End of the Road Festival 2013

End of the Road Festival… I’d half hoped it might be at the foot of the A303, but sadly it’s nearer Wiltshire. That’s about the only disappointment though, and it’s a trivial one. Three and a bit days of folk music I’d mostly never heard of, some absolute delights such as David Byrne and St Vincent, one of a kind revelations such as King Khan’s James Brown-esque crooning, a disco in a forest, all sorts of strange delights in the woods, in fact, and revellers aged six months to sixtysomething soaking it all up. It’s a little gem of a festival.

 
[Pictures originally published at Clashmusic.com]

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Meadows in the Mountains festival, Bulgaria

Meadows in the Mountains is somewhere between a festival and a party, deep in the mountains in southern Bulgaria. Blessed with beautiful scenery, beautiful people, and beautiful music it’s quite an experience. With fewer people than the average Northern line platform at rush hour, it’s an intimate, friendly affair no one there will forget.

 
[Pictures originally published at Clashmusic.com]

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CSS @ Village Underground

Lovefoxx and the rest of the Brazilian five piece still have the same sense of fun after four albums as they did way back in 2006 when they released ‘Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above’, and when Death From Above 1979 were actually around.

 
[Pictures originally published at Clashmusic.com]

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Photos of Chvrches @ Village Underground

Tonight Chvrches face the challenge of a room full of hipsters in this brick Shoreditch temple. The rites begin with the kickdrums of ‘Lies‘, foreboding bass tones that recall early Gary Numan, spiky harmonic stabs driving the track forward while Lauren Mayberry dons her dominatrix hat to instruct us: “You got to show me / Both knees, skin and bone / Clothe me, throw me, move me”.

 
[Words and pictures originally published at Clashmusic.com]

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FIDLAR @ The Garage, Highbury

FIDLAR’s tracks are propulsive, catchy rackets drenched in cheap power-chord riffs and calls to drink beer, smoke weed, grab a skate board and flick everyone the bird. “Fuck school, fuck going to work, fuck all that,” says singer Zac Carper helpfully. “Start a band. I mean, if we can do it…”

 
[Words and pictures originally published at Clashmusic.com]

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Gallops + Portasound @ The Lexington

Prog is back, armed with better synthesisers, more effects, and the most mental drummers on Earth. Gallops, Portasound and The Physics House Band tear the roof off The Lexington.

 
[Words and photos originally published at Clashmusic.com]

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Moulettes @ The Roundhouse

Moulettes are the most precision instru-mentalists you’ll find wielding bassoon, autoharp, harmonium, cello, violin, double bass, guitar, glockenspiel and drum. They bring the dark crypt-like confines of the Roundhouse Hub to life with darkly comic tales of love, sex and death – like all good folk music.

 
[Words and photos originally published at Clashmusic.com]

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Moshi Moshi Hub Sessions @ The Roundhouse

Three more disparate artists one could not imagine: multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter James Spankie supported by a string quartet, the self-described “small fat Welshman” Sweet Baboo playing lovely, sardonic songs, and steel-pan drum legend Fimber Bravo, with Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip on keyboards repaying a favour from Fimber’s steel-pan appearances on One Life Stand. I ran out of memory cards in the end and just danced to Fimber’s rhythms. We got him back for an encore and he said “Give yourself a big hand, I’ve never had an encore in 20 years”.

 
[Photos originally published at Clashmusic.com]

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Laetitia Sadier @ The Water Rats

Laetitia Sadier, stepping out from behind the serried banks of Moogs and synths that for 20 years has made up the kraut-rock-dream-pop of Stereolab, played a short set of some of her solo material from two albums, The Trip and Silencio. Stripped back to guitar and voice, it wasn’t at all like Stereolab, but Sadier’s French accented, lush singing voice, wry humour and strident political lyrics are still as they ever were.

 

[Photos and words originally published at Clashmusic.com]

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Portraits

I’ve not much time for studio portraits. While often undeniably beautiful, there’s just something superficial and unreal about a beautiful sitter and perfect lighting, make-up, and hair to make them even more so. I prefer mine in the field, metaphorically, and sometimes literally.

