Friday, 11 November 2011

James Hugonin At Healey

Seeing the Hugonin print ‘Three Fluctuations In Contrary Rhythm’ at this year’s International Print Biennale reminded me of his wonderful new window design at Healey Church in Northumberland. Like the print, ‘Contrary Rhythm (Glass)’ contrasts colour values within a mosaic-like pattern, but with the added impact of light shining through it rather than upon it. In total, the window uses 2,160 pieces of glass in 28 different colours, all set between two clear sheets in a precise pattern determined by the artist. Thanks to Jamie WA for pic. For more information on Hugonin's work, see

The Fall At Fibbers, York 5/11/11

In an era when rock & roll is just another branch of the service industry, going to see a band is usually about as predictable an experience as opening a box of Mr Kipling Cherry Bakewells. You know there’ll be six in the box and they’re all going to have a cherry on the top. Except with The Fall that is. If they were a box of Bakewells, you’d only get two misshapen ones, no cherries and someone would have probably stamped on them with a large army boot.

The Fall have always been a maverick experience live, but these days they’ve got it down to a fine art. Will they arrive on time? Which band member will be sacked next? Will legendary front man Mark E Smith manage more than three songs before popping out for a tab break? Part of the excitement of a Fall gig is the sense of a journey into the random that makes every performance an event and a rare manifestation of genuine Post-Punk spirit. A Dada installation even.

Tonight we were lucky. The band came on at ten and Mark E Smith was looking match-fit in smart suit and attitude. The new line-up has a tight garage rock sound and plenty of new material to play from their forthcoming CD ‘Ersatz GB’, all spiced up with an incendiary ‘Psykick Dancehall’ (from 1979's 'Dragnet') and a rousing cover of The Big Bopper’s ‘White Lightning’.

It was all over in about 40 odd – extremely odd - minutes, or so it seemed. Stragglers were treated to an encore of ‘Mr Pharmacist’ after most people had headed off home. Knowing the band, they probably wouldn’t have played again if there’d been anyone there. Who needs professionalism? With The Fall, it’s as much about the mayhem as the music. Catch up with their latest live antics on the forum pages of Fall Online at

Find An Open Mic Website

I've just discovered an excellent new website called 'Find An Open Mic'. It's the brainchild of open mic enthusiast Matt Coston and aims to provide a central resource for both promoters and musicians. There's some sound advice for rookie performers too. Give it a spin at:

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

DC Terror Cell Caught On Camera

Check out the paramilitary chic in this surveillance shot from the City Theatre, courtesy of Janiece Spence. Open mic regulars may well spot one of The Brulee Brothers amongst the 'Plan C' plotters.

Durham Pays Tribute To Bert Jansch

The Tav was rocking until well after the witching hour tonight, with entertaining sets from Honest Jack, Nick G, Carol, Ross and Chris. The highlight though was Alan's moving tribute to recently deceased folk magus Bert Jansch. Slipping into 'Dropped D' tuning, he merged 'Reynardine' with 'Blackwaterside' to great effect in an extended folk-raga excursion. Suddenly, the spirit of Bert was in the house! I felt inspired myself to chuck in Syd Barrett's 'The Gnome' and to finish the night later on with 'Sweet Jane'. A grand night all round, although the Everard's Tiger may well have helped. This new date on Tuesday has all the potential to become a happening scene.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Kokoschka's Doll

The Austrian Expressionist artist Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) was a real eccentric. When his girlfriend Alma Mahler dumped him, he decided to continue the relationship with a life-size replica made by the celebrated Munich doll-maker Hermine Moos. Kokoschka dressed his doll in the finest fashions and wheeled her round town to be his constant escort at the opera, the theatre and the best restaurants. Polite society was, of course, outraged.

Sadly, the relationship cooled in time and Kokoschka's doll was ceremonially beheaded after a riotous all-night party at his gaff. But her memory lives on as the name of a local Durham electro-acoustic project, the brainchild of composer Bob Wieck of Brancepeth Castle. I used to be in band with Bob back in the 90's and though Britpop (or Goth-Psych in our case) is now but a memory, Bob's synthesizer frenzies are still going from strength to strength. You can check out his gear at

Monday, 24 October 2011

Open Mic Moves To Tuesday

The Market Tavern sesh has now moved from Monday to Tuesday nights, starting at about 9.30 pm. This is good news all round, as you’ve got to be pretty desperate to want to go out for a drink on a Monday. I went down with Nick to do a set this week and met up with most of the usual suspects. The audience was small but appreciative and unlike the usual Wednesday mob, they do seem to want to listen to the acts. Given time, I think this could build up a good word of mouth scene, so why not give it a spin?

