Soak me in a wave of sound

Gill Capper samples an unusual but wonderful therapy

What on earth is a sound bath? I used to ask this question every time I got a What’s-On email from the Chapel in the Garden. Now I know: it’s a wonderful experience that’s almost impossible to describe.

Fundamentally, it’s simple. You lie on a mat, all cosied up with a pillow and a blanket, and you listen to – or rather, absorb – the sounds and frequencies of a 45-minute improvisation on Nepalese gongs, Himalayan singing bowls and other unusual ancient instruments played by local musician Jane Saunders.

But there’s more to it than that. Jane is a classically trained musician. After years of playing the oboe in orchestras and teaching music in schools, she came to Bridport in 2008 and began performing on the harp and saxophone and collaborating with Bridport musicians Rob Lee, Emma McEvoy and David Squirrell.

But by 2012 she had become a carer for her mum and was also running singalongs and musical exercise classes for the elderly at Sydney Gale, Chancery House and The Hyde.

“During that time, I became much more aware of how therapeutic sound could be,” Jane said. “And then, one day online, I spotted this fantastic course for using sound and voice to heal the body and the mind.” She signed up for a two-year course and in 2014 became a fully-qualified group sound therapy practitioner.

“Each of the instruments I use is tuned to a different frequency,” she said. “And their different pitches relate directly to the major organs in the body.” Science recognises these days that sound frequencies can have a profound effect on even the very cell structure of the body, so Jane uses as many different sounds as possible, simultaneously. And she tailors her improvisations intuitively to the people in the room.

People come for different reasons. Some approach it as a meditation. (In America, sound baths are being hailed as the new meditation.) But often people come with back pain or hip problems, even Parkinson’s. “One man had a pronounced Parkinson’s shake and it stopped completely for long periods of the session,” Jane said. “And it’s fantastic for back pain. People are very clear about it. They come with pain and then it’s gone.”

The effect is certainly astonishing. The two largest gongs (called the sun and wind gongs) are as big as dustbin lids – “I would like five more!” Jane said – and I found myself both thrilled and a little frightened by their power. Jane started the session gently but she built the sounds into something so harmonically complex and immersive that I could feel the vibrations ebbing and flowing deep inside my body and my mind.

By the end – when the sounds had wound down to the gentle pattering of rain sticks – I felt I had been thoroughly rinsed and washed. I went home feeling wonderfully calm but also sharply alert. And I slept like a baby. My neighbour and fellow sound bather, Nico, who attends regularly, says it makes him feel “as if I have been completely re-set”.

Try it. I guarantee it will be something you have never experienced before.

Sound Baths take place in the Yellow Room upstairs at the Chapel in the Garden in East Street, every two weeks on a Thursday at 6.30 sharp (no entry to latecomers) and it costs £8. The next one is on Thursday 24 September.

Jane also does one-to-one sound therapy and can be contacted on 01308 485084 or 07976731331

By |September 18th, 2015|Gill Capper|1 Comment

Long live Latinos

Dance classes with style, attitude and extras

LatinosBy Gill Capper

Fancy Living the Vida Loca in your local? Latinos is a new venture, started in May by ex-head teacher Andrew Roberts-Wray and, for the moment, moving from venue to venue in and around Bridport.

Roberts-Wray wants to “create an event” as opposed to simply running a dance class. And to that end a Latinos night has a bar serving mojitos, margueritas, mocktails and more, and a food van serving tacos, empanadas, salsa and guacamole, as well as all the dancing, and music by Mal (Mad About Latin) Cox.

I attended last week at The Lyric which is the perfect venue for such an occasion, having all the seedy, low-lit shabby-chic charm of a Cuban back street dance hall. I have to say, I have had better mojitos, and the pastry empanada was as solid as a brick, but the tacos were fresh and spicy and delicious and well worth the inclusive ticket price of £8 for the evening’s food and dancing.

Every week a dance teacher gives an hour’s instruction in a different Latin dance. So far they have covered Cuban Salsa, Merengue and Bachata (from the Dominican Republic). Last week it was Reggaeton.

Only a quarter of the class had even heard of Reggaeton which involved an impossible amount of gyrating, body popping and raunchy attitude. But after the class you can relax into the social dancing part of the evening or just sit out and watch the handful of people who actually know how to do it properly.

Last Wednesday there were only about 15 people there but I was assured that the closure of the A35 had discouraged attendance and that usually it is more lively.

