Live Review: Clive at Stillington Mill, North Yorkshire

It sure is nice to have live music back in our lives. Our first live review since the end of lockdown is something of an unusual one – a new venue for us and a gig unlike any other we’ve attended.

Review by Graeme Smith

Photos by Ruth Hunter and Graeme Smith

At The Mill is a programme of live events all taking place at Stillington Mill, an out of the way rural venue tucked away at the outskirts of the tiny North Yorkshire village of Stillington, north of York. To get to the venue itself you must wind down country lanes, parking your car at a nearby farmyard and then proceeding on foot to a small, unassuming building made of stone.

If that all sounds a bit daunting, you’re sure of a warm welcome when you arrive. We were even greeted by a puppy that later went on to steal the show somewhat. That’s to take nothing away from the evening’s entertainment – Clive – anyone would struggle to compete with the natural entertainment value of a puppy.

Clive is a new performing name, but the person behind it is well-known in the York scene. Some years ago I was introduced to him through his series of By Candlelight gigs, which included an appearance by the cult favourite Nizlopi. He’s also one of the founders of Gobbledigook theatre troupe and has done a lot of theatre beside. He is, of course, Phil Grainger.

With a background in theatre and performance, we were of course treated to a charismatic set from Phil. You could sense the excitement to be back performing after lockdown from him and he used the occasion to try out new things and play some old favourites for the fans who’d made the trip out to see him.

His set was broken into two halves: the first acoustic, the second electric. It was largely a one man show but he was joined a couple of times by his performance partner Alexander Wright, who injected verses of spoken word poetry into his songs. Also joining him were musicians and poets in absentia. In one of the more experimental moments of the night, a friend of theirs from their time in Australia joined them via a laptop recording.

Even more experimentally, Phil decided to perform a couple of Disney covers. Nothing strange about that, except they were songs he’d never played or sung before and he had audience members choose the songs at random for him to play. The effect was somewhat chaotic but Phil had enough charm to pull the whole bit off and I still had the lyrics from Under The Sea playing through my head for the whole of the next day.

Overall, the show had a DIY and familial feel to it. There were anecdotes aplenty and an intimate and heartfelt solo performance, all taking place on a stage and surrounded by benches that Phil had helped build himself.

At The Mill is running all summer so I certainly recommend making the trip out there to experience its beautiful surroundings and take in some open air music. Phil himself will be performing again there in various guises so don’t miss out on his own unique brand of performance.

Clive played at Stillington Mill, North Yorkshire on Friday 1 July 2021.