I have to confess a fondness for Monk, stripped brick, antique lighting, soft leather, many cocktails, eclectic music…many cocktails. This is a sponsored night – Casamigos to be exact – George Clooney’s choice of Tequila, and I have to say, a gorgeous choice of Tequila it is. Monk is family run (Jamie and Mannie Monaghan) and they are embracing a young-ish and appreciative clientele. Sam (brand ambassador for Casamigos) explains Tequila, both the ethos and production, and offers many samples during his masterclass; the result is almost inevitable – seduction via Tequila.
Beyond this is Monk itself, launching soon in Leeds, and Easy Feet, a guitar/drums duo who have tailored their set to reflect the Latin/South American feel of the evening; albeit via a 90’s RnB foundation. They, like the Tequila, go down very easily, my personal favourite being a gentle version of Gotta Be. Talking of favourites, I’d go for the Blanco Casamigos every time – and I did.
Hence an early bath for me, the curfew was calling and I had to tear myself away, Blanco or not. A first year at the Fringe, Monk promise many more evenings like this and I will do my level best to be at most if them. Musical culture and cocktails with a conscience, what could possible go wrong?
Gosh, what a change from the other acts that I’ve reviewed this season. We aspiring group of nine poets, actually had to do something, to use our brains and compose not one, but three odes!
The knowledgeable group leader, Blythe Aimson she is a Buxton lass, who has graduated from Norwich University and will be moving back in September to do an MA in poetry.
She is well versed in the different styles, forms and functions of this fascinating type of writing, but she also suggested that we, the group of nine enthusiastic students produce our own work!
This was not what I’d expected, during the other Fringe acts that I have reviewed the audience, had sat back and inertly watch the performer(s), with the occasional bit of audience participation. This time, we were persuaded to put pen to paper and we discovered that we too could come up with something readable, in fact, on occasion, we scribes read the result out loud, which was followed by obvious admiration and applause by the rest of the group.
Blythe gave us all a comprehensive handout which explained the different forms of poetry, such as: Iambic Pentameters, Tankas, (a Japanese form), plus Sonnets (Shakespeare) and Villanelles, (the latter sounds like a female villain!) to name but a few.
Initially, we were asked to choose a piece of art and use our imagination to write about it. Then pick out words from each line to form a rough draft of a poem. No problem so far, but as the exercises progressed, silence reigned, broken only by the ticking of my watch that broke into the mental void and encouraged me to scribble faster.
Next, we tried to write in the style of a chosen wordsmith. I wish I’d used my common sense and found a word at the end of the first line that rhymed more easily. That stretched my imagination to the limit. What rhymes with grass? I thought of a few, but some should not be repeated! Not the best of verse, perhaps I should stick to prose!
Now we were to emphasize on punctuation and what a difference that makes, line breaks are an example. Still silence until again until some of us read our work out loud. They were a mixture of inspirational, comical and realistic. Each one was an improvement on my poor attempt. I reflected on the comedians and in the style of Morecambe and Wise, this was the “Pome what I rote”.
Actually, at the end of the session, I felt strangely enthusiastic; I had learned a lot, the explanation of the styles and methods of many great poets was fascinating. The session was both satisfying and inspirational; we all left feeling uplifted by the experience. Thank you Blythe and I wish you well in your future studies.
Mr Simpson was apparently a 17h Century virtuoso Viol player, and I think he would have been proud of this group of professional musicians who have adopted both his name, his love of this remarkable instrument alongside skill and mastery of the exquisite and sonorous music of the period.
