Port Eliot Festival, St. Germans, Cornwall
Thursday 28 – Sunday 31 July, 2016
With the rhubarb thrusting upward and the willow warbler singing strong while hoping to get his end away, it’s time to contemplate the Caught by the River stage’s return to Port Eliot festival – those grin-inducing Cornish vistas that make for one of the most spectacular festival sites in Britain. This will be our seventh year at the festival. Wow! We continue to feel blessed by our setting at Port Eliot – down by the wide, meditative expanses of the tidal River Tiddy. It’s a glorious spot, looking out across the water and round to the arches of the big old railway viaduct. Come hear the curlew call – answered, for one weekend only, by intoxicating music and fascinating talks.
Port Eliot is the place where the Caught by the River website comes to life. In past years we’ve had live music from Gruff Rhys, King Creosote, Cate Le Bon, Jimi Goodwin and British Sea Power, amongst many others. This year the sounds will range from the latter-day great American guitar of Ryley Walker to Virginia Astley’s harp-accompanied words to the wild Japanese rock of Bo Ningen. Again, the great Andrew Weatherall returns with his tent-flaps-wide-open riverine disco-deluxe. In previous years our talks have ranged from the secret history of maggot-vending machines to how birdsong might lead to better brain surgery. There will be more such this year, including contributions from such CBTR regulars as John Andrews, Tim Dee, Pete Fowler, Emma Warren, Rob St. John, Mathew Clayton, Will Burns and Roy Wilkinson.
As ever we’ll do our best to live up to this location, with our main, tented, stage set in the lee of the old quarry. Food, amplified music and a fully-stocked beer bar will be yours for nothing more than the applicable coinage of the realm. The fantastic Totnes-based record store Drift Records will be on site for the third year running, alongside workshops on fly-tying and letterpress.
And don’t forget, we are just a part of this wonderful festival. For information on the rest of the programme and a look at photo galleries from previous years, pay a visit to the Port Eliot website, where you will also find the box office.
The Antidote Hour: Emma Warren / Mathew Clayton / Luke Turner / John Andrews / Jeff Barrett
At 3pm on the Thursday, DJ Stephen ‘Spoonful’ Parker will open the Caught by the River tent – expect anything from Bobbie Gentry to a bootleg tape of Kevin Rowland reciting 1981 train times for Arundel and Goring-by-Sea. Spoonful will be followed by a short welcome address from CBTR commodore Jeff Barrett and the superstar CBTR MC, Andrews of Arcadia. Then there will be two Antidote Hour conversations. Luke Turner, co-founder of The Quietus, and writer and broadcaster Emma Warren will give a talk entitled ‘Woods To Woods’. Luke is writing a book about Epping Forest and Emma has been writing about Oxleas Woods in Greenwich Borough for Caught by The River – here they will share stories and audio from their respective woodlands. This will be followed by publisher and writer Mathew Clayton with a talk titled ‘Kling Klang: The History of the Cowbell’.
Playing on the Thursday evening, Modern Studies launch the musical agenda for Caught by the River at Port Eliot 2016. Alongside the other live bands on Thursday – July Skies and The Magnetic North – Modern Studies’ music evokes the British landscape. They consist of Edinburgh singer-songwriter Emily Scott, plus Pete Harvey – cellist and arranger for King Creosote – and Rob St John. The late magazine The Word gave the lowdown on Rob’s music: “A Lancastrian singer-songwriter with the profundity of Ian Curtis, Nick Drake and Stuart Staples, whose songs animate geography like Luke Haines does history.”
July Skies are an indie-meteorological wunderkammer – mixing the evanescent sounds or Felt and Vini Reilly with a drifting drive through both the British psyche and the British islands. Their self-declared points of departure are many-splendored: “Orford Ness, lost youth, Henry Moore, abandoned airfields, endless childhood summers, ruins, faded innocence, skies of all seasons, Festival of Britain 1951, overgrown follies, concrete precincts and tower blocks, old Ordnance Survey maps, lost airmen, infatuation and loss…” Their album The Weather Clock was originally released in 2008 and is now reissued by Rivertones, Caught by the River’s phonographic arm.
