Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
Rhubarb Bomb editor Dean Freeman writes a weekly column for the paper version of Wakefield Express, which is released every Friday. This volume collects the first six months of the column, which appears in the letter and comments section of the paper. Generally, the articles are left unedited when published, bar some minor grammatical corrections. The columns reproduced here are from the originals, not the Express edits, so any mistakes remaining are down to Rhubarb Bomb. Let’s call them artistic decisions and be done with it. Some of the original columns also included a ‘See You At’ section at the end, detailing an upcoming event. These have been removed. Also, each column in the paper has a headline, which are written by the paper. I’ve removed these as, though I enjoy seeing what they have come up with, they are superfluous to the main writing, and sometimes focus on something I don’t consider the main subject at hand. Finally, I’ve resisted annotating each column with background information, or the responses some of them generated. I am sure you can make up your own mind.
October 2012 March 2013
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elcome, one and all, to a new column brought to you by Rhubarb Bomb. Now, I appreciate there will be a fair number of you out there wondering who, or indeed what, a Rhubarb Bomb is. Well, to be brief; Rhubarb Bomb is a fanzine – that is to say, selfmade magazine – that was created in 2007. It was originally forged by passionate music fans to cover what was happening in Wakefield at the time. Since then it has grown to have national distribution and covers all manner of subjects. The zine is created by enthusiastic individuals and is available for free. I’ve edited and written for it since 2009. Why is it now appearing in the Wakefield Express? Back in February, on a rather hazy morning after a gig in Sheffield, I awoke to find a bilious attack on our city had appeared on The Guardian website. Stepping through this morning-after mist, I penned a quick response and posted it online. It received much support and was ultimately printed by Wakefield Express as an editorial response. That’s how these two media giants of the Merrie City first crossed professional paths. Now I have a larger platform, one that extends far outside my rather niche and oblique tastes, what is Rhubarb Bomb to use it for?
October 5 th 2012
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
I’ve lived in Wakefield all my life, bar a trip to university. As with many Wakefieldians, I have a love / hate relationship with our home. But a long time ago I decided that the worst thing I (or anyone) could do, would be to simply moan about a situation and not do anything about it. Some people live to moan don’t they? I was overtaken by the ideals of DIY – that’s not the B&Q variety, but the idea that if you want something to happen, you do it yourself. If you don’t know how, you learn. Like the punk zines of the ‘70s or the independent record labels of the ‘80s we take control of our own culture. Wakefield might seem grim sometimes. But if you know where to look, it’s actually a pretty marvellous place. We might not have a White Rose Centre or a Meadowhall, but there are some great independent shops popping up. Shouldn’t we shop in them? We might not have an O2 Academy, but there are some great, unique gigs happening. Shouldn’t we be going to them? New events appear all the time, like last week’s first ever Literature Festival. Shouldn’t we be supporting them? Wakefield excites me at the moment. Some parts are undoubtedly ripe for criticism. There’ll be plenty of that here too. An awful lot needs to change. It’d be lovely if Wakefield Council and David Cameron and The Sun newspaper would do it all for us. Know what? I don’t think they will. Let’s do it ourselves. Let’s do it the Wakefield way.
October 12 th 2012
o, what’s happening in Wakefield tonight? Where you gonna go, who you gonna see? Maybe you could flick through the listings of this very paper. Or attempt to navigate the increasingly obsolete ‘events’ tab of your Facebook page. You could hope to catch a stray tweet promoting some obscure nothing. Or you could just head up Westgate in search of culture and enlightenment. Promoting in Wakefield is incredibly difficult, primarily because there are very few places to physically advertise what’s going on. I
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never see a poster for an event at The Hop, unless I am stood in The Hop. That kind of promotional campaign is hardly going to be effective at drawing fresh crowds is it? It’s not the fault of the venues. Many times I have traipsed round our city centre trying to find places to display posters. There are the Westgate takeaways and taxi ranks; perhaps appropriate if I were booking some TOWIE starlet or a Corrie has-been. Once I went to the bus station and found three huge displays in the main concourse, empty. I spoke to staff but only ‘Official Arriva’ adverts were allowed. Three months later, they were still empty. As we stand, everyone just ends up promoting to their own ready made audiences. We need a physical hub akin to Jumbo Records in Leeds to sell tickets and host posters for all. We need Leeds’ big old hexagonal columns to display the range of fantastic events to passersby. But more than anything, we need a website that is essentially a big red button that says LIVE! WAKEFIELD! TONIGHT! An online listing of ALL art and culture events with a foolproof system of uploading details and links. Hit the button: Exhibitions at The Hepworth! Wine Tasting at Deli Central! American Post-Folk at The Red Shed! Most cities have them. Us culture loving Wakefieldians might muddle through this random approach to promotion, but visitors are less patient. If you Google, ‘Wakefield Music’ you are directed to the Wakefield Music Collective website which has its tagline ‘A gig-guide for the Wakefield Area’. It’s just their regular nights and the Blues Festival. Ten gigs. Nothing else. How does this look to the outside world? Again, it is not their fault. A complete listings site is not something to be undertaken by hobbyists or volunteers. It needs direct funding. Because it is a boring, thankless task. But the benefits of it done right would be amazing. The council have tried but – sorry – government advertised fun is never fun. It needs a face of its own, a character, an attitude. It sounds like a small thing, but, with the right time and money invested it might *gulp* bring Wakefield into the 21st Century.
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
he last time I was in Lightwaves Leisure Centre was about twelve months ago, as I searched for possible venues for Long Division Festival 2012. As it turns out, the huge ceiling and cold, hard floors were simply unworkable acoustically, so our visit was short. But the manager showing us round remarked with some sadness that should our event go ahead it would likely be the last thing to happen there, before its closure. It was news to me and since then I have been expecting to see the bulldozers move in, my presumption being that the new Sun Lane would take its place. It left me a little sad; twenty years previous, in that very hall, I had held football parties with my primary schoolmates and in the large pool next door I had begun to learn to swim, between the periodic turning on of the wave machine. Later summers had been passed arsing around on the waterslide and annoying the attendants. Happily, I now hear the exciting news that Lightwaves will potentially remain but be run as a social enterprise, a co-operative of local people keeping the old place alive. Not only that, but it will be developed to include climbing walls and other services conspicuous by their absence in our area. Although this plan is far from confirmed, it is part of a growing trend for the return of co-operatives, now stepping in where unimaginative target chasing and box ticking has failed and stagnated. Unity Hall is, of course, the biggest example of this; an 800 capacity music and comedy venue in the centre of the city, run and owned by regular folk like us. But I am seeing others pop up too; Dewsbury now has its New Picture House, a community cinema in lieu of anywhere showing anything but blockbusters and tired rom-coms. Leeds Kirkgate Market is also looking at similar ideas to turn its fortunes around. The great thing about these is that they aren’t buoyed up by grants and funding, but come with fully fledged economic models.