I wasn't at all sure what to expect from this event, and it proved to be a delightful and unusual, edifying and erudite event: part theatrical, part historical, part sociological, part literary, part educational and very much musical. The four highly skilled Viol players switched effortlessly between different sizes of this instrument- the occasional tuning its own instrumental idiosyncrasy- believed to have come to England from Spain with the young Katherine of Aragon. They treated us to a carefully chosen recital of some highly evocative Tudor and then Stuart music. Each piece was introduced with fascinating historical detail, setting the music not just in social context but in the context of the king who either wrote or reigned, his marriages, mistresses or even male lovers. The inclusion of wry and witty quotes and quips from diarists and satirists of the time, lightened the tone and gave us a glimpse of the ribald, bawdy world of Henry, James and Charles' courts, their personalities and the proclivities of their paramours and people. The professionalism of the performers prevented this from ever being lascivious or smutty. While I might have learnt a great deal about Tudor aphrodisiacs, I found out as much about Viols and other Tudor instruments, as I did about the composers of the time. This only served to enhance my experience of the music itself. It was a spine tingling and evocative moment, to hear a number of beautiful pieces thought to have been written by Henry Viii himself on the instruments his own musicians would have used.
As well as wonderful bass and smaller Viol playing, Sue and Pierce Snell, sang, read and provided informal, mini music lessons; Lucy Bignall showed her musical versatility, switching seamlessly from Viols to recorder and violin ; Jo Basterfield provided historical narrative and, as well as speaking a range of spoken parts, playing a range of percussion instruments (and the Viol of course!) it was in the lyricism of Cate McKee's Soprano that gave the music its historical authenticity and beauty. I enjoyed the harmonies of all the voices in the group, particularly in the rounds, but it was Cate's vocals on Purcell's Epithalamium, the Wedding Song for Charles & Nell's mock marriage that allowed her to fully demonstrate her gift. It was a thrill to see and hear everyone in the group play the Crumhorn, and to understand how, as a wind cap instrument, it was fit for its Elizabethan purpose of outdoor musical accompaniment. It's on my Christmas list!
Performing at festivals and recitals at Elizabethan Christmases, Historic Houses as well as St John's Smith's Square, 'Little Consort' are passionate about making this sort of music accessible, are keen to encourage questions on the music or the history, and would love to inspire the next generation of Viol players. I highly recommend catching their virtuoso performance at Spring Bank Arts Centre in New Mills tomorrow evening.
This was the first of this year’s series of ‘Meet the Museum Experts’. It’s a series of talks, engagements, at Buxton Museum & Art Gallery, and on the evidence of this first presentation it can be highly recommended.
The first talk was about excavations at Wigber Low: this low hill contains an Anglo-Saxon burial site and is a few miles north of Ashbourne. The link to Buxton? Well, it’s in the same county, and Buxton Museum holds material linked to it – with a fascinating beaver tooth pendant coming back shortly from the British Museum. This item dates from the 6th Century, but the site itself dates from the Bronze Age. John Collis from the University of Sheffield talked enthusiastically about his role in the excavations and what was found, and willingly answered questions afterwards.
Talks in the series have their roots in the Derbyshire/Buxton area and do a fine job of illuminating the physical and social history of the area, often linked specifically to items in the Museum itself: they draw on a wide range of experts selected for their knowledge and their ability to communicate clearly with their audience.
The one-hour free talks range from art works reflecting the town and the county, to Blue John rock discoveries at Treak Cliff Cavern itself (why Blue John? – it comes from the colour, in French bleu-jaune ) to a talk about the fascinating Randolph Douglas, who created his own museum but was also known as the Derbyshire Houdini.
The Friends of the Museum offer monthly talks throughout the year, but this daily (almost daily) series over two weeks till 23 July offers a fine way to find out more in a short time about the historical, social and geological background to the town and region hosting the Festival.
A festival within a festival, Chelmorton’s annual, week-long event featuring exhibitions, a crime panel, village fair and more, is fast becoming a fixture at Buxton Fringe.
The village itself is less than 15 minutes drive from Buxton and makes a wonderful escape-to-the-country for anyone feeling at all Fringe-frazzled. The first thing you notice are the witty scarecrows in people’s gardens. Year on year these have been getting more elaborate using papier mache and other techniques to bring to life characters including Beauty and the Beast, the Queen of the Fairies, a hapless mole-catcher, a boozy biker and more. This year there is also a lot of elaborate “yarn graffiti”, cleverly augmenting the front garden tableaux.
