Back on a budget: Steak and Ale Stew

I've become a student again - and have challenged myself to eat on the cheap, without compromising on taste.

Like a lot of young folk, I enjoy a nice craft ale.

And after having a couple ‘three for a fiver’ bottles with friends, I had one left over. 

But what to do with this bottle of the amber nectar?

Sweet, sweet amber nectar...

Sweet, sweet amber nectar...

Drink it? Nah! I wanted to do my next two favourite things: cook with it in a slow cooker! 

And what better way to bring in the cold months, than make a winter warmer steak and ale stew.

Beef cuts are also a great way of cooking on a budget. I used a shin beef, but there are even cheaper options available… some people even use ox tail (just saying).  

And the slow cooker is a great way of making the meat real tender… which reminds me, I think I’ll write a whole blog dedicated to slow cookers soon!

Steak and ale stew

Winter warmer stew. Just add beer...

Winter warmer stew. Just add beer...

Ingredients
600-700g of shin beef (or similar cheap cuts - be brave!) chopped into cubes
500ml of ale (the fruitier, the better)
Four slices of bacon, chopped into cubes
One beef stock cube
One carrot, cubed
A stick of celery, finely chopped
One Leek, roughly chopped
Teaspoon of mustard
Sprinkle of chilli flakes
Two cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Two teaspoons of Italian seasoning 

Method

- Add a glug of oil into a pan on a medium heat.

- Add the shin beef to the pan and brown off for five minutes.

- Turn the slow cooker onto the high setting and add the beef and any juices from the pan.

- Add the bacon, carrot, mustard, chilli flakes, garlic, stock cube and Italian seasoning.

- Season to taste.

- Pour in the ale and stir.

- If the ale doesn’t completely cover the ingredients, top up with a splash of water.  

- Leave to cook for 6-8 hours, until the meat is tender.

- Serve with mash potato and peas… or with a hunk of bread and butter

 

Where the savings are
As I mentioned, I used a leftover bottle from a ‘3 for a fiver’ real ale deal from the supermarket. It’s a great way to drink and enjoy a couple of beers… and then smash out a winter meal too.

If you buy a six pack of bacon for the recipe, it means you’ll have two slices left over for a cheeky break bap… or barm, as they’d say here in Manchester.

What next?
If you have any other recipe ideas - or tips on cooking delicious food on the cheap - drop me a line!

Tweet me: @backonabudget

Back on a budget: the perfect cheap eats in Manchester

I've become a student again - and have challenged myself to eat on the cheap, without compromising on taste.

After a busy keeping the wallet as tight as possible, I like to splash out on a classy lunch. But, of course, it has to be cheap. 

But where to go for my meal? 

As I’m new to Manchester, I gave a shout out on social media.

Where can I get a cheap 'treat yourself’ lunch?

Where can I get a cheap 'treat yourself’ lunch?

Thanks to the very helpful shouts of ‘try a Tesco meal deal’ and ‘Greggs’ - and I thought it was Liverpool that had all the humour in the North West!

A bigger thank you to all the more exciting recommendations. I’ve had a great time exploring them.

Here’s my three favourites so far…

 

This and That Café, 3 Soap Street, M4 1EW

Lunch down a back alley.

No. I haven’t resorted to rooting through bins. This and That Café is a Manchester institution for cheap, hearty and tasty Indian food.

Situated down in the Northern Quarter, this eatery has been running for over thirty years. 

Choose a combination of curries from the canteen-style metal serving containers - and don’t forget to sprinkle the garnish and chilli sauces on afterwards! 

Three vegetable curries and rice costs £3.90. Substitute one of these for a meat dish and it becomes £4.50. It’s an absolute bargain! 

I went for this lovely combo…

A 'three-fuh': three veggie curries for under £4! 

A 'three-fuh': three veggie curries for under £4! 

The curries on offer change from day to day, so make sure you to check the menu in advance. 

 

The Real Junk Food Project, 85 Oxford Street, M1 6EQ

Dining on food waste while sat in a bath.

Again, I’ve not lost the plot. The Real Junk Food Café is a not-for-profit project which take out of date (but still safe) food, makes it into meals and then serves it to customer who pay what they feel for the privilege.

The decor is also free cycled (hence the bath, which has been made into an ace chaise longue). 

Lunch in a bath: The Real Junk Food Project

Lunch in a bath: The Real Junk Food Project

When I visited, I went for the delightfully spicy Boston bean stew, a glass of cordial squash and a slice of Tesco birthday cake (it wasn’t anyone’s birthday, it’s just what the depot had that day). 

It is a very worthy cause, so if you do visit, don’t scrimp on the payment! 

 

The Pound Bakery, Chorlton Place, Manchester M21 9AQ

Lunch on the cheap admid the hipsters and media types.

Chorlton has become a bit of a hotspot for the cool kids of late. 

But, don’t worry! Expensive panini and flat whites can be avoided by visiting this gem of a deli.

Lunch amid the hipsters... for a quid! 

Lunch amid the hipsters... for a quid! 

It has a great range of baguette sandwiches, each for a shiny pound coin. Or, if you’re really hungry, two meat and potato pies are also one hundred pennies.

A hot mug of tea is also a quid. 

