What's On - Top Ten Picks for December

14th November 2017 // Whats On // Local

Mike Robinson gives us his tip-top top ten picks for December.

Roland Gift – 2nd December – The Welly

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It seems fitting that one of Hull’s most successful adopted sons make an appearance to crown what’s been an unprecedented year for Hull. It’s almost a year to the week since his last appearance, when he thrilled fans with a set which leant heavily on his output with Fine Young Cannibals. So, he kicks off the festive season in what will undoubtedly be a celebratory affair.

It’s amazing to think that his former band only released two studio albums as they seem to have been ubiquitous in the 80s. They smashed down the doors in 1985 with debut single Johnny Come Home, setting up a run of classic singles that’d see them set up camp in the charts until 1990, after their second album The Raw and The Cooked, topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Their success was due, mostly, to that voice. It’s one of those rare beasts that demands you pay attention. It’s a distinctive sound that elevates the songs into dramatic territory. When I was older, I was stunned that Suspicious Minds and Ever Fallen in Love weren’t theirs. It’s testament to this singular vocal talent that they both sounded new. In the words of leprechaun Louis Walsh, he owned them.

And on the 2nd December, again at The Welly you can hear that voice and witness that enigmatic presence that’s been stopping folk in their tracks for 32 years. He may have spent his first 11 years in Birmingham, but we’re claiming him as ‘ull.

Substance Film Festival – 1/2/4/5 December – Vue Cinema Hull

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The north of England has been well-represented on the big screen. We’re portrayed as downtrodden and resolutely working class. Think of films set in the north: Kes, Rita, Sue and Bob Too, I, Daniel Blake; they all depict down-at- heel characters that reek of desperation. TV series, Boys From The Blackstuff, Shameless and Auf Wiedersehen Pet, similarly portray a gritty bleakness and rawness, with stories populated by tragic characters. Any happy endings are hard-won in tales punctuated with moments of extreme hardship. It’s almost as if northernness and the north itself as a land mass, are dramatic devices synonymous with poverty, desperation and tragedy. The north has become a character itself. And it’s not a glamorous one.

The Substance Film Festival, running over four nights, is a set of short films that tries to make some sense and ask some questions of our locale. Each night will have a different theme: Award Winning Films, Place is a State of Mind, Human Stories and Complex Relationships will examine northern identity from different perspectives.

The very title of the festival is an obvious nod to Joy Division and New Order, and by default, Factory Records and Tony Wilson, who embodied the very essence of northernness. Wilson himself was an avid champion of regionalism; in his case, Manchester. He was the living incarnation of the northern, working class anti-hero much portrayed in northern drama. He flirted with the working class, playing up his Salford roots when it took his fancy, but he was a middle class intellectual, with radically socialist politics.

This festival offers us the chance to celebrate, examine and question what it means to be northern. The scope is wide, making us question our cultural and political heritage, and as we become increasingly more globalised, imploring we retain our sense of northernness. Not to be missed.

City of Vultures presents: Richard Dorfmeister – 9th December – Früit

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As one half of Austrian downtempo/trip-hop duo, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Richard Dorfmeister has been critically lauded and consistently classy since the release of their classic debut EP, G-Stoned back in 1993. He brings his slick electronic beats to Früit on 9th December, in the latest of Steve Cobby’s excellent City of Vultures series running throughout the year. To celebrate 2017, Steve has been gathering together some of his mates, who just happen to be behemoths of the electronic music scene, and putting on some of the best nights of the year, and this is the final instalment of what has been an eclectic and successful run of events.

I’ve had some of the best nights of the year at these events, and the Mr Scruff night even saw me remove my cagoule. It was that good! Steve himself will be playing back-to- back with Dorfmeister and closing proceedings. It doesn’t stop there though, because you’ve got support from local institutions Bobby Beige and Porky, and judging by previous nights in this run, you’d be advised to get down there early, because the support DJs have been invariably tearing the roof off by 10pm.

There’s a great mix of people at these, and young and old rub shoulders with one aim: to have a right old knees-up in a welcoming and inclusive environment. The series has been as close, in spirit, to the original ethos of the acid house scene that I’ve seen in many a year. Get your dancing shoes on for this one and prepare to be inspired.