My first stop is always the village institute where you can enjoy refreshments and take home gifts including fabric-covered notebooks, decorations, jewellery and, of course, jars of zingy Chelmorton lemon marmalade. The Chelmorton Villager has been out and about with his/her camera again (getting as far as Northumberland) and there is also a fantastic exhibition of quilts upstairs. These are always beautiful but this year they are very different too with new ideas such as a scene made with origami-style folded flowers by Jan Otty and a more masculine quilt created with pre-loved jeans and shirts by Sandra Cooper.
Up at the church there is an exhibition of agricultural equipment from yesteryear plus some historic Chelmorton photographs, and on the way up to that, you will also encounter a tiny pop-up bookstore in a phone box!
Do pick up a leaflet or follow this link: https://chelmortonvillage.org.uk/chelmorton-festival-2017/ to find out what else is going on including a crime writers’ panel with Stephen Booth (today, Tues), Tideswell Singers (Wed), a Dry Stone Walling course (Thurs), and the village fair, dog show and evening disco (Sat) amongst other treats.
Again I returned to the giant walk-fridge at the back of Underground Venues – not this time for the artwork on the walls but for a short performance. Throughout the Fringe, different performers will be appearing in this venue, but on this occasion, we were kept thoroughly engrossed by Camryn Moore, with an excerpt from her show, The Pretty One. It’s a fairly intense experience, and a less confident actor might be daunted in such an ‘in your face’ environment, but Camryn is more than up to such a challenge and the piece she presented, a confessional coming-of-age story, was interesting and drew you in, certainly making me interested enough to see the whole show. So, if you want a taster of the variety of the Fringe, why not enter the Fridge? You might find something you like, and even if you don’t, it’s only 5 minutes out of your day.
Shopping centres can be such soulless places - the same shops, artificial lighting and the trudge from sale to sale. Happily for Buxton shoppers The Springs is a place of community and friendship and this is exemplified by the Fringe Book Swap - such a simple and effective idea that it is to be hoped that it continues after Festival is over.
Take two comfortable armchairs and a bookcase filled with good quality and interesting books and your ingredients are complete. The invitation is equally simple and direct; bring a book that you have finished with and exchange it for one of your choice. Or, if you prefer, take a comfortable seat and read from the ‘library’.
When I was there the choices included Alan Titchmarsh, Kate Atkinson, Stephen Booth and Maeve Binchy. The nature of the game means that things will change hourly - but you can't lose. An excellent chance to try something new or perhaps share some ideas with other readers.
You will find the Book Swap outside M&S.
In 2015, several groups in the Buxton area who are interested in recording, collecting and preserving an audio and visual archive for future generations, came together to create this unique and special project and tonight was a wonderfully warm and engaging showcase of their work.
It felt very fitting, therefore, that this hour and a half ‘show’, should take place in the Chatsworth Room of The Palace Hotel (1868) with its decorative plaster work, high ceilings and swagged curtains. What a lively and interesting presentation, really skilfully put together and introduced by Anne Rogerson, with Viv Doyle of The Buxton and District U3A, along with Netta Christie and Michael Clement of “Discover Buxton.” There was even a special guest appearance by Bill Weston of the famous “Billerettes” (a local comedy marching troupe of men dressed as cheerleaders) and a performance of a specially written Buxton song by Kevin Allsop.
As we walked through an adjoining room to take our seats at large, round tables, Graham Clark played the violin beautifully creating a slightly sombre ‘historic’ atmosphere. I had no idea what to expect. However, Michael Clement soon got the large audience (I counted 74) laughing and participating with a warm-up where he explained his life-long passion for recording sound: then we had to clap first as ‘polite applause’ followed by ‘ecstatic applause’ supposedly for a new recording.
