Thursday, 25 August 2011

Traditional with a twist

Have you ever had one of those absolutely perfect days, the memory of which you want to wrap up very carefully and keep so that whenever you need a bit of a boost you can get it out and smile? I had one of those days a couple of Sundays ago. It was a few days after all the riots and upheaval in London and I felt extremely fortunate that my friend Laura and I could pack up a picnic, drive out into Sussex and end up somewhere like this - Herstmonceaux Castle. As we parked, Laura couldn't contain herself and squealed loudly -'It's got a moat!' much to the amusement of the people nearby. 'She's American' I offered by way of explanation.
When I booked tickets for a folk concert in this beautiful setting I could not have hoped for a more perfect day - both in terms of the weather, and because both of us needed some time to draw breath from the challenges of living in the big city.

One of the wearying  things about the media coverage of the recent disturbances is the inevitable hand wringing and blustering about 'The Youth of Today' as if they are somehow alien beings sent to disappoint and alarm us. We created the world that they are inheriting and it has never been more important to hear their voices. It was refreshing, therefore that the first musician on the bill was Luke Jackson.  At 16 years old he really impressed me with his honest and relevant songs.

Next up were Phil and Hannah, a duo whose songs were really enhanced by the quality of their musicianship and the fact that they mixed traditional folk with modern twists such as harmonica beatboxing. I'm also a real sucker for a slide guitar...

Finally to the top of the bill were Steve Knightley,

Phil Beer

and Miranda Sykes, collectively known as Show of Hands who gave a great performance of old and new songs. One of the things that draws me to folk and acoustic music is the narrative style, the ability to tell traditional and contemporary stories about ordinary people and help make sense of where we find ourselves as a community. Now I know there are those who prefer their folk music more traditional and those who don't think folk music has anything to say to them I do believe it's important not to lose the old songs because they have things to say that give us another way of looking at where we are now, as well as having some fine, danceable tunes, lets not be too po faced about things! Like any living art I think music needs to keep developing to stay relevant, fresh and enjoyable. This concert  showed that these musicians feel the same way.

And what was I doing when I wasn't clapping and singing and dancing along to the music on a fine sunny afternoon? Apart from trying to make a dent in the enormous picnic we had brought I was of course, knitting!

The project I brought along with me was the Mystery Shawl by Stephen West. I enjoy Stephen West's designs for a similar reason to my enthusiasm for modern folk music. Regular readers will know that a large part of my passion for knitting is that it is an element of the thread that binds me to the line of creative women in my family and beyond as well as the way that in today's consumer society making something slowly and patiently by hand can give so much pleasure. Just as with music, I believe the craft needs new, fresh ideas and approaches to keep it exciting and having used a few of Stephen West's patterns I love the way that he uses clean, simple, architectural shapes to give a modern twist to this most traditional of activities.

So, three out of four clues into the project I have been challenged to find three colours that I think work together.

Confront my fear of intarsia knitting.
And to relax into the peaceful rhythm of longer and  longer rows knowing that the project is growing with every stitch even if this is not apparant to the naked eye.
Whether it be music or knitting, I like my traditions with a twist and have faith that if older and younger people share their creativity we can do amazing things.

Finally, if you would like to hear me talking about my day job in knitting please have a listen to Episode 11 of Kate's lovely podcast, A Playful Day. My interview with her is at about 45minutes into the show but please listen to the whole thing - all sorts of knitterly natter plus some very thought provoking comments on recent events.


Sally said...

Lovely post! Thank you, Jane!

knit nurse said...

Looks great - one of my fave bands, and you had fabulous weather and a magnificent setting, very auspicious!

littlelixie said...

I love your colour choices. You have such a great eye for combinations. I've seen the pattern being queued a lot on Rav. Looks beautiful.