Thursday 7 December 2017


Supported by Natural England and Steve Benn, their Warden on North Walney, this has been a real pleasure all year long. A Sound Calendar made with the boys and Girls of South Walney the time of typing I'm waiting for them to send a recording for December..

Wednesday 6 December 2017


A tangent perhaps, not part of the original project, 
but certainly relevant; three nights of Ghost Stories read in one of Ulverstons' most loved but rarely accessed buildings. The 18th Cottage has recently been restored by Ulverston Town Council and a team of Conservation Architects, and has been opened weekly during the warmer weather by historians Iain McNicol and Karen Mason.  Evenings like this though are best suited to the darker nights; sad tales are best for winter. 

Alongside excellent readings of James, Edith Nesbit and Jerome K. Jerome by Karen and Iain ,I contributed three original stories written over the last few years and relating to  the archive work in Seasoning and a previous project. The characters in the stories are themselves collectors, archivists or biographers  each occupying  a small space, which occasionally shifts to reveal a larger, stranger parallel world.  

A truant schoolboy becomes an  aerial, a  receiver for submerged energies summoned from abandoned ROC stations. 

Buildings grow over each other like plants, defending themselves against further development. 

A biographer's illumination of the dark corners  of a photographer's life leads to paranoia and flight. 

The language and structure imitates that of James' work. Their brevity refers to the condensed versions that I first came across on television, and the role of radio, TV and James himself in maintaining a tradition of oral, communal story telling. The characters and situations described aim to reflect the endless mutability of archetypes manifest  in the imagination and day to day life of this battered, drifting and increasingly -willfully- isolated land. 
Our individual and collective imaginations may turn out to be the last resource open to us. Whatever else we squander, let's at least maintain and nurture them.

Thanks to Iain and Karen , to Green Lane Archaeology, Ulverston Town Council and to our audience.

Friday 17 November 2017


NOVEMBERISM  was our final presentation. Here are some comments on the evening and on other aspects of the project, and after that the programme notes for the evening and links to some of the a/v pieces.

Thanks on the night to 
Jennie Dennett (vocals,fur) 
Ste Tyson (decks)
Martin (Transport) 
Mark and Matthew (venue).

"The evening has stayed with me and continues to inspire new reflections... Wonderful that art can have that effect and to be able to experience this kind of art in a rural area so far from the cultural hubs!"

".I saw and heard an evocation of our local hill. I watched a piece of film of George Butterworth and Cecil sharp dancing (a film I have personally watched many times) but saw it through very different eyes. I Heard the words of a poet from Dalton’s 19th Century industrial history singing out here and now. A dusty fragment of 60’s vinyl recording history fascinated us and turned into an imagined world of the dense ordinariness of making pop music in the form of a written story read to us in a dimly lit room. 
 All involving, evolving and experiential leading to a performance of sound effects, voices and vinyl. Could it be all the voices and writings from the past, the sounds of here and now all emerging from hundreds of record crates? All of this is moving and emerging and offering an insight into a year’s worth of thoughts, exploration and glimpses of the bones of bigger projects and pieces in development."


"I particularly enjoyed the video pieces - the rediscovery and dusting off of the song from the castle, the footage of folk dance with beautifully poignant song to accompany. The story was fab - great fun to imagine the back story behind those relics of musical history - a little window on another world that may or may not reflect the reality - in a world where we are fed so many ready made experiences that the imagination could become redundant. And the use of the sound effects to DJ nicely playful too - almost like a musical zoo - who'd have thought that those sounds from such diverse locations and sources would be brought together!"

"An artist living and working in a small market town can be virtually invisible, perhaps showing a small selection of work once in a while only lightly marking their place in the community. John however has brought us a way of seeing and being some way invited into what he has been thinking, developing and working with through the year, offering a feeling of sharing and inviting an involvement. It becomes clearer to see and understand his relevance to the fabric of our community and draws us into involvement."

" a very mesmerising sonic collage"

"Really enjoyed listening.   Interested to know how the Indian (?) music was connected and the story behind the sneezing man!?  Loved the different uses and textures of the horns, and when it merged into the music : ) (TRH)

"a really lovely yet subtly disquieting piece" (TRH) 

 "Excellent work! Great to see the development and direction of travel." 

