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 2011 Venue awards
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2011 Venue awards

From heroes and villains, the best bands to thesps of the year, Team Venue select the highpoints of the year known as 2011.

BEST OF 2011 HEROES

1 You, the People

2 BBC Natural History Unit

3 The Wow! Gorillas

We gotta hand it to you, dear Venue readers. Without you, we wouldn’t be here. As Venue faced recession-induced doom, the good people of Bristol and Bath rallied around, showered us with love through the Save Venue campaigns, new subscriptions and fundraisers. Messages of support filled our inboxes. We could’ve cried. Many of us did. A new future was planned, revised and made a reality. Thus Venue lives on, stronger and more widely read than it has been in years. Bristol still has its trusty what’s on wondermag, and the future’s looking bright. Thank you.

In second place, it’s the BBC Natural History Unit. You know, those brave camera-wielding folks what made ‘Frozen Planet’, ‘Life’ etc. Did you know, 50% of all wildlife films screened anywhere in the world, at any time, are made in Bristol. Well done the Beeb.

Third on the podium are Bristol Zoo’s 175th anniversary fundraising Wow! Gorillas. The friendly primate sculptures really captured the public imagination this year. They also raised over £400,000 for gorilla conservation work and for Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal.

Honourable mentions: Our outgoing Music Ed, Julian Owen (nine years behind Rock Desk, man and boy) – a man whose passion for the local scene and skill with words still leaves us with a warm feeling. In a nice way. He still writes for us now and then, thank goodness. Respect also due to the outspoken UK Uncut crew, the shivering, be-tented optimists of Occupy Bristol, the wonderful Bear Pit Improvement Group and venerable Bathonian film-maker Ken Loach, 75 years young and still one of the country’s, nay the world’s, most important film-makers. (Mike White)

BEST OF 2011 ANTI-HEROES

1 The riots

2 Cars

3 Ashton Vale stadium

Whatever underlying political motives may have been in the minds of some of those involved, the riots this April and August will be remembered by most as a time of ugly scenes, police brutality, looting, thoughtless destruction and a huge waste of public money. No clear political message emerged, nothing changed for the better. What a waste.

For another year, stupid cars have continued to choke our fair city, bringing the streets to a near standstill for hours on end twice a day every weekday, demanding ever-increasing parking monoliths and pumping poisonous fumes into the lungs of our children. For a so-called ‘Cycling City’ we still have a long way to go...

Finally, the ongoing debacle of Ashton Vale stadium – a proposal to waste millions of pounds building a brand new ugly great bowl for Bon Jovi to play in when he comes to Bristol. However you look at it, it’s a very silly idea – and thankfully it’s come to nought so far. Let’s hope good sense prevails before any more money is wasted on it. Dishonourable mention: Jacob Rees-Mogg. Just because. (Mike White)

BEST OF 2011 EVENT

Inkie - See No Evil

1 See No Evil

2 Festival of Ideas

3 M Shed opening

See No Evil – Bristol ‘place-maker’ Mike Bennett gave  £40k of his own salary to help the world’s top street artists transform Nelson Street from a boarded-up eyesore into a vibrant, globally-hyped asset. It was – and continues to be – a thing to be proud of.

Bringing the brightest brains around to Bristol and getting them to share, discuss and defend their fascinating and occasionally controversial thoughts. the Festival of Ideas once again challenged and entertained our little grey cells.

M Shed – over budget, over deadline, planned by committee – whatever else you may think of it, it’s big and bright and 100,000+ have flocked to Bristol’s newest museum to find out more about the story of a city and its people. And it’s got a lovely café.

Honourable mention must go to Pride – back for their second year, bigger, better, bolder and brighter. Also on the honours list are Stokes Croft Streetfest, Bristol Zombie Walk, BrisFest and Bristol Cycle Festival. (Mike White)

BEST OF 2011 ALBUM

1 Zun Zun Egui ‘Katang’

2 Joker ‘The Vision’

3 Turbowolf ‘Turbowolf’

It feels odd to be recognising Zun Zun Egui for something as tangible as a CD – qualifiable and calculable, this band are not. But whilst their previous recorded efforts disappointingly lacked those jerky, sporadic, balloon-let-loose dynamics, ‘Katang’ succeeds in capturing their staggeringly broad international range: it’s art rock that appeals to the viscera.

