Get Your Freek On!

Freekie are running a huge New Year’s Eve event at the University of Essex. With the big night just around the corner, Peter Fitzgerald got in touch with the organisers to find out a little more about the people behind Freekie.

How did Freekie get started? What made you decide to take the plunge and start putting this venture together?

Freekie at work!

The Freekie concept was conceived after holding a private birthday party in a fantastic location near Bures on the Essex and Suffolk border back in 2008. We had such a great time that year that we decided to put on our own ‘mini fest’ the following year. There was (and still is) very little of anything alternative in the area so we wanted to give others the chance to come and enjoy the great music and the safe, fun atmosphere in such tranquil surroundings. The concept was not to create a rave but an intimate mini festival experience! This year was our third. We had three different arenas that offered a full spectrum of underground music including drum and bass, breaks, dub, house and techno, hip hop, funk and electroswing. Each year it improves and everyone that attends always goes away with great memories. Even the police have commended us on the quality of the organisation.

Can you tell us a little more about the people behind Freekie? Who are you, and what do you do in the run up to an event?

The Stumble Inn

Freekie is run by a small group of good friends who like to party and also love to put on a proper show. The main organiser Martin has been putting on intimate underground events since the early nineties and has always had a reputation of going one step further than the rest. This really can be seen by the effort that goes into our yearly Mini Fest. Joe Morgan and Guy and Fen Murray work alongside Martin behind the scenes on the general construction of various props and structures that have been dreamed up for the next event! And of course keeping him sane (or insane!) during the very long and tiring week leading up to the Mini Fest. Martin’s wife Anna is an amazingly talented artist who has no end to her skills, be it craft, painting and drawing or working with materials. Fen Murray, another very talented and creative member of the Freekie family works alongside Anna on the décor side. Between them they come up with some fantastic ideas which get turned into master pieces such as the Stumble Inn (our onsite pub!). Various other close friends and family members make up the team. As you’d expect these kind of events take huge amounts of time and effort to pull off so the Freekie family is always open to adoption!

How did the name ‘Freekie’ come about?

The name actually came after Martin (the main organiser) was browsing equipment on the internet. He noticed a company known as Martin that have a lighting desk called Freekie and it just seemed to make sense! We like to live up to the name with our décor and lighting, not forgetting our rather freaky looking mascot!

What inspires you when you’re planning your events? What helps you really get your teeth into making these nights stand out?

As far as inspiration goes we are all keen festival goers and have been for years, so it would be fair to say that we have been inspired by events such as Glastonbury, Glade, BoomTown, Bestival and suchlike. We are forever expending on our equipment year on year, constantly investing to ensure that we up our game every time we put on a party.

You’ve got a really dedicated following. Why do you think people keep coming back to Freekie events?

One of Freekie's mighty equipment rigs.

I guess our dedicated following is due to the whole package we offer. Most promoters will only focus on one or two elements. We pride ourselves on going all out in every element possible – fantastic music, huge state-of-the-art sound and lighting, funky decor, a friendly and safe atmosphere, all of which, combined, are the perfect remedy for a fun and unforgettable night out. Also there is nothing else in this area that offers something so alternative. We had such a great response again this year – keen followers were calling out for another party – so we thought, why not put on a Freekie New Year’s Eve and give the area something totally different for once. It’s become common for a lot of people to stay in on New Year’s Eve these days to avoid the drunks in town and the extortionate prices. We have a very good value entry price for such a huge line-up of talent and the show we are offering, and the University will have their usual drink prices. We also have a great reputation for a friendly, music-loving crowd. So with such great night going on locally, anyone who likes a really good night out would be crazy not to see the New Year in with us at the University! This really will be one for the history books!

If you had a ‘mission statement’ for Freekie, what would it be?

We strive to offer the area state-of-the-art underground events like no one has ever done before.

Another great night from Freekie!

If you could run any event under the Freekie banner, without worrying about cost or organisational problems, what would it be?

If we could put on any event under the Freekie banner it would be a Glastonbury-type affair on a miniature, more intimate scale. Huge events attract all sorts and become hard to police. We like to keep everything on a more personal basis where possible as it tends to create a friendlier, more outgoing vibe. So if there are any local willing land owners reading this then please feel free to get in touch!