"brilliant, arresting and fun" 

 "Loved your performance" 

" was something entirely unique and totally mesmerising.."

 "(we enjoyed) particularly the simplicity of it, which spoke for itself; each sound or track being really ‘clean.’ ( TRH)

 "Thank you for giving us such a great musical accompaniment!"  (Street theatre group on the Human Organs at Ulverston Lantern Procession)

I think these guys were possibly my favourite act of the weekend, loved watching them today! #weirdlygenius  ( Human Organs at Dickfest)

"Valuable projects like the Walney Sound Calendar enable us to provide a different perspective from which to work with the environment, and allows us to work at length with young people from within our community while reaching beyond it through the use of an online platform."  (Natural England)

The programme notes for Novemberism, our show presenting a selection of new work from Seasoning.

Seasoning has looked at seasonal rituals and celebrations, , the shapeshifting nature of the folk process, the blurs and echoes of folk and vernacular arts in what we do today.
 Research and collaborations have involved musicians, sound recordists, a DJ, crate digging, writers and archivists, local collections and venues, more crate digging...I visited folk and social history archivist Doc Rowe in Whitby and he brought his film "Parted Friends" to the Hope. At Cecil Sharp House Mike Willoughby and me found songs from this area which we are  feeding back into the tradition and the local repertoire.

A couple of performing units have emerged...Ste, Damo and me devised two pieces for radio and performance.The Human Organs have taken to the streets and the woods with our elbow-driven techno.
 We have a 4-piece core and a strong "bench" to play our backpack mounted pipes, donated by Mark Latimer and built by Alex Blackmore

Novemberism: the ritual and ceremony of what we used to call the blood month. Sacrifices of all kinds, bargains and observances made with a eye on getting through the

The video pieces include documentation of a piece made for the Sir John Barrow Monument, one of a couple of days out at the Merzbarn with the Human Organs, and a recording made with Mike one november morning in the Hope of a song from 1889 discovered in Dalton Castle, and oddly relevant.

An there's a shot at linking the pantheist pastoral side of english psychedelia with the romanticism of composers Ralph Vaughn Williams and George Butterworth. Artists looking beyond the territory of rock n roll and european classicism to folk tunes, songs, nursery rhymes and seeing parallell worlds moving at different speeds, unaware of each other. Recorded on Armistice Day.
The last piece is a patchwork of sounds and images from the year, a lens and a mic largely pointed away from the action to quiet spots and, again, to worlds unaware of each other and moving at different speeds.

Serves Twelve is built around a narrative and a recipie for the Alls Soul's night delicacy Soul Cakes. You'll hear the the BBC's SFX vinyl, Field Recordings, a nursery song of slaughter and  narration from Jennie Dennett..a recording was featured in the Radiophrenia festival this November in Glasgow

Piccadilly Sunshine is set in 1967-68, the dark nights are coming in after the summer of love. Two smaller and less idealistic players are wondering what kind of deals they'll have to make if they're get to the next era without starving or having to leave the game,whichever is worse. The story draws on the information available within and around these 2 slices of paisley-exploitation vinyl from 1967-68. 

Mike Willoughby sings Charade  by J Myers

George Butterworth

To Every Thing

Charade is available via this blog on a short-run
DVD edition.

 Piccadilly Sunshine is available as a softback illustrated book from

from bifocalsmultiples on Etsy, and from Sutton's Bookshop, Ulverston.

Thanks to everyone who has supported this project, either by turning up, joining in , or having something to say.
Stay tuned, there is more to come.

John Hall November 2017


Tuesday 7 November 2017


A great month for collaborations...
"Ingredients Serves Twelve" our piece for Radiophrenia goes out on Nov 16..

updating with a link for those who missed it...

..and here's a link to whatever's on now...the whole festival will be archived but there's no  substitute for a live listen..

And Scarborough Museums Trust presents 
A New Olympia. An interesting look at Scarborough and Art Deco, with sound from the Arcades on the website from me and Bill Bartlett.

