Night-Visiting Songs

posted in: Features, News

Acoustic explorations

Virginia’s explorations into the acoustic and emotional resonance within the landscape of the River Thames has provided the inspiration for a new musical project. “I intended to seek creative expressions for this resonance and to create a body of work formed through a combination of poetry, music, narrative non-fiction and field-recordings and to compose a song cycle, Night-Visiting Songs, integrating some of these elements.”

The post-lockdown period has allowed Virginia to return to the Thames to continue her research, as detailed in a recent piece for the Manchester Metropolitan University. Virginia’s work has also been made easier by achieving the Graduate School’s Research Support Award.

“The award has enabled me recently to travel up to the Thames from my base in West Dorset and to make some night-time recordings” Virginia comments in the essay, “I started at Cleeve Lock – a place that holds particular emotional significance for me – and worked my way up river on subsequent nights, taking in the marina, the Brunel railway bridge, Days Lock and Wittenham Clumps. The recordings I made feature not only the more expected calls of geese and wildlife but also the sounds of the combine working late bringing in the harvest, people paddle-boarding after the hire cruisers have moored up for the night and the clock chimes ringing across the fields from the Saxon abbey at Dorchester. These recordings will provide a strong starting for my song-cycle.”

This new project leads on from Virginia’s ‘Grafton’ (see previous VAW feature), a spoken-word segment which also combined field recordings and subtle music fills.


posted in: News

In a special piece for PLACE 2020, Virginia has produced ‘Grafton’, a spoken-word segment which also combines field recordings and subtle music fills.

Virginia made this audio essay after reflecting on the natural environment she encountered whilst camping and walking near the river. “I made ‘Grafton’ when I could return to the river after lockdown restrictions lifted a little and while we still had hot days. Located in the Upper Thames Valley, on the upper reaches of the river, the piece focuses on Grafton, Chimney and Shifford.”

“That evening I camped at Grafton Lock. The previous lock keeper Keith Webb was here thirty-nine years. According to the Environment Agency the river was ‘closed’. But in lockdown it’s most definitely been open to the birds and animals that share it. I reflected on all these things while I camped in the lock garden, walking out on the weir the following morning to breathe the negative ions. The tune I have added is a local one, recorded up the road at Clanfield. Clanfield lies between Grafton and Shifford.”

Listen to the piece here:

PLACE 2020 explores, through myriad mediums, how ideas of ‘place’ continue to shift and change as the world adjusts to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. PLACE 2021 is a collaboration between the Centre for Place Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, Hinterland Creative Nonfiction Magazine and a selection of acclaimed writers, artists and film-makers.

Virginia Astley at Sea Change Festival

posted in: Events, News

As part of the forthcoming Sea Change Festival, Virginia Astley will recite poems from her book The English River accompanied by Florence Astley on the harp.

Her first book-length collection, The English River combines both photographs and poems to paint a vivid picture of the river Thames and the community that surrounds it.

Virginia will be performing on Friday 24th May at St Mary’s Church, Totnes, Devon.

Separately, Virginia will also be collaborating with Hannah Peel and Will Burns who are performing material from their Chalk Hill Blue album. This collaboration has been coordinated by Drift Record Shop, the award-winning independent record shop in Totnes who also founded the Sea Change Festival.

Sea Change is an intimate and spirited festival of high times, music, art, culture, food and drinks in Totnes and Dartington that runs from 24th to 26th May 2019.

New ‘English River’ Readings

posted in: News

Virginia has some new readings scheduled for 2019 in which she will recite poems from her book The English River.

Her first book-length collection, The English River combines both photographs and poems to paint a vivid picture of the river Thames and the community that surrounds it.

The readings will feature appearances in Beaminster and East Coker as well as a special performance at Sea Change Festival in Totnes.

Full details of the performances can be found on our Events page.

You can read more about The English River, and order copies, here:

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