Inter Celtique Festival, Lorient, Brittany 2016.


Everywhere you look, tartan is present.  The air is filled with the wailing sound of bagpipes.  This year it is the year for Australia, which might appear somewhat surprising, but when you look at anglo-Celtic ancestry  of  Australia, you find quite a large percentage of Irish, Scottish, Cornish, and Welsh. I was able to take in a Saturday afternoon, of this event that spans over ten days.  It is a festival that attracts not only musicians with a desire to play their Celtic tunes, but visitors from around the world, who have Celtic hankerings.  The festival has taken place since 1970 but still retains a vibrant freshness and excitement about it. This is my second taste of this event.  With my first experience I was able to take in some of night life, including Celtic dances in a huge gymnasium.  My more recent visit was more daytime. The festival comes alive in the afternoon…maybe many sleep long into the morning, needing a certain amount of recharging following the night before.  Of course it is a festival where people are selling their wares, for example Scottish whisky or jewelry.  It is best to come to Lorient, by train, rather than be stuck in traffic or searching for a place to park.

The festival is lucky to have happened at all, following what happened in Nice.  Extra emphasis has been added to security; Soldiers brandishing rifles walk about, heavily armed police are also in evidence. Thankfully there is no terrorist attack to tarnish this unique festival full of joy and music.

Celtic culture is strong and vibrant.  The music gets to you and lifts you up. There was a touching moment I witnessed. A youth  was playing bagpipes, playing “Amazing Grace” . Spontaneously a group of elderly  bagpipers joined him and accompanied him. It was a touching moment, naturally people were drawn to give the young musician  money for his rousing efforts.

If you have pangs for Celtic culture, this is well worth checking out.

Some facts about the Celts…

Nobody can be sure of their origins but some place them in central Europe, around the Alps.  A nice misconception is that they fought naked, apparently this is an exaggeration on the part of the Romans. They weren’t as savage as the Romans made out.  Their woman even had some modern day rights they could have power, own land, and even divorce in Celtic society, which was unheard of in the classical world. They were great travelers as well as notorious fighters and were famed for being headhunters, deeming if they lopped off their enemies heads, they were taking the greatest prizes.  They would brag about their gruesome trophies, like a person in modern times might brag about their Ferrari or Chateau in the South of France.  They were far from being barbarians and had their own calendar and were money makers.

Living in Brittany I am having to come to terms with strange place names, derived from the Celtic language. The language of the ancient Celts survives to this very day in the modern Celtic speakers of several areas, including Brittany, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.


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Y is for “you might not want to read this if you are a writer, musician or artist”

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It is very hard being a writer, a musician, or artist…what are the rewards?  Unless you make some dramatic breakthrough, you are stuck in some kind of limbo…among many others just like you.

A writer’s objective is to be published…you send your precious manuscript, you have slaved over, perfecting each chapter, each sentence, each word, far and wide.  Rejection letters arrive on your doorstep, unwanted like a bout of flue, each one like a stab in the heart, each one drains away your self belief in your work.

At last a window opens, a small publisher says they would like to publish your precious manuscript…but this is only the start of it…If you are published but nobody is paying any attention to your book what then? There’s depressing reading seeing your Amazon ranking…Favorable book reviews give you a lift, but to get genuine readers to give a review is hard going.

Being a musician to be heard you don’t necessarily have to have a record contract, you can post  your songs on soundcloud or similar sites.  You can do gigs, but then only a handful of enthusiastic friends show up…but will they come to your next gig, friend’s loyalty can go far, but even this has limits. All those hit songs, you thought you had written, you are confined to anonymity.

As a painter, you love painting, it is almost a necessity for you, but when your paintings are finished, what to do with them?  You need to find a gallery owner who is interested in your type of work.  You can post images of your work on facebook, start a website with your work., but your work gets put in the back of a cupboard,  soon to be unseen and forgotten, a film of dust gathering, as they fester.