This classic sarney and hot drink combo gives change from a fiver... and leaves the opportunity to buy some vinyl from the glut of charity shops on the Wilbraham Road with - or that’s what I did, anyway! 

...and a record from the change! 

...and a record from the change! 

What next?
Like all lists, this one is a work in progress. If you have any recommendations (for Manchester - and beyond!) let me know! 

AND If you have any other recipe ideas - or tips on cooking delicious food on the cheap - drop me a line!

Tweet me: @backonabudget

Back on a budget: Pumpkin curry

I've become a student again - and have challenged myself to eat on the cheap, without compromising on taste.

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope your fake fangs and cloaks are poised and ready. Here's my lantern effort for this year...

Woooo! It's that time of year again.

Woooo! It's that time of year again.

Make the most out of those pumpkin lanterns and get stuck into cooking with the fleshy insides.

Instead of a bog standard pumpkin pie, I've gone for a more spicy curry alternative.

And, if you cooked last week's lentil chilli, a lot of the leftover ingredients can be used for this, making more savings! 

Pumpkin Curry

IMG_1249.JPG

Preparation time: 30 mins

Cooking time: 30 mins

Serves 4

Ingredients
A good slug of olive oil
The scooped remains of a pumpkin lantern (seeds removed)
1 tin of plum tomatoes
1 tin of coconut milk
3 teaspoons of mild curry powder
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of ginger powder
A sprinkle of dried chilli flakes - to your own heat requirements.
250g lentils
A handful of coriander leaves (stems chopped and separated, leaves chopped and put to one side)

Method

- In a blender, blitz the pumpkin, tomatoes, coconut milk, 2 teaspoons of curry powder into a creamy curry sauce.

- Add a good slug of oil into a large pan. On a low heat, add the onions and garlic. Stir on the heat for a 5 minutes or until they are well softened.

- Add the coriander stems, garlic, ginger, a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a teaspoon of curry powder. Stir for a couple of minutes until mixed in well.

- Add the curry sauce and lentils to the pan. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

- Serve with rice and sprinkle of chopped coriander leaves.


Where the saving are
As I mentioned, if you are making a pumpkin lantern, treat this as a bonus meal (or if you’re making a pumpkin curry, treat the lantern as a free ornament - whatever suits your mood). 

Leftovers from the Lentil Chilli I made last week are ideal to use in this recipe: the garlic, lentils and coriander leaves - Yeah! Bonus meal! 

If you're searching for coconut milk in the supermarket, try the world food aisle first. More often than not it will be there and cheaper than on the shelves of other aisles (by more than £1 sometimes!).

Buying the curry powder makes a saving. Whilst it’s rewarding making your own curry powder, it will involve buying several spices (which will cost several pounds!). I bought supermarket own brand of mild curry powder, which contains a flavoursome mix of spices for £1.15! And I can use it in other curries too - winner!


What next?
Like all ‘homemade’ recipes, this curry is a work in progress. If you cook it - and have any ideas to make it extra tasty, let me know! 

AND If you have any other recipe ideas - or tips on cooking delicious food on the cheap - drop me a line!

Tweet me: @backonabudget

Back on a budget: Lentil chilli recipe

I've become a student again - and have challenged myself to eat on the cheap, without compromising on taste.

Wow! Thanks for all the suggestions to help me on my culinary quest. 

I thought I’d bring your ideas together to make a recipe of my own: a lentil chilli. It’s easy to make - and also vegan friendly!

I’ve taken a chilli con carne recipe I’ve been using for a while (a hybrid of a number of sources, adapted over time to suit my tastes) but substituted the mince for lentils.

And if you’re looking to entertain friends, or want to scrimp on washing up, you can also upgrade this recipe into walking tacos.

Lentil Chilli

Spicy vegan goodness!

Spicy vegan goodness!

Preparation time: 10-15 minute

Cooking time: 30 mins

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
250g red lentils
400g tin of plum tomatoes
A sprinkle of chilli flakes - to your own heat requirements.
3 garlic cloves (roughly chopped)
6 spring onions (roughly chopped)
Half a bunch of coriander (roughly chopped)
3 teaspoons of garam masala
8 mushrooms (chopped)
400g tin of kidney beans
1 vegetable stock cube
1 red pepper (roughly chopped) - I used a jarred pepper (as it was to hand) but a raw pepper is fine
1 tablespoon of tomato puree 

A cheap and healthy batch of ingredients! 

A cheap and healthy batch of ingredients! 

Method

- Blitz the tomatoes, chillies, garlic, spring onions, coriander and garam masala in a blender into a spicy a sauce.

- In a large pan, add the lentils, chilli sauce from the blender, vegetable stock cube, mushrooms, kidney beans and tomato puree. Stir and then  simmer for 30 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally. Season to taste.

Walking Tacos

Eating in a hurry - and saving on the washing up! 

Eating in a hurry - and saving on the washing up! 

Ingredients
Lentil chilli
55g bag of Doritos
Grated cheese
A napkin

Taco time! 

Taco time! 

Optional extras
Jalapeños
Soured cream
A sprinkle of coriander for garnish

Method

- With scissors, carefully cut the top of the pack and roll the sides back slightly.

- Ladle in the lentil chilli (and top with optional cheese, jalapeños etc) 

- Wrap the pack in a napkin (foil can get hot!) - and away you go

 

Where the savings are...
I've found a few ways to help make this recipe as cheap as it can be...