The Magnetic North
Their previous album was Orkney: Symphony Of The Magnetic North. Now we have Prospect Of Skelmersdale. This west Lancashire 1960s new town might lack Orkney’s remote wonder, but there’s more to Skem than housing estates. The town became the UK home of the Transcendental Meditation movement, and The Magnetic North now mix kitchen-sink drama and urban psychogeography with meditative ragas. It’s music as varied as its creators: the Orcadian singer and producer Erland Cooper, the Mancunian singer and composer Hannah Peel and Simon Tong who has played with The Verve and The Good, The Band And The Queen. Hannah has previously played on the Port Eliot Caught by the River stage, cranking out New Order’s Blue Monday on a sheet-fed music-box. The Magnetic North are likely to be just as memorable.
James Macdonald Lockhart
James’s book Raptor: A Journey Through Birds won him The Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction and the Authors’ Foundation Roger Deakin Award. James will talk about avian raptors in all their menace and majesty.
This Devon DJ crew will oversee the end-of-day dancefloor action on the Thursday. Imagine the finest poolside pumpers now magically transplanted to the Cornish deltas. As the BR kru say, paraphrasing psychotropic mind-sailor Terence MacKenna, “This is about you, your scene, your friends, your place in the universe.”
The esteemed Weatherall – aka Lord Sabre, aka The Major, aka Rude Solo – is, of course, a dance-disc legend, renowned for his live DJ-ing and for his remixes and production for everyone from Primal Scream and New Order to Siouxsie Sioux and Fuck Buttons. We are blessed that Andrew has added to his CV with regular DJ appearances for CBTR at Port Eliot. This year he’s set is ignite the prime last-on-on-Saturday slot. What he’ll play is anyone’s guess, but last year he was overheard discussing the connoisseurs’ techno variant that is Balkan Bum Dungeon. Perhaps this time he’ll treat us to one of the true grails of the contemporary DJ scene – the mash-up of Josef K’s ‘It’s Kinda Funny’ and Lady Saw’s ‘Peanut Punch Make Man Shit Up Gal Bed’, said to exist as a solitary copy inside a safe in Slovenia.
Ted Kessler presents My Old Man
Q and ex-NME journalist Ted Kessler is the man behind My Old Man, a new book from Canongate in which Ted gathers tales of fathers: good and bad, happy and sad, glorious and tragic. The 40 contributors include Tilda Swinton, Rod Stewart, Paul Weller, Florence Welch and Julie Burchill. Ted will be talking with Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki, about her own dad.
Simon Fisher Turner “My Life In Showbusiness”: in conversation with Luke Turner
A conversation with the actor and musician Simon Fisher Turner, who has made legendary records as The King Of Luxembourg and worked with Derek Jarman, David Lynch, Tilda Swinton and Jonathan King. Luke Turner (no relation) is co-founder of the music-and-culture website The Quietus and, as well as being an authority on Holger Czukay’s stage footwear (1969-1990), is working on a book about Epping Forest.
This London-based Japanese rock quartet blast out music of joyous cacophony. They’ve been selected as tour support to bands including British Sea Power, Primal Scream and The Cult and have worked in collaboration with Savages and Damo Suzuki. They play with a breathtaking animalistic power while looking like kimono-clad maidens – a truly transportive rush of structured rock noise that, down by the river, could be unforgettable.
Writer/broadcaster Tim was born in brave Liverpool and has worked as a BBC radio producer for 20 years. He is the author of the acclaimed nature-themed non-fiction books The Running Sky and Four Fields. Talks from this CBTR regular are always fascinating, and this year he’ll be talking about “humans and seagulls”. Will the narrative include the time a rare ivory gull was spotted picking over discarded prophylactics at West Wirral Waste World? There’s only one way to find out…
Darren Hayman presents Thankful Villages
The former singer and guitarist with thoughtful indie rockers Hefner presents his Thankful Villages project, a realm where every soldier returned alive from World War I. This work involves Darren visiting all 54 of these villages – and making a piece of music and short film for each. The Guardian said Hayman is “the match of Ray Davies, or any of the quintessentially English masters”.
DJs Pete Fowler and James Endeacott
This DJ tandem is sure to be a glorious rock goosefair. Fowler is the Welsh visual artist best known for his work with Super Furry Animals. Endeacott, with his hair of purest viking gold, is a music-biz catalyst who has worked with bands including The Libertines and The Strokes.
In 2014 Paul, writer, activist and former deputy editor of The Ecologist, published the novel The Wake – the story of an Anglo-Saxon freeman in Norman-occupied England. Now comes the second part in a trilogy – Beast, a tale of existential battles with the elements and the biological bogey of the title. Paul’s first novel was crowd-funded, his second is to be published by Faber & Faber. He will talk about this and his ancient English fictional realm.
