They got in touch with Oxford Contemporary Music, a unique and invaluable organisation, a producer working with an evolving range of musicians, composers and sound artists whose work is always exploratory and experimental, creating events in all kinds of different and unexpected environments, as well as having an exploratory education and mentoring dynamic.
And between them the project began to take shape.
"The Covered Market were so excited to join in with the project", Hannah [Jakes] Jacobs, Upcycled Sounds co-director, waxed lyrical. "They’ve had a really difficult lockdown with all their struggling independent business tenants, local artists and a lot of shop closures. Sure if you wanted a shopping venue in the City that wasn’t all about the brand then this was it, but it had become very empty and devoid of the liveliness it normally has. They were just happy to bring some new life into the space in a different way."
So the Live Session Series began to take shape: a series of bitesize gigs from 5 artists/bands, filmed playing live at the Covered Market and going out online over the summer of 2021 on OCM's and Upcycled Sounds' YouTube and social media channels.
"A lot of the sessions were shot at night which was amazing. It’s got a completely different character ... kind of beautiful but a bit eerie.
One of the night porters took us down to the cellars ... they are creepy as ... and he was saying it’s definitely haunted, and he’s there at night nearly all the time." [Hannah 'Jakes' Jacobs]
There are apparently all kinds of tunnels under there, connected to the Town Hall and various pubs, boarded up now, but they make for fertile nooks and crannies for all manner of spectral weirdness:
"Hopefully the music in the Covered Market will awaken some curiosity about the building and the events that are rumoured to have taken place in it", Niko concluded, but the hint of subterranean weirdness followed us as he took us back towards the music.
"We wanted to find locations within the market which somehow reflected the vibe of the artists."
The triumphantly inclusive list of artists and the supremely eclectic range of music covered were almost instantly agreed between Upcycled Sounds and Lauren Spicely from Oxford Contemporary Music:
Native Dancer from the jazzier end of the spectrum; the quirkily iconoclastic performance poet/musician/jazzer Alabaster dePlume in impromptu quartet form; the mediaeval and meditative sublime solo violin and vocals of Flora Curzon; award winning radical DIY noisenik, sound artist Loula Yorke; lyrical songstress and iconic solo emerging artist Feeo.
Native Dancer, who get their name and their inspiration from Wayne Shorter [Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis Quintet + Weather Report], were placed in the central square, and it just so happened that that had become one of the most deserted areas of the marketplace.
In fact it looks like they're playing in a ghost town in the deep midwinter, in spite of the spellbinding vibrant jazzy warmth of their music.
You can hear their total virtuoso of a jazz vocalist, Frida Touray sing "I’ve been trying to figure out if it’s magic ... leave me to breathe I’ll be alright here …" and you begin to wonder if it's the building playing the band, or vice versa.
Somehow it sounds like the building chipping in again, when the unconditionally unique Alabaster dePlume intones the following spoken word lyrics in his performance: "broken like everybody ... looking for their way".