October 19 th 2012
In a funny way, I think these kinds of ventures are what David Cameron had in mind when he proposed The Big Society all those years ago. He wanted to encourage an entrepreneurial, get up and go spirit. He neglected to mention that there would be little choice in the matter, with his drastic austerity measures and cuts. But those things, combined with a wide dislike of him, his government and their disinterest in your average working man and woman, conspire to lead us down this very interesting route, so maybe Dave has done us a backhanded favour. I’m all for it: a group of people coming together to make a difference, using their passion, intellect and empathy. Maybe it’s time Cameron and his government started taking lessons from the cooperatives instead...
isten up: the state of live music in Wakefield is disintegrating. Least, that’s all I can conclude after another lacklustre turn out for a great band. Last week, The Twilight Sad visited us from Glasgow as part of their UK tour. There were not enough people there. I appreciate that name may mean nothing to some people. I think promotion for this kind of band needs to be given more context. A Rhubarb Bomb blog entry may describe them as “An MBV-esqe wall of noise mixed with the more melodic elements of fellow Scots Mogwai” and I have to accept, if we want to attract the man and woman on the street to these kinds of things, our frames of reference may need to change. But this is a band that has toured the world. They have critically acclaimed albums on very well regarded record labels. At Long Division, three hundred people watched them at Theatre Royal. So why only fifty last weekend? As promoters we sweat and strain over things like ticket price; enough to have a chance of breaking even but not so much to put people off. I’m now starting to think it is irrelevant.
October 26 th 2012
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
Every time one of these amazing touring bands visits The Hop, they have to ‘compete’ with the cover bands downstairs. Churning out the same old stuff to the same drunken hoards, mouthing the same words every weekend. I shouldn’t, but I hate this crowd more than the morons up on Westgate because they are half way there – live music – but fall horribly short. They like to hear songs they already know, reproduced to sound exactly like the record, whether that’s at The Hop or on X-Factor. They like to watch Soaps for storylines they’ve already read about in trashy magazines. They like to eat in chain restaurants because they know what they are getting and they like comedians to make acute observations of things they have already seen. Well I’m sick of it. I appreciate to someone with no musical ability that seeing a band play through Eton Rifles may seem impressive. It’s not. What’s amazing is when a band writes their own music and gets out there and shares it with the world. So give something new a go. Step outside your comfort zone, for goodness sake. If people hadn’t done the same for Paul Weller or Paul McCartney at the start of their careers, you wouldn’t be mouthing the words to their songs every weekend – fact. How do you encourage people to dare to think and try something new? Once more, my frame is reference is somehow different because I can’t understand why you wouldn’t live life that way. Perhaps answering that first question is the first step. So tweet me: regardless of how often you actually do, why don’t you listen to original, live music in Wakefield more often?
went to the World Curry Festival last month. I’d not been to Bradford before: I’d never really had a reason. But on that day, curry seemed reason enough. The event was based around the huge water feature in the main square, the kind of water feature that sees a minority of people with nothing better to do write letters of complaint about public money
November 2 nd 2012
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being wasted on such an eyesore. And the weather was lovely, the kind of day where, by way of a response, actions speak louder than words; children and adults alike played and paddled whilst around the edges folk such as myself enjoyed some amazing food from the wealth of stalls. It was a great event. I think Wakefield is spoilt for choice with its restaurants. I’d make a quick list of my ‘top five’ but I don’t think I could narrow it down to just that. These days, for me, a meal in a restaurant is a genuine treat because I simply don’t have the finances to cover such a luxury. The plus side is, when I do manage to go out, I don’t have to head to Leeds or elsewhere for it to feel like a special occasion. And the best thing is that the majority seem to have ridden this recession and have survived. I’m wondering if this is something that needs celebrating. To Bradford’s curry we have rhubarb, which is joyfully celebrated each year with its own festival in a style that to my eyes successfully matches large scale organisation with a sprinkling of the charm of a village fete. But what about the restaurants and bakers and butchers and deli’s? At Wakefield’s city centre music festival Long Division, a key goal is drawing people from all over the country to visit Wakefield, perhaps for the first time. And it has killed me, the last two years, to see Subway absolutely rammed with punters wanting a quick snack. They should be in our restaurants, eating food proudly created in our city! An idea being put together is for a food market to be part of the festival; a designated (public) area where the culinary folk of Wakefield can come together and set up stalls. Aside from the great food I ate in Bradford, a big part of the fun was the atmosphere. There’s something special about eating food outdoors, in large groups. It’s a social event as well a culinary one, and that’s vital for our community. If any restaurateurs out there are interested, drop me an email or a tweet. And what are your favourite eateries? Perhaps someone out there is planning an event celebrating Wakefield food already? I know I hammer home to values of a DIY lifestyle, but I think – when it comes to curry at least – it is the one time I’d rather someone else did all the work, leaving me to the eating.
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
ast week’s Express led with a story about supermarkets bidding for space on the Ings Road Retail Park. The story ended with the paragraph “In 2008, Tesco agreed a deal to set up a store in Hemsworth and built a new bus station, library and school in return.” Does anyone find that a little sinister? Is this the future? Little Tesco-Towns where a New Customer Assistant (midwife) brings you into the world, installs your Club Card identi-chip in the palm of your hand (for your convenience) and places you in a crib in a luscious Tesco-Hospital. Club Points get you a top-class education in the Tesco-Academy, which specialise in marketing (for the middle classes) and shelf stacking (for the plebs). Each night you come home to your little Tesco-Apartment, to watch Tesco-approved TV and Film beamed directly from the Tesco-Satellite. One day you’ll pass your designated best before date, and, no longer of any economic worth, be sent for recycling and ground down into dust to make bricks for the new hospital. Sixth form politics and sci-fi novel plots aside (don’t steal it) it’s a sad indication of how our capitalist society may fund its public services in the future. Whilst Wakefield Council is forced to make further cuts (cuts would happen regardless of the party in charge) across the board, Tesco is able to nonchalantly throw in a bid of near half a million to help out with our free bus service. Doesn’t it all feel a bit out of balance? Whether we feel it sinister or not, I expect for Tesco it is just a new form of marketing; one that ‘socially engages’ the company with its customers. Rather than think of them as a supermarket that sells beans, they are part of our community. How could they be evil- they built a crèche! I guess I’d rather we built the crèche and didn’t owe anyone for it. But isn’t it better that SOMEONE is building these communities? A Tesco-School is better than no school at all, right? Well, I’m sorry,
November 9 th 2012
am stood in The Hop on a Friday night, a venue run by a local, award winning brewery. Tonight, a Wakefield record label is launching an EP by a local band. The record label is run completely by one guy, from his home. For nearly five years he has been investing the money he earns in his regular day job into the musicians of Wakefield. No-one taught him how to run a business. He just saw inspiration in what others had done in the past, and cracked on with it. Last year the band self-released a demo online. The record label heard it, resulting in this, their debut release. They wrote all the songs themselves, developing them in local rehearsal spaces. They then recorded them in a studio that started life on the landing of a tower in Wakefield. One of the producers is here tonight, on the sound desk. He learned a little of his trade at Unity Hall, but has spent the last ten years developing his skills off his own back, and investing any money he makes from his other jobs into his studio. The fantastic front cover of the EP is by a local artist. She also designs posters for gigs like this one. There’s a photographer here too,
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
November 16 th 2012
but I don’t want a society that’s vibrancy is built off the back of the profit margins of a supermarket. “We can’t afford the central heating for the hospital people, you’re gonna have to buy more cornflakes.” We built the last one on the back of bankers playing roulette and it didn’t work out so well. To put it another way; what if wasn’t Tesco’s charity but someone else’s building our communities? What if it was the BNP? If any school is better than no school, then it stands it shouldn’t matter who’s building it. I have no personal issue with Tesco; they are just the company brought to light in the article. Whether we should trust corporations with the future of our community building is an important question. I may not have come up with much of a conclusive answer but hey; every little helps.
