About Phrased & Confused

Imagine you’ve been shot into space. You’re going to be counting the years on your fingers. To fill up some of your time, between the science and flying, what would you take – music or books? Or would you have to take both? There’s absolutely no doubt that we’d want to take them both, or rather that our very clever, never-needs-re-charging smartphone would be full of both poems and tunes.

Phrased & Confused takes words and music – poets and musicians – and mixes them up to create gorgeous lyrical feasts for music lovers and secret wordsmiths alike. It’s not necessarily clever, but it is a whole lot of fun…

Since 2004 we’ve been exploring our hunch that music fans can be encouraged to attend more live literature events, under the banner Phrased & Confused. With national tours, one off events and a regular presence on the festival circuit already under our belts, we’ve learned a lot along the way about who comes and why and about how music promoters are interested in getting more involved in live literature.

Want to find out more? – Follow us on twitter @phrandconfused or facebook

Research

In 2016 we were funded by Arts Council England to conduct a piece of research which took the pulse of the spoken word sector in England and tested the potential and appetite for a national development programme.  We talked to poets, promoters, venues and funders and have just published a summary report of those discussions.

Skills Development

As well as being creative producers, the Phrased & Confused team also has a strong track record for its training, mentoring and broader professional development programmes.  Since 2006, we’ve been running specific projects for spoken word artists, promoters and producers, including a unique commissioning scheme that helps artists to create new work, and a training programme that helps emerging promoters to develop their business-related skills. It’s work that we really believe in, not only because of its value to those we support and the impact it has on the wider scene, but also because it enables us to share what we’ve learnt and – selfishly – it helps us to get better at what we do too!

Phrased & Confused artists commissions

We’ve been commissioning artists since 2008 to create new work that explores the meeting place between music and spoken word, and in that time have supported more than 20 artists and musicians to develop their stage craft, performance and presentation. 

Our commissions programme includes mentoring  and peer sharing days. Each year, artists work with us over a 3-4 month period to develop their new work, before showcasing it to new audiences in a live setting, whether that be a festival or venue.

“The support that we’ve had along the process has been brilliant with actually developing the piece.” — Hannah Silva

In 2016 we are supporting Liverpool based writer and musician Lizzie Nunnery to research and develop a new spoken word, music and film piece  inspired by Mersey Sound poet Adrian Henri.  The work, commissioned in partnership with Unity Theatre, will explore the changes to the urban landscape of Liverpool in the 50 years since the publication of the groundbreaking poetry collection Mersey Sound.

We’re really proud of our track record in uncovering and nurturing new spoken word talent: Artists we’ve commissioned over the past 8 years include:

Kate Tempest , Mark Grist & MC Mixy, Laura Dockrill, Jean Binta Breeze, Aoife Mannix & Janie Armour, Hanna Silva, Andy Craven Griffiths,  Joshua Idehen/Pencil String Horn Project, Ben Mellor, Shane Solanki, Yusra Warsaw, Sifundo and Jamal Msebele, Julian Fox and Jason Singh.

“It was a really supportive process with Phrased and Confused. It’s been really, really amazing experience where we’ve been able to concentrate on being performers.”  – Sifundo Msebele

It’s really great to see work originally conceived of under the Phrased & Confused banner take off, and see the Phrased & Confused commissions alumni go from strength to strength. If you’ve not seen them in action, you really should!

We’ve been commissioning artists since 2008 to create new work that explores the meeting place between music and spoken word, and in that time have supported more than 20 artists and musicians to develop their stage craft, performance and presentation. Find out more…

It was a really supportive process with Phrased and Confused. It’s been a really, really amazing experience where we’ve been able to concentrate on being performers.” – Sifundo Msebele

Developing artists via our tours

When we go out on the road, it’s not enough for our artists to simply do what they normally do. We work with artists who are up for something new, and help them to develop new material together, either from scratch or by improvising on existing poems or songs they bring to the table. 

When we go out on the road, we make sure we have with us on the tour bus a fantastic mix of poets and musicians. It’s not enough for these guys to simply do what they normally do – we expect more than that, and so do our audiences. So we work with them to help them to develop new material together, either from scratch or by improvising on existing poems or songs they bring to the table. The result can be stop you in your tracks beautiful, intense, visceral and raw or even plain bonkers – but it’s always brand new, takes our artists on a journey and has Phrased & Confused in its DNA!

“The tour has greatly helped me develop as an artist. It was very inspiring… I learned a lot from everyone else, and …it made me think about how to connect with audiences that are perhaps new to poetry and/or primarily focussed on music. The positive response we received from audience members who said they had never listened to poetry performed before was really encouraging. It’s helped me to develop my performance style, particularly for the festival audiences I’m performing at this summer including Latitude, Standon Calling and the Big Chill.”  Aoife Mannix, on the 2009 Phrased & Confused tour

”It was a real privilege to be involved in the P&C tour. It has allowed us to completely reassess our skills as performers and to hone our collaborative work. The other acts on the tour were really supportive and the contacts we’ve made are proving incredibly useful. It has definitely given us a unique chance to show our material to new audiences and it has enthused us a great deal. We want to do more!”  Mark Grist, on the 2008 Phrased & Confused tour

Here is some video from just a few of the projects we have delivered to date:

Phrased and Confused at Liverpool Acoustic Festival, 2016

Phrased, Confused and Angry, Manchester Contact Theatre, 2012

Phrased & Confused at Summer Sundae 2009

Phrased & Confused at Summer Sundae 2008

UK Tour – Dead Poets, Aoife and Janie, Murray Lachlan Young and Woodpigeon

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