Site Reset : Arthur Dooley & a Long, Blue Summer
Art should provoke, test and challenge if it is to have any worth; for an audience, if listening, reading or looking doesn't lead to any change, then the creator has wasted their time. There is too much wrong with the world to work on mere distraction.
Last summer, unexpectedly confronted on an early morning walk with the harsh realities of the destitution of homelessness, I was left with a profound sense of political hopelessness and a viscerally shaming moral dilemma. The possible personal actions I came up with to resolve this pair of troubles consistently felt trite (wholly, in fact, because they were).
As unforeseen as the painful conversation with someone living rough that broke up my conscience was, the path out of a confused period came on listening to, and following the trajectories of, the ideas and history in Nick Ellis' last album, Speakers' Corner.
The album itself is sublime, but it is the thread of inspiration Ellis took from the work and philosophy of Arthur Dooley that catalysed a long-due shift in my own ideas of how to live. Dooley was a working class Liverpudlian sculptor with deeply held communist and Catholic principles - developed directly from lived experience, his ideals still hold great dignity and truth.
The bringing together of Dooley's fully earthed philosophy with music that has its own street-scuffed majesty fuelled my thought processes, and a more radical resolution than I'd have found on my own. I am not sure how you thank someone for that, but you'd hope sharing ideas is why many people write and compose as they do.
ARTHUR DOOLEY I One Pair of Eyes Documentary (incomplete)
Why type this up now? Put very simply in reality it wasn't the CD of Ellis' album that sparked a change, but going to see the live performance of its songs.
Likewise I have had two versions of Damien Dempsey's Colony on my hard drive for a decade, but it was when I saw the song played on stage that it prompted the fevered reading of what became a three foot high pile of books on Irish history, and the turning inside out of my view of that nation's birth and politics. My perception of Welsh language communities, and thus the rights and wrongs of Welsh nationalism, has been informed by going to gigs in places I'd otherwise not have visited, and the conversations I have had whilst there - not by listening to mp3s sat in my house.
This site has been running for three years; the original intent was to write about places, review live music and interview musicians and authors.
It was there - especially in writing about the shared human space live music offers (the communion experienced sat in a room with other people equally rapt whilst listening to Radie Peat sing Hares on the Mountain or watching the magnificence of 9Bach's Anian performed live), and in finding better understanding of someone's work through exploratory conversation - that the value seemed to lie. It is also, from combing back through the site's logs, what people want to read - interviews are typically read several thousand times, whilst album reviews usually have the least reach, averaging around a thousand eventual views.
So, From the Margins will reset to what it was meant to be at the outset, with no more reviews of recorded music, and with a bit more attention to the listings. It will be less frequently updated, but will shed a bit more light when it is. I don't pretend to be able to write well, but I hope to manage to communicate a deeply felt enthusiasm, and gratitude, for art with real heft. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Nick Ellis, the late Arthur Dooley, and all.
NICK ELLIS I Blue Summer