Category Archives: Arts

“Musicians are taught to accept the dole”

Musicians are not being taught to think like business people, they’re being taught to think like someone who’s been given the dole” remarks Daniel Jacobsen, founder of Diatribe Records and musician, known as ‘Zoid’.  Daniel used to be organising the release of niche records with his label, all in the genre of jazz and electronica. Diatribe’s focus was experimental, non-commercial music – the emphasis was art. Recently, Daniel’s had a change of mindset, leaving his label business to one side and engaging in personal pursuits – teaching and creating music. But why the change? “Artistically I wanted to refocus, and you can’t really focus on a label when your interests musically are somewhere else. You need to be into every release.”

Daniel Jacobsen performing at Red Bull Music Academy, Melbourne, 2006
Daniel Jacobsen performing at Red Bull Music Academy, Melbourne, 2006

Daniel explained that his label, Diatribe Records, relied heavily on Arts Council funding, and this drove him away from the company he created, “Diatribe runs financially – exclusively by Arts Council Ireland funding. It’s just the way the jazz music scene and the contemporary classical music scene works. It’s not commercial music and doesn’t look like it ever will be. It just rubbed the wrong way with me – how we put the money together.


The funding behind Diatribe’s existence is described as a “contentious point” to talk about by Daniel, and notably funding for independent arts is considerably different in Northern Ireland. There is significantly less funding available for art projects in Northern Ireland. Arts Council NI state they have £13 million ready to support arts projects within the country – compare this to the Arts Council of Ireland, who have a poultry €56.9 million (£47 million) to spare on similar projects. That’s over three times as much funding available throughout Ireland when compared to Northern Ireland. With regards to individual support, the Northern Irish Arts Council will provide up to £1,500 per project – in Ireland, €10,000 (£8,240) is available per project.


Yet, this could be a great safety net for artists to have behind them in Ireland – the ability to develop a project with serious financial pedigree. It’s safe if you get it” explains Daniel. “In the longer run it’s very impermanent. You never know if you’re going to get a grant the next year because there’s a lot of competition for grants. You have to have a good track record – some people say they never get them. I had a good track record though, Diatribe has a good track record, they get a lot.


Diatribe Records
Diatribe Records logo

Surely, the sense of freedom the artist feels is enormous by getting financial support? “You think when you get the funding you can do whatever you want, but it just doesn’t work like that. You put an application in writing, I’m going to do X. Y. Z. and then they [Arts Council of Ireland] either say yes or no. If they say yes, then you get the money and you’ve to do what you said you’re going to do – but you already got the money. It’s weird, it takes away all the drive,” explains Daniel. “I’ve heard of people owing the Arts Council three projects while living in Berlin, living off the money”. Daniel reflects with a purist sentiment, “the only way to make music worth listening to, is when it’s driving you really hard – that you have to do it.”


Daniel himself has a sharp tongue, candidly putting his point across and elaborating with precision. Years of experience echoed in his words. Despite this, our conversation could pass as a lecture, his elaborations full of wisdom and knowledge rather than open-ended arts talk.  As he spoke about past experiences Daniel sounded very business saavy. The excess financial backing the Arts Council provided in the past has moulded his business ethos into stoicism. In contrast, he claims, being a musician at the beginning of his career made him “anti-business.”


Daniel claims his music went down an “extreme” path, and it’s true his sound was zealously complex. Daniel Jacobsen or Zoid would often combine Jazz composition with electronics and glitch noises [click here for a review of Zoid’s recent release]. “Jazz training’s what I blame for that… I think in any arts school, there’s a focus on being the most original and the most inventive and you have to be different from everyone else. You end up going down a really extreme path. That’s what happened to my music before. It was quite extreme, in terms of… everything.” [click here to listen to Daniel Jacobsen’s previous work]

The first 'Zoid' release (2012) - a huge volume of work featuring jazz musicians across Ireland
The first ‘Zoid’ release (2012) – a huge volume of work featuring jazz musicians across Ireland

The word before means much throughout Daniel’s previous words, as Zoid is changing, becoming increasingly minimal and accessible in musical form. You might even be able to dance along while listening his recent release. Daniel reflects, “You can’t have everything complex. I used to do everything complex.” [click here to listen to unreleased work by Daniel Jacobsen]


As the interview began Daniel recounted his steps while starting up Diatribe Records, “I used to work in a petrol station and there was another guy who worked there – we’d just sit in another room when there was no cars coming in, listening to techno and talking about setting up a label. We put out two 12” vinyl’s of techno, one was mine, and one was a very good DJ and producer, Alan Doven. That was the start of Diatribe. After that – we didn’t do anything for seven years… It was an exercise in losing two thousand quid!

