Mik Newton

Music professional Mik Newton has two complementary roles here at Hull School of Performance Arts (HSPA). As a lecturer on Music and Music Production degree programmes and the head of our very own independent record label, Purple Worm Records, he is our go-to contact for any aspiring musician or performer.

With Purple Worm, a not-for-profit label that celebrates the best of the Hull music and champions the city’s homegrown talent, Mik promotes musicians from HSPA and beyond. He has secured global distribution for Purple Worm artists across 140 countries, in 90 online stores.

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“You can buy all of our music from online stores including iTunes, Virgin Napster and Spotify,” he says.

“We’re currently working on releasing a Humber Street Sesh fundraising album in advance of the 2013 Humber Street Sesh music festival in Hull’s creative quarter.”

The Humber Street Sesh double album features 36 of the bands and artists from Hull, including EndofLevelBaddie, Street Parade, The Colour Line, Mono Life and Audio Subscene. The 2013 festival sees the introduction of The Purple Worm Stage.

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The record label recently produced the Dr Skank’s Skool of Skunk album, featuring punk/ska acts including Counting Coins, The Talks, Double Down and System Paralysis.

It has also launched a new dubstep/drum’n’bass “sub-label”, Sub Cube Records, which features international DJs and producers from Ukraine, Bali, Poland and Italy.

Students on the degree programme also benefit by gaining hands-on experience at Purple Worm. Mik says:

“We teach work-related learning. This means the students are put into A&R teams to go out and source bands; then they put together and release a prototype single; after that, they release and market a compilation album; finally, they learn how to run a record label on zero budget.”

Running a record label on zero budget is exactly what Mik has been doing at Purple Worm since 2009. “We don’t have any funding,” he says. “All the profit goes straight back into the label and it gets bigger and bigger, year on year. I’m now researching the possibility of establishing it as a social enterprise.”

Mik is also working on the development of a standalone Purple Worm events company that would allow prospective sound engineers to progress and get first-hand experience of working in Hull’s live music scene.

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His own professional network of contacts is diverse and ever-growing. Arriving in Hull as an engineering student in 1993, he soon picked up a residency at The Strand student union venue. Eventually switching his academic studies to a more musical path, in the early days he worked as a sound engineer for a touring Kylie tribute act, before engineering at Zenith Studios and Red Star record label, working with Hull bands, such as GST Cardinals. He then set up his own production company, Mik Newton Recording. As a result, he guesses he has worked with “most of the bands in Hull” over a 20-year period. Mik has a BA (Hons) in Music Production and a PGCE.

Mik has released his own alternative dance, hip-hop material, as Supercharge. He also DJs at venues including Fruit, Welly, Adelphi and Zest in Hull, and Sankey’s Soap and Boardwalk in Manchester. He manages music events, such as Hull’s Love Music, Hate Racism festival and Concrete Jam Skate festival.

Purple Worm Hour

You can listen to Purple Worm Records’ weekly radio show on West Hull Creative Radio (WHCR) 106.9FM, every Friday at 10pm.

Connect with Mik on LinkedIn; and with Purple Worm Records on YouTube and on Facebook.

Marissa Steer

Singing should be absolute fun. It should absorb you totally and exercise you mentally and physically.”

Marissa Steer (formerly Claughan) is a professional singer, cellist and teacher at Hull School of Performance Arts (HSPA). She coaxes strong vocal performances from our Music students, also teaching music history and theory, research and analytical skills and personal and professional development.

The school’s annual trips to Stax Music Academy in Memphis, USA, have proved to be a huge boost to students’ confidence. The brainchild of Marissa and husband Craig, who visited the music Mecca on their honeymoon, now sees second-year students and staff attending workshops and delivering lectures to Stax students for one week every summer. While in Memphis, the Hull students also have the opportunity to follow in Elvis’s footsteps, recording at the iconic Sun Studios.

Marissa own musical inspiration came from Hull Youth Music Service – a free service that provided talented primary school pupils with music tuition. Aged 10, she began cello lessons and went on to play in the service’s symphony orchestra.

Her band, Launderette Poets (see a performance HERE) now provides the perfect showcase for her soaring vocals and folk-tinged cello performances.

 – Their music is available HERE –

She has previously toured with tribute act, The ELO Experience, been commissioned to write music and play as a session musician at Fairview Studios, East Yorkshire.