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
who spends his retirement obsessively documenting what happens in the city; an invaluable service to its bands. The drummer and bassist of tonight’s first performer were in punk bands in the mid ‘90s. Now they are backing up a young songwriter and helping him develop his music. Elsewhere on stage is the drummer (here playing guitar) of another Wakefield band who have organised their own UK tour and released an ambitious, fan friendly set of products over the last twelve months, including CDs, vinyl, t-shirts, downloads, cassettes and comics. The main support band released an album earlier this year. They spent two years crafting it. They recorded and produced every note, teaching themselves the required skills. The supportive network in Wakefield has allowed all these artists the chance to develop their sound through gigs like this and support slots with larger touring acts. It is a night to be proud to be from Wakefield. This is just one venue in the city, on one night of the year. But everything here was proudly Made In Wakefield. There are some bands here tonight who are uncomfortable with the idea that what they produce is ‘art’. They shouldn’t be. To put it another way, whether they are making noise, organising entertainment or making pretty pictures, they are creating. Creativity is the cornerstone of any healthy society. It also holds a mirror. The dirgy, ground out rhythms of tonight’s headliners are as much part of our city’s culture and identity as Barbara Hepworth’s works. We shouldn’t wait until something is in a museum or inducted into a hall of fame to celebrate it.
ave you seen 999: What’s Your Emergency on C4? The show, set in Blackpool, is as emotionally disheartening as Michael Burke’s 999 was graphically disturbing in daring to show what the majority of 999 operators sadly have to deal with; the clueless, the delusional and most of all, the drunk.
November 23 rd 2012
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It brought to mind two things for me. Firstly, the 2010 documentary Coppers, which saw one episode filmed on Wakefield’s own Westgate. It was so heartbreaking, you had to laugh. Then cry. Fortunately, it was just one episode. The poor people of Blackpool have a whole series of this tourist board suicide being broadcast to the nation. The second was the ridiculous letter printed two weeks ago in the Express from David Woodhead, expressing dismay at the council’s refusal to allow a change of use for their bullring property. By allowing it to become either a bookmakers or an estate agents, he argued, the council would have allowed them to create up to eight jobs and fill an empty shop. I’m sure it was this spirit of social enterprising that led them to buy up half of Wakefield, then kindly rent it back to us. They only do it for a love of the city and the people, why can’t the council see this? Who thinks Wakefield needs more bookmakers or estate agents? If we simply fill vacant shops for the sake of it, it is a very shortsighted, short term solution. A landmine factory would create jobs and fill the same space, so why not that? The only benefit of a destroyed economy is that we have the chance to build our society again, from the ground up. I think the council, in their decision, are acknowledging this. There was a time when the council was less conscientious in its decisions, and this is how night-time Westgate, as seen on TV, got into the state it did. It wasn’t nice to travel as far as London and Glasgow and have people chuckle when I said where I was from with a “ah, Stags parties” response. But now, the City Centre Partnership and others groups are working towards improving what was once a free for all and the council, in protecting what types of business have the chance to flourish, is backing this up. The alternative could be what has happened in Blackpool; where B&B owners are forced to phone the police every night to deal with the sickening behaviour of their clientele, yet cannot refuse them, for the meagre pittance they make comes those very people. A good reputation takes a long time to cultivate but it’s much harder to shift a negative one. Blackpool citizens and emergency service workers alike sadly reflected on the change from the family
November 30 th 2012
friendly resort of their youths. I don’t want to look back on my own Wakefield childhood as they do, wondering where it all went wrong. But looking backwards is not what Wakefield needs right now anyway.
t’s the 21st century and, even in a cultural Mecca such as Wakefield, I still think some people are scared of the word ‘Theatre’. It’s not the building, and perhaps not even what goes on inside, but the semantics and the connotations of what that word brings to mind. In vast cities such as London or Glasgow the availability of theatre on offer dulls this fear, but in places less exposed to the sheer variety of possibilities, this apprehension can become commonplace. Wakefield Theatre Royal is a wonderful asset to our city. But sometimes the greatness of such venues – the vast, classical space – can also be their Achilles heel. It’s a sad fact that not enough people feel inclined to go to the theatre and I think it is all to do with perception. I’m sure that to many of Wakefield’s population the theatre still stands for those polar opposites on the dramatic spectrum - Shakespeare and Panto - whilst the enormous chasm in between is left sadly unexplored. It’s not for want of trying of course. But it’s worth remembering style and form of theatre is as broad as the television schedules. For me, this is never clearer than a trip to Edinburgh festival. Once again, it is easy to produce a stock response of a sneer at the cliché of students producing overly sincere pieces of ‘experimental’ theatre. But, from large gigs by TV comedians to free performances in the broom cupboard of bus station toilets, every square inch of the city is transformed into creative space. Yes, some are awful. But all, in some way are inspiring and celebrate the communal, unique shared experiences of theatre. Though nowhere near that scale, Plays & Pints is a new theatre event in Wakefield taking place this weekend which uses this idea as a jump off point. It attempts to explore this idea of accessible, social theatre by taking it out of grand and sometimes daunting spaces and moving it into somewhere we all feel more at home; the pub.
So essentially, it is a theatre pub crawl. Lovers of fine ale will have something to watch whilst suppin’ their pint. Theatre lovers will get to see local and national artists in unusual spaces. And that key target audience, those who are worried that ‘theatre’ equals two hours of incomprehensible language endured whilst sat fidgeting in your velvet chair will adore the short, sharp performances, the different venues, the pie and pea supper and the chance to chat and get merry. It’s another inventive arts event in Wakefield. I hope it allows people to see theatre as a medium in a new light and perhaps begin to alter those perceptions of - from street performance to packed out shows at Theatre Royal - the pure excitement of live performance.
or the last two years I have excitedly received Star Wars Lego for Christmas. Yes, I am nearly thirty. The reason behind this is less one of geeky pastimes and more a desire to rekindle a childish sense of excitement. For the majority of my generation, and certainly for me, Christmas has no religious significance whatsoever, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t special and important. It’s a time to revel in the frivolity and insignificance of life. In his book How Not To Grow Up comedian Richard Herring made a point that has always stuck with me. Talking of his love of children, he said that as we grow we tend to keep the negative aspects of the child; jealousy, selfishness, an infantile solipsism. The positive ones, the things we love about children; a sense of joy and wonder in anything and everything tend to disappear due to the dull necessities of life. So, Lego is my alternative to spending Christmas morning trying on socks or reading about the special features on a boxset I won’t watch for six months. And with the Christmas adverts all over TV, I feel this idea is more important than ever. Amongst the fake snow winter wonderlands of an M&S advert we see tinselled celebrities cooing over iPads and Kindles and Sat Navs.
