FEATURE: Si Beckwith’s Weekly Thing | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The Outsider…

Last Saturday night, I found myself at Tyneside Cinema hosting a Q&A  in association (with this very NARC Magazine you’re reading the website of), for the screening of Geordie Jazz Man with producer and director Abi Lewis alongside musician Mark and writer Marshall. Before that, I got to watch the film for the second time.

It’s a quite spectacular documentary, tracking the story of one of Newcastle’s most iconic and sorely missed characters. Keith Crombie was the founder of the Jazz Cafe, and built a reputation as a unique, if regularly cantankerous man. The cafe built its reputation as a late night haunt for creatives, waifs and strays in between the times they were barred or simply turned away, which Keith was known to do.

Seeing the reaction and love in the room for a man who often didn’t give an inch and insisted on doing things his own way, constantly, was quite beautiful. During the Q&A, I asked the panel about Keith’s lasting legacy and most inspiring qualities to which Marshall replied, “he didn’t give a fuck.”

And it is that which is so critical to all that made this man great. He really didn’t. It’s not something you can bottle, it’s just there. His wry sense of humour and acerbic wit came across wonderfully on film, and it was something that never left him. He was a true outsider, and it’s these true outsiders that make every cultural scene tick.

It’s hard to imagine how somewhere like the Jazz Cafe (as it was then, though it’s still a top establishment) would thrive now, the way Newcastle looks and feels now has seen many changes, though that are of Newcastle is perhaps the most untouched (for now) and it’s a reminder that we need to relentlessly seek out these places while we still can.

Places ran by people who don’t give a fuck, artists who don’t give a fuck and putting on shows, gigs and performances that are genuinely thought-provoking and original. We’re not short of outsiders in this city, and there are still plenty of places giving platforms to these if you know where to look (and hey, we do try and write about all of them, so keep checking back) but we need to keep supporting those.

The footballer Robin Friday who was something of a cult hero, who was once told by a manager that if he knuckled down he could play for England, to which he replied, “I’m half your age and I’ve lived twice your life, fuck off.” He was an entertainer (the book, The Greatest Footballer You’ve Never Heard Of is well worth a read) who played things his own way, and once missed most of a game because he was finishing his pint, only to turn up and score the winner with an absolute worldy.  I could wax lyrical about people like this, because there’s people who’ll win medals or awards, or be rich, but it’s the weird ones that are worth adoration.

The people who don’t give a fuck and just do should be cherished, in spite of, and because of their wonderfully cantankerous natures.

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