Business was at the forefront of his comments throughout our Skype conversation – mistakes, awareness, failure. Yet for the first time in his career, business has become an extension of his art.


“Burn Your Fire for No Witness” is the second full-length LP by Missouri-born singer-songwriter Angel Olsen.

This LP, for this reviewer’s money, is of exceptional quality: lyrically and musically.

“Burn Your Fire for No Witness” marks something of a departure from her 2012 full-length debut, Half Way Home, and an even greater deviation from the marker she threw down in her 2011 break-out EP Strange Cacti.

Both of those releases were distinguished by Olsen’s most enduring qualities: stark honest writing coupled with rich siren-like vocals. The addition of a backing band and the prominence of grunge-era electric guitars buzzing in slacker elegance throughout much of this album, does little to change that.

What we have here is a collection of eleven beautifully crafted songs in equally simple but refreshingly effective arrangements: some of them are quiet, others are audibly much louder than what we’re used to when it comes to Angel Olsen.

What both these kinds of song manage to do is provoke and excite as well as humble in equal measure (“Hi-Five” and “Iota” spring to mind immediately), as Olsen has always done.

“Burn Your Fire for No Witness”, from a lyrical standpoint, is somewhat less opaque than any of Olsen’s previous work.

No one could accuse Olsen of being prescriptive in her approach to song-writing: her’s is wildly cosmic but ultimately very visceral – real.

Many of the songs on this LP deal with loneliness and estrangement within relationships and love more generally. Compared with her previous work, Olsen is evidently more confessional and frank in her writing.

“Unfucktheworld” is one such example of this and shows Angel Olsen at her very (usual) best. The album opener is a track that would not sound out of place on any of her previous work, but with the addition of John Congelton to this project is quite telling here: Olsen’s voice is almost a dull hum throughout, as if played through a tube amplifier. The effect is hauntingly beautiful.

All things considered, the opener here is Olsen’s default setting: voice and acoustic guitar draped in wet reverb driven by frank riveting lyrics. The real treats on this album come later in the shape of ‘new’ tracks – the raucous, sultry and louder numbers – “Forgiven/Forgotten”, “Hi-Five” and “Lights Out”.

As far as sophomore albums go, this is impressive. If this marks a change – a new direction – it is a positive one. As Angel Olsen’s overall sound evolves so too will her appeal widen, and that for me is no bad thing. On the strength of this album’s lyrics alone Olsen’s career should reach the cosmically spectral heights that bely her general ethereal aesthetic. Her voice may not be for everybody, but as a work of art this album has to be admired for its frankness and bravery.

Art Review: ‘I can say this with absolute certainty. I was there’

I can say this with absolute certainty. I was there.
“I can say this with absolute certainty. I was there.”

The collaboration of knives, forks and newspapers make for an interesting exhibition at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast, by artist Sue Morris and University of Ulster lecturers Greg McLaughlin and Steve Baker

The exhibition centres around the idea of conflicting perceptions of historical events and the relationship between an eye witness account of an incident compared to a politically driven, official statement.  The events explored in the exhibition are the Miner’s Strike of 1984, Bloody Sunday and the Hillsborough Stadium disaster.

Art and academia collide, with Greg McLaughlin and Steve Baker abandoning their usual medium of print to take their first steps into the art world with this interesting multimedia installation, which is split into three galleries.

The first gallery focuses on the idea of the eyewitness testimony and for me it was the most personal and thought provoking piece.  It was set in quite a still and isolated kitchen environment with a real eyewitness account of Bloody Sunday on the table and echoing eerily through speakers. What resonated with me was my first impression of the space, it seemed simple on the surface and the domestic setting was something any viewer could relate to, but when you looked closer and listened more intently, you could see and hear a very personal, raw and real account of what was experienced by an eyewitness to Bloody Sunday.

The second gallery provided a montage of images from the Miner’s Strike, Bloody Sunday and the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, playing continuously on opposite walls.  I think Baker, McLaughlin and Morris successfully portrayed the idea of distraction and contradiction of media consumption, as each of the events opposed each other and the sounds and images playing collectively ended up distorting one another.

The third gallery cleverly mirrored the first, with the domestic kitchen setting presenting itself again but with a highly mediated make over.  Each element of the kitchen setting was individually covered in newsprint and the sound of news bulletins from Bloody Sunday played on loop in the background.  This gallery was the most controversial in my opinion, as the concept of a private and homely space was diluted with black and white newspaper, dull lighting and the sound of radio news.

