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> > > DaDaFest09 - DaDaNoise at the Bluecoat, Liverpool

1 December 2009

By Susan Bennett

image of the musician sitting with an acoustic guitar DaDa

Photo of musician Leigh Stirling who won the DaDa lifetime achievement award at DaDaFest 2008. Photo courtesy DaDaFest

Image: DaDa

Billed as a 'fusion of local musicians, performance art and songs... a night where anything goes' DaDaNoise took over The Bluecoat, Liverpool on 28 November 2009.

It was intimate group which gathered at the Bluecoat in Liverpool to see a 'brand spanking, new shiny night’ with Leigh Stirling, Mat Fraser, Aaron Williamson and Katherine Araniello. MC’d with animation, exuberance and clear delight by Ruth Gould, Creative Producer for Dadafest 2009, the night showcased very different approaches to 'noise,' DaDa-style!

The firm favourite for me was the exquisite guitar playing of Leigh Stirling. It was my first experience of the incredible sounds – noise is definitely not the right word – that Leigh produces from his guitar. Spanish classical, folksy or blues he doubled the treat with his clever lyrics and parody of well known tunes. It was fortunate that sheets with the words were provided as caught up in the music as you were, it was easy to miss the gems.

Like the terrors of: The Cripple –‘He might have hung me on the spot, maybe a gun or garrot’ and The Blind Man who ‘Might have stabbed me with his stick, or some other evil trick.’ – great stuff.

And another heartfelt series of verse, which you have to hear enunciated with Leigh’s precise diction to appreciate: ‘You irritate me, beyond measure! You exasperate me, with your special needs….’

The best was ‘Nightmare Street.’ A long piece, Leigh used it to show his versatility. It had everything from great reverberation, sliding notes which you felt through the table and the floor to intricate Spanish classical guitar technique. Then it drifted into almost sitar sounds, then quickly in using the guitar as a percussive instrument to thump a rhythm. Finally, a segue in flamenco and back to the bluesy theme. It was magnificent!

image of actor Mat Fraser BBC Ouch!

Mat Fraser as Santa Claus on the cover of his BBC Ouch! podcast single - Cripples at Christmas.

Image: BBC Ouch!

Leigh is a hard act to follow but Mat Fraser rose to the occasion with his big band show songs, gleaming in the spotlight in his brilliant grey, shiny hand stitched suit, certainly tried. Mat has been a drummer and rapper, a TV presenter and a voiceover artist.

He's also got a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He's now best known as an actor on stage, film and television (he is currently playing Will in Channel 4's Cast Offs) and presents the Ouch Podcast - but sure can sing.

His finale was ‘Cripples at Christmas’ which said it all for the typical smooch, smaltzy insincere platitudes of Christmas songs the world over. Very clever.

The last act was the duo who call themselves the Disabled Avant Garde: Katherine Araniello and Aaron Williamson, (of Barrier Man fame from Dadafest 2008). However, I doubt you would have recognised either of them in this act!

Aaron was painted, wigged and topped with a two horn Viking helmet and black cavernous robes. Katherine was a fearsome Goth with spider black eyes and a princess crown. Theirs was the NOISE advertised in the evening’s event.

Loud, brash, discordant to a painful degree, the clash of sight, sound and understanding was like an assault. It lambasted the silly songs people in day centres and institutions are ‘enabled’ to sing. Think Les Dawson meets Heavy Rock. Everything from a strangulated ‘Kumbaya’ to ‘Mary had a little lamb’. And once the signer joined in with his whole body interpretation of ‘The Wheels on the Bus go round and round.’ People were heaving with laughter.

I loved the tall woman in plain clothes who came to the side of the stage to play some tambourine. If you remember Hilda Baker and Cynthia back many years ago, picture Cynthia and you have the tambourine player exactly.

Dumb, bored, listless then suddenly jerking to cheerily enthusiastic attention with patronising smile. She laboured her way through the act, looking at her watch and nipping out once or twice - probably for a fag.

But there is no getting away from the fact that while the audience might have loved it, I hated the last act. They were making a legitimate point, but spending half an hour repeatedly shrieking different songs didn’t do the message or the skill of the artists any justice.

What could have been just a hilarious single item in a class act, simply became over-laboured and excruciating.

It's CHRRRISSSTMASSSS! And here comes Ouch's very first Christmas single, performed by Podcast host, the one and only Mat Fraser!


Janice Courtliff

1 July 2017

I didn't realise anyone had replied to my message. Thankyou for this link. This is the LP I remember having and listening to it brought a smile to my face :)

I'm sad to hear that Lee had a stroke and hope he is okay. A truly amazing talent!


27 June 2016

Hi Paul.

I also lost touch with Leigh in the late eighties but recently managed to make contact again. If you check out the youtube video I have just uploaded the uploader information will give you details. Unfortunately it might not be possible for Leigh to contact you personally, he is recovering from a stroke, but I will pass all Youtube comments onto him by phone.


27 June 2016

Hi Janice.

This video I have just uploaded to YouTube should be of interest. Please read the uploader information.


27 June 2016

I mentioned your comment to Leigh - I believe your real name is PHIL (not Filth) ☺

There's more information on my YouTube video of Leigh.

Filth Gibson

2 October 2012

Eh up lad, I'm sure you're still around, fancy a jam after all this time?

Nigel sleigh

13 September 2012

We used to watch Leigh in The Church Inn Northenden (now closed). Brilliant nights...

Janice Courtliff

31 July 2012

Like the comment from Paul Featherstone in January, I too followed Leigh in the 80s when he played the pubs and clubs - in particular the Bowling Green in Didsbury. I have tried since to find out if Leigh was playing anywhere then I could see him again - Only last week I was telling my 18 yr old about the time when Leigh changed one of his strings which had snapped, whilst still playing and singing!!! Utterly amazing talent. We also bought an LP of Leigh's but unfortunately my ex took that in the divorce! If you could let me know any info I would really appreciate it - any CDs I could buy/venues to see him? Thanks, Janice

Paul Featherstone

14 January 2012

I used to follow Leigh and his music around many pubs in Manchester during the 80's. in this time he became a good friend of mine but through time, lost all contact. On reading your article it only inspired me to want to resume contact with him and i concur with all your comments.

I would appreciate any information/details that would enable me to make contact with him after all these years.

Yours, Paul Featherstone.

aaron williamson

9 December 2009

sorry, the URL:

Aaron Williamson

9 December 2009

Is Susan Bennett aware that I’m deaf? I’m not sure which artistic skills she feels I’m neglecting as a musician/singer??

Being ‘excruciating’ was intentional. The commission for this unique piece was to respond to the concept/theme of NOISE.

We are the Disabled Avant-Garde (not the Disability Avant-Garde - our work is blackly comic so we deliberately deploy ‘the disabled’) and an image of the performance can be seen at the URL below.

We plan to post some footage of the performance on our web site soon.


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