Simmer Down 2013


I’m still recovering from Simmer Down in July. The busiest, craziest most exciting day for me as producer.

I’ve been working with The Drum and the partners of the Perry Barr Arts Forum for 5 years now on an event in Handsworth Park and 4 years ago we called it Simmer Down and it just gets bigger every year!

As well as an amazing line up of acts on the main stage including Birmingham’s own XOVA and the legendary Half Pint we had workshops, craft stalls, jerk chicken and children’s activities.

My theory that the sun always comes out for reggae events was again proved true and we estimate that at least 10,000 people from Birmingham and far beyond came to the day.

We are now working on Simmer Down 2014 and want your views and opinions and feedback from this year so we can make it even better – so please take the time to let us know what you think here.



What a weekend of singing

BBC Singers and Harrow Schools  Photo Credit: Stuart Leech

BBC Singers and Harrow Schools
Photo Credit: Stuart Leech

I’ve just completed one of the most exhausting and most exhilarating weekends of my life so far. Voices Now at the Roundhouse was such an inspiration. So many people coming from around the country from York, Derry, East Anglia and Bristol and beyond to sing together under one roof.

Hilliard Ensemble, Excorde, The Renaissance Consort and Eo Nomine Photo Credit: Stuart Leech

Hilliard Ensemble, Excorde, The Renaissance Consort and Eo Nomine
Photo Credit: Stuart Leech

I have many highlights – but as ever the making music stage was inspirational with an even higher standard of singing this year and groups that had travelled from far and wide to be there; the daytime workshops over the weekend including a Dads and Lads workshop led by Tim Rhys Evans and the Sing Like a Bloke workshop led by Chris Samuel and of course the culmination of our project with the Hilliard Ensemble and our new commission from Eriks Esenvalds all have to get a mention.

Thank you to everyone who came to the Roundhouse. It really was unforgettable.

City Songs Performance Photo Credit: Stuart Leech

City Songs Performance
Photo Credit: Stuart Leech

Voices Now 2013

I’m very pleased and proud to be the Producer of this year’s Voices Now Festival at the Roundhouse in Camden. This year’s event is on between 20th and 23rd June and as ever the festival aims to bring together the very best of all kinds of group singing under the legendary roof of the Roundhouse.

We have such a range of choirs and singing groups involved that I’m sure we’ll succeed in that ambition. Not only do we have the world famous Hilliard Ensemble performing and currently working with us to mentor 3 new singing groups of young singers but we also have performances and workshops from Only Men Aloud off the telly!

If you like choirs and possibly if you don’t – there will be something during the weekend that you’ll love. I always enjoy the Making Music Open stage where choirs of different kinds get to perform in the foyer spaces at the Roundhouse. This year we have youth choirs, ladies barbershop choirs, male voice choirs, gospel choirs, small consorts and huge community choruses and everything in between!

There are going to be quite a number of male voice groups performing on the Saturday of the weekend as we have themed the day around men and boys singing. So Only Men Aloud, the London Gay Men’s Chorus, the City Shanty Band, The Magnificent AK47s, Eschoir and Capital Chorus are amongst some of the male singing groups you can treat yourself to!

We also have an amazing new piece being written by Eriks Esenvalds featuring Imogen Heap.. but I feel that’s probably the subject of a whole blog post all on its own…

For more information about Voices Now go to or follow us on Twitter @voicesnow

Celebrating Benjamin Britten’s 100th Birthday

Benjamin Britten 1913 - 1976

Benjamin Britten 1913 – 1976

I’ve been very excited since last Thursday.

Thursday 22nd November 2012 marked the beginning of a year of amazing musical events to celebrate the Britten Centenary up to what would have been his 100th Birthday on 22nd November 2013.

There are massive celebrations under the Britten 100 banner that covers all the events happening across the world during the next year and Birmingham has it’s own festival called Birmingham Britten. There will be performances of Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh beach and all sort of special one off events that I am hoping I can get to.

As a massive fan of Britten – he is partly responsible for my passion for choirs – I have been waiting for 2013 for years. I have been planning Notorious’s Festival of Britten for as long as I can remember and we have some amazing projects coming up.

My 2013 starts with me singing with Ex Cathedra in A Boy was Born at Birmingham Town Hall on Saturday 12th January. A Boy was Born is one of my earliest choir members when I sang in a performance in Coventry Cathedral. It is am amazing a cappella work and quite difficult to sing – I can’t wait even for the rehearsals it is such an amazing piece of music.

With Notorious we have cooked up a year of exciting projects starting with a performance of Britten’s cabaret songs on 24th March 2013 at the Kings Head pub in Bearwood.

