On Sunday 13th May a small group gathered on the corner of Magdalen Road and St Margaret’s Road. They were met by musician Bev Lee Harling and taken to what until that point had been a secret location for a solo performance in the first of her Songs in Unexpected Places series. The location was the library of The Convent of The Holy Child, a double height, wood panelled, Victorian-gothic space in a building which has been largely unused, and the subject of many cries for conservation, for years. The room was presented as it had been found, with dust and debris, and Harling moved between the balcony and the staircase as she performed a purely acoustic set with voice and violin.

“One of the things I’m interested in finding out is how the different spaces affect the sound and also how I behave as a performer.” she tells me. Harling has in her career performed all over the world as part of the Ivor Novello award winning Mediaeval Baebes, has worked with Berlin-based producer and DJ Stefan Rogall alongside Hugo Race (The Bad Seeds), Earl Zinger (Galliano) and Henry Rollins and is known locally for making music out of anything and everything in her Bev Lee Harling and The Kitchen Sink shows. She is stripping everything right back in this series. “Some spaces are very generous and give the sound back to you.” she says. “The large spaces can give you a lovely reverb, but in very small spaces you really are on your own as a performer, which creates a specific kind of intimacy but means you really have nowhere to hide.” And it’s not just the physics of the space that changes. “The library felt like a space which no one had been in for a long time.” she says. “One patron in particular got quite emotional when we walked in and welled up for the first few songs.”

Some of the spaces in the series have room for ten people in the audience, others 70. Tickets are free and anyone who wants to go just has to sign up. Three days before the performance names will be selected at random from the list and those people will be told where the meeting point is.

Harling, who grew up in Hastings, has had this series in planning for a while and hopes to run more if it proves successful. She started looking for the spaces by putting a call out on facebook, asking for suggestions of places people would love to hear music in or even just have the opportunity to visit. She was overwhelmed by responses, and a few which made the selection this time, are on the verge of changing forever. The last two of this series are on the 17th and 22nd June.

For more information and to sign up go to eventbrite.co.uk

PICTURE: Georgie Scott


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