In this new series, the team at Mobius let you in on all their favourite arts venues and regular haunts from their hometowns around the UK.
Next up is our Marketing Assistant, Frank Alemitu Bertoletti, all the way from Carlisle, Cumbria. Check out previous entries in this series from George Rennie (from Brighton), Flavia Fraser-Cannon (from Waterloo) and Alastair Norton (from Wolverhampton)
1. Can you tell us about your favourite local arts venues when you were growing up?
As a town of a size that just about warrants a Cathedral (pop 100,000ish), the arts didn’t exactly abound; the child of a restaurateur and occasional function singer, my first brushes with culture occurred in Working Men’s Clubs (Denton Holme Massive) and pubs. I do function singing now, so those strange lumps and bumps of pop-culture in the night had an impact on my journey into the Arts, it seems – under the rigging, through the chef's door.
Every four years or so, resources dribble through the Southern Arts-funding sieve and splash in non-contextual blobs in and around Cumbria. Notable occurrences include BBC One’s Big Weekend, Billy Ocean at a Dumfries leisure centre and Elton John's unecessary descent into Carlisle Stadium via helicopter.
What these events have in common is their liminality – even Carlisle’s main theatre folds away into a gymnasium. It gives the Arts a druidic, mystical quality, but intangibility is as romantic as it is impractical, and viable career pathways would be nice.
Still, the Arts survive - want to be an edgy scene kid in Carlisle? Skip the loitering outside ‘Grebbie’s Circle’ (the congregate of young hipster-goths) and head to The Brickyard for some alternative head-banging, The Vinyl Cafe and Cakes & Ale for some live acoustic sets or Warwick’s Bazaar, haunt of my youth - a multilevel Vintage shop-come-venue space in a listed building right by the citadel, train station, and Botchergate, jewel of the North.
We’ve a band called Hardwicke Circus named for Carlisle’s central roundabout who seem to be doing quite well, a bloody good fireworks night, and Calvin Harris was born but twenty minutes away in Dumfries. For a town with a gym for a theatre, that’s not a bad legacy. I’d love to see more though, eh?
2. And what about your favourite local culture spots now?
As a jazz rat extraordinaire I love Matchstick Piehouse and The Yard for bridging the gap between insanely vibey gig space and edgy daredevil theatre/cabaret - both home to the very best of Cabaret, Clown and alternative music.
Troy Bar in Hoxton is a hidden gem - go to the jazz jam on a Friday; it ends at 3am and is where all the jazz cats rock up post-gig. A stranger WILL offer you something illicit and a salsa dance - I’m not saying which you should accept, but it’s definitely the former.
Dalston Superstore, The Glory and The Royal Vauxhall Tavern are the holy trinity of LGBTQIA+ venues, and VFD is a queer fringe venue that hosts a superb crowd. Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club meanwhile helps me reimagine the WMC’s of my youth, but if they were significantly more camp.
3. And any other local recommendations?
Once I queued for The Fold (queer techno club) for four hours and then went home and it was one of the best nights of my life (all hail the queue).
Frank freelances as a Marketing Assistant for Mobius, as well as being represented by Nina Lee Management and performing across the London Cabaret and Jazz scenes. You can keep up with him on his Instagram, or at your nearest gay bar.
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