Interview with artist Josie Brookes – bringing a lot of joy and colour into the world one glorious illustration at a time.

As we move closer to the end of 2020 and the start of 2021, I thought i’d round out the year, with an artist interview with a creative that has brought me a lot of joy and colour across 2020, an artist that has been responsible for spreading a lot of joy into folx lives across a year like no other and worked on some joy filled creative projects.

Josie Brookes’ work is just pure joy! I first met Josie Brookes in my role at Gateshead Council on the Culture Team. Josie’s illustrations are the sort that just make you smile – full of colour, personality and something rather comforting with a hint of nostalgia. She makes the type of work, that you brings light into a room and if you hung it on your wall, you couldn’t ever imagine feeling sad in that room ever again.

Artist Josie Brookes

She’s is a freelance Illustrator, animator and art facilitator based in Newcastle upon Tyne, North East England. Her illustration work showcases illustration in its broadest context – illustration can be so much more than drawing, especially when you throw collage and bold patterns into the mix.

I’ve wanted to interview Josie for Vulture, for years – but seeing her resilience across 2020, the wonderful creative and community projects she’s been involved in and contributed to – well it spurred me on to make it happen!

You can check out Josie’s work to purchase HERE and read about her projects HERE.

Josie Brookes

So over to you Josie….

Well hello, can you introduce yourself for my fellow Culture Vultures?

Hello! I’m Josie, a North East Creative, an Illustrator/visual maker and creative facilitator living in my home city of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Tell me a bit about your journey into the creative industries – where did it all begin?

When I returned home from doing my BA in Graphic Design at Brighton University, I worked part-time at The Newcastle Arts Centre and then a-n – The Artists Information Company, whilst building up my work as a freelance Illustrator and facilitator, working on commissions and projects, largely with a community focus, around the region. In the earlier days, I also ran a business called ‘Prod’ with my husband Tom Madge selling patterned screen-printed belts and jewellery, but eventually my illustration and project work sort of took over and I was lucky enough to be able to invest in my freelance practice full time.

Thinking back, my first paid job as an illustrator was doing the horoscope Illustrations for The Crack magazine (after a stint of work experience whilst at Uni). I’ve always found the North East to be a very supportive place to work in, with a great sense of camaraderie in the creative community here.

Josie Brookes – Moonface

You are the true definition of a multi-disciplinary artist – illustrator, animator, collage, maker – but most well-known (IMO) for your illustration, how did you develop your illustration style?

I think my illustration style has evolved with me. At the core, my work focuses on character and colour. Most of the time I represent things from my own perspective rather than in a realistic way. I like to experiment with processes. The way it’s made – be it using pen, collage, print or digital techniques – can vary, and overlap, but always has those common themes.

Josie Brookes – Kindness

We were reunited on Art Crush (without ever meeting or talking – very 2020 of us!) working on the project! I was thrilled to see your name and the illustrations are of the “art personalities” are just perfect! Can you tell me in your words what Art Crush is?

Art Crush is a fun app designed to explore the Arts Council Collection (the UK’s most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art, with more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists), in a less conventional way, and to learn a little bit about your artistic persuasions! Developed using a similar interface to apps such as Tinder, Art Crush enables folks to quickly and easily swipe through artworks to discover what art they like, create their own collection and discover their ‘art personality’.

Josie Brookes – Art Crush illustrations (App created by BLOOM)

What was your involvement in Art Crush and how did you come up with the concept of the visuals?

Sunderland Culture approached me to come up with the visuals for the Art Crush Art personalities, because they were looking for someone who they thought could have fun experimenting with these slightly abstract concepts and I had recently done an online talk about my work and showed some Horoscope illustrations I had made, which they likened the challenge to.

I got a description of each of the art personalities and started working up ideas and draft characters to feedback on. It was a lovely working process with them and luckily, there wasn’t much tweaking to do. My concept was that each character was ‘encased’ by their personality, around their head, with patterns, colour choices and little details providing an extra nod to their traits.

Josie Brookes – The Dreamer – Art Crush

Why should people download Art Crush and have a go?

