Jonny climbing on the furniture and Liam spinning in circles.

The only downside to their set was that it lacked their usual outro: missing their heavy attack on the drumkit.


The Polar Bear was quite busy by the time Fronteers stepped up to the stage. This band is the one I have not seen for the longest time, having seen all three others on the bill in the last couple of months, and I was glad to see that they had grown in confidence. They’re developing their sound: less cover tracks and more conversation with the audience. But I still found it was lacking something. They had regular followers dancing in front of the stage, but their set didn’t work for me with that placement: sandwiched between two physically energetic bands, I felt there was a dip in on-stage charisma. Which is a shame, because I did enjoy their set – it just wasn’t the one I remembered upon waking up the following day.

And I was there mostly for Streaming Lights, headlining Sesh for the second time this year. Mak had warned the crowd that their set would be “eventful”, stating that they were “everyone’s favourite” as he welcomed them to the stage.

Steve Minns - Streaming Lights
Steve Minns – Streaming Lights

Opening track ‘Shake It Up’ seemed to act as an instruction; the crowd quickly regaining their energy. In between songs – those from album KICK, a few older ones and newer ones – Ryan handed out CDs of their latest single. People quickly moved forward to claim this prize, though sadly the music video had not been completed on time (it is now available on Youtube) for us to take home this piece of joy.

Their funky tunes had people moving in full swing, their entire body reacting the sound. Considering the heat we’ve had, it was impressive that people had this energy left. It was certainly a rather sweaty affair; bassist Ryan Gibbins declared “I need a Solaro” before they introduced ‘Box Room Boy’, intended this to be their penultimate song. However, ending with a long instrumental, and Steve Minns telling the crowd “I love you”, we called for more. Much more: this was the first time I had experienced a double encore at the Sesh, with Steve admitting that he wasn’t sure he could remember how to play any other songs. Mak was ready to lead them into more tunes, perhaps keeping them there all night, but it was not only us on the floor who had work in the morning.

A warm night of fantastic music from four extremely talented acts: The Polar Bear was well and truly struck by a wave of scorching energy this Sesh night.

Photos by Paul Newbon

The Big Gig – a small person’s perspective

Adka (a small person)
Adka (a small person)

I went to my second festival of the year today. The Big Gig festival: a new festival to come to Hull, aimed at integrating those who often feel socially marginalised. I went with a small group of friends, one of which was the toddler from whose perspective I have decided to write this review.

Meet Adka: she’s just turned two and she loves to bounce, run and generally get under people’s feet. She’s been brought up with local music having me around. This was her second Hull festival.

Aunty Chidders (that’s me by the way) had told me there would be pirates. She hadn’t told me that there would be a big musical bird. It was so big. And it made good sounds when I hit it with a foam stick. The lady let me have as many sticks as I wanted, and we were all allowed to try and make as many noises as we could. This was fun.

With mama and the mermaid in the Pirate Experience
With mama and the mermaid in the Pirate Experience

But then I saw the pirates and I wanted to see their show. It was a Senses show, and we were allowed to join in. We went into a dark tent, where we were given musical instruments. I had two: a weird thing with beads and a maraca. We played the instruments loudly while a pirate sang a song about being out at sea. I was also given a glowing fan, which was cool and had lights which flashed and made the tent look really nice. Then, we met a mermaid who sang to us all. Then, there was a fight, which scared me a little bit. The pirates were fighting about gold bars, which the adults found funny.

I was quite tired though, as I usually have a snooze at this time of the day. So after this, the adults had something to eat while I slept.

Joining in with the Sunshine music
Joining in with the Sunshine music

When I woke up, we were inside again. There were more instruments, so I wasn’t even grumpy! We were asked to sit in a big circle  and then a Sunshine Music lady gave us all an instrument. I had some bells and Aunty Chidders gave me a drumstick which was really good at poking people. I tried as many of the drums out as people would let me – most were happy to share – and then I sat with mama while we made loud and quiet noises. I enjoyed this, but it did get too loud.

That was the only problem with the day. I like the bands – one of my favourite songs is ‘Modern Disco’ by Streaming Lights – but it was very loud in the main stage area. Aunty Chidders was going to introduce me to them, but that Nineties Boy was rapping too loudly and I got scared. There was a good crowd in that room, and other children were happy to dance near the stage, but I wasn’t sure about it.

Sorry that I didn't get to see you play, Streaming Lights. Did you play my favourite song?
Sorry that I didn’t get to see you play, Streaming Lights. Did you play my favourite song?