First up (and most obviously) using lentils instead of mince makes the chilli a cheaper meal... although if you are a massive carnivore, I'm not standing in your way. Use 400g of mince and use a beef stock cube instead of the veggie one. 

Where possible, I also buy produce individually rather than in a pack: the mushrooms being the main one here. Eight individual 'shrooms cost slightly less than a pre-sealed tray.

If items can't be bought individually, I make the most out of the excess. Spring onions and coriander can be reused in tasty salads. 

Buying in bulk can also help make savings over time. I got a 500g bag of lentils for £1, which will make another meal. But if you really want to be adventurous, a 2kg bag is £3 and will last for many more future stews, soups, curries and chilli dishes.

 

What next?
Like all ‘homemade’ recipes, this chilli is a work in progress. If you cook it - and have any ideas to make it extra tasty, let me know! 

AND If you have any other recipe ideas - or tips on cooking delicious food on the cheap - drop me a line!

Tweet me: @stephensonrich

Massive thanks to: Gill and Mel for the bulk buying ideas, Stacey for telling me to ‘go veggie’ and Stackhouse bar for introducing me to Walking Tacos. YUM!

Man United v Liverpool: a rivalry

Canals, ****s... and the Queen. I look into the #lfc and #mufc rivalry.

Some say that inter-city rivalries fuel many football clubs and their fans: Sheffield, Glasgow, London - the list goes on. 

Now I’m a resident of Manchester - and still learning about the ins and outs of the city - I’ve discovered that for a lot of Manchester United fans, the main rivals aren’t Manchester City, but Liverpool. 

And as I’ve been invited to a pub to watch the match tomorrow, I thought I’d best look into this long - and intriguing - history. 

Manchester United are playing away from Old Trafford against (arguably) their biggest rivals! 

Manchester United are playing away from Old Trafford against (arguably) their biggest rivals! 

No love is lost between the clubs. When I asked fans from both sides what they thought about the rivalry, the words were, let’s say, colourful. One Liverpool supporter even answered: “What, apart from the fact [United] are a bunch of ****s?” Ouch.

The rivalry arguably goes beyond football. Some say it started at the docks: the BBC documentary ‘A Tale of Two Rival Cities’ describes how the opening of the Manchester canal in 1894 helped the city’s thriving cotton mills bypass the dominant Liverpool port and its high importation charges.

For many, this spilled over the canals and into football. And during the last 40 years, dominance has swung between both red teams and their growing trophy cabinets. Both sides having glory days - and days to be forgotten.

For some, the United-Liverpool debate runs right up to Buckingham Palace. Al, who, along with her family, is a die hard Liverpool fan, says: “It’s a disgrace that Bob Paisley only got an OBE after winning three European Cups, while Ferguson was knighted for winning just one, but it doesn’t surprise me at all - there’s a real establishment bias against Liverpool.”  

And so the rivalry reignites tomorrow. Mourinho’s men have started the season strongly, with Lukaku leading the charge and whilst Liverpool are currently 7th, I think they are still a force to be reckoned with. 

And what about the score prediction? Lifelong United fan Steven admits derbies like this aren’t easy: “Tomorrow is hard to predict. These games don’t come down to form. They are horrible in the build up, because losing is an awful experience."

Liverpool mad Al is more optimistic, going for a 3-1 Liverpool victory. She also cheekily adds: “As long as [Mourinho] decides to unpark the bus.”

But what of Manchester City? They are currently top of the league after all. Steven admits that in recent years, the all-Manchester derbies have started to impact title races and cup runs. But for many United fans, there is only one fixture to look out for. As Steven says: “I don't see the Liverpool [rivalry] changing though. It's too ingrained in the teams.”

No doubt, the argument about Manchester and Liverpool clubs (and their main rivals) will rage on for years to come. For tomorrow at least, the main focus will be on the two red teams in the North West - and who takes home the bragging rights. I’ll be there in the pub, pint in hand - and stacked up with my new-found background knowledge.

Where next?

If you have any recommendations for things to do (especially in the North West), let me know! @stephesonnrich.

Until next time, keep it onside.

Back on a Budget: The lost art of eating as a student

I’ve become a student again - and have challenged myself to eat on the cheap, without compromising on taste.

I always remember the first time I was student. An older relative gave me a dog-eared ‘Student Cookbook’. It was basic to say the least. One of the recipes was ‘beans on toast’. 

Luckily, as a young person, you’re meant to rebel against 'those adults’. So, I left said book at home (along with my adolescence) and went forth on a quest into adult life - and exploring cooking my own way. 

A Student Cookbook of yesteryear, not the book I received as a younger student.

A Student Cookbook of yesteryear, not the book I received as a younger student.

A few years later, I can now whip up a whole range of exciting things in the kitchen: chillies, curries, roasts, caramelised onion and blue cheese tarts - the list goes on. 

But, now I’m a student once more (studying Journalism, no less!) and back on a budget, I want to carry on developing my culinary skills, but without breaking the bank. I thought I’d write about what I find: what works, what doesn’t; where to find recipes - and what to avoid.

As I’m studying next to the BBC in Salford, I thought I’d start on the BBC Food Site (that way, if I don’t like it, I can always go and have a word them about it - or throw the food over their building*). 

