Blue Touch Paper

I was very fortunate to be part of the first year of the London Sinfonietta's Blue Touch Paper scheme, working with the composer Philip Venables to create a preview of an original work entitled the Revenge of Miguel Cotto that explored boxing culture, violence and sound poetry, in the context of Philip's brilliant, radical gift for musical composition aligned with voice. From the London Sinfonietta - The Blue Touch Paper scheme nurtures and promotes the next generation of composers and inter-disciplinary collaborators by providing participants with the context and space to instigate and develop new multi-disciplinary work. The programme also aims to involve UK partners in supporting and presenting the new work.

The Blue Touch Paper preview event on 16 May 2012 at Village Underground showcased the culmination of a year-long collaboration between 3 groups of composers and multi-disciplinary artists.

This short film features The Revenge of Miguel Cotto, by Steven J Fowler & Philip Venables, including performance footage and interviews with the collaborators.

The Revenge of Miguel Cotto is a work exploring the violence, sanctioned by society, that is boxing, through music and poetry.

Video produced by De Novo Arts.



Composer Philip Venables and poet Steven J Fowler’s work The Revenge of Miguel Cotto, explores the violence, sanctioned by society, that is boxing.  Steven writes…

Tragedy is a subject best approached indirectly, certainly one runs immense risks in writing tragic poetry in 2012. We opened ourselves up to that contingency when we decided to take on the narrative that we did. When first Philip and I agreed, at my gentle urging, to formulate a piece about the boxer Miguel Cotto, he had yet to rematch the man who beaten him into a state of near death using (discovered posthumously) hand bandages loaded with plaster of paris. It is boxing’s own particular brand of madness that such a rematch with this man, Antonio Margarito, was allowed to happen at all. All to our advantage. The point being our work together was born of possibility, of chance, of contingency and we welcomed that into our process and our collaboration. Poetry and music does not mix easily, nor gently, and that is perhaps what is attractive about the union. And beyond that, when first scores were being drawn, staging arranged, poetry mooted we did not even know whether the piece would be a story of tragedy or of revenge.

As Philip has trusted me into the world of boxing (and poetry) so I have trusted him to shape the narrative beyond the narrative, and therein lies the key to our work being successful, that it might utilise notions apparent in the subject to embody something original, and powerful, perhaps even aggressively so. And as I have suggested, it has always been my experience that music doesn’t synthesis easily with poetry – it requires innovation, intention and a fair measure of sacrifice. So I believe our piece, as it nears its beginning (which can feel like an end, strangely, for the preview show) has become defined by its rough edges and at its core, will retain something of the volatility of both our subject and our method. I have been asked already if our piece might allow those who don’t appreciate boxing to enter into my perception, and thus appreciation of the sport … I can only say I feel it’s not for me to say, nor has it become a concern of ours. Boxing is a repository for a palpable sense of being, of alive-ness, whether it is enjoyed or not. And I would venture the same goes for good music and good poetry. If our piece comes close to achieving the same sensation, we will be exceedingly happy.

Steven J Fowler, poet, The Revenge of Miguel Cotto 

Blue Touch Paper is delivered in partnership with the Jerwood Charitable Foundation with support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Fight music: an evening celebrating the work of Philip Venables 

I'm really delighted to say on June 30th 2013 at the amazing LSO St Luke's on Old Street in London, at 7.30pm, there will be a portrait concert of the recent work of Philip Venables, who I worked with for the London Sinfonietta Blue Touch Paper project on our piece the Revenge of Miguel Cotto.  The concert will be one hour and is free to attend.

The concert features five recent pieces, all focusing on muscular music, spoken text and themes of violence, socialist protest and memory.  Performers will include the Ligeti Quartet, Ashot Sarkissjan, The Warehouse Ensemble, Melinda Maxwell, Leigh Melrose, Richard Baker and The London Sprechchor.  The concert is being supported by LSO Soundhub, the Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust and Arts Council England. 

It will include a performance of the Revenge of Miguel Cotto, so my sound poetry and words will grace a really incredible stage once again, something I am very proud of.