Archive for July, 2009

My eye was caught by the excited smirks of these little ladies carting their new piles of reading matter through the streets of wartime Paris while I was browsing the bookshop of London’s Southbank Centre.

And they’re a familiar bunch, this lot: little miss middle is sporting a grin uncannily like the one slapped across my face whenever I strike it lucky in the fabulous Oxfam Bookshop; the black-clad, patent-toed sweetie on the right might well have chuckled in that very same, mildly sheepish mirth had she been the one *ahem*, 60 years later, to buy birthday books for friends that she knew full well would never see the world beyond her own bookshelf; and the munchkin second from left bears that common countenance of the reader who’s just suffered that sudden downpour so beloved of British summertime, without the aid of either brolly or carrier bag. Hmph. Hopefully she’ll remember to pick up a Metro tomorrow.

Photo: Anonymous. Copyright Hulton Deutsch Collection/Corbis

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Family cover
Props to anyone who can keep tabs on Devendra Banhart, never mind secure the wayward folkster in their viewfinder for long enough to snatch anything more discernible than a blurred wash of sequins, face paint and hair. But that’s exactly what photographer Lauren Dukoff has done repeatedly over years of hanging out with Banhart, and the results – along with stunning shots of musicians including Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan, Joanna Newsom, Vetiver and Vashti Bunyan – are laid bare in her new book Family, published by Chronicle Books. And here’s a sniff:

Family trio
Family group shot
Family Banhart
Family theatre 
Sand dune romps, spontaneous jam sessions and the make-up boxes of drag queen dreams – it’s enough to make you want to put yourself up for adoption. Failing that, though, get thee to (the book, obviously. And) the brilliant Chronicle Books Family site for behind-the-shoots videos and scrawled negatives set to a soundtrack from the Family folks.

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It’s the cherry on top of one of Bristol’s most spirited spots – where jolly, jeering street drinkers rock beneath crumbling walls sporting Banksy originals; afternoon gig-goers spill out onto pavements from cafes-cum-gig venues to puff on their rollies; the spitting hiss of vats and vats of boiling oil sizzles from rows of red-topped takeaways to mingle with wheeze of rattling spray paint cans over the engine growls and scooter-horn squeals of the humming Gloucester Road. Ahh… Stokes Croft – the Here Gallery and Bookshop.

Since its doors were opened by siblings Ben and Kate O’Leary in 2003, not-for-profit creative cooperative Here has been bringing art books, small-press publications, comics and a whole host of crafty cuts to the folks of Bristol and beyond. And that’s not all; the shop sits above Here’s gallery space, which is currently exhibiting The Joyful Bewilderment from The Outcrowd Collective.
 Outcrowd Collective poster
Here Bookshelf

You are Here: Ben

You are Here: Ben

And 2008 saw the Here family branching out there and everywhere – well Falmouth, to be precise. “As well as providing a welcoming atmosphere, and a meeting place for like minded individuals, Here and Now [showcases] new artwork from local students and established artists,” says Kate O’Leary, who’s at the helm in Falmouth while Ben steers the good ship Here back in Bristol. Wish you were here? Check out the Flickr feed for a guided tour.

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Loops Logo

Right now, the news of the birth of the literary love child of Faber & Faber and Domino Records has made me happier than if that stalk were to drop a swimming pool onto the toasting tarmac outside my flat. Yes, two of the UK’s most exciting independent creative names have got it together, and the fruit of their toils is Loops, a twice-yearly journal of music-related textual gubbins available in the form of 224 glorious pages.


“Free from the shackles of release schedules,” say the journal’s creators, “Loops provides a space for artists to publish tour diaries, non-sequiturs and think-pieces and an opportunity for writers to stretch out and go off-map to share their thoughts and ideas.”

Issue 1’s release-unleashed contributors include Nick Cave (who presents his article ‘The Death of Bunny Munro’), Nick Kent (on Nick Drake) and some people not called Nick, including, of course, the culture-corpse vulture of the blogosphere, one Maggoty Lamb.

And (in case you aren’t already wiping the flecks of excitement-/heatwave-induced sweat from your keyboard…) readers also receive their own code with which to crack into the free Domino Records sampler. Loops, welcome to the world.

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