Last weekend I was at Woodend Mill Studios in Mossley to participate in their Open Studios & Art Fair event. However, I was there to share my music and play some songs in the studio of Jude Gidney Photography rather than display artwork. I hadn’t performed for a while due to a long term health issue that had affected my voice, so there was a certain amount of nervous trepidation! As it turned out it was a gloriously relaxed couple of days with people dropping in and out of the studio, stopping to listen, to chat and enjoy…and to my relief, my voice held out, despite an impending fluey cold!
Part of the reason we were there was to raise awareness of our upcoming crowd-funder campaign for my debut album called Voice of the Moor – a collection of my original songs inspired by the voices of the hills and moors here in the UK Peak District where I have lived for the past 10 years. Many of those songs are very personal, born out of experiences with specific places and locations such as Bleaklow Moor, the Derwent Valley, Mam Tor, Nine Ladies Stone Circle. Others have been inspired by the broader experience of living on this land, being a part of it through the turning of the seasons and through relationship with the plants, trees and wildlife that I share it with.
This particular collection of songs is very important to me because of my history with this area. I arrived here feeling quite broken having left behind a life that had slowly but surely imploded until I consented to uproot and walk away. I didn’t know where I was going when I left, until I found myself here on the edge of the Dark Peak and knew that I was exactly where I needed to be…
In the course of house hunting I boarded a rickety Northern Rail train that took me out of Manchester towards Hadfield and Glossop. The scenery was much as expected for the first part of the journey…rows of terraces and chimney stacks, factories, urban road layouts, trees that looked greyed and overburdened by exhaust fumes. As we crossed the motorway things started to feel calmer. Trees looked greener and more vital. Suburbia stretched out around me in the form of clean bricked semis and tended gardens. I wasn’t paying much attention until we reached Broadbottom though, where things seemed to change dramatically…
We pulled into Broadbottom station and suddenly were surrounded by woodland and mature trees draped with ivy. The intensity of the greenery woke me up. I wondered what would come next as my journey continued. Within moments of leaving Broadbottom station, the train emerged from the trees and I gasped as I took in the incredible vista of the hills and moors stretching across my view. Something inside me rose up in sheer awe at what I was looking at.
I alighted at the next stop and stepped off the train onto a deserted platform. It was a tiny station and the track was lined with banks of bracken and foxgloves. Silver Birch, Ash and Willow let their graceful branches hang in swooping arcs over the undergrowth. The air smelled of greenery and damp soil. Silence was broken only by the calls of birds and the rustling of leaves. The feeling of peace was almost tangible and I lingered in this sensation for some moments. As I stood there, something seemed to wrap around me like a warm blanket. It filled me with a sense that if I opened my heart to the heather moorland and the gritstone hills, to the calls of the corvids and the wild berries, to the bracken and the mist and what I would come to know as the relentless rain, then I would learn to live again.
I moved into the house I had come to see that day and as I started a life there I looked more closely around me. I saw a land that had been split apart by ancient ice, that endures deep snows and wild winds that can tear trees up by the roots. This land is tough and resilient. It’s a survivor, an adaptor. For all of my fragility at that time, I knew this was true of me too. It was a powerful mirror that reminded me of my own ability to dig deep for inner resources, to endure and recover. I watched as the snow lingered in the high rock crevices till May while the spirit of regeneration worked with such determination to move life around it’s cycle, coaxing out the bees and the buds of flowers and leaves. It taught me to trust that however long this internal winter lasted, however hard and cold and dark…spring must eventually come.
Over the years spring did indeed awaken in me and brought with it a surge of creativity. The otherworldly whispers of the hills, the moors, the rocks, trees, plants and wildlife that had befriended me started to be expressed through song, through clay, through paintings and drawings, through poetry and storytelling. I found them mingling with my own inner voice in conversation…sometimes serious and wise, sometimes smiling and laughing, sometimes silent and simply present. I felt these voices embrace me as a part of their diverse circle of life, giving me a sense of belonging when I felt lost and afraid of what was ahead.
At some point I had become that bee, allowing myself to be coaxed from the shadows of winter to feed on the nectar. I felt these strong hills supporting me like benevolent giants. They shored up my wounds and encouraged me to unfold, to know myself as a creature of the earth. I found myself opening to the light of spring and allowing it to move me into a fuller expression of myself. This process happened over many years and over time led to the creation of the songs that I am intending to record. For me, many of these songs are really love songs and offerings of gratitude for that journey of healing and transformation that this land has made possible.
This is a video of the title track…Voice of the Moor…set to images of the beautiful landscape that I fell in love with…
We invite you to join us on Facebook as we work on this exciting new project…you can follow our progress from the crowd funder through to the recording and beyond. I am so happy to finally be able to share these songs with others and to honour the magic and beauty of this awe-inspiring place 🙂
UPDATE: Our crowdfunder is now live! Come and take a look!