DIY draw a vagina workshops: Huddersfield artist’s project to break down societal taboos

Your hear it talked about when it is used as an insult-or when it belongs to Miley Cyrus at a packed out stadium concert.One of Kashika Ashley Cooper's vagina drawings

The term vagina and the image it evokes has even recently caused an entire room of Michigan politicians to burst into a seething ball of flames when it was uttered.
And vaginal images have not fared much better, following thecensorship of Leena McCall’s Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing by staff at London’s Mall Gallery and the arrest of female Japanese artist, Megumi Igarashi, for creating 3D image data of her own this summer.

But why does saying it and seeing its visual representations have the ability to shut so many people up and leave them squirming their way down the street, when coming into contact with one was the first thing most of us did on our way into the world?


Kashika Ashley Cooper

One Huddersfield textile artist, Kashika Ashley Cooper, has set out to find out why and break down the taboo surrounding the body part along the way.
She’s six months into a long-term project, VJJTextiles, to create ‘an archive of fannies’, which she hopes will de-stigmatise vaginas to the extent that you could talk about them whilst having afternoon tea with your nan.

“So many people have a problem with talking about and seeing images of vaginas and I just wanted to find out what was the issue with them.
“For most women, their vagina only really comes into play properly when they push a baby out through them but I want younger people who’ve not been through that to create a better identity with their own and give more power to the fanny.
“So I used my background in textiles as a way of encouraging dialogue around them and coaxing people to express themselves through them.
“Since then it’s just spiralled and now I’m obsessed with the topic. People sometimes think it’s odd that I talk about them so much but I don’t care any more and it helps to break down the taboo.”

Her first stop was to coax people into drawing their own interpretation and create new identitiesvagina4 for vaginas that position themselves away from connotations of lewd and more towards something positive.
Kashika is particularly interested in questioning the use of language to describe vaginas, where she says a happy medium can be hard to find.
“The different terms we use to label vaginas intrigues me. Vagina sounds so clinical, some offend people so much it’s impossible to use it and others don’t sound like vaginas at all. I prefer the term fanny.”
Participants at her workshops are presented with a diagram of a vagina she drew, with labels which they fill in themselves.
vagina3“I want people to use their imaginations to give them their own identity.
“But what I’ve also found out is how amazingly little most people, myself included, really know about vaginas, even if they have one.”

They are also given a blank sheet of paper on which to draw their own vaginal etchings from memory, and without the need to get out the hand mirrors.
“It’s just a lot of fun. I think the best way to get people talking about a subject like this is to do it in a light-hearted way-glitter pens and Pritt Stick help.”

She already has a book full of the efforts of past contributors, which range from stick man sketches to designs with frogs dancing and holding balloons in the vagina entrance.
“I told people to draw whatever they wanted. It celebrates the diversity of vaginas and shows that there is no ‘wrong’ look to one.
“It challenges public perceptions of vaginas and tackles their misrepresentation in our culture.”

Her own range of work is also put on display at the events, which she has made using laser vagina2printed fabric design. This includes square cuts of cloth with 1950s style patterns, some of which have a look that could find them easily making their way onto the living room walls of unwitting occupants. She has also released a range of postcards, one of which was addressed to her own grandma.
“I think they are at the same time nostalgic yet challenging.
“I was inspired by abstract designer, Lucienne Day, and replaced her styles with vaginas, which included flowers, which I think they have a lot in common with.
“Women used to express their feminity with flowers but why not use vaginas to do the same thing now a days?”

vagina7She has also created a series of pinafores, dubbed ‘pinny porn’, which are cvered in Rodchenko-like constructivist vaginas, drawn to scale using measurements given by willing members of the public.
“I’m not sure if I could sell them ethically though because the designs were created by real women-it seems to me almost like I’d be prostituting them
“Society encourages us to consider vaginas as a deeply private part of ourselves yet at the same time there exists such an enormous amount of social ritual around them, which can focus on very narrow ways of how they should look.”

