Composer and curator Iain Chambers returns to fill the subterranean space at Tower Bridge, earlier this year he held an open call for artists to perform at the Bascule Chamber Concerts. We spoke to winners Kayo Chingonyi, a spoken word poet, and singer Coco Mbassi about what we can expect. Kayo will be performing new poetry written especially for the concerts, and Coco has created a new piece imagining the conversations happening on board boats carrying immigrants.
Hi both, we can't wait for this year's concerts. Why did you want to be involved in this project?
Kayo: I have, in the last few years, been interested in writing about points of intersection: junctions, corners, and crossings of various kinds. I have written about other rivers but never the Thames and this seemed like a wonderful opportunity to explore the history of the river and of Tower Bridge, also.
Coco: I wanted to be involved because the water theme jumped at me immediately. It made me think of the people who leave their homes and brave unimaginable dangers, hoping to improve their lives. The way the powerless are represented frames the way we think of them and somehow these discourses end up depriving them of some of their humanity in people's minds, just enough so that it doesn't matter so much anymore, so that we don't care so much anymore. I definitely needed a different narrative about so-called migrants, and the theme of this year's edition of Totally Thames fits perfectly.
How would you describe your performance in 3 words?
Kayo: A sonic enquiry
Coco: Unusual, organic, fluid
What’s the most unusual space you have performed in?
Kayo: A ledge above a doorway in Shunt, the theatre that used to be under London Bridge Station.
Coco: This will probably be it! But in the past, on a floating stage on a river in Estonia. Water again...
What can we expect from your performance in the concert?
Kayo: I am interested in exploring the sounds of words as well as what they 'mean' in the usual, referential, sense. My performance might explore that, too.
Coco: I would say everyone will be able to interpret it differently.
Who is your favourite poet or musician?
Kayo: Alice Oswald is tapping into something very special; a simultaneously arcane and contemporary take on the lyric.
Coco: Oh such a tough question, I need at least 5, just for music! Dina Bell , Salif Keita, Michael Jackson, Handel, Karen Clark-Sheard... and so many more...
What is your favourite bridge in London?
Kayo: Blackfriars, maybe, or Hungerford.
Coco: Tower Bridge, of course!
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learnt since being involved in the project?
Kayo: Maybe that the bascule chamber exists. I never would have guessed!
Coco: The mechanics of lifting the bridge, what it took at the time. I am really impressed by the work that was accomplished without all the bells and whistles that we have today.
> Coco and Kayo will be performing at the Bascule Chamber Concerts from Friday 22 - Sunday 24 September, limited tickets left.