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.

20170928_151934

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…

Advertisements

The Waterwheel Stage 2016

Looking through the Tramlines programme, I was astounded by the quantity and variety of what’s on offer during what is thought to be the UK’s largest inner city music festival.  The Folk Forest at Endcliffe Park, this year bigger than ever, and with a lineup which offered a wonderfully left-field take on ‘folk’ (Gwenno, Teleman, Jane Weaver and Field Music among loads of other great acts) has expanded their festival within a festival along the Porter Brook all the way to Shepherd Wheel, with the very first ‘Waterwheel Stage’.

20160724_154233

A collaboration between the Folk Forest, Heritage Song (me), Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust and Friends of Porter Valley, and with financial support from the Arts Council and Year of Making Sheffield, the full day of music and spoken word brought together the community in a shared love of Shepherd Wheel and the Porter Valley.  As well as wonderful entertainment all day, the FoPV ran a refreshment stall with delicious cakes and drinks, and the Hangingwater Allotments offered mouthwatering cakes and provisions.

Running with the Heritage Song ethos of making everything we do site-specific, the line up of acts each fitted the venue in their own way.

Opening the day’s entertainment: Keith, one of the two SIMT engineers who look after Shepherd Wheel each weekend.  How apt that someone who spends so much of their time working at this place should open the event.  As one visitor tweeted…

Who knew that the engineers at SIMT were so talented?

Keith did a wonderful job of warming up the crowd with his eclectic mix of traditional and modern folk, (and a Kinks number!), beautifully played and sung.

Next up, creating a really special atmosphere in their 19th Century costume, local theatre group Deny Edwards Players appeared as if transported from the past to sing excerpts from their 50th anniversary production of The Stirrings of Sheffield on Saturday Night.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Stood out in front of the grinding hull, they drew an intrigued mix of fans and passers-by as local families, joggers and dog walkers wandered over from the Whiteley Woods path to hear their powerful renditions of Stirrings ‘greatest hits’.  Their run at the Library Theatre in Sheffield starts on tuesday, so get your tickets now (we’ll be there on Wednesday)

I dusted off my flat cap to play a short set of site-specific tunes picked from my recent local heritage musical walking tours of the Porter Valley.  As well as local ‘classics’ The Grinders Hardships and The Jolly Grinder, I sang about local stories such as the Edwardian newspaper article about a summer Sunday night in Endcliffe Woods  (The Rising Generation), and a tune dedicated to the stepping stones of the Porter Brook called, imaginatively, Stepping Stones.  I enjoyed playing to an appreciative audience, as we huddled beneath the porch to shelter from the rain showers.  Keeping the tone relatively ‘light’ for me (I chose to skip The Cruel Mother adaptation I occasionally sing to tell the story of the Shepherd Wheel pond drownings)  a highlight was singing my friend Mike’s anthem for the Porter Valley, Down the Porter, which you can listen to here, in a slightly 80’s setting I recorded for my Porter Songs 1 album

Pete Green is a Sheffield-based writer, poet and musician who I’ve wanted to see perform for a while.  A cancellation made a slot available for him, and he very kindly agreed to play at short notice.  The fact that his new Album was officially released that day added to the serendipity.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In Pete’s words he “…writes about coastlines, islands, edgelands, walking, music, love, sex, railways, football, whisky, underachievement, and getting lost”.  His exploration of the ideas of changing places, and traces of lost  histories chimed really well with the site. Poems Songs such as Dimished, Dream of Firsby Station and When I Close My Eyes I See the Sea  expressed a kind of ‘Sheffield Saudade’, a reaching out for a missing something.  My favourite moment was his reading of an excerpt of his new long-form poem Sheffield Almanac, soon to be published, which drilled into the heritage of Sheffield’s crumbling industry, and its complex relationship between past, present and future.

Nat Johnson had decided to have a year off performing at Tramlines, but she has such a soft spot for Shepherd Wheel and the Porter Valley that she gladly made an exception in order to perform with her band at the Waterwheel Stage.  Wow, what a coup. Like all of the acts, her performance far exceeded my expectations (despite me knowing how good her music is)   She turned up, plugged in, and set free a beautiful set of thoughtful and playfully ethereal songs.  At one point, a song or two into the set, I put my sunglasses on to hide the fact that I was welling up a bit.  That’s how perfect her music was in that moment for me. Her connection with nature, life, thought and creativity is deep and very meaningful, and it’s clear to see why she attracted such a large following of lovely fans up to Whiteley Woods.  In fact, at  one point even a local heron swooped by a few times to have a closer listen.  Charming the birds from the trees, then.

The Urban Forest temporary poetry collective arrived at Shepherd Wheel just in time to catch Nat’s performance, and followed it with readings from their brand new anthology of poems written for their poetry trail that day.  Led by Oliver Mantell, the poets…

Elizabeth Barrett
Genevieve Carver
Mark Doyle
Angelina D’Roza
Suzannah Evans
Chris Jones
Brian Lewis
Oliver Mantell
Julie Mellor
Fay Musselwhite
Ruby Robinson
Shelley Roche-Jacques
Steve Sawyer
Linda Lee Welch…

shared their diverse responses to the area with some stunning spoken word.  Thought-provoking, passionate, witty, individual, and varied, their roaming community of creatives gave the audience a moment to rest, close their eyes, listen and reflect.   See a map of the poems (yes, that’s correct, isn’t it great) here and look out for the anthology for sale now in local book shops.

Jim Ghedi and Toby Hay rounded off the day with a rush of magical music.  Combining two guitars (one 12 and one 6-string) they’re quickly amassing a collection of breathtaking duets. There’s a vastness to the sound they make together and the guitar parts are carefully intertwined, sounding simultaneously together and distinct.  As well as intricate, multi-layered textures, they weave haunting melodies and driving rhythms through their pieces. Here’s a great example of the special sound they create:

Considering they’ve only been playing as a duo for less than a year, it’s staggering how well they’ve gelled, and exciting to think what they’ve yet to produce.  They each have solo albums out now, and are currently recording their work together, which I’m looking forward to hearing.

So, the first of many perhaps?  A huge thanks to everyone involved, and I hope to see you there next year!

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

Sharrow-Songbook-eventbrite-HEADER

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 scott.russell@heritagesong.org 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.