Monday, 12 November 2007
Dust Off Your Prejudices
I've just finished reading Stuart Maconie's excellent travelogue Pies and Prejudice and I heartily recommend it to any Northerners who feel the need to reacquaint themselves with all that is good up here where the air is clearer and the people decent, honest and sturdy folk - that is excepting Geordies, Scousers and Yorkshiremen of course. Because that's the other thing the book does, in addition to pointing out which side of the North/South divide is the best side: it allows you the rare luxury of revelling in all of your own prejudices; sitting stubbornly, arms folded across your chest berating anyone whose heritage wasn't cotton and clogs.
A quick review of my own social circle does tend to confirm my Northern stereotype: I know three people within a five minute walk of here who own allotments and only this evening I cooked with allotment produce; I own, and wear, a selection of flat caps; and I know someone with Whippets - well, they are not strictly speaking Whippets, they are Galgos, as I'm sure Lisa will shortly point out, but they are along the right lines.
Last Thursday two of the said allotment owners, one a lost Geordie, the other born in Sheffield but brought up in Wales, together with a Science Fiction Writer from Durham (you can imagine the lively banter) and me joined a further writer (from Yorkshire but moving to Cambridge) on a jolly boys outing to a venue that is another glorious Northern stereotype: the Trades Club at Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. I was disappointed that Stuart Maconie overlooked the Trade Club preferring to focus on Hebden Bridge's status as the Northern capital of things Lesbian. This gem of a music venue is quintessentially Northern, not in the sense of Peter Kay's Phoenix Club but rather in the best traditions of the Labour movement. The club typifies the workers struggle from the time of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists to the Miners Strike and beyond - a fact proudly expounded upon by the club president as he introduced Spiers and Boden, the evening's traditional music artistes. It's said that artistes are queuing up to play the Trades club because of it's almost unique atmosphere and heritage; the fact that people like Spiers and Boden who are used to playing to audiences three times the size of the assembled fifty or so folk fans that evening, choose to play there bear that out.
Now before you launch into another stereotypical outburst, this time aimed at finger-in-the-ear folk music types, let me explain why you miss out by discounting this sort of gig. Although Spiers and Boden sing traditional tunes, their music is everything that a gig at the MEN Arena in Manchester is not: full of life, energy and entertainment rather than some clinically choreographed pop pap on a screen, where the crowd's energy comes not from the stage but from each other's self-feeding hysteria. Do try and catch them on their current tour if you can and have your view of music expanded beyond what exists between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday on Radio 2; the reality is that there is far better music available on our doorstep for far less than the £60 or so we are expected to pay to fill the fat pockets of concert promoters.
I know where I'll be putting my hard earned Northern pound in the pursuit of live music; each to his own, but don't mind if I pour scorn on you stereotypically vacuous stadium gig after you've taken the mickey out of my flat cap, beard and wholemeal sweater.