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Canary Wharf: How the Boisdale Music Awards act as a showcase for the venue

Event celebrates the breadth and quality of talent that graces the Cabot Square restaurant’s stage

Boisdale Music Awards hosts Jools Holland and Yolanda Brown

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Boisdale Of Canary Wharf recently hosted its annual music awards, with a roster of 14 honours for individuals and groups presented.

While the event recognised the talents of the winners and brought together a diverse crowd in celebration – where else can you see Black Sabbath’s guitarist casually chatting with actor and crooner Hugh Laurie? – it perhaps best served to draw attention to the breadth and quality of the artists Boisdale regularly draws to its stages in Canary Wharf and Belgravia

Effervescent owner Ranald Macdonald plus hosts Jools Holland (patron of music for Boisdale) and boisterous jazz saxophonist YolanDa Brown, presided over the proceedings including awards for the following:

Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath at the awards

Tony Iommi

Lifetime Achievement Award

As co-founder and the only constant member of ground-breaking heavy metal band Black Sabbath, Tony’s contribution to music alongside Ozzy Osborne, Bill Ward and Geezer Butler is well documented.

 Their work includes genre-defining releases such as their eponymous first album and its follow-up, chart-topper Paranoid, named for the song that remains their only UK top 20 single.

Having lost the tips of two of his fingers in an industrial accident at the age of 17, he was inspired to keep playing after listening to a recording of guitarist Django Reinhardt.

After being told the gypsy jazz great was only using two digits having been injured in a fire that left two of his fingers paralysed, Tony redoubled his efforts, going on to make musical history himself. 

He said: “Getting this award feels lovely. I’ve got five lifetime achievement awards now, but it’s  great – I think any recognition is fantastic, I love it.

“Music is a different way of life now to when we started. I’d always say, get a lawyer and then get going, to those beginning a career now. 

“My real advice though would be to love what you’re doing, enjoy it and then whatever else comes is a bonus. You have to enjoy what you do.

Paranoid the song was on the second album – we’d had the first one, which was in the charts for a long time and then we did Paranoid, which went to No.1.

“It was a throwaway single but it got to No. 4 – we didn’t have enough songs for the album and the producer said we needed another one, just a short track.

“I came up with this idea, then we played it and recorded it in a few minutes and that was that.

“The whole thing about this business is about believing in what you do. I have always believed in what we do and that’s why we’ve been around a long time. It’s because we don’t change from what we love.”

Cleveland Watkiss performs at Boisdale Of Canary Wharf

Cleveland Watkiss 

Jazz Artist Award

Hackney-born singer and composer Cleveland was named best jazz artist for 2022. Having studied at the London School Of Singing and subsequently at Guildhall School Of Music And Drama, his career took off in the 1980s as a member of the Jazz Warriors with the likes of Courtney Pine and Dennis Rollins.

He has since gone on to work with a diverse and varied collection of artists including The Who, Bjork, Bob Dylan, Art Blakey, Wynton Marsalis and Robbie Williams, to name just a few.

Cleveland said: “It’s always good to feel that your art and your work is appreciated. These awards are really encouraging, they give you a lift – especially in these tough times.

“It’s my wish and desire to keep performing and this award is just more encouragement to keep doing what I do.

“You know that saying – give people their flowers while they’re alive? Well not everyone gets those flowers, so I want to dedicate this to some of the people who inspired me coming up.

“There were a few people who passed away during the pandemic including my aunt, whose funeral I wasn’t able to attend because of Covid. She was like a second mother to me.

“She was one of these people who regardless of the situation would have a positive outlook on life. She was always encouraging us when we were growing up.

“I lost my father when I was nine and I stayed with her as a kid.

“She was always inspirational and, even though she suffered with illness, she’d lift you up.

“There’s other people too like Ray Carless, a fantastic tenor saxophonist in the community in Hackney where I grew up.

