In Collaboration

I love working with other artists. Collaborations are inspiring, allowing different perspectives and insights into other ways of working. I’ve been really lucky to have worked closely with a wide range of exceptional artists, from writing the Northumberland Millennium musical Tam Lin with composer and English concertina player Alistair Anderson, to creating radio poems like Dunstanburgh and The Refuge Box with BBC Senior Producer Julian May, to visual collaborations with photographers like Nigel Shuttleworth (The Blue Lonnen) and Jose Snook (Many Hands) and artists and print-makers like James Dodds (Longshore Drift) and Olivia Lomenech Gill (Horse).


It’s also lovely when old work is given new life by other artists. I’ve enjoyed watching dancers interpret The Refuge Box (Dansformation’s Northumbriana), and hearing the National Youth Choir of Great Britain sing my words in John Casken’s setting, Uncertain Sea. Czech composer and jazz pianist Jakub Zahradnik has made memorable settings of my Five Sea Songs, and I’ve had lines inscribed in stone, bronze, pottery and stained glass by several artists, including Michael Johnson, Graham Taylor, Catrin Jones and Bridget Jones.

There are certain artists with whom I’ve worked often over many years. This year is the 20th anniversary of The Wund an’ the Wetter, a collaboration with Northumbrian piper Chris Ormston. You can see us together in Morpeth Chantry at 4pm on Saturday April 27th (part of the 52nd Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering), and at ‘Iron Or’, the Fourth Iron Press Festival, in St George’s Church, Cullercoats at 7.30pm on Saturday June 22nd.

Since 2011, I’ve created four performance pieces and an installation with electronic composer Peter Zinovieff, and we’re about to embark on our sixth piece, Under the Ice for NUSTEM’s ‘Exploring Extreme Environments’. For this, I’ll also be working in collaboration with Antarctic scientists. Our piece will premier at the end of 2020.

This year I also look forward to further performances with composer and folk fiddler Alexis Bennett, whom I met at last year’s Dartington International Summer School. We’ll be performing there again on August 4th, as well as on board the Cutty Sark at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, on 24th May.

I have two further exciting collaborations in the offing. First, I’ve written some words in Northumbrian dialect for electronic composer Trevor Wishartfor one movement of his latest large-scale work. I can’t say too much about this yet, as it won’t premier for some time; but I have heard Trevor’s setting and I love it.

Secondly, I’m one of the writers contributing to a limited edition series of essays inspired by poet Elizabeth Bishop, produced by fine-art bookbinder Kate Holland with prints by Tom Hammick. This lovely project has allowed me the opportunity to spend time re-reading and thinking about Bishop’s work, especially her magnificent poem At the Fishhouses, the subject of my essay.