She hopes to eventually move into home wares and has dreams of creating a full tea set, as well as continuing to collect public contributions, before exhibiting her entire project later on.vagina1
“It’s quite tongue in cheek but the end of the day it’s a serious subject and my aim is to get people talking about vaginas more openly.”
For more information on Kashika’s project, go to:


Blink and You’ll Miss it: The Peace Museum UK in Bradford

Entrance to the Peace Museum UK in Piece Hall Yard, Bradford.  Credits: Peace Museum UK

Entrance to the Peace Museum UK in Piece Hall Yard, Bradford. Credits: Peace Museum UK

Established in the city that played host to some of the worst British riots in the 20th and early 21st century, Bradford may not have been, to some, the most obvious place to locate the UK’s only dedicated peace museum.

But, look deeper into its history than the  front page headlines and it becomes clear that Bradford has long led the way in attempts to ensure not just calm and harmony, but to create a more equal and happier life for all through non violent protest, even in the face of the most challenging situations.

Visit the museum and you will find that this is due to the tireless work of local political activists and politicians, early educational reformers, artists, whole neighbourhoods and the academics, who are located in the biggest university Peace Department in the world and, altogether, helped the city earn the title  of City Of Peace in 1997.

Peace plea tree

Peace plea tree

Found in Piece Hall Yard, a side street in the centre, The Peace Museum UK is a proud testament to these local communities, which it knits together with the fights and successes of campaigners from across the country and abroad.

Only open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10am until 4pm, many people may struggle to see first hand this extraordinary collection of tales and 6,000 artefacts, but whether you take a holiday off especially, or are a bit more canny and call in whilst officially ‘at the dentists’, a visit is guaranteed to leave you feeling inspired and thinking of the city in a very different light.

But in the mean time, here’s the first of a three part overview of some of the campaigners and movements based in the region who are focused on in it.

The early peace movement 

Bradford's Victorian campaigners for peace and equality

Bradford’s Victorian campaigners for peace and equality

Bradford’s links to peace have roots that are hundreds of years old. One of these

early campaigners for the cause was Richard Cobden, an MP for West Riding from 1847-57, whose anti-war stance and belief in arbitration as opposed to aggressive military strategies in international conflicts eventually cost him his political career. He was, however, never really welcomed by more radical left wing campaigners, due to  his liberal leanings that led him to believe that free trade would promote peace and prosperity.

The large mural that adorns a building in Hall Ings, near to Chapel Street, and is pictured in one of the museum’s displays commemorates the birth of the Independent Labour Party as a national party in the city in 1893, which at the time was one of the foremost industrial locations in Britain. The first party to stand up primarily for the rights of working class residents, it formed from the ashes of the Manningham Mills strike in 1880 and the resulting Bradford Labour Union that followed behind. By 1906 it had won its first parliamentary seat, in West Bradford, due to its commitment to progressive social reforms guided by the aim of securing collective and communal ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange . In terms of welfare, these included policies to provide free education ‘up to the universities,’ the provision of medical treatment and welfare programmes for the disadvantaged and young, reform housing, establish measures to reduce unemployment and give aid to the unemployed. Meanwhile, in the workplace, members campaigned for a minimum-wage law and the abolition child labour, overtime, piecework, and long working days.

Independent Labour Party mural

Independent Labour Party mural

In terms of international relations, they were the foremost advocates of pacifism during the Boer War and favoured international cooperation for the production and distribution of wealth. However, despite their best efforts, the party did not remain immune from factionalism and several strands emerged that, by the outbreak of World War One argued for different policies regarding defeating outside threats to Britain.

The ILP played a central role in the formation of the Labour Representation Committee, the forerunner to the Labour Party, and remained closely, if uneasily, affiliated to it.