It’s such a fun app and a great concept. It’s like Tinder but for Art. So, if you’ve been married as long as I have, you might never have used something like this (Tinder – the dating app) before! You swipe right and get to see lots of art from the Arts Council Collection, then once you have 15 matches you get to discover your Art Personality.

Now time for the big question – what was your Arts Personality?

Mine was Truth Seeker. I was secretly hoping for Boundary Breaker, but there you go! Although, you can do it as many times as you like, and it may change depending on your mood. I’ve done it a few times now and keep getting Truth Seeker, so feel like that’s my destiny!

Now onto a project I’ve watched from a far and loved……can you tell us about Monkfish Productions’ A Little Bit of Good in the World project? What is it? How’d you get involved?

I saw the project call out on the Tyne and Wear Cultural Freelancers facebook feed and immediately loved the concept of the idea. After such a prolonged period of turmoil for everyone in the creative industry (and everyone in general) a project which focused on bringing a little bit of good in world was headily appealing. I went through the interview process and thankfully was asked to be involved. The project is about exploring ‘how lots of small creative bits of good can be connected to facilitate something bigger’. Monkfish have been working with Projects4Change so it has included workshops with their young people and I have gotten to work with fellow artist Melanie Kyles, who has been making a beautiful embroidery piece for the project too.

Josie Brookes – A Little Bit of Good in The World

Can you share a project highlight so far? How can folx get involved with the remainder of the project?

There’s so many! Getting to do some ‘in real life’ workshops with the Projects4Change youth group, my first and only ones, since March. Also the online ‘Drink and Draw’ evening we had on Zoom, and getting to produce some self-initiated artwork… so basically the whole lot!

There are a series of online creative activities on the Monkfish Productions’ blog that I helped to create with Amy Lord; it would be great for people to get involved with those.

You sell lots of cards, prints and are available for commissions..where do you seek inspiration for that work? Do you create work with the intention of selling it, or do you have fun making/illustrating something and then think.oh I might add a print of that to my shop? How can folx purchase from you?

I’m more in the having fun then thinking oh that would make a nice print camp. At the start of Lockdown, in a moment of organisation (panic) I got a lot of prints made up and set up my online shop properly. There’s nothing like a pandemic to get you to do those things you’re always meaning to but normally never get round to. People can shop for my prints/originals and greetings cards on my online shop.

Josie Brookes

You did the illustration for Culture Vulture favourite, stand-up comedian Kate Fox and their tour Where There’s Muck, There’s Bras”, a show celebrating Northern women and their contributions, commissioned for Great Exhibition of the North 2018. I just loved the show branding can you tell me about your involvement in the project and what you thought of the show? What was it like being a lush creative woman, working on a project about celebrating and championing women!?

Thank you. I love Kate and it is always a pleasure to create work for her. We worked on a project together around 6 years ago with Helix Arts and YHNE and have stayed in touch since. The branding for her ‘WTMTB’ show, and then tour, was a dream. I learned so much from drawing up all the Strong Northern women that feature in the show. It was really emotional watching the show and realising just how much these women and their achievements have been written out of or glossed over in history. I feel privileged to have been a tiny part of the process of highlighting their Awesomeness. It was also empowering to work on a on an all-Northern all-woman led project. I am very proud of where I come from, so always appreciate opportunities to champion people from the North.

Josie Brookes – Where There’s Muck There’s Bras

Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with the band Warm Digits?

Myself and my husband Tom, were asked to make the lead single video ‘View from Nowhere’ for Warm Digits new album (released in February this year) and we decided to make it using stop motion animation. We visited Emma pollock the guest vocalist on the track up in Glasgow to record her performance. It was an intense and massively fun project to do together, and we are really happy with the result. Unfortunately, Lockdown 1 put the launch gig at The Cluny, Newcastle on hold, but it’s something to look forward to in 2021.

Josie Brookes – Warm Digits

And your link with Newcastle based Chalk; an organization that creates cultural, immersive experiences for the whole family?

