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News from the hills

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.

Imbolc 

On a day of soft light with Imbolc not long passed there is a stirring of Spring in the air and the heart begins to dream of roving. 

Though it’s a fraught time in which it seems that the broken disaster politics of greed, denial and the will to death has tightened its grip, we try not to spin off in despair. We tune in to the darkness, resistance and resolve are purified and strengthened and still we bear witness to the possibility that love, compassion, desire, the imagination can be tended and brought to fruition in this land. 

The Winter has held some fine adventures and encounters for us. On tour in England we played a house show in Sheffield where a world expert in wax cylinder recordings was in attendance and made a recording of us during the show on a Thomas Edison machine from the early 19th century using a wax cylinder he had made himself. We sang into a horn and our faces were still with wonder as we listened back through the same horn to the eerie, moving sound of our own voices from a distant time. Elsewhere a house show blossomed into a cracking late session with new-found friends, we drank deep of some ancient South Downs faery magic at the unique Brushmakers Arms Pub in Upham and also strengthened our connection with the thriving folk scene of London with gigs at Islington Folk Club and just recently at the newly established but excellent Dulwich Folk Club.  

In December a few dreamy days were spent at Tim Lane’s studio in the countryside south of Edinburgh recording the work of our collaboration so far with the amazing Trio Mythos string ensemble and Provencal vocal troupe Tant Que Li Siam. The recording features Sophie Renshaw’s breathtaking string arrangements of songs by ourselves and TQLS and will be available to listen to soon. At the end of the recording process we all travelled south for a concert in our homelands in Humshaugh village hall and in the morning walked up Wall Fell together in Winter sunshine. It seemed another thread was woven between the hills of Northumberland and the slopes of the Ventoux and our hearts were invigorated by the warmth of true camaraderie. We’ll be developing this collaboration over the coming year and plans are afoot to work on more material and do a tour together further down the line. 

We’re excited for the possibilities of the coming year. In March and April we’ll be going on tour in Holland and Germany and shall be playing at Costa del Folk in Ibiza not long after our return. Further off on the horizon we’re also planning tours in Ireland and Southern Germany/ Switzerland. In the Summer months we’re looking forward to getting in touch with the spirit of the land and opening to the blessings and uncertainties of the road with some musical adventures around Britain by foot and bicycle.

Autumn Winds 

The year so far has brought several offerings to us. We are a few weeks back form playing at Sidmouth Folk Festival, an amazing convergence of folk music, dance and culture on the barmy South Devon coast. It was a pleasure to spend some time there imbibing the spirit of the festival and to catch up with some musician friends along the way.

In July we caught the train down to Provence to work with fabulous ladies of Trio Mythos, (a classical string trio) and the elemental and wonderful Tant que li Siam (a polyphonic trio from Occitane) on music and potential future collaborations culminating in a concert in an ancient church in the hills which broke into spontaneous singing and dancing outside after the concert when wine and cheer were alive in the night and the frame drums and bells joined the fiddle and flute. On the way home we soaked in Marseille's edgy and smokey glory, Algeria was winning the semi-final of the Africa Cup and smoke and fireworks and flares were everywhere in the crumbling city.

The Summer also saw us begin to engage with the musical and story traditions of Dragon's in the North of England due to a very auspicious collaboration between ourselves, Professor Barbara Ravel Hoffer of Durham University and two puppet making, leather working magical artisans Emma Berry and Andy Bates, so far this has led to two theatrical concerts with volunteers from Durham Uni in Durham Cathedral and at Ushaw College.

We are now turning our mind to organizing tours for next year, including our first trip to Netherlands and Gemrnany and Czech in March/April and further UK and Ireland tours throughout the year. If anyone would like to discuss hosting us for a house concert or put us on in a venue somewhere please get in touch. We also hope for some hibernation time this Autumn and Winter to work on new music.

In late Sept early Oct we are on tour in England and will be filling gaps in our itinerary busking in towns along the way and seeing who we meet.

