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Summer solstice celebration at the Old Barn

Kelston Records’ summer solstice celebration with Rachael Dadd and her band.

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Before and after: an architect’s impression of the Old Barn

Matt Somerville writes

Until last week the last time I was at the Old Barn at Kelston was several years ago. I was there to help develop ideas about how it could be adapted to support the life that would be breathed back into it by its new custodians. The building was a shell, but what a place! Hunkered into the side of the hill, it takes little imagination to appreciate how fierce it gets up there sometimes, but the views from Weston to Clifton are breath-taking.

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Photos by Matt Somerville

Fortunately, it was a calm evening that I last went back. A summery haze layered the view, making the sweep of fields laid out to the Mendips seem even more expansive. The perfect evening for a gig put on by RMT Music and Kelston Records with sets from Run Logan Run and Sloth Racket.

The Old Barn has been adapted for this kind of event now. It’s not a transformation, and nor should it be. There’s electricity for lighting and sound, a small kitchen, loos  and shuttered windows to keep the weather out and the warmth in. The big barn doors open into a walled courtyard – a half-sheltered space to spill out to, weather permitting; a threshold between the cosy interior of the barn and the vastness of its setting.

I can confidently say this is a venue like no other I’ve seen. The walk up through the fields seems to set it apart from the everyday world, building a sense of anticipation that I imagine will be rewarded every time. The music was well worth the walk too, and it’s tempting to think that those who perform here feel the inspiration of such a wonderfully atmospheric setting. Sloth Racket’s structured discordance gave a sense of anarchy with a meticulous plan. Run Logan Run, the Bristol drum and sax duo, captured and magnified the sounds they were making, spinning and distorting them in an evolving, amplified loop. Their music gave the impression of being on the edge of running out of control but always, and with great skill, kept in check.

There are musical events here regularly now, put on by Kelston Records. Based on my last visit, I will definitely be back. As long as the weather’s not too fierce.

Matt Somerville is the architect who pioneered the Feildbarn for Feilden Clegg Bradley studios. This helped inspire the Old Barn conversion. 

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Wildflowers in Hangman’s

Not oilseed rape. Self-sown buttercups and ox-eye daisies in an organic field that started out with rye grass and clover.

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Three Cane Whale – film night live at the Old Barn

Three Cane Whale performed live at the Old Barn 9 May to films made specially for them by several award-winning film makers. For more events follow KelstonRecords.co.uk

Before the gig the band and guests wandered up to the Clump, while others tucked into local beer, cider and cheese from the farm.

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Energy on Kelston Roundhill

Keslton Roundhill faces south and west. Winds fresh from the Atlantic blast up the hill, shivering and shredding the exposed little clump of trees at the top. The barn shutters have been blown clean off twice.

The Old Barn is off grid. People increasingly use it for serious and memorable occasions – meetings, wakes, weddings. They need lights, to boil a kettle or wash up. Power is provided by a trusty generator which chugs away in the next field and runs a pump to fill water troughs for cattle. None of us wants to be on duty facing the bride’s Mum the day it fails.

The site is an obvious candidate for renewables.

AFAICT we’re not even able to apply for permission to site a windmill. National policy on this seems to have been written by a committee made up of BP and Esso climate change denialists. You can only apply for permission to erect a windmill if you’re in an area specifically designated for it in an approved neighborhood plan. The Kafkaesque twist is that there is no neighborhood plan for Kelston, and no-one’s about to write one.

Siting a 27kw diesel generator for farm use in a field in an AONB, part of the green belt seems to treated as entirely normal. The water inspector even insists that if anyone on site so much as flushes a loo the generator must be running to drive the expensive and high-maintenance electric water purifying system. (Air pollution must be a different department at the Council).

We hear that batteries are getting better and cheaper (Tesla, Ikea and others).

So the search is on for a solution to provide enough energy at all times to pump and clean the water, to provide light, sound for gigs and to boil kettles. Perhaps (given the copious wind and light) to do electric heating too for basins and showers. And to do this silently, with no smell, and treading more lightly on the planet.

We’re looking at solar, and also whether new smaller European windmills that fit on fence posts might come in under de minimis rules. There’s also masses of rain at times and a big slope, but no reliable stream.

I just ordered @ChrisGoodall2‘s book Switch (HT . Now looking for the right ideas and products; open to ideas & suggestions.


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Matt’s illustrations to go with the poem assembled by Sue

On Saturday 24 March Sue Boyle is leading a Kelston-themed poetry session at BRSLI. Matt Prosser put together these images to go with it.

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Roundhill from Primrose Hill March 2018

after the mini-beast from the East, March 2018. Taken from just under Beckford’s Tower.

and with sledders:


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