2019 Spring Equinox Newsletter

Looking over towards Hoy (3rd March 2019).

This post, timed more or less to coincide with the spring equinox, gives a little retrospective of my first few months – my first Winter season – living here in Orkney.


Progressing projects

Remote working was tricky here at first. The house has never had a telephone and that plays havoc with the installation of a decent internet connection… But we got there in the end, and projects soon picked up steam again!

Artist Residency in Motherhood

I’ve set up my studio in our dining room, and renewed my Artists Residency in Motherhood. There are currently 700 of us doing this residency, spread across 53 different countries. In a similar vein, I’m also very much enjoying a new podcast called Artist/Mother. Very compelling topics now that I’ve moved back to my maternal family heartlands…

I travelled south for the last gig in our SONA Unpeeled series. We ran our listening installation (I’ve documented our making process here in text and with audio clips on soundcloud too), and really enjoyed performances from Otherworld and AGF as well. We’re beginning to plan our next project now too (SONA: LANDMASS), funded through a wider Yorkshire Sound Women Network endeavour. Exciting!

While south, I also visited Lancaster and Leeds to meet with the wider ENSEMBLE project team with whom we (at Leeds) have been funded for a short project on bioacoustics for pollinator monitoring. There’s a great deal of really interesting work going on there, examining the role of digital technology in understanding, mitigating and adapting to environmental change.

I’m plugging away on some academic writing too at the moment, clearing a little of my backlog of unpublished work – with a focus this period in medical acoustics. I’m glad to report progress in two Sheffield-based collaborations – a paper from our overlapping speech/ conversational training project is under review at present, and a paper related to my snoring project has been accepted for presentation at ICASSP in the summer.

WiMIR - women in music information retrieval

I’ve been involved with the Women in Music Information Retrieval mentoring scheme since it first began, and now that I’m living in a remote location it seemed more important than ever to take part. I’m really pleased to be in conversation now with people living in three different continents!


And settling in…

I’ve always fancied living in Orkney – I’ve a thousand years of family history to explore after all – but I never really dreamed it would actually be possible! The prompt for this move has come like a bolt from the blue with my other half completing his long and tortu(r)ous PhD, and following a haphazard series of events to find out about a job here as a violin/cello instructor. Lucky me 🙂

All of the patterns of our daily existence are now timed (and re-timed) according to the conditions of the day… XCWeather seems to be the weather app of choice nearby for those at sea and on the air. It often gives a quite alternative point of view to the MetOffice prediction, and must admit I don’t really trust either of them yet!

Given that we’re right by the sea, we’d be daft not to keep an eye on the tide times too… Our pier is only about 60cm clear above the spring high tides at the present. Not much comfort in that!

… hence we’re keeping an ear out for the regular SEPA flood alerts too!

I spent years travelling around on the rail network without understanding why folk would chose to stay on the platforms, looking at the passing trains… There are no trains here, but watching the marine traffic passing by our window, I finally appreciate the appeal of that activity!

There are so many enjoyable distractions to lead you out and about here! Stromness Rocks is a bit of a favourite at the moment, lots of nice finds hidden away…

Well… what to say… I’m running again! Quite by accident at first, but I can run for 30 minutes now, thanks to my trusty running for beginners podcast, and I’m enjoying it an awful lot more than I ever did when running in a city! Such an awesome landscape to explore…

… and it’s not just me – I love the freedom that the wee kids (or ‘peedie bairns’) get up here too! We need to leave plenty contingency time for every journey we do, anticipating the encounters that’ll happen en route…

We can share a bit of babysitting with our neighbours here, and I’ve been able to get out to the big screen. Our local film club, the West Side Cinema, does a fortnightly (so far) show in the town hall just along the street. We’ve had a very contemplative Lucky and a brilliant live soundtrack from The Badwills for Assunta Spina.

The Pier Arts Centre in Stromness does an absolutely brilliant job of supporting local artists. We’ve had the Peedie Pier (by primary school kids), Higher Photography (by secondary school kids), Flow (curated by local art students), DELINEATIONS (works by recent Orkney Graduates), and of course there’s the permanent collection too. Wow!

I can’t wait for the Northlight Gallery to start its summer season too! We’ve had enticing displays in the windows all through the winter, and an open studio with photographs by Cary Welling. The space is booked up for a great summer of visiting artists… I’m looking forward to the season unfolding!

It feels an awfully long time now since my bookselling days, but after escaping the constant-reading-for-work need of the last decade, I’m back to reading for pleasure again… This winter it’s been one book recommended by my sister, one inspired by the landscape right outside my window, and one that I stumbled across while simply following my nose

Who knew about Classic Album Sundays!? I’ve been over to Kirkwall to listen to Massive Attack’s Mezzanine and U2’s The Joshua Tree – neither is really part of my mainstay repertoire, but both sessions were a very enjoyable listening experience all the same…

Last but not least, there’s Tullimentan too – a monthly arts program on the local radio station… For those who are living further afield but still interested to find out more about what what goes on here, it gets uploaded to mixcloud too. Sparkling!


Looking back towards Stromness (3rd March 2019).