“He recently passed away but he was such an icon in terms of the work he did in east London and beyond.

“He was a hugely celebrated musician who played in some of the most iconic jazz bands in the UK. We’d be here all day if I sat here and named them – top artists like Adele and Elvin Jones.

“Ray was a big inspiration to me when I saw what he was doing. I watched him at Ronnie Scott’s when I was in my late teens and I thought: ‘Wow, if he could do that, playing with one of the greatest musicians in the world – Elvin Jones, who played with John Coltrane – then maybe I could too’. 

“I want to dedicate this to people like that – people who never really got their flowers when they were alive.”

Gina Larner belts out new single Heavy Heart

Gina Larner

Best Up And Coming Artist

Brighton born singer songwriter Gina is set to release her first and, as yet, untitled album later this year. 

She said: “It feels really good to win. I sang Heavy Heart, the first single from my new album, which should be out in a few weeks.

“I sing and write Americana and country pop.

“People often see the pink hair and assume punk, but I’ve just loved Americana and country since I was a kid – I really like Stevie Nicks, KT Tunstall and Kacey Musgraves and I listen to a bit of Dolly Parton too.

“I’ve been writing for a long time – don’t get me wrong, my songs were shit originally, 14-year-old me did not write bangers – now, hopefully, 24-year-old me is writing better songs.

“I like to think what I write is very honest – that’s what I aim for.

“I’ll be back at Boisdale supporting KT Tunstall when she plays here on November 11.”

KT Tunstall is set to perform at Boisdale on November 11

3 DIARY DATES FOR BOISDALE OF CANARY WHARF

Oct 25-29, 9pm, from £24

Audiences can expect jazz-funk and r’n’b from The Blackbyrds, who are set to play five nights at Boisdale Of Canary Wharf in October. Assembled in the mid-1970s in Washington DC by legendary trumpeter Donald Byrd, their output has been sampled by everyone from De La Soul to Massive Attack.

Nov 3, 9.30pm, from £49

The UK Queen Of Soul is set to bring her velvety vocals back to Canary Wharf. Known for hit singles including My One Temptation, Breathe Life Into Me and Where Is the Love, audiences can expect a track or two from her critically acclaimed album Gospel, released in 2020.

Nov 11, 9.30pm, from £75

Known for Suddenly I See and Big Black Horse And The Cherry Tree, the Scottish singer-songwriter returns to Cabot Square with support from award-winner Gina Larner.

Read more: Quiet Rebels invade the stage at The Albany

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: Summer Lights work by Liz West is perfectly placed at Cabot Square

Hymn To The Big Wheel fuses Spice Girls and Massive Attack just across from Boisdale

Artist Liz West at Greenwich Peninsula - image Charles Emerson
Artist Liz West at Greenwich Peninsula – image Charles Emerson

You’d struggle to find a more appropriately placed artwork in London than Liz West’s Hymn To The Big Wheel. Installed in Canary Wharf as part of its Summer Lights festival, featuring 11 works placed across the estate until August 21, the walk-in structure at Wren Landing is composed of vertical, deeply coloured panels for visitors to interact with.

While the work is visual in nature, it’s sound that links it by coincidence to Cabot Square, just south of its location – where restaurant and live music venue Boisdale Of Canary Wharf has played host to both pop sensation Mel C and, more regularly, reggae powerhouse Horace Andy. 

“If you Google me you’ll find out I’m the Guinness World Record holder for the biggest collection of Spice Girls memorabilia in existence,” said Liz.

“I hired out my collection to museums when I graduated and that’s how I managed to become an artist full-time, so every piece of my work owes something to that. 

“There’s also the idea of every piece being a self portrait, that the colours are borrowed from my obsession with music videos in the 1990s, that garish, Britpop palette.

“I’d always liked strong female artists and, in 1996, I was 11 – the target age. I remember watching Top Of The Pops one day – they came on and I was like: ‘These are for me’. I heard the first few lines of Wannabe and I thought, this is exactly representing me – they were all individuals, loud, girls-next-door and not necessarily wealthy.

