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. 

About williamheath
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