Then we are hoping to commission a new piece of music for a very special piece inspired by Britten (more on that later!) then we finish our celebrations with a Benjamin Britten Birthday Party concert at St Paul’s Church in Hockley on 22nd November 2013. We will be singing my favourite Britten piece – Rejoice in the Lamb alongside other classics like St Nicolas and the beautiful Hymn to St Cecilia. Continue reading

The Flyover Show Birmingham 2012

The Flyover Show 2012

The Flyover Show 2012 was our biggest and best yet. I have been running the show for  5 years with Artistic Director Soweto Kinch and in that time we have seen some amazing musicians under Hockley Flyover, from Ms Dynamite, Tumi, Julian Joseph, Eska, Akala and this year Maxi Priest and Wordsworth from the US.

The build up to this year was amazing – we created a new website for the show and it seemed to make a huge difference as we began to do the on the street marketing it became apparent that people knew about the show and were looking forward to it.

The day itself was really enjoyable too. For me highlights started early in the day when dancers from Birmingham Royal Ballet performed under the flyover. Their dance was so beautiful and the reaction from the crowd moved me to tears.

Birmingham Royal Ballet – photo credit Karl Dixon

There were so many talented and great performers on the line up that day that the crowds were enthralled and the atmosphere maintained throughout the day. In particular Wordsworth MC who flew over from the US was particularly good and he had a great rapport with the crowd even jumping into the crowd and serenading members of the public.

Wordsworth in the Crowd – photo credit Karl Dixon

By the time the sun had gone down the area underneath the Flyover was practically full and Maxi Priest performed to a capacity crowd.

Maxi Priest – photo credit Rob Gilbert

Simmer Down 2012

Simmer Down Crowd 2012

One of my favourite days of the year is becoming The Simmer Down Festival in Handsworth Park and this year’s event on Sunday 22nd July 2012 was no exception. I run the day with The Drum who artistically direct the event and Perry Barr Arts Forum who helped develop the event originally and still pull together every year to involve the local community in the event through workshops and other activity.

This is the fourth year I’ve worked on this event and it just keeps getting bigger and is becoming a key event for local people and reggae fans in the city.

This year we had our biggest headline act yet- ASWAD and we were also really lucky to have a glorious day of sunshine in a summer that was generally very wet and miserable. We had a record turnout with approximately 8000 people in the park that day. The smell of jerk chicken in the hot summer air and the sound of reggae from the stage and the sea of smiling faces made my 17 hour day as enjoyable as it was tiring!


The Flyover Show Freedom Square – what a day…

When the day of The Flyover Show in South Africa came we were all so excited. Soweto started the day very early on national breakfast television and  I was up early to make sure all the final technical preparations were in place and to make sure that all the back stage systems were ready to go.

The day itself worked really well as we had good teams working with us on all aspects of the day and The Soweto Hotel were great in giving us a base for our press desk and production office. This was the first event I have run outside of the UK and it was so important to have all that support on the day.

In particular, having the team from Rebel Uncut on the ground all the way from Birmingham meant that as well as documenting the whole day I had enthusiastic practical and moral support from breakfast through to the after party (Thanks Nat, Shazad, Karl and Julia via the internet). Here is another brilliant video from the team at Rebel Uncut that sums the event up nicely:

The Build Up to The Flyover Show Freedom Square Part 1

The opportunity to run The Flyover Show in South Africa was a life changing one. I was lucky enough to get sponsorship from The Soweto Hotel in Freedom Square so that I could go out to South Africa two weeks before the show in March 2012 to make sure that all the last minute preparation was done.

There was lots to do. Final licenses had to be sought, last minute negotiations on equipment and catering to sort out, interesting early morning phone calls from the local police yet more meetings! For the first week I was in South Africa I was on my own but I was accompanied by Booysie Khanyile who helped with with preparations and drove me to all the meetings I needed to attend (if you ever go to Johannesburg and need an excellent tour guide – he’s your man!)

Booysie Khanyile

The local British Council and Booysie helped me set up a series of workshops in local schools for Soweto Kinch and the other musicians to lead in the run up to the show. Here is a video from one of the schools workshops:

The Flyover Show South Africa in the planning

During January 2012 I spent a week in South Africa planning a special Flyover Show in Johannesburg, South Africa. Soweto Kinch had previously been to South Africa to find potential venues and meet artists and it was my job to take all those ideas and make the event happen. We already had support from The British Council in place but no other firm plans.

This initial visit was intense with a series of meetings every day to meet potential technical companies, PR companies and other partners and service providers. We were greeted with a huge amount of enthusiasm for the project and it soon became clear that a venue in Soweto called ‘Freedom Square’ was going to be the best place to do the show and that there were a number of very good partners and suppliers to choose from.

Freedom Square in Soweto, Johannesburg

Continue reading