December 7 th 2012
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
Shiny plastic boxes that just seem a little too soulless to be Christmas presents. I admit, my appreciation of new technology is not high. And I’m sure they are very clever. But it’s just so obvious and practical. It feels like the modern version of buying a 1970s housewife an ironing board, or her husband a set of sponges to wash his car with on a Sunday. Useful – yes. Thoughtful? Unique? Personal? Special? Despite what the marketing may say – no. There are alternatives to handing over the money you earn through strenuous overtime shifts to massive US corporations, via tax dodging online retailers. If you can divert your angered stare from Wakefield’s empty shop fronts and tilt it slightly to the left or right, you may notice that some of the shops we do have are strongly independent and have some hidden treasures inside. A good place to look is www.uniquewakefield.co.uk . This is a new collection of independent Wakefield businesses that have formed a group to help promote what the city has to offer. They have started producing a pocket guide which includes a map that clearly makes a point of how many interesting places there are in the city centre, if you know where to look. Admittedly, the kids are always going to want the latest toys and games. But these places are like sweetshops for adults. Odd, quirky, unique items. Things that will make people smile, things they will treasure for years to come. And if you can find those things in Wakefield, it’s a bonus.
ast week the annual general meeting for the investors in Unity Hall took place at Wakefield Town Hall. Unity Hall will be big news in 2013. From May onwards we will finally be able to see a physical change begin to take place when the builders move in. Many of the attendees at the meeting had shown what equates to blind faith in the project, since their investment at the start of the year relied purely on words, ideas and promises. Grand ones, yes, but now tangible things are afoot.
December 14 th 2012
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If you are still slightly behind with the Unity Hall plans, the huge building which currently rests opposite the Theatre Royal, and above Buzz nightclub is set to be reborn, partly in the spirit of the once legendary music venue and partly as a new centre for business and conferencing. The exciting thing is that it will run as a co-operative, much in the spirit with which it was originally set up in the mid 19th century by prison officers. The benefit is that it will not be run in competition to the small yet vibrant art strands in the city, but alongside them. It will also mean some awesome music and comedy gigs. Programming consultants have been visiting Unity Hall to offer their advice. These people travel around the country on a regular basis and it may surprise some of you to hear that they sense a great positivity in Wakefield. Although our precincts and high streets may seem bleak, they have told us that from what they’ve seen elsewhere, we are weathering the storm pretty well. And though still 18 months from completion, national promoters are already keen to get their artists to Unity Hall. The best part of the meeting was seeing so many investors there. Ranging from music fans young and old to prospective business partners to people who just want to see the building returned to its former glory. With such strong and passionate support, I’ve no doubt that Unity Hall will be a success. So what does this matter to you? Well, that depends. You can just sit back and wait for it to open. You can start drafting your letters of complaint that always seem to follow attempts at something new or different in Wakefield. Or you can actively get involved. The chance to invest will reopen again in 2013, meaning you can be at the next AGM in September, making your voice heard. But you know what? Perhaps the best thing you could do would be, next time you walk past the old place, by those ugly windows lining Westgate, just look up. Look up at the old stonework, the carvings and those huge stained glass windows and imagine what could be happening behind there; your favourite band playing in your home town and one of the country’s best venues on your doorstep. How great will that be?
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
wo years ago I asked for just one Christmas present from my girlfriend; that she quit smoking. Was this emotional blackmail? You bet it was. It seemed the only way. Because, like most drug addicts, she wanted to stop, but didn’t. It’s the same for many out there; even the increased odds of your friends, parents and children having to watch you suffer a long, painful and premature death is not enough to make them kick the habit. But I do think that smokers get a rough deal, the guilt and shame of their addiction laid on them from all angles, like I just have. As covered in the Express, some people have become enraged about others smoking outside Pinderfields Hospital. Considering those smokers are patients, visitors to suffering loved ones or staff working long hours for little appreciation, allowing them to spark up is one minor pleasure we can afford them. It wouldn’t kill you to hold your breath for five seconds whilst you pass them by. Some people genuinely love smoking. It’s respite from a dull day at work. It’s social time outside the pub. If they have evaluated the risks and consequences and still choose to puff away, I can respect that and support them wholeheartedly. Quality of life is more important that the quantity (though I suspect in this case the quality may take a sharp downturn towards the end). It’s the other group that get to me, those perpetually on the brink of giving up. Oh, they’ve cut down. Once they ‘stopped’, but only for a few weeks. They’ve tried loads of different ways to give up; patches, pills, plastic cigarettes that glow like real ones. They like to talk about giving up more than actually doing it. Well here’s the trick: just stop. Get your act together and stop. It’ll be hard. But anything worth doing is. Yes – ‘life is stressful’ - but get some self respect. Stop finding excuses. Take control. Society has alienated smokers over the past few decades. The health risks are graphically made clear on the packets. The cost continues
December 21 st 2012
to rise. They’ve been kicked out of pubs and clubs, into the dark and the cold. Yet, despite allegedly wanting to stop, they continue. I feel sympathy but despair at the lack of willpower. So this Christmas, if you are of that first group; enjoy yourself. Smoke yourself blue and spread some guilt-free Yuletide cheer. If you are more towards that second group, now is the time for a rethink. Don’t waste your positive desire on a meaningless New Year’s resolution. Make your quitting a gift to someone else. When my girlfriend quit, she had saved enough money by May to pay for a trip to Venice, so trust me; kicking the habit really is a gift that keeps on giving.
he two thousandth and twelfth year was a pretty good one for me. Ok, so I haven’t been this poor since I was a student. Most days I subsist on stale bread combined with a range of bizarre Lidl bought condiments and I can’t afford shoes without holes in, but you know what? I’m pretty happy. Because this year I’ve met a lot of interesting and inspiring people. And I do often think, as Morrissey once said “Has the world changed or have I changed?” Because I am sure these people were always here. But, whether Wakefield’s Do-It-Yourself ideals have grown or I’ve simply opened my eyes further, I feel honoured to be working alongside so many positive and hopeful people. It reminds me of a book released by a friend of mine this year. The book Oops! Helping Children Learn Accidentally was written by Hywel Roberts. He is one of many teachers I know. I love the work teachers do and the passion they have. I don’t overly love hearing them talk about teaching ALL THE TIME. So I read the book because it was by a friend, not for any insight. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it. A large part of it was stepping back and looking at yourself; why you are doing what you are doing and what kind of person are you? One part that stuck with me especially centred on the staff room.
December 28 th 2012
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
Hywel spoke about his early experiences as a teacher and how divisions in the staff room slowly revealed themselves. There seemed to be two distinct groups. One would sit in huddles round cups of tea, moaning about the kids, or about the school, or about other teachers, They would huff and sigh when the bell went and it was time to head back to class. They would try and draw you in with their tutting and headshaking. Elsewhere, there was another group, bounding around, rushing to get things ready for the next lesson. They would cross paths with others like them and quickly, excitedly exchange ideas, make plans and offer support before heading off to turn these plans into action. In the book, Hwyel refers to these two groups of people as ‘drains’ and ‘radiators’. The book is clever in pulling apart the complexities of the profession and laying bare the decisions teachers make, whether consciously or not, about what kind of educator they are. It resonates with me because this is true in all aspects of life. We could be talking about Britain, Wakefield, your place of work, or even your home. Some people sit in their metaphorical corners and revel in their misanthropy, draining the world of positivity and carping as if it owed them something. Others are out there, testing their own faith in the systems that govern us and – if things aren’t working – try and find alternatives. You don’t need to share your answers with the class, but as we enter 2013, why not quietly ask yourself the simple question; are you a drain or a radiator?
am beginning to think that inevitability is major bugbear of mine, albeit for the most minor of things. I hate the inevitability of the low level chuckle from the Mock The Week audience as Andy Parsons approaches the mic. The inevitability of the dramatic pause in any elimination type show drives me up the wall. And the ridiculous construction of that perfume advert with the Brad Pitt voiceover. Inevitable.