I’m honoured to be an associate artist for Chalk. I really appreciate, all the hard work they do to provide fun and interesting family-focused events in the region (which I have enjoyed as a parent with my kids), so I was thrilled when they first asked me if I would be involved with their events. I have live animated through two of their gigs, for bands Archipelago and Stealing Sheep, and also run children’s animation workshop. I also recently did an online Chalk workshop as part of the Summer Streets Festival exploring ‘What does Music look like?’ and I really look forward to being involved in more exciting events in the near future. Chalk are always coming up with something different.

Josie Brookes – Live animating Stealing Sheep

You were the artist and residence at Northern Festival of Illustrationwhat was that like? Tell me about your residency?

This was such a great experience for me as an Illustrator; there aren’t that many Illustration specific residency opportunities out there and The Pop Up studio residency was a fantastic way to break from my usual routine of projects and invest some time in pure self-initiated experimenting. I had the chance to connect with the creative scene in Teesside through the Northern School of Art and Empty Shop. I met new people and had the chance to share the space with fellow resident artist Laura Fitton. I ran group workshops, put on a fun Drink and Draw and enjoyed the chance to explore the Teesside area more.

Josie Brookes – The Pop Up Studio Residency

Whats your 2020 highlight been?

I’d have to say my creative highlight this year would be releasing the Warm Digits music video. It was such a nice way to combine these different facets of my practice in one – using print, collage, mark making and animation, all together. It was also a happy time getting to collaborate with my husband Tom.

Josie Brookes – Warm Digits

Can you share something new youre working on/coming up?

I am currently working on a collection of new print and collage-based work inspired by the Warm Digit’s project, that was going to be exhibited at Northern Print in September this year; it has had to be postponed until next year. I’m also working with Monkfish on one of their other great projects ‘Going the Social Distance’ which is based online and working with young people around creativity and well-being.

I’m also really excited to start working on Claire Newton’s (Creatively Conscious) new project ‘Creativity Island’ with her and writer Danielle Slade. It is all about connection, creativity and well-being in motherhood, which are subjects that I am very passionate about!

Josie Brookes – Squidgy Heart

Any artists/creative folx that are inspiring you right now, that you suggest I should check out?

I have been really enjoying Instagram. It feels like a great platform for spotting people that you I love the work of. I’d recommend checking out the feeds of Lisa Congdon, Jayde Perkin, Elisoa Henderson-Figueroa, Peopleiveloved, thejoyeclectic, Sarah Bagshaw designs, moragmyerscough, local illustrator pal Laura Sheldon and my friends at Flea Circus who always give me shopping urges and helping me to ‘shop small’ as much as possible.

How can folx keep in touch with you?

Instagram, Facebook or send me a message on my website

Josie Brookes – Chalk – Stealing Sheep

Well thank you Josie – wonderful to catch up with an artist that has smashed 2020 out the park whilst bringing joy to so many folx too. Please check out Josie’s online shop, keep an eye out for her future projects into 2021 and check out those Instagram suggestions – they are goodies!

All my love Culture Vultures – more interviews on the way!

Interview with graphic designer Velcrobelly; we chat Tuxedo Princess, having a studio in The Biscuit Factory, loving films & typography!

Before the lock down – I had the delight of interviewing Newcastle based artist and graphic designer Velcrobelly. I’ve admired David McClure for years and his studio, which is based within The Biscuit Factory’s studios was always a must visit for me during Open Studios. David’s studio is always bright, colourful and full of his lush prints – The Cuckoo series and the re-imagined Jaws poster cemented my love for David’s work.

You might also recognise his graphic design work too – he designed the Northern Stage’s Hound of the Baskerville theatre show graphics, a few New Writing North project designs and The Town Mouse Ale House in Newcastle logo! You can view his other projects here – super talented!



Velcrobelly’s online shop is currently closed in terms of posting prints and things out for obvious reasons – but you can still commission David for graphic design projects. Here over to his website for more info!

Now onto our Culture Vulture interview with the man himself – Velcrobelly!

Young Writers City – Cityscape

New Writing North Project – Young Writers – Velcrobelly

Hiyer, please introduce yourself to my readers and fellow Culture Vultures!

Hello! I’m David McClure. I run a solo graphic design studio called Velcrobelly. That’s my fanciful way of saying that I’m a freelance creative designer who sticks together ideas, images, and text to engage with people.