We know about your plans for New Year’s Eve at the University of Essex, but what about 2012? What’s on the calendar for Freekie?

At the moment we are focusing all our efforts into the New Year’s Eve event but as soon as that is out of the way and we have recovered we will no doubt be planning some more great events in the future. Anyone can become a member and keep an eye on our website for updates.


December 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm 2 comments

Fanfares at firstsite


firstsite and Colchester New Music have collaborated to create a series of new fanfares to celebrate firstsite’s new building.

The new compositions will sound throughout firstsite’s building from Thursday 15 December to Saturday 31 December, between 11am – 7pm, everyday on each hour.

Julia Usher and Stuart Russell of Colchester New Music said: “We proposed a project which would celebrate firstsite’s new building; we were inspired by the building as it provides a fabulous space for listening and playing new music compositions.”

“We called-out for musicians in mid November to create scores for either brass or electroacoustic fanfares. A tremendous response was whittled down by a selection panel to eight brass and eight electroacoustic compositions.”

The two-minute fanfares will be sounded in firstsite every hour over the whole Christmas and New Year period.

Local musicians Bespoke Brass will play the brass compositions live throughout the day on Saturday 17 December, from 10am.  There will also be activities for children and families over this weekend in an event called Fanfare Fun Fair, where artist Rory Pilgrim will respond to the music by encouraging visitors to move, draw or create inspired by the contemporary music.

Entry to firstsite is FREE, so why not pop in and listen out on the hour for the new fanfares.

Drop in on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 December for Fanfare Fun Fair, an entirely FREE event for families with children of all ages, and catch the live fanfare performances while you’re here!


December 13, 2011 at 5:38 pm Leave a comment

REVIEW: Beauty & the Beast at the Mercury Theatre

By Ellie Pullen

The childhood classic has taken on a new twist for Christmas in Colchester this year. With songs, dancing and a host of new characters to boo, scream and laugh at, this Beauty and the Beast pantomime is a great night out for both kids and adults alike.

The stage at the Mercury Theatre is glittering with the promise of an evening of great excitement for the children lining the seats in the audience.  As the lights go up and the show begins, it becomes clear that tonight’s pantomime is going to be a new and interesting take on the classic fairy tale.

Beauty and the Beast, written and directed by Janice Dunn for the Mercury Theatre, introduces new characters to the stage, such as the evil, toxin-obsessed Botoxia (played by Clare Humphrey) and the wacky, guffawing Ranger of the village, Rolo (played by Dale Superville). And, of course, not forgetting the indispensable character of any pantomime – the dame. In this show, Ignatius Anthony plays the wonderful Dame Twiggy with such enthusiasm and humour that it’s not just the kids laughing at his (her) bawdy jokes and comical appearance.

The pantomime is peppered with jokes for the adults’ benefit, including the pun on the villain’s name – Botoxia – the woman obsessed with all things chemical and toxic. Clare Humphrey succeeds in getting the kids to shout and boo and she brings a lively energy to the stage along with her buffoon sidekicks, Scuffle and Swag (played by David Tarkenter and Thomas Richardson), and her evil monkey slaves.

On the other side of the forest, Belle (played by Emily Bull) is the pretty, demure heroine who is the idol of every young girl sitting in the audience.  All the characters are excellent at constantly involving the audience, making them laugh, boo or cry out as someone creeps onto the stage unnoticed. Janice Dunn has managed to produce as exciting pantomime for both boys and girls, whilst still keeping the parents and adults thoroughly entertained.

With a mix of classic and contemporary songs – including a medley of Lady Gaga by Belle and Leo, the beast (played by Pete Ashmore) – Beauty and the Beast is a must-see for all ages. Adults, teenagers and young children – all must experience an evening with Dame Twiggy, Botoxia, Leo and Belle to really get in the spirit this Christmas.

Beauty and the Beast is showing at the Mercury Theatre until the 7th January 2012, with performances in the morning, afternoon and evening. Go to the Mercury Theatre website for more details, or to book tickets.

December 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm 2 comments

There’s a Bad Idea on the Rise

Certainly looks like a bad idea...

Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas are making waves, not only on the local scene but also much further afield. Peter Fitzgerald caught up with Ben Wood himself to see how things are going for the up and coming band.

