Snape Maltings to host diverse Festival of New

Letty Stott in the reed beds outside the Snape Maltings Concert Hall

Letty Stott at Britten Pears Arts' Festival of New, Snape Maltings - Credit: Britten Pears Arts

From ancient horns to ‘fractured punk’, Britten Pears Arts is offering audiences a lockdown mini-festival of music this weekend.

Festival of New is a whirlwind annual showcase of new projects in development, created on residencies at Snape Maltings by musicians representing a large breadth of musical genres. 

Usually, it takes the form of a live weekend at Snape in September but, because of Covid, this year it will be broadcast online.

It takes place on Saturday, February 27 on YouTube Live and tickets are free.

The event will be hosted by radio presenter, audio producer and DJ Zakia Sewell. 

The line-up is eclectic. Dance-theatre duo Thick and Tight are working on a piece inspired by Japanese Noh theatre and Benjamin Britten’s piece Curlew River, incorporating elements of these influences into their home territory of dance and queer performance.

Dom Bouffard playing his electric guitar at Britten Pears Arts' Festival of New, Snape Maltings

Dom Bouffard will be bringing the sounds of fractured punk to Britten Pears Arts' Festival of New, at Snape Maltings - Credit: Britten Pears Arts


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Guitarist, composer and sound artist Dom Bouffard and friends are creating an abstract experience mixing live performance and sound art.

Bouffard describes the sound world as ‘fractured punk’ – inspired by the rebellious heritage of the electric guitar and the sound and energy of punk.

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Folk singer Maz O’Connor is creating her first piece of music theatre, depicting the true story of Bridget Cleary, a woman who was murdered by her husband in 19th-century Tipperary because he believed her to be a ‘faery changeling’.

Also from the world of folk, duo Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach are planning a new podcast, which will see them invite a different musical guest to join them each episode to create a brand new collaborative piece, live on air. 

Horn player Letty Stott and her team of collaborators explore ancient forms of the instrument from Greek, Roman and Etruscan civilisations, re-imaging their sounds to create music that sounds out of time and yet also energetically modern. 

DJ Zakia Sewell who is hosting the Britten-Pears Arts Festival of New on Saturday February 27

DJ Zakia Sewell who is hosting the Britten-Pears Arts Festival of New on Saturday February 27 - Credit: Caspar Swindells

One of the most tantalising of the projects is Nick Ryan’s work in progress.

While the other residencies took place at Snape Maltings, Nick worked at the historic acoustic laboratory at BT Martlesham, utilising the vast array of remarkable equipment there. Ryan is a composer, sound designer and artist, and widely recognised as a leading thinker of sound.

In his project, he is working with collaborators to explore how we create meaning from sound and whether this is measurable.

Max Baillie playing violin at Britten Pears Arts' Festival of New, Snape Maltings

Max Baillie performing at Britten Pears Arts' Festival of New, Snape Maltings - Credit: Britten Pears Arts

As if this weren’t enough, these only make up around half of the projects intended to be showcased.

The others – Emily Levy, Join The Din, Nadine Benjamin, Ulita, and Shruthi Rajasekar & Reylon Yount – had been scheduled for 2020 but have had to be put back to later in 2021.

However, the artists will also take part in Festival of New this Saturday, talking about their work and ideas.  

So, how did Britten Pears Arts manage to host the residencies that have taken place during the pandemic?

Vahakn Matossian creating electronic sounds at Britten Pears Arts' Festival of New, Snape Maltings

Vahakn Matossian at Britten Pears Arts' Festival of New, Snape Maltings - Credit: Britten Pears Arts

Rebecca Merritt, head of residencies at Britten Pears Arts, said: “During windows between the periods of lockdown we managed at short notice to safely bring groups together and let them enjoy the space and explore their fascinating ideas. 

"We’re so happy that we managed to host them and commission a film-maker to create documentary films which audiences will be able to watch on Saturday.

"And it wouldn’t be the Festival of New if the audience weren’t able to get involved. There will be plenty of opportunities to ask the artists questions and give them feedback, and this is a really important part of the event as all of the projects are still live and continuing to be developed.”

Letty Stott and her collaborators at Britten Pears Arts' Festival of New, Snape Maltings

Letty Stott at Britten Pears Arts' Festival of New, Snape Maltings - Credit: Britten Pears Arts

Artist Letty Stott said: “It has been such a difficult time for everyone since the first lockdown a year ago.

"For freelance musicians like myself and the other artists appearing at Festival of New, it’s been very tough indeed, so the chance to develop something creative and positive in the incredibly beautiful surroundings of Snape Maltings was a really wonderful opportunity.”

Festival of New takes place on YouTube Live on Saturday February 27, 2pm to 6.30pm.

Tickets are free but booking is required. Booking information can be found here.   

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