InPort Stories – Weekends until 9th December – ABP Pump House, Alexandra Dock

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This fascinating and ambitious project is the brainchild of local arts heritage group, The History Troupe, and it takes us on a journey, with the aid of a wonderfully-presented photo exhibition from ABP’s photo archives, into our own cultural heritage as a thriving port city. It serves as a thrilling document of life on the docks; its past, naturally, but also the present and also showing us a glimpse of the future. It’s an exhilarating ride. The ‘pop-up gallery’ is situated in the remarkable Pump House, a Grade II listed building next to the new Siemens Factory. It’s not solely an exhibition though, there will be performances of music, drama, poetry, creative workshops and talks throughout its run, that catch the spirit, and tell the tales of our proud maritime history in an accessible and captivating way.

Tales of the history of the booming port of Hull will be interspersed with spoken word pieces and a specially-curated soundtrack. Mick McGarry, along with The History Troupe Players and The Hillbilly Troupe will be treating us to a carefully-selected batch of characteristically Hullensian nautical shanties that’s certain to be emotional, and rip-roaring good fun.

There are also authoritative talks by local historians, but the emphasis is firmly on performance, and judging by The History Troupe’s previous projects, A Tale of Two Cities: A Story of Hull KR and Hull FC and Run for the Line, about Hull FC legend, Jack Harrison, you will be entertained. Similarly, The Box and Boolin’ Prams are given The Troupe treatment. If history had been this much fun at school, I’d have stayed awake in class.

Wherever you travel in the world, ports are the most fascinating places, with a wealth of material lurking in the alleyways. From New York to Liverpool, Rotterdam to Glasgow, and Venice to Shanghai, Hull is a different type of city. There’s a toughness in all of these cities that’s fascinating, but there’s also an underlying warmth, and The History Troupe exude that in spades. Go see for yourselves.

Cinderella: Middle Child Alternative Pantomime – 16th - 30th December - Früit

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Hull’s Middle Child ensemble bring their much-fêted alternative panto back to Früit for the sixth time, such is its popularity. It’s become almost as much of an institution as the main panto with its predictable ‘oo-er missus’ humour and seemingly endless parade of z-list celebs willing to debase themselves for a few quid. Middle Child’s panto is the indie version if you like, where the performers look as if they’re having as much fun as the audience. You get the feeling across town that someone who came 4th on X-Factor in 2011 is in a dressing room, crying, as they knock back a bottle of Asda own-brand Scotch every night.

Middle Child have been wowing audiences with their own brand of raucous theatre all year. Their productions are more like gigs in spirit. They create an environment where the barriers between performers and audience are smashed down. It’s like you’re on a night out with them.

They bring this sense of fun tenfold to their yearly panto. The writing’s accessible and fun,

and the music’s always spot-on; they’re neither tacky or pretentious affairs, just riotous good fun. If you want to take your kids, there’s a daily matinee, but you’ll probably end up coming back with your mates for the evening adult show. Guaranteed good times.

La Bête Blooms – 22nd December – The New Adelphi Club

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It’s been a great year for these Hull lads. They’ve bagged a few prestigious support slots and played outside of their home town extensively, as well as releasing new music that’s been well-received, getting airplay from the likes of 6Music. They seem to grow in stature and confidence with each gig. Their keen eye for a melody mixed with often-visceral playing makes them an exciting proposition, and to crown off a fantastic year, they play a homecoming in The Adelphi, all Hull bands’ spiritual home, which is bound to be a sell-out.

A handful of Hull bands have taken Hull to the rest of the country this year. In 2017, during this momentous time for the city. Everyone wants a piece of Hull, but whilst we bask in the luxury of the multitude of cultural events that have taken place here, it’s important to also get out and in England’s faces. It’s evidently paid dividends, as their brand of alternative rock, part-Pavement, part-MBV, part-early Mercury Rev has soared with each release.

They’re an exciting live act. Their mild-mannered singer, Dan Mawer, transforms into a Tasmanian Devil of pent-up aggression onstage, not unlike Kurt Cobain, as he bellows out the band’s songs of paranoia and alienation in modern-day northern England. John Copley on guitar, and ‘a load of other skint northerners,’ according to their bio, make a deliciously thunderous noise behind him.

Their Christmas gig will be a celebratory affair. Make sure you catch them while you can still see the whites of their eyes.