If you haven’t heard of Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas then it’s time to sit up and take notice. Thankfully, everything you need to know about Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas was said in the review of their single, a cover of Obsessed With You by X-Ray Spex, in the November issue of The Colchester Circle magazine. The band have already played some high profile shows, both locally and on the London scene, and are set to have their single released on a compilation album in New York.

Obsessed With You by Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas

And as for the single itself? Well, Colchester Circle reviewer Stuart Braybrooke says that the band have ‘produced a sound somewhat reminiscent of the bands of the early 90s’, but with a ‘lazy swing’.  Most important, he states that the ‘whole band is absolutely on the button.’ Finally, Stuart says, with the appropriate amount of trepidation, that he ‘actually prefers [the cover] to the original.’

So, with such shining praise appearing in our magazine it only seemed right to check in on these rising local stars. With this in mind, I sat down with Ben Wood and asked him how his Bad Idea has been treating him.

How have things been going for you since the release? Have you been surprised by the response?

We’ve been absolutely delighted by the response. We love having our music out there and it’s finding its way all over the place. It’s being stocked everywhere from Finland to Washington DC. People are listening to it and that’s the big thing for us so we’re over the moon with the response.

What made you decide to do this particular cover?

We wanted to do this track because we love the original. It’s so fast and relentless and it gets you like a smack in the face. We thought it would be cool to break it down and give it a slower groove and make the track more our own. Also we knew no other band in their right minds would pick that track to work with so we couldn’t resist.

What have you got in the pipelane at the moment?

At the moment we’re doing lots of work on our album and we’re just putting the finishing touches on the follow up single which we’ll be releasing in the new year. More shows and more records out – that’s what Bad Ideas are all about.

Having done a major recording project, I imagine you’ve spent quite a lot of time in the studio. Which do you prefer, the craftsman-like experience of recording or the spontaneous madness of live performance?

Well there’s a lot to be said for both. We love playing live and we really get a massive kick out of recording. It’s always been a big thing for us to have an element of that live energy captured in a recording wherever possible. Just playing and working with music and seeing where things can go that’s what gives us a real buzz.

So, let us in on a secret. What’s so bad about the Bad Ideas?

I guess it comes from trying things out that make you think “This is a really bad idea”. We love to try things that are  out of our comfort zone musically and we find it often pays off. Our band name comes from when we formed around a bar room table. We were contemplating putting a set together for a gig I had booked that there was just no time to prepare for and we had never played together before. It worked out and we have just always kept that philosophy of looking to make a bad idea a good one.

For all things Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas check out their website.

And don’t forget to show your support for the local scene by picking up their single, only £0.79 on iTunes!

December 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm 1 comment

James Dodds’ Exhibition: A Reminder of our Maritime Heritage Beneath the High Street

James Dodds is perhaps one of the most important artists to come out of Wivenhoe, and Essex as a whole, in recent times.  With an exhibition of his work currently being displayed at Red Lion Books, we sent Peter Fitzgerald to the Independent Bookshop to investigate the work of this local treasure.

Dodds is perhaps the epitome of everything we, at the Colchester Circle, want to support.  A local artist who uses the local area as inspiration, Dodds’ work has been well received not only in the local area but on a national basis.  Most recently, in October of this year, his work was displayed at Messum’s Fine Art in London and back in August 2010 his work made it out to Maine in the United States.  Obviously, Dodds’ work is being recognized, and rightly so, as exceptional. This recognition is not limited to the local scene, as evidenced by the international display of his work.  Thankfully, with him being a native of Wivenhoe, we don’t have to travel to London, or any further afield, to see his work in person.  Right now you only have to go as far as Red Lion Books on Colchester High Street.

The main section of the exhibition

Before you even reach the exhibition, the shop itself has a wonderful atmosphere.  A regional winner of Independent Bookshop of the Year, Red Lion Books is everything you could want from a bookshop.  And as you descend down the stairs, you find yourself actually below ground level.  It is here, beneath the hustle and bustle of the High Street, that you will find Dodds’ work proudly displayed.  There is a sense of discovering something, a little local treasure trove that is offering the best of local creativity.

The exhibition itself consists of nine of Dobbs’ pieces, eight on the wall and one wonderfully positioned on the stairs as you make your way down.  While I could write something about all of them, I have attempted to pick what I feel were the most interesting in an attempt to prevent this article turning into a small book.