The Budget Recipe and Ideas Collections seemed like the best place to start. Featuring recipes from Gino D’Campo and Greg Wallace (no buttery biscuit bases sadly). The Sausage and Bean Casserole caught my eye - and after a trip to Morrisons, I was in the kitchen and ready to cook! 

Where better to start than the Beeb?

Where better to start than the Beeb?

The Casserole is a basic and hearty meal. Tinned tomatoes, chicken stock and parsley make a simple, but tasty combination (I prefer fresh to dried herbs - but if you want to tighten the budget, go ahead and get dried). 

I used Linda McCartney vegetarian sausages, as they were to hand in the freezer, but I’m sure meat varieties would work just as well: a good old Lincolnshire, or, if you’re feeling frisky, a spicy infusion would enhance the taste buds. 

To ensure the onions were extra tender and sausages infused with all the flavours, I used my slow cooker (£9 from Asda - bargain!) and let it cook for several hours. This also left me free to learn the shorthand alphabet.

Taking it real slow: cooking with a slow cooker.

Taking it real slow: cooking with a slow cooker.

The recipe itself was good. I found the 500ml of stock left the recipe a little watery (even after hours in the slow cooker). I remedied this with a good helping of tomato puree. A glug of leftover red wine could also add a further rustic flavour to it.

Whilst not a ‘pulling out all the stops’ dish you’d use to impress the other half, or friends, I would definitely make this casserole again. Now that the nights are drawing in, the portions I put in the freezer will help see me through winter and beyond.

A winter warmer perfect for cold night in.

A winter warmer perfect for cold night in.

What next? 

I’m eyeing up the Mushroom Stroganoff from the same BBC collection. Stay tuned for more!  

…and if you have any recommendations, let me know! I’m always up for trying new recipes. Comment below! 

*NB, I will be doing neither of these.

Adventures in Culture part 14: The Real Junk Food Project

The Real Junk Food Project, Oxford Street, Manchester

Last Friday I ate food waste in central Manchester whilst sitting in a disused bath. It was so good, two hours later I ate more - and then paid for it in a brown envelope.

No. I’ve not lost my senses. I was trying out a new ‘not for profit’ restaurant: The Real Junk Food Project, which has just opened in Manchester. 

Putting food waste to good use: TRJFP is a restaurant making a difference.

Putting food waste to good use: TRJFP is a restaurant making a difference.

Part of a larger national project, TRJFP takes food that would have otherwise been thrown out as ‘waste’ (but is still safe and edible) by supermarkets and restaurants, makes them into meals and encourages punters to pay what they feel in a discrete brown envelope.

It’s popular too: after trying out a delicious breakfast of a bacon butty and a cuppa, when I returned for lunch a couple of hours later, two of the three meals available had already sold out (I’ll eat you next time, chicken curry!). The Boston Bean Stew that I chose did not disappoint though: a hearty, healthy lunch with a fiery spicy kick. It set me up very nicely for an afternoon of guitar shopping. 

My spicy Boston Bean Stew - yum!

My spicy Boston Bean Stew - yum!

It’s not just the food that is upcyclyed: all furniture, fittings and artwork are donated or sourced for free online. My ‘seat’ was a modified bath, cut in half and made into a comfy chaise lounge. The manager also proudly told me they had just completed a successful online campaign to source baby high chairs. Luckily my beard was sizeable, so they didn't ask me to get in one. 

My comfy bath/chair

My comfy bath/chair

And what did I pay? Well… that’s between me and the brown envelope. 

If you fancy being part of a project that is making a difference, head on down to The Real Junk Food Project. There are restaurants popping up all over the country - and all you have to do is eat! Check out their website for more details

Pay what you feel via the brown envelope

Pay what you feel via the brown envelope

Where to next?

Who knows? If you know a restaurant that I MUST go to, Tweet me: @stephensonrich.

Until next time, keep your belly full - and the plate empty.

#IAMRICH

Adventures in Culture part 13: Guitar repair workshop

I fixed this! 

I’m going to shock you: I REALLY like guitars.

Okay. That’s not much of a revelation, but I do like to don my lab coat, fire up the soldering iron and become a guitar repair guy. 

So, when my local charity shop had this little fella in need of a new home and a bit of TLC, I thought I’d get it back on the road to recovery - AND tell you the most important bits of guitar maintenance….

The new patient

The new patient

The naming process
The first (and most important part!) is giving your new instrument a name. I was a little against the idea at first, but being a Brit, it enables me to do what we do best: puns! In my collection I now have ‘Nelson’ Mandola, ‘King Edward’ the 1930s Regal brand guitar - and now this little gem.

The brand is a Jedson, a 1960s Japanese budget guitar, plugged in and cranked up to 11 by many a garage band across the decades. I thought of ‘Eric’, after the Japanese word for electric guitar ('Erekigitā'), but stuck with 'George', after the lead character from one of my favourite kids cartoons: the Jetsons.

George Jedson. George Jetson.

George Jedson. George Jetson.

A glamorous assistant
Every adventurer needs a sidekick. For this expedition, I had Old Man Jack, champion snuffler and snoozer. As you can see, he’s very helpful…

"It's a guitar alright, boss." Thanks Jack.

