1983 was an eventful year for Virginia, a year that mixed critical and commercial success with business frustration. The release of one single,two albums,soundtrack composing,session appearances,live concerts as well as trying to extricate herself from a recording contract kept Virginia busy throughout that year.
And in the midst of all these activities, Virginia made her live solo debut appearance on national radio…
RS: Who’s playing with you today?
VA: Kathy Seabrook and Audrey Riley. Audrey’s playing cello and Kathy playing flute.
RS: Alright, and I gather you’ve brought some feathered friends too?
VA: Yes, I brought an Aviary (laughs)
RS: You’d better let them start singing then!
VA: Yes okay.
RS: It’s all yours…
(‘With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming’ is performed, complete with taped birdsong)
RS: And that was Virginia Astley performing live. Well done Virginia, also Audrey and Kathy and the birds. We have more from them later in the programme. l fancy we won’t have the birds next time though!
RS: Do you do much sort of work with other artists at the moment Virginia?
VA: Not really at the moment. l have done in the past.
RS. I remember a thing you did with Richard Jobson, a poetry LP?
VA: That’s right, with Josephine Wells, and l’ve worked with Pete Townshend, The Skids. I mean not really very many things at all.
RS: Do you enjoy working with other people like that?
VA: Yes, if it’s something I like and I enjoy what they’re doing or something, then I do. l don’t think I could really contribute to anything I didn’t really like.
RS: I just sort of thought that because of your composition work and everything, that must come first in what you’re doing?
VA: Oh it does yes. I mean, at the minute I’m definitely just sort of writing more. I’m not really in demand much as a session player anyway! (laughs).
RS:(to the listeners) So do write, won’t you, to Virginia Astley! So are you spending a lot of time in a very lonely capacity now? Getting ideas together?
VA: Um, yes, really, quite lonely. We have played a few times over the summer. But at the moment, mainly just writing and sorting out what I’m going to do in the future.
RS: What sort of gigs do you play? Do you go into Rock clubs and perform?
VA: Well we did an Indian dinner in Bath… (laughs)
RS: That sounds nice.
VA: And we played at the Venue this summer, at Heaven. I’d really like to tour and sort of play different places around the country and abroad, Poland or something.
RS: Yeah, l would have thought students would be interested, the sort of SU type venues would be very suitable for this sort of thing, wouldn’t they? (Virginia hesitates) Well that’s what I think anyway. You’re looking doubtful there?
VA: I don’t know really! (laughs)
RS: Alright, I’ll move along. I made a note earlier, listening to the first track ‘With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming’. Do you regard as what you do having any sort of relevance to that sort of Brian Eno ambient music?
VA: Well its funny you should say that, l was thinking the other day, because people always want to categorise things, l was thinking if I had somebody say to me, like “what category do you fit into?” I was thinking could I say like “what kind of ambient…” (laughs)
RS:(interrupting) Horizontal music or something?
VA: But I really like Eno, l wouldn’t really say what I do is that similar but I do like him.
RS:I suppose it relates as much to music that would have been played a hundred years ago as to Brian Eno, doesn’t it really? It’s just your own thing.
RS:Any plans to do any more live gigs then, beyond these vague ideas of going to Poland? (laughs)
VA: (laughs) Not really at the moment. I mean hopefully, later in the year, just before Christmas or something, do some small tour. And then, yeah, Poland next in the Spring! (laughs)
RS:Marching into Poland… You have 2 LPs out, you were telling me, at the moment. So you’d better get your plug in now.
VA: Yeah one, From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, which is instrumental.
RS:Which is the one we heard just now.
VA: Yeah, and another one which is just really a compilation of the things I’ve done over the last two years, which is called Promise Nothing.
RS:Alright. Look out for the name “Virginia Astley” in your local record store! The next one is called ‘A Nursery At The End Of Time’. Would you like to do that for us now?
VA: Yes, alright.
RS:I’ll wander away and let you get on with it.
(‘A Nursery At The End Of Time’ is performed)
RS: Live on Saturday Live and its 13 minutes to 6 to prove that. That was ‘A Nursery At The End Of Time’. Virginia Astley on the piano, Audrey Riley on cello and Kathy Seabrook on flute. They look very relaxed now.
‘A Nursery At The End Of Time’ was finally released in February 1985 as one of 3 untitled pieces on the Melt The Snow EP. Towards the end of the same year it was included on the B-side of the second WEA single ‘Darkness Has Reached Its End’ with a shortened title of ‘The End Of Time’.
Time: 5.30pm GM
Station: BBC Radio I
Programme: Saturday Live
Presenter: Richard Skinner
Producer: Mark Radcliffe
Transcription by Rob Brown