Do you think Clevedon could get an award as the UK Town of Culture?
You’ve heard of the City of Culture – this year, it’s Leeds, but an interesting idea that has been raised by the M.P. Yvette Cooper is to extend this to towns as well! When I heard this, I immediately thought that as Clevedon already fosters such a thriving arts and culture community, we would genuinely be worthy of greater attention. (Town of Culture 2025 Clevedon, North Somerset!)
Well, so far, sadly, this idea has not been implemented – but let’s hope it gets raised again. Why do I think we have a thriving arts community? Well, let’s have a look.
We have The Theatre Shop bringing us the best of professional touring theatre; an impressive film programme at the Curzon, which also boasts live comedy, music, and performance throughout the year, as does Clevedon Pier; the wonderful Literary Festival More than Words supported by Clevedon BID and providing us with a host of accessible poetry, prose, performance, art, and music related events; Books on the Hill with its author events and the birth of BOTH publishing; the live music festivals at the Bandstand and Queen’s Square showcasing vibrant multi-cultural music; the Clevedon Music Club who have been staging concerts in the town for over 70 years; the fabulous Riff Corner attracting some fine local bands as well as big names from further afield; regular presentations and workshops from Clevedon Civic Society and their Local History Group, Clevedon Art Club, and our local Art Historian Jonathan Camp: Clevedon and District Archaeological Society; a newly refurbished library; the C.A.S.A courses; the thriving Twinning Association that works so closely with our twin towns of Epernay, Ettlingen and Middelkerke; the Salthouse Pub with its regular live music, music festivals, recently introduced Comedy Evenings and the newly formed Supper Theatre Group – The Salthouse Players; the inclusion of a number of Clevedon-based artists and venues in the North Somerset Arts Week; the wealth of art at Clevedon Craft Centre and Fizz Gallery; exhibitions staged by Polodango; Clevedon Cars & Coffee, a new community for classic and vintage car enthusiasts and a vast number of music and arts events across the town in our churches, pubs, clubs, bars, and restaurants.
Add to that the amateur dramatic groups such as CLOC, Clevedon Comedy Theatre Club, the Clevedon Players, and the Clevedon Gilbert & Sullivan Society; all that is on offer for children and young people in the shape of CLOC Juniors, Tillie’s School of Performing Arts, Re:ACT, Great Western Youth Theatre at St. Andrews and you’d have to agree it’s pretty impressive.
It is these organisations, clubs and societies that I promote on the “What’s on in Clevedon?” pages of the website: Check them out here and get in touch if you would like anything added.
Let’s take a look at what Maureen and the Clevedon Live Music team have planned for us on 29th April.
The jewel in the crown of their latest Music Festival taking place in Queen’s Square is Matuki, who have been playing together since 2014. Matuki are an eclectic group of musicians from very different backgrounds, races, and ages. They are very proud of their place on the Bristol music scene and see the make-up of their 12-piece band as being representative of this wonderful city, which has inspired so many.
Matuki are a high-energy band playing an exciting concoction of world music by fusing traditional Gambian rhythms and storytelling with Afrobeat, utilising tuff basslines, pulsating drumming, soaring harmonies, and sizzling horns. They are fronted by charismatic master composer, vocalist, and drummer Ebou Sanyang who sings in four languages.
Ebou is supported by the incredible kora player Suntou Susso. The kora – a harp-lute with 22 strings – is unique to the Griots of the Mandinka people. Griots have a unique societal role as oral historians, transmitting and preserving a people’s culture through the generations in song, music, and poetry.
As an acknowledged master of the kora, Suntou was invited to perform alongside world-famous Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour at the O2 in 2018.
Matuki’s first live gig was at Glastonbury in 2015, and to this day they are not quite sure how this happened. Ebou and fellow band member lead guitarist Jerry Short had written some new songs and put together a video which they submitted very late to the Glastonbury team. They think someone must have cancelled, but whatever the reason, they were invited. A short but intense, highly pressurised period of time led to a fabulous set that became the basis for their first album Injo.
Other highlights for the band include performances at: the Chai Wallah stage at Shambala, Love Box, Secret Garden Party, Valley Fest, Farmfest, Elderfields, Common Ground, Kendall Calling, Green Man, and support slots for Quantic, Craig Charles Funk and soul shows, The SoulJazz Orchestra and Dele Sosimi.
Matuki’s first album (Injo) is a must listen, you can find this on all streaming platforms. They’ve also released a single, seven inch vinyl in autumn 2016 with Manchester based record label Stutter and Twitch, They’ve completed their second album which they will be touring with this summer.