January 4 th 2013
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism Page 20
Admittedly, I have a problem. Often, to my own detriment, I favour being obtuse and alternate. But there are also plenty of people who suffer the disease from the other side; only casting allegiance to trends once universally acknowledged. Surely, inevitability is the harbinger of tedium? I spoke about drug addiction a few weeks back. I think there is something much more dangerous out there; a dependence on television. And it’s one I can’t so easily distance myself from. It scares me because it affects how we actually think and perceive the world. And I think there is nothing worse than the talent show format for creating a blind addiction that completely bypasses the brain. We effectively chain smoke these shows. Brief research shows that since 2006, only 3 months out of 84 have not seen one of these shows broadcast. I thought these shows just seemed endless. It turns out they are. If you have a weakness for them, consider that if 2013 is like the last seven years, this is what you have in store: In January Celebrity Big Brother (series 11) & Dancing On Ice (series 8) begin. In March Britain’s Got Talent (series 7) and The Voice (series 2) arrive. Regular Big Brother (series 14) arrives in June, then possibly another Celebrity Big Brother (series 12) and X Factor (series 10) join in August, the latter running all the way until next Christmas, alongside Strictly Come Dancing (series 11) and I’m A Celebrity (series 13). For me it’s like turning up for to school in September and being told we’re doing cross country every period, for the whole year. Even if you like cross country, it’s a bit much. If you are a fan of these shows, there is now a sad inevitability to your 2013. Add in a couple of soaps, live football or other commitment heavy shows like The Apprentice or Masterchef and your free time has shrunk to near zero. Right now, shortlived thoughts of getting ‘back in shape’ rack our national consciousness. I love how gyms try and persuade you that running on treadmills isn’t unremittingly dull by putting hundreds of televisions in front of them. Being fit is important, but if you want to make a lifestyle change that really makes a difference, I suggest the TV diet. Unplug it for a month. Or a week. How about just a weekend?
January 11 th 2013
I did it once. It was bliss. Yes, I came back to it. I found I enjoyed the shows I like a lot more. It also gave me perspective on how rubbish most of it is. Don’t hand over 2013 to the inevitability of sitting on the sofa. Do something new this new year. The clue is in the title.
ack before my bones ached at even the merest suggestion of an approaching cold front - by which I mean my younger days winter was my favourite time of year. Though I am still, in that English way, averse to being too hot, I do appreciate the unrestricted freedom of the summer months; the thought now of barbeque gatherings, beer garden afternoons and arriving home from work in daylight hours is an incredibly wistful one. But weather concerns aside, I do love the first few months of the year. It is supposedly the festive season when we take the time to reflect on what we should be grateful and thankful for, but most of us are too busy succumbing to guilt ridden, costly and materialistic expressions of that basic idea, or are drinking the memories of the 9 to 5 into oblivion, rather than simply saying it to one another. January is instead the time for introspection; the month that sees those “I’ll never drink again” type promises tested to breaking point. It says a lot when most of our New Year resolutions are about doing things less often, about quitting and giving up. But also, plans are formulated. Space made in our brains to create something new. And that’s the bit I love. Right now I am working hard on the planning of Rhubarb Bomb’s festival, Long Division. I sit around dreaming up ‘what-if ’ scenarios, bouncing them off people and then trying to forge them in reality. I don’t care that my long awaited surrender to the oncoming flu is imminent or that Christmas has left me too in debt to leave the house. With the vivid visuals of every tiny detail projected widescreen, it may as well be summer inside my skull. A lot of other people are working hard too, sowing the seeds for the year ahead. Bands are in underground studios, recording their summertime hits. Builders survey architectural plans, the
sledgehammers keen to chime in the first spring light. The minutes of meetings are scribbled on jotters in faceless office backrooms, city centre cafes and friend’s bedrooms over brews and biscuits. I wonder if grand schemes are being drawn up in the house across the street from you. Or those two guys in suits sat at the table by the café window; what are they planning? The girl sat daydreaming on the bus; what’s her story and will any of us ever know it? From The Hepworth to the first line of a song no-one will ever hear; they all started with an idea. So, like the rhubarb in our precious forcing sheds, our brittle bones may be creaking helpless in the dark, but the ideas that will make 2013 a great one for Wakefield are now growing slowly, searching for the light.
othing expresses pure, monolithic power like a grandiose piece of architecture. Just look at Hitler at his Nuremburg rallies, the Burj Kalifa tower in Dubai or Egypt’s pyramids. It was the old-school way of showing your unquestionable power. Nowadays we collect Twitter followers. This was the purpose of Britain’s churches and cathedrals. I’ve walked around holy buildings from Wakefield to Warsaw and no matter how impressive they are, it always crosses my mind; what was the human cost? This was the argument put forth by Mr Liversidge in his support of the demolition of Stanley’ St Peters Church, in the Express’ letters page. Surely, if anything, human suffering would be a reason to preserve it? The Church was once massively important in this country. It isn’t any more. It has faded and withered over time. Its attempts to modernise have left it looking indecisive, out of touch and a little foolish. That’s not to diminish the beliefs of those who follow. But the official body of the church has long shrunk to a size too small for such a grand home. It’s time to move on.
January 18 th 2013
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
But history is forever important. So I am very sad to see that Stanley Church could not be saved. In fact, as I type, I can spy it through my window, half shrouded in the mist. As Mr Cliff expressed in his interesting letter last week, the history is long and rich. That shouldn’t be lost. Bricks and mortar are a living history – the best kind - no matter what they are used for. Better than pages in a book gathering dust in a library storeroom. But if religion is not big enough to fill its cavernous space, what is? We’ve seen similar buildings converted, some more sympathetic than others. Music venues, community centres; my old friend the Tesco Express. But this building is in a quiet village. The only financially viable prospect would be flats, but that has been shown to be unworkable. There’s one final option. Leave it standing. Let it fall into further ruin, until we all forget what it was there for in the first place. Then create a mythology and start selling tickets to curious visitors. Because we are all bourgeois now. Our greatest architectural achievements, no matter how visionary, will never be anything more than somewhere to take the kids on a weekend, drink over priced coffee and kill a few worthless hours. Forget dictators, oil and gods; from Auschwitz to Trinity Walk, our culture’s cathedrals are now shopping centres, tourist traps and online retailers, our prayers expressed through Paypal accounts, 0% finance and the overdraft. We might not be impressed by the concept of God anymore, but sometimes you have to wonder, if such a thing existed, how impressed it’d be by us.
ry as I might, I am struggling to muster up any memories or anecdotes connected to HMV. I recall buying my first vinyl at Hellraiser and digging through Nirvana bootlegs in the old market hall. But the high street giant? Nothing. It would seem that the current financial woes may once again have found a short term solution via assistance from the music industry.
