Monday, May 19, 2014
"Late last night, I heard the screen door slam..."
Any Ipswich musician, poet or performance artist worth their crisps will know exactly what you mean if you utter the timeless phrase “Well, it is Val”. Formerly at The Earl Roberts, briefly at The Beehive and latterly at The Steamboat, Val was your go-to girl for any occasion which needed an artistic outlet, whether it be jam nights (one extended version of ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ was reputed to have started in September 1987 and not concluded until the harmonica player’s lung collapsed over an extended b-flat glissando sometime in Spring the following year), student band debuts, songwriter showcases, jazz on a Summer’s day, folk weekends, punk revivals or brief reformations for old times’ sake – which we in Picturehouse fortuitously managed to squeeze in last month - before she finally threw in the towel this weekend, after a mounting series of exercises by the revenue-thirsty local traffic enforcement authorities and those associated bastions of law and order, the Suffolk Constabulary* finally did what the rising tide of the adjacent River Orwell never quite managed to do. To paraphrase The Hollies, she is King Canute in Reverse, finally overwhelmed.Innumerable turns have grown, blossomed, wilted or imploded under her benevolent gaze and for a long time the first question any act showing up with a battered Strat copy and some third-hand cymbals wrapped in a bin liner would be “What do you want to eat?” – her chilli is legendary, the corned beef hash known to reduce grown men to tears of joy – and it’s no surprise that quintuple platinum selling, BRIT-winning, Grammy-snaffling songwriter Ed Sheeran popped back recently for a warm up show as “Playing this venue for me, I feel very comfortable here, I’ve played it a bunch of times.” We all have.
I’ve done Songwriter’s Nights, birthday parties, hawked original bands and performed the legendary live Beatles karaoke (we provide the band – you get up and front it with a Fabs hit of your choice) under Val’s kindly aegis. On a personal and rather poignant note The Steamboat is also where The Present Mrs Kirk and I staged our post-wedding all-dayer, which started with the new bride in full regalia and I performing The Beautiful South’s “Don’t Marry Her” (album version) and concluded some eight hours later with a three-drummer version of “Route 66” curated by Zippy Nicholson on guitar (for which, thanks once again everybody). Sad times ahoy for anyone who wants a space to just get up and try something. Sad times indeed.A few of us were there yesterday afternoon, the sun glinting off the river like an Argos catalogue full of glinty things, the gentle clack of pool balls, insects buzzing in the beer garden, the camouflage netting shading the teatime smokers as they put the world to rights in that slow and steady way that we in Suffok do. The pile of admin perched on a table in the shade of the quiz machine. The Grapevine magazine racked up by the door and black and white prints of long-scrapped sailing vessels lining the walls. If the Ip-Art committee had any conscience at all they’d rename one of the Ipswich Music Day stages the Val Taylor Stage immediately and be done with it. We shan’t see her like again.
*Keen-eyed readers will remember that this is the venue which was advised by the police to close for the day rather than have its planned anti-racism gig picketed by the EDL.