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Mark Kermode: the film critic pop star

FILM critic and Screenplay curator Mark Kermode launched his forthcoming book How Does It Feel? A Life of Musical Misadventures at Mareel last weekend, with an engaging talk that included amusing anecdotes about building an electric guitar, pictures of Kermode in various different stages of adolescent pop-star preening and demonstrations of how to play the stylophone amongst other instruments.

Perhaps best known as one half of Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review on BBC 5 Live, this is Kermode’s fourth book, but his first on a subject other than film criticism – a fact he touched upon at the start of his show, explaining that every time he went to a publishing house asking to write a book about his love of music, he was asked to write a book about films instead.

It was evident throughout how much Kermode truly cared about music – opening with a section displaying pictures from his formative years in which he exhibited some questionable fashion choices with nods to the outfits of Slade and the make-up of David Bowie.

One of Kermode’s greatest strengths is his ability to captivate an audience, as he displayed throughout the Screenplay weekend, and this was on full display as he ran through stories about his various bands and their varied successes at breakneck speed, continually animated.

The revelation that his current band The Dodge Brothers had recorded their forthcoming album at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, stood out as particularly interesting.

After he brought his slideshow to a close, he demonstrated how easy it was to play numerous unusual instruments including the theremin, the chromatic harmonica and a set of practice bagpipes; a section of the show that in different hands could have been excruciating at best, but remained entertaining and comical under Kermode’s assured control.

After The Highlander, the supposedly bagpipe sounding harmonica, had been demonstrated and swiftly put back in its box the show moved on into a final Q&A before a brief book signing.

Kermode was asked at this point if music or films were his first love – to which he explained that he had wanted to become a pop star long before he had wanted to write about films.

On the basis of Saturday’s showing, it’s unlikely that he will be storming the charts anytime soon – but he certainly knows how to entertain and amuse a crowd on the subject.

Ryan Nicolson