Amongst the most notable politicians to rise out of the party was Philip Snowden, a

Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden

Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden

weaver’s son and chartist supporter who was born in Cowling and entered politics professionally  after an accident led to his decision to quit his former job in the civil service, which he had taken up after a stint as an insurance clerk in Burnley. Although initially a member of the Liberal Party he joined the ILP after becoming convinced by the ideology of socialism. Once a member, he rose through the ranks to become one of its most celebrated members through his role as Labour Party MP for Blackburn from 1906-1924. During that time his opposition to war grew, culminating in his 1913 dossier which he presented to parliament to highlight the issues surrounding the international arms trade. He correctly predicted that if war broke out it would only lead to a future desire by Germany to create new allies to try restore its international position and condemned army recruitment, stating that he refused ‘to ask any young man to sacrifice his life for me.’ He later became the parliamentary crusader for conscientious objectors, complaining about the abuses of tribunals and military overseers.

However, later in life his radical political stance lost its way and he was eventually vilified by some sections of the Labour Party after agreeing to join the Conservatives in the 1931 national government.

Margaret McMillan and Miriam Lord

Margaret McMillan and Miriam Lord

Margaret McMillan and Miriam Lord were two Bradfordian residents who took it upon themselves to radically reform the education system to make it more inclusive and caring and thus encourage peace and a ‘civilised society’ amongst younger generations. Margaret moved to Bradford from New York in 1892 after training as a teacher. She believed that all children should have access to education and receive good, all round care. Her most famous policy was the introduction of free school meals for poor children, a scheme that eventually spread nationally. She also provided one of the greatest influences to Bradford-born Miriam, who trained as a nursery teacher and became inspired to create a safe space to eduate young children. The first headteacher of a pioneering open air nursery school in Manningham, Lilycroft, she led its devotion to ensuring that the pupils were well-fed, encouraged to play, learn and be happy. Her work at the school led one former pupil and soldier who visited the school to declare that ‘if all children in every land could have such a start, the world would not be in the chaos that is it today. Happy people don’t make wars.’

J B Priestley

J B Priestley

Manningham-born Joseph Boynton Priestley is most well-known for his work as a celebrated novelist, playwright and broadcaster. Yet, during his life, the talented literarian also left an indellible mark on the British peace movement. Although not a pacifist (he felt that in certain circumstances war was necessary, for example, to prevent Hitler from depriving Europe of freedom and democracy) he became gradually more concerned about the contemporary state of international relations. In 1957, this led to him writing an article in the New Statesman called Britain and the Nuclear Bombs, which highlighted his worry about nuclear bombs and the Cold War. Most importantly, it put forward a convincing argument about the lack of need for Britain to own nuclear warheads and urged the government to partake in nuclear disarmament. Following its publication, the paper’s editor sent the letters to the National Campaign against Nuclear Weapons and a meeting of like-minded campaigners was called, which included Priestley. There, they decided to launch a national movement, which was called the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and placed the writer as its vice chair.

Protest photographs featuring Kenneth Hockney

Protest photographs featuring Kenneth Hockney

The father of one of Bradford’s greatest living painters, David, Kenneth Hockney was a committed pacifist and artist who brought up his son in a radical, working class household. A conscientious objector throughout World War One, he was drawn to the campaign against nuclear weapons from the 1950s. A proponent of practical artwork that held clear political messages, he was one of Bradford CND’s main poster and banner makers, which were used on demonstrations around the country. One such slogan simply but concisely remarked: ‘One bomb on Bradford and that’s the end’. His work influenced David, who helped create banners when he was at art school and was himself a conscientious objector who avoided his military service obligation by working in hospitals for two years.

Look out for part two soon!

Blink and you’ll miss it: Coal not Dole-Women Against Pit Closures at Barnsley Museum

Coal not Dole: Barnsley Women Against Pit Closures exhibition at Barnsley Museum

Coal not Dole: Barnsley Women Against Pit Closures exhibition at Barnsley Museum.
Credits: Flickr

‘Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock’, reads the striking  large red banner that hangs on a wall in the centre of Barnsley Museum’s latest exhibition.

Part of one of the many public collections created this year to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike,  it is one of the only ones dedicated to telling the story of  the women who fought alongside them on the picket lines and in the communities.

Including cabinet upon cabinet of pamphlets, posters, photos and memorabilia alongside screened interviews of members from local Women Against Pit Closures, it provides a fascinating insight into the importance of their support campaign for the whole community.