"It's a guitar alright, boss." Thanks Jack.

Getting Under the bonnet
Guitar geeks are like car enthusiasts: we love to take a step back from the machine, fold our arms, take a deep breath and say ‘Let’s open her up’. 

And when it became apparent that Mr Jedson wasn’t making a noise when I plugged it into an amp, it gave me the perfect excuse (not that I needed one) to get right up inside him. 

I’m really glad I did too! I discovered the electronic components were still in pristine condition, so a blast of WD40 got Georgie boy back into the land of the living.  

"Let's open her up" - getting inside George. 

"Let's open her up" - getting inside George. 

But, the best thing I found was a hand marked Japanese symbol, fresh from the factory floor over 50 years ago. What does it mean? Is it just a hash tag? A great find! 

It's a sign! But what does it mean?

It's a sign! But what does it mean?

New strings and a polish
Once the guitar is up and running again, it’s always best to buff it up and make it shine once more. Mr Jedson had many years of finger grime on the fretboard, so a wipe down and polish with some Dunlop Guitar Polish and a new set of Ernie Ball strings sorted him right out. Look at him shine...

George polished up a treat! 

George polished up a treat! 

And there you have it! A new addition to my collection. Look out for appearances from George Jedson (and myself!) at a gig soon. 

In the meantime, keep it under the bonnet.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter: @stephensonrich

#IAMRICH

 

 

Summer Tour announcements

...and I'm back! How we all doing?

Sorry it's been a while. I've been busy blogging, writing new tunes, recording a new single, moving back to Yorkshire - and preparing myself to relocate to Manchester in September! PHEW!

BUT the good news is I'm going on tour! And I have a new band (this time with drum kit, keys and bass). Check the dates out below and sync your diaries... 

15th July: Knight's Bar, Hornsea
22nd July: Hornsea Carnival
26th July: SoFar Sounds, Bradford
5th August: Humber Street Sesh, Hull
16th August: SoFar Sounds, Leeds
17th August: SoFar Sounds, Cheltenham
19th August: House Gig, Alton
22nd August: SoFar, Southampton

...see you there! Keep checking onto the website for further details - and don't forget to follow me on Spotify! 250 followers can't be wrong...

Rich x

Adventures in Culture part 12: Flaming Lips

Flaming Lips, Zebedee's Yard, Hull.

Things I thought I’d never see in Hull…

A man with rainbow wings riding a unicorn through a crowd of 3,000 people.

…well. Last Saturday at Zebedee’s yard I did. And the best bit? I wasn’t surprised when it did happen. 

Yes. I saw the Flaming Lips live – and those sort of antics are just par for the course. The Oklahoma collective, fronted by the enigmatic Wayne Coyne, have been wowing audiences with their day-glo acid trip dynamics for over 30 years. 

And their debut in Hull didn’t disappoint: from the off, glitter cannons were fired into the crowd, people in giant inflatable animal costumes danced on the stage, Wayne ran out with a giant balloon message saying ‘FUCK YEAH HULL’ and for the third song, aptly named ‘There should be Unicorns’, he was paraded around the audience on a winged mythical beast.

Wayne Coyne. On a unicorn. In Hull. BELIEVE IT! (pic by Tim Drage)

Wayne Coyne. On a unicorn. In Hull. BELIEVE IT! (pic by Tim Drage)

As they’d played Glastonbury the night before, their set was a full on ‘festival crowd pleaser’ experience, pulling out all their big hitter tunes to a loud psychedelic backdrop. The Yeah, Yeah, Yeah song, Race for the Prize and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (part 1) all went past in a blur of colour, bangs and excitement.

The set was made even more magical by the inclusion of Bowie’s Space Oddity (a wonderful coincidence - from what I could tell, Coyne wasn't aware of Hull’s links to Bowie through the Spiders from Mars and Mick Ronson). Of course, they couldn’t just play the song. Wayne had to get in a giant inflatable zorb ball and run on top of the crowd whilst channeling his inner Bowie.

"For here I am sitting in a tin can" - channeling Bowie in a giant ball on top of the crowd.

"For here I am sitting in a tin can" - channeling Bowie in a giant ball on top of the crowd.

As the glitter settled and the final chords of the beautifully anthemic Do You Realize died away, I was left wondering if this kind of bizarre musical spectacle would grace my hometown again. From the look of delight on every face leaving the arena, we bloody hope it will! Come back soon, Wayne! And bring more of your mad musical friends with you.

Where to next?

I've got a free couple of month in Yorkshire! Tweet me your suggestions @stephenrich or comment below. I should be free...

Until next time, keep it freaky.

#IAMRICH

Adventures in Culture part 11: England v Bangladesh

England v Bangladesh, ODI, The Oval

Sports chants. I love them. 

Puerile. Catchy as hell.  

My personal favourites are when I go to see Hull City…

 

“01482. 01482. 0148. 0148. 01482 - HULL!”
(Yes, that's the Hull area dialling code - and don't you forget it). 

“Give me a C. I. T. Y. And what have you got? THE TIGERS!”
(Spelling was never our strong point)

 

...and after I went to see England play Bangladesh at The Oval I have a new one for my collection…

 

“YORKSHIRE WATER! TETLEY BITTER! NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH! OI!”