Virginia and Florence Astley
The pastoral independent-music great Virginia Astley has worked with musicians ranging from Ryuichi Sakamoto to The Skids’ Richard Jobson. Following their spellbinding 2015 appearance on the Port Eliot Caught by the River stage, Virginia and her harpist daughter Florence make a welcome return. Expect evocative poetry plus the most mellifluous accompaniment.
Alexandra Harris in conversation with Tim Dee
Writer and cultural historian Alexandra Harris is the author of the book Weatherland: Writers & Artists Under English Skies – a panoramic survey of England’s cultural climates across the centuries. Tim Dee hosts this conversation.
Letters From Arcadia – Dexter Petley in conversation with John Andrews
The novelist and angler Dexter Petley lives in a caravan in Normandy, where he divides his time between catching carp and writing about waterways, romantic reverie and ancient German tank traps. John Andrews is our much-loved regular CBTR events MC and the author of the angling-based memoir For All Those Left Behind. Here the pair will personify their CBTR web correspondence, Letters From Arcadia. Expect charming chat on anything from Gene Hackman and whitebait to the Danubian roach and Norton motorcycles.
Walker’s Primrose Green album was one of the most critically-acclaimed of 2015 – musical classicism with powerful suggestions of both Tim Buckley and Brian Auger. Walker, from Rockford, Illinois, is a great contemporary guitar stylist, and on this year’s Port Eliot CBTR stage he’s the final instalment of a trio of compelling players – following Yorkshire’s Michael Chapman and and the Hastings-based fingerstyle player James Blackshaw. All three invoke something of the late, great John Fahey, creator of the American Primitive Guitar style. Playing by the muddy Cornish levees and previewing his new album Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, Walker is set to summon sonorous incantation from his trusty Guild D-35 guitar.
Born in 1940s Yorkshire, singer-songwriter and guitarist Michael Chapman carved out his gigography playing alongside John Martyn, Roy Harper and Mick Robson – and has released over 40 albums for labels including Harvest, Light In The Attic and Blast First Petite. Recently, Chapman has enjoyed live collaborations with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore – testimony to a style that has enraptured guitar aficionados for four decades. This back catalogue is still attracting new ears, with The Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner citing Chapman’s 1969 debut album Rainmaker as compulsory listening. Chapman first made his name on the Cornish folk circuit in the 1960s. Fitting, then, that he should now return to the southwest.
From Hastings in East Sussex, Blackshaw and his 12-string guitar have drawn comparisons with such sainted players as Bert Jansch, Leo Kottke and John Fahey. Blackshaw has recorded for labels including Static Caravan and Young God Records, the latter launched by Michael Gira of Swans. As The Observer noted: “Sometimes like medieval French lute music, sometimes enticingly Indian, but, throughout, drenched in feeling.”
DJ Erol has remixed bands including Temples, Tame Impala and Midlake and appeared in BBC Radio 6Music’s 6Mix slot, taking his place alongside such slipmat superstars as Derrick May. After Alkan founded the Trash night in London this club saw performances by Peaches, LCD Soundsystem and Yeah Yeah Yeahs! Erol’s live DJ skills have taken crowds to dancefloor euphoria across the globe. Be warned! This man is absolutely unafraid to pump in your face and/or rattle the speaker cones like a jackdaw stuck in the chimney pot.
Faber New Poets
Faber New Poets is a publishing programme from the historic metrical forum that is Faber & Faber. Ex-Faber New Poet Will Burns appears as special guest at this poetical cornucopia. The event is hosted by Faber Poetry Editor Martha Sprackland and will feature four Faber New Poets: Kentish lass Elaine Beckett, Leeds’ own Rachel Curzon and London residents Crispin Best and Sam Buchan-Watts. Additionally, Will and Martha will perform their own poetry over the weekend.
Earlier this year, Guardian writer and radio broadcaster Laura Barton presented the BBC Radio 4 series Notes From a Musical Island – an exploration of the UK’s close relationship between music and landscape, from the rhythms of the industrial north to the music and clamour of London. At Port Eliot she will host a live version of the show, with a collection of musical friends and experts gathering to look at the music of brave Cornwall.