The presenters used microphones and a large screen at the front, so it was easy to see and hear everything. The show was largely split into three sections of about twenty minutes each. These were: World War II, the 1950s and 60s and the 1970s to the present. There was a wide range of topics covered, with a focus on local social history and entertainment, but other subjects included the 2012 visit to the town of the Olympic Torch and the closure of the Devonshire Hospital. The Beatles, early 70s pop festivals, a fiddle festival and even YNOT were incorporated, with many funny anecdotes.
There were still images to watch as we listened to local voices. Later, there were home movie clips, colour photos and even extracts from BBC recordings. Michael kept the audience on their toes between segments by asking us to guess theme tunes to old TV and radio shows, along with adverts. Hearing long-lost familiar tunes had a powerful, emotional effect on everyone. At one point, many members of the audience sang along spontaneously to an old song.
In addition, there were some less widely known stories. Who knew that during World War II, Buxton was regarded as the safest place in England and that 300 Jewish evacuees were settled here, with 2 synagogues created, in 1939? Or that several children from the Kinder Transport came to families in Buxton? In 1958, the international secret society of the Bilderbergers held a top secret conference in Buxton at The Palace Hotel – attended by Nikita Khrushchev! In fact, a man in the audience told us how as a teenager he had been working at the hotel and had to have a special pass to get in.
There was a lot of humour and laughter in tonight’s show, but some sad and moving parts too. Jane McGrother a local community ‘mover and shaker’ talked about ‘Buxton in Bloom’. Sadly she died this year, but how lovely that her voice has been captured for the community. All in all, a fabulous evening of local history presented in a warm and engaging way. Don’t miss the next one! Present from the Past is run entirely by volunteers. They have a Facebook page and are in partnership with Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and Buxton Crescent and Thermal Spa development.
The Monk Cocktail Bar has started running events. At this event the Brooklyn Brewery representatives hosted a guided beer tasting. These were not ordinary beers but the Brookyln Brewery is not an ordinary brewery.
The Brookyln Brewery story reads like a movie script. It's founder Steve Hindy was a Middle East war correspondent in the 1980s. After being two seats away from a presidential assassination and surviving a mortar attack on his hotel, his wife gave him an ultimatum to either leave war journalism or divorce. Taking a souvenir mortal shell as a reminder he returned to the USA and built a reputation for distributing craft beers before eventually setting up the Brooklyn brewery in 1996 using expertise gained from home brewing experiences in Saudi Arabia and his grandfather's prohibition era brewing recipes.
Brooklyn's specialist tasting event at Monk included five unique beers each paired with quality snacks provided by Monk (pizza, smoked salmon, black pudding scotch egg,venison). The beers were selected from the 42 limited edition beers brewed annually by Brooklyn. They were Bel Air Sour, Local 1 (a Belgian Amber) , Local 2 (a Belgian with honey and orange peel), Black Ops (Barrel aged imperial stout with Champagne Yeast) and The Discrete Charm of the Framboisie.
For those not part of the tasting event, the Monk's owners (brothers Mannie and Jamie) were happy to serve four Brooklyn draft beers, six additional Brooklyn bottled beers or a creative range of cocktails.
Easy Feet came on stage at 9pm to play some smooth sounds. They sounded to this reviewer a bit like Ed Sheeran playing with Santana's rhythm section and were very easy on the ear.
The Monk's next event during the Fringe is a tasting for George Clooney's Casamigos brand Tequilas on 19th July. They are described as "sipping Tequilas" to be savoured like a quality whisky. These spirits are are made from the Agave plant which are claimed to be a source of "healthy sugars".
The Monk was buzzing and I was assured by its regular clientele that this is not an unusual occurrence. The evening was a lot of fun and hopefully Monk will continue these events after the Fringe. You can follow Monk events on Facebook (Monk Buxton) and Instagram (Monkcafebar).