Before moving to Westcliff-on-Sea almost three years ago, I had been a regular visitor for seven years, because this was where my boyfriend had - and still has - his flat. It was our "rest" place when we wanted to take a break from the relentless motion of the capital. The decision to move out of London was not an easy one, and was mainly driven by finances: it is indeed impossible to live in London if you wish to go freelance and pursue a more flexible, creative lifestyle and career (and you haven't got rich parents or a bulging contact list of influential people).
As a Londoner, you have access to the best and the most diverse culture and entertainment the world can offer: music, theatre, exhibitions and events. I wasn't too worried, far from it: just board an (overpriced) train and you're back in London within the hour. Easy.
Since I have been here, though, I have been able to enjoy some of my culture locally. Indeed, we are lucky enough to have The White Bus, The Palace Theatre, the Southend Shakespeare Company, The Lindisfarne Players and of course Metal to name but a few. It is extremely important that we support culture in Southend because it is what keeps a town alive and it is what will allow Southend to grow. Hopefully the new cultural centre on the Pier will add to its cultural allure. We are lucky to be so close to London, but we need people to see beyond the cliches and take notice. Most certainly, the success of this year's Village Green will contribute to it.
Unfortunately, we couldn't be there the whole day, but we arrived around 2.30pm on time to skim through the programme and check out the three acts we definitely wanted to see: The Correspondents, Wilko Johnson and Lili la Scala's Cabaret. My music journalism days are behind me and I will not write the kind of detailed review I used to come up with on a regular basis. This is a general kind of report.
This was an event for everyone; and I mean, EVERYONE. All tribes, all ages - from what looked like tiny babies only a few days old to fearless and fun-loving 80 year-old, side by side. Big dogs and - mostly - small cuuute dogs. Everyone having a great time, enjoying the sun, the music, the food, the art, the dancing, the vintage clothes, the beer, the cakes... Well planned, well organised and impeccably delivered - at least, that's what it looked like, but obviously, I wasn't in the production office!
So here goes.
After having covered the alternative scenes in London for 10 years as a music journalist, I can safely say that I've seen everything that one can see on stage: the beautiful, the charismatic, the ethereal, the ridiculous and the grotesque, the good, the bad and the ugly; but never ever the blandness of the mainstream. All this to say that I am still very demanding with my music and I am not easily seduced. I look for something original, new and challenging in some way.
I wanted to catch The Correspondents because their website looked interesting. I stopped myself from listening to anything they had done and waited for their set at Village Green, and I wasn't disappointed. Mr Bruce and Chucks don't fall into any category - extra points in my book - and produce a surreal mishmash taking in Jazz, 20's music, jungle, drum'n'bass, electro, and more. Mr Bruce looks like the hyperactive cross between Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and an esoteric Mister Punch - his DIY costume is brilliant. They got the crowds going like crazy with their great beats, funny banter, Mr Bruce's outlandish dance moves and their delicious lyrics - and their energetic take on The Jungle Book's famous song, I Wanna Be Like You, was dedicated to all the under 12s present! A nice touch...
We also managed to catch Wilko Johnson, local legend - Dr Feelgood's guitarist and super-charismatic personality... Even though this is not exactly my type of music, I enjoyed the gig very much thanks to the talent of the musicians - bass player Norman Watt-Roy is great to watch, and one can only be impressed by his biography. Another triumphant gig at Village Green for the Wilko Johnson Band!
We also caught a little bit of Jake Shillingford's set... He used to front the band My Life Story in the 90s, and I thought it odd that I had actually never heard of them before... One learns everyday...
Not exactly taken with Mr Shillingford, we wandered off to The White Bus' Cycle Cinema where we saw some hilarious Tom and Jerry cartoons, before going back to the Tea Dance stage for some cabaret...
It was time for the Gilded Lili Variety Hour, a fantastic hour of cabaret, songs, juggling and loads of laughs. We really had a fabulous time there!
Lili la Scala was hosting the event with charm, cheek and wit.
We were treated to songs from our hostess, tricks and comedy from the talented Sam Wills and Mike Raffone - whose act The Conductor, in which he gets the crowd to perform Beethoven's Fifth symphony, was absolutely hilarious!
It also got physical with the beautiful and highly skilled Lisa Lottie and the aerial Reuben Dotdotdot.
See you all next year! Two days would be nice...
For another take on our day, go to Matt ArtPix's VILLAGE GREEN BLOG!
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