 

January 

Thanks to the support of everyone who helped with our crowdfunder we were able to finish creating 'The Fell' and launch it with a concert at Hexham's Queen's Hall which was for us a hugely enjoyable night. We have had two subsequent launch concerts in Newcastle and Edinburgh which were a joy. It feels a relief to have finished bringing the album into the world. We are hitting the road in Feb for a string of concerts in the North East, Scottish borders, London, Devon and Sheffield. We just received our first review of the album which was very positive from Folk Radio UK. Thankyou again to all of you who have made it possible for us to create this album through the spirit of the gift. https://www.folkradio.co.uk/2019/01/the-brothers-gillespie-the-fell/

Approaching Halloween 

Autumn is here with its rains and mists and sudden goldenings in the trees. Life brings unexpected challenges and the earth turns into its colder side. Our album held by the spinning fell under the stars comes closer to its time of birth. We have a launch date in Hexham on the 11th December and a pre-launch in London on 1st December with more dates to come. We are having a crowdfunder to help us get this creation into physical shape, to call the midwifes and fellow travelers of our soul family to help us birth this little album of hill songs. Looking forward to the long roads of Winter and the hearth fires, praying for more music and inspiration and for the unexpected but timely success of our collective movements towards compassion and justice and that we become more poetic even as we deconstruct our social conditioning and walk in cities thick with green space. How to speak over the ocean with a tongue that is inside the rain and broken out into the moor and yet aflame with a spirit of internationalist love? And equally importantly how to develop the strength and skill to listen to the voices on the wind speaking of another place in another language. How do we move en masse confidently and efficaciously without abandoning poetry and succumbing to the simple tyranny of abstraction and utility?

Summer Solstice 

We are in the midst of recording an album, of songs we have been carrying with us for a little while. When walking through Wall village, after a wedding party on the village green a couple of weeks ago we were struck by the vision of the hill above the green.  Such a generous presence in our lives going back to childhood. Such a refuge. As George Makay Brown said, if he had been born in a city he would never have written a line, without the fell we wouldn't have these songs to sing.

So the album is called 'The Fell' and we are loving the process of recording these songs in th dreamy studio of Tim Lane in the borders. We'll be releasing the album to the world in December with a launch in Hexham and will be setting up a crowdfunder in the next few weeks. If you'd like to welcome us for a show as part of our album launch tour in December please get in touch whether it  be it a big venue or an intimate house show you have in mind.

Latest Track

Shows

Previous events

Date Event Location
Alnwick International Music Festival - Recorded Set from The Brothers Gillespie Alnwick International Festival Youtube channel Alnwick International Festival Youtube channel
The Brothers Gillespie Bodmin Folk Club Bodmin Folk Club
The Brothers Gillespie Walthamstow Folk Club, London Walthamstow Folk Club, London
Scottish Anarcho Folk Fest Scottish Anarcho Folk Fest, Elgin Scottish Anarcho Folk Fest, Elgin
 —  — Forgotten Lands Festival North Cumbria North Cumbria
The Brothers Gillespie Gallery 45, Felton, Northumberland Gallery 45, Felton, Northumberland
 —  — Chippenham Folk Festival Chippenham, Chippenham Chippenham, Chippenham
Whitley Bay Carnival, Supporting Eliza Carthy Whitley Bay, Whitley Bay Whitley Bay, Whitley Bay
 —  — The Brothers Gillespie Costa Del Folk, Ibiza Costa Del Folk, Ibiza
The Brothers Gillespie Razzmatazz Podium, Oost Souberg Razzmatazz Podium, Oost Souberg
The Brothers Gillespie Tankstaion, Enschede Tankstaion, Enschede
The Brothers Gillespie Zum Wilden Heinz, Leipzig Zum Wilden Heinz, Leipzig
The Brothers Gillespie BOCA, Furth BOCA, Furth
The Brothers Gillespie Loft Lo Fi, Nuremburg Loft Lo Fi, Nuremburg
The Brothers Gillespie TchaiOvna, Prague TchaiOvna, Prague
The Brothers Gillespie Varander Bar, Dresden Varander Bar, Dresden
The Brothers Gillespie Caffe Tasso, Berlin Caffe Tasso, Berlin
The Brothers Gillespie House Show, Hamburg House Show, Hamburg
The Brothers Gillespie Cafe Einstein, Emden NL Cafe Einstein, Emden NL
The Brothers Gillespie Groningen house concert, contact us for details Groningen house concert, contact us for details