Artist Directors Residency with the Mercury Prize-Nominated Singer ESKA

So much creative stuff has been happening over the last month - it's been amazing! The latest has been that I was one of fourteen emerging artists to be chosen to take part in the Artistic Director Series with the Mercury Prize-nominated singer ESKA. The opportunity was offered by an organisation called Brighter Sound based in Manchester. 

The residency lasted just over four days and was such a beautiful learning experience. It was great working with so many talented artists not least of which was ESKA, whose music I have admired for a while, and also Adrian Jackson who runs the theatre company Cardboard Citizens. 

We arrived in Manchester about two days after the tragedy that occurred at the Ariana Grande concert. Initially, we weren't even sure if the residency was going to happen or not. The first day we all met together and discussed how things were going to move forward and then we all went to take part in the minute silence in the main square. This was a really moving experience and brought home the impact of what had actually happened in a deeper way than just seeing it on the news. 

The days that followed consisted of everyone discussing together some of our collective inspiration surrounding the theme "Are you here?". We were exploring how to write in a more socially conscious way which was even more apt in light of the events that had recently occurred. 

When we had decided on some interesting concepts we got into smaller groups and tried to write. As solo creative artists, all of us found this hard. Collaboration meant you had to push your undeveloped idea forward to be critiqued by people you had only just met, perhaps for the idea to be rejected. Or you had to give up an idea you might have really liked because it didn't work within the whole. The second day was the most difficult with everyone getting frustrated but somehow the vibe remained good. People were trying hard to get along and be nice and to make this work. The end of the second day moving into the third saw a breakthrough. Now, we were working together and the ideas soared! Day three culminated in refining our efforts. Day four was a dress rehearsal and then the gig.

The show came together down to the wire but when we hit it was fantastic! This is the reason I play music! The crowd were incredible - we had witnessed this throughout the residency - no one was holding Manchester down! Such an amazing place with warm-hearted people and generous community spirit, totally defiant in the face of adversity.

Eska and Adrian had paced the show really well, interweaving theatrical pieces that tied the musical elements together. Somewhere round the halfway point Eska got up and free-styled with electronic producer Taylor Burton - the crowd went nuts! The energy just kept elevating. At the end Eska had everyone up dancing - even us on stage. It was such a great night of fun, friendship, music and love and respect. I really hope I get to do this again!