Canvassing cultural support


It’s a laboured headline, I’ll give you. But in my current determined excursions to get out and about from the studio, dipping into various creative nights around town to discover the outside world a bit, it’s good to see the upstairs nextdoor neighbour of the Winchester especially taking flight here in Bomo. For Canvas, under James Maidment and team’s efforts, is really beginning to get seen on the radar of more and more expectant local music fans. Desperate for a drop of cool. Including obviously desperate people like me.

It’s something musos and arts folk here in the ol’ home town have been longing to see more of: Places to catch really cool sh**, yeah. You know. You’re culturally enlightened and smirk at provincial hopes for a jazz club. And I still like you for it. You.

But it’s a funny thing, the brand of place. Or as Mrs Peach might put it, “placemaking”. What is it about the fabric of a town, or part of town, that makes people want to go there? Spend money. Linger. Be seen to be there and not somewhere else. It’s something lurking in the vague, indifinitive, lazyspeak word ‘vibe’. You can just sense that somewhere is a somewhere for you. Gives you a little tummy skoosh of inspiration that you “get it”. I know, you’re above all that. But you can’t tell me there isn’t a ecclectic old bookshop somewhere that only plays editions of the Late Junction that you don’t secretly love while others of us are out playing.

Either way, the point rather is that someone has to put some conscious effort into creating that vibe, massaging that skoosh, if you are going to make the effort to brave the bus and buy a decent slug of rum there, right?

As you’ll have heard me say before, really as I’m always saying in this lifetime’s period of living and creating here, Bournemouth doesn’t have to try hard to be a jolly nice place for a pleasant life. In some ways. It’s undoubtedly what’s kept me here. The Southbourne Overcliff is essentially my extended back garden, and that to many other grateful Sobo-ers too. Sky. Sea. Weather. Space. Relief. Occasional sunburn. Tadpoles in the Fisherman’s Walk pond for the middle class kids to steal in giant bell jar amounts to leave the ecosystem barren. It’s nice. But the wider town is still only emerging as a rich place for art. You could easily once have called it a cultural desert, if you were really being sniffy, or on a day you just longed to find an exhibition without having to explain to the person on the tourist phoneline what ‘art’ even was before they could try to find you some – because the desert is, of course, full of exotic life, if you watch the barren plain or dune wave for long enough.

But Bomo is beginning to more obviously bloom. And so it’s interesting that the latest place to really push some colour through the crusty loam is called Canvas. That’s a thing you throw paint at. And something to be knocked onto face first in a shower of bleary sweat.

When Jalarra opened last summer, it was obvious that Tony and Lisa had made a crafted, loved venue up in the Triangle, especially aimed at those hungry for a “vibe”, man. Somewhere that felt like it cared. Had a vision of what it wanted to be and who it wanted to be for, and so we were all eager to, y’know, just start going there and pointing people there and playing there. Musicians and bands in particular all instantly loved the jazz club rizzle and warm sound, so it was an out of the blue blessing when Tony asked me to play the stage, and give me the ideal place to launch a new LP. The resulting souvenir edit of the infamous Thespionage launch in June shows enough of the atmos to get the idea that this is a groovy joint. Now, as Canvas, with just a few adjustments to the cosmetics and the workings to call the club firmly their own, James has brought all manner of greatly respected groovy names to the space to play the live lounge of this sharp, characterful loft bar.

A name from the naughties I’d been intrigued to know a little more about, for example, was Dimitri From Paris, who played an ass-rotunding set there in March. He skipped even a cursory ‘bon soir’ and apparently felt no need to state the obvious “Je m’appelle Dimitri, et j’habite en Paris” and just rollicked the disco until the small hours, looking casually suave behind the decks, like a croupier magician. Only cool and not that. Would have been interested to see him drop a live set, as his LP that I know, Crusing Attitude, is a charming sort of French cafe daytime acid-jazz telly themes playlist. I have no doubt that there are other acts who would have been a cheaper spend for Canvas, but Dimitri brought a very certain kind of just left-of-centre club style to the rosta, and all the chums we bumped into there were simply enjoying themselves with wide Can’t Believe It’s Bomo sort of grins. That’s branding, mate. Statements of intent. With 80s Disco Dance stars Shalamar presumably hoping to make it a night to remember in June, and 90s soul queen Mica Paris filling the live lounge with Easter joy back in March, and upcoming soul poet Aku Naru bringing a beautiful fresh creative to the room, and Funk Soul deej and space dropout Craig Charles selling out nights repeatedly, the intent of Canvas is clearly to let people know that there is a classy, wide-minded groovy night out to be had by the seaside. It appears to be generating quite a vibe.

All I know is, I now even have tickets booked to see 70s funk legend Roy Ayers there in a few weeks. And you don’t get more vibes than that.

I made it too to the second recording of Britrox on the tellybox. Paul Wookey and his team have created a glittery platform for new music talent, pitching artists into the forum of the Britrox community, to champion unsigned and emerging songwriters and performers. While its outlook is global, its base is… Bournemouth – and Britrox TV comes straight from the stage of Canvas. Which you’ll be unsurprised about by this point, I can tell.

With eyes sharply on the pop prize, the label appears to be open to various styles around a mainstream audience – indeed, of the three bands picked to be showcased the night I made it down, Rum Honey were an especially tight dirty soul rock quinto that even rather pleased my knob-twiddling, dancefloorish ears. I mean, a good riff is a good riff, and they had a few. ..As I stood there in my tweed and wastecoat, nodding at them appreciatively. I did my best to stand out of shot to not ruin the creds when this gets put out on a Sky music channel.

Because it’s obvious, isn’t it. The only potential problem with the unfolding quality reputation of venues and fun creative initiatives like this that so many Bomo-ers like me have been a bit desperate for more of, is that I doubt they would be quick to usher the hairy likes of me to play there again and muck up the classy brand. Which is integrity – and vision – I can’t help but support.

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