 
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Chapel Club @ Birthdays

After a single album as an Editors-esque, Interpol-a-like indie guitar band, London-based outfit Chapel Club reappeared after six months in the US with a very different, dubby, effects and synth-laden sound, thick with rhythms, layered synthesizers and heavy bass with a hint of shoegaze. These pictures were taken at the gig at Birthdays where the new material was first played.

 
[Words and pictures first appeared at Clashmusic.com]

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Editorial: Festival of Angels

As part of a fundraising drive to raise cash for a £2m project that would ensure the future of the 600-year-old St Nicholas’ Chapel in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, these photos were taken during the two-day Festival of Angels. Fashioned from many materials, from cyanotype prints, to curtains and mop heads, to vegetables or dressmakers’ dummies, the company- and organisation-sponsored angels filled the chapel over two wet, blustery days in June 2012. These photographs were taken for the Churches Conservation Trust and the Eastern Daily Press.

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My Tiger My Timing @ The Lexington

“My Tiger My Timing bounce on stage with obvious relish and launch into album taster ‘Wasteland’, warm reverberating synths laced with a Kate Bush-esque vocal trill. Their songs incorporate a capital city of influences – a South London blend of sharp, off-kilter Jamaican dancehall rhythms, the bright, shimmering guitar of Mali, Kenya and the Congo, and new wave synths. They blend luxuriant Scandipop with up-front rhythms and the controlled weirdness of Talking Heads.”

 
[Words and pictures published at Clashmusic.com]

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Abandoned Six Flags, New Orleans

Six Flags New Orleans, formerly Jazzland, is a theme park on the outskirts of New Orleans. Hit by Katrina in 2005 it was for a time submerged under several feet of water – the brown tide marks are still visible throughout the site. While the City and the park’s owners are tied up in legal wrangles over responsibility for the mess, Six Flags lies abandoned, its rollercoaster carcass steadily stripped for scrap and sinking slowly back into the bayou.

 
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Signs of Life: Pripyat and Chernobyl

 

Pripyat, a city near the Dniepr river in northern Ukraine, was built in 1970 to house workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, just three kilometres away. Almost 50,000 people lived and worked there.

When Chernobyl reactor no. 4 exploded just after 1am on April 26, 1986, the 1,000 ton concrete containment lid over the reactor was blown aside like a paperweight, blasting out ionising radiation and chunks of radioactive debris. Exposed to the air, the graphite and fuel rods inside the reactor to burst into flames.

Despite dangerous levels of radiation, it was more than 36 hours before the Soviet leadership decided to evacuate the city. By then, sixteen weddings had taken place in Pripyat, and the firemen who attended the fire that first night had begun to die. Men, women and children were told to take only a bag for a few nights, that they were being evacuated as a precaution. They would never return. Pripyat was abandoned, a 30 kilometre exclusion zone was established around the site, and a further 300,000 people in affected parts of Ukraine and Belarus were resettled.

In the days and weeks after the disaster, tens of thousands of men – volunteers, young army conscripts, helicopter pilots, firemen, even miners brought in to reinforce tunnels under the reactor – fought to extinguish the fires and clean up the radioactive debris. With only the most basic protective equipment, they were known as ‘liquidators’.

In the West we know it as the ‘Chernobyl disaster’ or ‘accident’, but in Ukraine and Belarus it is known as ‘the Catastrophe’. It is very difficult to gauge the lasting effects of Chernobyl, made more difficult by incomplete records, a mobile population, conflicting findings and political stonewalling. But Pripyat, empty for years, has become an unlikely tourist destination, the setting for computer games, music videos and films. People now walk among the ghosts.

Through interviews and photographs taken in March 2010, a little of Pripyat’s story is revealed through photographs and the words of those that lived and worked there.

With many thanks to Evgeney Gagushkin, Lyudmila Starodubtseva, Jeanne Rumiantseva and Roman, and Linda Walker of the Chernobyl Children’s Project who made this possible.