Joker’s is a far more detached affair, bass-heavy as ever, yet surprisingly r’n’b flavoured:.saying ‘The Vision’ is ambitious in its genre-borrowing would be an understatement.

Aggressive? Yes. Obnoxious? At times. It’s what we’ve come to expect from, and love about, Turbowolf. Their self-titled debut avoids that sometimes overbearing thrash energy-cyclone with productive slickness and tasteful electronics. (Leah Pritchard)

BEST OF 2011 GIG

1 The Liftmen

2 Anika

3 Schnauser

Music that isn’t embarrassed to revel in its weirdness and its ugliness: The Liftmen exude the kind of nonchalant swagger defined by bands like Fifth Column or 70s No Wavers Ut and Bush Tetras. It’s the classic case of playing hard to get: only something so effortlessly uncool could appeal this much. Berlin/Bristol-based Anika boils down The Liftmen’s post-punk, cleans it up and fastens on some dub basslines. It’s slicker and more industrial, her presence captivating like a Warhol superstar. Then there’s Schnauser’s psychedelia, almost the polar opposite of the previous acts: in essence, 60s guitar pop via of Montreal/Flaming Lips. (Leah Pritchard)

BEST OF 2011 BAND

1 Kill It Kid

2 Goan Dogs

3 Bravo Brave Bats

With Björk as labelmate and a John Parish-produced EP, you hardly have to mention Kill It Kid’s two LPs to gauge their success. But look at September’s ‘Feet Fall Heavy’, produced by frequent Eno collaborator Leo Abrahams, and you’ll find the rootsy blues rock of The Black Keys mixed with gospel-tinged dual vocals. More transatlantic sounds from Goan Dogs, who recall that desert-rock acid trip feel of Natural Born Killers, only more refined. Taking DIY to a new level of hyperawareness, Bravo Brave Bats have been blogging every aspect of their career, right down to the band’s finances. See latest video ‘Red Giant’ for a taste of their Wedding Present-esque indie rock. (Leah Pritchard)

BEST OF 2011 CLUB NIGHT

1 Das Ist/Ist Das

2 Crazylegs

3 Panhead

Since Marco Bernardi took over at the end of 2010, the renamed TB2 has been transformed into one of the West’s most distinctive and forward-thinking clubs, while in-house promotions under the names Das Ist and Ist Das have brought everyone from Dave Clarke and Slam to Egyptian Lover and DJ Funk to town. Meanwhile, last year’s winners Crazylegs haven’t let up for a minute, with superb line-ups featuring Joy Orbison, Kyle Hall, Roska and Ben UFO. Finally, in a year where most of us were feeling a bit skint, the award for services to cost-free raving goes to Panhead’s fortnightly online sessions, which brought house party atmosphere – not to mention storming sets from Addison Groove, Die and Mensah - to the kitchens and living rooms of the world. (Adam Burrows)

BEST OF 2011 DJ

1 Julio Bashmore

2 Cheeba

3 Baobinga

With productions like the sublime ‘Battle For Middle You’ and ecstatically received appearances from Radio 1’s Essential Mix to the USA and beyond, Julio Bashmore was undoubtedly the clubland hero of 2011. While far from being a one-man movement, he’s undoubtedly Bristol’s international trailblazer for the bass-injected house and garage sound that’s rapidly becoming the city’s calling card. Elsewhere, Cheeba continued to display the West’s shocking-est skills, combining state-of-the-art turntablism with live video manipulation to stunning effect (check AV mix ‘Revenge of the Nerd’ online for compelling evidence), while Baobinga’s uncanny crowd-reading instincts and irresistible fusions of dubstep, electro, jungle and breaks saw him plot dancefloor destruction from his underground lair on Stokes Croft. (Adam Burrows)