Whatever form of creativity you are into, unless you are blessed with good fortune,  are miraculously discovered, your lack of recognition will remain a constant thorn in your side

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

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P is for Pigbag and Philip Glass

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A friend invited me to a gig, at the time I was a student at Gloucester School of Art and Technology. At the time I  was into punk and post punk music. I had hardly any notion of jazz. The name of the band was Pigbag, the gig was Bristol University, the music blew me away. Later I was given a copy of Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag, to play at one of the Art School Discos.  This track has been iconic since its first issue in 1983.  The track is a one off; the horn riff is so instantly memorable, it just sticks in the brain, the backing track, bassline and rhythms, brilliantly constructed. The gig at Bristol University totally changed the trajectory of the type of music I would listen to, from then on, as I began to listen to groups such as Rip Rig and Panic, Fella Kuti, as well as a lot of modern jazz groups. I even bought a saxophone and took  lessons. I travelled with the group up to Manchester University, once doubtlessly smoking huge quantities of dope along the way. I was in their third video “Getting up” dressed as a guerilla, cheekily grabbing the trumpet off the trumpet player Chris. I later moved to London and kept contact with members of the band. The band slowly fragmented and went their separate ways. Seemingly two members the trumpet player Chris and the sax player Ollie still keep the Pigbag flame alive, the original Pigbag having split in June 1983.  Papa’s got Brand New Pigbag is used as the music for various football teams to run out to, it has been reinvented as a techno track by various groups, Madness, have included a cover version of the song in their live set on occasions. Pigbag, an unlikely success story, by musicians who started off by having fun jam sessions, whose videos had a homemade quality to them.

I became conscious of Philip Glass, a little while after discovering Pigbag. The first album I bought was  “the Photographer” an album based on the life of Eadweard Muybridge. His work has constantly been a big part of my music collection since then, a soundtrack at different points in my life. His style is quite unique. I went to a ballet in Paris, at Opera Garnier, during one of the performances I became conscious that the music being used was familiar. It soon dawned on me it was Philip Glass. His music is always popping up. It was memorably used in the film “The Hours”. His music works brilliantly with films.  His music is really uplifting.  His music may not be too everyone’s taste, but me, I am a fully fledged disciple.

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

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The turbulent mind of Sinead O’Connor

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There is little doubting the uniqueness of  Sinead O’Connor’s voice. When you listen to “Nothing compares to you” you can’t but fail to be moved by it, it gets you every time you hear this rousing song. But what about the singer? I had the pleasure to see her in concert in Paris a few years back. I sensed that there was something quite not right about Sinead, there was a palpable edginess to the concert.

In Ireland she is an icon and the press can’t get enough of her, while at the same time she is depicted as being a wild crazy woman, mentally unstable. She is not afraid to be extremely honest about her childhood and the physical and mental abuse she had suffered at the hands of her mother (although other members of her family dispute this). In her own words…“I never took time to recover from what had gone on when I was growing up, and to establish a sense of self,” she says, quietly but surely. “The big problem if you are a child abused is that you don’t really have a strong sense of your own identity. She obviously is struggling to come to terms with her childhood, but also the pressures of fame.  In July 2003 she said pertinently “I seek no longer to be a ‘famous’ person and instead I wish to have a normal life,” adding “Could people please afford me my privacy?”

Sometimes her so called “crazy antics” have been very public. Tearing up a picture of the pope on Saturday Night Live in America in 1992, was followed by coming stage at a tribute concert for Bob Dylan, wrapped a rastafarian prayer cloth around the microphone and sang an unaccompanied version of “War”, a musical rendition of a speech Haile Selassie made to the United Nations in 1963, to which Sinead added her own lyrics focusing on child abuse.  Her performance drew mixed reactions, some booing.

It seems like Madonna, on her Australian tour is going through  a Sinead type phase.

