Covering the 2009 Mercury Prize

Mercury Prize Logo

The 18th Mercury Music Prize will be announced tomorrow night on BBC 2 TV at 10.00pm. Primal Scream won the inaugral competition in 1992 and subsequent winners have included the likes of Suede, Pulp, Badly Drawn Boy and the Arctic Monkeys. Only four of the seventeen winning acts have been fronted by female singers: M People (1994); Portishead (1995); PJ Harvey (2001); and Ms Dynamite (2002). Each prize is open to albums from British and Irish acts released from June of the previous year to June of the year in question. There have been seven previous Irish nominees: U2 (1992); Therapy? (1994); Van Morrison (1995); Gemma Hayes (2002); The Thrills (2003); Snow Patrol (2004); and Fionn Regan (2007). Lisa Hannigan is the only Irish nominee this year and is one of five female singers on this year’s list along with Bat For Lashes, Florence & the Machine, La Roux and Speech Debelle. This year’s list is dominated by debut albums and only Bat For Lashes has been at this stage before for Fur and Gold in 2007. She is one of the favourites this year along with Lisa Hannigan and Florence & the Machine. Florence’s album has some great songs on it, but there’s also a bit of filler on it. I really like Glasvegas’ album and I think it has a great chance. However, I’d love to see Lisa Hannigan win for her album, Sea Sew. It’s a real grower and has taken me a while to get into it. But, it’s a very cohesive album and is one of my favourites of the last few years. You can check out tunes from eight of this year’s nominees below. La Roux features in a mashup with Hard-Fi, who appeared on 2005′s list. The rest of them sing other people’s songs including Bat For Lashes being joined by Fionn Regan on a song from Screamadelica, the first winner of the prize

Continue reading

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2009: Theatre

The entrance to Long Kesh prison

The entrance to Long Kesh prison

We only made it to one play at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival and what a play it was. Chronicles of Long Kesh at the Assembly Hall told the story of the prison situated outside Belfast that was variously known as Long Kesh, the Maze and the H Blocks. The prison opened as HM Prison Maze in 1971 and housed thousands of paramilitary prisoners before its eventual closure in 2000. This two-hour play could have been heavy going for its midday audience, but it managed to blend a hearty dose of humour and song with the many tragic events that took place within the prison. The first half of the play takes us through the 70s from the burning of the camp in 1974 up to the dirty protests and the first hunger strikes at the end of that decade. The set is bare except for six large wooden boxes that the actors constantly move around to indicate a change of scenery. It is narrated by Freddie, played brilliantly by Billy Clarke, a young Protestant man who decides to become a prison officer more out of financial necessity than personal choice. At the beginning, Freddie is naive and out of his depth, but he settles into his role as an officer despite the pressures that it brings. Freddie introduces us to the rest of the characters and keeps the audience up-to-date with events inside and outside the prison as the play progresses. The rest of the cast is made up of one female and five male actors who each play a number of different roles. At the start it seems that there are too many characters and sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart. However, we are soon able to differentiate them due to the actors use of facial expressions, accents and body posture and movement

Continue reading