Sunday 14 October 2012

Kirsty Almeida/Manchester Weekender

Manchester Art Gallery, Thursday, Oct 11

Kirsty Almeida can write a catchy pop tune and do it well. Her Decca album, Pure Blue Green, was infectious to the point of medical guidance. But there is, it seems, a multiplicity of Kirstys. Music is only part of it: she is a dress-maker, an interior designer, and a creative catalyst for a thriving artistic community in Manchester. This free performance, opening a weekend of cultural events in the city and a series of Thursday late-night events at Manchester City Gallery, revealed the off-the-wall and out-of-the-ordinary Kirsty, and she was riveting. 

Inspired by the Gallery’s exhibition of astonishing works on paper, she sang a song suite inspired by the Life and Death of a Tree, inhabiting, shaman-like, the spirit of the tree itself. Typical of Kirsty, she cut holes into paper to form a word, which then decorated part of a paper dress (co-designed by the artist and Mrs Jones), with the word spelling out the theme of the song. The first was ‘SEED’, and she sang, as an eerie incantation, “I have the world inside my belly.” We were a long way from ‘Wrong Mr Right’. 

Next, ‘GROW’ concerned the search for sun and water. On ‘PROGRESS’ she hissed a scared ‘The humans are coming” as Ed Briggs’ electronics suggested the sound of a buzz-saw, and this inexplicably segued into a samba with wordless though joyful vocals. Now the emphasis shifted to the after-life of the tree, transmuted in various paper products. One was an official document, the brief of an executive (the  soul-destroying effects of the world of work were implied rather than stated): the other was a love letter: ”Dear love, when will I find you…” A wistful end to an inspired little performance.

And this to the accompaniment of all paper instruments (aided by subtle electronics) manipulated by the resourceful ed Briggs, who would, say, provide rhythm by cutting paper and feeding the amplified noise through his echo-box. As the paper strips got smaller, so the beats got shorter. Another time he played a rolled piece of paper as a wind instrument, using the mouthpiece of a recorder. 

Definitely, too eccentric, too creative for the bland mainstream, Kirsty Almeida proves that idiosyncrasy is not dead yet.   


  1. That night in the Museum was magic. Two worlds colliding: art and music. Mike, thanks for describing that night with your fascinating writing.

  2. I disagree - his writing is cliche & predictable - nothing like Kirsty's presentations. From City Life to the present - he is King Midas in reverse - he seems to flatline every event he writes about with his insipid delivery. He's also a spiteful reviewer so not sharing our collective name!


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