Sing along with Ansuman Biswas at Stoke Newington Old Church... for 24 hours

PUBLISHED: 17:31 23 February 2016 | UPDATED: 17:31 23 February 2016

Ansuman Biswas

Ansuman Biswas


The “mesmerising” sound of a wind harp installed in a church bell tower has provided the inspiration for a festival that will culminate an impressive non-stop 24-hour sing-along.

Ansuman Biswas Ansuman Biswas

The lengthy composition planned for the ancient building is not one you will find in a hymn book.

The community music project will be led by installation artist Ansuman Biswas – who once spent 10 days in a black box with nothing but water – and will be the culmination of Breathe, the first festival to emanate from The Old Church in Stoke Newington, themed on air.

Rachel Millward, arts director at the church in Stoke Newington Church Street, said: “The wind harp makes a low, bassy, mesmerising sound that changes as the weather changes, and gives us this lovely centrepiece.

“The wind is greater than all of us – it’s out of our control but it’s also the same air we breathe and that keeps us alive. It connects us to each other and the planet.

Rachel Millward in the Old ChurchRachel Millward in the Old Church

“It’s a lovely point of reflection to think about connectedness, and for us as a venue to think about our mission to inspire art and to inspire the community.”

The harp, which is installed in St Mary’s Church across the road, contains three strings in a cube. Its sound is transmitted over to the ancient Old Church by wifi, where there is also a coloured light installation responding to the sound.

Over the course of three weeks the programme will include musicians, dancers and story-tellers including Mongolian throat singers, folk singers Karine Polwart and Sam Lee, beatboxer Jason Singh and multi-disciplinary artist Bishi.

Mr Biswas then wants people to join him on the day-long singing project called Kite, which will go through the night and incorporate a conventional church service, until March 20, when there will be a community feast.

The wind harp in the churchThe wind harp in the church

Ms Millward said: “The idea is with our breath and voices we keep an imaginary kite aloft above the Old Church. It’s a lovely way of thinking about connectedness in this ancient sacred space where people have sung for a thousand years.

“Ansuman is fascinated by this idea of breath. It’s deep in the yogic philosophy that he’s immersed in.

“It will be unpredictable and collaborative.

“Ansuman is interested in the journey that happens – he has done durational work and knows it can be tough at times but also amazing and joyful and ecstatic.”

The festival runs from Friday until March 20, from noon to 11.30pm each day.

Ansuman Biswas will lead workshops for all ages and abilities to explore how your breath and voice could be a part of Kite. On March 5 from 5pm to 7pm, all ages – including children – are welcome. On March 8 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm, the workshop is suitable for more experienced singers. Another workshop is open to everyone on March 15 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

For the full programme visit

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