When I’m not designing for clients, I make illustrations and sell them. My artwork is inspired by movies, pop-culture, skulls, birds; or some hellish-colourful amalgamation of all those things.



Well I’m in love with your work– Need Comic Soup skull in my house immediately post lock down! Tell me about your journey into the creative industries?

Art has always been a driving force in my life, even though as a teenager I had no comprehension of what an art career looked like. I grew up in rural Northern Ireland, where art wasn’t something people did as a job. It wasn’t frowned upon or discouraged but I didn’t have a basis for comparison.


Velcrobelly – Comic Soup

There weren’t many opportunities to visit galleries, museums or creative spaces to see what an artist did. I had the notion that all artists worked in dingy spaces and were like characters from Withnail & I or The Young Ones.

What I did understand was that all the cool things I cherished were illustrated and designed somewhere: movie posters, comics, game boxes, albums, book covers – people were creating these things and getting paid to do it. I wanted in on that.

Graphic design was a way to combine my love of making images with an actual job.

In 1997, The Troubles were still part of life in Northern Ireland. My family was fortunate to be unaffected by the ongoing conflict, but my Dad suggested I consider studying in England rather than Belfast.



I’ve never been great with geography. England’s green and pleasant land might as well have been the surface of Mars. I have a vague memory of flipping through the UCAS prospectus and picking universities at random…

One of those places turned out to be Newcastle. I applied to study on the Graphic Design degree course at Northumbria University – then known by the less catchy moniker of The University of Northumbria at Newcastle.

My degree course provided a choice between graphic design and illustration modules; and I found myself specialising in the latter. I’ve always loved making images – whether they’re drawn, painted or assemblages – while purely typographic ‘Swiss’ graphic design eluded me.

After graduation, with student loans to repay, I was lucky to get a part-time job as junior designer at a small agency in Newcastle – where I would create flyers for bars and nightclubs like Tuxedo Princess and Planet Earth (ask your parents, kids).

As an illustrator working that job, I had such imposter syndrome… waiting for someone to call me out on my sh*tty typography. Personal hang-ups aside, it was a great place to cut my teeth. I had to learn how to create interesting visuals from the most meagre of design briefs – to conceptualise an idea and execute on it quickly. The pace of work was pretty frantic but there was opportunity to experiment and develop as a creative.


Velcrobelly – Northern Stage

With practice, even typography became less of a mystery. I grew to understand the importance of information hierarchy (‘make the £1 Vodka Redbull headline BIGGER!!!’). With time and experience, my imposter syndrome diminished – although I’m still sheepish around designers who specialise in more ‘graphic’ fields like branding, editorial and typography.

Alongside my day job at the agency, I was working on my illustration portfolio and getting small commissions in magazines. One of my illustrations in The Crack caught the eye of a consultant who was starting an audience development project for Tyneside Cinema. The goal of that project was to engage a young, contemporary audience through their shared love of art, culture, movies and events.

That project led to working with Tyneside Cinema on their print design – a relationship that spanned 15 years – and allowed me to become a sole trader full time. I set up a home studio and started trading as Velcrobelly.

The TL;DR version of my career is referrals, referrals, referrals. The North East has a close-knit creative community. If you produce quality work reliably and are a decent – if occasionally moody – human; clients are happy to recommend you to their peers.



Now THAT is a great journey into the creative industries story – and I remember the Tuxedo Princess – being 14/15 on the revolving dance floor! Can you tell us about any recent projects you’ve worked on?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Northern Stage on key art for a few of their recent and forthcoming productions, like The Hound of The Baskervilles, The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff, Red Ellen, and The Invisible Man.

I love to work on projects where the client is creatively invested and open to collaboration. They’re fun because I can explore different image-making techniques.  Johnny Longstaff was a digital collage using archive materials. Red Ellen was an illustration inspired by socialist propaganda posters. The Invisible Man leaned heavily into photomontage and movie poster design techniques to create a foreboding atmosphere.


