Residency and Album Recording at Tingas Tinsley


Back in August I set up a temporary studio and creative space (yes, really) in classroom 5 at the former Nursury and Infant’s School in Tinsley, with only the roar of the M1 for company.  The vast imperial-measured spaces (everything in 3’s and 12’s), discarded child-sized furniture, and half-torn notices clinging to staple-scarred pin boards indicate it’s former purpose – up until last year it was home to Tinsley’s Infants, now bundled in across the way in the snazzily extended Tinsley Meadows School.  It has a brooding quiet, (albeit with a constant white noise hum of traffic) which is occasionally now interrupted by new sounds and visitors.  

Not necessarily that these are unwelcome interruptions –  They are being encouraged and facilitated by a strong partnership, called ‘Tingas’, between Studio Polpo, Sheffield City Council, and other groups such as Tinsley Time and Travel (Heeley City Farm), Tinsley Forum, Sheffield Hallam University’s Architecture department, and small local companies like myself and My Bright Toys.  Recent events bringing the local community back in to the building have included a Medieval Fair, Arts and local Heritage Workshops (Tinsley Time and Travel) live music session recording (Heritage Song + Guests) a henna party and a 1st birthday party!  Plans are in process to bring in a range of businesses, communities and organisations to use the spaces – from local day care charities, to skills training, carpentry and hydroponic growers!


For my part, I’ve been spending time exploring the area, and ensconced in one of the classrooms recording my new collection of songs by Victorian Sheffield Manufacturing Optician and amateur balladeer, Edward Darbyshire.  He published a collection of ballads, poems and recitations in 1885, and I’ve made it my mission to arrange and records new settings of his funny old works.  Because of the size sound of the spaces, I’ve veered way from my usual intimate acoustic fingertickled guitar, and towards overdriven electrics.    It’s sounding great, and a real step on from previous Sheffield-focused pieces I’ve recorded (see Porter Songs 1, from 2015)   I’m aiming to finish the record in November for a release in spring next year, and it’ll feature some very special guests.

I’ve invited a few friends to join me in recording short videos in different parts of the school.  So, far, flute and whistle guru and part time model Michael Walsh (aka Trad Dad) has been jamming and recording for songs on the album.  Sheffield-based musician, poet and writer Pete Green read a chapter of his wonderful Sheffield Almanac poem, as well as recording one of his songs (out online this month).  Andy Whitehouse of The Silver Darlings visited both on his own, to record his song Drunken Sailor, and with a fledgling cosmic folk-jazz quartet, playing Cherry Blossoms in the Rain.   More guests will be dropping by in the coming weeks, and the semi-regular ‘Tinsley Tunes’ series will feature a range of art from the region and beyond.

I’m also doing some R&D to see what musical activities I could offer to the local community, and assessing the demand for things like guitar clubs, choirs, music listening clubs, or music production and songwriting.  Hopefully I can find a way of bringing local people in to the space to create some special community music.

Tinsley is a place that’s had it’s fair share of interruption – a notable one being the M1 motorway, which scythed through parts of the village, leaving roads divided on either side.  Siemens Road, which the school now sits on, was once Plumper Road.  The last remnants sit stranded on the Sheffield side of the viaduct, a lone caff sitting on the corner of nothing and the edge of nowhere.


Despite, or maybe because of this, I’d recommend it as a place to work in.  Yes, it’s very cut off from the rest of Sheffield, Rotherham, even South Yorkshire.  It’s like an island of community surrounded by waves of industry, wasteland, and trunk roads.  Isolated.  It has a strange strength in that.  Very different from the rest of Sheffield, un-gentrified, full of opportunity.  And if you’re a cyclist like me, the commute up the 5 weirs walk along the River Don is like embarking on a post-industrial psychogeographic epic voyage through secret ‘Edgelands’ .

If you’re interested in getting involved in a real grass roots transformation of a great building, why not come along to one of the forthcoming events, or drop either myself or Tingas a line.  They are still keen to hear from businesses, established and startup, to take on space there, either on a permanent or irregular basis.  There are spaces to rent for one-off events and activities, and there seems to be a demand for all sorts of community activities.

Watch this space for new session videos, recorded at Tingas, and for some previews of the new Songs of Edward Darbyshire album.

For now, enjoy the special atmosphere created by Andy when he came to play a song in the assembly hall…


Sharrow Songs: Week 1

Our first community arts and heritage get-together saw the Sharrow Songs get off to a tentative but exciting start last week, as a small and passionate group of Sheffielders got together to talk all things Sharrow and Little Sheffield.

