Short Autobiography

Frances and Dad
With dad on the piano, 1969

I was born in Huddersfield, England, on June 15th 1968. My parents, coming from Leeds and Bradford respectively, had moved in the early sixties to Meltham after having met as students at Bretton Hall College in Yorkshire. My dad was a music teacher and mum, an art teacher. As a child, I enjoyed playing the piano at home preferring to experiment on my own rather than learning how to play ‘properly’ with my dad who was a pianist. I did however learn to play the flute in a typical classical Western music tradition whilst playing in all the Huddersfield Youth orchestras, wind bands and choirs. I got my Grade VIII flute (a British music exam) when I was fourteen, and I now question the value of such an intense diet of music early on as there seems to be a pay off between the effects of (constructed) ‘quality in music’ through competition, and the social aspects of music making. The piano became a tool for me to accompany singing and for writing songs and pieces, and perhaps is why this instrument always sat outside the other musical activities. The piano was, and still is, a toy.

Frances organ
On the organ at Paul's, 1979

It was a coincidence that I too studied at Bretton Hall College, like both my parents. I took dance with music for two years of a three year Bachelor’s course, and where I did end up taking the piano a little more seriously. It was at Bretton I also started writing music on paper in score form, a process I still like although the Sibelius software that I work with now creates the notes digitally. During my time at Bretton I got involved with drama collaborations with some of the students which extended into theatre productions now and again. Visiting Bretton Hall recently was like standing in an archaeological site as the old college is now being developed as a luxury hotel.

Bretton Hall
At Bretton Hall, 2019

A big influence in my upbringing was my Ghanaian uncle Felix Cobbson who set up Aklowa, the African Heritage Village, in Essex, UK in 1977. From being a baby I was used to the sounds of Ghanaian drumming and dancing and then hot spicy food. I love the way the Ghanaians speak without apparent inhibition filling rooms with sound into every corner. Felix said that in England children are often told to be quiet if they start banging their spoon at the breakfast table, whereas in Ghana, the whole family joins in and plays music, he said. Although this was an anecdote it does sum up a way to approach sound and music that became a personal and instinctive approach to doing sound and music very early on. How sound is controlled by different societies and how this spills over into gender questions I find a curious space. I generally talk a lot, and am interested in how sound and music is policed in society whilst appreciating that listening is a vital part of this dynamic.

Family Aklowa
At Aklowa with Felix, dad, mum, Jonathan & Amanda, 1980

I have a full set of African drums including a huge talking drum that together are clogging up my mum’s spare room which I must bring over to Sweden where I now live with my husband and two children. After I left Bretton, I spent a year with Felix working on a project with music. After this I studied music technology and a bit of teaching, ending up in York where I started work as a flute teacher, gigging here and there on flute and occasionally piano.

Frances and Jonathan
With Jonathan, 1986

My brother Jonathan Beatty, who is 18 months younger than I am, is a trombone player, trombone teacher and conductor. He started playing with Brass Bands which from a musical instrument perspective is limited to brass (and percussion) players and so as a flute player I never got to become a part of that tradition. I did write a piece called Ramdala for Brass Band and Ghanaian drums though. Ramdala is the name of the area I first moved to in Sweden in 2002 after getting married to Adrian. It is very strange to arrive in a new country, new language and new culture. In the beginning it was music I turned to, writing a musical for children's choir on one of the first versions of Sibelius.

Frances piano
Posing with the new computer, Ramdala 2005

Here in Sweden I have had two children, my youngest arriving when I was forty five so once or twice I have been mistaken for her Grandma. Keeping working and reading during the time when the children were very young seemed less important than I think it might have been if I had been younger.

Frances and Hannah
On the porch at Esbjörnamåla, 2013

Both children stayed at home with me for the first three years. In-between having the children I started a project with archaeology and music which I am currently finishing off after ten years. However this project gave shoot to other projects to do with experimental creativity and heritage so there are really never any endings, just a series of new beginnings.

Frances GK
At Geissenklösterle with new ivory flute, 2012

I currently live in the Swedish forests not far from a big lake and last year became a nationalised Swede. A place I go to a lot with my family is Öland.

Frances on Öland
At Sandby borg, 2018

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