The next event is on Wednesday June 24 at The Lyric, from 7.30 to 10.30pm and, if you don’t want food, it is only £5 on the door. The food van can sometimes be found at The Customs House in West Bay and will be serving food and cocktails and playing music at Bridport market this Saturday, 13 June, and next Wednesday, 17 June. Future venues may include The British Legion, the Con Club and St. Mary’s. More information can be found on Twitter or the Facebook page ‘Latinos Brid’. So get your gyrating asses down there, people, and help to ensure the survival of this great new opportunity to be less English.

By |June 12th, 2015|Gill Capper|0 Comments

Eyes on the Prize

Bridport PrizeFor poets and fiction writers, there is just still time to submit that work of inspiration for the Bridport Prize.
(Entries close 31 May)

By Gill Capper

Last year, The Bridport Prize for poetry and fiction had 15,000 entries from 90 countries, which makes it all the more extraordinary that Bridport itself has produced a significant number of those winners over the last few years.

Ellie Madden (now Sturrock), who is a familiar figure flying around town on her bike wearing colourful outsize spectacles, was a runner-up for the prize in 2005 with her poem, Pie. [Click on link to read the poem.] She was inspired by her win to found the poetry group Some Bridport Poets (who acquired their name when Ben Fogle was stuck for a way to announce their performance for the inauguration of the Arts Centre’s new chairs).

And two of their current members – Elaine Beckett and Sarah Barr – have also been successful in the competition.

Sarah Barr was a runner-up in 2010 with her poem, Clearing the Ice, and she also won the Dorset award in the same year. The Dorset award is given to the best single piece of work – poetry, short story or flash fiction – written by a Dorset resident who has been shortlisted in any of the three main categories. In 2012, it was awarded to Elaine Beckett for her poem, For Roy.

Virginia Astley, known to many Bridportians as a busker in Bucky Doo Square who plays the flute, with her daughter Florence on harp, was highly commended in the poetry category in 2013 for her poem, How did I ever think this would be OK?. She also took the Dorset award that year and has now published her first pamphlet, The Captive Harp, with Southword Books.

So be inspired, Bridport. (Entry forms in the Arts Centre)

By |May 16th, 2015|Gill Capper, Poetry|0 Comments

Bridport Gossip

Sideways GlanceIn the first of a series on the deadly sins of dear old Bridport, Gill Capper considers


There was this bloke, mentioning no names, who was punched, in The Woodman, by the husband of the woman he was having an affair with who was wearing chinos and a blue check shirt. Then Tom, (or Dick or Harry) saw a bloke in a blue check shirt in Bucky Doo and overheard him saying, “he has got no shame”, and told the Woodman regulars so next time blue-check-shirt went in The Woodman everyone was going, “Is it him then? Is it him?” It wasn’t.

How very Bridport. A total non-story that had obviously gone through the wringer in the Chinese Whispers laundromat a dozen times before it reached me because, apparently, it happened in The George. But that is gossip for you. It’s a vice. And that is why, on January 1 this year, I gave it up.

Well, I tried. I was severely tested. For the past month I have been assailed by people trying to tell me scurrilous stories, and insisting that I promise (as presumably they promised) not to breathe a word. I’ve got a tension headache from the effort of not passing it all on – which is why I’m going to leak this: one involved a minor celebrity doing unspeakable things with a frozen parsnip. Yes! I know!

Gossip is thoroughly enjoyable, unfortunately, and that is probably why there are so many ways of rationalising it. As in: look, we’re not malicious rumour-mongering. We’re dealing with the truth. If someone says that Mary, Jane or Pete are vain, competitive, neurotic, that they spit when they eat or never get a round in at the bar, well come on, yes, they are like that. (Hmm…)

Or this: we’re not tittle-tattling, we are observing. And then discussing our observations (with the rest of the coven who gather in Bridport Old Books on market days) in an attempt to learn more about human nature and increase our tolerance of difference and compassion for our fellow men. (Hmm…)

Only yesterday, I went into town and within half an hour I had learnt of two deaths, one birth, a holiday that ended in tears, a row with an ex-daughter-in-law, a complaint about a barking dog and a botched varicose-vein operation. And I have to say, I did feel stimulated and enriched and I went home thinking in clichés about ’the rich tapestry of life’ and all that.

