Hack-Poets Guild is an exciting new collaboration between Marry Waterson, Lisa Knapp and Nathaniel Mann. Their new album, Blackletter Garland, is taking the folk scene by storm, and we’re thrilled to have them joining us live from The North Wall in Oxford on 24th March. Ahead of the gig, we caught up with them to find out more about what’s in store…
We’re so excited to have you joining us! First of all, how did Hack-Poets Guild come about, and what’s the idea behind the project?
Hack-Poets Guild came about through an idea by Sound UK, to get three folk musicians to collaborate with the Broadside Collections in the Bodleian Library and make new work using the material. The idea was either to use the collection as a starting point for original songs, or to sing the songs as they are found, and reinterpret and reinvent these old scripts for a new generation.
What sparked your interest in broadsides?
All of us are steeped in traditional folk song from the UK in our own ways. There is a huge relationship between the songs that have gone into the folk tradition and the songs that appeared on these penny ballad sheets, so it has been really interesting to discover ballad versions of some of these songs, as well as ballads we hadn’t seen before.
In preparation for the project, you did some research at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Tell us about the research process, and how you chose the stories to focus on.
There is obviously a huge amount of source material in the Bodleian, and we were helped by the staff there in terms of which collections we specifically looked at. I think we were all looking for different things, but also generally let our intuition attract us to particular stories in terms of what jumped out, what held our attention and what resonated with us.
Through your songs, you’ve reinterpreted the broadside ballads for a modern-day audience. Why do you think these historic texts are still so important today?
Well, because really, the same issues are still relevant – love and loss, death, sickness, political upheaval, mythological tales, moral dilemmas. When we think of people historically, we often don’t imagine their day-to-day worries and problems, and often these songs really put you in touch with that.
In terms of making these stories accessible to a broader audience today, how important was it to include an online gig on the tour?
Online gigs can reach those who for various reasons may find it difficult to get to physical gigs. As we’re not reaching every part of the country, it’s a great opportunity for people to be able to access our ‘live’ experience from the comfort of their own home. Win-win, eh!
Is this a one-off project, or do you think we’ll be seeing more from Hack-Poets Guild in the future?
We are thinking about that one. Watch this space…
Hack-Poets Guild will be joining us on Friday 24th March, live from The North Wall in Oxford, and you can grab tickets here. Thanks to Oxford Contemporary Music and Folk Arts Oxford for their help to make this possible!