I moved here from Oxford, and in doing so left behind Oxford Improvisers, a remarkable collection of friends and musicians who have really helped me develop my skills, both as an improviser and as a performer generally. I'd done a bit of searching on the internet to see what the improvising scene was like around Lancaster, and while there looked to be thriving groups in Liverpool and Glasgow, despite an abundance of other sorts of music making in the area I could find no sign of improvising groups.
Yet Lancaster Cohousing is a unique project, and joining it was once in a lifetime opportunity that I could not allow to pass by, despite the fact that it meant leaving behind two bands and as rewarding a collection of musicians to play with as I could ever hope to find.
So at the end of last summer my piano, girlfriend and I* moved in to Forgebank, among the very first settlers. We felt like true pioneers in a Little House on the Prairie kind of way, bracing ourselves for a winter of hardships from which all our home's sophisticated passivhaus technology could not totally protect us: our social network now consisted almost entirely of our fellow cohousers, and most of them were still waiting to move in. Fine people they may be, but there is more to life than cohousing.
Then one day Chris handed me a flyer saying "This looks like your sort of thing". It was for a series of free workshops being run by Stephen Grew. I'd seen Stephen play a couple of times in Lancaster and knew he had a phenomenal talent. This was another unmissable opportunity!
And what an opportunity it has proven to be. Out of those workshops has emerged a core of players who meet each week, either here at Forgebank or in rehearsal rooms at More Music in Morecambe. Each week we surprise ourselves with how the music we make is improving. We're turning into a band.
If you too are an improvising musician thinking of moving to Forgebank I hope this gives you encouragement that you will flourish here. And if you're not an improviser, I bet you have something in your life that you're worrying you won't be able to find here. Just maybe, you're right. But I can guarantee that you will find something just as rewarding.
* Note from Miles's girlfriend: if you're wondering why the piano comes first, not long after we moved in someone asked Miles what was the most precious thing he'd brought with him. He said 'my piano'. I was asked the same question, and I said 'Miles'. When this was revealed to him, he said, 'well, Jo brought herself...'