It also casts light on how the struggle galvanised many women to take a new public role in what had traditionally been, in public, very male dominated communities.

The exhibition, which is in Church Street,  is open 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday and until 4pm on Saturdays until June 1.

I’ll be going just before it ends next Friday and will post a full review after, but make sure you don’t miss seeing it yourself!

Coalfield woman


Blink and you’ll miss it: Slyvia Plath’s grave

High up on a hill above Hebden Bridge, hidden between rows of other headstones  and overgrown weeds in St Thomas Churchyard lies the grave of Slyvia Plath.

The American poet, novelist and artist was buried here in 1963, after she tragically killed herself in her London flat following the breakdown of her marriage to fellow poet, Ted Hughes.

 Covered with pens, pencils, pennies and a unruly selection of flowers, it’s a poignant if arguably too small memorial to a talented woman whose life ended in such tragic  circumstances.

Why she was buried here amidst landscape that for many months could be considered bleak by someone from the more genteel region of Boston, USA and not back home, in London or even Devon where the couple once lived, is not totally clear.  The  most common explanation is that it’s close to Mytholmroyd, where Hughes was born.

Whilst it’s always worth a visit,  there’s even more reason to now that the summer months are approaching-Heptonstall itself is one of the most picturesque hamlets around-and who, in their right mind, can resist the lure of a trip to nearby creative treasure trove, Hebden Bridge?

Lost tapes of Doctor Who composer and electronic music pioner Delia Derbyshire to go public for first time

This post has been updated and includes a correction: 200 tapes, not 200 scores as previously stated, will go on display.

The lost tapes of the Doctor Who theme tune composer, Delia Derbyshire, are to go public for the first time, thanks to the work of a several year archiving project.

Delia shows how she makes her compositions

Delia shows how she makes her compositions at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

Some of over 200 tapes from the archive of one of the most talented, early

British electronic music pioneers, will be available to listen to at

John Rylands Deansgate Library in Manchester, from later this


It marks an important step forward in terms of finally turning Delia,

who helped to revolutionise BBC soundtracks by creating electronic

music through recording everyday sounds and cutting, splicing and

distorting tapes, into the household name she deserves to be.

One of the team working on the archive is David Butler, a screen

studies lecturer at the University of Manchester, who has been

working since 2007 to help archive and digitise the fragile tapes of

Delia’s work, which were found stashed in large cardboard cereal

boxes in her attic after she died in 2001.

As many of the labels were missing, he and his colleagues have

arduously been trying to match the recordings to her known works,

as well as solve the mysteries surrounding her partially or un-
published work.

The research has helped to unearth music that was created in the

early 1980s, an important find that puts to bed the common belief

that Delia stopped creating electronic music after she left the BBC

Radiophonic Workshop in 1973 due to an increasing disillusionment

with the way the genre was heading at the corporation.

The archiving has also led to the discovery of the enigmatically

titled ‘Ron Grainer’s Bread’, an astounding three minute 30 piece of

synthpop, which is thought to have been created in the early 1970s,

almost a decade before the genre became prominent.

David said: “Much of the work on the archive has been done in my

spare time but it’s been an incredible project to work on.

“I’m really thankful to all the people who have contributed to the

archive and helped us to confirm what some of the pieces are. It’s

been wonderful to rediscover the breadth and talent within her work.

“There are always going to be some question marks over some

aspects of her archive and the only person who could have

provided all the answers was Delia but I’m really pleased with what

has been achieved so far, even though there is still plenty left to do!

“Delia’s archive was entrusted to the composer Mark Ayres who

is also the archivist of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. When

we received the tapes from Mark some of them were in a fragile

condition and had not been played fully for over 30 years. Digitising

the tapes was a lengthy process and much of the credit there goes

to Louis Niebur.”

David Butler inspects one of her reel to reel tapes in the archive

David Butler inspects one of her reel to reel tapes in the archive

Thanks to funding from the library, the plan is to allow members of

the public to listen to Delia’s archive on laptop listening stations in

the building.