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh fhtagn !!!

Last weekend, I met up with some friends in Newcastle for an art crawl. I missed the first half due to sloth, but eventually caught up with everyone at The Old George Inn, just off the Bigg Market. This is the oldest pub in Newcastle and was once a favourite of King Charles I back in the 17th century. It now does a very good pint of Bass and a rather less exciting chicken baguette and chips. One of the party did however have a Toffee Apple Meltdown, which sounds more like a 60s psychedelic group than a dessert but still looked pretty tasty to me.

After lunch, it was off to the Hatton Gallery to see Kurt Schwitters' 'Merz Barn'. This is the largest surviving Dada artwork in the world and was moved here by Richard Hamilton (who sadly died recently) back in 1965. Personally, I prefer Schwitters' Merz pictures, but the barn is an impressive artefact in its own right, consisting of (you guessed it) a barn with added detritus. The Hatton is also one of the hosts for this year's International Print Biennale 2011 Print Awards and had some intriguing works on show, though for me, the real juice was the display of old 50s and 60s exhibition posters from the Hatton Archive. There's an energy to these works, which all benefit from being hand-printed posters with a Situationist vibe produced on a shoestring.

We finished off with an extended trip around Newcastle's surviving record shops. I find these places a bit dreary to be honest, as they just feel like museums to former glories rather than nerve centres of a happening scene, but maybe I'm just getting old. We did however see the most impressive work of the day, a signed poster of George Best going for a mere £350. Now that's what I call art!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Durham New Writing Festival 2011

One of Durham's best-kept secrets is the City Theatre, a tiny 100-seater venue hidden away behind the market place. The City is home to the Durham Dramatic Society who perform at least five plays a year here, many featuring certain well-known faces from the local open mic scene. This year's New Writing Festival showcased three brand-new plays and offered a welcome alternative to the usual Thug Pub Babylon available elsewhere on a Friday night.

First up was 'Plan C', a gripping play by Alan Godfrey about a bungled Irish terror plot. This was a great idea for a drama and featured some interesting merging of music and acting, with the singing of the old Irish ballad 'Reynardine' every time someone was preparing to go out on a mission. On the downside, the mixing of comedy elements detracted from the seriousness of the theme, but with an expansion of the claustrophobic central scenes, this could be a real runner. And of course, black berets and mirror shades always look good on stage.

Chris Neville Smith's 'First Sign Of Madness' was the meat in the sandwich and featured the best performance of the night, from Nicki Doyle (portrait below by Janiece Spence) as the bereaved girlfriend reflecting on her lost love. It was written in the Alan Bennett monologue style and had some excellent observation and good use of sound effects. Those tweeting birds certainly gave me the first signs of madness after 20-odd minutes.

Last up was Chris Joby's 'Crossing The Line', a high-brow comedy about obsessive Dutch Modernist Piet Mondrian. For me, this was the best-written piece of the night, with some amusing exchanges between Mondrian and the other 'De Stijl' artists Theo van Doesburg and George Vantongerloo. Like the previous play, it was ultimately a bit of shaggy dog story, but the punch-line was a killer.

Three entertaining plays for a fiver means great value and with a bar in the venue, where you can meet the cast and writers afterwards, the City provides a much more involving experience than the offerings at the Gala. The next performance will be Dennis Potter's 'Blue Remembered Hills' starting November 27th and running until December 3rd. Make a date in your diary and be sure to support your local luvvies.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Open Mic Closed Down ?

Went to the Market Tavern Open Mic last Wednesday and was told that it was the last one. The pub is under new management and they've decided to replace it with a folk night for students. There was talk of the Open Mic restarting on Monday nights, but I'm not sure exactly what's happening at the moment. Actually, I'm not all that bothered myself, as I've been going every week since the start of May and could use some time out to woodshed new material and muck around in my home studio. The plan is to get some stuff up on Soundcloud in the near future, so watch this space...