That was okay, because there was still plenty to do outside. I went to the big musical bird again, and then there were games on the lawn. I especially liked playing Connect Four (well tidying up the Connect Four and making it somewhat more difficult for the others to play when she found how to release the counters) with a couple of other children, who were very friendly.

Everyone was friendly. They let me into the Pirate Experience a second time and let me out again before the shouting pirates came on.

Aunty Chidders stayed a little longer to watch some of her favourite bands, but five hours was enough for me and my parents. I really enjoyed the Big Gig. Can I come back next year?

I did like the big musical bird.
I did like the big musical bird.

It was a day for everyone. Aimed at those with learning disabilities, there was so much thought into ensuring everyone had access. There were areas designed for wheelchair users to ensure that they could see the music stages and spaces made for them to join in all of the activities.

Though we didn’t have anyone in our group with a learning disability, toddlers and their parents can often feel there is not a proper place for them at a music festival. This was not the case here. Adka, her parents, and my other friends all declared that they had a really enjoyable day. Many festivals claim they are family-friendly; not all of them succeed in this. Big Gig did.

I, too, look forward to returning next year.

Humber Street Sesh 2015 – a preview

A very important announcement has been made this week. Humber Street Sesh wristbands went on sale Tuesday 21sy April.

At an advance price of £5, you’re getting a huge collection of music, art and local culture packed into the one day festival.


On Saturday 1st August, over 180 bands will play across ten stages. There will be over 50 DJ’s in the new Original Brew’s Art and Soul Warehouse as well as at the Resident Association Disco tent. So, musically, there is something for every taste.

Humber Street Sesh is a 12-hour showcase of the huge wealth of talent Hull has to offer. For those who engage with the weekly Sesh at The Polar Bear, you get to see your favourite local bands up on the bigger stages, mingling with even more like-minded people. For those who can’t always get down on a Tuesday night, this is your chance to support those acts. And yet there is so much more besides this.

A new addition last year, returning to the Skate Park this year.
A new addition last year, returning to the Skate Park this year.

There will also be the usual markets, street food, live street art, children’s activities, comedy and cult cinema, in addition to breakdance and rap battles, a skate park, street theatre and much more. After last year’s brief downpour, there is the aim to have more sheltered bar areas this year. Not that the rain stopped many of us from finishing our drink or heading down to see  our favourite bands who happened to perform at that point.

Under 12s go free (collect your wristband as you enter the gates), and so this truly is a festival for the people; regardless of age or taste, you’ll have a fantastic day.

Streaming Lights
Streaming Lights


With 40’000 attending last year, we know we can get more through those gates this time.

Tickets are available from Hull Box Office or by phoning 01482 221113, and will be sold in various locations across the city at later dates. Note, a booking fee will apply.

Humber Street Sesh info poster

All photographs are by Paul Newbon, taken at last year’s HSS. 

Eve’s Fancy Year

I love fancy dress. And I do my best to give to charity. I’ve even dressed up for charity, raising pennies. But never – never – have I considered going to the lengths one woman has.

Eve Hazelton lives in Devon, working as a Director of Photography for Realm Pictures. I know her through a friend, and in the last few months I’ve been following her adventures and activities.

Because Eve did something amazing. Something brave. Something absolutely ridiculous!

On the 1st July 2014, Eve gave away all of her clothes – ALL of her clothes – in aid of the breast cancer awareness charity Coppafeel.  And since then, she’s been living her life in donated fancy dress costumes from Smiffys.

Coppafeel logo

It started in May 2014, when she was asked to film the “Hilly Hundred” charity bike ride, spending a weekend with Kris, Maren, the Coppafeel team and their volunteer cyclists. Returning home, she watched a BBC documentary about founder Kris entitled “Kris: Dying To Live”. That was enough. She hadn’t simply watched something which made her donate a tenner; she’d met the people, seen the work they did and experienced the drive to improve the lives of others.

We all know someone is affected by cancer. I’ve lost two elderly relatives to cancer, and I’ve witnessed the devastation of sons losing a mother and even the desperate need to ensure a mother doesn’t lose a son. I’ve done what I could, donating to the cause and supporting the individual as best I could.

This wasn’t enough for Eve. She set her targets high, and she wanted to do something which not only raised money but awareness.

I was amazed at how she seemed to just get on with her life in fancy dress. Posting daily photographs and regular videos, she’s kept people updated with every moment.