Monday 6 November 2017


A mornings' debate on Radio Cumbria, beginning with producer James Leather interrogating some milk bottles. We then go into a conversation with Val Armstrong about musical instrument / sound sources and the theory and practice of the Human Organs, blurring into a duet from me and Alex and ending with an unashamed plug for an appearance at the Ulverston Dickfest late november...

Saturday 4 November 2017


Much of the contemporary visual 
language of the supernatural comes from cinema.
  Countless Demeters have loosed their cargo on the shores of our imaginations in recent years and as a result Hallowe'en is infused with suburban dread; the glint of metal under streetlights,neighborhoods 
under lockdown, houses not quite big enough to hide in. 

Fears of the Other, traceable back to the Eisenhower years side with  techno savvy folk devils 
of northern Europe and Japan.  

These are just the ripples on the surface of a deeper, shared vocabulary; a dark pool of  imagery to draw from in order to confront and deflect fear. For all their current prominence, cinema, tv and netflix are newcomers. What floats on the surface is only the most recent manifestation of what occupies the depths. 
Ben Wheatley has begun the temporal re-wilding of Brit horror by reintroducing  the  landscape  to the cast-list. For the suburban lawns of John Carpenter's USA, read Barrett Estates and Fields In England. The endless  forests of Witchfinder General which seemed to stretch from the 16th century to the early 1970's (actually M.O.D. Land at the time of filming) are now  Reservations recast and ripe for the horror of boredom, routine and the managed visitor experience.

Ulverstons' Candlelit Walk began 7 years ago as a slow and gentle 
flicker down the length of a river. 
Established by the unfettered and much missed Geoff Dellow, (street musician, potter, cobble repairer), the first were  redolent of coffin walks and thick with the musk of moss and leafmould. Flood defence work and increasing numbers led to a move to a larger and less confining setting. (photo:Lyndsay Ward)

It's a community effort: there's a committee, a roster of performers, artists and volunteers that run the making sessions, raise funds, do the books, put the event up and take it down. Undeniably something has been lost since the move, but a lot has been retained and built on; the moss has been allowed to grow. The trail of candles and flares is still best taken slowly; smoke doubles as marsh gas and the trees hang with homemade charms, shadowscreens, eyes (photo: Iain Raven) and phosphorescent fruit and veg.
(photo:Lindsay Ward

The scale of the event is important. Adults turn up in elaborate home made costume;  teenagers spin off to enact their own timeless rituals;  smaller kids who last year backed away when faced with some foul apparition now announce "it's just a bloke" and reach out for confirmation, inching further forward each year. 

I usually make some a/v; for the sake of continuity there's usually the sounds and images of running water and unspecified nighttime gatherings. This year a volunteer cast met in the woods and at other familiar sites. Under  Hammer and Tigon greenery and grey skies, we placed daemon children and Silent Observers by the river that runs along the original route. A macabre domestic scene with echoes of Beatrix Potter played out under low ancient ceilings. 

For the Walk, we project the results onto an open-air screen hung against a wall of ivy. An eldritch usherette points to seats and offers dubious snacks. Slowly, the focus of the evening changes from the procession into a series of clusters around storytellers, a clairvoyant, musicians, an aerialist, installations, stalls and tableaux. Our seats fill and others watch from around an Arbor where vinyl DJ Ste Tyson  fuses tweedy BBC cabbage-stabbing SFX with  clammy fogbank synths. 

Thursday 26 October 2017


My continuing digging at Dalton Castle has turned up a song. The Dalton News of 1886 ran a  column of games, riddles and poems called Charades, and this comes from a John Myers, a regular contributor of state-of-the-nation verse..this one is in the vein of Hard Times Of Old England, but it's references are very specific...a snapshot of a moment.

The News is a pretty good paper. The national and overseas news is thorough, there's lots of sport, local court reports and waspish colour stories .  A fair bit of it looks like syndicated material, and the "Charades" column  has no local references so I wondered if J Myers was a stringer, a pseudonym or a committee.  But Myers is a local name and there was a J Myers and family in Dalton at around this time...
First port of call is the Vaughan Williams Library at Cecil Sharp House, where me and Mike found a wealth of local material earlier in the year...