Simon Armitage in the City of Culture 12th December – Middleton Hall

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Despite being surrounded by poetry in my formative years, I shied away from poetry apart from the funny ones with the swears in them. Then I started at university, for the second time, last year and balked at the thought of having to study poetry.

Then I encountered Simon Armitage. His poetry struck a chord, and he seemed like a bit of a lad. A West Yorkshire, football-supporting, beer-swilling (I guess), music-loving intellectual. His poem, Killing Time, deeply affected me, as it turned the notion of mass shootings on its head. He documented two boys entering a school in Colorado, ‘armed to the teeth with thousands of flowers.’ And went on to question what kind of society we live in, or whether it’s genetic make-up that makes a person be that kind. So, I took notice of poetry and decided I was into it. Cheers, Simon.

Armitage, it transpired, is quite a big deal, and he’ll be celebrating the literary heritage of Hull and Yorkshire, as well as, presumably, doing readings from his latest collection, The Unaccompanied, inspired by the other side of Yorkshire, but encompassing global concerns. It sounds intriguing, and he is a genuine powerhouse of the medium, so to have someone of his stature perform on your doorstep, it’d be daft not to check him out.

Batman Returns (Cult Cinema Sunday) – 3rd December – Früit

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It’s easy to forget, amid the rush to fellate Christopher Nolan for his recent trilogy, that the first two Batman films in the last reboot of the franchise, were actually damn good. People tend to associate that run of films with the last two, which descended into self-parody. And they weren’t dark enough. Batman’s supposed to be a badass, and the desire to make

Batman a bit too cuddly and family-friendly was a mistake. The first two, however, were excellent. Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Batman was first class. Definitely the equal of Heath Ledger’s although it’s heresy to say so. Job done in 1989 when it was revived. Tim Burton’s second attempt was even darker and more violent. Good. That’s how Batman’s supposed to be. He’s a narcissistic sociopath. Not the obvious choice for Batman, Michael Keaton did another great job, but the stars of the show were the psychotic Danny Devito as the twisted, hideous Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as the feral yet irresistible Catwoman. And it’s got Christopher Walken in it.

Nolan’s trilogy is rightly regarded as the benchmark now, but those first two Batman films were essential, so pop along to Früit and remind yourselves how good it was before it got bad, then great again.

Smoove and Turrell – 8th December – The Welly

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Bit of a strange one, this, as I’ve never really been bothered about this Geordie funk duo. I’ve tried, and they’re ok, but just not as mind-blowing (to me) as some would have me believe. However, most of the people I know of my age are seriously into them, so there must be something there, as I respect their judgement. As a live band, I hear they are immense, so I’m chucking them in here, because I’m going to see what all the fuss is about.

Anyway, I’m approaching this with an open mind, the gigs where you expect little are often the most life-affirming, so I’m hoping for some kind of epiphany, judging by friends’ reactions. Another reason to go is that support is provided by the excellent Pearl’s Cab Ride, who bring their own brand of funk and soul; always a great party band. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen them in the last couple of years, but they’ve always been flawless. The excellent Young Jack also support, as do The Residents DJ collective, so it’ll be wall to wall party bangers all night.

Shed Seven – 21 st December – Hull City Hall

I’d always considered this band perennial Britpop underachievers until I was dragged along to a gig a few years ago. It struck me how many great songs they have. Like most Britpop bands, they suffered from the Be Here Now fallout, soldiered on for a few years, then split in 2003. They reformed in 2007 for a reunion tour, and have been playing special Christmas tours more or less every year since 2011, but no new music. Until now.

At the turn of the year, the tickets went on sale for their usual Christmas tour, which sold out almost immediately. They were also going to drop their first album since 2001 in November. It’s surprisingly good. For a band I had pegged as tier-two Britpop also-rans, there’s a surprising amount of love for them, and while they might not have delivered fully-formed albums, the dreaded greatest hits albums reveal a top singles band with some killer tunes. And they are a top live band.

So, they’ll be at City Hall a few days before Christmas as we exit the City of Culture. It’s been a great year for big bands coming to Hull. We’ve been spoilt really. And what better way to cap it off for people of a certain age than to have a drunken singalong with your mates at Christmas to the anthems of your golden years? I’m in.