 

…and for a day watching cricket, I can confirm that both liquids are essential for a sunshine-drenched 8 hours of chess-like attrition and sporting competition. 

Just out of shot, Yorkshire Water and Tetley Bitter.

Just out of shot, Yorkshire Water and Tetley Bitter.

I know the rules of cricket can be mind boggling - and explaining them can be on a par with explaining the offside rule in football - but if you haven't been before, I implore you to try a match at least once. Just accept that the team with the highest run score wins* and soak up the atmosphere.

And my trip to The Oval didn't disappoint last week. The sun was shining, I had a bag full of food and a cheeky wine spritzer in my bag - and I was ready to drift away.

In terms of competition, it wasn't the most exciting match - a routine England win with time to spare, barring one or two minor scares (and a contentious 'catch' rightly deemed 'not out' by the video umpire). 

But, the atmosphere supplied by the fans made it for me; Both were in different time zones: the sizeable Bangladeshi support were raucous from the off, whilst the home fans got into their stride once the win looked all but sown up (and the hours of drinking beer kicked in) - queue the slurred chants about the delights of drinks in Yorkshire from the lads from Leeds in front of us. 

As world class England batter Joe Root smashed the final 4 over the boundary to seal the win, I left south London satisfied - and working out when I could go again! 

*unless it's a draw, but that's another story.

Where to next?

I'm only in London for another month (after a decade!) - so I'm up for anything (but, not THAT, you muck minded people). Tweet me your suggestions @stephenrich or comment below.

Until next time, keep it legside and short of mid-wicket.

#IAMRICH

Adventures in Culture part 10: Dan Croll

I had a music teacher. She was called Mrs C. Sharpe. No word of a lie. 

As well as having a comedy name, she had a great saying when conducting the orchestra: “If you’re going to make an accidental mistake, make it big. Be proud of it - and then keep going!” 

And do you know what? She’s right! I witnessed two mistakes on my night out last Tuesday. Both were revelled in - and only made the night better. 

First off, the waiter at a Brick Lane curry house spilt an entire mushroom rice portion over my friend. Instead of being shocked, we just laughed it off. The guy was so relieved, we got a free drink (win!). And later when Dan Croll's drummer made a massive clanger during their set opener at Heaven, it only made the crowd warm to him more. The song stopped, the drummer got up, took a bow - and then smashed back into the intro. Marvellous! 

Take a bow! Dan Croll and band learning from their mistakes...

Take a bow! Dan Croll and band learning from their mistakes...

Dan Croll was a great dessert for our curry main. Originally hailed as the new Paul Simon - working with Ladysmith Black Mambazo only stoked these claims - of late Croll’s sound has gone down a more modern path. His live sound is complete with fizzing synths and delayed guitars. Beats are dished out like a new chart bothering banger and everything is drenched in tight three part harmonies from his lean, mean band.

Sadly I felt that his between song chat was a little flat on the night, but it’s not a deal breaker - we were there to listen to his music after all, not his famed standup routine. On a more annoying note though, for the second time in the last few months, my gig watching experience was hindered by a group of people having a loud pub chat during the gig (we were right at the front too!). Guys, I don’t want to know that you work in Tech and Comms, or you’re friends with a sibling of the band - or what your surname is (Yes! That was a genuine conversation they had!). If you want to talk loudly about your day at a gig, head to the bar - or the pub next door. It will make you far more popular. 

Rant over.

Just out of shot, a cacophony of pub chat...

Just out of shot, a cacophony of pub chat...

Luckily Croll and his tunes managed to eventually catch the attention of the chatterboxes next to me and by the encore of early hit ‘Home’, everyone was singing along euphorically. His new album’s out this summer. Make no mistake - catch it while you can! Or if you do make a mistake and don’t listen to it, be proud… and then watch him at a live gig soon.

Where to next?

Who knows? If you have a show that I MUST go to, let me know: @stephensonrich.

Until next time, keep it tight.

#IAMRICH

The pics on this blog were taken by Tim Drage - cheers Tim! 

Adventures in Culture part 9: Lucha Britannia

Things I thought I’d never see happen: An Ewok dancing a sexy burlesque dance. The Virgin Mary singing ‘I’m a masturbator’ to the tune of Britney Spears’ ‘Womaniser’. Waking up with a crude drawing of a penis on my hand. 

Well. Last night all of the above happened. And the best bit? It all took place at a Mexican wrestling match in Bethnal Green, East London. Confused? I still am.

Lucha Britannia is a wonderfully bizarre cabaret/immersive entertainment/Mexican wrestling showcase. Now in its eleventh year, they’ve slapped, drop-kicked and clothes-lined their way to sell out shows across London - and even showcased their talents at the Brit Awards.

And this is where I found myself on a slightly chilly April evening.

It's a sign! ...and a better sign! 

It's a sign! ...and a better sign! 

The show is immersive to the max: the audience are riled up into a frenzy by the MCs and their assistants from the get go. No part of the auditorium is safe - our ringside view was soon interrupted by wrestlers as they flew out of the ring and into the audience (I love a bit of salty sweat in my beer, me!). My group of friends also took their role very seriously: our attempts at homemade funny signs (‘I made a sign’ and ‘I made a better sign’) even got laughs from the wrestlers.