As well as talking about the history of the area we shared anecdotes about life there, and snippets from local history resources and a few locally-themed poems and song.

One of the most powerful ideas which sprung from discussion was that a Sharrow Songbook shouldn’t just explore the usual history of the area, but explore newer stories, and how it is now as a place.  Scott shared a poem, which was written by members of the Sharrow community at the Sharrow Festival 2004, in a project led by Ralph Hancock of Chantwriters.  Here it is, from the Sharrow Festival website…

Poem by Sharrow for Sharrow –

sourde: FURD (Football Unites, Racism Divides)
Ralph Hancock of Chantwriters, who spent Sharrow Festival in a deckchair, collecting lines from festival-goers to put together into a poem inspired by the day:

Thank you for the wonderful lines you wrote for a poem to celebrate
Sharrow Festival. I hope you like the edited version. One man wrote a
whole poem from which we have selected the finale of the Festival poem and others wrote a haiku and limericks.

There was one line ‘I’m not very creative at the moment’ which made us
think that on the contrary everyone at Sharrow Festival was part of the
creation of a special day, even if they couldn’t put it into words on
the spur of the moment.

We received the following thought provoking lines

I never met a white man who was white
There is power in writing

Well, you be the judges.

And we would like YOU to give the poem a title.

Put your thinking caps on and please email it to Ralph:

P o e m f o r S h a r r o w F e s t I v a l

To the Committee, team and artists
Many faces, different races
These are the places where nations unite.
Colour, vibrancy, people together
This is a place where everyone excites,
To capture this miracle in a loving way,
Sharrow Festival doesn’t happen every day.
Look around and celebrate
The community starts within you,
Each voice speaks multicultural words,
Long may it continue.
We sing in rainbow harmony all races
In a place with no pain,
Where we get on with our neighbours
Though we’re not all the same.
And it’s good to be different
We need more compassion
We need more kindness
Toward every nation.
We come as a family to meet our friends
Walk across the grass in bare feet
All cultures harmonising
The world in fun, food and music meet.
A tiny world in miniature
a wonderful mélange of cultures,
a superb melting pot
of hope for all our futures.
And when the day has to end
We reflect on our festival in Sharrow
in the oasis of Mount Pleasant Park
the show with a heart and a wow!!!

10.vii. 2004

I think we all agreed that, rose-tinted or not, the vibrancy of the writing, and the focus on the diversity and sharing nature of the community did a great job of summing up modern Sharrow.  The poem also served as a great example of the kind of creative interpretation of the place we inhabit, which Sharrow Songs is hoping to encourage.

This week, it’s ‘Show and Tell’ where people are invited to bring along an object, piece of writing, or picture (be creative!) to show to the group, and perhaps use as creative inspiration.  Scott will also be encouraging the group to write some mini-stories/verses/songs using similar inspiration, and perhaps, if we have time, a short wander around the block to search out material.

See you tonight – 7 while 9!  If we’ve popped out for ten minutes as part of a short Sharrow Explore, give us a call on 07929 316270 to find us!

Also coming soon – a draft programme for the coming weeks, with some exciting guests and activities!

Is it a Pop-up Folk Club – Is it a Local History Society?


I haven’t been able to work out where Sharrow really is.  To be honest, my attempts haven’t been all that thorough and have so far mostly consisted of looking at historical maps, and talking to local folk in the pub.  Through my, ahem, ‘rigorous’ research I’ve gathered that it seems to reach south where it rubs up against Nether Edge; north to and abrupt and noisy end at the ring road and city centre; southwest to Sharrow Head and west to Eccleshall; and east to Heeley.  The wise old internet (via postcode boundaries?) Shows the Sharrow Area here:

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 13.11.51.png

Where though are the actual boundaries and, within this area, do we also include Highfield,  St Mary’s, Lowfield,  and even the historical area of Little Sheffield?

It seems appropriate, for an area so hard to pin down, that a new project seeking to explore and interpret it, should itself start out so open-ended.  Like Sharrow, the place we will seek to explore, the Sharrow Songs project will be shaped by the people who call it home.

At the new sessions starting at Regather Works in Sheffield at the end of the month there is one clear aim – to work with whoever would like to get involved in the local community to produce a new songbook for and about Sharrow.

