Maximo Park, one of the biggest bands to have ever come out of Newcastle, returned to the region with a spectacular home-coming gig at The Cluny Thursday night. Paul Smith, their lead singer, is currently acting as one of four artistic advisors at the biggest festival the region has ever known.
The Festival of the North East is taking place throughout June, with Ouseburn hosting special events to express the area’s creativity.
Speaking shortly before the gig Paul expressed his enthusiasm at being granted the position.
“I was asked to be one of four artistic advisors to the Festival of the North East, which was a great honour, since I was born in Teesside, currently live in Tyneside and have close links to friends and musicians in Wearside,” he said.
Paul is joined by folk musician Kathryn Tickell, who came up with the idea for the festival, along with Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall and Angel of the North sculptor Antony Gormley.
“It’s important that the area as a whole is represented in the arts,” Paul added.
“Newcastle is so dominant culturally that sometimes the other parts of the area get side-lined a bit, which is something the festival will partially rectify. The Festival also commissioned me to write some new music so I thought it would be a good opportunity to collaborate with one of the North East‘s most respected contemporary musicians, Peter Brewis from Field Music.
“We’ll perform around 40 minutes of new music based around my travel writing, wherein the text was allowed to drive the music and Peter‘s string arrangements rather than trying to condense words into set musical structures.
“One of my roles as an artistic advisor is to make sure the festival covers more pop and rock music, since classical and folk are well represented in the programme.”
The resulting pieces will be performed in Sage Hall 2 on June 26th alongside Barographic, a new composition by Ed Carter who has used atmospheric readings in the Sage as the basis for his piece.
Are you ready for the Festival of the North East? Video below.
Despite Maximo Park’s international success – the band are shortly embarking on a mini tour of Germany– Paul retains a special attachment with the local area.
“The Ouseburn is an important element in the region’s artistic development,” he said.
“Positioned, geographically, on the fringe of the city centre, it’s ideally placed to engage in cultural practices that lie away from the mainstream.
“The Star and Shadow cinema with its radical approach to programming and its volunteer-run ethos is a good example of what can be done in more unusual locations. I love the way it has been driven by DIY culture and has blossomed into a place where outsider art and music takes place alongside community events and classic films.
“The Star and Shadow may not have flourished without the close presence of welcoming pubs and music venues like The Tanners, The Cumberland Arms and The Cluny, which are almost ubiquitous enough to not have to detail their various achievements!
“I could go on, but perhaps I’ll just say The Ouseburn is a great place to hang out generally as well as get involved in cultural activity.”
As for the gig – a one off event hosted by Jack Daniels – Paul was unwavering in his praise for Ouseburn’s grassroots music venues.
“People need places where they can see smaller bands who are never going to appeal to a mass audience,” he said.
“Many of my favourite artists play in venues the size of The Cluny and make no concessions to a mass audience – that‘s their choice.
“The other thing is that if bands do go onto a larger audience, they need a stepping stone and a place to develop before they reach larger numbers, which is another key part of the Cluny’s remit.
“Away from its ‘purpose’ in the broader sense, you can really get an amazing intimacy and atmosphere in small venues that look after their paying customers instead of treating them as mere consumers.
“Some of the best nights of my life have been in The Cluny and other small, local venues, enjoying music and the company of friends.”
There will certainly be plenty to enjoy at the Festival of the North East, with Ouseburn’s music, art and heritage being show-cased to the wider region.
With Paul as one of our representatives, we can rest assured the area is in safe hands.
Watch the video for Write This Down from Maximo Park”s most recent album The National Health.