Ahead of their summer gigs, Sigrun Sævarsdóttir-Griffiths introduces The Messengers – a Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning supported band, partnering Guildhall students with musicians who are recovering from issues related to homelessness.
The Messengers is a unique collaborative venture which sees people from vastly different backgrounds, with equally diverse stories, find a common purpose in writing and performing music together. In just over four years the band has graduated from performing in a little community hall in Hackney to appearing on the main stage at Field Day in 2016. This summer they’re recording for David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label and have two London gigs – one at Walthamstow Garden Party, the other at Camden’s Jazz Café.
Comprised of Masters’ Students at the Guildhall and people who seek support from St Mungo’s Homeless Charity, the band has had a profound impact upon all of its members. The students have found a deeper appreciation and understanding for music, while the St Mungo’s clients have seen their prospects improved – from housing and employment to contact with family.
Last year The Messengers performed with Doug Hream Blunt at Field Day festival. Blunt has always been an ‘outsider’ musician, working with people who have no formal musical background to create his delightfully infectious brand of funk and soul. After they came off stage, representatives of Luaka Bop, who already have Blunt on their roster, spoke to the band and kicked off the process which led to this summer’s gigs and recording time.
What makes this band special is the artistic quality of its output, the unity of its members and the manner in which the music is generated organically, collaboratively and at lightning speed, despite a large proportion of the group having no prior experience of composition, lyric-writing or music-making in general.
In the early days we jokingly used the term ‘gold dust’ when lost for better words to capture this, but now this term has become an area of our work which we are actively trying to unpack, articulate and understand. We know that the main component of ‘gold dust’ is related to the quality of the music and that it belongs to every member of the band, the inclusive and supportive atmosphere and the non-hierarchical structure.
The Messengers would like to find a way for their work to have further reach and impact allowing more people to benefit from their positive, life-changing experiences. It’s opened up questions about how we can expand the model further around the country. But the bottom line is the music. The Messengers were booked to perform at festivals and top venues, not because its members have interesting stories – these opportunities have come our way because our music is worth listening to. If they can impress David Byrne, they must be doing something right.
The Messengers perform at Walthamstow Garden Party which takes place on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 July.
Photos: Tea Films