Until now, only those lucky to attend events such as the 2013 Delia

Derbyshire Day at Manchester’s Band on the Wall have been able

to hear its contents. Others have been restricted to listening to her

published works, which were released through the BBC, and under

other aliases, such as Li De La Russe.

Although Delia’s available work has influenced numerous

musicians, such as Aphex Twin, Orbital and 808 State, it is hoped

that being able to showcase her wider work in this way will grant her

a much wider fan base.

David said: “Being able to finally let people listen to her work is a

really important step forward in demonstrating why Delia’s music

was so important.

“As the saying goes, writing about music is like dancing about

architecture: the only way to allow people to really appreciate

something is to let them experience it for themselves.

“When I have played her music to audiences in the past it has had

such an effect on them – people are often taken aback at the music

she was able to create with the resources available to her at the

time she was working – so it’s fantastic to be able to share it with

more people.

“Her music is so full of creativity that it feels as if she is still here;

it’s not dated at all, which I think makes what she did even more


“We still have to solve a few issues, there are security factors which

have to be resolved as there are still a lot of copyright restrictions

around Delia’s music, but we hope that the listening posts will be up

and running by the end of the year.”

To find out more about the Delia Derbyshire archive at Deansgate,

click here.

To read about her life and listed works, click here.

A celebration of Delia’s life and work, hosted by the Delia Darlings,

will take place this Saturday from 7.30pm at the Anthony Burgess

Institute. For tickets, click here.

A new era for sexual equality: Celebrating the first same sex marriages in England

I covered one of England’s first same sex marriages on March 29.

Although it was a great privilege, I wish that it was something that had been passed a long, long time before now.

Here’s my report of it below for The Huddersfield Daily Examiner – congratulations to all other couples who tied the knot that day and all those who plan to in the future, here’s to a new era of greater equality for all!

Helen Brearley and Teresa Millward sign the marriage papers

Helen Brearley and Teresa Millward sign the marriage papers

A Meltham couple were amongst the first in England and Wales to tie the knot to celebrate the landmark day same sex marriage was legalised.

Lovebirds Teresa Millward, 36 and Helen Brearley, 50, who  run Holmfirth T-shirt printing business Pretty Pink Pearl Ltd, took their vows at a historic ceremony at Halifax’s Spring Hall this morning.

The pair, who have  been engaged for ten years, said that they did not think that the day would ever come when they would be able to say ‘I do.’

Close friends joined the pair to watch them say their vows and swap rings, before they danced out of the room to swing music.

They were then showered with confetti as they kissed in the hall’s grounds.

Teresa said: “I can’t stop shaking.

“We’re really excited and can’t believe that it happened so quickly and we’re now married.

“We have been hoping for such a long time that this day would come and for it to happen under a Conservative-led government is a massive step forward.

“It shows that society’s attitude towards same sex couples is changing positively.

“We wanted to be able to say we were married to be considered as formally equal to a mixed sex married couple.

“It’s wonderful to think that any child born from this day on will grow up in a country where anyone can get married, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

 Politicians voted to pass a law to make same sex marriage legal in the eyes of the state last July, nine years after civil partnerships were legalised.

However,  it will be up to individual religious organisations as to whether they conduct the ceremony in their institutions.

Whilst faiths such as the Quaker movement,  Liberal Judaism and the Movement for Reform Judaism will marry same sex couples, Church of England ministers will be amongst those prohibited from taking such ceremonies.

Helen said: “It’s a step forward for equality, we’re not quite there yet it is very important.

“I think whether to allow same sex marriage is a personal decision for religious organisations but it is a shame that some religious couples are unable to currently get married within their place of worship.”

They will hold a private ceremony with 51 of their close friends and family at Durker Roods Hotel in Meltham next week.

Deputy superintendant registrar, Deborah Anderson, said: “It was a privilege to lead the ceremony and they are such a lovely couple.

“We have hoped that this law change would happen since civil partnerships were legalised.

“I don’t think that there was a dry eye in the house.”

