Back around the city

For the Great Get Together in June, in partnership with the Jo Cox foundation, Momo was commissioned to return to a favourite score celebrating everything we’ve been missing about events and community – Steve Hollingshead’s photography expo Around The City In 80 Festivals. And it felt like some pandemic relief.

 

This summer, Momo:tempo’s composer and creative protagonist Timo Peach was invited to revisit his music written for a unique flow of very human images of London’s outdoor event life. A poigniant piece of work, two months into the UK’s Covid19 lockdown. A project originally commissioned  by Picture: Potters Fields, an outdoor arts event commissioned by the Mayor’s Office as part of the Cultural Olympiad in London, complimenting screenings of action from the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2012, in Potters Field Park by Tower Bridge – Around The City In 80 Festivals.

Revised and substantially updated for The Great Get Together 2020, it presents a year in the life of a city committed to human cultural complexity, as seen through the lens of photographer Steve Hollingshead. And the effect is heartwarming, amusing and charming.

As Steve says on behalf of all the partners bringing back the work: “It’s a reminder of just how important communities – in all their variety – are to a nation’s wellbeing. And how extraordinary a city London is.”

 

Mr Peach agrees, and says he felt it was a piece of work arriving at just the right time.

“From that weird bubble of love in the summer of 2012, in the summer of 2020 these images are a beautiful reminder of how people can be when they get together. Ridiculous and wonderful. It’s a tonic for the heart in the more soberly weird times we’re in at the moment.”

It’s a piece that gave rise to one of Momo’s favourite pieces of music, an edit of the whole original score and an “accidental Christmas tune” as Mr Peach puts it, 80 Bells.

“Quirky and homemade as it is, it’s still a contender for Play At My Funeral,” he says, “and this new score is a sort of 45 minute mix of it across a few movements. You could put it on as a playful ambience at home any time of day, to top up your happy.”

 

 

 

Part of Hollingshead’s new London In Common project, the latest evolution of his years of work walking the UK capital’s streets and open spaces capturing daftness and beauty and community, the point he says is the ways in which London’s calendar reflects natural cultural mixes, not cardboard cut-out diversity.

“The point isn’t really “global” events, or single-issue specialist gatherings – it’s the bloke who happens to be Hindu and taking part in the Sumo Run or the Naked Bike Ride or whatever – all those natural moments of collision that we all are, they are the points of interest to me. And London just is that.”

Tackling such a broad canvas of culture was always going to be a tricky ask for a composer, of course.

“It was a joy to revisit the playful score for this, about a city bursting the Venn diagrams of us lot. A testimony to how celebrations help to make place. But how to do the sort of travel show job of placing the audience with some obvious musical references and where to juxtapose with deliberately different? It’s not easy to get respectfully and effectively right. Especially on a project studio budget. But I’m not sure it’s the point at all.

“I’ve always wanted to bring together an 80-piece festival orchestra of cazoos, sitars, penny whistles, violins, taiko drummers and the whole darned lot live. Here, I had to be a bit honestly cartoon about the sound, partly because that’s Momo’s sound but also because it’s most crucially the spirit of the expo. It’s joyous and unpretentious and accidental seeming and home made and friendly. With just a hint of something modernist and city about the middle movement. And all an honour to be part of, despite being unable to do this justice. I’m joining in with the play. And the sort of quirky triumph of it all.”

 

 

Finally, Momo says: “I’d suggest you give yourself a full screen, headphones and a celebratory glass of something and remind yourself of life beyond the current party we’re all stuck in. That humans are a lot more interesting than just scared and rude.”

 

Enjoy Around The City In 80 Festivals 2020 right here:

 

Connect with Steve Hollingshead at 1001 Days in London on Twitter >

And at: hollingshead.london >

 

Momo meets Steve Hollingshead at the launch party of previous expo, 1001 Days in London, and suggests cities can bring down walls and dispell zombies:

 

 

 

A remarkable, moving, heartening, respectful experience.

 

Blimey, yesterday was interesting, and a strange feeling tumult of heartening and challenging. As is typical of right now. Our country’s polarisations seem to have turned into frantic wrestles with something, everything, each other, ourselves. Here’s my personal therapeutic thought note on what struck me.

ORIGINALLY POSTED TO FACEBOOK. PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAMES TURNER.

 

I generally echo Rachel’s combination of feelings in her re-post below, speaking as she does as a medical professional with some racial insights. And I went to bed last night wanting to know: How do those of us who are BAME and care workers in the pandemic feel about yesterday’s race protests?