Initially, the sessions will be a loose get-together, for a diverse range of people who are interested in their local area, past and present, and who are interested in telling its story – all are welcome, and all art forms can contribute to the project.  Meetings will be a mix of open-floor ‘natters’, where all-comers can contribute stories, songs, research, photographs, thoughts, local legends and myths. They’ll be time to explore local history resources and space to consider creative ways to represent and reinterpret them. There are also plans to include ‘field trips’ out into the local area, to other parts of Sheffield, and to the Libraries, Archives and Local Studies.

The final product: a community created and curated publication incorporating a range of contributors and art forms.  Ambitious?  Maybe.  Achievable?  Definitely.  If the resourcefulness and entrepreneurial nature of your average Sheffield-dweller is anything to go by.

Sessions are free and will take place on Monday Evenings from 7-9pm at Regather Works, 57-59 Club Garden Rd, Sheffield S11 8BU.  There will be refreshments available including hot drinks, soft drinks, and Regather’s very own micro-brewed ale.

Email or call Scott on 07929 316270 if you’d like more information or have any questions or visit our Facebook Event or Eventbrite bookings page.

Sound Survey #1: Nether Spurgear and Holme Wheels

A shaky first attempt at a Porter Brook field recording late last night.  IMGP0835Laden with hundreds of pounds worth of very steal-able recording gear, I walk into Endcliffe Park at around ten thirty.  I’m attempting to get some clean, crisp, traffic-free recordings of the Porter Brook as it works it’s way through the remains of the centuries old weirs, sluices and goits.  It was a useful ‘trial run’, if only to demonstrate that sound recording in the great outdoors in the pitch black is unwise.

Still, complete with head torch, clipboard, tripod, headphones and, of course, my Tascam, I cut a creepy figure as I point my furry microphone at various parts of the river.

IMGP0834I focus on the action, obviously.  I want the places where the noise of the water is strong enough to drown out (no pun intended) the general background noise of trees, cars and, somehow, air.  What I get, generally, is a kind of white noise.  An harsh hissing as the river is diverted into the large mill ponds which are the clearest clue of the water wheel’s previous existence.

I’m interested in the way the two man-made processes create the harshest audio.IMGP0837  The Weir, which tricks the river into taking a diagonal path into a channel which runs into the pond. Here, the water takes on a flat, brittle, hissing sound, rather than the bubbling, trickling, varied noise of the general stream.  Similarly, at the bottom end of the ponds, a sluice gate allows overflow water to gush out violently, down prettily landscaped waterfalls back to the river below.  It’s definitely nature vs nurture.  The two ponds loom above the river silently, as it makes it’s noisy and chaotic way along towards the next man-made obstacle.

IMGP0833I try and make notes, tag my locations on the map and GPS (which makes those ‘mobile phone cackles’ at times, ruining my recording)  It’s difficult in the darkness, with the confusing light of the head torch, which destroys your peripheral vision.  I only need to see one or two other park-dwellers to get the feeling that I shouldn’t be here.  They seem like they’re ‘lurking’, but perhaps they’re just ‘sitting’.  Once you get that mindset, it’s hard to shake.  The last recording, at the bottom of Holme Wheel Pond, is cut short as I get spooked and hurry to the relative security of Rustlings Road and it’s street-lit suburban comfort.  It’s the same sensation as swimming in a dark sea, where you can’t see the bottom – my imagination  thinks the worst and I end up furiously paddling back to shore.IMGP0831

I’ll try recording at dawn next time.

10 Jun 2014 23:03 – Lat,Long:

53.3684403,-1.50903466(Holme Wheel Pond – Head, and Overflow)

10 Jun 2014 22:59 – Lat,Long: 53.36840069,-1.51145355(Weir and inlet sluice above Holme Wheel Pond)

10 Jun 2014 22:55 – Lat,Long: 53.36849862,-1.51265282(Natural dam on river upstream of Holme Wheel)

10 Jun 2014 22:49 – Lat,Long: 53.36896708,-1.51534362(River Between Nether Spurgear and Holme Wheel)

10 Jun 2014 22:47 – Lat,Long: 53.36909965,-1.51561101(Nether Spurgear Overflow)

10 Jun 2014 22:38 – Lat,Long: 53.36888273,-1.51762608(Nether Spurgear Weir)

10 Jun 2014 22:35 – Lat,Long: 53.36911645,-1.51807693(River Upstream of Nether Spurgear)

Field Trip: 10th May 2014 | Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet

The Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust put on a ‘do’ last weekend at the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, and I do like a good do.

