May Day 1913 celebrations at Stocks in Bowland, Lancashire. Stocks and its neighbouring village Dalehead were submerged under the Stocks Reservoir in 1933.
The “mortuary chapel”, Stocks. This was moved brick-by-brick by the water board when Stocks was flooded, and exists in its new location to this day.
“Some 150 bodies were exhumed during 1927 and reburied in the new graveyard, including 30 unknown bodies which were buried in a special mass grave.
“The Water Board offered £15 to any family that were willing to move their own relatives’ bodies but I couldn’t say how many took ‘em up on it. If you didn’t move the bodies then the Water Board would do it anyway…” (G. Robinson)
The exhumations took place, as is traditional, at “dead of night” between midnight and 4am. It is reported that the workers involved in this task were well fortified with rum, but that the work was carried out with great decorum and respect for the dead.
Although it was felt that it was not needed as a church as there was no longer much of a congregation, some local people expressed a wish to be buried there and so the Fylde Water Board rebuilt St. James’ as a Mortuary Chapel.”
Free show in London on Thursday (6th) night. Amy Cutler’s ‘Hallaig’ exhibition looks grand.
On Thursday 13th June I’ll be performing a soundtrack to the 1939 film ‘Isles of the West’ at the Royal Anthropological Institute International Festival of Ethnographic Film at the Playfair Library, Edinburgh.
This is part of the ongoing Screen Bandita Rebel Landscapes project, and will also include performances by Alasdair Roberts, Wounded Knee and Cath & Phil Tyler.
Screen Bandita Presents: Rebel Landscapes
The Rebel Landscapes programme is drawn from the National Library of Scotland’s extensive archive and Screen Bandita have curated films that explore themes relating specifically to folklore. Local traditions, dances, crafts, fishing, crofting and music all feature, as does the landscape. But in addition to the unquestionable beauty of Scottish vistas, we wanted to represent the flip-side of the coin: the brutality of natural processes and the trials faced by the rural dwellers who struggled to draw a living from the land.
We wanted to avoid the blind reverence and nostalgia that is endemic to most archive-themed events, and have challenged our musical collaborators to create soundtracks that would not just jauntily accompany the films, but actively interact with the images to tease out a particular strand of meaning or follow a wild, unexpected tangent.
We project the programme from archival 16mm prints, believing that the aesthetic inherent in actual reels of film offers a very tangible and direct sense of connection with the people and places etched into the faded celluloid. We very much hope this dynamic fusion of ideas, themes and visuals will also provoke reflection on the part of the viewer.
The event is a ‘tip of the hat’ to folklore in all of its many manifestations, but crucially it is a celebration of the forgotten faces and unspoken lives of ‘ordinary’ people, whose existences and ways now appear alien, distant and utterly extraordinary. It is an opportunity for a contemporary audience to bring their enthusiasm to the continuation of the strong, sturdy legacy of Scottish folklore, archival film and the rebellious, rambunctious music of the people.
At the weekend, Tom and I will be playing undersea cable drones, echoing shotgun recordings and fractured snatches of birdsong at Field Day festival, and wittering a bit about it all.
The ‘Charcoal Black and the Bonny Grey’ 7” single is released today.
Read more and order one here.
Our pair of Folklore Tapes shows start tomorrow. Here’s a few recent interviews published about them:
Order the new single:
CHARCOAL BLACK AND THE BONNY GREY 7”
Pre-order the ‘Charcoal Black and the Bonny Grey / Shallow Brown’ 7” here.
I’m away on a short solo UK tour at the end of April, dates below. There’s still a couple of dates to be confirmed, so if you’d like to plug a geographic gap, let me know.
17 April: St Andrews Barron Theatre (info and tickets)
24 April: Glasgow Glad Cafe. Folklore Tapes night with Iona Magnetic, Ian Humberstone & Malcolm Benzie, Tom Western and David Orphan (info and tickets)
25 April: Edinburgh Scottish Storytelling Centre. Folklore Tapes night with Iona Magnetic, Ian Humberstone & Malcolm Benzie, Tom Western and David Orphan (info and tickets)
27 April: London St John’s Church Bethnal Green with Dean McPhee (info and tickets)
29 April: Cambridge CB2’s with Dean McPhee and C Joynes (info and tickets)
2 May: Bristol Cafe Kino
FOLKLORE TAPES NIGHTS IN SCOTLAND
Folklore Tapes is an ongoing research and musical heritage project covering and soundtracking the folklore of the UK in volumes of tapes housed in bespoke books, boxes and hand stamped envelopes, which have included contributions from artists such as Dylan Carlson (Earth), Paper Dollhouse, Anworth Kirk, David A Jaycock and Dean McPhee.
This pair of specially curated nights in Scotland on 24/25 April will host Rob St. John’s release of the ‘Charcoal Black and the Bonny Grey’ 7” single (including a live performance); a bespoke performance based on Iona folklore by Iona Magnetic; the first live outing of a collaboration based on Devon witchcraft between Ian Humberstone and Malcolm Benzie (eagleowl, Withered Hand); a presentation on traditions and practice of folk song and field recording by Tom Western; and music and projections from David Orphan (Folklore Tapes / Finders Keepers).
‘CHARCOAL BLACK AND THE BONNY GREY’ SINGLE
I’m putting out a new single on Mayday (1 May), a 7” single of two traditional songs ‘Charcoal Black and the Bonny Grey’ and ‘Shallow Brown’. If you’ve been to a show in the last year, you’ve doubtless heard both.
The recordings were done in a day with a Coven Choir of Tom Western, Bart Owl, Malcolm Benzie and Owen Williams, and are a fair bit more free-form and fractured than anything we’ve done before. Motorik beats on a pommel horse, recorder and violin trills, group singing and rolling organ. More info on this to come, pre-order link up here.
CAUGHT BY THE RIVER AT FIELD DAY
I’ve been working with Ceri Levy on a project called The Bird Effect: a film and exhibition about people’s engagement with the environment, specifically through birds, in particular bird migration, extinction and hunting. I’ve been taking field recordings with Ceri since the start of 2012 across the UK and Europe, working towards a set of sounds for the film and exhibition, mixing field sounds with drones and filtered melodies.
The good folks at Caught by the River have asked me and Tom Western to come down to London on 25th May to present some sounds and have a bit of a chat about the work at the Field Day festival. There’s a great line-up of people spanning music, art and writing, including Bob Stanley, Jonny Trunk, Melissa Harrison, Cheryl Tipp and Roy Wilkinson.
OTHER ODDS AND SODS
Recording for the second LP is about to start. A set of songs I’m excited about. 2008’s Like Alchemy EP sold out pretty sharpish, and has now been digitally reissued here.
That’s it for now. Cheers.
This is at the weekend. Tom Western and I will be playing undersea drones, hunter’s shots and snatches of birdsong and wittering a bit about it all.
Projects & Writing updated
Some new information on projects I’ve been working on, and bits of writing about the environment, arts and music here.
Sold out Like Alchemy EP (2008) available digitally
Originally released (and sold out) in 2008 on 250 hand stamped, recycled copies through Fife Kills: records. Recorded in Stockbridge Parish Church in Edinburgh over one evening with minimal overdubs. Available here.
Shadows and Reflections on Caught by the River
A few words on the turning year for Caught by the River: on record buying in sheds, recording Maltese hunters, submerged Cornish drones and 6am shows in hurricanes.
Stuck for a present (for yourself)? ‘Weald’ is available on CD for a tenner here. Happy winter.