 

 

 

So many of us in the UK have frankly led the government in trying to demonstrate community responsibility in a biological emergency this year, costing us who knows what emotional toll alone. It’s a seismic shock to our usual flow of life. This has been happening for three months.

For others of us in the same country, trying to demonstrate community responsibility has felt against the flow of the system I think, like a thousand little cuts and too many recurring deep wounds. This has taken its emotional toll on generations.

Both of these problems are rooted to the shape of how our country works fundamentally, and how it affects our well-being and our security. The interesting thing there is… how many different groups of us might relate to the second statement? Which shows just how systemic are our cultural problems. But the issue of race I’ve come to believe roots to the foundation of our very society. It’s not imported on ships from the Windies still just within living memory. It’s something our society is built on.

We’ve often said in our house that it feels like our generation – X – in some of our good fortune with the property bubble have had to finally address a lot of papered over, painted over, boarded over, bodged conversions and multiple redecorations in the houses we’ve incredibly luckily been able to afford. If we have. Finally bothering to strip off all those layers of wallpaper, strip back the spindles of the staircase, pull up the cheap laminate flooring, get back to the brickwork, replace the roof, re hang the tiles, discover the original features and cherish them. But ensure the foundations and fundamentals are sured up. Preventing lots of pieces of our heritage being lost, doing the grafting work needed to bring them back to life before they fall down.

Hate to break it to us, weary folk, especially since most of us will grind our teeth now at the privileged property metaphor, but this is us right now and Britain’s economic history. Because it’s a racial economic history that we’ve not finished dealing with. We seem barely able to face it even now. But, in a crisis era, of multiple security threats to us all at once, mostly built on our habitual behaviours, we’re simply going to have to get into the work.

Over the last couple of weeks, the government has been leaking out all kinds of bits of freedoms for us, and this transition back period was always going to be a ruddy awkward, make-it-up-as-we-go-along, frustrating time. Even if the government had been strategically clear and purposeful and careful from the beginning. Which it hasn’t been. So many of us feel equally we wish we could get on with normal life again, but that the lockdown may have been leaking early. My local beaches heaving with care-free bathers ten days ago is testimony to how ready we are to forget responsibilities, but perhaps it’s all over, for government at the very top seems to behave as if it is.

It’s in this moment, not early lockdown, that race protests happened this weekend.

But it’s not like we always get to pick our moment. George Floyd is one more name in a shockingly long list of people of colour who didn’t. And this might not resonate with you, honestly. Or it might be just one more deep cut too many for you.

The pandemic is far from over. The charts in this country are not good. And we’re none of us quite sure what the right thing to do is in different moments. Some of us have been long saying: “For goodness sake, do you need telling EVERYTHING?” Intuition and responsibility drive our micro decisions every day around the clearest shared guidance we can find.

Now, if we can pause our own frustrations and wearinesses for a moment, staring into the stream of edited stories and pictures of yesterday, I’d ask we ponder this:

Why would people who are, incredibly, much more likely to suffer from Covid19 – us, if we’re BAME – choose THIS moment to come out and gather in the streets? Do we not understand the risks or responsibilities?

What is the trauma among us forcing people to do this?

After feeling we could and should carefully represent in Bournemouth yesterday, every single person there masked, gloved, keeping apart, respecting the police service who gave the go ahead and kept calm presence, I have to say it felt an important single moment to represent this crisis in our midst also. Far more people turned up, or drove past honking and cheering than the organisers expected. We shall be isolating for a few days to be sure, and have no plans to join a public meet up on this scale again.

This is complex. Our times are. Our feelings are. And shamefully, after generations, this feels only like the very start. It certainly, shamefully, is in me. But I’m not interested in shame. This is all about creating a more sustainable human future. Which means facing what we’re really dealing with in ourselves.

It. Is. Always. Worth. It. Because by suring up our foundations of justice, we join the road to peace.

I’m convinced the first bit of work is some deep listening. That’s the courage we’re really being called to. It might start by becoming very aware of who we we want to blame for our own pains. And why.

Rachel Ali wrote: “Of course the protests worry me, I’m anxious about a second wave.

But speaking out about the systemic entrenched racism in this country and in all Western countries is bloody important. I support the protests. I wish they weren’t necessary. I really wish they weren’t necessary now. But I support them.

PS: If you’ve looked at the higher rates of death in BAME communities and blamed genetics or race, then you need to do some more reading.”

Empower the creative individual, by getting over individualism.

 

What does an artistic emergency look like?