Ripping up a picture of the pope brought about an inevitable  backlash with leading Roman Catholics attacking the singer and urging the faithful not to buy her records. Her relationship with religion seems complex.  She raised many eye browses when it was revealed  she had been ordained as Mother Bernadette Marie by Bishop Michael Cox of the rebel Tridentine Order, at Lourdes. Irish and American newspapers went for Sinead viciously dubbing her “mad”, “deranged” and ” weird”.

Effecting Sinead deeply has been custody battles for her daughter, which even made her contemplate suicide. “I have made one suicide attempt in my life, and that was on my 33rd birthday, after a session in court that day where it was suggested that for the rest of my life I would only see my daughter once a month. I made a very serious suicide attempt, and I did almost die.” She seems dogged by this notion that she is mad.

Sinead O’Connor for many years was deemed to suffer from Bi Polar, which was later proved false. She announced “I do not in fact suffer from Bi Polar disorder and never did . . . and should never have been put on the medication . . . They are extremely debilitating drugs. Tiring to the extreme. Ironically, extremely depressing. They can cause suicidal or self-harm type thinking.” O’Connor said, in an interview in the Irish Mirror, “I’m delighted to be able to say that after ten years of poisoning myself with these drugs and having to live with the extremely difficult side-effects of them I can shortly begin the very, very slow indeed, process of getting them out of my system and my life and getting my life back.”

This poses the question could the constant cries by the media  that Sinead is crazy influence Doctors. Sinead went through a ten year period with different psychiatrists, none of them alluding the effects of the medication she was under.

Sinead seems to be making a constant cry for help. She seems horribly misrepresented by the press. If she is crazy it is a wonderful crazy.

Part of a St Patrick’s Day blog hop, read other articles by writers and bloggers.


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Births and Dispatches on Christmas Day…


We have no choice (normally) the day we die….William Shakespeare died on his 52nd birthday…There are certain days you wouldn’t wish to die on…one such being Christmas day.

Did you know the great Charlie Chaplain passed away on Christmas Day?
Joan Miro, the Spanish surrealist painter, died at his home in Majorca after a substantial life, aged 90.

Go back many years and you will find Adrian I, Italian Pope (772-95), who also enjoyed longevity dying aged 95.

In more recent times you find in 2004 – Gennady Strekalov, Russian cosmonaut left earth for the afterlife.

In 1995, Rat Pack member Dean Martin died on Christmas Day, at the age of 78.

In 2006 – the legendary James Brown, rhythm & blues, gospel, jazz, soul and funk singer dubbed The Godfather of Soul passed away following a heart attack.

Eartha Kitt, American actress and singer, (she has that instantly recognizable voice) died in 2008.

There are those equally unlucky in a way who are born on Christmas day. Christmas birthdays are so rare: according to a 2006 Harvard University study, December 25 is least common day for births (after February 29)
One such person is Shane MacGowan, lead singer of The Pogues, also a man who must lick his lips around Christmas, as he must look forward to royalties for a well-known Christmas hit, The Fairytale of New York.

One of Hollywood’s leading men during the 20th Century, Humphrey Bogart also celebrated his birthday day on December 25th every year until his demise in 1957

Annie Lennox, that singer with the fantastic voice, one time lead singer of the Eurythmics was also born on Christmas day.

A brilliant influential musician Cab Calloway, celebrated as one of the undisputed giants of jazz, scat pioneer Cabell “Cab” Calloway came to define the Harlem sound, is another born on Christmas day. Cab Calloway is noted for his barnstorming performance of Minnie the Moocher, which received a lot of attention as it was included in the much celebrated “Blue Brothers” film.

Sir Isaac Newton One of the most influential scientists of all time who formulated the laws of Gravity. Sir Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day in 1642.  The  legend goes he was sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell and hit him on the head, thus giving him the idea for gravity…maybe the reality was different.

