A few months ago, I was at Colston Hall in Bristol watching 4 men set fire to the air with fierce gypsy tunes hailing from Django Rheinhardt era; the more familiar modern tunes that have been ‘gypsified’ (my favourite perhaps being a piece I recognised from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack); and even classical pieces played with more speed than thought humanly possible. These musicians form Gypsy Fire and I thorougly recommend you check them out.
I had a quick chat with them over the merch stall at the end of the gig and they recommended if I liked gypsy jazz, then I should come to Gossington Festival (which is run by one of the guys in Gypsy Fire). I adore gypsy jazz, so fast forward a few months and I find myself in Gossington.
The Friday and Saturday comprised of music that was a bit more mainstream folk/gypsy, headlined by Bristol’s own Phantom Limb on Friday and Seth Lakeman the following day. Sunday was for the hardcore gypsy jazz fans. The audience were treated to gypsy jazz royalty including Tchavolo Schmitt who I particularly enjoyed watching – he didn’t bother with a sound check and went straight into the set (with no set list), leaving the bass player and rhythm guitarist to just catch up. It was fab watching random jamming sessions strike up throughout the day as well (the guitar player on the left in the above picture is from a jam).
During the weekend I had a new appreciation for double bass. I mean, look how sexy that double bass neck is:
It’s sexy right!? Those curves are gorgeous!
I had such a great time and really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere which helped the creative sketching juices. I particularly enjoyed drawing people performing and the instruments they clearly loved.
There are different breeds of nerd, I myself am a bit of a book nerd. A haven for book nerds can be the local library. I don’t tend to buy books* as I regard my library somewhat as a vast personal bookcase that I don’t have to keep at home, clogging up space.
So imagine my joy at the prospect of making my own book that will go on a road trip across America, finishing up in The Brooklyn Arts Library. My contribution will be similar to the theme that I followed last time – I love making illustrated journals. The Sketchbook Project allows me to indulge this. The great news is that you can take part too! Check out the link – you’ll even find other inspirational projects to join too: Art House Co-op
You can see the start I made on my book below:
This was a stall at the Bristol Harbourside Festival, selling candle powered boats. The stall was fantastic to look at in itself (although the boats were cool), with bunting strung and vintage signage. The vendors got in the spirit and were dressed as pirates. Brilliant.
I was also once told by an art teacher that I should never draw with biro. This picture reminds me that it’s ok to break some rules.
Pencil sketch of people laying on the grass at college green in Bristol, taking a rest from the crowds at the harbourside. The right page shows the Relay Rips and at the bottom, the start of my Gossington Festival drawings.
*Using the term ‘books’ was a bit generic, therefore saying I don’t buy books is not entirely accurate. I have a real vice for buying children’s books. So many in fact, that the combined weight of them all broke my shelf, spewing books all over me and my room. The homicidal shelf (yes it damn near cracked my head open) chose it’s moment in the dead of night, at my most vulnerable. It was the most terrifying wake up call I’d ever had. But that’s another story.
The show I saw in Sibiu was a dance piece by a group from Hungary; I thought it was fantastic, so full of energy and seemed to confront some interesting ideas on relationships. Also staying at the hostel was a guy who was volunteering for the festival. I asked him some details about how he got involved and I will admit, I’m tempted to come back next year and volunteer… I really love what they’ve got going on here. And I absolutely love the hostel. The owners are wonderful people who made me feel right at home.
I was a little sad to leave Sibiu, but Brasov beckons. I took a free walking tour here, saw some points of interest – some city towers, the smallest road in Europe (or something like that), the black church and the huge mock-hollywood ‘BRASOV’ sign. Today I went to see Bran castle and Rasnov citadel with an Aussie couple from my hostel. I’m kinda glad I had someone to go with because the buses got us a little confused and lost at one point but we made it! I was expecting more from Bran castle, I paid for an audio guide which mostly told us what was on the signs around the castle. It was also all nicely whitewashed and sparsely decorated so lacked some atmosphere…
The utterly exhausting hike up to Rasnov citadel was well worth it for beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
So festival #5 happens to be an urban art festival. That runs only during the 3 days that I am here. How is that for timing eh? There are skateboarders, graffiti artists working on big wooden boards in the town square and there is music and theatre too. Brilliant!
After having spent a lovely weekend in the chilled Pecs – soaking in the local nightlife, drinks and highly decorated roofs with my friend who decided to come along for a short jolly – I headed into Romania.
First stop Cluj Napoca, where there happened to be a city celebration that fortnight. There were lots of folk bands and guests and markets, it was great! I intended to spend only one night there but thought it worth staying for a proper look at the city, having spend my first hours in Cluj at the festival. I went with another guy staying at the hostel and we couldn’t understand much of what was going on during the speeches given by the bands but we heard lots of blah blah Cluj (cue cheering) blah blah blah Cluj (more cheering)… and so on. So felt we knew enough to know when to cheer…
Fortunately Cluj is a fairly small city so could reach all the highlights in one day – the botanical gardens, the tailor tower (part of the old city wall), the citadel, a crazy little pharmacy museum.
I left Cluj in the direction of Sibiu. I say direction because I really didn’t know which train I was catching where because I was getting loads of conflicting information from websites and train timetables. I got shooed onto a train with an over-familiar creepy train conductor (I was so glad when I switched trains) and managed, with creepy train conductor, to figure out the route of where the hell I was meant to be going. And before you say, I did ask at the front desk but they said, um the next train is.. Oh god! now! go go go! so leapt on without a plan.
I got let off at a station in the middle of nowhere. I climbed down the train and jumped onto the gravel beneath. I walked to the ‘platform’ (some concrete slabs) and was told to get the train behind me. Again no platform to speak of so the train door started at about waist height. I lugged my bag on and clambered up after it. I felt sorry for the little old ladies I saw having to do this too… The train passed through fields, the landscape was so beautiful, really green and tumbling hills that last forever. We stopped at stations that had a sign, a rusting hut and a farm next to it. I got the feeling this was a very local train. Especially when some farm workers got on with a bucket of paint and a scythe.
Eventually made it to Sibiu and discovered festival #4 – an up and coming well respected theatre festival. I saw some street performance, some music and a one woman show about her cycling journey across the Middle East. There are performers from all over the world here to perform, how exciting! Today I’m hoping to catch some more street theatre music and a dance performance. On that note, the festivities will be starting again soon so I had better go!