Friday, 9 September 2011

Kind Of Blue

Thanks to Dover ( ) for this Kodak Klassik.

Durham City Open Mic 7/9/11

In contrast to last week's low-key night, the Tav was rammed this evening and I ended up jacking my solo set to play a Crème Brulee giglet with Steve. We did four tracks, including our usual banging version of 'I Fought The Law' to finish. Can't remember much else, save a cracking version of 'Ziggy Stardust' from Ian. Apparently, he was nearly run over in the dodgy new market place/pedestrian death arena this week. I have been assured in a letter from our local MP Roberta Blackman-Woods that this will be sorted soon - but it was almost too late for Ian. Have the local Highways Department got no concern for the arts in our city?

Thoughts On 9/11 + 10

This Sunday is the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 atrocity in New York. The TV is full of documentaries on the subject, which must surely have been the best-documented disaster in history. In fact, I still find it incredible that I was watching it more or less live at the time from the other side of the Atlantic.

What most of these documentaries don't mention is that the building was a fire trap from the moment it was built. In 1968, the New York City building codes were changed to make it easier to pack in more lucrative office space into skyscrapers and to cut down on the non-profitable fittings such as staircases, fire towers and emergency lifts. As a result, the 110 storey World Trade Centre towers had only 3 staircases each to provide escape routes to ground level, compared to 6 in the much older 102 storey Empire State Building. It wasn't even fireproofed to the same standard. The Empire State has its steel girders encased in concrete and masonry, whereas the WTC had only a paltry half-inch thickness of fireproof foam sprayed upon otherwise exposed metal. This is crucial when steel loses a significant amount of its load-bearing strength at high temperatures.

One of the worst aspects of 9/11 was that around half of the 2,749 casualties were people trapped in the upper stories of the buildings with no possible way out. If the WTC had been built with better fire escape provision, many of these people might have had a fighting chance to escape. It's not as if the authorities weren't aware of the danger: in 1975 there was an arson attack on the building; in 1981, an Argentine airliner came within 90 seconds of hitting the WTC when it had problems communicating with air traffic controllers; and in 1993, there was a terrorist attack which claimed 6 lives.

Perhaps one important lesson the authorities should learn from 9/11 is that building regulations do matter and that safety should be given at least as much consideration as profit.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Back In Black

Big shout going out to Exposure Adjutant Dover ( ) for capturing the moment.

Market Tavern Open Mic - 31/8/11

The open mic after a bank holiday is often quieter than usual, but I wasn't expecting to be one of only two singers to turn up! In the end, Nick G and me did 14 songs each, whilst rather stupidly failing to re-negotiate the one free pint deal.

Nick ran through a substantial chunk of his Robyn Hitchcock/Half Man Half Biscuit song-book and even chucked in a rare Status Quo number from their 60's flower power period. For my first set, I did the six songs I'd actually rehearsed, but when I was called up again, decided to wing it with songs I hadn't played since my folk club days in the Tap & Spile. Luckily, the small but vocal audience got behind me as I ran through another eight tunes, including a corking version of 'Sweet Jane' that seemed to get everyone going (and not just to the exits).

Our hosts Honest Jack also did expanded sets in their usual close harmony style and Neil got up without his bandmates to do some fancy guitar instrumentals. A good night all in all and excellent practice at live performance. In fact, that's the beauty of these open mics - you get a chance to try out playing live without the bother of bringing instruments and people usually clap politely even if you're shite. So why not come on down and have a go.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Durham Open Mic On YouTube

Some kindly souls have been hard at work filming the Market Tavern scene for posterity. There's already five clips up, including these two of Honest Jack in flagrante:

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Durham Open Mic 24/8/11 - Enter The Hot Dream

As well as good performers, an open mic always needs a good audience. Last week though, the audience became the main attraction. I have no idea where the party of refreshed ladies at the front came from, but their spirited dancing and interruptions on the mic added a Bacchanalian vibe to a hot and jam-packed sesh. And despite the best efforts of Honest Jack, Fishburn Mafia and Crème Brulee, the evening's most memorable performance was undoubtedly their a cappella version of 'Ernie, The Fastest Milkman In The West'. Dionysus would have been proud.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Unfurl The Mystic Umbrellas

Connoisseurs of Ambient Dub Goth will be delighted to hear that the legendary Mystic Umbrellas CD is now available as a free download. You can get the entire 'Langton Freeman's Summer-House Tomb' album, plus cover artwork, from the following page:

On this ambitious concept piece, the Umbrellas recreate the unorthodox funeral rites of the Rev. Langton Freeman of Whilton, Northamptonshire. When he died in 1783, his body was interred in a garden summer-house as requested in his will. He had also asked to be placed upon a feather bed with a walking stick by his side, so he could enjoy his favourite country walks after the Resurrection. Now that's what I call forward planning.

