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Pretty to gritty: album gives a feel for real Britain


It is often said people ‘get a feel for a place.’ That’s just what Colin Riley’s new album, In Place, conjures up – a sonic sense of some locations dotted round Britain.

Inspired by how places make people feel, it mixes new contemporary music, live field recordings and words from leading British writers to evoke a certain sense of place.

The composer, based at Brunel University London, commissioned eight writers to answer the question, ‘what does a sense of place mean to you?’ He wrote a contemporary song cycle around their responses.

From Scotland’s stunning Cairngorms and Wales’s Pembrokeshire coast to South Mogden Sewer Works and Brent Cross Shopping Centre, the ten tracks tie to ten places across the British Isles.

“I was looking for authentic voices,” said Colin. “Women, men, people with different ages and cultural backgrounds, with things to say about what place means to them in 21st-century Britain.”

“People could easily think it’s all about meadows and fields and Wordsworth tradition,” he said. “But actually, it’s not.”

Composer Colin Riley

The album is already morphing into a wider cross-arts project. A new film for each of the ten songs, plus educational outreach and research into how ageing and sense of place connect for wellbeing, will add to the anthology of new poetry tied to the music.

Two of the writers, Nick Papadimitrou and BBC Radio 4 poet in residence Daljit Nagra, teach at Brunel. Nick Papadimitrou is someone fascinated with London’s underbelly. “For him, it’s not about the ancient monuments and palaces,” said Colin. “He is all about underpasses, sewage works and hinterlands between car parks and hedgerows.”

Dajit Nagra writes about a stall in Southall selling Jalebi sweets that for him stirred the memory of a homeland. That gave Colin the idea to record the actual street sounds of Southall. From there, he mixes speaking and singing with Bhangra-like undertones.

Jackie Morris, co-author of the recent best-selling The Lost Words with Robert MacFarlane, who also features, describes where she lives and works on the Pembrokeshire coast. She talks about the wildlife, where the sea meets the land and how humans are such a small part of this kingdom.

Another writer, Selina Nwulu,Young Poet Laureate for London, has Nigerian heritage and was raised in Sheffield. Selina writes about what a homeland means to her. She speaks searingly about the complexities surrounding the place she calls home.

Sprinkled with dialect, folksong, sounds from nature and industrial machinery, the songs are layered with meanings. Throw in times of day such as dawn and dusk and different weathers like ice, mist, rain and snow, and what emerges is a kaleidoscopic snapshot of Britain.

In Place is available on Squeaky Kate Music. Upcoming tour dates are 13 June at Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast Book Festival; 15 June at Kings Place, London Time Unwrapped; and 18 July at Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Music Festival. The band, pictured below areRuth Goller, Melanie Pappenheim, Stephen Hiscock, Kate Halsall and NeilPendelbury.

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In PLace Band Ruth Goller, Melanie Pappenheim, Stephen Hiscock, Kate Halsall, Nic Pendelbury

Reported by:

Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268176