Eurovision singer SuRie and comedian Steve Bugeja head all-day feast of music and comedy at June Retune
Mental health organisation Retune is hosting its most hotly-anticipated show to date in Bishop's Stortford on Sunday June 2: an all-day summer special featuring Stortford's own 2018 Eurovision starlet SuRie and rising, award-winning comedian Steve Bugeja.
The Horn at the Half Moon pub in North Street will also play host to Liverpudlian troubadour Joe Slater, songstress Ciara Vizzard and The Bishop's Stortford High School sixth-form band Monochroma.
The event includes an open mic session in the garden from 1pm to 3pm and food stalls as it promotes mindfulness and wellbeing through the creative arts.
Entry to June's Retune is free, with guests being asked to donate what they can to the cause. After the open mic concludes at 3pm, Steve will be on at 4pm, with live music resuming at 6pm and concluding around 9pm.
Formed in March 2018, Retune inspires young people to adjust their mental health through creative outlets. In addition to putting on live shows it has started to deliver emotional wellbeing workshops to schools and will shortly be producing its first podcast series.
The Half Moon has been integral to the career of SuRie (real name Susanna Cork) and the former St Joseph's Catholic Primary School pupil and Herts and Essex High School student has performed at the North Street pub many times before.
“I'm so looking forward to performing again there and supporting such a fantastic event,” she says. “I can't promise I won't cry when I return to a stage that holds the fondest of memories for me, so people can expect some honest, piano-led musical stories, peppered with my sarcastic drivel and perhaps a touch of snot.
“2019 has been artistically so satisfying. It began with arranging, recording and releasing a concept album [ˈdʌz(ə)n] which is 12 cover tracks for the 12 calendar months, featuring songs by Prince, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Florence & The Machine and more.
"I also worked on a new theatre project, a feminist piece of writing called 'Her Story', which continues to develop. I'm collaborating on a photographic series exploring mental health experiences and conversations, and I've most recently released my new single Only You and I.
“Only You and I is the first offering of a collaboration with Swiss songwriter and producer Luk Zimmerman. Luk has really helped me find my way back into songwriting after the Eurovision whirlwind of 2018. It was so much fun, but creatively incredibly confusing and I've had to be a little patient in finding my way back to the piano and working out what I need to next say and how I want to say/sing it.”
SuRie made international headlines this time last year. During her performance, as the UK entry, of her song Storm in Lisbon, a protester invaded the stage and grabbed her microphone. When the mic was handed back to her, she rounded off the performance with astonishing aplomb and professionalism, winning the hearts of audiences around the world.
“Eurovision is a huge experience, teaching you so much. It's totally thrilling and yet, of course, I had quite an unusual, unique experience on stage," she said.
"The loyal international audience it's introduced me to is wonderful. They fly over for UK gigs, share their stories, forge friendships between each other... I learn so much from them. There's such a beautiful, musical world outside of the UK and I'm honoured to be exploring it and flattered that Spanish supermarkets are offering a SuRie soundtrack as people purchase their groceries!"
The cause of Retune is dear to her. “I'm incredibly fortunate to have music, songwriting and composition as a daily tool to express myself and take the lid off the pressure cooker. It's always there and I know it will always make me feel better, eventually. I don't relish the negative curveballs that life sometimes throws our way, but I'm grateful that I'm drawn to process it and find light at the piano and with my voice.
“Writing, crafting, spilling thoughts and feelings into some form of music or art is absolutely pivotal to my survival. And I find it so cathartic sharing those moments, in live performance, with an audience – however large or intimate – and offering the listener a chance to have a few moments, or an evening, away from our phone screens and social media and experiencing that momentary escape and solace together.”
Comedian Steve Bugeja will preview his brand new show, which he is taking to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year.
“It's called Single Mum and I'm very excited about it,” he says. “It's all about growing up with a single mum right here in Bishop’s Stortford.
"She had various boyfriends through my childhood and I was there to help her vet them and help her find her Prince Charming all while still learning my times tables.
