A Million Darkened Kitchens – a sound piece for an 1840s era kitchen aims to shed light on the historically neglected space of the domestic kitchen – it’s numbingly repetitive, thankless labour, it’s subversive creative resistances. But rather than illustrate these ideas through direct explanation, the piece allows the amplified grain and texture of the embodied vocal sounds; the sung syllables, intakes of breath, scrap of speech (all chopped and sliced in an echo of the repetitive tasks of kitchen work) to create a space within which a listener can contemplate for themselves the unimaginably numerous histories and experiences that are implied.
The main voices in the piece connect with the history of the Colne Valley museum kitchen and with women’s history: Susan Whitwam, who has been a volunteer at the museum since it opened in 1970, and 81-year-old folk singer Frankie Armstrong and her singing group. Frankie is a living connection with the history of the women’s movement and the 1960s folk revival (her membership of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s The Critics Group in the mid-sixties, her editing of an anthology of women’s song in 1979) which adds another layer of implication to the piece, as if her voice itself bears testimony to the histories that it attempts to invoke. The phrase “a million darkened kitchens” that is repeated in the piece is from a 1911 poem inspired by women suffragists and strikers that Frankie has recorded a number of times through the years. Thanks to James Oppenheim, Leon Rosselson, Susan Whitwam, Bread and Roses singers (Frankie Armstrong, Laura Bradshaw, Pauline Down), Mark Ager, Melanie Williams, Sue Starr, Anne Hodge, Julie Dempster and all the volunteers at Colne Valley Museum, Arts and Heritage, Arts Council England.
Venue website: https://www.colnevalleymuseum.org.uk/
A brief excerpt to whet your appetite: