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Keys To The Karamel’s Sweet Konnektions

Up early, yesterday, sitting at the PC, marvelling at an early youtube clip sent by Chris Sheehan of Robert Plant getting up to sing a rollicking rock blues with Charlie Wood .. Late last night going home having seen Chris compere for Charlie’s chilled out jazz grooves at the Karamel Music Club, Wood Green, London, I thought I need to tell my readers about this place.

This story reflects on Keys to the Karamel Club’s Sweet Konnektions. Chris Sheehan, Creative Director of Karamel Music Collective prefers to call himself a singer songwriter. A while back he had the opportunity to lead a couple of days at a Chris Difford's (Squeeze) songwriters week. They met, they played, they created, and became the bedrock of the Karamel’s Music Nights – all sweetly konnekted – all top of their kraft, all konnekted to others, and the others starting to come to the Karamel – a kalm, kollected kollektive dedicated to good times and kraft. Ddi the people who used this k technique for the Kinks back in the day have a spell chekker korrekting all the words?

Songwriters seem to inhabit a secret life of their own, scuttling off to dark corners of the soul, returning with rewards for all who want to listen. They don’t necessarily front their own songs. Others sometimes do it. Some have other abilities. They can sing, they can play. They are wanted. Charlie Wood is connected to Jacquie Dankworth, herself a Karamel regular and scion of Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth. Other artists who have shown up have been connected to Fairground Attraction, Alicia Keyes, Shirley Bassey. The list goes on. They have been around, they're not muppets, nor pop puppets. They are real, authentic, rootsy and red hot. They have turned themselves around to face a little club in North London. Why? To be connected, to form a community, to be loved and wanted. It’s not quite Laurel Canyon. Its’ not quite CBGBs. The talent has its own flavour and collects quietly and modestly at the Karamel. And listen to this…. they play for nothing. A tip jar is passed around. The community, a crowd prepared to sit, liten and adore gladly show their respect and appreciation.

The crowd itself is another key to the Karamel. Every time I go there I find someone new to talk to. A politician, a producer, a fan, lovers of the arts. Many come through their connections with the Chocolate Factory and Collage Arts whose Director, Manoj Ambassna, is almost always in attendance, networking, listening to ideas, wanting to support.

There is an element of playing for a pie and a pint. They get fed and watered by the mighty Ian, chef with his own connections to restaurants a foodie would have heard of. Ian’s always hot, always cheap, always excellent food is another key element. It should be praised highly.

Then there’s Rosely Funari who runs the club itself, who has created the comfort, the ambience, the warmth, further keys. Rosely is supported by family and volunteers. She is another who is willing to talk with, work with, mentor artists. She might be top of the food chain but she is no feeder. She is the final key element in a club that gives and keeps on giving. The Karamel is a love fest.

The Karamel seeks to be accessible and inclusive. A disabled toilet has been built into the premises. Rosely wants to know if it’s right. She wants to listen to anyone who can tell her how to improve things so the club becomes more and more a thing for everyone, a place for a community to grow. Support it.

In the spirit of inclusivity, I have been offered the Karamel space for 6 weeks later in the year. I want to hang works by our artists on the walls, I want people to use the performance space, I want to host talks and put on workshops that reveal our lives, our world to this keen to learn community. If you are interested in participating drop me a line on my other blog;

Posted by Rich Downes, 1 March 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 2 March 2012

A Cracking Carol

Richard Downes takes a family day out to share a favourite club with others and to make lasting relationships in the arts

Scene 1: The Past. A room in Tottenham. Summer. A long, long time ago. Franz Shealey, then a lip reader is watching Phil Sherman speak. He asks; "What is your favourite story?" Fran replies' "A Christmas Carol". "Wow!!!! That's mine too", reposts Phil. Immediately, Fran and Phil; the clown and mime artist respectively behind children's theatre company Booster Cushion Theatre set about creating their own unique version of Dicken's famous tale.

Scene 2: The Present. The Karamel Club, Wood Green. A family day out. My wife and I (that sounds so regal) want to introduce the Tarpey family to the club; a place that has become more and more important to us as a site for friendship, food, entertainment and exposure to the arts. I especially want to introduce, James Tarpey, a young drama student, to Phil's wild take on the story. Phil offers children the chance to brag and joke with that old card Scrooge through the use of pop up books, humbugs, mime, voice and sign language. Booster strive to be inclusive to all ages. I watch the show with a smile but am more happy to note that all my guests sit wholly entranced.

Scene 3: Later in what was then the future. I set up an interview between Phil and James. I had an idea about the meeting of generations akin to an old NME interview where then young mod, Paul Weller met old  mod Pete Townsend. We would use quotes and titles from The Jam and The Who. I might ask James how do you think he does it and hopefully James would say more than I don't know. But it didn't work out like that. We simply explored past, present, and future. Phil was as helpful and friendly as could be. James more than held his own as you will see in a later featured interview.

But first more on the Karamel Club. It's a part of the Chocolate Factory in Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22. Its run by Rosely Funari, Phil's wife. Rosely also acts as an ideas person and is first point of call for people wanting to book this useful space for whatever reason. Its primary function is to run as a hub for local artists and connoisseurs. Chef Ian's food makes it more than this. It is somewhere to drop in to, a place to enjoy. The walls are usually full of art to buy. A small, inaccessible stage allows for music nights and comedy nights. Booster Cushion Theatre are aiming to play there once a month to show a broad retrospective of its work. Until now the Karamel Club has been one of London's hidden treasures. Watch it take off!

Posted by Rich Downes, 1 February 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 15 November 2012