I assumed that, working with people in the film and media industry, they’d probably accept her outfits rather quickly. But she works outside of the country too, having to travel via airlines. Now, imagine walking through the airport dressed as Wonder Woman! “Getting through airports has been both the most fun and the most nerve-racking experience,” Eve explained. “The cabin crew seemed perplexed as I boarded, but simply joked that ‘I shouldn’t need to board the plane, as surely I could fly there’ – which I thought was quite nice.”

Not every experience has been so positive however. In her hometown, people are getting used to seeing her dressed in her various costumes – some much more extreme than others – but in other places they have been less inquisitive and more insulting. They’ve crossed the street to avoid her, shouting such things as “Go back to the loony house, you freak”, even suggesting that what she is doing is self-centred and not charitable at all.

Her husband, housemates, family and friends have kept her strong, reminding her of the reasons she is doing this. She even went to family funeral in costume. Selecting an angel, she admitted the fear in people taking it the wrong way. But the sister of the deceased was a survivor of breast cancer and gave her full support, alongside the rest of the family. It was this situation, Eve said was the most uncomfortable, followed by a Hannibal Lector costume which she wore around London.

My Fancy Year - Twitter screenshot

And every day, Eve is in contact with those who have donated through her website. She is told stories of those living with cancer, those who have survived cancer, and those who have lost family and friends because of cancer. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer: that’s a harrowing statistic. Coppafeel reminds women that you have to know your own breasts in order to be able to prevent late detection. Copping a feel of yourself could save your life. And the money Eve has raised, and continues to raise, will support those who do find that lump or bump which requires treatment. Put simply, Eve stated that “as long as they need money, I need to wear fancy dress.”

A few days ago, I saw another video pop up on Facebook, via a mutual friend. The video informed me that there were 100 days left of her Fancy Year. She’d raised over £9000, less than half of her target amount, and she was upping her game.

With three months to go, she needed to raise a further £10’500 in order to make that target amount. It was going to take more than simply dressing up.

Every day for the final 100 days, Eve and her husband are going to run 10k. That’s 10k for 100 days; one million metres. That’s incredible.

She’s going to face more weird looks as well as the risk of physical injuries. They are not trained marathon runners. They are two people who believe in this charity. And, although she is counting down the days until she can wear a pair of jeans, she is going to do this.

What she needs is your support. She’s stayed positive even though that cash-meter hasn’t been rising as quickly as she’d have liked. She’s had days where taking the photograph to share with those following and supporting her has felt like the worst thing in the world. But she’s driven and determined by this good cause.

I, myself, have vowed to donate from money I make writing feature articles for publications such as Yorkshire Gig Guide, giving the additional income I will make over the next 93 days, as the campaign clock ticks away to finality. It isn’t a lot, but it’s what I can do.

Fact is, charity can’t be a one man race. It can’t be down to one person having a crazy idea and making it a reality. Donate what you can – little or large – via the website. Do your part. In helping Eve, you help so many women.

And men, don’t forget that the same rules apply to you: you too can cop a feel to check for testicular cancer.

Tom Skelly & The Salty Beards – Morning Sun

From today, ‘Morning Sun’ is available worldwide.

Poetically written lyrics, this song captures the moment of that first glimmer of sunshine. Layers of sound cast a glow over the Skelly’s beautifully mesmerising voice. A downbeat song which contains an upbeat sentiments; the emotion of waking early in the morning to a stunning day.

But there’s another reason to purchase this single. All proceeds from the sale of this track will go to the Cornwall-based charity Surfers Against Sewage. This environmental charity works hard to preserve water quality and marine life across the UK coastline, protecting our waves, oceans and beaches, educating others and involving the community in a range of campaigns. They aim to promote conservation and improvement of coastal areas, ensuring that the public works to sustain ecologically sustainable management the marine environment.

The song was inspired by Skelly’s love of surfing, and so you can see the link between the single and the cause in which they hope to raise money for.

Beautiful music and all for a good cause. Sounds like a song which recently went to number one.

Head over to tomskellymusic.bandcamp.com for more details and to download. The track costs £1, but you are invited to donate more if you wish to.

International Day to End Violence Against Women – A Warren Event

Every year, sixteen days are dedicated to Activism Against Gender Violence, starting on the 25th November and concluding on the 10th December.

All around the world, events are taking place to provide support to victims of violence and aim to put an end to humans attacking humans. The date of the 25th marks the brutal assassination of three Mirabal sisters, political activists who gave their life to the cause in 1960, and starts proceedings with the International Day To Eliminate Violence Against Women.

