Occupying Alex Hartley’s Vigil and composing LIFTED, 14 storey’s up (2014)

By Emily Peasgood

During Folkestone Triennial 2014, I occupied Alex Hartley’s Vigil installation. Suspended 14 storey’s up, on the exterior of the Grand Burstin Hotel, I sat on a series of climbers’ portaledges and worked with my battery powered Casio keyboard to develop initial themes for LIFTED whilst keeping lookout over Folkestone’s harbour and the town beyond. I like to refer to this experience as ‘extreme composing’ and I’m always on the lookout for similar experiences that take me out of myself and offer new perspectives. 







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30th August 2014

On Thursday the 4th of September I will enter the Hotel Burstin in Folketsone, press the button for the lift and ascend to the fourteenth floor. I will enter room xxx, walk onto the balcony, harness myself in and climb over the side of the building onto a series of small suspended climbing platforms. When I say ‘small’, they’re more like stretchers really, and they move when you stand on them. Think extreme camping and you’re half way there. This precarious perch of sorts will be my home for the following five days and nights.

Why am I doing this? When the opportunity arose I thought why not. 2014 has seen a new focus on how I create music; I am looking at my creative output from a new perspective, seeking new sources of inspiration, creating with new methods, taking myself out of my comfort zone and expanding my practice as a composer and artist.

VIGIL is an installation by international artist Alex Hartley which is taking place during the nine weeks of Folkestone Triennial 2014. It started yesterday, on the 30th of August, and finishes on the 2nd of November. The theme of this years Triennial is LOOKOUT: The lookout is a key part of Folkestone’s history as a port and its inhabitants have always looked out to sea. Alex Hartley’s Vigil is perfectly situated at the highest point of the Hotel Burstin, offering extensive views of the harbour and sea beyond. The installation utilises climbing equipment, forming a base camp of sorts, complete with three platforms and a sleeping tent. It echoes the recent Occupy movement and the ancient tradition of hermits who retreated to high lonely places to fulfil their function is ‘seer’. 

Alex Hartley's Vigil

Whilst I occupy this lookout post, I will log the comings and goings of people, the weather and the sea and write personal journals on the Vigil blog. I will also start composing my next work: LIFTED, a choral composition to be performed in iconic lift spaces. Loud and bold with its performance at the fore, Lifted is the antithesis of muzak, aka ‘elevator music’ or ‘background music’. It will challenge audience perceptions of where choral music is traditionally performed and offer an unexpected view of the venue it is performed in.

The lift is a confined space, with a limited view of the world. The confined ledges of Vigil yield an expansive view. The lift is in a state of vertical flux, dictated by multiple users. Vigil is stationary, alone and exposed. Both the lift and Vigil offer an unique perspective from which to view and draw creative inspiration from the world and it seems fitting that my composition will start there.

Armed with my pocket-sized vintage Casio keyboard, a wad of manuscript paper and a hell of a lot of nerve, I am very excited about this excursion into the unknown. It will certainly take me out of my comfort zone: did I mention that I’m scared of heights?


For more information, and to read my blogs throughout Vigil:

Read the Vigil blog

Read my personal blog

Read more about Folkestone Triennial



4 responses to “Occupying Alex Hartley’s Vigil and composing LIFTED, 14 storey’s up (2014)”

  1. Paul says:

    Rather you than me, but the very best of luck to you.

  2. Pamela Mudge-Wood says:

    I hope you’ve got a good head for heights!

  3. David Harwood says:

    Hat’s off to you ! We hope your ‘vigil’ is productive in terms of your composing xx

  4. Shirley says:

    I hope you remembered your sun cream! x