Tir Eolas and Jo Lewis in Aldeburgh – Hedi’s diary

Hedi Pinkerfeld of Tir Eolas has written this account of their residency as part of the Open Space programme. They came to Aldeburgh with the aim of creating a set of new music and artwork on the theme of the sea/seaside, based on our surroundings and the sessions at Squirrel Lodge care home.

Tir Eolas perform in front of art by Jo Lewis

I boarded the train from Liverpool Street carrying 1 x bass, 1 x guitar, 1 x duffle bag, 1 x shoulder bag, 1 x plastic bag with trainers. All this stuff meant there wasn’t enough space for me to sit with Laura and Jo, so I settled in a carriage further along where I sat opposite a girl who may or may not have been breaking up with her boyfriend on the phone, but in either case her conversation proved just far too engaging for me to be able to do any kind of meaningful reading for the entire journey. In fact, our days in Aldeburgh didn’t end up being the ideal time to catch up on reading that I kind of hoped it would be, but also totally knew it would not be. There were too many other things to be getting on with. These included:

  • Going to Ruairi’s room and playing through some ideas he had, hoping there was no one in the room directly below, and wondering exactly what the cut-off time of night was for making noise.
  • Sitting down with Jo and the group around the kitchen table with a bowl of real Kellogg’s Cornflakes and planning the workshops we would deliver at Squirrel Lodge care home.
  • Delivering those workshops.
  • Driving each morning to the Snape Maltings and spending the day writing and rehearsing new music.
  • Having a break around midday and going for lunch together at the Granary Tea Shop, where I was the most adventurous in trying out different lunch options, and also made the happy discovery that I could substitute my complimentary drink for a slice of cake.
  • Arguing about who was most insecure, generally, and other things.
  • Going back to my room at around 8pm and taking exactly 1 minute to look out at the sea only a few feet away (the housekeeper said that I was lucky to have been given the best room) before sitting down to practice.
  • Taking an evening off and surprising myself by swimming in the actual sea, in England, fully submerged etc. and to my further surprise, enjoying it (but not returning, obviously).

Our first meeting with the residents at Squirrel Lodge was a turning point. It very quickly became clear that our, in hindsight totally naïve and ignorant notions of the seaside being primarily a lovely place for all to bask in the sunshine and eat ice cream while flying kites, was indeed naïve and ignorant. Many of the residents, belonging to a previous generation, had first hand experience of being out on the fishing boats, and many of the women had husbands or brothers who would spend extended periods away at sea. A much darker narrative begun to emerge – one which encompassed the harsh realities and dangers of the fishing trade as well as the vulnerable anguish of loved ones left on land.

One particular story that the women told really moved me: Sunday was the regular day on which they used to do their laundry. But while their husbands were away, the women wouldn’t do it for fear that it would wash them away.

This story along with many others they told us, became the inspiration for the music that we then wrote during our stay.

While we were working at the Snape, Jo was going down to the beach early each morning to produce the artwork that was such a key part of the project. While trying to politely deflect the attention of interested passers-by, she used paints on long strips of paper which she then dipped into the sea, letting the water wash over them to create paintings of unique and ethereal beauty.

The project culminated in a performance at the Snape Maltings in which we showcased the new music with a backdrop of Jo’s incredible paintings. It was thrilling to perform a whole new set. Song titles included, Edge of the Ocean, Wash Him Away, Harry and Me, Oh Captain.

I was relieved that we had managed to do it. It’s always a bit of a risk because I’m never quite confident that the songs will materialise. On the train back I was carrying all my stuff again and there was no room to sit with everyone as I had to be near the luggage storage area of the carriage. By that point however I had had enough anyway and was thankful for the sounds of other voices.

Hedi

Tir Eolas and Jo Lewis, after showing new songs and art produced