Sensoria diaries, 29 April – 8 May 2011

One two three four five, Sensoria working overtime.
You’ll be hearing a great deal about festivals over the next few months, but you’ll not find a more diverse or entertaining one than Sheffield’s own Sensoria festival of music and film. 
It is now in its fourth year, and every year organiser Jo Wingate and her team seem to manage to surpass the previous one.  I completely missed 2010 (thank you and good night, ash cloud), so this year I was determined to take in as much as I could.  
They seem to have cornered the market in putting unique artists in unusual places, and it started in good style, with a music gig in a hair salon!   Perfect; but before that, I fortified myself for the mission ahead with a quick refreshment in the Bungalow and Bears, where Sensoria had invited Rough Trade to run both a clothes market and to provide a suitably cool DJ set.  My main aim though, was an appointment in Wigs and Warpaint, the ultra trendy hair salon, where Sarah Jay Hawley and Simon Stafford were sound-checking for ‘Screen Sirens’, a celebration of  classic femme fatales on film.  Sarah sang songs made famous by iconic women of 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, whilst their films were projected on the wall behind them.  So impressed were the staff and customers, that hairdryers were silenced and scissors sheathed for a while so they could all listen.  I chanced upon a friend who just happened to be there to have her hair done before her wedding, and she said how perfect the whole experience was. 
On to Sunday night now, and I Monster were curating a celebration of man’s 50 years in space with a show called ‘Poyekhali! (Here we go)’ in the Greystones.  It opened with a screening of a classic 70s sci-fi film, Fantastic Planet, which, if anything is more impressive now than it was when it was first shown in 1973.  After that, suitably space-themed music was provided by Third Half, then by Hoarse Voice, and finally by the I Monster side-project, Skywatchers.  They played a stunning set and ended with a spaced-out version of Sun Ra’s ‘Space is the Place’.
‘Bibliotheque Discotheque’ was my next Sensoria event and comprised a celebration of film and TV background music, known to the trade as ‘library music’.  Where to set up a sound system to play it all on?  In Sheffield’s Central Library of course.  The DJs for this included music collector Johnny Trunk, who has his very own obscure music label, Trunk Records, and the legendary Jerry Dammers of The Specials.  The audience sat around, reading if they chose to, or just chatting to friends and listening to music which, more often than not, provoked a where-have-I-heard-that-before? look on many a face.
In The Nursery have been making music for 30 years, and in celebration, for their contribution to Sensoria they took over the Memorial Hall.  Supporting them were Neil McSweeney, Job Karma and David Thomas Broughton, before ITN played a much anticipated full band set, their first in Sheffield for over 10 years.  It was a fittingly epic performance, and managed to reflect their entire career, with brothers Nigel and Klive Humberstone joined by Dolores on vocals and David on percussion.  After a marvellous, entertaining set, the encore, a very 80s sounding ‘A to I’, was dedicated to a couple of audience members who were there at their very first gig at Psalter Lane Art College.   
My final encounter with the Sensoria festival was the most popular so far, and seemed to sum up everything Sensoria tries to achieve, with an excited queue snaking round the car park to get into a packed hall at the Queens Road Social Club.  The event causing all the fuss was the showing of the kitsch 70’s sci-fi film, Silent Running.  What made tonight special though was that the music soundtrack had been removed, the entire film had been re-scored by 65daysofstatic, and tonight they were performing it live.  Often film music is so subtle it often goes unnoticed, but the very opposite was achieved tonight.  The somewhat silly storyline was easily overlooked, as one Sheffield’s most exciting and unique groups gave the film an impact it never had, as they drove the film along with an exhilarating, pounding onslaught of sounds.
Add to all these, a series of art/music installations, free film screenings around the city and all the bits I missed, and you have yet another reason why Sheffield is such a exciting, innovative place to be.    
Mark Perkins

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