BEST OF 2011 CLASSICAL

1 Best of Elektrostatic

2 Alina Ibragimova

3 BSO/Gaffigan

With deadlines leaving some of the biggest hitters of the classical ‘class of 2011’ outside the school gates, (sorry Earth Music Bristol, Mozartfest and WNO’s Katya), there’s nonetheless a decent roll call from which to crown a teacher’s pet and a couple of stand-out acolytes. First up, May’s Best of Elektrostatic Festival proved seriously ear-opening. Underpinning Charles Johnson’s vivid account of Maxwell Davies’ ‘8 Songs for a Mad King’, The Bristol Ensemble ceded nothing to the Festival’s more international stars – New York’s eighth blackbird (pictured), and Colin Currie’s Group on blistering form in Steve Reich’s Drumming. Top-notch contemporary music inevitably cut a swathe through Bath Festival, (Joanna MacGregor’s performance of the MacMillan Piano Concerto an incendiary tour de force), but violinist Alina Abragimova’s solo Bach seared. The BSO has turned in some stylish playing this year. But none better than that for James Gaffigan’s Mahler 7 whose interpretation migrated from Mahler-lite in the first movement to the psychological real deal that triumphed in the jaw-dropping virtuosity of the finale. Awesome! (Paul Riley)

BEST OF 2011 FILM

1 Incendies

2 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

3 The King's Speech

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The King's Speech are going to get all the attention, and not without good reason. So partly to be contrary, but mainly to highlight a great film you might have missed, we're going for the French-Canadian drama Incendies. The bare synopsis about Middle Eastern religious conflict makes it sound like heavy going, but the central story is a compelling mystery with a gut-punch of an ending. There's also a superb central performance by Belgian actress Lubna Azabal. It deserved a bigger audience, as did the extraordinary, hugely entertaining 'Tinker Tailor'-esque French flick, Farewell. This is based on an astonishing if little-known true story of espionage which effectively ended the Cold War, and is let down only by some dodgy performances from the American members of its cast. Give yourself a treat and rent them both on DVD or blu ray. (Robin Askew)

BEST OF 2011  LGBT

1 Pride Bristol

2 Wonky

3 Gay West

Bristol got its Pride on again this summer and, despite complaints over charging for tickets for Pride Day itself, the week of theatre, comedy, film and sports events back in July was another enormous success. Having Kelis as a headliner was a major coup, and people thronged to Castle Park despite the weather. Roll on Pride Bristol 2012. Wonky proved once again that gay clubbing is about more than shaking your booty to Lady MehMeh, it’s mixture of indie, electro, new wave and classic dancefloor-friendly tunes still pulling them in seven years on. Special mention must go to Gay West, the Bath-based gay activist group which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary. Formed back in November 1971 as the Bath Gay Awareness group, they’ve also run a coffee morning and social meet every Saturday in Bath for the last 28 years. (Darryl Bullock)

BEST OF 201 THESPS OF THE YEAR

1 Bristol Ferment

2 Bristol Festival of Puppetry

3 Wardrobe Theatre

This was the year that Bristol Old Vic’s artist development strand Bristol Ferment started to bear serious fruit. Shows like ‘Coasting’, ‘30 Cecil St’, and the recent ‘In a Town’ and ‘Under Stokes Croft’ saw daylight as fully-fledged theatrical evenings, often soaked in uniquely Bristolian atmospheres, and were loved by audiences and reviewers alike. Our fave, though? Howard Coggins’ and Craig Edwards’ uproarious historical slapstick ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’. We hope that one’s still Fermenting, guys…? This year’s second Bristol Festival of Puppetry delivered fully on the incredible promise of its 2009 predecessor, with brilliant shows and puppeteers from Bristol and far beyond showing us that, while adult puppetry may be a niche art form globally, here in Bristol it’s part of our cultural bread and butter. A big hurrah! goes out, too, to the brand new Wardrobe Theatre, which from a room above a Kingsdown pub is generating some fine new performance forms, including a keenly followed fortnightly soap opera. (Steve Wright)

BEST OF 2011 PLAY OF THE YEAR

Faith Healer - Credit: Simon Annand

1 Faith Healer Bristol Old Vic

2 The 24 Hour Plays Ustinov

3= Yalla Yalla The Brewery/Henry VIII and the Royal Wedding Planner Rondo Theatre