Nick  at CSH tells us.."Thank you for your email.  We don’t know anything about the song but could it have been by the same John Myers who was Secretary of the Dalton and District United Workmen’s Association, part of the Cumberland Miners’ Association?  Incidentally, trawling through local newspaper archives seems to be a good way of finding old songs, especially where things have been digitised.  Anyway, I hope that your recording goes well and we would be delighted to receive a copy once it hits the shops.
Best wishes.."

An excellent lead. Nick also points us towards his source.. "Lake Counties from 1830 to the Mid-twentieth Century: A Study in Regional Change" by J.D. Marshall and J.K. Walton, I've now got a copy, it's a good read although of the 17 local newspapers listed,  the one it doesn't mention is the Dalton News... Meanwhile I've set Mr Myers' words to a suitably austere dulcimer it is...just the tune...6 verses worth.

And here on the right are  the words. Sing along why dont you? Watch this space for Mike's version.

In the meantime I'll keep digging through the Dalton installment concerns the Slonk club, Hobble-de-hoys and ne'er do wells.

Wednesday 25 October 2017


Some exciting news.. "Ingredients Serves Twelve" is scheduled as part of Radiophrenia, the international radio arts festival.  Radiophrenia broadcasts out of Glasgow  on 87.9FM in the Glasgow area and to everywhere else online. There's a link to the festival site here, including the full schedule and links for online listening.

November 16 6.30pm to 7pm

TYSON, ROSE AND HALL / "Ingredients Serves Twelve"
30 Mins, Recorded composition for broadcast.


November marks the point in the year when the cold and the darkness begin to set in. A time of reflection, of Souling from door to door, prayers exchanged for food, of sacrifice and bargaining,
"Ingredients Serves Twelve" is a composition for broadcast evoking the desperate rituals of the Blood Month. It comprises narration, vinyl cut-ups, original Field recordings, Cassette tape, a collection of BBC in - house Sound Effects discs donated by BBC Radio Cumbria and, as guest reader, Broadcaster Jennie Dennett.

Many thanks to all at Radiophrenia, it's great to be included in what looks like a bewilderingly varied programme of residencies, live and pre-recorded work and commissions.  Each day looks like a festival unto itself. 
Good friend and Octopus associate Jenn Mattinson is included too, her excellent piece "Out of Place: Delia Derbyshire in Cumbria" goes out on 8th November 2017 at 12:30 pm - 1:00 pm. A moving audio-evocation of a largely unknown period in the life of a great artist.

Tuesday 24 October 2017


Following up some discussions about performance, ritual and the spaces they create..rough stuff, lots of cutting and pasting, not where I intended to go, but here we are.When looking for meaning or significance in folk and vernacular arts- in all performance maybe- we look for archetypes, the twelve primary types symbolizing basic human motivations. How useful these are might depend on whether we are looking at codified rituals/performances and the themes and characters thereof, or the motivations behind the ritual/performance and its survival.    An understanding might come from a look at the self-assigned social mores of  communities performing Mummers and Pace / Pasche Egg plays,and the structures operating within them, by mapping the archetypes - Jung's  "universal and inherited patterns which, taken together, constitute the structure of the unconscious" - onto social groups. Rather than the plays themselves, the enduring product of the tradition  is the continued will to expression arising from these structures. "The English Mummers as Manifestations of the Social Self" by Christine Herold offers some useful examples and perspectives. During the revival the tropes of Mumming and Pace / Pache Egging were assumed to  refer to pre- Christian rituals of rebirth and sacrifice.The plays  themselves though are comparatively recent; the oldest written script is from the 18th. If there was any single source it may have been an appropriation  by the community of an existing play with that theme, which was further disseminated and gradually coarsened and infused with new elements and characters.
Far from lost in the mists of time then, the roots of the plays are within reach. Collecting money at the end was as much of a motive as anything else, linking them with Plough plays or the hybrid of first footing and extortion that still went on in parts of Chesterfield when I was a kid. Even the term mummer can be traced to a common custom ; the mystery lies in the continuing desire to perform them, and in what assumptions of communal character are being played out and reinforced in doing so.Performance permits a..."cathartic expression of repressed motives." We can see this today in sick humour whether reflexive or provocative, and in the transgressive alt-narratives and  bravado oratory of the Brexit campaign where rituals of debate were employed to sanction the saying of what was portrayed as "unsayable" -although in fact said all too commonly but within closed circles.  In the ritualistic nature of Mumming Roger Faris finds a similar  mechanism; here  the ritual  provides a "disguised gratification" of a repressed "in-group hostility" --a "cathartic expression of repressed motives" in the relatively safe arena of ritual. 

