Written by Jennifer Jackson
Everyone I interviewed during The Orb’s Feva event highlighted its friendly and inclusive environment. With performances being as varied as the performers, The Orb once again didn’t fail to deliver a fun, relaxed and welcoming Feva event filled with laughter and the chance for everyone to show their creativity. The cooking group provided delicious savoury and sweet food using the plants grown in the garden; the Cabaret’s parody videos made everyone laugh (Leon’s hair flicking and winking being a personal highlight!); the performers from The Orb, The Acorn Centre and further afield showed a variety of tremendous musical talent, and the singing group once again got everyone to join in and be pleasantly surprised at the harmonious sounds that everyone could make combined.
I decided to take on the journalism challenge set by Andy as part of Thursday’s creative writing group (in the art room 1.30-3) and interview a few of the performers and organisers.
Andy and Emma – aka ‘Amaku Miru’.
It only seemed fair to interview Andy and Emma first, since Andy set the challenge and has been hugely supportive and encouraging of the writers at Orb. So, first things first, how did they think of “Amaku Miru” as a band name? It took me several attempts to spell and pronounce it correctly, and Andy, as always, was very patient!
Andy: “Amaku Miru came about when we were trying to think of a band name which reflected us as a band. We googled the Japanese phrase of the day, and it came up with “Amaku Miru”, which means “take it lightly”. It reflected us and our journey, (because of the obstacles that we encountered along the way). We kept stopping and starting with the band because when it was originally a group of us, it was hard to find times that would suit everyone to rehearse and to agree on music; and people kept dropping out due to other commitments. So, we eventually decided to do something with just the two of us.”
Jen: “How do you create the music?”
Andy: “I do the bass, drum beats and lead guitar and Emma writes the words and does the rhythm guitars. I really like incorporating different sounds, such as the church bells that were used in the first song.” (I comment that the church bells work extremely well).
Jen: “What are your highlights of performing at The Orb?”
Andy: “The friendly environment, where it’s OK for us to see how it goes with The Orb before performing it elsewhere, because it is such a welcoming and safe environment”.
Jen: “So, we’re your friendly guinea pigs?”
Andy: (Laughs) “Yeah!”
I then interviewed Emma.
Jen: “So, how did you and Andy meet?”
Emma: “We met about eight years ago at a birthday party”.
Jen: “How do you find inspiration when you’re writing your songs?”
Emma: “I tend to write about stuff that I’ve been thinking about, especially stuff that I’ve been annoyed about. I have a lot of thoughts about society and the world, and that’s where my songs tend to come from”. (I give her a lot of praise for this and we both have more to say on the topic than there is space to write down, as I’m extremely interested in current affairs and sociology).
Jen: “What kind of music do you like and draw inspiration from?”
Emma: “I like all music that says something and has a purpose. I really like The House Martins and The Arctic Monkeys. The House Martins are excellent lyrically and The Arctic Monkeys are really good on the drums and they are also really on point with some of their music”.
Jen: “Since you and Andy were part of a group before you decided to work as a duo, do you have a preference for working as a group or just as a duo?”
Emma: “I prefer the energy of being in a group, but it is far simpler working as just the two of us”.
Jen: “What do you like about performing at The Orb?”
Emma: “It’s so friendly and welcoming! So much so that we can have false starts, such as us not being able to hear the bass for the first few attempts of the first song and everyone at The Orb is OK about it. It’s much more comfortable to have false starts at The Orb and to be honest about it, because everyone at Orb listens and comes to you with open arms. When we had a similar false start elsewhere, we had to carry on without hearing the bass because we didn’t know how people would react if we were honest about it.”
Matt and John, aka “Laundro Matt”
Jen: “So how did you two become a group?”
Matt: “We’ve been making music together since 2012. We hang out together 2 or 3 times a week. I generally have an idea of what I want to play on guitar when we meet up, and then we see what works well with John’s drums, and we write the songs together. I feel that John and I complement each other well because I’m more impulsive whereas John is more chilled out.”
Jen: “What are your personal highlights about performing at The Orb?”
Matt: “It has such an inclusive vibe which makes me feel really at home. Everyone at Orb has something that separates us but that itself brings us together. It’s also really rewarding to see people enjoying themselves, especially when I see those who aren’t usually music fans dancing along.”
Jen: “Who are some of your musical inspirations?”
Matt and John: “4AD and Joy Division, as we like their eclectic style.”
Then I moved onto the people who worked tirelessly behind (and in front of) the scenes to make Feva at Orb happen and who work all year round to create a safe, creative and inclusive space for so many people who might otherwise be isolated or much lower in mood.
Firstly, I interviewed Elizabeth, who is the volunteer’s coordinator.
Jen: “So, how long have you been with Orb for?”
Elizabeth: “I’ve been here for eight years in total. I started off as a volunteer and eventually became a paid member of staff. When I was a volunteer I did the admin for Leon such as spreadsheets, petty cash and invoices. I’ve recently taken over from Leon as the volunteer’s coordinator.”
Jen: “What is the most rewarding part of organising Feva at Orb?”
Elizabeth: “I love how it brings everyone together. All the volunteers and staff work hard to make it run smoothly and it’s so rewarding to see it all come together. It’s also nice to show the public what Orb is about”.
Jen: “So, who organised the Feva event?”
Elizabeth: “Me, Mark, Jon, Leon and Andy organised it between us.”
Then I interviewed Leon who manages the social media pages, oversees Orbs’ partnership with pioneer projects and has a whole lot of musical talent just to name a few things that he does for Orb.
Jen: “How long have you been at Orb for?”
Leon: “I’ve been here for ten years, I started out as a volunteer. In my voluntary and paid role, I’m the compere at events.”
Jen: “The what?”
Leon: “The compere – the person who introduces the acts on stage. It’s fun.”
Jen: “What do you like the most about Feva at Orb?”
Leon: “It’s amazing to see so many people performing. Bands came from York and Leeds and said that they felt so welcome. They stopped to thank me individually. Bands from York and Leeds performed last year and they found the environment so warm and inclusive that they asked if they could come back and this time they felt confident enough to write their own songs, which was wonderful to see. I love the welcoming environment and it also shows members of the public our place in Knaresborough. It has a great community spirit. It’s also such a nice surprise to see how many people were involved in the preparation weeks in advance, one example being all the names listed on the cabaret at the end. The Orb gives everyone a chance to take part.”
My personal highlights were the same as everyone else’s. I can’t emphasise enough just how friendly, inclusive and warm the Orb is. Events like FEVA give everyone a chance to showcase their talent with the lead up giving people a safe space to rehearse and nurture their talent – or to discover a talent that they didn’t know they had. Whether it’s gardening, cooking, arts and crafts, singing, creative writing, playing instruments, DJing or even silly panto and musical parodies (i.e. the cabaret group that numpties like me are involved with) that take your interest, there’s something for everyone at The Orb.