"I've been previewing it all over the country and I'm really proud of it. It's packed with jokes and hopefully leaves people feeling uplifted.”
Steve recently launched a new podcast, This One Time at Summer Camp, where he chats to people who have been to and worked at American summer camps.
“It's full of great stories and unique memories, and I'm hoping to record more soon,” he adds. “At the start of the year I also filmed a short film which is due to be shown at film festivals this summer. I'm currently working on a sitcom project with a friend, which is taking up a lot of my time.”
Writing and performing five Edinburgh shows has been simultaneously challenging and rewarding.
“Bit much, isn’t it! I guess it gets easier in some ways because I've now learnt so much about how to construct a show and how to go about testing it. But generating new material and new ideas is always difficult. Writing a new hour of stand-up may not seem a lot of work to do in a year, but for every hour of stand-up I do on stage in the final show, I probably have to write four or five hours of ideas, most of which fall by the wayside. But I absolutely love writing new shows and performing them – it's what makes me feel so lucky to do this job.”
Up to now Retune has mainly focused on musical artists for its live shows, which will make Steve’s set even more special. Having comedy as a creative outlet has been very important for him.
"Comedy is my life and I find the creative outlet hugely rewarding. The buzz I get when a new joke works is unrivalled to anything else. I also find it empowering being able to talk about personal issues on stage and turn them into routines.
“Comedy has been the constant in my life over the past eight years. Whatever's going on for me personally, I've always kept getting up on stage and telling jokes, and I guess in that sense it's been a huge support.”
Joe Slater says that the audience can expect ‘a great party’ when he takes the stage, Scouse rock’n’soul at its best. This year has been busy for him, with two sold-out shows in Liverpool (Parr Street, Studio 2) and London (Green Note, Camden) followed by the release of his EP State of the Ark.
“I’m now getting ready for festival appearances at Isle of Wight, Cornbury and LIMF,” he said. “Next month I’m back in the studio to begin the writing process for new music, which I’m hoping will be out for the end of the year. The journey for each collection of songs I write is always different, so I’m excited to find out what this process will bring.
“Liverpool is a very ‘real' place and a lot of great music has come from there and will continue to do so, so I feel it continuously challenges me to be my best as a live performer and songwriter.
“Music and creativity has done a lot for me in my life. Not only has it given me a living, but it’s always there for me. It’s been my saviour. Without it, my world would be black and white."
Monochroma are comprised of TBSHS students Izzy Baker, Libby Slow, Ari Sanozidis, Katy Thomas and Amber Butcher. They will be playing acoustic songs, including originals and some stripped-back covers. “We hope to create a chill atmosphere for everyone,” says Izzy.
“So far this year we've started playing monthly sets at Thirst Youth Cafe's music night. We've performed at the Soul Lounge at our school and continue to record originals and covers to upload to our YouTube channel.
“After recording some of our originals in a studio last year, we're focusing on perfecting these songs to perform at events. We also hope to release some of our recorded songs on Spotify.”
The band has been going for three years and was formed at a previous school.
“We really enjoy the fact that we all ended up at the same school for sixth form, as it allows us to practise and perform at school as a whole group," said Izzy. "We've learnt a range of songs and harmonies together. Not only this, we've influenced each other’s music tastes by introducing new artists and genres that we could potentially perform.
“Music is a great stress relief for all of us, especially when facing the pressures of school work and other commitments. It also allows us to be creative, especially when writing new songs together or individually. Also, our interest in music means we regularly go to see live artists perform, so we're constantly inspired to continue performing and writing music.”
Ciara Vizzard will also perform in the evening, and her haunting vocals and stellar songwriting are not to be missed.
Josie Stephanie, Scarlet Thomas, Steve Warner, Hannah Smith, Kate Malden, Jay Williams and Amy Lou will feature in the open mic.
For more information about Retune, visit www.retune.org.uk or follow @RetuneUK.
More by this authorPaul Winspear