INTERVIEW: Beccy Owen & Martha Hill | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Sage Gateshead’s Artists in Residence programme offers the luxury of space to artists to dream up and develop creative projects. No topic or thought process is off-limits, as evidenced by two of this year’s Residents, Beccy Owens and Martha Hill, who base their final performances around pretty disparate subjects: the interaction between music and bodies, and Dracula. 

It’s been so fun to just write something and be allowed to go as cheesy as you want,” laughs Martha, “you’re not trying to keep things edgy or appealing for the radio, you get to write absolute ridiculousness.” Martha’s project is Dracula: The Musical, a wacky departure from the candour and reality of their usual alt. pop focus. “I was weirdly drawn to Dracula as a character. I imagined him as melodramatic, misunderstood and persecuted rather than an evil character. There’s something about his melancholy that I find intriguing and funny, and it inspired me to write.” The ten-month stint with Sage Gateshead’s resources has allowed Martha to delve into an idea that otherwise would have been sidelined or perhaps not indulged at all. The fertility of exploring new avenues has resulted in whole new realms of creativity opening up for the musician: “It’s definitely opened my eyes to other sides of composition, and new potentials for collaborations or alternative incomes.”

The fertility of exploring new avenues has resulted in whole new realms of creativity

Beccy Owens’ residency is set to culminate in an alternative, hopeful and musical ritual dubbed The Amplified Sanctum. Emerging as a hybrid of visual and sonic, installation and performance, Beccy assuredly explains that the development came from looking inwards: “It’s come out of the practices I’ve been engaging with as myself and as an artist, as someone who lives with mental health conditions and disabilities. This means I have to be particularly vigilant and have a certain awareness at all times about my limbic system and how activated it is. I’ve had to find ways of staying well that work for me. I’m not looking to be a guru or a medic, it’s just about being an artist and wanting to share where I’m at.” This project marks a departure from Beccy’s usual autobiographical writing and is instead taking steps in the direction of ambience: “Dropping autobiography is very freeing, I’m really interested in non-narrative structures. I love the idea of moving into something that is less formed and structured. Really, if I’m honest, I’m not quite sure what I am doing or where I am going, but that’s part of it. I’m allowing myself to be less controlled, less poised; I’m trying to just let myself unfold in my work.”

It’s important to note that both performances are works-in-progresses, with audiences able to witness the creative process in action, helping both Martha and Beccy figure their projects out in the moment. “I’m really excited to get feedback from the audience on what they think I could do better or change, or even what doesn’t make sense,” concludes Martha, with Beccy concurring that the work-in-progress of it all is written into the performance itself. “I want to work in a non-hierarchical way. I’m trying to break down the barriers between performance, performer and audience by bringing them in to make choices, very simple choices that anyone will be able to make. There’s no musical knowledge needed, I want people to feel vital to the uniqueness of each performance.”

Martha Hill performs Dracula: The Musical on Thursday 2nd and Beccy Owen performs The Amplified Sanctum on Saturday 11th June, at Sage Gateshead.

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