With support from Sound and Music, Arts Council England, The Canal and Rivers Trust and the help of 27 partner organisations, Dead Rat Orchestra undertook a unique and audacious tour during July and August of 2014, across the canals and waterways of Southern England, from London to Bristol via Oxford.
DRO aimed to use the 273 mile odyssey to chart these inland waters, gathering an informal history of England's once thriving industrial arteries, exploring social, historical and musical roots. Having researched and developed musical material about and from this history they stopped daily to perform and interact with locals along the route, sharing stories and learning new ones, making connections. Often packing up and moving on in their boat 'Gemini II' shortly after performances, the sense of Journey was at the forefront of this tour, more than any other, with the music and performances developing in unexpected ways that reflected the nature of their movement.
They played in churches, under bridges, in boatmen's pubs, from pontoon gardens, at the London Canal Museum, the Arnolfini art gallery and even the oldest music performance space in Europe, The Holywell Music Rooms. They danced and hollered amongst victorian pumping engines and clattered through a museum of industrial heritage.The physicality of life on the boat was tansformative, with the Genini II's outboard motor becoming the forth voice in their ever tighter vocal renditions of songs that explored the hopes and aspirations of the countries first steps into industrialisation.
Accompanied by filmmaker Ian Nesbit, further documentation of the tour will certainly follow, for now please see the items below:
FOLK RADIO asked us to provide a diary of sorts - we obliged with a post from each of the three of us from different stages of the tour, covering different aspects of our journey each time...
We were also joined for the Caen Hill locks by JP Devlin for BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live, who chatted with us about what we were up to and gave us a feature on their show on August 18th listen again HERE
(about 20mins in).
London Time Out Ran an interview with Dan in Time Out HERE, before it all began...
And a lovely review from Sebastien Reynolds at the Oxford Times gave the following amazing review....
Above, Ian's film of us in Marlow - 'Tommy Note', a song about the abuses of early capitalists in forcing employeees to work for a company currency, only valid within company stores, where products were of "superior prices and inferior quality".
performing 'Pearmains and Pippins' amongst 19th Century machinery.
There are further films of us at this show HERE.