Its ultimate purpose is "the direct gratification of forbidden hostilities . . . and then the subsequent recreation and renewal of the social order."What was missing in the political manifestation of this structure was an understanding of the process of recreation and renewal, of the value of consensus.Herold: "To settlements displaying a "marked lack of social change, . . . the stranger, is unpredictable, unreliable, not to be trusted, deviant, and, . . . potentially dangerous and malevolent."
This category of "potentially dangerous and malevolent" individuals includes women. (Roger T)Faris observes, in a community. the custom represents a traditional community's ritualized expression of its reactions to the Stranger, the Other: "To settlements displaying a "marked lack of social change, . . . the stranger, is unpredictable, unreliable, not to be trusted, deviant, and, . . . potentially dangerous and communities with a "rigidly virilocal marriage and settlement pattern, . . . women are" in fact, "most often the `strangers'."

The custom permits (maybe demands)  acknowledgment and a demonstration of the fear of the stranger or the 'other'. 
 Disguised performers in the role of 'other' take liberties with the communities rules, ragging and roasting each other and their neighbours. Those on the end of such treatment are given the opportunity to shrug this off, and to exercise hospitality to such a degree that they assuage and absorb the sense of threat and dread such characters arouse.
Applause disarms, absorbs and deflects the threat.

The heightened absurdity of the players appearance underlines its artificiality ("We are not really like this") while the antics of the performers have a root in the familiar and unspoken ("Yes we are").
All ends well. The community takes comfort in its own generosity.

"The English Mummers as Manifestations of the Social Self"
Christine Herold, Ödense, 1998

Mumming Script, Chesterfield 1933, EFDSS


The Human Organs were out in Ulverston last weekend for the Lantern Procession. There have been 30 plus years here  of making and lighting and marching, and many more of fireworks and noise  but you can still find conflicting accounts of what the event is and what it should be, of  the clash it delivers between expectations and fears engendered when we gather in the dark. 
  We were in town for the finale this  year. We began at the end of Market St in near daylight. We were discreet; two debutants meant a steady fade in was necessary. Every corner seemed to have a  stall in place from about 5pm, their dayglo automata had cooed and whistled at each other across the streets as I came out of Tesco. We had a bit of mouthing off, done from a distance; easily dealt with, an  ice-breaker really..a few little kids came up for a parp, another decided to conduct us. Older kids demanded Beats; ("We are doing Beats. We can't do anything but Beats.") We got into our stride and ended up accompanying  a Silent Performance of Melie's Journey To The Moon and wandering back to our spot via the empty paths alongside the A590 before finishing up downwind of the mainstage and the firework finale.
   No -one knew quite what to expect this year;  the usual finale venue, a large park under Hoad hill withdrew amid questions about access and restrictions related equally to  safety and (further) building on the site. A stage went up in a town centre carpark, other performance sites were established, costumed stewards gently nudged and coaxed and the procession had made its looming, flickering way. It was good. Ulverston is well used to this and to the woozy herd instincts of  the procession and the sharper edges of its' flanks ;  any town with a history (however short) of self-supporting, autonomous quasi-carnival  should be familiar with the buffoon-ery that accompanies the main  event. The lads from the distant settlements making their way into town, the underage drink on the train kicking in early;  the temporary license bestowed by darkness, colour and crowds, and the seemingly upturned consensus on excess. A Fairground a few yards from the route provides  a locus for first-goes at the rituals of display; bottles and piss streams glint at its boundaries. 

There were complaints. Not many. Online mutterings that once wouldn't have made it out of the taproom; Didn't like the finale band. ( Laptops, beats, masks, Haribo fuelled K-Pop rather than our so-and -so knocking out Wonderwall.) (Kids loved it.) Didn't like the site. Didn't like the inconvenience. (why cant I drive through this crowd of candlelit paper lanterns and park my car?) Most of all, didn't like the kids. Drunk kids. Out of town kids.  Noisy, sweary kids. non-decorative, unaccepting, un-co-optable kids. Trying it on. Pushing  and shoving their way out of one life and into another. 