Huddersfield couple Teresa Millward and Helen Brearley will be among the first in the UK to have a gay marriage once new laws are introduced
Huddersfield couple Teresa Millward and Helen Brearley will be among the first in the UK to have a gay marriage once new laws are introduced

You can read the full article and more of my work for the Huddersfield Daily Examiner here.


I’m back!

Well, deserted readers, I think that Bender certainly puts it best. Sorry that this blog has been more barren than Spain’s coffers over the last month; settling into my happy new home in Huddersfield and new job at the Huddersfield Daily Examiner took up more time than I anticipated. This was probably due to the large amount of time I spent ‘getting to know’ the many amazing real ale pubs in the area-well, when in Rome (or wet and windy Kirklees, to be exact)!

Hopefully, now that I’ve learnt to write with one hand and a pint in the other, this post marks the re-start of regular updates/ annoying wordpress email notifications blocking up your inbox :).

I must admit though, another partial reason for the lack of blogging activity is that I’ve also been getting over an intermittent anxiety problem caused by a build up of stress (and probably a massive lack of sleep) over the last year or so. It’s a problem that I seem to have come across on a more regular basis whilst talking to other people in their 20s recently than before and I have a sneaking suspicion that the combination of a lack of good, stable jobs, other opportunities, increasing debts and decreasing social support is playing a part in it somewhere along the line, although sadly I think there are lots of issues in our society currently that may be leading to an increase in health problems such as this. You can make your own judgements about this, and if you think there has been an increase, who or what is responsible, but let’s just say I won’t be thanking those in charge of the country for their policy and governance choices any time soon.

Anyway, the upshot for me has been that although I’m no longer overworked and have got over a particularly stressful period at the start of the year that acted as a catalyst for my anxiety, I’ve still been struggling with symptoms. According to my doc, even when a stressful period in your life passes, your body can still act like you are still being threatened: basically, it’s like forgetting to reset your alarm. More annoying than anything else, it’s meant that I’ve had to cut quite a few nights short due to getting an out-of-the-blue panic attack, which, is definitely not the way I want to spend any more of my early twenties.

Funnily, I’ve realised that fulfiling the total middle class lefty stereotype by becoming a vegan and yoga lover has helped a lot, even if it has meant that I think I get less invites to tea as a result of the former.  Making art  (however bad my efforts may be, heh) has also been  important, and has just reaffirmed to me how integral it is to improving people’s well being, something I began to notice whilst working in care homes and whilst volunteering a few years ago.  Listening to music has also had a really good affect and I can’t thank Marc Riley, Cerys Matthews, Mary Anne Hobbs and other BBC 6Music djs enough for getting me through some of the rockier times over the last couple of months. One good thing about being unwell  is that it’s allowed me to rediscover all the bands I’d loved and lost, as well as many new ones along the way, so it’s safe to say it’s definitely not been a wasted time :).

I’ve not told many people about the anxiety I’ve been having, because for me, now that the reasons behind it have gone, I see it as more of an occasional annoyance, like getting a sprain, rather than a permanent issue and don’t want to be tagged as such. However, the flip side of this has been that because I could act like nothing was wrong no one noticed when I was having an especially bad time. This meant that it took me longer to accept I needed help from my doctor. It’s made me realise that we need to be a lot more open when we think that our mental health may be suffering and not try ignore the elephant in the room. What may seem invisible at first will out itself at some point, despite best efforts to keep hiding it. Until we start discussing mental health issues in public more frankly we will not increase our understanding of them and that,in turn, affects our ability to tackle them. This is something we need to work together to address and, despite best efforts, mental health issues are something that, just like physical illnesses are hard to beat single-handedly with no support.

Anyway, all that writing has totally distracted me from the time. I guess my best laid plan to talk about all the places I’ve visited and people I’ve spoken to over the last month will have to wait yet another day-although hopefully only just one more. Stay tuned to hear about radical women of the Colne Valley, Sylvia Plath’s grave and updates about the archives of one of Britain’s first (and most amazing) electronic music pioneers. In the meantime, hope you keep wrapped up warm and avoid this freak hail that I can hear hammering on my window. I think I may consider making the most of the UK being in the EU and book my one way plane ticket to somewhere this thing called the sun is seen before any certain political leaders try to rip up our membership. Let me know if you fancy joining me :).

cat sunbathe



Greater Manchester history and activism combined: Say hello to the Mary Quaile Club

mary quaile

A new radical history discussion and activist group has launched in Greater Manchester, which aims to link past struggles in the region to contemporary ones that face us in Tory Britain.