 

 

Welcome to Pripyat
Welcome to Pripyat

The city sign on the road to Pripyat (При́пять in Russian). Flowers and wreaths are a common sight on the statues, signs and plaques that remain in the zone. They have become memorials to what was lost – the city itself; two-thirds of the population were graduates, Pripyat represented the pinnacle of Soviet modernity and achievement.

“I was maybe three years old. There were many children born there, it was a beautiful, happy city. Schools, swimming pools, cinema, everything there was the best. When people came from Moscow to Pripyat, they used to say we lived in a resort. It was a very clean city, designed by a very good architect, built according to modern town planning theories, using the latest designs.”
– Roman

“We lived in a high-rise flat near the centre, by the culture palace near the main square. After graduation in St Petersburg we got to Pripyat in 1975. We had three bedrooms, everything we needed, all mod cons. We lived there for eight years. it was the best place in the world.”
– Lyudmila

“Once we saw the damage I was depressed, because the no one else realised the extent of the problem. I realised that no one would ever be coming back. I realised there was no hope for Pripyat.”
– Evgeney

 

 

Monument to the Liquidators
Monument to the Liquidators

When Pripyat was built a statue of Prometheus, the god that gave man the secret of fire, was erected in the city centre. It seemed apt, with nuclear power representing man’s mastery of nature’s most powerful forces.  After the accident, it was moved to a new home by the Chernobyl Exclusion Area administration offices, outside the city. Like this monument to the liquidators only a few hundred feet from the reactor, today the only statues inside Pripyat commemorate the brave and the dead.

“Since we worked at the power station, when we were called to clear up we did what we had to do, we did our duty. We realised that the consequences of not doing it were terrible. We realised it was very serious and that we could die from the radiation, but it was no use thinking about it.

“We were ordered to stop the chain reaction in reactor no. 3 and we did. The pilots flew sortie after sortie in helicopters because it had to be done, but it killed them all.

“The fire was put out on the first day, but the reactor core was giving off such heat and light that it seemed as if it was still on fire. You could see it at night, bright, many different colours. Like an electric fireplace, glowing, pulsing with light, all the colours of the rainbow. It was beautiful.”
– Evgeney

 

 


Abandoned apartments

One of the tallest buildings in Pripyat, it was from here that people watched the multicoloured plume of burning blue, yellow and green fire from the reactor light up the night sky, unaware they were receiving a potentially lethal dose of radiation.

Throughout Eastern Europe, symbols of the Soviet Union and statues of Lenin or Stalin have been torn down. But in Pripyat, where the year is still 1986, the beady eye of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin still watches visitors to the city, and the wreathed hammer, sickle and star of the USSR still adorns buildings.

 

 

Interloper

Interloper

Not everything in Pripyat remains the same – like the trees that force themselves up through the concrete or the tourists that come to gawp, the present day forces itself upon the city, acquiring 21st century graffiti unimaginable during Soviet times.

Chernobyl has become a major source of tourist income for Ukraine, with proceeds funding a government ministry dedicated to the post-Chernobyl clean-up.

Former residents were allowed to return to collect belongings in the mid-90’s, and guided tours began a few years later. Widespread looting of metal, wood and electrics has been a problem for many years. For a decade after the disaster the city retained a Marie Celeste sense of abandonment – tables laid for dinner, hospitals with beds still unmade. Now the buildings are largely stripped, empty and decaying.

 

 

Dark windows
Dark Windows

Pripyat’s first and only supermarket – due to open on May 1st 1986, it never did. Signs still mark the frozen section, and trollies still clog what is left of the aisles.

 

 

School's out
School’s out

One of 15 abandoned schools in Pripyat, still strewn with books, musical equipment, toys and propaganda – not least the banners painted for May Day parades but never used, the impact of the images of illustrious Soviet leaders fading like the paint’s colours.

 

 

Sporting heroes
Sporting heroes

 

 

Routine
Routine

Few schoolchildren during the 1980s could boast such familiarity and experience with gasmasks.