Velcrobelly – Northern Stage

Last year, I had the opportunity to venture out of my solo comfort zone and work with Flo-Culture as part of a small creative team on Alston Explorer – a mobile app which supports growth of the tourism economy in the Alston area of North Pennines Area of Natural Beauty. The app is designed for active families; encouraging participants to stay longer, explore further and discover more about Alston during their visit.

I was responsible for the app’s art direction: designing screen layouts, characters and icons, while chipping in my tuppence worth on user experience, gamification and story. It was fun to explore the nooks and crannies of Alston. To create an aesthetic and narrative inspired by the area – and then to apply that design to a product people can use to discover the town for themselves.


Alston Explorer – Velcrobelly

I love Vulture projects that take me out of my comfort zone too and the ones where people allow me to really flex my creative muscles – so I hear you there! So you’re based in The Biscuit Factory, in their studios spaces – when did you move in there?

My first studio at The Biscuit Factory was a shared space with Sean Elliott Photography. Sean’s a terrific photographer –  he shot my wedding – and a long-term Biscuit Factory resident.

In late 2012, he had his eye on a large studio space and wanted to co-habit with someone to reduce overhead costs. He’d remembered that I worked from home and asked if I’d be interested in sharing space at The Biscuit Factory.

After a few years I was fortunate enough to transition to my own studio space – one with windows!



I do love your studio – visitor during Open Studios and lurker looking in the windows when heading to Ernest! Tell me about your studio experience?

A workspace away from home was a possibility I’d debated the merits of for years. I’m not the sort of person to down tools at 5pm when there’s work to do, so I was always ‘at work’. An external studio was an opportunity to separate Church and State – to establish some boundaries between life and work.

That separation didn’t quite work as intended. I still spend far too much time in my studio. I’ve realised that I’m happy being ‘at work’; on my own, pottering away at projects, talking to myself…

On the plus side, I don’t take work home with me. When I close my studio door for the night, I’m done. No checking emails… No chipping away at projects. So, it wasn’t a total failure.

Having a studio space has affected my creative practice. When I first moved into The Biscuit Factory, I was working exclusively on graphic design projects for clients. Personal projects were something I toyed with but never finished.

Events like Ouseburn Open Studios and The Late Shows – where the public can visit artist spaces – encouraged me to work on self-initiated illustrative projects. That work is a great way to explore illustration techniques, and making images brings me a lot of pleasure. My studio acts as a gallery space and make-shift shop.


Velcrobelly studio

It is a lovely space – before this COVID-19 craziness, I was in the process of signing on to space to try to and gain some work life balance. Any advice to others thinking about taking a studio/creative office space?

I enjoy working from a studio. It focuses my attention in a way that I never truly achieved working from home. I find that I’m more regimented. There’s less time wasted disappearing down internet rabbit holes; and if my concentration starts to slip, I go for a walk into town to clear my head.

With hindsight, while I did work hard from my home office, there were always easy distractions. Dishes don’t clean themselves, and don’t get me started on the temptation of a Playstation when things are quiet…

Cost is a big factor. Renting a studio space adds extra pressure to earn, but I’ve received feedback from some clients that they felt confident engaging my services based on my studio address and their personal awareness of The Biscuit Factory.

I appear more professional by virtue of location. Personally, I think that’s flawed logic but it’s understandable. Having a presentable, private space to meet with clients doesn’t hurt either.


Velcrobelly – Northern Stage

I always look at graphics from the audience perspective when working on a project – I feel like I have a good sense of the following question from that perspective and why it justifies the investment. In your opinion, what is “good graphic design” and why is it important?

Wow! That’s a broad question… How a design achieves success depends on context and intent.

For me, ‘good’ graphic design connects your audience with visual information contextualised for them to acknowledge, to understand, to engage with, and to act upon.

The visual form those elements might take depends on the project. ‘Good’ design is important because it enables us to decode information appropriately – as intended.

Traffic signs are designed to be clear, consistent, and highly legible at distance and speed. They’re functional and informative. You don’t need to feel emotionally engaged by signage at Junction 48 on the M1.