Imagine Augustus Pablo jamming with The Orb in a haunted gazebo and you may get some idea of the Umbrellas' otherworldly but strangely restorative sound.

Durham Open Mic – 17/8/11

It was a quiet midsummer night’s scene at The Market Tavern this week with many artistes away on holiday. However, there was still a sizeable audience to be entertained and Honest Jack and Fishburn Mafia to hold the fort. I missed half of it as I was at the Elm Tree Pub Quiz, but despite being considerably refreshed, I was called upon to do two sets. I think I got away with it…

Monday, 15 August 2011

Exit Through The Gift Shop

The highlight of Channel 4's recent street art weekend was the new Banksy movie 'Exit Through The Gift Shop'. It purports to tell the story of a video-maker from LA who rises to fame as a clueless street artist and features not just Banksy (in hoody of course) but also US artist Shepard Fairey, best known for his Obama election poster. It really is a must-see, but like so many Banksy exploits, maintains a strong prankster element. Is there really a Mr Brainwash or is it all a big hoax ? Look around on the web and no-one seems to be sure.

A different face of Banksy was shown on the Sunday night documentary ‘Graffiti Wars’, which tells the story of his alleged feud with graffiti artist King Robbo. It’s an amusing tale of clashing egos and spray cans at ten paces, with some interesting points to make on the differences between stencil and freehand work and even street art and vandalism. Sadly, there is a shocking twist at the end when it is revealed that Robbo was badly beaten up just when he was on the verge of making it in the commercial art world. He is currently in hospital in a deep coma. As the tags say on walls all over London: ‘Get well soon Robbo !’

Durham City Open Mic 10/8/11 – The Seven Impressions

1 – Crossing Framwellgate Bridge at around 9.45 in the evening, I see Durham Cathedral silhouetted by a full moon behind the western towers. Storm clouds scud past at speed adding to the Goth vibe. Was that Nosferatu gliding through the graveyard ?

2 – Enter The Market Tavern to the full-on strumming of a visitor from Croxdale. He does a great version of ‘Blaydon Races’ later in the evening. Proceeding to the bar, I see that Adnams Broadside is on. I consume in volume.

3 – Chatting in the back room with Nick G and Fishburn Mafia to a backdrop of public disorder scenes on BBC News 24. Nick gets up to play and turns in a killer version of Half Man Half Biscuit's ‘Trumpton Riots’.

4 – My turn and I stumble towards the stage. Have difficulty remembering the lyrics to my first tune. I get up to speed and finish my set with a robust version of ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, pitched somewhere in between the Julie Driscoll and Siouxsie & The Banshees versions.

5 – Alan surprises me with two obscure classics: The Byrds’ ‘5D’ and The Hollies’ ‘King Midas In Reverse’. Pretty psychedelic or what ?

6 – On stage with Crème Brulee, we deliver a scorching ‘I Fought The Law’. After four days of rioting, our audience expects nothing less !

7 – Wake up next day with banging headache.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Pink Panther Strikes Again

Thanks to Craig ( ) for this vintage portrait from the long gone Hogshead scene.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Durham's Best Open Mic - 3/8/11

Have just got in from another pounding session at The Market Tavern, unquestionably the best open mic gig in town. Hosted by Honest Jack, there was a full bill of local luminaries on stage tonight: from Chris with his avant garde re-interpretations of the Zombies' back-catalogue to Nick G and his bulging songbook of Half Man Half Biscuit & Soft Boys covers. Fishburn Mafia were cooking with gas on a scorching version of 'Ziggy Stardust' and to close the night, it was those post-punk veterans, The Creme Brulee, who climaxed with a psychedelic raga-rock version of Echo & The Bunnymen's 'Do It Clean'. Outside the venue, DC's crisis kids roamed free on their skateboards; whilst inside, the white light/white heat of rock n'roll performance expressed people's resistance to the Coalition Junta. On a sweltering night in August, The Market Tav was the place to be.

