Deliaphonic returns for Coventry UK City of Culture

Coventry City of Culture Trust and The Tin Music and Arts are delighted to announce the return of Deliaphonic, an annual celebration of the life and work of Delia Derbyshire. Now in its fourth year, the festival will once again take place in her home town of Coventry, with events scheduled at Coventry Cathedral & The Tin Music and Arts.

Normally scheduled in May to mark the anniversary of Delia Derbyshire’s birth, this year the festival takes place from 3rd – 6th March, just ahead of International Women’s Day on 8th March. March also also sees the City of Culture celebrate the city’s ‘Amazing Women’, with Derbyshire taking her rightful place in a line-up celebrating influential, and often under-recognised, women.

Born in Coventry in 1937, Delia Derbyshire was a musician and composer. Hailed as the “unsung heroine of British electronic music”, Derbyshire oversaw and carried out pioneering work at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in the 1960s, and was considered a visionary in her use of sound and voice. It took decades for Derbyshire to be recognised for her work, with the BBC’s standard practice at the time of crediting Radiophonic Workshop for compositions by its staff. This not only denied her royalties, but also ensured she remained obscure despite her huge contribution to electronic music. Aphex Twin, The Chemical Brothers and Paul Hartnoll of Orbital, all hail Derbyshire as having influenced their music.

Derbyshire’s work is inextricably bound up with the worlds of visual art and film, and she composed music for more than 200 radio and TV shows. She is perhaps best known for her electronic arrangement of the theme music to the BBC’s Doctor Who, but her wide range of works ranges from compositions for art films with Yoko Ono to creating sound effects for contemporary theatre. After Derbyshire’s death, over 250 tapes and a box of a thousand papers of her work were found in her attic.

Paying homage to the breadth of Derbyshire’s wide-ranging work, Deliaphonic will see four nights of events, including film screenings, talks, live music, DJ sets, projections, performance art and sonic installations. 

Highlights of the festival line-up include:

  • Flatpack presents a director’s cut screening of Delia Derbyshire: The Myths & Legendary Tapes – Coventry Cathedral Thursday 3rd March 7pm – Festival special directors cut of the docudrama portrait of Delia which explores the idea that this extraordinary composer herself lived outside of time and space. Caroline Catz who wrote, directed and plays Delia in the film will be involved in a special panel Q&A with soundtrack composer Cosey Fanni Tutti.
  • Live Performance from experimental music icon Cosey Fanni Tutti & DJ sets from Julian House Ghostbox Records. Coventry Cathedral Friday 4th March

Cosey Fanni Tutti created the soundtrack to Delia Derbyshire: The Myths & Legendary Tapes using sounds from Derbyshire’s unheard archive. Audiences will also be treated to a DJ set from Julian House of Ghostbox Records, who created the titles for the film. He has created new visuals especially for the performance. Natalie Sharp (F.K.A Lone Taxidermist) will perform Marra.

  • Family activities – Saturday 5th March & Sunday 6th March

Before Derbyshire’s death, she and singer / producer Pete Kember (Sonic Boom) had planned to create an event for children to learn about, experience and practically engage with electronic sound from the past, present and future. To realise this dream Deliaphonic have commissioned artists to create children’s gigs, workshops, interactive sonic playground sculptures and a big family rave with music from early electronica to the sounds of the future:

  • Art of Noise – artist Nik Ramage invites children to explore a series of mechanical sculptures and intriguing machines which make unexpected and interesting sounds.
  • School of Noise – audiences can play with a variety of musical instruments and scientific equipment including Chladni plates, theremin, omnichord, X-Ray record, and fruits and vegetables that will trigger musical sounds when touched.
  • Caroline Catz. – Delia Derbyshire Day – “Coolicon Sound Bath” interactive installation. Said to be Delia Derbyshire’s “favourite instrument”, their resonant “gong” like quality appeared in her compositions for the BBC and beyond.
  • Big Fish Little Fish Family Rave – Dr Alex Patterson (The Orb) DJ set. Coventry Cathedral – Saturday 5th March 2-4 pm
  • Supersonic Kid’s Gig – Hosted by Anna Palmer  –  main act TBA  – Coventry Cathedral – Sunday 6th March – 2 pm
  • Saturday evening headliner – LoneLady, a.k.a Julie Campbell is a musician, songwriter, singer and producer from Manchester. Inspired by British post-punk, Julie first started making recordings in the early-mid 2000s on a 4-track cassette recorder in her tower block flat in Manchester while completing a Fine Art Degree. As her name indicates LoneLady writes, performs and records all the components of her music, building up her own sound worlds in a solitary creative process. 

Also on Saturday, we have Jerry Dammers (founder of The Specials and 2 Tone) DJ Set of “Library Music” with visual accompaniment.  In a world exclusive for Coventry’s “City of Culture” year, Jerry will premiere a piece of original music he has composed and recorded, accompanying the projected paintings of Coventry and Turner Prize-nominated artist George Shaw.

Richard Norris has a long history creating electronic music, particularly as one half of the Grid and Beyond The Wizards Sleeve. His current work is a series of warm, electronic deep listening albums, on UK based label Group Mind Records.

  • Deliaphonic is also working with Coventry City of Culture’s international partner the British Council and Sheffield-based Sensoria Festival to host FAMLAB IV. The week-long residency brings together 10 international and UK musicians and composers to explore film composition, archive material and collaborative music projects. Deliaphonic will be unveiling work made from this project as part of the Saturday evening performances. The British Council also supports live streaming of Saturday’s programme for wider UK and international audiences to enjoy.

            FAMLAB TV participants:

            International: Corinne De San Jose (The Phillipines), Dilan Balkay (Turkey), Dani

            Kyengo O’Neill (South Africa), Mazen Loai (Libya), Subhagata Singha (Rivu) (India).

            UK: Cristina Iles, Kris Halpin, Sonia Killmann, Rebekah Ubuntu, Hayat Selim

  • Before, During After – Sunday 5th March – The Tin Music and Arts time TBC

Bill Drummond will present a specially commissioned interactive play and film screening imagining a world without music. He is famed for using Derbyshire’s Dr Who theme music to create a Number 1 hit and writing a book on how to do it.

Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said:

Our programme has continually amplified the voices of our whole community, and we are delighted to dedicate March to the amazing women of Coventry, past and present. Delia Derbyshire was a pioneer in her field, yet not enough people know about her work and what she achieved. Deliaphonic has been a hugely successful event since its inception, both in raising Delia’s profile as well as getting people interested in the art of experimental and electronic music. We are delighted that Deliaphonic returns for Coventry’s tenure as UK City of Culture, bigger and better than ever before.”

Tickets for Deliaphonic will go on-sale on Monday 21.01.21 and can be purchased on the Coventry City of Culture website – https://coventry2021.co.uk/

‘Deliaphonic has received funding from PRS Foundation for New Music, British Council, Heart of England and Coventry City of Culture Trust.


About the Author

Loves long walks along the beach, holding hands and romantic 80's power ballads, partial to electronic music and likes to make the odd mix or two.