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On Saturday, 15 November in Preston’s Roper Hall, bands and artists came together to help raise awareness and funds for the musical Oxfam-offshoot, Oxjam. The festival organised by the North West regional group of Oxjam was ARTROCK, which sought to showcase their new ideas and new plans with an exhibition of donated art and performances from several local bands and singers.
Oxjam itself is a very young branch of the world-renowned Oxfam charity. Having only been set up in 2006, the movement already has support from acts like Coldplay, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Fatboy Slim, and many others.
The event over the weekend was designed to raise money to help in the funding of Oxjam initiatives, and by March 2009 the Oxjam North West team hope to raise £15,000. The money raised by each of the 28 regional teams operating in the country will be added together to try and raise £400,000. All of this money will go towards the national and international work being done by Oxfam.
Located in the upstairs floor of a scream bar in Preston, the event hosted a number of stalls with attractive layouts of colourful, ethical and fun jewellery, alongside these were stalls selling clothes made by UCLAN students. Most of the wall space was covered by a collection of artistic paintings and photographs. The art covered a broad spectrum of abilities and styles, ranging from ‘Lancaster Nation’, which was a blank canvas on which had been added the thumb prints of Lancastrian locals and students, to the more intricate and stylised work of people such as Daniel Orlick, Laura Stinger and Katie Eveson.
The art was intended to be sold at the event, but as a result of low attendance the Oxjam organisers decided to retain the artwork and sell it through other means in an attempt to get as much revenue into the charity’s coffers as possible.
The music of the night was an impressive showcase of North Western talent. Each band had put together an acoustic set to play for the event, and with an impressive sound system, considering the venue and size of the room, every band performed to a high standard, each being entertaining and refreshingly different.
Manchester based band King Kayak kicked off the music with enthusiasm and vigour. The group performed a set of catchy good-time indie rock described by their lead singer, Veks Isism, as a blend of sounds and influences but best described as ‘black and white striped indie’. When asked of his opinion of Oxjam Veks stated that he liked the way they had tried to tap into a young and bohemian vibe, which ‘made for a fun event with the added benefit of being for a good cause’.
A stripped down show from Preston regulars The Jackpot Golden Boys soon followed, with the drummer, Jim, and singer, Alex, performing mellower versions of their songs. Whilst usually sounding like ‘heavy-metal Beach Boys’, tonight the duo revelled in playing very merry and charming, if whimsical, songs which sounded like the music of a slightly more eccentric Jack Johnson. Alex, also of Preston band Cocoshakle, said that they liked the work Oxjam was doing and had played for them before.
Next up was Chicago-born one-man ‘band-in-a-box’ Daniel Orlick. Daniel played an eclectic mix of his own brand of experimental music. His set began with a selection of songs which combined acoustic guitar playing over electro beats. This was followed up with some more conventional songs which were rapped/sung over easy-listening guitar playing, and flowed seamlessly between being funny, anthemic and political. Not only did Daniel play for the event but he also donated an impressive amount of artwork. Daniel said that he felt that this was one of the benefits of the way in which Oxjam works, as he could open up artistically and could further his own creative desires, whilst simultaneously helping aid a very worthwhile cause.
The final band of the night were The Uncomfortables, a very tight band who sounded like the coolest elements of 60s bands like The Animals, given a hint of southern American style and heaped full of the enthusiasm of madmen. The voice of singer Richard Lomax was smooth and sharp, growling and melodic. This was an impressive set to close the night’s music.
Overall, the night was one of mixed achievements. A lot has to be commended: the organisation that went into the night by a group of volunteers was very impressive, the bands were entertaining, the vibe was funky, the stalls were cool, the art was remarkable and abundant and the cause was good. Unfortunately the night’s obvious downside was its significant lack of support—unfortunate, as it is a very good cause and a new attempt to draw more young people into charity work while making it exciting, fun and fulfilling.