The fighters were hilarious too. All were in classic masks with ridiculous back stories, my favourite being Steakley Bakewell, a flat cap wearing Yorkshire fighter who had the crowd chanting ‘How do? How do? How do? How do?’

'How do?' The Transpennine master, Steakley Bakewell.

'How do?' The Transpennine master, Steakley Bakewell.

And in case you're wondering where the sexy ewok and pro-onanising virgin fit in amid the madness, they were snuggly placed in between fights - and were essential to keeping the night suitably weird. They weren’t the only two acts: a matador also had a member of the audience in the ring to play a bull with dildoes for horns for good measure. So, you know. All bases were covered! 

A grinding Ewok.

A grinding Ewok.

It was sweaty. It was outrageously camp. It was loud. It was ruddy brilliant. It’s well worth going to. Get your tickets via the Lucha website now

…it’s also the night that keeps on giving: the drawing of a cock on my hand was for re-entry to the venue. The marker they used must’ve been permanent, as it’s still there 24 hours later. I think I may add eyes to it to make it look like a mouse. Any better ideas?

Cocks for hands...

Cocks for hands...

Where to next?

Who knows? If you have a show that I MUST go to, let me know: @stephensonrich.

Until next time, keep it tight.

#IAMRICH

 

Adventures in Culture part 8: Athletico Mince

Picture the scene: the finale of a packed show at a theatre in central London. The crowd are waving their arms to a song. The singer croons about experiencing the delights of Africa - it’s such a lovely continent to visit! There are whoops and hollers from the crowd, hanging on the act's every word. The song lyrically describes the discovery of a box on the floor somewhere in Africa. The crowd are rapt. But what is in this imaginary package?

A human head.

The audience stop swaying. The night ends. Lights go up.

Welcome to Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson's weird and wonderful world of Athletico Mince. It's a podcast about football (in the loosest sense of the word) and it's what I found myself watching (and swaying along to) live at the Leicester Square theatre this week.

Swaying along to the Bob's big finale.

Swaying along to the Bob's big finale.

Being a creation of Mortimer, the show is surreal as you like. It takes in tall tales of vomiting snakes, bad mangoes, Sly Stallone's love of touching potatoes, Jeremy Corbyn's massage techniques, imaginary turkeys and Steve McLaren's hair island. It's popular too - tonight is part of a UK tour, most of which is sold out.

The show was loose. It was off the cuff. It was ramshackle. Bob read from prompts on a macbook and notes from his phone. Their time keeping was appalling, resorting to saying punchlines without the main set-ups to keep the show to curfew. Bob constantly started pissing himself at his own jokes. Andy drank a can of stella throughout the proceedings - even sipping from a pot of cold Dolmio white sauce when the going got tough.

In short, It was bloody brilliant.

If you haven't already listened to Athletico Mince, do so. Right now! It's on iTunes - and all other sound based sites. They're also on tour until the 17th April. I thoroughly recommend it.

Athletico-Mince-1800-x-450.png

Where to next?

It's happening! I'm going to a Mexican Wrestling night somewhere in Bethnal Green in a couple of weeks. Can't ruddy wait! If you know of a a show or activity that I MUST go to, let me know: @stephensonrich.

Until next time, keep it dense.

#IAMRICH

 

Gig Review part 6: Francis and The Lights

Francis and The Lights, Heaven, London

What was it Belinda Carlisle once sang? Heaven is a place on earth?

I'm not 100% on that, but I can confirm that Heaven is a music venue underneath Charing Cross Station. It's a classic ‘under the arches’ London gig space complete with bassy sound system and hypnotic lighting - a perfect place for Francis Farewell Starlite to perform his first UK headline show.

The Californian pop polymath has been simmering under the musical surface for well over a decade now: he’s collaborated with Drake,  scored music for films, toured with MGMT and La Roux and released two albums. But, it was his summer smash hit Friends (featuring Bon Iver and Kanye) that properly brought him to Europe’s attention. 

And bloody heck, am I glad he’s stepped into the limelight! What a performer! He’s part Elvis hips, part Peter Gabriel vocals with a smidgen of David Byrne dramatics thrown in. He Danced like a loon, clambered up stage scaffolding and incited mass sing-alongs throughout. “I just want to make sure this shit is real for me and YOU!” he bellowed mid-set - and we were in no doubt!

There is amazing online footage of Francis' live work with a band, but sadly this gig was just himself on vocals/keyboards with a DJ for backing. His onstage histrionics mostly made up for this, but the airing of two new songs did incite a minor exodus to the bar mid-set. A solo offering of early tune A Modern Promise on Rhodes piano turned it around though - and it was a one way ticket to euphoria as he raised the roof for a final rendition of Friends.  

Francis and The Lights album Farewell, Starlight is out now - and he'll be touring Europe later this year. GO! 

Where to next?

Who knows? There's talk of a Mexican Wrestling night somewhere in Bethnal Green... If you have a show that I MUST go to, let me know: @stephensonrich.

Until next time, keep it together.

#IAMRICH

Whilst you're here, why not sign up to the #IAMRICH Newsletter? It'll keep you up to date with what I'm up to...

 

Gig Reviews part 5: Hull2017 & Alluri

London. Hull. Dalston. India - in one night.

