UK VOCAL IMPROV FESTIVAL RETREAT 2022
October 19 - 23

 

We are delighted to announce our first ever celebration

of the growing community of vocal improvisers in the UK!

 

Welcome! You found us! Let’s dive in…

 

Vocal improvisation opens a world of possibility for musical and interpersonal exploration in a myriad of directions. This gathering will offer a unique opportunity to experience some of its many flavours, such as collaborative vocal improvisation (CVI), circlesinging, body music, embodied movement, live looping, nature connection and play.

Our gathering is proudly and intentionally both a festival and a retreat. It embraces the excitement of coming together in person and sharing creative vocal expression, while also honouring the more inward, nurturing, perhaps sacred connection invited by this practice. 

 

For the festival feel, on top of the many daytime workshops there will be spectacular evening celebrations, with performances from our experienced practitioners and lots of opportunities for participants to get up in front of an audience. There will also be ceremony, dance, and co-created spaces to play, connect and explore our voices.

 

However, this is no camping-in-the-mud type affair. We will be staying and singing in a peaceful, nurturing retreat venue, with private ensuite accommodation options, stunning singing spaces and nourishing meals. Plus we will be surrounded by tranquil landscaped gardens, woodland, and views across the River Avon.

This is both the earth and the fire, the yin and the yang, the outward and the inward, and the tapestry of magic in between. 

 

Let us celebrate the aliveness of our creative voices. Let us embrace the wholeness of vocal improvisation in all its forms. Let us come together on this truly unique journey; the first gathering of its kind ever in the UK. Welcome!

Programme

MORNING WARM-UPS

A range of optional body and voice warmups in different spaces with different leaders each morning. Get ready for yoga, dance, meditation, choral warmups, and more.

GROUP WORKSHOPS

Each morning, we will divide into smaller groups of between 12-14 people with whom we will travel throughout the day’s sessions. Over the course of the three days, you will be able to try out all eight of the facilitators, as well as sing with a different cohort every day.

FREE-TIME

Quiet time, space to reflect, hang out, read a book, decompress, nap, go for a walk, whatever you need to resource yourself.

SMALL GROUP WORK

Spacious, self-guided time to play and explore. Find a partner for a witnessed solo swap, play your fave improv games with some new friends, gather some people and offer a small workshop, or just take the afternoon off to sing to a tree!

CIRCLES

Gathering together as a whole group in moments of ceremony to mark different points in our journey.

WHOLE GROUP SESSIONS

A space at the end of the day to feel into the power of the whole community singing as one.

EVENING CONCERTS

A time for all the focus of the day to erupt in a joint celebration of our community. Expect performances from our experienced practitioners, circle song, cabarets, jams, and more.

CHECK-IN PODS

Daily moments to come together in a small group (3-4 people) to check in about how you are doing and share what is coming up each day. Set at the beginning of the event, this will be your festival family, and will be lightly facilitated by a volunteer Pod leader.

We have curated a daily schedule that we hope will foster an inclusive, community-building, retreat experience. We feel it’s important to offer both small-group intimate settings, as well as uplifting whole-group experiences. We want you to be able to try out everything on offer if you so choose, but also to have time for quiet, reflection, and rest. We want to inspire and challenge you, as well as give you space to explore your own interests.

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Discover Our Facilitators
& Their Sessions 

(in alphabetical order)

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A collaborative session where we will come up with vocal loops inspired by Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra techniques. Following an unplugged exploration of the different types of loops we can make, we will co-create a constantly evolving improv song using a microphone and a loop station. There will also be opportunities for solos.

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Inspired by Música do Círculo, this session will embrace the potential of music-making with both voice and body. We are both the string that vibrates and the drum that resonates! Through an alchemy of musical games, we'll immerse ourselves in the spirit of play, stepping out of thinking and opening ourselves to presence, cultivating listening, connection and creative expression. This will be a light, gentle exploration of body music which is welcoming and open to all. 

