The wonderful side of being programme lead for performing arts for the Amy Johnson Festival is accompanying artists on their journey as they take initial ideas through to performance.
Quite a few months ago I met the diminutive whirlwind that is composer and musician Kerrin Tatman in Cafe Velo in Beverley. It was an odd place to meet, surrounded as we were by lots of cycling-related odds and ends that adorn the walls, and cyclists who were stopping off between rides. And I half expected our coffees to be served in bike bottles and the staff to ask us to leave if we didn’t slip in to colourful, figure-hugging Lycra vests.
But there we were, a pair of arts sorts, somewhat out of place in this sporty atmosphere, and initially we were both a bit nervy, and breaking the ice and sussing each other out by nattering about the projects we’d both worked on. Yet, despite the chunky, hairy thighs sticking out of cycling shorts in our peripheral vision, we pretty much could have been anywhere once we realised we both knew what we were on about and Kerrin enthusiastically started telling me about his and collaborator Freya Bryson’s plans for A Concert For Amy, which was destined to be performed in the ethereal surroundings of Hull’s Holy Trinity Church.
Several pages of my notebook were quickly filled as I attempted to keep up with Kerrin’s agile, creative mind. ‘Circus silks’, ‘rig 30 foot high’, ‘high lumen projector’, ‘accordion’, ‘elaborate costume’, that kind of thing. We talked budget, as you have to lest things spiral out of control like a Terry Gilliam film, and insurance, given someone was going to be dangling from the ceiling in a church as part of the performance, and how we’d get an audience in and move them about, and we downed our coffees, left the cyclists to their weird world and reckoned we could pretty much sort everything else out via phone and email in the coming weeks. We couldn’t keep meeting in Cafe Velo, anyway, as Kerrin’s based up in Newcastle and I’m not convinced, looking at his tiny frame, he could bike back to the East Riding of Yorkshire on a regular basis.
The wheels kept turning in the coming weeks and Kerrin provided progress updates on the project, which got me increasingly excited about what was to come. Kerrin and Freya would dramatise Amy Johnson’s life through a collection of music, some of which would use the words of Blake and Larkin, others original lyrics, using cello, piano, voice, violin and, yes, accordion. They would be joined by violinist Tamara Kazziha and, for the concert’s finale, aerial silks performer Claire Harvey.
We did a site visit a couple of weeks before the concert. Holy Trinity’s health and safety conscious Jane Owen rightly raised an eyebrow when Kerrin joked that Claire would not need a crash mat placing on the hard stone floor beneath the rig she’d be suspended from as “she’s done this loads of times. She’ll be fine.” Jane, at this point, reminded Kerrin she needed a copy of his insurance and we all laughed, still a little uncertain whether our new composer friend had a wicked sense of humour or simply liked an added element of risk when playing his cello not too far from where a body may descend at great speed.
It was a relief, then, that when performance night came round there was indeed a crash mat in place. What a gloriously unique evening it was, captured nicely by Rich, Dexter and Lou Duffy-Howard here https://loudhailer.net/2016/07/31/fly-into-my-vapour-arms/
It never ceases to amaze me that chats over coffee, wherever they might take place, lead to such powerful, emotional evenings. Kerrin, Freya, Tamara and Claire are incredibly talented. Kerrin’s only a small gent, as I’ve mentioned, but in front of an audience he is a brilliantly charismatic giant. Kerrin and his team were a dream to work with and I look forward to experiencing more of their work and who knows, maybe we’ll go on a bike ride together.