Amy’s writing has been a regular feature on the Caught by the River website – indeed her first book, the recent memoir The Outrun, stems from her words for the site. In the book she tells how she escaped a booze-wrecked life in London by returning to the Orkney sheep farm where she grew up, recuperating surrounded by the sea. Amy has worked in a shellfish factory and surveyed Orkney’s corncrake population for the RSPB. She will be reading from The Outrun and discussing the book, and more, with Emma Warren.
With his trousers too short and his ideas big enough to subjugate China, Meilyr gave a galvanising performance on the Caught by the River stage at Festival No.6 in Wales in 2015. Since then the ex-Race Horses man has cut a dash with his debut solo album, titled 2013 – an exultant set of classicist independent rock. This Aberystwyth renaissance man attended the Royal Academy of Music and has played bass for Gruff Rhys and worked with Cate Le Bon. His album draws on fascinations with Byron and Berlioz and features a community choir and field recordings of birdlife. Expect another magnetic performance, one that could make Meilyr’s pedal-pusher-pert pantaloons a fashion essential by summer’s end.
Amber Arcades is the nom-de-rock of Dutch-born musician Annelotte de Graaf. She started writing songs in 2010 while temporarily living in Philadelphia. Back in the Netherlands in 2012 she released an EP of melancholic folk ballads. Then, in New York, she was backed by members of Real Estate and Quilt while making her debut album for Heavenly Recordings. The result is a dreamy, esoteric collection – ethereal melody floating over Krautrock-inspired drums and fuzzed-out organs.
Gwenno Saunders is a sound artist, radio presenter and singer from Cardiff. Following her memorable appearance at Port Eliot in 2015 and a debut album featuring lyrics in both Welsh and Cornish, Gwenno now makes a return to this stretch of Britain’s Celtic fringes. Gwenno’s debut album Y Dydd Olaf (The Last Day) was saluted for its captivating vocals and musique concrète-inspired beats – plus a point of departure beyond the indie-rock average. Y Dydd Olaf is a dystopian concept album, inspired by nuclear scientist Owain Owain’s sci-fi novel of the same name.
Will Burns and Adam Chetwood
Caught by the River poet-in-residence Will Burns, accompanied by Black Peaches member Adam Chetwood on steel guitar.
Laura is based in East Anglia and her music draws on both the landscape and medieval music, incorporating wild-animal calls and long-forgotten liturgical fragments. Her 2015 album Beneath Swooping Talons featured in MOJO magazine’s Underground Albums of the Year and in The Guardian’s Top Experimental Albums of 2015.
BAM! Night Beats are psychedelic rockers based in Seattle but greedy for the ‘60s Texan sounds of Roky Erickson. Third album, Who Sold My Generation, was released by wundersuper Heavenly Recordings in 2016 and they’ve toured with both the Mary Chain and The Zombies. Unsurprisingly, they’re fully endorsed by the US individual known as The Reverberation Appreciation Society. Fill your Millets rubber cowboy boots with cactus liquor and anticipate synaptic rock joy.
The sensational Black Peaches sextet is the new solo project of Rob Smoughton, a long-time member of Hot Chip and Scritti Politti. Sat midway between the swamp and the tropics, Black Peaches’ music is gloriously loose-limbed: a psychotropic stew of country boogie, spiritual jazz and funk. Slide guitar! Latin percussion! A soupçon of Little Feat and Dr John! People, just what more do you want for your jumbo-gumbo-mojo dollar?! This one will have you demanding fresh sassafras in your beer then git you trawling the Cornish deltas in search of fresh alligator to cook up crisp and delicious on your actual Primus cook-out collectibles.
Roy Wilkinson’s Pop & Nature Quiz
For a third year running, Roy Wilkinson will be presenting a prize music-and-nature quiz. The author of the acclaimed rock/forestry memoir Do It For Your Mum will be posing musically-illustrated questions on moths and modern rock. As with last year, he’ll be assisted live on the wheels of steel by DJ Spoonful Parker. Get ready for the crush collision of long-tailed tits and Randy Vanwarmer that had critics heralding the duo as the Aldi Sleaford Mods. Quiz prizes will include a pair of tickets for next year’s Port Eliot Festival.
MC: John Andrews
DJs: Stephen ‘Spoonful’ Parker, Martin Nesbitt and Heavenly Jukebox DJs – until late every night.
On site: Devon’s acclaimed Drift Records shop and CBTR workshops from Pete Fowler, Nick Hand, Jon McNaught and Super Fly Guy.