11 Mar 24

ARTIST INTERVIEW: THE FLEET - Sarah Acton, Emily Burridge & Becki Driscoll


Sound News

Sarah Acton

We spoke to landscape writer Sarah Acton and musicians Emily Burridge & Becki Driscoll ahead of the Seiners premiere. A newly commissioned poetic and musical piece opening each performance on The Fleet tour.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this piece / who you’ve met and spoken to / stories you’ve discovered?

Sarah Acton - Seiners is a spoken word and musical weaving of stories, voices and film about the seine fishing communities and coastal landscape of Dorset's Chesil beach and Fleet lagoon. Some of the memories were originally recorded during research for my book, Seining Along Chesil (Little Toller 2022) and from this starting point and my two years' immersed in these stories, the commission developed in collaboration with Common Ground for the film, and the musicians in Devon, Dorset and Cornwall; Becki Driscoll, Emily Burridge and Julie Macara. We worked at distance and together through a process involving rehearsals and conversations into deepening and reimagining the material in our creative responses. Through introductions I was able to make new fishing connections to expand my research further down the coast into the mysteries of salmon, the seine fishing tradition on the river in Teignmouth and into pilchards in Newlyn. People have been generous with their time and expertise, these heritage traditions are no longer something we can see everyday. I also took some inspiration from the film, Drifters, with its story told above and below the seas.

There are three versions of Seiners as the spoken word collaboration is with three wonderful musicians and reflects their individual approaches, styles, and our co-creative process together. Together with the Common Ground film using field recordings and archive footage, each night will be different, and every live performance has its own particular energy. It is still new material - we are all looking forward to hearing how our words, images and sounds land with audiences and spaces. It is exciting that the tour visits some of the villages where seine fishing was part of coastal life, so the stories, landscapes and characters we evoke may be familiar to the place itself and part of its heritage, while the music, film and ghost story fragments may also carry a gently progressive edge to old stories retold; remembering the environment, elements and resilience of once-marginal coastal communities.

What are you most looking forward to about touring this project to village halls and smaller venues in the South West?

I have lived in a village in Devon for the last ten years, twenty miles+ from larger venues in a town, so I understand how important rural touring can be for cultural life and accessibility. The Fleet Drifters SW tour partners with regional touring organisations and through these we have opportunity to work with venues I have never visited as well as some I have, plus there is a real buzz of bringing new original live performances to audiences and especially local audiences who may not otherwise travel or afford to see the show. Rural touring can offer brilliant and bold programming for audiences to see something different and be part of a live performance experience. As an artist, smaller venues bring different opportunities to meet people, and share work. I am looking forward to visiting some places I know well and discover new places while making new connections, seeing what is revealed in different performance spaces. The fact that this is a new commission with fresh collaborations on tour for the first time is very inspiring and generates possibility and creative energy all around.

We asked local musicians Emily (Dorset) and Becki (Devon) if they have a particular highlight from this piece / collaborative project so far. And what they are most looking forward to about performing it live. 

Emily Burridge - Seiners is a fascinating production which evolves each time Sarah and I meet. I love tuning into the visual imagery conjured up by her words and respond through using my looping pedals to create a cello scape with harmonies and rhythms . These are then notated always with room for improvisation in response to the atmosphere of the day.

It is great to have three consecutive performances as a first run for the production, for in playing to audiences it will become strengthened in its guise.

Becki Driscoll - It has been lovely to work with Sarah's words - she's often describing a coastline that I'm very familiar with having grown up near Bridport and I've really enjoyed finding a creative musical response to the rhythm and flow of her words.

I'm looking forward to seeing how it all comes together with an audience and creating that magic that you get when everyone in the space is experiencing the same thing but from their own perspective!


Image credits: 
Sarah Acton, credit Justin P Brown
Emily Burridge, credit Michi Color
Becki Driscoll

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