January 25 th 2013
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism Page 24
It wasn’t common knowledge, but this had already happened in 2012. Essentially the industry sells its products to HMV ultra cheap, meaning they can sell them for a price lower than an independent would be able to purchase in the first place. Clearly the major labels believe a presence on the high street is essential for their business. Which I find interesting, because I assumed they had encouraged the move towards downloads and the digital marketplace. Despite this, I don’t think HMV will be around much longer. They aren’t in difficulties because of the economy; it is a fundamental change in our shopping habits, one that HMV were very slow to foresee. I can’t decide if the departure of HMV would be such a bad thing. In Wakefield, their presence was instrumental in the closure of other, better record stores. Yet, a continued presence on our high street – or any – at least reinforces the idea of purchasing music. That is an idea that is rapidly disappearing, with the public becoming accustomed to free or illegal downloads and unwilling to pay enough for live music below the highest tier of performer. As I look to the very long term of music as an art form, I do fear that it will join most others and only exist through subsidy. Art Galleries and theatres could not exist without public funding; there’s simply not enough money in it. Music has lived a charmed life for a long time, but the days of million selling singles every week has passed. It is alcohol sales that keep venues running, not the tickets. Major label propping up of HMV is the private sector version of this. If it fails, the majors may finally concede that music, although allegedly beloved by all, simply does not have the mass appeal to warrant its efforts. As a music fan, I have no need to shop at HMV. I prefer the independents and I hope this whole situation would result in them benefitting, building a stronger grassroots. But could the grassroots become the be all and end all? The majority of people do not go out searching for new music; it must be given to them in the form of a mainstream radio or TV show before it hits their radar. The death of HMV may signal a change where the middle of the industry, the bridge from the bottom to the top, is removed creating a larger gulf than ever between the Michael
February 1 st 2013
Ainsleys and Michael Bubles of this world, which I don’t think is to anyone’s benefit.
n 1986 Morrissey, on The Smiths song Panic, bemoaned the state of the pop charts. “The music they constantly play’ he sang ‘says nothing to me about my life.” A genuine love of music should be a rich and personal journey. When I first bought Nevermind by Nirvana I didn’t just nod away in appreciation. It stirred a curiosity in me; the most valuable commodity of any music lover. I worked backwards and discovered some of their influences; bands like The Pixies and Sonic Youth. Their experimentation, passion and outlook were different to anything I’d ever heard. But I connected to it. I began drawing a musical roadmap in my head. Kurt Cobain’s own dissatisfaction with the restrictions of the traditional pop song (he wrote one called Verse Chorus Verse) inspired me to seek out new things. I discovered Mogwai and a whole new genre – Post Rock – one that did away with traditional structures, lyrics and was noisy as hell. A love of Mogwai led me to their Scottish record label, Chemikal Underground and bands like Arab Strap and The Delgados. I learnt my history too, discovering the great Blur vs. Oasis battle at the centre of this thing called Britpop. After much thought, I picked the only side worth taking; Pulp. To none music lovers, those last paragraphs may have held as much interest as if I had recounted the dream I had last night. But the music we love does reflect who we are. It’s like travelling; some people rarely visit other countries, and when they do they play it safe in holiday resorts that kind of look like home anyway. Others relish the chance to go off-piste and see where they end up. I’ve been thinking about this of late as I am going to have to try and sell The Fall to people who don’t know who they are. And that’s really difficult.
s I write, two stories are battling it out on the breakfast news. One is the imminent vote on whether to approve gay marriage. The other is about a man in America shooting a school bus driver and kidnapping a child. Now, I wasn’t brought up to think Tories are scum; I figured it out myself. A generalisation, of course. Whilst I am no fan of David Cameron I have to admit he has held firm on this issue. I don’t think it’s a deeply held belief of his. I just think he knows that the wider population broadly sees it as a good thing. It’s an attempt to modernise the Tory party, nothing more, but is still a risk for him. Compare our brand of right wing politics to America’s. This is a country which still has the death penalty in some states, has a leader who must swear an allegiance to God and bickers endlessly about a woman’s right to an abortion. We hear about a special relationship between our countries, but in actual fact we are very different.
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
February 8 th 2013
Some people think Mumford & Sons are the cutting edge, and that The Killers are the defining band of our time. Maybe they are right, but those opinions are as far from mine as the idea that The Fall are a seminal band would be to them. But that’s fine. The point is, it’s never too late to discover something new. The Fall, who have existed since the late ‘70s, epitomise this. They have never looked backwards. They are completely unpredictable. They are fools to no-one. As John Peel said of them: “Always different, always the same.” I can see parallels between their outlook and Wakefield. Awkward, unfashionable and often it’s own worst enemy but also unique, unflinching and rich in heritage. The aforementioned Mumford & Sons are more akin to those holiday resorts; clean, shiny, safe. For some, music is an escape. For others it expresses something profoundly true in a perfect way. Either way, what do you think; what does the music you constantly play say about your life?
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
Since the recent spurt of school shootings, debate has raged harder than ever about changes to gun laws. To us, it seems to be a bit of a no-brainer. Fewer guns equal fewer shootings. Unbelievably, some Americans believe “the only way to stop bad guys with guns, is more good guys with guns.” This black and white view of politics has unnerving similarities to the rhetoric of George W Bush. I despair at the politics of the UK most of the time. I can’t stand the career politicians who will say what they think we want them to say for a salary and a big house. Everyone is fighting for the centre ground. But compare us to the unstable religious fundamentalism of the Middle East, or the gun toting would-be world police of America and we are doing ok. I’m actually proud of the progress our country has made, even just in my lifetime, towards a more inclusive society. Britain should be proud to not lead by brute force, but by our example of open-mindedness and inclusivity. The passing of same sex marriage is one way to do this. There is still a huge amount to do, but it can take many years and generations to see change happen. My parents were alive when homosexuality was illegal in this country. When I was born, half of Europe was under communist rule. Times may feel tough right now, but we have it better than most. To the generation born now, I wonder what will strike them as odd about the world today. “When I was born, Americans still carried guns to school. People blew themselves to pieces for a God. And back in 2013, we’d never even had a gay prime minister!” I hope so.
he days of bands signing multi-million pound record deals are now firmly in the past. It was the money shot a lot of people still associated with the industry; fresh faced young rockers shaking hands with men in suits, a big fat advance in their back pockets. In the end, the majors bought the whole world, and then technology came along and the world was worthless.