 It seems some of us now write the story on sunday that we want to read on monday. The local paper picks up the lead from the social media winge, Grey heads are shaken. A few even greyer heads note that 'twas ever thus, that absent from the old kodak photos and  Super 8 is the sound of glass underfoot. 

Spectacles, firefests,The Wakes, Lanternnight,  AFF's all- inclusive multi-platform reboot of the old carnival night buzz , these allow the creation of  liminal spaces and interzones, not always pretty, but valuable. And look at the rest of the year - not just here but anywhere where the bought-in and chucked-up arrives for the weekend and leaves with a couple of local caffs' takings under its belt. Where, on the crowded cobbles and around the 5-star streetfood kitchens, where amid the tophats and goggles, the bonnets and cemetery photo-ops and alcohol-free mulled wine is the artful  dodger?  

There's no room for such a being, and if there were room there's nothing in the assembly instructions that will tell you what it wants.


The relationship between  hills and the people that live in the land around them is worth looking at. In the affection there is an echo of the security offered by hills as lookout points or shelter. There is something of the awe of their size and the fear for their stability. 
Having heard this affection expressed many times, the question was how  to represent it without exposing or intruding on the relationships and encounters that inspire it.
Accomplices were needed.

 The work needed to inhabit the hill and the Monument. It needed to be discreet, 
 unannounced, somehow within and of the place                                                                       
 This is the first go.                                                                                                           

Wednesday 27 September 2017


It's not often in this life that you follow Toto. After a brief chunk of " Hold The Line" this is me talking to Jerry Scott on the morning show from Coast And County Radio in Scarborough about Seasoning and the extra-curricular R and D that me and Bill are doing at Olympia Leisure.  Coast And County is a great station, coming loud and clear out of Scarborough and clearly much more leftfield than most regional radio and hosting some fantastic music shows including Mr Tooley's Fallout Shelter, which is required listening for anyone looking for a mix of soul, funk, 60's garage and Civil Defence warnings.  

It was very nice to talk to Jerry, play some of our recordings and let people in town know what we are up to. We are looking for a school to partner up with, and we are also keen to plug Scarborough Museum's A New Olympia exhibition, which looks at the 1930's plans for Scarborough's Art Deco development, including the arcade building.  The Museum will be hosting some of our sounds online as well.  
Here's Coast And County, and below it some information from the Scarborough Museums Trust about A New Olympia, which opens on October 21st.

And the clips from Jerry's show..Having lost my mobile at the time this was done on my iffy landline, and  recorded onto cassette.  Here we go...

Many thanks to Jerry for having us,  to Steven, Lee and  David at Coast And County, and to Chris Curtis and Mr Tooley for the introductions.

Wednesday 20 September 2017


The shonky and conspicuously hand made masks worn by the Human Organs  (right) have gone down well.   Given the ease with which the rough music of the organs  can be  played, and the anonymity that  the masks can provide, there's no reason why the organists need always be the same people. Wearing the masks correctly is probably as difficult as playing the music. There's a fine line between a mask and a hat., Charter weekend in Ulverston and a bit of basic onomastics:  The town name is either from  the Old Norse personal name Úlfarr, or the Old English Wulfhere; the  ton, comes from old English meaning "farmstead" or "village". The personal names Úlfarr and Wulfhere both translate roughly as "wolf warrior" or "wolf army", which explains the presence of a wolf on the coat of arms and, if you want it to, could explain the gutters full of fake fur after our wolf pack mask session in the street on saturday afternoon. (left)

By the end of the session, the crowds on Market Street were seeded with small wolves, From what we heard, a lot of these masks will be turning  up in the street again at hallowe'en, or at the lantern procession. 

That would be nice. The wulfhere angle is a very pleasing rhyme and we'll happily go along with it but the pubtalk afterwards was of undercurrents, 'obby 'osses, equine skulls and the disruptive license bestowed by mask and costume; of the great pleasure in running these  open air workshops, of watching kids make something with their folks and then walk away in it, into the crowd, snarling, slightly other; of a possible re-wilding.