The culmination of the three spaces, which were interconnected and open, showed the effects of propaganda on the everyday environment and how it can distort and contradict the idea of a first hand account and the integrity of what a witness experiences.

Greg McLaughlin, Steve Baker and Sue Morris have successfully made art and academia accessible  to those they would not normally reach, by collaborating together and going beyond the academic.  ‘I can say this with absolute certainty.  I was there’ is a fascinating and moving glimpse into Bloody Sunday, The Hillsborough Stadium disaster and The Miner’s Strike, focusing on what connects each of these events and how they have been distorted by the media message.

The exhibition has been short listed for the EVA International, Ireland’s Biennial of Contemporary Art.

Silhouette see off songwriters’ festival


Portstewart Songwriters’ Festival concluded on Sunday night with an intimate gig from Silhouette.

The Anchor Bar was the venue for the charismatic Shauna Tohill to showcase her talents with her band. The small bar quickly filled up as the band grabbed the crowd’s attention with slow rocker ‘Running Against The Wall’. Shauna’s voice shines on the catchy chorus and a driving bass line had heads nodding.

The funky ‘Volume Destroyed’ displayed the vocal harmonies the band is capable of with a perfect pop swagger. ‘Precious Time’ followed, a bluesy number with an epic outro that showed just how tight the band are.

The crowd settled down once the opening vocal harmonies of ‘Little Voices’ worked their magic with a sense of longing and desperation, but the room was immediately picked up with what the band called their wild card, ‘Rip Up My Heart’. A fun rocky number, it differs from the usual Silhouette style but it served its purpose as a great bit of fun to pick the crowd up with some chunky riff work from the band.

Shauna grabbed the spotlight with ‘Put The Silence on Hold’ and ‘Foxes’, which both served to show just how special her voice and song-writing talents are. The former is a great ballroom ballad off their debut EP and shined in the set. After getting the crowd laughing saying ‘Foxes’ came from a time when she genuinely considered running away and living with a pack of foxes, Shauna delivers some powerful vocals, full of introspection with an emotive chorus.

New song ‘Can You Feel It?’ showed the maturity in Shauna’s song-writing with some powerful lyrics and vocal work building up to an eye-widening breakdown in the bridge.

Naturally, the set finished with the famous ‘Can’t Keep Up’. Shauna joked that we were all probably sick of it by now, but that definitely wasn’t the case as the crowd joined in with the infectious intro and ended the night on a high.

50 Shades of Red, White and Blue theatre review

GBL Productions Belfast-based X-rated spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey  is a play not to be missed. “It’s PURE AMAZEBALLS so it is!”

What started as a joke Facebook page quickly escalated into 29,000 followers and the consequent books, Fifty Shades of Red, White and Blue, Dirty Dancin’ in le Shebeen and her more recently Maggie’s Feg Run. 

book cover         The second book      Most recent book


Lisa Harkers smash hit sensation hit the stage at the Mill due to popular demand for two nights only. After coming to the stage in January 2013 it had two sell-out runs at the Mac and the Grand Opera House.

Photo taken at the playBig bed and wardrobe backdrop

The play is directed by Martin Lynch and is produced by Martin Lynch and Joe Rea who are well known for The George Best Story and A Night With George. Caroline Curran magically brings the three characters of Maggie Muff, Sally Ann and Mr. Red White and Blue in the one-woman play to life in an astounding performance!

The infectious character of Maggie Muff tells the story of her life on ‘le road’ and her search for love. Maggie and her big mate Sally Ann introduce us to a hysterical world of ‘bonies and bucky’. Of course we cannot forget the antics between Maggie Muff and the‘buckalicious Mr. Red White and Blue from le Bru’ or Sinead ‘the tea leaf greener’. Maggie on her bed“The atmosphere in the auditorium was electric and it was non-stop laughter. The set was basic but effective and included some great movement which involved Maggie pushing around and hiding behind a heart shaped king sized bed. The Paris Hilton duvet typically Maggie”

The broad Belfast accent might be hard for visitors to follow and the demographic links to the City hard to connect to but Caroline Curran pulls off the Belfast slang perfectly.

Even after having read the book myself hearing Maggie’s antics all over again was fabulous. I too went home with an aching belly from laughing so hard. Whether it’s a night out with the girls, mother and daughter time or even a date night with your partner you’ll laugh from start to finish.

Maggie Muff is back again at the Mill in the sequel Dirty Dancing in le Shebeen which is sure to be another guaranteed geg. If it’s anything as good as the book you’ll definitely have “The time of your life.”

Tickets are available for Harkers plays at the Theatre at The Mill Box Office.

It should be noted that the production contains content of an adult nature. The humour and sexually explicit language is not for the faint hearted.

