Conventions

A friend once described London’s North and South Circular as a system (or convention) rather than a road, since it’s actually a whole lot of different roads given a shared number and a shared colour on the map, thereby making people believe that something ‘circular’ actually exists. Fairport Convention, who I finally heard live this evening, are much the same. Through my 42 years of listening:

reel-to-reel: Ashley Hutchings, Martin Lamble, Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, Simon Nicol
vinyl: Bruce Rowland, Dave Pegg, Dave Swarbrick, Sandy Denny
cassette: Bruce Rowland, Dave Pegg, Dave Swarbrick, Simon Nicol
CD: Dave Mattacks, Dave Pegg, Maartin Allcock, Ric Sanders, Simon Nicol
live: Chris Leslie, Dave Pegg, Gerry Conway,  Ric Sanders, Simon Nicol
 
Along the route I did hear many of them live, just not, at the time, labelled as Fairport Convention but tonight I crossed the road at one of the traffic lights on their 50th anniversary tour.

I was in London for the weekend with a friend I first met around the time Fairport originally got together and before heading to the gig (via this much-blipped tunnel) at Union Chapel we went to ‘South Africa: the Art of a Nation’ at the British Museum. The exhibition challenged conventions of what art is, labelling many works as ‘artist unknown’ when in other exhibitions they’d be treated as archaeological or anthropological artefacts: a cave painting of eland, carved ox-horns, wooden head-rests incorporating carvings of rifle-forms (as objects of power and oppression), an Anti-Apartheid Movement demonstration poster. It wove culture, colonialism, resistance and politics inextricably together. Of course art reflects politics; this superbly curated and unconventional exhibition made the connection very clear.

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