55°N, 5°E is the musical creation of Gareth Smith, the great-grandson of a victim of the 1904 Dogger Bank incident. The music and dance ensemble will be performed at Stage@TheDock across two nights on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 October. We caught up with Gareth to talk about his music project Vanishing and their latest show.
55°N, 5°ECan you tell us a bit more about 55°N, 5°E?
It's an Arts Council Funded Project. It’s something that I’ve had floating around in my mind for many years, to be honest. When Hull was announced as the UK City of Culture for 2017, I thought that it would be a prime time to actually do it.
The music and dance piece is based on the story of my great-grandfather, who was unfortunately killed at sea by the Russian Navy in 1904, along with two other fishermen.
It was during the Russo-Japanese War and the Russians were sailing through the North Sea on their way to Japan to engage in the battle. Whilst they were there, they stumbled across a fleet of Hull trawlers. My great-grandad was a skipper of The Crane. In a fit of paranoia, the Russians opened fire on the ships and killed him and another shipmate instantly; another man died six months later from his injuries.
I’ve known the story all of my life, it’s been told so many times by my paternal family. I’ve been thinking about how I can explore it for a long time. I did quite a bit of outreach to various organisations, including Hull 2017. I managed to secure some Arts Council funding to write this original music piece and commission a dance composition too.
The final project will be delivered on the 113th anniversary of when the incident happened. My great-grandad died roughly around midnight, so we’re doing a show on both the Saturday and Sunday evening to commemorate this.
And it will take place at the fitting venue of Stage@TheDock, too.
Yes, it will take place on an outdoor stage, which looks over the Humber: the place where the boats came back into the city.
What does the piece sound like?
It’s electronic music, with saxophone and violin elements. The music will be performed by Vanishing, which is a project I started a few years ago. We’ve written the music and will be delivering spoken word on the night.
Meanwhile, I would describe the dance part more as a mood piece. We’re trying to convey a mood more than anything and I don’t think dance is really an appropriate word to use, considering the subject matter. We’ve used untrained dancers too, which is always a really interesting way to create art.
How long have you been creating music?
Vanishing has been going for a couple of years. We released our debut album earlier this year with a record label called Tombed Visions Records. We’re based in Manchester, but I was born in Hull.
We actually started gigging properly this year. Before this, we were just releasing small pieces here and there. We’ve supported a number of really talented artists, including LoneLady, Dean Blunt and Surgeon, as well as receiving a particularly good response from music magazine, The Quietus.
I began making music around 2000 when I still lived in Hull. I’m not from a trained musical background or anything and it was a can-do attitude that saw me through. Vanishing feels like a distillation of fifteen years of different work and projects.
55°N, 5°E is free to attend but ticketed. To reserve your ticket, please visit Hull Box Office.