The WIRRAL NEW MUSIC COLLECTIVE is a local initiative derived from the juxtaposition of the peninsula’s relationship with music; a region small in size but rich in its musical contributions – The Coral, OMD, Half Man Half Biscuit to name but a few. It’s a historic area, buzzing with creatives and hardened music fanatics yet without a singular live venue to boast about. The situation in Wirral is not unique, it’s synonymous with the state of live music in 2018. We find ourselves in an era where music is more accessible than ever, yet cities are being gentrified by the second, and while live music on a grand scale is thriving (arena/stadium/outdoor shows), the smaller venues we love are clinging on for dear life. And paradoxically, an area like the Wirral with no live music venue is an area not seen as highly investible, on top of no opportunities being given to local bands – either forcing them out into the competition of the city or turning them off the prospect altogether.
Nevertheless, alongside the doom and gloom that the process of gentrification instils is also the knowledge that, somehow, music and the power of the people always seems to reside. The government seem to have finally stumbled upon the enlightened knowledge that live music is not only culturally but economically important to society, and have now committed to strengthening planning rules to protect grassroots venues. So, on the back of well-received projects such as the UK Music Census and the London, and now Liverpool Music Board, the WNMC got up-and-running in the hope that the Wirral can finally, deservedly, get a live music venue to boast and to nurture local talent.
One of the five shows that will be curated by Wirral natives over the course of a four-week period is a headline show with the superlative ST. JUDE THE OBSCURE, who is assembling an intimate show with cello accompaniment at the beautifully historic Birkenhead Priory. Dating back to around 1150, the Priory is the longest standing building in Merseyside, and its recent restoration elegantly fuses its iconic structure with a touch of modernity, enabling the church to house this innovative event by frontwoman Adéle Emmas.
Despite being brought up in the Wirral, Emmas explains how in 24 years she never once stumbled across the “breathtaking” church, highlighting how there can always be these “undiscovered places just waiting to be seen” – much like musical hidden gems lost in the haystack of the streaming age. She sees the venue like a “small, untouched haven” and its backdrop of tall cranes of the ship yard only add to the interest of the scene, “like a juxtaposition of landscape”. It seems fitting, then, with St. Jude The Obscure’s blend of smooth, almost haunting electronica with melodic pop, that this mythic setting will host the event. And for the 50 fans lucky enough to get a ticket inside the tiny chapel, Emmas has promised her intentions of adapting her live show to match and “reflect the feeling and impression that the space gives”. So, with the added possibility of soaring strings from cellist Matthew Phillips (Liverpool-born, educated at Birmingham Conservatoire and strings arranger strings on Astles’ Drained Of Wonder EP), expect a stripped-back set that touches on the visceral and the spiritual.
To complement this atmosphere inside the Priory’s ornate chapel, the congregation will be treated to an acoustic set from vocalist-guitarist SMOPH. Smoph is the solo outfit for Sophie Thompson, who drums with Pale Rider with a different hat on. Thompson’s introspective guitar atmospherics will be perfectly suited to the setting, the natural reverb of the room adding a depth to. There will also be a special performance from poet JENNIFER LEE TSAI just before St. Jude The Obscure’s headline set. Born in Bebington and raised in Liverpool, Jennifer is a fellow of the acclaimed national poetry development programme, The Complete Works III, which promotes quality, innovation and diversity in British poetry. She is also an Associate Editor of the Liverpool-based poetry magazine SMOKE, and has been published in Modern Poetry In Translation and the Poetry Book Society Bulletin, among other things. On the night, Jennifer will be reading poems from the Bloodaxe anthology Ten: Poets Of The New Generation, as well as a selection of her own new compositions.
Emmas is passionate about the beauty of Wirral and the importance of a relationship between the community and live music. She emphasises how there are “so many beautiful places in Wirral that get overlooked,” hoping that shows and venues like this will bring attention to and “highlight spaces that people weren’t necessarily aware of.” She explains how people “usually just head over to Liverpool for gigs, and even if musicians are from Wirral, they get banded in with the Liverpool music scene… It’s about time that some of these great spaces were recognised and that people started coming over this side of the Mersey too.”
Music is and will forever be an ever-present staple of every community, regardless of its location or musical heritage. Therefore, in every community there surely must become a solid relationship with encouraging at least a live music venue, if not a scene. It creates unity, highlights unappreciated spaces and encourages the youth of today and tomorrow to be creative and bold. As Emmas eloquently puts it; “Music has always been a way in which we relate and connect. It brings people together through shared experience, emotion and an understanding of the human spirit.” So, in a busy, bustling world, St. Jude The Obscure are hoping to put on a show to slow you right down, bring people together, and bring the attention, finally, to the beauty of the Wirral.
St. Jude The Obscure play Birkenhead Priory on Saturday 18th August, with support from SMOPH and Jennifer Lee Tsai. This show is now sold-out – check back here to see if any returns become available. Listen to new single I’m The Wolves below.