Now there’s an album …

I’ve been banging on about The Light Keeper novel for a while – and obviously I would still very much like you to get a copy, spend time in that world where the seabirds soar and fall in love with the characters – but now I’d like to mention something else. There’s an album. A collection of songs, written by myself and the musician David Perry in response to the story and the characters of Sarah, Jack and Gabe, the Keeper. This summer we slipped into the Saffron Lounge studio, run by our mighty friend and producer Bruce Pont within walking distance of the cliffs where the story happens, to record the songs as live, playing and singing together. Bruce added voice, drums and keys and Phoene Cave, a very fine singer, gave us backing vocals. Then I recorded extracts from the novel to set up each song. The result is The Light Keeper by The Light Keepers (see what we did there?) and it’s available now on iTunes, Spotify and all the usual streaming services as well as for direct download here. What does it sound like? The best way to tell you is to play you something, so here below is Holding Out For More, a song about the love between the Keeper and his partner Rí in their early days. Hope you like it. Let me know. We’ll be launching the album in the cinema of the Towner, a world class gallery, on Thursday December 5 at 7.30pm. Tickets are available here. The performance will feature readings, the stories behind the novel and the songs as well as images from visual artists who have responded to the same stunning landscape. See you there, if you can make it. If not, settle down, choose your player and have a listen to The Light Keeper. Thanks.

Holding Out For More by The Light Keepers
The Light Keepers performing in the Lantern Room of the Belle Tout lighthouse.

Singing in the room where it happens …

This isn’t a tribute to Hamilton, although that is an astonishing piece of work. Wonderful. No, this is about the privilege of telling a story in the room where the action takes place, and singing songs inspired by that story there too. The video is below, have a watch. When I started out writing The Light Keeper a long time ago, I was living in a new town by the sea, trying to get used to it all and looking for friends. I walked the landscape around Belle Tout, Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters with an open mind and heart, looking for a way to respond to it as I had the landscape of the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry for the book Hungry for Home. I was hungry for home when we came to live here; hungry for a place to settle, raise kids and belong. So what a joy to be able to go up into the Lantern Room of the Belle Tout lighthouse and tell stories and sing songs from The Light Keeper, which opens and closes with scenes in that very room. The views are breathtaking, genuinely, as you will see during this performance filmed by Neil MacInnes. The song is Come Way, written by myself and David Perry, who is on guitar and vocals, with Bruce Pont and Phoene Cave also singing. Thank you to David Shaw, the lighthouse owner, for making it possible and for the manager Ian Noall for hosting us with a small audience. The great news is that we are hoping to do it again in the Spring, and there will be another chance to win tickets. In the meantime, you can come and hear the stories and songs at the National Trust Cafe at Birling Gap this Saturday at 5pm. This will also be very special, as it is another place where the action of the story happens and it too is right on the edge of the cliff. Tickets are available here. Get yours now because there aren’t many left. But also have a look at this, for a taste of what you will hear.

Have a listen …

My friend George Luke has a show on Chiltern Voice, playing music from around the world on a Sunday night. It’s really fantastic. You can listen to it here. Inspired by that, for the love of music and the fun of it, I’ve started putting together a weekly playlist of seven songs I’ve found (or re-found) in the last seven days. Here’s this week’s playlist featuring a bit of Doors at the disco, a Welsh language singer making a samba record with musicians in Rio, Afrobeat master Tony Allen going all James Bond followed by a track he made with Fela Kuti and the great drummer Ginger Baker, who died today; then there’s a song about love making you want to blow up like an atom bomb, followed by a real (as far as I know) recording of a radio advertisement from the Fifties, telling American kids what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. Duck and cover. That one’s pretty disturbing. Anyway, here it is. Any suggestions for next week? Please do comment and share.

Syrian Dreams in the Cuckmere Valley

Last night at the Lapwing Festival I watched and listened to the Syrian musician Maya Youssef play a piece of music called Syrian Dreams, which she wrote after watching the news with her young son asleep on her lap in London, seeing a child of the same age in a war zone familiar to her from home, who had died. It’s a piece that expresses both sadness and hope, and special in itself, but seeing it in that location was extraordinary. The sides of the tent were open, the breeze was on our faces, there were flaming torches to keep us warm and beyond that was the Cuckmere Valley with the chalk faces of the Seven Sisters looking out to sea. It’s one of the great views of the world, expressed in art of all kinds many times, and it has come to represent a certain kind of idyllic Englishness. There were certainly people in the audience who had grown up with or aspired to that ideal. But last night, migrating geese were passing and calling as Maya played, bringing their life and energy from elsewhere in the world. The cliffs were a reminder that although we like to think this time and place is all there ever was or will be, they’ve been both present and continually changing as the sea washes up against them for centuries. For millennia, actually. Heading that gorgeous, profound music that comes from both here and there, seeing that landscape that is both ancient and always changing, I thought about the ways we define ourselves and our borders against the Other, whatever we perceive it to be. And in that moment, in that time and place of connection and humanity and beauty and resonance, all our borders seemed to dissolve and there was no them, just us. One moment doesn’t seem enough. I wish we could live like that all the time, the world would be a better place if we could only connect.

Here’s the piece, have a listen. If you’d like to hear the podcast about the festival I made with Emily Jeffery it’s at http://www.edgeofengland.com or on iTunes as Edge of England, episode four.

Continue reading “Syrian Dreams in the Cuckmere Valley”

Standing on the Edge of England

I’ve been making a podcast with my friend Emily Jeffery, an award-winning presenter and producer, about the landscape in which we live, down here on the southern Edge of England. There’s a dog called Mabel, a Spitfire that haunts us, a lighthouse and a lot of cliffs, some incredible stories and a beautiful bit of Bach by the beach. The first season of six episodes is on iTunes or you can listen to all of them on the website www.edgeofengland.com.

Thanks, do share if you like it and let me know what you think.