Gwenno, PrEP, CETA and table tennis in Brighton

I have a few articles in November’s New Internationalist magazine which takes Colombia as its main focus.

For the news section I wrote about Brighton Table Tennis Club and its work with marginalised people, particularly young refugees, under its Community, Respect and Solidarity mantra. I also wrote about resistance to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a trade agreement between Canada and the European Union.

Later in the issue is a feature on PrEP, the HIV prevention medicine that has sparked excitement and activism across the world, as well as debate around how it’s used.

An interview I did with Welsh musician Gwenno Saunders earlier this year is at the back of the magazine. Taking in Wales, Cornwall and politics – three of my favourite topics, Gwenno was so nice to speak to that I didn’t want to get off the phone!

Find out more and read more articles from this issue here at the New Internationalist website

Cornish community group vows to keep fighting Lizard ‘Super Quarry’

Community Against Dean Super Quarry campaigners. By Alison McGregorOn the UK’s wild and beautiful southern tip, a rebellion is growing. People on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula have been fighting the reopening and expansion of Dean Quarry which was mothballed in 2008.

The Ecologist published a report from me on the campaign and some of the environmental issues around it. The full article is here at their website.

One the highlights of this article for me was being able to cover something happening just a few miles from where I grew up which doesn’t happen very often!

Photo: Community Against Dean Super Quarry campaigns outside court earlier this year. By Alison McGregor.

Paolo Nutini and Martha Wainwright

First appeared on Never Enough Notes on July 16 2010

Live at the Eden Project, Cornwall on July 2010

Eden Sessioners are massive fans of what they know and what they like. But if they’re not sure, they’re more than happy to just have a chat with their mates which is something that Martha Wainwright has had to cotton onto tonight: “I would talk to you but I don’t think I need to, there seems to be a lot of talking going on away” she says wryly.

After a day of sporadic torrential rain, the sun has come out for tonight’s main acts, the first of two sold-out sessions from Paolo Nutini and Martha Wainwright. It is the season finale of an epic set of gigs that has seen acts from Jack Johnson, to Mika, to Doves play in the futuristic Eden Project setting.

Wainwright starts minimally with acoustic tracks including the beautifully executed ‘This Life’. The band then melt on stage for ‘Bleeding All Over You’. There is a tranquillity to Wainwright’s set and although the crowd is chatty they still seems to be listening intently. This gig is part of her ‘Martha Sings Piaf’ UK tour and she plays three of these songs now, full of passion, dedicating one to her mother, Kate McGarrigle, who died at the beginning of this year.

This along with the premature birth of her son Arcangelo has meant that Wainwright has not had the easiest 12 months, the fact that she is back on tour and delivering great shows deserves to be highly commended but a lot of this emotion is lost here.

In contrast, Paolo Nutini springs on stage vibrant and full of enthusiasm to a crowd screaming with excitement, flanked either side of his set with the dramatic theme to The Godfather, perhaps a reference to his Italian ancestors.

Unlike many chart favourites the 23 year-old singer songwriter shows he deserves to be taken seriously as he moves effortlessly moving between reggae, soul country and pop, his band is also very adaptable. Like Wainwright, he plays a smattering of covers including a version of MGMT’s Kids and a song from Jamaican reggae star John Holt.

Despite his slightly worse for wear appearance Nutini has obviously planned this set well, saving one of his biggest hits ‘Last Request’; to the encore, the perfect ‘lighter moment’ with the same stillness that marked his performances of tracks such as ‘These Streets’ contrasting the vibrancy of ‘Jenny Don’t be Hasty’ and ’10/10′.

The show is very impressive, the whole band are giving it their all; there is some skilful VJing and lighting. Although he makes the odd mistake, Nutini’s loveable rogue smile and laid back manner means that the audience is putty in his hands and he seems to reciprocate this positivity along with a sense of awe for Eden’s futuristic setting he leaves the stage with “I love you Jurassic Park”.

8/10

 

Doves and Mumford & Sons

First appeared on Never Enough Notes on July 6 2010

Live at the Eden Project, Cornwall on 02.07.2010

Lovely. The most appropriate way to describe this year’s batch of Eden Sessions. Organised to the tiniest detail the gigs are very polite and well, lovely. This year the Sessions have diversified and each night is loosely grouped into genre, but tonight’s combination of Mumford & Sons and Doves is a little uneasy.

Mumford & Sons have risen to mainstream fame since forming in 2007, reaffirming that waistcoats, beards and banjos are where it’s at. Still peddling their album ‘Sigh No More’, they also play new tracks tonight. ‘Nothing Is Written’ starts off slow and melancholy but the crowd are clapping along from the word go, and when it kicks in fully they erupt becoming a sea of jumping bodies. There is something resembling a small barn dance in the middle of the audience, a party which continues for the rest of the night. Another new song, ‘Lover of the Light’, has a tone full of optimism and hope, perfect on this clear evening. The new material is not a departure from the expected Mumford sound but there is a maturity in the arrangement and lyrics which shows growth.

The band capture and keep the audience’s attention with every song, full of energy and enthusiasm and audience also goes crazy for favourites like ‘Timshel’, ‘Feel The Tide Turning’, ‘Little Lion Man’, finishing with ‘The Cave’ before leaving everyone screaming for more.

Doves have some hard work to do: When the gig was announced Mumford & Sons were still emerging and Doves, with their solid following and previous storming set at the Eden Sessions in 2002, were a steadfast finishing band. And although the crowd is still up for it when they take the stage, it is clear that many are Doves virgins.

The band grab the audience well to start; Jimi Goodwin’s memorable voice and the moody and atmospheric music is the perfect soundtrack for the sun setting over the stunning Eden Project scenery. The band have worked hard on this ‘greatest hits’ tour and put on a good show with dramatic visuals including some interesting videos, my favourite being the ‘hoodies’ filmed for Black and White Town. The band relies heavily on the crowd being right there with them and affectionately coining the audience ‘Edeonions’, Goodwin manages to gain friends in most of them, especially when he offers to pay any council fines if the sound techs cranked up the volume.

Although transfixed by songs like Kingdom of Rust and The Cedar Room, the audience wander during lesser known songs. However, an encore is called for and those leaving to try and beat the traffic miss out big time. There is a new energy to the band, and the audience, and the party is at last starting as the band play out with the ecstatic Space Face from the band’s previous incarnation Sub Sub. Although Mumford & Sons and Doves turn out to be uneasy bedfellows, Doves’ experience shows through in their triumphant finish. I just wish they played their set in reverse.

7/10