Marissa’s teaching experience includes adult education, working with adults with learning disabilities and private lessons. Having completed a BA (Hons) in Music Performance, she went into education, teaching at Wakefield College and latterly, Hull.

“All ages and all types of people want the experience of singing,” she says. “Some people come to me because they daren’t sing in church, one comes for help with interviews – it can be a way of confidence-building that is an alternative to public-speaking lessons.  There are also health benefits. Mild exercise, such as singing, can help the respiratory system. I recommend it to people as a way to regulate breathing and open the ventricles.”

She finds a lot of adults and children with hearing impairments ask for her help through singing lessons.

“It’s often a combination of a confidence and an anatomical issue,” she says. “Singing lessons can help things along. It’s a holistic approach.”

A project with independent theatre company, Animotion, brought a new and interesting challenge to this aspect of her personal practice. She was asked to play cello as an accompaniment to signing actors in a play produced for hearing-impaired and deaf audiences.

Thanks to her positive experiences working with deaf and hearing-impaired musicians, Marissa hopes to soon complete an Ear, Nose and Throat short course in speech therapy for singing teachers.

At HSPA, she has big plans to introduce speech therapy training for other members of staff; and contemporary music certification. Long-term, she would like to establish the Horncastle Building as an accreditation centre for the Rock School examination syllabus of performance and theory.

In her spare time, she “keeps her academic hand in” by conducting ongoing research relating to her teaching practice into the socio-cultural ways in which music is used.

Visit www.marissasteersinging.vpweb.co.uk

Emma Smetham

A fast and varied career in the world of interior design has taken Emma Smetham all over the UK and parts of Europe.

 “My practice has become increasingly interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary with an emphasis on visual communication,” says Emma.

Emma teaches Interior Design at our Harrogate site. Her professional expertise spans the Faculty of Art and Design to include Hull and Harrogate. She is also our Quality Improvement Student Support Manager at both sites has recently been involved in Open University validation events; and offers academic advice and support where she is able to within the faculty.

Emma began to diversify into teaching in the early 1990s and has taught higher education at Harrogate since 2007.

Reflecting on her own academic background, Emma says:

“It was An Art and Design Foundation course at Nottingham Polytechnic in 1988 that sparked my interest in interior design, engaging in the design process including 3D design. “I was very lucky to have tutors that guided me in the right direction.”

After graduating in Interior Design from Leeds Polytechnic, Emma went straight into industry, working with an architecture practice in London. The next rung on the career ladder took her to another architecture practice in Nottingham this time as project designer on large-scale commercial interior and architectural projects.

By 1990, she was working on large office environmental design projects throughout the UK planning and specifying high spec. system furniture for large office environments.

Here, Emma developed a niche area of expertise in commercial lighting, specifying for a variety of internal and external environments. Again she diversified into another area of Interior Design working initially for a German lighting company and then an Italian lighting company and subsequently designing a range of bespoke fittings for a variety of clients and concepts.

For Emma, teaching combined with research and consultancy is the natural career progression.

Her research interests include issues surrounding regeneration and renewal of industrial architecture in Yorkshire and beyond.

In 2012, Emma completed an MA in Image and Time-Based Media based around her research interests, which allowed her to maximise existing skills and learn new ones, such as photo-etching.

“I based my MA on the theme of regeneration and renewal of existing industrial architecture located in textile towns in and around Yorkshire,” she says. “One of the focuses of my investigation was a building called Pioneer House in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire which was once a co operative and now a Grade 2 listed building. Working with Kirklees Council, I looked at ways in which its legacy could be continued by regenerating it for a variety of uses and opportunities with in a once thriving and now struggling community. I feel we have a responsibility as designers to look at ways of regenerating communities and areas that are sadly in deprivation”.

The social responsibility of designers is a recurring theme in Emma’s teaching, practice and research. Organisations such as English Heritage, Urban Splash, Urban Renaissance,  The Prince’s Regeneration Trust are all influences.

My work is a fusion of my industrial experience, research and teaching,” she says. “This involves raising awareness of personal and professional responsibilities as a designer, being aware of environmental issues, utilising sustainable design and developing a strong identity and philosophy.”

Consultancy work in the interior design industry has been a constant throughout Emma’s career. She aims to achieve a balance between having an awareness of contemporary current industrial knowledge and experience which ultimately feeds into her teaching.

Ellen Wynn

Watching 24-hour live media coverage of the 2010 Chilean miners’ rescue brought memories rushing back to fine artist Ellen Wynn.