'St Osyth Boatyard'

The first piece to jump out at me was ‘St Osyth Boatyard’.  This work immediately shows off one of Dodds’ more exceptional abilities.  His portrayal of movement in a still image is breathtaking, and this is particularly the case in this piece.  From the waves in the foreground to flags flying from the rigging on the boats to the trees further back, everything has a natural sway to it.  Even the sky, and the birds in it, seem to shift before your eyes.  Dodds achieves this in his lino prints with such regularity that it could almost be seen as his trademark.  The panoramic curvature of the piece is also particularly stunning, really emphasizing the coastal nature of the image.

'Memories of St Monans'

The second piece I’d like to focus on is ‘Memories of St Monans’.  Again, this linocut print showcases Dodds’ ability to create movement.  The flow of water is central to this piece, and once again Dodds’ captures the natural shift and sway of tide.  What is particularly stunning about this work is the graveyard in the foreground.  This image of human mortality is wonderfully juxtaposed with the eternal ebb and flow of the sea.  As with ‘St Osyth Boatyard’, there are so many little touches to this work that it impossible to completely sum up the feel of his artwork.

'Sail Lofts - Tollesbury'

The exhibition also demonstrates Dodds’ scope, with some of the work demonstrating his use of colour.  ‘Sail Lofts – Tollesbury‘ only uses one colour, but that is all it needs.  Contrasted against the more common colours of Dodds’ work, black and white, this creates a striking image that immediately draws the eye.  Some of the more subtle uses of the chosen blue, on the sail lofts themselves and the ladders, are especially pleasing.

'Billy Budd'

In another departure from what one might consider to be Dodds’ norm for linocut prints, the exhibition features the piece ‘Billy Budd’.  This powerful and evocative image of a sailor on deck brings us round to the other quality that makes Dodds’ work so endearing.

Dodds’ focus on the maritime brings our heritage into focus.  It is easy to forget how important the coasts and rivers of Essex would have been.  It is particularly easy to forget when you’re walking down Colchester High Street, and that is what makes this exhibition so wonderful.  You walk down the stairs of Red Lion Books, and you get a taste of local history presented by an exceptional local talent.

'Brightlingsea Smack Dock - present and future'

It is the piece so brilliantly positioned on the stairs that rounds the exhibition off.  I only saw this piece on the way out, and for me it was a perfect end note.  ‘Brightlingsea Smack Dock, present and future’ brings attention to our local maritime heritage, but at the same time focuses on its decline.  Much like the graveyard in the forefront of ‘Memories of St Monans’, the boats all sitting unrigged and unmanned remind of that which once was, but is now so easily forgotten in our fast paced, town centre lives.  This is Dodds’ at his best, not just showing us a linocut masterclass but also drawing our attention to our local history, forcing us to think twice before returning to life as we know it.

This is a fantastic exhibition and, best of all, it is free to enter.  All the works are available to buy, and there are several books displayed that contain Dobbs’ work.  On top of this, some of these books are collaborations between Dodds and other local artists, such as the poet Martin Newell.

I massively recommend this exhibition, whether you are already a fan of Dodds’ work or have never come across him before.  Head down to Red Lion Books to support both local art and a local independent bookshop.

For more information on James Dodds’ please visit his website.  Equally, you can find out more about Red Lion Books on their website.

December 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm 2 comments

The Re-Emergence of the Rave Culture in Colchester

By Paul Hagger, co-organiser of Deadbeat events

The term ‘rave’, much maligned by the media and stigmatised by the masses has always had an affinity with the town of Colchester. Situated dangerously close to the explosion of the Prodigy in Braintree, the early 90s saw local promoters such as Mindwarp, Mangled and Pulse-8 create parties that generations of Colchester’s youth still reminisce over, etching their names into Essex rave folklore. It had become commonplace for thousands of revellers to regularly attend huge dances during the height of the rave scene and many still hold old relics like flyers and posters as treasured trophies of a lost era. Surely it is important to ask how did the rave scene die in Colchester and more importantly, where did the raving generation go?

