City Hall, Hull
'Writing was a political act' goes the legend projected on the back wall of Hull City Hall, 'and poetry was a cultural weapon'. These are the words of Jamaican poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, one of four artists performing tonight, but his mantra may as well be the slogan for Neu! Reekie!, the Edinburgh sired spoken word, music and film night which has taken the capital's underground out into the world.
Neu! Reekie'!'s weekend long Where Are We Now? festival that formed part of Hull City of Culture 2017 was a gathering of the counter-cultural clans. With its name taken from David Bowie's piece of late period melancholia and a poster designed by Sex Pistols artist Jamie Reid, the aim of Where Are We Now? was to celebrate oppositional art as much as provoke.
Poet Hollie McNish performed a witty and street smart set that covered sex, motherhood and the everyday bigotry of her granny's next door neighbour. Johnson, now as much historian as poet, delivered a wise litany that reflected decade on decade of institutionalised racism.
Charlotte Church has become the people's diva, and her Late Night Pop Dungeon is a thing of joy, as Church and her eight-piece band became a living jukebox of poptastic classics. Closing the night, Young Fathers invited us to join them in an imaginary country where everyone is welcome. Their set that follows is a thundering musical soup of martial drums, urgent crosstalk and some of the sweetest singing this side of Marvin Gaye. This magnificent hybrid is inclusive, anthemic and triumphal, and is exactly where we should be now.
The Herald, June 5th 2017