Today is the final day of my sabbatical. It has been a remarkable experience and one I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who feels able to do so. I have learnt many new skills, made lots of new acquaintances and I’ve discovered much about myself, which has been central to defining what I plan to do for the next 10 years or so…at which point I plan to take my next sabbatical.

The ups and downs
Here’s a quick list of what I see as my most major achievements to come out of my sabbatical:

To go from just starting to play tuba as my sabbatical began to playing our debut gig at Supersonic 2011, and all which has followed thereafter, makes me extremely happy. I am also delighted that my collaboration with Stuart Estell, which can only result in good things!

Likewise, to go from having started work on our first commission together in November 2011 to delivering a highly successful sound art piece at BEAM Festival recently is great progress. Again, I am delighted with my collaboration with David Morton.

PRSF New Music Incubator
To be selected as one of the ten UK artists to partake in the PRSF New Music Incubator programme 2011-12 was fantastic. A great experience, which boosted my confidence and has led us all to have a group of open-minded performers (and friends) I can rely on to deliver future projects.

Collaborations, in general
These three achievements (above) have led me to view collaboration as a great thing. I am no longer a solitary soul where my art is concerned.

Sonic Graffiti
My Sonic Graffiti project has developed greatly over the past months. In particular the work I did to deliver sound objects as part of a commission for VIVID and Capsule drove this on greatly. I will definitely be doing more!

Malvern Hills District Brass Band
I recently joined Malvern Hills District Brass Band. I did so in order to gain more focus in terms of my playing and sight-reading. I also rather like much brass band music and I see it in some way as a dedication to my granddad who loved brass bands. In many ways there could be no greater endorsement of the progress I have made on tuba than this. Yes, I have loads to learn still but the fact a band is happy to have me on board when they would naturally have a very matter-of-fact view of players is great. Chuffed.

There are a number of really exciting things bubbling under at present, which I am sadly not quite in a position to announce. These include potential projects with organisations and artists I admire greatly. Hugely exciting stuff…which I will be sure to let you know about as it is announced.

Here’s a list of the things that didn’t go as originally planned:

Studio build
What a nightmare. This was just like you see on the telly box. Too much time, money and effort expended by half. BUT at least it is nearly done there. This was the reason my sabbatical was extended by three months.

Still not enough time
Yes, despite taking a sabbatical some projects still never came to fruition. I think in some ways what you unnaturally want to concentrate on comes to the fore. In my case this meant some specific projects didn’t get done and in general I didn’t do as much recoding and production of music as I had hoped. Onwards!

What’s next?
Now my sabbatical is over, everything changes. Well, not quite. Much of what I have been developing will continue to be developed. The change is in the focus of what I am doing. Essentially, I will be spending less time on projects that fall at the fringes of my interest (such as helping to organise The End Festival) and more time focussing on developing my core areas of interest… and yes, making some money.

The main areas I plan to concentrate on in order to both get better at them and to make some money from them are:

  • Tuba playing with ORE, and in other contexts
  • Musical instrument design, build and sale
  • Electronic and (ultimately) acoustic instrument building workshops
  • Sound art installations – in particular my Sonic Graffiti and acoustic gallery installations based around my instrument building
  • Concerts – with an emphasis on bass and exploring cavernous acoustic spaces
  • Recordings – where possible physical beautiful physical releases
  • Short-runs of hand-finished merchandise
  • Lectures

More details on these as they develop but for now, if anyone wishes to commission me to build a musical instrument, play at your festival or deliver a workshop or lecture, please get in touch.

Finally, a note to (not from) my sponsors
To those of you who very kindly sponsored me at the start of my sabbatical, I have three things to say to you:

  1. The funds raised are still kept entirely separate from other monies and will go into funding some cool stuff very soon
  2. Your Sabbatical Credits are safe and you will be able to spend them on anything I produce
  3. I have not forgotten that I promised to run a draw amongst you for a piece that I worked on throughout my sabbatical. This hasn’t quite transpired as I intended. Rather than being a piece that was added to daily, I will now run a draw using something that has been one year in the development as the prize. More on this soon!

Oh, and a huge thank you for your support!! It helps not only in terms of providing some funds towards making cool stuff happen but also in terms of my knowing that people care about what I get up to. Thanks.


Thanks for reading!

And…for anyone out there thinking of taking a sabbatical, here is part of what convinced me to do so. I can now highly recommend it myself but the master frames it rather well.

Sagmeister: The Power of Time Off




  1. Good one chief! May there be many more of them…

    Do you think it was an “easier” thing to do being a creative kinda chap? Or would a philistine like me find it harder? Could a year surfing and snowboarding make me a better a programmer? I can see it making me not want to be a programmer! Maybe I’ve answered my own question…

    Oh, I liked your cameo appearance at the end of Stefan’s film ;)

  2. Hi Sam. Interesting stuff mate. Completely understand re the studio. Had this 7 years and still adding to it! If you’re in the area, I’d very much like to hear more about this over lunch? A coffee? I would like to learn more about your experience, particularly having bumped into you periodically over the last 12 months…

  3. lol, I think a year surfing and snowboarding will make you a better surfer and snowboarder Rob, for sure ;) Not sure about the programming! That said, programming is more fun when you’re not working on wanky systems for clients! Do a sabbatical programming something fun / innovative / creative and I’m sure you’ll get the benefit like samwell did.

    Or just keep coding and come visit us here in barca more :p

  4. Hey Rob,

    I quite like Ben’s idea. I did a lot of stuff that stretched the idea of making music…but that was the point. I learnt to love some areas I didn’t like before and found some new things to love that I had never done before. Music was always at the centre of my thinking though. Equally, you can of course learn a lot about one thing by doing something unrelated. I could see how you might become a better programmer from surfing. You chill out for three months, have a cool idea whilst freezing your chebs off in the sea off Kernow, implement it (with no commercial pressure), learn a particular problem area from that, solve it, sell it…it does well, you get loads of time to surf. The idea is to make the space for such things to happen. Even though they might not.

    Anyway, lecture over ;)

    OH AND Kavita said exactly the same when she saw that video!

  5. All good advice chaps :) So – just need to learn to be creative in the meantime…

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