Hull 2017 Events Announcement, Southbank Centre, London

Like all good nights, Tuesday started with a text message: a friend was at a 'Hull City of Culture' promotional event in London and there was room for a little ‘un…

So, before you could say ‘East Yorkshire’s finest city’, I was in the St. Paul’s Suite of the Southbank Centre with a glass of wine in one hand and a 2017 event guide in the other. Perfect!

And what a line-up! John Grant will be curating Atlantic Flux, a music festival focussing on Hull’s cultural links with Scandinavia, The Royal Ballet are presenting a show at The New Theatre, The Radio 1 Big Weekend is heading into town… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  If you haven’t already, check out the Hull2017 website. You won’t be disappointed.

Alluri, Servant Jazz Quarters, London

My night didn’t stop there. Next on the musical menu was Indian singer/songwriter Alluri in Dalston.

Born in Hyderabad, Redd Alluri grew up studying classical music. This all changed when a cousin brought back a heap of vinyl from their travels to the UK. Fast forward a few years and Alluri finds himself living in London, dressed in black and fronting a four-piece band.

His style has a dark edge (the rhythm section also play with fellow noir rockers, Jim Jones and The Righteous Mind). This is put in light relief with hook laden songs and Alluri’s dry sense of humour: “It’s been intense so, far!” he quips mid-set, “Now It gets more intense!”. With a single produced by Grammy winner Tommaso Colliva and a tour of Indian festivals under his belt, Alluri is one to watch.

So, a night in which I circumnavigated Hull, London and India – and I’d only planned to stay at home watching Narcos on Netflix.  Sometimes, a text message can make all the difference.

Where to next?

Who knows? There's talk of a Mexican Wrestling night somewhere in Bethnal Green... If you have a show that I MUST go to, let me know: @stephensonrich.

Until next time, keep it tight.

#IAMRICH

Whilst you're here, why not sign up to the #IAMRICH Newsletter? It'll keep you up to date with what I'm up to...

Gig Review Part 4: Band of Horses

As Storm Doris beat out her final blasts, I headed to East London to rock to a more musical rhythm.

Band of Horses, The Troxy, London
23rd February 2017

“I’ve just cut my hand badly and stood in what looked like human shit outside. Don’t worry. I’m still here – and it can only get better!” As opening gambits go, Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell’s was an absolute humdinger at the Troxy Theatre.

And I’m pleased his backstage antics didn’t stop the proceedings. With a towel to mop up his wounds and (hopefully) a fresh pair of shoes, Bridwell and the band ripped into a 90 minute set of guitar-led delight.  

I must admit, I only knew a handful of songs from their 6 studio albums beforehand, but their blend of Americana and old-school guitar rock had me hooked from the off. Crowd pleasers The Funeral and No One’s Gonna Love You had myself and the heavily check shirted audience punching the air in delight.

It wasn’t all saturated valve amps and ear splitting volumes though. A mid-set strip back to acoustic guitars and mandolin demonstrated the band’s skills at tight vocal harmonies. Shame that some punters at the back were more content to talk through it - but it didn’t completely spoil heartfelt renditions of St. Augustine and Evening Kitchen.

This was the band’s final UK show before they embark on a European tour. You can catch their recent album, Why Are You Ok, on Spotify. They’ll also be back in the summer to Headline End of The Road Festival - hopefully with less blood and human excrement. I’m seriously considering getting a ticket.

Where to next?

Who knows? If you have a show that I MUST go to, let me know: @stephensonrich.

Until next time, keep it real, party people.

#IAMRICH

Whilst you're here, why not sign up to the #IAMRICH Newsletter? It'll keep you up to date with what I'm up to...

Gig Reviews Part 3: Renegade Art

Another week in the big smoke negotiating the cultural jungle. This week I took a detour and went to an art show! 

Renegade Art, Pancake and Booze Art Show, Limehouse

Dessert. Beer. Culture – a match winning combination! All were present at the Pancakes and Booze Art Fair in East London last Friday.

I went to see exhibits by Hull born artist Rene Levesley (aka Renegade Art). He stylishly blends Pop Art with modern day iconography. Nothing is safe from getting the Renegade treatment: from Londoners, to chip spice and Hulk Hogan, his work shows a keen eye for making the mundane exciting. He's a popular lad too - most of the Renegade pieces sold out on the night! 

Renegade Art: Hipsters go P

The Pancake and Booze Art Show is a bit of a phenomenon too. Now in its eighth year, they exhibit in over thirty cities around the world, showcasing the best in local art, music and food. It's very popular: queues snaked labyrinth-like around the venue throughout the evening. I even had to act as Rene's sales rep whilst he went on a lengthy quest to get his fill of pancakes and beer (my total sales: nil). 

handrail.jpg

If you're looking for an art exhibition with a difference, check out the Pancake and Booze Art Show website to find out more. 

You can find Renegade on Twitter @renegade_art and buy his art via his website. I've got my eye on his Warhol-style Humber Bridges!

Where to next?

I'm heading to see Band of Horses at the O2 on Thursday, which I'm sure will be BIG! If you have any suggestions of a cultural event I MUST go to, then get in touch: @stephensonrich.

Until next time, keep it real. #IAMRICH

Whilst you're here, why not sign up to the #IAMRICH Newsletter? It'll keep you up to date with what I'm up to...