Well, it's that cherry-picking time of year again. Sam Wonfor embraces memories of the good times while preparing for tough ones ahead.
RIGHT, before I begin to thumb-swipe my way through the on-screen diary to recollect what, where, when and whether it was any good, I feel I must start this meander through my cultural year gone by with a bit of a qualification.
Maternity leave dictated (and I agreed wholeheartedly) I should not return to the Culture desk and its associated out-and-about duties until July.
Therefore, in order to spare you lovely readers a six-month-long looping account of baby music gatherings, singing and signing hooplas and finger painting in the extreme, I have decided to focus my individual take on 2012 towards the back-end of the year’s proceedings.
I have also chosen to side-step the continuing, depressing and frankly terrifying announcements of planned cuts to arts funding which came hand in hand with my return to work. I know it’s a reality which we’re all sadly going to have to deal with throughout 2013 and beyond. But as we wait for the bells to bring 2012 to an end this evening, I thought we all deserved some good memories before rolling up our sleeves.
The first thing which comes to mind immediately rolls into the second, so I might as well lump them together on paper as well as in thought. Sunderland singing treasures The Futureheads are responsible for two of my most lovely experiences. And the reason they both deserve a mention is that they couldn’t have been more contrasting.
First up came in September with a special a capella performance, which filled the world heritage site confines of Durham Cathedral ... both in terms of bums-on-seats and harmonies-in-the-transcepts.
Renditions from their stripped-back 2012 album, Rant, together with some other bespokedly arranged compositions – and guest appearances from The Lake Poets and Natasha Haws – double-filed the evening under U for uplifting and (thoroughly) unforgettable.
A few weeks later the 12-year-old quartet pitched in with the 10th Anniversary Weekender celebrations at The Cluny in Newcastle’s Ouseburn, playing their eponymous debut album in sequence to a packed-in crowd who couldn’t have been happier to be in attendance.
An unlikely segue between these two gigs came in the fun-sized, swishy-haired form of our very own punch-packing pop princess, Cheryl Cole, who was playing a double solo date at the Metro Radio Arena – and for the first time didn’t have her Girls Aloud bandmates in tow.
I’ve included it here not so much because of the concert’s artistic merit but more because I remember a fun evening involving lots of twitter action, a clutch of sing-a-long-a-Cole ‘classics’ and a night-long search for a band. There was none to be found. #magicmusic
Moving on to highlights from the theatrical stage, there’s One (Man, Two Guvnors) which stands out. I had the pleasure of catching two out of three portrayals of the loveably hilarious Francis Henshall in the award-winning and globe- trotting comedy.
The first came from wonderful Welshman Owain Arthur at the Haymarket Theatre in London. I went down in August to see the show and talk to the actor who would be playing Francis when the production set up camp at Newcastle Theatre Royal in November.
Facial hair mentor (and stand-up comic/actor) Rufus Hound was the man in question and turned out to be both a thoroughly giving interviewee as well as a more-than- capable Francis – a role he will be taking on in the West End from February.
Since we’re talking about comedians, it seems appropriate to namecheck the top-drawer japesters who I’ve laughed along to this year.
For a long time it seemed fate was keeping me apart from 8 Out of 10 Cats team captain Jon Richardson.
One time a gig was cancelled, another I was kept away from the Fringe due to imminent childbirth.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another. But in November, I finally got to see him do his understated, self-deprecating, slightly OCD thing at the Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre.
And it was worth the wait. I probably should be grateful that having a husband as my plus one prevented an embarrassing stage door encounter, but I’m struggling.
I’m also kicking myself for missing Alan Davies’s return to the stand-up stage after a decade away. When tummy bugs and comedy collide...
Laughs did come though from the quarters of Jo Brand and Sarah Millican, who combined for a fundraising night at the Mill Volvo, and also Stu & Garry – a veteran improvising duo who helped us celebrate the first birthday of The Stand Comedy Club on Newcastle’s High Bridge.
I’m hereby making an early New Year’s resolution to spend more time in that place in the coming 12 months. And while we’re on with resolutions here’s another.
I’m hoping the beaplaywright.com online course information evening at Live Theatre, which featured an extract from its first graduate, Nicola Owens’ first play: The Harrowing of Daniel O’Malley, has offered me the required backside kick to finally complete (and start) the course by the time I have to write my highlights of 2013. Wish me luck.