CULTURE: DARRYL W BULLOCK
With some of the biggest outdoor events of the year on the horizon it's time to get yourself ready for summer. From cinema and music, to theatre and sport, Q&C's Darryl gives us the pick of the best for the coming weeks.
As we race full pelt into the summer (don’t forget the sunscreen, gents), what are the essential events for your cultural calendar? What new music should you be listening to as you linger over a chilled chardonnay? Here are a few suggestions.
If you’re after an excuse to get the top hat out, then Royal Ascot, Britain’s most notable race meeting, takes place 19-23 June, offering race and Royal fans an unforgettable five days. Tickets start at £37 a day, and were still available at the time of writing. www.ascot.co.uk
If summer sport is what you are after, then don’t forget we’ve also got Wimbledon (2-15 July), the Henley Regatta (4-8 July) and the Newmarket Festival (12-14 July) to look forward to. Dust off your boaters, get your striped blazer to the dry cleaners and enjoy!
X Factor finalist Seann Miley Moore makes his UK theatre debut this month in GUY: A New Musical. This new electronic pop spectacular is playing at The Bunker as part of Breaking Out – an innovative new festival for ambitious emerging theatre companies to showcase their work.
Seann, who trained in musical theatre at the Western Australian Academy for Performing Arts (WAAPA), first came to the attention of the UK public in The X Factor in 2015. Since then, he’s toured the world, playing many gay pride festivals and has launched a successful solo pop career, releasing his debut EP, the disco-tastic High Heeled Shoes last year.
With nakedly honest characters, GUY is an unapologetically moving portrayal of the ups and downs of 21st-century dating, and a thought-provoking glimpse behind the veil of modern masculinity, male beauty standards, and those unspoken prejudices that exist within marginal communities. Guy, a shy and overweight millennial, is trying to find love, but has convinced himself that he won’t unless he subjects his body to fad diets, exercise regimes, and a new wardrobe.
When he meets his Romeo, can he resist the temptation of being someone else? Tied together with a pioneering and infectiously catchy electronic score, GUY channels floor-filling EDM anthems, indie electronica, queer hip-hop, and PC Music with the lyrical charm of Sondheim.
The festival is on until July 7. Tickets for all shows at The Bunker are available at www.bunkertheatre.com
While we're on the subject of London theatre, following a successful UK and international tour, and after an almost six year absence from the capital, the multi award-winning musical Chicago is back at the Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross, with former Eastender/Spandau Ballet member Martin Kemp starring as smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn, replacing Cuba Gooding Jr., whose last performance in the role will be on June 30.
Chicago originally ran in London for 15 years, making it the West End’s longest running revival. The musical, which is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.
Martin Kemp’s acting credits include Reggie Kray alongside his brother Gary as Ronnie Kray in the film The Krays, Steve Owen in EastEnders, and Sam Phillips in the UK tour of Million Dollar Quartet. His book, True – An Autobiography of Martin Kemp, spent several months on The Sunday Times best sellers list. He also appeared as a judge on the BBC’s Let It Shine, alongside Dannii Minogue and Gary Barlow.
As if you hadn’t noticed, we’re also slap-bang in the middle of Pride season. Bristol’s Pride event is the biggest free LGBT festival in the UK – last year the BBC estimated that Pride day itself attracted 10,000 more people than the parade in London – and the fortnight of festivities kicks off on July 2, with the march itself on July 14.
Another former X-Factor star, Alexandra Burke, headlines the main stage. There are dozens of Pride events taking place around the UK, and other Pride dates worth noting include Dublin (June 23), London (July 7), Brighton & Hove (August 3-5), Belfast (August 4), Cardiff (August 24), and Manchester (August 24).
If Pride events are a bit too full-on for you, might I recommend the summer season from Grange Park Opera at West Horsley Place, in the Surry Hills not too far from Guildford? Described as a ‘demi-Eden of glowing brick façades, framed by antique box hedges and walled gardens’, the 300 acre estate West Horsley Place was inherited in 2015 by author (and original University Challenge host) Bamber Gascoigne from his aunt Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe.
In less than two decades, Grange Park Opera has established itself as one of Europe’s leading opera festivals. Last year the company relocated to West Horsley Place, Surrey, and in less than a year built a five-storey opera house modelled on La Scala, Milan. The Times Arts Awards acknowledged the achievement as the “Fastest construction of an opera house in history”. The season runs until mid-July and includes Gunod’s Romeo and Juliette, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera. Take a picnic or, if you’re feeling flush, indulge in the three course dinner menu available at the two restaurants, one of which is within the 15th Century house itself.
Tickets and more information at https://grangeparkopera.co.uk/whats-on/
Another historic house well worth a visit during the summer (or any time of year) is Bowood, home to the Marquis of Lansdowne, near Calne in Wiltshire. They’ve a packed season of events, including TV favourite Kirsty Allsopp’s Handmade Fair (22-24 June), but the one I’m looking forward to is the annual Summer Garden Party, which takes place on 28 July. This family-friendly celebration of summer takes place within the grounds of the magnificent Georgian mansion; 100 acres of beautifully landscaped parkland with its own Italian-inspired terrace garden, walled gardens, arboretum and magnificent mile long lake.
Finally, here’s an unashamed plug for myself. On June 20 I shall be hosting an evening of music and conversation at Rough Trade in Bristol to celebrate the launch, in paperback, of my book David Bowie Made Me Gay. It’s a free event, and as well as music from Bristol’s very own DJ D’Arcy I will be discussing the book with Queen and Country’s founding editor, James Wilkinson.
On July 4 I’ll be at Rough Trade East in London, where my conversation partner will be musician and producer Sean McGhee, who has worked with Alison Moyet, Britney Spears, the Sugababes and fronts his own duo – Artmagic – with Suede guitarist Richard Oakes.
The timing is perfect, as Artmagic have just released their second album, The Songs of Other England, a truly stunning collection that eschews much of the electronic texture of their debut in favour of a more direct, immediate and accessible sound. It’s the perfect soundtrack to a last summer evening, and I highly recommend that you check it out. Physical copies of the CD are available from https://artmagic.bandcamp.com/ (you can also buy the digital version there.)
Artmagic are celebrating the release of The Songs of Other England with a special launch event on Friday 29th June. This will be their only live performance of 2018. The duo will perform a 45 minute acoustic set, followed by an onstage interview and Q&A, at the Poetry Café, 22 Betterton Street, London. Tickets (£12 plus any booking fees) are available now from www.wegottickets.com/event/441501