It’s a pretty special place, the Hamlet, being one of only a few preserved historical industrial sites in the country.  More than just a museum, it’s a living, breathing place where you can immerse yourself in our local working past.

I loved wandering around with my camera, soaking up the atmosphere, taking time to imagine the place as it would have been.  It wasn’t difficult to do – the place had been restored to what seems like an authentic condition, with tools, benches, vessels and all sorts of artifacts dotted around as if the workers had just down-tools moments ago.

I’m not a believer in the afterlife, or of spirit worlds, ghosts and ghouls, but I did get the feeling that this place held a lot of lost lives within its walls.  Some of the rooms had an eerie atmosphere, I often felt as if I was getting in the way, like a Victorian ‘Teemer’ would barge past at any moment to get back to work.

When I wasn’t wandering around, daydreaming, I enjoyed the buzz of activity in the courtyard: wolfed down an amazing burger from the lovely charity-run Whirlow Hall Farm BBQ; there were rousing anthems from the Escafeld Brass Band; heritage craft displays from forging, to woodworking and weaving; cupcakes, recycled cutlery sculptures, a visit from the Lord Mayor, and displays from the local craftspeople who make Abbeydale their home.

For me, there’s so much potential for inspiration in somewhere like the AIH.  I’d love to spend time writing, playing and recording music in a venue like that.  Whenever I’ve tried writing in a different place, away from my own territory, I’m always pleased with what comes out.  AIH is also a great space for an event, with an enclosed courtyard providing a natural amphitheater, and loads of spaces in which you could set up site-specific installations.  I’m hoping that I’ll get to spend a lot of time there in the future, and that I’ll be able to tell something of its story through the music I make.

Field Trip: 8th May 2014 | The Cutting Edge

It seems there’s always lots going on in Sheffiel .  It’s not surprising given it’s long history of hard work, industriousness and graft.  I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen events listed on the brilliant ‘Timewalk Project’ Google Calendar and thought “I’ll get to the next one”.

Finally, I have an evening off, and there’s a cracking event for me to dash to in the Punto.  “A brief history of Sheffield’s involvement with the Cutlery trade” a presentation and fundraiser at the Portland Works just off Bramhall lane.

About halfway between the city centre and my house, Portland Works is a place brimming with history brought alive by a dedicated group of volunteers.  Without the hard work and passion of these people, one of the last remaining cutlery works in Sheffield was threatened with development into yet more identikit ‘luxury’ flats.

Instead, it’s now home to a bustling mix of creative and manufacturing industries.  From hand-made custom knife maker Stuart Mitchell, to fine artist Mary Sewell,  vintage vehicle restorer Jimmy Holmes to experimental electroacoustic record label Singing Knives Records, it’s all going on at the Works, where traditional industrial manufacturers work side-by-side with Sheffield creatives.

Many of the tenants were there last night for a special presentation by ‘naturalised Yorkshireman’ and owner of the Famous Sheffield Shop, Paul Iseard.  He told the story of his lifelong love affair with knifes and cutlery, how Sheffield became one of the centres for metal and cutlery manufacturing, and how changes in social dining paved the way for cutlery design innovation and development.  He also shared with us some of his prized collection, a stunning treasure trove of beautifully designed and made pieces.  I’ll be saving up to make a trip down ‘Eccy Road’ soon (I think ‘Pocket Knifes’ is my thing).

After the talk I got to meet some of the team behind the Works, and a few of the businesses based there.  I even got a ‘backstage’ tour from Carl Witham, (who is a local photographer and runs the Portland Works Studio) seeing the cramped ‘village within a village’ layout of the factory from one of the workshop roofs.    It’s easy to imagine the place one hundred years ago when Harry Brearly and Earnest Stuart were making their groundbreaking discovery of stainless steel.  Hundreds of workers, men, women and children, busily going about their back-breaking work, completing the full chain of production from metal working, to grinding, to buffing, packing and selling.

Truly a hive of industry then, just as it is now.  Long may it remain so.

The Wheels Research Reading List

Most of my time spent on the project so far has been either in the local Sheffield Libraries (long may they continue) or at home, rummaging around on the internet.  So far, these are the texts I’ve been studying in an attempt to really get to grips with the subject.

You can find a more in-depth description of these resources on the ‘research’ page here…