Its founders believe that existing working class history groups have a tendency to be too academic and hope that this group will engage a much wider, non-academic audience.

They also believe there is a new generation of political activists, who are campaigning on issues such as the bedroom tax and zero hours contacts etc, who would benefit from the discussions, but who are not being reached at present.

The group is encouraging members of the public to come forward with ideas for discussions and events and welcomes everyone to attend its free  public meetings.

They will host their first event tomorrow at 2pm at the Cornerstones Centre in Langworthy, which will focus on socialist politician Ellen Wilkinson and how to fight privatisation of the NHS.

They also have plans to put on film screenings in the coming month, so check out their website  here for more information, or find the group on Facebook or Twitter. 

Delia Derbyshire Day returns to Manchester for its second year


Delia Derbyshire cutting tapes

A one day event to honour one of the hidden pioneers of British electronic music is set to take place in Manchester this Spring.

Delia Day, dedicated to the life and work of Delia Derbyshire, the woman responsible for realisation of the Doctor Who Theme, will take place at the Anthony Burgess Institute on April 12.

The second event of its kind, it will build upon a long term project by several musicians to explore the breadth of her work, which began just over 12 months ago after they discovered her archives at the University of Manchester.logodeliadarlings

Known as the Delia Darlings, they hope the event will encourage more people into making experimental electronic music and highlight the talents of her and other early female sound engineers, such as Daphne Oram.

Delia, who grew up in a working class family in Preston and Coventry amidst World War Two, went on to become a leading figure in the BBC’s innovative Radiophonic Workshop, where she helped popularise electronic music through numerous TV and radio scores.

A developer of an avant garde technique called musique concrète, she created electronic music by mixing and distorting natural sounds.

Doctor Who Theme Tune

Not hindered by the lack of the electronic music making equipment readily available now, she manually cut and spliced reels of tape together and used square wave oscillators to form astonishing compositions, that were decades ahead of their time.

She worked for  just over a decade at the Radiophonic workshop, where she produced hundreds of compositions, including Blue Veils and Golden Sands, Ziwzih Ziwzih Oo-Oo-Oo and Great Zoo.


Delia demonstrates the tools used to make her compositions

At the same time she worked for a number of outside organisations, producing scores for the Royal Shakespeare Company and working under different aliases in collectives such as White Noise and Unit Delta Plus, which also included Radiophonic employee, Brian Hodgson.

There she organised and performed at an early electronic music festival, the Concert of Electronic Music in 1966.

The pair also exhibited at  The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, where The Beatles’ Carnival of Light had its only public playing.

She quit the Radiophonic workshop in 1972 due to differing views about the direction she thought that electronic music should head in and withdrew from the industry.

Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO

However, unable to completely leave her passion behind, she made a comeback in 2001 on Sonic Boom’s Experimental Audio Research.

Unsurprisingly, her work has influenced several musicians,  such as Aphex Twin, and Orbital,  and been sampled by Pink Floyd and The Timelords (aka the KLF).


One of her workshops

Yet,  although much of her work has been heard by many, her identity has remained relatively concealed beyond small music circles.

Caro C (Caroline Churchill), Ailís Ni Riain, custodian of her archives and lecturer David Butler, and artist Sarah Hill will put on a series of workshops and talks and unveil special commissions at the event to bring her legacy to the attention of a wider public.

Funded by the Arts Council, it will mark the second phase of the project, which toured touring the North over the past year after a sell-out launch event at Manchester’s Band on the Wall.

Talking about the event and Delia’s work, Caro said: “I hope people will be able to gain some insight magic and inspiration from Delia’s work and archive and appreciate how her music is still very relevant and exciting today.