I know you. You’d say now’s not the time for such frivolity, Peach. We’re in a real crisis.

To which, in Condescending Article Writing Mode, I would say knowishly: “We’re actually in a dozen global crises at once, mate. Coronovirus is just a blacklight on all the crap we’d already not learned how to deal with.”

Crap born almost entirely out of culture.

Culture is a sort of unconcious narrative habit. A context for living that’s essentially a story we think we’re in – shaping the character we play, with out us noticing. So perhaps there’s no better moment than Mental Health Awareness Week in a confusingly half-ending pandemic lockdown to talk about ways of seeing.

We’ve been seeing the world through little windows for weeks – smered kitchen panes, smered laptop screens, smered PPE visors. If lucky enough to get your unbelievably clean hands on those. And that blinkering of sensory contact with each other and with the outside has amplified the inside – the sound of our own heads, trying to process this massively weird context malfunction. We live and form our view of the world by the world within us, and that world is likely to be getting increasingly rattled. If only we knew what to do.

I’m often wanging on about art being testimony. Something that cuts through binified, fake-news times with some personal truth – transforming reality with an experience. Art can walk into the middle of no-man’s land and sing.

And man do we feel it. Those first few weeks of rattling pans and cheering and singing for our NHS workers was motivationally moving, up and down our streets. It made some emotional sense. Shame we’ve not learned how to make economic sense of it.

While you might think now is not the time to put together the words Art and Emergency, across connections, resources, tracks of creative thought and entire livelihoods, artistic practitioners are certainly losing things at the moment. Fundamental aspects of their lives, even. Partly because their work is hard to value robustly – even though they tend to put their whole lives into it. And edificial creative landmarks in our cities and towns are as likely to disappear in the next few months as the artists, DJs, players and events businesses wanting to populate them.

How do we value this?

 

ENGAGE THE SURVIVAL TOOLS.

Art is significantly about making emotional sense of the world and working out what to do. It’s as primary as any cynical survival of the fittest yuppie mantra. It is a first response mechanism for humans. And out of it can come whole new ways of seeing – our worlds, our problems, our selves. Yet how do we value this, in a time of crisis? In a financialised, free market economics world, it is the first thing we switch off.

Yet, as we cheer first responders in the NHS and have remarkably adapted to sheilding them and the vulnerable by locking down, how are we gearing up for the next health crisis – that of our mental wellbeing attempting to make sense of all this? And how are we valuing either of these groups of workers, trying to help us secure wellness amid the threats?

Though a big part of my own outlook is that of a designer, art for me is music. It’s where I’ve always gone to make sense of my own worldsview and to recharge my creative pilot light to solve other problems. But for some reason, it hadn’t occured to me to pause my grand schemes and try to just testify. Despite all the wanging on I’ve done. So Easter weekend, I attempted it. And the result was a piece called Pandemonstrate.

It’s a song deliberately styled with a heavy, summery retrowave vibe – reeeally 80s, in other words. Because that summer of ’88 really was when I bought my first four-track and never looked back, and also because it was the era that founded the amplification of all our problems. The good ol’ cult of globalising free market economics.

Today, it seems, that economic window onto what we value has clouded our ability to look forward and imagine true visions of the future, because its relentless implication for forty years is that we’re not supposed to share much. Dreams are naiive, mate. Dystopia is the only realism. Love will betray you. Pick your bleating cynical comfort blanket prayer as you close your eyes there.

It’s all to such blinding degree, it feels like we are left only with nostalgia. A haunted longing, looking back in our minds. Back to the dreams, and summers, that would never come for most of us. An individualism so lonely, it has weakened the fundamentals of society – our ability to share possibilities. Something a pandemic calls out fearsomly. No wonder we have anxieties.

Art helps us connect. And engage. With – take a deep breath – truth. The ones lurking in you. It can help you find a way to do that thing you most don’t want to do with your mental health – face it. Engage with the unreconciled realities and expectations with in us, and with the undrawn worlds beyond us. Beyond this moment. I have become a firm believer that the kinetic act of moving into creative expression can unlock our minds and empower that illusive businessy word that’s boringly haunted everything all this century – innovation. New ways of seeing how we do everything, even fundamentally.

If there’s an emergency right now, it is of our imaginations. They are on the life support of Netflix and the venitlators of substance dependency and porn. But they long to breathe out in the open again and get to creative work. Because it’s not about you or me. It’s about our shared knowledge and wellness – that’s how you fix the context for the individual.

