At Output Gallery, Zahra wants you to decide for yourself
Decoding meaning at a new solo show of expressionist fairy-tale paintings
Dear members — today’s story is by the Liverpool-based cultural writer Jessica White, who has written for Dazed, i-D and The Face and who co-wrote The Borgias episode of the award-winning BBC podcast You’re Dead to Me.
Now, she’s writing about the painter Zahra’s first solo exhibition at Output Gallery and the way her work taps into the tradition of the fairy tale and expressionism alike.
But first: Starmer is balls-free, at least according to one politician; 2km of neon returns to Liverpool’s waterfront, plus a new vintage stall where proceeds go to the homeless.
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Keir Starmer has “no balls” according to Riverside MP Kim Johnson. “I'm a member of the socialist campaign group and I bring solidarity and support,” she said from the picket line for the striking Port of Liverpool dock workers. “I will tell you that Keir Starmer will not stop me from being on a picket line.” The dockers are striking for two weeks after they rejected an 8% pay rise from Peel Ports, believing it represents a pay cut in actual terms, due to inflation. Johnson’s comments came as a response to Keir Starmer saying that Labour Party MPs should not join the picket during the RMT rail strikes. Shadow Transport Minister Sam Tarry was sacked after giving a TV interview from the picket line.
Elkan Abrahamson, a solicitor who represented 20 families during the Hillsborough inquests, will be given the Freedom of Liverpool. Abrahamson is a vocal supporter of the campaign for a Hillsborough Law, which argues that all public officials, including police officers, should have a “duty of candour” to bereaved families, giving them full funding for legal representation at inquests. Dame Lorna Muirhead — the former president of the Royal College of Midwives who served as Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside for 11 years — has also been nominated for the honour, whilst performance poet Levi Tafari is to be made a Citizen of Honour.
A record £200,000 reward is now being offered for information leading to the arrest of Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s killer. Crimestoppers founder Lord Ashcroft had originally pledged £50,000, but doubled this after £100,000 was put forward by a private donor.
The Guardian’s full investigation into the events surrounding the Champions League final between Liverpool and Paris St-Germain in May has been revealed. In a full visual account of the night, the report describes how Parisian police directed Liverpool fans towards the stadium using a route much narrower than would be recommended. The route has been a “known hazard” since 2016 due to issues suffered by French football fans. Images show fans packed in extremely tight, unable to move forwards or backwards. One Hillsborough survivor described how he’s had “three months of anxiety” since Paris. Due to crowding, the ticket and security checks were abandoned by the authorities, but video footage showed that this went on over half an hour, contrary to evidence by the French Football Federation to the French Senate, who claimed it was several minutes. Two reports in France have since criticised policing on the night.
And finally, Liverpool Waterfront will be illuminated in a 2km trail of neon lights next month. The River of Light festival is returning for 17 nights between 21 October and 6 November with the theme "Unexpected Twist", a nod to the World Gymnastics Championships 2022 which will also be taking place in Liverpool at the same time. Previous years have seen giant rainbows, rabbits and a neon man leaping across the Albert Dock. 10 exhibits will be on display this year, featuring local, national and international artists.
👗 Paper Cup Coffee’s first vintage stall starts at 10am on Saturday, with everything less than £5 and all proceeds going towards Paper Cup project, which supports Liverpool’s homeless community. More here.
🎉 Head down to the Waterfront on Saturday afternoon to find performances by Liverpool’s renowned 80-strong drumming group Katumba and local Afrobeat DJ Papu Raf. The festivities are part of the BlackFest 2022 programme which celebrates Black arts and culture. Register a place here.
🎶 BITCH Fest, a day festival scattered across three stages in the city centre pops up tomorrow with performances from local three piece harmony band Motel Sundown and Huyton-born glittery pop singer Katie Mac. It’s organised by BITCH Palace, who put on events in the North West that champion female musicians and underrepresented groups. More here.
🎷 In the 1980s, Courtney Pine was one of Britain’s leading jazz artists. Now, he’s playing at the Tung Auditorium on Friday night, alongside the pianist Zoe Rahman. Their sell-out shows have received acclaim in the national media for their intimacy and energy. Tickets start at £20.
By Jessica White
Last week, Output Gallery launched their show ‘Phantom Fairy Tales’ — an exhibition of the painter Zahra’s work. You might not be familiar with Zahra’s paintings yet, but her use of the single-name moniker, like Madonna or Cher before her, suggests ambitions of hitting the big time. Which seems within her reach: she’s only 24 and has already booked her first solo show. This myth-making isn’t limited to her name — the gallery has described the show as an exploration of Zahra’s “personal mythology.”
The word mythology sets off alarm bells for me. Both mythology and fairy tales have been beaten to a pulp by feminist thinkers and creators over the past few decades, from the dearth of Classical retellings in literature to the boom of reimagined fairy tales in film and art. These reworkings aren’t necessarily bad (some, like Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Bolu Babalola’s Love In Colour, are excellent) — but there’s a huge volume of them. Does the world really need another contemporary take on fairy tales?
Walking down Seel Street — eerily quiet, compared to its nighttime guise — I am concerned that Phantom Fairy Tales will be more of the same. Will there be a big bad wolf posing an inevitable stand-in for the patriarchy? A Helen of Troy-inspired piece exploring harmful beauty standards?