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You can improvise with words! Yes you can. I didn’t used to think I could; now I’ve released 3 albums with completely improvised lyrics. It’s possible!

 

We will scramble your logical, literal, polite brain, tie up its wrists and ankles and throw it in the boot; allowing your poetic dreamtime to access your mouth. It’s amazing what s/he/they can come up with, and we gradually learn to practice surrender and allow it to flow. These methods come from Rhiannon, a CVI pioneer with a theatre degree who brought huge contributions to the artform in the realm of lyrics, meaning, poetics and storytelling.

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An exploration of the Animal Matrix.

 

Drawing on principles from voice movement therapy, this session will give physical shape and vocal sound to the animal cycle. Our time together will support us in embodying our instincts and connecting with the visceral power of vocal improvisation, as well discovering how we might use this texture within a performance setting.

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An immersive, outdoor singing experience exploring our interconnectedness as beings of nature with each other, and with that which is bigger than us all. Through games, expansion of the senses and deep listening practices, allow yourself to be transported out of your thinking brain and into your body as creature, as play, as energy, as part of a whole heap of vibrating atoms. Still a fully accessible session, just dress for the weather!

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A space for vocal improvisers to build and refine their practice.

We’ll focus on the different aspects of Collaborative Vocal Improvisation: Developing rhythmic vocabulary, creating diverse musical contexts, playing with invented language, exploring shapes and structures - the compositional aspect of improvisation… And most importantly cultivating spaciousness, openness to one another, conscious listening and mutual support.

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I’m truly fascinated by the rich tapestry of meaning and emotion that we assign to words and how that can alter and inspire changes in our physicality. Drawing on my interdisciplinary practice of collaborative improvisation that includes voice, words and movement, I will guide you through a series of ways into solo, duo and group exploration of the relationship between language and body. We’ll be moving between mirroring - converging, following - translating and influencing - collaborating. No prior movement experience needed.

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We will journey all the way from our inner somatic landscape to a playful and profound space of movement-based collaboration. We will practice deep listening to the movements of the body, transforming sensation into sound, and opening a channel to express what arises from within. We will explore improvisation that emerges from imaginative, creative movement, and come together to co-create moving tapestries of sound. Shift your perception of voice from something we do, to something we are.

 
 

Accommodation & Ticket Options

Roll up, roll up! Ready for the digits?
All our fabulous festival-retreat tickets include the following:

  • 4 nights accommodation ranging from private ensuite room to campervan options (see below for details), in the stunning spaces and grounds of Penny Brohn

  • 5 days of delicious meals from our arrival dinner on Wednesday evening to our farewell lunch on Sunday afternoon

  • 3 full days of a variety of workshops (from morning warm-ups, to small group sessions, to whole group celebrations, and space to freely connect and co-create)

  • 3 varied evenings of performances, group sings, cabarets, jams and celebrations

  • Opening and closing ceremonies to welcome us in and see us off

  • …and all the magic that bubbles and blooms in the in betweens!

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(hover to reveal price)

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Sweet Ensuite

£850

Indulge in your own private double room with ensuite shower & toilet. Ooh la la!

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Double Bring-Your-Owns

£550

Share a room between two people and each bring your own blow-up mattress (we'll provide bedding). Indoor shared toilet facilities and outdoor shower cubicles. This is the indoor camping experience!

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Buddy Power

£700

Team up and share a double room with an ensuite shower and toilet with a friend or partner. Option to share the double bed or for one person to bring an additional single blow-up mattress/camping mat.

Image by Caleb George

Nomad Land

£550

Bring your campervan and have access to indoor shared toilets and outdoor shower cubicles.

#vanlife!

We would like to highlight that a proportion of these ticket prices will go directly to our host venue Penny Brohn, which helps people with the practical, emotional, physical and social support they need to live as well as they can with the impact of cancer. We are really pleased to be supporting this cause.