This is the crisis moment we must learn how to re-value our imaginations. And the artistic professionals who could help us revive those utterly essential survival tools.

 

SUPPORT THE CREATIVE MINDS CAMPAIGN BY DORSET MIND AND DISCOVER THE FULL MUSIC FILM FOR PANDEMONSTRATE BY MOMO:TEMPO – RIGHT HERE >

 

Momo:tempo Pandemonstrates for lockdown mental health

Bournemouth music maker and creative Timo Peach releases a special one-off new piece, testifying to the strangeness of “the summer that would never come” to help raise support for Dorset Mind’s new Creative Minds campaign.

Momo has released a brand new tune in response to the Covid19 crisis, and the song, Pandemonstrate, attempts to both look back and forwards, to face some creative possibilities.

“This is such a moment in time to pause and reflect,” says writer and producer Mr Peach. “I am always wanging on about art testifying, but I suddenly realised around Easter that it hadn’t even occurred to me to look up from my own grand schemes and try to testify to this historic experience as an artist.”

A deliberately nostalgic-seeming slice of retrowave, Pandemonstrate sets a distinctly 1980s summery tone, but it’s feel-good vibes are a little bitter-sweet, reflecting the duality of a time of griefs and fears that has also glimpsed a possibly cleaner, healthier future. A duality that is likely to manifest in an increase mental health support need – just when budgets have dropped into the dark.

“As all of us are so mindful of our health workers and their challenges responding to the pandemic, it can be hard to know how best to demonstrate a response that feels meaningful enough. I’ve felt it. Living through this crisis is such a weird experience for everyone, in so many unequal, different ways, we’re all having to process a lot as we try to find support, find work, look after each other and watch some things helplessly” Timo says. “So I’m mindful of the next health challenge brewing seriously all around us – how we make sense of all this and find good mental wellness, looking to such an uncertain-seeming future.”

So he approached Dee Swinton at Dorset Mind, and long-time champion of their’s Dan Willis, to see if there was merit in using the song as a useful springboard to raising funds for the charity and awareness of the potentially significant extra emotional challenges facing society.

“With all my research into the human planet with my podcast Unsee The Future, exploring as I have been the components of crises that we’re currently facing, I’m mindful that we already had a global mental health pandemic” he says. “The coronavirus is really just a blacklight marker highlighting systemic problems not dealt with yet. So this is an incredible opportunity for us. If we’re willing to face it.”

 

Buy the brand new single Pandemonstrate by Momo:tempo now >

Art as an enabler

A big believer in the empowerment of facing big global problems as ordinary people, who might just feel helpless about such issues, Timo says he felt he had to make a piece of music that evoked the summers of 30 years ago.

“I turned 18 at the end of the summer of 1988. First year driving, the year I started making music, met the lovely first lady of Momo – many formative things go back to then for me,” he says, “but so do many of our problems around the world. The 1980s gave us the political paradigm we’re living in now” he suggests. A culture, he thinks, that has contributed to drying up bolder visions of tomorrow.

“We are way overdue to reawaken our imaginations and start writing new stories of us. It’s imperative now. This is my call to that. But as a music maker and a creative, I’m interested in how ordinary us lot can find empowering ways to engage with the complex story we find ourselves part of now, in such times of transition and change. I’m convinced that allowing ourselves to explore creativity and artistic responses to the worlds around us and within us can help us write whole new stories of us – but I think it starts by acknowledging it’s all pretty overwhelming.”

Pandemonstrate is out now on Bandcamp and all sales are going towards Dorset Mind’s Creative Minds campaign, which is aiming to raise £2,000 to help the team simply keep offering their support services.

 

DONATE TO THE CREATIVE MINDS CAMPAIGN >

WATCH THE LOCKDOWN VIDEO:

Don’t feel alone in trying to make sense of the pandemic and its effect on you. Explore the services of Dorset Mind >

 

Lingo: Empower the creative individual by getting over individualism >

Read the related blog post exploring a theme of Pandemonstrate.

 

Experiences shared, but barely in the room.

 

Do you think we’ve given up “trying to make sense of all this?”

As a creative interested in sense-making, I think we mainly just want to have a break from the uncertainty. And the ruddy gnawing belief we should be hustling more than ever. But this stuff is big, and if most of us seem to be weary in our efforts, even if we’re not on a care-giving front line, it’s surely because the background emotional processing of this is a constant drain.

It’s my feeling that this shared experience is, if it’s doing anything, essentially highlighting the problems, trends and emotional pressures we were wading through anyway – it’s not only art that can give us dramatic new ways of seeing, perhaps just when we needed them. But what will help us process all this uncontrollable processing?

