F.O.N Friday


Name: Full Of Noises

Age: 1


Place: Barrow-in-Furness

County: Cumbria

Country: England

Day: Friday

Date: 23rd October

Year: 2009

Type: Festival

What: Experimental music

Also: Sound art

Why: Why not?

The Bands



Richard Youngs


Susan Matthews & Shaun Blezard


Mark Pilkington


Mobile Radio





  1. www.fonfestival.org

  2. wendycook words & photos

  3. mikecook web design & photos


When Stuart Maconie on National Radio (well, 6 music) announces Faust are playing Barrow, the utter improbability of it makes you head for your laptop to see if you heard right.

You did.

Faust, it turns out, along with a tumbled heap of other people, are having themselves a grand musical shebang on the far land’s-end tip of the Lake District. To add to the peculiarity, they are having it in the old shipyard canteen. It seems too daft to be true.

But you trundle down there, shipyard buildings towering over deserted streets and rusting tram tracks as, in the autumn dark, the afternoon shift dash home.

The Canteen itself has all the charm and intimacy of a school hall and looks as though year five are trying to put on a play. On sofas clinging to the walls punters sit as if waiting for the 8:15 to anywhere and you could fit a diesel train in the empty space between.

And Fonik under these unpromising circumstances begin to happen. Ian and Harry (and they look it) sit at a table spread with a paper tablecloth and no-one would be surprised if they had trays of angel cakes to sell. But they do the tseeeee and the tsunami thing most luvverly and you sit back as Sputnik tumbles on the projection screens as it always has, reminding you that this is electronic music and therefore the future, just as space too is the future. Surely we’ve been at this lark for forty years and it is a time flip.

In groups we are ushered into “The Radio Room” for Mobile Radio. Three people. Laptops. Stuff. Great concentration. Tiny sounds. It is as incomprehensible as the judging of Herdwicks at Wasdale. But hypnotic. Then, just as  we are entranced, we are trundled out like a children on a school trip, shunted to and fro with no idea what is happening. We hope we are in safe hands.

Mark Pilkington gets the next go. He is let loose in The Cinema Room, which you or I might call a cellar but at least this feels like a venue. Pilkington armed with applemac, twiddly bits and a real keyboard emulates rock with driving rhythm and blizzards of peculiar noises. Where some electronica is painfully cerebral, this definitely grabs you by the bollocks and says hello.

By now Susan Matthews and Shaun Blezard are playing witches and wizards back in The Canteen. Drawing in the forgotten spaces of Lakeland coast they bleed curlew cries and drygrass whispers. Susan Matthews, sitting by an old piano, sends single notes on searching journeys.

Why Richard Youngs?

Well, Richard Youngs came to teach us an important lesson: not to stop listening after three songs. He hammered at us like a schoolmaster. He sang a cappella. He sang with guitar. There was nothing to love, everything to hate. Then from somewhere, amidst the endless flutter of nervous paper from his music stand, two songs appeared, “Living on a Beam” and “You Want to be a Sailor” sweeping away overweening didacticism and awkward angles in a wash of warmth and unexpected empathy. It is rare I get teardrops in the corners of my eyes at gigs. But I did then.

You know, this night is all Woolworth’s Pick n Mix: every “turn” cocks a snook at the one before. In another life, Richard Youngs is Heathcliff to Susan Matthew’s Cathy, Mark Pilkington hammers shoes down in the forge, Mobile Radio conduct neurosurgery and Fonik lovingly restore old Bentleys.

Headlining are Pram. They know what they’re doing. By now this thing has turned into a real gig. And you have the glory of a fantastic band playing beautifully and you are one of a tiny audience who can see and hear with perfect clarity as Pram swirl and weave and swap the bass around like it’s pass-the-parcel and the slinky sax lifts and drifts, curling cat-like round your ankles. There is a wonderful airy lucidity and space about Pram,  more than a touch of the Indian snake-charmer in their slithering melodies, fairy dustings of wit and a happy lightness of touch. It is one of those rare occasions when it is a privilege to be present.

Full Of Noises - 09