Bates Motel; Review


Imaginative interpretation inspired by ‘Psycho’

Bates Motel is an imaginative interpretation of the teenage life of Norman Bates and can therefore be regarded as a prequel to the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic, Psycho.

At the end of Psycho we are only given a glimpse into the destructive relationship that Norman Bates had with his mother. This series definitely satisfies any curiosity one might have of just what that relationship might have looked like.



Freddie Highmore gives an authentic performance as a young Norman and soon to be killer. A seemingly normal teenage boy who moves, with his mother, into the iconic house on the hill which overlooks the newly purchased family motel.

Norma Louise Bates is played by Vera Farmiga. If it wasn’t for the fact that we know the fate of Norman, we would be forgiven for thinking that Norma is a sincere mother who wants the best for her son, but there are moments when this volatile relationship shows sinister signs that something quite disturbing is being cultivated.

“Disturbing and uncomfortable”

The on screen chemistry between Freddie and Vera is, at times, electric – and because of the story line, coupled with the fact that we know Norman’s fate – it is also entertainingly disturbing and uncomfortable.

Particularly when a local girl, Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz), shows an interest in the new guy in town.

The tension conjured up on the porch of the creepy house is chillingly reminiscent of the scene directed by Hitchcock when Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) asks ‘mother’ if Marian Crane (Janet Leigh) can have supper.

Desperate to start a new life for her and Norman, it is obvious from the start that Norma has no intention of letting go of Norman.


The show is set in the modern age

Norman Bates is a ‘regular’ teenage student equipped with the essentials, including an Iphone.

But it is obvious from the outset that something is a miss given the mysterious absence of detail surrounding his fathers death, the lack of clarity on the fractured relationship between Norma and her other son, Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot), and an ‘incident’ with the previous owner of the motel.

The show is littered with subtle nuances and inferences to the older Norman Bates that we are familiar with and leaves the viewer in constant and gripping suspense.

Created by Anthony Cipriano and directed by Tucker Gates, this series promises to offer intriguing insight to one of Total Film’s top 100 movie characters of all time.

Andy Warhol exhibition review by Clodagh Rice

Warhol gets more than “fifteen minutes of fame” in Belfast

Andy Warhol exhibition at the MAC

A collection of pop art pieces by the iconic Andy Warhol can now be seen in Northern Ireland for the first time.

It is particularly impressive for the new MAC gallery to be hosting his work given the gallery opened in Belfast less than one year ago. This exhibition is part of the ARTIST ROOMS collection, jointly owned by Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland.

More than 500 guests attended the launch of this collection including deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness and the Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with Anne McReynolds, Chief Executive and Len O'Hagan, Chairman of the MAC during the Warhol preview

First time visitors will notice the unusual structure and layout of the modern building which is currently housing Warhol’s work. Chairman Mao, Hamburger, Cow Wallpaper and Marilyn Monroe are among Warhol’s most recognisable pop art pieces in the exhibition.

The tall gallery is filled with some of colourful prints displayed in busy clutters of different sizes of frames. In contrast, the large gallery displays his later work in a stark setting – a large open, white space.

The visual work of Warhol is also displayed in a room with his ‘silver floatations’ which consists of metallic balloons shaped like pillows that float in the air due to the presence of an electric fan. Clips of his most famous films can also be seen in the basement gallery.

A programme of Warhol-inspired events has also been created as part of the Warhol season including a Studio 54 club themed night. The full programme can be found here.

As one of the artists who had the greatest influence on popular culture, Andy Warhol’s pieces appeal to people of all ages. The significance of his collection being in Belfast will promote Northern Ireland as a cultural tourist destination, coupled with the City of Culture being held in Londonderry this year. Entry is free to visitors and the event will run throughout all three galleries until 28th April. For more information check out the gallery’s website:

The new Cathedral Quarter

By Niamh Ferguson

Yesterday saw the opening of the MAC theatre in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The Metropolitan Arts Centre, or MAC, contains two theatres and three art galleries as well as a rehearsal space and dance studio. This new complex will bring a lot to the area but will it enhance or detract from the smaller clubs and performance spaces within this tightly knit and long-established artistic pocket of the city?

I spoke to Graeme Watson, founder of Big Laughs, Belfast. He said: “I think the MAC, and particularly the incredible plaza around it, St Anne’s Square, will make the Cathedral Quarter one of the most exciting and hopefully buzzing parts of Belfast.”

With so many state of the art facilities in one building at the heart of the artistic Cathedral Quarter, some have concerns that it may push out smaller independent venues in the area, or turn out to be a flop itself. However, with a wide range of events scheduled until the end of the year, the MAC looks set to bring a diverse selection of art and entertainment to Belfast, some hoping that it will benefit all the surrounding bars, venues, and restaurants.

