‘Grayson Perry: All Man’ Review

There’s a big ‘no man’s land’ in British masculinity. In ‘Grayson Perry: All Man,’ the acclaimed artist treads some of that vast area, to meet men and create artwork that reflects their identity. He journeys alongside the communities of a mining town in County Durham, a housing estate in Preston and the financial City of London. The conclusion in the third and final episode seems somewhat inevitable: ‘Men need to look to the future, like feminists have been doing for decades’.

Rewind to the start and the series opens with timeless image, as Perry stands ringside at a cage fight. Moments later the violence Alex shows as a fighter is replaced by his martyrdom image, wrapped up in a towelling sarcophagus to sweat out the pounds ahead of a weigh in. Perry observes, learns and eases himself into the ritual and continues with the same sensitivity for the places and people he meets throughout the show.

Grayson Perry talking to cage fighters
It’s the self-realisation on camera that makes for an intriguing watch. The first two episodes focus on areas that show the male identity is in crisis: suicide and crime. He meets Thelma, whose son Daniel died from suicide aged 30. ‘Sometimes I think men don’t even know when they are sad’ comments Perry, a sentiment echoed by Daniel’s friends in the pub. Seeing their response and gratitude for the ceramic pot Perry made, inspired by Daniel and the community, is a joy to watch as creator and subject share the art together.

Yet it was the final episode, following men of the City that most captivated me. It started on the traditional noisy trading floor of London Metal Exchange, before showing a more modern City at work. The transactions, trading and technology are quicker, and the buildings shinier but the aggressive male identity hadn’t changed. As one ex-wife said, the ‘sensitive masculinity’ of the City men today was just a slick veil over the same power and aggression.
‘Object in Foreground’ (2016) by Grayson Perry
This led Perry to create the most controversial work of the series: a giant ceramic cock. And the bankers didn’t like it. While the mining and estate communities engaged with the art created for them, and used it to reflect and open themselves up for exploration, the City workers rejected it and defended themselves. ‘You haven’t been derailed from what you wanted to see’ said one. ‘That’s because I haven’t been derailed’ replied Perry. Perhaps there isn’t the same male crisis in the City. But the continued inequality of financial growth shows something’s not right.

No other artist could front such a beautifully shot documentary, and it’s given me a taste to watch Perry’s previous series for Channel 4. The portraits created doesn’t speak for every man, and the overarching generalisation of male aggression and one-upmanship didn’t resonate with me. But the need to look to the future, to see the old communities and old masculinity aren’t totally working now, is a message for everyone to answer.

You can watch all three episodes on All4.


The Facts of My Life: Bongo Ben and CJ Sax

This weekend, We Are Fstvl returns to Upminster with 50,000 dance music fans enjoying headliners Fatboy Slim and Steve Angello. LoveJuice will be there too with their usual mix of international DJs and live musicians, creating what you might call an ‘augmented club music 3D’ sound.
I caught up with LoveJuice regulars Bongo Ben and CJ Sax who finished their own UK club tour last month. They’ve perform everywhere from their hometowns in Essex and the London Olympics to Ibiza and Dubai. Here’s the facts of their lives.
Bongo Ben
My bongos bring so much more than just a sound. They keep me grounded and focussed on my goals. Without them I wouldn’t be able to perform and do everything else that comes with it.
When I first got into percussion I had no music background or experience.  I was a small time promoter, saw a percussionist playing in a local club and straight away loved the sound I heard. A week later I bought a pair of cheap bongos and started practising. A drummer friend of mine gave me a few pointers to get started and also my first booking in early 2010.
You’re only going to get where you want through sacrifices and compromises. I was in a boring, poorly paid 9 to 5 job for a bank but I settled for it to work in the club industry at weekends. I was playing for no fee in order to get my name out there. Every musician has to make sacrifices and compromises throughout their career. You just have to weigh up whether the end result will be worthwhile.

My job is to lay down my creativity to compliment the DJ and bring that extra energy. It’s unique as nearly every party is different, with different genres. You play off the DJ and the crowd’s atmosphere. There’s not many jobs you can define like that.

I most admire percussionists Shovell and Pav. I’ve always been a fan of M people, which Shovell was a part of. Saxophonist Lovely Laura is also fantastic, for her humbleness and professionalism as much as her music.

My parents are my role models. They’re both very different. I’ve tried to take each of their strongest attributes and use them for myself in work and everyday life. The patience and support of my Mum and Dad, my fiancé and everyone else around me has let me make the most of each opportunity.
CJ Sax is the younger brother I never had. We bicker, banter and embarrass each other but when it comes to a gig we will bounce off each other and combine our sets to make the best atmosphere possible. It’s not about knowing when or how to play during a set, it’s about knowing when not to play.
Be humble, be kind and associate yourself with people from all walks of life. Appreciate those that are different from you as you will always learn something.
The harder you work, the luckier you will get.
Follow Ben on Twitter and Facebook

CJ Sax
‘Do better than yesterday, everyday’. It’s not all pool parties and international flights. I was practising for three hours a day after school for my grade 8 saxophone exam. Working hard at my trade is still essential now.
Keep active and keep busy. The more productive you are in the day, the less time you have to worry about stress and other problems. I play football to stay fit and see my friends. Some people think my weekend schedule is too busy to do that as well as performing but I catch up on my sleep during the week.
My role model is Spurs legend Ledley King. He had career-preventing injuries and still managed to play top-flight football every week without training.
I ran the London Marathon for my Dad, who has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Our relationship has inspired me to live my life as best I can, take the opportunities I’m given, always be grateful and not stress over life’s small problems.
The health and happiness of the ones you love is all that matters. Trust in the path God has given you. Everything has a purpose and grows you as a character. It’s not always easy to see, but will be clear in the long run.
Do a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

Follow CJ on Twitter and Facebook

‘The Sugar Tax won’t work’

This Spring a ‘sugar tax’ was introduced by the UK government on some fizzy drinks to try and tackle the growing problem of obesity in the UK. But the problem with the tax is it won’t work.
Why? Because sugar alone cannot make you fat.

If you are in a ‘calorie deficit’ (that means consuming less calories than you are expending through your daily physical activities) then you won’t gain weight, regardless of how much of those calories are made up from the sugar you eat.

Granted, sugar can spike insulin in the blood, but insulin spikes alone don’t cause weight gain. Excess calories do, and although a diet high in sugar isn’t particularly ‘healthy’, having the odd cake or can of Coke isn’t going to do you much harm. In fact it’s more likely to be detrimental to your dental health than make you fat.

It all comes down to moderation. Sugar shouldn’t make up a large proportion of your diet, but there isn’t a need to cut it out completely. Rather than demonising food groups and taxing food types in an attempt to solve a problem, educating the public properly on nutrition is the only real way to reduce the growing obesity epidemic.

Do you agree or disagree with Nathan? Let us know in the comments below or tweet him @NGBarn84. Nathan is a personal trainer and UKBFF Men’s Physique Champion 2015. He’s competing this month in Birmingham and London.