Her father worked at Markham Colliery in Chesterfield when disaster struck the pit in 1973 and 18 of his colleagues lost their lives.

Footage of the Chilean rescue struck a chord with Ellen, who has been teaching at Hull School of Art and Design since 2004, and led her to develop theories about the idea of the spectacle in relation to disaster, rescue and her own artistic practice.

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Alongside her teaching practice in Critical and Theoretical Studies, Ellen practices fine art.

Ellen’s teaching has primarily centred on 3D design, graphics and architecture and she regularly attends lectures and exhibitions to update and extend her knowledge.

A fully trained architect, she practiced architecture before developing her interest in fine art.

Currently she is researching a follow-up to a 2002 one-woman show at Red Gallery, Inform.

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Inform 2 centres around TV coverage of the Chilean miners’ rescue.

For Inform, she combined newsprint and media imagery with everyday domestic items, thereby instilling the artworks with literal and figurative additional layers of meaning. At the time, Ellen said:

“By distorting or changing their expected context, household objects such as blankets, chairs and newspapers are transformed into works of art which aim to awaken an interest in the relevance of news in our routine lives and to question, even threaten, our domestic comfort zone.”

Now, she says:

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“Inform was partly a personal response to the media coverage of 9/11. Distant and ‘unlikely’ events create anxiety, fear and euphoria, which distort the core of our everyday reality”.

Poststructuralist and postmodernist theory runs through all of this work. Exploring the way events are mediated through our TV screens as an assumed reality is central to Inform 2.

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Craft in relation to fine art played and still plays a large role in her work. When she was young her mother worked from home as a milliner and curtain maker, and she taught Ellen to sew. The process of hand-stitching represents independence, comfort and control which form a strong juxtaposition with the subject matter she tackles.

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Inspired by her response to the Chilean miners’ rescue, she hopes to exhibit Inform 2 in 2015.

“This work will reference my early paintings,” Ellen says. “Using textile craft techniques to labour and ‘upholster’ the canvas and in particular to reference to the home environment, I will explore the status of craft in relation to painting and in particular the language of embroidery.”

Focusing chiefly on materialising painting as object, she plans to use the TV imagery that captured the collective consciousness during the rescue.

Ellen says:

“In relation to my role as a HE lecturer, I would like to enrich my teaching through my practice and to establish research interests in relation to my work.”

A larger range of Ellen’s work can be seen in her online gallery HERE:

Val Phelps

As a playwright, actor and director, Val Phelps practises many different play genres and styles of theatre.

From dark fairy tales, docudramas, murder mysteries and short story performances, to the theatre of cruelty and the intriguingly titled “invisible theatre”, Val brings a varied professional background to her teaching at Hull School of Performance Arts (HSPA).

Val’s main research interest – and submitted PhD proposal – centres on text relating to styles of theatre; titled Writing and Performance Studies, she eventually plans to turn her findings into a textbook that will include three of her own scripts.

Val says:

“I am exploring ways in which we can put practitioners together to explore how methodologies and theories work, and give examples of how they can be used in recognised texts. I often see HE students struggle to understand how texts relate to theatre styles.”

Traditional theatre textbooks, says Val, tend to polarise methods, labelling plays as either Brechtian or Stanislavskian, for example.

“As long as you understand those two styles, there is nothing wrong with using them together. I am also exploring theatre practitioner Antonin Artaud’s  methods of the theatre of cruelty – the ways that making an audience feel uncomfortable can help them explore emotions and senses in a much more intense manner.”

As well as the PhD, which has been submitted as a proposal to Birmingham University, Val has a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing and Theatre Studies from Bolton, an MA in Creative Writing from Bretton Hall and a PGCE from Huddersfield.

She has penned 15 plays – including 2012’s darkly humorous horror, The Bates Motel, which was performed at Tickton Little Theatre in East Yorkshire – and has run her own professional touring company since 1995.

With Blue Angel Theatre Company, Val wrote, acted and directed courtroom dramas for Wakefield Town Hall, ran murder mystery events in hotels, as well as the aforementioned “invisible theatre”.

Other recent plays include The Writers’ Circle, also performed at Tickton Little Theatre, and Original Sin, an observational piece about the nature of humanity.

She has had plays commissioned by clients ranging from household names to The Leeds School of Medicine and belongs to the London Society of Writers, which meets quarterly for collaborative writing projects and networking opportunities.

