hin.

A little update whilst I find a quiet moment. I say quiet, my neighbour is having an adjacent wall knocked down and BBC 6 Music are having a ‘rave day’. But the dog is asleep, and my coffee has gone cold so….

This past weekend I was at the Sickroom Studios with BROADS working on the final tracks for our project. I’ve got really fond memories of spending time here with both Mark and James, during the recording of their Field Theory LP and way back when I did some guest vocals for previous incarnation Tiger MCs. As someone with a bit of a fear of recording, the Sickrooms is a joy. Nestled in the West Norfolk countryside, surrounded by the trees, birds, chickens, with the world’s friendliest dog, and with equally friendly and calm producer Owen Turner. It felt right to be recording this in rural Norfolk, finalising the tracks for a a body of work which explores Norfolk places, some hidden, some known, some personal to us.

I had been struggling to find my own place in this project, it has brought up a lot of feelings of inadequacy, a frustration with myself that I pigeonholed who I am as an artist very early on and that my fears have stopped me from expanding beyond this. It surprises most people that I listen to music that is very different from the music I make, not through a lack of joy in this genre, but because I am in awe of artists on the opposite end of the spectrum. Anything electronic to me is a marvel, a wonder, I wish I knew how to approach it. The musical grass is always greener. This weekend’s recording and spending time with BROADS has given me an insight into this, unmasking the mysteries, and allowing me to find some space within it. I still find it hard to experiment, to think of myself as a maker of music and sound, and not just a writer of lyrics.

We’re excited to share the songs with you. There was nothing more finer a moment than listening to the mixes whilst driving home under a broad Norfolk sky.

Norfolk dialect: Hin, A chicken.

“Hold yew hard”

A few weeks ago I found out we’d been successful in an application to Arts Council England for funding for a project exploring places in Norfolk through sound, music and archive film.

It means I’ll get to collaborate again with B R O A D S, otherwise known as James Ferguson and Mark Jennings. It has also set me a pretty scary new challenge, to respond to places and footage without using words…….

My whole musical identity is about words, I’ve never felt like a particularly accomplished musician (not downplaying here, I genuinely only know a few self-taught chord patterns and random sections of piano parts, I cobble things together and muck around on my guitar until I find something I like) and a part of this is because instruments in my songs are a vehicle for stories. And I’ve only ever been able to tell those stories through lyrics.

Approaching this project with a view to telling a story through sound is both terrifying and incredibly exciting. It opens up new possibilities. What if I use voice as instrumentation without words? What if I pick up an instrument I’ve never played before and figure out what noises I can make with it? What if it all sounds totally rubbish and Mark and James remove all trace of me from the album?

Currently we’re working on ideas using field recordings mixed with musical soundscapes and spoken words (not mine) that will become a body of work to both record and to tour in a series of Norfolk venues in 2020. Looking forward to sharing the progress.

In the meantime you can listen (and buy) the excellent new B R O A D S album here.

2019.....

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

BFI Britain on Film: Coastal

In Autumn last year we planned and delivered the last events for the Britain on Film Project. We hosted another event at the beautiful Octagon Chapel here in Norwich as part of Norwich Sound & Vision festival, and were lucky enough to partner with The Mo Museum at Sheringham to host the final event right by the sea.

I partnered with long term collaborators Mark and James who make up B R O A D S. We were lucky enough to have composer and general virtuoso Roger Eno headlining the Octagon Chapel event. We used footage of the Norfolk and Suffolk coastal region from the British Film Institute and East Anglian Film Archive, with films dating from the early 1930's right through to the 1970's.  

You can view all the films through the BFI player, but here's a few of my favourites: 

Holiday on the North Norfolk Coast (1952)

The Sea Breaks Through (1938)

North Nofolk Coast: Blakeney to Walcott (1966)

With thanks to EAFA, BFI, Cinema City Education and Norwich Sound & Vision festival.

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