In the news recently there have been a string of stories which relate directly to this, clearly demonstrating that women are still subjected to violent crimes and harassment on too regular a basis. A positive female role model, Malala Yousafzai this year became the youngest person to collect the Nobel Peace Prize, for her work promoting education for women in her native Pakistan, where the local Taliban had placed a ban on girls attending school. She was shot in the head for her efforts, and became international news. Less dramatic, and yet just as poignant, the petition which has taken place recently to remove Dapper Laughs from ITV, successfully seeing his second sexist series axed. Yes, he’s not been accused of actual violence against women, but harassment is no better.

And there’s the repeated discussion of the treatment of women in specific cultures. It has been reported that “3 million African girls per year are at risk… Almost 70 million girls worldwide have been married before they turned 18.” The same article which states these figures points out that awareness of these cases is not enough. They are, of course, correct; awareness is never enough. Action has to happen.

But without awareness, nobody will step up to action.

Warren Project - gig to end violence against women POSTER

Violence and harassment towards women is an everyday occurrence across the world. These events spanning just over a fortnight, aim to highlight issues relevant to preventing and ending violence, primarily against women and girls but also at a more widespread level.

The Warren, a focal point of Hull’s community, is hosting its very own event, starting at 10am on Tuesday and concluding late into the night. With guest speakers and discussion groups, young people can discuss all aspects of the cause; supporting those who are victims of violence and those who are keen to help in any way that they can. An open mic will be available for music, poetry and stories, allowing the community to share their experiences and continue to educate people about the situation both at home and worldwide.

As if opening its doors late wasn’t enough, the Warren is also holding a Gig To End Violence Against Women at the Adelphi from 8pm. The stunning sounds of Tom Skelly & The Salty Beards, Yssabelle Wombwell, who also supported the Female Takeover last month, Cherry Red and other artists (tbc) will be performing for free as they champion this cause.

With statistics as harrowing as 70% of women worldwide, you can see why this cause is so necessary. I don’t know how comfortable I feel with the idea of ‘eliminating’ violence – it’s a fantastic dream, but perhaps that is the only way it can be described. But that figure cannot stay at such a frightful high. In our city alone, it is estimated that over 24’000 women and 18’000 children experience domestic violence each year. Without events such as this, we run the risk of continuing to live in a secretive society where violence is something which continues in blissful ignorance behind closed doors. It is so easy to ignore, and this would mean no change. No alteration to the life of fear at the hands of fathers, brothers, boyfriends, husbands and even sons. No freedom for victims to come forward and be given the opportunity to escape violence.

A development of my preview written for Browse Magazine Hull.

Bridge The Gap @ Union Mash Up 09/11/14

A lovely way to spend a Sunday evening; able to relax and reflect on the day’s gone past and those to come. The last night of their three day tour, visiting each band’s hometown, Bridge the Gap concluded in Hull.

Union Mash Up, Princes Avenue
Union Mash Up, Princes Avenue

Union Mash Up, along Princes Avenue, was packed to standing room only. If you know the venue, this doesn’t mean hundreds of people, but an intimate few. Still, it was good to see such a busy event held on a Sunday. The reasons for this were obvious even before the first band took to the warm stage by the hearth.

Dimly lit by candles and fairy lights, Emma Fee stood before the collection of family, friends and fans, introducing the first band. They were The Finest Hour from Cleethorpes. A classic pub band sound, with that mixture of male-lead Folk and Rock. They had quite a loud sound for the small venue, a mixture of acoustic punk and folk rock.

The Finest Hour - Rob Bywater
The Finest Hour

Rob Bywater has a stunning voice, gentle and charming while still powerful when required by the lyrics. It reminded me of the simplistic beauty I’ve always associated with vocalists such as Rob Thomas, who captivates the audience with natural charisma. The last song saw a shift in vocals, with Bywater passing over to the guitarist Sam Simmons. Equally alluring, the combination of vocals during harmonies was a clean synchronisation. It was this final song which had invisible fingers stroking the hairs on the back of my neck, leaving me a little forlorn when they stepped back into the crowd.

The divide between the banks of the Humber is not as distinct as it used to be. I have lived on both sides for about the same length of time, and the one town which was mocked on both is Scunthorpe, where Chris Cooper Band hail from.

Chris Cooper Band - Chris Cooper
Chris Cooper Band

Playing songs from their album, which was available to purchase, the romantic atmosphere was set again within mere seconds of them picking up their instruments. Most songs took on a similar structure, with a slow instrumental build up, Chris Cooper’s delightfully husky voice and then throwing in some fast tempo and loud volume sections. With a sound you can match to Rod Stewart, it was easy to fall under the spell of Chris Cooper alone, but with the backing vocals and instruments, you were swept into the moment entirely.