Durham City Buskers' Night By Andy Warhol

Thanks to 'Andy' ( ) for this Warholisation of me and the barcode from a tin of tomato soup. I would like to point out that I may occasionally have a few beers before getting up to play but I rarely get totally canned.

Digital De Stael

I am currently embroiled in writing an article about the Russian artist Nicolas De Stael (1914-55). As part of my research, I've been re-imagining some of his pictures using graphics software. OK, this may lose the impasto effect of oils, but it is an interesting way to get to grips with his unusual use of form and colour. The image below is my version of De Stael's 'Fallen Leaves (Les Feuilles Mortes)' from 1951.

From The Durham Miners' Gala To The Houses Of Parliament

One of the highlights of this year's Miners' Gala was the rousing speech by Dennis Skinner, the MP for Bolsover. Despite the relentless rain, he soon had the audience worked up with a trenchant attack on David Cameron whom he memorably described as being 'educated beyond his intelligence'. I could have sworn that there was steam coming out of his ears by the end.

Only a few days later, I was watching the Westminster debate on the News International scandal when I was delighted to see the Beast Of Bolsover take centre stage again. Amidst the usual to and fro of debate, it was Skinner who asked the Prime Minister directly: 'Did you discuss the BSkyB bid in any of your meetings with News International?' Cameron looked as if he had been caught with his hand in the tuck shop till and could only reply: 'I had no improper meetings'. Needless to say, the Opposition benches fell about laughing at the pathetic inadequacy of his reply. This is actually a key issue in the whole affair and if it can be shown that Cameron agreed to help Murdoch control BSkyB in exchange for his support in the 2010 Election, then it's the end of the road for his wretched Tea Party Tory Government and their Quisling Lib Dem collaborators.

By strange coincidence, I am writing this listening to the acid folk classic 'On The Shore' by The Trees. Suddenly the song 'Murdoch' has come on, with the lyric 'Murdoch tempted me...' This must be a sign! Thanks to Chris ( ) for this Gala pic of a miners' lodge banner on the way back from the speeches. Note how they are manfully resisting the urge to have a few in The Dun Cow.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Outlook Cloudy But Favourable

Northumbria has a long and proud tradition of working in glass. This is thought to date back to the 7th Century when European craftsmen were hired to glaze the windows of St Peter's Church at Monkwearmouth. Moving this venerable tradition forward is the Danish artist Anne Vibeke Mou with her new window at Healey Church near Riding Mill. Her painstakingly crafted piece was created by punching thousands of marks on to the surface of the glass with a metal point. It is, in essence, a minimalist abstract work where the form itself is the content; but for me, it gives the distinct impression of sunlight struggling to break through an overcast sky. In the context of a church window, that image carries an extra resonance. Special thanks to Jamie for the photo; more details about the artist at

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Durham City Market Place - Public Meeting 21/7/11

Last Thursday, I went to a public meeting at St Nicholas Church to discuss the controversial redevelopment of Durham Market Place. Durham has a population of only 30,000, yet over 6,000 people felt sufficiently concerned about this scheme to object to it at the planning stage. Despite these protests, it was forced through by Durham County Council with only minor changes. So much for local democracy in Durham.

As the project is now virtually complete, only minor changes can be made to the anonymous plaza we have been left with; but the dominant concern that kept coming up in this meeting was not aesthetics but road safety. All the kerbs and pavements were removed during the redevelopment, leaving a dangerous situation where neither vehicles nor pedestrians know where they are supposed to go. One resident was so worried by this that he drove all the way back from a business trip to Nottingham just to have his say. His point was that something needs to be done pronto before someone is seriously injured or worse.

I was impressed at the way local MP Roberta Blackman-Woods chaired this meeting and also her promises of fast action on road safety and the less important issues of shoddy benches and bins. Let's hope that she can deliver. Until then, be sure to keep your wits about you on the mean and increasingly dangerous streets of DC...