Check out some of Mayuki’s fabulous reviews:
“Matuki are clearly an accomplished ensemble underpinning the sound is a funky and relentless wah-wah guitar with a punching base leading the tight Rhythm section, saxophone and trumpet effortlessly punctuate” Songlines Magazine.
“Matuki are the godfathers of afro-funk” Craig Charles
Matuki is the last to perform at 7.00 p.m. but the first to take the stage are:
Squirrel Sisters at 1.00 p.m. There’s been a lot of local interest in The Squirrel Sisters who perform regularly at the Old Inn so I was keen to find out more about them. The band was formed around 2015 and consist of Anne on vocals and percussion; Will on guitar and vocals; Patrick on guitar and vocals; Sara on bass; and Mike on drums and vocals.
The name originated as a nod towards the Scissor Sisters with Sara’s love of squirrels thrown into the mix. The band has had various line-ups over the years but the basic philosophy of the Squirrels has stayed the same which is to cover a variety of songs from the 50s/60s to the 2010s and to provide fun entertainment in a variety of venues.
From Glasgow originally, teenage Anne and her best friend started the Edinburgh-based all-girl punk band the Ettes in the late 70s. While living in London in the 80s she joined in on vocals for a brief spell with West Country-based The Terraplanes’ bluesy post-punk. The 90s-2010s saw her singing with the DD Wonder Choir and later as part of 6 piece acapella harmony group Hot Flush, performing at events around Bristol. Summer of 2018 Anne took part in a showcase event for the upcoming documentary film ‘Since Yesterday: Unsung Women Pioneers of Scottish Pop ’ at Leith Theatre as part of EIF of music. Anne stepped up to the mic for Squirrel Sisters in March 2018 and has lived in Clevedon since 2020.
Teenage Patrick became fascinated by the guitar, constructing several from scratch with a view to learning a few licks. Rock and blues influences led to playing in a punk band at university and the backing group behind Rowan Atkinson’s Edinburgh Fringe Review. Jumping onto the back of a lorry to join a band playing Jonny B Goode at a CND march led to a couple of appearances as a warm-up act at Glastonbury, with MANA – Musicians against Nuclear Arms. Moving from London to Bristol in the early 90’s family took precedence but he played in the Blue Mangos for several years while they were active, and for 20 years, he has been in the party band BLT playing for birthdays and weddings, occasionally bringing out his trombone.
Guitarist Will is from Brighton and played in a number of bands there in the 1970s, notably the proto-punk Austin and the A40s. More recently, he played in the London band the Oral Sect before moving to Clevedon in 2014. As well as now being a Squirrel, he is an experienced session player and producer.
Sara played in a variety of all-girl and girl/boy line-ups in London throughout the 80s. She gigged regularly in and around London, playing from Goth (Faint Hearts and Sins) to Pop (Permanent Waves) to Electronica (Monomix). Her final gig in 89 was at the Rock Garden in Covent Garden where at eight months pregnant her only rider was that the venue provides her with a chair on stage. Fast far forward to 2012. Sara was asked to dep in a reunion gig for an all-girl punk band. The gigging bug returned and eventually after a few other ventures Bass Squirrel was born in 2015. Originally from Bristol, Sara has lived in Clevedon since 2018
Drummer Mike is originally from London, he’s a very well-travelled member of the band and enjoys playing pop, rock, and country. Mike joined his first band in the West of Scotland. Musical and professional careers have followed each other from Scotland to the Medway area in England, Plymouth. Gibraltar, and finally, back to England around the Bath area. Notable bands include The New Pence, Tommy Lacey Trio, Contrast, Country Special, and Bear-Faced Country.
Martin Horler at 2.00 p.m. will be known already by many locals as he regularly does open mic nights across the town including Tuesday nights at the very popular Riff Corner. For those who may not have heard of it, Riff Corner, situated on the former site of a 19th-century temperance café is a live music bar opened in September 2022 by musician Steve Treble, and his business partner Sylvie Dagaillier who runs the highly successful Bristol Fridge in Clifton Village. (Image from Somerset Live)
Initially, The Riff Corner opened five nights a week with live music on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights and from 5.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. on Sundays but such is its popularity it’s now open from 3.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and from 2.30 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. on a Sunday.
The bar has already attracted some big names – Reef guitarist Jack Bessant and Massive Attack drummer Damon Reece appeared mid-March and at the end of March the Fruit Jazz Ensemble, featuring Kasabian drummer Ian Matthews and John Baggott, a keyboard player who has worked with Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant and Scottish rock band The Waterboys. Check out the Rif Corner here but for more detail and updates, I would strongly recommend their Facebook page.