David Butler inspects one of her reel to reel tapes in the archive

David Butler inspects one of her reel to reel tapes in the archive

“For those who came last year, I hope they will enjoy hearing more audio from the Delia archive and find out more about Delia’s more avant-garde work and collaborations for radio thanks to Teresa Winter who is sharing her research with us.

“Myself and Ailis Ni Riain have also developed commissions, as has home made instrument maker Daniel Weaver and creative technologist and visual artist Andrea Pazos.

On the back of the new stage of the project, Caro hopes to arrange more England tour dates this year further afield in places such as London, Bristol and Norwich and Oxford.

Speaking about what her music can offer the public, she said: “It’s a lot more free,

Caro C (Caroline Churchill). Image courtesy of Delia Darlings

Caro C (Caroline Churchill). Image courtesy of Delia Darlings

daring and experimental sonically than what you hear nowadays. Listening to her archives I got really humbled by how graceful the sound was, especially her production efforts, in a pre-synthesiser age.

“She had to create tones and overtones without relying on advanced machinery. I think we’ve lost that grace in a lot of modern music -there’s too much technology and processes. It warps the original ideas.

“Over the last year I’ve improved my own knowledge of her music, her working methods and the interesting collaborations she did…and uncovered many other women who were active in the electronic music world.

Delia in the studio

Delia in the studio

She will also continue to take Delia’s unconventional techniques into more primary school classrooms, following successful stints at schools in Moss Side and Gorton, to inspire future generations of musicians.

She said: “It seems lots of children can relate to her playful and creative TV themes, such as Dr Who theme, Door to Door and Great Zoos of the world.

“They enjoy learning about her working methods and exploring them for themselves, eg. by making electronic music loops from found sound recordings that they have made themselves. “More than one young person has told me they would like to do a job like Delia’s when they grow up, have become inspired to become a musician and that Delia is inspiring.

“I think Delia’s somewhat unconventional skills and work inspires young people to think creatively, dare to be rare and if they apply themselves to what they want to do, they can have a job they enjoy- and hopefully that anything is possible!”

You can buy tickets for £10 from Skiddle here.

Blink and you’ll miss it: Slaithwaite and the birthplace of violinist, Haydn Wood

photo (11)The plaque might be stuck on an uninspiring wall on a road leading out of a Colne Valley village, but don’t let that taint your view of the man it honours. 

According to this plaque I found on a trip to Slaithwaite, Haydn Wood was a ‘world famous’ violinist born in 1882 in the village’s old Lewisham Hotel on Station Road.

The hotel no longer stands but locals are not willing to forget the man who brought the UK the famous World War One song, The Roses of Picardy, in 1916.

Brought up in a musical family in the village before moving to the Isle of Man, Haydn received a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London when he was only 15.

Whilst studying the violin he met Enrique Fernandez Arbos and composition with Charles Villiers Stanford, two famous composers who were to act as influences in his professional life.

There he also met his future wife, Dorothy Court, a soprano vocalist who he later toured with on stage around the country for 13 years. hayden wood

During these years he composed over 200 ballads and began to achieve considerable success.

His best known work, The Roses of Picardy, was composed for his wife but becmae so popular that it was sung by soldiers when enlisting for the Front in France.

During wartime it sold  50,000 copies in sheet music form per month and, according to Andrea Axelrod, was used to help people overcome shell shock when the war ended.

By the end of his career, Haydn had an impressive portfolio of orchestral music to his name, including 15 suites, 9 rhapsodies, 8 overtures, 3 concertante pieces and nearly 50 other assorted works.

Prefering the light music style, he was responsible for the three-movement Fantasy-Concerto and the London Landmarks Suite, pieces which no doubt encouraged the BBC to hold a special concert dedicated to his music to mark his 70th birthday.

photo (12)He died in a nursing home in London just before his 77th birthday in 1959 and was commemorated with a music festival in his birthplace the following year.

This event has since spiralled into an annual competition called the Haydn Wood Festival, which invites young people from around the Colne Valley to be participants.