Friday, 22 July 2011

Watched Over By Da Brudders

This picture is one of my faves. It was taken at The Angel last year and I love the way it's got Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy watching from the back. I wasn't playing a Ramones toon at the time, but I'm sure they would have liked my Velvets cover. Cheers Dover

Open Mic @ The Market Tavern, Durham

The Market Tavern was rocking last night with a decent crowd and lots of new faces getting up to play. Someone even fell off his stool in the excitement. As usual, it was hosted by Alex & James with other regulars The Fishburn Mafia, Nick G and of course The Creme Brulee (plus solo sets from Mr Creme and Mr Brulee). To be honest, I was a bit wary about getting up as everyone looked so pissed, but the bellowing and out-of-time clapping didn't put me off and they even seemed to like my obscure Doors cover. Better an enthusiastic audience than one that ignores you I always say. Since it has moved from Mondays to Wednesdays, this night has gone from strength to strength and is well worth a look in if you're in town. All the guitars are provided, so all you need to bring is your pick. Or just get bladdered and shout at the performers. See you there next week!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

In Flight At The Angel

An archive pic of me in action at The Angel last year. It's a shame that this open mic night bit the dust, as the venue was cool and you got two free pints when you played ! Special thanks to lensman extraordinaire Andrew Dover

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

You Live By The Sword...

The last two weeks have been the most exciting in British politics since last year's dodgy election. With astonishing rapidity, Rupert Murdoch's News International media empire has been humbled in a scandal that involves allegations of illegal phone-hacking, police corruption and the exertion of undue political influence. Already, we've seen the closure of the 'News Of The World', the resignation of top brass in the Metropolitan Police and the arrest of the former 'NOW' editor Rebekah Brooks. Today, the media mogul himself faced a gruelling questioning by MPs in the Houses Of Parliament, plus a foam pie attack. For years, he's made money out of the humiliation of others; now the boot is on the other foot.

But this is only the beginning of an unfolding scandal. The Prime Minister David Cameron has surprisingly close links with News International and if he can be shown to be a Murdoch poodle, he may yet have to resign or call a fresh election. Bear in mind that his authority is already tenuous to say the least: his party didn't win the election outright and he can only force through his hard-right policies with the connivance of the Lib Dems. Ed Miliband has finally been showing his teeth in this affair and it's directly thanks to his Commons motion that Murdoch's plan to control 100% of BSkyB was crushed. Let's hope that he can deliver Cameron's head on a platter to the long-suffering British people. This country deserves better than a suspect leader with no electoral mandate to govern.

Hey Hey We're The Creme Brulee !

I often gig in an acoustic duo with my old pal Steve Hill, the former lead singer of Eating Crow. We're called The Creme Brulee and if you've ever seen 'The League Of Gentlemen' you'll know why. The pic below is an oldie courtesy of Craig Oliphant ( ) which shows us in action at The Queen's Head, Lanchester.

Richard Thompson @ The Durham Gala Theatre

Have just got in from seeing Richard Thompson. Although I love his work with Fairport Convention, I don't actually know all that much about his solo stuff. In fact, this was the first time I've had a chance to see him live and I was totally impressed. On stage, he kept a full house transfixed for over an hour and a half with just himself and an acoustic guitar (plus occasional help from Northumbrian Folk Magus Alistair Anderson). For me, the highlights were 'Beeswing', the old Sandy Denny fave 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes' and a stunning '1952 Vincent Black Lightning'. His style is somewhere between folk and rock with lashings of male angst; imagine a British Leonard Cohen with attitude. If this is your bag, then check him out.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Ready Steady Blog

A blog has to start somewhere; or, to paraphrase Chairman Mao, the blog of a thousand entries starts with a single word. 'A' should be as good a word to start with as any, but does the indefinite article really count as a word? Oh well, it's too late to worry about that now; thanks to this drivel, my new blog is up and running on the information superhighway.

As well as the usual guff, my aim is to document a little of the thriving music and arts scene in my home town. There's a lively pub music tradition here in Durham, with a choice of community folk sessions, or banging open mic nights where you can get up and do your thing in front of a baying mob of drunks. My favourite is the acoustic night they host on Wednesdays at The Market Tavern. There's usually a good crowd and a free pint if you have the bottle to get up and play. Here's yours truly working hard for his beer...