Artist Residency at Hawkwood: Seamas Carey
"In February 2023 spent a week at Hawkwood delving deeper with these ideas. I split my time between reading, watching documentaries, deconstructing some of my favourite choir arrangements – by other people –, going for walks, distracting myself, composing new songs, chatting to pals, eating and generally scheming about the future."
I’m not sure why I’ve not gone to more artist residencies before. They feel a bit like giving your creative side a massage, or a haircut. Investing in myself, with time and focus. So needles to say – I’m very grateful to Hawkwood and the Frances W Reckitt Arts Trust for allowing me to indulge in a week-long artistic massage. Hmmm lovely.
For five years now I’ve run Cornwall’s first alternative male voice choir; Men Are Singing in Falmouth. But I’ve always wanted to do more with this lovely group of trusting, generous men, something more political.
I want to explore and dismantle the themes of toxic masculinity, gender conformity and what it means to be a 21st century man – with a large group of singing men.
When starting the choir, I had to ask myself the question – why do we need another separate space for men?
Well I thought; it’s what they do in the space, that’s what’s really important…
I want to create an honest, provocative, heartfelt and sometimes shocking piece of devised theatre with a group of non-professional male singers. From something that starts out as a traditional concert, the audience will soon discover personal truths and secrets from these men – their insecurities, hopes, disappointments and passions. They will dance, sing, embarrass themselves, make confessions and do away with macho stereotypes, revealing a very vulnerable and funny truth to manhood.
So that’s the starting point.
In February 2023 spent a week at Hawkwood delving deeper with these ideas. I split my time between reading, watching documentaries, deconstructing some of my favourite choir arrangements (by other people), going for walks, distracting myself, composing new songs, chatting to pals, eating and generally scheming about the future.
Sometimes the most creative moments came during the tea breaks or walks. One afternoon I found myself strolling through some fields, contemplating the right to roam protest movement following the recent Dartmoor mass trespass. I decided there and then; what was needed was a singing round, to sing whilst roaming as an act of joyous rebellion. It just so happens that I love the challenge of writing a round – the catchy memorable melody hook, the interlocking harmonies, and the fact that they live on and change hands without any financial transaction. It’s pure folk music for the people. So that’s what I did – I wrote a singing protest round about the right to roam, in the style of an old English folk song. It’s now finished and I plan on sending it to said movement, with the hope that it can be learnt and shared as far and wide as necessary.
So it goes to show – sometimes a moment of distraction is just as fruitful as a moment of focus. If not more.
I’m starting to plan for The Men Project and will be applying for funding over the new few months, but I’m aware that this idea will take some time to develop, so I could be on it for quite a while. Thanks to Hawkwood for the focus, the distraction and helping me get the ball rolling. Long it may roll.
Seamas Carey is a Cornish artist/bloke best known for the podcast series The Reason Why, a humorous and thought provoking exploration of the social issues and culture wars of contemporary Cornwall. His one man, controversial sell out comedy show Help! I Think I’m A Nationalist is on tour throughout 2023 – TICKETS HERE. Other work includes; Pagan Pandemonium, I Wish I Was A Standing Stone and Seamas Carey Meets His 4 Year Old Self (Emma Rice’s 2019 theatre highlight, The Guardian). He also conducts Cornwall’s first alternative male voice choir, Men Are Singing. In 2020 he won the Maurice O’Connell Bursary Award and the following year he exhibited a solo show at Tate St Ives.
As a multi-instrumentalist (accordion, piano, double bass, bagpipes) Seamas worked for ten years as a composer, performer, choir leader, musical director, puppeteer, silent film pianist and piano tuner. He grew up in Cornwall where he still lives, but has performed at Shakespeares Globe, London’s Westend and toured throughout the world with theatre productions by Wildworks, Kneehigh and Sally Cookson.