Ali Bullivent & Friends

“Landed” by Ali Bullivent is a spoken word, song and music soundscape inspired by stories, experiences and expectations of people who have found themselves in Wakefield, originally from other lands. It was performed across four locations as a ‘pop-up’ show on June 2nd.

The piece reflects world music percussion and word rhythm trends experienced by participants in their homelands alongside what may be experienced here. Our musical sound sphere is influenced by a myriad of forces from advertising to popular tunes to traditional sounds; “Landed’ aimed to capture and reflect some of those musical narratives and perform them at gathering places on the streets of Wakefield.

Ali previously updated us on the project when it was a work in project (read that here). We spoke to her post project on how Landed came to be.

How did you move from the idea of a ‘Manifesto For A New Wakefield’ to your final performance of Landed, what was the thought process?

I wanted to reflect the sounds experienced by people from diverse cultural backgrounds in the performance as Wakefield has many residents and passers through from all over the world. In the time I have lived here it has changed dramatically in terms of cultural mix and I have worked over the years to celebrate the richness and positive aspects of this through encouraging the sharing music and the arts. I decided that within the confines of the project that the best way to collect music, words and natural sounds would be to ask people I knew to send me sound files, go out and record people making music and speaking, and write responses to what I collected, and to sitting in the City centre precinct at the heart of Wakefield. I had hoped to collect one or two people along the way who could join in the live performance but unfortunately the ones who showed an interest were unable to participate at the last moment. I was pleased to invite my colleague beat poet Jimmy Andrex to join me, and he also performed one of his pieces live which was relevant to the concept of ‘Landed’. I liked the way that the main contributors had a through link- the majority of the work was submitted by people originating from other lands, I was in the middle being the daughter of an immigrant and have only lived in Wakefield for 18 years, and Jimmy is Wakefield born and bred. I also included work from people who have lived in Wakefield but have now gone back to their country of origin. This reflected there central concept of the piece that our community is like the River Calder, coming and going, never staying the same, ‘we come as rain and feed the fountains and go out again to the sea.’ I wanted to perform in the places where I often see a cultural mix of people gather – Trinity Walk, The Cathedral Steps, the Ridings and the train station (we were originally going to be out on the balcony of the Art House to catch people walking to Westgate Station). I decided at the start that this would be a recorded soundscape with some live performance over the top as I wanted the true voices and experiences of those who participated to be heard rather than just my response. I worked with a sound artist to create the recorded piece.

Can you tell us a little more about the other people that were involved?

Many people were involved. I spent some time at the Asylum Seeker Drop in and talked with people from all over the world. Part of the soundscape includes recording of people speaking in numerous languages along with individual stories of home. I spent time at the Art House which supports refugee artists making music with residents there. There are recordings from young people who are at a special school for immigrants to prepare them for going the college. There are recordings from people I happen to know from different parts of the globe now living in Wakefield and Yorkshire or now back in their homelands. They are a mixture of people from different backgrounds, some musicians some from other walks of life.

The pop-op nature of the show was really exciting and allowed you to get it into some really public places – what do you think the impact was on the audiences that came across it?

That’s very hard to judge. Many people stopped to listen or engaged as they passed, and we had a captive audience in 2 spaces as they were next to cafes. There were certainly some smiles, some people who looked very curious, and one gentleman who looked as if he was of middle eastern descent looked very happy to hear the Arabic section as he went by! My feeling was that the piece was original and varied and brought a new creative experience to shoppers and passers by who may not have witnessed anything similar before. That is always a good thing.

Do you feel the commission allowed you to create something, or experiment with your artistic skills, in a way that may not otherwise have been possible?

Yes. This was a very different piece of work for me. The main product was actually the soundscape rather than my personal performance. I usually engage and communicate quite fully when on stage, but this allowed me to sit back and enjoy the piece alongside the audience. The technical aspects were very challenging and I was very pleased to have Jimmy Andrex on board for the performances who took care of all of that, and Joe Kemp who did the soundscape in his studio. I liked the ideas of using my i phone as the main way to record and collect sound which was used on the final piece (rather than as a rehearsal aid or as a stimulus to write other work), again a new experience.

What’s next for you?

I think this piece will work well as a radio presentation and intend to send it to various festivals and programmes. As an artist I am constantly creating new work in a variety of contexts and pushing my artistic boundaries. I am currently working with visual artist Linda King accompanying her poems and exhibition at Aire Studios in Leeds using a variety of percussion and guitar. I am continuing to develop a collection of stories and songs with people living with Alzheimers and Primary School Children, and performing songs written this year during my Filey Residency about the history of the fishing industry, and a song cycle celebrating the life of Barbara Hepworth. I am waiting for the imminent release of a music video commissioned by the National Coal Mining Museum England last year. In the future I am looking to explore and research in more depth the benefits of singing and the natural environment on our well being, and working on this project collaboratively with artists form other disciplines.

Photos by Sophie Lei Man