February 15 th 2013
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism Page 28
Without trend-chasing A&R men whisking bands to stardom, young performers face a different future. X-Factor and its peers are attempts by a dying industry to revitalise itself, by effectively creating a new audience for it’s unspectacular but headline grabbing acts. Otherwise, it is the re-emerging indie labels built on the wreckage of the mainstream who are able to act in a more dynamic and adaptable style and offer a future to young bands. One such label exists in Wakefield and this week celebrates its fifth birthday. They are called Philophobia Music and since 2008 have released forty records, from 7” and 12” singles and EPs to full albums, downloads and numerous compilations. For many of the bands on them, it was the first thing they had released, with Philophobia Music the only ones willing to take a chance. With the support of the label, these bands have gone on to tour the UK, Ireland and Japan, played live sessions for the BBC and found themselves at some of the largest festivals in the country. Releasing a record every 1.5 months for five years is an unbelievable work rate, even more so when you realise it is just one guy and that he is completely self taught and completely unfunded. It shows anyone with an idea can make it happen themselves; such an important thing to express. But no, it shows more than that. Anyone can have an idea. It takes the kind of dedication most would find insane to continue having them and implementing them for over half a decade, purely for the love of it, to little fanfare and no financial reward. Because the indie method is not a way to make money where the majors have failed. It is more desperate than that. For many, it is the only way to release music. Profit is not even on the radar. And without Philophobia Music, barely any Wakefield bands would be either. The Cribs would not be where they are without Leeds based indie Squirrel Records, who released their first single, and London based indie Wichita who released their first album. That they have stuck with the latter indie label throughout their career shows that a band can be known around the world without signing their lives away to Sony or Simon Cowell. I highly recommend you search out Philophobia Music’s online shop. They have a 50% off sale that lasts until midnight Sunday. Even
February 22 nd 2013
so, the records are incredibly reasonably priced. Go see what your fellow Wakefieldians are producing and discover another reason to be proud you’re living in the Merrie City.
his weekend is an anniversary of sorts. Last year, a self professed Wakefieldian called Nichi Hodgson attended our Rhubarb Festival and proceeded to write a scathing review not just of the event, but of the city as a whole for The Guardian website, even making the ridiculous claim that ‘no-one even eats rhubarb anymore.’ My own response was printed by the Express, sowing the seeds for the creation of this column. Now I am firmly entrenched within Wakefield’s media giant, I feel comfortable in revealing that my rebuttal was written after a very heavy night out in Sheffield, in that sweet 11am spot where you convince yourself you’ve miraculously avoided a hangover. Full of self deluded joy, I spewed forth the response and then quickly retired back to bed, holding my tortured head. So in a way, I owe her one. Maybe quite a few of us do. It helps to have a common enemy when trying to rally the troops. The responses on the Guardian site, to my own blog entry and inside this very paper were overwhelmingly in defence of Wakefield. Not a blinkered ‘my town is great’ sort of way, just in their defiantly optimistic tone. I think 2013 will be tough year for keeping that optimism alive, especially as I read of the further cuts we will all be facing. Something like the Rhubarb Festival is a quirky way to celebrate what we are all about. The city-pride, charm and sense of community on show may all seem alien to Nichi. After all, this is a woman who is now trying to make a living from producing third rate Fifty Shades Of Grey knock offs. I’ll say it again: third rate Fifty Shades Of Grey. When you thought life couldn’t sink any lower, someone like Nichi Hodgson comes along and shows us how wrong we can be.
signed up to Spotify this week. Some of you will guffaw at how behind the times I am whilst others won’t have a clue what I am talking about. Such is the pace of progress. Spotify is website that let’s you listen to music for free. Having a Facebook account, it took me exactly one mouse click to ‘sign up’ and I instantly had access to over 15 million songs. The catch is that I am restricted as to how many times I can listen to individual tracks and every five or so plays I have to listen to an advert. And one of these adverts, from Spotify itself, posed and interesting question. It said: “Pay just £10 a month for our premium service – why would you ever buy music again?” The premium service means no adverts, no limits and the ability to build a library and listen to it offline, on your laptop or phone. I’ve been toying with that question for a few days and I can’t
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
March 1 st 2013
Northern city life may seem as dull as Nick Knowles to people like Nichi, but I very much believe it is what you make it. This week’s NME featured The Cribs as they prepare to release their ten year retrospective album. The Jarman brothers now live across the world. Whilst Gary and Ryan praised the parts of America they now call home, Ross was recounting some of the reasons he chooses to still live in Wakefield. I am proud to say that Rhubarb Bomb’s festival Long Division was amongst them, as well as Philophobia Music whom I praised in this column last week. And I am proud that Wakefield in the last year has continued to find reasons to bring fresh people to our city. I usually end these columns with a ‘See You At’ suggestion. I would of course suggest the Rhubarb Festival, but sadly I have a prior engagement in Berlin and shall miss the whole thing. But if anyone out there would be kind enough to say me some rhubarb crumble, I would be ever so grateful because unlike some people, I can’t get enough of it.
honestly think of a legitimate answer. Why would I pay for music in the world of Spotify? My own response is that I like the physical format, but if I was being totally impartial, I would also say it’s what I am used to. That is how I grew up, proudly curating a shelf of CDs. Those growing up now; why would they ever want to traipse down to a record store when they can carry the entire history of recorded sound in their pocket, for the cost of one album? Soon, there will be a single package that combines LoveFilm and Spotify with digital magazines and books. Even the National Gallery are currently uploading their entire collection. Everything ever made for £25 a month. There is a social element to Spotify, where I can see what my friends have listened to. It also recommends similar artists. I have happily found new bands through it already, then gone and bought the actual album. But I am a consumer dinosaur. I worry about actual new bands being able to sell and make a living once people like me wither away. Record labels (or bands) pay companies a publishing fee to get their material on Amazon / iTunes / Spotify et al but the latter, although offering a download option, heavily removes the incentive to buy. Artists get about 0.001p per stream. A million sales used to get you to the top of the charts. A million streams will now net you a mere £1000. Despite the return of Indie, the industry is still a top down business. The quantity of downloads required from any platform to make a living is huge and only achievable by the highest profile artists. As with Radiohead’s pioneering Pay What You Want scheme in 2007, it is a model they can afford to do, but once these practices slide down to the grassroots, they become commercial suicide. And my question would simply be; who really cares anymore?
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
rugs are cool. Now, there’s a under represented opinion within the media. In any drug debate, like the recent one about legal highs in the Express, two fundamentals are usually ignored. One, that cigarettes and alcohol are drugs. And two, that drugs are designed to make you feel great, and often do. Regarding point one; it would be argued that those items are legal and are regulated and controlled by law. But opposition to illegal drugs is often expressed as a moral repulsion. Laws are not morals. According to the law, one hundred years ago women could not vote. Luckily, the moral integrity of some people led to a change in the law, and a better society. I don’t think drugs are cool. And I’m not advocating legalisation of Class A drugs, or promoting drug use. But I do find the hypocrisy regarding their use staggering. I would wager that the majority of your life milestones; birthdays, weddings, christenings, retirements - even funerals - are all welcomed with some socially acceptable drug taking; a couple of pints or glasses of wine. It’s not just getting wasted on a weekend; their use infiltrates every part of our culture, for better or worse. To this background we then try and raise kids to think that, actually, perception altering substances are dangerous and should be avoided. No wonder the message isn’t getting through. It needs discussion and education through a mix of honest media and parenting, rather than a black and white ‘drugs are bad’ approach. Consumerism, TV, fear of God; just say yes. Drugs, rock n roll and reaching your own conclusions; just say no. This is surely why I can never have children. I just couldn’t commit to all the lies. Work hard at school, do as you are told and everything will work out great. When obviously it won’t, and never does. I’d be terrified of these legal highs if I were a parent. But you have to see it from the teenager’s point of view. It’s new, exciting, dangerous
March 8 th 2013
and yes: cool. Don’t think for a second that you, with your bills to pay and brain numbing 9-5, can offer an alternative to that. Getting high with your friends is surely a right of passage, whether with four cans of weak lager on park benches, or drugs at a mate’s house. It doesn’t matter what the law says. We’ve all done it. It’s our job to make sure the risks are clear, but allowing them the chance to make their own decisions and take responsibility for their actions is part of growing up. Bare faced denial of the positives only undermines our warnings about the negatives.