A ‘good’ book cover design grabs your attention from its place on the book shop shelf. It’s attractive, intriguing and emotionally resonant. The design intent is to catch your eye (to acknowledge), to encourage you to pick it up (to engage), and finally to buy (to act). The book’s title and author credit – whether beautifully integrated into the design or as overlaid text – are there for the reader to easily recognise (to understand).

On the inner pages of that same book, ‘good’ graphic design should go unnoticed by the reader. The design intent is facilitating a fluid reading experience, where the reader progresses seamlessly from word to word, page to page. If you find yourself confused by a book because of the design rather than the author’s own words, then something’s gone horribly wrong.

Good design is all contextual, and all design is subjective.



You’ve hit the nail on the head with that answer and really explains why it is so bliddy important – to me “good” design facilitates audience and relational development, but also at the core is a communication tool – it’s got to say something meaningful, connect and of course, enable the audience to understand what you’re trying to say – so many graphic designers get lots in the conceptual and forget that the importance of call to actions and for a theatre show (for example) how to book….So moving on to your own work – Tell me about your film themed stuff?

Oh, man… I suck at self-promotion and explaining my own work. Information you may have found useful prior to this interview…

I love the language of film (and pop culture more broadly). It’s embedded in our cultural conscious. I make stuff that’s inspired by that visual language and remix it.



Tell me what your fave top three films are? (I’m a huge film nerd!)

Choosing my favourite three films is really tough… I have so many great memories and associations. Not to mention movies that are superb comfort food – endlessly re-watchable with as much attention as you care to invest.

But, for the sake of an actual answer…

Aliens (1986)

I’d wager most people would choose Ridley Scott’s ‘haunted house in space’ as the best instalment in the long-running Alien franchise – if I’m honest, I probably would too – BUT I saw Aliens first, at much too young an age.

Aliens literally had me hiding behind the sofa the first time I saw it – implanting an embryo of strange fascination and obsession with these creatures. I convinced my mum to let me buy the video tape when I was about 12 and I’ve seen that film at least 50 times. Game over, man. Game over.

As a young art kid, the creature design by H.R. Giger was entrancing. His airbrush art was so strange, so beautifully rendered, so adult… Perfectly suited for a teenage boy…

Blade Runner (The Director’s Cut, 1992)

Blade Runner is a film that I was aware of long before I ever saw it. As a geeky kid in the early- to-mid 1990s, I was hugely into computers. I had a Commodore Amiga that I used to play games and make art on.

I was an avid reader of computer magazines. That was where I first encountered Blade Runner. Writers with better access to media and culture than I had were regularly writing about the film; about sci-fi, William Gibson and cyberpunk…

When I finally saw Blade Runner, I was baffled by it. It was beautiful but… slow. I’d created an expectation of the ultimate pew-pew science fiction masterpiece and my teenage-self discovered a detective noir with occasional flying cars?!

Like Aliens, I became a bit obsessed by it. The burden of expectation from years of cultural association diminishes with each re-watch and what’s left is a beautifully realised, iconic world to lose yourself in.

Akira (1998)

It’s 1994. I’m 15 and living on a dairy farm in rural Northern Ireland. I don’t know sh*t about the world. There are four TV channels. On one of them, a camera pans above a beautifully detailed city. Light blossoms as an animated nuclear explosion engulfs the screen.

Slow drumbeats penetrate the silence as the camera pans slowly up from a blackened crater. My mind is blown by the quality of the background artwork. ‘AKIRA’ fills the screen in massive, bold condensed letters… A biker gang rampage around Neo-Tokyo on motorcycles, streaming coloured light in their wake…

I’d never seen anything like Akira. Before it, animation was Looney Tunes and He-Man. Funny, cartoonish characters in leafy pants. Anime is everywhere now, but back then it was the stuff of playground legend. A chance late night TV encounter that sparked a lifelong interest in Japanese culture. That and the soundtrack is absolutely killer…



I’d struggle with that question even with a gun to my head…. Good answers! Tell me about your work with cultural venues?

I do what I can to help them sell tickets and put bums on seats – or whatever the equivalent transaction is… I help to communicate with their audience. In practical terms that means working with marketing teams to design key art, advertising and promotional materials.

Any other folks you have designed for?