So, what can you do? Because, to further complicate matters, there is only one way to survive in Bridport and that’s to pretend to yourself that although you are always talking about other people, nobody is talking about you. If you don’t, you end up spending half your time feeling paranoid and wishing you lived in a shepherd’s hut in the middle of a field; which defeats the object of living in such a lovely, friendly little community, albeit one where everybody’s second sentence is, “I’m very fond of so-and-so, but…”

Perhaps those admirable people who never gossip simply aren’t that interested in other people. Perhaps the ones who “never have a bad word to say about anybody” are just trying to karmically deflect fate so they don’t get talked about. Or perhaps they are just very nice people, (which makes me feel inadequate which is why I am very fond of them but…)

I know. Let’s start a Slow Gossip movement; fresh, organic, locally-sourced, benign and kind and free from the poisons of spite, self-righteousness, unholy glee, contempt, complaint and carping.
No? OK then, I am going back to bed for the rest of February, with my book. But honestly…I’m telling you… that Mrs Bovary… have you heard…?

By |February 23rd, 2015|Gill Capper, Sideways Glance|0 Comments

A Wanderer Settles Down Behind The Lens

Brendan selfieBy Gill Capper

Brendan Buesnel is so handsome and rugged in a rural sort of way that he looks as if he’s walked straight off the set of Far From the Madding Crowd. He is, in fact, on the other side of the camera; a photographer, and one with a growing reputation.

Born in 1978 in East Sussex, he came to the South West in 2001 after an enlightening extended trip to India and Pakistan after the death of his father. He stayed for a while in Camelford, restoring an old Cornish barn, followed by six years living at Monkton Wyld Court, where he stopped, on a whim – “when I was literally hitch-hiking back to Sussex” – for a weekend of volunteering.

“I was a bit of a wanderer in those days, and being part of the community at Monkton Wyld restored my faith in Western society,” Brendan says. It was there that he met his Californian wife, Mary, who was there on a retreat, and became a father to their daughter, Nara. (A son, Ethan, was born in 2009). And he was always taking photographs, “often with my Dad’s old Zenit camera.”

In 2005, he signed up for a weekend documentary photography course, led by Ron Frampton at Dillington House, phoning up on impulse after spotting an advert in the Marshwood Vale magazine when he was out for an evening in the Bottle Inn. It went so well that he decided to apply for a five-year Royal Photographic Society course and graduated with distinction in 2010.

The course was rigorous and classical – “a lot of dark-room work” – and Brendan remains a passionate advocate of the old techniques. “I find that the relationship with silver, which is the active element reacting to the light, absolutely magical. And I believe in the archival importance of old style print photography as well. We don’t know how long digital images will survive.”

Brendon M. Portrait2

Sculptor Brendon Murless, photographed by Brendan Buesnel

It is not easy, however, to survive as a photographer, and for a while he took photos on the side while working as a commis chef for River Cottage, followed by a stint as a cobb-and-lime restoration labourer in Axminster. A bad shoulder injury put an end to that, but happily it gave him the push he needed to “make that leap and go for it” as a professional photographer.

Now settled in Bridport with his young family, he has been trading officially for a year, trying to balance the creative side with the bread-and-butter stuff that pays the bills. “I can’t afford to be too niche about what I am doing. There are a lot of keen amateur photographers in Dorset and I really admire their work but I can’t compete with their prices.”

Brendan’s most artistic works, particularly the landscapes, are lyrical, original and breathtakingly beautiful. “One thing I want to avoid is the whole Colmer’s Hill and East Cliff thing. I love those places but I like to look for a different way of seeing something.”

Last year, seeking a new challenge to work in colour, he embarked on a series of artist’s portraits during Dorset Arts Week. But during the summer he still had to do a bit of grape picking in Litton Cheney to make ends meet. He doesn’t seem to mind: “It’s part of living down here.” And his photography business is growing all the time, often through word of mouth.

Recently he finished a year-long architectural archive documentation of a 14th century rectory in Sussex. He covered the B-Side Festival on Portland and Landance at the Valley of the Stones, among other documentary projects.

He seems a modest man, thoughtful, still a little unsure of himself and his place in the world, but I am sure that we will be seeing more of Brendan Buesnel around and about. As he says, “this area is so amazing and the people are amazing and I carry a camera everywhere because you never know…”

Phone: 0789-217911

By |January 15th, 2015|Gill Capper, People|0 Comments