Martin and his Clevedon-based band Tide Up play blues, bluesy rock, and bluegrass-style covers.
Martin only started doing open mic and local festivals about seven years ago after being dared to (after a few drinks on New Year’s Eve) and, since then, has just carried on. He put the Tide Up band together before Covid, and they were starting to play gigs when lockdown hit. Post lockdown, it has really picked up again, and they have several gigs booked at places like The Limehouse, The Railway in Yatton for the King’s Coronation, The Sailing Club, The Old Inn, The Oak, and Scarlett’s. They also play at the Seven Stars in Bristol.
Martin works as a Clinical Psychologist and has a private practice based in Clevedon. Becoming involved in music and performing has helped him to appreciate ways of overcoming anxiety, finding ways to de-stress, and also achieve a fulfilling life, which is probably the best remedy for good mental health!
On the occasion of the Queen’s Square festival on 29th April Martin will be there with his bass player, Glenn Farley.
Martin is followed at 2.00 p.m. by Clevedon-based acoustic guitarist and vocalist Pushkin Acacia, who has been performing R&B covers at birthday parties, open mics, and free local festivals for about six years. He’s another regular at the Riff Corner.
Pushkin Acacia is still evolving and discovering his personal style of playing. He’s going to continue to check out differing techniques on acoustic in the broader R&B lexicon by doing covers for a while longer. While he enjoys playing danceable songs around Bristol and Cardiff pubs as well as more reflective songs, inspiration has not yet led to him writing his own songs. He is mesmerised by the wide range of possibilities before him, and he’s enjoying the journey.
And at 3.00 p.m. it’s the wonderful Shanghai Shuffle composed of some of the best musicians from the South West. They will enchant you with the swinging notes of the roaring 20s, transporting you to a world of speakeasies, gin mills, and giggle water.
With a distinctive flair for bringing this much-loved music alive, they pride themselves on keeping their music fresh and accessible to all generations. Regulars at The Old Duke and other local speakeasies, they are in demand across the South West and Wales for Gatsby, Peaky Blinders and other similar events.
Next weekend they will be playing as a quintet with piano, vocals, drums, clarinet and trumpet.
Rosalind Moreno-Parra follows at 4.00 p.m. Rosalind is an English-born Spanish singer whose mother is from Madrid. With her band, she brings a passionate fusion of Ladino, Latino, Tango, and Spanish folk through both original songs and covers from Hispanic singers around the world.
Rosalind is also one of the UK’s most experienced Voiceover artists. With a background in acting and television production, she has over fifteen years of professional Voiceover experience. She has voiced everything from documentaries and links for BBC Earth & Wildvision; BBC Natural History Unit; Children’s programmes for Granada/CBBC/Hope Orchard Animation, and been the voice of hundreds of National advertising campaigns.
I was intrigued by the name of Cut Throat Francis, whose set starts at 5.00 p.m., but they’re keeping its origin a closely guarded secret. Cut Throat Francis met in London during their university years and came together as a band in Bristol in 2017. There is Harriet on vocals and washboard; Jonny on the mandolin, banjo, guitar, and saxophone; Danny on bass and melodica; and Tom on the guitar and cajon. Four musicians with ten instruments producing an Eastern European-flavoured jazzy fiesta.
They linked up with Screamlite Records to release their debut EP Ghosts (Deluxe Edition) in May 2018, recorded in Bath by producer Josh Gallop. Their relationship with ADS Records also started in 2018, and this was the year they gained widespread recognition across the festivals and venues of the southwest, albeit halted for a while during the lockdown.
They love to write music, but ultimately, their raison d’etre is to spend time with their audiences, whom they like to interact with in an up close and personal way.
They’ve said in interviews that they’re quite shy about their lyrics and tend to use song titles that don’t give the game away. But the themes of grief, harassment, and the 9-5 grind, just some of the issues they sing about, are clearly identifiable. Chicken Hands is an example of the latter and stars Hubert, the little guy who appears in much of their artwork.
Their future plans are still close to their chest at the moment, but they have been in the studio working on something for this year as well as collaborating with Spencer Flay (also from Bristol) on his next project.
At 6.00 p.m., before the epic Matuki Take to the stage at 7.00 p.m., there is a DJ audience request set run by sound engineer Steve.
I’ve listened to a lot of Matuki’s music these past few days, and I just know that what they are going to create in Queen’s Square will be magnificent.
Huge thanks once again to the Clevedon Live Music team for such a fabulous set; how on earth are they going to match this at the next Festival?
“ Keep your eyes on the Bandstand for June 11th,” says Maureen