Elaine Palmer, Gruff Rhys and Music Beyond The Urban Fringe
By fmttm
Tuesday 28 Jan 2020 16:01:00
Browse all Music articles
Next week Gruff Rhys, he of Super Furry Animals, American Interior et al is playing a hall in Great Ayton. Talk about local earthquakes, this truly seismic gig is something of the realisation of a dream for a North Yorks singer songwriter with a mission to take singers and song out to the rural public.

I asked Elaine Palmer, the energy behind the Watermill Sessions to tell us all about this amazing programme of live shows reaching out to a public in historic buildings and beautiful bucolic settings.

Elaine kindly answered a few questions below

Gruff Rhys

I started the Watermill Sessions as a tribute to the place where I grew up. Esk Mill, a 400 year old Watermill up on the North Yorkshire Moors. My parents bought the property when I was a toddler. The living quarters were habitable but the mill joined on was a wreck. Only rotten damaged mechanics remained of the original mill and both the roof and floor were also rotten.

My father researched and lovingly restored the mill into fully working order with all its original features which took over 10 years and is still ongoing in its up keep. I have wonderful memories growing up around all the noises and smells of a working flour mill.

The building is beautiful and I had this idea of filming live music sessions in there featuring myself but also showcasing other contemporary singer songwriters. The project grew and I decided to take it on tour to other historical, cultural and rural venues that wouldn't normally be used for gigs.

For the artists, the shows feel special because of the interesting locations and because of the filming element. We film a song from each performance which the artists love, it's almost a document of the event for them to use too. A wonderful memory in time.

The venues are special in the fact that most of them haven't been used as performance spaces in this way before. I like to keep it moving and change the venues. We have used churches, castles, manor houses, halls and museums so far which all add to the feel and intimacy of the performances. I tend to choose buildings in rural locations where events like this wouldn't normally take place. I like to keep the capacity small too which creates atmosphere and of course exclusivity, especially when seeing more high profile artists.

Elaine PalmerI have had some wonderful innovative songwriters involved in this project...The Lake Poets, Harri Endersby, King Creosote, George Boomsma and Now Gruff Rhys to name but a few. Some of the artists would normally play huge venues in cities to large crowds so it makes it really special that they want to play to small rural communities. Watermill Sessions is bringing live music to people who wouldn't normally get the chance to experience it.
I am curating and hosting 2 other music projects at the moment as well.
Exposure at Joe Cornish Galleries in Northallerton and Music from The Burrow at The Velveteen Rabbit in Great Ayton.
Both venues are in beautiful Yorkshire communities and set in stunning buildings.
The gallery is a magnificent 300 year old multi-floored exhibition space where I am working on some very exciting events which will see the fusion of art forms together, music, writers, spoken word, photography and visual art. More info and tickets at
Music from the Burrow is held in a lovely artisan bakery and bistro. They have a beautiful bohemian cellar called The Burrow where we hold songwriter performances. This is an intimate venue that lends itself to story telling… we hear the artists tell the stories behind their songs while they perform.

As a curator and host I have built up an audience that trusts the music that I select. I have many people who attend my events because it is one of my events; even if they aren't familiar with the artists, they know I only promote artists I love both nationally and locally.
I have some very exciting events this year in the pipeline for all 3 projects and I will be releasing a new record too! I'd better crack on!

Gruff Rhys in Ayton

 Watermill Sessions and Off The Beaten Track present Gruff Rhys at Great Ayton Parochial Hall Wednesday 5th February.


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