The second part of Unsee The Future‘s look at the subject of Experience is very Unsee The Future indeed, looking at the context we’re still in as we consider our immediate future, and taking us from a thorny wrestle with a big tech issue filling some bandwidth between us recently to a look at how we might REALLY have to make sense of ourselves in such numbing times. But it’s come out on a weekend that’s gotten me thinking. Thinking about the best blog post I ever wrote and why.

Exactly ten years ago, I performed my first gig with the Momo:tempo Electro Pops Orchestra.

And I barely made it into the room. Thanks to another global natural event.

Enjoy for the first time here, my impeccably professional, note-perfect opening performance at Momo’s first ever live outing, about ten minutes after landing in the venue with my bags after a 50-hour adventure:

 

 

As you might imagine, publically coming out with a new band, after sweating away at a new sound for a new music project, was a bit of a big deal for me. Rather a lot of nervous energy had gone into trying to make it work, after a delightful invitation from dear chum Sebastian Michael to disrupt his elegant book launch cabaret for the rather wonderful novel Angel at the Troubadour in Kensington had bumped me into having an actual go. After meeting trombonist Pat Hayes and saxophonist Dave Ruff through trumpet maestro and mate John Herbison on a few sessions for The Golden Age of Exploration, I worked out how to get the three of them plus long time musical co-adventurer Mark Adkins onto the Troob’s tiny but hallowed basement theatre stage. Then John said he couldn’t make it but not to worry, for another young star, Tom Walsh, would step in at the last moment and perhaps I might have to shake his hand on stage to meet him or something but it would be fine. Don’t worry.

Don’t worry.

So I went on holiday for a week just before, with all plans set, to help with the not worrying.

Four days after landing in Majorca, a volcano errupted in Iceland.

Eyjafjallajökull’s ashcloud was the first time I’d personally been caught up in a mass redirecting and ultimately grounding of airline flights. And it might have only been just a bit of a jolly wheeze for the lovely first lady of Momo and I, had I not had the small matter of my musical coming out looming the following Monday. Was it possible to make it back, with flights dropping off the departure boards all over Europe? How do we make sense of such uncontrollable disruption to our plans?

The story of how we did indeed just make it did indeed lead to my favourite ever personal blog post. Which includes the complete tweet thread which people began to follow with interest – including Sebastian himself, bringing his audience up to speed on my wherabouts as the show began without me.

Thinking of the adventure it took to tumble through the door with my suitcase and roll up to the foot of the stage to surprising rapturous applause is a fond memory, perhaps in line with the adventurous imagery of The Golden Age LP itself and indeed of my whole creative approach to music. But it also brought me up short remembering it. Because when will we next all be sharing the intimacy and immediate energy of a live experience?

First things first: Momo tweets his arrival from the stage.

There have been some rash things said since lockdown started a month ago here. About how life will not go back to normal and live experiences are history. I disagree. Life won’t ever be quite the same normal again, but I think we will be craving visceral experiences feeling the air being pushed through us together, sharing the vibe of something that only a true live audience can share. The question really is, when we feel the opportunity and courage to make shows again, what shows will we make, and what shows will we want?

I had to strain every bit of wit, patience and help-asking to kind of miraculously just make it into the room that night. It means the experience we all shared was special in unexpected ways, and it was a public arrival for Momo that told me two unsurprising things: Successful live performances will always be the most encouraging and energising experiences of my life, and they will always take a disproportionately stupid great effort involving begging and ruthless disdain for anxiety.

This show was delightful and intimate and perhaps couldn’t have been a more appropriate start for Momo, given the cabaret storytelling of some of its sound. Pompous and epic as I always want that sound to be, and as much as I adore the captured musical moment in recordings and production, that snap of energy in a room full of people with their hearts high is a land waiting to be reached again, by any means we safely can.

It’s been my privilege to play with these gents and still call them my friends. They’ve enhanced my shows and recordings and musical knowledge since John first so wonderfully introduced us over a decade ago, along with so many other great talents they’ve brought along for the ride. And if my plans come to anything, there will be some amazing new adventures to share when we’re all ready for it. If we can make sense of what we really need after all our plans have been so disrupted. x

 


 

Read my personal favourite ever blogpost, Ashtagged: Planes Trains and Souzamaphones >

And relive two cuts of the proper little set we shared after wards, the first ever performances of Paris Breakfast and Al Hamdu Li Lah: