By Kerry Andrew
This month I have visited all of the areas we’re coming to on the tour. It’s been lovely to get a feel for each place, learn about the water there and most importantly meet people! I recorded people telling me about the local water and have been making texts out of them.
She said, ‘swim between the rocks.’
I said ‘you can’t do that, it’s far too dangerous.’
And she said ‘no, you go in with the tide,
and you just keep going.
You go up up up up
and you go down down down down.’
And it was lovely.
We started in North Devon, just at the bottom of Exmoor, on a very rainy day. I met the local teenage musicians who will be writing songs with their ex-teachers Carol and Sam, and we had fun making new loops and speedily arranging a version of a traditional tune, As Sylvie Was Walking, which I loved hearing sung by a great female pop voice!
Highlights of this visit were the excellently hearty grub in North Molton’s pub, and the all-female trip to Sherdon, in the moors. Sadly, the formal communal swim had been cancelled, as incessant rain had made the river swell a little dangerously. However, especially hardy locals Anya and Lucy stripped off, and I have a competitive streak when it comes to getting in water, so had to join them, wading through the fierce brown water, past a spiky gorse bush or three, to get in via a rock ledge. The water was, of course, freezing, pretty fast-flowing, taking us through a jagged wire dam and back into the main pool. It started raining heavily, which made everything more hilarious. You always feel brilliant after a swim, though, and I glowed in the back seat of Polly’s car whilst we steamed it up.
My own experience of the river was as a child.
We would have a lot of fun.
There was a nice deep area Bath’s Field off Under Lane
so we had our own swimming pool during the war.
You got a jam jar and a bit of string
and you’d go catching tiddlers.
It was a lovely restful time.
The water was an important part of your life.
We used to have some smashing fun.
The weather brightened for our trip just over the border to Launceston in Cornwall, where a whole host of meetings had been set up for me following the morning’s secondary school workshop. Octogenarian and local history expert Arthur filled me in on the history of the river and told me about his ‘dear friend’, the local poet Charles Causley. Jane read me some Causley in the old abbey ruins. The town crier, who’d been roped in for one day in the 1970s and ended up staying for 40 years, read me some more on the old bridge over St Thomas Water before the local nursery kids turned up to feed oats to the ducks. Two sisters who do regular long-distance sea-swims came to chat and one gave me recordings she’d made that morning of the stream at the bottom of the garden. I’m planning to use recordings of local water in each concert. She sings in the local choir, who hopefully will sing with us when we come back!
The river was rather too shallow to swim in, so some of us waded in up to our knees, watching our toes go blue. We checked out the Town Hall where we’ll be performing, and met a man and his tortoise, Zola, in the castle grounds. Most importantly of all, I ate a Cornish pasty.
Marshy silt on the edge of the river.
We get the most amazing big sky here.
The Ford factory.
To Barking! For this trip, we joined the Silk River walk, which stretched over about 10 days from the Thames out to sea, in a large artistic and community exchange with a town in India. Locals came to hold massive community-made silk banners and walk along the River Roding.
We had a bit of historical information from a chap in the 11th-century St Margaret’s Church before we went, and watched two of the banners float down on a raft past the barges. I loved chatting to Johnny, a local barge-owner and the heart of the river community, who was joined by his gorgeous dog Millie.
In the afternoon, we worked with Year 7-9s at the local secondary school, who were a mad, fun bunch with body percussion rhythms up their sleeves. I’m really looking forward to seeing what all the schools come up with for their own water-inspired songs, which they’ll be performing as my support act in each venue.
It makes me feel alive. Simple as.
Nothing else matters.
I use it as a psychological tool:
if I can do this, I can do anything,
so I make myself do it.
I get a real buzz.
The village of Holt in Wiltshire was our last stop, a very cute village with a really swanky café/business centre, the Glove Factory, at its heart. I worked with the Year 6s at the primary school, getting them to beatbox and make up riffs, before we had a walk to find some river sounds. This meant semi-trespassing over fields to a noisy weir, and getting over my fear of cows on the way back.
We met Cat and her dog Molly for an exclusive early-evening swim in the Glove Factory’s amazing members’ pond. Soft grass, milky clay, and subdued blue-green water. If I lived here, I’d be there every day. Cat was a brilliant, vivacious personality and talked happily about the effects of the water. Polly’s hands went alarmingly blue and I took about three hours to thoroughly warm up, but it was worth it.
It always is.