 

 

Library
Library

 

 

Distractions
Distractions
The fairground big wheel and dodgem cars, ready to carry off those celebrating Workers Day (May Day), but still waiting 25 years later.

 

Distractions

 

 

Classroom/Spectacle
Classroom/Spectacle

So many curious eyes have passed through School No. 4, so many photographers looking for a lasting image, the sense grows that what you see is not the ruined city as it was left 24 years ago, but instead what those unnamed and departed visitors wanted to see, by means of any props found to hand: gas masks, pictures of Lenin, colourful children’s books in bold cyrillic, ragged dolls.

 

 

Signs of Life
Signs of Life
In truth, Pripyat is not a ghost town – around 4,000 people work in the exclusion zone monitoring the decaying reactor, radiation levels and wildlife. A new city, Slavutych, was built outside the zone after the disaster to house the workers, as Chernobyl’s remaining reactors were still producing power until 2000, when the plant was shut down as part of an agreement with the EU.

Some workers don’t relish the commute from outside the exclusion zone, however, and set up home inside the small town of Chernobyl from where the power plant takes its name, further than Pripyat from the reactor but still inside the zone.

 

 

Lyudmila and Evgeney
Lyudmila and Evgeney

Lyudmila and Evgeney lived in Pripyat. Lyudmila was evacuated while Evgeney, a technician at the plant, stayed behind as a liquidator, and continued to work at the plant until its closure.

“We were working on the third reactor because we were scared that it could be destroyed as well, a chain reaction. The structure was badly damaged, and it was a very thin wall between one reactor and the other. We had to make hundreds of trips to the reactor to cool it down with sand, it took five days to cool down the fuel rods. Only one man had a dosimeter [to measure radiation] and he was crying ‘faster faster faster!’. There were thousands of rads [unit of radiation] in there, we had to run back and forth, eleven of us, wearing only cotton boiler suits.

“Three died there. Others have got various diseases. There are disabilities that can’t be seen, I have high blood pressure and headaches, there have been organic changes in the brain. Lyudmila had an operation in 1985 to treat cancer, after working at the reactor.

“We have a son, 28, he has thyroid problems, He was eight years old when he was diagnosed with a disease that leaves white spots on skin, checkups revealed the thyroid problems too. He went to Cuba on the exchange program for children of Chernobyl.

“When the reactor exploded the concrete cover deflected the stream of neutrons into the forest. But it could have deflected it the other way, towards Pripyat. No one would have survived.”

– Evgeney

 

“The level of radiation was so strong the pine forest turned reddy orange, it supposed to be green but it became orange in only six hours.

“After we were evacuated we were afraid for our friends and family who were still there. We tried to call them but the lines were dead, there was no news, no information. Everyone had to go to May Day celebrations – in Minsk, in Kiev, even with the radiation from Chernobyl spreading in the air we had celebrations with all the children and families out on the streets. The bigwigs in the Communist Party were there showing their devotion with their families, despite knowing the dangers.

“Though there was no official information, people were trying to leave or get to safety, whatever they thought safety was. There was panic. In the Soviet Union, when you hear nothing, you know it’s bad.

“What happened, happened. No matter how the party misbehaved, they also helped people, they were helped to resettle and recover, given flats and houses and jobs.

“We went back only once, in 1995. We had an opportunity to go there and we were curious. The grass grown tall, the place was dirty and destroyed. I didn’t want to go back. Too many memories.

“Before the catastrophe and after the catastrophe – it is like before the war and after the war. No one will ever forget, nothing is ever the same again.”

– Lyudmila

Festivals

The British summer is now awash with festivals, as much as those festivals are often awash with rain. From late April to Late September, the festival calendar is relentless and caters to all tastes and persuasions. Well, all tastes with a strong emphasis on boozy camping, music and silly hats. Images here are from Field Day 2007, Camp Bestival 2008, Secret Garden Party 2009, The Big Chill 2009, and Notting Hill Carnival 2009.

 

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