“To a girl from Barnsley who wanted to strive for more, when seeing that I felt that if I worked hard enough and was passionate enough, I could achieve what I wanted to.”

Visitors can enter Hymn To The Big Wheel - image Matt Grayson
Visitors can enter Hymn To The Big Wheel – image Matt Grayson

Before cueing up a Spotify playlist packed with Spice Girls hits for your visit to Summer Lights, Liz’s contribution actually takes inspiration from another 1990s source.

“I love music and dancing, and I grew up with music around me,” she said. “I always try to find a bit of a double meaning to give more substance to my titles, so this one is a reference to Massive Attack’s Hymn Of The Big Wheel from Blue Lines, and if you listen to the lyrics in that song, it talks about the Earth spinning on its axis and how we all go by, day by day.

“I thought that was a wonderful sentiment, because this is a piece of work aiming to be a sundial, and that’s caused by the Earth revolving, and the ‘Big Wheel’ being the planetary system, with our planet going round its star – ‘hymn’ shows this work is also an homage to the Sun. 

“I would love people to walk into the work with the sound of Massive Attack playing – they might start dancing and become performers within it as they move around it.”

And that’s especially appropriate for its location as fellow trip-hop nerds will know the lead voice on that track is Horace Andy, whose quavering, high-pitched tones, as mentioned, have regularly blasted out from Boisdale’s stage, prompting audience members to get to their feet, just a few hundred metres away.

As for the work itself, Hymn To The Big Wheel has been a long time coming – an opportunity for Liz to revisit an idea originally conceived for a completely different place.

“It’s two concentric octagons – a piece I’ve had in the back of my head for a long, long time,” she said.

“When I was first invited to submit a proposal for Spinningfields, Allied London’s property in Manchester in 2015, I had this drawing for an octagon pavilion which had coloured clear walls, just transparent block colours, not stripy in the way that it is now. That drawing was proposed and developed into something that was affordable at the time. It was my first piece of outdoor, public art, and, working with fabricators for the first time in my life, it was a big milestone for me in terms of my practice.

“The piece ended up going from being an octagon, to a tunnel to a prism structure, and that was due mainly to structural issues, like snow-loading and wind-loading in a Manchester winter.

“When I was asked to propose a piece for Summer Lights I didn’t know what I was going to do so  went through all my drawings and stumbled across one I’d made six years ago.

“I asked myself how I could bring that up to date and I was listening to that Massive Attack track at the time and it all kind of slotted into place in a really nice way.

Inside Liz West's Hymn To The Big Wheel - image Matt Grayson
Inside Liz West’s Hymn To The Big Wheel – image Matt Grayson

“Then it was about placing one colour overlapping another to get visible colour mixing happening in front of people’s eyes. 

“All my work is about the theory of how light behaves – in this case a sundial – and how colour behaves.

“I get lots of samples of the exact material, and I layer them over each other in a very methodical way – starting with the reds and putting every single colour over them, then the oranges and so on.

“At the back of my head is the thought that there are a number of panels in the installation, so I need that number of colour mixes. Then it becomes a matter of detraction – taking away colours that I don’t feel are working together. There’s an element of instinct within that as well.

“This world is full of grey granite, silver metal and reflective glass – that’s how most buildings are being made. I guess I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, that’s important to say, and randomly – choosing to live in grey, northern cities and towns – Barnsley, where I grew up, Manchester, where I live now and Glasgow, where I studied – my antidote to living in these wet, grey, northern cities is to self-remedy by creating these really vivid works. 

“The feeling I want people to have when they encounter my work is meditative, for it to be about them. I don’t want to describe to people how they should feel. Everyone speaks the language of colour, no matter what your race, sex, age or background – it’s universal.”

Find out more about Liz’s art here.

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