It’s been an interesting year, creatively, personally, politically (!). We naturally feel reflective in January, and it’s easy to focus on the things not achieved, the time not well spent, the things not said, the places not visited. I’m trying, as ever, to think a bit more positively and look at the highlights as well as some projects I’d like to focus on for 2019.
High points this year included getting to work with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and perform again at Cley Marshes- one of my favourite places in the world. My friends B R O A D S released an excellent album that I got to sing on, they have another one out this year. I also ran some lovely songwriting workshops with primary pupils as part of Norfolk & Norwich Festival.
I also worked with long time collaborators and general local legends BBC Introducing in Norfolk, I’m constantly reminded how lucky we are to have them. Last year we put together an event to commemorate Remembrance Sunday, and Gary from the BBC approached me to work on sourcing some archive film to use as part of the evening. We wanted to focus on the themes of remembrance and legacy, from all wars and current and future conflicts. I chose this film featuring footage from 1944 at USAAF Honington for excellent local visual artist and VJ Liam Roberts to play with. For my set, I spent ages trawling the treasures of the East Anglian Film Archive for something with a wartime theme that I’d be able to compose too. Most of the films I’ve used before have documented life, allowing me to find a narrative within the reality, picking out a person or character and giving them a history (part truth part fiction). This time I stumbled upon this, a film from 1941 filmed in London, described as one woman experiences the loneliness of war. The screen setting referred to an original soundtrack which is probably now lost forever, but it’s silence left it open to interpretation. I love it, it’s slightly eerie, lingering on shots and scenes, the play with light and shadow is beautiful and I even love the slightly bizarre elements (such as the unlikely nuclear-like scene in the middle…). So I wrote her a story, again part based on it’s existing narrative and part my own fiction of how it is to be left behind, as so many women would have been.
BBC Introducing did a fantastic job of bringing together a diverse range of artists and performers including spoken word, poetry, rap, and an incredible sound piece by Norfolk and Norwich Sonic Arts Collective (NNSAC). The whole evening flowed well, helped by the beautiful setting of Norwich’s Octagon Chapel. A really moving point for me was a poem by Piers Harrison-Reid, part of the Billy Pilgrim and the Heartsease Kid collective, we crossed over in theme, dwelling on grief and loss and futility.
So, a funny twist to this ramble. BBC Introducing had intended to record all of the audio from the event and turn this into a show to be played on BBC Radio Norfolk on Remembrance Sunday itself. About a week after, I had an emotional email from Gary, a man who I have only ever seen remain calm and composed. The audio had been corrupted and was un-usable. Amazingly all of the artists involved managed to pull together something to put into the final show, I had a particularly fun morning recording a version of my song in the BBC Look East studio (only piece of insight here is that it’s much smaller than it looks on telly).
You can listen to the final show online here. BBC Introducing are not going to agree with me but there is something peaceful and poignant about the evening itself being un-recorded, un-documented and as it was in a moment in time.
I’m not sure what this year will hold. There’s an album, or at least a body of work, in me somewhere that I need to find a way of unlocking. There’s also some projects developing further the learning and participation side of my work. I’d like to collaborate and create as much as possible (get in touch!). My hope is that I will reach this point next year and be able to focus on things achieved, time well spent, things said, places visited.
2019. Raise a glass. May it be fulfilling and creative.
© image by Richard Shashamane || Stills from Alone (1941) from the East Anglian Film Archive