Tuesday 7 August 2012 | By Chris Cooke
Jane Bom-Bane: High hats and harmoniums
We love Jane Bom-Bane for a whole number of reasons, but not least because, for us, she’s one of those people who truly embodies the spirit of Fringe (if you are ever in her home town of Brighton, do check out her Bom-Bane’s Café).
So we were thrilled to find out that, after a significant absence, she was planning a return to the Festival this year, with a new show where she will be joined by singer Rosi Lalor. We duly hastened to put some questions to her.
CC: Welcome back to the Fringe! What has persuaded you to return this year?
JB-B: Thank you very much! It’s a mixture of my own yen to return to the excitement of the Edinburgh bubble and just focus on playing for a whole three weeks, and Rosi Lalor’s persuasive yen to do the Fringe for the first time with a friend who’s done it before!
CC: For the uninitiated, what can they expect from your show?
JB-B: Three mechanical hats, one harmonium, lots of original songs, Tom Walker’s pastel paintings accompanying a story-poem, some fabulous harmonies from Rosi and a wee surprise or two…
CC: Are you bringing the harmonium all the way from Brighton?
JB-B: Yes, it’s a very small harmonium a customer from Bom-Bane’s spotted in a junk shop and gave me. It doesn’t have the bassy umph of my big one, but the audience can actually see my feet pedalling ten to the dozen through the frame of this one. And I have a song and a hat dedicated to the Big Harmonium in case anyone, like me, might be missing it.
CC: Have you written songs specifically for the new show, or have you collated songs you’ve written over a period of time?
JB-B: Sometimes I write songs specifically for an event, but this show will be a collection of some old and new favourites.
CC: Tell us about Rosi.
JB-B: Rosi has worked and sung in Bom-Bane’s Cafe in Brighton on and off for ages, and over the last couple of years she’s blossomed and bloomed into a brilliant singer, songwriter and guitarist. She’s doing her own solo show in the Laughing Horse Newsroom every afternoon, then tanking it up to Finnegan’s Wake to join me in mine. Hurray!
CC: The hats are legendary, how do you make them, and what will you be wearing during the Fringe?
JB-B: I’ve managed to make the hats lighter over the years, but they seem to have grown bigger, too. They’re made out of a polystyrene base, then with all kinds of bits and bobs I have lying around. There’s often a motor and some sort of circuit sunk into them somewhere. I’m bringing the Big Harmonium Dancefloor Hat, the Einstein Hat, and, of course, the Edinburgh Castle Rock Hat.
CC: The music strand remains one of the hidden secrets of the Fringe (even though it’s there slap bank in the middle of the programme!), have you any tips for other music people we should check out?
JB-B: Oh yes, there’s the one and only Nick Pynn who’s playing at his usual venue with Kate Daisy Grant. You’ll never have seen or heard the like, or music more inspiring. Then there’s Rosi’s show that I mentioned, ‘Flowers For The Living’, plus check out Antonio Forcione ‘Sketches Of Africa’ and ‘Magdalena Reising – Blue Cafe Jazz’.
CC: We love Bom-Bane’s in Brighton – tell us a little about how that came about, and what happens there.
JB-B: It’s a music-cafe really, that Nick Pynn and I opened six years ago. My son had just left home and I needed a project that was similar to making hats but big bigger and sturdier. Nick and I made mechanical tables for the upstairs and I did a six-week course at Merton College about ‘how to run your own catering business’! It’s been an exhausting and fabulous learning curve. We have music nights, film nights, a drawing group and puppetry. We also do in-house musicals and special food and music events. Everybody who works here gets involved (if they want to – or if I threaten to dock their wages!). Nick’s not here any more, but he still pops round to show us how to play difficult songs on the guitar, mend the temperamental turn-table or salt the awkward dishwasher.
CC: I think this is the first time you’ve performed in the Free Festival – what motivated you to do that?
JB-B: Well, it’s very expensive now – and has been getting that way for a while – for small acts to play at a central venue. This idea behind the free show strands seemed to me to be the perfect way to return to the original spirit of the Fringe, where little-known acts used to be able to afford to do their own thing. And if the punters like it, they can put something in the basket. If not, they have only lost an hour of their time. And hopefully it will generate custom in other ways too for the venues involved. It all seems to run alongside the mainstream Fringe successfully, and has an energy of its own.
Jane Bom-Bane performed at Laughing Horse @ Finnegan’s Wake at Fringe 2012.