I happened to see Quentin Crisp give a talk in Vienna many years ago. Quentin is another born on Christmas day. His life was subject to a film, “The Naked Civil Servant” which starred John Hurt. Quentin Crisp was a kind of 60s version of Oscar Wilde.

Have you ever seen Stephen King’s Carrie, then you would know the actress Sissy Spacek. She spent her late teenage years hanging out at Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory


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Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…

I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.

What if they’d been writers ?

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They have had every morsel of their lives dissected in every conceivable way, but what if they had been writers themselves…what would they have written?

John Lennon could have been an artist (he went to Liverpool Art School) his work appears to be scribble-like cartoons, with an element of wit. His life was dramatically cut short, killed by a crazed “fan”…but what if he’d lived much longer and felt inspired to write a book? What would he have written?

John Lennon was somewhat of a complex character…he was brought up by his aunt and only formed a relationship with his mother, when her life was cut short, by an accident. His autobiography or Beatles Memoirs would have made compulsive reading and copies would have flown out of book shops…unless of course he inserted some controversial comments, like his quote concerning The Beatles being more popular than Jesus Christ.

Would he have written a book similar to a “Beat Generation” type novel? Some kind of psychedelic drug induced masterpiece. He certainly went through an acid phase. He was noted for his acerbic wit and sometimes cruel sarcasm, juxtaposed with this was his passion for causes, and for “world peace”. What would he have made of…this post September the 11th world we live in?

Jim Morrison packed a lot into his 27 years on this planet, he was a natural poet, might he have not also been a great dark fiction writer? Similarly he might have written some great drug fueled novels.

The more recently diseased Amy Winehouse, who could have written an open honest account of all the demons residing in her head, but unfortunately drugs and alcohol got to her aged 27…Alternatively she might have chosen to write about how the Music industry manipulated her fine talent.

What of Politicians…once Richard Nixon had passed through all the political memoirs…he might have chosen to write a political thriller, full of corruption and intrigue. Bill Clinton (ok this man is still alive) could write something with political intrigue mixed with erotica/kinky sex…there seems to be an influx of EL James type writers, so he could do really well out of this.

What of artists? Picasso tried his hand at a multitude of artistic disciplines, what would a cubist novel read like? The story would have to be viewed from different angles and facets and would be very fragmented. Or perhaps he would have written a novel about “the noble art” of Bullfighting (which in my book is far from noble).

Leonardo Da Vinci, was a writer of sorts, well Leonardo was everything, not just a genius painter, he was a visionary, who could have written some of the most incredible Science Fiction stories ever, he would have surpassed HG Wells, who equally had an incredible vision of the future. If his novel was written using “mirror writing” to read it would take forever., with lots of obscure references.

Stanley Kubrick, a brilliant film director, would be hard to predict what kind of book he might have written…he was such a versatile director, capable of turning his hand to different types of film. He Was also a very meticulous and precise man, who did a lot of research into his films, so we could expect books with lots of detail, as well fired with a rampant imagination.

Comic genius and a master of mimicry, Peter Sellers, was another “complex character”. Almost preordained that he would be an actor, his life guided by his strong Jewish pushy mother “Peg” who contrived to build up a massive ego in her beloved son. Though known as a “comic and incredibly naturally funny man, who is well known for his portrayals of inspector Jacques Clouseau, Sellers desperately wanted to be seen in a much more serious light, not type cast as a clown like Clouseau. A great paradox with Sellers as well as many other comic greats, was that he suffered so much anxiety and from deep depression. He could easily conjure up different characters, so if he had written a work of fiction, maybe he would have been a highly imaginative character developer. Given his bent to be taken seriously, perhaps he would have written a very serious dark novel. Because he played so many different characters, he himself was lost amongst all these characters, maybe writing a book might have helped him to find himself.

Maybe if a lot of these characters had settled down and written novels, there would have been many therapeutic gains and maybe their shortened lives might have been extended…what if?

Francis H Powell is a writer and author of Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories. Follow him on Twitter @Dreamheadz