It’s been a good year for Simon Godwin, Bristol Old Vic’s Associate Director. This spring Godwin was also made Associate at the Royal Court, London’s ever-adventurous new-writing theatre: just before that, though, he delivered a sparse and stunning version of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer at BOV. Aided by a mesmeric performance from Finbar Lynch as the charming and charlatanous faith healer Francis Hardy, Godwin’s production was “gripping, mystifying, sometimes painfully funny, insidiously powerful and almost spiritually satisfying”. The Ustinov’s 24 Hour Plays weekend, where writers, directors and casts got together to write, rehearse and perform six short new plays across a weekend, was inspired and inspiring. Third equal goes to Henry VIII…, actor Julia Gwynne and director Andy Burden’s hugely entertaining and oft-moving account of Henry’s rapacious conjugal relations, as seen through the eyes of a court intimate (coming to The Brewery, Bristol next year); and Yalla Yalla, PanGottic and Vid Warren’s mesmeric account of modern courtship, taking in circus, comedy and beatboxing. (Steve Wright)

BEST OF 2011 COMEDY OF THE YEAR

1 Chris Cox

2 Bath Comedy Festival

3 Daniel Kitson

Well, he slips in under the radar, though he’s technically a magician and mentalist… Yes folks, he’s been the coming man for a while now, but this is the year when Chris Cox – scion of Backwell, west of Bristol, and self-professed ‘mindreader who can’t read minds’ – came of age. His brilliant new show ‘Fatal Distraction’ visited Bath’s Rondo Theatre last month and threw us for a loop. “How does he do it? He’s probably made a pact with Satan, but what the hell - this is top entertainment.” Expect great things of this boy… This year’s Bath Comedy Festival was the most polished and treat-laden yet, with standout performances from Tom Wrigglesworth, Gareth Richards, Arthur Smith, Doug Stanhope and the two Jo(h)ns, Robins and Richardson. And Mark Olver’s new show ‘Portrait of a Serial Killer’ was darkly burrriliant. Bronze goes to the wonderful Daniel Kitson, whose 2011 show ‘The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Crouch’ was another moving and articulate dissection of love, loneliness, fellow feeling and frailty. Is it comedy? Meh… Is it wonderful? Yes. (Steve Wright)

BEST OF 2011 ART OF THE YEAR

1 Arnolfini, Bristol

2 Holburne Museum of Art, Bath

3= Robert Lenkiewicz exhibition RWA, Bristol/Simon Hopkinson

This year’s gong must go to Arnolfini for 50 years of avant-garde art and performance that’s been by turns (and often all at once) dazzling, baffling, infuriating, sublime and impossible. You won’t love all of their output, but no one has been programming this adventurously and often illuminatingly for this long. Not far behind, Bath’s Holburne Museum of Art re-opened with a stunning new glass extension and an exhibition for the great artist and hoarder Peter Blake, whose voracious collecting perfectly matched the Museum’s eclectic portfolio. Third place is shared: an ever-more explorative RWA continued its journey with a retrospective for the brilliant painter Robert Lenkiewicz, whose richly peopled portraits of Plymouth’s drifters and bohemians showed a passionate lust for life’s more visceral and extreme experiences – death, sex, mental illness, homelessness. And our discovery of the year is Bristol artist Simon Hopkinson, who demonstrated via a series of shows at the Folk House, Grant Bradley Gallery and elsewhere a brilliant eye for the less celebrated beauties of urban life. (Steve Wright)

BEST OF 2011 DANCE EVENT OF THE YEAR

1 Champloo Dance

2 Protein Dance: ‘LOL’ ICIA, Bath

3 Rambert Theatre Royal Bath

The dance award goes once again to Wilkie Branson and Joel Daniel, a.k.a. Bristol urban dance duo Champloo. After last Xmas’s beautiful children’s show ‘Boing!’ – all joyous physicality and giddy childish excitement – Champloo’s star continued to rise this year. They’ve recently taken their multimedia epic ‘White Caps’, another Venue award-winner, to London’s Sadler’s Wells. Not a million miles away in style and feel, Protein Dance’s ‘LOL’ at the Bath’s ICIA in February was a brilliant, witty and visually striking exploration of how the Twitter/Facebook generation manage (or not) to connect and emote. A little (not much) further towards the traditional end of things, Rambert Dance Company’s latest tour, dropping into Theatre Royal Bath in October, saw the outfit on top form, especially with Tim Rushton’s bleak but forceful ‘Monolith’. (Steve Wright)

Copyright Mike White, Leah Pritchard, Robin Askew, Adam Burrows, Steve Wright, Paul Riley and Darryl Bullock 2011

 

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