Frankie & The Heartstrings, The Boileroom

The jangly indie-pop stylings of Frankie & The Heartstrings saw Independent Venue Week (IVW) celebrations at The Boileroom in Guildford kick up a notch on Wednesday (January 28).

The Sunderland quintet have built a small, but loyal, following since the band’s chance encounter in a bar on the city’s left bank in 2008.

Three years’ hard graft later, 2011 debut album Hunger charted at number 32 – earning Frankie and co knowing nods on the national and international stage.

Their 2013 follow-up The Days Run Away spawned single Nothing Our Way and fan favourite Everybody Looks Better (In The Right Light).

In the intervening period, playing second fiddle to the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs, The Vaccines and Florence And The Machine did little to stymy a steady flow of glowing reviews.

Ably supported themselves by Wiker, Future Talks and the anarchic Arctic Monkeys-esque sneer of Woking rockers The Sheratones, there was an understandably fuzzy feeling of community at the venue on Wednesday night when the band took to the stage, slap-bang in the middle of IVW (January 26 to February 1).

It was vocalist Frankie Francis who perhaps summed up the real importance of initiatives like IVW most succinctly, quipping in his Mackem burr: “They’ve got a noodle bar here – perhaps all venues should have noodle bars!”

In many ways, there is arguably something ever-so-slightly immaterial about the actual gigs held as part of IVW, which aims to celebrate everything that is so unique and often unusual about the country’s slew of embattled independent music venues.

The Boileroom has been the last bastion of Guildford’s alternative music scene for nearly a decade and continues to thrive, despite a myriad of obstacles which have, at times, put the Stoke Fields venue at risk.

However, from Wiker through Future Talks, The Sheratones and finally Frankie, there is a sense that the crowd as much as the bands understand just what is at stake if support dwindles for venues such as The Boileroom.

And it speaks volumes of the venue’s quality and draw that it was able to swing, as part of IVW, a gig on Friday (January 30) by Weybridge chart toppers You Me At Six, which saw thousands of fans try to bag just a couple of hundred tickets.

Dapper Frankie frontman Francis quickly makes the stage at The Boileroom his own, strutting about with an air of confidence and vigour you might expect from a young Mick Jagger.

He is flanked by guitarists, founder member Michael McKnight and ex-Futureheads axeman Ross Millard, who take it in turns to briefly tear away from the band’s twee verse-chorus barrage with the occasional flash of virtuosity.

Rhythm section, bassist Michael Matthews and drummer Dave Harper, tie the band’s tight sound together, elucidating a handful of passionate sing-alongs as the gig reaches a crescendo after a slightly slow start.

Choice cuts from Hunger such as Fragile and the title track bring the band’s 45-minute set to a raucous, yet also understated finale.

The band pay their respects with a nod to the IVW before they stroll off stage and out into the crowd to wind down with their loyal fans.

It’s such a simple gesture, but one that can only be achieved at a venue like The Boileroom – and one their fans, most importantly, will remember and cherish.

James Chapple

Pictures by Sophie Garrett.

Originally published on Get Surrey, 29/01/15

Holocaust Memorial Day

Shortly after I started my job here in Guildford, I was offered the opportunity to accompany a couple of hundred teenagers from across Surrey on a trip to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland with the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET).

Nick Clegg came along too. It was an extremely unusual and moving day, one that will stick with me for the rest of my life, as I’m sure the experience of visiting Auschwitz does for all who set foot there.

I was perhaps only three or four months into my job by the time the trip came around and I still look back at this piece with a degree of pride, if only for somehow managing to collect myself and my thoughts before regurgitating them in a vaguely coherent manner.

Before I wrote this post, I had perhaps cast an eye over this article once since it was published back in October 2012. It’s somewhat strange to read it more than two years later, and arguably, two years wiser.

Today (January 27) is Holocaust Memorial Day. It’s some 70 years since the liberation of the indescribably vast Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland, and 75 years since the town of Oswiecin – then, ironically, something of a beacon of inter-faith tolerance – was so cruelly cemented into the history books.

We’ve all seen pictures of the various Nazi death camps. They are, thankfully, a part of our common conscience in 2015. At best, they serve as a reminder of an atrocity the world simply cannot allow to be repeated. At worst, they hark back to an atrocity the horrors of which echo to this day, having since been repeated in Congo, Armenia, and at Srebrenica during the Bosnian War, among others.

But nothing, absolutely nothing I’ve ever seen, compares with gazing out of one of the central guard towers at Birkenau, the biggest of all the Nazi death camps. It is simply breathtaking. You can’t process it there and then. The fact I can recall it so vividly more than two years later is perhaps an indication of the time is has taken, and continues to take, me to rationalise it.

Fortunately, Times journo Hugo Rifkind has managed to do so in a far more succinct and eloquent manner so I heartily suggest reading his post for the HET, which was published on Sunday (January 25).

Nous sommes tous Charlie

“I’d rather die standing than live on my knees,” Stéphane ‘Charb’ Charbonnier told French newspaper Le Monde in September 2012.

Always defiant in the face of authority, opposition – even death threats – Charb was, until today, editor of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, the magazine responsible for publishing a caricature of the prophet Muhammad in November 2011.

It’s perhaps fitting tributes were today led by Private Eye editor Ian Hislop after Charb was among 12 people, including fellow cartoonists or satirists, who were gunned down at the magazine’s offices in Paris.

“I am appalled and shocked by this horrific attack,” said Hislop. “A murderous attack on free speech in the heart of Europe. Very little seems funny today.”

It is thought the three attackers were Islamic militants. Witnesses said they heard cries of Allahu Akbar, ‘God is Great’, as they stormed the building, reports The Guardian.

French President Francois Hollande was quick to condemn the attack – “no barbaric act will ever extinguish press freedom,” he said.

As I write this, people are gathering in city centres across France and in other European countries to decry this heinous act that many, like Hislop, rightly describe as a direct attack on free speech.

United under the Je Suis Charlie slogan, it’s a reminder of the vast fortune we share living in a society where free speech is overwhelmingly accepted, even when we overstep the mark.

It is a cornerstone of the industry that is, currently, my life – barely a day goes by when a journalist doesn’t have to make a judgement call of one kind of another, often moral or ethical. Occasionally, we get it wrong.

When we do, we expect to be criticised, to be lambasted, to be pilloried – not executed. And I should stress I am not for a moment suggesting Charlie Hebdo should have toned down their acerbic, raucous editorial stance. It should be celebrated.


At 10.28am today, despite the numerous threats made against the publication in recent weeks and months, Charlie Hebdo posted its final fateful tweet – a cartoon featuring a depiction of the self-proclaimed caliph of Islamic State (IS) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“Meilleurs voeux, au fait,” it read, sardonically – ‘especially good health’.

The four Charlie Hebdo cartoonists killed today, led by Charb, consistently swore they lived and worked by no law but French law, while also refusing to be cowed by threats from any extremist factions, Islamic or otherwise.

For Charlie Hebdo; everyone was a target – politicians, religious icons, society at large. Their crosshairs did not discriminate, unlike those of the three gunmen who witnesses, it was widely reported, said went from person to person, seeking out their targets individually.

The thought of my life being at risk for adopting a standpoint that is contrary to or even offensive to others is not one that unduly concerns me; it is the thought of living in a society bound by an ideology that does not tolerate my right to express such views.

It’s been a long, troubling, emotional day and frankly, Simon Jenkins has already articulated most of my thoughts far more accurately.