Residency at Benjamin Britten’s House, ‘Made At The Red House’

In August we were chosen to join other 3 other composers and a poet at Benjamin Britten’s house, The Red House, near Aldeburgh Suffolk for a week long residency commissioned by Wild Plum Arts. Wild Plum Arts are two brilliant opera singers who love to cook and create opportunities for music writers of any genre to come together and write…not together, although we may in the future, but to just write. The week was based around food… I kid you not! Lucy and Chris (Wild Plum) are phenomenal chefs and they cook for you each night, make breakfast, bring lunch to your door and generally look after you whilst you write. We were writing for Mannequin Choir….some creepy robot humanoids that will become new members of the band as well as musicians in their own right.

We were housed in the grounds of Britten’s garden, in small houses Britten and Peter Pears either had built or bought for their artist friends in need. Britten was known as a community musician throughout his career and set up a school and other opportunities for people to come together and make music.

A memorable moment during the week was being sat around the dinner table, two contemporary classical composers, a jazz composer and us, an art rock band, talking about the mystery that is the PRS, the company that is designed to collect royalties for us, that we all found dumbfoundingly difficult to navigate or communicate with. We suddenly all became just people who made sound, who made noise for a living, the genres melted away. It was connecting and real. Genres are good for marketing or describing sound but in the end, we are the same.

The value of going on a residency was underlined by this experience and truly enhanced by Wild Plum Arts and their huge level of care towards us. We could have stayed at home and written for Mannequin Choir…..but going away felt validating, connecting and reminded us all of the value of leaving behind ‘the everyday’ which creeps in and steals our attention.

We think Wild Plum Arts should win an award for how they ran this residency….clever things.

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