Armitage and Bryars on words and music in podcast

Published: 19 March 2021
Reporter: Vera Liber

Simon Armitage Credit: Peter James Millson
Gavin Bryars performing in the Howard Assembly Room at Opera North in 2017 Credit: Opera North

The latest episode in a podcast series from Opera North and the University of Leeds, chaired by Dr Kimberly Campanello, Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Leeds, finds two Yorkshire artists, Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and composer Gavin Bryars, in conversation about their respective art forms, and what happens when they are brought together.

Armitage, who is Poetry Professor at the University of Leeds, charts his lifelong love of music, from performances at his local village hall in his childhood, through a “rock star fantasist” period, to a current commission, a new translation of the Ravel opera L’enfant et les sortilèges for English National Opera.

“It was an exposure to music that first fascinated me and gripped my senses: the radio in the kitchen; the TV in the living room; then access to the record player, owning your own records and ways of listening to music”, he said. “I really wanted a life in music”.

Bryars remembers his discovery of poetry at school, his settings of verse in other languages and his eventual reconciliation with English through his first collaboration with fellow Yorkshireman Blake Morrison.

Begun during the first lockdown, the Thinking With Opera podcast series is produced as part of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds, and each episode explores opera and its component parts in the light of the wider world of culture and ideas.