Graeme runs comedy nights in and around the area, particularly in the Black Box. I asked him whether he thought the MAC would detract from the smaller performance spaces in the area but he said:  “The MAC feels like a much more formal venue, a very middle class arts space, while I think the Black Box has its roots in a more bohemian, alternative and counter-culture kind of arts scene. I think they can both co-exist happily.”

Some famous faces have already been booked to perform in the MAC. Diarmuid Corr (BBC’s Sketchy) is set to appear in June under the Big Laughs’ name. Graeme hopes this will be great for his company as well as the theatre.  “I’m excited that the Diarmuid Corr show will be the first stand-up comedy gig in the MAC as well. That feels special, especially as I’m sure the MAC will probably be a hot tourist attraction for the next 30 years.”


World Film Locations: Paris- Book Review

By Nadejda Vidinova

World Film Locations: Paris is published as part of the World Film Locations series, which explore famous cities through the lenses of various directors. This volume, edited by Marcelline Block, is written by a number of contributors and contains an equally varied filmography. It sets out to examine Paris through discussion of scenes, which take place in the French capital, in 46 carefully chosen films. From the oppressive atmosphere of film noir, to the bohemian youthfulness of cinema du look, this selection of films aims to show the many different faces of the city of love and its people.

The aim is not to create something akin to a travel guide, which provides mainly factual information. Instead, the locations are connected to the stories of the characters, and almost become an additional character themselves.  He imagined and the “internal” Paris is just as important as the physical, realistic Paris of cinéma verité.

The films are dealt with in chronological order, from oldest to newest. The book is organised into six sections, which discuss different film scenes and locations.  Crime, fantasy, musicals, dramas and science fiction are just some of the film genres featured.

Each section is rounded up by a longer essay called Spotlight. These provide insight into a particular topic- the work of first female film maker Alice Guy-Blaché and her quirky, working-class orientated films with peculiar titles like The Drunken Mattress and Sausage Chase; the outsider’s take on Paris, represented by émigré directors and set designers in the 1930’s- just to name a couple.

World Film Locations: Paris has no real narrative, but the maps, text and photographs complement each other and create continuity. The book is clearly intended for an educated audience, with some basic knowledge of film.

One of the main strengths of the book is its visual approach. Some other literature tends to neglect this element. Since film is a visual art, it makes sense to use striking images to complement the text.. The photographs used are eye-catching, although some could be slightly bigger and of better quality.

Overall, World Film Locations: Paris is a very enjoyable volume. It is informative, without being too involved or overloading the reader. The clear and concise style makes it easy to read at one’s leisure or to use for academic purposes. An excellently edited work.      

World Film Locations can be purchased on Amazon.

Author: Various

Publisher: Intellect Ltd

Rapturous reception for Oliver at An Grianán

A review by Will Burton

Building on the success of Annie last year, the Letterkenny Musical Society has produced another warm and lovable play for the loyal An Grianán audience. I have to admit that I do not have any recollection of reading or watching Oliver Twist before. It is hard to believe I know, given how popular the novel and the much loved musical adaptations are. Even more embarrassing is that I am from Portsmouth, where the author was born.

The production of Oliver Twist at An Grianian was the perfect introduction to the story with great performances by all the actors. The children in particular stood out, and delivered a performance to be proud of as for some it was their stage debut.

Mr Bumble is played by Highland Radio’s very own Donal Kavanagh, and his character’s looming presence is superb on stage. He towers over the children in the workhouse and booms when Oliver asks for more gruel for dinner. The softer side of Mr Bumble is thrilling to watch as his wandering eye is drawn closer and closer to Widow Corney, played by Maria Heekin.

The music was beautiful with renditions of “Food, Glorious Food”, “I’d Do Anything”, “Oohm Pah Pah” and “Who Will Buy?”, which wooed the audience with some of them even singing along.

The characters’ costumes and make-up were very effective. Fagen, the spindly crook and chief pick-pocketing orchestrator, sang with a faux innocent, “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two,” which delighted the audience.  Fagen’s protégé, Bill Sykes, seems to be behind every corner on the stage, thundering and stomping his menacing boots everywhere.

The theatre was full for the performance on Thursday night with people of all ages. Scene after scene was concluded with rapturous rounds of applause and deservedly so.  The musical was produced by the Letterkenny Musical Society for the second time. In 2000 the show was very warmly received and judging by tonight’s performance, the cast can expect the same rave reviews by the public and media alike.