 
 

Our Home

Our home for this beautiful adventure is Penny Brohn, the national centre of a charity which provides free, integrative care to people living with cancer. Penny Brohn appreciates the growing need for psychological and emotional support for people living with cancer; the founder recognised that she needed to care for her, “mind, spirit, emotions, heart and soul” as well as her body. Everyone who attends the festival retreat is contributing towards these life-changing services and we are honoured to support such a charity.

 

Penny Brohn UK is set in a collection of grade ll-listed Georgian buildings, surrounded by four acres of beautifully-maintained gardens, on the outskirts of Bristol. The whole space and grounds is imbued with a sense of calm and careful attention to detail, and it feels so full of love and care as soon as you step foot inside. 

 

The four main indoor singing spaces for the festival retreat are: The Sanctuary, The Garden Room, The Music Room and The Library. They all have glorious high ceilings and are wonderfully resonant - perfect for filling with voice! There are floor-to-ceiling windows which let the light pour in and look out onto the gardens, woodland, or courtyard spaces. You are never far from the lush greenery and the natural surroundings.

 

There is a spacious dining room where we will gather to enjoy nourishing and nutritious meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner - and the bedrooms range from private ensuite affairs to shared budget options, catering for all income levels.

There are toilets and washrooms on the main ground floor corridor for your use.  There are two washrooms, one male and one female, with three toilet cubicles in each. Between these two washrooms are two accessible washrooms.

The building and grounds are accessible to people who use mobility aids. There is a lift to all floors, as well as an accessible bathroom/toilet with shower and bath.

How to Book

Please fill out the below Google Registration Form to book your ticket. Here you can specify the type of accommodation you would like, if you would like to share a room with anyone, as well as other information that will enable us to run the event as efficiently as possible. 

We would greatly appreciate it if those who have the means to pay their full ticket price upon registration do so.​ However, if you are not able to pay the full ticket price immediately, there are two payment options. After paying your deposit to book your space, you may arrange to pay the rest in instalments or in full, due by August 1st, 2022.

 

Once you have sent in your registration, you will receive a confirmation email with our bank details. Your registration will not be complete until we have received your transfer. Upon receiving your transfer, we will send you a confirmation email acknowledging receipt and you’ll be good to go!

Bursaries

We are proud to offer two bursaries to attend the Festival Retreat this October. If you need financial aid and believe you may qualify for one of the bursaries, please fill out the bursary registration form below. We will accept applications and make decisions on a rolling basis. The deadline to receive applications for our review is May 1st, 2022 12:00pm.

 

One bursary is reserved for a full-time independent artist or music/community facilitator who identifies as disabled.

 

The other is reserved for a full-time independent artist or music/community facilitator from the Global Majority.*

 

Curious about our thinking? Read about our values here.

Bursary recipients will receive a subsidized Sweet Ensuite (private double room with ensuite bathroom) ticket of £350 (£500 reduction) to participate in the Festival Retreat.


In the registration form, we will ask you about your financial need, your practice, and your background. Please get in touch with us directly if you have any questions. ukvocalimprov@gmail.com

*This includes people of Black Caribbean, Black African, South Asian, East Asian, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, Arab, Latinx, Jewish, Romany and Irish Traveller heritage.

*THESE POSITIONS HAVE BEEN FILLED AND APPLICATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED

Work-Exchange

We are looking for a few special people who can help this Festival Retreat flourish by offering their skills and time, either fully out of the generosity of their hearts, or in return for a reduced-price work-exchange ticket. Please note that if you take on one of these roles, there is a chance that at times your ability to participate in activities may be affected.  

 

Ideally, we'd like to offer these work-exchange roles to people who need financial aid in order to attend. They will receive a reduced-price Double-Bring-Your-Owns ticket or Nomadland ticket at £350 (£200 reduction). 


However, if you don’t need financial aid, and still feel called to assist us, please apply anyway; we want to be sure to find the right individuals for the roles, and if you don't need the aid, then we can offer your reduced price ticket as a bursary to another soul.