In recent years I’ve worked with The Town Mouse Ale House, Sorella Sorella, and The Owl & Otter – all independent North East businesses that I hope to see flourish once we emerge from our Corona virus caves.



I work with lots of venues and small businesses too – that’s my biggest concern and ambition for the region! What are you doing to future proof your business during this weird time and any advice to others?

Not enough! And that was before a global pandemic locked us all in our homes and kicked seven bells out of the arts industry. (At the time of writing we’re in week one of UK Corona virus lockdown).

I’ve never been particularly strong when it comes business strategy. I tend to focus my energy on delivering a great service at the expense of all else – and that doesn’t leave much in the tank for planning and promotion.

My advice is always to do as I say not as I do!



Anything you want to tell me about Velcrobelly across 2020?

It’s crazy that in the space of a few weeks 2020 has become an unknown quantity.

I want to tell you that we leave our homes as better people who help to build a kinder society. That the art we make and stories we tell in 2020 will be quite unlike any other year.

Hopefully I’ll have some of that art on show at a Nowt Special exhibition later this year, and on sale in my Art shop.

Until then, in the wise words of Bill & Ted; be excellent to each other.



Thank you Dave – hopefully 2020 will end on a bodacious note for us all. You can check out Velcrobelly over on his website.

Big Culture Vulture love – until next time! More interviews are incoming!

MiddleChild love by an only child

Well Culture Vultures, it’s that time of year when I sit with all my cultural programs, The Crack Mags and decide what, who and where I’m going to go this season – usually over a Gin and tonic. The process reminds me of when I used to sit with a highlighter when I was little and circle all the TV I was going to watch and things Mark Owen from Take That was appearing in….

So here I am highlighter in hand and now over Take That and I’m eagerly looking for exciting and different things to do. Autumn/Winter is my FAVE cultural season – and because it’s getting colder and darker, I love venue specific good times. I want to be in one place, be a part of something cool for a few hours before heading home. None of this bar hopping or outdoorsy things for me…….unless it’s Enchanted Parks or I’ve got my Gin jacket on – then all good and happy to face the elements.

So things that I’m looking forward to so far that I’m going to – Pink Sari Revolution at Northern Stage – based on a fantastic book about empowered and revolutionary women in Indian, Our Time at Great North Museum – party and culture crawl in a museum after hours, Get Lucky at Wylam Brewery –   a fully synthesized electronic soul orchestra performing Daft Punk live and I Hate Alone at The Peacock in Sunderland on 26th October at  7.30pm (tickets avail – a full blown theatre gig, think Thelma and Louise turned up to 11.


I Hate Alone is what I’m most excited about and it’s from MiddleChild – a theatre company that have absolutely thrived in Hull’s City of Culture this year….and it’s exciting to see a the theatre company thrive so much and is a testament to what the award of City of Culture can do not just to the region, but to the cultural organizations within.


So who are MiddleChild!?…well they feel like hot property at the moment and are certainly doing amazing things…and the most important thing, culture vultures – they provide a bliddy good night out!

So Culture Vultures, I caught up with Paul Smith from MiddleChild and director of I Hate Alone to find out more and get in the know and the now….


Hi Paul, Tell me about your show I Hate Alone?

I Hate Alone follows two women – Danielle and Chloe – who believe the world has wronged them. They decide to create a list of the people who have contributed to their dissatisfaction and get their own back one-by-one. It’s a story of injustice, revenge and above all, friendship. Danielle and Chloe are modern day anti-heroes.


We re-watched Thelma and Louise just for the show – love the vibe of taking revenge against the world – who was your favourite Thelma or Louise?

An impossible question! You can’t have Thelma without Louise or Louise without Thelma. It’s like having Ant or Dec on their own – it’s just not the same. The great thing about that film is the relationship between the pair, the fact that they can simultaneously be good and bad for each other. It’s exactly that feeling that our writer Ellen Brammar has managed to capture with I Hate Alone. It’s impossible to say if the friendship is a good or a bad thing because there are elements of both, and it’s impossible to say who you prefer – be it Thelma/Louise or Danielle/Chloe, because they are yin and yang. One can’t exist in the same way without their partner in crime.

