Turning Leaves

Once more blessed Autumn scatters gold among the leaves and Samhain draws near. Far off memories live again in the body, the town moor in Newcastle at life’s dawn, dusk light on the red brick walls of the back lane in sweet secret melancholy of post-industrial decay. Riding the swings through torrents of the imagination to the Great Waterfall of the West, dark pictures on the walls that speak mysteries, visions of a world before your life began, strange echoes in a child’s soul. 

Time of endings and beginnings, dying of leaves and tending of seeds. Wind and light quicken the life force even as we enter the cold and turn inwards. A time for dreaming. 

Our last update here was back in February, not long before the advent of the historic and troubling epoch of the Covid-19 pandemic. Strange to look back to that month when we were readying ourselves for a tour in Holland and Germany with many other good gigs on the horizon. The live music scene pretty much collapsed before we hit the road and we still don’t know when it might return or in what form. Our hearts and solidarity go out to all those who have suffered in these challenging times and also to those who are taking risks to keep performing the essential work of society, nurses and support workers, growers and harvesters of food, people working through the night in logistical chains to make goods appear in the morning, shop attendants, refuse collectors and countless others. The Pandemic has been a stark reminder that those who perform some of the most crucial work and make the biggest sacrifices in our society are among the least recognised and remunerated. It has reminded us that we live in a country where most people are subordinate to the requirements of capital and policy is tailored to the interests of the rentier class and government ministers’ friends in the corporate sector who are busy bungling and dismantling our outsourced public services. In possession of all the facts and with the now undeniable ability to make major structural interventions in the economy, the ruling elite still chooses to sail onwards towards climate catastrophe as its toxic media works constantly to undermine truth, stoking up migrant fear to distract people from the blazing reality that those in power are both incompetent and parasitic. Meanwhile the Chancellor uses the terminology of ‘viable’ and ‘unviable’ jobs and suggests those working in the arts should retrain. When a cabal of bankers brought about the 2008 financial crash through unfettered greed we seem to recall they were given an astronomic bailout at public expense rather than being asked to seek other work. Perhaps the chancellor and his whole party should seek other work, that would really give us all a break. With little opposition coming from a new Labour leadership that has apparently sold out and retreated from the brave experiments of the past five years, it seems we must rely yet more deeply on the resilience of our communities and the compassion and solidarity that connects human hearts. 

Having very few gigs it has been a time for practising and working on music and there have certainly been blessings for us in the reduced outward busyness of these times. In the early days of the lockdown we started a Patreon page and this is becoming a major focus of our work at the moment. Here we are aiming to regularly release music, videos and writings specially for our community of supporters. As well as offering working versions of new original songs, we are also planning a series of traditional repertoire from Northumberland and the Borders and are feeling inspired by the process of recording performances on long distance walking and camping trips. Recently we did a walk of several days from Traquair Kirkyard in the Scottish Borders where our grandparents are buried, south to St Mary’s Loch and back via Yarrow through a land rich in balladry and story. We learned two Border ballads for this trip and filmed versions of them (as well as various other songs and instrumental pieces) at places on our way that were intimately connected with the tales. We aim to go on more such journeys over the coming months and continue documenting them and releasing material. If anyone is interested in becoming a monthly subscriber to our Patreon page or would just like to check it out you can find it here https://www.patreon.com/thebrothersgillespie. Please share the page if you’re interested. We would like to express our deep gratitude to all our Patreon supporters, it is vital support at a challenging time and is really helping to keep us focussed and connected with our work. 

Another project that we’re excited about is the formation of a new folk theatre troupe with our wonderful myth-weaving puppeteer friend Andy Bates. This has arisen from work we have done and are continuing to do with Barabara Ravelhofer of Durham University. Last year we participated in two great events Barabra organised in Durham engaging with research by the REED North East project (Records of Early English Drama) with a particular emphasis on the rich dragon-related heritage and mythology of the region. The performances blended theatre with storytelling and music and featured amazing dragon puppets made by Andy Bates and Emma Berry. We were inspired to keep exploring this direction and create a theatre company that would weave myth, folklore, music, theatre, puppetry and storytelling. Our working name for the project is Hazel Song Theatre and we hope to foster experiences of community through the animation of an imaginative, creative relationship with the natural world and with the diverse cultural heritages of these lands. We are currently working with Barbara and others to plan a series of dragon-themed pageants in the North East for next year that will hopefully feature processions, ceilidh dancing and performances from the nascent theatre troupe. Locations will include Hexham, Morpeth, Newcastle, Ripon, Bamburgh Castle and Brancepeth Castle. The precise when and how of these events will depend on the way the Pandemic situation continues to evolve but we will keep people informed here and through our mailing list. 

Recently we did an interview with the lovely Andrew Singer from ‘Trafika Europe Radio - Europe’s Literary Radio Station’. He was calling us all the way from Manhattan and it was a real pleasure to speak with him, we felt an immediate camaraderie. Our conversation is punctuated by several songs from the Fell and you can listen here https://omny.fm/shows/trafika-europe-radio/the-brothers-gillespie-uk-folk-duo Do check out the radio station generally as well, they are doing great things. 

A huge thanks to everybody who has supported us thus far, from our parents to friendly faces putting coins in our case in windows arcade in the long ago, to Paula inviting a pair of Corbies onto the stage at Newbrough right through to Andrew who we spoke to the other day. To all the countless gems of people we’ve met and shared music with and listened to and been encouraged by on our journey, it’s been an honour and a joy. Contrary to what the Tory government would no doubt like, we have no intention of packing it in (or retraining in ‘cyber’ as the recent dystopian government-backed poster would have it). The more they take the piss, the more dynamite we must load in to the catacombs beneath the edifices of the status-quo. The more disquieting and alienating the times, the more we are moved to sing out with the wild songs of the Earth and remember the still beautiful possibilities of the human heart. Hopefully some day not too far off we can return to doing live gigs and will gather again with friends by bright hearth sides. Till then, much solidarity, love and gratitude from us.

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