At the turn of the millennium, the scope of local nightlife shifted dramatically. The alternative local scene disintegrated to a nonexistent level, whilst commercially orientated ventures took the reigns with franchised bars snapping up premises across town and changing the musical output. More importantly, the motives for going out shifted during a period where binge drinking took a huge social precedent.

The Deadbeats at Colchester Free Festival 2011

At the time, the rave scene had been ostracised by the wider local society as a result of justified negative press and sporadic high-profile tragedies. The assimilation between rave culture, drugs, violence and lawlessness made it incredibly hard for any sort of movement to exist without scrutiny. Party organisers would regularly find months of hard work and dedication surmised in the local press as “noisy miscreants breaking laws,” a disheartening summary for any promoter with genuine intentions. Secondly, for years the town has lacked any kind of promoters willing the go the extra mile in terms of production value. A nonchalant approach of using parties as commercial entities easily transcended to party goers who spotted greed far more easily than passion, leaving many half-hearted promoters scratching their heads as to what they had done wrong, and why nobody had attended their event. Finally, the most important change in my opinion is that the platforms for launching rave movements were severed. With no bars and venues willing to take a risk hosting more traditional rave music through fear of repercussions, barns and fields across Essex soon became the home of a secular sound.

Fast forward to 2012 and the forthcoming year is looking promising. We [Deadbeat] have now completed five separate parties with over 500 people at each event with no reports of any trouble whatsoever yet. As part of an extremely young promoting team, the words ‘drum and bass’ resonate in any sensible bar owner’s brain, whilst making approaches to use venues. After years of begging and back-scratching we now find encouragement from the local nightlife scene as we have proved our good intentions for both their premises and the future.

Thousands of people enjoying the Deadbeat sound

Alongside long-term collaborators Area 51 and other Colchester promoters such as Freekie, Soundcheck and Hi Grade, the local rave scene now has synergy, trust and understanding. More importantly we have instilled the drive to stage parties on a different level, unseen for a while and we have all bonded over the need for more non-commercial dance parties within the town. Local parties are now treated as social enterprises, with promoters opting for another headline DJ, more lighting or extra sound over the creation of profit.

The bottom line for everybody is the benchmark of quality set, and with each passing party the bar must be set even higher. It is for this reason alone that Colchester is now guaranteed to have a new face to going out in 2012.  This attitude to throwing larger scale events coincides with the explosion of dubstep and drum and bass within wider popular culture, and with over 2000 people attending the dance stage of the Colchester Free Festival this year, it is proven that there is a local following for beats, now also commonplace on commercial radio. It is a new era for promoters, party goers and the local economy. The platform has been provided and more importantly there is a massive group of people seeking to bring Colchester’s alternative scene to the fore.

December 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm Leave a comment

Chestburster, Dismanibus and One Louder – Level 2, University of Essex, 24/11/2011

Review by Rich Young

As part of its ‘Alt. Night’, Level 2 hosted three local metal bands, all of which are making a bit of a name for themselves.

First up were the fantastic Chestburster, a grind-core band that impress with short and punchy tunes, played with ferocity and precision. This band clearly enjoy their work, with flair, and have a great tongue in cheek attitude, which I’m sure will win them lots of fans.

Grindcore or grindhouse? Chestburster would be happy with either!

Dismanibus took the stage next in this metal marathon. Dropped ‘C’ death metal is the order of the day here, with an awesome stage presence and a body bag full of dark twisted riffs, these guys know exactly how to give the modern metal fan what they want! A fantastic performance from the guys, who are clearly on their way to great things.

I have learnt that Dismanibus already have a distribution deal on the way. I cannot imagine it will be long before a major signs them, if this performance is anything to go by.

Dismanibus - on stage and on form.

Finally, it was the turn of One Louder to hit the stage. If well thought-out metal is your thing, you cannot possibly go wrong with this legendary local band. For ten years now, One Louder has been wowing audiences wherever they go.

This was their last gig with bassist (and founding member) Alex Townsend. The band ensured that he had an amazing send-off, with a simply astonishing performance that stunned the audience from start to finish.

With excellent vocals reminiscent of a harder edged Bruce Dickinson, guitars that dazzle, and thunderous bass and drums, frankly, One Louder is a “must see” band.

One Louder - ten years rocking and still going strong.

December 2, 2011 at 10:58 am Leave a comment

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