What is a theatre gig?

We like to use the term ‘a gig with a story’. It’s essentially a night out with big ideas in it. The feeling of coming to one of our shows is no different to going to see a stand-up comedian or your favourite band live but with one key difference – there’s a complex, compelling story at the heart of it.


What can audiences expect?

A dark and funny tale of two women who sing, shout and kick ass.

What music can people expect?

Danielle and Chloe have chosen to tell their story as part of a gig where they showcase music from their band Disabled Barbie. Throughout the night they play their own brand of gothic-electronica influenced by a broad range of artists such as Let’s Eat Grandma, Kate Bush and Daughter. Expect dirty beats, hard-hitting drums and even a recorder solo!


You guys really wanted your show in the Peacock – why was that? (they do amazing Sunday Lunch roast potatoes – just saying!)

We believe that theatre needs to break out of existing purely in traditional theatre spaces and want to set fire to expectations of what a night watching theatre can be. Taking I Hate Alone to social spaces like The Peacock allows us to do just that. Oh, and the amazing roast potatoes of course.

You guys have released a new EP and video – tell me a bit more about that?

We’re keen to find ways that the music in our shows can be enjoyed beyond the live experience. We think theatre can learn a lot from the idea of fandom in art forms like music and comedy and want to enable people to continue their engagement with gig theatre on their own terms. Being on Spotify, Band camp and places like that are key to ensuring our work reaches beyond the usual theatre crowd.


Where did Middlechild start? Who/What is MiddleChild?

Middle Child started in Hull 6 years ago, almost to the day! We all met at Hull University and, after going off to various drama schools / jobs, decided that we wanted to make our own work in a city we loved. Since then Hull was awarded the honour of becoming the UK City of Culture, allowing us to grow in both ambition and capacity. The name actually comes from Fight Club, as the characters talk about being the ‘middle children of history’. That term really resonated with us at a time when the Coalition government was just coming into power. We had no great war, no obvious battle, but knew things weren’t right, needed changing and to do so we had to be loud and outspoken. That feeling remains today and runs right through the work we make.


Favourite Fringe moment/experience?

This entire year up in Edinburgh was incredible. We were at our favourite venue – Paines Plough’s amazing Roundabout – and were selling out shows and receiving great reviews. The Fringe can either feel like the best or the worst place to be and this year we were extremely fortunate. The one moment that stands out is when one of our actors, Marc Graham, was surprised after the show with a Stage Award for Acting Excellence. It was the first time I’d seen him speechless, which was very enjoyable.


Explain your involvement in City of Culture in Hull?

We were one of 2017’s major theatre commissions with our show All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Luke Barnes. We also benefited hugely from organisational and creative development from the team who have supported what we do from the day they arrived. We’ve been massively fortunate and our impending NPO status is massively due to the permission for thinking big given to us by the Culture Company. The transformative power of culture has been so apparent all year, and Hull is absolutely buzzing. It’s been an amazing time for the city and our job now is to work with the other local organisations to ensure it is the start of something special, rather than the end of it.


Advice to other cultural organisations in Sunderland and how they could benefit if Sunderland secures the bid?

Keep doing what you’re doing, believe in yourselves, work hard and – when the time comes – the right people will notice that and do what they can to help you achieve as much as you can. Don’t expect the City of Culture label to wave a magic wand – it’s commitment to what you’re making and doing that will make the real difference, City of Culture would simply reinforce and build upon that.


Holy moly – I’m bliddy excited to meet MiddleChild and BEYOND excited to see them at The Peacock on 26th October at 7.30pm….  see you there!

Upcoming Sculpture 30 Exhibition alert!

A little bit of publicity for an upcoming exhibition at Gateshead Central Library; Iceland – Before & After: An exhibition by David Goard
David Goard Exhibition -Taking a landscape for a walk (1) copy

David Goard – Taking a landscape for a walk

The exhibition runs at The Gallery from Saturday 2 April – Saturday 21 May and is part of Sculpture 30 festival!
Follow the link and find out about the artist, his inspiration and how brilliant Iceland is!