I’ve written before about John Grant’s North Atlantic Flux Festival happening this weekend in the city. Yesterday I finally got to witness the beauty and majesty of the music and artists that have been brought together from across the countries whose heart and soul is awash with the tempestuous waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. From electronic, post-punk, classical, jazz and experimental improvisation, the music on offer spanned from the eclectic to serenely emotional, that touched at the very heart of what it means to come from the hardy North.

I started my day with a Q&A at Kardomah 94, with the man himself. John Grant throughout the festival has been ever present. Everywhere you go, he is there, be it performing, chatting with festival goers or dancing away to the acts on stage. A self-effacing, approachable and openly honest artist that I’ll admit I knew little about before the festival, but have since become a huge fan of for the man he is as well as the artist.

 

 

The majority of my time was spent at the Jubilee Hall, witnessing artists at the top of their game, many collaborating in spellbinding and unique works that enthralled the audience. On reflection, what stood out was works that came from Hull’s own talented artists. Steve Cobby and Russ Litten, lead the charge with the first of two performances that focused what it means to come from the sea. To be trawlermen, whose quiet unsung bravery was finally expressed in word and music that spoke to our collective heritage. My father is a merchant seamen, as a young child, I still recall going on a trip with him up into the Arctic circle. My memories are of being enveloped by the dark and brooding monster that is the North Atlantic. And that same feeling came out in the music of Cobby ebbing and flowing against the hard Hull words of Litten.

Photo: Steve Cobby

Beauty out of tragedy would sum up what I felt. As Cobby and Litten’s commissioned work segued into the later piece by poet Adelle Stripe and composer Halldór Smárason, performed by the UK Sinfonia with our very own Vicky Foster bringing Adelle’s words to life. Queens Hall was packed yesterday evening, as we filed in the words of Russ Litten echoed down the generations. Bridging the gap between the earlier work, and the piece we were about to witness called Humber Star. Both works spanning the day, in a narrative arc that spoke of the bravery and tragedy of the men that lost their lives at sea and the women and families they left behind. I’m a city lad, I often say that I have concrete running through my veins, but yesterday I realised that isn’t necessarily true. I felt the salty brine rush through me, the music and words lashed at my face, and I felt the cold chill of my seafaring heritage in my very marrow.

I could go on eulogising, throwing in more oceanic metaphors, but I feel the last word should be left to those of the trawlermen expressed through Russ Litten, from Part Three of his piece RIME.

Send me home
Send our love across the airwaves
Sing our souls to sleep
Sing our souls to sleep
Sing our souls to sleep

 

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