Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Chorlton Arts Festival Launch featuring Badly Drawn Boy, Thursday 19th May 2011

Congratulatory backslapping is rarely a spectator sport, but the oratory build-up creates a swelling of pride in the precinct's populace, who're later led through Chorlton Arts Festival's newly opened metaphorical doors by the subsequent strums of an elevated Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy.

Gough initially completes a Chorlton FM radio slot before volunteers, contributors and organisers are thanked in various short speeches. And onto the night's performers. First, a schoolgirl dance troupe's R'n'B dance mix tests the soundsystem, which in turn awakens the decent-sized early evening audience.

Despite operating under a thinly veiled disguise of ‘special guest’ until the morning of the event, Badly Drawn Boy, one of the three patrons of the festival (the others are John Thomson and Carol Ann Duffy, since you ask) is an obvious choice to draw in the crowds. His warm, homely reflections know how to twang on the heartstrings of reminisce, although his lofty presence intermittently loses audience attention.

For the man himself, it must be surreal; standing mid-balcony overpass – acoustic guitar in hand, microphone afore – faces glaring upwards almost in celestial worship. Positioned below, the amplification rises up to him. The sensation must be one of flying atop the soundwaves to tour the rooftops of his hometown. Or perhaps it just affords him an alternate view of the chipped lurid green precinct decor.

Regardless, the Chorlton resident talks us through a tour, of sorts, stopping off between songs to indicate locations relevant to the occasional ditty. Chorlton Cafe is evoked by ‘Journey From A To B’ and Born In The UK’s title track due to the album’s cover photo, while ‘Is There Nothing We Could Do?’ was written in response to Gough's own soundtracking of The Fattest Man In Britain, which features an amble down Wilbraham Road. There isn't a 'local landmark only' policy in set-list selection though, as 'You Were Right', 'This Electric' and 'The Time Of Times' also resonate past the shop windows.

He’s keen to state the reason behind his bird’s eye view. {this way:UP} is the National Lottery and Arts Council funded answer. The project also explains why you’ll see artwork in high places through the town until the end of the month, although as far as I can tell only Gough himself warrants a skyward glance at this particular precinct positioned point of the festival.

Words & Images: Ian Pennington

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