 

We have 4 roles to fill. Please click the link below to find the descriptions and details. Thank-you!

*THESE POSITIONS HAVE BEEN FILLED AND APPLICATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED

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Volunteering

We need a mini community of volunteers who help the day-to-day running of the Festival Retreat! These will be small roles that fit in around the scheduled activities and should not impact your ability to attend sessions. 

If you'd like to help, click the button to find out how you can get involved, and let us know what you're interested in doing when you register for your ticket. Thank you!

 
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Food

From our arrival dinner on Wednesday evening to our farewell lunch on Sunday, Penny Brohn's talented Head Chef Emma Liddington will be providing us with all meals - breakfast, lunch, and dinner - so we can fully relax into this festival retreat experience. 

 

With a focus on fresh, handmade, seasonal, and healthy food, each menu will be carefully created to accommodate all dietary requirements and always consider the nutritional value, whilst still remaining incredibly delicious and indulgent. Yum!

All meals will be vegetarian, and sometimes there will be an ethically sourced meat option. Other dietary requirements can easily be catered for, just let us know on the ticket form. 

 

We will provide tea and coffee, but please bring your own snacks, or further support Penny Brohn by purchasing snacks from their shop, which also has a selection of gifts, books, teas, and other lovely things!

 

Our Story

We are a community of vocal improvisation artists and facilitators woven together through a variety of projects, explorations, workshops, performances and cups of tea.

 

At the beginning of the pandemic, we, like most people, clunkily navigated our way through the trials and tribulations of offering an online space to our communities. The undeniably shiny silver lining is that we started talking regularly, co-creating spaces, and really digging into what collaborative vocal improvisation actually means to us. Most importantly, we realised that by joining our forces together, we could reach more people and help the artform to flourish. 

 

Some of the exciting projects that germinated from this commitment to closer collaboration, connection, and cross-pollination include: The Daily 10&6, a new album of improvised songs “Remembering”, Guillermo’s Anthropos, The Wellspring Collective formed by Emma and the Kates, Jaka and Randolph working on the Collective Identity project, Kate Smith and Uran’s time-travel livestream, and more.
 

This journey has grown us all so much! And, most importantly, we have realised how rich and varied the idea of improvising using voice, particularly in a group setting, can be – as well as how hungry people are to dive into this work!, 

 

We couldn’t NOT offer a space for people to FINALLY come together and celebrate this richness once the world opened up again! 

 

We - Kate Smith, Uran Apak, Kate Mellors, Emma Coleman, Jaka Škapin, Guillermo Rozenthuler, Briony Greenhill and Randolph Matthews - are absolutely thrilled to be continuing this journey of collaboration, and are so excited to be offering the UK's first Vocal Improvisation Festival Retreat. 

 

We'll be the facilitator team offering the varied menu of workshops over the course of the event, each exploring different, contrasting flavours of the artform. We are focusing this year on the wealth of experience and expertise already within the organising team, but hope that in future years we will be able to secure funding to invite other teachers in too.

 

Finally, we are grateful to so many influential artists, teachers, and improv greats, who have influenced us all and who we would like to honour for their contribution to this artform. Thank you particularly to Bobby McFerrin for his incredible innovation and continuous inspiration, and also to Rhiannon for her pioneering teaching resources - Vocal River. Thank you also to our friends and collaborators in the UK including Jenni Roditi, Cleveland Watkiss, and many many more.

 

 

Travel

Penny Brohn sits just outside Bristol, right here:

 

Penny Brohn UK

Chapel Pill Lane,

Pill, Bristol,

BS20 0HH

 

It is dead easy to get to if you are driving- junction 19 off the M5 and possible on public transport too. Easiest way is a taxi from Bristol Temple Meads (about 20 minutes), or on 2 buses which can get you to the pub round the corner (The Anchor Inn). If you need any help, shout, and if you fancy lift sharing we will be encouraging this closer to the event. 

 
 

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