Val has been teaching since 2001 and lecturing at HSPA since 2006. She has performed readings of her work, such as Red Riding Hood: The Truth, at Oxford Literature Festival. She attends creative writing workshops, most recently a three-day event at the Faber Academy in London with Hanif Kareishi and Marcel Theroux.

Tim Keech

Hull School of Performance Art’s guitar specialist Tim Keech has decades of experience as a lecturer, tutor and professional musician. He ranks flexibility almost as highly as the art and craft of performance for musical artists.

And within our Faculty of Arts, fractional Music lecturer Tim specialises in theory and performance practice.

His teaching career includes teaching music and physics in schools; running his own music school in Spring Bank, Hull; teaching guitar at the University of Hull; and lecturing at Hull School of Performance Arts, where he has taught since 1997. Tim has a BSc (Hons) in Civil Engineering from the University of Leeds, a PGCE and an MMus in Music Composition from the University of Hull.

But music performance has been a constant throughout Tim’s career.

“A gig has been part of my way of making a living for the past 20 years,” he says. “It’s a day at the office for me, you have to be able to judge each performance and adapt.”

Tim mainly performs with jazz fusion band Mad Dog and the Sophisticats. With this outfit, he plays up to 100 gigs per year, up to half of which are likely to be weddings. He also plays in the Wakefield Arms Jazz Band and produces CDs for the band ahead of its annual visits to a jazz festival in Herne, Germany.

Although his “first love” is jazz, Tim says:

“To make a living teaching guitar, you have to be pretty versatile.”

He also composes, writes, sings, plays, arranges and produces for other musicians. Tim does the arrangements for an Andrews Sisters cover act based in Leeds and runs an a capella close harmony jazz group, Bamba Dooda.

When studying for his MMus, Tim researched the development of jazz harmony, including mapping the fingerboard of a guitar, which he describes as “a lifetime’s work”.

“My research didn’t end with the completion of the MMus,” he says. “I investigate better ways of passing on playing techniques to my students. That is a constant. If I go into a practice session now I’m not trying to advance my own technique, but look at ways I can accelerate students’ progress, or anticipate and avoid potential difficulties. Continuity is the key.

“From a guitar-teaching point of view, I’m always interested in doing the job better and looking at ways I can circumvent or pre-empt students’ problems.”

Tim’s great passion is to pass on good performance habits. Many of his former students are now professional musicians.

“From a technical point of view, the biggest mistake most people make is picking up the guitar incorrectly,” he says. “My performance expertise comes into play when we’re looking at turning a musician into a professional act. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you pause on stage for as little as three seconds, you can empty a dancefloor.”

Lucy Markham

Fashion lecturer and bespoke dressmaker Lucy Markham has first-hand experience of the issues facing her students.

“It’s good for the students to know that you’ve been through it,” says Lucy,

…who has been lecturing at Hull School of Art and Design (HSAD) since 2009; runs her own business; and also offers private sewing classes. She works with a diverse range of clients, from amateur seamstresses to up-and-coming fashion designers and professional costumiers.

Lucy’s research interests include ongoing investigations into the shapes, volumes and textures created by fabrics, as well as a specialism in pattern-cutting.

“My MA was about the manipulation of fabric on the stand, static pieces,” says Lucy. “It was a cross between fashion and art.”

Her MA research inspired Lucy to launch her own dressmaking business, Lucy Markham Bespoke Dressmaking, in October 2012, which she runs from a custom-built studio at her home.

“I’m interested in bringing manufacturing back to England with Lucy Markham Bespoke Dressmaking,” she says.

Lucy is creating a niche for herself offering a small-scale manufacturing service for up-and-coming designers.

She says:

“I can run out up to 30 pieces, which is great for new designers wanting samples running up. Often, designers might have a vision in their head, but can’t or don’t have the time to make it. Cutting a pattern and making a garment is a specialist skill that not many people have. The great thing about our BA (Hons) Fashion course at HSAD is that it is 80% practical – our students do all the research and pattern-cutting themselves.”

Much of Lucy’s client-based private practice comes through word of mouth. She also teaches sewing classes;  has a strong seam of her own womenswear designs; and is currently working on a collection to show at her home studio.

She is developing research into the use of mobile technology apps for Fashion students and investigating electronic patter-cutting techniques to inform her teaching.

Visit Lucy’s website: www.lucymarkhambespoke.co.uk