mmigrants’ has been turned into a dirty word, and I don’t like it one bit. Last week in the Express, Mr John Wildie lay all our country’s problems at the door of, what to him is, a large, faceless mass of ‘working scroungers who lay about on an easy lifestyle choice on full benefits for alcoholics and drug users.’ Such sweeping statements are the root of the problem. It would be just as unfair to say that because he questions immigration, Mr Wildie is likely an ignorant, small-minded xenophobe, who spends his weekends with butch, shaven-headed men in backstreet boozers, singing God Save The Queen and writhing around naked in nothing but a Union Jack. Totally unfair. In his letter, he is furious that immigrants are taking all our jobs, whilst also claiming all our benefits. Confusing. The truth is that the overwhelming majority come here to earn an honest pay. When times are good, we are happy for immigrants to wash our toilets and pack our frozen Yorkshire puddings. When times get tough, as they are now, those kinds of jobs are suddenly not below us and we want them back. Because do not, for one second, think the life of an immigrant is a luxurious one. I once worked as a pot-wash in a supermarket canteen. Polish girls with slightly less menial tasks worked there too. They had degrees in Architectural Engineering and Cosmetics. But these were worthless in their country.
March 15 th 2013
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism
One day, a British employment agency arrived in their town. With sky-high unemployment, a whole generation of young people had to pack up and move to Wakefield, leaving their families and children behind. Working in this kitchen was the only way they could support them. Was it their fault? No. Was it Mr Wildie’s fault? No. Maybe it was the Polish’s government’s fault for failing them, or the British governments fault for their ‘soft touch.’ Maybe it was Hitler and Stalin’s fault for invading Poland in 1939 and condemning it to 44 years of Soviet rule. Maybe it was Britain’s fault for allowing that to happen. You know what? It’s a complicated world. And we are all just people. I feel privileged to live in a country where, if things go wrong for me, there is a support network that means I don’t have to move to a foreign country where I am regarded as a dirty scrounger, to live a miserable existence. So that makes Britain a soft touch? Fine, then I am proud that we reach out and help people who need it. There are flaws in the system, like any system. But it is nothing to do with this word that the rightwing press has moulded into a shorthand for ‘evil’. An immigrant is a person who – in my experience – is actually incredibly hardworking, dedicated and moral. More so than your average Britain. So quit the hatemongering, quit reading The Sun, and base your opinions on facts and your own experiences in the real world.
March 22 nd 2013
here is no God. This week I have undeniable evidence of the fact. Because only in a Godless world could I feel this ill when I’ve got stuff to do. Really important stuff too, like writing this column. It’s awful; almost all the liquids and gasses in my body are currently attempting to find new and unusual ways to escape my body, as I lay helpless and forlorn with only daytime television for company. The females in my life have diagnosed me as having Man-Flu. Oddly enough, a man has never said this to me and you’d think
Dean Freeman Infantile Solipsism Page 35
they’d be the best at diagnosing it. It’s a term that winds me up. I know it is not said with malice, but I wonder how something originally created as a joke i.e. men like to moan about colds more than women has become accepted as part of our general language. Wikipedia would suggest it gained mainstream notoriety through a web survey run by men’s magazine Nuts, which is impressive because I’d not previously associated that particular publication with the notion of irony. It also tells me some studies have found that flu symptoms are actually more advanced in men than women, and if women’s immune systems were to sustain the same amount of damage, they may never recover. Though I am not sure if such facts are true, or taken from www.manflu.info, a site perpetuating the joke – or is it? It’s not a pain battle. Man Flu is not an actual affliction but a joke that indicates the reversal of the sexual hierarchy in popular culture. What? My bedridden television habits have only made this clearer. The adverts of yesteryear, as in Harry Enfield’s “Women: Know Your Limits”, have now switched to “Men: Know Your Place” of which the running (and unfunny) Man-Flu gag is but one. In advertising world, men are either taking their clothes off, or are simplistic man-children lost in a world of washing up, cooking and finance. The diet coke ad portrays a coven of females rolling a can of coke to a labouring man-chimp. He opens it, the contents drenching his tight fitting top. They gasp, slack jawed as he removes the shirt and carries on mowing the lawn. Another (I forget the product) has four elderly women sat by a beach. A young male swimmer dries himself with a towel. The women send their dog to aggressively retrieve said towel, leaving him stood naked before their cackling faces. One of them then takes a picture. Do a bit of role reversal on those and we’re in the world of wet t-shirt competitions and jail sentences. So God, television, women, popular culture and viral infections; all are conspiring to convince me I’m a pathetic, worthless man. It’s
only by sheer coincidence that on this very day they are right. But I’m sure I’ll get better, soon. See you at: The final Long Division warm up gig on March 28th. Four Wakefield bands play for free, downstairs at The Hop.
Throughout March, Rhubarb Bomb promoted four gigs, offering bands the opportunity to play our upcoming festival, Long Division. The result was a bit of a revelation for me, and was a great advertisement for the diversity that exists in the city. I am a great believer that artists should be paid for their work, but in the case of these warm-up gigs, the bands opted to play for free, thus making the shows free entry. On this occasion, it was a good choice. The crowds were made up of different faces; not just the hardcore, but also the curious and the intrigued. But the best part was the juxtaposition of styles between the bands. Not every band in Wakefield sounds like Pavement, or is some variant of lad-rock, it turns out. We had everything from brooding, synth-heavy electro, to gentle, delicate acoustic laments. From jazz-signatured hardcore punk to slick but noisy pop-craft. All made here in Wakefield. As daft as it sounds, I almost enjoyed the stuff I didn’t like the most. Because, like most people, I can tend to gravitate to what I know; to that safety zone of familiar noise. Even so, at these gigs, it didn’t feel like I was enduring something painful. I was just seeing someone else’s take on music and art. And it was great to see fans of one type of music having something utterly different thrust in their face, confounding their expectations. There are not enough opportunities for this kind of cultural crosspollination nowadays. Especially with music, where every genre has it’s own niche digital radio station, and we create our own online playlists, influenced by close friends and the same trusted sources of opinion, whether it be Jo Wiley or Pitchfork. There are no more Top Of The Pops moments. Every David Bowie
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documentary charting his Ziggy era exploits points out the effect of his appearance on the show, performing Starman. It took something strange and alien into the living rooms of millions of regular people, and changed everything. I remember when Radiohead released their first single in three years in 2001 – Pyramid Song. The most miserable, circling thing on the parent album (yet also achingly beautiful) and they played it live on Top Of The Pops. What a crossover moment. As a hater of boy and girl bands, it felt like my music was ‘winning’ for once. Yet for all those moments of inflicting ‘proper’ music on the masses, I likely took as much from the pop side too. Now we all live in little bubbles with our own unalterable opinions. So I’m just saying, it’s good to mix it up a bit. Thanks to all who came to the Long Division gigs, supported local artists, and took a chance on something new.