Their song ‘By My Side’ was like a good date, opening with his soul on his sleeve, adding personality and charisma with every verse, and ending by stealing your heart. They had some slow songs which just intensified the reaction, both physical and emotional, felt across the room. There had been minimal chatter while The Finest Hour performed, but these guys played to a truly entranced audience.

All those years I have mocked “sunny Scunny”, and now I can see the beautiful sunshine which lives in that town, the rose attached to the thorn.

Happy Endings
Happy Endings

Happy Endings, the hosts for this third night of their Humber our, started with “the opposite of a crescendo” as they sang a remixed downbeat version of ‘Out of Bounds’. The cement which makes this such a perfect line-up, poignant tracks and stunning vocals, this time female-lead passing between sisters Emma and Rachel Fee, had the audience pulled in by the heartstrings once again. With Happy Endings you yielded to the emotions stirred by The Finest Hour and Chris Cooper Band. “Masquerade”, which they aim to feature on the new album, is a haunting song about the masks we wear in front of each other.

Playing a mixture of old and new songs, the audience were able to enjoy their downbeat and more upbeat tunes. ‘To Die For’, one Emma Fee stated was a favourite of hers, covered both, starting slow but becoming more cheery and quick as the chorus was repeated. Just as the sentiments were built to a pinnacle, Emma concludes the song with an echo of the opening sound.

Each band sent a shiver down my spine, in that way which only truly beautiful music can, collectively taking the room on a journey of emotions. Even the barman was able to enjoy each set as the audience were so captivated. And to make it a perfect evening, everyone was so easy-going and pleasant to spend time with. Complete strangers were chatting away by the end of the night, the bands mingling, comfortably rotating in their seats as the next got up to perform. It was so reassuringly supportive, with the Fee’s smiling at each other in silent encouragement and obvious joy, and the sharing of a guitar as Rob Bywater’s saw a tragic end recently.

This is what you can expect from any of these performers – a compassionate, comforting and beautiful presentation of emotions.

All the bands @ Scunthorpe's INDIEpendent
All the bands @ Scunthorpe’s INDIEpendent

Originally written for Browse Magazine

Photos courtesy of Imagernation Media

Female Takeover: Yssabelle Wombwell

During the week of Female Takeover, I got to meet a range of different characters. One of which was Yssi Wombwell, a local musician and a regular supporter of The Warren.

When I first set out to write this, I found it really difficult. There’s just not that much in the internet about Yssi. So, first chance I got, I asked to interview Yssi. It was much more of a chat than an interview, and I learned some interesting things.


Ysabelle Wombwell is a singer/songwriter based in Hull, who is still of the age to be classed as a young person. Her music is often compared to Tracy Chapman and Beth Orton, although her sound crosses a range of genres, including reggae, folk, rock and pop. In her youthful music career she has supported The Magic Numbers and Noah & The Whale and released a self-titled album.

She joined the Female Takeover for the full four days, offering a range of workshops which cover performance and confidence skills, tuition on keyboard and guitar, lyric writing, and sound engineering.

Her introduction to music was with thanks to her sister, as their parents are both deaf. Yssi admitted that this meant when it came to music they were unleashed from the usual restrictions of teenagers experimenting with finding their voice, as there was no concept of noise control. Along with her brother, she remembers pretending to record radio shows, playing at being a DJ, and at about 8 years old her parents bought her a keyboard.

This lead to her taking up a course on Music Performance at Hull College, where she was introduced to a variety of musicians and opportunities. Open Mic nights while at college gave her a chance to perform solo in front of an audience, with performances at Durty Nelly’s and work with the British Urban Collective.

Her album was released in 2010, with The Reigning Geese as full backing band. Since then, she has worked with cover bands as well as performing both solo and with the band. When we questioned her about the length of time between this album and mention of an EP, she admitted that she had suffered with chronic writer’s block. The trouble with covering music in order to pay the bills is that you don’t want to pick up the guitar when you get home, much like any other job where you need a release. But there are plans for 5 or 6 tracks to be released on the EP in 2015.

A young woman teaching young women, Yssi is a skilled musician and an inspiration to those who attended the Takeover. Taking both a support role and performing solo, she showed that with confidence and determination a woman can take on any position on stage.

Originally written for Browse Magazine.