Music

Stone Club: The most literal rock tour you'll ever see

Combining a deep appreciation of ancient landscapes and language with music, film, and community, Stone Club is bringing hard rock(s) to festivals and events across the UK

Lally MacBeth and Matthew Shaw

Lally MacBeth and Matthew Shaw of Stone Club Image: supplied

Lally MacBeth and Matthew Shaw started Stone Club as a creative celebration of ancient landscapes and language. Through shows supporting Mercury nominee Gwenno, and at festivals across the country, they explain how they’re creating an inclusive and hopeful space to discuss the past, present and future.

We are in the middle of a Megalithic revival. It might seem odd to proclaim this in 2022 but, with a 22-date tour currently taking place for a club we dreamed up in an idle moment last November that takes its inspiration from standing stones and prehistory, it is true.  

We began Stone Club as a space for people to congregate and discuss ancient landscapes and the stones that inhabit them. It has taken us to some weird and wonderful places – from a takeover event at The British Museum, to the basement of The Social, to picnics on the moors of West Penwith in Cornwall – but mostly it has connected us to a whole community of people wandering the moors, downlands and industrial estates of Britain (and beyond) in search of stones. Stone hunters are seemingly everywhere.  

The first stop on our tour into the ancient is as the main support act for Mercury Award-nominated artist Gwenno. In homage to Gwenno’s explorations in Kernewek – the ancient language of Cornwall – we will be taking the words of Cornwall (or Kernow!) across the UK. Learning the Kernewek words for stone (men) or rock (karrek) immediately allows for a better understanding of the landscape and its surrounding features. The same can be applied in Cymraeg, Gaelic or any other language. Like the stone itself, these words are the building blocks of these landscapes and so knowing some basic words opens up a whole new level of perception about the place you are living or walking in.  

In between the Gwenno shows is Camp Good Life (September 16-18), where we will be joined by archaeologist, musician and DJ Rhys Mwyn. Rhys will take us through some simple lessons in Welsh; words that are, like our Kernewek lessons, all connected to ancient sites local to north Wales. He will also offer up a rare opportunity to handle his collection of flint arrow heads and other finds – an experience usually only available to archaeologists or museum curators. 

Through our conversation with Mwyn, we will explore the breaking down of national barriers, travelling back to a time before the Enclosures Act and land ownership, and creating a space in which to find a connection to who we are and what we have in common with those who walked the land thousands of years before us. A space not defined by modern identity, politics or race. In a similar vein, our act for the Gwenno tour, Klub Men (Stone Club in Kernewek), explores these multifaceted links to ancient landscape through two half-hour films of stones around Cornwall. These play behind us while we take listeners on a sonic tour of the world. 

Stone Club is for everyone and we wanted to represent this in our music choices, so we are spinning tunes from Ireland to Ethiopia and, of course, Cornwall makes an appearance in the form of Aphex Twin and also Brenda Wootton. 

Brenda was a legend of the folk scene in 1970s and ’80s Cornwall; her music is infused with the very essence of Cornwall and the ancient landscape of West Penwith. It felt very important to us to have some Cornish representation in our music choices. 

There’s a move in recent years towards gigs and festivals as experiences, and this is very much what we explore with Stone Club and our events. A member of Stone Club recently said to us: “You’re bringing the stones to the city”, and this is in many ways true. We are trying to replicate the experience of visiting an ancient site for those who perhaps do not have the time, money, mobility or opportunity to visit them in person. 

You might still be pondering how and why stones, pop music and prehistory all sit together? Well, another rule of Stone Club maybe comes into play here: rules are for breaking. We mean that in the most optimistic sense. We believe there’s a lot to be learned from our ancient ancestors, and their approach and care for the landscape. With Stone Club we’re really aiming to create an inclusive and hopeful environment to have discussions about the past, the present and the future – and what better way than dancing while learning Kernewek? 

Camp Good Life is on this weekend, September 16-18. Stone Club are playing selected UK dates throughout the autumn and winter. A full list of dates is available here

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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